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"He Might Have Read Between the Lines": dissonant identity in the early works of John Oliver Hobbes

University of Florida Institutional Repository
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HE MIGHT HAVE READ BETWEEN THE LI NES: DISSONANT IDENTITY IN THE EARLY WORKS OF JOHN OLIVER HOBBES By ARIEL ANTARES GUNN A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2003

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Copyright 2003 by Ariel Antares Gunn

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Dedicated to the graduate stude nts of the English Department.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I must first thank my family, whose supportboth emotional and financialcontinues to sustain me. My parents, Tommy and Tacie Gunn, have shown me constant guidance and encouragement, despite their suspicion that the degrees amassed on this academic journey may end up hanging in the laundry room. I am indebted to my grandmother, Carol M. Erwin, for all that she has done for me, particularly her willingness to assist in the payment of said degrees. Matt Coplon has proved patient, sympathetic, and willing to cruise endlessly up and down I-75 when I cant tear myself away from the computer. I also thank the Tulsa branch of my familyDave and Fern Ballard, Gary and Suzanne Gunn, Lucy Gunn and Terry Dikeman, and the late Uncle Les Gunnfor being proud of my accomplishments, despite not knowing exactly what it is that I do and the fact that, for all my work, I never seem to produce anything real. I must also thank my professors at The University of Tampa, whose passion for teaching fueled my desire to pursue graduate studies. I am thankful to my roommate, Lorraine Ouimet, who taught me the ins and outs of academia in exchange for Milkduds (what a bargain!). I must also recognize the influence of Dr. Julian Wolfreys, whose devotion to graduate students inspires us even when we feel ill used and overworked. Finally, I thank Dr. Chris Snodgrasswithout his guidance this project would not have been possible. iv

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TABLE OF CONTENTS Page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iv ABSTRACT.......................................................................................................................vi HE MIGHT HAVE READ BETWEEN THE LINES: DISSONANT IDENTITY IN THE EARLY WORKS OF JOHN OLIVER HOBBES...............................................1 LIST OF REFERENCES...................................................................................................25 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.............................................................................................26 v

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Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts HE MIGHT HAVE READ BETWEEN THE LINES: DISSONANT IDENTITY IN THE EARLY WORKS OF JOHN OLIVER HOBBES By Ariel Antares Gunn May 2003 Chair: Dr. Chris Snodgrass Cochair: Dr. Julian Wolfreys Major Department: English With her first novel, Some Emotions and a Moral, John Oliver Hobbes entered a literary scene immersed in the heated debate over the matter of gender, a matter she addresses only indirectly. Yet a resistance emerges from her texts that responds to the confines of Victorian gender conventions as well as the imposition of a stable identity inherent within the fin de sicle project of gender renegotiation. Hobbes first novel tells the story of the failed romance between the beautiful rectors daughter, Cynthia Heathcote, and the brilliant if unpublished writer, Godfrey Provence. After Provence refuses to abandon his unfinished novel to edit a stale but well-paying magazine, Cynthia breaks off their engagement and agrees to marry someone else. After her honeymoon, she admits that she married only because Provence never responded: I really wrote it in a temperhe might have read between the lines, she complains. Cynthia had expected Provence to read, not for what was obvious but for what was between the linesto read for the possibility of dissonance within meaning, that which is neither immediately vi

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nor wholly comprehensible. Similarly, Hobbes response to the late-Victorian gender debates can be read as dissonant, occurring between the lines, and consequently easily overlooked. Rather than offer an alternative female identity like many of her fellow writers were attempting, Hobbes early novelsSome Emotions and a Moral (1891), The Sinners Comedy (1892), and A Study in Temptations (1893)resist the notion of a unitary and knowable identity, and instead affirm the dissonance always within identity itself. vii

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HE MIGHT HAVE READ BETWEEN THE LINES: DISSONANT IDENTITY IN THE EARLY WORKS OF JOHN OLIVER HOBBES For Pearl Richards Craigie, 1891 was a tumultuous year, full of personal and professional transformation. After a strained four-year marriage with a husband rumored to be abusive, unfaithful, and syphilitic, twenty-three-year-old Craigie returned to her parents home with her young son. She also brought with her an unfinished manuscript of a novel she had been working on for a year. Within five weeks, she completed the second half of the novel, and upon its publication became John Oliver Hobbes, a pseudonym with which she would author many novels, plays, and short stories before her early death in 1906. With Some Emotions and a Moral, Hobbes entered a literary scene immersed in the heated debate over the matter of gender, a matter she addresses only indirectly. Yet a resistance emerges from her texts that responds to the confines of Victorian gender conventions as well as the imposition of a stable identity inherent within the fin de sicle project of gender renegotiation. Hobbes first novel tells the story of the failed romance between the beautiful rectors daughter, Cynthia Heathcote, and the brilliant if unpublished writer, Godfrey Provence. After Provence refuses to abandon his unfinished novel to edit a stale but well-paying magazine, Cynthia breaks off their engagement by writing Provence to say that she has agreed to marry her wealthy neighbor, the adoring but boring Edward Cargill. After her honeymoon, she admits that she married Edward only because Provence never responded: I really wrote it in a temperhe might have read between the lines, she complains. Cynthia had expected 1

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2 Provence to read, not for what was obvious but for what was between the linesto read for the possibility of dissonance within meaning, that which is neither immediately nor wholly comprehensible. Similarly, Hobbes response to the late-Victorian gender debates can be read as dissonant, occurring between the lines, and consequently easily overlooked. Rather than offer an alternative female identity like many of her fellow writers were attempting, Hobbes early novelsSome Emotions and a Moral (1891), The Sinners Comedy (1892), and A Study in Temptations (1893)resist the notion of a unitary and knowable identity, and instead affirm the dissonance always within identity itself. In the last decades of the nineteenth century, the Woman Question addressed the demand for a broadening of womens domestic and social roles as well as personal and political rights, and was vehemently debated in scientific, medical, and social discourses. In the 1890s, the debate escalated and in large part became centered on the New Woman, a woman at odds with Victorian social and sexual mores. Female novelists of the fin de sicle who viewed their work as a political and social engagement over contesting femininities occupied themselves and their work in a negotiation of female identity. Despite disparate and sometimes conflicting political leanings and moral codes, New Woman writers viewed their work as an overt political act, creating a wide variety of dissident female characters. While the majority of these characters did not champion womens rights or live openly with men not their husbands (though some certainly did), they did exhibit an awareness of gender stereotypes and an intent to expose the restrictions imposed by those stereotypes.

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3 Because Hobbes does not attempt to further womens rights by explicitly exposing Victorian hypocrisy, as New Woman writers did, scholars have overlooked Hobbes attention to the imposition of normative gender expectations on identity. Critics like Talia Schaffer and Nicola Diana Thompson attribute the lack of current attention to writers like Hobbes to the pressure felt by scholars to establish the worth of neglected women writers by proving them acceptably feminist (Schaffer 11). Additionally, Schaffer proposes that aesthetic critics have ignored Hobbes because her slight, witty texts seem frivolously feminine (12). In comparison to New Woman writers, Hobbes work seems totally nonpolitical, interested in the medium rather than the social message, the rendering of characters lines rather than the importance of speaking out against the confines of conventional gender roles. To explain this apparent lack of interest, Schaffer situates Hobbes as a female aesthetea member of an alternative aestheticism intended for a popular rather than elite audienceand consequently more interested in form and the aesthetics of writing. Though Schaffer only briefly mentions Hobbes, she does cite the female aesthetes avoidance of politics as an interesting political formation, a resistance to the reductive categories of feminist/antifeminist, a silence that ought to be heard (15). While Hobbes style poses a resistance to the dialectics of New Woman writing, I do not propose to read Hobbes silence, but to read what is between the linesthat which is dissonant and therefore cannot be made to fit cleanly into the dominant discourse on gender. Hobbes novels never declare a direct challenge to the hegemonic structure of gender and instead offer what Julian Wolfreys terms affirmative resistance, a resistance that is neither dialectical nor oppositional but instead is indirect and unpredictable.

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4 Rather than draw clear lines and take sides, affirmative resistance blurs the lines, sidesteps them, opening up the possibility for the affirmation of dissonance. This side step, then, establishes indirectly the ground for further movements and strategic gambits (12). And in Hobbes novels this side step occurs between the lines, opening up the possibility for readers to see the transgressive potential always embedded within her glib social comedies, contrived plots, and amusing epigrams. Hobbes veils any definitive meaning of her stories by loading them with mockery, surface detail, and witty wordplay. The rhetoric of affirmative resistance, then, can resist the imposition of reading after a stable identity and affirm the dissonance within meaning that emerges between so-called stable identities. Reading for the possibility of dissonance, rather than interpretive closure, allows us to read Hobbes texts as resistant rather than completely nonpolitical. Though her characters cannot be read as dissident, they can be read as dissonantexhibiting that which cannot be accounted for or incorporated into a reading looking for stable meaning. In this case, I will read for the dissonance within identity, particularly the impossibility of an identity prescribed by gender. While Hobbes was by no means a feminist in the sense that she ever rallied for womens rights, she could not have been unaware of the steady debates being waged in both novels and periodicals. A voracious reader from a young age, Hobbes read the classicsShakespeare, Milton, Bronte, George Eliot, George Meredith, Robert Browningas well as popular writers like Ouida and Rhoda Broughton. As a child she was also allowed to remain present when her parents had company, and would therefore have been exposed to their discussion of current events ranging from journalism to religion to suffrage. Though Hobbes wrote copiously as a childletters, short stories,

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5 playsher novel writing began after she was married. As a young, unhappily married motherlater Hobbes referred to her married life as living with a boa constrictor . To hate anyone as I hated him was in itself a torment (qtd. in Maison 4)Hobbes would have been, at the very least, interested in the debates regarding women and marriage. In an 1904 article called Dowries, Hobbes seems to call upon her own experiences as a young wife in order to criticize the enormous pressure put on young women to marry. In the article she also accuses popular literaturesongs, books, playsof misrepresenting married life: As a result of this complete divorce between commonsense and common romance, the saddest faces in England are not the faces of the middle-aged and old, but the faces of the young (qtd. in Harding 391). Hobbes describes the ordinary misunderstanding of marriage in The Sinners Comedy: To a young girl marriage only means a trousseau and a honeymoon; the trousseau she can describe to a flounce; she imagines the honeymoon as a flirtation under the blessing of the Church (6). And A Study in Temptations warns that a girl takes so much risk . when she marries. Her very innocence is, in a measure, against her (151). These early novels are both a product of the disappointments of married life (caused in part, perhaps, by the illusions of common romance) and the increasingly insistent questioning of conventional understandings of gender at the end of the Victorian era. Despite her lack of overt politics, Hobbes reveals her interest in gender and its relationship to identity and everyday life through her choice of subject matter, centering her stories on the relations between men and women, the disappointments of love, and the failure of marriage. After Cynthias marriage to Edward in Some Emotions and a Moral, Provence marries his cousin Grace whom he does not love (or even know very well) and

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6 who does not (readers later find out) love him. Grace, after realizing being married to Provence is not what she had anticipated, makes plans to run away with Provences best friend, Golightly. Desperate after realizing that not only has he made love to his best friends wife but also that he is not even in love with her, Golightly shoots himself. Similar mismatching, undefined feelings, and tragic endings occur in The Sinners Comedy, where, though it is not quite clear how the characters feel about each other, it is clear that no one ends up with the one he or she loves: Anna loves (or at least likes) Richard, but Richard falls in love (or at least appears to fall in love) with Emily, who likes Sacheverell, but Sacheverell loves Anna, but Anna is already married and will die before Sacheverell can declare his love for her. Only A Study in Temptations has a conventionally happy endingall seem to end up with the right partner and the younger women, Jane and Sophia, have children. But the tidy ending is beset with several jokes that destabilize the happy ending: Lady Margaret, still young and in good physical health, finally dies of her broken heart (to her joy!),1 and a young couple finds marital harmony because the husband is so easily manipulated, totally unconscious of his wifes ability to refute his opinion on the due subjection of women to their lords (208). While Hobbes may not engage in a clear political campaign against the problems of marriage, discontented characters, their unhappy relationships, and the narrators mockery of the whole game of love serve up a critique similar to that of the New Woman writersthe old scripts were not working anymore. 1 Portraying widowed characters as the only ones still in love with their spouses seems to be a favorite joke of Hobbes. The only happily married man in A Sinners Comedy is no longer even married, but a widower who looks forward to death so he can be rejoined with his wife, despite the fact that he has two young daughters with no one but himself to provide for them. In A Study in Temptations, Sophias father jumps to his death after his young wife dies in childbirth.

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7 Hobbes insisted in a 1901 interview with drama critic William Archer, It is entirely unphilosophical to lay down hard-and-fast negations for either half of the human race. Character is infinitely various, and the possibilities of action inexhaustible (Conversation 59, 60). Despite this insistence on infinite variety and inexhaustible possibility, many of her early charactersespecially her female charactershave much in common with each other as well as familiar types found in popular literature. Heroines are most likely young and beautiful, enigmatic and bewitching, in love (or at least involved) and often with the same man. Heroes are handsome and intense, intelligent and talented, sensitive to beauty and easily bewitched. In The Sinners Comedy, Anna, the beautiful and talented young painter separated from her scoundrel of a husband, loses Richard when he inherits a peerage and feels the pressure to marry. Despite the unwilling admiration Richard feels for Annafor her majestic bearing and tender and mocking gray eyes (28, 29)he falls in love with the flirtatious widow Emily, or rather what her class and money can offer him. De Boys in A Study in Temptations momentarily forgets Jane, his beautiful childhood sweetheart at home, when he meets Sophia, a talented actress whose sparking radiance and baffling smile dazzl[e] him (59, 60). In these characters we can see Hobbes utilizing recognizable female typesnew types of women such as the intellectual and artist, and the more traditionally Victorian types of the proper young lady and coquettetypes her audience would have been familiar with and would therefore have evoked certain preconceptions regarding personality and behavior. This recognition initially encourages readings that impose stable, ready-made identities onto these characters: we know Anna because we know how those artistic

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8 types are; we understand Emily because we know a thing or two about flirts; we guess what Jane will do because there is only so much a Victorian lady can do; and we recognize Sophia because all those actresses are the same, or at the very least similar. However, this recognition also points to the limits of labels such as artist, flirt, lady, and actress as Hobbes plays with and distorts these types, opening a space for resisting the imposition of reading for stable identity. For example, Sophia is not the only woman capable of bewitching men in A Study in Temptations: even conventionally well-mannered (at least when she grows up) Jane puts a spell both on her future husband De Boys Mauden and her cousin with her atmosphere of strength and sweetness which swept over . [them] like a mountain breeze (31). And in The Sinners Comedy, the serious and hardworking Anna is just as concerned with her appearance, particularly her wardrobe, as fashionable and flirtatious Emily. The attention given to Emilys awareness of dress serves as a critique of her disingenuousness. Recently widowed, Emily artfully defers answering Richards declarations of love with gentle sigh[s]; then she glance[s] down at her half-mourningdesigned by Worth, the narrator points out (25). When Emily weeps upon the realization that Sacheverell will never love her, she pause[s] . to wonder what she could wear down to dinner (120). On the other hand, the attention drawn to Annas clothing never seems to point out anything resembling Emilys brand of self-absorption, and instead serves as a compliment to her artistic beauty. The difference between their concern with appearance is that Annas interest in clothing initially seems attributable to a deep, aesthetic sensibility, while Emilys interest is wholly attributable to a selfish, superficial nature. But deeming Annas love for beautiful clothes a virtue and Emilys a shortcoming

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9 because of the types they fall into hardly makes sense, and reminds readers that conclusions drawn from types can be off base. There is also a restlessness among Hobbes characters that complicates the designation of these types as a blueprint for identity, particularly a homogenous femininity. Both Cynthia and her aunt, Lady Theodosia, in Some Emotions and a Moral, reject the possibility of cataloging women or reading them as types. When Provence has his first opportunity to talk with Cynthia at dinner with her family, he catches a glimpse of her grim sense of humor and calls her a cynic. She responds, Oh no . I havent got a label (33). Provence, with his passion for analysis (27) here presumes to read her character, to determine who she isand, remembering the couples unhappy ending, he gets it wrong. Later, an even more cynical Lady Theodosia (who is oftenincorrectlytagged as unfeeling) blames Provences silence at Cynthias letter on mens tendency to label women as a way to understand them: Men divide women into so many types, and when they see a woman they put her down as a representative of one of these. They like to think that if she is type a she will do this, if type b that, if type c the other, and so on. It is very absurd, of course, for no two women are the same any more than one wave is like another (74). According to Lady Theodosias theory, Provence allowed his analytical powers and convenient categories to determine his decisions. His reliance on reductive categories causes him to lose the only woman he will ever love. While Cynthia and Lady Theodosia are both emblematic of a type a or type bevocative of the familiar female types of the beautiful, manipulative flirt and the experienced, no nonsense English matronthey also resist the imposition presented by these types, bluntly refusing the logic of categorization and its attempts to fix a stable

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10 identity for them. And the narrative voice agrees with the impossibility of a coherent, stable identity, acknowledging in A Sinners Comedy that Annas appearance exemplifies the contradiction in terms which was the strange characteristic of the whole woman (29). Hobbes characters may inhabit familiar roleshusbands and wives, matrons and coquettes, artists and intellectualsbut she plays with them until they are beyond recognition. This play opens up the possibility of reading for dissonance. Despite the fact that relying on types is a misleading way of determining meaning, it is sometimes the only way offered to readers to draw conclusions. Characters continue to resist any attempts to install upon them a stable identity through their refusal (or inability) to articulate the entirety of their feelings or intentions. One such suppression occurs in Some Emotions and a Moral after Provence again rethinks his promise to Cynthia to edit the magazine The Present Age. Readers must blunder through three pages of dialogue without any glimpses into the couples thoughts or intrusions by the narrator, unsure whether anything she says reflects how she actually feels as she renews her campaign: You have disappointed me. [. .] I despise a man who breaks his word and makes explanations afterwards. [. .] Are you trying to experiment with me to see how long my patience will last! (56-58). Provence asks for more time to prove himself as a novelist, appealing to her sense of justice: You do not care how ashamed I may be afterwards? [. .] I would die for youbut I cannot say yes (58). Cynthia, however, is committed to the idea of marrying a successful writer, not a man whose lifes work might consist of an unfinished novel that no one will ever read. As a manipulative flirt, her intent would most likely and almost entirely stem from the joy of her triumph (56), the beginning of her aim to completely manage her husband. But Cynthia is also

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11 the daughter of a Rector rather than a lord, and since no inheritance awaits her, her potential husbands career prospects would have to play a role in her decision to marry (what will we live on, she asks). If her method is sheer manipulation for the sake of control, then we cannot take anything she says during the course of the argument as sincere, but instead said to produce a desired effect. When she asks him, Why do you try me so and make me say thingsin anger? Do you think I enjoy saying them? (58), readers do not quite know the answer. Reading this scene as evidence only of Cynthias wily ways is undermined by economic realities, leaving the reader caught between two conclusions: Cynthia is either shamelessly manipulative or stubbornly practical. This lack of access to characters thoughts or true feelings means that readers are denied access to instant comprehensibility of characters real selves. Characters refusal to reveal the true feeling behind their words is compounded by the narrators intermittent silence on matters, and the reader is left without any mastery of the dialogues meaning. Before withdrawing, the narrator introduces us to Cynthia and Provences quarrel by alluding to a specific dynamic between the two: There was never a Samson so strong but he met his Delilah: it is only by the mercy of God that Delilah has occasionally a conscience (56). If we read Cynthia, as the narrator suggests, as a Delilah, what, then, are her intentions? Is she, like Delilah, intent on destroying Provence and his genius or does she merely want her way? Is she worried about what they will live on or is this just a Delilah-like tactic? These questions remain unanswered because the narrator leaves the reader to make sense of the dialogue without any commentary or insight into Cynthias thoughts beyond typecasting her as a wicked

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12 archetypal womanand by now readers are becoming aware that a reliance on types can be an inadequate way to read. In the next scene, Cynthia is again cast in the role of an archetypethis time two contradictory Biblical characters: There was never a Rachel who had not lurking possibilities of the Jezebel, nor a Jezebel who had nothing of the Rachelin weak moments (62). As Cynthia regrets forcing Provence to give up his novel, the reader is left to figure out what the Rachel/Jezebel remark means. Cynthia agrees that she is not a servant-maid or a Rachel, to wait for her lover while he served his time (63), but, while she doe not wait for him in the usual sense, her love for him will endure (which will not stop either of them from marrying partners they do not love). For the moment, though, she seems to be the Jezebel, at least according to the narrator. But is Cynthia so unscrupulous and unprincipled as to warrant a title that indicates an infamous harlot? Ultimately, these familiar types and archetypes are entirely flatso absolutely fixed that they become comically narrow rather than effective identifiers. Here we are reminded of Lady Theodosia: womenand mencannot be reduced to type a or type b. And when a type is imposed, it shows itself not only to be limiting, but also misleading. Cynthia exceeds the limits of the entirety of identities projected on her; readers can never know which one she is because no one identity can account for who she is. Of course, all of this assumes that we are even dealing with the real Cynthia, for within these texts are endless performances and poses: Sophia is an actual stage actress in A Study in Temptations, Cynthias art was more convincing than the average womans nature (93) in Some Emotions and a Moral, and Emily plays the part (albeit perfunctorily) of the grieving widow in The Sinners Comedy. Sometimes such

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13 performance operates as necessary social skills, the type of polite posturing that occurs all the time in social settings. When Provence dines with the Heathcotes in Some Emotions and a Moral, all assume poses. For Lady Theodosia, the homes designated hostess, posing indicates a kind of social coping mechanism: she had many methods in conversation; the artless and ignorant style she found most useful for the subjection of Elderly Science (29). Cynthias elder sister, Agatha, always lady-like and well mannered, politely pretends to be interested in Provence during pre-dinner conversation, and is relieved when dinner is announced. Cynthia, although she has twice encountered Provence, officially meets him equipped with appropriate feminine props: She wore a gown of less artless design than her white muslin of the night before: her hair was more fashionably arranged, there was a franker suggestion of the world, the flesh, and the devil about her whole person (28). Even Provence, usually so candid, has grown self-conscious because of his attraction to Cynthia: To conceal his embarrassment, therefore, he had assumed an unfelt stoicismnot so much to deceive Cynthia as himself (28, 29). But the posing quickly escalates to absurd levels when Provence inhabits a role he is not even aware of, as the dinner party has confused him with his dead father, an Egyptologist. In order to draw Provence into conversation, Sir James Cargill, the Heathcotes neighbor, pretends to be learned about Egypt: Now as to the Egyptians. They are an interesting race . one would be an ass not to feel a certain amount of awe at the antiquity of the Pyramids, he says (36). Provence responds that he knows little about the subject (since he is not after all an Egyptologist), but that he is sure that Sir James has studied the subject seriously. Sir James answers: Merely as a dilettante

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14 . As he had spent some twenty-five minutes that morning skipping through Egypt in the Encyclopdia, he felt that in describing himself as a dilettante he had, if anything, underrated his knowledge. At this misunderstanding of Provences identity, Sir James strikes a pose so ridiculous that the reader cannot help but be aware that what we observe does not guarantee we can read a characters authentic or absolute self. At other times, performance operates as a means of critiquing human artificiality and insincerity. In The Sinners Comedy, after Sir Richard has ended his relationship with Anna, a woman ill-suited for him because of her already married and lower-class state, he falls deeply in love with wealthy, widowed Emily, or at least the Notion of herher beauty, her youth, her wit, and her money (21). As he makes love to her, Dimly it occurred to him that he had said something of the kind once beforeto Anna (80). With Emily, Richard merely repeats his previous performance as Annas lover. Later, as he tries to convince Emily to marry him, he embraces her with a movement of such grace, indicative of passion (124). Whether or not the embrace was indicative of true passion is not noted, for what matters more is that his performance as a devoted lover is believable. And his performance is so effective that Emilys No to his marriage proposalfor she is in love with Sacheverellbecomes mixed with Richards Yes. The result was no syllable and a marriage performed by a Bishop, assisted by an Archdeacon (125). But perhaps Emily deserves a husband like Richard, for she too behaves in a manner only indicative of mourning. After her first husbands death, she went in mournful weeds, and ordered orchids to be placed on his grave twice a week. Her mother suggested, At all events, for the present (6). Yet this indifference seems appropriate for a husband who had been so very kind and so very stupid.

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15 Similar attention to perfunctory mourning occurs in Some Emotions and a Moral where, after Edward Cargills death, his house was a house of mourning. That is to say, the blinds were pulled down and the servants crept about in new black dresses. Here the narrative qualifies what house of mourning meansit is a matter of appearance rather than emotion. And despite the appearance of mourning indicated by pulled blinds, his widow and her sister sit in a brightly furnished room . the blinds were up, and the sun poured in (87). This attention to the various kinds of character performance begins to make readers suspicious, aiding them in becoming receptive to dissonant rather than stable identity. Accommodating character performance means accommodating the possibility that we cannot know or have complete access to a character. And it is this denial of complete access to meaning that prevents the possibility of a unitary and knowable identity, and instead affirms the dissonance always within identity itself. Because of the constant possibility of posing, character behavior is not always a reliable source for uncovering what is underneath. But an act of textual revision illustrates that neither is the narrator always reliable. There is a strange moment in Some Emotions and a Moral when the narrator reveals an overt act of narrative rewriting. When Lady Theodosia bids Cynthia not to trifle with Provences emotions, Cynthia laughed orto be truthful at the expense of euphonychuckled (48), it is a reminder that even the narration is capable of deceit. Here, truth is sacrificed in order to create a euphony, or, more precisely, a suitable femininity, reminding us that the narrative represents only a pretense of reality, for we have seen the curtain drawn back and the backstagethe behind-the-scene action that supposedly does not existexposed.

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16 Even when the expectations of identity supplied by the narrator are realizedwhen the characters act according to the type of person the narrator deems them to beboth the characters and the narrator provide moments that undermine understandings that seemed settled. Hobbes characters cannot be stabilized by the act of reading because there always remains something that readers cannot account for or anticipate. In Some Emotions and a Moral, Grace is not, despite blushing when she mentions Provences name in the first chapter, in love with Provence, and instead marries him because she wanted his ideas to be given to [her] first and his audience to get whatever was left over (83). Agatha, who has a keen sense of duty and the fitness of things turns out to be not so good or proper as she initially appears. Upon the death of her brother-in-law, her sense of duty is revealed to be merely perfunctory: May is such an awkward month for a deathjust at the beginning of the season, she comments (88). Though Cynthia was not happy as Edwards wife, she is genuinely in mourningher desire to stay in London and try to be a little more serious seems an attempt to atone for her past triviality and impulsiveness. Upon hearing Cynthias plans for her widowhood, Agatha chastises her sister for always want[ing] to do the most improper thingimproper only in the sense that it is an unheard-of (89) for a rich widow expected to go abroad so she can do anything without the interference of mourning (88). When Cynthia offers Agatha an expensive hat-pin, Agatha drops her objection to Cynthias improper plan. Another character whose seeming propriety is ultimately questionable is Golightly, who was originally described as having sentiments more proper than intense (4). Yet Golightly betrays Provence when he plans to elope with Grace and then shoots himself in

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17 desperation. Characters are never what they seem to be, always capable of overturning the expectations set in place for them by the narrator. Another example of thwarted expectations is the dynamic between secretly married Wrath and Sophia in A Study in Temptations. Sophia is initially portrayed as frivolous, flighty, and rather coquettish, while the considerably older Wrath is portrayed as steady, earnest, and utterly loyal to the girl he adopted as an infant and married as a young woman. As Sophia throws a tantrum, Wrath, who had loved Sophia too long, and loved her too well, not to love also with wisdom (130), is able to talk to her calmly and reasonably, responding to the emotions that seem to lie underneath her outburst. However, after reading a scene between the twowhen Sophia, jealous that Lady Margaret will sit for Wraths painting, utterly wears her husband out with histrionics, supposed regret that they married, and complaints of a headacheWraths wisdom that enables him to understand his young wife seems little more than an inadequate attempt to placate her. Sophia knows that at one time Wrath had feelings for Lady Margaret, and she is anxious that the older, intellectual woman is a better match for her genius husband. As Sophia artfully asks questions she hopes will produce answers with meaning between the lines, Wrath hardly even hears her question, much less what lies between the lines of those questions. She leaves the room with the remark that she feels better, and he, rejoic[ing] that he had cured her headache . resume[d] his fugue (83). Wrath, despite his wisdom and unselfish love, has little idea what Sophia is thinking. So little do men know their wives, the narrator confirms. Neither do readers understand Sophia that well, a misunderstanding assisted by the lack of narratorial discourse. Her insistence that she refuses to reveal her marriage to

PAGE 25

18 Wrath out of playful disregard for Victorian sensibilities is again an opportunity to undermine our understanding of their relationship and of Sophia. I will not be an British Matron. [. . ] Do not expose me to the humiliation of being publicly branded an honest woman! she jests, or so her husband thinks (74, 76). Wrath insists that she allow him to put an end to the rumors circulating around their relationship and announce their marriage. She refuses again, declaring that both of their careers would be subsumed by the respectability of domesticity: if only they once knew the truth, no one would care to see me act, and your pictures would be called dull. Sophia here is cast as ever-varyinginconstant and unreasonableand we must wonder why she wants to keep her marriage a secret since she keeps changing her answer. Yet readers wonder which explanation is most accuratecertainly her explanation that their careers would suffer seems plausible, since both she and Wrath are devoted to their work. Her previous flirting with handsome young scholar de Boys and her accusation that Wrath managed to make her fall in love with him without her entire understanding of what she was doing (with his artful way of implying everything under the sun without uttering a syllable [81]) seems to substantiate the regret she says she feels now that she is married. A few chapters later, however, Sophias character is again complicated when the narrator reveals some very necessary information [which] may seem like a digression (92): Sophia actually refuses out of typical Victorian female self-sacrifice, because she does not want the general attitude that he has married beneath him to taint his career, and suffers the suspicious whispers that follow them. As the narrator (finally) tells us, she would have renounced all things and followed him gladlydid he wish itinto obscurity and the suburbs. It was because she honestly believed that his social position

PAGE 26

19 would suffer if their marriage were made known, that she pretended to hold such eccentric and unfeminine view on the subject of a fair name (93). But the narrator has finally revealed this information so late in the story that it does not settle the issue, coming too late to provide us a position of dominance from which to read. And despite the fact that the narrator insists that she is ready for any amount of sacrifice for the sake of Wrath, she immediately pursues de Boys and very nearly runs away with him because she is jealous over her husbands attention to Lady Margaret. When she decides to abandon her elopement plans, she seems not to know why she was leaving in the first place and blames her behavior entirely on the possibility she suffers from consumption: it is well known that consumptives are not responsible for their conduct! she claims (177). In a way, though, she is unwell since she suffers from the Victorian condition of pregnancy. Based on the identity supplied by the narrator, her actions are not always explainable, even by the narrator. Reading for stability is also subverted by a surprise eventsomething that is unexpected, unanticipatable, that does not fit into the expectations provided by the narrator or the characters previous actions or words. After a drawn out tug-of-war over Provences career, Cynthia relishes that she has won a fianc with such a promising future. But her overall attitude toward the relationship is surprising considering the amount of scheming she has undertaken: as to the novelty of being engaged, she had classed it in her list of tried-and-found-wanting experiments before the end of the first fortnight. She found her lovers interest in all that concerned her a decided nuisance (59). Such annoyance on Cynthias part is amusing, but it is after Provence leaves for town that she exceeds our expectations as someone we already know to be impulsive and

PAGE 27

20 even a little improper. She rushed into the drawing room . and executed a wild but extremely graceful war-dance in front of the long mirror. When she was quite breathless she flung open the piano . [and] thumped with all her might a barbarian valse by a barbarian and unpronounceable composer [. .] I am so tired of being cultured, said Cynthia, as she wound up her performance with shrieking chromatics in contrary motion (61). Laughter, with its ability to disrupt and delegitimate even the most prevailing discourse, is one of the sounds of affirmative resistance (Wolfreys 97). A comic event such as this and the laughter it produces unsettles our position of dominancewho saw that coming? And who can predict what is next? Even the serious and studious Provence utilizes laughter as a means of resistance. Agatha, upon learning that Provence is a writer, questions whether he had provided [him]self with books on the train ride, as a delicate way of showing that his fame and cultured tastes were not unknown to her. Provence responds with nonsense, a far cry from the language, seriousness, and severity that his dialogue with Godfrey revealed: I amused myself by looking out of the window . although I did just glance at a very diverting tale about a French poodle and a bishop in The Piccadilly News (31). His comment is not only inappropriate, but probably insulting. Though the text says that he replies innocently (31), such an unexpected and incongruous answer belies Provences possible intentions of refusing to acknowledge Agathas claim at being cultured. Though the reader is not as taken aback as Agatha, it is still a moment that produces a small spark of laughter. Provences ridiculous response is an example of the power of the side step of affirmative resistance.

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21 Hobbes might define these moments as implausible: moments that are misunderstood by readers as artificial, or aesthetically flawed, because (mistaken) introspection has interfered with their ability to read for the possibility of dissonance. In her interview with Archer she says, How often you hear a man say, No man would do this, and a woman, No woman would do that, when they mean nothing more than I would never do this or that. The chances are they are mistaken, even as regards themselves. [ . .] Speaking for myself, I hate plausibility. No writer is so little plausible as Balzac. His people are as full of surprises as our own most intimate friends! (Conversation 59, 60). In the foreword to A Study in Temptations, Hobbes quotes Aristotle to make a similar point: To opinion, or what is commonly said to be, may be referred even such things as are improbable and absurd; and it may also be said that events of that kind are, sometimes, not really improbable; since it is probably that many things should happen contrary to probability. Hobbes understands the impossibility of predicting what a character will say or do since even real people are always full of surprises, and consequently she creates characters and stories that are always open to the possibility of surprise. And within these stories emerge moments that affirm the dissonance always present within identity. The portrayal of a man or woman is always colored by the authors ideaas well as the readers ideaof femininity or masculinity. It would be impossible, then, to portray a man or womaneven ones that resist social conventions in an attempt to rewrite gender scriptswithout imposing on him or her a whole series of expected identities. Her characters stick to the familiar scripts as they also do a little ad lib that takes readers by surprise, and affirms the impossibility of a manageable and knowable identity.

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22 Misreadings, or to be more accurate, missed readings, occur and misunderstandings arise when characters attempt to enforce assumptions about each others identities, again alerting readers to the results of imposition of discourses in order to read for coherence. Characters must suffer the imposition of stereotypes as others read and attempt to make sense of them. The failure of Cynthia and Provences relationship can be blamed entirely on a missed reading. Provence cannot read what is behind or beyond Cynthias words. Cynthias decision to write the letter is based on the fact that she and her aunt attempt to read Provence and what he can offer Cynthia through the ideological structure of genius. They hypothesize that since he is a geniusand, according to Lady Theodosia, geniuses are never practicalthat he requires direction in order for him to prove his talent. When he refuses such direction, Cynthia reverts to her assumptions about genius rather than what she wants to believe about the man she loves. Faced with an insecure future (a point duly emphasized by her aunt), she breaks off the engagement and agrees to marry rich, jolly, intolerable Edward Cargill. It is ironic that she had expected Provence to read between the lines, to see that she had let her temper make her decisions, because her reading of Provence never allowed for dissonance either. But why should he not be able to read between the lines? Godfrey is a writer, a student of human emotions. But not, after all, a close reader. Despite his genius, he turns out to be a little dense. Provence greets the letter with silence and immediately marries his cousin, Grace Godfrey, though we will never be told why. Despite the fact that Lady Theodosia is aware of the problems of categorization as a way to predict someones response, she still imposes expectations on Cynthia and Provence based on their types. In another ironic moment she says, these literary and

PAGE 30

23 artistic people are very dangerous. You never find two alike, and the only certain thing about them is that ultimately they will do something to make everybody uncomfortable (48). It is Lady Theodosia who influences Cynthia to give up Provence, an act that leads both of them to unhappiness. These stories become cautionary tales about the missed readings produced when characters attempt to read after stable identities by relying on assumptions and familiar type. The unhappiness caused by these missed readings affirms the necessity of reading between the lines, of being open to and allowing for what does not fit, what cannot be accounted for, what cannot be explained away, and what cannot be anticipated. Hobbes men and women are never radical in the sense that they offer an alternative masculine or feminine identity or present a direct challenge to the hegemonic structure of gender, and instead usually correspond to stereotypes. But they always exceed these stereotypes, behaving in ways often unexplainable, unanticipatable, and inconsistent with the label put on themman, woman, husband, wife, artist, intellectual, matron, coquette. In the foreword to the Unwin Edition of The Sinners Comedy, Hobbes writes: Any Author to Any Reader: Reader. But where are the Unities? Author. In life there are no Unities, but three Incomprehensibles: Destiny, Man, and Woman. When Hobbes characters exceed labels, types, and categorization, they expose the impositions of gender even as the category was being redefined or renegotiated by New

PAGE 31

24 Woman writers. Such renegotiation still belies a desire to create stable categories. To talk about gender, Hobbes might say, is to always impose a limit.

PAGE 32

LIST OF REFERENCES Harding, Mildred Davis. Air-bird in the Water: The Life and Works of Pearl Craigie (John Oliver Hobbes). Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996 Heilmann, Ann. New Woman Fiction: Women Writing First-Wave Feminism. London: Macmillan Press Ltd., 2000. Hobbes, John Oliver. Conversation III. With Mrs. Craigie (John Oliver Hobbes). Real Conversations. William Archer. London: W. Heinemann, 1904. ---. The life of John Oliver Hobbes told in her correspondence with numerous friends; with a biographical sketch by her father John Morgan Richards. London: J. Murray, 1911. ---. The Sinners Comedy. New York: Cassell Publishing Company, 1892. ---. Some Emotions and a Moral. 1891. In The Tales of John Oliver Hobbes. London, T. F. Unwin, 1894. ---. A Study in Temptations. New York: Cassell Publishing Company, 1893. Maison, Margaret. John Oliver Hobbes: Her Life and Work. London: Eighteen Nineties Society, 1976. Pykett, Lyn. The Improper Feminine: The Womens Sensation Novel and the New Woman Writing. London: Routledge, 1992. Schaffer, Talia. The Forgotten Female Aesthetes: Literary Culture in Late-Victorian England. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 2000. Thompson, Nicola Diane. Responding to the Woman Questions: Reading Noncanonical Victorian Women Novelists. Victorian Women Writers and the Woman Question. Ed. Nicola Diana Thompson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999. Wolfreys, Julian. The Rhetoric of Affirmative Resistance: Dissonant Identities from Carroll to Derrida. New York: St. Martins Press, 1997. 25

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Ariel began reading later than most of her friendsshe struggled with the alphabet displayed above the first grade blackboard (later it was learned she needed glasses) until one day the letters came together. She excitedly jumped into the world of books and from then on she was never without one. Her somewhat easy-going parents let her read everywhere. Her vacation bags always tipped the scales with an abundance of books. Blessed with a father touched with wanderlust, Ariel began moving around at about the same time she hit that preteen awkward stage, and consequently spent even more time reading (and less time dealing with those who learned to read before she did, but who never seemed to read anymore). Unable to decide what to do after high school and bored out of her mind after being snowed in for three days, she picked a college crammed with palm trees out of a brochure, dragging her parents with her from cattle country to balmy beaches. Convinced that the corporate world was not even a necessary evil, she applied to graduate school with little idea of what was in store for her. Fortunately, each step whets her appetite for more. And the journey continues. 26


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Physical Description: Mixed Material
Creator: Gunn, Ariel Antares
Publication Date: 2003
Copyright Date: 2003

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"HE MIGHT HAVE READ BETWEEN THE LINES": DISSONANT IDENTITY IN
THE EARLY WORKS OF JOHN OLIVER HOBBES

















By

ARIEL ANTARES GUNN


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2003

































Copyright 2003

by

Ariel Antares Gunn
































Dedicated to the graduate students of the English Department.















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I must first thank my family, whose support-both emotional and financial-

continues to sustain me. My parents, Tommy and Tacie Gunn, have shown me constant

guidance and encouragement, despite their suspicion that the degrees amassed on this

academic journey may end up hanging in the laundry room. I am indebted to my

grandmother, Carol M. Erwin, for all that she has done for me, particularly her

willingness to assist in the payment of said degrees. Matt Coplon has proved patient,

sympathetic, and willing to cruise endlessly up and down 1-75 when I can't tear myself

away from the computer. I also thank the Tulsa branch of my family-Dave and Fern

Ballard, Gary and Suzanne Gunn, Lucy Gunn and Terry Dikeman, and the late Uncle Les

Gunn-for being proud of my accomplishments, despite not knowing exactly what it is

that I do and the fact that, for all my work, I never seem to produce anything real. I must

also thank my professors at The University of Tampa, whose passion for teaching fueled

my desire to pursue graduate studies. I am thankful to my roommate, Lorraine Ouimet,

who taught me the ins and outs of academia in exchange for Milkduds (what a bargain!).

I must also recognize the influence of Dr. Julian Wolfreys, whose devotion to graduate

students inspires us even when we feel ill used and overworked. Finally, I thank Dr.

Chris Snodgrass-without his guidance this project would not have been possible.
















TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page

A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv

ABSTRACT ............... .......................................... vi

"HE MIGHT HAVE READ BETWEEN THE LINES": DISSONANT IDENTITY IN
THE EARLY WORKS OF JOHN OLIVER HOBBES.................. ....... .............1

L IST O F R E F E R E N C E S ....................................................................... ... ................... 25

B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E TCH ..................................................................... ..................26




































v















Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

"HE MIGHT HAVE READ BETWEEN THE LINES": DISSONANT IDENTITY IN
THE EARLY WORKS OF JOHN OLIVER HOBBES

By

Ariel Antares Gunn

May 2003

Chair: Dr. Chris Snodgrass
Cochair: Dr. Julian Wolfreys
Major Department: English

With her first novel, Some Emotions and a Moral, John Oliver Hobbes entered a

literary scene immersed in the heated debate over the matter of gender, a matter she

addresses only indirectly. Yet a resistance emerges from her texts that responds to the

confines of Victorian gender conventions as well as the imposition of a stable identity

inherent within thefin de sickle project of gender renegotiation. Hobbes' first novel tells

the story of the failed romance between the beautiful rector's daughter, Cynthia

Heathcote, and the brilliant if unpublished writer, Godfrey Provence. After Provence

refuses to abandon his unfinished novel to edit a stale but well-paying magazine, Cynthia

breaks off their engagement and agrees to marry someone else. After her honeymoon,

she admits that she married only because Provence never responded: "I really wrote it in

a temper-he might have read between the lines," she complains. Cynthia had expected

Provence to read, not for what was obvious but for what was "between the lines"-to

read for the possibility of dissonance within meaning, that which is neither immediately









nor wholly comprehensible. Similarly, Hobbes' response to the late-Victorian gender

debates can be read as dissonant, occurring "between the lines," and consequently easily

overlooked. Rather than offer an alternative female identity like many of her fellow

writers were attempting, Hobbes' early novels-Some Emotions and a Moral (1891), The

Sinner 's Comedy (1892), and A Study in Temptations (1893)-resist the notion of a

unitary and knowable identity, and instead affirm the dissonance always within identity

itself.















"HE MIGHT HAVE READ BETWEEN THE LINES": DISSONANT IDENTITY IN
THE EARLY WORKS OF JOHN OLIVER HOBBES

For Pearl Richards Craigie, 1891 was a tumultuous year, full of personal and

professional transformation. After a strained four-year marriage with a husband rumored

to be abusive, unfaithful, and syphilitic, twenty-three-year-old Craigie returned to her

parent's home with her young son. She also brought with her an unfinished manuscript

of a novel she had been working on for a year. Within five weeks, she completed the

second half of the novel, and upon its publication became John Oliver Hobbes, a

pseudonym with which she would author many novels, plays, and short stories before her

early death in 1906. With Some Emotions anda Moral, Hobbes entered a literary scene

immersed in the heated debate over the matter of gender, a matter she addresses only

indirectly. Yet a resistance emerges from her texts that responds to the confines of

Victorian gender conventions as well as the imposition of a stable identity inherent within

thefin de sickle project of gender renegotiation. Hobbes' first novel tells the story of the

failed romance between the beautiful rector's daughter, Cynthia Heathcote, and the

brilliant if unpublished writer, Godfrey Provence. After Provence refuses to abandon his

unfinished novel to edit a stale but well-paying magazine, Cynthia breaks off their

engagement by writing Provence to say that she has agreed to marry her wealthy

neighbor, the adoring but boring Edward Cargill. After her honeymoon, she admits that

she married Edward only because Provence never responded: "I really wrote it in a

temper-he might have read between the lines," she complains. Cynthia had expected









Provence to read, not for what was obvious but for what was "between the lines"-to

read for the possibility of dissonance within meaning, that which is neither immediately

nor wholly comprehensible. Similarly, Hobbes' response to the late-Victorian gender

debates can be read as dissonant, occurring "between the lines," and consequently easily

overlooked. Rather than offer an alternative female identity like many of her fellow

writers were attempting, Hobbes' early novels-Some Emotions and a Moral (1891), The

Sinner 's Comedy (1892), and A Study in Temptations (1893)-resist the notion of a

unitary and knowable identity, and instead affirm the dissonance always within identity

itself.

In the last decades of the nineteenth century, the Woman Question addressed the

demand for a broadening of women's domestic and social roles as well as personal and

political rights, and was vehemently debated in scientific, medical, and social discourses.

In the 1890s, the debate escalated and in large part became centered on the New Woman,

a woman at odds with Victorian social and sexual mores. Female novelists of thefin de

siecle who viewed their work as a political and social engagement over contesting

femininities occupied themselves and their work in a negotiation of female identity.

Despite disparate and sometimes conflicting political leanings and moral codes, New

Woman writers viewed their work as an overt political act, creating a wide variety of

dissident female characters. While the majority of these characters did not champion

women's rights or live openly with men not their husbands (though some certainly did),

they did exhibit an awareness of gender stereotypes and an intent to expose the

restrictions imposed by those stereotypes.









Because Hobbes does not attempt to further women's rights by explicitly

exposing Victorian hypocrisy, as New Woman writers did, scholars have overlooked

Hobbes' attention to the imposition of normative gender expectations on identity. Critics

like Talia Schaffer and Nicola Diana Thompson attribute the lack of current attention to

writers like Hobbes to the pressure felt by scholars to establish the worth of neglected

women writers by proving them "acceptably feminist" (Schaffer 11). Additionally,

Schaffer proposes that aesthetic critics have ignored Hobbes "because her slight, witty

texts seem frivolously feminine" (12). In comparison to New Woman writers, Hobbes'

work seems totally nonpolitical, interested in the medium rather than the social message,

the rendering of characters' lines rather than the importance of speaking out against the

confines of conventional gender roles. To explain this apparent lack of interest, Schaffer

situates Hobbes as a female aesthete-a member of an "alternative aestheticism"

intended for a popular rather than elite audience-and consequently more interested in

form and the aesthetics of writing. Though Schaffer only briefly mentions Hobbes, she

does cite the female aesthetes' "avoidance of politics" as an "interesting political

formation, a resistance to the reductive categories of feminist/antifeminist, a silence that

ought to be heard" (15). While Hobbes' style poses a resistance to the dialectics of New

Woman writing, I do not propose to read Hobbes' "silence," but to read what is "between

the lines"-that which is dissonant and therefore cannot be made to fit cleanly into the

dominant discourse on gender.

Hobbes' novels never declare a direct challenge to the hegemonic structure of

gender and instead offer what Julian Wolfreys terms affirmative resistance, a resistance

that is neither dialectical nor oppositional but instead is indirect and unpredictable.









Rather than draw clear lines and take sides, affirmative resistance blurs the lines,

sidesteps them, opening up the possibility for the affirmation of dissonance. This "side

step," then, "establishes indirectly the ground for further movements and strategic

gambits" (12). And in Hobbes' novels this "side step" occurs "between the lines,"

opening up the possibility for readers to see the transgressive potential always embedded

within her glib social comedies, contrived plots, and amusing epigrams. Hobbes veils

any definitive meaning of her stories by loading them with mockery, surface detail, and

witty wordplay. The rhetoric of affirmative resistance, then, can resist the imposition of

reading after a stable identity and affirm the dissonance within meaning that emerges

between so-called stable identities. Reading for the possibility of dissonance, rather than

interpretive closure, allows us to read Hobbes' texts as resistant rather than completely

nonpolitical. Though her characters cannot be read as dissident, they can be read as

dissonant-exhibiting that which cannot be accounted for or incorporated into a reading

looking for stable meaning. In this case, I will read for the dissonance within identity,

particularly the impossibility of an identity prescribed by gender.

While Hobbes was by no means a feminist in the sense that she ever rallied for

"women's rights," she could not have been unaware of the steady debates being waged in

both novels and periodicals. A voracious reader from a young age, Hobbes read the

"classics"-Shakespeare, Milton, Bronte, George Eliot, George Meredith, Robert

Browning-as well as popular writers like Ouida and Rhoda Broughton. As a child she

was also allowed to remain present when her parents had company, and would therefore

have been exposed to their discussion of current events ranging from journalism to

religion to suffrage. Though Hobbes wrote copiously as a child-letters, short stories,









plays-her novel writing began after she was married. As a young, unhappily married

mother-later Hobbes referred to her married life as "living with a boa constrictor ... To

hate anyone as I hated him was in itself a torment" (qtd. in Maison 4)-Hobbes would

have been, at the very least, interested in the debates regarding women and marriage. In

an 1904 article called "Dowries," Hobbes seems to call upon her own experiences as a

young wife in order to criticize the enormous pressure put on young women to marry. In

the article she also accuses popular literature-songs, books, plays-of misrepresenting

married life: "As a result of this complete divorce between commonsense and common

romance, the saddest faces in England are not the faces of the middle-aged and old, but

the faces of the young" (qtd. in Harding 391). Hobbes describes the ordinary

misunderstanding of marriage in The Sinner 's Comedy: "To a young girl marriage only

means a trousseau and a honeymoon; the trousseau she can describe to a flounce; she

imagines the honeymoon as a flirtation under the blessing of the Church" (6). And A

Study in Temptations warns that "a girl takes so much risk ... when she marries. Her

very innocence is, in a measure, against her" (151). These early novels are both a

product of the disappointments of married life (caused in part, perhaps, by the illusions of

"common romance") and the increasingly insistent questioning of conventional

understandings of gender at the end of the Victorian era.

Despite her lack of overt politics, Hobbes reveals her interest in gender and its

relationship to identity and everyday life through her choice of subject matter, centering

her stories on the relations between men and women, the disappointments of love, and the

failure of marriage. After Cynthia's marriage to Edward in Some Emotions and a Moral,

Provence marries his cousin Grace whom he does not love (or even know very well) and









who does not (readers later find out) love him. Grace, after realizing being married to

Provence is not what she had anticipated, makes plans to run away with Provence's best

friend, Golightly. Desperate after realizing that not only has he made love to his best

friend's wife but also that he is not even in love with her, Golightly shoots himself.

Similar mismatching, undefined feelings, and tragic endings occur in The Sinner's

Comedy, where, though it is not quite clear how the characters feel about each other, it is

clear that no one ends up with the one he or she loves: Anna loves (or at least likes)

Richard, but Richard falls in love (or at least appears to fall in love) with Emily, who

likes Sacheverell, but Sacheverell loves Anna, but Anna is already married and will die

before Sacheverell can declare his love for her. Only A Study in Temptations has a

conventionally happy ending-all seem to end up with the "right" partner and the

younger women, Jane and Sophia, have children. But the tidy ending is beset with

several jokes that destabilize the happy ending: Lady Margaret, still young and in good

physical health, finally dies of her broken heart (to her joy!),1 and a young couple finds

marital harmony because the husband is so easily manipulated, totally unconscious of his

wife's ability to refute "his opinion on the due subjection of women to their lords" (208).

While Hobbes may not engage in a clear political campaign against the problems of

marriage, discontented characters, their unhappy relationships, and the narrator's

mockery of the whole game of love serve up a critique similar to that of the New Woman

writers-the old scripts were not working anymore.




1 Portraying widowed characters as the only ones still in love with their spouses seems to be a favorite joke
of Hobbes. The only happily married man inA Sinner's Comedy is no longer even married, but a widower
who looks forward to death so he can be rejoined with his wife, despite the fact that he has two young
daughters with no one but himself to provide for them. InA Study in Temptations, Sophia's father jumps to
his death after his young wife dies in childbirth.









Hobbes insisted in a 1901 interview with drama critic William Archer, "It is

entirely unphilosophical to lay down hard-and-fast negations for either half of the human

race. Character is infinitely various, and the possibilities of action inexhaustible

("Conversation" 59, 60). Despite this insistence on infinite variety and inexhaustible

possibility, many of her early characters-especially her female characters-have much

in common with each other as well as familiar "types" found in popular literature.

Heroines are most likely young and beautiful, enigmatic and bewitching, in love (or at

least involved) and often with the same man. Heroes are handsome and intense,

intelligent and talented, sensitive to beauty and easily bewitched. In The Sinner 's

Comedy, Anna, the beautiful and talented young painter separated from her scoundrel of

a husband, loses Richard when he inherits a peerage and feels the pressure to marry.

Despite the "unwilling admiration" Richard feels for Anna-for her "majestic" bearing

and tender and mocking gray eyes (28, 29)-he falls in love with the flirtatious widow

Emily, or rather what her class and money can offer him. De Boys in A Study in

Temptations momentarily forgets Jane, his beautiful childhood sweetheart at home, when

he meets Sophia, a talented actress whose "sparking radiance" and "baffling smile"

"dazzl[e]" him (59, 60). In these characters we can see Hobbes utilizing recognizable

female "types"-"new" types of women such as the intellectual and artist, and the more

traditionally Victorian types of the proper young lady and coquette-types her audience

would have been familiar with and would therefore have evoked certain preconceptions

regarding personality and behavior.

This recognition initially encourages readings that impose stable, ready-made

identities onto these characters: we know Anna because we know how those artistic









types are; we understand Emily because we know a thing or two about flirts; we "guess"

what Jane will do because there is only so much a Victorian lady can do; and we

recognize Sophia because all those actresses are the same, or at the very least similar.

However, this recognition also points to the limits of labels such as "artist," "flirt,"

"lady," and "actress" as Hobbes plays with and distorts these types, opening a space for

resisting the imposition of reading for stable identity. For example, Sophia is not the

only woman capable of bewitching men in A Study in Temptations: even conventionally

well-mannered (at least when she grows up) Jane puts a "spell" both on her future

husband De Boys Mauden and her cousin with her "atmosphere of strength and

sweetness which swept over ... [them] like a mountain breeze" (31). And in The

Sinner 's Comedy, the serious and hardworking Anna is just as concerned with her

appearance, particularly her wardrobe, as fashionable and flirtatious Emily. The attention

given to Emily's awareness of dress serves as a critique of her disingenuousness.

Recently widowed, Emily artfully defers answering Richard's declarations of love with

"gentle sigh[s]"; then she glances[] down at her half-mourning-designed by Worth,"

the narrator points out (25). When Emily weeps upon the realization that Sacheverell

will never love her, "she pauses] ... to wonder what she could wear down to dinner"

(120). On the other hand, the attention drawn to Anna's clothing never seems to point

out anything resembling Emily's brand of self-absorption, and instead serves as a

compliment to her artistic beauty. The difference between their concern with appearance

is that Anna's interest in clothing initially seems attributable to a deep, aesthetic

sensibility, while Emily's interest is wholly attributable to a selfish, superficial nature.

But deeming Anna's love for beautiful clothes a virtue and Emily's a shortcoming









because of the types they fall into hardly makes sense, and reminds readers that

conclusions drawn from types can be off base.

There is also a restlessness among Hobbes' characters that complicates the

designation of these types as a blueprint for identity, particularly a homogenous

femininity. Both Cynthia and her aunt, Lady Theodosia, in Some Emotions and a Moral,

reject the possibility of cataloging women or reading them as types. When Provence has

his first opportunity to talk with Cynthia at dinner with her family, he catches a glimpse

of her "grim" sense of humor and calls her a cynic. She responds, "Oh no ... I haven't

got a label" (33). Provence, with his "passion for analysis" (27) here presumes to read

her character, to determine who she is-and, remembering the couple's unhappy ending,

he gets it wrong. Later, an even more cynical Lady Theodosia (who is often-

incorrectly-tagged as unfeeling) blames Provence's silence at Cynthia's letter on men's

tendency to label women as a way to understand them: "Men divide women into so

many types, and when they see a woman they put her down as a representative of one of

these. They like to think that if she is type a she will do this, if type b that, if type c the

other, and so on. It is very absurd, of course, for no two women are the same any more

than one wave is like another" (74). According to Lady Theodosia's theory, Provence

allowed his analytical powers and convenient categories to determine his decisions. His

reliance on reductive categories causes him to lose the only woman he will ever love.

While Cynthia and Lady Theodosia are both emblematic of a "type a" or "type

b"-evocative of the familiar female types of the beautiful, manipulative flirt and the

experienced, no nonsense English matron-they also resist the imposition presented by

these types, bluntly refusing the logic of categorization and its attempts to fix a stable









identity for them. And the narrative voice agrees with the impossibility of a coherent,

stable identity, acknowledging in A Sinner's Comedy that Anna's appearance exemplifies

"the contradiction in terms which was the strange characteristic of the whole woman"

(29). Hobbes' characters may inhabit familiar roles-husbands and wives, matrons and

coquettes, artists and intellectuals-but she plays with them until they are beyond

recognition. This play opens up the possibility of reading for dissonance.

Despite the fact that relying on types is a misleading way of determining meaning,

it is sometimes the only way offered to readers to draw conclusions. Characters continue

to resist any attempts to install upon them a stable identity through their refusal (or

inability) to articulate the entirety of their feelings or intentions. One such suppression

occurs in Some Emotions and a Moral after Provence again rethinks his promise to

Cynthia to edit the magazine "The Present Age." Readers must blunder through three

pages of dialogue without any glimpses into the couples' thoughts or intrusions by the

narrator, unsure whether anything she says reflects how she actually feels as she renews

her campaign: "You have disappointed me. [ .] I despise a man who breaks his word

and makes explanations afterwards. [. .] Are you trying to experiment with me to see

how long my patience will last!" (56-58). Provence asks for more time to "prove"

himself as a novelist, appealing to her sense ofjustice: "You do not care how ashamed I

may be afterwards? [ .] I would die for you-but I cannot say yes" (58). Cynthia,

however, is committed to the idea of marrying a successful writer, not a man whose life's

work might consist of an unfinished novel that no one will ever read. As a manipulative

flirt, her intent would most likely and almost entirely stem from the joy of "her triumph"

(56), the beginning of her aim to completely "manage" her husband. But Cynthia is also









the daughter of a Rector rather than a lord, and since no inheritance awaits her, her

potential husband's career prospects would have to play a role in her decision to marry

(what will we live on, she asks). If her method is sheer manipulation for the sake of

control, then we cannot take anything she says during the course of the argument as

sincere, but instead said to produce a desired effect. When she asks him, "Why do you

try me so and make me say things-in anger? Do you think I enjoy saying them?" (58),

readers do not quite know the answer. Reading this scene as evidence only of Cynthia's

wily ways is undermined by economic realities, leaving the reader caught between two

conclusions: Cynthia is either shamelessly manipulative or stubbornly practical. This

lack of access to characters' thoughts or "true" feelings means that readers are denied

access to instant comprehensibility of characters' "real" selves.

Characters' refusal to reveal the "true" feeling behind their words is compounded

by the narrator's intermittent silence on matters, and the reader is left without any

mastery of the dialogue's meaning. Before withdrawing, the narrator introduces us to

Cynthia and Provence's quarrel by alluding to a specific dynamic between the two:

"There was never a Samson so strong but he met his Delilah: it is only by the mercy of

God that Delilah has occasionally a conscience" (56). If we read Cynthia, as the narrator

suggests, as a Delilah, what, then, are her intentions? Is she, like Delilah, intent on

destroying Provence and his genius or does she merely want her way? Is she worried

about what they will live on or is this just a Delilah-like tactic? These questions remain

unanswered because the narrator leaves the reader to make sense of the dialogue without

any commentary or insight into Cynthia's thoughts beyond typecasting her as a wicked









archetypal woman-and by now readers are becoming aware that a reliance on types can

be an inadequate way to read.

In the next scene, Cynthia is again cast in the role of an archetype-this time two

contradictory Biblical characters: "There was never a Rachel who had not lurking

possibilities of the Jezebel, nor a Jezebel who had nothing of the Rachel-in weak

moments" (62). As Cynthia regrets forcing Provence to give up his novel, the reader is

left to figure out what the Rachel/Jezebel remark means. Cynthia agrees that she is "not a

servant-maid or a Rachel, to wait for her lover while he served his time" (63), but, while

she doe not wait for him in the usual sense, her love for him will endure (which will not

stop either of them from marrying partners they do not love). For the moment, though,

she seems to be the Jezebel, at least according to the narrator. But is Cynthia so

unscrupulous and unprincipled as to warrant a title that indicates an infamous harlot?

Ultimately, these familiar types and archetypes are entirely flat-so absolutely fixed that

they become comically narrow rather than effective identifiers. Here we are reminded of

Lady Theodosia: women-and men-cannot be reduced to "type a" or "type b." And

when a type is imposed, it shows itself not only to be limiting, but also misleading.

Cynthia exceeds the limits of the entirety of identities projected on her; readers can never

know which one she is because no one identity can account for who she is.

Of course, all of this assumes that we are even dealing with the "real" Cynthia, for

within these texts are endless performances and poses: Sophia is an actual stage actress

in A Study in Temptations, Cynthia's "art was more convincing than the average woman's

nature" (93) in Some Emotions and a Moral, and Emily plays the part (albeit

perfunctorily) of the grieving widow in The Sinner's Comedy. Sometimes such









performance operates as necessary social skills, the type of polite posturing that occurs all

the time in social settings. When Provence dines with the Heathcotes in Some Emotions

and a Moral, all assume poses. For Lady Theodosia, the home's designated hostess,

posing indicates a kind of social coping mechanism: she "had many methods in

conversation; the artless and ignorant style she found most useful for the subjection of

Elderly Science" (29). Cynthia's elder sister, Agatha, always lady-like and well

mannered, politely pretends to be interested in Provence during pre-dinner conversation,

and is relieved when dinner is announced. Cynthia, although she has twice encountered

Provence, officially meets him equipped with appropriate feminine props: "She wore a

gown of less artless design than her white muslin of the night before: her hair was more

fashionably arranged, there was a franker suggestion of the world, the flesh, and the devil

about her whole person" (28). Even Provence, usually so candid, has "grown self-

conscious" because of his attraction to Cynthia: "To conceal his embarrassment,

therefore, he had assumed an unfelt stoicism-not so much to deceive Cynthia as

himself' (28, 29).

But the posing quickly escalates to absurd levels when Provence inhabits a role he

is not even aware of, as the dinner party has confused him with his dead father, an

Egyptologist. In order to draw Provence into conversation, Sir James Cargill, the

Heathcote's neighbor, pretends to be learned about Egypt: "Now as to the Egyptians.

They are an interesting race one would be an ass not to feel a certain amount of awe

at the antiquity of the Pyramids," he says (36). Provence responds that he knows little

about the subject (since he is not after all an Egyptologist), but that he is sure that Sir

James has "studied the subject seriously." Sir James answers: "'Merely as a dilettante'









... As he had spent some twenty-five minutes that morning skipping through 'Egypt' in

the Encyclopaedia, he felt that in describing himself as a dilettante he had, if anything,

underrated his knowledge." At this misunderstanding of Provence's identity, Sir James

strikes a pose so ridiculous that the reader cannot help but be aware that what we observe

does not guarantee we can read a character's authentic or absolute self.

At other times, performance operates as a means of critiquing human artificiality

and insincerity. In The Sinner 's Comedy, after Sir Richard has ended his relationship

with Anna, a woman ill-suited for him because of her already married and lower-class

state, he falls deeply in love with wealthy, widowed Emily, or at least the "Notion of

her"-her beauty, her youth, her wit, and her money (21). As he makes love to her,

"Dimly it occurred to him that he had said something of the kind once before-to Anna"

(80). With Emily, Richard merely repeats his previous performance as Anna's lover.

Later, as he tries to convince Emily to marry him, he embraces her with "a movement of

such grace, indicative of passion" (124). Whether or not the embrace was indicative of

true passion is not noted, for what matters more is that his performance as a devoted lover

is believable. And his performance is so effective that Emily's "No" to his marriage

proposal-for she is in love with Sacheverell-becomes mixed with Richard's "Yes."

The result "was no syllable" and a marriage performed "by a Bishop, assisted by an

Archdeacon" (125). But perhaps Emily deserves a husband like Richard, for she too

behaves in a manner only "indicative" of mourning. After her first husband's death, she

"went in mournful weeds, and ordered orchids to be placed on his grave twice a week.

Her mother suggested, 'At all events, for the present"' (6). Yet this indifference seems

appropriate for a husband who "had been so very kind and so very stupid."









Similar attention to perfunctory mourning occurs in Some Emotions and a Moral

where, after Edward Cargill's death, his house "was a house of mourning. That is to say,

the blinds were pulled down and the servants crept about in new black dresses." Here the

narrative qualifies what "house of mourning" means-it is a matter of appearance rather

than emotion. And despite the appearance of mourning indicated by pulled blinds, his

widow and her sister sit in a "brightly furnished room .. the blinds were up, and the sun

poured in" (87). This attention to the various kinds of character performance begins to

make readers suspicious, aiding them in becoming receptive to dissonant rather than

stable identity. Accommodating character performance means accommodating the

possibility that we cannot "know" or have complete access to a character. And it is this

denial of complete access to meaning that prevents the possibility of a unitary and

knowable identity, and instead affirms the dissonance always within identity itself.

Because of the constant possibility of posing, character behavior is not always a

reliable source for uncovering what is "underneath." But an act of textual revision

illustrates that neither is the narrator always reliable. There is a strange moment in Some

Emotions and a Moral when the narrator reveals an overt act of narrative rewriting.

When Lady Theodosia bids Cynthia not to trifle with Provence's emotions, "Cynthia

laughed or-to be truthful at the expense of euphony-chuckled" (48), it is a reminder

that even the narration is capable of deceit. Here, "truth" is sacrificed in order to create a

"euphony," or, more precisely, a suitable femininity, reminding us that the narrative

represents only a pretense of reality, for we have seen the curtain drawn back and the

backstage-the behind-the-scene action that supposedly does not exist-exposed.









Even when the expectations of identity supplied by the narrator are realized-

when the characters act according to the type of person the narrator deems them to be-

both the characters and the narrator provide moments that undermine understandings that

seemed settled. Hobbes' characters cannot be stabilized by the act of reading because

there always remains something that readers cannot account for or anticipate. In Some

Emotions and a Moral, Grace is not, despite blushing when she mentions Provence's

name in the first chapter, in love with Provence, and instead marries him because she

"wanted his ideas to be given to [her] first" and his audience to get whatever was left

over (83). Agatha, who has "a keen sense of duty and the fitness of things" turns out to

be not so good or proper as she initially appears. Upon the death of her brother-in-law,

her sense of duty is revealed to be merely perfunctory: "May is such an awkward month

for a death-just at the beginning of the season," she comments (88). Though Cynthia

was not happy as Edward's wife, she is genuinely in mourning-her desire to stay in

London and "try to be a little more serious" seems an attempt to atone for her past

triviality and impulsiveness. Upon hearing Cynthia's plans for her widowhood, Agatha

chastises her sister for "always want[ing] to do the most improper thing"-improper only

in the sense that it is an "unheard-of' (89) for a rich widow expected to go abroad so she

can "do anything" without the interference of mourning (88). When Cynthia offers

Agatha an expensive hat-pin, Agatha drops her objection to Cynthia's "improper" plan.

Another character whose seeming propriety is ultimately questionable is Golightly, who

was originally described as having "sentiments more proper than intense" (4). Yet

Golightly betrays Provence when he plans to elope with Grace and then shoots himself in









desperation. Characters are never what they seem to be, always capable of overturning

the expectations set in place for them by the narrator.

Another example of thwarted expectations is the dynamic between secretly

married Wrath and Sophia in A Study in Temptations. Sophia is initially portrayed as

frivolous, flighty, and rather coquettish, while the considerably older Wrath is portrayed

as steady, earnest, and utterly loyal to the girl he adopted as an infant and married as a

young woman. As Sophia throws a tantrum, Wrath, "who had loved Sophia too long, and

loved her too well, not to love also with wisdom" (130), is able to talk to her calmly and

reasonably, responding to the emotions that seem to lie underneath her outburst.

However, after reading a scene between the two-when Sophia, jealous that Lady

Margaret will sit for Wrath's painting, utterly wears her husband out with histrionics,

supposed regret that they married, and complaints of a headache-Wrath's "wisdom" that

enables him to "understand" his young wife seems little more than an inadequate attempt

to placate her. Sophia knows that at one time Wrath had feelings for Lady Margaret, and

she is anxious that the older, intellectual woman is a better match for her genius husband.

As Sophia artfully asks questions she hopes will produce answers with meaning "between

the lines," Wrath hardly even hears her question, much less what lies "between the lines"

of those questions. She leaves the room with the remark that she feels better, and he,

"rejoic[ing] that he had cured her headache ... resumed] his fugue" (83). Wrath, despite

his wisdom and unselfish love, has little idea what Sophia is thinking. "So little do men

know their wives," the narrator confirms.

Neither do readers understand Sophia that well, a misunderstanding assisted by

the lack of narratorial discourse. Her insistence that she refuses to reveal her marriage to









Wrath out of playful disregard for Victorian sensibilities is again an opportunity to

undermine our understanding of their relationship and of Sophia. "I will not be an British

Matron. [... ] Do not expose me to the humiliation of being publicly branded an honest

woman!" she jests, or so her husband thinks (74, 76). Wrath insists that she allow him to

put an end to the rumors circulating around their relationship and announce their

marriage. She refuses again, declaring that both of their careers would be subsumed by

the respectability of domesticity: "if only they once knew the truth, no one would care to

see me act, and your pictures would be called dull." Sophia here is cast as "ever-

varying"-inconstant and unreasonable-and we must wonder why she wants to keep her

marriage a secret since she keeps changing her answer. Yet readers wonder which

explanation is most accurate-certainly her explanation that their careers would suffer

seems plausible, since both she and Wrath are devoted to their work. Her previous

flirting with handsome young scholar de Boys and her accusation that Wrath managed to

make her fall in love with him without her entire understanding of what she was doing

(with his "artful way of implying everything under the sun without uttering a syllable

[81]) seems to substantiate the regret she says she feels now that she is married.

A few chapters later, however, Sophia's character is again complicated when the

narrator reveals "some very necessary information [which] may seem like a digression"

(92): Sophia actually refuses out of typical Victorian female self-sacrifice, because she

does not want the general attitude that he has married beneath him to taint his career, and

suffers the suspicious whispers that follow them. As the narrator (finally) tells us, she

"would have renounced all things and followed him gladly-did he wish it-into

obscurity and the suburbs. It was because she honestly believed that his social position









would suffer if their marriage were made known, that she pretended to hold such

eccentric and unfeminine view on the subject of a fair name" (93). But the narrator has

finally revealed this information so late in the story that it does not settle the issue,

coming too late to provide us a position of dominance from which to read. And despite

the fact that the narrator insists that she is ready for any amount of sacrifice for the sake

of Wrath, she immediately pursues de Boys and very nearly runs away with him because

she is jealous over her husband's attention to Lady Margaret. When she decides to

abandon her elopement plans, she seems not to know why she was leaving in the first

place and blames her behavior entirely on the possibility she suffers from consumption:

"it is well known that consumptives are not responsible for their conduct!" she claims

(177). In a way, though, she is unwell since she suffers from the Victorian "condition"

of pregnancy. Based on the identity supplied by the narrator, her actions are not always

explainable, even by the narrator.

Reading for stability is also subverted by a surprise event-something that is

unexpected, unanticipatable, that does not fit into the expectations provided by the

narrator or the character's previous actions or words. After a drawn out tug-of-war over

Provence's career, Cynthia relishes that she has won a fiance with such a promising

future. But her overall attitude toward the relationship is surprising considering the

amount of scheming she has undertaken: as to the "novelty of 'being engaged,' she had

classed it in her list of tried-and-found-wanting experiments before the end of the first

fortnight. She found her lover's interest in all that concerned her a decided nuisance"

(59). Such annoyance on Cynthia's part is amusing, but it is after Provence leaves for

town that she exceeds our expectations as someone we already know to be impulsive and









even a little improper. She "rushed into the drawing room .. and executed a wild but

extremely graceful war-dance in front of the long mirror. When she was quite breathless

she flung open the piano ... [and] thumped with all her might a barbarian valse by a

barbarian and unpronounceable composer [. .] 'I am so tired of being cultured,' said

Cynthia, as she wound up her performance with shrieking chromatics in contrary motion"

(61). Laughter, with its ability to disrupt and delegitimate even the most prevailing

discourse, is "one of the sounds of affirmative resistance" (Wolfreys 97). A comic event

such as this and the laughter it produces unsettles our position of dominance-who saw

that coming? And who can predict what is next?

Even the serious and studious Provence utilizes laughter as a means of resistance.

Agatha, upon learning that Provence is a writer, questions whether he had "provided

himselff with books" on the train ride, as a "delicate way of showing that his fame and

cultured tastes were not unknown to her." Provence responds with nonsense, a far cry

from the language, seriousness, and severity that his dialogue with Godfrey revealed: "I

amused myself by looking out of the window .. although I did just glance at a very

diverting tale about a French poodle and a bishop in The Piccadilly XN i\ \" (31). His

comment is not only inappropriate, but probably insulting. Though the text says that he

replies "innocently" (31), such an unexpected and incongruous answer belies Provence's

possible intentions of refusing to acknowledge Agatha's claim at being cultured. Though

the reader is not as taken aback as Agatha, it is still a moment that produces a small spark

of laughter. Provence's ridiculous response is an example of the power of the "side step"

of affirmative resistance.









Hobbes might define these moments as implausible: moments that are

misunderstood by readers as artificial, or aesthetically flawed, because (mistaken)

introspection has interfered with their ability to read for the possibility of dissonance. In

her interview with Archer she says, "How often you hear a man say, 'No man would do

this,' and a woman, 'No woman would do that,' when they mean nothing more than "I

would never do this or that.' The chances are they are mistaken, even as regards

themselves. [ .. .] Speaking for myself, I hate plausibility. No writer is so little plausible

as Balzac. His people are as full of surprises as our own most intimate friends!"

("Conversation" 59, 60). In the foreword to A Study in Temptations, Hobbes quotes

Aristotle to make a similar point: "To opinion, or what is commonly said to be, may be

referred even such things as are improbable and absurd; and it may also be said that

events of that kind are, sometimes, not really improbable; since it is probably that many

things should happen contrary to probability." Hobbes understands the impossibility of

predicting what a character will say or do since even "real" people are always full of

surprises, and consequently she creates characters and stories that are always open to the

possibility of surprise. And within these stories emerge moments that affirm the

dissonance always present within identity. The portrayal of a man or woman is always

colored by the author's idea-as well as the reader's idea-of femininity or masculinity.

It would be impossible, then, to portray a man or woman-even ones that resist social

conventions in an attempt to rewrite gender scripts-without imposing on him or her a

whole series of expected identities. Her characters stick to the familiar scripts as they

also do a little ad lib that takes readers by surprise, and affirms the impossibility of a

manageable and knowable identity.









Misreadings, or to be more accurate, missed readings, occur and

misunderstandings arise when characters attempt to enforce assumptions about each

others' identities, again alerting readers to the results of imposition of discourses in order

to read for coherence. Characters must suffer the imposition of stereotypes as others read

and attempt to make sense of them. The failure of Cynthia and Provence's relationship

can be blamed entirely on a missed reading. Provence cannot read what is behind or

beyond Cynthia's words. Cynthia's decision to write the letter is based on the fact that

she and her aunt attempt to read Provence and what he can offer Cynthia through the

ideological structure of "genius." They hypothesize that since he is a genius-and,

according to Lady Theodosia, "geniuses are never practical"-that he requires direction

in order for him to prove his talent. When he refuses such direction, Cynthia reverts to

her assumptions about "genius" rather than what she wants to believe about the man she

loves. Faced with an insecure future (a point duly emphasized by her aunt), she breaks

off the engagement and agrees to marry rich, jolly, intolerable Edward Cargill. It is

ironic that she had expected Provence to "read between the lines," to see that she had let

her temper make her decisions, because her reading of Provence never allowed for

dissonance either. But why should he not be able to "read between the lines"? Godfrey

is a writer, a student of human emotions. But not, after all, a close reader. Despite his

genius, he turns out to be a little dense. Provence greets the letter with silence and

immediately marries his cousin, Grace Godfrey, though we will never be told why.

Despite the fact that Lady Theodosia is aware of the problems of categorization as

a way to predict someone's response, she still imposes expectations on Cynthia and

Provence based on their types. In another ironic moment she says, "these literary and









artistic people are very dangerous. You never find two alike, and the only certain thing

about them is that ultimately they will do something to make everybody uncomfortable"

(48). It is Lady Theodosia who influences Cynthia to give up Provence, an act that leads

both of them to unhappiness. These stories become cautionary tales about the missed

readings produced when characters attempt to read after stable identities by relying on

assumptions and familiar type. The unhappiness caused by these missed readings affirms

the necessity of "reading between the lines," of being open to and allowing for what does

not fit, what cannot be accounted for, what cannot be explained away, and what cannot be

anticipated.

Hobbes' men and women are never radical in the sense that they offer an

alternative masculine or feminine identity or present a direct challenge to the hegemonic

structure of gender, and instead usually correspond to stereotypes. But they always

exceed these stereotypes, behaving in ways often unexplainable, unanticipatable, and

inconsistent with the "label" put on them-man, woman, husband, wife, artist,

intellectual, matron, coquette. In the foreword to the Unwin Edition of The Sinner 's

Comedy, Hobbes writes:

Any Author to Any Reader:

Reader. But where are the Unities?

Author. In life there are no Unities, but three Incomprehensibles: Destiny, Man,

and Woman.

When Hobbes' characters exceed labels, types, and categorization, they expose the

impositions of gender even as the category was being redefined or renegotiated by New






24


Woman writers. Such renegotiation still belies a desire to create stable categories. To

talk about gender, Hobbes might say, is to always impose a limit.
















LIST OF REFERENCES


Harding, Mildred Davis. Air-bird in the Water: The Life and Works ofPearl Craigie
(John Oliver Hobbes). Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996

Heilmann, Ann. New Woman Fiction: Women Writing First-Wave Feminism. London:
Macmillan Press Ltd., 2000.

Hobbes, John Oliver. "Conversation III. With Mrs. Craigie (John Oliver Hobbes)."
Real Conversations. William Archer. London: W. Heinemann, 1904.

-The life of John Oliver Hobbes told in her correspondence ii i/h numerous friends;
ii ith a biographical sketch by her father John Morgan Richards. London: J.
Murray, 1911.

-. The Sinner's Comedy. New York: Cassell Publishing Company, 1892.

Some Emotions and a Moral. 1891. In The Tales of John Oliver Hobbes. London,
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--. A Study in Temptations. New York: Cassell Publishing Company, 1893.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Ariel began reading later than most of her friends-she struggled with the alphabet

displayed above the first grade blackboard (later it was learned she needed glasses) until

one day the letters came together. She excitedly jumped into the world of books and

from then on she was never without one. Her somewhat easy-going parents let her read

everywhere. Her vacation bags always tipped the scales with an abundance of books.

Blessed with a father touched with wanderlust, Ariel began moving around at about the

same time she hit that preteen awkward stage, and consequently spent even more time

reading (and less time dealing with those who learned to read before she did, but who

never seemed to read anymore). Unable to decide what to do after high school and bored

out of her mind after being snowed in for three days, she picked a college crammed with

palm trees out of a brochure, dragging her parents with her from cattle country to balmy

beaches. Convinced that the corporate world was not even a necessary evil, she applied

to graduate school with little idea of what was in store for her. Fortunately, each step

whets her appetite for more. And the journey continues.