Handbook of the English Novel, 1830-1900 [1 ed.] 3110376415, 9783110376418, 9783110376715

Part I of this handbook offers systematic essays, which deal with major historical, cultural and aesthetic contexts of t

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Handbook of the English Novel, 1830-1900 [1 ed.]
 3110376415, 9783110376418, 9783110376715

Table of contents :
Editors’ Preface
0. Metamorphoses in English Culture and the Novel, 1830–1900: An Introduction
Part I: Systematic Questions
1. Science and the Victorian Novel
2. Remediating Nineteenth-Century Narrative
3. God on the Wane? The Victorian Novel and Religion
4. Genres and Poetology: The Novel and the Way towards Aesthetic Self-Consciousness
5. The Art of Novel Writing: Victorian Theories
6. Victorian Gender Relations and the Novel
7. Empire – Economy – Materiality
Part II: Close Readings
8. Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus (1833–1834)
9. Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil, or The Two Nations (1845)
10. Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847)
11. Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847)
12. Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey (1847)
13. William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1847–1848)
14. Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Mary Barton (1848)
15. Charles Kingsley, Yeast: A Problem (1851)
16. Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)
17. Anthony Trollope, Doctor Thorne (1858)
18. Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret (1862)
19. Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
20. Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (1868)
21. Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Coming Race (1871)
22. George Eliot, Middlemarch (1871–1872; 1874)
23. George Meredith, The Egoist (1879)
24. Walter Pater, Marius the Epicurean (1885)
25. Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)
26. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)
27. Sarah Grand, The Heavenly Twins (1893)
28. George Moore, Esther Waters (1894)
29. Mona Caird, The Daughters of Danaus (1894)
30. Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure (1895)
31. H. G. Wells, The Time Machine (1895)
32. Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897)
33. Henry James, What Maisie Knew (1897)
34. Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim (1900)
35. Rudyard Kipling, Kim (1900–1901)
36. Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh (1903)
Index of Subjects
Index of Names
List of Contributors

Citation preview

Handbook of the English Novel, 1830–1900

Handbooks of English and American Studies

Edited by Martin Middeke, Gabriele Rippl, Hubert Zapf Advisory Board Derek Attridge, Elisabeth Bronfen, Ursula K. Heise, Verena Lobsien, Laura Marcus, J. Hillis Miller, Martin Puchner, Oliver Scheiding

Volume 9

Handbook of the English Novel, 1830–1900 Edited by Martin Middeke and Monika Pietrzak-Franger

ISBN 978-3-11-037641-8 e-ISBN (PDF) 978-3-11-037671-5 e-ISBN (EPUB) 978-3-11-039421-4 Library of Congress Control Number: 2020930398 Bibliographic information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data are available in the Internet at http://dnb.dnb.de. © 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston Typesetting: Integra Software Services Pvt. Ltd. Printing and binding: CPI books GmbH, Leck www.degruyter.com

Editors’ Preface This De Gruyter handbook series has been designed to offer students and researchers a compact means of orientation in their study of Anglophone literary texts. Each volume – involving a particular historical or theoretical focus – introduces readers to current concepts and methodologies, as well as academic debates by combining theory with text analysis and contextual anchoring. It is this bridging between abstract survey and concrete analysis which is the central aim and defining feature of this series, bringing together general literary history and concrete interpretation, theory and text. At a time when students of English and American literary studies have to deal with an overwhelming amount of highly specialized research literature, as well as cope with the demands of the new BA and MA programs, such a handbook series is indispensable. Nevertheless, this series is not exclusively targeted to the needs of BA and MA students, but also caters to the requirements of scholars who wish to keep up with the current state of various fields within their discipline. Individual volumes in the De Gruyter Handbook series will typically provide: – knowledge of relevant literary periods, genres, and historical developments; – knowledge of representative authors and works of those periods; – knowledge of cultural and historical contexts; – knowledge about the adaptation of literary texts through other media; – knowledge of relevant literary and cultural theories; – examples of how historical and theoretical information weaves fruitfully into interpretations of literary texts. Internationally renowned colleagues have agreed to collaborate on this series and take on the editorship of individual volumes. Thanks to the expertise of the volume editors responsible for the concept and structure of their volumes, as well as for the selection of suitable authors, HEAS not only summarizes the current state of knowledge in the field of Anglophone literary and cultural studies, but also offers new insights and recent research results on the most current topics, thus launching new academic debates. We would like to thank all colleagues collaborating in this project as well as Dr. Ulrike Krauss at De Gruyter without whose unflagging support this series would not have taken off. Martin Middeke Gabriele Rippl Hubert Zapf May 2020



Editors’ Preface

Already published VOL 1 VOL 2 VOL 3 VOL 4 VOL 5 VOL 6 VOL 7 VOL 10

Gabriele Rippl (ed.): Handbook of Intermediality Hubert Zapf (ed.): Handbook of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology Julia Straub (ed.): Handbook of Transatlantic North American Studies Timo Müller (ed.): Handbook of the American Novel of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries Christoph Reinfandt (ed.): Handbook of the English Novel of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries Ralf Haekel (ed.): Handbook of British Romanticism Christine Gerhardt (ed.): Handbook of the American Novel of the Nineteenth Century Ingo Berensmeyer (ed.): Handbook of English Renaissance Literature

Forthcoming volumes Stefan Helgesson, Birgit Neumann and Gabriele Rippl (eds.): Handbook of Anglophone World Literatures Barbara Schaff (ed.): Handbook of British Travel Writing Ralf Schneider and Jane Potter (eds.): Handbook of British Literature and Culture of the First World War Sebastian Domsch, Dan Hassler-Forest and Dirk Vanderbeke (eds.): Handbook of Comics and Graphic Narratives Erik Redling and Oliver Scheiding (eds.): Handbook of the American Short Story Philipp Löffler, Clemens Spahr and Jan Stievermann (eds.): Handbook of American Romanticism Sabine Sielke (ed.): Handbook of American Poetry Katrin Berndt and Alessa Johns (eds.): Handbook of the British Novel in the Long Eighteenth Century

Contents Editors’ Preface


Martin Middeke and Monika Pietrzak-Franger 0 Metamorphoses in English Culture and the Novel, 1830–1900: An Introduction 1

Part I: Systematic Questions Phillip Mallett 1 Science and the Victorian Novel


Dianne F. Sadoff 2 Remediating Nineteenth-Century Narrative


Miriam Elizabeth Burstein 3 God on the Wane? The Victorian Novel and Religion


Saverio Tomaiuolo 4 Genres and Poetology: The Novel and the Way towards Aesthetic SelfConsciousness 87 Anna Maria Jones 5 The Art of Novel Writing: Victorian Theories Monika Pietrzak-Franger 6 Victorian Gender Relations and the Novel Nora Pleßke 7 Empire – Economy – Materiality




Part II: Close Readings Natalie Roxburgh and Felix Sprang 8 Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus (1833–1834)




Nils Clausson 9 Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil, or The Two Nations (1845) Adina Sorian 10 Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847)


Simon Marsden 11 Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847) Joanna Rostek 12 Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey (1847)




Linda M. Shires 13 William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1847–1848) Ellen Grünkemeier 14 Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Mary Barton (1848) Timothy L. Carens 15 Charles Kingsley, Yeast: A Problem (1851) Norbert Lennartz 16 Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853) J. Hillis Miller 17 Anthony Trollope, Doctor Thorne (1858)





Silvia Mergenthal 18 Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret (1862) Carolyn Sigler 19 Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) Nadine Böhm-Schnitker 20 Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (1868)



David Seed 21 Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Coming Race (1871)





Ute Berns 22 George Eliot, Middlemarch (1871–1872; 1874) Rebecca N. Mitchell 23 George Meredith, The Egoist (1879)



Julia Straub 24 Walter Pater, Marius the Epicurean (1885)


Doris Feldmann 25 Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) 445 Susanne Bach 26 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) Monika Pietrzak-Franger 27 Sarah Grand, The Heavenly Twins (1893) Stephan Karschay 28 George Moore, Esther Waters (1894)



Anne-Julia Zwierlein 29 Mona Caird, The Daughters of Danaus (1894) Martin Middeke 30 Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure (1895) Eckart Voigts 31 H. G. Wells, The Time Machine (1895) Susanne Scholz 32 Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897)

Jakob Lothe 34 Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim (1900)




Timo Müller 33 Henry James, What Maisie Knew (1897)








U. C. Knoepflmacher 35 Rudyard Kipling, Kim (1900–1901)


Ruth Parkin-Gounelas 36 Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh (1903) Index of Subjects Index of Names List of Contributors

645 659 675


Martin Middeke and Monika Pietrzak-Franger

0 Metamorphoses in English Culture and the Novel, 1830–1900: An Introduction 1 Changes and Transformations Historical as well as aesthetic developments, contexts, and events ask for multiperspectival interpretations. Historical evolution and its conditions as well as its phenomena are results of processes that such fixed demarcations as neat year dates, as precise and well-reasoned as they may be, can never entirely capture. Analysing the historical and aesthetic contextual factors of an epoch, therefore, always implies both narration and choice. We have chosen not to pursue Eric Hobsbawm’s idea of the ‘long nineteenth century’, which covers the time from the French Revolution to the beginning of the First World War and centres round such major epistemic coordinates as ‘revolution’, ‘capital’, and ‘empire’, but, instead, dedicate this handbook to the history, poetology, and theory of the English novel and its major representatives in between 1830 and 1900. Along with the Edwardian age, we therefore systematically exclude the age and literature of British Romanticism, which separate volumes in the present series of handbooks are addressed to (see Reinfandt 2017 and Haekel 2017). We shall thus focus on the period which nearly coincides with the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901). The ‘Victorian’ period has often been termed the era of ‘unprecedented progresses’ and the ‘age of contradictions’. Both perspectives seem to simplify the transformations characteristic of the time whilst also offering contradictory value judgements: the former continues the era’s own self-glorification, the latter spotlights the incongruences that became visible at the time. Instead, it may be worth considering the period as an age of metamorphosis. These seventy years continued, tightened, aggravated, and made self-reflexive the Romantic idea of the modern human being who, for the first time in their history, found themselves, their surroundings, their living conditions, and their place in history not only changing, but also changeable. Every aspect of human life was to be transformed: daily routines, social structuring, international standing but also, if not especially, people’s self-perception vis-à-vis the (natural) world. While industrialisation, along with globalisation and urbanisation, brought changes to the perception of space and time, it also literally transformed the face of the earth and, retrospectively, marked the onset of the ‘Anthropocene’, or even the ‘Capitalocene’ (Moore 2016). The advent of modernity, especially, the shifting conditions of industrial capitalism, had a great impact on individuals so that the actual bodies and psyches – and the traces they have left – became tangible indicators of Victorian metamorphoses. Metamorphosis implies two processes: that of shape-shifting and re-formation and that of maturation. Both signal certain continuity as well as drawing attention https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110376715-001


Martin Middeke and Monika Pietrzak-Franger

to the ripeness of time that is needed for a crystallisation of extant tendencies. In order to take these complex processes into consideration, it may be helpful to think of the period with the image of mirror anamorphosis in mind. If anamorphosis stands for all the unknown and unknowable forces that became manifest in the nineteenth century, then mirror cones, cylinders, and other devices that help the viewer ‘recognise’ the actual shapes in anamorphic images can indicate the instruments, media, types of evidence, technologies, etc. that make it possible to make these forces graspable to Victorian philosophers, scientists, and the public. It was with the help of novel technologies and practices that the yet unfathomed developments could be made visible and thus comprehensible. One of the major transformations of the Victorian era occurred in the make-up, (self-)perception, and political representation of social classes, and, with that, in the slow but inevitable transformation in the distribution of economic and cultural capital. In a more generic denotation of the term ‘Victorian Age’ or ‘Victorianism’, the First Reform Bill in 1832 meant the beginning of a new age predominated by the power of middle-class economic interests as it vitalised the British political landscape in the period of the Industrial Revolution, which started in the mid-eighteenth century and reached its climax in nineteenth-century England and then spread all over Europe, the United States, and Japan. The bill made the number of citizens entitled to vote rise from 400.000 to 650.000, many, though not all, of the so-called ‘rotten boroughs’ (small boroughs with so few inhabitants that they were felt overrepresented in parliament) were disenfranchised, while the new big industrial cities of the north (i.e. Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds) were granted boroughs and the right to vote for representatives in parliament. With the benefit of hindsight, the bill constitutes the beginning of a modern democracy in Britain, although it falls far short of solving all the problems inherent in the Industrial Revolution and the change from an agricultural to an industrial society. Even though a first attempt at universal suffrage was made, ninety-five percent of the population (including all women) still had no right to vote. Thus, clearly, in the early phase of the Victorian age social grievances and inequality were blatant (↗ 7 Empire – Economy – Materiality). The industrial labourers had to face a dramatically increasing pauperisation, which lead to the Chartist uprisings of 1839 and 1849, the introduction of the ten-hours working-day in 1847, and – after more than ten Factory Acts – the restriction of child labour to the minimum age of twelve in 1901. In the course of the century, the First, Second, and Third Reform Bills (1867 and 1884) marked up steps towards emancipation, with the last one bestowing voting rights to all adult males. It seems remarkable that in the seven decades of the Victorian age the will to democratic reform pervaded all political parties, conservatives (‘Tories’) as well as liberals (‘Whigs’, later ‘Liberals’). The mid- or high-Victorian years can be seen as years of consolidation, prosperity, and flourishing agriculture, trade, and industry. If Victorian times ever had the connotation of an optimist look towards the future, such optimism would

0 Metamorphoses in English Culture and the Novel, 1830–1900: An Introduction


be grounded in this middle period. London saw the Great Exhibition in 1851, compulsory education was introduced in 1870, standard literacy was almost universal by 1900, women’s legal status and public perception had partly changed (↗ 6 Victorian Gender Relations), Britain was the world’s most powerful banker, had the biggest merchant fleet in the world, and, by the end of the century, the British empire had also taken hold of much of Africa reaching out from the Cape to Cairo (↗ 7 Empire – Economy – Materiality). London replaced Paris as the centre of European civilisation, and its population grew from two to six and a half million inhabitants within Victoria’s reign. The society changed from largely rural landownership to an urban economy based on trade and manufacturing (see Abrams and Greenblatt 2000). On the one hand, these developments entailed such ‘wonders’ of science, technology, and urbanisation as the interconnection of the globe with telegraph and railway and were further fuelled by ground-breaking discoveries/inventions which changed the path of economic and historical civilisation and progress (↗ 1 Science and the Victorian Novel). By the end of the century, steam power had been put to full exploit, electricity had been introduced, the railways had changed the face of the British landscape, and steam-ships had conquered the ocean, and a second phase industrial revolution based on innovation in chemistry and electrical engineering started. All this further fostered the Victorian self-narrative of ‘progress’ as human life was doubtlessly changed for the better. Likewise, the professionalisation of medicine, a growing specialisation of hospitals, and an increasing importance of the laboratory in the practice of diagnosis also ameliorated the popular image and social function of doctors and allowed them to exert influence on new social policies (Hardy 2001, 14), whereby medicine became more closely entwined with the nation state. At the same time, with public health legislation (1860) and national public health reform (1872), the British state started moving towards a centralised organisation of public health (Hardy 2001, 29 and Pietrzak-Franger 2017). In this context, new inventions and procedures led to a better care provision (e.g. the repercussions of germ theory and the subsequent change in sanitary conditions along with the introduction of anaesthetics, antiseptic procedures, and sterilisation). On the other hand, however, the severe social and economic problems due to the unregulated nature of the development became obvious to everyone. The late Victorian phase from 1880 onwards changed the prevailing optimism into a more sceptical, pessimistic, and often almost despairing world-view which permeated the economy, politics, and especially the arts and literature. The Victorians could no longer hide the fact that the social, technological, and economic progress, firstly, could not do away with the widening gap between rich and poor and that, secondly, the human psyche was not able to bear up against this rapid change of society and experience. As early as 1852, Matthew Arnold (1822–1888) describes a feeling of


Martin Middeke and Monika Pietrzak-Franger

Wandering between two worlds, one dead, The other powerless to be born, With nowhere yet to rest my head, Like these, on earth I wait forlorn. Their faith, my tears, the world deride – I come to shed them at their side. (1950, 299)

When further on the poem speaks of a “gloom profound,” a “holy pain,” an “exploded dream” and “melancholy,” it gives expression to a thorough sense of spiritual crisis which permeated Victorian sensibilities and which bled out profusely in late Victorian times – a feeling of utter displacement, alienation, and indeed melancholy, an uneasy sense that something was irretrievably lost on the way of progress. This sense of crisis concerned Victorian psychology, economy, and foreign affairs, where Britain had to face major drawbacks. Germany, for instance, began to threaten Britain’s predominant position in trade and industry. The United States of America after the Civil War developed and spread railways from the east to the west coast, unlocking new ways of transportation of products from there, and hence put pressure on industrial markets; likewise, the United States and Canada were able to participate in the grain market worldwide, which meant lower prices and a new scale of productivity in agriculture which Britain could not even dream to match. Severe economic depressions followed in Britain in the 1870s, which led many people to emigrate. Britain also had to pay the high price of rebellions and ill-fated wars for being the world’s most powerful imperial power: The ‘Irish Question’, for instance, remained unresolved. England had shamefully neglected its imperial duties during the Great Famine (1845–1848) and hence further instigated the Irish desire for Home Rule, which lead to the Easter Rising in 1916, the Anglo-Irish War (1919–1921), and the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the partition of Ireland in 1923. Furthermore, the disasters of the Indian Mutiny (1857), the Jamaica Rebellion (1865), the massacre of Karthoum in the Sudan, and the Boer Wars (1880–1881, 1899–1902), bitter guerrilla wars in which the British sought to annex two colonies in the south of Africa, were very much unlikely to generate much confidence in the omnipotence of the ‘age of the first capitalist globalisation’ and the ‘prime time of the capital’ (see Osterhammel 2009, 44). Industrialisation, urbanisation, and globalisation had the undeniable effect of literally transforming the face of the earth. In fact, Britain was the first country to bring the rational use of resources to perfection (Osterhammel 2009, 102–116). Since the 1830s, the age of fossil fuels had begun, and man- as well as animal-power was successively replaced by organic energy (coal). Looms, spindles, pumps, ships, and railways were powered by steam-engines, which allowed for mass production and turned Victorian times into an age of speed, acceleration, interconnectedness, national integration, and imperial control. Indeed, industrialisation has been identified as marking the onset of the Anthropocene – characterised by an unprecedented impact of humans on Earth’s ecosystems. If we adhere to this timeline, the extent of the metamorphoses

0 Metamorphoses in English Culture and the Novel, 1830–1900: An Introduction


that the Victorian era has brought about becomes more than evident. The exploration of (colonial) natural resources and human (and animal) labour that began at the time lay ground for the practices of exploitation that we participate in today: from the appropriation of local resources and wilful ignorance of the effects of industrialisation on the environment (especially the way that factories and mills transformed local landscape, from the changing shapes of cities to air and water pollution) to the on-going exploitation of human labour. In view of this, it is not surprising that Victorians have also been credited with the ‘invention of pollution’ (cf. Thorsheim 2006) and with experiencing and recording the strain that modernity had brought on the human psyche and body.

2 Anxieties Indeed, these were, “anxious times” (Bonea et al. 2019). The spirit of the Victorian age can best be characterised as a period of transition, of unresolved tensions, frictions, anxieties, irreconcilable differences, and contradictions. These can be accounted for in every area of public and private life, and they also are reflected in Victorian literature and culture. Pessimism stands besides optimism, the harking back to the past alongside positive and negative views of the future, fatalism next to activism and social criticism, utter conservatism next to innovation and experiment, enthusiasm towards the imperial mission adjacent to criticism of it. Even with regard to ethics, the Victorian prescriptive insistence on middle-class values such as the sacrosanct family, rigid gender relations, moral earnestness and duty, involving a severe denial of treating sexuality openly, found their (hypocritical) counterparts and flipsides in a discrimination and even pathologising of a self-conscious female identity that would deviate from the gender norm. By the end of the century, the allegedly domesticated subconscious had fully struck back when a new, modernist late Victorian attitude towards life and sex had paved its way into the twentieth century while it was at the same time stigmatised as ‘decadence’ or, in the words of the notorious Austrian critic Max Nordau, as ‘degeneration’ even. The reasons for this contradictory attitude are manifold and can be traced further by looking at the major intellectual trends of the time. As regards Victorian ethics, concepts of Utilitarianism are widespread in nineteenth-century social philosophy, law, and economics. Though traces of utilitarian thought can be found in eighteenth-century philosophy (de Mandeville, Hobbes, Adam Smith, and others), its systematic conceptualisation hearkens back to the English philosophers Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) and James Mill (1773–1836). It was further developed by the latter’s son, John Stuart Mill (1806–1873). In his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1833), Bentham claims that the penultimate aim of utility is a purely instrumental one – the best possible maximising of benefit and pleasure for both individual and communal interests.


Martin Middeke and Monika Pietrzak-Franger

In utilitarian ethics, actions are not measured by inner motives, but exclusively by their consequences. What is more, the outcome of such actions must be rationally calculable and empirically verifiable. This is to guarantee the maximum of happiness for all humanity. It cannot come as a surprise that the utilitarian principle of utility that any arbitrary action is approved of or dismissed (‘sanctioned’) by its tendency to increase the happiness of the party whose interests are at issue would seem cold-hearted and materialistic and that it could easily be considered a ‘carte blanche’ justifying ethical egotism. The entrepreneurs and factory-owners of the Industrial Revolution could readily use utilitarian principles to legitimate a laissezfaire capitalism relying on the power of unregulated markets for the ‘common’ good of secure economic growth and international competitiveness while utterly neglecting the individual conditions of work and health of their labourers. In one of the most influential and ground-breaking publications of the Victorian age, Karl Marx argued that capitalism ultimately was tantamount to the exploitation of labour: the less you paid your worker the higher your profit and a potential surplus value would turn out. Marx, quite consistently, severely attacked both Bentham and Mill for their utilitarian ethics and ridiculed the former as a ‘genius of middle-class stupidity’ (1983, 492). Characteristically too, there is no single renowned Victorian literary work of art that would opt for utilitarian ethics. Certainly the most acrimonious reckoning of utilitarianism is Charles Dickens’s 1854 novel Hard Times, which portrays the industrial workers as mere ‘hands’ in the eyes of their employers and which satirically castigates the utilitarian understanding of education of schoolmaster Thomas Gradgrind and teacher Mr M’Choakumchild and their absurd insisting on the instrumental measurability of educational success as the mindless rehashing of positivist facts and the, indeed, utilitarian ‘choaking’ of all creative fancy and imagination. The tension between liberal and conservative utilitarian thinking and its manifold critique creates an unstable equilibrium pervading the Victorian age. It explains the coexistence of modernisation, technological progress, capitalist interest, successful efforts for reform (i.e. Reform Bills, New Poor Law, Custody of Infant Act, trade-unions), and also (late-)Victorian, post-Industrial Revolution pessimism. It should not be concealed, however, that this conflict lasts and that Utilitarian ethics have influenced philosophical, political, and economic thinking until today. Another reason for anxiety came from the realm of science: Building on earlier research done by Carl von Linné (1707–1778), Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), Jean Baptiste de Lamarck (1744–1829), and Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology (1830), Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) constitutes a culmination point of historicism, a world view which had begun in the eighteenth century, was celebrated by the French Revolution and Romanticism, and then truly spread with the systematic rise of the humanities and sciences in the nineteenth century (↗ 1 Science and the Victorian Novel). When Darwin returned from his five-year journey on the HMS Beagle (1831–1836) and started analysing the observations he had made of flora, fauna, and geology, he realised how far his findings had taken him away from

0 Metamorphoses in English Culture and the Novel, 1830–1900: An Introduction


biblical genesis. He felt that his theories came close to confessing the murder of God, and conscience had taken him away from publishing his findings for more than twenty years. Darwin knew that ‘natural selection’ and ‘struggle for existence’ were complex metaphors, which denoted abstract processes completely cut off from human influence and teleological action. Darwin’s work unsettled the Victorian society to its core, as the Victorians all of a sudden peered into the abyss of a godless universe, in which human beings are only minor characters, barely more than an obscure accident in an evolutionary process beyond their control. Darwin himself always believed that by using their intelligence human beings were able to face the conditions of their biotope and thus reach for ultimate perfection. The biologist Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895), by contrast and in a much more pessimist fashion, even took a retrograde evolution of mankind into consideration. The lateVictorian winged words of ‘degeneration’, ‘decadence’, and ‘depression’, among other things, reflected this regressive, uncertain awareness of life generated by the theory of evolution. In a much different and, from today’s perspective, altogether pejorative way, the term ‘Social Darwinism’ transferred Darwin’s ideas of natural selection of species to the realms of sociology, economics, and politics. Indeed, it was the eminent sociologist Herbert Spencer (1820–1903), who coined the phrase of the ‘survival of the fittest’. Thomas Robert Malthus (1766–1834) had argued earlier in his Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) that distress in a society (and especially in the working classes) was due to overpopulation and that the benefit of a whole society was dependent upon holding the increase of a population within resource limits. Social Darwinism, then, took Darwin’s metaphor of the ‘struggle for existence’ literally as a justification for social inequalities: Some individuals (groups, nations, races) are able to support themselves, others are not, and this is merely considered a matter of being ‘fitter’ (i.e. better adapting to the circumstances) and finding the right survival tactics. It goes without saying that laissez-faire capitalism, imperialism, or racism would unhesitatingly luxuriate in social Darwinist settings. Not only have Darwinism and Evolution Theory (generally in unison with the proceeding secularisation brought about by the Industrial Revolution and capitalism) cast severest doubt on the existence of God in that they literally contradicted the belief in a biblical genesis of the world and of human beings, they also made God disappear (see Miller 1963) in a figurative sense. Since Darwinist thought, just like historicism in general, assumed “the relativity of any particular life and culture” (Miller 1963, 9), stable world views were all of a sudden replaced by a multitude of perspectives, belief systems which gradually corroded a social and moral consensus and threatening to plunge individuals into an abyss of psychological nothingness and existential isolation. The historicist understanding of the world ultimately amounts to the doubting of the validity of any world view or philosophy, the interrogation of institutions, beliefs, laws, morals and customs, and the awareness that the articles of faith could no longer be brought to a satisfactory proof (see, for example,


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Houghton 1957, 95–180; Miller 1963; Buckley 1966; Wheeler 1990; Gilmour 1993). Secularisation and modernisation, and with them a growing indifference towards religious matters and agnosticism, were evidentially hollowing out the Anglican Church. At the same time, however, the Victorian Age witnessed powerful attempts at religious renewal (↗ 3 God on the Wane?). The Church of England in the midnineteenth century consisted of three major branches: Low Church, Broad Church, and High Church. Religious life also saw protestant groups outside the Church of England, known as Nonconformists or Dissenters, such as Methodists, Baptists, or Congregationalists. The Low Church movement of the Evangelicals, for instance, was responsible for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833, and very influentially advocated a strict Christian life following severe Puritan standards demonising all wordliness. Dogmatism, rigidity, duty, and earnestness (see Houghton 1957) were the keywords of the era, intentionally set against the alienating forces of religious and social crisis, rigidly tabooing human sexuality and, consequently, accounting for what is today almost proverbially called ‘Victorian prudery’ – however much it is a discursive construct and not necessarily a cultural practice. Though human passion is hardly to be controlled by either concealment or censorship, the Evangelical movement was the primary source of the revival of the ethic of purity. Furthermore, since the mid-1830s religious life in the Victorian age also witnessed High Church reform, which accentuated the Catholic principles within the Anglican Church and opted for a rehabilitation of tradition and authority. The most important movement in the context is known as the Oxford Movement or Tractarianism. Following the tenets of their major representatives John Keble (1792–1866), Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800–1882), and John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801–1890), who all taught at Oxford University, the tractarians argued against liberal tendencies and attempted to renew the Church by, for example, strengthening medieval elements of religious and Church ritual. Both Evangelicalism and the Oxford Movement embodied a counterculture to the prevailing sense of doubt in the Victorian age – sheet anchors, as it were, in a stormy “Sea of Faith,” as Arnold put it in “Dover Beach”. In order not to confuse these anxieties with the relativism of a, for instance, postmodernist bend, it must be noted that the alleged sense of doubt which characterised the Victorian age only gradually changed to downright scepticism. The feeling of arbitrariness, relativity, and historical contingency grew from the 1830s to the Fin de Siècle. The early- and mid-Victorian sentiment of doubt was felt by people who were uneasy and truly baffled about what to believe in, or how to cope with a world which was – in breath-taking speed – bringing about a vast increase of scientific and historical knowledge. Some lost their belief in God, others did not; some lamented the loss of faith, others, like Tennyson, quietly acquiesced: “So be it. It is God’s will. I still believe, though I cannot see. And I have faith that God will be waiting for me when I have crossed the bar” (qtd. in Miller 1963, 13). But up to

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1870, doubts never reached that epistemological vantage point when the mind was no longer regarded as a valid instrument of finding the truth. The loss of faith and manifold attempts at its renewal constituted a characteristically unstable equilibrium. Victorians were uncertain about their position in society, they were uncertain about the new theories they were confronted with, but, then, their principal capacity to arrive at truth rationally was not fundamentally questioned – in fact the consensus that truth is attainable somehow is the one Victorian certainty left, politically, sociologically, economically, and, as we shall see later, aesthetically. John Ruskin (1815–1900) argued against the utilitarian spirit of the age by turning to art history, and Matthew Arnold, otherwise thoroughly pessimistic about the signs of the times, adhered to the redeeming value of culture and pointed out in 1869, at a time when high-Victorianism was well upon the wane: Now, then, is the moment for culture to be of service, culture which believes in making reason and the will of God prevail, believes in perfection, is the study and pursuit of perfection, and is no longer debarred, by a rigid invincible exclusion of whatever is new, from getting acceptance for its ideas, simply because they are new. The moment this view of culture is seized, the moment it is regarded not solely as the endeavour to see things as they are, to draw towards a knowledge of the universal order which seems to be intended and aimed at in the world, and which it is a man’s happiness to go along with or his misery to go counter to, – to learn, in short, the will of God, – the moment, I say, culture is considered not merely as the endeavour to see and learn this, but as the endeavour, also, to make it prevail, the moral, social, and beneficent character of culture becomes manifest. (Arnold 1994, 32; emphasis added)

It was not until about 1870 when this belief in “things as they are” and in the existence of a “universal order of things” was more and more shattered quite in proportion to how the relativity of knowledge and the subjective character of thought were likewise enhanced. It no longer seemed a question of what unmistakably and immutably is, but in what particular light a situation, a character, a culture, or the world appear. Gradually, the autonomy of consciousness was established, which decidedly contradicted the notion that what people saw happening around them was causally connected and, rather than that, produced broken images of countless perspectives in which ultimate truths were by degrees dissolving. Graphic examples of this process are Vincent van Gogh’s (1853–1890) famous impressionist sunflower paintings produced in between 1888 and 1889. The meticulous differences making each painting a singular object reveal that there is potentially a myriad of perspectives of looking at a sunflower, reflecting upon multiple attitudes towards life. In 1866, the British poet Charles Algernon Swinburne published the poem “The Triumph of Time”, which must be considered one of the most important catchphrases summarising the unresolved tensions and the gradual change of the Victorian spirit oscillating between optimism, enthusiasm, and anxious pessimism. On the one hand, in the Victorian era the ‘triumph of time’ is tantamount to a veritable triumph of man


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over time because, in a socio-cultural and -historical sense, no other epoch in human history has seen a similar standardisation of time (see Buckley 1966, Goetsch 1967, Wendorff 1980, Kern 1983, Middeke 2004, Seeber 2004, Osterhammel 2009). The beginning of the nineteenth century still featured a vast array of different local times and time cultures. Every place or at least every region set their clocks commensurate with their estimation of the culmination point of the sun. A hundred years later, this plethora of times had taken the level, order, but also the pace of a coordinated World Time. The standardisation of clock-time meant a challenge absorbing governments, rulers, and engineers alike and was detachable only after the invention and introduction of transmitting electric impulses over vast distances via telegraph. Since the eighteenth century, nautical standards amongst seamen had already come to an agreement as regards a ‘normal time’ based on the longitude of the zero meridian at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. By 1855, ninety-eight percent of public clocks in Britain were set according to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which became official in 1880. In 1884 finally, an international conference in Washington agreed upon a Standard Time by subdividing the globe in twenty-four consistent time zones comprising of fifteen degrees of longitude each, made necessary by the temporal coordination needed for reliable and efficient railway travel. The idea of standard time was proposed by the Scottish-born Canadian engineer Sandford Fleming (1827–1915), who may well be called “one of the most influential globalisers of the nineteenth century” (Osterhammel 2009, 90). These developments were possible only in those societies used to measuring time by the clock. Victorian times witnessed a pervasive ‘chronometerisation’, that is, in effect, the democratisation of time as the industrial mass production of clocks and watches set in. The city of Geneva, for example, had exported 54.000 pocket watches in 1790; by 1818, the number of clocks produced in the whole canton of Neuchatêl amounted to almost a million. Close to another hundred years later, by 1908, the German watch and clock manufacturer Junghans was the biggest of its kind in the world, producing three million clocks and watches in a year (Wendorff 1980, 387–429). The fact that in the 1890s the American manufacturer Ingersoll lowered the price of a pocket watch to one Dollar was almost symbolic of the fact that the social difference between people with or without watches was levelled once and for all. On the other hand, however, the ‘triumph of time’ and the distribution and omnipresence of clocks and watches not only had positive implications. It accounted for the quantification and perpetuation of working processes, which back in preindustrial circumstances had proceeded in irregular and erratic rhythms. As the division of labour and the organisation of production was increasing and the general rhythm of everyday life was accelerated and had to be more coordinated (in adjusting to railway time-tables, for instance), workers had to face a much stricter time regiment forced upon them both by their employers and by the requirements of the market itself. Longer and more efficient working hours meant useful effects, but at the same time the subordination under a concept of abstract time entailed time

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pressure and, thus, a psychologically precarious drifting apart of private (‘subjective time’), social and public rhythms (‘social time’), the clash of which turned out a matter of social discipline as well as of cultural and psychic alienation (see Buckley 1966; Middeke 2004 and also Foucault 1977 for the aspect of temporal disciplining). Seen from this angle, the ‘triumph of time’ shapes up as a triumph of time over man, and this impression of time felt as oppressive and overwhelming is borne out in an even more general way by the relation between Victorian consciousness, individual man, and the cosmic long-term perspective of life and nature embodied, for instance, by Darwin’s theory. Losing an ultimate meaning and a metaphysical stability in reality and social life quite congruously involved for the individual that the temporal dimension of life came to the fore. In Swinburne’s poem, “the loves and hours of the life of a man” are “swift and sad, being born of the sea.” We “rejoice” and “regret” only “for a span,” we are “born with a man’s breath,” and we are unable to “save” anything “on the sands of life, in the straits of time” (Swinburne, “The Triumph of Time”, l. 72–82). Swinburne’s poem, though originally depicting the lyrical I’s mourning for a lost love, is indicative of time felt as being the opponent of mankind in a situation when the Victorian consciousness had lost bearing upon the hitherto safe metaphysical laws of existence. Revealing a heartfelt grieving for the loss of such metaphysical security and fixed moral and ethical standards of conduct, the conflict with time was both the symptom and the cause of a widespread feeling of insignificance and transitoriness amongst the Victorians. The deep melancholy inherent in the loss of time is a central motif in Victorian life and literature. Such a mid- and late Victorian view that looks upon time as a force disrupting individual self and social consensus is clearly opposed to the much more optimist stance of Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800–1859), who was, besides Thomas Carlyle, the most eminent Victorian historian. Macaulay’s The History of England (1848–1861) can be considered one of the intellectual mouthpieces of a middle-class, common sense point of view that is derived from a confident belief in progress and the continuity of past traditions, personalities, and democracy into an open and rather sanguine future. The effect of the modifications in the experience of time and space, as part of the shifting material conditions of industrial capitalism, lead to an appearance of a plethora of diseases. Benjamin Ward Richardson’s Diseases of Modern Life (1876), for instance, registered the various strains that modernity had had on the human mind. Diseases “from worry and mental strain” were accompanied by various physical conditions, e.g. resultant from “poisoned air,” various “lifestyle diseases” like sleeplessness, overuse of alcohol and drugs, not to mention suffering from unprecedented levels of mental stress” and “‘overpressure’ in education” (Bonea et al. 2019, 4). Indeed, many medical, sociological, and literary works show the extent to which “the structures of the nineteenth-century mercantile and industrial economy could be imprinted on the mind and body” (4). These works not only “register the social changes brought about by rapid industrialization and urbanization, speed of travel, and global


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communication, but also the problems generated for the minds and bodies caught up in these transformations” (5). In this context then, Victorian metamorphosis denotes the tangible changes that the new modern ways of life had on human beings, with individual corporealities and psyches as the material signifiers of those transformations, and with literature and a larger literary sphere as one of the sites which made these changes visible.

3 Literary Spheres The expansion of the reading public, which had begun in the eighteenth century, continued and intensified in the Victorian Age. Readership numbers increased rapidly both among the lower middle-class as well as among industrial workers and were brought forward by social reform and various socio-cultural developments (see Altick 1957, Abrams and Greenblatt 2000, Seeber 2004, Nünning 2000). The circulating libraries, the repeal of the ‘taxes on knowledge’, and the resultant rise of periodical press improved the access to the written word and contributed to the rise of popular literary culture. While the history of public libraries went back into the fifteenth century, circulating libraries first appeared in the eighteenth century and further flourished in Victorian times. The most commercially successful one was founded by Charles Edward Mudie (1818–1890) in 1840 in London, which developed into a chain and quickly acquired branches in other British cities. In 1848, W. H. Smith opened the first railway station bookshop where inexpensive books could be bought or borrowed. The economic demands of commercial circulating libraries like Mudie’s made it a typically nineteenth-century publishing practice that novels originally appeared as so-called ‘three-decker-novels’, the first volume virtually whetting the readership’s appetite for the next two. The price of each volume was half a guinea (10s 6d), which equals about £20 today and made buying the volumes unattainable even for many middle-class readers. Cheaper one-volume editions of successful novels for 6s were indeed published, yet with much delay (see Seeber 2004). Hence the power and influence of people the likes of Mudie were big, as they were not only able to buy large quantities of a first edition of a novel, but were also able to promote and channel the career of a writer (see Nünning 2000, 21–22). As newspapers were still quite expensive until 1855 when the tax on newspapers (‘Stamp Duty’) was abolished, members of the lower classes could turn to broadsides (tabloid types of street literature) and chapbooks for information and entertainment. By and by, hundreds of magazines covering all the fields of contemporary life ranging from politics, science, medicine, to culture, art, and literature sprang up like mushrooms. Victorian periodicals came in all shapes and sizes and catered to the needs of many types of audiences: from The Illustrated London News, which included engravings and correspondence from the whole world, and Dickens’s Household

0 Metamorphoses in English Culture and the Novel, 1830–1900: An Introduction


Words that promised to “be the comrade and friend to many thousands of people, of both sexes, and of all ages and conditions” (Dickens 1850, 1), to Oscar Wilde’s The Woman’s World, aiming to articulate women’s stance on matters ranging from literature and art to modern life practices, to numerous penny dreadfuls addressed at the working classes. Serialised texts, Lina K. Hughes and Michael Lund argue, were particularly suited to capture the Victorian “expansive vision of life” (2012, 53), highlighted the idea of (individual) progress, and “harmonised in several respects with capitalist ideology” (56). “We need to see that the serial form,” they continue, “was more than an economic strategy. It was also a literary form attuned to fundamental tendencies in the age at large” (60). The serial offered what life did: “a continuing story over an extended time with enforced interruptions” (53). Home to a plethora of advertising strategies, illustration practices, reporting styles, as well as factual and fictive pieces, periodicals were also central to the shaping of Victorian literary culture. They influenced the way stories were told. Writers from Dickens to Hardy also chose to have their novels published in form of instalments in magazines such as Household Words (1850), The Saturday Review (1855) or The Cornhill Magazine (1860). For them, the three-decker-novel or publishing in magazines meant possible financial success but also required adherence to specific literary conventions, most prominently the happy ending or poetic justice as well as the strict avoidance of reference to all matters sexual. That serialised novels necessitated certain formal structuring was plainly clear not only to the likes of Charles Dickens who wrote but also edited manuscripts for serial publication. Quick introduction of the plot, rapid movement of the story, the unity of action in each instalment were just some of his strategies. Needless to say, the serial also required particular types of reading and spurred a series of social rituals and cultural practices: from regular gatherings to read and listen to chosen stories, to magazine days on which the life of (almost exclusively) middle and upper classes feverishly revolved around the new issue, to calls for establishing reading clubs. These developments certainly made for one central thing besides an increased accessibility of literary products: Whereas the Romantic era clearly had its aesthetic highlights in the form of poetry, Victorian literature witnessed the triumphal procession of the novel, which – though still disdained at the beginning of the century – became the most representative and productive literary genre by its end. What is striking to observe across the entire Victorian era is the change that takes place with regard to which parts of the readership were (meant to be) reached by the novel. Novels by Dickens and poems by Tennyson were read by almost all ages and all social classes. Since the last decades of the Victorian age, however, a much more liberal treatment of moral issues and literary conventions in connection with much more complex aesthetic structures in novels by, for instance, Walter Pater, Henry James, or Joseph Conrad have procured an enduring split in the readership, disconnecting the aesthetics of the novel from the taste and understanding of the masses.


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It must, of course, be kept in mind that the development of the novel went hand in hand with the changes brought about by industrial revolution and various technological developments (e.g. the railway, telegraphy, but also new forms of printing). It was also certainly influenced by the “frenzy of the visible” that the era witnessed (Comolli 1980, 122). If the early 1800s mark the time when hardly anybody had access to images, the last decades of the century bask in the glorious spectacle of visibility afforded by the kinetoscope and the cinematograph but also by photography as well as dioramas, panoramas, advertising, etc. (cf. Crary 1990, Flint 2000; ↗ 2 Remediating Nineteenth-Century Narrative). The novel was not immune to these changes. Like any other medium, it participated in multiple processes of remediation and both thematically and aesthetically reacted to most of the new technologies of representation. In this context, critics were quick to point out the novelistic preoccupation with new forms of information and information spread (for instance telegraphy, see Menke 2008), the intertwining of literary imagination and photography (Green-Lewis 1996, Armstrong 2002, Novak 2008), as well as new sound technologies and the concomitant forms of orality/aurality (Picker 2003, Kreilkamp 2005, Leary 2010). New media-archeological and Neo-Victorian perspectives are inclined to delve deeper into the Victorian mediascapes and highlight some of other continuities we may as yet not be aware of.

4 The Victorian Novel Matters The seventy years in between 1830 and 1900 brought fundamental changes to the aesthetic conception and perception of reality. These transformations have been so efficacious that they are indispensable for a contextual understanding of both the topical as well as the formal innovations in the aesthetics of fiction in the twentieth and even twenty-first centuries. No matter how much the novel had already borne the signatures of alienation and disenchantment and no matter how close it came to what George Eliot called “one prison house and court” (1959, 541), the concept of Victorian realism was to a large extent still grounded in the firm (Evangelical) belief in a moral order and intersubjective responsibility that transcends subjective ‘egos’. Examples of this Victorian compromise are the numerous conversions in Eliot and Dickens, or, at least, Dorothea Brooke’s active charity amongst her set of acquaintances in Middlemarch. By the end of the nineteenth century, that Victorian compromise came undone – world and transcendence grew so much apart that human life seemed devoid of a ‘higher’ meaning. In the novels from the Nineties, e.g. by Hardy or Conrad, ‘God’ became a mere cipher for an absence and an altogether enigmatic, abstract, indifferent, and inhuman principle of world and nature that no longer differentiated between meaningful and meaningless, just and unjust, tragic or un-tragic incidents, fates, or evolutions.

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That “transcendental homelessness” (Lukács 1971, 32 and 52) which Georg Lukács in his theory of the novel (1916) saw as epitomising modern fiction and which has become a catchphrase in the discourse of modernist aesthetics ever since is already inherent in much of the writing from this transitional period. It marks the starting point for the modernist and even postmodernist writer, whose melancholies (caused by the loss of an objective connection to the world) as well as high hopes (brought about by the playful potential of the unrestrained dealings with free-floating signifiers and self-reflexivity) become more lucid when juxtaposed with all the failures, suicides, or resignation so distinctive of the late nineteenth century. Like nineteenth-century painting and music that were characterised by the decisive move from realist to impressionist techniques, the English novel 1830–1900 testifies to an immense and unprecedented subjectivisation of its ‘realities’ which gradually paved the way to the stream of consciousness novel. More and more, subjective perception in the nineteenth-century novel no longer exhausts itself in thwarted illusions, in the sole sharing in the obscurity of life itself, or, simply, as the feeling of powerlessness in the face of an oppressive outer reality. Increasingly, both the value of subjective claims themselves and the meaning of inwardness and introspection for the individual encountering of reality will become the actual subject matter of the novels, if one looks at, for instance, characters of the same batch as Pater’s Marius, James’s Maisie, Conrad’s Lord Jim, Wilde’s Dorian Gray, or Hardy’s Jude. Likewise, the inner worlds of these characters become more and more private, obscure, and esoteric and, consequently, depart more and more from the worlds experienced and lived by the average reader. To avoid misunderstanding: of course, none of these writers makes subjective and objective matters dissolve in a stream of consciousness; none of these writers has individual character and world match and find a (liberating) unity in fluxus; none of these writers has impressions and private memories materialise in linguistic chains of associations as yet. In fact, the novelists’ immediate knowledge of the dire objective (read: social) circumstances prevented all too radical experiments with subjectivity and introspection in the novel that were, formally, for the most part limited to experiments with narrative perspective or an emphasis of time and temporality. However, writers begin to understand what later becomes a commonplace for the twentieth century: that the inner life, perceptions, and introspections of characters successively replace the old teleological plotlines and, in this, highlight the importance (and the epiphanies) of the moment (as distinct from temporal development and cognition via consecutive reasoning), when subjective awareness of life – if only momentarily – can coincide with life’s objective materialities and predicaments. The narrator in Hardy’s Jude the Obscure compares human knowledge and insight to “the light of a falling lamp” when “one might momentarily see an inscription on a wall before being enshrouded in darkness” (Hardy 1978, 36). This not only harkens back to the epistemological paradigm shift taking place


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within Romanticist imagination which, as M. H. Abrams famously pointed out, no longer resembled a mirror, but a lamp (Abrams 1971). It also foreshadows Pozzo’s scathing words on human existence and our existential position and epistemological potentials in a godless universe from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot: “the light gleams an instant and then it’s night once more” (Beckett 1981, 89). As such intertextual cross-referencing amply shows, not only are the Victorians embedded into their cultural contexts of their own past and future, the knowledge of historical and aesthetic circumstances of the English novel 1830–1900 will forever be vitally productive for the revisionist understanding of ourselves and therefore keep mattering for us. In the last couple of decades, it has even become fashionable to entrust Victorians with unprecedented powers: across scientific and popular discourses, they could be credited with and blamed for almost anything from computerisation to climate change. It is, however, undeniable that our contemporary epoch sees itself as rooted in the nineteenth century. In this context, Cora Kaplan famously relates to the contemporary “desire to know and to ‘own’ the Victorian past through its remains: the physical and written forms that are its material history” (2007, 1). At the same time, she also acknowledges individual emotional and ideological investment as central to this process: “My relationship to things Victorian [. . .] redefined my sense of national identity, influenced my politics and changed my academic signature” (5). One tangible effect of this entanglement is the birth of Neo-Victorian studies, which investigates the continuities and ruptures between our and the Victorian times. The rhetoric in which these investigations are enveloped positions the Victorian era as the spectre of our times: a spirit we continue to conjure up; our double. We talk about Victorian ‘afterlife’, ‘hauntings’, ‘traces’, ‘spectrality’, ‘trauma’ (cf. Arias and Pulham 2010, Kohlke and Gutleben 2010, Kucich and Sadoff 2000). While less ideologically invested in the Victorian era, Adaptation Studies also perpetuates the popularity of the nineteenth century today. Of course, neither would thrive if our (popular) culture had little interest in the era. As it is, Victorians have colonised our contemporary imagination: from their ongoing presence in new (e-)book editions or digitalisation projects that span online appearance of rare materials along with various mappings of Victorian social and literary practices. One hardly has to mention ongoing televisual, filmic, theatrical, and transmedia adaptations and appropriations, or heritage industries that capitalise on the Victorian tourist experience. Indeed, Victorians are everywhere. Their cultural hegemony continues, propelled by our compulsive return to and obsession with the nineteenth century. At the same time, however, critics have raised concerns that many contemporary preoccupations with the Victorian era are selfcongratulatory in that they attempt to establish our superiority. Victorian culture is being harvested as a repository of “sexsationist” narratives that enable us to engage in “(Neo-)Victorian slumming,” irrespective of its problematic ethics (cf. Kohlke 2008, 2018).

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In this atmosphere, the Victorian novel continues to maintain its hegemony. “Victorian literature,” Ann Heilmann and Mark Llewellyn argue in the introduction to their now classic Neo-Victorianism, “still matters, greatly, and the reading of Victorian texts, the re-reading and re-writing of them, and the (neo-)Victorian experience they represent is something that defines our culture as much as it did theirs” (2010, 4). What to some is the sense of ‘belatedness’ and stagnation, as represented by the persistence of Victorian forms, genres, and tropes, they see as “a revitalized, even pyrotechnic response to the ‘tradition’ still so much represented by the Victorians and the possibilities nineteenth-century fiction always continued within itself for subversion” (4). With this in mind, this handbook aims to equip the reader with a stereoscopic perspective on Victorian literature and how it matters today. Part I is devoted to most urgent critical questions of the day: from the intertwining of Victorian literature and science to various processes of literary remediation, to the questions of genre, worldview, gender, and economy. Part II encompasses twenty-nine chapters devoted to individual novels (and their authors) as representative of larger tendencies in nineteenth-century fiction. Next to historical contextualisation, these individual chapters trace the major thematic, aesthetic, and theoretical tendencies and provide a repository of critical responses to the novels, thus opening necessary vistas and theoretical/methodological avenues for their further exploration both in scholarly discourse as well as in and outside the university classroom. Whilst, as Anna Maria Jones summarises the field of nineteenth-century literary criticism, “the Victorians’ theory seems ‘simple’” (Jones 2010, 236) if compared to twentieth- and twenty-first century theoretical approaches to literature and culture, it seems both reasonable and necessary that each chapter dealing with individual writers and novels maps out their theoretical potentials for interpretation. These chapters reveal a wide range of approaches that reach from New Criticism, (post-)structuralism, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, feminism, gender and queer studies, new historicist and cultural studies, reader response, postcolonial and race studies to recent developments within the field of cognitive and environmental/ecocritical studies. As we are writing it, new media-archeological perspectives, just like thriving periodical studies, are beginning to look back at nineteenth-century literature as part of a larger multi- and transmedia landscape. Like other theoretical responses, they are prone to change the way we see the Victorian literary sphere and the way we conceive of its metamorphoses. *** The editors wish to express their sincere thanks to all contributors to the present volume for their dedication to this project. Furthermore, we would like to extend these thanks to our research staff at the universities of Augsburg and Hamburg/ Vienna, without whom the editorial preparation of this volume would have been impossible: Dr. Korbinian Stöckl, Dr. Martin Riedelsheimer, Lotte Albrecht, Sarah Auer,


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Lisa Bittner, Nicole Held, Leonie Müller, Victoria Müller, Carolin Steinke, Katharina Ungar (Augsburg); PD Dr. Stefan Schenk-Haupt, Dr. Tamara Radak, Alina Lange, Tim Peetz, and Marlene Schurig (Hamburg/Vienna). On a final note, we should like to express our sadness about the death of Professor Karen Scherzinger (University of Johannesburg, South Africa), who was one of our contributors until her illness made it impossible for her to continue with her work. She was a dear friend, a wonderful colleague, and an eminent Henry James scholar. She will be greatly missed.

Bibliography Abrams, M. H. The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition. Oxford: OUP, 1971. Abrams, M. H., and Greenblatt, Stephen, eds. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. “The Victorian Age, 1830–1901”. Vol. 2. New York: Norton: 2000. 1043–1065. Altick, Richard, D. The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading Public, 1800–1900. Chicago: The U of Chicago P, 1957. Arias, Rosario, and Patricia Pulham, eds. Haunting and Spectrality in Neo-Victorian Fiction: Possessing the Past. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2010. Armstrong, Nancy. Fiction in the Age of Photography: The Legacy of British Realism. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2002. Arnold, Matthew. “Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse.” The Poetical Works of Matthew Arnold. Ed. C. B. Tinker and H. F. Lowry. London: OUP, 1950. 298–301. Arnold, Matthew. Culture and Anarchy. Ed. Samuel Lipman. New Haven: Yale UP, 1994. Beckett, Samuel. Waiting for Godot. London: Faber and Faber, 1981. Bonea, Amelia, Melissa Dickson, Sally Shuttleworth, and Jennifer Wallis. Anxious Times: Medicine and Modernity in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 2019. Buckley, Jerome Hamilton. The Triumph of Time: A Study of the Victorian Concepts of Time, History, Progress and Decadence. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1966. Comolli, Jean-Louis. “Machines of the Visible.” The Cinematic Apparatus. Ed. Teresa DeLauretis and Stephen Heath. St. Martin’s, 1980. 121–143. Crary, Jonathan. Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990. Dickens, Charles. “A Preliminary Word.” Household Words 1 (30 March 1850): 1. Eliot, George. “In a London Drawingroom.” In: Bernard J. Paris, “George Eliot’s Unpublished Poetry.” Studies in Philology 56.3 (1959): 539–558. Flint, Kate. The Victorians and Visual Imagination. Cambridge: CUP, 2000. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Pantheon, 1977. Gilmour, Robin. The Victorian Period: The Intellectual and Cultural Context of English Literature, 1830–1890. London: Longman, 1993. Goetsch, Paul. Die Romankonzeption in England 1880–1910. Heidelberg: Winter, 1967. Green‐Lewis, Jennifer. Framing the Victorians: Photography and the Culture of Realism. Ithaca: Cornell UP. 1996. Haekel, Ralf, ed. Handbook of British Romanticism. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017. Hardy, Anne. Health and Medicine in Britain since 1860. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001. Hardy, Thomas. Jude the Obscure. Ed. Norman Page. New York: Norton, 1978.

0 Metamorphoses in English Culture and the Novel, 1830–1900: An Introduction


Heilmann, Ann, and Mark Llewellyn. Neo-Victorianism: The Victorians in the Twenty-First Century, 1999–2009. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2010. Hughes, Linda K., and Michael Lund. “Introducing the Serial.” Dickens and Victorian Print Cultures. Ed. Robert L. Patten. Abingdon: Routledge, 2012. 53–70. Houghton, Walter E. The Victorian Frame of Mind: 1830–1870. New Haven: Yale UP, 1957. Jones, Anna Maria. “Victorian Literary Theory.” The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Culture. Ed. Francis O’Gorman (Cambridge: CUP, 2010). 236–254. Kaplan, Cora. Victoriana: Histories, Fictions, Criticism. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2007. Kern, Stephen. The Culture of Time and Space: 1880–1918. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1983. Kohlke, Marie-Luise, and Christian Gutleben, eds. Neo-Victorian Tropes of Trauma: The Politics of Bearing After-Witness to Nineteenth-Century Suffering. Amsterdam: Rodopi: 2010. Kohlke, Marie-Luise. “Sexsation and the Neo-Victorian Novel: Orientalising the Nineteenth Century in Contemporary Fiction.” Negotiating Sexual Idioms: Image, Text, Performance. Ed. Marie-Luise Kohlke and Luisa Orza. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2008. 53–77. Kreilkamp, Ivan. Voice and the Victorian Storyteller. Cambridge: CUP, 2005. Kucich, John, and Diane F. Sadoff, eds. Victorian Afterlife: Postmodern Culture Rewrites the Nineteenth Century. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2000. Leary, Patrick. The Punch Brotherhood: Table Talk and Print Culture in mid-Victorian London. London: The British Library, 2010. Lukács, Georg. Theorie des Romans. Berlin: Luchterhand, 1971. Marx, Karl. Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen Ökonomie. Vol. II/5 of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels: Gesamtausgabe. Berlin: Dietz, 1983. Menke, Richard. Telegraphic Realism: Victorian Fiction and Other Information Systems. Palo Alto: Stanford UP, 2008. Middeke, Martin. Die Kunst der gelebten Zeit: Zur Phänomenologie literarischer Subjektivität im englischen Roman des ausgehenden 19. Jahrhunderts. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2004. Miller, J. Hillis. The Disappearance of God: Five Nineteenth-Century Writers. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1963. Moore, Jason W. “Introduction: Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism.” Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism. Ed. Jason W. Moore. Oakland: PM Press, 2016. 1–14. Novak, Daniel A. Realism, Photography, and Nineteenth-Century Fiction. Cambridge: CUP, 2008. Nünning, Vera. Der englische Roman des 19. Jahrhunderts. Stuttgart: Klett, 2000. Osterhammel, Jürgen. Die Verwandlung der Welt: Eine Geschichte des 19. Jahrhunderts. München: Beck, 2009. Picker, John M. Victorian Soundscapes. Oxford: OUP. 2003. Pietrzak-Franger, Monika. Syphilis in Victorian Culture and Literature: Medicine, Knowledge and the Spectacle of Victorian Invisibility. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2017. Reinfandt, Christoph, ed. Handbook of the English Novel of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017. Seeber, Hans Ulrich. Englische Literaturgeschichte. Stuttgart: Metzler: 2004. Swinburne, Algernon Charles. “The Triumph of Time.” Poems and Prose. Ed. Richard Church. London: Dent, 1940. 12–26. Thorsheim, Peter. Inventing Pollution: Coal, Smoke, and Culture in Britain since 1800. Athens: Ohio UP, 2006. Wendorff, Rudolf. Zeit und Kultur: Geschichte des Zeitbewußtseins in Europa. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1980. Wheeler, Michael. Death and the Future Life in Victorian Literature and Theology. Cambridge: CUP, 1990.


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Further Reading Armstrong, Isobel. Victorian Glassworlds: Glass Culture and the Imagination 1830–1880. Oxford: OUP, 2008. Beer, Gillian. Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction. Cambridge: CUP, 2000. Brosch, Renate, and Rebecca Pohl, eds. Victorian Visual Culture. Heidelberg: Winter, 2008. David, Deirdre, ed. The Cambridge Companion to The Victorian Novel. Cambridge: CUP, 2001. Dawson, Gowan. Darwin, Literature and Victorian Respectability. Cambridge: CUP, 2005. Feldmann, Doris, and Christian Krug, eds. Viktorianismus: Eine literatur- und kulturwissenschaftliche Einführung. Berlin: Schmidt, 2013. Flint, Kate. The Cambridge History of Victorian Literature. Cambridge: CUP, 2016. Gallagher, Catherine. The Industrial Reformation of English Fiction: Social Discourse and Narrative Form, 1832–1867. Chicago: Chicago UP, 1985. Lightman, Bernard, ed. Victorian Science in Context. Chicago: Chicago UP, 1997. Moran, Maureen. Victorian Literature and Culture. London: Continuum, 2006. O’Gorman, Francis, ed. The Cambridge Guide to Victorian Culture. Cambridge: CUP, 2010. Patten, Robert L., ed. Dickens and Victorian Print Cultures. Burlington: Ashgate, 2012. Shuttleworth, Sally. George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Science: The Make-Believe of a Beginning. Cambridge: CUP, 1984. Schwartz, Vanessa, and Jeannene Przybylski, eds. The Nineteenth Century Visual Culture Reader. London: Routledge, 2004. Steinbach, Susie. Understanding the Victorians: Politics, Culture, and Society in NineteenthCentury Britain. London: Routledge, 2012. Wheeler, Michael. English Fiction of the Victorian Period 1830–1900. London: Longman, 1994. Wilson, Andrew. N. The Victorians. London: Arrow, 2003.

Part I: Systematic Questions

Phillip Mallett

1 Science and the Victorian Novel Abstract: Scientific concepts and discoveries permeated Victorian culture at every level, and readers of fiction grew accustomed to finding ideas derived from geology, astronomy and physics, about time, space, and entropy, jostling against others drawn from biology, psychology, or physiology. For the most part, scientists and novelists shared a common language and common convictions, including the regularity of law, the unity of the self, and the belief that observation and reason, aided by the imagination, could provide a plausible account of the world, and of humanity’s place in it. This commonality was particularly evident in evolutionary theory, which like the novel was concerned with time and change, but it was also apparent in mental science, both in older but still influential theories such as physiognomy and phrenology, and in later developments in the study of borderland states such as trance or fever, and of the split or multiple personality. Over the century, however, confidence in the power of science to interpret the world was chastened by an increasing awareness that humanity was not so much master of what it surveyed, as itself subject to the laws science was seeking to discover. Keywords: Evolution, entropy, mental science, freewill, heredity

1 Case Studies: Eliot and Dickens A discussion of the relation between science and the novel in Victorian England might begin with the first paragraphs of two major pieces of fiction written in the period. George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda (1876) opens with a series of questions: Was she beautiful or not beautiful? and what was the secret of form or expression which gave the dynamic quality to her glance? Was the good or the evil genius dominant in those beams? Probably the evil; else why was the effect that of unrest rather than of undisturbed charm? Why was the wish to look again felt as coercion and not as a longing in which the whole being consents? (Eliot 2003, 7)

This seems to promise a courtship plot, but we are told the identity neither of the questioner (Daniel), nor of “she” who is being observed (Gwendolen), nor the setting (the gaming tables at Leubronn); these are disclosed only gradually in the following paragraphs. Instead, we are confronted with the glance of an unnamed woman, and the fear that it might possess a secret and dangerous power, evidently erotic in nature. Victorian fiction typically subordinated the urgency of sexual desire to the more decorous pleasures of romantic choice; both are present here, https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110376715-002


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lightly coded as “unrest” and “charm,” but in suggesting that beauty is itself a form of coercion the text undermines the distinction between them. As Eliot and her readers were uneasily aware, this was territory Charles Darwin had recently explored in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871), when he proposed that rather than unique to humankind, and a mark of species superiority, both beauty and the aesthetic sense that responded to it were sexually selected adaptations, shared across the entire animal kingdom.1 Evolutionary science thus suggested a new and less flattering context for stories of love and marriage: the reproduction of the species was “strikingly the same in all mammals,” from “the first act of courtship by the male” to “the birth and nurturing of the young” (Darwin 2003, 8). Eliot’s opening paragraph similarly threatens to root human attraction in biology, and beauty in reproductive fitness. That the protagonists observe each other in a casino, a world in which selfdetermination yields to the rule of chance, only adds to the reader’s disquiet. Eliot’s readers were also troubled by the phrase “dynamic quality,” which they found “too scientific,” and accordingly a failure of artistic “tact” (James 1894, 84). As her publisher William Blackwood had already cautioned her, “dynamic” was “still a dictionary word to many people” (Eliot 1956, 183): the first entry in the Oxford English Dictionary dates from 1827, where it pertains to the study of forces at work in the physical world. Eliot herself uses it only once elsewhere in her fiction, when Will Ladislaw is surprised to find the hitherto “humdrum” world of Middlemarch “in a terribly dynamic condition” (Eliot 1997, 788) after the disgrace of the banker Nicholas Bulstrode. In both instances, the context is provided by the positivism of Auguste Comte. In developing the discipline of sociology in the 1840s Comte had borrowed from physics to distinguish between the static and the dynamic: statics had to do with equilibrium, or the order of things at any given time, while dynamics addressed the energies making for change. The latter proved the more compelling topic: throughout the century, and across the range of Victorian science from astronomy to zoology, theories oriented towards questions of origin, process, and function superseded earlier attempts to observe and classify the assumed stasis of a divinely ordered creation. This is the basis of the distinction made in Middlemarch between the Rev. Farebrother’s delight in specimens and taxonomy, and Lydgate’s research into “the intimate relations of living structure” (Eliot 1997, 147). In that novel Eliot is concerned with provincial society on the cusp of change, but in the opening pages of Daniel Deronda the unsettling effect of the “dynamic” is experienced at a personal rather than the social level. In keeping with the epigraph to the chapter, which warns that both “Science” and “Poetry” necessarily resort to “make-believe” in trying to establish a beginning (Eliot 2003, 3), Gwendolen’s unorthodox beauty disallows the secure point of view on which inductive certitude depends (Shuttleworth 1984, 176).

1 The science devoted to sexual difference, and the response of novelists to it, has not been considered in this essay.

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Daniel and the narrator are confronted by the limits to what observation can reveal, and the consequent need for new frames of reference; and, by implication, so too is the reader. If Eliot’s readers regretted that her work was “permeated” by science (James 1894, 84), they were not surprised by it. It was less expected of Dickens, but scientific ideas and images are equally evident on the first page of Bleak House (↗ 16 Charles Dickens, Bleak House), which began publication in March 1852: LONDON. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets, as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes – gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas, in a general infection of ill-temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest. (Dickens 2003, 13)

The verve of the writing makes it easy to overlook the scientific freight carried here, most notably in the evocation of the beginning and end of time. The first is implicit in the reference to the cessation of the biblical deluge, immediately recalibrated by the image of a megalosaurus emerging from a swamp. This owes more to geology than to biblical tradition: Genesis had nothing to say about the megalosaurus. The official name, Megalosaurus bucklandii, had been assigned by William Buckland in 1824, on the basis of the few bones so far discovered; “dinosaur” was still more recent, introduced by the palaeontologist Richard Owen in 1842, but the ‘terrible lizards’ were already the subject of public fascination. This intensified in 1852–1853, as Bleak House was appearing in serial form, when the Crystal Palace was relocated at Sydenham and purportedly life-size and lifelike dinosaur models, designed and sculpted by Benjamin Hawkins under Owen’s direction, were set up in the grounds. In 1853, with an eye to publicity, and his own reputation, Owen presided over a New Year’s Eve dinner for twenty literary and scientific guests inside the mould of a giant iguanodon, an event duly commemorated in the Illustrated London News of 7 January 1854. Over the next few decades, the Sydenham dinosaurs attracted more than a million visitors a year. By the 1850s both geologists and the majority of the clergy had agreed on the need to separate their respective fields, but the megalosaurus already featured in controversy. In Geology and Mineralogy Considered with Reference to Natural Theology (1836), his contribution to the Bridgewater Treatises, Buckland had abandoned his former belief in the universal effects of the Noachian deluge, and accepted what has come to be known as ‘deep time’. But the Treatises were explicitly


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intended to demonstrate “the Power, Wisdom, and Goodness of God, as manifested in the Creation,” and in honouring that aim Buckland had responded to concerns about a giant carnivorous lizard stalking the earth with the argument that the creature’s teeth and jaws, “adapted to effect the work of death most speedily,” meant that its victims died swiftly: its ferocity was in fact a mark of divine mercy (Buckland 1836, 201). That reassurance, however, could not remove a more radical anxiety: the fossil evidence, as Buckland admitted in a controversial sermon in 1839, showed that biological death had existed in the world before the arrival of humankind, and therefore could not be interpreted as divine punishment for the Fall (Buckland 1839). Dickens’s Megalosaurus, waddling through the streets of Holborn, belongs simultaneously to the worlds of fiction, science, popular entertainment, and theology. It is disquieting as well as comic. The comparison of falling soot to snowflakes mourning the death of the sun is equally topical. Other writers as well as Dickens had remarked on the soot pollution of the London skies, and by the close of the century it had become a familiar trope: William Delisle Hay’s dystopian novella, The Doom of the Great City (1880), an early experiment in science fiction, recounts the destruction of all life in London by prolonged fog (Corton 2015, 93). But the reference is also to contemporary debate about the projected end of the solar system, and the coming heat death of the universe. This was an issue bearing on interpretations of the past as well as the remote future. Entering the dispute in 1862, in a paper “On the Age of the Sun’s Heat,” William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) argued that the light and heat essential to life on earth would fail within a few million years, “unless sources now unknown to us are prepared in the great storehouse of creation” (Thomson 393). Thomson’s study of the dissipation of the sun’s energy had convinced him that if the earth were indeed as old as Charles Lyell had claimed in his Principles of Geology (1830–1833), and as was required by naturalistic theories of evolution, including Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859), it would long ago have become too cold to sustain life; such theories must therefore be, as Thomson devoutly believed, in error. His objections serve as a reminder that the agnostic science of Darwin, Thomas Huxley, and John Tyndall did not instantly sweep all before it; there remained a significant minority, like Thomson or James Clerk Maxwell, for whom modern science confirmed rather than challenged Christian teaching about divine providence and the immortality of the soul. But while Thomson trusted in a benevolent creator, others were as fearful about physics as they were about geology. Although the word entropy was not in use in English until the 1860s, the concept had already taken hold. In his 1959 lecture on “The Two Cultures,” C. P. Snow adduced popular ignorance of the second law of thermodynamics to support his claim that there existed a “gulf of mutual incomprehension” between the literary and scientific worlds (Snow 2012, 4). He might better have argued that this was the one law of physics of which most writers and readers had at least some knowledge. From Dickens in the 1850s to H. G. Wells

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and Joseph Conrad at the end of the century, Victorian novelists were haunted by the thought that all closed systems necessarily run down, or tend towards maximum entropy: more precisely, that as energy changes from one form to another, temperature, density, and pressure move towards equilibrium, at which point no further work can be done. The sense of crisis in Bleak House – the fear that the “moving age” will be brought to a halt, whether by spontaneous combustion, sudden collapse, or irreversible decline towards “perpetual stoppage” (Dickens 2003, 189) – is structured partly by geological arguments about catastrophism and uniformitarianism, but it also reflects new and disturbing theories in mid-Victorian physics (Jones 2013).

2 Science and the Wider Culture: The Contest for Authority By the 1850s, as these two passages suggest, science had become an integral part of Victorian culture at numerous levels. Scientific concepts and discoveries were encountered daily in non-textual as well as textual forms, most obviously in the emergence of new technologies such as the telegraph or the use of anaesthetics – James Young Simpson first used chloroform in childbirth in 1847, Reuter’s news agency began its telegram service in 1851 – but also in popular entertainments such as panoramas, museum displays, public lectures, demonstrations of mesmerism, or visits to a phrenologist. Dickens studied mesmerism with Dr John Elliotson, its leading practitioner (Connor 2010); Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy all had their skulls “read,” the latter being advised that his would “lead him to no good” (Hardy 1985a, 43). Formal scientific education was rudimentary, but the Victorians were impassioned amateurs. They bought telescopes and studied the stars, filled Wardian cases with ferns, explored rock pools or collected fossils, and took advantage of the introduction of the penny post in 1840 to send their observations, and even their specimens, to a host of newly formed or revitalised scientific societies. Philip Gosse’s The Aquarium: an Unveiling of the Wonders of the Deep Sea (1854) launched a craze: Henry Knight, in Hardy’s A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873), is not only enough of a geologist to identify a trilobite as he clings for his life on the Cliff without a Name, but has an aquarium in his rooms in the Inns of Court. Books on natural science, many beautifully illustrated, sold tens of thousands of copies: among others, Gideon Mantell’s The Wonders of Geology (1838), Edward Forbes and Sylvester Hanley’s four volume History of British Mollusca (1848–1852), Charles Kingsley’s Glaucus; or, the Wonders of the Shore (1855), J. G. Wood’s Common Objects of the Country (1858), G. H. Lewes’s Sea-Side Studies (1860), and Robert Ball’s The Story of the Heavens (1885). The first issue of Nature, described on its title page as “a weekly illustrated journal of science,” came out in 1869; generalist


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magazines like Macmillan’s and Blackwood’s carried reports, book reviews and articles on scientific developments, often side by side with serial fiction. Hardy owned a copy of Richard Proctor’s Essays on Astronomy (1872), and drew on it for Two on a Tower (1882), but he and Proctor had already appeared in the same issue of the Cornhill Magazine on at least six occasions; it was Hardy, in Chapter twentyseven of Far from the Madding Crowd (Cornhill, June 1874), who compared the settling of a swarm of bees to the formation of stars within nebulae, but it might equally have been Proctor. For readers and writers alike, there was a constant traffic between scientific discussion and imaginative literature. No popular writer on science was more influential than Robert Chambers, though he chose to issue his Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844) anonymously. He had good reason to be cautious: he was a publisher and encyclopaedist with many enthusiasms, including phrenology, spontaneous generation, and the transmutation of species, but he had no scientific training. Undeterred, he set out to unite current theories of astronomy, geology, natural history, and moral philosophy within an epic narrative of development. In the event, Vestiges jarred with scientists because of its numerous errors, and scandalised the religious because of what Adam Sedgwick, an Anglican priest as well as Professor of Geology at Cambridge, termed its “rank, unbending, and degrading materialism” (Sedgwick 1845, 3). Others were content to mock: in Benjamin Disraeli’s Tancred (1847), Vestiges appears as The Revelations of Chaos. Yet what Chambers described was not a godless or chaotic universe but one subject to regular laws, in which everything in existence – the solar system, plants, reptiles, mammals, and humanity – had evolved under divine guidance from earlier forms; the “natural history of creation” was a story of universal progress, from inorganic nebulae to the arrival of sentient life on earth. Tennyson was an early and admiring reader, and the optimistic teleology of In Memoriam (1850) owes much to Chambers (Secord 2000, 530–532); for all the criticism levelled against it, Vestiges, like Tennyson’s poem, resonated with the public mood, requiring ten editions in as many years. Of still wider significance was its narrative form, in which complexity and conflict were revealed as constituent elements of a precedent design, working itself out in time and space. It thus provided not only the template for much subsequent science writing (Lightman 2007, 500), but also an analogue for the Victorian multi-plot novel. The trajectory of such works as Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend (1865), or Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now (1875), in which seemingly disconnected events are resolved into rational order, was seen in Vestiges as part of the fundamental structure of reality. In the one case the process was directed by a benevolent Creator, in the other by an author responding to the hopes and fears of the reader, but in both the pattern was the same. It would not have occurred to Chambers to debate the relation between science and literature. In part this was a matter of vocabulary. It was only in the eighteenth century that ‘science’ ceased to be a synonym for the state of knowing, and came

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instead to denote any body of knowledge structured around defined terms, coherent proofs, and demonstrable laws, irrespective of what was being studied (Ross 1962); it is in this sense that Matthew Arnold could claim Homeric scholarship as “scientific” (Arnold 1974, 57), and Hardy write an essay in 1891 on “The Science of Fiction” (Hardy 2001). The now familiar use of science as a generic term for the separate disciplines of chemistry, physics, and so forth was signalled by the foundation in 1831 of the British Association for the Advancement of Science – or as Dickens renamed it, the Mudfog Society for the Advancement of Everything (Dickens 1837). In their prospectus, the founders of the BAAS described themselves as “cultivators of science” (Harcourt 1832, 10), but the question of what to call those engaged in scientific work was not easily decided. Professor Waldman, in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), urges the protagonist not to remain “a petty experimentalist” but to become a true “man of science,” versed in “every branch of natural philosophy” (Shelley 1996, 28). In differing forms, that distinction retained its force through the nineteenth century. When in 1834 the Cambridge polymath William Whewell proposed the term “scientist,” formed by analogy with “artist” or “economist” (Ross 1962, 71–72), it was resisted partly as a neologism, but also because it was felt to reduce the man of science to a mere technician, concerned only with immediate practical outcomes, and in doing so to set both an intellectual and a class boundary between scientific research and the higher aspirations of philosophy (Secord 2014, 104–106). Faraday, John Herschel, and Huxley rejected any such barrier, and continued to style themselves ‘men of science’, or ‘natural philosophers’. The dispute over status and title reflected the emergence of a new cadre of men whose scientific training had been carried on in fieldwork, industry, or the laboratory, rather than the traditions of natural theology still current at Oxford and Cambridge. This process, variously described as professionalisation (Heyck 1982) or identity formation (Golinski 1998), brought to the fore a group of writers determined to assert their cultural relevance as well as their authority as specialists in their chosen domain – a point underlined by the ease with which they quoted from Shakespeare, Milton, Goethe, or Carlyle. Science, as men like Huxley, Tyndall, and W. K. Clifford construed it, was a confessedly secular project, which set out to provide an account of the natural world based on inquiry and expertise rather than received opinion or religious orthodoxy, but it was at the same time a profoundly ethical one. Good science, they insisted, began in the moral integrity of the scientist. As Tyndall wrote in 1854 of “The Study of Physics”: The first condition of success is patient industry, an honest receptivity, and a willingness to abandon all preconceived notions, however cherished, if they contradict the truth. Believe me, a self-renunciation which has something lofty in it, and of which the world never hears, is often enacted in the private experience of the true votary of science. And if a man be not capable of this self-renunciation – this loyal surrender of himself to Nature and to fact, he lacks, in my opinion, the first mark of the true philosopher. (Tyndall 1879, 343)


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Such statements were designed to extend the narrow claim that the scientific practitioner had skills and knowledge beyond the reach of the amateur into the wider one that the promotion of science, through education, new journals and institutions, and better career opportunities for scientific workers, would conduce to the moral and spiritual health of society (DeWitt 2013, 22–23). The heroic self-image of the “votary of science” carried considerable weight; it was in keeping with this ideal that Hardy admired Huxley “as a man who united a fearless mind with the warmest of hearts” (Hardy 1985a, 125). But this image was also open to inspection. As a number of novelists were to suggest, the scientist’s “lofty” investment in his work, and his commitment to a particular notion of “fact,” could limit his capacity for human sympathy. In Wilkie Collins’s anti-vivisection novel Heart and Science (1883), prompted by the trial for cruelty to animals of the neurologist David Ferrier two years earlier (Otis 2007), Dr Nathan Benjulia dismisses humanity as a mere “mob” which refuses to accept that “Knowledge sanctifies cruelty” (Collins 1996a, 190); later, realising his life’s work has been a failure, he burns down his laboratory, and commits suicide. As with Shelley’s Dr Frankenstein, Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll (↗ 25 Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) and H. G. Wells’s Dr Moreau, even George Eliot’s Dr Lydgate, the exclusive pursuit of knowledge brings with it the danger of self-exclusion. In the main, however, the nineteenth-century contest for cultural authority, between an Anglican-inflected humanism and the new scientific naturalism, was one in which both sides sought common ground (Turner 1993). Edward Dowden’s essay on “The ‘Scientific Movement’ and Literature” (1877) begins by contrasting the two: the task of science is to “ascertain and communicate facts,” that of literature “to quicken our life into a higher consciousness through the feelings;” science seeks to explain an objective, public reality, literature to explore our personal interaction with that reality. But the simple opposition of science and feeling is soon qualified: “our emotions rest on and are controlled by our knowledge. Whatever modifies our intellectual conceptions powerfully, in due time affects art powerfully” (Dowden 1878, 85). Dowden wrote as Professor of Literature at Trinity College Dublin, but in 1880 Huxley, the leading advocate for scientific education, came to a similar conclusion in a speech on “Science and Culture.” Taking issue with those who viewed the study of ancient literature as “the sole avenue to culture” (a claim he ascribes to Arnold), Huxley insisted that the distinctive character of the age was the increasing part played by scientific knowledge: “our whole theory of life has long been influenced, consciously or unconsciously, by the general conceptions of the universe, which have been forced upon us by physical science” (Huxley 1888, 14–15). Neither science nor the humanities had a monopoly on wisdom: intellectual culture required the study of both. For Huxley as for Dowden, science and literature occupied a “permeable borderland,” rather than separate and hostile territories (Smith 2013, 444).

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3 The Language of Victorian Science A century on from Huxley’s lecture, that borderland became the subject of renewed academic interest (Mallett 2012). Gillian Beer’s seminal Darwin’s Plots (1983) took a poststructuralist approach to Victorian scientific discourse, in particular to writing on evolution, highlighting its fictive and imaginative elements. Beer made two key claims. First, in its preoccupation with time and change, evolutionary theory has close affinities with narrative: like the novel, it concerns itself with the quest for origins, transformations, and hidden lines of kinship and descent, with the interplay of chance and order, and with competition, mating and adaptation. Darwin’s Origin of Species thus offered novelists like Eliot and Hardy “a determining fiction by which to read the world” (Beer 1983, 4). Second, Victorian men of science shared a common language with their nonscientific readers; a language primarily literary rather than mathematical, and drawing on rhetorical strategies and a vocabulary already in play within the wider culture. As Beer points out, it is when a theory is new that it most resembles a work of the imagination, and explanations of it necessarily rely on analogy and metaphor (1; see also Otis 2009, xxi). Inevitably, then, despite Darwin’s best efforts, the meaning of such phrases as ‘natural selection’ or ‘the struggle for existence’ could not be fixed or contained: his theory was “essentially multivalent” (Beer 1983, 9). Much of the imaginative power of evolutionism derived from precisely this openness to contradictory readings. In Hardy’s fiction, for example, the abundance of the natural world, essential to Darwinian theory, is equally a sign of nature’s indifference to the aims of the individual life, and evidence of the countervailing “appetite for joy” which drives life on (Hardy 2003, 190): either emphasis can be seen as ‘Darwinian’. At the same time, Darwin was open to influence by the Victorian novel. Both the Origin and Dickens’s novels seek to resolve an “immense assemblage” of apparently contingent details into defined relations (Beer 1983, 47–48); like the plants, birds, worms, and insects of Darwin’s “tangled bank” in the final paragraph of Origin, the various persons, groups and classes in a novel like Bleak House have multiple if at first unseen connections. The “traffic” between literature and science is “two-way,” each informing the other: “not only ideas but metaphors, myths, and narrative patterns could move rapidly to and fro between scientists and non-scientists: though not without frequent creative misprision” (Beer 1983, 7). George Levine’s Darwin and the Novelists (1988) also read Darwin as an imaginative writer, the creator of a story rather than a strict empiricist. Despite the mass of facts presented in Origin of Species, the observable evidence was fragmentary; evolutionary theory could not be verified by empirical testing, and it was through an effort of the imagination, as much as Baconian induction, that Darwin was able to trace back the line of biological succession from the present state of nature to an


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otherwise irretrievable past – as indeed John Tyndall had also observed in 1870, in a lecture on “The Scientific Use of the Imagination” (Tyndall 31). Where Beer traced the movement of ideas between science and literature, Levine proposed a “one culture” model embracing both, “a gestalt of the Darwinian imagination, a gestalt detectable in novels as well as in science” (Levine 1988, 13). Rather than lines of influence, Levine explored the intellectual and sociocultural formation in which both scientists and novelists were embedded, and which at the same time they helped to shape. Trollope’s (↗ 17 Anthony Trollope, Doctor Thorne) fiction provides an illustration. The first of his Barsetshire chronicles, The Warden, was published in 1855, four years before the Origin. Trollope professed no interest in science, and while Darwin read The Warden he left no comment on it; neither writer directly influenced the other. Yet an essay written in 1882, the year of Trollope’s death (and of Darwin’s, some months earlier), by the Spectator critic Richard Holt Hutton, suggests that both, in Levine’s terms, belonged to the same cultural matrix. Despite his admiration for Trollope, and hostility towards what he saw as the materialism underlying Darwinian theory, Hutton’s reading of the novels employs the ideas and language of the Origin. In Trollope’s work, he noted, as not in Jane Austen’s, the clergy are faced with “the aggressiveness of the outer world,” and the threat from “all sorts of crowding interests:” “everywhere someone’s room is more wanted than his company.” Hutton’s description of the “conflict for existence” among the fictional farms and parsonages of Barsetshire inescapably evokes Darwin’s analysis of the ‘struggle for existence’ in nature (Hutton 1882, 1573–1574). Trollope himself defined his subject matter as the “state of progressive change” in personal and social life (Trollope 1980, 319); Darwin might have described his work as a naturalist in much the same terms. Trollope’s study of the forces in society making for continuity or change has affinities with Darwin’s interest in reproduction with variation; Darwin’s account of the processes of “structure and coadaptation” in the natural world (Darwin 1996, 4) finds an echo in Trollope’s attention in his novels to the formation of groups and classes, whether among the rural clergy or London politicians. Trollope’s self-confessed indifference to the “perfected plot” (Trollope 1980, 232) is analogous to Darwin’s refusal of teleology: for both, the observable state of affairs, whether in Barchester or the Galapagos islands, is the outcome of numerous local struggles and adaptive acts over long periods of time, not a necessary stage in a providential design. When in Barchester Towers (1857) the narrator intervenes to assure the reader that “It is not destined that Eleanor shall marry Mr Slope or Bertie Stanhope” (Trollope 1994, 126), though many of her neighbours expect her to do one or the other, he implicitly concedes that events might have worked out differently, and been no less convincing. Like the world of the Origin, the busy, swarming universe of Trollope’s fiction is replete with possibilities, but chance and conflict will ensure that only a few come to fruition. No outcome is truly “destined,” except as part of the rhetorical compact by which the novelist promises to please the reader.

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4 The Science of Mind: Physiognomy, Phrenology, Monomania At the core of what Levine identifies as the Darwinian ‘gestalt’ was a cluster of interlocking ideas, including the regularity of law, the continual but gradual process of change, the unity of the self, and the belief that observation and reason, aided as necessary by the imagination, could provide a plausible if not definitive account of the world, and of humanity’s place in it. As many critics have noted, these are also the assumptions underpinning most Victorian realist fiction (Rauch 2001, 57), but as with realism itself their hold was never complete, and from around the midcentury they were increasingly challenged by developments in mental science. This was an untidy and contested field, drawing from moral philosophy, physiology and medicine, as well as reforms in the institutional treatment of the insane (Rylance 2000, 7). The questions it raised were correspondingly diverse, but fell broadly into two groups, one focused primarily on human subjectivity, including remembering and forgetting, dreams, mania, and the power and limits of the will, and the other on the relation between mind and body – more analytically, the interplay of sensory experience, the nervous system, and consciousness (Dames 2005). All these questions, but especially those to do with subjectivity, make themselves felt in the novels of Charlotte, Anne and Emily Brontë, and again in the sensation fiction of the 1860s and 1870s, where order and regularity are frequently disrupted by violence, madness, or delirium, and the self appears less a unified entity than the site of conflicting energies (Shuttleworth 1996, 181). The Brontës had good reason to ponder issues of mental pathology. They all suffered from depression, then known as hypochondria; their brother Branwell was addicted to both alcohol and opiates, and Emily was probably anorexic, though the condition was not named until 1873 (Silver 2002, 93–94). Notably, their fiction treats depression as an illness afflicting men as often as women; Lucy Snowe in Villette (1853) recognises the King of Labassecour as a fellow-sufferer from “that darkest foe of humanity – constitutional melancholy” (C. Brontë 1979, 290), and even Heathcliff endures “disordered” nerves (E. Brontë 2003, 333). All three sisters kept up with contemporary ideas in neurophysiology: the description in Agnes Grey (1847, ↗ 12 Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey) of the cycle of “action, and reaction” by which the mind preys upon the body, disturbing “the system of the nerves,” which in turn increases “the troubles of the mind,” closely echoes medical theory (A. Brontë 2004, 7). But they also drew freely on older and less rigorous accounts of the relation between mind and body, including physiognomy and phrenology. Neither of these could long withstand serious analysis, but both were widely influential. The central tenet of physiognomy was that moral and intellectual character determined facial features. Given systematic form by the Swiss poet and pastor Johann


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Lavater in the 1770s, and endorsed in 1824 by Charles Bell in his Essays on the Anatomy and Philosophy of Expression, physiognomy held that by a wise decision of the deity the human face was essentially legible. The “moral life of man,” wrote Lavater, “reveals itself in the lines, marks, and transitions of the countenance” (Lavater 1789, 9). The interest of such claims to the novelist can be traced in the increasingly precise attention to facial contour and expression in nineteenth-century fiction: Austen’s Emma (1815) and Mansfield Park (1814), for example, have between them a single reference to the brow or forehead, regarded by Lavater as a key indicator, while Jane Eyre (1847, ↗ 10 Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre) alone has more than forty. To read the character from the face was, however, an acquired skill. In Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Helen Graham declares herself “an excellent physiognomist,” but is sadly mistaken in her estimate of Arthur Huntington, whose “laughing blue eyes” ought, following Lavater’s taxonomy, to have warned her of his moral weakness (A. Brontë 1996, 136). Lockwood in the opening chapters of Wuthering Heights (1847, ↗ 11 Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights) comically misreads Heathcliff and Catherine. Charlotte Brontë’s protagonists are more successful. The “mould of the brow and mouth” in a portrait is evidence enough for Mrs Pryor, in Shirley (1849), to identify Mr Helstone as “a man of principle” (C. Brontë 2000, 222); William Crimsworth in The Professor (1857) confidently judges both individual character and the innate difference between the Belgians and Flemish on the basis of features, complexion and facial expression (C. Brontë 1989, 149–152). Subsequent events do nothing to undermine Jane Eyre’s first assessment of Rochester or St John Rivers, or Lucy Snowe’s of Mme Beck or Dr John Graham. There is, however, a crucial corollary: those who seek to read the faces of others have themselves to submit to inspection. Jane Eyre as narrator can give a close account of St John’s classical features, but later, in a paroxysm of tears, she is conscious of him observing her, “like a physician watching with the eye of science an expected and fully understood crisis in a patient’s malady” (C. Brontë 2006, 461). Social and personal interaction in Charlotte’s fiction becomes an exercise in competitive watching and concealment, as when Lucy both reads and is read by M. Paul Emanuel: “The little man fixed on me his spectacles. A resolute compression of the lips, and gathering of the brow, seemed to say that he meant to see through me, and that a veil would be no veil for him” (C. Brontë 1979, 128). Jane Eyre studies John Reed’s face while waiting for the blow she knows is to come; Crimsworth learns to deflect the looks of others with “the gaze of stoicism” (C. Brontë 1989, 148). The autobiographical narrators in Charlotte’s novels – Crimsworth, Jane, and Lucy – have in common, first, a desire not to be readable, and second, bound up with this, an intense commitment to secrecy and privacy. In her work an understanding of selfhood as both dependent on and the expression of social and familial relationships, as it typically is in Austen’s fiction, gives way to an idea of the self as essentially interior, created and maintained by the

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self-command that keeps it hidden from others (Shuttleworth 1996). For both Lucy and Jane, their most vital relationship is the one they have with themselves. Phrenology, derived from theories proposed by the Viennese physician Franz Joseph Gall at the end of the eighteenth century, shared with physiognomy the belief that inner character could be read from external form, but the conceptual bases of the two were wholly distinct. Physiognomy was essentially idealist: it held that moral or mental life was primary, and impressed itself on the facial features. Phrenology was firmly materialist: it viewed the brain as the organ of the mind, and mental life as governed by its size, form, and constitution. The brain itself comprised many organs, each controlling a specific faculty or function, and each located in an identifiable region of the cranium. The configuration of the skull – in popular terms, its ‘bumps’ – could thus provide a clue to the relative strength of the thirty or more propensities, faculties, and sentiments that, in their totality, constituted the character. Two points are critical here. First, there was no unified ego separate from and presiding over the various faculties. Rather, the self was a congeries of forces, each with a physical origin, which might as easily be in conflict as in harmony: Jane Eyre observes of Rochester that his head shows “an abrupt deficiency where the suave sign of benevolence should have risen,” yet also that he has a well-developed “conscience,” and can point to “the prominences which are said to indicate that faculty” (C. Brontë 2006, 154–155). Second, while phrenologists held that faculty endowment was innate, they did not regard character as determined and unalterable. On the contrary, George Combe, author of the hugely popular The Constitution of Man (1828), promoted phrenology as an instrument of individual and social reform. In the psyche as in the marketplace, the conflict of energies would allow the best and most valuable to come to the fore. When Huntington justifies his irreligious life by the lack of “a proper organ of veneration,” Helen replies that every faculty, good or bad, “strengthens by exercise” (A. Brontë 1996, 205); Rochester, disguised as a gypsy, reads in Jane’s forehead the evidence that while “the passions may rage furiously [. . .] judgment shall still have the last word” (C. Brontë 2006, 233). Part of the appeal of phrenology was that it offered a vocabulary for those issues of psychological struggle, self-help, and moral management so dear to mid-Victorian commentators. Support for phrenology and physiognomy lingered on through the nineteenth century, though both took increasingly determinist and even malign forms, as in the racial science of craniology, or Cesare Lombroso’s claim to identify the born criminal from facial features – ideas allowed some plausibility in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897, ↗ 32 Stoker, Dracula), but dismissed with open contempt in Conrad’s The Secret Agent (1907). In the meantime, however, scientific interest had turned from what might be visible on the surface to focus on what could not be seen. Even before the mid-century the theory of cerebral localisation, reinforced by anatomical study of the brain’s two hemispheres (Stiles 2012, 27–49), was paving


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the way for new ideas about monomania, the divided self, and the workings of the unconscious (Harrington 1989). These were topics that attracted medical men, philosophers, and jurists, and where they led the novelists were quick to follow. The Brontës, for example, were clearly familiar with James Prichard’s distinction in his Treatise on Insanity (1835) between “moral” and “intellectual” madness, the former marked by “morbid perversion of the feelings,” the latter by irrationality. Intellectual insanity was itself divided into three kinds: mania, or raving madness; dementia, or the complete breakdown of coherence; and monomania, or “partial insanity,” in which the intellectual powers were “disordered” with respect to one train of ideas, but appeared, “when exercised on other subjects, to be in a great measure unimpaired” (Prichard 1835, 5–6). Charlotte’s comment in a letter to her editor about Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre, that “there is a phase of insanity which may be called moral madness,” employs Prichard’s terms (Brontë 2000, 3); Nelly Dean’s remark that Heathcliff “had a monomania on the subject of his departed idol [Catherine]; but on every other point his wits were as sound as mine,” might have come from one of his case histories (E. Brontë 2003, 324). As several critics have noticed, medical narrative, and in particular the case study, interweaving physical description, personal history, and authorial analysis, emerged as a genre alongside and in conjunction with the Victorian novel (Tougaw 2006, Kennedy 2013). The notion of monomania, in which madness and sanity existed side by side, fascinated the ‘sensation novelists’ of the 1860s and 1870s. Dickens’s description of Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone (1868) as “wild and yet domestic” (Dickens 1938, 534) is equally apt to the aberrant mental states such as delirium, somnambulism, trance, or temporary insanity, masked by or coexisting with normal behaviour, which recur in his own work and in that of Collins, Ellen Wood (East Lynne, 1861), Mary Braddon (Lady Audley’s Secret, 1862, ↗ 18 Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret), Charles Reade (Hard Cash, 1863), Ouida (Strathmore, 1865), and Thomas Hardy (Desperate Remedies, 1871). Common to these novels, as also to the sensational elements in a number of otherwise mainly realist works – Hetty’s infanticide in Adam Bede (1859), the Laure episode in Middlemarch (1872), Boldwood’s murder of Troy in Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) – is their questioning of the autonomy of the will, and consequently of received ideas of legal and moral culpability (Rodensky 2003). In The Moonstone (↗ 20 Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone), Franklin Blake’s theft of the jewel is not without motive (he wishes to protect Rachel from the dangers attached to its possession) but since it occurs while he is in an opium-induced trance it is devoid of intention: it is, rather, the outcome of those processes beyond the reach and control of the conscious mind, but still able to affect judgment and action, to which the psychologist William Carpenter (quoted in the novel) gave the name “unconscious cerebration” (Collins 1998, 390; Carpenter 2009, 515–543). The mystery at the heart of The Moonstone, with its “Chinese box” structure of multiple and sometimes misleading narratives, is not the simple question of who stole the diamond, but the uncertain boundary of the rational self (Taylor 1997, 167–173).

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The relation between the conscious and unconscious mind, and the traffic between the two, proved a rich field for psychologists and novelists. Three areas in particular invite comment. There are, first, those occasions when characters’ impulses and motives manifest themselves in behaviours over which they apparently have no control. Hardy’s novels provide numerous examples: psychosomatic illness, such as the blindness that allows Clym, in The Return of the Native (1878), to escape the burden of consciousness in the routines of rural labour; the dissociated state which at different times reduces Eustacia Vye, Henchard, and Tess to passive spectators of their own lives; Angel Clare’s somnambulism in Tess, in which he lays the body of the woman he can no longer love in a tomb; and the seeming mistakes in almost every novel which answer to unacknowledged desires, as when Tess pushes her letter to Angel not only under his door but also under the carpet, at once confessing and concealing her past. Hardy’s notebooks, and many of his personal friendships, attest to his interest in contemporary psychological theories; his fiction emerges from the same context as, say, the work of Paul and Pierre Janet on dissociation, Freud on mistakes in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901), and even W. H. Rivers on male hysteria (Taylor 2013). In the instances above, the characters are unaware of their motives, and in some cases even of their actions, but of equal interest to both novelists and medical science were the moments of divided consciousness, on the border between sleep and waking, in trance or delirium, or in the excavation in dreams of long-buried memories, in which the mind seemed to glimpse its own secret working. Such moments could be embraced – Stevenson in “A Chapter on Dreams” (1888) links them to the creative powers of the artist – but more often they were seen as pathological. When Pip is delirious with fever in Great Expectations he both knows that Joe is his friend, and tries to kill him; he confounds numerous “impossible existences” with his own, yet knows he is doing so (Dickens 1998, 482–483). The sense that the self could not be identified with the rational mind, and that it was not one but many, lies behind those plots that suggest that one character is a double or alter ego of another, embodying half-admitted wishes: as, for example, both Orlick and Drummle appear as Pip’s shadows, the one enacting his rage at Mrs Joe, and the other crushing Estella’s spirit as she formerly had crushed Pip’s (Moynahan 1960). Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), which drew on and fed into contemporary theories of what F. W. H. Myers called the “multiplex personality,” takes this plotline to its logical and literal conclusion (Reid 2009, 26–29). Myers’s reference to “the shifting sand-heap of our being” suggestively links the Shivering Sand of The Moonstone, in which both secrets and a life are lost, the dangerous landscapes of Victorian Gothic fiction, and late-century debates about the instability of the self (Myers 1886, 654). There is a third point of intersection between mental science and the sensation novel, less direct but equally wide-ranging. As reviewers were quick to point out, the novelists’ preoccupation with the nervous system and its disorders was evident


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in narrative strategy and affect as well as in their choice of subject matter. In a hostile essay in the Quarterly Review, Henry Mansel complained that novelists like Collins were “preaching to the nerves instead of the judgment” (Mansel 1863, 495). Their aim was to replicate in the reader something like the “strange responsive creeping in my own nerves” Marian Halcombe experiences in The Woman in White (1860) as she watches Fosco’s mice creeping about his body (Collins 1996b, 233). Recent critics have drawn further comparisons between mid-Victorian physiological psychology and the reading experience offered by fiction, including the question of what, and why, readers and characters choose to remember, and what to forget (Dames 2001; 2007). The Moonstone is a striking example of a novel both about and structured around “the silencing and erasure of hidden linking narratives” (Taylor 1997, 168), but a similar claim could be made about much, and perhaps most, sensation fiction. Victorian criticism of the novel continued to be addressed primarily to character and morality, but the work of Dickens, Collins, and Braddon in particular invites attention to what happens to the mind and the body when we read.

5 Mind and Body: George Eliot Alongside the exploration of human subjectivity, and of aberrant mental states, mid-Victorian psychology continued to investigate the relation of mind and body, and the extent to which the will had power over mental action. In an essay in 1877 on “The Course of Modern Thought,” part of which Hardy transcribed into his notebooks, G. H. Lewes summarised one key development: Physiology began to disclose that all the mental processes were (mathematically speaking) functions of physical processes, i.e. – varying with the variations of bodily states; & this was declared enough to banish for ever the conception of a Soul, except as a term simply expressing certain functions. (Hardy 1985b, 92)

This is a comment that Lewes’s partner, George Eliot, could only tentatively have endorsed. Critics who thought her language was too scientific pointed to her frequent use of the word ‘emotion’, and especially the related forms ‘emotive’ and ‘emotional’ (James 1894, 84). The latter were both new in the nineteenth century – the OED gives 1821 for the earliest use of ‘emotional’, and 1830 for ‘emotive’ – but the objection was not primarily that they were “hateful modern slang” (Patmore 1921, 137). The deeper concern was that the use of ‘emotion’ in place of such older forms as ‘passions’, ‘sentiments’, and ‘affections’, belonged to a new physical psychology, in which mental states like hope or fear, joy or sorrow, were seen to be grounded in bodily changes at the neurological level (Dixon 2003; Danziger 1997). This was the view held, in various forms, by a number of influential writers, including Herbert Spencer in The Principles of Psychology (1855), Alexander Bain in The Emotions and the Will (1859), Henry Maudsley in Body and Mind (1871), and Lewes

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in The Physical Basis of Mind (1877). Spencer, whose work Eliot knew well, argued that mental life, or “the substance of mind,” was composed of “successive faint pulses of subjective change,” which corresponded to “rapidly-recurring shocks of molecular change” in the activity of the nervous system (Spencer 1890, 150–152). Emotions, on this account, were in effect an involuntary read-out of bodily states. For those who failed to see the implications of such theories for human self-esteem, thinkers like Huxley were on hand to point them out. Consciousness, Huxley argued in a notorious essay “On the Hypothesis that Animals Are Automata, and Its History” (1874), did not and could not transcend our embodied condition: it was “a collateral product” of the body’s inner mechanisms, with as little independent causative power as the steam-whistle that accompanied the workings of a railway locomotive (Huxley 1898, 236). This scientific materialism, which gained ground steadily in the second half of the century, seemed to leave no room for the soul or the will, or the possibility of maintaining a stable identity or ‘self’ (Stiles 2007, 18). Eliot was clearly alert to such ideas: when in Middlemarch (↗ 22 George Eliot, Middlemarch) Dorothea’s encounter with Rome jars her “as with an electric shock,” or Ladislaw starts up “as from an electric shock” when she enters the room, his fingers tingling as if “every molecule in his body had passed the message of a magic touch,” the language is not simply figurative (Eliot 1997, 191, 382–383). But Eliot also resisted any reductive account of human freedom: she reassured a correspondent that “the consideration of molecular physics is not the direct ground of human love and moral action any more than it is the direct means of composing a noble picture” (Eliot 1956, 99). The narrator’s claim in Janet’s Repentance that the influence of “one true loving human soul on another” is not “calculable by algebra, not deducible by logic, but mysterious, effectual, mighty” (Eliot 2000, 263), or in Adam Bede that “The human soul is a very complex thing” (Eliot 2008, 189), allows the soul quietly to return from the banishment to which Lewes had consigned it. It is at least arguable that even as the Victorian novel submitted to scientific thought, in choosing to explore human love and morality rather than the action of molecules it also set itself against the more dispiriting implications of that science. Scientific, moral and literary ideas are so deeply interwoven in Eliot’s fiction as to be virtually inseparable. Reviewing Robert Mackay’s The Progress of the Intellect in 1851, she insisted on the principle of “undeviating law in the material and moral world” (Eliot 1963, 31). This, the action of what the narrator of The Mill on the Floss (1860) calls “irreversible laws within and without” (Eliot 1996a, 288), is her essential subject. In the moral as in the physical world actions have consequences, and as the Rev. Irwine warns Arthur in Adam Bede, “Consequences are unpitying” (Eliot 2008, 188). For Eliot this is a biological as well as a moral truth. The past and its consequences necessarily shape the present, whether in society or the individual life: as Maggie Tulliver cries, “If the past is not to bind us, where can duty lie?” (Eliot 1996a, 475). The language here reflects Eliot’s instinctive conservatism, but it also found support in contemporary work in psychology. The theory of association,


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as set out by writers like Bain and Lewes, held that our sense of self is built up through habits of thought and feeling developed in childhood; the repetition of these habits creates physical grooves or pathways in the brain, organising it to receive and integrate subsequent impressions (Rylance 2000, 55–69). So far as we train our habits, we are also able to choose our characters, an idea Eliot regularly puts to the test in her fiction. Silas Marner (1861) may stand as an extreme case. Subject from his youth to cataleptic trances, Silas is a man without an identity, isolated from his neighbours and his own past self. He begins to recover when the need to care for the child who enters his life during one such trance stirs old “fibres,” revives old “habits,” and causes forgotten feelings to “vibrate” in sympathy with hers. He learns to move forward by reclaiming the past: he “grow[s] into memory,” and “gradually into full consciousness” (Eliot 1996b, 124). Despite the irruptions of chance, Marner’s life holds out the hope of the underlying unity of the self. Eliot’s fullest meditation on scientific thought and method occurs in Middlemarch, in the account of Lydgate’s research. Influenced by his hero François Bichat, the founder of histology, Lydgate seeks to interpret organisms in their temporal aspect, or, as Eliot writes in the Prelude, with her own aims as a novelist in mind, to explore how biological forms – in the one case cellular tissues, in the other human beings – behave “under the varying experiments of Time” (Eliot 1997, 3). Such a task requires more than observation alone: the “minute processes which prepare human misery and joy” are “inaccessible by any sort of lens,” and can only be tracked “through long pathways of necessary sequence by the inward light which is the last refinement of Energy” (162–163). This echoes Thomas Huxley’s view, in an essay of 1853 on “The Cell-Theory” that Eliot almost certainly read, of the need to summon “the powerful aid of the imagination, kept, of course, in due and rigid subordination, to assist the faculties of observation and reasoning” (Huxley 1898, 248–249); the disciplined imagination is as necessary to the creation of hypotheses as it is to the invention of stories. Lydgate’s later argument, that the scientific mind must be “continually expanding and shrinking between the whole human horizon and the horizon of an objectglass” (Eliot 1997, 630), also bears on Eliot’s approach to fiction, as the mind of the narrator similarly moves back and forth between the particular case of, say, Bulstrode’s self-deception or Rosamond’s egotism, and the wider horizons brought into view by the novel’s epigraphs and allusions. There is, however, a critical difference between Lydgate’s research methods and Eliot’s concerns as a novelist. In Problems of Life and Mind (1874), G. H. Lewes argued that to understand the human mind it had to be seen not as an isolated unit but as part of a larger social entity (Lewes 1874, 125–128). Lydgate arrogantly dismisses the power of social life; Eliot does not. Both Herbert Spencer’s evolutionary argument that greater individuation implied correspondingly more complex forms of interdependence, and the zoological studies she and Lewes carried out together among the rock pools at Ilfracombe, persuaded her that the well-being of an organism was contingent on its adaptation to and interaction with the world it inhabited. The same rule held good in human

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society: Dorothea’s recognition in Middlemarch that she is part of “the largeness of the world” and its “involuntary, palpitating life” articulates a scientific truth as well as a moral imperative (Eliot 1997, 776). Not the least part of Eliot’s achievement was to recognise, as contemporaries like Spencer, Lewes, and Maudsley were also doing, that psychology was a social as well as a biological science.

6 Thomas Hardy: The Disenchantment of the World Thomas Hardy’s engagement with science was less systematic than Eliot’s, but just as urgent. He insisted on numerous occasions that his work offered merely the “impressions of the moment,” with no attempt at “a coherent scientific theory of the universe” (Hardy 1967, 49). Yet there emerges from his fiction a clear if not wholly consistent view of an impersonal and purposeless universe, subject to laws that can never perfectly be known, in which change is the only constant, and human consciousness the by-product of an accidental collocation of atoms. A Pair of Blue Eyes evokes the immense lapses of geological time, and Two on a Tower the vastness of interstellar space; William Dare in A Laodicean (1881) reflects on the mathematics of chance and probability, which James Clerk Maxwell had begun to incorporate into foundational theories in physics. In The Woodlanders (1887) the struggle for existence in the natural world is pursued with an intensity strangely lacking in the characters; in the novels of the 1890s, Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), Jude the Obscure (1895, ↗ 30 Hardy, Jude the Obscure), and The Well-Beloved (1892/1897), narrator and characters brood over the shaping power of heredity, and contemporary fears of degeneration. This is not the entirety of Hardy’s view – like Darwin, or like Gabriel Oak in the second chapter of Far from the Madding Crowd, he was also mindful of the beauty and wonder of nature – but it comes close to what Max Weber would term the disenchantment of the world: die Entzauberung der Welt (Weber 1930, 17). After reading Edward Clodd’s biography of Huxley, Hardy wrote to him: “what we gain by science is, after all, sadness [. . .] The more we know of the laws & nature of the Universe the more ghastly a business we perceive it all to be” (Hardy 1982, 5). Hardy took pains to integrate ideas drawn from his reading in science into the narrative arc of the novels. The scene in which Knight hangs on the Cliff without a Name draws on the “Retrospect” in the first volume of Mantell’s The Wonders of Geology (Mantell 1848, 447–449), but it also sets up a parallel between the “numberless slaty layers” of rock, recording the extinction of successive life forms, and Knight’s fear that he is merely one of a series of men who have loved Elfride, doomed to occupy a single layer in her memory (Hardy 1998a, 214). Two on a Tower similarly sets cosmic and emotional history side by side: the “voids and waste places” (Hardy 1999, 29) of the sky against the inner “void” (43) Viviette endures in the Great House, and the “formlessness” (30) of stellar space against the “listlessness”


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(16) of a woman watching her life slip away in the narrow room allotted to one whose absent husband may be alive or dead. The plot of The Woodlanders features two material brains – Dr Fitzpiers purchases one and dissects another – but it also foregrounds the vagaries of the immaterial mind, including paranoid obsession, forgetfulness, automatic action, day dreaming, somnambulism, and the displacement of one idea by another. Both Far from the Madding Crowd and Jude the Obscure pick up on Darwin’s claim in the Descent of Man that “the difference in mind” between human and non-human animals “is certainly one of degree and not of kind” (Darwin 2003, 126). In the former, published three years after the Descent, the heavily pregnant Fanny is progressively stripped of her human autonomy as she crawls on hands and knees to the Casterbridge workhouse, while the dog who comes to her aid “thoroughly [understands] her desire and her incapacity,” and becomes “frantic in his distress” on her behalf (Hardy 1993, 278): the chapter both tests and affirms Darwin’s speculation that over time animals would “acquire a moral sense or conscience” (Darwin 2003, 98). Similar issues return still more sharply in the pig-slaughtering scene in Jude. Arabella silences “him” (the personal pronoun is used in the text) by slitting his throat, but not before the animal has expressed “rage,” “despair,” a sense of “treachery,” and even “eloquently keen reproach” (Hardy 1998b, 64). In Hardy’s view, the evolutionary principle that “all organic creatures are of one family” required that the “centre of altruism” be shifted from humanity “to the whole conscious world collectively” (Hardy 1985a, 373). Arabella sees matters differently; like Jude’s own deathbed eloquence in the final chapter of the novel, the pig’s cries draw no sympathetic response (West 2017, 131–140). In 1873, Hardy entered in his notebooks a comment from John Addington Symonds: “The very ground-thought of Science is to treat man as part of the natural order” (Hardy 1985b, 65). This ground-thought manifests itself both in the way characters are represented in the novels, and in the way they perceive themselves. In Hardy’s fiction, more than in that of any of his peers, the reader is constantly aware that human beings live in physical bodies, which in turn dwell in and are affected by the external world; the description of Tess as a “sheaf of susceptibilities” (Hardy 2003, 176) might be applied to almost all his characters. Hardy renders emotion somatically: his men and women quiver, flinch, pulsate, palpitate, shudder, tremble, faint, stand rigid, or feel listless, as much they think. Notably, they blush: in A Pair of Blue Eyes alone, Elfride, Stephen, and Knight blush or flush with pique, triumph, jealousy, perplexity, embarrassment, vexation, anger, mortification, gladness, and shame (Mallett 2018). In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872) Darwin set out to analyse the origin and function of these and other forms of emotional expression, and to show how far these were common to human and nonhuman animals (Darwin 1998; see also Richardson 2013a). Yet he was undecided whether the relation between a mental state and its expression was causative, or merely associative. In an early notebook he proposed that emotions could be described as “effects on the mind, accompanying certain bodily actions,” but then

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hesitated over the implied sequence: “but what first caused this bodily action. if the emotion was not first felt?” (Darwin 1987, 581–582) When in A Pair of Blue Eyes Elfride responds to Stephen’s declaration of love with a “flush of triumph” (Hardy 1998a, 67), is this a thought or feeling that is then expressed through the body, or an involuntary bodily event of which the mind then takes cognisance? Yet that way of putting the question invites a dualistic account of the relation between mind and body, to which both Darwin and Hardy were resistant. In 1882, Hardy transcribed part of a Spectator review arguing that the external “framework” of the universe might have “inner qualities analogous to those which we call mental” (Hardy 1985b, 148). The quoted passage refers to the theory advanced by the mathematician W. K. Clifford, in an essay “On the Nature of Things-in-Themselves,” that while a molecule of inorganic matter does not possess consciousness, it does possess “a small piece of mind-stuff [. . .] When matter takes the complex form of a living human brain, the corresponding mind-stuff takes the form of a human consciousness, having intelligence and volition” (Clifford 1878, 57–67). Rather than distinct, mind and matter are continuous: two modes of the same thing. Hardy returned to this idea in his epic poem The Dynasts (1904–1908), but it also informs the presentation of his characters as embodied beings. When Gabriel Oak touches Fanny Robin’s wrist, and feels it “beating with a throb of tragic intensity” (Hardy 1993, 54), the phrasing recalls his observation of the stars earlier, twinkling like the “throbs of one body, timed by a common pulse” (15); when Angel kisses Tess, the acceleration of her pulse makes her part of “the great passionate pulse of existence” (Hardy 2003, 158). Such moments in the fiction offer tentative support to Hardy’s speculation that the disenchanted world known to Victorian science might “[become] conscious with flux of time” (Hardy 1982, 298), and humanity no longer feel alienated within it. The examination of humanity’s place within the natural order takes on an extra urgency in Jude and Tess. Both novels reflect Hardy’s reading about the relation between heredity and environment, and its implications for human consciousness. Either because or despite the fact that Darwin had conceded in The Origin of Species that the laws governing inheritance and variation were as yet unknown, in the following decades novelists increasingly gave to the transmission of character the kind of attention they had once given to the transfer of property (Richardson 2013): among others, George Gissing (The Nether World, 1889), Sarah Grand (The Heavenly Twins, 1893, ↗ 27 Grand, The Heavenly Twins), and Grant Allen (The Woman Who Did, 1895). The debate took a step forward with August Weismann’s Essays upon Heredity (1889), which Hardy read in 1890 while at work on Tess. Weismann argued that the transmission of character was effected by “germ cells,” which passed intact from one generation to the next, impervious to external influence or individual effort. This accorded with the view set out earlier by the psychiatrist Henry Maudsley, that our identity and destiny are innate within us, determined by our ancestral past rather than our own choices. In 1888, Hardy took extensive notes from Maudsley’s Natural Causes and Supernatural Seemings:


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The individual brain is virtually the consolidate embodiment of a long series of memories; wherefore everybody, in the main lines of his thoughts, feelings, & conduct, really recalls the experiences of his forefathers. (Hardy 1985b, 201; Maudsley 1886, 318)

Tess has much the same thought, when she resists learning about history: “what’s the use of learning that I am one of a long row only – finding out that there is set down in some old book somebody just like me, and to know that I shall only act her part; making me sad, that’s all” (Hardy 2003, 126). Portraits of her d’Urberville ancestors, earlier members of that “long row,” look down from the walls of Wellbridge Manor, where she and Angel stay on their wedding night; their features are recognisable in hers. When she strikes Alec across the mouth with a leather glove, the narrator observes that “Fancy” might regard this as “the recrudescence of a trick in which her armed progenitors were not unpractised” (Hardy 2003, 331), but Fancy here agrees with contemporary science of mind. There is, however, a still darker aspect to this. Maudsley’s work grounded psychology in physiology: mind did not exist outside the material brain. But since matter was subject to the laws of entropy, it followed that both body and mind, including the mental qualities we inherit from our forebears, were bound to decay. Tess’s father has the d’Urberville profile, but “a little debased” (Hardy 2003, 8); Angel Clare justifies his rejection of her with the belief that “Decrepit families postulate decrepit wills, decrepit conduct” (232). In Jude, the Fawley family appears locked into a similar pattern of inevitable decline: as Jude puts it, using Weismann’s term, “I have the germs of every human infirmity in me” (Hardy 1998b, 266). Once bring together, as Maudsley does, the laws of physics and the laws of heredity, and the extinction of the Fawley line, through Little Father Time’s murder of his siblings and his own suicide, has the same kind of inevitability as the future death of the sun. Yet to note the presence of hereditarian ideas in Hardy’s work is not to say that he endorsed them. Tess herself resists “the lure of pedigree” (Greenslade 1994, 157–160); Jude succumbs as much to the idea of a curse on the House of Fawley as to its real effects. The debate about heredity reflected an increasing readiness during the 1880s and 1890s to import into social science concepts drawn from biology, including Ray Lankester’s essay on Degeneration (1880), defined as the gradual adaptation of an organism to less rather than more complex conditions of life (Lankester 1880, 32–33) but quickly extended to the urban poor, and Francis Galton’s introduction of the term “eugenics” to designate the improvement of the racial stock by “judicious mating” (Galton 1883, 26). Hardy followed the debates closely, but he remained wary of the determinism that so often came with them. A lifelong admirer of John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty, he continued to believe, or where he could not believe at least to hope, that it was within the power of each individual to form his or her own plan of life.

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7 The End of the Century In his “Discourse introductory to a Course of Lectures on Chemistry,” delivered at the Royal Institution in 1802, Humphry Davy urged his listeners to approach nature not passively, but “as a master”: Science has done much for man, but [. . .] its sources of improvement are not yet exhausted; [. . .] and in considering the progressiveness of our nature, we may reasonably look forward to a state of greater cultivation and happiness than that we at present enjoy. (Davy 1839, 319)

That heroic confidence in humanity’s mastery over the world was never wholly lost in the ensuing years of the century, but it was increasingly chastened. Henry Knight’s misadventure on the cliff in Hardy’s A Pair of Blue Eyes may be read as a parable. It begins when Knight moves too near the edge, in order to demonstrate to Elfride how the wind striking the face of the rock surges upwards; minutes later, trapped on the cliff face, with the rain being driven upwards by those same currents, so that only his head and shoulders are dry, he reflects that the experimenter has become the subject of one of nature’s “experiment[s] in killing” (Hardy 1998a, 217). Humanity was a part of nature, not master over it, and like all other parts subject to the laws that science had worked to discover. In H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine (1895, ↗ 33 Wells, The Time Machine) the Traveller’s voyage into the future convinces him that “the growing pile of civilisation [is] only a foolish heaping that must inevitably fall back upon and destroy its makers in the end” (Wells 1995, 83). Neither Wells himself, who had a degree in zoology and in 1885 attended Huxley’s final series of lectures, nor any of the novelists considered in this essay, were quite so desponding about the achievements of the nineteenth century. But the science that was to greet the new century – the discovery of X-rays, radioactivity, quantum mechanics, the theory of relativity – was both less accessible to non-specialists, and where it could be understood, still more disconcerting. How, and on what terms, to continue the two-way traffic between science and the novel was a question for a new generation of writers.

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Dixon, Thomas. From Passions to Emotions: The Creation of a Secular Psychological Category. Cambridge: CUP, 2003. Dowden, Edward. “The ‘Scientific Movement’ and Literature.” 1877. Studies in Literature 1789–1877. Ed. Dowden. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, 1878. 85–121. Eliot, George. Adam Bede. 1859. Ed. Margaret Reynolds. London: Penguin, 2008. Eliot, George. Daniel Deronda. 1876. Ed. Terence Cave. London: Penguin, 2003. Eliot, George. Essays of George Eliot. Ed. Thomas Pinney. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963. Eliot, George. The George Eliot Letters. Ed. Gordon S. Haight. Vol. 6: 1874–1877. New Haven: Yale UP, 1956. Eliot, George. Middlemarch. 1872. Ed. David Carroll. Oxford: OUP, 1997. Eliot, George. The Mill on the Floss. 1860. Ed. Gordon Haight and Dinah Birch. Oxford: OUP, 1996a. Eliot, George. Scenes of Clerical Life. 1858. Ed. Thomas A. Noble. Oxford: OUP, 2000. Eliot, George. Silas Marner. 1861. Ed. Terence Cave. Oxford: OUP, 1996b. Galton, Francis. Inquiries into Human Faculty, and its Development. London: Macmillan, 1883. Golinski, Jan. Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science. Cambridge: CUP, 1998. Greenslade, William. Degeneration, Culture, and the Novel. Cambridge: CUP, 1994. Harcourt, William Vernon. First Report of the Proceedings, Recommendations, Transactions of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. York: Thomas Wilson and Sons, 1832. Hardy, Thomas. A Pair of Blue Eyes. 1873. Ed. Pamela Dalziel. London: Penguin, 1998a. Hardy, Thomas. Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy. Ed. R. L. Purdy and Michael Millgate. Vol. 3: 1902–1908. Oxford: Clarendon, 1982. Hardy, Thomas. Far from the Madding Crowd. 1874. Ed. Suzanne B. Falck-Yi. Oxford: OUP, 1993. Hardy, Thomas. Jude the Obscure. 1895. Ed. Dennis Taylor. London: Penguin, 1998b. Hardy, Thomas. The Life and Work of Thomas Hardy. Ed. Michael Millgate. London: Macmillan, 1985a. Hardy, Thomas. The Literary Notebooks of Thomas Hardy. Ed. Lennart A. Björk. Vol. 1. London: Macmillan, 1985b. Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the d’Urbervilles. 1891. Ed. Tim Dolin. London: Penguin, 2003. Hardy, Thomas. Thomas Hardy’s Personal Writings. Ed. Harold Orel. London: Macmillan, 1967. Hardy, Thomas. Two on a Tower. 1882. Ed. Sally Shuttleworth. London: Penguin, 1999. Hardy, Thomas. “The Science of Fiction.” 1891. Thomas Hardy’s Public Voice: The Essays, Speeches, and Miscellaneous Prose. Ed. Michael Millgate. Oxford: Clarendon, 2001. 106–110. Harrington, Anne. Medicine, Mind, and the Double Brain: A Study in Nineteenth-Century Thought. New Jersey: Princeton UP, 1989. Heyck, T. W. The Transformation of Intellectual Life in Victorian England. London: Croom Helm, 1982. Hutton, Richard Holt. “From Miss Austen to Mr. Trollope.” Spectator 55 (1882): 1573–1574. Huxley, Thomas Henry. Science and Culture and Other Essays. London: Macmillan, 1888. Huxley, Thomas Henry. Scientific Memoirs. Ed. Michael Foster and E. Ray Lankester. Vol. 1. London: Macmillan, 1898. James, Henry. “Daniel Deronda: A Conversation.” 1876. Partial Portraits. London: Macmillan, 1894. 65–93. Jones, Darryl. “‘Gone into Mourning . . . for the Death of the Sun’: Victorians at the End of Time.” Victorian Time: Technologies, Standardizations, Catastrophes. Ed. Trish Ferguson. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 178–195. Kennedy, Meegan. “The Victorian Novel and Medicine.” Rodensky 2013, 459–482. Lankester, E. Ray. Degeneration: A Chapter in Darwinism. London: Macmillan, 1880.


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Lavater, Johann Caspar. Essays on Physiognomy. Trans. Thomas Holcroft. London: William Tegg & Co, 1789. Levine, George. Darwin and the Novelists: Patterns of Science in Victorian Fiction. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1988. Lewes, George H. Problems of Life and Mind, First Series: The Foundations of a Creed. Vol. 1. London: Trübner & Co, 1874. Lewes, George H. “The Course of Modern Thought.” Fortnightly Review, New Series 21 (1877): 317–327. Lightman, Bernard. Victorian Popularizers of Science: Designing Nature for New Audiences. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2007. Mallett, Phillip. “The Novel Amid New Sciences.” The Cambridge History of the English Novel. Ed. Robert L. Caserio and Clement Hawes. Cambridge: CUP, 2012. 373–388. Mallett, Phillip, ed. Thomas Hardy in Context. Cambridge: CUP, 2013. Mallett, Phillip. “‘A woman’s flush of triumph lit her eyes’: Hardy, Darwin, and the Blush.” FATHOM 5 (2018). Web. 22 May 2019. Mansel, Henry L. “Sensation Novels.” Quarterly Review 113 (1863): 481–514. Mantell, Gideon. The Wonders of Geology. 1838. 6th ed. Vol. 1. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1848. Maudsley, Henry. Natural Causes and Supernatural Seemings. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, & Co, 1886. Moynahan, Julian. “The Hero’s Guilt: The Case of Great Expectations.” Essays in Criticism 10. 1 (1960): 60–79. Myers, F. W. H. “Multiplex Personality.” Nineteenth Century 20 (1886): 648–656. Otis, Laura. “Howled Out of the Country: Wilkie Collins and H. G. Wells Retry David Ferrier.” Stiles 2007, 27–51. Otis, Laura, ed. Literature and Science in the Nineteenth Century: An Anthology. Oxford: OUP, 2009. Patmore, Coventry. “Thomas Hardy.” Courage in Politics and Other Essays, 1885–1896. Oxford: OUP, 1921. 132–137. Prichard, James Cowles. A Treatise on Insanity and Other Disorders Affecting the Mind. London: Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, 1835. Rauch, Alan. Useful Knowledge: The Victorians, Morality, and the March of Intellect. Durham: Duke UP, 2001. Reid, Julia. Robert Louis Stevenson, Science, and the Fin de Siècle. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Richardson, Angelique, ed. After Darwin: Animals, Emotions, and the Mind. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2013a. Richardson, Angelique. “Heredity.” Mallett 2013, 328–338. Rodensky, Lisa. The Crime in Mind: Criminal Responsibility and the Victorian Novel. Oxford: OUP, 2003. Rodensky, Lisa, ed. The Oxford Handbook of the Victorian Novel. Oxford: OUP, 2013. Ross, Sidney. “Scientist: The Story of a Word.” Annals of Science 18 (1962): 65–85. Rylance, Rick. Victorian Psychology and British Culture 1850–1880. Oxford: OUP, 2000. Secord, James A. Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of “Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation”. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2000. Secord, James A. Visions of Science: Books and Readers at the Dawn of the Victorian Age. Oxford: OUP, 2014. Sedgwick, Adam. “Natural History of Creation.” Edinburgh Review 82 (1845): 1–85. Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. 1818. Ed. J. Paul Hunter. New York: Norton, 1996. Shuttleworth, Sally. Charlotte Brontë and Victorian Psychology. Cambridge: CUP, 1996.

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Shuttleworth, Sally. George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Science: The Make-Believe of a Beginning. Cambridge: CUP, 1984. Silver, Anna Krugovoy. Victorian Literature and the Anorexic Body. Cambridge: CUP, 2002. Smith, Jonathan. “The Victorian Novel and Science.” Rodensky 2013, 441–458. Snow, Charles P. The Two Cultures. Ed. Stefan Collini. Cambridge: Canto Classics, 2012. Spencer, Herbert. Principles of Psychology. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. London: Williams and Norgate, 1890. Stevenson, R. L. “A Chapter on Dreams.” Further Memories. By Stevenson. London: Heinemann, 1923. 41–53. Stiles, Anne. Introduction. Stiles 2007, 1–23. Stiles, Anne. ed. Neurology and Literature, 1860–1920. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Stiles, Anne. Popular Fiction and Brain Science in the Late Nineteenth Century. Cambridge: CUP, 2012. Taylor, Jenny Bourne. “Obscure Recesses: Locating the Victorian Unconscious.” Writing and Victorianism. Ed. J. B. Bullen. London: Longman, 1997. 137–179. Taylor, Jenny Bourne. “Psychology.” Mallett 2013, 339–350. Thomson, William. “On the Age of the Sun’s Heat.” Macmillan’s Magazine 5 (1862): 388–393. Tougaw, Jason Daniel. Strange Cases: The Medical Case History and the British Novel. London: Routledge, 2006. Trollope, Anthony. An Autobiography. 1882. Ed. P. D. Edwards. Oxford: OUP, 1980. Trollope, Anthony. Barchester Towers. 1857. Ed. Robin Gilmour. London: Penguin, 1994. Turner, Frank M. Contesting Cultural Authority: Essays in Victorian Intellectual Life. Cambridge: CUP, 1993. Tyndall, John. Fragments of Science. 6th ed. Vol. 1. London: Longmans, Green & Co, 1879. Weber, Max. Wissenschaft als Beruf. München: Duncker & Humblot, 1930. Weismann, August. “On Heredity.” 1883. Essays upon Heredity and Kindred Biological Problems. By Weismann. Ed. Edward B. Poulton and Arthur E. Shipley. Vol. 1. Oxford: Clarendon, 1889. 67–106. Wells, H. G. The Time Machine. 1895. Ed. John Lawton. London: Everyman, 1995. West, Anna. Thomas Hardy and Animals. Cambridge: CUP, 2017.

Further Reading Cosslett, Tess. The “Scientific Movement” and Victorian Literature. Brighton: Harvester, 1982. Dowson, Gowan. “Literature and Science under the Microscope.” Journal of Victorian Culture 11.2 (2006): 301–315. Gossin, Pamela S. Thomas Hardy’s Novel Universe: Astronomy, Cosmology, and Gender in the PostDarwinian World. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007. Matus, Jill. L. “Emergent Theories of Victorian Mind Shock: From War and Railway Accident to Nerves, Electricity, and Emotion.” Stiles 2007, 163–183. Matus, Jill. L. Shock, Memory and the Unconscious in Victorian Fiction. Cambridge: CUP, 2009. Nemesvari, Richard. Thomas Hardy, Sensationalism, and the Melodramatic Mode. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Winter, Alison. Mesmerized: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1998. Wood, Jane. Passion and Pathology in Victorian Fiction. Oxford: OUP, 2001.

Dianne F. Sadoff

2 Remediating Nineteenth-Century Narrative Abstract: In this chapter, I argue that remediation’s double logic of immediacy and mediation always already subtends cinematic practice, and that mid nineteenthcentury retrospective narrative supported this aesthetic’s emergence. However different the visual objects created by painters, computer artists, and filmmakers, all seek to present their products as improved versions of other media; cinema thus repurposes nineteenth-century narrative for new audiences. In a historical trajectory of the Victorian mediascape, visual images, print technologies, and protocinematic entertainments explode. By century’s end, visibility is no longer modeled on the natural process of seeing but on technological mediation by optical technology. Recent cognitive scholarship theorises the motion picture as a gateway to multisensory experience: spectators become active perceptual participants in the film’s material world, as elements of film style cue the viewer’s perceptual experiences. Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations models this doubled logic as the retrospective narrator remediates past expressive acts and experiences, presenting his visualised memory scenes from the fictional autobiographer’s present. David Lean’s mise-enscène remediates Dickens’s double temporal logic, using auditory effects, eyeline match and low-angle shots, voice-over, and panoramic long takes to make the spectator feel anxiety and fear, and to take pleasure in the multisensory aesthetic. Keywords: Retrospective narration, remediation, multisensory aesthetic, optical technology, cinematic repurposing

The debates about adaptation have recently focused on fidelity aesthetics: filmmakers in the past, it has been said, respected a classic narrative even as they recreated it in a new medium. In the postmodern era, the shift away from heritage and classic-serial televisual styles means filmmakers tend to freely remediate, update, and repurpose classic nineteenth-century fiction for new, often niche, audiences. This opposition occludes a more nuanced historical trajectory which sketches the gradual emergence of mediation’s double logic in twentieth-century narrative film. Stressing fidelity’s puzzling project in an interview about his adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, Alexander Baron said he sought to “keep the fundamental of the framework,” of the “showman opening his box of puppets and putting it away at the end,” yet found it “wasn’t possible” (qtd. in Giddings, Selby, and Wensley 1990, 103). The problem, he added, of “reproducing the tone, of fidelity in general, confronts you every time you dramatize a novel” (103). Likewise emphasising fidelity, Lindsay Doran and Emma Thompson hoped that “love[rs of]



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Jane Austen” would find their film of Sense and Sensibility faithful to the novel’s “humour and wisdom” (Thompson 1995, 16). Yet screenwriters and directors also identified issues of tenor and atmosphere as crucial to their work of adapting narrative for visual media, focusing not on cinematic genres, forms, and modes but on the adaptor’s power to shape observer experience. Avant-garde filmmaker Sally Potter, for example, sought not fidelity but a “live, cinematic form” (Potter 1995, 212), and so she “ruthless[ly]” (Donohue 2001, 58) altered Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (1992) for the screen. Andrea Arnold’s “anti-heritage take” (Raphael 2011, 34) on Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (2011) used untrained actors and long shots of sodden Yorkshire moors, to “make something very real and raw [. . .] happen” on screen (Mullen 2009, 19). Upending Potter’s and Arnold’s accent on live and raw remediations of nineteenth-century fiction, Marc Napolitano provocatively states that Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver! “is in fact the real Dickens” (2014, 127). By focusing on the long history of remediation and using Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1861) as my case study, I will argue that remediation’s double logic of immediacy and mediation always already subtends cinematic practice, and that mid-nineteenth-century narrative supported and sustained this aesthetic’s emergence.

1 Re-theorising Adaptation and Remediation Adaptation now demands re-theorisation to serve filmmakers’ desire to reimagine film’s look and affective appeal to spectators. During the 1980s classic-serial vogue for the Victorian, Diarmud Lawrence, director of the 1987 BBC-TV classic serial of Vanity Fair, told Chris Wensley that an “adaptation [. . .] is not the novel,” but it “must be true” to the “flavours and the feelings of the novel” (Giddings, Selby, and Wensley 1990, 107–108). Lawrence sought to capture the novel’s tone and atmosphere, to imagine the reader’s taste for the story’s flavours, and to deliver an experience of its evoked feelings. Yet, according to Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, remediation – the practice of transferring a tale from one medium to another – pursues a “double logic”: seeking to “achieve immediacy” for its viewers – Potter’s “live, cinematic form,” Arnold’s “something very real and raw” – new media, like some earlier forms, provide experiential immersion yet may also deny “the presence of the medium and the act of mediation” (1999, 11). Although Bolter and Grusin’s project discriminates between new digital and old analogue media, they nevertheless recognise the long history of remediation’s double logic. Renaissance painters deployed linear perspective and “realistic” lighting, they note, and millennial computer graphics specialists “mathematize[] linear perspective” and model “shading and illumination,” yet both “seek to put the viewer in the same space as the objects viewed,” creating immersion and seemingly erasing the process of mediation (1999, 11).

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But this double logic of remediation suggests that the millennial medium granting the observer’s apparent “wish for unmediated mediation” paradoxically proves to be a “highly mediated one” (Armstrong 1999, 14). However different the visual objects created by painters, computer graphics artists, and filmmakers, they all seek to present their products “as refashioned and improved versions of other media” (Armstrong 1999, 15). In their landmark book about early-to-mid twentieth-century Hollywood cinema, David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, and Kristin Thompson argue that classical form depends not on the media that displays it but upon story causality and character motivation. Central to their theory are plot and story comprehensibility (flashbacks, durational strategies, and crosscuts), spatial organisation (framing, frontality, roundness, and continuity editing), shot establishment and scene building, development, and sequencing and a range of non-disruptive differentiation (e.g. film noir’s challenges to style, story, and heterosexual romance) (2006, 12–95). Although these film historians think about individual character formation and narrative conflict, acting styles, framing devices (e.g. the close-up as opposed to the panorama), technology, and innovation, they do not address adaptation or the ways film transforms fiction for the screen (157–193, 251–260). In his twentieth-century structuralist theory of adaptation, however, Brian McFarlane distinguishes between the ways film ‘transfers’ some elements from fiction and ‘adapts’ others. The filmmaker who shoots a faithful adaptation must, McFarlane maintains, “seek to preserve the major cardinal functions” of his or her source novel – as did Lawrence with the BBC’s Vanity Fair (1996, 14). For McFarlane, the cardinal functions or “hinge-points” of narrative, which introduce to the story moments of “risk” and provide “‘chronological functionality,’” may be transferred from one medium to another; the “satellites,” which elaborate without disturbing the “narrative logic,” and which “root cardinal functions in a particular kind of reality” and introduce “‘areas of safety, rests, luxuries,’” require “adaptation proper” (13, 195). The transferred story events drive the “narrative, which functions irrespective of medium” (21). Yet “character, atmosphere, tone, [and] point of view,” which are “intransigently tied to the medium [that] displays them” (196), demand adaptation, and it is here that the filmmaker invests a story with his or her vision, for his or her target audience, and reproduces in a different medium “thematic and affective elements of the novel” (197). The “kind of adaptation the film aims to be” (22), McFarlane notes, determines how faithfully it “reworks the original” (202). Yet more experimental films disrupt the features of classical Hollywood storytelling, often calling attention to their own remediation. Hypermediated product combines the experience of immediacy, or immersion, with the logic of hypermediacy, in which multiplied signs of mediation (appropriated bits of text, graphics, split screens, voice-over of source narrative) “rupture” an illusion of immediacy, acknowledging and making visible multiple acts of representation (Bolter and Grusin 1999, 34). This self-conscious text “undercut[s] the desire for immediacy” (34),


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creating in the spectator an attitude of play or subversion as he or she “acknowledge[s] the medium as a medium” (41) and takes “delight in that acknowledgment” (42). Yet historically we can see that the double logic of mediation rather than hypermediation drives film narrative and shapes its audience’s experience. For Linda Hutcheon, media sculpt the remediated text, and her theory suggests mediation’s double logic. In Hutcheon’s model of cultural transmission, historical change becomes a figurative Darwinian survival of the fittest, a conceptual blend of genealogical predecessors and descendants, which demands that Hutcheon reintroduce a version of fidelity criticism. She confesses that “some copying-fidelity is needed” for consumers to recognise a text’s predecessor and thus to take pleasure in a palimpsestic play with original and copy (Hutcheon 2006, 167). Hutcheon likewise diversifies the media she studies by including, along with film, analysis of opera, video games, interactive fictions, and “expanded cinema,” of which the last three may allow the observer to “control the way the story unfolds” (137). “If you think adaptation can be understood by using novels and films alone, you’re wrong,” she notes (xi). Her attention to spectatorial experience, moreover, allies her with an emergent cognitive mode of media studies. Luis Rocha Antunes’s recent cognitive scholarship theorises the motion picture as a gateway to multisensory experience. Thinking about spectatorship as well as medium, genres, and modes, Antunes argues that filmmakers deploy signs of “thermoception (perception of temperature), nociception (perception of pain) and the vestibular sense (perception of orientation and balance)” (2016, 45) to cue spectators’ perceptual affects and shoot character-mediation (facial and bodily expressions) to stimulate viewers’ perceptual inference-making (4–45). For Antunes, spectators are “active perceptual participants” in the film’s material world as elements of film style “cue” the viewer’s perceptual experiences (6). Arnold’s film of Wuthering Heights, he argues, newly configures the story world’s materiality “through the senses” (2015, 2); for the film’s spectators, the “haptic and phenomenal appeal of human bodies and the landscape” evokes a “sensation of experiential immersion” (3). Arnold’s film thus “create[s] a simulation,” inviting the spectator to close his or her eyes and “open [. . .] other perceptual senses” (3). The multisensory imaginary, activated by light, colour, and sound design, enables the spectator to “generate mental images across different senses” (2016, 35–37). Because the human senses are interconnected, interdependent, and synergistic, they together mediate the “mode of operation of numerous brain circuits” and constitute the “substrate for the neural patterns which eventually become feelings of emotion” (67; see 58–67). Shooting with minimal lighting and seemingly natural sound design to encourage tactile and auditory perceptions, Arnold cuts to the core of Brontë’s narrative: the feel of plant and animal at Wuthering Heights, the wind’s whoosh across the moors, as the camera “witnesses” the characters’ experience and “delivers” it to the spectator (Antunes 2015, 5). Despite his having read the spectator speculatively from the film, Antunes finds that not the medium but “the experience is the message” (2016, 13).

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2 The Victorian Mediascape Adaptation and remediation did not begin with the new digital media. We can see the double logic of mediation suggested or implied by media long before the appearance of postmodern remediation. John Plunkett argues that the Victorian “royal culture industry” produced and disseminated images of the young Virgin Queen “on a diverse assortment of media,” from “engravings and magic lantern shows to street ballads and photographs” (2003, 2–3). He traces this cultural circulation back to Civil War newsbooks, which newly articulated the “aesthetics of the monarchy and the role of the press”; fashioned by both parliamentarian and royalist factions, newsbooks helped produce the modern English newspaper, with its adherence to “democratic” and liberal ideas (3). The emergence of “large urban markets, gradually rising incomes and literacy levels, and the transport infrastructure provided by the railways” fuelled the expansion of print and visual products (4). In the late 1820s and early 1830s, John Murray’s The Family Library sought to speak to “the common reader” – an entirely new cultural notion (Bennett 1976, 141). The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge’s publications pioneered serial periodical publication, and Archibald Constable’s Miscellany serialised inexpensive non-fiction (Feltes 1986, 10–12). Here, technology and culture made common cause, as industrialisation and “the mechanization of production” speeded up printing and made newspapers, books, and periodicals “increasingly affordable” (Plunkett 2003, 4). As government regulation of the radical news press waned in the 1830s, a “potential mass readership” emerged (4). Cheap serial fiction and periodicals, with multiple target audiences, became increasingly popular. A similar historical expansion of visual-image reproduction occurred throughout the 1820s and 1830s, from steel-plate engraving’s displacement of woodcut illustration and copper engravings, through the establishment of lithography and the development of the illustrated press in the 1840s. In late 1820s France, Louis Daguerre and Nicéphore Niépce shot the first rudimentary photographs. In late 1830s England, William Henry Fox Talbot “developed the technique for ‘photogenic drawing,’” which participated in what I have been calling the double logic of mediation; Fox Talbot’s technology, Nancy Armstrong notes, “fulfilled the wish for unmediated mediation,” yet the “medium that granted the wish for unmediated mediation would [likewise] prove a highly mediated one” (1999, 14). This technology “simultaneously incited and thwarted a historically new desire to make contact with the world itself” and created an “archival desire” for “documentary evidence” (15). When applied to potentially criminal individuals in the new human sciences, the “image usurped the position of the individual body as the basis for legibility” (19) in an “extensive and systematic reversal of original and copy” (22). Plunkett likewise theorises this paradox of the archive, this uncanny reversal of original and copy, when he notes that “[i]t was not that Victoria’s image was disseminated through photographs”; the “royal image itself became photographic” (2003, 7).


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Like visual-image and print technologies, proto-cinematic entertainments expanded throughout the long nineteenth century, and mediation’s double logic emerges in the surveys of this prehistory. Between 1810 and 1840, a newly uprooted vision disrupted the “stable and fixed relations incarnated in the camera obscura,” by which the hand reproduced tracings produced by the eye (Crary 1992, 14). This disruption, Armstrong argues, accounts for Fox Talbot’s 1839 move away from camera obscura toward early photography (1999, 13). Yet Jonathan Crary argues that prior to photography’s appearance, a new kind of observer and a “new field of serially produced objects” helped reshape the “territory on which signs and images circulat[ed] and proliferate[d]” (1992, 13). The new valuation of visual experience produced an “unprecedented mobility and exchangeability, abstracted from any founding site or referent” (14). Both Armstrong and Crary, then, challenge the notion that visual scenes appeared in print or graphic media as realistic, and that the double logic of mediation subtends nineteenth-century realism. For Crary, the subject’s reorganisation in the early nineteenth century produced a craving for media that “effectively annihilate[d] a real world [. . .] and shaped a new kind of observer-consumer” (1992, 14). Armstrong’s “history of mediation” problematised mimetic paradigms so that, for her, “mediation began to constitute the very subject and object it presumed to mediate” (1999, 30). Indeed, the “paradox of realism,” she notes, means that the “desire to get beyond the image intensified the love of images” (122): again, the double logic of mediation. The images that constituted mid-to-late nineteenth-century subjects and objects anticipated moving pictures, as the eye’s perceptual apparatus was amplified and extended outside the body. Thomas Alva Edison’s invention and Méliès’s and the Lumière Brothers’ first moving pictures thus cap a century of experimentation in visual entertainment. Media in the 1790s – the magic lantern, panorama, phantasmagoria, and Eidophusikon – used light and sound effects to picture rural and metropolitan panoramic scenes. These early media awed, agitated, or alarmed spectators as dead celebrities paraded across invisible screens or living figures wasted to skeletons; as spectacular avalanches crashed, volcanoes spewed, or St Paul’s burned. Like the phantasmagoria, early nineteenth-century media “moved entertainment a step closer to the cinema” (Altick 1978, 219); the diorama, pioneered in 1822 by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre in partnership with Charles Bouton, projected picturesque scenes through a “rudimentary camera shutter” (169). These technologies of the visible shaped the observer’s look by offering the body virtual mobility. As the look became virtual, the observer became more immobile. Only the early nineteenth-century diorama literally mobilised by technologically turning the observer’s body; as he or she viewed in sequence two tableaux, an interior scene and a landscape, the diorama transformed him or her into “a component of the machine” (Friedberg 1993, 28; see also Crary 1999, 113). By the 1890s, as the diorama became residual, the moving-image projector emerged: the Kinetoscope, which moved film on spools in the apparatus’s interior, appeared first; later, the

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Theatrograph, the time machine (invented seemingly to shoot H. G. Wells’s science fiction novels The Time Machine, 1895, and The Invisible Man, 1897), and the cinematograph, which, when showing The Arrival of a Train (1896), produced in its spectators panic and awe or “unease but not shock,” depending on the cinematic situation (Marcus 2007, 77; see also 22–23, 44–51, 69–77). By the century’s end, “visibility” had been displaced by “visuality,” a seeing no longer modelled on the “natural process of seeing” but on technological mediation, on an optical apparatus’s unseen activity (Armstrong 1999, 76). And movement had become “‘the only real thing,’” as the moving picture represented realism only when the picture was in motion (Marcus and Bradshaw 2016, 2). This quick genealogy or prehistory of film adaptation, its dependence on notions of visuality, subjectivity, and mobility, points toward the double logic of mediation. Yet retrospection in nineteenth-century narrative is always already a form of mediation: playing between temporal moments, memory constitutes visual scenes that deploy the dynamic of a double logic. Film appropriates that double logic by serving the spectator’s desire for immersion and for mediation. Antunes’s rethinking of film’s power to shoot a landscape as a simulation of the real, of the camera’s witness of characters’ experience and its delivery to spectators of immersive experience, suggests that some mid-twentieth-century filmmakers had already begun to imagine film as multisensory and as delivering a story’s double logic, and that mid-nineteenthcentury narrative supported and sustained their effort to do so.

3 Case Study: Great Expectations as Fiction and on Film In Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1861), the structure of retrospection operates the fictional autobiography’s double logic: the expressive speech in the storytelling present recounts the feelings that belonged to the boy, as the adult narrator writes about that past. The retrospective narrator thus rethinks or remediates past acts and experience, presenting his visualised memory scenes in his present tense, even as the novelist deploys past tense. When Pip claims he “often served [Mrs. Joe] as a connubial missile” (Dickens 2006, 29), the metaphor and vocabulary, which identify Pip’s body as pawn in a marital struggle, belong to the fictional speaker, the adult Pip, although his subjective affective experience – his terror about the Tickler – is located in his childhood past. Pip’s narrative depends upon the double logic of retrospection, which immerses the reader in the boy’s youthful fears and wishes, even as it cues the reader to recognise the adult narrator’s more mature assessments. The retrospective narrator mediates between character and reader, even as the reader is affectively located in Pip’s childish space.


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Indeed, the distinction between adult self-reflection and childhood experience everywhere energises this first-person retrospective narration. When the convict turns him upside down, Pip’s perspective creates a proto-cinematic moment of tilt and roll, a spatial dislocation from the perceived fictional scene recovered by retrospection: When the church came to itself – for he was so sudden and strong that he made it go head over heels before me, and I saw the steeple under my feet – when the church came to itself, I say, I was seated on a high tombstone, trembling [. . .]. He gave me a most tremendous dip and roll, so that the church jumped over its own weather-cock. Then, he held me by the arms, in an upright position on the top of the stone [. . .]. (25–26)

Pip’s language identifies this scene as having been experienced by a naïve and frightened child and, in his final position on top of the tombstone, he seeks to stabilise for himself and the reader a sense of the world’s being out of kilter, which the topsy-turvy encounter with the convict produced. In this passage, the boy’s sense of terror is spoken in the narrator’s present, sometimes wry voice. Cued by his words “I say,” the adult speaks from his narrating present moment, but the experiencing boy “was trembling,” as the present and past tenses capture the uncanny logic of temporal doubling in the retrospective narration. As the narrator, Pip explains this logic: “In the little world in which children have their existence [. . .], there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice. It may be only small injustice [. . .]; but the child is small, and its world is small, and its rocking-horse stands as many hands high, according to scale, as a big-boned Irish hunter” (Dickens 2006, 75–76). Scale and perspective cause spatial distortion, Pip claims: the child misperceives the sizes of things and so misapprehends affects proper not only to things but to perceived slights or hurts, as well. When the boyish character Pip recalls his first visit to Satis House, he narrates his youthful adventures to an admiring Joe, Mrs. Joe, and Pumblechook: If they had asked me any more questions I should undoubtedly have betrayed myself, for I was even then on the point of mentioning that there was a balloon in the yard, [. . .] my invention being divided between that phenomenon and a bear in the brewery. [. . .] Now, when I saw Joe open his blue eyes and roll them all round the kitchen in helpless amazement, I was overtaken by penitence. (81)

Yet Pip’s word “now” refers to a moment before the present moment of the narrator’s speech, recalling when, as a youth, he told these tall tales, and his “then” refers to the boy’s immediately past experience, the moment behind the time of young Pip’s account of the wonders of Satis House. This temporal doubling makes us sympathetic with the guilt-ridden boy even as the adult narrator distances the reader from that boy’s imaginative grandiosity. Pip’s story prominently features adult language about fabrication or invention – forgery, counterfeiting, swindlers, self-swindlers – that retrospectively reassesses

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Pip’s youthful misrecognitions. As he runs across the moors with Mrs. Joe’s pork pie, Pip fancies that objects run and animals speak, that the “gates and dykes and banks came bursting at me through the mist, as if they cried as plainly as could be, ‘A boy with Somebody-else’s pork pie! Stop him!’ The cattle came upon me with like suddenness, staring out of their eyes and steaming out of their nostrils, ‘Holloa, young thief!’” (35–36). After he has mysteriously acquired his great expectations, Pip recalls himself, as a boy, spying Jaggers’s office skylight, “eccentrically patched like a broken head, and the distorted adjoining houses looking as if they had twisted themselves to peep down at me through it” (162). Here, Pip blends a recalled scene of London buildings and attributes the ability of perception to them, as though glass were a distorting lens capable of generating the boy’s feeling that misshapen things in the world, in this case buildings, might stare at him, single him out, accuse him of criminal taint. As these passages show, Pip’s language often includes the phrase “as if,” which opens up the boy’s richly imaginative world even as the adult retells its events. These words seem to enable the reader to see the world of the novel through Pip’s eyes. Yet visuality here cannot be rendered as visibility. Because the phrase “as if” is spoken by Pip as a narrator about what his childish self felt and saw, it inflects his story’s grammar strongly toward past events that might have happened but not been realised fully or at all, or that reveal conditions that appear false or improbable. When apprenticed by the Justices, for example, the boy imagined and the narrator captures the scene as an irreality, for young Pip surmises that Pumblechook pushed him, “as if I had at the moment picked a pocket or fired a rick,” that Pumblechook held him, “as if we had looked in [at the court] on our way to the scaffold” (Dickens 2006, 112). But Pip did not fire a rick, nor was he en route to his own hanging but to the forge, despite the rebellious, revolutionary, and criminal scenes spun out here through the energy of the narrator’s recounting of the retrospective look. These words testify, moreover, to the presence of childish images and concepts within Dickens’s mature, disillusioned world view; they point to the persistence of juvenile feelings as a source of Dickens’s magical invention (Miller 1958, 152). The phrase “as if” also betrays Pip’s disavowed feelings of dread, terror, and anxiety. He fears, for example, possible violence against his young self: the man with the file at the Jolly Bargeman acts, Pip imagines, as though he were “cocking his eye, as if he were expressly taking aim at me with his invisible gun, [. . .] as if he were determined to have a shot at me at last” (Dickens 2006, 87–88). Orlick, jealous of Pip’s promotion at the forge, lunges at him “as if he were going to run [a red hot poker] through my body,” but instead he “whisked it round my head, laid it on the anvil, hammered it out – as if it were I, I thought, and the sparks were my spirting blood” (119). Here, Pip’s interjection “I thought” creates a selfreflection about the past fear of being hurt, even as he utters these words in the present, enabling the adult Pip’s recalled terror and our sympathy with his past dread.


Dianne F. Sadoff

Likewise, the phrase “as if” expresses Pip’s denied boyish desires to harm those who demean and declass him. During his second visit to Satis House, Pip follows the pale young gentleman, “as if [he] had been under a spell”; the boy, Pip recalls, commands “‘[c]ome and fight,’” while “eyeing my anatomy as if he were minutely choosing his bone”; Pip expresses surprise when, after the first blow, he sees the boy “lying on his back, looking up at me with a bloody nose and his face exceedingly foreshortened” (Dickens 2006, 99–101). Here, the phrase “as if” protects Pip from the necessity to claim his own violent acts as belonging to him, yet expresses his inability to act in the face of the possible violence he imagines that upper-class characters may wield against him. He recalls in the chapter that follows the fight, for example, “I felt that the pale young gentleman’s blood was on my head, and that the Law would avenge it” (102). Earlier, during his first visit to Satis House when Estella takes pleasure in causing the boy’s tears, she treats him, he imagines, “as insolently as if I were a dog in disgrace” (75). Pip retaliates: “I saw a figure hanging [. . .] by the neck” on a great wooden beam, a form in “yellow white [and] faded trimmings,” beckoning “as if she were trying to call to me” (77). Terrified, Pip runs from and then toward this accusatory yet helpless effigy of Miss Havisham, but finds “no figure there” (77). Here, the phrase “as if” outs Pip’s hallucination as a disavowed wish; it mixes instances of looking with retrospectively recaptured feelings of gloomy satisfaction, of delight in abjection, and retaliatory, if unconscious, violence. David Lean’s mid-century film adaptation of Great Expectations (1946) witnesses the young boy’s terror and delivers his experience to the spectator, much as Dickens’s narrator had immersed the reader in fear and anxiety and conveyed those experiences to the reader. Lean also shoots Pip’s rhetoric of “as if,” since the miseen-scène remediates the narrator’s double temporal logic. The film opens with a classic visual metaphor for film adaptation: as the camera tracks in to the novel’s first pages, John Mills as the adult Pip voices over the novel’s famous first lines: “So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip” (Dickens 2006, 23; DeBona 1992, 79–80; MacKay 1985, 127). As the pages turn, the wind whooshes and a bird screams on the soundtrack, and Lean dissolves to a panorama of grey marshes; in long shot, a tiny boy crosses a horizontal landscape to frame right, the scene punctuated by two vertical structures, toward one of which – a gallows – the boy runs, moving from background to foreground. Lean’s mise-en-scène dissolves, as the boy scrambles over a stone hedgerow and the spectator experiences the film’s first “as if” moment. Using a sensory approach to the scene, Lean includes visual and auditory elements throughout the opening sequence that ends in the cemetery: on the soundtrack, the wind blows, a tree creaks as boughs stretch across the frame’s top. The spectator watches the boy plant flowers on his parents’ grave; on the soundtrack, a bird squeaks, and the boy looks up at tree limbs in fright. Via eyeline match and in low-angle shot, the spectator sees the tree from Pip’s perspective. Lean cuts to Pip, then to a glance-object shot of a tree trunk with frowning face. Here, Lean’s

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film witnesses Pip’s sensory experience as he imagines the tree grimacing at him, and the sequence delivers to the spectator the boy’s seeming sense of loneliness and anxiety. Lean intensifies figural and spectatorial anxiety via vestibular and nociceptive perception when he tracks to the boy’s running encounter with the criminal. Shot in closeup, the boy screams in terror, the convict’s hand on his mouth; Lean cuts to close-up of the convict: “Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat.” The man turns Pip upside down, the boy’s frightened face shot in close-up through the convict’s legs; cut to close-up of his feet, being shaken. As chains clank, the criminal pops the boy on a tombstone. “Know what wittles is?” the convict asks, lowering the boy backwards toward the ground. Here, Lean evokes the spectator’s vestibular perception of orientation and balance to arouse his or her perceptual experience; he or she, too, feels the boy’s fear when the world turns upside down and then seemingly slips from under his or her bodily frame. In these scenes, Lean’s figural shot-reverse shots, the facial close-ups and bodily expressions, also stimulate viewers’ perceptual inference-making: we read the grimace, now on the convict’s face and the fear on Pip’s. As Pip runs toward home, a tree creaks, wind blows, and the spectator experiences the boy’s desire to run, too, away from the convict toward home. As the next sequence opens, Pip sprints across the frame’s background to the left, while the wind howls, and his footfall tramps echo on the soundtrack. At the forge, Joe tells the hard-breathing Pip that Mrs. Joe is on the rampage. She whips the boy’s backside, delivering to the spectator a nociceptive perception of pain; cut to close-up of Joe, wincing with every sounding but out-of-frame lash. Fade to black. Lean shoots a series of classic “as if” moments, deploying voice-over and minimal lighting, when Pip steals a pork pie from Mrs. Joe’s pantry. As Pip peeks out his bedroom window, Lean cuts to his view of the moors; threatening music swells on the soundtrack and the convict’s threats voice over as Pip pulls the blankets over his head. Here, Lean again evokes the spectator’s nociceptive perception of pain, as the camera witnesses Pip’s fear of the convict and his figurative mother. Cut to Pip sneaking down squeaky stairs, as the voiced-over phrase, “Wake up, Mrs. Joe, wake up” whispers the boy’s fear of being caught. As Pip opens the cupboard door, Lean shoots over his shoulder, placing the spectator in the small thief’s space. Cut to a close-up of Pip’s face, looking into the pantry, as the boy and the spectator, now in opposing spatial positions, stare at a dead hare hanging in the depth plane’s front, its eyes glassy. In the next scene, Pip runs across the moors to the convict, as “You’re a thief, Pip; you’ll be sent to the hulks” breathes on the soundtrack. In another classic “as if” moment, the running Pip spots a cow, shot in close-up, who, in hilarious bovine voice-over, accuses “‘Holloa, young thief!’” After Pip delivers the pie, the convict files his manacles and the rasping sound follows him, as Pip disappears into the mist. Shooting the theft in minimal nighttime light and the moors in fog, Lean asks the spectator to open his or her senses, to listen to voice-over, to feel anxiety and fear, to take pleasure in the multisensory aesthetic.


Dianne F. Sadoff

After the film’s multisensory opening, the doubled narratives of love and guilt disrupt the immersion its spectator experienced. As the film ends, however, Lean’s mise-en-scène returns to sensory immersion and to retrospective voice-over, which remediates Dickens’s doubled temporal logic. Lean shoots again in minimal light, simulating the glow thrown by Pip’s candle and in dusk at Satis House. He again uses voice-over to cue the spectator’s auditory perception and to conjure up and repeat the retrospective narration’s double logic. When Pip returns to Satis House, Lean voices over phrases Pip heard Estella speak when he first visited: “What name?”; “Pumblechook”; “Quite right.” John Mills as the mature Pip, smiling ruefully, once more opens the squeaky gate, enters, and looks around the garden, hearing, in Jean Simmons’s voice-over, “Come in Pip.” He looks up at the clock tower, shot from the boy’s low angle, as Martita Hunt voices over Miss Havisham’s earlier words: “I know nothing of the days of the week, nothing of the weeks of the year.” In voice-over, Estella scolds “Don’t loiter, boy,” and the adult Pip opens the squeaking door. Cut to his backlit figure, black silhouette framed by the open doorway, with brightly lit garden in the background; he enters the hall and repeats the boy’s youthful gesture, putting his hat on the mantelpiece. As Pip again walks up the stairs with a candle, Jaggers voices over the words he spoke on Pip’s second filmic visit: “Whom have we here? A boy of the neighborhood, eh?” Pip recalls and again hears, as does the spectator, Estella’s demeaning phrase, “he is a common laboring boy.” As Pip reaches Miss Havisham’s room and opens the door, Lean cuts from his surprised face, with his figure in medium shot, to the adult Estella (Valerie Hobson), seated in Miss Havisham’s boudoir. Yet Lean plays fast and loose with the novel’s conclusion, rewriting Dickens’s original unhappy ending as well as his revised ambiguous ones (Carlisle 2006, 440–441). Julian Moynahan rightly declares the ending “bad and false – strictly movieland” (1981, 151). Lean’s Pip returns to Satis House to denounce Estella’s intention to become her dead guardian as, sitting in Miss Havisham’s chair, Estella faces her adoptive mother’s props on the vanity – the same gloves, Bible, brush, pearls, and mirror but now without cobwebs and ready for use. Proclaiming himself Estella’s saviour, Pip screams “I have come back, Miss Havisham, to let in the sunlight”: he tears drapes from the windows, dust blowing, light flooding the frame. The music swells, cueing spectatorial pleasure in Pip and Estella’s potential coupling: “We belong to each other; let’s start again, together.” Yet the spectator cannot disavow the immersive experience of darkness barely lit by candlelight, of dust swirling around room, of the voice-over’s uncanny temporal doubling, the character’s wry pleasure, the spectator’s immersion in the mediated image. After avowing their love, nevertheless, the sweethearts exit the house and garden and, as they look back for the last time, close the iron gate behind them. For most of the students I teach in my seminar on Dickens and film, Lean’s ending destroys his adaptation, damaging the opening’s claim to authenticity. Although Lean announces his intention to shoot a film faithful to its source novel, the finale undercuts and undoes remediation’s double logic. Lean

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looks toward a multisensory aesthetic, then, even as his film also anticipates another form of the Dickens legacy, the novel’s cultural commodification.

4 Great Expectations as Cultural Commodity In the nineteenth century, the emergence of large urban markets, gradually rising incomes and literacy levels, and the growing railway infrastructure fuelled the expansion of print and visual products. An emergent industrialisation, in tandem with mechanised production, made newspapers, books, and periodicals increasingly affordable, as technology speeded up production and dissemination of print cultural products. N. N. Feltes locates The Pickwick Papers (1836–1837) at the “take off” moment when the “commodity text” began to supplant the “petty-commodity mode” of book production, as surplus value began to constitute the writer as author, and series production started to engage the swelling bourgeois audience (1986, 8–9). During the long nineteenth century, struggles between publishers and booksellers, the emergence and decline of Mudie’s and other libraries, the “appearance of new publishers,” and the “death of the three-decker” novel were “determinate elements” of the crisis that produced a late-century “buyer’s market” in books and periodicals and a concomitant downward pricing structure (Feltes 1986, 76–79). By the mid-tolate twentieth century, the communication revolution had accelerated the tempo of cultural production, had remediated print on a variety of screens from television to computer to smart phone. As a result, computers may now hurtle digitalised cultural products around the globe or close to home, as dissemination hastens reception and as moving image technologies quicken not only transport infrastructures but human bodies: galvanise nerves, muscles, and senses; arouse anxiety, fear, terror, and pleasure. The observer may now be ‘moved’ without having to move, as postmodernism hastens to its next periodised juncture or spatialised platform. And, of course, money (or its aliases, such as bitcoin) changes hands or terminals at every stage, since capital, too, is increasingly on the move in the computer age. As Jay Clayton reminds us, “Dickens is perhaps the most ‘postmodern’ Victorian writer” (2003, 152). Clayton traces Dickens’s links to postmodernism via his location at the blacking factory, a historical site characteristic of early capitalism; his fictional critique of emerging capitalism’s bureaucratic institutions in Bleak House (1852–1853, ↗ 16 Dickens, Bleak House) and Little Dorrit (1855–1857); and his eccentric “dispersed and decentered” characters (1991, 186–188). Bemoaning Dickens’s apparent absence from postmodern theory, Clayton stages a confrontation between postmodernism and new historicism, an imagined debate that would “force us to be more historical about the political assumptions that inform our historicist criticism” (1991, 195), including “issues of social, economic, political, or cultural development” (192). I will trace some recent filmic adaptations and material cultural spin-offs of Dickens to


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argue that postmodernism appropriates remediation’s double logic, marketing its objects as products for consumption. Film adaptations of Great Expectations since Lean’s might be called postmodern because, located in a later historical moment of late capitalism, they define different parameters of cinematic practice for writers’, directors’, and stars’ cultural activities. Although cinema has no tenses and enunciation – that is, the scene you see when you are watching always takes place in the present –, Lean used voice-over to signify past and repetitive acts and events, motions, and emotions. Yet postmodern filmmakers adapt Dickens for a turn-of-the-century moment drenched with anxiety about shifting gender and career expectations, rising income inequality, globalising economies, and a failure of historical memory and its doubled temporal logic. Alfonso Cuarón’s Great Expectations (1998) modernises Pip’s quest for fame, wealth, and sexual bliss for young millennial spectators unaware of cinematic genealogies. Here, Miss Havisham becomes, in Anne Bancroft’s Miss Dinsmoor, a flashily costumed and made-up harridan; Satis House is Paradiso Perdito, a Spanish equivalent of ‘paradise lost’. Gwyneth Paltrow as Estella announces the film’s historical moment, linking the filmic 1980s – a gilded-age decade of leveraged buyouts and exorbitant spending – with liberated sexual mores, but without the self-reflexivity associated with the uncanny logic of temporal doubling. Cuarón’s Estella is a 1980s liberated girl, seeking sex when she wants it and, when she is done, walking out on Finn, a renamed Pip who sketches rather than narrates. When Finn draws the presumably naked bad-girl sexpot Estella, Cuarón fetishises the female body, shooting body parts rather than the whole nude. Her back to Finn and the spectator, Paltrow unbuckles her bra, then, as the camera tilts down her body, drops her spandex miniskirt and, camera still tilting down, her panties. Here, Cuarón successfully shoots the male gaze as, in shot-reverse shot, we look at Finn looking at Estella, remediating her naked body, but touching the nipples and pubis only on paper. The film paradoxically criticises Hollywood for its exploitation of the nude female body. Yet Cuarón is complicit with such cashing in, for he, too, markets, even as he pans, star images. In the scene in which the vulgar and trashy Miss Dinsmoor puts on her makeup, Cuarón uses quick cuts and mirrored images, as Finn and the spectator watch her apply foundation, mascara, and flashy red lipstick; turning to Finn and to the spectator, she hoots, “I’ve gone red.” Shooting her look at herself in the magnifying mirror, Cuarón highlights her costume in grotesque extreme closeup: red-haired wig, rubber-mask wrinkled skin, inked in beauty spot, garish eye makeup. This freakish star image commodifies the performer’s face and body, advertising the making and marketing of artistic celebrity. Yet it also winks at the knowing spectator, announcing the screenplay’s collusion with the Hollywood remarketing – even ripping off – of a cultural icon: the star who played the sexually starved Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (1967), now aged. Cuarón’s settings transmute the English marshes into Gulf-coast Florida and turn London into the art capital of the world, New York City, where Finn becomes

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an instant superstar. The aptly titled “Here Comes Success” plays on the soundtrack as Finn enters a gallery showing his work, especially the Estella sketches, and we watch as critics praise, society girls coo, and fans adore. And everyone got the memo reminding them to wear green, since the costumes, walls, drawings, and floor have been grotesquely colorised. But Finn’s artistic success ultimately proves due solely to Jaggers’s advertising and marketing; his star image is just that, an empty likeness. Here, urban art markets appear a hoax, a ruse to blind Finn – and the spectator? – to the intricate web of culture, the urban marketplace, and metropolitan metageographies of consumption. Based solely on a manufactured stardom in the cosmopolitan megalopolis, Finn’s faux fame updates Dickens’s ambivalent 1860s take on masculine ambition, sexual obsession, and cultural celebrity. Sarah Phelps and Brian Kirk’s 2011 BBC dramatisation borrows Lean’s conception and Cuarón’s opening shots, as the convict emerges from the sea and uncanny music on the soundtrack spooks the spectator. Track from tombstone to the boy, tearing dead brush from his parents’ grave; alarmed by a tree creaking, by bells from the ships at anchor, he runs from the graveyard – with hard breathing panting on the soundtrack – only to be knocked down by the criminal who lurks below a bridge. Yet Phelps writes after the ‘Great Recession’ wrecked Britons’ and Americans’ financial expectations, and her take on the novel makes Jaggers’s criminal milieu into a madcap world of money, markets, greed, and social climbing. Mrs. Joe, for example, immediately responds to Uncle Pumblechook’s announcement that Miss Havisham “wants a boy,” by chortling, “we’re all going to be raised up”; “we’re associating with the quality now.” But Uncle Pumblechook may be more mercenary than Mrs. Joe, for when Orlick beats her into silence after she threatens to fire him, Pumblechook mutters about benefiting from Havisham’s supposed beneficence, “it’s too late for you but not too late for me.” When Pip asks Wemmick to find Herbert a position, he responds like a Wall Street broker: Clariker needs £500 to “close the deal.” Phelps adapts Estella’s storyline as about the objectification of women. When in London, Estella moans to Pip, “I’m tired of being looked at,” tired of “being evaluated”; her chaperone sneers in response, “This is a market, all the stock must be assessed.” Cut to Pip and Bentley Drummle, who visit a gentleman’s club that is really a brothel. Drummle offers Pip his choice of scantily clad women from across the British Empire; when Pip demurs, Drummle scoffs at his sexual virginity, social aspirations, and loose habits with money: “you’re not one of us, and you know I know, don’t you Pippy?” In the film’s almost purposefully funniest line, when the abusive husband Drummle is thrown from a horse and dies, the newly liberated wife Estella kisses the horse and whispers “thank you.” Yet Phelps’s message sets these twenty-first-century economic and sexual evils against a seemingly innate human goodness more sentimental than was Dickens’s shrewd and self-reflexive take on the desire for social mobility. When Magwitch returns from Australia, he tells the adult Pip, “it wasn’t the file”; “it was the pie,” given “out of goodness,” that made him become Pip’s benefactor. When Pip parts with


Dianne F. Sadoff

Herbert and Clara, each hugs Pip, as tears threaten. After Magwitch dies in prison, Pip returns to the forge. “I don’t deserve you,” he tells Joe, who forgives, complete with bear hug, promising they are “ever the best of friends.” And when Pip visits Satis House at the episode’s end, Phelps shoots Pip, looking through a window at a watching Estella, who looks back at Pip; she sighs, then runs down the stairs to meet him, breathing expectantly; the soundtrack’s sentimental music, the slow motion shot-reverse shot as the two lovers approach, the track in as they meet and lock hands, the camera circling them in close-up two-shot as their foreheads touch, all signify sentimentalised romance. Phelps’s dramatisation suggests that a happy ending is possible, since goodness, generosity, and love, friendship, hugs, and tears may prevail over ambition, greed, and class climbing. For “today’s consumer society,” ‘Charles Dickens’ has indeed become a cultural commodity, a brand that appropriates remediation to sell youthful emotion and imagination (Clayton 2006, 608). The Dickens icon has also appeared at mid-century and the millennium in multiple popular print and visual cultural media. In 1947 and again in 1990, Great Expectations became a Classics Illustrated comic book: the 1947 cover sketches the novel’s characters exactly as Lean had pictured them in his 1946 masterpiece, as Magwitch and Compeyson duke it out while, in the background, Pip and Joe and uniformed soldiers watch in horror; the 1990 version pictures a camp parody of Pip’s sexual obsession with Estella, as he watches winking harridan and astonished girl, the viewer positioned behind his head, as though participating in a filmic overthe-shoulder shot (Clayton 2003, 154–156). These comics address readers and viewers located in historical moments of gender and economic anxiety after World War II and of male unease about feminism in the 1990s. Later, millennial popular media, whether print or visual, exploit Dickens for ideological, mythological, or financial gain. On television on February 15, 2017, Law and Order premiered “Great Expectations” as a cops and lawyers yarn (2017b). And in theatrical runs, 2017 adaptations of Dickens’s novel have been staged in Baltimore and Washington, D. C. by Everyman Theatre, in Arkansas by Theatre Squared, and in Chicago by Silk Road Rising Theatre. On the web, the company “Great Expectations” advertises itself as “the nation’s premier video dating service for singles,” and, at the mall, the “Great Expectations” shop encourages conspicuous consumption of maternity gear (Clayton 2003, 153). Charles Dickens’s most autobiographical novel lives on, always already poised to address our own post-millennial historical worries about uncertain outcomes in an unstable age. Perhaps the novel’s greatest twenty-first-century legacy, however, is its appearance in material, legal, and financial institutions’ advertisements. On the web, a Wisconsin Rapids restaurant called “Great Expectations” publicises its preparation of food “honoring local growers and farms”; the website features a photographed rainbow striking its sign, a figurative pot of gold for farm-to-table foodies (2017a). More importantly, socially conscious firms, who help young people learn by investing in their futures, borrow the novel’s title, even if their promotional technologies seem

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unaware of the classic Victorian novel. A “major initiative of Virginia’s Community Colleges,” the social programme “Great Expectations” helps “foster youth earn the post-secondary credentials they need to achieve an independent and successful life” (2017e). MDC (“Manpower Development Corp.”) invests in organisations that “close the gaps” that hinder very young children’s access to “opportunity,” their website crows (2017c). The “Great Expectations School” in Grand Marais, Minnesota, teaches “one child at a time,” basing learning on “individual strengths, passions, needs and learning styles” (2017f). The World Health Organization’s project “Great expectations” links mothers in different countries and cultures, so they may share “experiences of pregnancy, childbirth, and life with a young baby” (2017d). These sites advertise institutional charitable protections of underprivileged youths, using liberal ideology to rescue them from experiences like Pip’s youthful terror. In the postmodern Dickens adaptations, remediations, and rewrites, then, we can see two registers of historical time colliding; in other words, we witness what Jay Clayton calls the “convergence of two cultures” (2003, 190). First, the repurposing for new audiences and consumers of classic Dickensian tales of boyish adventure and misadventure; second, the remediations’ palimpsestic doubling of an effaced but nevertheless visible past with the film’s present, a film’s location in its historical moment of cultural production as opposed to Dickens’s. On the contrary, Lean’s midcentury adaptation of Great Expectations places Pip squarely at the centre of the film, shooting him in virtually every frame, using eyeline matches and glance-object cuts to place the spectator in Pip’s space, and composing the film frame to ensure the spectator’s sympathy for Pip, despite his snobbishness (McFarlane 1992, 70–73). But Lean also builds into his film, via voice-over and disjoint time frames, the doubled sense of temporality that this cultural genealogy of adaptations lives and breathes within. The commodity text’s narratorial retrospection, visually remediated on screen, constitutes the Dickens legacy’s uncanny double logic. As visual media gratifies the spectator’s wish for unmediated mediation, cinematic technology nevertheless mediates spectatorial perceptual experience. And material culture continues to manufacture and market the ubiquitous Dickens icon.

Bibliography Works Cited Altick, Richard D. The Shows of London. Cambridge: Belknap, 1978. Antunes, Luis Rocha. “Adapting with the Senses: Wuthering Heights as a Perceptual Experience.” The Victorian 3.1 (2015): 1–12. Antunes, Luis Rocha. The Multisensory Film Experience: A Cognitive Model of Experiential Film Aesthetics. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2016.


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Armstrong, Nancy. Fiction in the Age of Photography: The Legacy of British Realism. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1999. Arnold, Andrea, dir. Wuthering Heights. Perf. Kaya Scodelario, James Howson, and Solomon Glave. Film 4, UK Film Council, 2011. DVD. Bennett, Scott. “John Murray’s Family Library and the Cheapening of Books in Early Nineteenth Century Britain.” Studies in Bibliography 29 (1976): 139–166. Bolter, J. David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: MIT P, 1999. Bordwell, David, Janet Staiger, and Kristin Thompson. The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960. New York: Columbia UP, 2006. Carlisle, Janice. “The Endings of Great Expectations.” Great Expectations. Ed. Janice Carlisle. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006. 440–441. Clayton, Jay. Charles Dickens in Cyberspace: The Afterlife of the Nineteenth Century in Postmodern Culture. Oxford: OUP, 2003. Clayton, Jay. “Dickens and the Genealogy of Postmodernism.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 46.2 (1991): 181–195. Clayton, Jay. “Is Pip Postmodern? Or, Dickens at the End of the Twentieth Century.” Great Expectations. Ed. Janice Carlisle. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006. 606–624. Crary, Jonathan. Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture. Cambridge: MIT P, 1999. Crary, Jonathan. Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge: MIT P, 1992. Cuarón, Alfonso, dir. Great Expectations. Screenplay by Mitch Glazer. Perf. Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Anne Bancroft. Twentieth-Century Fox, 1998. DVD. DeBona, Guerric. “Doing Time; Undoing Time: Plot Mutations in David Lean’s Great Expectations.” Literature/Film Quarterly 20.1 (1992): 77–100. Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Ed. Janice Carlisle. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006. Donohue, Walter. “Immortal Longing.” Interview with Sally Potter. Film/Literature/Heritage: A Sight and Sound Reader. Ed. Genette Vincendeau. London: BFI, 2001. 57–61. Feltes, N. N. Modes of Production of Victorian Novels. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1986. Friedberg, Anne. Window Shopping: Cinema and the Postmodern. Berkeley: U of California P, 1993. Giddings, Robert, Keith Selby, and Chris Wensley. Screening the Novel: The Theory and Practice of Literary Dramatization. New York: St. Martin’s, 1990. Great Expectations. Dir. Brian Kirk. Screenplay by Sarah Phelps. Perf. Douglas Booth and Gillian Anderson. BBC and Masterpiece Theatre, 2011. DVD. “Great Expectations.” Advertisement. Facebook. 21 June 2017a. “Great Expectations.” Law and Order. NBC. 15 Feb. 2017. 21 June 2017b. “Great Expectations.” MDC. Manpower Development Corp. Web. 21 June 2017c. “Great expectations.” WHO. World Health Organization. Web. 21 June 2017d. “Great Expectations: Fostering Powerful Change.” VCCS. Virginia’s Community Colleges. Web. 21 June 2017e. Great Expectations School. Web. 21 June 2017f. Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Adaptation. New York: Routledge, 2006. Lean, David, dir. Great Expectations. Screenplay by David Lean and Ronald Neame. Perf. John Mills, Valerie Hobson, and Alec Guinness. Cineguild Prods., 1946. DVD. MacKay, Carol Hanbery. “A Novel’s Journey into Film: The Case of Great Expectations.” Literature/ Film Quarterly 13.2 (1985): 127–134.

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Marcus, Laura, and David Bradshaw. “Introduction: Modernism as ‘a Space that is Filled with Moving.’” Moving Modernisms: Motion, Technology, and Modernity. Ed. David Bradshaw, Laura Marcus, and Rebecca Roach. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016. 1–8. Marcus, Laura. The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period. Oxford: OUP, 2007. McFarlane, Brian. “David Lean’s Great Expectations: Meeting Two Challenges.” Literature/Film Quarterly 20.1 (1992): 68–76. Web. 17 Aug. 2016. McFarlane, Brian. Novel to Film: An Introduction to the Theory of Adaptation. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996. McFarlane, Brian. Screen Adaptations: Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations: The Relationship between Text and Film. Reading: Methuen, 2008. Miller, J. Hillis. Charles Dickens: The World of His Novels. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1958. Moynahan, Julian. “Seeing the Book, Reading the Movie.” The English Novel and the Movies. Ed. Michael Klein and Gillian Parker. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1981. 143–154. Mullen, Lisa. “Estate of Mind.” Sight and Sound 19.10 (2009): 16–19. Napolitano, Marc. Oliver!: A Dickensian Musical. Oxford: OUP, 2014. Orlando. Dir. Sally Potter. Perf. Tilda Swinton and Quentin Crisp. Adventure Films, 1992. DVD. Plunkett, John. Queen Victoria: First Media Monarch. Oxford: OUP, 2003. Potter, Sally. Interview by Scott MacDonald. Camera Obscura 35 (1995): 187–220. Raphael, Amy. “‘Love Will Tear Us Apart.’” Sight and Sound 21.12 (2011): 34–36. Thompson, Emma. The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries: Bringing Jane Austen’s Novel to Film. New York: Newmarket, 1995.

Further Reading Butt, John, and Kathleen Tillotson. Dickens at Work. London: Methuen, 1957. Douglas-Fairhurst, Robert. Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2011. Johnson, E. D. H. Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph. 2 vols. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1952. Kaplan, Fred. Dickens: A Biography. New York: Morrow, 1988. Kucich, John, and Jenny Bourne Taylor, eds. The Nineteenth-Century Novel 1820–1880. Oxford: OUP, 2012. The Oxford History of the Novel in English 3. Ledger, Sally, and Holly Furneaux, eds. Charles Dickens in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011.

Miriam Elizabeth Burstein

3 God on the Wane? The Victorian Novel and Religion Abstract: During the nineteenth century, religious beliefs, practices, and affiliations underwent striking changes that both fractured and energised previously existing institutions. Allegiance to the Church of England may have declined, but Nonconformism and Roman Catholicism gained strength; secular criticism surged, but Evangelicalism became mainstream; attacks on Christian domestic priorities animated political satire, but foreign missions enjoyed considerable popularity. The religious novel, as practiced across multiple faiths and denominations, participated in this transformative process. This chapter traces how the religious novel’s emphasis on conversion resonated in four different historical contexts: the growing popularity of Evangelicalism, the conflicts over Catholicism, the increasing toleration for Judaism, and, finally, alternatives to orthodox faiths. In particular, these conflicts play out in terms of the marriage plot, as novelists try to resolve large-scale anxieties via personal romantic reconciliation. By the end of the century, novelists cautiously acknowledged and sometimes affirmed a new pluralism. Keywords: Anti-Catholicism, Christianity, conversion, doubt, Evangelicalism, Judaism, marriage, religion, secularism

In 1851, the British government conducted the first and only census devoted explicitly to religious belief in England. Notably, the census revealed that of 10,896,066 people attending worship that day, just about half (5,292,551) were Anglicans, with the Methodists and Independents coming in second and third (Mann 1854, 130). But since the population of England at the time exceeded 27,000,000, the results indicated that less than a fifth of the English people were attending Anglican services on that day, and considerably less than half of them felt the need to attend any sort of service. For Victorian observers, it was not just the question of non-attendance that was at issue: the census dramatised both the strength of Dissent and the extent to which English Christianity had fragmented. A different way of putting the problem would be to ask the question: Did these results attest to Christianity’s disappearance, or to religion’s vibrancy? The historian Callum G. Brown begins his The Death of Christian Britain with the proposition that secularisation set in “really quite suddenly in 1963” (2001, 1). Brown’s argument asks us to reassess how faith-based Victorian culture changed over the course of the century. As Frances Knight reminds us, the nineteenth century saw the Church of England undergo something of a seismic shift, from “State Church to denomination” (1995, 18). Anglicans may have been drifting away, but Nonconformist denominations and https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110376715-004


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Roman Catholicism were newly energised. Ardent secularists gained a new foothold in public life, but Christian revivalists like Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey continued to be popular, Anglo-Catholic ‘slum preachers’ founded settlements amongst the poor, and missionary work remained widely celebrated. As this chapter will suggest, then, the increasing disorder of what for a time had been a stable English religious landscape was not necessarily a sign that belief in God was on the way out. Both programmatically religious novelists and their more famous counterparts reflected on this theological ferment. In order to track how the fragmentation of Victorian religious culture intersected with the novel, this chapter will focus on two key and interrelated plots: the conversion narrative and the marriage plot. Emily Walker Heady has recently argued that in conversion plots “attempts to define and discuss the individual happen persistently within the context of a larger community within (or against) which the convert must define himself and which his testimony must address” (2013, 11). Not surprisingly, conversion was often inseparable from the marriage plot, that cornerstone of Victorian realism, and the two functioned together as a way to imagine how religious communities might come into being. The conjunction of these provides a useful lens for us to see how God did not so much ‘wane’ out of existence as the older confessions found themselves increasingly beleaguered by alternatives. In what follows, I track how the conversion and marriage plots interacted across four key and co-existing contexts: the growing popularity of Evangelicalism, the conflicts over Catholicism, the increasing toleration for Judaism, and, finally, alternatives to orthodox faiths, such as agnosticism.

1 Evangelical Routes to Salvation Although the roots of Evangelicalism lay in the emergence of Methodism during the mid-eighteenth century, it had established itself as a significant pandenominational force by the 1790s. By the 1830s, both Nonconformists and Anglicans might describe themselves as ‘evangelical’. All of them were unified by what David Bebbington identifies as a “quadrilateral of priorities”: “conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in effort; biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible; and what may be called crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross” (1989, 2–3). Although conversion narratives were rooted in such classic accounts as Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus and Augustine’s Confessions, the genre’s form was fundamentally established in the seventeenth century. A once-spiritual child falls into “‘worldliness’ and hardness of heart,” suffers “an awakening or pricking of religious conscience,” and then unsuccessfully tries to solve this spiritual crisis on her own terms (Hindmarsh 1995, 51–52). Only when they have sunk into “self-despair” can they “experienc[e] a divinely wrought repentance

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and the free gift of justification in Christ” (52). Conversion narratives, whether biographical or fictional, formed part of a religious community’s repository of saving knowledge; their repetitiousness supplied a pattern for believers to emulate. Nineteenth-century Evangelicals added an important further rider, namely, that the convert felt assured of their salvation as “the result of simple acceptance of the gift of God” (Bebbington 1989, 43). Sceptical observers frequently caricatured assurance as hypocritical arrogance, of the sort associated with Charlotte Brontë’s gloomy Mr. Brocklehurst in Jane Eyre (↗ 10 Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre) or Frances Trollope’s villainous William Jacob Cartwright in The Vicar of Wrexhill (1837). That being said, many Evangelicals disagreed that such sudden conversion experiences were necessary or desirable for salvation, and some were concerned that expectations for such conversions might hamper a genuine believer’s confidence. There was more agreement on activism, which united spreading the Word to social engagement. In the early part of the century, William Wilberforce and Hannah More were in the forefront of abolitionist advocacy, while in the 1830s Anthony Ashley Cooper, the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, campaigned to improve women’s and children’s working conditions and to alleviate the treatment of the insane. Strategically, a number of Victorian Evangelical novelists turned fictional narrative to the cause of reform. Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna’s Helen Fleetwood: A Tale of the Factories (1841) dramatised both the spiritual and physical ruin of factory work, especially for young women. Similarly, Hesba Stretton, one of the Religious Tract Society’s most successful novelists, specialised in calling attention to the plight of urban street children, most famously in Jessica’s First Prayer (1866), while Mrs. O. F. Walton criticised the abusive working conditions for child actors in A Peep Behind the Scenes (1877). For these novelists, critiques of material conditions were inseparable from calls for widespread spiritual regeneration. In Jessica’s First Prayer, it is impossible to rescue Jessica from her drunken mother until both she and the chapel-keeper-cum-coffee-seller Mr. Daniel have fully converted. Such activist principles were rooted in the principle of sola scriptura, ‘the Bible alone’, which held that the Bible was not only all-sufficient to gain the essentials of Christian knowledge, but also that it was self-interpreting. Evangelicals thus grounded their activism in Christ’s precepts and argued that even the poorest child was capable of achieving spiritual insight through Bible reading. As John Wolffe reminds us, Bebbington’s quadrilateral is a generalisation that does not map precisely onto what any given Evangelical’s faith might actually look like (2007, 97). Yet in terms of Evangelical print culture, the quadrilateral manifests itself as part of the underlying script of conversion narratives, both fictional and biographical. Indeed, early religious fiction tended to use a slim “framework of narrative” in order to showcase “long and sermonic comments and conversations” (Rosman 2011, 141). Early Evangelical novels like Hannah More’s Coelebs in Search of a Wife (1808), the Dissenter John Satchel’s Thornton Abbey: A Series of Letters on


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Religious Subjects (1806), and Harriet Corp’s Cottage Sketches (1813) all exemplified the tendencies of “polite evangelical fiction of the 1810s” (Mandal 2015, 261), rooted in eighteenth-century pedagogical ‘conversation’ or ‘dialogue’ texts. Characters discussed Evangelical doctrines according to the protocols of Enlightenment sociability, in which disagreement could ultimately be harmonised through the often-feminised codes of politeness. Fiction for children, like Mary Martha Sherwood’s iconic The History of the Fairchild Family (1818–1847), further adapted the conversational mode by inviting both children and parents to participate in the novel’s pedagogical scenes, which introduced different forms of religious expression that ranged from biblical prooftexting to hymn-singing. At the same time, a far more adversarial mode of Evangelical fiction (later to become transdenominational) was emerging – the controversial novel. In controversial novels, righteous characters engaged in antagonistic encounters with religious ‘others’, who struggled mightily to justify the errors of their ways. Significantly, the controversial novel marketed itself as utilitarian: it provided readers with biblical prooftexts and historical snippets to wield in their own controversial debates. Although this genre made itself felt as early as the 1810s, the novel that put controversial fiction on the map was the Scottish Presbyterian novelist Grace Kennedy’s Father Clement: A Roman Catholic Story (1823), a historical novel set during 1745. Father Clement unmasks the evangelical (and Moderate) ‘polite’ tradition by re-embodying it in the form of the subversive Jesuit (Burstein 2019, 404); Father Clement’s primary opponents, a Protestant man and a Catholic woman, only succeed by rejecting his attempts to retreat to good manners. Moreover, the novel invoked the marriage plot to imagine how Protestantism might be consolidated. Two sisters, Catherine and Maria, must choose at the end whether to be Protestants or Catholics. Catherine, who inherits a substantial sum, opts for the celibate monastic life and becomes the “most easily managed” of the local Jesuit’s “tools” (Kennedy 1824, 366). Maria, by contrast, marries her longstanding Catholic intended and becomes a “Protestantized Mary” (Burstein 2019, 403), the “Good Lady” (Kennedy 1824, 368) of the neighbourhood, who supplants the Virgin Mary as both a model for womanhood and the ‘bearer’ of faith. Here, interfaith marriage and conversion work together to suggest, on the one hand, how spirituality rooted in the Bible grounds domestic virtues, and, on the other, how domestic virtue leads to larger-scale religious change. Although Elisabeth Jay has complained that in George Eliot’s novella Janet’s Repentance, the final tale of Scenes of Clerical Life (1858), Eliot offers “a hackneyed attempt at revitalizing the language of Evangelical autobiography and tract in a fictional context” (Jay 1979, 232–233), it is also the case that Eliot self-reflexively reworks the Evangelical conversion genre even as she invokes it. The Evangelical Eliza Pratt praises clergyman Mr. Tryan’s choice of Father Clement for the parish library because it is “a library in itself on the errors of Romanism” (Eliot 1985, 187). Her friend Mrs. Linnet notes approvingly that “there didn’t want much to drive people away from a religion as makes ’em walk barefoot over stone floors, like that girl

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in Father Clement – sending the blood up to the head frightful” (187). Miss Pratt reads Father Clement for doctrinal content to the exclusion of literary form, while the more emotionally responsive Mrs. Linnet nevertheless reduces its sensational contents to pragmatic concerns. But both of them grasp that the novel is invested in opposition. Janet’s Repentance itself mobilises important conversion tropes, including the alcoholic Janet’s despair, her turn to exemplary texts for behavioural models, and her abusive husband Dempster’s ‘bad’ death. But the most significant aspect of Janet’s conversion derives not from recitations of doctrine, as in Father Clement, but from sympathetic identification: she warms to Mr. Tryan because of his “direct, pathetic look” (237), and then responds to him deeply during their mutual acts of “confession,” which allow her to be “assured of sympathy” (258). Janet converts not because of doctrine, but because of the act of autobiographical storytelling, which unites instead of divides. Unlike Father Clement, Janet’s Repentance argues that “[i]deas” cannot be grasped fully until they become associated with the “warm breath” and “soft responsive hands” of a “living human soul” (263). To the extent that doctrine figures in Janet’s new spirituality, it is inseparable from its manifestation in communal identification and individual human suffering.

2 Conversion and the Catholic Question Miss Pratt’s disparaging reference to ‘Romanism’ both situates Janet’s Repentance in the 1820s, during the debates leading up to Catholic Emancipation in 1829, and alludes to the anti-Catholic outbursts at the time of the novella’s publication in 1858. In the wake of Emancipation, which allowed Catholics to once again be seated in Parliament, Protestant observers worried that what they regarded as a foreign invader would subvert the English constitution. In addition, increasing Irish immigration made Catholics more visible in both England and Scotland, especially as the Catholic Church had to accommodate them with more priests and places of worship. Matters became heated once again in 1850, when the Pope reinstated the hierarchy in England. What ought to have been a relatively simple transformation instead exploded into what became known as the ‘papal aggression’, as anxious Protestants interpreted the change as a claim on English territory and the royal supremacy. The outrage lasted about two years, but in the long term, it stoked further anxieties about the spread of monastic communities, the presence of ‘Jesuits’ and the practice of confession. Just as importantly, the papal aggression controversy intersected with fears about the Church of England. By the 1840s, Protestant observers were pointing to ‘Romanising’ tendencies in the Church of England, thanks to the growing prominence of the Tractarian or Oxford Movement. The Oxford Movement, most closely associated in the public eye with Edward Pusey, John Keble, and John Henry Newman, attacked


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the influence of the Reformation on Anglican faith, arguing instead for a national church that would return to pre-Reformation theology and liturgy without reuniting with the Roman Catholic Church. They criticised Evangelicalism’s insistence on sola scriptura, arguing instead for the importance of tradition (rooted in patristics) in interpreting the Bible, and emphasised “reverence and reserve as necessary to proper worship” (Faught 2003, 52). Both the Oxford Movement and its direct descendant, Anglo-Catholicism, found popular support in the work of clergymen-novelists such as A. D. Crake, William Gresley, and Francis Paget, whose fiction celebrated the church’s role in maintaining and reviving local communities, often invoking medievalist visions of an organic relationship between the church and the broader social world. Similarly, a number of the bestselling novelist Charlotte Yonge’s works, like The Heir of Redclyffe (1853), The Daisy Chain (1856), and The Clever Woman of the Family (1865), suggested how Anglo-Catholicism opened up a space for some forms of women’s work without insisting that all women were necessarily destined to marry. Nevertheless, the Oxford Movement’s turn to Catholic ritual and its interest in reviving the importance of the sacraments, as well as its invocation of seventeenth-century calls for the ‘beauty of holiness’, led to repeated charges that its clergymen were really Catholics in disguise; matters were not helped by the flurry of conversions beginning in the 1840s, with Newman’s being the most spectacular. In fiction, these controversies frequently played themselves out within the space of the home, rendering domestic boundaries deeply problematic. Catholic (or Anglo-Catholic) priests were often accused of contaminating the minds of women and children in the confessional. “It is not for your ears to hear all the secrets of the confessional,” a distraught woman trapped in a convent tells another in Catherine Sinclair’s Beatrice; Or, the Unknown Relatives (1852). “I must draw a very long black veil over these. If even their printed books on confession be what they are, what shall be said of their secrets?” (Sinclair 1852, 3:297). Moreover, their influence in the household was thought to “endange[r] the typically unquestioned sexual and economic domination husbands maintained over their wives” (Bernstein 1997, 47). Similarly, Catholic servants, teachers, and governesses could be objects of fear because of their power over children’s minds. Thus, Rachel McCrindell’s popular warning against the threat of sending Protestant girls to Catholic schools, The Schoolgirl in France (1840), dramatised how Protestant students were exposed to the Catholic catechism and hagiographical literature while sewing or eating, an “artful snare” (1859, 179) intended to sneakily inculcate Catholic belief. Priests, governesses, teachers, and servants: all sought to undermine the sanctity of the Protestant domestic sphere in order to obtain illicit conversions. Matters were further complicated by interfaith marriage, which both appealed to some as a proof of political and religious liberalism, and was regarded by others as a danger to the spiritual health of both parties. Interfaith marriage plots had enjoyed considerable symbolic value earlier in the century – e.g., the Anglo-Irish and Protestant/Catholic union that concludes Sydney Owenson, Lady Morgan’s The

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Wild Irish Girl (1806), where they promised a “private zone of happiness” (McNeff 2013, 32) existing within and enabled by overarching Protestant dominance. But by the 1840s, such plots were far more likely to represent a dangerous threat to whichever religious side the novelist took. Protestant/Catholic marriages were, with some noticeable exceptions (such as the mixed marriages, stripped of nearly all theological content, that conclude Charles Dickens’s Barnaby Rudge [1848] and Benjamin Disraeli’s Sybil [1848]) represented as corrosive in both the public and private spheres. For example, in the ex-Tractarian William Sewell’s Hawkstone (1845), protagonist Ernest Villiers’ troubles all derive from the mixed marriage of his horrible father to his devout Catholic mother: not only do the family’s religious divisions impair Ernest’s childhood, but as an adult, he finds himself preyed upon by the Catholic Church itself, which yearns to convert him in order to seize control of his property – a situation familiar from Father Clement. Similarly, Frances Trollope’s Father Eustace: A Tale of the Jesuits (1847) casts a Catholic priest in the guise of an underhanded romantic suitor, pursuing a wealthy Protestant woman with the goal of conversion in the interests of church coffers and thereby “threaten[ing] the security of property by undercutting the laws and systems that protect it” (Moran 2007, 47) – but only subverting his own faith in the process. Notably, in these plots the danger emerges not just from mixed religious messages, but, more seriously, from external interference on the church hierarchy’s part, which keeps tabs on the Protestant half of the marriage via the confessional. Catholic novelists were just as likely to converge on the problem of property in interfaith marriages. Frances Taylor’s historical novel Tyborne (1859), set during the Elizabethan persecutions, features the proud Catholic Isabel de Lisle who, having taken a good Protestant husband, suffers through increasing torments until her husband betrays her brother to the priest-hunters and leaves her insane. Once again, the interfaith marriage proves figuratively and literally sterile, as Protestants usurp the theological and physical property that once rightly belonged to the Catholic Church. In this context, it is worth revisiting the threat of mixed marriages in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847, ↗ 10 Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre) and Villette (1853). Kathleen Vejvoda demonstrates that Jane Eyre codes the dubiously Christian Rochester as “Catholic,” especially in his stereotypically casuistical moral practices that rely on “ad hoc moral and religious standards” (2003, 247). When Rochester puts his purportedly hypothetical case about “overleaping an obstacle of custom – a mere conventional impediment which neither your conscience sanctifies nor your judgment approves” (Brontë 1996, 245), his language both reveals and occludes how he grounds self-justification in individual self-interest: both conscience and judgment turn out to be as rooted as transient ‘custom’ in the individual’s self-serving concerns. Jane, by contrast, later opposes ‘custom’ to a conscience shaped by eternal laws rooted in the Bible. “Laws and principles,” thinks Jane to herself, “are not for the times when there is no temptation; they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour;


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stringent are they; inviolate they shall be” (356). Both Rochester and Jane must experience “sincere repentance” (Thormählen 1999, 58) for their mutual mistakes – he, for his casuistical deception; she, for turning him into an “idol” (Brontë 1996, 307) – before the marriage can finally take place. Villette recasts the implicitly Protestant/Catholic split here in explicitly dogmatic terms. Lucy Snowe’s Catholic beloved, Paul Emanuel, proposes a Dickensian or Disraelian alliance: even though he finds Protestantism unappealing himself, he tenderly urges Lucy to “[r]emain a Protestant” (Brontë 1985, 594). Having given up on Lucy’s conversion to Catholicism, Paul proposes a meeting of minds through love instead. But Brontë insists that Catholic and Protestant allegiances cannot simply be subtracted from either subjectivity or society. Although Paul and Lucy appear to meet on the neutral territory of romantic need, which the novel’s Catholic Church understands to be part of “female human nature” (LaMonaca 2008, 88), Paul’s family and their priest keep interfering. And while Paul asserts himself enough to propose marriage, he does not perceive the extent to which his faith leaves him open to what Lucy sees as manipulation. Paul’s presumed death, which consigns Lucy to a loveless future, also “leav[es] her Protestant conscience free” from Catholic interference (Burstein 2016, 449). Ironically, as Monica Mazurek points out, Lucy’s escape from the perils of “Catholic romance” leaves her “celibate” (2016, 301). Once having succumbed even partly to a Catholic suitor, Lucy is unable to return fully to the world of Protestant domesticity inhabited by her friends Graham Bretton and Paulina. The novel denies the possibility of either physical or spiritual union across the chasm of faith, leaving the communities ultimately irreconcilable as the novel’s “jealous Old Testament God” refuses to allow “rivals in the heart and soul of those under his charge” (Carens 2010, 349).

3 Jewish Conversion, Jewish Resistance During the nineteenth century, Catholics experienced a push-and-pull between popular prejudices and greater legal equality, including the right to matriculate at Oxford and Cambridge in 1854 (although the Catholic hierarchy promptly forbade them to attend) and to teach there in 1871. So too did the much smaller Jewish population, whose presence in the British imaginary far outweighed their actual numbers on the ground. The movement towards liberalisation indicated by Catholic Emancipation increased efforts to allow Jews to sit in Parliament, which finally happened in 1858, and similarly entitled Jews to matriculate at Oxford and Cambridge. But much as the Protestant population agonised over whether or not Catholics could be successfully integrated, so too did Christians worry about assimilating Jews. Immigration patterns accentuated these concerns. Until the last third of the nineteenth century, British Jews were of predominantly Sephardic or Italian

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ancestry. The 1880s and 1890s, however, saw a considerable influx of impoverished Ashkenazi immigrants who soon clustered in the East End of London, much to the consternation of both Gentiles and genteel Jews. Formal conversion societies, such as the London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews (1809) and the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Among the Jews (1842), drew on the energies of Jewish converts like Joseph Samuel C. F. Frey and the Hebrew scholar Moses Margoliouth, both of whom became Anglicans. Such societies were sharply criticised by the Jewish novelist and polemicist Charlotte Montefiore in Caleb Asher (1845), in which the impoverished title character is driven to convert in order to get a job; one fictionalised conversion society turns out to be composed of greedy men not above duping Jews in order to get charitable donations. Conversion did not necessarily mean wholesale adoption of Gentile practices. Hebrew Christians, a subset of converts, debated the extent to which they should retain such aspects of the law as keeping kosher, a question also raised by Gentiles (Darby 2010, 103–150). Thus, the Evangelical Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna encouraged Jewish converts to nevertheless identify as Jews in her novel Judah’s Lion (1843): her hero, Alick Cohen, insists that “[b]ecoming a Christian, do I cease to be a Jew? God forbid!” (1852, 334), arguing in favour of what we would now call Christian Zionism. Tonna advocated philosemitism, which counselled that Jews should be treated well, as representatives of the older covenant, in order to demonstrate the superiority of Christian love. To that end, children’s novelists in particular urged toleration as proof of Christian belief. A. L. O. E.’s (pseudonym of Charlotte Maria Tucker) A Son of Israel; Or, the Sword of the Spirit (1875), for example, stars a sailor named Ned who rescues a young Jewish boy from his cousin, among others. “‘The Jews have special claim to the kindness of those who call themselves Christians,’ said Ned; and without further remark, the young man walked rapidly down the lane, carrying his little rescued captive on his shoulder in triumph” (1875, 8). Such kindness eventually differentiates Ned from Christians who have previously persecuted this Jewish family, leading them ultimately to convert thanks, in part, to his example. In the English literary tradition, the iconic link between marriage and Jewish conversion to Christianity is that of Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. The Shylock/Jessica dyad – tyrannical and misguided patriarch, entrapped in the law; the gentle daughter, guided by love (Sicher 2017) – repeats and mutates across the nineteenth century, most famously in the case of Rebecca and Isaac in Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe (1820). Jewish novelists, by contrast, firmly rejected interfaith marriage as a betrayal of both the community’s values and of faith in general: their would-be converts usually turn into half-hearted Christians at best. Grace Aguilar, the best-known Jewish novelist of the nineteenth century (and one with a strong Evangelical following), criticised interfaith marriage in both her posthumously published revision of Ivanhoe, The Vale of Cedars;


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Or, the Martyr (1850), which negated the possibility of any relationship between the heroine and the English hero, and in The Perez Family (1843). Aimed at a specifically Jewish audience, The Perez Family represents a disastrous interfaith marriage between the Jewish Reuben and the Christian Jeanie that turns into a spiritual and communal void: “He called himself, at least to his mother, a son of Israel but all real feeling of nationality was dead within him – yet he was not a Christian, nor was his wife, except in name” (Aguilar 2003, 129). Reuben’s exogamous marriage severs his emotional links to both Judaism and the Jewish people, which are replaced by something that skirts close to atheism; the name ‘Christian’ detaches itself from the idea of a community unified in the love of God, and turns into a belonging that is not one. Both the threat of interfaith marriage and the problem of conversion dog George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda (1876), which interrogates multiple tropes associated with both plots. Daniel’s conversion from exceptionally nominal Christian to selfreflexively modern Jew – “I shall call myself a Jew [. . .]. But I will not say that I shall profess to believe exactly as my fathers have believed” (Eliot 1988, 620) – does not simply invert the conversion novel’s usual trajectory. In this unintentional echo of The Perez Family, Daniel willingly identifies with Jewish ‘nationality’, which is associated with feeling, but his approach to Jewish religion remains mediated through his prior cultural affiliations. As the embodiment of one possible Jewish future, Daniel is neither a Hebrew Christian nor an Orthodox Jew, but instead a figure for tradition revitalised through contact with the modern. When he sets off for Palestine, unlike Tonna’s Evangelical Alick, he hopes to “bind our race together in spite of heresy” (642), an idealised evocation of a pre-sectarian past that, like his own Judaism, remains inflected by the history of modern nationalism. Once he identifies as a Jew, Daniel closes down the possibility of marriage with the Gentile Gwendolen and opens up that of marriage to the Jewish Mirah. Instead of presenting an interfaith romance reconciling the split between Jew and Gentile – and the two halves of the novel – Eliot uses Daniel’s marriage to Mirah to establish the potential of an explicitly Jewish communal identity. Although the novel’s vision of Jewish national revival excited some Jewish readers, like David Kaufmann, who praised its representation of the “ardent desire for a national future on the part of the Israelites” (1877, 27), others were sceptical. Most sharply, the novelist and poet Amy Levy dismissed the novel’s nationalist leanings in Reuben Sachs (1888). Her middle-class Jewish characters, thoroughly ensconced in England, have no interest whatsoever in any “Jewish nationalism that would require decamping to the Near East” (Dwor 2015, 122), with one explicitly calling out Eliot’s understanding of Jewish national longings as an “elaborate misconception” (Levy 2006, 100). Moreover, the novel’s Gentile convert to Judaism, a fool who has spent his life shopping among different faiths, mocks Deronda’s own heartfelt adoption of Jewish identity.

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4 Doubt? As we have seen, conversion and marriage plots are never ‘personal’, but about declaring public allegiance to larger corporate bodies. Novels about relinquishing orthodox faith also narrate quests for community, but are often more explicitly about the problem of constructing a community rather than joining one – with or without evading the “earnest shame” Joss Marsh finds characterising novels of doubt (1998, 138). Mrs. Humphry [Mary Augusta] Ward’s bestseller Robert Elsmere (1888) imagined its title character successfully founding a small-scale alternative church, but it is telling that when Ward came to write the sequel, The Case of Richard Meynell (1911), she abandoned the call for alternative faiths and instead turned to the possibility of reforming the Church of England from within. Christopher Lane suggests that “[t]he idea that doubt was inherently godless and heretical was rapidly being supplanted by assurances that it was actually full of hope, insight, and (mostly secular) faith, and just awaiting a plausible place to house all three” (2011, 151). Doubt, that is, could be about the complete loss of religious belief, but it could also herald the search for new theisms. Thus, Maxwell Gray’s [Mary Gleed Tuttiett] bestseller The Silence of Dean Maitland (1886) excoriates its Anglo-Catholic title character (who impregnates a young woman and murders her father), along with the behaviour of his celebrity-loving congregants, but it also proposes a non-dogmatic lay alternative to orthodox Christianity that substitutes humble praxis for a corrupt church. Such novels sought for “[n]ew sorts of Christianity that do without the benefits of current orthodoxy” (Butler 1990, 93), not no religion whatever. Similarly, agnosticism, one of the more respectable forms of doubt, appropriated the Christian fideist position on “the limits of knowledge” when it came to supernatural matters (Lightman 1987, 30), and important agnostics like Thomas Henry Huxley and Herbert Spencer, no matter how little they agreed with each other, jettisoned Christian dogma but remained profoundly spiritual (88, 120–121). Although novels endorsing unorthodox positions increased in numbers in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, they did so alongside a burgeoning trade in more explicitly denominational fiction – Methodist novels, Baptist novels, and indeed Catholic novels (which began achieving critical mass in the 1860s with the growth of the dedicated publisher Burns and Oates) (Scott 1973, 221–222). Moreover, it was often the case that a novel of ‘doubt’ was actually a novel about working through doubt back to faith. Novels like Winwood Reade’s The Outcast (1875), whose protagonist journeys from orthodox Anglican to non-dogmatic theist, or William Hale White’s The Autobiography of Mark Rutherford, Dissenting Minister (1881), whose eponymous clergyman finds his dogmatic faith slowly ebbing until he is left admitting that “the hour of illumination has not yet come” (213), were still outnumbered by works like Edmund Randolph’s Catholic social satire Mostly Fools: A Romance of Civilisation (1886), whose leading female character converts from sceptic to Catholic ascetic. This is not surprising, given that prosecutions for


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blasphemy had dogged freethinkers throughout the nineteenth century – although middle-class novelists were not normally the targets. Still, it is telling, as Marsh points out, that the “scriptural literary sins” (1998, 183) of Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh (↗ 36 Butler, The Way of All Flesh) meant that it was completed about 1884 but only published posthumously in 1903. Although arguments for a Victorian crisis of faith often point to new scientific developments (↗ 1 Science and the Victorian Novel), such as geology and Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution (both of which troubled any understanding of the earth derived from Genesis), religion had its own internal fissures. In particular, while it took some time for the Higher Criticism of the Bible to migrate from Germany to England, its implications were frightening once understood (or, at least, partly understood). Instead of treating the Bible as the inspired Word of God, the Higher Criticism studied it as a compilation of texts produced at varying times that needed to be understood in historical context. Thus, D. F. Strauss’ The Life of Jesus Critically Examined (1835) treats accounts of Jesus’ resurrection in terms of psychology and Jewish tradition, but concludes that the synoptics cannot be used as objective evidence that such an event occurred. In England, the aftershocks of Strauss’ study, along with Ernest Renan’s Vie de Jésus (1863), made themselves felt in such texts as J. R. Seeley’s biographical study Ecce Homo (1866), which scandalised critics by considering Jesus solely as a man rather than as God incarnate, and the agnostic novelist Eliza Lynn Linton’s The True History of Joshua Davidson (1872), which argued that if Jesus were to return, society would simply kill him again. Similarly, Anglican attempts to incorporate some of the insights of the Higher Criticism led to scandal, most notably the 1861 heresy trial for the contributors to Essays and Reviews (1860), a collection that challenged orthodox positions on such subjects as miracles, and Bishop J. W. Colenso’s The Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua Critically Examined (1862), which undermined traditional arguments for the Pentateuch’s Mosaic authority. Novels of doubt often turned to the alluring or frightening possibilities of Roman Catholicism as the repository of that lost authoritative truth. In Geraldine Jewsbury’s Zoe (1845), the narrator acknowledges that “[t]here is so much of human feeling in the Catholic religion, so much that makes itself tangible to human sympathy, that the mourners seem to be restored to the very objects of which they have been bereft” (1989, 291). This spiritual homeliness is very different from Zoe’s affections for multiple men, most notably her celibate interfaith connection with a Catholic priest that ultimately destroys his vocation. A few years later, Markham Sutherland, the agonised clerical protagonist of J. A. Froude’s scandalous Nemesis of Faith (1849), tries to resolve his problems at the end by entering a monastery, but “[h]is crushed sense became paralysed in the artificial element into which he had thrown himself” (1988, 222). The certain solution turns out to be torturous illusion. At the end of the nineteenth century, when the novel of doubt had firmly established itself as a genre, Catholicism remained the doubter’s ‘other’. It is the road not taken in W. H. Mallock’s novel of the effects of scepticism on female sexuality, A Romance of the Nineteenth

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Century (1898), and the last minute escape hatch for both the unhappy clergyman in Robert Buchanan’s The New Abelard: A Romance (1884), who dies converted at Oberammergau, and the secretly sceptical Anglo-Catholic clergyman in Buchanan’s Foxglove Manor (1884), who abruptly converts after he loses both of his female love interests and his illegitimate child. Anglo-Catholicism sometimes served the same function: it is a source of false spiritual authority in Eliza Lynn Linton’s agnostic Under Which Lord? (1879) and, more famously, the last resort of the agonised Sue Bridehead in Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure (1895, ↗ 30 Hardy, Jude the Obscure). Unsurprisingly, the conflicts that characterise the interfaith marriage plot recur in novels of doubt, exacerbated by gendered critiques of the female sceptic that denounced their attempts to wrestle with theology as acts that would “not merely risk their femininity but [would] also engage themselves in an act of blasphemous defiance against their Creator” (Jay 1989, 97). Foxglove Manor, which has a recognisable Herbert Spencer knockoff married to an Anglo-Catholic woman, is unusual in granting the victory to the agnostic. Margaret Maison noted that in the earliest novels of lost faith, “doubters and freethinkers were [. . .] generally treated as sinners and almost invariably punished by madness or death” (1961, 212); although later novels redressed this balance, it remained the case that characters who lost their faith also tended to lose their existence. The death of Mallock’s sexually abused (and, on the terms of the novel, fallen) female protagonist in A Romance of the Nineteenth Century before she can marry the Catholic-inclined hero indicates one popular way of removing such characters from the narrative scene. But this dynamic plays out more subtly in two contemporary novels, Mrs. Humphry Ward’s Helbeck of Bannisdale (1898) and the Catholic novelist Mrs. Wilfrid [Josephine] Ward’s One Poor Scruple (1899). In Helbeck, Laura Fountain grows up agnostic, a position she holds instinctively and “indirectly” (H. Ward 1983, 58) because of her father Stephen Fountain’s influence; when she falls in love with the stern Catholic Alan Helbeck, her emotional attachment to agnosticism is no match for Helbeck’s demand that she convert, yet in the end “the voice of my own life” (387) asserts itself, and she commits suicide. One Poor Scruple, possibly a direct response to Helbeck, features another Laura, Laura Hurstmonceaux, an older woman in high society who does her best to dissuade protagonist Madge Riversdale from embracing the Catholic spirituality of her recusant family. This Laura does not commit suicide, but her meddling in Madge’s relationship with the Protestant Lord Bellasis eventually prompts the suicide of another woman in love with Bellasis, Cecilia Rupert. Whereas Helbeck suggests that both agnosticism and Catholicism are equally “lacking” and “necessary” (Butler 1990, 125) to modern spiritual needs, and celebrates instead the coming of a “new mystical union” to transcend both (H. Ward 1983, 333), One Poor Scruple instead insists that Catholicism remains the true haven. The novel assumes that the “world is fallen and her characters, therefore, highly ‘dependant’ on what is ‘quite outside themselves’” (Erb 1999, 367). Thus, the non-religious Laura, who reveals the unintended effects of her actions with an expression “prey to agony” that


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“asked for no help, looked for no comfort” (W. Ward 1985, 363), exemplifies the barrenness of a life lived without recourse to God, but also the tortures of sin with no possibility of penance and redemption. By contrast, Madge ultimately settles down contentedly with an elderly aristocrat, but first she must go through the “penal suffering” (380) God demands. For Laura Fountain and Cecilia, suffering leads to no spiritual purification; in fact, neither has the language to articulate why suffering might even be necessary. Madge’s embrace of suffering is the novel’s testament to Catholicism’s abiding power as both an explanatory and a consolatory force.

5 Conclusion As Mrs. Wilfrid Ward’s affirmation of Catholicism suggests, neither God nor religion had waned, precisely, by the end of the nineteenth century. Yet, in celebrating recusant endurance in a novel originally published not by a denominational press, but by Longmans, she also demonstrated how earlier nineteenth-century assumptions about what constituted the religious ‘normal’ had become fractured. Anglicans, both Evangelical and otherwise, found themselves sharing spiritual territory with Catholics, Jews, Nonconformists, and the unorthodox of various stripes from agnostic to atheist. Legislative attempts to rein in the Anglo-Catholic movement failed; so too, eventually, did the efforts to keep the atheist activist William Bradlaugh from taking his seat in Parliament (1883). At the dawn of the twentieth century, it was unclear if some new equilibrium had been reached. It is telling that in The Case of Richard Meynell, Mrs. Humphry Ward’s sense in Helbeck that traditional orthodoxy and traditional scepticism prove to be a deadly binary gives way to something far more optimistic: Meynell’s confident assertion that whatever may come, “the future” of the Church of England was “for England to settle” (H. Ward 1911, 625) is the alternative to older certainties, but in the end, it does not dispel the security of the Evangelical Catherine, who dies at peace, experiencing “the vision of an opening glory – a heavenly throng!” (630).

Bibliography Works Cited Aguilar, Grace. Selected Writings. Ed. Michael Galchinsky. Peterborough: Broadview, 2003. A. L. O. E. [Charlotte Maria Tucker]. A Son of Israel; Or, the Sword of the Spirit. Edinburgh: Gall & Inglis, 1875. Bebbington, David. Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989. Bernstein, Susan David. Confessional Subjects: Revelations of Gender and Power in Victorian Literature and Culture. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1997. Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. 1847. Ed. Michael Mason. New York: Penguin, 1996.

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Brontë, Charlotte. Villette. 1853. Ed. Mark Lilly. New York: Penguin, 1985. Brown, Callum G. The Death of Christian Britain: Understanding Secularisation 1800–2000. London: Routledge, 2001. Burstein, Miriam Elizabeth. “The Religion(s) of the Brontës.” A Companion to the Brontës. Ed. Diane Long Hoeveler and Deborah Denenholz Morse. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2016. 433–452. Burstein, Miriam Elizabeth. “Father Clement, the Religious Novel, and the Form of ProtestantCatholic Controversy.” British Catholic History 34.3 (2019): 396–423. Butler, Lance St. John. Victorian Doubt: Literary and Cultural Discourses. New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990. Carens, Timothy L. “Breaking the Idol of the Marriage Plot in Yeast and Villette.” Victorian Literature and Culture 38.2 (2010): 337–353. Darby, Michael R. The Emergence of the Hebrew Christian Movement in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Leiden: Brill, 2010. Dwor, Richa. Jewish Feeling: Difference and Affect in Nineteenth-Century Jewish Women’s Writing. London: Bloomsbury, 2015. Eliot, George. Daniel Deronda. 1876. Ed. Graham Handley. Oxford: OUP, 1988. Eliot, George. Scenes of Clerical Life. 1858. Ed. Thomas A. Noble. Oxford: OUP, 1985. Erb, Peter C. “Some Aspects of Modern British Catholic Literature: Apologetic in the Novels of Josephine Ward.” Recusant History 24.3 (1999): 364–383. Faught, C. Brad. The Oxford Movement: A Thematic History of the Tractarians and Their Times. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 2003. Froude, J. A. The Nemesis of Faith. 1849. Introd. Rosemary Ashton. London: Libris, 1988. Heady, Emily Walker. Victorian Conversion Narratives and Reading Communities. Farnham: Ashgate, 2013. Hindmarsh, D. Bruce. The Evangelical Conversion Narrative: Spiritual Autobiography in Early Modern England. Oxford: OUP, 1995. Jay, Elisabeth. “Doubt and the Victorian Woman.” The Critical Spirit and the Will to Believe: Essays in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Religion. Ed. David Jasper and T. R. Wright. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1989. 88–103. Jay, Elisabeth. The Religion of the Heart: Anglican Evangelicalism and the Nineteenth-Century Novel. Oxford: OUP, 1979. Jewsbury, Geraldine. Zoe: The History of Two Lives. 1845. Introd. Shirley Foster. London: Virago, 1989. Kaufmann, David. George Eliot and Judaism: An Attempt to Appreciate ‘Daniel Deronda’. Trans. J. W. Ferrier. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1877. Kennedy, Grace. Father Clement; A Roman Catholic Story. 1823. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: William Oliphant, 1824. Knight, Frances. The Nineteenth-Century Church and English Society. Cambridge: CUP, 1995. LaMonaca, Maria. Masked Atheism: Catholicism and the Secular Victorian Home. Columbus: Ohio UP, 2008. Lane, Christopher. The Age of Doubt: Tracing the Roots of Our Religious Uncertainty. New Haven: Yale UP, 2011. Levy, Amy. Reuben Sachs. 1888. Ed. Susan David Bernstein. Peterborough: Broadview, 2006. Lightman, Bernard. The Origins of Agnosticism: Victorian Unbelief and the Limits of Knowledge. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1987. Maison, Margaret. The Victorian Vision: Studies in the Religious Novel. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1961. Mandal, Anthony. “Evangelical Fiction.” English and British Fiction, 1750–1820. Ed. Peter Garside and Karen O’Brien. Oxford: OUP, 2015. 255–272.


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Mann, Horace. Religious Worship in England and Wales: Abridged from the Original Report. London: George Routledge, 1854. Marsh, Joss. Word Crimes: Blasphemy, Culture, and Literature in Nineteenth-Century England. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1998. Mazurek, Monika. “Marriage Plot and Jesuit Plotting: The Use of Romance in Conversion Narratives.” From Queen Anne to Queen Victoria: Readings in 18th and 19th Century British Literature and Culture 5 (2016): 295–302. McCrindell, Rachel. The Schoolgirl in France. 1840. London: Simpkin and Marshall, 1859. McNeff, Heather. “Finding Happiness: Interfaith Marriage and British Literature, 1745–1836.” Diss. U of Minnesota, 2013. Montefiore, Charlotte. Caleb Asher. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1845. Moran, Maureen. Catholic Sensationalism and Victorian Literature. Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2007. Rosman, Doreen. Evangelicals and Culture. 2nd ed. Eugene: Pickwick, 2011. Scott, Patrick. “The Business of Belief: The Emergence of ‘Religious’ Publishing.” Sanctity and Secularity: The Church and the World. Ed. Derek Baker. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1973. 213–224. Sicher, Efraim. The Jew’s Daughter: A Cultural History of a Conversion Narrative. Lanham: Lexington, 2017. Sinclair, Catherine. Beatrice; Or, the Unknown Relatives. 3 vols. London: Richard Bentley, 1852. Thormählen, Marianne. The Brontës and Religion. Cambridge: CUP, 1999. Tonna, Charlotte Elizabeth. Judah’s Lion. 1843. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1852. Vejvoda, Kathleen. “Idolatry in Jane Eyre.” Victorian Literature and Culture 31.1 (2003): 241–261. Ward, Mrs. Humphry. The Case of Richard Meynell. Garden City: Doubleday, 1911. Ward, Mrs. Humphry. Helbeck of Bannisdale. 1898. Ed. Brian Worthington. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983. Ward, Mrs.Wilfrid [Josephine] . One Poor Scruple. 1899. Introd. Bernard Bergonzi. Padstow: Tabb House, 1985. White, William Hale. The Autobiography of Mark Rutherford, Dissenting Minister. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1881. Wolffe, John. The Expansion of Evangelicalism: The Age of Wilberforce, More, Chalmers and Finney. Downers Grove: InterVarsity P, 2007.

Further Reading Cunningham, Valentine. Everywhere Spoken Against: Dissent in the Victorian Novel. Oxford: Clarendon, 1975. Nixon, Jude V., ed. Victorian Religious Discourse: New Directions in Criticism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Perkin, J. Russell. Theology and the Victorian Novel. Montréal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 2009. Ragussis, Michael. Fictions of Conversion: “The Jewish Question” and English National Identity. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1995. Viswanathan, Gauri. Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1998. Wheeler, Michael. Death and the Future Life in Victorian Literature and Theology. Cambridge: CUP, 1990. Wheeler, Michael. The Old Enemies: Catholic and Protestant in Nineteenth-Century English Culture. Cambridge: CUP, 2006. Wolff, Robert Lee. Gains and Losses: Novels of Faith and Doubt in Victorian England. New York: Garland, 1977.

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4 Genres and Poetology: The Novel and the Way towards Aesthetic Self-Consciousness Abstract: This chapter opens by mentioning Virginia Woolf’s opinions on the nature of the novel as a “cannibalistic” creature, which is capable of incorporating influences not only from the literary world but also from other forms of art. In investigating the various literary genres that characterised the Victorian novel (from the Bildungsroman to the sensation novel, from the realistic novel to the so-called ‘scientific romances’) we will also refer to nineteenth-century art movements such as Impressionism and Aestheticism, so as to reflect on the importance of the dialogue between literature and art. The basic idea is that literary genres are not static constructions but dynamic systems in which changes and mutations occur alongside definite rules that make a genre recognisable. In studying single generic typologies, it could be thus possible to reconstruct a specific historical milieu according to a diachronic perspective. Keywords: Bildungsroman, nineteenth-century art, realistic novel, scientific romance, sensation novel

In describing the dynamics of narrative forms, Virginia Woolf uses a highly idiosyncratic Gothic imagery that makes the novel seem an ever-changing and inclusive form of artistic expression. Within a few years, she believes, “[that] cannibal, the novel, which has devoured so many forms of art, will have devoured even more. We shall be forced to invent new names for the different books which masquerade under this one heading” (1967, 224, emphasis added). In Woolf’s opinion, this “cannibalistic” creature is capable of incorporating influences not only from the literary world, but also from painting and fine arts in general. In imagining the future of literature, however, Woolf also looks backwards, implicitly reflecting on the nature of many pre-modernist narrative forms besides the Victorian novel. In the famous reflection of another modern novelist, which is similarly idiosyncratic and Gothic, Henry James asks his readers, and himself: “What do such large loose baggy monsters, with their queer elements of the accidental and the arbitrary, artistically mean?” (1934, 84, emphasis added). James’s reference is specifically to canonical nineteenth-century texts such as William Thackeray’s The Newcomes (1855), Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers (1844), and Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1869). In characterising the novel as a devouring monster (something halfway between Victor Frankenstein’s unnamed creature and an ogre), Woolf and James see Victorian narratives as polymorphous narrative systems involving a multiplicity of genres and sub-genres that continually ‘feed’ on preceding texts and supply material for future literature.



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Along with the enormous changes that affected the printing market (mechanisation, reduction of prices for paper, stamp taxes, etc.), the Victorian literary world changed in the presence of an increasingly educated and literate reading public. The so-called Elementary Education Act of 1870 decreed compulsory education for English and Welsh children aged between five and thirteen. New genres were thus introduced, which, alongside specialised publishers, periodicals, and circulating libraries, offered specific narrative products to quench the literary thirst of the growing audience. At the same time, a more evident separation widened between highbrow and middle- or lowbrow readership. The extremes were represented by George Eliot’s philosophically refined novels (↗ 22 George Eliot, Middlemarch) and George Meredith’s formally complex works (↗ 23 George Meredith, The Egoist) on the one hand and by Wilkie Collins’s and Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s sensational tales of murder, bigamy, and blackmail on the other (↗ 20 Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone, ↗ 18 Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret). It is therefore fundamental to bear in mind that the literary genres of the Victorian age were not produced in a historic or cultural vacuum but were audience-conscious and that, in creating (or in theorising) new literary forms, intellectuals and writers conceived them with a specific reading public in mind.

1 The Laws of Genres and the Origin of Literary Species If texts are always made and derive from other texts, it is readers who create the conditions for this endless production of literature. In this respect, literary genres always relate to their “use-value” (Beebe 1994, 5) as sets of conventional semiotic systems, whose meanings are motivated and activated by the public. A ‘genre’ is not rooted within a specific artistic work, but results instead from a mediation between the readers’ creative expectations and the artists’ perceptive sensibility to their readership. Whereas specific traits identify each literary genre (the Gothic novel, the romance, the Bildungsroman, etc.), no text can be simply and ‘purely’ an expression of genre. As Jacques Derrida asserts, “a text [does] not belong to any genre. Every text participates in one or several genres” (1980, 230) because the law of genre is “a sort of participation without belonging” (227) based on “a principle of contamination” (225). If it is critically useful to study specific traits that distinguish one genre from another, it is equally important to remark that these recurring traits entail a dynamic aesthetic dialogue with further traits in texts belonging to other literary genres. Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847, ↗ 10 Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre), to offer one example, makes a fundamental contribution to the female Bildungsroman, while it includes elements drawn from the Gothic tradition and from the Romantic cult of the ‘tainted’ Byronic hero. Since Maurice Blanchot – who perhaps provocatively suggests

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in Le livre à venir (1959) that books no longer belong to genres because the books alone are important – there has been an increasing critical attention to genre theory, which investigates the relationship between culture, historicity, and literary forms. In “The Origin of Genres” (1976), written as a reply to Blanchot’s conclusions, Tzvetan Todorov reflects on the necessity to single out generic “rules” within the very notion of generic “transgression” (160), thereby anticipating Jacques Derrida. Genres, then, are not static but dynamic narrative systems subjected to change and mutations that occur within the specific rules that make a genre recognisable. In identifying single generic typologies (scientific romances, realistic novels, Gothic novels, sensation fictions, etc.), one reconstructs a well-defined historical milieu according to a changing, diachronic perspective. At the same time, the presence of recurring textual features permits one to analyse literary genres synchronically. This double-sided critical approach is especially suitable for studying the complexity of Victorian novels as “cannibal” and “baggy monsters,” in Woolf’s and James’s words, which defy easy categorisations. “If one avoids the temptation,” as Jonathan Culler puts it, “to separate generic categories into the theoretical and the empirical but insists that genres are always historical yet based on some sort of theoretical rationale, they are more defensible as critical categories, essential to the understanding both of literature as a social institution and of [. . .] individual works” (2009, 881).

2 Forming the Novel, Building a Character: The Bildungsroman The Bildungsroman, also known as ‘novel of education’, ‘novel of youth’, ‘novel of development’, ‘novel of formation’, or ‘novel of initiation’, gives narrative form to the notion of change in nineteenth-century European society. The dissolution of older social structures and of traditional political systems, along with the increasing presence of modern modes of production (which may be defined as protocapitalistic) have created the conditions for the appearance of a new generation that embodies – in the eyes of artists – the very idea of change. The model is represented by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (the reputed progenitor of the Bildungsroman was published in 1795, and translated by Thomas Carlyle in 1824 as Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship), which ends on an optimistic note. This dynamic process does not always occur, however, in the euphoric terms of the Goethean model. On the contrary, in the particular case of the English ‘novel of formation’, the idea of ‘evolution’ emerges more disturbingly and with far more articulate complexity. Recognisable aspects of the story of a young man or woman (often an orphan or member of a difficult household) that strives to use his or her experiences to grow up professionally, intellectually, and sentimentally do recur,


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but the Victorian declination of the ‘novel of development’ does not always offer an unproblematic depiction of change. Franco Moretti maintains that at the dawn of the Battle of Waterloo on Sunday 18 June 1815, which saw the final defeat of Napoleon’s political aspirations, “Europe plunge[d] into modernity, but without possessing a culture of modernity” (2000, 5). While in the offing, the blooming Victorian bourgeois society – full of potential vitality and energy – did not seem to be ready to face a series of social, political, cultural, and ideological compromises, and nineteenth-century Britain was basically a ‘divided’ nation. The result was that male and female identity was not given a steady ‘formation’, but had to keep its balance amidst difficulties and obstacles in a mutating world instead. Alongside David Copperfield, Pip, Jane Eyre, Lucy Snowe, Maggie Tulliver, and Jude Fawley, the gentleman Arthur Pendennis in The History of Pendennis (1848–1850), attempts to set the world right in various ways. Unlike Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister, George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss (1860), Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure (1895, ↗ 30 Hardy, Jude the Obscure), and Walter Pater’s Marius the Epicurean (1885, ↗ 24 Pater, Marius the Epicurean) conclude with the death of their main character, whereas the epilogue of Great Expectations (1861) is deliberately left ambiguous. Dickens’s original intention to neutralise Pip’s feelings for Estella was later revised in accord with Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s advice. Even David Copperfield, which was published in the same year as Pendennis (and was enormously appreciated, and even envied, by Thackeray), concludes with an unconvincing happy ending that follows a series of deaths (Steerforth, Ham, and Dora) and losses (Peggotty, Emily). If the Bildungsroman dramatises the difficult relationship between its main character and the world surrounding him or her, the real “flaw” that undermines the traumatic process of formation seems to lie “with the hero himself” (Buckley 1974, 22). The situation does not change much in the so-called Künstlerroman, a variation of the Bildungroman centred on the artistic evolution of its protagonist. It does not matter whether the main character is an aspiring writer like Ernest Pontifex in Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh (written between 1873 and 1884; published posthumously in 1903, ↗ 36 Butler, The Way of All Flesh), a painter like Nick Dormer in James’s The Tragic Muse (1890), or a frustrated intellectual like Jude Fawley in Hardy’s novel. As a matter of fact, George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss possesses a unique quality amidst the Victorian novels of formation in depicting the double and parallel entrance into adulthood, and final tragedy, of its two siblings: “Tom’s upward-bound Bildungsroman is fatally assimilated to Maggie’s downward spiral” (Fraiman 1993, 141). A similar form of double Bildung takes place in Sarah Grand’s The Heavenly Twins (1893, ↗ 27 Grand, The Heavenly Twins), which features the siblings Angelica and Diavolo Hamilton-Wells, with Angelica representing the figure of the independent and assertive ‘New Woman’.

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Another important element, namely the autobiographical relevance of the novels of formation, is far more problematic than at first appears. Texts such as The History of Pendennis, David Copperfield (and its counter version Great Expectations), Trollope’s The Three Clerks (1858), Meredith’s The Ordeal of Richard Feverel (1860), or Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) and Villette (1853) are not simply inspired or based upon their authors’ lives but describe the contrast between individuals and their sociocultural context. However, the fact that these texts are partially inspired by autobiographical events and details has led to critical misinterpretations. David Copperfield, for example, is certainly not Dickens’s artistic double, but rather his “counterpart” (Buckley 1974, 33), because of his peculiar ability to observe and to retain his manifold experiences in his memory. In pursuing education and independence, Maggie Tulliver in The Mill on the Floss embodies Eliot’s (and other Victorian women’s) difficulties in being accepted as a thinking individual. The Mill on the Floss illustrates in tragic terms the central issue of the so-called ‘female’ Bildungsroman, by focussing on the unavoidable problems Victorian women faced when trying to assert their individuality in a patriarchal society. Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is certainly among the first examples of a female hero who attempts, in line with the tradition of the ‘male’ novel of formation, to mediate between her aspirations and her socialisation. However, the first and foremost obstacle for a stable female Bildung is Jane Eyre’s sex. Brontë’s novel depicts an unconventional model of femininity (based upon intelligence and volition rather than physical appeal and acquiescence) that would make a large impact on future literary genres like the sensation novel and New Woman fiction. The protagonists of Jane Eyre and of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813), which includes some of the elements of the female novel of development in nuce and in which this process of individualisation is developed in the guise of an ironic comedy of manners, “begin as self-assured young women who question their subordinate place in society, but the endings find them less active, less assertive, and reintegrated into society through marriage” (Ellis 1999, 16). Villette revises the generic rules that Brontë has helped to create in her first published novel, wherein Lucy Snowe is a much more self-tormented character than Jane Eyre, and the novel’s epilogue is deliberately puzzling. The ‘reader-I-married-him’ paradigm of Brontë’s and Austen’s novels will recur in many other novels by successive authors. There are manifold variations upon the basic schemes of the Bildungsroman, ranging from the novel of ‘colonial’ formation in Rudyard Kipling’s Kim (1901, ↗ 35 Kipling, Kim) to the novel of ‘scientific’ development in Herbert George Wells’s Tono-Bungay (1909). Walter Pater’s Marius the Epicurean: His Sensations and Ideas (1885) remains an especially interesting example of the integration of the genre with other aesthetic forms (philosophical novel, historical novel, etc.) and with future artistic movements (Aestheticism). While the story is set in ancient Rome during the dynasty of the Antonines (161–177 AD), this novel of ‘sensation’ – because all the events are filtered through Marius’s physical perceptions – is wholly


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Victorian in illustrating the “mental progress” (Buckley 1974, 144) of the main character. Although its hero, unlike the protagonists of other Bildungsromane, does not have to face economic difficulties, his story bears many resemblances to David Copperfield and Great Expectations (Marius loses first his father and then his mother, and he experiences the difficulties of moving from the province to the city) and replicates the contrasting intellectual and philosophical struggles of Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus (1833–1834, ↗ 8 Carlyle, Sartor Resartus), which is another peculiar example of philosophical Bildungsroman. In view, moreover, of Marius’s strong homoerotic feelings for the poet Flavian (who is a Roman version of Dickens’s Steerforth) and for the Christian Cornelius, Walter Pater’s text has been also defined as one of the first novels of gay formation (Maynard 2002, 285), thus anticipating Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891, ↗ 26 Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray). The English novels of development include, within their own premises, the symptoms of their ideological and formal disintegration. George Meredith’s and Thomas Hardy’s anti-Bildungsromane take to their extremes what has been latent in other Victorian texts, namely the dissolution of the hero’s hopes and worldview. In The Ordeal of Richard Feverel (1859) and The Adventures of Henry Richmond (1871), Meredith questions the aesthetic assumptions of the English Bildungsroman through convoluted language that mimics the psychological investigations underway in the two texts. Thomas Hardy in Jude the Obscure follows the gradual degeneration, rather than the evolution, of its main character, and of the persons surrounding him. The novel pins down and implacably criticises all the major pillars of the Victorian systems of value: education, culture, religion, and marriage. The suicide by hanging of “Little Father Time” and his killing of Sue’s two children represent the most disconcerting illustration of the tragic disillusionment that characterises this novel. For these reasons, Frank R. Giordano defines Jude the Obscure (along with The Ordeal of Richard Feverel and Butler’s The Way of All Flesh) as a “satire of the Bildungsroman, a kind of anti-Bildungsroman” (Giordano 1972, 589). Like other novels of formation, Jude the Obscure features recognisable autobiographic elements (Jude, like Hardy, is interested in church architecture and old music, and shares the writer’s problematic theology), but it should not be read or misread biographically. Rather, its relationship to Hardy’s life and artistry has to be approached in the light of Hardy’s decision (after the critical debates following accusations of the novel’s obscenity) to pursue a career as poet. Indeed, Hardy came to believe that poetry offered a modern artist the sole means for expressing his ideas and impressions in new and experimental forms. Jude the Obscure is certainly not the last Victorian Bildungsroman, but it is a text that highlights the thematic and formal limits of this literary genre. In a few years, the First World War would definitively shatter all residual hopes for a coherent and harmonic development of human beings.

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3 Victorian Realisms Before leaving the Bildungsroman behind, however, we should consider its relationship to the important phenomenon of nineteenth-century British realism. In what respects do Victorian novels depict reality and in what respects do they transgress the rules of realism? More than a discussion of realism it may be critically useful here to refer to the multiple forms and theorisations of Victorian ‘realisms’. The very term is ambiguous, because it often refers to a supposed identification between reality and its artistic translation. Do we refer thus to realism in terms of ‘formal’ representations or of adherence to nature? The British declination of realism must be distinguished, moreover, from its French counterpart. Unlike French realism, the Victorian aspiration to realism was generally related to the acceptance of institutionalised moral codes. These codes were transposed artistically into many kinds of texts such as conduct books, essays, reviews, paintings, poems, and novels. George Eliot’s Ruskinian association between “truth” and “beauty,” established by means of a “humble and faithful study of nature” (Eliot 1981, 273) – included in her review of Modern Painters III, published in the Westminster Review in April 1856 – can be considered one of the manifestos of the implicit moral lesson underlying English realism. The extremes of the Victorian realistic novel may be very roughly identified on the one hand with the omniscient narrator-tailor who weaves a web of social and cultural connections in George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1874, ↗ 22 Eliot, Middlemarch) and with the first-person narration of moral disillusionment in Dickens’s Great Expectations or of female development in Jane Eyre on the other. Between these extremes, there is a whole textual universe. Although Middlemarch, Jane Eyre, David Copperfield or, say, Vanity Fair (↗ 13 William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair) are generally classified as realistic, they also foreground all the limits of this terminology. The narrator in Middlemarch even interrupts the description of events with a metaliterary comment that is indicative of the writer’s own questioning of the formal contradictions of realism: “One morning, some weeks after her arrival at Lowick, Dorothea – but why always Dorothea? Was her point of view the only possible one with regard to this marriage?” (Eliot 1985b, 313). And it is still Eliot’s self-conscious narrator who states her delight, in chapter XVII, book two, of Adam Bede (1859), in the “faithful pictures of a monotonous homely existence” (Eliot 1985a, 224) of Dutch paintings. She admits that the “faithful account of men and things” that have “mirrored themselves” in the narrator’s mind is “doubtless defective,” with its outlines “disturbed,” and its reflection “faint or confused,” (223) but she is “content to tell [a] simple story, without trying to make things seem better than they were; dreading nothing, indeed, but falsity, which [. . .] there is reason to dread” (224). By introducing this famous pictorial parallel with the Dutch school, Eliot attests both to the visual nature and concerns of realist poetics (Brooks 2005, 3, 16) and to the limits of this literary genre.


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Eliot’s reflections are a further example of the extremely self-conscious nature of Victorian realism, and of its unexpected affiliation with the French school of Flaubert and Balzac, two novelists who were more explicitly interested in formal issues. Eliot’s opinions, along with those voiced by many other so-called traditional realists (including Anthony Trollope in An Autobiography and Charles Dickens, in particular in his letters or as reported by John Forster in his biography), suggest that Victorian writers were constantly looking for an (impossible) balance between their concessions to the market, to the circulating libraries, and to serial publishing and their awareness of the aesthetic challenges of realistic novel-writing. In this respect, the realist debate replicates the existential, ideological, and artistic struggles between individualisation and socialisation dramatised in the Bildungsroman, with the new bourgeois society at its centre. The underlying idea that seems to be foundational for many of these novels (and for their writers’ speculations) is that of a ‘crisis’, towards which they reacted through their ‘formal’ and narrative attempts at offering an order to a condition of cultural, historical and political disorder. This is why, according to Frederic Jameson, we should approach Victorian realism as an “antinomic” concept, “in which an epistemological claim (for knowledge or truth) masquerades an aesthetic ideal, with fatal consequences for both of these incommensurable dimensions” (2013, 5–6). The increasing interest in social sciences, in Darwinism, and in the depiction of the conditions of people living in urban contexts (↗ 1 Science and the Victorian Novel) represented the recurring thematic and formal traits of English naturalism, which can be considered an evolution of realistic poetics. However, George Moore and George Gissing, the major representatives of naturalism, had a way of addressing realist issues very different from their French counterparts, and in particular from Émile Zola. In their narratives and journalism, both Moore and Gissing denounced the precariousness of the position of writers and intellectuals, mostly by attacking circulating libraries (Moore published a critical pamphlet entitled Literature at Nurse, or Circulating Morals in 1885 and Gissing wrote a critical letter for the Pall Mall Gazette in 1884, and offered an unromantic view of the profession of the novelist in New Grub Street). But each showed a very personal approach to naturalistic poetics at odds with that of Zola. Gissing, for instance, rejected Zola’s ‘scientific’ view of novelists as detached observers, demonstrating a typically English approach to naturalism. This Victorian declination of the French lesson is further manifested in the strong impact that Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor (originally published during the 1840s and collected in three volumes in 1851) would have on Gissing’s first published novel, Workers in the Dawn (1880), and The Nether World (1889). Workers in the Dawn describes, for example, the artistic difficulties of Arthur Golding and his tormented sentimental relationship with a prostitute named Carrie Mitchell in what may be defined as a naturalistic anti-Bildungsroman (or anti-Künstlerroman). Moore, at least at the beginning of his literary career, in A Mummer’s Wife (1885) took inspiration instead

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from Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1856) and Zola’s L’Assommoir (1877). Defined by Moore himself as his “novel of the senses” (Moore 1894: 481), the book was banned from Mudie’s circulating library. The publisher was Henry Richard Vizetelly – who would be persecuted for obscenity after his English translation of Zola’s novel La terre in 1888, and later for his reissue of other works by the French naturalist writer. Moore describes in his novel the squalid existence of the dreamy Kate Ede, depicting her fall from grace (she leaves her sickly husband to elope with, and then marry, the manager of a travelling opéra bouffe) and her death as an alcoholic. London becomes the most recurrent setting in English naturalist novels: an appropriate environment for the increasingly alienated condition of individuals in the late nineteenth century, morally and physically trapped within urban labyrinths. It is not accidental that London is also at the centre of The Secret Agent, published by Joseph Conrad in 1907 but set in 1886. Conrad’s tragic story of failed bombings and misplaced passions is not narrated, however, according to a naturalistic aesthetics but in a deliberately ‘impressionistic’ style. The metropolis is – as Conrad writes in the “Author’s Note” – a “monstrous town” and “a cruel devourer of the world’s light” (1994, 10). Dickens’s grotesque alleys and Gissing’s degraded metropolitan areas thus give way to nightmarish hallucinations, and Conrad serves as an important trait d’union between Victorian and late-Victorian poetics. Lord Jim (1900, ↗ 34 Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim) in particular becomes paradigmatic of the impact that the artistic movement known as Impressionism had on the imagination and style of many nineteenth-century writers. The peculiarity of Charlie Marlow’s perception is that he cannot see (and understand) things distinctly. This ‘limited’ visual and hermeneutic perspective determines the way events are filtered in all the stories that feature this homodiegetic narrator: namely, “Youth” (1898), Heart of Darkness (1899), Lord Jim (1900), and, to a lesser extent, Chance (1913). Realism as a literary genre, as well as a writing (and reading) practice, had privileged a specific epistemological approach to storytelling, with which the last decades of the Victorian era would demonstrate a decisive cultural, ideological, and formal break. The unifying visual and hermeneutic perspective of the traditional Victorian narrator is replaced by a subjective vision that relies only on ‘impressions’ and disrupts all coherent renderings of events.

4 Writerly Paintings and Painterly Writings: The Dialogue between the Arts The cultural and artistic impact of the first Impressionist exhibition in Paris, held in April 1874 in the studio of the photographer Nadar, was so strong as to influence not only European and non-European visual artists, but novelists and writers as well. The term was initially adopted in a derogative sense by Louis Leroy in the


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newspaper Le Charivari and addressed to Claude Monet’s painting Impression, soleil levant (1872), which the critic considered a sketch rather than a finished work. It is therefore not surprising that late-Victorian novelists such as Henry James and Joseph Conrad allude to visual arts, making comparisons between writing and painting. In “The Art of Fiction” (1884), for instance, James argues that a novel is “a personal impression of life” and it is this very “impression” that constitutes its “value” (1979, 292). As for Conrad, his 1897 “Preface” to The Nigger of the “Narcissus” highlights the importance of art as an impression conveyed through the senses (1966, 12–13), whereas Heart of Darkness (a text that puts his aesthetic theories into practice better than The Nigger of the “Narcissus”) repeatedly features scenes and events evoked through Marlow’s visual and hermeneutic ‘impressionistic’ perspective. According to Owen Knowles and Gene Moore, this “misting of clarity” may be associated “with viewing an Impressionist painting” (2000, 189). When dealing with the impact of Impressionism in Victorian England it is necessary to refer to the works of the American expatriate James Abbott McNeill Whistler, whose interest in the relationship between literary and painterly Impressionism began earlier than 1874. In April 1865, Charles Algernon Swinburne wrote “Before the Mirror,” a poem inspired by Whistler’s painting The White Little Girl (whose title was later changed into Symphony in White no. 2, with Swinburne’s verses engraved in the frame). Although Whistler’s style is not properly impressionistic, and notwithstanding the painter’s own misgivings about the French school, Whistler was labelled as an English Impressionist both during his lifetime and after his death, and his works were fundamental in the debates surrounding the meaning and value of art in the lateVictorian age. Whistler’s paintings became a matter of discussion especially after the virulent attacks that John Ruskin published in Fors Clavigera (1871–1884) against Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (c. 1874), exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in London in 1877. Offended by Ruskin’s words, Whistler sued him for £1,000, and the trial concluded in 1878 with Ruskin found guilty and subjected to pay a symbolic award of a quarter of a penny as compensation. The Whistler-Ruskin trial dramatised a juxtaposition between two different approaches to the artist’s work: whereas Whistler claimed that a painting should speak to the impressions of each individual viewer according to a process based on a form of aesthetic individualism, Ruskin maintained that the artist-as-vates should teach the public how to enjoy art as a moral lesson. While Whistler underlined the importance of subjective impressions, Ruskin insisted that arts convey a universal ethical message. The relationship between writing and visual art was central not only because of the impact of French Impressionism on late nineteenth-century Britain; it was also crucial for the discussion surrounding the ‘Art for Art’s Sake’ precepts of English Aestheticists. This group included – along with Whistler and Swinburne – Vernon Lee, Oscar Wilde, and Walter Pater. Although Pater’s Marius the Epicurean, The Renaissance (1873), Imaginary Portraits (1887), and Plato and Platonism (1893) belong to different artistic genres, they are aligned in their evocation of a ‘sensorial’

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and impressionistic perception of reality, which contrasts with the detached atomism and scientific accuracy of English and French naturalists. In his “Preface” to The Renaissance, Pater delineates the role of the critic as one that does not have to teach but rather to suggest how to filter art through the individual impressions of the perceiver. He states that the “objects with which aesthetic criticism deals – music, poetry, artistic and accomplished forms of human life – are indeed receptacles of so many powers and forces” (Pater 1980, xix). His comments upon Botticelli’s art lead Pater to ask himself, and his public: “What is the peculiar sensation, what is the peculiar quality of pleasure, which his work has the property of exciting in us?” (Pater 1980, 39, emphasis added). Although Henry James was basically neutral in his review of the Ruskin-Whistler trial in the columns of The Nation on 19 December 1878, he is especially indebted to Whistler’s impressionist aesthetics. As a result, The Portrait of a Lady (1880–1881), which was certainly more successful than James’s previous works, was sometimes charged, like Whistler’s works, with obscurity, as in the anonymous review by Margaret Oliphant published in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1882. In accord with the painterly title of James’s novel, Isabel Archer’s story is viewed through a series of contrasting perceptions and ‘framed’ by Gilbert Osmond, who imprisons her physically and morally. As for Thomas Hardy, who insisted in his Preface to the fifth edition of Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891) that a novel is an “impression, and not an argument,” (Hardy 2003: lviii), his interest in French Impressionism and in the influence of the French artistic school upon literature is much more explicitly voiced than it is in James. Novels such as The Woodlanders (written after Hardy’s enthusiastic visit to the first London exhibition of impressionist art in December 1886), The Return of the Native (1878), and Jude the Obscure are characterised by a strong impressionistic technique, adopted to render the characters’ sensorial understanding (and misunderstanding) of events. Furthermore, Hardy’s autobiography devotes many pages to his opinions about the perception of nature as “the product of the writer’s own mind” (2007, 235). Reflections on Joseph Mallord William Turner’s experiments with “light modified by objects” lead to Hardy’s idea that art “is a disproportioning” and that, as a consequence, “realism is not Art” (2007, 222).

5 The Impact of Romanticism Considerations of realism do nevertheless remain as relevant as those of naturalism and Impressionism to nineteenth-century fiction. The notion of continuity in change may be seen as one of the foundations of nineteenth-century poetics. The coexistence of tradition and innovation represents not simply a literary principle but, generally speaking, a fundamental trait of the Victorian age from a political, cultural, ideological, and aesthetic point of view. In this respect, the continuing


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influence of Romanticism on the theory and practice of the Victorian novel does not come as a surprise. Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847, ↗ 11 Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights), rich and unique in its references to Gothic literature, to German supernatural tales, and to Byron, seems, but only at first view, to constitute “an exception to some of the best literary generalisations” (Kiely 1972, 1) and to exist in an “utterly self-sufficient world” (233) that explicitly rejects the influence of Victorian realism. After a closer look at Wuthering Heights (with its reliance upon an image of nature as an indomitable force), it is also possible to retrace – within this quintessentially Romantic story – some of the elements that are present in other, and more canonical, Victorian novels and novelists. If Emily Brontë’s text testifies to the predominance of the world of individual emotions (an element that is particularly evident in Heathcliff’s wild passion for Cathy), Catherine Earnshaw’s decision to marry Edgar Linton and Hareton Earnshaw’s more prosaic feelings for Catherine Linton identify a need for emotional restraint and social integration. This latter aspect helps us to understand the modalities through which the Romantic ‘lesson’ will be filtered and adapted by its Victorian ‘pupils’. Whereas Charlotte Brontë’s cultural background was evidently as Romantic as Emily’s (ranging from Scott to Byron, who was the major influence of the Angriacycle), Jane Eyre nevertheless testifies to the author’s desire to counterbalance Romantic idealism. The Gothic suggestions and Byronism – mainly identified with Bertha Mason and Rochester – succumb to socialisation and the acceptance of a normative familial model. As for Villette, it deliberately mixes a Gothic world of phantasmal presences (especially in the figure of the ghostly nun) with Lucy Snowe’s desire to conform to Victorian social norms through access to education and to ordinary feelings (identified with Paul Emanuel). Accordingly, the Victorian reconfiguration of Romantic models does not imply a total rejection but rather the transformation of those models. The figure of the wilful Byronic hero is transformed into Thackeray’s gentlemen (from William Dobbin in Vanity Fair to Major Pendennis), and the Romantic writer as ‘sage’ is updated into the ‘Victorian prophet’ identified by Thomas Carlyle and Matthew Arnold. The eminently Victorian Dickens, too, has grown from the Romantic roots that he would continue to reaffirm. His naturally Romantic inclination remains in his cult of imagination, in the importance he gave to the artist as public spokesman, and in his reliance upon a ‘humanist’ resolution to the traumas of modernity. In his “Preface” to Bleak House (1853, ↗ 16 Dickens, Bleak House), he admits to having “purposely dwelt upon the romantic side of familiar things” (Dickens 2011, 56, emphasis added). Just to offer other examples of the continuing relevance of Romanticism, George Eliot maintained an innate sympathy for Wordsworth’s poetry, and her novels include many epigraphs taken from his works, as well as explicit (or implicit) allusions to his verses. During the composition of Adam Bede, Eliot and George Henry Lewes were reading The Excursion (1814), and even her reflections on the relationship between aesthetic truthfulness and morality in chapter seventeen of Adam Bede echo

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the preface to the Lyrical Ballads (1798). Mr. Tulliver’s attachment to the Mill in The Mill on the Floss may be compared to Michael’s strong emotional relationship to landscape in Wordsworth’s eponymous poem, and the value of memory that the Poet Laureate advocates in almost all of his compositions (including The Prelude) heavily permeates The Mill on the Floss. Generally speaking, from Adam Bede to Middlemarch, from Silas Marner (1861) to Daniel Deronda (1876), Eliot shares, in Stephen Gill’s words, Wordsworth’s ideological “move from experience to ‘general truths’” (Gill 1998, 148). Silas Marner is an interesting case in point, since here Eliot fuses together the tradition of legendary tales (which represented, as she admits in her letters, her first source of inspiration), a moral fable, and a Victorian ‘realistic’ narration dealing with the impact of industrialisation and the value of communal life. With respect to Byron, Eliot’s feelings were more ambivalent: whereas she first enthusiastically read Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1818) and gave a strongly autobiographical imprint to the figures of Felix Holt, Daniel Deronda and Savonarola – as individuals who strive to assert their personality – she later dismissed Don Juan (1824) for its harsh cynicism. The impact of the Romantics on Victorian literature is not limited to the Brontës, Dickens, and Eliot. Elizabeth Gaskell met Wordsworth on 20 July 1849, when he was a sort of living Romantic legend for writers and intellectuals (to be replaced in a few years by another Poet Laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson), and shared his compassionate interest in human suffering, grief, and isolation. Gaskell alludes to the “Lucy Poems” in Ruth (1853), in the unfinished Wives and Daughters (1866), and in Cousin Phillis (1864), her most Wordsworthian story. In treating its protagonist as a humble Victorian woman rather than a Romantic aspiring writer, The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857) manifests Gaskell’s own dichotomic oscillation between Unitarian self-denial in the service of society and a typically Byronic aspiration to literary excellence. Anthony Trollope too exemplifies a complex Romantic heritage. While inclined to Wordsworthian models in his Barchester cycle of provincial life (↗ 17 Anthony Trollope, Doctor Thorne), he favoured the Keatsian notion of the artistic vocation (which An Autobiography associates with a Victorian work ethics) and showed the deleterious effects of Byronism in characters such as the commercial pirate Augustus Melmotte in The Way We Live Now (1875). The impulse of Romantic poetics contributed, paradoxically, to the Victorians’ thinking about themselves as ‘modern’ and as unevenly positioned between the illusions and ideals of the past and the urgent political, social, and aesthetic issues of the present. It is not therefore accidental that a post-Romantic like Matthew Arnold assumes such a position. His first lecture as Professor of Poetry at Oxford, “On the Modern Element in Literature” (1858), identifies depression and ennui as the symptoms of the disease of the most advanced societies and civilisations. The lecture uses almost the same expressions adopted five years earlier in “The Scholar Gypsy” (1853), a composition that also belongs to the genre of the Romantic ode, like Wordsworth’s, Shelley’s, and Keats’s poems. George Meredith, who published a


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narrative poem emblematically entitled Modern Love (1862), always tried to reconcile the ideal and the real, romance and realism, in novels such as The Ordeal of Richard Feverel. The epilogue of this novel dramatises the shattering of all Romantic illusions, with its ‘hero’ Richard wounded in a duel by the villainous Lord Mountfalcon, and with Richard’s beloved Lucy Desborough falling prey to madness and death.

6 Excessive Bodies: From Sensation Novels to Scientific Romances If realism represented the pervasive ideological and aesthetic reference point for writers, readers, and the literary market, the realistic assumptions of this multiform literary genre were also challenged by the Victorians’ continuing interest in the fantastic and the Gothic. Indeed, two of the most transgressive sub-genres of the era – sensation novels and scientific romances – may stem from the same Gothic sources as they share the presence of villainous characters, the ‘sublime’ quality of specific settings, the body as a metaphor of excess, etc. As far as the sensation novel is concerned, however, Pamela Gilbert points to a distinguishing element of this kind of fiction: “its topicality,” being “generally set in the historical moment in which it was published, and [. . .] rife with references to the latest cultural crazes” (2011, 7). The “topical” quality and nature of the sensation fictions penned by Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and Mrs Henry (Ellen) Wood, which in a way update specific Gothic codes, also involves a critique of the historical moment. The genre tends to question class boundaries, gender stereotypes, and pre-inscribed narrative paradigms related to realistic representation. The very term ‘sensation’ is ambiguous and there are varying opinions on its origin. The OED, for instance, attributes its first appearance to Rev. Henry Longueville Mansel in a notorious article of April 1863 in the Quarterly Review. Apart from his acrimonious accusations of immorality (associated with the genre’s appealing to the public taste for crime), Mansel focused on the stimulation in these novels of uncontrollable, unnatural, and dangerous bodily sensations. Many attacks against sensation novels do not make it clear, however, whether they are the cause of physical (and moral) excitability in readers, or are the effect of a corrupted society. In either cases, these novels participated in the most deleterious aspects of the so-called ‘mass culture’ and the mass literary market, submitting to the consumerist laws of demand and supply of strong emotions for strong palates. Margaret Oliphant was another critic who wrote unsigned attacks in the pages of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. Besides focusing, in an article dated 1867, on the French origin of these ‘immoral’ narrations, she applied the term sensation with reference to those spectacular melodramas that employed special effects (such as train

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crashes, fires, and floods on stage). These melodramas induced intense ‘sensational’ emotions in the public, and the readers of sensation literature too were thought to react physically according to what Peter Brooks has defined as the melodramatic mode of excess (Brooks 1995). Their bodies were in fact the means through which their opinions, their points of view, and their identity were voiced. Nevertheless, sensation novels partially differed from traditional popular melodramas because the roles of the stereotypical male and female characters, which identified the principles of good and evil, were often revised and altered. Indeed sensation fiction blurred the boundaries separating justice and crime, legal punishment and moral infamy. Sensation novels derived many of their plots from contemporary trials and journalistic cases (featuring blackmails, murders, poisonings, concealed identities, and sexual scandals) in a sort of updated version of Newgate calendars and of Newgate fictions. Readers from respectable classes now began to appreciate tales that had pleased only the lower classes in third-rate penny serials of the past. This mixture of elements associated with upper and lower social classes was a feature that almost all critics emphatically blamed. Another target of criticism was the depiction of assertive women and of their new ‘species’ that Margaret Oliphant called the “fair-haired demon” (Oliphant 1867, 263), whose aim was to interrogate the rightfulness of the institution of marriage and the role of women within the Victorian patriarchal family. Female economic, social, and sexual oppression became one of the leading topics of sensation fiction, which offered a twist on the past. While traditional Gothic fictions had usually portrayed women as the victims of male villains, female characters now reacted, even violently, against their own pre-inscribed fate. They employed changes of identity, subtle machinations, seductive practices, and other illicit means in the struggle for survival, as the examples of Wilkie Collins’s Lydia Gwilt in Armadale (1866) and Lady Audley in Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret (1862, ↗ 18 Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret) demonstrate. The sensation novel exists, in fact, not as a single unified generic type but as a form that declines the traits of the same formula in manifold ways (Fantina and Harrison 2006). While Wilkie Collins is considered the father of the sensation school in intricately plotted novels such as The Woman in White (1859), No Name (1862), and Armadale, his The Moonstone (↗ 18 Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone), dated 1868, anticipates late-century detective fictions; furthermore, if on the one hand Charles Reade is renowned for having taken inspiration from contemporary sources and documents in ‘matter of fact’ romances such as Hard Cash (1863), on the other hand Mrs Henry (Ellen) Wood’s moralising sensation East Lynne (1861) represents another variant of the sensational recipe. During the Victorian age, Lady Audley’s Secret was Braddon’s best-known sensation novel, as well as a haunting presence that permeated, for better or worse, all of her artistic career. Braddon’s bestseller was among the first Victorian novels to conflate in its female character angelic physical traits and demonic characteristics; mixing supposedly antithetical aspects, Lady Audley was both a fiend and a doll-like Victorian lady. Despite the various literary styles of its authors,


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sensation novels shared a common interest in the Victorian family, seen as a social, political, sexual, and moral institution, as well as a micro-representation of Victorian Britain in a particular critical phase. The values of the past interact and clash in these texts with the changed cultural patterns of the present. As for the other transgressive sub-genre of the era, the scientific romance, the very term by which it was known seems to be an oxymoron: the rational approach of science apparently negates the escape from reality that romance implies. Nevertheless, the late nineteenth-century scientific romances basically derived from Gothic tales and updated them, replacing haunted castles and villainous Catholic monks with futuristic (or dystopian) settings and ambitious scientists. As Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886, ↗ 25 Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Herbert George Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), and The Invisible Man (1897) exemplify, “the Gothic, nightmarish plot of the mad scientist concocting monsters suggests that science fiction, rather than celebrating science [. . .] more often illustrates the dangers of scientific overreaching” (Brantlinger 2002, 373). In this respect, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) may be considered as the link between the Gothic-Romantic tradition and the Victorian scientific romance. Furthermore, Mary Shelley’s novel had constituted a link between a Miltonian narrative and the Bildungsroman, depicting the revival of a creature exiled from paradise that enters the social world as the scene of his formation. The creature’s evolution from victim to tormentor (and from angel to demon) runs parallel to Victor Frankenstein’s tragic awareness of his mistakes as a human being and as a scientist. Alongside the technological changes that affected and modified everyday life (faster railway connections, the progress in electrical engineering, the introduction of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, etc.), the factors that determined the success of scientific romances included developments in the publishing market. The circulation of middle-brow magazines such as the Pall Mall Gazette and The Pearson’s Weekly (which serialised Wells’s The Invisible Man and The War of the Worlds) increased, the three-decker novel was ousted out by single-volume novels, and travel narratives (from David Livingstone to Henry Morton Stanley and Richard Burton) began to successfully narrate, in adventurous terms, the expanding boundaries of the British empire. In the imperial context, Wells’s The War of the Worlds, published in 1898, may be seen as an imaginary reconfiguration of the colonial ‘alien’ invading London. Finally, in light of Darwinian evolutionary theories, such novels took up debates over the future of the human, as exemplified by Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race (1871, ↗ 21 Bulwer-Lytton, The Coming Race), Samuel Butler’s Erewhon (1872), and Wells’s The Time Machine (1895, ↗ 31 Wells, The Time Machine). In many cases, scientific romances depict the future in apocalyptic terms, thus negating William Morris’s hopes for the utopian socialist society described in News from Nowhere (1890). London and the Thames Valley thus become the favourite settings for apocalyptic fictions. The catastrophes range from natural disasters caused

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by comets in John Richard Jefferies’s After London (1885), or by massive volcanic eruptions in Grant Allen’s “The Thames Valley Catastrophe” (1897), to actual invasions in George Chesney’s science fiction novel The Battle of Dorking (1871) and Wells’s The War of the Worlds. By choosing London as the main site of future destructive events, these stories suggest that “the disappearance of London signifies or anticipates the end of the world” (Parrinder 1995, 60), providing future narrators and filmmakers with plenty of suggestions, as Steven Spielberg’s decision to set his twenty-first-century version of The War of the Worlds (2005) in a post-9/11 America testifies. Even George Eliot, the Victorian intellectual and philosophical writer par excellence, participated in the debate regarding scientific romances and the future of the world in her last work, The Impressions of Theophrastus Such (1878). The work is composed of eighteen character studies in which the narrator, named Theophrastus (modelled upon the Greek philosopher Theophrastus of Eresus, who lived from c. 371 to c. 287 BC and succeeded Aristotle in the Peripatetic school), introduces the scientific opinions of various intellectuals and thinkers. These include Ganymede, Mixtus, Scientilla, and Trost, a German scientist. Trost’s essay “Shadows of the Coming Race” in The Impressions of Theophrastus Such is a parodic reflection on Bulwer-Lytton’s and Samuel Butler’s Darwinian scientific romances The Coming Race and Erewhon, imagining a world in which perfectly educated machines replace failing human instincts. Although it is by no means the last Victorian publication, The Impressions of Theophrastus Such serves as an emblem of the dissolution of the narrative principles advocated by nineteenth-century writers. In a way, this hybrid text – which imitates the style and aesthetics of Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus as a philosophically oriented collection of rambling thoughts – embodies and anticipates Virginia Woolf’s prophetic view of “[that] cannibal, the novel, which has devoured so many forms of art” (1967, 224). Even though George Eliot did not take The Impressions of Theophrastus Such too seriously, her use of Theophrastus’s philosophical investigations reveals the limits of Victorian narrative authority. Through Theophrastus’s mediation, Eliot reflects not only on social and intellectual issues, on Jewish culture, and other contemporary topics, but also – in metanarrative terms – on the notion of authorship, of originality, and of plagiarism (for instance in the essay “The Wasp Credited with the Honeycomb”). The Impressions of Theophrastus Such must therefore be understood “as an experimental departure from, and self-conscious reflection on, her career,” so that the book stands as her last and most explicit commentary “on the problems of authorship” (Henry 2012, 247). Especially in the opening essays “Looking Inward” and “Looking Backward,” Eliot’s philosophical satire provides an access to her awareness of the importance of “impressions” over notions: “powerful imagination,” Eliot writes through her mediated spokesmen, “is not false outward vision, but intense inward representation, and a creative energy constantly fed by susceptibility to the veriest minutiae of experience” (Eliot 1879, 185). The Impressions of Theophrastus Such is therefore the latest significant example of the


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“loose, baggy monsters” (James 1934, 84) of the Victorian novel; in Eliot’s final work that monster has turned into a proto-postmodern shape. This strange Frankenstein monster-like assemblage of narrative and non-narrative texts proves, as James said in “The Preface” to The Ambassadors (1903), that the novel “remains still [. . .] the most independent, most elastic, most prodigious of literary forms” (James 1984, 1321).

Bibliography Works Cited Beebe, Thomas O. The Ideology of Genre. A Comparative Study in Generic Instability. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1994. Blanchot, Maurice. Le livre à venir. Paris: Gallimard, 1959. Brantlinger, Patrick. “Victorian Science Fiction.” A Companion to the Victorian Novel. Ed. Patrick Brantlinger and William B. Thesing. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002. 370–384. Brooks, Peter. The Melodramatic Imagination. Balzac, Henry James, and the Mode of Excess. New Haven: Yale UP, 1995. Brooks, Peter. Realist Vision. New Haven: Yale UP, 2005. Buckley, Jerome Hamilton. Season of Youth. The Bildungsroman from Dickens to Golding. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1974. Conrad, Joseph. The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, Typhoon and Other Stories. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966. Conrad, Joseph. The Secret Agent. 1907. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1994. Culler, Jonathan. “Lyric, History and Genre.” New Literary History 40.4 (2009): 879–899. Derrida, Jacques. “The Law of Genre.” Trans. Avital Ronell. Glyph 7 (1980): 202–232. Dickens, Charles. Bleak House. 1853. Ed. Patricia Ingham. Peterborough: Broadview, 2011. Eliot, George. Adam Bede. 1859. Ed. Stephen Gill. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985a. Eliot, George. George Eliot, A Writer’s Notebook, 1854–1879, and Uncollected Writings. Ed. Joseph Wiesenfarth. Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1981. Eliot, George. The Impressions of Theophrastus Such: Essays and Leaves from a Note-book. London: Harper, 1879. Eliot, George. Middlemarch. 1874. Ed. W. J. Harvey. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985b. Ellis, Lorna. Appearing to Diminish: Female Development and the British ‘Bildungsroman’ 1750–1850. Lewisburg: Bucknell UP, 1999. Fantina, Richard, and Kimberly Harrison, eds. Victorian Sensations: Essays on a Scandalous Genre. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 2006. Forster, John. The Life of Charles Dickens. With Illustrations. London: Chapman & Hall, 1890. Fraiman, Susan. Unbecoming Women: British Women Writers and the Novel of Development. New York: Columbia UP, 1993. Gilbert, Pamela. Introduction. A Companion to Sensation Fiction. Ed. Gilbert. Malden: WileyBlackwell, 2011. 1–10. Gill, Stephen. Wordsworth and the Victorians. Oxford: Clarendon, 1998. Giordano, Frank R. “Jude the Obscure and the Bildungsroman.” Studies in the Novel 4.4 (1972): 580–591. Gissing, George. “Letter.” Pall Mall Gazette 15 Dec. 1884: 2. Hardy, Thomas, and Florence Hardy. The Life of Thomas Hardy 1840–1928. Ed. Michael Irwin. Ware: Wordsworth, 2007.

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Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the D’Urbervilles. 1891. Ed. Tim Dolin. Introd. Margaret Randolph Higonnet. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2003. Henry, Nancy. The Life of George Eliot: A Critical Biography. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. James, Henry. “The Art of Fiction.” A Victorian Art of Fiction: Essays on the Novel in British Periodicals. Ed. John Charles Olmsted. Vol. 3. New York: Garland, 1979. 285–306. James, Henry. Literary Criticism: French Writers, Other European Writers, The Prefaces to the New York Edition. Ed. Leon Edel. New York: Penguin, 1984. James, Henry. “Preface to The Tragic Muse.” The Art of the Novel: Critical Prefaces. By James. Introd. Richard P. Blackmur. New York: Scribner, 1934: 70–97. Jameson, Fredric. The Antinomies of Realism. London: Verso, 2013. Kiely, Robert. The Romantic Novel in England. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1972. Knowles, Owen, and Gene M. Moore. The Oxford Reader’s Companion to Conrad. Oxford: OUP, 2000. Mansel, Henry Longueville. “Sensation Novels.” Quarterly Review 113. (1863): 482–514. Maynard, John N. “The Bildungsroman.” A Companion to the Victorian Novel. Ed. Patrick Brantlinger and William B. Thesing. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002. 279–301. Moore, George. Literature at Nurse, or Circulating Morals: A Polemic on Victorian Censorship. 1885. Ed. Pierre Coustillas. Hassocks: Harvester, 1976. Moore, George. “My Impressions of Zola.” English Illustrated Magazine Feb. 1894: 481. Moretti, Franco. The Way of the World: The ‘Bildungsroman’ in European Culture. 1987. Trans. Alberto Sbragia. New ed. London: Verso, 2000. Oliphant, Margaret. “Novels.” Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine Sept. 1867: 257–280. Pater, Walter. The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry. The 1893 Text. Ed. Donald Hall. Berkley: U of California P, 1980. Parrinder, Patrick. “From Mary Shelley to The War of the Worlds: The Thames Valley Catastrophe.” Anticipations: Essays on Early Science Fiction and Its Precursors. Ed. David Seed. Liverpool: Syracuse UP, 1995. 58–74. Todorov, Tzvetan. “The Origin of Genres.” Trans. Richard M. Berrong. New Literary History 8.1 (1976): 159–170. Trollope, Anthony. An Autobiography. 1883. Ed. Michael Sadleir and Frederick Page. Introduction and Notes by P. D. Edwards. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999. Woolf, Virginia. “The Narrow Bridge of Art.” Collected Essays. Ed. Leonard Woolf. Vol. 2. London: Harcourt, 1967: 218–229.

Further Reading Cohen, Ralph. “History and Genre.” New Literary History 17.2 (1986): 203–218. Davitt, Amy J. “Integrating Rhetorical and Literary Theories of Genre.” College English 62.6 (2000): 696–718. Fleishman, Avrom. George Eliot’s Intellectual Life. Cambridge: CUP, 2010. Fowler, Alastair. Kinds of Literature: An Introduction to the Theory of Genres and Modes. Oxford: Clarendon, 1987. Frow, John. Genre. London: Routledge, 2006. Mangham, Andrew. Ed. The Cambridge Companion to Sensation Fiction. Cambridge: CUP, 2013. Maxwell, Catherine. “Whistlerian Impressionism and the Venetian Variations of Vernon Lee, John Addington Symonds, and Arthur Symons.” The Yearbook of English Studies 40.1–2 (2010): 217–245.


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Parkes, Adam. “A Sense of Justice: Whistler, Ruskin, James, Impressionism.” Victorian Studies 42.4 (Summer 1999–Summer 2000): 593–629. Rosmarin, Adene. The Power of Genre. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1985. Shires, Linda M. “The Aesthetics of the Victorian Novel: Form, Subjectivity, Ideology.” The Cambridge Companion to the Victorian Novel. Ed. Deirdre David. Cambridge: CUP, 2001. 61–76. Stableforth, Brian. Scientific Romance in Britain 1890–1950. New York: St. Martin’s, 1985. Stang, Richard. The Theory of the Novel in England 1850–1870. London: Routledge, 1961. Tomaiuolo, Saverio. In Lady Audley’s Shadow: Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Victorian Literary Genres. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2010. Wheeler, Michael. English Fiction of the Victorian Period 1830–1890. New York: Longman, 1985. Williams, Carolyn. “‘Genre’ and ‘Discourse’ in Victorian Cultural Studies.” Victorian Literature and Culture 27.2 (1999): 517–520. Zietlow, Paul. “Pater’s Impressionism Reconsidered.” English Literary History 44.1 (1977): 150–170.

Anna Maria Jones

5 The Art of Novel Writing: Victorian Theories Abstract: This chapter discusses Victorian theories about the novel: its status as commercial commodity versus work of art; its ethical obligations to represent ‘real life’ or an idealised version thereof; the social ramifications of its influence on readers (and writers). The chapter contextualises well-known theories of the novel – for example, George Eliot’s “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists,” Henry James’s “The Art of Fiction,” and Oscar Wilde’s Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray – within larger conversations, particularly as they developed in the periodical press. The essay, thus, offers a corrective to the tendency to read Victorian novels and novel theories separate from the complex debates in which they participated. It also encourages readers to reconsider the canon of the English novel within broader conversations that included transnational and non-canonical voices. Keywords: Novel as art, periodical press, literary reviews, canon formation, novel readers, authorship

Let some conscientious critic pick out by chance some fifty articles from magazines and newspapers which deal with imaginative works; let him take an equal number of prefaces and interviews with novelists or playwriters, and then let him note what expressions occur most frequently. The chances are that he will lay bare, if not the deepest tendencies of living literary artists, at least their intentions and their pretensions. – Paul Bourget, “The Dangers of the Analytic Spirit in Fiction” 1892

The title of this contribution, “The Art of Novel Writing,” both evokes and diverges from one of the nineteenth century’s most important theoretical statements on the novel: Henry James’s “The Art of Fiction” (1884). The difference between ‘fiction’ and ‘novel-writing’ points to a tension in Victorian debates about the novel – whether to consider it a work of art or a commodity. As one reviewer in the Saturday Review put it: “perhaps novel-writing is not really an art at all, but a branch of manufacture” (“Difficulties of the Novelist” 1877, 543). In opposition to this view, James argues in his essay for the dignity of fiction as an art and for the novelist’s freedom to depict whatever he chooses in pursuit of that art, a position that put him at odds with those of his contemporaries who saw the novel as fulfilling a moral as well as an aesthetic purpose: “the good health of an art which undertakes so immediately to reproduce life must demand that it be perfectly free” (1884, 507). This and other, often overlapping, concerns were hotly debated by authors and critics (also, often, overlapping roles), particularly in the latter half of the nineteenth century. As the influential critic Andrew Lang remarked in 1887:



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There has seldom been so much writing about the value and condition of contemporary literature – that is, of contemporary fiction. In English and American journals and magazines a new Battle of the Books is being fought, and the books are the books of the circulating library. (683)

Indeed, as the epigraph with which I began this chapter suggests, by the end of the nineteenth century there was such a great deal of interest in theories of the novel that Paul Bourget could talk about tracking literary currents by taking a random sampling of a hundred or more statements from a range of venues: journals, novels, prefaces, and interviews. Twenty-first-century readers are apt to miss out on these contextual elements in reading significant statements about the Victorian novel like James’s “Art of Fiction.” Readers today most often encounter such statements in one of two ways: either anthologised in historical period surveys (a system of categorisation somewhat complicated in James’s case by his status as a transatlantic author claimed by both American and British literature curricula) or as exemplars of an author’s oeuvre. George Eliot’s essay “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists” (1856), for example, appears in both the Norton Anthology of English Literature and the Broadview Anthology of British Literature, where it offers a window into her ethical and aesthetic investments in literary realism. Oscar Wilde’s famous Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891, ↗ 26 Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray), likewise, features in both the Norton and the Broadview as Wilde’s endorsement of Aestheticism’s dictum of ‘art for art’s sake’ (and resistance to both moral didacticism and realism). But a reader may find little that connects the dots between two such exemplars. Pieces like Eliot’s, Wilde’s and James’s essays, then, do a lot of heavy lifting, serving, on the one hand, as the ‘greatest hits’ of the period, and, on the other hand, as characteristic representations of their authors’ corpuses: brief, typical statements by famous Victorian writers on significant aesthetic developments in the nineteenth century that students of the period can easily digest (indeed, Norton provides only an excerpt from Eliot’s essay). This is, of course, part of the inevitable and necessary process of selection that occurs in constructing any syllabus, but it also tends to create a sort of circular logic that reaffirms the literary canon: the most famous articulations of the Victorian art of novel writing are the most frequently read, and they are the most frequently read because they are the most famous. This process of selection also tends to give an impression of these authors and their theories of the art of the novel as singular, exceptional voices rather than as participants in multifaceted, on-going, and overlapping debates. Anthologies that focus exclusively on criticism of the novel – such as John Olmstead’s A Victorian Art of Fiction (1980), Edwin M. Eigner and George J. Worth’s Victorian Criticism of the Novel (1985), or Rohan Maitzen’s more recent Victorian Art of Fiction (2009) – offer much richer contextualised accounts of nineteenth-century theories of the novel. Other anthologies – Solveig C. Robinson’s A Serious Occupation: Literary Criticism by Victorian Women Writers (2003) and Andrew King and John Plunkett’s Victorian Print Media (2005) – do not focus exclusively on the novel, but they likewise contain valuable selections as well as useful introductory headnotes.

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Reading these collections can help to avoid taking any particular theory of the novel in isolation. Both Eigner and Worth’s and Maitzen’s anthologies, for example, include both James’s “Art of Fiction” and Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Humble Remonstrance,” which was written, in part, as a response to James. Yet, even these topical anthologies, by necessity, draw their selections from a much vaster body of work. Gone from the conversation are Walter Besant’s original lecture, also titled “The Art of Fiction,” which occasioned James’s essay as well as essays of the same name by Andrew Lang and several other unnamed authors. Absent are the many antecedents to the debate. Missing too are the newspaper reports of Besant’s lecture. Taken together, all these documents can offer insight into how Victorians would have been exposed in the periodical press to the ideas that shaped what today we read as classics of the Victorian age. In other words, novels such as George Meredith’s The Egoist (1879, ↗ 23 Meredith, The Egoist), James’s What Maisie Knew (1887, ↗ 33 James, What Masie Knew), and Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886, ↗ 25 Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) – to name only three novels discussed in this volume – were written, and read, in tandem with the theoretical debates about the novel that unfolded across multiple venues. James’s essay takes its title from and responds to successful and prolific novelist Walter Besant’s lecture of the same name, republished as a pamphlet by Chatto & Windus publishers that same year, in which Besant proclaimed the value of fiction as an art, but laid down some rather prescriptive “Laws which govern this Art. I mean those general rules and principles which must necessarily be acquired by every writer of Fiction before he can even hope for success” (1884, 14), e.g., “[f]irst, and before everything else, there is the Rule that everything in Fiction which is invented and is not the result of personal experience and observation is worthless” (15). James’s claim that the art of fiction must be “perfectly free” rejects the limitations that Besant’s rules impose, even as he agrees with Besant’s endorsement of the art of fiction (James 1884, 507). James argues, further, that the novel as art must be understood not merely as a diversion or entertainment but as a serious undertaking that “compete[s] with life” (1884, 504): “The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does compete with life. [. . .] It is not expected of the picture that it will make itself humble in order to be forgiven; and the analogy between the art of the painter and the art of the novelist is, so far as I am able to see, complete” (503–504). Nor was James the only author to respond to Besant. A lively conversation on the topic ensued in the periodical press. Besant’s and James’s statements on the novel likewise share this same title, “The Art of Fiction,” with a number of other pieces that popped up in response to Besant and that are more or less well-known today. Andrew Lang’s “Art of Fiction,” which appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette (April 1884), preceding James’s rebuttal, objected to Besant’s dictum that the novelist must write only from personal experience. Lang endorsed invention (or “story,” as he put it) over observation, alluding rather uncharitably to James’s brand of realism: “To my own taste the story is the thing, and I prefer, for sheer sensual enjoyment, a book like ‘Margot La Balafrée’ to


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all the Bostonian nymphs who ever rejected English dukes for psychological reasons” (Lang 1884, 2). When his “Art of Fiction” appeared in Longman’s Magazine the following September, James replied, understandably, with some umbrage to Lang’s characterisation of his work: I am not acquainted with the romance just designated, and can scarcely forgive the Pall Mall critic for not mentioning the name of the author, but the title appears to refer to a lady who may have received a scar in some heroic adventure. I am inconsolable at not being acquainted with this episode, but am utterly at a loss to see why it is a story when the rejection (or acceptance) of a duke is not, and why a reason, psychological or other, is not a subject when a cicatrix is. (James 1884, 517)

Truly, Lang was not wrong in characterising the debate as a “Battle of the Books,” and he might have called it, with some justice, an international battle. Only one of the books here alluded to, James’s The Portrait of a Lady (1881), remains in print, and the other, Fortuné Du Boisgobey’s Margot la Balafrée – which was translated into English and published in 1885 as In the Serpent’s Coils by Henry Vizetelly in The Gaboriau & Du Boisgobey Sensational Novels series – is largely unknown to readers of the Victorian novel today. Yet, Boisgobey was immensely popular, not only in his native France but abroad, with novels translated into multiple languages including Czech, German, Japanese, Polish, Spanish, and Swedish by the end of the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, the categories by which we organise our study of literature today (the English novel, the American novel, etc.) tend to elide the degree to which Victorian theories of the art of fiction were developed in transnational rather than strictly national contexts. To the lively exchanges between Besant, Lang, and James may be added the other unsigned responses, also titled “The Art of Fiction,” which appeared in the St. James Gazette (April 1884) and the Saturday Review (May 1884), as well as Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Humble Remonstrance,” which appeared in Longman’s in December. In this essay, Stevenson took a position similar to Lang’s in opposition to realism: No art – to use the daring phrase of Mr. James – can successfully ‘compete with life’; and the art that does so is condemned to perish montibus aviis. [. . .] Man’s one method, whether he reasons or creates, is to half-shut his eyes against the dazzle and confusion of reality. (1884, 141–142)

Stevenson’s point is not merely that exciting ‘stories’ full of incident are more satisfying to read, as Lang asserts, but that true aesthetic excellence demands a distillation of essence or ideal from the overabundance of detail so much prized by the realists. Of the would-be novelist, he writes: Let him not care particularly if he miss the tone of conversation, the pungent material detail of the day’s manners, the reproduction of the atmosphere and the environment. [. . .] [H]is novel is not a transcript of life [. . .] but a simplification of some side or point of life, to stand or fall by its significant simplicity. (147)

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Stevenson’s anti-realist stance was shared by other important theorists of the novel, who nonetheless produced fiction radically different from Stevenson’s ‘romances’. One might compare Stevenson’s position here with George Meredith’s, which he had articulated in 1877 in “An Essay on Comedy and the Uses of the Comic Spirit,” originally published in the New Quarterly Magazine, and again two years later in the “Prelude” to The Egoist. In that latter, he sets up the aesthetic project of his novel – a highly stylised work, which he called a “Comedy in Narrative” and which mimics the conventions of a Restoration comedy of manners – arguing that “the realistic method,” described as a “conscientious transcription of all the visible and a repetition of all the audible,” is to blame for “the malady of sameness, our modern malady” (1879, 3). For Meredith, the remedy for this “malady” is what he calls the “Comic Spirit,” which can condense and distil the essence of the raw material of life. The stylised, even artificial, distillation offers readers a salutary view of themselves in an “inward mirror” that realism can’t effect (2). In short, the debate that coalesced around Besant’s lecture was part of an on-going conversation, which included advocates of diverse aesthetic styles and ethical investments. The conversation, moreover, extended well beyond literary circles. In addition to the essays by prominent novelists and critics, a number of other, briefer reports of Besant’s original lecture also appeared in newspapers such as the Guernsey Star and the Chepstow Weekly Advertiser, suggesting that the debate was of interest well outside of cosmopolitan literary circles. And, as late as 1891, a satirical article of the same name appeared in the Saturday Review, in which the unnamed author spoofed Besant’s prescriptive delineation of the laws of the art of fiction, poking fun at the serious tone of the ensuing debate and offering such ‘regulations’ as “VI. A Novel is a Prose Story which may be in one, two, or three volumes. It may be written in any language, but if it is written in American it will be an American Novel” and “XX. Every Critic must know all the Rules, Laws, and Technique of Fiction, and he’d better not forget it” (“Art of Fiction” 1891, 492). The jokes depend on readers being familiar not only with Besant’s lecture but with the tenets of the realism of the American school, which were exemplified by Henry James and had been championed, with much gravitas, by his friend and fellow author William Dean Howells (both Besant and Lang call out Howells in their essays, and Lang would again take up the same topic in 1887, with reference to the works of Howells, James, and Stevenson, among others, in his “Realism and Romance” for the Contemporary Review). We might imagine, then, a conversation like the one in which James’s “Art of Fiction” participates as sitting at the centre of a web from which a number of threads radiate, with each thread representing a separate question or issue that concerned Victorian theorists of the novel and each, in turn, branching into tributary filaments: the various articles, prefaces, interviews, and reviews that Bourget describes. In the pages that follow, I trace several of these threads: What is the proper position of the novel vis-à-vis the other arts? What topics ought (or ought not) the novel to represent? Who ought to write (and read) novels? Bearing in mind that myriad voices, famous


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and not-so-famous, weighed in on these questions in an array of venues, I provide a discussion that places some of the ‘greatest hits’ in their broader contexts.

1 What is the Proper Position of the Novel vis-à-vis the other Arts? Besant’s argument pushes back against the notion that novel-writing is merely manufacture. He, like many of his contemporaries, including James, is at pains to demonstrate the genre’s comparative worth and prestige. The lecture begins with three propositions, the first of which is “[t]hat Fiction is an Art in every way worthy to be called the sister and the equal of the Arts of Painting, Sculpture, Music, and Poetry; that is to say, her field is as boundless, her possibilities as vast, her excellences as worthy of admiration, as may be claimed for any of her sister Arts” (Besant 1884, 3). This is a sentiment that Besant would reiterate in other journals throughout the 1880s and 1890s. In 1891, in a piece that was part of a ‘symposium’ on fiction in the New Review, for instance, he writes: It is an Art of which everything that has been said of painting, sculpture, music, and poetry, may also be said; whether of loveliness and grace, fidelity to nature, loftiness of ideal, power of moving the world to pity or to terror, to laughter or to tears, power to raise or to degrade the soul, power to advance or to lower humanity. (Besant 1891, 310)

But the analogy between the art of fiction and other arts, particularly painting, by no means originated with Besant. As early as 1832, novelist and editor Frederick Marryat had drawn the same “analogy between the picture and the novel” in his essay on “Novels and Novel Writing” in the Metropolitan: “In a picture, we must have proportion or correct drawing, so must we in a novel. In both arts, this can only be obtained by a close copy from nature” (Marryat 1832, 233). What is important to note is that the novel’s claim to the ranks of art enabled arguments from vastly differently aesthetic and moral positions. If, throughout the middle decades of the nineteenth century, the analogy between fiction and painting underscored fidelity to nature as the artistic ideal, thereby privileging realism over more fanciful or artificial genres, in the latter decades this hegemony was being questioned. On one side, proponents of Aestheticism and decadence like Wilde would use the appeal to art to divorce the novel from questions of morality. As he claimed memorably in his “Preface to ‘Dorian Gray,’” a series of epigrams first published in the Fortnightly Review in 1891: “[t]here is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all” (Wilde 1891, 480), and, again, “[n]o artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style. [. . .] Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for his art” (480–481). Following Walter Pater’s influential aestheticist claim in The

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Renaissance (1873) that “all art constantly aspires towards the condition of music” (1980, 106), Wilde looks not to painting – though, of course, the plot of the novel itself is woven around the supernatural painting of its title – but to music: “[f]rom the point of view of form, the type of all art is the art of the musician” (Wilde 1891, 481). For Pater and for Wilde, music is the ideal art precisely because it is not representational, evoking feelings or impressions rather than reflecting reality or delivering a moral. The novel’s status as art was, likewise, a lynchpin in debates about the merits of literary naturalism throughout the 1880s and 1890s. Émile Zola, in pushing literary realism to its seemingly logical conclusion, to what came to be called naturalism, likened the novel not to art but to science. As one English apologist describes, for Zola, “the novel has once and for all left the sphere of art and entered the scientific sphere. It now employs the same method as science and aims at the same end” (“Literary Creed” 1888, 565). And, just as the realist James and aesthete Wilde asserted that the art of the novel must not be limited in what it could represent, so the naturalist Zola and his English adherents, authors such as George Gissing and George Moore (↗ 28 George Moore, Esther Waters), demanded that the ‘science’ of novels be similarly unfettered. After all, would a scientist refuse to record any aspect of his experimental subjects simply because it was shocking or offensive to conventional morality? Attacks against the naturalism of Zola and his followers, then, were twopronged: on the one hand, depicting the depraved and vicious aspects of society was immoral and would exercise a deleterious effect on vulnerable readers, and, on the other hand, the ‘scientific’ cataloguing of minutiae without regard for artistic composition or selection was inartistic. E. G. Wheelwright, writing rather circumspectly in the Westminster Review, argues on both fronts at once: We have departed from the old traditions, and the result is an atmosphere of low vitality and degenerate work. In severing this latest product of imaginative literature from the natural and noble fellowship of its kindred arts, we have robbed it of its birthright, and ourselves of joy in its possession. (1896, 208)

Emily Crawford, who was a successful journalist and long-time Paris correspondent to British and American periodicals, declined to address the moral question in offering a much more explicit critique of Zola’s art. Writing for the Contemporary Review, she draws an analogy between Zola’s work and the “very imitative art of present-day Italy,” which she had seen exhibited at the South Kensington museum, in order to explain her dissatisfaction with Zola: Whatever could be done with fingers guided by perceptive eyes, that see well the mere outsides of things in this world of types and shadows, and are blind to all inner spirit, such Italian artists did. But there was nothing more in their work to arouse interest than there is in the reflection of a natural object in a mirror. (1889, 96)

For Crawford, the ‘workmanlike’ skill that Zola exhibits in reproducing, down to the finest detail, his bêtes humaines fails to redeem his scientific novels as art and explains why his “writings easily surfeit” (96).


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Yet, it is worth noting that in championing the novel as art not all critics looked to the fine arts or abandoned the notion of it as a material object of manufacture. Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch, influential literary critic – and originator of the writerly advice, often misattributed to Ernest Hemingway, “murder your darlings” (1916, 281) – in a column for the Speaker, remarked that novels should not be valued for their content alone, but for their beauty as physical objects: “Novelists, in fact, might tame and subdue their magnificent conceptions to the service of their fellow-men and try to conceive of a book – its contents and its dress, its style, its print and its binding – as a whole, a beautiful thing made up of beautiful parts” (1898, 399). Quiller-Couch’s collapsing of the distinctions between a novel’s content and its packaging reflects the influence of the Arts & Crafts Movement (a movement that, likewise, crossed national borders during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries), with its emphasis on reforming manufacture and mass production through attention to handicraft and the decorative arts. Here again we can see the importance of reading Victorian theories of the novel against the wider backdrop of transnational nineteenth-century cultural and aesthetic debates.

2 What Ought (or Ought not) the Novel to Represent? As the foregoing discussion suggests, aesthetic debates about the novel were also often ethical debates. When, for example, George Eliot famously pauses the action in chapter seventeen of Adam Bede (1859) to argue in favour of realism, she draws direct lines between the author’s duty to verisimilitude and the reader’s ability to sympathise with the flawed individuals they may encounter in the real world. She imagines her reader speaking to her: “‘The world is not just what we like; do touch it up with a tasteful pencil, and make believe it is not quite such a mixed entangled affair,’” to which Eliot replies: But, my good friend, what will you do then with your fellow-parishioner who opposes your husband in the vestry? With your newly appointed vicar, whose style of preaching you find painfully below that of his regretted predecessor? With the honest servant who worries your soul with her one failing? [. . .] These fellow-mortals, every one, must be accepted as they are: you can neither straighten their noses, nor brighten their wit, nor rectify their dispositions; and it is these people – amongst whom your life is passed – that it is needful you should tolerate, pity, and love. (2008, 159–160)

In other words, creating portraits that are true to life, even or especially if those characters are flawed, trains readers to sympathise with the imperfect denizens of their communities. Eliot’s argument against ‘lady novelists’ in “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists,” likewise, hinges on sympathy. A lady novelist who is more concerned with pushing an

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agenda or showing off her (imperfect) knowledge or with presenting idealised characters (or with some unfortunate combination of all three) is not just a bad artist but a morally culpable one. The most common form of ‘silly novels by lady novelists’, Eliot remarks archly, is an infelicitous admixture of half-baked ideas and superficial trappings, which she describes as “the mind-and-millinery species” (1856, 443). Those novels unfailingly feature a heroine whose “nose and [. . .] morals are alike free from any tendency to irregularity” and who “is understood to have a depth of insight that looks through and through the shallow theories of philosophers” (443). In contradistinction to such lady novelists is the “really cultured woman” who is “all the simpler and less obtrusive for her knowledge” and who “does not write books to confound philosophers, perhaps because she is able to delight them” (455). Of this woman, Eliot concludes: “She does not give you information, which is the raw material of culture, – she gives you sympathy, which is its subtlest essence” (455). The notion here, as in Adam Bede, is that good fiction improves its readers, not through delivering a distinct lesson or moral, but in fostering fellow-feeling. Eliot’s vision of sympathetic realism was one widely held by theorists of the novel, but realism was not the only theory that claimed for itself ethical and aesthetic superiority. Edward Bulwer-Lytton, for example, championed idealism as opposed to realism. Bulwer-Lytton is perhaps best known today as the originator of the opening line “it was a dark and stormy night” in his 1830 novel Paul Clifford (1874, 13), and as such he has been much mocked, but he was both a successful novelist who experimented with multiple genres – including historical fictions such as The Last Days of Pompeii (1834) and speculative fictions such as his 1871 dystopian hollow-earth novel The Coming Race (↗ 21 Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Coming Race) – and an influential critic in his time. In Caxtoniana (1863), a collection of essays he first published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, he develops his theories on “life, literature, and manners,” including a theory of the novel as dealing in ideal types rather than realities: “Art does not imitate nature, but it founds itself on the study of nature – takes from nature the selections which best accord with its own intention, and then bestows on them that which nature does not possess – viz., the mind and the soul of man” (Bulwer-Lytton 1875, 312). Bulwer-Lytton, too, has recourse to the visual arts to explain his theory of fiction: Just as he is but a Chinese kind of painter, who seeks to give us, in exact prosaic detail, every leaf in a tree, which if we want to see only a tree, we could see in a field much better than in a picture; so he is but a prosaic and mechanical pretender to imagination who takes a man out of real life, gives us his photograph, and says, “I have copied nature.” [. . .] The great artist deals with large generalities, broad types of life and character; and though he may take flesh and blood for his model, he throws into the expression of the figure a something which elevates the model into an idealised image. (1875, 312)

Here Bulwer-Lytton anticipates Stevenson’s argument in “A Humble Remonstrance” and, to a certain extent, Meredith’s in “An Essay on Comedy” and The Egoist, as well as those critics of naturalism who note, not without some justice, that a pretence to


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scientific objectivity on the part of a novelist is just that, a pretence, and that all art depends upon the selection and organisation of one’s raw material.

3 Who Ought to Write (and Read) Novels? In delineating the proper place of the novel – its status as a work of art and its scope – theorists also grappled with what we might call the material conditions of its production and consumption: in short, they worried about who was writing and reading the novel. As literacy rates increased, and the periodical press expanded, opening up larger and larger markets for serial fiction, and as the lending libraries ensured reliable and profitable markets for publishers’ wares, novelists and critics fretted about how these conditions would affect the novel’s status as art. In a market constantly flooded with new novels, many of them mediocre, readers could not be trusted to distinguish the good from the bad. Here was a compound problem. On the one hand, a public with bad taste would force authors to cater to those tastes. As one satirical how-to article in the Monthly Magazine put it, after cataloguing the incidents that ‘must’ fill the first, second, and third volumes of a typical novel: “Your style must be varied by a judicious use of grotesque similes and distorted metaphors. It is not your fault that such ornaments are considered droll and clever by the majority of novel readers” (“Art and Mystery” 1833, 175–176). And, on the other hand, as we have seen, bad fiction was not just aesthetically inferior, but morally injurious. Fears of the ill effects of novels on their readers reached a peak in the 1860s with the popularity of sensation novels such as Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White (1859) and Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret (1862 ↗ 18 Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret), which featured suspenseful plots that hinged on hidden crimes and secrets. As critic H. L. Mansel put it in an 1863 review in the Quarterly Review, referring to sensation novels as “the morbid phenomena of literature,” works of this class manifest themselves as [. . .] indications of a wide-spread corruption, of which they are in part both the effect and the cause; called into existence to supply the cravings of a diseased appetite, and contributing themselves to foster the disease, and to stimulate the want which they supply. (1863, 482–483)

Margaret Oliphant, herself a successful novelist and prolific critic, likewise decried the effects of sensational reading practices in an 1862 review of Collins’s Woman in White for Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, noting that Collins’s success had brought a “shoal of copyists” in his wake who would amplify the negative effects of the sensation novel craze with each fresh imitation: “[t]he violent stimulant of serial publication – of weekly publication, with its necessity for frequent and rapid recurrence of piquant situations and startling incident – is the thing of all others most likely to develop the germ, and bring it to fuller and darker bearing” (1862, 568). In many ways, antisensation rhetoric was not just critical of sensation novels but, implicitly or explicitly,

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pro-realism: that is to say, the ‘truthful’ fidelity to nature in realism, as exemplified by works such as Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers, was often held up as the antidote to the improbable plots and lurid excesses of the sensation novel. But if the taste for bad fiction was regrettable, perhaps worse was the fact that, trained on a diet of bad fiction, these readers might decide that they too should be novelists. As Bulwer-Lytton remarks sourly, “it is the more natural that there should be a rush toward novel-writing, because no man and no woman who can scribble at all ever doubt that they can scribble a novel. Certainly, it seems that the kinds of writing most difficult to write well, are the easiest to write ill” (1875, 309). Although amateurs of various stamps – strangely, often, country curates – came under fire for attempting to write novels, most frequently fears of the bad amateur novelist focused on gender. For many of the century’s novelists were women, or as one critic condescendingly put it, “good young ladies,” whose over-productivity created a quandary for the critic: For some months of the year hardly any books are published but new novels. They stream forth in a never-ending flow, but unfortunately they are all alike. They are all written by good young ladies – they all breathe the same aspirations, and are marked by the same virtuous preferences. What is a reviewer to do? [. . .] What a strange thing it is to think of all these excellent girls going to work at novel-writing with all the regularity of hands at a factory, and with an equal confidence that they can always go on producing! (“How to Review” 1858, 370).

And another critic, with similar sarcasm, blames the prevalence of young ladies’ novels on critics’ unwillingness to be too exacting: Young ladies now, instead of working an anti-macassar, take to writing a novel, and the thing is hawked from one book-taster to another, until in the end it is published. [. . .] [T]hey receive encouragement enough to write another, and though their last state be worse than their first, not four journals, whose trade it should be to tell the truth, will bring them to a proper sense of their condition. (“Ways and Means” 1866, 665)

The trope of the scribbling girl is well-nigh ubiquitous in discussions of the novel throughout the century – indeed, so much so that Walter Besant used it in an article he wrote to girls who hoped to become novelists. In an essay for the girls’ magazine Atalanta, “On the Writing of Novels,” Besant reprised the rules he had described in the “The Art of Fiction,” gently chiding his young readers for thinking that writing novels would be easy, pleasant, or lucrative and encouraging them to practice their skills before trying their hand at an actual novel. He opened, however, with an unsettling image: As I sit down to write these few lines to young writers, there is borne upon my ear [. . .] a strange sound. It is not at all like the gentle whisper of the leaves, or the babbling of the brook, but it is a sound as of a multitudinous, unceasing, teasing or scratching of paper by steel pens. [. . .] They are the pens of girls trying to write stories and burning to write novels. (1887, 163)

Here, as in “The Art of Fiction,” Besant appoints himself aesthetic gatekeeper to the domain of the novel, but just as his lecture called forth a robust, not to say


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contentious, response from interlocutors such as James, Lang and Stevenson, so too one can recognise – in the scratching pens of this multitude of girls – the ways in which the art of novel writing for the Victorians was not an easily codified discipline but, rather, a dynamic and constantly evolving art, which accommodated multiple genres and which opened itself to practitioners of vastly different perspectives and sensibilities. Whereas Besant and some of his fellow critics saw unlovely excess in the “never-ending flow” of new novels (“How to Review” 1858, 370), looking back, readers today may see instead a gorgeous profusion.

4 Conclusion Digitisation efforts over the past decade and a half or so have made millions of pages of primary source material available to readers. Both famous and long-overlooked works can now be accessed for little or even no expense as e-books, so it has become much easier to get hold of a wide array of Victorian novels. While much of the content of Victorian periodicals that has been digitised in recent years unfortunately is housed behind paywalls, those with access to digital archives such as the British Newspaper Archive (a joint project of the British Library and findmypast) and ProQuest’s British Periodicals will find rich reservoirs of material that speak to the Victorian art of novelwriting and that enable readers to reconstruct the conversations that circulated in and around Victorian novels. Any novel – whether Eliot’s realist masterwork Middlemarch (1871, ↗ 22 Eliot, Middlemarch) or Braddon’s sensational blockbuster Lady Audley’s Secret or some long-forgotten serial – can offer its own locus as a starting point for investigation within a much vaster network: Where was it first published? In what format? How was it reviewed? And in what kinds of periodicals? What other things did the novel’s author write (and for which journals)? Those who wish to undertake such investigations and trace the interconnections among authors, editors, reviewers, and publication venues would do well to refer to the magisterial (and continually expanding) Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism, edited by Laurel Brake and Marysa Demoor, which allows the reader to explore cross-referenced entries on many of the authors and journals discussed in this chapter, as well as entries on larger issues such as ‘Literature and Journalism’, ‘Reviewing’, ‘Reviewers’, ‘Serials and the NineteenthCentury Publishing Industry’ and ‘Authorship and the Press’, to name only a few. Readers of the Victorian novel who take the trouble to trace Victorian theories of the art of novel writing will, I believe, agree with Henry James that “the successful application of any art is a delightful spectacle, but the theory, too, is interesting” (1884, 503).

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Bibliography Works Cited “The Art and Mystery of Fashionable Novel Writing.” Monthly Magazine, or, British Register Feb. 1833: 173–176. “The Art of Fiction.” Saturday Review 25 Apr. 1891: 491–492. Besant, Walter. The Art of Fiction: A Lecture Delivered at the Royal Institution on Friday Evening, April 25, 1884 (with Notes and Additions). London: Chatto and Windus, 1884. Besant, Walter. “On the Writing of Novels.” Atalanta Dec. 1887: 163–167. Besant, Walter. “The Science of Fiction.” New Review Apr. 1891: 310–315. Bourget, Paul. “The Dangers of the Analytic Spirit in Fiction.” New Review Jan. 1892: 48–55. Bulwer-Lytton, Edward. “On Certain Principles of Art in Works of Imagination.” Caxtoniana: A Series of Essays. 1863. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1875. 303–327. Bulwer-Lytton, Edward. Paul Clifford. 1830. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1874. Crawford, Emily. “Emile Zola.” Contemporary Review 55 (1889): 94–113. “Difficulties of the Novelist.” Saturday Review 5 May 1877: 542–543. Eliot, George. Adam Bede. 1859. Ed. Carol A. Martin. Oxford: Oxford World Classics, 2008. [Eliot, George]. “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists.” Westminster Review 66.130 (1856): 442–461. “How to Review Novels.” Saturday Review 16 Oct. 1858: 370–371. James, Henry. “The Art of Fiction.” Longman’s Sept. 1884: 502–521. Lang, Andrew. “The Art of Fiction.” Pall Mall Gazette 30 Apr. 1884: 1–2. Lang, Andrew. “Realism and Romance.” Contemporary Review 52 (1887): 683–693. “The Literary Creed of Emile Zola.” Time May 1888: 563–571. [Mansel, H. L.]. “Sensation Novels.” Quarterly Review 113.226 (1863): 481–514. [Marryat, Frederick]. “Novels and Novel Writing.” Metropolitan 5.19 (1832): 233–236. Meredith, George. The Egoist: A Comedy in Narrative. Vol. 1. London: Kegan Paul, 1879. [Oliphant, Margaret]. “Sensation Novels.” Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine 91.559 (1862): 564–584. Pater, Walter. The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry. 1873. Ed. Donald L. Hill. Berkeley: U of California P, 1980. Quiller-Couch, Arthur Thomas [A. T. Q. C.]. “A Literary Causerie.” Speaker 1 Oct. 1898: 398–399. Quiller-Couch, Arthur Thomas. On the Art of Writing. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1916. Stevenson, Robert Louis. “A Humble Remonstrance.” Longman’s Dec. 1884: 139–147. “The Ways and Means of Novels.” London Review 16 June 1866: 665–666. Wheelwright, E. G. “A Claim for the Art of Fiction.” Westminster Review 146.1 (1896): 205–212. Wilde, Oscar. “Preface to ‘Dorian Gray.’” Fortnightly Review March 1891: 480–481.

Further Reading Brake, Laurel, and Marysa Demoor, eds. The Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland. Ghent: Academia, 2009. Eigner, Edwin M., and George J. Worth, eds. Victorian Criticism of the Novel. Cambridge: CUP, 1985. Jones, Anna Maria. “Victorian Literary Theory.” Cambridge Companion to Victorian Culture. Ed. Francis O’Gorman. Cambridge: CUP, 2010. 236–254. King, Andrew, and John Plunkett, eds. Victorian Print Media: A Reader. Oxford: OUP, 2005.


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Maitzen, Rohan, ed. The Victorian Art of Fiction: Nineteenth-Century Essays on the Novel. Peterborough: Broadview, 2009. Olmstead, John Charles, ed. A Victorian Art of Fiction: Essays on the Novel in British Periodicals 1859–1869. New York: Garland, 1979. Robinson, Solveig C., ed. A Serious Occupation: Literary Criticism by Victorian Women Writers. Peterborough: Broadview, 2003.

Monika Pietrzak-Franger

6 Victorian Gender Relations and the Novel Abstract: The Victorian era did not only see unprecedented transformations in the legal, socio-cultural, and political standing of women. It also witnessed the diversification of publically acknowledged gender scripts. The novel offered a space where they could be addressed and negotiated. More often than not, it illustrated their instability, their fluid character, and their simultaneous social conditioning. By that, it drew attention to the incongruences between acknowledged gender scripts and actual quotidian possibilities. At the same time, it naturalised the institution of marriage and thus reinforced specific patterns of gendered behaviour, even as it eventually employed the failed-marriage plot to draw attention to the power inequality that such unions invited. Marriage, of course, was not attainable to all. And so, the Victorian novel also registered debates addressing new-fangled gender roles, such as that of the odd woman and the colonial male. It also took up the topic of sexuality, even if only indirectly. It drew attention to Victorian polymorphous desires while its changing form mirrored transformations that modernity brought to the conception of gender identities and male-female relations. The novel’s utopian variety also provided a space for the envisioning of new gender futures. Last but not least, as part of the larger literary sphere, the novel and novel writing practically contributed to the widening of women’s occupational possibilities and to the public visibility of their concerns. Keywords: Gender scripts, masculinity, femininity, sexuality, marriage, failedmarriage plot, sexual desire

As an era of contrasts and contradictions, the Victorian period was also a time of epochal changes in the understanding and performance of gender identities. In terms of available gender models, it saw the rise and fall of various figures of identification that promised to regulate and organise everyday gender practice. The counter ideals of the ‘Angel in the House’, on the one hand, and the suffragette and the New Woman, on the other, have for centuries indicated the scale of this development: from women’s ideological enclosure within the domestic sphere to their revolutionary, albeit inconsistent, appropriation of the public space. Other figures such as the gentleman, the paterfamilias, the entrepreneur, the New Man, the soldier, the frontiersman, the dandy, and the homosexual marked the new advances in the perception and conceptualisation of masculinities throughout the century. A juxtaposition of George Elgar Hicks’ triptych Woman’s Mission (1863) and Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations for Oscar Wilde’s Salome (1894) indicates the extent of these transformations: Hick’s idealised version of the family contrasts sharply with https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110376715-007


Monika Pietrzak-Franger

Beardsley’s depiction of womanhood as a symptom of millennial crises and “sexual anarchy” (Showalter 1990, 3). These changes, which encompassed modifications in social attitudes along with legal transformations, were associated not only with a rethinking of gender relations but also with an acknowledgement of their performative character. The novel was an invaluable instrument in thinking through and negotiating gender. Gender scripts and relations, their entwining with larger socio-political concerns, along with debates about the nation state and the empire, were as integral to the novel’s subject matter as the questions of sexual desire and reproduction. In fact, many critics have argued that Britain’s socio-political anxieties were often ‘translated’ into fiction as matters of embodiment, gender, and sexuality. They have also established the novel’s role in shaping the rules of “social and biological reproduction” (Armstrong 2001, 97). They have shown how these were narratively linked to economy (especially to capitalism and liberalism, and the modes of consumption they introduced), and explored the ways in which sexual desire and various kinds of erotic passions had to be suppressed within the story world (cf. Nunokawa 2001). Taking these discussions into consideration, this chapter offers an account of how masculinities and femininities were negotiated side by side in texts ranging from Jane Eyre to Heart of Darkness. I start off by sketching general transformations in the legal and socio-cultural relationships between genders and the concomitant ideals that organised them. Against this background, gender performance in fiction is discussed along with the depiction of marriage as the institution that was supposed to bring these performances to fruition and ensure their social, national, and imperial utility. Furthermore, new-fangled gender scripts are addressed, as are utopian visions and their relevance for the national and imperial self-understanding of Great Britain at the time. The last part of this chapter takes up contemporaneous debates about gender and authorship and shows that the novel, as part of a larger literary sphere, offered one possible space where the negotiations of gender could be catapulted outside fiction and into the socio-cultural and economic realm.

1 Bearded Men and Pure Women: The Rise and Fall of Gender Ideals The relational character of Victorian femininity and masculinity was legally anchored in the principle of ‘coverture’, which saw women as indistinguishable from their husbands. “By marriage,” William Blackstone wrote in Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765–1769), “the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband” (430). This doctrine deprived women of independent legal identity and excluded them from

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the “judiciary, parliament and the franchise” (Griffin 2012, 5). Unsurprisingly, such a system served male interests, undercut women’s agential opportunities, and perpetuated ideologies that throve on this legal inequality. At the same time, the Victorian era was characterised by a series of unprecedented modifications in the legal, economic, and political status of women. Many voices (Barbara Bodichon, John Stuart Mill, Caroline Norton, Marion Reid, Frances Power Cobbe, Elizabeth Clarke Wolstenholme Elmy, Emmeline Pankhurst, etc.) stressed women’s precarious situation. In The Subjection of Women (1869), and undoubtedly continuing the reformist work he had pursued with his late wife Harriet Taylor Mill, John Stuart Mill famously appealed for “a principle of perfect equality” (1878, 1) between the two sexes, claiming that extant social institutions had blindly appropriated the norm of gender disparity (by analogy with the physical inequality of the sexes), whereby women had been reduced to the status of legal slaves. His campaign for the amendment of the Reform Act of 1832 gave necessary gravity to the issue of women’s suffrage. In the course of the century, although not without struggle, this legal bondage was increasingly recognised and women were gradually granted a number of rights. The right to the custody of their children (1839, extended in 1873) was followed by partial property rights (Married Women Property Acts of 1870, 1882, 1884, 1893), and by the 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act, which, even though it treated both sexes differentially, made divorce more easily available to women. They attained a better position in negotiating compensation in cases of domestic violence and abuse and successfully fought against such laws as the Contagious Diseases Acts (1864, 1866, 1869; repealed in 1886). While their political participation often started at home with the education of their children, it also encompassed communal and parish politics along with philanthropy. By and by, they received franchise in a number of local elections and, even as they were excluded from national franchise, they exerted influence over national politics by ways of petitions, marches, and demonstrations. Nationwide, a number of associations (The Ladies of Langham Place, The Sheffield Female Political Association, National Society for Women’s Suffrage, etc.) drew attention to the causes and effects of inequality in legal representation and fought for the amendment of women’s political and economic status – efforts which culminated in the suffragist (National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies) and suffragette (Women’s Social and Political Union) movements of the turn of the century and ultimately lead to the granting of the vote to women over thirty in 1918. This legal struggle was accompanied by a series of public debates over women’s education, their right to occupation, their social status, and the economic implications of these. Industrialisation and urbanisation resulted in a heightened demand for female labour force: domestic service, textile and clothing sectors, pottery, seamstressing, laundry work, cleaning, and retail services were just some of the areas of this heightened demand. Needless to say, the working conditions were far from satisfactory. The ‘plea of the seamstress’ epitomises economic exploitation


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and the variety of hazards women workers were exposed to (cf. Harris 2005). Despite that, their contribution to the household economy was considerable. Outside the working classes, women also played a part in market exchange. Before the changes in property rights, it was difficult for married women to operate businesses. Still, evidence shows that they were often involved in family enterprises. The surplus of women (‘odd women’) meant that many had no other choice but to find their own source of sustenance: working as a governess, in millinery, bookkeeping, or retailing afforded some possibilities for the middle classes. Widows and spinsters often managed property and acted as silent investors. The growth of the service sector at the end of the century also made clerical jobs available to many. With this expansion of work opportunities, and against the backdrop of larger socio-cultural developments, the socially accepted ideas of femininity underwent transformation, as did women’s self-perception. By the end of the nineteenth century, the validity of the middle-class-born ideology of the ‘separate-spheres’ (the division into the domestic sphere – usually regarded as women’s space – and the public sphere – dominated by men) had lost its grip on popular imagination. In the mid-century, in contrast, its force was still strongly felt and its influence on the perception of both genders clearly discernible. Coventry Patmore’s poetic celebration of the ‘Angel in the House’ (The Angel in the House [1854–1862]) catered to contemporaneous tastes, which associated middleclass femininity with a subservient, sacrificial, and supportive role in marriage. The famous lines, “Man must be pleased; but him to please / Is woman’s pleasure” (1885, 73), reverberated through fiction, advice literature, and political commentary. John Ruskin, for instance, has been seen as highly responsive to this ideal (cf. Richards 2009, 22–23) and his belief that “man’s power” is “active, progressive, defensive,” while a woman’s intellect is fit “for sweet ordering, arrangement and decision” (1910, 107) has been regarded as unquestionably hailing the above doctrine. Of course, this celebrated ideal was as little attainable in reality as it was in fiction; it is therefore not surprising that its imaginative force had waned by the end of the century. By and by, the ‘girl of the period’, ‘New Women’, ‘Suffragists’, and ‘Suffragettes’ became publically acknowledged, albeit often dreaded and ridiculed, models of femininity. Masculinity constructs also underwent diversification. When conjured up today, the mid-Victorian ideal of manliness would be “an earnest, mature, hard-working, morally upright paterfamilias, frock-coated and (in that decade [of the 1860s]) fullbearded” (Deane 2014, 4). Even though “self-discipline,” “self-mastery,” and “autonomy” were a man’s virtues (Deane 2014, 4, 5; see also Sussman 1995; Adams 1995; Tosh 2005; Kestner 2010), he was nonetheless associated with continual aspiration for moral refinement and self-improvement, both of which were bound to and fostered by the exigencies of domesticity (Tosh 2005). Obviously, by the end of the nineteenth century, this ideal was also very much in crisis. Indeed, as Regenia Gagnier has aptly observed, there was “a crisis in the 1890s of the male on all levels –

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economic, political, social, psychological, as producer, as power, as role, as lover” (1986, 98). It was not only that his position had slowly been undermined by recent socio-political developments and that he was increasingly associated with the principle of degeneration but also that he was thrown from the pedestal, as the naturalised image of the ‘virtues’ he represented slowly but surely began to exhibit cracks on its surface. Reading the Victorian era through the lens of evolution and progress is too simplistic; it is undeniable, though, that the cultural shift away from the ideals of the ‘paterfamilias’ and the ‘pure’, self-respecting, ‘Angel in the House’ towards a network of socially more and less acknowledged gender roles signals the diversification of gender fashions and performative opportunities in the late nineteenth century. A lot of early scholarly effort has gone into examining the ideology of the ‘separate spheres’ that underpinned nineteenth-century gender politics and has been associated with the binaries of public/private, male/female, reasonable/emotional. This binary thinking, however, has gone out of vogue after the inclusion of performative paradigms into the study of Victorian gender relations. Such performative approaches emphasise the relational character of the concepts of masculinity and femininity. In this context, the binary construction of genders in the Victorian era has been reformulated in terms of ‘gender identities in flux’ – a model that acknowledges not only the developmental character of (hegemonic) gender identities but which also takes into account their contradictions and complexities. These discussions continue to differentiate between gender ideologies (as articulated in certain discursive formations) and gender practices (as seen in individual realisations of nineteenth-century individuals), thus drawing attention to the incongruences between various acknowledged models and actual quotidian possibilities.

2 Gender Performance in Fiction The Victorian novel recorded and contributed to these transformations. It also offered a platform for the negotiation of gender identities and linked these to larger socio-cultural, economic, national, and imperial concerns. As incompatible as Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), Sarah Grand’s The Heavenly Twins (1893), and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) appear, and as much as they have invited divergent interpretations, they clearly illustrate the instability of gender identities, their fluid character, and their simultaneous social conditioning. Oscillating between “a story of spiritual development” and “romantic rebellion” (Da Sousa Correa 2000, 96), Jane Eyre (↗ 10 Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre) takes Victorian women’s education, their social function, and the notion of marriage as its reference points. Its “formal plurality” and narrative polyvalence have been linked to the novel’s “resistance to patriarchy” (Da Sousa Correa 2000, 105). Indeed, as Gayatri


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Chakravorty Spivak reminds us, the novel has become a “cult text” of Anglophone feminism (1985, 243). And although there is little consensus as to its ‘(anti-)feminist’ politics, one thing that critics agree on is the novel’s confrontation with long-standing gender (and genre) orthodoxies (cf. Eagleton 1988). As an orphan and governess, Jane Eyre embodies a socially and economically liminal position, that of “emotional hungering [. . .] and of harshly mechanical necessity” (Eagleton 1988, 16), which sensitises her (and us) to social conventions and, at the same time, awards her the instruments of future success. In his Marxist reading, Terry Eagleton aptly shows how Jane and Rochester’s relationship is “a blend of independence [. . .], submissiveness, and control” (30), in which both characters skilfully move between male and female positions to achieve their aims. Effectively, what the novel seems to argue is that whatever is culturally connoted as masculine (aggression, independence, action) and feminine (caretaking, passivity, submissiveness) is not gender-specific and can be performed by both sexes. This distinction between socio-cultural conditioning and inward ambition is best illustrated by Jane’s ardent plea for “life, fire, feeling” (Charlotte Brontë 1847, 93) and against the solitude and inertia that Thornfield Hall imposes on her and that social constraints force on women: It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity [. . .]. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. [. . .] Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a constraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. (93)

While she acknowledges the privileged masculine standing, she nonetheless sees men and women as “fellow-creatures” that would suffer equally under the strain of confinement and inactivity. Indeed, Rochester’s position – a younger son who must marry into colonial wealth (cf. 256) – proves that social conventions and economic dependence is burdening to women and men alike. Although the novel follows the requirements of the romance plot and ends with marriage (and thus adheres to the social and narrative conventions of the time), this marriage, as many critics have been ready to remark, partly levels out the differences between Jane (her uncle’s inheritance makes her economically independent) and Rochester (his maimed physique and burnt-down estate symbolically lower his status), thus reinventing this social and economic bond to cater to the needs of both protagonists as it inadvertently perpetuates the tenets of the patriarchal system. Later in the century, New Woman fiction would even more directly address the cleft between socially acknowledged gender scripts and individual longings. Sarah Grand’s titular ‘Heavenly Twins’ (↗ 27 Sarah Grand, The Heavenly Twins) most blatantly incarnate the oppressive character of unchanging social expectations. Constructed as foils, Angelica and Theodore (Diavolo) parody this alleged equivalence

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by falling in and out of oppositionally defined gender roles. Both recognise the incongruity of a system in which Angelica, who is repeatedly described as “the taller, stronger, [cleverer], and wickeder of the two” (Grand 2007, 126), is prevented from acquiring adequate education and forced to marry (as her brother is bound to be the only heir of his father’s property) solely on account of her gender. It is only temporarily, by disguising as her brother, that she is able to shed the burden of femininity. This cross-dressing episode is both an “explosion” – after her desires to “do as well as to be” remain unrealised (450) – and an attempt to be seen as more than just a young lady (451). The adverse reaction to her performance highlights the extent to which socially prescribed standards are blindly followed and further perpetuated by romantic ideals, which themselves have little to do with the realities of existence (“You [. . .] fall in love with a girl you have never spoken to in your life” [459]). This temporal liberation is, of course, narratively punished and the heroine can only hope “to live [. . .] to see it allowed that a woman has no more right to bury her talents than a man has; in which days the man without brains will be taught to cook and clean, while the clever woman will be doing the work of the world well which is now being so shamefully scamped” (453). Indeed, the novel offers a caveat against unquestioned binary (gender) distinctions and the ills of a romantic education that presses both men and women into idealised forms they can certainly aspire to but never fulfil. As it acknowledges the performative character of gender identities, the text also makes clear that a society in which binary oppositions reign supreme can never realise its full potential – a belief that is further reinforced in Oscar Wilde’s novel. Although most often read as an expression of closeted homosexual desire, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (↗ 26 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray) also challenges heteronormative gender concepts, as it undermines the institution of marriage along the way. The novel simultaneously highlights the mutability/fluidity of gender identities and spotlights the disastrous, stultifying effects of forced performative consistency. Like The Heavenly Twins, it does so by using foils, in this case Dorian Gray and Sybil Vane. The simple dichotomy of masculine and feminine dissolves here. In the course of the novel, Dorian transforms from a “whimsical” (Wilde 1994, 23), lilac-smelling, fits-throwing lad, with “rose-red youth and [. . .] rose-white boyhood” (26) into a vice-spreading, cold-blooded murderer. Dorian falls in love with Sybil, an actress, who, onstage a sordid East End theatre, incarnates Shakespeare’s heroines from Ophelia to Rosalind, to Juliet, to Imogen, and thus is “all the great heroines of the world in one” (66). His fascination abruptly ends when Sybil abandons her roles and begins to speak with her own voice. Punished with his indifference when she terminates this gender masquerade, she commits suicide. Narratively, Dorian occupies a position similar to Sibyl’s. Like her, who is first focalised from his perspective, Dorian is ‘born’ as an object of Basil Howard’s and Lord Henry’s admiring gazes. Like Sibyl, he is forced to take up (and takes up) a certain kind of gendered script. Like her, he undergoes a transformation; and yet the consistency of his looks deceives those around him and, simultaneously,


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makes it impossible for him to authenticate his behaviour. When he confesses to murdering Basil Howard, Lord Henry dryly dismisses the idea: “you [are] posing for a character that doesn’t suit you” (244). Next to unravelling the hypocrisy of the upper classes, this passage comments on the irrevocable materiality of the performed identity and the dire consequences of the growing incompatibility of one’s actions and appearance. The Picture of Dorian Gray does not only test the bounds of gendered performance but also envisions any identity as a series of performative acts. If Dorian falls for Sybil, it is because of the multiplicity of, historically contingent, identities that she incarnates. Sybil embodies his concept of the human: “[t]o him, man was a being with myriad lives and myriad sensations, a complex multiform creature that bore within himself strange legacies of thought and passion, and whose very flesh was tainted with the monstrous maladies of the dead” (164). If Sybil Vane and Dorian Gray offer two exemplary cases of this type of identity, their performances thereof are characterised by frictions, fissures, inconsistencies, and on-going metamorphoses. In both cases, the complexities of performative acts and the thus created identities clash with the universal tendency to simplify them (“the shallow psychology of those who conceive the Ego in man as a thing simple, permanent, reliable, and of one essence” [164]). Irrespective of his behaviour, many see “or fancy that they [see], in Dorian Gray the true realisation of a type of which they had often dreamed in Eton or Oxford days” (149). Similarly, Dorian himself continues to regard Sybil as an incarnation of literary heroines. The novel thus throws into strong relief the paradoxical coexistence of human psychological complexity and the tendency to categorise and to simplify. The latter is, of course, in the service of social and economic ordering. If gendered binaries are abandoned, what is at stake is the institution of marriage and, with that, the future of the nation, the empire, and the whole species.

3 Victorian Marriage and the (Failed-)Marriage Plot Although Decadents, like New Women, endangered established social hierarchies and dangerously blurred gender distinctions at the turn of the century (Showalter 1990, 169), marriage remained an institution that economically and socially dictated life-narratives and gender scenarios for the entire nation (cf. Perkin 1989; Shanley 1989). As much as the middle-class marriage was an epitome of such a union and frequently served as a metaphor for the whole nation and even the empire, Queen Victoria, herself self-styled wife and mother, considered it a risk: “I think people really marry far too much; it is such a lottery after all, and for a poor woman a very doubtful happiness” (qtd. in Hager 2016, 1). The Victorian press was replete with cases of abuse and mistreatment. Despite reports to the contrary, domestic violence was the lot of all the classes. According

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to many, the legal nature of the union invited spousal abuse. George Drysdale wrote in The Elements of Social Science (1861) that marriage is “the instrument in numberless cases of making the man a tyrant and the wife a slave” (356). On marrying Harriet Taylor, John Stuart Mill objected to the “legal power and control” that marriage granted men “over the person, property, and freedom of action of the other party, independent of her own wishes and will” (1970, 45). Frances Power Cobbe’s essay “Wife Torture in England” (1878) addressed the brutality of the offence often publically treated with an air of joviality rather than contempt. The case of Caroline Sheridan Norton and her public campaigns have been credited with drawing public attention to marital abuse and preparing grounds for the Infant Custody and Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Acts (1839 and 1857). In 1853, the Act for the Better Prevention and Punishment of Aggravated Assaults upon Women and Children was passed. Although it raised fines and threatened assaulters with imprisonment, it did not bring expected effects. Physical violence was often accompanied by emotional and psychological strain as women’s staggering economic dependence, the unequal divorce laws, and the social stigma attached to separation forced them to stay on the premises of the abusive household. Although the marriage plot is said to have naturalised the institution of marriage and reinforced specific patterns of gendered behaviour, Victorian fiction failed to produce a satisfactory example of a union that would be of the same narrative centrality that was accorded to bad marriages. The episodic ventures into the harmonious existence of Thomas Micklethwaite and Miss Wheatley in George Gissing’s The Odd Women (1893) do show that such a marriage is possible, even if the parties have to wait seventeen years for the fulfilment. Predictably, and irrespective of subgeneric tendencies, many fictional marriages are the result of economic necessity rather than intellectual or physical attraction. Edward Rochester and Bertha Mason, Isabel Vane and Archibald Carlyle (Ellen Wood’s East Lynne [1861]), Catherine Earnshaw and Edgar Linton (↗ 11 Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights), Monica Madden and Edmund Widdowson (The Odd Women) – all prove that such a marriage can only end in unhappiness, tyranny, disloyalty, hatred, and disillusionment, if not mental instability. Anthony Trollope’s The Eustace Diamonds (1871), in contrast, upholds that economy should be the sole grounds for the choice of a male partner (Armstrong 2001, 107). Lady Audley’s (↗ 18 Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret) confinement to the lunatic asylum may be, although it should not, dismissed as a mere generic prerequisite of sensation fiction but the suicidal tendencies of husbands unable to stand the tantrums of their silly wives in The Odd Women or the undeniable mental sufferings of wives in New Woman fiction show the extent to which Victorian novels used the “failed-marriage plot” (Hager 2016) both to spread the ideology of affective marriage (out of love and intellectual affinity rather than economic gain) and at the same time to draw attention to the dangerous inequality of power that matrimony invited (cf. Hager 2016). In The Odd


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Women, Rhoda Nunn’s rhetorical battles with her suitor, Everard Barfoot, show the novel’s preoccupation with male-female power-struggles and the right to speak. A proponent of a “free union,” Barfoot acknowledges that such a bond “presupposes equality of position” (Gissing 2000, 162). Until this is the case, such prospect remains pure fantasy. The abundance of ill-conceived marriages, further supported by Nunn and Barfoot’s polemics, does not only demonstrate the fundamental codependence of femininity and masculinity, and their reliance on class and economy, it also illustrates the pitfalls of sentimental education and the gender ideals it perpetuates. Although contested as an ideal, marriage in fiction also often symbolically stood for larger socio-political structures. In the second half of the century, in the wake of Darwinian theories and concomitant social-Darwinist, eugenic, and social purity movements (↗ 1 Science and the Victorian Novel), reproduction no longer was a personal or even gendered choice but became a matter of class, ethnicity, and citizenship (Richardson 2003, 3). In fact, a number of New Women had a maternalist agenda which, in the context of late nineteenthcentury British fears of racial decline and imperial loss, developed as eugenic feminism. The central goal of eugenic feminists was the construction of civic motherhood which sought political recognition for reproductive labour; in the wake of new biological knowledge they argued that their contribution to nation and empire might be expanded if they assumed responsibility for the rational selection of reproductive partners. (Richardson 2003, 9)

Indeed, the three narrative arcs in Sarah Grand’s Heavenly Twins are about nothing else but the dire consequences of bad matrimonial choices; consequences that reach far beyond the death of a misguided heroine and encompass the enfeebling of the genetic material and the ‘death of the race’. For fear of precisely such racial degeneration, the aristocratic protagonist of Emma Frances Brooke’s A Superfluous Woman (1894), Jessamine Halliday, chooses death over child-birth in a civic attempt to end the degenerate hereditary line of her debauched husband Lord Heriot (on New Woman Writing, degeneration, and STDs, see Pietrzak-Franger 2017). The personal becomes here very much political, even as the means of political agency are none other than one’s suicide. The didactic string of much of New Woman fiction dictated the choice of the male protagonists. Facing the prospect of living with upper-class degenerate scoundrels, selfish husbands, or moneyless workmen, even the most knowledgeable women were at a loss. As Mary Erle in Ella Hepworth Dixon’s The Story of a Modern Woman (1894) contends, “He was weak, vacillating; his phrases were absurd [. . .], and yet he was the only man in the world [. . .] who desired her as a woman” (258). Indeed, in New Woman rhetoric, the male was chiefly seen as a subordinate species that could not, nor would, reform itself. With the resources so scarce, no wonder that fictional heroines chose, if they wanted to stay alive or sane, to remain single rather than improve the male species. And so, by the end of the century, rather than being a reason for stigmatisation, singleness had become a powerful rhetorical and political instrument.

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4 Odd Women and Men in Crisis Indeed, as Elaine Showalter famously claims, “[s]exual anarchy began with the odd woman. The odd woman – the woman who could not marry – undermined the comfortable binary system of Victorian sexuality and gender roles” (1990, 19). Odd women were contradictorily seen as either a social problem (as they challenged the male-dominated job market) or a proof that capitalism outmoded traditional gender roles and that social policies needed to search for new educational and vocational opportunities for women (Showalter 1990, 20). Of course, the fate of unmarried, widowed, and abandoned women was copiously recorded in fiction. In Cranford (1853), Elizabeth Gaskell sketches the peculiarities of and growing challenges befalling the (chiefly) female community of a small northern country town. Next to satirising their quirky ways of life, the novel also signals the economic strain under which many women found themselves at the time. With less emphasis on economics and more on social stigmatisation, Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1861, ↗ 2 Remediating Nineteenth-Century Narrative) fashions Miss Havisham as a prototypical confined woman. Deceived in her youth and abandoned at the altar, she symbolises the unnaturalness of spinsterhood and, with her eccentric behaviour boarding on mental instability, incarnates the evils of a single life. Miss Havisham is emblematic of Victorian popular-cultural fashioning of odd women as either bitter spinsters, lesbians, or hysterical feminists (Showalter 1990, 23). Undeniably, Victorian fiction abounds in images of women enclosed in their singleness and unable to imagine, let alone lead, an independent existence. The Madden sisters in George Gissing’s The Odd Women embody this position. Virginia’s alcoholism, Alice’s failing health under the strain of badly-paid teaching jobs, and Monica’s ill-suited marriage exemplify the most common traps for women who have internalised what Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar have termed the “destructive strictures of patriarchy” (2000, 400). Gissing contrasts this ossified self-imprisonment with a more positive view of the possibilities that odd women had at the end of the century. Miss Mary Barfoot exhibits an entrepreneurial spirit when she uses her inheritance to open a school for middle-class women to prepare them for clerical jobs. This juxtaposition echoes Samuel Smiles’s Self Help (1859) and, of course, registers Victorian class struggle. Barfoot, for instance, sees the working classes as positioned beyond her chosen realm of influence and charity (Gissing 2000, 61–62). Also, her aim is not to dissuade women from marriage but rather to offer them a means of self-sustenance with the hope of thus preventing unions out of economic necessity. Her co-worker, self-professed New Woman and radical Rhoda Nunn, on the contrary, initially sees female celibacy as the sole means of exacting social change (also very characteristic of suffragist rhetoric). Only when women have learned self-respect will marriage as “an alliance of intellect” and not a means of sustenance be possible (68). While offering strong arguments for women’s education and highlighting the importance of men’s role


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therein, Gissing’s novel, nonetheless, fails to imagine a future where singlehood would be free of social stigmatisation. Instead, by signalling the possibility of a ‘free union’, it expertly circumvents the issue. At the same time, it emphasises how strenuous the road to such a union would be and blatantly demonstrates that any new type of heterosexual bond would require a thorough re-constitution of both genders and, with that, the abolishment of the current rule of patriarchy. Heidi Hartmann insists that patriarchy needs to be seen as “relations between men, which have a material base, and which, though hierarchical, establish or create interdependence and solidarity among men that enable them to dominate women” (1979, 14). Early studies of Victorian masculinities have indeed purported their heterogeneity (Sussman 1995) while insisting that literature contributed to the popularisation of various forms and narratives of how (not) to be a man. Whilst didactic fiction (e.g. for children), in particular, propagated an essentialised image of manliness (physical strength and self-professed superiority), in the realist novel, “the dominant medium of social self-inspection” (Schneider 2011, 150), such essentialised middle-class masculinity is conspicuously absent. Ralf Schneider (2011) argues that the novel confronted readers with an image of what hegemonic masculinity “did not mean,” thereby evoking its ideal in absentia (148, 163). Admittedly, the alleged fin-de-siècle ‘crisis of masculinity’ has usually been linked to the devolution of mid-nineteenth-century ideals of self-reliant and morally upright manhood and the concomitant appearance of new masculinity scripts. While New Woman novels drew attention to the ‘New Man’ as a worthy counterpart to the New Woman (cf. MacDonald 2015), popular fiction addressed at boys and men articulated a new form of hegemonic masculinity, one which was equally informed by discourses of manliness and the empire (cf. Deane 2014). Although often associated with such traits as “militarism,” “hostility to feminine influence,” and/or “fascination with the powerful male body” (Deane 2014, 7), this new type was also characterised by a number of contradictions. Deane regards competitiveness, “masculine endurance,” and “instinct and spontaneity” but also “savagery” and “barbarism” as its defining features (2014, 7–8). He also sees it in terms of the New Imperialists’ emphasis on “the performative and [. . .] theatrical dimensions of power” (9). Late nineteenthcentury literature, especially Rudyard Kipling’s, Joseph Conrad’s and Henry Rider Haggard’s works, he argues, linked “boys, foreigners, and the men of Britain’s past” in a celebration of a “purer,” reinvented, “global manliness” (16, 17). Unsurprisingly, similarly to the depiction of femininity, and almost irrespective of the generic tendencies, Victorian novels of all kinds highlight “the ambivalences and insecurities” of the master narratives of masculinity and demonstrate that their representations are “expressions of the ideological contradictions connected with masculinities in the nineteenth century” (Schneider 2011, 148; also see Kestner 1995). Thomas Hardy’s novels most spectacularly illustrate these tensions. In Jude the Obscure (1895, ↗ 30 Hardy, Jude the Obscure), the identity of the titular protagonist is fraught with problems as he alternately pursues and evades established

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ideals of manhood. In this, the novel explores the ways in which the masculinity scripts that patriarchy offers become constraining to individual men and appear contradictory when inflected with other categories such as class (cf. Langland 1993). Likewise, The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) draws attention to the oppressive character of masculinity ideals (cf. Wright 1989; Horlacher 2006). Michael Henchard’s misogyny, his attempt to sell his wife and daughter, has been read as a hypermasculine realisation of male power fantasies (exercising his property rights over both) and simultaneously interpreted as a compensation of his anxieties that signal unstable gender identity. The competition between him and Donald Farfrae represents the struggle between Old and New Men; it demonstrates the interdependencies between various types of male ideals and brings to light the instable power relations that underlie their ever-changing hierarchies (Horlacher 2006, 182–192). Homosociality also plays a central role in Charles Marlow’s narrative in Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness (1899). His obsession and identification with Mr. Kurtz, the agent of an ivory-trading company in charge of an out-post in the Congo Free State, is used to critique the civilising mission of the British empire. Next to that, the text also spotlights the network of masculine communality that both belong to, a network that requires a strict exclusion of femininity and ‘effeminate’ behaviour (Barnett 1996, 278). What is more, as Clive Barnett has argued convincingly, “Heart of Darkness constructs storytelling as a strictly masculine privilege, and with its doubling of Kurtz and Marlow, has just this sort of ‘intended’ reader, and its critical reception has been often characterised by readings which do indeed consent to play the roles marked out by the text itself” (1996, 287). The threat of homoeroticism, inherently present in homosocial relations, is fended off here by a strict division of relations into those of identification between male characters and those of sexual desire between men and women. “If, then, the dynamics of identification which Heart of Darkness sets in play are indeed patriarchal and misogynist,” Barnett argues further, “it is because of the articulation of masculine homosocial desire in specifically modern heterosexual homophobic terms” (289). The position of the colonial male, like that of the odd woman, marks a potentially new gendered way of being in the world, and simultaneously serves as a symptom and symbol of socio-cultural strictures and fears. As the Victorian novel contributed to the negotiation thereof, it also participated in addressing the topic of sexuality.

5 Dangerous Desires: Victorian Sexuality At least since the late 1960s, critical thought has refuted the repressive hypothesis, questioned the stereotype of the sexually frigid Victorian, drew attention to Victorian polymorphous desires, and demonstrated discrepancies between the nineteenth-century idealisations, articulations, and performances of sexuality. The


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contradictoriness of the Victorian era is undeniably visible here: as the century saw the birth of sexology and psychology, and as it spurred erotica and pornographic industries, it also witnessed an increasing discursive regulation and pathologisation of sexuality and sexual desire. Generally speaking, in Victorian public imagination, sexuality was tantamount to reproduction and was regarded and discussed as part of established ideals of masculinity and femininity. One of our received notions of the era has been the Victorian sexual double standard, which saw (controllable) sexual desire as natural in men and as a sign of deviancy in women (Steinbach 2012, 194–211; Furneaux 2011). Regularly quoted in this context, although not representative of medical literature in general, William Acton’s Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs, in Childhood, Youth, Adult Age, and Advanced Life, Considered in the Physiological, Social, and Moral Relations (1865) legitimises the notion of sexual difference. While he did not deny the existence of sexual wants in women, Acton greatly contributed to the pathologisation of female desire (sexual excitement that may culminate “even in nymphomania, a form of insanity which those accustomed to visit lunatic asylums must be fully conversant with” [qtd. in Jeffreys 1987, 61]). By contrasting ‘proper’ women with their fallen sisters and prostitutes, he added gravitas to his argument that “there are many females who never feel any sexual excitement whatever,” and while some “become, to a limited degree, capable of experiencing it,” it is often only temporary and “[m]any of the best mothers, wives, and managers of households, know little of or are careless about sexual indulgences. Love of home, of children, and of domestic duties are the only passions they feel. As a general rule, a modest woman seldom desires any sexual gratification for herself” (qtd. in Jeffreys 1987, 62). What is more, and what is often forgotten, Acton attributed male impotence to a “lack of sexual feeling in the female” (61). Thus, he did not only pathologise female sexuality but also made it responsible for male sexual malfunction. Unsurprisingly in this context, a number of appallingly misogynistic discourses linked female desire to hysteria and anaesthesia (cf. Showalter 1987; Gilbert and Gubar 2000; Poovey 1988). Late nineteenth-century commentators, in contrast, emphasised the social construction of female frigidity, even as the “doctrine of passionlessness” (Steinbach 2012, 197) was difficult to undermine in public. In Married Love (1918), Marie C. Stopes highlights the link between women’s socio-economic dependence and their sexual behaviours: “Woman, so long coerced by economic dependence, and the need for protection while she bore her children, has had to be content to mould herself to the shape desired by man wherever possible, and she has stifled her natural feelings and her own deep thoughts as they welled up” (qtd. in Jeffreys 1987, 554–555). Eleanor Marx both draws attention to the existence of sexual desire in women and highlights the hypocritical stance of Victorian society, which “provides [for men] the means of gratifying the sex instinct. In the eyes of that same society an unmarried woman who acts after the fashion habitual to her unmarried brothers

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and the men who dance with her at balls or work with her in the shop, is pariah” (qtd. in Showalter 1990, 119). In his Studies of the Psychology of Sex (1897–1928), Havelock Ellis points out the obvious: the notion of female frigidity is historically and culturally specific, and relatively recent (1942, 196). What is more, the majority of psychological studies have only commented on it in passing and, at that, have chiefly been concerned with the quantifiable differences between sex impulses in men and women. Searching for “qualitative differences,” continues Ellis, may be more profitable, which he shows in the second chapter ( “The Sexual Impulse in Women”) devoted to tracing the socio-cultural and physiological factors influencing female sexuality (1942, vi). In practice, Victorians exhibited an array of sexual preferences, even as critics have distinguished certain class-, space-, and occupation-specific tendencies (cf. Mason 1994; Weeks 1985). As medical case studies and court trials, along with their press coverage, abundantly demonstrate, male extramarital sex (especially among aristocracy and the middle classes) was not uncommon. Nor were behaviours that were incompatible with idealised gender roles, as the thriving erotic and pornographic industry profusely illustrates (cf. Marcus 1967). The wealth of, literarily dubious but culture-historically intriguing, erotic literature of the period could be taken as proof that the control of sexual desires, women’s passivity, and their alleged sexual frigidity, together with a stark division into hetero/homosexual behaviours, were but the exception to the rule. If the memoirs of the mysterious gentleman Walter, penned in My Secret Life (1888), are to be considered plausible, Victorian men had both plenty of fantasy and opportunities to imagine and act on their urges, which spanned love triangles, sex with young prostitutes and their keepers, homosexual encounters, orgiastic nights, not to mention casual and clandestine sex with young maids or country girls. This example of Victorian erotic prose can be read as an instantiation of male and, to a much lesser extent, female desire. In a passage celebrating the unrestrained, orgiastic indulgence of three heterosexual couples, members of both sexes voice their wishes: “Ejaculations burst out on all sides, the couples were meeting again, then all was quiet, and the fucking done. Then all talked. All modesty was gone, both men and women told their sensations and wants” (n. pag.). The often coarse language, unimaginative, formulaic plots, and choppy writing style of most of the erotic fiction forced even its ardent collector, Henry Spencer Ashbee, to admit in the preface to his Index Librorum Prohibitorum (1877) that “English Erotic Novels [. . .] are sorry productions from a literary point of view [. . .]. It would appear indeed that the English language does not lend itself to the composition of amatory works, and that delicacy of treatment is with us next to impossible” (xl). Despite that, Ashbee places value on their testimonial character: “Erotic Novels, falling as they generally do into the category of domestic fiction, contain, at any rate the best of them, the truth, and ‘hold the mirror up to nature’ more certainly than those of any other description” (xxxviii). Irrespective of whether we believe this alleged ‘authentic’ rendition of sexuality in


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the novels, they copiously substantiate the interest in and ‘literary’ articulability of male and female (queer) desire. Whereas the characteristics of female readership interested in erotica cannot be determined with certainty, it is evident that women both wrote such fiction (early nineteenth-century dominatrix Theresa Berkley, for instance, published The Favourite of Venus) and featured in it, both as desired objects and desiring subjects. Despite the booming market for these excursions into the ‘netherworlds’ of human sexuality, the insistent normative coding of heterosexual desire in the Victorian era was concomitant with partial toleration of prostitution, wide-ranging sexual ignorance among women, uninhibited spread of venereal diseases, but also, increasingly, with an emergent culture of abstinence, social purity movements, and with a growing visibility of debates about the age of consent and contraception. All this influenced the Victorian perception of same-sex desire. Credited with the discovery of homosexuality (cf. Foucault 1998), the late Victorian period has also been linked to its increased medicalisation, pathologisation, and criminalisation. The Labouchere Amendment (1886) persecuted homosexual acts, leading to their subculturalisation in fin-de-siècle culture. Next to the ‘sodomites’ and the ‘Mary Annes’, there was a group of men who, although they had sex with other men (from various classes), did not consider themselves as homosexual (cf. Steinbach 2012, 203). Discourses about (homo)sexuality and its biological/psychological basis began to evolve at the turn of the century, with Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis (1886) leading the way in this pursuit. Two notions of homosexuality developed in parallel: 1) a type of congenital, sexual ‘inversion’, 2) a ‘perversion’ – the result of a corruptive influence of the environment. So while, on the one hand, patriarchy depended on the contingency of male homosocial bonds and saw in them the bulwark of national and imperial fantasies, these same relations fell under scrutiny as potential threats to heteronormativity. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick emphasises this ‘double-bind’ of late Victorian men, arguing that “male heterosexual panic became the normal condition of male heterosexual entitlement” (2013, 510). Like men, women in the nineteenth century experienced same-sex desire and lived in same-sex unions (e.g. Helen Codrington and Emily Faithfull; Havelock Ellis’ openly lesbian wife Edith Leeds), even as they lacked the language to communicative their experience (cf. Vicinus 2004). The advantage of their inarticulacy was, as Sally Ledger has argued, that sexual activities among women “could be neither pathologised nor criminalised, since they existed neither in law nor in medical textbooks” (1997, 128). Although the non-erotic novel offered a space for the articulation of desires, it did not do so unconditionally. Critics have argued that the genre habitually jettisoned sexuality outside the social, by emphasising its inherently dangerous character and by narratively either punishing or domesticating it. The Brontës’ works have often been read as “sublimating strategies that conceal forbidden desire” (Armstrong 1987, 187). In this context, Catherine Earnshaw has come to epitomise

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the literalisation of unfulfilled female passions and (sexual) longings. Her expression of her love for Heathcliff, and the stark contrast to the characterisation of her love for Earnshaw, exemplarily juxtapose conventional unions and women’s passions that cannot be accommodated within the social: My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it. My love for Lindon is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it [. . .]. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. (Emily Brontë 1847, 84)

In order to articulate these urges, Emily Brontë appropriates figures characteristic of the romance and Gothic traditions (Armstrong 1987, 192). As a revenant and a continuous ghostly presence, Catherine incarnates the unfulfilled yearnings that return to disrupt the social. Next to providing an array of matrimonial and cohabitational behaviour, the genre of sensation fiction (↗ 4 Genres and Poetology) has been credited with singlehandedly offering the most explicit expression of female sexual desires. The novels’ emphasis on the incompatibilities of women’s longings with the imposed and performed femininity scripts renders visible the complexities of womanhood at the time. In texts such as Mrs. Henry Wood’s East Lynne (1861) or Mary Braddon’s Aurora Floyd (1863) and Lady Audley’s Secret (1862, ↗ 18 Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret), female sexuality likewise challenges the established rules of social behaviour. In Lady Audley’s Secret, the titular heroine turns out to be a bigamist and criminal whose rapid class mobility endangers the fragile system of social ordering. In East Lynne, adultery becomes a refuge from boredom and confinement for Lady Isabel. The awakening feeling surprises her: “She was aware that a sensation all too warm, a feeling of attraction towards Francis Levison, was working within her; not a voluntary one; she could no more repress it than she could repress her own sense of being; and, mixed with it, was the stern voice of conscience, overwhelming her with the most lively terror” (Wood 1862, 318). Thus presented as unintentional, the affection is not rendered as pathological but rather as naturally belonging to the repertoire of female emotion. There is a similar rendition of Jessamine Halliday’s growing attraction to handsome Scottish crofter Colin Macgillvray in Brooke’s A Superfluous Woman. Apparently involuntary, surprising, and defying all of her received notions of love and class, the feeling overtakes and overwhelms her: “But her brain was a blank place, and while she sought eagerly for an idea, her fingers thrilled with a sudden tormenting memory of the palm of Colin, on which she had permitted them to nestle” (1894, 134). Jessamine’s reaction is corporal: “[s]hivering again convulsively,” she needs time to compose herself (134). This upsurge of emotion gives the narrator a pretext to muse on the nature of human desires in the civilised world: “For us


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Human Passion resembles a sphinxlike woman, with a gray hood drawn over her eyes. She goes about the world groping inexorably for human heart after human heart” (133). Puzzling and dangerous, it drives people to do the unthinkable. Ann Ardis has argued that New Woman novels often include narratives of women’s sexual awakening by employing the Pygmalion myth to portray sexually ignorant heroines who, in the narrative climax, become aware of their own erotic desires mostly with the help of a male protagonist and sexual predator (1990, 90). In Gissing’s Odd Women, Everard Barfoot is fashioned as a quasi-scientist who wagers he will be able to kindle passion in the self-professed New Woman and believer in celibacy, Rhoda Nun. Of course, retribution, ostracism, and (self-)punishment follow almost every expression of female desire in fiction, as becomes blatantly clear in Hardy’s Jude the Obscure. Jude’s love interest and cousin, Sue Bridehead, embodies the psychological complexities of late nineteenth-century womanhood: “she is an emancipated woman but a repressive personality, advanced but infantile, passionate but sexless, independent but in need of men, unconventional but conventional, a feminist but a flirt” (Blake 1983, 148). In the novel, Sue considers her children’s deaths as a punishment for her ‘sinful’ cohabitation with her cousin Jude, which prompts her to return to her ex-husband and seek consolation in the church that she has hitherto rebelled against. The growing medicalisation of same-sex desire and the concomitant veiling of eroticism in the Victorian novel have prompted critics to employ symptomatic readings in the interpretation of the texts. Heading this trend, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Elaine Showalter have postulated that various ubiquitous figures and tropes – for instance, penetration through closed doors and closets along with the appearance of doubles – encode homosexual desire in Victorian fiction. In this context, Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886, ↗ 25 Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) has been seen as both “a story about communities of men,” “a fable of fin-de-siècle homosexual panic,” and “a case study of male hysteria” (Showalter 1990, 107). Showalter famously reads the intricate relationship between Jekyll and Hyde in homoerotic terms: “Jekyll’s apparent infatuation with Hyde reflects the late-nineteenth century upper-middle-class eroticization of working-class men as the ideal homosexual object” (1990, 111). In a similar vein, the double/split between Dorian and his portrait in Wilde’s novel has stood for homosexual desire and (auto)eroticism, both of which are, unsurprisingly, narratively punished. Rather than distinguish between hetero- and homosexualities, recent studies have used queer theory to reread Victorian classics and the polymorphous desires they convey (cf. Furneaux 2009), in effect also drawing attention to long-standing, albeit little acknowledged, critical biases. Elaine Showalter illustratively links the nineteenth-century changes in the perception of sexuality to the devolution of the stoutly-bound three-decker novels and the appearance of gilded, slim volumes at the fin de siècle, arguing that each of them “suggested a very different image of character and sexuality”: from the physical

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association of the first with the “nuclear family” to the connotations of “the celibate, the bachelor, the ‘odd woman’, the dandy, and the aesthete” carried by the latter (1990, 16). For her, the breakdown of sexual certainties brought in its wake a transformation of fictional ones (17). Accordingly, the altered form of the novel also meant a divergence both “from subjects, themes, and forms associated with femininity and maternity” (17) and from the chronology and closure that realism ensured (18), thus illustrating the extent to which modernity, and the changing male-female relations it fostered, inflected the genre and the codex.

6 Utopian Visions: Between Encrusted Binaries and Empowerment At the end of the century, utopian literature offered a special site where issues of gender imbalance, sexuality, and their interrelation with larger social frameworks (community, society, nation and empire) could be addressed, negotiated, and newly imagined. As Anne Mellor contends, “[t]hose seeking a viable model of a nonexistent society [. . .] must look to the future; their model must be constructed first as utopia” (1982, 243). Literary utopias served to make a different future comprehensible to readers and, as thought-experiments, defamiliarised daily experience along with offering various strategies of empowerment. The late nineteenth-century revival of utopian fiction has been explained both by the advent of technologies that promised to transform human lives and environments and by the dystopian aftermath of the industrial revolution (Roemer 2010, 82, 101). It has been linked to the achievements and failures of the suffrage movement, the New Women debate, and nascent feminism (cf. Claeys 2009; Beaumont 2005 and 2012; Lewes 1995). Although often dismissed as “didactic guide-visitor narratives that are heavy on long socio-economic dialogues, lightened by touches of romance and travel-adventure episodes” (Roemer 2010, 80), utopian novels of the late nineteenth century have been seen as offering a possible blueprint for future societies. Ideologically, they were highly susceptible to socialist, imperialist, and socialDarwinist ideas. The echoes of Henri de Saint-Simon, Charles Fournier, Robert Owen, and also, if not especially, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels strongly reverberate on their pages as do those of Thomas Henry Huxley and Francis Galton. It is therefore not surprising that many of the utopias emphasise joint communal effort, put emphasis on majority rule, dispose of individual property, and imagine technologically enhanced bodies and environments. In many, the critique of the extant social system and class inequalities is inscribed in new forms of global and national organisation (e.g. division into houses instead of countries or nations in William Henry Hudson’s A Crystal Age [1887]; four classes based on one’s abilities rather than birth in H. G. Wells’s A Modern Utopia [1905]; disappearance of clothing as a


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class signifier in F. Dickberry’s The Storm of London: A Social Rhapsody [1904]). In the novels, inequalities are directly linked to the economic capital (e.g. no private property in William Morris’s 1890 News From Nowhere), education and new technologies (News From Nowhere famously critiques mass production as devolution of craftsmanship and a source of economic inequality), and are mirrored in the choice of preoccupation (the pastoral setting of many utopias is combined with the celebration of manual labour: for instance, agriculture, household work, and craftsmanship in A Crystal Age, News From Nowhere, and A Modern Utopia). Of course, most of these societies either presuppose a willing adherence to the rules or imagine a series of punitive measures for those who would not comply. Whereas many texts conjure up a healthier, ecologically friendly, and sustainable future, many also include drastic measures to ensure it. In Elisabeth Corbett’s New Amazonia: A Foretaste of the Future (1889), for instance, regular exercise and vegetarianism along with implantation of animal nerves and special technologies that control weather and facilitate clean air foster health and enable longevity. Still, it cannot be denied that in New Amazonia eugenic principles support the new social structure, as they do in other utopian novels: be it the killing of disabled children at birth in A Modern Utopia or self-induced death for those over sixty-five in Anthony Trollope’s The Fixed Period (1882), as a guarantee of a better future for the whole species. (Self-)perfection and self-restraint are the key principles of these utopias. In most, the cult of the healthy body and reproductive behaviour serve racial improvement. In many, sexual desire is not only subservient to reproduction but is also seen as dangerous: in A Crystal Age, only the Mother and the Father of the house can reproduce while others experience little or no sexual desire and live together like siblings. Most late Victorian utopian novels either reverse the existing gender order or find a way of justifying extant binaries disguised by the rhetoric of gender equality. Wells’ A Modern Utopia proposes a number of new liberties as it simultaneously perpetuates double standards. Both men and women can be part of the governing structure (the samurai); both, if qualified, can obtain a marriage licence; neither will be punished for any relationships outside marriage as long as these do not result in illegitimate births, in which case the woman must be divorced: “It will be obvious that under Utopian conditions it is the State that will suffer injury by a wife’s misconduct, and that a husband who condones anything of the sort will participate in her offence. A woman, therefore, who is divorced on this account will be divorced as a public offender” (Wells 1905, 194). Both can pursue occupations, even though motherhood remains the only viable profession for women (189). And yet the chapter on “Women in Modern Utopia” makes a strong argument that “women may be free in theory and not in practice, and as long as they suffer from their economic inferiority, from the inability to produce as much value as a man for the same amount of work [. . .] so long will their legal and technical equality be a mockery” (187). What follows is a proposition that women should be paid a wage by the state for their ‘services’ as mothers (188). In News from Nowhere, there is a similar

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tendency to explain ‘desirable’ professions by purportedly inherent personal (albeit generalised) tendencies. The novel claims social equality between men and women: “[t]he men have no longer any opportunity of tyrannising over women, or the women over the men” (Morris 1893, 84). Still, Hammond, the narrator’s interlocutor, responds to the query about women’s position in society with the assertion that “it is a great pleasure to a clever woman to manage a house skilfully” (85). Today, such statements as “everybody likes to be ordered around by a pretty woman: [. . .], it is one of the pleasantest forms of flirtation” (85) reek of sexism even as the narrative laboriously tries to imagine a society beyond gender inequalities. Corbett’s New Amazonia, although also premised on (quasi-reversed) binary distinctions, makes an attempt at offering a new model in which women enjoy access to education, sports, and occupations, and where unmarried women hold high offices in the socialist state of New Amazonia. Herein lies, for Alexis Lothian, Corbett’s innovative vision, which does not promise a much better world but in which “women’s governance [. . .] has the potential to solve the problems of patriarchy” (2014, 5). From a contemporary perspective, late Victorian utopias may appear as highly misogynist and heteronormative societies in which sexual desire is regarded as dangerous, sexuality often remains subservient to reproduction, and marriage/sexual union, although reimagined, remains a restrictive institution bound to ensure a glorious future for the human species. Many critics have shown that progressive gender thought did “coexist with racism, class hierarchy, imperialism, and the ableism that has justified eugenic reproductive practices” (Lothian 2014, 1). Irrespective of their faulty visions, however, late Victorian utopias, especially feminist utopias such as Corbett’s New Amazonia, Florence Dixie’s Gloriana, Or the Revolution of 1900 (1890), and F. E. Young’s The War of the Sexes (1904), played an important function in that they offered a platform for women to imagine a different future for themselves. They allowed readers to leap from their individual situatedness to a vision of a “future collective” (Beaumont 2005, 90). Their role thus consisted less in distributing ideas of “a future matriarchy or gynocracy than in its latent fantasy of a like-minded community of women in the present,” which prepared them for joint action (Beaumont 2005, 90–91).

7 Gender and Victorian Literary Culture Yet novels did not only take part in voicing extant inequalities and renegotiating gender relations, they also played an important role in women’s economic struggles. The literary market was a burgeoning site of women’s professionalism. Although it goes without saying that Victorian printing, editorial, and publishing businesses were male dominions, recent studies have brought to light women’s attempts to gain a foothold in these industries. Better education, training, emigration,


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and the opening of traditionally male trades to women were proposed as solutions to female under- and unemployment. Women-run business networks provided new opportunities for female workers (Tusan 2004, 103). Highly controversial and inviting stark resistance from the trade unions, female employment in the printing business was promoted by women reformists on account of its high-status, good pay, and minimal physical demand. It thus represented a proper (neither declassing nor desexing) way of providing them with a share in the growing British economy (Tusan 2004, 107–108). The Victoria Press for the Employment of Women, founded by two members of the Society for the Promotion of the Employment of Women (SPEW), Bessie Rayner Parkes and Emily Faithful, served as a model for such women-run print shops. Next to giving other women the opportunity to train in the printing business, it also propagated SPEW’s ideological and reformist efforts by publishing their periodical (English Woman’s Journal) along with reports and pamphlet literature (Tusan 2004, 106). By founding their system on the principle of shared profits, such businesses not only challenged the gendered labour hierarchies but also attempted to reform capitalist business practices. And although they can in general be seen as utopian experiments, they had a lasting impact in that they “created business networks that ultimately enabled middle-class women to have a voice in debates over the importance of female independence in industrial Britain” (Tusan 2004, 121). Next to publishing, women found employment in the editorial business. Editing a magazine could be done in domestic spaces and combined with other jobs (cf. Palmer 2015, 59). Ellen Wood, the proprietor of The Argosy, a magazine well known for its sensation fiction, worked on it from home; Charlotte Riddell combined her editorial work with a job at her husband’s shop; Mary Howitt worked on the Howitt Journal together with her husband and the whole family. Political activism was another platform that opened editorial possibilities for women who, as members of activist organisations, were often involved in pamphlet and journal publishing. Last but not least, celebrity authors, such as Marry Braddon and Caroline Norton, were often asked to take on editorship. Most famously, George Eliot served as assistant editor to John Chapman on the Westminster Review. Braddon, like many other established authors, also mentored many young writers. Indeed, recent studies have emphasised the importance of networking for the emergence of female writers (cf. Peterson 2015b, 43–58). Of course, writing itself belonged to the range of professions that were open for women. Journalism, writing for periodicals, and reviewing “conferred status and respectability” (Shattock 2015, 30) and expanded the repertoire of available jobs. With these transformations underway, it is not surprising that, in 1852, G. H. Lewes heralded “the advent of female literature” that promised to convey a woman’s view on life (131) while such publications as Anne Katherine Elwood’s Memoirs of the Literary Ladies of England (1841), Julia Kavanagh’s English Women of Letters (1863), and Margaret Oliphant’s Literary History of England (1886) acknowledged the presence of

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this new category. This development, of course, did not remain uncontroversial. Women who read, just like women who wrote, had a strong hold on popular imagination. The reading of fiction was regarded with particular suspicion due to, as was believed, its ability to “stimulate inappropriate ambitions and desires” and “to corrupt” readers (Flint 2001, 17), a debate that carried with itself strong gender and class overtones. Indeed, both these factors were regarded as directly linked to the degeneration of literature. Famously, in Culture and Anarchy (1869), Matthew Arnold ascribed the rise in literacy rates to the erosion of literary quality and the advent of philistinism. Such debates also subsumed discussions addressing the growing ‘feminisation’ of fiction and the unhealthy preoccupations of female readers. A number of advice books appealed to women to reach for more substantial, intellectual reading rather than ‘binge feeding’ on romances “as though they were boxes of sugar-plums, at first deliciously palatable but increasingly inducing an unhealthy, sickly saturation” (Flint 2001, 27). The outcry against female novelists was equally loud. Famously, George Eliot vented her frustration with the “mind-and-millinery” (301) type of the novel in her “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists” (1856), in which she accuses upper-class authoresses, “inexperienced in every form of poverty except poverty of brains” (2001, 303), of violating the genre by maiming it with improbable characters and ridiculous plots. Especially the second half of the nineteenth century saw a deluge of male “critical abuse of women’s emasculating effect on the English novel” (Showalter 1990, 17). And still, despite these assertions, the nineteenth century was an era which saw the transformation of the literary market: whilst in the 1840s women often had to hide between their pseudonyms to publish, they could become author-celebrities by the end of the century. Today’s assessment of nineteenth-century women authors acknowledges their roles as “originators” and “innovators” of the novelistic form (Peterson 2015a, 9). Contemporaneous critiques already recorded the pioneering character of their work. Margaret Oliphant credited Jane Eyre with revolutionising the literary treatment of love (Peterson 2015, 9). George Eliot’s theorisation of realism spurred waves of admiration from nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first-century critics alike. Female authors of sensation fiction have been credited with forging a new form that allowed them to address pertinent social questions and simultaneously offered a range of transgressive female characters. Since its ‘re-discovery’ in the 1980s, New Woman Writing continues to be seen as not only extending the formal experiments of realist and sensation fiction but also as recording proto-modernist techniques that would flourish at the beginning of the twentieth century. It is undeniable that the Victorian novel contributed to this development. As it addressed the incongruities between the various gender scripts and the quotidian ways of being, it signalled the necessity of reinventing the former to fit the exigencies of modernity. The novel’s emphasis on the performative character of gender scripts, its acknowledgement of their pliability, was a step towards such a reinvention. It is therefore not surprising that the end of the century saw an appearance of


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new gender models. Despite that, and although the novel questioned the ideal of marriage, the latter continued to play a central role in narratives of Britain’s future, thus maintaining its role in processes of social ordering. As sexuality, gender models, and marriage ideals were addressed in fiction, attitudes towards them were also amended through innumerable material practices of the everyday. As one of such practices, fiction writing certainly contributed to a rethinking of gender imbalance in Victorian times.

Bibliography Works Cited Adams, James Eli. Dandies and Desert Saints: Styles of Victorian Masculinity. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1995. Ardis, Ann. New Women, New Novels: Feminism and Early Modernism. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1990. Armstrong, Nancy. “Gender and the Victorian Novel.” David 2001, 97–124. Armstrong, Nancy. Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel. Oxford: OUP, 1987. Barnett, Clive. “‘A Choice of Nightmares’: Narration and Desire in Heart of Darkness.” Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography. 3.3 (1996): 277–292. Beardsley, Aubrey, illus. Salomé: A Tragedy in One Act. By Oscar Wilde. London: Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1894. Beaumont, Matthew. The Spectre of Utopia: Utopian and Science Fictions at the Fin de Siècle. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2012. Beaumont, Matthew. Utopia Ltd: Ideologies of Social Dreaming in England 1870–1900. Leiden: Brill, 2005. Bell, Currer [Charlotte Brontë]. Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. Lonson: W. Nicholson & Sons, 1847. Bell, Ellis [Emily Brontë]. Wuthering Heights: A Novel. London: Thomas Cautley Newby, 1847. Blackstone, William. Commentaries on the Laws of England. Vol. 1. Oxford: Clarendon, 1765. Blake, Kathleen. Love and the Woman Question in Victorian Literature: The Art of SelfPostponement. Brighton: Harvester, 1983. Brooke, Emma Frances. A Superfluous Woman. New York: Cassell, 1894. Claeys, Gregory, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature. Cambridge: CUP, 2010. Claeys, Gregory. Late Victorian Utopias: A Prospectus. 6 Vols. London: Pickering and Chatto, 2009. Cobbe, Frances Power. “Wife-Torture in England.” The Contemporary Review 32 (1878): 55–87. Da Sousa Correa, Delia. “Jane Eyre and Genre.” The Nineteenth-Century Novel: Realisms. Ed. Da Sousa Correa. London: Routledge, 2000. 87–116. David, Deidre, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Victorian Novel. Cambridge: CUP, 2001. Deane, Bradley. Masculinity and the New Imperialism: Rewriting Manhood in British Popular Literature, 1870–1917. Cambridge: CUP, 2014. Dixon, Ella Hepworth. The Story of a Modern Woman. London: William Heinemann, 1894. Drysdale, George. The Elements of Social Science, or Physical, Sexual and Natural Religion. London: E. Truelove, 1861. Eagleton, Terry. Myths of Power: A Marxist Study of the Brontës. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988. Eliot, George. “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists.” Westminster Review 66 (1856): 442–461. Rpt. in Women and Romance: A Reader. Ed Susan Ostrov Weisser. New York: NYUP, 2001. 301–306.

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Flint, Kate. “The Victorian Novel and Its Readers.” David 2001, 17–36. Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. Vol. 1. Trans. Robert Hurley. London: Penguin, 1998. Fraxi, Pisanus [Henry Spencer Ashbee]. Index Librorum Prohibitorum: Being Notes Bio- Biblio-Iconographical And Critical, on Curious and Common Books. London: privately published, 1877. Furneaux, Holly. Queer Dickens: Erotics, Families, Masculinities. Oxford: OUP, 2009. Furneaux, Holly. “Victorian Sexualities.” Literature Compass 8.10 (2011): 767–775. Gagnier, Regenia. Idylls of the Marketplace: Oscar Wilde and the Victorian Public. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1986. Gilbert, Sandra, and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. 1979. New Haven: Yale UP, 2000. Gissing, George. The Odd Women. 1893. Ed. Patricia Ingham. Oxford: OUP, 2000. Grand, Sarah. The Heavenly Twins. 1893. Ed. Carol A. Senf. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2007. Griffin, Ben. The Politics of Gender in Victorian Britain: Masculinity, Political Culture and the Struggle for Women’s Rights. Cambridge: CUP, 2012. Hager, Kelly. Dickens and the Rise of Divorce: The Failed-Marriage Plot and the Novel Tradition. Abingdon: Routledge, 2016. Harris, Beth. Famine and Fashion: Needlewomen in the Nineteenth Century. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005. Hartmann, Heidi. “The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: Towards a More Progressive Union.” Capital and Class 3.2 (1979): 1–33. Havelock, Ellis. Studies of the Psychology of Sex. 1897. Vol. 1. New York: Random House, 1942. Hicks, George Elgar. Woman’s Mission: Companion of Manhood. 1863. Oil paint on canvas. Tate, London. Horlacher, Stefan. Masculinities: Konzeptionen von Männlichkeit im Werk von Thomas Hardy und D. H. Lawrence. Tübingen: Narr, 2006. Jeffreys, Sheila, ed. The Sexuality Debates. New York and London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987. Kestner, Joseph. Masculinities in Victorian Painting. Aldershot: Scolar, 1995. Kestner, Joseph. Masculinities in British Adventure Fiction, 1880–1951. London: Routledge, 2010. Kosofsky Sedgwick, Eve. “The Beast in the Closet.” Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader. Ed. Nigel Wood and David Lodge. New York: Routledge, 2013. 506–508. Langland, Elizabeth. “Becoming a Man in Jude the Obscure.” The Sense of Sex: Feminist Perspectives on Hardy. Ed. Margaret R. Higonnet. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1993. 32–48. Ledger, Sally. The New Woman: Fiction and Feminism at the Fin de Siècle. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1997. Lewes, Darby. Dream Revisionaries: Gender and Genre in Women’s Utopian Fiction 1870–1920. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1995. Lewes, G. H. “The Lady Novelists.” Westminster Review 2 (July 1852): 129–141. Lothian, Alexis. “A Foretaste of the Future, a Caution from the Past: New Amazonia’s Feminist Dream.” Introduction. New Amazonia: A Foretaste of the Future. By Elizabeth Burgoyne Corbett. Ed. Lothian. Seattle: Aqueduct, 2014. 1–23. MacDonald, Tara. The New Man, Masculinity and Marriage in the Victorian Novel. London: Routledge, 2015. Marcus, Steven. The Other Victorians: A Study of Sexuality and Pornography in Mid-Nineteenth Century England. Toronto: Bantam, 1967. Mason, Michael. The Making of Victorian Sexuality. Oxford: OUP, 1994. Mellor, Anne. “On Feminist Utopias.” Women’s Studies 3.9 (1982): 241–262. Mill, John Stuart, and Harriet Taylor Mill. Essays on Sex Equality. Ed. Alice S. Rossi. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1970.


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Mill, John Stuart. The Subjection of Women. 4th ed. London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1878. Morris, William. News from Nowhere. London: Hammersmith, 1893. My Secret Life. 3 Vols. 1888. Project Gutenberg. Web. Nunokawa, Jeff. “Sexuality in the Victorian Novel.” David 2001, 125–148. Palmer, Beth. “Assuming the Role of Editor.” Peterson 2015, 59–72. Patmore, Coventry. The Angel in the House. 6th Ed. London: George Bell and Son, 1885. Perkin, Joan. Women and Marriage in Nineteenth-Century England. London: Routledge, 1989. Peterson, Linda H., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Women’s Writing. Cambridge: CUP, 2015. Peterson, Linda. “Victorian Women’s Writing and Modern Literary Criticism.” Introduction. Peterson 2015a, 1–11. Peterson, Linda. “Working with Publishers.” Peterson 2015b, 43–58. Pietrzak-Franger, Monika. Syphilis in Victorian Literature and Culture: Medicine, Knowledge and the Spectacle of Victorian Invisibility. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. Poovey, Mary. Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1988. Richards, Jeffrey. “John Ruskin, The Olympian Painters and the Amateur Stage.” Ruskin, the Theatre and Victorian Visual Culture. Ed. Anselm Heinrich, Kate Newey, and Jeffrey Richards. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. 19–41. Richardson, Angelique. Love and Eugenics among the Late Victorians: Science, Fiction, Feminism. Oxford: OUP, 2003. Roemer, Kenneth M. “Paradise Transformed: Varieties of Nineteenth-Century Utopias.” Claeys 2010, 79–106. Ruskin, John. Sesame and Lilies: Three Lectures. 1865. London: George Allen and Sons, 1910. Schneider, Ralf. “The Invisible Center: Conceptions of Masculinity in Victorian Fiction – Realist, Crime, Detective, and Gothic.” Constructions of Masculinity in British Literature from the Middle Ages to the Present. Ed. Stefan Horlacher. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. 147–168. Shanley, Mary Lyndon. Feminism, Marriage, and the Law in Victorian England. London: Tauris, 1989. Shattock, Joanne. “Becoming a Professional Writer.” Peterson 2015, 29–42. Showalter, Elaine. Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siècle. London and New York: Penguin, 1990. Showalter, Elaine. The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830–1980. New York: Virago 1987. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism.” Critiqual Inquiry 12.1 (1985): 235–261. Steinbach, Susie. Understanding the Victorians: Politics, Culture and Society in Nineteenth-Century Britain. London: Routledge, 2012. Sussman, Herbert. Victorian Masculinities: Manhood and Manly Poetics in Early Victorian Literature and Art. Cambridge: CUP, 1995. Tosh, John. Manliness and Masculinities in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Harlow: Pearson Education, 2005. Tusan, Michelle. “Reforming Work: Gender, Class, and the Printing Trade in Victorian Britain.” Journal of Women’s History 16.1 (2004): 102–125. Vicinus, Martha. Intimate Friends: Women Who Loved Women, 1778–1928. Chicago: The U of Chicago P, 2004.

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Weeks, Jeffrey. Sexuality and Its Discontents: Meanings, Myths and Modern Sexualities. London: Routledge, 1985. Wells, H. G. A Modern Utopia. London: Chapman and Hall, 1905. Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. 1891. London: Penguin, 1994. Wood, Henry, Mrs. East Lynne. Vol. 1. London: R. Bentley, 1862. Wright, T. R. Hardy and the Erotic. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1989.

Further Reading Brantlinger, Patrick. Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830–1914. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1988. Davidoff, Leonore, and Catherine Hall. Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780–1850. London: Routledge, 1992. Johns, Alessa. “Feminism and Utopianism.” Claeys 2010, 174–199. Kaplan, Cora. Victoriana: Histories, Fictions, Criticism. New York: Columbia UP, 2007. Levine, Philippa. Victorian Feminism 1850–1900. Gainesville: UP of Florida, 2005. Mallett, Phillip. “Women, Marriage and the Law in Victorian Society.” Marriage and Property. Ed. Elizabeth M. Craik. Aberdeen: Aberdeen UP, 1984. 159–189. Sweet, Matthew. Inventing the Victorians. London: Faber and Faber, 2001. Tosh, John. A Man’s Place: Masculinity and the Middle-Class Home in Victorian England. New Haven: Yale UP, 1999. Tusan, Michelle. Women Making News: Gender and Journalism in Modern Britain. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2005.

Nora Pleßke

7 Empire – Economy – Materiality Abstract: The rise of the novel during the eighteenth century is notably connected with the birth of a new socio-economic system. Extending that idea, this chapter links the formation of the novel as a dominant genre during the nineteenth century to the further development of capitalism, colonialism, and their concomitant social and material realities. Postcolonial theory, economic criticism, and material culture studies are introduced as central approaches to the novel in the Victorian era that bring to the fore new perspectives or revive neglected works. This chapter covers empire writing from the domestic novels of the first half of the century to the sensation fiction of the second half. Additionally, it concentrates largely on economic issues in Condition-of-England novels, such as the struggle of the working classes, the urban poor, and capital finance. A third section focusses on the representation of commodity culture and the profusion of things in the Victorian novel as related to the conjunction of capitalism and imperialism. In closing, the chapter contemplates the status of the nineteenth-century novel as a veritable commodity and thus as a symbol for the economic expansion of Britain during the Second Empire. Keywords: Capitalism, colonial objects, commodity culture, economic criticism, economy, imperialism, industrialisation, material culture studies, postcolonialism, thing theory

In The Rise of the Novel (1957), Ian Watt links the birth of the English novel to the growth of commercialism during the eighteenth century. Stories of economic enterprise and overseas expansion stand at the origin of the novelistic tradition: works such as Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko (1688) and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) show that British colonialism was just as indispensable to the foundations of the genre as the ascent of capitalism and individualism. Edward Said comments: “Without empire [. . .] there is no European novel as we know it” (1994, 87). He particularly points at the convergence of the novel’s narrative authority with the ideological configurations of imperialism (87). Throughout the imperial century, the cultural produce shaped the discursive dissemination, legitimation, reflection, and contestation of British colonialism and was, according to Said, “immensely important for the formation of imperial attitudes, references, and experiences” (xiv). The cultural impact of the Victorian novel on Britain’s overseas empire can thus be considered analogous to that of Condition-of-England fiction on industrialisation during the 1840s. Naturally, nineteenth-century novelists were part of these evolving structures of feeling and, as members of society, were often involved in imperial and economic ventures beyond the literary marketplace: they were politicians (Benjamin Disraeli), navy https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110376715-008


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officers (Frederick Marryat), war correspondents (G. A. Henty), civil servants (Anthony Trollope), colonial officials (H. Rider Haggard), journalists (Rudyard Kipling), cultural critics (Thomas Carlyle), businessmen (Charles Dickens), emigrants (Robert Louis Stevenson), and immigrants (Joseph Conrad). Although this list might suggest otherwise, women were also engaged in the imperial project in multiple roles beside “imperious maternalism” (Boehmer 2009, xxviii, ↗ 6 Victorian Gender Relations). While they were deemed the strongest consumer group in Britain’s growing mass market, women were equally important producers – for example of fiction. Writing novels developed into one of the few respectable ways to earn a living for Victorian middleclass women. Otherwise, educated women were often destined for the governess trade as vividly depicted in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), which was first published under the pen-name Currer Bell (↗ 10 Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre). It is these various conflations of empire, economy, and materiality with the nineteenth-century British novel that this chapter wishes to address. After respective introductions to the cultural-historical context, I will survey the impact of these specific issues on the Victorian novel via postcolonial theory, economic criticism, and material culture studies.

1 The British Empire, Postcolonial Studies, and Colonial Writing After the loss of the American colonies, which signalled the end of the First Empire, Britain was firmly (re)established as a great power in 1815 with the Battle of Waterloo. Although the empire only reached its greatest territorial extent after the First World War, the end of the Boer War in 1902 is considered as the watershed of British imperial self-perception, inducing the decline of its dominance. The expansion of the Second Empire had commenced with improvements in agriculture and the modernisation of production. This initially led to greater wealth and a stronger demand for consumer goods provided by material imported from the widening colonial world and by skilled workers from the domestic industry (Sedlmayr 2017, 41). Industrial capitalism thus developed into the core motor of imperialism; its economic forces encompassed credits, manufactures, capital, as well as faith in free trade and utilitarianism, which supported the idea of British commercial superiority. By the mid-nineteenth century, the dominant political rhetoric transformed into an aggressive assertion of white hegemony over colonial others, which became pronounced in various conflicts from the 1840s onwards: the Afghan Wars, the Opium Wars, the New Zealand Wars, the Crimean War, the Indian Rebellion, the Ashanti Wars, the Morant Bay Rebellion, etc. At the end of the 1850s, the British had seized Acre, acquired the Gold Coast forts and set up multiple trading-ports on the Chinese coast, established colonies at the Cape and Gambia, turned Canada and Australia

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into settler dominions, annexed Transvaal and the Punjab. India, known as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ due to its location and resources, was the centre for building Britain’s formal empire. After the ‘Sepoy Uprising’, the power of the East India Company, which had monopolised trade with the region for centuries and had intermittently gained control over the whole subcontinent, was transferred to direct Crown rule in 1858. Scholars largely agree that programmatic colonial expansion only started in the 1870s. Benjamin Disraeli’s hallmark speech at the Crystal Palace, in which he advocated the building of a larger formal empire, and the consolidation of the British Raj when Queen Victoria became Empress of India in 1877 initiated the phase of New Imperialism. Eric Hobsbawm has called the era from 1875 to 1914, in which the approach to the empire turned officially expansionist, assertive, and self-conscious, “the Age of Empire” (1987, 56). During high imperialism, Western colonial powers engaged in a race to divide up the globe. Within merely twenty-five years, in the socalled Scramble for Africa, the rival nations of Britain, France, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Belgium sliced up ten million square miles of new territory between them. Moved on by private imperialists like mining magnate Cecil Rhodes, the British eventually got to control the strip of land from ‘Cape to Cairo’ as well as the whole West African Niger River basin. Newly-acquired riches from Africa and Asia were displayed at the Colonial and India Exhibition just before Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. The triumphalist celebration of the Diamond Jubilee in 1897 marked the climax of ‘jingoism’, popular nationalism based on beliefs of monarchism, militarism, and racial superiority. At Victoria’s death in 1901, the world was one of empires and British imperialism had become a historical fact. Following Edward Said, imperialism can be defined as the political domination, economic exploitation, and military subjugation of other territories and peoples, ranging from collaborative influence to strong power and abhorrent abuse (1994, 8–9). Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak was the first to refute the long-standing notion that imperialism only developed into a significant subject of literary representation with Britain’s growing geopolitical power from the 1860s onwards. In her landmark essay on Jane Eyre, Spivak claims that there is virtually no Victorian novel without a reference to the workings of the empire or the making – “worlding” (1985, 243) – of its colonies. Said, like Spivak, elaborates that while by the end of the nineteenth century the empire became a central area of concern in the works of writers, imperialism had never been an invisible subject in literature (1994, xx). Narratives widely engaged with racial oppression or colonial subjection and, more often than not, fortified notions of British superiority. In Culture & Imperialism (1993), Said extends his dualistic analysis of colonial discourses in Orientalism (1978) to a “contrapuntal reading” (1994, 82) in order to “take account of both processes, that of imperialism and that of resistance to it” (83). This allows for a reinterpretation of canonical nineteenth-century works in a manner that includes what might have been either forcibly excluded or willingly overlooked (85).


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Postcolonial studies have altered our understanding of the Victorian novel by encouraging us to read texts like Jane Eyre in the context of writings on slavery from the nineteenth-century imperial archive and to reassess the colonial novel in the light of its rewritings, e.g. Jane Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966). Relating Jane Eyre’s rebellious voice and mutinous behaviour to her strive for greater freedom and agency, feminist critics have pointed to the analogies between slavery, empire, and patriarchy with its interconnected hegemonies concerning race, class, and gender (↗ 6 Victorian Gender Relations). Spivak, however, reproves that the confined Creole character, Bertha Mason, is reduced to Jane Eyre’s repressed “dark double” (1985, 248) in Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s interpretation of the novel in The Madwoman in the Attic (1979). Rhys’s postcolonial text instead “expand[s] the frontiers of the politics of reading” (259) because it centralises the links between Victorian women and imperialism. Jane’s socio-economic ascent is based on a larger colonial frame as she acquires her uncle’s as well as Bertha’s plantation riches when they die. The literary phenomena of postcolonial rewriting thus have not only dismantled hegemonic structures of representation but initiated a new critical examination of the Victorian novel and its imperial connections. John Thieme’s Postcolonial Contexts (2001) assesses the manifold forms of ‘writing back’ in famous canonical texts, besides Jane Eyre also Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899). The invigorated interest in Conrad’s colonial texts stems not least from the fact that the author as a Polish migrant speaks to the postcolonial situation from various perspectives. The numerous rewritings of his most famous novella include Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958), which serves as a correction of what, in “An Image of Africa” (1977), the Nigerian author deemed racist and dehumanising representations in Conrad’s text. Said criticises Achebe in his chapter on “Two Visions in Heart of Darkness” for disregarding the aesthetics of Conrad’s novel; he argues that while the text is unable to offer a non-imperialist alternative, it nevertheless presents “a non-European world resisting imperialism” (1994, 35). Because the novella pinpoints imperialism, its contingencies, illusions, violence, rhetoric, and waste, the text enables to imagine something different, which indeed informs the visions of the postcolonial world that succeeded Conrad’s (28–30). For Said, Conrad “both criticiz[ed] and reproduce[ed] the imperial ideology of his time” (xxv). The first book-length study on the widespread and evolving ideologies of empire in nineteenth-century literature was Patrick Brantlinger’s influential Rule of Darkness (1988). Focussing on the 1850s as a turning point of representations, Brantlinger shows that “it was largely out of the liberal, reform-minded optimism of the early Victorians that the apparently more conservative, social Darwinian, jingoist imperialism of the late Victorians evolved” (1990, 27). Literature, most notably by ‘The Bard of the Empire’ Rudyard Kipling, lay at the heart of British imperial self-conception, and the colonies constituted the principal subject of attention as well as a crucial setting in novels by H. Rider Haggard, Robert Louis Stevenson,

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Arthur Conan Doyle, or Joseph Conrad. In contrast to these fictions of empire with their explicit references to global expansion and consequences of imperial politics, “most of the great nineteenth-century realistic novelists are less assertive about colonial rule and possessions” (Said 1994, 80). Although representations of national home seem to constitute a counterpoint to the patterns of writing about the greater empire beyond the British Isles, both spaces are joined together: “a domestic accompaniment to the imperial project for presence and control abroad, and a practical narrative about expanding [. . .] that must be actively inhabited [. . .] before its discipline or limits can be accepted” (88). In that respect, early and mid-nineteenth century novels by Jane Austen or Charles Dickens also prepared the “consolidated vision” (95) of late Victorian fiction. Imperial and national spaces were usually constructed as representationally separate, with the colony subordinate to the metropolis. The territory abroad served the purposes of migration, fortune, adventure, or exile. Brantlinger claims that Australia was a particularly popular colonial backdrop for the “conversion motif” (1990, 110). Dickens, for example, uses the white settler colony as a convenient repository for eccentric characters seemingly unsuitable to be incorporated into English society. In Great Expectations (1860–1861), the convict Abel Magwitch is shipped off to the penal colony in order to provide orphaned Pip with an unexpected fortune. Due to its problematic socio-spatial background, Pip’s new wealth is, however, considered illegitimate, and consequently both criminal benefactor and colonial money are practically removed from the protagonist, making possible his own great expectations as a businessman in Egypt. Literary critic Saree Makdisi argues, therefore, that home and abroad were co-constitutive elements in the construction of imperial attitudes (2014, 133). The expansion of the empire and its shifting relations of imperial hegemony moreover influenced Victorian attitudes to race and manifested in the fictional creation of racially defined characters. While in Benjamin Disraeli’s Tancred (1847) and George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda (1876) the East is represented as the habitat of the ‘native’, Victorian novels are also rife with stereotypical representations of characters in the metropolitan centre. William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (1847–1848, ↗ 13 Thackeray, Vanity Fair) features nabob characters, Wilkie Collins’s Moonstone (1868, ↗ 20 Collins, The Moonstone) includes a group of Hindu Brahmins, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of the Four (1890) unleashes a ‘cannibal savage’ from the Andaman Islands. There are also racialised depictions that are more complex. The title hero of Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim (1900, ↗ 35 Kipling, Kim), for instance, is a white Irish boy who grew up on the streets of Delhi. While his hybrid identity permits him to move between the different ethnicities, castes, and religions on the Great Trunk Road, it also qualifies him for colonial service in the Great Game. In this context, literary criticism has been concerned both with the simplistic image of Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre and with the racial indeterminacy that is characteristic of Heathcliff’s dark, passionate, and wandering figure in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering


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Heights (1847, ↗ 11 Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights). Heathcliff appears to be of exotic mixed-Chinese and Indian parentage, but his origins remain a mystery as the character might just as well be an Irish Street Arab or an escaped African slave from the near trading port of Liverpool. Since the publication of Robert Knox’s The Races of Men in 1850, the notion of British superiority was more and more linked to industrial productivity and commerce. In this line, Charles Dickens’s journalistic essay “The Noble Savage” (1853) or Anthony Trollope’s travel writings on Australia and South Africa previsioned the extinction of the ‘indolent’ and ‘savage’ races. Furthermore, Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution were re-interpreted by Social Darwinism (↗ 1 Science and the Victorian Novel), which saw European control over the world legitimised by the white man’s natural supremacy over the ‘barbarous’ non-European. The ‘Dark Continent’ Africa was shown as populated by childlike, dark-skinned savages with superstitions as well as diabolical customs, such as human sacrifice and cannibalism, which justified further imperialist ventures (2009, 135). Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness ironically lays bare colonial atrocities as the report to the “International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs” by the ivory agent Kurtz, with its final call to “Exterminate all the brutes!” (2008, 155), vividly addresses the acts of barbarism committed by the trading company in the name of imperial commerce and Western civilisation. Reflecting most crucially the self-evident imperialist assumptions in a redefined Anglocentric world view of British superiority, Dickens’s realist novel Dombey and Son (1847–1848) begins with the businessman’s contemplations: The earth was made for Dombey and Son to trade in, and the sun and the moon were made to give them light. Rivers and seas were formed to float their ships; rainbows gave them promise of fair weather; stars and planets circled in their orbits, to preserve inviolate a system of which they were the centre. Common abbreviations took new meanings in his eyes, and had sole reference to them: AD had no concern with anno Domini, but stood for anno Dombei – and Son. (2002, 6)

The trading company in the metropolitan centre around which everything else revolves defines the era of its global domination; it epitomises the imperial attitude assuming global centrality and domination over land and people as Dombey’s birth right (Schmitt 2005, 4–5). The novel is critical of materialistic empire-building and the patriarchal attitudes in which the house participates; its domestic order/tyranny is intrinsically tied to the English order/oppression abroad (David 2002, 85–87). Yet, when the London house is in ruin, Dombey’s daughter Florence sets off to one of the new trading-ports in China with her husband; hence, the final happy ending legitimises the idea of the expansionist-commercial nature of imperialism. Makdisi detects a special “level of imperial intensity” (2014, 196) in Dickens’s last, unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870). While the text has been predominantly interpreted as based on

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rigid binary distinctions between Occident and Orient, Makdisi identifies a level of hybridisation which signals that Occidental superiority has never been a stable category (197–200). The critic ascribes this “Crisis of Occidentalism” (195) in the 1850s to a sense of a more and more integrated world, which anticipates the fear of Oriental contamination brought about by extensive imperial expansion in the second half of the century (216). In this respect, Dickens’s sensation novels, especially The Mystery of Edwin Drood, but also Great Expectations and Bleak House (1852–1853, ↗ 16 Dickens, Bleak House), draw attention to the problematic split between domestic fiction and imperial romances. Domestic and adventure novels as subordinate forms of the two dominant genres of the period, realist and sensation fiction (↗ 4 Genres and Poetology), incorporate the entwined counterpoints from the origin of novelistic writing: economy and travel, domestic and foreign, self and other. From the 1860s onwards, the sensation novel made the massive invasion of Victorian life by empire a sensational topic for the masses. Precursors of the sub-genre, such as Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s historical novel The Last Days of Pompeii (1834), the exotic narrative Zanoni (1842), and the science fiction novel The Coming Race (1871, ↗ 21 Bulwer-Lytton, The Coming Race), already showed a preoccupation with commercial excess and an engagement with the occult framed by imperial concerns. Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone (1868) is most thoroughly shaped by imperial history, harking back to the theft of a diamond from a Hindu temple by a corrupt British army officer during the siege of Seringapatam in 1799. Connected to colonial violence, the stone, once it is brought to the metropolitan centre, infiltrates a Yorkshire country house and seems to put a curse on everyone who comes into contact with it (David 2002, 94). The novel, thus, blends the domestic plot and Gothic elements with an adventure story. Non-fiction quests, such as the explorer narratives by David Livingstone or Henry Morton Stanley, further spurred the sensationalist lust for stories of adventure, and English fiction became obsessed with colonial travel. This encompassed stories that pay tribute to Defoe’s original Robinsonade, e.g. R. M. Ballantyne’s The Coral Island (1858) or Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1881–1882), and a whole new array of adventure tales with overseas settings and domestic implications. Imperialist adventure narratives for young adults range from seafaring writing like Frederick Marryat’s midshipman stories to historical romances by Charles Kingsley and G. A. Henty’s military fiction as well as later works by Henry Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, and Joseph Conrad. Enlisting the empire as a place of maturation where men could prove their masculinity, these stories, which were often serialised in Boy’s Own Paper, also prepared British youth for their later work in the imperial service (↗ 6 Victorian Gender Relations). The established patterns of quest and treasure hunt as well as hazardous adventure and exploration in an imperial setting not only underpinned a “fantasy of omnipotence” (Brantlinger 2009, 127), but also supported notions of national supremacy and white male superiority. Conrad’s fictions from Almayer’s Folly (1895) onwards revision this imperial


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male heroism. As Paul Goetsch shows in his analysis of the ‘one of us’ leitmotif in Lord Jim (1900, ↗ 34 Conrad, Lord Jim), the protagonist, who joins the merchant marine as he longs for adventure and heroism, fails to live up to both the moral code of the seaman profession and the Englishman’s alleged superior humanity in the colonial project (2010, 75, 79). As such, Conrad’s novellas can be regarded as antiromances; they undermine the savage/civilised distinction, address colonial prejudices and ideological hypocrisy, or subvert established myths about imperialism. With its regressive character Kurtz and its various allusions to the demonic, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, according to Brantlinger, is a “masterpiece of imperial Gothic fiction” (2009, 146). Brantlinger defines this sub-genre as a blend of adventure story with elements of the occult that registers anxieties about Britain’s waning imperial hegemony towards the end of the nineteenth century (1990, 227). Anticipated by the Gothic romances Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the novels of the 1880s and 1890s are preoccupied with primitivism, atavism, degeneration, fetishism, the superhuman, the double, crude scientific experimentation, mutation, sexual perversion, insanity, criminality, the labyrinthine city, and the uncharted regions of the world (106). Examining texts like H. Rider Haggard’s She (1886–1887) or Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890, ↗ 26 Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray), Brantlinger identifies three principal themes: the diminution of opportunities for heroism, individual regression, and invasion-scare (227–253). Finde-siècle literature links degeneration with the fear of “reverse colonization” (Arata 1990), the idea that the ‘heart’ of the British Empire might become ‘contaminated’ by the ‘virus’ of paganism. This is exemplified by Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1895, ↗ 32 Stoker, Dracula) and its racially indeterminate vampire from an exoticised Eastern European region whose ‘bad blood’ infests the metropolitan centre. Such invasion narratives, according to Brantlinger, “express the narrowing vistas of the British Empire at the time of its greatest extent, in the moment before its fall” (1990, 253). Pushed on by Cesare Lombroso’s, Edwin Ray Lankester’s, and Max Nordau’s publications on degeneration, which conjured up the vision of a ‘Dusk of the Nations’, anxieties at the end of the Victorian era turn to visions of an apocalyptic end. Scientific romances from the 1890s, particularly H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine (1895, ↗ 31 Wells, The Time Machine), The War of the Worlds (1897), and The First Men in the Moon (1900–1901), then employ communication technologies as new forms of imagining and criticising imperialism.

2 Capitalism, Economic Criticism, and the Economy in Literature The origins of today’s globalisation with its communication networks and international workings of capital are generally traced back to world-wide connections of

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trade, communication, and migration during the nineteenth century. For the historian John Darwin, “[t]he union of commercial and imperial muscle was the foundation of the British world-system” (2009, 141). Colonial conquest along with the control over and exploitation of other people’s land and goods makes apparent the connection between the economy and imperialism. Ania Loomba defines European colonialism as “a restructuring of non-capitalist economies in order to fuel European capitalism” (2004, 20). In their controversial article “Imperialism of Free Trade,” Jack Gallagher and Ronald Robinson have argued that the economic imbalance produced during imperialism was necessary for the growth of European capitalism and industry (1953, 12–13). They have also lastingly reformulated the relation of metropolitan centre and the colonial periphery in that they defined the imperial expansion of the 1880s as a consequence of a longer “informal empire” (1) based on principles of free trade. This theory notably influenced Peter J. Cain and Anthony G. Hopkins, who stress that British imperialism was driven by the financial system of the City of London largely supported by a new elite of ‘gentlemanly capitalists’ who had gained power at home by means of commercial penetration and political influence in the colonised regions (1993, 52–58). Rather than being caused by geopolitical influences, imperial expansion is predominantly interpreted as one of commercial and financial forces. This economic understanding of imperialism has been important to grasp other forms of oppression, such as racial subjugation or class struggles, which influenced material existences. The historiography of nineteenth-century Britain has been much informed by this economic-imperial reading. Historians have traced the complex relations between the empire, modernisation of manufacture, technological innovation, trade, finance as well as consumerism, all of which underpinned Britain’s industrial and commercial transformation. For example, Eric Hobsbawm’s important trilogy on the history of the ‘long nineteenth century’ moves from industrialisation in The Age of Revolution, 1789–1848 (1968) and issues of the capitalist economy in The Age of Capital, 1848–1875 (1975) to The Age of Empire, 1875–1914 (1987). Considering the expansion of the empire, the consolidation of the British nation, its building of maritime hegemony, and the dissolution of trade monopolies in the early nineteenth century, we can date the formation of a liberal free trade ideology as the dominant commercial and economic policy of the Victorian period to the late 1820s (Sedlmayr 2017, 43). During the 1830s, the permanent transformations of society induced by the progressing industrial revolution were increasingly registered. For Karl Polanyi, 1834 marks the advent of industrial capitalism because the Great Reform Bill and the New Poor Law opened the market society as a socio-economic system in the full sense of the term (Makdisi 2014, 18–19). As a response to economic and social changes wrought by industrial capital, Chartism developed into the largest political movement. Campaigning for improvements in working-class conditions, it was devoted to a six-point charter


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including universal male suffrage, secret ballot, and the abolition of property qualification for MPs. Chartist petitions and violent demonstrations in 1839, 1842, and 1848 also drove on the ‘Factory Question’. The multiple Factory and Mines Acts between 1833 and 1900 initiated controls and restrictions on the new workplaces, particularly concerning child labour and working hours. Overall better living conditions had led to a population growth from ten million in 1801 to nearly twenty-one million in 1851. Britain moreover transformed from a rural into an urban society with eighty per cent of the population living in cities by the end of the century. Asa Briggs notes in Victorian Cities (1968) that life in new industrial towns such as Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, and Birmingham dominated the experience of most of the population by the mid–nineteenth century. The Victorian city was a site of contrast and more often than not a spectacle was made of the desperate experiences in the London slums, which became particularly palpable with the Long Depression between 1873 and 1896. The beginning of the century’s economic boom in 1843 coincided with the height of the Anti-Corn Law movement, an agitation against trade barriers that had been initiated by the petition of London and Manchester merchants. The repeal of these protectionist laws in 1846 is often seen as having inaugurated a new phase of free trade. Inspired by the political economy of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, and Thomas Malthus, free trade was variously promoted as a solution to population growth, unemployment, and food shortages. However, free trade was much more than laissez-faire economics; it was a whole mid-century philosophy of utility, enterprise, individualism, and self-reliance, which found expression in publications such as Samuel Smiles’s Self-Help (1859) and John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty (1859) or Utilitarianism (1863). In Principles of Political Economy (1848), Mill states that free trade will not only lead to more equal distribution but also enable humanity to progress ethically and politically. In this regard, another central ideological notion of the free-trade principle was adopted from Smith’s doux-commerce thesis, namely that military, moral, and economic superiority will secure a global Pax Britannica. A point of crystallisation for these free-trade ideas and a showcase for Britain as the ‘workshop of the world’ was the Great Exhibition in 1851. It epitomised the global nature of Britain’s politics and brought to the fore the country’s centrality in world economics. During the period of New Imperialism, levels of trade and consumption changed considerably alongside enforced conquest and annexation. The historian Frank Trentmann points out that, while the world with an advancing integration of consumption, production, and labour became commercially more open, the new system of “Dispossession and Repossession” also fostered a “great divergence” between East and West (2014, 122). Despite the growth of the colonies, their share in the metropolitan market fell and they became increasingly dependent on the centre, which consolidated colonial power. Writing in the aftermath of the European Scramble for Africa, John A. Hobson returned as a correspondent during the Boer War and launched an attack on empire and capitalism with his book Imperialism (1902) by linking the aggression

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abroad to an underconsumption at home. In Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1917), Wladimir Iljitsch Lenin developed Hobson’s ideas based on Marxist economic criticism, arguing that the growth of finance-capitalism and industry in Western countries was founded on profits generated from colonialism. From today’s point of view, economic criticism during the nineteenth century is mainly associated with the work of Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. In 1845, Engels, a German textile entrepreneur, published The Condition of the Working Class in England, in which he recorded his experiences in Manchester. He mapped the social consequences of industrialisation in the socio-spatial separation of the classes and their divergent living conditions. Based on these empirical findings, Marx, who moved to London in 1849, elaborated his economic theories in Capital (1867). He emphasises that as capitalism advances, money and commodities increasingly stand in and are mistaken for human values. Around 1871, economic theory shifted the focus from the socio-economic and macroeconomic perspectives of production to subjective consumption demands and the psychology of the consumer. Former theories were thus displaced by analyses of consumer patterns and taste. In 1899, the American sociologist and economist Thorstein Veblen conceptualised ‘conspicuous consumption’ as the display of socio-economic power, which has since become a central category in understanding forms of selffashioning or social distinction via commodities. Two founding texts of cultural studies in the twentieth century, Raymond Williams’s Culture and Society (1958) and Edward P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class (1963), proceed from Marxist theories in analysing class and cultures of consumption. Also, they explicitly deal with nineteenth-century texts and have been instrumental in the revivification of Victorian studies. From a postcolonial perspective, Ania Loomba asks for new interdisciplinary work on the period by connecting material realities to colonialism or economics to literature (2004, xvii; 24). In the late 1990s, a ground-breaking cross-disciplinary field that specifically investigated the contact points of literature and economics emerged with Martha Woodmansee and Mark Osteen’s The New Economic Criticism (1999), which strives to pay attention to the wider economic, social, and political contexts of literature. A specific form of economic criticism comprising cultural, postcolonial, and literary studies arose in the early twenty-first century that “explores the interrelations between literature, culture, and the economy, as well as those between literary studies, cultural studies, and economics” (Grünkemeier, Pleßke, and Rostek 2018, 117). In the study of Victorian literature, one can analyse the representations of the economy and its constitutive elements, investigate the economic framework that shaped the literary marketplace, and explore central concepts in texts related to the economy. Victorian novels, particularly of the Condition-of-England, social problem, industrial, and city genre, thus are central for assessing the economic imagination of the period. The new economic system on which industrialisation was founded


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radically changed the social structure; most notably, the transformation of Britain into a market society was accompanied by the development of a tripartite class structure. In mid-century fiction, various images of the emerging working classes can be found alongside culturally dominating middle-class perspectives. Underpinning Victorian bourgeois ethics, a persistent theme deals with upward social mobility on the grounds of self-determination paired with initiative, self-discipline, and morality (Adams 2005, 52–54). Depictions of social aspiration often focus on the private life and the expression of social status and character. In this way, the novelistic view of socio-economic relations extends far beyond those of contemporary political economists (Gagnier 2002, 57). Referring to the division of society and the poverty of the working classes, Thomas Carlyle, in Chartism (1839), coined the term ‘Condition of England question’. The Condition-of-England novel was to turn into a significant sub-genre of nineteenthcentury fiction with Benjamin Disraeli’s Sybil (1845, ↗ 8 Disraeli, Sybil, or The Two Nations). Subtitled “The Two Nations”, the novel details the Chartist agitation and exemplifies the class conflict in Britain by showing the widening gap between the rich and the poor and between rural and urban labourers. The book was also the first to make popular the new genre of industrial fiction. Bound to the Chartist movement and industrial unrest, many other novels between the 1830s and 1850s, such as Dickens’s Hard Times (1854), express middle-class anxieties about possible insurrections instigated by violent agitators who utilise working-class discontent. More often though, novels on the ‘Factory Question’ show sympathy with ‘factory slaves’ and stress the horrors of work, the exploitation of women and children, or problems of unemployment and poverty. Similar to Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s The Factory Girl (1863) or Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley (1849), Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel Mary Barton (1848, ↗ 14 Gaskell, Mary Barton) reconciles the desperate workman and the aggrieved manufacturer on the base of humanity, despite their clash in economic interests. Gaskells’ Mary Barton and North and South (1855) also exemplify the generic shift to the social problem novel, which intended to teach middle-class readers about the socio-economic disenfranchisement of the working classes by including stories concerning material hardships, domestic lives, and urban existences. By the 1850s, the focus slightly changed from inter-class struggles to the growing inequalities created by the developing urban environment. Gaskell’s Mary Barton was already subtitled A Tale of Manchester Life and the dirty manufacturing town of Milton in North and South is the only thinly disguised Cottonpolis. The most iconic description of a nineteenth-century city, which conflates the industrial with an imperial imagery, is that of Coketown in Dickens’s Hard Times: It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but as matters stood it was a town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage. It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents

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of smoke trailed themselves [. . .]. It had a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with illsmelling dye, and a vast pile of building [. . .] where the piston of the steam-engine worked monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness. (2000, 18)

Dickens’s infatuation with life in the ‘urban jungle’ had started with the Pickwick Papers (1836– 1837) and Oliver Twist (1837–1839), in which, besides the social problems of the New Poor Law, he explored the horrors of dire sanitation, crime, and overcrowding in London. Mapping the material transformations of the urban socioscape, his imaginary cityscapes, for instance in Bleak House, also provided a novel language for the description and the understanding of the newly emerging phenomenon of the metropolis (Pleßke 2014, 11–12). Towards the end of the century, accounts from urban slums, particularly in London’s East End, became informed by the anthropological representation of the poor in proto-sociological studies like Charles Booth’s Life and Labour of the People of London (1889–1903) and journalistic accounts, for example, George Sim’s How the Poor Live (1883). The novels that emerged in the 1880s, such as George Gissing’s The Nether World (1889) or Arthur Morrison’s A Child of the Jago (1896), consequently mixed the detached descriptions of naturalist writing with humanitarian sympathy and sensationalist images of degradation. Moreover, via publications like William Booth’s In Darkest England and the Way Out (1890), race became increasingly plotted onto class in fiction linking the ‘black savage’ from central Africa with the ‘irrational’, ‘superstitious’, ‘lazy’, ‘criminal’, ‘sexual’, ‘violent’, ‘childlike’ slum dweller of the East End. This unknown region of the city was drafted as a place where the Orient began. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness suggests that London, as the metropolitan centre, was, however, also home to another form of ‘evil’, namely that of capital finance residing in the City. The majority of the world’s trade in all commercial and financial operations passed through the “commercial republic” (Darwin 2009, 112), thus turning the City of London into a cluster of markets and exchanges, banks and deposits, accountancies and insurance companies. Mirroring the beginning of Dombey and Son, the original title of Dickens’s novel, Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son: Wholesale, Retail and for Exportation, not only conflates trade with British imperialism but also intertwines business transactions with personal relations. From Dombey to the speculators and hypocritical nouveau riches that overrun the city in Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend (1864–1865), the capitalist enterprise is connected to social and moral demise. Simultaneously hollow and villainous as well as rich and fascinating, the financier Augustus Melmotte in Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now (1875) represents “the pure form of the power of credit to transform human lives” (Gagnier 2002, 49) as he determines the fates of others by the stock’s spectacular rise and fall. James Adams stresses that Trollope’s and Dickens’s novels envision the social mobility of resourceful performers “whose


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careers remind us that the term ‘credit’ (from Latin credere, to believe) links financial commitment to a more encompassing faith in appearances” (2005, 58). There are many such narratives of financial scandal and bankruptcies in the Victorian novel, which emphasises the ongoing transformation of the self and its social relations with the nineteenth-century financial revolution. The new financial system from the 1860s onwards enabled transactions and speculation without economic and moral constraints and consequently pitted men against one another in a new form of excessive competition. Against this background, Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend projects a crisis of masculinity and can thus be read as an attempt to put a nostalgic representation of femininity and domesticity against the threat posed by new economic forces. In Uneven Developments (1988) and Making a Social Body (1994), Mary Poovey shows that also new economic perspectives on gender and sexuality were created as speculation and credit took over older versions of patriarchy (↗ 6 Victorian Gender Relations). Several Victorian novels cast women as goods in the marketplace. Characters like Becky Sharp, Lady Audley, Jane Eyre, Lucy Snowe, Clare Kirkpatrick, Lucy Morris, or Agnes Grey, for example, demonstrate how the governess trade exploits the intellectual property of women. During the Victorian period, until a change of law in 1870, married women counted as legal property of their husbands. Jane Eyre’s pearl earrings for the wedding with Rochester and Margaret Hale’s hands that turn to ivory under the gaze of Thornton emphasise the concomitant ornamentation and objectification in the context of their legitimate maternal empire of home-making. In contrast, Anthony Trollope’s The Eustace Diamonds (1873) investigates women’s potential to capitalise on the material level from the commodification of female identity and sexuality by reinventing and reinscribing the feminine conceived in and through commodity culture (Lindner 2003, 65). On the Victorian marriage-market, Lizzy Sharp becomes depersonalised like the material decoration of the jewellery she wears. However, she uses the economic value of the stones as an agent for constructing a public identity (75–76), only that this transgression against the patriarchal order eventually turns her into a “damaged good” (86). This example emphasises that the commodification of women and women as consumers strongly ties in with thing culture of the nineteenth century and its representations of material culture in fiction.

3 Material Culture, Thing Theory, and Literary Commodities Victorians were obsessed with objects. After his studies on Victorian People (1955) and Victorian Cities (1963), cultural historian Asa Briggs was the first to contemplate this penchant for materiality in Victorian Things (1988). For Briggs, the “Victorian ‘universe of things’” (1990, 34) was influenced by the growing international trade

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and the revolution in communication but especially by the development of consumer culture. Thomas Richards connects the material to nineteenth-century visual culture and stresses how commodity culture emerged as a focal point for cultural representations (1990, 7–8). Owing to the scientific, technological, agricultural, political, economic, and legislative developments of the industrial revolution, the influences of capitalism on everyday life generated “a culture organized around the production and exchange of material goods” (Lindner 2003, 3). In the mid-nineteenth century, consumerism intensified across the English-speaking world so that the different forms of social life – economic, political, cultural, psychological, and literary – became more and more grouped around the new coordinating frame of the commodity (Richards 1990, 14). Conceptual constructions of the consumer that arose in the period thus engrained Victorian attitudes towards materiality, market, and money as well as class, gender, and empire (Rappaport 2008, 291). Categories of curiosity, luxury, or mass product, for instance, relate to constructions of class-specific tastes that, in turn, tie in with the establishment of the middle class as the ideal consumer. Moreover, a critique of consumption in early nineteenth-century discourses of abolitionism concerning two central commodities (tea and sugar) that were relevant for the formation of English national identity anticipates the feminisation of the consumer towards the fin de siècle. Erika Rappaport’s Shopping for Pleasure (2001) deals with women and their commodification in urban marketplaces, suggesting a strong gendering of the consumer in both private and public spheres. It was the increasingly open and global trading system after 1850 that transformed the imperial architecture of consumption (Trentmann 2016, 162). On the one hand, Britain generated industrialised mass products for export to an ever-expanding empire; on the other hand, the larger colonial market secured Britain’s imports of resources and valuable luxuries. During the Age of New Imperialism, jingoism constituted a further vital prop for the new mass consumer culture as material hierarchies between Britain and the colonised world were constructed via “commodity racism [which] converted the narrative of imperial progress into mass-produced consumer spectacles” (McClintock 1995, 33). The “Empire of Things” (Trentmann 2016) of the Victorian period particularly shows how various forms of representation aided in the appropriation, domestication, and authentication of foreign things as more goods with colonial origins entered the domestic mass market, carved their way into British homes, and gave rise to new material practices. With good reason, the ‘material turn’ of the last decades has once more underlined the integral importance of objects in the construction of societies. Arjun Appadurai’s paradigmatic introduction in The Social Life of Things (1986) calls for the reading of objects in “their forms, their uses, their trajectories” (5). Thus, by focussing on changes of meaning in the lifecycles of things according to the social context, it reconfigures material culture as a rich category for cultural analysis. The semiotic emphasis on the material has also re-inspired views on the materiality of


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and the materialistic in literature, from the literary marketplace to ecphrasis. Bill Brown’s seminal work A Sense of Things (2003) adopted cultural materialist and new historicist approaches to the objects of Victorian literature. His ‘thing theory’ stresses that paying close attention to material culture in literature allows us to see “how we use objects to make meaning, to make or re-make ourselves, to organize our anxieties and affections, to sublimate our fears and shape our fantasies” (Brown 2003, 4). Illustrating the complex and manifold interrelations between people and objects in the Victorian period, Briggs draws extensively from novels as they “do not simply illustrate or decorate: they compel attention through their insights, and they frequently point to explanations. Many of them are thick with things” (1990, 18–19). Cynthia Wall argues that the development of the novel played a pivotal role in the representation and construction of material culture (2006, 158). She identifies a change between the eighteenth and nineteenth century as descriptions of objects became more minute and absorbed the ornamental into the contextual of the “upholstered Victorian novel” (2). Elaine Freedgood elaborates on the profusion of things in nineteenth-century literature: “The Victorian novel describes, catalogs, quantifies, and in general showers us with things: post chaises, handkerchiefs, moonstones, wills, riding crops, ships’ instruments of all kinds, dresses of muslin, merino, and silk, coffee, claret, cutlets – cavalcades of objects [. . .]” (2010, 1). For her, mid-Victorian realist novels, such as Jane Eyre, Vanity Fair, North and South, and The Way We Live Now call to attention the centrality of non-symbolic objects (4). Things in fiction nevertheless have far-reaching metonymic functions relating to the social condition and labour, commercialisation and capitalism, as well as the impact of commodities and consumer culture. Christoph Lindner considers commodity culture in Victorian social novels and assesses how the representation of industrialism, consumption as well as materialism “accommodates and responds to the commodity’s colonization of the social imagination and its desires” (2003, 1). He takes his cue from Andrew Miller’s Novels Behind Glass (1995), which aligns literature with nineteenth-century spectacles and outlines how ambivalent attitudes and sensuous fantasies of consumer culture translated into cultural discourses. For example, Suzanne Daly’s study on Indian commodities in Victorian domestic novels shows how, on the one hand, the colonial objects are key for mediating the very idea of imperialism, and, on the other hand, how fiction helped in the domestication of these very things as intricate parts of middle-class Englishness (2014, 6–7). Alongside Daly’s The Empire Inside (2011), Elaine Freedgood’s The Ideas in Things (2006), Julie Fromer’s A Necessary Luxury (2008), and John Plotz’s Portable Property (2008) are crucial for an understanding of the complex social histories as well as symbolic values of imperial objects. Jonathan Shears and Jen Harrison’s collection Literary Bric-à-Brac and the Victorians (2013) further emphasises the reification of the literary through the material, which centralises the importance of objects in their various narrative constructions. By contrast, Daniel Hack’s The Material Interests of the Victorian Novel (2005) looks at

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writers’ engagement with the materiality of the text, such as in discourses of physical format, textuality of the world, and the literary marketplace. According to Briggs, of all Victorian fiction preoccupied with commodity culture and the signifying power of material objects, particularly Dickens’s novels constitute a “necessary reading for the historian of things” (1990, 19). Whereas Richards argues that in Dickens’s novels “furniture, textiles, watches, handkerchiefs seem to live and breathe” (1990, 2), for Lindner The Old Curiosity Shop (1840–1841) presents a “cemetery for discarded material objects” (2003, 94). This setting for dead clutter is dislocated from the modern consumer world and deliberately defies consumer logics. It anticipates the critique of a hedonistic consumer society in Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy (1869), which again had its forerunner in the popular sub-genre of silver fork fiction of the 1820s to 1840s. For instance, Benjamin Disraeli’s Vivian Grey (1826) and Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Pelham (1828) are concerned with gentlemanly characters whose property, tastes, and consumption habits provide models for the improved bourgeois man. These texts thereby integrate middle-class characters and ideals into early-nineteenth-century politics of aristocratic reform (Gagnier 2002, 61), even as the genre has been best remembered for its parodies, particularly the minute details of clothing in Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus (1833–1834, ↗ 8 Carlyle, Sartor Resartus) or the class snobbery in William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. Andrew Miller reads the profusion of goods and their carnivalesque consumption in Thackeray’s novel as underlining the reduction of Victorian social and moral order to one of a “warehouse of goods and commodities” (1995, 6), pointing to the ambivalences generated by commodity culture. The fair as marketplace and spectacle emphasises the performative aspects of commodity culture (Lindner 2003, 46–49); the display of exchanging and consuming goods serves as a matrix for human relations, i.e. personal agency, social order, or identity (10, 20). Colonial commodities on display in domestic settings bring to attention that realist novels and, with them, the whole of Victorian material culture, are not only embedded in histories and narratives of production and commodification, but also in a colonial framework of material exploitation. Erika Rappaport stresses that “imperialism is consumption, ingestion, decoration” (2008, 289). The mahogany furniture in Jane Eyre, calico curtains in Mary Barton, and tobacco in Great Expectations analysed by Elaine Freedgood underline the material domestic impact of imperial conquest. On the most British of all consumer goods, Daly comments: “It is possible that tea is at least mentioned in every canonical mid-Victorian novel” (2014, 84). Famously, we encounter the luxury-cum-mass consumer good in “A Mad Tea-Party” of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865, ↗ 20 Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland). Before, Elizabeth Gaskell variously employs the commodity for characterisation. In Cranford (1851–1853), there is a female tea-trader whose femininity defies any forms of adulteration of valued beverage, while the chapter “Manchester Tea Party” in Mary Barton encourages sympathetic connection with the lower-class characters despite their distance in class, manner, and habit (Fromer 2008, 120). Julie


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Fromer argues that “[w]ithin North and South the image of the tea table functions as a crystallization of English national identity and the various social classes that make up that national sense of self” (129). Initially, the tea table presents a microcosm of the larger class struggle and a mediating power to forge connections between different social strata of Great Britain (117–119). Throughout the novel, there are various instances of tea-drinking in Helstone, London, and Milton embedded in social gatherings reaffirming the female characters’ social status. As a close reading of the tea table in chapter ten reveals, goods with imperial origins, such as tea, muslin, chintz, china, ivory, gold, cocoa, sugar, or mahogany, become ornaments of comfortable middle-class English domesticity (Gaskell 2008, 79). This actually invites readers to reconsider the relationship between material and imperial culture, the domestic and the foreign, as well as the aforementioned distinctions between the social realist novel and exotic romances (↗ 4 Genres and Poetology). Interestingly, Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure tales set in the South Seas, which blur genre boundaries of romances, realist stories, and anthropological studies, suggest a similar ambiguity of material culture (↗ 5 The Art of Novel Writing): “The exchange of material goods between members of different societies was the central mechanism governing virtually all aspects of the Pacific life Stevenson recorded in his writings” (Jolly 2010, 121). Lately, his stories have been read as undermining the Arcadian image of the region. For instance, the map in Treasure Island (1883) as a key-object for imperial expansion is described as “The Black Spot” (Stevenson 2012, 57) and the “buried gold” (37) is tainted by its history of “previous terrors” (213) of imperial plunder. Thus, the buried hoard of riches on the tropical island promising pleasant luxuries for heroic endurance only causes nightmares and death (224). Likewise, in their allusion to the Arabian Nights and its wonderful objects, the curious tales from Stevenson’s Island Nights’ Entertainments (1893) merge realism and romance to expose the commercial ruthlessness and “the shabbiness of European civilization” (Buckton 2007, 65). “The Beach of Falesá” (1892) brings to attention the ambiguous character of curiosities, both of South Sea and Western production. The trader-colonialist, Case, is a “good forger of island curiosities” (Stevenson 2008, 54), which he sells to European travellers catering for their imagination and hunger for the fake ‘primitive curios’. Case’s treasure cave is a colonial factory which has a double purpose, namely to “season his curiosities” (54) and to control the island-trading monopoly of coconut meat. During his travels in the South Seas, Stevenson actually contemplated buying his own copra trading schooner, but settled in Samoa instead, where he became strongly involved in colonial politics. While Stevenson spent the last six years of his life in Oceania, Joseph Conrad worked sixteen years for the British merchant navy before he became a writer. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, similar to The Beach of Falesá’s scathing critique of economic imperialism, subtly lays bare the futilities of colonialism, with the overarching motif of “the merry dance of death and trade” (2008, 115). The object-world

7 Empire – Economy – Materiality


in his novella hightlights the colonial machinery of death, with European and North American industrial products like rifles or war ships that end up in the “graveyard of things,” but it also finds expression in the instrumentalisation and final dehumanisation of enslaved natives in the “grove of death” (116–121). This violent exploitation and destruction of land and people analogises modern consumption to alleged African cannibalism (144–146). Material aspirations have turned into a mere “grubbing for ivory in the wretched bush” (147). England alone imported about 550 tons of ivory annually, which equals forty thousand dead elephants, mainly required for bibelots such as dominoes, toys, billard balls, combs, cutlery, and piano keys (Stevens 2002, 26–27). The piano that dominates the drawing-room of Kurtz’s fiancé in Europe is described as “a sombre and polished sarcophagus” (Conrad 2008, 183). The musical instrument which is played at the expense of slaughtered animals and enslaved peoples conjures up the motif of the dance of death (Stevens 2002, 27). Thus, as the wealth of the empire provided for many of the commodities of Western civilisation or Victorian bric-à-brac, the colonial horrors are a direct consequence of European ideals of leisure and beauty. According to Said, “Conrad’s realization is that [. . .] like narrative, imperialism has monopolized the entire system of representation” (1994, 29), and this also concerns the conspicuous consumption of colonial objects. At the turn of the century, especially in the works of early modernist writers, commodity culture bespeaks decline and degeneracy. Such fiction attests to the decadent effects of capitalism on social values and practices (Lindner 2003, 93). In this context, Lindner particularly refers to Conrad’s The Secret Agent (1907), in which objects become human subjects, while human subjects take on the characteristics of objects (108). Verloc’s shop is a corrupt version of the old curiosity shop in Dickens’s novel, which underlines how human subjects like their material counterparts have become damaged goods (93–95, 107–108). The domestic spaces have turned into a hostile and potentially lethal environment (122). The characterisation of the Professor as a human time-bomb underlines “commodity culture’s decay as incurable, its damage as irreparable, its corruption as irreversible, its stagnation as inevitable” (124). The bombing of Greenwich Observatory not only connects the modern construction of time with the mechanisation of a productive (domestic) society, but the prime meridian importantly facilitates the colonial project (112). All in all, the novel as aesthetic object is unthinkable without the link to imperialism. It was Britain’s wealth produced in domestic industry and overseas trade that proffered middle-class prosperity and enabled the growth of producing and consuming novels (Said 1994, 88–89). And just as much as Victorian writers register, thematise, and construct visions of Britain’s imperial venture, the evolution of capitalism with its concomitant changes in trade, the marketplace, commerce, and the influences of the new consumer culture, they implicitly or explicitly express attitudes to the commodification of their own literary products. Against the background of the industrial revolution and its technological innovations, the


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material conditions of print culture altered forms of publishing and distribution. Also, rising incomes and increasing literacy fuelled the dissemination of literary products on a newly developing global marketplace. This was aided by the emergence of a large urban market and especially via the establishment of lending libraries turning literature into an affordable good. Thus, with regard to production, distribution, and consumption of the novel, the literary form developed into a mass commodity itself. Norman Feltes locates Charles Dickens’s The Pickwick Papers (1836–1837) as the “take off” moment of the “commodity-text” (1986, 27). The rise of the periodical press during the nineteenth-century communication revolution was advanced by famous examples, such as Punch, The Illustrated London News, The Graphic, Household Words, and the Daily Mail. The Cornhill Magazine, a shilling monthly founded in January 1860 and initially edited by William Makepeace Thackeray, became the market leader of fiction-led magazines. Eliot, Gaskell, Thackeray, Trollope, Collins, Stevenson, Wilde, Doyle, and Conrad all serialised narratives in periodicals. The magazines were subsidised by advertisements, showcasing the various Victorian commodities (Richards 1990, 7–8). In this combination of serialised fiction, poetry, essays, advertisements, illustrations, and cartoons, the periodical underlines the novel’s connection to the larger media culture of the nineteenth century (↗ 2 Remediating NineteenthCentury Narrative). Beyond constituting a lucrative way of publication, Anthony Trollope, who produced up to three triple-deckers per year, in his Autobiography (1883) laid open the mechanical and utilitarian attitude in writing for serialisation. These processes necessarily affected the literary form. Thus, the Victorian novel with its idiosyncratic materiality must be seen as part of an increasingly commercial publishing industry. Consequently, we need to be aware that the emergence of the novel as dominant genre was embedded in a wide range of material implications during the nineteenth century. Regarding the context of imperialism, fiction played a pivotal role in English education throughout the British Empire and was crucial for constructing metropolitan authority. Similar to the reading strategies of postcolonialism, new approaches in economic criticism and material culture studies not only allow us to revisit canonical texts of the Victorian period, but also to reassess twentieth- and twenty-first-century novels in the light of their generic predecessors, for example with regard to neo-imperial, economic, or material phenomena of post-Fordism.

Bibliography Works Cited Adams, James E. “‘The Boundaries of Social Intercourse’: Class in the Victorian Novel.” A Concise Companion to the Victorian Novel. Ed. Francis O’Gorman. Malden: Blackwell, 2005. 47–70.

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Arata, Stephen D. “The Occidental Tourist. Dracula and the Fear of Reverse Colonization.” Victorian Studies 33.4 (1990): 623–640. Boehmer, Elleke. “Introduction.” Empire Writing: An Anthology of Colonial Literature 1870–1918. Ed. Elleke Boehmer. Oxford: OUP, 2009. xv–xxxvi. Brantlinger, Patrick. Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830–1914. 1988. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1990. Brantlinger, Patrick. Victorian Literature and Postcolonial Studies. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2009. Briggs, Asa. Victorian Things. 1988. London: Penguin Books, 1990. Brown, Bill. A Sense of Things: The Object Matter of American Literature. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2003. Buckton, Oliver S. Cruising with Robert Louis Stevenson: Travel, Narrative, and the Colonial Body. Athens: Ohio UP, 2007. Cain, P. J., and A. G. Hopkins. British Imperialism: Innovation and Expansion, 1688–1914. London: Longman, 1993. Conrad, Joseph. “Heart of Darkness.” 1899. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. Ed. Cedric Watts. Oxford: OUP, 2008. 101–187. Daly, Suzanne. The Empire Inside: Indian Commodities in Victorian Domestic Novels. 2011. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2014. Darwin, John. The Empire Project: The Rise and Fall of the British World-System, 1830–1970. Cambridge: CUP, 2009. David, Deirdre. “Empire, Race, and the Victorian Novel.” A Companion to the Victorian Novel. Ed. Patrick Brantlinger and William B. Thesing. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002. 84–100. Dickens, Charles. Dombey and Son. 1846–1848. Ware: Wordsworth, 2002. Dickens, Charles. Hard Times. 1854. Ware: Wordsworth, 2000. Feltes, Norman N. Modes of Production of Victorian Novels. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1986. Freedgood, Elaine. The Ideas in Things: Fugitive Meaning in the Victorian Novel. 2006. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2010. Fromer, Julie E. A Necessary Luxury: Tea in Victorian England. Athens: Ohio UP, 2008. Gagnier, Regenia. “Money, the Economy, and Social Class.” A Companion to the Victorian Novel. Ed. Patrick Brantlinger and William B. Thesing. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002. 48–66. Gallagher, John, and Ronald Robinson. “The Imperialism of Free Trade.” The Economic History Review 6.1 (1953): 1–15. Gaskell, Elizabeth. North and South. 1854–1855. Ed. Angus Easson. Oxford: OUP, 2008. Goetsch, Paul. “‘One of Us’: Meanings and Functions of a Leitmotif in Conrad’s Lord Jim.” From Interculturalism to Transculturalism: Mediating Encounters in Cosmopolitan Contexts. Ed. Heinz Antor et al. Heidelberg: Winter, 2010. 67–84. Grünkemeier, Ellen, Nora Pleßke, and Joanna Rostek. “The Value of Economic Criticism Reconsidered: Approaching Literature and Culture through the Lens of Economics.” Anglistentag 2017 Regensburg: Proceedings. Ed. Anne-Julia Zwierlein et al. Trier: WVT, 2018. 117–126. Hobsbawm, Eric. The Age of Empire, 1875–1914. 1987. London: Abacus, 2013. Jolly, Roslyn. “Stevenson and the Pacific.” The Edinburgh Companion to Robert Louis Stevenson. Ed. Penny Fielding. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2010. 118–133. Lindner, Christoph. Fictions of Commodity Culture: From the Victorian to the Postmodern. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003. Loomba, Ania. Colonialism/Postcolonialism. London: Routledge, 2004. McClintock, Anne. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest. New York: Routledge, 1995.


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Makdisi, Saree. Making England Western: Occidentalism, Race, and Imperial Culture. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2014. Miller, Andrew H. Novels Behind Glass: Commodity Culture and Victorian Narrative. Cambridge: CUP, 1995. Pleßke, Nora. The Intelligible Metropolis: Urban Mentality in Contemporary London Novels. Bielefeld: Transcript, 2014. Rappaport, Erika. “Imperial Possessions, Cultural Histories, and the Material Turn. Response.” Victorian Studies 50.2 (2008): 289–296. Richards, Thomas. The Commodity Culture of Victorian England: Advertising and Spectacle, 1851–1914. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1990. Said, Edward W. Culture and Imperialism. 1993. London: Vintage, 1994. Schmitt, Cannon. “‘The sun and moon were made to give them light’: Empire in the Victorian Novel.” A Concise Companion to the Victorian Novel. Ed. Francis O’Gorman. Malden: Blackwell, 2005. 4–24. Sedlmayr, Gerold. “Political and Social History c. 1780–1832.” Handbook of British Romanticism. Ed. Ralf Haekel. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2017. 27–48. Spivak, Gayatri C. “Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism.” Critical Inquiry (1985): 243–261. Stevens, Ray. “Conrad, Slavery, and the African Ivory Trade in the 1890s ” Approaches to Teaching Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and the “Secret Sharer”. Ed. Hunt Hawkins and Brian W. Shaffer. New York: MLA, 2002. 22–30. Stevenson, Robert Louis. “The Beach of Falesá.” 1892. South Sea Tales. Ed. Roslyn Jolly. Oxford: OUP, 2008. 3–72. Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island. 1883. Ed. John Sutherland. Peterborough: Broadview, 2012. Trentmann, Frank. Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-first. London: Allen Lane, 2016. Wall, Cynthia Sundberg. The Prose of Things: Transformations of Description in the Eighteenth Century. 2006. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2014.

Further Reading Arata, Stephen. Fictions of Loss in the Fin de Siècle: Identity and Empire. Cambridge: CUP, 1996. Guy, Josephine M. The Victorian Social-Problem Novel: The Market, the Individual and Communal Life. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996. Meyer, Susan. Imperialism at Home: Race and Victorian Women’s Fiction. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1996. Nead, Lynda. Victorian Babylon: People, Streets and Images in Nineteenth-Century London. New Haven: Yale UP, 2000. Poovey, Mary. Genres of the Credit Economy: Mediating Value in Eighteenth and NineteenthCentury Britain. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2008. Porter, Andrew, ed. The Oxford History of the British Empire: Vol. III: The Nineteenth Century. 1999, Oxford: OUP, 2009. Thieme, John. Postcolonial Con-Texts: Writing Back to the Canon. London: Continuum, 2001.

Part II: Close Readings

Natalie Roxburgh and Felix Sprang

8 Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus (1833–1834) Abstract: This chapter sheds light on one of the most difficult thinkers and writers of the Victorian period: Thomas Carlyle. We scrutinise the political and philosophical dimension of Carlyle’s only work of prose fiction, the satirical novel Sartor Resartus, and we read the text as an adaptation of key concepts from German idealism and phenomenology. Carlyle’s criticism of political economy as it had evolved in nineteenth-century Britain facilitates our understanding of the novel, and we discuss the work’s formal aspects as well as its central imagery, the Philosophy of Clothes. We argue that Sartor Resartus is an experimental novel that challenges conventional plot-driven modes of narration and thus criticises a cause-and-effect mentality as well as a purpose-driven efficiency that is at the heart of Victorian culture. Instead, the novel urges readers to embrace transcendentalism as a means to accept the contingencies of life and to refute narrative mystifications of social realism that, with hindsight, always make sense of individual experiences and social changes through a utilitarian logic. It is our contention that Carlyle’s novel, through its form, imagery, and mode of narration, gestures towards a stance that escapes fatalism and thus empowers readers to embrace possible modes of political agency. Keywords: Carlyle, Sartor Resartus, experimental novel, idealism, phenomenology, political economy

1 Context: Author, Oeuvre, Moment Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881), essayist, satirist, novelist, and historian, alongside Matthew Arnold and John Ruskin arguably the primus inter pares of the “Victorian Sages” (Holloway 1953, 3), is perhaps best known for his crushing verdict of political economy as a “dreary, desolate, and indeed quite abject and distressing [science]; what we might call, by way of eminence, the dismal science” (Carlyle 1849, 672). With that view, he is arguably the most original Victorian voice criticising the very foundations on which Victorian society was built: progress, liberty, and expansion. Doing justice to the complexity of Carlyle’s views, we need to take into account that he was esteemed by many of his contemporaries despite his often caustic condemnation of what many of them believed in. Sometimes accused of racism or anti-democratic sentiments, Carlyle was – and remains – a controversial figure. His damning verdict of political economy in the 1849 essay “An Occasional Discourse on the Negro



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Question,” for example, was read as supporting slavery, but his conviction was in fact more fundamental. When Carlyle famously condemned “the dismal science,” he criticised an “economics [that] assumed that people were all the same, and were all entitled to liberty” (Peart and Levy 2003, 134) – a liberty he felt was misconceived as freedom and autonomy when it was no more than a market-driven assertion of selfdetermination and a notion of human well-being articulated solely through the new logic of utilitarianism. It is fair to say that Carlyle’s criticism of prevailing economic models rings more true today with financial crises looming large and societies showing signs of lapsing into post-democratic practice, for the reason that market authority seems to have trumped democratic governance (Crouch 2004, 6). Despite his controversial reception and sometimes problematic outlook, therefore, it perhaps now behoves readers to revisit Carlyle’s complicated oeuvre with contemporary contexts in mind, especially those texts having to do with the rise of liberalism. Carlyle’s multifaceted literary production transcends mere criticism of political economy and its social effects. Indeed, his biography and his publications speak to interests that stretch our very conception of politics and economy, as these categories are – through the mind of a complex thinker genuinely concerned about the wellbeing of humanity – also tied to thoughtprovoking notions about the eminence of art in society and the notion of hero worship. To contextualise Carlyle, and to find out why he was so well admired by many of his contemporaries, it is necessary to account for the roots of his despair. On the one hand, he experienced anguish in his personal life; on the other, he was concerned that, through a liberalism that sought to promote economic rationality at the expense of all else, society may very well have taken a wrong turn. As the eldest of nine children to Margaret Aitken (1771–1853), daughter of a bankrupt Dumfriesshire farmer, and James Carlyle (1757–1832), a stonemason, Carlyle was brought up under a rural Calvinist regime in Ecclefechan, Annandale, Dumfriesshire (Kaplan 2008). In this rural Presbyterian community, it was his mother who taught him how to read before he entered a private school in Ecclefechan, and, from the age of six, he began attending the Hoddam parish school. From an early age, Carlyle’s education was bent on a clerical profession. Due to his father’s resolve, and against his mother’s inclination, he was sent to Annan Academy, a school preparing him for university entrance. It was at Annan School that he discovered his interest in mathematics but also taught himself German, Italian, and Spanish. In 1809, he enrolled at the University of Edinburgh, and it was in the mathematics classes taught by Professor John Leslie that Carlyle was introduced to the idea that the universe was a system of natural forces. In 1813, Carlyle left Edinburgh University without a degree and signed up for classes at the Divinity Hall, but when he left Edinburgh in June 1814 to return to Dumfriesshire, he had neither a degree nor a vocation. He had, however, taken an interest in contributing to debates in newspapers, responding to mathematical queries with satirical fervour. With a letter of recommendation from Professor

8 Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus (1833–1834)


Leslie, he applied for the position of mathematics master at Annan Academy, and on the basis of his merit he was offered the job at £70 per annum (Kaplan 2008). Generally feeling ill-equipped for teaching, but most importantly resenting his return to the place of his miserable school days, Carlyle accepted the offer to relocate to Kirkcaldy and to teach “Latin, French, arithmetic, bookkeeping, geometry, navigation, geography, and mensuration, with some Greek occasionally” at the parish school (Kaplan 2008). After only a year, in November 1818, Carlyle resigned and returned to Edinburgh. There, a life-long ailment, a digestive disorder, developed as he resumed his self-study of German, torn between jubilant moments when finding that he was able to read Goethe and Fichte and moments of despair at the aimless course that his life had taken. It was in this period, arguably, that the character of Teufelsdröckh, the manic-depressive protagonist of his Sartor Resartus, first took shape. During his time as a teacher at Annan School, Carlyle had been introduced to Edward Irving, a native of Annan and a charismatic clergyman who was then master at Kirkcaldy Academy; in May 1821, through Irving, he met Jane Welsh (1801–1866). A complicated relationship between Welsh and Carlyle ensued, a relationship that Carlyle in his letters defined as a “Romantic Friendship” (Carlyle 1974b, 21). After handing in his resignation at Annan School and accepting the offer as private tutor to Charles and Arthur Buller in Edinburgh at a salary of £200 per annum (Cumming 2004, 43), Carlyle began to visit Jane Welsh regularly. On 17 October 1826, Jane and Thomas exchanged their marriage vows and moved to a modest house on Comely Bank in suburban Edinburgh. While their marriage lasted for nearly forty years, “fragile evidence suggests” that “puritanical inhibitions and romantic idealizations” (Kaplan 2008) were an obstacle they could not overcome, and their relationship remained complicated. In the meantime, Carlyle’s German studies had taken a productive course. He had written a short biographical sketch of Schiller in serial form for the London Magazine (October 1823 to September 1824), and his translation of Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795–1796) was published in 1824 with Oliver & Boyd and Whittaker. During summers spent in London, Carlyle now moved in literary circles where he met Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Henry Crabb Robinson, and Charles Lamb, among others. Carlyle’s experience in London shaped his perspective on society at large and on literary society in particular. In Coleridge he saw the epitome of the dependent artist full of self-pity, locked in a symbiosis in which “the fallen individual and the fallen society [. . .] create one another in their own image” (Kaplan 2008). As is so often the case, Carlyle’s contempt for the artist at home gave rise to his veneration for the artist overseas, and he penned an enthusiastic letter to Goethe in Weimar, presenting him with a copy of his translation. Six months into their marriage, Carlyle and Jane moved to Craigenputtoch, where Carlyle wrote short essays on Voltaire, Novalis, Burns, and Tasso for the Foreign Review as well as a longer piece titled “Signs of the Times” for the Edinburgh Review.


Natalie Roxburgh and Felix Sprang

In this essay, Carlyle identifies as the “overriding characteristic” of his age the “mechanical” nature, not only with respect to “machines [. . .] changing the nature of work and life” but more importantly with respect to the social fabric of society (Harris 1990, 442). In 1830, Carlyle began working on another essay that appeared in serial form in Fraser’s Magazine in the years 1833 and 1834 and which eventually, after many revisions, became a novel published as Sartor Resartus. Both “Signs of the Times” and the novel lament the effects of industrialisation: the increasingly mechanical outlook and the lack of spirituality that pervaded, in Carlyle’s view, every aspect of life in Britain. When Carlyle and Jane moved from Craigenputtoch to Edinburgh in 1833 and then to Chelsea, London, in 1834, Carlyle started on a book project about the French Revolution. His motivation for turning to history was no less radical than the enthusiasm that had governed his satirical prose: “For Carlyle, history had become the sanction of the seer and the prophet: it enabled him to address the realities of the present and future while discussing the ‘realities’ of the past” (Kaplan 2008). The manuscript for the three-volume book on the French Revolution, given to John Stuart Mill for comments, was mistaken for scrap paper and completely destroyed. Carlyle was distraught but sat down to begin anew and finished the manuscript in two years, preparing it to be published with James Fraser in March 1837. That year, at the suggestion of and with the support of friends in London, Carlyle also began lecturing on the history of German literature at rented halls, and “The Times and The Spectator reported favourably” (Kaplan 2008). In 1838, Sartor Resartus was published in book form in England; the American edition had been printed in 1836 with the support of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who had visited Carlyle in Craigenputtoch. Carlyle, whose ailments vanished during this period, now saw Jane’s health decline. Under these circumstances, he turned to lecturing again, this time on European literature. Complaining that the existing lending libraries did not provide critical reading material, he was involved in setting up a committee for a non-profit lending library in London. The London Library opened its doors at 57 Pall Mall in late 1840, and “[b]y the beginning of the year 1841 about five hundred subscribers were entered on the books” (Christie and Harrison 1907, 93). Carlyle’s involvement in the public library coincided with the publication of Chartism in 1839, in which he describes, in the opening paragraph, the demonstrations of the rebellious crowds in the streets of London as “agencyless acts” and redefines “Chartism’s orderly and seemingly legible demonstrations” as indicative of a “world filled with active objects and silenced human beings, a world where passive verbs and vague abstract nouns stand for the upper classes, while specific heavy and threatening machinery takes the place of the life of the lower-class mob” (Plotz 2000, 96). Carlyle’s criticism of the working class movement had to do with contemporary concerns that industrialisation combined with the expansion of voting rights could lead to factionalism, which ultimately might threaten the stability of civil society.

8 Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus (1833–1834)


Indeed, this general anxiety pervades most of his essays of the period, finding its expression in the sardonic Past and Present (1843) and the satirical Latter-Day Pamphlets (1850), published a year before the Great Exhibition in London, in which he attacks “the corrupt web of business, bureaucracy, aristocracy, and government” (Kaplan 2008). Carlyle, inspired particularly by Goethe, Fichte, and Schelling, condemned the “Pig Propositions” of his time, i.e., a Whig historiography that promoted the idea of a linear progress founded on materialism and technology (Carlyle 1850, 28). The pamphlets were not well received in literary circles: They were deemed to be too aggressive, lacking artistry, and resorting to crude expressions such as “Pig Philosophy” to attack the materialism that Carlyle saw all around him. Carlyle increasingly sought solace in “the concept of élite leadership” (Kaplan 2008), an idea hinged on the unity of political, military, and spiritual power, fully developed in his On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History (1841) and exemplified in the monumental study of Cromwell in The Life and Letters of Oliver Cromwell (1845). In 1846, Carlyle visited Ireland because he wanted to see with his own eyes what harm the English administration caused there. For Carlyle, “modern Ireland demonstrated the end point of the failings of contemporary society” (Morrow 2008, 644), and he wrote a series of short newspaper articles on the topic of Ireland, which were published in The Spectator and The Examiner. The mistreatment of the Irish by English landowners, sanctioned by the government in London, also triggered his “Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question,” which appeared in Fraser’s Magazine at the end of 1849. In the following year, Carlyle penned The Life of John Sterling (1851), a homage to the Scottish author who had introduced him into London’s literary circles in the 1820s and whose papers were given to Thomas Carlyle and Julius Charles Hare after Sterling’s death. Carlyle pitted Sterling’s rational radicalism against a Romantic idealism, and an unsigned Times review picked up the implicit criticism: Compare this biography with that of some illustrious men recently published; compare it with the miserable trash called a Life of Wordsworth; with the rambling patchwork of incompetence the Life of Southey; with the Life of Coleridge, which might have been so high and tragic a picture of wasted life and baffled speculation; with the Life of Shelley, which ought to have been intensely interesting [. . .]. (qtd. in Fielding 1999, 309)

Visiting Germany for the first time in the summer of 1852, Carlyle began working on his History of Friedrich II. of Prussia, Called Frederick the Great (1858–1865), which was praised in the 1916 Oxford edition with the words: “At its most characteristic pitch this poetical history is a mystic vision” (Hughes 1916, xii). The years 1857 and 1858 also saw the publication of the first volumes of his Collected Works, and even many of his critics now accepted that Carlyle, the author who had been hardpressed to find a publisher for Sartor Resartus and whose Latter-Day Pamphlets were derided by the public, had now, at the age of 63, become a classic.


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During these years of Carlyle’s literary success, Jane’s health further declined. While caring for his wife, Carlyle finished Frederick the Great in early 1865, and later that year he was nominated as Rector of the University of Edinburgh. He and Disraeli ran to follow in the footsteps of Gladstone, the retiring Rector, and Carlyle was elected with 657 votes in favour of him while Disraeli received 310 votes. In the eyes of many, “the result seemed a symbolic triumph for some kind of political idealism over the materialist machinations of Disraeli” (Symons 2001, 1). At his inaugural address, Carlyle was greeted with “tumultuous applause burst[ing] from the enthusiastic students” (Kaplan 2008). Only a few days later, on 22 April 1866, news arrived from London that Jane had passed away. In the fifteen years that Carlyle survived his wife, he mostly turned to collecting and ordering letters and to correcting the manuscript of a biography of Jane that Geraldine Jewsbury, a mutual friend, had sent him shortly after Jane’s death. In emending and editing Jane’s biography, Carlyle was forced to reflect on his own life. In August 1867, the Macmillan’s Magazine published his essay “Shooting Niagara: and after?” in which he condemned the Reform Bill of 1867 and its “[d]ivine commandment to vote” alongside its praise of “universal ‘glorious liberty’” (Carlyle 1867, 321). The essay, re-published as a fifty-five-page pamphlet later that year, was Carlyle’s final substantial intervention in the press. “The last six years of his life show a gradual, and in general quiet and calm, progress down the road to desired death” (Symons 2001, 297), and on 4 February 1881, his niece Mary Aitken “thought she heard him saying to himself, ‘So this is Death: well . . . ’” (Kaplan 2008). It had been Carlyle’s wish not be buried at Westminster Abbey and, according to his will, he was laid to rest “in the Kirkyard of Ecclefechan, as near as possible to [his] father and mother” (Symons 2001, 298).

2 Basic Coordinates: Central Topics and Concerns Sartor Resartus (1833–1834), “the seminal expression of the thought of the most influential of the Victorian cultural prophets” (McSweeney and Sabor 1987, vii) and “one of the most eccentric and original works of its age” (Ryan 2003, 287), is Carlyle’s only work of prose fiction. In a review published in The Leader in 1855, George Eliot made a distinction between the contemporary reception of Carlyle’s opinions and the esteem for Sartor Resartus: “The character of his influence is best seen in the fact that many of the men who have the least agreement with his opinions are those to whom the reading of Sartor Resartus was an epoch in the history of their minds” (Eliot 1963, 214). With its frame narrative purportedly written by an “unreliable editor” and its imaginary characters and events, Sartor Resartus can be classified as a novel, even if the text, “half-mystical rhapsody [. . .] composed by turns of fragments of biography, autobiography, philosophic fantasy, satire and apocalyptic prose-poetry,” certainly stretches the boundaries of the novel as a

8 Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus (1833–1834)


genre (Ryan 2003, 287). Fundamentally, the text shares concerns and topics with the essays, histories, and biographies that Carlyle wrote throughout his life; and its generic indeterminacy can facilitate our understanding of Sartor Resartus as an experimental novel. On the level of plot and character, Sartor Resartus stitches together fragments of the life of the German philosopher Diogenes Teufelsdröckh, fragments that barely add up to tell the story of orphanage, schooling, unrequited love, despair, and a spiritual awakening. In that sense, the novel is a Bildungsroman that is experimental in its arrangement of biographical sketches and fragmented autobiographical testimonies. As Chris Vanden Bossche has pointed out, “[v]irtually every detail of the biography of Diogenes Teufelsdröckh [. . .] may be found in the sketches of the lives and works of German writers – Musæus, Fouqué, Tieck, Hoffman, Richter, Werner, Heyne, and Novalis as well as Goethe and Schiller – that Carlyle composed between 1823 and 1830” (1991, 20). The fictional biography is divided into three parts, which are all narrated by an editor: In book one, the editor gives an account of Teufelsdröckh’s adult years and of the circumstances that led to the protagonist’s treatise on clothes, Die Kleider, ihr Werden und Wirken, ending up in the editor’s hands. Book two recounts Teufelsdröckh’s childhood and youth in a provincial town named Entepfuhl and takes the reader through the protagonist’s spiritual crisis in adulthood. Book three is centred on the “gist and purport of Professor Teufelsdröckh’s Philosophy of Clothes” (Carlyle 1974a, 165) and outlines some of its central ideas. As the novel painstakingly recounts the efforts, and ultimately the failure, of an English editor to appropriate German philosophical ideas for his English audience, the book also reads as an autobiographical reflection by the author Carlyle on his endeavours to convey the ideas of Goethe, Schiller, Fichte, and Schelling to his fellow countrymen. However, the book is not simply a fictional account of Carlyle’s attempt at intercultural transfer: Sartor Resartus also carves out Carlyle’s conception of history, culture, and hero worship. The novel begins with the editor wondering why “the grand Tissue of all Tissues, the only real Tissue, should have been quite overlooked by Science, – the vestural Tissue, namely, of woollen or other cloth; which Man’s Soul wears as its outmost wrappage and overall; wherein his whole other Tissues are included and screened, his whole Faculties work, his whole Self lives, moves, and has its being” (Carlyle 1974a, 2). Stressing that the social sciences should focus on “man as a Clothed Animal” (2), the editor of the novel is adamant that Teufelsdröckh’s Philosophy of Clothes can only be understood if the author’s biography and the context in which the book was conceived are scrupulously presented. Consequently, Sartor Resartus is both: a biography of the protagonist Professor Teufelsdröckh of Weissnichtwo and a book review of the treatise Die Kleider ihr Wirken und Werden in the form of a novel. Sartor Resartus testifies that Carlyle, despite his literary aspirations, was “foremost a historical writer” (Vanden Bossche 2002, xix). One of his historical foci was the French Revolution, in which the French monarchy was overthrown and a


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secular democratic republic was installed in its aftermath. Carlyle chose the central theme of the novel – clothes – with the events of the July Revolution, the Trois Glorieuses of 1830, in mind. In that revolution the sans-culottes, who wore pantaloons and not breeches to testify that they were, or sympathised with, the common people, were the militant supporters of the rule of the people. This “shapeless, mostly urban movement of the labouring poor, small craftsmen, shopkeepers, artisans, tiny entrepreneurs and the like” (Hobsbawm 1996, 63), situated between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, is evoked throughout the novel, for example in the portrayal of the protagonist: “Teufelsdröckh, though a sansculottist, is in practice probably the politest man extant” (Carlyle 1974a, 190). In the final volume of his French Revolution, Carlyle explains that “Sansculottism [. . .] still lives; still works far and wide, through one bodily shape into another less amorphous” (268). Sansculottism brings out the connection between a symbolic use of clothes and political activism, and the novel Sartor Resartus is grounded in the historical moment of 1830 in which sansculottism, a movement deemed to have run out of steam in the aftermath of the French Revolution of 1789, reshaped itself to address the injustice that came with the restoration of the monarchy. The revival of sansculottism as the historical phenomenon that prompted Carlyle to come up with an account (however satirical) of a “Philosophy of Clothes” is very much in keeping with Carlyle’s overall conception of history. The novel presents a view of historical processes that differs markedly from the prevailing conviction of his contemporaries that history is, according to Saint John Bolingbroke, “philosophy teaching by examples” (1752, 26). Carlyle did not subscribe to the idea that studying the past closely would facilitate anticipating the future. Instead, he viewed human culture as a series of unrelated epochs punctuated by upheavals. In Sartor Resartus, Carlyle paints a grim picture of these cataclysmic processes. According to the protagonist Prof. Teufelsdröckh, European culture experiences a fundamental crisis as the narrative voice, the English editor, explains: Thus, if Professor Teufelsdröckh can be relied on, we are at this hour in a most critical condition; [. . .] “The World,” says he, “as it needs must, is under a process of devastation and waste, which whether by silent assiduous corrosion, or open quicker combustion, as the case chances, will effectually enough annihilate the past forms of society; replace them with what it may.” (Carlyle 1974a, 178)

Sartor Resartus interweaves history and political economy. As such, the clothes metaphor in Sartor Resartus historicises what Carlyle felt was “a most critical condition”: the first volume of the “Philosophy of Clothes,” the editor explains, proposes the notion that “Government is, so to speak, the outward SKIN of the Body Politic [. . .] and all your Craft-Guilds, and Associations for Industry, of hand or of head, are the Fleshly Clothes, the muscular and osseous Tissues” (172). The second volume, hinted at by Teufelsdröckh but never completed, will “treat[] practically of the Wear, Destruction, and Retexture of Spiritual Tissues, or Garments” (173).

8 Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus (1833–1834)


It is in Teufelsdröckh’s clothes metaphor, then, that Carlyle gives expression to his views on history and historiography: Is the Past annihilated, then, or only past; is the Future non-extant, or only future? Those mystic faculties of thine, Memory and Hope, already answer: already through those mystic avenues, thou the Earth-blinded summonest both Past and Future, and communest with them, though as yet darkly, and with mute beckonings. The curtains of Yesterday drop down, the curtains of To-morrow roll up; but Yesterday and To-morrow both are. Pierce through the Time-element, glance into the Eternal. (Carlyle 1974a, 208)

Sartor Resartus thus presents a mythical view of history that aims at the eternal, and the clothes metaphor at its centre makes a strong case for a poetic dimension, an aesthetics of distancing oneself from the present, as a requirement to grasp history and make it meaningful. The episodic plot-line of Sartor Resartus is reminiscent of Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, and we know that Carlyle was a great admirer of Sterne’s ingenuity. Sartor Resartus also picks up the idea of a contingent world made meaningful by one’s life and opinions. In the words of philosopher Georg Lukács, “[i]n such a world [in which everything is accidental], what can a man mean in the life of another? Infinitely much and yet infinitely little” (1974, 112). Sartor Resartus thus explores individualism as a quintessential part of political economy in emphasising the moral worth of the individual vis à vis society. It is noteworthy that the protagonist leads a secluded life: “[a]s for Teufelsdröckh, except by his nightly appearances at the Grünen Ganse, Weissnichtwo saw little of him” (Carlyle 1974a, 14). Teufelsdröckh’s adolescence and adulthood are depicted as a constant struggle to assert his life and “[. . .] and opinions with a personal crisis at the heart of the novel. The protagonist [. . .]” with “[. . .] and opinions. With this personal crisis at the heart of the novel, the protagonist eventually falls into despair [. . .]” chapter eight of book two, accordingly named the “Centre of Indifference”: “‘This,’ says our Professor, ‘was the CENTRE OF INDIFFERENCE I had now reached, through which whoso travels from the Negative Pole to the Positive must necessarily pass’” (Carlyle 1974a, 146). Elizabeth Vida has argued that Carlyle borrowed both the terminology “Centre of Indifference” and the concept itself from Schelling’s Über das Verhältnis der Naturphilosophie zur Philosophie überhaupt (1802) “in order to convey a spiritual state that existed in Teufelsdröckh’s mind” (1993, 136). The novel indeed evokes transcendentalism at this pivotal moment as a way of accepting the contingencies of life, gesturing perhaps towards eschatological assurance but more importantly pointing out that “[w]e are not to become imprisoned in narrative mystifications, neither those of the philosophy nor those of life” (Haney 1978, 325). The protagonist in this novel thus finds his place in life, paradoxically, by retreating from society or, perhaps more correctly, by withdrawing from political economy. However, the editor rejects Teufelsdröckh’s autobiographical account of having transcended space and time and points out that “[o]ur own private conjecture, now amounting almost to certainty, is that, safe-moored in some stillest obscurity, not to lie always still, Teufelsdröckh is actually in London!” (Carlyle 1974a, 237). Being


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cautioned earlier that “the Professor and Seer [is] not quite the blinkard he affects to be” (229), the novel, and in particular the chapter “Natural Supernaturalism” discussing transcendentalism, allows for a satirical account of Teufelsdröckh’s German Idealism as being intellectually lacking: “When we consider the axis of communication between the editor-narrator and the implied reader, the novel thus explicitly rejects the notion of transcendental philosophy as consolation” (Sprang 2011, 97). Furthermore, the editor questions the applicability of Teufelsdröckh’s philosophy for a British audience: “[C]an it be hidden from the Editor that many a British Reader sits reading quite bewildered in head, and afflicted rather than instructed by the present Work? [. . .] O British reader, it leads to nothing, and there is no use in it; but rather the reverse, for it costs thee somewhat” (Carlyle 1974a, 215). Yet, while Carlyle exposes individualism and transcendentalism as escapism, the hint that reading the novel “costs thee somewhat” also cleverly calls into question utilitarianism and principles of economy that seem so dear to the “British Reader.” Teufelsdröckh’s withdrawal from society is thus juxtaposed with the readers’ calculated participation in society. Quoting from Carlyle’s Past and Present, Sara Atwood has maintained that Carlyle protested against the “liberty especially which has to purchase itself by social isolation, and each man standing separate from the other, having ‘no business with him’ but a cash-account” (2013, 255). Considering Carlyle’s oeuvre, Teufelsdröckh’s flaw is his reluctance or incompetence to engage with society. He is too much of a thinker, and not enough of a labourer. As Vanden Bossche has argued, “Carlyle held out the hope that authors who work with words, like laborers who till the soil, could produce something outside themselves, could create a world” (1991, 83). Despite the editor’s efforts to turn the “Philosophy of Clothes” into practical philosophy, Teufelsdröckh fails to “produce something outside” himself. With his protagonist, then, Carlyle “expresses Victorian anxiety about the autophagic tendency of self-conscious philosophy” (Vanden Bossche 1991, 83). Arguably, Teufelsdröckh’s flaw, his failure to assert his personality and to promote his “Philosophy of Clothes,” is to be found in the fact that he is not a hero but too much of a bourgeois pedant unable to turn individualism and transcendentalism into a productive force. He is not the charismatic “noble, wise, and strong leader, the sort of man to whom obedience is naturally due and freely given” (Atwood 2013, 255). This is the more problematic because, for Carlyle, the “Man-of-Letters Hero must be regarded as our most important modern person. He, such as he may be, is the soul of all” (2013, 133). So, while Sartor Resartus conceptualises a trajectory from individualism to transcendentalism and ultimately heroism, the novel presents the relationship between transcendentalism and heroism as a task, as a goal to be achieved by the individual and recognised by society. Carlyle’s hero, the ideal Teufelsdröckh that the editor seeks to find, promises to reground authority in a form of sovereignty that is not tied to political economy. On the part of the reader, the novel thus highlights the

8 Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus (1833–1834)


virtues of hero-worship with which Carlyle “encourages the sort of discernment that will lead to good government and universal justice” (Atwood 2013, 256).

3 Aesthetics: Narrative and Literary Strategies Sartor Resartus is an experimental novel on several accounts, most strikingly because of its narrative framing. Vanessa L. Ryan has shown that the idea of the unreliable editor, who is “self-consciously referring to his own ‘Editorial Difficulties’ (I. ii), takes up more than half of the work” and thus “gives dramatic form to questions of authenticity, veracity and imaginative invention in the art of biography,” reflecting debates at the time (2003, 290). While the multiple perspectives and different voices are an essential feature of the novel’s narrative structure, it is the central metaphor – the intricate and complex clothes allegory at the heart of the book – that creates the particular self-reflexive texture of the novel. The clothes metaphor taps into a classical trope explored fully in the eighteenth century. Pope, in his Essay on Criticism (1711) resorted to the phrase “expression is the dress of thought” (Sloane 2001, 752) in order to establish the connection between language and thinking. In chapter eleven of Sartor Resartus, entitled “Prospective,” the editor explains, in the words of the protagonist Teufelsdröckh, that: Language is called the Garment of Thought: however, it should rather be, Language is the Flesh-Garment, the Body, of Thought. I said that Imagination wove this Flesh-Garment; and does not she? Metaphors are her stuff: examine Language; what, if you except some few primitive elements (of natural sound), what is it all but Metaphors, recognised as such, or no longer recognised; still fluid and florid, or now solid-grown and colourless? If those same primitive elements are the osseous fixtures in the Flesh-Garment, Language, – then are Metaphors its muscles and tissues and living integuments. (Carlyle 1974a, 57–58)

This passage corresponds with the opening remarks in the chapter “Preliminary” in which “man as a Clothed Animal” is juxtaposed with man “by nature [as] a Naked Animal” (2). Carlyle’s trope, captured by the title “The Tailor Retailored,” explores an anthropological perspective that is reminiscent of the zoon politikon and foreshadows the homo faber, but it differs from most anthropological conceptions in that it adds a hierarchical component, suggesting that humans are not all the same, not all equal. The metaphor of clothes applied to the relationship between language and thought highlights the hierarchical notion of linguistic forms like decorum and register. Carlyle’s metaphor also adds a material quality to the abstract philosophical take on the relationship between language and thought. Clothes may be symbolic, but they are also ‘real’, and the novel thus establishes a connection between idealism and realism in the literary domain. It brings out the social nature of language and it thus pictures a mechanic and materialistic society (such as the liberal one with its language of utilitarianism) as a society stripped bare: in Teufelsdröckh’s assessment “we are at


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this hour in a most critical condition; beleaguered by that boundless ‘Armament of Mechanisers’ and Unbelievers, threatening to strip us bare!” (178). The imagery of an “‘Armament of Mechanisers’ [. . .] threatening to strip us bare” brings to the fore the impression that “Carlyle could hardly have chosen a more appropriate figure than clothing to represent an era of revolution” since “clothing was also the chief product of the industrial revolution” (Vanden Bossche 1991, 42). With the imagery of a society stripped bare, Sartor Resartus also draws attention to its aesthetic quality as a work of verbal art. This self-reflectivity is matched by the experimental form of the novel with respect to plot, characters, and the peculiar narrative voice of the editor: “An opaque, allusive, and politically ambiguous text, Sartor Resartus belongs to the same tradition of self-reflexive literature as Don Quixote and Tristram Shandy” (Dunne 2016, 42). Carlyle presses readers to pass a verdict on whether the novel is a suitable genre for exploring a system of philosophy. He pushes his readers to judge whether the novel is a fitting literary form for addressing the gap between realism and idealism. Hence Sartor Resartus is also a text that renders this experiment in form as an extension of political economy: What concessions is the editor willing to make to adhere to the expectations of his readers qua consumers? Seen through the lens of Carlyle’s experimental novel, Victorian novels in the mode of social realism are thus exposed as commodities as products for easy consumption. On the basis of his concern that society might have taken a wrong turn in embracing utilitarianism and political economy, Carlyle engages in formal experimentation that gives Sartor Resartus its particular style. For J. Hillis Miller, Carlyle’s treatment of ornament brings his creative criticism of the novel form to the fore. “In the case of Sartor Resartus,” he argues, “the ornament takes two forms” (1989, 2). One form is the “openly elaborated style,” the ‘Carlylese’, as Miller calls it, marked by “hyperbolic elaboration” often verging on the incomprehensible (2). “The other mode of ornament in Sartor Resartus is the more comprehensive, large scale, all-encompassing form of the complex narrative machinery” that, according to Miller, foregrounds “the act of achieving knowledge by a process of reminiscent retelling, retailoring the tailor, repatching the patcher” (3). In writing a patchwork novel with its peculiar fragmentary style and the clothes metaphor at its centre, Carlyle made a strong case for literary texts opening a space to reflect on the alienations created by prevailing principles of political economy. Sartor Resartus thus exemplifies the stance that “[i]f literature is to have public meaning [. . .] it must neither adopt the value-free discourse of economic efficiency nor continue to mimic the transcendental discourse of religious mysticism” (Vanden Bossche 1991, 173).

8 Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus (1833–1834)


4 Reception and Theoretical Perspectives The reception of Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus is entangled with the reputation of the author himself. As Simon Heffer has pointed out, Carlyle’s reputation has been “a long and damaging fall from the pedestal he occupied at his death” (1995, 23). It is generally agreed that Sartor Resartus “inspired, haunted, and infuriated two generations of Englishmen. John Stuart Mill, Matthew Arnold, John Ruskin, and William Morris all reacted to Carlyle’s baroque mixture of satire and invective” (Morrisey 1996, 51). While the book was a favourite for many of Carlyle’s contemporaries, it is now viewed as obscure, and its author is often deemed to have been a crypto-fascist (Park 1990, 1). The question William H. Pritchard raised in 1997 with his essay “What to Do with Carlyle?” is a pressing one even today. The “most intractable and cantankerous of Victorian sages,” Pritchard argues, has undoubtedly fallen from favour, but to “blame ‘the world’ for undervaluing Carlyle because that world seeks to avoid unpalatable truths, while not understanding the sage’s humor, seems an abstract and unuseful way of blaming anything but Carlyle himself” (1997, 246). On one level, Carlyle’s hero-worship, his elitism, his inexorable rejection of the political economy of his – and indeed also our – time make it difficult to engage with Carlyle’s oeuvre as a whole and Sartor Resartus in particular. For some, he was the “Prophet of Fascism,” so that it was “no wonder that the Nazis recognized in Carlyle a kindred spirit whose ideas had anticipated their own” (Schapiro 1945, 115). Marxist thinkers, who shared his critical stance towards an all-pervading mechanistic alienation, were repelled by his anti-egalitarian positions; they could not brush aside the “differences between Carlyleanism and Marxism” in that Carlyle fundamentally did not share their materialistic view (Mendilow 1984, 226). Carlyle “held an axiological theory in which social relations, and the interpretations given them, are conditioned by ethical values,” and as he “saw social history as essentially the record of alternating expansions and contractions of gaps reflecting cyclic processes of wearing down and rejuvenation of symbol-systems for inculcating values,” he is more in line with a strand of continental philosophy that was equally at odds with Marxism (226). On yet another level, Carlyle’s semiotics, in particular the clothes metaphor in Sartor Resartus, taps into a field of inquiry equally marginalised in the twentieth century: Kulturphilosophie. Exemplified by Ernst Cassirer’s Philosophie der Symbolischen Formen (1923–1929), this historical and systematic field of inquiry viewed culture as praxis, stressed its unity, and subscribed to a moderate form of metaphysical thinking. Cassirer, like Carlyle, places myth at the centre of culture and at its heart “the dialectic of semiotic and linguistic knowledge, which leads to a new kind of phenomenology of perception” (Meyer 2013, 490). This is very much Carlyle’s concern, and as Cassirer was marginalised with the triumphant advance of analytic philosophy, so was Carlyle. Another reason for Carlyle’s mixed reception is the autobiographical nature of his oeuvre. Cassirer has argued that “read[ing] into Carlyle’s work [. . .] a definite philosophical construction of the historical process, taken as a whole, or a definite political


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program is precarious and illusive” because his “conception of history and politics always depends on his own personal history; it is much more biographical than systematic or methodical” (1946, 191). Carlyle’s conviction that art should always move close to history is thus also an impediment to claiming Sartor Resartus as a literary text that warrants literary criticism from a distinctly theoretical angle. Further, as Tom Toremans has argued, owing to the self-reflective thematisation of the novel as a work of art that has to be deciphered with the help of criticism, the text’s “critical condition [. . .] has led to Sartor’s migration into the margins of literary theory” (2010, 210). Readings of Sartor Resartus that are ‘purely’ psychological, post-colonial, ecocritical, or gender-based do not exist; introductions to the text carefully contextualise the ideas in a late-Romantic or Victorian context. In that vein, the novel has become a marker for literary history. As George Levine asserts, “Sartor Resartus [. . .], though always regarded as one of the primary texts for tracing the shift from Romanticism to Victorianism, is rarely now accorded the kind of attention it deserves” (1964, 132). Sartor Resartus may be a novel that has not received adequate critical attention. The scholarship that ties its aesthetic experimentalism – and its ‘irrational’ form – to Carlyle’s criticism of political economy, however, has a long trajectory and is thriving. Starting with Leonard Deen’s “Irrational Form in Sartor Resartus,” the novel’s resistance to a systematic reading, and the possibilities that arise from experiments in aesthetic distancing, have been acknowledged. While it might be true that Carlyle is often associated with a reactionary conservatism that looks too longingly backwards, Sartor Resartus, like no other novel from the period, allows us to envision – through the act of reading – alternative futures from the perspective of the past, alternatives that fall neither into the trap of mechanism nor succumb to the problematic nostalgia that would be the political and ethical bugbear for the following century.

Bibliography Works Cited Atwood, Sara. “‘Leading Human Souls to What Is Best’: Carlyle, Ruskin, and Hero-Worship.” Sorensen and Kinser 2013, 247–259. Bolingbroke, Henry Saint John. Letters on the Study and Use of History. London: Millar, 1752. Carlyle, Thomas. “The Hero as Man of Letters: Jonson, Rousseau, Burns.” Sorensen and Kinser 2013, 132–161. Carlyle, Thomas. History of Friedrich II. of Prussia, Called Frederick the Great. London: Chapman & Hall, 1858–1865. Carlyle, Thomas. Latter-Day Pamphlets. London: Chapman & Hall, 1850. Carlyle, Thomas. “An Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question.” Fraser’s Magazine for Town and Country 40 (1849): 670–679. Carlyle, Thomas. Reflections on the Revolution in France. 1837. New York: AMS, 1976. Carlyle, Thomas. Sartor Resartus. 1833–1834. New York: AMS, 1974a.

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Carlyle, Thomas. “Shooting Niagara – And After?” Macmillan’s Magazine 16 (1867): 319–336. Carlyle, Thomas, and Jane Welsh Carlyle. The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle. Ed. Charles Richard Sanders. Vol. 2. Durham: Duke UP, 1974b. Cassirer, Ernst. The Myth of the State. New Haven: Yale UP, 1946. Christie, Mary, and Frederick Harrison. Carlyle and the London Library. Account of its Foundation: Together With Unpublished Letters of Thomas Carlyle to W. D. Christie, C. B. London: Chapman & Hall, 1907. Crouch, Colin. Post-Democracy. Cambridge: Polity, 2004. Cumming, Mark, ed. The Carlyle Encyclopedia. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2004. Deen, Leonard. “Irrational Form in Sartor Resartus.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 5.3 (1963): 438–451. Dunne, Fergus. “‘Custom [. . .] doth make dotards of us all’: Peripheral Perspectives on the Centre in Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus and Francis Sylvester Mahony’s ‘Prout Papers.’” The Modern Language Review 111.1 (2016): 38–60. Eliot, George. “Thomas Carlyle.” Essays of George Eliot. Ed. Thomas Pinney. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1963. 212–215. Fielding, K. J. “Thackeray and ‘The Great Master of Craigenputtoch’: A New Review of ‘The Life of John Sterling’ – and a New Understanding.” Victorian Literature and Culture 27.1 (1999): 307–314. Haney, Janice L. “‘Shadow-Hunting’: Romantic Irony, Sartor Resartus, and Victorian Romanticism.” Studies in Romanticism 17.3 (1978): 307–333. Harris, Wendell V. “Interpretive Historicism: ‘Signs of the Times’ and Culture and Anarchy in Their Contexts.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 44.4 (1990): 441–464. Heffer, Simon. Moral Desperado: A Life of Thomas Carlyle. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1995. Hobsbawm, Eric. The Age of Revolution: 1789–1848. London: Vintage, 1996. Holloway, John. The Victorian Sage: Studies in Argument. London: Macmillan, 1953. Hughes, A. M. D., ed. Carlyle’s Frederick the Great. Oxford: Clarendon, 1916. Kaplan, Fred. “Carlyle, Thomas (1795–1881).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online edn. Oct 2008. Web. 28 July 2017. Levine, George. “‘Sartor Resartus’ and the Balance of Fiction.” Victorian Studies 8.2 (1964): 131–160. Lukács, Georg. Soul and Form. Trans. Anna Bostock. London: Merlin, 1974. McSweeney, Kerry, and Peter Sabor. Introduction. Sartor Resartus. By Thomas Carlyle. Ed. McSweeney and Sabor. Oxford: OUP, 1987. vii–xxxiii. Mendilow, Jonathan. “Carlyle, Marx & the ILP: Alternative Routes to Socialism.” Polity 17.2 (1984): 225–247. Meyer, Thomas. “Ernst Cassirer’s Writings.” Journal of the History of Ideas 74.3 (2013): 473–495. Miller, J. Hillis. “‘Hieroglyphical Truth’ in Sartor Resartus: Carlyle and the Language of Parable.” Victorian Perspectives. Ed. John Clubbe and Jerome Meckier. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1989. 1–20. Morrisey, Will. Culture in the Commercial Republic. Lanham: UP of America, 1996. Morrow, John. “‘Young Ireland’ and the ‘Condition of Ireland Question.’” The Historical Journal 51.3 (2008): 643–667. Park, T. Peter. “Thomas Carlyle and the Jews.” Journal of European Studies 20 (1990): 1–21. Peart, Sandra J., and David M. Levy. “Post-Ricardian British Economics, 1830–1870.” A Companion to the History of Economic Thought. Ed. Warren J. Samuels, Jeff E. Biddle and John B. Davis. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003. 130–147. Plotz, John. “Crowd Power: Chartism, Carlyle, and the Victorian Public Sphere.” Representations 70 (2000): 87–114.


Natalie Roxburgh and Felix Sprang

Pritchard, William H. “What to Do with Carlyle?” The Hudson Review 50.2 (1997): 245–254. Ryan, Vanessa L. “The Unreliable Editor: Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus and the Art of Biography.” The Review of English Studies 54.215 (2003): 287–307. Schapiro, J. Salwyn. “Thomas Carlyle, Prophet of Fascism.” The Journal of Modern History 17.2 (1945): 97–115. Sloane, Thomas O. Encyclopedia of Rhetoric. Oxford: OUP, 2001. Sorensen, David R., and Brent E. Kinser, eds. On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic. New Haven: Yale UP, 2013. Sprang, Felix. “‘The dark bottomless Abyss, that lies under our feet, had yawned open.’ The Rescission of the Male Melancholic Genius in Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus.” The Literature of Melancholia: Early Modern to Postmodern. Ed. Martin Middeke and Christina Wald. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. 87–100. Symons, Julian. Thomas Carlyle: The Life and Ideas of a Prophet. London: House of Stratus, 2001. Toremans, Tom. “Perpetual Remnant: Sartor Resartus and ‘the Necessary Kind of Reading.’” Thomas Carlyle Resartus: Reappraising Carlyle’s Contribution to the Philosophy of History, Political Theory, and Cultural Criticism. Ed. Paul E. Kerry and Marylu Hill. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2010. 204–225. Vanden Bossche, Chris R. Carlyle and the Search for Authority. Columbia: Ohio UP, 1991. Vanden Bossche, Chris R. Introduction. Thomas Carlyle: Historical Essays. Ed. Vanden Bossche. Berkeley: U of California P, 2002. xix–lxviii. Vida, Elizabeth Maximiliana. Romantic Affinities: German Authors and Carlyle. A Study in the History of Ideas. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1993.

Further Reading Emig, Rainer. “Eccentricity Begins at Home: Carlyle’s Centrality in Victorian Thought.” Textual Practice 17.2 (2003): 379–390. Hogan, Trevor. “Pre-Victorian Post-Romanticism: The Peculiar Case of Thomas Carlyle.” Australasian Victorian Studies Journal 3.2 (1998): 70–85. LaValley, Albert J. Carlyle and the Idea of the Modern. New Haven: Yale UP, 1968. Rundle, Margaret. Victorian Keats and Romantic Carlyle: The Fusions and Confusions of Literary Periods. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1999. Tennyson, G. B. Introduction. A Carlyle Reader: Selections from the Writings of Thomas Carlyle. Ed. Tennyson. Acton: Copley, 1999. xi–xxxiv.

Nils Clausson

9 Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil, or The Two Nations (1845) Abstract: This chapter situates Disraeli’s novels within the literary context of the nineteenth-century English novel. The primary focus is on the Young England trilogy (Coningsby, Sybil and Tancred) on which his reputation rests, and particularly on the relationship of Disraeli’s fiction to such nineteenth-century literary forms as the Irish tale, the silver fork novel, and the Condition-of-England novel (also known as the social problem or industrial novel). The discussion of Coningsby and especially Sybil calls attention to their form as ‘contemporary’ historical novels modeled on Sir Walter Scott’s historical romances. Disraeli’s main achievement, it is argued, was to write about contemporary English society from the first Reform Bill to Chartism in a way influenced by the narrative form Scott devised to portray earlier English and Scottish history. The chapter also discusses both the reception of Disraeli’s fiction from contemporary reviews to recent criticism and the theoretical issues raised by fiction that intervenes in politics and addresses social issues. Keywords: Young England, Condition-of-England novel, silver fork novel, political novel, historical romance

1 Context: Author, Oeuvre, Moment Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881) enjoyed one of the longest literary careers of the Victorian Age. His first novel, Vivian Grey (1826), was published two years after the death of Byron and more than a decade before Queen Victoria ascended the throne. His last appeared in 1880, and he was writing another when he died. He is also unique among Victorian novelists in being much better known as a politician than as a novelist. This dual career has made it difficult to separate the novelist from the politician. Few critics have concurred with Leslie Stephen, who lamented, “I wish that Mr Disraeli could have stuck to his novels instead of rising to be Prime Minister of England” (1881, 345). Biographers have not so much written biographies of a novelist as of a politician who was twice prime minister, and thus the boundary between the novelist and the politician has virtually disappeared. The novelist has been viewed through the prism of the politician. “His novels are part of his politics,” explains his premiere biographer Robert Blake, “and his politics at times seem to be an emanation of his novels” (1967, 220). Disraeli was the son of the bibliophile Isaac D’Israeli, author of the popular Curiosities of Literature, friend of the publisher John Murray, and acquaintance of https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110376715-010


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many of the literary celebrities of the early nineteenth century, including Byron. Educated primarily in his father’s huge library (estimated at 25,000 volumes), Disraeli attended neither an English public school nor a university. The future prime minister burst upon London’s literary scene at the age of twenty-one with the anonymous publication of Vivian Grey in 1826. The next decade was spent writing five more novels and attempting to launch a career in politics. After four unsuccessful attempts, he finally secured a seat in Parliament in 1837. He wrote no more novels for the next seven years, and then wrote the trilogy – Coningsby, or the New Generation (1844), Sybil, or the Two Nations (1845), and Tancred, or the New Crusade (1847) – on which his reputation today largely rests. Coningsby is widely considered to be the first political novel, and Sybil is one of the most important examples of a sub-genre of the Victorian novel variously known as the industrial, social problem, or Condition-ofEngland novel. He went on to write two more novels: Lothair (1871) and Endymion (1880), each of which was written after he served twice as prime minister. The fiction that Disraeli wrote between 1826 and 1837 is pre-Victorian, arising from the context of late Romanticism. His Oriental tale Alroy (1833) was partly inspired by the Romantic interest in the Middle East, popularised by Byron’s Eastern tales. Venetia, or The Poet’s Daughter (1837) is a fictionalised account of the lives of Shelley and Byron, set, improbably, during the American War of Independence. Blake’s criticism that the novel takes “liberties with history” (1967, 146) is certainly true but probably beside the point, since it in no way aims at historical accuracy. All of the early novels, as well as the later ones, have been mined for clues to Disraeli’s personality and character and hence have regularly been read as a thinly disguised autobiography rather than as fiction. In his General Introduction to The Early Novels of Benjamin Disraeli, Daniel Schwarz declares: “Reading Disraeli’s novels we read the biography of his soul [. . .]. In the novels Disraeli presented various aspects of his complicated personality as he imagined it at a particular time and place; the novels stand as metaphorical vehicles for which his mind and psyche are the tenors” (2004, ix). The most recent (and best) biographical study of the novels is Robert O’Kell’s Disraeli: The Romance of Politics. Disraeli’s novels, he argues, are “an embodiment of his fantasies about himself” and writing them “provided an opportunity for compensatory selfjustification by enabling Disraeli to reconstruct imaginatively [his] immediate past and project it upon the future” (2013, 7, 16). Vivian Grey is the most significant and certainly the most discussed of the early novels. Much of the commentary on it has been written by biographers looking for clues to Disraeli’s life and personality. Blake, for example, is quite explicit about the value of Vivian Grey as an autobiographical document, justifying his decision to discuss the novel “at some length not only because of its effect on Disraeli’s career but because of what it reveals about his character” (1967, 49). Biographers from Monypenny down to the present have read it as a thinly veiled retelling of Disraeli’s role in the efforts of John Murray to finance a new daily newspaper to rival The Times. This ill-fated enterprise is transformed by the young Disraeli, who acted as

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Murray’s agent, into a fictional political scheme to create a new parliamentary party led by the Marquess of Carabas, whom insiders took to be an unflattering portrait of Murray. The precocious and brilliant Vivian convinces Carabas to lead the party in the House of Lords and to bring back a disaffected former political ally, Frederick Cleveland, to do the same in the House of Commons. Vivian’s elaborate scheme falls apart when Carabas’ daughter-in-law, Mrs. Felix Lorraine, betrays Vivian, who then duels with and kills Cleveland and escapes into exile on the continent. The focus on the novel’s biographical revelations has blinded critics to its literary connections. Vivian is an early example of a new kind of hero who emerges in the early nineteenth century, one that Lionel Trilling has called the “Young Man from the Provinces”: It is the fate of the Young Man to move from an obscure position into one of considerable eminence in Paris or London or St. Petersburg, to touch the life of the rulers of the earth. His situation is as chancy as that of any questing knight of medieval romance. He is confronted by situations whose meanings are dark to him, in which his choice seems always decisive. He understands everything to be a “test” [. . .]. That the Young Man be introduced into great houses and involved with large affairs is essential to his story. [. . .] Unlike the merely sensitive hero, he is concerned to know how the political and social world are run and enjoyed; he wants a share of power and pleasure, and in consequence he takes real risks, often of his life. (1950, 62–63)

The striking similarities between Vivian Grey and Trilling’s “Young Man” strongly suggest that Vivian’s story is more than a thinly fictionalised version of Disraeli’s. Like Stendhal’s Julian Sorel, he is introduced to an important house, Château Desir, in which he rises to a position of considerable power. Above all, Vivian, like Trilling’s Young Man, wants a share of worldly power and as a result he takes risks, even of his life (Mrs. Felix Lorraine tries to poison him and he fights a duel). Disraeli returned to writing fiction in 1844 with Coningsby, or the New Generation, the first novel in what came to be known as the ‘Young England trilogy’, although there is no evidence that when he began it he planned to write a trilogy. It was succeeded a year later by his best-known novel, Sybil, or the Two Nations, which was followed two years later by Tancred, or the New Crusade. Although less autobiographical than his earlier works, these novels have nevertheless been read by biographers and historians as articulations of the political principles and programmes of Young England. It was a small group of conservative MPs who were unhappy with what they perceived as the liberal-leaning tendencies of the Conservative party and, under the leadership of Disraeli, coalesced into a political faction that often attacked the Conservative leader and Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel. Before Disraeli became its dominant figure, the group was centred on George Smythe, the eldest son of Lord Strangford, who had supported Disraeli’s political aspirations in the 1830s, and Lord John Manners, second son of the 5th Duke of Rutland. Also prominent in Young England was a Cambridge friend of Smythe and Manners, Alexander Baillie-Cochrane.


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All three men soon came under the influence of the more experienced Disraeli, who saw in Young England a vehicle for his political ambition and especially for his opposition to Peel. Young England was part of the reaction against what the historian Asa Briggs (1959) has named “The Age of Improvement.” Three troubling features of the age as they appeared to contemporaries who questioned whether Victorian society was improving were: the emergence of the factory system run by steam power, what we now call the Industrial Revolution; the extension of the electorate in 1832 to include the new middle classes but not the new working classes, what we now call the beginnings of democracy; and the dominance in the world of ideas of the utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832), founded on the principle of the greatest happiness of the greatest number. These three features were all interrelated. The development of the factory system had created not only new classes but a new conception of class, including class conflict. The emergence of new forms of economic power encouraged demands for shifts in political power. The Benthamite philosophy of utility seemed to sustain both economics and politics: everything had to be judged by the same yardstick. “What is the spirit of the age?” the young hero of Coningsby asks a young Whig peer (Disraeli 1983, 159). “The spirit of utility,” replies Lord Everingham (160). The anti-utilitarian reaction was strong in the 1840s and the idealistic young Coningsby affirms, in opposition to the widely held view expressed by Everingham, that “the Utilitarian system is dead. It has passed through the heaven of philosophy like a hailstorm; cold, noisy, sharp and peppering; and it has melted away” (378). Disraeli, Blake remarks, “belongs to the same strand in nineteenth-century English thought as Coleridge and Carlyle, the romantic, conservative, organic thinkers who revolted against Benthamism and the legacy of eighteenth-century rationalism” (1967, 210). In the closing pages of Sybil, Disraeli states, “A year ago [i.e., in 1844], I presumed to offer to the public some volumes [Coningsby] that aimed at calling their attention to the state of our political parties; their origin; their history, their present position” (420), thereby seeming to underwrite the subsequent designation of Coningsby as the first example of a new kind of novel. “In Coningsby,” says Blake, “[Disraeli] produced the first and most brilliant of English political novels, a genre which he may be said to have invented” (1967, 190). It is usually read as an exposition of the political ideas of Young England, its characters taken to represent the members of the group. But designating Coningsby as a political novel defines this new subgenre exclusively on the basis of its content and thereby ignores the question of its form and overlooks the literary models Disraeli drew upon to write about contemporary English politics. The origins of the political novel are not to be found entirely in the singular mind of Disraeli. Contemporary readers did not in fact see Coningsby as the first example of an entirely new sub-species of fiction (a view that can only be taken retrospectively). For example, the antiquarian John Britton, who was a friend of Disraeli’s father,

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wrote a letter to Disraeli in response to Coningsby in which he remarked: “I will not call it a novel [. . .] but must rank it in another, higher grade of literature: as philosophical, historical, political, epic romance” (qtd. in Jerman 1954, 63). Britton did not see Coningsby as an entirely new species of fiction; rather he responded to it in the context of genres, both literary and non-literary, that he was already familiar with. In his review of Coningsby for the Morning Chronicle, an admiring and astute Thackeray (↗ 13 William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair) recognised the kind of novel Disraeli had written: “It is the fashionable novel, pushed, we do really believe, to the extremist verge, beyond which all is naught. It is a glorification of dandyism, far beyond all other glories which dandyism has attained” (qtd. in Stewart 1975, 184). Thackeray, while obviously recognising its unprecedented engagement with post-Reform English politics, could not read it as a political novel, in the later sense of that term, because the political novel, as a recognisable class of fiction, did not yet exist. Thackeray did what any well-read, intelligent reader of fiction in 1844 would have done: he read Coningsby in terms of its ‘pushing’ to the greatest extent possible an existing novelistic form, one that contemporary readers had for some two decades been familiar with: the fashionable novel, or, as it was also known, the silver fork novel – a form with which the young Disraeli had launched his career as a novelist. Thackeray even reminds his readers of one of Disraeli’s contributions to that immensely popular genre: “Those who recollect the prodigious novel of ‘The Young Duke,’ will remember, when Mr. Disraeli had a mind to be fashionable, to what a pitch of fashion he could raise himself: he outduked all the dukes in the land” (qtd. in Stewart 1975, 184). Thackeray goes on to notice the multiplicity of discourses jostling within Disraeli’s novel, while appreciating that they are formally controlled by the dominant form of the fashionabledandy novel: “‘Coningsby’ [. . .] is a dandy-social, dandy-political, dandy-religious novel” (qtd. in Stewart 1975, 184–185). For all its originality, there is a literary precedent for Coningsby. Disraeli was certainly not the first to appropriate and adapt the fashionable novel for political purposes. The year after Disraeli published his first novel, Vivian Grey, the Irish political novelist Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan) published her second-to-last novel and her last national tale, The O’Briens and the O’Flahertys: A National Tale. Julia Wright describes it as an often fast-paced tale of political intrigue and aristocratic vanity – a romp through 1793 Dublin, as Ireland, divided into a disempowered Catholic majority and a politically powerful Protestant Ascendancy, and spurred by fresh waves of government repression and the examples of the French and American Revolutions, pitches towards the United Irishmen Uprising of 1798. If follows Murrogh O’Brien as he tries to find his way between his nostalgic-forprecolonial Ireland father, the politically savvy and uncloistered Irish-Italian Beavoin O’Flaherty, the dashing Ascendancy flirt, Lady Knocklofty, the idealistic United Irishmen, and his comically old-fashioned aunts, only to be caught up in a sweep of arrests (and revelations) in the novel’s dramatic fourth volume. (2013, 9)


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As Wright points out, although The O’Briens and the O’Flahertys is now read as a national tale, “it was read in its time, at least in part, as a so-called ‘silver fork’ novel, a genre primarily known for giving readers a peek into the glittering lives of the upper classes” (2013, 21). This popular novelistic form, of which Disraeli had been a clever practitioner, could be modified by a political insider to give readers a peek behind the doors of the drawing rooms and clubs frequented by that segment of the upper classes whose lives are taken up with politics. Coningsby, like The O’Briens, contains a good deal of satire. Disraeli clearly adapted the satirical potential of the silver fork novel to create the political satire on both Whigs and Tories in Coningsby. To this form, Disraeli added discursive analyses of the history and origin of the political parties that had governed England since the Glorious Revolution, as well as partisan commentaries on contemporary politics of the sort readers might encounter in newspapers and quarterly and monthly magazines. Coningsby is thus a generic hybrid. The silver fork novel was also closely associated in the minds of contemporary readers with the roman-à-clef (novel with a key), in which fictional characters are taken to be thinly veiled portraits of real people. Contemporary reviewers of Owenson’s novels had regularly tried to identify the originals of her fictional characters, leading her to remark in her Preface to The O’Briens, “the only ‘key’ [. . .] that I acknowledge, is that which is to be found in the great repository of human nature” (2013, 42). Numerous keys to Coningsby circulated immediately after its publication, identifying the major young characters in the novel with the historical members of Young England. The original of Coningsby’s grandfather, Lord Monmouth, was taken to be the fabulously wealthy Marquess of Hertford. The leading publisher of silver fork novels was Henry Colburn, who was Owenson’s publisher from 1814 to 1829 and who also published many of Disraeli’s novels, including Vivian Grey, The Young Duke, Henrietta Temple, Venetia, Coningsby, Sybil and Tancred. Similarly, in the first third of Tancred (1847), Disraeli contrasts the eponymous hero’s quest for spiritual and moral certitude with the superficial lives of the characters who adorn the drawing rooms and salons of Mayfair and Westminster. Thus, the early part of the novel, set in London, combines the well-established conventions of the silver fork novel with the novel portraying a crisis of faith, of which the most famous example, published a year after Tancred, is John Henry Newman’s Loss and Gain (1848).

2 Basic Coordinates: Central Topics and Concerns Sybil, or the Two Nations (1845), the second novel in Disraeli’s Young England trilogy, is his best-known and most influential novel and the one that has received most critical attention. It is usually classified as, variously, a social problem novel, or a

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Condition-of-England novel, or an industrial novel. As this classification implies, the novel has been read almost exclusively in terms of its content, of what it reveals about England in the throes of industrialisation, and the political conflicts attendant upon the rise of the new class of industrialists and manufacturers, on the one hand, and the new class of industrial workers on the other. Thus, critics have approached Sybil less as a novel and more as a manifesto of Disraeli’s political programme and as an intervention in the Condition-of-England debate of the 1840s. This has been the orthodox approach since the 1950s, when two influential critics, Raymond Williams (1958) and Arnold Kettle (1958), discussed it in the context of several other similar novels, including Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life (1848, ↗ 14 Gaskell, Mary Barton) and North and South (1850), Charles Dickens’s Hard Times (1854), and Charles Kingsley’s Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet (1850). Williams and Kettle essentially created the lens through which subsequent critics have viewed Sybil. This approach has, to be sure, produced illuminating readings of it, but it has also had the unfortunate consequence of interpreting and judging it not as a novel but as a programme of political action or, even more problematically, as the term ‘social problem’ novel suggests, as a solution to the problems that constituted the Condition-ofEngland question. Once Sybil is labelled a ‘social problem’ novel, it is almost inevitable that critics would ask what his solution to the problem is and then judge the solution largely on the basis of its practicability.

3 Aesthetics: Narrative and Literary Strategies Rarely have critics asked the obvious question: What kind of narrative is Sybil and where did this new form of fiction come from? The standard classifications – social problem novel, industrial novel, Condition-of-England novel – are not formal ones at all and certainly were not familiar to Disraeli’s contemporaries; they were constructed more than a century later. How we read a novel (or any work) depends on the inter-textual grid against which we place it in order to understand it: reading is always reading as. The mid-Victorians were, of course, familiar with the ‘novel with a purpose’, as it was widely called, but this was a much broader classification and included religious works like Newman’s Loss and Gain (1848) and such egregiously silly examples of the type as Felicia Skene’s The Inheritance of Evil, or The Consequences of Marrying a Deceased Wife’s Sister (1849). Blake praises Sybil for giving a highly realistic picture of life in the grim northern manufacturing towns which formed the breeding-ground of Chartism, a picture based partly on his own observations; partly on the correspondence of Feargus O’Connor obtained for him by his friend Thomas Duncombe, a Radical MP; and very largely upon Part II of the Appendix to the Second Report of the Children’s Employment Commission of 1842. (1967, 212)


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Close attention to the form of Sybil, however, reveals that it is modelled on two familiar and well-established early nineteenth-century sub-genres of fictional narrative: the historical romance, popularised by Sir Walter Scott, and the national tale, of which Sydney Owenson’s The Wild Irish Girl: A National Tale (1806) is the widelyacknowledged prototype. Disraeli’s contribution to the history of the Victorian novel was to transform these familiar and well-established types of fiction into what became the Condition-of-England novel. A novelist who is planning to write about a new subject matter still has to find a form, a set of literary conventions, in which to embody it. It is rare for a novelist to invent an entirely new narrative form. New forms are not born ex nihilo. More likely, a novelist will borrow, or appropriate, or transform an existing set of narrative conventions and adapt them to the new subject matter. In Sybil, Disraeli adapts the plot structure and character types of Scott’s historical romances, most notably Waverley (1814), Old Mortality (1816) and The Antiquary (1816), to write about the social and political conflicts happening not in the past but in the present or the very recent past. It is generally acknowledged that what Scott contributed to the history of the novel was history itself; that is, he represented society not as static and unchanging, as earlier writers took for granted, but as in the process of undergoing historical change, change shaped not by great men but more importantly by trans-personal historical forces. Criticism of Scott since Georg Lukács’ The Historical Novel (1937) takes for granted that Scott did more than add a new subject matter to the novel, the representation of a defined historical setting. His innovation was to make the novel itself historical in the way it imagined societies undergoing historical transformation. Disraeli’s modification to the form of the early Victorian novel, first in Coningsby and then in Sybil, was to apply Scott’s innovative form to writing about recent and contemporary English society in the wake of industrialisation, representing it as undergoing a process of continuous change, similar to the historical societies depicted by Scott. Disraeli discovered that he could write about contemporary society as if he were writing a historical narrative, adapting the form of Scott’s historical romances but setting the action in the contemporary England of Chartist protests and rick burning. Published in May 1845, Sybil covers the tumultuous period of Chartism from 1837 to 1842: the first three books are set in 1837, the last three focus on the Chartist movement from 1839 to 1842, ending with the movement’s descent into factionalism and eventually violence during the summer of the Plug Shot riots. As John Vincent points out, “[e]ven in its first year of publication, Sybil was a historical novel” because it reflected the condition of England not in 1845 (the year of its publication), but several years earlier: “Sybil [. . .] reflected the severe slump of 1842, not the prosperity and great railway boom of three years later. Moreover, as prosperity returned, corn [i.e., grain] prices fell; they were significantly lower in 1843–45 than they had been in 1837–42” (1990, 96). In The Forms of Historical Fiction, Harry T. Shaw calls attention to the overlooked formal similarity between the historical and the

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Condition-of-England novel, though he does not discuss Disraeli: “Though it seems fair to say that the industrial novel is a narrower category, it is the same sort of category as the historical novel” (1983, 20). Avrom Fleishman calls Edward BulwerLytton’s historical novels The Last of the Barons (1843) and Harold, Last of the Saxons (1848) tracts for the times – the times being the hungry forties, when the condition-of-England question was being raised [. . .] in a historical context. In these novels, Bulwer-Lytton expresses a political creed, combining Tory nostalgia for the lost nobility of pre-Reform England [. . .] with Whig satisfaction in the hardy virtues of the progressive English people. (1971, 34)

Bulwer-Lytton’s historical novels, along with many other contemporary historical novels and Carlyle’s Past and Present (1843), were read as interventions via history into current social and political debates. Thus, the literary boundary between historical and ‘Condition-of-England novels’ is not one that can be firmly drawn. However, it is not just in Sybil’s relationship to Scott’s historical romances and their descendants that Disraeli foregrounds its engagement with history. The novel includes what at first might appear to be a digression presenting Disraeli’s revisionist Tory (and hence anti-Whig) interpretation of English history. Critics tend either to ignore or to dismiss this aspect of the novel as evidence of its formal incoherence. But English history, or at least Disraeli’s idiosyncratic version of it, is central to the novel’s engagement with the contemporary condition of England. In the last chapter of Sybil, Disraeli explicitly states what his aim has been in the novel, an aim that is framed in terms of what he believes to be the historical origins of England’s contemporary political discontents: “I would have impressed upon the rising race not to despair, but to seek in a right understanding of the history of their country [. . .] the elements of national welfare. The present work advances another step in the same emprise” (Disraeli 1981, 420–421; emphasis added). The reference to the “national welfare,” a variant of the Condition-ofEngland question, suggests that Sybil may be profitably read as an English ‘national tale’ formally modelled on the Irish national tale popularised a generation earlier by such Irish writers as Owenson and Edgeworth. At first glance, the midVictorian Condition-of-England novel and the earlier national tale may seem to have little in common. But attention to their structure and to the historical, political, and ideological project that this structure is designed to carry out suggests that Disraeli found in the form of Owenson’s national tale a model that he could transform to write his own English ‘national tale’ about the two nations within England. The Wild Irish Girl is one of the first nineteenth-century novels to address the Irish Question in fictional form, and Owenson’s ‘national tale’ might appropriately be called a seminal ‘Condition-of-Ireland novel’ and hence offering a formal model for the Condition-of-England novel.


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The many structural similarities – too many to be coincidental – between Sybil and The Wild Irish Girl strongly suggest that Disraeli was likely familiar with Owenson’s novel and, furthermore, that the way she presents the cultural and political opposition between an imperialist England and a colonised Ireland – the ‘two nations’ of her national tale – influenced the way in which he formally structures the opposition between the two nations, the rich and the poor, of his (English) ‘national tale’. The plot of the typical Irish ‘national tale’ is centred on an absentee Anglo-Irish landowner, who travels to Ireland where he meets the heroine who embodies the Irish national character, falls in love with her, and marries her. Although the journey motif is much more geographically limited in Sybil, the novel’s hero, the younger brother of the Earl of Marney, disguises himself as a journalist named Franklin and travels into the nation of the poor, where he meets Sybil and Walter Gerard, the equivalent of Owenson’s heroine (the Princess Glorvina) and her father. The first meeting of Owenson’s hero, Horatio Mortimer, and heroine, Glorvina, is remarkably similar to that of Egremont and Sybil. The equivalent of the ruins of Marney Abbey, where Egremont first hears Sybil singing the evening hymn to the Virgin, is the Castle of Inismore, the home of Glorvina and her father. The castle (in the Vale of Inismore in Connaught) is “wildly romantic beyond description” (Owenson, 1999, 44). Horatio views it with Glorvina as “the last strain of the vesper hymn died” and “the sun’s last beam faded on the casement of the chapel,” with the light of the setting sun fading on “the ocean’s swelling bosom” and the evening star (as in Sybil) just rising “on the deep cerulean blue” and shedding its “fairy beam on the mossy summit of a mouldering turret [of the castle]” (Owenson 1999, 50–51), which Horatio had earlier described as “the noblest mass of ruins on which my eye ever rested” and as “grand even in desolation, and magnificent in decay” (35). Both novels conclude with an allegorical marriage between the ‘two nations’ – rich and poor, Ireland and England – portrayed in them. Maria Edgeworth’s The Absentee also ends with an allegorical marriage representing the unification of Old Ireland and Anglo-Ireland.

4 Reception and Theoretical Perspectives From Anthony Trollope’s contemptuous dismissal of his novels as “paste diamonds” (1980, 259–260) to F. R. Leavis’ call for “permanent currency” (1948, 1–2) – few novelists have elicited such diametrically opposed responses as Disraeli, and the same contradictory evaluations appear among historians and biographers, who are just as divided over whether Disraeli is the quintessential political opportunist who climbed, as he himself quipped, to the top of the greasy pole, or the principled founder of the modern Conservative party. Critical response to Disraeli the novelist has, to a large extent, been inseparable from the response to Disraeli the man and the politician.

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Despite the attention many of his novels received when they first appeared, to his fellow writers and to many reviewers and readers, they were an offence. As soon as Disraeli began pursuing a political career, contemporary readers found it impossible to separate the novelist from the politician and hence to view his novels almost exclusively as the expressions of the views of a political leader. Trollope is typical of those contemporary readers who came to the novels eager to find in them all the faults they had already found in their creator. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Archibald Tait, recorded that Endymion left him “with a painful feeling that the writer considers all political life as mere play and gambling” (qtd. in Blake 1967, 735). The novels were regularly cited as evidence of Disraeli’s political insincerity and lack of principle. Perhaps the most famous contemporary attack on Disraeli’s fiction was Trollope’s scathing denunciation in his Autobiography, where he wrote: [His] glory has ever been the glory of pasteboard, and the wealth has been a wealth of tinsel. The wit has been the wit of hairdressers, and the enterprise has been the enterprise of mountebanks. An audacious conjurer has generally been his hero, – some youth who, by wonderful cleverness, can obtain success by every intrigue that comes to his hand. Through it all there is a feeling of stage properties, a smell of hair-oil, an aspect of buhl, a remembrance of tailors, and that pricking of the conscience which must be the general accompaniment of paste diamonds. (1980, 259–260)

This attack, which Marius Bewley rightly calls “the perversion of criticism written with malice aforethought” (1972, 8), is representative of those contemporaries who viewed him as a charlatan and a political opportunist and then read this visceral response to the man into his works and their heroes, who are viewed as revelations of their creator. Yet the protagonists of Coningsby and Sybil certainly do not obtain their success by intrigue – just the opposite is true. The only hero in Disraeli’s fiction who does resort to intrigue, Vivian Grey, fails spectacularly, leading to his exile and to this judgment of him by the narrator in the final sentence: “I fear me much, that Vivian Grey is a lost man; but, I am sure that every sweet and gentle spirit who has read this sad story of his fortunes, will breathe a holy prayer this night, for his restoration to society, and to himself (Disraeli 1827, 380). The only major contemporary novelist who admired Disraeli was Thackeray. Though finding faults in Coningsby, he nevertheless praised it highly in a review in the Morning Chronicle (Stewart 1975, 182–186). Modern praise of Disraeli is rare and most recent criticism has not been particularly interested in the literary aspects or the artistic value of his fiction. There are, however, notable exceptions. In The Great Tradition (1948), F. R. Leavis called for a revival of Disraeli’s novels: The novelist who has not been revived is Disraeli. Yet, though he is not one of the great novelists, he is so alive and intelligent as to deserve permanent currency, at any rate in the trilogy Coningsby, Sybil and Tancred: his interests as expressed in these books – the interests of an


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extremely intelligent politician who has a sociologist’s understanding of civilization and its movement in his time – are so mature. (1948, 1–2)

Placing Disraeli in the company of Carlyle, Eliot, Newman, Arnold, and Hardy, John Holloway also had high praise for him five years later. He called Disraeli “one of the liveliest and most versatile novelists of his period” and acknowledged the generic and thematic variety of his works (1953, 86). Two decades later Marius Bewley claimed that “a scrupulous reading of his novels, especially from Coningsby on, will show that Disraeli became one of the most vigorous and morally alive novelists that the late Romantics and the middle Victorians can boast of” (1972, 7). The two decades after the Second World War saw a brief rise in interest in Disraeli, signalled by Raymond Williams’ discussion of the genre of the industrial novel in Culture and Society (1958) and by Arnold Kettle’s discussion of the same novels, which he called social problem novels, in The Penguin Guide of English Literature (1958). But in the heyday of the New Criticism, novels with a political and social purpose were unlikely to make it into the canon. Although Disraeli’s critics have rarely interrogated their own theoretical premises and assumptions, criticism of Disraeli’s fiction raises two fundamental theoretical issues: the relation of a novel to the life of the novelist, and the relation of the novel to the external world it is taken to, in some way, reflect or represent. Disraeli was a puzzling and controversial figure to his contemporaries, and he has remained just as enigmatic to biographers and historians down to the present. Not surprisingly, as Marius Bewley, comments, “[s]ome of the best observations [of the novels] have been made by biographers and historians who have been primarily interested in his political life” (1972, 5). But since Disraeli’s biographers have not been literary critics – and certainly not literary theorists – the question of the validity of reading his novels as if they were diaries, or journals, or (in the cases of Coningsby and Sybil) socio-political documents is never raised. Although Blake does make some perceptive literary observations about the novels, most biographers have been content to treat the novels as sources of clues about Disraeli the man: “It is impossible to dissociate our minds from what we know about his life” (1967, 191). Biographers are not troubled by Barthes’ death of the author. Just how useful are novels as sources of biographical information about their authors? The question is complicated by the fact that Disraeli himself has tantalisingly invited this approach to his fiction. In a diary he kept in the 1830s Disraeli wrote: “In Vivian Grey I have portrayed my active and real ambition. In Alroy my ideal ambition. The P. R. [Psychological romance, the subtitle of Contarini Fleming] is a development of my poetic character. This trilogy is the secret history of my feelings – I shall write no more about myself” (qtd. in Blake 1967, 38). This revelation has proved irresistible to biographers eager to solve the riddle of the Sphinx-like Disraeli. Alroy, Coningsby, and Tancred have been scrutinised for clues to his ‘real’ views about Judaism, the Jews, and the role of race in forming the character of individuals and the history of

9 Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil, or The Two Nations (1845)


nations. Similarly, Coningsby and Sybil have often been read as documents or manifestos straightforwardly revealing Disraeli’s political views and the programme of Young England. “The hidden agenda of Coningsby,” asserts Jane Ridley, “is Disraeli’s immediate political ambition and manoeuvring” (1995, 279). But when a novel is read for its “hidden agenda,” its aesthetic value and its relations to other novels are likely to be ignored. Another major theoretical issue raised by Disraeli’s novels is succinctly defined by Northrop Frye: “When we start to read Zola or Dreiser, our first impulse is to ask, not what kind of a story is being told, but what is being said about the society that the work is ‘reflecting’” (1976, 45). Both Coningsby and Sybil have been read for what they tell us about the society they are supposedly reflecting. Essays on Sybil often have titles like “The Treatment of Rural Distress in Disraeli’s Sybil” (Fido, 1975). This approach was initiated in 1903 by Louis Cazamian in his Le Roman social en Angleterre, but this pioneering work was not translated into English until 1973. Cazamian’s approach was given new life in the mid-1950s by Arnold Kettle (1958) and Raymond Williams (1958), who both discussed Sybil in the context of a group of novels they called, respectively, social problem and industrial novels. This line of scholarship culminated in Sheila Smith’s The Other Nation: The Poor in English Novels of the 1840s and 1850s (1980), and Catherine Gallagher’s The Industrial Reformation of English Fiction: Social Discourse and Narrative Form 1832–1867 (1985). The obvious theoretical questions that Smith’s study of the representations in fiction of Disraeli’s ‘other nation’ are: How useful are novels as documentary sources of historical information about the lives of the poor, and what happens to a novel when it is read as a historical document alongside parliamentary reports? A particular question that this critical approach to Sybil tries to answer is whether or not they were instrumental in making middle-class readers aware of the economic and social problems faced by the poor and, perhaps even more crucially, whether Disraeli’s proposed solution is the right (i.e., historically verifiable) solution to the problem of the two nations. But the answers to these questions require that readers judge them primarily by what are essentially non-literary criteria. The Other Nation leaves one with the impression that reading Sybil (or any other social problem novel) is probably not the best way to collect data about the representation of the mid-Victorian poor. If that is one’s goal, then it could be argued that the researcher would be better off concentrating on contemporary reports produced by parliamentary commissions, such as Edwin Chadwick’s exemplary Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain (1842), or contemporary social critiques, such as Friedrich Engels’ The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845), or such pioneering works of investigative journalism as Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor (1851). As J. M. Blom astutely points out: “If the literary critic wants to turn social historian – needless to say, a perfectly legitimate activity – he would do well to bear in mind all the non-literary material


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that is suggested in The Other Nation, since that might be far more suitable for his purpose than novels” (1981, 124–125).

Bibliography Works Cited Bewley, Marius. “Towards Reading Disraeli.” Prose 4 (1972): 5–23. Blake, Robert. Disraeli. New York: St. Martin’s, 1967. Blom, J. M. “The English ‘Social-Problem’ Novel: Fruitful Concept or Critical Evasion?”English Studies 62.2 (1981): 120–127. Briggs, Asa. The Age of Improvement. London: Longmans, 1959. Cazamian, Louis. The Social Novel in England, 1830–1850: Dickens, Disraeli, Mrs. Gaskell, Kingsley. Trans. Martin Fido. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973. Trans. of Le Roman Social en Angleterre (1830–1850): Dickens, Disraeli, Mrs. Gaskell, Kingsley. Paris: Société Nouvelle Libraire, 1903. [Disraeli, Benjamin]. Vivian Grey. Vol. 2. London: Henry Colburn, 1827. Disraeli, Benjamin. Sybil, or the Two Nations. 1845. Ed. Sheila Smith. Oxford: OUP, 1981. Disraeli, Benjamin. Coningsby, or the New Generation. 1844. Ed. Thom Braun. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983. Fido, Martin. “The Treatment of Rural Distress in Disraeli’s Sybil.” Yearbook of English Studies 5 (1975): 153–163. Frye, Northrop. The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1976. Fleishman, Avrom. The English Historical Novel: Walter Scott to Virginia Woolf. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1971. Leavis. F. R. The Great Tradition. London: Chatto & Windus, 1948. Gallagher, Catherine. The Industrial Revolution of English Fiction: Social Discourse and Narrative Form 1832–1867. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985. Holloway, John. The Victorian Sage. London: Macmillan, 1953. Jerman, Bernard. “Disraeli’s Fan Mail: A Curiosity Item.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction 9.1 (1954): 61–71. Kettle, Arnold. “The Early Victorian Social-Problem Novel.” From Dickens to Hardy. Ed. Boris Ford. Vol. 6 of The New Pelican Guide to English Literature. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1958. 169–178. O’Kell, Robert. Disraeli: The Romance of Politics. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2013. Owenson, Sydney [Lady Morgan]. The Wild Irish Girl: A National Tale. 1806. Ed. Kathryn Kirkpatrick. Oxford: OUP, 1999. Ridley, Jane. Young Disraeli 1804–1846. New York: Crown, 1995. Schwarz, Daniel L. General Introduction. The Early Novels of Benjamin Disraeli. Ed. Michael Sanders. Vol. 1. London: Chatto & Pickering, 2004. ix–xxvi. Shaw, Harry E. The Forms of Historical Fiction: Sir Walter Scott and His Successors. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1983. Smith, Sheila M. The Other Nation: The Poor in English Novels of the 1840s and 1850s. Oxford: Clarendon, 1980. Stephen, Leslie. Hours in a Library. Second Series. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1881.

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Stewart, R. W. Disraeli’s Novels Reviewed, 1829–1968. Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1975. Trilling, Lionel. “The Princess Casamassima.” The Liberal Imagination: Essays on Literature and Society. By Trilling. New York: Viking, 1950. 52–92. Trollope, Anthony. 1883. An Autobiography. Oxford: OUP, 1980. Vincent, John. Disraeli. Oxford: OUP, 1990. Williams, Raymond. Culture and Society, 1780–1850. London: Chatto & Windus, 1958. Wright, Julia M. Introduction. The O’Briens and the O’Flahertys. 1827. By Sydney Owenson [Lady Morgan]. Peterborough: Broadview, 2013. 9–29.

Further Reading Braun, Thom. Disraeli the Novelist. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1981. Clausson, Nils. “Interpretation, Genre, Revaluation: The Conventions of Romance and the Romance of Religion in Disraeli’s Lothair.” Dickens Studies Annual 43 (2012): 187–208. Flavin, Michael. Benjamin Disraeli: The Novel as Political Discourse. Brighton: Sussex Academic, 2005. Kirsch, Adam. Benjamin Disraeli. New York: Schocken, 2008. Richmond, Charles, and Paul Smith, eds. The Self-Fashioning of Disraeli 1818–1851. Cambridge: CUP, 1998. Schwarz, Daniel R. Disraeli’s Fiction. London: Macmillan, 1975. Spector, Sheila A. “Alroy as Disraeli’s ‘Ideal Ambition.’” British Romanticism and the Jews: History, Culture, Literature. Ed. Sheila Spector. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. 235–248. Weintraub, Stanley. Disraeli: A Biography. New York: Truman Talley/ Dutton, 1993.

Adina Sorian

10 Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847) Abstract: This chapter revisits Jane Eyre (1847) in the light of key concepts of Victorian culture, the traditions of the Bildungsroman, the autobiography, and the Gothic, as well as feminism, psychoanalysis, and Bakhtinian aesthetics, and shows that while on the one hand the novel represents the typically Victorian attempt to synthesise the individual’s freedom with social integration, on the other hand Brontë’s most noted piece of writing bristles with internal contradictions and ideological ambiguities, which create ruptures not only in the contemporaneous system of beliefs but also in the variety of theoretical frames that were later applied to the text. Juxtaposing interpretations of Jane Eyre that seek to support specific theories with readings that highlight the text’s penchant for ambiguous colonial tropes, diaologicity, and nuanced gender concepts, the chapter seeks to suggest that Brontë’s text engages in a complex process of both expressing and destabilising ideologies, thereby preventing any single-minded reading and enriching our understanding of the open quality of the work. Keywords: Bildungsroman, autobiography, feminism, psychoanalysis, dialogicity

1 Context: Author, Oeuvre, Moment In April 1846, Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell offered their publishers, Aylott and Jones of London, a three-decker novel consisting of three unconnected tales. The tales were Charlotte Brontë’s The Professor, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (↗ 11 Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights), and Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey (↗ 12 Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey). The Brontë sisters, who used the pen names of Currer, Ellis, and Acton to improve their chances of publication in a male dominated business, were rejected on that occasion, but Charlotte continued to send forth their manuscripts separately, and Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey were eventually accepted by Thomas Newby. Charlotte was less lucky with The Professor, which was “plodding its weary round in London” (C. Brontë qtd. in Gaskell 1997, 233) and found no acceptance at first. Though increasingly despairing at the continuous rejections, Charlotte found the courage to begin her second novel Jane Eyre, and when George Smith of the publishing firm Smith, Elder & Co. wrote to her, in turning down The Professor, that “a work in three volumes would meet with careful attention” (qtd. in Gaskell 1997, 242), she was able to send him a manuscript within a couple of months. Jane Eyre appeared in October 1847 and was an instant success. 2,500 copies were sold in three months and the novel was reprinted in January 1848. W. S. Williams, reader for Smith, presented the work to William Makepeace Thackeray, who expressed https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110376715-011


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his appreciation with the words: “I wish you had not sent me Jane Eyre. It interested me so much that I have lost (or won if you like) a whole day in reading it at the busiest period, with the printers I know waiting for copy” (qtd. in Allott 1974, 70). Charlotte, who regarded “[o]ne good word” from her adored Thackeray as “worth pages of praise from ordinary judges” (qtd. in Dunn 2001, 442), enthusiastically dedicated the second edition to him, unaware that he had a mentally disturbed wife and that she would provoke rumours that Jane Eyre was in reality written by a former governess in Thackeray’s household, who had become his mistress and whom he had himself chosen as his model of Becky Sharp (Rigby 1990, 140). But there was also much misunderstanding in the reading world about the identities of the three Bells. Some conjectured that the three authors were in fact but one, others suspected them to be the ‘brothers Bell’, and not even the publishers knew whether Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell were real or assumed names. When Charlotte and Anne travelled from their parsonage home at Haworth to Cornhill in London to dispel the rumours about their identities, a short phase of perplexity followed on the parts of Smith and Williams. After that, they treated the authoresses like celebrities and introduced them to the vibrant cultural scene of London, leaving Charlotte much impressed and highly motivated. Upon her return to Haworth, Charlotte began her new novel Shirley. It was during this time that the decline of her family took its course, beginning with her brother Branwell’s death in September 1848 and followed by Emily’s and Anne’s deaths in December 1848 and May 1849. Shirley was written under circumstances very different from that of her previous novels: not only was the progress of the novel interrupted by her siblings’ deaths, but Charlotte was now a well-established writer, measuring herself against her famous contemporaries including Charles Dickens, William M. Thackeray, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Charles Kingsley, all of which would have major works published in the same year. The novel appeared in 1849 as a panoramic Condition-of-England novel and met with mixed reviews. A specifically sour critic wrote that Shirley had “floated into circulation on the popularity of its predecessors,” but displayed nothing of the skill in the delineation of character and nothing of the artistic power in the development of plot of Jane Eyre (qtd. in Allott 1974, 158). Charlotte’s fourth novel Villette returned to the first-person voice and the governess theme of The Professor and Jane Eyre. It was published in January 1853 and considered, along with Jane Eyre, as Charlotte’s finest work. It was also her last novel. In 1857, having completed two chapters of a new novel, Willie Ellen, Charlotte died as a result of complications with her pregnancy. Only two years later did The Professor, Charlotte’s much rejected first novel, also appear in print; that same year, Elizabeth Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Brontë was published, the first full-length biography of a female novelist written by a female novelist, which created what Elizabeth Jay has called the “myth of the Brontës” (1997, ix). All of Charlotte Brontë’s mature novels may be called Bildungsromane (↗ 4 Genres and Poetology), concerned as they are with the conflict between the inner

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life of a self and the demands of social and professional life. From Charlotte’s and her sister’s own governess-novels to George Eliot’s Middlemarch (↗ 22 George Eliot, Middlemarch) to Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield to Henry James’s What Maisie Knew (↗ 33 Henry James, What Maisie Knew), Bildungsromane follow the classic narrative trajectory of the quest for maturation, which begins with a sense of discontent with the constraints of society on the part of the hero or heroine and, through a long and arduous process of development, ideally leads to their accommodation into society. Paramount in the worlds of these Victorian Bildungsromane is the conflict between reason and passion, and in classical specimens of this genre, such as Jane Eyre, the conflict is usually resolved by the novels’ endings, which present the societal standards of reason and propriety and the self’s ‘passionate’ desires as complementary (Moretti 1987, 16–17). Aesthetically, Brontë’s novels reflect the distinctly Victorian synthesis of the heritage of Romanticism and the contemporaneous trend toward literary realism. While realism structures her writing, Romantic elements clearly persist in her novels. In Jane Eyre, echoes of the Gothic romance are apparent in the description of the red-room, which recalls the chambers in Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, in the adaptation of the Byronic hero in the portrayal of Rochester, and in the presentation of Bertha Mason, who reminds Jane of “the foul German spectre – the vampire” (Brontë 2006, 327). Several critics have also acknowledged Charlotte’s indebtedness to John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus (↗ 8 Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus), which places her oeuvre within the tradition of the spiritual autobiography. However, not only have her works redefined that tradition by adapting it to a specifically secular and distinctively female context (Qualls 1982), but Brontë also added a new inflection to the autobiographical form.

2 Basic Coordinates: Central Topics and Concerns It is well established that Charlotte, who gave Jane Eyre the subtitle “An Autobiography,” used her novels as an outlet for her own, often unhappy life experiences. Clearly, in the Lowood episode in Jane Eyre, Charlotte revisits the childhood trauma of her elder sisters Maria’s and Elizabeth’s death in a tuberculosis epidemic at Cowan Bridge School, while in The Professor and Villette she uses the autobiographical mode to come to terms with her experience as a teacher in a girls’ school at Brussels, haplessly in love with a married schoolmaster. Yet Charlotte’s affinity with autobiography was not only motivated by psychological concerns. It reflected a larger tendency in the literary world of the day, in which the autobiographical mode had a firm place, both in the novel and beyond. As Linda Peterson has shown, the autobiographical form was used extensively by Victorian writers, who “inherited a well-established tradition of spiritual autobiography” (2012, 245).


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By the middle of the nineteenth century, widening social and economic class disparities had led to a growing sense of personal dislocation, and the proliferation of the autobiographical novel as well as the explosion of the other two key forms of the nineteenth century, the Bildungsroman and the Künstlerroman, surely testified to the importance of forging a stable sense of self for the dislocated individual. The epitome of this dislocated individual was, of course, the Victorian governess, who, neither properly a servant nor a family member, held a precarious position in the nineteenth-century household. In her 1865 work Principles of Education, Elizabeth Missing Sewell observed that “the real discomfort of a governess’s position in a private family arises from the fact that it is undefined. She is not a relation, she is not a guest, not a mistress, not a servant – but something made up of all. No-one knows how to treat her” (qtd. in Peterson 2013, 9–10). A frequent theme in Victorian novels, the governess problem resulted in confused and often contradictory behaviour, both from the governess and her associates, as M. Jeanne Peterson has pointed out in her classic essay “The Victorian Governess” (2013). Being genteel, but exiled from gentility as a woman who sought paid employment, Jane Eyre, too, is subject to the status incongruence of the Victorian governess. In this context, the heroine’s suggestive name has often been remarked upon: “she is invisible as air, the heir to nothing, secretly choking with ire,” as Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar have put it (2000, 342). While the concern with the protagonist’s elusiveness and social marginalisation make Jane Eyre a typical Victorian governess novel, a genre scrutinised by Cecilia Wadsö-Lecaros (2001), the novel would not be the masterpiece Jane Eyre without the heroine’s typical ‘ire’. Indeed, ‘plain’ Jane’s constitutional anger, the feature that outraged Victorian critics most, is what ultimately sets in motion the action of this “novel of liberation” (Hagan 1971, 351). It brings on her quest for freedom, after, in an outburst of anger in chapter one, little Jane seeks to defy the tyrannies of her wicked stepbrother John Reed and is punished by being confined to the red-room. Likely the most memorable motif of Jane Eyre, the red-room recurs in variations at crucial moments throughout the book, evoking what Kathleen Tillotson has termed “the double impression of constraint and freedom” (1954, 300). With its massive furniture, the blinds always drawn down, the white easy-chair looming out of the darkness like “a pale throne” (Brontë 2006, 17), the room has been seen as “a kind of patriarchal death-chamber” (Gilbert and Gubar 2000, 340), representing the society in which Jane is trapped both as a woman and as a governess. It is this space that presents her for the first time in the novel with the two alternatives of escaping that will recur throughout her pilgrimage: “running away, or, if that could not be effected, never eating or drinking more, and letting myself die” (Brontë 2006, 19). Flight or starvation: imagining such radical ways of escaping, little Jane clearly emerges as the stubbornly freedom-seeking character that we will come to know as the adult Jane Eyre. But the drama enacted in the red-room is even more immediately crucial for the development of the plot: it catalyses the next step of Jane’s pilgrimage, in which she will learn to domesticate her passions and to compromise – Lowood.

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Lowood is a charity school for the poor controlled by the sadistic figure of Mr Brocklehurst, whom many have read as the personification of the Victorian superego, noting the novel’s consistent descriptions of his figure in phallic terms. Lowood, whose garden is surrounded by “spike-guarded walls” (Brontë 2006, 90), can be seen as a variation of the prison motif of the red-room, another ‘patriarchal death-chamber’ in which Jane is trapped as she was in Gateshead, additionally suffering from cold and hunger there. However, Lowood also has a positive side, for despite the hardships Jane suffers in the rigid institution, it is there that she meets the two angelic female figures and mentors whom Adrienne Rich has recognised as Jane’s surrogate mothers, Miss Temple and Helen Burns (1990, 146–147). The benevolent Miss Temple, who dispenses food for the starving girls at Lowood, visits the sick, and clears Jane from the charge of lying, has widely been read as the Victorian ‘angel in the house’. When Miss Temple leaves Lowood, Jane realises the woman’s impact on her: “I had imbibed from her something of her nature and much of her habits; more harmonious thoughts; what seemed better regulated feelings had become the inmates of my mind. I had given in allegiance to duty and order. [. . .] [T]o the eyes of others, usually even to my own, I appeared a disciplined and subdued character” (Brontë 2006, 100). It is crucial that despite Miss Temple’s indubitable importance for the development of Jane’s character, Jane states to only have ‘appeared’ a disciplined and subdued character as a result of her influence. Similarly, only a putative, at best superficial change seems to be brought about on her character by Helen Burns. Helen, Jane’s saintly friend at Lowood, embodies the virtues of duty, humility, endurance, forbearance, and Christian devotion, and apparently initiates Jane into Christ’s teaching of ‘turning the other cheek’ (Brontë 2006, 66). Her name is notably suggestive, it can signify “both suffering and passion” (Eagleton 1987, 30), and though Jane is intrigued by the principles Helen is imparting to her, she ultimately finds them incomprehensible: “I heard with wonder: I could not comprehend this doctrine of endurance; and still less could I understand or sympathise with the forbearance she expressed for her chastiser” (Brontë 2006, 67). While, like Miss Temple’s ladylike equanimity, Helen’s saintly asceticism is not a quality that Jane can or will fully internalise, she tends to reproduce it, as a means to an end, at crucial moments in the novel. The apex of this strategy is reached when she makes herself appear to have converted to Helen’s religious credence. In chapter twentyseven, after the prevented marriage, Jane decides to leave Rochester and recommends to him at their separation: “Do as I do: trust in God and yourself. Believe in heaven. Hope to meet again there” (364). Not surprisingly, it has seemed hard to believe for critics that Jane really has made that step from her initial religious scepticism to Helen’s otherworldly faith. Barbara Hardy has pointed out that the novel leaves undramatised Jane’s conversion from the worldly, sceptical child she was at Lowood to the ascetic Christian adult that will not yield to her love for Rochester (2013, 68). That Jane has indeed


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not, in the long run, internalised the patient and submissive role she learned from her stoic mentor is endorsed thematically by her final rejection of St. John Rivers. We first meet Rivers as the devout clergyman of the parish at Marsh End who saves Jane when she reaches the brink of starvation after fleeing Thornfield. Later revealed to be Jane’s cousin, Rivers initially seems to offer her a viable alternative to the life she abandoned at Rochester’s Thornfield: his love of hard work resonates with her conviction that women need “exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do” (Brontë 2006, 130). However, when Rivers offers her to accompany him to India to perform missionary work as his wife, she refuses him, aware that, “as his wife,” she would be “at his side always, and always restrained, and always checked – forced to keep the fire of [her] nature continually low” (470). While Rivers gives her a glimpse of a future that may be suited to her character, he is not able to offer Jane a life where spiritual passion and the desire for self-efficacy are reconciled with the things that orphaned Jane needs even more desperately: real love, and a protected home. It is only with Rochester that she finally attains those aims, even though she does so in what has been perceived as the rather contrived happy ending of the novel. Indeed, just when Jane is tempted to give in to John’s pressures, she hears the voice of Rochester cry out to her: “Jane! Jane! Jane!” (Brontë, 2006, 483), at which she breaks away from John and sets forth for Thornfield, affirming her own will in an extraordinary gesture of self-assertion: “It was my time to assume ascendancy. My powers were in play and in force” (484). Returning to Thornfield Hall and finding it in ruins, Jane learns that the mansion has been burned to the ground by Bertha Mason, who died in the fire, and that Rochester now lives at Ferndean, a nearby manor house “deep buried in a wood” (496). Jane finds Rochester a humbled man, blinded and maimed by the fire, and, teasingly, resolves to “rehumanise” him (503). Filled with love and gratitude, Rochester proposes to her, and they marry, as we learn in the concluding chapter, when the narrative finally arrives in the reading present. But if this seems like a stalwart Bildungsroman closure, the novel’s last three paragraphs certainly refuse to be contained by it. These paragraphs are devoted to John Rivers, and the privileged final words of the novel are even “his own words” (Brontë 2006, 521). He writes a last letter to Jane from India, knowing he will die: “My master,” Jane quotes from Rivers’ letter, “has forewarned me. Daily He announces more distinctly, ‘Surely I come quickly!’ and hourly I more eagerly respond, ‘Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus!’” (521). The closing paragraphs of Jane Eyre may startle readers for the prominence they give to Rivers, but they are evidence that Brontë’s novel cannot be neatly defined as the ‘monologic’ autobiography of Jane Eyre, in which Jane’s ‘romantic’ way is the only right way, symbolically defeating Rivers’ religious dogmatism. Rather, as Jerome Beaty (2001, 499–503) has asserted, the fact that the novel ends with John Rivers’ words (which in turn echo the last words of the New Testament, the Revelation of St. John the Divine) makes Jane Eyre a full-fledged

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polyphonic novel in the sense of Mikhail Bakhtin (1984), an open-ended dialogue between the voice(s) of the first-person narrator, the author, and that of the characters, none of which is ultimately given precedence over the other.

3 Aesthetics: Narrative and Literary Strategies With more than thirty apostrophes to the reader, Jane Eyre certainly exemplifies what Peterson, writing on the rise of autobiography in the nineteenth century, has referred to as the Victorian confidence in the educative uses of life writing, the belief that “an individual life, rightly understood, could be instructive to others as well as oneself” (2012, 264). Sylvère Monod has shown persuasively how the addresses to the reader in Jane Eyre anticipate and attempt to direct the reception of the novel, inscribing specific readerly responses into the discourse (1971, 497–504). And yet the much-noted reader in Jane Eyre is by no means only a compliant listener, to be told what to do or think by Jane. Garrett Stewart has rightly emphasised the participatory nature of reading Jane Eyre, suggesting that the reader is constituted “not by attribution but by immanent participation” (1996, 243). More strikingly even, the self-aware reader of Jane Eyre is not only to be understood as the empirical (or implied) reader of the novel. Rather, at many instances, the term ‘reader’ applies also to the teller of the tale, the autobiographical subject, Jane Eyre, herself. When, for example, Jane reflects on the stultifying routine of her new position at Thornfield Hall, and we learn that “[her] sole relief was to walk along the corridors of the third story [. . .] and, best of all, to open [her] inward ear to a tale that was never ended – a tale [her] imagination created, and narrated continuously” (Brontë 2006, 129), it becomes quite clear that Jane is not only the teller of her fabulation; she emerges as its listener as well, the distinctively self-aware recipient of her own story. We find this double status of Jane’s on several occasions in the novel (Stewart 1996, 244–249). Moreover, we are dealing with ‘two Janes’ in the sense that the narrative constantly oscillates between the positions of the narrating I and experiencing I. Thus, while some passages are clearly from the adult Jane’s perspective, evaluating the narrated events from a sobered point of view, others are from the much more emotional perspective of the child or young girl, sometimes signalled by quotation marks, question marks, or the present tense (Beaty 2001, 493). The text’s emphasis on the complexity of narrative voice, the ‘double’ status and awareness of the protagonist, her existence and self-consciousness both as narrator and auditor of her own narrative, and her shifting between her older and younger self in the act of narration, stress the nature of the heroine’s crucial predicament in this novel: the need to constantly interrogate her own status and identity, which never seem to be certain or definite.


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The question of identity or, more largely, of subjectivity, is where the unique formal characteristics of Jane Eyre are flaunted most extensively. A crucial stylistic trait that suggests the centrality of subjectivity in the novel is Brontë’s idiosyncratic syntax. Margot Peters has pointed out the striking number of relatively short independent clauses of which Brontë’s prose is composed. As these are strung together by colons and semicolons, there is more punctuation in Charlotte Brontë, according to Peters’s count, than in Austen, Emily Brontë, Thackeray, Eliot, or Dickens. The effect of these paratactic constructions, Peters states, is a highly subjective prose, in which “the subject/author – the ‘I’ – is kept “constantly before the reader” (Peters 1973, 41–42). A typical sentence, taken from chapter four, may serve to illustrate this: The play-hour in the evening I thought the pleasantest fraction of the day at Lowood: the bit of bread, the draught of coffee swallowed at five o’clock had revived vitality, if it had not satisfied hunger; the long restraint of the day was slackened; the schoolroom felt warmer than in the morning – its fires being allowed to burn a little more brightly to supply, in some measure, the place of candles, not yet introduced: the ruddy gloaming, the licensed uproar, the confusion of many voices gave one a welcome sense of liberty. (Brontë 2006, 65)

This sentence alone contains five independent clauses. Even though the ‘I’ occurs only once in the sentence, which is dominated by a high number of verbs, with the numerous short clauses stressing the restlessness of the narrator’s observations, the prose is so focused on the narrator’s immediate sensations that it is easy to overlook that most of the actions described are in fact external, detailing the evening routine at Lowood. The attention to subjective experience in Jane Eyre is further testified by the ubiquity of what Peters has called “the emphatic adverb” in Brontë’s prose – something that is characteristic of her style at large (1973, 15–39). In sentences such as “Why was I always suffering, always browbeaten, always accused, for ever condemned?” (Brontë 2006, 18, emphasis added), the adverbs of time express very clearly not something temporal but the child Jane’s intense suffering at being treated unjustly. Here, as elsewhere in the novel, adverbs are used to intensify the words describing Jane’s state of mind. They suggest the protagonist’s usually heightened emotions and her necessity to express them; and they eclipse the chronology of external events (which both in Jane Eyre’s Thornfield episode and in Charlotte Brontë’s life in the Haworth parsonage are scarce; Peters 1973, 28) to foreground instead the timelessness of the protagonist’s states of mind. The subjective intensity and energy of Jane Eyre’s discourse is also communicated by Brontë’s tendency to reverse the common sentence order. “Me, she had dispensed from joining the group” (Brontë 2006, 9); “What a consternation of soul was mine” (19); “Yet in what darkness, what dense ignorance, was the mental battle fought!” (19). The direct object placed in a stressed, initial position in the first sentence effectively puts before us the subject, while the latter two sentences display a rather awkward verb order, using the constructions “was mine” rather than “mine was,” and “was the [. . .] battle fought” rather than “the [. . .] battle was fought.” The overall effect of such marked, conspicuous syntactical structures is a quality that Peters has called “pervasive

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tension” – “Charlotte Brontë’s prose is simply never at rest,” she claims, correctly I believe (Peters 1973, 57). Given this restless, highly subjective prose, whose distinctive features, even where we get the more sobered accounts of the adult protagonist, never substantially change throughout the novel, it seems all the more unlikely that Jane’s life at Lowood should eventually enable her to become that “disciplined and subdued character” that in the Thornfield section she claims herself to have appeared “to the eyes of others, usually even to [her] own” (Brontë 2006, 100). Not only does the style of her prose not change enough to justify this assumption, but the novel’s entire composition quite clearly suggests that while she may outwardly have controlled the rebellious temperament characterising her as a child, Jane’s ‘true self’, her ire, is still lurking underneath the subdued surface, threatening to erupt any time. Perhaps most influential among the critics noting this repression structure were Gilbert and Gubar, who proposed that Jane’s repressed rage is ubiquitous in the figure of Bertha, the ‘mad’ Mrs Rochester, whose every appearance in the novel is associated with an experience or repression of anger on Jane’s part (2000, 360). The most dramatic example of this Gothic doppelgänger theme in Jane Eyre is Bertha’s attack on the bridal veil on the penultimate night before Jane and Rochester are to be married. The importance of this instance (and the concomitant identification of Bertha and Jane) is unmistakably marked by Charlotte Brontë’s narrative technique in this chapter. The narrative systematically brings Jane’s encounter with Bertha into prominence by withholding it for the most part of the chapter, so that we only learn about the occurrence when Jane tells it to Rochester, as the constantly postponed climax of a lengthy recapitulation of that night’s events and her premonitory dreams. Jane’s reaction to Bertha’s attack is also explicitly associated with the red-room experience. As Jane recalls, “I was aware her lurid visage flamed over mine, and I lost consciousness: for the second time in my life – only the second time – I became insensible from terror” (Brontë 2006, 327). The verb “flamed” in a passage that describes the encounter between Jane and the personification of her repressed passions is not coincidental. In fact, images of fire pervade the novel, providing “objective correlatives” that express the inner life of the protagonist (Lodge 1966, 120–121). While, as David Lodge has noted, Brontë uses an entire system of elemental and natural imagery, featuring images of earth, water, and air, the last of which images is a punning association with the protagonist’s name, fire is the most prominent one and the one that characterises numerous aspects of Jane’s character besides her quick temper. Lodge observes how Brontë uses fire to express her heroine’s romantic longings for Rochester, the sense of awe and danger she feels as her desire for him grows, and the agony of wrestling with her love for Rochester after their marriage has been thwarted (1966, 132–133). Finally, fire is the symbol that connects Jane spiritually and metaphorically with Rochester, who in chapter twenty confides to his “little friend,” in a downright prophetic pronouncement, “[t]o live, for me, Jane, is to stand on a crater crust which may crack and spure fire any day” (Brontë 2006, 250).


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4 Reception and Theoretical Perspectives Jane Eyre is one of the most discussed works in English literature and has been analysed with the help of virtually every possible critical approach: feminist, psychoanalytical, Marxist, poststructuralist, postcolonial, ecocritical, rhetorical. The widespread interest that has fastened onto the novel began almost immediately after its publication, and though the general opinion of the novel’s merits at the time was positive, some Victorians made a point of upbraiding the questionable morality of the book. One reviewer for The Christian Remembrance of January 1848, though praising “the remarkable power” of Jane Eyre, found fault with the author’s stubborn rejection of Christian values: “All virtue [in Jane Eyre] is but well masked vice,” he surmised, “all religious profession and conduct is but the whitening of the sepulchre, all self-denial is but deeper selfishness.” His advice for ‘Currer Bell’ was “to be a little more trustful of the reality of human goodness, and a little less anxious to detect its alloy of evil” (qtd. in Dunn 2001, 450). More openly hostile was Elizabeth Rigby’s review in The Quarterly Review, published, to make matters worse, in the month of Emily’s death. For Rigby, Jane Eyre was “throughout the personification of an unregenerate and undisciplined spirit,” “pre-eminently an anti-Christian composition,” written by “a person who [. . .] combines a total ignorance of the habits of society, great coarseness of taste, and a heathenish doctrine of religion” (1990, 139–141). In the twentieth century, Jane Eyre soon became a focus for feminist literary analysis. An early feminist voice, at a time when feminist criticism as such did not yet exist, was Virginia Woolf, who criticised what she saw as the severely limited perspective of Jane Eyre: “always to be a governess and always to be in love is a serious limitation in a world which is full, after all, of people who are neither one nor the other” (1948, 221). Woolf’s commentary pioneered what were to become generations of scholarship raising debates as to whether Jane Eyre was a novel of female rebellion or a novel of female restraint. Adrienne Rich’s famous essay “The Temptations of a Motherless Woman” directly responded to Woolf and held Jane Eyre’s personal strength against Woolf’s charges: “Always a governess and always in love? Had Virginia Woolf really read this novel?” (1990, 151). Other important feminist works emerging in the 1970s – a decade that saw an explosion of feminist literary criticism – included Helene Moglen’s Charlotte Brontë, Ellen Moers’s Literary Women, Elaine Showalter’s A Literature of Their Own, and Gilbert and Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic, all of which advocated Jane Eyre’s central place in the alternative female literary canon they endeavoured to establish. Incidentally, the category of ‘gender’ these critical works introduced to literary analysis opened up some very productive lines of engagement with the novel. Terry Eagleton combined a gender-aware approach with a focus on power relations and emphasised the fluidity of both categories in Jane Eyre. He argued that “Jane moves deftly between male and female roles in her courtship of Rochester; unlike Blanche, who is tall, dark and dominating like Rochester himself, she settles astutely for a

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vicarious expression of her own competitive maleness through him” (1987, 45). Similarly stressing the gender ambiguities in the novel, Showalter has seen Rochester’s injuries at the end of the novel as “symbolic immersions of the hero in feminine experience” (1977, 152). As indicated by statements such as these, both feminist and cultural/political approaches have tended to cross-fertilise with psychoanalysis. The greatest success of such alliances has been the (in)famous pronouncement of the novel’s vital doppelgänger theme – Rochester’s secret wife as Jane’s secret self. Most famously Gilbert and Gubar, but also R. E. Hughes, have identified “the fiend in the attic” with “Jane’s own irrationality” (Hughes 1964, 358). That Bertha could, however, also be psychoanalysed as a part of Rochester has been shown by critics like Mark Kinkead-Weekes, John Hagan, and M. H. Scargill. For Kinkead-Weekes, “the mad woman does not simply represent an external impediment, but also something within Rochester himself which he tries to deny, to escape, to imprison” (1970, 83). John Hagan has suggested that “Bertha [. . .] is both the wife who enslaves [Rochester] and, in her raging madness, his grotesque alter ego – a hideous mirror of his own licentiousness” (1971, 357). And Scargill has noted: “But behind Mr Rochester [. . .] is Bertha Mason, the mad wife. Rochester symbolizes uncontrolled physical passion, and with uncontrolled passion there is always the menacing figure of complete degeneracy and madness” (1950, 122–123). Critical attention to Jane Eyre has also been given by Marxist scholars. Foremost among these has been Eagleton, who read Jane Eyre as a complex and extremely contradictory response to the contemporaneous conflict between passionate, romantic rebellion and a blunt bourgeois ethic. For Eagleton, the salient point of the matter was that Jane Eyre’s heroine (or indeed its author) at once pursues a way of passionate self-fulfilment beyond social customs and refuses to abandon those. Though it seems that Jane seeks to move away from the restraints of class structure and toward a romantic ethic based on spiritual equality, she continues to abide by the codes of blood-kinship and social hierarchy: she refuses to marry Rochester until they are social equals, and the novel grants her the socially elevated position of Mrs Rochester only through the event of her inheritance (Eagleton 1987, 39–45). By the 1980s, postcolonial criticism had entered the field of literary studies, and Jane Eyre was promptly recognised as a major reference point. The now classic postcolonial reading of the novel is Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s essay “Three Women’s Text and a Critique of Imperialism,” in which Spivak calls Jane Eyre a “cult text of feminism” (1985, 244) and condemns both the novel and conventional feminist readings of it for “reproduc[ing] the axioms of imperialism” (243). Influential as it has been within Brontë scholarship, Spivak’s reading was rarely left unchallenged. Susan Meyer has found Spivak’s bold claim of Jane Eyre as “the militant female subject” (245) problematic, observing that “[t]hroughout the novel, the marginality and disempowerment Jane experiences due to her class and gender are represented through a metaphorical linking between Jane and several of the


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nineteenth century’s ‘dark races’” (1996, 74). However, Meyer also asserted that the very use of such colonial metaphors in Jane Eyre revealed Brontë’s embeddedness within an imperial ideology. Lori Pollock, responding to Spivak and Meyer, reexamined the treatment of colonial tropes in Jane Eyre and observed that the novel is ultimately a “more subversive text” (1996, 256) than the previous readings had granted. For Pollock, who draws on Homi Bhabha, the text of Jane Eyre repeatedly produces slippages, excesses, and differences, and so works to challenge the racial stereotypes it employs. The text’s numerous ambiguities and inconsistencies have been noted by most scholars. An especially rich ground for interpretations in this regard has proved to be the ending of the novel. While some critics have found that the “utopian elements” Brontë seems to be portraying in the closing section at Ferndean are “disrupt[ed]” by the “dank and unhealthy atmosphere” of the setting (Meyer 1996, 93; see also Gilbert and Gubar 2000, 369; see also Martin 1966, 60), Gilbert and Gubar have seen Ferndean as a “green” world where “the healing powers of nature will eventually restore the sight of one of Rochester’s eyes” and allow the lovers to flourish in a natural order beyond social restrictions (2000, 370). Such a reading may be worth scrutinising more closely by ecocritics, who thus far have largely been hostile to Jane Eyre (see Buell 2005, 38 and Giblett 2011, 34–37). Controversy was also stirred up by the closing paragraphs of the novel. Following Beaty, I outlined above that the many-voicedness of Jane Eyre in these parts justifies a Bakhtinian interpretation, in which the fact that the last words of the book are John Rivers’ points to the novel’s ultimate reluctance to provide an ideological closure that pits Jane’s ‘worldly way’ against John’s ‘martyr’s way’. However, Brontë scholarship has also offered diametrically opposed readings of this matter. Carolyn Williams countered the view that the intertextual elements of the novel’s end work to disseminate and decentre meaning and argued, based on a rigorous rhetorical analysis, that Jane uses other voices as a means to her end – that of engendering her own identity (1989, 67). Readers with a further interest in the question of closure in Jane Eyre are referred to J. Hillis Miller, who showed convincingly that the notion of closure, for any given novel, is notoriously difficult. As he argued in his essay “The Problematic of Ending in Narrative,” “the notion of ending in narrative is inherently ‘undecidable’” since it is ultimately impossible to separate the complication of a plot from its dénouement, the “tying up” from the “untying” of the plot (2005, 259). We can, in other words, never know for sure whether a given narrative is ever complete; and indeed, major examples of apparently closed novels have shown that they “can always be reopened” (Miller 2005, 260). In light of this, the “Further Reading” section of this chapter includes a number of works that have attempted to ‘reopen’ Jane Eyre from ever new theoretical perspectives. While some of those reinvestigate the novel itself, others attend to the overgrown field of intertextual and intermedial reworkings of the classic, which to date has encompassed narrative, visual, and stage adaptations.

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Bibliography Works Cited Allott, Miriam, ed. The Brontës: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974. Bakhtin, Mikhail. Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. Ed. and trans. Carly Emerson. Introd. Wayne C. Booth. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984. Beaty, Jerome. “St. John’s Way and the Wayward Reader.” Dunn 2001, 491–503. Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. 1847. Ed. and introd. Stevie Davies. London: Penguin Classics, 2006. Buell, Lawrence. The Future of Environmental Criticism: Environmental Crisis and Literary Imagination. Malden: Blackwell, 2005. Dunn, Richard J., ed. Jane Eyre: An Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism. 3rd ed. New York: Norton, 2001. Norton Critical Editions. Eagleton, Terry. “Jane Eyre: A Marxist Study.” Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Ed. and introd. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea, 1987. 29–45. Gaskell, Elizabeth. The Life of Charlotte Brontë. 1857. Ed. and introd. Elizabeth Jay. London: Penguin Classics, 1997. Gates, Barbara T., ed. Critical Essays on Charlotte Brontë. Boston: Hall, 1990. Giblett, Rod. People and Places of Nature and Culture. Bristol: Intellect, 2011. Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. “A Dialogue of Self and Soul: Plain Jane’s Progress.” The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. Gilbert and Gubar. 2nd ed. New Haven: Yale UP, 2000. 336–371. Hagan, John. “Enemies of Freedom in ‘Jane Eyre.’” Criticism 13 (1971): 351–376. Hardy, Barbara. The Appropriate Form: An Essay on the Novel. London: Bloomsbury, 2013. Hughes, R. E. “Jane Eyre: The Unbaptized Dionysos.” Ninteenth-Century Fiction 18 (1964): 347–364. Jay, Elizabeth. Introduction. Gaskell ix –xxxii. Kinkead-Weekes, Mark. “The Place of Love in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.” The Brontës: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Ian Gregor. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1970. 76–95. Lodge, David. “Fire and Eyre: Charlotte Brontë’s War of Earthly Elements.” The Language of Fiction: Essays in Criticism and Verbal Analysis of the English Novel. Ed. Lodge. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966. 114–143. Martin, Robert Bernard . The Accents of Persuasion: Charlotte Brontë’s Novels. New York: Norton, 1966. Meyer, Susan. Imperialism at Home: Race and Victorian Women’s Fiction. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1996. Miller, Hillis J. “The Problematic of Ending in Narrative.” The J. Hillis Miller Reader. Ed. Julian Wolfreys. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2005. 259–269. Moers, Ellen. Literary Women: The Great Writers. New York: OUP, 1985. Moglen, Helene. Charlotte Brontë: The Self Conceived. New York: Norton, 1976. Monod, Sylvère. “Charlotte Brontë and the Thirty ‘Readers’ of Jane Eyre.” Jane Eyre. An Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism. Ed. Richard J. Dunn. New York: Norton, 1971. Norton Critical Editions. 496–507. Moretti, Franco. The Way of the World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture. Trans. Albert Sbragia. London: Verso, 1987. Peters, Margot. Charlotte Brontë: Style in the Novel. Wisconsin: U of Wisconsin P, 1973. Peterson, Linda H. “Autobiography.” The Cambridge History of Victorian Literature. Ed. Kate Flint. Cambridge: CUP, 2012. 243–264. Peterson, M. Jeanne. “The Victorian Governess: Status Incongruence in Family and Society.” Suffer and Be Still. Ed. Martha Vicinus. London: Routledge, 2013. 3–19.


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Pollock, Lori. “An(Other) Politics of Reading Jane Eyre.” The Journal of Narrative Technique 26.3 (1996): 249–273. Qualls, Barry V. The Secular Pilgrims of Victorian Fiction: The Novel as Book of Life. Cambridge: CUP, 1982. Rich, Adrienne. “Jane Eyre: The Temptations of a Motherless Woman.” Gates 1990, 142–155. Rigby, Elizabeth. Rev. of Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, by Charlotte Brontë. Gates 1990, 139–142. Scargill, M. H. “‘All Passion Spent’: A Revaluation of Jane Eyre.” University of Toronto Quarterly 19.2 (1950): 120–124. Showalter, Elaine. A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1977. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism.” Critical Inquiry 12 (1985): 243–261. Stewart, Garrett. Dear Reader: The Conscripted Audience in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1996. Tillotson, Kathleen. Novels of the Eighteen-Forties. London: OUP, 1954. Wadsö-Lecaros, Cecilia. The Victorian Governess Novel. Lund: Lund UP, 2001. Williams, Carolyn. “Closing the Book: The Intertextual End of Jane Eyre.” Victorian Connections. Ed. Jerome J. McGann. Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 1989. 60–87. Woolf, Virginia. The Common Reader. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1948.

Further Reading Bouhelma, Penny. Charlotte Brontë. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990. Chase, Karen. “Jane Eyre’s Interior Design.” Jane Eyre: New Casebooks. Ed. Heather Glen. New York: St. Martin’s, 1997. 52–67. Da Sousa Correa, Delia. “Jane Eyre and Genre.” The Nineteenth-Century Novel: Realisms. Ed. Da Sousa Correa. Milton Keynes: Open University, 2000. 87–116. Dunn, Richard. “The Natural Heart: Jane Eyre’s Romanticism.” Wordsworth Circle 10 (1979): 197–204. Federico, Annette R., ed. Gilbert and Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic after Thirty Years. Introd. Annette Federico. Fwd. Sandra M. Gilbert. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 2009. Ingham, Patricia. The Brontës. Oxford: OUP, 2006. Authors in Context. Oxford World’s Classics. Kaplan, Cora. “‘A Heterogeneous Thing’: Female Childhood and the Rise of Racial Thinking in Victorian Britain.” Human, All Too Human. Ed. Diana Fuss. New York: Routledge, 1995. 169–202. Kreilkamp, Ivan. “Unuttered: Withheld Speech and Female Authorship in Jane Eyre and Villette.” Novel 32 (1999): 331–354. Michie, Elsie. “‘The Yahoo, Not the Demon’: Heathcliff, Rochester, and the Simianization of the Irish.” Outside the Pale: Cultural Exclusion, Gender Difference, and the Victorian Woman Writer. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1993. 46–78. Miller, Lucasta. The Brontë Myth. London: Jonathan Cape, 2001. Oates, Joyce Carol . “Romance and Anti-Romance: From Brontë’s Jane Eyre to Rhys’s Sargasso Sea.” Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre: A Case Book. Ed. Elsie B. Michie. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. 195–208. Poovey, Mary. “The Anathematized Race: The Governess and Jane Eyre.” Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1988. 126–163.

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Shuttleworth, Sally. Charlotte Brontë and Victorian Psychology. Cambridge: CUP, 1996. Sternlieb, Linda. “Jane Eyre: ‘Hazarding Confidences.’” Nineteenth-Century Literature 53.4 (1999): 452–479. Stoneman, Patsy. Charlotte Brontë. Tavistock: Northcote, 2013. Rubrik, Margarete, and Elke Mettinger-Schartmann, eds. A Breath of Fresh Eyre: Intertextual and Intermedial Reworkings of Jane Eyre. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007.

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11 Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847) Abstract: This chapter begins by contextualising Wuthering Heights in relation to Emily Brontë’s life in Haworth, West Yorkshire, in the early nineteenth century. It examines Brontë’s literary relationship with the landscape and situates her novel in relation both to Romanticism and to her father’s Evangelical Christianity. The analysis of the novel takes as its central theme the prominence of boundaries and oppositions. It argues that the refusal to welcome the stranger is a key aspect of the social world of the novel and that the physical and social borders in the novel reflect Brontë’s interest in social and psychological fragmentation and in the ambiguous possibility of reconciliation and restored wholeness. The final sections consider the complex polyphonic narrative structure of the novel and suggest that the narrative foregrounds questions of interpretation and the preconceptions that all readers and critics bring to their readings. The chapter concludes by surveying a range of influential critical interpretations and suggests that the novel complicates all interpretative approaches by drawing attention to the limitation and partiality of interpretation itself. Keywords: Romanticism, barriers/boundaries, fragmentation, wholeness, polyphony

1 Context: Author, Oeuvre, Moment Wuthering Heights begins by locating itself in a time – “1801” – and in a landscape: “I have just returned from a visit to my landlord,” the narrator Lockwood informs us, “the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. This is certainly a beautiful country! In all England, I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society” (Brontë 2009, 1). Emily Brontë’s only novel is set in a rural, isolated region in the north of England; a fictional landscape rooted in the real topography of the West Riding of Yorkshire. Lockwood, a selfdeclared misanthrope – though on this, as on many other things, the reliability of his judgment must be questioned – identifies the beauty of the region with the scarcity of its population, the openness of its moorland and the isolation of its houses. The landscape of Wuthering Heights is a bleak place, where the houses must be fortified against the elements: The walls of the Heights are built strong, the windows “deeply set in the wall, and the corners defended with large jutting stones” (2). Like Lockwood, the reader is assumed to be a stranger in this place. Even the title of the novel requires explanation: “Wuthering,” Lockwood informs us, is “a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which [the Heights] is



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exposed in stormy weather” (2). Brontë’s novel addresses its reader as an outsider, unfamiliar with the region, its customs, and its language. The landscape of Wuthering Heights has often been conflated with the moors around Haworth, the Yorkshire town in which the Brontë siblings spent most of their lives. When Charlotte Brontë wrote a preface to the new edition of Wuthering Heights in 1850 (two years after Emily’s death in December 1848), she associated the novel’s strangeness and violence, its disregard of social proprieties, with the parochialism of its author. Rereading the novel, Charlotte claimed, had given her “a definite notion of how it appears to other people – to strangers who knew nothing of the author; who are unacquainted with the locality where the scenes of the story are laid; to whom the inhabitants, the customs, the natural characteristics of the outlying hills and hamlets in the West-Riding of Yorkshire are things alien and unfamiliar” (C. Brontë 2009, 307). Like Lockwood, Charlotte addresses a reader assumed to need assistance in navigating the landscape and social world of Wuthering Heights, but her preface also makes an overt association of the novel with the Brontës’ home. The reader requires guidance not only because the world of Heathcliff and Catherine is disorientating and unfamiliar, but because the hills and hamlets of the West Riding are equally unknown. The publication of Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Brontë in 1857 would further establish the connection between the landscapes of the Brontës’ fiction and their Yorkshire home. In Gaskell’s biography, the sisters are tragic heroines whose natural creative genius emerges against the backdrop of the lonely moors of their childhood. In reality, the Brontës’ Yorkshire was very different to the isolated moorland imagined by Gaskell. By 1847, when Wuthering Heights was published, the industrial revolution had reshaped the landscape of the West Riding. The Haworth that Emily Brontë knew was a growing industrial town at the heart of the Yorkshire textile industry, and it had the social problems common to many similar towns, including poverty, poor sanitation, inadequate education, disease, and a high mortality rate: In 1850, the average age at death in Haworth was twenty-five (Barker 1995, 96). The moorland landscapes upon which Emily Brontë drew in her writings remained, but Haworth itself was becoming increasingly urban and industrial by the mid-nineteenth century. In this respect, Wuthering Heights can be regarded as a historical novel that recalls a preindustrial Yorkshire increasingly distant from the experiences of many people of Brontë’s generation. There is little evidence of modern industry in the novel. Its characters are landowners and agricultural labourers. Its historical setting is the rural Yorkshire of the late eighteenth century, not the industrial north of the Victorian era. Emily Brontë was born on 30 July 1818 in Thornton, Yorkshire, to Patrick and Maria Brontë, the fifth of their six children. In 1820, the family moved to Haworth when Patrick was appointed to the perpetual curacy of the Church of St Michael and All Angels, a position he would hold until his death in 1861. The family’s early years in Haworth were marked by tragedy. Maria Brontë died in 1821, leaving Patrick to manage the competing demands of his young children and his pastoral

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duties. Further loss followed in 1825, when the two eldest children, Maria and Elizabeth, died within weeks of each other from typhus contracted at the Clergy Daughters’ School in Cowan Bridge, Lancashire. Fearful for the health of his remaining children, Patrick removed Charlotte and Emily from the school (Anne, the youngest, had not gone to school with her sisters). Emily’s six-month stay at Cowan Bridge, when she was seventeen, was the only period of formal education in her childhood until a brief period at Roe Head School in Mirfield (where Charlotte was a teacher). The rest of her education, along with that of her siblings, took place at home in the Haworth parsonage. Patrick (who was himself a published poet) encouraged his children to read widely and from a variety of sources: newspapers, periodicals, poetry, novels and other books, many of them borrowed from neighbours or from circulating libraries. By 1825, the siblings had begun to invent stories based around imagined kingdoms: Angria for Charlotte and Branwell, Gondal for Emily and Anne. They wrote these stories in miniature books, in tiny handwriting designed to avoid waste of even the smallest space on the paper. The Gondal stories remained a significant part of Emily’s creative work throughout her life: her final poem, “Why ask to know what date what clime,” (1992, 190–191) which remained incomplete at her death in 1848, tells the story of a civil war in Gondal. Professional publication began for Emily when Charlotte discovered a notebook of her poems and suggested that the sisters might produce a collection of their works. This collection became Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell (1846), the pseudonyms chosen to conceal the sisters’ gender and identity while retaining their initials. Despite some favourable reviews, the collection sold few copies. Faced with difficult circumstances at home – Branwell was descending into alcoholism and despair, while Patrick’s health and eyesight were deteriorating – the sisters turned to fiction in the hope of earning a much-needed income. Charlotte’s first novel, The Professor, was rejected, but Emily’s Wuthering Heights and Anne’s Agnes Grey (↗ 12 Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey) were published in 1847. There is some evidence that Emily began work on a second novel (Barker 1995, 579) but, if so, it was never published. Emily Brontë died on 19 December 1847 after a short illness. Emily’s surviving writing reflects the multiple intellectual and creative influences of her early life – Romantic poetry, Gothic narrative, traditional folklore, politics, theology and more – synthesised and developed by a rigorous intellect and creative imagination. Opposed as much to dogmatic thinking as to conventional sentimentality, Emily’s work lays bare the violence that she saw as inherent to fallen human nature, while condemning oppressive moralism and religious authoritarianism. In Wuthering Heights, Joseph’s belief that the young Heathcliff and Catherine are predestined for damnation exerts a destructive influence upon the Earnshaw household (Marsden 2014, 101–112). This distaste for Calvinism was not untypical of the Brontë family, but Emily went further than her sisters in moving


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beyond dogmatic approaches to religious thought. One of her best-known poems, “No coward soul is mine” (1846), rejects the “thousand creeds” (1992, 182; l.9) of the Christian denominations in favour of an unmediated encounter with the divine. Her writings echo the turn to personal, subjective experience that characterised Romantic philosophies of religion. Her version of Romanticism, however, owes at least as much to the scepticism of Shelley as to the visionary confidence of the early Wordsworth and Coleridge. In Brontë’s poetry, as in Wuthering Heights, the natural world is both a source of liberating spiritual and imaginative experience, and a place in which such experience often seems absent or impossible. Like Shelley, Brontë depicts imaginative vision as transient. The imagination seeks to penetrate beyond the superficial realities of mortality, conflict, and division. Imaginative vision offers glimpses of transformation and renewal. In this respect, Brontë’s writing belongs to a transitional moment in the development of British writing from the Romantic era to the Victorian. It carries echoes of the visionary sensibilities of the early Romantics, blended with something of the spiritual fervour of John Wesley and the Methodist revival. Yet its glimpses of a world emptied of transcendent meaning also anticipate the secularised landscapes of George Eliot (↗ 22 George Eliot, Middlemarch) and Thomas Hardy (↗ 30 Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure). Though more recent popular culture has come to receive Wuthering Heights primarily as a Gothic romance, perhaps Brontë’s greatest artistic and intellectual achievement lies in her negotiation of the legacies of Romanticism and eighteenth-century Evangelicalism into a sustained exploration of human cruelty, suffering, and failure that remains open to possibilities of liberation, reconciliation, and restored wholeness.

2 Basic Coordinates: Central Topics and Concerns From its opening paragraphs, Wuthering Heights establishes the strangeness of its imagined world. Like Lockwood, the reader enters into a domestic environment in which familiar social structures seem no longer to make sense. Introduced to “Mrs Heathcliff” – the second Catherine – Lockwood twice fails to identify her husband, looking first to Heathcliff and then to Hareton. Seeking to make polite conversation with her, he gestures to what he assumes to be her pets, only to discover that what he took to be “something like cats” is in fact “a heap of dead rabbits” (Brontë 2009, 7). Even the most basic social conventions of language seem to break down at the Heights. Lockwood has come to a place where an invitation to “walk in” is “uttered with closed teeth and expressed the sentiment, ‘Go to the Deuce!’” (2). Both Lockwood and the reader arrive as strangers in a place that signals from the outset that strangers are not welcome and which gives only the most grudging assistance to those seeking to navigate its social and linguistic eccentricities.

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Hostility towards the stranger is a key trope of Wuthering Heights, a novel that frequently emphasises the barriers – physical, social, or ideological – that separate individuals from each other, and which illustrates the difficulty and danger of seeking to cross its multiple thresholds. Ironically, perhaps, Lockwood himself provides the novel’s most striking image of this persistent refusal to entertain the stranger. During his first night at the Heights, Lockwood dozes while reading the diaries of the young Cathy. In the dream that follows, Cathy’s ghost appears at the window of her childhood bedroom in which Lockwood now sleeps. Attempting to silence the knocking at the window, Lockwood inadvertently breaks the glass and finds himself grasping “a little, ice-cold hand”: The intense horror of nightmare came over me; I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, “Let me in – let me in!” “Who are you?” I asked, struggling, meanwhile, to disengage myself. “Catherine Linton,” it replied, shiveringly (why did I think of Linton? I had read Earnshaw twenty times for Linton). “I’m come home, I’d lost my way on the moor!” As it spoke, I discerned, obscurely, a child’s face looking through the window – Terror made me cruel; and, finding it useless to attempt shaking the creature off, I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bedclothes: still it wailed, “Let me in!” and maintained its tenacious gripe, almost maddening me with fear. (Brontë 2009, 20–21)

Lockwood, himself a stranger allowed reluctantly into what he calls the “penetralium” (2) of Wuthering Heights, now uses violence to preserve the boundary of the house against one who seeks to penetrate it from outside. The broken window is an epistemological as well as a physical border: It represents for Lockwood the barrier between life and death, present and past, reason and unreason, civilisation and wildness (Mills 2007, 165–166). Lockwood attempts to re-establish a secure boundary: Reaching for the physical embodiments of reason and authority, he builds a barrier of books in front of the shattered glass. The scene stands as a metaphor for the hostility to the outsider that shapes the social world of Wuthering Heights. Barring Cathy’s spectre from entry into her childhood bedroom, Lockwood seeks to expel both the stranger and the disruptive forces that the stranger embodies. Similar efforts to preserve barriers against the stranger can be seen elsewhere in the novel. As a child, Heathcliff himself is a victim of this hostility to the outsider. Brought to the Heights from Liverpool by Mr Earnshaw, Heathcliff is met with resentment by the wider household. Mrs Earnshaw is “ready to fling it out of doors,” while Hindley and Cathy refuse to have the child in their bedroom and Nelly “put it on the landing of the stairs, hoping it might be gone on the morrow” (Brontë 2009, 31–32). These initial acts of hostility towards the defenceless child are often neglected in critical readings of the novel, which have tended to interpret Heathcliff and Cathy in terms of an original union that becomes divided as


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they move into adulthood (see section 4: Reception and Theoretical Perspectives). In fact, though they quickly develop a strong attachment to each other, their first encounter is marked by the same rejection of the outsider that is common to the social world of the novel. Heathcliff’s first arrival at Thrushcross Grange provokes a different kind of rejection, one that more fully reveals the discourses of class and race upon which the social hierarchy is based. When Heathcliff and Cathy are overheard laughing at the Linton children from outside their window, the Lintons set their dogs on them. Cathy is bitten, sustaining injuries that render her unable to run. At this moment, the two children are forcibly reminded of their different social statuses. Cathy, recognised as an Earnshaw, is taken into the Grange and given treatment for her wound. Heathcliff, too, is identified, but in his case the identification focuses on his socio-economic dependency and ethnic otherness: “I declare,” says Mr Linton, “that he is that strange acquisition my late neighbour made in his journey to Liverpool – a little Lascar, or an American or Spanish castaway” (Brontë 2009, 44). Heathcliff is expelled from the house into which Cathy is taken and is left to look in at her through the same window at which the two of them had watched the Linton children moments earlier. Describing the incident to Nelly, Heathcliff claims that “if Catherine had wished to return, I intended shattering their great glass panes to a million fragments, unless they let her out” (44). Less easily shattered, however, are the social barriers that now separate Heathcliff and Cathy. Cathy’s induction into the Lintons’ world of social and economic privilege marks the beginning of the conflicted desires that culminate in her choice of Edgar Linton as husband. The choice of Heathcliff or Edgar as husband is for Cathy also a choice between two different modes of being, or two versions of the self. Cathy describes her relationship with Heathcliff in terms of ontological union: “Whatever our souls are made of,” she tells Nelly, “his and mine are the same, and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire” (Brontë 2009, 71). Her love for Edgar, conversely, is framed in terms of socioeconomic prudence and conventional romantic feeling: She loves him because he is “handsome, and pleasant to be with,” “young and cheerful,” “because he loves me,” and because “he will be rich, and I shall like to be the greatest woman of the neighbourhood, and I shall be proud of having such a husband” (69). From Cathy’s own perspective, then, her choice of husband is the choice between the emotional and psychological sympathy that she shares with Heathcliff – sympathy that is always defined in opposition to its wider social context – and the social advantage to be gained by conformity to the normative, socially-sanctioned version of romance offered by Edgar. Cathy’s acceptance of Edgar’s proposal, which prompts Heathcliff’s departure, is a decisive moment in the fragmentation of her identity, a fragmentation that gathers renewed momentum when Heathcliff returns from his three-year absence as a wealthy gentleman. As Mrs Linton, Cathy becomes estranged from her own

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past and unrecognisable to herself, as she admits in another confession to Nelly during her final illness: But supposing at twelve years old I had been wrenched from the Heights, and every early association, and my all in all, as Heathcliff was at that time, and been converted in a stroke into Mrs. Linton, the lady of Thrushcross Grange, and the wife of a stranger; an exile, and outcast, thenceforth, from what had been my world – You may fancy a glimpse of the abyss where I grovelled! [. . .] I wish I were out of doors – I wish I were a girl again, half savage and hardy, and free . . . and laughing at injuries, not maddening under them! Why am I so changed? why does my blood rush into a hell of tumult at a few words? I’m sure I should be myself were I once among the heather on those hills . . . Open the window again wide, fasten it open! (Brontë 2009, 111)

Once again, a window stands as a physical barrier between Cathy and the remembered psychological wholeness and coherence for which she longs. As this semidelirious speech makes clear, however, the window is only a physical representation of the impossibility of the return that Cathy desires. She seeks to undo the passage of time and history, to return to her childhood self before she entered the ‘exile’ of her life as Mrs Linton (we may here recall Lockwood’s surprise when the ghost-child of his dream uses the married woman’s name). The window functions as a symbol of the multiple conceptual oppositions that shape the novel and of the imaginative and ideological barriers that maintain them as oppositions: between civilisation and wilderness, domesticity and nature, adulthood and childhood, society and individuality. Wuthering Heights, then, is a novel of boundaries. It depicts the barriers – social, psychological, and ideological as well as literal – that divide people from each other. It also shows the ways in which these individual boundaries are representative of a fragmented society, in which strangers are unwelcome and moralistic judgement supersedes mercy. What becomes visible here is a form of social collapse exemplified in the first half of Lockwood’s dream when an Evangelical congregation descends into violence, each seeking to exact vengeance upon the sinner guilty of the unforgivable sin and each unable to identify either the sinner or the sin (Brontë 2009, 18–20). In this context, Cathy’s often-expressed desire for union both with Heathcliff and with the natural world reflects an aspiration towards wholeness and integration that is always in tension with the exclusions and divisions that shape her society. Emily Brontë shares with the Romantics the imaginative aspiration to see the individual as part of a greater totality. Cathy’s confession to Nelly Dean of her feelings for Heathcliff employs this Romantic discourse overtly: I cannot express it; but surely you and every body have a notion that there is, or should be, an existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of my creation if I were entirely contained here? My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning; my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and, if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the Universe would turn to a mighty stranger. I should not seem a part of it. (72–73)


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Cathy describes Heathcliff as the source of her integration with the natural world, a trope echoed in her later descriptions of herself as in exile, estranged from her world, and separated from nature by the confines of domesticity at Thrushcross Grange. Her dream of expulsion from heaven, in which she is flung “into the heath on top of Wuthering Heights” before she wakes “sobbing for joy” (71) demonstrates the collapse of differentiation between Heathcliff and the heath recalled by his name, and shows Cathy’s desire for restored harmony with both Heathcliff and the natural world.

3 Aesthetics: Narrative and Literary Strategies A key question for readers of Wuthering Heights, then, is whether the novel allows a resolution of its various conflicts and divisions. If the narrative brings into view both a fragmented society and a parallel fragmentation of the self, does it also suggest that what is broken might be made whole again? In order to assess the kind of resolution offered by Wuthering Heights, we must pay attention not only to the ending of the novel, but also to the narrative techniques that work to render that ending ambiguous. Two aspects of Brontë’s narrative style – the unreliable narrator and the use of repetition – work together to complicate our reading of the novel’s conclusion. Wuthering Heights is a polyphonic novel that incorporates multiple narrative voices. Rather than simply shifting between different narrators, Brontë employs a layered narrative structure containing several levels of narration. The whole of the novel is narrated by Lockwood, but from chapter four onwards he mostly reports the words of Nelly Dean, who in turn relays stories told by Heathcliff, Cathy, Isabella, and others. None of these narrators speaks from a position of objectivity or neutrality; all of them are implicated in, or have vested interests in, the stories that they tell. Lockwood himself hints at an unspecified degree of editorial intervention in Nelly’s narrative: “I’ll continue it in her own words,” he tells us at the beginning of the second volume, “only a little condensed” (Brontë 2009, 137). Lockwood is prone to misunderstanding and is unfamiliar with the social world and conventions of the Heights. Yet, if Lockwood’s narrative is limited by his status as an outsider, Nelly Dean shows that unreliability might also be the result of a narrator being too close to her subject. Nelly is part of the events that she narrates and, at times, seeks to justify her own conduct: her decision to withhold from Catherine the fact that Heathcliff can hear her speak of her engagement to Edgar Linton demonstrates both Nelly’s understanding of the power of words to shape events and the extent to which questions might be asked of her own moral responsibility for the novel’s unfolding tragedies (71–72). None of the novel’s various narrators can offer an entirely reliable view of events; none of them can offer a secure or definitive moral perspective upon those events.

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A further level of narrative complexity is introduced by the novel’s persistent use of repetition. Characters and events seem to repeat themselves throughout the novel, particularly between the two generations of its main protagonists. The romance between Hareton and Catherine that develops in the novel’s closing chapters has seemed to many readers a second version of the relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy, this time one that succeeds in establishing itself in the socially-recognised form of marriage (Brontë 2009, 300). Catherine herself, born on the night of her mother’s death, seems in some way a renewal of Cathy, though, as Heathcliff points out, the stronger physical resemblance to Cathy is borne by Hareton, her nephew (288). The sequence of names that the young Cathy carves into the window ledge of her childhood bedroom – “Catherine Earnshaw, here and there varied to Catherine Heathcliff and then again to Catherine Linton” (15) – perhaps better describes her daughter: the first Catherine never becomes Catherine Heathcliff, but her daughter legally holds all three names at different points in the novel. Indeed, names themselves recur in Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff, nameless when he arrives at the Heights, is given the name of an Earnshaw sibling who died in childhood (32). Linton Heathcliff’s name is given to him by his mother to spite his father; it is a symbol of the enmity between Heathcliff and Edgar Linton. The recurrence of names points to a still longer history of repetition. When Lockwood arrives at the Heights, he observes carved above the door the name “Hareton Earnshaw” and the date “1500” (2); when he leaves for the final time, a Hareton Earnshaw is again master of Wuthering Heights. The ending of the novel brings into view both the questions of narrative reliability and the structure of repetition that have been present throughout the text. Brontë gives us a conclusion that seems to combine two different kinds of ending, one located in the social world and the other in ambiguous glimpses of life beyond the grave. Hareton and Catherine achieve the stable, sustainable romance that was never experienced by their predecessors: a stability made possible, perhaps, by the lesser intensity of their feelings. Where Cathy had seen in Heathcliff a marriage that would “degrade” her socially, her daughter teaches Hareton to read and thus helps him to become the “young man, respectably dressed, and seated at a table, having a book before him” (Brontë 2009, 273) that Lockwood encounters on his return to Wuthering Heights. Our final glimpse of the couple sees them standing together on the door-stones of the Heights (300), locating them symbolically and literally at the interstices between inside and outside, civilisation and nature, domesticity and wildness. Leaving the Heights for the final time, Lockwood passes the churchyard in which Heathcliff, Cathy, and Edgar are buried. In place of closure, the novel’s final sentences seem to foreground the questions of interpretation that have persisted throughout the narrative:


Simon Marsden

I sought, and soon discovered, the three head-stones on the slope next the moor – the middle one grey, and half buried in heath – Edgar Linton’s only harmonized by the turf, and moss creeping up its foot – Heathcliff’s still bare. I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth. (Brontë 2009, 300)

Lockwood’s narrative ends with one more attempt to exclude the novel’s ghosts, this time by reassuring himself of the quietness of the earth in which their physical remains are buried. Yet these final sentences paradoxically raise the very spectres that they seek to exorcise. Lockwood’s final image of the dead at rest in their graves – an image that invokes the alternative that it seeks to exclude – contrasts with the imaginative and symbolic life of the scene he has described. The “heath, and hare-bells” around the graves suggest the names of Heathcliff and Hareton, extending the association of these characters with the natural world that has been developed through the narrative; the description of Cathy’s grave “half buried in heath” is an uncanny image of erotic embrace. The “soft wind breathing through the grass” recalls both the wind as a symbol of imaginative inspiration in Romantic poetry and, as Lisa Wang (2000) has shown, the Christian imagery of the Holy Spirit as both wind and breath. Despite Lockwood’s best efforts, the ending of his narrative neither consigns Heathcliff and Cathy to the grave nor leaves them to wander the moors as ghosts. The final scene of Wuthering Heights is one of openness rather than closure: It implicates the reader in the act of interpretation and reminds us that the meaning of the novel is not fixed or determined by the ending of its narrative.

4 Reception and Theoretical Perspectives Despite the ambiguities of the final scene of Wuthering Heights, the image of a ghostly reunion between Heathcliff and Cathy has become for many readers the truth of the novel’s ending. Lockwood’s failure to imagine a ghostly afterlife for the lovers is typically seen as further evidence of his limitations as a narrator. His inability to believe in them having become roaming ghosts is thus taken as a sign that the reader should do so. (It is not usually noted that the only one of the novel’s main characters who does claim to have seen the ghosts is Joseph.) This is not to say that this view of the novel should be rejected, but rather to suggest that the recognition of its prevalence provides an insight into the novel’s reception and, indirectly, into the hermeneutic questions it raises. In contemporary popular culture, Brontë’s novel has been understood and interpreted primarily as a Gothic romance, a reading shaped significantly by William Wyler’s 1939 film adaptation that cast the relationship between Laurence

11 Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847)


Olivier’s Heathcliff and Merle Oberon’s Cathy as a love that outlasts the grave: The film ends with the lovers wandering the moors as ghosts and omits the secondgeneration characters. More recently, Stephenie Meyer has used Wuthering Heights as the basis for the paranormal love-triangle plot of Eclipse (2007), the third of her bestselling Twilight series. To a significant extent, the tendency of popular culture to view the novel primarily in terms of the Heathcliff-Cathy romance has been echoed in critical readings. Indeed, Lynne Pearce argues that critical readings of Wuthering Heights have frequently concealed “their own susceptibility to the discourse of romantic love: that is to say, the way in which the apparently overwhelming force of Catherine and Heathcliff’s love for one another becomes the text’s baseline ‘truth’ and raison d’être” (2007, 92–93). Pearce’s psychoanalytic interpretation offers a different view of its firstgeneration lovers: What begins as a symbiotic union in childhood gives way in their adult lives to a more destructive (and adulterous) psychological dynamics of narcissism (Cathy) and object-idealisation (Heathcliff). Most significantly, perhaps, Pearce shows that modern critical readings of Wuthering Heights have often been based on an unargued assumption that the novel was fundamentally a celebration of the love between Heathcliff and Cathy, and that the role of criticism is to understand the ways in which the strength of their passion for each other is contested by various external and/or internal pressures (2007, 92–102). The nature of these pressures varies according to the particular theoretical frameworks and methodologies applied to the novel, but the central view of the novel itself as a narrative of original union, division, and final reunion remains quite consistent. In order to understand the key developments of modern Brontë criticism, it is useful to survey some of the most influential of these readings before considering some of the new directions taken by more recent scholarship. J. Hillis Miller’s The Disappearance of God (1963) sees Romantic resonances in the narrative shape of Wuthering Heights. Miller observes of Heathcliff and Cathy: “Their love moves through a process of union, separation, and reunion on a higher level which appears often in writings in the romantic tradition, and is like the dialectic of Hegel or like Novalis’ vision of human life and history” (2000, 206). For Miller, Emily Brontë is one of several Victorian writers whose work responds to “the gradual withdrawal of God from the world” (1). Rather than insisting upon a Nietzschean ‘death of God’ narrative, Miller describes the nineteenth century as a time in which God is increasingly experienced as silent or absent; the divine “no longer inheres in the world as the force binding together all men and all things” (2, ↗ 3 God on the Wane?). Brontë, then, depicts a world in which communal relationships have broken down and the dominant version of religion is the moralistic and vindictive Calvinism of Joseph and Jabes Branderham. Against this background of social fragmentation, the Heathcliff-Cathy relationship represents an overwhelming force of love that not only achieves their own reunion against the psychological and social forces of division, but which becomes a point of reconnection between the human and the


Simon Marsden

divine. “Wuthering Heights is dominated by an immense strain,” Miller argues, “the effort of longing and will necessary to pierce through to the supernatural world” (209). Heathcliff’s willingness to enter into the danger of loving unreservedly and without restraint effects nothing less than a restoration of the divine into the world. By the end of the novel, Miller argues, the “love of Heathcliff and Cathy has served as a new mediator between heaven and earth, and has made any other mediator for the time being superfluous. Their love has brought ‘the new heaven and the new earth’ into this fallen world as a present reality” (211). Where Miller reads the Heathcliff-Cathy relationship as a means of achieving transformation and renewal of society, Terry Eagleton’s Marxist study Myths of Power (1975) focuses on the social conditions and ideological tensions that threaten and disrupt the symbiotic union of their childhood. Their relationship, Eagleton argues, represents an attempt to “preserve the primordial moment of pre-social harmony, before the fall into history and oppression” (1975, 109). A union based on mutual sympathy in childhood is divided both by external socio-economic structures that emphasise their differences in social rank and wealth, and by their own awakened consciousness of these divisions. Eagleton writes: The loving equality between Catherine and Heathcliff stands, then, as a paradigm of human possibilities which reach beyond, and might ideally unlock, the tightly dominative system of the Heights. Yet at the same time Heathcliff’s mere presence fiercely intensifies that system’s harshness, twisting all the Earnshaw relationships into bitter antagonism. (103)

In two ways, then, the non-social nature of the Heathcliff-Cathy relationship introduces conflict into the novel. Because Cathy does not conceptualise her union with Heathcliff in social terms, she is able to convince herself that it will be unaffected by her socially sanctioned marriage to Edgar. At the same time, the freedom embodied by Heathcliff represents a challenge to the strict social hierarchies and power structures of the Heights and Grange and thus provokes a violent response. The novel, then, “projects a condition in which the available social languages are too warped and constrictive to be the bearers of love, freedom, and equality; and it follows that in such a condition those values can be sustained only in the realms of myth and metaphysics” (Eagleton 1975, 120). Heathcliff and Cathy are finally unable to establish their relationship as a social reality not simply as a result of an individual failure on their part, but because their love embodies an ideal irreconcilable with the prevailing ideology of their social context. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar take a different approach in their groundbreaking book The Madwoman in the Attic (1979). Like Eagleton, Gilbert and Gubar read the Heathcliff-Cathy relationship in terms of original union divided by the pressures of social division. In their view, however, these pressures are best understood in terms of patriarchy and its policing of gendered identity and behaviour. The moment of crisis in the novel occurs when Cathy and Heathcliff visit Thrushcross Grange for

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the first time. Cathy, wounded by the Lintons’ dog, is taken into the house from which Heathcliff is excluded. In childhood, Heathcliff has been for Cathy “an alternative self or double,” who “gives the girl a fullness of being” and is “a complementary addition to her being who fleshes out all her lacks the way a bandage might staunch a wound” (Gilbert and Gubar 2000, 265). With her forced introduction into Thrushcross Grange comes socialisation into the norms of patriarchy, culminating in her choice of a socially advantageous marriage to Edgar Linton rather than her transgressive union with Heathcliff. By providing critical frameworks for discussion of important power structures – Calvinist theology and Evangelical authoritarianism, social class and economics, gender and patriarchy –, these readings have exerted significant influence upon subsequent criticism. In a detailed reception history of Emily Brontë and religion, Micael M. Clarke (2009) argues that Miller’s reading of Wuthering Heights has given rise to a critical tendency to read Brontë’s novel as a protest against or rejection of Christianity: Such readings, Clarke argues, emphasise Miller’s account of a vindictive, extreme Protestantism while neglecting the more benevolent and transformative Christian vision that Miller sees as equally integral to the novel. In Gilbert and Gubar’s reading, Christianity is identified with the structures of patriarchal oppression against which Brontë’s writings protest (2000: 248–308). Later feminist criticism has pointed to the lack of a female literary tradition within which Brontë might situate herself: Readings by Margaret Homans (1980), Irene Tayler (1990), and Stevie Davies (1994) have seen in Brontë’s writings an imaginative rebellion against the narratives, language, and power structures of patriarchal religious and literary traditions. Yet this critical approach has not gone unchallenged. Marianne Thormählen’s The Brontës and Religion (1999) not only offers a significant reappraisal of Emily Brontë’s relationship to Christianity, but suggests an alternative to romance as the most appropriate generic framework within which to understand Wuthering Heights. Brontë’s novel, Thormählen argues, is “a nineteenth-century Revenger’s Tragedy in which the avenger is never reconciled – Heathcliff seeks no forgiveness and grants none – but ultimately disarmed by the one force [i.e. love] that is stronger than his hatred” (119). Thormählen’s analysis is one of several recent readings that challenge the common view of Wuthering Heights as a celebration of the Heathcliff-Cathy relationship, pointing to the violence and selfishness of their behaviour as evidence that Brontë seeks to depict the destructive consequences of human vengeance. Emma Mason offers a different perspective, reading the novel as an analogy of the discourse of religious enthusiasm in Wesleyan theology. On this view, Heathcliff’s single-minded pursuit of Cathy is analogous to the intense religious passion associated with early Methodism (and towards which Wesley himself was ambivalent): Heathcliff and Cathy display an intensity of feeling that “offers a compelling metaphor for renewal and revision, but one that simultaneously threatens to overwhelm that which it promises to renew” (Mason 2006, 73).


Simon Marsden

Few literary romances have produced such widely divergent critical responses to their central characters. For J. Hillis Miller, the love between Heathcliff and Cathy breaks through the separation between humanity and God, restoring divine love as immanent presence in the world. Conversely, for Lynne Pearce and Marianne Thormählen, Heathcliff and Cathy are damned by (respectively) their pursuit of an adulterous, socially and psychologically destructive relationship or the refusal of forgiveness to others by which, according to the standards of nineteenth-century Protestant ethics, they bring divine judgment upon themselves. Yet it is appropriate that the novel should yield such a wide range of competing readings. As Michael S. Macovski has observed, Wuthering Heights is “about the act of interpretation itself” (1994, 135). Its complex, multilayered narrative structure internalises the acts of storytelling and interpretation: At the end of the novel, as Lockwood stands beside the graves of Cathy, Heathcliff, and Edgar and contemplates the rumours of “unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth” (Brontë 2009, 300), the narrator’s attempts to make sense of his narrative remain incomplete. Macovski, however, does not draw out the full implications of his insight. In his reading, Nelly and Lockwood are to be regarded as unreliable narrators because they fail to grasp the truth of the relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy (1994, 135–138). This argument, however, rests on the unargued assumption that Heathcliff and Cathy are reliable interpreters of themselves and of each other. It is far from clear that this is the case: Cathy, after all, tries to convince herself that Heathcliff “does not know what being in love is” (Brontë 2009, 72), while it is the supposedly unreliable Nelly who sees, against Cathy’s denials, that her intention of maintaining her relationship with Heathcliff while married to Edgar is unsustainable. If there is a hermeneutic key to Wuthering Heights, it is perhaps to be found in a brief aside by Nelly Dean. Reflecting upon the moral lessons to be drawn from the decline of Hindley, Nelly breaks the flow of her narrative to remark: “But you’ll not want to hear my moralising, Mr. Lockwood: you’ll judge as well as I can, all these things; at least, you’ll think you will, and that’s the same” (Brontë 2009, 163). Nelly’s comment articulates something of the hermeneutic challenge posed by Brontë’s novel. It insists that there is no interpretation that is not conditioned by ideology, assumption, prejudice, or preconception. It reminds us, as Nelly reminds Lockwood, that all of us believe ourselves to be judging truly insofar as our judgements satisfy our own predetermined criteria. Brontë gives us only one character who remains entirely confident in his own ability to judge others – and few readers would regard Joseph as an example to be emulated. By declining to provide an authoritative judgment on the characters and events of its own narrative, Wuthering Heights implicates its reader in the act of interpretation, which is also an act of moral and ethical judgment. In doing so, it reminds us that our interpretations too are unavoidably partial and limited.

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Bibliography Works Cited Barker, Juliet. The Brontës. London: Phoenix, 1995. Currer Bell [Brontë, Charlotte]. “Editor’s Preface to the New Edition of Wuthering Heights.” Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey. By Ellis Bell [Emily Brontë] and Acton Bell [Anne Brontë]. Ed. Currer Bell [Charlotte Brontë]. London: Smith, Elder& Co., 1850. Rpt. in Wuthering Heights. Ed. Ian Jack. Introd. Helen Small. Oxford: OUP, 2009. 307–310. Brontë, Emily. The Complete Poems. Ed. Janet Gezari. London: Penguin, 1992. Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. 1847. Ed. Ian Jack. Oxford: OUP, 2009. Clarke, Micael M. “Emily Brontë’s ‘No Coward Soul’ and the Need for a Religious Literary Criticism.” Victorians Institute Journal 37 (2009): 195–223. Davies, Stevie. Emily Brontë: Heretic. London: Women’s, 1994. Eagleton, Terry. Myths of Power: A Marxist Study of the Brontës. London: Macmillan, 1975. Gaskell, Elizabeth. The Life of Charlotte Brontë. 1857. Ed. Angus Easson. Oxford: OUP, 2009. Gilbert, Sandra, and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. 2nd ed. New Haven: Yale UP, 2000. Homans, Margaret. Women Writers and Poetic Identity: Dorothy Wordsworth, Emily Brontë, and Emily Dickinson. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1980. Macovski, Michael S. Dialogue and Literature: Apostrophe, Auditors, and the Collapse of Romantic Discourse. New York: OUP, 1994. Marsden, Simon. Emily Brontë and the Religious Imagination. London: Bloomsbury, 2014. Mason, Emma. “The Clue to the Brontës? Methodism and Wuthering Heights.” Biblical Religion and the Novel, 1700–2000. Ed. Mark Knight and Thomas Woodman. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006. 69–77. Meyer, Stephenie. Eclipse. London: Atom, 2007. Miller, J. Hillis. The Disappearance of God: Five Nineteenth-Century Writers. 3rd ed. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2000. Mills, Kevin. Approaching Apocalypse: Unveiling Revelation in Victorian Writing. Lewisburg: Bucknell UP, 2007. Pearce, Lynne. Romance Writing. Cambridge: Polity, 2007. Tayler, Irene. Holy Ghosts: The Male Muses of Emily and Charlotte Brontë. New York: Columbia UP, 1990. Thormählen, Marianne. The Brontës and Religion. Cambridge: CUP, 1999. Wang, Lisa. “The Holy Spirit in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Poetry.” Literature and Theology 14.2 (June 2000): 160–173. Wuthering Heights. Dir. William Wyler. United Artists, 1939.

Further Reading Chitham, Edward. The Birth of Wuthering Heights: Emily Brontë at Work. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001. Eagleton, Terry. Heathcliff and the Great Hunger: Studies in Irish Culture. London: Verso, 1995. Gezari, Janet. Last Things: Emily Brontë’s Poems. Oxford: OUP, 2007. Knoepflmacher, U. C. Wuthering Heights: A Study. Athens: Ohio UP, 1989. Reardon, Bernard. Religion in the Age of Romanticism. Cambridge: CUP, 1985. Wheeler, Michael. Death and the Future Life in Victorian Literature and Theology. Cambridge: CUP, 1990.

Joanna Rostek

12 Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey (1847) Abstract: This chapter argues that Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey (1847) is comparable to its eponymous heroine and to standard portrayals of its author: under the ostensibly self-controlled, plain, and unassertive exterior linger hidden depths of anger and despair. This makes Agnes Grey interesting both from a psychological point of view and as a historical document giving insight into the situation of English middle-class women in the 1840s. The chapter demonstrates that besides engaging in topics such as women and work, religion, education, and human-animal relationships, Agnes Grey both unwittingly reflects and consciously condemns an oppressive class and gender ideology that curtails the scope of female agency. Relating Brontë’s novel to nineteenth-century women’s writing as analysed by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar in The Madwoman in the Attic (1979), the chapter argues that Agnes Grey reworks the tropes of imprisonment, a split sense of self, and a deviant double and that it constitutes a noteworthy contribution to Victorian literary representations of female identities. Keywords: Female identity formation, psychological effects of gender norms, Madwoman in the Attic, social criticism, governess trade

1 Context: Author, Oeuvre, Moment For those wishing to get a notion of the psychological effects of the limited economic agency of Victorian women, Anne Brontë’s two novels are cases in point. The youngest of the Brontës relied on her own experience in penning them, as in the course of her short life she engaged in two of the few acceptable professions middle-class women could pursue: governessing and authorship. Born on 17 January 1820, Anne spent the first fifteen years of her life at Haworth Parsonage. Like her siblings, she was a creative child, fond of reading and writing. Together with Emily, to whom she felt united by a strong albeit sometimes fraught bond, she created the Gondal saga which the sisters intermittently developed as a private pleasure well into their twenties. In 1835, Anne was sent to Roe Head School to take the place of the homesick Emily. Though unhappy to be away from Haworth herself, she remained there until 1837. After two more years at home, with no clear prospect either of marriage or an inheritance that would secure her economic needs, Anne took up her first post as governess with the Ingham family at Blake Hall, near Mirfield, some twenty miles from Haworth. Employed in April 1839, she was dismissed as early as December, allegedly because the children had not made sufficient progress. Five months later, https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110376715-013


Joanna Rostek

Anne set out for her second post, this time as a governess with the Robinson family at Thorp Green, near York. Despite recurring moments of personal anguish – traces of which can be found in her novels and poems – she remained there until 1845, which marks her out as the most enduring employee of all the Brontë siblings. Anne’s return to Haworth brought the governess episode to an end and heralded the onset of the sisters’ literary career. Yet that path, too, entailed risks for a woman, as the masculine pseudonyms famously chosen by the Brontës show: 1846 saw the publication of Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. In 1847, Thomas Newby issued Ellis’s Wuthering Heights (↗ 11 Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights) and Acton’s Agnes Grey as a three-volume work. While Anne’s first novel was largely overlooked by critics, the second, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (first and second edition in 1848), received numerous, if mixed, reviews. That same year, Fraser’s Magazine published two of Anne’s poems. The literary success of those years, however, was not matched by a blissful private life. In September 1848, Anne’s brother Branwell died after a prolonged addiction to alcohol and opium. Three months later, Emily succumbed to consumption. At that point, Anne was already showing the same distressing symptoms as her sister. Despite medical treatment and a change of air provided by a trip to her beloved seaside, she did not recover. Anne Brontë died in Scarborough on 28 May 1849, only twenty-nine years old. While the facts of Anne Brontë’s life are thus quickly summed up, it is much more complicated to reconstruct how she felt, not least because merely five letters and two diary entries of Anne’s have survived. Those seeking to gain a first-hand impression of her character therefore often take recourse to Agnes Grey’s initial paragraph, in which the narrator avers that “shielded by my own obscurity, and by the lapse of years, and a few fictitious names, I do not fear to venture, and will candidly lay before the public what I would not disclose to the most intimate friend” (Brontë 2004, 3). This assertion, together with a similar passage in Anne’s “Preface” to The Tenant, has established a tradition of viewing Agnes Grey as the author’s semi-autobiography. Several obvious parallels between Agnes’s and Anne’s careers invite this approach, the most salient being the employment as a governess at two different households. There are also similarities between the ages and possibly even personalities of Agnes’s fictional and Anne’s real pupils (Chitham 1991, 61; Goreau 2004, xxxvi–xxxvii). The emotional and psychological disposition of author and heroine seem to match, too. Agnes, for example, complains during her work for the Murrays that she is “an alien among strangers” (Brontë 2004, 63) and “lonely – never, from month to month, from year to year, except during my brief intervals of rest at home, did I see one creature to whom I could open my heart, or freely speak my thoughts with any hope of sympathy, or even comprehension” (96). A similar feeling of solitude and dejection pervades several poems composed by Anne. The first two stanzas of her “Lines Written at Thorp Green” (1840), for example, read:

12 Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey (1847)


O! I am weary Though tears no longer flow; My eyes are tired of weeping, My heart is sick of woe. My life is very lonely, My days pass heavily; I’m weary of repining, Wilt thou not come to me? (Brontë 1979, ll.1–8)

In Agnes Grey, the curate Edward Weston mitigates the protagonist’s sense of existential loneliness. Who is it, then, for whom Anne Brontë repines in the poem above? Several critics maintain that Weston was to some extent modelled on Patrick Brontë’s curate William Weightman, for whom Anne is said to have cherished a deep, though unfulfilled, affection (Chitham 1991, 80; Leaver 2012, 349–350). The autobiographical dimension of Anne Brontë’s fiction was given further weight by Charlotte Brontë’s comment on The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, a novel that recounts the gradual decline and alcoholism of the heroine Helen Huntingdon’s first husband. Some reviewers took issue with the realistic portrayal of Arthur Huntingdon’s deplorable state and the rendering of obscene language, scenes of bawdry, and sexual attraction. In the “Biographical Notice” of 1850, Charlotte rushed to her late sister’s defence by putting forward Anne’s personal experiences as an explanation for the choice of the unfeminine topic: “[Anne] had, in the course of her life, been called on to contemplate, near at hand and for a long time, the terrible effects of talents misused and faculties abused [. . .]” (2004, lxi). Charlotte here alludes to their brother Branwell’s infatuation with his married employer Lydia Robinson and to his subsequent fatal addictions. Anne was more exposed to her brother’s disgrace than Emily or Charlotte since she was working for the Robinsons alongside Branwell. Again, it would seem, she used her fiction as a means of responding to personal crises. But even if Agnes Grey or Helen Huntingdon might share certain experiences, feelings, and traits of personality with their creator, they are not to be confused with Anne Brontë. There are, first and foremost, significant departures at the level of plot. The relatively happy marriages and motherhood of both heroines, for example, were denied to the author, to Anne’s considerable regret, as several of her poems testify (for instance, “A Voice from the Dungeon” [1837], “Verses to a Child” [1838]). Even more crucially, a too strong focus on the autobiographical dimension risks overshadowing the artistic and aesthetic merits of Anne’s fiction. Although with some 200 pages her first novel is a rather slim volume by nineteenth-century standards, it tackles social concerns with a complexity and audacity that tends to be overlooked at first glance. In this respect, Agnes Grey is comparable to its eponymous heroine and to standard portrayals of its author: Under the ostensibly self-controlled, plain, and unassertive exterior linger hidden depths of anger and despair. This makes Agnes Grey interesting both from a psychological point of view and as a historical document giving insight into the situation of English middle-class women in the 1840s.


Joanna Rostek

2 Basic Coordinates: Central Topics and Concerns Besides engaging in topics such as class, religion, and education, Agnes Grey both unwittingly reflects and consciously criticises an oppressive gender ideology that curtails the scope of female agency (↗ 6 Victorian Gender Relations). As such, the novel can be related to nineteenth-century women’s writing as analysed by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar in The Madwoman in the Attic (1979). Gilbert and Gubar argue that Victorian women had to repress and disown deeply felt desires in order to adhere to ideals of feminine propriety and to secure social acceptance. The resulting self-monitoring could lead to intense self-doubt and even selfloathing if women discovered that parts of their personality were incongruous with socially expected behaviour. Female identities thus became a battle ground for fierce inner conflicts, with the culturally acceptable sense of self attempting to subdue ‘dark’ and ‘fearsome’ personality traits. Gilbert and Gubar draw attention to three crucial tropes through which nineteenth-century female authors processed these dilemmas in their novels and poems: (i) the staging of various “separations within the self” (1979, 359); (ii) images of imprisonment that reflect women’s “central symbolic drama of enclosure and escape” (85); (iii) the creation of deviant doubles that act out the heroines’ (and authors’) hidden desires (78). Gilbert and Gubar make extensive use of Charlotte’s and Emily’s fiction to illustrate their points, but they pay scant attention to Anne. However, the claims made in The Madwoman in the Attic can be fruitfully applied to elucidate the specific contribution of Agnes Grey to Victorian literary representations of female identities. Agnes Grey constitutes a paradigmatic example of a female heroine suffering from a split sense of self. Like Jane Eyre (↗ 10 Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre), she is plagued by a perpetual sense of injustice. Agnes resents being looked down upon and slighted by her employers whom she has to obey even though she deems them uncultivated, cruel, arrogant, and hypocritical. She complains that her “powers were so limited” (Brontë 2004, 27) through barriers imposed not by the intrinsic merit of her person, but through the extrinsic markers of class and gender. But whereas Jane Eyre vents her anger, Agnes’s inner conflict is not unleashed on the outside world but kept precisely that: a thoroughly inward affair. This makes Agnes at first glance less interesting than the defiant Jane or the impulsive Catherines of Wuthering Heights and might explain why the complexity of her inner ordeals has remained unnoticed for a long time. Yet it is not the case that Anne fails to feel love, jealousy, despair, and rage, but rather that she consciously strives to subdue and hide these feelings. “I chose to keep silence, and bear all” (49) she claims, thereby combining a deliberate act of will (“I chose”) with overt submission. This gesture of merging inner resolve with outer meekness reappears time and again: “I determined to refrain from striking [. . .] even in self-defence” (27); “I manfully strove to suppress all visible signs of molestation” (28). Formulations such as “I chose,” “I determined,” “I manfully strove” convey a sense of autonomy and agency.

12 Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey (1847)


They stem from Agnes’s defiant and adventurous self – the self that made her leave her sheltered home and loving family to seek paid employment. While this part of her identity prompts her to speak out, to protest, or to strike, a stronger counterpart prevents her from acting on her feelings. Partly because of her personality and upbringing, and partly because she has internalised restrictive gender norms, Agnes seeks to turn what she perceives as futile and condemnable passions against themselves. She diverts the energy sparked by her inner rebellion into the external performance of exaggerated submission. Her demure exterior thus comes at an enormous, yet invisible, cost – invisible but to her and the careful reader. Agnes is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her outer and her inner self. One instance out of many in which she perceives a frustrating disparity between her calm outside and her tumultuous inside occurs when she comments on a poem of hers that “cold and languid as the lines may seem, it was almost a passion of grief to which they owed their being” (Brontë 2004, 142). While secretly harbouring a growing affection for the curate Edward Weston she notes: “I was a close and resolute dissembler [. . .]. My prayers, my tears, my wishes, fears, and lamentations, were witnessed by myself and Heaven alone” (142). This statement is not strictly accurate, however, because Agnes’s emotional ordeals are consciously shared with us, the readers of the novel. We therefore witness the consistent discrepancy between Agnes’s inward desires and outer behaviour, which can render Agnes Grey quite an excruciating reading experience, as we perceive the heroine’s lonely acts of self-repression. When, for example, the young Tom Bloomfield envisages new ways of tormenting animals, Agnes retorts: “I am determined you shall do nothing of the kind, as long as I have power to prevent it” (21). Yet this bold claim to power is made only “internally” (21), while the ‘outward’ Agnes watches Tom violate norms she holds dear. After she is dismissed and confronted with false accusations by her unamiable employer Mrs Bloomfield, she admits: “I wished to say something in my own justification, but in attempting to speak, I felt my voice falter” (49). Jane Eyre’s story is that of a governess finding a voice (Frawley 2008, 488). Jane speaks up for herself and counters her antagonists, thus paving the way for modern readers’ emotional relief and a sense of poetic justice. Agnes, by contrast, deliberately chooses not to retort and to uphold the gulf between inner and outer experience. In the words of Janet H. Freeman, she “learns to keep still” (1997, 68). As I will explain presently, it is paradoxically from this self-silencing that Agnes derives a sense of self-worth. Gilbert and Gubar claim that “[d]ramatizations of imprisonment and escape are so all-pervasive in nineteenth-century literature by women that [. . .] they represent a uniquely female tradition in this period” (1979, 85). On the face of it, Agnes Grey seems to contradict this diagnosis, given the heroine’s voluntary spatial mobility. Agnes twice chooses to leave her home and become a governess, against the wishes of her family. One could argue, of course, that the harsh treatment and humiliation she endures as a “hireling among strangers, despised and trampled upon by old and young” (Brontë 2004, 165) constitute symbolic acts of imprisonment. In such a


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reading, Agnes’s eventual retreat to a seaside town (which is usually taken to represent Scarborough) would signify a means of escape. This is, after all, where she begins “a new mode of life” (164) by establishing a school with her mother and where she becomes reunited with her future husband Edward Weston. But such a positive reading is complicated in at least two respects. Firstly, as Maggie Berg shows, Agnes “does not make a straightforward discovery of autonomy and equality” within her marriage, but “rather, like Jane Eyre after her, she discovers the ‘new servitude’ of ‘a good master’” (2002, 190). Susan Meyer likewise illustrates that Agnes’s marriage fixes her in just another hierarchical constellation: “If there is a problem even with Agnes’s marriage to the good and gentle Mr Weston, [. . .] it is because the relationship between men and women unfortunately mimics the relationship between the wealthy and the poor” (2003, 144). These readings suggest that despite the relative contentment ultimately professed by its protagonist, Agnes Grey is not a tale of straightforward female emancipation culminating in the heroine’s literal or metaphorical escape. Secondly, and more crucially perhaps, a Foucauldian logic is at play throughout Agnes Grey that makes the heroine become her own, most ardent jailer. The imprisonment she suffers from is not primarily one of the body, even if she is at times subjected to assaults by her unruly pupils. Her confinement is above all psychological and thus, in the end, much more difficult to escape. In this context, it is imperative to note that Agnes’s internalised self-monitoring is to a high degree the product of social norms. This is explicitly voiced by Weston who surmises that “[t]he fault” for Agnes’s dejection “is partly in society, and partly, I should think, in your immediate neighbours, and partly, too, in yourself” (Brontë 2004, 127). As a narrator, Agnes pays equal attention to all three factors: She critically examines her own traits of character, but she also perceives the flaws of society and her upper-class employers. Meyer shows that “[i]n this novel about a heroine who is, at crucial moments, nearly speechless, Anne Brontë explores the nature of a society that makes it quite literally the ‘business’ of some of its members ‘not to speak’” (2003, 133). Thus, “[t]he novel clearly demonstrates that the ‘business’ of being a governess is one completely at odds with all healthful self-expression” (135). To a large extent, therefore, Agnes’s damaging self-silencing results from class and gender expectations. Her second employer, Mrs Murray, makes explicit that a good governess “lives in obscurity,” “loses sight of herself” and does not “yield to indolence or self-indulgence” (Brontë 2004, 148–149). Failure to obey may lead to immediate sanctions, as Agnes knows at this point, since during her first employment at Wellwood Nurse Betty was dismissed after chastising the tyrannical Bloomfield children (43). This incident highlights the limited choice of nineteenth-century (gentle) women forced to make a living: either to practice self-restraint and bear humiliation or risk unemployment and thus poverty if they dared to vent their accumulated frustration.

12 Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey (1847)


In view of this predicament, it is hardly surprising that Agnes opts for selfcontrol and sublimation. In fact, it is telling that immediately before she learns of Betty’s dismissal, Agnes is insulted by the overbearing Mr Bloomfield. Instead of rebutting his unfounded accusations, she reacts with a highly symbolic gesture: “getting up; and, seizing the poker, I dashed it repeatedly into the cinders, and stirred them up with unwonted energy; thus easing my irritation, under pretence of mending the fire” (Brontë 2004, 42). Agnes’s desire to be active (getting up), to seize male power (gripping the phallic poker), to defend herself (dashing), and to let loose her emotions (the energetic stirring of the fire) has to be veiled and transposed into a benign activity of domestic service (mending the fire) that is congruent with her socially inferior station as a hired employee. Again, therefore, Agnes’s rebellious energies are contained and rerouted to produce the semblance of the exact opposite of rebelliousness. Difficult as it might be for modern readers to witness these efforts at dissimulation, they give an insight into what it must have been like to be a sensitive, intelligent, and educated woman subjected to Victorian gender and class norms. At the same time – and this renders Agnes a psychologically interesting protagonist – her internalised practice of self-repression cannot, as she knows herself, be exclusively blamed on social expectations. Anne Brontë avows in her autobiographical poem “Self-Communion”: “And my worst enemies, I know / Are those within my breast” (1979, ll.301–302), and to a certain degree, this also holds true for the heroine of Agnes Grey. Although Agnes’s attitude at times borders on the masochistic, she adheres to it, because it is from self-repression that she derives self-worth. Katherine Hallemeier points out that “one feels as the narrative goes on that Agnes rather enjoys shame – that she seeks it out precisely because it distinguishes her from the employers she never admits she loathes” (2013, 255). A revealing example can be found towards the end of the novel when Agnes reluctantly agrees to visit Ashby Park, the new home of her former pupil Rosalie. Though no longer obliged to please Rosalie, she nevertheless accepts the invitation, but notes: “I made a great sacrifice for her, and did violence to my feelings in many ways” (Brontë 2004, 169). During the visit, Rosalie expects Agnes to admire the rich interiors of the landed estate. Though Agnes’s initial impulse is to refuse what she deems a degrading experience, “immediately conscience whispered, ‘Why should I disappoint her to save my pride? No – rather let me sacrifice my pride to give her a little innocent gratification’” (172). These examples illustrate Agnes’s constant and exhausting inner dialogue between pleasure and duty. She keeps addressing “my sterner to my softer self” (165), with the latter inevitably losing out. Such acts of “sacrifice” (169, 172) trigger in her both a sense of self-worth and selfcontempt: Agnes ends up proud of and frustrated by the predictable outcome of her inner battles. In Freudian terms, while she applauds the fortitude of her superego, she also suffers from the suppression of her id. The ego meanwhile finds no rest, as it remains torn between the two conflicting poles. As such, the putatively calm Agnes is at bottom akin to the impulsive Catherine Earnshaw/Linton of Wuthering Heights, who is


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driven to insanity and death by the impossibility of reconciling her id (Heathcliff) with her superego (Edgar Linton). In a somewhat comparable manner, though with a more consolatory outcome, Agnes hovers between self-praise for her heroic “perseverance” (27, 28, 33, 49) and self-contempt for her tendency towards “reasoning [that] prevented me from making any sufficient effort to shake off my fetters” (143). She loves and loathes the prison of which she is both inmate and overseer. So far, I have demonstrated that Agnes Grey features two central tropes of nineteenth-century women’s literature identified in the Madwoman in the Attic: the separation of the self and imprisonment. Gilbert and Gubar point to depraved doubles as a third common trope: [B]y projecting their rebellious impulses not into their heroines but into mad or monstrous women (who are suitably punished in the course of the novel or poem), female authors dramatize their own self-division, their desire both to accept the strictures of patriarchal society and to reject them. What this means, however, is that the madwoman in literature by women is not merely [. . .] an antagonist or foil to the heroine. Rather, she is usually in some sense the author’s double, an image of her own anxiety and rage. (1979, 78)

Agnes Grey does not feature such starkly ‘deviant’ characters as Bertha Mason or Heathcliff. Yet in a similar way that Bertha is “Jane’s truest and darkest double” (Gilbert and Gubar 1979, 360) and Catherine, in her own famous words, is Heathcliff, Agnes Grey likewise features a double, if only a domesticated one: Rosalie Murray, Agnes’s pupil at Horton Lodge. At first glance, Rosalie is a very unlikely candidate for a deviant double. Beautiful, rich, spoilt, mercenary, self-centred, and conceited, she seems to embody just another literary middle-class criticism of the upper-class ideal of femininity. Given her constant preoccupation with charming men and attracting a rich husband, she moreover appears to support patriarchal norms, rather than challenge them. But on a deeper level, Rosalie does things that the novel’s heroine secretly wishes to be capable of herself. While Agnes, for example, engages in self-denial, Rosalie fails “to moderate her desires, to control her temper or bridle her will, or to sacrifice her own pleasure for the good of others” (Brontë 2004, 64). In contrast to Agnes, she unabashedly communicates her wishes, regardless of how much they may go against decorum and ideals of female modesty: [I]f I could be always young, I would be always single. I should like to enjoy myself thoroughly, and coquet with all the world, till I am on the verge of being called an old maid; and then, to escape the infamy of that, after having made ten thousand conquests, to break all their hearts save one, by marrying some high-born, rich, indulgent husband, whom, on the other hand, fifty ladies were dying to have. (78–79)

Rosalie’s self-confidence, pride, recklessness, and egoism are characteristics that Agnes with her split sense of self simultaneously admires and rejects. Though in a less obvious manner than Bertha in Jane Eyre, Rosalie acts out some of the heroine’s

12 Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey (1847)


deeply held wishes, as is borne out by Rosalie’s treatment of the rector Mr Hatfield. Agnes devotes two chapters to the censure of Hatfield’s arrogant, heartless, and harmful way of discharging his clerical duties, but her disapproval is, as usual, conveyed indirectly and ex-post to the readers of her intimate narrative. Rosalie, by contrast, uses her charms to entice the pompous rector, only to haughtily reject his proposal of matrimony. She then congratulates herself on having “humbled Mr Hatfield so charmingly” (121): “I was not a bit taken by surprise, not a bit confused, or awkward, or foolish; I just acted and spoke as I ought to have done, and was completely my own mistress throughout” (122). Whether justifiably or not, Rosalie claims for herself all the characteristics that her governess – who deplores her own “unattractive exterior, [. . .] unamiable reserve, [and] foolish diffidence” (166) – feels to be lacking. Though Agnes declares to be shocked at Rosalie’s “perfidy” (Brontë 2004, 120) and feels “sorry for her” (122), she nevertheless asks herself whether she “envied” her buoyant pupil. Her reply, as can be expected, is: “I did not – at least I firmly believe I did not” (122). But the qualifying part of the sentence makes clear that Agnes is not entirely sure whether she can trust her own professed nonchalance. And rightly so, given that an avowal she makes afterwards inadvertently exposes her jealousy: “I wondered why so much beauty should be given to those who made so bad a use of it, and denied to some who would make it a benefit to both themselves and others” (122). When forced to observe Rosalie’s flirtatious conversation with Weston, Agnes again admits: “I listened with envy to her easy, rapid flow of utterance [. . .]” (128). While Agnes is unable to assert her affection for Weston and suffers in silent agony, Rosalie boasts: “I intend him to feel my power – he has felt it already, indeed – but he shall acknowledge it too [. . .]” (133). Rosalie, then, neither doubts her power over men nor does she have any scruples about exerting that power for her own amusement. But since Victorian gender norms censure such a boisterous attitude in a woman, Agnes – and through her, Anne Brontë – act accordingly. Rosalie is not only condemned and pitied by the narrator, but also punished in terms of plot, as she ends up the unhappy wife of Sir Thomas Ashby, to whom she “must be a prisoner and a slave” (179). Rosalie’s marriage has a consolatory dimension for nineteenth-century middle-class female readers, as it suggests that a rich, beautiful, and self-confident woman is ultimately just as much subjected to the coercive forces of patriarchy and moneyed interest as her poor, plain, and diffident counterpart. Her sad fate moreover serves as another admonition for Victorian women to curb their desires and valorises Agnes’s self-repression. By preventively keeping herself low, she, in contrast to Rosalie, leaves to others less scope for subduing her. Given this attitude, it is no wonder that Agnes’s marriage to Weston and her rather brusque and dry description of it at the end of the narrative fall short – at least to modern readers – of a convincing happy ending. The novel’s major asset is surely not that it provides emotional satisfaction to readers, but that it reveals why


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emotional satisfaction was so hard to achieve for women in Agnes Grey’s and Anne Brontë’s social, economic, and cultural circumstances.

3 Aesthetics: Narrative and Literary Strategies Agnes Grey features an autodiegetic narration. Starting with a short summary of Agnes’s childhood, the events are described in retrospect by the adult narrator, who at the point of rendering her story is no longer a governess but a married mother of three. This trajectory, together with the highly self-reflective narrator-as-protagonist, her spatial mobility, and her conflict with social norms, calls to mind the patterns of the Bildungsroman (↗ 4 Genres and Poetology). But because the self-effacement practised by Agnes to some extent precludes the development of an autonomous self, critics have reached very different conclusions as to the novel’s relationship to this genre. While Cates Baldridge terms Agnes Grey a “Bildungsroman That Isn’t” (1993), Larry H. Peer avers the exact opposite, by counting Agnes Grey among “the first true Bildungsromane created in England” (2006, 145). Agnes claims to have compiled her tale from a diary which she kept as a governess (Brontë 2004, 192). This authenticating strategy adds credibility to her autobiographic tale, the publication of which is driven by three principal motives: an overt one of instruction and the two more covert aims of social criticism and therapeutic self-expression. The didactic rationale behind the narrative is established right at the outset, with the first words of the novel paraphrasing a classical motto: “All true histories contain instruction” (3). As Marianne Thormählen notes, to contemporary readers such an opening looks “aggressively flat” (2014, 335), but it conforms to the gendered genre conventions of the time, when young women were still advised against excessive novel reading and encouraged to peruse didactic fiction instead. Until the mid-nineteenth century, conduct manuals and didactic literature were among the most accepted avenues for women into authorship, and it is possible that Agnes’s/Anne’s insistence on the usefulness of her text to some extent reflects this. Accordingly, Agnes offsets her “fear of trespassing too much upon the reader’s patience, as, perhaps, I have already done” with her hope of performing her (female) duty: “but if a parent has, therefrom, gathered any useful hint, or an unfortunate governess received thereby the slightest benefit, I am well rewarded for my pains” (Brontë 2004, 35). The statement suggests that the target audience of the novel are parents (more likely mothers) as well as fellow governesses. This, however, means that Agnes Grey is not only a text of instruction, but also a veiled selfhelp book of sorts providing consolation to other “unfortunate” (35) women who have undergone similar trials as the protagonist. The fact that such consolation is deemed necessary in turn gestures towards the social criticism transported by the novel. Agnes’s account partakes in the larger nineteenth-century debate on the

12 Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey (1847)


governessing profession, but it also tackles the hypocrisy of the clergy, the arrogance of the upper classes, the oppressiveness of patriarchy, and cruelty towards animals. The wide scope of this critique does not come out immediately, because it is cloaked under the heading of “instruction” and put forward by a self-debasing narrator who keeps foregrounding “my own ill-temper” (27), “my own fault” (70), or “my own stupidity” (128). In truth, however, Agnes is anything but stupid. Her narration is not just a means of indicting gender and class injustice, but also a form of self-therapy and self-empowerment. As I have shown, throughout her work as a governess, Agnes suffers from a split sense of self, with her outer behaviour departing significantly from her inner experience. Sharing her thoughts and feelings with a wider audience allows her to bridge that divide, at least ex-post. By turning her intimate diary into a public narrative, Agnes can vindicate herself and demonstrate that what she appeared to be on the outside is not how she felt within. The publication of her tale thus constitutes a postponed act of self-expression and a means of defining herself, instead of being defined by others. Though George Moore’s much-repeated dictum that Agnes Grey was “the most perfect prose narrative in English literature” (qtd. in Thormählen 2014, 332) might not be universally shared, critics agree that Anne’s novels should be noted for their devotion to nineteenth-century realism (↗ 4 Genres and Poetology). Although she was involved in the creation of the Gondal saga together with her sister Emily, Anne avoids Romantic, supernatural and Gothic elements in her fiction, foregrounding down-to-earth, sober, and often painful facets of life instead. She formulates her claim to literary realism in her “Preface” to the second edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: but when we have to do with vice and vicious characters, I maintain it is better to depict them as they really are than as they would wish to appear. To represent a bad thing in its least offensive light is, doubtless, the most agreeable course for a writer of fiction to pursue; but is it the most honest, or the safest? [. . .] Oh, reader! if there were less of this delicate concealment of facts – this whispering, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace, there would be less of sin and misery to the young of both sexes who are left to wring their bitter knowledge from experience. (Brontë 1996, 4)

In Agnes Grey, the realistic-cum-didactic approach entails the selection of settings which Anne had visited herself and the depiction of characters from social strata she was familiar with. The straightforward, unspectacular plot evolves at a slow, even pace. Anne moreover pays attention to direct speech, which she employs as a means of indirect characterisation. She has representatives of the local community use a literary dialect that serves as a marker of their class and regional identity. The poor cottager Nancy Brown, for example, extensively relates her encounters with the local clergy, contrasting Hatfield’s callousness with Weston’s empathy. Her speech is generally rendered in a literary variant of the regional dialect, though in a


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slight aesthetic incongruity, Nancy reproduces Hatfield’s and Weston’s words in standard English (which might be put down to a subsequent, if somewhat patronising, editing of Nancy’s tale by Agnes). Incidentally, even if in this passage the male representatives of the clergy retain the authority to spread the word of God, the strengths and weaknesses of their religious doctrines are ultimately explored by a female author (Anne Brontë) who has two female characters (Nancy and Agnes) debate and evaluate Hatfield’s and Weston’s propositions. In sum, despite privileging personal issues, Anne’s novels, with their mixture of realism, didacticism, and social commentary, partake in the ascent of the Victorian realist novel which from the 1840s onward would become a privileged genre for the exploration of public concerns.

4 Reception and Theoretical Perspectives It is a commonplace that compared with her sisters, Anne Brontë has received a lesser share of scholarly interest. This is evinced by seminal readings of the Brontës’ fiction, such as Gilbert and Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic (1979) or Myths of Power: A Marxist Study of the Brontës (1975) by Terry Eagleton, who is of the opinion that “the orthodox critical judgement that Anne Brontë’s work is slighter than her sisters’ is just” (1988, 134). Susan Meyer’s perceptive essay on social resistance in Agnes Grey was published in the mid-1990s in a volume tellingly titled Feminist Readings of Underread Victorian Fiction, while the first collection of essays exclusively devoted to Anne’s literary art was edited as late as 2001 by Julie Nash and Barbara A. Suess. Encouragingly, however, it has also become a commonplace for those exploring Anne Brontë’s work to make a case for acknowledging the merits of her work. Before suggesting a few theoretical vantage points from which Anne’s writing can be profitably approached, it is interesting to consider for a moment the possible reasons for her lingering relative obscurity. Thormählen, in an essay with the programmatic title “Anne Brontë Out of the Shadow,” offers several convincing explanations, one of which goes back to the publishing history of Agnes Grey, which in 1847 appeared together with Wuthering Heights as the last part of a triple decker. In contrast to her sister’s novel, Anne’s work conformed more closely to the ideal of feminine modesty and propriety, but precisely its seeming conventionality, its eponymous greyness, made it appear tamer and less interesting (Thormählen 2014, 330). In addition to that, for over a century, Anne was often perceived through the eyes of Charlotte, who immortalised her youngest sister in the “Biographical Notice” as milder and more subdued; she [Anne] wanted the power, the fire, the originality of her sister [Emily], but was well-endowed with quiet virtues of her own. Long-suffering, self-denying, reflective, and intelligent, a constitutional reserve and taciturnity placed and kept her in the

12 Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey (1847)


shade, and covered her mind, and especially her feelings, with a sort of nun-like veil, which was rarely lifted. (Brontë 2004, lxiii)

It is hardly surprising that generations of readers and critics prefer(red) to devote their time to the “power,” “fire,” and “originality” of Emily (or Charlotte), rather than to their seemingly tranquil and boring sister. Though Charlotte’s juxtaposition of ‘Romantic’ Emily with ‘Victorian’ Anne is not downright inaccurate, it nevertheless fails to do full justice to the youngest Brontë. Notably, the characteristics Charlotte ascribes to Anne to a large extent hold true of her first fictional heroine, Agnes Grey. But as I have argued, the very point in Agnes Grey is that the protagonist uses her narration to lift the “nun-like veil” and lay bare her tormented inner self – her suppressed power, fire, and originality. It is therefore a cruel irony that Charlotte should have cloaked her sister’s complex attempt at self-expression and social criticism under a silencing veil of her own. Anne Brontë’s fiction can be in fact uncovered from a number of theoretical perspectives, four of which I highlight in what follows: 1) The most obvious and so far most frequently applied lens has been provided by the field of gender studies. Anne has been termed “A Quiet Feminist” by Marion Shaw (2013), and as my own reading of Agnes Grey has attempted to demonstrate, feminist and psychological interpretations of her writing reveal Anne Brontë’s concern with female self-expression and identity. Besides, Agnes Grey investigates various concepts of masculinity (↗ 6 Victorian Gender Relations). Agnes’s father, the Reverend Richard Grey, is a kind but weak man, whose self-pity has to be compensated by Anne’s “active, managing” (Brontë 2004, 8) mother. The upperclass men for whom Anne works – Mr Bloomfield and his son Tom, Uncle Robson, Mr Murray – display a resolve and hardiness that is wanting in her father, but their brutal masculinity is rejected as too ruthless and self-serving. The “thoughtful and stern” Edward Weston comes closest to the novel’s ideal of manliness, as he unites “decision of character,” “an eye of singular power,” and “firm purpose” – characteristics that the female protagonist sees as lacking in herself – with “true benevolence and gentle, considerate kindness” (98). 2) Due to the ‘governess theme’ and the prevalence of class issues, Agnes Grey lends itself formidably to various forms of economic criticism. In his early Marxist reading of Agnes Grey, Eagleton accuses Anne of separating the personal from the social and of foregrounding morality rather than the subversive force of the imagination (1988, 136–137). Contrarily, Nora Gilbert has recently contended that the connection between the governessing profession and women’s literary writing – of which Agnes Grey offers a paradigmatic instance – blurs the lines “between work and domesticity, between isolation and privacy, between subjugation and liberation” (2015, 480). From a feminist economic vantage point, Agnes Grey encourages female financial agency and independence, as is evidenced by the school run by the protagonist and her resourceful mother. Via the economically incompetent


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Richard Grey and Rosalie’s unhappy marriage it moreover cautions female readers not to rely too strongly on the financial benefits of matrimony. 3) Given its emphasis on nature and the (im)proper treatment of animals, Agnes Grey can be productively analysed through the lens of ecocriticism and animal studies. An exploitative attitude to nature (hunting, birdnesting, excessive consumption of meat) serves as an emblem of unjust class privilege. As Berg has illustrated, the novel additionally establishes “structural links between women and animals” (2002, 176), so that it can be read as “a feminist vegetarian text – a text which connects meat eating to male domination” (183). Marilyn Sheridan Gardner has moreover analysed the connection between food and “Agnes’s ongoing acculturation into the Victorian society” (2001, 45). 4) Taking stock of extant criticism on the youngest Brontë sister, Thormählen observed in 2014 that “[t]he relevance of contemporary social issues to the novels of Anne Brontë is a field of inquiry in which much remains to be done” (337). With regard to Agnes Grey, historical and cultural contextualisations have been to some extent provided by essays on religion (Leaver 2012; Summers 2012; Thormählen 2012), the governessing profession (Gilbert 2015; Rossman Regaignon 2001), and education (Shaw 2013). Meyer has tentatively explored Agnes Grey’s criticism of class differences against the background of the British Empire. She concludes that “[i]t does not seem to occur to Anne Brontë to question British colonialism or to criticize the concept of a racial hierarchy [. . .]; she simply uses the supposed racial hierarchy as a metaphor to question the class hierarchy” (2003, 139). As the preliminary and incomplete list of theoretical approaches suggests, there yet exists a plethora of open research questions on Anne Brontë’s work that would merit further scrutiny. But given the limited scope of this contribution, “now I think I have said sufficient” (Brontë 2004, 193), to quote Agnes Grey’s last words – words that capture the peculiar mixture of determination and effacement so distinctive of her split self.

Bibliography Works Cited Brontë, Anne. Agnes Grey. 1847. Ed. Angeline Goreau. London: Penguin, 2004. Brontë, Anne. “A Voice from the Dungeon.” 1837. Brontë, The Poems of Anne Brontë 60–61. Brontë, Anne. “Lines Written at Thorp Green.” 1840. Brontë, The Poems of Anne Brontë 75. Brontë, Anne. The Poems of Anne Brontë: A New Text and Commentary. Ed. Edward Chitham. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1979. Brontë, Anne. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. 1848. Ed. Stevie Davies. London: Penguin, 1996.

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Brontë, Anne. “Preface to the Second Edition.” 1848. Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall 3–5. Brontë, Anne. “Self-Communion.” 1847–1848. Brontë, The Poems of Anne Brontë 152–161. Brontë, Anne. “Verses to a Child.” 1838. Brontë, The Poems of Anne Brontë 69–71. Brontë, Charlotte. “Biographical Notice of Ellis and Acton Bell.” 1850. Brontë, Agnes Grey lvii–lxiv. Baldridge, Cates. “Agnes Grey: Brontë’s Bildungsroman That Isn’t.” Journal of Narrative Technique 23.1 (1993): 31–45. Web. 3 Aug. 2016. Berg, Maggie. “‘Hapless Dependents’: Women and Animals in Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey.” Studies in the Novel 34.2 (2002): 177–197. Web. 15 July 2016. Chitham, Edward. A Life of Anne Brontë. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991. Eagleton, Terry. Myths of Power: A Marxist Study of the Brontës. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988. Frawley, Maria. “The Victorian Age, 1832–1901.” English Literature in Context. Ed. Paul Poplawski. Cambridge: CUP, 2008. 403–518. Freeman, Janet H. “Discord in the Parsonage, or, How to Speak (or Not Speak) for Yourself: Agnes Grey and Jane Eyre.” Brontë Society Transactions 22.1 (1997): 65–71. Gardner, Marilyn Sheridan. “‘The Food of My Life’: Agnes Grey at Wellwood House.” Nash and Suess 45–62. Gilbert, Nora. “A Servitude of One’s Own: Isolation, Authorship, and the Nineteenth-Century British Governess.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 69.4 (2015): 455–480. Web. 15 July 2016. Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Haven: Yale UP, 1979. Goreau, Angeline. Introduction. 1988. Brontë Agnes Grey vii-xlvii. Hallemeier, Katherine. “Anne Brontë’s Shameful Agnes Grey.” Victorian Literature and Culture 41.2 (2013): 251–260. Web. 3 Aug. 2016. Leaver, Elizabeth. “The Critique of the Priest in Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey.” Brontë Studies: The Journal of the Brontë Society 37.4 (2012): 345–351. Meyer, Susan. “Words on ‘Great Vulgar Sheets’: Writing and Social Resistance in Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey (1847).” The Brontës. Ed. Patricia Ingham. London: Longman, 2003. 132–145. Longman Critical Readers. Nash, Julie, and Barbara A. Suess, eds. New Approaches to the Literary Art of Anne Brontë. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001. Peer, Larry H. “The Discourse of Religious Bildung in Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey.” Romanticism: Comparative Discourses. Ed. Larry H. Peer and Diane Long Hoeveler. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006. 143–151. Rossman Regaignon, Dara. “Instructive Sufficiency: Re-Reading the Governess through Agnes Grey.” Victorian Literature and Culture 29.1 (2001): 85–108. Web. 15 July 2016. Shaw, Marion. “Anne Brontë: A Quiet Feminist.” Brontë Society Transactions 21.4 (2013): 125–135. Summers, Mary. “Fact to Fiction: Anne Brontë Replicates La Trobe’s Biblically Inspired Advice in Scenes from Agnes Grey.” Brontë Studies: The Journal of the Brontë Society 37.4 (2012): 352–358. Thormählen, Marianne. “Anne Brontë and Her Bible.” Brontë Studies: The Journal of the Brontë Society 37.4 (2012): 339–344. Thormählen, Marianne. “Standing Alone: Anne Brontë Out of the Shadow.” Brontë Studies: The Journal of the Brontë Society 39.4 (2014): 330–340.


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Further Reading Allott, Miriam, eds. The Brontës: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge, 1974. Berry, Elizabeth Hollis. Anne Brontë’s Radical Vision: Structures of Consciousness. Victoria: U of Victoria P, 1994. Betty, Jay. Anne Brontë. Horndorn: Northcote, 2000. Writer’s and Their Work. Frawley, Maria H. Anne Brontë. New York: Twayne, 1996. Guérin, Winifred. Anne Brontë. London: Allen. 1976. Han, Catherine Paula. “The Myth of Anne Brontë.” Brontë Studies: The Journal of the Brontë Society 42.1 (2017): 48–59. Hay, Adelle. Anne Brontë Reimagined: A View from the Twenty-First Century. Salford: Saraband, 2020. Holland, Nick. Crave the Rose: Anne Brontë at 200. Scarborough: Valley Press, 2020. Langland, Elizabeth. Anne Brontë: The Other One. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989. Le Guern, Joseph. Anne Brontë (1820–1849): La Vie et L’Oeuvre. Paris: Champion, 1977. Scott, P. J. M. Anne Brontë: A New Critical Assessment. London: Vision, 1983. Thormählen, Marianne, ed. The Brontës in Context. Cambridge: CUP, 2012.

Linda M. Shires

13 William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1847–1848) Abstract: This chapter interprets Vanity Fair, serialised in 1847–1848 with illustrations by the author, in terms of cognitive processes. Thackeray’s ironising of both narrator and characters extends to his readers when he demands that they do more than sit back, after dinner, to underline a few words and feel self-satisfied. This chapter argues that through image and text Thackeray structures the process of reading he values by emphasising different cognitive processes, those registering visual and verbal information, collecting details, remembering, and rethinking. He works to block stereotyping or judgments based on a moral absolutism. Thackeray’s four distinct kinds of illustrations act reciprocally with the verbal text and with each other to engage the attentive reader. This relationship, however, is equally important across illustrations. In creating a cognitive ethics, Thackeray teaches his readers to compare, erase, and rethink the horrors and pleasures of Vanity Fair. Keywords: Irony, ethics, cognitive, image/text, satire

1 Context: Author, Oeuvre, Moment William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863), whose life spanned the Regency and early Victorian periods, was born, an only child, to Anglo-Indian parents, in Calcutta, India. Like many children of Anglo-Indians, William was sent to be educated as a gentleman in England. After attending boarding schools (including the Charterhouse School), which he would later denounce, Thackeray entered Trinity College, Cambridge. Staying there just two years, he travelled to the Continent, then studied law at the Middle Temple, London, before abandoning that profession to educate himself by extensive reading, travel, and art lessons abroad. Thackeray remains one of England’s most important writer-illustrators. Having squandered much of his paternal inheritance, Thackeray was forced to earn money as a journalist, writing to deadline. Yet he also began to write novels. Starting with Catherine (1839–1840) and The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844), he achieved fame with Vanity Fair (1847–1848). He then published Pendennis (1849), The History of Henry Esmond (1852), The Newcomes (1855), and The Virginians (1857–1859). During his lifetime, Thackeray was equally known for his Punch essays and cartoons, travel notebooks, satires, light verse, parodies, essay collections, and a children’s book. Although other nineteenth-century novelists spread their talents across genres, the number of pseudonyms and personae Thackeray invented – along with linguistic or visual https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110376715-014


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codes – seems unique. Sometimes appearing as Ikey Solomons, Esq. Junior, Hibernis Hibernior, M.A. Titmarsh, Théophile Wagstaff, George Savage Fitz-Boodle, Major Goliah Gahagan, Mr. Charles James Yellowplush, Mr. Snob, and Spec, Thackeray relied on masks and voices not only to depict his characters, but also to handle the fluctuating relations between his narrators and his readers. After marrying Isabella Shawe in 1836 while in Paris, Thackeray moved the couple back to London. To support his family, he often published over fifty articles a year in addition to novel-writing, lecturing, and illustrating. After one daughter died in infancy and after the birth of their third child, Isabella’s depression became a chronic mental illness that led to necessary confinement. Thackeray then raised his two surviving children, one of whom, Anne Thackeray Ritchie, became a writer and the other, Harriet Marian (‘Minnie’), the first wife of Leslie Stephen. During the 1850s, while his health worsened, Thackeray secured lucrative publishing contracts and lectured in the United States on two tours, while narrowly missing election to Parliament. He also served as a founding Editor at the Cornhill Magazine 1860–1862. Dying suddenly of a stroke in 1863 at the early age of fifty-two, he was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, honoured with a memorial bust in Westminster Abbey, and is largely remembered today for his finest novel, a satire of early nineteenth-century society.

2 Basic Coordinates: Central Topics and Concerns With strong claims to being “the greatest novel in the English language” (Carey 2002, ix), Vanity Fair repays close analysis. Serialised in twenty parts in Punch from January 1847 to July 1848, then published by Bradbury & Evans in 1848, it tells the parallel, interconnected stories of two young women: wealthy, passive, good Amelia Sedley and poor, feisty, amoral Rebecca Sharp. Beginning on graduation day from Miss Pinkerton’s Academy, the novel invites the reader to compare and contrast the two classmates’ respective evolutions. Against a backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, their backgrounds, marriages, children, loss of husbands, later attachments, and value systems are steadily counterpointed. Becky, “the little adventuress” (Thackeray 1990, 524), uses her brains and siren-like eyes to get ahead. Although she hardly escapes the narrator’s censure for her machinations and cruel behaviour, she excites the reader by defying the conformism demanded by a patriarchal society. In contrast, polite and dutiful Amelia seems to be “the heroine,” a title awarded by the narrator for her good nature (15). Yet this attribution is ironic, for the 1848 volume version’s subtitle, “A Novel without a Hero,” indicates that, while there may be protagonists, there are neither heroes nor heroines in Thackeray’s world. Rejecting the Bildungsroman (↗ 4 Genres and Poetology) as model, Thackeray’s unfolding text demands that its readers relate to characters and events without elevating them.

13 William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1847–1848)


Vanity Fair deserves the intense critical scrutiny it has received. The ironic narrator’s steady subversion of Victorian moralism is at odds with the work of Thackeray’s contemporaries. Derived from John Bunyan’s religious allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), the trope of ‘Vanity Fair’ differs in Thackeray’s hands. Translators of Ecclesiastes 1:2 had rendered the impermanence (‫ָהֶבל‬, vapour) of all earthly pursuits when compared to an unchanging realm as: ‘Vanitas vanitatum . . . omnia vanitas’ or ‘Vanity, vanity . . . all is vanity’. Bunyan’s year-round fair in a town called Vanity, established by Satan, features fools and knaves mixing with thieves, murderers, adulterers, and liars. Because the Holy Way to Heaven winds through the town, the pilgrims Christian and Faithful must shield their eyes from temptations, before being beaten, jailed, and tried. Thackeray’s fair, however, is a secular, hedonistic playground where good and evil are not as clearly demarcated. Symbolising frivolity, dalliance, and pretentious display, the fair conveys Thackeray’s satiric but melancholy vision of the world. As in Bunyan’s fair, all is for sale: material objects, animals, favours, feelings, persons, countries, even life itself. Instead of focusing on pilgrims who want to flee “Vanity Fair,” Thackeray features the social-climbing consumers who desire to stay alongside inhabitants of wealth and rank. He avoids Bunyan’s preaching by “suppressing” the Puritan inheritance (Milne 2015, 103). Although his narrator is part preacher and part entertainer, the ‘show’ he introduces ironically calls attention to the loss of religious meaning in a nineteenth-century social order. Influenced by Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair (1614), John Dryden’s translations of Juvenal’s Satires (1711), and Samuel Johnson’s The Vanity of Human Wishes (1749), Thackeray’s novel challenges its Victorian readership. As he explained to his mother in 1847: My object is not to make a perfect character or anything like it. Don’t you see how odious all the people are in the book (with the exception of Dobbin) – behind whom all there lies a dark moral I hope. What I want is to make a set of people living without God in the world (only that is a cant phrase) greedy pompous mean perfectly self-satisfied for the most part and at ease about their superior virtue. (Thackeray 1945, 309)

The novel’s vision remains secular; there is no Celestial City; there are transitory pleasures, with only a hint of anything both meaningful and lasting.

3 Aesthetics: Narrative and Literary Strategies If Thackeray gives a new twist to the Bunyanesque fair, he also revises the picaresque mode that goes back to Miguel de Cervantes and to imitators like Henry Fielding. Vanity Fair retains the picaresque’s episodic structure, but overtly stresses parallelism, revises viewpoints (via text and illustrations), and provides retrospection (via serial format). Because it features irony, the novel does not only present likenesses and correspondences, but also demands a more complicated reaction to


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each item individually and together. When a comparison exists within the ironic mode, as J. Hillis Miller has pointed out, “the second meaning undoes the first” (1982, 104–105). A second image, a second character, a second description is never like the first, but effectively erases the first. Irony thus offers a “permanent negativity,” a blurring or confusion of sense and a separation as much as a correspondence (Miller 1982, 105). Irony forces a revision of one’s assumptions; it suffuses Vanity Fair so thoroughly, in fact, that one remains unsure whether any centre of value or certainty of meaning exists. In its emphasis on character, chance, and interruption, Vanity Fair thwarts a reader’s desire for traditional plotting and character identification. For Thackeray, plot means a narrative of striking incidents collected in the same place, like booths at a fair. Moreover, all characters are exposed, sooner or later, as being different than expected. Amelia may be kind-hearted, but she is a stupidly sentimental “tender little parasite” (Thackeray 1990, 871). George Osborne is a selfish pleasure hound, but dutifully writes a farewell letter to his father. The narrator continuously punctures a reader’s complacency (Knoepflmacher 1971, 64). Readers must constantly reevaluate different kinds of behaviour. Whereas an all-knowing narrator, such as George Eliot’s in Middlemarch (↗ 22 George Eliot, Middlemarch), can sort out confusions created by irony, the omniscience of Vanity Fair’s first-person narrative voice is countered by Thackeray’s verbal descriptions and illustrations. Three differing portraits of the narrator indicate how Vanity Fair toys with his identity to amuse and confuse the reader. The original cover illustration for the serial instalments feature a jester-preacher who stands on a tub and harangues a crowd that does not seem to be attending. Both preacher and audience sport asses’ ears that suggest idiocy may trump both morals and fun. In the background, England’s military heroes, Nelson and Wellington, are presented as non-heroes. In another picture of the narrator, a new frontispiece drawn for the novel’s 1848 edition, the clown-narrator sits on the ground, leaning against a puppet box, looking into a cracked mirror (Figure 1). He wears a wooden sword to indicate the absurdity of military glory. In a third illustration, in chapter nine at the end of a passage where the narrator mocks the value we place on money, the jester sits facing the reader-viewer. His stick is raised, but the comic mask is removed and peeking out is William Makepeace Thackeray himself. He now resembles a small boy playing with toys. Simultaneously, he is unmasked as an adult. His face reveals a mixture of sadness, surprise, and puzzlement. Thackeray is a quick-change artist who thwarts the reader’s expectations by denying us consistency and certainty at all levels of the novel. He distinguishes between author and narrator in the 1848 preface “Before the Curtain,” which introduces a man who strolls through the fair as an observer yet also refers to the Poor Tom Fool who sadly gazes at his image in the frontispiece of 1848. Later, the narrator will claim that he befriended Dobbin, served as Becky’s confidante, and became acquainted with Amelia. Is he an actor manager who appears to hold strong opinions, an objective

13 William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1847–1848)


Figure 1: Title Page. William Makepeace Thackeray, illustration for Vanity Fair: a novel without a hero. London: Bradbury & Evans, 1848. Photographed from the personal copy of William Charles Macready. EC85 T3255 848vb Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University.


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observer, or a member of the world he satirises? Indeed, as if to mock his listeners, he poses questions he refuses to answer: “Was she guilty or not? What had happened?” (Thackeray 1990, 677). Thackeray’s aim was to goad readers, not delight them. “I want to leave everybody dissatisfied and unhappy at the end of the story,” he wrote to Robert Bell, a critic who complained that the illustrations would corrupt children’s morals (Thackeray 1945, 503). “Good God don’t I see (in that maybe warped and cracked looking-glass in which I am always looking) my own weaknesses wickednesses lusts follies shortcomings? [. . .] We must lift up our voices about these and howl to a congregation of fools; so much at least has been my endeavour” (503). Vanity Fair forces us to suffer inconsistency and see beyond the fictions created by our own egoistic desires. Ultimately, Vanity Fair asks us to question the nature of the real. Attentive to objects, from whips to keyholes to mirrors to clocks to puppets, Thackeray is fascinated by how objects change hands over time and how they bear cultural, as well as personal, meanings. Yet his later The History of Henry Esmond reminds us that Thackeray’s realism is also always a historical and conscious reaction against the melodramatic, sentimental, or sensational productions of rivals like Charles Dickens (↗ 16 Charles Dickens, Bleak House) and Wilkie Collins (↗ 20 Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone). Thackeray opposes falsifications. Responding to a review of his own work besides that of Dickens’s “charming” novels, he wrote (1851) to the critic David Masson, “[I hold] that the Art of Novels is to represent Nature [. . .] a coat is a coat and a poker a poker; and must be nothing else according to my ethics, not an embroidered tunic, nor a great red-hot instrument like the Pantomime weapon” (Thackeray 1945, 772–773). Reality based in fact surpasses all exaggerations created by human sentiment. Thackeray’s ironising of both narrator and characters extends to his readers when, in his very first chapter, he demands that we do not sit back, after a fine dinner of wine and mutton, to underline a few words and feel self-satisfied. Here, Thackeray’s mockery, through both word and image, seems to focus on the reader’s class and the book’s subject matter. The narrator insists that his novel is not offering the “great and heroical” narrative expected by readers like the upper-class, misogynistic, club member “Jones” (Thackeray 1990, 9). Moreover, the narrator mocks “Jones” for quick, complacent judgments that are not derived from attentive reading. The novel is deeply concerned with the nature of comprehension and understanding. Previous critics have rightly noted Thackeray’s many references to books (Lund 1992, Flint 2007, Dames 2007) and have analysed the actual reading of serials (Patten 2003, Lund 1992). While agreeing that the reader is the subject of Vanity Fair, I also would suggest, through a close analysis of image and text, that Thackeray uses irony to structure the process of reading he values. He does so by emphasising different cognitive processes, both visual and verbal, that stress registering information, collecting details, remembering, and rethinking, and hence are opposed to stereotyping or judgments based on a moral absolutism.

13 William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1847–1848)


Thackeray’s four distinct kinds of illustrations act reciprocally with the verbal text and with each other. Each serial instalment of the novel featured a full-plate steel engraving at the beginning with a caption (now placed inside chapters of the novel). Pictorial woodcut capital letters, modelled after a style in Punch, open each chapter. Small woodblock illustrations complicate reader reactions. Endblocks satirically comment on or reinforce the tone of chapters. Selectively or totally omitted by most modern novel editions, the illustrations have been judged as aesthetically inferior to other Victorian comic grotesques or as subsidiary echoes of the verbal text (Harvey 1970, Fisher 1995; but see Cook 2014 and Elliott 2003). However, the place between text and image is what theorist W. J. T. Mitchell calls a “third thing” or the “gap” (Mitchell 2015, 39). It is a contact zone where verbal and visual interact in the mind of the reader-viewer, a place where a reader explores the convergence and divergence of meanings, where something new emerges as the reader is invited to make sense of their relationships. Thackeray takes full advantage of this space in-between, forcing the reader-viewer to acknowledge an ocular fascination with spectacle and to try to feel with characters, while foregrounding the very process of sorting out what we see from what we feel and from what we know. Three different verbal and visual scenes featuring Baronet Sir Pitt Crawley play off of each other in order to question the desires and biases of any reader/viewer. Chapter seven of the fourth serial instalment features wealthy Sir Pitt at whose home Queens Crawley Rebecca has worked as a governess. A titled but low-bred and unpleasant man, Pitt appears in dirty clothing with a lustful twinkle in his eye. At the end of that instalment, in chapter fourteen, when Pitt offers to marry Becky, the narrator denigrates him by comparing him to a “satyr” (Thackeray 1990, 178). Part man, part goat, the classical satyr was a drunken chaser of nymphs. The narrator thus moves from physical disgust to a darker stereotyping. At the very same time, he ironically elevates Becky, as he concurrently exposes the little fortunehunter, by having her weep “some of the most genuine tears that ever fell from her eyes” when she admits “Oh, sir – I – I’m married already” (178). Thackeray brilliantly forces the reader of his original serial to wait a month for more information. At the start of the fifth instalment, chapter fifteen, the narrator subverts the Victorian addiction to romance: “Every reader of a sentimental turn (and we desire no other) must have been pleased with the tableau with which the last act of our little drama concluded; for what can be prettier than an image of Love on his knees before Beauty?” (Thackeray 1990, 179). But Pitt learns that Becky has married his son Rawdon. Appearance is one thing, reality another. Stereotypes may sometimes work (Sir Pitt is a satyr); but more often they don’t (Love and Beauty). Instead of a fairy tale ending in which Beauty can redeem her Beast, the scene ends with Sir Pitt’s rage at Becky’s deception. The relationship between the visual and verbal, however, is equally important across illustrations as a means of subversion. At the start of the fifth instalment with chapter fifteen, the pictorial capital E is shaped like a keyhole. Within the


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enclosed space, readers view a room in which a young knight on his knees, with hands covering his face, prays or weeps before a be-skirted statue, possibly that of a saint or the Virgin Mary. This image narratively reverses what has occurred, yet it is also subverted by a satyr-like figure who seems to cling to the frame of the keyhole. The pictorial thus complements the clash of contrary meanings. By indicating how long we have worshipped women, imagistically as well as verbally, and by reintroducing a satyr, Thackeray continues to contrast idealisation and immorality. Picturing an outside and an inside scene, he draws attention to public and private moralities. In other words, one may act like a satyr while thinking of oneself as a knight worshipping a female saint. By revealing that Sir Pitt’s kneeling before Becky hardly resembles a knight’s veneration of a virgin, Thackeray can mock the reader for objectification and voyeurism. When we turn the page to the next illustration, we discover that observers of a “sentimental turn” had happened “by chance” to witness the scene that ended so unromantically (Thackeray 1990, 179). Mrs. Firkin and Miss Briggs, a maid and lady-companion, “had also seen accidentally through the keyhole the old gentleman prostrate before the governess” (179). Thackeray uses these two voyeurs to expose our own companionate activities as readers and viewers. We, too, have peeked through the keyholes he offered, falsely idealising a crass reality. Because the illustrations are so crucial to the reading process for Vanity Fair, the drawing process can be highly instructive. The original sketch of “Rebecca’s Farewell” in chapter one of the novel (Figure 2) is recast in the printed serial version (Figure 3). Such a comparison allows us to grasp how Thackeray structures what and how we see, even though he remains fully aware that individual readers will look in divergent directions and vary in registering different details. Nevertheless, visual artists like Thackeray still invite patterns of focus through line and placement. Whereas the verbal text of chapter one subordinates the story of Becky Sharp to that of Amelia Sedley, the initial illustration (which preceded verbal text in the serial instalment version) insists on making Becky its main subject. Her prominence is established by the full-plate steel engraving that depicts their joint departure from Miss Pinkerton’s Academy. The image caption reads Rebecca’s Farewell and the image we see omits Amelia, although we know from reading the text that she sits in the carriage with Becky. Thackeray revised his original sketch that showed Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary flying over the head of the little girl who weeps to see Amelia depart. In the published version, Becky has become the centre of attention. We look up at her and the falling book she has tossed at the sentimental Miss Jemima. Our focus on up and down movement is re-emphasised by the two figures, whose hands are raised up, one to brush tears and the other to express horror. Thackeray emphasises Becky’s resistance to manners by having her literally throw down the privileged sign system for meaning: a book of verbal definitions. The large coach wheel, also more centred in the final version, predicts and retrospectively confirms the narrator’s much later characterisation of Becky’s “wild, roving nature” (Thackeray

13 William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1847–1848)

Figure 2: “Rebecca’s Farewell,” William Makepeace Thackeray, original sketch for Chapter 1 of serial Vanity Fair: a novel without a hero MS Hyde 93. Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University.



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Figure 3: “Rebecca’s Farewell,” William Makepeace Thackeray, illustration for Vanity Fair: a novel without a hero. London: Bradbury & Evans, 1848. Photographed from the personal copy of William Charles Macready. EC85 T3255 848vb Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University.

13 William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1847–1848)


1990, 830). The image itself rejects Bunyan as well as Johnson. The journey of life that lies before Becky will hardly be a pilgrim’s progress; no approved book, bible or dictionary, will weigh her down. Along with Becky’s face being darkly sharpened into a witch-like visage, the placement of the long lunge whip, extending visually above Becky’s head, is not accidental. The horsewhip, floating above her, comments on her own sudden thrusting motion, as it links her visually to animal pain and cruelty. While noticing such a detail may be retroactive, especially for those who have seen later illustrations linking her to curving lines (snakes, wands, whips), and while every whip pictured in the book is not linked to Becky, it may be considered a visual foreshadowing of later observations and narrative events. Yet there is more to be said. For this revised first illustration balances two key reactive emotions that the narrator will control, the affection and grief shown by the innocent little girl and the shock and horror evinced by Miss Jemima. A child’s pure sentiment and the defeat of an adult’s sentimental assumptions go hand in hand in the image. The illustration previews the novel as a whole. While the child’s sentiment is directed at passive Amelia, not Becky, the illustration complicates the responses articulated by the verbal text: so that sentimental identification vies with disgust. This doubleness of affect is reinforced by inclusion of two coachmen, two pillars, two urns, two windows, two chimneys. At the very same time, the illustration stresses the speed by which one affectual response can be replaced by the other. But even more, the image undermines, with Becky’s smile, both affectual responses, illustrating a space between image and text in the novel. The double response opens up a third area, that of ironic ridicule that questions the reality of deep feeling and of shock based on formulaic sentiment aimed at the wrong person. Thus the image works dialogically not only with the verbal text but with itself. The virtues professed here – affection, respect, kindness –, indicating the admiration Jemima feels before her surprise, are all exposed as questionable aspects of Victorian mentality and morality. And while readers may not understand the power of the text-image dialogue until a later reading, it may exert a subconscious influence nonetheless and be retained in memory. It is equally instructive to study a set of illustrations in a single chapter. Thackeray carefully designs illustrations to comment upon each other and on the verbal text – they may reinforce, challenge, revise, or destabilise each other. Chapter thirteen, entitled “Sentimental and Otherwise,” starts with George Osborne’s embarrassment over love notes that Amelia has sent to him. These letters have followed him from army post to army post and caused him to be teased by fellow officers. Osborne has always been a topic of conversation because the men adore his superior accomplishments of drinking more, bowling better, and seducing with style. Moreover, nobody knows the notes’ author. When William Dobbin, a friend who sincerely loves Amelia, demands that Osborne stop flirting and be a man of honour by spending time with her, Osborne promises reform when married. Amelia, meanwhile, sits at Russell Square waiting. When George finally arrives, he sports a new diamond


Linda M. Shires

stickpin he bought with money Dobbin lent him to buy a gift for her. After a few hours, George sends her to his sisters, so he can continue with his more important duties of shopping and billiards. That night he learns that Amelia’s family has gone bankrupt and his father commands him to marry someone else. The pictorial “I” (Figure 4) opening this chapter demonstrates that no matter what occurs in the pages that follow, Osborne is interested only in himself. One might hope that when he looks into the mirror he sees more than his dark curls, whiskers, and self-satisfied smile, but the “playful placement” of that “I” right on the reflection of his head, as Elliott notes, “renders it a horn as well as a grapheme, a mythological allusion strengthened by a verbal reference to him as ‘a devil of a fellow’ in the adjoining paragraph” (2013, 75). While stressing his bachelor freedom, sexual potency, and single-mindedness at the same time, the face and reflection differ, as Elliott points out, so that in the reflection his head floats without a neck. Thackeray has it both ways – stressing his self-absorption while punishing him. It is no surprise that when Osborne is killed in battle, he lands face down in the mud. Whereas the verbal and pictorial here support each other in meaning, it is the back and forth observation of both separately and together that elicits a range of meanings.

Figure 4: “I,” William Makepeace Thackeray, illustration for Vanity Fair: a novel without a hero. London: Bradbury & Evans, 1848. Photographed from the personal copy of William Charles Macready. EC85 T3255 848vb Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University.

The illustration entitled “Lieutenant Osborne and his Ardent Love Letters” (Figure 5) shows George standing erectly with one knee on a chair, among his military friends,

13 William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1847–1848)


Figure 5: “Lieutenant Osborne and his Ardent Love Letters,” William Makepeace Thackeray, from illustrations for Vanity Fair: a novel without a hero. London: Bradbury & Evans, 1848. Photographed from the personal copy of William Charles Macready. EC85 T3255 848vb Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University.


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while using one of Amelia’s love letters to light his cigar. Her love evaporates, as it were, into smoke – consumed by George’s vanity – while a military underling at the regiment sits swinging his legs on a table and having a smoke as well. Dobbin sits uncomfortably against the far wall of the barracks room beneath a picture of a ballerina. It seems clear that Osborne or other men have put up the picture as a pin-up, as the svelte dancer poses with her right leg raised in the air. Dobbin notably does not share a smoke. His legs crossed, but his arms apart and open, he appears to be the passive, sentimental, but inhibited, proper young man. His long military coat ruffles form a skirt reinforcing his feminisation, as he sits beneath the portrait of a girl. The underling, in turn, partakes of the manly smoke while also parodying Osborne and Dobbin. He looks silly and his bearing makes a mockery of Osborne’s show of rectitude (which itself parodies, while reproducing visually, the tall thin “I” of the pictorial illustration), while his military skirt and easy leg and arm positioning call attention all the more to Dobbin’s uncomfortable position. In a smaller intertextual woodblock illustration that implicitly contrasts Amelia’s loneliness to George Osborne’s communion with his male friends and his situation among friends, she is depicted as staring out of a window. Unlike the male egoist who regarded his mirrored image in the pictorial “I” opening the chapter, she looks longingly (the verbal text indicates) at the moon and towards Osborne’s barracks. However we may empathise with this sweet, loving, and waiting woman, the picture also makes fun of her passivity, as she does nothing but sit, while mooning for her beloved (who is busy converting her love notes into tinder for his “I”-shaped cigar). “Mr. Osborne’s Welcome of Amelia,” the next full-page illustration, depicts the patriarchal foundations responsible for George Osborne’s excessive vanity. As “their dark leader,” the older Osborne, in a black-suited, full-length image, dominates the right foreground, while two daughters, Amelia Sedley and Miss Wirt, submissively stand or sit behind him (Thackeray 1990, 150). Described by the verbal text as bearing a face “puffy, solemn, and yellow at the best of times,” he is known by his “scowl,” his “growl,” and his “severity” (150, 153). Old Osborne’s very presence creates anxiety. Whereas two women stare away, the others look up or across at him, acknowledging his authority. Amelia, long ago betrothed to George, by their fathers’ arrangement, has joined the Osbornes for dinner. On the mantel sit a candelabrum (notably with four candles duplicating the four women) and a decorated timepiece with a single figure in a commanding position (duplicating Old Osborne’s domination). The figure appears to be a military man carrying a sword raised in the air. The verbal text tells us that the Osbornes keep time by a French chronometer “surmounted by a cheerful brass group of the Sacrifice of Iphigenia” (149). It is thus likely that the male statue we see is Agamemnon, husband of Clytemnestra, who, in classical myth, offends Artemis by killing a deer and is told to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia if he wants winds to sail his fleet to Troy. The accurate mechanical timekeeper on the mantle memorialises the sacrifice of a girl in a family tragedy. How “cheerful” could such a brass grouping be?

13 William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1847–1848)


An “observant reader” (Thackeray 1990, 147), who is directly addressed in this chapter, cannot line up the references one by one, because, while some seem obvious, they in fact are not. As Mr. Osborne scowls over his shoulder at the “four females” and four candles, he growls out a “blessing” that sounds like a “curse” (150). The chapter documents the sacrifice of Amelia to the concerns of men like Agamemnon, those obsessed with money, boats, battles, and fame. Her father Mr. Sedley, we discover, is in the process of losing his ship, the “Jeune Amelie,” to a Yankee Privateer. Is it Sedley or old Osborne who wields the sword that will sacrifice Amelia? Or is it George when he goes up to Amelia, kinder than ever on that evening, right after being told to find another wife? All? Although not a Greek tragedy, the situation begins to feel tragic. The illustrations all mock pretensions. Any affection George feels for Amelia stems from condescension, not warmth. What is the fate of true love in such a world? The last, the smallest illustration can be seen as a response to this question. A little boy Cupid brings a message to a door. Carrying a number of letters, the boy wears a tri-cornered military hat but has angel wings. He represents not only Amelia’s love for George but also Dobbin’s for Amelia. Dobbin has been the matchmaker between these two. The lanky, boring, repressed Dobbin is here cast as a little boy, pure of heart. But in promoting the match, and by suppressing his own love, he will become Amelia’s sacrifice. She too can now wield a sword against a deer/dear; she too can be an Agamemnon who sacrifices another for her own needs. The importance of this last illustration, however, lies not only in its multiple applications, or even in its mockery of little Cupid and big Dobbin, but also in its representation of time. Unlike most all other illustrations in the novel, this one transcends a single point in the narrative where it appears. It indicates that Dobbin has, over time, been bringing all the letters that Osborne has then boxed and vaporised. In other words, the illustration contains within it a temporal expansion of duration that can remind the reader of the painful endurance of true love. Our affections cannot be clocked by an accurate timepiece or simply burned away by a self-involved suitor. The illustration, due precisely to its extreme sentimentality, its very absurd artificiality, its silly reduction and elevation of Dobbin at once, is serious. Repeated self-sacrifice, not sacrificing others, is a virtue. By forcing the reader to reassess word and image as they interact and revise each other across his novel, Thackeray continually exposes our reading-viewing activities as cognitive processes to which we must attend. By looking, we acknowledge ourselves as part of a modern society and economy based on voyeurism, surveillance, and spectacle. By unpacking the varying relationships of images and verbal text to multiply meanings, not reduce them, we participate in a dialogic rhythm, established by the narrator, one of relentless substitution and critique. By exposing the cultural economies of the Victorians and their successors, Thackeray relishes his position of illustrator and writer in this system of satiric exchange. At this point in his life, Thackeray felt a new responsibility toward his readers that matched the obligations he assumed to the mother-deprived daughters, aged


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just nine and six years old, whose future lay in his hands. It is significant that the child characters who end Vanity Fair, Rawdy, Georgy, and little Janey, may turn out better than their parents due to the separate loving attentions of Dobbin and Jane Crawley. One of Thackeray’s most significant letters, dated 24 February 1847, written during the serialisation of Vanity Fair, stresses his recognition that the purpose of writing goes beyond a need to earn money or to entertain. In this letter, addressed to Mark Lemon, the editor of Punch, Thackeray remarked: “A few years ago I should have sneered at the idea of setting up as a teacher at all, [. . .] but I have got to believe in the business, and in many other things since then. And our profession seems to me to be as serious as the Parson’s own” (Thackeray 1945, 282). In creating a cognitive ethics, Thackeray teaches his readers to compare, erase, and rethink the horrors and pleasures of Vanity Fair. Only through such a process of discrimination in life, not only in fiction, could unrecognised virtues appear and gain the support necessary to survive.

4 Reception and Theoretical Perspectives Thackeray’s writing, influenced by numerous intellectual currents during an era of enormous change, engaged reading audiences throughout the nineteenth century. Although Vanity Fair began with very slow sales, by 1848 each serial instalment had sold about 7,500 copies (Shillingsburg 1992, 266). As early as June 1847, the novel was recognised as his greatest writing to date and he was praised as “the Fielding of the Nineteenth Century” (Rev. 1967, 52). Charlotte Brontë, regarding Thackeray as a champion of truth and justice, dedicated Jane Eyre (↗ 10 Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre) to him in October 1847. Vanity Fair remains his most-widely read piece of writing and the reason for his lasting fame. Yet no major Victorian novelist, according to David Stewart has provoked “so much adverse criticism, as has Thackeray” (1963, 629). Applauding his wit, pathos, and satiric realism, intellectuals still critiqued the novel. For instance, George Henry Lewes understood Thackeray’s “tear[ing] away the mask from life,” but felt that he erred aesthetically in revealing corruption everywhere (Lewes 1848, qtd. in Tillotson and Hawes 1968, 46). Harriet Martineau objected to the “moral disgust” (1877, qtd. in Peters 1987, 151). Even disciple and friend Anthony Trollope attacked Thackeray’s fictions for a lazy, faulty craftsmanship, especially in “contriving a story” (1879, qtd. in Sutherland 1974, 2). Historical movements in art and the novel did little to attract new admirers. The rise of the golden age of illustration (1860s onwards) disparaged precursors’ work, while Henry James’s 1890 negative assessment of “large, loose, baggy monsters” included Thackeray’s The Newcomes (1934, 84). If one were to read a “monster,” Dickens and George Eliot seemed better options, even if for different reasons. Though considered an important transitional

13 William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1847–1848)


figure from the eighteenth century to the modern era, Thackeray’s reputation declined. The single most important scholar in Thackeray studies was Gordon Norton Ray (1915–1986), renowned for collecting and editing the author’s private papers and letters, and for his two definitive biographical studies. Ray’s labours encouraged further archival research into biography (D. J. Taylor 1999) and study of his working methods (J. A. Sutherland 1974). While 1950s New Critics such as Dorothy Van Ghent (1954) vainly sought formal unity and a moral centre, it was during the same period that the author was finally disentangled from the narrator. As Robert Colby pointed out, Geoffrey Tillotson’s (1974) claim for the centrality of the narrator as actor in his own commentary allowed, for the first time, a focus on the strategies of the novel itself (1978, 127). Interpretations of Vanity Fair since then have especially benefited from theories of narrative, gender, race, cultural geography, and inter-art analysis. Precisely because Thackeray holds all belief open to question, critics have directed multiple perspectives at a text fascinated by how we make and re-make meaning. For example, Judith Fisher, drawing on narratology and ethics, brilliantly analyses how Thackeray encodes his scepticism about the reliability of traditional information in both style and structure (2002). Patrick Brantlinger explores the novel as a “domestic realist antithesis to imperial romances” (1988, 94). Matthew Ingleby studies the “nuanced nature” of Thackeray’s geographical project and the history of Bloomsbury, showing how “local history is always implicated in national and international history” (2016, 115). Other critics explore unequal power relationships with women, slaves, and the Jews (Clark 1995, Thomas 1993, Prawer 1992). Preceding thing theory, Andrew Miller’s work on commodification stresses the novel’s economics of words, not just objects (1995, 49). Maria DiBattista argues for the literalising of history as performance in the charade “The Triumph of Clytemnestra” (1980, 828), while other critics focus on the performativity of gender roles. Finally, Kamilla Elliott (2003) has used the novel to overturn false paradigms in which words and images are opposed to each other in fiction and film. Numerous types of academic discourse thus illuminate Vanity Fair from various angles, with no single approach exhausting the breadth or depth of the novel.

Bibliography Works Cited Brantlinger, Patrick. Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830–1914. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1988. Carey, John. Introduction. Vanity Fair. By William Makepeace Thackeray. Ed. Carey. New York: Penguin, 2002. ix–xxxii.


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Colby, Robert. Victorian Fiction: A Second Guide to Research. New York: MLA, 1978. Cook, Simon. “Thackeray and Illustration: Style and Purpose.” The Victorian Web, 16 Oct. 2014. Web. 11 July 2016. Dames, Nicholas. The Physiology of the Novel: Reading, Neural Science, and the Form of Victorian Fiction. New York: OUP, 2007. DiBattista, Maria. “The Triumph of Clytemnestra: The Charades in Vanity Fair.” PMLA 95.5 (1980): 827–837. Elliott, Kamilla. Rethinking the Novel/Film Debate. Cambridge: CUP, 2003. Fisher, Judith L. “Image versus Text in the Illustrated Novels of William Makepeace Thackeray.” Victorian Literature and the Visual Imagination. Ed. Carol T. Christ and John O. Jordan. Berkeley: U of California P, 1995. 60–87. Fisher, Judith L. Thackeray’s Skeptical Narrative and the ‘Perilous Trade’ of Authorship. New York: Routledge, 2002. Flint, Kate. “Women, Men and the Reading of Vanity Fair.” The Practice and Representation of Reading in England. Ed. James Raven, Helen Small and Naomi Tadmor. Cambridge: CUP, 2007. 246–262. Harvey, John. Victorian Novelists and their Illustrators. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1970. Ingleby, Matthew. “Thackeray and Silver Fork Bloomsbury: Vanity Fair as Local Historical Novel.” Thackeray in Time: History, Memory, and Modernity. Ed. Richard Salmon and Alice Crossley. New York: Routledge, 2016. James, Henry. “Preface to The Tragic Muse.” The Art of the Novel. By James. Introd. Richard Blackmur. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1934. 79–97. Knoepflmacher, U. C. Laughter and Despair: Readings in Ten Novels of the Victorian Era. Berkeley: U of California P, 1971. Lewes, George Henry. Rev. of Vanity Fair, by Thackeray. The Morning Chronicle 6 March 1848. Rpt. in Thackeray: The Critical Heritage. Ed. Geoffrey Tillotson and Donald Hawes. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968. 44–49. Lund, Michael. Reading Thackeray. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1992. Miller, Andrew H. Novels Behind Glass: Commodity Culture and Victorian Narrative. Cambridge: CUP, 1995. Miller, J. Hillis. Fiction and Repetition: Seven English Novels. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1982. Milne, Kirsty. At Vanity Fair: From Bunyan to Thackeray. New York: OUP, 2015. Mitchell, W. J. T. Image Science: Iconology, Visual Culture and Media Aesthetics. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2015. Patten, Robert L. “Serialized Retrospection in The Pickwick Papers.” Literature in the Marketplace: Nineteenth Century British Publishing and Reading Practices. Ed. John O. Jordan and Robert L. Patten. Cambridge: CUP, 2003. 123–142. Peters, Catherine. Thackeray’s Universe: Shifting Worlds of Imagination and Reality. New York: OUP, 1987. Rev. of Vanity Fair, by Thackeray. The Sun 10 June 1847. Rpt. in Thackeray’s Critics: An Annotated Bibliography of British and American Criticism 1836–1901. Ed. Dudley Flamm. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1967. 52. Shillingsburg, Peter. Pegasus in Harness: Victorian Publishing and W. M. Thackeray. Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1992. Stewart, David. “Thackeray’s Modern Detractors.” Papers of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters 48 (1963): 629–638. Sutherland, J. A. Thackeray at Work. London: Athlone, 1974. Taylor, D. J. Thackeray: The Life of a Literary Man. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1999.

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Thackeray, William Makepeace. The Letters and Private Papers of William Makepeace Thackeray, Volume II: 1841–1851. Ed. Gordon Norton Ray. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1945. Thackeray, William Makepeace. Vanity Fair, A Novel without a Hero. 1848. Ed. John Sutherland. Oxford: OUP, 1990. Tillotson, Geoffrey. Thackeray the Novelist. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1974. Van Ghent, Dorothy. The English Novel: Form and Function. New York: Harper & Row, 1954.

Further Reading Catalan, Zelma. The Politics of Irony in Thackeray’s Mature Fiction: Vanity Fair, The History of Henry Esmond, The Newcomes. Sophia: St. Kliment Ohridski UP, 2009. Clark, Micael. Thackeray and Women. DeKalb: Northern Illinois UP, 1995. Iser, Wolfgang. “The Reader as a Component Part in the Realistic Novel: Esthetic Effects in Thackeray’s Vanity Fair.” The Implied Reader. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1974. 101–120. Miller, J. Hillis. The Form of Victorian Fiction. Notre Dame: U of Notre Dame P, 1968. Prawer, S. S. Israel at Vanity Fair: Jews and Judaism in the Writings of W. M. Thackeray. New York: E. J. Brill, 1992. Sheets, Robin Ann. “Art and Artistry in Vanity Fair.” ELH 42.3 (1975) 420–432. Thomas, Deborah. Thackeray and Slavery. Athens: Ohio UP, 1993.

Ellen Grünkemeier

14 Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Mary Barton (1848) Abstract: Drawing on the literary, cultural and historical contexts of industrialisation and urbanisation, this chapter reads Gaskell’s Mary Barton (1848) as a Condition-of-England novel that renders visible the social realities of urban life in the new manufacturing districts of Northern England. While addressing the inequalities and conflicts between industrialists and labourers, the novel does not openly advocate social or political change. Instead, the ending is informed by the principles of Unitarianism in that it seeks reconciliation, and it corresponds to (Victorian) literary traditions that offer romantic closure and individual solutions for the protagonists. Despite some melodramatic elements in its plot design, the novel follows the conventions of literary realism, as evident in the configurations of space and use of dialect. Given that Mary Barton is the cornerstone of Elizabeth Gaskell’s professional literary career, the chapter closes by tracing briefly the novel’s history of reception, from its anonymous publication in 1848 to the present day. Keywords: Industrialisation, urbanisation, Condition-of-England novel, realism, melodrama, Unitarianism, anonymous publication, female authorship

1 Context: Author, Oeuvre, Moment Elizabeth Gaskell (1810–1865) is best known for her industrial novels Mary Barton (1848) and North and South (1855), but she also merits recognition for her historical novel Sylvia’s Lovers (1863) and for her fiction foregrounding women’s lives, especially in rural communities, Cranford (1853), Ruth (1853), and Wives and Daughters (1866), which remained unfinished and was published posthumously. In addition to short fiction such as Cousin Phillis (1864), she also wrote the widely celebrated first biography of her friend Charlotte Brontë (1857). Although Mary Barton was her first novel, Elizabeth Gaskell was “hardly a complete literary novice” (Foster 2006, vii) when she published it in 1848. “Sketches among the Poor,” a poem which she co-authored with her husband William, was published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in 1837, and William Howitt’s collection Visits to Remarkable Places (1840) features her short piece of non-fiction on Clopton House in Warwickshire. He went on to publish three of Gaskell’s short stories in Howitt’s Journal under the general heading “Life in Manchester”: “Libbie Marsh’s Three Eras” (June 1847), “The Sexton’s Hero” (September 1847), and “Christmas https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110376715-015


Ellen Grünkemeier

Storms and Sunshine” (January 1848). While these stories were published under the pseudonym Cotton Mather Mills, Mary Barton was published anonymously. Anonymity was advantageous to Gaskell insofar as she lived among and socialised with many manufacturers in Manchester. As contemporary reviews show (Greg 1849, 403–404, 411; Rev. of Mary Barton 1849, 122, 130), some indeed felt offended by what they considered a biased and distorted portrayal of industrial capitalists. Although it soon became clear that Gaskell was the author of the texts, she continued to write anonymously. In her recent literary biography, Shirley Foster attributes this to Victorian gender politics (↗ 6 Victorian Gender Relations). “As for many of her female contemporaries, too, worries about the effects of entering the literary marketplace led to her reluctance to use her own name as author” (Foster 2002, 3). Nineteenth- and twentieth-century critics tended to refer to her as ‘Mrs. Gaskell’; and this domesticating classification as wife (and mother) has had a lasting influence on the reception of her work (Stoneman 2007, 132). It was not until feminist criticism began to explore the mechanisms of patriarchy and to revisit literary history that ‘Mrs. Gaskell’ ultimately became canonised as ‘Elizabeth Gaskell’ (D’Albertis 2007, 14). Mary Barton is the cornerstone in Gaskell’s professional literary career. While her earlier writing was published due to the encouragement of friends such as William Howitt, her first novel brought her into direct contact with major publishers (Foster 2002, 40). Taking an increasingly active part in the publishing process, also in regard to negotiating her payment, she became “her own businesswoman, operating in a public, male-dominated sphere” (Foster 2002, 41). Elizabeth Cleghorn Stevenson was born into a prosperous, educated Unitarian family. After the early death of her mother, she grew up with maternal relations in Knutsford, which was, “despite its small-town image as recalled in several of Gaskell’s novels and short stories, [. . .] a thriving town of about three thousand inhabitants, containing a mix of gentry, tradesmen, and working-class spinners and weavers” (Foster 2002, 10). Her family was connected to “other leading families such as the Wedgwoods, Turners, and Darwins through shared faith, intermarriage, and commerce. The importance of this religious and social milieu, in terms of the young girl’s education and assumptions, is hard to overstate” (D’Albertis 2007, 17). In 1832, Elizabeth married the scholar and Unitarian minister William Gaskell. Subsequently, the Gaskells moved to Manchester, to the genteel district of Ardwick, close to the factories and working-class dwellings of Ancoats (Foster 2002, 23). As an industrial, commercial, and cultural centre, Manchester had a major impact on Gaskell: Despite the cultural and social richness which Manchester offered Gaskell, however, it was the encounter with social distress on a hitherto unknown scale which had the greatest effect on her. As a minister’s wife, she inevitably came into contact with this suffering population, the lowest in the city’s social scale, even while she refused to allow charitable work to dominate her life. (Foster 2002, 22)

14 Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Mary Barton (1848)


Overcoming the comfortable state of ignorance and distance, Gaskell began to question the spatial segregation of social classes in Manchester, which was most famously investigated by Friedrich Engels. In addition to her experiences in Knutsford and Manchester, Gaskell’s personal outlook and writing were shaped by Unitarianism with its emphasis on tolerance, forgiveness, free thought, and rationalism. Unitarians were actively involved in all kinds of civic improvement, including people’s living conditions and education (Millard 2001, 6–8). They were indeed particularly prone to address contentious issues because they themselves were socially marginalised for questioning orthodox religious beliefs (Foster 2002, 13). The very term ‘Unitarian’ was introduced in the mid-eighteenth century by orthodox Christians as a derogatory term for those who did not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity (Millard 2001, 1). In line with her Unitarian principles, Gaskell’s fiction promotes reconciliation – between the employing and the labouring classes, between ‘respectable’ and ‘unrespectable’ members of society – as a possible means of tackling social ills.

2 Basic Coordinates: Central Topics and Concerns Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel Mary Barton (1848), tellingly subtitled A Tale of Manchester Life, renders visible the social realities of urban life in the new manufacturing districts of Northern England. Exploring the social consequences of industrialisation and urbanisation, the novel focuses on the conflicts between industrialists and labourers in a period of social and political unrest, of strikes, unemployment, and poverty. While the novel opens in the 1830s, it moves on – via the failure of the Chartist Petition in 1839 and the gradually more discernible consequences of the Corn Laws – to the ‘Hungry Forties’. In the course of the novel, the trade unionist and Chartist John Barton becomes increasingly disillusioned as he faces his fellow workers’ acute misery. This is augmented by the mill owners’ ignoring of labourer suffering and failure to alleviate the abysmal conditions. When Henry Carson, the son of the local mill owner, blatantly ridicules destitute workers in their negotiations with their ‘masters’ and their struggle to survive, a group of enraged labourers decides to take action. With the lot falling on him, John Barton kills Henry Carson and flees the city. The young engineering worker Jem Wilson, in turn, is suspected of having committed the murder. He is in love with John Barton’s daughter Mary who, however, had turned him down because at the time she was flattered by Henry Carson’s attentions and had high hopes for a grand marriage. When Mary comes to realise her affection for Jem and happens to find out about her father’s deed, she desperately tries to prove Jem’s innocence without incriminating her father. In the end, her efforts are successful. John Barton, who returns to Manchester a broken and dying man, confesses to Carson’s father, is forgiven, and dies. After getting married, Mary and Jem emigrate to Canada.


Ellen Grünkemeier

Even this brief summary of the story makes evident to what extent the novel’s plot is shaped by political and personal relations alike. The mixing of genres in Mary Barton has received some critical attention, especially in recent scholarship (see Dentith 1997, Ohno 2001, Elliott 2007). In her article “The Romance of Politics and the Politics of Romance in Mary Barton,” Kamilla Elliott, for example, scrutinises the “inversely analogical, horizontal, elsewhere-looking relations of the two plots” (2007, 23–24). Unlike such comparative approaches, other research on Mary Barton has frequently prioritised the political plot, especially since the time of its classification as an ‘industrial’ (Williams 1963, 99–119), a ‘social-problem’ (Kettle 1970; Guy 1996), or a ‘Condition-of-England’ novel (Cuddon 1999). Despite their different origins and connotations, these labels are often used synonymously to describe a body of English fiction from the 1840s and 1850s that takes England’s contemporary industrial society as its subject matter. The novels feature prominently in English literary and cultural history. Alongside Gaskell’s Mary Barton and North and South, well-known representatives of this subgenre of the Victorian novel are Dickens’s Hard Times (1854), Benjamin Disraeli’s Coningsby (1844) and Sybil, or The Two Nations (1845, ↗ 9 Disraeli, Sybil, or The Two Nations), as well as Charles Kingsley’s Yeast (1848, ↗ 15 Kingsley, Yeast) and Alton Locke (1850). Although the labels ‘industrial’ or ‘social-problem’ novel were not used until the 1950s (Guy 1996, 3), the ‘Condition-of-England’ was a contemporary phrase. It was coined by Thomas Carlyle in his famous essays Chartism (1839) and Past and Present (1843), in which he attacks the industrial-capitalist age for its laissez-faire politics and economics which, to him, threaten the social order. With discontent growing among the impoverished working classes, the ruling, employing, and propertied classes begin to fear social and political unrest. The rise of Chartism, the first large-scale working-class movement for democratic reform that flourished between 1838 and 1850 and that took its name from a six-point charter of demands, exacerbated these fears among the middle classes. As Carlyle states in the opening chapter “The Condition-of-England Question” of Chartism: “A feeling very generally exists that the condition and disposition of the Working Classes is a rather ominous matter at present; that something ought to be said, something ought to be done, in regard to it. [. . .] [I]f something be not done, something will do itself one day, and in a fashion that will please nobody” (Carlyle 2015, 121). His writing style – famous for its excessive and unidiomatic use of noun phrases, capitalisation, and the passive voice – leaves much room for interpretation, especially with regard to the social agents who are supposed to intervene. This very vagueness keeps stirring up fears among the middle classes. Continuing to warn of a working-class revolution, he argues that “Chartism means the bitter discontent grown fierce and mad, the wrong condition therefore or the wrong disposition, of the Working Classes of England” (122). Moreover, the ‘Condition-of-England’ is shaped by what Carlyle conceives of as an increasing economisation of society, “with Cash Payment as the sole nexus between man and man” (169). Using ‘cash’ metonymically for ‘money’, which, in

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turn, connotes commerce, business, economy, and capitalism, Carlyle discusses grand topics in everyday terms and concepts. He cautions that “there are so many things which cash will not pay! Cash is a great miracle; yet it has not all power in Heaven, nor even on Earth” (169). He thus takes issue with Britain’s transition to industrial capitalism. Carlyle’s writing has been – both at the time and in retrospect – an influential force in England’s mid-nineteenth-century literature, culture, and politics. The very phrase ‘Condition-of-England’ indicates that these novels “are premised on the idea that they have a sense that what they describe is the state of England at that time” (Earnshaw 2010, 214). In fact, the novels focus specifically on this subject matter because “the sense of ‘urgency’, the idea that art should concern itself with the ‘here and now’, is still partly a consequence of the pressure of industrialisation, brought on by the fact that the world is changing very quickly in the nineteenth century and bringing with it a need to reflect society as it operates within such speedy change” (Earnshaw 2010, 30). Making a similar point in The Politics of Story in Victorian Social Fiction (1988), Bodenheimer addresses the question as to how literature can attend to the radical social transformations resulting from industrialisation. Industrial novels set themselves in a dramatic way to the task of giving fictional shape to social questions that were experienced as new, unpredictable, without closure. Their story lines offer a particularly well-focused arena of inquiry because they must bring order and meaning to situations characterized exactly by their lack of historical meaning, or by acute conflicts about the meanings assigned to them in public discourse. (1988, 4)

Industrial novels are set in northern England where they explore the manufacturing regions that were subject to radical transformations over a short period of time due to massive increases in population and in the number of factories. That Mary Barton actually takes its readers to ‘uncharted’ territory becomes evident in its painstaking descriptions of Manchester’s neighbourhoods, streets, courts, and houses (see part three). The setting matches the broad social range of characters from the working and middle classes, especially industrial capitalists who form a special interest group within the bourgeoisie. While John Barton and his daughter Mary feature prominently as protagonists, Mary Barton also introduces several other labourers and their families such as Jem Wilson, who – as an engineering worker – belongs to the labouring elite; John’s fellow worker Ben Davenport, who falls ill and dies in dire destitution; the young seamstress Margaret, who is going blind but manages to make a living from singing; and her grandfather Job Legh, a weaver and self-educated naturalist with extensive botanical and zoological knowledge. By depicting workers not simply as miserable, deprived, and oppressed, but also in terms of their agency and sense of injustice, the novel provides a nuanced picture of working-class culture. In doing so, it confronts – if only indirectly and moderately – middle-class fears about the working


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classes as a threat to contemporary society (Foster 2006, xiii). Paradoxically, by characterising the working classes as ultimately reliant on self-help, the novel reinforces the ideology of laissez-faire, according to which the workers themselves – instead of the ruling and employing classes – are responsible for improving the grossly unfair conditions (Foster 2002, 38). Although industrial novels draw attention to inequalities and conflicts between the classes, they do not openly advocate social or political change. The character and plot design indicates that Mary Barton is particularly sceptical of early trade unions and political organisations of the working classes. Ultimately, the novel seeks reconciliation, although its ending differs from other industrial novels. “What makes the allegory of the social plot less visible [in Mary Barton] than in a novel such as Sybil or North and South is that the courtship does not lead to a marriage between classes” (Vanden Bossche 2014, 165). Rather than a marriage, it is the final encounter between the penitent John Barton and the forgiving mill owner Mr Carson that – if only symbolically – unites workers and industrialists. Moreover, Mary and Jem emigrate, suggesting that they cannot have a future in Britain. Corresponding to the happy endings of many (Victorian) novels, Mary Barton offers romantic closure and individual solutions for its protagonists. In doing so, the novel seemingly reinstates the status quo by not allowing for social commentary or change. The ending would thus provide a melodramatic and naïve resolution, ignoring the conflicting material and ideological positions of the social classes. However, “Gaskell’s reluctance to detail specific industrial reform (which she probably could not envisage), or to offer a clear and radical political solution (which in the late 1840s would have been utopian), should be seen [. . .] not as a failure but as another aspect of her realism as well as articulating her own moral beliefs” (Foster 2006, xviii). In Unitarianism, a resolution of strife is only possible if the conflicting social groups begin to recognise and understand each other; this message is “subversive, too, in that it challenges the male hegemony of rationality and theory and seeks to empower the feminine (empathy, emotional understanding, nurturing)” (Foster 2002, 38). On closer inspection, the conciliatory, generically conventional, and politically conservative ending is, in fact, more ambiguous than much secondary literature suggests. One of the central arguments for this more complex reading can be found in Mary Barton’s nuanced bourgeois perspective: it is written by a female middle-class author who was influenced by the intellectual tradition of Unitarianism and her personal experiences. Had it not been for her charitable work as a minister’s wife in Manchester, Gaskell would not have become acquainted with such high levels of poverty and suffering. In her writing, Gaskell was then “bold enough to present these hardships and apparent injustices to a readership many of whom were unprepared to receive the truth of her depiction” (Foster 2006, ix). Looking at the spatial, economic, and social gap that nineteenth-century writers (and readers) of industrial fiction had to bridge, Kathleen Tillotson asserts in her classic study that “the

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novelists were scouts who had crossed the frontier [. . .] and brought back their reports” (1961, 81). Scholars in postcolonial and cultural studies would find such metaphors as “scout” and “frontier” problematic – to say the least – as they are tied to colonial(ist) discourse: for example, the narrative of sending out an ‘expedition’ into the ‘unknown’ and bringing back a fixed image of the working classes. Moreover, her conception of fiction as a “report” falls short of recognising the novel’s complex signifying strategies. Although Tillotson’s study has proven to be very influential in scholarship on early Victorian novels, it is important to bear in mind that it was published over sixty years ago and thus does not reflect more recent turns in literary and cultural theory. The idea of ‘informing’ and ‘educating’ readers about the dreadful conditions in industrial England is also taken up in more recent publications, which, however, do not ignore Mary Barton’s aesthetics. Foster argues that, with its dialect speech, the novel gains “something of the force of social documentary, encouraging readers to regard it as an illustrative and informative text” (2002, 36). In a similar way, Kamilla Elliott substantiates her argument about the intertwined plots of politics and romance in Mary Barton: “Gaskell places the romance plot alongside the political plot, infuses the political plot with romance, and injects the courtship plot with politics not from inexperience or ambivalence, but to teach readers how to assess the less familiar genre of the social, industrial, political plot” (2007, 23). Following this reasoning, the novel functions as Gaskell’s didactic attempt at raising awareness among her bourgeois readers of the working and living conditions of the masses. In doing so, Mary Barton corresponds to the aims of numerous nonfiction texts published at the time which are equally preoccupied with exploring the ‘condition of England’, for example government’s blue books, parliamentary reports both on the working and living conditions of the masses as well as on child labour and, perhaps most importantly, several social investigations of these conditions: Friedrich Engels’s The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845/1887), Edwin Chadwick’s Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain (1842), and James Phillips Kay’s The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes Employed in the Cotton Manufacture in Manchester (1832). Yet, as a literary text, Mary Barton not only raises awareness and sustains philanthropic efforts to improve the conditions of the working classes. It does not simply ‘reflect’ and ‘transmit’ realities about Manchester’s labouring population to a broad public, but contributes to the cultural construction of industrial society. Concerning the methodologically challenging issue of how fiction relates to its social, political, and historical contexts, Bodenheimer contends that “public matters [concerning the condition of England] are necessarily reimagined as they are shaped to the forms and conventions of fiction” (1988, 4–5). Exploring how Mary Barton aesthetically mediates current topics and concerns, the next section will offer an analysis of the novel’s narrative and literary strategies.


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3 Aesthetics: Narrative and Literary Strategies Despite some melodramatic elements in its plot design, Mary Barton employs patterns of literary realism (↗ 4 Genres and Poetology), as evident in the following close reading of the novel’s configuration of space and use of dialect. Gaskell’s preface maintains that the novel is based on her immediate and physical encounters with the working classes in Manchester as they “elbowed me daily in the busy streets of the town in which I resided” (2006, 3). Representations of space are indeed one of the defining features of the realist novel. Towns, neighbourhoods, streets, and dwellings provide not only the story’s ‘background’, but serve as a means of characterisation. Accordingly, setting “is not merely incidental, providing colourful or recognisable backdrops for dramatic stories, but it often demonstrates the wholly interdependent connection between humans and their environments” (Earnshaw 2010, 20). In linguistic terms, literary realism relies on metonymy, shifting between items that belong to the same spatio-temporal world. The eminent linguist Roman Jakobson therefore argues that “it is the predominance of metonymy which underlies and actually predetermines the so-called ‘realistic’ trend [. . .]. Following the path of contiguous relationships, the realist author metonymically digresses from the plot to the atmosphere and from the characters to the setting in space and time” (1971, 92). This definition stresses that the places, objects, and characters described in realist novels are not only geographically close but are also ontologically, logically, and causally connected. In Mary Barton, this becomes particularly apparent in the passages about the Barton family dwelling, which the narrator constructs in meticulous detail (Gaskell 2006, 14–15). This is not to suggest, however, that the configuration of space is ‘objective’ or ‘neutral’. In fact, it is biased towards the needs and wishes of the implied bourgeois reading audience. Bridging the social gap between the inscribed reader and the fictional world among the working classes, the novel’s authorial narrator acts as guide and mediator (Earnshaw 2010, 63). Introducing the Bartons’ dwelling, especially their parlour, the narrator characterises it as their “home,” connoting ‘cosiness’, ‘comfort’, and ‘privacy’ (Gaskell 2006, 14). With references to “curtains, which were now drawn,” and to “geraniums” that “formed a further defence from out-door pryers” (14), the description resonates with the bourgeois cult of ‘domesticity’ and ‘privacy’. Moreover, the narrator uses the military metaphor of “defence” to underscore the binary opposition of ‘inside vs. outside’ and ‘private vs. public’. The cellar flat of the impoverished Davenport family, by comparison, offers no such protection. The ‘outside’ ‘penetrates’ into their dwelling because the cellar features many broken window-panes and a “damp, nay wet brick floor, through which the stagnant, filthy moisture of the street oozed up” (58). Yet the narrator is careful to contextualise the comparative splendour of the Barton home by presenting it as a “sure sign of good times among the mills” (15). The dwelling is further defined by a staircase and additional doors, indicating its size. The narrator

14 Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Mary Barton (1848)


comments on the “tolerably large room” (14), and there is some functional space, albeit only “a sort of little back kitchen” (14). As there is no reference to beds or other places to sleep, the ‘public’ area of the parlour is set apart from more ‘private’ spaces. The dwelling and, by metonymic extension, the Barton family thus live up to bourgeois ideals of ‘decency’ and ‘respectability’. Among several pieces of furniture mentioned in a longer passage depicting the home, the narrator describes “a table, which I should call a Pembroke” (Gaskell 2006, 15), calling forth the image of an elegant small table with four fixed legs and two hinged sides. However, the narrator immediately qualifies this description by stating “that it was made of deal [cheap wood], and I cannot tell how far such a name may be applied to such humble material” (15). This type of table thus becomes affordable to working-class households in their attempts at imitating bourgeois interiors. The same holds true for the “japanned tea-tray” (15) and the “crimson tea-caddy, also of japan ware” (15), both of which copy Japanese lacquer work. Given that objects of foreign origin from all over Europe and the British Empire were very fashionable in the nineteenth century (Freedgood 2012, 372–373; Humble 2010, 229), these imitations show how a working-class family, despite limited funds, tries to meet bourgeois standards of ‘respectability’. The cupboard, full of tableware and glass, serves a similar purpose. Mrs Barton is very proud of the household objects as her “glance round of satisfaction and pleasure” (Gaskell 2006, 14) indicates. In fact, she is so closely associated with them that, after her death, they remind John Barton of his late wife and her daily routines (21). In this particular passage, Mrs Barton leaves open the cupboard door, thereby inviting ‘public’ inspection. Her behaviour shows that “the Victorian home, far from being the place of inward familial comfort and retreat [. . .], was in fact a place of show, a sort of theatre for the enactment of performances of successful family life” (Humble 2010, 226). The narrator presents a working-class home that characterises John Barton and his family as respectable, reliable, and trustworthy by the standards of the novel-reading bourgeoisie. Substantiating this characterisation, the narrator also comments on some “nondescript articles, for which one would have fancied their possessors could find no use – such as triangular pieces of glass to save carving knives and forks from dirtying table-cloths” (Gaskell 2006, 14). While these objects are not useless per se, the remark implies that they are useless for average working-class families. Mrs Barton, however, owns such articles, which suggests that she is aware of and possibly aspires to middle-class ideals of ‘taste’ and ‘cleanliness’. Thus, the novel’s construction of the Barton household perfectly illustrates how “[t]he home was an emblem of social status, but also the means of subtly advancing it. Furnishing, decoration and style needed to be up to – and perhaps a touch beyond – the mark [. . .], but not noticeably out of keeping with the householder’s rank and income” (Humble 2010, 227). The novel’s realist configurations of space become evident not only in workingclass dwellings, but also in representations of Manchester’s streets and districts.


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Mary Barton opens with a scene set in “some fields near Manchester, well known to the inhabitants as ‘Green Heys Fields’” (Gaskell 2006, 5). Throughout the novel, the narrator refers to many very specific places in and around Manchester, thereby enhancing the story’s regional ‘authenticity’. In these fields, where various groups of workers go for a walk in the afternoon, John Barton and his wife meet their friends, the Wilson family, with whom they return home. Reminiscent of the conventions of travel writing (Rubiés 2002, 244–251), the narrator elaborates on the journey itself and guides the implied reader through Manchester. [T]he party proceeded home, through many half-finished streets, all so like one another, that you might have easily been bewildered and lost your way. Not a step, however, did our friends lose; down this entry, cutting off that corner, until they turned out of one of these innumerable streets into a little paved court, having the backs of houses at the end opposite to the opening, and a gutter running through the middle to carry off household slops, washing suds, &c. (Gaskell 2006, 13)

Here the binary opposition ‘insider vs. outsider’ serves as a central structuring device. Following the workers home, the narrator comments on the confusing layout of numerous and uniform streets, thus characterising him- or herself as someone who is unfamiliar with the working-class district. Furthermore, by using the second-person pronoun when stating that “you might have easily been bewildered and lost your way,” the narrator also marks the reader as ‘outsider’. By comparison, the workingclass characters are ‘insiders’ who know their way around the streets, courts, and back-to-back houses. Despite occupying an authorial and supposedly privileged position, the narrator is not presented as omniscient and sovereign, but rather as reliant: were it not for the working-class characters, neither the narrator nor the bourgeois reader would become privy to these districts and communities. Later, in one of the most famous scenes of the novel, John Barton and George Wilson go see their fellow worker Ben Davenport, who has fallen ill. As the narrator describes their way to the cellar dwelling in Berry Street (Gaskell 2006, 58), it becomes clear that Barton and Wilson are outsiders not adapted to these surroundings; they are all but overwhelmed by the stench in the streets and the cellar. Considering the squalor, the narrator finds it necessary to emphasise that it is a “cellar in which a family of human beings lived” (58). The graphic description of the street, gutters, waste, and the actual dwelling, which seems to be shaped by both Gaskell’s own experiences and her reading (Foster 2002, 24), serves as a means of characterisation, thereby setting apart the non-working poor from the likes of John Barton. Establishing this hierarchy within the working classes, it presents John Barton in favourable terms as congenial – even to the implied middle-class reader. Nonetheless, Mary Barton sympathises with the poor. Refraining from moralising, the novel does not attribute poverty to idleness, failure, or guilt. Ben Davenport is not held responsible for his family’s destitution; following the novel’s logic, poverty results from circumstance, namely from Ben’s illness which renders him unable

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to work. John Barton, in turn, sacrifices his own food and pawns his last valuables in order to help. As he himself states in the novel’s very first chapter, “it’s the poor, and the poor only, as does such things for the poor” (Gaskell 2006, 11). Promoting individual commitment and aid as an individual solution to supposedly individual problems such as illness, poverty, and insanitary housing, Mary Barton acknowledges and upholds the ideology of self-help. Yet it also criticises the manufacturers’ aloof and detached manner. Immediately after the extensive account of the destitute circumstances in the cellar dwelling, the narrator presents the mill owner’s dwelling, where George Wilson seeks an infirmary order for the dying Davenport: “Mr. Carson’s was a good house, and furnished with disregard to expense” (65). The place abounds in light, fire, food, beautiful objects, and flowers because, for Carson’s daughter, “[l]ife was not worth having without flowers” (68). By juxtaposing the scenes and settings, the novel derides the industrialist for being ignorant of his workers’ plight although their labour ensures his comfortable living. Mary Barton evokes ‘reality’ and regional ‘authenticity’ not only by means of its minute representations of Manchester’s spaces but also by its use of the Lancashire dialect. For most nineteenth-century writers, dialect-speaking characters are held to be socially inferior (Slater 1994, 87). Deviating from this convention, Gaskell constructs in Mary Barton “a whole society of dialect speakers and by allowing them dignity she has established their worth. Not only does she display the worth in individual workers in the industrial scene but she also sets a precedent for the future use of dialect in literary form” (Slater 1994, 96). In employing the vernacular, Mary Barton gives the working classes a voice. Underscoring Gaskell’s “Unitarian approach to humanity” (Millard 2001, 11), dialect speakers are not patronised for their supposedly inferior command of English – they are recognised as full members of a regional community. Stressing the innovative quality of Gaskell’s writing, Earnshaw discusses her use of dialect as an example of how the realist novel “exhibits experimentation with form” (2010, 75). The epigraphs in Mary Barton are mostly quotes from songs and poems, several of which were written by contemporary self-educated poets such as Samuel Bamford, Ebenezer Elliott, and Thomas Hood. These intertextual references pay tribute to emergent urban working-class cultures. Moreover, the novel also includes a complete dialect song, which the narrator introduces in a direct reader’s address: “Do you know ‘The Oldham Weaver’? Not unless you are Lancashire born and bred, for it is a complete Lancashire ditty. I will copy it for you” (Gaskell 2006, 34). While assuming that the reader is unfamiliar with the song, the narrator attributes the lack of knowledge not simply to ignorance or arrogance but to regional differences. In The Industrial Muse (1974), an influential early study of nineteenth-century British working-class literature, Martha Vicinus calls her chapter on dialect literature of the industrial North “An Appropriate Voice,” thus underscoring how significant dialect writing was among Lancashire’s working classes as a “vehicle for literary self-expression” (185). While “most dialect writing was apolitical, emphasizing the home life and local


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customs of northern workers and rural folk” (192), “The Oldham Weaver”, also known as “Jone o’ Grinfilt, Jr.”, is among “the very best pieces [that] come out of the political tradition of satire and comic irony” (191). As far as the song’s origins and contexts are concerned, Vicinus explains that in the 1790s, a schoolmaster wrote a song about ‘Jone o’ Grinfilt’, i.e. John of Greenfield, a village near Oldham. The song spread quickly because its story about a poor and discontented weaver who leaves home to find a better life could easily be adapted to various occasions (48). Among the best-known versions is one about ‘Jone o’ Grinfilt, Jr.’, a destitute hand-loom weaver who laconically describes his impoverished living and working conditions in industrial England. While the poem takes issue with suffering and oppression, it does not aim at dismantling social hierarchies. In comparison with the version discussed in Vicinus’s study, Mary Barton features a less radical one in which “Owd Dicky o’ Billy,” instead of the church parson, tries to silence and suppress the weavers: Owd Dicky o’ Billy’s kept telling me lung, Wee s’d ha’ better toimes if I’d but howd my tung, Oi’ve howden my tung, till oi’ve near stopped my breath, Oi think i’ my heeart oi’se soon clem to deeath, [. . .]. (Gaskell 2006, 35)

While it is possible that Gaskell knew only this less radical version, similar tendencies are at work in the epigraphs. As Foster points out in her annotations, some extracts are taken from less subversive texts in the growing corpus of working-class literature, thereby accommodating Mary Barton to a bourgeois reading audience (2006, 419, 426). Yet, this does not necessarily mean that the novel was received favourably by contemporary readers and reviewers, as the following section will show.

4 Reception and Theoretical Perspectives Mary Barton immediately met with critical attention upon its publication in 1848. Given that it is an anonymous publication, many contemporaries pondered on the question of (fe)male authorship (Chorley 1848, 1050; Forster 1848, 708; Greg 1849, 403). Yet above and beyond assumptions concerning the author, the novel’s ‘faithfulness’ was an issue looming large in the vigorous debates among contemporary readers and reviewers (Bamford 2008, 363; Chorley 1848, 1050; Forster 1848, 709; Greg 1849, 403, 404, 411; Rev. of Mary Barton 1849, 122, 130). The historical, political, and social contexts, both in continental Europe and in England, provide possible reasons for the often controversial responses. After all, this potentially destabilising representation of industrial society was published in the very year of revolutions in continental Europe. As a ‘Condition-of-England’ novel,

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Mary Barton addresses contentious issues concerning power relations in the manufacturing regions. The reviewers’ (dis)approval of Mary Barton is therefore shaped by their political and ideological views and position in industrial society. In other words, much depends on whether they follow or reject Gaskell’s liberal politics. Moreover, the interpretation of the novel also varies with regard to the politics, scope and target audience of the journals publishing the reviews. Elaborating on the novel’s ‘fidelity’ to social realities, the commentators grappled with how the novel is shaped by both realism and romance, bringing questions of genre and aesthetics into the debate (Bamford 2008, 363–364; Chorley 1848, 1050; Greg 1849, 403). Discussing the function(s) of literature in his review for Athenaeum, one of the most influential weekly papers of its day, Henry Fothergill Chorley raises the question as to “how far it may be kind, wise, or right to make Fiction the vehicle for a plain and matter-of-fact exposition of social evils” (1848, 1050). From today’s theoretical perspective, it can no longer be the aim of critical analysis to identify an appropriate genre or subject matter for fiction (by women) (Chapman 1999, 22). Rather, informed by literary and cultural theory, scholarship aims at “Reading (as) Conflict” (7), to quote the telling title of Alison Chapman’s introductory chapter of her guide to criticism on Gaskell. Fiction is polyvalent; it never only raises awareness or disseminates ‘information’. As a novel, Mary Barton produces ambiguous and potentially conflicting meanings about the social realities in industrial-capitalist Manchester. The representations need to be scrutinised again and again because much can be gained from rereading the novel at different historical moments with different theoretical or methodological paradigms. In fact, “throughout the history of Gaskell criticism, readers return to the same two questions, although formulated in different ways or obliquely addressed: What are the limits of realist fiction? Are the industrial novels conservative or subversive?” (Chapman 1999, 14). As straightforward as these questions seem to be, they allow for controversial debates. As far as Gaskell’s place in literary history and criticism is concerned, it is noteworthy that Elizabeth Gaskell has long been underrated, although contemporaries considered her a major woman writer alongside the Brontës and George Eliot. Susan Hamilton points out in her article “Gaskell Then and Now” that Gaskell’s reputation was “chased into the shadows of modernism’s onslaught on the Victorians, and remained remarkably unchanged until revisited in the 1960s and 1970s by materialist and feminist critics” (2007, 178). Gaskell’s writing has since been ‘rediscovered’ for its subtlety, nuance, and innovation. Especially poststructuralists and cultural studies scholars have been interested in “the very ambivalences that once banished her from the great formalist canon” (Hamilton 2007, 186). By now, Gaskell’s writing is well established as a compelling and dynamic field of study. The significant increase in research over the last few decades (Hamilton 2007, 186–188; Shelston 2010, 2) is evident in the activities of the Gaskell Society, especially the Gaskell Society Journal; in Nancy Weyant’s updated bibliographies of


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theses, articles, and books on Gaskell (Weyant 1994; 2004); and in new editions of many of Gaskell’s texts. Indeed, Alan Shelston opens his article “Where Next in Gaskell Studies?”, published on the occasion of her bicentenary, with the observation that there has been substantial research on Gaskell in the last decade alone (2010, 1). Still, the sheer range of possibilities for future research is bound up with shifts and developments in literary and cultural theory, which are constantly reinvigorating critical enquiry into Gaskell’s writing.

Bibliography Works Cited Bamford, Samuel. “To the Authoress of ‘Mary Barton.’” Mary Barton. By Elizabeth Gaskell. Ed. Thomas Recchio. New York: Norton, 2008. 363–364. Bodenheimer, Rosemarie. The Politics of Story in Victorian Social Fiction. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1988. Carlyle, Thomas. Selected Writings. Ed. Alan Shelston. London: Penguin, 2015. Chapman, Alison. Elizabeth Gaskell, ‘Mary Barton’ and ‘North and South’. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999. Palgrave Reader’s Guides to Essential Criticism. Chorley, Henry Fothergill. Rev. of Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life, by Elizabeth Gaskell. Athenaeum 21 Oct. 1848: 1050–1051. Cuddon, J. A. “Condition of England Novel.” The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. 4th ed. London: Penguin, 1999. 172–173. D’Albertis, Deirdre. “The Life and Letters of E. C. Gaskell.” Matus 2007, 10–26. Dentith, Simon. “Generic Diversity in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton.” Gaskell Society Journal 11 (1997): 43–54. Earnshaw, Steven. Beginning Realism. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2010. Elliott, Kamilla. “The Romance of Politics and the Politics of Romance in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton.” Gaskell Society Journal 21 (2007): 21–37. Foster, Shirley. Elizabeth Gaskell: A Literary Life. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. Foster, Shirley. Introduction. Mary Barton. By Elizabeth Gaskell. Oxford: OUP, 2006. vii–xxviii. Forster, John. Rev. of Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life, by Elizabeth Gaskell. Examiner 4 Nov. 1848: 708–709. Freedgood, Elaine. “Material.” The Cambridge History of Victorian Literature. Ed. Kate Flint. Cambridge: CUP, 2012. 370–387. Gaskell, Elizabeth. Mary Barton. 1848. Ed. Shirley Foster. Oxford: OUP, 2006. Greg, W. R. Rev. of Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life, by Elizabeth Gaskell. Edinburgh Review 89 (1849): 402–435. Guy, Josephine M. The Victorian Social-Problem Novel: The Market, the Individual and Communal Life. London: Macmillan, 1996. Hamilton, Susan. “Gaskell Now and Then.” Matus 2007, 178–191. Humble, Nicola. “Domestic Arts.” The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Culture. Ed. Francis O’Gorman. Cambridge: CUP, 2010. 219–235. Jakobson, Roman, and Morris Halle. “Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances.” Fundamentals of Language. Ed. Jakobson and Halle. 2nd ed. The Hague: Mouton, 1971. 69–96.

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Kettle, Arnold. “The Early Victorian Social-Problem Novel.” From Dickens to Hardy. Ed. Boris Ford. Vol. 6 of The Pelican Guide to English Literature. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970. 169–187. Matus, Jill L., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Elizabeth Gaskell. Cambridge: CUP, 2007. Millard, Kay. “The Religion of Elizabeth Gaskell.” Gaskell Society Journal 15 (2001): 1–13. Ohno, Tatsuhiro. “Is Mary Barton an Industrial Novel?” Gaskell Society Journal 15 (2001): 14–29. Rev. of Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life, by Elizabeth Gaskell. British Quarterly Review 17 Feb. 1849: 117–136. Rubiés, Joan-Pau. “Travel Writing and Ethnography.” The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing. Ed. Peter Hulme and Tim Youngs. Cambridge: CUP, 2002. 242–260. Shelston, Alan. “Where Next in Gaskell Studies?” Elizabeth Gaskell, Victorian Culture, and the Art of Fiction: Original Essays for the Bicentenary. Ed. Sandro Jung. Gent: Academia, 2010. 1–11. Slater, Rosalind. “The Novelist’s Use of Dialect.” Gaskell Society Journal 8 (1994): 87–97. Stoneman, Patsy. “Gaskell, Gender, and the Family.” Matus 2007, 131–147. Tillotson, Kathleen. Novels of the Eighteen-Forties. Oxford: OUP, 1961. Vanden Bossche, Chris R. Reform Acts. Chartism, Social Agency, and the Victorian Novel, 1832–1867. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2014. Vicinus, Martha. The Industrial Muse: A Study of Nineteenth Century British Working-Class Literature. London: Croom Helm, 1974. Weyant, Nancy. Elizabeth Gaskell: An Annotated Bibliography of English-Language Sources, 1976–1991. Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1994. Weyant, Nancy. Elizabeth Gaskell: An Annotated Bibliography of English-Language Sources, 1992–2001. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2004. Williams, Raymond. Culture and Society: 1780–1950. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963.

Further Reading Corley, Liam. “The Imperial Addiction of Mary Barton.” Gaskell Society Journal 17 (2003): 1–11. Maidment, Brian, ed. The Poorhouse Fugitives: Self-Taught Poets and Poetry in Victorian Britain. Manchester: Carcanet, 1987. Maunder, Andrew. “Mary Barton Goes to London: Elizabeth Gaskell, Stage Adaptation and the Working Class Audiences.” Gaskell Society Journal 25 (2011): 1–18. Morgan, Kenneth. The Birth of Industrial Britain: Social Change, 1750–1850. Harlow: Pearson, 2004. Purchase, Sean. Key Concepts in Victorian Literature. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. Royle, Edward. Chartism. London: Longman, 1996. Steinbach, Susie L. Understanding the Victorians: Politics, Culture and Society in NineteenthCentury Britain. London: Routledge, 2012. Warwick, Alexandra, and Martin Willies, eds. The Victorian Literature Handbook. London: Continuum, 2008.

Timothy L. Carens

15 Charles Kingsley, Yeast: A Problem (1851) Abstract: This chapter approaches Charles Kingsley’s Yeast: A Problem (1848; rev. 1851) as an urgent response to the mid-century ‘Condition-of-England question’ and other contemporary debates about religion, sexuality and gender, and middle-class social responsibility. Without presenting the novel as an aesthetic success, it affirms that Yeast deserves close attention from anyone intrigued by the Victorian period and the complexities of its ideological terrain. To locate the work on a map of this terrain, the chapter offers contextual readings focusing on its relation to Condition-of-England discourse, Anglican anti-Catholicism, and middle-class gender roles. The last of these topics functions paradoxically. On the one hand, Kingsley envisions the heterosexual union as the source of chivalric energy that inspires the middle-class hero to combat poverty, injustice, and ecological catastrophe. On the other, he represents romantic love as a distraction from the hero’s reform quest. The unexpected death of the heroine and collapse of the marriage plot, the chapter argues, expose the intensity of the author’s ambivalence about love and marriage and triggers an unconventional discussion within the novel about its purpose and form. Keywords: Condition-of-England question, anti-Catholicism, muscular Christianity, gender and sexuality, marriage plot

1 Context: Author, Oeuvre, Moment Charles Kingsley wrote his first novel, Yeast: A Problem (1851), at a critical moment in his own life and the life of his country. The first version of the novel appeared as a serial in 1848, a year marked by revolutions on the continent and, in Britain, a series of political debates and cultural crises that forced intellectuals, artists, the clergy, and the public at large to confront a set of vexing questions. Did the Chartist movement, which had enlisted vast numbers of the working class in its campaign for universal manhood suffrage, represent a legitimate step toward political equality or a subversive threat to social stability? How should the nation respond to the horrific living conditions in urban slums and rural villages (↗ 7 Empire – Economy – Materiality)? What were the appropriate roles and responsibilities for middle-class men and women (↗ 6 Victorian Gender Relations)? In the wake of the Oxford movement and the defection to Roman Catholicism of John Henry Newman and others, how might the Anglican Church recapture legitimacy and moral authority (↗ 3 God on the Wane)? With a young and growing family and a recently launched career as vicar of Eversley, Kingsley had enough to occupy his time and his thoughts in 1848. And yet https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110376715-016


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he was eager to take a public role in finding answers to these questions. For several years, he had been working on The Saint’s Tragedy (1848), a closet drama based on the life of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. But he also wanted to engage more directly the socio-economic crises of the moment. He was deeply influenced by Thomas Carlyle through works such as Chartism (1839) and Past and Present (1843), both of which treat the living conditions of the working class as prophetic signs of impending chaos. Kingsley had also read the early novels of Benjamin Disraeli, who, in Sybil, or The Two Nations (1845, ↗ 9 Disraeli, Sybil), documents the extent of the class divide. He wanted to join those writers who were striving to impress on middleclass readers the grave dangers that Britain faced and the hopeful opportunities it might embrace. On 10 April 1848, a Chartist rally in London pulled Kingsley into the fray of politics and into a new field of literary endeavours. The Chartists intended to present their petition to Parliament on the appointed day. Authorities in London gathered a huge force of constables and soldiers to repress rebellion should Parliament deny the petition (as indeed it did). On the previous day in Eversley, Kingsley was hosting his friend John Parker, son of the publisher of The Saint’s Tragedy. The two decided to head to London on the following day to witness the historic events. Although the demonstration remained peaceful, it ignited a passion in Kingsley to promote the workingman’s cause. Early in the day, on 10 April, he visited his spiritual mentor F. D. Maurice, a widely respected theologian who emphasised the social mission of the Church of England. Maurice, sick in bed, urged Kingsley to seek out John Ludlow, a lawyer equally interested in the cause. Kingsley found Ludlow in his office and the two immediately sympathised. Together they set off to the Chartist rally, Kingsley eager to address the crowd, arriving only to find the rally had ended. His energy and sense of purpose unabated, he stayed in London and pitched himself into fervid discussions with Parker, Maurice, Ludlow, and other middle-class men about the best way for them to address working-class discontent. Over the course of the following week, a plan emerged to publish a new journal, Politics for the People, designed both to support and to influence working-class political activism. Maurice, who largely shaped the journal’s vision, sought to align the publication with his interpretation of Christianity as a form of social reform, and the figures associated with the journal came to describe themselves as Christian Socialists. In addition to working on the editorial board, Kingsley wrote many articles, often under the penname Parson Lot. Politics for the People offered a perspective characterised by equal parts of sympathetic concern and paternalistic advice. In the first of his series of “Letters to the Chartists” (13 May 1848), for example, Kingsley introduces himself to his audience as a “radical reformer” who “would die to make you free” (28). After thus ingratiating himself, however, he scolds Chartists for adopting the language of revolutionary violence, accusing them of “trying to do God’s work with the devil’s tools” (29). Failing to win a devoted readership, the journal had a short life, ceasing publication after just three months. Middle-class

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readers, particularly the clergy, were shocked by its radical stances, while workingclass readers no doubt perceived with suspicion an effort to co-opt and control their movement. For Kingsley, though, Politics for the People and a longer-running subsequent journal, The Christian Socialist, offered crucial early opportunities to grapple with contemporary questions that engaged his political and religious sympathies. Kingsley also aimed to address these questions in fiction. When still working on Politics for the People, he began to do so in a novel with a curious title. Yeast; or, The Thoughts, Sayings, and Doings of Lancelot Smith, Gentleman began to appear serially in the July 1848 issue of Fraser’s Magazine, published by Parker’s firm. In 1851, Kingsley released a revised version with a shortened title, Yeast: A Problem. Both versions were published anonymously. The episodic plot follows the young middle-class hero’s search for principles on which to base a meaningful life amidst the turbulent events of mid-nineteenth-century British society. After publishing Yeast, Kingsley enjoyed a broad and interesting life. He served as rector of Eversely for the rest of his life while continuing to develop and diversify his literary career. He wrote more social problem novels akin to Yeast, but also worked in other genres. In his day, he became especially well known for historical romances such as Westward Ho! (1855). An amateur botanist, Kingsley promoted the study of nature in Glaucus; Or, The Wonders of the Shore (1855). Unlike many Victorian theologians and intellectuals, he was untroubled by the work of evolutionary scientists such as Charles Darwin (↗ 1 Science and the Victorian Novel). He perceived no conflict between scientific and spiritual truths, believing that the law of evolution governed development within both realms. He developed this parallel in The Water Babies: A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby (1863), one of a number of texts he wrote for children and the book for which he is best known today. He also published sermons, prose essays on various topics, and anti-Catholic polemics in a public debate with John Henry Newman (discussed below). In 1860, high regard for his historical fiction led to his appointment as Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University. This was a controversial honour, as many academic historians did not perceive Kingsley as one of their own, but he retained the position for nearly a decade. Another mark of esteem came in 1861 when he was chosen to serve as tutor to the Prince of Wales. Late in life, Kingsley travelled far from Eversley, visiting the West Indies in 1870 and publishing a narrative of the journey, At Last: A Christmas in the West Indies, the following year. In 1874, he wore himself out on an extensive tour of the United States, returning home to die early in 1875.

2 Basic Coordinates: Central Topics and Concerns Yeast opens with a description of various figures collected for a fox hunt in the countryside. Against this backdrop, the protagonist is introduced as a wealthy


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middle-class gentleman who “kept two good horses, and ‘rode forward’ as a fine young fellow of three-and-twenty who can afford it, and ‘has nothing else to do,’ has a very good right to ride” (Kingsley 1883, 2). Though Lancelot Smith may indeed have the right to pleasant dissipation, the novel soon indicates that more important occupations await. The overarching concern of the novel is the effort to determine how, regardless of rights, such a “fine young fellow” should spend his time and energy. For Kingsley, romantic love represents a new-found diversion for Lancelot but also, much more importantly, a central thematic concern of this novel and most of his other works of fiction as well. The plot of Yeast is set in motion when Lancelot, suffering from a bout of existential despair, first meets Argemone Lavington. His attraction to her is powerful and immediate, intertwining sexual and spiritual energy. As the narrator observes, Argemone’s “face and figure, and the spirit which spoke through them, entered his heart at once, never again to leave it” (Kingsley 1883, 14). It would be difficult to emphasise too much the significance of sexual passion for Kingsley, especially since many modern readers come to the Victorian novel with a general assumption of its prudery. Rather than politely ignoring or cloaking in sentimentality the sexual instinct, he seeks to normalise desire and, more significantly, reconcile it with spiritual purity. In the first chapter, the narrator blames the taboo on speaking frankly about love for preventing young men such as Lancelot from perceiving the holiness of “woman’s beauty” and, by extension, of their own sexual desire (4). The novel treats female sexuality with more reserve, but it too becomes a source of explicit concern. Argemone is drawn to ‘high-church’ Anglicanism, a faction which in the period drifted toward Catholic ideals and practices. Even as she falls in love with Lancelot, she entertains the possibility of embracing a celibate life. Her conflict comes to a crisis when she wilfully decides, against the feelings of her family and her lover, to enter a Protestant convent. Lancelot refuses to let her go without a struggle and, by confronting her openly with the fact of their mutual desire, he finally breaks the “ice of artificial years” and liberates “the clear stream of her woman’s nature” (167). When Lancelot leaves the room, having awakened her consciousness of love and desire, she follows with “greedy eyes her new-found treasure” (167). The novel thus represents heterosexual desire as one of the compelling facts of human life and social order. The novel’s commitment to romantic passion falls in line with its broad attack on Catholicism. Kingsley was bitterly opposed to Catholicism for several reasons, but Yeast emphasises his perception that it demonised sexuality rather than acknowledging it as a fact of human nature as constructed by God. Through an exchange of letters between Lancelot and his cousin Luke, Kingsley provides his hero with the chance to assert the significance of the physical body and its appetites. Luke, who eventually converts to Catholicism, appears in the character of a weak and effeminate creature who seeks a religion that will allow him to retreat into a state of infantile dependence. “Will you reproach me,” he asks Lancelot, “because when I see a soft cradle lying open for me . . . with a Virgin Mother’s face smiling

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down all woman’s love about it . . . I long to crawl into it, and sleep awhile?” (Kingsley 1883, 74). Although Lancelot has yet to reconcile himself to the Church of England, he instinctively despises a faith that cannot tolerate adult sexual desire. “If there be a God,” he exclaims, “[m]y body, and brain, and faculties, and appetites must be His will” (81). Largely detached from the central action, this sub-plot focuses on Lancelot’s search for a faith that recognises the significance of body as well as soul. Yeast emerged from a turbulent period of social and political unrest, as noted above, and the “Condition-of-England Question” – a term popularised by Carlyle in Chartism (1986, 151) – represents another central concern. Lancelot begins to probe social problems as he falls in love, finding that “his new interest in the working classes,” as the narrator observes, “was strangely quickened by his passion” (Kingsley 1883, 84). Although Argemone inspires this interest, she herself pays slight attention to the poor. Lancelot must look elsewhere for guidance. In addition to Carlyle’s text itself, he studies parliamentary reports on various subjects and finds a more vibrant source of information in Tregarva, an earnest working-class man who works as gamekeeper on the Lavington estate. Despite the class divide, the two men quickly become friends and Tregarva increasingly opens Lancelot’s eyes to the living conditions endured by the working poor. Accompanied by Tregarva and disguised in working-class clothes, Lancelot tours scenes of misery and drunken squalor from which his class position has thus far shielded him. Given the predominantly middle-class perspective of the Victorian novel, the role Tregarva plays in the hero’s development is worth considering. Kingsley presents the gamekeeper as a shrewd social critic who looks beyond the boorish behaviour of the rural poor and sees its root cause in their lack of education, lack of healthy food, and dependence on mind-numbing labour. As Tregarva tells his companion, “[i]t wears them out in body, sir, that field-work, and makes them brutes in soul and in manners” (Kingsley 1883, 205). Kingsley is careful to align Tregarva with a form of social activism rooted in Christian principles rather than in the political activism of Chartism. It is further telling that Tregarva himself, for all his insight into social problems, ironically defers to the class of the fellow he teaches. Lamenting his own unregulated mind, he exclaims, “what a blessing is a good education! What you gentlemen might do with it, if you did but see your own power!” (70). The friendship between Lancelot and Tregarva indicates that the socio-economic problems besetting the nation cannot be solved without an alliance between the classes. Ultimately, though, Kingsley upholds the necessity of middle-class authority. If Kingsley indicates that men such as Lancelot should take the lead in reforming the nation, he does not suggest that Lancelot himself is yet prepared for that work. The reform of the individual man must occur first. The protagonists of Kingsley’s best-known novels exemplify their heroism by working to confront, accept, and enact the full range of duties as Kingsley conceptualised them for young English gentlemen. They must learn to channel sexual desire within the sanctioned institution of marriage. They must accept the responsibility attendant on their class


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position to work toward a more equitable and just society. And above all they must open themselves to a fully realised faith within the framework of Protestant Christianity. In Yeast, Lancelot does not achieve this final requisite step until the very end of the story when he follows his mentor into St. Paul’s Cathedral to worship “Jesus Christ – THE MAN” (Kingsley 1883, 309). Heroism, for Kingsley, requires ardent, selfless action in the service of God, nation, the downtrodden, and women. This is the code of ‘Muscular Christianity’, a term that Kingsley himself did not particularly like but that does effectively describe the heroic ideal as developed by Kingsley, his friend and fellow novelist Thomas Hughes, and certain other Victorian writers. In Kingsley’s novels, the male protagonists have generally not yet internalised the precepts of Muscular Christianity at the beginning of their stories. Rather, they struggle toward them, sometimes stubbornly resisting one or another, sometimes making progress only to regress, but in the end they reach a spiritual and moral clarity that infuses and necessitates active and often dangerous work in the world.

3 Aesthetics: Narrative and Literary Strategies Early critics justifiably faulted Yeast for its fragmented structure. Fundamentally, Yeast is a novel of ideas, its central character and his search for meaning a vehicle that allows Kingsley to engage with the political, religious, and sexual questions that mattered most to him at the time. In the epilogue, he reflects on the novel’s title in defence of its “unconnected form,” asking: Do not young men think, speak, act, just now, in this very incoherent, fragmentary way; without methodic education or habits of thought; with the various stereotyped systems which they have received by tradition, breaking up under them like ice in a thaw; with a thousand facts and notions, which they know not how to classify, pouring in on them like a flood? – a very Yeasty state of mind altogether. (Kingsley 1883, 213)

Kingsley thus takes the unusual stance of presenting his novel’s lack of coherence as a deliberate effort to capture the state of mind of those earnest and disorganised young men who, like Lancelot Smith, want to take a leading role in the reform of their society but, while full of ideas and energy, have no clear notion about how to begin. Although this passage might sound merely like a justification of an unsatisfying conclusion, Kingsley gives reason to take seriously his commitment to an “incoherent fragmentary” form. His narrator sometimes articulates a restless discontent with the conventional devices that novels use in order to achieve resolution. Late in the novel, for example, he expresses hostility to the very notion of aesthetic unity; Barnakill, a prophet figure who becomes Lancelot’s mentor in the final chapters, denounces as the “true hell of genius” that perspective from which “[a]rt is regarded as an end and not a means, and objects are interesting, not in as far as they form our spirits, but in proportion as they can be shaped into effective parts of some beautiful

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whole” (286). By ultimately rejecting this “true hell,” the novel seems to be striving to conceptualise a different fictional model for interacting with readers, not pleasing them with a “beautiful whole” but rather plunging them into a “flood” of ideas in the hope that they, like Lancelot, become determined to make sense of the “thousand facts and notions” that surround them. The problem of form becomes especially noticeable toward the end of the narrative. At the start, the love story that sets the plot in motion lends consistency and focuses interest. Kingsley suggests from the first pages, when Lancelot and Argemone fall in love at first sight, experiencing what the narrator suggestively calls “eye-wedlock” (15), that the novel will develop a traditional marriage plot in which the lovers must overcome a series of obstacles before attaining wedded bliss. Initially, their own social awkwardness and inability to express or even understand their mutual affection presents the central difficulty. Misunderstandings and wounded feelings arise to complicate the development of their relationship. This process reaches a crescendo when Argemone, as explained above, is persuaded to embrace a celibate life of self-effacing worship. Although Lancelot’s defiant energy carries the marriage plot forward, another obstacle then presents itself when Lancelot suddenly loses his fortune and the Lavingtons refuse to let their daughter accept the attentions of a penniless man. In a more conventional novel, such passion would eventually prevail over misfortune and social bias. But Yeast next introduces an insurmountable problem with the heroine’s sudden death. Readers coached to expect the eventual triumph of romantic passion are left only with an impassioned deathbed scene, in which Argemone proclaims Lancelot her husband, despite their lack of vows. Kingsley well understood that the collapse of the marriage plot would disappoint his readers. His decision to kill off his heroine in part reflects the extent of his commitment to another plotline focusing on social reform. Early in the text, these two plots seem to work in tandem. When Lancelot falls in love with Argemone, he begins to hold himself to a higher standard, determining to prove himself worthy of her by reforming himself and society as well. In this light, Muscular Christianity functions as a Victorian interpretation of the chivalric code (which helps to explain the hero’s curious name). Lancelot enacts the part of a latter-day knight, inspired by feminine purity to seek opportunities to do good work. As the narrative draws to a close, however, it sacrifices the heroine to the very problems that she has inspired Lancelot to combat. Argemone dies of typhus that she catches when visiting the miserable hovels of the local poor. She herself interprets her deadly illness as symbolic retribution for her family’s neglect of those living in dire poverty not far from their doors. As she lies dying, she beseeches Lancelot to “wash away the sins of the Lavingtons” by working to improve the lives of the poor (Kingsley 1883, 282). The narrative thus shifts away from heterosexual romance toward a uniformly masculine effort to reform the nation. Lancelot and Tregarva have already formed a pact to live together and devote themselves to a social mission, “join[ing] hands in that


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sacred bond – [. . .] the utter friendship of two equal manful hearts” (256). Detached from the marriage plot and deprived of his social position, Lancelot, accompanied by his fellow knight, forges ahead with chivalric duty inspired by the memory of Argemone. Ultimately, however, the novel seems no more committed to the fulfilment of this social mission than to the marriage plot. After Argemone’s death, Lancelot falls increasingly under the influence of Barnakill, the prophetic spiritual mentor who emerges late in the narrative to determine the hero’s course of action and lay the groundwork for England’s resurrection. Barnakill decides that Lancelot must be a politician to have the greatest effect on his nation, but he insists that he is not yet prepared for such work, that he and Tregarva must first leave England to learn how to reform it, accompanying him on an epic journey to his own home in Asia, “the country of Prester John, that mysterious Christian empire, rarely visited by European eye” (Kingsley 1883, 296). After learning in that mythic kingdom the principles and practices of a truly Christian society, Lancelot might “bring home, after long wanderings, a message for [his] country which may help to unravel the tangled web of this strange time” (296–297). The novel concludes with the very first step of this grand programme for the hero’s education. Led by his mentor to St. Paul’s, Lancelot follows him “like a child through the cathedral door” (310). In the epilogue, Kingsley predicts that his readers might complain about this “very mythical and mysterious dénouement” (1883, 311). The curious decision to verge away from the domestic romance and social realism, which characterise most of the novel, into the vision of a highly romantic quest in part reflects the difficulty of envisioning practical solutions to the intractable problems of poverty and inequality. At the same time, the conclusion, for all its obscurity, does indicate certain priorities that Kingsley believed should undergird any social or political reform movement. As a Christian socialist, he wanted to be sure that any effort to address poverty and inequality adhere to Christian principles; the search for those principles must, he believed, take precedence over action. It is also important to note the extent to which the novel invests authority in the middle-class hero, apparently destined to become a reforming politician, and above him a spiritual mentor who seems to establish the pace and parameters of reform. Yeast thus responds to the Chartist movement by rejecting its call for universal manhood suffrage, instead putting its trust in a benevolent hierarchy.

4 Reception and Theoretical Perspectives Yeast has never been widely considered a great novel and it no longer holds much appeal for general readers. Unlike contemporary novels by the Brontës, Charles Dickens, and Elizabeth Gaskell, it has fallen out of print and mostly out of notice.

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Nonetheless, scholars of the Victorian period cannot afford to ignore it. Although there are more accomplished novelists than Kingsley, there are few who dared throw themselves with such brash enthusiasm into public debates about industrialisation and poverty, the separation of the classes, sexual relations, and religion. The positions that he strikes are unpredictable, sometimes quite conventional, and sometimes idiosyncratic. In Yeast, arguably his most wide-ranging narrative, Kingsley clarifies our conception of the issues that enlivened the period and stretches our understanding of the way that Victorians engaged with them. As a mid-century novel devoted to raising awareness of the problems besetting the nation and urging readers to imagine their reform, Yeast represents one of the most interesting contributions to the Condition-of-England debate of the 1840s and 1850s. Many other sorts of texts participate in this debate as well: political speeches, journalism, and governmental reports; social criticism written by Carlyle, John Ruskin, and Matthew Arnold; poetry by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Alfred Lord Tennyson; and novels by Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli, and Elizabeth Gaskell. Along with Kingsley, in other words, many notable writers and thinkers were responding to an array of social problems with moral fervour, all sharing the feeling, as articulated by Carlyle, “that the condition and disposition of the Working Classes is a rather ominous matter at present; that something ought to be said, something ought to be done, in regard to it” (1986, 151). Analysing Yeast in the context of this diverse set of texts sharpens understanding of the content and form of the novel. In the Industrial Reformation of English Fiction (1985), Catherine Gallagher does not discuss Yeast (although she does include a chapter on Kingsley’s second novel, Alton Locke: Tailor and Poet [1849]). In her discussion of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton (1848, ↗ 14 Gaskell, Mary Barton), Gallagher makes a suggestive remark that helps to explain why Kingsley might have chosen to discard the marriage plot in favour of a much less satisfying open-ended conclusion. Arguing that Gaskell “does not find a narrative form that satisfactorily reveals the reality of working-class life,” Gallagher finds that “she does identify several conventional genres that hide the reality. Her attempt to render the truth is beset by irresolvable difficulties, but some relief, some certainty, is secured in attacking what is obviously false” (1985, 67). In Yeast, Kingsley does in places attempt to render the “reality” of working-class life, but his ambition is less to capture that life than to imagine the middle-class authority equipped to reform it. Despite that difference, Gallagher’s point applies well to his novel. When he began writing, Kingsley seems to have believed that he could integrate the reform plot and the marriage plot. At some point, though, he became convinced that a tidily resolved marriage plot would provide an “obviously false” ending to a narrative committed to the transformation of the world outside the middle-class marriage. “Thus, in the very act of trying to evade certain narrative responsibilities,” as Gallagher argues of Gaskell, “the book becomes peculiarly self-regarding” (1985, 68). This process occurs much more blatantly in Yeast than in Mary Barton. In the


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epilogue, as the narrator addresses the various criticisms that might be lodged against his story, he gives particular attention to the collapse of the marriage plot. “Strange!” he declares, “that the death of one of the lovers should seem no complete termination to their history, when their marriage would have been accepted by all as the legitimate dénouement” (Kingsley 1883, 322). This “self-regarding” moment affords Kingsley a chance to denounce the artificiality of the conventional resolution that he has deliberately frustrated and, implicitly at least, to raise the question of the ultimate aim of fiction. Is the point to make his readers happy and comfortable or to goad them into confronting the difficult necessity of reforming England and transforming themselves? In relation to most of the novels that take up the Condition-of-England debate, Yeast is atypical in that it focuses its social criticism on poverty and living conditions in the countryside rather than in the urban industrial setting. As a rural clergyman concerned about the unhealthy cottages of his parishioners and angered by the indifference of wealthy landowners, Kingsley uses his novel to address the vast inequalities of country life and the laws that maintain it. Tregarva loses his position when Squire Lavington discovers a ballad in which the gamekeeper expresses bitter contempt for a system as brutal to the rural poor as industrial labour was to the factory workers. In the ballad, a poacher’s widow accuses a wealthy landowner of exploiting and impoverishing her class. “You have sold the labouring man, squire,” she cries, “Body and soul to shame, / To pay for your seat in the House, squire, / And to pay for the feed of your game” (Kingsley 1883, 173). If the novel cannot bring itself to fully endorse such resentment, it does at least give it sympathetic attention. At the time, such attention in itself was a daring stance for a person in Kingsley’s position. In a recent biography that provides the most thoroughly contextualised account of Kingsley’s work, J. M. I. Klaver notes that Tregarva’s ballad “was condemned as a radical piece of work which was to taint Kingsley’s reputation in some eyes for the rest of his life” (2006, 156). Still, like most other Condition-of-England novels written by middle-class writers, Yeast does not perceive working-class activism as a legitimate response to inequality. In her analysis of Alton Locke, Rosemarie Bodenheimer detects in Kingsley’s work an “actual horror at the idea that working-class talent might be translated into legitimate social agency”; the “yearning” on the part of characters such as Tregarva and Alton for a more just society “remains sympathetic only so long as it is hopeless” (1988, 146). Bodenheimer offers a persuasive account of Kingsley’s ambivalent treatment of working-class activism. For Kingsley, a troubled relationship between human beings and the natural world offers one of the clearest indications that the nation has veered away from the path of righteousness. The emerging field of ‘Ecocriticism’ – which approaches literature with an eye for the representation of the natural world and of the impact that humans have on it – has only just begun to influence Victorian studies, but it is not surprising that Kingsley has received some attention from this perspective. Christopher Hamlin argues that Kingsley promotes a “green agenda” (2012, 256)

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and works to “serve an ecological ideal, one cobbled from an array of theological and scientific sources. Acting as prophetic witness, he would reconceive human creatureliness and reconcile biotic and Christian identities” (257). Yeast registers the hero’s moral development in part through his awakening understanding of the effect that human agriculture and industry have on the biosphere. An enthusiastic hunter and angler (like Kingsley himself), Lancelot is used to viewing the landscape primarily as the ground of his own pleasure. He must learn to perceive the deeper significance of the relationship between humanity and nature, to strive for an “ecological ideal” that reflects divine approval. An energetic proponent of sanitation reform, Kingsley interprets pollution and disease as indications that humans have failed to attain this ideal. When, in their first interaction, Lancelot praises the beauty of the stream on the Lavington estate, Tregarva responds by informing him of the “fever, and ague, and rheumatism” spread to cottagers by its fogs (Kingsley 1883, 41). When asked by Lancelot if he blames the river for such illness, the gamekeeper explains, “[n]o, sir. The riverdamps are God’s sending; and so they are not too bad to bear. But there’s more of man’s sending, that is too bad to bear” (41). This enigmatic response points toward Kingsley’s belief that if humans respect the laws of nature they can live in harmony with it. A society that ignores those laws, on the other hand, invites miseries upon itself and those miseries will undoubtedly be distributed unevenly according to class. The novel applies this principle to the problem of untreated sewage that occupied so many Victorian sanitation reformers. Lancelot walks past farmyards “from which the rich manure-water [is] draining across the road in foul black streams, festering and steaming in the chill night air” (220). He sees “the fruitful materials of food running to waste” and, further on, he passes a miserable house with a “filthy drain running right before the door” (220–221). Properly treated, sewage provides fertiliser to boost the yield of healthy food and to better feed the hungry poor. The ecosystem follows a divinely sanctioned order able to recuperate everything it produces. Those who violate its principles invite disciplinary punishment that, in this particular case, has severe repercussions for middle-class characters as well as for the poor. It is in this hamlet, its water and air poisoned by “festering” sewage, where Argemone catches the illness that kills her. In her last dismal moments, she cries, “I am festering away!” (282). Kingsley ensures that retribution circles back around to the family that holds stewardship of the land and fails to exercise authority over its maintenance. Critics who emphasise the significance of Victorian attitudes toward gender and sexuality find abundant material in Kingsley’s life and work. In The Beast and the Monk (1975), the most original of several biographies published in the second half of the twentieth century, Susan Chitty strives to make sense of Kingsley’s diametrically opposed attitudes toward sexuality. On the one hand, Kingsley proclaimed the spiritual virtue of physical passion. Chitty quotes a letter to his wife Frances (then his fiancée) in which he insists, looking toward their marriage, that “[o]ur animal enjoyments must be religious ceremonies” (1975, 80). On the other hand, he seemed equally


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intent upon mortifying the flesh. This side of Kingsley expressed itself through efforts to chastise his body – by fasting and sleeping on the cold floor without covers, for example. Ironically, in his writings Kingsley frequently associates such impulses with Catholic perversion. In Yeast, it is Luke, the Catholic convert, who extolls the “self-satisfaction, the absolute delight, of self-punishment” (Kingsley 1883, 242). Yet Kingsley himself distrusted the flesh even as he proclaimed its purity. Chitty was the first biographical critic who had access to private drawings through which Kingsley struggled to visualise and integrate ‘the beast’ and ‘the monk’, most startlingly in a sketch of himself and Frances making love while attached to a cross. In his fiction, Kingsley generally adheres to conventional Victorian perspectives on differences between the sexes. As Laura Fasick argues, Kingsley perceived sexual differences as a “natural law, in which men and women defined their gender identities through and against each other, [that] decreed the proper forms for individual and familial life” (1994, 93). Heroines such as Argemone enact the virtues and failings broadly attributed to women. She is morally pure, tender-hearted, nurturing, and yearns to bring her rakish suitor back in line with Christian faith. She falters when attempting to argue her case, however, and the narrator takes the opportunity to hold her up as a type of her sex. “She tried, as women will,” he condescendingly observes, “to answer [Lancelot] with arguments, and failed, as women will fail” (Kingsley 1883, 24). Unlike many of his time, Kingsley supported higher education for women, indeed speaking at the opening ceremony of Queen’s College in 1849. Yet he never shook the belief that women were intellectually inferior. Kingsley’s heroes similarly enact the virtues and failings associated with masculinity. Lancelot is large and well proportioned, physically as well as intellectually courageous, forthright, earnest, and eager to make an impact on the world. His heroes are sometimes, like Lancelot, socially awkward and they are frequently rash and insensitive, even brutal. Through the development of fictional types such as these, readers can sense the urgent need within Victorian culture to affirm essential characteristics that clearly distinguish the sexes. If Kingsley largely falls in line with an essentialist understanding of sexuality, his representation of gender roles does furnish some interesting twists. In certain cases, for example, he advocates forms of gender hybridity, as when the narrator of Yeast praises Colonel Bracebridge for tending to Lancelot after a riding accident with “almost womanish tenderness” (Kingsley 1883, 18) or when Argemone “imperiously” commands her lover to stay by her side, upon which he “shr[inks] down” and obeys (62). Even such exceptions, of course, are reluctant to abandon the stereotype; tenderness remains a feminine virtue even when enacted by men. Muscular Christianity furnishes its own interesting complexities. On the surface, this code seems to validate the “animal” pleasures of sexual gratification and vigorous combat (Kingsley qtd. in Chitty 1975, 80). “But although Kingsley celebrated bodily impulse,” as James Eli Adams argues, “he also wrestled constantly with the

15 Charles Kingsley, Yeast: A Problem (1851)


Pauline imperative to keep the body in submission” (1995, 110). This paradoxical attitude toward masculine vitality and potency helps to explain the collapse of the marriage plot in Yeast and, indeed, it may help to explain the fact that so few of his works find it possible to fulfil the promise of a sexual relationship. As John Maynard observes, Kingsley generally “fails as an author to bring alive the central experience upon which his philosophical glorification of married sexuality depends” (1993, 127). Rather than embracing masculinity in the context of heterosexual romance, Yeast forces its heroes to find satisfaction in the prospect of an ascetic spiritual quest. Kingsley clearly aligns the variety of masculine agency he promotes with class position, nation, religion, empire, and race, and these multiple intersections afford fruitful approaches for analysis of his work. Early in Yeast, Tregarva scolds Lancelot for planning a holiday abroad, asking him, “are there not temptations enough here in England that you must go to waste all your gifts, your scholarship, and your rank, far away?” (Kingsley 1883, 69). Tregarva seeks to retain the power of upper-middleclass masculinity within the sphere of the nation, conserving its energy for the good of England rather than wasting its force in trivial pursuits abroad. But if Kingsley thus prioritises the reform of the home nation, he does so in part in the service of a grand imperial vision. Despite the fact that he is identified as a foreigner, Barnakill frequently affirms the global significance of England. “It has been England’s privilege,” he claims, “to solve all political questions as they arise for the rest of the world; it is her duty now” (268). This solemn hyperbole reveals the extent to which this Condition-of-England novel, like many other nineteenth-century texts discussed by Edward Said in Culture and Imperialism (1994), broadcasts its commitment to an imperial world view. It is notable that a sceptical social critic such as Kingsley takes it for granted that England operates as a divinely sanctioned force of good in the world. The “rhetoric of power,” as Said observes, “all too easily produces an illusion of benevolence when deployed in an imperial setting” (1994, xvii). The imperial ideology that informs Barnakill’s prophetic wisdom always implies a conception of racial superiority that sometimes becomes glaringly obvious in Kingsley’s fiction, as when Barnakill champions “our Caucasian empire” and concisely notes that “[t]o our race the present belongs” (Kingsley 1883, 296). It also arises with particular clarity in his historical romance of Westward Ho! (1885), set in the Elizabethan era, in which stalwart Protestant English sailors enact an early phase of the ‘white man’s burden’, exemplifying justice and mercy in their interactions with the indigenous peoples of Central and South America and striking a clear contrast to the oppressive and cruel Catholic Spaniards. C. J. W.-L. Wee perceives in such texts Kingsley’s effort to construct “a pure national-imperial identity based on racial and religious heritage” (1994, 67). The religious opposition of Protestantism and Catholicism invites further analysis as a broad and recurring theme in Kingsley’s thought that links religious faith to a network of affiliated concepts including gender, nation, and socio-economics. In


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a letter of 1851, Kingsley thus compares Protestantism, “which teaches every man to look God in the face for himself” and has “contributed more than anything else to develop family life, industry, freedom in England, Scotland, and Sweden,” to Catholicism, a “creed which by substituting the Confessor for God [. . .] by substituting a Virgin Mary, who is to nurse [men] like infants, for a Father in whom they are men and brothers,” has incapacitated its adherents from attaining “independence, self-respect, self-restraint” (qtd. in F. Kingsley 1908, 100). Kingsley was by no means the only British Protestant whose reaction to Catholicism prompted such extravagant claims and occasionally veered into hysteria. In 1850, when the Catholic Church re-established a governing hierarchy in England and installed Nicholas Wiseman as Archbishop of Westminster, the Prime Minister and many other officials, mainstream newspapers, and an untold number of citizens denounced this act of ‘Papal Aggression’, as it became known. Effigies of the Pope and Wiseman were burnt in the streets. In Anti-Catholicism and NineteenthCentury Fiction (2004), Susan M. Griffin establishes the breadth of such attitudes and explores how they influence the content and form of novels published in England and America. Those interested in the role Kingsley played in the shaping of mid-century anti-Catholic discourse generally turn to the public debate he initiated with John Henry Newman, who had caused a stir in 1845 when he left the Church of England to become a Catholic priest. Kingsley’s distrust of Newman emerges quietly in Yeast; the unnamed priest who guides Luke to Rome is generally taken to be a representation of Newman. Lancelot admires this figure for his sensitive “heart” but disparages him for lacking “a truly English brain” (Kingsley 1883, 241). Years later, Kingsley expressed his hostility more explicitly. In 1863, in the middle of a book review published in Macmillan’s Magazine, he explicitly accused Newman of dishonesty. The intemperate aside led to a testy exchange of letters and then a very public debate conducted through pamphlets. In his pamphlet What, Then, Does Dr. Newman Mean? (1864), Kingsley presented evidence from Newman’s writings to justify his accusation but undercuts his rational argument with numerous insults and immoderate charges. In his celebrated Apologia Pro Vita Sua (1864), Newman then offered an elegant defence of his theological positions and, in the eyes of many readers past and present, effectively won the argument. The controversy offers a valuable perspective on the anti-Catholic bias that informs so much of Kingsley’s work. Driven more by the discussion of topical ideas than by a carefully constructed plot or a nuanced study of character, Yeast rewards readers with a survey of its author’s deeply held convictions about poverty and pollution, gender and sexuality, the Catholic and Anglican churches, the reform of the nation, and reform of self. The novel’s treatment of these topics always reflects the perspective of Charles Kingsley, but the issues themselves broadly occupied mid-Victorian culture.

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Bibliography Works Cited Adams, James Eli. Dandies and Desert Saints: Styles of Victorian Masculinity. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1995. Bodenheimer, Rosemarie. The Politics of Story in Victorian Social Fiction. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1988. Carlyle, Thomas. Chartism. Selected Writings. By Carlyle. Ed. Alan Shelston. New York: Penguin Classics, 1986. 151–232. Chitty, Susan. The Beast and the Monk: A Life of Charles Kingsley. New York: Mason/Charter, 1975. Fasick, Laura. “Charles Kingsley’s Scientific Treatment of Gender.” Hall 1994, 91–113. Gallagher, Catherine. The Industrial Reformation of English Fiction: Social Discourse and Narrative Form 1832–1867. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985. Griffin, Susan. Anti-Catholicism and Nineteenth-Century Fiction. Cambridge: CUP, 2004. Hall, Donald D., ed. Muscular Christianity: Embodying the Victorian Age. Cambridge: CUP, 1994. Hamlin, Christopher. “Charles Kingsley: From Being Green to Green Being.” Victorian Studies 54.2 (2012): 255–282. Kingsley, Charles. “Letters to the Chartists – No. I.” Politics for the People 13 May 1848: 28–30. Kingsley, Charles. Yeast: A Problem. 1851. London: Macmillan, 1883. Kingsley, Frances, ed. Charles Kingsley: His Letters and Memories of His Life. London: Macmillan, 1908. Klaver, J. M. I. The Apostle of the Flesh: A Critical Life of Charles Kingsley. Boston: Brill, 2006. Maynard, John. Victorian Discourses on Sexuality and Religion. Cambridge: CUP, 1993. Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism. New York: Vintage, 1994. Wee, C. J. W.-L. “Christian Manliness and National Identity: The Problematic Construction of a Racially ‘Pure’ Nation.” Hall 1994, 66–88.

Further Reading Abberley, Will. “Animal Cunning: Deceptive Nature and Truthful Science in Charles Kingsley’s Natural Theology.” Victorian Studies 58.1 (2015): 34–56. Bradstock, Andrew, Sean Gill, Anne Hogan, and Sue Morgan, eds. Masculinity and Spirituality in Victorian Culture. New York: St. Martin’s, 2000. Hall, Donald E. “On the Making and Unmaking of Monsters: Christian Socialism, Muscular Christianity, and the Metaphorization of Class Conflict.” Hall 1994, 45–65. Harrison, Peter, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Science and Religion. Cambridge: CUP, 2010. Rosen, David. “The Volcano and the Cathedral: Muscular Christianity and the Origins of Primal Manliness.” Hall 1994, 17–44. Smith, Sheila Mary . The Other Nation: The Poor in English Novels of the 1840s and 1850s. Oxford: OUP, 1980. Sussman, Herbert. Victorian Masculinities: Manhood and Masculine Poetics in Early Victorian Literature and Art. Cambridge: CUP, 1995. Uffelman, Larry K., and Patrick G. Scott. “Kingsley’s Serial Novels: Yeast.” Victorian Periodicals Newsletter 9.4 (1976): 111–119. Vance, Norman. The Sinews of the Spirit: The Ideal of Christian Manliness in Victorian Literature and Religious Thought. Cambridge: CUP, 2009. Wolff, Robert Lee. Gains and Losses: Novels of Faith and Doubt in Victorian England. New York: Garland, 1977.

Norbert Lennartz

16 Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853) Abstract: This chapter focuses on Charles Dickens’s dark mid-Victorian novel Bleak House and reads it in terms of an elaborate response to a world that is in the firm grip of the rigorous mechanisms of industrialisation. Before the backdrop of the leitmotif of the ossified lawsuit Jarndyce and Jarndyce, this chapter highlights to what extent ecological threats loom large over London that, in their poisonous effects, contaminate the old body politic. Drained by vampiric lawyers, struck down by contagious diseases, and often reduced to the abject state of humanoid fungi, people are bereft of their identities, lose their anthropomorphous nature, and find themselves deprived of their time-worn masks, roles, and epistemological habits. Conceived of as the Bildungsroman of the orphaned Esther Summerson whose ventriloquised autodiegetic story rivals and cuts across the male voice of omniscient narration, the essay argues that the novel is eventually geared to a Dickensian deusex-machina solution which, in the end, leaves persistent questions about ecology, gender, and metropolitan life vexingly unanswered. Keywords: Gender, ecology, body, vampirism, female narration, ventriloquism

1 Context: Author, Oeuvre, Moment Bleak House (1853) is a caesura in Dickens’s prolific work, if not in Victorian novel writing. Having published successful novels that were deeply moored in the eighteenth-century tradition of the picaresque (Oliver Twist, 1839; Martin Chuzzlewit, 1844; and David Copperfield, 1850, to name but a few), in the autumn of 1851, midcareer, Dickens started his work on a new type of novel which not only testified to the progressive darkening of his world (eventually culminating in the gloomy novel Our Mutual Friend, 1865), but which also showed him deviating from the welltrodden paths and patterns of mid-Victorian narrative literature. Professing a profound dislike both of burgeoning feminist novel writing that produced Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847, ↗ 10 Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre) and of a post-Byronic cynicism which informed his greatest rival’s novel, William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (1848, ↗ 13 Thackeray, Vanity Fair), Dickens ventures on the project of writing a panoramic novel which invites some critics to

Note: I am indebted to Jeremy Tambling (Manchester) for his enlightening ideas on Bleak House and to Ian Duncan (Berkeley) for pinpointing the link between Dickens and Wordsworth and showing the extent to which the Romantic’s ‘spots of time’ are reflected in Esther’s narration. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110376715-017


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read it along the lines of what came to be known as Richard Wagner’s concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (a fact supported by Dickens’s close and final collaboration with the illustrator Hablot Knight [‘Phiz’] Browne). It is for this reason (and possibly for want of other terminology) that critics such as J. Hillis Miller and HansDieter Gelfert revert to comparisons taken from art and music when they try to characterise this tantalising generic melting pot either as a monumental “canvas” (Miller 1988, 11), as an all-inclusive painting in the vein of Ford Madox Brown’s Work (begun in 1852), or as a flamboyant musical composition (Gelfert 2011, 198), with all the elements of a Wagnerian opera such as a startling overture, leitmotifs, and a chorus. Having grown up in the riotous and dizzying Regency period where aristocratic dissipation and prodigality glaringly clashed with poverty and economic failure (ruthlessly turning Dickens’s own family into paupers), Dickens retranslated his traumatic experiences of bankruptcy and social ostracism into the early 1850s, where Victorian London was still revelling in the (colonial) splendour of the 1851 Great Exhibition. Repelled by (but otherwise conspicuously reticent about) this ostentation of bluntly capitalist optimism, Dickens was wondering in his article “The Last Words of the Old Year,” published in Household Words (January 1851), whether the country was ready to hold a similar “great display of England’s sins and negligences” (qtd. in Schlicke 2011, 236). Thus, it is this disillusioned mood and recollections of William Wordsworth’s depiction of London in The Prelude (1850) that must have prompted Dickens to draft the first gloomy chapters of Bleak House. While Wordsworth always stuck to the (albeit abortive) idea that the dismal passages of The Prelude were integral parts of the monumental verbal architecture of The Recluse (with the London passages in Book IX as the hideous gargoyles of his literary cathedral), Dickens seems to have temporarily lost his faith in an all-encompassing pattern of teleology, obliging him to see that poetic justice became a construction hopelessly at variance with the development of the city into an urban jungle. Dickens’s growing pessimism about modern metropolitan life is not only reflected in darkish letters that he wrote to Bulwer-Lytton during the time of the novel’s gestation – “London is a vile place, I sincerely believe” (Dickens 1988b, 287) – but also in his deflection from the epistemologically sound device of omniscient narration and in his hitherto unthought-of idea of leaving the novel vexingly open-ended. The meaningful and thought-provoking dash which, in nineteenth-century literature, is a tantalising signifier of the ineffable and which here vexingly truncates Esther Summerson’s very last sentence (“even supposing – ” [935]) reveals a new, less peremptory Dickens, unconsciously inviting generations of readers to fill the gap and to contribute to a long and turbulent history of the novel’s interpretation.

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2 Basic Coordinates: Central Topics and Concerns Attracting more critical attention nowadays than any of Dickens’s other novels, Bleak House has lately invited intriguing readings of and comments on what can be identified as its main concerns: (mis-)constructions of gender, body, and ecology. Performing the function of an overture, the first chapter of the novel deploys the emblematic image of the ubiquitous fog, “[f]og everywhere” (Dickens 1988a, 49). In its obfuscating dampness, in its stultifying oppressiveness, it not only permeates all habitations, but detrimentally affects all people, all genders, and all bodies (private and politic) in a far-sweeping disaster that has ecological, epistemological, political, and moral reverberations, leaving everybody in a foggy, truth- and health-impairing vacuum, “as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds” (49). As the gravitational centre of the fog, as the nidus of society’s decay, the High Court of Chancery dealing with the perennial lawsuit Jarndyce and Jarndyce instils poison into society and disseminates an atmosphere of fog-bred paralysis, which, as the reference to the primordial mud and the Megalosaurus indicates, has dampened all hopes of progress and evolution since time immemorial. Apart from showing its effect as an enormous anti-evolutionary clog, Dickens uses it – like its later feline equivalent in T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1915) – as a symbol of corruption that creeps into all crevices and, in its corroding humidity and infectiousness, eats into all textures and bodies, subjecting them to mould and death. Even the country estate of the Dedlocks in Lincolnshire, to which the heterodiegetic narrator switches after the preludic first chapter, is soaked in this post-diluvian wetness which blurs all demarcation lines between human and architectural bodies and imperceptibly spreads disease and putrefaction into what used to be the seclusion of bucolic areas. What is disconcerting about this bucolic place is not so much that the deer are soaked and “leave quagmires” where they move (Dickens 1988a, 56) as the fact that the small church in the park is so damp that it has become “mouldy” and the oak pulpit even “breaks out in a cold sweat” (56). The “inherent deathliness of material property,” which Claire Wood comments upon (Wood 2015, 106), is enhanced by the fact that, as in most of Dickens’s novels, objects, concepts, and humans share the same decrepitude and moribundity of body. The sweaty porousness of the pulpit is accordingly another symptom of what Sir Leicester Dedlock, the doyen of Victorian virtues, has vague premonitions of: the porousness and the erosion of the body politic, “the floodgates of society” bursting open and, like a political haemorrhage, washing away the great chain of being, the last remnants of which survived in the Victorians’ rigid stratification of society (Dickens 1988a, 628). Despite the odd subversive element surfacing in the novel, such as the sea featuring as the “Radical of Nature” (206), Dickens focuses less on revolutionary therapies than on depictions of the diseased status quo, on the rotting and withering body politic. The most appalling evidence of the bodily decomposition of society is


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the slum area Tom-all-Alone’s whose inhabitants are shown as vermin feeding on a corpse (Schülting 2016, 95): “these ruined shelters have bred a crowd of foul existence that crawls in and out of gaps and walls and boards; and coils itself to sleep, in maggot numbers” (Dickens 1988a, 272). This description of the people swarming around and infesting a corpse-like house has an uncannily Baudelairean quality; but without highlighting the aesthetic attraction of the decomposing carcass, as Baudelaire prefers to do in his Fleurs du mal (1857), Dickens unwaveringly shows London for what it is: a festering necropolis. In this context, it is strikingly consistent that the only cohesion between the bourgeois part and the proletarian part of the body politic is the fatal disease which is transmitted by Jo, the crossing-sweeper who is liminally situated between the human and the animal world. In her endeavour to help the poor and to alleviate their hardship (especially the brickmaker’s family that is no longer of any use in mouldy and dilapidated structures), Esther is suddenly infected with a highly contagious disease which reaches her body via the lower classes and threatens to destroy it. It is open to conjecture what disease Esther suffers from, smallpox or cholera (the latter of which hit London in 1853 and became one of the worst pandemics), but as another leitmotif it underlines the fact that the entire fabric of Victorian society is sick and teetering on the verge of its final collapse. What the social and political body in this advanced stage of seepage and toxic leakiness is able to produce and, in a process of abiogenesis, gives horrifying birth to is freakish creatures, imps, and monsters (Goetsch 2002, 127). While Dickens’s early examples of these freaks of nature, Fagin (Oliver Twist), Quilp (The Old Curiosity Shop, 1841), and Uriah Heep (David Copperfield) are true-born offshoots of the Gothic tradition, his later ones seem to comply with bourgeois standards, but, as the lawyers Tulkinghorn and Vholes underline, they are not any less insidious when they feed parasitically on the cadaverous bodies (private, public, and politic) of their age. Surrounded by the moral ooziness that produces him, Mr Tulkinghorn is astoundingly compared to an “Oyster of the old school” (Dickens 1988a, 182). The image is not only typically Dickensian because it insinuates that Tulkinghorn shares other characters’ liminality and inhumanity; it is also Dickensian in its corrosive humour, subjecting the daunting lawyer to a relentless process of comic deconstruction. But what bears witness to Dickens’s growing pessimism is the fact that this streak of comic relief is a non sequitur that, in contrast to the cathartic simile comparing Heep’s mouth to a post-office (Dickens 2004, 391), no longer has the power to change the tragic tenor of the novel. Next to oysterous Tulkinghorn, the ailing body politic produces a variety of vampiric parasites. One is Mr Vholes, Richard Carstone’s legal advisor in the Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit, who attaches himself to his client and thrives on his infected blood. Sitting like a spider in his corner office, “in an angle profoundly dark on the brightest midsummer morning” (Dickens 1988a, 603), Mr Vholes is unlike other nineteenth-century vampires, neither exotic, atavistic, nor protean, but a

16 Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)


vermin-like creature that contributes to the overall putrefaction of the dying body politic. The other blood-sucking parasite is Harold Skimpole, a friend of Mr Jarndyce’s who by pretending to be an innocent and child-like simpleton, feeds as egotistically on his host’s purse (and nerves) as the lawyers do. The intriguing fact that the financial and emotional vampire Mr Skimpole is modelled on the Romantic poet and critic Leigh Hunt has fuelled speculations about Dickens’s attitude towards the Romantics. Although Hunt, at that time approaching seventy (Slater 2009, 343), was one of the last and almost forgotten remnants of Romanticism, he, in the guise of a superannuated Byronic Childe Harold (Sanders 2003, 88), seems to represent an attitude of Romantic self-referentiality which Dickens had strong reservations about and which he considered to be as detrimental to the body politic as the other forms of juridical vampirism. As Robert Douglas-Fairhurst argues, decadence and encrusted structures (epitomised by the paralytic lawsuit) do not only lead to anaemia, contamination, and foulness, but also to physical and psychological atrophy (Douglas-Fairhurst 2011, 184). In this context, Dickens’s novel contains one of the most distinctive descriptions of both physiological and cognitive stagnation and dementia avant la lettre. Doomed to sit opposite each other, old Mr Smallweed is constantly busy smothering his wife’s outbreaks of (allegedly) senile nonsense and pelting cushions at her. The tableau showing this old, debilitated, and atrophied couple fighting with each other, leaving both of them immobile and in dire need of constant assistance, has an ominously Beckettian quality and shows Dickens’s intuition for translating the yet unknown morbus dementiae into a domestic theatre of the absurd. While Beckett disposes of the festering human refuse into dustbins (Endgame, 1957) and urns (Play, 1963), consigning it to the circularity of never-ending mise-enabîme situations, Dickens eventually lets the fermenting stagnation of the diseased body politic come to a head and, as in the spectacular case of Krook’s spontaneous combustion, explode. Thus, Krook’s contentious death should not only be read “in the context of his fetishization of refuse and waste” (Schülting 2016, 93), but also before the backdrop of Dickens’s diminishing belief in the body politic’s selfhealing powers. In possession of letters and documents which might reveal society’s scandalous interconnectedness, such as Lady Dedlock’s pre-marital relationship with Captain Hawdon (introduced into the novel as the dead scrivener Nemo) and the fact that she is Esther’s disgraced mother, Krook, the owner of a bizarre shop and a precursor of Mr. Venus, the taxidermist in Our Mutual Friend, not only plays a pivotal role in the solution to the novel’s riddle, but also personifies a suppurating boil that needs to burst so that a possible regeneration of the rotting body politic can be set in motion. Waiting for the bundle of letters to be handed over, the law clerk Mr Guppy and his friend Jobling alias Weevle (independently seeking to investigate the mystery) experience an uncannily Gothic and extraordinary night. The Gothicism of the scene is enhanced when – in addition to “ghosts of sound,” cracklings and tickings (Dickens 1988a, 507) – Krook fails to appear, and Mr Guppy not


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only notices layers of soot and black fat on his coat sleeve, but also rivulets of a sickening oil gathering in “a little thick nauseous pool” (509). The fact that Krook’s spontaneous and surreal combustion takes place right in the middle of the novel (chapter thirty-two) makes it abundantly clear that a central function must be accorded to it. Referring to the humoral pathology of the early modern age, to the ignition of “corrupted humours” in the K/crook’s “vicious body” (512), the narrator makes use of an anachronism to stress that the bursting of the boil and the draining of the “foetid effluvia” (513) stand for a cathartic process that has been triggered. Since Krook is often facetiously correlated with the Chancellor of the court and, as a chaotic monger of “old parchment rolls” (99), seen as an inverted mirror image of the judge in Chancery, his death is ultimately instrumental in removing blockages and rankling congestions which had impeded the resolution of the lawsuit. Although the body politic is so moribund and infested with parasites, Dickens leaves his readers in no doubt that a cure or at least a therapy can only be effected by a special doctor, a kind of a magical healer or docteur thaumaturge. Having spent a considerable time abroad, in heterotopian India, the surgeon Mr Woodcourt returns and administers medical and psychological remedies which help to heal or soothe the bruised bodies (and souls) of Esther, Richard, Jo, and, as partes pro toto, of Victorian society in its entirety. In an earlier shipwreck, Mr Woodcourt proved to be at his most anti-Byronic, when, unlike the blood-sucking and cannibalising surgeon in the shipwreck scene in Byron’s Don Juan, he saved as many lives as possible. Owing to Dickens’s gloom-soaked view of the world, Mr Woodcourt’s medical skills, however, remain limited, unable to prevent Lady Dedlock’s suicide, the end of Esther’s mother at the gates of the cemetery where her illicit lover Hawdon was buried. The fact that the allegedly impervious lady dies in a place where the walls exude “a thick humidity [. . .] like a disease” (Dickens 1988a, 868) makes it emphatically clear that the doctor’s position is still that of a Sisyphus in the face of overwhelmingly physiological, social, and economic diseases, but by marrying Esther he might prove to be successful in helping to produce a new generation that will in the future cure and rejuvenate the ailing body politic. That infection, parasitical diseases and sanitary problems were tightly knit with what later, in 1858, came to be known as the Great Stink, with the first pre-twentiethcentury ecological disaster in London, is one of the core messages of the novel. In his study The Social Life of Fluids: Blood, Milk, and Water in the Victorian Novel (2010), Jules Law shows the Victorians increasingly checkmated by the consequences of the Industrial Revolution. Differentiating between public and private fluids, Law pinpoints the dilemma that existed in the Victorian age between the staggering ubiquity of life-endangering public fluids and the need not only to keep the individual’s body shut, but also to subject its private fluids to constant and rigorous policing. While Law foregrounds Dombey and Son for his argument, similar ecological issues can be detected in Bleak House. It is not only the aforementioned dampness of the walls and the sweatiness of objects that reveal an imbalance between swampy nature and

16 Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)


culture, it is also the fact that the inhabitants of Tom-all-Alone’s have lost their theomorphic quality and metamorphosed into “extraordinary specimens of human fungus” (Dickens 1988a, 426) which shows Dickens’s awareness of an socio-ecological catastrophe that had been looming large in cities since the Romantic age. While John Jarndyce’s Bleak House is a haven of order and ecological sensibility, beyond the pale of the teeming metropolis and situated in the “green landscape” (Dickens 1988a, 110), London is represented as a vortex of waste, pollution, and infectious filth blurring all ontological categories. What seems to be a typically tongue-in-cheek Dickensian argument is that in the novel’s metropolitan life, human beings are as persistent sources of ecological damage as the industrial places which dramatically contribute to the increase in the public water level. Next to Mr Krook exploding in oil and soot, Mr Chadband, an Evangelical fanatic, is characterised as an ecological (and intellectual) disaster: not only are his homilies “oily exudations” (411–412) accompanied by an “oily” (414) and “greasily meek smile” (416), Mr Chadband’s body seems to be continuously producing fluids, transmuting “nutriment of any sort into oil” (319) and leaving repellent oil slicks wherever he goes. While this outstanding example of individual porousness and pollution is attributable to Dickens’s scathing satire of religious fundamentalism, the references to the foul public waters which precede and put the reader in the right mood for the central event of Krook’s ecological scenario of combustion are anything but parodic. With “a laggard mist” obstructing the view, the night when Krook is dissolved into sooty and oily particles is an uncommonly “steaming” one, turning “the slaughter-houses, the unwholesome trades, the sewerage, bad water, and burial-grounds to account” and giving “the Registrar of Deaths some extra business” (499). Inexplicably missing in A. N. Wilson’s survey of The Victorians (2002), the aspect of the ecological havoc that his contemporaries had wreaked on nature seems to be one of Dickens’s major concerns. As early as in 1842, Edwin Chadwick’s Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain had alerted social activists to the sanitary atrocities which the impoverished working classes were known to be suffering from. While postmodern ecocriticism tends to focus more on Dickens’s last novel, Our Mutual Friend (1865), and therein to foreground the “global problem of energy and irreversibility” (MacDuffie 2014, 131), Dickens never forgoes his ecological perspective and persistently voices his grievances about the cost that the Victorians were paying for technological progress. It is this ecological awareness which shows Dickens’s singularity and his difference from Wordsworth who, in his poetry of the 1840s, saw technology and urbanisation as expressions of a new ugly consumer culture which threatened to turn both the Lake District and London into Jonsonian breeding places of vulgarity (Gigante 2005, 82). In this respect, Dickens is more ‘green’ than Wordsworth arguing that metropolitan monstrosity is less a matter of taste than of ecology. One nucleus of ecological threat is the cemetery, which, as a place of contamination, is,


Norbert Lennartz

next to the courts, another gravitational centre of the novel to which characters such as Lady Dedlock are magically drawn: “a hemmed-in churchyard, pestiferous and obscene, whence malignant diseases are communicated to the bodies of our dear brothers and sisters who have not departed” (Dickens 1988a, 202). Overcrowded and wedged into the teeming metropolis, the graveyard is a hotbed of disease transmitting corruption to the inhabitants of London and, as Tyson Stolte argues, “accelerat [ing] the perfectly natural progression from corpse to food” (Stolte 2011, 413). The fact that Hawdon is buried in a grave of “one foot or two” depth makes it shockingly clear that the graveyard is an active agent in the transmission of diseases and a point of intersection where private and public fluids mingle. Far from separating the oozing spheres of the living from the dead, the iron gate of the churchyard even epitomises the eco-catastrophe that was descending over nineteenth-century cities: “on [it] the poisoned air deposits its witch-ointment slimy to the touch!” (Dickens 1988a, 203). The extent to which ecological issues were either unknown or interwoven with folklore or pseudo-scientific explanations is revealed in Dickens’s novel. The “poisoned air,” which twenty-first-century readers might identify as a life-endangering mixture of soot, industrial fumes, and indefinite chemicals, is astoundingly and belittlingly related to Gothic ideas of witches, sorcery, and Walpurgis Night. Read before this backdrop, ecological threats were persistently mythologised or subjected to a supernaturalism which tended to acquit the ecological offenders. The graveyard with its “beastly scrap[s] of ground which a Turk would reject as a savage abomination” (202), and the entire city with its ecological atrocities are – according to Dickens’s proclivity for dualisms – pitted against rare places of pristine beauty and innocence. One of these is – next to Bleak House – Mr Boythorn’s cottage, where Esther recuperates from her illness. The floods of infectious public waters are here superseded by a cornucopian abundance of fruit which is reminiscent of the fecundity of nature in Keats’s ode “To Autumn” (1819). The trees are depicted as being “heavy with fruit, the gooseberry-bushes were so laden that their branches arched and rested on the earth, the strawberries and raspberries grew in like profusion, and the peaches basked by the hundred on the wall” (301). What is here troped as a Keatsian “vegetable treasury,” as a locus amoenus, is also characterised by the olfactory pleasantness and the salubriousness of the air. The “wholesome growth” that can be observed everywhere and the fact that “the whole air [is] a great nosegay” (301, emphasis added) underscore that, in the country, health is a matter of totality (wholesome – whole) and, thus, happily remote from the odour of the rotting carcasses presided over by Mr Vholes’s “unwholesome figure” (924), epitomising in his figure and name the perversion of the whole into a (V)hole. While the solemn and sublime spectacle of a thunderstorm is unfolding, and uncontaminated water is refreshingly pouring on to the flowers “to make creation new again” (Dickens 1988a, 309), it is here that Esther is brought into contact with Lady Dedlock, her mother whom she unconsciously looks for and loses three times in the course of the novel (Dever 2012, 363). The juxtaposition of these two female

16 Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)


protagonists not only suggests a clash of different concepts of femininity, but also dissimilar ways of how to deal with the imminent ecological, medical, political, and moral threats. Both women epitomise the tragic consequences of keeping their bodies insufficiently closed to the various fluids, but while Lady Dedlock, a remnant of the ancien régime, chooses “the freezing mood” (Dickens 1988a, 57), and in this way perfectly matches her (cuckolded) husband, the “magnificent refrigerator” of the bygone Regency period (623), it is only Esther who will benefit from the purifying storm. Although her social openness does not protect her from being contaminated by disease and corruption, Esther is one of the first characters to eschew all strategies of mask-like imperviousness and iciness, courageously facing her cadaverous society with her visor down. With a variety of masks, camouflages and carapace-like structures such as forbidding corsets distorting the female body and transforming its chest into an “ironbound bosom” (Dickens 1988a, 134), it is absolutely clear that issues of femininity are addressed by Dickens from a conservative, mid-Victorian point of view. While identities seem to be excessively blurry in Dickens’s novels, leaving male and female characters with a plethora of (nick-)names, concepts of gender are comparatively fixed and unnegotiable in Dickens’s works. A few re-readings of Dickens’s novels in the wake of queer studies are intriguing (Furneaux 2009), but they turn out to be “queer, revisionist lens[es]” (Edwards Keates 2012, 171) brought into focus by postmodern sexual policies. Women deviating from their Victorian roles were more often than not castigated by Dickens and unmasked as monstrosities, caricatures, and grotesque aberrations. Jane Murdstone in David Copperfield (1850), a steely woman with bushy masculine eyebrows that look like dislocated whiskers is supremely liminal and, as a spinster, beyond the pale of femininity; Edith Dombey in Dombey and Son (1848) is even accorded the role of a New Woman avant la lettre, when at her husband’s banquet she appears like a vindictive stony guest, but, by the end of the novel, she is duly buried in a grave-like room and thus, as another madwoman in a closet, exorcised out of the redemptive tableau of the final chapters (Lennartz 2012). There is no denying that there is a certain fatal kinship between Edith Dombey and Lady Dedlock. Both women are distinguished by a Byronic haughtiness and an implicit refusal to comply with the role of the Victorian ‘angel in the house’. While Edith Dombey, however, reverts to a mask-like stoniness as a rebellion against her commodification by her husband, Lady Dedlock is in dire need of an even more opaque and icy camouflage, since, as a fallen woman who had pre-marital sex with Hawdon / Nemo, she personifies a shocking breach of taboo. As if over-eager to conceal the scandal of her sexual misdemeanour and her bodily openness, Lady Dedlock readily accepts the role of being an icon and a harbinger of fashion. Like a female dandy, she hides her body’s weakness and vulnerability not only behind layers of cloth, but also behind self-fashionings and airs such as that of an “exhausted deity, surrounded by worshippers” (Dickens 1988a, 217). If one takes into


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consideration the fact that Dickens, in real life, was unwaveringly committed to providing fallen women with a refuge (Urania Cottage, which he had run in cooperation with Angela Burdett Coutts since 1847), as a novelist, he prefers to be reticent about female grievances and rather feels coerced into subjecting these women either to a kind of grim poetic justice or, as in the case of Little Emily in David Copperfield, to bundle them off to less straitlaced places such as Australia. Loyalty to public taste and to the pervasive Mrs Grundy (the proverbial personification of prim morality) were expected of Dickens and Victorian novelists, and still almost forty years had to elapse before Oscar Wilde’s Mrs Erlynne could flippantly thematise her fallenness in the play Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892). The image that Lady Dedlock uses shortly before her tragic death gives apt expression to the impasse (or deadlock situation) that women rebelling against gender expectations or breaking out of their roles (prior to Ibsen’s Nora) were trapped in. She provocatively compares the Victorians’ policing of the female body to a “destructive school which shuts up the natural feelings of the heart, like flies in amber” (812). Thus congealed into strict patriarchal patterns, Lady Dedlock pre-empts Emma Bovary’s fate by six years when she also resorts to the only possible way out of her captivity: suicide. The astounding likeness between Esther and Lady Dedlock (which at one point puzzles Mr Guppy and gives him and the reader the first clue to the protagonist’s hidden identity) is thus only superficial; on closer inspection, they reveal conspicuous differences. While Lady Dedlock stands for an urbanity, for an erotic rebelliousness which, by the end of the nineteenth century, frenzied Victorians in novels such as Dracula (1897) wanted to see punished by phallic stakes, severed heads, and ritualised murders, Esther’s identity is more palatable to Victorian patriarchy, since on the clean slate that she is everybody feels entitled to scribble a name that they find suitable for her: while some of her friends call her Dame Durden, others (among them her ward and almost-husband John Jarndyce) prefer to construe her identity into fairy creatures (Little Old Woman, Cobweb, Mother Hubbard) or blurry gender neutrality (Fitz[=fils]-Jarndyce). As Nemo’s (or nobody’s) daughter, her identity is constantly re-invented and re-defined by her (male) fellow beings who readily adopt the Victorian role of being Pygmalions, ready to chisel their ideal of a woman as a self-effacing, meek, and asexual non-entity out of cold slabs of stone. Coming to terms with Dickens’s stereotypical idea of femininity (Sanders 1982, 72), one is intrigued to find readings such as that of Elizabeth Langland, who refuses to see the domestic realm as a place of dwarfed and thwarted female ambitions, but argues that it is an alternative site of power which supplies Esther with opportunities for surveillance that eventually place her on the same level as Tulkinghorn and the detective Bucket. In marked contradistinction to the chaos that (male) Chancery has brought upon the Jarndyce family, Esther, so Langland argues (Langland 1995), imposes order on Bleak House and shows her new authority by the keys which she conscientiously keeps in her custody. In this respect, Esther’s household management epitomises a counter-world not only to the male sphere of legal confusion, but also to

16 Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)


the Jellybys’ inverted home, where Mrs Jellyby, a fanatic combatant for the cause of the Borrioboola-Gha project and a glaring example of negative mother-figures in Dickens’s novels, creates a state of disarray and messiness that is not dissimilar to the world of Chancery. While Dickens takes a fancy to depicting households that are incompatible with Victorian ideas of decorum and, as in the case of the Bagnets, is even not reluctant to display families in which some women aspire to a (more or less) subversive position of control, by the end of Bleak House, he is eager to cater to his audience’s bourgeois tastes and to show Esther in a traditionally subservient position. In line with the numerous female characters who readily truckle to men’s ideas of angelic domesticity in Dickens’s oeuvre, Esther is just another sibling of Agnes Wickfield, Florence Dombey, Rose Maylie or Amy Dorrit, like all of them, dutiful, altruistic, disembodied – and boring. At the beginning of the last chapter, Esther emphatically (and with recourse to the number seven, the biblical number of totality) states that “[f]ull seven happy years” she has been “the mistress of Bleak House” (932) which, not least due to her effective and brightening management, has always been a misnomer. As the mother of two daughters and the maternal friend of Ada, Caddy, Peepy, and many other children or child-like adults, she epitomises what scholars of the Victorian age came to define as marginal motherhood (Langland 1987). And it is from these margins of domesticity that the reader eventually learns what happens to women who aspire to the patriarchal centre and stray beyond the pale of family life. Reverting to the same scathing mockery that Byron levelled at the Bluestockings of the Regency period, Dickens exposes Mrs Jellyby to the same ridicule as Mrs Pardiggle and Miss Wisk; as Miss Wisk in particular turns out to be a staunch feminist avant la lettre vociferously calling for women’s liberation. As Daumier-like caricatures of a riotous feminism, this triumvirate of D. H. Lawrencian ‘cocksureness’ ends on the fringes of parody and foolishness. Yet, it is basically the same marginality (minus the caustic satire), that awaits Esther: While being permitted to bask in her husband’s reputation as a quasi-Christological doctor – “the people even praise Me as the doctor’s wife. [. . .] They like me for his sake, as I do everything I do in life for his sake” (Dickens 1988a, 935) –, Esther, the paragon of anti-feminist virtue, is finally reduced to being the plain and unattractive “shadow and attendant image of her lord” (Ruskin, ‘Of Queen’s Gardens’ qtd. in Houghton 1957, 349), totally eclipsed by his fame, his personality and his handsomeness.

3 Aesthetics: Narrative and Literary Strategies Esther’s female marginality and inferiority are also underlined by narratological strategies: for the first time, Dickens eschews traditional third-person omniscient narration and, in the same novel, juxtaposes two gendered narrators to cope with


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the complexity of the plots. While an unidentified male voice introduces the reader to the intricacies of the lawsuit and, in the present tense, sheds a satirical and trenchant light on the diseased fog-drenched body politic, Esther’s autodiegetic voice is not only that of a passive observer, grammatically confined to the past tense, but also that of a focaliser who admits to being intellectually incapacitated: “I have a great deal of difficulty in beginning to write my portion of these pages, for I know I am not clever. I always knew that” (Dickens 1988a, 62). Conversing with dolls (“Now, Dolly, I am not clever, you know very well, and you must be patient with me, like a dear!” 62), and living in a pre-Ibsenite dolls’ house, her chapters are prime examples of what Ina Schabert characterises as an écriture féminine (Schabert 1997, 484–485): in contrast to the generously panoramic view of the male narrator, her scope of vision and words is limited and quite in accordance with the microscopic range that, in the mid-nineteenth century, was allotted to Victorian women. Considered to be “too weak and twaddling” even by female readers such as Charlotte Brontë (qtd. in Slater 2009, 348), Esther seems to tease and provoke nineteenth-century readers with her domesticity and intellectual unreliability. Esther’s slow emergence from foggy orphaned non-existence to being Nemo’s and Lady Dedlock’s bastardised daughter is also reflected in her tentative and faltering narrative which is not without repetitions (“I find I am saying it for the second time,” 74), inconsistencies and riddles such as the lawyer’s inserted letter in enigmatic law hand. Dickens’s bold experiment of combining two contradictory focalisers (and even going so far as to ventriloquise a female one) is also attributable to the fact that, after sticking to the concept of the Smollettian picaresque novel in the 1840s (laced with a decent amount of Pickwickian humour), he was now dallying with perspectives and straddling generic boundaries, so that the Victorians saw their great expectations of a well-made instalment novel seriously challenged. What is a novelty is that the new Bildungsroman (unlike the preceding autobiographically tinted David Copperfield) is now embedded into a crime and mystery novel, introducing Mr Bucket (among a considerable number of dilettantish detectives) as one of the first eccentric and ingenious inspectors into British literature. Familiar with Poe’s stories at least since his sojourn in America in 1842, Dickens seems to have recognised the narrative potential that crime stories revolving around a sleuth had, a fact that possibly led him to (partially) abandon the omnipresence of the authorial narrator and to focus on the tantalising advantages of unreliable narration. That the manifold and tangled narrative skein (analogous to the tightly interwoven lawsuit) also retains a few showy threads of the Gothic novel, of the budding sensational novel, and some vestiges of the sentimental novel reveals Dickens to be a romantique manqué whose professed intention in the ‘Preface to the First Edition’ to highlight “the romantic side of familiar things” (Dickens 1988a, 43) sounds as anachronistic as Wordsworth’s revised Prelude, which, after the Poet Laureate’s death in 1850, Dickens was among the splendid few to buy.

16 Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)


The fact that, by the end of the novel, Esther’s voice quantitatively supplants that of the traditional narrator and that she eventually leaves John Jarndyce moored in his old “bachelor habits” (Dickens 1988a, 915) has recently been read as evidence of Dickens’s refusal to comply with the flamboyant expectations of a heroic or “[h]egemonic” masculinity in the vein of Thomas Carlyle (Morgan 2000, 204). Although it might be far-fetched to go so far as to see Bleak House in the light of “unconventional feminized masculinity” (Morgan 2000, 209), the changes to the concept of Victorian masculinity began to be mirrored not only by the delineation of the Victorian ancien régime as fossilised or paralytic relics (Sir Leicester Dedlock or old Mr Turveydrop), but also by the doubt that writers such as Dickens expressed about the stentorian voice of the omniscient narrator. That Esther’s narrative is finally stuck in inchoateness seems to be an apt expression of the pervasive Arnoldian feeling of living in an age of transition, of a liminality appropriately translated by Dickens into the device of narratological aposiopesis.

4 Reception and Theoretical Perspectives The serialisation of the novel in the autumn of 1852 was an immediate success rocketing Dickens into the position of a bestseller and (in the words of his contemporaries) “a literary Croesus” (Robert Patten, qtd. in Schlicke 2011, 50). Despite the fact that dramatisations of Dickens’s works into tear-eliciting melodramas were on the wane in the 1840s, staged versions of Bleak House became boxoffice hits, and notable productions of the novel after Dickens’s death in the 1870s and 1880s came to be associated with Victorian star actresses such as Jennie Lee and Fanny Janauschek who scintillated in the (breeches) roles of Jo and Lady Dedlock respectively. Dickens’s biographer John Forster, however, spearheaded a considerable group of critics who tended to see in the novel a decline of Dickens’s narrative powers and complained about a too overt and palpable didacticism. While these readers seemed to compare this Dickens novel unfavourably with the emergent and popularly action-packed sensational novels, severe criticism came from the Positivists who particularly censured Dickens for his relapse into the romance and into the implausibility of crude Gothic fiction. In this context, two open letters were addressed to Dickens by G. H. Lewes in the Leader (5 and 12 February 1853) arguing that the spontaneous combustion of a human body was an impossibility (Slater 2009, 349) and utterly incompatible with the novel’s claim to realism and veracity. While Dickens took up the gauntlet and responded irritably to Lewes, staunchly clutching at “arcane authorities” for the existence of spontaneous combustions, the controversy illustrates in an exemplary way that Bleak House exceeds the narrow hermeneutic boundaries of Positivism and that Dickens was unwittingly ushering in a


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new mode of novel writing, a symbolist approach to reality that is more associated with French fin-de-siècle literature than with mid-Victorian novels. This certainly serves as an explanation for the interest that the figurehead of French symbolism, Joris-Karl Huysmans, took in Dickens, when he has his brooding protagonist Floressas des Esseintes in À rebours (1884) go on an imaginary tour of Dickens’s London, there meeting with Mr Tulkinghorn, “le funèbre avoué de Bleakhouse” (Huysmans 1977, 241–242), in his drug-induced hallucinations. What proves to be another ironic facet is that even the exponent of naturalism, Émile Zola, pays tribute to Bleak House and, after four decades, resuscitates the debate about Krook’s explosion into a “nauseous pool” of oil. In his last novel of the twenty-volume Rougon-Macquart cycle, Docteur Pascal (1893), Zola not only challenges the ingrained Grundyism of Dickens’s novel, when he has his 59year old equivalent to John Jarndyce, Doctor Pascal, successfully make love to his 24-year old niece Clotilde and even father a child with her; he is openly at his most Dickensian when he lets his readers follow Pascal to a deserted house where he finds the old, wayward, and alcoholic Macquart reduced to a small pool of rancid fat after the spontaneous combustion of his alcohol-saturated body. While Lewes imperturbably insisted on Positivist facts and empiricist truth, the zeitgeist seems to have changed so fundamentally that even the most scientific of novelists, Zola, not only endorses symbolism, but also feels free to revert to Dickens’s Romanticism and to plagiarise the English novelist’s most controversial scene (Huguet 2013, 146). With early-twentieth-century critics such as the Zolaesque George Gissing and G. K. Chesterton showing a conspicuous taciturnity about the kaleidoscopic and dense novel, Bleak House’s critical fortunes only began to rise when dark novels of the Kafkaesque metropolis became fashionable and critics were ready to shift their attention from the convivial Pickwickian Dickens to the writer of sombre and disquieting city novels. While E. M. Forster’s devastating verdict on the flatness of Dickens’s characters reverberated for quite a long time, making modernists such as Joyce, Lawrence and Woolf flaunt an attitude of haughty ignorance of Dickens’s works, Bleak House survived these spells of critical disfavour and (even in the face of Terry Eagleton’s derogatory remarks about Dickens’s delight in “material clutter” and “off-beat detail,” Eagleton 2005, 149–150) regained its place both in literary criticism and in today’s canon of dead, white males. That Ian McEwan sets his novel The Children Act (2014) in the milieu of the law courts and conjures up in the very first lines the fog-bred and dismal atmosphere of the midVictorian novel is more than an indication of the fact that Bleak House, after its chequered history of reception, is now counted among Dickens’s most revered classics.

16 Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)


Bibliography Works Cited Dever, Carolyn. “Broken Mirror, Broken Words: Bleak House.” Dickens, Sexuality and Gender. Ed. Lillian Nayder. New York: Routledge, 2012. 363–386. Dickens, Charles. Bleak House. 1853. Introd. J. Hillis Miller. Ed. Norman Page. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1988a. Dickens, Charles. David Copperfield. 1850. Ed. Jeremy Tambling. London: Penguin, 2004. Dickens, Charles. The Letters of Charles Dickens: 1850–1852. Ed. Graham Storey, Kathleen Tillotson, and Nina Burgis. Oxford: OUP, 1988b. Vol. 6 of The Pilgrim Edition of the Letters of Charles Dickens. Madeline House, Graham Storey, and Kathleen Tillotson, gen. eds. 12 vols. 1965–2002. Douglas-Fairhurst, Robert. Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2011. Eagleton, Terry. The English Novel. An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005. Edwards Keates, Kim. “‘Wow! She’s a Lesbian! Got to Be!’: Re-Reading/Re-Viewing Dickens and Neo-Victorianism on the BBC.” Dickens and Modernity. Ed. Juliet John. Cambridge: Brewer, 2012. 171–192. Furneaux, Holly. Queer Dickens: Erotics, Families, Masculinities. Oxford: OUP, 2009. Gelfert, Hans-Dieter. Charles Dickens, der Unnachahmliche: Eine Biographie. München: Beck, 2011. Gigante, Denise. Taste: A Literary History. New Haven: Yale UP, 2005. Goetsch, Paul. Monsters in English Literature: From the Romantic to the First World War. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2002. Houghton, Walter E. The Victorian Frame of Mind, 1830–1870. New Haven: Yale UP, 1957. Huguet, Christine. “Dickens in France: Major Writers.” The Reception of Charles Dickens in Europe. Ed. Michael Hollington. Vol. 1. London: Bloomsbury, 2013. 142–153. Huysmans, Joris-Karl. À rebours. Ed. Marc Fumaroli. Paris: Gallimard, 1977. Langland, Elizabeth. Nobody’s Angels: Middle-Class Women and Domestic Ideology in Victorian Culture. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1995. Langland, Elizabeth. “Patriarchal Ideology and Marginal Motherhood in Victorian Novels by Women.” Studies in the Novel 19.3 (1987): 381–394. Law, Jules. The Social Life of Fluids: Blood, Milk, and Water in the Victorian Novel. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2010. Lennartz, Norbert. “Dickens as a Modern Romantic: The Case of Edith Dombey in Dombey and Son.” Dickens’s Signs and Readers’ Designs: New Bearings in Dickens Criticism. Ed. Francesca Orestano and Norbert Lennartz. Rome: Aracne, 2012. 105–125. MacDuffie, Allan. Victorian Literature, Energy, and the Ecological Imagination. Cambridge: CUP, 2014. Miller, J. Hillis. Introduction. Bleak House. By Charles Dickens. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1988. 11–34. Morgan, Thaïs E. “The Poetry of Victorian Masculinities.” The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Poetry. Ed. Joseph Bristow. Cambridge: CUP, 2000. 203–227. Sanders, Andrew. Charles Dickens. Oxford: OUP, 2003. Sanders, Andrew. Charles Dickens: Resurrectionist. London: Macmillan, 1982. Schabert, Ina. Englische Literaturgeschichte aus der Sicht der Geschlechterforschung. Stuttgart: Kröner, 1997. Schlicke, Paul, ed. The Oxford Companion to Charles Dickens. Oxford: OUP, 2011.


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Schülting, Sabine. Dirt in Victorian Literature and Culture: Writing Materiality. New York: Routledge, 2016. Slater, Michael. Charles Dickens. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. Stolte, Tyson. “‘Putrefaction Generally’: Bleak House, Victorian Psychology, and the Question of Bodily Matter.” Novel: A Forum on Fiction 44.3 (2011): 402–423. Wilson, A. N. The Victorians. London: Arrow Books, 2003. Wood, Claire. Dickens and the Business of Death. Cambridge: CUP, 2015.

Further Reading Allan, Janice, ed. Dickens’s Bleak House. A Source Book. London: Routledge, 2004. Gravil, Richard. Reading Charles Dickens: Bleak House. London: Indie Books, 2017. Miller. D. A. The Novel and the Police. Los Angeles: U of California P, 1988. Tambling, Jeremy, ed. Bleak House: Contemporary Critical Essays. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 1998. Tomalin, Claire. Charles Dickens. London: Penguin, 2011.

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17 Anthony Trollope, Doctor Thorne (1858) Abstract: Anthony Trollope published forty-seven novels plus a great many short stories, travel books, biographies, journal articles, and other prose works. In his posthumously published An Autobiography Trollope gives an account of his miserable childhood as a day-boarder at elite schools, his later life as a Postal Surveyor in the British Post Office, and his travels in Ireland and many other parts of the British Empire. At the same time, in a continuiation of a youthful habit of daydreaming that was a compensation for his unhappy real life, Trollope was writing novel after novel which eventually earned him what he did not have as a child: membership in a community, in this case the London community of writers, editors, and publishers. Trollope’s fiction often focuses on the way marriages, frequently between an aristocrat and a commoner, were rearranging the distribution of rank, power, and money in the Victorian middle and upper classes. Many of his novels focus on some imaginary British maiden who marries well through sticking stubbornly to her love against the opposition of family and friends. Doctor Thorne is a good example of Trollope’s masterful use of Victorian novel techniques (dialogue, indirect discourse, narrator’s commentary) in a characteristically powerful and winning treatment of this theme. Keywords: Marriage, daydreaming, irony, plot and character, gender difference

1 Context: Author, Oeuvre, Moment Anthony Trollope was born at Keppel Street in Bloomsbury, London, on April 24, 1815. He died at 34 Welbeck Street, Cavendish Square, London, on December 6, 1882. These facts might make it sound as if Trollope were a confirmed Londoner. That is in a sense true, but few Victorian novelists travelled so much and lived in so many different places as did Anthony Trollope before he settled again in or near London. During all this moving around and then after he settled in London, Trollope published forty-seven novels, plus a great many short stories, travel books, biographies, journal articles, and other prose works. He published books about the West Indies, North America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Cicero, Caesar, Lord Palmerston, Thackeray, etc. Project Gutenberg has e-texts, including versions with the illustrations for works that were illustrated, of eighty-two books by Anthony Trollope. This includes not only his forty-seven novels and short story collections, but his multitudinous prose works too. The inclusion of the illustrations is important because earlier twentieth-century reprints, such as the Oxford World Classics editions of the novels and stories, omitted them as not important. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110376715-018


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This obscures the way many of Trollope’s novels, like most Victorian fiction, were multimedia works.1 One of Trollope’s most wonderful of his many wonderful books, An Autobiography (first published in 1883, though written in 1875–1876), tells better than any other narrative the story of Trollope’s life and writings. My account depends on Trollope’s. His father was an unsuccessful barrister (too bad-tempered), farmer, and writer of an endless and always unfinished book on all ecclesiastical terms, including every fraternity of monks and convent of nuns. He eventually had to flee with his wife and children to Belgium to avoid imprisonment for debt. Everything Trollope’s father touched turned to dust. Trollope’s mother, Frances Trollope, on the contrary, was an exceptional woman. She held the family together by becoming the successful author of many novels and other writings, 114 books altogether! Perhaps her best-known book is The Domestic Manners of the Americans. It is based on her experience trying, unsuccessfully, to recoup the family fortunes by running a “bazaar” in Cincinnati, Ohio, of all places. Trollope’s father intended that Anthony should go to a distinguished public school and then on to his father’s college, New College, Oxford, or to some other Oxford or Cambridge College. Because his father was so poor, Trollope was sent as a day pupil, first to Harrow, then to Winchester, then to Harrow again. As Trollope reports in An Autobiography, his school experiences were extravagantly miserable. This was primarily a result of his poverty and awkwardness. My schoolfellows of course knew that it was so [his poverty], and I became a Pariah. [. . .] I suffered horribly! I could make no stand against it. I had no friend to whom I could pour out my sorrows. I was big, and awkward, and ugly, and, I have no doubt, skulked about in a most unattractive manner. Of course I was ill-dressed and dirty. But, ah, how well I remember all the agonies of my young heart; how I considered whether I should always be alone; – whether I could not find my way up to the top of that college tower, and from thence put an end to everything! (Trollope 1996, 12)

The reader will note two features of this citation. These features are characteristic of Trollope’s style throughout all his books: (1) It is written with remarkable ease and power; (2) It is ironic. The irony in this case, as in many others of Trollope’s writings, arises from the presence of two minds, that of the character and that of the narrator, here the young Trollope and the grown-up Trollope. The focus is on the interior experience of a specific person as reported, often in free indirect discourse, by someone else, in this case the inner life of Anthony Trollope as a suffering schoolboy ironically reported on and appraised by the adult Trollope.

1 For much more detail than space allows me to include here about Trollope’s life, writings, and reputation, as well as for listing of secondary material about him, see the Wikipedia entry for Anthony Trollope. This entry also contains a more or less complete list of Trollope’s writings.

17 Anthony Trollope, Doctor Thorne (1858)


Trollope’s fortunes changed when his father gave up the idea of getting him into Oxford or Cambridge and withdrew him from Harrow. He was taken with his family into exile in Belgium. While there, he was offered a Civil Service clerkship in the General Post Office by way of connections his mother had. Once more Frances Trollope saved the day. Trollope’s beginning at the Post Office was not auspicious. It is recounted fictitiously in his early novel The Three Clerks (1858). Nevertheless, Trollope eventually became a valued and fairly high-level member of the Post Office staff. He invented the pillar post-box! Trollope was especially charged with making the rural postal service ubiquitous and efficient in Ireland, then in parts of rural England. He was sent to the West Indies, Egypt, and Scotland on postal missions in 1858–1859. He lived in Ireland for a good many years as a Surveyor of the Post Office. He travelled all over Ireland on horseback visiting remote farms and post offices. “[I]t was the ambition of my life to cover the country with rural Letter Carriers” (Trollope 1996, 61). A parallel exists between this ambition and Trollope’s desire to write novels that would communicate a shared imaginary world to all sorts of readers. During his time in Ireland Trollope became a serious and enthusiastic foxhunter, a “rider to hounds.” He also wrote his first novels. Why should a busy and successful Civil Servant want to write novels? An Autobiography gives the quite extraordinary answer to that question. As a way out of his miserable solitude at school, Trollope began a habit of daydreaming. That habit was in a compensation for being excluded from ‘play’ with his schoolfellows. We all daydream. Freud has, in the twenty-third lecture of the Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1916–1917), proposed that daydreams function as imaginary substitutes for what we do not have in real life. Creative writers have the ability to write these “phantasies” down and thereby allow others to take pleasure in them. The artist has by this means, says Freud, “achieved through his phantasy what originally he had achieved only in his phantasy – honour, power and the love of women” (1963, 376–377). Unusual features of Trollope’s daydreams were their continuity, consistency, and long duration. The young Trollope’s daydreams had a unity like that of a novel that takes months or even years to write, and many hours or days to read. Since the following passage is crucial to understanding not only the origin of Trollope’s novelwriting, but also some chief features of those novels, I must cite it at some length: For weeks, for months, if I remember rightly, from year to year I would carry on the same tale, binding myself down to certain laws, to certain proportions and proprieties and unities. Nothing impossible was ever introduced, – nor even anything which from outward circumstances would seem to be violently improbable. I myself was of course my own hero. Such is a necessity of castle-building. But I never became a king, or a duke, – much less, when my height and personal appearance were fixed, would I be an Antinous, or six feet high. I never was a learned man, nor even a philosopher. But I was a very clever person, and beautiful young women used to be fond of me. And I strove to be kind of heart and open of hand and noble in thought, despising mean things; and altogether I was a very much better fellow than


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I have ever succeeded in being since. This had been the occupation of my life for six of seven years before I went to the Post Office, and was by no means abandoned when I commenced my work. There can, I imagine, hardly be a more dangerous mental practice; but I have often doubted whether, had it not been my practice, I should ever have written a novel. I learned in this way to maintain an interest in a fictitious story, to dwell on a work created by my own imagination, and to live in a world altogether outside the world of my own material life. In after years I have done the same, – with this difference, that I have discarded the hero of my early dreams, and have been able to lay my own identity aside. (1996, 32–33)

Freud’s analysis of daydreams indicates why daydreaming is a “dangerous mental practice.” Daydreams are compensatory wish-fulfilment in “phantasy.” This may explain why novel-reading was in the Victorian period viewed with suspicion, particularly by parents of novel-reading girls and boys. Those young people needed, so their parents thought, to learn to live in the ‘real world’ and abjure fantasy, especially sexual phantasy. Today the fear would be for young people who watch too much TV, use too much Facebook and Twitter, play too many video games, and watch too much Netflix. Two more comments: (1) It is by no means the case that Trollope gave up his “own identity” in his novels. Their heroes are suspiciously like the imaginary heroes of Trollope’s daydreams. (2) Often, though by no means always, the central figure in Trollope’s novels is a young unmarried girl of marriageable age. I shall have more to say later about the significances of this sex-change. The actual circumstances of Trollope’s novel-writing are no less amazing than his account of their origin in the dangerous mental practice of daydreaming. Trollope’s first two novels, The Macdermots of Ballycloran (1847) and The Kellys and the O’Kellys (1848), were written about Irish subjects in the interstices of a busy professional life while he lived in Ireland as a Postal Surveyor. Two better-known novels, The Warden (1855) and Barchester Towers (1857), were also written in Ireland. After Trollope settled at the end of 1859 in Waltham Cross, twelve miles from London, to continue his daily work at the Post Office, he commenced his extraordinary career as what must be called a fanatical writer of novels. He would get up early, at 5 a.m., and write from 5:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. every day before going to his work at the Post Office. He committed himself to writing 250 words for each page and setting himself so many pages to write in a week. If he finished one novel on a given day he would begin a new novel the next day. “When I have commenced a new book,” says Trollope, I have always prepared a diary, divided into weeks, and carried on for the period which I have allowed myself for the completion of the work. In this I have entered, day by day, the number of pages I have written, so that if, at any time, I have slipped into idleness for a day or two, the record of that idleness has been there, staring me in the face and demanding of me encreased labour so that the deficiency might be supplied. (1996, 79–80)

Some of these ‘diaries’ are in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. I have seen several. They are tiny documents with the daily record in very small handwriting, and

17 Anthony Trollope, Doctor Thorne (1858)


“eheu” (‘alas’) written on those days when he failed to write any pages. This was sometimes, he says, because of too much brandy and cigars the night before. Nor did his novel-writing stop when Trollope was travelling on Post Office business. He wrote on trains, on shipboard, or wherever he happened to be. Doctor Thorne, for example, about which I’ll say more in some detail later, was begun on a voyage by sea back to England from New York. An Autobiography discusses in chronological sequence many of his novels, their circumstances of writing and his judgment of their merits. Trollope repeatedly mentions plot and character as the most important features of his or any other novels. Of the two, character is by far the most important: How short is the time devoted to the manipulation of a plot can be known only to those who have written plays or novels; – I may say also how very little time the brain is able to devote to such wearing work. There are usually some hours of agonizing doubt, almost of despair, – so at least it has been with me; – or perhaps some days. And then, with nothing settled in my brain as to the final development of events, with no capability of settling any thing, but with a most distinct conception of some character or characters, I have rushed at the work, as a rider rushes at a fence which he does not see. Sometimes I have encountered what, in hunting language, we call a cropper. (1996, 114)

The metaphor from foxhunting is significant. Writing novels was for Trollope like riding to hounds. Both required the same blind foolhardy courage. Almost nothing is said in Trollope’s autobiography about his mastery of a complex narrative technique, nor of their expression of a particular version of Victorian class and gender ideology. These are more or less taken for granted, beyond a few comments here and there, for example about how his novels help young girls be modest and young men be manly. He hopes, he says, to succeed “in impregnating [another revealing metaphor: his relation to his readers is quasi-sexual] the mind of the novel reader with a feeling that honesty is the best policy, that truth prevails while falsehood fails; that a girl will be loved as she is pure and sweet and unselfish; – that a man will be honoured as he is true and honest and brave of heart; that things meanly done are ugly and odious, and things nobly done beautiful and gracious” (Trollope 1996, 96). The unabashed Victorianist sexism of this and other such passages in An Autobiography hardly needs comment. Women should be modest. Men should be manly, that is, true, honest, and brave. One truly strange feature of Trollope’s novels is that they fall into 70,000 word units, the one-volume ones at that length, and then some at 140,000, some at 210,000, etc., with the longest ones at 350,000 words. Trollope was determined to give good measure for his money, but not to go beyond his self-assigned limit either. As Gordon Ray asserts, “I suggest that all this amounts to a somewhat breathtaking discovery. [. . .] There is a grandeur of conception in thinking of one’s stories in terms of multiple units of about 70,000 words to which few novelists have aspired” (1981, 111).


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This fanatical novel writing, as I have called it, along with the details of just how much money he made from each novel, have often been held against Trollope and his novels. He just wrote mechanically, to make money, critics say. On the contrary, I hold that these details indicate the depth of Trollope’s commitment to the psychological benefits to him of writing novels as a continuation of his daydreaming habit. That is what I mean by ‘fanatical’. He had to have his hours of novel-writing every day, wherever he was. In doing this he was getting by way of written and published fantasy what he got at first through solitary, secret, daydreaming fantasy: “honour, power, and the love of women.” Or rather, in Trollope’s case, he got what he so longed for: recognised and rewarded membership in a community, in his case the London literary and journalistic community. As Trollope describes in detail in An Autobiography, when he settled more or less permanently near London, he became an accepted member of London literary society. He came to count as friends all sorts of important members of that community: Thackeray and many others, editors, journalists, other novelists, and so on. He published many of his novels in parts in important London periodicals, before he published them as separate books, frequently by the important publishing house of Chapman and Hall. As he describes in detail in his autobiography, he also wrote many articles for those journals, acted in various editorial ways for a number of them, or wrote commissioned essays for them: “Over and above my novels I wrote political articles, critical, social, and sporting articles for periodicals without number” (Trollope 1996, 174). He mentions especially his work for the Cornhill Magazine, the Pall Mall Gazette, Blackwood’s Magazine, and The Fortnightly, all important journals at the time. He names especially as friends not only Thackeray, but also other important Victorian literary figures: Sir Charles Taylor, Robert Bell, Albert Smith, Higgins, E. S. Dallas, George Augustus Sala, G. H. Lewes (George Eliot’s partner), ‘Russell of the Times’, Thomas Hughes, Charles Reade, and the painter John Everett Millais. Millais did splendid illustrations for some of his novels, such as Framley Parsonage. Trollope pays homage to Millais for that in An Autobiography. Trollope makes a special point of saying he was “on affectionate terms” with all of these important London people, not just their casual acquaintance. Being loved by important people was his achieved compensatory goal. “I have long been aware,” he says, “of a certain weakness in my own character which I may call a craving for love. I have ever had a wish to be liked by those around me, – a wish that during the first half of my life was never gratified” (1996, 104). Another evidence of his desire to ‘belong’ and to be loved was his joining an inordinate number of London clubs, including accepting an invitation to the Athenaeum, a great honour. “The Garrick Club,” he says, “was the first assemblage of men at which I felt myself to be popular” (105). Other clubs soon followed. Trollope lists, for example, the important men he met at the Cosmopolitan Club (105). Note that these are all male friendships, though Trollope was happily married

17 Anthony Trollope, Doctor Thorne (1858)


and the father of two sons. No Freudian “love of women” was attained through his writing, at least not that he mentions.

2 Basic Coordinates: Central Topics and Concerns I have so far shown, with the help of An Autobiography, what was extraordinary about Trollope’s motivation for writing novels and non-fictional works, and also what was extraordinary about his success at that enterprise. I shall now discuss in more detail one admirable Trollope novel, Doctor Thorne (1858). Why do I choose Doctor Thorne? My reasons are several. For one thing, Doctor Thorne is the third novel in the celebrated Barchester series. For another, I want to suggest that you should not limit yourself in teaching, reading, or studying Trollope to such well-known novels as Barchester Towers or The Way We Live Now. Do not be misled by critics into thinking only a few of Trollope’s novels are worth reading thoughtfully, carefully, and interrogatively. All of Trollope’s fictions repay that kind of attention. Each is, moreover, different in various ways from all the others. I single out Doctor Thorne, therefore, partly because of its characteristic Trollopean excellence, but also partly because of the amazing details of how it came to be written. Trollope began writing Doctor Thorne on board ship from New York back to England. He ultimately finished it in Egypt, writing away day after day wherever he was. “Doctor Thorne has,” says Trollope, “I believe, been the most popular book I have written” (1996, 84). He suggests that this may be because “[t]he plot of Doctor Thorne is good” (84). Well, what is so good about it? That plot, by the way, was, quite exceptionally, suggested to Trollope by his brother, Thomas Adolphus Trollope, also a novelist. Trollope almost always invented his own plots. I assume he means that Thomas suggested the basic story in Doctor Thorne about Mary Thorne, the illegitimate niece of Doctor Thorne, and about her love affair with Frank Gresham, the future squire of Greshambury. I begin by