You are on page 1of 166


Volume 3
ISSN: 2454-6100
(UGC Approved)

Journal of



Saswati Halder (Coordinator)

Sutanuka Ghosh (Joint Coordinator)

Pramantha Mohun Tagore

Anish Kundu

Introduction .......................................................................................................

Abstracts ............................................................................................................

Working class self-expression through text: The Diary of Hannah Cullwick

Sarah N. Macdonald...........................................................................................

Manhood and Mettle in George Eliots Adam Bede and The Mill on the Floss:

Male Characters Negotiating Victorian Material Culture

Dennis S. Gouws.................................................................................................

Examining Victorian Material Culture in Lewis Carrolls Alices Adventures in

Wonderland and Edward Lears Nonsense Poetry

Deepna Rao........................................................................................................

Jekyll-Holmes and Ripper-Hyde: The Body as a Site of Multiplicity

Sudeshna Datta Chaudhuri.................................................................................

Afterlife in Text: Gothic Materialism in Margaret Oliphants A Beleaguered


Shantanu Majhee................................................................................................

The secret of the bedstead: Unraveling the domestic machinery in Wilkie

Collins A Terribly Strange Bed (1852)

A Divya..............................................................................................................
Calculating Sensibilities: Life Insurance in Victorian England

Sagar Taranga Mandal........................................................................................

An Echo of Someone Elses Music: Oscar Wildes Queer Curation in The

Picture of Dorian Gray

Sandra M. Leonard.............................................................................................

Notes on the Authors .........................................................................................

We are proud to present the third volume of The Confidential Clerk, an online journal published
annually by the Centre for Victorian Studies, Jadavpur University. Interdisciplinary, international
and innovative, the journal is broadly concerned with scholarship, new research and a keen
understanding of nineteenth century literary history and theory. The current issue is a collection of
original and unpublished research papers on Victorian Material Culture, from
young researchers and academicians all over the world.
In the summer of 1851 Queen Victoria's Great Britain was ready to showcase itself not
only as one of the most powerful European nations, but also to exhibit to the world its industrial
prowess, its rapidly expanding scientific and technological knowledge and application, effectively
propelling the transition to industrial capital that would go on to ensure that the sun did not set in
the British empire for almost another century. The Great Exhibition, proposed by Prince Albert,
created the space to demonstrate the works of industry of all nations. With the threat of Chartism
having been successfully neutralised at the House of Commons, Britain was at peace. Albert could
write to his cousin King William of Prussia, that we have no fear here either of an uprising or an
assassination.' With the development of mass production, England was experiencing a
manufacturing boom and reinventing herself as an urban industrialised nation on the international
stage. In the Great Exhibition there were some 100,000 objects, displayed along more than 10
miles, by over 15,000 contributors. Britain, as host, occupied half the display space inside, with
exhibits from the home country and the Empire. One of the upstairs galleries was walled with
stained glass through which the sun streamed in technicolour. Almost as brilliantly coloured were
carpets from Axminster and ribbons from Coventry.
Material culture is a broad term covering all aspects of the material world, including
clothing, household goods, tools, buildings, roads, books, periodicals, photographs, paintings,
museums, and ornaments. In other words, material culture encompasses everything which involves
the design, manufacture, and use of the material world. From the industrial novels of Benjamin
Disraeli, Charles Dickens, and Elizabeth Gaskell to the work of John Ruskin, William Morris and
Walter Pater, Victorians engaged in complex ways with the diversity of material cultural forms,
whether cheap cotton goods, handmade crafts, or the art and architecture of the period. Social
historians of the period have long explored the abundance of products generated by the industrial
revolution; however, there has in recent years been a growing interest in the study of commodity
cultures and consuming practices. Research has also moved toward examinations of the global
exchange of goods between Britain and its Empire, the display of artefacts in the newly built
museums of Victorian London, the development of retail centres in towns and cities and the
peddling of numerous products and services on the streets of the emerging metropolitan centres,
the advertisements of goods in periodicals and on the streets, the cultural role of the fashion
industry, representations of objects in literature, design reform movements such as Arts and Crafts,
the Victorian home, the collection and collecting practices along with other human interactions
with the material world. The 19th century became an age that would go on to define itself to an
unprecedented degree through its material culture, both to itself and to posterity, with subjects and
objects merging in dynamic ways, becoming metonyms of each other and finding themselves
materially transformed through this exchange.
Sarah N. Macdonalds paper on Working class self-expression through text: The Diary
of Hannah Cullwick, focuses on domestic laborer Hannah Cullwick (1984), who composed a
diary over 17 years from about 1854-1873. The paper examines the link between Cullwicks
writing/photographs and Victorian ideology, focusing on work and class status, thereby illustrating
the complexity of the text/photographs as a product of Cullwicks needs as an author and in her
relationship with her middle-class lover Arthur Munby.
Dennis S. Gouws in Manhood and Mettle in George Eliots Adam Bede and The Mill
on the Floss: Male Characters Negotiating Victorian Material Culture, examines the mettle
of male characters who negotiate a new Victorian material culture consequent to British
industrialization in the first three decades of the nineteenth century. Central to their negotiation
was the goal of attaining manhood, a contingent condition that registered a mans social and
material progress in his quest to provide for his own family.
Deepna Raos paper on Examining Victorian Material Culture in Lewis Carrolls
Alices Adventures in Wonderland and Edward Lears Nonsense Poetry, while utilizing
linguistic and genre-based analysis, in addition to referring to models of viewing Material Culture,
examines the writers inimitable modes of critiquing upper-class society and its manners.
Sudeshna Datta Chaudhuris paper on Jekyll-Holmes and Ripper-Hyde: The Body as a
Site of Multiplicity, examines the body as the site for metaphysical and theological questions and
debates, sometimes about inherent good and evil, and sometimes about the repressed sexual urges.
The rapidly expanding scientific knowledge seems to tie the mind down more and more to the
materiality of the body.
Shantanu Majhee in Afterlife in Text: Gothic Materialism in Margaret Oliphants A
Beleaguered City, puts forward a frame of reference to the signification of the material world as
an embodiment of the incorporeal in Mrs. Oliphant's A Beleaguered City and offers insights into
the handling of the form itself. Tagging along the pictorial analogy in the literature of the
nineteenth century, the article looks into the visual of the visionary wherein material things are
infused with a quality of insight which reveals the inner spirit or symbolic life of the object.
A Divya in The secret of the bedstead: Unraveling the domestic machinery in
Wilkie Collins A Terribly Strange Bed (1852), illustrates how Collins rewrites the tropes of
the gothic narrative to capture and construct the complex socio-cultural ideologies of domesticity,
and science and technology of the mid-nineteenth century. The paper also highlights the ways in
which the culture of scientific innovations of the Victorian period has permeated the narrative
consciousness of literary fiction.
Sagar Taranga Mandal in Calculating Sensibilities: Life Insurance in Victorian
England, looks at a complex intersectionality of science and commerce. On the one hand, the
new age fund managing companies were called upon to absorb large amount of surplus capital that
became increasingly available throughout the Victorian capital market in the nineteenth century.
On the other, they have to come up with narratives that promised Darwinistic improvement in near
physical perfection, drawing the consumers at once, like Darwins 1859 text, into an active
relationship with the future by asking them to reimagine the material world through an act of
Sandra M. Leonard in An Echo of Someone Elses Music: Oscar Wildes Queer
Curation in The Picture of Dorian Gray, addresses a passage on musical instruments as having
a potentially complimentary but separate reading as a queering of Carl Engels study of the musical
instruments in the South Kensington Museum. She argues that Wildes editorial choices in shaping
this passage subvert Victorian ideals of museum collection, give Engels text a queer reading when
paired with Dorian Gray, and that this suggestive reading contributes to the dominant themes of
Dorian Gray.

Working class self-expression through text and photographs: The Diary of Hannah Cullwick

- Sarah N. Macdonald

I am proposing an examination focusing on domestic laborer Hannah Cullwick (1984),

who composed a diary over 17 years from about 1854-1873. She wrote the diaries at the behest of
her middle-class lover Arthur Munby until their eventual marriage as Stanley notes in her
Introduction to the text: Hannah began writing her diary at Munbys wish and in order to keep
him in touch with her daily drudgery and other activities (8). Cullwick also sat for a number of
photographs both in her work cloths and in various costumes. My central questions are: Why would
Cullwick have produced so much textual and photographic material and what can we learn about
the Victorian working classes through this unique evidence. To answer these questions, I examine
the link between Cullwicks writing/photographs and Victorian ideology, focusing on work and
class status, thereby illustrating the complexity of the text/photographs as a product of Cullwicks
needs as an author and in her relationship with Munby. The secret nature of Munby and Cullwicks
relationship made daily letters inconvenient due to the disparity in their status. However, Cullwick
wrote daily entries in her diary for Munby. Such composition required a great deal of time
commitment. Yet, she continued the daily task for 17 years until after their marriage, when she
saw no use in them. As Liz Stanley (1984) notes in her introduction to Cullwicks diary, Her
diaries ended, and she made it clear that there would be no more because the conditions that gave
them point and purpose no longer existed (24). Cullwicks purpose in writing and sitting for the
photgraphs, according to Stanley, was to encourage the playacting both Cullwick and Munby
enjoyed. Based on Stanleys argument, I suggest that, as Cullwick gained increasing control of the
text, she shifted the focus from his needs to hers. As such, she could no longer concentrate solely
on Munbys pleasure in reading about her labor and instead emphasized her needs as an
autonomous laborer. The photographs work in much the same way. While it could seem that
Cullwick only sat for the photographs for Munbys pleasure, they are actually evidence of her
control of her relationship and body. This article, then, considers her relationship with Munby, the
dynamics of their long-term union, and Victorian ideology to argue that the diaries/photographs
provided one of the few opportunities for unhindered communication between Cullwick and
Munby that was the primary motivation for the diaries. Cullwick was able to present her preferred
subjectivity through the medium of text and photos. As such, these pieces allow us to not only see
Cullwicks persona but how working-class Victorians could utilize various mediums for personal

Manhood and Mettle in George Eliots Adam Bede and The Mill on the Floss:

Male Characters Negotiating Victorian Material Culture

- Dennis S. Gouws

George Eliots first two novels, Adam Bede and The Mill on the Floss, test the mettle of
male characters who negotiate a new Victorian material culture consequent to British
industrialization in the first three decades of the nineteenth century. Central to their negotiation
was the goal of attaining manhood, a contingent condition that registered a mans social and
material progress in his quest to provide for his own family. Men who successfully attained
manhood adopted new strategies for participating in a commodity culture that valued productivity
(increasingly understood in terms of goods produced rather than agricultural yield) and cheapness
(in both its earlier English sense of commercially viability and its contemporary Ruskinian sense
of being inexpensive and of questionable quality). Mens work became urgent, their dignity
diminished by the reduction of their bodies to working tools. Despite Carlyles call for a new
chivalry of industrial work, Victorian manhood, and Eliots depiction of it in these novels,
esteemed material worth over traditionally ideal personal conduct.

The quest for resilient manhood in this era of industrial productivity and its impact on the
materiality of the male body is most notably dramatized in Adam Bede by a trio of male characters
who represent newly contending, not complimentary, expressions of masculinity. Eliot registers
in their interactions a change in the social currency informing successful manhood from rank-
sourced qualitative reverence to class-based quantitative merit. The performative dandyism of
Arthur Donnithorne, the impracticable sensibility of Seth Bede, and the generous rectitude of
Adam Bede poorly serve these male characters quest for manhood; however, Eliot emphasizes
that Adams mettle, informed by his practical education and work ethic, enables him to adapt
effectively to the evolving demands of productive male conduct. Eliot characterizes the result of
his triumphant fistfight with Arthur in chapter twenty-seven as inevitable because Adams physical
strength, which results from his disciplined manual labor, overcomes Arthurs gentlemanly
fighting tactics, as surely as a steel rod is broken by an iron bar. Adam alone attains a successful
form of manhood.

The pursuit of manhood in The Mill on the Floss similarly involves three characters who
embody contending expressions of masculinity, but their drama plays out two-to-three decades
later in the progress of material culture in Britain. In this novel Eliot resorts to material adaptability
(derived from Darwin and Spencer) to explain their suitability to attaining manhood. Stephen
Guest owes his esteemed social position to the commercial success of Guest & Co., his familys
business, which the author describes at the beginning of book sixth as the largest oil-mill and the
most extensive wharf in St Oggs; Philip Wakems liberal education poorly prepare him for
Victorian manhood; and Tom Tulliver only earns respect when he abandons his liberal education
and becomes involved in commerce. Stephen alone successfully attains manhood because his
familys manufacturing wealth better enables him to survive the challenges he faces in the novel.

This paper examines the extent to which these male characters ability to attain manhood
is influenced by their fortitude and by the circumstances of Victorian material culture.

Examining Victorian Material Culture in Lewis Carrolls Alices Adventures in

Wonderland and Edward Lears Nonsense Poetry

- Deepna Rao

Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear remain two tremendously endearing writers of the
Victorian era, whose linguistic experimentation with childrens literature laid the foundations of
much modern literary innovation in the twentieth century. Nonsense Literature, as Elizabeth
Sewell has called their modes of writing, presents an interesting area for the exploration of Material
Culture. Carroll and Lear, both closely associated, present situations that appear unprecedentedly
fantastical, and yet familiar enough to the Victorian reader in terms of modes of behavior, upper
class past-times (such as tea-parties and croquet in Alice in Wonderland or dancing in The Owl
and the Pussycat), and clothing. These situations serve, given the modes of Carrolls fantasy
writing and Lears Nonsense Poetry, as exaggerated and humorous societal critiques and a subtly
satirical reflection of the society of the time.

Literary nonsense playfully subverts traditional language and social situations, by

presenting intentionally strange, paradoxical or whimsical characters and behaviors. As a literary
device, it resists traditional interpretation. A number of critics such as Wim Tigges, Susan Stewart
and Elizabeth Sewell, not to mention writers such as G.K. Chesterton, George Orwell, have
analyzed this genre. However, this genre is traditionally analyzed linguistically, and not through
the lens of Material Culture. A look at a prose novel and select poems would also serve to show
how Material Culture is differentially imaged by the two genres, not simply by the two writers.
This paper, while utilizing linguistic and genre-based analysis, in addition to referring to models
of viewing Material Culture, will examine the writers inimitable modes of critiquing upper-class
society and its manners. The texts considered would include Lewis Carrolls Alice in Wonderland
and select poems of Edward Lear such as The Owl and the Pussycat, Cold are the Crabs, Calicoe
Pie, The Table and the Chair and The Broom, the Shovel, the Poker and the Tongs, among others.

Jekyll-Holmes and Ripper-Hyde: The Body as a Site of Multiplicity

- Sudeshna Datta Chaudhuri

In the autumn of 1888, five gruesome murders in the Whitechapel area took the city of
London by storm. The fact that all five victims were poor prostitutes, whose murder could mean
little profit to anybody, turned this event into an even more mysterious one. The scare spread, and
no less than twelve killings between late 1887 and 1891, besides the canonical five, were attributed
to Jack the Ripper. There were a number of suspects but no one was ever caught. Perhaps this
was (and still is) why Jack the Ripper was thought to be a gentleman who could use his
respectability as a mask to cover his tracks. By a remarkable coincidence, Robert Louis Stevenson
was to write The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde just two years prior to the Whitechapel
murders. This fictional event has had such a strong influence on the mind of the public that the
character of Edward Hyde has often been supposed to foreshadow that of the Rippers. Perhaps
this is the reason why the Ripper is repeatedly imagined to be a Hyde-like figure. The surgical
precision with which the women were cut and their organs removed indicated a man of scientific
training as well. Yet, in the body of the scientific man, the main point of interest becomes his unity
of being, rather than in his duality of character. The body is the site for metaphysical and
theological questions and debates, sometimes about inherent good and evil, and sometimes about
the repressed sexual urges. At any rate, the rapidly expanding scientific knowledge seems to tie
the mind down more and more to the materiality of the body.

The attraction of Jekyll and Hyde lay in the fact that they had the potential to be interpreted
in many different ways. The most common of these interpretations was to view Jekyll-Hyde as an
allegory for the schism in man, an essential separation of good and evil, or the war between bestial
and human, and in recent times, the conflict between id and ego. The Jekyll-Hyde experience also
makes for a perfect symbol of schizophrenia or even multiple personality disorder though it
matches none of these disorders symptomatically. The other aspect of this phenomenon would be
the focus shifting from the criminals to those who captured the criminals, and the rise of a literature
of detection. The police detective made his literary debut in the middle of the 19th century, with
Edgar Allan Poes Dupin. This template would lead to Sherlock Holmes, the one character that is
still kept alive. In October 2002, Holmes was awarded an honorary fellowship of the Royal Society
of Chemistry of London. The rationale behind this decision was that despite being fictional,
Holmes was the first to resort to science and rational thinking to combat crime and solve their
cases. Many authors bring Holmes into contact with real-life contemporary people, such as
Sigmund Freud or Oscar Wilde or Jack the Ripper. The culminating point of where fact meets
fiction might actually be Michael Dibdins work of fiction The Last Case of Sherlock Holmes
(1996), where Sherlock Holmes is Jack the Ripper.

It seems the most relevant idea for the times was the promise of multiplicity that it carried.
It is the myth of the multiple persona, which is not necessarily and not the same as a multiple
personality disorder. It is more like having the choice and the ability to shift between antipodes
as Huxley calls them. The multitude residing in the city becomes almost a metaphor for multiplicity
itself; any face could be the face, and that face could be more than one particular face. Also, the
choice of morality of a person becomes his own, and not dictated by others. The central issue is
the necessity for the moral and social flexibility in a society that dictates rigidity, symbolized by
the fixed form of the body.
Afterlife in Text: Gothic Materialism in Margaret Oliphants
A Beleaguered City
- Shantanu Majhee

Jos Ortega y Gasset in his 1925 essay entitled The Dehumanization of Art, explains
how the untrained eye, which is used to seeing only content in traditional forms of expression,
must find a new approach to viewing the work of art. He warns that the study of art from the
sociological point of view might at first seem a barren theme, which he brilliantly compares to
'studying a man from his shadow'. My paper shall endeavour to intrude into this sphere of shadows
by a reading of Mrs. Oliphant's supernatural novella A Beleaguered City (1880) as a testament of
Gothic Materialism, intending to propose a scheme of representation wherein the unscreened real
is projected through matter-in-itself.

Gasset proceeds to discover that the human contents of our daily lives possess a hierarchy
of three ranks. First comes the order of persons, then that of other living creatures, and finally, that
of inorganic things. It is this third category, then, in which Mrs. Oliphant infuses a certain
transcendental materialism. In an age when man was apprehensive of the social world being
reduced to a display window behind which people, their actions, and their convictions were
exhibited for the economic appetites of others and, graphic and enduring images of the power of
commodities is to affect the beliefs of individual and social experience, Mrs. Oliphant centres her
subject as escaping the bounds of its material genesis. The material world in her Tales of the Seen
and the Unseen becomes a medium for the expression of the immaterial souls. She posits the pure
object of a thought within the experiences of sensory perceptions and proceeds to create a
sociology of the supernatural.

My paper shall put forward a frame of reference to the signification of the material world
as an embodiment of the incorporeal in Mrs. Oliphant's A Beleaguered City and offer insights into
the handling of the form itself. Tagging along the pictorial analogy in the literature of the
nineteenth century, the article will look into the visual of the visionary wherein material things are
infused with a quality of insight which reveals the inner spirit or symbolic life of the object.
The secret of the bedstead: Unraveling the domestic machinery in Wilkie

Collins A Terribly Strange Bed (1852)

- A Divya

Collinss fast-paced short story A Terribly Strange Bed, first published in Charles
Dickenss weekly magazine Household Words, rewrites the tropes of the gothic narrative to
capture and construct the complex socio-cultural codes of the mid-nineteenth century. The brisk
narrative of nervous terror, prefiguring Collinss sensational fiction of the 1860s, captures a
nights adventures of a young leisured Englishman called Faulkner in a lower-class gambling
house at Palais Royal in Paris. The gothic threat in the story for Faulkner is in the pseudo-
supernatural machinery of the British four-poster bed that is unsuccessfully used to suffocate
him to death since he broke the bank through his massive winnings in gambling. In this essay I
highlight how the culture of scientific and technological innovations of the nineteenth-century has
permeated the narrative consciousness of literary fiction. In the context of this Collinss story, the
assimilation of the scientific discourse occurs in the narrative through the figure of an object that
is apparently an innocent, ordinary and homely piece of domestic furniture while in reality it is a
mechanical device for secret murder. This material object that has a crucial narrative function to
perform in the story reflects the scientific turn and temper of the society and is a hybrid thing of
science and domesticity. The bedstead machinery in the tale embodies the trajectories of anxiety
and fear, as well as the notion that the familiar structures of life can become insidiously unstable
because of the rapid transformations sweeping through Victorian society due to advancements in
the material and social domains. The other key critical approach in my essay is the spatial analysis
of the narrative that utilizes various foreign spacesnon-English spaces for the nineteenth-century
English travelerfrom the delightful city of Paris and the Palais Royal to the blackguard
gaming-house in it. Theories of materiality, spatiality, and domesticity will underpin my ultimate
argument that the dynamic relation between spatiality and Victorian material culture in this
Collinss narrative deftly reflects and reiterates normative cultural trajectories of skepticism and
suspicion towards science, the foreign (translating usually as the Catholic) and the non-domestic.
Calculating Sensibilities: Life Insurance in Victorian England

- Sagar Taranga Mandal

When Robert Chambers anonymously published Vestiges of the Natural History of

Creation in 1844, he like many other evolutionists of his time sought to reconcile the notion of a
providential God to the contingencies of a predatory nature. What is remarkable, however, is that
while Chambers study makes a clear parallelism between transmutation and creation, as described
in Genesis, the scheme of chance and the role of an unfixed nature gets explored through the choice
of two very unusual and prescient analogies: Babbages calculating machine and the insurance
plan. To the middle class Victorian reader, of course, such juxtaposition, far more than the epic
abstractions of Chambers treatise, held a more immediate ring as it would have actively
encouraged the recipient to imagine events in the future and their possible outcomes. Indeed, the
very essence of life insurance (then known as assurance), discernible across a wide array of
insurance prospectuses, was to embrace every description of contingency and assert some sense of
control over the largely unpredictable horizon of possible marriages, deaths, disease, or, as Dickens
strongly endorsed, to be engaged by artistic men as deterrence against bohemian improvidence.
By the 1840s life insurance was a common fixture in the Victorian public consciousness and
subject of much debate in journals such as the Quarterly Review and the Westminster Review. My
paper looks at how these speculative alternatives advertised by life insurance companies dispersed
throughout the British society were deeply influenced by the vision of progress espoused in the
scientific theories of the day. For this I look at a complex intersectionality of science and commerce
where, if on the one hand, the new age fund managing companies were called upon to absorb large
amount of surplus capital that became increasingly available throughout the Victorian capital
market in the nineteenth century, on the other, they have to come up with narratives that promised
Darwinistic improvement in near physical perfection, drawing the consumers at once, like
Darwins 1859 text, into an active relationship with the future by asking them to reimagine the
material world through an act of hedging.

My paper also seeks to understand this concordance between evolutionary science and
Victorian asset management by amplifying the notion of the asset itself. Which things were
deemed worthy to be insured? Was there a possible connection in Victorian life between buying
insurance, always a risky business in an unregulated market, and mourning, at a time when the
British nation grieved the disjunction between the natural processes of selection and the figure of
man created after the image of God? And thus, to what extent and by which means, the business
of insurance offered a morally stable palliative? By 1890 Gunns Food of Life advertisement
depicts the epitome of the well-nourished child, a sort of Atlas. Food is continually advanced as a
sort of insurance to equip the child in the battle of life, and serves as one of the many instances of
the intersectionality that this paper hopes to probe.

An Echo of Someone Elses Music: Oscar Wildes Queer Curation in

The Picture of Dorian Gray
- Sandra M. Leonard

Oscar Wildes lengthy appropriations have long been a source of anxiety among academics
who attempt to reconcile the artists textual practices with his otherwise seeming originality.
However, the text itself thematically deals with appropriated and subverted identity, as Lord Henry
warns Dorian that he might become an echo of someone elses music. This essay addresses
Wildes plagiarisms in The Picture of Dorian Gray as an aesthetic strategy that queers the source
text, particularly in one passage that uses descriptions of exotic instruments.

The passage in question, appropriated from ethnomusicologist Carl Engels 1874 Musical
Instruments, was itself a work of Victorian cultural colonization, an effort to categorize musical
instruments of the world using Western labels. Wilde covertly undermines and recontextualizes
this work by adopting passages nearly wholesale into Dorian Gray sans attribution. In an act of
what Victoria Mills labels queer collecting, Wilde has Dorian Gray obsessively collect beautiful
objects that add to his aesthetic dandyism and does so by forming an illicit textual collection of his
own. Wilde crosses the boundaries of appropriate textual use but does so in such a way that leaves
a distinct trace to pages of Engels text while introducing the theme of transgression into such an

In appropriating from Engels text, Wilde expresses an ambivalent attitude towards the
South Kensington museum collection on which it is based. On one hand, Wilde appreciates the
museums attempts at egalitarian access, as well as its purpose to elevate British aesthetic design.
On the other hand, Wilde challenges the museums definition of access to art objects in a state
of stasis as well as the museums appropriation of the worlds treasures. Wilde does this by having
Dorian collect these very same objects in a selfish and defiantly dynamic manner.

Wildes traces to Engels work also allude to the queering of Dorian, who is seduced and
corrupted through a possibly homoerotic relationship with an older man. Wilde himself stated that
What Dorian Grays sins are no one knows. He who finds them has brought them. By leaving
out attribution, Wilde leads the reader to trace the connection back to Engel and finds that his
appropriations come from pages that painstakingly illustrate and describe phallic instruments from
exotic locales. By looking beyond the boundaries of the text, the reader becomes complicit in the
sins that he or she finds.

In forming his own queer collection, Wilde challenges and reinterprets the function of
Victorian ethnomusicology and cultural appropriation. He also tempts the reader to succumb to
curiosity even while critiquing the position of even well-meaning Victorians to foreign art and
music in particular as representations of hyper-masculine and primal otherness.
Working class self-expression through text and photographs:

The Diary of Hannah Cullwick

- Sarah N. Macdonald

Hannah Cullwick (1984), who composed a diary over 17 years from about 1854-1873, was

a domestic laborer for most of her life. She wrote the diaries at the behest of her middle-class lover

Arthur Munby until their eventual marriage as Stanley notes in her Introduction to the text:

Hannah began writing her diary at Munbys wish and in order to keep him in touch with her daily

drudgery and other activities (8). My central question is: Why would she spend her scant leisure

time chronicling her daily chores and other mundane activities? To answer this question, I examine

the link between Cullwicks writing and Victorian ideology, focusing on work and class status,

thereby illustrating the complexity of the text as a product of Cullwicks needs as an author. The

secret nature of Munby and Cullwicks relationship made daily letters inconvenient due to the

disparity in their status. However, Cullwick wrote daily entries in her diary for Munby. Such

composition required a great deal of time commitment. Yet, she continued the daily task for 17

years until after their marriage, when she saw no use in them. As Liz Stanley (1984) notes in her

introduction to Cullwicks diary, Her diaries ended, and she made it clear that there would be no

more because the conditions that gave them point and purpose no longer existed (24). Cullwicks

purpose in writing, according to Stanley, was to encourage the playacting both Cullwick and

Munby enjoyed. Based on Stanleys argument, I suggest that, as Cullwick gained increasing

control of the text, she shifted the focus from his needs to hers. As such, she could no longer

concentrate solely on Munbys pleasure in reading about her labor and instead emphasized her

needs as an autonomous laborer. This article, then, considers her relationship with Munby, the

dynamics of their long-term union, and Victorian ideology to argue that the diaries provided one
of the few opportunities for unhindered communication between Cullwick and Munby that was

the primary motivation for the diaries.

With respect to Cullwick, critics have, for the most part, have considered Munbys pleasure

to be her sole objective. From this perspective, Cullwicks writing simply serves Munbys fetish

for working women in their dirt. As such, even scholars who acknowledge Cullwicks control

over the text do not consider her commitment to her life writing. i However, to deny Cullwicks

role in constructing the diaries, as Swindells does, means to ignore its role as a creative as well as

a practical outlet for her. Swindells (2008), analyzing both Liz Stanleys introduction and

Cullwicks diaries, ii asks the following key questions:

Whose story do the diaries of Hannah Cullwick tell? Whose subject is being inscribed?

And if we listen carefully to the voices, and look at the relative places of the subjects and

objects in this business, we begin to hear and see, surely, the liberation, not of Hannah

Cullwick but of Arthur J. Munby, finding a voice in text, already a relatively free[d] man

in life. (31)

Swindells (2008) argues that Cullwicks text enhances our understanding of Munby more than

Cullwick. To counter this assumption of Cullwicks lack of control, I examine two sections of the

diaries; both are narrative sections that focus on her life outside of daily chores, which distinguish

these parts from the rest of the diary. Cullwick produced the section Hannahs Places (1872)

before her marriage to Munby, and she wrote A Servants Life (1873) shortly after the marriage,

developing the incidents from Hannahs Places. Cullwick composed the earlier fragment in one

sitting while visiting her family. She wrote the second longer fragment while she still lived with

Munby at Fig Tree Court, Inner Temple in central Londonbefore she moved to the countryside

alone. The contextual information concerning their relationship influenced Cullwicks writing
choices involving style and content. Moreover, variations in the treatment of the same material in

the two narrative fragments illustrate the growing, shifting relationship between Cullwick and

Munby as well as her uneasiness about its evolution. My textual analysis compares Cullwicks use

of the third person, her relevant asides, and her understanding of social roles according to the

prevailing ideology in England during her lifetime.

Biographical Information

We cannot study Cullwicks diaries without looking at her life and relationship with

Munby. Cullwick and Munby were secret lovers for 17 years before they married in 1873. Because

of their different social statuses, secrecy was a hallmark of their relationship. Cullwick belonged

to the working class, as did her parents. Munby, conversely, was a gentleman and a member of the

intelligentsia. He was not well known; however, he had some standing as a poet and instructor at

the Working Mens college. He was also a prolific diarist. His diaries, which he kept before and

after his relationship with Cullwick, reveal his interest in working women. Munby frequently

interviewed and photographed working women for his personal collection. As his images and

words indicate, he preferred women who worked outside and were rather masculine. iii As such,

this side of Munbys personality contributed to Cullwicks recurring discussions of her daily

chores and their dirtiness. Because Cullwick respected (or at least tolerated) his fetish and craved

his devotion, many passages stressed the filthiness of her labor. These sections do not diminish

Cullwicks agency; rather, they indicate a keen awareness of her audience.

Munbys will, published after his death, provides insight into the longevity of the

relationship between him and Cullwick. At the time of its publication, not many people knew of

the relationship and/or marriage between Cullwick and Munby:

Whereas Hannah Cullwick, servant [] has been for 45 years and upwards beloved by me

with a pure and honorable love, and not otherwise, and she, the said Hannah, has during all

that time been as faithful and loving and devoted to me as ever woman was to man [] I

married the said Hannah (she being then in my service) [] and the 14th January, 1873

[] and whereas not withstanding her said marriage, the said Hannah has always refused,

and still refuses, to have the position which as my wife she might and could have had, and

has always insisted and still insists on being my servant as well as my wife [] and

whereas, owing chiefly to this noble and unselfish resolve of hers, I have never been able

to make known my said marriage to my family, or to the world at large [] (qtd. in Merrick


Munbys reference to the pure nature of his love for Cullwick reflects the difficulties she

expressed in her diary, which suggest that their relationship was inappropriate because of the

difference in their social status. The secrecy they maintained only enhanced this sense of stigma.

Still, Cullwick had to contend with those who challenged her morals upon discovering her

relationship with Munby.


In the following analysis, I use close reading to compare two sections of Cullwicks life

writing in the form of letter fragments with contextual circumstances (her relationship and

nineteenth century ideology) to highlight Cullwicks control and appreciation of her audience.

Like the other texts to be discussed, Cullwick utilizes a genre different from the primary genre

(diary) throughout these two sectionsthey appear in letter form with a narrative structure.

Through this discussion, I highlight issues of authorial control, creativity through genre

selection/audience appreciation, and her resulting subjectivity. As such, we can see that Cullwick
presents herself as an independent laborer who desires autonomy in her relationship with Munby.

To demonstrate how Cullwick used the text for autonomy in her relationship with Munby, I address

the following key elements. First, I discuss the control and growing confidence as a writer

Cullwick exhibited in the text. Her confidence shows in her failure to distance herself from the

text as well as in her insertions of information that was close to her heart as it indicates the growing

control she feels she can take in the text. Next, I look at the lack of closeness Cullwick felt in her

marriage and the resulting text that underscores her desire for more intimacy with Munby. Finally,

I examine the Victorian ideological forces that intrude on Cullwicks presentation of herself and

her relationship. Through a close reading of the narrative sections Hannahs Places and A

Servants Place in the context of Cullwicks class, gender, and relationship with Munby, I

highlight the elements of the text she controlled and those she did not. This examination

emphasizes Cullwicks ability to use the diaries to assert her identity. It is ultimately illuminating

to examine the separate sections that focus on similar circumstances to see the changing dynamics

of Munby/Cullwicks relationship and the ensuing changes to the narrative. In challenging existing

scholarship on Cullwick, I argue that Cullwick is a self-directed author and that the direction she

takes here demonstrates her authorial competency.

The two narrative fragments I analyze in this section are distinct from the rest of the text

for their length and narrative structure. The rest of the diary entries are quite short (typically only

a paragraph or two) and read like a list of chores and daily accomplishments. Apart from Russos

article, scholarly work on Cullwick demonstrates the incongruity of a working woman being a

thoughtful, creative author. Regrettably, the mundane topics on which Cullwick focuses encourage

readers to assume she was merely recording rather than crafting her experiences. Indeed, most
entries involved chores she completed or other basic information about her employers and/or her

current living situation. A representative passage reads as follows:

Wednesday [18 July] Lighted the fire & did the hearth up. Swept up & dusted the room.

Cleand 1 pair boots. Got the breakfast up. Made the beds & emptied the slops. Cleand &

washd the breakfast things up; cleand the knives. Got dinner ready & laid the cloth.

Cleand away & after baking lookd at the eclipse for some timeI saw it very quick & I

thought how very wonderful it seemd, & again that men should know when it was going

to happen. Cleand the kitchen. Washd the towels I used at Massas to wipe myself & had

tea. Went out on errands. Cleand away. Took the children in the garden, for Ann had gone

to see the riflemen with my brother. Put them to bed & emptied the slops. Cookd & took

supper up. Cleand away. To bed at 11. (108)

Even as the focus is overtly domestic, her perspective on worldly events provided an outlet for

discussing other matters. She described her labor as well as personal/historical insights when she

reflected on a variety of topics; for example, she managed to enjoy the eclipse. These diverse

elements reveal a multidimensional character who is more than simply a maid interested in

recounting her daily chores. However, the narrative form also reveals Cullwicks consideration of

Munby as her sole audience by catering to his fetish with working women.

Further, I discuss how Hannahs Places and A Servants Life present Cullwick. As

noted above, Cullwick wrote Hannahs Places in a single sitting on the afternoon of July 2, 1872.

The diary entry for this date details her activities: I washd the dishes, cleand me & begun writing

to Massa, with a hurried history of my different places. Posted the letter by past 9 & to bed by

11 (Stanley 1984, 228). This entry suggests that Cullwick wrote the piece as a letter to Munby.

At this point, Cullwick was visiting relatives, which allowed her additional leisure time away from
the prying eyes of fellow servants. The setting explains why this text is longer than most, as well

as the prominent place of correspondence in her relationship.

Establishing Cullwick control over the text is the first step in examining her motivation to

write since if Munby was in control it would be his motivation that was principal. For many texts

this step would not be needed. However, given Munbys central position as the initiator and

audience for the diary, this is an important step. Scholars (e.g., Malovich; Russo; Stanley) have

posited Cullwicks autonomy by emphasizing her disobedience toward Munby when she opposed

his wishes. One notable example occurred after their marriage. Despite Munbys demands,

Cullwick refused further writing post-marriage. Additionally, Cullwick refused to frequently dress

as a lady after their marriage, despite the conflict this caused. Scholars focus on the two examples

of her disobedience as proof of her control is problematic. Complications with the limited basis

for the assertion of control arise from the prominence of Victorian hegemonic beliefs that

suggested the consistency of status; thus, her decision to remain in service could speak to her

naturalization over her autonomy. However, her refusal to obey at times was still significant as it

speaks to a will that was not completely overshadowed by Munby. Since Munby is considered by

some to be the de facto author of the text, defying his wishes is important because the conflicts

between the couple counter the assertion that Munby is the controlling author of the text.

Additionally, Cullwick was self-determined in many aspects of her life: she sought to

control the positions she took and set the requirements by which she would abide. Her strong will

is evident in the controlling voice she used in her diaries despite her humbling circumstances. A

few scenes highlight her strong voice effectively. The first involves Cullwicks interaction with a

shopkeeper: Valentines day was while I was there & I slippd out in my dirt to get one for Massa.

It took me a few minutes to select one. I found onea dog with a chain round his neck & thought
it fit for me so I askd how much it was. The woman very kindly said, Its a shilling, but I see you

work hard for your living, poor thing, so you may have it for 6D. I said, Well, I do, maam, but

I dont want it cheaper nor you can afford to sell it, & I dare say you wonder why I want one at

all (57). The second example occurred while Cullwick was looking for a new position: She [the

lady of the house] sat down, & she said, Theres one thing Mrwill not allow & that is staying

out after church time on Sundays, & we cannot give you any stated time on weekdays. I said, I

must give it up then, maam. She said, Why? Because, maam, I dont like being compelled to

go to church, & to feel I dare not stop out if I wanted to nor never one evening in the week. I was

turning away to go, but she told me to wait & think it overI said, No, maam, I must give it up,

thank you, & I made a curtsy & come away (74). We should not assume that she was unable to

assert control over her text in the same manner. An example of Cullwicks complicated

relationship with authority is seen in her refusal of some labor restrictions involving religion and

Munby (such as any that limited her ability to visit Munby), while complying with others involving

the quality of her labor. While many domestics were pressured by employers, Cullwick left an

employer after only 3 months to maintain her dignity as she felt the placement was below her: I

could see myself cleaning the doorsteps of a vulgar London lodging house in a street full of nothing

but the same thing, & the servants of the rest looking as common & vulgar & low as the houses &

them, for they wore ribbons & tiny caps or none at all on hair done up as fashionably as possible.

So I did feel rather vexd to be put on a level with tem as it were (56). Such independent behavior

was risky, especially given her pride in financial independence.

Consequently, the previous examples from Cullwicks writing illustrate the need to avoid

an either/or take on Cullwicks autonomy. This goes for her life as well as her life writing. Her

general acceptance of some oppression appears as she accepts physical abuse from employers; for
example, in the following scene, an employer instructed Cullwick on proper cleaning technique:

Instead of her showing me how with her hand she kickd me with her foot & pointed. I dare say

she thought I shd feel hurt & vexd with her but I didnt. I was glad she thought me humble enough

without kicking again (46). Two noteworthy aspects of this scene include Cullwicks desire to

maintain the humble attitude acceptable for someone of her status. As Munby and society would

have encouraged this attitude, Cullwicks response to the beating underscores the limited power

Cullwick would have felt in many aspects of her life. Also, she did not hold anyone but herself

responsible for the physical assault. Again, this response to physical punishment could be the

naturalization of her status or, on the contrary, the importance she placed on doing her job well.

Either would be connected to the overall influence of Munby and society in her


Although I argue that Cullwick was the controlling force of the diary, her focus on Munbys

obsession with manual labor gives credence to his influence. Even acknowledging that Cullwick

would not have kept such extensive diaries without Munbys influence, the topics she explored

show her efforts to entice Munby. At times Cullwick acknowledged her anticipation of sharing

chores with Munby, for example, when her diary mentions that she was naked during chimney

cleaning. As she related this information, she considered the pleasure it would give Munby.

Furthermore, he requested she remember and recount particular menial tasks for him as she notes

in her entry from Sunday May, 31st 1863, I told Massa things what gad happened at Brighton &

so he told me not to forget to put them things down what Id bin telling him (124). Cullwicks

crafting of the scene for Munbys appreciation illustrates how she used daily activities to pique his

interest. Cullwicks deliberate crafting of the scene is repeated as she discusses washing Munbys

feet after a long separation: That is, washing his feet by the fire, me sitting on the brass on the
hearth & Massa in an armchair leaning back enjoying the warm water & seeing me. I think he must

have missd it these two years as much as I have, for its a pleasure to me, as well as a useful &

humble little service that I never can tire of, especially as long as I know M. likes it & loves me

too (54). The emphasis she continually placed on being in her dirt speaks directly to Munbys

fetish for working women.

The personal pronoun emphasizes her prominent role in the narrative fragment. Cullwick

adjusted her focus in this pronoun switch, situating herself as the dominant character and not the

fetishized personality that she was for Munby. As mentioned, Cullwick initiated the narrative

section as a third person observer but could not maintain the separation between herself as narrator

and herself as subject. Hannahs Places begins in third person and then switches to first person:

[Hannahs places] from her leaving the Charity school in Shifnal, which was at eight year

old & after shed done her yellow sampler, her mother meaning her to do a white one for

framing at a better school, but what her never could afford. Instead o that a friend on

Mothers (Mrs Phillips) took me to work at her house off & on (not hired) from 1841 to

about 43. (35; my emphasis)

By switching from third person to first, Cullwick traded perspective from the voyeuristic pleasures

of an outsider to the personal ownership of the writer. Her perspective, not Munbys, directed her

representation. Cullwick could not maintain the distance between herself as the writer and herself

as the subject within the text, as first established by the use of her instead of me, as highlighted


Cullwicks increasing control over her writing, given the prominent place she allows

herself as the focus, is again evident in the second narrative section. Unlike Hannahs Places,

Cullwick began A Servants Place with a personal reference: I left Mrs Caulfields at St
Leonards On Sea, in Decemberon my own account being so far off Massa & feeling out o the

way of everybody (53). Cullwick also ended this section by focusing on herself as she was getting

her picture taken: I had mine done in my dirt to please my Massa, & they had theirn done cleand

to please their Missis, only I couldnt tell them so, & they of course thought it was only to please

myself (91). The confidence Cullwick showed in her writing is associated with Munby. His

position as the sole audience was never distant; moreover, her focus rarely deviated from her

laborthe object of his fetish. However, Cullwick separated what Munby wanted as the audience

and what she wanted as author through her rhetorical choices in content and tone. There is a duality

of voices present, yet Cullwicks voice subjugates Munbys in many places as she asserts her own

desires, which allows her to present the identity that she desires.

For Cullwick, her foremost identity was that of a self-sufficient laborer. To highlight the

significance of this association, she began the narrative section with her exit from school and

entrance into the workforce, albeit unpaid. As Russo points out, Cullwick focused on wages as

well: Her choice to begin her history at age eight, when she had finished her schooling and began

work training, establishes the wage earning theme (37). Throughout the diaries and narrative

fragments, Cullwick described her various occupations, her income, and the labor involved. Her

discussion of financial independence appears to be a response to Munbys interest in manual labor

and dirt. She presented her pride in her work and her financial independence in an entry from

Friday, February 27: Put the things away & went to the shop on the terrace & bought a black &

white shawl for 15 & 9d, & a new flannel for two petticoats, cost nearly 9 shillings the two (118).

In addition to information about her purchases, she made a record for every new place she worked.

She did so, I suggest, to oppose Munbys plan that she live as a lady as she valued her status as

a laborer/maid. As such, she highlighted not only her employment and wages, but what her labor
could do for her in terms of possessions and independence. By continuously sharing the financial

aspects of her life, Cullwick indicated how important this matter was to her identity. Additionally,

given Munbys interest in Cullwick maintaining a humble attitude, this aspect shows her

commitment to their shared status understanding.

The second aside in A Servants Place contributes to a representation of Cullwicks

identity as well as speaks directly to her relationship with Munby. Cullwick was working at

Margate at this time, and Munby went to visit. This extended section features the pleasure Cullwick

experienced during Munbys visit. The event occurred shortly after Munby arrived. Initially,

everyone was impressed by Munbys gentlemanly stature. She related how they shared and

enjoyed the duplicity of his arrival. When Cullwick had to serve him, as a guest, she recounted

how they sustained their intimacy while still adhering to their outward roles:

I made him a curtsy & said, Yes, sir, pretty loud & then put the door to but of course

didnt shut it. Then I think I went up & he kissd me quickly & then spoke louder about his

dinner, giving me a sovereign to get what I thought best, & came out again & told Miss K.

& Mary what I was going for. . . . You may be sure I wasnt long a-going to the butchers

& fishmongers, but I was soon back again & got a nice little dinner for M., fish, cutlets,

& an omlette. (68)

Cullwick yearned for the play-acting that Munby rebuffed once they married. This aside reflects

the significance of remembering a relationship that had fallen apart; she wrote this after their

marriage while she was quite unhappy. The story she recalls had happened before they were

married and living at Temple. After their marriage, Munby spent most of his time away from home,

leaving Cullwick rather lonely. Moreover, the persistent difficulties with role-playing and the

incentive for relating this duplicitous tale reminded Munby of how their relationship worked best.
Cullwick longed for a return to these moments after their marriage. There are a number of scenes

in this aside where Cullwick recalled the element of secrecy in their relationship and the enjoyment

it gave them both. The more their relationship became public, the less they could enjoy their

distinct statuses. Her focus on this event highlights both the joy they had had in their relationship

and her sadness at the end of it and its clandestine nature.

A Servants Life also introduces a more personal connection to Munby than Hannahs

Places. The narrative continues the focus on the intimacy they were missing at the time of her

composition. Similarly directed at Munby, it is more conversational. Here, she acknowledged her

closeness with Munby as the reader. Notable is Cullwicks use of you. You does not appear

at all in Hannahs Places, except through dialogue. However, it does appear in A Servants

Life no less than 11 times, which is a significant increase in direct communication with Munby

as reader. Frequently, Cullwick uses you generally, yet she also refers directly to Munby. This

direct appeal contrasts with Cullwicks usual way of referring to Munby as Massa. Cullwicks

most direct address to Munby is an accusation of fault in his behavior toward her:

Miss Julia got to like talking to me, & seeing me work in the kitchenshe said she enjoyd

it & thought cleaning so very interesting. Ive thought so but never knew a lady as said so

before her, nor could I ever think so cause you have such strict orders to get all done afore

anyones down of a morning & its quite natural for me to run away with a dustpan & brush

or anything if you hear anyone coming. (78)

The you must be referring to Munby as the sole audience, as she made very sure that her diary

was kept secret. This is one of the few times she addressed Munby directly in her writings. It is

also the only reference that is not used as something akin to dear reader or in reference to people

in general as she did when she discussed an impending excursion: And so I was ready to start
I did my bag up, & Id bundle besides, for somehow you always get more things to carry back than

you bring to a place (79). The rebuke in this reference is significant as the attractiveness of manual

household labor should be a given for Munby considering his general focus on work and women.

He enjoyed seeing Cullwick in her dirt as she would wash his feet and various other tasks.

Munbys discomfort at seeing Cullwick performing demeaning tasksdemeaning, that is,

for a middle-class wifeillustrates his difficulty with the play-acting after their marriage. Their

goal was never marriage; however, after their more than a decade-long relationship they felt it was

the only respectable outcome. By drastically changing their circumstances, they were disappointed

to lose the charade of servant and Massa. Cullwick desired servitude, while Munby desired a wife.

Living together and sharing their situation with close companions permanently disrupted the roles

they had performed for 17 years. Consequently, living as husband and wife pleased neither of

them. Additionally, during this time, Cullwick asserted herself with growing frequency, including

her refusal to completely stop role-playing in their marriage. Cullwick enjoyed the life she led as

a free servantat least from her writing, this appears to be the case. She could not avoid all societal

pressure on woman through servitude as the pressure was ever-present; however, as a wage earner

she achieved all the freedom she could. Munby wanted Cullwick to transform into a respectable

middle-class lady while she made clear her disdain for this idea:

Thats the best o being drest rough, & looking nobodyyou can go any where & not be

wonderd at. Besides I have got into the way of forgetting like, whether Im drest up as a

lady or drest in my apron & cotton frock in the street. It matters not much to me, but

certainly I feel more at ease in my own dress. (274)

These factors complicated their relationship and led to many of Cullwicks more pointed

discussions in her narrative, including her focus on their play-acting and directly addressing


Cullwick, therefore, used her diary and life circumstances as tools to communicate her

distress with Munby. Nevertheless, it is difficult to simply argue that Cullwick focused on

servitude because of her own enjoyment of her occupation/status. We must also examine the

influence of established status signifiers such as dress and presentation that Cullwick discussed to

understand the influence of Victorian hegemonic ideology and obtain a clearer view of her

motivations and subjectivity. The segments similarities suggest a pivotal role Victorian ideology

played in her composition. This ideological influence is combined with Cullwicks own desires

and Munbys influence to create this complicated text. Cullwicks preoccupation with status is

evident in the two narrative sections in ways other than the inherent characteristics of being a

lady. Two aspects of class determination appear frequently in Cullwicks writing. The first and

most prominent is her focus on what she and others wore. She noted her attire whenever she

ventured out for new employment, visited Munby, or went shopping. The attire of other women

also attracted her attention. In many cases, the issue of being a lady was inseparable from the

clothes/presentation: either peoples appearance corresponded to their status or it did not. Miss K.,

mentioned earlier, is one of the women who did not dress the part of a lady despite her obvious

bearing: Although she was so plainly dressd the minute I saw her & heard her speak I could tell

she was a lady, so I curtsied (45). A true ladys bearing could not be covered by plain clothing.

Similarly, no amount of finery would transform a servant into a lady. In light of these

preconceptions, Cullwick emphasized the significance of curtsying as she mentioned this act of

deference as well as corresponding reactions. She also used peoples responses to judge their
status. Not acknowledging a curtsy elicited Cullwicks condemnation. Cullwick naturalized these

social elements, which cannot be removed from her desire to stay a servant. One cannot argue that

without the constraints of Victorian ideology Cullwick would have so stringently maintained her

identity as a servant.

Cullwick revealed a near obsession with the natural bearing of a lady as opposed to women

simply dressing the part. She discussed the status of all her employers for two reasons. First,

finding quality employers was essential for any future employment. As such, she mentioned this

information numerous times. Given the importance of respectable references, the employers

status, in some cases, was more important than her duties. At one point, Cullwick was even denied

employment because of a past employer: She [Mrs. Green] talkd to me and seemd to like me &

settled to give me wages & a holiday once in three months, & came straight for my character. I

suppose when she found it a lodging house and the Missis not a lady she didnt like to take me, for

I got a letter saying I shd not suit her (58). Aside from practical concerns, the pointed nature of

the passage suggests an additional interpretation. The diaries served as the medium for expressing

Cullwicks discontent with the trappings of middle class respectability.

Additionally, as she was never comfortable in a ladys attire, Cullwicks attention to the

naturalness of other women contrasts them with her as a humble worker. Her portrayal of Mrs. K.

illustrated this distinction: She told me once that the first time she saw me at Mrs. Eastlands where

I was lodging & at work, that she thought she never saw such a nice-looking servant. That pleasd

me very much of course, & I told her how that I could tell she was a lady directly she spoke to me.

And so we complimented one another, she for being a lady, & me for being a servant (62).

Cullwicks belief that the true nature of a lady was revealed through speech emphasizes her

acceptance of the prevailing hegemonic power structure. What she did, as a maid-of-all-work,
involved her employment as well as her identity. Cullwicks writing does not hint at aspirations to

more than her humble origins, at least as far as the diaries suggest:

No, Ive long resolved in my own mind & felt that, for freedom & true lowliness, theres

nothing like being a maid of all work. . . And I would leifer do all the scrubbing both out

o doors & in, wearing my thick striped apron, peasants bonnet, short frock & thick

bootshaving black arms & hands, & face too if it happens with soot or dust, than Id be

prim & clean in the kitchen looking on at anyone else doing the work Ive bin used to &

liked for this 30 year. And as I once said to Massa, I was born to serve, & not to order,

and I hope I shall always keep the same humble spiritthat of liking to serve others, &

obeying instead of commanding. (85)

This passage, like many others, makes Cullwicks vocation clearhers is the hard and dirty work

of a household maid. In the text, she demonstrates that Munby revered her performance of difficult

labor. We cannot dismiss the role Munby played in persuading Cullwick to take on her

appropriately humble attitude. Nonetheless, ideological influences of status clearly sculpted her as

a domestic long before his influence, which in the end caused her to go against his wishes of living

as a lady.

Significantly, while Munby clearly influenced Cullwicks work, as did social conventions,

she nevertheless asserted her control of the diaries through her asides and focus on waged labor to

represent herself in her relationship with Munby. The relationship between Cullwick, the diaries,

and Munby entails a complicated mix of authorship, control, and conflicts involving gender and

class. Still, it is evident that through the diaries, Cullwick explored her own, not just others, desires

in life. Although the impetus to write was not Cullwicks, denying that she constructed her own

writing to any extent would be an erroneous assumption; that denial is based on the same gender
bias that suggests women writers cannot write outside of their experience. Cullwick was not a

puppet under Munbys control, and the diaries give us a glimpse of a woman who understood who

she wanted to be and would not change for anyone.


Cullwick, Hannah. The Diaries of Hannah Cullwick: Victorian Maidservant. Ed. Liz

Stanley. London: Virago, 1984.

Hudson, Derek. Munby, Man of Two Worlds: The Life and Diaries of Arthur J. Munby, 1882-

1910. London: J. Murray, 1972.

Malkovich, A. 2007. Writing in Her Dirt: Authorship, Authority, and the Domestic Diaries of

Hannah Cullwick. Storytelling A Critical Journal of Popular Narrative. 6(2):89-97.

Merrick, Helen. "'A Story No-one would Believe.' The Diaries of Hannah Cullwick."

Limina. 1996.

Russo, Sarah. Back to the Archives: Toward a Rereading of Hannah Cullwick through Her

Autobiography Hannahs Places (1872). Life Writing Annual: Biographical and

Autobiographical Studies. 2(2008): 27-69.

Stanley, Liz. Recovering Women in History from Feminist Deconstructionism. Womens

Studies Int. Forum. 13.1 (1990): 151-157.

-- Biography as Microscope or Kaleidoscope? The Case of Power in Hannah Cullwicks

Relationship with Arthur Munby. Womens Studies Int. Forum. 10.1 (1987): 19-31.

Swindells, Julia. Liberating the Subject? Autobiography and Womens History: A Reading

of The Diaries of Hannah Cullwick. (24-38). September 12, 2008.

--. Victorian Writing and Working Women: The Other Side of Silence. Minneapolis: Univ.

of Minnesota Press, 1985.


See Russo, Malkovich, and Merrick.
Throughout this article, I refer to Hannah Cullwick and Arthur Munby by their surnames instead of the
more common convention of using Hannah and Munby as this speaks to an infantilization of Hannah Cullwick and
removes her identity as an individual, which many domestics experienced.
Trinity Colleges Munby collection contains abundant photography, writings, and interviews that
highlight his compulsion.
Manhood and Mettle in George Eliots Adam Bede and The Mill on the Floss:

Male Characters Negotiating Victorian Material Culture

- Dennis S. Gouws

George Eliots first two novels, Adam Bede and The Mill on the Floss, test the mettle of

male characters who negotiate a new Victorian material culture consequent to British

industrialization in the first three decades of the nineteenth century. Both novels record an

historically evident trend of the growing importance of material goods and the industrial

circumstances of their manufacture in establishing a new kind of social wellbeing. In Adam Bede,

Eliot describes this arc in chapter LII, contrasting Old Leisure; exemplified by spinning

wheels, pack-horses, slow wagons, and the pedlars, who brought bargains to the door on

sunny afternoons; with the steam engine that enabled industrial manufacture, which replaced

those spinning wheels, and the railway system that widely distributed its goods (559). New

leisure, enabled opportunities for new kinds of consumption, among which an interest periodical

literature and cursory peeps through microscopes suggests the value placed on educational

activities as vehicles for self-improvement (559-560). The Christianized Saxon history of St.

Oggs in The Mill on the Floss culminates in a description of the towns broad warehouse gables,

where the black ships unlade themselves of their burthens from the far north and the places where

these goods are offered for sale in plate-glass shop windows with fresh stucco facing

suggesting new-fashioned smartness (97-98). Mr. Tullivers wish to have his son educatedto

have him become a bit nimble with his tongue and pen and a smart chap so he may make a

nest for himselftopically acknowledges increasing opportunities for learning in the quest for

self-improvement with the overall goal of social advancement (18, 15).

Central to the negotiation of an increasingly materialistic culture by Eliots male characters,

and males in general, was the goal of attaining manhood, a contingent condition that registered a

mans social and material progress in his quest to provide for his own family. This notion of

manhood has explained men's identities and conduct since the fourteenth century; the word

manhood had elucidated mens difference from women and boys, mens sexuality, mens duty to

society, and mens courage. i Manhood, moreover, had traditionally been contingent, a reputation

that a man had to attain and maintain. In newly industrial nineteenth century, the manhood question

acknowledged traditional and new ways a man might grow into and sustain a meaningful,

productive, and commendable type of manhood. Two pairs of men, Arthur Donnithorne and Adam

Bede in the first novel and Philip Wakem and Tom Tulliver in the second, prominently represent

contending traditional and new forms of manhood in the novel, and they fittingly test their mettle

in open confrontation: Arthur and Adam resort to fisticuffs (contemporary Britons thought boxing

fostered manly and gentlemanly qualities) while Philip and Tom almost come to blows, resorting

instead to verbal sparring. Both conflicts significantly test these mens manhood.

Manliness and gentlemanliness contributed to the manhood question established concepts

for assessing repute. From the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries, men primarily understood

their gender-specific, socially prescribed conduct as an issue of manliness, and they customarily

expressed their manliness by behaving with mettle, revealing the stuff of which one is made,

mettle being regarded as an indication of ones character according to the Oxford English

Dictionary. ii Attaining manhood, therefore, depended on recurrent demonstrations of manly vigor

and self-discipline. Also, as John Tosh observes, manliness expresses perfectly the important

truth that boys become men, not just by growing up, but by acquiring a variety of manly qualities

and manly competencies as part of a conscious process which has no close parallel in the traditional
experience of young women (Manliness 31). Men alone bore the responsibility of managing their

manliness, and although their actions certainly impacted women and children, mens inattention

to this monitoring had uniquely serious sociopolitical and personal consequences. If a man failed

to sustain manly behavior, he might have become unmanned, a passive condition described by the

OED as deprived of courage, or made weak and timid. An unmanned man would be

considered unmanly and consequently condemned for his lack of determination (commonly

referred to as pluck or bottom) and, possibly for being effeminate.

Nineteenth-century Britons became increasingly alarmed at the subversive homoerotic

potential of effeminacy; however, the word had traditionally denoted both irresponsible political

conduct (demonstrated by corrupt manners and military unpreparedness) and insalubrious personal

conduct, exemplified by luxury (indulgent extravagance) or unconventional sexuality (often

exemplified by a love-struck mans willing surrender to his desire for a woman.) iii The Regency

dandy; defined by Ellen Moers as a man solely devoted to his own perfection through a ritual of

taste who stood for superiority, irresponsibility, inactivity; was its most conspicuous turn-of-

the-century exemplar (13). The British nobility and gentry were perceived as effeminate for

indulging in luxury. The influence of French manners on British politeness also contributed to the

genteel effeminacy problem. Eighteenth-century men increasingly indulged in what was perceived

to be the women-centered, refined kind of suffering that preoccupied cultivators of sensibility

(Barker-Benfield xx). Mens gentlemanly education did not help matters. Michle Cohen notes

that gentlemen practiced French manners in the company of women, where men were expected to

converse with formal civility: politeness and conversation, though necessary to the fashioning of

the gentleman, were thought to be effeminating not just because they could be achieved only in
the company of women, but because they were modeled on the French. The question is could men

be at once polite and manly? (47).

In the nineteenth century, popular British attitudes to politeness (and the French who

exemplified them) shifted from diffidence to defiance. To prevent unmanly, effeminate conduct

(resulting subjecting oneself to overpowering desire for a woman and adopting polite manners in

their sphere of influence), manly behavior required chivalric courage (on behalf of a desired

woman) and plain speaking rather than formal politeness. iv This revived interest in chivalry, a code

of disinterested bravery, honour, and courtesy (OED), resulted in men understanding their

manhood as manly, gentlemanly, and civilor, as Cohen argues, chivalry provided a vocabulary

for refashioning the gentleman as masculine, integrating national identity with enlightenment

notions of progress and civilization (Manners 315). This updated understanding of chivalry

enabled men to be direct, manly, and (even if not so by birth) gentlemanly. More importantly, it

created a code of conduct common to males of different backgrounds, and Thomas Carlyle

effectively captured its ethos. In Past and Present Carlyle argued that, No Working World, any

more than a Fighting World, can be led on without a noble Chivalry of Work, by which he meant

labor informed by noble loyalty in return for noble guidance (337, 339). The social cohesion

inherent in this chivalry of work also offered males not born into the gentry or the aristocracy

socially sanctioned opportunities for attaining gentlemanly manhood.

Gentlemanliness traditionally denoted a mans distinguished rank as well as his

appropriately chivalrous and refined conduct. v Before the nineteenth-century a British gentleman

could only be of noble birth or from the gentry (the social rank between the aristocrat and the

yeoman). Access to the gentry traditionally depended on what

Robin Gilmour calls a system of subtle exclusions which

conferred gentility on the army officer; on the clergyman of the established church,

but not the Dissenter; on the London physician, but not the surgeon or the attorney;

on the man of liberal education, but only if he had received that education at

Oxford or Cambridge, from which the Dissenters were excluded and which was, in

effect, a training-ground for Church of England clergymen. (Idea 7)

This arcane system ensured the prestige of those occupations which reinforced the stability of

social hierarchy based on the ownership of land, but initially had little to offer the new men who

were creating the industrial revolution (Idea 7). Nineteenth-century gentlemanliness, however,

gradually accommodated different kinds of men. Gilmour observes that it was not the possession

of a caste, like the French gentilhomme; gentlemanliness was not exclusively based on blood and

was, therefore, open to the kind of redefinition that occurred in the nineteenth century (Victorian

20). The social elasticity inherent in gentlemanliness enabled upward mobility, eventually

including self-made men and captains of industry among the ranks of gentlemen, but the values of

these generally manly gentlemen often conflicted with those reputedly unmanly (even effeminate)

gentlemen from the aristocracy or the gentry. Gilmour notes that Between what Dickens

understood by manly and what Lord Chesterfield would have accepted as gentlemanly an

important change in attitudes has taken place, and that manly derived much of its force from the

attack on the supposed effeminacy of dandyism and being used generally to connote a wholesome

disregard for the niceties of etiquette and the cramping decorum of the fine gentleman ideal

(Idea 17, 85). The new manly gentleman valued mettle, meritorious honor and integrity, over

heredity and appearances, and Eliot dramatizes the conflict between Arthurs traditional

gentlemanly manhood and Adams manhood, which anticipates this new manly gentlemanliness.
Eliot similarly stages a conflict between Philip Wakems proto-aesthetic manhood and Tom

Tullivers manliness that is grounded in a Carlylean chivalry of work.

In a journal entry about Adam Bede, Eliot remarks that the character of Adam and his

relation to Arthur Donnithorne were central to her first thoughts about the novel, and in its events

she provides sufficient details about each man for readers clearly to discern his position visavis

the manhood question (Journals 297). Arthur and Adam both imagine successful manhood

involves doing ones duty; what distinguishes them are those rewards each feels he might justly

reap as a result. Arthurs manhood depends on his reputation as a gentleman. He liked to feel his

own importance and cared a great deal for the good-will of the people in his community (309).

When he does inherit the estate, he thinks he would show the Loamshire people what a fine

country gentleman was, imagining himself, spoken well of as a first-rate landlord; by-and-by

making speeches at election dinners, and showing a wonderful knowledge of agriculture; the

patron of new plows and drills, the severe upbraider of negligent landowners, and withal a jolly

fellow that everybody must like (483). This public performance of his duties would be

complemented by those of his future wife, who would play the lady-wife to the first-rate country

gentleman (484). Away from public scrutiny Arthur would, as a traditional gentleman, have

property enough to support numerous peccadilloes whose possible adverse consequences he

could remedy with a handsome pension or expensive bonbons, packed up and directed by his

own hand (170). Arthurs reputation, however, would depend on his ability to demonstrate his

mettle, his dutiful manhood and manly self-discipline, despite his outr temperament. When

contemplating an encounter with Hetty he sings a song from Gays Beggars Opera that, Stephen

Gill remarks, reveals Arthurs state of mind; the lyrics describe a mans luxurious surrender to

his desire for a woman: Her Kisses / Dissolve us in Pleasure, and Soft Repose (600). The
powerful influence of this effeminate desire on Arthur is clearly articulated both when he concedes,

he would have given up three years of his youth for the happiness of abandoning himself without

remorse to his passion for Hetty and when the narrator observes, a man never lies with more

delicious languor under the influence of a passion, than when he has persuaded himself he will

subdue it tomorrow (330, 334). Arthurs reading matter, moreover, notably includes Dr. John

Moores racy novel about a morally corrupt Italian nobleman-seducer, Zeluco. Arthurs traditional

gentlemanliness affords him to opportunities to indulge in the kind of effeminate luxury that could

compromise how he manages his manliness.

Adams manhood depends on his honorably performing his manly duty. He strives to do

a mans plain duty which consists of having the skill and conscience to do well the tasks that

lie before [him] (258). This Carlyle-inspired productivitythe previous quotation is a gloss of

Carlyles tribute to Goethe in the The Everlasting Yea chapter of Sartor Resartus (148)

topically defines the individual responsibility a man had to manage his manhood as an ethical

question of meritorious labor and anticipates the quintessence of individualism and close

identification with work that Tosh argues were central to Victorian manliness (Manliness 93, 92).

The narrator notes that, Adam had confidence in his ability to achieve something in the future; he

felt sure he should some day be able to maintain a family, and make a good broad path for

himself (254).

Adams confident reasoning results from his night-school education (at Bartle Masseys).

Eliot acknowledges in her depiction of Adams education a trend to self-improvement evident

among nineteenth-century working-class men. Biographical and fictional literary examples of

appropriate industrial manhood increasingly became available to working-class Victorian

readersone of which was Eliots first novel. Gilmour recognizes this significant trend (and
Eliots part in it): Industrial society had its own legitimating myths and models. The

independent, night-school attending, self-helping artisan was one of the models which middle-

class writers held up to the working class, in novels like George Eliots Adam Bede (1859)

(Victorian 21). vi

Materialist consumption had sufficiently pervaded early nineteenth-century Loamshire for

Hetty Sorrell to cultivate her delight in jewelry and for Adam to speculate about how he might

provide furniture for a future market of local consumers. He imagines making a kitchen cupboard

of his own contrivance with which every good housewife would be in raptures and fall through

all the gradations of melancholy longing till her husband promised to buy it for her (256). Adam

is, moreover, confident in the quality of his work: he imagines Mrs Poyser examining it with her

keen eye, and trying in vain to find out a deficiency; he also refuses to accept to accept less than

his requested fee for creating Miss Liddys screen, contradicting the Squires attribution of its

value by asserting, I know, begging his honours pardon, that you couldnt get such a screen []

for under two guineas (256, 290). Adam evidently has the mettle to adopt new strategies for

participating in a commodity culture that valued productivity (increasingly understood in terms of

goods produced rather than agricultural yield) and cheapness (in both its earlier English sense of

commercially viability and its contemporary Ruskinian sense of being inexpensive and of

questionable quality). Adams mettle, his character and fortitude, suggest he is more adaptable to

this culture than Arthur might be.

Eliot seems sufficiently confident that Adam is the better man for the circumstances ; she

characterizes the result of his triumphant fistfight with Arthur in chapter twenty-seven as inevitable

because Adams physical strength, which results from his disciplined manual labor, overcomes

Arthurs gentlemanly fighting tactics, as surely as a steel rod is broken by an iron bar. Both men
seem capable boxers, yet their attitudes to fighting differ. Philip Mason observes, through [the

eighteenth century] and into the next, an indulgence, sometimes an affection was felt for a rich

man who listed among his accomplishments an amateur of boxing (82). Arthur similarly

considers pugilism one of his gentlemanly accomplishments. Adams quickness to temper

prevents him from attaining the self-control evident in an ideal gentlemanly boxer; he admits being

the cause o poor Gil Tranter being laid up for a fortnight and according to Bartle Massey had

pommelled young Mike Holdworth for wanting to pass a bad shilling before [he] knew whether

he was in jest or earnest (211, 290-91). While Arthur and Adam argue over the preeminence of

gentlemanly entitlement and chivalrous, manly honor in this chapter; they box because each is

unable to control his manliness.

When confronted by Adam in the woods, Arthur postures like a dissolute Regency dandy:

having drunk more wine than usual at dinner . he sauntered forth with elaborate carelessness

his flushed face, his evening dress of fine cloth and fine linen, his white jewelled hands half thrust

into his waistcoat pickets (342). He makes light of having just kissed Hetty and feels entitled to

ignore Adam who, resolved to conduct a manly defense of Hettys honor, had told himself that

he would not give loose to passion, he would only speak the right thing (342). Adam, on his

chivalrous high horse, defends Hettys honor: he chides Arthur, stating, You know, as well as I

do, what its to lead to, when a gentleman like you gives kisses and makes love to a young woman

like Hetty (344). Displaying his characteristic independence of mind, Adam argues that their

disagreement concerns honorable conduct rather than appropriate deference to rank.

Arthur throws the first punch because he feels insulted by Adams insubordinate remarks

challenging him to fight like a man and accusing him of being a coward and a scoundrel;

Adam is enraged because he claims that because Arthur considers him a common man, he feels
entitled to injure him without answering for it (346). The narrator naturalizes Adams victory

as physically inevitable because he is manly and strong, while Arthur is effeminate and weak:

The delicate-handed gentleman was a match for the workman in everything but

strength, and Arthurs skill in parrying enabled him to protract the struggle for some

long moments. But between unarmed men, the battle is to the strong, where the

strong is no blunderer, and Arthur must sink under a well-planted blow of Adams,

as a steel rod is broken by an iron bar. (347)

This passage topically suggests that skillful evasion is no match for physical competence when

men contest as equals; that when a gentleman is not protected by rank, the manly worker will

deservingly beat him if he is of stronger constitution. In addition, his triumph will be deemed

honorable because it resulted from his demonstration of manly character, which as Castronovo

notes gained increasing currency in nineteenth-century Britain. It is, however, a hollow victory for

Adam because he feels sickened by the vanity of his own rage and he [shudders] at the thought

of his own strength (347). His passionate vanity led him to assume a chivalrous defense of Hetty

was appropriate because of false assumptions he had made about her feelings for him. Mark

Girouard argues that one of the great dangers of chivalry was that it could make people totally

out of touch with reality resulting in them revering women who did not want to be revered,

serving others, who would have preferred to serve themselves, gallantry charging in the wrong

direction (270). Adam has been unmanned because his judgment was clouded by his chivalrous

feelings for Hetty who did not want his protection. Concerning his strength Adam later concludes

about knocking down Arthur, I felt what poor empty work it was, as soon as Id done it (509).

He now distrusted himself: he had learned to dread the violence of his own feeling (509). Unlike

the gentlemanly boxer, Adam was unable to temper his feelings with careful thoughts and strive
for a self-controlled equilibrium. After the fight, Arthur loses his reputation as a gentleman and

is temporarily unmanned. He keenly feels a twofold loss because alongside his sensitiveness to

opinion, the loss of Adams respect was a shock to his self-contentment which suffused his

imagination with the sense that he had sunk in all eyes; as a sudden shock of fear from some real

peril makes a nervous woman afraid even to step, because all her perceptions are suffused with a

sense of danger. (356) Both men are profoundly affected by the fight. Each learns the limits of his

particular form of manhood: Arthur realizes that traditional gentlemanliness no longer entitles him

to unaccountable behavior; Adam discovers that attaining manhood requires a commitment to

managing manly conduct attentively.

Adam attains a successful form of manhood and the material prosperity doing so entitled

him in the nineteenth century: having learned more effectively to manage his manliness, he marries

Dinah and assumes ownership of Jonathan Burge business. Adam has, moreover, learned a

valuable lesson about the unintended consequences of misplaced chivalrous behavior. Arthur is

now a colonel, but he is ill, unmarried, and exiled from his home community. His failure to attain

manhood is explained by his acknowledgement of the truth of the Adams assertion that,

Theres a sort of wrong that cannot be made up for (584). Although English manliness redefined

gentlemanliness in the nineteenth-century, both concepts continued to be useful indicators of

mens attempts at attaining and maintain manhood and consequently important

The pursuit of manhood in The Mill on the Floss similarly involves characters who embody

contending expressions of masculinity, but their drama plays out two-to-three decades later in the

progress of material culture in Britain. In this novel Eliot resorts to material and circumstantial

adaptability (derived from Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer) to explain their suitability to

attaining manhood. In a rather grim way Philip Wakems disability seems to disqualify him from
attaining manhood because it seems unlikely that he might find a partner; in addition, his aesthetic

temperament is coded as effeminate and even feminine. Aunt Pullet dismisses him as that

mismade son o Lawyer Wakem, and repeats the town gossip claiming they say hes very queer

and lonely (276). Philip thrives under Reverend Stellings tutelage but seems to achieve little

afterwards. He describes himself as being cursed with susceptibility in every direction, and

effective faculty in none; he complains, I care for painting and music; I care for classical

literature, and medieval literature, and modern literature: I flutter all ways and fly in noneof

his singing he says, my voice is only middlinglike everything else in me (266, 267). His

fathers wealththe property Aunt Pullet speculates hes like to haveaffords him the luxury

of not having to work; his fathers money has financed an education that has made a gentleman

of him (276, 62). Tom Tullivers education at Reverend Stellings does not go as his father had

hoped. Toms temperament is practical; he is interested in how padlocks opened, and which way

the handles of the gates were lifted rather than hypothesis and experiment (34, 118). In addition,

Tom loses his confidence because he is unable to master Reverend Stellings lessons, causing Tom

to experience for the first time something of the girls susceptibilityunder this vigorous

treatment Tom became more like a girl than he had ever been in his life before (118). (The narrator

emphasizes this point that Tom [] had never been so much like a girl before (119).) In the

process of being educated as a gentleman, Toms sense of his future manliness surrenders to

feelings of timidity and passivity. This unmanning of Tom decisively ends when he realizes that,

unlike Philip, he can no longer depend on his father for financial support. During the family

discussion of the pending bankruptcy, Toms sudden manliness of tone surprises his relatives

(176). His practical nature helps him realize in sketching his future, that he had no other guide

in arranging his facts than the suggestions of his own brave self-reliance (185). This Smilesean
mettle results in Tom deciding to get a situation in some great house of business and rise fast,

his ultimate goal being that he would buy his fathers mill and land again when he was rich

enough, and improve the house and live there (186). By selling his labour to Guest and Co., Tom

subscribes to Carlyles chivalry of work that supports his desire for a manly business, where [he]

should have to look after things, and get credit for what [he] did. It would also enable him to

keep [his] mother and sister (189). In this process of becoming an independent man, Tom

transforms his former unmanly self into an embodied male working toolor as Kevin Morrison

aptly notes, part of what Tom must renounce to become an autonomous male is any hint of

femininity (279). vii In terms of their respective post-education quests for manhood, whereas

Philips fate was effeminate dilettantism, Toms was manly, dutiful drudgery.

Like the fight between Arthur and Adam, the confrontation between Philip and Tom at the

Red Deeps is a test of mettle. It also consists of displays of chivalric zeal, effeminacy, and

upbraiding for inappropriate male conduct. Toms high-horse chivalry is similar to Adams and

not entirely for altruistic motives: He did not know how much of an old boyish repulsion and of

mere personal pride and animosity was he meant to do the duty of a son and a brother (280). He

chides Philip, declaring that he intends to save Maggie from throwing herself away on him

(281). In addition, Tom emphasizes his physical mettle, asserting to Philip, I shall take care of

my sister, andyour puny, miserable body, that ought to have put some modesty in your mind,

shall not protect you. Ill thrash you. Ill hold you up to public scorn. As was the case in Adams

fight with Arthur, the superiority of physical strength is assumed to be inevitable. The threat of

social ridicule tacitly reinforces the Spenserian notion that the fittest deserve to survive and

Tom accuses Philip of being insincere and effeminate, of talking high-flown nonsense

and [pretending he has] any right to make professions of love to her because of his crooked

notion of honour (280). Philips effeminacy is insinuated in Toms exclamation, Who wouldnt

laugh at the idea of your turning lover to a fine girl? (281). Like Adam, Tom accuses Philip of

role playing: Do you call this acting the part of a man and a gentleman sir? he asks, and Philip

replies haughtily and impetuously, confirming Toms suspicions. Just as Adam finds fault in

Arthurs light words, Tom criticizes Philips fine words (343, 281).

Tom is made to concede his moral high ground when his motives are challenged by Philip

and Maggie. Philip accuses him of inappropriate male conduct when he scathingly challenges

Toms manliness, implying that he is merely a brute: It is manly of you to talk in this way to me

said Philip bitterly [] Giants have an immemorial right to stupidity and insolent abuse (281).

Maggie similarly condemns Toms manliness, stating that she [detests his] insulting unmanly

allusions to [Philips] deformity (282). Maggie rightly remarks the mixed motives that inform

Toms chivalry: You boast of your virtues as if they purchased you a right to be cruel and unmanly

as youve been today, she notes (283). Tom is undeniably cruel here; however, he is not unmanly.

His pluck, his mettle, enable him to make his case without becoming unmanned. He is described

as coolly stating, I know what I have aimed at in my conduct, and I have succeded (282); he

declares with cold scorn, I have a different way of showing my affection (282). Although his

chivalric zeal initially gets the better of his judgment, Tom is not unmanned despite Philips and

Maggies accusations of unmanly conduct. Philip is certainly unmanned: his whole frame is

shaken by violent emotions during this exchange with Tom. In this scene only one part of

Girouards argument rings true: Maggie did not want Toms protection; however, Tom is certainly

not out of touch with reality (270).

This paper has examined the extent to which these male characters ability to attain manhood

is influenced by their fortitude and by the circumstances of early nineteenth-century material

culture. Adam Bede and Tom Tulliver demonstrate a progressive improvement of male mettle

from aristocratic Dandyism and proto-aesthetic effeminacy, and the extravagant consumerism it

represents, to the industrious Smilesean individuality that Adam represents, to the Carlylean

chivalry of work, represented by Tom Tulliver. Adam and Tom represent the triumph of material

mettle, the triumph of what is obvious. Tom succeeds in the world of commerce, and he, moreover

represents a new kind of chivalric workerone who speculates on the marketplace as well as

working in it. Men who successfully attained manhood adopted new strategies for participating in

a commodity culture that valued productivity (increasingly understood in terms of goods produced

rather than agricultural yield) and cheapness (in both its earlier English sense of commercially

viability and its contemporary Ruskinian sense of being inexpensive and of questionable quality).

In this century, mens work became increasingly urgent, their dignity diminished by the reduction

of their bodies to working tools. Victorian manhood, and Eliots depiction of it in these novels,

esteemed material worth as central to male wellbeing.

Works Cited

Adams, James Eli. Dandies and Desert Saints: Styles of Victorian Masculinity. Ithaca and

London: Cornell University Press, 1995. Print.

Blake, Kathleen. PainsCapital versus the Gift in The Mill on the Floss. Pleasures of

Benthamism: Victorian Literature, Utility, Political Economy. OUP Scholarship on Line,

2009. Web. 10 December, 2016.

Barker-Benfield, C. J. The Culture of Sensibility: Sex and Society in EighteenthCentury Britain.

Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992. Print.

Carlyle, Thomas. Past and Present. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. Vol. xiii of Thomas

Carlyle's Collected Works. 30 vols. 1870. Project Gutenberg. Web. 20 December, 2016.

---. Sartor Resartus. Kerry McSweeney and Peter Sabor, eds. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1987.


Castronovo, David. The English Gentleman: Images and Ideals in Literature and Society. New

York: The Ungar Publishing Company, 1987. Print.

Cohen, Michle. Manliness, Effeminacy, and the French: Gender and the Construction of

National Character in Eighteenth-Century England. Hitchcock and Cohen 44-61. Print.

-. Manners Make the Man: Politeness, Chivalry, and the Construction of Masculinity, 1750-

1830. Journal of British Studies. 44. 2 (April 2005): 312-329. Print.

Davidoff, Leonore and Catherine Hall. Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle

Class, 17801850. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987. Print.

Eliot, George. Adam Bede. ed. Stephen Gill. New York: Penguin Books, 1985.

-. The Journals of George Eliot. Margaret Harris and Judith Johnston, eds. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 1998. Print.

---. The Mill on the Floss. ed. Carol T. Christ. New York & London: W. W. Norton, 1994. Print.

Foyster, Elizabeth. Boys Will Be Boys? Manhood and Aggression, 1660-1800. Hitchcock and

Cohen 151-166.

Gilmour, Robin. The Idea of the Gentleman in the Victorian Novel. London: George Allen and

Unwin, 1981. Print.

-. The Victorian Period: The Intellectual and Cultural Context of English Literature, 1830

1890. London and New York: Longman, 1993. Print.

Girouard, Mark. The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman. New Haven and

London: Yale University Press, 1981. Print.

Gouws, Dennis. Manliness, Gentlemanliness and the Manhood Question in George Eliots

Adam Bede. New Male Studies: An International Journal. 1.1 (2012): 94-107. Web. 28

Dec. 2016.

Hitchcock, Tim and Michle Cohen, eds. English Masculinities 16601800. Harlowe: Addison

Wesley Longman Limited, 1999. Print.

Mansfield, Harvey Claflin. Manliness. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006.


Mason, Philip. The English Gentleman: The Rise and Fall of an Ideal. New York: William

Morrow and Company, Inc., 1982. Print.

Moers, Ellen. The Dandy: Brummell to Beerbohm. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska

Press, 1960. Print.

Morrison, Kevin. Whose Injury is Like Mine? Emily Bronte, George Eliot, and the Sincere

Postures of Suffering Men. Novel: A Forum on Fiction. 43.2 (2002): 271-293. Print.

Stearns, Peter N. Be a Man!: Males in Modern Society. 2nd ed. New York and London: Holmes

and Meyer, 1990. Print.

Tosh, John. Manliness and Masculinities in NineteenthCentury Britain: Essays on Gender,

Family and Empire. Harlow, England: Pearson Education Limited, 2005. Print.

Williams, Carolyn D. Pope, Homer and Manliness. London and New York: Routledge, 1993.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) cites the first such occurrence of manhood in 1340; distinguishes men from
boys and women in 4.a and 4.b; describes a mans sexuality in 4.d; and notes mens societal duty and courage in 3.
and 5. respectively. See Peter N. Stearns, chapter two, The Tradition of Manhood: Western Patriarchy, for a useful
account of the socioeconomic influences on Western manhood.

This papers discussion of manliness and gentlemanliness borrows from my Manliness, Gentlemanliness and the
Manhood Question in George Eliots Adam Bede. John Tosh defines manliness as the traditional word for
prescriptive masculinity; he surveys the history of the term in Manliness and Masculinities in NineteenthCentury
Britain: Essays on Gender, Family and Empire, chapter one, The Making of Manhood and the Uses of History
and chapter three, The Old Adam and the New Man, 72-76. Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall examine the
religious, sexual, and commercial views of late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century manliness in Family
Fortunes, chapters two, Ye are all one in Christ Jesus: men women and religion; nine, Lofty pine and clinging
vine: living with gender in the middle class; and five, A man must act: men and the enterprise. Elizabeth
Foyster discusses how prior to the nineteenth century men managed their aggression, negotiating a manly self-
control and governance that did not smack of foppishness, understood as a surrender of all the traditionally manly
virtues of hardiness, courage and strength (165). Harvey Claflin Mansfield usefully surveys prominent sixteenth-
through nineteenth-century philosophers (Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Burke, Kant, Hegel, and John Stuart Mill) on
their association of manliness and liberalism in chapter six, The Manly Liberal. Carolyn D. Williams examines
eighteenth-century assumptions about maleness and manliness on 10-16 of Pope, Homer and Manliness.

By the mid nineteenth century, anxieties about effeminacys subversive potential were expressed in what James
Eli Adams calls a hermeneutics of suspicion, This suspicion arose from a gendered rhetoric that facilitated the
subsequent sexualizing of gender transgression, in which effeminacy was seen not as a public failure of forthright
courage, but as the outward manifestation of a private sexual deviance (Dandies 227, 17). Foyster notes that
effeminacy named, The deviancy which was typical of men who were in love with women was that they fell so
excessively in love that they relinquished their control and power to their lovers (56).

Cohen convincingly argues that, since the middle of the eighteenth century, a shift occurred from the
hegemonic ideal of politeness to a new ideal of gentlemanliness incorporating elements of a revived chivalry
(Manners 325). Mark Girouard concisely surveys the history of English chivalry and its late eighteenth-century
revival in The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman, chapter two, Survival and Revival.

The OED records the traditional importance of both social position and conduct to being a gentleman: A man of
gentle birth, or having the same heraldic status as those of gentle birth; but also applied to a person of distinction
without precise definition of rank (1.a); A man in whom gentle birth is accompanied by appropriate qualities and
behaviour; hence, in general, a man of chivalrous instincts and fine feelings (3.a.).

3 Gilmours subsequent discussion concerning models for working mens aspirations exemplifies new
aspirations to respectability and gentlemanliness, useful to understanding Adams quest for a respectable, productive
industrial manhood:

[Samuel] Smiles did not so much develop a new model as codify an old one, which seems
more appropriate to the pre-factory stage of industrial development and to the minority which
has usually been seen as the labour aristocracy; yet recent work in Victorian history has
argued that the aspiration to an independent respectability was much more widely spread in
the mid- and late-Victorian working class. The ideology of self-help appealed to this and to
the individualism which was the religious inheritance of the new industrial proletariat, and may
explain something of their resistance to trade unionism in the nineteenth century. Self-help,
like the gentlemanand Smiless final chapter is called Character: the True Gentleman
may have played an important part in reconciling new groups to the respectability-seeking
thrust of the new society. (21)

Kathleen Blake similarly argues that Tom, when he is grown, does not remain close to a feminine position and
mentality, associating himself instead with the painful sacrifices according to a capitalist economics of saving
tied to lending, borrowing, paying off debt (12).
Examining Victorian Material Culture in Lewis Carrolls Alices Adventures in

Wonderland and Edward Lears Nonsense Poetry

- Deepna Rao

Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear remain two writers of the Victorian era, whose linguistic

experimentation with childrens literature laid the foundations of much modern literary innovation

in the twentieth century. Nonsense Literature, as Elizabeth Sewell has called their modes of

writing, presents an interesting area for the exploration of Material Culture. Carroll and Lear

present situations that appear unprecedentedly fantastical, and yet familiar enough to the Victorian

reader in terms of modes of behaviour, upper class pastimes and clothing. These situations serve,

given the modes of Carrolls fantasy writing and Lears Nonsense Poetry, as exaggerated and

humorous societal critiques and a subtly satirical reflection of the society of the time.

Literary nonsense playfully subverts traditional language and social situations, by

presenting intentionally strange, paradoxical or whimsical characters and behaviours. As a literary

device, it resists traditional interpretation. A number of critics such as Wim Tigges, Susan Stewart

and Elizabeth Sewell, not to mention writers such as G.K. Chesterton and George Orwell, have

analyzed this genre. However, this genre is traditionally examined linguistically, and not through

the lens of Material Culture. A look at a prose novella and selected poems would also serve to

show how Material Culture is differentially imaged by the two genres, not simply by the two

writers. This paper, while utilizing linguistic and genre-based analysis, in addition to referring to

models of viewing Material Culture, will examine the writers inimitable modes of critiquing

upper-class society and its manners.

Wim Tigges, in his book An Anatomy of Literary Nonsense, has observed, Nonsense used

within a literary context is often stated to be a typically Victorian phenomenon It is indeed true

that the word nonsense in a favorable sense is only encountered for the first time in the Victorian

era (6). Indeed, as Tigges documents, Dr. Samuel Johnson in 1755 and Samuel Taylor Coleridge

in 1830 both used the term nonsense in a pejorative sense. Nonsense literature thus appears to be

a genre of writing that rose in esteem due to particularities beyond formal ones that made it appeal

to the Victorian reader. It is at this juncture that one may view the conjunction of Nonsense and

Material Culture and the representation of the material within the text, and the ends this

representation would serve.

An understanding of the term Material Culture and Material Culture Studies would be

useful at this point. Chris Tilley et al. have attempted to define Material Culture in the Handbook

of Material Culture as a field that centres on the idea that materiality is an integral dimension of

culture, and that there are dimensions of social existence that cannot be understood without it (1).

They indicate that

material culture studies may take the human subject or the social as their starting point: the

manner in which people think through themselves, and their lives and identities through the

medium of different kinds of things. Material culture studies in various ways inevitably have to

emphasize the dialectical relationship between persons and things: that persons make and use

things and that the things make persons. Subjects and objects and indelibly linked. () Material

culture is part and parcel of human culture in general and just as the concept of culture has

hundreds of potential definitions and manifestations and is never just one entity or thing so has

the material component of culture (4).

Elements of Material Culture are therefore studied and analyzed to construct or re-

construct not simply personal identities, but also gauge popular public practices of the time and

their specific modes of constructing and influencing the personal sphere. Literature provides

artifacts for study in the form of texts and the world of these texts can serve as a mirror to

society, a mimetic world that presents the products or objects of a given ideology, and how

subjects subjected to that ideology are created by their use or consumption or endorsement of

that object.

Elizabeth Sewell has noted that Nonsense is structurally held together by valid mental

relations (Sewell, Elizabeth. In Tigges, Wim. 13). Nonsense Literature was a form of popular

literature, and it presents the reader, albeit in an altered manner, recognizable cultural practices

and conventions for the readers consumption that enabled the aforementioned mental relations.

These material cultural practices may be studied to gauge how Victorian society operated and the

ideological thrusts of the author(s) towards these practices. While the practices and materiality of

the same are recognizable and familiar to the reader, the outcomes and underpinnings may provide

a surprise element. That these texts were nevertheless popular reflects a certain complexity in

attitudes towards those material objects and practices. One might also gauge that the technical

innovation of the genre lends to a focus on this complexity and on reader-reception.

Daniel Miller has, in his Material Culture and Mass Consumption, focused on the

dialectical relationship between persons and things, and the relationship is a complex one. Miller

notes a public/private duality (7) and that the culture of most people is of a very particular kind

(8). What Miller indicates is that individuals, to express their personal individuality, may have
highly specific expressions in their material private possessions. Simultaneously, as social beings,

they would also follow social conventions and possess material goods that enable them to be

recognizable members of the society that they are a part of. This dual mode of material expression

then, is a complex one that gives rise to multiple modes of experiencing and expressing the material

culture of any given time period. Material Culture is also a mode of identity and self-construction.

Miller gives the example of purchasing cosmetics and while this may be a gendered example, it

nevertheless shows how the subject uses the cosmetic objects to create an individual self-image in

line with publicly validated beauty norms. Miller therefore emphasizes that the major shortcoming

of many theories of the concept of culture is that they identify with a set of objects, such as the arts

in themselves, rather than seeing it as an e valuation of the relationship through which objects are

constituted as social forms. Culture is always a process and is never reducible to either its

object or its subject form. For this reason, evaluation should always be of a dynamic relationship,

never of mere things (11). While analyzing the texts of Carroll and Lear, then, one would not

simply consider the material objects and practices represented in the texts, but the dynamic

relationship between the characters and objects represented, as well as the attitudes of the writers

towards these objects and the cultural practices they relate to, as might be inferred or gauged from

the stylistic mode of representation.

This paper would employ the methodology suggested by Jules David Prown in his essay

Mind in Matter: An Introduction to Material Culture Theory and Method. Prown advocates a

three-step methodology for analyzing Material Culture: Description and Analysis; Deduction (of

the relationship between the object and the perceiver) and finally, Speculation (regarding the

relationship and possible plausible assumptions that one might make). Prown has additionally
suggested six areas of study in Material Culture Studies: Art, Diversions, Adornment,

Modifications of the landscape, Applied arts and Devices (3). Of these six areas, this paper

will focus on Diversions and Adornment evinced in the works of Carroll and Lear.

Lewis Carrolls Alices Adventures in Wonderland is the prose work that will be

considered, in addition to Edward Lears poems The Owl and the Pussycat; The Broom, the

Shovel, the Poker and the Tongs; The Quangle Wangles Hat and The New Vestments. In

these literary texts of Carroll and Lear, one might see how the personages of the texts are attracted

to objects and divertissements that are reflective of the time in addition to their responses. The

writers own potential attitudes to these will also be given due consideration.

Diversions in Material Culture would refer to the area of leisure and recreational activities

and the material objects related to these. Victorian Material Culture is notable for its numerous

activities in this domain, and chief amongst these would be dances and balls. Both were an essential

part of both upper and lower-class diversion, as they were crucial to socially-acceptable courtship.

Amongst the upper classes, balls and dances afforded a means of displaying grace and fashion,

while for the lower classes, dances were a means of socializing, rising in ranks and acquiring social

mobility, during festive occasions. Victoriana Magazine documents the various social

conventions, and the norms of behavior and dress to be observed in dances. An instance of a social

norm of behaviour, particularly for women, would be the glance over a fan, half-veiling the face,

to indicate interest in dancing with a partner. A woman was expected to await a mans invitation

to dance, although all present were expected to take part in a dance. Moreover, dances were

generally organized in a ballroom of an upper-class home (if private), while public balls would be
in some kind of public hall or a large, social space. Courtship with due consideration to Victorian

prudery was also a matter of importance in Victorian society.

Edward Lear presents the Victorian diversion of dancing as well as a process of courtship in his

poem The Owl and the Pussycat. The poem presents an Owl and a Pussycat enacting a

courtship ritual. While the poem begins with the two animals going to sea, it presents them to be

presumably from the upper classes as they take honey and plenty of money, / Wrapped in a five-

pound note (lines 3 - 4). The Owl is shown serenading the Pussycat, and the latter responds with

You elegant fowl! / How charmingly sweet you sing! / O let us be married! too long we have

tarried: / But what shall we do for a ring (lines 12 - 15)?

The two are shown to then sail for a year and a day before successfully finding a ring (for

a shilling) and marrying, following which they dine on mince (finely chopped meat, a delicacy)

and slices of quince (line 27) (an exotic fruit) with a runcible spoon (line 28), and dancing

together in the moonlight on the sand presumably, they are at a beach of the island where they

have been wedded. In line with the genre of Nonsense Poetry, the selected characters are of

different species, different sizes and eat fruit with a fork-like spoon and defying logic, the ring

costs but a shilling. However, as one moves beyond the child-like innocence of the nonsense-

rhyme, ascribed gender-roles as well as Victorian conventions of courtship appear to have been

subverted. While the poet does not ascribe a fixed sex, male or female, to either creature, the

masculine gender would appear to be that of the Owl, and the feminine, that of the Pussycat.

Deviating from the prudish Victorian feminine ideal, it is the Pussycat who proposes to the Owl

and not the other way around, as per the norm. The two are also seen to dance outside prescribed
societal spaces, on a beach. Thus, in the guise of nonsense, Lear subtly critiques and subverts the

rigid conventions of Victorian courtship.

Lear, in another poem, The Broom, the Shovel, the Poker and the Tongs, presents

courtship rituals in the same vein of Nonsense: we see the Nonsense conventions of

anthropomorphized objects, presenting the material cultural practice of enjoying a coach ride in

the Park. Such rides were common in the late nineteenth century, and a mode of leisure among

both the working class and upper-class individuals. Unlike The Owl and the Pussycat, which

does not have personal pronouns indicative of gender, this poem has the titles of Mr., Mrs. and

Miss to indicate the genders and marital statuses of the objects described. Additionally, the

female household items are shown to have dressed for the occasion: Miss Shovel was dressed all

in black (with a brooch), / Mrs. Broom was in blue (with a sash) (lines 8 9).

Mr. Poker sings to Miss Shovel in rapture, promising to feed her cold apple tart (line 15)

and praises her shiny nose, round head and slender shape (lines 1819). Mr. Tongs, on the

other hand, would appear to be unhappy in his relationship with Mrs. Broom, as seen in his

complaint which she does not heed, and questions whether his thin shape is the reason for her

lack of attention and affection. Both the women are seen to dismiss the mens songs as nonsense

and get angry. However, on returning home, all four personages appear to enjoy themselves over

tea. The poem would appear to present the disparities between an unmarried and married couple

under the guise of Nonsense. While the praise showered on the women corresponds to the physical

attributes of the objects they carry names of, the character of Mr. Tongs appears to be unconfident

for the very attributes corresponding to his name. While Victorian literature has traditionally
presented a male gaze capturing a woman, this poem presents the male gaze turning to oneself.

Household objects are thus shown to subtly provide a commentary on love and marriage, and to

repercussions related to ones body image as well. The poem also presents self-reflexive word play

with Nonsense and may additionally be a sly commentary on the songs and verses written to

serenade and woo women at the time.

Lewis Carroll, on the other hand, avoids courtship entirely in his Alices Adventures in

Wonderland, but presents dance when Alice encounters the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon and they

tell her about the Lobster Quadrille. The dance is an imaginary one construed by the writer, where

the marine animals, excluding the jellyfish, form a line along the seashore and dance, all with

lobster partners. The imagined dance appears gender-neutral as the genders of the creatures are not

mentioned. The Mock Turtle also finishes his explanation saying We can do it without lobsters,

you know (109). Thus, the dance, despite its name, is a source of merriment to all. It has

recognizable traits of an elite ballroom dance, as well as Nonsense-generated traits such as

somersaults. While Carroll wrote for children, it would appear as if he were making an indirect

social comment regarding inclusiveness. Dance, it would appear, would be more enjoyable if it

included all, including children, and were not restricted simply to courtship. If one were to view

the lobsters as representing the upper classes, Carroll might indirectly be indicating that the elite

regulations related to dance were not necessarily followed by others. Dances were possibly

appropriated by the lower classes, without the rigid conventions governing dances in upper class

Other important means of diversion, presented in The New World Encyclopedia, would

include fine-dining, tea parties and games. These are evinced in Carrolls Alices Adventures in

Wonderland and some of Lears poems as well. Jane Pettitgrew and Bruce Richardson, in A Social

History of Tea, have traced the trajectory of the growing popularity of tea in England, and the rise

of the social convention of tea parties. While tea was first popularized by the Portuguese Catherine

of Braganza (in 1662), who had it served in her bed-chamber, by the late 1830s it had grown to be

the national drink of England. In the 1840s, Anne, Duchess of Bedford, would invite upper-class

ladies to her home, and have tea served with savouries, scones and then sweets. Thus began the

traditions of high and low teas. While upper classes considered teatime to be a low tea as it was

not a heavy meal, for the masses, high tea was an expression for engaging in an upper-class past-


Carroll devotes an entire chapter of his novel to A Mad Tea-party where he depicts Alice

coming to the home of the March Hare, and witnessing a great deal of strange behaviour on the

part of the guests there. The tea party has three characters seated at an outdoor table: the March

Hare, the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse seated in between them, asleep, but being utilized as an

arm-rest by the other two. Here, when she enters, she is not ignored, but hears the present members

yell No room! No room (78)! even if the contrary is clearly true. The illogical rudeness of the

Mad Hatter and March Hare would be a part of the subversion of logic characteristic of Nonsense

Literature. The Duchess, in the previous chapter, far from being a good hostess, assigns the

responsibility of an infant to Alice, a complete stranger. Alice, intimidated by the unknown

surroundings, perhaps, as well as the imposing persona of the Duchess and her brusque manner,

doesnt even protest. However, while she is seen to be hesitant with the Duchess, she is open in
expressing her indignation and opposing the Mad Hatter and March Hare, and sits down even if

uninvited. Carroll thus displays how his protagonist is framed by her real-life upper-class status.

She is aware of the power and class equations even if she is a child, and asserts herself even in the

strange world of Wonderland with those whom she perceives as ordinary common people in the

midst of High Tea. The March Hare continues his rude behaviour, and offers her wine when there

is none.

What is noticeable, however, is that the Hatter and Dormouse both engage Alice in

conversation, unlike the taciturn Duchess, despite Alices judgments and interruptions. Even if

Alice ultimately leaves due to their rudeness, she is not above rude responses as well. Carroll,

through the contrast, appears to gently display how the child-protagonist, for all her knowledge of

manners, is given due attention by the commoners and creatures in Wonderland even if they are

rude, in contrast with the upper-class individuals, who are uncaring. While the child-protagonist

ignores or is thoroughly confused by the Hatters play with parallel structures in language, riddles

and altered nursery rhymes, the Victorian reader would recognize the writers sense emerging

through the Hatters nonsense. Carroll, through the Hatter, questions the logic in of the English

language, as well as scientific notions of time and timelessness.

The Duchess, on the other hand, orders her cook to cut off Alices head and disregards her

own baby and pet Cheshire Cat. Carroll also presents an indirect critique through the enigmatic

and liminal Cheshire Cat, who provides Alice with direction when she needs it. Pets, while though

living creatures, were also material status symbols of the time. The Cat is ignored (almost as much

as the baby) by the Duchess, yet, it is wise. Like the other creatures in Wonderland, it has the
capacity to think and speak. Carroll appears to indicate and critique the human tendency to ignore

any form of non-human, non-normative intelligence.

Apart from tea-parties, Carrolls text also provides a picture of games that were popular in

the Victorian period. One of these games is Croquet, which according to Walter L. Arnstein, was

one of the most popular of all recreational games during Victorian times (E1, L 40 43). Croquet

involved playing outdoors on a vast lawn, with players hitting wooden balls with a mallet through

hoops present on the grass. Gambling with cards was also on the rise, as per The New World

Encyclopedia: Gambling at cards in establishments popularly called casinos was wildly popular

during the period: so much so that evangelical and reform movements specifically targeted such

establishments in their efforts to stop gambling, drinking and prostitution (E5, L 6 -12). While

casinos and gambling houses were notorious for card-games, these were also a popular diversion

in private homes, albeit without wagers. Carroll displays live cards ones serving as servants to

the Queen of Hearts. The Queen herself is seen to be a character from a deck of cards. While the

Queen is seen to be a caricature of a dictatorial personage, she nevertheless allows Alice to play

Croquet on her lawn. However, the familiar game is presented through the fantastic re-imaginings

of Nonsense Literature: the wooden balls are replaced with live hedgehogs, the mallets with

flamingoes, and the card-soldiers act as the hoops. Alice complains to the Cheshire Cat that rules

are not followed and that the game is not played fairly, but she does attempt to play the game.

What Carroll subtly highlights, through this vivid re-imagining, is the chaos and disorder of real

life, and human disregard for non-human life-forms. Alice considers it a wonder that anyone is left

alive in Wonderland as she regards the Queen.

The Game of Croquet stands as a sharp contrast to another competitive diversion the Caucus race

presented earlier in Carrolls book. The race is proposed by the Dodo as a means of helping all the

dripping-wet animals and birds dry themselves. The race has no fixed shape for its race-course,

and the participants are shown to begin and leave the race when they like. They keep running, until

the Dodo, observing that all are quite dry, calls out The race is over (42)! But when all ask who

the winner is, the Dodo promptly announces, Everybody has won and all must have prizes (42).

Alice is announced as the one who will reward all, and she manages to give all the creatures comfits

fruits or nuts coated with sugar, a popular Victorian treat. The Dodo however insists that Alice

must also reward herself, and she finally is presented with her own thimble, a utilitarian item

reflective of the Victorian emphasis on sewing and embroidery. The creatures, unlike the Queen,

are not seen to be competitive, and believe that all must be rewarded. While both the games

display chaos, there is inclusiveness and affection displayed in the Caucus race as opposed to an

utter disregard for human and animal life in the game of Croquet.

Through the material culture practices then, Carroll presents an alternate world of

disorder and class-divisions, including both the human and animal worlds. As Alice progresses

from the creatures to the elites to the commoners, and then finally to the royalty, the Victorian

reader is presented with both vivid images as well as subtle social commentary.

While Carroll focuses on upper-class diversions in his text, Lear focuses on Adornments or

modes of fashion. These are re-imagined in Nonsense terms and presented in an exaggerated,

surprising manner. A popular fashion item of the Victorian era was the wide-brimmed beaver hat.

This hat is re-fashioned in Lears poem The Quangle Wangles Hat where the Quangle-Wangle

lives in a Crumpetty Tree but lives a life of loneliness and anonymity due to his excessively large
and wide Beaver Hat (line 4), which was a hundred and two feet wide, / With ribbons and

bibbons on every side, / And bells, and buttons, and loops, and lace, / So that nobody ever could

see his face (lines 5 8). Lears verse picturesquely illustrates the varied embellishments popular

for hats at the time. The Quangle Wangle, despite his fine hat, finds his daily life dreary as no one

else resides close by. However, a number of birds and animals come and request him to allow them

to build their homes on his hat. Logic and realism are subverted, but the social phenomenon of

loneliness is highlighted indirectly. While fashion items may make some noticeable, they can also

serve to obscure and exclude people from society.

Another equally telling poem is Lears The New Vestments. Lear presents an absurd,

nonsensical fashion dress, which is made entirely of food items and animal hides. The hat is a

loaf of brown bread; the drawers and shoes are rabbit skins; the buttons are jujubes and chocolate

drops; the belt is made of biscuits; the coat of pancakes and jam and the cloak of cabbage leaves.

Needless to say, the man finds his clothes devoured by diverse creatures, as well as children, and

is left in the embarrassing position of nothing to wear. Lear thus appears to be humorously

critiquing the Victorian obsession with novel fashion and food consumption, and presenting

images of how fashion falls short of being a mode of self-creation, social acceptance and

integration, and finally socialization.

Both Carroll and Lear dabble with Nonsense to present their social critiques of upper-class material

practices, notably social diversions. Their common techniques include bending rules of logic,

using startling and graphic images that are novel as well as familiar, and finally, incorporating

anthropomorphic creatures into their works. However, their choice of genres prose and poetry

respectively, presents the points of divergences as well. Lears choice of poetry as the arena of
Nonsense play allows him to employ a greater diversity of images from various walks of life. The

narratives within the poems are subtler, and the focus on rhyme and the child-like quality of his

verse makes the social critique a subtle, covert one. Despite the child-like quality of rhyming verse,

cute animals and the incorporation of humorous situations, Lears poems have truly adult

preoccupations. They allow one to explore gender relations and social conventions anticipating

modern societal norms, through the subverted expression of Material practices of culture. Carroll

presents a child in a recognizable, alternate fantasy world of adults some of whom are even

threatening presences. The class divides and hierarchies are more evident, and characters

responses to one another are also direct commentaries regarding the material world of Wonderland.

However, he is limited by the constraints of a story-line that must conform to the demands of the

genre. Actions are therefore explained and elaborated upon, even if the perspective is that of a

child. Questions and descriptions of perceptions abound in the narrative as Alice tries to fathom

her new situation and assimilate with the new inhabitants she encounters. The end of the novella

displays Carrolls schism: the fantasy must end and any critique made may be written off with the

dream-narrative. Sense and nonsense co-exist in a state of tension, with no direct resolution.

Thus, Carroll and Lear depict Victorian Material Culture in differing, unique ways and

successfully convey the material preoccupations of the Age. Their works provide the modern

twenty-first century reader with an understanding of the existing Victorian culture and cannot

certainly be dismissed on account of their genre, Nonsense Literature. Indeed, their works provide

a justification for critics and theorists to re-evaluate not simply classic but popular forms of

literature to gauge the reading publics formative social influences. They are not simply a reflection
of the Material Culture of the Victorian Age, but the social currents, tensions and preoccupations

related to the material and therefore a rich arena of research.

Works Cited

Arnstein, Walter. Victorian Indoor and Outdoor Sports & Pastimes. 1997. Web. 29 Dec. 2016. <>.

Carroll, Lewis. Alices Adventures in Wonderland. 1984. Calcutta, Allahbad, Bombay and

New Delhi: Rupa and Co. and William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. (London), 1989. Print

Lear, Edward. The Broom, the Shovel, the Poker and the Tongs. Nonsense. Milton-Keynes:

Penguin Classics, 2016. 6-8. Print.

The New Vestments. Nonsense. Milton-Keynes: Penguin Classics, 2016. 37- 40. Print.

The Owl and the Pussycat. Nonsense. Milton-Keynes: Penguin Classics, 2016. 4 - 5. Print.

The Quangle Wangles Hat. Nonsense. Milton-Keynes: Penguin Classics, 2016. 26 - 29.


Miller, Daniel. Material Culture and Mass Consumption. Oxford and New York: Basil

Blackwell, 1987. Print.

New World Encyclopedia. Victorian Era. 2015. Web. 29 Dec. 2016. <>

Prown, Jules David. Mind in Matter: An Introduction to Material Culture Theory and Method.

Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 17, 1 (Spring, 1982): 1 19. Print.

Tigges, Wim. An Anatomy of Literary Nonsense. Amsterdam: Rodopi B.V., 1988. Print.
Tilley, Chris and Webb Keane, Susanne Kchler, Mike Rowlands and Patricia Spyer (Eds.).

Handbook of Material Culture. London, Thousand Oaks (California) and New Delhi: Sage

Publications, 2006. Print.


Janowski, Diane. Types of Victorian Dances (from New York History Review). 2013. Web. 29
Dec. 2016. <>.
Malheiro, B. A Victorian Tea: A Bit of History. 2014. Web. 29 Dec. 2016. <>.
Orwell, George. Nonsense Poetry. 2015. Web. 29 Dec. 2016. <>.
Pettitgrew, Jane and Bruce Richardson. A Social History of Tea (Expanded Second Edition). UK
and USA: Benjamin Press, 2016. Print.
Victoriana Magazine. How to Have a Victorian Ball. 1996. Web. 29 Dec. 2016. <>.
Walton, John. The Victorian Seaside. 2011. Web. 29 Dec. 2016. <>.
Jekyll-Holmes and Ripper-Hyde: The Body as a Site of Multiplicity

- Sudeshna Datta Chaudhuri

It was an enclosure that was at most double the size of the little iron bedstead placed on

one side of it. A petroleum lamp, without screen, gave an uneasy light over the room the

detective, as we went out, said to us: It was on that bed that Jack the Ripper mutilated another

woman. Did you not see on the wall at the side some dark splashes? It was the blood that gushed

upon it, and it is there still.

J.P. de Oliveira Martins, The England of Today (1893). i

During a guided tour of London, four years after the Ripper murders, the Portuguese

historian Oliveira Martins is shown the East End as a dark territory, foreign to London. This is no

longer London. London ends with the City. This is the East End, says the guide. ii Two things are

of importance here. One is, of course, the way the lodgings of a murdered woman gains sightseeing

status, is preserved that way, and dramatized for the tourist gaze. The other is Oliveira Martins

use of the word detective. What detective is this? What police detective would take time off to

guide tourists around the East End? Had amateur detectives already come into being, and were

supporting themselves with a little side business? Or was someone simply pretending to be a

detective, knowing that the term and the profession had gained currency? These questions might

ultimately be relevant to the points I am going to make, and I would like to explore how portrayal

of both crime and its investigation, personified in the figures of the criminal and the investigator,

became easy ways to depict the material body as a site of debate.

In the autumn of 1888, five gruesome murders in the Whitechapel area took the city of

London by storm. The fact that all five victims were poor prostitutes, whose murder could mean

little profit to anybody, turned this event into an even more mysterious one. The scare spread, and

no less than twelve killings between late 1887 and 1891, besides the canonical five, was attributed

to Saucy Jacky. The case of Jack the Ripper was a remarkably well-investigated one. There were

a number of suspects but no one was ever caught. Perhaps this was (and still is) why Jack the

Ripper was thought to be a gentleman who could use his respectability as a mask to cover his

tracks. He has been identified with several famous and apparently respectable people from Prince

Albert Victor to Sir William Gull, the painter Walter Sickert to the author Lewis Carroll. However,

these four are later suspects, none of the theories about them being propounded before 1962.

By a notable coincidence, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll

and Mr. Hyde just two years prior to the Whitechapel murders. In the story, Henry Jekyll, a good

and respectable doctor, manages to invent a drug which brings out the other side of his persona,

turning him into the evil Edward Hyde. As Hyde, he murders an aged and beautiful gentleman,

Sir Danvers Carew. Hyde then disappears, resurfacing as Jekyll, while the police continue to

search unsuccessfully for him. iii This fictional event has had such a strong influence on the mind

of the public that the character of Edward Hyde has been supposed to foreshadow that of the

Rippers. Perhaps this is why the Ripper is repeatedly imagined to be a Hyde-like figure.

The figure of Jekyll-Hyde, along with the other two great monsters, as Stephen King calls

them Mary Shelleys Frankenstein (1816) and Bram Stokers Dracula (1897), together marking
three of the darkest creations of English nineteenth-century literature. iv These three myths

continue to fascinate and terrorize the mind well up to the present day, possibly because they

address a set of universal and timeless dreads usually referred to as our deepest fears. I imagine

that this is not just the fear of being their victim, but also the fear of being them the fear of

overstepping some unspecified, but definite, natural boundary line. The primary concern is with

what happens when man tries to transcend the natural order of things. It is the consequence of a

too-eager thirst for knowledge, the audacity of playing God.

Though Frankenstein is written much earlier, the figures of Frankenstein and Jekyll-Hyde

merge at more than one point. Both Frankenstein and Jekyll are mad scientists; both create a

monster, through a scientific process, the former from outside and the latter from within, that goes

out of their control. In both narratives, there is one overriding theme: man does not have the ability

to, and therefore should not attempt to play God. Thus the parody of humanity the scientist creates

acts as a rebuke to his hubris. It is not that his aims are evil in themselves; sometimes they are

positive. But they threaten to change the world, which may be either a good or a bad thing. They

go beyond the permitted limits into new and uncertain endeavours (blasphemies or insanities),

and the normal world feels threatened.

Interestingly, a very persuasive and representative argument for a kind of non-knowledge

came from John Ruskin. In his book The Eagles Nest, Ruskin used the word science to mean

not science as we understand it today, but merely systematic knowledge. According to Ruskin,

true science was the fullest possible understanding of what was already known, but not the constant

expansion of the range of knowledge. As such, he consistently identified such expansion as corrupt
and corrupting. As he said, I pray you very solemnly to put that idea of knowing all things in

Heaven and Earth out of your hearts and heads, v because [h]e that increaseth knowledge,

increaseth sorrow. vi

However, Ruskins passionate objection against new knowledge did not mean that he was

anti-life or even anti-knowledge. The condition he set for gaining knowledge was like that of the

child who finds grounds for admiration and pleasure in everything. Ruskin resisted this

expansion of knowledge perhaps because he was afraid that what the new knowledge would reveal

might be unpleasant or even ugly. As George Levine says, [f]or Ruskin, all knowledge of

appearances, or almost all knowledge of appearances, is necessary. But what cant be seen, the

muscles, blood vessels, and all that lies beneath the skin, should not be seen. There is, in life-

affirming Ruskin, then, a fundamental fear of the flesh, of the ultimate realities of the material

world. The more we know, the less we admire. vii

It would seem that the Victorian naturalists take on traditional religion was partly an attack

on the archetype of degeneration, namely, the myth of the Fall. As science saw it, humanity was

certainly not in decline from a state of perfection. Rather it was in progress. T. H. Huxley attacked

this myth directly on both moral and intellectual grounds. He questioned the rationality of the

world, asking what kind of God could have created man in his own image and then have allowed

him to fall away from goodness on the most trifling temptation. viii Charles Darwin too, wrote

in his Autobiography: A being so powerful and so full of knowledge as a God who could create

the universe, is to our finite minds omnipotent and omniscient, and it revolts our understanding to

suppose that his benevolence is not unbounded, for what advantage can there be in the sufferings
of millions of the lower animals throughout almost endless time? (This sequence was not

published until the twentieth century.) ix

To the anthropocentric world, evolution does not appear to be a glorious concept. Then, if

there is no God, there is no impersonal source of truth, and the impersonal, without God, is without

value. As Levine says, the great quest of nineteenth-century secular culture was for an impersonal

authority that could include the normal human preoccupation with value. x The Cartesian

dilemma, as Richard Bernstein calls it, is central to the Victorian debate. Descartes, Bernstein says,

leads us with an apparent and ineluctable necessity to a grand and seductive Either/ Or. Either

there is some support for our being, a fixed foundation for our knowledge, or we cannot escape

the forces of darkness that envelop us with madness, with intellectual and moral chaos. xi

Yet what was literature doing but advancing the same moral chaos? If we look at Dr Jekyll

and Count Dracula, their similarity lies in their unity of being, rather than in their duality of

character. It is true that both of them are masquerading as gentlemen, barely keeping their inner

demons in check. It is also true that neither of them has a choice any more. Their evil has sprung

from their good and to go back to that good is impossible for either of them. As Van Helsing

says, This evil is rooted deep in all good. xii This duality of good and evil in vampirism is not

really a duality at all. It is the good that is identified in the novel throughout with duality, or with

the possession of alternatives. It is the good man who is free to choose evil. When his position

becomes untenable, unendurable, or simply too much of one thing, he can escape into another,

better or worse condition. The bad arises when the good man can conceive no escape or

alternative. The vampire is bad because he does not have the power of choice. Evil is good forced
into confines so narrow that it has no other alternative. It is not an alternative to good, at least not

the way Stoker sees it. This is what Van Helsing has to say about Count Dracula: [H]e have more

iron nerve, more subtle brain, more braver heart than any man. In him some vital principle have in

strange way found their utmost... all this without the diabolic aid ... For it have to yield to the

powers that come from, and are, symbolic of good. xiii In other words, according to Van Helsings

logic, Dracula is the greatest vampire because he was the greatest human being of all.

In Jekyll, too, evil follows from good, or at least, good attributes. Jekyll says, It wasthe

exacting nature of my aspirations than any particular degradation of my faults, that made me what

I was. xiv Again he says, This too was myself. It seemed natural and human. In my eyes it bore a

livelier image of the spirit, it seemed more express and single, than the imperfect and divided

countenance I had been hitherto accustomed to call mine (italics mine). xv

It seems neither Dracula nor Jekyll can go back anywhere except within himself, inward

into a single subjectivity. Jekyll is Jekyll-Hyde but Hyde is a singular and unified creature. There

are no further transformations of Jekyll once he has transformed into Hyde, and once he has faced

the unity of his being it seems he cannot go back to his duality of existence. It is not because the

evil in Hyde has overwhelmed Jekyll that he cannot return to being Jekyll. It is more like all

progress or descent towards unity is a one-way process and the realization of singleness is a lesson

that once learnt cannot be forgotten. Jekylls final despair is not an existential hopelessness. It is

the despair of not being able to find his way back to a state of mind that embraces and reconciles

both his former and present condition. As Chesterton recognized: The real stab of the story is not

in the discovery that the one man is two men; but in the discovery that the two men are one
manThe point of the story is not that a man can cut himself off from his conscience, but that he

cannot. xvi

The pattern is fairly consistent. The scientists, in their thirst for knowledge, are enthusiastic

about their work to the point of obsession. Generally their creations, whether they are mechanical

or living, go out of control. At the climax they turn upon their creator/s, manage to destroy them,

and are soon destroyed themselves. This usually happens due to poetic justice masquerading as

fate, which restores the equilibrium i.e., the status quo against the blaspheming mad scientist. It is

this last motif the destruction of the material bodies that connects the various aspects of the

subject together: the man who tries to play God, who rejects the accepted knowledge, and pursues

the unknown, all in the name of science.

The texts thus introduced then-taboo ideas, preparing audiences for progress and scientific

development in a world in which moral values would change. But could the old taboos be

discarded? Were the novels seeking to render such taboo topics psychologically safe by

classifying the audience receptivity of the inventor-characters as mad scientists? With the playing

up of this particular fear factor, the scientific rationale or attitude definitely takes a backseat.

Thus, portrayals of scientific inclinations have a double-edged and somewhat ambiguous

import on the depiction of Victorian life. Not only do they act as a warning but they also function

as a kind of fulfilment of fantastical desires. As an interesting aside, we can have a quick look at a

few depictions of Hyde in twentieth-century Hollywood movies, which spell out quite clearly what

Victorian literature did not. The 1941 version xvii comes closest to portraying the relationship
between Jekyll and his alter ego as Stevenson wrote it. Here as in the novel, Jekylls descent into

evil and madness has little to do with his misguided scientific quest; for this Jekyll, being bad is

fun. He continues to imbibe his sinister drug after his initial experiment because deep down he

likes being Mr Hyde. As he tells Ivy when he confronts her after her visit to Jekyll, the good doctor

is a spineless hypocrite who, for all his condemnation of other mens misdeeds, secretly longs to

behave just as badly as they do. Now that he has stumbled upon a way to indulge his every whim

without fear of the reprisals the Victorian era held in store for the deviant, Jekyll-Hyde is going to

behave far worse than even the most corrupt of them. In fact, in the guise of Hyde, Jekyll behaves

even more loathsomely than he had in Rouben Mamoulians film. xviii The 1931 Hyde could best

be described as mean; the 1941 Hyde, however, exhibits a purer form of evil. He is cruel, even

sadistic. It is not control of his impulses or socialization that this Hyde lacks, but a conscience.

When he torments Ivy, both physically and psychologically, it isnt because she spurns his

amorous advances, but rather because he simply enjoys her suffering.

In 1888, Richard Mansfield played Hyde on stage as a manifestation of Jekylls lust, a

creature of infinite sexual drive, who is unable to satisfy his sexual cravings because he is so

hideous, and so seeks fulfillment through violence. xix In 1920, John Barrymore played Hyde as the

essence of a lust-ridden fiend, almost like a latter-day Dorian Gray in his pleasure-seeking forays

into the shadowy world of Soho. xx This film first introduced the romantic subplot in the character

of the music-hall girl who serves as a counterpart to Jekylls fiance, just as Hyde serves as the

doctors. This element has been accepted and included almost as a convention in remakes of the

film ever since. Rouben Mamoulians 1931 version with Fredric March increased the sexual

overtones with the introduction of the barmaid Ivy. The 1941 version with Spencer Tracy and the
1968 version with Jack Palance xxi followed the by-now standard pattern. What emerges from this

is a portrait of Hyde with a decidedly modern veneer: released by the intemperate tastes of Jekyll,

he exists in order to allow his double to gratify his wanton lusts. Hyde evolves into a monster,

which, very like Frankenstein, he cannot control. He is the original Hulk.

In the movies, then, Jekyll-Hyde becomes a metaphor for the repression and hypocrisy that

modern city life entails, and not just one for the Victorian double standard. Jekyll says that he has

long been committed to a profound duplicity of life. xxii One line from his narrative [m]y devil

had been long caged, he came out roaring xxiii has developed into full-blown Freudianism in the

movies. This is in turn habitually coupled with the Whitechapel murders. Richard Mansfields

adaptation of the story depicted startling transformation scenes courtesy of photosensitive make-

up (thanks to this, Mansfield found himself the prime suspect in the Ripper case for some time).

This conflation turned the character of Jekyll-Hyde into something that was not in Stevensons

original a heterosexual sex-killer. In Mamoulians version, Hydes motivation seems born out of

pure sexual frustration, partly because of the domineering presence of his fiances father, Danvers

Carew. This provides a heterosexual rationale for Carews murder. The Ripper is an explicit part

of Hammers Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971). xxiv In this movie, the Ripper is Dr Jekyll, who

discovers the elixir of life in a hormone found only in a womans pancreas hence the need for

disembowelment. The obvious side-effect is that Dr Jekyll turns into Mrs Hyde.

The Jekyll-Hyde or the Jekyll-Ripper legend is possibly one of the most persuasive ones

that the modern world has known in a long time. It remains alive in all serial killer movies where

the even the next-door neighbour, who is quite assuredly a respectable and harmless person, turns
out to be a psychopathic killer. This is what happens in the Agatha Christie thriller By the Pricking

of My Thumbs, where a sweet old lady in an old-age home turns out to be a murderess. xxv By and

large, several psychopathic killers seem to have a shade of Mr Hyde in them. For instance, one

could look at Dr Hannibal Lecter, xxvi who is recognized as a genius in the field of crime detection,

and yet kills men and women and eats their body parts. There have been several other Hyde-like

figures in literature, some of them as unique as Dorian Gray (1890). xxvii The attraction of Jekyll-

Hyde lies in the fact that they have the potential to be interpreted in many different ways. The most

common of these interpretations is to view Jekyll-Hyde as an allegory for the schism in man, an

essential separation of good and evil, or the war between bestial and human, and in recent times,

the conflict between id and ego. Most potently, it symbolizes split-personality or schizophrenia,

though it does not match it symptomatically. In such a character, suicide would be necessarily

understood as internal homicide, one alter ego killing the body to get rid of another, and it is

regarded as a real threat [by researchers in the US National Center of Biotechnology Information,

who say that 70% of multiple personality disorder patients attempt suicide. This threat is

foreshadowed and realized in Jekyll. To me, it seems that the composite figure of Jekyll-Hyde

symbolizes not the disorder of split-personality, but the promise of multiplicity that it carries. It is

the idea of the multiple persona, which is not necessarily multiple personality disorder. It is more

like having the choice and the ability to shift between antipodes as Aldous Huxley calls them. xxviii

It remains to be seen where the figure of the detective fits into this debate.

To go back to the Ripper case: what led both the police and the press to document it so

extensively, and in such painstaking detail? In 1876, a massive level of corruption had been

discovered in the CID. xxix Also, the Metropolitan Police were being regarded as an increasingly
militaristic force. The press, which previously favoured the enforcers of law and order, chose this

opportune moment to support the poor and the unruly as victims of such corruption and force. The

police needed to prove themselves. The case came at the right moment. As means and results of

their investigation, there are photographs, prints, reports, statements and several other kinds of

information. Reportage and investigation went to such an extent that ultimately all titillation and

outrage and horror and distaste went out of it. All that remained was one question: why? As Mark

Whitehead says, [t]here is a desire to understand what motivates such crimes. The detective

approaches the subject by deductive reasoning, by using the grey cells They must know the

motive to know the killer. xxx Whether or not the detective ultimately learns this, only the detective

has the wherewithal to know this.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century, crime writing had started to focus more on the

mechanism of justice than on the sympathetic portrayal of criminals, which became increasingly

controversial; for instance, there was the contemporary debate over 'penny dreadfuls', a series of

papers detailing the exploits of criminals of, for the most part, the previous century. Reaching a

height of popularity in the 1870s, the 'dreadfuls' were seen as causing crime among juveniles. Such

a debate illustrated a growing anxiety about the representation of criminality. The focus shifted

from the criminals to the investigators, and gave rise to a literature of detection. One of the earliest

examples of this were the four volumes of the Memoires of Eugene-Francois Vidocq (the first head

of the Parisian suret) published between 1828 and 1829. xxxi Vidocq's position is particularly

interesting, as before becoming a detective he had been an infamous forger and prison-breaker.

The role of the detective as halfway between respectable society and the criminal would continue

to be developed well into Victoria's reign. Latter-day characters like Chestertons Valentin, xxxii the
detective who turns to crime, and Flambeau, xxxiii the criminal who becomes a detective, also come

to mind.

It would not be until the middle of the nineteenth century that the police detective made his

literary debut. The most notable of these was of course, Edgar Allan Poe and his stories featuring

the Parisian detective Dupin. xxxiv Dupin would be a template for many of the detectives to appear

in the late nineteenth century, in particular Sherlock Holmes (who repays the favour by dismissing

Dupin as a 'very inferior fellow' in A Study in Scarlet), by placing an emphasis on intellect and

rationalization. Yet although the official detective had made a literary appearance, the rise of a

new form of crime fiction after the mid-century put the emphasis firmly on the amateur sleuth. Did

that raise the status of the detective somewhat? Or did the detective still continue to inhabit the

grey zone between respectability and criminality, as his point of reference?

According to Descartes, the human mind was limited, but it was still equipped to know the

truth. If there was an error in its knowledge, it was likely that that error had resulted from the

misuse of the human faculties. Thus, the ideal of self-purification, part of the Cartesian scheme,

was close to the hearts of Victorian thinkers. Similarly, Descartes denied past knowledge systems

because knowledge could not come through authority i.e. tradition, and that stand was also a kind

of purging of inherited institutions. A self was supposed to retreat to the internal cogito and

construct itself from there xxxv.

Huxley and the naturalists remained in terror of darkness, madness, and moral chaos,

which they were certain, would ensue if knowledge had no foundation. This foundation was
value. The universe was rational, it had an order, and that rationality, that order were good.

Therefore, Huxley asked himself whether he would be free, in the theological sense, to choose

evil, or remain constrained, in the naturalists sense, do what is necessary. His answer of course,

leaned towards the necessary. The necessary was good; the clerical view of the world was bad,

since it lead to confusion, which was irrational, and thence to ignorance i.e. non-knowledge. xxxvi

This is where the detective stepped in. Despite his extensive knowledge of the criminal

world as well as the criminal mind, he did not choose evil, but that which was necessary, namely

the pursuit of order amidst chaos. Holmes was the detective per se in English literature. Though

he was an amateur detective, a consulting detective, i.e. not connected to the official law-keepers

in any capacity, the pursuit of order was his enduring passion. He was also a gentleman, with

country squires for forbears, seemingly unconnected to the world of crime. Yet Doyle situated a

grey zone within him that makes the reader continue to wonder whether he could be another Dr.


The characteristics that Doyle provided Holmes with illustrate clearly that Doyle was

aware of the emerging grey area of the crime detective. It is interesting to note that Holmes was a

student of the sciences. In the first novel, A Study in Scarlet, Holmes was depicted as a chemistry

student with eccentric interests. According to Watsons assessment, his knowledge of literature,

philosophy, and astronomy was nil, and his knowledge of politics was feeble. As for the sciences,

Knowledge of Botany Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium and poisons generally. Knows

nothing of practical gardening.

Knowledge of Geology Practical, but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other.

After walks, has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and

consistence in what part of London he had received them.

Knowledge of Chemistry Profound.

Knowledge of Anatomy Accurate, but unsystematic xxxvii.

Watson disapprovingly stated that his friends [k]nowledge of Sensational Literature

Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century, grudgingly

gave him credit for playing the violin well, and seemed to admire the fact that Holmes was an

expert singlestick player, boxer and swordsman, and had a good practical knowledge of British

law. xxxviii Subsequent stories reveal more. Throughout Doyles oeuvre, Holmes demonstrates

knowledge of Latin, recognizes government officials and their regalia, peppers his speech with

references to the Bible, Shakespeare, and Goethe. He has an interest in art, as demonstrated in The

Hound of the Baskervilles, and is a cryptanalyst. Over the course of stories, Holmess

unconventional attitude towards the gathering of knowledge underwent a change. In A Study in

Scarlet, Holmes was arrogantly unaware of any information that was irrelevant to his cases,

namely, that the earth revolved around the sun. He said, perhaps touching upon both Huxley and

Descartes, that the mind has a finite capacity for storing information, and learning useless things

reduces one's ability to learn useful things. xxxix However, later, in the The Valley of Fear, he says,

All knowledge comes useful to the detective xl, and in The Adventure of the Lion's Mane, he

calls himself an omnivorous reader with a strangely retentive memory for trifles xli.
Though eccentric in knowledge, Holmes was very aware of the debates of the day. Holmes

did not appear to believe in God or any other supernatural, xlii read and quoted Darwin, xliii and

agreed with the anti-Christian ideas of Winwood Reade. xliv But he does talk about fate. Why does

Fate play such tricks with poor helpless worms?xlv He says in The Boscombe Valley Mystery;

[t]he ways of Fate are indeed hard to understand. If there is not some compensation hereafter,

then the world is a cruel jest xlvi; and ultimately, What is the meaning of it, Watson? What object

is served by this circle of misery and violence and fear? It must tend to some end, or else our

universe is ruled by chance, which is unthinkable. But what end? There is the great standing

perennial problem to which human reason is as far from an answer as ever. xlvii In making such

statements, Holmes set himself within the mindset of not only the other fictional mad scientists,

but also the Victorian naturalists.

In daily life, too, Holmes displayed a duality of nature. His usual demeanour was

dispassionate and cold, but during a case, he would be extremely animated and highly strung. He

also had a talent for showmanship, which one would perhaps not expect from his cold, calculating

nature. His supreme confidence in his abilities bordered on arrogance. This led to his pleasure at

the bafflement of police detectives. Indeed, every little habit of Holmes was designed to baffle and

confuse the common man. Though Watson described Holmes as having a cat-like love of

personal cleanliness, xlviii it must also be noted that he had described Holmes as being bohemian

in his lifestyle. xlix In The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual, Watson described: Although in his

methods of thought he was the neatest and most methodical of mankind ... [he] keeps his cigars in

the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe end of a Persian slipper, and his unanswered correspondence
transfixed by a jack-knife into the very centre of his wooden mantelpiece ... l This might be

interpreted as mere eccentricity or the result of a habit of concealment and secretiveness. In the

same short story, Watson detailed his friends obsession for documentation: He had a horror of

destroying documents .... Thus, month after month his papers accumulated, until every corner of

the room was stacked with bundles of manuscript which were on no account to be burned, and

which could not be put away save by their owner. li

However, Holmes habitually turned up his nose at Watsons chronicles of Holmess own

cases. As he said in The Sign of Four, Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science and should be

treated in the same cold and unemotional manner. You have attempted to tinge it with romanticism,

which produces much the same effect as if you worked a love-story ... Some facts should be

suppressed, or, at least, a just sense of proportion should be observed in treating them. The only

point in the case which deserved mention was the curious analytical reasoning from effects to

causes, by which I succeeded in unravelling it. lii Yet he could not deny that it was Watsons stories

and newspaper articles that highlighted Holmess roles in the solving of the cases, and that was

how he became well-recognized as a detective. This also resulted in clients asking for his help

rather than going to the police. True, Holmes never actively sought fame; but he was pleased when

his efforts were recognized. Besides, Holmes was not above bending or breaking the law if he

needed to he could lie to the police, conceal evidence, and even break into a house all for the

sake of his cases. Though Watson never really was at ease with Holmess work ethics, he was

compelled to protest only once, when he felt that Holmes was manipulating innocent people, in

The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton liii.

His attitude towards women is where the much-glorified character of Sherlock Holmes has

faced some condemnation. Holmes himself said in The Valley of Fear, I am not a whole-souled

admirer of womankind liv. Similarly, in The Adventure of the Second Stain Holmes claimed that

he found the motives of women ... inscrutable .... How can you build on such quicksand? Their

most trivial actions may mean volumes ... their most extraordinary conduct may depend upon a

hairpin or a curling tongs. lv In The Sign of the Four he said, I would not tell them too much.

Women are never to be entirely trusted not the best of them. lvi To Holmes, everything was

related to his work as exercise of his intellectual capacities. It is of the first importance not to

allow your judgment to be biased by personal qualities. A client is to me a mere unita factor in

a problem. The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning. I assure you that the most

winning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning three little children for their insurance-

money. lvii No wonder his best friend called him an automaton, a calculating machine. lviii

But here lay the twist: though his attitude towards women was deplorable, Holmes was

quite adept at putting his women clients at ease. Watson went to the extent of saying that though

Holmes had an aversion to women, he also had a peculiarly ingratiating way with [them] and

very readily established terms of confidence with them. lix In The Adventure of the Dying

Detective the reader is made aware that Mrs. Hudson is fond of Holmes. lx Watson again remarks

on his remarkable gentleness and courtesy in his dealings with women. He disliked and distrusted

the sex, but he was always a chivalrous opponent. lxi In The Adventure of Charles Augustus

Milverton, Holmes surprises Watson with the news that he is engaged to a woman, and later

reveals that it were only to obtain information about the case. Holmess careless pretence and
similarly careless abandonment made Watson protest about his methods, perhaps for the only time

in their life together.

If all of this were not enough for the detective to be thought of as a Ripper- or Hyde-like

figure, there is a little more one can add up. Despite being an urban creature and retaining the

exterior of a gentleman of leisure, Holmess thin frame belied great strength. Watson does claim

that Holmes seldom took exercise for exercise's sake, but few men were capable of greater

muscular effort. Also, he was exceptionally strong in the fingers lxii.

If the object of science was to demystify human existence, then the depiction of scientific

pursuit thoroughly re-mystified it by vesting a moral liability in it. But these depictions were

important, because they struggled to establish a scientific and rational attitude in a culture largely

dominated by traditional religious authority. It would seem that the attempt to make the gaining of

knowledge, especially scientific knowledge, seem rigorously empirical, was not very fruitful, and

neither was the endeavour to regard scientific discourse as an alternative to faith. In re-

mystification and making a cult out of a cultural icon, the modern world is not far behind the

Victorian. If Doyle received letters from readers who believed Sherlock Holmes was real and

wanted to hire him, then as recently as in October 2002, the Royal Society of Chemistry of London

awarded Holmes an honorary fellowship. lxiii The rationale behind this decision was that despite

being fictional, the detective and his sidekick were the first to resort to science and rational thinking

to combat crime and solve their cases. In London, the rooms that Holmes and Watson shared

together at 221B Baker Street are now a museum. The rooms are pure fiction, of course. Although

there is a Baker Street in London, there was no 221B; it was an address Doyle made up. But tourists
had been searching Baker Street for so many years, trying to find the actual house, that the street

numbers were changed so that the museum could be established. lxiv The museum reproduces the

rooms shared by Watson and Holmes as described in Doyle's stories. Every item of furniture or

bric-a-brac mentioned in the stories can be found in the museum rooms, from the dark lanterns to

the Turkish slipper on the mantel filled with shag tobacco.

There are journals that publish research and speculations and articles, all under the

assumption that Holmes and Watson really existed. Societies of Sherlockiana have sprung up, the

most famous being the Baker Street Irregulars lxv (named after the gang of street urchins that

Holmes employed for reconnaissance). There are biographies of Holmes. Authors have written

newly discovered adventures of Holmes and Watson, including Nicholas Meyer's The Seven-

Per-Cent Solution (1976). Many authors bring Holmes into contact with real-life contemporary

people, such as Sigmund Freud or Oscar Wilde or Jack the Ripper, or even with fictional characters

such as Tarzan, the Loch Ness monster, or Dracula. The culminating point of where fact meets

fiction is of course, Michael Dibdins work of fiction The Last Sherlock Holmes Story (1978),

where Sherlock Holmes is Jack the Ripper. This is, one must admit, the ultimate touch, the coldly

humane, rational and scientific Holmes turning into a homicidal maniac under the influence of

cocaine, however gross and indecent it may seem. This melding of Holmes with the Ripper is

really the final blow, one worse than a possible Mycroft/ Moriarty alter ego.

Too many aspects, too many layers a member of the multitude residing in the city

becomes almost a metaphor for multiplicity itself. In the literature of 19th century the city itself is

depicted as labyrinthine, a maze of possibilities that are harmful or beneficiary, rather than good
or evil. The concrete jungle is itself dual in nature. Deception seems an inherent character of

urbanity. There is seeming progress but it also brings out the antisocial side of men, which becomes

a kind of a retrograde step in the progress of civilization. One could expect robbers on a highway

as naturally as one would expect wild animals in a forest. But in a city even an apparently law-

abiding citizen could be a potential law-breaker. As Chesterton said, Where does a wise man hide

a pebble? In a beachWhere does a wise man hide a leaf? In a forest. lxvi A body, living or

dead, is best hidden in a city. It is the vastness and the ambiguity of it all; any face could be the

face, and that face could be more than one particular face. The sheer range of possibilities, of

potential that lie latent in the multitude give rise to the belief and the practice that a person can be

anyone, absolutely anyone he chooses to be. That is a rational, even scientific outlook. But what

of the choice of morality, which becomes a persons own, and is not dictated by others, so that by

degrees, the conflict between the two or more selves of man lessens till it is gone? The rational,

scientific outlook continues to view this as a conflict within the self, if not the soul, and cannot

seem to be able to resolve it.

The unresolved central issue remains the necessity for the moral and social flexibility in a

society that dictates rigidity. Jekylls scientific experiment to free himself from such multiplicity,

and the resulting failure, is symbolic of a moral myopia, not just his own, but of the Victorian

society, which sets a standard that creates a victim out of whoever wants to be free of it. Jekyll-

Hyde and Holmes-Ripper are the ultimate Victorian tropes to which, paradoxically, they

themselves cannot conform.

Allen, Rick. The Moving Pageant: A Literary Sourcebook on London Street-Life, 1700-1914.

London, Routledge, 1999.

Chesterton, G. K. The Complete Father Brown. Calcutta, Projapoti, 1996.

Christie, Agatha. By the Pricking of My Thumbs. UK, HarperCollins, 2010.

Darwin, Charles. The Autobiography of Charles Darwin. Edited by Nora Barlow, New York,

W.W. Norton and Co., 1958.

Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes. London, Penguin, 2009.

Harris, Thomas. Silence of the Lambs. London, Random House, 2013.

Huxley, Aldous. The Doors of Perception. London, HarperCollins, 1994.

Jakubowski, Maxim. The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper. London, Hachette, 2008.

Levine, George. Realism, Ethics and Secularism: Essays on Victorian Literature and Science.

Cambridge, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2008.

Peterson, Houston. Huxley: Prophet of Science. London, Ams Pr Inc., 1932.

Ruskin, John. The Works of John Ruskin. Edited by Edward T. Cook and Alexander

Wedderburn, London, George Allen, 1906.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. London, Collins, 1965.

Stoker, Bram. Dracula. New York, Penguin Books, 1978.

Vidocq, Eugene Francois. Memoirs of Vidocq: Principal Agent of The French Police Until 1827.

USA, Carey and Hart, 1844.

Whitehead, Mark, and Miriam Rivett. Jack the Ripper. London, Pocket Essentials, 2006.

Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. London, Kessinger Publishing, 2004.

i Rick Allen. The Moving Pageant: A Literary sourcebook on London Street-life, 1700-1914 (London,
New York: Routledge, 1998) p. 194
Rick Allen. The Moving Pageant: A Literary sourcebook on London Street-life, 1700-1914 (London,
New York: Routledge, 1998) p. 194
Maxim Jakubowski. The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper (UK: Hachette, 2008)
Stephen King. Introduction to Frankenstein, Dracula and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (UK: Signet
Classics, 1978) p. iii
John Ruskin. The Eagles Nest in The Works of John Ruskin ed. E. T. Cook and Alexander
Wedderburn (London: George Allen, 1906) Vol. 22, p. 181
John Ruskin. The Eagles Nest in The Works of John Ruskin ed. E. T. Cook and Alexander
Wedderburn (London: George Allen, 1906) Vol. 22, p. 181
George Levine. Realism, Ethics and Secularism: Essays on Victorian Literature and Science (UK:
Cambridge University Press, 2008) p. 71
Houston Peterson. Huxley: Prophet of Science (London: Ams Pr Inc., 1932), p. 326
Charles Darwin. Autobiography, ed. Nora Barlow (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1958) p. 86
George Levine. Realism, Ethics and Secularism: Essays on Victorian Literature and Science (UK:
Cambridge University Press, 2008) p. 118
Richard J. Bernstein. Beyond Objectivism and Relativism (Philadelphia, 1983) p.18 as quoted in George
Levine, Realism, Ethics and Secularism: Essays on Victorian Literature and Science (UK: Cambridge
University Press, 2008) p. 118
Bram Stoker. Dracula (New York: Penguin Books USA Inc., 1978) p. 383
Bram Stoker. Dracula (New York: Penguin Books USA Inc., 1978) p. 508
Robert Louis Stevenson. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (London: Collins, 1965; first
published 1953) p. 107
Robert Louis Stevenson. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (London: Collins, 1965; first
published 1953) p. 114
G. K. Chesterton. Robert Louis Stevenson (London: House of Stratus Ltd., 2001. First published by
Hodder and Stoughton, 1929) p. 35
Victor Fleming. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (USA: MGM, 1941)
Rouben Mammoulian. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (USA: Paramount, 1931)
Thomas Russell Sullivan and Richard Mansfield. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Premiered at Boston
Museum, 1887.
John S. Robertson. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (USA: Famous Players Lasky Corporation, 1920)
Charles Jarrott. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (USA: Dan Curtis, 1968)
Robert Louis Stevenson. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (London: Collins, 1965; first
published 1953) p. 107
Robert Louis Stevenson. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (London: Collins, 1965; first
published 1953) p. 126
Roy Ward Baker. Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (UK: Hammer Film Productions, 1971)
Agatha Christie. By the Pricking of My Thumbs (UK: HarperCollins, 2010)
Thomas Harris. The Silence of the Lambs (UK: Random House, 2013)
Oscar Wilde. The Picture of Dorian Gray (UK: Kessinger Publishing, 2004)
Aldous Huxley. The Doors of Perception (Great Britain: HarperCollins Publishers, 1994)
Mark Whitehead & Miriam Rivett. Jack the Ripper (UK: Pocket Essentials, 2006) p. 10
Mark Whitehead & Miriam Rivett. Jack the Ripper (UK: Pocket Essentials, 2006) p. 10
Eugene-Francois Vidocq. Memoirs of Vidocq: Principal Agent of the French Police Until 1827 (USA:
Carey & Hart, 1844)
G. K. Chesterton. The Complete Father Brown (Calcutta: Projapoti, 1996)
G. K. Chesterton. The Complete Father Brown (Calcutta: Projapoti, 1996)
Edgar Allan Poe. The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings (Great Britain: Penguin Books
Ltd., 1986)
George Levine. Realism, Ethics and Secularism: Essays on Victorian Literature and Science (UK:
Cambridge University Press, 2008) p. 119
George Levine. Realism, Ethics and Secularism: Essays on Victorian Literature and Science (UK:
Cambridge University Press, 2008) p. 119
Arthur Conan Doyle. A Study in Scarlet in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes (UK: Penguin,
Arthur Conan Doyle. A Study in Scarlet in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes (UK: Penguin,
Arthur Conan Doyle. A Study in Scarlet in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes (UK: Penguin,
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Valley of Fear in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes (UK: Penguin,
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Adventure of the Lions Mane in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes
(UK: Penguin, 2009)
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Hound of the Baskervilles in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes (UK:
Penguin, 2009)
Arthur Conan Doyle. A Study in Scarlet in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes (UK: Penguin,
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Sign of Four in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes (UK: Penguin,
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Boscombe Valley Mystery in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes
(UK: Penguin, 2009)
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Mystery of the Veiled Lodger in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes
(UK: Penguin, 2009)
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Adventure of the Cardboard Box in The Penguin Complete Sherlock
Holmes (UK: Penguin, 2009)
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Hound of the Baskervilles in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes (UK:
Penguin, 2009)
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Adventure of the Engineers Thumb in The Penguin Complete Sherlock
Holmes (UK: Penguin, 2009)
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual in The Penguin Complete Sherlock
Holmes (UK: Penguin, 2009)
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual in The Penguin Complete Sherlock
Holmes (UK: Penguin, 2009)
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Sign of Four in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes (UK: Penguin, 2009)
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton in The Penguin Complete
Sherlock Holmes (UK: Penguin, 2009)
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Valley of Fear in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes (UK: Penguin,
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Adventure of the Second Stain in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes
(UK: Penguin, 2009)
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Sign of Four in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes (UK: Penguin,
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Sign of Four in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes (UK: Penguin,
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Sign of Four in The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes (UK: Penguin,
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez in The Penguin Complete Sherlock
Holmes (UK: Penguin, 2009)
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Adventure of the Dying Detective in The Penguin Complete Sherlock
Holmes (UK: Penguin, 2009)
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Adventure of the Dying Detective in The Penguin Complete Sherlock
Holmes (UK: Penguin, 2009)
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Adventure of the Speckled Band in The Penguin Complete Sherlock
Holmes (UK: Penguin, 2009)
Royal Honour for Scientist Sherlock. The Guardian and Agencies 16 October 2002
The Sherlock Holmes Museum opened in 1990 in Baker Street, London, and is run by the Sherlock
Holmes Society of England, a non-profit organization.
The Baker Street Irregulars is an organization of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts, founded by Christopher
Morley in 1934.
G. K. Chesterton. The Sign of the Broken Sword in The Complete Father Brown (Calcutta: Projapoti,
Afterlife in Text: Gothic Materialism in Margaret Oliphants
A Beleaguered City
- Shantanu Majhee

But I almost think we are all of us ghosts, Pastor Manders. It is not only what we have

inherited from our father and mother that walks in us. It is all sorts of dead ideas, and

lifeless old beliefs, and so forth. They have no vitality, but they cling to us all the same,

and we cannot shake them off. Whenever I take up a newspaper, I seem to see ghosts

gliding between the lines. There must be ghosts all the country over, as thick as the sands

of the sea. And then we are, one and all, so pitifully afraid of the light.

Henrik Ibsen, Ghosts.

Most of my days are spent in an archive of North Indian Classical Music wherein we live

amongst the dead. Ancestral voices unyielding to dwindle away into deaths dateless

night iincessantly enquire here, Why do you look for the living among the dead? ii Cylinders, 78

rpm discs, spool tapes and similar obsolete technologies of sound recording inhabit this space of

neutral materiality, for ours is a digital archive. In such an archive, all musical hierarchies are cast

away and the khandani Ustad cohabit with the kothewali baiji. Locked in expansive hard disk

space exists thousands of WAV file here, tagged and substantiated with metadata sheets. Signals

travel from the carrier to the other here, abandoning physical markers while entering the digital

domain. There is extinction and there is resurrection, contemporaneously. But what happens to the

materiality of object? One may embrace ecstasy by moving her fingers across the grooves of her

favourite LP or smell regeneration in the tape of an audio cassette. The same is not exactly true of

homogeneous audio files in a computer though. However, the materiality of a digital object lies

elsewhere. My teacher says that a thing can qualify to be a material when there is labour involved
in its production. Digital humanities subscribes to this logic to establish the idea of materiality in

the digital domain. If one is to quote Gassett, then one might compare it to 'studying a man from

his shadow'.

John William Hunt: The Light of the World iii

The study of art from the sociological point of view might at first seem a barren theme,

rather like studying a man from his shadow. At first sight, the social effects of art are so extrinsic,

so remote from aesthetic essentials, that it is not easy to see how from this viewpoint one can
successfully explore the inner nature of style. But the fruitful aspects of a sociology of art were

unexpectedly revealed to me when, a few years ago, I happened to be writing about the musical

era which started with Debussy. My purpose was to define as clearly as possible the difference

between modern and traditional music. The problem was strictly aesthetic, yet I found the shortest

road towards its solution started from a simple sociological phenomenon: the unpopularity of

modern music. iv

The intention is not to make a shadow-goer of man as Grendel is in Beowulf, a

sceadugenga, literally meaning one who walks in darkness, but to make a man out his shadow.

The Pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman Hunt was successful in doing so by employing

typological symbolism in his works. In 1873 when William Holman Hunt exhibited The Shadow

of Death, The Saturday Review commented that the painter's intention is to elevate materialism

by mysticism, and to make even the accessories of an inanimate realism instinct with spiritual

symbolism. v Hunt was trying to avoid the dangers of materialism inherent in a realistic style but

while representing Christ in full manhood enduring the burden of common toil, Hunt portrays the

subject as escaping the bounds of its material genesis in a way that looks back to the material and

such matter in its becoming can only be read through perception. As in The Light of the World so

in The Shadow of Death, the symbolic language to express abstract ideas is created on the basis of

material signifiers. So, whether in the body of Christ at the carpenters workshop or in the figure

of Jesus preparing to knock a long-unopened door, it is not only the materiality of the immaterial

that catches the eye in these paintings but also the opacity of the material itself.

Digitally speaking, this line of transmission takes a new meaning while dealing with

content that somewhere along the route of its transmission takes the form of a uniquely encoded
or structured discourse, in the technical sense of digital text encoding and structured mark-up. Alan

Liu calls it transcendental data. vi But this surpasses the purview of this article.

John William Hunt: The Shadow of Death vii

The contention of this article is to propose a scheme of representation wherein the

unscreened real is projected through matter-in-itself. Insubstantial sensations that are unfamiliar

and hence uncanny can only be registered through the medium of a descriptor, the materiality of

which becomes an essential frame of reference to relate the intangible. The word descriptor is

the operative term here wherein it literally means a person who or thing which describes

something viii. In the terminology of computing, interestingly, a descriptor may be any of various

items of data, files, etc., that describe one or more aspects of another such entity; a piece of stored
data that indicates how other data is stored. The issue is problematized when the nature of the

things concerned is no more the same: rather one is a thing of concrete matter and the other is a

thing of immaterial thought, one is something and the other anything, and yet the denotation of

anything is conditioned by the something.

However, the deviation is not restricted merely to the nature of the material but also at the

level of cognition. If we are to extend the analogy of descriptor a bit further to R. M. Hares ix

postulation of the word as to signify the descriptive content of an utterance x, then a strange

dissimilitude is noted. In philosophy and linguistics, the word descriptive designates that aspect

of the meaning of an utterance which relates purely to the presentation of facts, rather than to the

expression of attitudes or the effecting of an action. By contrast, when a material subject is

described as an embodiment of the incorporeal, the stress is on the effect and hence the resultant

representation is ought to be evaluative. It is this issue which this article intends to address by a

reading of Mrs. Oliphant's supernatural novella A Beleaguered City (1880) as a testament of Gothic

Materialism, wherein the material world in her Tales of the Seen and the Unseen becomes a

medium for the expression of the immaterial souls.

Ghost stories were in vogue in the second half of the nineteenth century. Their appeal may

have lied in the disruptions they offered to a mechanistic explanation of a world increasingly

dominated by sceptical materialism. In an age when man was apprehensive of the social world

being reduced to a display window behind which people, their actions, and their convictions were

exhibited for the economic appetites of others and, graphic and enduring images of the power of

commodities is to affect the beliefs of individual and social experience, a spate of non-fictional

books appeared attempting to bridge the gap between science and spiritualism: R. D. Owens The

Debatable Land between this World and the Next (1872), A. R. Wallaces Modern Spiritualism
(1874), Balfour Steward and P. G. Taits The Unseen Universe (1875) to name a few. This area of

investigation was given further respectability with the constitution of the Society for Psychical

Research in 1882 with philosopher Henry Sidgwick as its first president. As a reviewer, Mrs.

Oliphant herself offered warm reception to American books such as E. S. Phelpss Gates Ajar

(1868), which indulged in whimsical exploration of the afterlife, and Mrs. Whitneys Hitherto: A

Story of Yesterday (1869), on which she commented the extraordinary pressure of the unseen

everywhere, without, however, any relapse into the vulgar supernatural. xi

A Beleaguered City was envisaged as a Christmas story. Set in the town of Semur, in the

Bourgogne region of France, it is a powerful and sombre fantasy relating the events that unfold

after the settlement is besieged by the dead. Though this tale of reversals, of the dead displacing

the living, provides its own commentary on the exceptional nature of events that it portrays, much

has been discussed regarding the point of origin of this story elsewhere. It has been traditional to

ascribe Mrs. Oliphants turning to the supernatural as a source of inspiration to commercial

perspicacity. I have discussed in another essay Mrs. Oliphants challenges in carving out time and

space for her breadwinning activities as she held herself responsible to a large array of

dependents. xiiBut motivation towards material benefits is not only something that might have

fuelled Mrs. Oliphants ambition but is also a salient feature of this style of writing.

Whether it is Charles Dickenss novella A Christmas Carol (1843) or O. Henrys short

story The Gift of the Magi (1905), Christmas stories has always revolved around accession and

sacrifice of material goods. Della sells her hair to Madame Sofronie to buy a platinum fob chain

for Jim's watch, only to know later of Jims gift for her - an assortment of combs, useless now that

her hair is short. Della then shows Jim the chain she bought for him, to which Jim says he sold his

watch to get the money to buy her combs. Dickens elevates it to another level with the story of a
bitter old miser named Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is visited by his business partner Jacob Marley's

ghost, who wanders the earth, most explicitly entwined by heavy chains and money boxes, forged

during a lifetime of greed and selfishness. Scrooge in his money-lending business despises

Christmas as humbug and subjects his clerk, Bob Cratchit to gruelling hours and low pay , giving

him Christmas Day off with pay, begrudgingly and considering it like being pick-pocketed, solely

due to social custom. He shows his cold-heartedness toward others by refusing to make a monetary

donation for the good of the poor, claiming they are better off dead, thereby "decreasing the surplus

population." Scrooge is undoubtedly the most material-minded among Dickensian characters

given solely to hoarding his wealth, transforming later into a model of generosity and kindness.

After Dickens's death, Mrs. Oliphant deplored the turkey and plum pudding aspects of the book

but admitted that in the days of its first publication it was regarded as a new gospel and noted

that the book was unique in that it actually made people behave better.

The Sherlock Holmes story published in January 1892, The Adventure of the Blue

Carbuncle, as the name suggests, also centres on a commodity. Watson visits Holmes at Christmas

time and finds him contemplating a battered old hat, brought to him by the commissionaire

Peterson after the hat and a Christmas goose had been dropped by a man in a scuffle with some

street ruffians. Peterson takes the goose home to eat it, but comes back later with the carbuncle, a

semi-precious stone. His wife has found it in the birds throat. Holmes cannot resist a good

mystery, and he and Watson set out across the city to determine exactly how the stolen jewel

wound up in a Christmas goose.

Sensual desire is a theme in fairy tales designed for Christmas release too. One may be

reminded of Hans Christian Andersens The Steadfast Tin Soldier, about a tin soldier's love for a

paper ballerina. After several adventures, the tin soldier perishes in a fire with the ballerina.
Materiality is an issue in the Elves and the Shoemaker story from the Grimm's Fairy Tales too

where the three elves substitute the biblical Magi. A poor shoemaker and his wife need money to

pay the rent. He gives away the last pair of shoes he has to a needy lady. He has leather to make

one more pair of shoes. He cuts out the pieces of leather, before going to bed, so that he can sew

them into a pair of shoes on the morrow. Elves come in the night and make the pair of shoes which

he sells for more than his asking price the next day. He uses that money to pay the rent, buy food

and more shoe leather. He feeds a poor traveller. He has just enough money to buy enough leather

for two pairs of shoes. He cuts the pieces of leather for two pairs, and retires for the night. The

elves come, again, that night and make two pairs of shoes with the additional leather. He gives

away one pair to a needy person and sells the other pair to a referral from the first customer who

is immensely satisfied. He buys leather for three and stays up to find the elves making the shoes.

The shoemaker and wife make clothes for the elves the next day, but the elves are freed when

given clothes, so they leave, and the shoemaker and his wife never see them again.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Willa Cathers story The Burglar's Christmas reinterprets

the prodigal son theme. Out in Chicago on Christmas Eve, two shabby-looking men are

considering getting food after they have not been eating for days. Crawford is too tired to walk

however, so the other homeless goes off by himself. Crawford considers stealing the food as he

cannot pay for it, but when a woman drops a parcel he gives it to her instead of running off with

it. He feels as if he is a failed thief, in the same manner as he has failed at everything - college,

journalism, real estate, performing. He then walks into a house in an attempt to steal the jewellery,

and his mother finds him there. She says she forgives him for everything; his father remains distant.

They have dinner and he feels warm again.

Oliphants novella succeeds in striking at the heart of material culture by offering a critique

of capitalism through the outright antagonism of the village atheist Jacques. The events in A

Beleaguered City unfold on a sunny July day in 1875. Monsieur le Cure is heading a procession

along the Grande Rue carrying the rites of the church to a dying man. Jacques tries to block his

path and scoffs at him: There is no bon Dieu but money. If Jacques is a visible monster, then he

is definitely a product of the process of dehumanisation. The onlookers are horrified. One woman

exclaims: "It is enough to make the dead rise out of their graves": as if the dead is responsible to

preserve law and order and would offer retributive justice on violation of codes. However, this too

does not suffice and a peasant answers scornfully: "Oh, I will answer for les morts! They will give

nobody any trouble." Shortly thereafter a strange pall settles over the town. Winter seems to have

come prematurely to Semur. Various interpretations are offered of this phenomenon. The

rationalists think that it might be some kind of eclipse or perhaps a horde of insects. The pious is

afraid of being punished by God for blasphemy. Any natural explanation for this strange

occurrence appears to be precluded by various mysterious sights and sounds that pervade the

atmosphere. Boats sail down the river, apparently propelled by nothing but air. Various citizens of

the town fancy that they have seen their dead beloved. The bells of the cathedral are heard to toll,

though nobody is known to be inside. Suddenly the facade of the cathedral is illuminated by the

word Sommation. Various phrases appear like Nous Autres Morts and Vraie Signification de la

Vie. These words are interpreted as a command to the people of Semur to yield place to those who

know the true meaning of life. The whole town now wears an eerie aspect. People seem to be borne

along helplessly on the wind. All normal activity ceases. Soon the people feel themselves being

pushed out of the gates of the town. Semur has been taken over by an unknown, unseen, dimly felt

enemy. Confusion and panic naturally ensue, but are quelled by Monsieur le Maire, Martin Dupin,
who, though terrified along with the rest, maintains control. Eventually he and the priest form an

embassy to deal with the spirits on the advice of the strange visionary of Semur, Monsieur Paul

Lecamus, who tries to assure them that the mysterious horde have come to Semur as friends, not

enemies. Lecamus testifies that he has heard their voices, and recognized among them some of

their dead kin, including his own wife. But when the mayor and the cure enter the town they find

nothing. The mayor, however, celebrates the Mass in the cathedral in the presence of the cure.

Suddenly the darkness is dispelled, and Semur is bathed once more in glorious sunshine. The

citizens re-enter their town triumphantly. Mass is celebrated, hosannas are raised; the whole town

is briefly affected by a religious revival. Then all returns to the normal routine. Monsieur Dupin,

while conscious of an awakened sensitivity in himself, clutches on to the doubt as to whether this

strange event has made much change in his fellow citizens.

Oliphants ingenuity lies in telling a tale of a city possessed by the spirit of materialism,

which is then taken over by the unseen forces, immaterial in design but existing solely through

material signification. This brilliant device of negating materiality first to indicate a superior level

of existence that yields to a material frame of reference later imparts a distinctive outlook to the

narrative. A Beleaguered City may dramatize a number of the most vital issues rampant during the

period in which it was written: church versus state, science versus religion, theism versus

agnosticism, idealism versus materialism, but to the conscientious mind this study of Victorian

realism is a measure of the scope to which materialistic paraphernalia may extend itself. If we are

to distrust all claims of transcendence and ask instead what mode of power was speaking in their

name, then that which will surface in this respect will be a discourse of materialism. The narrative

does not attempt to offer a vision of an alternative society: rather, the incursion of mysterious

discomforting powers that the community is afraid to face exposes the assumptions upon which a
supposedly rational, materialist society may base itself. This vision of the other, then, which falls

in the unthinkable and unspeakable regions beyond practical experience, the narrative

contextualises in strictly materialist terms.

The narrative holds certain parameters on the basis of which the material system manifests

its presence. The very first of suggestions lies embedded in the title itself and that concerns the

condition of the city. The gradual transformation of the city of Semur from a communal place in

broad daylight to a phantasmagoria of dreams and fears is in sync with the building up of the idea

of Gothic from art and architecture into literature. London in Victorian novels is similarly

concealed with fog for it makes a modern city Gothic, generating that perfect setting of murky

half-light through which misty shapes cam loom large. Peter Conrad in his now old-fashioned

book The Victorian Treasure-House charts this making of the prosaically ordinary to the fearful

strange by a careful study of Gustave Dor's illustrations in Victorian publications. In 1869 the

journalist Blanchard Jerrold joined forces with the famous French artist Gustave Dor to produce

an illustrated record of the shadows and sunlight of London. As Jerrold later recalled, they spent

many days and nights exploring the capital, often protected by plain-clothes policemen. They

visited night refuges, cheap lodging houses and the opium den described by Charles Dickens in

the sinister opening chapter of The Mystery of Edwin Drood; they travelled up and down the river

and attended fashionable events at Lambeth Palace, the boat race and the Derby. The ambitious

project, which took four years to complete, was eventually published as London: a pilgrimage

with 180 engravings. That which is intensely evocative for the purpose of this essay is Gustave

Dor's magnificent engravings for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner among his later works.

Published in 1877 at Leipzig, Germany, 80 years after the first publication of The Rime of the
Ancient Mariner, the edition containing Dor's illustrations indicates how Samuel Taylor

Coleridges work had become a classic of European literature. Conrad writes:

Fog and mist create a Gothic atmosphere in Dor's illustrations to The Ancient Mariner;

the masts and rigging of the phantom ship to which the mariner is tied look like church-spires,

with all the vertiginous terror of Gothic, and the ship arrives in a port built in the Gothic manner

of Strasbourg and Mont St Michel, while the mariner stops one of three in a dim forest which

recalls Grnewald. Fog dissolves the real and inspires that nervous relation to the world about us

which, in contrast with the lucid calm of the classic, is the origin of the Gothic. xiii

The Spectator early in 1880, upon the first publication of A Beleaguered City in book form, devoted

five columns to a eulogy of it. Mrs. Oliphant was said to reveal in this Yuletide ghost story a

wonderful mastery of the borderland of the natural and the supernatural and Coleridge's The

Ancient Mariner was invoked by the reviewer Richard Holt Hutton for comparison with this tale.

Interesting Mrs. Oliphant had an essay on Coleridge, contributed to Blackwood's Magazine a few

years before she began work on A Beleaguered City, wherein she describes: The life of every day

is going on gaily, the wedding-guests are close to the door of the festal house, when Mystery and

Wonder, in the form of the old Mariner comes upon them. xiv This setting is not far away from

what Oliphant has to offer in her story. If one has to look at the state of the city of London in the

middle of the century, then the analogy will appear to be most appropriate. London in the 1840s

and 1850s was more like megalopolis than a city. A significant portion of the population had no

fixed place of work, and indeed, many had no fixed abode. In classic fashion, the city teemed with

outsiders and migrants from other parts of Britain, even from other parts of Europe. Oliphants

mastery lies in transforming the intruders in her story belong to a different world. Historically

speaking, the state of working people in London during this time was documented in Henry
Mayhews London Labour and the London Poor (1851). Mayhew investigates into the

transformation of the city into a multitude of secret and sheltering interiors. As Oliphants narrative

unfolds, the Semur households evolve as potential sites of fears and prejudices which lurk beneath.

They are, then, as the title of Oliphants another story reads, secret chamber of ones inmost

concerns and anxieties encountering individually and collectively unseen forces who know the

meaning of life being dead. The city of Semur is said to be not at the centre of the world and

might, therefore, be supposed likely to escape the full current of worldliness. xv The smart and

intelligent would say then by extension it is also away from science and logic and hence, a site of

magic and supernaturalism. But the story is concerned with the inadequacy of the polite bourgeois

morality, in the ascendant in France, to cope with the sudden eruption of spiritual concerns that

have hitherto been dealt with by institutionalising them. This leads to the constitution of a city

whose inhabitants are not connected with one another but sealed off in secret shelters.

Architecture becomes another marker to reveal the inner spirit. Alertness to character of

buildings is anticipated in Ruskins early work The Poetry of Architecture, serialised in The

Architectural Magazine between 1837 and 38 and published later as authorised book in 1893. He

returns to it in The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849) where power of architecture in reaching

towards sublimity of nature is discussed among other principles of architecture. The learned reader

will remember for sure that the Gothic Revival as an architectural movement grew rapidly in the

early nineteenth century, when increasingly serious and learned admirers of neo-Gothic styles

sought to revive medieval Gothic architecture, in contrast to the neoclassical styles prevalent at the

time. The most notable of Gothic Revival edifices may be located in the Palace of Westminster,

also known as the heart of the British politics, on the north bank of the River Thames in London.

In order to qualify as a Living Architecture for Ruskin, a building, quite organically, must have
a sensation in every inch of it. Oliphant paints it on the portals and arches of the Cathedral that is

to have a pivotal importance in her story. The truth of the cathedral as an architecture is solid, as

mans faith towards dogmatic security is expected to be. It is perhaps on account of this realisation

that in its first appearance the Cathedral in A Beleaguered City is embedded in nature: The sky

was full of rose-tinted clouds floating across the blue, floating high over the grey pinnacles of the

Cathedral. But when the Cathedral doors refuse to give in, we know that the faith has tragically

eroded away. The architecture is alive when the word Somnation surfaces on the great door, and

the danse macabre is technically over only when the hieroglyphic has disappeared from the

Cathedral walls. As in fiction so in life, death was remarkable to Mrs. Oliphant not for its finality

but for the confusion and uncertainty with which it is surrounded. This story is no less truthful to

such realisation.

The cathedrals were sculptured encyclopaedias too, enticing all the more for having been

built to a faith fragilely dependent upon glimpses, guesses and intimations. Such a system also

enables the realist novel a model of history. Though Gothic historiography is ought to be

disruptive, it has a role to play in shaping social institutions and personal psychologies. If A

Beleaguered City is to be read as a transitional tale travelling from ignorance to knowledge, then

reading such influence into the text is of much importance to us.

As Franco Moretti claims monsters to be metaphors, if one is to extend the debate to

Margaret Cohens 1993 book Profane Illumination where she discusses Gothic Marxism then the

realm of ghosts and phantasms may possibly offer itself as a significant and rich field of social

production rather than a mirage to be dispelled:

The fear of bourgeois civilization is summed up in two names: Frankenstein and Dracula

They are indivisible, because complementary, figures; the two horrible faces of a single society,

its extremes: the disfigured wretch and the ruthless proprietor. The worker and capital: 'the whole

of society must split into the two classes of property owners and propertyless workers.' That 'must',

which for Marx is a scientific prediction of the future is a forewarning of the end for nineteenth-

century bourgeois culture. xvi


As much in life, I owe this paper to my teachers: Prof. Supriya Chaudhuri, Prof. Amlan Das Gupta and
Prof. Chandreyee Niyogi.
Shakespeare, William, G. Blakemore Evans, and Anthony Hecht. The sonnets. Cambridge: Cambridge U
Press, 1996. p. 42.
Sermons, Luke 24:5.
John William Hunt. The Light of the World. Photo credit Manchester Art Gallery. Available under a CC
BY-NC-ND licence.
Gasset, Jose Ortega y. The Dehumanization of Art; and Other Essays on Art, Culture, and Literature.
Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1968. pp. 65 83.
Landow, George P. William Holman Hunt and Typological Symbolism. New Haven: Published for the
Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art by Yale U Press, 1979.
Liu, Alan. Transcendental Data: Toward a Cultural History and Aesthetics of the New Encoded
Discourse. Critical Inquiry, vol. 31, no. 1, 2004, pp. 4984.
John William Hunt. The Shadow of Death. Photo credit Manchester Art Gallery. Available under a CC
BY-NC-ND licence.
See Oxford English Dictionary
Richard Mervyn Hare (March 21, 1919 January 29, 2002) was an English moral philosopher who is
known for his meta-ethical theories. Meta-ethics is a branch of analytic philosophy that explores the status,
foundations, and scope of moral values, properties, and words. It attempts to understand the metaphysical,
epistemological, semantic, and psychological, presuppositions and commitments of moral thought, talk,
and practice.
See Oxford English Dictionary
Jay, Elisabeth. Mrs Oliphant, "A Fiction to Herself": A Literary Life. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995. p.
Whats in a name?: Mrs. Oliphant and her most prized possession in Critical Imprints Volume III
(Kolkata: Loreto College, 2015) edited by Prof. Aditi Das Gupta. ISSN 2319 4774.
Conrad, Peter. The Victorian Treasure-House. London: Collins, 1973. p. 66.
Colby, Robert, and Vineta Colby. A Beleaguered City: A Fable for the Victorian Age. Nineteenth-
Century Fiction, vol. 16, no. 4, 1962, pp. 283301.
Oliphant. A Beleaguered City. London: Macmillan and Co., 1910. p. 7.
Moretti, Franco. Signs Taken for Wonders: Essays in the Sociology of Literary Forms. London: Verso,
1997. p. 83.
The secret of the bedstead: Unraveling the domestic machinery in Wilkie

Collins A Terribly Strange Bed (1852) i

- A Divya

Wilkie Collinss short story A Terribly Strange Bed, first published in Charles Dickenss

weekly magazine Household Words, is considered to be a significant contribution to the gothic

tale of terror (Liggins et al. 80). However, in this paper I illustrate how Collins rewrites the tropes

of the gothic narrative to capture and construct the complex socio-cultural ideologies of

domesticity, and science and technology of the mid-nineteenth century. I also highlight the ways

in which the culture of scientific innovations of the Victorian period has permeated the narrative

consciousness of literary fiction. The gothic threat in this tale for the English protagonist is in the

pseudo-supernatural machinery of the British four-poster bed that is unsuccessfully used to

suffocate him to death because he bankrupted the lower-class gambling house through his massive

winnings. Thus, the discourses of class and the foreign or the other are enmeshed with the non-

domestic and the novel inventions of the Victorian eraespecially symbolized in the materiality

of the bedto represent an everyday life that was becoming highly indeterminate and unstable for

the Englishman of the times.

The story revolves around a one-nights adventures of a young leisured English traveler

named Faulkner in a blackguard gambling house in Palais Royal. Through an extraordinary

stroke of luck Faulkner makes a huge fortune in gambling in that shady place. Disregarding and

insulting his faithful friend who whispering in English, begged me to leave the place, satisfied

with what I had already gained, Faulkner decides to spend the night in the house upon the advice

of a garrulous old French soldier who is very appreciative of his gambling and constantly hails

him to break the bank. The night-stays proves almost fatal as the half-drugged Englishman finds
that the four-poster British bed neatly camouflages an innovative mechanical press that winds

down almost imperceptibly to crush the occupant of the bed to death. The sleepless Faulkner

escapes his fate when he luckily notices that the subject of a painting in the room gradually

vanishes as the top of the bed moves down slowly and quietly. Initially frozen by fear, Faulkner

revives himself to escape at the nick of time and flees to safety, and quickly ensures that justice is

done by bringing down the gambling house with the help of the French police.

A strange house of the most suspicious character

Faulkner sets in motion the mystery plot at the very beginning of the story through his

predilection for a specific kind of material experience that inevitably orchestrates a narrative of

excitement, fear and horror. His desire to visit a house where they don't mind letting in a man

with a ragged coat, or a man with no coat, ragged or otherwise offers a reading on two related

things: a coat and a gambling house that admits people who possess coats of varying wear and tear

or none at all. The state of the coat, which metonymically represents class, here decides the

respectability of not only the wearer but also the status of the gambling institution. These two

objects symbolize a discourse of class and the nature of this narrative as well. As Faulkner is bored

by the fashionable Frascatis on Palais Royal, his intention is to partake in genuine, blackguard,

poverty-stricken gaming. Faulkners choice of words to describe the kind of gaming he prefers to

engage in, especially blackguard, endows activities such as gaming and the spatiality of the

gambling house with anthropomorphic qualities. The adjective blackguard that is used to

describe an unethical person is transferred to gaming itself, and in confluence with the poverty-

stricken people who frequent that place it comes to signify the gaming house as a space of poverty,

deviance and threat. While there is an element of the poverty tourism in his desire, the setting is

particularly important for the horror that it is capable of offering for the narrator and the readers.
In this context, William Makepeace Thackerays review of Henry Mayhews London Labour and

the London Poor (1851) as a tale of terror that Mahyew offers through his travels into the

community of the poor is relevant for the narrative that Collins engenders through his protagonists

visit to the lower-class gambling house in Palais Royal:

A picture of human life so wonderful, so awful, so piteous and pathetic, so exciting and

terrible, that readers of romances own they never read anything like to it; and that the griefs,

struggles, strange adventures here depicted exceed anything that any of us could imagine.

(Thackeray 58)

Faulkners purpose in visiting a gambling house of the lower orders is to offer to the readers

the types--lamentably true types--of their respective classes and to unravel a tale that is exciting,

strange, threatening and novel. Thus the setting for the evenings entertainment orchestrates the

stage for the serious peril to the life and property of the Englishmen.

The spatiality of the gambling den is suspect and dangerous on other levels of interpretation

too. Apart from the fact that the gambling house is the haunt of the lower classes, with the obvious

implication of the spatiality of poverty being also a spatiality of crime, the location of the story is

foreign, in Paris. The narrator repeatedly refers to the dangers of the Parisian streets: at the end of

his gaming he reconsiders the notion of going home in order to avoid being on the streets of Paris

with a large sum of money; and, once he has reached the safety of the police station, he mentions

a mysterious murder which all Paris was talking about. Priscilla Fergusson states that in the

nineteenth century even a flneur in Paris found the city intimidating (33). Further, the foreignness

of the French space is especially menacing for the English because of the historical rivalry between
the two nations, both of which had expansionist intentions; the radical excess of the French

Revolution; and the consequent cultural antagonisms between the two nations.

Furthermore, on a smaller spatio-material level, the scene for the happenings of horror in

the narrativein addition to its being poverty-stricken and non-English is also crucially non-

domestic. The gambling house is obviously a commercial establishment with the space being

utilized for both gambling and lodging. The structures very presence evokes what is glaringly

absent from the narrativethat of the middle-class English home. John Ruskin, a celebrated artist,

writer, and philosopher of the Victorian age, defines the home as a sacred place, a vestal temple,

a temple of the hearth watched over by Household Gods, before whose faces none may come but

those whom they can receive with love (77).The home is accorded a sacred status primarily

because of its non-commercial nature; the notion of familial love that binds its members; and its

implicit tenet of keeping strangers outside its confines. If an institution functions with the intention

of inviting people within its space for business purposes, then its reputation becomes markedly

contrary to the one that is endowed on the home space. Ruskin defines the true nature of home


the place of Peace; the shelter, not only from all injury, but from all terror, doubt, and

division. In so far as it is not this, it is not home; so far as the anxieties of the outer life

penetrate into it, and the inconsistently-minded, unknown, unloved, or hostile society of

the outer world is allowed by either husband or wife to cross the threshold, it ceases to be

home. (77-78)

The house that Faulkner decides to stay the night has the potential to seriously injure and

terrorize him. It contains plenty of unknown, unloved, or hostile society. In other words, it is the
outer world that Ruskin warns a home will become if the anxieties of the public world are

allowed to enter its portals. Though it is perfectly apparent that gambling house is not

masquerading as a private home while continuing its lodging and gambling activities, it does

attempt to acquire an element of respectability that is associated with a home. The old soldier who

claims to be an authority on the establishment advises Faulkner:

Listen, my dear sir,' said he, in mysteriously confidential tones--'listen to an old soldier's

advice. I have been to the mistress of the house (a very charming woman, with a genius for

cookery!) to impress on her the necessity of making us some particularly strong and good


The reference to the genius cooking skills of the mistress of the house is an exaggerated

attempt at claiming a domesticity for the commercial space. While the middle-class mistress of a

household does not perform the domestic chores herself, she is expected to be an intelligent

manager of every aspect of her domestic establishment. In Stickney Elliss chapter on Cleverness,

Learning and Knowledge in The Daughters of England (1842), she advises women, who desire

to hold the reins as the mistress of their home and gain the respect of servants, to be ingenious in

matters relating to the domestic in order to increase domestic comfort, and the two areas where

household economy could be put into practice include the preparation of dinner and domestic

furnishing (60-61).

The coffee that Faulkner consumes in the aftermath of his game is drugged as he realizes

later. The soporific effect of the coffee is intended to make the sleeper on the strange bed so deeply

unconscious that the victim cannot escape his crushing fate. The charming domestic hospitality

that the mistress is supposed to extend turns out to be a deadly trap for the innocent guest at the
house, proving what the Englishman suspected already about the nature of the house. Faulkner had

thought, once he had regained his senses after the heady pleasure of winning a lot of money, that

there is a great risk of sleeping all night in a gambling-house.

In Collinss tale, the mistress of the gambling house stands in contrast to the middle-class

English wife, who is considered to be an the angel in the house in the ideological discourses of

the period. The English woman at the centre of a home is thought to be angelic because she, while

staying within the sanctity of the home that apparently remains completely private, has no

exchanges with the public or the commercial world. The mistress of the commercial establishment

in Collinss narrative cannot therefore in reality be charming or angelic, and the narrative affirms

the expected ideological assumptions in establishing her as a criminal who for her participation in

the plot to murder Faulkner is jailed for many years.

Faulkner himself points out ironically the notion of the social anomaly of a respectable

gambling-house. A gambling house can hardly be respectable, and a lower class one will be

doubly questionable in the nature of its proceedings. Collinss message of criminalizing poverty

is clear in the narrative: a socially lower class and space is capable of being a serious threat to

safety of the respectable people who enter its portals.

they make up capital beds in this house

The French soldiers second item of praise about the gambling house is with regard to a

vital domestic furnishing. He seeks to create a comforting domestic aura within the commercial

establishment by enthusiastically appreciating the nature of the beds offered to its guests. He

informs Faulkner that they make up capital beds in this house. There is a great retrospective

irony in this comment as the climax of the story illustrates. The words, though said with the
intention of luring Faulkner to stay in the gambling house, again points to the subversive and subtle

anti-domestic trajectory coded in the materiality and spatiality of the gambling house edifice. The

two significant aspects of domesticitythe mistress of the home and the bedstead perform

insidious functions in the narrative of Collinss story.

A significant piece of domestic furniturethe British four-poster bed is the central

material object exploited in the criminal plot within the gambling house in Collinss tale. In terms

of the cultural currency of the Victorian period, the bed is a vital commodity in the discourse of

domesticity that Britain considers important to its identity and supremacy. In Dickenss A Tale of

Two Cities, in one of the climactic moments in the historical novel, Miss Pross, a British woman

and a staunch protector of the heroine Lucie Manette, uses the metaphor of the bed while facing

the arch-enemy of the Manettes family and the female embodiment of the French Revolution

Madame Defarge. The latter has come to the Parisian home of Lucie with the intention of

destroying the family, and Miss Pross, who guards the door to the bedroom, fiercely declares: If

those eyes of yours were bed-winches, returned Miss Pross, and I was an English four-poster,

they shouldnt loose a splinter of me (381). The bed-winches are devices that tighten or loosen

the screws on four poster beds. What is significant in this figurative language is the object of the

bed that comes to conflate domesticityone that Miss Pross protects by safeguarding Lucie

Manette with the larger concept of British identity itself.

In A Terribly Strange Bed, the British aspect of the bed is emphasized in the thoughts of

the protagonist:
There was, first, the bed I was lying in; a four-post bed, of all things in the world to meet

with in Paris--yes, a thorough clumsy British four-poster, with the regular top lined with

chintz--the regular fringed valance all round--the regular stifling, unwholesome curtains

In the above observation by Faulkner, he first registers his surprise in seeing a British object

in the French capital, a place that is considered antithetical to everything British. The word

clumsy is used indulgently to convey the idiosyncratic custom of its continued use despite the

amount of space a large bed occupies and the labour necessary to maintain it in pristine condition.

The Dictionary of Daily Wants (1859) states that the four-post bedstead is considered the most

elegant and commodious, but it is adapted only for large rooms; in small rooms, by monopolizing

too great a space, and obstructing the air and light, they are both inconvenient and unhealthy

(116). The way in which such a four poster bed squeezes space out of a room is described quite

effectively in Dickenss trademark caricature style of description in his Great Expectations (1861).

Pip stays for a night at Hummums at Covent Garden. The stay at the inn is very uncomfortable for

him both emotionally and physically as he has returned from his childhood home to London having

realized the fact that Estelle is not in love with him, and her aunt is not his mysterious benefactor.

As he receives a cryptic note from Wemmick asking him not to go home, the fatigued Pip spends

the night at the lodging house before visiting Wemmicks home the next morning. His emotional

distress is mirrored in the material circumstances of the bedroom that he occupies that night.

It was a sort of vault on the ground floor at the back, with a despotic monster of a four-post

bedstead in it, straddling over the whole place, putting one of his arbitrary legs into the

fire-place and another into the doorway, and squeezing the wretched little washing-stand

in quite a Divinely Righteous manner. (300)

The presence of a massive bed within a small room in an inn is ridiculed through Dickenss writing.

The storm that is waging in Pips over-tired and distressed mind makes him also remember the

suicide of a gentleman during his stay in Hummums inn. All the gloomy details of the room are

a piece with the depressing thoughts swirling in the protagonists mind. The four-post bedstead, in

particular, takes on the figuration of a despotic monster of man appropriating for himself the

space in the room and terrorizing the other minor objects such as the little washing-stand in a

high-handed fashion. The anthropomorphism in the objects becomes quite evocative here in

Dickenss powerful sketch of the inns bedroom.

There is a parallel between Pips experience in the inn and Faulkners experience during

his nights stay in the gambling house in Collinss short story. Pips thoughts about the suicide of

an unknown gentleman recalls the apparent suicides of men whose bodies have been recovered

from River Seine, but who were most likely killed by the bed in the gambling house and were

privately thrown into the river, with a letter of explanation written by the murderers and placed in

their pocket-books. Faulkners death, if he had not escaped his dreadful fate of being smothered

in bed in the inn, would have been perceived as a suicide. While Pips experience of the bed in

Hummums reflects the transference of his emotions onto ithis helplessness and the power of the

social relations around himthe bed in Collinss tale is vested with evil intentions and it seeks to

serve the purpose of those have control over its mechanism.

The secret of the bedstead machinery

Collins describes at length the intricate manner in which the bedstead machinery was

constructed and the ways in which its components were camouflaged and hidden between the
floors of the gambling house. When the French detective examines the floor of the room above

Faulkners bedchamber in the gambling house, he discovers:

Extra lengths of screw, freshly oiled; levers covered with felt; all the complete upper works

of a heavy press--constructed with infernal ingenuity so as to join the fixtures below, and when

taken to pieces again, to go into the smallest possible compass--were next discovered and pulled

out on the floor. After some little difficulty the Sub-prefect succeeded in putting the machinery

together, and, leaving his men to work it, descended with me to the bedroom. The smothering

canopy was then lowered, but not so noiselessly as I had seen it lowered. When I mentioned this

to the Sub-prefect, his answer, simple as it was, had a terrible significance. 'My men,' said he, 'are

working down the bed-top for the first time--the men whose money you won were in better


The significant characteristic pointed out by Faulkner in relation to the mechanical device

is its infernal ingenuity. The scientific mechanism of levers and presses operated by newly oiled

screws are evil in their ingeniousness in the context of this story as they are utilized for the task of

killing human beings quietly and insidiously.

Scientific and technological innovations become suspect here as they, by their very nature,

lend themselves to being concealed and silenced for the purposes of malevolent acts. Faulkner

escapes being smothered because he was making an inventory of his room, following the advice

of the author Le Maistre in his book Voyage autour de ma Chambre. In his observation of the walls

of the room, Faulkner notices the painting of a swarthy, sinister ruffian whose hat starts to vanish

gradually, and he soon realizes that the top of the bed is noiselessly moving down to crush him. In

other words, it is art that saves him, while scientific materiality is intent on destroying him.
Insidious machinery take on a gothic hue as they perform the functions that supernatural elements

executed in gothic tales.

Furthermore, it is significant that Collins utilizes the metaphor of a steam engine to describe

the immediate after-effects of consuming a drugged coffee. The whirling of the room and the

psychomotor and psychological impact on Faulkner is described thus:

The room whirled round and round furiously; the old soldier seemed to be regularly

bobbing up and down before me like the piston of a steam-engine. I was half deafened by

a violent singing in my ears; a feeling of utter bewilderment, helplessness, idiocy,

overcame me. I rose from my chair, holding on by the table to keep my balance; and

stammered out that I felt dreadfully unwell--so unwell that I did not know how I was to get

home. (italics mine)

Collins cleverly also likens the cunning old solider to the piston of a steam-engine, an

object that is relentless, almost cruel in its repetitiveness and purposiveness. Moreover, the

description here of the disorientation and helplessness experienced by Faulkner could have been

undergone by many of the industrial labour within the factories of the nineteenth-century.

Elizabeth Gaskells industrial novel North and South (1855) contains passages detailing the nature

and effect of the factory environment on its employees and visitors in tones akin to the one

described above.

Nicholas Daly in his Literature Technology and Modernity (2004) expands the

characterization of modernity from the notion of an ideological alienation between humans and

machines to a clash between the two, signified in the collision of flesh and steel in the crash (2).

Modern literature, he argues, often obsessively replays the fatal encounters between man and
modernity which is represented by machines (2). Collinss A Terribly Strange Bed also does offer

a near lethal meeting between man and machine, one that is preplanned and not accidental. Collins

narrates the encounter subtly through a story that weaves together trajectories of anti-domesticity,

lower-class, and foreignness, all of which attempt to conceal the problematic attitude that Collins

possess towards science and technology. Collins aligns technological innovations, which he

camouflages superbly, with transgressions, foreignness and lower social positions in his narrative.

The insidious subversiveness of scientific materiality is brilliantly captured through the almost

invisible role it plays in the short story.

Works Cited

Daly, Nicholas. Literature, Technology, and Modernity. Cambridge: Cambridge University

Press, 2004. Print.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Ed. Richard Maxwell. London; New York: Penguin,

2003. Print.

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, 1992. Print.

Ferguson, Priscilla. The Flneur On and Off the Streets of Paris. The Flneur.Ed. by Keith

Tester. London: Routledge, 1994.Print.

Liggins, Emma, Andrew Maunder and Ruth Robbins. The British Short Story. Palgrave

Macmillan, 2010. Print.

Robert Kemp, Philip. The dictionary of daily wants. London: Boulston and Wright, 1858.Internet

Archive.Web.10 Jan 2017.

Stickney Ellis, Sarah. The Daughters of England. New York: Appleton, 1842. Web. 5 Feb 2016.

Thackeray, W. M. Punch. 9 March 1850: 92-93 (reprinted later in Thackeray's Miscellanies,

1856). Internet Archive.Collection Americana.Web. 23 December 2016.

All references to Wilkie Collinss A Terribly Strange Bed are from the online edition provided
by Mitsuharu Matsuoka, Nagoya University, Japan, first published on the web on 2 December
1995, and available at There are
no in-text page references.
Calculating Sensibilities: Life Insurance in Victorian England

- Sagar Taranga Mandal

In 1901, The Ocean Accident and Guarantee Corporation in its issue of the Leader

Policy advertised an impressive list of promises. Founded in 1871, with its head office in

Moorgate Street, London, the firm assured security against Accident and Disease, among

Fidelity Guarantees, Workmens Compensation, Burglary Insurance, Third Party

Indemnities, Mortgage Insurance, Excess Bad Debt Insurance, Boiler and Lift Inspection

and Insurance (Reade n.pag). It was not the first of many such insurance agencies that dotted the

commercial map of Victorian England with the promise that it will be found to fully justify its

title (Reade n.pag). More specific in intent, the Law Accident Insurance Society of Londons

1899 pamphlet Burglars and burgling purported to educate readers in the fine art of burglars

tactics. The pamphlet warned

There is something irresistibly tantalizing, yet at the same time fascinating, about

your average burglar. Those of nervous temperament may look under their beds for a

whole twelvemonth from the 1st of January to 31st of December. But he is never

there. He is a playful fellow merry manfor on the very night you forget to peep

under the couchhe is bound to be there, and the next morning you find all your

drawers ransacked. (qtd. in Moss 1040)

Notwithstanding the passages picture of a playful perpetrator, the sinister prospect of the

inescapability of being burgled is what looms large here. Painting a somewhat flippant portrait of

less serious offenders, the London and General Plate Glass Insurance Company titled their flyer

A Record Breaker, putting together a comical catalogue of delinquents:

How do plate glass windows get smashed? Sometimes by hilarious men and women

who amuse themselves by having brick bats at the windows of their friends;

sometimes by naughty little boys with a grievance against the owners; sometimes by

the harmless cow through seeing the reflection of herself. As a rule, however, mad

bulls and runaway horses are responsible for the majority of plate-glass smashes.

(Reade n.pag)

Another companys prospectus advertised that its policy could provide a young man with a

handsome sum to settle on his wife, should he ever marry; should he require a loan, an old Policy

becomes an ample security; should he wish to sell it after the lapse of years, it is a bank note (qtd.

in Choi 285).

What this brief but eclectic record of insurance practices from Victorian England points

to is the fact that the essence of insurance was to embrace every description of contingency that

the varied circumstances of human life involve (qtd. in Choi 285). The third leading type of

company in Victorian Britain, the insurance industry, closely approximated banks in their

economic strategies and political impact. A common fixture in the public consciousness by the

1840s, life insurance was a growing industry, and concepts of risk, loss, and contingency formed

a terrain of debate which was directly influenced by the evolutionary theories of the time. As

Robert Chambers Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844) made creation itself the

subject of a natural history, opponents saw this as a denial of Christianity, in which the central

miracle is that God sent His son to save the world. Vestiges makes much of natural law,

suggesting that God did not interfere after the original creation, continually intervening with

Genesis emphasised the difference between Man and other species: he was a separate

the final creation, he was superior to other animals, he was made in Gods image.

God was able to rest on the seventh day because His work was complete and perfect;

therefore the number of species could not increase, neither could they change.

However, the fossil record (the vestiges of creation) showed that many forms of life

had flourished at various periods, only to become extinct.

(Stephen 26)

How could this be if Gods creation was perfect? asks Walter Stephen in his The Evolution of

Evolution before launching into a keen analysis of the texts publishing history, one that is relevant

to the focus of the present article. 150 copies of the first edition (out of 1,000 printed) were sent to

leading libraries, periodicals and potentially interested individuals, in order to soften them up and

to generate positive feedback (27). This campaign, coupled with the books reasonable price 7s

6d (37.5 p) for 390 pages saw it through to a third edition when 1,500 copies was bought up by

the book trade on the day of publication itself. Vestiges went through regular revisions and the in

the years leading up to 1860 accumulated 11 editions and sold 23,350 copies. Stephen indicates

that [d]ifferences in the style, size and binding of the various editions ensured that they gained

entry to the social ladder at different points (27). Originally, Stephen notes, the authors elegant

prose (it reads like a novel not a recommendation for some!) was enough to take the reader

through the text (27). But the 10th and 11th editions were illustrated, and must have abetted its

accessibility. In fact, it is its accessibility to its critics its most dangerous feature that ensured

its success even after the publication of Origin of Species in 1859. Indeed, it was as late as 1890
before Darwins text overtook Vestiges in terms of total sales. A vibrant debate formed around the


Views for and against Vestiges were aired in several semi-formal contexts. The

Murchisons, in the spring of 1845, held a series of great soires as part of their

campaign to become Sir Roderick and Lady Murchison ideal occasions for

consideration of Vestiges. The learned London societies held conversations

around the books issues without mentioning it by name. Even women entered the

debate, which offered wonderful opportunities for displaying conversational

skill. Punch, always sensitive to social change, printed jokes, puns and cartoons.

(Stephen 27)

Here, we may be safely led to surmise that Chambers has successfully broadened the ambit

within which scientific speculations were discussed, heightening the ages newfound anxiety

towards evolutionary causality, chance, and contingency. Vestiges was criticised on scientific

grounds, but to many it was clear that this was the direction in which science was going. For

Charles Dickens, writing in the Examiner in 1848, the author of Vestiges whom he almost

certainly suspected was the journalist Robert Chambers had succeeded in forging a reading

public for liberal scientific views of progress (Secord 241). However, this reading public,

even though, as Dickens had proclaimed were already on Darwins side (241) Vestiges

never became the sole primer on evolution, but, by testing the defences of the backward-looking

establishment, it helped to make The Origin of Species a better book needed assurance, and a

substantial body of scientists and churchmen took comfort in Reverend Adam Sedgwick who

mounted a fierce attack in the Edinburgh Review of July 1845 on the authority of the supposed

author of Vestiges contending that there was a huge divide in nature between man and beast.
Anticipating the possibility that the great fear for many readers was that a scientific

understanding of creation would conflict with the Scriptures, a fear which Chambers verily

recognised as a precursor to trouble, Chambers harnessed a polite exterior, devout language,

and decorous prose to his scheme, hoping to defuse criticism of his lack of a strong personal

faith, and assuage those who thought he was setting aside the Scriptures (Stephen 37). Such

moves, however, do not militate against the truly remarkable feat performed by Vestiges,

emboldened as it was by its general reach, in shaping the Victorian mind as it sought to distance

itself from the world of accident and uncertainty. Of course Darwins work aroused controversy,

but as Mitchell observes the immediate widespread comprehension of both his theory and his

evidence (even by those who vehemently disagreed) indicates the extent to which peoples

mental outlook was being changed by the habit of scientific thought (86). Study of contingency

and averages became an absorbing concern for the average Victorian. When Charles Dickens

wrote his great anti-statistical novel, he decided to call it Hard Times only after considering a

list of titles which included Simple Arithmetic and A Mere Question of Figures (qtd. in

Kent 43). Dickens himself was a prudent policy holder and in Household Words an advocate

of insurance (43). A stern critic of Bohemian improvidence (43), he expressly urged that

literary and artistic men should have the protection of insurance. His abortive Guild of

Literature and Art of the 1850s was initially linked with a scheme of compulsory insurance.

Yet, here, Dickens was but a representative man. Kents summarisation is pithy: The

dangerous edge of things, which according to Brownings Bishop Bloughram caught the

interest of Victorians, was blunted by insurance (4344). Probability theory developed as a

form of knowledge about chance events, such as the sinking of a ship or sudden death of a

spouse that could affect ones life or livelihood in the future. During the eighteenth century, as
Lorraine Daston has shown, probability was customarily interpreted as the calculus of

reasonableness for a world of imperfect knowledge (Porter 71). Thus,

Enlightenment thinkers applied the mathematics of chance to an implausibly rich

variety of issues. They used it to demonstrate the rationality of smallpox

inoculationand even to establish or preclude the wisdom of belief in biblical

miracles. (71)

But it was only in the first decades of the nineteenth century that what Daston calls

new attitudes toward the control of the future and the possibility of a life relatively secure

from the disruptions of chance assumed prominence. One significant upshot of this transformed

attitude towards causality could be seen in the schism between gambling and insurance as both

increasingly came to be seen as antithetical approaches to risk taking by the first half of the

nineteenth century: the one risk-seeking and the other risk-averse. In marked contrast, this

distinction was all but fuzzy during the seventeenth and much of the eighteenth century.

Gamblers and insurers (particularly life insurers) were often the same people;

insurance offices doubled as betting centersonly the slow emergence of new

beliefs and values that closely paralleled those that eventually abolished state

lotteries forced insurance and gambling asunder. (Daston 16364; emphasis mine)

Daston does not make an attempt to establish any relation that could plausibly exist between the

new values and beliefs and evolutionary theories of the age. Given the scope of her book, neither

does she account for the extent to which the average Victorians awareness of a predatory,

contingent nature, exacerbated by texts like the Vestiges, was responsible towards making the

divorce between gaming and insurance complete. Instead, she chooses to focus, no less admirably,
on the genesis of mathematically based insurance. Nevertheless, a crucial mention of the twentieth

century British historian Keith Thomas argument attributing the rise of the insurance industry in

early eighteenth century England as a revealing indicator of the decline in magical beliefs in

favour of more rational ones (164), betrays Dastons awareness of such intersectionalities.

I wish to look at one such intersectionality that reflected the reorientation of the Victorian

age around shared interests centering on commerce and evolutionary knowledge. In terms of

continuing interactions, one such area which played out the convergence of the statistical

determinism of the insurance industry and the influence of the new theories about the mechanism

of origins was the Victorian advertisement. Offering an impressive version of material progress,

Victorian adverts promised to perfect the race. Take, for example, a Cocaotina advertisement

which asks, Do you give your children Cocoatina? If not you place them at a disadvantage in the

struggle for life with 1,000,000 children who use it daily. Eleven pens is a trifling premium to pay

on a permanent insurance of health, wealth and beauty (Loeb 5556). Children are figured in a

fierce struggle of consumerist natural selection, and food is continually forwarded as a sort of

insurance to equip the child in the battle for life (56). Mellins, developed in England and

manufactured in Boston, which according to the Oxford Encyclopaedia of Food and Drink in

America, was perhaps the most widely used powder to be added to milk (1), offered a weight chart

to enable the consumer to keep a handy, accurate record of babys progress day by day, then week

by week, then month by month, for the first two years of babys life (56). Another Mellins baby

food advertisement, couched in an unmistakable Darwinian polemic, reminds mothers that

Natures law is that the FITTEST not the FATTEST shall survive, before shoring up this

profession with a final assurance that Mellins Babies are always fit (56). By 1890, Gunns Food
of Life depicts the epitome of the perfect child, a sort of Atlas, upon whose sinewy shoulders rests

the fate of his world. Loeb writes:

Advertisements [offered] a Darwinistic improvement; near physical perfection, the

ultimate material form of progress, achieved through the vehicle of consumption.


Here, we can see how the Victorian anxiey about a changing world provided ample fodder for

advertisers to peddle material solutions. Indeed, the Victorian mind, by the late nineteenth century

was staring at a general cultural paranoia, amidst rise of trade unionism, prostitution scandals, the

repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts, mysterious epidemics, W.T. Steads 1885 expos of child

prostitution in London, among others. Moral complacency lay shattered, and as the apparent

conflict between science and religion became more pronounced, it seemed to many Victorians that

T.H. Huxley was right when he wrote of a New Nature created by science, which, in

transforming the quality of life, also required an almost complete reorientation in thought and

expectations of people and society (Loeb 101). While the mid-Victorian period battled a waning

industrial production, a fall in prices fuelled by increasing availability of imported products, a

series of disastorus harvests, and farmers going bankrupt, contemporaneously, the new publicists

of science, Robert Chambers; T.H. Huxley, chief apologist for Darwin; John Tyndall; Herbert

Spencer, philosopher of evolution; W.K. Clifford, mathematician; and Sir Francis Galton,

eugenicist and statistician, encouraged ordinary Englishmen to use rational, scientific ideas to

solve their problems. In this conjunction of events, where at one end, the Victorian confidence in

the stability of things was shaken by events that apparently looked out of control, one sees at the

very other, an advocacy of measures that made certain risks predictable, and therefore, capable of
being mitigated. The complex intersectionality of the events could be understood by the very fact

that if rise of statistical sciences and evolutionary theories contributed towards a siege of the

Victorian sensibility, then, to a large extent, it was the application of rigourous logic and

quantitative assessment of events over time made by these sciences that went on to mitigate that

state of seige. Surely, then, locking up funds in a life policy diminished the chances of sacrificing

that savings to meet any temptation of luxury, or any unexpected expense, noted Charles Babbage

(Alborn 59).

Against this background, Chambers use of two extended analogies in Vestiges to

explain natural processes Babbages calculating machine and the insurance plan became

tools aiding his texts power of popular exposition. Choi notes:

Through these unexpected juxtapositions of the divine and the secular, the

transhistorical and the everyday, Chambers renders his arguments accessible to even

the most liberal-minded of readers. To be sure, in comparison with the abstractions

of Chamberss epic narrative about distant seas, faraway planets, and unknown

organisms, Babbages engine and life insurance policy would have been reassuringly

familiar subjects. (28182)

Chois views second James Secord, author of the much accalimed Victorian Sensation, who

maintains that Chambers quotes Babbage at length in order to lend credence to his arguments about

embryonic and evolutionary development, and speculates how his Vestigian analogies might have

been ubiquitous in contemporary table talk. One must remember, however, that nowhere in his

1844 text does Chambers use the expression insurance. The phrase that he uses is statistical
regularity (331). It is illuminating to see in the passage quoted below how Chambers subjects

human anarchy to a computational schema:

This statistical regualrity in moral affairs fully establishes their being under the

presidency of law. Man is now seen to be an enigma only as an individual, in the

mass he is a mathematical problem. (331)

A few pages earlier he contends:

When we give up the individual, and take the mass, we find as much uniformity of

result as in any other class of natural phenomena. The irreuglarity is exactly of the

same kind as that of the weather. No man can say what may be the weather of to-

morrow, but the quantity of rain which falls in any particular place in any five years,

is precisely the same as the quantity which falls in any other five years at the same

time. (328)

Thus, converging on an intense mid-Victorian phase of campaigns against press taxes

which saw the formation of a minority pressure group like the Association for the Promotion of

the Repeal of the Taxes on Knowledge in 1849, Vestiges was speaking a language that many could

understand, even if it did not fit their expectations, and to reinforce the point, it was indeed

speaking to many. Chambers knew he was demanding an exceptional amount of trust from his

readers, a cross-section, not unlike an insurance trusts prospective clientele ranging from the

working man who paid a penny a week to his burial club to the aristocratic spinster who converted

her inheritance into a comfortable living wage with help from a trust company. In essence, both
the evolutionist and the insurance agent were resorting to an element of reproducibility which law

of averages produce; a periodic average calculated through laws of probability that served to

predict, at times, quell contingencies. In an age which increasingly saw the collapse of boundaries

that previously placed human beings and other living things in different theological categories,

calling attention to moneys reproductive powers (Alborn 59), the insurance agent was seen

promoting a unique brand of economic immortality.

Yet, this account of reading insurance through the lens of the evolutionary metaphor

concerning the mechanism of origins remains incomplete unless one considers the fateful journey

of the noted American abolitionist Elizur Wright to the city of London. Wright travelled there to

solicit the suppost of his British antislavery comrades. But his journey had an added dimension.

On behalf of a fledgling Boston life insurance corporation, Wright had agreed, in exchange of

money, to take notes on English actuarial science (Levy 60), and bring the record back to

America. The scene he witnessed in a London alley near the Royal Exchange would eventually set

in motion a long course of radical events altering the history of slavery in America:

It was an outdoor auction block. One man after another stepped upon the block as

buyers placed their bids. Free Englishmen were reselling their own life insurance

policies because they could no longer afford to pay their premiums. They sold their

policies to men Wright called speculators. The new holder of the policy would pay

the premiums until the insured died. And sooner the death came the better. The

shorter the life of the insured, the higher the profit for the speculator on death.

Wright, wh had insured his own life before the voyage, recoiled.

(Levy 60)
Later he would recall: I had seen slave auctions at home. I could hardly see more justice in this

British practice (60). On his return, Wrights carrer shifted from antislavery to the new American

business of life insurance, to the enclosure of a new financial commodity: the free life risk

(61). Wrights actuarial calculations would remove the sale of life risks from the open marketplace,

from the kind of auction Wright witnessed in London where life, as in the case of slavery, had

been seemingly put on the market for sale. On behalf of free men, he wrested actuarial life risks

back from the marketplace. He thus used science, and later as the insurance commissioner of

Massachusetts the coercive arm of the state, to insert entitlements and rights in the contractual

relation between policy-holder and insurance corporation, and to place limits on the financial

commodification of human life in a free society (Levy 64). Ultimately, Wrights actuarial science

of freedom set the stage for a liberal acuarial dynamics of American social insurance, defining a

risk community in which citizenship replaced contract, and the relationship between state and

citizen not master and slave was the most pressing. It is easy to be carried away by the

egalitarisnism of this benevolent acturial politics, and overlook the more essential and broader

ramifications centred on indiviual mobility and survival, other than slave emancipation, that

remain at the core of this probabilistic worldview. A mans personal destiny Sumner wrote in

What Social Classes Owe to Each Other, is something he must work out and ensure as he can

(35). The state primarly works to guarantee the conditions or chances under which the pursuit of

happiness is carried on (35-36). Sumner appears to have embarked on a deeply evolutionary

model declaring what social classes owe to each other was essentially nothing. In the words of

Jonathan Levy: If as old social hierarchies perished, individual pursuits of personal destinies led

to the future evolution of distinct new social classes, then so be it (Levy 193). But while Sumner

visualised a world in which pursuit of individual happiness can potentially lead to the formation
of new social classes, and indeed, the reason why, according to Sumner, man is not altogether a

brute is, because he has learned to accumulate capital, to use capital, to advance to a higher

organization of society (69) Sumners postulations, notwithstanding their disavowal of class

fraternity, come very close to the ethos of the Benefit Societies back in England which had a special

place in Darwins bookkeeping heart (Browne 451). At Downe Darwin carried out a number of

minor philanthropic activities. He acted as treasurer of the Coal and Clothing Club from 1848 to

1869, and established the Downe Friendly Society (also called the Downe Benefit Society) in 1850

and served as its treasurer for thirty years. He was furthermore a funding trustee for the Bromley

Savings Bank and encouraged small investors among the Downe community by arranging savings

accounts for them with this organisation. The donations obtained by the Coal and Clothing Club

were spent on winter necessities. The system had its members run up an account in the village

shop that was paid off at intervals by Darwin, as the treasurer, against subscriptions (451). The

intentions of this

club were characteristically Victorian in their encouragement of self-help and self-

discipline in expenditure. Darwin, for instance, held the purse-strings and could

easily exercise power over those who were unable to bring sober commonsense to

their saving and shopping. He continued to run this club with other local gentlemen

after Innes left to make his home in Scotland. (451)

The Friendly Society served to provide insurance cover against loss of work, illness, or funeral

charges (451). Janet Browne sums up Darwins enthusiasm for such schemes in the following


All Darwins instincts told him it was his duty to initiate this kind of local scheme in

which self-help and financial independence could be promoted, a kind of monetary

natural selection in which his advice might confer the advantage of prudence on his

flock. He believed the Downe villagers were unlikely to take such steps themselves.

He and [Rev. John] Innes had sought advice from John Stevens Henslow, who had

been a pioneer in local insurance arrangements. I have succeeded in persuading our

Clodhoppers to be enrolled in a Club, Darwin declared energetically in 1850. (451;

emphasis mine)

Thus, evidently, Darwin saw insurance as one of the surer ways to equip his Downe

community with the epistemological authority of probabilistic certainty (Levy 194). Further, the

events at Downe certainly serve as a robust counterpoint to both Frank and Leonard Darwins

version, and to Galtons negative conclusion all concurring that Darwin had a non-statistical

mind: I fear you must take it as a fact that Darwin had no liking for statistics (135). In 1901,

when Karl Pearson and W.F.R. Weldon were setting up, in collaboration with Galton, the journal

Biometrika, an effort was made by Pearson to establish that statistics was the natural fulfillment

of Darwins evolutionary approach (135). He based his supposition on the observation that since

the study of evolution was properly a statistical affair, Darwins thought must have been deeply

statistical (135). However, if we are to look for more concrete proof regarding the connections

between Darwins evolutionary thought and statistics, we may look no farther than Darwins

reading of Quetelets Sur lhomme, and particularly the 1835 Athenaeum review of Quetelets book

which he read in 1838. In Sur lhomme Quetelet dealt with many of the questions that were

uppermost in Darwins mind, for example, quantitative numerical predictions. Darwins interest

in Quetelet as he turned to him looking for a quantitative statement relating to variations

(Schweber 283) is in part explained by the contents of the review:

The application of this mode of seeking after certainty and reducing hazard to a

determinate law, has long been applied by gamblers to the events of game of chance;

and by, insurance companies, to determining the probable duration of human life,

and the still more apparently incalculabe chances of fire and shipwreck. In the latter

instance, it seems at first sight absolutely impossible that the action of elements, so

proverbially inconstant, should be reducible to any rule: yet so much otherwise is the

fact, thatthe general business of an underwriter is as certainly prosperous as any

other brand of industry; while competition keeps down the rate of insurance very

closely to the real extent of the risk.

(Schweber 290)

It is a worthwhile consideration to make at this point that in 183738 Babbage, Lyell, and Whewell

knew intimately the activities of the London Statistical Society and appreciated Quetelets work

(285). The convergence of these evolutionists at the hub of actuarial science is another significant

marker of the interface the practice of actuarial investment had with the evolutionary doctrines of

the day. Clearly, for both disciplines, at stake was the dignity of man as he found himself staring

at a predatory nature. To the Victorian imagination, then, the grim insurance prospectus did not

become a reminder of the benefits the insured would not live to see, on the contrary, it became

symbolic of the kind of self-reliance and contingent thinking, forever alert to the complexities of

a shifting future, which Darwin pioneered for his Downe brethren.

Alborn, Timothy. The First Fund Managers: Life Insurance Bonuses in Victorian Britain.
Victorian Investments: New Perspectives on Finance and Culture. Ed. Nancy Henry and
Cannon Schmitt. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2009. 5978. Print.
Athenaeum Life Insurance Society. Prospectus. London, n.d. [c.1851]. Tina Young Choi. Natural
Historys Hypothetical Moments: Narratives of Contingency in Victorian Culture.
Victorian Studies 51.2 (2009): 275297. Project Muse. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

Briggs, Asa. The Human Aggregate. Collected Essays. Brighton: Harvester Press, 1985.
Christopher Kent. The Average Victorian: Constructing and Contesting Reality.
Browning Institute Studies 17 (1989): 4152. JSTOR. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

Browne, Janet. Charles Darwin: The Power at Place.Vol.2. London: Pimlico, 2003. Kindle.

Chambers, Robert. Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. London: John Churchill, 1844.
Internet Archive. Web. 10 Jan. 2017.

Daston, Lorraine. Classical Probability in the Enlightenment. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 1988. Print.

Law Accident Insurance Society. Burglars and burgling. London, 1899. Moss, Eloise. Burglary
Insurance and the Culture of Fear in Britain, c.18891939. Historical Journal 54. 4
(2011):103964. Cambridge Core. Web. 2 Jan. 2017.

Legal and Commercial Life and Fire Assurance Societies. Prospectus. London, n.d. [mid-1800s].
Tina Young Choi. Natural Historys Hypothetical Moments: Narratives of Contingency
in Victorian Culture. Victorian Studies 51.2 (2009): 275297. Project Muse. Web. 28
Nov. 2016.

Levy, Jonathan. Freaks of Fortune: The Emerging World of Capitalism and Risk in America.
Cumberland, US: Harvard University Press, 2012. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

Loeb, Lori Anne. Consuming Angels Advertising and Victorian Women. New York. OUP, 1994.

Mitchell, Sally. Daily Life in Victorian England. London: Greenwood Press, 2009. Print.

Porter, Theodore M. The Rise of Statistical Thinking. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
1986. Print.

Reade, Alfred A. The Story of Life Assurance. Wilmslow, Manchester: A. A. Reade, 1901. Internet
Archive. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

Secord, James A. Visions of Science: Books and Readers at the Dawn of the Victorian Age. Oxford:
OUP, 2014. Print.

Schweber, Silvan S. The Origin of the Origin Revisited. Journal of the History of Biology.
10.2 (1977): 229316. JSTOR. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.
Stephen, Walter. The Evolution of Evolution: Darwin, Enlightenment and Scotland. Edinburgh:
Luath Press, 2009. Print.

Sumner, William Graham. What Social Classes Owe to Each Other. New York: Harper &
Brothers, 1883. Internet Archive. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

Oxford Encyclopaedia of Food and Drink in America. Ed. Andrew F. Smith. New York: OUP,
2004. Print.
An Echo of Someone Elses Music: Oscar Wildes Queer Curation in
The Picture of Dorian Gray
- Sandra M. Leonard

In The Picture of Dorian Gray, all of the arts represent a type of copying, and their products are

themselves copies. As Plato would write in The Republic, artistic products are at a third

generation from nature, a copy of nature that is itself a copy of its essence (The Republic 278-80).

But, to Wilde, life itself can be an art, and thus, people are also at risk of becoming copies, as they

may fall victim to too-close an aesthetic influence, as Lord Henry presciently warns Dorian:

To influence a person is to give him one's own soul. He does not think his natural

thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His

sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of

someone else's music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. (Dorian

Gray, 2011 94)

Just as his image is copied in a portrait, Dorians character is copied from Lord Henry. Wilde does

not limit his copying metaphor to portraiture, though; Dorian becomes an echo of someone elses

music and this musical metaphor runs parallel to the visual one, reinforcing the theme of copying

but also adding another material element. Dorian, in effect, becomes Harrys instrument, an object

that may play music, but only through the agency of another being.

It is particularly appropriate, then, that the most sustained passage dealing with musical

instruments in Dorian Gray is the result of immoral influenceso close an appropriation of Carl

Engels pamphlet on musical instruments that Wildes passage has been called a plagiarism. i

This passage, occurring within a lengthy description of Dorians collections of art objects, is not

the only in this chapter containing appropriations, ii and, as such, these have typically been grouped
together and understood as all having one function in the narrative, as well as one identity as

plagiarized/non-plagiarized passages. For instance, Robert Macfarlane, notably interprets Wildes

appropriations as the playful jewel-setting of textual gemstones, which is a metatextual reference

to one of the passages that Wilde appropriates from, William Jones History and Mystery of

Precious Stones (171). As another perspective, Nicholas Frankel in his Annotated and Uncensored

edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray, claims that Wildes degree of transformation renders them

not plagiarisms at all, but that, Wildes creative appropriations from non-fiction works are

motivated by the imaginative possibilities of the fact, bringing into play themes of

suggestiveness and mystery (25). As a further and particularly conspicuous link between them

that requires an even fuller exploration, these encyclopedic texts all make use of the South

Kensington museum collections as at least some of the basis for their study. iiiWildes

appropriations may indeed function as a whole aesthetic literary strategy with unified

effects. ivHowever, rather than dealing with all of these appropriations at once, I will address this

passage on musical instruments as having a potentially complimentary but separate reading as a

queering of Carl Engels study of the musical instruments in the South Kensington Museum. In

this article I argue that Wildes editorial choices in shaping this passage subvert Victorian ideals

of museum collection, give Engels text a queer reading when paired with Dorian Gray, and that

this suggestive reading contributes to the dominant themes of Dorian Gray.

In order to consider how Wilde appropriates and queers Engels work understand how

Wildes appropriation and transformation of Engels work constitutes a queer reading, we must

first understand what this source text is. Carl Engels 1874 (reprinted in 1876) work of

ethnomusicology, Musical Instruments, is based on the collections of the South Kensington

Museum, which is now known as the Victoria and Albert Museum. Engels work is an
accompaniment and guide to the museums collection of musical instruments and was likely

available in print at the museum itself. The museum was only a mile walk from Wildes Tite Street

home, where Wilde lived during his composition of Dorian Gray. However, even before his

permanent residence at Tite Street, Wilde complimented the museum in his lecture The

Decorative Arts saying that he visited the museum every Saturday night and that it was a place

where people, may come to know what is simple and true and beautiful (931).

That Wilde mentioned the South Kensington Museum in his American lecture and

appropriated texts from the South Kensington collections was a deliberate choice to signal the

specific movement of aestheticism. In the 1880s, South Kensington, including the museum as well

as its surrounding bohemian neighbourhood, was an international icon of British aesthetic culture

and called to mind worldly aestheticism, in the same way that today a mention of Beverly Hills

calls to mind glamour and wealth. Residents of the South Kensington and nearby Chelsea

neighborhoods included George Meredith, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James McNeill Whistler, John

Singer Sargent, as well as Wilde himself, whose residence in Chelsea was a way of signaling his

own aesthetic prominence. Thus, South Kensington became a cultural keystone in the media as

well as in artistic expression. Patience, the Gilbert and Sullivan play that Wilde toured with while

giving his American lectures, made reference to South Kensington in such a way, when Jane

exclaims South Kensington! in horrified response to the bold and anti-aesthetic primary colors

of the officers uniforms(1.324-5). vThe Punch, a satirical London journal, often made reference to

the South Kensington museum as the fashionable meeting place of the affluent class, and a light-

hearted doggerel published shortly before Dorian Gray favorably compares the South Kensington

museums charming atmosphere and visitors to the British Museum, which, in contrast, is

described as a stuffy and soulless mausoleum (Tommy on Museums 285).

Part of the reason for this favorable comparison might have been the museums

commitment to egalitarian public access and public utility. Unlike most other museums at the time,

South Kensington was set up with an educational purpose to highlight design, featuring didactic

representatives of good and poor aesthetic samples (Jones 8). Craftsmen and artists were

encouraged to sit and copy designs in order to be inspired by these multicultural exhibitions and

improve their own work as a result. A founding principle of Henry Cole, the first director of the

museum, was to make it an impressive schoolroom for everyone (qtd. in Kavanagh 12), and,

accordingly, he made open access a priority and offered free admission at certain times, and late

hours so the working class could attend. These egalitarian principles were what inspired Wilde to

use the museum in The Decorative Arts as his socialist model for a rational museum, a museum

of decorative art in which the craftsman could rub elbows with the gentleman (931).

However, the fact that Wilde lived close by, visited, and promoted the museum does not

mean that he was uncritical of this and other museum collections. In The Decorative Arts Wilde

differentiates the South Kensington museum from other collections that are oriented around

collecting for collectings sake, the dreadful modern museum where you find a stuffed and very

dusty giraffe face to face with a case or two of fossils (931). vi In The Truth of Masks Wilde

also expresses a hesitation towards the museum role as preserver of dead history, telling a story

about archeologists of Shakespeares day that would interact with ancient objects rather than

preserve and collect them: The curious objects that were being constantly brought to light by

excavations were not left to moulder in a museum, for the contemplation of a callous curator, and

the ennui of a policeman bored by the absence of crime. They were used as motives for the

production of a new art, which was to be not beautiful merely, but also strange (1162).Here, Wilde

seems to echo the ambivalent sentiments of William Morris, a major influence on Wildes
principles of aesthetic design in The House Beautiful and a benefactor to the South Kensington

museum, who nevertheless expressed that there is something melancholy about a museum, such

a tale of violence, destruction, and carelessness, as its treasured scraps tell us (95).

Some modern readings of museum collections would agree with this assessment. The

focus on decorative arts did not exempt the South Kensington Museum from the common practice

at the time of stocking the shelves with the stolen historical objects from colonized people. In fact,

the South Kensington was known for its collections of Egyptian glass and Islamic textiles (Trench

41, 84). Also, the objects themselves run the risk of mischaracterizing the cultures that they are

from by being reinterpreted in a new and Western context. According to a study on the Victorian

perceptions of the East through the South Kensington collection of Persian carpets, Cailah Jackson

notes that museum artifacts became a reflection of the desires of its consumers, and a synthesis

of real and imagined histories and cultures (12). Western cataloguing imposed artificial and

hierarchical order over items in its collection, conveying the imperial message that the museum

itself had captured and understood all of a culture through the metonym of a historical artifact.

This project of understanding a culture by its material output carried with it the danger of

reducing a culture to its material productionan effort that also implied the superiority of the West

in the industrial age. However, even further than this, the way that the materials were selected and

described often emphasized the exotic. One reason was simply that, particularly in a museum of

design, the odd and unusual are naturally foregrounded against ordinary objects. That the curators

would attempt to bring a wider range of diverse goods to be viewed by the public was one of the

pedagogical goals of the museum. However, the effect of this collecting also seemed to indicate

the superiority of the collectors culture. The museum itself as a product of colonialism, acted as

the interpreter and organizer over its collections, understanding them not in the manner their
originators would have, but in a Western lens that set them up to be compared on principles that

they may not have shared. As Allison Arieff notes about the initial collection of the South

Kensington, often the most exotic exports of colonized countries and territories were displayed,

further evidence of their need for the civilizing influence of the British (407). As much as the

South Kensington might aim for egalitarian harmony, the fact was that these artifacts were read

with a distanced, over-exoticized, and superior lens.

Though a stand-alone work of historical documentation that is able to be appreciated with

or without the actual museum at hand due to its copious wood-cut reproductions within its pages,

Engels Musical Instruments reflects the goals of the South Kensington. A preface to the volume

aligns its purpose with the educational and open-access missions of South Kensington museum,

namely, to be useful, not alone for the collection of South Kensington, but for other collections,

by enabling the public at a trifling cost to understand something of the history and character of the

subjects treated of (xi). Like the halls of the museum, in which craftsmen were encouraged to

copy and learn from in order to inspire their own creativity in design, Engel calls the artifacts in

this text valuable patterns for study and for adoption in works of art (8). He emphasizes their

use in both science and design, saying that we can learn not only about the culture through its

instruments, but also about the origins of our own, and suggests that music is an evolving art that

could become more sophisticated by learning from other cultures. To achieve his purpose, Engels

language is accessible and quickly covers many cultures over a short work of only one hundred

and twenty-five pages with frequent subheadings and short chapters to break up sections and allow

for easy location of items and cultures. Over the whole of the work, there is a tone of wonder and

fascination as well as an attempt to appreciate what he takes to be the ingenuousness of non-

Western design.
However, for all of its positive characteristics, Engels work is one of British colonization

that, in characteristic fashion at the time, expresses superiority over its subject and belittles non-

Western cultures as primitive. Engel characterizes his subjects as barbaric, savage, and

uncivilized (1-6). Despite his attempt at understanding the cultural context of the instruments by

refusing to place them in the Western categories of stringed, wind, and percussion instruments,

which he sees as ill-fitting for their often combinatory nature, he also consistently describes his

subject in other Western terms, calling one instrument, for instance, a kind of oboe (64). At

other points, Engel transcribes the notes able to be produced on the instrument using staff notation

and remarking on the Western scales able to be produced as an indication of sophistication.

Instruments that produce notes at non-Western or irregular intervals are judged to be strange and

perhaps even arbitrary (66).

When Engel does attempt generosity towards his subject, it often comes out in a way that

any modern eye would see as patronizing. In a Rousseauian manner, he calls the music of foreign

nations often natural and true expression whereas our more artificial compositions are, on the

other hand, not infrequently deficient in these charms, because they often emanate from the fingers

or the pen rather than from the heart (4).To Engel, these savage cultures reveal something truer

about human nature and the purity of aesthetic expression that industrialized culture has departed

from. This idea echoed the founding of the South Kensington museum which was created at least

partly out the fear that Britain was sacrificing design to manufacturing (Jones7). Wilde expresses

much of the same philosophy in his American lectures where he enjoins his listeners not to decorate

with machine-made objects, and instead seek the best models of design in a simpler and purer past

(The Decorative Arts 928-9).

Engel also uses sexuality to both add some interest and salacious detail as well as further

place these cultures at a remove from the Westmerging the erotic and the exotic. Edward Said

has explored how Orientalism was one form of sexualized exoticism for Victorians to experience

sexual experience unobtainable in Europe (190). However, the Victorians did not merely

eroticize the Orient, but also many other cultures considered primitive because non-westernized,

and therefore animalistic and limited to physical wants and needs or dictated by the requirements

of bizarre ritual. For example, in the chapter on Latin America, from which all of his appropriations

are drawn, Engel tells the story of an Aztec ceremony requiring the sacrifice of a young man who

can play the flute. Weeks before the youths death, he is given four female companions who

represent goddesses. Finally, he must crush flutes beneath his feet on the way up the steps to the

temple where he will die (63). This sort of story involving sex, ritual sacrifice, and violence is

typical of the many in this volume that are interspersed between the more scientific descriptions.

These brief digressions give context to the use of the instruments, but also function to break up the

monotony of the catalogue, making it more readable for an audience not typically interested only

in the material design of musical instruments. Though hypersexual and sometimes involving

multiple partners, these stories maintain heteronormative and most gender role expectations.

Though strange in some ways to a Victorian audience, exotic descriptions like these reinforced the

Victorian vision of the savage that is fundamentally like themselves, despite lacking the religion

and refinement of Western culture. Homosexuality and dramatic departures from gender role

expectations would have implied a different natural order that did not privilege procreative sex.

As Foucault observes in his History of Sexuality, the Victorians typically did not recognize any

form of sex that was not ordered in terms of generation (4). This would be particularly applicable

in Wildes trials, in which he unsuccessfully defended The love that dare not speak its name.
However, prior to this point, in Dorian Gray, Wilde utilized the inarticulate and ambiguous nature

of musical descriptions as well as the respectable outlet of aesthetic expression that South

Kensington collections afforded, in order to plant an unmentionable exoticism within his text.

Wilde does so through clever editorial choices, substitution, and suggestion back to his already

exotic, erotic, and aesthetic source.

Wilde makes use of the salacious details and ornamental style of Carl Engels museum

handbook, while also subverting its purposes by manipulating it to a high degree. In one way,

Wilde could be said to be fulfilling the museums purpose and invitation to take and manipulate

sources in order to inspire creativity, but rather than sitting with a sketchbook to copy his source,

he copied the museums descriptive text into his manuscript. However, his copying was not merely

a condensed version of the original. As Frankel notes, Wildes editorial choices were carefully

considered (25). He manipulated his appropriations, acting more like a translator or interpreter

than a copier or mere stylistic editor in what he selected and discarded from the original, though

still preserving a strong connection that can be seen even in a small portion of the text:

He had the mysterious juruparis of the Rio Negro Indians, that women are not

allowed to look at, and that even youths may not see till they have been subjected

to fasting and scourging (Wilde, Picture of Dorian Gray 1889-90, 183)

It somewhat resembles the juruparis, a mysterious instrument of the Indians on

the Rio Haupes, a tributary of the Rio Negro, south America. The juruparis is

regarded as an object of great veneration. Women are never permitted to see it. So

stringent is this law that any woman obtaining a sight of it is put to death
usually by poison. No youths are allowed to see it until they have been subjected

to a series of initiatory fastings and scourgings. (Engel 68)

Between Wilde and Engels texts the order of details, the identical descriptions, as well as

the particular spellings are such that the source is unquestionable. Additionally, there is

manuscript evidence that Wildes adherence to his source is, rather than the result of slap-dash

scholarship, careful and intentional, even as he alters phrasing. In an 1890 manuscript of Dorian

Gray, Wilde had originally written the word notes occurring later in the above passage, which

he edited back to Engels word cries in the passage, the shrill cries of birds. One occasion of

such altering might be a coincidental change, but Wilde did it twice in the same passage

switching out sound and replacing it with note with the effect that the revision became more

faithful to his source text.

This care in his faithfulness to Engels text suggests an invitation to recognize and trace

the text to its origin. Though its not likely that most readers would have recognized the source

enough that it would be properly considered allusion, its style was at least recognizable enough

that a mocking review for The Punch called attention to it: His decoration upon which he plumes

himself is indeed laid on with a trowel. The luxuriously details of his artistic hedonism are too

suggestive of the Kensington Museum and aesthetic Encyclopedias (Our Booking Office

25).Wilde borrowed significant stylistic choices from Engel, but possibly what was even more

familiar was the objects themselves, the juruparis and flutes of human bones, as well as the

precious gems in another passage that South Kensington was particularly known for.

In Wildes narrative these objects were not part of any museum collection, but Dorians

own private one. Dorians collecting comes at a particular moment of importance in the novel,

when he begins to garner distrust among his peers, and his portrait mysteriously grows uglier in
representation of his soul as he outwardly beautifies his life. At this point in the novel, Dorian has

grown colder and more callous. Wilde also suggests Dorians involvement in sexual male

relationships not through any particular social relationship, but primarily through his collection,

which is sinful and illicit, as well as queerboth in the sense of it implying male relationships, as

well as providing a challenge to Victorian norms. According to Victoria Mills, who writes

particularly on Dorians gem collection, Dorians Grays obsessive gathering of these ornamental

objects is an act of queer collecting. Mills notes that collecting can be viewed in a disease model

and that obsessive collectors such as Dorian Gray and Huysmans Des Esseintes are childless, their

collections fulfilling a need akin to a love relationship (Bicabracomania 44). Like a

monogamous love relationship, it was also one that was selfishrather than a display for all to

see, Dorian collected these items for his pleasure alone.

Dorian describes the act of collecting as if this really were the museum collection at the

South Kensington, as He collected together from all parts of the world the strangest instruments

that could be found, either in the tombs of dead nations or among the few savage tribes that have

survived contact with Western civilizations (195-6). This description mirrors Engels at the

beginning of the chapter where he speaks about how South Kensington obtained its collection,

although most of these interesting relics, which have been obtained from tombs and other hiding-

places, may not be of great antiquity, it has been satisfactorily ascertained that they are genuine

contrivances of the Indians before they were influenced by European civilization (59). In both

passages, objects are taken from both the dead and living, and are seen as authentic by lacking the

influence of Western civilization. However, whereas both Engel and South Kensingtons purpose

is to make these items available for a wide audience to view and learn from, Dorian keeps these

items to fulfill his own selfish desire. Wilde does mention that Dorian gives curious concerts
where these instruments are played, but no audience is actually mentioned (195). Instead, this

passage merely functions to emphasize Dorians identity as both performer and audienceany

other audience members play an incidental, if any, role, to creating the venue of the performance.

Dorians private collection is a queering reversal of the museum, making items that are literally

open to all, locked away to fulfill the private desire of one man.

Dorians choice of what to collect also has queer associations. Collecting itself need not

be a queer activity, as coin and insect collections were common, but Dorians choice of what to

collect challenges gender norms as well as traditional associations with wealth and power. Mills

notes that Dorian collects objects of beauty traditionally associated with women: perfume, jewels,

and clothing. Though musical instruments do not at first seem to challenge gender norms, Dorians

choice of the kind of objects to fixate upon is certainly unusual. Dorian does collect objects of

great value and rarity, as his gem collection demonstrates, but his admiration for these objects is

based on monetary value. According to Mills, in the dandys queer collection, rules of

classification are not imposed from outside, the authentic is not always privileged over the

inauthentic, and curatorial imperatives are motivated by desire (Dandyism 150). Dorians

choice of clay and reed instruments from Latin America certainly do not reflect the most valuable

items in the South Kensington museum or in Engels book, which describes golden bells, ivory

harps, and ornamented harpsichords among its collections. These items are also not described as

the most ancient, as some are contemporary. Finally, these are not the items most appreciated for

their design. Engel himself directs those who are interested in exploring his collection for the

principles of design for which that South Kensington was famous, to look particularly at the

specimens from Asiatic countries (8). However, rather than displaying the typical Oriental

exotic, Dorian is fascinated by the far more unusual (to Britannic collections) exotic of Native
American collections. Remarking on Dorians collections, Elisa Glick claims that they attempt to

distinguish his desires above those of the common man: his elitist consumption looks back to

the traditional aristocracy for inspiration, shunning that which is merely merchandisethe

unrefined consumption of an increasingly massified societyand instead valuing objects that

are unique, handmade, and rare (25). Like the South Kensington museum, which sought to cure

the evils of poor design by learning from handmade objects in contrast to machine-made products,

Dorian seeks a refined pleasure from unrefined objects. These collections are linked in that they

are all unique objects either because of their origin or identity, which become ironic with their dual

status as textual appropriations, original objects which are, in effect, not originally described.

However, his collection of musical instruments strike a contrast to Dorians other collections, as

they are particularly extreme in their embrace of the physical.

Though Mills claims that Wildes descriptions are not overtly homoerotic, these

descriptions of flutes and bells strongly suggest male genitalia in their phallic shapes, physical

actions of manipulation, and references to serpents. Phallic illustrations of flutes occur on nearly

every other page of this chapter of Engels text, and Wilde seems to gesture to these by his choices

to appropriate descriptions of these things of bestial shape (196). Wildes reference to them as

monstrous and his mention not only of how they appear, but the substances from which they are

madecopper, reed, brass, clay, gourds, and serpent skinsreinforce the materiality of these

objects. Prior to a reading of Wildes text, Engels instruments do not seem more particularly

phallic than Western ones, but after Wildes selective plagiarism, conical shapes and what Engel

calls their grotesque nature is emphasized, causing the reader to reevaluate even Engels

descriptions according to Wildes perspective.

It is not only the instruments themselves but their use that suggests masculine sexuality

with an absence of the feminine. In the juruparis section, Engel describes this instrument as an

object of religious veneration, with uses also for feasting outside of houses of entertainment, and

possibly in war. Wilde excludes these uses, as well as the descriptions of the instrument, and its

meaning as demon (69). All of these might have served a transgressive and entertaining purpose,

but Wilde selects specific elements that make the description of the instrument a male-only

experience. In the particular passage that Wilde manipulates, he cuts out most mention of women,

including their method of being put to death if they ever view the object. Instead, the more

emphasized and important detail is the male body objectified and subjected to agony in a bonding

ritual of fasting and scourging. He manipulates the text in order to de-emphasize elements that

reinforce an image of masculinity such as its use in war, its heteronormative use outside pleasure

houses, and its religious use which might have fit into the expectations of a supposedly primitive

culture; Wilde instead leaves any purpose of the juruparis suggestively empty in his own depiction.

The particular use of these instruments that is foregrounded most is the fulfillment of

Dorians pleasure. Not only are the curious concerts designed to stir and fascinate him, Wilde

describes that Dorian loved to touch and try the instruments himself (196). Mills has noted that

Wilde chooses instruments that all have a high level of physicality to themflutes and drums that

require the close interaction of hands and mouths. Throughout other chapters of Engels text there

are descriptions of harps and chimes that do not require such physical interaction, but Dorians

collection requires vigorous and sometimes violent descriptions of touch: shaking, rattling,

beating, and, in a particularly suggestive passagesucking rather than blowing on a flute to

produce sound (196). All of these listing descriptions suggest the physical act of fellatio, and

culminate with the mention of a milky juice that is part of an instruments manufacture (196).
Each of these details taken on its own would seem innocuous, but in the context of the sex act

suggested by order of actions described, they seem to progress from the first hungers of desire to

its physical completion, and finally to a refractory period where Dorian wearies of the intense

interaction with these instruments and must instead recover by listening to opera. Though Engels

work does capitalize on eroticism, Wildes queering rejects Engels heterosexual erotic passages,

and instead focuses on Engels rote, catalogue descriptions, making materiality itself the target of

Dorians erotic desire.

Wilde appropriates the inhuman and uninteresting to the lay-person, seemingly obligatory

passages in Engels description and makes them strange, exotic, and homoerotic. As an example,

in Engels description of the teponaztli, he speaks about the fanciful designs on it, the suspension

strap by which it is held, its size, its shape, its auditory qualities, how it is made, and its possible

relationship to a cuban drum that is made from human skin. Wilde does not select these details,

even the sensational ones, and foregrounds instead the previously-mentioned substance that covers

the drumsticks of the instruments. In Engels text, this passage reads in a perfunctory manner: It

was beaten with two drumsticks covered at the end with an elastic gum, called ule, which was

obtained from the milky juice extracted from the ule-tree (73). However, Wilde combines select

details in quick sequence that can paint a suggestive picture: The teponaztli, that has two vibrating

tongues of wood, and is beaten with sticks that are smeared with an elastic gum obtained from the

milky juice of plants (196). Whereas Engel names this milky juice, Wilde does not, though he

does spend some of the few words in this passage dedicated to it, which both emphasizes it and

leaves a suggestive absence for the reader to fill in with their own, not-unfounded assumptions in

his innuendo. Overall, for a static collection of objects, Wildes crafted descriptions are filled with
suggestive action that displace feminine presence and capture an only partly-veiled vision of

bestial, masculine homoeroticism.

This emphasis on physicality removes the collection from its normative space as

catalogued, hermetically-sealed, in-stasis, and removed from life. These objects instead become

imbued with a life of their own, fulfilling a physical and erotic need for the collector. Queer

collecting resists the systematic classification and ordering expected of curated collections,

scientific classification eschewed for aesthetic pleasure, as when Dorian handles and rearranges

his collection of precious stones as well as plays with his musical instruments.Dorians handling

of his museum objects subverts the both mission of the South Kensington museum and other

display arenas like it, as well as points out the inherent tension in its own existence. In order to

maintain access for all, and truly be an impressive schoolroom for everyone that will last for

generations, the museum must also strictly control that access, keeping the public at a certain

remove from actually touching and interacting with the collection. By keeping his own collection

locked away and at his pleasure, Dorian subverts the mission of a museum to share its collection

with the world. However, by interacting with his collection to such a high degree, he also

paradoxically opens its potential access to the object much further than it would otherwise have

been. Needless to say, ancient fragile musical instruments in museum collections are seen but

rarely heard. vii Dorian, however, taps into the potential energy of this collection, which Wilde

might accuse of being at risk of mouldering, and breathes consuming, ephemeral life into it. A

much-quoted line from Pater, describes the ultimate aesthetic experience thus, To burn always

with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy (250).While Dorian does not, ultimately

maintain his ecstasy either with collecting or in his own life, he does use his decadent excess in
order to truly experience the objects of his queer collection. Dorians selfish performance is the

opposite of the museum experience, but it is he who actually gets to hear the music play.

For a novel expressly about portraiture, Picture of Dorian Gray is also very much

organized around sound and music to represent the characters temperaments. The closest Dorian

comes to revealing his secret to Lord Henry is when he plays Chopin to him during a conversation

about the possibility of the soul. Though Lord Henry touches close to Dorians mystery, Dorian

says nothing about his secret, but his complex emotions are conveyed through his piano playing

which Henry describes as having more expression than I had ever heard from it before"

(247).Very frequently, music takes precedence over what is actually said, as in Dorians

description of Lord Henrys poisonous book which has content that is mostly left to the

imagination, but is described in other sensory terms including music: The mere cadence of the

sentences, the subtle monotony of their music, so full as it was of complex refrains and movements

elaborately repeated (186). Dorians lover Sybil is described as having a musical voice (143),

and a shared love of music is also what initially brought Dorian and Alan Campbell together (233).

There are many descriptions of sound and references to specific pieces of music that permeate this

book, adding to its decadent sensorium.

Wildes treatment of music in his novel is as an art with a unique function, which matches

his aesthetic philosophy that each art has its particular strengths. According to Walter Pater, who

was a major influence to Wilde, Each art, therefore, having its own peculiar and incommunicable

sensuous charm, has its own special mode of reaching the imagination (136). In regards to music,

the critic must, note in music the musical charmthat essential music, which presents no words,

no matter of sentiment or thought, separable from the special form in which it is conveyed to us

(136). It is that inarticulate nature of music that makes it, according to Pater, the ideally
consummate art (140). In a passage surely influenced by this understanding of music, Dorian

Gray has a moral awakening as a result of Lord Henrys words, Music had stirred him like that.

Music had troubled him many times. But music was not articulate. It was not a new world, but

rather another chaos, that it created in us (96) There is something about this undefined nature of

music that creates a mesmeric, captivating effect and Wilde employs music for this function,

making use of repetitive sounds to create its captivating aesthetic affect. Lord Henry says as much

when he uses music in a metaphorical way to describe the danger of personal influence, warning

that all influence is immoral because it can make a person merely into an echo of someone

else's music, (94) which Dorian does actually become from his prolonged association with Lord

Henry. Dorian becomes an art object in his own collection, as well as an instrument of desire,

colonized by Lord Henry, the embodiment of British cultural appropriation. Dorians kinship with

his musical instrument collections further suggest the ways in which he himself has been perhaps

even sexually manipulated by his association with this older mentor.

As a whole, Wildes project in this passage seems to be a making strange of the objects

that Western colonialism has already made strange, an appropriation of an appropriation. Though

Wilde adopts the descriptions of barbarism savagery and the monstrous, he also seems to be

making a subtle critique of imperialism, slipping in the statement that this collection consists of

objects that survived contact with Western civilizations implying that imperialism is a

destructive force (95). This critique is not in Engels text, and as Engels project is one of

colonization and preservation, he would probably not agree with Wildes sentiment. However, by

directly engaging with his subject, reaching the object in a way that no museum-goer is able to

achieve, Dorian has a heroic vantage point on the collectible object, an appreciation that is both

cultivated and engaged with the savage. Though Dorian ultimately discards his musical
collections as he does every other plaything in his life, Dorian is in some way the consummate

audience for the queer collection, able to appreciate his object on one egalitarian and aesthetic

basis: the pleasure that it brings him.

Wildes queering of Engels text could be extended even to the very end of his work. The

last line of Engels text references the concept of revealed truth, saying that his work can illuminate

and reveal the previously hidden facts about the nature of world music. He compares his catalogue

to a telescope, with which bright stars are revealed (125). However, it is the obscuring and

inarticulate nature of music that Wilde capitalizes on in Dorian Gray. Wilde uses music in order

to secret Dorians homoerotic desires within a closed collection. References to South Kensington,

which, at first glance, signal high-class aestheticism and a removal from base Earthly desires,

actually become subverted when Engels telescope is used to understand Wildes appropriations.

Through destructive and dandifying excess, it is Dorian alone who ironically experiences the fruits

of the museum collection. In response to the accusation that his novel, Picture of Dorian Gray

was immoral false-art Oscar Wilde replied that, Each man sees his own sin in Dorian Gray.

What Dorian Grays sins are no-one knows. He who finds them has brought them (9 July 1890

82). By collecting collections, colonizing the colonized, Wilde forces the reader to bring their own

illicit knowledge in order to interpret his suggestive text. This is why music is the perfect type

of art, Wilde writes in The Critic as Artist, Music can never reveal its ultimate secret (1129).
Works Cited

Arieff, Allison. Reading the Victoria and Albert Museum. Victoria Poetry, 33.3, 1995, pp.


Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality, vol. 1.trans. by Robert Hurley, 1978.

Frankel, Nicholas. General Introduction.The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated,

Uncensored Edition.Harvard UP, 2011.1-37.

Gilbert, W. S. and Albert Sullivan.Patience. The Complete Annotated Gilbert & Sullivan: 20th

Anniversary Edition, edited by Ian Bradley, Oxford UP, 2016, pp. 335-424.

Glick, Elisa. Materializing Queer Desire: Oscar Wilde to Andy Warhol.Suny, 2009.

Guy, Josephine, and Ian Small.Oscar Wildes Profession: Writing and the Culture of Industry

in the Late Nineteenth Century.Oxford UP, 2000.

Jackson, Cailah. Persian Carpets and the South Kensington Museum: Design, Scholarship and

Collecting in Late Nineteenth-Century Britain, Journal of Design History, September

2016. pp. 1-17.

Jones, Mark. A Peoples Palace.V & A: The Victoria and Albert Museum by Lucy Trench.

V & A, 2010, pp. 7-19.

Kavanagh, Gaynor. Museums and the First World War: A Social History. Bloomsbury, 1994.

Leonard, Sandra. The Poetry of Plagiarism: Aesthetic Plagiarism and its Metaphors in the

Writings of Poe, Melville, and Wilde, Dissertation, Indiana University of Pennsylvania,

Macfarlane, Robert. Original Copy: Plagiarism and Originality in Nineteenth-Century

Literature. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007.

Mills, Victoria.Dandyism, Visuality and the 'Camp Gem': Collections of Jewels in Huysmans

and Wilde in Cale, L., and Di Bello, P. (eds.) Illustration, Optics and Objects in

Nineteenth-Century Visual and Literary Cultures.Palgrave, 2009.

---. Bricabracomania! Collecting, Corporeality and the Problem of Things in Victorian Fiction.

Shears, J., and Sattaur, J., Bric-a-Brac in Victorian Literature - Oddities and

Commodities.Ashgate, 2013.

Morris, William. The Study of Ancient Art, Selections from the Prose Works of William

Morris ed. by A. H. R. Ball, Cambridge, 1931.

Our Booking Office.The Punch, 14 Dec. 1890, pp. 25.

Pater,Walter. The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry. Macmillan, 1888.

Plato. The Republic of Plato. [380 BC?]. Trans. Allan Bloom. New York: Basic Books, 1968.

Said, Edward.Orientalism.Vintage, 1979.

Tommy on Museums.The Punch, 19 Jul. 1890, pp.285.

Wilde, Oscar. The 1891 Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray. The Picture of Dorian Gray:

An Annotated, Uncensored Edition.Ed. Nicholas Frankel.Harvard UP, 2011.

---. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde.Ed. Merlin Holland. London: Collins, 2003.

---. The Critic as Artist.Complete Works 1108-55.

---. The Decorative Arts.Complete Works 926-37.

---. The House Beautiful.Complete Works 913-25.

---. To the Editor of the Scots Observer. 9 July 1890. Selected Letters of Oscar Wilde. Ed.

Hart-Davis, Rupert, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1979.

---. The Picture of Dorian Gray. 1889-90. MS. Pierpont Morgan Library, New York.

---. The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition. Ed. Nicholas

Frankel. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2011.

---. To the Editor of the Daily Chronicle 30 June 1980. The Soul of Man Under Socialism and

Selected Critical Prose. New York: Penguin, 2007.

---. The Truth of Masks.Complete Works 1156-73.


There are several competing perspectives at play when using the very loaded term plagiarism. On one hand, the

term is usually reserved to censure an artist both ethically and aesthetically. In this way, Wilde was accused of

plagiarism by the Oxford Union for his Poems. However, the term has also been adopted by critics who see Wildes

work as undeniably copied and perhaps ethically censurable but nevertheless has aesthetic merit; for this

perspective, see Josephine M. Guy and Ian Smalls Oscar Wildes Profession (263). Still others, such as Robert

Macfarlane and myself, see the potential for the aesthetic merit of a work to rely on plagiarism and the social

judgments that come along with this association. See Sandra M. Leonard, The Poetry of Plagiarism: Aesthetic

Plagiarism and its Metaphors in the Writings of Poe, Melville, and Wilde.

This chapter of the novel appropriates very heavily from non-fiction works that function as descriptive catalogues

as well as historical accounts of the collections of the South Kensington museum: A. H. Churchs Precious Stones,

William Jones History and Mystery of Precious Stones, Carl Engels Musical Instruments, and Ernest

LefburesEmbroidery and Lace (Frankel 23).

Guy and Smalls account of Wilde work habits and the materials that he appropriated from imply that Wilde

merely borrowed whatever he had at hand. This study may confirm some of that hypothesis, in that the South

Kensington was certainly at hand for Wilde, while also disputing that his attitude was other than careful and

conscious. See Guy and Small (272).

For a discussion of plagiarism as a literary effect in Wildes work, see Sandra M. Leonard The Poetry of

Plagiarism: Aesthetic Plagiarism and its Metaphors in the Writings of Poe, Melville, and Wilde.
Also see the footnote on p.358 of this edition in regards to this line.
Wildes reference to the very dusty giraffe may have been a literal reference to the British Museums famous

collection of stuffed giraffes that had been installed in the stairway of the Montagu House until they were moved to

the new Natural History museum, just across the street from the South Kensington in the early 1880s, just about the

time the Wilde began his American lecture tour. These giraffes are depicted in a drawing by George Scharf

The Victoria and Albert museum now have a listening gallery where music has been recorded digitally on some

of the instruments, so they need not be put at risk in order to be heard.

Notes on the Authors

Sarah N. Macdonald
Sarah N. Macdonald is currently affiliated with the Department of English, Kent State University,
Kent, Ohio.

Dennis S. Gouws
Dennis Gouws is Director of the Australian Institute of Male Health and Studies; Professor of
English at Springfield College, Massachusetts, USA; and Lecturer in English at the University of
Connecticut, Storrs, USA. He serves on the executive board of New Male Studies: An International
Journal, on the editorial board of The International Journal of Family Research and Policy, and
on the advisory board of The Foundation for Male Studies.

Deepna Rao
Deepna Rao is currently working as an Assistant Prof. at Jai Hind College, Churchgate, pursuing
her Ph.D at the University of Mumbai, on the representation of Goan Identity in 21st Century Goan
Writings. She hold an M.Phil degree from the University of Mumbai, with a dissertation titled 'A
New Historicist Perspective of the re-writings and re-tellings of the Mahabharata in English'. She
has previously worked as a Project Fellow with Professor Mala Pandurang, Dr. B.M.N. College,
Matunga, on the U.G.C. Major Research Project 'Wives, Mothers and Others', and as faculty at St.
Xavier's College, Mumbai and St. Andrew's College, Mumbai.

Sudeshna Datta Chaudhuri

Sudeshna Datta Chaudhuri is currently working in the School of Cultural Texts & Records,
Jadavpur University, with the UGC Dr S Radhakrishnan Postdoctoral Fellowship in Humanities
& Social Sciences. She has worked on various projects in the School, and taught Music Archiving
in the UGC-approved PG Diploma Course in Digital Humanities and Cultural Informatics run by
the School. She received her doctoral degree from Jadavpur University in 2013. Though her degree
is in English literature, her other area of interest is Hindustani Classical Music.

Shantanu Majhee
Shantanu Majee is a Part-time Teacher at Department of English, Jogamaya Devi College,
affiliated to Calcutta University, Kolkata and Part-time Project Fellow at Archive of North Indian
Classical Music, School of Cultural Texts and Records, Jadavpur University. He is currently
pursuing his PhD on 'Intellectual Labour and Victorian Women' at Department of English,
Jadavpur University.

A Divya
Divya A received her MSt. in English from the University of Oxford, and her PhD in English from
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She is a visiting faculty of humanities in the Indian
Institute of Information and Technology, Design & Manufacturing, Kancheepuram. Her chapter
on Gaskells North and South was published in Place, Progress and Personhood in the works of
Elizabeth Gaskell (Routledge, 2015). Her chapter on Dickenss A Tale of Two Cities will be
published in Dickens and the Virtual City (Palgrave, 2017). Her chapter on Elizabeth Siddals
illustration of The Lady of Shalott has been accepted for publication in the collection Poetry in
Painting (Peter Lang, 2017).

Sagar Taranga Mandal

Sagar Taranga Mandal is Assistant Professor at the Department of English, University of Kalyani,
India. His interests include Postcolonial Literature, Diaspora Studies, Graphic Fiction, and South
Asian Fiction. He is currently working towards a PhD from Jadavpur University, Kolkata.

Sandra M. Leonard
Sandra M. Leonard is a Temporary Assistant Professor of English at Kutztown University of
Pennsylvania where she teaches composition, linguistics, and literature. Her research interests
include aesthetic plagiarism and literary linguistics. She has an MA from University of Nottingham
and a Ph.D. from Indiana University from Pennsylvania.