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1 A NECESSARY INFLUENCE: THE VICTORIAN NE W WOMAN AND THE MIDDLECLASS FAMILY, 1868-1897 By LISA HAGER A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2008
2 2008 Lisa Hager
3 To Nicole Hager Hunter, whose sisterly mentorship has always guided me; and to Adeline Medley Hunter, whom I hope to guide as she begins her life.
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This project on the New Wom an came to fruition under the guid ance and support of Dr. Chris Snodgrass, to whom I am deeply grateful for his belief in me and in this dissertation. Moreover, I want to thank Dr. Pamela Gilber t for her excellent insight, feedback, and encouragement throughout this process. The ot her members of my dissertation committee, Dr. Judy Page and Dr. Louise Newman, and, for a time, Dr. Julian Wolfreys, also made this project possible through their he lpful comments and questions. Th ey have all challenged and shaped me as a writer and scholar. This dissertation has been financially s upported by numerous scholarships through the University of Florida, including the Department of Englishs Ed win C. and Mary Kirkland-Johns Doctoral Fellowship, the College of Liberal Ar ts and Sciences O. Ruth McQuown Graduate Scholarship, and the University Womens Club Sc holarship. Also, the Department of Englishs Edwin C. and Mary Kirkland-Johns Travel Award enabled me to take a research trip to England, for which I am extremely indebted, both for th e research I did at the British Library, the University of Cambridges libraries, and the Univer sity of Oxfords Bodleian Library as well as for the opportunity to experience first-hand so much of Victorian culture in Englands museums and architecture. I would also like to thank the many wonderful scholars associat ed with the Eighteenthand Nineteenth-Century British Women Writers Asso ciation, who have acted as a sounding board for so many of the ideas now fully developed in th is dissertation as well as role models of graciousness and collegiality. I am also very thankful for the feedback and comments on numerous drafts and the pers onal support and friendship of the members of Dr. Gilberts Victorian studies dissertation seminar, Madhura Bandyopadhay, Tom Bragg, Sarah Bleakney, Denise Guirdry, Ariel Gunn, Leeann Hunter Dr. Heather Milton, and Amy Robinson.
5 On a personal note, I would like to offer my deep appreciation and gratitude to my family and friends, without whom I would never have fini shed this project nor retained my sanity. My mother, Eleanor Hager, and my sister and other-mother, Nicole Hager Hunter, have nurtured me and given me tough love throughout my whole life. My brother, Sean Hager, has time and time again solved a variety of technical crises duri ng this project. In addi tion, my father, Richard Hager, has offered me much-needed financia l support on a number of occasions. Julie Sinn Cassidy has talked through so many ideas and offe red so much general encouragement from the beginning to the end of this project that I can never fully thank her. I will be forever grateful to Anne Frances for keeping me sane during the last years of this project. Also, Leeann Hunter deserves many thanks for her invaluable assistance in delivering the final draft of my dissertation to the committee and note-taking during my defense. Ondi Crino, Lynne Goldman, Ana Matkovic, Vanessa Pagan, Darci Pappano, Jessica Peet, Kim Stewart, and Windy Wood have all helped me in ways to numerous to lis t here, for which I am deeply thankful.
6 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................................7 CHAP TER 1 INTRODUCTION....................................................................................................................9 2 PERSONAL AND LEGAL DEATH: THE PR OTO-NEW WOMA N AND MARRIED WOMENS PROPERTY RIGHTS........................................................................................ 33 3 THE PROTO-NEW WOMAN AND THE MAINTANENCE OF PROPERTY: KATE VAVASOR IN ANTHONY TR OLLOPES CAN YOU FORGIVE HER? ............................47 4 THE PROTO-NEW WOMAN AND THE ACQUI SITION OF FAMIL Y PROPERTY: ETHELBERTA CHICKEREL IN THOMAS HARDYS THE HAND OF ETHELBERTA ........................................................................................................................70 5 IN WANT OF A NEW WOMANS ADVICE: MIDDLE-C LASS WOMEN AND MODERN CAPITAL............................................................................................................. 97 6 FLIRTING WITH DISASTER: SPECUL ATION ON T HE STOCK EXCHANGE AND THE MARRIAGE MARKET IN ELLA HEPWORTH DIXONS MY FLIRTATIONS .....107 7 THE NEW WOMAN AND HE R ODD SISTERS: THE INTERSECTIONS OF WORK, C APITAL, AND SYMPATHY IN GEORGE GISSINGS THE ODD WOMEN .131 8 THE NEW WOMAN AND TH E ECONOMICS OF DESIRE AND FRIENDSHIP .......... 163 9 THE SHRIEKING SISTERHOOD: SE XUAL INVERSION, REFORM WORK, AND SISTERHOOD IN RHODA BROUGHTONS DEAR FAUSTINA ...........................173 LIST OF REFERENCES.............................................................................................................212 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................................................................................221
7 Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy A NECESSARY INFLUENCE: THE VICTORIAN NEW WOMAN AND THE MIDDLE-CLASS FAMILY, 1868-1897 By Lisa Hager May 2008 Chair: Chris Snodgrass Major: English Despite the tendency of Victorian as well as current commentators on the New Woman to locate her almost exclusively in the 1880s and 1890s, the New Women discourse that would coalesce into this much debated and often vilified cultural figure was already being disseminated throughout Victorian society in the late 1860s an d early 1870s. As I argue throughout each of the chapters in this project, that di scourse was most often represente d in novels, a genre already so concerned with identity and selfhood, through womens agency or the lack thereof. The central critical intervention that this study makes in New Women criticism is in reimagining the New Woman in terms of the Victorian family rather than a single woman so as to consider New Women discourse in terms of the middle-class famil y, especially the peer-to-peer relationships that women established with other women within the family. Indeed, as I demonstrate throughout this proj ect, the trope of the New Wo man molding her younger sisters was part of New Women discourse from its very beginnings and provided Victorians with a way to both explore and often repress her influence a nd the New Woman herself. The mentorship of a young middle-class woman by a New Woman or prot o-New Woman was contextualized in terms of the familial relationship of sister because sisterhood, for middle-class women whose sphere of influence was narrow, was womens most power ful peer relationship with other women. New
8 Women discourse, even in its early stages in the 1870s, mobilizes sisterhood by means of an actual sister or sister figure who is a New Woman. Though th is bond would become increasingly problematic in the late-century as the New Woman herself became increasingly dangerous, sisterhood and sister-like friendships enable you ng woman characters to enact the Victorian novels narrative of self developm ent and maturation within the c ourtship narrative and is thus a key part of the survival of the middle-class fa mily as the young womans marriage at the end of the novel recreates that kinship structure. From the mid century forward, New Women di scourse acts as a way to cathartically represent womens growing critique of their pos ition in Victorian society within the context of the courtship narrative, enabling the family to incorporate the discursi ve energy of the New Woman herself without being vulnerable to her ch allenge to family power dynamics. As a single woman, the New Woman mentor su ggests an alternative to th e marriage plot through her economic and social agency, and, as we move towards the fin de sicle we see the extent to which that alternative is increasingly depicted as a possible reality for some women. However, even in the late nineteenth century, that agen cy is often domesticated in terms of modified versions of middle-class women s central social roles of wife and mother, demonstrating the continued power of the middle-class nuclear fam ily. Crucially, the discursive cracks in that recuperation, namely the young womans increasi ng insistence on her own agency and the New Womans viable enactment of economic and social independence, suggest the ways in which the New Woman altered the structure of the nuclear family itself. Ne w Women discourse figures this connection between the New Woman and family through the economic relations that contained women within the domestic sphere, specifically womens relationship to property, capital, employment, and cross-class rela tionships with other women.
9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION The Novel of the Modern W oman is one of th e most notable and significant features of the fiction of the day. The Modern Woman novel is not merely a novel written about women, but it is a novel written from the standpoint of Woman and analysed her as if she had an independent existence, and even, strange to say, a soul of her own. This astonishing phase of the evol ution of the race bewild ers some, angers others, and interests all. W.T. Stead, The N ovel of the Modern Woman (64) As Steads comments from his review of several New Woman novels suggest, New Woman fiction was a central part of fin-de-sicle literary culture and Victorian society as a whole. For Stead and most Victorians, the key quality of the genre was its women-centeredness, as its texts addressed women fr om the standpoint of woman and thus argued, implicitly and explicitly, for the notion of Woman as an independent and indi vidual being. Even male writers in the genre sought to depict women as possessing th eir own sense of agency in novels that were largely addressed to women themselves. Such a sh ift in the characterization of fictional women was deeply troubling to Victorians because th ese new representations seemed to call for corresponding changes in the construction of Victor ian femininity outside of literature. Indeed, it is the social influence of these novels, as located in their Ne w Woman characters, that made these novels so shocking to Victorians and so interesting to scholars t oday. As this project demonstrates, the Victorians were especially concerned about the New Womans influence on middle-class women, and that this New-Woman influence was repr esented in the Victorian novel in terms of the sororal bond of the bourgeois nuclear family. Furthermore, this New Women discourse of mentorship, which was closely tied to ideas of womens economic agency, began in mid-century depictions of womens relationship to property and becomes increasingly important to womens social and econom ic survival in the 1890s. What has often drawn critic s, including myself, to New Woman fiction is the extreme reaction to the New Woman of so many Victoria n writers in all genres from journalism to
10 poetry. Whether she was called Novissima, the Modern Woman, the New Woman, the Odd Woman, the Redundant Woman, or the Superfluous Woman, she scandalized Victorians by breaking social taboos, like smoking with the men af ter dinner or riding a bicycle in split skirts, and by insisting on women as an oppressed social group. Her critics considered the New Woman and the literature that depicted her as a symp tomthe new malady as Hugh E. M. Stutfield termed itof Victorian societys growing decadence, immorality, and impending decline, paralleling the last days of the Roman Empire (Tommyrotics 833). In his Psychology of Feminism, Stutfield further elaborates on the New Woman as embodying hysterical and feverish social diseases: Both in life and in literature humanity ha s less need nowadays of mental excitants than of sedati ves (117). Literary representati ons of the New Woman were seen to have very real and very dangerous effects on the health of the Victorian body politic. Despite the tendency of Victorian as well as current commentators to locate the New Woman almost exclusively in the 1880s and 1890s, a similar concern for the health of Victorian society was clear as early the appearance of Eliza Lynn Lintons 1868 The Girl of the Period essays in the Saturday Review which are regularly mentioned in studies of the New Woman today. As has been argued by scholars like Pamela Gilbert, this mid-century popular culture discourse of social disease as located in middl e-class womens bodies was a central part of 1860s and 1870s sensation novels; however, as I argue in the chapters that follow, this discourse also represents the beginnings of New Women discourses focus on the state of Victorian society and the impact that changing models of femininity had upon society. In Lintons 1876 essay Womans Place in Na ture and Society, Linton bemoans the destruction of our beautiful id ea of womanhood as a re sult of womens incr easing pressure to be allowed into professions such as law and medicine (352). Moreove r, in his oft-cited 1868
11 Why are Women Redundant? W.R. Greg argued that the surplus of marriageable women in the upper and middle classes was the result of male emigration, womens desire for luxury, and mens easy access to prostitutionall topics that seem more at home in our conception of the 1880s and 1890s as the decades of social turmoil than the 1870s. Like many writers dealing with the Woman Question in the mid century, Greg po sitions this topic as one of the utmost importance to Victorian England, telling his reader s that, in terms of the problem of redundant women, society must solve or die (340). Both Linton and Greg foreshadow the danger the finde-sicle New Woman posed to the status quo of Vi ctorian society throug h her challenge to conventional middle-class femininity. Even further, the striking similarity between this late midcentury discourse on the Woman Question and New Women discourse in the 1890s demonstrates that New Women discourse be gan circulating much earlier than is usually argued by fin-de-sicle scholars. Thus although the New Woman would not be so named until the 1890s,1 the discourse that would coalesce around this much debated and often vilified cultural figure was already being disseminated throughout Victorian societ y in the late 1860s and early 1870s. The New Woman as a subject of study larg ely comes to us through feminist recovery works of the late 1970s, like Elaine Showalters A Literature of Their Own : British Women Novelists from Bront to Lessing and Gail Cunninghams The New Woman and the Victorian Novel, which sought to recover a genealogy of fe minist novelists. However, by connecting nineteenth-century first-wave fe minism with second wave feminism these critics tended to value and devalue New Woman writers and texts base d on their adherence to twentieth-century feminist ideas and activism. Although clearly a n ecessary step in recovering the work of women writers and establishing New Wome n studies as an important fiel d of Victorian studies, such 1 For elaboration of this point, see page 12, note 1.
12 work positions New Woman literature as important only in how it relates to feminism and possessing no other literary merit or cultural im portance. Hence, while Gail Cunningham argues for the importance of New Woman fiction, she also concedes that th ese writers produced nothing of lasting literary me rit (Gail Cunningham 19). As Ta lia Schaffer and Kathy Alexis Psomiades have remarked, most critics of this in itial recovery generation refused to address the question of their subjects literary value, or ha ve urged the reader to admire political rather literary qualities, or have praised one writer at the expense of others (Shaffer and Psomiades 1415). Such a critical stance also obscures New Woman fictions connections to other literary movements as well as periods other than thos e explicitly connected with twentieth-century feminism and womens writing. As feminist literary criticism itself has matured in the late twentieth century and early years of the twenty-first centur y, so too have critical treatments of the New Woman, working to contextualize New Woman fiction in terms of other ongoing debates in Victorian literary culture. Arguing for New Woman literature s connection to and anticipati on of modernism, Ann Ardis notes, New Woman novelists anticipate the reappr aisal of realism we usually credit to earlytwentieth-century writers (Ardis 3). Though Ar dis does seem to position New Woman fiction as valuable because it relates to the more canonica l literary movement of High Modernism and not for any intrinsic merit of its own, her modernist genealogy does have the effect of expanding our conception of the New Womans influence. Furt hering this critical turn and focusing on key cultural debates in late-ninetee nth-century British culture, scho lars have sought to better understand the New Womans relationship to her literary and cultural milieu. Patricia Murphy considers how the New Woman not onl y required Victorians to revise the feminine ideal but also the notion of time as natural and absolute: In pr otesting the females subordinate position within
13 Victorian society, New Woman advocates implicitly sought to undermine what I term a veritable natural order of time (3). In addition, critic s like Iveta Jusov and LeeAnne M. Richardson have drawn attention to how th e New Woman participated in di scourses of imperialism. This strand of New Women criticism, as Jusov contends, is aimed at problematizing earlier, exclusively gender-centered examinations of fin-de-sicle British womens texts and set upon examining the roles played by colonialism in the development of the New Woman movement (Jusova 6). By positioning New Women discourse as taking part in other late-Victorian cultural debates, the work of these cri tics situates the New Women as figures that represented not only gender instability, but also the general cultur al turmoil of the late nineteenth century. Moreover, this definition of the New Woman as an embodiment of fin de sicle cultural unrest, gender and otherwise, has enabled schola rship to explore the ways in which New Women discourse is itself contra dictory, strategic, and slippery. This harbinger of cultural, social and political transformations, as Ann Heilmann desc ribes the New Woman, made such a splash in late Victorian literature and j ournalism because she attempted to avoid being defined by the middle-class feminine roles of wife and mother (1). In so doing, she stepped outside the rubric of Victorian feminine identity. Sally Ledger argu es, The elusive quality of the New Woman of the fin de sicle clearly marks her as a problem, as a challenge to the apparently homogenous culture of Victorianism which could not find a consis tent language by which she could be categorised and dealt with. All that was certain was that she was dangerous, a threat to the status quo (Ledger The New Woman 11). By being both a literary creatio n as well as cultural figure with which real women could identif y, the New Woman presented the danger of social change as well as the plasticity that comes along with fictional creations. As Talia Schaffer illustrates in her analysis of Sarah Grand and Ouida s 1894 conversation on the subject in The North American
14 Review the New Womans literariness made her malleab le and thus able to fit the diverse needs of a number of authors: Fictionalizing the New Woman allowed her to be defined in any way the author needed, at any time As a myth ic icon, the New Woman evokes an extraordinary range of emotional associations a flood of feelings which can powerfully support whatever goal the writer has channeled it towards (Fool scap 45). The New Womans instability and changeableness made her such a dangerous figure b ecause it allowed Victorians to invest in her any anxiety associated with womens changing role in Victorian society, thus making her a representational nightmar e of Victorian concerns about womens agency. Unsurprisingly, critics have struggled w ith defining the Victorian New Woman, largely because of her intrinsic elusiveness and malleab ility. This critical uneas e with exactly who or what the New Woman is has resulte d in definitions that are at once too narrow and too broad. As Lyn Pykett comments, New Woman, both in ficti on and in fact, was (and remains) a shifting and contested term. It was a mobile and contra dictory figure or signifi er (Foreword xi). The very characteristic that made the New Woman so troubling for Victorians, namely her ability to slip into a variety of discursive shapes, makes it difficult for scholars to define her even now. Critics have resolved this dilemma by broa dly sketching out the commonalties among similar New Woman writers, meaning those with clear political agendas like Sarah Grand and Mona Caird. In the introduction to The New Woman in Fiction and Fact: Fin-de-Sicle Feminisms a collection which takes up this very question, Angelique Richardson and Chris Willis suggest that from the various competing definitions of th e New Woman certain common features emerge: her perceived newness, her autonomous self-def inition and her determination to set her own agenda in developing an alternative vision of the future (Richardson and Willis 12). Also highlighting the New Womans insistence on soci al change, Ann Heilmann remarks that If
15 anything, New Woman fiction constitutes a dire ct, immediate, and unequivocal appeal: for empathy with women, for gender solidarity, for political activism for feminism (9). While these definitions are indeed help ful in that they demonstrate the much-needed inquiry into what constitutes New Woman fiction as a genre that has marked the fiel d of late, they also narrow the field of study texts that have clear calls to political acti on and fully-developed New Woman characters. Though I do not dispute that New Woman fi ction is indeed characterized by such polemics, I do maintain that New Women discours e has broader origins and a broader range of influence over Victorian literature and culture th an such definitions allow. After all, the New Woman did not spring, fully formed, from John Bull s head like Athena from the head of Zeus. In this project, I look at Ne w Women discourse in order to understand the economics of its origins and consequently to better understand it s legacy on the notions of womens agency and the Victorian family. This critical lens borro ws from Jacques Derridas The Retrait of Metaphor, in which he theoretically explores and rhetorically enact s the circulation and slipperiness of metaphor, tel ling his readers that even as he atte mpts to explore these qualities, I drift (103). Thus, while the st udy does look at several works that are largely considered to be New Woman novels, it also focuses on texts that are not part of th e New Woman canon, like late-century aesthetic short stories, mid-centu ry courtship novels, and mid-century social comedies. I have included these novels in order to explore the ways in which the metaphors of New Women discourses have drifte d in these disparate genres and time periods, attempting to understand from where the New Woman arose as well as the function of New Women discourses in their earliest forms.
16 As I argue throughout each of the chapters in this project, Ne w Women discourse was most often represented in novels, a genre alr eady so concerned with identity, selfhood, and womens agency or the lack thereof. To that end, my project answers Talia Schaffers call for a better understanding of how the pe riods writings relate both to mid-Victorian narratives or to nascent modernist and ongoing popular forms of the twentieth cen tury (Non-Canonical Women Novelists 339). Rather than focusing exclusively on the 1880s and 1890s, as do most studies of New Woman fiction, I begin in the 1870s so as to tr ack the beginnings of New Women discourse in the married womens propert y debates in the popular press and the contemporaneous novels that deal with womens property. Focusing on the discourse rather than the genre enables me to tease out the ways in wh ich this discourse was mobilized in the latter mid century and how those texts shaped fin-de-sicle representations of New Woman. Moreover, by speaking about the function a nd development of different strands of New Women discourses, this project tries to avoid making any univers alizing claims about the whole of late-Victorian womens writing or the period s literary culture. Instead I highlight specific texts in which Victorian writers use the econom ic language of various cultural debates to represent womens agency and desire. In approachi ng these texts as taking part in a discourse but not defining them entirely based on that single disc ourse, I want to make clear that each of the novels in this study participate in multiple discou rses and possibly multiple genres as well. Many writers fall into several different genres simultaneously. For example, Rhoda Broughtons Dear Faustina in the final chapter is an anti-New Wo man novel by a writer who wrote sensation novels in the 1860s; it also borrows from the conve ntions of the popular ro mance as well as the social problem novel. Consequently, though I discuss this novel in terms of its participation in New Woman discourse, I do not define it solely as a New Woman novel, and my analysis
17 situates the novel in terms of thes e other influences rather than ex cluding them in order to situate New Women discourse itself in terms of a broader history of the novel. Critiquing this penchant of criticism to define texts in terms of New Woman fiction to exclusion of all others, Shaffer and Psomiades argue that New Women criticism must make its parameters more explicit, which would enhance the specificity and historical accuracy of New Women discourse to treat it as a mode of analysis particularly suited to the word of overtly political writers, while other cri tical approaches might mobilized for some of the other varieties of womens writing during the pe riod (17). Although I agree with Shaffer and Psomiades that New Woman criticism must be car eful of trying to encompass a ll womens writing or even all literature that deals explicitly with wo mens social and economic position at the fin de sicle New Women discourse has an e xplanatory power beyond overtly political novels because New Woman figures are present in a num ber of interesting texts that do not seek to affect political change and instead seem more closely related to the aesthetic movement, like Ella Hepworth Dixons My Flirtations which I discuss at length in this study. Broadening the scope of New Women criticism also allows for other important influences and critical perspectives to expand our understanding of late-nineteenthcentury literature. Looking at texts as not entirely defined by their use of New Women discourse provides us with a way of tracing the development of the New Woman in, for example, the conventional Vi ctorian courtship plot. Moreover, considering the New Woman as a distillation of discourses of womens agency that permeated Victorian culture from the mid-century forward helps to ex plain the contradictions inherent in Victorian constructions of the figure. Noticeably, my study departs from many books on the New Woman because it includes male and female authors, rather than exclusivel y women writers. I have in cluded male writers in
18 this project because, as I argue throughout, th e juxtaposing of agency and economics in New Women discourse had its beginnings in the most canonical of nove l plots, the marriage plot, a genre involving both men and wo men; and, writers of both gende rs employed it in the 1890s. In short, by delineating the arti culation of New Women discourse in the British novel more generally, rather than in wome ns writing specifically, I avoid privileging male writers over women writers and the central problem with such an inclusive approach.2 By giving male and female writers equal weight in this project, I demonstrate the extent to which New Women discourse involved diverse writers and resulted in a diverse and strategic mobilization of the discourse. The other critical intervention that this study makes in New Women criticism is revising the conception of the New Woman cultural figure from seeing her as a single and singular woman to seeing her as very much within the dynamics of the Victorian middle-class nuclear family. This particular family structure is ge nerally agreed upon to be one of the defining characteristics of the Victorian period itself, illustrating the middle classs increasing ideological power as well as the ways in which gender a nd class were, as Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall suggest, most clearly stated through the quotidian (320). Paula Marantz Cohen suggests: The ideology of the nuclear family, in short, dominated the nineteenth century, even though families might not always have strictly conformed to the nuclear model in practice (10). Central to the period and its powerful bourgeoisie, the nu clear family was a criti cal aspect of womens lives, and women were restricted largely to its confines in the domestic sphere. 2 Schaffer argues, If New Women simply means interes ted in women, it can include virtually everyone writing in the period. Indeed, earlier New Women criticism often focused on authors who were neither new nor women Grant Allen ( The Woman Who Did ), George Gissing (The Odd Women ), George Meredith ( Diana of the Crossways ), and Thomas Hardy ( Jude the Obscure ). In this case, a broadly inclusivist critical practice can end up re-enthroning canonical male authors, ironically replicating the very problem it set out to resolve ( Forgotten 10).
19 It seems logical, then, that scholars have long addressed the relationship between the New Woman and the nuclear family since the New Woman was herself a largely middle-class phenomenon. Gail Cunningham argues that a key part of the New Womans shock value was that she exposed the family, long regarded as a microcosm of the state, if not the divine order as a nest of seething frustrations, discontent, a nd deception (2-3). As Cunningham suggests, a critical part of the New Womans newness was her publiciz ing the dissatisfaction of women, whose very nature was constructed as desiring domesticity and privacy, metaphorically airing the familys dirty laundry in the publ ic realm of literature and jour nalism. Lyn Pykett, in drawing connections between womens sensation and New Woman writing, notes that Chief among these [similarities] was a common concern w ith womens marital and familial roles ( Improper 143). Most scholarly stud ies tend to consider the New Woma n and her impact on the Victorian family in terms of her roles as wife and mother replicating the Victorian ideology that defined middle-class women almost entirely in those term s. Also, through the influence of queer studies, critics have explored the New Womans romantic and sexua l relationships with other women. While such work is clearly valuable to our understanding of the Victorian family and New Women discourse, what has been left out of this literary and cultural history are the peer relationships between sisters, which included mentoring of the younger sister by the elder. Furthermore, even though present New Women scholarship has examined the roles of wife, mother, and same-sex lover, it has positione d the New Woman as always advocating radical changes in these roles. Only in the past few ye ars have we begun to consider the ways in which the New Woman was also an ultimately conser vative force in shaping Victorian feminine ideology.
20 We have, in part, believed the Victorian myth of the New Woman as having no place in the family, which was, as with most myths of th is nature, an attempt to elide the New Womans presence in the family. This particular incarn ation of the New Woman ha s been in circulation since the mid-century texts lik e W.R. Gregs Why are Women Redundant? where the author exhorts all marriageable middle-class and upperclass women to marry: God designed single life for only a few women, and that where he did not design it, it is a mistake, even though it be not a misery (n. 368). The few women that Greg mentions are an early form of the aberrantly masculine New Woman who, by virtue of her unatt ractive mental powers, belong on the margins of society and entirely outside the family; they are women who live in an d by their intelligence alone, and who are objects of admiration, but neve r of tenderness, to the other sex. Such are naturally single; but they are a bnormal and not perfect natures (344). Greg here positions these masculine women as naturally set apart from th e majority of women who do inspire tenderness on the part of men, though in all reality such women likely occupied the private familial space along with other more natural women. From even these early beginnings, conservative Victorians, like Greg, discursively moved such problematic women outside the private sphere of the middle-class family in order to shore up the middle-class ideology of the nuclear family. In the chapters that follow, I re-center the New Woman in the Victorian family and suggest the importance of reconsidering Ne w Women discourse in terms of the middle-class family, especially the peer-to-peer relationships that women established with other women within the family. Opponents of the New Woman argued that the central danger of her being in the family was her potential influence over other women, especially the idea that she would convert younger women to her radical philosophies and un feminine lifestyle. Conversely, writers
21 sympathetic to the New Woman positioned this infl uence as her greatest asset and increasingly necessary to younger women in navigating fin-de-sicle life. Both responses operate in terms of the mid-century idea of bourgeois womens power being located in their moral influence over others. In the ubiquitous Mrs. Beetons Book of Household Management published in the late 1850s, Mrs. Beeton describes the mistress of the house as the Alpha and the Omega of household life because of her role in shaping the lives of her family, especially her daughters: On her pattern her daughters model themselves ; by her counsels they ar e directed; through her virtues all are honoured (29). Though Beeton here is speaking about a mothers relationship with her daughters, Beetons emphasis on the im pact of a mistresss moral character over younger women in the family demonstrates the power invested in such influence as well as its strong connection to the ideology of middle-class womens superior mo rality. A little later in the mid century, John Ruskin, in Of Queens Gardens, extends this womanly influence to encompass the public sphere, arguing that since womans true place and power is unshakable and home is always round her, she ought to el evate the moral atmosphere of the public world as well (78). Such influence, however, does not ri se to the level of challenging the construction of womens identity as depende nt on serving others; instead, he r sagacity and goodness is not for self-development, but for self-renunciation (78). This wo manly, or in Ruskins case queenly, power is therefore closely tied to wome ns dependent status as angels in the house, caring for the needs of others a nd inspiring her male family members on to great actions in the public sphere. Perhaps the most well-known discussion of womens role in English society, Sarah Stickney Elliss Women of England, Their Social Duties, and Domestic Habits (1839), deals extensively with this notion of womens influence. Judging by the popularity of this book, which
22 was last reprinted in 1893, as well as her subsequent books Daughters of England (1842), Wives of England (1843), and Mothers of England (1843), Elliss ideas about the importance of womens influence clearly struck a chord in Victorian society as it struggled to cope with the changing roles of women. Arguing th at womens neglect of their i ndirect influence will greatly harm society, Ellis flatly disa grees with women who, even in the 1830s, were suggesting that women should have their own say in public life: It is therefore not only false in reasoning, but wrong in principle, for women to assert, as th ey not unfrequently do with a degree of puerile satisfaction, that they have no in fluence (43). In a charge that would be regularly made against the New Woman nearly fifty years later, Ellis pos itions womans favoring of direct action over to her natural powers of influence as a selfish ch oice. For her, womens power is firmly located in their moral superiority and must remain indi rect and hidden within the confines of the domestic sphere to be truly effective: Nay, so potent may have become this secret in fluence, that he may have borne it about with him like a kind of second conscience, for mental reference, and sp iritual counsel, in moments of trial; and when the snares of the world were around him, and temptations from within and without have bribed over th e witness in his own bosom, he has thought of the humble monitress who sat alone, guard ing the fireside comf orts of his distant home; and the remembrance of her character, clothed in moral beauty, has scattered the clouds before his mental visi on, and sent him back to that beloved home, a wiser and a better man. (46) In this oft-quoted passage from Women of England Ellis casts the domestic space as a haven from the moral ambiguities of the public sphere and locates the redemptiv e power of that space within womens moral purity. Not only must wome n be morally superior in and of themselves, but their influence must be so powerful so as to act as a second conscience for men and thus maintain the virtue of men as well. Such no tion of influence gives women power within the family even as it contains them. Philippa Levine explains, They were gran ted a role in spiritual life which at one and the same time empowered and confined them. They were empowered in
23 that moral education became their prescribed duty in the family context, but confined in that they were thus restricted to the fa mily responsibility it entailed (12). Unsurprisingly, as women increasingly asserted their right to independent agency in the public sphere and exposed womens secret desire for that agency, conservative Victorian writers again mobilized this idea of womens influence as justifi cation for the argument that middl e-class womens rightful place was in the home, not the workplace, the marketplace, or any other public place. Opponents of the New Woman highlighted her insistence on her individualism as being highly dangerous to Victorian soci ety. Stutfield describes such writers as the cultivators of I moral and social rebels (Tommyrotics 838). In Lintons diatribe agai nst New Women writers and womens rights advocates, The Shrieking Sisterhood as she calls them in the essays title, she declares that One of our quarrels with the Advanced Women of our generation is the hysterical parade they make about their wants an d intentions (Girl 65). As Linton here demonstrates, a key part of the New Womans insistence on her own personhood was the public nature of that call and the agency she clai med. For both New Woman su pporters and opponents, the New Woman suggested a departure from conv entional middle-class femininity in claiming her own personhood separate from that of her family and the domestic sphere. New Women discourse reinforces the valu e of bourgeois indi vidualism and all the ideological baggage that goes along with it. Cri tiquing this tendency in British womens writing as a whole, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak contends As the female indivi dualist, not-quite/notmale, articulates herself in shifting relationship to what is at stake, the native female as such ( within discourse, as a signifier) is excluded from any shar e in this emerging norm (244-5). Ann Ardis has argued that coupled with the cons ervative aspects of New Women discourses individualism, such text al so challenge not only the bourge ois Victorian social orders
24 prescriptive definition of correct female be havior but also the pattern of thinking in hierarchically organized oppositio ns (27). Though I agree that New Women discourse gestures toward such a challenge, ultimately it reinforces as Spivak suggests, the ideology of middleclass individualism that requires subordination of the other, be it a class, imperial, or national other. New Women discourse rais es the possibility of such ra dical dismantling of Victorian hierarchical thinking, but, since it works to cl aim a place for women with in Victorian bourgeois society, its conception of womens agency operates within t hose hierarchies. As women began to challenge their subordina te position in the latt er mid century, most publicly through activism surrounding the Married Womens Property Acts of the 1870s and 1880s, conservatives sought to convince women to be satisfied with their domestic influence and to stop attempting to claim any sort of independe nt agency in the public and private spheres. Most of these conservative text s address women directly, exhorti ng them to realiz e the power of their domestic influence as well as arguing for the necess ity of that influence to the health of Victorian society on all levels. Published during the height of the married womens property debates, Eliza Lynn Lintons Womens Place in Nature and Society casts womens independent public influence as a danger, especi ally as women demand to act for themselves rather than through men: Even now the opinions of women influence men in more than one que stionable direction; and honourable names and masculine minds are dragged by them into hysterical associates where everything is represented but common sense and the more workable principles of actions. If such things have been done in the green tree of indirect influence, what will be done in the dry of direct command and when the monstrous regimen of women will be law under which we shall live? (361) In Lintons description of the threat that womens direct influence represents to the stability of Victorian England, she attaches two central ideas to the previ ously ameliorative power of womens influence: hysteria and corruption. It is no coincidence that Linton publishes the article
25 at the same time that women activists and thei r male supporters, like John Stuart Mill, were making married womens lack of property rights a subject of popular debate. Where writers like Ruskin and Ellis can portray womens influence as constant, redemptive, and uplifting, these proto-New Women,3 who Linton mentions are agitating for property rights as well as employment opportunities, have transformed women s influence into a power that directs men in the wrong direction rather than acting as a good moral compass. Critically, this influence is not confined to men; instead womens influence is considered to be at its most powerful when directed towa rds other women, especially younger peers. At the end of the passage above, Linton alludes to J ohn Knoxs 1558 The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, whic h critiqued the independe nt rule of queens. This phrase circulated well into the nineteenth century, later r eappearing in Janet Hogarths 1897 The Monstrous Regiment of Women in the Fortnightly Review The term has a double meaning in that it refers to the unnaturalness of government by women as well as the danger of radical womens solidarity with each other. Th is sort of solidarity among women is seen as central to their influence ove r one another. Ellis takes on a sisterly mentor role in Women of England when she admonishes young women to take responsibility for themselves and the morality of England as a nation: this state of lis tless indifference, my sisters, must not be. You have deep responsibilities, you have urgent clai ms; a nations moral wealth is in your keeping (16). Womens sisterly influence was also seen as having a powerful effect on other women, particularly amongst young wome n just entering adulthood. 3 I use the term proto-New Woman in this throughout th is dissertation to refer to mid-century woman characters, who while not representing the radical challenges to ninet eenth-century femininity of the 1890s New Woman, do present more implicit critiques of womens position with Victorian society as an oppressed group in a similar fashion to the New Woman. Consequently, these character s are keenly aware and critical of womens lack of education, lack of employment opportunities, and lack of legal persona in marriage.
26 Though the New Woman is often discussed in terms of her impact on constructions of femininity and the role of women in society, she also had a significant impact on younger women of her generation. Many Victorian co mmentators express c oncern that young women reading New Woman fiction will attempt to model themselves after the scandalous women depicted therein. Thomas Bradfield, writing in the Westminster Review in 1894 at the beginning of New Woman literature as genre, begins his di atribe against the recent effusion of enthusiasm as to womans position (539) by noting the overly high demand for such treatments: A new and emphatic note has more or lessperhaps we ought to say more rather than lessbeen dominant in the pages of a recen t phase of fiction which, during the last few months, seems to have attained an exceptionally wide circulation (537). Bradfield worries over the decadence that this literature represents and what a taste for such literature says about the literary palate of the nation (537). The underlying concer n here is that the New Woman is entering the middle-class household, whose separation from the public sp here went some way to counteract the precariousness of middle-class lif e and is bringing all the decadence and moral decay of the modern world with her (Davidoff and Hall 397). As Ann Ardis argues, this anxiety about the fictional New Womans influence on actual young women did not simply fuel critics outbursts against this fiction; it stimula ted the production of New Woman novels as well (52). Indeed, as I will demonstrate in the chapters of this project, the trope of the New Woman molding her younger sisters was part of New Women discourse from its very beginnings and provided Victorians with a way to both e xplore and often to repress her in fluence as well as suppress the New Woman herself. The mentorship of a young middle-class wo man by a New Woman or proto-New Woman was contextualized in terms of the familial re lationship of sister because sisterhood, for middle-
27 class women whose sphere of influence was narrow, was womens most powerful peer relationship with other women. Since womens cen tral life experiences took place within the domestic circle, it is unsurprising that the so roral bond was used to represent the New Womans guidance of young women. New Wome n discourse, even in its ear ly stages in the 1870s, mobilizes sisterhood by means of an actual sister or si ster figure who is a New Woman. Unlike their mothers, who were increasingly portrayed as being out of touch due to what Carol Dyhouse describes as the generation gap in outlook a nd aspirations between mothers and daughters, sisters were of the same generation and c ould better sympathize with the young womens viewpoint. Peer bonding, especially with sister s by blood, thus provided a unique opportunity for women to influence each other through shared experience. Although Victorians often viewed New Wo men discourse as fundamentally antimarriage, its function in the Victorian novel, as represented through Ne w Woman or proto-New Woman mentor often ensures th e success of the marriage plot by guiding the young middle-class women through the maturative process of self discovery. With the New Woman as mentor, a young womans transition into adulthood involves th e conventional consciousness of oneself as a person as well a second awakening to the social restrictions that contained that consciousness (Bilston 194). As Sarah Bilston argues, Britis h New Woman novels of the 1890s often centered on a heroines awakening to consciousness of her capabilities, and on the ways in which society inhibited the exploration of those capabilities (190). By re working liberal discourses of individualism, New Women discourse is able to construct womens agency in terms of an inalienable right, rather than a scandalous new development. Discussed in detail in the final chapter of this dissertation, this bond would become increasingly problematic in the late-century as the New Woman hersel f became increasingly
28 dangerous; sisterhood and sisterlike friendships were seen as a necessary part of a young womans maturation and a necessary step towards marriage. They were seen as reinforcing the strength of the institution of marriage and were regularly mentioned as central to womens affective lives. Such relationships not only allowed women to express strong passionate feelings but also taught them to understa nd their emotional rela tionships with others. As Sarah Stickney Ellis describes it in The Daughters of England in friendships with other women a young woman learns to comprehend the deep mystery of that electric chain of feeli ng which ever vibrates through the heart of woman (199). As Sharon Ma rcus notes in her rece nt study of Victorian womens friendships, a womans emotional sens ual connection to anothe r woman helped unite her to a beloved husband because she learns how to care for the emotional and moral well being of others (15). On a narrative leve l, the function of the female friend is to facilitate the resolution of the conventional Victorian marriage plot: female friendship was neither a static auxiliary to the marriage plot nor a symptoma tic exclusion from it, but instead a transmission mechanism that kept narrative energies on track (Marcu s 3). Thus, rather than conceiving of womens relationships with other women in Victorian novels as always disrupting the marriage plot, we must position them as an integral element of that plot on a basic structural level. In the conventional Victorian marriage plot, th e sisterly mentor acts as a guiding force in ensuring the heroines marriage at the novels ending. Marcus notes th at such plots employ liberal democratic principles that affirm ra ther than challenge Victorian notions of middleclass femininity: The heroine of a companionate marriage plot must know herself in order to choose a husband wisely; once freed from the requirement either to obey or reject parental dictates, she is aided in her quest for self-knowledge by friends w ho are equals and peers (85). In the case of the sisterly ment or, her function in the marriage plot is to act as a model of self-
29 knowledge and usher the young woman through he r own process of coming into selfconsciousness. This mentor figure enables th e young woman to enact the Victorian novels narrative of self-development a nd maturation within the courtshi p narrative. Consequently, the New Woman is a key part of ensuring that the middle-class family will endure as the young womans marriage recreates that kinship structure at the end of the novel. Though clearly focused around the marriage plot, a central part of this maturation process is womens realization of their sisterhood with other women. As Ellis demonstrates, this consciousness of women as a group hinges on not ions of middle-class womens sympathy and morality: a measure of the same sympathy and tenderness [as is given her close female friends] is extended to the whole sisterhood of her sex, un til, in reality, she becomes what woman ever must bein her noblest, purest, holies t characterthe friend of woman ( Daughters 199). In realizing her essential femininity, the young woman in Elliss essay understands her commonalities with other women, as women, and f eels them to be her sisters. Rather than challenging the ideological constr uction of middle-class feminin ity, this fellow feeling amongst women reinforces its discursive power by encouraging the development of feminine sympathy and nurturing. Consequently, then, sororal frien dships between women, pa rticularly sisterly mentor relationships, were central to depictions of middle-cla ss femininity in the Victorian novel. The cultural importance of these bonds in making Victorian novels courtship plots work makes them ultimately a source of anxiety onc e the New Woman comes to occupy the position of mentor, with all of the gende r trouble she brings with her. As mentioned earlier, proto-New Women and New Women as a gr oup were described in terms of the abnormal gender and masculinity that threatened the stability of th e Victorian feminine id eal: moral and social
30 amazons (Linton Womens Place 354), odd men-women (Lint on Womens Place 349), androgynous women `(Queen Bees 576), and then unfit to be wives or mothers (Allen 457). As these terms suggest, the perceived dang er of the New Woman was that she eschewed the middle-class identities of wife and mother in favor of asserting hers elf as an individual, a practice previously reserved only for middle-class men. As Mona Caird illustrates in her controversial essay Marriage, New Women writers positioned this liberal sense of selfhood as central to womens emancipation, maintaining the importance of the obvious right of woman to possess herself body and soul, to give or withhold herself body and soul exactly as she wills. The moral right here is so palpable and its denial implies ideas so low and offensive to human dignity, that no fear of consequen ces ought to deter us from making this liberty an element of our ideal, in fact its fundamental principle (198) Pulling from Enlightenment notions of the individual, Caird asserts that it is womens rights as human beings to own themselves within marriage and thus retain i ndividual agency rather than surrende ring their entire being to the role of wife and rule by a husband. From the mid century forward, New Women discourse acts as a way to cathartically represent womens growing critique of their pos ition in Victorian society within the context of the courtship narrative, enabling the family to incorporate the discursi ve energy of the New Woman herself without being vulnerable to her ch allenge to family power dynamics. As a single woman, the New Woman mentor su ggests an alternative to th e marriage plot through her economic and social agency, and, as we move towards the fin de sicle we see the extent to which that alternative is increasingly depicted as a possible reality for some women. However, even in the late nineteenth century, that agen cy is often domesticated in terms of modified versions of middle-class women s central social roles of wife and mother, demonstrating the
31 continued power of the middle-class nuclear fam ily. Crucially, the discursive cracks in that recuperation, namely the young womans increasi ng insistence on her own agency and the New Womans viable enactment of economic and social independence, suggest the ways in which the New Woman altered the structure of the nuclear family itself. Thus we need to conceive of the literary history of New Women discourse in terms of the bour geois family and the economic and social institutions that maintained it. As William Barry notes in The Quarterly Review the New Woman cannot escape economics (304). Indeed, Ne w Women discourse figur ed this connection between the New Woman and family through th e economic relations that contained women within the domestic sphere, specifically wome ns relationship to property, capital, employment, and cross-class relationships with other women. In order to understand how the New Woman shaped womens economic relations, this projec t traces the evolution of New Women discourse as represented in the figure of the independent woman of the 1870s (or the proto-New Woman as I term her) and the New Woman of the fin de sicle as mentors to young women entering and navigating the marriage market. The chapters of this project are divided in to three main parts, dealing respectively with the New Womans impact on womens relationship to property, womens relationship to capital and employment, and finally cross-class relationshi ps between women. In order to fully trace the evolution of New Women discourse I begin, in the first two chap ters, with Anthony Trollopes Can You Forgive Her? (1868) and Thomas Hardys The Hand of Ethelberta (1876), respectively, and explore how the late-mid-century novel used the language of property, which was popularized by the married womens property de bates of the 1870s, to represent womens agency. In each of these novels, the proto-Ne w Woman sister guides her younger sister in claiming agency within the marriage market, though that agency is ultimat ely unsustainable, and
32 the New Woman herself is recuperated within th e family or distanced from the action of the novel altogether. In the next tw o chapters, I move into the 1890s and the language of capital and independent employment that also grew out of the married womens property debates. With the increasingly modern economy of Victorian England, the New Womans mentorship becomes even more vital. Chapter six looks at Ella Hepworth Dixons novella My Flirtations (1892) and its use of the Stock Exchange to represent womens position as goods for sale in the marriage market. Chapter seven turns to George Gissings The Odd Women (1893) and how womens participation in the public world of work re quires the New Womans guidance. Finally, in chapter nine, I look at a very late-centu ry anti-New Woman novel, Rhoda Broughtons Dear Faustina (1897) and the intersection of sexuality, cla ss, and reform work in the figure of the homosexual, hypocritical, New-Woman social reformer, who takes young women away from their good middle-class families. However, ev en as Broughton condemns the New Womans inversion and class crossing, she also positions he r as a necessity to the heroines eventual marriage. By 1897, the New Womans influence ca nnot, in the end, be completely expelled. In thus focusing on the mentorship of the New Woman, I try to demonstrate not only the New Womans influence on the middle-class nuclear fa mily, but also the role the family had in shaping the New Woman herself in both her beginnings and her legacy.
33 CHAPTER 2 PERSONAL AND LEGAL DEATH: THE PR OTO-NEW WOMAN AND MARRIED WOMENS PROPERTY RIGHTS The 1860s and 70s were a critical transitiona l period in the way Victorians constructed womens power and agency within the institution of marriage. Thes e years witnessed the rise of the Victorian womens rights movement as an organized movement through which women claimed power in the public and private spheres as they sought to alter governmental policy as well as domestic relations. Womens social campa igns, such as Josephine Butlers activism for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts, work ed not only to make conc rete changes in British law but also to draw attention to womens vul nerability within marriag e, an institution that purported to fully protect women. In these decades discourses about women s status in Victorian England were inextricably tied to the ongoing deba te regarding married wo mens property rights. This debate first achieved popular attention in the 1856 Parliamentary debates over the Matrimonial Causes Bill of 1857, largely through Lady Caroline Nortons pamphlets detailing the cruel treatment she had received at the hands of her husband and her call for Parliament to protect married women by giving them the right to their own earnings. From this point until the passage of the Married Women s Property Act of 1882, Victorian womens rights advocates, the popular press, and Parliament con tinually dealt with this issue in terms of constructions of middle-class womanhood and the nature of the Victor ian family itself. That this period witnessed the passage of several Married Womens Property Acts, 1 beginning with the Married Womens Property Act of 1870 and ending with the Married Womens Property Ac t of 1882, suggests the extent to which this single legal issue served as a lightning rod for larger cultural debates about 1 For an extended discussion of married womens property legislation in the 1870s, see Shanley 49-78; Holcombe Wives and Property 166-183.
34 the function of the middle-class family in th e emerging capitalist industrial economy, and, in particular, womens public and private agency. At the heart of the debate over married wo men and property rights is the legal death women incurred upon entering the state of matrimony. Prior to this legislation, married Victorian women literally lacked any legal will because they had no legal persona once subsumed under their husbands upon marriage. Legally, they were transformed from a feme sole, a single woman, into a feme covert a covered or protected woman, un der the common law legal principle of coverture, which argued th at husband and wife become a single legal person in marriage (Shanley 10). Under coverture, married women lo st all rights to their earnings, inheritances, physical property, and offspring (Doggett 38). In principle, the married couple was thus a single legal and cultural unit with no separate interests, with the husbands in terests considered the interests of the wife and the entire fam ily that he headed (Doggett 83). As the Westminster Review describes it in 1868, The common law of England only in the whole of Christendom treats the act of marriage as the annihilation of the legal pe rsonality of the woman, and the abdication of her civil rights (The Property of Married Wome n 180). This lack of legal persona had far reaching consequences for married women: they could not make contracts in their own name; they had no legal right to their children; they c ould not be sued for payment of debt nor could they sue for payments of debts to themselves. For womens rights advocates, such as John Stuart Mill, this legal idea meant that women were the l oving slaves of their husbands since everything they had and could have in the future, including themselves, belonged solely to their husbands: All men desire to have, in the woman most nearly co nnected with them, not a forced slave but a willing one; not a slave me rely, but a favorite. Th ey have therefore put everything in practice to enslav e their minds (486). Thus coverture extended not only to a
35 womans property but also to a woman herself as property. Her possible desire for a self not defined entirely by her married state did not ideologically exis t under British Law. Critically, however, the common law rules re garding married wome ns property did not apply to very wealthy married women, who were often granted limited property rights through equitable trusts and marriage settlements. Th roughout the debates, bo th conservatives and progressives come back to the contradiction between common law and equity, and the two systems of property law create d by that contradiction. The Westminster Review called the current state of marriage law discreditable to the admini stration of justice in th is country, that there should be two sets of courts, governed by diam etrically opposed rules, in dealing with the incidents of the most important form of civil association that can be entered into by human beings (179). By virtue of their money and cl ass status, wealthy wome n could avoid the legal death of marriage via common law and instead br ing themselves under the jurisdiction of equity, whereby they could, within a limited scope, reta in ownership of their property and person. In the later mid-century, this complete erasur e of a previously prope rtied adults right to her property became increasingly troubling to many Victorians. As the disparity between the ideal of the unified married couple and the lived experience of wives became increasingly publicly apparent, the more general discourse of the Woman Question began to take on the language of property as a way of addressing womens agency, with reformers arguing in the popular press that women must be freed from th eir non-personhood in marriage in order to make the case for their rights as free individuals in a liberal society. Speaking in favor of the 1870 Act in All the Year Round Charles Dickens called giving women the right of ownership over their earnings and property the real emancipation of women (89). Similarly, Francis Power Cobbe argued in Criminals, Idiots Women, and Minors that a British subject s right to property is a
36 vital indicator of his or her valu e as a member of society and that women claim this right solely on the basis of their rights as mora l and intelligent being[s] (27). 2 Ongoing parliamentary debates in the 1860s and 1870s kept this issue in the periodical pr ess, including the installments of novels published within their pages. Though actual Victorian women themselves doubtlessly found ways around the laws of coverture, the energy displayed by both reformers and conservatives in the Married Womens Property debates suggests the importance of the legal principle in shaping the ways in which womens agency was imagin ed in the Victorian period. It is in the Victorian novel, a medium already so co ncerned with identity and agency, that writers sought to bring to the fore the conflict between womens culturally and legally legislated abject status and their desire to reta in their individualism in marriage. They mobilized this vocabulary that the debates over married womens property ri ghts had popularized in order to speak about womens desires and agency. Sp ecifically, Anthony Trollopes Can You Forgive Her? (1868) and Thomas Hardys The Hand of Ethelberta (1876)3 both use the language of property to explore the dynamics of individual desires in the marriage market in order to offer alternatives, as limited and fraught though they may be, to womens complete loss of persona in marriage. Scholars have often viewed key issues from this period, like sexually transmitted diseases and womens suffrage, as offering a language th rough which to understand fictional treatments of womens agency, but have not full y explored the language of property.4 Jeff Nunokawas The 2 This essay was originally published as Criminals, Id iots, Women, and Minors: Is the Classification Sound? Frasers Magazine 78 (December 1868): 777-794. The edition that I use here is the more widely available 1869 reprint edition, in which the essay was published as a stand-alone work. 3 Can You Forgive Her? was published in twenty monthly numbers from January 1864 to August 1865, and The Hand of Ethelberta was published from June 1875 to May 1876 in the Cornhill Magazine For a discussion of the publication of Can You Forgive Her? see Norris D Hoyts Can Yo u Forgive Her?: A Commentary. Trollopian 2.2 (Sept. 1947): 57-70. 4 Examples include Mary Pooveys Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England Pamela Gilberts Disease, Desire, and the Body in Victorian Womens Popular Novels and several of the essays in Victorian Women Writers and the Woman Question edited by Nicola Diane Thompson.
37 Afterlife of Property examines the ways in which propert y inflects Victorian constructions of gender, and Tim Dolins Mistress of the House explores how novels narratively cope with womens property ownership. However, critics neith er focus on the specific ways in which the novel was influenced by and reworked the deba tes over married womens property nor fully explore the flux in the cultural institutions of marriage and the family represented by these debates. My discussion of Ant hony Trollope and Thomas Hardy he re seeks to further develop this discussion of property and gender, while at the same time extending the historical and ideological context of this work, like that of Mary Poovey, so as to understand how this discourse of property shaped the ways in which the Victorian novel represented its concern with womens agency and constructed the Victorian family. Anthony Trollopes Can You Forgive Her? whose Kate Vavasor manipulates the courtship plot of her close cousin Alice w ith Machiavellian skill, and Thomas Hardys The Hand of Ethelberta (1876), whose eponymous heroine goes from governess to a member of the peerage by way of two very strategic marriages, feature two particular female character types who exemplify the connection between married womens property rights and the stability of the domestic spherethe meddling maiden sister an d the adventuring governess, respectively. Much like the figures Poovey examines in Uneven Developments these two characters represent border cases because they trouble the smooth su rface of Victorian ideology of domesticity and womanhood both in and of themselves and thro ugh their influence on the more conventional marriage plots of the heroines (12). The meddling ma iden sister, exhibited in characters like Miss Carlyle from Ellen Woods East Lynne is the strong-minded a nd outspoken relative who, through her unsociable influence, disrupts the cour tship plot of her more conventional sibling and thus the suitable marriage and production of heirs to the family property. The adventuring
38 governess, perhaps most infamously exemp lified by William Makepeace Thackerays Becky Sharpe of Vanity Fair crosses the supposedly firm class boundaries between the leisured and working classes by marrying into the family for whom she works, thus enabling property to be passed down to an heir of impure blood. Both of these characters, like th e debate over married womens property rights itself, disturb the function of the id eological construction of the Victorian family as stable, private, and safe through their influence ove r the good conventional women of their families. Trollope and Hardy mobilize the aforementione d figures in these par ticular novels so as to dramatize this late mid-century anxiety ove r the influence of dangerous women. Suggesting the contested nature of this di scourse, both novels are largely considered anomalous and inferior works for both writers, with Can You Forgive Her? introducing but not focusing on the characters who occupy the re st of Palliser novels and The Hand of Ethelberta being an urban social comedy by a writer best known for his tragic rural novels. Each explores the implications of womens attempts to retain their individual identities in the face of an impending bill of sale of their public personas, as represented by the institution of marriage. These two novels draw attention to the inadequacies of womens prope rty rights in relation to their development as characters within the conventional courtship plot. As I will demons trate, the novels are specifically concerned with the disruption of the supposedly natural transmission of property from proper man to proper man by way of a womans marriage. Furthermore, each independent woman challenges what Mary Lyndon Shanley te rms the sentimentalization of family life by explicitly critiquing the institution of marriage itself and married womens unwilling
39 subordination and loss of agency. In other word s, each, in her own way, is a proto-New Woman (7).5 Parliamentary debates over married womens pr operty tended to represent this theoretical concern about the unity of the domestic sphere through the practical concern over the dangerous possibility of a wifes independent will, even as individual cases, partic ularly among the working classes, pointed to the necessity of her indepe ndence. As we have seen, upon her marriage, a woman who was not unusually wealthy ceased to ex ist legally and could no longer own property, including her own individual wage earnings, or dispose of prenuptia l holdings without her husbands approval. The incontrovertible fact that there were married women who did own their property appeared to directly challenge the conservative idea that a husbands absolute domestic authority was and should always be sacr osanct. Womens rights advocates as well as legal reformers argued that the principle of se parate interests in marriage ha d long been acknowledged by equity; it was its unfair practice on the ba sis of wealth that represented an injustice. A married woman was still an individual with intere sts and desires all her own. As the Economist notes in 1870, The simple fact of the matter is that the whole theory of equitable settlements has been invented to restrict and almost destroy that absolute power of the husband ove r the common property of the family (8). However, it is important to r ealize that though well-to-do women did have the right to own property under equity, that legal system also restricted the nature of those rights and did not fundamentally change the patriarchal hierarchy of the family. The existence of married womens property rights under equity suggests that it was not the actual practice of women 5 I use the term proto-New Woman in this chapter to refer to mid-century woman characters, who while not representing the radical challenges to nineteenth-century femininity of the 1890s New Woman, do indeed present critiques of womens position with Victor ian society as an oppressed group in a similar fashion to the New Woman. These characters are keenly aware and critical of womens lack of education, lack of employment opportunities, and, most importantly for my purposes, their lack of legal persona in marriage.
40 owning property that was so very important to the stability of the Victorian familyit was, instead, the legal constraints on married womens individual agency within the family since womens rights under equity were the results of contracts between their fathers and husbands. The existence of this double standard of married womens property rights meant that the discourse of womens property ri ghts always involved the classbased nature of womens access to their property and, through that property, public agency. Lower-class women, who had no access to such expensive legal proceedings requ ired to create and enforce such marriage settlements and hence had no right to any of thei r earnings or property, were depicted as quietly suffering the cruelty of their dr unk and violent working-class husba nds: The sufferers are of a class peculiarly likely to endur e in silent, and yet any one who is an observer of society can count cases of distress arising from this one source, equally numerous and melancholy ( Leisure Hour 12). Similarly, Dickens commented that The wife of what is generally known as the working man, although he is in many cases merely an idle, drunken, rascal, is defenseless (90). Given the number of such cases presented in the 1868 Special Report of the Married Womens Property Committee in the House of Commons, members were forced to acknowledge that working-class women were entirely unprotected from their husbands, should they turn out to be cruelan idea which fit nicely wi th the discourses of the working-class man as animalistic and uncivilized. Hence, Parliament had to face the fa ilure of coverture in that women were being inadequately covered or protected by their hus bands and indeed often needed protection from their supposed protectors. With the Married Womens Property Act of 1870, the House of Lords pushed the issue back into the domestic sphere and the family, ra ther than changing the le gal status of married women in general, by revising the original bill submitted by Commons so as to extend to poor
41 women the right to certain kinds of separate property. As Mary Lyndon Shanley notes, If there was any principle behind the Lo rds revisions it seem to be that the earnings of poor women should be protected; the way the Lord s chose to do this was to stretc h the rules of equity to cover such earnings (74). By extending the rules of equity, the 1870 Act refused to disturb the natural hierarchy of the family and give women a will of their own. Married women remained unable to make binding contracts and dispose of their property as they saw fit, including testamentary rights. As Lee Holcombe discusses at length, th e actual protections extended to poor women, in practic e, proved largely in adequate since the law only applied to earnings gained after the act and to savings se t aside specifically to protect the money from husbands ( Wives and Property 179). Consequently, though the 1870 Act recognized the need for married womens earnings, particularly those of working-class women, to be under their control, it refused to make any radical changes in ma rriage law by not giving married women a full and unfettered lega l persona. Indeed, even the landmark Married Womens Property Act of 1882, while giving women much improved access to the above rights, still refused to define them as feme sole in respect to their property. Thus, the government refused to give the wife the means to resist her husbands interests and therefore the wedge with which to splinter the domestic sphere in order to maintain the domestic ideal and patriarchal authority in that sphere (Poovey Uneven Developments 74). According to Shanley, this distinc tion is key to understanding exactly what Parliament viewed as the central issue of married womens property rights: Members of Parliament had decided that wome n who were married to bad, i rresponsible, or brutal husbands should have property rights so th at they could manage their own affairs, but had not decided to annul entirely a husbands legal authority with in marriage (127-8). For Parliament to have
42 granted married women full property rights would ha ve redefined the Victorian family in such a way so as to dethrone the patria rch as head of the family and demonstrated the familys present vulnerability, thus throwing into jeopardy the stab ility of Victorian societ y that based its moral superiority on the stability of its middle-class domestic sphere. As this legal history demonstrates, what was at stake in married womens property discourse was not only married womens agency, but also the idea of the patriarchal family and domestic sphere it represented. The nineteen th-century domestic woman must be subsumed under her husbands identity in marriage, surrende ring both herself and her property entirely to him in order for the family to have a stable patr iarchal hierarchy. The patriarchal family structure was key to Victorian notions of social order and stability, act ing as, according to Chase and Levenson, a rule of methodology in order to create the countable community (4). The possibility of separate interest s and property between husband and wife threatened to disrupt the familys ability to be counted as well as its very existence, since the rule of the patriarch was its defining attribute. Since the erasure of womens individual desires and agency is central to this notion of the stable patriarchal family, the institution of marri age, as it was positioned in the married womens property debates by conservative Members, required women to give up any separate interests or desires because the patriarch must be able to count on the comple te fidelity of his wife as he passes down his name and property through her o ffspring. Consequently, the debates in the House of Lords explicitly connected the potentia l exercise of womens independent legal wills through the right to own property in marriage with the danger of property being passed down to illegitimate heirs through the extra-marital se xual affairs of thes e propertied and thus dangerously independent women. Hi ghlighting this anxiety, Lord Westbury argued in the debate
43 over the 1870 bill that If there was some person for whom she had greater affection for her legitimate lord, she might lavish the proceeds upon him (qtd. in Shanley 74). The proceeds that Westbury mentions here are not only the literal property that a woman would have a right to under the original version of the 1870 bill, but also a womans most basic form of property, her body. The underlying concern here is that by gi ving married women individual freedoms and, perhaps more importantly, individual legal a nd social personhood, these women would satisfy their sexual desires outsi de of the conjugal rela tionship, thus creating uncertainty as to the legitimacy of any heir. Thus, this discourse a bout married womens property rights was also a discourse about controlling Victorian womens sexual desires. I ndeed, this language of property provides a means through which Victorians coul d express anxieties regarding womens sexual desires, as well as other independent desires and acts, by making the legal will to dispose of property stand in for sexual agency in the discourses surrounding ma rried womens property rights. The debates over married women s property rights were closel y tied to Victorian notions of womens selfhood because these debates broug ht into relief troubling problems with the ideological fiction of marital unity, the idea that the conjugal couple acte d and thought as a unit with no separate interests. Poovey argues in her discussion of Caroline Norton, in publicizing the economic underpinnings of many marital disputes, th e parliamentary debates threatened to reveal the artificiality of separate spheres, which was the foundation for the middle classs image of itself and its economic consolidation ( Uneven Developments 52). The foundations of middleclass identity were challenged by the idea that married women required the right to own property in order to protect themselves and often their children from husbands who failed to live up to their proper roles of patriarch a nd protector of domestic happiness. It did so by pointing out the
44 flaws in the fiction of domestic unity that was so necessary to maintaining the construction of the masculine public sphere as divisive and the privat e feminized sphere as unified, as well as the split between those two spheres. Thus the deba te about married women s property rights was also a debate about the middle-class ideal of the domestic sphere, a nd, through the increasing conflation of middle-class identity w ith England itself, with Englishness. Published just as the bill that would eventually become the Married Womens Property Act of 1870 was being debated in Parliament and the debate over the married womens property rights had become a topic of popular interest and conversation, Anthony Trollopes Can You Forgive Her? is specifically concerned with how wome n cope with the loss of their property in marriage, including their right as individuals to own themselves. Since married women had no real property rights in 1868 and t hus little public recourse for their desire to retain control of themselves and their property, Trollope must resolve this dilemma within the family and the domestic sphere. Though the novels women are mostly members of the upper class and upper middle class and would have been protected th rough marriage settlement s and the courts of equity, Trollope uses the husbands seizure of womens property through common law as a metaphor for womens loss of self in the instit ution of marriage. The novel focuses on Alice Vavasors marriage plot, and the extent to which her unmarried cousin, Kate, is able to direct that plot at first away from and then eventually towards the heroines rightful suitor for the happy ending. In the end, the women of the novel must give over themselves and their property to marriage and the family. At this early stage in the married womens property debate, Trollope demonstrates the extent to which the family is troubled by womens growing awareness of their rights to themselves and their pr operty, but is still stable and powerful enough to recuperate and
45 reincorporate these difficult women by forcing them to face the lack of alternatives to their domestic roles. In Thomas Hardys The Hand of Ethelberta, we see a skillful manipulator of the limited protections then granted to wome n by Parliament, who uses her powerful will to gain security for herself and her sister, a conven tional woman very much caught in a conventional courtship plot. Throughout the novel, Hardy reveals an awareness of womens need to take matters of property and language into their own hands, as the novel s title suggests with its double meaning of Ethelbertas hand in marriage and her hand in dire cting the action of her own courtship as well as that of her sister. That Ethelberta must play such a smart game in order to protect herself and her sister demonstrates the inadequacies of the married womens property legi slation that had been enacted up until 1874. Ethelberta refuses to count on the uncertainties of the legal contradictions that the Married Womens Property Acts of 1870 and 1874 created. Instead, she successfully installs herself in the peerage and under the pr otections of equity. By her personal as well as legal will in her marriage settlement, she beco mes her own agent in the marriage market, and extends the protections that she gains to he r sister. Ultimately, however, Hardy pushes the exceptionally willful woman to the edges of the novels narrative in favor of Picotee, a much more conventional version of her elder sister. This later novel illustrates the extent to which greater property rights for married women, even as limited as they were, created a language through which feminine agency in marriage could be imagined. However, it also demonstrates the failure of 1870s married womens property le gislation to give marri ed women the property rights of single women and Hardys inability to cope narratively with a woman who takes control by force of will.
46 For Trollope and Hardy, the danger that marri ed womens property ri ghts represented to the family created a space to rework womens ag ency in marriage and thus the family itself. These novels set the stage for th e New Womans involvement in marriage reform at the end of the nineteenth century. They d eal explicitly with womens economic and affective subordination in marriage and point towards the need to give women economic independence as well as alter the power dynamics at work in marriage. Bo th Kate Vavasor and Ethelberta represent transitional types of the indepe ndent and active women who would later become part of the New Woman. The limitations placed on their individual development as women by the social and legal restrictions point to the need for a new so rt of feminine identity. Such characters also clearly signal the extent to whic h the New Woman was constructed in relation to and as part of the family as she influences the more conventional narratives of women in her domestic space. More specifically, these proto-New Women suggest that th e danger of the New Womans challenge to the institution of marriage and the Victorian family is a danger precisely because she is in the family and exposes the fictional natu re of its unity, the very feature constructed as endemic to the bourgeois private sphere.
47 CHAPTER 3 THE PROTO-NEW WOMAN AND THE MAINTANENCE OF PROPERTY: KATE VAVASOR I N ANTHONY TROLLOPES CAN YOU FORGIVE HER? In a novel obsessed with conjugal couples, Tr ollope includes a pr oto-New Woman whose transgressions against conventional modes of feminine conduc t serve to assure, rather than destroy, the stability of the patr iarchal family. The sustained and widespread gendered instability of the 1890s New Woman was still quite distant in the 1860s, so the upper-middle-class family here has the overarching power to incorporate into its structure the challenge that Kate Vavasor presents as an unattached woman. Kate moves th e novels heroine, her co usin Alice Vavasor, towards an acceptance of love and marriage by fi rst forcing her to admit to her unwillingness to subordinate herself as wife a nd eventually to acknowledge her desire for such subordination. Trollope uses Kates anomalous single status th roughout the novel to cri tique both the lack of self-sustaining options for such women as well as the sacrifices of self and property that Victorian marriage required of women. Trollope himself was very much aware of how odd women lacked fulfilling occupations, noting in his 1868 essay Higher Education of Women that What we want is, I think, employment,mental employment and material employment also,for women whose circumstances do not require them to earn their daily bread (73). As Kate struggles to find purpose in life as an unmarried woman, he r consciously-chosen single life represents an alternative narrative to the marriag e plot for women while remaining very much a part of the Vavasor family, revealing the extent to which the 1860s family contains and utilizes such women to maintain its hegemonic power. Can You Forgive Her? the first of Trollopes Pal liser novels, revolves around the romantic choices of three women, Lady Glenco ra Palliser, Alice Vavasor, and Arabella Greenow, between each of their suitor pairs, a good man and a wild man. Though the novel is known popularly as the first Trollope novel featuring Glencora Pall iser, the central plot of the
48 novel is Alices jilting of her too-perfect fianc, John Grey; her subsequent engagement to and then jilting of her rakish cousin, George Va vasor; and her eventual marriage to Grey. The marriage plots of the two other women connect to and comment on Alices in various ways. Glencora, Alices maternal cousin, must learn to give up her wild man, Burgo Fitzgerald, and focus her attention on her husband, Plantagenet Pa lliser, whom she married through the influence of her relatives. Mrs. Greenow, Alices paternal aunt, provides an enjoyably comic mirror to the plots of the two younger women as she chooses he r wild man. Trollope allows the widow to make the unconventional choice because she is al ready independently wealthy through her very prudent first marriage and is more than able to control her sec ond husbands wildness. Interwoven throughout these courtship plots is Ka te Vavasors narrative, as she visits and corresponds with the three other women and shapes the outcome of their courtships both directly and indirectly. Following the commentary of Henry James and Trollope himself, critics have paid less attention to the novels Vavasor plot, leaving Kate Vavasors role in the novel mostly unexplored. Although Can You Forgive Her? was very popular novel at the time of its publication, critics have long de bated the quality of the novel, most often criticizing the weakness of the Alice plot that takes up the largest portion of the book in comparison to the political plots of the Pallisers that occupy the re st of the novels in the series. Among critics, the book is generally the least liked of the political novels, and, as J ohn Haleprin notes, one of the least systematically discusse d and most controversial of the Palliser novels (32). 1 Most scholars are happy to note that Glencora displaces Alice by the end of the book as the central character. Henry James, perhaps setting the tone for such co mments, famously remarked in his review of 1 Indeed, out of the six Palliser books, Can You Forgive Her? is the only one Michael Sadleir does not recommend to his readers (417). Sadleir, Michael. Trollope: A Commentary New York: Farrar, Straus, and Company, 1947.
49 the book: The question is, Can we forgive Miss Vava sor? Of course we can, and forget her, too, for that matter (85). Trollope himself, while having affection for the book, readily admits in his autobiography that the charac ter of the girl [Alice] is carr ied through with considerable strength, but is not attractive ( 179; 180). As a seemingly minor character most closely involved in the Alice narrative, Kates key role in influe ncing the development of the courtship narratives in the novel is largely absent from criticism of the novel. In Can You Forgive Her? Glencoras wit and vivacity eclipses Alice, not to mention Alices even less sparkling cousin, Kate. Since the Alice narrative itself is marginalized in scholarship of the novel, Kate is barely mentioned in discussions of the novel and is quickly dismissed when she does make an appearance. Juliet McMaster wryly co mments on the critical preference for Glencora, critics who are disposed to admire all kinds of intractable male characters as creations still tend to demand of female characters that they be charming people before they will grant them applause, as though they were ones hostess or ones dinner companion rather than an imaginative creation ( 604). It is as if the women of the novel ought to make one feel at home, rather than challenging th e reader to interpret an individual agent rather than a hostessexactly what Kate herself requires and what she encourages in Alice. Though Kate is usually absent from critics discussions of the novel, her narrative is integral to the three marriage pl ots because of its cen tral concern with th e relationship between womens agency in their owners hip of property. The marriage plot s continually interrelate and comment on each other as they explore the possibilities of personal freedomeven at the expense of lovewithin a society which transf orms love by marriage into a contract of submission for the wife (Levine 10 -11). Trollope uses the varia tions in temperament, station, and age between Alice, Glencora, and Mrs. Gr eenow to depict the multiple ways in which
50 Victorian women respond to the limitations of marriage and wifehood. McMaster argues, Each lady is concerned not only with her own emotional preferences in the matter, but with the just and equitable disposition of herself and her fortun e; and Trollope has done what he can to vary his pattern by suggesting complicated conflicts be tween the moral, sexual, and financial motives of his women (McMaster 606). Fo r Trollope, such explorations must be ultimately curtailed or at least modified as the women learn the necessity of working within social conventions rather than outside of them. David S. Chamberlain observes, The novel s three plots are tightly unified around the main theme that good marriage demands certain specific and di fferent compromises by both men and women (670). The issue at the h eart of novel, and indeed what holds the three plots together, is how these women will negotiate between the conventions of society and their personal desires. For Trollope, that choi ce hinges on women choosing men who are good property owners, who desire ownership of the wo man herself to protect her in much the same way as they care for their here ditary holdings. Hence property in the novel comes to signify the woman herself, and possession of her property means possession of the woman, including her individuality. In the midst of all this matrimonial drama, we have Kate Vavasor, who refuses to enter the marriage market yet directs her cousins ro mantic fortunes. Kate seems out of place and singular in relation to the other three womens concerns with c hoosing between their two suitors and their triumvirate coupledom at the end of the novel. Kate is the literal and figurative odd woman and perhaps the most difficult of the women to forgive. She is an odd woman who indirectly affects Glencoras ow n development and provides the re ader with a running sarcastic yet sympathetic commentary on Mrs. Greenows wooing. And, just as important, Kate is a
51 Vavasor and therefore bound by blood and duty to her more conventional relationsshe is almost a sister to Alice, almo st daughter to Mrs. Greenow, and a kindred spirit to Glencora. Trollope emphasis on Kates lonely singularity and unfeminin e manipulations establishes her as a proto-New Woman figure. As Kate Flint notes about Kate Vavasor in her introduction to the novel: An undeveloped character in the novel, and an ignored subject in criticism, she is nearing thirty, unmarried, unoccupi ed except as a companiona representative female type of the mid-century, yet one rarely portrayed in th e fiction of the period, and one but awkwardly assimilated by Trollope (xviii) Though Kate is by no means as radically deviant as her 1890s descendants, her personal critique and manipulation of the novels marriage market, largely expressed through the language of property, represents the larger gr owing debate over the Marriage Question that would become so co mpelling and shocking in the New Woman. The connection of this personal and pol itical challenge to marriage, with Kates need to be defined in terms of the family and the familys narrative dependence on her, suggests that the New Woman not only challenges the family but supports its continuation as well. In a novel that considers the question of what women are to do with their lives, Kates comments on marriage reveal a keen understanding of womens diss atisfaction with that most hallowed of Victorian cultural inst itutions and verbalize the implic it critiques of marriage in the three other narrative arcs. Throughout the novel, her dissimilarity from the other women allows her to represent as well as voice a sustained cr itique of womens abject position in marriage. Kate lacks a proper vocation, either professional or familial, and focuses her energies and her formidable intellect on helping her unworthy brother George win back her cousin Alice. Kate spends the bulk of the novel doing and saying all sorts of unfeminine things, being indelicate, as Alice calls her (VI 64). As she tells her brother in response to his assertion that women marry
52 to end the happiness of bachelors, Its envy th at makes us want to get married,not love (V 47). However odd Kate may be, her influence cannot be ignored in this ma rriage-obsessed novel. This awkward assimilation not only mark s Kates function in the novel, but also extends to her place in scholarship on the novel. She is usually discussed in terms of her static singleness and her fierce loyalty to and self-sacrifices for her brot her. Each of these strains of inquiry tends to efface any sort of agency for Ka te. Having already described her as the totally devoted, serviceable spinster sister, Deborah Mors e goes on to argue that Kate is one in whom the devotion to her brothers life is coupled with a self-hatred (Morse 13; 36). Jane Nardin groups Kate, the confirmed spinster, with the women who have the least agency in the novel, Georges mistress, Jane, and the prostitute on wh om Burgo Fitzgerald takes pity (131). Still, there is more to Kate than sacr ifice. Though sisterly loyalty and s acrifices are key parts of Kates role in the novel, Trollope is doing more with Kate than just depicting a conniving masochistic spinster. She does indeed take that role, but she al so plays a key part in the reconstruction of the family at the novels end through her commitment to the proper transmission of family property. Even though James Kincaid argues at length th at Kates single activity for most of the novel is the attempt to get George married, to sati sfy her guilt [from her ov erly intense sisterly love] by becoming nothing, he also notes that Kate eventually resists her brothers demands and breaks this pattern, just as Alice falls into it, but he does not explore how or why she breaks this obviously compelling pattern of masochistic love (186). Trollope clearly advocates the centrality of the family as a basis for women s identity as he has Kate, the potential New Woman, break this pattern in order to demonstrate the necessity of traditional family loyalty and duty. Furthermore, Kates gestures towards this nothingness, this lack of agency, encourage
53 Alice on the path, circular and counter-i ntuitive though it may be, towards accepting her subordinate role as John Greys wife. Kates devotion to her brother at the be ginning of the novel binds her to the Vavasor family and gives her a concrete role. Kate he rself, though unmarried, has given herself to her brother in much the same way as a wife. As sh e tells Alice, Ive had very few thoughts about a husband for myself. The truth is, Im married to Ge orge (V 62). While Kate almost seems to be wooing Alice for herself in her intrigues on her brothers behalf Kates definition of marriage hinges on a complete devotion of energy and self to her pseudo-husband. Her mind and even her very small fortune are entirely at her brothers se rvice throughout the novel. She realizes that she has given over her identity and property to her brother, and his marriage will leave her without place or self: If you became Georges wife I should become nobody. Ive nothing else in the world But Id give up all, everything, ever y hope I have, to see you become Georges wife (V 63). Kate here acknowledges the precariousness of her identity; if Alice marries George, then Kate loses her position as her brothers primar y feminine caretaker and becomes simply a nonentity. She is a feme covert with no husband, a non-person who is not assured of being protected by the man whose interests she has elevated a bove her own. Still, she is willing to give up everything she is to have George married to Alice, thus bringing he r brother back into the family through a marriage to a cousin and u nder the influence of a good woman. To Trollopes male narrator, such skillful and ruthless manipulation is not only unethical, it is unwomanly. Kates single-mindedness in her pursuits leads her to cross the line of feminine tact and sympathy, misjudging the best suitor for Alice and the be st male heir for the Vavasor family. Once Kate knows that Alice is officially back in the marriage mark et after jilting Grey, her schemes become increasingly underhanded as she risks everything for her brothers sake.
54 Kate shows George part of the le tter that Alice has sent her, te lling of her recent interview with Grey in which she broke off their engagement. The narrator marks this action as a sin and declares that Kate has betrayed an essential part of her sex: Kate had be en a wicked traitor,a traitor to that feminine faith against whic h treason on the part of one woman is always unpardonable in the eyes of other women (XIV 137). In a novel so concerned with forgiveness, readers, specifically Victorian women readers, are left wondering if th ere is any good reason to forgive Kate. After all, Alice had written to Kate her most private feelings, with absolute trust: Alice declared to herself that she would be su re of her cousins sympathy, and had written out all her heart on the matter, as was her wont wh en writing to Kate (XII 124). In showing the letter to George, Kate has betray ed her cousins trust in her as a sister, indeed as a woman, by allowing a man knowledge of such a private letter. Neither Alices privat e self nor her property is safe in Kates ru thless unwomanly hands. However, despite the narrators intense offense at Kates horrible sins against womanhood, he must admit that she does not scheme for her own material benefit. He does not cast her as a purely malevolent unfeminine woman: To give Kate Vavasor her due, she was, at any rate, unselfish in her in trigues. She was obstinately persistent, and was moreover unscrupulous, but she was not selfish. Many year s ago she made up her mind that George and Alice should be man and wife, feeling that such marriage woul d be good at any rate for her brother (XIV 137). Her conniving deeds come from an overly developed sense of feminine selfsacrifice that enables to her sacrifice anyt hing, including Alice, for Georges success and reformation. Her identity is bound up in her ability to control and manipulate, to demonstrate some sort of individual agency, which is exac tly what she lacks as a single woman without a vocation or property who must depend on the kindne ss of her family for material and social
55 support: The intrigue itself was dear to her, a nd success in it was necessary to her self-respect (XIV 138). She may have answer ed Alices question of Wha t should a woman do with her life? in a less than noble fashion, but she has act ually answered it, which is more than Alice herself ever does (XI 110). Kate schemes because she has no other way of using her intellect and shaping the world. Like Glencora, who will try to ta ke an unseen hand in politics in later Palliser novels, Kate needs to have some sort of larger pu rpose in her life. Trollope shows Kate, then, not to be an intrinsically evil character, but ra ther one of the series many women who lack appropriate spheres of ac tion for their talents. When we first meet Kate, with her little sa rcastic smile, she is clearly marked as a dangerous influence on her cousin Alice (III 29). In particular, her comments about her cousins fianc, John Grey, echo and amplify Alices own misgivings about allowing Grey to have dominion over her as her husband. Perhaps more im portantly, Kate is aware that deep down Alice agrees with her and is more than willing to tell Alice the truth about her own feelings. She makes Alice realize how much she doubts he r eminently respectable match through her excessive passions and speech, and questions Alice s love, namely whether it is strong enough to overcome her anxiety over giving up her individual ity and property to Grey. Kate, with her usual deftness, argues that Alice is not willing to submit to John Greys authority: But, Alice, if I thought Mr. Grey was to you Hype rion, if I thought you could marry him with that sort of worshipping, idolatrous love, which makes a girl proud as well as happy in her marriage, I wouldnt raise a little finger to prevent it (V I 64). For Kate, Greys particular self-possession that requires a wife who is willing to give up everything for marri age, including her ownership of herself, is an intrinsic part of the institution. Victorian marriage s principle of coverture requires such a masochistically pleasurab le sacrifice. Kate posits love as a passion, which must
56 overwhelm a young womans instinctiv e self-protections in order for her to be happy in her submission of all her possessions, includi ng her legal identity, to her husband. Though such a comment is clearly intended to appeal to Alices gr owing dread of giving up her life and herself to her husband, the exce ssiveness with which Kate asserts both the pain and pleasure involved in marri age for women gives the statement interpretive power beyond Kates ostensible purpose. By casting wives as slaves to their god-lik e husbands, Kate reads Alices, as well as Glencoras, difficulties in submitting themselves to the yoke of marriage as the naturally instinctive reaction of a liberal se lf to being denied the personal and economic independence that is theirs by right. If women are complex indi viduals, which Trollope is at pains to show in this novel, then marriage is not always such an easy thing for them because it requires them to give up part of that complexity in order to become socially acceptable wives. Alice herself begins the novel a little uneasy about her impending marriage and her husband-to-be because of Greys power over her. Trollope connects John Greys personal mastery of Alice to his authority as a husba nd in marriage, while simultaneously positioning Alices fear of that authority as her fear of losing control over the material and emotional conditions of her life. As she tells Lady Macleod, the woman who largely raised her: I havent much of my own way at present; but you see, wh en Im married I shant have it all (III 29). Grey wants her to leave her London town life behind and retire with him to the peaceful quiet of his Cambridgeshire estate, Nethercoats. He simply states that he does not like town life and assumes that his wife will agree with him, but Alice cannot give up her life, and by implication her separate identity, without some acknowledgement that she has yielded ownership: she could not become unambitious, tranquil, fond of retirem ent, and philosophic, without an argument on the matter,without the poor grace of owning herself to be convinced (emphasis added) (LXIII
57 233). Alice wants to be a partne r whose individuality requires consideration rather than a subordinate to whom orders are given. Though A lice evidences the beginnings of such willful thoughts throughout the opening scenes of the novel, it is Kate who fosters Alices discontentment with her early charge of hypocrisy, leading Alice to dwell all the more on the precise nature of her feelings for Grey. The overwhelming self-sacrifice required by ma rriage shocks Alice, as she struggles to retain agency in her lif e. Alice, who is has begun seriously to doubt her engagement, cannot cope with the depth of self-abnegation that Kate decl ares necessary to marriage. Alice is unable to express such passionate feelings about her fianc because she cannot reconcile her love for Grey with her desire for liberty of the self. Her sile nce in the face of her cousins strong emotions pushes her to concede the reality of her own feelings: Alice made no answer, though she felt that she was allowing judgment to go against her by default She felt that she had, in some sort, acknowledged that the match was one to be deplored (VI 64-65) Alice cannot refute Kates statements because she cannot deny the u nderlying dread she feels at yielding completely to Grey. Demonstrating the pr oto-New Womans dangerousness to the institution of marriage, Kate has intensified Alices fears of losing her w ill in marriage so as to have her cousin thinking it a shameful thing to marry to this man. Specifica lly, she disrupts the transf er of Alices property and herself to the best steward of both. For Kate, her desire to have Alice break it o ff with Grey is coupled with her wish that Alice marry her brother George, reforming him by more closely tying the heir to the Vavasor fortune to the family. Though George himself quite ma tter-of-factly admits that he is not sure if he still loves Alice, Kate insist s that he and Alice belong together as she prods George to make an effort at winning Alice back: Im moving heaven and earth to bring you two together; but if
58 I didnt think you loved her, Id go to her at once and bid her never see you again Its the darling wish of my heart th at she should be your wife. If you ever loved anybody,and I sometimes doubt whether you ever did,but if you did, you loved her (IV 61). Kates insistence here in the face of her brothers obvious indifference seems odd for a woman who is so quick to notice the inne r thoughts of others. It is not that Kate must be assured of her brothers love for Alice so that her machinations will be ultimately morally good; she tells her brother during the same conversation, If youre going to preach morals, Ill leave you (IV 61). Rather, Kate must believe her brother loves Ali ce, because such love and the ensuing marriage would bring this wild man back into the family from which he has separated himself by breaking with its patriarch, the Squire of Vavasor Hall. By marrying his cousin Alice Vavasor, George would be even more fully a Vavasor and would hopefully heal the breach between himself, the heir apparent, and the Squire, the family patriarc h. Kates unfeminine manipulation thus works to strengthen the family ties of love and prope rty, though it will presumably leaver her with no place in the Vavasor family. As a proto-New Woman character, Kates potential nothingness, he r lack of conjugal family ties and a consequent family role, at the end of the novel pr esents a fundamental challenge to Trollopes trio of happily married women in Can You Forgive Her? Ultimately however, Trollope, in the 1860s, successfully reincorporates a humbled version of his independent woman back into the family by re-c entering Kates identity on the Vavasor family. Kate becomes more firmly situated in the Vava sor family with her growing awareness that her brother George has completely rebelled against the conventions of gentlemanly conduct that are essential for the functioning of the upper middle class and, more specifically, the extended family unit. Throughout the novel, Kates most redeeming qualities, the reasons why readers
59 might forgive her intrigues, have been he r familial love and sympathy. Though these qualities are most pronounced in her self-sacr ificing relationship with her brot her, Trollope is careful to demonstrate that Kate transfers her allegiances to the Squire of Vavasor Hall, Mrs. Greenow, and, most of all, Alice, at the end of the novel. Central to this shift is her commitment to the health and survival of the Vavasor family and property, as represented in the rightful passing down of Vavasor Hall, the familys ancestral home. Though Kate has bound herself up co mpletely in her schemes for her brother, she breaks with him entirely when he threatens to destroy the Vavasor family and its traditions. Kate comes to value above all the welfare of the Vavasors as a propertied family unit once she has no other attachment to count on for emotional and material comfort, such as her relationship with her brother or even the prospective marriages of the novels other women. As the novels odd woman, she understands how much family matters matter to an unattached Victorian woman because she has no property of her own and conse quently lacks a context in which construct her identity. As she tells Alice ear ly in the novel about her relatio nship with her brother, Ive nothing else in the world (V 63). However, Kate does not become succumb to nothingness when she breaks with her brother; instead, she becomes a more vita l part of the Vavasor family. As her brother leaves her and his family behind, Trollope re-centers Ka tes identity on the Vavasors in an effort to reincorporate this pr oto-New Woman into the Victorian family as he moves Alice towards finally accepting John Grey. Trollope depicts Kates sepa ration from her brother as the di rect result of his increasingly brutal disregard for his family and refusal to fo llow the basic conventions of society that makes such disrespect of familial bonds possible. Wh en George presses her to ask his now-fiance Alice for money prior to their being married, she eventually agrees to do it though she knows
60 that is a horrible thing to ask fo r a girls money during an engagement. She refuses at first, telling George that There seems to me to be somethi ng sacred about property that belongs to the girl you are going to marry (XXXVIII 398). Though she understands that money is always a part of marriage in some way, Kate instinctively reinfo rces the middle-class fiction that marriage, particularly the one she has worked so hard to bring about, ought to be about love and not the legal death of a woman and the confiscation of he r property. Kate only agr ees to write the letter when George agrees to make some semblance of peace with the Squire of Vavasor Hall. She is willing to do what she knows is wrong because she would almost do anything to achieve a reconciliation between her gra ndfather and her brother ( XXXVIII 400). Kate profanes the match she has worked so hard to bring about so th at her brother will heal the breach between the Squire and himself as the heir to Vavasor Hall. Though Kate agrees to write to Alice on her brothers behalf, she cannot ignore the trespass against the instit ution of marriage that it represents because of the effects of such an action on the family unit, which she ardently seek s to protect. Kate can never forgive her brother for this action: He had demande d money from the girl whom he intended to marry! According to Kates idea, nothing could excuse or palliate this sin (LIV 144). Trollope further emphasizes the immorality of such an action by having Geor ge use Alices money to finance unscrupulous political campaign activities and having Grey ultim ately rescue Alices name and, by extension, her virtue from this public market by substituting his own money for hers. After Kate reads Alices letter, in which Alice tells Kate about her horrible interview w ith George, Kate fully admits to herself how much she has done for an unworthy man, and how much she has risked her beloved cousin and family in the process. Kate re cognizes a constant fury in her brother that is driving him over the edge:
61 Every hour the idea was becoming stronger in her mind that she must in some way separate herself from him [George]. There had come upon him of late a hard ferocity which made him unendurable. And then he carried to such pitch that hatred, as he called it, of conventional rules, that he allowed himself to be c ontrolled by none of the ordinary bonds of society. She had felt this heretofore with a nervous consciousness that she was doing wrong in endeavouring to bring about a marriage between him and Alice; but this demeanour and mode of talking had now so grown upon him that Kate began to feel herself thankful that Alice had been saved. (LV 152-3) Though her brother has done wicked, even sinful thi ngs in the past, he now refuses to follow the basic rules of society in any area of his life. His authority, rather th an being the easy, smooth mastery of John Grey, has become violent in it s hard ferocity (LV 152). A man can go to the bad and remain a gentleman, like Glencoras wild man, Burgo Fitzgerald, but there are certain lines that cannot be crossed in relation to mans behavior towards the women of his class and, in particular, his family. Specifically, Trollope situates Georges violent treatment of women of his domestic sphere, both verbally and physically, putting him beyond the pale as a gentleman. Indeed, Kate fully separates herself from George after he physically harms her as they walk on the Westmoreland fells near Vavasor Hall. Her brother stalks away from her after breaking her arm, and, never looking back to notice that she is hurt, he vanishes from the pages of the novel altogether. His physical blow and the meanness of spirit that made it possible convince Kate that henceforth her life must be separate from his, even though sh e remains ready to give him all of her money should he ever reque st it (LVII 174). She has lost her brother without even having the satisfaction of having reformed him: Kate told herself that everything in life was over for her Success, if he could be made to achie ve it, would soften him, and then all might be right. But now all was wrong, and she knew that it was so (LVII 174). Having invested all of herself into her schemes for her brother, Kate fe els herself to be nothing when Georges brutality makes the reforming marriage with Alice impossibl e and reveals himself to be unworthy of even
62 a sisters love. He can no longer be a gentleman, especially the patriarch, of the Vavasor family because he refuses to protect Vavasor women. He has instead become cruel like the workingclass husbands so often described in the married womens property debates, whose very violence destabilizes the fiction of marita l unity by highlighting the gaps in the institutions ability to protect women in the private sphere. Within the context of the Vavasor family, Kate s loss of George represents the loss of her one immediate familial bond, and thus the potenti al loss of her identity. She cannot wrap her mind around the dramatic change his absence will make in her life and the lack of purpose she now feels: It is very sad to abandon the only obj ect of a life! (LVII 173). Her brother is now forever a social outcast, and no scheme of hers can change the terrible meaning of his actions. Kate has been cruelly deserted by the man who was her whole life, and she is left entirely alone and without purpose. Now, more than ever, she is an odd woman and, as such, belongs to no one since she has no suitor with wh om to make a match like the novels other women. However, Trollope does not leave her as a nothing; instead, he reintegrat es her into the family by having her self-abnegation to her brot hers interest regulated by the good men of the novel into an appropriately moderate model of feminine self-sacrifice. By depicting this surprising tenderness in Ka te as devoted towards the Squire, Trollope contextualizes her positive qualitie s in terms of her love and respect for her family. The first time that Trollope shows Kate to be serving others in a conventionally good and feminine way is in her nursing of her grandfather in his final days She knows that the Squire will not live much longer, and she takes care of him with the love and care that he deserves as her grandfather and the respect he deserves at the patriarch of the Vavasor family. Critically, the tenderness of her nursing comes from the very same part of her ch aracter as her complete devotion to her brother
63 and her willingness to risk everything in her sc hemes on his behalf, demonstrating the potential of her strong loyalty to be reformed through the patriarchal family structure: Kate was, in truth, very good to him [her grandfather]. Women always are good under such circumstances; and Kate Vavasor was one who would certainly stick to such duties as now fell to her lot. She was eminently tr ue and loyal to her fr iends, though she could be as false on their behalf as most false people can be on their own. She was very good to the old man, tending all his wants, taking hi s violence with good-humour rather than submission, not opposing him with direct cont radiction when he abused his grandson [George], but saying little word s to mitigate his wrath, if it were possible. (LIII 129) Kate is both intensely loyal and independent, thus successfully reconciling feminine selfsacrifice with individualistic agency. She will do almost anything to ease her grandfathers physical suffering, but refuses to let him bully he r or run her life. Though we readers know that the Squire is correct when he tells her that Youll live to be robbed by him [George], and turned out as naked as you were born, her defens e of George to the Squire, as opposed to her calculated speeches about him to Alice, is not criticized by the narrator because it is a conventionally feminine task to reconcile patr iarch and heir (LIII 129). By having Kate work within the conventions of the Vi ctorian family, Trollope channe ls her dangerous intellect and intense devotion into the support of the family, rather than its destruction. The family is served by the strength and independence of women like Kate even as it must regulate those same qualities along gendered lines so as to ma intain its basic patriarchal structure. Throughout Kates nursing of her grandfather, Trollope emphasizes the appropriateness of her role of caring for him and its moral goodn ess through the love and approval of the ailing family patriarch. Underneath his rough words, her grandfather appreciates her care and wishes that she might be his heir, telling her with a tenderness that was unusual with him. You are a good girl, Kate. I wish you had been a boy, thats al l (LIII 134). Kate quietly reminds him that a change in her sex would have changed her life dramatically and altered their relationship
64 entirely, as she could have started her own fam ily: If I had, I shouldnt, perhaps, have been here to take care of you, she sai d, smiling (LIII 134). The Squire la ter goes so far as to ask her what she would do if he did make her heir to th e estate but swears and curses at her when she responds that she would make it all over to her br other. Though he thinks her a fool for believing so much in her brother, the Squire respects her unselfish honesty and care leaving her a large, comfortable income, though Vavasor Hall goes to A lices father and then Alices children. She, for her part, deeply mourns his passing and, in her mourning, refuses to li e for George about her grandfathers state of mind when he had the ne w will drawn up, therefore ensuring that the will of the patriarch will be carried out successfully and the Vavasor property properly distributed. In her relationship with the Squire, Kates strong sense of loyalty works to maintain the health and continuation of the Vavasor family by making certain that family estate is passed on to the rightful heirs and giving the d eceased patriarch at least one real caregiver and mourner. In addition to underscoring her relationship with the Squire, Trollope emphasizes how Kates bond with her aunt connects her to th e Vavasor family by giving her a reciprocal relationship with a woman in her domestic circle. Rather surpri singly, Kate and her aunt, the merry widow Mrs. Arabella Greenow, get along quite well and develop a very intimate relationship, based on mutual and generous suppor t rather than the desperate materialism of her relationship with George. Her aunt may know th e importance of money and marrying well for a woman, but she is also more than generous to others and, in partic ular, Kate. As Kate tells Alice, Did you ever know such a woman? with al l her faults I believe she would go through fire and water to serve me. I think shed lend me money without any stamped paper (XXXI 324). When her aunts favored suitor, the mildly rakish Captain Bellfield, visits Vavasor Hall and is invited to stay by Mrs. Greenow, Kate is very annoyed but allows the vis it for her aunts sake:
65 Kate bit her lips in a momentary fit of anger. The house was her house, and not her aunts. But she remembered that her aunt had been kind to her at Norwich and at Yarmouth, and she allowed this feeling to die away (LXIV 247). Momentarily, Kate has the same impulse as her brother to assert absolute control over Vavasor Hall; how ever, her relationship with her aunt, based on mutual generosity, curbs the tendency, and Kate is instead the gracious hostess that Vavasor Hall should have. Kates will to pow er, her assertion of ownership, is sublimated underneath the kindness of domestic affection be tween women. The mutuality of th eir relationship enables Kate to find her place in the Hall in such a way so as to encourage familial connections rather than mastery. Though John Vavasor is the official heir, the women clearly rule the Hall and the family. Noticeably, however, their control works to maintain the conventional and patriarchal family rather than to offer any so rt of fundamental challenge to it. Similarly, Kates relationship with Alice serv es to further bind Kate to the family as well as recuperate her within it by further destroying her agency so as to make her a thoroughly domestic woman. As Trollope se parates Kate from her brother George, he transforms her relationship with Alice into one of affection between sisters rather than of cousins so as to fully enmesh Kate within the domestic sphere. Alice therefore must take the affective place Kates brother once occupied and give her a relations hip on which to base her identity by giving her a purpose in life. Though Alice has al ways shared her thoughts with Kate without reserve, Kate held herself just a little apart fr om Alice as she sought, through her intrigues, to encourage her to jilt John Grey and bring her and George back to gether. Kate sides entirely with Alice when George treats Alice in a violent manner as she breaks off thei r engagement, closing her letter to Alice: My own Alice,If you let me, you shall be my sister, and be the nearest to me and the dearest (LIV 145). Kate seeks to remove any distance and secr ets between herself and Alice,
66 and claims Alice as a sister. Though they have always been close, Kates request that she be allowed to be Alices sister reflects the shift in how she bases her identity, as she moves from being Georges sister to being an integral part of the Vavasor fa mily, making the family itself her primary identification. Within the Vavasor family and the novels na rrative, Kate is no longer an intriguer, attempting to direct the family fortunes; instead, she is now part of the natural family. Thus, after her final break with her brother, Kate turn s her mind to reuniting Alice and John Grey with same passion with which she first pursued their separation, demonstrating her reformation as she now seeks to encourage the correct match. As she tells her aunt, I woul d give all I have in the world to bring them together again (LXIV 239). However, Kates schemes are not necessary, as her aunt points out, when the wor thy man, John Grey is i nvolved: Theyll come together fast enough if they like each other All this nonsense about her cousin George, what difference will it make? A man like Mr. Grey wont care about that,especially if she tells him about it. My belief is that girl can have anything forgiven he r, if shell only tell it herself (LXIV 239). Mrs. Greenow is of course right; Jo hn Grey and Alice do come together, and Grey does forgive Alice everythingall without Kates interferenceunderscoring the appropriateness and naturalness of the union between them. Now that Kate is fully a part of the Vavasor family and has lost her single-minded campaign to marry George and Alice, she makes a full disclosure of her intrigues and gives up her private, secret self, becoming entirely legi ble and honest to all in her domestic circle. Following her aunts advice, Kate tells Alice how much she is responsible for her cousins suffering. Kates confession indicates the extent to which Alice now occupies a central place in her life and how displaced she feels at the death of her grandfather:
67 I feel myself to be a desolate, solitary be ing, without any tie to any person, or to any place. I never thought that I should feel the deat h of my grandfather to be such a loss to me as it has been. Except you [Alice], I have nothing left to me; and, as regards you, I have the pleasant feeling that I have for years been endeavouring to do you the worst possible injury, and that you must regard me as an enemy from whom you have escaped indeed, but not without te rrible wounds. (LXIX 300) With her lifelong home now broken up, Kate desperat ely needs to belong to Alice but knows that her previous scheming gives her no right to clai m a place in her cousins affections. Through her constant refusal to admit that she was influen ced by her cousin, Alice forgives Kate. She even asks her to be one of the bridesmaids at the very wedding Kate worked so hard to prevent, making her a part of the ceremony that symbo lizes Alices complete personal and economic surrender to Grey. Rather than working agains t the forces of Victorian society, Kate now supports their operation by acti ng as Alices bridesmaid. Having admitted her wrong, Kate now has a secu re place in society as a Vavasor, heir to the deceased Squire, sister to Alice, and daughter to Mrs. Gree now, but that security entails a softening of her hard edges. At the end of th e novel, Kate goes with A lice to Matching Priory, home of the Pallisers, for Alices wedding. Taken completely out of her element and not a little awed by her grand surroundings, Kate ends the nove l an awkward girl in the midst of beautiful aristocratic women.2 Always conscious of the great wrong she has done to Alice, Kate does not think herself good enough to be Alices bridesma id in her grand weddi ng: I think you had better throw me over I have done you much harm and no good; and now where I am going I shall disgrace you (LXXIX 404). Kate worries not just that she will not f it into the society at Matching, but also that she has no right to bring even more difficulties upon the sister for whom 2 As Kate and Alice travel to Matching Priory, the usually-i ndomitable Kate is completely petrified at the thought of bowing to Glencoras decisions regarding the bridesmaids costumes: All of th is was very terrible to Kate, who had not much feminine taste for finery Kate Vavasor was one to whom such submission would not come easily (LXXIX 403).
68 she has already caused so much trouble. By noting how Kate submits to the rules of feminine propriety and general so cial conventions throughout the wedd ing scenes, Trollope highlights the extent to which Kates spirit has been chastened and how she now recogni zes the greater wisdom of the good men.3 At the end of the novel, Kate is not the nothi ng she so fears; instead, she has become part of the new family that her cousins marriage has created. Presumably, she will live with the Greys as Alices maiden sister, a much more circumscribed role than she has previously occupied. Much like Alice, Kate has lost much of the agency that made her such an interesting character to begin with: She [Alice] had assumed the command of the ship, and thrown it upon the rocks, and she felt that she never ought to take the captain s place once again (LXXV 358). Though Kate does not marry, she is covered by the family at the novels close, both materially through her income from her decease d grandfather as well as narratively as marriages and babies fill the final pages of th e novel. Though in later novels, like Rhoda Broughtons Dear Faustina the kind of bonding Kate seeks with Alice is dangerous to the stab ility of the Victorian family, Trollope can here integrate Kate into the family because her relationship with Alice is ultimately policed by Alices complete subordination to John Grey, preventing the bond between Kate and Alice from exceeding the boundaries of conventional female friendship. 3 Despite her objections, Kate does go to the Pallisers. Sh e quickly becomes friends with Glencora and makes peace with Alices worthy man, John Grey. Glencora, ever aware of the real moti vations of peoples actions, has long understood that Kate played a strong hand in directing A lices life and is positively delighted to meet someone with such skill. The mischief-maker in Glencora enjoys how Ka te was able to lure Alice away from her worthy man: I have heard so much about you, said she, still keep ing Kates hand, and I know how good youve beenand how wicked you have been, she added in a whisper (LXXIX 404). Following introductions, the narrator sums up Kates experiences at Matching Priory: It was not till some days had passed over them that she felt herself at all at her ease with Mr. Grey, and I doubt whether she ever reac hed that point with Mr. Palliser; but Lady Glencora she knew, and liked, and almost loved, from the first moment of their meeting (LXXIX 404). Though she, like Glencora, retains a certain amount of independence and spirit, this Kate wants to be a part of Alices life and knows that she will have to be friends with her cousins husband. Now humbled, Kate has no schemes and seeks to be pleasing to the male authority figures in her family.
69 Having shown his proto-Ne w Woman character the erro r of her ways, Trollope successfully reintegrates her into a much more traditional family model and silences her critique of marriage for the endings conjugal bliss. In si lencing Kates challenge to Alices marriage to Grey, and all such worthy men, Trollope also silences Alices own misgivings about such a match as Alice becomes happily subordinate to her husband and yields herself and her property. The traces of Kates remarks, however, continue to reveal themselves as the Palliser series continues, and Glencora and Plantagenet continue to be affected by Glencora s initial love of her wild man and the sacrifices that both make fo r their marriage. Moreove r, this critique of womens lack of ownership of themselves and thei r property becomes part of the larger discourse of the Woman Question, as in Thomas Hardys The Hand of Ethelberta
70 CHAPTER 4 THE PROTO-NEW WOMAN AND THE ACQUI SITION OF FAMILY PROPERTY: ETHELBERTA CHICKEREL IN T HOMAS HARDYS THE HAND OF ETHELBERTA Like Trollopes Can You Forgive Her? Thomas Hardys The Hand of Ethelberta (1876) is intimately concerned with Vict orian womens negotiations of and attempts to retain agency in the marriage market. As with Trollope, Hardy us es a sisterly pair consisting of a proto-New Woman sister and a conventional si ster as vehicles for his criti que of the womens subordinate position in the institution of marriage, specifi cally demonstrating the economic and social necessity of womens participation in that in stitution through the langu age of property. Again, the proto-New Woman, Ethelberta, directs the ultimately successful marriage plot of her more conventional sister, Picotee. Howe ver, in a novel with the subtitle A Comedy in Chapters, the sororal dynamic works very differently, as this so cial comedy of manners focuses on the lives of the downstairs servant class as opposed to the aristocracy and upper middle class of Can You Forgive Her? Prefiguring New Woman fictions concern with unmarried wo mens economic and social survival, this novel is ac utely conscious of the rules and forms of a classed society and how vitally important the manipulation of them is to single women. Because of their nonpersonhood after marriage in the eyes of the law and society in general, women must exploit every possible advantage they have in the marriage market so as to make the best sale of themselves possible, which means protecting their rights to themselves and property in marriage within the limitations of marriage law. In The Hand of Ethelberta, Hardy makes the working class position of the sisters central to the action and thematics of the novel. He reve als class boundaries to be permeable as both of the sisters rise in class, Ethe lberta through her own stratagems and Picotee through her sisters assistance. Though Ethelberta, like Kate Vavasor, directs her conventional sisters development and participation in the marriage market, it is here a continually positive intervention as she
71 successfully teaches Picotee how to make an advantageous match for love and economics. However, Hardy avoids fully endorsing such strong independence in Victorian women by radically distancing Ethelberta from the narrative in the final chapter of the novel. In contrasting and then merging the two sisters, Hardy hi ghlights the unavoidable connection between ownership of property and ownership of oneself by exploring the power of a strong womans personal and legal will to revise the conventional Victorian marriage plot. Moreover, he positions that revision as an extreme exception rath er than a possibility for Victorian women in general. Like Trollopes Kate Vavasor, Ethelber ta represents the increasingly widespread questioning of the naturalness of womens subordi nate social and economic position in Victorian society. However, Ethelbertas critique also addresses the ways in which class and gender intersect to doubly bind lower-class women as they attempt to rise in society and elevate their families. Whereas Kate can despair at her lack of vocation while sustained in the comfort of Vavasor Hall, Ethelberta must cr eate a livelihood for herself in order to support both herself and most of her very large immediate family. Hardy s unconventional use of the conventions of the social comedy genre is central to understanding how seemingly positive and yet ultimately problematic the proto-New Woma ns influence can be. Turnin g the genres usual upper-class perspective on its head, Hardys social comedy looks at the upper echelons of London society from the point of view of their servants. Having been quickly widowed by her upper-class husband, whom she ensnared while working as a governess for his family, Ethelberta, a butlers daughter, makes her way in London society as a wr iter and dramatic reader, eventually seeking to marry wellall to provide for her workingclass mother, father, and numerous siblings. Consequently, while the novel does follow the basic conventions of the social comedy, it does so
72 through the point of view of the marginalized working class and, in Ethelbertas case, a class imposter who rises to great fame and fortune. Hardy himself describes th e novels approach in his preface to the 1895 Wessex Novels edition of The Hand of Ethelberta : in its choice of medium, a nd line of perspective, it undertook a delicate task: to excite intere st in a drama if such a digni fied word may be used in the connection wherein servants were as important as, or more important than, their masters; wherein the drawing-room was sketched in many cases from the point of view of the servants hall (3). In the P.S. he added to the Pr eface of the novels 1912 Wessex edition, Hardy again emphasizes the connection between his choice of s ubject and genre: The artificial treatment perceptible in many of the pages was adopted for reasons that seemed good at the date of writing a story of that class, and has not been changed (4). Playing on the social comedys light farcical manner, Hardy inverts the conventional focus on the upper class to make the downstairs action central rather than peripheral, while at the same time retaining the emphasis on the skillful management of social forms that marks the genre so as to highlight Ethe lbertas manipulation of those forms. In this context, Ethelbertas tutelage of Picot ee in how to conduct a successful romance becomes the most criti cal sort of knowledge a woman can gain, especially where her social and financial survival depends upon it, and she risks all by attempting to cross class boundaries in making that match. Furthermore, social comedys conventional happy ending enables Hardy to banish Ethelberta in the end. Highlighting the novels focus on the artistic Ethelbertas navigation of fashionable London society, critics have long made the connection between The Hand of Ethelberta and Hardys own experiences in London af ter his initial successes with Under the Greenwood Tree (1872) and Far From the Madding Crowd (1874). Critically, the comparison hinges on Hardys
73 own negotiation between his desi re for artistic success and his loyalty to his working-class Dorset family. The novel is full of references to his family, largely thr ough his depictions of Ethelbertas own working-class family, and, as Robert Gittings notes, Hardy uses his mothers maiden name, Hand, in the title of the novel itse lf, thus making the title literally mean the working-class family of Hardy/ Ethelberta (Int roduction 27). As Shanta Dutta observes about the similarities between Hardy and Ethelberta, Ethel berta shares with her cr eator her humble social origins, the individual talent wh ich helps her to transcend her class, her consequent isolation, alienation and perhaps sense of guilt, and her literary aspirations wh ich are threatened by financial insecurity (23). This so-called improbable plot is larg ely based on the life that Hardy himself was leading at the time that he wa s writing the novel as he entered London society. Mixing his own real life with fiction, Hardy creates a novel that functions as what David Ball terms a subversive fantasy because, in its consis tent return to the real limited life from its flights of fantastic artificiality, it reveals fi nally more clearl y those aspects of culture and control we are in rebellion agai nst (27). The connection between Ethelberta and her creator thus lies in their shared ambivalent cl ass identities and thei r anxiety over being able to pass in upperclass society, coupled with their artistic drive to create. Ethelberta en ables Hardy to voice his consciousness of and difficulties with his class position, underscoring the importance of issues of class and property ownership in the novel. Oddly enough, however, the discussion of the autobiographical basis for the novel is often coupled with the seemingly contradictory ar gument that the book is al so too artificial and improbable a narrative to be authentic, both as a Hardy novel and a depiction of a working-class womans career in London society. In this novel, Hardy tells the truth of his life through a woman who is creating her own fict ions and the fiction of herself, and whose real story is
74 received as a fiction by her audience. Noting the appeal this irony must have had to Hardy, Peter Widdowson characterizes the novel as a very private sort of joke, an immense irony which only he could savour: his most open and accurate acco unt of himself and his real social relations presented as a fiction in which his heroine doe s the same, only for both true stories to be received as fictions and, in the case of the novel itself, to be criticized for being impossible ( Hardy in History 159). As Sarah Davies notes, this sort of play that interweaves Victorian realism with artificial comedy enables Hardy to expl ore the artificiality of the realist mode itself: It abandons the convention of realist writing which asks the reader to re ad through the literary devices to the story beneath and instead deliberately draws the read ers attention to the way in which it is constructed (129). Thus fiction, in The Hand of Ethelberta becomes ironically truer than the Truth, and Truth itself becomes merely another sort of fiction. Still, the majority of critics who mention this often-ignored novel find this fiction to be unconvincing and aesthetically sub-standard. Mi ssing the complexities involved in Hardys construction of his most successful heroine, critics characterize The Hand of Ethelberta as a failed experiment that sets Har dys greater works into relief.1 Indeed, Hardys own assessment of the novels initial reception in the Life is still very much with us: It did not, however, win the cordiality that had greeted its two forerunners, the chief objection seeming to be that it was impossible. It was, in fact, thirty years too soon for a Comedy of Society of that kind ( Life 108). The general dissatisfaction with the novel la rgely springs from a disappointment with its refusal to dip below the surface of its artifici ality. Finding the novels merit in Ethelbertas similarities to Tess, Gittings notes, It is in mo ments such as this that the Comedy in Chapters transcends its artificial and private framework to touch the universality of the greater novels 1 For a more extensive discussion of the intricacies of th is critical discourse about the novel, see Peter Widdowsons Hardy in History, p171-176.
75 (Introduction 28).2 Despite the general tone of the critical discourse, Hardys artistic experimentation in The Hand of Ethelberta does not mean that it is simply a minor, badly-written novel, but rather that it a very pa rticular sort of working out of central Hardyean issues, womens negotiation of their relationships with men in a restrictive social matrix being chief among them. The exploration of womens complex social position infuses both the novels structure as well as its characters. The structur al as well as textual intermingli ng of the real and the artificial is not merely a device intended to annoy a Victorian audience that had likened Hardy to George Eliot, although it did succeed admirably at that task.3 Rather, the structure of the novel serves to underscore the skill with which Ethelberta masters the art of being at once true and artificial and the lessons she gives her sister in this art. Hardy classified The Hand of Ethelberta as one of the Novels of Ingenuity in his G eneral Preface to the Novels and Poems to the Wessex Edition. As Hardy characterizes them, these novels have un likely plots and might also be characterized as Experiments, and were written for the nonce simply; though despite the artificiality of their fable some of their scenes are not without fidelity to life (45). 4 Though Hardy is here at pains to 2 Also finding the novels structure uncompelling, Evelyn Hardy takes issue with Hardys use of satire: Not a work of art. The satire lacks a biting edge: the story does not move us and we are left dissatisfied (153). Agreeing that the novel is a relative failure, Jakob Loth e finds the novel interesting if only because it suggests that Hardys career as a novelist might easily have taken other directions than it actually did, and it therefore makes us all very happy that Hardy took the more genuine and great direction that he did (123-4). 3 Hardy himself famously remarks in the Life that he had last the satisfaction of proving, amid the general disappointment at the lack of sheep and shepherds, that he did not mean to imitate anybody, whatever the satisfaction might have been worth (103). 4 Addressing the novels use of different genres, Andrew Radford notes that The Hand of Ethelberta while appearing to embrace existing forms and techniques, pl ays with and challenges our generic and sentimental expectations (64). In th e preface to the novel itself, Hardy also introduces this idea of artificial narratives being true to life. In a passage very much reminiscent of the Gen eral Preface, Hardy tells his readers, A degree of probability was not attempted in the arrangement of the inci dents, and there was expected of the reader a certain lightness of mood, which shou ld inform him with good-natu red willingness to accept the production in the spirit in which it was offered. The characters themselves, however, were meant to be consistent and human (3). In The Hand of Ethelberta, then, Hardy tells his readers that we are faced w ith real Hardyean charact ers, placed within an improbable plot much like life itself. For Hardy, improba bility does not therefore indicate impossibility, as it did to his Victorian critics and many modern scholars. After all, Ha rdys own class rising indicates that the novels heroine herself with all her talents and stratagems is improbable but is most definitely not impossible. Describing part of his
76 cast these novels as written solely for the occasion of trying out particular themes and structures, he is also very clear that thei r seeming narrative artificiality does not preclude them from also possessing fidelity to life. In the case of The Hand of Ethelberta the novel resists any attempt to make meaning of its mysterious heroine by staying on the surface of literary meaning as a social comedy. Hardy mobilizes this genre subversively so as to turn its wit upon itself and reveal jokes that are far too seri ous to be funny, as most of its sly humor ends up having serious consequences for the heroine and her family. Fo r example, readers enjoy the situational comedy of Joey, one of Ethelbertas country brothers who has class-rising aspi rations of his own and pretensions to city manners. However, those pret ensions lead him into a romance with a ladys maid who learns and reveals the all-important secret of Ethelber tas class masquerade, on which the familys fortunes depend. The subtitles announcement that this is a C omedy in Chapters gives Hardy the license to explore some of his most daring themes in this mid-1870s novel. In the mode of social comedy, his attention to womens status as social commodities was much more socially acceptable because its tragic consequences, like t hose that Hardys later heroines suffer, are only the dark shadows at the edges of the novels happy ending, where Et helberta and her sister both marry well. Ethelberta does sell herself on th e marriage market to the highest bidder, but, because Hardy only gives fleeting, indirect glim pses of her interior life, the novel does not directly criticize her actions as being inauthentic or false to her real desires since her entire character is surface. own life as improbable, Hardy seems to have brought that sa me lightness of mood to the preface that he requests for reading the novel itself, making consistency and improbability intermingle so as to at once demonstrate the illusionary nature of social conventions and thei r real consequences upo n the lives of women.
77 Indeed, Hardys notion of the comedic functio ns like Shakespeares use of the genre in the problem plays like Measure for Measure where the endings improbably neat resolution of the plot is ultimately insufficient to deal with the larger issues at stake. As with many of Shakespeares plays, these unresolved themes in the novel revolve around womens social position within the marriage market. The Hand of Ethelberta ends with Ethelberta isolated from almost all of her family in her upper-class marriag e, and yet the narrative refuses to speculate on Ethelbertas possible isolation. No ting the dark side to the comedy of the novel, Richard Taylor remarks that we do not have to scratch very deeply to discover the potential tragedy; only the authors perspective preserves the comic mode (68). This tragic undertone to the novels comedy is precisely the connection Hardy make s between the real and the artificial in Ethelbertas expert navigati on of the marriage market. The Machiavellian Ethelberta manipulates the arbitrary rules and forms of London society and marriage law in order gain the real material benefits of economic security and intellectual liberty. In contrast to Ethelber tas artfully managed game, Hardy portrays Ethelbertas sister, Picotee, as too bound up in believing the lie of social conventionshe is, in short, a realistically tragic Hardy heroine. Cruc ially, however, Ethelberta teaches her sister to play the marriage market as the game it is and mo lds her sister into a ve ry successful player. In critiquing the workings of this ma rket, Hardy juxtaposes Ethelberta and Picotee, only to collapse one into the other as Picotee learns from her sister, thereby heighteni ng the uneasiness of the novels ending. In demonstrating how necessary this sort of educ ation is to women, Hardy contrasts the two sisters largely in terms of their abilities to take an active role in social situations. Ethelberta is marked by her indomitable will and deftness at us ing that will to control the extent to which
78 others, in particular, men, can read her. J. Hillis Miller notes, the successful schemer [Ethelberta] possesses an almost demonic strength of will (208). Ethelberta herself understands that her will is perhaps her gr eatest asset as she makes her wa y in London society, [discovering] in herself the full power of that self-command which further onward in her career more and more impressed her as a singular possession (120). Indee d, the strength of her w ill sets her apart from other Hardy heroines in that she retains comman d of her life: Ethelbe rta is unique among the Hardy sisterhood in the sense that she is appa rently in total control of her own destiny. Far from passively allowing her hand to be sought in marriage, she deftly plays her hand in the game of social manoeuvering (Dutta 23). 5 Ethelbertas ability to impress her desires upon the world enables her to successfully manage her deli cate plans to rise in so cial standing and bring her family up as well. Ethelberta is a physica lly attractive woman, but it is her intellectual abilities that make her such an intriguing character, what Ha rdys narrator terms her subversive Mephistophelian endowment, brains (241). The combination of her intellect and will enables Ethelberta to bend the rules of a classed so ciety and become a celeb rity among Londons upper classes, though she cannot avoid be ing bound by those rules in the end. Ethelberta becomes famous largely by employing her self-command to manipulate societys knowledge of her, particularly her working-class history. As a wo man of no property or means who aspires to marry very well, she has only herself to exchange in the creative and matrimonial markets she enters, and thus she must keep careful watch on the ways in which she circulates in London society. As a fellow party gu est remarks about Ethelb erta, She is one of those people who are known, as one may say, by subscription: everybody know s a little, till she 5 D.H. Lawrence remarked that Ethelberta is the only of Hardys characters to figure out how to live within the system after the self suddenly bursts the shell of manner and convention and commonplace opinion, and acts independently, absurdly, without mental knowledge or acquiescence (20-21).
79 is astonishing well known altogether; but nobody know s her entirely it is through her being of that curious undefined character which interpre ts itself to each admirer as whatever he would like to have it (79). This c ontrol of knowledge and chameleon changeability are critical to Ethelbertas ability to move beyond the traditional plot lines availa ble to women, as it is she who directs her own plot throughout the book and thus avoids conventional narratives of Victorian heroines. Indeed, she not only avoids them, but also exceeds them, as Boumelha argues: Ethelberta is in a sense a surv ivor of the central plot paradi gms of the nineteenth-century heroine: ex-virgin, ex-governess, ex-wife, she seems to have liv ed beyond the orthodox array of endings for the narrated woman of Victorian fiction (A Co mplicated Position for a Woman 251). This very ability to survive traditiona l narrative arcs of Victorian heroines makes Ethelberta a proto-New Woman. Chief among the narratives that Ethelberta mu st survive is that of the beautiful workingclass woman who attracts the attentions of upper-c lass men. Ethelberta is able to turn those attentions into tangible property, rather than being simply used and abandoned. Indeed, what drives the plot of the novel is Ethelbertas que st to gain permanent ownership of property and thus gain for herself intellectual as well as mate rial security. She desire s not just property, but true ownership and the freedom it entails. Cons equently, though she is left virtually penniless after the death of Lady Petherwin, her mother-inlaw, at the beginning of the novel, Ethelberta feels a sense of relief at not being bound to the Petherwin family because they sought to control her and hide her background. Telling Christopher Julia n of the situation, she confesses that It would have been enough to break the heart of a person who had calculated upon getting a fortune, which I never did; for I felt always lik e an intruder and a bondswoman, and had wished myself out of the Petherwin family a hundred time s, with my crust of bread and liberty (105).
80 Having married into the Petherwin family afte r being employed as governess for the family, Ethelberta very much understands that she would never have been in control of herself or any other property, remaining forever connected with service. Though Ethelberta is certainly playing a part to Christopher here, her refusal to give up freedom and independent will in exchange for a family fortune reverberates througho ut the novel. She desires to be a feme sole in marriage so she can retain self-direction of her life and property. As a working-cl ass woman attempting to secure that liberty, she depends greatly upon the fascination of the upper class she desires to join; outmaneuvering class boundaries is the most profitable skill in her impressive repertoire. Ethelbertas participation in the creati ve and matrimonial markets of Londons upper class is marked by her attention to exchange va lues, including physical property and intellectual creativity. She becomes a dramatic reader in orde r to provide for herself and her family. As she herself readily admits, her success is due in larg e part to her ability to pleasurably combine the private domesticity of a woman with the public display of an entertainer. Though she is in a public hall surrounded by perfect strangers, she tells her tales as if she were at her own fireside, surrounded by a circle of friends. By this touch of domesticity a great ap pearance of truth and naturalness was given, though real ly the attitude was at firs t more difficult to maintain satisfactorily than any one wherein stricter fo rmality should be observed (118-119). The value of her performances lies in the play between the artifice and realit y of domesticity. By consciously performing the domestic, Ethelberta br ings to the fore the underlying performativity of the supposedly natural role. Ever the astute judge of a ventures pr ofitability, Ethelberta carefully walks the line between the private and the public in or der to attract the necessary interest and yet remain a resp ectable woman and be welcome at all the best homes in London.
81 For her performance to work, to be of value to her audience and herself, she must provide the excitement of novel display because what in terests her audience is the disjuncture between the public setting of the performa nce hall and the private nature of her manner, a pleasure that loses much of its power with re petition. Thus, though Ethelberta fi nds this career to be very profitable in the beginning, she soon notices a falling off in demand and a thinning of her audience. The touch of scandalousness that initi ally intrigued her audience has faded as the newness of her performance wears off: Her novelties had been hailed with pleasure th e rather that their freshness tickled than that their intrinsic merit was appreciated; and, like many inexperienced dispensers of a unique charm, Ethelberta, by bestowing too li berally and too frequently, was destroying the very element upon which its popularity depe nded Indeed, what might be called its badness in a histrionic sensethat is, her look sometimes of being out of place, the sight of a beautiful woman on a platform, revealing tender airs of domesticity which showed her to belong by character to a quiet drawing-roomhad be en primarily an attractive feature. (169) By being too liberal in her public circulation, Ethelberta has lost value in the creative marketplace. The out-of-place-ness of her publicly domestic storytelling necessarily diminishes as repetition normalizes the unusua l qualities of her performances. Keenly aware of what this slight decrease in her popularity means for the financial su rvival of herself and her family, Ethelberta leaves off her storyt elling altogether and devotes her considerable energies to finding a permanent income for her family by entering the marriage market. For a penniless Victorian woman, like Ethelb erta, in the 1870s, marriage was the only way of acquiring the sort of self -sustaining wealth that could fr ee her from working, as well as support an extended family of two aging parents and nine siblings. Ethelberta must marry well enough to have substantial marriage settlement in order to provide for her family, because the married womens property legislation of the 1870s would not have automati cally granted her any control over her husbands property. This idea is critical to unde rstanding Hardys depiction of
82 Ethelbertas husband hunting, since she seeks to ga in a sustainable, long -term income for her working-class family through a marriag e to a man of gentle birth: What she contemplated was not meanly to en snare a husband just to provide incomes for her and her family, but to find some man she might respect, who would maintain her in such a stage of comfort as should, by setting her mind free fr om temporal anxiety, enable her to further organize her ta lent, and provide incomes for them herself. Plenty of saleable originality was left in her as yet, but it was get ting crushed under the rubbish of her necessities. (210) Ethelberta seeks to exchange her beauty and charm for a husband who will give her freedom from the cares and concern of poverty so that she may devote herself entirely to her writing. As Penny Boumelha perceptively points out, Ethelber ta acts as her own f ather by investigating the financial suitability of her suitors and ensu ring that she does not sell her sexual commodity below market price ( Thomas Hardy and Women 41). Ethelberta is an ac tive agent rather than a passive commodity in the matrimonial exchange. As she cannot depend on the law to protect her as a married woman, she must find a husband with the right temperament to allow her to retain control over her daily life and pr otect her genius. What Ethelber ta desires then is not only material comfort, but also the intellectual comf ort of being a full agent in her studies, of not having to subordinate her own desires to the tastes of her audience. Not unsurprisingly then, Ethelberta chooses a husband who, in the end, allows her this sort of material comfort and control of their conjugal life and propert y. Ethelberta has four serious suitors in the novel: Chri stopher Julian, the poor man of gentle birth whom Ethelberta almost loves; Ladywell, a young gentleman painte r who paints Ethelbertas portrait; Alfred Neigh, a gentleman with an estate that has a horse knackering yard ra ther than a house and whose father married his cook6; Lord Mountclere, an elderly nobleman who is well known for 6 Hardy omitted this mention of Neighs father and the cook in the 1877 edition, emphasizing instead that the Neighs had made their money from knakering and tanning. For further discussion of this point, see the 1997 Penguin edition of the novel, note 7 on page 446.
83 his decadent lifestyle, particularly for his keeping of mistresses. Ethelber ta considers each of these men in turn and decides eventually on Lo rd Mountclere because, in giving up any hope of making a love-match with Christopher, she refuses to settle for the middle ground of either Neigh or Ladywell. Unwilling to marry under fa lse pretences without first disclosing her working-class origins, Ethelberta reasons that neither man will be able to stand the test of her revelations (210). These men lack the cultural an d material capital to withstand the negative effects of being married to a butle rs daughter and thus so closely allied with the servant class: They were both too near her level to be truste d to bear the shock of receiving her from her fathers hands. But it was possible that t hough her genesis might ti nge with vulgarity a commoners household, susceptible of such deprecia tion, it might show as a picturesque contrast in the family circle of a p eer (287). Envisioning her marriage in terms of property values, Ethelberta decides that the lack of property on he r part, due to her class origins, will potentially bring a gentlemans social value down too low to give her the security sh e desires. By marrying into one of the oldest noble families with hereditary property that has been handed down for generations, Ethelberta insures that she will be able to provide materially for her family and thus free her own mind to pursue the epic poem she is writing at the novels end. Though both her father and mother are living, Ethelberta cares and provides for her younger siblings and finds employment for her older siblings. Her mother and father both yield to her judgment, and throughout th e novel she acts as what Rosemarie Morgan describes as a highly competent head of the household (x). Mr Chickerel, Ethelberta s father, can neither provide for his family economically because his butlers wages are not enough to support his ten children, nor care emotionally for them because his job necessitates his prolonged absence from the home. He is an exemplary butler, possesses all th e proper qualities for his profession, but
84 those very qualities, having become central to hi s identity, prevent him fr om being the leader of his family. His face reveals conscientiousness in the performance of duties, a thorough knowledge of all that appertained to them, a ge neral desire to live on without troubling his mind about anything which did not concern him (64) As his wife comments to her two eldest daughters, Ethelberta and Picotee, Hell never give up his presen t way of life it has grown to be such a part of his nature. Poor man, he ne ver feels at home except in somebody elses home, and is nervous and quite a stranger in his own. Sich [sic] is the fa tal effects of service! (117). Though both sisters are annoyed by their mothers co mplaint, both agree that it is indeed true, which makes Ethelbertas task of providing for her family all the more difficult. She knows that she must not only gain fortune enough to educat e her siblings but also to fund her fathers retirement from service since he [looks] with dread at any hint of change short of perfect retirement (211). As both the wage earner and primary decision-maker for her family, Ethelberta does exactly what the New Woman twen ty years later would be so often accused of she takes over the most fundamental masculine position of authority. In addition to assuming paternal duties, Ethe lberta takes on the maternal ones as well, pointing towards the New Womans desire to mold her daughters to resist the pull of patriarchal authority. Though always physically in the home, Ethelbertas invalid mother, who seems to be too exhausted from giving birth to ten children to do any sort of wage-earning or domestic work for her family, is even less a part of her childrens lives than their absent father. For most of the novel, she remains bed-ridden and separated literally as well as emotionally from her children. It is Ethelberta, and not her mother, who works to give the younger Chickerel children an education and set the elder ones up in the professi ons of their choice. However, with her secondeldest sister, Picotee, Ethelberta does not seek to establish her in any sort of profession; instead,
85 Picotee requires a different so rt of work as the younger wo man enters the marriage market. Ethelberta, like Trollopes Kate Vavasor, shapes the marriage plot of her more conventional sister, and that guidance enables Picotee to negotiate the gender and class po litics of this critical game. Moreover, Ethelberta teaches her sister ho w to participate in her romance plot with the self-command of a game player rather than the passive reacti veness of the romance heroine, though Picotee, unlike her sister stays within the boundaries of the conventional courtship narrative. Central to taking care of her fam ily for Ethelberta is providing for her sisters, in particular guiding her sister Picotee in the marriage market. When Ethelberta reflects on the reasons for her marriage to a man of good family, she carefully considers her sister s need for education: For the rest, too, Ethelberta had indulged in hopes, the high educat ion of the younger ones being the chief of these darling wishes. Picotee wanted looking to badly enough (211). The eldest Chickerel sister seeks to pr ovide her younger sisters with in tellectual property beyond their working-class social position. Noti ceably, Picotees need to be looked to by her older sister follows immediately upon Ethelbertas thought th at her young sisters need education. Hence for Ethelberta, the care that Picotee requires is a sort of educatio n, though it is separate from her wish to see her youngest sisters formally educat ed. This difference hinges on Picotees already having entered the game of romance by falling in love with Christopher Julian and therefore committing herself to the game, which she needs Ethelbertas tutelage in order to play successfully. Ethelberta teaches her sister how take control of language in her relationship with Julian and makes their marriage financially possible by requiring Mountclere to give Picotee a substantial settlement should she marry Christop her, thus making Picotee always protected by the rules of equity in her marriage. In caring for her sister, Ethelberta not only materially
86 supports Picotee, she also provides her with an essential education in how to navigate the marriage market and attract the man she loves. In contrast to Ethelberta her younger sister Picotee seems bound to the conventional tragic romance narrative of Victorian heroines an d stands in sharp contra st to her amazingly selfpossessed older sister. This difference largely hinges on Picotees readability and transparency as opposed to Ethelbertas impenetrable play of surfaces, what Richard Hyde Taylor calls her ambiguous morality and ruthless will-power (63). Named for a variety of the common carnation as opposed to her sisters aristocratic namesake, the young pupil teacher lacks her older sisters education and ambition.7 Picotee is defined throughout the novel in terms of lack and absence compared to her sister. Indeed, where Et helberta is experienced and active, Picotee is innocent and passive; Picotee accep ts with resignation what Ethelberta schemes to overcome. Thus, when Christopher Julian meets her for the first time, his wish to see Et helberta rather than Picotee reveals Picotees difference from Ethelberta: she was not Ethelberta Petherwinquite a different sort of individual. He had long made up his mind that this would be the case, yet he was in some indescribable way disappointed (30). Picotee disappoints at th is point in the novel because she does not have her sisters fascinati ng opacity and ability to resist the pull of the romance plot. As the narrator remarks in describi ng her, she is utterly conventional: She was an April-natured, pink-cheeked girl one who evid ently took her day in the daytime, frequently caught the early worm, and had little to do with ya wns or candlelight (30) Pathetically, Picotee falls in love with Christophe r during this meeting and become s entangled in an abjecting narrative arc that requires her to suppress her love even as ev eryone around her can read the depth of her emotion on her face. Unlike her sister, Picotee risk s her agency in her love of 7 Ethelbertas name references Ethelbert, King of Wessex in the ninth century. See the 1997 Penguin edition of the novel, note 2 on page 426.
87 Christopher Julian, the only one of Ethelbertas ad mirers to inspire any sort of feeling in the heroine. Where Ethelberta is able to control and direct her own circulation in society and is thus a property owner rather than prope rty herself, Picotee is easily known and, to a certain extent, owned in her relationship with Christopher. Ha ving fallen in love almost instantly with Christopher, Picotee attempts to think on her own since she knows that there is something between her sister and Christopher Her love for Christopher forces her, for the first time, to be conscious and seek to direct her life: Picotee obeyed orders with the abstracted ease of mind which people show who have their thinking done fo r them This arrangement, by which she gained an untroubled existence in exchange for fr eedom of will, had worked very pleasantly for Picotee until the anomaly of falling in love on her own account created a jar in the machinery (133-4). Picotees independent act of falling in love with Christopher requires her to develop as an individual. Here, Picotee is very much following the conven tional plot of the nineteenthcentury romance, where the heroine begins to se parate herself from her parents as she depends more and more on her lover. However, because Ethe lberta occupies the parental role in Picotees life, Picotees attempt at independence begins th e process whereby Ethelber ta teaches her how to participate successfully in the marriage market by subverting male linguistic authority, becoming more like Ethelberta herself in the process. In much the same way that Kate Vavasor encourages Alices discomfort with having to follow th e normal progression of romance and surrender her will to John Grey, Ethelberta inst ructs her younger sister in unders tanding the power dynamics at work between men and women in the courtship process. Where in Can You Forgive Her? Trollope is very much concerned with how Alice learns to be reconciled and even love Greys mastery, Hardy, in The Hand of Ethelberta is less
88 concerned with the Picotees inner life than her ab ility, or lack thereof, to control the knowledge that others, particularly men, have of her. Picotees courtship stratagems fail because she lacks the ability to manipulate the extent to which she is seen by the male gaze and thus objectified. When she falls in love Christopher as they pass by one another on a country road, Picotee attempts to look at him without his knowledge by cutting a small hole in her umbrella.8 Christopher is blithely unaware of her because he has already seen too much of her to be at all interested, let alone attracted: [Now] that he r appearance along the way had changed from a chance to a custom He gazed once or twice at her form without seeing it: he did not notice that she trembled (32). Unlike he r sister who advantageously mana ges the extent to which she is seen by those whom she wishes to attract, Picot ee gives too much of herself away by trying to meet Christopher as much as possible. She becomes a commonplace woman to Christopher, an easily had and reproducible commodity, and he nce not worth of any sort of effort. Moreover, when he is told of the hole in her umbrella by a farm boy who thinks the situation rather funny, Christopher is offended by the transparency of the gambit and withdraws even further. So as not to meet her eyes, he st arts reading a book as he walks, because it taxed his dignity of gaze a little to meet a woman who was reduced to the condition of timorously watching him like a mouse in a hole childish as the trick was (33). What bothers Christopher here is not that he is being watched, for Ethelb erta looks at him throughout the novel, but rather that Picotees looking is so easily detected a nd her love so easily made public knowledge. Her open desire trespasses against the rules of courtship, which dictate that women not commit themselves fully to romance before the suito r has made the first m ove. Christopher, the good 8 Hardy omitted this episode in the 1877 edition as well as revising this section to remove any suggestion that Christopher is responsible for Picotees infatuation, thus absolving Christopher of any culpability for her love and further positioning Picotee as pathetic, and lovelorn. For further discussion of these points, see the 1997 Penguin edition of the novel, note 16 on page 429 and note 20 on page 430.
89 man of the novel, is not interested in the innocence of the conven tional Picotee; he, like the rest of the men in the novel, prefers the skill and fascination of Ethelberta. Through Ethelbertas guidance, Picotee learns to control Christophe r Julians access to herself. Ethelbertas teachings la rgely take the form of linguistic lessons, which instruct Picotee in how to gain linguistic author ity in her relationship with Chri stopher, as well as an ethical system that subverts Victorian ideas of conventional femininity. The ability to control and manipulate the power of language is a particular ly critical skill for a woman in the marriage market as she must be able to use language to create and manage the desires of her suitors, and Picotee must learn this skill to bring her cour tship with Christopher to a successful end. As Boumehla argues, Ethelberta repeatedly advise s Picotee on the necessity for women, of some stratagem for dissevering language from truth (255). Ethelbertas prot o-New Woman didactic aphorisms teach her sister to be aware of th e difference between mens and womens access to social power and the subordinating effect of mens ethical systems on women. When Picotee first admits to Ethelberta that she is in love with a then-unnamed beloved, Ethelberta chides her for being too free with her favor to him. In response to Picotees lament that her beloved has not reciprocated her timid advances, Ethelberta tells her that Men who come courting are just like bad cooks: if you are kind to them, instead of ascr ibing it to an exceptional courtesy on your part, they instantly set it down to their own marvelous worth (53). Here, Ethelberta teaches her sister about the problem with allowing men too much knowledge of yourself and depreciating ones value. Since Picotee has become too common to Christopher, he views her interest in him as arising from himself rather than an attractive qu ality in herself. His worth has increased at the expense of her own. Though Christopher is the mo st honest and decent suitor in the novel, even
90 he does not consider conventiona l women to be full agents in their actions; instead, he views them as relational beings, acting only re sponse to his own actions and desires. To retain value in this market, Ethelberta a dvocates a sort of situational ethics for women, which enables them to undercut traditional ethica l rules. Foreshadowing the political didacticism of New Woman fiction, Ethe lberta teaches her sister to recogn ize and subvert male ownership of language. In perhaps her most explicit lesson to Picotee about language, Ethelberta asserts the necessity of artifice and contextual sensitivit y to women. Responding to her sisters question about whether honesty is always th e best policy, the elder sister te lls the younger, So it is, for the mans purpose. But dont you go believing in sa yings, Picotee: they are all made by men, for their own advantages. Women who use public prove rbs as a guide through events are those who have not ingenuity enough to make private ones as each event occurs (145). Ethelberta here makes a clear distinction betw een the way the world works for men and the way it works for women, easily accomplishing what Patricia Ingham terms a cool demolition of the public proverbs about women (24). Honest y is a tool that works for men because they have crafted its meaning and applications. Since women, because of their subordinate social position, have no ownership over these man-made proverbs, they must craft their own et hical guides, which are sensitive to the specificity of their social posi tion and the importance of that social position to their material survival. According to Ethelber ta, men literally own the truth, and women must therefore turn artifice to their use. However, for Hardy, women can never entirely avoid being subject to mens truths because they must ultimately depend on men for emotional and material support. Ethelberta, who thinks and acts according to he r own ethics, loses her central place within the narrative to her sister Picotee, who repres ents a balance between conventional romance and
91 her sisters radical ethics. By having Ethelberta ultimately reject Christopher and facilitating the transfer of his love to Picotee, Hardy positions Picotee as Ethelbertas conventional and, for Hardy, better self. Picotee makes a love-match in the end but still re quires the proto-New Womans ability to subvert masc uline control of language, as we ll as the material support she provides as a woman well in ch arge of her property. Though Har dy contrasts the two sisters throughout the novel, he also incr easingly notes the similarities between the two on a physical and eventually linguistic level. When Picotee a nd Ethelberta walk along the beach when Picotee initially confesses her infatuation, they physically become one, as the narrator describes them as moving with the motion of one body animated by one will (50). That will is, of course, clearly Ethelbertas, but this physical representati on of the connection between the two sisters subversive and conventional narratives suggests the implicit dependence of one upon the other, which in turn suggests a long-standing connectio n between the New Woman and the family, as it is Ethelberta who will enable her sister to create a family of her own. Although Ethelbertas skill at managing her own romantic life that first facilitates this exchange of one sister for the other in Christ ophers affections, Ethelb erta herself will be marginalized narratively in the novels ending as Christopher comes to value Picotee over Ethelberta because her can never be sure of th e latters calculating nature. Ethelberta discovers that Christopher is the man with whom Picotee is in love when Christopher mistakenly kisses Picotees hand and embraces her when she enters the dim room where he waits for her sister. Ethelberta had been keeping Christopher waiting in order to heighten his desire for her and sends Picotee down to ascertain the eff ect of her stratagem. Hence, th e kiss and embrace that occur are a direct result of the elder sister s romantic game playing. Christoph er only realizes that he has the wrong sister in his arms when the light falls on her childish features (158). Though
92 Christopher here is repulsed by Pi cotees innocence, the quality that separates her from her sister, he begins to reevaluate this difference after Ethelberta removes herself from the market by marrying the rakish Lord Mountclere. Hardy suggests that though the proto-Ne w Woman may be fascinating and even attractive, the woman who retains traces of the romance heroine is the more desirable wife. This reevaluation occurs not only because Ethelber ta is now off the market, but also because Christopher sees Picotees worth in the desire of a rival man. Picotee becomes the hot property, as it were. Unsuccessfully attempting to stop the wedding, Christopher is to ld by the parish clerk that Ethelberta has already been married, but that, referring to Pico tee who served as her sisters witness, The prettiest maid is left out of harness (368). Almost immediately, Christopher begins to transfer his affections and frequently recalled this re mark about Picotees beauty in the future (368). Ethelbertas marri age serves both to take her out of circulation as well as to force Christopher to acknowledge the ways in which the reality of her does not mesh the ideal of her he has loved in his mind since they part ed ways in London: a sublimated Ethelberta accompanied him everywhere one who never teased him, eluded him, or disappointed him (319). Thus, the clerks comment about Picotee serves to make Chri stopher begin to realize that Picotee is his idealized Ethelberta, the beauty without the demonic will, further connecting the two sisters in the marriage market and positioning Picotee as the more desirable of the two now that Ethelberta is forever tied to the morally corrupt Mountclere. Also, the clerks clear and slightly vulgar appreciation of Picotees physical attractions, the idea that another man may take away Picotees complete devotion to him, leads Christopher to se e her as an object of value. Now that Ethelberta herself is permanently out of circulation, Picotees va lue has increased in his eyes because she is the most desirable version of Ethelberta.
93 Though Hardy virtually banishes Ethelberta from the last chapter of the novel, he cannot rid the novel of her influence because the successf ul resolution of the Picotee/Christopher plot depends upon the property she acquires through her proto-New Woman machination. Still, Hardy positions this marriage as having its roots in Ethelbertas most feminine quality, maternal nurturing, thereby further distancing the happy middle-class family from Ethelbertas subversiveness. When Ethelberta sees Chri stopher embracing Picotee in the aforementioned scene, her motherly desire to care for her sister takes preced ence over her own affections for Christopher: It was char acteristic of Ethelbertas jealous motherly guard over her young sisters that her foremost feeling was less one of hope for her own love than of championship for Picotees (162). Though Ethelberta does have feelings for Christ opher, her primary concern is the successful resolution of Pi cotees romance, putting her familys needs above her own. When Christopher leaves her house for th e last time, Ethelberta takes car e that Picotee comes to occupy her place in his affections, and that the Picotee and Christopher remain in contact with each other through Ethelbertas proposal that Picotee and Faith, Christophers sist er, correspond with one another as he and his si ster travel abroad to Italy (176). This letter wr iting between Picotee and Faith will provide Picotee with an opportunity to address Christ opher indirectly, just what her sister has advocated all along in courtship. However, unlike her sisters public addresses, Picotees letters stay within the acceptable boundaries of private female friendship and the domestic circle. She thus combines the convent ionally private nature of womens lives with Ethelbertas manipulative skills in romance with Christopher. Through written language to another woman, Picotee has been able to mobilize her innocence to great effect and snare Christopher ju st as her sister did so many years ago. When Christopher returns to England, he goes to see Picot ee to ask for her hand in marriage. In contrast
94 to her earlier interactions with Christopher, Pico tee here is pursued by Christopher rather than being the feckless pursuer and speaks with him as an adult woman rather than the child she was earlier the book. Of course, Ethe lbertas little stratagem has worked perfectly, and Christopher has fallen in love with Picotee th rough the letters to Fa ith: I dont know if ev er before there has been an instance of loving by mean s of letters; if not, it is because there have ever been such sweet ones written, at last I look ed for them more anxiously than Faith (405). To Christopher, the only impediment to their marriage is his genteel poverty, even more important now that Ethelberta has raised her family to middle-class status through her ambitious marriage. However, here too Ethelberta has given Picotee the m eans for her happiness by providing her younger sister with 500 upon her marriage, knowing full well that Picotee would only marry Christopher. Through this marriage settlement, Picotee has marital property rights protected by equity, exactly the sort of rights that reform ers sought in 1870 but did not achieve until 1882. Indeed, Ethelberta made Picotees dowry a condition of her own marriage, thus revealing the dependence of the conventional marriage plot upon the proto-New Woma ns self-possession and eventual control of conjugal property, for Ethe lberta in the end takes total control of her husbands life and his extensive property. Thus Ethelberta, now Lady Mountclere, ends the novel largely removed from the lives of Chickerel family, and her class-transgressive upper-class marriage settlement hence makes possible the successful creation of the conventional middleclass family of Christopher and Picotee. However, although the proto-New Woman can encourage its creation, she cannot be a part of such an ending because her transgressive desire to control herself and her property means that she has no place in the bourgeois family. The critical lesson that Picotee has learned through Ethelbertas tutelage is a certain selfcontrolled ambiguity and knowledge. In the end, Christopher believ es her to be still entirely
95 dependent on her sister. Acting as if Ethelberta were eternal Providence, Picotee is dependent on Ethelberta, but that dependen ce has clearly been well placed and enabled her to attain the object of desire (406). Here, as well as elsewh ere in the novel, it is Christopher who seems to underestimate and misunderstand Ethelberta. In c ontrast, Picotee now unde rstands the power of her sisters ownership of self and property. She ends the novel by telli ng Christopher that her sister will approve of their marriage in a delig htfully meaningful remark: Berta will, I know (406). Through this comment, Picotee asserts that she knows and, by implication, understands the importance of her sisters wi ll. Though the novel ends with this assertion of Ethelbertas iron will as well as the insistence on the connection between the middle-class family and the protoNew Woman, this dangerous cultur e figure must be removed from the family in the end because her proto-New Womanhood prevents her from be longing in the private sphere of the middleclass home. In The Hand of Ethelberta, the proto-New Womans attentio n to rights of social and physical property ownership is ultimately necessary for her more conventional sister in order to move towards the resolution of her marriage plot, though it must be kept within the boundaries of conventional femininity. Where Kate and Alic e Vavasor must ultimately yield both their property and their agency in order to remain part of the family at the end of the novel, Ethelberta retains a firm, though clearly distant hold on her ag ency, and newly-acquired property is able to make her sister a propertied women herself, t hough through the more conventional means of the a marriage settlement. Ethelberta is not punished for her shocking and sc andalous behavior in this social comedy; she is rather allowed full scope for her talents a nd plans, including the education of her sister. Crucially, however, th is unchastened proto-Ne w Woman can provide the drama and the action of the novel, but she canno t participate in its rosy middle-class ending.
96 Thus while the proto-New Woman reworks family dynamics, she is still defined in key ways by the family. She is pushed to the edge of the nove l in much the same way that she occupies the edges of the discourses about Vi ctorian middle-class femininity; she modernizes the family by giving women greater individual fr eedom, but that modernization also enables the family to maintain its power as the primary reference point for womens subjectivity. This New-Woman mentoring on the realities of the marriage market becomes critical at the end of the century, as womens roles become increasingly uncertain and rules of the game change drastically.
97 CHAPTER 5 IN WANT OF A NEW WOMANS ADVICE: MIDDLE-C LASS WOMEN AN D MODERN CAPITAL Many young people, and especially widows a nd single ladies, when they first possess money of their own are in want of advice when they have commonplace business matters to transact. It is not always easy for them to find a friend who listen patiently to their difficulties, and express no surprise at their ignorance, which has made me see how much a little Manual of this kind has been wanted. Emma Ga lton (pseud. A Bankers Daughter), Guide to the Unprotected in Every-day Matters Relating to Property and Income (1863) Sooner or later it must become known, in a mo re practical way than by the figures of the census returns, that a very large proporti on of the women of England earn their own bread; and there is no saying how much good may be done, and how much misery may be saved, by a timely recognition of this simple truth. Harriet Martineau, Female Industry (1859) Though scholars generally position Victor ian popular awareness of middle-class womens work as a phenomenon of the 1880s an d 1890s, both Galton and Martineau here make visible how this topic was already under disc ussion in the mid nineteenth century. Galton highlights the need for middle-cl ass women, especially those w ho are not under the protections of a man, to be educated and knowledgeable abou t the world of business, and Martineau argues for a greater awareness of the numbers of wome n who are, by necessity, financially independent and work to support themselves. As these pa ssages suggest, in the 1850s and 1860s, bourgeois womens relationship to money a nd employment was being attached to the growing reality of their financial independence as wage earners and capitalists. These mid-century discourses shape representations of Victorian middle-class womens involvement in waged employment and latecentury capitalism. Building upon the connection between th e New Woman and wo mens relation to property that I have traced in the late-mid-century novels Can You Forgive Her? and The Hand of Ethelberta I will now turn to two 1890s texts featur ing this concern. Like the earlier novels, Ella Hepworth Dixons My Flirtations (1892) and George Gissings The Odd Women (1893)
98 both use the unconventional elder sister and conventional yet wayward younger sister dynamic as a way of addressing womens changing rela tionship to property and, in particular, the financial markets where property is exchanged. Though this discourse had been in circulation since the mid century, in the 1890s, however, its context and content chan ged dramatically as middle-class women began to enter the workfor ce in large numbers, transforming Victorian cultural ideas of the middle-class woman as entir ely relative and domestic into a new vision of her as autonomous and public. It is this shif t that both Gissing and Dixon explore through their pairs of women. In the late nineteenth century, this disc ussion of womens relationship to money takes place in reference to the emerging cultu ral figure of the New Woman. In both My Flirtations and The Odd Women the sisterly mentor is clearly marked as a New Woman and her New Womanhood is itself defined not only in terms of a politicized critique of womens status in Victorian society, but also a cons istent appeal to the New Woman as a worldly-wise mentor to women emerging from the home into the public sphere. This kind of sororal mentorship therefore becomes a nexus for Victorian anxietie s regarding the New Womans influence in the public and private spheres. However, the family, largely through the institution of marriage, ultimately works to contain that influence. Though not named in the mainstream press until Ouidas 1894 exchange with Sarah Grand in the North American Review the New Woman as a type was already fairly culturally pervasive in 18 92 and would be named in the feminist press as early as August of 1893.1 Indeed, by being on the cusp of th e New Womans discursive entrance into mainstream Victorian culture, both My Flirtations and The Odd Women participate in her 1 For further discussion of the emergence of the term, see Michelle Tusans Inventing the New Woman: Print Culture and Identity Politics During the Fin-de-Sicle Victorian Periodicals Review 31.2 (Summer 1998): 169-182. For a detailed account of Ouidas defin ition of the New Woman, see Talia Sc haffers Nothing But Foolscap and Ink: Inventing the New Woman, in Angelique Richardson and Chris Willis (Eds.) The New Woman in Fiction and in Fact New York: Palgrave, 2001. 39-52.
99 popular creation. In both cases, the authors emphasize the New Womans understanding and ability to cope with the increas ing complexity of modern life Gi ssings serious study of the plight of odd women and Dixons comedic narrative of a young womans flirtations seem to be rather disparate texts for a discussion of the New Woman and her relations hip to capitalism. However, these two late-century texts sh are a core concern with young mi ddle-class womens relationship to money, particularly the ways in which that relationship changes as women become independent economic agents and how that agency affects their participation in the marriage market. Womens economic independence in the 1890s was largely the result of their presence in the workforce, a shift that was itself an outgrow th of the changes in th e nature of the middleclass household economy brought on by the ever-i ncreasing industrialization of Englands economy in the nineteenth centu ry. The middle-class woman occ upies a particul arly fraught position as she, whose leisure and ignorance of financial matters sign ified her class status as well as that of her family, ente red in the workplace in the fin de sicle As Tilly and Scott note, this independence owes its possibility to the growth of opportunities for waged work for middle-class women, though the realities of middle-class wome ns low wages, as opposed to middle-class mens family wage, meant that the great majo rity of entirely inde pendent women merely survived rather than flourished (116). Womens greater presence in the workplace was indicative of the middle-class household economys transfor mation during the Industrial Revolution. As the nineteenth century progressed, the traditional middle-class h ousehold economy of eighteenthcentury England, where all members of the househol d were involved in a si ngle enterprise like a farm or business, increasingly gave way to two different kinds of household economies: the multi-wage household economy, with several family members contributing wages from outside
100 work to household expenses, and the breadwi nner household economy, with the households patriarch being the only wage earner and the wo men of the household leading lives of leisure (Jordan 24). Coupled with the development of these two types of household economies, as well as the increasing wealth and size of the middle cla ss, was the split of the middle class into two corresponding tiers, with the upper marked by the leisure of its women and the lower marked by its aspirations to and copying of the upper, especially in respect to the prohibition against womens connection to work. Due to what Ellen Jordan terms the separation of home and work that accompanied industrialism, middle-class wive s and daughters, who in previous decades had been part of economic production in the house hold economy through their active roles in the family enterprise as bookkeepers and informal apprentices, now became solely consumers and correspondingly lost a great d eal of economic power and agen cy within the home (24). Lee Holcombe describes womens position in th e upper-middle class breadwinner household economy, as members of this class imitated those above them in the aristocracy: leisured, or idle, wives and daughters had become expensiv e status symbols for successful middle-class men ( Victorian Ladies at Work 4). Thus the most visible mark of gentility for both the upper and lower middle classes became womens abse nce from any sort of economic production, representing the separation between work and home that such an absence signified. Somewhat ironically, middle-class womens waged employment in the public sphere became a necessity because the work they had done in the domestic space in previous decades in cottage industries, like weaving, was pushed mo re and more outside of the home and into factories. Thus, women needing to earn their bread as Martineau terms it, namely young, unmarried lower-middle class women and upperand lower-middle class women without a male
101 wage earner, were required to support themselves through work outside the home, with most flocking to the two respectable professions for middle class women: dressmaking and governessing (Jordan 5). The increased upward mobility of the middle classes had also meant increased downward mobility when busine sses failed and breadwinners died or were incapacitated, like the death of Dr. Madden that begins the action of The Odd Women Indeed, the shift to a single wage earner in the middle classes made the wo men of this class particularly vulnerable to economic catastrophes since most were totally dependent on the earnings of their husbands and fathers and had no profession and ve ry little marketable education (Jordan 24). Such hardships had been faced by women throughout the century who had been insufficiently provided for by the family wage earner; however, from the 1860s onward, these working women become much more visible as their numbers in crease exponentially, and th ey begin to enter a growing number of professions. Cultural historia ns disagree as to the primary causes of the sudden expansion of womens presence in the workplace, both in terms of their numbers and the professions open to them. However, most agree that, by the end of the century, lower middleclass womens work before marriage had become commonplace and a number of new professions had not only been opened to them but had become dominated by them, especially in the white-blouse clerical a nd secretarial professions.2 Setting aside the debate on th e strength of the Victorian womens movements influence over the actual conditions of wome ns employment, the movement, mainly through the efforts of the Society for Promoting of Employment of Wo men (SPEW), had a large role in shaping the 2 For example, Lee Holcombe argues that the growth of middle-class womens work was due to combination of the deskilling of entry level positions and the need of an in dustrial economy for administrators and bureaucrats, as well as the growing numbers of unmarried women due to emigration of middle class men ( Victorian Ladies at Work 18; 11). However, Ellen Jordan makes the case the Victorian womens movement was largely responsible for the change because its members altered the ways in which employ ers envisioned their workers (i.e. that women could be workers) as well as actively constructing a number of ne w professions as respectable for middle-class women (17).
102 discourses surrounding bourgeois womens labor thr ough their presence in the popular press, as well as the professional training schools fo r women begun by its members. Tellingly, SPEW itself was an outgrowth of the Langham Place gro up, a circle of womens rights activists, which included Barbara Lee Smith Bodichon and Bessie Rayner Parkes among others, who had been strong supporters of the married womens prope rty rights campaigns in the 1870s. Both Jessie Bourcherett and Emily Faithfull, key Society memb ers, were inspired to become activists for womens employment by reading discussions of the subject in the Langham Place groups English Womans Journal (Jordan 174). Thus, womens empl oyment discourse had its roots in the legal and cultural discussions about women and property, which I discuss at length in the first part of this study. Moreover, these two discourse s are intersecting rather than additive. This inextricable connection between middle-class wo mens lack of rights to their property and earnings in marriage and their subs equent necessity of employment largely rests on the fact that such property laws forced these unskilled, previo usly leisured women into the workforce should their husbands or fathers die and leave them unprovided for, go bankrupt and lose all of the familys property, or, especially problematic for married women, simply abandon them without any resources. Consequently, although the deba te about married women s property rights had achieved popular visibility before womens employ ment became a pervasively central issue, both issues were regularly in conversation with each other. Proponents of increasing womens access to the professions built upon liberal arguments given for expanding married womens prope rty rights, like Francis Power Cobbes Enlightenment-influenced contention in Criminals, Idiots, Women, and Minors (1868) that women had the right to their property because they are fully adult humans. Such arguments maintained that women had the right to devel op their intellectual and physical capacities for
103 work. Following this line of reas oning, womens rights supporters pulled from the work of Adam Smith and appealed to the theory of laissezfaire, to the doctrine of free competition in the labour market, with occupations going to those workers, men or women, who proved themselves most capable (Holcombe Victorian Ladies at Work 9). In The Subjection of Women a text which extensively deals with the rights of wo men on all fronts including property, John Stuart Mill clearly participates in this Smithian discour se and underscores not only the right of women to compete in the job market, but also the basic social good that their competition would produce: To ordain that any kind of persons shall not be physicians [etc.] is to injure not them only, but all who employ physicians and w ho are deprived of the stimulating effect of greater competition on the exertions of the competit ors, as well as restricted to a narrower range of individual choice (526). Acco rding to Mill and other advocates of womens employment, removing the restrictions against women entering part icular professions is not only a socially just act in allowing an individual to reach her fullest potential, but it also enables Englands economy to reach its fullest potential, as employers would then have the best and (as it all too conveniently works out) the cheapest pool of candidates for th eir positions. Perhaps SPEWs most lasting mark in populariz ing this idea was thr ough its professional training schools, run by women su ch as Jessie Bourcherett and Emily Faithfull (Jordan 173-74). The general idea behind these schoo ls was to demonstrate practical ly what had long been argued theoretically by supporters of womens rights, namely that middle-class women could do more with their minds and bodies than preside over ho me and hearth. These schools gave middle-class women training in professions in which they were not currently able to get positions, with the expectation being that once wome n had proven themselves capable of performing the work the field would open to them. Clearly, as the students who complete d their training demonstrated,
104 women could in fact do the work from which they had been barred for most of the nineteenth century, hence attention shifted fr om womens ability to physically and mentally do the work to the personal and social implicati ons of their work. Indeed, these training establishments altered the debate about womens employment by turn ing the discussion away from what women could do and focusing it on what women ought to do, thus shifting the question from physical and anatomical limitations to the balance between social conventions and individual desire. Not only did these schools provide practical training for women seeki ng to enter a variety of professions, from basic clerical work to sp ecialized law copying, they also established the connection between young middle-class womens growing presence in the workforce and the mentoring of young women by Ne w Women. Womens waged work created new potential for women to claim and exercise a greater degree of ag ency in their lives an idea that was very much intrinsic to the Victorian New Woman. Building on the dangerousness of the proto-New Womans influence, which I examined in the fi rst part in characters like Kate Vavasor and Ethelberta Petherwin, mentorship by the New Woman becomes pivotal because her influence over other women is at the core of what made this figure such a compelling subject of public discourse. The cultural fear and anxiety so often associated with the New Woman has its roots in the idea that current New Women would gather more women into thei r ranks by passing along their New Woman ways, either by example or precept, to newly-adult young women. In so doing, an entire generation of mi ddle-class women would become New Women and leave behind conventional Victorian femininity. This anxiety regarding the New Womans influence becomes all the more intense as the century progresses because growing visibility of young, upper and lower middle-class women in the public sphere through their waged work serves as an increasingly public sign of womens
105 claim to individual personhood.. As historians Ellen Jordan and Lee Holcombe both explain at length, the most dramatic shifts in womens employment figures during this period are concentrated around these specific demographics : exponentially expanding professions opening to middle-class women, largely in the emergi ng service sector of the economy, and the decreasing age of these workers, as it become s both more respectable and necessary for women of this class to work either before marriage or, for single mi ddle-class women, for their entire adult lives.3 As Jordan explains, in many areas young middle-class women were increasing their share of the workforce at the expense of both men and older women (76). Thus it was the sharp rise in the number of young middle-class women that largely accounts for the sudden increase in the overall number of employed wome n in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In Victorian fiction, the presence of th ese young women in the workplace, their growing financial independence, and the resulting new pos sibilities of feminine identity made the New Woman a powerful figure, conflating the idea of middle-class women s labor with the New Womans desire for agency. Working within this discourse, both Dixon and Gissing locate agency in young middle-class wome ns relationship to waged work, as well as the most obvious fruit of that laborcapital. Bo th Dixons Margaret Wynman and Gissings Monica Madden have New Women mentors who attempt to teach them how to navigate this modern world of money and labor without losing their agency. However, th e agency of each woman is violently curtailed once she subsumes her identity under the role of the Victorian wife. The error for both women occurs where the marriage market increasingly in tersects with financial markets of modern capitalism and irrevocably alters the meaning of conventional signs in courtship. Money and 3 See Holcombe Victorian Ladies at Work 11-15, and Jordan, 74-84.
106 labor act not only as tangible plot elements but also as signifiers of womens economic, as well as personal, agency, suggesting the powerful nature of this discourse in late-nineteenth century England.
107 CHAPTER 6 FLIRTING WITH DISASTER: SPECULAT ION ON THE STOCK EXCHANGE AND THE MARRIAGE MARKET IN ELLA HEPWORTH DIXONS MY FLIRTATIONS Though Dixons delightfully funny novella, My Flirtations seems to have little to do with the harsh public world of work and labor that Gissings odd women are forced to face at every turn, the novellas comedic courtship na rrative depends on the products and rules of Englands capitalistic economy and implicitly ad dresses the positions of women as workers and commodities within that economy. In this fin-de-sicle text, much like th e two novels that I discuss at length in the first section of this study, a sororal me ntor figure guides and comments on the young heroines main courtship narrative. However, here as in The Odd Women rather than teaching the younger woman how to submit to her husband or even navigate the marriage market successfully, the elder sister figure se ems to advocate avoiding marriage altogether because it requires the surrender of womens independent agency and desire. For Dixon, the resolution of the courtship narra tive entails a silencing of the New Woman, Christina, and the commodification of her younger sist er, Margaret. In both texts, these New Woman mentors are ultimately unsuccessful as both texts undersco re the overwhelming economic pull of the marriage plot for their young heroines and the li mits of the New Womans ability to provide a viable alternative narrative. The New Woman functions as an anti-marriage figure, and, as such, the Victorian ideology of the nuclear family must negate her infl uence in order for the ma rriage plot to have its all important ending, which ensures the survival of the patriarchal family. As I argue in the first part of this study, the New Womans recuperation occurs narratively by positioning her as the catalyst in the heroines marriage plot. In My Flirtations, the comedic narrative of the heroines flirtations and eventual marriage is deeply troubled by the heroines ignorance of modern
108 capitals increasing fluidity, particularly in th e stock exchange, and the ways in which womens labor is exploited in this system, as the labor of working women makes leisured womens lives possible. This disturbance of the novellas comedi c tone suggests the extent to which it is womens commodification in marriage, as they become a purchased pi ece of property that subordinates middle-class wo mens agency. Christina attempts to keep her sister out of such a contract, but loses her power to do so once Margaret herself becomes too deeply desirous of capitals pleasures. In Dixons novella, this economic narrative runs throughout the episodic chapters and takes center stage in the fina l chapter. Dixons appropriately named first-person narrator, Margaret Wynman, tells several stories about her more interesting suitor s, most of whom are witty caricatures of well-known fin-de-sicle men. In the final chapter, Margarets flirtations finally go too far for her to avoid being caught, and she marries her final suitor, John Ford. Throughout Margarets flirtations, it is her New Woman sister, Christina, who provides Margaret with the key insights that enable her to avoi d marriage in each of her romances. However, Christina is virtually silenced in the last chapter of the novella once Margaret becomes the property of her husband-to-be. Thus, although the entertaining history of Dixons flirtatious heroine is the dominant narrativ e throughout the novella, her sist er represents a secondary narrative that contextualizes c ourtship and marriage in terms of womens commodification in late-nineteenth century capitalism, transforming from independent economic agents into passive objects with a monetary pri ce in the marriage market. For Dixon, the connection between women s changing economic situation and the shifting conventions of marriage is key to understanding the modern Victorian woman. As Dixons first long work, My Flirtations, marks the beginning of her exploration of this
109 constellation of issues in novel form. Dixon, as a well-published journalist and a woman who struggled to make a place for herself as a prof essional writer, was personally and professionally well aware of how important it was for young wo men to understand the changing social and economic conventions of fin-de-sicle England.1 In Victorian criticis m today, Dixon is best known for her novel The Story of a Modern Woman (1894), which deals extensively with such New-Woman associated issues as womens employ ment, venereal disease, female celibacy, and womens identification with ot her women as a collective group. Very explicitly positioning women as a collective for social change, Mary Erle, the heroine of th e book, tells her married lover as she refuses to be his mistress, All we modern women mean to help each other now (255). 2 In an interview for W.T. Steads The Novel of the Modern Woman, a review of several novels and short story co llections that were written by a woman, about women from the standpoint of Woman, Dixon hers elf described this awareness as the keynote of the book 1 Ella Hepworth Dixons father, William Hepwor th Dixon, was well known as the editor of The Athenaeum a leading periodical of the day, and made a point of encouraging women writers by treating them as professionals. Though Dixon detested the necessity of doing so, she used her recently-deceas ed fathers name and his connections in London publishing to launch her own career as a journalist and short story writer because she understood that men held the power in the business world and becoming a succes sful professional writer was, at best, very difficult for women. Her work appeared in a variety of periodicals throughout her career, including The Yellow Book The Times (London), The Illustrated London News The Manchester Guardian and The Westminster Gazette She was also a regular contributor of both short stories and articles to Womans World under Oscar Wildes editorship, and edited The Englishwoman from 1895-96. 2 At every turn, Mary Erles attempts to create a satisfyin g professional and personal life for herself are thwarted by the men. Marys personal happiness is forever destroyed by her lover Vincent Hemming, who asks her hand in marriage only to later throw her over for a provincial nouveau-riche young woman. After his marriage, he returns and asks her to be his mistress. She still loves him, but refuses his offer because she made a deathbed promise to her friend Alison Ives that she would never knowingly harm another woman, demonstrating Dixons idea of tradeunionism among women. The critical moment in Marys ca reer comes after she has had several pieces published and goes to her editor with an idea for a novel about the life of the modern woman. Her editor refuses to publish her novel on the grounds the newly literate lower classes will not read it and tells her that she must stick to conventional marriage plots with happy endings. Marys own life has no such happy ending, and the novel ends with her disappearing back into the London suburbs after visiting her fathers grave. For discussions of The Story of a Modern Woman see: Valerie Fehlbaums Ella Hepw orth Dixon: New Woman, New Image? Nineteenth-Century Feminisms 4 (2001 Spring-Summer): 47-74; Emma Liggins Writing against the Husband-Fiend: Syphilis and Male Sexual Vice in the New Woman Novel. Womens Writing 7.2 (2000): 175-95; Marg aret Diane Stetzs Ella Hepworth Dixon. Dictionary of Literary Biography: Late-Victorian and Edwardian British Novelists Ed. George M. Johnson. Second Series. Vol. 197. Detroit, MI: Ga le Research, 1998. 99-109; Erin Williams Female Celibacy in the Fiction of Gissing and Dixon: The Silent Strike of the Suburbanites. English Literature in Transition, 18801920 45.3 (2002): 259-79.
110 (64). For the author, this collectiv e consciousness was the first step in women joining together to change their economically and socially disempower ed position in Victorian society, a plea for a kind of moral and social trad e-unionism among women (71). Though these themes are not as explicit in My Flirtations as they would be in the later Story of a Modern Woman, Dixon is very much concerned with how middle-class womens bonds with each other can be used to resist patriarchal exploitation in this novella. 3 Margaret repeatedly appeals to Christina for advice and s upport throughout her romantic escapades because her mother cannot give her any useful guidance, especially as to how remain a free agent on the marriage market. Their mother is too old-fashioned in her thinking to be of the faintest use in helping Margar et to avoid the conjugal snares of her lovers, having told her daughter that she married my father at se venteen, and settled down after that and would further inform me that she had no patience w ith such philandering (12). Since her mother refuses to have any knowledge outside of the domestic, Margaret needs a mentor who understands the particularities of modern life, specifically how far a young woman may go in her flirtations without going too fa r and giving up her virtue by becoming a fallen woman or her independence by becoming a wife. Her mother is unabl e to fulfill this role because, as Margaret Stetz argues, the heroines mother acts as the ch ief agent of this social pressure [to marry] (102). Representing mid-century Victorian social mores, Margarets mother lacks any vision of women having independent or even individual de sires because she has no first-hand knowledge of such situations or the wi sh to experience anything past the boundary of her doorstep. 3 Dixons notion of fellow-feeling among women is deci dedly elitist as she focuses almost entirely of the relationships between women of the middle class and positions lower middle-class women as vulgar class-climbers and lower-class women as worthy of symp athy once they have sunk to the lowest low, rather than equals involved in the same struggle. Margaret Stetz discusses this issue at length in her entry on Dixon in Dictionary of Literary Biography p 106-108.
111 Throughout Margarets many flirtations, Dixon casts the narrators elder sister as the New-Woman voice of modern wisdom by highlighti ng Christinas sharp critique of conventional opinions and feminine amusements, even as she en joys both, as well as the economically radical topics and theories of her almost constant studies. In almost ever y chapter, Christina signals her unconventionality, her New Womanhood, even declar ing herself a vegetarian and altering her eating habits accordingly (126). Furthermore, Christina seems to have abso lutely no interest in conducting any flirtation of her own, and such a lack of interest clearly suggests that she is a New Woman in that she refuses to conform to social expectations of feminine behavior. Rather than being the more traditional plain spinster si ster who has no hope of the marriage that she desperately desires, Christina consciously choos es not to enter the market because she has interests other than marriage. Furthermore, Margar et notes that her siste rs studies interest her more than participating in their artistic households regular salons a nd dinner parties: All of this bores Christina, whose latest hobbySocialismt akes up most of her time (12). Christina would rather be studying topics that unsettle the current British economic order than seeking to attract a mans attention and ente rtain him with her feminine charms. As part of her studies, Christina reads an article enti tled Under-payment of Feminine Labour in a journal called the Twentieth Century (184). Since working-class women were rarely referred to as feminine in nineteenth century England, this article presumably explores the status of middle-class women as wage earners in the British econom y and argues, from the modern viewpoint, that they ought to have better pay and working conditions. In additi on, as suggested by the tit le of the journal in which the article appears, the New Woman by her ve ry name was often situated as a harbinger of the upcoming century and the changes it would bring to British society. As a New Woman
112 mentor, Christina can hence offer her sister guidance that has th e benefit of being politically informed and explicitly situated in curre nt shifting social and economic structures. Since Christina herself refuses to enter into any sort of courtship, she maintains a certain objectivity to all the goings-on of her sister and uses that observ ational distance in her role as her sisters chaperone to aid Marg aret in avoiding being trapped in to marrying any of her suitors. In describing her sister, Margar et notes Christina can be, on occasion, almost brutally cynical; but then she is clever, and when I want to get out of a scrape I go to her (12). To Margaret, Christinas opinion seems to be the only one wo rth paying attention to. Christina sees through the hypocrisy of her sisters beaus and acts as a sort of personal chorus for her sister by commenting on each suitor and flirtation in turn. I ndeed, Christina is an excellent reader of mens characters and incisively analyzes her sist ers male companions, cutting through whatever faade they may be presenting for her sisters be nefit. When Margaret sighs over the charismatic love-poet Claud Carson, Christin as dry tones called me back to mundane things (97). Such valuable knowledge and influence enable Margaret to avoid believing in or falling in love with any of the men who vie for her attention and prev ents her from giving her affections to such unworthy men. In short, Christina helps her sist er retain agency though several men attempt to claim her. Contradicting the popular caricature of the New Woman as th e mannish, austere spinster, Dixon portrays Christina as a wi tty woman, whose humor undermin es male authority throughout the novella.4 Indeed for both sisters, th eir laughter and enjoyment of lif e allows them to resist the pull of the patriarchal institution of marriage by unsettling the seriousness of the narrative. Describing the function of the sisters humor, Stetz argues: Sororal laughter circulates 4 For a visual representation of th is image, see Donna Quixote in Punch 106 (April 28, 1894): 194.
113 throughout the novel, offering the sole protection against the soci al imperative to marry that increasingly closes in on the female protagonists (102). Though Margaret herself clearly seems to understand the nature of the game she is play ing with her admirers, she is, on a few occasions, almost taken in by her male companions personas and talk of love. It is in these moments that Christina uses humor to undercut the pathos of the moment and protect Ma rgaret from being hurt by the hypocrisy of her suitors. For example, when the two sisters find out that Claud Carson has a lower-middle class wife and child hidden away Christina prevents Margaret from feeling betrayed or wistful about Cars on by making a joke about his poetic al letter to Margaret, telling her that he would not seek to pluck a lily such as her, considering his vulgar married everyday life (96). Both sister s appreciate the humor of th e situation through Christinas interpretation, and Margaret tells her readers we both gave way to uncontrollable giggles. I laughed till the tears ran down my cheeks (99). Having broken the tension of the moment, Christina uses this moment to further educat e her sister. After they have regained their composure, Christina chides her sister: When will you learn sense? sighed Christina (99). Christina challenges her sister to see the ridiculousness of it all on her own and understand that all such men are false in some way, each has so me hidden vulgar truth that is almost always related to thei r bank accounts. Still, laughter, much like the so roral bond itself, is a hybrid sort of tool that participates in the marriage plot even as it offers a critique of that same plot. The sisters may resist taking everything from the poetic works of male aesthet es to the protestation of love from lively young men seriously, but still they enjoy the privilege and leisure of upper-middle class women, thereby tacitly supporting the ve ry social conventions and econo mic reality which they find so humorous. Humor, in such a New Woman text, [recognizes] the inevitability of an ongoing
114 relationship with the masculine objects of their laughter, as we ll as the need to reform and improve the character of that re lationship (Stetz, Laugh 228). Their laughters disruption of the courtship narrative is only momentary and is ultimately ineffective. Christinas cynical yet jolly wit and the worldly knowledge that lies behi nd it enable her to cut through the stupidity of conventional opinions and guide her sister, specif ically by helping her to avoid any permanent romantic attachments, but she cannot prevent her sisters serious misstep in the novellas final chapter. Though able to crack the veneers of Margaret s previous suitors, Christinas wit has no place in the narrative following th e appearance of John Ford, a man who is all facts and money. As Margaret Stetz notes in her discussion of the book, Dixon positions the enterprise of courtship as a businessone in which middleclass women who had received no training in commercial principles were at a grave disadva ntage compared to their shrewder [male] counterparts (Dixon 102). Though not well-schooled in business per se, Margaret understands the principles that govern the conventional marriag e market and the social milieu it inhabits. In her encounters with parsimonious and aptly named Mr. Hanbury Price, she remarks rather drolly that he was concerned that it was possible he might not yet get th e desired return for his money in spending money to entertain guest s, particularly herself (37). Du ring their brief flirtation, he is obviously haunted by dreadful fore bodings as to the expense of a young lady with my tastes and proclivities and attempts to teach Margaret to be as miserly as himself, endeavoring to take her to a cooking class and [lectur ing] me about taking care of my gowns (43). Here, as well as elsewhere in the novella, Dixon explicitly points to the particular economic rules that govern courtship by positioning a flirtation as sort of a preliminary investment, like buying a small amount of stock in a company, in which neithe r party has committed to the relationship. Mr.
115 Price sees Margaret as a commodity whose sole purpose is to spend his money through the purchasing of other commodities-she, like the items she consumes, is a luxury, an object of desire. Understanding her place in this economy, Margaret, with the help of her sister, has an amazing talent for prompting men to invest in her and give her the pleasure of commodity consumption without committing herself to the pu rchase of marriage. Margaret retains her agency in these relationships because she deftly slides away from any marriage contracts, which would fix her price and mark her as sold. In this transaction, her suitors take a loss by failing to get returns on their investments, namely owning Ma rgaret in marriage. Marg aret therefore avoids becoming a wife, what Nunokawa describes as a brand of property immune to loss (10). Her independence from and power over her suitors is t hus located in her potential market price, as long as that price remains unf ixed and she is unmarried. However, in her final flirtation, Dixons hero ine demonstrates her ignorance of the more public capitalist economy of England by unknowingl y entering into a financial contract and, because of that commitment, a subsequent marriage contract. Though Margaret relates to courtship throughout the novella in terms of gaining sensual a nd aesthetic pleasures through commodities and social position, she loses control of the encounter in her last flirtation as she becomes purchased as a commodity. On previ ous occasions, the flirtatious young woman has neatly sidestepped committing herself in any way to her suitors: she accepts the gifts of flowers and invitations to various dinners and entertainm ents without promising a nything in return other than her company and friendship. But, after mo st of the novella is spent in delightfully scandalous tales about Margarets many entert aining and unsuccessful suitors, her marriage in the last chapter comes as a bit of shock to hers elf and her readers, both because of its suddenness and her ambivalent reaction to it.
116 Dixons heroine loses her agency because sh e gambles with one of her suitors without realizing that she has not only staked more money that she has, but also herself as a young woman on the marriage market. Margaret is virtua lly forced to marry John Ford, a middle-aged City stockbroker, because she becomes financia lly in debt to him w ithout realizing it. She believes that the conversation du ring which Ford gives her a st raight tip about a Patagonian stock is merely a flirtatious conversation abou t gambling a little bit of money: I, who never possessed more than 1l. 10s. altogether during my whole life, felt quite dissipated and worldly and reckless as we discussed th e little flutter, which I was to undertake. There is hardly anything so infectious as the disease of gambling (177). En joying the enervating thrill of making money without earning it, Ma rgaret has absolutely no idea wh at she had agreed to in the course of their discussion. She views her agreement with Ford as only another enjoyable yet ultimately meaningless social game in courtship. However, this game is very real because it involves the actual purchasing of stock on the London Stock Excha ngea real legal contractual exchange. She is skilled at playing the game of courtship, but does not have the knowledge of the world of modern capitalism, a subject of growing importance to young women in the 1890s. This exchange does have serious consequences because it involves those ephemeral products of capitalism, currency, and stock. Though Ma rgaret is a master of the tricks and rituals of courtship, she does not know the rules of this game. Dixon positions Margarets foray into the Stock Exchange as speculation by emphasizing its closeness to gambling through Margarets sensual enjoyment of her little flutter (177). Furthermore, the commodity that Ford suggests to her, Patagonians, underscores th e speculative nature of the stock since Patagonia was well known in the nineteenth century for its rich gold deposits and reportedl y called the future California of South America (The Welsh in Patagonia 756). Left largely untouched until the
117 1890s due to its location and rugged terrain, Patagonia, occupyi ng the Southern tip of South America, was described by Lady Florence Dixie as just waiting for the British to turn its raw materials into imperial wealth: It is a great, vast, lone land, and yet I think a British Company could make it pay (250). However, all of this to the contrary, Patagonia never seems to have become as profitable as these writers predic t. Consequently, by having Fords stock be Patagonian, Dixon is doubtlessly calling to he r readers minds the many well-publicized booms and busts in stocks for foreign business ventur es of the eighteenth a nd nineteenth centuries.5 Rather than making a solid investment, Margaret desires the pleasurable ri sk and excitement of speculation, with its po tential for the rapid accrual of wealth. By the late nineteenth century, speculation had become extremely commonplace, with Frasers Magazine noting in 1876 that in recent years fully five-sixths of the Stock Exchange business has been of this specula tive character (91) and even going so far as to entertain the thought that the Exchange may be an elaboratel y organised gambling hell (93). Speculation on the London Stock Exchange was defined generally as the buying and selling of stock so as to make a profit based on the change s in the price of the stock as opposed to long-term investment in a particular company. Speculation was a topi c of great concern for Victorians, not only because it tended to create booms and busts like the infamous railway crashes of the 1840s but also because it contradicted underlying assumpti ons about the moral qualities of capitalism and the middle classs claim to that morality. Accordi ng to David C. Itzkowitz financial speculation, a new form of popular entertainment whose mora lity was ambiguous at best, existed somewhere between investment and gambling: 5 The most famous of these is the infamous South Seas Bubble of 1720, but, as a more contemporary reference, the plot of Oscar Wildes An Ideal Husband (1895) hinges upon the speculative investment that Mrs. Cheevely has made in Argentinean canals.
118 Investment usually defined as the holding of property for the income it provided, was clearly seen as legitimate. With its resona nce both of aristocratic landed wealth and middle-class prudence, investment had the cultu ral power to retain its legitimacy through changing paradigms of economic activity. Gambling, on the other hand, was increasingly viewed as an illegitimate form of financial risk. (123) Speculation on the Stock Exchange was thus both le gitimate in that it remained largely legal and unregulated, as opposed to other forms of gamb ling, and illegitimate in that it involved the elements of chance and risk usually a ssociated with illegal turf gambling. Indeed, because one could speculate profita bly and achieve wealth very quickly on the basis of luck, speculation represented a challenge to the Victorian gospel of work. Discussing this gambling nature of stock speculation, Mark Clapson argues that Gambling, with its reliance on risk, and with the return of capital based upon contingency onl y, subverted the meritocrative principles of the Puritan work ethic, in whic h capital was earned by hard work, talent and deferred gratification. It thus undermined the pr inciples underpinning the social progress of the middle class (20). By becoming involved in su ch a speculation, Margaret has been unknowingly caught up in the mania of stock speculation in Vi ctorian England. The thr ill that Margaret feels in making an agreement that she thinks is akin to a small wager has its roots in avoiding the labor that ought, according to middle-cl ass Victorian ideology, to be a ssociated with the accumulation of wealth, as well as the equally exciting id ea of a woman becoming a capitalist and therefore independently wealthy. However, this thrill come s at a very high cost, and Dixon here shows the implications of middle-class womens financial d ealings with men, given their lack of financial independence in maintaining their standard of living. In this transaction, Margaret not only risks some hypothetical amount of money, but also, in being caught up the physical and emotional experience of gambling, her independent agency as well as herself in the marriage market.
119 It is this risk of overwhe lming success or failure that so intrigues Dixons young heroine when she thinks of the City, the financial dist rict of London that occupies the rough geographical boundaries of the original Roman city of L ondoninium. As Margaret tells her readers, Contangos, debentures, bears, and bulls ha ve always been words of strange fascination for me, probably because I am totally ignorant of everything that goes on in the City. It came over me like a madness that I wanted to have a little gamble How excited and dissipated I felt (177). Though the City had long been c onsidered a specific area of London, in the nineteenth-century, with the physical expans ion of London as well as in the increasing importance of the Stock Exchange, which had become financial heart of the nation, this area of London was seen not only to have a particular geographical location but also its own distinct culture, with its own rules and language (Schmitt et. al. 7). As Mary Poovey notes, financial writers repeatedly [cultivated] the image of Londons financial distri ct as a distinct and charmingly idiosyncratic culture in order to pres ent its vicissitudes as having a logic all their own, which, while incomprehensible to the general public, was understood by its expert denizens (Writing about Finance 20). As he tries to ex plain the reasoning behi nd several of the most infamous speculative booms and busts, Al exander Innes Shand remarks in an 1876 Blackwoods article that the City has its own manner of looking at things (304). Like much of the country, Margaret is enthralled by the City and its Stoc k Exchange where, according to critic George Robb, Fortunes could be made but they could also be lost or stolen (29). For Margaret as well as many others, the allure of the City lies in its mysteries, which make one desire to become an expert so as to be able to decipher them, and, in its seemingly limitless supply of capital, which appears to be just waiti ng for the bold to claim it.
120 The words that so intrigue Margaret are di rectly associated with paying for speculative stock investments and the markets ever-changing conditions: a contango is the fee charged for wanting more time to pay for a stock purchase, a debenture is an official sort of I-owe-you, a bear market indicates falling stock prices, and a bull market describes rising prices. Interestingly, it is the language of the Stock Exchange, its signifiers of imaginary value-the shares which stand in for a percentage of a company valued in re lation to percentages of other companies-that overwhelm Margaret and make he r desire to speculate like a madness (177). Margarets clear enjoyment of the experience of gamblingboth its excitement and dissipation-mimics the experience of sexual desire as it rises and falls wi th the motions of the market, a frenzied insanity that is a far cry from the conventional image of the sober, staid British businessman. Addressing the personal experiences of sp eculation, an unsigned article in All the Year Round even goes so far as to draw a rather convincing parallel be tween the simultaneously imaginative and visceral experience of stock speculation and the aesthetic experience of poetic cr eation, noting that for both types of men His pleasures are, however, like his pains exquisite (427). For Margaret, these intense pleasures and pains signify her inve stment in the game that she is playing with Ford, where previously she had been able to a void any truly strong emotions with her suitors. Consequently, by becoming a speculator, Margaret experiences intense desire and, in doing so, makes herself vulnerable to Fords desire for her because the City ma n now has the power to fulfill her desire for the thrill of reckless risk. Furthermore, through the heavy financial overtones of such a representation, Dixon suggests the extent to which sexuality for women is always bound up in what men are willing pay for it, be it the fee of the prostitute or the wedding band a nd trousseau of the respectable bride. Though women have been participants in the marriage ma rket and other forms of sexual
121 exchange throughout modern Englis h history, they began to invest in the stock market in the latter part of the nineteenth cen tury as they increasingly became capitalists as a result of their presence in the workforce as we ll as the changing property laws.6 For many women, like Dixons heroine, speculation may seem like merely another flirtatious entertainment; however, the consequences of this sort of gambling were often much more serious than those of the gambling card games it replaced. As Shand reports to his readers: But it is no secret that the fair sex and ladies of the highest station t oo, are in the habit of throwing themselves into the national game w ith characteristic feminine impetuosity. The stolen joys and griefs of the Stock Exchange are more exciting than the faro and spadillo of our grandmothers, and infinitely more ru inous. The stakes ar e practically unlimited, while to a point you may play on credit. (312) Such investments were doubly dangerous to women because of the public nature and the large scale of the financial risk invol ved. Unlike the card games of th e modern womens grandmothers that Shand mentions, speculation on the stock exchange did not take place in the relative security of the domestic sphere where women, especi ally young women, were traditionally under constant supervision of some sort. In My Flirtations, these boundaries no longer hold for the modern woman and the world of the public financ ial markets enters in the form of the newly wealthy City man, John Ford. In addition, such speculations involve much greater sums of money at a much quicker rate th an conventional parlor games, re sulting in a much more serious debt. Such gambling is especially dangerous for leisured middle-class and upper middle-class women, like Dixons heroine, because they have suffi cient social access to City men to risk large amounts of money but lack the inheritances of upper-class women or even the independent capital of working women of the middle class to make good on their debts. 6 In the same 1876 article cited earlier, Alexander Innes Shand tells an anecdote of a smart widow who successfully risks all of her insufficient inheritance of 0 in a speculative investment in order to keep her children in the social sphere to which they were born (294).
122 Accordingly, Margarets pleas ure is all well and good while the transaction remains, in her mind just entertainment, but sh e faces a crisis when Ford asks her to pay for the stock that he purchased in her name. Because she lacks the res ources to pay for the stock, she must therefore substitute herself for the capital she owes. Sh e thoroughly enjoys receiv ing Fords businesslooking blue envelopes th at inform her of the stocks chan ging prices because, while she has no idea what it all means, it does [ sound] very reckless (177; 178). Margarets pleasure turns immediately to pain, however, when Ford writes to tell her that he has bo ught the stock for her, and she realizes that Ive got pay 50 l. during the next fortnight! (178). Her practically hysterical panic reaches the same intensity as he r pleasure, and she lose s control of herself, including her body. This young woman who has been previously so much in control of her emotions and her suitors is entirely overwhel med: Regardless of appearances, I had had a thoroughly feminine cry, and was now huddled on the sofa, with reddened eyelids and roughened haira dismal hostess to receive afte rnoon callers (179). The prospect of not being able to pay Ford is particularly horrible because he is in control and may end their relationship. Previously, it was always Margar et who ended or caused the end of her relationships with men, and it was always on her terms. In contrast, here as she tells her sister about her troubles, she fears Fords reaction: Oh, I cant pay it! Whats to be done? Father must be toldandI shall never dare look him in face again! Whofather? Nno. Mr. Ford. And I like him so much, w ith his little blue eyes, and his face which is red all over. (178) Rather than fearing her fathers reaction, Margar et is most concerned about John Ford thinks about her. This concern for Ford marks the first time in the novella that Ma rgaret cares about one of her suitors reaction. Margaret associates Ford with the pleasure she felt in her little flutter,
123 and thus, in her dismay over havi ng that pleasure turn to embarrass ment, she desires to save face in the eyes of Mr. Ford. Though normally astute at reading the ploys of others, Margarets alarm at not having the money to make good on her handshaken contract prevents her from recognizing how Fords manipulations will end with their marriage. At her sisters suggestion, Margaret has Ford over to explain the whole situation to him and hopefully get him to forgive her debt to him entirely. Where in their previous interactions, Ford seemed uncomfortable and awkward, he is now clearly in control of the conversation and tells the sobbing Margaret that he can sell her shares to a man he knows, obviously himself: John Ford la ughed. Well I think I can manage to get rid of em for you. In fact, I know a chap who wants five more (180). Ford is confident and easy around Margaret and is able to make her beholden to him with little effort. On the other hand, she has entirely taken leave of her sharp wit a nd even sharper grasp of social situations by missing Fords ploy entirely: To anyone not blinded by financial te rrors the little subterfuge must have been palpable. As it was, I never saw it till long afterwards (180). Margarets emotional investment, which has gone from boo m to bust, prevents her from understanding how Fords chivalrous offer to take care of the stoc k binds her to him. Margarets lack of knowledge about her ability to enter into legally binding contract s has led her to compromise herself and establish a bond with one of her suitors that canno t be broken, exactly what she so deftly avoids in her earlier flirtations. Since each of Margarets other liaisons also involved some comment or assistance from her New Woman sister, the situation with John Fo rd seems to call for Christinas interference. However, Christina not only fails to help her sister escape her oblig ation, but she also sets up the situation that, through marriage, will permanently tie Margaret to John Ford. Much like the
124 proto-New Woman character s discussed in the earlier chapte rs of this study, the New-Woman Christina ultimately moves her sister towards rather than away from marriage. When Margaret tells her sister that sh e was only joking when she made her stock agreement with Ford and that sh e has no money to pay him, Chri stina chides her younger sister for her lack of sense: An odd sort of joke, my dear child, said Christina dryly. Couldnt you have remembered that rather important fact be fore? (178) To her elde r sister, Margaret has made the mistake of mixing the light, surface soci al exchanges of wit and favors with the hard realities of money. Such realitie s cannot be avoided in the same way that Margarets earlier social situations could be easily managed to her advantage. The important fact that Christina refers to is both the fact that Margaret has not got a penny in the world and the fact that she must pay 50 l. during the next fortnight (178). Both are unalterable re alities for Margaret, and, as such, Christina can do nothing for her sister be cause she, as an unmarried woman of leisure, lacks any financial power. Much like the decidedly un-f unny fact of debt, Christina is further prevented from helping her sister because John Fo rd cannot be made the object of her wit. When Margaret first meets John Ford, she describes him as a middleaged man who lacks entertaining conversation and knowledge of the arts, but is very rich: He had been brought to the studio by a pretty, showy Jewess He was not quite ugly, but his manners were odd. He was very silent. If he did speak, it was principally of huntin and shoo tin; but when he left the house he was the possessor of fathers new Academy picture, for which he had offeredin an offhand way, in a distant cornerthe sum of fifteen hundred pounds (175). Unlike the hypoc ritical yet enjoyable aesthetes who populate the earlier chapters of the novella and o ffer Christina and Margaret no end of amusement, John Ford is a conventional Victorian gentleman who cannot be made fun of:
125 there is no humorous disconnect be tween what he says and does and his real intentions. In short, there is no hidden truth about this man of business for Christina to expose for her sisters benefit. Thus, instead of telling Margaret how to resolve the situation and retain her independence, Christina guides her sister toward s John Ford by suggesting that her sister have Ford over to explain the whole problem to him nicely, giving her writing materials and calling the servant to take a telegram (179). Though this would seem to be sound advice, it results Fords entrapment of Margaret and their eventu al marriage. As with Margarets other difficult situations with her suitors, she turns to her sister for help, but neither sister can avoid the hard facts of Margarets debt and Fords realness. Christinas manner when she gives the advice, devilishly calm, hints at certain foreknowledge of the serious outcome of these events (179). It seems odd that Christina, the sister who is Marg arets chaperone, is not more worried about her sisters grievous mistake. Though Dixon does not expl icitly explain the elde r sisters lack of action, Christinas demeanor suggests that she understands that her sister has gone too far already to be rescued and has met her ma tch in John Ford. No amount of New Woman cleverness or cynicism can break the financial contract and the modern capitalism that gives it meaning. Much like a womans virtue, once he r independence is compromised, it is gone forever. Although Christina largely drops out of the narrative once her sister is engaged, she has already served as a conduit for exposing marriage as an institution unable to be fulfilling or even healthy for women. For Margaret, marriage is funere al rather than being a celebration of life and family. Where she once moved easil y from flirtation to flirtation, Margaret is now fixed within the conventions of the engagement process. Sh e retains only the barest trace of her former
126 merriness and now seems entirely co-opted by those social forms that she once gently mocked. The easy rhythm of her narrative, with its witty dialogue, gives way to feverish long paragraphs of description. Pushing herself to conform to every propriety, she strives to make all the necessary purchases for the wedding and her new life. Underscoring the economic nature of this conjugal transaction, Margarets engagement is all about acquiring the commodities needed to make the perfect upper-middle-class domestic space, a desire exemplified by her neurotic quest to purchase a mackerel-kettle for her new home: I think, on the whole, the mackerel-kettle has given me more weary days and sleepless nights than any other article I have had to procure. In every book on Furnishing we find the mackerel-kettle placed foremost in the list of indispensable things and yet in the flesh, or rather in the metal, the mackerel-kettle for ever eludes us and I begin to think that my chances of happiness may be seriously compromised (184). The whole world of surface social forms, of kettles and the like, now has real consequences for Margaret. She becomes an upper-middle-class wife, a woman fixed by her marriage in the domestic space. Margaret herself has become a commodity si nce she has literally been purchased by her fianc. One of the most trying parts of the weddi ng process to her is having her trousseau made because, as his wife-to-be, she must now represent the wealth of her future husband. Her narration of her experiences at the milliners shop and the condescending shop assistant illustrates the anxiety she feels about her new st atus: Her piercing black eyes look me through; they discover the weak points in the cut of my ne thermost petticoat, and I dare swear, if the truth be told, that she is pe rfectly aware that I have a small hole in the heel of my stocking (182). Margaret is afraid that the s hop assistant knows she is that rising in class by seeing the difference in the garments she now wears a nd those she is having made. This difference forces Margaret to
127 feel the weight of the economic transaction th at began her engagement and demonstrates the extent to which she has become an object to be displayed, so as to embody her future husbands wealth and class status. Though the structure of the novellas plot w ould seem to position John Ford as a older horrible, boring man who forces the young engaging, vivacious woman into a loveless marriage, Dixon does not portray him as the villain here. Indeed, for all his awkwardness, he becomes rather likable in his final scene with Margaret when she confesses that she does not have the money to pay for the shares, and he chivalrously offers to take care of it for her: John Ford blushed redder than ever, and just for a minute there was an embarrassing silence. We did not mention Patagonians again, and yet he stayed qu ite a long time that afternoon. At parting we looked straight at each other, and I knew from that minute forward we should be firm allies. There has never been a moments doubt, from that day, that we should get on (180). Though she has in fact been caught by Ford, as they look one another straight in the eyes as equals, Margaret literally sees their relationship as a partnership of two independent people forming an alliance. Though Ford is definitely interested in her and does pursue her through their stock transaction, Dixon locates Margarets figurativ e death not in John Ford himsel f but in the institution of marriage and all its trappings. In the 1890s, womens loss of agency in marri age is more explicitly represented as death, as opposed to the depictions I have discussed ear lier of the legal death incurred by women when marrying in the 1870s. In silencing her older sist ers New Woman criticisms for the rest of the novella, Dixon situates marriage and the social codes that sustain it as virtually killing Margarets agency. Christina, like the rest of fami ly, treats Margaret as if she is dying rather than getting married: Everyone in the house is very nice to me now Christina slips out of the
128 room when the doorbell rings. Nobody contradicts me. It reminds me of once, long ago, when I was ill And to be sure I am tired, very tire d (180-81). Even Christina, the previously witty New Woman observer and commentator, must yi eld to the protocols of engagement and marriage, literally leaving the scene because she no longer has an efficacious voice in her sisters life. In perhaps the most disturbing passage of the novella, Dixon highlights the funereal aspects of Margarets marriage through her experience w ith the marriage contract Margaret describes her visit to the lawyers as signing her life away under condi tions she does not understand: Perfectly incomprehensible documents without st ops are read out to me, and I finally put my signature on a parchment, which makes one feel fo r all the world as if one were signing a deathwarrant (182-3). This contract marks the final and official end to her single life, the death of her identity as an individual. The once slippery a nd mercurial Margaret is now forever caught in marriage, as she has been bought for the price th ose Faustian stock shares in Patagonian gold. With her signature on the marriage papers, the purchase has been put into the form from whence it originated-a contract that Margaret does not understand. The culmination of Margarets movement fr om agent to object is the unveiling of her wedding gown. It illustrates th e recuperation of the New Wo man, Christina, as well as Margarets disappearance into a very conventional version of the ange l in the house. When Margaret rushes into her sisters room to s how her the just-delivered wedding gown, Christinas sly wit is noticeably absent as she stops readi ng about women and labor a nd joins her sister in awe of the gown: Womanlike, my sister thro ws down the Twentieth Century, and we bend curiously over the box as the ma id lifts gingerly out a garment of shimmering white and silver from under a layer of tulle Symbols of the Eternal Feminine It is my wedding gown (184-5). By describing her sister as womanlik e, Margaret positions her sister as now
129 conforming to conventional femininity by be ing awed by a wedding gown and underscores by contrast the extent to which he r sister has not been womanlike in the earlier chapters of the novella. Christina here throws down the symbol of the modern New Woman and her concern over the inequity of womens wages in order stand admiringly over a gown, doubtlessly made by underpaid seamstresses, possibly the same dist ressed bourgeois women that Christina was reading about, the gown being held by a nameless maid. The New Woman sisters sarcasm at the trappings of convention from earlier chapters is here transformed into a bizarrely hyperconventional scene where she and her sister are en tirely defined in relation to marriage and the Victorian feminine ideal. Crucially, the whiteness of the wedding gown recalls one of Fords most disturbing remarks, which makes Monicas wedding dress s eem more like a funera l gown, as Margaret Stetz has suggested. When Margaret first met Ford, he had trouble making conversation, but managed to make one comment about her dress: Like to see little girls in white. Ought always to dress in white. And this was the first and la st occasion on which Mr. John Ford has ever paid me a compliment (176). To Ford, white repres ents feminine purity and fixedness-complete absence of desire-exactly what Margarets love of flirtation refused and what she becomes with her engagement. As she thinks of her mothers early marriage, It must be like eternally dining off roast mutton to marry at seventeen, and settle down dully and respectably for the rest of your natural life (13). To Margaret, marriage is an ending rather than beginning since she relinquishes control over her life in order beco me a conventional wife, as her obsessive shopping for the proper home furnishings and knick-knacks indicates. Though the novella lays bare, in a very t ongue-in-cheek manner, the economics and practicalities of courtship, the humor is ultimately a thin veneer that cracks under the pressure of
130 money and marriage. The New-Woman Christina, who avoids entrapment in marriage herself by refusing to enter the market at all, is, through he r sister, caught up its in economy and effectively silenced. The defeat suggests the limits of her challenge from w ithin the family to the powerful socio-economic institutions of courtship and marriage, as she is entirely absorbed by these powerful institutions in the end. The quickness a nd intensity of the novellas final pages, as Dixon has Margaret describe her transformation in to a wife, implies that the Victorian cultural institutions of marriage and the nuclear family struggled not onl y with the New Woman herself, but also with how the New Woma n and her critique of the business of marriage influenced the courtship plot of other marriageable women. Much like conservative att itudes towards queerness in our own time, Victorians worried, and seem ingly rightly so, that New Womanhood was itself contagious. In George Gissings The Odd Women the New Womans role becomes even more important and dangerous, as Gissing further demystifies how it is busin ess and economics that drives Victorian marriage.
131 CHAPTER 7 THE NEW WOMAN AND HE R ODD SISTERS: THE INTERSECTIONS OF WORK, CAPITA L, AND SYMPATHY IN GEORGE GISSINGS THE ODD WOMEN Like Dixons My Flirtations George Gissings The Odd Women explores Victorian middle-class womens agency in terms of their relationship to modern capital. Where Dixon is primarily concerned with her he roines relationship to capital in terms of the stock exchange, Gissing turns his attention to womens position in the employment market and how their position as workers determines their relationship to economic and cultural capital, and, by extension, individual agency. Just as 1870s novelists explored womens ag ency through the language of property, as I discuss in the first part of this project, so too does Gissing in the 1890s represent his odd womens agency in terms of capital, and, more specifically, in terms of their ability to negotiate the modern workplace, arguing for th e centrality of employme nt and the financial independence it brings. Like the other novels in this study, Gissing softens his new Woman character at the end of the novel. However, by pos itioning financial autonomy as a key aspect of single middle-class womens survival, he demons trates her necessity to Victorian society, especially for bourgeois women l acking a place within the famil y. In the novel, the effects of waged employment on the lives of the odd women il lustrate both the cracks in the ideology of the nuclear middle-class family and its conti nued power to define womens lives even though they live beyond its private confines. The Odd Women juxtaposes and eventually unites th e narratives of the ill-prepared Madden sisters struggle to survive as middleclass working women and Rhoda Nunns quest to become a leader of odd women. These alternatin g narratives serve to juxtapose Rhoda Nunns thriving New Woman life with the dreary existe nces of Alice, Virg inia, and Monica Madden. Where Rhoda has studied since she was young to give herself the professional and personal
132 necessary skills to support herself, the Madden sisters are entirely unpr epared when they are required to earn a living after the sudden deat h of their father. Gissing contrasts and then intersects the narr atives of Monica Madden and her sisters with that of Rhoda Nunn so as to demonstrate the absolute necessity of taking on the New Womans independence in the public sphere of economics as well as the private world of domestic relations. Furthermore, Gissing, like Dixon in her subsequent novel The Story of a Modern Woman emphasizes the need for mutually beneficial economic a nd social relationships between women as opposed to exploitive relationships of economic necessity, exemplifie d in the institution of marriage. Thus, while Monica must learn from Rhoda how her life is de termined by her status as an odd woman, so too must Monicas New Woman ment or learn from Monica how to sympathize with even weak odd women. However, by advocating a balance between social consci ousness and personal sympathy for his New Woman and her sister, Gissing recu perates Rhoda within a notion of feminine sympathy that borrows extensively from the work of John Ruskin, suggesting the continued discursive force of the middle-cl ass definition of woman as define d by her relation to the family and attempted to locate her outside the public world of capital exchange. Among Victorian readers as well as todays scholars of Victoria n literature, Gissings The Odd Women occupies a central place in New Woman literature and discussions of the Woman Question. It does so by drawing an exp licit connection between womens subordinate position within marriage and the lack of fulfilling and sustainable careers; since unmarried middle-class women lack the option of a secure financial life, marriage is an over-determined choice for them because it is the only way in whic h their investment of tim e and labor gives them the cultural and economic capital to maintain their class identities. Through the tragic lives of the Madden sisters and the exemplary life of Rhoda Nunn, Gissings novel, as the Pall Mall Gazette
133 suggested, represents the Woman question made flesh (4). As Deirdre David notes, Gissing employs a heavily realistic and journalistic na rrative style in order to depict the minute particulars of the lives of societys forgotten women: By delivering th ese details in a flat, unembroidered, almost clinical style, Gissing emphasizes the stark struggle for existence experienced by the [Madden] sisters (122). This realism, this clinical nature, the grim aspect, as one Athenaeum reviewer put it, of Giss ings style in looking at the social problem of these redundant women largely comes from his at tention to the specific financial conditions these women face, and, in turn, how those public conditions shape their private lives (De Mattos 667). Through the weight of these harsh realities, capital comes to represent not only material, but also psychic power and agen cy. Moreover, as Simon J. Jame s argues, Moral values are incorporated within, even reif ied by, the internal economy of th e novel (6). Thus, as Gissings odd women attempt to navigate the intersections of the marriage and labor markets, their economic decisions have substantial moral impli cations as they broker their own exchanges of labor for secure capital and materi al comfort without the protecti on and support of the family and its patriarch. Gissings particular use of th e term odd women is critical to understanding exactly how the novel positions the odd woman as requiring the influence of New Woman ideas of agency and vocation in order to make place for herself in Victorian society that is more than mere survival. The authors use of the word odd ca rries specific valences when applied to this particular group of Victorian women. Oddness here does indicate the unusual, but instead marks the growing numbers of women who, in the la te nineteenth century, fell under this label: Though Gissings odd or superfluous women would seem to be untypical in their marginality and exclusion, The condition of oddness involves desire for integration and
134 refusal of the terms of incorpor ation, forming conflictual nexus of the general and the particular, of social forces in individua l lives (Sloan 119). Hence the term odd women, rather than noting their exceptionality in Victor ian society, actually illustrate s the need for Victorians to name and consequently understand the larger forces that created this new social group of middleclass women, to comprehend their rela tionship to that other type of fin-de-sicle woman, the New Woman, and to classify and thereby de fine this new sort of feminine type. Though the phrase odd women seems to sugge st that the novel will concern itself almost entirely with unmarried women who lack romantic partners, most of the novels action centers around the Monica Madden/ Edmund Wi ddowson and Rhoda Nunn/ Everard Barfoot romantic pairs. Indeed, critics have, since the late 1970s and early 1980s, faulted Gissing for titling the novel The Odd Women, and then narrating the stor ies of these couples. Robert Selig criticized Gissing for giving th e true odd women of the book shor t shrift: Scenes involving these odd women take up less than half the book. The larger portion emphasizes instead the male-female pairing of both courtship and marri age (72). John Goode went further noting that the novel really abandons the concept of oddness as an explicit object of atte ntionthe whole plot as we shall see relies on the juxtaposition of pairs (145). More recently, Susan Coln has seen this problem as denoting the contradi ctory nature of the novel in general: The Odd Women is itself a contradiction: it promises to differ from the usual romance plot by being about singleness, but by far most of its content is de voted to the stories of couples (441). For many critics then, Gissings narrative attention to Monicas and Rh odas romantic relationships demonstrates his inability to fully narrate the lives of odd women. In addition, this turning away from single women is also usually attributed to varying levels of misogyny on Gissings part and his rejection of the New Woman.
135 However, this strain of Gissing scholars hip ignores the way in which Gissing himself defines social and economic oddness. Like the cr itics above, Gissing does see the oddness of his female characters as being very much about thei r problems in the marriage market. As he tells Eduard Bertz in a letter written in late August of 1892, while he was finish ing the first volume of the novel, It deals with women who, from the marriage point of view, are superfluous. The Odd Women, I shall perhaps call it (160). For Gissing, it is th e idea of a number of women being superfluous-not necessary or relevant-in the marriage market that is the key to their oddness. These women are socially unnecessary in the sense that, in the 1890s, the population of marriageable middle-class women greatly exceeded the population of marriageable middle-class men, due to variety of causes in cluding colonial emigration and war. In Gissings letter to Bertz in January of 1893, the novelist gives this furthe r explanation of the nove ls title: The title means Les Femmes Superfluesthe women who are odd in the sense that they do not make a match; as we say an odd glove (166). It is not merely that thes e women are single rather than being married, but that they do not make a match with any man and thus cannot fulfill their socially prescribed destinies of becoming wives and mothers. They have no place or use in the nuclear family or society. Such a conception of oddness, as Gissing is at pains to show through the intersecting narrativ es of the novels two heterosexual romantic couples, means that though these women may find potential male partners or even marry, they cannot make successful marriages or families by virtue of their oddness, their difference from innocent, protected, and entirely dependent young middle-cl ass woman. Like the gloves to which Gissing compares them, odd women are not able to be the complementary opposite to men required by marriage and the nuclear family it creates. It is not the absence or presence of a male romantic interest per se that makes them odd, but the disjointedness between themselves and the bourgeois ideal of feminine
136 domesticity. Such a disjunction prevents thes e women from fitting into a complementary domestic relationship an d middle-class society. The conflicted and ambiguous nature of the novel as a whole reflects the oddness of Gissings women and their inability to fit into any of the soci oeconomic roles available to middle-class women in the early 1890s. The wome n of the novel are, as John Halperin notes, female exiles from a society which stresses re spectable social status as the ultimate goal of womens experience, and marriage as the chief mean s to that end (182). Since several of these women struggle with basic surviv al, this exile is, for odd women, specifically glossed as social and economic. In The Odd Women Gissing represents the social in terms of the economic so as to bring into focus the ambiguous position of supe rfluous women, namely the lack of sustaining employment opportunities for Gissings odd wome n, and the resultant financial insecurity represents their isolation from middle-class societ y and the class instability of their social milieu. Though Victorian society constructs money and culture as separate, in Gissings work, the internal contradictions of this form mimetically stand in for the incohe rences and ideological censorings of the social world (James 2). In this novel, Gissing brings to the fore the problems these women face as they become wage earners and capitalists, two identities that are entirely at odds with conventional definitions of Victor ian middle-class womens roles as wives and mothers. Consequently, in terms of ge nre, the novel combines the structure of a Victorian marriage plot with sustained attention to the subjugation of women as wome n. Remarking on this aspect of the novel, David Grylls states, The Odd Women is a social disquisition in the form of a romance (164). Gissing mixes the two genres by following and constantly contrasting the romantic lives of Monica Madden and Rhoda Nunn. This double narrative structure enables
137 Gissing to underscore the extent to which th e young modern woman, Monica, must learn the social analytic skills of her older peer, R hoda Nunn, Gissings New Wo man, and thus understand her structural place within the marriage mark et. Conversely, Rhoda lays claim to feminine sympathy to empathize with odd women who are seduced by the comforts of marriage and abandon their independent single lives in order to understand the social and psychic pressure placed upon women to desire the conventiona l family life of a middle-class wife. Gissing sets the stage for this narrative comparison by juxtaposing the Madden sisters and Rhoda Nunn in the books initial scenes, which take place in the final childhood years of the women. Gissing begins with the womens gi rlhoods so as to emphasize the far-reaching consequences of Dr. Maddens conservative patria rchal ideology on the lives of his daughters. On the grounds of maintaining his daughters in nocence and protecting them from the evils of the world, Dr. Madden refuses to discuss the familys financial matters with his daughters or to educate them to enter any vi able careers. Summing up his views on women and money, Dr. Madden tells his eldest daughter th at the home must be guarded ag ainst sordid cares to the last possible moment; nothing upsets me more than th e sight of those poor homes where wife and children are obliged to talk from morning to night of how the sorry earnings shall be laid out. No, no; women, old or young, should neve r have to think about money (32). Clearly, as has been often noted by critics, the fathers refusal to talk to his girls about money will have serious repercussion as they are thrown entirely upon their own resources only a few hours after this conversation, with the unexpected death of Dr. Madden. Throughout his c onversation with Alice and the narrative description of the Madden fa mily and their situa tion follows, Gissing repeatedly hints at the precariousness of the familys economic security, and, by extension, the middle-class family in general.
138 The narrative also undercuts Dr. Maddens as sertion about women a nd money before he even makes it, further positioning his over-protectiveness as having dire consequences for the women in his family. Specifically, Gissing glosse s these effects as arising from Dr. Maddens unwillingness to acknowledge the connection between capital and his bourgeois domestic space. As the omniscient third-person na rrator describes the girls long dead mother in the paragraph before Madden makes this comment, the narrator notes both her gentility as well as the worries beneath that beautiful surface: she was in speech and t hought distinguished by a native refinement, which in the most fastidious eyes w ould have established her claim to the title of lady. She had known but little repose, and secret anxieties told upon her countenance long before the final collapse of health (31). Though her husband professes to protect the women of his family circle from the cares of the world, Mrs. Madden suffered from worrying over these matters, assumed to be the practicalities of maki ng her husbands income st retch to take care of such a large family, and, as the narrator implies, it was the secrecy of these worries, her lack of conversation with her husband or children about th em, that took the greatest toll on her and led to her death. While economic pressures led to Mrs. Maddens early death, her husband seems to have avoided such things, taking refuge in daydreaming and a love of poetry: Tennyson he worshipped; he never passed Coleridges cottage without bowing in spirit. From the contact of coarse actualities his nature sh rank (32). Highlighting the si ze of the Madden family, Gissing also implies that it was Dr. Maddens impractical a nd self-involved nature th at led to such a large family in the first place and also contributed his wifes death: Mrs. Ma dden, having given birth to six daughters, had fulfilled her function in th is wonderful world (3 1). Dr. Madden considers the women of his family only in relation to how they care for his needs, in the case of his of wife, in providing him with a domestic oasis from the world as well as sexual and paternal satisfaction.
139 In educating his daughters, Dr. Madden again turns away from the re alities of modern life and takes refuge in the pleasures of high culture and an anachroni stic view of womens lives, to the exclusion of all practicalit ies and modern ideas. Emphasizi ng his retreat from the harsh reality of daily family life as the sole breadwinner, Dr. Madden chooses the following passage from Tennysons The Lotus Eaters, a poem about the dangerous retreat from mundane reality, to read aloud to his daughter s just before he is called away to attend to a patient: Let us alone. Time driveth onward fast, And in a little while our lips are dumb. Let us alone. What is it that will last? All thing are taken from us (35) He dies in a carriage accident on his way home due to the po or condition of his horse, yet another worldly matter where Dr. Maddens post ponement became fatality (36). The repeated phrase in these lines, Let us alone, exemp lifies Dr. Maddens attitude towards economic matters, specifically the precarious nature of his familys financial position, as well as his inability to understand the dramatic social and economic changes afoot in the late nineteenth century, especially as they rela te to his young daughters. Noting this tragic flaw in Dr. Maddens worldview, Zarena Aslami argues, As a father, Dr. Madden chooses to bequeath the legacy of culturenot economic securityto his children (63). Dr. Madde n exemplifies the Victorian construction of culture as being entirely separa te from economic concerns, an attitude that Gissing clearly problematiz es throughout the novel. Thus hi s tragic influence on his daughters illustrates how deeply problematic such attitudes are for these marginal women. For Gissing, economic security is a necessary part of middle-class culture, as demonstrated by the deterioration of Alices and Virginias minds due to the stultifying wo rking conditions they endure after their fathers death.
140 Critically, Dr. Maddens idea of cu lture is heavily nostalgic in that the sort of reading and intellectual pursuits that he enc ourages in his daughters are studi es that allow them to retreat from the changing modern world rather than enga ge in it. Dr. Madden an d his wife have given their daughters instruction suitable to their br eeding, which included home schooling and local day schooling in intellectual pursu its deemed suitable for ladies (33). Though theirs is a large family dependent entirely on one income for support, Dr. Madden does not even consider giving his girls any sort of vocational or practical e ducation because it never occurred to Dr. Madden that his daughters would do well to study with a pr ofessional object (33). For this father, it is important that his daughters be brought up to be conventional English ladi es so that they will fulfill the role of angels in the house, a role he re associated with the mid century, by remaining untouched by the public world of work and capital: As to training them fo r any path save those trodden by English ladies of the familiar type, he could not have dreamt of any such thing. Dr. Maddens hopes for the race were inseparable fro m a maintenance of morals and conventions such as the average man assumes in his estimate of women (33). Given th e title of the novel and the sense of impending doom that pervades this chapter, Dr. Maddens blithe assumptions that his daughters will not have cause to be anything other than E nglish ladies of the familiar type is heavily ironic. The narrator implies that the Madden sisters will need far greater educational resources in their adult lives than their father sees fit to give them. Dr. Madden assures himself that he has done what is best for his daughters with the vague idea that should they ever need to earn a living they could become teachers, a prof ession that by the 1890s was overstocked with women of genteel educations and increasingly required its practitioners to have official certifications, which were will beyond the reach of many distressed ladies who turned to teaching for income.
141 Though Dr. Madden only appears in the nove ls opening chapter, his conservative ideology drives much of the novels action by se tting up the contrasti ng dynamic between the Madden sisters and Rhoda Nunn, and by foreshadow ing the extent to which Rhoda will become an important sisterly mentor to the surviving three sisters, especially Monica. Melissa Witte Antinori comments that by demonstrating the problems with such ideology, Gissing uses Maddens influence on his daughters education as a springboard for launching the criticism of the male-dominated [educational] system and wome ns education that perv ade the novel (104). Such criticism is already present, even in Dr. Maddens domestic paradise. In these opening scenes, Gissing introduces his four central odd women, including Rhoda Nunn. Cataloging the Madden sisters, the narrator describes their persona lities and physical demeanors: Of the sisters, next in age to Alice came Virginia, a pretty but delicate girl of seventee n. Gertrude, Martha, and Isabel, ranging from fourteen to ten, had no physical charm but that of youthfulness; Isabel surpassed her eldest sister in downright plainness of feature. The youngest, Monica, was a bonny little maiden only just five years old, dark a nd bright-eyed (32-3). Here, Gissing depicts the Maddens sisters, excepting Monica, as a singly unexceptional a nd typical group of middle-class girls. Dr. Maddens future plan s for his daughters further emphasi ze this point: Virginia would probably be sought in marriage; she had good looks, a graceful demeanour, a bright understanding. Gertrude also, perhaps. And little Monica ah, little Monica! She would be the beauty of the family. When Monica had grow n up it would be time for him to retire from practice; by then he would doubtless have save d money (34). To Dr. Maddens mind, womens rightful place is in service of the patriarch of the house, be that hi mself as they care for him in his old age or their future husbands as they make domestic havens of their own. Furthermore, Dr. Madden, as exemplified by his attitude toward saving money, positions capital as some abstract
142 eventuality rather than the result of labor and planning on his part as family breadwinner. This relation to capital obscures its origins and fluidity. In contrast, Rhoda Nunn, even at the age of fifteen, alrea dy demonstrates the physical and mental self-possession and energy needed to fi nd a place for herself in the world on her own terms, as well as understanding her relation to capital as a future working woman. The narrative makes it quite clear that she could never be mi staken for a Madden sister: Tall, thin, eagerlooking, but with promise of bodily vigour, she wa s singled at a glance as no member of the Madden family She had a good head, in both senses of the phrase; might or might not develop a certain beauty, but would assuredly put forth the fruits of intellect (33). Rhoda is already on her way to becoming a New Woman w ith her considerable intellect and bodily vitality that already exceeds the conventions of middle-class femininity, as marked by her difference from the Madden girls. Noticeably, on ly little bright-eyed and beautiful Monica Madden echoes Rhodas energy, suggesting Mo nicas potential to learn from Rhodas mentorship; Rhoda, as Monicas tragic life will de monstrate, is the sister that Monica ought to have had (33). At this early age, Rhoda already takes pride in the fact that she will earn her own living and spends much of her time studying to be a teacher, thereby gaining the necessary knowledge capital to make a good exchange on th e labor market: With a frankness peculiar to her, indicative of pride, Miss Nunn let it be known that she would have to earn her living (33). Unlike the largely unremarkable and sheltere d Madden sisters, this young New Woman is already a fascinating person who understands the ch allenges that she will f ace as an adult and has taken steps to prepare herself mentally and physically for them. Though critics often note this contrast be tween Rhoda and the Madden sisters, few comment on the extent to which Gissing positions these last hours of i nnocent childhood for the
143 Maddens as full of lost opportuni ties for them to have learned from Rhoda and her modern ideas. Though Alice and Virginia are very much un like Rhoda, they thought Rhoda a remarkable person, and listened to her utterances respectfully (34). In addition, when Dr. Madden refuses to discuss Rhodas latest interest, the seating of women in Parliament, the narrator notes that all of the Madden girls share an interest in Rhodas New-Woman ideas, but Dr. Maddens presence prevents them from entering the conversation: His daughters would not have ventured to express an opinion on such topics when he was present; apart with Mi ss Nunn, they betrayed a timid interest in whatever proposition she adva nced, but no gleam of originality distinguished their arguments (34). Though the Madden sisters lack Rhodas self c onfidence to express themselves with any sort of vigor and the intellectual training to serious ly consider her ideas, they are curious about them. The sisters are intrigued by the manner and matter of Rhodas conversation, but have neither the means nor the w ill to make any real contribution to the larger cultural conversation about womens place in soci ety that Rhodas notions represent. Their hesitant curiosity only points to how their fa ther has seriously limited their conceptions of themselves as individuals. They lack even the independence required to be at all confident in their own opinions and have no way of developing that confidence since they live such sheltered lives. Unsurprisingly, this serious problem ha s its roots in yet another of Dr. Maddens postponed plans: He must find mo re society for them; they had always been too much alone, whence their shyness among strangers. If their mo ther had but lived! ( 34). Again, Dr. Maddens refusal to deal with practical matters of the utmost importance, like his daughters ability to navigate through society, denies his girls the opportunity to gain the personal skills that the working world requires.
144 These disadvantages become all too clear as the Madden sisters face the world on their own and find they have no real place in it-t hey are odd women. By negative example, the Madden sisters serve to illustra te the necessity of Rhodas New Womanhood. Three of the six original Madden sisters have died in the intervening years betw een the novels first and second chapters, and the remaining three are leading miserable lives. The two eldest have become clichs of miserable women, who retain their genteel breeding but live in poverty and partial starvation: They are a grim and unsightly em bodiment of the consequence of patriarchal ideology, of their fathers insist ence on the protection of women fr om the harsh realities of the world (David 123). Alice, a governess, and Virginia, a ladys comp anion, are currently unemployed and sharing a painfully small little ro om and meager vegetarian meals in order to save money. Alice has become corpulent and remain ed just as shy as when she was a girl: She walked with a quick ungainly movement, as if s eeking to escape from someone (39). Her health undermined by poverty and uninteresting employment, Virginia reads only feeble novels and has become a secret alcoholic (42). Both of thei r minds and bodies have been horribly affected by their inability to gain personally as well ec onomically rewarding employment since they are lack the life purpose of nurturing and caretaki ng of the middle-class domestic woman. These women are Coventry Patmores Angels in the Hous e, after they have been forced out of their hearths and homes, half-starved, and must work for strangers. Though they have a small sum of capital left over from their fathers estate, the elder Madden sisters lack the imagination to use that money effectively because they cannot conceive of themselves as active economic agents rather than passive victims. As Rhoda tells Mary Barfoot, her business partner and friend, when Rhoda and the sister s meet as adults, the elder ones will go on just keeping themselves alive And yet they are capitalists; eight hundred
145 pounds between them. Think what capable wome n might do with eight hundred pounds (127). Neither Alice nor Virginia has the will or skills to better their situations in life, and their unsatisfying and taxing work has made both of them too physically unapp ealing and emotionally depressed to attract a husband. Perhaps even more importantly, Alice and Virginia can do nothing to help their younger sist er Monica, who is still young and healthy enough to marry or make something of herself. They cannot provide he r with training to escape from her horrible job or the necessary social milieu to find a suitable husband-they lack both social and economic capital required. As opposed to her sisters who simply accept their lot in life, Monica is aware of the ways in which she is limited by an upbringing which ha s made her half a shopgirl and half a middleclass lady so that she fits in neither world. Havi ng recently moved from the country to the city because, as she later tells her husband, I was ti red of the dull country life, Monica navigates London with ease, enjoying the free dom of movement she has in th e city (96). As Sally Ledger maintains, Monicas free wandering about London a nd shopgirl status enables her to lay some claim to the title of flneuse because of her transgressive pleasure as a single woman moving through the citys public spaces (Shopgirl 268). Monica has steady employment at a drapers, but is becoming increasingly physically ill from the horrible working conditions at the shop and morally polluted from the questionable characters of her fellow shopgirls: her constitution was not strong, and the slavery of Walworth Road threatened her w ith premature decay (58). Still attractive, Monica understands that she cannot en dure the conditions of the shop for long, and her main economic capital is her price on the marriag e market, but she is also well aware that her lack of appropriate courtship oppor tunities makes her more likely to be seduced than courted: Her own future was more hopeful than thei rs had ever been. She knew herself good-looking.
146 Men had followed her in the street and tried to make her acquaintance But had she really the least chance of marrying a man whom she could respectnot to say love? (58). She sees marriage as her only means of escape from th e horrible working conditions of the shop, but knows that the taint of those conditions and the economic necessity of enduring them prevents her from marrying a man of her class whose social status and breeding she can esteem. Elizabeth Evans comments on the role of the shopgirl in Gi ssings work: The shopgirl represents modern lifes ominous commodification and womens da ngerous new accessibility to public spaces (109). As liminal figure, occupying a place some where between that of a lady and shopgirl, Monica understands the economics of her social pos ition but does not have the ability to perceive the larger institutional forces that over-determine her choice between an autonomous working life and a dependent married lif e, the choice between exchan ging ones labor or oneself. It is this more general analysis of economi c relations that Rhoda Nunn will teach Monica. As Rhoda Nunns last name suggests, she has eschew ed relationships with me n in order to lead a community of women. She and Mary Barfoot trai n young women to be typewriter girls, offering their students both technical instru ction on how to work the machines and intellectual stimulation through lectures so they can unde rstand the social forces that work against them as women. Though he may not use the term new woman w ith capital letters, Gissing sets Rhoda apart from the other women in his novel as a new type of woman. The author explicitly ties Rhodas difference from other women to her intellect a nd her commitment to giving women agency in the labor market and making a space for women outside the confines of the middle-class family. Hinting at the gender transgressi ons and new types of femininity or lack thereof that would soon become attached the New Woman in the mainstream press, Rhoda is often referred to in terms of her masculinity. In first describing her as an adult, the narrator notes that her countenance
147 seemed masculine, its expression somewhat a ggressive, eyes shrewd ly observant and lips consciously impregnable (48). By taking on part icularly masculine features physically and intellectually in her voc ation to aid her odd women, as sh e calls middle-class women without hope of marriage, Rhoda has purposefully made herself into a new sort of woman who can successfully navigate the difficult world that confronts the 1890s independent woman and neither needs or desires the protections of the nuclear family (162). For Rhoda, women must be in the workplace in order to be full adults and reform the economic institutions that subjugate and limit the access of odd women to all professions, namely the myth that most bourgeois women do not participate in capitalism through paid labor. Rooted firmly in Carlyles gospel of work, as well as Enlightenment philosophy, by way of writers like Frances Power Cobbe, who deba ted married womens property rights, Rhoda subscribes to a liberal notion of the self where women must claim the right to choose the nature of their labor and exercise agency in the excha nge of that labor for m oney. Women must claim the agency in the public and the private spheres that previously had been yielded to men in exchange for being the family breadwinner. Af ter Rhoda and the Maddens fall out of touch following the death of Dr. Madden, they renew their acquaintance when Rhoda and Virginia meet in London. When Virginia tells Monica ab out Rhodas plans for Monica to attend her clerical school and the possible use of the Madden capital, she cannot say enough about Rhodas demeanor: She is full of practical expedients. The most wonderful person! She is quite like a man in energy and resources. I never imagined that one of our sex could resolve and plan and act as she does! (57). For the ever-timid Virginia Rhodas strong sense of personal will can only be understood as masculine since Virginia hers elf cannot imagine the New type of feminine
148 identity that lays claim to individual agency that enables her to understand how to use economic capital and the importance of ga ining cultural capital in the form of marketable skills. Central to Rhodas sisterly mentorship is teaching Monica to become an active agent in her life, as opposed to letting circumstances dictate her economic status and personal fulfillment. Since for Rhoda those circumstances are the product of societys unjust treatment of odd women, Monica and those like her must learn to unde rstand how an individual womans life can demonstrate an institutional pattern of oppression ; they must gain social consciousness. For Gissing, such social consciousness is a function of individual agency -the individual must have a strong sense of self in order to grasp the ways in which social and economic forces affect that self and others. Throughout the novel, Rhodas personal energy and v itality are regularly mentioned. Rhoda has moved through her life with purpose and found work that suits her, providing a fulfilling career and sustainable income. Though she in itially studied to become a teacher because I had gone into it like most girl s, as a dreary matter of course, she takes a bold step and leaves teaching to learn clerical skills, which eventual lead her to her current position of teaching typewriting to odd women like herself (50). By becoming an active agent in her career and life and refusing to be limited by societys idea of what work was appropriate to distressed ladies, Rhoda not only finds a good profession but also, as Ledger comments, frees [herself] from a sense of worthlessness ( Shopgirl 147). Through this career change, Rhoda gains both personal and professional capital. As opposed to her sisters, who are beyond a ll hope, Monica represents the potential for the regeneration of her odd woman type but requires the guidance of a New Woman sister for such a process to occur; however, this potenti al is severely limited by the effects of her contradictory upbringing and is not ultimatel y successful. Though Virginia and Alice are her
149 biological sisters, the novel posi tions Rhoda as bearing a greate r resemblance to Monica as well as having the critical knowledge of the world that Monica so tragically lacks. Unlike most of the women in the novel, Rhoda and Monica are referr ed to as physically a ttractive and personally interesting. Though such surface sim ilarities do not seem significant initially, in a novel full of odd women whose bodies have been marred by the economic necessities of their lives, the physical attractiveness of both women indicates that both Rhoda and Moni ca are strong-willed women. Building on their corresponding strengths of character, the key similarity between Rhoda and Monica is their ability to analyze the struggles of indivi dual odd women and come to key conclusions about the larger economic forces at work. Where her sisters simply accept their depressing lot in life, Monica is self-aware enough to understand that they are largely superfluous to Victorian society because they will only use their capital to maintain themselves rather than investing the mone y in themselves through a busine ss venture or education: She thought of her sisters. Their lone liness was for life, poor things. Al ready they were old; and they grow older, sadder, perpetually struggling to supplement that dividend from the precious capital and merely that they might be kept alive. Oh! her heart ached at the misery of such a prospect. How much better if the poor girls had never been born (58). An odd woman herself, Monica, much like Rhoda Nunn, argues that gi rls like her sisters, with no dr ive or stamina, have no place in society that has too many marriageable wo men and requires women superfluous to the marriage market to enter the la bor market. Monica intuitively perceives the bourgeois family principle that since her sister s cannot step outside of conven tional middle-class beliefs about money, namely that the principle of ones capita l ought never to be touched, they serve no real use nor have any prospect of happiness. But Moni ca does not take the next step in her reasoning
150 -to understand how her sisters are exemplars of a systemic social problem, the products of the overpopulated pool of marriageable middle-clas s women who have no skills but those of a leisured middle-class wife and mother. Rhodas social consciousness of odd women s social and economic position comes from her own life experiences and he r strong sense of practical ag ency; however, she lacks the emotional tolerance of what she sees as othe r womens weaknesses, namely their desire for bourgeois domesticity, and so cannot put those id eas into practice most effectively. Rhoda is always right in her assessments of womens i ssues, but, before her encounters with Monica Madden and Everard Barfoot, the man who will propose marriage to Rhoda, the New Woman seems to view most women as merely economic cau salities rather than un ique individuals. As a result, she alienates them from her cause. Her in itial interview with Monica demonstrates both her dedication to helping odd women become a powerful force in Victorian society and her inability to accept other womens less radica l attitudes towards marriage and family: I look upon them as a great reserve. When one woman vanishes in matrimony, the reserve offers a substitute for the worlds work. True, they are not all trained yet far from it. I want to help in that to train the reserve (64). Monica is interested in her ideas, but Rhodas militancy confuses and alarms her. Rhoda tells the young woma n that it would be bette r if the horrible lives of odd women were more visible: I wish girls fell down and di ed of hunger in the streets, instead of creeping to their ga rrets and the hospitals. I should like to see their dead bodies collected together in some open place for the cr owd to stare at (62). Monicas response, to [gaze] at her with wide eyes, indicates that Rhoda is l iterally opening the younger womans eyes to new ways of thinking about her social position as an odd woman, but the extreme way in which Rhoda expresses her ideas scares rather attracts Monica (62). R hoda herself has little
151 patience for such fear or tentativ eness: Her lips moved in a wa y that perhaps signified disdain for such timidity. Tolerance was not one of th e virtues expressed in her physiognomy (63). Picking up on Rhodas implacable nature, Monica sees Rhodas offer as merely presenting her with more work and a more difficult task maste r- a worse form of bondage than she suffered at the shop -because Rhoda wants to dictate the co nditions of her personal and professional lives (63). To be a truly effective mentor and re former for odd women, Rhoda must balance her strength of will and grasp of institutional forces with sympathy for the individual. Rhoda attempts to give Monica what she so desperately needs, the training and guidance in another profession and the political consciousne ss she needs to claim individual agency as a woman worker, but Monica is too attracted to the idea of marriag e and a life outside the labor market. Initially, Monica accepts Rhodas offer in order to escape from her horrible life as a shopgirl and flourishes at the cl erical school. Rhoda has given M onica the opportunity to mature and become a highly valued worker in a growi ng field: She experienced a growth in selfrespect. It was much to have risen above th e status of shopgirl, and the change of moral atmosphere had a very beneficial effect on her (94). By giving Monica a place at the school, her New Woman mentor has set her on a path elevating her to the leve l of skilled worker. Monicas moral character is nurtured by her compatriots, w ho are middle-class like he rself, and she begins to value herself, which will be of the utmost importance when she chooses dependency of marriage over the autonomy of single life. In The Odd Women Monicas marriage and the control her husband attempts to assert have even more dire consequences than the figurative death that Di xons Margaret Wynman experiences. Like Margaret, Monicas marriage is predicated upon her exchanging herself for financial security. Monica agre es to marry Edmund Widdowson in order to escape the hard work
152 of earning her own living; she lite rally sells herself to him in exchange for material comfort and support. Though she feels no passion for the dull, middle-aged man, she sees him as her one chance to escape the crowded employment market and the even more crowded marriage market: She felt no love in return; but between the prospect of a marriage of esteem and that of no marriage at all there was little room for hesitati on. The chances were that she might never again receive an offer from a man w hose social standing she could respect (90). Monica is honest with herself about why she decides to accept Wi ddowsons proposal and has no illusions that she is in love. She sees him as her one chance of re aching the goal of the lady half of her upbringing and fulfilling her desire for a respectable, bourgeois marriage. Monicas reasons for accepting Widdowson put her in direct disagreement with Rhoda Nunns theories about the reformation of marriage because Monicas initial desire for the safety and leisure of the domestic space is stronger th an need for her own independent agency. When Monica tries to explain the situa tion to Mildred Vesper, her flatma te and fellow-student, Mildred cautions her about marrying solely for material reasons: I think youre going to marry with altogether wrong ideas You will marry him for a comfortable home thats what it amounts to. And youll repent it bitterly some day youll repent (130-31). Here, Mildred voices Rhodas opinion about marriage, namely that wo men have colluded in their own degradation by marrying in order to ensure their material co mfort. Crucially though, Monica asserts that she must marry because she desperately wants the secu rity of the conjugal couple rather than the odd womans independence as a waged worker: He loves me so much that he has made me think I must marry him. And I am glad of it. Im not like you, Milly; I cant be cont ented with this life. Miss Barfoot and Miss Nunn are ve ry sensible and good people, a nd I admire them very much; but I cant go their way. It seems to me that it woul d be dreadful, dreadful to live all ones life
153 alone (130). Mildred uses Rhodas logic to argue that Monica will eventually realize the greater value of the agency she is yielding, but Monica as serts that the bourge ois home is a haven from all her troubles and the rightful pl ace for a conventional middle-class woman. Interestingly, this conversation between Monica and Milly is immediately preceded by a conversation between Rhoda and Mary on exactly the exact same subject. The contrast between the two colloquial conversations serves to illustrate Monicas powerless ness over her situation. Though Rhoda thinks that women ought to remain single on principle in order to reform the institution itself, she also belie ves Monica has been too badly educ ated to be of any use to her cause. As she tells her business partner Mary when they discuss Monicas prospects at the school when the younger Madden sister had just arrived, Her guardians dealt with her absurdly; they made her half a lady and half a shopgirl. I don t think shell ever be good for much (127). Rhoda even goes so far as agree that the best thing for Monica w ould be marriage: Shes fit for nothing else, Im afraid. We mustnt look for any kind of heroism in Monica (127). To Rhoda, Monicas quasi-traditional middl e-class upbringing has made her entirely unfit to be anything other than a wife both because it has inculcated a dependence of character unable to live on her own and the demands of being an unskilled shop girl have already broken her body. Both prevent her from making any contribution to the cause. The implication here is that Monica has been too thoroughly inculcated with middle-cl ass ideology and believes that her rightful place is in the home, not the workforce. Having chosen to take herself out of the employment market, Monica must give up her autonomous shopgirl self at her marriage. The marriage ceremony itself is an unhappy one for everyone involved: Depression wa s manifest on every countenance For an hour before going to church, Monica cried and seemed unutterably doleful; she had not slept for two nights;
154 her face was ghastly (140). Though she goes thr ough with it, Margaret is uneasy with the bargain she made for a life of leisure. Interestingly, Monica pulls Rhoda aside as the wedding party begins to break up, and tells her with a half a sob It all seems very silly, and Im sure you wished yourself away a hundred times. I am r eally, seriously, grateful to you (140). Since the rest of the event is descri bed through the omniscient narrator, this short moment with Rhoda is the only dialogue given, marking the importa nce of Rhoda in Monicas life. Though Monica has seemed more than a little resistant to Rhoda s guidance, she here i ndicates the extent to which she has come to value the education R hoda has given her, even though she has chosen marriage over single life. Gissing positions Monicas marriage to Edmund Widdowson as a disaster for both because of the disconnect between Monicas individuality as an odd woman and the total renunciation of all agency that Widdowsons co nservative notions of womanhood and marriage require. As Monica comes to understand the tragic mistake she has made in marrying Widdowson, her appreciation of and reliance on Rhodas New Wo man critiques and theories grows dramatically. It is Rhodas views on womens economic usefulness that Monica uses to defend herself against her husband s super-conservative interpretation of Ruskins construction of woman, taken mainly from Of Queens Gardens (1871). During the honeymoon, Monica soon discovers that her husband holds the Ruskinia n belief that women do not have the capacity for independent thoughts or lives: Womens sphere is in the home, Monica. Unfortunately, girls are often obliged to go out and earn their living, but this is unnatural, a necessity which advanced civilization will altoge ther abolish. You shall read J ohn Ruskin: every word he says about women is good and precious I sincerel y believe that an educated woman had better become a domestic servant than try to imitate the life of man (168). Widdowson argues that
155 economic self-sufficiency literally unsexes wome n; it means that they are trying life of a man. Though Monica is no New Woman, Wi ddowsons conservative ideas about the nature of woman are deeply in conflict with her desire to retain a small part of her former independent life in her marriage. As her husband, Widdowson believes that he should be able to completely control his wife physically and mentally: A married wo man must accept her husbands opinion, at all events about men. He plunged into the ancient qu agmire. A man may know with impunity what is injurious if it enters into a womans mind (2 11). Having given her ever y material comfort, he believes himself to own her completely. Deeply misogynistic, Widdowson simply cannot fathom the idea that Monica is a full human being a nd has a mind of her own, a mind that requires variety and stimulation. As she comes to understand the depth of di sagreement between herself and her husband about her role in marriage, Monica is increasingly alienated from her husband. Gissing depicts this alienation in terms of Monicas withholding the only comm odity in the economy of their marriage she still possesses to a certain extent, her sexuality. After a partic ularly nasty discussion about Monicas desire for freedom between the ne wlyweds, she refuses to turn towards him in bed for talk or sex: Later, as they lay side by side, he wished to renew the theme, but Monica would not talk; she declared hers elf too sleepy, turned her back to him, and soon slept indeed (180). Here, Gissing indicates that where she previously accepted her husbands sexual advances submissively, Monica can no longer stand to be physically intimate w ith a man who is so domineering in her daily life: Every day the distance between them widened, and when he took her in his arms she had to struggle with a se nse of shrinking, of disgust. Their union was unnatural; she felt herself constrained by hateful fo rces when he called upon her to show wifely tenderness (211). Before her marriage, Monica believed that selling herself on the marriage
156 market in exchange for a life of leisure and comfort was a good transaction overall. However, once married, she finds it difficult to be touc hed by a man who treats her like purchased property. Attempting to salvage her marriage, Monica tr ies to revise her husbands theories on the nature of woman. She wants to use the influence that according to Rusk in is womans greatest power, in order to make her husband understand th e modern woman and suggest a new model of the family built on equality rather than strict hierarchy. The education she received at the school on Great Portland Street with Rhoda and Mary and her lodgings in Rutland Street with Mildred Vesper enables her to analyze a nd articulate the problems with her marriage. As opposed to her sisters at the beginning of the nove l, Monica has the intellect and w ill to articulate her experience of oppression. She expresses her needs to Widdows on in terms of the ideas that Rhoda Nunn has been expressing throughout the novel. In this pa ssage, Gissing makes a very clear connection between Monicas ability to voi ce her dissatisfaction and the rhetoric, ideas, and personal strength of the New Woman, thus emphasizing th e influence of Rhoda on her ideas about her role as wife: Monica held with remarkable firmness to the position she had taken; a much older woman might have envied her steadfast yet qui te rational assertion of the right to live a life of her Own apart from that imposed upon her by the duties of wedlock. A great deal of this spirit and the utterance it found was traceable to her associ ation with the women whom Widdowson so deeply suspected; prior to her sojourn in Rutland Street she could not even have made clear to herself the demands which she now very clearly formulated. Believing that she had learnt no thing from them, and till of late instinctiv ely opposing the doctrines held by Miss Barfoot and Rhoda Nunn Monica in truth owed the sole bit of real education she had ever received to thos e few weeks of attendance in Great Portland Street. Circumstances were now proving how apt a pupil she had been, even against her will. Marriage, as is always the case with women capable of development, made for her a new heaven and a new earth; perhaps on no single subject did she now think as on the morning of her wedding-day. (183)
157 Monicas marriage has been her means of coming to political consciousness. In her relationship with her husband, she has been forced to realiz e how the economic and social subordination of women within Victorian family constrains her specific personal life. In the face of Widdowsons proprietary desire to dictate her every thought and action, Moni ca refuses to agree that his providing her with material comforts gives him the right to control her. Sh e asserts ownership of herself and a new vision of domestic life thr ough the language and ideas she learned while under the tutelage of Rhoda and Mary. Furthermore, Gissing makes the point that Widdowsons interpreta tion of Ruskin-that women ought to adhere to thei r husbands authority and confine themselves exclusively to the domestic world-is so out-of-date in the 1890s as to push the prev iously submissive Monica in the opposite direction. Monica, in standing up for her ri ghts as an independent adult, argues for a different view of the Ruskinian principles to which her husband so desperately clings. Indeed, Widdowsons subjugation flies in the face of Ruskins admonishment in Sesame and Lilies that making woman into a slave to man is entirely wrong: This, I say, is the most foolish of all errors respecting her who was made to be the helpmate of man. As if he could be helped effectively by a shadow, or worthily by a slave! (Ruskin 70). M onica insists that she is not simply his chattel: The bitterness of his situation lay in the fact that he had wedded a woman who irresistibly proved to him her claims as a human being. Re ason and tradition contended in him, to his ceaseless Torment (208). She insists that, if he tr uly respects her as his wife, he must trust her and let her be every bit as free as he rather than treating her like a precio us object that must be locked away from covetous eyes (179). Had Widdowson truly followed Ruskins ar guments about womens true power as domestic angels, Monica would not have been driv en into her disastrous affair with Bevis and
158 would not have been forced to leave her husba nd. In Of Queens Gardens, Ruskin makes it quite clear that women should be encouraged to spread their queenly moral influence wherever there is need and their superior morality protects them from the evils of the world: what the woman is to be within her gates, as the centre of order, the balm of distress, and the mirror of beauty: that she is also to be without her gate s, where order is more difficult, distress more imminent, loveliness more rare (88). Though he claims to adhere to Ruskins ideas on womanhood, Widdowson is too insecu re in his authority over Moni ca to allow her this physical and mental freedom because he is always af raid that Monicas sexuality will escape the boundaries of their marriage. In continually suspecting his wife of infidelity with Rhodas suitor, Everard Barfoot, and asserting his ownership of her in all details of her life, Widdowson drives Monica to keep secrets from him and consequently makes it possible for her, who previously had been unable even to tell a little white lie to her sisters, to start an affair with Bevis, a ma n who has no intention of giving her the love for which sh e is searching. Widdowsons paranoi a causes his greatest fear to come true. Widdowson, the feeble tyrant, desires to be the obedient chivalric knight of Ruskins lecture but lacks the fa ith in women as a group to trust his wifes judgment (Grylls 171; Ruskin 175). As the narrator remarks, A husba nds misdirected jealousy excites in the wife derision and a sense of superiority ; more often than not, it fost ers an unsuspected attachment, prompts to a perverse pleasure in misleading (213). Instead of having faith in his wifes goodness and encouraging her to do whatever in the world app ealed to her womanly goodness, Widdowson fosters Monicas ability to lie and dissemble, which, in turn, causes her to loathe herself and her husband even more: She despised herself, and hated him for the degradation
159 which resulted from his lordship over her (221). It is this intense hatred of what she has been reduced to that prompts Monica to leave her hus bands house and eventually leads to her death. While Monica has been struggling to free herself from her husbands domination, Rhoda has been struggling with the tempta tion to give into Everard Barfoot s clear romantic interest in her. For her part, Rhoda takes pl easure in being made love to a nd desires the experience of being in love so that she can reject Everard and act as an even be tter example to other women by having refused the material comforts of a conve ntional marriage. Everard, a cousin of Rhodas business partner and closest friend Mary Barf oot, is a man who, like Widdowson, no longer has to earn a living because he has come into an inheritance. Everard f lirts with Rhoda because he is intrigued by her New Woman sexuality, and he even tually pursues her hand in marriage because he enjoys the challenge of trying to overcome her seemingly indomitable will and dominate her in love: he must have the joy of subduing her to his will (271). The relationship between them acts as a sobering parallel to the Monica and Widdowson pairing in that, even with such a seemingly progressive couple, the drama of the re lationship is still all about the struggle for psychology and emotional control of the other (G rylls 174). Rhoda comes to understand that Everard could never be the true pa rtner her love requires because he is not quite serious in his love for her. He still desires, above all else th at the submission [of her will to his] should be perfect, which would destroy her and her wo rk for odd women (323). Indeed, the seeming radical Everard requires the same sort of domination that the conservative Widdowson tries to assert over Monica. Thus while many critics argue that Rhodas austere devotion to her cause prevents her from giving herself over to love, Rh odas dismissal of Everard is more a product of his inability to love wi thout attempting to dominate. Moreov er, this relationship opens the door for Rhoda to understand how she already been forcedly determined, and thus to sympathize
160 with other women in love (Aslami 80). For Rhoda her encounter with c ourtship enables her to understand how she has been influenced by middle -class ideology of the family and femininity. For Gissing, the bond between Rhoda and Monica is founded on their shared position as odd women and mutual sympathy for the others st ruggles against the hegemonic force of the Victorian family. Monica tells Rhoda the entire story of her flirtation with Bevis and her desertion of her husband. T hough the typical Victorian roma nce-plot outcome of this conversation would seem to be the reunion of Rh oda and Everard, that event never takes place. Instead, the key result of this important conversation is the reunion of Monica and Rhoda. Monicas confession re-energizes Rhoda and enab les her understand the importance of not only strong principles but also cari ng sympathy in her work for odd wo men: Herself strongly moved, Rhoda had never spoken so impressively, had never given counsel of such ea rnest significance Seeing that her words were not in vain, she cam e nearer to Monica and spoke yet more kindly (314). In this moment, Rhoda, for the first time demonstrates kindness to someone who does not live up to her high standards of economic and sexual independence. As Arlene Young notes, Rhodas response to this conversa tion signals a moment of trium ph over the restrictive dictates of orthodox Victorian womanhood (130). Moreover, here, unlike her previously hard-line approaches to erring women, Rhoda calls on Moni ca not only to Strengthen yourself in body and mind for the sake of her unborn child, but, because You have a mind, to return to the cause: We seemed to have lost you; but before long you will be one of us again. I mean, you will be one of the women who are fighting in womans cause. You will prove by your life that we can be responsible human beings trustwor thy, conscious of purpose (315). Where before Rhoda dismissed Monica as weak woman seduced by the security of marriage, she now calls on Monica to use her hard-won strength and courag e of character to further the cause of odd
161 women. Thus, in the course of this conversation, Monica reveals to R hoda a new passion and love within herself for both the cause in ge neral and all odd women wh o struggle against the subjugating forces of the ma rriage and labor markets. The ending of The Odd Women reinforces the importance of this sense of community and mutual guidance between women in creating a place within society for odd women, though the dark undertone of the odd womans tragedy pervad es this community. Monica dies a few days after giving birth to her daughter and Widdowson leaves after prom ising to provide materially for the child and her caretakers, Alice and Virg inia, who will soon start their much-talked-about school. A sense of careful hopefulness pervades the novels ending, but the tragic death of Monica haunts it. Monica lives on in her daughter who has her mothers dark, bright eye-the very characteristic that signified her mothers intelligence and courage, and the novel implies that Rhoda will keep an eye on Monicas daughter making sure that Alice and Virginia follow the New Womans instructions to Make a brav e woman of her (332). However, readers are left wondering exactly how the child will make her way in the world, being the product of such a horrible and destructive union betw een a weak woman and an insecure tyrant. Indeed, the baby girl is the physical embodime nt of Monicas doomed sale of her sexuality in exchange for financial security a nd middle-class status. The ending itself is ultimate ly ambiguous as it closes w ith a tableau of Rhoda and Monicas daughter, in which Gissing seems to locate hope for odd women in feminine sympathy. In the final paragraph of the novel, Rhoda hol ds the baby and grieves for her mother: Rhoda, still nursing, sat down on a garden bench And as the baby sank into sleep, Rhodas vision grew dim; a sigh made her lips quiver, and once more she murmured, Poor little child! (332). Here, Gissing demonstrates the extent to which Rhoda now possesses certain conventional
162 feminine emotions, including tenderness towa rds children. Still, rather than making her vulnerable to the marriage plot lines of conventi onal Victorian heroines, Rhoda can feel love for Monicas child as part of, rather than separate from, her devotion to he r cause because she now personally understands how she herself has been influenced by conventional notions of middleclass femininity as domestic and relative. After all, Monicas daughter is already an odd woman, and, with Rhodas dimming vision and final ex clamation, this Rhoda indicates that she appreciates the struggles this girl will have to face in her life and sympathizes with such pain, even as she objectively r ecognizes its necessity. Thus The Odd Women represents not only Gissings wo rking through of this particular class of womens social and economic problems, but also his critique of the Victorian family itself. Such a critique is in no way entirely unproblematic in that ex ists within the very system it attempts to resist and must therefore remain fore ver subjected to that sy stem it seeks to change. Rhodas guidance of Monica enables the younger woman to understand the larger social forces at work in her conflicting desires for agency and ma rriage, but it cannot pr event her from tainting herself with infidelity, nor can it alter the narrative consequences of that action. Hence Monica, the compromised woman, must suffer the at th e hands of the conventional Victorian fallen woman plot that calls for the death of the moth er as penance for her social crimes. Though the New Woman and the daughter of one odd womens ma rriage for economic security seem to have the strength and life-force to the f ace the challenges ahead of them as they remake the world into a place where odd women will no longer be odd, Gissing locates these possibilities in the future and does not narrate the details and reality of such a shift in the structure of both private relationships between the sexes and their interacti ons in the public worlds of work and capital, suggesting the utopic nature of such ex tensive social and economic changes.
163 CHAPTER 8 THE NEW WOMAN AND THE ECONOMIC S OF DE SIRE AND FRIENDSHIP In the fin de sicle conceptions of sisterhood were dr amatically altered as the Woman Question acquired greater urgency with the emer gence of the New Woman. Much of the social debate surrounding the New Woman connected this cultural figure to womens social work and the associations they founded to do that work. These organizations focused on individual issues such as womens suffrage and education and enabled women to work in the public sphere without male supervision. As women formed th ese chosen sisterhoods around reform issues and strengthened the sororal bond into an affective relationship th at offered them public as well as private fulfillment, Victorians became increasingly concerned a bout the threat such all-women organizations posed to separate spheres of ideo logy and patriarchal control in general. This shrieking sisterhood1 of female social reformers made chosen sisterhood a bond that could supplant the conventional domestic space and oc cupy the center of womens affective and economic lives. Playing on these fin-de-sicle concerns over sororal relationships, the New Woman as a sister figure represented a challenge to Victorian femininity in centering her identity in a woman-centered space that is both fam ilial and professional. Rhoda Broughton, one of the Victorian periods most popular novelists, enacts these anxieties in he r 1897 anti-New Woman novel, Dear Faustina Where the New Woman as sister offers valu able advice and guidan ce in the other novels discussed in this study, in Dear Faustina the sexual nature of th e relationship between the 1 Eliza Lynn Linton first popularized this derogatory term in her well-known 1868 Saturday Review essay The Shrieking Sisterhood, which was later re published in her 1883 essay collection The Girl of Period and Other Social Essays Broughton uses this term in Dear Faustina to describe the group of feminist reformers that Althea joins through her relationship with Faustina.
164 heroine and her chosen sister-an improper,2 lower-class New Woman-corrupts the sisterly bond and its ability to offer the heroine much needed guidance. Furthermore, Dear Faustina is particularly interesting because it brings together the lesbian slum novel, in which lesbian desire is conflated with cross-class reform work, as well as growing sexol ogical discourses on the connection between female inversion and the nineteenth-century womens movement. Seth Kovens Slumming suggests, in discussing Vernon Lees Miss Brown (1884) and L.T. Meades A Princess of the Gutter (1895), that upper-class womens slumming, or going dirty, created a space in which they could explore their own same -sex and opposite-sex feelings and identities, with the same-sex relationships often being fo rmed across class boundaries (198). Like these two late-century slum novels, Dear Faustina features such a cross-class relationship that imagines lesbian desire in terms of philanthropic desire. However, Broughtons slum novel more extensively incorporates the in creasingly popular sexological female inversion rescue narrative, which regularly involves what Ma rtha Vicinus describe s as the plot device of a handsome man rescuing an innocent woman from the clutches of an older woman (212). In Broughtons version of this narrative, the rescue also enta ils the re-establishment of class boundaries between the young middle-class woman and the working classes she seeks to help in her reform work. Such a move seems strange, a matter less characteristic as the Athenaeum termed it, for a Victorian writer who was regularly both criticized and praised fo r being scandalous in the 1860s and conventional in the 1890s.3 Yet, as I will argue, Dear Faustina represents Broughtons 2 Throughout this article, I use the terms improper/proper; abnormal/normal; unhealthy/healthy in the nineteenthcentury sense of departing from or conforming to middle-class social definitions of acceptable behaviors and desires. Broughton, as I argue in the course of this essa y, is attempting to make a clear distinction between these terms in the face of a changing urban social landscape and the new possibilities it presents for the single woman. 3 Broughton herself famously remarked in the Times, I began life as Zola and I finish it as Miss Yonge (Miss Rhoda Broughton 17).
165 exploration of the blurring boundaries between romantic and sororal relationships between women through the troubled class, gender, and sexual politics of late nineteenth-century England. Unlike the other proto-New Woman and New Woman characters that I highlight in earlier chapters, Broughtons Ne w Woman is a virago and a villain. Broughton positions the New Woman as a morbid and immoral sexual pr edator, who permanently taints Victorian middle-class sisterhood by transgressively merging the roles of lover and sister and whose victims can only be truly rescued from th e New Womans degenera te sexuality by the heteronormative institution of marriage and a middle-class domestic model of reform work. While Broughton does something as scandalous to Victorians as depict a clearly homosexual relationship between two women, sh e also contains that unregula ted desire through the heroines reintegration into an explicitly patriarcha l bourgeois domestic space at the end of the novel.4 Her New Woman makes visible the vulnerabili ties of the Victorian nuclear familys heteronormativity and middle-class status to wome ns desires, but the he roines implied marriage at the end of the novel enables th e bourgeois family to reassert its hegemonic power and expel the New Woman. Coupled with this re-affirma tion of middle-class heterosexuality, the novel also incorporates the New Womans attractive as pects into a more modern version of middleclass womanhood. Thus though the New Woman in Dear Faustina is a negative mentor for the Pamela Gilbert argues in her discussion of Not Wisely But Too Well and A Beginner that though Broughton was Initially categorized as a sensation novelist when her first, extremely popular novels came out in the 1860s, she was later classified as a writer of love stories, long after lo ve had ceased to be even argu ably the primar y theme of her novels (113). For additional discussion of Broughtons ambi valent relationship to sensation fiction, see also Helen Debenhams Rhoda Broughtons Not Wisely But Too Well and the Art of Sensation. Victorian Identities: Social and Cultural Formations in Nineteenth-Century Literature Eds. Ruth Robbins and Ju lian Wolfreys. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996. 9-24. 4 In Dear Faustina, desire and the affect it produces work in term s of what Ann Cvetkovich describes as the always conflicted nature of affection in Victorian literature: In reading how affect is represented in and produced by Victorian texts, it is important to attend to how the re presentation of local instances of suffering can both call attention to and obscure complex social relations, an d can both inspire and disp lace social action (5).
166 heroine, she does, much like Kate Vavasor in Trollopes Can You Forgive Her? ultimately guide the young woman towards marriage by making he r aware of her desire to yield her agency in marriage. Furthermore, Broughtons NewWoman mentor, again by negative example, highlights the importance of main taining class boundaries in mi ddle-class womens philanthropic work. In Dear Faustina Clare, the conventional elder sister is unable to instill in her younger sister, Althea Vane, the desire to be a middle-class Victorian wo man and, in assuming her proper role as an adult, a wife. This inculcation of fe mininity fails largely because the sexual inversion of the New Woman character irrevocably ch arges the dynamics of womens intimate relationships in the novel with desire. Between he r fathers death and her mothers desertion to join a socialist commune, Althea has become co mpletely infatuated with the eponymous lowerclass5 New Woman, Faustina Bateson, and refuses the security and safety of her newly-married older sisters home in order to live with Fausti na, where she will act as companion and helpmeet in the latters social reform work. Although the heroine eventually realizes that Faustina is corrupt and hypocritical, Althea onl y leaves her beloved when she finds out that Faustina has found another impressionable, upper-class young la dy, Cressida Delafield, to take her place. Following the trauma of this discovery, Althea ca nnot simply return to her sisters home and once more be a part of her rightful class but must have her desires for love and reform work transferred to a proper objectJohn Drake, who w ill watch over and guide her as she works in his settlement house as a needlework teacher. Broughton constructs the narrative such that Althea is unable to return to the conventional middle-class domestic space of her sisters home 5 Faustina, as we find out later in the novel, is the daught er of one of the farmers belonging to John Drakes family estates (122). Though she is clearly educated, as her car eer in journalism suggests, Broughton constantly highlights Faustinas class difference from the Vane family and the social milieu they inhabit, not the least by having Faustinas flat be in the slums of Notting Hill.
167 because she has been morally damaged through her contact with the working classes, and she must find a new middle-class home that co mbines domesticity and social reform. Though the heterosexual rescue narrative is clear ly important in the novel, I also will be focusing here on the less obvious, though equally powerful, emotional struggle for the heroine between her older sister and he r sister-in-cause/ lover. In Dear Faustina, Althea and Clares parents are longer able to offer guidance or exert control in the young womens lives. As in The Hand of Ethelberta the absence of any strong parent enables the sister bond to take on added significance as the older sister se rves as both mother figure and p eer model. Critically, Althea has lost the closeness she once shar ed with her older, more conventional sister as she has lost her desire to be in the middle-class domestic space. In such a dynamic, sisters shared family ties and position serve to highlight the di fferences between them, particularly on the basis of sexual morality. As Michael Cohen argues in his discus sion of sisterhood in nine teenth-century novels and paintings, the most obvious feature of sisterhood, resemblance, is always tempered with difference. Likeness contains the idea of differe nce (14). In Victorian fiction, sisters often define themselves and are defined in terms of polarized identities. Indeed, Helena Michie suggests that the Victorian conception of si sterhood is founded upon the difference between the good and the bad sister: Differences between sisters [are] also reproduced explicitly as sexual difference; that is, the difference between the fallen and unfallen, the sexual and the pure woman (404). For Broughton, these differences should ultimately di sappear as the wild sister comes to adopt the ways of the good sister after she has asserted her difference from her elder sister as a subject in and of herself. 6 The New Woman, however, disrupts this maturation process by making sisterhood itself the danger. 6 For example, in Nancy (1873), one of Broughtons most conventional mid-century novels, Nancys older sister Barbara acts as a bastion of safety and an exemplar of proper femininity for her mildly rebellious younger sibling.
168 In marking the New Woman as a predator y lesbian, Broughton highlights a particular incarnation of the New Woman that combined recent findings in the burgeoning field of sexology, like Richard von Krafft-Ebings Psychopathia Sexualis (1886) and Havelock Ellis Sexual Inversion (1897), with Victorian a nxieties about the increasi ng presence of first-wave feminists in social reform movements that of ten involved middle-class women working for their cause in Londons slums.7 For Broughton, the centrally compelling idea in sexology was the classification of inverts into the congenital and the acquired. Whereas the congenital or active invert is doomed from birth to be sexually attr acted to her own sex exclusively, the acquired or passive invert possesses a pred isposition towards inversion th at separates her from normal woman and makes her particularly susceptible to the advances of the active or congenital invert. For sexologists, this lack of disgust on the part of the acquire d invert in response to the overtures of the congenital invert is located both in the heredita ry taint of mental illness, usually through the mother, as well as the influence of all fema le environments. Krafft-Ebing argues that the chaster education of the girl tends to prevent th e predisposition to inve rsion from manifesting, but The situation changes when the predisposed female is also tainted with other anomalies of hypersexual character and is le d through it or seduced by other females to masturbation or homosexual acts (387). Therefore, the predisposed, yet passive invert requires the active invert, Her sisters example leads Nancy to leave behind her youthful wildness and become the patient, loving, and completely selfless Victorian wife. On a biographical note, Broughton herself remained close to her sisters throughout her life and seems to have valued their familial support very highly. Unlike her heroines who often refuse or leave the shelter of their ma rried sisters homes, Broughton herself went to live with her elder married sister, Mrs. Eleanor Newcome, in Denbighshire following the death of their father in 1863. The living arrangements between the two sisters must have worked quite well for both as they soon repeated it. In 1878, the now-widowed Mrs. Newcome, her sons, and her sister Rhoda moved to Oxford. There they would remain for twelve years, and there Rhoda would firmly establish hers elf as a mainstay of Oxford intellect ual society and continue her already well-established career as a novelist. 7 For an extensive discussion of the availability of sexological texts in nineteenthcentury, see Jeffrey Weeks, Sexuality and its Discontents: Meanings, Myths, & Modern Sexualities (Boston: Routledge & K. Paul, 1985).
169 a masculine sort of New Woman, to serve as a catalyst for her sexual de sires and activate her latent inversion. Since the New Womans mentorship can not only teach a young woman to claim agency independent of her family but also express de viant sexual desires, these effects of the New Womans influence were regularly collapsed into one another in New Women discourse of the 1890s. For both Krafft-Ebing and Ellis, the singlesex reform organizations that women formed in the late nineteenth century provided a virt ual breeding ground for se xual inversion in women. Ellis directly addresses this unsettling combination of womens professional and romantic lives at length in Sexual Inversion and argues that having been taught independence of men and disdain for the old theory which placed women in the moated grange of the home to sigh for a man who never comes, a tendency develops for wo men to carry this independence still further and to find love where they find work (100). Ho wever, the acquired invert, as long as she has not indulged in her abnormal sexual desires for to o long, always has the potential to return to normality. As Patricia Murphy contends, Dear Faustina makes an important distinction between the invert by birth and the invert by influence: Inappropriate aff ection for a member of the same sex, when not congenitally determined, presumabl y, could be reversed and directed toward its proper heterosexual object (64). The genetic inve rt is immutably attracted to members of the same sex and can never be cured of her desi re or, by implication, her New Womanhood, whereas the invert by influence can be rescued from th e abnormal influence of the congenital invert and directed towards heterosexuality and the bourge ois nuclear family. The improperly-influenced sexual invert fits nicely into Broughtons reformation dynamic in that Althea has the potential to be guided away from her lesbian lover/ sister and towards a heterosexual middle-class marriage.
170 Though it is unclear whether Broughton herself read any of these texts, she was definitely aware their central ideas and positioned Dear Faustina as addressing the issu e of female sexual inversion. Intriguingly, the names of the novels heroine, Althea, and her lover, Faustina, both come from earlier nineteenth-century texts that de al explicitly with lesbia n desire. Altheas name is also the title of Vernon Lees Althea: A Second Book of Dialogues on Aspirations and Duties (1894), the same author who had published the scandalous Miss Brown with its cross-class lesbian relationship, only ten years earlier. Lees Althea is a series of philosophical dialogues on the individuals relationships to other peopl e and society between two primary characters, Baldwin and Althea, and other minor characters The books central dial ogue, On Friendship considers whether the passion that friendship and romantic love inspires is ultimately good or bad for the individual and/or the other, a topic very much at the heart of Dear Faustina. In addition to Baldwin and Althea, this dialogue as includes the ch aracter of Signora Elena, whose vision of the sincere and honest marriage of tr ue minds is ultimately endorsed by Althea over the selfish model of friendship espoused by Ba ldwin (149). Lee connects Signora Elenas ideal of friendship to her gender-bending attraction to the boyish Althea: Signora Elena took the hand of her antagonist, so strangely impersonal in her abstract passion for right, and yet, with her youth, her face rather of a beautiful boy than of a woman, and restrained tenderness of manner, so very lovable (152-53). Furthermore, Lee pos itions Altheas coming to have the same mind about friendship as Signora Elena as inspiring her attraction for the elder woman. Altheas only response to the other womans final comment in th e dialogue, and indeed the final spoken line of the entire chapter, that We are the food and fuel for one anot her (153), is to kiss her on the hand: She kissed the hand which Signora Elena ha d extended, and departed in silence, which seemed more meaningfull [sic] than words (154 ). Here, Lee suggests that Altheas philosophic
171 agreement with Signora Elena goes beyond words and can only be expressed through physical signs of passion and love. In Dear Faustina Broughton also uses this passionate silence of likemindedness to signify the connection between lesbian desire and New Woman ideas. Faustinas name, aside from the connection to Goethes devil, was also well known from Algernon Charles Swinburnes Faustine from his infamous Poems and Ballads (1866). Swinburnes Faustine is a beautiful, sensual wo man who has been ruled by the devil since birth, You could do all things but be good (45). In the poem, she is ar oused by explicitly same-sex desire: Stray breaths of Sapphic song that blew Through Mitylene8 Shook the fierce quivering blood in you By night, Faustine. The shameless nameless love that makes Hells iron gin Shut on you like a trap that breaks The soul, Faustine. (117-124) Like Broughtons Faustina, Swi nburnes Faustine, inspired by the Roman empress Faustina,9 is marked by her lesbian desire, her shameless nameless love, which has its roots in the homoerotic tradition of Sappho of Lesbos. Swi nburne himself explicitly tied his poetry to Sappho and thus to homosexuality in the minds of many Victorian readers, declaring in his Notes on Poems and Reviews that I striven to cast my spirit into the mould of hers [Sapphos], to express and represent not the poe m but the poet (351). By choosi ng for her two main characters names that were so closely associated with li terary representations of lesbian desire, Broughton signals to her readers that thes e characters ought to be read in terms of discourses of female 8 Mitylene (now usually spelled Mytilene) is the capital city of Lesbos, located in the southeastern part of the island. 9 See Swinburnes Notes on Poems and Reviews page 355.
172 homosexuality and dangerous friendship, particular ly in the context of the increasingly popular sexological discourse on female sexual inversion. In mobilizing this discourse of womens samesex desire throughout the novel, Broughton uses ho mosexual desire to si gnify not only the New Womans sexual deviancy but also her ch allenges to Victorian class hierarchies.
173 CHAPTER 9 THE SHRIEKING SISTERHOOD: SEXUAL INVER SION, REFORM WORK, AND SISTERHOOD IN RHODA BROUGHTONS DEAR FAUSTINA By portraying the New Womans threat to the nuclear family through Faustina, who preys on innocent girls of the upper and middle classes, Broughton conflates the New Womans sexual danger with her ability to cross econom ic boundaries. Although this conflation makes the New Woman doubly dangerous to the family, it also enables Broughton to resolve the problematic nature of the heroines class-cr ossing sexuality and re form work through the heterosexual rescue narrative. In the logic of this narrative, when Althea is firmly re-ensconced in heterosexuality through her relationship w ith John Drake and protected from Faustinas shrieking sisterhood,1 her class identity as a bourgeois woman is also re-affirmed. In expelling the lesbian New Woman, the novel dispels the cl ass and gender trouble that she created. Furthermore, as Altheas continued commitment to social reform work among the working classes demonstrates, the nuclear mi ddle-class family incorporates in to itself the affective energy inspired by the New Womans reform work, as ex emplified in John Drakes paternal model of reform work. The plot of Dear Faustina shows how Althea is infected by Faustinas influence and then put on the road to recovery by John Drakes guidance; however, it does so by first focusing on how Althea relates to her biological sister Clare and her sister-in-cau se Faustina. Throughout the novel, Altheas primary affective focal point is these sisterly relations hips, rather than her relationship with Drake, which becomes central in the last few chapters of the book when she has separated herself from Faustina. Althea struggles to deal with the changes in her relationship with Clare brought on both by Clares recent marriag e as well as her own Boston marriage to 1 For explanation of this term see note 1 in the introduction to this part.
174 Faustina. Though Broughton ultimately must have Alth ea reject Faustina and the inverted desire she represents, Altheas attraction for this woma n moves the plot of the novel. Connecting these issues of gender and love, Mari lyn Wood describes the novel as an interesting study of the way in which different kinds of love are affected, or in some cases even created, by a questioning, or alteration, of the accepted rle of women in so ciety (90). Altheas ch oice of the New Woman lifestyle through Faustina irrevocably alters th e way she relates to the domestic sphere and the women she cares for in that space. Hence, the novels discussion of love goes beyond an exploration of womens relationships; it is an attempt to work out how precisely the changing roles of women in Victorian society made possible new sorts of intimacy and altered its old forms. Broughton begins the novel with the breakup of the Vane fam ily as a result of Mrs. Vanes activist ambitions and the subsequent separation of Althea and Clare. Mrs. Vane is precisely what Victorians feared about New Wo men and social reform work-a mannish woman who abandons her children, has no love for the husband who has only just died, and joins a women-only socialist commune. As she tells her ch ildren, the goal of her group is the redressing of the balance as between every wr onger and every wronged, in each stratum of society, in each nationality, and in every qua rter of the globe ( 17). The grandiose and unrealistic nature of Mrs. Vanes cause suggest s that Broughton here is pulling from anti-New Woman discourse, which faulted the New Woman for seeking new avenues of influence, while ignoring the opportunities for helping others in her current sphere of influence. Ouida notes in The New Woman (1894), Woman, whether new or old, has immense fields of untilled, immense areas of influence wholly neglected. She does almost nothing with the resources she possesses, because her whole energy is concen trated on desiring and demanding those she has
175 not (613). Like Ouidas hypothetical New Woman, Mrs. Vane chooses public activism over private domestic influence. Although the New Wo man Faustina is not directly responsible for Mrs. Vanes decision to dissolve her house hold, Broughton implicitly connects Altheas new attachment to Faustina with the drastic measur es her mother is taking in pursuing a radical lifestyle in order to establish the hereditary taint of gender bending that predisposes Althea to the same abnormal desire. Mrs. Vanes resolution enlist in a band of woman workers and thinkers exemplifies the connection that Broughton makes thr oughout the novel between the New Womans abandonment of the middle-class domestic sphere and her sexual and gender deviancy (16). Her decision to leave the private sphe re signifies her lack of the c onventional feminine desire to nurture her family and be protected by the men fo r which she cares. Altheas mother laments the loss of the past twenty-five years she has spent on the clogging, petty impediments of domestic life and relishes the idea of re linquishing all these ties in favor of reform work (19-20). Indeed, she is a representative ty pe of Havelock Elliss masculine c ongenital invert, who often possesses a dislike and sometimes incapacity for needlework and other domestic occ upations, a trait Mrs. Vane shares with Faustina (97).2 This lack of womanly affectio n is further reflected in Mrs. Vanes appearance, described throughout this sc ene in terms of mascu linity. Altheas mother could be mistaken for a man, so austerely mascu line is the just-gray-touched thick short hair parted on one side, the coat, the tie, the waistc oat (13). Through her connection with a radical sisterhood, Mrs. Vane demonstrates her innate lack of maternal a ffections and femininity and the hereditary potential for inversion that she has passed along to her children. 2 For further discussion of Mrs. Vanes sexual inversion, see page 66 of Patricia Murphys Disdained and Disempowered: The Inverted New Woman in Rhoda Broughtons Dear Faustina Tulsa Studies in Womens Literature 19.1 (2000 Spring): 57-79.
176 Mrs. Vane casts her cause in terms of work ing towards collective happiness rather than the selfish concern with the happi ness of individuals; however, th e narrator repeatedly undercuts this assertion by noting the unhappiness that th is mother is causing her children by abandoning them. Both Althea and Clare are extremely upset by their mothers decision, but the ways in which they react are specifically tied to the diffe rences that have arisen between them recently: Clare is turning her engagement ring, as if onl y by holding on tight to the happy fact that it symbolizes can she endure the painfulness of the present ordeal. Althea has snatched her hand from Faustinas strenuous clasp to hide the crue l quiver that is convulsing her lower face (20). Clare seeks comfort in her upcoming marriage and the domestic space it will give her by holding onto her ring, and Althea hides her feminine w eakness from Faustina by covering her face. Mrs. Vane displays no emotion as she watches her ch ildren suffer and separate from each other. Indeed, she fosters difference between her children rather than nurturing their family ties, and the only emotions that she expresses throughout her sp eech come from the pride she feels in starting her new life. This New-Woman mother is hence devoid of the womanly affections necessary for Victorian motherhood and readily severs all conn ection with her children to pursue her own desires. Throughout her talk, Mrs. Vane makes allusions to Altheas newfound sympathy with her mothers cause and contrasts her with Clare, thus encouraging her young er daughters departure from traditional middle-class womanhood rather th an guiding her towards a suitable marriage as Victorian mothers ought to do. When Mrs. Vane describes the future plans of her children, she noticeably opposes Clares conventional life choices to the possibility that Althea may choose a lifestyle closer to her mothers: Clare has chos en the beaten track, the well-worn track of mans hewers of wood and drawers of water. Althea ha s not yet made that election. Perhaps she never
177 will with a slender tinge of hope in the intonation (23). Mrs. Va ne even goes so far as to tell her children that should Althea choose such a life, I need not say with what welcome we shall receive her into our ranks (23). Even befo re Althea makes her choice to join Faustina, Broughton already positions her as a burgeoning New Woman, who has the potential to be a member of the martial sisterhood of New Woman reformers. The author explicitly casts the separation of Althea and Clare at the beginning of the novel in terms of Altheas rejec tion of Clares chosen conventi onal life and, in particular, her decision to marry. As Faustina tries to comfort a very distressed Althea about the dissolution of her family, Faustina speaks to her not as friend but as a lover. She uses that tone of passionate caressingness which used to belong to Love, but which female frie ndship has lately stolen from his quiver (2). From this first convers ation between the two women then, Broughton characterizes Faustinas relati onship with Althea as transgressing the proper boundaries of female friendship and taking on the affective power of romantic desire. Notably, this change in womens intimate relations is figured as a secr et theft from the acceptable love between husband and wife, which Love/Cupid would instigate with his well-aimed phallic arrows. The shift is also not just a specific aberration th at has happened between Althea and Faustina, but rather is generalized as a newly recognized problem with romantic female friendship in Victorian society as a whole. Here, Faustina play s the seducer as she takes on the active role of using the stolen arrow to pursue the lovely Althea and, in doing so, signals her congenital sexual inversion, which will be tied to her New Woman identity throughout the novel. Moreover, the narrative gloss on this convers ation positions Faustina as the older, less attractive, more confident woman who easily ma nipulates the nave, pretty, and vulnerable Althea into focusing on her feelings for her new friend. Althea is overwhelmed with gratitude
178 over the kindness Faustina has shown during her fath ers final illness and death: If it had not been for my fathers death, and your extraordinar y kindness to me at the time and afterwards, I dare say we might never have been drawn together. Oh, but you were kind! (7). Faustina uses Altheas clearly powerful emotions in this moment as way to push Altheas passion for her past the boundaries of platonic affecti on, and tells the tearful Althea that There is no question of kindness where one loves (7). Both Faustina and Althea are aw are that such a statement expresses more than the normal affection of a fema le friend, and the narrative notes that there is A short pause before Althea continues the conv ersation on a slightly di fferent topic (7). As with other passionate moments be tween Althea and Faustina, this suggestive pause stands in for explicit narration of the sexual nature of their attraction to each other. The silence represents a moment of understanding betw een the two women where Faustina has been able to use the language of female friendship to inspire romantic feelings of love in Althea. Clare and Altheas other siblings actively di slike their sisters ne w confidante and the influence she exerts over Althea s every thought and wor d. Out of all of her siblings, Althea had been the closest to her older sister Clare, and it is the new emotional a nd philosophical distance between them that demonstrates precisely how much Faustina has changed Althea. As they continue their discussion about the probable dissolution of her home, Althea tells Faustina about the recent difficulties between herself and Clare: We used to agree as well as most sisters in the old days, she rejoins regretfu lly. Since my fathers deathsi nce Clares engagementsubjects of difference seem to have sprung up between us There are some topics on which there is no use pretending that we think alike (5). Before Fa ustina and the death of their father, Clare and Althea shared a firm skepticism of their mothers projects and had agreed so perfectly in our dislike of the type of mothers friends (6). Thro ugh Faustinas influence, Althea now has come
179 believe in the spirit of her mothers work and consider Faustina, a person whose visit she dreaded, as her closest companion (6). As A ltheas description of the events in the immediate past here indicates, we have a rather interesti ng coincidence of events that, while not causally related, seem to be somehow dependent on one a nother: Mr. Vane dies; Faustina comes to visit Mrs. Vane; Faustina comforts the grieving Alth ea; Clare becomes engaged; Althea and Clare have differences of opinion. This sequence implies that the death of the patriarch enables the New Woman Faustina to enter the home and take hold of Altheas affections as her sister realigns her own affections and loyalty to her future husband. T hus both the death of Mr. Vane and Clares engagement prompts Althea to seek a new person to guide and love her, illustrating the importance of both paternal and sororal influence. The end result of Faustinas love and guida nce is Altheas reject ion of the home and marriage that Clare embodies as the good, conventional sister. Although she may follow all the rules herself, Clare knows exactly what is going on between Faustina and Althea. She understands that Faustina now directs her sisters thoughts and has first claim upon her affections in a bond similar to Althea and Clares previously close sororal bond. When she meets Althea as the Vane children go to the family meeting, Cl are holds out her hand, as if encouraging to Althea, but, seeing her fingers already possessed by Faustina, dr ops it quickly (12). Clare recognizes that Faustina has supplanted her in Altheas heart and now cl aims her with both the intimacy of a sister and the possession of a male lover. Broughton constructs Althea and Faustinas rela tionship in the contex t of the burgeoning feminist sisterhoods of the 1890s as well as the biological sister hood with Clare that has become so difficult for Althea. After their mother has ann ounced that she is resigning her guardianship of her younger children to her eldest son and leav ing the mostly grown children to care for
180 themselves, Clare seeks out Althea to offer her a place in the home she will soon have as Mrs. William Boteler. Althea objects to the plan beca use she knows that William does not particularly like her, and she would only get in the way as the unpleasant sister-in-law amid the newlyweds bliss. Clare attempts to deal w ith this objection by telling Althea that she will marry soon, but her sister responds that she has a horror of it (37). Clare knows precisely where this opinion has come from and makes clear that she thinks Althea ought to get away from Faustinas influence: I knowreddening with a nearer approach to real anger than her pl acid, smooth face often showsthat of late you have chosen to say so, and I also know to what influence to attribute it; but when once you have got away from that infl uence (37). Clare clearly sees the home she is offering to Althea as a way to get her away from Faustina and the new anti-marriage ideas that this new friend has put into her sisters head. Broughton highlights Altheas exchange of Clare for Faustina and thus healthy for degenerate sisterhood as key departure from th e function of passionate relationships between women earlier in the century. Clare realizes the im port of Altheas refusal of her offer of a home and tells her quite plainly You are given the choice be tween Faustina and me, says Clare, in a profoundly hurt voice, and you choose Faustina (39) The hurt that Clare expresses to Althea suggests the strength of the passion that used to exist between the sisters. Previously, their affection for each other has been, as Smith-Rose nberg describes nineteenth-century American female friendships, intense, loving, and openly avowed (313). Indicating how much she valued her previously intimate relati onship with Althea, Clare hersel f compares her relationship as Altheas older sister to the role that Faustina has come to occupy in her sisters life and realizes that Althea is replacing her with Faustina. Caro l Lasser notes in her discussion of nineteenthcentury American female friendships and sister hood, sororal relations undoubtedly included an
181 erotic component since family relations are irre vocably fraught with sexu ality; thus the sororal bond could coexist in a variety of physical a nd emotional forms (163-4). This separation between Clare and Althea is necessary for both sisters: Clare must now center her life on her husband and Althea should be doing the same. In casting Faustina both as Altheas lover and sister, Broughton combines the discourse of sexu al inversion with the tradition of nineteenthcentury passionate sisters of choice. In previous decades, the passionate friendshi ps with her sister and later Faustina would have helped Althea make the transition to marriage by enabling her to develop emotionally and subsequently replace her female friend with a hu sband as her primary object of affection. Shelia Jeffreys argues, Such [romantic] friendships were seen by men as useful because they trained women in the ways of love in preparation of ma rriage (102). However, th e presence of the New Woman in the relationship disrupts this transf er of desire. Althea has decided on a world of lesbian love and feminist sister hood rather than separating herself from the feminine world of her adolescence in order to seek out sexual difference in a hete rosexual relationship that would consequently lead to a conventional marriage. Critically, as Lillian Faderman suggests, love between women became so fraught with anxiety in the 1890s because they could so much more easily care for each other emoti onally, materially, and sexually, according to the new sexological knowledge of female sexual i nversion, without male support or intervention: If women on a large scale now had no hindrance in their freed oms, they might find kindred spirits, other women, and provide homes and solve the problem of loneliness for each other (238). Thus the New Woman becomes so dangerous at this point in a young womens development because young women in the 1890s have new-found independence and capability to decide on the manner in which they will live.
182 Broughton herself comments on this social change in A Fool in Her Folly her 1920 posthumously published novel. In contrasting th e world of her youth with the 1890s, the first person narrator notes that such relationships a nd lifestyles were nearly impossible in the midnineteenth century: That a coupl e of girls should find an affinity in each other which their own family circle did not provide, and forsaking all other, betake themselves to a joint flat, to maintain which their own industries should furnish the means, was an idea that would have consigned the holder of it to Bedlam (8-9). Clearly aware of the changes in womens lives during her lifetime, Broughton here draws attention to the way in which the material as well as social circumstances of the late -nineteenth century made it much more feasible for women to center their lives around each other and forsake both the influence and support of the familial domestic sphere and men in general. At the end of the century, women have the economic earning power to support themselves and the soci ally accepted, if not precisely approved of, power to fashion primary relationships with other women. Not unsurprisingly, it is to such a joint flat and a generally woman-centered m ilieu that the New Woman Faustina brings her young initiate, Althea. As they live together, Altheas passion rises a bove even the normal level of romantic love to become almost addictive in its effects on her mind and body. The terms of their living arrangement are made like lovers agreeing to make a love-nest. Althea objects that Faustina already has another woman living with her, but Faustina tells he r that she and the other woman have decided to part company and if you bl ess my home with your sweet presence, your sovereignty over my heart will be absolutely uns hared (47). Althea is noticeably moved by this declaration of love: Althea is silent, looking on the ground, while her face quivers. I am sure I do not know what you see in me (47). Althea res ponds to Faustinas words with all the emotion
183 and humility of a woman being asked for her hand in marriage, thus calling attention to what Victorians would have viewed as an unnatura l level of affection between these women. Altheas sexual attraction to Faustina is hence doubly dangerous be cause it both reveals the underlying sexuality of familial relationships and allows that sexuality to be unregulated outside the domestic sphere. What Faustina sees in Althea is made a bundantly clear as their relationship develops, and her parasitic pa ssion for Althea derails the younger womans heterosexual development by enabling her to remain in an immature girlhood crush. Faustina seems to enjoy using her love for Althea to fu rther separate the younger woman from her family, giving Althea a ready, impatient, ardent embrace when she first arrives at the flat from the depressing final farewell to her siblings a nd home at Clares wedding (71). Faustinas ready passion prevents Althea fr om wondering why she is so offended that her sister would want to marry and be with William for the rest of her life, and cements her attachment to Faustina as her sole provider of emotional support and love. Since she has someone to replace Clare, she need not consider too deeply the feelings of betrayal her sisters marriage causes and can channel the strength of those emotions into her attraction for Faustina. In assuming Clares place in Altheas life, Faustina can and does c ontrol Althea in everything and, in doing so, corrupts her mind and body. Since Broughton uses Faustina to represent th e New Woman and her lifestyle, Altheas physical weakening as she lives with Faustina manifests the degenerative affects of the New Woman upon this previously strong and healthy gi rl. Faustina basks in th e glow of Altheas adoration and cares little for the effects of their lifestyle on the previously leisured woman. In particular, the quality of the food that they eat is far below what Althea is used to, and she has hard time adjusting to the difference. But rather than realizing that she is not eating properly, she
184 allows Faustinas ongoing references to her familys luxury to justify her diet: Since at the end of nearly a week of this innutrious fare she is no t in perceptibly worse case than at the beginning, she makes the reflection how grossly she must ha ve overeaten herself during the whole of her former life (92). The hardness and unhealthiness of their habits begin to make Althea literally sick, but her complete unquestioning belief in Faustina prevents her from understanding how harmful this lifestyle it. Althea both emotionally and physically sustai ns Faustina and her work, but Althea is sustained only by the keen desire Faustina excites in her for in timacy. From their first evening together, their intimate domestic relations take on the forms and habits of lovers. Having gallantly relighted the fire that the negligent se rvant let die out, Faustina lays her head in Altheas lap, like a world-weary male lover come to take delight and rest in the body of his mistress. Althea is not surprised by the intimate nature of such touching; instead, she is distressed that Faustina w ould lay in such a submissive posture: The attitude a little shocks the disciple, as an unseemly reversal of the fit order of things; but Faustinas sigh of enjoyment arrests her protest (81-2). Althea takes pleasure in being intimate with Faustina and pleasing her lover through her body. Faustina and Altheas do mestic relationship becomes a parody of heterosexual romantic relationships, and Althea essentially becomes Faustinas mistress, giving pleasure and love without the commitment and protections of marriage. This relationship is continually marked as unnatural and unhealthy by this parody of heterosexuality, which only serves to heighten the inappropriatene ss of Faustinas masculine position. This connection between sexual inversion and social reform, th e crossing of sexual, class, and geographical borders by women, unites Vict orian cultural anxieties regarding womens mobility in the figure of the New Woman, who is always capable of seducing others into her
185 sisterhood. Not only do these women experience de sire, in and of itsel f a transgression of Victorian femininity, but they clearly experien ce lesbian sexual desire. Broughton portrays the expressions of this desire and a ffection between Faustina and Althea as inextricably connected to Faustinas social reform work. Althea is so infatuated with Faustina and an idealistic notion of the higher claims (38) of Faustinas social reform work that she allows her friend to isolate her from her family and all that she has ever know n. Althea has rejected he r sister Clare and the conventional Victorian femininity that she represen ts in favor of her passionate love for the New Woman. Despite Altheas exp licit rejection of bourgeois wo manhood, her sense of taste and propriety continue to mark her as middle-class and feminine. As Althea begins her work helping Faustina fight for various social causes, the in itiate questions the efficacy of writing such violently vituperative (94) pamphlets and letters to make the issue known and propose a solution. In marking Faustinas work as sensatio nal slum journalism, Broughton connects her to women journalists like Elizabet h Banks, who, as Koven discusses at length, became famous for her exposs of the working conditions of London s lower-class women by disguising herself as working woman and insinuating herself into the very fabric of the proper English home (140). Like Banks work, Faustinas muckraking journalism is fundamentally designed, with all its violence, to cause the same sort of sensational reader response and therefore effect social change. Indeed, it is Altheas respons e to the sensational language of Faustinas writing that indicates her more highly devel oped sense of taste and her upper middle-class status, and her willingness to disregard that instinctive reaction suggests the extent to which Faustina and her work pulls Althea away from her rightful social role as a middle-class woman. She ignores her own feelings after Faustina tells her that this sort of language is necessary to their work: No
186 doubt you are right you who have given up your whole life to fight this Hydra. It was a grand thing to do her voice slight ly quivering in the ardour of he r affectionate homage (95). Altheas ardour is excited by the idea that Faustina selflessly gave up everything in her life, including her family and respectability, for the good of the cause. Faustinas declaration that they will work together forever arouses both Althea and herself, and they passionately embrace: Such a declaration cannot help but be followed by an embrace, and then they return to business (96). The pause of the comma in this sentence serves to indicate a moment of unnarratable physical intimacy between the two women; Broughton mentions the embrace but does not describe it at all, using the silence of the pause to take the place of the precise nature of their physical intimacy. Having quelled Altheas worries and renewed her passion, Faustina takes her leave of Althea using the tone with which in old days that contemptible survival, a man in love, was wont to part from his mistress (96-7). Th e attraction these women feel for each other is founded upon the intermingling of thei r personal life with their reform work as sisters-in-cause. Althea imagines herself to now be following in Faustinas footsteps and hopes one day to serve the cause as well as her model. Her fascination w ith Faustina is both an attraction to Faustina as a person as well as to her reform work, a nd both lead her into dangerous territory. When Althea visits her sisters new home for luncheon, Broughton clearly establishes that Althea no longer belongs to her family and the extent to which she refuses to enter the heterosexual world of courtship a nd marriage. As Althea makes her way to the nice part of town where her sister lives, she nervously considers th e growing difference between herself and Clare. Out of all her family, Clare has been the only one to try to maintain a re lationship with Althea through correspondence after she moved in with Faustina. However, these sparse and polite letters that resort to political events to fill the page are such a far cry from the copious and
187 unguarded letters of their past that they serve to remind Althea of their separation: oh, how unlike they [Clares letters] have been to the close-scribbled outpourings of her girlhood, when the sisters happened to be parted for even a day. Two years ago, what world-convulsion not affecting their two selves would have found a pl ace in their crowded pages? (127). Althea longs for a return to the closeness of the past when th e sisters similarities ou tweighed their differences and she did not have share her sister with a husband. Althea has not yet accepted her sisters married status and is still shocked that Clare has been subsumed under husbands identity: How hard it is to picture Clare as one half of the William Botelers! (126). Althea resents Clare s marriage not simply because she disagrees with marriage as an institution but because she f eels the absence of her previous intimacy with Clare, an intimacy that had been the primary focus of her emotional life before Clares marriage and Altheas living with Faustina. Clare has matu red and properly shifte d her primary affective ties from her sister to her husband; her sisterly affections have successfully readied her for heterosexual romance and marriage. In contrast Althea is immature in holding on to a very intimate model of sisterhood that desires complete similarity In being reminded of her estrangement from Clare, Althea cleaves all the mo re closely to Faustina, and takes refuge in the new opinions that she has l earned from the New Woman. Just as Althea finds the markers of Clare s new identity as Mrs. William Boteler so jarring, so too does Clare find repulsive the mo ments where Althea reminds her forcibly of Faustina. Clare dislikes these Faustinian moments because they irrevocably mark Althea as dissimilar from her and the middle-class heterosexua l values Clare represents. Clare and Althea begin their visit by trying simply to slide into their old relationship, and Clare warmly greets her sister, much to Altheas relief: Clare has ente red without her visitor he aring her step, and in a
188 second her warm arms are round the runagate. With a sort of sob in her throat the latter realizes that Clare, at all events, is all right (129). As a runagate, Althea is here positioned as one who has wrongly left or even escaped but has now re turned of her own free will. Clares passionate embrace establishes a physical intimacy between th e two women in an atte mpt to bring Althea back into the family. However, this small ge sture of sisterly harmony cannot smooth over the differences that now exist between them, and both are soon reminded of the gulf that now exists. The source of that reminder is the seemingl y innocent Cressida Delafield, whose growing interest in social reform work and Faustina pa rallels Altheas experiences Cressida is well-born young woman who appears to be soul of conve ntional young womanhood -one of those loftystatured, porcelain-textured, exquisitely groomed young creatures ( 131). She has been invited to Clares house for lunch at the prompting of Ed ward, the eldest Vane brother who vehemently disliked Altheas decision to move in with Faustina. Having seen Alth ea and Cressida in conversation, Edward takes Althea aside and bl untly asks her to refrain from airing your particular views to her (136). Edward makes very clear to Althea that he was not alluding to philanthropy, but is instead c oncerned that Althea might poison Cressidas mind against the marriage to himself (136). Though he is not concerned about Alth eas ideas about social work, he does connect them to her views on marriag e as part of the New Woman sisterhood. He worries that, having fallen victim to the influe nce of Faustina, she might now try and recruit others to her degenerate lifestyle. In speaking to her in such a manner, he also indicates the extent to which she no longer deserves the soci al respect and chivalry due to ladies from gentlemen, even in the less formal brother-sister relationship. Althea has fa llen in her social and class standing and can no longer claim the protec tions of a middle-class woman from her eldest
189 brother, who is by default the patriarch of the Vane family. He treats her as if she is a woman to be protected from, not protected. As Althea turns to her sister Clare for comfort after her brothers upsetting words, Clare notes how Faustina has infected A lthea with her radical views and se xuality, as well the extent to which both distance Althea from he r family. Like Edward, Clare t oo views Althea as capable of spreading her unconventional views, like a so rt of lesbian Typhoid Mary, among her former peers and recruiting them to the ranks of her radical sisterhood, as her mother described it at the beginning of the novel. Clare readily acknowledge s the validity of Edward s fear of Altheas influence on Cressida: he was a little afra id you might inoculate he r with your views of marriage (138). Clares words make Altheas abhorrence of matrim ony the cure to the disease of marriage or perhaps immunity against the infection of heterosexual love. Like Clares connecting of Altheas ac tivism and lesbianism, Althea responds to Clares suggestion that she keep quiet on her opinions about marriage by link ing her reform work on the part of factory workers with her social behavior: I think there is no subject that is not the better for ventilation (139). The underlying honest sentiment behind Al theas statement does not bother Clare, but she cannot tolerate the Faustinian abso luteness that lies behind it: Mrs Boteler gives a slight inward shudder. There is such a whiff of Faustina about this last sentence. It takes a minute to conquer her repulsion (139). Altheas resp onse indicates a lack of the tact and sympathy necessary for successful negotiation of polite conversation, and Clare cannot help the revulsion she feels as Mrs. Boteler, the mistress of a happy household and family. Faustinas influence on Althea, however, is far from salutary. Where Clare aided her sisters development into a morally and physical ly beautiful woman, Faustina parasitically sucks the life from her. With her observant eye, Clar e marks this difference in Altheas physical and
190 moral health. When Clare looks at Althea, she sees only degenerative differe nce: Clare looks at her wistfully. She would like to put a great many questions as to th e detail of that life which has thinned her sisters face, and yet lit it with such a fire of enth usiasm; but the intense distaste which she shares with the rest of her family for alluding, even obliquely, to Miss Bateson keeps her silent (139-40). Clares descri ption of Altheas thin face and bright eyes hints at the dangerously addictive effects of Altheas love for Faustina. Althea has the decaying body and too intense spirit so often attri buted in Victorian fiction to t hose who are dying of consumption, thus connecting immoral sexuality with a mora lly suspect disease. The unregulated desire founded on an intense sense of the worthiness of th e object, the fire of enthusiasm, that so interests Clare is precisely what is using up the health of Altheas body. Altheas complete infatuation to the point of imitation with Fa ustina is wrecking havoc on her physical body and raising the level of her emotions to a dange rously feverish pitch. Broughton pathologizes Altheas desire for Faustina and her devotion to reform work as a physical and mental disease that decadently expends he r vitality too quickly. Indeed, Broughton here seems to re ferencing J. Sheridan Le Fanus Carmilla (1872), a work she herself was likely to have read since Le Fanu was her uncle by marriage and was instrumental in publishing her first novel (Wood 2). The novella te lls the story of a beautiful and languorous little girl Carmilla, who steals the blood and life force from another little girl whom she often kisses and embraces with the ardour of a lover (176). Very much aware of this sort of physical change in Althea, Clare wants to know the cause, but her dislike of Faustina prevents her from asking for any details. Thus Faustina prevents Althea from being able to confide in her good and gentle sister. Her now tenuous sisterly connection with Clare cannot overcome the damage done by her own desire becau se that sororal bond is forever tainted by her
191 lesbian desire, and she must channel her affectio ns into a heterosexual relationship in order be healed and reformed. Broughton takes great pains to contrast the burgeoning relationships between Faustina and Cressida with Althea and John Drake so as to position the slowly growing heterosexual attraction between Althea and Drake as healthy and honest as opposed to the quickly developing lesbian relationship between Cressida and Faus tina. Where Drake and Althea meet entirely by accident, Faustina consciously seeks out Cressidas acquaintance because she is attracted to the young womans beauty and senses he r vulnerability. For her part, Cr essida ardently desires to meet Faustina because she is attr acted to her lifestyle and wishes to live just like Althea and break with her family. Althea attempts to preven t the connection, but she is circumvented at a weekly tea party held at club lately started with the object of aiding young women writers of reforming views (160). At this gathering of all sorts of horrible New Wo men, Cressida asks to be introduced to Faustina, but Althea manages to duck the introduction, only allowing Faustina and Cressida to make eye contact. However, even this small amount of c ontact arouses desire in Cressida. As she and Faustina look at each other, A glance of quickened excitement passes over her [Cressidas] face (173). Just as Althea herself was attracted to Faustina, so too is Cressida beginning to feel the same attraction for both the New Woman and her lifestyle. Altheas reluctance to seduce a protg signifies the funda mental difference between Althea and Faustina, namely that Althea has as an underlying sense of a bourgeois morality where Faustina serves only her own selfish pleasure. Unlike Faustin a, Althea is not a congenital invert who instinctively seeks out other women to seduce. Where Althea has been corrupted by Faustinas sexual inversion, Faustina was s eemingly born with the seeds of this unnatural desire. Faustinas clear desire to make Cressida into her next helpmate suggests the extent to which lesbian desire,
192 for Broughton, is by its nature incap able of being a life-long love that sustains both of its participants. In order to set Althea on the path to em otional and sexual maturity, Broughton presents the respectable alternative to Faustina both in te rms of the New Womans transgressive sexuality and reform work though John Drake. His role in the novel is to provide Althea with a proper sexual object of desire and to give her the opportunity to be recuperated through the heteronormative institution of marri age. He begins to become a central figure in her life when she fails Faustina in a professional task and cements that role when she leaves Faustina over the New Womans personal and profe ssional infidelities. However, Drake only becomes the focus of her desires after she has realized that Clare cannot offer her a pr ominent place in her affections from where the younger sister could rebuild her life. He can reintegrate the young Althea into a middle-class family of reformers after sh e has realized the error of her ways. Drake is a particular sort of New Man w ho holds onto the core of upper-middle-class gentlemanliness while also taking part in the social reform movement. He may be a social reformer, but he retains a sense of proper gender and class difference and the social rules that maintain those boundaries. The New Man is a figure that appears as a result of the New Woman and the controversy she created. Proand Anti-New-Woman writers, Broughton included, often considered not just how might a womans role in Victorian society ch ange or already have changed, but also with what sort of man the New Woman could be compatible. Indeed, Sarah Grand in her famous 1894 arti cle The New Aspect on the Woman Question positioned the Woman Question as the man and wo man question: The man of the future will be better, while the woman will be stronger and wiser. To bring this about is the whole aim and object of the present struggle, and with the di scovery of the means lies the solution of the Woman Question
193 (272). As Stephanie Forward notes in her discussion of this fin-de-sicle masculine identity, the writers give much thought to the positive qualities required in men if relationships were to improve (437). Though Drake is seemingly a New Man because of the social work he does as well as going against societys opinion to do that work, he very much holds onto his class and gender identity as a gentleman. He treats Althea as a man of the upper middle class should treat a lady of that class, and he conducts his reform wo rk in terms of a paternally domestic model. With her specific imagining of the New Man, Broughton can rework conventional middle-class values into the modern world of social reform. Drake represents not merely heterosexuality in contrast to Faustinas homosexuality, but rather the mobilization of heterosexuality, capit alism, middle-class ideology, and patriarchy to locate power in bonds between men rather than women. Unlike Faustinas violent journalism, Drakes social reform work seeks to calm the pa ssions of the dangerous working class and make them more like the middle class by acting as a pa ternal role model, who strictly yet lovingly molds his charges into useful a nd productive members of Victoria n society. His world of social reform replicates the Victorian family, with the patr iarch at its head and the wife at its heart, in terms of its reformers and the people they seek to help. Though he woul d still take the moral stand that separated him from his father and fo rtune, Drake wishes he had not acted so rashly with his father and maintained his place within society: In my differences with my father, society, in so far as it troubled itself about us at all, which was not much, sided with him; and, indeed, it was by no means altogether in the wro ng. I was very ill-judged and intemperate. If it had to be done over again, I should do it quite differently (221). He acknowledges that he was in the wrong in how he handled his differences with his father, not in principle, but in manner, a key marker of his class identity. Now olde r and wiser, Drake understands the value and
194 importance of social and patriarchal approval an d would have altered hi s social reform work from the beginning in order to enjoy both now In being both a conventional gentlemen and social reformer, Drake hence acts as a balan ced and heterosexual alternative to Faustinas shrieking sisterhood of lesbian New Women. While Drake himself always contextualizes th e real benefit of his work in terms of working within bourgeois social values, Faustina credits him only where his social reform work challenges society and criticizes him for holdi ng onto those values. Following Drakes visit, Faustina tells Althea that despite his silly fopperies, there is stuffyes, real stuffin John Drake because he gave up a family fortune of twenty thousand pounds due to his moral opposition to the working conditions in the family factories. However, as Faustina is quick to add lest her devotee come idolize Drake her place, he still has a substantial income from his mother: I am sure I have no wish to minimize th e sacrifice. I only wanted to guard against your generous tendency to idealizea tendency by wh ich I have so magnificen tly profited (121-22). Here, Faustina seems to realize that Drake is exactly the sort of ma n that Althea would be charmed by if it were not for Faustin as claims upon her affections. The progression of Altheas relationship with Drake is inextricably connected to Faustinas growing intimacy with Cressida, hinting at the closeness and interdependence between homosexual and heterosexual desire, as well as the extent to which they must eventually be separated for a conventional happy ending. Dr ake and Altheas meetings are filled with markers of the social and moral legitimacy of their relationship and sugge st the power of this heterosexual relationship to rejuvenate Alth ea and remake a place for her in middle-class Victorian London. The second time Althea and Drake meet is at a party gi ven by Altheas aunt. Drake comforts Althea over her failure at pumpi ng the Home Secretary, who is a close family
195 friend, for information that Faustina can use in her support of the Child Insurance Bill. Like Clare, Drake notices how her body is being drained by her life with Faustina, demonstrating his gentlemanliness. As he sees her shoulders and collarbones, The thought th at they ought not to be visible at all passes acro ss Drakes mind, harnessed to th e rather angry wonder whether Faustina gives her enough to eat (189). Again, Altheas body is marked as unhealthy through her association with Faustina. Yet, unlike Clare, Drake interprets her ill hea lth as a sign of her be ing unlike Faustina, as having the delicacy of her sex and class. Indeed, it is her need of s upport and protection that attracts him. As Drake listens to her tale of woe, he finds fault with the person who set on her the task in the first place rather than her inability to get the necessa ry information. He responds with a great deal of emotional force: Faustina had no right to cred it you with a hide like her own! he answers indignantly (195). Drake faults Faustina for not respecting the class-based differences between herself and Althea. Again, Broughton highlights the intersection of class and sexual boundaries in social reform work. For Drake, the weakness of Altheas body to outside forces, in particular the dangers of public polit ical work, defines her as a middle-class woman, just as Faustinas physical and emotional toughn ess signifies her lower-class status. Moreover, because Faustina is continually described as the more mannish and Althea as always the more feminine, Altheas middle-class vulnerability comes to be the defining characteristic of Victorian femininity itself. Broughton further emphasizes the legitimacy a nd the naturalness of Althea and Drakes interactions when they meet at the Old Chelsea Church with its monument to Sir Thomas More. In suggesting that a church is a space where Dr ake and Althea are at their most natural and honest, Broughton also positions their heterose xual bond that is strengthened through this
196 meeting as honest and sacred. The churchs sacr edness and ties to the past create a space where both Drake and Althea can leave the Cause behind for a few moments and be just a man and a woman. Broughton highlights the ap propriateness of their meeting in this blessed and lawful place and foreshadows the growth of their inti macy by having Drake and Althea naturally and effortlessly take on the appearance of man and wi fe as they stand before the altar: The idea darts simultaneously into both their minds, that th ey look as if they were being married, and it gives him an annoyed sense of being always, in reference to his companion, seeming something that he is not, and it makes her move away down the aisle (216). Thus without prompting or intention, Drake and Althea look as if they are to be married even though both feel and express so deep an abhorrence for th e institution (216). Despite th e unconventional views that each supposedly holds about marriage, their inner sense of themselves, founded on the traditional values of their class, leads them to unconsciously respond to one another in terms of that most hallowed institution. Having escaped their shared quest for the collective good during this small moment in time, they are able to act as indivi duals and take the steps that will lead to their mutual happiness through the creat ion of their own domestic space. When they talk of the personal sacrifices each has made in order to do the work that they feel so passionately about, Drake tells her that he would have separated from his family in a much different manner and highlights how much Althea has given up to li ve her life and do her work. In naming her sacrifice as the loss of her household connections, Drake again suggests that Altheas work should be in some way connected with domestic sphere as a middle class woman. Her separation from her family was much more di fficult than his disagreement with his father because yours was the abandonment of every hab it and household tie, and I should imagine that household ties would be very dear to youwith a softened inflectionthe acceptance of every
197 possible galling paltry hardship and discomfort (222). To Drake, Althea has given up more than he because she is more invested in th e domestic sphere and family as a middle-class woman. He, after all, is supposed to have public professional interests th at occupy much of his time. Further making the contrast between the two couples, Broughton positions Cressida and Faustinas relationship as being the result of Fa ustinas pathological hyper sexuality, one of the most common sexual neuroses associated with inve rts, thus revealing to Althea the extent to which her supposed true marriage of like-minded indi viduals with Faustina is merely a lie that only she believes. By this point in the novel, the narrative has made it clear that Faustina is only exploiting Altheas immature desire for a primary emotional connection with some sort of sister figure in order to make use the younger woman s social connections. When Althea returns home from her accidental interlude with Drake, sh e interrupts a surreptiti ously private moment between Cressida and Faustina that ironically parallels her own visit with the saintly at the Old Chelsea Church. Althea enters the room and on her entrance she does not for the first moment recognize the figure seated in an a ttitude of eager devotion at Faus tinas knee. It is only when six feet of elegant stature and perf ectly-cut clothes raise themselves with youths quick suppleness, and hasten to meet her, that, with a shock of di spleased surprise, she realizes that it is Miss Delafield (225-6). After Altheas contemplation of sp iritual devotion at the church, Faustina and Cressida present Althea with a ta bleau of a maternal saint and supplicant, with Faustina in the position of authority as the saint and Cressida as the eager supplicant. This pose mirrors Altheas own physical intimacy with Faustina when she first came to live with her, and Althea is noticeably upset by Cressidas easy and quick in timacy with Faustina b ecause it makes her doubt the nobility of her own love for Faustina.
198 Altheas jealousy of Cressida comes not ju st from Faustinas visible enjoyment of anothers company, but rather how Faustinas lesbian seduction of Cressida uses the same forms that the beginning of Faustina and Altheas own romance had taken. Her jealousy becomes more and more pronounced as Cressida, unbeknownst to he r parents, stays with them for few days to see how working women live. Cressida easily suc ceeds at the domestic trials that Althea found so difficult, making Althea feel her own difficulties more acutely: With a rather acrid interest Althea watches the stranger taking fences over which she herself had so sadly bungled (229). Altheas growing jealousy reveals her keen awar eness that she is in the process of being replaced: But superior in pain to either of th ese causes [concern about what Cressidas parents and her brother Edward would think of Cressidas stay ing over] of disquiet is the discovery of what unexpected capacities for jeal ousy lie in her own breast. Faustina is, if possible, more demonstratively tender than ever to her when they are alone; but the memory of the rise of their reciprocal devotion is too recent for her not to be able to trace an exact reproduction of its earlier stages in Miss Batesons method of recommending herself to the newcomer. Little tricks of phrase, slight but excessive caresses, which had believed to belong to her alone, she now sees to have equal fitne ss of application to another. (229-30) Since Faustinas tenderness is not unique to Al thea herself, Altheas own devotion to Faustina becomes not some uniquely formed sisters-in-cause bond but just that of the latest victim to be lured away from her family with the promis e of passion and noble work. Faustinas growing attachment to Cressida also diminishes Altheas zeal for aiding Faustina in her reform journalism and speeches because Cressida shows Althea not to be the best woman for the job. Faustina is a case in point for the Victorian image of the pr edatory, promiscuous lesbian, who constantly disrupts the heterosexual romance and cannot truly love the women she seduces because of her selfishness. Where a heterosexual marriage would raise a womans emotional attachment to the level of spiritual love through feminine sacrif ice and lifelong commitment a lesbian relationship
199 can only ever be a short-lived, though intense, re lationship because it lack s the ability to rise above the selfish and material. Althea must make the shift to heterosexuality in order to find the proper domestic space for her private aff ections and her public reform work. Altheas visits to Drakes Canning Town se ttlement provide her with a successful heterosexual model of social reform work that has none of the degenerative and transgressive elements associated with all-women reform orga nizations and partnerships in the novel. Whether it is due to her sisters suspicions that Drake may indeed be in the marriage market or her own more than friendly feelings toward him, Althea refuses to visit Canning Town until Drake has enlisted the help of an appropriate chaperone, a newly marri ed woman who lives there with her husband doing reform work. Thus Altheas visits are almost set up in terms of a tour of what her life could be like if she chooses to leave Faustina and marry Drake. She enjoys her visits, but does not tell Faustina about them not only becau se Faustina and Drake continue to disagree about the article Faustina refuses to write, but al so because Althea is increasingly insecure about her relationship with Faustina and begi nning to be attracted to Drake. The last visit Althea makes to Canning Town before she discovers the truth about Faustina clearly establishes Drak e as her proper guide and prot ector, enabling her to be the angel-in-the-settlement house that she should be. On this occasion, Althea visits Canning Town to preside at a social evening that she herself has planned. The event goes well until many of the settlement girls and their invite d friends try to get to the refreshments, which Althea is standing in front of, by pressing in around her. Althea grows faint a nd is in real danger of being trampled, not to mention scalded by the hot tea in the urns behind her, but Drake quickly makes his way over to her and restores order immediately. He literally acts a buffer between Althea and the unruly working-class people, [standing] shie ldwise before her ( 264). With Drake standing
200 like a human shield between her and the disorderly lower classes, Althea is safe and protected. Drake acts as the compromise between her worl d and Faustinas by encouraging her to do the reform work she feels so passionately about wh ile simultaneously firmly situating her as a middle-class woman. Hence when he chides the crowd for their behavi or, he asks them Is this your gratitude to the lady who is so kindly giving you this entertainment? If this is the way that we treat her, do you think that sh e is very likely to come am ong us again? (264). In his question, Drake positions Althea as a charitable la dy bringing culture and refinement to those of lower rank than herself who are doubtlessly in need of humanizing, as Althea herself earlier describes it (256). Here, Drake also connects himself with the se ttlement as wanting Altheas presence to continue because th e refinements of ladies both ci vilizes the working classes and spiritually fortifies the men of their own cl ass. Drakes protection of Althea marks this heterosexual relationship as a natural and heal thy one where both participants occupy their proper gendered spheres of influence over the work ing classes, who are n eed of their civilizing influence. As Drake walks Althea to the train station, their conversation unders cores this sense of healthiness in Altheas relationship with Drake as well as the extent to which her relationship with Faustina prevents Althea from doing this sort of proper social reform work that reinforces rather than challenges the inst itution of marriages place in a middl e-class womans life. As they walk, Althea feels only the joy of being aliv e and having made it thr ough a trial: She has forgotten to think whether it is proper, and knows only that it is pleasant. Her gown is torn, her legs still shake, but her h eart is strangely light (267). Proper here means not only the conventional impropriety of walking around in public with ones dress in such a state, but also adhering to Faustinas strictures about whom and what one ought to enjoy. Altheas radiant
201 happiness greatly attracts Drake: It strikes him that he has neve r seen her gay before; and how well it becomes her! (267). In her pleasure, Althea is not the unhappy lesbian-feminist who insists on being serious and polit ical and cannot have good time in the company of men. Instead, she is a happy woman who enjoys being taken car e of and shown her limits by men. However, the strength of Altheas bond with Faustina prevents her from fully embracing this angel-in-thereform-house identity and the perfect life that Drake has to offer: Do you know that sometimesoften of lateit has struck me that, if it were not for Faustina and all I owe her, I should like to come among you for good! (269). A lthea is very attracted to the life she could lead at Canning Town as well as its manager, but she still feels the affective ties of her relationship with Faustina. Having positioned Faustina and the all-wo man world she represents as preventing Altheas reformation, Broughton soon removes Faus tina from the scene a nd moves Althea back into the family. The permanent separation of Faustina and Althea results from Faustinas replacement of Althea with Cressida Delafield. O bviously, Althea is hurt when she finds out that she is no longer first in Faustinas affections, but Cressida also serves a more subtle purpose. The emotional distress that Cressidas decisi on causes her family as well as the utter inappropriateness of the rescue work she chooses to do holds up a mirror to Althea as to what her own her own choice to live and work with Faus tina has done to herself and her family. When Althea meets Cressidas emotionally distraught mother, Lady Lanington, who blames Faustina and the passion she excites in Cressida for this shocking decision: In Cre ssida it has become a madness, a frenzy; in the other [Faustina] it is an iniquitous case of child-stealing! (279). Lady Lanington describes the New Womans influence on her young daughter as a mental disease that has overcome the girls better judgm ent. Faustina, on the other hand, is cast as a
202 degenerate lesbian pedophile who has stolen an innocent girl-child from the upper classes. In the midst of her distress, she asks Althea if Faus tina really must wreck another young womans life after having destroyed Althea: She will be able to find plenty more victims to infect with her pestilent opinions! Is it not enough fo r her to have been the ruin of you ? (285). Although Althea is too shocked by Lady Laningtons accusa tions to believe them and rushes home to Faustina to be hopefully set right, the sense that she has been as foolish as Cressida by being a willing victim of Faustinas seductions stays with Althea and only intensifies when she hears the truth from Faustina. In order for Althea to free herself of this victimhood, her body must be cleansed of the diseased effects of Faustina and of Altheas infatuation for her; Althea must reject both her NewWoman mentor, Faustina, and the New Woman lifestyle. When Alth ea arrives back at their flat, she discovers Faustina obviously waiting for some one other than herself, then immediately confronts Faustina about her rela tionship with and influence on Cressida. As Faustina divests Althea of the illusions she held so dear about herself and her wo rk, Althea becomes physically ill and almost feverish. When Faustina tells her that she thinks Cressida will do a good job at rescue work and that I look upon persons whom I am able to influence primarily as its [the Causes] instruments, and only very seconda rily in their relation to myse lf or to themselves, Althea clutches her temples with both hands (295). Cruelly, Faustina tells Althea that she is not capable of any useful labor for the cause; Faus tinas words cutting like a whiplash curling and tingling round shoulders (296). Althea had given not just her spirit but also her body to her love of Faustina and must now pay the price of having been completely wrong about the nature of her guide.
203 Throughout this scene, Broughton demonstrates that this unnatural lesbian bond lacks the unselfishness of true sisterly mentorship and th e stable fidelity of r eal heterosexual romance. Through Faustinas refusal to give up Cressida Althea realizes that Faustinas New Woman rhetoric of social justice cove rs her parasitic desire to seduc e and then throw away well-to-do young women. The same Faustinian speeches about the Cause no longer inspire Althea but instead seem to her dead mockery because she now knows that there is no altruistic impulse behind them and they are merely vehicles to further the New Womans own selfish desires (299). Broughton reveals Faustina, as representative of the New Woman type, to be fundamentally an anti-social and destructive lover. In choosing a lesbian love and work life in her quest to make the world better, Althea has made the unhealthy and ultimately false choice. As Althea attempts to escape the pain and confusion she now feels, Faustina finishes laying waste to Altheas already broken spirit by questioning the natu re of her visits with Drake. She insinuates that Althea has been having some sort of sexual relations hip with Drake, which deeply wounds Altheas spirit: The storm of missiles which has been whistling round her head has had the effect of rendering Althea dizzy and d eaf, but this last well-a imed flint stings her back in to a cruelly dull possessi on of her senses (305). The outrage of the insult brings Althea back to full awareness, and she immediately refutes the accusation. Faustina discloses that she is aware of the time Althea has been spending with Drake, just as Althea now knows about her meetings with Cressida. The comparison Faustin a makes here between her relationship with Cressida and Altheas with Drake is just true en ough to make Althea comp letely lose her reason: A sort of dimness comes before the hearers vi sion. It is as if the blood of flint-wound were dripping into her eyes and blindi ng her (306). Faustina cleverly visits the horror that Althea feels at Faustinas infidelity b ack upon Althea, and Althea simply cannot cope with the idea that
204 she has been just as immoral and untrue. Howeve r, Faustina lacks the moral authority to make any kind of judgment on the relationship that her intuition has discovered. With the lengths that Broughton has gone to in establishing Drake and Altheas relationship as innocent and wholesome, the implication is here that Faustina cannot understa nd real friendship and camaraderie in the Cause and must make it into a more scandalous relationship. Faustina even implies that Althea betraying her own often-stat ed horror of marriage by trying to marry Drake: Your attentions to him are not likely to lead to the only clos e which would seem a satisfactory one to yourself and your highly respectable family (307). Faustina may be correct in asserting the importance of Altheas relationship with Drake, but her moral degeneracy and selfishness prevents her from understanding that this relationshi p has the potential to be the true marriage of like-minded individuals that Althea had so disastrously sought with her. Faustinas infidelity to Althea herself and the Cause requires Althea to realize that she has not chosen the proper mate with whom to cr eate a home. Still, though, she intrinsically needs a home in order to survive or ev en to maintain her sanity. Ju st as the novel began with the dissolution and reforming of domestic spaces with Mrs. Vanes abdication of her maternal duties, so too does it end with th e destruction and creation of a ho me due to Faustinas refusal to be loyal to Althea. When Alth ea and Faustina end their relations hip over Faustinas personal and professional infidelities, Althea is left entirely at a loss because she has lo st her lover, her work, and her home. She cannot go back to Faustina be cause that domestic space founded on desire between women that Althea had worked so hard to create and maintain has been destroyed by the instability of that desire. Without a home to an chor her, Althea has no identity, and mourns An earthquake has swallowed up her home (309). Th e very language Broughton gives to Altheas sense of homelessness describes both the alone ness that her heroine feels as well as the
205 uncontrollable violence required to separate Althea from Faustina. The untamed natural force of the earthquake figuratively shakes Altheas world a nd reduces it to rubble. The sheer violence of this metaphor corresponds not only to the energy of Faustinas and Althea s attraction to each other at the novels beginning, but also the le ngths to which Broughton must go in order to excise this relationship from the novel; the lesb ian home must be swallowed up by the earth so that there is no chance of it agai n affectively controlling Althea. In this moment, Althea requires guidance, mu ch like she did at the beginning of the novel with the breaking up of her family by her mother. Where she then turned to Faustina to help her cope and replace the empty space of domestic authority, she now turns to Drake to deal with the consequences of that ruinous home. With Altheas connection to Faustina and the dangerous passion she represents irrevocably severed, Althea wanders aimlessly until she meets Drake. Althea is only dimly aware of her surroundings a nd does not recognize him when he first speaks to her. He persists with his offers of helping her with whatever has so ob viously stunned her, and eventually She glances up at him with what he feels to be an acutely painful strange shyness, while inner heart, though the new veil of shame shrinking, begins to rise the old longing for his sympathy (313). Althea struggles with her natura l inclination to confid e in Drake and her new sense of shame about her involvement with him after Faustinas non-too-subtle innuendos. In Drake, she finds the proper guidance that will le ad her back to a middle-class heterosexual model of family and home. To make the contrast between these two domestic choices all the more apparent, Broughton characterizes Drakes resp onses to Althea in terms of male chivalry and protection in opposition Faustinas devouringly false gallantry. Although Drake is extremely curious as to the cause of the falling out between Althea and Fausti na, his inclination to protect the vulnerable
206 Althea far outweighs that impulse: She looks such a monument to woe that even his curiosity fades before his earnest desire to succour her (318). Drake re sponds to Althea as a Victorian gentleman ought to respond to a lady in deep di stress. His conduct here demonstrates his moral goodness, a quality contingent on being able to be disinterestedly of service to others. Where Faustina used Altheas emotiona l turmoil at the beginning of the novel to secure herself a helpmeet and lover, Drake instead thinks of only how to ease Altheas suffering. He insists on using his own influence with Faustina to get her to give up Cressida, so that the Althea will not have to feel responsible for th e girls ruin. With the absolute failure of her woman-centered lifestyle made real to her, Althea yields herself and her will to Drake. Having entrusted Drake with th e task of dealing with Fausti na, Althea retreats back into the domestic sphere of her sisters household, signaling her rejection of Faustinas principles and lifestyle. Though Althea attempts to fit back into her sisters household, she is unable to because she has been irrevocably change d by her experiences with Faus tina and cannot simply resume her earlier role as Clares sister now that Clare is married. Clare, of course, welcomes her back to the family with no questions asked, and Althea appr eciates her sisters symp athetic care: For the moment, at least, she may let herself go to the unspeakable ease and solace of this reached haven (335). Althea does not ge t to enjoy this feeling of comp lete respite for long, for she soon has to deal with her sisters husband, William, w ho assaults her fragile sense of self with his teasing humor. The first time she meets him after ta king refuge in his house, he jovially remarks to her, despite his wifes clear attempt to prevent him from disc ussing the subject, I thought we should end by rescuing you from the shrieking sisterhood (340). Though Williams words are meant as a gentle jest to make Althea feel welcome, they have the opposite effect because they remind Althea of the sisterhood she has been di sillusioned by and had to give up under such
207 horrible circumstances. William positions his middle-class patriarchal family as being capable of rescuing Althea from the bad influences of her ra dical, women-only lifestyle with Faustina. Here, Broughton mobilizes Elizabeth Lynn Lintons term shrieking sisterhood in order to tie Altheas rejection of Faustina to her simultaneous rejection of the perceived abrasiveness of the New Womans calls for social re forms. Althea has been properly humbled by being forced to admit her grievous errors in judgment about th e value of Faustina and her social work. Working off of the constant connection throughout the novel between Altheas class transgressions and her desires to do social reform work and be with Faustina, Broughton is able to comment implicitly on how Altheas homosexual desire has forever placed her outside of the middle-class domestic sphere because the New Woman has given Althea class and sexual knowledge that does not belong within that space. T hus, the author explicitly ties Altheas dislike of William, the new patriarch of the family, and his mutual dislike of her, to her sympathy for the working classes and her awaren ess of how the middle classe s depend upon their labor. For example, when William brings home a set of little mechanical toys, Althea cannot take delight in the toys because she wonders about the work ing conditions under which they were made. William cajoles her to join in their fun: Come, do not be too strong-minded to smile once in a way, adds William waggishly (375). Altheas Fa ustinian explanation of her restraint spoils their happiness: The fact is, I am always afraid to be amused at anything of the sort until I know how they are made (375). Althea goes on to disc uss the possible horrors of factory work that may have gone into the manufacture of the baubl es, and William rudely comments that there shall not be too much laugh [sic] where you are when she attempts to convince them of her opinion by adding: It is well to know how many tears go to make up one laugh, is it not? (376) Because Althea no longer has the most feminine of virtues, innocent and unthinking
208 delight in pretty things, she does not belong in his or any conventional middle-class home. Althea requires William to acknowledge the extent to which the private world of the wife he protects and the public world of the working classes he controls ar e inextricably connected. It is not a question of the truth of her point, but rather the tactless manner and inappropriate environment in which she expresses it. Th rough this episode, Broughton positions Altheas knowledge of what goes on outside the home in or der to make the home lovely and amusing as fundamentally challenging Williams role as the Victorian husband and soon-to-be father who braves the difficulties of the public world to ma intain the sanctity of the private sphere. In order to truly be reformed, Althea must be firmly settled within heterosexuality, both in terms of her private personal life as well as her public reform work. Li ke her sister, Althea must make the long overdue transition from i mmature homosocial love to adult heterosexual union. Now that the space once occupied in her h eart by Faustina is empty and her plan to make Faustinas reform work her own lifes work ha s been proved a disaster, Althea needs Drake because he offers an opportunity for her to co ntinue doing reform work outside of Faustinas New-Woman shrieking sisterhood. Her romantic attraction to him signals her movement away from her New Woman mentor and the return of her healthy heterosexual impulses. Drake visits Althea as she is pondering her deficiencies as a sister-inlaw and chaffing at her lack of purpose while sitting alone by herself in the gard en of the Botelers country summer retreat. Althea confesses to Drake that she is miserable and desires to be more than a woman lying in wicker chair, and he suggests that she take on a needlework class at his settlement because like Desdemona, you are delicate with your needle (396). The idea is that her students will do work for Altheas upper-class friends and therefore develop a marketable skill. Drakes method enables Althea to help the working classe s within an explicitly polite capitalistic and
209 patriarchal system. Altheas new social reform work will be working with a needle, a very traditional sort of decorative womens work, rather than a Faustinian pen. She will teach her working-class students the fine delicacies and intricacies of decorative needlework, thus contributing to the settlements overall goal of reforming the working classes and making them more like the middle classes and hence under control. Her students will help to make wealthy women beautifully feminine and gain for themse lves a useful and feminine accomplishment. Drakes model of paternalistic reform en ables Althea to do this work in a mode appropriate to her sex and her class. This femi nized work will take place within a domestic model with all power located in the patriarch, Drake. Althea herself desires this masculine policing and control so that she will not make the same mistakes she made in Faustinas feminine space. Her major anxiety in undertaking this humb le work is that Drake be around to guide her and stop her from making the same mistake twice: And if I get into difficultiesif I want advicehelpwill you be with in reach to give it me? (398). Drake will be there to tell her what is good and true, thus constructing this heterosexual partnership as real where Altheas homosexual bond with the hypocritical Faustina were false. Though Althea again will be in an all-women environment as she teaches her girls, Drake will be there at every moment to prevent her from going astray as she did with Faustina. Indeed, not only does th is conversation decide Altheas professional future, but it also settles her personal life by implying that she and Drake will eventually marry and continue their work as husband and wife: Both are silent awhile, a delightful dawning sense of the unity of interest th at is for the future to connect their lives giving their spirits that sort of hush that come with the real dawn (398-9). Althea is renewed and reformed in this moment through her newly formed bond with Drake. He will help her to be good woman, even as she teaches working-cla ss women how to follow her example. The
210 Canning Town Settlement thus becomes a factor y of bourgeois domesticity, as this domestic space replicates itself through the working classes it reforms. By ending Dear Faustina with the union between Drake and Althea, Broughton effectively erases the sisterly bonds that created the drama of th e book in the first place. Faustina is off in America on a lecture tour, presumably at Drakes suggestion, and Clare recedes into the background as Mrs. Boteler. The taint of Altheas desire for Faustina necessitates Drake taking up the primary affective place in he r life because she is now always in danger of falling prey to her homosexual tendencies in any woman-centere d environment. Even her prospective marriage does not remove this danger, and she must be constantly and consistently monitored in order to avoid ending up like Faustina herself. Critically, this also involves the resuming of feminine selfsacrifice and domestic caretaking. As Drakes helpmeet, Althea is fixe d in terms of both sexuality and her class position; she is Ruskins lady philanthropist rather than one of the girls. The heroine can become part of a modified domestic sphere because she retains an intrinsic goodness that only requires the influence of he terosexuality to overcome much of the degeneration resulting from her overly intimate c ontact with the sexually inverted New Woman. Indeed, in the end, Broughton seems to endorse both Clares all encompassing feminine domesticity and the modern energy of social reform by melding them in the union between Althea and Drake. Both the destabilizing and reforming powers of the so roral bond are rendered ineffective and are replaced by the overarching social control of hete ronormativity, even as social reform work depends on that passion to mobilize its reformers. The dangerous passion excited by reform work can be channeled into a conventional paternalistic model of reform that gives middle-class women an outlet for their ener gies, while simultaneously excising all forms of sisterhood. Broughton thus masterfully reinforces conservative Victorian sexual, class, and
211 gender ideologies by incorporating into them the compelling affective energy of the New Womans ideological resistan ce and making the New Woman herself ultimately redundant.
212 LIST OF REFERENCES Prim ary Texts Allen, Grant. Plain Words on the Woman Question. Fortnightly Review 46 (1889): 448-458. Barry, William. The Strike of Sex. The Quarterly Review 179.358 (1894): 289-318. Beeton, Isabella. Mrs. Beetons Book of Household Management Ed. Nicola Humble. Oxford: Oxford Worlds Classics, 2000. Bradfield, Thomas. A Dominant Note of Some Recent Fiction Westminster Review 543 (1894): 537-545. Broughton, Rhoda. Dear Faustina London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1897. Caird, Mona. Marriage. Westminster Review 30.2 (August 1888): 186-201. Cobbe, Francis Power. Criminals, Idiots, Women, and Minors Manchester: A. Ireland, 1869. De Mattos, Mrs. Rev. of The Odd Women by George Gissing. The Athenaeum (27 May 1893): 667. Dickens, Charles. Married Womens Property. All the Year Round (25 June 1870): 89-93. Dixie, Lady Florence. Memor ies of a Great Lone Land. Westminster Review 139 (1893): 247256. Dixon, Ella Hepworth. (pseud. Margaret Wynman) My Flirtations. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1893. ---, The Story of a Modern Woman. London: Merlin Press Ltd., 1990. Ellis, Sarah Stickney. The Daughters of England. The Position in Society, Character and Responsibilities. New York: D. Appleton & Co, 1842. ---. The Women of England, Their Soci al Duties, and Domestic Habits New York: D. Appleton & Co, 1839. Ellis, Havelock and John Addington Symonds. Sexual Inversion New York: Arno Press, 1975. Grand, Sarah. The New Aspect of the Woman Question. The North American Review 158.3 (March) 270-276. Greg, W.R. Literary and Social Judgments London: N. Trbner and Co., 1868.
213 Krafft-Ebing, Richard von. Psychopathia Sexualis; With Especi al Reference to the Antipathic Sexual Instinct, a Medico-Forensic Study New York: Physicians and Surgeons Book Co. 1922. Gissing, George. The Letters of George Gissing to Eduard Bertz, 1887-1903 Ed. Arthur C. Young. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1961. ---, The Odd Women. Ed. Arlene Young. Orchard Par k, NY: Broadview Press, 1998. Hardy, Thomas. General Preface to the Novels and Poems. Personal Writings: Prefaces, Literary Opinions, Reminiscences. Ed. Harold Orel. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1966. ---, The Hand of Ethelberta Ed. Tim Dolin. New York: Penguin Classics, 1997. ---, Preface. The Hand of Ethelberta Ed. Tim Dolin. New York : Penguin Classics, 1997. ---, The Life of Thomas Hardy. New York: St. Martins Press, 1962. James, Henry. Notes and Reviews Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, Inc. 1968 Lawrence, D. H. Study of Thomas Hardy and Other Essays Ed. Bruce Steele. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985. Linton, Eliza Lynn. The Girl of the Period and Other Social Essays 2 vols. London: Richard Bentley & Son, 1883. ---. Womens Place in Nature and Society. Belgravia 29 (1876): 349-363. Lee, Vernon. Althea: A Second Book of Dialogues on Aspirations and Duties London: Osgood, McIlvaine, 1894. Le Fanu, J. Sheridan. Carmilla Blood and Roses: The Vampire in 19th Century Literature Ed. Adle Olivia Gladwell. 161216. London: Creation Press, 1999. Married Womens Property The Leisure Hour (1 Jan. 1869): 12-15. Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty and Other Essays Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. Miss Rhoda Broughton. A Novelis t of English Character. The Times (7 June 1920): 17. The Odd Women. Pall Mall Gazette (29 May 1893): 4. Ouida (pseud. Marie Louise de la Rame). The New Woman. North American Review (1894): 610-615.
214 Poetry and Speculation All the Year Round Third Series 3.70 (3 May 1890): 426-429. The Property of Married Women. The Westminster Review 90 (October) 1868: 176-188. Rev. of Dear Faustina by Rhoda Broughton The Athenaeum (12 June 1897): 772. Ruskin, John. Sesame and Lilies. Ed. Deborah Epstein Nord. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2002. Shand, Alexander Innes. Speculative Investments. Blackwoods Edinburgh Magazine 120 (September 1876): 293-316. Stead, W. T. The Book of the Month: The Novel of the Modern Woman The Review of Reviews 10 (1894): 64-74. Stockbroking and the Stock Exchange. Frasers Magazine 14 (July 1876): 84-103. Stutfield, Hugh E. M. The Psychology of Feminism. Blackwoods Magazine 161 (Jan. 1895): 104-117. ---. Tommyrotics. Blackwoods Magazine 157 (June 1895): 833-845. Swinburne, Algernon Charles. Faustine. Algernon Charles Swinburne: Major Poems and Selected Prose. Eds. Jerome McGann and Charles L. Sligh. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004. ---. Notes on Poems and Reviews. Algernon Char les Swinburne: Major Poems and Selected Prose Eds. Jerome McGann and Charles L. Sligh. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004. Trollope, Anthony. An Autobiography Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. ---, Can You Forgive Her? Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982. ---, Higher Education of Women. Four Lectures. Ed. Morris L. Parrish. London: Constable & Co., 1938. Queen Bees or Working Bees? The Saturday Review 47 (12 Nov. 1859): 575-576. Welsh in Patagonia Chamberss Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art 11.570 (1 December 1894): 753-756.
215 Secondary Texts Antinori, Melissa Witte. Family Dynamics in George Gissings Novels. Shaw and Other Matters: A Festschrift for St anley Weintraub on the Occasion of His Fortieth Anniversary at the Pennsylvania State University Ed. Susan Rusinko. Susquehanna UP, 1998. Ardis, Ann L. New Women, New Novels: Feminism and Early Modernism New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1990. Aslami, Zarena. The Space of Optimism: State Fantasy and the case of The Odd Women Victorian Studies 47.1 (Autumn 2004): 55-85. Ball, David. Hardys Experimental Fiction. English 35.151 (1986): 27-36. Bilston, Sarah. The Awkward Age in Womens Popular Fiction, 1850-1900: Girls and the Transition to Womanhood. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Boumelha, Penny. A Complicated Position for a Woman: The Hand of Ethelberta The Sense of Sex: Feminist Perspectives on Hardy Ed. Margaret R. Higonnet. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1993. 242-259. ---, Thomas Hardy and Women: Sex ual Ideology and Narrative Form Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble, 1982. Chamberlain, David S. Unity and Irony in Trollopes Can You Forgive Her? Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 8.4 (Autumn 1968): 669-680. Chase, Karen and Michael Levenson. The Spectacle of Intimacy: A P ublic Life for the Victorian Family Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000. Clapson, Mark. A Bit of a Flutter: Popular Gamb ling and English Society, c. 1823-1961 Manchester: Manchester UP, 1992. Cohen, Michael. Sisters: Relation and Rescue in Nine teenth-Century British Novels and Paintings Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1995. Cohen, Paula Marantz. The Daughters Dilemma: Family Process and the Nineteenth-Century Domestic Novel Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991. Coln, Susan. Professionalism and Do mesticity in George Gissings The Odd Women English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920 44.4 (2001): 441-458. Cunningham, Gail. The New Woman and the Victorian Novel New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1978.
216 Cvetkovich, Ann. Mixed Feelings: Feminism, Mass Cu lture, and Victorian Sensationalism. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992. David, Deirdre. Ideologies of Pa triarchy, Feminism, and Fiction in The Odd Women Feminist Studies 10.1 (Spring 1984): 117-139. Davidoff, Leonore and Catherine Hall. Family Fortunes: Men and Wo men of the English Middle Class, 1780-1850 Revised Ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. Derrida, Jacques. The Retrait of Metaphor. The Derrida Reader: Writing Performances Julian Wolfreys. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998. 102-129. Doggett, Maeve E. Marriage, Wife-Beating, and the Law in Victorian England. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1993. Dutta, Shanta. Ambivalence in Hardy: A Study of His Attitude to Women New York: Plagrave, 2000. Dyhouse, Carol. Feminism and the Family in England, 1880-1939 New York: Basil Blackwell, 1989. Evans, Elizabeth F. Counter-jumpers and Queen s of the Street: The Shop Girl of Gissing and his Contemporaries. Gissing and the City: Cultural Crisis and the Making of Books in Late Victorian England Ed. John Spiers. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. Faderman, Lillian. Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love between Women from the Renaissance to the Present New York: Morrow, 1981. Flint, Kate. Introduction. Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982. xi-xxvi. Forward, Stephanie. The New Man in Fin-de-Sicle Fiction. Womens Writing 5.3 (1998): 437-56. Gilbert, Pamela K. Disease, Desire, and the Body in Victorian Womens Popular Novels New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Gittings, Robert. Introduction. The Hand of Ethelberta New Wessex Edition. London: Macmillan, 1975. Grylls, David. The Paradox of Gissing Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1986. Goode, John. George Gissing: Ideology and Fiction New York: Barnes & Noble, 1978. Halperin, John. Gissing: A Life in Books. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1982.
217 Hardy, Evelyn. Thomas Hardy: A Critical Biography. London: The Hogarth Press, 1954. Heilmann, Ann. New Woman Fiction: Women Writing First-Wave Feminism Hampshire: Macmillan Press, 2000. Holcombe, Lee. Victorian Ladies at Wo rk: Middle-Class Working Women in England and Wales, 1850-1914. Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1973. ---. Wives and Property: Reform of th e Married Womens Property Law in Nineteenth-Century England Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983. Ingham, Patricia. Thomas Hardy Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1990. Itzkowitz, David C. Fair Enterprise or Extr avagant Speculation: Investment, Speculation, and Gambling in Victorian England. Victorian Studies 45.1 (Autumn 2002): 121-147. James, Simon J. Unsettled Accounts: Money and Narrati ve in the Novels of George Gissing London: Anthem Press, 2003. Jeffreys, Sheila. The Spinster and Her Enemies: Feminism and Sexuality, 1880-1930 Boston: Pandora Press, 1985. Jordan, Ellen. The Womens Movement and Womens Em ployment in Nineteenth Century Britain New York: Routledge, 1999. Jusov, Iveta. The New Woman and the Empire Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2005. Kincaid, James R. The Novels of Anthony Trollope New York: Oxford University Press, 1977. Koven, Seth. Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004. Lasser, Carol. Let Us Be Sisters Forever: The Sororal Model of Nineteenth-Century Female Friendship. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 14.1 (1988 Autumn): 158181. Ledger, Sally. Gissing, the Shopgirl and the New Woman. Women: A Cultural Review 6.3 (1995): 263-274. --. The New Woman: Fiction and Femi nism at the fin de sicle Manchester: Manchester UP, 1997. Levine, George. Can You Forgive Him?: Trollopes Can You Forgive Her? and the Myth of Realism. Victorian Studies 18.1 (September 1974): 5-30. Levine, Philippa. Victorian Feminism, 1850-1900 Tallahassee: Florida State UP, 1987.
218 Lothe, Jakob. Variants on Genre: The Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge, The Hand of Ethelberta. The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Hardy. Ed. Dale Kramer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. McMaster, Juliet. The Meaning of Words and the Nature of Things: Trollopes Can You Forgive Her? Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 14.4 (Autumn 1974): 603-618. Michie, Helena. There is No Friend Like a Sister: Sisterhood as Sexual Difference. ELH 56:2 (1989 Summer): 401-21. Miller, J. Hillis. Thomas Hardy: Distance and Desire Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1970. Morgan, Rosemarie. Women and Sexuality in the Novels of Thomas Hardy. New York: Routledge, 1988. Morse, Deborah Denenholz. Women in Trollope's Palliser Novels Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1987. Murphy, Patricia. Disdained and Disempowered: The Inverted New Woman in Rhoda Broughtons Dear Faustina. Tulsa Studies in Womens Literature 19.1 (2000 Spring): 57-79. Nardin, Jane. He Knew She was Right: The Independent Woman in the Novels of Anthony Trollope Carbondale: Southern Illino is University Press, 1989. Poovey, Mary. Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1988. ---. Writing about Finance in Victorian England: Disclosure and Secrecy in the Culture of Investment. Victorian Studies 45.1 (Autumn 2002): 17. Pykett, Lyn. Foreword. Richardson and Willis xi-xii. ---. The Improper Feminine: The Womens Sensation Novel and the New Woman Writing New York: Routledge, 1992. Radford, Andrew. Hardys Subversion of Social Comedy in The Ha nd of Ethelberta. The Thomas Hardy Journal 16.2 (May 2000): 63-70. Richardson, Angelique and Chris Willis, Eds. The New Woman in Fiction and Fact: Finde-Sicle Feminisms. New York: Palgrave, 2001. Richardson, Angelique and Chris Willis. Introduction. Richardson and Willis 1-38.
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Lisa Hager began her academ ic career at the Un iversity of Georgia, where she majored in English and received the Underg raduate Certificate in Womens Studies. Hager then went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Victorian studies at the Univer sity of Florida, where she also received the Graduate Certificate in Womens Studies. As a graduate student at the University of Florida, Hager did dissertation research for three months in England. Sh e has presented numerous papers at Victorian Studies conferences and was in strumental in bringing the Eighteenthand Nineteenth-Century British Women Writers Conf erence to the Universi ty of Florida in 2006. Hager has published articles in Womens Writing Childrens Literature Association Quarterly and Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies She is also a regular book reviewer for English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920.