1 THE IDEAL OF THE REAL: MID VICTORIAN REPRESENTATIONS OF THE ARTIST AND THE INVENTION OF REALISM By DANIEL SCHULTZ BROWN A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2012
2 2012 Daniel Schultz Brown
3 To my advisor, Pamela Gilbert: for tireless patience, steadf ast support and gentle guidance
4 TABLE OF CONTENTS page LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 6 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 7 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 11 History of Realism ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 14 Overview o f Critical Literature ................................ ................................ ................. 21 Chapter Overview ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 34 2 VICTORAIN THEORIES OF REALISM ................................ ................................ ....................... 41 John Ruskin ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 45 George Henry Lewes ................................ ................................ .............................. 54 William Michael Rossetti ................................ ................................ ......................... 59 David Masson ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 62 3 RAPHAELITE BROTHERHOOD ................................ ................................ ............ 70 ................................ .............................. 75 Raphaelite Realism ................................ ........... 85 End of the Century Re evaluati ons of the Pre Raphaelites ................................ ..... 91 4 AURORA LEIGH 105 ................................ ................................ .......................... 114 Carrin ................................ ................................ .................... 123 5 ......... 134 Charles Kingsley and Realism ................................ ................................ .............. 139 Yeast ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 145 Two Years Ago ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 156 6 ROMOLA ............ 166 ................................ ........................ 17 2 George Eliot, Realism and Romola ................................ ................................ ....... 181 Piero di Cosimo ................................ ................................ .............................. 183
5 Girolamo Savonarola ................................ ................................ ...................... 188 7 MARY ELIZABETH BRADDON ................................ ................................ ............ 203 Hide and Seek ................................ ................................ ............. 207 Mary Elizabeth Braddon and the Figure of the Artist ................................ ............ 220 APPENDIX: AFTERWARD ................................ ................................ ......................... 238 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................. 244 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 251
6 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 3 1 John Everett Millais, Christ in the House of His Parents (1849 1850). ............. 101 3 2 Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1849). ........................... 102 3 3 Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ecce Ancilla Domini (1850). ................................ ........ 103 3 4 ................................ ... 104 7 1 Charles Allston Collins, Convent Thoughts (1851). ................................ .......... 235 7 2 Claude Lorrain, Landscape with Aeneas at Delos (1642). ................................ 235 7 3 Nicolas Poussin, Landscape with Funeral of Phocion (1848 50). ..................... 236 7 4 William Powell Frith, Th e Railway Station (1862). ................................ ............ 236 7 5 William Powell Frith, Derby Day (1858). ................................ ........................... 237
7 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy THE IDEAL OF THE REAL: MID VICTORIAN REPRESENTATIONS OF THE ARTIST AND THE INVENTION OF REALISM By Daniel Schultz Brown May 2012 Chair: Pamela K. Gilbert Major: English The Ideal of the Real: Mid Victorian Representations of the Artist and the Invention of Realism shows how British realism evolved out of older methods of representation through writings about fictional artists. Thus, although realism and idea lism/romance are often posited as mutually exclusive, I argue that they are in fact part of a continuum and that realism is a far more sophisticated method of representation than often credited. Furthermore, artist figures were ideal because they provided both an example of realist while realist identity formation has been pinpointed in Marxist and Foucaultian critiques as fostering dangerously conservative ideologies, I argue that realist representations of the artist often served a liberatory function for women and working class men. Artist figures were also especially versatile in that they could be used to show the similarities of realist representation across prose, p oetry and the visual arts. Indeed, the evolution
8 After an introductory chapter covering contemporary scholarship on realism and image/text studies, Chapter 2 looks at some of the earliest Victorian critical theory about However, the most cent ral figure addressed in this section is John Ruskin, who establishes realism as an aesthetic based on intensive labor and direct observation. I also address other early theorists of realism, such as George Henry Lewes, who were influential in shaping its e volution out of previous forms of idealism/romance. Chapter 3 then addresses the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood as the earliest practitioners of realism in England. Although we might now tend not to associate the PRB with realism, when they first publicly emer ged in 1850, they were seen very much in this light. Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his brother William Michael both described Pre Raphaelite techniques as similar, if (in their eyes) superior, to those of the contemporary French Realists. And Charles Dickens infamously attacked their realist treatment of unsettling social problems. However, criticism of the PRB during the latter part of the century, from the likes of Walter Pater, shows that their practice did not fall so heavily towards the extreme of an utte rly detached or pessimistic point of view. Rather, PRB detailed, ordinar y or occasionally even painful. Aurora Leigh (1857), the subject of Chapt er 4, also offers a poetic and mysterious treatment of the detailed, ordinary and occasionally painful. In it, she uses two artist characters, the titular poet and her painter friend, Vincent Carrington, as both realist practitioners and subjects of realis m. Both artists
9 begin practicing traditions associated more formally with idealism and gradually evolve, realism, as she argues both for women as capable realist artists and as deserving of Aurora Leigh thus provides a strong example of how realism evolved out of the idealist traditions against which it was thought to be opposed and how it uses the art ist figure to articulate both develops a similar practice of realism through the artist character Clau de Mellot, who appears in Yeast (1848) and Two Years Ago (1857). Like Barrett Browning, Kingsley Yeast for example, gamekeeper, Paul Tregarva, in order to create an ideal type of British male towards which all other British men might aspire. However, in Two Years Ago Mellot returns to suggest the dangers ends with Mellot last use of realism, as the challenges he poses required a more secular solution than he would have liked. However, these challenges were embraced by t he authors covered in my next chapter, Robert Browning and George Eliot. Men and Women Romola grounded almost entirely in the secular, which they trace back to the heights of the Italian Renaissance. Browning and Eliot present their practice as a return to and a
10 refinement of ng shows two seminal realist Renaissance artists who nonetheless fall short of their full potential; yet, through his complex psychological portrayals, he demonstrates the realism each only partially represents. Eliot, too, depicts a seminal realist artist in Piero di Cosimo. However, in a slight departure for my study, I also look at her treatment of the priest, Girolamo Savonarola, as another of Romola emotional rhetoric complemen and Eliot, aspects of realism formerly attributed to the religious (e.g. the soul or divine will), are now understood in entirely secular terms of character development, causal logic and social j ustice. Chapter 7, as its counterpart. Even as sensation came under attack as a dege nerate form of art, though, practitioners such as Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon Hide and Seek (1854), (1863) and (1863), all use to penetrate into the mysteries of existence, as mere sophistry In a sense, then, without trying to rise above them and pointing out the pretensions of a realism that claims to depict the everyday but ultimately aims at something exceptional.
11 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION appear to be applied understandingly (3). Vassili Verestchagin, Realism (1888) The above quotation, taken from a tract simply titled Realism (1888), written by Russian painter, Vassili Verestchagin, could still apply today, as words such as n used freely in popular and scholarly discourse to mean varying and conflicting things. In scholarly discourse, especially, problems arise from work, The Realistic Im agination (1983), has somewhat offset critical objections, realism still falls under postmodernist derision as either a nave or deceptive form of representation, unwilling to admit to its own mediated nature. For example, a 2010 essay in The Nation refers language market is naught but theft and apery sophisticated and self aware form of representation than often assumed. The conventional understanding of realism, es tablished most authoritatively in Ian The Rise of the Novel (1957), is that it marked a fundamental break from past methods of representing and understanding the world. This fundamental break was ostensibly the product of Enlightenment philosophies that led to an increasingly rational and empiricist society free from religious dogma, provincial superstition and other preconceived notions. These preconceived notions were the stuff of idealism, beliefs to
12 which representations of reality were required to conform. Proponents of realism attempted to see past such notions in order to depict reality as it actually existed. Yet, century to the present day, they have argued that realism fosters an overl y prosaic and Gradgrindian world devoid of fancy and imagination, and which nonetheless continues to lock its audiences into preconceived and limited understandings of existence. Thus, although realism seems to offer a radically new account of the world, w hether that account marks a leap forward or backward remains a subject for debate. However, my study treats realism not as a radical break from the past, but as a form of representation that gradually evolved out of its immediate predecessors. As such, it remains a form of idealism, but one that shifts the basis for its beliefs as I will argue throughout this study from the religious, fantastic or strange to the empirical and centered values instead of to divine or otherworldly authorities; instead of dealing in notions of souls or essential selves, it focuses on individual psychology and character development; in lieu of faith and conviction, it looks at the world with doubt and uncertainty; and it f inds beauty not in imaginary perfection, but in the mundane, everyday, flawed and imperfect. Indeed, to say that realism has not generated its own preconceived not ions; it certainly has. My interest, though, is not so much in its long term influence as in how it existed at a particular point in history, when it evolved from the previous forms of representation to which it is often considered antithetical.
13 Thus, I fo cus mainly on mid emergence, my study follows a timeline from about 1848 1863. This timeline begins with the foundi ng of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood, who practiced a nascent form of realism, although they did not specifically refer to themselves as realists. It ends with way, I ex amine a number of prominent figures, including John Ruskin, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Charles Kingsley, Robert Browning, Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon, who all played important roles in establishing re alism as a coherent representational practice. These figures did not entirely agree on what realism was or what it should be capable of doing, but they all participated in an ongoing conversation that shaped realism into the form in which we now recognize it. In these ongoing conversations, fictional representations of artists usually painters and poets played a central role. The fictional artist was useful because it provided both a demonstration of realist technique and a mouthpiece for discussing the ories of realism. That the fictional artist was often a painter underscores what has representations of poet characters, however, there are strongly visual elements to their w representation, and generally signified that which was considered to have reached the
14 1 The practice of using painters and poets to discuss realism was rt. And it equally to painters and poets. Before offering an extended outline of my chapters, I will first use this introduction to provide a brief overview of the conventional history of realism, as well as overviews of 2 The history of realism is provided here to establish a context and background for those who may not otherwise be familiar with this con cept. I do not intend to revise its history but only, again, to highlight that period during which the term itself emerged. The overview of recent critical work will show how understandings of the term have changed in the last fifty or so years and clarify my own usage of the term. It will also, of course, serve to situate my own study within the current scholarly debates on realism. History of Realism While realism is generally considered a quintessentially nineteenth century phenomenon, Ian Watt traces it s philosophical underpinnings to seventeenth century Enlightenment philosophers such as Ren Descartes and John Locke. Its literary origins he traces back to the eighteenth century with authors such as Daniel Defoe and Samuel is mainly on the eighteenth century, scholars generally Walter Scott in England and Honor de Balzac in France, although, once again, it was 1 In Modern Painters John Ruskin sums this relationship up through analogy: 2 This is the term Antonia Losano uses for comparative studies of verbal and visual representation, also sometimes referred to as image and word studies o r image/text studies.
15 not until the 1850s that re alism fully emerged as a specific, literary and artistic concept. Gustave Flaubert. However, it was actually a French painter, Gustave Courbet, whose controversial works first brought representational realism to public awareness. After the 1850s, realism remained the dominant mode of representation until it was challenged in the final decades of the nineteenth century and eventually supplanted by modern ism at the tur n of the century. in Enlightenment thinking still remains largely accepted. The Enlightenment understanding that individual identity was formed by taking in sensory informa tion, rather than existing prior to experience, led to an increased concern with particular, sensory details in literature. Literature thus came to focus increasingly on the details of the everyday lives of ordinary people (as opposed to epic heroes or his torical figures) situated in highly specific times and places (rather than in universal or mythical circumstances). Literature also started to move away from the idea that human nature is constant and unchanging, towards a belief that consciousness varies with each individual. Finally, literature concerned itself mainly with the appearances and actions of material objects and less with metaphysical systems that might underlie those objects (as in a Platonic or Christian view of the world). These literary ch anges, instigated by Enlightenment thought, eventually culminated in the mid nineteenth century with the advent of realism. Mid eighteenth century fiction was dominated by the romance, a genre focusing on the ideal, the marvelous and the strange. One type of romance was the Gothic, typified
16 The Castle of Otranto The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), in which inexplicable and emotionally charged events drive the plot. By contrast, realism shows individuals responding to events in rational ways and developing autonomy in the process. Daniel Defoe, author of such works as Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Moll Flanders (1722), is the first major author critics tend to cite when tracing the roots of British literary realism. Acc the first which presents us with a picture both of the individual life in its larger xceptional interest in material objects, Moll Flanders there is much linen and gold to be counted, while Robinson d actions of his characters, specific historical settings and preoccupation with material objects, he is generally considered a In the early nineteenth century, the novels of Sir Walter Scott and Jane Austen are th ought to further the trend towards literary realism by undermining the competing Waverley (1814), imagines life during the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, but with an emphasis both on the specific historical setting and on the psychology of its characters. According to Levine, remains primarily on action and plot. Scott is in the process of creating a fiction in whi ch (100). Mystery exists in Scott, but only in the form of past superstitions which can be
17 understood rationally in the present (Levine 110). Scott also admired Auste n and Novels novels worked to supplant the competing literary form of the Gothic. Her Northa nger Abbey The Mysteries of Udolpho Novels 19). However, Austen simultaneously set a precedent which caused literary realism to incorporate elements of the Gothic (as in the Jane Eyre ), only to explain them away through Novels 22). Scott and Austen both shift the fo cus on literature away from the shocking and inexplicable events of the Gothic and towards the sober explorations of individual psychology which distinguish realism. Following Scott and Austen, however, realism was taken up more seriously in nineteenth cen tury France. In fact, as Pam Morris notes in her scholarly and authoritative overview, Realism which the realist novel was most consciously pursued, debated, acclaimed and denounced throughout the centu novelists such as Stendhal and Honor de Balzac spring to mind more rapidly than most of the figures I address in my study. Both continued the development of realist literature by depicting the effects of historical change on the character of individuals, and by documenting the details of changing historical settings (Morris 61). Balzac was also especially fascinated with the emergence of modern, commodity capitalism, a common subject of realism in gener
18 (Morris 61). Yet, while Stendhal and Balzac were both very influential in developing what would later be known as realism, the term itself was not yet in wide use to describe painterly or literary works Realism, as a term to describe art or literature, came to the forefront in France in the 1850s to label the controversial works of a painter, Gustave Courbet. Courbet acted against earlier conventions in painting, which required that subject matter be p ortrayed according to strict conventions in order to express universal ideas of beauty and manners, s in literature, lin 23). Although the term was first applied to painting, it was not long before it was also applied to works of literature. Madame Bovary sparked considerable controversy, is often considered the seminal work of literary Madame
19 Bovary tary to explain and of average people, like Emma Bovary[,] who had previously not fig ured in literary treatment of an unremarkable and relatively uninteresting person is considered by many critics to mark the epitome of literary realism. Again, th ough, I am mainly concerned with British realism, which had a much more gradual and prolonged evolutio n than its French counterpart. 3 In fact, the gradual evolution of British realism allows us to see more clearly how it evolved from previously existing me less public debate in Britain than in France, it came to public attention in both nations around roughly the same time. According to Morris, the first use of the term was to describe the use of the term to describe Thackeray did not generate much controversy that Morris doe s not find it as noteworthy. Nor does this apparent reference to Thackeray seem to have garnered much attention elsewhere. The Oxford English Dictionary Modern Painters III (1856) as the earliest source to use the term in relat eighteenth century practice in painting of stylizing subject matter in order to express 3 See Morris, particularly page 76, for speculation as to why the genesis of realism in Britain was considerably less marked than it was in France.
20 r ealism, in fact, is significant enough to warrant a much more extensive analysis that will be provided in Chapter 2. As I will also discuss in Chapter 2, one of the other most influential Britons to play a role in the development of realism was George Elio t, who was arguably the first writings. In her first novel, Adam Bede (1859), she states her intentions to: Give no more than a faithful account of men and things as t hey have mirrored themselves in my mind. The mirror is doubtless defective; the outlines will sometimes be disturbed; the reflection faint or confused; but I feel as much bound to tell you as precisely as I can what that reflection is, as if I were in the witness box narratin g my experience on oath. (238) Like Balzac and Flaubert, Eliot is committed to the realist role of a meticulous scientific recorder of people and events as they appear in the world around her. Although she is aware of the limitations p osed by her own consciousness, she is nonetheless committed to providing as accurate a representation of her perceptions as possible. Furthermore, mortals, every one, m ust be accepted as they are; you can neither straighten their her career, Eliot shows a strong realist commitment to detail and a refusal to embellish the truth in order to render subject matter more beautiful or harmonious. Her many novels of the 1860s and 1870s, which include The Mill on the Floss (1860), Romola (1863) and Middlemarch (1871 72), continue in the same realist fashion. Realist claims to scientific and impartial depictions of human nature, however, became the basis for rising objections that culminated with the advent of modernism at the turn of the century. The realism of the 1850s 70s seemed increasingly dissatisfying
21 t o writers and artists of the closing decades. Authors from the movements of aestheticism, such as Oscar Wilde, and a younger generation of realists, such as Henry James, found mid century realism stylistically clumsy. And the naturalists, such as Emile Zol a in France or Thomas Hardy and George Gissing in England, aimed at an break from realism happened at the turn of the century, however, when modernist writers, such as T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, asserted that reality was towards explorations of shifting and temporal states of human perception (as in stream of consciousness prose). The Modernists even challenged the Enlightenment thinking on which realism was based, claiming it led to a restrictive, possessive and exploitative outlook on the wo rld. After modernism, realism was never taken quite as seriously as in the nineteenth century. Modernist objections continued to influence critical understandings of realism throughout the twentieth century, including and especially the post modernist obje ctions mentioned at the start of this introduction Overview of Critical Literature opposed to idealism, is actually a form of idealism itself. (I should note here too, that I u the direction of a number of recent works that have broadened an understanding of realism and shown that it is far more complex and sophisticated than often given credit. Many of these, such as Jennifer Green Framing the Victorians (1996), owe
22 much to George Levine, whose work was also extremely influential for me. Green alignment of rece nt studies of realism with studies of photography and visual culture. Techniques of the Observer (1991), Fiction in the Age of Photography Realism, Photography, and Ninet eenth Century Fiction The Victorians and the Visual Imagination Realism, Representation, and the Arts in Nineteenth Century Literature The Victorian Eye (2008). Recent studies have also expanded the definition of realism to allow it to encompass works formerly considered antithetical. For example, Green Lewis argues against the Serious Pleasures of Suspense (20 03), which I will address more in the following chapter, reads The Moonstone often categorized as a type of sensation fiction (which critics generally agree belongs in the tradition of the romance), as a realist novel. The traditional, n arrower definition of realism, against which recent works have The Rise of the Novel one of the earliest and most influential critical works to attempt a clear definition of literary realism and its origin s. 4 important starting realism is rooted philosophically in the Enlightenment is still generally accepted by most schol ars, as is his tracing of the tradition of British literary realism back to the eighteenth 4 Realism (1971), wh ich also traces the origins of the movement back to Enlightenment thinking and identifies roughly the same epistemological traits as Watt. Her focus, though, is mainly on nineteenth century France.
23 century. He has drawn criticism, however, for overlooking the ideologies sustained by realism and for ignoring other, earlier influences, such as Renaissance develop ments in overlook important genres of fiction, such as sensation, which were influenced by the romantic tradition and which developed alongside of realism (Armstrong Novels 22 23). Since Watt, George Levine has been one of the most strident advocates of realism and his The Realistic Imagination arguably did more than any other recent, critical work premise that realism stems from an Enlightenment epistemology but denies that there was anything conscious about he possibilities of indeterminate meaning and of solipsism, but they wrote against the very indeterminacy many critical assumptions, that there is not a direct connect ion between words and consciousness. However, in spite of this awareness (and perhaps because of it), they tried to make sense and meaning out of the world around them. Although realis ts attempted to create the appearance of scientific objectivity, then, they were well aware of the limitations of their medium. Realism was not, in fact, nave, but rather a highly self conscious form of representation. eliberately broad, although he does lay down a middling condition and defines itself against the excesses, both stylistic and narrative, of
24 various kinds of romant some non f that (Levine 11 12). Realism is more like a current of thought, then, running throughout the various works of nineteenth century fiction. Its concerns were with the representat ion of a world that would appear immediately recognizable to its readers thus void of but this might manifest itself in extremely diverse ways. Ultimately, Levine believes that realists were responding to changes in their environment in ways that would help readers make sense of the worlds they inhabited. With dramatic changes brought about by the Enlightenment, industrialization and speculative capitalism, the Victorians found themselves in a world that seemed profoundly different from that of their ancestors. The realists assumed the role of mediator in this new environment, to free readers from older and misleading forms of (Levine 12). That is, they p ointed to what was seemingly new and confusing, and provided readers with familiar and meaningful ways to understand these things. Realist may be mediated by consciousness, but it is authenticated by the appeal of consciousness to the shared consciousness of the community of
25 coupled with the awareness that this faith may only be the result of human desire, which leads me to view realis m as a form of idealism. the way for recent studies of realism such as Jennifer Green Victorian photography, Framing the Victorians that allow for a more enco mpassing definition than its modernist and post modernist detractors. In her work, Green Lewis argues that photography, which seems so closely aligned with realism, was used to support claims for realism and larized that extended across all the products of Victorian culture (Green Lewis 26). Encompassing as it does a wide range of genres and modes, Green this study. For, as Green ccupation with representation, although there is a strong tradition in scholarship that identifies a strongly visual component to literary realism.
26 Indeed, many sch olars have argued that the nature of vision was itself radically altered during the nineteenth century, in ways that seem to reflect the overall shift to a Techniques of the Observer (1991) argues that th e early nineteenth century introduced technologies into the environment (14). T he result was a much more individualized, independently thinking society The Victorians and the Visual Imagination (2000) also argues that the nineteenth century environment was r adically altered by an explosion of new visual technologies. This new between different valuations given to outward and inward seeing; to observation, on the one hand, and Lewis, Flint technologies. The Victorian Eye (2008) argues that this tension between outward and inward seeing became the means by which much of nineteenth watchful of de environ ment.
27 the environment played a major role in the increased use of visual details in realist representation. According to Flint, for example, realism uses the proliferation of visual (besides Green hy in the nineteenth century fueled the demand for a visually detailed realism. Nancy Armstrong cites Georg Lukcs in saying that 1848 (the year at which my own study begins) was novel, and she argues that this owes to the concurrent invention of photography ( Photography 6). If a slightly different photographs were cut and pasted together to create one image, Novak argues that photography in fact fueled a demand for greater mediation. As the unme diated hus medium, while also reinforcing recent claims that realism is rooted in the photographic and the visual. While realist representation thus tends to elaborate on external descriptions of visual details, it simultaneously shows a considerable fascination with the internal
28 experiences of individual perception. This inward vision manifested itself in a number of ways. It could act as an aid to scientific discovery; as Flint sa readily admitted the importance of the imagination and the limits of vision in making (22 23). It could also manifest in the often overlooke d, quasi mystical or existential dimension to realism. Even as realism moved away from supernatural accounts of existence, it still addressed the spiritual lives of its characters, often through the very act of doubting or a longing to find some sort of pe Mill on the Floss  have more to do with the latter preoccupation found in realism with issues of psychology and character development. The realist focus on the self was also part of a program of fostering self discipline and the next chapter, for a clearer perception of the external environment. However, it was floating This perceived use of realism to bring about social conformity hints at a darker side that has led to some of its most damaging criticisms: that it fostered repressive ideologies that contributed to, among othe r things, the atrocities of the twentieth century. Drawing from Foucaultian, Marxist and feminist theory, a long tradition of scholarship has argued that realism is aligned with the oppressive regimes of the patriarchal and capitalist state that emerged in the nineteenth century. Such scholarship
29 claims that, if realism fostered a sense of community for a changing and apprehensive society, as Levine argues, it did so at the expense of civil liberties. For, in realism, any forms of subjectivity not in line w ith those endorsed by the state are considered aberrant. Readers would thus identify only with those forms of subjectivity privileged by realism and reject those it eschewed, leading them to suppress contradictory traits they found in themselves and others Such criticisms understandably triggered a backlash against realism and a shift in How Novels Think (2005), for example, argues that realism succeeded only by appropriating the Gothic, its popular rival in the eighteenth century. I have already cited, in my section on the history of realism, her claims about the roles played by Scott and Austen in this process. Yet, while realism does seem to e merge victorious in the nineteenth century, Armstrong argues that the Gothic continues to resurface throughout. One of the more frequent examples scholars find of a nineteenth i s sensation fiction. For example, in The Reading Lesson (1998), Patrick Brantlinger argues that sensation fiction draws from the Gothic to reintroduce a sense of strangeness and mystery into the everyday worlds of realism; murder, adultery and blackmail lu rk just below placid, domestic exteriors. Similarly, in Disease, Desire and the (1997), Pamela Gilbert argues that it was the apparent mixing of the Gothic romance with realism that moved critics to reject sensation 5). And more
30 coined around 1860 in order to create a distinction which would strengthen the dominance of realism (Ne mesvari 17 19). Indeed, that Victorian critics dismissed sensation fiction in favor of its mid century rival seems to have suggested it to scholars deleterious influences. Yet, I question how radically different sensation and realism ultimately were. empiricist and secular worldviews. And in some ways, as will be seen, sensation actually adhered more stubbornly to secular empiricism, coming close at times to materialism. In fact, rather than seeing sensation as a hybrid of realism and romance, I tend to see realism and sensation more as two divergent, though roughly parallel paths stemming coined around 1860, and if, as the OED indicates, the first appearance of the term realism, I do also devote some attention to sensation fiction because it developed alongside realism and one cannot be understood without the other. I must note, however, that I mainly raise the topic of sensation fiction because of what it reveals about the genesis of realism and not so much to pursue questions of polit ical dominance and subversion. Indeed, there was much in realism that both reinforced the status quo and also provided new opportunities for previously disenfranchised persons. The realism of the Pre Raphaelites or Charles Kingsley, for example, was largely a movement of middle
31 and working class men who sought to undermine entrenched, institutional authority. And Aurora Leigh does much to promote the autonomy of the female artist against Marian Erle. In fact as will be seen, the possibilities and limits of realist representation were closely connected with political questions about identity and essential selfhood. And here is where the figure of the artist, as one who perceives and judges others based on out ward signs and is in turn perceived and judged by the same standards, speaks with especial relevance to both the external and internal facets of realist representation. My study furthers the current work on realism because I show how representations of th e artist figure played an essential role in developing the limits and possibilities of realism as it evolved out of previously existing forms of idealism. The fictional artist provides both a demonstration of realist technique and a mouthpiece for theories of realism that necessarily takes into account issues of identity and politics. Other works that discuss Victorian realism and art focus mainly on depictions of art objects within the text or on comparison s between existing literature and art, as with Flint or the aforementioned works on photography. As Antonia Losano does in her recent book, The Woman Painter in Victorian Literature scriptions of inters provides a
32 deep focus on gender, my study focuses more broadly on the generic practice and development of realism as a form of idealism. Again, though, by focusing on the figure of the artist, I show how the development of realism is inseparable fro m Victorian beliefs not only about gender but a wide range of beliefs about essential identities and their perceived places in society. My focus on the artist figure also allows me to look more broadly at representation across verbal and visual arts, for w Picture Theory (1994) as a guide. 5 thus uses the word d connecting them with issues of knowledge (true representations), For Mitchell, then, verbal and visual elements are continually at play in any given work and tracin g out the interactions between the two can reveal complex networks of knowledge, ethics and power. 5 For a good overview of important works on visual and ver
33 The fictional artist is a particularly rich figure for bringing to light the interconnectedness Mitchell identifies between visual and verbal representation. On a basic level, as I mention at the beginning of this introduction, the works I examine literally show the interplay between visual and verbal; the artist is usually (with a few exceptions) a producer of visual art rendered through verbal representation Yet even when the artists I examine use verbal media (as with the poetry of Aurora Leigh), there is still a strongly visual element present. More significantly, though, the fictional artist, as a subject of representation and also as one who represents s ubjects, is an important center around which networks of knowledge, ethics and power can be traced. Much like markings of gender, race and class signify about the self? What is the relationship between outer beauty and inner beauty? These are questions that necessarily involve the continual interplay, as Mitchell says, between verbal and visual, inner and outer, s eeing and being seen, speaking and being spoken for. elide formal differences between visual and verbal more than he would condone. Mitchell warns against the limitations the literature and painting of a given time period, side by side, simply to identify common themes (87 90). By his own admission, Mitchell realizes he may seem to 100). As my primary interest is on mid Victorian realism, I adhere to a more strictly
34 historicist method than Mitchel l. And, as mentioned at the beginning of this introduction, the Victorians themselves tended to attribute the same characteristics to realism across the verbal and visual arts, making formal difference less relevant for my study. Chapter Overview The appro ximately 15 years covered in my study, from about 1848 1863, show the evolution of realism from a nascent practice to a reified concept and see, among other painting. I organize my study into three parts to help clarify how I trace realism from its earliest practices through to its most secured definitions. The works in the first two parts thus often lack a common, critical language and tend to demonstrate realism throu gh a process of experimentation and induction rather than a clear elaboration of principles. Because of this, writings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti Charles Kingsley or Elizabeth Barrett Browning are no longer easily recognizable as realist given present day understandings of the term. Yet, their fusion of secular empiricism with otherworldly mysticism informs what we might consider the more traditional, more strictly secular version of realism associated with George Eliot. Indeed, it was with Eliot, one of th e authors addressed in the final part, that realism became reified as a concept with a history and a methodology. And, as part of this process of reification, sensation fiction writers of sensation fiction quickly used the artist figure, in turn, to suggest similarities between Chapter 2 looks at some of the earliest Victorian critical theory about reali sm in literature and art. Definitions of this emergent concept are understandably tenuous and usually offered reluctantly. The most important figure addressed in this section is John
35 Others include professor and critic, David Masson, William Michael Rossetti (brother to Dante Gabriel and Christina) and George Henry Lewes. The critical works studied in this section all address the budding, popular conception of a dichotomy between rea lism and idealism, also termed variously as a dichotomy between prose and verse, matter and spirit, pessimism and optimism, plainness and beauty, or the ordinary and the extraordinary. While some, such as Masson, tend to find these two poles mutually exclu sive thus setting the ground for future conceptions others, such as Ruskin and Lewes, tend to resist such a view. In an oft Falsism Chapter 3 continues to address this imagined binary through Victorian writings by and about the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood, who, after founding their society in 1848, caused considerable controversy when their works publicly emerged in 1850 51. Works under scrutiny in this chapter include Da Christ in the House of his Parents (1850), and end of the century criticism of the PRB by Walter Pater and a lesser known critic, Esther Wood. Although we might now tend not to associate the PRB with realism, the writers in this section all see them very much in this light. DGR and his brother both show that the PRB mirrored their counterparts in the French Realist movement with their earn est efforts to break from conventions and return to individual observation. And Dickens and Masson were perfectly happy to tar them with the realist brush, drawing parallels to the novels of William Makepeace Thackeray and emphasizing their apparently indi fferent treatment of unsettling social problems and
36 people of ill health. However, criticism of the PRB during the latter part of the century shows that their practice did not fall so heavily towards the extreme of an utterly detached or pessimistic point painful. Aurora Leigh (1857), the subject of Chapter 4, also offers a poetic and my sterious treatment of the detailed, ordinary and occasionally painful in a work that, if not for its use of blank verse, might as well be a realist novel. Written against popular beliefs that poetry and realism were mutually exclusive, Barrett Browning pro vides empiricist descriptions of setting and character development, while also arguing for their underlying, spiritual foundations. In Aurora Leigh she uses two artist characters, the titular poet and her painter friend, Vincent Carrington, as both realis t practitioners and subjects of realism. Her use of a verbal and a visual artist reflects the general consensus that realist principles extended equally across both arts. s associated more formally with idealism such as the epic poem or the classical history painting feminism heavily informs this realism, as she argues both for women as capab le realist artists and as deserving of representation that would show them as they exist in reality (as opposed to male fantasy). Aurora Leigh thus provides a strong example of how realism evolved out of the idealist traditions against which it was thought to be opposed and how it uses the artist figure to articulate both the aesthetic beliefs and essential identities of its practitioners.
37 develops a similar practice of re alism through the artist character Claude Mellot, who appears in Yeast (1848) and Two Years Ago (1857). Kingsley shares with Barrett Browning a strong belief informed through Christianity and Neo Platonism in an infinitely vast, spiritual world that sh apes finite, material forms. Also like Barrett Browning, Kingsley yoked together seemingly opposite styles; he believed that artists Yeast Claude Mellot practices the model, but also altering certain features of his face to create an ideal type of British male towards which all other British men might aspire. And the protagonist, Lancelot Two Years Ago Mellot returns to argue that an artist actually cannot avoid altering features of a undesirable consequences. The dangers of human error are implied through the case of Marie Lavington an actress of mixed African ancestry, an ancestry Kingsley would have attraction to Marie. The novel ends with Mellot provisionally abandoning representational art for t he seemingly impersonal medium of photography. It also marks ultimately moved it in a more secular direction than he would have liked. However, these challenges were embrac ed by the authors covered in my next chapter, Robert
38 advocated through Claude Mellot and Lancelot Smith. Men and Women (1855), and Eliot Romola grounded almost entirely in the secular, which they trace back to the heights of the Italian Renaissance. Both considered the Renaissance a time at which society freed it self from conventions of the Medieval Church and shifted its focus to individual agency. The realism advocated by Browning and Eliot was thus considered a return to and a refinement of ppo who nonetheless fall short of their full potential; yet, through his complex psychological portrayals, he demonstrates the realism each only partially represents. Eli ot, too, depicts a seminal realist artist in Piero di Cosimo. However, in a slight departure for my study, I also look at her treatment of the priest, Girolamo Savonarola, as another of Romola et, Savonarola is a type of performance artist whose powerful oratory skill sways the emotions of others and leads to the creation of public spectacles. In particular is the Bonfire of the Vanities, which he sets in motion to rally the citizenry and public ly burn literature and arts considered to have a corrupting influence. The text itself is ambivalent about this event, decrying the destruction of art but also implying that some forms of art do more harm than good to society an opinion that reflects Eli sensation fiction. In the end, Savonarola is destroyed as a consequence of his own theatricality, yet the powerful emotional rhetoric of the preacher remains at the heart of
39 aspects of realism formerly attributed to the religious or mystical (e.g. the soul or divine will), are now understood in entirely secular terms of character development, causal logic and social justice. However, just as the Victorians invented realism as Chapter 7, as its counterpart. Even as it came under attack as a degenerate form of art, though, practitioners such as Wilkie Collins a nd Mary Elizabeth Braddon defended it Hide and Seek (1854), he uses the artist Valentine Blyth to poke fun of the idealizing conventions of history painting, but etractors. Ultimately, Collins sides against all John (1863) and (1863), Braddon also denigrates l Marchmont and Launcelot Darrell, respectively, by casting them as villains. Even when a reformed Darrell achieves popularity, it is treated as an ephemeral success over a fickle public. However, a competing character from the likeable scene painter, Richard Thornton, happily eschews recognition to live a respectable (if unsung) life. Only in (1866) does Braddon create an artist character that manages to achieve both creative integrity and deserved popularity. Forced to c hoose between the two, however, Braddon suggests it is best to work humbly, as aiming too high can lead to moral corruption. Collins and idealizing traditions. However, it also e that aims to penetrate into the mysteries of existence, be they sacred or secular. In a
40 or at least more materialist than realism. In staying so close to the surf ace, sensation values art that appeals to the masses without trying to rise above them, pointing out the pretensions of a realism that claims to depict the everyday but ultimately aims at something exceptional.
41 CHAPTER 2 THAN VICTORAIN THEORIES O F REALISM The terms Real and Ideal have been so run upon of late, that their repetition begins to nauseate; but they must be kept, for all that, till better equivalents are provided (248). David Masson, British Nove lists and Their Styles (1859) As I say in Chapter 1, 1850s England and France saw the first widespread public have already provided a brief, fairly conventional overv iew of the history of realism, which traces its origins to Enlightenment philosophy and the novels of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I have also shown that, in our previous half century or so, scholarly debates about what realism actually i s, its limitations and the problems it may create have been especially heated. However, the questions raised by our contemporaries have existed from the very moment that realism emerged as a topic for public debate. In this chapter, I look at some of these earliest debates. For the reasons I expressed in Chapter 1, I focus mainly on English realism and therefore focus here mainly on English debates, which were waged by some of the most prominent intellectuals of the time. While in all of the subsequent chap ters I focus primarily on writers and painters who practiced realist representation, here I look at theorists of realism the most prominent being John Ruskin in an attempt to better understand how the term was defined. In fact, the earliest attempts to define realism were usually tentative and offered reluctantly. As suggested by the above quotation from David Masson, a literary scholar who will be introduced at length later in this chapter, theorists of realism generally agreed they were confronting so mething new, but they often had difficulty putting this new phenomenon into words. Generally, they attempted to understand realism in terms
42 of that which they were already familiar, such as the emergent rival to traditional forms of poetry or other forms o nonetheless remained in use to the present day. The subjects of each were generally understood to represen t strict binaries: everyday vs. heroic, plain vs. beautiful, mundane vs. dramatic, material vs. spiritual, pessimist vs. optimist, etc. Even at the time, however, early theorists of realism were aware that these binaries were often false or misleading. Yet commonalities exist in the definitions they offer. These include, most predominantly, an empiricist focus on the detailed representation of subject matter drawn from daily exi stence. However, few theorists (if any) actually believed that realism should simply utilize a detached representation of details for their own sake. Realism should not only show the world as it seemed to appear, but also attempt to stir the imaginations a nd the emotions of the reader or viewer to suggest that reality was something more than becom e difficult to maintain: the everyday is the heroic; the plain is the beautiful, and so on. To return to one of the fundamental claims of this study, realism is itself a form of idealism, one organized around the secular and the empirical. That early theor ists of realism invested it with both empiricist and imaginative dimensions suggests their indebtedness to John Stuart Mill and Thomas Carlyle, two of
43 of realism were close acquaintances of Mill and Carlyle. And, as Marcia Werner argues in her Pre Raphaelite Painting and Nineteenth Century Realism (2005) a work that will be taken up more in Chapter 3 Mill and especially Carlyle held a relatively unacknowledged influence over the realism practiced by the Pre Raphaelite ). And, while Werner argues that this poetic and philosophical Carlylean aesthetic was central to Pre influence over British realism pertained to more than just the Pre Raphaelites. Indeed, while Carlyle does not appear to have directly participated in mid Victorian debates about the definitions of realism, many of his fundamental ideas underlie the theories of those who did and they thus warrant brief recognition in this chapter. o mid Victorian theories of realism was his quasi secular spirituality, cast in the language of the Christianity he had abandoned, which imbued work, nature, history, and [that] allowed for the artistic evocation of the spiritual or otherworldly in the face of doubt and which forms the basis of Pre Raphaelite realism (173). Again, though, the idea that the supernatural manifests itself in the natural is one that informed mid Victorian realism far beyond the works of the PRB. As mentioned in Chapter 1, one of my funda mental claims is that realism distinguishes itself by increasingly situating formerly religious concepts within strictly secular terms. And it consequently deals not in
44 usly seeks the reassuring revelation that existence is meaningful and good after all. But Carlyle also believed that such revelations did not come easily and his insistence on the importance of strenuous labor informs mid Victorian theories of realism as w efforts of everyday workmen, much as did the paintings of the French Realists led by Courbet (129). 1 And similarly, as Herbert Sussman demonstrates in his Victorian Masculinitie s real class men w labor practiced by the working classes (41), its appeal was much more extensive. Indeed, it was certainly, as Sussman shows, embraced by men such as Robert Browning and the members of the PRB; yet, contemporary female writers such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning and George Eliot practiced this same, work centered aesthetic in their own experimentations with realism. etic comes through most directly by way of the generation of intellectuals who were at the forefront of debates 1 As will be seen later in this chapter and the next, the issue of what constitutes an appropriately workmanlike style has been a point of contention in determining whether or not the PRB can be classed alongside the French Realists. Werner believes they can, and I agree with her.
45 over its definitions in the 1850s. Again, Carlyle himself did not appear to have participated in these debates, but those who did were certainly familiar with his ideas and, as mentioned, many were personally acquainted with the man. Arguably, the most important of these theorists was John Ruskin, whose five volumes of Modern Painters (1843 1860) influenced nearly every figure in my study. This fa mously included the most easily recognizable realist among these figures, George Eliot, who in her own right did much to expand upon a theoretical understanding of realism. And as Eliot did much to develop theories of realism, so too did her partner, Georg e Henry Lewes, who published widely in literature, science and philosophy. Others, who were in their circles of mid century intellectuals, and who wrote and theorized about realism included William Michael Rossetti (WMR), and the aforementioned David Masso n. All of these figures were influential in their time, although some are better remembered today than others, and the less prominent will be introduced at greater length o ver the course of this chapter. John Ruskin held an untold influence over his contemporaries, especially in regards to formulating a realist aesthetic Indeed, as mentioned in Chapter 1, the Oxford English Dictionary Modern Painters III (1856) as the first source in English to use rea lism in the context of painting and literature. And Caroline Levine, in The Serious Pleasures of Suspense (2003), provide insight into some of the more salient traits of realism. These include a process of scientific inquiry, rigorous pursuit of individualized observations, a breaking free of conventions, and an elevation
46 summary of her key points. My primary interest is in how his contemporaries, such as George Eliot, developed his theories, at times pushi ng their boundaries farther, as will be seen, than he originally intended. According to Levine, Ruskin revolutionized artistic representation by championing scientific experimen t... inviting his readers to test the representations around them would show themselves to be disappointingly unreal, exposing their stylistic conventions and ideological century critical 2 However, Ruskinian realism also maintains that one must work hard to discover truth laboring aesthetic original emphasis), one that a new understanding of the active, complex work required to get at the visual truths of the distinctive style or subject matter, but (in a way that suggests the influence of Carlyle) by the amount of earnest effort the artist puts into representing what he or she observes. 2 Modern Painters similar claim, that Modern Painters empiricism whose development was central to mid
47 Levine does not directly address the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood in regards to for his advocacy of direct, rigorous observation and earnest effort over adherence to convention. 3 And while their use of realism will be addressed at greater length in Chapter 3, his 1851 letter to the editor of London Times is illustrative of his belief s about realism more generally: [The PRB] will draw either what they see, or what they suppose might have been the actual facts of the scene they desire to represent, irrespective of any conventional rules of picture making; and they have chosen their unfo rtunate though not inaccurate name because all artists did this before pictures ra ther than represent stern facts .. (Pre Raffaelites) Here Ruskin stresses that the subjects of seems to have sufficed for him to fill in the gaps made by the absence of physical m odels. 4 depiction of the Holy Family in Christ in the House of His Parents (1850 1), which will discipline he deemed necessary for a realist aesthetic. His reference to Raphael reflects a prevalent Victorian 3 and that Carlyle is their more likely mentor, but it seems more ac curate to say that Carlyle and Ruskin shared similar beliefs about the merits of strenuous, artistic observation of nature to unearth hidden, spiritual truths. 4 .. whether in
48 belief about the Renaissance that is of particular importance in my study and pertains to all subsequent chapters. For, the Victorians understood the Renaissance as an age during which the influence of the Medieval Church was overthrown and secular humanist values began to dominate. 5 As these values favored truth based on individual observation over received dogma, the Victorians considered Renaissance art to be a precursor to their own practice of realism. Many also believed, however, that following the Renaissance, Western civilization return ed to a long period of slumber. In painting, this period began with the death of Raphael, considered to be one of the last Renaissance artists of note. Ironically, as it went against the very principles of individualized observation that the Renaissance wa centuries following his death, believing they would thus render their subjects through ideals of unchanging beauty and perfection. Hence, the Pre Raphaelites chose what a rejection of all that followed from the Renaissance, they simply believed they were returning to the ostensibly individualized and unconventional type of artistic observation practic 6 Sir Joshua Reynolds, the eighteenth century painter and first President of the Royal Academy of Art, arguably did the most to institutionalize Raphaelesque 5 nineteenth century [see Bullen, The Myth of the Renaissance in Nineteenth Century Writing (1994) and Fraser, The Victorians and Renaissance Italy 6 The implication that they were rejecting Renaissance achievements provoked especially negative responses from Charles Dickens and Charles Kingsley, as will be discussed more in Chapters 3 and 5 (also see Ehrington).
49 conventions in England, and was a subject of mockery by the PRB, and of severe criticism in Modern Painters According to Levine, Reynolds shared the beliefs of many (28), and he was highly influ harmony, artists would be expected to arrange their subjects in shapes and patterns that were supposedl y pleasing to the mind, believing that this pleasure refle cted the realization of truth. 7 Modern Painters is not to communicate general or ideal shapes but to recognize the overwhelming and unfamiliar other to the human mind... grasped by strenuous, time consuming labor rather than by immediate strenuously to de pict a subject as he or she sees it in all its incongruous details and not in conventional ways intended only to produce pleasure. ist detail. Drawing on essays written by Reynolds, Rosenberg 44 45). Clea rly disagreeing, he says: is not true that Poetry does not concern herself with minute details. It is not 7 In his essay, Pre Raphaelitism seventh of its space, and a principle shadow occupying one third of the same; [...] no two peo be turned the same way, and [...] all personages represented are to possess ideal beauty of the highest order, which ideal beauty consists partly in a Greek outline of nose, partly in proportions expressible in decimal fra
50 true that high art seeks only the Invariable. It is not true that imitative art is an easy thing. It is not true that the faithful rendering of nature is an (qtd. in Barrie 295) details... nor their subtraction... but details themselves, or the method of using them, which invests them with poetical 50). The use of imitative details, are employed so as to bring out an af reason why realism itself has been a difficult concept to distinguish. However, for now it is sufficient to note that Mod ern Painters begins to open the door for considerations that Ruskin does expand upon how an artist might make details poetic, however, through a practice of disciplined observation, in hi 62), presumably because he world that lay self. 8 reality would lead to the pathetic fallacy: attributing human agency to inanimate objects. 8 the plain old phrase, 'It is so ;' and if instead of the sonorous phrase, 'It is subjectively so,' you w ill say... 'It seems so to me;' you will, on the whole, be more intelligible to your fellow creatures: and besides, if you find that a thing which generally 'does so' to other people... does not so to you... you will not fall into the impertinence of sayin g, that the thing is not so... but you will say simply... that something is the matter
51 Ruskin demonstrates this fallacy wi Alton Locke does it crawl. The state of mind which attributes to it these characters of a living creature is one in which the reason Chapter 5, arguably stems from his beliefs in the problems posed by attempting to filter pathetic fallacy relegates him to a second class of poets who let their feelings own affective responses from distorting a perception of those details. Victorians, but perhaps none as muc h as George Eliot, who developed her own theories of realism at least partially in response to his. In an oft quoted 1856 review of Modern Painters she says: The truth of infinite value that [Ruskin] teaches is realism the doctrine that all truth and be auty are to be attained by a humble and faithful study of nature, and not by substituting vague forms, bred by imagination on the mists of feeling, in place of definite, substantial reality. ... It is not enough simply to teach truth... we want it to be so attention and sy mpathy. (Qtd. in Adam Bede 582) Eliot shows her clear admiration for the principles that Caroline Levine refers to as substant pleasurable feelings, as was instructed by Reynolds and his contemporaries.
52 However, while Eliot thus reveals her debt to Ruskin, she also reveals the central role she herself played in inventing realism as a literary and artistic movement. For, it is not Ruski representation of details and lays them down in a much more systematic and coherent doctri inverting the hierarchy claimed by Reynolds, and helped to raise the status of art that carefully concentrated on details and to lower t he status of art th at did not. 9 An example of the latter was the much maligned genre of sensation fiction, although as I explore in Chapter 7, sensation and realism may not be as entirely antithetical as is sometimes kie Collins, was himself an admirer of Ruskin, and in his early novel, Hide and Seek 10 Also, the artist figures in novels by Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon, when the authors dep ict them at their best, all demonstrate the earnest hard labor of the Ruskinian realist. At the same time, though, ys into the world of realism, sensation authors did not entirely reject accusations that they were opposed to it. In fact, as I argue in Chapter 7, Collins and Braddon often show some acceptance of their 9 Eliot would famously liken her own practice in Adam Bede 10 See Chapter 7. Also see Frick (1985) and Leahy (2005).
53 and point to what they perceived as the pretentiousness of realist art. Even more ironically, though, is that the works of both Eliot and Collins earned attacks El Mill on the Floss Poor Miss Finch (1872). Of Mill he book of the smallest importance to anybody in the world but themselves, or whose qu And he seemed to feel that Collins similarly pushed too far in terms of drawing subject matter from everyday life, to the point of showing a morbid fascination with d isease and authors often claimed a hyper ure, though, he also expressed some contrition for his attacks on Eliot and even expressed admiration for other of her works, such as Silas Marner (Rignall 354). And even though he seemed to dislike Poor Miss Finch he also played an active role in helping Collins publish Antonina (Frick 13). Eliot herself seemed to feel that Ruskin could be too severe and use of details taken from everyday life. e followers, then, a considerable conflict exists over what constitutes realism. Part of the problem is that
54 he determines this largely through the intentions of the arti st and the effects of the Ruskin had originally intended. Indeed, given that she begins her own experimentations with realism right around the same time that Ruskin shifts his focus from art to society and politics, it seems fair to suggest that she did pick up where he ended. While then, they were also very loosely formulated, leaving it to others to develop them into a single, unified representational practice George Henry Lewes In her efforts to develop realism as a practice, George Eliot was greatly assisted by her long term par tner, George Henry Lewes, whose contribution to art criticism is often overlooked. Largely self taught and struggling to establish a writing career from humble beginnings, Lewes nonetheless managed to publish widely and to establish great recognition in th e fields of literature, science and philosophy. His oeuvre includes numerous reviews, articles and books, including two unsuccessful novels. Throughout the course of his career, he came into contact with many notable Victorian writers and intellectuals, de veloping friendships and correspondences with John Stuart Mill, Thomas Carlyle, Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, Charlotte Bront, Anthony Trollope and others. Most famously, though, is his direct involvement with George Eliot. Lewes strongly
55 largely the same views on science, literature and art, working together to develop the 11 Indeed, with his wide range of intere sts, Lewes offered a unique perspective in developing early theories of realism. Like Ruskin, he believed that art should focus carefully on external details but should also engage its audiences on an emotional and imaginative level. Furthermore, because o even greater stress on the importance of empiricism. In fact, Hugh Witemeyer, in his important work, George Eliot and the Visual Arts theories were actually a synthesis o some of 12 These empiricist and Ruskinian influences led Chapter 1, were an impor tant component to realism. But Lewes also took from Ruskin often very familiar things thus reveal the world in its detailed complexity, but does so in a manner that appeals to the moral sympathies of his or her audience. 11 clearly demonstrated that Eliot and Lewes disagreed on any major issue and anyone who reads the 12 empiricist tradition. However, Witem Ruskin, he also developed his own, independent ideas based outside of strict art criticism.
56 Lewes reiterates his beliefs about the moral significance of art in his 1853 review Ruth Villette where he argues that the authority of artistic representation relies more on powerful statements of conviction than saying: Although a narrative is not a demonstr ation and cannot be made one; although, therefore, in the strict sense of the word, Art proves nothing; yet it is quite clear that the details of a narrative may be so grouped as to satisfy the mind like a sermon. It is an exhortation, if you like, not a demonstration, but it does not the less appeal to our moral s ense. (Quoted in Adam Bede 578) As will be explored more in Chapter 6, realism and especially the realism of George Eliot ty, failing to take into account its own artificial, self fulfilling nature. And as I note in Chapter 1, in anged in a certain way so as to tell a story and to make a specific point. He does not claim that art offers the same sort effect on its audience. acknowledges the artificial nature of artistic representation, this time with special emphasis on realism. In a statement showing that twentieth century objections to Reality, and an antithesis established between Realism and Idealism which would never have gained acceptance had not men in g eneral lost sight of the fact that Art is a
57 always aims at the representation of Reality, i.e. of Truth. ... Realism is thus the basis of all Art, and its antithesis is not Idealism, but Falsism attempt is made to idealize, but the result is simple falsification and bad art. To misrepresent the forms of ordinar y life is no less an offence than to misrepresent the forms of ideal life: a pug nosed Apollo, or Jupiter in a great 13 An artist need not necessarily take subjects from ordinary life, but if one chooses to do so, he or she should remain true to untouched; either paint no drapery at all, or paint it with the utmost fidelity; either keep fidelity demande d for specific subject matter, however, all representation remains both sees with his imaginat original emphasis). 14 To illustrate this, Lewes uses an example of a Raphael painting that co mpellingly expresses the Madonna and child. On the other 13 Ruskin makes a similar statement in Modern Painters Idealism and Realism which leads most people to imagine the Ideal opposed to the Real, and therefore false ... All entirely bad works of art may be divided into those which, professing to be imaginative, bear no stamp of imagination, and are therefore fa lse; and those which, professing to be representative of 27). 14 recombine im ages held in the memory, sometimes forming from them new images which correspond to
58 artists depicting a village scene with equal, technical precision. One artist, however, nsibility which leads him to sympathize intensely with the 9). This artist would be superior, because group which every spec be taken from everyday life so long as they are invested with a certain degree of the sentiment mus t be consonant with the subject matter and not simply organized along conventional lines. that make it difficult to circumscribe. In fact, because of inherent ambiguities posed by and therefore not f thing that mattered most for him was fidelity to subject matter. Therefore, the range of what might constitute actually fit well under a realist framework. Examples of ostensibly idealist works fitting into a realist framework will be seen in Chapter 3, which looks at controversies surrounding the paintings of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood.
59 William Michael Rossetti While the relationship between the PRB and realism w ill be examined more greater sense of mid century ambiguities over the term. As a member of the PRB, and a close friend to his brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, WMR was at the forefront of changing developments in the nineteenth century art world. And, while he made some efforts at painting and poetry, even taking drawing classes from Ruskin, WMR is now mainly known for his art criticism and the extensive records he kept for the PRB. Like Lewes, WMR was largely self taught and, in spite of the prestige of the Rossetti family, however, he published numerous works of art criticism and helped to organize a number of international art exhib itions. His writings often championed the avant garde, from the paintings of his PRB friends, to then underappreciated poets such as Algernon Charles Swinburne, William Blake and Walt Whitman. With his liberal sympathies and international scope, he was in a unique position to compare and contrast similar, emergent movements, such as the PRB and the French Realists. and continue to do so because of differences between the French and British beliefs o f what it might allow. As mentioned in the historical overview that I provided in Chapter 1, critics tend to see s 47). Generally, the
60 Ruskin or Lewes. 15 WMR, after visiting the 1855 Internation al Exhibitions of Art in Paris, between the French Realists and the Pre Raphaelites. He even suggests that an artist could practice realism without being a formal R ealist. In his review, WMR observes a tendency in art toward the same overarching, says, comparing the art of several different nations: Is distinctly towards Realism as the thing, less easily defined than apprehended, is now called in France. It takes a special form, ... of singular vigour and ... earnest observation ... to which is added, in extreme instances, a preference of subjects ordinary even to insignificance, and an obvious avoidance of accepted rules of composition. In England, the Praeraphaelite [sic] movement need but be named. (98 9) both in their general effect on the ey e and also in their literal minuteness, has not had a nations particularly France and Britain but hesitates to place them under one rubric. Indeed, artists in diff erent nations could style themselves quite differently yet be doing essentially the same thing. As will be explored in more detail in Chapter 3, both the French Realists and the Pre Raphaelites were essentially realists in their focus on WMR does distinguish, however, between what he sees as the salient traits of French Realism and of the PRB. In particular, WMR analyzes the paintings of Gustave 15 See Morris, particularly page 76, for speculations as to why realism had a much sharper delineation in France than in Britain.
61 roughest of the rough, the Englishmen the most exquisite of the elaborated. The first paints with a scrubbing brush clotted with coa rse paint and chalk grits; the second with 16 Like Lewes, WMR argues that truly great art must move beyond mere copying of facts to a failed to transcend into this second tier of greatness, which was the strength of the PRB. Indeed, such a view was actually quite common amongst the British in general, who used French Realism as the limit case for a realism that kept too close to the surface (a view that persists well into the end of the century, mile Zola serving as a prime example for many). not only the PRB, b ut also, as will be seen, Charles Kingsley and Elizabeth Barrett style of the French Realists (although, perhaps ironically, the sensation writers come much closer th laborer and also held a greater admiration for French novelists). Indeed, as will be addressed throughout the following chapters, it has been argued that authors such as 16 The distinctio n WMR makes between the French Realists and the PRB is one that has long been the subject of critical debates and often used to deny the PRB full status of realists (see Nochlin and Rosen e PRB are credible and will be explored more in Chapter 3.
62 Kingsley merely hel d on to vestigial forms of idealism and failed to fully advance to the forms of realism practiced by the likes of Courbet or Eliot. I argue against such a teleological claim and maintain that the idea of a certain kind of realism as the height of artistic achievement was itself the invention of this particular moment in history. And as WMR shows, realism was not strictly limited to one particular style and could manifest itself in the works of artists as seemingly distinct as the French Realists and the PRB David Masson The realism practiced by authors like Charles Kingsley may no longer be one we readily identify as such, but it was greatly admired by literary scholar and editor David Masson. Now himself a relatively unknown figure, Masson was a prolific w riter and widely recognized intellectual of his time. Born in 1822 in Aberdeen to a stonecutter and his wife, Masson studied Divinity at Edinburgh University, but did not ultimately pursue a career in ministry. Instead, he became an editor, his work taking him to London, where he made early acquaintance with John Stuart Mill and lifelong friend, Thomas Carlyle (to whom he has been compared). He also met Lewes in London, through whom he was introduced to many eminent writers and artists, including Dickens, T hackeray, the Rossettis and a wide circle of friends connected to the PRB. In 1852, he became professor of English language and literature at University College, London and from 1858 1868 was editor of n). In 1865, he became professor of rhetoric and English literature at Edinburgh University, from where he retired after 30 years of service. Throughout his career, he published literally countless works of scholarship and criticism, many of which were pub lished anonymously.
63 His study of the British novel, British Novelists and Their Styles (1859), theorizes realism alongside the relatively recent emergence of the novel in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 17 The pervasive influence of this book is ap parent in that, after its initial 1859 publication, it went through multiple editions in the UK and abroad, including several US editions, the last I have found being issued in 1892. In it, he classifies the novel as a form of epic poetry but one that uses prose and not verse to describe present day details and ordinary life. 18 And because the novel uses prose to these ends, he suggests it is the medium best suited for realism, although he finds the novel Indeed, he seems as reluctant as analogous terms. While similarly struggling with termino logy, he ultimately shares and that will be more successfully accomplished with Eliot is the balance he th ought Kingsley struck in his One of the first binaries Masson identifies, using terms analogous to those used elsewhere to describe realism and idealism, is between poetry in prose and poetry in verse. Verse, Mas 17 In her unpublished dissertation, scholar Emily Rena 18 exact opposite (as we now tend to understand it), is often confusing, it was standard for the time. According to Mikhail Bakhtin, 1190).
64 interesting, and the flat a 21). Therefore, he clearly believed that those traits associated with prose poetry which were also the traits generally associated with realism were expanding in popularity, while those of verse poetry and idealism were recedin g. This shift is explored more in Chapter 4, with the central artist figures of Aurora Leigh changing in style (as she herself does with this work) from poetic verse to prose poetry, just as they also move from idealism to real ism. In spite of the apparent demise of poetic verse (i.e., idealism), however, Masson did not think that the traits associated with realism and idealism needed to be incompatible. In fact, even though Masson considered prose poetry (i.e., the novel) more like realism than idealism, he believed it could still lean more towards idealism and thus o allowed difference between the two was the difference between the novel and the romance: differing from the Romance, inasmuch as the incidents are accommodated this distinction, we make the prose Romance and the Novel the two highest varieties of prose fiction, and we allow in the prose Romance a greater ideality of incident than in the Novel. (27)
65 By advocating that the romance the idealist prose narrative deserves a place alongside the realist prose narrative of the novel, Masson again points to his fears of a waning idea lism. At the same time, the sharp distinctions he draws between the novel and the romance are the same used for later critical objections to sensation fiction. As I explore more in Chapter 7, drawing from current scholarship on the genre, similarities betw een sensation fiction and realism contributed largely to critical rejection of but si sensation fiction were still around the corner when British Novelists was published and it is unlikely Masson had this sort of fiction in mind when he referred to romance. When Masson refers to the realism of the novel and the idealism of the romance, the authors he seems to have had more in mind are luminaries of the 1850s such as Thackeray and Dickens. Comparing the two, he says: [Thackeray] will have no faultless characters, no demig ods nothing but ideal perfection and beauty, as well as of ideal ugliness and brutality characters of a hum an kind verging on the supernatural, as well as characters actually belonging to the supernatural. (249) f conscious Pre Raphaelitism was characters lying within the range of their own... observation... a greater indifference to traditional ideas of beauty, and an increased willingness to accept, as worthy of study
66 and representation, facts and objects accounted common, disagreeable, or even and will also elaborate Dickens also shows a tendency towards realism but this merely reflects an overall trend in that direction, what Jennifer Green works that show some resistance to the trend. Remember that, even when Masson places Dickens in the camp of idealist romance writers, he has already established that camp as a subset of realist, prose poetry. But the conte mporary author that Masson felt best utilized the traits he associated with realism and idealism was Charles Kingsley. Kingsley, he said, realized there were represe novel, it is telling that he published British Novelists hailing the advent of a new artist of the Real school, in the author of Adam Bede Adam Bede Kingsley, not because she was radically different in style, but because she seemed to
67 fict fine the future direction of prose fiction. Like the other critics in this chapter, Masson seems reluctant to use the terms differing figurations: prose vs. verse, the novel vs. the romance, Thackeray vs. Dickens. Indeed, his very efforts to use these binaries often reveal their shortcomings, as one term slides into another and realism and idealism are shown to never be mutually exclusive. Even when he does look for a sy nthesis of these terms, he finds them in an author who, ironically, would be superseded by an author that he here identifies as never neatly distinguish themselves in M with those of the other critics discussed in this chapter. Regardless of terminology, or their feelings on the matter, they all agree that a greater allowance was being made in art towards the poetic treatment of t he detailed, the ordinary and the particular. I discuss these four theorists in this chapter because, while some are no longer considered especially prominent in their own right, they all made significant contributions to mid Victorian debates about litera ry and artistic realism. As an valorization of strenuous labor offer an
68 understanding of realism in the1850s. Lewes, WMR, and Masson are all mentioned here because they were not only acquainted (often personally) with the practitioners of realism that I analyze in the rest of this study, but also engaged critically with their works. And, taken together, all the th eorists mentioned here show the diverse possibilities for what could actually be considered a realist style in 1850s England. All of these early theorists readily acknowledge the ambiguities posed by the ct that the distinctions we still tend to accept between so persistent claims that realism places its faith strictly in mundane, surface appearances, early theorists argued that realism was a ctually a penetrative and imaginative form of poetry. In fact, their major contributions come from a belief that the use of empiricist details, as was maintained by pr evious art critics like Reynolds. Indeed, while these theorists all seem to have embraced the increasingly empiricist epistemology of the nineteenth century, Green that an empiricist approach could still speak to spiritual truths, even if these would now be coached in increasingly secular terms. Finally, these early theorists of realism all emphasize the importance of artistic labor, again showing their Carlylean roots. As Caroline Levine says, reali sm is its empiricism or its focus on details, but the demanding degree of work needed to achieve artistic veracity. Indeed, realist veracity might even be achieved in the
69 representation of a subject taken from outside of reality such as the Madonna and Child so long it shows the strenuous, earnest labor of the artist. Such labor could reveal itself in the minute rendering of details, in a prolonged focus on subjects that might otherwise seem ordinary or even unpleasant, or, again, in the Carlylean effort to reveal the spiritual within the natural. But what mattered most to these theorists was that artists take the matter of representation into their own hands, so to speak, and elaborate on their own studied observations without recourse to pre existing conventions. Concerns about finding the spiritual in the secular and of strenuously working to achieve a high level of artistic veracity were all central for th ose who practiced realism in any form in the mid Victorian era. The manifestations of their art may vary drastically at times, but they all demonstrate an earnest seeking after spiritual and secular truth. In particular, they give voice to this quest throu gh the actions and the dialogue of their were also crucial to writings by and about the members of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood, in their self promotions and also in attacked waged against them. Members of the PRB were all closely affiliated with the theorists covered in this chapter (indeed, WMR was himself a member) and I consider them the first in England to actively practice a realist aesthetic. Therefore, further understanding of mid Victorian definitions of realism must be gathered by a closer examination of this movement, the subject of the following chapter
70 CHAPTER 3 LISM OF THE PRE RAPHAELITE BROTHERHOOD In 1848, seven young students at the Royal Academy of Art the best known now being William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (DGR) banded together in secret to form the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood. Their name symbolized, as discussed in Chap ter 2, their rebellion against the Raphaelesque conventions taught at the RA, which had been established in the previous century by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Eschewing such conventions, they instead professed to represent subjects according to their own direct observations and experiences, as they imagined artists to have done in the years prior to Raphael. though critics tend to see them as belonging more strictly in the tradition of romance. In fact, that they seem to fit in both categories makes them useful for demonstrating the continuities between the two. For, while the term realism was not yet widely used to refer to artistic representation in 1848, their practice nonetheless sho ws the nascent beginnings of that which would draw so much controversy in the 1850s and beyond. Indeed, in regards to realism, the title of their short lived serial publication, The Germ: Thoughts towards Nature in Poetry, Literature and Art (1850), could not have been more appropriately chosen. The Germ was a collection of poetry, short fiction, illustration and art criticism, created not only by the members of the Brotherhood but also by such notable contributors as Ford Madox Brown, William Bell Scott, Coventry Patmore and Christina Rossetti, that showcased many of the Pre WMR, it did not do well on the market, running only four issues and ultimately operating
71 at a loss ( Germ 7 8). It did, however, receive so me positive critical praise, one reviewer picture Germ 9). Indeed, the contents of The Germ provide what may be some of the best insights into the original thoughts and a fictional thirteenth length in this chapter as an important early manifesto not only of Pre Raphaelitism but also of realism. While The Germ emerged at the beginning of 1850, the PRB did not draw much attention or cause public controversy until an exhibition at the Royal Acad emy later that year. Famously, this exhibition drew the scorn of Charles Dickens, who derided the Household Words Christ in the House of His Parents (1850) [figure 3 1] for consistently attacked figures that were widely associated with realism in the 1850s. For example, in addition to his attack on Pre Raphaelitism, he also satiriz ed William the lackadaisical painter from Little Dorrit (1855 57). (Recall, too, from the previous with the Pre Raphaelites also to be examined at length in this chapter shows the early
72 mani idealism. Even by the end of the century, however, several works emerged which re assessed the Pre Raphaelites mainly through DGR in ways that helped to integrate these false ly divided categories. Of these works, the most well known is possibly Walter Appreciations, with an Essay on Style (1889). However, a work by the now obscured critic, Esther Wood, Dante Rossetti and the Pre Raphaelite Movement (1894), also offers an extensive re evaluation of the PRB and their relationship to nineteenth Pater and Wood show these categories working together in seemingly conflicting and paradoxical ways. While their use of paradox served to reconcile the divide drawn by mid nineteenth century critics, it also provides a useful way to redress twentieth and twenty first century beliefs about realism and Pre Raphaelitism. Pater and Wood both show not on ly the complex relationship of the PRB to realism but, more importantly, the ways in which realism is continuous with and not antithetical to idealism or romance. realism as it comes via George Levine and Jennifer Green Lewis. And while Levine deals primarily with literary realism, I have few qualms applying his definition of realism to Pre Raphaelite painting. For one, to reiterate a point made in Chapter 1 and that is underscored by Raphaelites, the Victorians made little distinction between verbal and visual media when representation has alre ady been made apparent in Green
73 Just as Green Lewis shows to be the case with photography, Pre Raphaelitism, as it antipathy between realism and romance is inaccurate. However, such a claim cannot be made without first answering the challenges raised by the formal, art historical definitions of realism. For example, major works such Realism (1971) and Charles Rosen and Henr Romanticism and Realism (1984), argue that PRB painting falls short of the realist standard as it was set by the French school identified with Gustave Courbet. As Rosen and Zerner note, ars, but nineteenth century mentioned work, Pre Raphaelite Painting and Nineteenth Century Realism (2005), serves to broaden the art historical definition of nineteenth centu ry realism to include Pre Raphaelitism. To do so, she too refers to publications from The Germ and to Pre ranging study, the Pre Raphaelites practiced a distinct, yet equally valid form of real ism from the French. The primary obstacle to connecting Pre Raphaelitism with an art historical Raphaelite painting. Rosen and fini wa s antithetical to the aims of the French Realists. Fini
74 work, erases the evidence of the brush stroke s, glosses over the rough edges of the forms, fills the broken lines, [and] hides the fact that the picture is a real object made out 22). One effect of this cleaner surface, according to Rosen and Zerner, was to reinforce t he idea that the subject was not taken from Realism: in their works, an occasional choice of everyday subjects and of realistic detail is combined in contrast with the F rench Realist practice fini texture [of French Realism] are both actually forms of realism rival forms that in 1850 implied different views o and Zerner argue that which draws greater attention to the subject. Although a high degree of finish was antithetical to French Realism, then, its presence is not an automatic disqualifier for defining works such as the Pre as realist. Another obstacle to connecting Pre Raphaelitism with realism, even from the perspective of a layperson, has been their tendency to portray seemingly unrealistic Christ in the House of His Parents The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1849) and Ecce Ancilla Domini (1850) [figures 3 2 and 3
75 subject matter does not necessarily preclude a realist worldview and Werner believes central component of Pre spiritual vision of important factor in the works of many, if not all, aut hors and artists associated with realism in 1850s England. This can be said even of those who held mixed or unappreciative views of Pre Raphaelite painting: Charles Kingsley, Robert Browning spiritual view of Raphaelite nineteenth century, English realism as a whole. Pre Raphaelitism thus provides a very early example of the mid century realis m that I examine throughout this study. Indeed, in spite of its opposite perception in the twentieth and twenty first centuries, Pre Raphaelitism was almost synonymous with English realism in the nineteenth century. Therefore, reaction to Pre Raphaelite pa inting by nineteenth century critics provides valuable insight into mid Victorian understandings of realism, as do the writings of the PRB themselves. While Werner provides compelling evidence to defend Pre Raphaelitism as a form of realism in its own righ t, my goal is to look at Pre so much with showing that Pre Raphaelitism is a form of realism, but with using Pre Raphaelitism to demonstrate that realism is itself inseparable fro published in the first issue of The Germ depicts two artist characters, one from nineteenth century England and the other
76 from thirteenth egos and the story itself is a manifesto for Pre Raphaelitism. 1 It is framed and narrated by a young, unnamed British artist, whose 1847 visit to Fl orence frames the central Christian allegory pertaining to a series of visions granted to t he titular character, and to Pre artists is useful for understanding mid nineteenth century realism as a whole. For DGR uses it to argue that the artist must aim to represent the spiritual throu gh the material. fabrications, the narrative is filled with details suggesting historical accuracy, which l world. The gs at Dresden do not exist, nor does Dr Aemmster and his pamphlet, but such matter of fact details give the reader no cause for doubt. 2 A footnote placed near the end of the story refers again 1 See McGann Mirror 88 90, 92 93; Werner 165 169; Riede 12 15, 16. 2
77 resemblance between the narrator (a young, English art student exploring the museums this is not so much a work of fiction as a biographical account. All of these conventions serve to lend the narrator the authority of the art historian and critic, and create much the same sense of actuality that as will be seen Millais does in his Ch rist The focus of the narrative, however, is not on the paintings displayed in Dresden, but an obscure portrait the narrator chances upon while visiting Florence, which happens to provide the key to Pre Raphaelitism and, by extension, realism. The narrat biography, a brief knstlerroman skilled a nd much admired painter of religious scenes, Chiaro eventually rejects mimetically accurate art for didactic allegory and, when that also fails to satisfy him, finally achieves the more authentic form of self expression that leads to the genesis of the Flo rentine picture. This final painting effectively synthesizes the material (mimetically accurate) and spiritual (morally didactic) components of the first two phases and also indicates the sort of earnest craftsmanship expected of the Pre Raphaelite/realist artist. The first phase thus shows Chiaro achieving recognition as a technically skilled painter, only to find that technical virtuosity is not a sufficient goal. Hearing of the talented Giunta Pisano inclusion adds to the sense of actuality and helps situate the narrative in the thirteenth
78 century ss might win fame, and how little the 3 Disillusioned, he puts off working until hearing news of a genuine rival, at which point he sets up a stud io in Pisa and begins painting. 4 Chiaro painted the Dresden pictures; as also, in all likelihood, the one inferior in merit, but certainly his histor ical authenticity to the text. The paintings Chiaro creates during this period, which Chiaro that has already envisioned. However, Chiaro is ultimately dissatisfied with his own work. Having once believed that, as his paintings moved people to worship, he was mistaken for faith had been no more th 5 As a m anifesto for Pre operate at a level deeper than the surface. Thus he moves onto the second phase of his career, in which he abandons mimetic accuracy in favor of moral allego ry, a move that is similarly doomed to failure. 3 only to be disillusioned after attaining it. 4 (Werner 167). 5 As will be seen in Chapter 6, there is a striking s that Robert Browning gives to Fra Lippo Lippi in his poem of that title.
79 offerings were brought to them on their path, as to his Madonnas, and his Saints, and in all likelihood, and were admired for th e wrong reasons, those of the second phase are too abstract and impersonal to be admired at all. In fact, they actually provoke people in directions tried to lead men into virtue, his sanctimoniousness only caused them to reject him and fall further into vice. Thus, straightforward moral allegory is also shown to be an inadequate goal for the Pre Raphaelite/realist artist. After this second disappointment, however, Chia young woman to counsel him on the direction for his third and final phase, this phase being the key DGR provides to Pre Raphaelitism/realism. Speaking of his first phase, his soul explains that he failed because he did not f second phase, his soul says that, if he wants to reach other men spiritually, he must first God with man: argues that the artist must follow the principles of earnest work and strenuous effort that are also deemed essential to realism by the theorists covered in Chapter 2. Finally,
80 woman, Chiaro weds the mimetic accu racy of his first phase with the spiritual didacticism of the second, and thus follows the Carlylean premise that the spiritual manifests within the material. time, where he Tellingly, the Raphael painting draws the attention of scholars and students away from hands and it was its literality. You knew that figure, when painted, had been seen; yet it was not a ). The figure in a reality hough also a reality grounded in the material in a way that is faithful to the original without slavishly imitating it. The reality, whereas the much admired Raphae l signified for DGR and his Brethren a pedantic adherence to academic conventions. The kinship drawn between the unnamed between themselves and the early Italian pain ters.
81 Again, the drive to express the spiritual through the material was central to Pre Raphaelitism and to realism, although this drive has also contributed to a tendency to see Pre Raphaelitism as something other than realist. As Werner says, this is la rgely because the model of French Realism is taken as the only way to understand realism differences between the English and French models of realism. While staring at Chiaro students. Upon realizing that he is an Englishman, the Italian and French students make nd ject that 6 The sentiment uttered by the French student, that if something is not understood, it is meaningless, shows the much more materialist approach assumed to be taken by t he French Realists. 7 The flippant comments made by the continental students are actually appropriate, however, for articulating the distinctions of Pre Raphaelite realism. century painting and hi s own nineteenth century artistry. For example, he often uses portraits of women to represent spiritual subjects, as when, in his two early pictures [figures 3 2 and 3 3], he uses his sister Christina as a literal stand in for the Virgin Mary. And he would famously 6 Courtesy of translate.google.com. I have yet to come across a translation of these passages in any reprint of the story. 7 As M Archive ).
82 go on to use models such as Elizabeth Siddal and Jane Morris to depict numerous other devotional subjects. Of course, nobody has ever seriously believed that DGR painted appear as a eader ans, scholarly pamphlets, students and galleries are the primary reality, it would presumably be understood by experts such as Dr. Aemmster that Chiaro painted the portrait from a human model. In fact, when DGR himself painted one of his female models, he also figured this act in (1869), later published in The H ouse of Life (1881). The sonnet begins with an appeal to Beyond the light that the sweet glances throw And refluent wave of the sweet smile, may know The very sky and sea line of her soul. ( lines 5 8) While the portrait aims to represent a material reality, it also aims to depict something much more than the appearance of his subject (which here is abstracted into only world unto itself with skies, oceans and land, while also entirely immaterial. Only the painting
83 of a finite subject can adequately render such vast immateriality, which is nonetheless real. The painting thus expresses a reality that can only be rendered t hrough art: 11). The image acts as a living substitute in a notably erotic and sensuous manner for the original subject; t he however, show that the portrait is also of the artist himself, whose own interiority is all men 14). Finally of its subject and thus a symbol, not only of erotic desire, but also of the art and his own soul. While the final lines speak to the covetousness of the lover, they also reveal that an understanding of the subject of the painting can only be drawn by way of an understanding of its creator. Although DGR is ultimately con cerned with immaterial concepts, couched in the the psychological. While, he chooses a thirteenth because of the religiosity of the time period, Pre different meaning for the nineteenth century. As McGann says: Italian primitive art is notable to DGR and his narrator for its devotional attitude toward its materials, i.e., its religious subjects. The lat ter are among most quotidian features of their world were religious. The contemporary application would be to striv (in both senses) representation of the world, i ncluding the immediate historical world, not as it should or might be, but as it is or appears to one's unmonito red consciousness. ( Archive )
84 strictly religious vi Raphaelites secular author different matter for the Pre Raphaelites than to Chiaro, although there is a parallel pays witness to which the material and the spiritual are united in art. While of spiritual import, Pre Rap haelite art is nonetheless grounded in the material world and speaks through contemporary subject matter. As will be seen, another member of the PRB, John Everett Millais, translated his Chri st in the House of His Parents (1850) [figure 3 ely missed by common one to realism in the 1850s. It would not be until the end o f the century, when, as will also be seen, critical distance allows for a reassessment of the intentions behind
85 Raphaelite Realism e ambiguous, he consistently derided it in the debates of the 1850s. Although novels such as Bleak House (1852 53) or Great Expectations (1860 61) are often used as examples of nst the Oliver Twist (1837 39), for example, he insists that his characters, settings and events were al l drawn from real life. However, if Oliver Twist shows some tendencies towards realism, its characters remain such as David Masson, did not classify him in the realist vein. A Christ and his aforementioned use of Henry Gowan in Little Dorrit to satirize Thackeray, he reveals his antipathy to the realist aesthetic. Such antipathy, nonetheless, is useful for further understanding mid Victorian Christ is fairly well known and is referred to often in studies of the Pre Raphaelites, it thus warrants mention here for what it says about mid shop, inside which a young Christ has received some sort of wound in the palm of his hand (the symbolism being obvious). Mary kneels to kiss him, while the long, sinewy arms of a balding Joseph reach out to investigate the wound, and a young John the Baptist carries in a bowl of water to clean the wound (again with obvious symbolism). Although by no means a scene from contemporary life, it is detailed with sharp clarity and the human figures appear to be faithful renderings of what could have been
86 Victorian working class people. In fact, they w as will be seen shortly he often em phasized physical ugliness in his own characters to indicate villainy. of their movement), Raphaelites, however, of finding such a notion pass and for making painting in this oft quoted passage: so horrible in her u oman who Wherever it is possible to express ugliness of feature, limb, or attitude, you have it expressed. Such men as the carpenters might be undressed in any hospital where dirty drunkar ds, in a high state of varicose veins, are Although the painting is not set in their own time, Dickens immediately picks up on attributes in it which remind him of contemporary social is sues, narrowing in especially on signs of racial and class diffe rence. 8 Indeed, such were the signs that, as with Fagin 8 review from the Builder nful display of anatomical knowledge, and studious vulgarity of portraying the youthful Saviour as a red headed Jew boy, and the sublime personage of the virgin a sore heeled, ugly, every
87 and his gang from Oliver Twist Dickens elsewhere uses to mark characters as villains. as nothing more than neutral speculations on actual, physical appearances. The surface details fail to signify in any conventional or readily accessible way for Dickens and this seems to trouble him. 9 And, this painting, although ostensibly a depiction of the past and of a symbolically charged Biblical scene, was also a refle ction 10 Of course, Dickens also drew material from contemporary social settings, but he tended to resist the m ore impartial stance that realists professed to take. Indeed, as previously mentioned, his 1841 preface to Oliver Twist seems to defend his depictions of the criminal classes as realist. However, in the introduction to the Classics edition o f the novel (1999), Stephen Gill explains that Dickens did so largely in reaction to accusations that it belonged to the popular genre of the Newgate novel. (These accusations were no doubt aided by the fact that Oliver Twist ran concurrently with William Jack Sheppard for four months in Miscellany [Gill 447].) To distance himself from accusations that he romanticized crime, wre 9 As Lindsay Errington says, in Social and Religiou s Themes in English Art 1840 1860 Dickens believed ad 10 Christ can also functi on as a realist depiction of the Victorian social setting.
88 intention had not been to offer glamorized depictions of dashing highwaymen, but to educate society about unpleasant truths. However, while such a profession of a purely didactic intent might have helped to alleviate charges of moral irresponsibility, it does not necessarily qualify Oliver Twist as a realist text. For, as Gill points o ut and Dickens himself implies, the criminal characters in Oliver Twist never quite function as more than allegorical representations of Evil. Even his representation of Nancy, possibly the most complex of the criminal characters, was faulted for its lack of realism by Thackeray, who argued that Dickens could never dare unfruitfully. The same terminological mismatch was to feature throughout the rest of the century in debates about the nature of literary realism and the moral function of realist ar scholarly debates and, even in a postmodern age, we are still very much concerned with the moral function of art. For, by having linked his allegorical figures of Evil wit h sexism and racism although, to be fair, most, if not all, nineteenth century authors are vulnerable to such criticisms. Nonetheless, realists tended not to cast th eir characters so staunchly in terms of good and evil, something Dickens seemed to consider dangerously cavalier. Indeed, a perceived ambivalence towards matters of good and evil was in large part what Dickens aimed to satirize in Thackeray, through Littl e Dorrit
89 artist, Henry Gowan. That Gowan is at least partially a criticism of Thackeray has been long noted by critics, most recently in an article published in Dickens Quarterly by Mark Cronin. Cronin notes that Gowan is probably also a cr character, Clive Newcome, from The Newcomes ish craftsman ran counter casual approach to art, he is also critical of his mor al relativism. He has Gowan say to Arthur Clennam: I claim to be always book find the most worthless man to be the dearest old fello the gratifying report, that there is much less difference than you are inclined to suppose between an honest man and a scoundrel. (210 11) Rather than finding Gowan psychologically nuanced or broadminded, Dickens considers his cavalier ph ilosophy to be willfully perverse. Gowan assumes that good and evil will be equally mixed within every individual and that there is ultimately no difference result of Gow Gowan, Dickens accuses, misses the truth that some individuals are more virtuous than othe rs, a foolish oversight that can have dangerous consequences. villain. In spite of detec
90 Gowan even lets Blandois serve as a model for a painting, inviting his viewers to interpret him as either a on a platform, look ing very much the stage villain, with a corresponding likeness on own training, or, mo neglecting instinct is made apparent, as Gowan beats back the dog and continues his friendship with Blandois. By the end of the chapter, Blandois reveals that the dog has Dickens thus characterizes realist equanimity as a dangerous indifference to ideas of beauty and morality, and which ta kes perverse pleasure instead in ugliness and vice. Christ seems to depict a fairly straightforward religious scene, it clearly evoked unpleasant connections with the contemporary social scene. The relative neutrality with which M illais seems to depict such unpleasantness might well have suggested to Dickens a cavalier acceptance of what he found most unacceptable, l, too, from the previous chapter, that a unpleasant subject matter were also what caused David Mason to categorize the Pre
91 Raphaelites alongside Thackeray as realists. Al though Masson is less condemnatory realism along similar lines. However, while Dickens and Masson shared the widespread belief in a sharp Raphaelites in the former camp and Dickens in the latter, such beliefs were premature. Of course, Thackeray, the Pre Raphaelites and realists in general were not indifferent to ideas of beauty and morality. Nor can it b e said that Dickens, operating as he does within the while these categories were premature, they nonetheless provided a useful framework; Masson may well have been righ t to dissociate Dickens from realism in this model and to say that the Pre traditional Pre Raphaelites were in the process of redefining notions of beauty and the ways in which art conveys its mor Raphaelite morality comes by way of direct observation and not, as with Dickens, through broadly conventional types of good and evil. It is not until the end of the century, when the Pre Raphaelites are re evaluated, that their kinship with Dickens is noted and, subsequently, that the relationship between realism and idealism is similarly re evaluated End of the Century Re evaluations of the Pre Raphaelites As the story usually goes, the core group of the PRB dispersed fairly quickly, 56 trip to the Holy Land, while DGR and his group of followers continued to
92 drive the movement into i ts later, symbolist direct ions. 11 Whatever the facts of the critics re appraised and interpreted the importance of the Pre Raphaelite movement, generally with the assumptio n that DGR had been its le ader. 12 One such re appraisal, Appreciations, with an Essay on Style (1889), is considered by McGann Archive ). However, Dante Rossetti and the Pre Raphaelite Movement (1894), written by the long forgotten critic, Esther Wood, is especially helpful for connecting Pre Raphaelite religious imagery proclaimed affinity with early Italian artists and draw many of the sa confidently than critics at mid century, in ways that, while paradoxical, redress the earlier, false divisions created between these ter ms. Pater affirms that Pre Raphaelite connections to the Italian past speak to their particularly nineteenth century form of realism. He draws connections between DGR and Dante Alighieri, something DGR himself offered up in a way parallel to the connections he imaginative vi 11 There was never an official break amongst the original members and Werner argues, contrary to standard belief, that all remained true to their original principles throughout their careers. 12 Holm appraisal, Pre Raphaelitism and the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood (1905).
93 ma t century realism as a whole. theorists from Chapter 2, such as Ruskin, who aimed to justify the poetic use of imitat ive details. As Pater says: Poetry, at al times, exercises two distinct functions; it may reveal, it may add to the number of motives poetic and uncommon in themselves, by the imag inative creation of things that are ideal from their very birth. Rossetti did something, something excellent, of the former kind; but his characteristic, his really revealing work, lay in the adding to poetry of fresh poetic material, of a new order of phe nomena, in the creation of a new ideal. (243) orized as a form of idealism antithetical to realism. The relationship of realism to poetry will be examined it) is a return, for the nineteenth century, to the understanding of thirteenth century
94 Raphaeli tes, that I believe marks the beginnings (i.e., George Eliot. Dante Rossetti and the Pre Raphaelite Movement further connects Raphael The sister and helper of a prominent historian, Mary Anne Everett Green, very little biographical information exists about Wood herself. She did, however, publish heavily in the fields of literary an d art criticism; in addition to several pieces on the Pre Raphaelites, she also wrote about George Eliot, providing introductions to many of her novels and books of poetry. Dante Rossetti and the Pre Raphaelite Movement published concurrently in London an connecting DGR and his Brethren with the realism of George Eliot. She also redresses criticisms of the movement from the 1850s, including the infamous attack from Charles Dickens. Although the work only appears to have run the one edition, it was reprinted in 1973 and is often cited in studies of DGR and the Pre Raphaelites. While Wood begins by arguing that the Pre Raphaelites practiced a form of romance, it soon becomes clear that romance and realism are clos ely aligned for her. Indeed, her work lends further credence to the argument Jennifer Green Lewis makes a century later, which is that romance and realism functioned in much the same way Raphaelites, i n rebelling against
95 experiment, the sense of the mystery and the reality of life, the o penness of the mind empiricism and mysticism, already sounds very similar to mid century realism. In fact, from the definitions it was given in the mid century (which, in many ways, continue today), and does so in a way that is closer to how rea lism was actually used at the time. In fact, it was the inability of mid romance that caused them to dismiss it as pessimistic and ugly. In particular, Wood says it was the sense of mystery at the heart of Pre Raphaelitism that provoked the negative, critical reactions of their immediate contemporaries: seriousness is melancholy and all mystery painful, should have dismissed much of the Pre To bring the mood of awe, of sadness, of perplexity, into art at all, and more especially to present serious themes with the directness of familiar life, and without the stage craft gla mour of the heroic and the exceptional, is, in the judgment of such persons, to be indisputably a pessimist. (13 14) This passage certainly brings to mind the descriptions of Pre Raphaelitism (as well as Thackeray and realism more generally) used by Dicken s and Masson. As Wood says, Pre craft glamour of t 13 Dickens, to return again to the previous example, seems to have interpreted an absence of such stage conventions as a perversely pessimistic refusal to extol virtue at the expense of vice. However, Wood argues and I 13 in the debates surrounding sensation fiction, as I will show in Chapter 7.
96 concur that it was hasty to interpret the Pre Raphaeli te focus on the mystery of Indeed, Dickens seems to have missed the fact that he and Millais both aimed to bodies does not reflect a callous acceptance of their suffering. Rather, Wood argues, The world is more deeply concerned to day with the dark problems of nd that the painter who so translates into present day life the eternal tragedy of than if he had painted for us al l the angels in Heaven. (76 77) as metaphor; it both alludes to the story of the persecution and suffering of a single man and extrapolates from that the sufferings undergone daily by whole classes of people. Such suffering is commonplace and real, but its revelation through religious imagery carries an emotional charge and exhorts viewers to take action against it. Not that Oliver Twist surviving through every Rather, by depicting human suffering in unflinching detail, it urgently exhorts viewers to class suffering, but a hopeful message that people will take it on themselves to alleviate such suffering. Christ does, however, reveal a shift from a belief that a benig n Providence works to make human life better, to a belief that humans must w ork to make human life
97 better. 14 Such a view could indeed seem pessimistic, particularly for those who placed a strong faith in Providence (although Dickens himself seems to eventua lly come around Christ reflects, for Wood, one of the fundamental differences between the Pre Raphaelites and their self proclaimed counterparts: It was impossible, in the middle of the nineteenth century, to return absolutely to the mediaeval [sic] habit of mind. All that was best in the romance of the middle ages, the passionate idealism, the abiding sense of enigma of the u niverse, regarded by the mediaeval world as a mystery of faith, has come upon our own age rather as a mystery of doubt. (15) As with Pater, Wood concludes that Pre which joins matter to spirit, but which casts doubt instead of faith as the defining attribute of the mysterious. Pre ears than the affectation of dramatic does not wait for divine intervention, but places hope for change in secular and human endeavor. Through their focus on humanity and grounding of the spiritual within the secular, Pre Raphaelitism thus anticipates the realism of George Eliot, as Wood herself fundamental change in the constitution 14 The Girlhood of Mary Virgin The Scapegoat (1856) as operating within this same humanist framework.
98 lief in unseen goodness a deduction from instead of a Levine says, realist faith in the inherent worth of existence ultimately comes from the observations that they drew from the material world, rather than from religious dogma continue to develop t he shifting of religious faith into secular sk epticism that begins with them. 15 Pater and Wood thus help to show not only how Pre Raphaelitism relates to realism but also how realism is itself continuous with idealism. Recall that realism was itself largely an invention of the 1850s, at least as it was used in relation to artistic representation. That Pater and Wood use it as if it had a much longer history shows how entrenched it had become in the vocabulary of the nineteenth century. At the same time, usin g the term as they do, Pater and Wood redefine the relationship it had originally been given to the supposed idealism of poetry or romance. Instead of treating idealism and realism as an opposition, they conceive realism as following out of idealism, as a function of poetry and romance. However, for them romance is also, as it exists in the nineteenth century, distinctly different from the romance of the thirteenth century, as it directs its mysteries towards doubt and secular appeals to humanity. It is thi century and was accused of taking an entirely disinterested stance towards it subjects, to the 15 Eliot herself had a somewhat mixed reac tion to the Pre Raphaelites, as will be noted more in Chapter 6.
99 virtue. Pater and Wood correct this mid century misconception, however, and place realism back in the tradition of an idealism that seeks such affirmations As mentioned at the start of this chapter, twentieth and twenty first century audiences tend not t o immediately respond to Pre Raphaelitism as if it were a type of realism. This has partly to do, as Werner argues, with art historical definitions of realism that are grounded in French movements of the same name. Moreover, though, and simply from a laype seem like a very fit description for Pre suggests too many symbolic parallel s to allow for it as a work of realism. Indeed, understandings of realism taken from the French model are likely connected to these more informal impressions that Pre Raphaelite painting does not seem ver y realistic or to correspond to anything taken from real life. One must be careful, however, to resist the temptation to correlate what seems to realism What seems realistic to an audience may change, but, as the nineteenth century. And, while they are among those who find that Pre Raphaelitism falls short of the French model, Werner argues that realism can at least be a broader affair than they a Pre Raphaelitism marks the English manifestation of realism. Informed in large part by Carlyle, this manifestation of realism takes on a dimension of mysticism not found in the
100 French model and that may well lead twentieth and twenty first century audiences to view their works as unrealistic. Indeed, the Pre works as realist, even defining this new term in large part around the ir paintings. They even attributed to Pre Raphaelite realism the same qualities that still tend to be men like Dickens, Masson and WMR, Pre Raphaelitism was unambiguously realist, even if it seems to offer now, at best, a qualified form of realism. If Pater and Wood restored the romance to mid century conception of Pre Raphaelitism, we seem now to have los t the sense of their realism. In fact, Pre Raphaelitism holds together these two terms, providing a reminder that, while they may seem opposed, they actually do fit together. The materialism that, to men like Dickens, seemed opposed to idealism and the spi ritualism that, to us, seems opposed to realism were part of the same movement. And this movement is part of overarching, nineteenth century turn towards what was consistently referred to as of doubt and the secular to a major work of mid Victorian poetry Aurora Leigh that I turn to in Chapter 4, as a further development i n mid Victorian realism
101 Figure 3 1. John Everett Millais, Christ in the House of His Parents (1849 1850). Reprinted from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:John_Everett_Millais_ _Christ_in_the_House_of_His_Parent s_%28%60The_Carpenter%27s_Shop%27%29_ _Google_Art_Project.jpg
102 Figure 3 2. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1849). Reprinted from: http://www.rossettiarchive.org/docs/s40.rap.html
103 Figure 3 3 Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ecce Ancilla Domini (1850). Reprinted from: http://www.rossettiarchive.org/docs/s44.rap.html
104 Figure 3 4. H.K Reprinted f rom Little Dorrit page 501.
105 CHAPTER 4 REALISTIC POETRY: EL IZABETH BARRETT BROW AURORA LEIGH Realism should be defined as the antipode of art. It is perhaps more odious in painting and in sculpture than in history and the novel; I do not mention poetry: for, by reason of the mere fact tha t the instrument of the poet is a pure convention, a measured language, in a word, which immediately places the reader above the earthy quality of everyday life, one sees how grotesque would be the contradiction in terms if anyone spoke of realistic poetry admitting that such a monster could be conceived Eugene Delacroix (1860) What form is best for poems? Let me think Of forms less, and the external. Trust the spirit, As sovran nature does, to make the form 225) Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh (1857) In his 1860 journal entry, French painter, Eugene Delacroix, touches upon a number of concerns that were central to mid century debates over realism in France and England. Many of these have already been addressed in the previous chapte rs; belief (if expressed more generously) that realism was probably best suited for the genre of the novel. And, for that matter, Delacroix seems to have shared the beliefs of the eighteenth century Royal Acade mician, Joshua Reynolds (as discussed in Chapter 2), that realism was best suited for history and was directly antithetical to poetry. However, as was also discussed in Chapter 2, theorists like John Ruskin did much to reverse the status of realism as inde ed suitable for poetry. And, as was just shown in Chapter 3, the Pre Raphaelites practiced an early form of realism that would be deemed a new form of poetry by Walter Pater. realism was compatible with poetry was hardly resolved by 1860. Recall from Chapter 1 and nineteenth century critics; even painting, as Reynolds and Ruskin both show, aspired to th e level of
106 Delacroix felt it could not; poetry, for him, depended on an adherence to formal development of realism was a matter of changing conventions, replacing the Aca demicism of figures like Reynolds and Delacroix with an approach that did find looked at some of the earliest attempts to formulate such a change. The two chapters of Aurora Leigh (1857) in this context, as an important work that engages directly in the developm ent of a poetic realism. Aurora Leigh (1857) is the first of the works in my study to offer a sustained realist representation of realist of art and artists in ways that in turn offer commentary on realist representation. The previous chapters dealt mainly in art theory and art criticism, with Little Dorrit and art criticism than a realist narrative, as both Chiaro and the nameless narrator are relatively flat characters. Aurora Leigh however, takes its artist characters namely the titular protagonist and her friend, the painter Vincent
107 Carrington and develo ps them in a realist fashion, just as the narrative has them simultaneously develop their own artistic practice s towards a pursuit of realism. 1 For those unfamiliar with Aurora Leigh it is a Knstlerroman centered on the eponymous heroine, a young, struggling poetess in nineteenth century London. Italian by birth, she is sent to live with her paternal aunt at Leigh Hall in England after the deaths of her parents. Unable to thrive well at Leigh Hall, she fi nds solace in the ancient aunt and the condescension of her cousin Romney, she aspires to become a poet herself. The rest of the story follows her development as an artis t and her tumultuous relationship with Romney, the Christian social crusader who is by turns engaged to and separated from the working class waif, Marian Erle, courted by the designing Lady Waldemar and ultimately blinded in a house fire (very much like Ro chester from Jane Eyre a novel to which Aurora Leigh has often been compared). The story ends with Aurora publishing a book of poetry to critical and popular acclaim and married to a much humbled Romney. Barrett Browning develops her characters in a reali st fashion by having them grow of identity in self and others. Recall from Chapter 1 that one of the hallmarks of realist literature, as it supplanted the Gothic novel, w notions of essential selfhood that were determined around signs of race, gender and 1 to Aurora the poet and her painter friend, Vincent Carrington. For example, at the beginning of Book II,
108 class. In Aurora Leigh expressions of a ge ndered self do take center stage. However, in its explorations of gendered identity, characters are not merely straight jacketed into limited roles, which is what critics of realism tend to argue that it does. Rather, Elizabeth Barrett Browning uses realis m to offer a feminist exploration of gendered identity, having her protagonist rise against inhibiting societal restrictions and Carrington grow into a more sophisticated awareness of female identity. While Aurora Leigh does reinforce notions of gendered i dentity, then, it does so in ways that are often empowering for its female characters. Through the development of its central characters, Aurora Leigh simultaneously moves them towards a practice of realism. For Aurora, the classical poetry that first insp ires her comes from a tradition that leaves her ill equipped to adequately see or depict the realities of the nineteenth century; her choice of such a limiting tradition is the product of her socially enforced isolation and conventional feminine education, which have similarly stunted her growth as an individual. As Aurora develops and becomes understanding and representing the world in which she lives. Furthermore, Carrin gton also begins the story practicing a very formal, classically inspired style, such as would have been taught at the Royal Academy, and which causes him to see his model and eventual wife, Kate Ward, through the lens of patriarchal fantasy. For him, the essential (as Barrett Browning sees it) woman. For both Aurora and Carrington, then, increased awareness of self and others leads to a greater appreciation of realism which in turn leads to an even greater degree of awareness of self and others.
109 The transitions that Aurora and Carrington make from classically inspired, and/or academically taught conventions, and towards realism, parallel the Pre Raphaelite rebellion c 159). An d Barrett Browning, herself, began writing poetry from an earlier, much more accomplishments with Aurora Leigh 2 poets to classical mythology. As Aurora says, she cannot believe: They were but men who wears a front; mpered at a plume. 3 (V.146 149) This formulation essentially takes the idealized figures out of classical mythology and translates them into realist subjects, much the same as Millais does with the Holy Family in Christ in the House of his Parents In her act of translating the ideal into the real, she also reveals a shared Carlylean influence with the Pre Raphaelites, and undoubtedly references his The Diamond Necklace (1837) in her mention of ever seemed the Age of Romance to itself Charlemagne, let the 35). In fact, Barrett Browning had plans to adapt a number of Greek mythological and 2 46). 3 Ruskin also refers to this episode in Modern Painters III
110 Christian subjects to a modern treatment. 4 Much like the Pre Raphaelites, then, Barrett Browning shows the connections between romance and realism, as both she and her artistic characters gradually shift in practice away from the former and towards the latter. Even more than thr ough transitions in style, however, the connections between realism and romance in Aurora Leigh are suggested through the fusions of seemingly opposed generic conventions, such as the epic and the novel. Indeed, critics like David Masson felt that the pros e novel had not only evolved out of, but had largely supplanted the epic in verse, as it was better suited to represent the sorts of everyday subjects that were increasingly expected in nineteenth century literature. Even as early as 1848, though, an anony mous essay in the Christian Remembrancer similarly observed that, our life. It is the Odyssey and the Niebulungen Lied under a strange form: but still it is them indee Remembrancer notes the tendency of fiction to move increasingly away from theatrical conventions and towards nuanced psychological outward and vi sible, so as to be available for the purposes of drama, is spread over so wide an expanse of mere conventionality and commonplace, that it cannot be eliminated and presented with dramatic rapidity without outraging all sense of pro n 21). 5 Again, the Remembrancer argues that it is the novel 4 For one example, Barrett Browning planned to rewrite Prometheus Bound from a contempor ary perspective (Bush 267). 5 This shift inward, as will be seen in Chapter 7, was largely what seemed to distinguish sensation fiction from realism as an inferior form of art.
111 Maitzen 23). If the novel ha s rendered the epic obsolete, however, Aurora Leigh seems to have retained some of its formal conventions in a work that, in spite of its use of measured language, deals with subjects that were thought better suited for the realist novel. Certainly, the tension existing between seemingly different generic forms in Aurora Leigh has already been the subject of several scholarly articles. These articles also tend enre. Aurora Leigh engages in a dialogue between 48). And Marjorie (1987) similarly argues that Barrett Browning negotiates expectations of gender and ( Aurora Leigh idealism but by running the formal codes of realism and idealism against one another (90 original emphasis). However, I argue that Aurora Leigh sits more at the forefront of debates on realism than has been credited in critical scholarship. Rather than writing strictly from a feminist margin (although feminism, again, is central to Barrett realism) or playfully running together ostensibly opposed codes, Aurora Leigh speaks
112 Indeed, while Barrett Browning often concei ved of Aurora Leigh in terms of hybridity or fusion, her aim was to reveal the inseparability of perceived opposites, such Oxford edition, she says she was the ideal lifes [sic] & showing how the practical & real (so called) is but the eternal evolution of the ideal & spiritual that is, from inner to outer original emphasi s). And, although somewhat defensive of her spiritual beliefs, she nonetheless refers to herself as a realis t in several letters to Ruskin. 6 In an 1855 realist in an out of the world sense accepting 15); and in an some of realism is, again, very much in the Carlylean tradition that Werner argues was so influential for the Pre a and Carrington) was very much in keeping with realist practice of the time. her frequently realist subject matter as may initially seem, and in fact further demonstrates ho w realism is continuous with such ostensibly idealist forms. As George 6 Ruskin greatly admired Aurora Leigh naming it, in The Elements of Drawing (1
113 original seeing, gives back the intensities normally associated with larger scale, would be the epic poem. Other examples, however, would be those embraced at the start of Aurora Leigh intensely focusing in on the particulars of everyday experiences and people, Barrett Browning, like her artist characters, shows the heroism and grandeur the idealism of their contemporary existence. That the realist novel is the nineteenth of the epic poem Barrett Browning underscores through a work that functions simultaneously as both. And, as will be seen, Aurora Leigh create works that simultaneously fit into categories of idealist and realist art (indeed, Aurora Leigh is i On a final note, Aurora Leigh that, for many Victorians, realism translated equally across the verbal and visual arts and the term often pertained more to a n approach to subject matter than to strictly formal differences. The text itself crosses fluidly between the verbal and the visual; ongoing dialogues with Carrington it shows a mutual interaction between the work of verbal and visual artists. (As suggested by the quotation drawn from Book V and used at the beginning of this chapter, Aurora Leigh does not place a priority on concerns about formal structure, instead tr Aurora Leigh assumes in crossing between painting and literature, as mentioned in Chapter 1, reflects the general critical approach of the time. While, certainly, some critics wondered
114 if realism was more su ited to certain forms than others (Delacroix finding it, of course, problematic enough in painting and unthinkable in poetry), many moved fluidly between references to realism in painting or literature artist begins at Leigh Hall in England, where she is sent to live with her aunt after the successive deaths of her mother and father in her native Italy. Brought up by her aunt to be a good English housewife, her isolation at Leigh Hall not only stunts he r growth as an individual but as an artist as well. For, even artist, does not adequately prepare her for a career in the nineteenth century. Not until after leaving Lei gh Hall to fend for herself will she embrace realism. This happens by way of the encounters she has with the city life of London and Paris and throug h her own needs to achieve commercial and critical success, as well as personal authenticity. However, her development into realism will also happen, as will be explored in the following section, through her interactions with her friend, the painter, Vince nt Carrington. debates concerning such emergent topics as realism. Taught by her aunt at Leigh Hall, Aurora initially practices the most mundane of the domestic arts and crafts; as several critics have mentioned, these were strictly to be practiced in the home and not for commercial competition. Aurora does not rank herself as particularly skilled in these activities, nor does she think very highly of them: We sew, sew, pr ick our fingers, dull our sight,
115 Producing what? A pair of slippers, sir, or a stool Or else at best, a cushion, where you lean And sleep, and dream of something we are not But would be for your sake. Alas, alas! This hurts most, this that, after all, we are paid The worth of our work, perhaps .. (I.457 465) If women are not valued for this sort of artistic labor, it is because this labor is not intended to produce much of val even be of use in the home, as supply comes to outweigh demand and stools become work leads to alienation and mutual contempt between husband and wife. In the end, Aurora sees this role of domestic artisan as unbearably stultifying, one that would make her unappreciated for who she really is and fill her with self loathing. This monotonous upbringing does have its advantages, though, as in trying to escape it she discovers her true passion in the world of books from which she sets her mind on a poetic vocation. Thus sh e will come to place her work in the public sphere with professional artists like Carrington. Compared to the relatively stable if lackluster demands of the domestic sphere, competition in the public sphere requires an artist to not only be familiar with e merging trends in representational practices but to also lead the way in terms of innovation. Initially, though, Aurora seems uninterested in contemporary practices in representational art and is actually drawn to a traditional view of poetry as a means to express the otherworldly (perhaps in rebellion against her
116 in long knowing about contemporary iss ues). it makes sense that she initially accepts the more traditional view of poetry as a vehicle y truth tellers now left to God, The only speakers of essential truth, Opposed to relative, comparative, A nd temporal truths .. (I.859 862) idealist than a realist; shows her further c ontempt for realist concerns in the statement that follows: Lay telegraphs, gauge railroads, reign, reap, dine, And dust the flaunty carpets of the world For kings to walk on, or our presidents, The poet suddenly will catch them up With his voice like a thunder This is life, this word is being said in heaven, 876) Common men, telegraphs and railroads all seem like the stuff of realism (indeed, a very detailed accoun in Book VII) and yet Aurora here pronounces that these all amount to naught in the eyes of God. Steeped in the literature of the past, isolated at Leigh Hall from the concerns of the modern world, Aurora sees herself as part of a tradition that proclaims the timeless and the ideal to the masses, well above petty, everyday concerns.
117 Aurora Leigh however, is a Knstlerroman and these early beliefs will be slowly tempered with an understanding of the importance of the contemporary and the she must subsequently earn a living and directly face the everyday sufferings of looking at the suffering of the masses, especially when a t their most ugly or repulsive. 7 However, she must train herself to focus more on contemporar as Masson argued was done by Thackeray and the Pre Raphaelites in order to not only successfully compete as a poet of the nineteenth century but to do any real, social good. One of the most striking realist passa ges thus occurs in Book III of the poem, 8 Significantly, Book III provides the reader with the first glimpse of Aurora living on her own (seven years after leaving Leigh Hal direct encounters with the squalor of Victorian London: A sick child, from an ague fit, ainst his left With an old brass button in a blot of sun, Jeered weakly at me as I passed across The uneven pavement; while a woman, rouged Upon the angular cheek bones, kerchief torn, Thin dangling locks, and flat lascivious mouth, Cursed at a window both ways, in and out, By turns some bed rid crea ture and myself (III.760 768) 7 8 The poem is less successful in its treatment of Marian herself. Without specu lating too much on the reasons (likely tied to anticipated audience reactions), it seems fair to say the poem fails to follow through on its realist vision with Marian.
118 This passage seems to exemplify the main traits of realism: a detailed description (the brass button, the rouged, angular cheek bones) of a scene taken out of contemporary, everyd ay life. It does not falsify, make picturesque or otherwise soften the painful nature of the setting at hand but shows the sick child and the rather crass woman (perhaps a prostitute) in a very frank manner. dered rather effectively in a 773), sexual innuendo tumble up your good clothes, veil and all, / And turn your whiteness dead 778)) all seem to accurately reflect her social class and disposition. (Of course, people do not normally speak in blank verse, but the form here is largely transparent.) The t have been most miserable, / To 782), while also attempting to understand her behavior as a product she is also moved to pity and tosses money on the street, which is snatched up by an ugly mob that had been lurking in the shadows. The point of depicting such squalor, difficult as it is for Aurora to look upon (as the woman at the window rightly observes), is to show the degree of suffering inflicted o n the lower classes that Romney is obsessed with to the exclusion of art. More importantly, such depictions show the spiritual corruption caused by suffering: the cruelty and vulgarity of the woman at the window,
119 the greed of the mob. Rather than being an employed to show Christ how far soci ety has deviated from an ideal. 9 If Aurora is not exactly scientific in her observations, she does aspire towards a certain degree of clinical deta chment. She realizes that she must make an effort to look at some of the less pleasant aspects of life to better understand the world around her. For example, while observing street life in Paris, she confesses: These crowds are very good For meditation (w hen we are very strong) Though love of beauty makes us timorous, And draws us backward from the coarse town sights To count the daisies upo n dappled fields .. (VI.136 140) 73). For even a poor beggar boy: Contains himself both flowers and firmaments And s urging seas and aspectable stars And all that we would push him out of sight In orde r to see nearer .. (VI.194 197) Aurora Leigh from its Neo Platonic and Christian bases (which inform Barrett claims that all reality is a manifestation of a single, divine presence. Therefore, one should acquire the strength and discipline to look at all manifestations of the divine, even those that are not necessarily picturesque, in order to better understand and app reciate it. This may well 9 the product of a look at harsh realities, but she is not dispassionate.
120 nineteenth century London and Paris, an increasingly independe nt Aurora Leigh comes to appreciate the discipline required for the Ruskinian realism mentioned in Chapter 2. What is gained by such detached, clinical meditation may not be so much a solution to human suffering but simply greater wisdom, understanding and compassion. Indeed, such a clinical perspective might seem to endorse the view held by Dickens that mid century realism (shared by Barrett Browning and the Pre Raphaelites) rt such an interpretation is that the poem does seem wary of rationalist ideas of progress, maintaining instead the fundamentally static, immutable universe associated more conventionally with idealism. (Perhaps its worldview is best expressed in the openi ng Ecclesiastes a book which professes that nothing changes and that, while wisdom leads to suffering, it is at least an nature can be living conditions for the poor mean little if their souls are not also nourished. Yet, at the same time, she does not neglect the importance of environment on spiritual demeanor, optimistic view of social progress is not so much his professed d esire to provide the Pre Raphaelites, Barrett Browning believes that matter and spirit are inseparable
121 physical reality. Just as the poem weds matter and spirit, however, it also weds visual and verbal. Indeed, the very first few sentences of Aurora Leigh indicate there will be a casual overlap between verbal and visual representation t hroughout. For in lines 4 5 of Book I, slips between references to writing and painting, is that visual and verbal representations are interchangeable. Aurora will not only be writing an autobiographical poem, but also simultaneously painting a self portrait through language. Yet, there are also ways in which verbal and visual are n ot strictly interchangeable ghostlike out of a festive dress substituted at the las t minute for the funereal shroud: That swan like supernatural white life Just sailing upward from the red stiff silk Which seemed to have no part in it nor power To keep it from quite brea king out of bounds. (I.139 142) While this composition is rendered i n visual terms, it nonetheless denies the reader a out of the lifeless shell of the red dress, give no indication of personally recognizable features. In becoming flu into a visual abstraction. Over time, however, it loses even the abstractly visual: In years, I mixed, confused, unconsciously, Whatever I last read or heard or dreamed, Abhorrent, admirable, beau tiful, Pathetical, or ghastly, or grotesque,
122 But kept that mystic level of all forms .. (I.147 152) to help express the that nonetheless takes shape in countless, unique manifestations of the temporal and representation to convey the simultaneously temporal and eternal nature of her subject. Of course, Aurora is a poet and it could be argued that even her visual descriptions are rendered through strictly verbal language. And, by the same logic, it medium. First of all, t hough, we must remember that Carrington and his paintings also in the case of actual paintings similar to those attributed to Carrington in the poem (such as those of t he Pre Raphaelites) it seems likely that no object ever truly esca pes the field of signification. 10 So, whether in poetry or in painting, verbal and visual elements are always at play. Aurora Leigh arg ue that it is the treatment of the subject and not so much the medium itself whether ostensibly more verbal or more visual that ultimately defines it as realist 10 See Mitchell or Green
123 Indeed, while Carrington and Aurora work in different media, the poem shows them both beginning from similar theoretical and artistic positions. Aurora first meets Carrington during the formative years in which she discovers classical poetry and when he is painting, as will be seen shortly, scenes out of Greek mythology forms (bodies) develop from internal essences (souls). 11 And, just as verbal and visual play off ea ch other throughout the poem, Aurora and Carrington play off each other in the development of their gendered identity. classically inspired painting that cause Aurora to rethink her own artistic career. Near the beginning of Book III, she receives a letter from Carrington, informing her of his plans to paint t he Greek mythological figure, Danae, being impregnated by Jove (Zeus) in the form of a shower of gold. He plans to n his letter, he explains that he first he describes shows Danae in anticipation: Both arms a flame to meet her wishing Jove Halfway, and burn him faste r down; the face 11
124 And breasts upturned and straining, the loose locks All glowing with the anticipated gold. (III.122 126) In the second, Jove has already arrived and: She lies here flat upon her prison floor, The long hair swathed about her to the heel L ike wet seaweed. You dimly see her through The glittering haze of that prodigious rain, Half blotted out of nature by a love As heavy as fate (III.128 133) Clearly, both contain sexually charged imagery and Carrington seems mainly interested in the eroti c aspects of the Danae myth. In fact, Victorian men often used the Danae myth to denote prurient fa ntasies about female sexuality. 12 At the same time, however, Victorian women used the myth themselves to indic ate male prejudice. 13 By using Kate Ward to depic t Danae, Carrington reveals the chauvinist asp ect of the neo classical ideal. 14 Pollock is certainly correct that the realism of Aurora Leigh is connected to existing forms than emergent ones. As will be seen, the real Kate Ward will make a better subject for a painting than Danae, the idealized figure from Greek mythology. 12 As Bram Djikstra shows in his Idols of Perversity this myth was frequently used pa rticularly around the end of the nineteenth century to depict male fantasies of female lust and rapacity (369 71). The prostitute he has just paid in gol 13 55). The reference to Danae in Aurora Leigh The Princess femini part be (116). 14 The neo classical art he creates in the tradition of history painting was considered, for a time, the epitome of masculine creativity (Martinez 6 21).
125 gentle mockery. His letter conclu des by saying that he prefers the latter of his two 135). Aurora agrees but with an irony calm with abdication. S he is Jove, / And no more Danae 137). Danae has been obliterated and supplanted by Jove, in an act that foreshadows the sexual attack on Marian Erle. However, Aurora follows her initial response to preting them in a way he did not necessarily intend: The painter symbolizes unaware Two states of the recipient artist soul, One, forward, personal, wanting reverence, And know that, when indeed our Joves come down, We all turn stiller than w e have ever been. (III.137 143) Aurora also prefers the moment of impregnation represented in the second of formulation, though, Jove represents divine inspiration and not sexual penetration. She diffuses its more licentious implications and finds a way to take an interest in his work. After a pause in her train of thought, represented literally by a line break, she concludes, and may say a word / 146). Not only has her re reading given her a way to appreciate his painting, he provides a connection to her past, her childhood in Italy, her days at Leigh Hall and Romney. on her own career as an artist which has largely been a disappointment up to this point.
126 150). Most notably, her literary career has not flourished and she feels she has on (III.205 207). The only fans this work inspires are those with an overly romantic orientation who lavish undeserved p raise on poet and poetess alike. Aurora thinks less of her fans for liking what she considers to be substandard work and then less of herself for drawing admiration from such an undiscriminating audience. On coming to this realization, she destroys her wor ks in progress; that doing so does not particularly upset her reinforces her belief that her poems had little life in them from the start. While she is disappointed with her poetic efforts thus far, she believes she still has the ability to write a truly sketch of Danae, Aurora has been burning with a desire for artistic release. She also expresses these feelings through references to mythology: And yet I felt it in me where it burnt, Like those hot fire seeds of creation held But I I was not Juno even! (III.251 254) The feelings of artistic impotence Aurora expresses here shed further light on her preference for and interpretation o frustrations are exacerbated by the fact that she has spent must of her time and effort apprehending, I resolved by prose / (III.307 high minded verse expressed through a reference to the world building powers of gods and goddesses is contrasted with the tedious work
127 she must do to earn a living. And while some of her readers claim that her poetic voice can still be detected in her prose works, she disavows anything poetic about them. In short, what Aurora does produce she does so only to earn a living, and what she wants to produce remains only in her imagi nation. Aurora Leigh expl ores a number of the relations that exist between verbal and visual in the poem. Much like rendered solely through language This new narrative, of a nineteenth century poet struggling to earn a living writing magazine articles and encyclopedia entries, is also much closer to a realist narrative. And the traces of poetry in her prose suggest the hybrid form of Aurora Leigh itse lf. However, Aurora is still imagining her existence in terms of Greek mythology and is not planted, Aurora and Carrington have yet to create their realist masterwork s. Book VII of the poem, after her move to Florence. This letter refers back to the earlier one, and the visit Aurora made to his studio after reading it: Remember what a pair o f topaz eyes You once detected, turned against the wall, That morning in my London painting room; The face half sketched, and slurred; the eyes alone! (VII.578 583)
128 Kate Ward was originally intended to sit for Danae and at this point Carrington had only finished her eyes with an admirable precision, it seems! It is appropriate that Kate goes, as a symbol for essential self in Aurora Leigh eyes on canvas, Carrington realizes that he is covetous of their owner: I own the truth: I had thrown them there to keep them safe from Jove, They would so naughtily find out their way To both the heads of both my Danaes Where just it made me mad to look at them. (VII.583 587) He can no longer bear the thought of casting Kate becomes a bit obsessed with those eyes and can no longer proceed as planned: Such eyes! I could not paint or think of eyes But those and so I flung them into paint (I change my style and le ave mythologies) (VII.588 592) Admittedly, the rescue narrative invoked at the end here is still a p art of Victorian jealousy and imprisonment of her. (His letter also includes pra ise of Aurora as an artistic equal, suggesting further that he has been influenced by her feminism.) Most importantly, though, he has left off painting mythologies and has instead painted the real Kate Ward: A half length portrait, in a hanging cloak Like I pressed too for the nude harmonious arm
129 ave her way, and have her cloak (VII.595 598) realism from neo cla ssicism. The fraying shows signs of everyday wear and tear, whereas the other harkens to the idealized forms of Greek statuary and history painting. It also shows a less sexualized attitude towards his subject. This is not a painting of an idealized figure worries that Carrington is now merely oppressing Kate as a domineering husband instead of as a vulgar artist: And quotes you up Where, three months since, her eyes were: nay, in fact, Nought satisfied her but to make me paint Your last book folded in her dimpled hands Instead of my brown pal ette a s I wished (VII.603 608) The substitute of the book for the palette is another symbolic gesture, replacing of painting and poetry). It also adds a narrative element to the painting, as it alludes to fluence over Carrington and Kate Ward. While this influence seems to have reformed Carrington, it also seems to keep Kate free from his control Ward shows the influence of A artistic development. Indeed, his letter carries praise of her most recent publication and news that it has become a critical and popul juxtaposing of these two works suggests that both her artist characters have reached a
130 similar maturity. Aurora even connects herself to Carrington in her reflections, saying Holds firmly by the natural, to reach The spiritual beyond it fixes still The type with mortal vision, to pierce through, With eyes immortal, to the antetype Some call the ideal gton Is glad of such a creed: an artist must, Who paints a tree, a leaf, a common stone With just his hand, and finds it suddenly A piece wit h and conterminous to his soul (VII .779 798) Certainly, this passage echoes the statements Barrett Browning made o n realism in her letters to Ruskin Ward captures much better a timeless ideal than if sh e were painted as the mythological century itself a type of fictional construct, but one Aurora Leigh poetry but with the realist vision of Aurora Leigh as a whole. There is no need for Carrington to idealize his model by turning her into Danae st representation grants Kate more autonomy. Representing her in an idealized form, on the other hand, causes Carrington to miss seeing what she really is, just as overlooking a poor beggar boy in the streets might cause Aurora to misrepresent humanity as whole. In learning to
131 more closely observe their environments and remain true to what they see, both move closer to the realist style gaining ascendancy in the nineteenth century. However, both also remain inflected by their classical and neo classical inf luences and work not only with the world of forms but also with a world of ideals behind those forms. Aurora Leigh thus uses its artist figures to suggest an aesthetic theory that best represents the infinite relationships between the ostensibly polar oppo sites of inner and outer, word and image or spiritual and material. Yet, if realism is considered by some to be applicable only with the latter items in that lists of pairings, it was not so strictly delineated for Barrett Browning or for many of her conte mporaries Aurora Leigh provides a successful example of that unthinkable monster dismissed by Delacroix in his 1860 journal entry: realistic poetry. Written in blank verse, day the poem, but so, too, do the drawing rooms of the middle and upper classes, where Aurora encounters petty intrigues, endless gossip and cruel deceit. However, in Aur ora Leigh everyday life transcends its limitations to become something exceptional and heroic. Kate Ward may be an ordinary, unremarkable woman, but she is also on par with a Greek goddess. A beggar boy on the streets of Paris may at first appear unseemly the epic poem or the neo classical painting. Realism is not, as Delacroix accuses, incompatible with poetry; it is a form of poetry.
132 Barrett Browning thus joins ranks with Ruskin, Lewes and the other theorists mentioned in Chapter 2, who were intent on ar And she is the first in my study to do so, not so much through direct argumentation, but through a sustained demonstration of realist technique and characters. Her artist characters, Aurora and Carrington, both de velop in realist fashion from their initially placed on her by society and Carrington out grows the patriarchal biases that he has inherited. As both come to personal maturity, their artistic styles also come to maturity, and through their artistic accomplishments Barrett Browning offers even further commentary on the possibilities and advantag es of realist art. That is, itself a work of realism, Aurora Leigh offers up meta commentary through fictionalized examples of realist art and artists. Realism, Aurora Leigh and its artist characters all argue through concerns of the nineteenth century: growing class divides, overpopulation and poor living conditions in the cities and Nor, finally, should Aurora Leigh be considered an aberration. Its mysticism may seem eccentric and incompatible with realism, but, once more, it was very much consonant with the realism of the time. As already seen, the Pre Raph very much identified with realism by their contemporaries, was also heavily indebted to Carlylean mysticism that influenced Barrett Browning, even though such mysticism now seems incompatible with realism in the twentieth and twenty fir st centuries. Both the Pre Raphaelites and Barrett Browning, however, used realism with the intent to show
133 the spiritual manifesting through the material. And Pre Raphaelitism, as Pater identifies, Aurora Leigh do es stand out, however, because of the way it retains its poetic structure. Most works of nineteenth century realism did, reflecting the critical assumptions of the time, take the shape of the prose novel. Yet, these too, as will be seen, share much in comm on with Aurora Leigh including its Carlylean worldview. Chapter 5 thus turns to early realist prose, several novels written by Charles Kingsley, a man who was certainly influenced by Carlyle and whose practice of realism was very similar to that of Barret
134 CHAPTER 5 VISIONAL REALISM particularly directed to the impressions of sight, objects pass perpetually before the eyes without conveying any impression to the brain at all; and so pass actually unseen, not merely unnoticed, but in the full clear sense of the word unseen (Qtd. in Ro senberg 24 25) John Ruskin, Modern Painters I (1843) siness was not just to see what they cannot see to open their eyes to the harmonies and the discords, the miracles and the absurdities, which seem to them one uniform grey fog of common places (17) Charles Kingsley, Yeast (1848) During the same year t hat the budding young realists of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood were rebelling against the Royal Academy of Art, Charles Kingsley was questioning the nature of art and artistic vision in his early novel, Yeast (1848). As the above quotation attests, in Ye ast Kingsley articulates concepts very similar to those of the realists discussed in the preceding chapters. For one, the Yeast quotation is very Modern Painters (1843) also quoted above suggesting a k practice of realism, as just discussed in Chapter 4. Also, as in Aurora Leigh Yeast features a number of characters who all offer meta commentaries on artistic realism: the protagonist, Lancelot Smith, his painter friend, Claude Mellot, and Kingsley as a means of voicing artistic theories, as he reappears in several of his works,
135 including his later novel, Two Years Ago ( TYA ) (1857). 1 Through these two novels and his artist characters, Kingsley explores a practice of realism that he will eventually abando n, but that will be further developed by Robert Browning and George Eliot, as will be seen in Chapter 6. surprising that he often took pains to distance himself from them. He seems to have especially disliked the Pre they perversely exaggerated th 2 Most significant are his attacks in TYA which will be addressed in the final section of t his chapter. But also, in an essay published in Prose Idylls ), he says: I am a thoroughly anti at the expense of honest flesh call itself such as much as it likes. The highest art must be that in which the outward is the most perfect symbol of the inward; and, theref ore, a healthy soul can be only expressed by a healthy body. (Qtd. in Errington 35) Much of this antipathy has to do with his associating Pre Raphaelitism with a neo Catholic revival in art, which, as will be seen shortly, did play a major role in shaping mid Victorian realist practice. Kingsley also seems to have connected Ruskin to this Letters 1 Prose Idylls (1873), in which Kingsley imagines himself traveling across the Devon countryside with his fictional artist, admiring scenes from nature and discoursin g on artistic representation. In the interests of space, however, I will not address it here. 2 Raphaelites.
136 Raph aelites on these grounds reflects a misunderstanding on his part. Ruskin would have been as opposed to neo Catholicism as Kingsley, and the Pre Raphaelites were similarly careful to distance themselves from such reviv alism. 3 Furthermore, in his profession to that of the Pre Raphaelites. 4 In spite of his disavowal of the realism of Ruskin and the Pre Raphaelites, then, he had more in common with their practice than he may have realized or liked to admit. In fact, Kingsley and Ruskin shared many fundamental beliefs about the purpose to have be en inspired by his writings, if he also distrusted what he perceived to be his Italian and Catholic leanings. 5 Ruskin, on the other hand, was less generous, and was even nasty towards Kingsley. In addition to setting up a passage from Alton Locke as shown partly rotten, partly distorted Complete 3 o what he perceived as a neo Catholicism in Pre Raphaelite art. 4 Casa Guidi Windows on the other had, was a bit careless in its artistry, he with a (Hawley 171). 5 and professes tha t he is unequal to it ( Letters 119). This professed inferiority is restated in his 1871 West Indian travelogue, At Last ter to Thomas Hughes, he mocks Alton Locke 55 56).
137 609). 6 By and seems to have been aware that they at least shared similar beliefs. Most notably, both were heavily influenced by Carlyle and doubtless inherited his belief that the spiritu al manifested itself through the material, which was so influential for the Pre Raphaelites and Barrett Browning. Owing to such influence, both Kingsley and Ruskin (as, again, reflected in the above quotations) believed that seeing was an act of empiricism Protestants during the mid Victorian period under study. 7 The differences between them at this time were largely superficial and their mutual hostilities seem to have stemmed largely from m isunderstandings and rivalries. 8 Most importantly, Kingsley and Ruskin shared the belief that people could be taught to see the world more clearly through th e mediations of art and artists and, by extension, to come to an agreement on the nature of reality. As mentioned in Chapter 1, both lived at a time during which human vision was radically altered by new technologies; such changes also contributed to a con ception of truth as something that varied with each individual, rather than as something imposed from a fixed, external free one for the nineteenth century. And, as I 6 Complete 586). 7 Both Kingsley and Ruskin were connected to the Christian Socialist movement and taught for a while at 8 Ruskin also suggests, in the letter in which he denounces
138 also show in Chapter 1, the realist novel has been pointed to as one of the tools used for unifying a society of individuals, often at the expense of integral parts of their identity. Indeed, Ruskin expresses his i mpatience with the idea that truth might be Raphaelitism), and reading images in ways that ensured the stability of the self and the nation. Paradoxically, how of self conscious mediation, highlighting favorable aspects of a subject and suppressing less favorable ones. Not that these images were meant to be deceptive; the realist artist, for Kingsley was so in tune with the hidden, spiritual world that he could The artist did not thus falsify through mediation, but revealed hidden truth based on empiricist observ ation. Or so Kingsley seemed to believe around the time he wrote Yeast When he writes TYA nearly ten years later, he seems to have changed his mind about the infallibility of the realist artist. In that novel, as will be seen, the artist, Claude Mellot, comes to a tacit realization that his own desires could easily obscure and thus alter his representations of reality. Rather than follow up on what this might mean for
139 fixed, eternal truths, he has Mellot provisionally abandon representational art for the Kingsley, too, seems to have abandoned the realist novel after TYA apparently unable or unwilling to explore the sort of individualized truths that George Eliot would be more k nown for grasping. people have had difficulty identifying him as a realist, although realism has always involved some degree of self conscious mediation. What makes Kingsley differe nt from his peers is that, through a method surprisingly similar to that of the French Realists, he was open about his mediations. The result, as will be seen, is that critics both by his contemporaries and in present scholarship accuse him of having m issed the mark of literary realism. Although his critics usually give him credit for mastering the pictorial dimension of realism, especially in the creation of landscapes, he has been faulted for creating unbelievable situations, not developing characters evenly enough and, worst of all, interrupting his narratives with sermons. In effect, he breaks the spell of his own illusions and undermines his own authority, although, as will be seen, this was largely by his own design. Those who followed him, such as Robert Browning and George Eliot, would practice a much more seamless form of realism, sustaining its illusions and reinforcing its truth claims. Charles Kingsley and Realism The Water Bab ies (1863), Kingsley has long failed to measure up as a realist author by critical
140 the need to insert religious instruction into his stories. Both note his self proclaimed idea in the preceding chapters. Kingsley himself seems to have bought into the binary that opposed idealism to realism and that understood the latter as a method of representation that focused only on the material. In his favorable review of The Sisters of Charity (1863), by the French p right to paint anything which he may happen to see, and exactly as he se world; of what he might be; of what all things might be; adventitious stage he beauty that is in them synthesis between what Kingsley perceived to be the opposite extremes of realism and ned with an aim to instruct the
141 realism, properly understood, differs little from realism as it actually manifested itself during the mid nineteenth century. In fact, Kings owing as they did to his aforementioned aversion to neo Catholicism influenced many of the now more Eliot. According to DeLaura, an 1836 publication by the French, Roman Catholic art historian, Alexis Francois Rio, 9 provided the impetus for these influential views. Rio believed that the Catholic faith informed the great art of the early Italian Renaissance especially by the Medici, w DeLaura observes: Churchman like Charles King In respo his own Protestant beliefs. In lieu of a disembodied spirituality, Kingsley (and la ter in century attempt to 9 (1836). [ Of Christian poetry, in princip le, in its matter and its forms: Form of Art ]
142 reconcile soul and flesh, old idealism and new naturalism, without quite giving up the tr on is in keeping with the general, scholarly consensus that Kingsley practiced, at best, an imperfect form of realism. For example, one chapter in a recent overview of the Victorian novel declares that Kingsley: could convince a reader that certain things were happening before his eyes in a particular natural setting... He was too impatient, however, in pursuit of his aims as parson and educationist, to face the formal problems of realistic fiction, and readily to ok the short cuts of melodrama and allegory. (Horsman 256) attributed to realism. At the same time, however, it points to the presence of attributes more commonly linked with idealism in his prose, the use of melodrama and allegory. The degree to which Kingsley actually deployed these elements, however, will be examined throughout this chapter. Certainly, Kingsley saw fit to use allegory and homily in his novels and much o f the dialogue between his characters is staged; yet, looked at in their entirety, works such as Yeast or TYA Christ in the House of his Parents are very much roo The Water Babies bears a more complicated relationship to allegory, with its understanding of child psychology and use of natural history, than it might first seem. At any rate, contemporary assessments (few as t comparing him to a standard that never existed in a pure form.
143 have changed little from those of the litera ti of his own time. For example, an 1855 review of his novels in attributed to Margaret Oliphant (Horsman 193), According to Oliphant, Kingsley: Does not eve n try to accommodate himself to probability... In depicting character he displays great lack of originality... When purely original, he makes his characters so bizarre as to try our patience. Some scenes are positively tiresome, on account of their over mi nuteness and elaboration others are conceived in the most outrageous and fustian spirit of melodrama. (Oliphant 626) painters, who use colour a s their vehicle, cannot pass beyond one class of subjects story lines or character development and who was ofte n careless of his craft. Certainly, we now expect to see detailed character development and careful craftsmanship in realist fiction: traits we might admire, for instance, in the works of George Eliot. Eliot herself found Kingsley a vexing author, with his tendency to interrupt his narratives through preaching ( Adam Bede 579). And an anonymous 1857 review in The Times of TYA advises him to take a lesson from Thackeray who lets hi s purpose unfold of its own accord, rather than telling the reader what to think. The Times critic actually shows, they were expected to weave their ideals more seamless ly into the solid material of their prose.
144 reluctance to conform to the standards developing amongst his contemporaries was at least partially deliberate. As Hawley argues, Kingsley was caught up in debates of the novelists should first aim to educate before worrying about artistic standards (167 8). In fact, while admiring a certain degr convey his or her messag e (Hawley 173). (In this, again, he was surprisingly similar to Browning, that both: Feared an art that would seek total autonomy. They in fact endorsed the philistine thoughts of praise out of our head / With wonder at lines, colours, and what fifteenth century, was precisely that sufficing end of art. (DeLaura 383) So, Kingsley actually feared an autonomous aesthetic that would operate under its own, formal logic and render the m essage of a work moot. And, as DeLaura shows, him for Eliot, it was not because her style was so radically different from his but because handling of pa int needs to be considered a strong precursor to the realism of a more readily recognized realist author like Eliot.
145 Along with his reluctance to use language to recreate the illusion of reality, Kingsley also rejected the idea that an author could let a narrative unfold of its own accord, arguing that an artist always made choices. According to Hawley, Kingsley actually anticipates twentieth century criticisms of realism that the illusions it sustained required a selection that ultimately denied much of lived, human experience. At the same time, the observation that all art and literatu re, even realist art and literature, require a selection of details, makes greater allowance for Kingsley as a realist writer. reconstructed order toward which they point 20). If we baulk at the idea of Kingsley as a rea list, it is probably because his Christian ore familiar, secular humanism. 10 For Kingsley, subject matter should always be selected with an eye to inspire and instruct readers in Christian principles for the improvement of the world around them. Yeast Whether it is the existence of an immaterial, spiritual world, the unseen suffering of the laboring classes or the special characteristics that make up the British race, Yeast 10 im 263).
146 continually stresses the im portance of vision and insight, concerns at the heart of Victorian realism. The novel especially uses conversations between Claude Mellot and Lancelot Smith to open discussions on art and vision. In particular, Mellot and Smith discuss the ways in which a portrait of a racial type could be used to improve the overall health of the nation. Yeast show its protagonist the importance of developing a spiritual vision that sees past the material world. As La ncelot develops this spiritual vision, he also turns toward a career in art and seeks professional advice from Mellot and his Carlylean mentor, Barnakill. Although not expressly encouraged as an artist, he is pushed towards a career that will allow him to revealing the spiritual truths that are hidden within the material. and the dialogue that immediat ely ensues between them is a discussion of realism in Kingsley would later discuss in his review of The Sisters of Charity The dialogue begins when Lancelot states echoi ng Keats that artists must use beauty to express truth and Mellot responds by saying: unseen, it must be through the beauty of the symbolizing phenomenon. If I, who live by art, fo r art, in art, or you either, who seem as much a born artist as myself, am to have a religion, it must be a worship of the fountain of art. (49) Here Mellot alludes to the prophetic role which Kingsley finds central for the artist and he also notes Lancelo
147 (49). Lancelot sentiment that will be repeated again at the end of the novel. 11 And yet, Kingsley did also bel yet the truth of beauty and the hope for a beautiful, harmonious existence must be derived from observations of the natural environment. he is asked why he h We are bound to see everything in its ideal not as it is, but as it ought to be, and will be, when the vices of this pitiful civilized world are exploded, and sanitary reform, and a variety of occupation, and harmonious education, let each man fulfil [sic] in body and soul the i deal which God embodied in him. (59) The language here is again reminiscent of that which Kingsley will later us e in his review of The Sisters of Charity Art should point away from the ugliness of the present and towards the possibilities of the future. And yet it should do so by finding a specimen 11 It is also very s
148 of that future in the present, which Me llot has done through Tregar va. 12 As Lancelot race, is its bland majestic self possession! How thoroughl y Norse its massive 60). 13 aring extends from his race. The outward signs of race thus come to signify inward potential and the Kingsley demonstrates a similar function of art in Alton Locke (1850), a novel which he wrote right around the same time as Yeast A visit by the working class, Dissenting titular character to the Dulwhich Gallery lea ves him awestruck before Guido Saint Sebastian Kingsley then has Locke translate the admirabl e figure in the painting into an ideal of British manhood: even of the most educated, who were not disciplined by that stern regard for fact which is or ought to be the strength dream of any connection between that, or indeed any picture, and Christianity; and yet, as I stood before it, I seemed to be face to face with the ghosts of my old Puritan forefathers, to see the spirit which supported them on pill seemed bursting from my head, with the intensity of my gaze, and great tears, I knew not why, rolled slowly down by face. (Alton Locke 164) 12 Christ While Millais points to a better future by highlighting the problems that need to be changed, Kingsley does so by highlighting the model that can be used to effect such change. 13 ovides a good statement of mid century, British realism as a whole.
149 g language and bringing directly to mind other images. It also inspires strong, immediate emotions that threaten to completely overwhelm the viewer and is thus a dangerous image. 14 Read c worship of 15 his heroic, Puritan ancestors. 16 Alton Locke is thus saved from the allure of Catholicism and its associated Puritan. Ironically, there is no empirical evidence to connect the subject of the painting to the Puritans; assuming he existed, Sebastian would have been Italian and Catholic. nothing more than his own fancy, a problem that will also later vex Mellot in TYA The reading of an image that maintains the stability of the individual psyche and, consequently, the stability of the nation, may elings than Kingsley might have liked. In Yeast however, Mellot is confident that his portrait of Tregarva will function in Both have the power of arresting and converti ng the viewer to a certain ideology or way of life. In fact, the proper response to the image in both cases is not so much to resist its power but to make a conscious decision as to how one will be swayed by it. This is the difference, as W.J.T. Mitchell d escribes, drawing from Pliny (an author with whom 14 As Herbert Sussman argues in Victorian Masculinities Victorian masculine identity was conceived of in terms of a hydraulic system that could collapse in on itself if not properly regula ted. The image here threatens to force a collapse of the system. 15 As James Eli Adams points out, in Dandies and Desert Saints the image also has strong homoerotic s daughter, even though she is ultimately detrimental to him (144 145). 16
150 true judgment a slavery which is based in a free, natural judgment. conscious awareness that animals, to make them react to an illusion like slaves (or animals) to a In Alton Locke th e image of St. Sebastian threatens to enslave Locke, to turn him into a the image as a symbol of Puritan self potential to enslave its viewers. Yet, in this case, the suggestion should be clear: this is a type of ideal Briton, of which all Britons could realize if they tried. As Mitchell adds to is a tool of civic and political life, a way of assuring the continuity of the citizen aristocracy by preserving the likeness of noble individuals and passing them on to succeeding aged to identify with, in order to better regulate society as a whole. essential identity based around race and/or gender. In Yeast Mellot uncovers what Kingsley believed to be the powerful potential of the Anglo Saxon male. In TYA as will be seen in the next section, he explores what Kingsley believed to be the hidden dangers of the non Anglo Saxon female. However, constantly threatening to undermine the immaterial through the material is the danger of the
151 this, as will be seen, will cause Mellot to provisionally abandon painting in lieu of the mechanical accuracy of p hotography. But Mellot is not the only artist in Yeast and as he begins the novel as a materialist, Lancelot must first come to terms with whether or not there is anything to be seen at all beyond the level of the surface. To learn to see past the material world and develop what Kingsley refers to in Alton Locke cant, as it is also the name of a type of poppy that was used by the Greeks to cure blindness; the word comes from the Greek, argema Argemone literally helps take the m portrayed as being supercilious, it is the sense of unworthiness that she engenders that prompts Lancelot to better himself spiritually. Indeed, he begins to show signs of progress when, during one of their religious debates, he concedes that: material senses, and put me in a material world, I take it as a fair hint that I am meant to use those senses first, whatever may come after. I may be intended to understand the unseen world, but if so, it must be, as I suspect, by understanding the visible one. (148) realism. However, Lancelot makes the mistake that faith follows from observation, whereas faith must come first for Kingsley. After all, this concession follows an outburst the narrator implies that Argemone would be
152 seems to be that Lancelot is heading in the right direction and that he will indeed come ieve that they exist to be discovered. Argemone seems to be helping him along, though, as it is directly after this concession that he picks up his pencil and provides her with his own method of spiritual instruction. As the narrator says: Words would fail sometimes, and in default of them Lancelot had recourse to drawings, and manifested in them a talent for thinking in visible forms mere mathematical figure, would, in his hands, becom e the illustration of a inspired; for their chief, almost their only fault, was just those mere anatomical slips which a woman would hardly perceive, provided the forms were generally gr aceful and bold. (149) If women, for Kingsley, are the outward manifestation of the spirit and the word, then men are the manifestation of the material and of action. Words may fail him, but understanding, her gender makes her proficient at reading such truths, although simultaneously deficient in reading material forms, and thus unable t o detect the flaws in r of her own duties to their best ability (149 150). This is no realist sketch, but the underlying principle, of the essences of men and women, was what Kingsley bel ieved a realist art
153 could detect and reveal. In this case, he shows Argemone inspiring Lancelot to action, as she brings out the latent artistic talents to which Mellot earlier alluded. But when Lancelot later seeks out Mellot to join him in the profession he encounters the mysterious prophet, the Carlylean Barnakill, who has his own advice to give on art and artistry. Barnakill has presumably been a mentor to Mellot and it inds out that Lancelot wants to become an artist, he counsels him to learn from Turner and Landseer: And add your contribution to the present noble school of naturalist their knowled ge that the ideal is neither to be invented nor abstracted, but found and left where God has put it, and where alone it can be represented, in actual and individual phenomena; in these lies an honest development of the true idea of Protestantism, which i s paving the way to the mesothetic art of the future. (266) DeLaura uses this passage to emphasize the Protestant art that Kingsley developed in opposition to Rio and which would also inspire Browning. Indeed, this is the size ideal and real, locating spiritual truths in natural phenomena. It is also the nationalist tradition in art that Kingsley wanted to see, begun by Englishmen for the representation of England. As with the painting of St. Sebastian, Kingsley points away from Rome and the Continent (where he believed Ruskin misguidedly invested his energies) and towards the natural beauty of the English
154 at mid The real danger for Kingsley (and, as will be seen, for Browning) was not a stheticism. Indeed, after end and not a means, and objects are interesting, not in as far as they form our spirits, but in proportion as they can be shaped into effective (286). Such a mindset comes dangerously close to the worship of art that he accuses Mellot of practicing at the start of the novel. Mellot has presumably advanced beyond this point, however, as demonstrated through his realiz Art; that the Finite only existed as a body of the Infinite, and that the man of genius must (286 realism practiced by Barrett Browning and the Pre beauty not to be admired for Indeed, although Barnakill seems to discourage Lancelot from becoming an artist, he is eager to embrace a purpose that is very reminiscent to that of Barrett Browning and the Pre Raphaelites. As the
155 beautiful and the blissfu l, his intense perception of social evils, his new Chapter 3, was based in doubt but maintained in hope for social progress. In fact, as will Romola of the Renaissance priest, Girolamo Savon arola, the roles of poet, preacher and artist were strongly connected in the mid Victorian practice of realism. And, regardless of the role Lancelot may eventually adopt, he must work hard and with purpose to acquire the prophetic vision of the realist art ist, using his vision to expose the hidden evils presently plaguing England and point to the future potential already realized imperfectly in the present. Yeast ends inconclusively, with Lancelot following Barnakill to Asia (the supposed oldest racial ancestors), as Mellot did before him. In the epilogue, so gross and palpable as field sports and pauperism. But is it not true that, sooner or hunters consciousness such mysticism is perfectly in keeping with realist practice of the time. We never do learn what happens to Lancelot, or whether he goes on to TYA to offer an update on hetic theories.
156 Two Years Ago In fact, Kingsley had originally intended to write a sequel to Yeast called The Artists (Klaver 167). In his plans for this novel, Kingsley does have Lancelot become an y will be necessarily with the deepest questions wrote The Artists but TYA does function in many ways as a sequel to Yeast Set in the same location with some of the sa me characters, it most significantly brings back Claude Mellot f 17 Here, Mellot resumes his earlier stance on the necessity of human mediation in realist art. Yet, in this novel, he loses some faith in realism when he realizes his mediations might lead to oversights. He opts instead on a provisional basis for photogr aphy, which Kingsley seemed to have believed was not as susceptib le to human errors in judgment. 18 Unfortunately, though, by rendering human mediation obsolete, photography leaves little left for Mellot to do and his last appearance in the novel has him see king a new purpose without any clear solution. dinner party at his home, where the guests include his friend Stangrave, an American businessman from the South, and Marie La vington, an ex slave of mixed ancestry, now turned actress. To hide her ancestry, Marie has assumed an identity as an Italian, 17 The novel opens with Mellot marveling over the improvements that have been made to the region in 7 affected some positive change (1: 13). 18 his contemporaries, as Daniel Novak shows in his recent work on photography (cited in Chapter 1).
157 Marie, objecting that modern portrait painting lacks originality and relies too frequently on types and symbols to convey meani ng, which fail to articulate the inner substance of the subject (1: 137 8). Of course, Mellot should be exactly suited to this task, as he has observation in Yeast Howev enables her to assume any number of fictive selves, and the fact that Mellot thinks fondly of Marie. Marie he rself seems frustrated with the ambiguities surrounding her identity. While end of Yeast her African ancestry is precisely what she wants to hide. Suddenly feeling transparent, she looks into a mirror to see if it reveals her secret and then observes her face morph into features Victorians associated with racial degeneration. The reader is told: It was more than the play of fancy: for Stangrave saw it as well as she. Her the African type with an intensity proportioned to her dread of seeing it in herself, had moulded her features, for the moment, into the very shape which it dreaded. And Stangrave saw it, and shuddered as he saw. (1: 170 1)
158 as an actress, she has inadvertently revealed the truth of her inner racial essence, just as Mellot does with his portrait of Tregarva in Yeast In fact, it is not entirely clear what the reader is supposed to make of this rather peculiar episode. Kingsley may well have meant i t to have taken place entirely in revealed by her in a moment of vulnerability. fact has a real self or just an endless number of imagined selves to project. Regardless of what Stangrave rea blinded eyes All the same, the incident leads to an argument between the two and Stangrave is forced to leave her presence. This passage remains ambiguous in the end, unable to Stangrave leaves Marie to seek out Mellot, whom he finds studying a Pre Raphaelite painti ng. Mellot professes that he dislikes the Pre Raphaelites; even though 3). Although he
159 admires the Pre R did exis Yo u must paint, not what is there, but what you see there. They [the Pre Raphaelites] forget that human beings are men with two eyes, and not daguerreotype lenses with one eye, and so are contriving and striving to introduce into their pictures the very defe ct of the daguerreotype which the stereoscope is required to correct. (1: 174 my emphasis) Here Mellot shows an awareness of the inadequacy of the unmediated photographic image. However, what is called for in this case is not human mediation, but a techn ological mediation that simulated the effect of viewing an object with two eyes. He most likely shares the common belief that Pre Raphaelite artists violated established rules for perspective in painting and employed retrograde technique. 19 More importantly however, is the accusation of the Pre is the lack of human mediation which Kingsley considered integral to high art. realis m in the remainder of this passage. As he says: lingered over, [and] a dozen other expressions equally belonging t o it are hanging in your memory, and blending themselves with the actual picture on your retina: till every little angle is somewhat rounded, every little wrinkle somewhat softened, every little shade somewhat blended with the surrounding light. (1: 174) 19 In addition to a shared belief that the Pre Raphaelites willfully distorted the human form, this was
160 Again, Kingsley finds that a certain degree of idealization is inevitable and ostensibly desirable in painting a subject. However, there is a difference here from the idealization deployed in the painting of Paul Tregarva. With Tregarva, the idealization was deliberate, with an aim to educate the viewer on a nationalist ideal. Here, the artist is admittedly played upon by the subject, idealizing her not for any particular objective but because he cannot help himself. the Pre Raphaelites), in his realization that there is as much of the artist in a portrait as there is of his subject, Mellot comes close this sonnet declares that al l who want to know his subject must go through him first. Perhaps what Kingsley objects to in Pre but the pleasures of realist mediation, the lingering over rounded angles and softened shades. After all, as about the relationship b etween the artist and his model. Kingsley, however, wants mediation to do something else, something that actually becomes impossible because This problem becomes apparent when Mellot ends his conversation with S tangrave by returning to the subject of Marie and her racial composition. Speaking of puzzle one Not
161 But who sees them in the light of that beauty? They are defects, no doubt, but defects which no one would observe without deep study of the face. They express her character no more than a scar would; and therefore when face which I knew to have Quadroon blood in it, I should religiously copy them; because then they would be integral elements of the face. (1: 175) The pleasurable allure of mediating the subject now turns dangerous. For, with the portrait of Tregarva, the hope was that Britons would see the attractive image and want to copy it. Here, however, Mellot would efface from the image the traits of racial remains the same, however. By building her up to be a type of desirable beauty one Mellot would be creating an idol that might is why he chooses to overlook its signs. Stangrave, however, suspects the truth of for the harbor his prejudices. He is to marry Marie and work on ending slavery in America. ound realist project. For Kingsley suggests two problems, through Marie, facing an yone who attempts to read the inner being of a human subject: first, the question of whether or not there even is a fixed inner being to know and second, the problem of how to separate the Yeast Lancelot struggles with whether or not there is anything to know beyond surface realities and has apparently been schooled by
162 Argemone to believe there is, or at least might be. Yet, in TYA Kingsley implies that Marie might indeed be only composed of surfaces, projections o of her own fears and desires. The other implied problem, that of separating the artist from the representation, as has been shown, was not conceived as a problem previously in Yeast The danger comes when there are hidden traits assuming hidden traits exist Because Marie is beloved, these flaws presumably no longer matter, and yet this is dangerously relativistic and returns to the initial problem of whether or not essential identity exists to ould have had to suddenly seems a poor medium for revealing hidden essence. observations about Ma rie and his switch to photography, it seems that the issues raised here would precipitate such a change. In fact, Mellot reappears shortly after, using his newly acquired photographic skills in the service of science, working for an amateur natural histori an and military man named Major Campbell. The two are collaborating to take photographs of specimens captured under microscope. Mellot denies, however, sun picture [photograph] out do all my efforts so I am turned photographer, and have
163 provisional, he als o, half jokingly, implies that the role of the photographer will supplant philosop producing is simply raw data abstracted material as Novak describes it for Major Campbell to study. For one who has waxed poetic on the necessity of idealizing a portrait, i t is indeed curious that Mellot now proclaims the death of painting at the hands of photography. In fact, Kingsley comes around full circle in TYA placing Mellot in a situation similar to the one which Lancelot Smith finds himself at the end of Yeast If in Yeast now Mellot who needs to strive after a new form of artistic practice. Photography, which be more reliable than painting but leaves no room for human labor. If he were He is censured, however, by Frank Hedley, the young curate and burgeoning muscular rovisionally
164 20 The questions Kingsley raises through Mellot about representational accuracy seem to go unanswered and we are left primarily with t he impression of the limitations of realist art. As TYA ends with Claude Mellot adopting photography on a provisional basis, this realism. For, of the many works Kingsley wro te after this one, none of them returns to the format of the realist novel. His realization of its mediated nature seems to have both shaped his initial appreciation of its power and, subsequently, its limitations. In Yeast he looks to realism and the rea list worldview as a solution to the evils that were plaguing the nation. Yet, when he revisits realism in TYA written nearly a decade later, he seems less sure of its abilities. He offers up photography as a provisional solution to the limitations of real ist representation, but as many scholars have argued, photography was not necessarily the same thing as realism for the Victorians. In fact, as Novak shows, even photographic images required mediation to be made more like realism and, ironically, to also s What seems to have provided the ultimate stumbling block for Kingsley was the nagging sense that truth might indeed be contingent on an individualized perspective. he medium of photography might ultimately mean little without the imposition of human mediation. Like Ruskin, Kingsley held firm to the belief that reality was ultimately fixed by a force that existed outside the self and that it could be known through car eful, sustained attention. 20 The novel begins with an introduction that is technically set two years after its main events and opens
165 The awareness Kingsley shows through Claude Mellot and Marie Lavington that, even if there is a fixed, external reality, it might appear differently to different people discouraged him from using representational art to discover that reality. If there is no fixed reality, then the question of how to bring together the nation and solve its burgeoning social problems becomes particularly challenging. Rather than confront the challenges of representing reality through the varied pers pectives of individualized psychology, Kingsley appears to have moved away from representational art altogether. However, as will be seen in Chapter 6, Robert Browning and George Eliot were very much interested in pursuing this challenge. With them, reali sm comes into its own right as a method of representation with a history and a definition. And, as will be seen, the definition they ascribe to realism contributes to that which we hold now, that it was mainly a materialist method of representation. In spi te of the secularism of Eliot, however, she was as much of a preacher as Kingsley, and as much of a believer in a spirit that drove humanity and pushed for social progress. Eliot and Browning may not ing or Kingsley, the two major figures covered in Section II. However, they still look at human character and individual psychology as something that emanates from within, in much the same ways that Kingsley and Barrett Browning conceived of the soul. In f act, of the two major, competing genres that emerged around 1860, realism and sensation fiction, realism, as will be argued in Chapter 7, seems more the proper descendant of Kingsley and Barrett Browning than the more materialist genre of sensation fiction
166 CHAPTER 6 THE RENAISSANCE PERS PECTIVE: ROBERT BROW S ROMOLA In those times, as now, there were human beings who never saw angels or heard perfectly clear messages. Such truth as came to them was brought confusedly in the voices and deeds of men not at all like the seraphs of unfailing wing and piercing vision men who believed falsities as well as truths, and did the wrong as well as the right. (324) George Eliot, Romola (1863) The works addressed in the previous section present realist artists as, in Barrett problematic notion when one becomes aware TY A of the limited nature of individual perspective. For Barrett Browning, errors of perspective might be resolved through personal maturation and for Kingsley they might be corrected through the assistance of technology. Robert Browning and George Eliot, however, present artist figures whose limited perspectives are not corrected and who then, they also establish realism as a practice rooted in the Italian Renaissance, a period during which the Victorians believed the absolute authority of the church gave way to knowledge based on individualized thinking. Thus, as the above quotation from Romola suggests, the Renaissance artist was considered akin to the Victorian artis t, as both could only make best guesses about reality based on perceptions without certainty. By bringing together multiple, limited perspectives, Browning and Eliot arguably come vered in the as a traditional practice what was formerly based loosely in theory and speculation.
167 Men and Women Lippo Romola (1863), all the form of dramatic monologues told from the perspectives of their eponym ous the priest, Girolamo Savonarola, as a major character who also functions as an artist in the role of poet and public orator. Although my focus on Savonarola may see m a slight Smith, that the mid Victorians made ready connections between the roles of the preacher and the realist artist. Browning and Eliot use Renaissance artists to argue the seminal importance of this period for their own nineteenth century practice. Remember that the Pre Raphaelites believed that the conventions established a t the end of the Renaissance caused artists to fall away from the principles of direct observation that had originally Erma, in the earliest years of the Renaissan ce in order to draw a parallel with his own practice of direct observation. And by going as far back historically as he does, DGR effectively keeps his story within the Renaissance timeline, but during a period of which little was known. Therefore, he had more freedom to play around with and begin to conceptualize what was then a very nascent practice. Browning and Eliot, however, set their narratives during the High Renaissance, a period of which much was already known and recorded. By doing so, they could
168 way that carried more historical authenticity. And by using non fictional artists in their narratives, they further lent authority to the argument that their own practice could be traced back to this historical moment. If DGR was attempting to bring something new into the world, then, Browning and Eliot attempted to show that realism was something that had long existed. century contrivance, the Renaissance itself was arguably one as well. Such, at least, is the The Myth of the Renaissance in Nineteenth Century Writing The Victorians and Renaissanc e Italy (1992). Both not only address what the Renaissance meant to Bullen says, new was that during the first years of the nineteenth century the culture itself came to be Renai ssance to discuss their own origins while simultaneously writing about the concerns of their present day. Whether for good or for bad, the Victorians almost universally identified the Renaissance as a pivotal moment in history. According to Bullen, the Ren aissance considered
169 believed to have led to the rise of individualism; Bullen cites the nineteen th century contrasts with the notion of collective self then, nineteenth century theorists of the Renaissance defined it as a mom ent when secular, individualist values those that are also strongly connected to the practice of realism began to replace religious and collectivist ones. And yet, when the Victorians wrote about the Renaissance, they were just as often writing about t hemselves. Certainly, immediate concerns for the Victorians as reflected in almost all of their literature were those that centered on the secular versus the religious and/or the individual versus the collective. Writing about the Renaissance, then, th e Victorians not only identified the moment when their current concerns began to take root, but also found ways to discuss those concerns in the present moment. Furthermore, as Fraser notes, the Victorians saw a distinct parallel between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and their own cultural moment (44). That is, they imagined they important advances that would be as momentous as those made during the Renaissance. T he Victorians often wrote about Renaissance art and artists, then, to discuss what was actually their own practice. much of British realism emerged in response to the writing s about Renaissance art by the nineteenth century French historian, Alexis Francois Rio. To briefly recap, Rio believed that post
170 influenced (and worried) a number of Protestant Britons, including (again) Kingsley, ings about the subjects of these poems and these in turn inspired Eliot. also in part a response to Rio. According to Bullen, the subject of this poem is Fra by Raphael. Bartolommeo intrigued nineteenth century art historians because he seemed so torn be tween the spiritualist and naturalist divides that took place during the Renaissance, which were epitomized in the above named luminaries (Bullen 319). Men like Rio admired Bartolommeo for his piety but Browning depicts him as muddleheaded and deserving of achievement in this poem is to draw... contradictory elements together as integral parts of the consc iousness of a single persona, the ambivalence of which epitomizes the The Myth of the Renaissance respond to t he challenge of Renaissance ideas and attitudes at all points, to its awareness and fall short of a realist
171 techniq ue, although it is through his exploration of these conflicted and imperfect artists that Browning develops his own technique. secular and religious schools during the Ren aissance, also factors into Browning and critic, Anna Jameson. Jameson was a recognized authority on art in the nineteenth ch 1 In her Rio inspired Memoirs of the Early Italian Painters (1845), Jameson explains: [ : on the on e side, those painters who had in developing all the techn ical aspects of art but any other aspiration than the representation of beauty for its own sake, and the pleasure and the t to whom the cultivation of ar t was a sacred vocation the representation of beauty a means, not an end; by whom Nature in her various aspects was ... deeply studied, but only for the purpose of embodying whatever we can conceive or reverence as highest, holiest, purest in heaven and earth, in such forms as should best connect them with our intelligence and with our sympathies. (DeLaura 374) In fact, the language Jameson uses to describe these two divergent schools of Renaissance painting sounds very similar to the language used in th e nineteenth century to distinguish their own divisions, respectively, between realism and idealism. The former school focused solely on masterfully reproducing the appearance of reality, while the latter sought to instruct towards personal betterment. As already mentioned in Chapter 5, DeLaura argues that the realism of Kingsley and Browning attempted to synthesize these two separate strands. Although DeLaura argues that their realism 1 Early Italian Painters in 1849.
172 maintains idealist spiritualism, these two strands once again were n ever all that separate. 2 In fact, Browning and Eliot both use their fictionalized accounts of historical Renaissance painters to show that realism binds these two strands together in a mutually informing (if fraught) relationship. Browning, Realism and the As discussed heavily in Chapter 4, poetry and realism were seen in the nineteenth century as seemingly incompatible entities. Yet, as that chapter argues, Aurora Leigh provides one example of just how poetry and realism can, in fact, be co mpatible. The poetry of Robert Browning provides another example; in fact, in its exploration of moral and psychological complexity and ambiguity, his poetry is quintessentially realist. It should not be surprising, then, that several of his poems take up classified with the budding realist school of the High Renaissance. Indeed, many cr about realism. As mentioned, DeLaura and Bullen both do so. Others include Richard (1984). All concur that, rightly or wrongly, Lippo is commonly considered the key to unequivocally support Li ppo, especially when examined alongside Andrea. Healy goes 2 (205 6).
173 a bit further and argues that neither a rtist is meant to be exemplary. 3 He instead complement each other to form the s aestheticism or materi alism. Once again, DeLaura argues that Kingsley and Browning formulated their theory of realism in reaction to Rio. Rather than accept that a decline in Catholicism had led to degeneracy in modern art, both wanted to identify a Protestant realism that inst ead DeLaura finds the choice of Lippo especially significant because he (379). Recall that, by contrast, Browning is believed to have denigrat ed Fra Bartolommeo because Rio classed him favorably with the Savonarola inspired idealists. 3 sympathetic reading of the silver tongu ed Lippo.
174 naturalism that is nonetheless spiritual as Lippo argues that all of reality is but a part of And yet, both DeLaura and Benvenuto claim that Browning does not entirely century attempt to reconcile soul and flesh, old ideali sm and new naturalism, this judgment for both scholars are similarities between the realism practiced by Lippo and the seemingly less creative Andrea del Sarto. Becau se Andrea is judged inferior to beyond endorsed 191 ity is necessary to communicate spiritual reality, or the indicate that Browning undermines the realism he seems to support through Lippo. Healy, however, cautions against the conventional reading of Lippo and Andrea as respectively exemplary and failed artists and reads them instead as complimenting each rescriptions:
175 The great artist will treat the whole broad range of human experience and personality types darkness and light, black and white, fat and lean, sinner and saint but without consistently identifying with either one extreme or the other; and the amalgamation that appears to his audience may at times be gray but wi ll seldom be placid. (Healy 74) While Healy does not reference realism per se this makes for a good description of the gets covered in their works, much of which does not put its subjects in the most father). Yet, the realist defers judgment, focusing on his or h reactions to events rather than on the events themselves. The realist thus deals in the day dilemmas make of subject matter, while Andrea fulfills its turn to everyda However, while Browning seems to find something to admire and emulate in both artists, he nonetheless uses each to caution against art that insists too rigidly on an adherence to material details. Indeed, this is largely why Benvenuto and DeL aura conclude that Browning did not entirely embrace realism. And Healy, focusing more on which may call into question some assumptions about the close relationship between his own 8)). In spite of the implications made by Benvenuto and DeLaura, however, realism does not necessarily mean
176 faults Browning finds in both Lippo and Andrea do not pertain to their uses of realism, but in the dangers each faces of sliding away from realism. For Lippo, t he danger is that his art will become too materialistic, too much of the flesh and lacking in soul. Although he argues that spirit pervades flesh, thus making all keep t his thesis afloat, he adds that through: ... Beauty and nought else, You get about the best thing God invents: Within yourself, when y ou return him thanks. (215 220) This, though, may be where it b ecomes wise to heed scholarly advice that Lippo is not meant to be an entirely honest or trustworthy character. (He is, after all, a monk trying to convince the night watchmen to let him go after catching him outside a brothel.) Certainly, it seems unlikel y that Browning would have condoned the worship of beauty for its own sake. Indeed, it is the art that does 332), that earns Lippo the respect of his soulless and hypocritical ual sort he elsewhere i magines. 4 but they do not seem to have communicated any spiritual truths about the goodness of existence. And he seems to have suddenly realized this when he blurts out against the 4 In fact, the worldly successes enjoyed by Lippo sound very similar to those of the first phase of Chiaro
177 In fact, although the poem slightly predates the controversies surrounding paintings of saints might be considered a sort of f ifteenth sensation fiction were accused of pandering to popular taste and consequently falling an anxiety s ometimes shared by its authors. 5 And while sensation fiction often bears the appearance of realism, supported by the same empiricist and sensory worldview, it does tend to not delve as deeply into the inner thought processes of its characters. frequently Manichaen tendencies of sensation fiction Lippo may acknowledge equally the lives of saints and sinners, but realism claims to avoid these binary formulations in the first place. And Lippo does not usual a mistress, becomes a sinner, while the persecuted Lippo, who is at least open about his licentiousness, becomes a saint. Such a reversal seems to mirror the plot devices of sensation fiction in which an apparently devoted spouse or some other seemingly 5 As in the self Flaubert inspired (1864).
178 cynical and Manichaen materialism that has been ass ociated with sensation fiction. 6 however, is that of sliding into a superficial aestheticism. Indeed, DeLaura seems correct aesthetes than to the realists. Recall the dangers that threat en Lancelot Smith at the end of Yeast t up Hide and Seek realism ist art, then, does not seek to autonomously stand in for the world, but to engage the viewer in a dialogue about the nature of representation. questioning what he says : to what extent should we follow his precepts for art? When reaches and secures 6 The Read ing Lesson p 142 165, which was mentioned briefly in Chapter 1 and will be referred to again, at greater length, in Chapter 7 of this study.
179 are so seamless as to make it difficult to distin guish between reality and sham. 7 The danger is that he will persu ade us to stop seeking a truth beyond representation and to merely enjoy the representation itself. rigid attention to detail, which verges on materialism. Of course, one hardly needs to interrogat e his monologue to find his limitations, as Andrea is quite forthright about them; DeLaura and Benvenuto are certainly correct to note that Browning prefers Raphael to Andrea, in spite of (or perhaps even because of) the flaws Raphael makes in copying afte r the erate non much like Lippo, places too much value on a superficial verisimilitude. Unlike Lippo, however, Andrea does not use enough artifice (although Healy suggests muc h to In fact, if Lippo does exceed Andrea in execution of realism, it is not because of his skill at representing reality, but because he understands that some alteration of re ality is necessary to effectively reach an audience. Browning himself expresses this belief in his later work, The Ring and the Book argues that an artist must take objective fact a base metal, such as gold and a dd an alloy the imagination in order to craft a work of art (i.e. a ring). Lippo, for all his 7 order to bre ak the illusionistic spell of the art object.
180 First when we see them painted, things we ha ve passed Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see; And so they are better, painted better to us, Which is the same thing (300 304) Aspects of material reality might, in themselves, go unnoticed to the human eye if not crafted in ways that elicit new, emotional responses. Indeed, Lippo recasts reality through allusion or hyperbole, for example in ways that change how his audience mistress Herodias indeed, the hidden ; neither Andrea nor Browning is content with Lucrezia also fails to make us see reality in a new or compelling way. For Browning, then, realism does not mean technical vir tuosity or mimetic self improvement. As discussed in Chapter 5, DeLaura is a bit unfair in his assessment of mid century realism. He seems to find, in the traces of t he so century realists had not progressed as far as they should have. While it might help to think of realism as bearing implication that Browning misleading. Indeed, his exploration of the complex psychological point of view is almost tely goes away and merely persists in mid century realism in secular and empiricist dimensions. Thus, questions of
181 as will be seen more with Eliot questions of divine judgment or be nevolence become concerns over how members of society should humanely treat each other. George Eliot, Realism and Romola praised said sh to argue that, in Romola were part of a continuum that marked a significant stage in the development of the moral co 8 Eliot uses Romola to argue that the seeds for modern realism (among, of course, many other things) h ad been planted during this decisive time period. Indeed, while I have been claiming that Eliot did more than any other mid Victorian to systematize a practice of literary realism, Romola has given critics the greatest challenge in terms of fitting it in w ith the rest of her work. Some aspects, such as the female characters, do fit the typical realist mode. However, other aspects, such as 8 This is a widely accepted view of Romola Bonaparte may have been the first to argue that the subject of Romola fifteenth century Florence must Romola concerned with that dichotomy in the period between the ascetici sm of Christian orthodoxy, which... has
182 plague 9 As problems, because the psychological and historical realism of the novel form, a realism several sources have noted, conceded to a friend that her treatment of Romola was largely idealist. Several critics have also noted, though, that in spite of its apparent failures, Romola was the novel by which Eliot, looking back over her entire career, claimed to be the most satis fied. Critics have thus offered various approaches to appreciating Romola as Eliot might have intended. Felicia Bonaparte, in her highly influential work, The Triptych and the Cross (1979), argues that Romola should not be understood so much as a realist n ovel, but as an epic poem. In fact, Bonaparte argues that Romola prose and poetry, novel and epic Romola as F Romola contains strong elements of both realism and romance. In fact, he argues that the two remain in tension throughout the book and are never completely reconciled to each other. Such a hybrid understanding actually l inks Romola Aurora Leigh 9 real world, the re
183 Perhaps it is no coincidence, then, that, like Aurora Leigh Romola contains two main artist figures: a painter and a poet. A fairly minor charact er, the painter Piero di Cosimo has drawn a considerable amount of scholarly attention as have the (mostly fictional) works he creates in Romola 10 However, a character almost as important as never specifically addressed in this context, is the theologian and public orator, Girolamo Savonarola. Not only is Savonarola twice referred to as a poet, he plays a direct role in shaping the moral and spiritual values of Renaissance Florence, especially through the infamous and theatrical Romola seems surprisingly contrast that, when read together, suggests the broader sco leaves little to add, I will first summarize it as b riefly as possible before moving on to the Piero di Cosimo di Cosimo and the Higher Primitivism in Romola 10 Romola and the distinctions from those invented by Eliot, including those attribu Piero... because his works were so little known to her audience that she could... invent an oeuvre for him which masks, she argues, allude to Bardo, Tito and Romola, who correspond respectively to Christianity, Classicism and the Western synthesis of the two.
184 foundation of direct... observation o f reality. He relies, as does George Eliot, on the as George Levine or Daniel Novak) who have defended realism in light of mind and imagination p lay a major role in determining the technical form of the art 395). For both Piero and Eliot, then, realism is empiricist, but also necessarily arranged and filtered t Platonic (i.e., idealist) views of reality, especially in his 11 Neo judgment that a handsome face is the bes (even if it proves accurate in this case a point that will be returned to later in this 11 David Carroll similarly finds Piero healthily free from Christian and Neo Platonic orthodoxy, unlike most other characters in the novel (183 pirical observation above Christian idealism, and they both draw on
185 section). In fact, while Pier o does accurately judge Tito by negating Neo Platonic the Neo Platonist would use. Recall from the previous chapters that the realist practice of Barrett Browning and King sley, themselves believers in Neo Platonism and observation. Granted, Kingsley did staunchly believe that healthy bodies were the reflection of healthy souls, a be Tito. But she does not challenge the idea that Tito has an inner self (be it termed as Platonic and Christian beliefs in favor of realism, then, realism does not seem to have abandoned the belief in internal essences. orous self kept hidden within. Hugh Witemeyer, in George Eliot and the Visual Arts (1979), takes The more disturbing faculty which Ruskin named the penetrative imagination. Accordi ng t by i ntuition and a more essential truth than is seen at the It has insight not only into nature but also into human it looks not in the eyes, it judges not by th e voice, it describes not by outward features, all that it affirms, judges or describes it affirms from within it is forever looking under masks and burning up mists; no fairness of form, no majesty of (58) And an article th Romola Romola
186 sometimes hard to detect that is because, very often, people conceal them so effecti such as Piero possess the greatest ability to see through such deceit (Greenwood because observational hierarchy (176). 12 Both can thus be trusted to accurately render their ntities. However, in spite of reading Piero as an exemplary figure within the text, Greenwood also notes that his preconceived notions do color his judgments. As model for tr see to argue that the novel inadvertently undermines the very 12 From Author to Text (1998 ),
187 prophecy comes true and yet ultimately chooses to dismiss it because it only gains validity after the fact (142 3 predictions are similarly verified after the fact, by way of narrative plotting (147 155). Levine concludes, then: In place of arbitrary divine predestination, the text favors an empirical causal mod ourselves for sudden deeds by the reiterated choice of good or evil which is not valid to assert the legitimacy of reli gious prophecy simply because it happens to come true subsequently, then is it ever valid to assert the legitimacy of a events, simply because its hypotheses were validated by the unfold ing of its own plot? (155 156) Levine does admit that this la their secular counterpart i history (although Lippo largely denies his own agency in making choice s). The other important point Levine makes, though, is that the (157). However, while we might dismiss the seemingly prophetic Savonarola, whose proph ecies are also the most suspect.
188 the difference he attribute s to Piero does not quite hold. 13 According to Sullivan, the as will be explored more shortly at least as much taunting and provoking Tito a little too much, perhaps, and seems motivated more to prove correct his theory that beautiful faces hide sinister selves (and thus spite Nello) than out of any desire to help his follow human beings. In fact, he tries to keep hidden from Romola the person for whom his revelations would do the most good a painting ed father, Baldassarre, and then tries (unsuccessfully) to dispel the fears it raises when she does discover it. Even his freeing ersonal ends. When he finds out that Baldassarre is uninterested in modeling for him, he quickly loses interest in Baldassarre and leaves the disoriented and illiterate man to wander the countryside. Piero does not in fact, Savonarola seems much more concerned with these than Piero. Girolamo Savonarola Caroline Levine is certainly correct in elf fulfilling, pseudo empiricism. Yet, again, to do 13
189 so seems to overlook the fact that Romola should now be a familiar po int (per George Levine), mid Victorian realists did not attempt to persuade solely on these latter grounds. Their realism relied at least as much (if not more so) on appeals to emotions as it did on logical argument. Indeed, one could argue that subsequent critical annoyance with mid Victorian realism stems more from its use of emotional rhetoric than its apparent representational navet. In short, a secularized form of preaching was an essential component to the realist literature practiced by Eliot and her contemporaries. Therefore, we must consider Romola comparably minor artist figure, Piero di Cosimo, in terms of understanding her realist aesthetic. As mentioned a t the start of this chapter, devoting so much space to Savonarola may seem a departure for this study. Again, though, a precedent for connecting realist artist, preacher and poet has already been set to some extent when Kingsley presents these as equivalen t career paths for Lancelot Smith. Indeed, as will be seen, Savonarola is himself likened to a poet several times in Romola Furthermore, to return to several passages referenced in Chapter 2, both Eliot and her partner, George Henry Lewes, believed that t he roles of artist and preacher were linked. When Lewes says that Adam Bede 578), he even provides an ant that Romola
190 also drew strong connections between the roles of the artist and the religious leader, as when s Adam Bede 582). And, in an 1856 Natural History of the German People she concurs we owe to the artist, whether painter, poet, or novelist, is the extension of our Florence, is th scene itself will make Adam Bede 579). Eliot seems to distinguish, might also be dismissed as a preacher, especially following the conventional argument that Piero is the n prophecies of both are equally moot; furthermore, as I argue, Savonarola is far more for his generat
191 seems likely that Eliot would have only taken prophecy (or any religious function) serious ly in a strictly secular sense. 14 exhortation comes when Baldassarre, just freed by Piero, flees into the Duomo where he hears a sermon. the troubles that since have fallen upon Florence, if they wors hip God, God will save his passion wrought nerves with all the force of self evidence: his thought never went beyond it into questions he was possessed by it as the war Baldassarre is thus moved to seek vengeance upon Tito, wh o has betrayed him. In fact, runs of sliding into a sensational theatricality. His words destabilize all rational response; as Nancy Armstrong says of objects in the Gothi Novel 15). There is thus a danger in manipulations are not entirely spurned by the novel. For, the re ader is increasingly led to sympathize with the wronged Baldassarre and against corrupted Tito so that his vengeance does ultimately seem justified. For all of the dangers that he poses, 14 While Kingsley believed that prophecies were predictions based on sound, scientific study of the physical environment, he also believed that scientific study was a devotional activity that led to an understanding of the world created by God.
192 Savo the otherwise rationalist Romola. As she attempts to flee Florence and her failed marriage to Tito, Savonarola catches her and, in spite of her skeptical nature, prompts her to stay a nd serve him in helping the sick and the poor. Although moved by Savonarola, however, she instinctively holds reservations about his lackluster assistant, countenance to the utter ance of sublime formulas, but finding the muscles twitch or relax in spite of belief, as prose insists on coming instead of poetry to the man who has of the instances where the text alludes to him as such. Compared to him, Silvestro is prosaic, a mere preacher like Kingsley. And while Silvestro receives visions, it is only 365). In fact, Silvestro does not in his favor, as one might expect from an author who seems to put so much faith in men is not to be gauged by their tendency to disbelieve the sup (365). 15 indication that the text completely rejects his authority. In fact, even if Savonarola is mi sguided, the poetic power of his convictions still makes him more admirable than the prosaically doubting Fra Silvestro. 15 see standing accomplished in the world are properly the outer material result, the practical realization and Heroes 1). Although Carlyle nominated Savonarola as one of his own precur sors and had identified him as a proto (Bullen 223).
193 Savonarola is also classed amongst the poets during several of the impromptu discussions, the popular poet s about him... but they are great The secret of oratory lies, not in saying new th ings, but in saying things with a certain power that moves the hearer... And, according to that test, Fra Girolamo is a great some power over and above his propheti connection between poetry, imagination and the ability to move an audience, while also questioning the source of poetic inspiration. Cei attributes it to human ingenuity, es it comes from God. At the same time, the appropriately cynical Machiavelli agrees with Cei but does not take offense at ingenuity. and Nello seems to concur that Savona power is quite real. authenticity. After Machiavelli once more expresses admiration
194 Inferno Ever cool and de tached, Machiavelli responds: veracity. But veracity is a plant of paradise, and the seeds have never flourished beyond the walls. You, yourself, my Francesco, tell poetical lie s but you object to lies in prose. Well, the Frate differs from you as to the has the fervour within him, and without him he has the audience to please. (395 396) Again, Machiavelli is not concerned with whether or not Savonarola is divinely inspired are no differ the weak convictions of Fra Silvestro, for example might properly raise objections. Poetic lies, aud realism: it lies. Yet, as Machiavelli points out, all art necessarily lies; its real merit is in its ability to compel an audience. The dialectic exchange Eliot attributes to these two characters shows her own awareness of the issues surrounding realism. 16 Machiavelli and Cei represent that top level of the observational hierarchy noted by Greenwood, the same level occupied by Piero di Cosimo. Indeed, not only are all these characters skeptical of Savonarola, they 16 One might wonder how much Eliot expected readers to embrace statements placed in the mouth of the notorious Machiavelli. Yet, as Dorothea Barrett, the editor of the Penguin edition o f Romola joins Spinoza and Rousseau... in interpreting The Prince not as a theoretical justification of amoral political practice but rather as a pessimistic description of an inevitable state of affairs in which the unscrupulous are more like
195 ). Of course, as seen with Fra Silvestro, and di Cosimo are both artists and artificers by trade and Machiavelli is a sharp political analyst, suggesting they would a ll have an eye for the practice of artifice and deceit in others. In fact, they all represent one faction rational, skeptical of the many dialogic voices in this novel but they do not necessarily have the final word. Indeed, as will be seen shortly, wh ile Savonarola believes in his own visions, he also entertains some stage of the Theological era Monotheism has begun to decay and the revolutionary when Romola finally loses faith in him. design, pictures and sculptures held too likely to incite to vice... worldly music books, and musical instruments in all the pretty 419) with gunpowder placed in the center to be ignited at the end of a major festival. Savonarola arranged it, the narrator implies, as pa rt of a larger plan to keep Florentine boys occupied and channel their youthful energies in a civic minded direction. In part, the narrator takes an
196 form of piety eneration of men who fought greatly and endured greatly in the last is exa Romola and harmony amongst his followers and the social activism it inspires is a sign of the final stage in Comtean religious evolution. the hypocrisy displayed by those who are participating in the spectacle. Not that he disavows it because it is spectacular in its own right. Inde ed, while Piero hates some forms of theatrical art he also shows an admiration for it if it has a religious or moral dimension. For example, in an earlier episode he blocks out a dizzying, noisy public parade while waiting to admire a float at the end with a thirty foot model of John the ghastly image of Winged Time with his scythe and hour share of theatrical displays and is hypocritical: even his fellow painters have joined in on this attempt, in a way reminiscent
197 evinced by Piero after she attempts to defend Savonarola; pointing to a copy of Boccaccio sitting on the pile, he asks rhetorically if she has read the author. She responds that, while she has certainly read are some things in them I do not want ever to forget... many of those stories are only about low deceit for the lowest ends. Men do not want books to make them think lightly of vice, as if life were a vulgar joke. I cannot blame Fra Girolamo for teaching that we have the final word here and his tr enchant insight has been read as reflecting E own view on the subject. 17 While Piero does seem to win the argument with Romola, however, she is actually dislike of tenderness towards the o father would have felt something like it. For herself, she was conscious of no inward collision with the strict and somber view of pleasure which tended to repress poetry in the attempt to repress vice. ... [A] religious enthusiasm strong propulsion towards sympathy and pain, indignation against wrong, and the subjugation of sensual desire, must always incur the reproach of a great negation. (422) This passage is itself fraught with ambiguities. For a start, the comparison of Piero with Bardo connects him to that generation of Florentine Neo Classicists that the novel seems to frown upon as strongly as the Christians (complicating assertions made by 17 See Fraser, p. 180.
198 not entirely clear how the novel intends the reader to understand Romol clearly fails to comprehend the hypocrisy that Piero readily grasps. Indeed, she is still the world. Yet, she falls out with Savonarola due to his wi llingness to betray her Savonarola remains what she admires even after she stops believing in his divinity. Savonarola, again, is a transitional figure and these core remnants of his ideology stripped of their theological basis were essential to the final stage of Comtean religious evolution and, more importantly fo 18 As already mentioned, Eliot has often been seen (and rejected) as very much a secular preacher. And it is only as a secular preacher that the empirically minded Romola can appreciate room she found in his grand view of hum an duties had made her patient towards that part of his teaching which she could not absorb, so long as the end result is to serve and benefit humankind (it is only when his overreaching political aims harm those erly attributed to 18 Friedrich Nietzsche attacked Eliot (and the English in general) for this retention of Christian morality in Twilight of the Idols they must cling to Christian morality. That is an English constancy; we do not wish to hold it against little moralistic females a la Eliot. In England one must rehabilita te oneself after every little emancipation from theology by showing in a veritably awe
199 religious practice and finding a basis for them in the secular sphere. And Savonarola marks what Eliot and other Victorians would have considered the historical moment at which the possibility of a realist aesthetic began to take place, when religious values began to find their r ecognition in secular practice. 19 Indeed, the tension between the religious and secular was as has been noted throughout this study an ongoing component of the nineteenth century realist aesthetic and this tens narrator says, he f he passionate sensibility which... tends towards contemplative ecstasy, alternated in him with a keen perception of outward facts and a vigorous practical judgment of men and d and Bu llen argue, when the Victorians wrote about the Renaissance, they were largely writing about themselves. The fatal conflict experienced by Savonarola is very much the conflict of the nineteenth century and the problem which realism rose to address. 19 See n87
200 But whi le authors like Kingsley or Barrett Browning maintain that conflict between religious and secular as a critical part of their realism, Eliot shows more confidence that the religious can and will give way to the secular. For, with both Savonarola and Piero di Cosimo we see divine, poetic inspiration given an almost exclusively empiricist provide natural explanations for apparently supernatural effects, so George Eliot attribute by characters in the novel like Frencesco Cei and Niccol Machiavelli. And the novel see ms to confirm their suspicions, while still holding on to the moral value of his pursuing his political ends to bring God to Florence, rather than adhering to the str ictly humanist values of Romola. Between Piero and Savonarola, then, we find the fullest embodiment of the realism advocated so strongly by Eliot. Piero is rational, skeptical and empiricist and understands that art lends color to life. At the same time, h e seems selfish and ultimately out of touch with the general well being of humanity. By contrast, Savonarola is earnest and capable of motivating people to help others, but is also repressive, superstitious and hypocritical. But he cannot be discounted as aesthetic and needs to be considered to be as important as Piero (who has garnered the majority of critical attention) in this regard. Indeed, one of the final images of the ne of the many good people bringing flowers to Romola to mourn his death.
201 In that conclusive moment, two antagonistic forces are brought together around the ng their oppositions, holds them together in an unstable but productive tension. Where Eliot believed that Kingsley was too much of a preacher and not enough of an artist, the balance struck between Piero and Savonarola shows her belief that realism must w alk a fine line between preaching and art. By allowing for multiple, partial perspectives, Browning and Eliot have worked through one of the problems Kingsley identified for realism, that of the limited perspective of the individual, human artist. Taken in the aggregate, their flawed artists provide pieces of a practice invention, honesty, empiricism, morality that comprise the multiple aims of realism. They also provide a series of complex, psychological portraits, such psychological nuance being one o f the most salient traits of realism. For, in their gradual shifting away from the religious and towards the secular, Browning and character and personality. In setting their stories in the Renaissance they help to define what realism meant a buzzword to be used begrudgingly by critics like David Masson), and they provided realism wi th a history that could be traced up to the present. Recall from Chapter 3, that both Walter Pater and Esther Wood speak of realism as if it had existed since the Middle Ages and was not actually the invention of their own century. Also, by identifying rea lism with the Renaissance, Browning and Eliot could further emphasize its focus on secular psychology and multiple, partial perspectives. For, they shared the belief held
202 by the Victorians generally, that the Renaissance marked the period during which the unified authority of the church was supplanted by a much more individualized and humanist perspective. In embracing this more secular view of the world, they make the greatest shift away from the realism of the figures in the previous section, even if they maintain a belief in inner essence and social purpose. In fact, Browning and Eliot show considerable fear that the realist artist may lose focus on these latter beliefs. All of the flaws their artists possess place them at risk of destabilizing into a sup erficial aestheticism, materialism or theatricality. These are the darker sides of empiricism and exhortation, which are the mainstays of realist practice. And yet, through their demonizing of the negative tendencies of their artists, Browning and Eliot su ggest the dangers to which their own craft was prone. For, in the donning of multiple masks and exhorting audiences to moral action there is indeed something highly theatrical in their practice. And in emphasizing the appearances of physical details and in relying on psychological and scientific explanations for phenomena, there purpose might indeed be just another superficial pose. Such fears, as will be explored in the next and final chapter, informed much of the rejection of sensation fiction.
203 CHA P TER 7 M AND SENSATION FROM WILKIE COLLINS TO MA RY ELIZABETH BRADDON Art Mystic, I would briefly endeavour to define, as aiming at the illustrati on of fact on the highest imaginative principles. It takes a scene as exactly and naturally as possible... produced that scene, must also be indicated, mystically, by the in troduction of those (238 239) Hide and Seek (1854) That romancers in the fifty second year of this present century; but the thing existed nevertheless in divers forms, and people wrote sensation novels as unconsciously as Monsieur Jou rdain talked prose (11) Mary Elizabeth Braddon, (1864) In her novel, (1864), Mary Elizabeth Braddon correctly observes same time she notes that people nonetheless wrote sensation novels, even if they were not known by that name. A prime example of a sensation writer from that period, of course, would be Wilkie Collins, often considered the inventor of the genre and a major inspira tion for Braddon. And yet, as I will show in this chapter, his early novel Hide and Seek (1854) engages in many of the same realist experimentations as the Pre Raphaelites and their kin. Hide and Seek even features an artist character, Valentine Blyth, who in fact, like the novel itself, it could easily be either. Hide and Seek does slightly differ, however, from realism, in ways that suggest an impatience with the headier theoretical questions realists engaged with and that reflect more of a populist, common sense ontain a plethora of artist characters, and becomes one of the defining traits that distinguish it from realism.
204 Indeed, in spite of the fact that they are often termed in opposition, realism and sensation shared much in common. As I noted in Chapter 1 bot h terms emerged around roughly the same time and I see them as slightly diverging paths from a common ancestor. My conception differs slightly from the generally accepted scholarly opinion, also noted in Chapter 1, that sensation is a hybrid between realis m and romance. If realism and romance are already interconnected, as I have been arguing, then it seems emology and a fascination with mystery and hidden essences. However, while sensation is often classed as the genre willing to delve more into the mysterious and unknown, it ultimately takes more for granted and displays much less of the skeptical and doubt ing nature of realism. In The Reading Lesson (1998), Patrick Brantlinger suggests that sensation settles for less ambiguity in order to appeal to a broader spectrum of the market. It thus shows 144). In its broad both the roman
205 The Woman in White double, the world according to Middlemarch is much more complicated, morally Indeed, as will be seen, the claim that sensation offers a less ambiguous view of reality in the interests of appealing to its own self promoting claims. As I concluded at the end of Chapter 6, realists like Browning and Eliot seemed to fear that their o wn refined practice of realism could easily slide into a superficial theatricality. These are the grounds on which their artist characters fail (when they fail), and these were also the grounds on which sensation was said to fail. Practitioners of realism, by casting onto sensation fiction all of the failures to which their own craft was thought to be at risk, could bolster their claims to a privilege truth. 1 They could also denigrate the main measure of success that sensation fictio n seemed to enjoy: commercial popularity (such a move carrying the further advantage of severing realism from its roots in popu 2 Once again, the development of realism during the mid nineteenth century was largely a process o f it in the eyes of those who shared the beliefs of a Reynolds or a Delacroix. It seems 1 acceptable 9). 2 ( Disease 112).
206 then, that as the last part of this process, sensation, which was born of the sa me moment and employed many practices similar to realism, was made into the scapegoat against which realism could be classified as the more serious, intellectu al and respectable form of art. 3 says, and arbitrarily thrust upon a certain class of writers, that class in many ways embraced their populist label and even poked fun of realist pretentions in their own right. Hide and Seek which often flirts with realist sensibilit ies, lampoons the which could be taken as a meta commentary on either realism or sensation, is explained by Blyth in such a longwinded and comic fashion (somewhat lost, s adly, in the truncated version prefacing this chapter) that it becomes difficult to take seriously. Collins ultimately settles on a pragmatic, if flippant, measure of artistic success and seems untroubled by the existential questions that beset the likes o f Kingsley or Eliot. Braddon also seems to take much for granted and relies even more on a common sense epistemology. And while her artists retain the realist virtues of earnest hard work and tireless effort, she seems distrustful of innovators and the ava nt garde even, as will be seen, reasserting a conventional acceptance of the greatness of the Grand Masters Indeed, if in Hide and Seek realism and sensation still sha re common ground, they seem to have finally diverged in Braddon 3 This manufactured division may well account for what Gilbert notes is the generally accepted history in novel, depending on whom you ask, either died a well deserved death or parented such degenerate and
207 Hide and Seek classifications of literature as realist or sensational. In fact, if Collins woul d later be categorized as a writer of sensation fiction, this novel is very much engaged in the same realist experiments as the works covered in the preceding chapters. However, as mentioned, the questions that drove these others seem to have been of less interest to Collins, his attitude even verging at times towards flippancy. What he does share with and a fascination with the mysterious. Unlike the realists, howeve r, Collins does not show the mysterious as a part of the everyday; rather the two exist uneasily beside y altogether. Briefly, the plot of Hide and Seek Madonna. Blyth resides in a middle class, London suburb with Mary and his wife, to the Blyth household, the first half of Hide and Seek Thorpe, a feckless young man who visits the Blyths to take refuge from his o verbearing father. The first book the Hiding establishes this domestic setting and the course through which Mary has come to live with the Blyths. The second book the Seeking introduces Mathew Marksman, a gruff adventurer returning to England after many years spent in the Americas. In his search for connections with his past, Marksman uncovers the scandalous secret that Mary is the illegitimate child of his deceased sister and
208 re initially set up to be potential lovers, are revealed to be brother and sister. The novel is quite ambivalent towards Valentine Blyth, finding much both to ridicule and to admire in his artistic practice. His predilections, as will be seen, for optical classical tradition (he is a graduate of the him for ridicule. Yet, he is also an endearing figure, a charmingly eccentric, har d working painter who supports his wife, his ward and his neighbor, and whose critics, even when accurate in their judgments, are treated in the novel with contempt. And, l and romance, and could be taken as a commentary on Pre Raphaelitism (accord ing to the editor of the edition, Catherine Peters, Blyth is also based loosely on William Holman Hunt [n434]) or the novel itself. Unfortunately, in the end Hide and Seek offering instead a measure of success that, as will be seen, comes in hard, material (and rather frivolous) terms. Not that Collins was ignorant about the concerns of the nineteenth century art world; quite to the contrary. Not only was he the son of Will iam Collins, his brother, Charles, was also a well regarded artist, perhaps best known for Convent Thoughts (1850 51) [figure 7 1]. Wilkie Collins himself dabbled in painting before pursuing a career as a novelist and he and his brother were close friends with William Holman Hunt
209 and other members of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood. 4 Collins was also, as mentioned in Chapter 2, familiar with the writings of John Ruskin, which are thought by Frick and equivocations, however, both come to opposite conclus ions. Frick argues that Blyth the other hand, argues that Blyth represents exact meaning but scholars can draw such completely opposite conclusions regarding Blyth, considering that Hide and Seek seems so ambivalent about art istic precepts in general. The narrator makes it clear that Blyth lacks any sort of real, creative genius, although it also stresses that his devotion to his work and his family partially make up for this lack of innate talent. His first artistic success c omes narrowly, via the Royal might happen to fit any forgotten place near the floor di d fit such a place and was fortune, much like Aurora Leigh history painting and classical landscape. Unfor tunately, his wife shortly after becomes bedridden, and he turns instead to commercial art to earn money to fill her room with luxury items. While she appreciates his sacrifice, she insists that he also continue to 4 Holman Hunt even describes a conversation with Collins in Pre Raphaelitism and the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood (rendered in impr
210 produce history paintings and classical l the [Royal Academy] Exhibition, and of small marketable commodities, which were as invari 5 His paintings thus fall at two extremes, neither of suggests that their standards had alre ady begun to change (John Everett Millais, one of the founding members of PRB, will eventually became a member). In fact, Collins seems to rightly predict that the avant garde of the moment will become the status quo de of this fickle system in many ways renders him more sympathetic. More egregious than his inability to follow the right artistic trends, is his offhanded approach to the seriousness of artistic practice, although here too he is not without his charms. Hi hodgepodge of miscellaneous, seemingly unconnected items, and sits in a state of disarray. After a long list of these sundry items the reader is told: Mr. Blyth had jocosely desecrat there was real litter enough already. Just in the way of anybody entering the room, he had painted, on the bare floor, exact representations of a new quill pen and a very expensive isitors constantly attested the skillfulness of these imitations by involuntarily stooping to pick up the illusive pen and brush. 6 (43) his skill at mimetic accuracy, they al so reveal his inability to appreciate the purposes of 5 6 According to Peters, this too was part of William
211 art. Not only has he committed an act of desecration but he has done so in a very cavalier manner. Ruskin even preached against this sort of art, believing that art should take artifice as a given and make no pretense to trick the viewer (Levine Suspense 58). With the viewer draws pleasure from the skillful trick, but is ultimately left with nothing serious to contemplate (Levine 59). Good art should thus not aim to trick the (Levine Suspense pen and brush and they mark him as a lovable oddball, they also show him as a buffoon and a phil istine; situated on the floor of his studio, they represent the lowest form of art which B great end of all Classic Art, by reminding nobody of anything simple, familiar, or pleasi repeating as it provides a good example of the sort of classical landscape that the realists found inadequate: coloured vegetation, and t he bosky and branchless trees, with which we have all been familiar, from our youth wonderful river, which is always rippling with the same regular waves... On ur old, old friend, the architectural City, which nobody could possibly live in; and which is composed of nothing but temples, towers, monuments, flights of steps, and bewildering rows of pillars. In the distance, our favourite blue mountains were as blue and as approved pale yellow sun was still disfigured by the same attack of aerial jaundice, from which he has suffered ever since some classical compositions first forbade him to take refuge from the sight behind a friendly cloud. (46 47)
212 The tone of this passage is of mock reverence for the Great Masters, whose familiar conventions viewers have been taught to admire, but who have now only grown tedious. This is exactly the sort of idealized artwork that contemporaries such as Ruskin, the Pre Raphaelites and the French Realists opposed when they called for copying after nature. For example, realists frequently employed the practice of plein air painting to more accurately depict elements from nature, such as the appearances of trees, rivers mountains, the sun or clouds. 7 Ruskin even encouraged his readers to try an experiment in which they were to compare depictions of nature found in paintings by the s] Suspense fail miserably. It is a perfect example of the sort of art that Joshua Reynolds a dvocated [f igures 7 2 and 7 3] (n435). 8 Once again, Blyth misses the mark, aiming too high by slavishly following outmoded conventions. the empiricist and experimental nature. However, the novel also seems reluctant to completely eschew these non realist forms of art. Blyth is, after all, a likeable guy, even 7 Immediate predecessors to realism, Constable and Turner, were both admired for the ways in which heavily practiced plein air p ainting. And the Pre Raphaelite painter, William Holman Hunt, paid meticulous attention to natural lighting in his paintings, going so far as to travel to the Middle East to paint The Scapegoat (see Pre Raphaelitism and the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood ). 8 S eventeenth century French painters disparaged by Ruskin in The Stones of Venice where he says
213 if he is not amongst the avant garde (and is perhaps more likeable for this fact). A latter scene, in which Blyth exhibits his newest paintings at his home for a diverse group of acquaintances, shows that, whi le he is subject to ridicule, his critics are absolutely paintings. Unable to find anybody willing t o read the speech for him, he presents it himself while members of the audience continually interrupt or comment to each other. The result is carnivalesque, with a multitude of statements and counterstatements doing little in the way of making sense of Bly contemporary attitudes towards art. The voices in this scene are fragmentary and comic mockery of the art world as a whole. The aud and their interests in his paintings are as diverse as their backgrounds. At the top of the social hierarchy sits Lady Brambledown, who makes her appearance at the exhibition to s how that she is an egalitarian patroness of the arts (who nonetheless understands little whatsoever (235). Moving down in the social scale from Lady Brambledown, the cr owd contains two Royal Academicians and a doctor and his wife. After that, there come professional artists and critics: Mr. Bullivant, the sculpture, and Mr. Hemlock, the journalist, exchanging which no man ever has succeeded, or ever will succeed, in extricating an idea. Also, Mr. Gimble, fluently laudatory, with the whole alphabet of Art
214 subject to embarrass him in his flow of language. (235) At the opinions of the so called experts will provide much guidance in the way of unders offers constant commentary, much of it caustic, some of it laudatory and all of it further from the mark of art appreciation than Blyth himself. a tolerably faithful transcript of m no! thus Art Pastoral exalts no! I beg your pardon thus Art Pastoral and Nature exalt each other, and I beg your pardon again! Bullivant
215 and is only clumsily parroting his Academic education. pertain to realism or sensati s the Carlylean worldview that influenced the Pre 239), is not without parallel in the works of DGR or even Kingsley. However, as will be seen, the way in which Blyth introduces these forms on canvas is different from the technique used by the realists; instead of showing the mystical wo rking through the natural, Blyth shows the two existing side by side in an awkward juxtaposition. favor. Hemlock, of course, is the turgid one and his derision works to make Blyth more
216 the explorer sailing with his fleet while surrounded by flying cherubim, sea monsters and Throughout this explication, Hemlock and Bullivant continue to mock him and his opinions of a wide stratum of the nineteenth century art world, but these opinions a re offered here as meaningless art jargon. While not completely inaccurate, their comments are ultimately not compelling because they are so vicious and merely represent one more set of voices in the carnival. Even though Blyth is relying on allegorical te is with the current art world, he is at least making an earnest effort and his speech if ineloquent is sincere. In fact, Blyth comes closest to the empiricist focus of realism in his depiction of problematic. After covering the allegorical elements of the painting, Blyth moves to what ccupied by Columbus and his ships, and which represents the scene as it may actually be supposed to have occurred. Here we get to Reality, and to that sort of correctly imitative art which is simple enough audience to: and oblige me, at en, and cast himself
217 at long oars; and, finally, let me now direct your attention to the manner in whi ch the muscular system of the famous navigator is developed about the arms in anatomical harmony with this idea. Follow the wand closely, and observe, bursting, as it were, through his sleeves, the characteristic vigour Biceps Flexor Cubiti (241) At this point Lady Brambledown interrupts to ask if Biceps Flexor Cubiti this arises a struggle between the doctor and Blyth over the most important p oints to cover in describing the muscle. Blyth, trying to stress the point that he has been true to how he imagines the real Columbus to have looked, is only concerned with the use of the muscle, while the doctor insists on anatomical protocol which must p oint to the origins of the muscle on the body before describing its uses. The conflict between the two men shows the increasing overlap between the professions of art and medicine [VI.172 certainly has its faults, it comes closer to realism than his other paintings (even if his impatience suggests that he does not quite realize how close he has come). However, its naturalist depiction of Columbus clashes with the accompanying fantastical figures and it is fitting that the final judgment on this painting is rendered by Mathew Marksman, whose own extravagance clashes with the nov quotidian world. 9 Marksman is introduced in the second half of the novel, after which it shifts focus to his efforts to uncover the fate of his deceased sister (who turns out to be ure 9 he familiar world of a Wilkie Collins story,
218 story, Marksman has recently returned from the Americas and wears a black skullcap to cover his head, which was scalped by Native Americans. His introduction to the story e otherwise respectable next door neighbor. 10 artwork is frank and unadorned by the epistemology that becomes characteristic of sensation fiction. When he looks at would ever be fool enough to put to sea in an expert on sea crafts as the doctor is on muscles. His criticism is also much more apt than that of the art critics because of Marksman does not rely on meaningless art jargon but on the very conditions laid out by Blyth to assess the merits of h significant when he detects that the painting, with its weighty frame, has been hung on a 10 how the potentially dramat ic and extraordinary lies hidden in the characters of ordinary people, whose everyday and domestic lives may conceal secrets unsuspected by their friends and neighbors. The first half shows the surface, and hints at what it may hide. The second half is rev left with little to contemplate.
219 weak portion of the wall. Just before the portion of wall crumbles to send the painting crashing down to its destruction, Marksman steps up and rescues it, thus earning In response to art, then, Marksman hones in on the material itself: the ship suppo rted by the wall on which it hangs. Such worldly wise pragmatism extends beyond surfac matters much; in fact, their cacophony of voices leaves the reader without a clear means to assess the value of art. The only clear guidelines are strictly material; so long a s the ship can sail and the painting can stay on the wall, art works. Hide and Seek is thus skeptical about critical judgments on art, although it own productions, it declares that art should neither adhere too strictly to academic, outmoded conventions nor should it be too directly imitative. It thus shares the empiricist and exploratory nature of realism. Yet, Blyth does well for himself, and, if he is an incompete deserved) luxuries. Furthermore, the novel itself holds on to seemingly outmoded conventions, most significantly through the introduction of Mathew Marksman. The resultant fusio
220 critics but it is saved from utter destruction by an intervention in strictly material terms, at the hands of a character who is at once the most fantastic and most down to e arth in the novel. In the same way, sensation fiction itself, with its awkward juxtaposition of realism and romance, was ultimately measured in strictly material terms by its success on the market Mary Elizabeth Braddon and the Figure of the Artist similarities with realism, would eventually develop into the genre known as sensation fiction. His novel, The Woman in White (1860), sparked the controversies over this genre, bu t several other works emerged around the same time, including Mary (1862), that continued to fuel the controversy (Nemesvari 16). Significantly, George Eliot had only recently published her major realist works: the collection of short stories, Scenes from Clerical Life (1858), and the novel, Adam Bede (1859). The emergence of this more clearly defined form of realism thus coincided very closely with the emergence of sensation fiction. And if Wilkie Collins was Braddon this genre also takes on a more definite form, which was increasingly cast in opposition to highbrow realism and its intellectual skepticism. Braddon, who was heavily in fluenced by Collins, also uses artist characters as meta commentary in many of her early novels, most notably in Legacy ( JML ) (1863) and ( EV ) (1863). The main villain in JML is a painter, Paul Marchmont, who, frustrated w ith his inability to earn more than a meager living through his trade, turns instead to kidnapping and fraud. EV the serialization of
221 which briefly overlapped that of JML features two artists. One, Launcelot Darrell, functions as a villain who, like Marc hmont, turns to fraud when his artistic work fails to provide the means to live comfortably. The other, Richard Thornton, works modestly as modesty places him on the side heroine foil Darrell. Like Valentine Blyth, all of these artists share a penchant for the neo classical and romantic, and also like Blyth, are compelled to turn elsewhere to provide for material gain. What d ifferentiates Thornton from Marchmont and Darrell is Of the sensation write rs, Braddon seems to have been particularly sensitive to the critical differentiation between realism and sensation and to have yearned for the esteem afforded the realists. Indeed, she herself greatly admired French realist novelists, Balzac and Flaubert; mentioned at the start of this chapter, Madame Bovary According to Gilbert, Belgravia (1876), she aspires to the sort of character drive n fiction attributed to George Eliot (Gilbert aversion to the intelligentsia, and to the sorts of heady matters that fascinated the realists. Whereas with Collins such posturin g is portrayed as relatively harmless, with
222 Braddon it takes on a much more sinister tone; or, at least, it becomes the province of conventionality, Braddon affirms a much more traditionalist view of existence, especially, as will be seen, in accepting the greatness of ile Braddon does seem to have wanted some of the cache granted to the realists, then, she does not appear to have been entirely sympathetic to their aims. Indeed, in her depiction of Paul Marchmont, Braddon does at least share the ther outward signs might reveal anything about inner character. Like Tito Melema from Romola (published in the same year as JML ), his appearance is misleading and masks the greater danger he poses to those around him, particularly to the heroine. Marchmont thirty seven year old man, a head full of silky, white hair (119). While his looks may be bull (Braddon 126 7). and Oliver Twist what Braddon does with Marchmont does not seem especially different from what Eliot does with Tito.
223 again much like Tito Melema due to his unwillingness to apply himself to difficult or unpleasant tasks. Indeed, the novel says more between Marchmont and Turner is made again in a later passage: The greatest painte Heaven never meant him to be a great painter. No; art w as only a means of living with this man. He painted, and sold his pictures to his few patrons, who beat him down unmercifully, giving him a small profit upon his canvas and colours, for the encouragement of native art; but he only painted to live. (46) Turner, who died in 1851 in the house he inhabited at Chelsea. The painter of the 4 and 7 5] is William Powell F businessman and a popular, if conventional painter of stylized scenes of modern life, much in the same vein as sensation fiction. If Marchmont (or even Turner, for that m atter) had been born a decade later, the novel implies, the market for art would have been different and he would have been more motivated to apply himself. Braddon even develops Marchmont in realist fashion, here, offering an historical explanation for hi s character. Nor does the novel suggest that he is entirely unreasonable in not wanting to work for starvation wages. This passage does not say it would have been nobler for him to die a starving and unrecognized genius. Rather, the lack of recognition is cast as a plausible incentive to drive Marchmont away from his profession and towards villainy.
224 And it is this villainy that ultimately drives him to suicide, in a scene that prompted a reviewer to censure Braddon for her poor grasp of character developme nt. Faced with usurped while still in it (styli ng himself after Sardanapalus). 11 He thus accomplishes the double goal of killing himself and spiting any future inheritor of the e state. An 1865 reviewer had this to say of the episode: Had he [Marchmont] been drawn after the life, he would have been endowed with some redeeming qualities. When a man acts a villain, he does not, as Miss Braddon seems to think, cease to be a man. Even had Paul Marchmont been what we are told he was, he would not have committed suicide; but have sneaked away with whatever property he could steal. This authoress adds another to the many proofs she furnishes us with of her entire ignorance of human nature and mental processes, by making Paul Marchmont commit suicide after the manner of Sardanapalus. (qtd. in Nemesvari 22) Nemesvari uses this review to underscore the arbitrary distinction that was being made at this point in time between realism and sensati on. Nemesvari suspects that, among sensibilities of the reviewer, who preferred the more muted displays of realism (22). It is also possible that the reviewer was actual ly comparing Marchmont with Tito Melema, as reviewer claims to know how a character like Mar chmont would have actually behaved is certainly questionable (22). And that the reviewer seems to be speculating, in one way or another, on how Eliot would have treated the same character affirms that 11 Sardanapalus was the legendary 7th century BC king of Assyria, who, in order to escape his enemies, self immolates with his material possessions, eunuchs and concubines. He was the subject of a poem by Byron and a painting by Delacroix.
225 sensation was created as the polar opposite of realism claims to a privileged truth. Braddon also reveals her antipathy to the fundamentally skeptical nature of realism. As hims now that rst period of materialism and religious skepticism, but one that ultimately le aves him with a evident truth common sense that Marchmont was foolish to rej skepticism is merely sophistry and it contributes to his madness and eventual self destruction. The death of this artist figure reveals the way in which sensation, to return ense of the mysterious. EV especially in that both share an aversion to honest work and thus turn to crime and add the sensational element to their respective novels. Described by one c
226 unthreatening demeanor. He is definitely not the hero of this novel, however, and is guilty of cheating the father of the heroine, Eleanor Vane, and inad vertently driving him to commit suicide. Having vowed revenge on the man who ruined her father, but without knowing his identity, Eleanor finds herself living under the same roof as Darrell. Her first impression takes in his outward handsomeness, but she a lso senses his lack of character. Not until later does she recognize him, although even then she lacks the means to convict him. In order to establish that he is the man who ruined her father, she turns to her friend Richard Thornton, who is also an artist clot hes stained with paint and porter (48 scenery for the Ph oenix Theater, where he also plays second violin, works on annotating musical scores and translates plays from French into English (49). And he is described as a genuinely kind, brave and dutiful man who works in order that he and his aunt can survive. So, unlike the handsome and well dressed, but indolent and cruel, Marchmont and Darrell, Thornton appears slovenly and coarse but is a tireless worker and a person of great integrity. Thornton is actually quite similar to Valentine Blyth, both in his penchant for older
227 teaches himself how to paint and actually resembles Marchmont in his Ruskin and his approach to nature is a forerunner of realism, he also composed e, as a relative Thornton fails to find much pecuniary reward in following the footsteps of these artists: The great historical subjects after Maclise ody Boar magnum opus which poor Dick fondly hoped to see in the Royal Academy were not very saleable; and the Turne resque landscapes, nymphs and ruins, dryads and satyrs, dimly visible through yellow mist and rose coloured fog, cost a great deal of time and money to produce, and were not easily convertible into ready cash. (80) The classical history and landscape paint s are described more than once as per se In fact, in later cases she will show her allegiances to such art. As with Blyth and Marchmont, the main objection to the se paintings is that they fail to bring in much money. Just as Blyth turns to commercial art to provide for his wife and Marchmont turns to crime to satisfy his tastes, Thornton turns to scene painting to earn a living for himself and his family. And, inde ed, while an ephemeral trade, scene painting nonetheless allows Thornton to turn his particular genius for the melodramatic to good profit.
228 works with conventionally theat rical subject matter. At one point, he creates a model for Ralph is an appare ntly respectable doctor who is slowly poisoning his neighbor; in the meantime, Catherine de Medicis walks about, disguised as a nun, also poisoning Catherine, his mothe r, is the one who poisoned him. Ironically, in spite of his associations with the theatrical, Richard is repeatedly the voice of reason and the proclaims her vow of vengea nce, Richard tries to point out to her that she is unlikely to she does sati sfy her vendetta through an improbable set of coincidences, Braddon melodrama. When Thornton and Darrell meet for the first time, both artists show a tendency towards the s As You Like It pai ught I
2 29 out of patient you can produce a transformation Paul Rubens got over a have a slight knowledge In fact, for all his talk about artistic inspiration and the idea that art is antithetical to labor, Darrell is actually quite cynical about the value of art. In an earlier exchange with earn cheating an old man at cards or forging a will. Like Marchmont, his desire for money his cheating and forgery are both produced against him, giving Eleanor the means to enact her revenge. In the end, however, she takes pity on him at the behest of his mother and, reformed, he achieves some actual success.
230 The novel remains ambivalent, however, about the real merits of even this success and suggests it may merely be tantamount to another of his scams. As the after a preternaturally hideous woman, in a turret chamber lighted by Lucifer matches the blue and green light of the lucifers on the face of the ugly woman, and a pre Raphaelit e strange weird attraction in it, and people went to see it again and again, and liked it, and lthough seeming to criticize popular taste, likening this painting to the Pre Raphaelites actually criticizes the avant garde in much the same way as Collins does in Hide and Seek 12 If paintings le, the novel seems to suggest, this may well be because society is too fixated on the strange and ugly fads of the day. Braddon essentially reverses the binary figured against sensation, castigated re hoodwinking of the public an emperor with no clothes on, so to speak. unlikely to leave behind anything to be judged even by posterity. Although Darrell is cynical and Thor nton is earnest, both, ironically, turn out to be mere producers of 12 Of course, it is a Pre Braddon does not offer enough of a sustained analysis of artist figures in that novel to gain a strong sense of her overall attitudes to a rtistic movements. The passage in EV seems much more clearly satirical.
231 consumer goods, soon to be forgotten by future generations. The only difference is that living and th 13 The validate a realist perspective, except that EV h estimation of these men. Strangely, then, the artist who works mainly with the material e to garner what she felt was a much deserved recognition. Indeed, several years later, she does present an artist, William Crawford of The (1866), who achieves both pecuniary success and public recognition Crawford, Braddon articulates her own artistic values: s from the Acade gorgeous Rubens like canvas, whereon Pericles reclined at the feet of emitting in ask him to is such a rage about these painter people just now, and I hear the prices he gets for his pictures are something fabulous (Wolff 175) 13 Such attitude runs counter Aurora Leigh
232 Although rejected by critics, this is not the rejection of the avant garde artist; his paintings are clearly done after an older tradition as they follow in the style of Rubens and feature figures from Greek history. T he rejection faced by Crawford is, like the rejection of Valentine Blyth, that of a snobbish art world that has lost its appreciation for Raphaelites and other experimental realists. Rather occasionally blinded by fads, they nonetheless seem to have returned to their core values with the painting that mak es Crawford an overnight success. Crawford most likely reflects what Braddon wanted for herself, then: the cultural capital granted to the realists and the popular and material success won by the sensation writers. If Braddon never quite won the critical e stimation she wanted, though, she did effectively bring sensation into its own as a genre opposed to the anti conventional, skeptical nature of realism. Collins, while an inspiration to Braddon, seems to have been slightly more ambivalent towards realist e xperimentation and doubt; where Collins is dismissive, Braddon is scornful. Yet, this is not to say that Braddon does not still share much in common with the realists. Foremost is her valuing of earnest, hard labor. Even if her exemplary artist is presente d as more akin to a Rubens or a Raphael than to a Millais or a Rossetti, he nonetheless does not wait for inspiration to strike but is rather employs a more melodramatic tone and a Manichean division of people into good and
233 work is still closer to that of a Millais than a Rubens Emerging around the same time, realism and s ensation represent slightly different, competing forms of representation that evolved out of a common ancestor. Both engage with a tension that existed during the nineteenth century between materialist certainty and spiritual mystery. The realist aims to s how the material as an emanation of the spiritual, arguing that the spiritual can only be understand through a skeptical process of experimentation with the material. The sensation writer on the other hand, places the material and spiritual (often presente d as the strange or uncanny) alongside each other realism, in spite of its appa rent celebration of the fantastic. Again, as Brantlinger says, address the mysterious, but it is not presented as such. Rather it is presented as a certainty, a matter of common sense and something which it would be as foolish to doubt as the existence of the most mundane household appliance or piece of paving stone. suggests, in a cynical bid for the greatest share of the market seems less certain. While it does seem likely that the less troubled and therefore less troubling world of sensati on fiction would appeal to more people, there is not necessarily anything cynical
234 about it. Indeed, the artist figures in Collins and Braddon share, if nothing else, the earnestness and sincerity of the realist artist. Furthermore, they suggest that the sk epticism of the realists was itself a cynical form of posturing, conducted in the interests of earning the esteem of critical approval. Indeed, the realists and the sensation writers tended to point at each other in order to mark the imposter, perhaps beca use the differences between the genres were often subtle enough to make a clear distinction between the two difficult. And this distinction, whether produced by design or through consumer inclination, was one increasingly drawn along class lines. At any ra te, the creation of sensation fiction does seem to have provided the final step in the process of reifying realism as a legitimate and privileged practice. For several decades, the realist novel will set the standard against which all other literature is to be compared. And even when authors and critics grow tired of the realist novel by the end of the century some examples of which will be provided in the afterward ly for inspiration. 14 But, to be sure, people do grow tired of realism by the end of the century, until it becomes demonized in the myriad ways mentioned at the beginning of my study. And in many ways, Collins and Braddon were right to suggest that the avan t garde of their own day would in turn be regarded as a momentary fad by a latter class of critics. But what they missed, perhaps, was that they were all, realist and sensation writer alike, very much a part of the same moment and were all very much concer ned with articulating a timeless ideal, even as timeless ideals seemed increasingly a thing of the past 14 See n3
235 Figure 7 1. Charles Allsto n Collins, Convent Thoughts (1851). Reprinted from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f2/ConventThoughtsCollins.jpg Figure 7 2. Claude Lorrain, Landscape with Aeneas at Delos (1642). Reprinted from: http://china art discount.com/Artist/Artwork/l/c/claude/3/07delos.jpg
236 Figure 7 3. Nicolas Poussin, Landscape with Funeral of Phocion (1848 50). Reprinted from: http://china art discount.com/Artist/Artwork/l/c/claude/3/07delos.jpg Figure 7 4. William Powell Frith, The Railway Station (1862). Reprinted from: http://victorianweb.org/painting/frith/paintings/5.html
237 Figure 7 5. William Powell Frith, Derby Day (1858). Reprinted from: http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/frith/paintings/7.html
238 APPENDIX : AFTERWARD to deal with the essentially unheroic, with the day to day life of that vast majority of it verbatim, without one single impertinent suggestion of any point of view save that of honest reporting. The result will be something unutterably tedious. Precisely. That is the stamp of the ignobly decent life. If it were anything but tedious it would be untrue. I speak, of course, of its effect upon the ordinary reader (175). Harold Biffin, in George Gissing, New Grub Street (1891) As a young man he had shared a room with a painter whose paintings had grown larger and larger as he tried to get the wh swollen events of the night of the crescent knives reminded Nadir Khan of his room mate, because life had once aga in, perversely, refused to remain lifesized. It had turned melodramatic: and that embarrassed him (49). Salman Rushdie, (1981) As I mentioned at the start of this study, realism has fallen out of favor in the previous century or so. C oming into its own during the middle of the nineteenth century, the literary world had already grown tired of it by its end. Worse for realism were the charges leveled against it that it fostered a dangerously conservative ideology that ostracized all who fell outside of its white, middle class, hetero normative world. Such have been the critiques leveled against it from the left. And although these are justified critiques, it is preferable to find ways to refine upon the nineteenth century model as has a than to do away with it altogether. For, from the right, as will be seen, comes a cry that apparently wants to do just that, in ways that go beyond a critique of the Enlight enment and argue that its products should be eradicated altogether. If the debates over realism in the 1850s helped establish it as a legitimate method ushered in its reje ction as such. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the literature of the
239 1890s also features a plethora of artist characters who weigh in on issues of artistic The Picture of Dorian Gra y Paris, in Trilby (1894). The positions of these novels towards realism are far too complex to address here, but both suggest weariness with its quotidian storylines. At the same time, the literature of the1890s also contains some examples of what many consider the epitome of British realism, such as the novels of George Moore or George Gissing. Even with an author like Gissing, however, there is some sense that real ism has perhaps run i ts course. 1 And it is not through a painter, but through a writer, Harold critique of realism. as the highly elite status that realism had attained by the end of the century. In fact, what many (including, perhaps, Gissing himself) perceived to be realism to day irony, of course, is that such matter of fact depiction of such m undane subject matter Mr. Bailey, Grocer only a sophisticated reader with a tremendous amount of patience could appreciate its subtleties. But then Harold 1 New Grub Stre et book, Satire in an Age of Realism (2010).
240 promoting Jasper Milvain, is content to suffer from a lack of pecuniary success in th e interests of his art. in spite of his claim he is a romantic, even at times an heroic figure. As he tells his friend, the fell demands of the material world, these two men pass their time comparing translations of Greek verse and dreaming about the Medi manuscript about the unheroic Mr. Bailey is threatened in a house fire, he performs a most heroic and dramatic rescue of it, braving the flames and jumping across rooftops in the process. Finally, when faced with the c ritical rejection of his magnum opus and the unrequited love of the recently widowed Amy Reardon, Biffen takes his own life. For very melodramatic pace. But, the n, Biffen re affirms what realism has been all along: an extension of idealism. Thus, New Grub Street And certainly, the life Biffen leads is the melodrama. Not that the novel does not, nonetheless, suggest a problem with things came into his mind; he had reverted to an earlier period of life, when as yet no mission of literary realism had been imposed upon him, and when his passions were of the realist, and beauty and hope had long since been replaced by the pessimisti c and
241 quotidian demands of literary realism, which kill him. In fact, if Dickens unjustly denounced Pre Raphaelite realism as pessimistic, Gissing seems to have embraced its pessimism, suggesting at the end of New Grub Street that the only people who succe ed in life are jaded materialists like Jasper Milvain and Amy Reardon. If through Biffen, Gissing posits a dead also be suggesting that his own work has p ushed its methods to the limit. 2 Certain ly, literary history shows that realism would soon be left behind for modernism, but it has nonetheless continued to find expression in contemporary literature, as in the so passage quoted above from his (1981) uses references to both a painter and a poet figure as meta commentary in a way very similar to the works addressed in my study. Nadir Khan, the rhyme less and impotent modernist poet has just fled the violent assassinat ion of a major political figure by a group wielding crescent the impracticab the lives of three generations of his family as they parallel the history of India. At the fab ulist narrative. 2
242 As with the fin de sicle literature mentioned previously, the relationship between century Europe an origins. It seems safe to say that one of the major criticisms leveled against nineteenth century European realism is the predominate focus it makes on the lives of its white, middle class readers. veryday life, it unfairly dictated both what counted as human and what counted as everyday events. How, for example, could one use realism to narrative the lives of the people who lived through the inexplicable violence of the Partition of India? Without a ttempting to answer this question, I would like to suggest that much of post colonial literature has at least made use of realist methods brought in from colonial occupiers. How and to what extent they have used it is a matter for further studies, although arguably a pressing one for a greater understanding of literary realism. Finally, though, I would like to conclude by noting that, in contrast to critiques from the political left, members of the political right are not only uninterested in the problems o f how realism qualifies human experience, they are far more concerned that it has made human experience a concern in the first place. An August 9th, 2011 article in the Los Angeles Times the G argue that the Renaissance marked a disastrous turning point for human kind. As the artis
243 that maintained by nineteenth century art historians like Alexis Francois Rio, which p rovided one impetus against which realism was developed. In rejecting the Renaissance, these conservative Christian writers thus reject its intellectual fruits such as realism. After my advisor shared this article with me, I later recalled a word of cautio n she had raised when I proposed that I use my study as the focus for upper division (Pamela Gilbert, personal communication, May 30, 2011). If only I had Michele Bachmann to use in my class back then! For, while Bachmann may not ultimately seem like a candidate who is likely to win any presidential race, those who share her beliefs that humanity increasingly and alarmingly powerful voice in American politics. For them, if we mportance. And, if for no other reason, realism should then also be of importance to the rest of the world, as it comes under attack from a group that is apparently nostalgic for a return to the Dark Ages.
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251 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Originally from Michigan, Daniel Schultz Brown earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo, MI He a lso has a Master of Science in i nformation degree from the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbo r, MI, and a Master of Arts in liberal s tudies from Oakland University, in Rochester, MI. He h as spent the last six years in Gainesville, FL, where he completed his Doctor of Philosophy degree at the University of Florida.