Inside Out

Spatial Practices

An Interdisciplinary Series in Cultural History, Geography and Literature


Robert Burden (University of Teesside) Stephan Kohl (Universität Würzburg)
Christine Berberich Christoph Ehland Catrin Gersdorf Jan Hewitt Ralph Pordzik Chris Thurgar-Dawson Merle Tönnies
Editorial Board:

General Editors:

Inside Out
Women negotiating, subverting, appropriating public and private space

Edited by Teresa Gómez Reus and Aránzazu Usandizaga

Amsterdam - New York, NY 2008

© Estate of Gwen John. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2008 Cover Design: Aart Jan Bergshoeff The paper on which this book is printed meets the requirements of “ISO 9706:1994, Information and documentation - Paper for documents Requirements for permanence”. ISSN: 1871-689X ISBN: 978-90-420-2441-0 ©Editions Rodopi B.V., Amsterdam - New York, NY 2008 Printed in the Netherlands

The Spatial Practices Series
The series Spatial Practices belongs to the topographical turn in cultural studies and aims to publish new work in the study of spaces and places which have been appropriated for cultural meanings: symbolic landscapes and urban places which have specific cultural meanings that construct, maintain, and circulate myths of a unified national or regional culture and their histories, or whose visible ironies deconstruct those myths. Taking up the lessons of the new cultural geography, papers are invited which attempt to build bridges between the disciplines of cultural history, literary and cultural studies, and geography. Spatial Practices aims to promote a new interdisciplinary kind of cultural history drawing on constructivist approaches to questions of culture and identity that insist that cultural “realities” are the effect of discourses, but also that cultural objects and their histories and geographies are read as texts, with formal and generic rules, tropes and topographies. Robert Burden Stephan Kohl

Contents Notes on Contributors Acknowledgements Foreword Janet Wolff Introduction Teresa Gómez Reus and Aránzazu Usandizaga Early Escapes into Public Spaces Falling Over the Banister: Harriet Martineau and the Uneasy Escape from the Private Lucy Bending Private Rituals and Public Selves: The Turkish Bath in Women’s Travel Writing Efterpi Mitsi Ladies on the Tramp: The Philanthropic Flâneuse and Appropriations of Victorian London’s Impoverished Domesticity Cathleen J. and Power Strongholds in Gertrude Atherton’s Patience Sparhawk and Her Times and F. Tennyson Jesse’s A Pin to See the Peepshow Janet Stobbs 87 107 35 9 13 15 19 47 65 125 . Hamann Women on Display “The Abuse of Visibility”: Domestic Publicity in Late Victorian Fiction Anna Despotopoulou Public Space and Spectacle: Female Bodies and Consumerism in Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth Anne-Marie Evans Tracing the Female Triptych of Space: Private. Public.

Contents Approaching the City Paving the Way for Mrs Dalloway: The Street-walking Women of Eliza Lynn Linton. Ella Hepworth Dixon and George Paston Valerie Fehlbaum Dwelling. Hunt Public Land and Private Fears: Reclaiming Outdoor Spaces in Gretchen Legler’s Sportswoman’s Notebook Lilace Mellin Guignard Negotiating the City Adrienne Rich’s City Poetry: Locating a Flâneuse Kirsten Bartholomew Ortega 319 273 205 149 167 189 229 249 297 . Dreaming: Housebreaking and Homemaking in Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage Melinda Harvey Colonial Flâneurs: the London Life-writing of Janet Frame and Doris Lessing Ma Lourdes López Ropero Conquering the Spaces of War In a Literary No Man’s Land: A Spatial Reading of Edith Wharton’s Fighting France Teresa Gómez Reus and Peter Lauber Women and War Zones: May Sinclair’s Personal Negotiation with the First World War Laurel Forster Expanding the Private and Public Spaces of War: Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth Aránzazu Usandizaga Transformations in Nature Friends of our Captivity: Nature. Poaching. Terror and Refugia in Romantic Women’s Literature Stephen E.

Contents Writing Inside and Outside: Eavan Boland’s Poetry of the Domestic Space Sara Sullivan Concluding Remarks Janet Floyd Index 335 351 359 .


Jane Austen. 2000) and she is currently working on ideas of growth and development in late Victorian texts. Peter Shaffer. She has coedited Domestic Space: Reading the Nineteenth-Century Interior (1999) and she has published . London. Janet Floyd is Senior Lecturer in American Studies at King’s College. Anna Despotopoulou is an Assistant Professor of English Literature and Culture in the Faculty of English Studies of the University of Athens. and Papers on Language and Literature. She has published on domesticity. Yearbook of English Studies. Her current research examines the gendered treatment of the private/public spheres in Victorian fiction. Valerie Fehlbaum is a Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Geneva where she teaches primarily nineteenth-century literature. Gertrude Stein and Zora Neale Hurston.Notes on Contributors Lucy Bending is a Lecturer in English at the University of Reading. and is the co-editor of Reading America: New Perspectives on the American Novel. forthcoming from Cambridge Scholars Press in 2008. The Cambridge Quarterly. Her current research focuses on Victorian periodicals and women’s growing involvement in various media. In 2005 she was guest editor for U. Joseph Conrad. which examines the changing role of consumerism in the work of various women writers including Edith Wharton. and is a regular book reviewer for the Journal of American Studies and American Studies Today. Ellen Glasgow. She has published articles in MODE and The Edith Wharton Review. She also has interests in the writing of the American West. English Language Notes. and film adaptation in journals such as The Review of English Studies. where she specialises in twentieth century American Literature. She is the author of The Representation of Bodily Pain in Late Nineteenth-Century English Culture (Clarendon Press. domestic space and material culture. She is the author of Ella Hepworth Dixon: The Story of a Modern Woman (Ashgate 2005).S Studies Online. Anne-Marie Evans is a Teaching Fellow at the University of Sheffield. She is currently finishing her PhD. Her recent publications include articles on Henry James. 1905–1937”. Modern Language Review. Classical and Modern Literature. and on the writing of household work. a collection of essays on classic American novels. entitled “Purchasing Power: Consumerism and Female Commodification in American Literature. especially in the nineteenth century.

including papers on the travel literature of Emily Eden and the postcolonial novels of Nadine Gordimer and Tsitsi Dangarembga.) Eco-Man: New Perspectives on Masculinity and Nature (University of Virginia Press: 2004) and ‘At the Insistence of the Wind’ in Roberta Moore and Scott Slovic’s (eds) Wild Nevada: Testimonies of Behalf of the Desert (University of Nevada Press: 2005).10 Contributors Writing the Pioneer Woman (2002). Cathleen J. Her recent publications include ‘Husbands and Nature Lovers’ in Mark Allister’s (ed. She has published widely on American and British women writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. She has written on modernism and. feminist literary theory. Lilace Mellin Guignard has an MFA in English from the University of California at Irvine and an MA in Literature and Environment from the University of Nevada at Reno where she formerly taught as a lecturer. is currently completing a dissertation on the re-emergence of the social problem novel in late Victorian England as a response to popular anxieties about the role of independent upper-class women and the homes of London’s underclass. a number of essays on the work of May Sinclair. in particular. She has presented work on nineteenth and twentieth century women’s writing. a PhD candidate at George Washington University. Teresa Gómez Reus is an Assistant Professor of American literature at the University of Alicante. She has edited and translated into Spanish a compilation of stories by Edith Wharton as well as a selection of her travel narratives. She has also published on food and domesticity and their representation and has co-edited The Recipe Reader (Ashgate 2003). and art criticism in journals such as The Journal of Gender Studies. At present she is working on a longer study of women’s magazines and also as part of a larger research project with colleagues from Portsmouth on aspects of feminism and gender in the 1970s. Spain. . Her current research includes work on the depiction of impoverished domestic space and cross-class female friendships in British novels of the 1880s and 1890s. Hamann. Her current research focuses on the writings of women serving at the front during the First World War and she is preparing an anthology on the subject. Lilace is working on a book about American women’s perceptions of risk and benefit concerning their use of outdoor spaces. Her current project is an exploration of the Transatlantic writing of mining. The Edith Wharton Review and The Atlantic Literary Review. Laurel Forster is a Senior Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Portsmouth.

cosmopolitanism and modernism. María Lourdes López Ropero holds an M. She has published articles on J. Her most recent teaching post is at the European College of Liberal Arts. Employed as an Assistant Librarian in the Faculty of Humanities. Efterpi Mitsi is an Assistant Professor in English Literature and Culture at the University of Athens. Spain. and reviews contemporary fiction for a number of broadsheet newspapers and literary magazines in Australia. She has published several articles on different Caribbean writers: Fred D’Aguiar (New York Press). Hunt has a PhD in English from the University of the West of England. Her current research focuses on the relationship between place. Berlin. Peter Lauber is a freelance scholar and translator. Languages and Social Sciences at the University of the West of England he continues research on Romantic and nineteenthcentury literature and the natural environment. early modern travel. 1775–1900”. Human Well-Being and Gender. She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from New York University and has published in the fields of early modern literature. holding degrees in English and Linguistics from the University of St. Caryl Philips and Paule Marshall. she is a Lecturer in the English Department of the University of Alicante. She is the author of The Anglo-Caribbean Migration Novel: Writing from the Diaspora (2004). Recently his work has been published in Environment and History and The Vegan. British travellers to the Orient and a collection of women’s travel writing on Greece. Recent publications include essays on Sidney. Spain. Stephen E. His academic interests encompass philosophy. theoretical linguistics and history. Coetzee and May Sinclair.Contibutors 11 Melinda Harvey received her PhD from the University of Sydney in 2004. Currently. travel and comparative literature. awarded for a thesis entitled “Persephone Unbound: The Natural Environment. M. Andrews and in Philosophy from Durham University. She has published an essay on June Jordan’s poetry and pedagogy and has a forthcoming essay about Gwendolyn Brook’s urban poetics.A. Austin Clarke (World Literature Written in English). Kirsten Bartholomew Ortega is an Assistant Professor of American literature and poetry at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Her principal teaching interests are in literature and film. from the University of Kansas and a PhD from the University of Santiago de Compostela. .

1850s–1930s”. awarded for a thesis entitled “The Literary Trials of the Murderess: Marriage and Murder in AngloAmerican Fiction. She has published work on the use of criminal trials in short stories by Edith Wharton and Susan Glaspell. Her latest research has centred on English speaking women writers of the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) and she has published. An independent scholar who especially enjoys attending Joyce symposia. She is now engaged. in an edited book entitled Embattled Desires. Her dissertation. in Spanish.12 Contributors Janet Stobbs is a lecturer in the Humanities Department at the University of Cardenal Herrera in Elche. where she teaches English for Specific Purposes. “Coming Home to History: The Domestic Interior and the Nation in Twentieth-Century Irish Literature”. specialising in Legal English and Business English. Spain. an anthology of their literary output and a study of their work (2007). She also lectures on the accessibility of Ulysses to interested groups of non-academics. Sara Sullivan obtained her PhD from Boston University in 2007. with Teresa Gómez and other scholars. She holds a PhD in English Studies from the University of Alicante. She has worked and published on the subject of women’s autobiography and she is currently working on women and war. . examines the imprint of politics and history on representations of the intimate space of the Irish home. Spain. She has also edited a collection of essays. Aránzazu Usandizaga is Professor of English and American Literature at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. plotting a trajectory that stretches from Joyce’s Ulysses to the contemporary poetry of Eavan Boland. Sullivan has devised an innovative conference experience called “Impromptu Joyce” that has met with success. Spain. and has presented papers on the trial as a narrative device in 19th century and turn-of-the-century fiction. Back to Peace (2007).

Our warmest thanks must also go to Janet Woolf. And we extend special thanks to all the contributors for their patience. which in turned sharpened our sense of the vitality and the centrality of the issues addressed in Inside Out. who was kind enough to write the concluding remarks. . and Andrew Lindesay was invaluable in the final formatting and typesetting of the book. who responded eagerly to our proposed collection and who guided us skilfully through the final preparation and production of this volume. who kindly accepted an invitation to contribute. and whose innovative and crucial work on gender and space has been a central source of inspiration for this volume. Zoraida Horrillo offered technical assistance. his incisive critical judgement and his useful suggestions on the introduction. We must begin by thanking Terry Gifford. Peter Green read separate chapters and answered queries with instant attention and care. The University of Barcelona and the University of Alicante granted us a much-needed sabbatical leave.Acknowledgements The intellectual and professional debts for this collection are many and varied. and also the Generalitat Valenciana. His unfailing support and encouragement have been invaluable. which was instrumental in bringing together a number a panellists who have contributed to this book. hosted an invitation to King’s College. Peter Lauber also deserves our thanks for his intellectual generosity. for having provided funding and the opportunity to bring this project to fruition. and their insights and enthusiasm. where she offered moral support in the last stages of the volume. their cooperation in rewriting to our standards. We acknowledge the support of the directors of the Spatial Series of Rodopi. presented in the 2004 ESSE Conference held in Zaragoza. Tamzin Phoenix. was also very kind in granting us permission to reproduce the image that illustrates the book’s cover. To Deborah Parsons we owe much gratitude for having co-organised the seminar “Women and Public Space: Practice and Representation”. Janet Floyd. who not only believed in the original idea for the project but also provided wise and constant advice in the shaping of our volume and offered rigorous and perceptive criticism of the collection as a whole and of individual contributions. Robert Burden and Stephan Kohl. We thank these Spanish institutions. from Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust.


the unexpected moments of access. Later. and much more interested in the blurring of boundaries. the negotiation of spaces and the contradictory and open-ended nature of urban social practices. It seems clear that the most productive work in this area is that which has begun to explore the liminal space. Others pointed out that working-class women were never restricted to the private (or domestic) sphere. the ambiguous situation. or to claim that it overstated the equation of public/male: private/ female. plasticity. city/suburb) for men and women became clear. We are less and less preoccupied with identifying bounded areas and their exclusions. One way of addressing the invisibility of women in the public sphere has been to turn the critique onto social theory itself. It would be a mistake to dismiss this work now as naïve. they remove us from what has increasingly seemed to be the cul-de-sac of complaints about women’s absence from (or invisibility in) the public sphere. the implications of this separation (work/home. middle-class men also had private roles and middleclass women public ones. and feminist scholars devoted attention both to ideologies of women’s “proper” place and to the realities of the lives of women of different classes in the urban environment. despite official discourses and dominant practices. as some of the essays in this volume suggest. there may be certain dangers (both political and intellectual) in abandoning it. Twenty years ago. the reality.Foreword by Janet Wolff It is fascinating to see how the language of gendered spaces has changed over the past decade or so. The essays in this book speak of porosity. fluidity. if this implies an equal access that is clearly not. Still. permeability. was an important and necessary focus for the early sociologists of the nineteenth century. and that many middleand upper-class women engaged in public activities of various kinds. The conceptual framework . In doing so. The vocabulary of “public” and “private” spheres has proved both valuable and limiting for the social history of gender relations. The radical separation of home and work. indeed. Catherine Hall and Leonore Davidoff showed very clearly how complex the intersections were – how. thresholds. the basic dichotomous model has persisted. which was one of the major consequences of the development of urban-industrial society in Europe. even in the twenty-first century.

the courtroom. The flâneuse does not have endless possibilities in the city. Because the essays are primarily based in literary studies. in the nature of conceptual frameworks. The great value of reading these essays together is not only that they cover such an interesting range of locations. Women can easily have a false sense of participation. dangers in certain arenas. Now the talk is of negotiation. the Turkish bath. public (and private) space is not absolutely negotiable. things are not entirely open. structurally determined. spaces and texts. the problem lies only in the assumption that they tell the truth – that they are somehow transparent.16 Janet Wolff mobilised to examine social life has illuminated certain areas and obscured others. since it might take the form of privileging the private sphere in order to make visible the lives of women. I think. articulation. as some of the essays here make clear. structures of inequality are still in place. they illuminate at an oblique angle the meanings of gender. open environment. They focus on a wide range of fascinating places (geographical. This is. and of femininity. In some cases. the bed-sitting room. the models are of a moveable. collectively they help us to see the connections between actual lives and their imaginary formulations. Playing off one . There are real threats to women in the wilderness. But the suggestion that it is academic discourse which hides those lives is. explore their blurred edges. Women may be tolerated in public only if they are also “good wives”. subversion. The question is how else we might talk about public and private spheres. And so critics have moved from the apparent problem of women’s limited access to the public sphere to challenging the priority given to that sphere in sociological theory. the window. And yet. in the wilderness and the countryside). in pursuing these inquiries beyond the limits of everyday urban life (at the front in the First World War. The essays in this volume combine to make an impressive contribution to new thinking on the subject. and the associated mood is often optimism. but question them. and for work on gender and public/private space in particular. in the city. moving away from what seemed the inflexible. The authors work with the given notions of public and private. a crucial one. It is sometimes said that our contemporary cultural theories. they complement one another so well. conservative. uncommitted. instead. and place of women in urban cultures. The demand for new theories does not necessarily abandon the public/private dichotomy. produce a world of possibility and opportunity. as is also the case. or that. which expose the gendered negotiations of “proper” place: the sick room. street life. and there are still limits to access. such postmodern approaches seem. too-solid worlds proposed before postmodernism. examine their limits. of course. vague. the suburb. work and home. imaginary). (For others.) There is no doubt that these developments in theory have been enormously important for feminism. architectural.

women have historically had in navigating public and private space. they are able to acknowledge the limits.Foreword 17 another in perhaps unexpected ways. and at the same time celebrate the opportunities. April 2007 .


inert or mute frame in which narrative events are located can no longer be considered adequate. in turn. The work carried out by a variety of thinkers and critics within a number of disciplines has shown how space is “both a production. in the home rather than in the street. which may play as important a part in shaping the reader’s response as any other element of a text. Against the Newtonian conception of space as a passive container in which characters develop and human activities unfold. a fixed. In this essentially masculine world of exploration and adventure women have always found their opportunities for movement seriously curtailed and their capacity for literary expression hampered as a result of it. As amply shown by feminist scholars. dialectical and culturally embedded. But whatever the constraints in their lives may have been. like time. which the critical tradition of modernity has largely taken for granted. directs and delimits possibilities of action and ways of being human in the world” (Wegner 2002: 181). the Bildungsroman epitomizes the way in which the personal opportunities of women distinguish themselves from those of men. and a force that.Introduction Teresa Gómez Reus and Aránzazu Usandizaga Space. never critically transparent. is never neutral. shaped through a diverse range of social processes and human interventions. Wilhelm Meister is free to enrich his knowledge about himself and about the world in unconstrained wandering. women have always existed who have striven to find loopholes in the often unwritten laws which have separated the constraining private domain of women from the . In literature. and its artistic representation is always intentional. inside rather than in the world outside. we are growing increasingly aware of the complex purposes concealed by a particular spatial setting. The naïve idea of space as a pre-existing void. In works written by and about women the narrative location is a culturally constructed environment which contains signs that are essential for a deeper understanding of female culture. influences. spatial confinement is one of the more obvious ways in which the life and destiny of women have been circumscribed: the socially imposed role in the private as opposed to the public sphere.

The 2004 conference seminar. Here scholars from Spain. journalism. . this book uncovers remarkably subtle and tenacious strategies explored in a variety of discourses that include letters. Switzerland. “Women in Public Space: Practice and Representation”. Inside Out goes beyond the early work on artistic explorations of gendered space to establish the breadth of the field and its theoretical implications. and in the course of our deliberations a set of ideas emerged. provided the original impetus for the present work. Greece. that took place in Jaén. where some of the contributors to this volume gathered in order to rethink women’s changing relation to public and private spaces in the literature of the nineteenth and twentieth century. Australia and America reveal for the first time the range of spaces in which women are represented as negotiating various degrees of empowerment. together with the literary representations of their attempts to negotiate. the Spanish Association of AngloAmerican Studies. some derive from a round table organised by the editors of this volume for the 29th International Conference of AEDEAN. around which the present collection of essays would be organized. as a number of our essays clearly revealed that the notions of “public” and “private” space are mutable terms which call for a more complex understanding than the simple dichotomous relationship could provide. in September 2004. subvert and appropriate these forbidden spaces is the underlying theme that unites the essays collected in the present volume. diaries. this neatly drawn distinction proved inadequate for our purpose. others are the result of invited contributions. Although the seminar had relied on the conceptual categories of public and private space derived from the sociology of separate spheres. Spain. or the new and unfamiliar spaces produced by World War I were discussed. in the round table seminar “Stepping Out: Women Appropriating and Subverting Space”. The endeavours of these women to enter areas from which they had been traditionally excluded either by visible or invisible walls. Spain. Great Britain. which Teresa Gómez and Deborah Parsons co-ordinated at the European Society for the Study of English. poetry. in December 2005. on which we had originally meant to base our analysis.20 Teresa Gómez Reus and Aránzazu Usandizaga enticing public world of men. Where previous studies have tended to focus on one aspect of women’s engagement with space. Topics such as the manner in which domestic design and architecture may affect the creative process of writing. On all occasions the guiding idea had been to explore moments of access into forbidden territories and the generally oblique ways in which women have depicted their incursions into the public domain. from the Victorian sickroom to the American wilderness. the distorted perception of women in the courtroom. fiction and essays. The discussion was continued in Jaén. in Zaragoza. A number of these articles were originally conceived for a conference seminar.

Pollock. among others. Judith Fryer and Hsin Ying Chi. In the wake of the 1980s social historians and cultural critics started to take notice of women’s increasingly autonomous presence in the late nineteenth century metropolis. in which traditionally they have found themselves marginalized. the café or the cabaret – which provided so many of the central themes and metaphors of modernity. Women could not stroll alone in the city” (1990: 41). which has taken the “free” male artist as its standard model. has argued that the exclusion of women artists from the sexualised spaces of the city –the street. which establishes a clear connection between the gendered construction of space and the dominant definitions of modernity. Since the publication of these two seminal essays. were beyond the reach of the respectable woman of the nineteenth century: “She could not adopt the non-existent role of a flâneuse. such as gardens and parks. women reveal their response to culture itself ” (1984: 5). Rilke and the Welsh artist Gwen John negotiated in Paris “public (and private) space in ways which may have been less rigid than the social history of ‘separate spheres’ suggests” (ibid. other studies have appeared which consider the treatment of space in texts written by and about women. the experience of freedom in the city. The representation of houses and their interiors has been examined. but the modernist conception of the city as occupied. the public spaces of the city. at a time when their male colleagues were at liberty to move between the domestic world and any space of public life for the purpose of practicing their art. Susan Merrill Squier’s collection of essays Women Writers and the City (1984) opened up the field by examining the responses of a range of writers and their female characters to urban life. Testing new ground. which illustrates how the only motifs which were available to impressionist women painters outside the purely domestic sphere were confined to respectable public sites. According to Squier. Nevertheless. As explained by Wolff. or absence from.). But what has especially attracted the attention of feminist critics and cultural theorists has been women’s presence in. Janet Wolff called attention to the “subtleties of gender and space ambiguity” (1994: 115) by showing how Rodin. the bar. the city has been an important metaphor for women because “in writing about cities. . not only limited women’s range of artistic representations but also had the effect of excluding them from the canon of modern art. explored and interpreted by men remained largely unchallenged. the fleeting and impersonal contacts of the public world which fascinated the authors of “the modern”. like Wolff before her. by Marilyn Chandler. Another important source of inspiration has been Griselda Pollock’s “Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity” (1988).Introduction 21 The theoretical basis of Inside Out owes a great deal to Janet Wolff ’s muchquoted essay “The Invisible Flâneuse: Women and the Literature of Modernity” (1985).

both in terms of opportunities in the public sphere and by virtue of [prevailing] social values” (1994: 119). it is possible to conceive a variety of ways of accessing the public world and a number of different public arenas in which women could be involved” (2000: 70). Parsons calls attention to the ways in which the modern metropolis was imagined and represented by a range of women who were writing between 1900 and World War II. By taking into consideration alternative manners of experiencing the city. where Deborah Nord documented how “the female urban rambler” was connected with the figure of the “fallen woman” in Victorian culture. Just as public space is not a simple and homogenous entity. The need to revise the standard ideology of separate spheres became apparent in studies in social history such as City of Women: Sex and Class in New York. Abelson’s study of urban women and the emergence of shopping (1989) has helped to dismantle the iconic image of the respectable Victorian woman hopelessly trapped in the home. 1789–1860 (1986). “common sense and the evidence of texts and images from the period should tell us that this cannot be an accurate account of nineteenthcentury city space”. This view was confirmed in Walking the Victorian Streets (1995). Wanderlust. But even this revised model of city space. As Lynda Nead has stated in Victorian Babylon. Deborah Parsons’s Streetwalking the Metropolis: Women. as Nead suggests. Rather than seeing public life as a monolithic entity. has proved too simplistic and inflexible to provide an adequate picture of the actual dynamics of urban practices. peopled exclusively by men. which had its beginnings in the 1870s. in which she claimed that up to the present “no literary detective has found and named an actual female flâneur” (2000: 200).22 Teresa Gómez Reus and Aránzazu Usandizaga Wolff insisted that the activity of flânerie was not open to respectable women. women had become familiar figures in the metropolitan landscape by the end of the nineteenth century. working-class women and middle-class female shoppers. less detached and self-assured than the ones traditionally associated with the male flâneur. Elaine S. Through this public activity. A more sophisticated approach is needed which. the domestic . the City and Modernity (2000) took up the discussion of the female flâneur in order to “undercut the myth that the urban artist-observer is necessarily male and that the woman in the city is a labelled object of his gaze” (2000: 42). and again in Rebecca Solnit’s history of walking. should begin “with a formulation of a more complex understanding of the public sphere than has been evident in previous studies of the metropolis. as “the lives of middle-class women were fairly circumscribed. in which Christine Stansell explores the presence of working-class women in the streets of the nineteenth century metropolis. by bringing to light how shopping provided middle-class women with a legitimate reason for taking to the streets unaccompanied.

revealing the blurred outlines of a building outside. the social historians Joan Scott and Debra Keates have insisted on the need for scholars to test the currency of the categories “public” and “private” and to reconsider these notions in different historical and cultural contexts. falling into the opposite error of underestimating the significance which the restrictions of movement has had in the lives of women throughout history. To achieve this. and the Rise of Public Domesticity (2005). “is never just private. In their collection of essays Going Public: Feminism and the Shifting Boundaries of the Private Sphere (2004). have represented the negotiation of the boundaries that separate the domestic from the public.Introduction 23 interior. which recreated domestic interiors in an undeniably public environment. the inside from the outside. Yet any sense that this is an exclusively private and detached space is contested by the light coming from the window. constitutes a sub- . It seeks to call attention to the elusive nature of this cultural boundary and to the potentially misleading idea that women in the past had been systematically excluded from the public domain. similar to Richter’s trains. The illustration we have selected as a cover for our book is denotative of the theme which unites the essays of this collection. suggesting a connection with the public sphere. which have proved to be more intractable than previously anticipated. Social historians such as Richter have contributed to the rethinking of a whole host of prescriptive binaries that have frequently been invoked in studies of women’s history. a representation of Gwen John’s Parisian studio. as well as by the presence of an umbrella and a painting robe. without. the Railroad. The originality of Inside Out lies partly in its challenge to the well-entrenched assumptions associated with “separate spheres” in the field of literary studies by calling attention to the diverse ways in which writers. Private space is not a hermetically sealed container but a living space with doors and windows standing in permanent contact with the world outside. as Inga Bryden and Janet Floyd reveal in their edited volume Domestic Space: Reading the Nineteenth-Century Interior. The fact that this interior happens to be the artist’s studio. it is a sign for public and cultural interaction” (1999: 12). our collection of essays covers and uncovers a range of spaces that. 1907–10. Richter in Home on the Rails: Women. depicts a strongly “feminised” domestic interior. a cultural study of women on trains in the Victorian period. Other investigations have similarly questioned the cultural baggage that has come to be associated with the notion of domesticity. especially women writers. strongly suggest the intrinsic ambivalence of the relationship between gender and space and the difficulties involved in the neat distinction between the public and the private sphere. however. One possible context has been explored by Amy G. Richter argues that trains constituted a hybrid space. a place from which the woman painter engaged with the world of the arts. Corner of the Artist’s Room in Paris.

In “Falling over the Banister: Harriet Martineau and the Uneasy Escape from the Private”. in particular in Life in the Sick-Room. The author analyses the paradoxical situation of a writer who was both “prisoner to her couch” and monarch of the sickroom. they had been generally excluded. and also the anxiety inherent in this movement beyond the boundaries of the sick-room into the public world of literary fame.24 Teresa Gómez Reus and Aránzazu Usandizaga tle challenge to the language which insists on separating the public from the private sphere. interlinking women travel narratives of the nineteenth-century with the canonical sites of modernity. Intimating the painter’s uncomfortable relationship with the city. In Mitsi’s original reading. of women’s restricted and troubled access to the public domain. these Victorian travellers treated the Turkish bath in terms reminiscent of Walter Benjamin’s Parisian Arcade. Gwen John was an artist who had chosen Paris as her home but in which. Early Escapes into Public Spaces. provide an analysis of oblique but very original incursions made by several nineteenthcentury women writers into forbidden territories. with some exceptions. herself determining who will enter a room which gave her power in her supposed weakness. the Turkish Bath and the East End of London. according to Janet Wolff. to legitimise her autobiographical writing. The chapter discusses Martineau’s rhetorical strategies. by exploring Martineau’s personal way of inventing new and unsuspected manners of negotiating domestic space. traditionally a locus of solitary confinement and social invisibility for women. as a liminal space for gazing and consuming. The first three contributions in the opening part of the volume. For the sake of greater thematic transparency we decided to organize the rich and many-sided subject of literary women in their slow but significant struggle to conquer the spaces from which. Victorian women travellers benefited from their gender and class to gain access to a much fantasized space of the age and turn it into a . she never managed to feel at ease (Wolff 1990: 59). The chapter demonstrates how the Turkish bath – a place where the division between the public and the private is suspended in a perfect mix of social classes and ethnic groups – became a tourist attraction on the oriental journey. the picture may also be read as a sign of liminality. The porosity of the public/private divide is taken up again in Efterpi Mitsi’s “Private Rituals and Public Selves: The Turkish Bath in Women’s Travel Writing”. Lucy Bending provides an alternative and unexpected reading of the sick-room. and of their imaginative appropriation of spaces as diverse as the sick room. under six loosely defined headings and to order each group of essays in a broadly chronological fashion. and their tendency to represent this access in indirect ways. which offers a provocative reading of the hammam.

who became flâneuses in a public interior. this chapter takes a step outside the standard territory of postcolonial studies to permit a richer understanding of the ways in which writers of the past experienced and narrated the foreign city – a public space in which European women travellers could enjoy considerable freedom of movement and aesthetic expression. In “ ‘The Abuse of Visibility’: Domestic Publicity in Late Victorian Fiction”. all the essays in this section illustrate the dangers women of the nineteenth and early twentieth century encountered outside the socially sanctioned boundaries. one that secured them access to a space that both shocked and fascinated the Victorian establishment. these ladies contributed to making the metropolis intelligible. and which added authority to the voice of women in contemporary social debates. the marketplace invaded the domestic sphere with its principles of display and transaction. the chapter illustrates how this transformation affected the consciousness of women and their role in the house.Introduction 25 locus of artistic possibilities. The tenuous line separating the public from the private. The chapter offers a sophisticated exploration of these two major novels by combining literary criticism with recent considerations of how the public-private divide operated in the homes of the late Victorian establishment. Women on Display. just as Charles Dickens. Venturing outside their comfortable neighbourhoods. Gustave Doré and Augustus Mayhew had done before them. As the demands of publicity impinged on the private domain. and the precarious . Addressing diverse issues. Our second part. in George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda and Henry James’s The Wings of the Dove. Similar to the Victorian travellers that Mitsi examines. Hamann’s chapter “Ladies on the Tramp: The Philanthropic Flâneuse and Appropriations of Victorian London’s Impoverished Domesticity” avail themselves of their gender and class to enter the murky homes of the London poor. who has discussed the conversion of the family room into a public stage. By “botanizing the asphalt” in the dark heart of the empire. Anna Despotopoulou sees the private interior of the late Victorian drawingroom. trespassing into spaces where public approval was no longer guaranteed. as a place of public visibility for women. explores different ways in which writers have dramatised the sense of vulnerability experienced by women the moment they stepped outside the boundaries of the home and became exposed to public scrutiny. Inspired by the work of Jürgen Habermas. the Victorian philanthropists discussed in Cathleen J. the ladies discussed in this chapter provide an interesting example of female urban mobility. Travel and philanthropy provided women of the upper and middle classes with the opportunity to escape from the limitations of domesticity. By concentrating on women travellers in Greece and Turkey.

The author. In it Janet Stobbs exposes the extent to which the protagonists of the two novels were perceived as a threat to the establishment as a result of having abandoned the role of submissive wife. these heroines are reduced to objects of spectacle. It is as true for these two women as it is for the heroines of Henry James and Edith Wharton that to be in the public eye may entail the loss of a woman’s reputation. or even of her life. Public. It explores how. which are duely construed as cases of murder. rather than on any real evidence. a study of women on trial. once in the dock and on public display. “Tracing the Female Triptych of Space: Private. The chapter traces the heroines’ movements from the home to the public sphere of the work place. investigates the ways in which Lily Bart consciously uses her body as a form of spectacle to satisfy the expectations of fashionable New York. the male dealings of Wall Street become hidden and private activities. Anne-Marie Evans. The issue of the female body as a form of public spectacle emerges again in the closing chapter of this section. includes three chapters which record women’s tentative steps towards gaining access to urban spaces that had been commonly denied to respectable women. Tennyson Jesse’s A Pin to See the Peepshow”. at Grand Central Station. and Power Strongholds in Gertrude Atherton’s Patience Sparhawk and Her Times and F. or on display at the sophisticated galas of the powerful and wealthy. Valerie Fehlbaum shows how the tradition which had sought to confine women to the domestic space was being . and end up convicted of murder as a consequence of their unconventional lifestyle and unexpected behaviour. This is dramatically revealed in the aftermath of the accidental deaths of their husbands. Lily’s body appears as a form of “public space”. The third part of our volume. and from their acquired ‘room of one’s own’ to the male bastion of the courtroom. Ella Hepworth Dixon and George Paston”. Approaching the City. the unfailing centre of public interest. Whether at the Opera House. Focusing on the display of the female body in domestic settings that have been designed like a stage.26 Teresa Gómez Reus and Aránzazu Usandizaga sense of privacy generated by domestic interiors re-emerge in “Public Space and Spectacle: Female Bodies and Consumerism in Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth”. while the bodies of women are converted into glittering display windows of a business enterprise. Notwithstanding the obstacles they would need to overcome. In the warped and frivolous world of The House of Mirth. this chapter examines Wharton’s lucid analysis of turn-of-the-century New York. these women managed to experience these unfamiliar territories as an empowering environment in which they could explore their identity and develop their literary voices. In “Paving the Way for Mrs. when the significance of public and private underwent a marked reversal. Dalloway: The Street-walking Women of Eliza Lynn Linton.

Introduction 27 contested before the twentieth century. In part four. Yet. Ideologically speaking. keeping women within clearly established limits. In “Colonial Flâneurs: The London Life-writing of Janet Frame and Doris Lessing” Lourdes López Ropero focuses on Frame’s The Envoy from Mirror City and Lessing’s Walking in the Shade. the cosmopolitan café offers her the chance to overcome her traumatic past and expand her vision of life. The writers document the early presence of the “angels out of the house” who managed to flout the rules that prevented women from walking alone in the streets. In the following chapter. “Dwelling. The chapter documents the crucial significance their encounter with the spaces of literary London had in their writing careers. Melinda Harvey inspects two emblematic sites of female independence. The chapter traces the relationship between the heroine’s personal transformation from nostalgic girl to an accomplished artist and the spaces she inhabits. thus suggesting that life on the streets of the big cities was more varied in reality than social historians and feminist scholars have led us to believe. our volume explores women’s presence in the quintessentially masculine domain of war. Dalloway. both of which Richardson portrays as spaces that provide her heroine with a sense of security and a certain welcoming homeliness while exempting her from the responsibilities of domestic life. to explore the ways in which their colonial background coloured their perceptions of the capital of the British empire. Fighting France (1915). Teresa Gómez Reus and Peter Lauber study Edith Wharton’s personal testimony of World War I. Harvey investigates these locations of public-privacy and the role they play in the protagonist’s quest for an autonomous and creative existence. the desire to maintain clearly defined spheres that are separated according to gender may indeed have existed. together with other autobiographical pieces by the same authors. Conquering the Spaces of War. While the anonymous bed-sit grants her a certain protected autonomy. In the first essay. the Bloomsbury bed sitting-room and the turn-of-the-century café. Dreaming: Housebreaking and Homemaking in Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage”. a book which has puzzled . the three authors in question recognised women’s increasing presence in the modern metropolis. in the course of the second half of the nineteenth century. they observed the city with eyes that were untarnished by tradition and they made the most of the freedom and detachment that accompanied their marginal status. which would have been severely hampered by the provincial narrowness of their places of origin. The capacity which women writers have displayed for asserting their presence in the city is the subject of the chapter that concludes the volume’s third part. and pave the way for Virginia Woolf ’s Mrs. As rootless outsiders. “In a Literary No Man’s Land: A Spatial Reading of Edith Wharton’s Fighting France”. Poaching.

which brought her into direct contact with the plight of the combatants.D. and her sense of humiliation for having been excluded from the spaces where the “real” business of war was carried out – found expression in her “journal of impressions”. Her ambivalent and even conflicting sentiments – her greed for “adventure” and romance. markets.A. (Voluntary Aid Detachment). the ruins of houses reveal the tragedy suffered by the civilian population whereas the hospitals and first-aid posts she visits cast a discrete veil over the horrors of the battlefield. With the earth appearing to have swallowed up entire armies into its bowls and with towns and villages emptied of people. Forster argues. gardens. In 1914 Brittain volunteered as a V. In the author’s personal “poetics of space”. which is not so much a record of her work at the field ambulance as a highly idiosyncratic collection of her own private responses to the war and the spaces she was navigating. On the other hand. and dugouts tell the human story of the war. the domestic images of freshly cultivated gardens. A Journal of Impressions in Belgium (1915). “Women and War Zones: May Sinclair’s Personal Negotiation with the First World War”. which provide a broad understanding of events which had marked not only her personal life but that of an entire genera- . although in many ways her experience remained that of an outsider. which reveals sides of life at the front which tend to receive scant attention. Vera Brittain’s autobiography Testament of Youth (1933) has been recognized as one of the first truly influential war diaries written by a woman. Usandizaga sees the originality of Testament of Youth in Brittain’s manner of enriching her autobiography with a range of voices and opinions about the war. In “Expanding the Private and Public Spaces of War: Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth”. where she volunteered in an ambulance corps. lasted only two weeks. Her stay near the front. Laurel Forster discusses Sinclair’s little. hospitals. turns Sinclair’s journal into a “non-conformist female perspective of war”. In the second essay. which she relates to the author’s treatment of the war in her later work.known autobiographical text. Her introspection and emphasis on personal emotions. New and unfamiliar spaces like trenches and observation posts provide an eerie image of the problem that confronted any writer who attempted to represent the unprecedented reality of this cataclysm. Aránzazu Usandizaga considers the ways in which Brittain’s autobiography bridges the gulf that is held to exist between “the front and the home-front. Like Wharton after her. Sinclair’s occupation brought her into contact with the war zone. homely dugouts and lively markets held within easy range of the enemy’s artillery are reassuring signs of French tenacity and perseverance in the face of the German onslaught. Wharton lets houses.28 Teresa Gómez Reus and Aránzazu Usandizaga recent readers and critics. but the experience would leave an indelible mark both on herself and on her writing. between war-loving men and peace-loving women”.

All the Powerful Invisible Things: A Sportwoman’s Notebook. Stephen E. Terror and Refugia in Romantic Women’s Literature”. Charlotte Smith. In “Friends of our Captivity: Nature. The problem is not accessing these spaces. Sportwoman’s Notebook”. Their ability to respond sensitively and imaginatively to the natural environment in circumstances of extreme distress and peril allowed them to slip the bars and walls of “the dark galleries of [their] prison” and to develop a mental resilience which was vital to their own survival and to their literary imagination. The closing section of our volume. Mary Robinson. uncovers gendered responses to the natural environment in the writing of women dealing with anxiety in very different circumstances and places. Their writings provide an interesting counterpart to Rousseau’s and Wordsworth’s familiar evocations of nature. Negotiating the City. “Adrienne Rich’s City Poetry: Locating a Flâneuse”. includes two contemporary versions of specific negotiations between public and private settings. Guignard argues that the “spatial patriarchy” which dominates the American wilderness makes it an inhospitable place for women who are not in the company of men and that Legler’s writing offers honest insights and strategies for women who wish to enjoy open nature in solitude. Hunt investigates the different ways in which four women writers of the Romantic period. considers the impact that New York and other cities have had on Rich’s poetry. Brittain has no conception of the private as dissociated from the public world. Transformations in Nature. In the second essay. but of accessing them without fear and without feeling unwelcome. as a “postmodern woman’s pastoral” not just because it is written by a woman but because it calls attention to the ways in which a woman navigates the masculine space of wild America. an aspect that had been neglected by earlier critics. “Public Land and Private Fears: Reclaiming Outdoor Spaces in Gretchen Legler’s.Introduction 29 tion and English culture as a whole. relied on the regenerative power of nature to overcome the trauma of prolonged physical captivity and exile. Guignard interprets Legler’s book. Lilace Mellin Guignard deals with the difficulties women still experience today when they wish to explore wild outdoor places by themselves. Kirsten Bartholomew Ortega studies Rich’s preoccupation with the fact that the influence of the city has never received the attention in connection with women poets which it has regarding male poets . Helen Maria Williams and Mary Wollstonecraft. the fifth part of the collection. In two pioneering essays of ecocriticism. The essay explores Legler’s responses when engaging in outdoor activities in places where a woman’s presence is traditionally neither expected nor accepted. which are predicated on the masculine convention of the solitary wanderer. In her writing it is impossible to understand the private without explictly relating it to the public.

. “Writing Inside and Outside: Eavan Boland’s Poetry of the Domestic Space”. T. Domesticity does not of necessity imply privacy. As the chapter shows. Some are primarily concerned with their movement from the inside out into spaces that had previously been inaccessible to women. Inside Out is intent on breaking the chain of associations regarding the line that is supposed to separate the public from the private realm. Of special interest is her treatment of the residential suburb. the flâneuses of Rich’s poems display a more troubled way of engaging with the city’s perils and opportunities.S. the essay discusses the relevance of Baudelaire’s urban poetics to the understanding of the contemporary city and its impact on modern poetry. like the necessity many women have felt to give outward expression to their inner feelings about the spaces they inhabit. Eliot or Langston Hughes. Boland acquaints her readers with domestic spaces in which women like herself could live and act. nor does it automatically signify a lack of agency. Rich is fascinated by big cities such as New York. Each of the fifteen essays seeks in its own particular way to turn inside out a number of our received ideas about women and the space they live in. But. which the poet represents as a realm where the strict divisions between the inside and the outside. cease to exist. which to begin with is depicted as an oppressive environment but which in her later work becomes a legitimate locus of national life and a fertile field for her poetic explorations. Sullivan documents Boland’s original way of defamiliarizing domestic space. a space in which the private and the public are deeply intertwined. the public and the private. The constraints that women have been subjected to in the course of history are undeniable. as Virginia Woolf has persuasively argued. while others explore less obvious ways of stepping out. But instead of adopting Baudelaire’s masculine perspective of freedom and authoritative detachment. Sara Sullivan studies the “reappraisal and invigoration” of domestic space in Boland’s poetry and in her autobiography Object Lessons.30 Teresa Gómez Reus and Aránzazu Usandizaga like Walt Whitman. But no less significant is the imagination and courage with which women of all times and places have been turning inside out the prevailing relationship between themselves and their environment. Drawing on Walter Benjamin’s and Anne Friedberg’s thoughts concerning flânerie. The desire to “conquer” the public world is one of the grand themes of women’s literature. Inside Out now provides a platform for re-reading that relationship across a new spectrum of discourses and spaces. with the violent clash of their contrasting elements. Rejecting the iconic status that Irish nationalist poetry has traditionally awarded to women. In the last chapter of the volume. personal freedom and emancipation for women would need to begin with the conquest of the private room.

2000. Parsons. ‘The Artist and the Flâneur: Rodin. 2000. 1994. Victorian Babylon: People. City of Women: Sex and Class in New York. Griselda. Nord. Inga and Janet Floyd (eds). and Debra Keates (eds). Urbana and Champaign: University of Illinois Press. Elaine. Pollock. Wegner. 2005. 1999. ‘The Invisible Flâneuse: Women and the Literature of Modernity’ in Wolff. Janet. Stansell. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Bryden. Richter. When Ladies Go A-Thieving: Middle-Class Shoplifters in the Victorian Department Store. 1789–1860. 1989. ‘Spatial Criticism’ in Wolfreys. New York: Alfred Knopf. 1995. NY: Cornell University Press. Vision and Difference: Femininity. Christine. and the Rise of Public Domesticity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press: 179–201. and the City. Berkeley: University of California Press: 34–50. London: Routledge. London: Routledge: 111–37. London: Verso. Wanderlust: A History of Walking. [1985] 1991. Rebecca. ‘Introduction’ in Merrill Squier. the City and Modernity. 2004. Phillip. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. S.) Women Writers and the City. 1984. Representation. Home on the Rails: Women. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press. Going Public: Feminism and the Shifting Boundaries of the Private Sphere. 1986. Merrill Squier.Introduction Bibliography 31 Abelson. . Keith (ed. Streets and Images in Nineteenth-Century London. Scott. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Feminine Sentences: Essays on Women and Culture. Janet.) The Flâneur. Ithaca. New Haven: Yale University Press. Deborah L. Wolff. Amy G. Lynda. Susan (ed. 1988. Susan. Deborah. Wolff. Domestic Space: Reading the NineteenthCentury Interior. Solnit. Julian (ed. Walking the Victorian Streets: Women. Janet. 2002. Feminism and the Histories of Art. 2000. Rilke and Gwen John in Paris’ in Tester.) Introducing Criticism at the 21st Century. Streetwalking the Metropolis: Women. Joan W. the Railroad. Nead.


Early Escapes into Public Spaces .


and yet allow a wider freedom. Autobiography. and physically affect the onlooker – might simply have been a response to a physical ailment. and then the windows would seem to recede to an infinite distance” (1877: 8). but she deliberately and unusually made her sufferings public in a variety of forms. to her revision of the events of these years in her later autobiography. The starting point of my discussion is a description of a childhood mode of perception that finds a place in her Autobiography. from the publication of Life in the Sick-Room. but also her relationship to the confines of the sick-room itself — a physicallyrealised space with firmly demarcated. and yet her description.Falling Over the Banister: Harriet Martineau and the Uneasy Escape from the Private Lucy Bending abstract This chapter explores the complicated relationship between the private and the public in Harriet Martineau’s writings. For the young Martineau. yet strangely elastic walls that both imprison the patient. Not only was Martineau confined to her sofa through illness for five years. however mediated. This strangely warping universe – one where the boundaries refuse to be held in place but come close and then recede. Nineteenth-century journalism. but not published until after her death in 1870. looking at the activities of the world through a telescope. Keywords: Harriet Martineau. looking at the ways in which Martineau negotiated different kinds of space. In this chapter I shall be moving between texts written at different times during Harriet Martineau’s extensive literary career. and telescope. pictures. through the windows. and prolific journalist and novelist. and connects these to her gender identity as woman. she found that “Sometimes the dim light of the windows in the night seemed to advance till it pressed upon [her] eyeballs. Victorian women. The essay considers not just Martineau’s claiming of a public existence. a text written in 1855. oppressed by “a horrid lump at [her] throat” after drinking milk that disagreed with her. both physical and mental. patient. reiterated very exactly .

Martineau. took on the job of explaining Malthus and birth control to the masses in her story “Weal and Woe in Garveloch”. the dangers to the female pen of such potentially inflammatory subject matter. position themselves on this dangerous and shifting frontier between self and other. A woman who thinks child-bearing a crime against society! An unmarried woman who declaims against marriage!! A young woman who deprecates charity and a provision to the poor!!! (Croker 1833: 136) Not content with simply stating the obvious limitations of femaleness for the Victorian woman. “remarkably open to the world” (1877: 2). and creates a case that must be broken if Martineau is not to be crushed by the mundane character of her domestic life. leaving her. as she wrote. The infamous review in The Quarterly Review. and yet these reviews find ways of suggesting that Martineau has indeed moved beyond the realm assigned to her. The familiar Victorian idea of separate spheres is endlessly played out. the vulnerability of moving beyond the protective carapace of the home. as she puts it in her Autobiography. Her family. and one that gets to the heart of Martineau’s uneasy relationship with the public world. and epitomises her representation of the world in which she moves. It is an odd image. inside and outside. The analogies she repeatedly uses throughout her works explore just such vulnerability. Martineau 1849: 63). is very typical of her written understanding of the world around her.36 Lucy Bending in other texts (see. as she describes it. in which John Wilson Croker deliberately and vaingloriously set out to “tomahauk” the young writer and thus establish his own journalistic career desperately seeks to position her within what he sees to be her proper sphere. outside its wall of protective safety. and her very public exposition of her life and views. such a character is nothing to a female Malthusian. as she takes up her pen to enter public debate for the first time. for example. Domestic life is confining and enclosing. to the prying outside world. but her explorations of self. and. and concurrent resistance. Not only this. and yet they equivocate over the legitimacy of her freedom. concomitantly. Croker pushes Martineau beyond the bounds of the accept- . It is this to which John Wilson Croker objects and the – to him – questionable femininity of a woman who takes up the subject of sexual relations and procreation: But no. that she “was outgrowing [her] shell” (1877: 113) and “they had patience with me till I had rent it and cast it off ” (1877: 113). as the tender shellfish is left. recognising. but the image also suggests the violence needed to effect this. As part of her series on Political Economy. sensitive and unprotected. Alexis Easley gathers together a collection of responses to Martineau’s works as part of her essay on the way in which Martineau was defined by her contemporaries as a “feminine transgressor” (Brake 2000: 155) at the time when she wrote. could not help but see.

If Martineau used the image of the outgrown shell as a way of exploring her relationship to the public sphere and the growth of her mind. obsessed Martineau and formed part of her mental paraphernalia becomes evident in the Autobiography’s description of her mother’s illness and the eventual necessity for keeping her within doors for her own protection. It is a duplicitous image that suggests not just the impossibility of sustaining such a position – there must inevitably be a Fall – but also the self-limitation of female thought that bangs against the walls of its own innocence. She was daily getting out into the crowded streets by herself. What the distress from this was to me may be judged of by the fact that for many months after my retreat to Tynemouth. That the idea of boundaries. or over the banisters … and that it was my fault” (1877: 442). As Martineau seeks to escape the confines of conventional femininity. Feminine lack of knowledge. as it runs wildly but ineffectually round the prison of its own limited understanding. and yet both position the writer differently in relation to it. when she could not see a yard before her. thus overtly seeking to block her passage into print. Croker deliberately sets out to position her firmly within the confines of paternalism and its defining sentence structures. “run[s] wild” and yet encloses itself within “the paradise of its own conceptions”. and transgressed stereotypes as he modulates her femaleness with her unmarried state and then her youth. and marks her off from the conventional Victorian maiden with an escalating series of exclamation marks. I rarely slept without starting from a dream that my mother had fallen from a precipice. Both share the same vision of a confining perimeter. claiming that “A young lady can scarcely possess the experimental knowledge of mankind. This is the dangerous image of the woman who “was daily getting out” but lacked the vision to make use of. coupled with confidence. or even survive. The physical debility of Martineau’s mother – her blindness and consequent inability to negotiate space without aid – cruelly embodies the type of helpless femininity that Croker so cavalierly pictured in Martineau in his attempt to confine her. The reviews Easley collects in her article as the substantiation of her argument are fascinating responses to exactly this problem of freedom and enclosure. making such enclosure a necessary part of her psychic make-up. without which a confident imagination must occasionally run wild in the paradise of its own conceptions” (Easley 2000: 156). such .Falling Over the Banister 37 able. and their dangerous permeability. The Edinburgh Review bizarrely cannot decide how to position a woman who moves outside the conventional sphere of the drawing-room. Radical uncertainty underlies this. the writer here reshuffles this idea. and re-encloses her. Martineau complains: “my mother would not be taken care of. to provide an increasing series of enclosure and placement. italics.

to the language of limitation of vision and of enclosure. Like the figure of the blind mother “daily getting into the crowded streets”. is how one can legitimately broach this confining wall. Pedantry indicates the first struggle of intellect with its restraints”(1839: 227). Society in America. whose proper purview is the domestic sphere” (Easley 2000: 156). and does so through the medium of narrow morals. as she returns repeatedly to the same themes and ideas. look at me: see how I am suffering” (Webb. and yet pedantry “is the result of an intellect which cannot be wholly passive. legitimises struggle against restraint and sees it as a sign of growth and development. takes solace where it can: American women.38 Lucy Bending freedom. It is as though Martineau is in direct dialogue with her critics. 1960: 199). saying. There has been a great deal written about Martineau’s dangerous entry into public. makes plain Martineau’s concern with the dangers of confinement and the possibility that holding someone in against their will. have in her eyes become pedantic. in fact. Her book. force them over the edge and into the dangerous and precipitous outside. The dangers become apparent in a comment Thomas Carlyle made after reading Life in the Sick-Room. In a similar fashion to the image of the outgrown seashell. the American woman struggles and demonstrates force. will. The dangers of the precipice are self-evident. in Martineau’s own words. published in 1837. As Alexis Easley argues in her essay on Martineau and the periodical press. published life and my aim is to explore her representations of space in the light of such negotiations. but must demonstrate some force. The question Martineau is led to ask. as Easley points out. when he complains that Martineau presents herself “as if she were a female Christ. who. who was supposed not to draw attention to herself. unwilling to let her waywardly-intentioned daughter move to London to take up a job in proofreading. Martineau. The edges of things – the precipice and the banisters – become uncomfortable regions of danger. deliberately chose to “remand” (1877: 113) her within the parental home: a situation arousing a massive sense of injustice at her “position of helplessness and dependence” in the daughter (1877: 113). however limited. and yet the conjunction of the precipice with the banisters that should protect and guard. Martineau’s Illustrations of Political Economy (1823–4) were seen to be “beyond the scope of a young woman. It is a strange role-reversal for the younger Martineau as her mother had. Whilst there is some substance in Carlyle’s claim – a fact that Martineau herself acknowledged in her later recognition of the self-obsession and “dismal self-consciousness” . It is a question that is asked throughout her works. responding in her dreams and on the page. earlier been the gaoler. Similarly. here writing of American women. due to the confinement of their intellect. and generally denied to women. publishing was a tricky business for a woman.

persistently representing particular events in terms of a physical geography. I could still swear to: but the magnifying my own experience. Certainly. the desperate concern as to my own ease and happiness. Martineau points out that whilst she herself “was as busy as anyone on the sunny plain of life. When offered a job correcting proofs – a job that her mother prevents her from taking – she writes that she “rejoiced unspeakably in this opening” (1877: 113). in these terms.Falling Over the Banister 39 (1877: 459) of Life in the Sick Room1 – it does make very plain the dangers. Writing to her unnamed dedicatee at the beginning of Life in the Sick-Room. put most bluntly when Martineau writes of the publication of her Tales of Political Economy. heartily despise a considerable part of the book. and the total inability to distinguish between the metaphysically apparent and the positively true. Martineau describes the beginnings and. similarly. Such an idea is. the image of entering and closing conjures up an enclosed and privileged space into which people may be allowed. it is almost invariably in these spatial terms. The Autobiography is 1 “All the facts in the book. pushes her understanding of specific places into the realms of metaphor. and the course clear” (1877: 201). she writes of “the wonderful scenes which life was now opening to me” (1877: 148). A space opens up before her. perhaps. and from which they may subsequently be excluded. make me. in her Autobiography. I heard of you laid aside in the shadowy recess where our sunshine of hope and joy could never penetrate to you” (2003: 39). the later meanderings of her literary career. indeed. to a woman. very typically. that “the barrier was down. Again. But there is an overt connection between Martineau’s sense of metaphorical space opening before her. saying that such behaviour would “close her career” on which she had “entered […] independently” (1877: 155). of asking for public recognition. to say the truth. that she turns down her brother’s offer to take on Croker after his abrasive Quarterly Review piece about Martineau. and it is extraordinary how many times this proves to be the case throughout her work. life for those who are well is that lived on a “sunny plain”. the moaning undertone running through what many people have called the stoicism. forced on her. the sick room is a place of enclosure in which the ill person is contained. and she deliberately and determinedly moves into it. and some of the practical doctrine of the sick-room. a broad expanse on which all things are possible. Such descriptions overtly rely on the sense of an initial enclosed space from which the writer is enabled to move on to the “sunny plain”. all directions may be taken. to negotiate public space in ways that did not shut down possibilities for her. Here. once she has indeed moved to London to work. When.” (1877: 458–59) . and the necessity. It is no surprise. What interests me particularly is the way in which Martineau repeatedly represents ideas in spatial terms. and. but Martineau goes further than this as she.

abhorred in the public woman. and force my way to that power of public speech of which I believed myself more or less worthy. (1877: 112) . publicly denounce such attention-seeking behaviour. her metaphorical imagination comes to the fore as she writes of a soirée which turns into a Whitehall farce: First. much that Martineau. who embodies. costing that sum. a ludicrous examination by Lady Mary. she insists that. as. Her description of this liberation overtly connects her mental condition with the idea of space and movement through it. in the flashiness of her description. After the collapse of her father’s business – an event that forced his children to provide for themselves – Martineau delightedly took to her pen. demanding her position as cynosure. and so was the exertion of all my faculties. which she had so earned. as she boasted. Her exaltation at what others took to be a “calamity” (Martineau 1877: 108) is very apparent as she looks back on the event that freed her from the confines of the home and genteel poverty. I was boarded by Lady Stepney. The diamonds that stand as the objective correlative of her earned wealth. Escaping from this. She paraded a pair of diamond earrings. rather than meeting Lockhart at an evening party. There is no sense that Martineau recognises the achievements of a successful fellow female writer here: she simply derides the woman who deliberately draws attention to herself. receiving seven hundred pounds apiece for her novels. the ostentatiously vulgar Lady Stepney. as public presence is made manifest in expensive jewels. that of will to overcome my obstructions. yell – as Carlyle put it – “look at me” to all who see her. She was first “set down” and later “boarded” in a hilariously piratical fashion by. and made to undergo. Such pain at public exposure forms a complicated analogue to Martineau’s earlier ejection into a necessarily public life. So it is that she writes: The deep-felt sense of progress and expansion was delightful.40 Lucy Bending full of stories of her making a run for it so that she is not forced into compromising situations. Again. and. she “will go out at one door of the drawing-room when he comes in at the other” (1877: 157). and Martineau’s seeming helplessness in the face of societal commitments. Martineau’s capability for independent action is stripped from her by decorum as she cannot. not least. who was then. for example. writing essays and reviews for periodicals. The possibility of escape comes in the form of identification with a ship with the potential for slipping its moorings and escaping out to sea. and gave her “scope for action” (1877: 108). a popular writer of Silver Fork novels in the 1830s. is manifest. to an opposite sofa. as Martineau portrays her. about how I wrote my series. at least in her written manifestations. I was set down beside Lady Charlotte Bury. for her satisfaction. and what I thought of it. (1877: 280) The passiveness of the sentence structures. or at least feels that she cannot.

on an enclosed space away from the encroaching world. once again. Martineau’s withdrawal into the enclosed walls of the sickroom is. or to read aloud – I being the reader. Desperate to establish a career as a writer. as well as from the pressures of publicity levied on the famous author. nevertheless – either in the early morning. but her emphasis deliberately makes her someone who is heard. After forging a career in the public world. but on quite the opposite: on an escape from the defined and demarcated life put before her. a word that holds within it the idea of a place of shelter from pursuit or danger or trouble. as her plaintive cry testifies: If ever I shut myself into my own room for an hour of solitude. recognises the profound difficulty facing any woman in creating what Virginia Woolf has famously designated “a room of one’s own”. But I won time for what my heart was set upon. She is compelled to “force [her] way to [the] power of public speech”. making plain that her presence in print is part of a process and debate rather than an end point in itself. What is. The Autobiography. (1877: 78) The refuge she seeks relies not. a “sick prisoner” . once again marking out a profound ambivalence about the nature of interior spaces and their safety. as she repeatedly states in Life in the Sick-Room. However. a book deeply interested in the processes and problems of writing. on the one hand. on account of my growing deafness. In stressing “progress and expansion” she deliberately sets herself apart from the stasis represented by Lady Stepney’s transmutation of earned money into ostentatious stuff that attracts attention. or late at night. using it in antithetical senses. on first sight. In the second half of this essay I want to think about Martineau’s related insistence on the setting up of a refuge – a place to escape from the double demands of her position: of her femaleness and its domestic obligations. and she is similarly “boarded” by members of her own family as well as strangers. however. striking about her insistence on the need for just such a refuge is that she plays fast and loose with the idea of such a stronghold. as one might expect. and yet it leaves Martineau vulnerable and potentially open to the viewing public. as does her insistence on the right understanding of things.Falling Over the Banister 41 “Progress and expansion was delightful”. The public bombardment of evening soirées is re-enacted in her own home as there is no private space permitted to her. or better still read. perhaps surprising. On a number of occasions in her Autobiography she refers specifically to the need for a refuge. She is. her insistence on the plasticity of the enclosed space comes to the fore. rather than someone who is looked at. I knew it was at the risk of being sent for to join the sewing-circle. Martineau finds that physical space – and the possibility of creating an interior space of the mind – is almost impossible for her to claim as her own.

but I am interested by the ways in which Martineau negotiates and understands the enclosed space that she so carefully establishes. as well as the opportunity it offered to the sufferer have been admirably explored in Maria H. and telescope trained on the local farm labourers. The pleasures and privileges of the sickroom. Such doubleness of perception runs throughout Martineau’s writings. here allowing the reader to contemplate her comments on blindness in the light of her obdurate emphasis on the difficulties and necessities of close observation: There is no department of inquiry in which it is not full as easy to miss truth as to find it. Invalidism and Identity in Nineteenth-Century Britain. knowledge and method are necessary to enable him to take what is actually before his eyes and under his hand. Martineau’s obsession with the observation of specific objects is. and to claim her time as her own. In this chapter I am particularly interested not just in Martineau’s overt claiming of a public existence. There is no need here to rehearse those arguments. In the dedication of the work. and yet she undoubtedly values the freedom that the sickroom gives her. How to Observe. from the encroachments of those who wish to “board” her. Objects “actually present to our senses” are only the springboard to a full apprehension of what . Retiring into the privacy of her own space gives her the opportunity to keep people out. A child does not catch a goldfish in water at the first trial. as Lady Stepney and her vulgar earrings had endeavoured. in a parallel fashion to her passivity in the face of the encroachments of public life. walls that both imprison the patient. Morals and Manners. and yet allow a wider freedom. in a way typical of Martineau’s writing. pictures. in ways that had been impossible to her in public life. been passively drawn in to the place. they may be something other than they appear to be to the undifferentiating eye. perhaps. a book that seeks to awaken the analytical and carefully descriptive spirit in travellers. even when the materials from which truth is to be drawn are actually present to our senses. Martineau speaks of the time “When I was myself withdrawn into such a recess” (2003: 39) of illness as that of the unnamed dedicatee of the book. yet strangely elastic. clearest in her 1838 work. and however clear the water. Frawley’s. The opening paragraph of the text. through the windows. and whilst truth lies in them.42 Lucy Bending (2003: 66). (1838: 1) Things themselves are tricky. however good his eyes may be. but also that she has. In this she suggests both the narrowness of the place and its temporal removal from the ordinary run of affairs. and the possibilities of a “reprieve from the daily realities of the workaday world” (Frawley 2004: 206). links backwards and forwards to so many other passages that she wrote. but also in the writer’s relationship to the confines of the sick-room itself – a physically-realised space with firmly demarcated. as it got a grip on her and held her in. however mediated.

when rightly seen. . and the ordinariness of objects that then take on totemic qualities. and this analogy encapsulates Martineau’s thought as it takes form in her work. for him. for Martineau. in her prose. The blind mother stumbling over the banisters and failing to recognise or understand the hidden realities of the world not only represents the dangers of her mother’s actual condition to the dreaming Martineau. like the early vision of the warping room. The sick-room is. The contents of the room – the sofa. as she explores the totemic qualities of objects. as sofas and armchairs all over the country have. Both the prison and the furniture entrap people. Things. who laughs at the misinterpretations of those who enter into the space that she controls from her sickbed. It is as though this piece of furniture has taken hold of her so that she cannot escape. Martineau insists that things are not just objects to be stumbled upon. The boy’s failure to understand becomes a way of encoding the misinterpretation of things by all who visit. 2 Martineau. It is a chance whether he puts a right interpretation on any of the facts he perceives” (1838: 16). have a meaning established by their function in the world outside the sick-room. the bookshelves – are profoundly unreadable to those who are not ill. a boy who visits the sick writer is seen to be “greatly admiring the luxuries around [her]. keeping them in one place against their will. claimed their victims. but are a semiotic system to be rightly understood by the skilful and practised interpreter. and who are tempted to read them in terms of the pleasure they seem to provide. both a concept – a place of meditation and of suffering – and a physically-realised space.Falling Over the Banister 43 they might entail. as for the majority of those who visit. [and …] every arm-chair of the aged and blind” (2003: 128–9). And yet each one of these things can leap out of the background and into significance and prominence for Martineau. Her claim that she is “prisoner to her couch” suggests just such a way of thinking. on one occasion. In a very symptomatic fashion. the pictures. objects that.2 Things are not simply what they seem to outsiders. but also very closely enacts her understanding of perception and its difficulties. Again. had the potential to be both inside a room and outside it. draws an analogy between “the dungeons of Spielberg” and “every couch of the sick. How to Observe makes it plain that whilst “the blind and deaf traveller” – and it is perhaps no coincidence that Martineau herself was largely deaf from an early age – “must suffer under deprivation or deficiency of certain classes of facts […] the condition of the unphilosophical traveller is much worse. and thence proceeding to reckon up a large amount of privilege and enjoyment in [Martineau’s] possession and prospect” (1877: 61). and it is this understanding that illuminates much of what Martineau writes in Life in the Sick-Room.

Her room becomes not just a physical space. The drab surroundings. escapes from the discourtesies of the Reed’s household through the intervention of Bewick’s History of British Birds. act as a foil to such talismanic objects. for example. she claims. but Martineau’s vision of the shifting universe is rather more explicit and talismanic than this. or the cosy little party of elderly folk round the fire or the tea-table. Martineau insists on her ability to escape.44 Lucy Bending but enter into new relationships of meaning with those who are ill. Even within the enclosing walls of the sick-room. will notice “how priceless are certain pictures to us. in ways that are epitomised by the use of her highly-prized telescope. Jane Eyre. but the analogue of her mental processes: By means of that inimitable telescope we carry about in us. Her physical surroundings become a means of understanding her social isolation and stoicism. and defies distance and house-walls) I see in turn a Christmas tree. the involuntary plodders within narrow bounds” (2003: 75). Travel writing – a mode much valued by Martineau – allows ill readers “out of our prison for a holiday” giving to the “chamber-dwellers. in comparison with all others” (2003: 126) in bringing consolation to the viewer. (which acts as well in the pitch-dark night as at noon. their freedom from the prison that is the sick-room. in ways that are recurrent throughout the text. and yet the ensuing discussion makes plain that Martineau envisages a very specific mechanism of comfort. and to move beyond the physical containment of the room. The telescope is not simply a piece of equipment. in which sufferers find themselves “weary of the aspect of a chest of drawers” (2003: 74) that confronts them at all hours. specifically flags in her case. but a kind of container that is “full of pain” (Martineau 2003: 45) as it transforms itself into the box where she “keeps [her] miseries under lock and key” (2003: 60). (2003: 62–3) She is clearly imagining other rooms and other scenes. that allowed her to spy into the houses and gardens of her neighbours. and one based on imaginative freedom and movement. with its tapers glittering in a room full of young eyes. In the first instance. but also require new modes of understanding to recognise their signification. its workings give a rationale to her own sense of the warping quality of space – a quality that allows her mentally and imaginatively to go beyond the room in which she is confined. may become an “outward symbol which serves as communication between [the confined invalid] and the world” . Anyone entering the sick-room. or the games and the dance. Whilst the telescope allows her “actually [to] see […] the gay crowds that throng the opposite shore after church” (2003: 62). Objects. such pictures seem simply to provide comfort in their subject matter that allows the sufferer to “find something there which seems to set us right” (2003: 126). Such a claim is clearly not unusual.

or palmy West Indian groves” (2003: 138).) hints at a more thoroughgoing process.Falling Over the Banister 45 (2003: 137). Whilst. or tropical sands. unknown to anyone. as celebrity seekers force their way into her home against Martineau’s will: Sometimes it was a lady from the country. the “Union Jack on the flag-staff […] marks Sunday to me in a way I would not miss”. into a literary career. in their engagement with the imaginative powers. as the prompting power of a book has “opened our prison-doors. and yet filling pages of her Autobiography with an article. flags. ironically. Such “mute token[s]”. The language of description here overtly mirrors the language of freedom in the Autobiography as the young Martineau forced her way out of the family home. they are “tokens”. claiming that the practice is entirely abhorrent to her. the walls that allow escape can still suffer a breach. and engage me in conversation while the companion took pos3 Martineau flirts with her own “lionisation” by the British public. or chilly pine forests spread before me. who desired to pour her sorrows into my bosom. The sight of the flag allows her to “see in a moment the peaks of Sulitelma or of the Andes.). in the context of such imaginative freedom. but also such things as the “notice of a concert. driven by “the power of ideas” (2003: 142) makes the removal – in thought – from the sick room possible. that Martineau. It is no surprise. and led us a long flight over mountain and moor” (2003: 76). and that there was no particular reason why I should enter into it with a perfect stranger […] Sometimes some slight acquaintance or another would enter with a companion. in the outside world. Her repeated claim that she does not wish to engage in “the disgusting task of detailing old absurdities and dwelling on old flatteries” (1877: 141) is somewhat undermined by such extensive quotation. Such things are not simply reminders of a world from which the sufferer is precluded. a world of things to me” (2003: 137). beat a retreat into her sick-room and found in it the power of escape into “a boundless career [that] opened to me within the four walls of my room” (2003: 58). This kind of visitor could never be made to understand that it takes two to make a friendship. pragmatically. but. and one that lifts her physically from the confines of the sick-room and replaces her. “signals” and “talismans” able to “implement [their own kind] of natural magic which may possibly operate at the most hopeless times” (2003: 142). . or the summits of the Ghauts. the lionised writer.3 besieged and boarded by her appreciative public. and yet “boundless thought” (2003: 128). the “instrumentality of signals” (ibid. or a picture” (ibid. But. The sufferer “cannot go in bodily presence” (2003: 97) on such journeys outside the sickroom. and swear eternal friendship. “Literary Lionism”. at large. that she published in the Westminster Review in 1839. with its compulsory needlework and reading aloud. “speak.

as earlier in the Autobiography. ‘Miss Martineau’s Monthly Novels’ in Quarterly Review. . If Martineau uses objects talismanically to escape the walls that enclose her. [1837] 1839. is the desire to escape the confines of society through the power of language and the forces of the imagination.46 Lucy Bending session of a sheet of my writing paper. Alexis. whilst slight acquaintances force an entry into the sickroom to gain the paraphernalia of fame. Basingstoke: Palgrave: 154–64. New York: Columbia University Press. Frawley. 1832. Webb. (eds) Nineteenth Century Media and the Construction of Identities. and put the sketch into her reticule. Maria Weston Chapman). Maria H. still wet. Invalidism and Identity in Nineteenth-Century Britain. then such admiring interlopers endeavour to reverse the process. . [1844] 2003. 1987. London: Saunders and Otley. John Wilson. 1838. Harriet Martineau: A Radical Victorian. 1849. London: Charles Knight. 2000. 2nd ed. whether in the youthful pieties of Life in the Sick-Room. Elizabeth Barrett Browning. London: Charles Fox. of entering and of guarding entrances. or the more measured tones of the Autobiography. or rather. . . the entry into a friendship. and taken away to be framed or laid up in lavender. conceived of as a shared space. by which time the ostensible visitor was ready to go away. Autobiography (ed. Life in the Sick-Room (ed. stealing objects directly connected to Martineau’s persona as a writer – her pen and paper – only to frame them. Household Education. What Martineau’s language suggests. Bibliography Croker. 1877. Maria Frawley). How to Observe: Morals and Manners. Osgood. Easley.Toronto: Broadview. Sometimes my pen was filched from my inkstand. 3 vols. Gender and Power in Victorian Culture: Harriet Martineau and the Periodical Press’ in Brake. . Deidre. A friendship is entered into. George Eliot. 1833. is refused. Boston: James R. or even asked me for a pencil. Weal and Woe in Garveloch: A Tale. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. applied to things not normally conceived of in spatial terms. Laurel et al. ‘Authorship. 1960. Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard. in an attempt to hold their idea of Martineau and to keep it within the bounds of what they know. April: 136–52. sketched me.Society in America. 2004. (1877: 307–8) There is the same language here. Martineau. Intellectual Women and Victorian Patriarchy: Harriet Martineau. David. Robert K. Harriet. . Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

becoming at the same time a commodity. mostly female. a tourist attraction of the oriental journey. accessible to the middle-classes. suspending the separations between the public and the private. to an oriental tableau. hammam. retained only in sketches (or later on. late nineteenth century women travellers could transgress certain gender restrictions and as writers interpret foreign cultures for a middle-class. the “transitory. the fugitive. Victorian. a liminal space. A central paradigm of the connection between space and power in women’s travelogues on the Orient is the Turkish bath. A visit to the baths was a necessary stop in the tour of the Levant for travellers from the mid to the late nineteenth century. as a space not only for consuming but also gazing and . As a form of leisure activity. invoking Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s famous letter of her visit to the baths at Sofia in 1717. a trope of the Orient itself. Facilitated by the rise of tourism. The adjectives that signal urban modernity. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Keywords: women travellers. could also apply to travel in the context of the nineteenth century rise of tourism. between social classes and ethnicities. the Parisian Arcade. experiences and sites. a “natural” female naked world. The visit to the hammam has an additional emblematic role for British women travellers. Another emblem of modernity. Walter Benjamin. the contingent”. introduced in Charles Baudelaire’s The Painter of Modern Life to suggest the rhythm of the changing city. British audience. which in ways similar to Benjamin’s Passage functions as an emblem. Julia Pardoe. postcards and journal entries. whose accounts transform Montagu’s “feminotopia”. illustrating the connection between space and power. which initiated a discourse informing the representation of the oriental women. flâneuse. the Passage. Like the Parisian Arcade.Private Rituals and Public Selves: The Turkish Bath in Women’s Travel Writing Efterpi Mitsi abstract This chapter relates the “invisible flâneuse” of the urban space with the invisible women travellers. orientalism. tourism rests on a quick succession of impressions. photographs). Lady Esther Stanhope. a space not only for consuming but also for gazing. the hammam is a public interior. travel writing.

like the shopper or even the window-shopper of the western metropolis. which has been well examined and theorized in contemporary critical discourse. just as “the urban observer. which became accessible as a leisure activity to middle-class British women in the mid-nineteenth century. which generously financed my participation in that conference. has a purposive mobility which goes against the detachment and aimless strolling of the flâneur. Furthermore. he has created a figure offering “philosophical insight into the nature of modern subjectivity” (Buck-Morss 1989: 104). so is the nineteenth century woman traveller. observing and being observed.1 Although the traveller. has been regarded as an exclusively male figure” (Parsons 2000: 4). who makes the urban crowd legible to a bourgeois audience. a key to the understanding of modernity. “while the solitary and independent life of the flâneur was not open to women. the organized tours. women were active and visible in other ways in the public arena” (1989: 153). is paradoxically connected to the new ways and forms of travel. I would like to thank the research-funding program “Kapodistrias” of the University of Athens. despite evidence that many Victorian and Edwardian women travelled abroad. without necessarily interacting with other people. and often did so alone. the Balkans and the Middle East) by nineteenth 1 This chapter developed out of a paper that I delivered at the ESSE Zaragoza Conference 2004. was tourism. . the visit to the foreign place became one of the public spheres in which women “could experience some freedom of mobility and also create a space for aesthetic expression” (Löfgren 2002: 100). as both a social phenomenon and a metaphor for the modernist artist. a new and more democratic form of travel than the Grand Tour. Although Benjamin in the completed portions of his project on the Parisian arcades “dismisses the flâneur as a fairly transparent social fantasy” (Brand 1991: 6). a way in which “respectable” middle-class women could stroll in cities. who facilitated by the rise of tourism could escape from domesticity and transgress gender restrictions. “a botanist on asphalt”. As Janet Wolff argues. its detached observer and gifted interpreter. The connection between flâneuse and traveller is evident in the representations of private and public spaces in the Ottoman Empire (which included Turkey and parts of Greece. Walter Benjamin’s Das Passagen Werk defines the Passage as the location of consumer fetishism. One of these ways was travel. dominated by the flâneur.48 Efterpi Mitsi strolling. nineteenth century women writing their impressions of different cultures often strove to attain the aesthetic distance associated with the flâneur. This chapter seeks to relate the “invisible flâneuse” (Wolff 1989) of the urban space with the invisible woman traveller. similarly to the anonymity of the urban crowd. which emphasize the commodification of the foreign place and turn the traveller to a consumer of natural sceneries and cultural sites. Indeed.

Lewis 1996 and 2004). the analysis of nineteenth century women’s travel writing. complicating the simple sociological insight that people describe themselves by explaining how they are different from something else – the other. a discourse designed to describe and interpret “the other” for its readers. Scholarship has also become increasingly aware of the complex configuration of gender. Therefore. instigated a colonialist mentality. and above all travel writers. which like Benjamin’s Passage functions as an emblem.Private Rituals and Public Selves 49 century British women travellers. Ottoman Empire and Europe is embedded in an orientalist discourse that developed in the late seventeenth century. focusing on how women travellers in the Ottoman Empire perceived and represented the spaces that were inaccessible to western men. which sometimes included bathhouses. who interpreted the Orient for an emergent middle-class audience consisting primarily of women. One of the central paradigms of spatial configurations in these women’s travelogues is the Turkish bath. East and West. and Stabler 2002). . In the Introduction. that the examination of the development of Englishwomen’s travel writing in the eighteenth and nineteenth century in England and the continent has demonstrated that differences in the reconstruction of the “other place” by way of gender. needs to address the question of women’s relation to power. Chaudhuri and Strobel 1992. The recent critical interest in women’s travel writing places their journeys and texts in the context of colonialism and imperialism.3 In the broader discussion of the values and limits of orientalism as a discourse. religions. 1992. the editors call for an examination of European women’s part not only in imperialism but also in “other forms of class and cultural exploitation” (1992: 3). race and class in the representations of other cultures. meet and mix.2 Said argued that the confrontation of Islam and Christianity. as well as ethnicities. however. the investigation of women’s sources challenges masculinist histories of orientalism. leading to the imperialist project. Like the Parisian Arcades. Since Edward Said’s groundbreaking volume Orientalism in 1978 (and the many responses it generated). 3 This is indeed the title of Nupur Chaudhuri’s and Margaret Strobel’s collection of essays. Western Women and Imperialism: Complicity and Resistance. Parker et al. Bohls 1995. a focus that usually privileges non-European and “exotic” travels. class and ethnic identity are as important in European destinations (see Turner 2001. postcolonial theory has emphasized how orientalist and imperialist discourses are gendered and has explored the role of women in anti-colonial and postcolonial politics (see Mills 1991. orientalists. their resistance to or complicity with the imperial voice. For Said. becoming at the same time a commodity. instead of bridging cultures. a tourist attraction of the oriental journey. a trope of the Orient itself. the hammans of the multicultural Ottoman Empire are public interiors. Sharpe 1993. 2 It should be noted. and discuss how the imperial project shaped gender ideology. politics and art. where social classes. the hammam.

Not only did Ingres eliminate the traveller’s presence from the scene. Although their accounts were of course orientalist in a number of ways. where all the news of the town is told.50 Efterpi Mitsi Since the first encounters between Europe and the Ottoman Empire in the early modern period. Since the publication of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s Turkish Embassy Letters. The traveller fetishized the unknown. Europeans examined Muslim social institutions. The visit to the hammam had an additional emblematic role for British women travellers. becoming for the first time in the context of travel a privilege rather than a hindrance. Her letters emphasized that the baths “were not public retreats but public institutions – civic spaces in which women from different households could come temporarily together” (Yeazell 2000: 40). their representation of private spaces differs from the popular male travelogues of the period. However. a visit to a harem – and by extension to the even more accessible hamman – became de rigueur to every Englishwoman traveller to Turkey. corresponded to the desire to enter the forbidden space of the women who lived in these regions. scandal invented etc” (1994: 59). constructing himself as the male western subject. invoking Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s visit to the baths at Sofia in 1717. Montagu’s description of the bathers epitomized their colonial fantasy. Without suggesting that gender is a homogeneous or stable category. a famous 1862 painting based on her account and reminiscent of a keyhole voyeur. Although for the author the hammam represented the Turkish women’s public life marked by an admirable decorum. based on their own social definitions of space and invented stories about life within the harem for a European audience. translating the alien space in terms of her century’s popular public spaces. erasing in this way the confrontation between cultures recorded in Montagu’s letter. Among the works on the Orient Ingres had read was the Navigations et peregrinations orientales of the sixteenth century French traveller Nicolas de Nicolay (Yeazell . in opposition to the erotic and feminized Orient. the fascination of westerners with this “exotic” place and the ensuing urge to control it. alluding to the male travellers’ tales of lesbianism in the harem. the very inaccessibility of eastern women gave the opportunity to women travellers in these regions to compete against their male counterparts. which concluded with Ingres’ Le Bain Turc. and her famous letter that initiated an entire discourse informing the view and representation of the oriental women. but he also introduced insinuations of homoeroticism. the examination of British women’s depictions of the hamman throughout the nineteenth century reveals the ambiguities of the orientalist discourse. as their gender allowed them to enter the harem. for male readers or travellers to the Orient. Montagu interpreted the hammam as the “women’s coffee house. After a detailed and highly aesthetic description of the bathers. such as the seclusion of space and gender.

entering a complex architectural space. there were two more editions of Nicholay’s travelogue in French. many nineteenth century artists. and many others. whose eroticism rests on the contrast of light and dark female bodies. novelists and dramatists depicted oriental women in scenes from the harem and the hammam. Jean-Leon Gerôme. one in Dutch.5 Despite making a private scene public. On Gérôme’s use of black and white bodies see also Nochlin 1989: 47. intended to titillate the male western reader. so ful they are of luxuriousness and feminine wantonness: Even as in times past were the Tribades. in such sort that perceiving some maiden or woman of excellent beauty they wil not cease until they have found means to bath with them. Jean-Jules Antoine Lecomte du Nouy. one of the best-known orientalist painters. orientalist representations of the baths emphasize the sense of exclusion and danger by asking the viewer to play the role of the voyeur. portrays in Le Bain maure (1870) a nude fair-skinned bather being washed by a half-nude black slave in a space full of Islamic architectural details and artifacts. arches and vaults. . based on similar fantasies. there is very amity proceeding only through the frequentation & resort to the bathes: yea & sometimes become so fervently in love the one of the other as if were with men. Besides Ingres. which identified the women’s baths as a place for homoerotic encounters: Amongst the women of Levant. (Nicolay 1585: 60)4 Nicolay’s assertions. 5 On the racial diversity of the harem and the fantasies it produced on western travellers. stairs. On the issue of slavery and race in the harem see Lewis 1996: 129–32. & to handle & grope them every where at their pleasure. one in German and one in English. The meticulous realism of the painting offers (false) authenticity to a western fantasy. of the number whereof was Sapho the Lesbian. whose thematic focus on female spaces reflects a desire to interpret as well as to appropriate the Orient by identifying it with its women. on a sexualized merger of slavery and seclusion. painters and poets see Yeazell 2000: 104–06. Within twenty years of its publication in 1568. illustrate how the representation of the Orient in European texts has been since the Renaissance “a fantasy built upon sexual difference” (Yegenoglu 1998: 11). two in Italian. The theme of the Turkish bath offered nineteenth-century painters like Gerôme. Edouard Debat-Ponsan. the opportunity of depicting highly eroticized female nudes without offending the propriety of their middle-class buyers. such as a bronze engraved basin. Orientalism informs a genre of European art and literature from the nineteenth century. Théodore Chassériau. For example. defined by columns.Private Rituals and Public Selves 51 2000: 263–36). Washington the Younger. luxurious fabrics and Iznik tiles. 4 The quotation is from the 1585 English translation of the French text by T.

shouldn’t be surprising. as Meyda Yegenoglu (1998) and Jill Campbell (1994) have pointed out. Even a short excerpt from her letter suffices to indicate the difference from women travellers which will be quoted in the essay: They walked and moved with the same majestic grace. Harriet Martineau. for whom the hammam was a necessary stop in the tour of the Levant. perfectly representing the figures of the graces. languid. Montagu’s genuine curiosity about the lives of eastern women was not shared by the majority of her successors. as exactly proportioned as ever any goddess was drawn. In fact. only adorned by their beautiful hair. the attempts of women travellers following Montagu to demystify the hammam. and narcissistic creature. divided into many tresses. (1994: 59) Her description could be seen as an orientalizing strategy. orientalist painters developed the myth of the eastern woman as a voluptuous. forcing oriental women into a western frame of reference. especially in the era of high imperialism. by the pencil of a Guido or Titian – And most of their skin shiningly white. was assimilated both to the previous fictional. Montagu’s representation of the Turkish women at the baths. one that neither the painter nor his audience would have seen. eroticized descriptions of the forbidden realm by male travellers (whom she attacked in her text) and to subsequent pictorial or literary renditions. a “feminotopia” (to borrow Mary Louise Pratt’s term) became an “Oriental tableau” (according to Dawson-Damer’s 6 Gérôme had visited and sketched the baths at Bursa but obviously not during the hours when women bathed there. In such depictions of the hammam. Sophia Lane Poole and Annie Harvey. as evidenced in accounts by Julia Pardoe.52 Efterpi Mitsi Following the iconographic tradition that has for centuries associated the nude with mythology. however. 7 Influenced by Neoclassicism. thus challenging the masculinist view of the Orient. debunking the western fantasy of hundreds of beautiful nude women. hanging on their shoulders. Renaissance painting and literature. There were many amongst them. In that context. .7 Most Englishwomen entering the baths in the nineteenth century. countered. Montagu’s image of a “natural” female naked world beyond the machinery of English fashion and masculinist imperatives. Georgianna Dawson-Damer. Frances-Anne Vane (Marchioness of Londonderry). by Montagu’s representation of the bathers as aesthetic rather than erotic objects. full of allusions to mythology. braided either with pearl or ribbon.6 Ironically. Montagu appreciates (and appropriates) the Orient through an ahistorical aesthetic discourse. representing the other’s body as disgusting and grotesque. disputed Montagu’s vision of beautiful and graceful bodies. which Milton describes our General Mother with. the male western gaze intrudes upon a private female space. as Elizabeth Bohls (1995) argues. insisting that “there was not the least wanton smile or immodest gesture among them” (1994: 59).

freezing life into a series of picturesque scenes and tableaux. I was at least forced to open my skirt and show them my stays. or even disgust. the concept of the traveller herself as a commodity. similar to Benjamin’s flâneur. but also the intimate connection between the Orient and the female body. For example. as tourists. their own bodies. already figures in Montagu’s letter: by revealing a glimpse of her underwear. However. According to Billie Melman. I excused myself with some difficulty. whose search. but also avoided “exposing” the bathers through their own descriptions (1995: 89). as Srinivas Aravamudan argues. the objects of the travellers’ study. (1994: 59–60) . Rather than a cultural interaction. Their representation of the hammam should be read in its historical context that includes not only the British imperial aspirations in the region but also the contemporary discourse of cleanliness fraught with notions of race and gender. nineteenthcentury women travellers not only criticized Lady Montagu for representing Ottoman women in the nude. for I saw they believed I was so locked up in that machine that it was not in my own power to open it. the eccentric traveller to the Orient. they being all so earnest in persuading me. Englishwomen reduced the human figures at the baths to “faceless ornaments” (Bohls 1995: 13). On the one hand. Accounts of the hammam from the beginning to the end of the century indicate the change in the way travellers perceive “the other” and her culture. Lady Hester Stanhope. rediscovery or critique reveal not only an instance of the general historical problem of how one culture portrays another.Private Rituals and Public Selves 53 words). whether dressed or undressed. as many claimed). also provoked curiosity and scrutiny. as the Englishwomen observed the other. a tour of the hammam became flanêrie. both the naked body of the bathers and the dressed (or even half-dressed) body of the travellers inevitably became objects of mutual curiosity. and for the mixed gaze back in England” (1995: 83). Montagu has to refuse. returned the gaze. without being observed (or provoking the least attention. on the other hand. desire. Montagu becomes “the fetish for the female gaze at the bath.8 It would be wrong to dismiss nineteenth-century women travellers for reproducing the orientalist stereotype of the Turkish baths as the embodiment of the sensual and indolent Orient and thus not resisting the imperial voice (as modern readers often wish). showing her “stays” and thus exposing her own body to be bound not only by fashion but also by the historical machinery of patriarchy and imperialism (Campbell 1994): The Lady that seemed the most considerable amongst them entreated me to sit by her and would fain have undressed me for the bath. in the hammam. Indeed. which contrivance they attributed to my Husband. in the beginning of the nineteenth century. in a letter 8 When she is invited to undress. as the bathers. which satisfied them very well.

but this I declined. and eat and talk for hours. dress […] not altogether unlike that of the pages of the Seraglio. is promptly refused. for a boy. (1846: 78) Although the letter starts with the admiration of the oriental women as aesthetic objects. after Stanhope’s death. signifying the “equestrian dominatrix” (Landry 2001: 471). they all hid and covered themselves in a great bustle. It is not only her cross-dressing. and were not convinced of the error for some time. but her nudity as well. And so serious were the doubts. Meryon. Charles Meryon. There is a further tease in this masquerade for the informed readers. when she went to the public baths frequented by the women of the place. and sit under trees till the evening. they bathed with all their ornaments on – trinkets I mean – and.54 Efterpi Mitsi from Bursa. The mistaking of the middle-aged Stanhope. The letter then returns to the aesthetizing and orientalizing stratagems that stress Stanhope’s difference and distance from the oneiric world of the baths. Dr. and the spectre of lesbian eroticism repressed as quickly as in Montagu’s description. that. The invitation. as Stanhope caused a scandal both at home and abroad by adopting the oriental male attire from the beginning of her travels in the East. in the same chapter of the travelogue. (1846: 81) Instead of a marker of Englishness. they bind up their hair with flowers. that acts out the gender subversion and the sexual provocation that had already informed Montagu’s letter a century earlier. emphasizes Stanhope’s ambiguous subject position: Doubts were raised whether Lady Hester was really a woman: for as she rode about in an English riding-habit. 9 The two-volume travelogue was actually written and published by her physician. . they fumble up their faces all but their eyes. who need the evidence of her naked body to believe she is a woman. and when I was bathing the other day. quoted in The Travels of Lady Hester Stanhope. However. Stanhope implies through the invitation by the Turkish woman that her own body is also an object to be seen and admired. the wife of a deposed pasha begged I would finish my bathing at a bath half a mile off. it was whispered about that she was a boy. the riding habit of the Englishwoman is a masquerade. recalling Montagu. a strange episode narrated by her physician. confusing and disguising identities and nationalities. Dr. however. that she might have the pleasure of my society. when they have finished. dressed in the common “travelling habit” of the Englishwoman abroad. causes excitement and titillation among the women at the baths.9 presents herself bathing and becoming the object of the gaze (or even of desire) of the Turkish women: How beautiful are these Asiatic women! They go to bath from fifty to five hundred together.

Pardoe’s poetic renditions of the women “reclining luxuriously upon their sofas […] in their fine white linen. Julia Pardoe in The City of the Sultan. Pardoe is resolved to “not only become a spectator but an actor in the scene” (1837: 129). the author describes the process of bathing. primarily as a bather rather than as a viewer. Pardoe partakes of the pleasure of a Turkish bath. and that in fine linen so perfectly saturated with vapour. “which have been advanced as acts. Montague [sic]. however. Pardoe wants to challenge the masculinist and orientalist representations of the bath. and Domestic Manners of the Turks. the focus of the visit to the hammam became the bath rather than the bathers. who remained imprisoned in her corset and riding habit in the midst of the naked crowd. almost leaving me in doubt whether that which I looked were indeed reality. Moreover. with the intention of correcting “the fables” of “Eastern tourists”. devoting an entire chapter to the detailed narration of the ritual. unlike Montagu. Indeed. with their fine hair falling about their shoulders” (1837: 132). But on the other hand. Either the fair Ambassadress was present at a peculiar ceremony. exhausting and troublesome” (1837: 134) and objects to “the great quantity of time that it consumes” (1837: 137). dense. passing and repassing. a sensual dreamworld beyond time or history. “the sight of nearly three hundred women only partially dressed. that it revealed the whole outline of the figure – the busy slaves. Pardoe seeks to control her own picture. 129). W. after admitting that it seemed like “an illusory semblance or phantasmagoria. calling it “tedious. from gazing to acting. or the Turkish ladies . by suffering imagination to usurp the office of vision” (1837: 1. “the reverberating domes of the bathing-halls”. “the heavy. or the mere creation of a distempered brain” (1837: 134). recall the orientalist paintings of Ingres and Gerôme. the narrator records a specific episode in history. Pardoe corrects Montagu by not fully exposing her bathers’ body and by insisting that her presence “did not create the slightest sensation among [them]” (1837: 137): I should be unjust did I not declare that I witnessed none of that unnecessary and wanton exposure described by Lady M. Moving from fantasy to reality. Like Montagu.Private Rituals and Public Selves 55 However. sulphureous vapour that filled the place”. Her representation of “the terrestrial paradise of Eastern women” (1837: 130) combines orientalist scenery with Victorian matter-of-factness. embroidered with gold. in the mid-nineteenth century. By constantly inserting her own presence in the scene as a somewhat reluctant participant but keen observer. naked from the waist upwards” (1837: 133). representing herself. in 1836 is the first Englishwoman after Montagu to describe in detail her experience at the hammam. the emphasis being on hygiene rather than sensuality. inviting the reader to reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of the hammam as well as on the significance of an Englishwoman’s presence there.

They were much surprised at its being so long. the reader cannot help but wonder at the absence of curiosity on the part of eastern women claimed by the author. dress.10 Humour. the ladies amusing themselves by peeping at us through a window above. a recurrent motif juxtaposed to the naked body of the other women. Despite different attitudes toward eastern women. regarding the nudity and sensuality associated with the hammam. Dawson-Damer. and the Holy Land. or rather steaming. by dressing her subjects in white robes. . chiefly. and took it down. which the Turkish women thought imprisoned its wearer. to see if it were my own. such as wearing robes while bathing. like the emphasis on hygiene and propriety. Besides. I fancy. as their own hair. In her account. Egypt. nor is it in the profusion of the Greeks. was another strategy employed by women travellers of the period to censor the “improper” thoughts of their readers. (1837: 136–37) Although a confrontation of cultures such as the juxtaposition between nudity and riding habit presented in Montagu’s letter is missing from Pardoe’s account. suggesting the intricate corsetry of the Victorian dress as well as alluding to Montagu’s underwear. the presence of a European woman in the baths couldn’t have been a common occurrence. The riding habit. who informs the reader that Lady Montagu is her husband’s great-grandmother. By avoiding a 10 Examining the history of cleanliness in the West. in all accounts of the period the hammam emerged as a fascinating yet dangerous space that Englishwomen had to control through their writing. though thick and of beautiful quality. Surely. experiences the ritual of the Turkish bath at Constantinople. Pardoe alludes to the nineteenth century moral concerns about bathing. a common practice not only in nunneries but also in upper-class homes. is of no great length. reappears in Georgianna Dawson-Damer’s Diary of a Tour in Greece. and I was rubbed with soft delightful soap by a white slave. unless the white linen robe succeeded as Pardoe’s masquerade. resisting its pleasures and debating on its merits. the gaze is reversed since it is the Turkish women who wonder at the Europeans rather than the opposite: A sort of silken mantle was given me for a bathing. Turkey. They seemed much put out by my declining to wash my hair. (1841: 228) Her account concludes with the humorous note that “a black slave was much amused at all the paraphernalia of my English dress” (1841: 228). such as the exposure of the naked body and the association between warm water and sexual arousal.56 Efterpi Mitsi have become more delicate and fastidious in their ideas of propriety. Georges Vigarello (1985) cites many examples of nineteenth century prudishness regarding personal hygiene. The towels were of silk and beautifully embroidered.

Poole finds the experience of having a Turkish bath “luxurious” and emphasizes in her lengthy description of the operation the pleasure felt while being “kneaded”. The juxtaposition between disgust and pleasure suggests a paradoxical response to the female body (her own included) and its sensations. The Englishwoman must close both eyes and ears as these “foreign scenes […] cannot fail to shock her feelings of propriety” (1844: 175). who feels exposed and threatened by the racial and social mixing at the hammam. The riding habit worn by Sophia Lane Poole in a Turkish bath in Cairo around 1842. an oscillation between frustrated voyeurism and genuine engagement. being both masculine and feminine and satisfying the conflicting demands of Victorian femininity and emergent feminism. However. The dreamlike world of the hammam. while others where sitting round the fountain. private and public. clean and dirty. She concludes the letter on the visit to the hammam in Cairo by insisting that “the Eastern manner of bathing is highly salubrious from its powerful effect on the skin”. full of pictorial details like the contrast between “glossy” black and “fairest” white bodies. Alison Matthews David (2002) emphasizes its paradoxical role in Victorian culture. conversing as though fully dressed. from the black and glossy shade of the Negro to the fairest possible hue of complexion. Persons of all colours. continuously oscillates between the binary oppositions of hot and cold. “latherered”. “in truth. but imagine my astonishment on finding at least thirty women of all ages and many young girls and children perfectly unclothed. a garment typical of and unique to the Victorian era. were formed in groups. evoking “the uterine memory of the mother” (Aravamudan 1995: 87). . Poole censors the eroticism and aestheti11 In an essay analyzing the Victorian riding habit. and “rubbed”. My companions had prepared me for seeing many persons undressed. Dawson-Damer conceals through her disengaged humour the Victorian travellers’ discomfort at a liminal space. (1844: 173) The traveller. confesses that the scene is not beautiful.Private Rituals and Public Selves 57 description of the bathers.11 is invested in her epistolary travelogue the Englishwoman in Egypt with the imperial project and is juxtaposed with the impurity and disorder signified by the naked body of the bathers: On entering the chamber a scene presented itself which beggars description. with perfect nonchalance. at the same time warning the reader that there are “drawbacks to the enjoyment of the luxury I have described” (1844: 175). indeed a favourite one in orientalist paintings. You will scarcely think it possible that no one but ourselves had a vestige of clothing. in some respects it is disgusting”. where the separation between the public and the private sphere is suspended. After inviting her readers to an orientalist tableau. hard and soft.

and the great height of the hall caused a reverberation that made the noise most bewildering” (1871: 76–77). by shifting the emphasis to hygiene and by finally admonishing Englishwomen (travellers and readers alike) to keep their eyes closed. is charged with notions of gender. race and class. “the clouds of sulphureous vapours”.58 Efterpi Mitsi cism of the scene. the “pandemonium”. like washing. as Anne McClintock argues in Imperial Leather (1995). concluding that. such as “the two middle-aged ladies [who] were evidently. but she emphasizes the ugliness of the bathers as well: “There was a remarkable want of beauty” (1871: 80). However. In fact. personal hygiene is associated with bourgeois morality and domesticity as well as with the imperial project. the discourse of cleanliness. The famous journalist and popular writer Harriet Martineau repeats. Whereas at home. even the secret. at the Turkish bath cleanliness becomes morally suspect. negotiating the preliminaries of a marriage” (1871: 78). Poole’s disgust. recorded by the diligent tourist. The shock at the sight (and sound) of many foreign women bathing. As a detached observer. Not only does the traveller avoid any reference to nakedness. even in the lower slave district of the United States. the crowd of women (“upwards of a hundred”) appearing through the steam who “were talking and laughing. this alien and ominous image is counterbalanced by the domestic scenes that follow the bathing. performing a private act in a public place. in her own account of a visit to the thermal baths at Tiberias. Harvey finds “the whole scene […] singularly picturesque”. is experienced by all Englishwomen visiting the public baths. vapours and reverberating noise made by the women and children recall to many travellers the Miltonic representation of hell. Often the description of the main hall of the hammam assumes metaphors of hell: the heat. which so impressed me with a sense of the impassable differences of race” (1848: 544). to the . in the same way as Pardoe does. By transferring a private act. “Nothing could be more decorous than the appearance and manners of every woman there present” (1871: 79–80). to the extent of exclaiming: “I find it difficult to think of these creatures as human beings and certainly I never saw anything. In nineteenth century Britain. Annie Harvey in Turkish Harems and Circassian Homes (1871) alludes to Milton’s Paradise Lost (Book 1) as well as to Dante’s Inferno (there is even a quote) in her evocation of the bath’s atmosphere. It functions as a topos introducing the description of the women and as a link between the description of the space with its interesting architectural features and its human content – the bodies of “the other”. Georges Vigarello (1985) stresses that personal hygiene becomes important in the West only at the end of the nineteenth century. when it is at the same time relegated to the realm of the private. and with much diplomacy.

but. who attributed the supposed “effeminacy” and “indolence” of the Ottomans to the frequent use of the hammam. another issue worrying middle-class Victorians was nudity. separates the poor from the rich. David Urquhart. in Shifrin). The British travellers’ prejudice against the ritual of hammam echoes the controversy in the mid nineteenth century surrounding the growing popularity of the Turkish baths in Britain. Many doctors considered the Turkish bath a threat to the medical profession. until it arrived in London in 1860. crossed the Irish Sea to the industrial towns in the north of England and in Scotland. and hoped that the creation of such establishments in working-class areas in Britain would eliminate the “filth which. indeed “over six hundred Turkish baths have so far been identified in the British Isles alone” (Shifrin). and as an evil it should be suppressed with the utmost severity” (qtd. proclaims that “a costume is indispensable. Wilson’s statement not only evokes the Victorian sense of propriety (perhaps to an exaggerated degree) but also recalls the racial prejudice voiced by most travellers to Turkey. cleanliness transforms to sexual self-expression. as the dryness of the air in the bath distinguishes it from the original hammams. and whilst still young in years fade into a premature old age. and therefore leads. Opponents of the Victorian Turkish baths claimed that its use in Britain would destroy the manliness which . to physical and mental degeneration: After admitting at the end of her account that “a Turkish bath is certainly a most inviting luxury”. the bath is not the bath –it is an evil. but also raised important social and moral concerns. as “in the end [it has] a deteriorating effect upon female beauty […] The too devoted votaries of the bath speedily become enervated both in mind and body. Without a costume in the presence of others.Private Rituals and Public Selves 59 public sphere. or Turkish Bath. Harvey warns the reader against it. Erasmus Wilson. according to many travellers. in his book The Eastern. through the midlands. had seen people of all classes mixing freely in the baths of Constantinople. Besides the concern about the mixing of classes in the baths. while various public officials feared that it would break down class barriers. as Disraeli has phrased it. and then moved southwards. The furious disputes among doctors and public officials about the role and significance of the Victorian Turkish baths not only involved issues such as optimal temperatures and acceptable degrees of humidity. The indolence also which it creates does much to increase the tendency to undue corpulence. The Victorian “Turkish Bath Movement” began from the first experimental bath constructed at St Anne’s Hydropathic Establishment in Ireland in 1856. The Victorian Turkish bath was really a reinvention of the Roman bath. in Shifrin). ‘the two nations’” (Urquhart qtd. especially in large towns. as if they were not members of the same state. in these times. so destructive to the fair proportions of Eastern women” (1871: 80–81). One of the “inventors” of the Victorian Turkish baths.

The hammam illustrates the connection between space and power. of indolence. in Shifrin) This racist statement encompasses as well as surpasses all the negative comments of the women travellers about the hammam. suggested here by the references to the “Eastern voluptuaries”. a starting point for “the premise of hegemonic social practices” (Smith and Katz 1993: 75). but healthy men of business and of sense in this country will. and as it was then destroying the Ottoman Empire (Shifrin). and the well-fed and fatted contents of their harems. Yet even then. to the “pasha[s]” and. cleanliness is a religious duty. (Qtd. as it had destroyed the Roman Empire. associated with violence. opposing industry to sloth. space being not an area of enclosure but its representation. to “the fatted contents of their harems”. by washing and shampooing the believers expiate their sins. therefore. An editorial in the British Medical Journal of March 1861 used all the stereotypes about the Orient to attack the introduction of the baths in Britain: The [Turkish bath] may be adapted to the mental and physical constitution of those lazy Eastern voluptuaries. despite evidence that cleanliness was the best defence against diseases. a symbolic space that has for a long time fascinated European travellers. The slothful pasha may work off his superfluous hydrocarbons and nitrogenous materials through the sudoriferous ducts and the pulmonary mucous membrane.60 Efterpi Mitsi created the British Empire. the “healthy English businessman” to the “slothful fat pasha”. who have cost us so much trouble and so many lives. The Turkish bath. never consent to the dissipation of time and matter involved in the idea of a periodical Turkish bath. prostitution and gambling. The juxtaposition of the reaction against the Victorian baths in Britain with the travellers’ representations of the hammam illustrates the ambiguity of the discourse of cleanliness in nineteenth century Britain. The travellers’ emphasis on the ugliness rather than the beauty of the bathers not only marks their difference from Montagu and the orientalist painters but also singles the body as an effect of power . to prejudice and prudery. people resisted washing due to old fears. becomes a mark of dramatic contrast between East and West. it was only in the nineteenth century that medical science declared that the frequent washing of the body was necessary for the health of the human being. we venture to prophesy. involving the fear of excess – of time wasted. On the contrary. In the West. in the Muslim East. obesity and above all of sexuality. and thus condemned by the Church and often closed down by the state (Vigarello 1985: 43–54). just like Walter Benjamin’s Passage. Since the late Middle-Ages public baths were spaces of transgression and excess. of course. health to disease. The (pseudo)scientific language of the editorial attempts to legitimate the arrogant distinction between superior and inferior races.

drives a hobby of his own the whole way before him”. a feminist concept of geography aims at reinserting a physical dimension into the discourse. In women’s lives it celebrated events such as marriage. who had no other opportunity to socialize outside the home. As flâneuse in an exotic public interior. but culturally and racially specific. Rosi Braidotti and Elizabeth Grosz.12 it allowed mothers to inspect prospective brides for their sons in a situation where no physical flaws could escape notice. the reader perceives through the seams in their narratives that the bodies of the women travellers. thus embodying what Gillian Rose calls “time-geography” (1993). pregnancy and childbirth. and returned forty days after labour for purification. or failing that. For Rose. as Martineau’s comment quoted above makes abundantly clear. like Judith Butler. and its importance was such that if a husband were to deny his wife her visits to the hammam. during the third day of the nuptials and after the wedding night. From that perspective.Private Rituals and Public Selves 61 relations. including the hammam. In their accounts. following the Foucauldian approach to the body as marked. nor even aesthetic. British women emphasized the social role of the hammam in the lives of women in the East. challenge the assumption of the body’s natural. Instead of mapping and surveying monuments and antiquities (which were the main goal of the male travellers) women travellers often trace the domestic and trivial everyday events in their sojourn in Constantinople. the hammam also represents for the traveller to the East an everyday mundane activity of that culture. Cairo or Athens. . the bodies seen by the travellers in the hammam are neither natural nor universal. a vision that counters the orientalist fantasy of the West without questioning its ideological premise. heavy and indolent bodies. In 1845. Brides visited the hammam at least three times during the ceremonies. ahistorical and pre-cultural status. she had grounds for divorce. also provoke curiosity and scrutiny. Feminist critics. However. invested and inscribed by discourse and power. The ritual of the hammam not only fulfilled the laws of hygiene and religious regulation but accompanied all the great occasions in life as well (Encyclopaedia of Islam 145). An exclusively gendered space confusing the private with the public. the travel writer Lady Elizabeth Eastlake anticipated Rose’s concept of gendered geography by arguing that whereas “a man either starts on his travels with a particular object in view. in her review of twelve recently published travel books by women. the Victorian Englishwoman in the hammam reduces the other women to countless. whether dressed or (partly) undressed. a woman traveller “is less troubled with preconceived ideas as to what is most important to observe […] picking up material much more 12 Pregnant women went to hammam in order to facilitate labour. seven days before the wedding.

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These women usurped the anonymity.and middle-class women like Octavia Hill and Beatrice Webb. As upper. and Mary Augusta Ward. she grew more confident. relying upon their gender and class to access and appropriate the impoverished streets and domestic spaces of the metropolis that both enthralled and appalled Victorians. L. and so over the bridge which leads to Kingsland. Octavia Hill. Hamann abstract This chapter characterizes the ways in which upper. London. she took this walk among streets where the people live […] At first she wandered just as one wanders on a first visit to a foreign city. as well as the heroines imagined by Walter Besant. became the front line of proto-professional social work. L. reading the names and the trade announcements and watching the people. the flânerie of these women is marked instead by personal engagement and the establishment of cross-class friendships fostered within impoverished domesticity. and up Hoxton Street into Hyde Road and Whitemore Street.and middle-class women negotiated the sites of their philanthropic work in the poor and working class homes of London – and in the public streets surrounding those homes.Ladies on the Tramp: The Philanthropic Flâneuse and Appropriations of Victorian London’s Impoverished Domesticity Cathleen J. 1886) A certain weird romance with neither beginning nor end. In fact she walked down Pitfield Street into Old Street. theirs became the subject position from which the domestic space of the urban lower class was understood. (Walter Besant. women. Meade. Walter Besant. flânerie.T. Not this morning only. curiosity. visiting amongst . Refusing the detachment of the flâneur. and urban mobility of the flâneur. John’s Road to Ivy Lane – the whole with lingering step and occasional excursions into side streets which seemed to promise something strange or curious. domesticity. And at first she was afraid. Mary Augusta Ward. Beatrice Webb. looking into all the shops. and back by way of St. but as day after day passed and no one molested her. Keywords: Victorian. getting lost and then finding her way again. Such access afforded these independent women privileged information about spaces that fuelled late Victorian anxieties about urban life. Meade. Children of Gibeon.T. but many successive mornings.

Her excursions along streets of the East End and within the rooms of a run-down tenement house in Hoxton are filtered through the consciousness of a figure that had become a stereotypical character by the 1880s – the philanthropic young woman of wealth. the flâneur. she serves as the subject position from which the reader of Children of Gibeon observes and comprehends modern life in the city. I feel rather dizzy. . 8 March. As reflected by Beatrice Webb’s diary entry on her experiences as a rent collector in East London. most importantly. if fictionally presented. And yet. these flâneuses dispense with the sense of detached observation that often marks the traditional characterization of the flâneur. the flâneuse. Valentine moves in many ways that are associated with flânerie. again. most widely known in his masculine form as defined by Walter Benjamin.1 Yet these flâneuses illustrate a particular expression of flânerie. and that. she sets about “botanizing the asphalt” of the city’s East End neighbourhood in order to get her bearings and observe the people amongst whom she has come to live. This flâneuse is a curious observer of the city – especially of the lower orders of society – who moves about the modern urban landscape and is isolated from it in a way that enables and privileges vision.66 Cathleen J. is. isolated from the working-class residents she observes from a position privileged by anonymity and authority. as presented by Valentine and the other women under discussion here. The figure of the flâneur. and realize that the character of the community will depend upon our personal influence. (Beatrice Webb. the philanthropic flâneuse. another stereotypical figure of nineteenth century urban life. above all. the subject “whose experience epitomizes the fragmented and anonymous nature of life in the modern city” (Wolff 2003: 69). and think of all the queer characters. possibility of a feminine flâneur. Hamann these people in their dingy homes […] When I look at those long balconies. diary entry. Valentine is curious (if slightly apprehensive) about her new neighbours. Even though she is a rather liminal presence in the daily lives of the tenants she visits while collecting rent and man1 I draw these rather traditional characteristics of the flâneur from Elizabeth Wilson’s survey of the earliest assessments of the flâneur (as laid out in a nineteenth century edition of Encyclopedia Larousse). 1885) When Walter Besant’s young heroine Valentine Eldridge moves herself from a fashionable home in West London to the mean street of Ivy Lane in Hoxton. She finds she is able to move freely about this urban landscape and with enjoyment. is no carbon copy of her Parisian brother. In these strolls. and feeling – and it was one which has certain elements in common with the flâneur. not only on character but on persistent health. Valentine’s excursions present the very real. Having moved there on her own to develop a friendship with a workingclass woman who may or may not be her long-lost sister. education. tenants and would-be tenants.

indicating that they were one of the many block dwellings built in the East End by the American-born philanthropist George Peabody in the 1860s. The East End was most familiar as the site of darkest London. The ladies2 who ventured into the East End of London in the latter decades of Victoria’s reign negotiated the space of “darkest London” 3 in a manner that was much like that of the flâneur. and she records ephemeral encounters in the manner of a flâneur. The “Brown’s Buildings” she moves into while nursing are called Peabody’s Buildings in Ward’s manuscript. These ladies. black being used on his map to denote an area that was populated by the lowest class – “vicious and semi-criminal”. Meade’s The Princess of the Gutter (1895). For instance. they did not restrict themselves to the streets of the city for observation of the modern experience. Webb still deeply feels the potential role her observation could play – is supposed to play. In order to explore this issue. Joan in Shoreditch. although Charles Booth’s map shows pockets of “black streets” throughout the city. Furthermore. as well as their effectiveness in doing so.Ladies on the Tramp 67 aging the tenement. her approach is marked by an emotional engagement unfamiliar to the flâneur. T. Stanley’s In Darkest Africa (1890) were “General” William Booth’s treatise on his Salvation Army. as they were called in the Victorian age to distinguish them from working-class women. My project here is to characterize the ways in which upper.and middleclass women negotiated the sites of their philanthropic work. The women discussed here all venture into the East End: Valentine settles in Hoxton. demonstrate characteristics associated with the flâneuse. as well as 2 I refer to the upper. were widespread by the 1890s. and the ways in which they appropriated that space for themselves. in the streets and the homes of the poor in the East End of London and other working-class sections of the city. under some nineteenth century philanthropic schemes. 3 Analogies that constructed similarities of “darkness” between the poorest parts of London and Africa. Hill’s philosophies impacted many of the model dwellings throughout the East End. entering the homes of the poor regularly in order to carry out their work. My Apprenticeship (1926). Although her observation of the lives of the poor is marked by the same curiosity and anonymity as other flâneuses. Mary Augusta Ward’s Marcella (1894).M. . playing off of H. the essays of Octavia Hill on the management of model dwellings for the poor. L. or other colonial spaces such as North America or India. but “botanized” beyond the threshold of the tenement house. and the autobiography of Beatrice Webb. and Marcella is described as having collected rent in the East End. a number of texts dealing with female philanthropists and social explorers in late Victorian London are discussed here: Walter Besant’s Children of Gibeon (1886). or “rough gels”. both real and fictional. and into the space of impoverished domesticity. In Darkest London and the Way Out (1890) and Margaret Harkness’ revised title for Captain Lobe: A Story of the Salvation Army (first published in 1889) was In Darkest London.and middle-class women as ladies.

All Sorts and Conditions of Men (1882). and its proposals for alleviating that poverty – both for the relief of the poor and for the relief of the upper classes social conscience and anxieties – through the work of personal influence. but she feels morally bound to use her inheritance to rectify her uncle’s neglect of his tenants. he argues. is rather tough on Besant.J. P. Meade frequently took up the subject of the lower classes in both the children’s and adults’ texts among her approximately 280 published books. L. because “their popular success gives some indication of the attitudes which readers of the eighties regarded as appropriate to the subject” (Keating 1971: 98). Though not quite so prolific as Meade. the princess of the gutter. The Princess of the Gutter presents an heiress with a dilemma: the “up to date” Girton graduate Joan Prinsep has been left a considerable fortune. Not sure precisely how to become a more faithful steward than her benefactor. Joan visits one of these buildings. A prolific writer of girls’ books. Hamann some substantial deviations from it. now.and middle-class readers. Besant’s message was “that the most urgent problem of the East End is not poverty or crime but meanness.4 Besant’s most important novel. and often maligned for. but culturally. The novel largely deals with Joan’s search for a way to affect change and her developing friendship with the spirited “rough gel” Martha Mace. They accomplished this take-over so thoroughly that they helped construct what became the subject position from which this space was viewed by upper. books and music” (1971: 107). is leadership.68 Cathleen J. is still in print largely because 4 Keating also argues that Besant helps shift the characterization of the East End and Eastenders as depraved to being deprived – not just economically. The popularity and influence of the texts under discussion here are representative of both the late Victorian era’s preoccupation with the London poor. and an awareness of art. . for instance. T. calling his plots “ludicrous” but allowing that reading his novels on the East End is still advisable. Their appropriations are largely achieved through a presumption of their right to enter this space that was made authoritative by their class and gender. Keating. What the East Ender needs. Sir Walter Besant was already a best-selling author when he began producing the East End romances for which he is best known. dramatically witnessing the death of a tenant. and decides to move in with a view to “experiment” with philanthropic endeavours. But their entry into this space is also marked by their desire for the development of cross-class friendships/ sisterhoods that enable them to speak of their experiences out of a privileged and intimate knowledge of this space. largely drawn from the proceeds of rents in working-class tenements. All of these women usurped the scenes of a very public domesticity in the East End and other sections of London that housed the poor. in their appropriation of the impoverished streets and domestic space of the East End. contact with the upper classes.

into the East End in order to form a friendship with a working-class woman who may. takes a far more interesting look at the journey of an heiress. and the focus of the plot. she . In her own rather contrived “working class” home with Minta. appropriating the role of the head of the household during her brief visits. Children of Gibeon. the People’s Palace. and bringing Minta and her children along from the country. Valentine is unsure when she moves into the East End whether she or her adopted sister Violet are the daughter of a washer woman. Beatrice Webb and Octavia Hill provide a dimension of “reality” to this discussion of women’s movement in the city’s rougher neighbourhoods and into the homes of the poor. Valentine Eldridge. Minta Hurd. position as a nurse allows her to enter these homes in a position of authority. Within that autobiography. who has kept the truth hidden from both her daughters and society until their coming of age. and to find a way to help her “sister”. compiled her reflections and the diary entries regarding her search for a creed and a craft in My Apprenticeship. but also rather anonymous. She sets up a home for herself in model dwellings. a prominent member of the Fabian Society.Ladies on the Tramp 69 the Palace of Delight that its characters founded became a reality: in 1887. is the cultivation of a relationship with Melenda. Valentine moves in to the East End tenement house where Melenda lives and works with two friends as a sweated seamstress. Marcella’s respected. Mary Ward’s Marcella has a similarly complicated relationship with the working-class woman who she chooses to befriend. be her long-lost sister Melenda. While Marcella’s time as a nurse consumes a small portion of the plot. the main thrust of her scheme. However. Ward also attempts to forge an equal friendship with a working class woman. or may not. Seeking relief from a broken engagement and distraught over her inability to save Minta’s husband. her unimpeded movement within the city and over the thresholds of working class homes is similar in its representation to that of the other texts under discussion here. but Minta is as unsettled by Marcella’s outreach as Melenda is by Valentine’s. much to the chagrin of many gold-digging young men terrified of courting the wrong sister. who proves to be a very unwilling party in Valentine’s appropriation of her space and her friends. his later novel. Marcella leaves the estate her family has recently inherited and trains to be a district nurse in London. was constructed at the end of Mile End road. Beatrice Webb. the widow of a poacher hung for the murder of a gamekeeper near Marcella’s home in the country. In an attempt to learn about the life she might have had. Violet and Valentine have been raised in privilege by the forward-thinking Lady Eldridge. offering free facilities for cultural activities aimed at the working classes. While Valentine also conceives of philanthropic plans on a larger scale. living among the poor that she nurses.

near the centres of employment (Jones 1984: 178). and which were wholly occupied by a dense population composed of the lowest class of persons who being entirely secluded from the observation and influence of better educated neighbours. residential areas throughout central and east London were cleared for railway extensions and commercial development in the form of docks. and later as a rent collector in the working-class tenement dwellings Katherine Buildings. she does include her diary entries which provide thoughtful commentary on the intellectual and emotional discoveries made while travelling between separate lives in the West and East Ends. Charles Booth. and the lack of cheap transport necessitated that they remain.70 Cathleen J. so much so that what may have technically been the private space of a working-class domestic sphere became the political football of the public sphere. Hamann details the quest that induced her to explore working-class London.” their livelihoods remained within central London. and Ward. and the same sensationalized writing that had fuelled slum clearance in the first place continued to raise the daunting fear that nothing had changed – indeed. In the words of one Select Committee in 1838. “there were districts in London through which no great thoroughfares passed. exhibited a state of moral degradation deeply to be deplored” (Edwards 1898: 10). The housing and domestic arrangements of the poor that fell under the penetrating gaze of the flâneuse were matters of intense public scrutiny in Victorian England. warehouses. Webb is important here because. Throughout the nineteenth century. Even though the poor and working classes were displaced from their homes through development and what Gareth Stedman Jones calls the “bland assumptions of municipal improvement. yards. although her autobiography is not rich in the details of personal exchanges within the homes of the poor. Meade. during the study that would result in Life and Labour and the People of London (1891–1902). Slum clearance and demolition further contributed to a growing housing crisis for the poor. things may perhaps have become worse. somehow. as business in the imperial centre boomed. The resulting overcrowding did not escape the notice of the popular press. these five texts offer a limited but representative overview of the ways in which upper and middle-class women manoeuvred within the neighbourhoods and the homes of the poor. first as an apprentice to her cousin-in-law. . Together. Similarly. and offices. a “civic pride” led the London County Council to justify the demolition of the slums that housed the poor through a combination of practicality – the need for thoroughfares – and a sense that cleaning house would solve the problems of the slums. Octavia Hill’s extensive writing within important Victorian periodicals provides elucidating and influential statements of the philosophy of entrée and authority that undergird the negotiations made by the characters in Besant. In the early years of Victoria’s reign.

and philanthropists was. but also in a good dose of personal observation and influence by those “better educated neighbours” to which the London Council had alluded. though popular. It is my opinion. perhaps even a public entertainment. clergymen. that extended long before the trendiness of practicing it anew in the East End became so popular that it was nearly a cliché. was hardly innovative. more fundamental question of economic disparities in the capital city of an ever-expanding empire. as historian H. and. model dwellings. providing the basis for countless housing projects and philanthropic organizations. This assertion that the social problem of the gulf between Disraeli’s “Two Nations” could be solved through personal ties between the rich and poor. as we shall see. for fictional solutions to the gulf between the classes. and that this power can change it from a mob of paupers and semi-paupers into a body of self-independent workers. Hill. it may be exercised in a very remarkable manner by persons undertaking the oversight and management of such houses as the poor habitually lodge in. J. but to enlarge the scope both for private charity and public social policy” (1967: 16). Hill’s manner of yoking housing management with a philanthropic containment of the poor was highly influential in the last three decades of the century. In an era which was increasingly interested in drawing strict lines between public and private space. The need for workers among the poor. the private space of the poor was of intense public concern. and many others. (Hill 1869: 219) Hill believed in the exertion of personal influence and the importance of knowing the poor – and the site which she preferred for that was within the home. further. where the heart of the matter and the hearts of the poor lay exposed to those who visited them. that although such influence may be brought to bear upon them in very various ways. was perfectly timed to provide . however. and a city with the ghosts of Parisian barricades on its mind was alert to the broader ramifications of a discontented mass of the poor and hungry huddled in its centre. It relied upon a tradition of charity. “not only to begin to turn the slums into public spectacle. viewed the matter thus: I feel most deeply that the disciplining of our immense poor population must be effected by individual influence. and between public and private spheres.Ladies on the Tramp 71 As the nineteenth century progressed. Dyos points out. the housing of the poor became a substantive rallying point around which politicians and philanthropists could attempt to address the larger. particularly that done by women. Reformers like Octavia Hill saw promise in not only refashioning the housing of the poor into modern. The effect of endless representations of the situation by journalists. The housing of the poor easily coalesced into concerns about the homes of the poor.

While men still held the positions of relative power – they made up the majority of board members on charitable committees. service. As Martha Vicinus details in her seminal study Independent Women. out of idleness. Theirs was the figure which was associated with personal knowledge of the poor. While W. out of ignorance. for instance – women increasingly became those on the front line of social and philanthropic work. Vicinus contends that in an England “severely divided by class. nurses. twenty thousand women were earning wages as philanthropic officials in England.72 Cathleen J. were to be valued for the manner in which they brought an individual . and social researchers. in 1893. the growing bureaucratization of philanthropic endeavours in the East End and elsewhere provided women with new opportunities as rent collectors. but contemporaneous estimates suggest that. Vicinus claims that women entered this new workforce that necessitated their presence both on and off the streets of the city. a good portion of those women were proving themselves to be anything but useless by taking up new roles within the public sphere as friendly visitors. women such as those under discussion here had established themselves as the “largely unpaid foundation of the social service system” (Vicinus 1985: 23). certainly for those of Hill’s philosophy. and nurses. proto-social workers. friendly visitors.R. It was also the means for appropriating a voice and influence for themselves within the greater universe of politics and social reform. Greg wrote to raise the alarm regarding an astonishingly high number of “redundant” women in 1862. rent collectors. Exact numbers are hard to compile. Martha Vicinus explains the personal interests behind these new paths: “This passion for meaningful work [among nineteenth century single women] was the means out of the garden. charitable organizers. These new public roles were galvanized by precisely those feminine characteristics that theoretically placed women in the private sphere as mothers. and adventure” (Vicinus 1985: 1). charity officials. wives. knowledge which they were often eager to share with the rest of the upper classes and with decision makers.and middle-class ladies with an interest in meaningful work. Both of these positions. By the end of the nineteenth century. men had fewer and fewer contacts with people outside of their own class other than at work. Furthermore. to a growing army of upper. Hamann an important avenue into public charity and the discourse over impoverished domesticity. and perhaps half a million more were maintaining unpaid or semi-professional positions as well. The landlady and the regular friendly visitor are two of those roles that have the most relevance for the texts under discussion here. through the assumption that women could “make a maternal contribution to social institutions” (1985: 15). and household managers. while women increasingly crossed class lines through their philanthropic activities” (1985: 211). and into wisdom.

It was during these visits. and practices of walking. that the two parties could become friends through just the sort of neighbourly intercourse that the Select Committee in 1838 thought necessary. . one must register their movement across the city. his degree of unfettered freedom and supreme detachment. I think that this icon of modernity remains an excellent point of theoretical departure that is familiar critical ground. The flâneuse “was rendered impossible by the sexual divisions of the nineteenth century” (Wolff 1990: 47). and enjoying a variety of urban pleasures. which is why she continues to insist that the role of the flâneuse remained impossible despite the expansion of women’s public activities. In her seminal essay on modernity and the flâneur/flâneuse. and appropriation. Iskin. either to visit or to collect rent. from their own home. Wolff argues that some of the peculiar characteristics of modernity were unavailable to women given the strict demarcations between the private and the public spheres. burgeoning mobility. asserts that If we expect all the same traits attributed to the masculine flâneur. and their relationship to both the nation and the upper classes. then we may well conclude that feminine flânerie became integral to urban modernity by the late nineteenth century. Wolff remains adamant that we must not neglect to concede the dangers and constraints faced by women in the urban space.Ladies on the Tramp 73 of the upper classes into frequent contact on a ritualized basis with the poor families of the East End and other working class London neighbourhoods. Before one may consider the movement. up to the moment they step over the threshold of the impoverished home. But if we consider representations of women in the European city along with modern women’s increasing active participation in the city. More recently. Ruth E. working to affirm and represent their presence in the urban sphere. could be managed. While I agree with Janet Wolff and others who point out the difficulties of using the flâneur as a model. looking. in practices and representations of feminine flânerie. Wolff has written to reassert her position. 5 (Iskin 2003: 351) 5 Iskin (2003) argues that fin-de-siècle advertising posters displayed women of all classes as flâneuses throughout European metropolitan spaces. achieved by ladies within the homes of the poor. one among those who have reconsidered the flâneuse as a viable figure on the urban scene. and despite the newer activities of shopping and movie-going which many scholars have since cited as likely moments of flânerie for women (Wolff 2003). The practice of friendly or district visiting was thought to be the basis of a “political friendship” through which the poorer classes. but also to establish a new line of inquiry. we might well conclude that feminine flânerie was not possible.

or. Joan’s determination to see for herself the notorious tenements from which she will derive her income shocks all those involved. particularly interested in the lower orders of society. charity workers. Keys. she also 6 The “double condition of the city” is Raymond Williams’ phrase for the modern paradox presented by the metropolis: “the random and the systematic. . 7 Judith Walkowitz defines a number of new female social actors on the contested terrain of nineteenth century London. 6 There. who began to define a new urban female style of being at home in the city” (1992: 63). I argue that the flâneuse was not impossible or invisible: one simply had to look past the West End venues. in Marcella’s case. Mrs. and consider the “double condition of the city” – the slums. as demonstrated by the ladies in these texts.7 Like the “glorified spinster” who was at home in the city and able to “satisfy a keen appetite” for urban amusements. and the glorified spinster: a “highly stylized cultural construction […] a partial reflection of the experience of a small number of self-supporting or financially independent single middle-class women. Beatrice Webb and her fellow rent collector Ella Pycroft were quite amused to recognize themselves in the portrait (Walkowitz 1992: 63). Despite rows with her aunt and the belittling comments of her advisors.74 Cathleen J. a nurse (Marcella). Hamann Reconsidering the places in which these women were increasingly mobile. which is the true significance of the city” ([1973] 1975: 154). these women assumed the roles taken up by countless new female social actors whose presence revamped the geography of the city and recast the eyes through which it was seen. like the other ladies. and seek out scenes and encounters that could only be had where the disparities of metropolitan life were most obvious. gazing day after day into its courtyards and shops. these ladies exhibited a consummate curiosity about the city and its inhabitants that was reminiscent of the flâneur. who will become her chaperone. Using these broad characteristics of the flâneur is a productive place to start to theorize about the characteristics of the flâneuse. and a landlady (Joan). such as the sense of purpose and emotion with which she approached the poorer parts of the city. from the man who collects the rents to the old housekeeper. shopping ladies. 1895: 73). the visible and the obscured. a friendly visitor (Valentine). before turning to the behaviours of the philanthropic flâneuse that make her distinct. Valentine’s curiosity is demonstrated by her aforementioned explorations of the streets of Hoxton. and they also had access to a certain amount of anonymity that enabled observation. they moved about the city. These included the independent working girl. Joan insists on following the rent collector “desperately from room to room” taking in the details of the terrible rooms that seem unfit for human beings (Meade. 8 Upon reading “The Glorified Spinster” in Macmillan’s Magazine. at its costermongers and street folk.8 This was a curiosity that led them to leave their rather comfortable homes in the West End. the countryside. As rent collectors and managers (Hill and Webb).

revengeful. she admits that her desire to enter the poor neighbourhoods of London and study their inhabitants “came neither from politics nor from philanthropy. It is this broader sense of interest that drives Webb.Ladies on the Tramp 75 held a keen interest in the inner life. as well. Likewise. not as visitors of superior social status still less as investigators. passionate. 1871: 456). 2002: 340) – than for their individuality and their personal history. Hill recounts a scene from the site of much of her work: “Three ladies standing. Webb describes herself and other rent collectors as simply one of the crowd: “From the outset. one landlady is the same . rather than resorting to seeking out the “People” in the streets. and sought instead the glimpses of London’s very public abyss. but as part of the normal machinery of their lives” (Webb. [1926] 1971: 267). but from scientific curiosity. nearly as much so as the man in the crowd who is frequently figured as the flâneur. In describing her apprenticeship to Charles Booth. and what they think. given away by the good quality of their dress. not long ago. if not to wealth. 1871: 456). [1926] 1971: 266). Hill uses the encounter to expound on the differences between her landladies (those with “spirit” and education enough to “devise improvements” and execute them) and the more common kind (those to be avoided and replaced. and what they want” (Besant. to the street Arabs. this morning’” (Hill. the tenants regarded us. even when they were attempting to “pass” as legitimate residents of the East End by foregoing well-styled outfits. and the characters drawn here all had access. and cowardly”) (Hill. for they are “bullying. However. They hit the streets. Hill. at least to those who were incredibly well-connected in London society. [1926] 1971: 267) or “Nurse” (Ward. in one of her earlier essays in Macmillan’s. Webb. as it were. partly [out] of impudence and partly [out] of fun: ‘What a lot o’ landladies. It is notable that all of these women have available to them more traditional locations from which they could observe “Society”. reasoning and verification to the problem of poverty in the midst of riches” (Webb. But each of these women opted out of a more Austen-like exploration of the characters within the domestic sphere. violent. from the desire to apply the method of observation. not just the street life. these women were often recognizable as outsiders. However. they remained anonymous observers. in a poor and dingy court in London. generally being recognized more for the purpose of their presence – “woman collector” (Webb. apparently risking an identification with real streetwalkers that never actually materializes in any of these narratives. when a group of dirty-faced urchins exclaimed. Once they were within that abyss. What is behind this curiosity is a sense of boredom and unease with their more traditional social engagements and feminine pursuits. desiring to “learn how work-girls live. because they are seeking experiences that will continue to pique their curiosity. 1886: 129–30).

as she looked into some of the half-open doors of the swarming rooms she passed. for these women are largely able to walk the streets of poor London and maintain an element of anonymity. Valentine’s observations from the stairs of her own building are even more noteworthy. With a certain amount of anonymity comes the isolation that privileges the flâneuse’s vision and enables her to observe with a fresh eye. or noticed with disgust the dirt and dilapidation of the stairs […] that the house added one more to the standing shames of the district” (Ward [1894] 2002: 341).76 Cathleen J. This isolation is epitomized by the frequency with which all of these texts record moments of fleeting observations gained while the lady stands on the landing and gazes into the rooms of the poor. whom she had not seen before. to an imaginary audience. even as they were attracted to it. re-cross the borderline. These threshold moments are analogues to the fleeting scenes consumed by the flâneur on the street. capturing the strangeness of her surroundings: As she climbed the steep. when the ladies cross back over to their own side of town. giving her numerous opportunities to “botanize” from the landings of the stairs: “it seemed to her. narrow stair. The privileged class status of the flâneuse that buffered her from being known by her poorer friends also provided her with a certain position of isolation – and all of the women discussed here were isolated by the fact that they could return to a more privileged space. The occupant. pirouetted. She took her petticoats. demonstrating in high relief their sense of separation from this world. All of these ladies maintained access to a home other than any that they established within the East End. . she saw. Rarely does a character press any of these ladies for personal information. there was always a trap door through which the lady could return West. should they so choose. through the half-open door of the ground floor back. even if they intended to settle there. Framed by the threshold. Their disassociation from the ordinary classes allowed them an artistic and professional distance from their subject. a strange and curious thing. for even with those ladies who set up rooms in the districts they visited. was solemnly engaged in dancing by herself. it seemed unlikely that the lower classes would ever achieve such a level of intimacy with those who visited them. If the home was where one class could “know” the other. on the contrary. Hamann as another landlady. it is the ladies who succeed in extracting information from those they observe. Marcella’s nursing rounds take her in and out of tenements. they vanish as thoroughly as the flâneur might from the arcade. Furthermore. these glimpses through halfclosed doors mark a clear delineation in the position of the flâneuse within this space. There is perhaps a reversal of the social explorer’s tendency to count the individuals of the mob as indiscriminate from one another. an old woman.

more importantly.” one that rouses all her nursing skill and faculty – partly on the extraordinary misconduct of the doctor. particularly of the older tenants of her building. and decides to quickly retreat from it.9 The flâneuses periodically experience the threat of the disintegration of their own identity. allows her time to contemplate herself. as they must. . Valentine was thinking of the sewing women. Valentine is challenged throughout her endeavour to find some way to pacify her mind as it 9 Elizabeth Wilson suggests in The Sphinx in the City that lack of order in urban life might not be as disturbing to the female gaze as to the male.’ the underworld or secret labyrinth. During her one attempt to truly endure “whatever Melenda endures”. and in one case she takes a moment to be startled by the fact that she is actually present in the scene that she is observing. This is precisely the way to characterize Valentine’s odd glimpses. poised as she is on the cusp of modern experience and. While watching all night over the sick bed of a poor woman. unlike the crushing pace of her hospital training. Following this. Marcella finds that district nursing. she saw it but took no heed. Writing of Benjamin’s formulation of the flâneur. swift sinkings of meditative thought – on the strangeness of the fact that she should be there at all. Eventually failing quite miserably at it. sitting in this chair in this miserable room. Graeme Gilloch distinguishes the flâneur as the “figure of the intensification and disintegration of experience in the modern city” (2002: 213). instead of being sinister or diseased as in the works of Charles Dickens […] is an Aladdin’s cave of riches” (1991: 8). keeping guard over this Jewish mother and child! (Ward [1894] 2002: 342) Valentine endures a similar thought. with all the agility and some of the grace of a youthful danseuse. capered and postured. and partly – in deep. the thing passed before her eyes as she went up the stair. to whose criminal neglect and mismanagement of the case she hotly attributed the whole of the woman’s illness. one way to read these ladies’ experiences and their general comfort level with these odd sorts of moments is to consider that for them. nor was it till afterward that she remembered it and wondered what this might mean.Ladies on the Tramp executed unheard of steps. the ‘second city. the presence of their own bodies within a strangely foreign space. contemplating. “that invisible city. the ways in which it is seen and re-presented. she takes up a day’s work stitching buttonholes with Melenda and her friend Lizzie (Meade 1895: 108). (Besant 1886: 136) 77 The inability to find meaning in this scene marks the pivotal position of the flâneuse. her mind all the time was running partly on contrivances for pulling the woman through – for it was what a nurse calls “a good case. whose mannerisms imply that they are the dishevelled remnants of people who once lived far different lives among more privileged circumstances.

Valentine.78 Cathleen J. Hill. Certainly. In order to enter these homes. most importantly. but in the birth of social and philanthropic ardour. characterized the court she “settled” as “a wild. the sense of a hitherto unsuspected social . Marcella also thinks in such terms. Voicing a sense that they are the queens of all they survey. She tries to pass the time by “wondering how long life could be endured if she were doomed to spend it among button-holes”. finds it difficult to fully fathom what it would be like for herself to be poor. she begins contemplating what exactly it means to live and work as these girls do. where she is introduced to rent collecting in the East End and socialism by her friends: she had “the chief excitement and motive-power of her new life – not in art. and setting about doing her share of work. for one. It seems to be one thing to bring herself into contact with these girls. The flashback Marcella has in the opening chapters of the novel reveals a great sense of self-confidence during her art student days in London. Relying upon the privileged position Victorian society allowed them as traditional dispensers of charity and visitors of the poor. these visitors and workers among the poor were “protected by class privilege and emboldened by the ethic of charity” (Nord 1995: 209). these ladies often marched without ceremony into a space that was such a source of public interest that it is no stretch to call it the public sphere. these women often speak in terms of ruling. Not finding much conversation from her work mates. partly because the things worn by poor Lizzie were not nice to look at” (Besant. The gender and class of these ladies gave them the opportunity for a “sympathetic takeover” of the homes that they entered. and. 1886: 163). along with her fellows who are so very curious about how the poor live. Then she tried to imagine herself “the life-long companion of Melenda. lawless. One suspects that these ruminations are made even more unpleasant by the fact that Valentine is actually taking the place of a broken down workingclass body. having taken Melenda’s dying friend Lotty to rest in her own pretty room. and altogether such a one as Lizzie […] But her imagination failed her. she turned what was an appropriation of that space into a subject position that became as inseparable from the representation of the impoverished domestic space as the flâneur has become from discussions of the representation of the experience of the modern city. desolate little kingdom to come to rule over” and she repeatedly uses terms that invest the landlady and rent collector with a sense of near sovereign power (1869: 458). these women relied upon the authority their upper-class origins afforded them. but yet another to truly sympathize with them in the way that lifts her out of her own consciousness. and refused to pretend any such thing. The philanthropic flâneuse assumed certain positions vis a vis these homes and their inhabitants. Hamann seeks some sort of intellectual outlet while sewing.

but just as Martha Mace stands in the abstract as the working class to Joan’s upper class. I don’t want to preach to you a bit. As she explains it to the working-class women she befriends. knowing best how to put a home. on balance. rents had to be collected. although I believed. There is no sense of a barrier between the private space of the poor and the public space. and there seems to be little concern over the ease with which they might cross the threshold. and a city. Webb declares without irony. either with a man or a woman – I did not much care which. swiftly ordering around husbands and nosy neighbours. so does Valentine’s “sister” Melenda stand to her. I am here to help you – I want to be your sister. Without any sense of misgiving. we see Marcella easily take charge in the homes of the sick. Joan Prinsep’s statement of her desire for a real companion is telling here. a presumption not just of authority. Valentine tells her reasons for coming in the form of a fairy tale to the . in short” (Meade 1895: 134). and they walk straight into these people’s homes to get it. “I have come here to help you and a lot of other girls. Martha Mace and Lucy Ash. many of these flâneuses are portrayed as craving that friendship.Ladies on the Tramp 79 power” (Ward [1894] 2002: 46–47). it also shows the further assumption that marks this navigation of space. considering where she finds that friend: “I had an aspiration for a perfect friendship. but I did not want goodness in the abstract. or easily entered. even friendships created beyond the threshold. outside of those that require them to leave their own homes. in order. for the homes of the poor are either easily gazed into. after a fashion. I had a vague uneasy wish to rise to a height where I could breathe a sort of spiritual air. given her belief that she is indeed Melenda’s sister. There is little feeling of any obstacles to entry. the reader sees Valentine become accustomed to striding into Melenda’s room with little ceremony. I was not a scrap religious. advantageous to the tenants of low-class property to have to pay their money to persons of intelligence and goodwill who were able to bring hardships and grievances to the notice of those who had power to mitigate or remedy them. this sentiment does appear to be ominously selfsatisfied. However. Marcella is so intoxicated with the power of persuasion she can have in this sphere that she continues throughout the novel to attempt to exercise that influence. but I want to show you lots of things that you have never heard of […] I want you to understand that if you are in trouble. (Webb [1926] 1971: 266) While assuredly practical. in eternity” (Meade 1895: 27). About the harmlessness of this intrusion of the relatively well-to-do into the homes of the very poor I had no misgiving. Indeed. despite the fact that Melenda does not welcome her there for quite some time. but also that there could be goodwill. Valentine’s desire has a more loaded connotation. and it seemed to me. often with disastrous results.

these ladies begin to make themselves at home by redecorating. and once they have begun friendships with the working-class women.80 Cathleen J. Valentine immediately makes her over: 10 The experiment does fail. upon finally breaking through Melenda’s pride and convincing her to promise to be her sister. her Mansions are a success nonetheless. for the mending of the gulf between the classes through personal involvement was presumed to have far-reaching implications. and causing new buildings to be built (called “Joan Mansions”). Lucy could rock herself in that chair while she nursed her baby […]. Notably. after thoroughly refinishing a good set of rooms for herself. Oh for the success of this experiment of mine!” (Meade 1895: 238)10 Marcella also makes sure to add details. Not only do these women clean house. preserving the sanitation of these homes and thereby safeguarding both their health and that of the tenants. when Lotty. stood near. Having thoroughly set her own room apart by careful decoration. . She draws Melenda’s other mate Lizzie in through the food that she has to offer around her table. having her room altered so that it connects to Minta’s room next door. she goes out to seek him – murdering him in the street. Joan. “Oh. puzzled. convenient for her. Valentine carries off the heart of Melenda’s trio of friends – the crippled girl Lotty to take up her deathbed in Valentine’s own room. Joan sets up fashioning the perfect scene of domesticity for Lucy Ash and her rather reluctant husband within one of the apartments in her new building. Valentine answers. and I had insisted on adding a hassock. and when he doesn’t. but they also begin adding aesthetic touches to both their rooms and the rooms of others. An American rocking-chair. miserably. Luckily for Joan. Lotty. describing a heroine that “hoped to make her sister love her”. It is as if they would rather not see those whom they befriend in their “natural” surroundings. Once they have presumed to cross the threshold. and. love makes people happy” (Besant 1886: 130). as any good “botanizing” flâneur would – they prefer to see them begin to look and live like themselves. This love will not only make Valentine personally happy. we see her use this innovative reconstruction to more easily call for Minta to fetch her some tea after a long day of nursing. Most drastic is Valentine’s usurping of Melenda’s home. Lucy waits quite in vain for her husband to return. After having furnished the place lovingly (but with furnishings suitable for Lucy’s class). Valentine. made of plain deal. asks her why. Joan surveys the scene: “There was a little rug placed in front of the stove. but it might also make England happy. and Marcella are all concerned with adding their personal touch as much for the enjoyment of the recipients of their homemaking as for their own comfort. Hamann crippled Lotty. For instance. to her home in Brown’s Buildings.

Ladies on the Tramp Do you think I am going to have my own sister go about in such shocking rags as these any longer? Take off your frock this minute […] Here is one of mine … Do you know. no one addresses her impudently. raise the morality of the working class. from her time spent in the East End was useful: she gives evidence on her time as a sweat-shop labourer in disguise to a committee in the House of Lords in 1888. “the people seemed not to know her” (Meade 1895: 365). Now when she walks the streets of Hoxton. making valuable the information that women visitors and investigators had to offer and giving these women a context of national debate into which to insert themselves and their writings” (Nord 1995: 214). So subdued. of course. and be loved in return. you have got much finer hair than most girls? […] What a pity you cut it in the front! You will have to let it grow again. Wolff and others are certainly correct in that the streets were still a questionable location for women. and promptly sending her out and making over her room with curtains and new furniture. she is treated as Valentine is – no one chaffs her. Judith Walkowitz locates the significance. Melenda. so she raised Melenda up to a young lady’s sister. such as Besant’s and Meade’s. themselves participated in this public discourse as well. which she has always taken part in after her long days of work. For that matter. The subtext is. Webb found the knowledge that she had accumulated. they can do nothing short of closing the gulf between the two nations. Both for the public and for herself.” (Meade 1895: 362) 81 Divesting Melenda of the rags that belong to a sweat-shop needlewoman. and what is more. The effect of these narratives is the appropriation of this space for use and fulfilment of the lady who crosses the threshold. and promoted” (Meade 1895: 365). Melenda. “The . It seems that Valentine could not stoop to be her real working-class sister. it would appear. that if these ladies have adequate access to the homes and hearts of their workingclass sisters. as it turns out Violet was the adopted daughter. domestic life headed the national agenda. and for herself. dressed. or appropriated. even if I disagree as to the degree to which that problematic nature kept women off them so completely that they could not contribute to the representation of modernity. has become the flâneuse. brushing back the fringe that was the pride of every East End girl. instead. that Melenda no longer has any interest in the amusements of the East End streets. the driving force of the considerable power of the female social investigator in the homes of the poor: it is the domestic location of the experience and the gendered sharing of stories (1992: 56). the characterizations within popular novels. the growing recognition that what was hidden in the slums within the heart of London was part of the “double condition” of the modern metropolis made the private space of the poor a vital element of public discourse: “In short. “thus was Melenda subdued. Indeed.

garnered them a privileged knowledge. Walter. though sometimes disagreeing over methods.82 Cathleen J. That knowledge provided these ladies with a position of authority on matters of the impoverished domesticity. and to suggest how it could be mitigated. Both Hill and Webb. the separation of spheres provided women with a place of authority that legitimated their entry into public space and the discourse of the public sphere. their home life. Walter. going suddenly among even so small a number as these thirty-four families […] know so accurately as I what kind of assistance would be really helpful. and their habits. Children of Gibeon. Dyos. 1967. The access these women gained to both the streets around the homes of the poor and the domestic space within those homes themselves. as for all. Benjamin. Hamann outcome of these studies in East End life […] was an attempt […] to diagnose specific social disease. at stake was access to the modern city. J. and not corrupting” (1869: 224). and its role as a legitimizing force behind her professional appropriation: “Could anyone. redrawing the boundaries of feminine ‘respectability. Entrance into an important space was the ticket to an intimate and influential knowledge. In this case. and what is at stake in registering their movement within the critical discourse of modernity. What was at stake for these philanthropic flâneuses. H. so much so that the figures they often assumed became stereotypical and omnipresent in any public discourse on the matter of the urban poor. male social explorers. On the basis of her experiences among the London poor . is nothing less than this: “Since flânerie necessarily involved venturing beyond the physical and psychic boundaries of private space. and probably overcome” (Webb [1926] 1971: 329). For these women. Besant.Webb is able to solidify in the years that follow her position that capitalism would destroy its workers. 1886. Bibliography Anonymous. their livelihoods. 1888.L. 1983. ‘The Glorified Spinster’ in Macmillan’s Magazine 58: 371–76. Burt. ‘The Slums of Victorian London’ in Victorian Studies 11 (1): 5–40. London: Verso. negotiated this space and ended up achieving a great deal professionally through it.’ and reformulating feminine subjectivity” (Iskin 2003: 350). knowledge was power. unless there was an assurance that everyone would be guaranteed the minimum needed to achieve a “Civilized Life” (Webb [1926] 1971: 340). . Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism. a base from which they could easily usurp the homes of the poor and the discourse on them from earlier. New York: A. Hill spoke frequently about knowledge.

[1973] 1975. City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in LateVictorian London. 1992. Alan. Representation. ‘Statistics of Women’s Work’ in Burdett-Coutts. Independent Women: Work and Community for Single Women. 1898. Louisa M. ‘Organized Work Among the Poor. 1855–1897. 2003. Los Angeles: University of California Press. 1990. The Diary of Beatrice Webb (ed. Ward.) Women’s Mission: A Series of Congress Papers on the Philanthropic Work of Women by Eminent Writers. [Angela] (ed. London: Routledge. MA: Belknap Press.Ladies on the Tramp 83 Edwards. London: Truscott and Scott. Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London. J. London County Council: History of London Street Improvements. . ‘Why Are Women Redundant?’ in National Review 15: 434–60. Gilloch. . Norman and Jeane Mackenzie). Marston. Palmer. Seth. 1982. Koven. L. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. T. Walter Benjamin: Critical Constellations. Miller). NJ: Rutgers University Press. . New Brunswick. ‘The Invisible Flâneur’ in New Left Review 191: 90–110. Berkeley: University of California Press: 34–50. 1995. 1862. Keating. Gareth Stedman. Elizabeth. 1850–1920. Greg. Marcella (ed. the Control of Disorder. Malden. Princeton. Ithaca: Cornell University Press: 68–85. Wolff. . NJ: Princeton University Press. Webb. 1893. Deborah Epstein. Ontario. 1871. Hill. Raymond. Ithaca. Meade. Percy J. 2003. Iskin. Wilson. The Sphinx in the City: Urban Life. Jones. The Working Classes in Victorian Fiction. Octavia. and Women. Martha. Darton. 1895. Canada: Broadview. or. [1971] 1984. NY: Cornell University Press. Outcast London: A Study in the Relationship Between Classes in Victorian London. Beth Sutton-Ramspeck and Nicole B. London: Wells Gardner. Walking the Victorian Streets: Women. Nord. Cambridge. Vicinus. P. Ruth E. Graeme. ‘Gender and the Haunting of Cities: Or. Beatrice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [1894] 2002. The Country and the City. 2004. The East End: Four Centuries of London Life. Landlords and Tenants’ in Macmillan’s Magazine 24: 456–65. 1992. Mary Augusta. Oxford: Oxford University Press. My Apprenticeship. . 1971. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Judith R. 1869. Williams. New York: Pantheon. Walkowitz. 1985. ‘Blank Court. Suggestions Founded on Four Years’ Management of a London Court’ in Macmillan’s Magazine 20: 219–26. MA: Polity. [1926] 1971. Janet. W[illiam] R[athbone]. London: Sampson Low. the Retirement of the Flâneur’ in AngloModern: Painting and Modernity in Britain and the United States. A Princess of the Gutter. ‘The Invisible Flâneuse: Women and the Literature of Modernity’ in Feminine Sentences: Essays on Women and Culture. 1991. and the City. 2002. 2000. ‘The Pan-European Flâneuse in Fin-de-Siecle Posters: Advertising Modern Women in the City’ in Nineteenth-Century Contexts 25: 333–56. Hubbard.


Women on Display .


consumerism. is that in the late nineteenth century there is no clear-cut separation between the two spheres. or not. male definitions and expectations pertaining to her domestication. my premise. private life increasingly became public in the form of a spectacular story. Eliot and James exhibit their anxiety about the abuse of privacy and the redefinition of the female self in relation to commodities. woman. In the late nineteenth century this transformation affected the way the female consciousness appropriated domestic settings. as private individuals gathered for social purposes. production. as she appropriates. and display on the enclosed. thus disturbing patriarchal beliefs concerning a woman’s role in the house. the marketplace inflicted its rules of transaction. George Eliot. domesticity. an evolving drama often submitted to the most brutal exposure. By employing diction related to the public sphere when assessing the female characters’ inner concerns. or on her position within the private sphere. on her role and representation within the commercial world. In his examination of the historical development and transformation of the public sphere. however. assigning to women a public role. Jürgen Habermas. on the one hand. privacy. Jürgen Habermas has shown that from the seventeenth century onwards the domestic space of the family changed into a setting with public function. As Chase and Levenson have persuasively argued in Spectacle of Intimacy: A Public Life for the Victorian Family.“The Abuse of Visibility”: Domestic Publicity in Late Victorian Fiction Anna Despotopoulou abstract This chapter considers the domestic space of the late Victorian drawing-room as a locus of visibility and ultimately publicity for female characters in two novels by George Eliot and Henry James. Daniel Deronda and The Wings of the Dove. commodity. In accordance with recent examinations of the public-private categories. publicity. Recent studies of women and Victorian culture have frequently focused either on woman as consumer or worker in the public sphere. an exposure which. threatened the notion of domestic bliss that permeated . Keywords: Victorian. habitable space that it invaded. As publicity impinged on the private space of the family house. Henry James.

which conditioned and regulated the existence and function of the overall private sphere. Richter 2005. M. the space intended for the reception of the public. Jürgen Habermas uses G. Therefore. See Scott and Keates (eds) 2004. even the intimate sphere was “profoundly caught up in the requirements of the market”. on the other. giving its place to the salon or the drawing-room. Riehl’s 1889 examination of family life.1 Considering the thin line between public and private in late Victorian times and the precarious sense of privacy generated in domestic space. through the funding program “Kapodistrias”.2 In his seminal conceptualization of the public and private spheres. 2 In The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. “privatized individuals viewed themselves as independent even from the private sphere of their economic activity – as persons capable of entering into ‘purely human’ relations with one another” (1991: 48). separate spheres and.88 Anna Despotopoulou the ideology of gendered. even in the most private spaces of the home. as Habermas argues. according to nineteenth century socio-historical texts. Trevelyan’s analysis of the changes in seventeenth century town-house architecture. “oriented to an audience” (1991: 49). In the last few years numerous studies have examined and destabilized the dichotomy between private and public from sociological and feminist perspectives. H. shrinking or even disappearing. How do women negotiate the mingling of private self and publicity within the interior space of the home? After all. in English Social History: A Survey of Six Centuries from Chaucer to Queen Victoria. who have always been identified with and relegated to the domestic sphere of the home. . Piepmeier 2006. the space of domestic confinement for women was. Habermas maintains. and Gal 2002. Habermas defines the private sphere as consisting partly of private economic enterprise and partly of what he classifies as the intimate sphere. Nevertheless. 45). and living. I would like to thank the University of Athens. “In the intimate sphere of the conjugal family”. Davidoff 2003. generously financed my participation in that conference. this pure humanity that was assumed to determine the nature of close relationships was an illusory concept in the sense that subjectivity could not exist independently of economic definitions. serving society rather than the family. was constantly. the family circle. as individuals were both privatized human beings but also owners of 1 This article grew out of a paper I delivered at the ESSE Zaragoza conference 2004. Landes 2003. which. brought about a more frantic attempt to guard the home against such publicization (Chase and Levenson 2000). but left less room for the family as a whole […] Festivities for the whole house gave way to social evenings” (Habermas 1991: 44. to show how the “process of privatization […] made the house more of a home for each individual. it seems imperative to examine the effect of this reconfiguration of boundaries on women. in Die Familie. from the eighteenth century onwards. the living room. a space of display. and W.

for example. Indeed the literary public scene was consistently occupied by women writers. “such authorization within writing not only does not contradict women’s political powerlessness but actually reinforces it. since women could be neither owners of goods and persons. however. The literary career was the only economic enterprise that enabled women to take an active role in production. there is no evidence that. Interestingly. Evidence has shown that George Eliot. whose financial interests matched those of men. in the course of this essay I will use the term “public sphere” not in the strict Habermasian sense. as well as her male pseudonym. was as interested in her financial security ensuing from multiple sales of her novels as in the quality of her work. but neglects to analyze how the diptych of bourgeois and homme is negotiated within the female psyche in private life. Linking quality with quantity.e. employing the masculine as a collective pronoun referring to authors in general. 46). Habermas literally excludes women from the experience of privatization. The privatized individuals stepped out of the intimacy of their living rooms into the public sphere of the salon” (1991: 45). In claiming that “as a privatized individual. she argued that “It is in the highest sense lawful for [a writer] to get as good a price as he honourably can for the best work he is capable of ” (qtd. nor hommes. a place in print culture. By “public” and “public sphere” I will refer to all relations existing outside the domestic sphere. i. Habermas does not analyze the particular effect of the market on the subjectivity of the female participants of the domestic sphere. bourgeois and homme” (1991: 55). despite the prominence of women writers in the nineteenth century.“The Abuse of Visibility” 89 goods. in Lovell 1987: 80). Habermas refers to the growing role of women in the regulation of public opinion in the literary public sphere. gives women a kind of literary visibility. Eliot’s comment. As Kathryn Shevelow has argued. market relations being a constituent of such public life. Habermas contends that “the line between private and public sphere extended right through the home. It is predicated upon the cultural reaffirmation of a conception of feminine values that. an effect that seems crucial to any consideration of women’s appropriation of private space. “dependent on the sphere of labor and of commodity exchange” (Habermas 1991: 55.3 Yet this physical stepping out from one space to the other suggests a more 3 As the term “public” has been used lately to denote many and disparate kinds of social experience. In other words. confirm the masculinization of womanhood in the public sphere of production. above. the literary public sphere was in any sense feminine. as the product of a patriarchal ideology. the bourgeois was two things in one: owner of goods and persons and one human being among others. . but a place defined within the terms of that ideology” (1990: 14). Apart from pronouncing that women were dependent on the male head of the family.

since “out” meant the drawing-room as much as the city. In her survey of eighteenth and nineteenth century conduct books. The abuse of visibility also meant the abuse of privacy. 4 In her article “The New Woman”. the shelter. . which have examined the relegation of women to the domestic space of the home. Ida Farange. Nancy Armstrong has brilliantly demonstrated how such discourses served to create an ideology of structured difference between the men who “accumulate. not only from all injury. control and suppress their desires and appearance within the home (Armstrong 1987: 80–81). on the other hand. was not a topographical marker.90 Anna Despotopoulou implicit change on the level of consciousness as it requires that men and women automatically step into a role exhibiting appropriate social behaviour. Nevertheless.” i. 6 I have borrowed the phrase “abuse of visibility” from Henry James’s What Maisie Knew. the preposition of place – out –however. “to come out”. but from all terror. according to the OED5. for example. as it became an unwanted side-effect of this participation. the house/the city) but also by age. quite entrapping. it was. the English writer Ouida reacted to various articles by women who encouraged mothers to launch their daughters in public life (Ouida 1894: 610–19). Ruskin’s famous description of domestic space (1865). in 1897. produce. work in the public sphere. The Victorian period bore witness to numerous debates among women about the appropriate age at which girls should be launched in society. While the permeability of boundaries and the arguments about socialization never seemed to bother men who were from birth “out” – entitled to exist and function in the public sphere – the consciousness of women was affected in negative ways by the encroachment of the public on the private.e. while the role of women was considered fixed and controllable. See. the construction of domestic space itself in theoretical and literary texts was ambiguous. apparently.” i. which identified the home with a “place of Peace. “she was always out” (James [1908] 1998: 16). In other words. and provide for their families. and women who “regulate. writing about one of his most “public” women. while visibility on the one hand seemed to empower women by facilitating and securing their more active participation in the public sphere. 5 The Oxford English Dictionary Online (a compilation of the 2nd Edition and the New Edition in progress) pinpoints a passage from Frances Burney’s Cecilia (1782) as containing the first recorded occurrence of the phrase. the author marks that she produced on people who frequently ran into her “the sense indeed of a kind of abuse of visibility” because.6 The gendered separation of spheres has been repeatedly argued in older and recent Victorian studies. where.4 The phrase used to indicate a woman’s formal entry in society was since the 1780s. doubt. Women’s role-playing was bound not only by topographical binaries (the family-room/ the drawing-room.e. often presenting conflicting attitudes towards its essence and function. Crackanthorpe 1894: 23–31.

Concern about the effect of the market is abundant in the Victorian novel. as Chase and Levenson argue. Rather than being “a temple of the hearth watched over by Household Gods” (Ruskin 1865). instinctive. with walls and a roof. Dickens’s novel repeatedly employs metaphors of domesticity in relation to banking in order to familiarize the market (2000: 608. implicitly or even explicitly concerned itself with domestic threat and violence. However. “Ruskin makes it clear that the Home is not a concrete place. and walls designed to keep inside and outside apart only sealed them in intimate antagonism” (2000: 155). he detects Dickens’s ambiguous treatment of domestic subjectivity by claiming that “the problem of value in the market [… is] projected back into the subject” (2000: 611). the home is. human – under the conditions of a seemingly infinite market exchange” (2000: 591). the outer world. one cannot ignore the socio-historical forces which affected women’s appropriation of private space. infallible wisdom. as Ruskin maintained. Bigelow argues that feminine domesticity. Ruskin constructs a version of feminine subjectivity which is supposed to remain untouched by socio-economic change and which is heroically resistant to the difficulties of married life – a fantasy which had eclipsed even from the writings of earlier male Victorian authors like Dickens. portraying the home as the locus of insecurity. Therefore. but a mystical projection of the female psyche. as Chase and Levenson declare. a projection of male desires. private on public. inevitably exposed to the winds of public life. at the same time. something a woman generates through her femaleness alone” (1977: 184). Ruskin’s notion of femaleness. represented through the character of Esther. inspired by reallife cases. was often contradicted by art and fiction which. Although Bigelow is primarily interested in showing the intrusion of inner on outer. which consists of enduring incorruptible goodness. which hardly existed in reality. was but a fiction. rather than the other way round. and self renunciation (Ruskin. Bigelow’s study suggests that despite the separation between private and . “A house remains an object in social space. 1865). As Elaine Showalter says. since there is a substantial difference between the subjectivity of women constructed by men and that experienced or represented covertly or overtly by women themselves. is offered as the stabilizing alternative to the terrors of the marketplace. one can no longer view the private.“The Abuse of Visibility” 91 and division”. After all. “an uneasy cauldron of bliss” (2000: 14). domestic space as a utopia. In other words. in his analysis of Esther. a safe haven which excluded. linguistic. Gordon Bigelow has shown that Dickens’s Bleak House “tries to understand the nature of value – economic. 610). Melissa Valiska Gregory has recently argued that novels like those of Henry James “explore the failure of the Victorian domestic ideal” through the representation of “dynamics of abuse and oppression” in “the most outwardly civilized domestic relationships” (2004: 148). while.

and her vanity. She is always aware of being looked at and attracts attention with her aloofness and disdainful behaviour. or consciously using it to her social and economic advantage. suggesting the impossibility of identifying the home with privacy for women. where female desire very often runs loose. like the casino or the open field where she is riding or shooting arrows. “on all occasions of display she had been put foremost” (Eliot [1876] 1995: 23). which. her self image. As a matter of fact later Victorian novels treat the home as an insecure enclosure. which provokes curiosity by being so conspicuously different from other women’s . thus highlighting her undomestic upbringing. Gwendolen craves visibility. In other words. for example. I have chosen two novels featuring women with a strong public presence. from a very young age thrives in self-display. since the home is never secure and impenetrable. demonstrate a development in woman’s perception of private space. determining woman’s domesticity in terms of economic value. Eliot plunges Gwendolen Harleth to the unstable predicament of homelessness. between domestic space and public function. In public spaces. making her a victim of economic circumstances. contrary to what Bigelow says about Dickens. Eliot reveals most prominently her anxiety about the permeability of feminine space and its effects on subjectivity. has been ephemeral. In order to trace the very thin line between private and public. George Eliot and Henry James. nor. Rather than supporting her subjectivity with “a spot where the definiteness of early memories may be inwrought with affection and kindly acquaintance”. if the market defines female subjectivity. and the middle-class home can no longer be regarded as an isolated utopia. It is perhaps for this reason that from the start. Contrary to the domestic ideal of female invisibility. one can no longer view woman merely as the agent of good housekeeping. being accustomed to having her beauty acknowledged and placed prominently in both private and public spaces. Gwendolen Harleth. Gwendolen has to abandon a home which. for example. by either having unconsciously appropriated the publicity that invaded her space. present the female consciousness as challenging established. a fact which has promoted her self-confidence. as the means of limiting “the threat of wandering female desire” (Bigelow 2000: 603). At school. idealized notions of a woman’s domesticity. In Daniel Deronda. outlined in the conduct manuals researched by Nancy Armstrong (1987: 81). in Eliot such privacy can only exist in the non-physical space of subjectivity. Daniel Deronda and The Wings of the Dove. examined in comparison. Eliot makes Gwendolen a citizen of the world (Eliot [1876] 1995: 22). like her previous abodes. In this sense. betrayed in her frequent gazing at and admiring or even kissing her reflection in the mirror. the discourse used in nineteenth century economic and literary texts reveals cross-fertilization between home and market which taints the essential value of both.92 Anna Despotopoulou public spheres.

When she arrives at Offendene she immediately strikes poses as Saint Cecilia next to an organ for the benefit of familiar spectators: family members and servants. Eliot often undermines her control by using the framing device of the picture. yet. Gwendolen initially appears subversive in the sense that she attempts. such as this. In both instances Gwendolen betrays genuine terror. rather than an exposure of her dark uncontrollable unconscious. resulting in her instinctive slipping out of her coquettish role. at the same time. For instance. as visibility . she wishes her real terror to be taken for good acting (Eliot [1876] 1995: 62). her effort to negotiate a distance between herself and the stereotype of woman as object. and every one present must gaze at her” (Eliot [1876] 1995: 107). Davilow’s exclamation after her daughter’s private performance. despite Gwendolen’s prominence in the public sphere. “A charming picture. to control the image that she projects and the view that is received by her audience. she will write: “[Gwendolen] was the central object of that pretty picture. objectification is preferable to accessibility. Gwendolen strives to keep her subjectivity unknowable. as her acting is interrupted by an intrusion of subjectivity. a sample of her theatrical talent. her freedom is contained by the framework of patriarchy which requires women to perform as actresses for male spectators. while successfully concealing certain unrepresentable aspects of Gwendolen’s character.“The Abuse of Visibility” 93 public manner which reveals more overtly their dependence on the gaze of men. underlines the point that femininity is defined as something fixed and viewable. this subjectivity seems hidden even from Gwendolen herself. Yet this role-playing. in such scenes. devising a new gothic role. my dear!” (Eliot [1876] 1995: 27). However. Female subjectivity is thus rendered confused and unable to distinguish between private feeling and public appearance. an artful cover up for her unfortunate slip. through self-fashioning. Mrs. Gwendolen’s instinctive theatricality suggests that the rise of visibility conditioned women to consider themselves primarily commodities for display. Gwendolen is thinking of her public projection. does not free her from objectification. The image suggests that. Even in her most subjective moments. in the second instance. This disorientation about the bounds of self becomes most obvious during the two scenes in which Gwendolen is unpleasantly surprised by the sudden opening of the secret panel containing the macabre picture of a dead face. However. Gwendolen’s standoffish behaviour and coquettish appearance constitute her “masquerade” (to use Mary Ann Doane’s sense of the term [Doane 1982: 74–87]). as soon as she recovers her self-control. limited by ideological frames which enclose it. that of a damsel in distress. which is the inevitable outcome of women’s social performance. In other words. Gwendolen’s theatrical manners are exhibited not only in public but also in domestic spaces where her audience is limited.

however. We must stay . A woman’s domestic profile is thus subject to the outcome of a constant battle between selfishness and selflessness. We women can’t go in search of adventures – to find out the North-West Passage or the source of the Nile. Eliot suggests this exact conflation between subject and mask. one that sets ‘self ’ aside to represent in the protected realm of the home those communal values and truths endangered by the selfish competition of the marketplace” (Rosen 1996: 18). or simply survive in an unstable and vulnerable domestic environment. Her spirit of independence operates within the borders of the sphere of feminine activity. After explaining her premise that women flaunt an exaggerated form of femininity to hide elements of selfhood that they want to keep secret. Her strong sense of independence is contrasted to and deflated by her enslavement to a desire for being looked at. The anxiety of performance. Most significantly. which occurs at the same time as the loss of privacy. female conduct book writers like Sarah Stickney Ellis use the metaphor of the theatre to describe not only the flaunting of womanliness in public. Stickney Ellis “and other domestic writers describe femininity as a carefully disciplined performance. Focused on controlling her appearance. With her presentation of Gwendolen. whether radical or superficial. they are the same thing” (Riviere 1929). In Eliot. a conflation that is the result of the rise of spectacle in Victorian society and of the impingement of publicity on the private spaces which were supposed to harness subjectivity. as Judith Rosen argues in her analysis of Geraldine Jewsbury. who are able to make invisibility into a powerful weapon in their secret battle with men. her agency seems non-essential. women would assume poses to run the household. To account for this loss or suppression of subjectivity. Gwendolen’s confusion about the revised position of the woman in the home is betrayed by the contradictory way she appears to handle agency. Riviere feels compelled to “define womanliness” or to “draw the line between genuine womanliness and the masquerade”. I would like to refer to the early argument by Joan Riviere in “Womanliness as a Masquerade”. manipulate their husbands. that there is any such difference. visibility and invisibility. renders femininity precarious as her subjectivity ends up being veiled even from herself. As a matter of fact. or to hunt tigers in the East. described by Rosen as “domestic theatricality”. she says. But she finds this impossible: “My suggestion is not.94 Anna Despotopoulou has modified the way in which women view themselves. it is only the altruistic characters like Dorothea in Middlemarch. In an astonishingly perceptive comment about the position of women. an article reviewed and revised by Doane. She is a subject with an only wish to become an object. but also women’s domestic profile (Stickney Ellis 1842: 269) since even in the home.

to such an extent that until her marriage to Grandcourt. Gwendolen has assimilated the principles of the market society. who objectifies her anyway. outside the confines of domesticity. especially in the way she takes risks both at the roulette table and in her life decisions. similarly. even though. as objects of the gaze. who having no longer such a domestic ideal to identify with becomes. However. Gwendolen’s identity is defined by market relations. Her remark about women foreshadows the decorative role she will acquire after her marriage.“The Abuse of Visibility” where we grow. George Eliot emphasizes Gwendolen’s commodification in the first lines of the novel. who as a prominent female writer had herself experienced the difficulties of women acquiring agency in the public sphere. but also throughout the period before her marriage during which she bargains and is bargained for. George Eliot makes Gwendolen’s agency appear superficial but also futile. she cannot control the effect she has on Grandcourt. according to her mother. Gwendolen decides to marry for two notably undomestic reasons: firstly in order to secure her mother’s finances and secondly to enlarge her opportunities for social visibility. where Deronda gazes at her trying to fit her into the superficial categories of “beautiful or not beautiful” (Eliot [1876] 1995: 7). Interpreting marriage with characteristic lack of sentimentality. she calls it “social promotion” (Eliot [1876] 1995: 39). feminine development is controlled and knowable. We are brought up like the flowers to look pretty as we can. or where the gardeners like to transplant us. although she effectively manages her own appearance. permeable by the pragmatic and economic logic of the public sphere. nor could she ever understand it (Eliot [1876] 1995: 15). which in the words of Agnew include “the habit of display” and “the inclination to theatricality” (Agnew 1983: 76). unable to view her experience as private. Gwendolen’s tragedy arises from her gradual understanding that as a woman she completely lacks self possession and control of her image. she knows nothing of business. publicity challenges and ultimately changes not only the meaning of the home as a place of domestic privacy but also the subjectivity of a woman. as well as suggesting that all agency is attributed to men. for example. her marriage. insular and static. (Eliot [1876] 1995: 135) 95 Her comment suggests that while men’s subjectivities are formed by the unknown and their experience is unpredictable. she considers it “an absorbing show”: “Was not her . Lured by the publicity of the home and confirming that domestic space is not a locus of privatization for women. while women exist merely to be visible in the public or private sphere. is her “last great gambling loss” (Eliot [1876] 1995: 441). Gwendolen’s plight illustrates the insight of her author. Therefore. and be dull without complaining. She lives by its rules. Gwendolen assumes the masquerade to achieve self possession and construct a version of her self that defies predictability.

her numbness refers to her commodified existence. he deems her good enough for the publicity of the London drawing-rooms but not for the public sphere. After her first kiss with Grandcourt. in which her consciousness was a wondering spectator? After the half-wilful excitement of the day. This incident. but also her lack of individuality and uniqueness. discouraging her from starting a career on the public stage. immediately preceding Gwendolen’s receipt of Lydia Glasher’s letter. as Evelyn Ender has argued. Similarly Klesmer and Deronda suppress Gwendolen’s and Mirah’s public appearances. suggestive of hysteria.96 Anna Despotopoulou hurrying life of the last three months a show. Women are consistently discouraged from appearing and making money in the market society. George Eliot devises parallel plots in the case of Gwendolen. serves to imply that Gwendolen and Lydia are different versions of the same thing: women who. having forfeited her privacy. Theatricality is a threat not only to women’s subjectivity but also to men’s monopoly of the public sphere. Detesting Gwendolen’s outspokenness. of course. significantly. she throws herself into a chair and. Mirah. and the Alcharisi. a “specular division” (she sees herself). . Klesmer delineates the gruesome details of an actress’s way of life to Gwendolen. the repetition conveying not only. He tells both Lydia and Gwendolen that public demonstration (in case they complained about their victimization) and whimsical behaviour are like playing the role of the mad woman in a drama (Eliot [1876] 1995: 350. The Alcharisi is the only one who has made it as a public performer. reproducible. 446). so cherished in the past. and even the kind Deronda) try to suppress women’s prominence or appearance on the stage. an “inner psychical division” (Ender 1995: 257). in Grandcourt’s mind. as regards their aspired or achieved career on the stage. a numbness had come over her personality” (Eliot [1876] 1995: 357). yet not allowed to enter the public arena. “saw herself repeated in glass panels” (Eliot [1876] 1995: 358) (my emphasis). through its involuntary repetition now loses its distinctiveness. Grandcourt deems any kind of female public display madness or hysteria. are reproducible and therefore common and interchangeable. Moreover. and in the case of Mirah. being the only plausible explanation for a woman’s independent action or agency. like other dispensable commodities. but in the end admits that she had to forfeit her feminine self in order to achieve her goals. In order to stress the impossible position of a woman who. Klesmer. Her self image. madness. in order to suggest the threat that they pose to the patriarchal structure of the public sphere. Eliot has the three main male characters (Grandcourt. instead she is an object of desire. which renders her incapable of expressing personal desire. Gwendolen’s numbness represents her mental passivity resulting from her performance-like life and her failure to view herself as a private subject. is forced into a role.

is more enlivening than the domestication that these women seem to enjoy. Eliot conveys Mirah’s integration into the perfect domesticity of the Meyricks in the beginning of chapter 39. and Mirah is reading aloud an essay by Elia which produces blank smiles. the other girls are occupied with a “pièce de résistance” embroidery. 485). a fact confirmed by Klesmer: “I would not further your singing in any larger space than a private drawing-room” (Eliot [1876] 1995: 484. threaten the ideal. Mirah’s interpretation of the story attributes self-serving agency to a woman’s actions and a will for victory and prominence that Mordecai. as opposed to the “loftier spheres” to which their minds are called when they hear an unusual knocking at the door. without violence but with equal force. albeit unrealistic. Gwendolen is obliged to submit not only by Grandcourt. who thwarts her love of herself. With underlying irony. professionally and non-professionally. but also Deronda in his sessions with Gwendolen. and therefore her subsequent submission is more forceful and consequently more painful. wanting to conquer. but also by Deronda who. even in the form of a muffin man. as it “magnif[ied] the sense of social existence in a region where the most enlivening signals are usually those of the muffin-man” (Eliot [1876] 1995: 481). have tried to suppress. and she wanted somehow to have the first place in the king’s mind. Mirah detests the public sphere and considers herself unsuitable for it. Mirah believes that the sacrifice was motivated by selfishness rather than “surpassing love. Eliot’s emphasis on the socializing effect of the knock. constitute one of the main conflicts in the novel. which in Mordecai’s mind tends naturally towards invisibility and renunciation and in Mirah’s towards selfish fulfilment. where Kate is drawing. That is what she would die for” (Eliot [1876] 1995: 735). which. Having suffered from having been thrown against her will on the stage from an early age. image of the invisible domesticated woman. that made her die […] The Jewish girl must have had jealousy in her heart. The contrasting views about a woman’s disposition. Gwendolen’s vanities and selfish ambitions for public display. Mirah objects to the submission of the self in love or marriage.“The Abuse of Visibility” 97 Mirah represents the ideal of domesticity because she is more controllable than Gwendolen. applies his philosophical and almost religious wisdom in order to make her feel her smallness and ultimately her invisibility in the context of a wider world: “she felt herself reduced to a . suggests that the Meyrick all-woman household is cut off from the outer world of the public sphere. that loses self in the object of love”: “It was her strong self. despite her obedience. Yet. Contradicting the moral lesson of the Jewish parable narrated by Mordecai about the Jewish maiden who changed places with another woman who was sentenced to death so that the latter would find happiness with the man who loved her (and who was loved by the sacrificing woman).

dictating even the clothes and jewellery that she wears. In other words. she loses all sense of personal worth. because it either imprisons her within the domestic duties imposed by men or makes her a willing item of display. By presenting the diverse but still confining effect of the intimate sphere in Daniel Deronda. As a modified kind of interior space. Retreat to the non-physical space of subjectivity requires a similar retreat from the publicity of the drawing-room. worst of all. recognizes the objectification that she unknowingly inflicted on herself with her acting. does not get to experience the public sphere. is no longer a means of empowerment but a tool of subjection in the hands of Grandcourt. suggesting the incompatibility between outer and inner (Eliot [1876] 1995: 651). but this time by the privacy that the pain of revelation has inflicted on her experience. Gwendolen initially seeks comfort in her previous public self. Exploring her consciousness with more consistent thinking. in other words. an actress. Gwendolen. which. which flourished in the context of social occasions and consumerism. With insight into her plight. feeling threatened by the prominent public image of his female property.98 Anna Despotopoulou mere speck” (Eliot [1876] 1995: 803). who. she acknowledges that “the admiring male […] at present seemed rather detestable”. after her marriage her enjoyment in being looked at is diminished. the salon or drawing-room puts woman’s subjectivity at risk. In the latter part of the novel Gwendolen denies acting in both the private and the public sphere. conscious of the trap that her passion for visibility threw her into. Grandcourt represents that kind of masculine authority. she refuses to sing –“I shall never sing again” (Eliot [1876] 1995: 411) – and. as she has to suffer on her own. and flirting. nevertheless. when comparing emotions acted on stage with true feeling. and that the drawing-room in which she used to thrive through self-display has now become a “gilded prison” (Eliot [1876] 1995: 429. but is obliged to act in drawing-rooms. “Acting is slow and poor to what we go through within”. However. Deronda. She avoids public display. therefore. although women . 590). If before her marriage her agency was limited to striking poses which falsely promoted her self-image while in reality making her the curious object of the male gaze (Grandcourt. since their visibility is for the benefit of men. Confused again. He is often depicted controlling her external appearance. she now rejects gambling. As Mirah says. deeming her insignificant and not worthy of public notice. shopping. Gwendolen realizes that female subjectivity can exist as separate from men only via invisibility. imposes on her domestic value. which is evident in her avoidance of the mirror. appropriated and controlled by the men who dominate these private settings. Her “masquerade”. George Eliot affirms that the home is a controllable space which gives women only a false idea of independent agency. and Klesmer are all depicted objectifying her with their gaze).

whose subjectivity is greatly affected by the Victorian conduct book ideals of domestication. and invulnerability. they are deprived of the benefits of this privatized structure. from dazzling. regulation.8 With her presentation of Gwendolen’s development.” where subjectivity consists of “the peculiar combination of invisibility and vigilance”. all of which were in tune with Victorian ideals of individualism. to more interiorized women. and self-effacement. who helps her understand the error of her ways: “There was not the faintest touch of coquetry in the attitude of her mind towards [Deronda …] in some mysterious way he was becoming a part of her conscience” (Eliot [1876] 1995: 415). Ouida. Nevertheless. the “principle of domestic economy” (1987: 80. and which were mirrored in the privatized structure of the middle-class home (Michie 1999: 408–09). The Heavenly Twins. wholeness. 81). 8 Armstrong has shown that conduct books initiated this “cultural change from an earlier form of power based on sumptuary display [of women] to a modern form that works through the production of [female] subjectivity. author of the New Woman novel. and impermeability in Victorian society. good-for-nothing creatures. in Armstrong’s words. 81). in the case of both Gwendolen and Mirah. the “principle of domestic economy” (1987: 80. in her 1876 novel. these women are depicted as also lacking self-consciousness. another British writer. attributing it to 7 Helena Michie has shown that the “bourgeois body” was modeled after classical standards. which ultimately turns her into a victim. Self-knowledge and self-amelioration are shown as the outcome of male influence. Eliot sees Gwendolen’s transformation as possible only through self-repression. By presenting Gwendolen as misusing the power of visibility. In 1894 the periodicals The North American Review and The Nineteenth Century ran several articles by feminist and anti-feminist British writers. implying that women often want to be in the public eye for the wrong reasons. which emphasized its wholeness. her evolving subjectivity is still the product of male expectation. . Deronda affects Gwendolen’s subjectivity. anticipates the later debates among women in the 1890s press. the result of her association with Deronda. which argued for and against women’s active participation in the public sphere. While Sarah Grand. of “the peculiar combination of invisibility and vigilance”. impenetrability. perceived woman’s frequent abuse of the power of publicity. an ideal that reflected the Victorian appropriation of individualism. imposing on her view of herself male expectations about a woman’s supposed sacrificial tendencies. Eliot.“The Abuse of Visibility” 99 inhabit those domestic spaces which represent the ideal of privacy. consisting. encouraged women to reject the “Home-is-the-Woman’s-Sphere” dogma and venture out into the realm that had been forbidden to them (Grand 1894: 271). Gwendolen’s “education” reflects the gradual shift in the way women were perceived.7 Lacking self-possession. Eliot seems to be hinting at the negative effects of women’s indiscriminate emergence in the public sphere.

“I do not yet see how [I may live to be one of the best women]. repeated several times. A subject only when she denounces visibility and realizes her lack of independent agency. thus. of solitude. Why should she. the ending is bleak for Gwendolen. a visibility which. safely enclosed as she is in the domestic sphere with her mother as companion. diminishing the significance of the suffrage movement. requires investigation because it is possible that the private life that Ouida writes about no longer existed. The Wings of the Dove. It is under Deronda’s influence that she starts taking herself seriously as a private individual rather than an actress. Despite the backwardness of her argument. in this novel. of Nature. could not have figured in the title of Eliot’s novel. One wonders at the kind of life in store for Gwendolen. but you know better than I” (Eliot [1876] 1995: 810). demonstrates a development in the way women perceived and adjusted to the reconfiguration of boundaries between private and public. In an earlier study . by making her an object of the male gaze right from the start and pushing her to the side. Eliot is hard on her protagonist when she has her write in her last letter to Deronda. as we have seen in the case of Daniel Deronda. whose last appearance in the penultimate chapter is marked by her piercing shrieks and a not very convincing belief. has turned Gwendolen from subject to object. after all? Nevertheless. Gwendolen. “I shall live” (Eliot [1876] 1995: 807). it nevertheless offers significant insight into the threat of publicity to the subjectivity of women which was increasingly becoming permeable. Ouida concludes her article vehemently by asserting that “so long as [woman] shows herself as she does at present without scruple at every brutal and debasing spectacle which is considered fashionable. her undigested knowledge” and “her over-weening estimate of her own value” (Ouida 1894: 615). In her novel Eliot seems to be predicting the effects of women’s misunderstanding of publicity and punishes her protagonist for misusing her looks. However.100 Anna Despotopoulou “her fierce vanity. so long as she understands nothing of the beauty of meditation. suggesting the inability of women to comprehend and adopt male expectations of female excellence. […] she has no possible title or capacity to demand the place or the privilege of man” (Ouida 1894: 619). she successfully makes a case against those women who have forfeited feminine subjectivity for the sake of visibility. Her belief that women’s new preference for the public sphere leaves “The immense area which lies open to [a woman] in private life […] almost entirely uncultivated” (Ouida 1894: 614). first published twenty six years after Daniel Deronda. Although Ouida’s article negatively levels out all women with a prominent public presence. Eliot does not make her heroine able to transcend the limitations and vanities which are the outcome of this loss of privacy. Novels like Daniel Deronda depict the difficulty women had in maintaining such a private life.

the den. and the indoors as a penetrable space subject to display and visibility (Despotopoulou. treating the outdoors as private. whose consciousness is completely taken over by the logic of the market. . 227). “authority over the field of domestic objects and personnel” (Armstrong 1987: 81). since.“The Abuse of Visibility” 101 I have shown how James’s male and female characters. Lowder is primarily the “lioness” whose predatory moves Kate Croy gradually learns to simulate. The Wings deals with women’s diverse appropriation of private space constructing two versions of womanhood: the woman predator. the diction suggesting the disconcerting feeling aroused in men by women’s domestic power: “The notion of home as a frightening place. but also of Merton Densher. her counting-house. and in which the power of women was not guaranteed to be beneficently exercised. What are the implications. Unable to reconcile privacy and publicity. it diminishes the possibilities of being seen. James points at the surrender of privacy to publicity and at the invasion of the home by public sphere activities. in an effort to retrieve privacy. In her personal relationships. In his recent study of the Victorian parlour. her especial scene … of action. Maud Lowder’s involvement with the domestic economy of her own household is depicted as threatening. In representing the former’s “own room” as a public space. Mrs. Contrary to Ruskin’s belief in woman’s role as protector of domestic tranquility. reverse the function of interiors and exteriors. however. runs counter to the idealized home of Victorian popular culture” (Logan 2001: 224. paradoxically. 2002). the lair of woman”. gave her the role of “supervision”.e. “her office. The Wings of the Dove shows how this less than beneficent power affects the subjectivity of Milly Theale. of this problematic fluidity of privacy and publicity within domestic space for women in James’s late novels? Like Daniel Deronda. is incapable of diminishing the threat posed by women’s abuse of visibility. her battlefield. Thad Logan has shown that the reception areas of the home were also seen as “the cave. i. Mrs. At Lancaster Gate and other salons. whose sensitivity makes her unable to survive the attacks from without. an assignment which. and womanhood seems to him “quite the largest possibly quantity to deal with” (James [1902] 1971: 54). who. Lowder uses people as capital. and the more interiorized woman. he feels like being “in the cage of the lioness without his whip”. in which identity was threatened as well as nurtured.” “a guard-house or a toll-gate” (James [1902] 1971: 23). as Armstrong has shown. Milly and Densher have to bear the anguish resulting from their utopian effort to keep the two spheres separate in an age of ruthless philistinism. unlike the male characters in Eliot. Maud Lowder’s mercenary temperament as well as her comfortable entanglement with the market – she is called “Britannia of the Market Place” (James [1902] 1971: 23) – are indeed a far cry from the idealized version of the Victorian angel in the house.

they smiled and sighed on removing them. but the gesture. Her inability to view enclosed settings as unaffected by public function. initially. (James [1902] 1971: 286) Both women have appropriated the masquerade as a means of protection as well as attack. for example. as they might have flourished Spanish fans. the smiles. firstly as a spectacle in the London salons and secondly as a Bronzino lookalike. In other words. but also intimate interaction. Milly strives hard to avoid the conflation between exterior and interior. is revealed in the first chapter. as acting determines her consciousness of self and is not just a means of social interaction. Her private grief for the loss of her mother. the sighs. as Densher acknowledges. In the Venetian part of the novel. for examination and definition. For Kate. it was then that what they were keeping back was most in the air. Milly tries to physically separate privacy from publicity creating a space for her subjectivity. the independent pair. In London and Matcham.102 Anna Despotopoulou Despite her abhorrence of visibility. as. strangely enough. James employs metaphors from the theatre to emphasize this performativity that becomes an essential element of. where. an opportunity for appropriate social behaviour (James [1902] 1971: 23). contemplating her father’s squalid home she notes that houses “constituted quite the publicity implied by such privacies” (James [1902] 1971: 5). a public spectacle. in the scene at the National Gallery where she assumes her longforgotten and unused role of the spontaneous and even comic American girl in order to overcome her embarrassment and conceal the depth of her knowledge of the relationship between Kate and Densher (James [1902] 1971: 192). in her mind. her thoughts are on the social projection of her solitude. for example. both female protagonists adopt theatrical techniques in order to benefit from the possibilities of socialization offered by the no longer domestic function of the home. might have been suspected the greatest reality in the business […] It was when they called each other’s attention to their ceasing to pretend. The relationship between Milly and Kate is played out as if in a “dim scene of a Maeterlinck play” (James [1902] 1971: 287). even the most intimate erotic moments are a show. On the other hand. she is affronted by the publicity to which she is subjected. Even when alone. and their acting is aided by figurative masks which they put on and take off during conversation: They flourished their masks. a face up for public scrutiny. becomes. Milly is forced to acknowledge that subjectivity is a social . not only social. Milly feels restricted by the masquerade in which she reluctantly takes part. But while for Kate the mask has become one with her character. as every moment in her life is evaluated according to its measure of visibility. Milly has to participate as an actress in the stage-like performances taking place continuously within the houses that she frequents.

however. James describes Milly’s private experience. at the end of Daniel Deronda. perched in her Venetian loft. Densher may be identified with Milly in their common rejection of visibility. permeable by the determining force of public visibility and social worth. superficiality. Like Milly. I mean that the positive beauty is that one needn’t go down. it may be assumed. never to go down!” she strangely sighed to her friend. In The Wings it is not only women who are depicted as suffering from the mingling of inner and outer. not to go down – never.“The Abuse of Visibility” 103 construction. did not quite know what to do with her new-found subjectivity. who. the artificial.” She shook her head both lightly and mournfully enough at his not understanding. the physical separation of spheres within Milly’s home. is partly responsible for this intrusion of publicity in every corner of private life. to which she resorts to avoid the stifling theatrical enclosures. who are all outer and no inner. “with that tremendous old staircase in your court? There ought of course always to be people at top and bottom. and depth vs. Densher constructs private spaces. the lower. Her conversation with Lord Mark in Venice points at the contrasting values between those whose consciousness is consumed by public concerns and those who still cling to a sensitive and more subjective experience of life. both indoors and . the face vs. which is different from the kind of manly adventures envied by Gwendolen in Eliot’s novel. While Lord Mark represents the man whom the loss of privacy does not seem to have touched and whose type. engaging in city life through spectatorship. as an adventure. the mask. to watch you do it. Milly’s final adventure is one of introspection and self-discovery. Thus. alludes to the two kinds of femininity constructed in the novel and rendered as a series of dichotomies: the heart vs. although she cannot avoid the social identity projected on her by the world – after all. “he asked. the natural vs. Even flânerie. “But why shouldn’t you. In Venice. the body. I don’t move in fact. “the girl couldn’t get away from her wealth” (James [1902] 1971: 82) – she constructs a private space in the upper part of her two-storey palazzo from which she reluctantly descends. “the adventure of not stirring” (James [1902] 1971: 293). Men too are compared according to the way they experience this fluidity. “Ah.” (James [1902] 1971: 292) Milly’s rejection of visibility as a means of feminine exposure and progress and her relish of solitude and immobility marks the development of woman’s perception of herself from the figure of Gwendolen Harleth. which cannot be shared by Kate Croy and Maud Lowder. the upper storey vs. is doomed as it is quickly checked and turned into an opportunity for men to gaze at women. “Not even for people in Veronese costumes. in Veronese costumes.

a “faint. which nineteenth century sociological and cultural discourses had constructed as “naturally” feminine. a fulfilment of her part of the bargain. the uncut” (James [1902] 1971: 236). representing depth and sentiment. which shelter a rich inner life. the secret representing the characters’ evolving consciousness. In a radical revision of the notion of gendered spheres. in the end gains status as a figure of public admiration. But while. and a sound audible only to a “spiritual ear”. Initially. In both novels. While Densher views Kate’s sexual surrender in his Venetian rooms in terms of a private treasure of inestimable value. What Densher deems unknowable is the consciousness of womanhood that defies reading as it strays from ideologies of domestication. in the end. their theatricality turning against them. bringing to it elements of the marketplace. in the beginning. Kate dares to assault the carefully guarded boundaries . subjectively perceived setting. we see that in the course of the nineteenth century the previously domestic space of the home becomes a locus of publicity for women of social stature or physical beauty. far wail”. Like the Alcharisi. Similarly. Kate takes advantage of her power as a public commodity. private space is construed as a metaphorical as much as a literal setting which harnesses a secret. which the occupant has tried to expel with his romanticism. a pearl. his London rooms represent the development of his feelings. the drawing-room and other interior spaces of social interaction give women a false sense of participation in the public sphere and an illusory freedom from domestication. In both cases of Milly’s and Densher’s abodes. which is smothered or even deadened by the “sounds of life” like those that Kate brings along with her presence (James [1902] 1971: 450–51). an interiorized. Kate Croy. However. the waning of his love for Kate and his realization of Milly’s impact on him. but fails in her private ambitions. Densher relishes the mystery in Kate.104 Anna Despotopoulou outdoors. he gradually finds her unconventional and perhaps male logic threatening. she has had to renounce sensibility. in order to acquire the desired visibility. she completely sacrifices the private for the sake of the public. applying the rules of the marketplace to her relationships. thwarted in their personal ambitions. who is represented not only as an object of consumerism but also as a competent consumer herself. marvelling at her unpredictability: “The women one meets – what are they but books one has already read? You’re a whole library of the unknown. but by having revised the self according to commodities. Densher admires Kate for her difference. Such women who try to appropriate the power of visibility and evade the private sphere of activities are. Kate sees it as a business transaction. his rooms. which is likened to a secret. James has Kate invade Densher’s domestic privacy. and in this sense she is more aggressive than Gwendolen. an act of specific value and consequence: a means to a mercenary end. Densher’s space is like Milly’s.

Cambridge. Ender. Jackson Lears (eds) The Culture of Consumption: Critical Essays in American History. 2000. The Spectacle of Intimacy: A Public Life for the Victorian Family. New York: Oxford University Press. Despotopoulou. Daniel Deronda. Eliot’s and James’s writing suggests that women with aspirations to enter the public sphere through prominent exposure or an assimilation of marketplace rules were regarded as a threat to the patriarchal ideal of a fixed separation between domestic and public spheres. [1876] 1995. 1987. 2000. Karen and Michael Levenson. J. Evelyne. or as ruthless materialist. 1983. The Gender of Modernity. Gordon. ‘Gender and the “Great Divide”: Public and Private in British Gender History’ in Journal of Women’s History 15: 11–27. Rita. the two alternative ways explored by the authors by which women can acquire publicity. Armstrong. as spectacle. New York: Pantheon: 67–100. 1894. 1995. . in the case of Gwendolen. breaching the line between private and public. London: Penguin Classics. leading to the personal misery of the female subject. this passage into the public sphere does not really represent a female conquest but merely perpetuates patriarchal systems of beliefs in which women can be either objects of the gaze or else imitators of male conduct. As Rita Felski has argued.“The Abuse of Visibility” 105 of the masculine public sphere. and therefore. 2002. but her power is precarious because it simulates male codes of conduct and thus it is constantly prone to the unveiling and neutralizing agency of man. ‘The Price of “Mere Spectatorship”: Henry James’s The Wings of the Dove’ in The Review of English Studies 53: 228–44. it has to be suppressed. 2003. ‘The Revolt of the Daughters’ in The Nineteenth Century 35: 23–31. 1982. Richard and T. Sexing the Mind: Nineteenth-Century Fictions of Hysteria. Princeton: Princeton University Press. MA: Harvard University Press. Jean-Christophe. puts to question the role of men and the definition of masculinity in an increasingly consumerist society. Mary Ann. B. George. Desire and Domestic Fiction. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Felski. Bigelow. being “victims of modernity” these women are threatening because they stand for “the feminization of society through a burgeoning materialism and hedonistic excess” (Felski 1995: 66). ‘The Consuming Vision of Henry James’ in WightmanFox. Hence. Nancy. Anna. in the case of Kate. their conduct. Doane. Leonore. Chase. Crackanthorpe. 1880–1980. 1995. female and male roles. After all. A. are both doomed to failure. Eliot. Davidoff. ‘Market Indicators: Banking and Domesticity in Dickens’s Bleak House’ in English Literary History 67(2): 589–615. Bibliography Agnew. In other words. ‘Film and Masquerade: Theorizing the Female Spectator’ in Screen 23 (3–4): 74–87.

Logan. Women and Print Culture: The Construction of Femininity in the Early Periodical. . The Victorian Parlour: A Cultural Study. World’s Classics. Oxford: Blackwell: 407–24. Lovell. Stickney Ellis. [1902] 1971. (ed. London: Verso. Sarah. Helena. Richter. ‘From Melodrama to Monologue: Henry James and Domestic Terror’ in The Henry James Review 25: 146–67. Herbert F. John. ‘Of Queen’s Gardens’ in Sesame and Lilies.ncf. 1894. Going Public: Feminism and the Shifting Boundaries of the Private Sphere. Riviere. Michie. ‘Womanliness as a Masquerade’ in The International Journal of Psychoanalysis 10. Ouida. Alison. 2001. New York: D. Thad. and Responsibilities. 1990. Elaine. James. A Literature of their Own. ‘Under Victorian Skins: The Bodies Beneath’ in Tucker. 1999. and the Rise of Public Domesticity. ‘A Semiotics of the Public/Private Distinction’ in differences: a Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 13: 77–95. ‘The New Aspect of the Woman Question’ in The North American Review. 1977. Judith. Oxford: Oxford University Press. and Debra Keates (eds). Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Joan W. Susan. Jürgen. .01. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. ‘At Home Upon a Stage: Domesticity and Genius in Geraldine Jewsbury’s The Half Sisters (1848)’ in Harman. [1908] 1998. Habermas. On line at: http://www. Gregory. Ruskin.html (consulted 5. The Wings of the Dove. Consuming womanliness_as_masquerade. Henry. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ‘Stepping Out: Rethinking the Public and Private Spheres’ in Journal of Women’s History 18: 128–37. 2004. Daughters of England: Their Position in Society. Melissa Valiska.2005). Landes.01. What Maisie Knew. Grand. 1894.2005).) A Companion to Victorian Literature and Culture. On line at: http://www. 2005. Scott. 1842. Shevelow. Barbara Leah and Susan Meyer (eds) The New Nineteenth Century: Feminist Readings of Underread Victorian Fiction. ‘The New Woman’ in The North American Review 158: 610–19. 158(448): 270–76. the Railroad. Harmondsworth: Penguin. ‘Further Thoughts on the Public/Private Distinction’ in Journal of Women’s History 15: 28–39. 1991. 2004. Kathryn. 1987. Amy G. 1929. 1996. Joan.underthe sun. MA: MIT Press. Appleton and Co. Showalter. Terry. Sarah. Home on the Rails: Women. New York: Garland: 17–32. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Joan B. London: Routledge.106 Anna Despotopoulou Gal. 2003.htm (consulted 2. Cambridge. 2006. Piepmeier. 2002. Character.

this analysis intends to understand better the changing role of women within a materialistcentred culture. and the result of her subsequent endeavours was The House of Mirth (1905). it is possible to explore how women are consistently relegated to the status of products for male consumption. exemplified through Lily’s hazardous journey from attractive product to impoverished producer. public. consumerism. for more information. from the Wharton Archives. By re-reading The House of Mirth in terms of the consumer politics of the Gilded Age. author of the seminal The Theory of the Leisure Class: an Economic Study in the Evolution of Institutions (1899). This chapter considers the function of forms of space in Wharton’s text. Beineche Library See. The novel became a huge success. and analysing how the central protagonist Lily Bart is able to manipulate areas of public space. fashion. By exploring the utilisation of consumerism and the use of different forms of space in Wharton’s bestseller. “As a spectator. Wolff 1977: 111. . Keywords: America. body. October 26th. Wharton herself made no great claims for a work she described as “a simple and fairly moving domes1 From Wharton’s letter to Sara Norton. marriage.000 copies within the first three weeks of its publication after a hugely successful serialisation in Scribner’s. Wharton’s scathing critique of the leisure class. Edith Wharton. 1906. Wharton places her notoriously “negative hero” in the role of detached observer. achieving sales of over 30. Despite the wealth of critical attention the text has since attracted. and draws on the work of economist Thorstein Veblen. resonates here in their early encounter.1 The relationship between Lily and Selden. a position he will occupy for much of the novel. performer and spectator. So admits Lawrence Selden in the famous Grand Central Station opening scene of Edith Wharton’s bestseller The House of Mirth (1905). Thorstein Veblen. space. autonomy. illustrates the narrow options available to the single woman of the time. decoration. private.Public Space and Spectacle: Female Bodies and Consumerism in Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth Anne-Marie Evans abstract Edith Wharton was eager to follow Henry James’s advice when he famously suggested she “Do New York” in 1902. art. he had always enjoyed Lily Bart” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 4). commodity.

as Veblen famously defined it. social status and the financial security that only marriage seemed to provide. At twenty-nine. its bitterly ironic title taken from Ecclesiastes 7:4. The text elucidates his conclusions concerning the behaviour of the American social elite. By interrogating the way in which Lily is effectively conditioned by both the city landscape and existing social hierarchies. “conspicuous consumerism”.108 Anne-Marie Evans tic tragedy” (Wegener 1996: 267). her chances of an advantageous marriage are swiftly decreasing. the novel numbered eighth in the top ten bestsellers of 1905. and the text documents her thwarted aspirations and eventual death after eleven years in society. The female body is thus translated into a form of public space. the wearing of riches normally associated only with the nouveau riche. this analysis will demonstrate how the female body was increasingly perceived as an extension of public space. charming. The contemporary love of surfaces. the members of the unofficial American aristocracy not obliged to work for a living. transmuting each area into a platform for sexualised public performance. Veblen specifically attacked the position of women in this society. as a visual display of her . Marriage remains Lily’s only option to save herself from humiliating penury and her behaviour in private spaces is a result of this necessity. and how Lily’s clothes and appearance have the power to transform public spaces. In the aggressive marital mart of The House of Mirth. Published when she was forty-three. once a socially promising if impoverished debutante. claiming they functioned primarily as ornaments for their husbands’ wealth and displayers of the growing trend towards. Lily changes the space around her. communal spaces and the interpretation of the female body as a form of both public space and public interest. Through examining the notion of private space. and wilful Lily Bart. and appraising a range of public spaces. As such. A “good” marriage ensured social success and financial security in a culture where the gently-bred female was not permitted to work for a living and subsequently support herself. women are forced to translate themselves into attractive products for an increasingly lascivious male audience in their determined efforts to secure a husband. and remains a meticulously constructed argument savaging the excesses and ostentatious consumerism of what Veblen designated the “leisure class”. appearances and social position (exemplified by Lily’s love of designer Jacques Doucet dresses) were notoriously attacked by social economist Thorstein Veblen in The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study in the Evolution of Institutions. become integral to a contemplation of Lily’s journey in The House of Mirth. the female body functions as an extension of public space in the consumer society of what has come to be known as the Gilded Age. The House of Mirth chronicles the downfall of beautiful.

In simplified Veblen-esque terms: men acquire. Wharton’s Manhattan and the deeply congested space of New York function to highlight the destructive impact of consumerism upon civic life and the individual female psyche.Public Space and Spectacle 109 husband’s healthy finances. Lily goes for a walk with Gus Trenor as she believes that this inherently public space will shield her from any accusations of misconduct. Wharton declared in The Decoration of Houses. I read The House of Mirth as a cultural historian. Lily’s actions are again misconstrued and misunderstood as her visibility on this occasion contributes to her reputation for being inappropriately “conspicuous”. . Jr. Unfortunately. She is observed in the Park by a nameless friend of Grace Stepney “quite late. half-lit venue which could be associated with scandalous behaviour. her rigorous approach to minimalist décor written with Ogden Codman.2 Rather than applying spatial theories of public space. The active male provides essential resources while the female remains relegated to the role of a passive decoration. attends the opera. after the lamps were lit” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 120). person or marriage partner constitutes the most sought after social commodity. After the imposed order of the grid system on the public space of the city in 1811 (an act of intended urban improvement but unpopular for a considerable period). such as Habermas’s well-documented work on discursive and political public space. (Wharton & Codman [1897] 1997: 191). playfully suggesting they go and “feed the squirrels” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 114). using Veblen’s work to re-evaluate the text. secretive. Lily fails to realise that this too can be equally ruinous. As Lori Merish observes. walks in Central Park (a man-made rural space in the midst of the urban panorama) and travels upstate through the Hudson Valley to visit Gus and Judy Trenor at Bellomont. their country estate. Lily walks along Madison and Fifth Avenue. and women display. the late nineteenth century oversaw the development of the New York department store. In Central Park. as the corset’s physical rigidity prevented women from any physical work. where an enthusiastic public endorsement of one’s home. Veblen believed the very function of the corset was to advertise affluent indolence. The lateness of the hour changes the relatively safe space of the public park to an illicit. “Most of the novel’s action takes place in semipublic spaces of consumption and commercial amusement” (2003: 237). “We have passed from the golden age of architecture to the gilded age of decoration”. The panorama of “Old New York” provides the novel with myriad public spaces to explore. This idea of decoration and surfaces permeates her approach in The House of Mirth. and so ensured that they remained attractive illustrations of their husband’s ample wealth. Veblen argued persuasively that the contemporary preference for the restricting female corset aligned with his theories of vicarious wealth. for the first time utilising specially designed window displays 2 For example.

rumor. Selden cannot compete with other more affluent potential suitors for Lily. particularly as newspaper scrutiny raised the ante. Dabham’s continuing scrutiny contributes to an awareness of narrative claustrophobia. Lily’s sojourn abroad is made considerably more traumatic as her actions are reported in the society magazine and scandal sheet Town Talk. (1998: 11) Montgomery’s argument that women had to work to provide a spectacular show challenges Veblen’s theory of the passive female. Women had to work hard at displaying leisure and making sure that the display was noticed. or skating clubs. This move towards display and surveillance can be detected in the relationship between Lily and Selden. in existence from 1885 and boasting a popular section entitled “Saunterings”. Selden utilises the same non-buyer’s principles in his scenes with Lily: “it is precisely because he can’t afford (but appreciates) Lily that Selden best enacts the dynamics of visual desire in consumer culture” (2003: 259). the Sabrina. The rise of the tabloid press in the US made public space an amplified showground for performance and in The House of Mirth. “the beautiful Miss Bart” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 190) will never fail to guarantee elevated sales of Town Topics. as Selden appreciates the handsome figure of Miss Bart emerging from the throbbing hub of Grand Central Station. Maureen E. one of perpetually “just looking”. From the very beginning of the novel. her role as a social spectacle is confirmed. gave women greater access to public space. Merish interprets the situation as. the leisure that women displayed was no longer restricted to the home and came to involve large outlays on leisure goods and services.110 Anne-Marie Evans to entice the female shopper. Dabham of Town Topics during her time in the Mediterranean and aboard the Dorset’s yacht. and this was combined with a greater mobility due to the availability of mechanised transport. and in his hands the currency of gossip was transformed into profit and power” (1998: 1). Lily undergoes observation from the ubiquitous Mr. again reinforcing Lily’s role as a performer in public spaces. Like the shadowy figure of “The Saunterer”. Montgomery explains: In the late nineteenth century. Amy Kaplan has noted how Lily is . gossip. like the developing role of the New York window shopper. a gossip column written anonymously by “The Saunterer”. and innuendo. which Wharton based on the real life publication Town Topics. The increasingly public nature of leisure enjoyed in heterosocial settings. Montgomery posits the Saunterer’s role as one of social consumer-parasite: “he was a panoptical figure surveying social life in the metropolis. In addition to Selden’s ever-watchful eye. the press survey and report on “elite society by making it visible to the classes beneath them” (Kaplan 2003: 88). cabarets. He was also a merchant dealing in information. such as restaurants. A member of Lily’s social group because he is amusing company rather than rich.

Selden’s “eyes had been refreshed by the sight of Miss Lily Bart”. He hypocritically notes Lily’s external polish. Selden realises “that if she did not wish to be seen she would contrive to elude him” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 3). Wharton crucially distinguishes that the power of seeing and being seen lies with Lily. “conscious of taking a luxurious pleasure in her nearness”. Described in semi-erotic terms. Selden’s notion that the cost of producing Lily as a finished commodity is high implicitly denies her autonomy and forms a parallel with Lily’s vague understandings of Wall Street finances. she is immediately construed as a site of male interest. but that circumstance had fashioned it into a futile shape? (Wharton [1905] 2000: 5) Written entirely from his masculine perspective. Selden is aware of his position as a visual consumer of Lily. Throughout the text. Yet the analogy left him unsatisified.Public Space and Spectacle 111 paradoxically defined as both apart from the crowd which “forms a background that outlines her brilliance” and simultaneously surrounded by “the passers-by [who] constitute an audience of spectators” (2003: 85). for a coarse texture will not take a high finish. in some mysterious way. Lily’s strategy is simple: “to keep herself visibly identified” with the right kind of people (Wharton [1905] 2000: 260). and was it not possible that the material was fine. She remains as ignorant of the capital and labour relationship as Selden is from the mysteries of female presentation. Her real character appears to be “vulgar clay” which is enhanced and accessorised for public display. a frequent and willing object of admiration. In other words. have been sacrificed to produce her. Selden’s deductions about Lily are based primarily on her physical appearance. hair and eyelashes as surveillance becomes a form of consumer voyeurism. Lily realises she must be publicly associated with the higher echelons of society if she has any hope of rehabilitating herself. He was aware that the qualities distinguishing her from the herd of her sex were chiefly external: as though a fine glaze of beauty and fastidiousness had been applied to vulgar clay. At her fateful meeting with Selden in the first chapter. distinguishing her from the “herd” of femininity but proceeds to criticise her love for the material without admitting that this . The House of Mirth begins and ends with Lily Bart as the subject of the male gaze. He had a confused sense that she must have cost a great deal to make. that a great many dull and ugly people must. at once strong and fine. Following her disastrous expulsion from the Sabrina. reports Wharton ([1905] 2000: 5) and Lily is swiftly placed within the mode of production as she strolls along: Selden was conscious of taking a luxurious pleasure in her nearness […] Everything about her was at once vigorous and exquisite. Selden notes minute details such as Lily’s ear.

Selden enthusiastically consumes 3 This is consistent with Selden’s continuing attempts to translate Lily into an appealing work of art. Percy Gryce) seeing through Lily’s consciously assumed coquetry. Walking slowly to church whilst at Bellomont. implying that she functions as a spectacular site of public interest. we can see it exemplified in The House of Mirth. or to the fact that her presence enhanced it” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 59). As the object of her machinations. as his previous affair with Bertha Dorset bears witness.3 Selden simultaneously and implicitly approves of her attentions to personal adornment. Ever susceptible to the fineries of female adornment. Lily reveals an astute understanding of the aesthetic potential of an area of public space. Ever financialy astute Sim Rosedale quickly learns that being seen in a public space in the company of Lily Bart socially equates “money in his pocket” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 15). I always like to see what you are doing” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 64). . Lily pauses to wait at a bend in the path: “The spot was charming. despite his verbal protestations to the contrary. her beauty makes him conspicuous by association. the Trenors’ country seat. In the final scene. Selden’s actions reveal his wish to aestheticise Lily and highlight again his appreciation of the pleasingly attractive.112 Anne-Marie Evans external beauty forms the cornerstone of her attraction. Selden enjoys an advantaged viewpoint (she smokes in front of him but not the millionaire. wryly noticing that “even her weeping was an art” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 70). lingered to look. and how she might utilise it to her immediate benefit. Lily provides an entertaining distraction for Selden. for Miss Bart was a figure to arrest even the suburban traveller rushing to his last train” (Wharton[1905] 2000: 3). a realisation he repeatedly uses to his advantage. in brushing past them. To return to Veblen’s theory that “conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentlman of leisure” (Veblen [1899] 1994: 47). deeming the “sacrifices” he describes as worthwhile. automatically assuming the room must be Lily’s: “it was inevitable that he should connect her with the one touch of beauty in the dingy scene” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 314). as he rushes to her boarding house he glances up and spies a pot of pansies on one of the window sills. while he follows her to Bellomont only to exclaim. “you’re such a wonderful spectacle. and potential husband. By claiming Lily as a “spectacle”. The gazing prior to Lily and Selden’s famous stroll down Madison Avenue is not limited to Selden. “One or two persons. Wharton notes that at Grand Central. Selden seeks to conceal his personal interest in her company. Lily remains aware of the power of the male gaze and Selden openly appreciates her artistry in arranging herself to cultivated advantage. as Lily enacts the role of Selden’s “valuable goods”. and Lily was not insensible to the charm. hugely admiring of her physical appearance.

Selden is seduced by the immediacy of the spectacle and cannot understand the countervailing evidence” (Kaplan 2003: 97). the rest of the weekend party understands the game she has engaged in to secure Gryce’s interest and “A solitude was tacitly created for her in the crowded existence of Bellomont” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 45). would. “The Lily unadorned. almost flinging Miss Bart into his arms. This brief example illustrates how Lily is capable of charging a public space with sexual energy: her presence completely overwhelms the shyly tedious Gryce. often wrapped in scented tissues and linen. His condemnation of Lily after witnessing her exit from the Trenor house fully reinforces Kaplan’s argument as Selden lacks the ability to distinguish between reality and the spectacular. and the setting of this particular spectacle (in the public street) serves to cement his belief and (mis) perceptions. Earlier in the novel. Wharton recognised from an early age the importance of the meticulously composed female appearance and its intrinsic power – an awareness which is evident in the episode that narrates Lily’s encounter with Percy Gryce. Wharton sexualises the passage in the train with this emphasis on physical sensation and illicit touching: “his shoulder had felt her fugitive touch”. yet he interprets this inclination as an aesthetic appreciation rather than a sexualised consumerism. attracted to Lily’s ability to turn heads. Selden. “The best dressed woman in New York” was the prompt reply (Wolff 1997: 33). as Lily embraces the . Again. During Lily’s stay with the Trenors. where she must overcome her disdain for Percy Gryce “on the bare chance that he might ultimately decide to do her the honour of boring her for life” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 25). Clothes. after all. perceptions of public space are manipulated to provide a venue for what should constitute the intimately private but instead provides entertaining gossip for bored houseguests. She steadied herself with a laugh and drew back. As Cynthia Griffin Wolff notes.Public Space and Spectacle 113 female attractions. are used to sway the outcome of Lily’s war between boredom and economic necessity. who timidly feels “secure in the shelter of her conspicuousness” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 18). where Lily’s dress functions as an integral part of her attempt to captivate the millionaire’s interest. “What would you like to be when you grow up?” asked Aunt Mary Newbold to a young Edith Wharton. Lily’s attempts to manoeuvre a beneficial encounter with the tedious millionaire Percy Gryce demonstrates her acute understanding of the integral role female clothing. fail to sustain his interest” (Wolff 1977: 121). and the attention it can draw to the female body. exists as a slave to the spectacular: “At key junctures in the novel. As this anecdote reveals. on the train to Bellomont. but he was enveloped in the scent of her dress and his shoulder had felt her fugitive touch” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 18). plays on the social carousel: “The train swayed again.

pleasure rules supreme and financial pragmatism remains an unknown concept. In an effort to explain her protagonist’s lust for the material. a door-bell perpetually ringing. uninfluenced by a positive parental example: “Ruling the turbulent element called home was the vigorous and determined figure of a mother still young enough to dance her ball dresses to rags. Lily’s gradual awakening to a world other than the one surrounding her effectively coincides with her change in status as a consumer. which contemporary readers would have recognised as tradesman bills. is characterised by her lack of care for current fashion. In happier days. the image of her “vigorous and determined” mother distinctly lacking any maternal tenderness. Lily is born into this hedonist existence. with “the ‘useful’ colour” of her gown and “the subdued lines of her hat” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 70–1). eagerly seized upon in the Bart household and the “oblong envelopes”. Wharton paints a chaotic picture of her heroine’s childhood: “A house in which no one ever dined at home unless there was ‘company’. The imagery of the invitations. Wharton herself was not above utilising clothing as a means of attraction. as Bertha Dorset’s extravagant gowns would testify. while the hazy outline of a neutral-tinted father filled an intermediate space between the butler and the man who came to wind the clocks” ([1905] 2000: 25). Trained since childhood to view her marriage as the salvation of the Bart fortune. . The more ostentatious the outfit. the more prolific the consumerism. the less worthwhile the person. she exists as a guest of the rich and a customer of the exclusive 4 Revealingly. the nucleus around which their life was to be rebuilt” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 33). and oblong envelopes which were allowed to gather dust in the depths of a bronze jar” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 28). ignored by both parents and left alone. who spends much of the novel contemplating her own attractiveness and examining her reflection in an array of mirrors. frequently symbolic of urban consumerism. neatly illustrate the values with which Lily has been indoctrinated. are employed on other figurative levels. who works for a living and is Selden’s cousin. Wharton subtly indicates Lily’s importance as the child of this household. kept literally out of sight. Martha Banta recounts a young Wharton’s attempts to attract the attention of Henry James with her plan to “put on my newest Doucet dress and to try to look my prettiest!” (Banta 2003: 65). paralleling Gus Trenor’s clothes which are significantly tight and uncomfortable (Wharton [1905] 2000: 72).4 Clothing and costume. an immense social and economic pressure is frequently impressed upon her: “It was the last asset in their fortunes.114 Anne-Marie Evans role of innocent ingénue. Gerty Farish. and setting the scene of a predominantly consumer-obsessed culture. this emphasis on the physical encourages a narcissistic self-consciousness in Lily. Unsurprising. a halltable showered with square envelopes which were opened in haste. In the Bart household.

’ ” The only response from socialite Mrs. . with a growing awareness that the private can only be accessed through the public. In this context. a reputation no lady of a certain social standing would be prepared to risk. This practice allowed women to undermine Veblen’s passive model of their roles and utilise their influential power as society hostesses. as the interior grows as potentially dangerous as the public street. including Lily’s interviews with her Aunt Peniston. The public space of the ballroom or tableau vivant stage can paradoxically invite moments of private intimacy within the sphere of the text. it in fact occupied a dual role as an arena for competitive social discourse. ‘If I had known you were going to call I should have tidied up the drawing-room. (2003: 91) Wharton’s increasing awareness of this social conundrum revolves around the realisation that the space of the drawing-room grows ever more perilous. Supposedly a private familial space. a space for theatrical spectacle masking the real daily life of a family. for instance. “ ‘Oh. nominally “private” space functions as an indicator of social consequence and status. she spends her time trimming the hats she would once have inspected. how do you do. Mrs. domesticity was subordinated to publicity as the home became a stage setting for the gala social events orchestrated and acted out by women. In Madame Regina’s. said Mrs Tomkins. In a famous moment from her autobiography A Backward Glance. Jones to her daughter’s creativeness was the comment that. the drawing-room would always be tidy in case of visitors.Public Space and Spectacle 115 and expensive. The upper-class home functioned less as a private haven from the competition of the marketplace than as the public stage for that competition. The library at Bellomont. Whilst illustrating the atmosphere from which Wharton escaped through her writing. but as her fortune declines. The drawing-room operates as a show-room. is never used for reading but instead has been appropriated as a “quiet retreat for flirtation” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 57). public spaces are seemingly designed here to invite the intimate. where she eventually finds work as seamstress to a milliner. its use value completely diminished in the wake of its performative value. “drawing-rooms are always tidy” (Wharton 1934: 73). An untidy room would hint at disordered lives. Indeed. she moves subject positions to that of a producer. For Wharton’s mother. In The House of Mirth. the usually private space of the drawing-room becomes a public stage on various occasions. Brown”. Wharton recounts an incident from when she was about eleven and showed her mother a story she had written which began. and as such would reflect the rest of the house. tried on and purchased. as Kaplan demonstrates: For the lady of leisure. this anecdote also reveals how the space of the drawing-room was perceived.

reveal that if allowed the freedom to redecorate she believes she “should be a better woman” ([1905] 2000: 7). presents another example of her habituating the most insignificant of spaces. exposing a presumptuous intimacy inappropriate for a public gathering. and the spectacle of New York’s affluent society arriving and being seen at the opera. and conscious tonight of all the added enhancements of dress. In short. the partnership of space and spectacle operates as a three-fold model: Lily herself as an enticingly beautiful spectacle. “always inspired by the prospect of showing her beauty in public. Lily finds herself displaced by the bride as the centre of attention. Lily decides that “when next seen there she wanted to be the chief figure in the ceremony” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 84). Lily rejoices in being the centre of male-dominated attention. on the train. unable to interpret (as the reader does) the inherent sexual threat implied by Trenor’s “insistent” gaze. on the dangerous and ephemeral space of the Sabrina. a Jewish financier on the peripheries of high society because of his racial background. recounting to Selden an old flirtation that failed to prosper on account of her potential future mother-in-law: “she wanted me to promise that I wouldn’t do over the drawingroom” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 9). with its dark and heavy furniture inherited from the late Mr. in addition to the actual performance on stage. Always aware of the danger . she wants to embrace the power of the mistress of the house rather than the guest role she has spent the last eleven years occupying. Accompanied to the opera by scheming social opportunists Gus Trenor and Sim Rosedale. at the Stepney-Van Osburgh wedding. in the tableau vivant or finally in the marginalised space of a seedy hotel room. She consistently occupies areas of subsidiary space. Tired of her continuing role of bridesmaid at the altar. Peniston. Lily’s room at her Aunt Peniston’s. In contrast to Selden’s spacious yet comfortable quarters and his blatant attempt to evoke an atmosphere of bohemian intellectualism. Lily’s protests. Lily interprets this public space as the locus for her sexual power but her vanity proves naïve. only half in jest. Through Lily. In this example.116 Anne-Marie Evans Wharton’s detailed knowledge of interior decoration ensures that each description of a character’s dwelling place remains symbolically precise. the insistency of Trenor’s gaze [which] merged itself in the general stream of admiring looks of which she felt herself the centre” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 112). Lily longs to be the highly conspicuous star of the show and she has no further interest or use for her supporting role. have the agency to “do over” a room exactly as she pleases. During a socio-religious ritual of courtship. public spaces are translated into public stadiums for acting out the rituals of courtship. Crowds of theatregoers are not enough to deter Trenor’s possessive stance. Lily’s wish is simple: she longs to make her own individual space. as a guest living in a borrowed room. Lily equates a form of spatial freedom with the drawing-room.

diffusing elegance as a flower sheds perfume” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 97). if only he did not see her” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 184). and Selden perceives her presence as a form of contamination. a “drop of poison”. masquerading Lily as a figure from the work of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Peniston’s reproduction of the popular dying gladiator statuette which importantly can be seen and recognised by pedestrians . When witnessed emerging from the Trenor home after dining with Carrie Fisher. Discovering that Lily. from Mrs. that Lily’s beauty and physicality would somehow crumble his resolve and loosen his place on the moral pedestal where he has installed himself. He displays a fear of the spectacular. may currently be found in Monte Carlo he muses that “he could trust himself to return gradually to a reasonable view of Miss Bart. Lloyd systematically positions the female as an object for visual consumption. Only too eager to interpret appearance as truth. is matched by her ability to permeate the very air surrounding her. like himself. feeling she possesses the power to invade his very physiognomy. The text has myriad moments where Lily is subjected to the intrusive male gaze and her appearance as Mrs. Lily’s physical presence remains dangerously intoxicating. highly romanticised sense of self: “She could not figure herself as anywhere but in a drawing-room. The risky passage between the Trenor house and the comparative safety of the carriage provides a space of danger and misunderstanding. promising himself that “now he would really get well – would eject the last drop of poison from his blood” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 185).Public Space and Spectacle 117 of being “too long before the public” ([1905] 2000: 84). it seems. The emphasis on visibility reveals Selden’s weakness: he can only contemplate Lily in abstract terms and would not be able to survive a face-to-face encounter. Art is everywhere in Wharton’s work. a hazardous trap in Wharton’s depiction of the Gilded Age. Lily fears that the public may want a change of cast: she has been “Miss Bart” for far too long to continue to provoke the necessary public interest. This parallels Lily’s earlier. as Wharton again utilises the imagery of contamination (this time as an airy fragrance) to explicate Lily’s actions. sophisticated woman as spectacle. Selden positions himself in the role of disillusioned lover in the second half of the narrative. In a compromising of social space. Selden approaches the experience with cathartic vigour. Fleeing to Havana the following day and ignoring his previous appointment with Lily. When they do meet on a train to Nice. Lily’s ability to exist as a social spectacle. Selden’s observation of Lily leaving Trenor’s home highlights the dangers of visibility. Wharton skilfully utilises the popular contemporary pastime of the tableaux vivant as a metaphor for the urban. it is not simply the fact that Lily is seen late at night unescorted on the street but the realisation that she has been alone with Trenor in the private space of his home which damages her already precarious reputation.

Wolff argues a convincing case for Art Nouveau presenting the prevailing influence upon the text as it permeated American culture so effectively. as Deborah Barker argues. who is even denied the inscription of her first name. Ned Van Alstyne complains it was a “Deuced bold thing to show herself in that get up” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 130). reinforced the popular notion of woman as a decorative possession or “ultimate acquisition” (Wolff 1977: 115). is also translated into a bona fide ornament to be hung upon the wall (Barker 2000: 149). Lily’s social standing distorts the literal perceptions of her. is placed protectively within the sphere of her future husband’s identity. in which Wharton was both interested and highly knowledgeable. . Lloyd signifies on several levels. whose affinity with nature was a symptom shared with neoclassical images of the female. Removed from any aesthetic value or appreciation. to Rosedale’s determined integration into high society by buying a house belonging to a victim of the Wall Street crash who had “filled a picture gallery with old masters” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 96). and this painting. The pervasive image of the Art Nouveau woman. Lloyd commissioned the original picture to commemorate his fiancé. integral to both architecture and home furnishings. whilst frankly 5 Judith Fryer discusses the fact that this scene reveals a “frank presentation of Lily’s body. however. the choice of painting conveys a fatal error on Lily’s part: The painting of Mrs. is instead consumed by the unforgiving gaze of Veblen’s “vicarious” consumers. wishing to present an idealised version of her artistic self. Lloyd demonstrates the traditional way a woman acquires a name in art. Just as Mrs. The tableau vivant was a popular component of turn of the century culture. where Wharton had some early short story fiction published (Barker 2000: 144–5). an acknowledgement of an erotic nature that is never mentioned in her society” (Fryer 1986: 77). Eerily reminiscent of Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess”. She assumes the role of both artist and married woman. (Barker 2000: 149) The original Mrs Lloyd. as women engaged in the imitation and dramatization of famous paintings. art instead must be transformed into a socio-financial commodity. Accordingly. Lily.5 Mr. has in effect placed her own signature over that of Reynolds. both authenticates her impending bridal status and commodifies her as belonging to her husband. It is Reynolds’s signature on his portrait of her that brings her fame. Lily. Lloyd can be eternally consumed as a work of art. Lily’s choice of appearing as Sir Joshua Reynold’s Mrs. These interpretations appeared in magazines such as New York’s The Cosmopolitan. Lily. She is doubly inscribed in a system of patriarchal representation.118 Anne-Marie Evans on Fifth Avenue ([1905] 2000: 95). and it is her husband’s name that saves her reputation. in her turn.

The viewer observes Selden watch Lily. Like her misunderstanding of the laws of socio-economic exchange. Lily misjudges her negotiation of the social space of the tableau vivant. encapsulating a moment in time and turning the film itself into a work of art. used to great effect in the final scene with freeze framing and the caption “New York 1907” appearing on screen. not out of. and implicitly placing emphasis on Lily’s physical appearance. heightening the expectations of both Selden and the audience. . Lily appears only in hazy silhouette emerging from the smoke of Grand Central Station. Lily excels at displaying herself to best advantage. Ironically. Wolff has argued that Selden appreciates Lily only at her death: “the only Lily he can tolerate […] is the beautiful idealised memory he carries of her. A. As Ceres. Although the suggestive drapery of Lily’s costume and the affiliation to nature remain the same.Public Space and Spectacle 119 appreciating her revealing costume. An accomplished and experienced artist. Davies uses the viewer’s gaze of Lily to great effect during several times in the film. Davies utilises artistic images in his framing of several scenes. In the original portrait of Mrs. she appears carving her future husband’s name on a tree. her face withheld from the audience by smoke and whirling parasols until the last second. his identity physically inscribed into the scene. JeanChristophe Agnew comments about Lily that “it is no surprise that her ultimate downfall should come by being quite literally framed” (Agnew 1989: 149). Lily makes the fatal error of misjudging her audience and her willingness to participate unmarried in the tableau serves only to glorify the rumours already surrounding her. the most superb piece in his collection” (Wolff 1977: 131–32). as Lily’s diaphanous robes are deliberately seductive as in the original painting. banishing the phantom of his dead beauty by the beams of her living grace” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 130). this provides a moment for Lily to seize masculine power through her “artistic intelligence” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 130) and employ the gaze herself as she surveys her audience. reinforcing the iterative art references in the text. personalising the original image: “It was as though she had stepped. Lily is free of the male spectre which haunts the original. Watteau’s representation of Ceres (Summer). but into. Lloyd. yet her assumption of sexual power is problematised by Wharton. Ironically. Her attempt at being a female producer of art rather than merely a product of it fails in its execution. Instead of appearing as Mrs. the tableau vivant sequence is critically altered. Gillian Anderson as Lily appears as J. Lloyd. in the opening scene. Lily in effect becomes her own artist. the male presence has been exiled. Reynolds’s canvas. Considering her fate and her habit of always positioning herself as an aesthetically pleasing object. This attempt to be flâneur rather than mere model proves unsuccessful and Lily’s fate as a casualty of a consumer-orientated society is swiftly confirmed. In the Terence Davis film adaptation of the novel in 2000.

enduring speculation. “All of these identify Lily Bart not simply as white. whose private affairs are seldom used to discredit them socially. “Lily’s sexual attractiveness is undeniably a material asset in her struggle to improve her social and financial position through marriage. consequently affecting her market value. she argues that Lily’s body is consistently racially codified as white. but her greatest asset (her physical appearance and poise) prove to be the source of her Achilles’ heel within the social marketplace. Startling in the novel is the amount of attention paid to Lily’s hands. represents a form of work. specifically defines the female body as a commodity-spectacle. This sensory description evokes an image of sexuality and luxury that contrasts with Percy Gryce’s observance of Lily arranging tea on the train to Bellomont: “he watched her in silent fascination while her hands flitted above the tray. Veblen’s dismantling of female autonomy (in his insistence that she operates at the level of a decoration) and his later attention to the persuasive curves of the corset. comment and vicious rumour. But ironically it is also a liability as long as it is not yet backed up by money and status” (Robinson 1994: 347). Although unacknowledged by Veblen. Robinson proposes.6 A potential “buyer” of Lily. to her reluctance to marry Rosedale. the unspoken accusation that Lily has indulged in an affair serves as enough evidence to publicly condemn her. Robinson notes that the unwritten social laws that condemn Lily naturally apply only to the female section of society. for men are not expected to have their sexual affairs held up to social scrutiny and judgement. If women’s fashions are designed to render them 6 In Elizabeth Ammons’s discussion concerning Wharton and race. looking miraculously fine and slender in contrast to the coarse china and lumpy bread” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 18). with Selden’s noting in the first chapter that her hand is “polished as a bit of old ivory. the maintenance of appearances and manufacturing of elaborate spectacles. like Gerty Farrish. Unlike her male counterparts. but very white” (Ammons 1995: 77). her morality and behaviour would never be questioned. with its slender pink nails. If Lily was less beautiful. he decides to utilise his consumer right to return “faulty goods” and so recedes his proposal of marriage. Lily’s alleged affair with Trenor publicly questions the status of her virginity. less spectacular. as the actions of Jewish banker Sim Rosedale reflect. on both personal and public levels. From a spatial perspective. As Ammons argues. Her body thus becomes a part of the public domain. a Jew. the female body functions as a form of currency in a socio-sexual climate where Wharton continuously constructs the female body as commodity and possession. Lily’s fine hands and ornamental potential determine her price on the marriage mart.120 Anne-Marie Evans Throughout the text. from the choice of her name to her appearance in the Reynolds tableau vivant. As Lillian S. . and the sapphire bracelet slipping over her wrist” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 7).

Lily’s “tangible” success remains non-existent and she can find no role for herself as a manufacturer. George Dorset abound. Lily disastrously misconceives Mrs Haffen’s speculation for her appreciation of the spectacular: “The poor thing was probably dazzled by such an unwonted apparition” ([1905] 2000: 13). Not until she is apprenticed at Madam Regina’s millinery establishment does Lily fully appreciate and understand the realities of the workforce who have kept her exquisitely attired for so long. she is placed rather lower on the social scale than her fellow labourers. filled with women where “A hum of shrill voices reverberated against the low ceiling. Lacking female support. . Unused to interrogatory stares (until she is forced to spend time with Rosedale at the Van Osburgh wedding).Public Space and Spectacle 121 “conspicuous”. the charwoman. these notions of public and private not only meet but are continuously reversed. serves to reinforce the perception that the female body itself may be construed as a site of public space. a demonstration of unrestrained affluence. her career as a member of the working class represents the one time in her life she has ever had to truly account for herself. highlighting the dangers surrounding women challenging the separate spheres and participating in elements of public life. for Lily in particular. as sites of commodity culture” (Peiss 1996: 314). the implied promise of sex men believe her beauty implies). indeed celebrated. As the novel progresses. Not realising she is being assessed for her susceptibility to blackmail as she leaves Selden’s apartment. Lily’s misreading of Mrs Haffen. Veblen’s schematic simultaneously places them at the level of a performance. her reputation is irrevocably damaged. “awed only by success – by the gross tangible image of material achievement” ([1905] 2000: 275). As an unmarried woman who has produced no offspring. It is the one social space where her beauty cannot help or save her. who are unimpressed by her. is echoed. Lily’s narcissism at this point in the text ensures she can only equate observation with admiration. the failure to find a communal and welcoming female space hastens her fate. However. in fact. as femme fatale Bertha Dorset’s elaborate gowns testify. This devotion to drawing attention to one’s body through ostentatious costume (and in Lily’s case. Despite her innocence. “places in which ‘private’ and ‘public’ met – the clothed body. Lily finds herself in the unusual position of a producer. In contrast. leaving Lily shut out in a little circle of silence” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 292). in the same way that elaborate fashions render the female body a site of performance. Kathy Peiss argues that the decorative female body symbolised a space where separate spheres were united. the well-furnished parlour – were accepted. Lily sits alone at the small restaurant on Fifty-ninth Street. Lily’s body and virgin status become issues of public interest when rumours of affairs with both wealthy socialite Gus Trenor and Bertha’s husband. Under the scrutiny of this unforgiving female workforce.

New York: Norton: 133–56. Bronfen. Edith Wharton’s Argument With America. Simon J (ed. realising she has nothing left to barter with. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 51–87. Athens: University of Georgia Press. Elizabeth. Gloria C. Martha. at the end of the novel she dies alone in an anonymous and dilapidated boarding house. and her downward trajectory confirmed. Banta.) The Cambridge Companion to Edith Wharton. 1980. Jean-Christophe. Over Her Dead Body: Death. 1989. so is her access to any form of personal space in the ruthless consumer market of the Gilded Age. to her final resting place of the compact boarding house room. Her diminishing social space. Manchester: Manchester University Press. mirrors her dwindling social standing. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press.) A Historical Guide to Edith Wharton. Significantly. Erlich. 1995. to her period of dislocation aboard the Sabrina and then with Mrs Hatch. 2000. Femininity and the Aesthetic. As Lily’s reputation is increasingly compromised. Elizabeth. ‘Wharton and Race’ in Bell. whereas at the start of the text Lily is a vision of beauty to behold at Grand Central Station. who slyly realises that “as a displayer of hats. In conclusion. 2003. 1992. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 68–86. 1992. Yet the prospect of a mere room is simply not enough to tempt Lily. from her dazzling entrance into Grand Central Station at the start of the novel where she is the centre of attention. Millicent (ed. Lily finally removes herself from the marketplace.122 Anne-Marie Evans Lily’s realisation of (and rebellion against) the consuming male gaze does not occur until the very end of the text when Lily refuses to model hats for Madame Regina. with Selden acting as her only mourner-surveyor. Barker. Ammons. the room is both empowering and imprisoning. Aesthetics and Gender in American Literature: Portraits of the Woman Artist. Ammons. The Sexual Education of Edith Wharton.) Consuming Visions: Accumulation and Display of Goods in America 1880–1920. eventually metamorphosising into her tomb. Elizabeth. the one woman who does have a room of her own (albeit “dingy” in Lily’s opinion) is Gerty Farrish. Berkeley: University of California Press. ‘Wharton’s Women’ in Singley. finally realising the limitations of her ornamental role and refusing her position as a product. a fashionable beauty might be a valuable asset” (Wharton [1905] 2000: 275). This reflects a maturity of change in her understanding of the world. Carol J (ed. . Bibliography Agnew. admired by myriad commuters and passers by. ‘“A House of Fiction”: Domestic Interiors and the Commodity Aesthetic’ in Broner. Deborah. When Lily does finally attain a room of her own.

New York: D. 1990. Wegener. The House of Mirth. New York: Dover. [1975] 1993. 1996. 1977. 1987. Peiss. Shari (ed. 2003. Edith. New York: Oxford University Press. Berkeley: University of California Press. Wharton. London: MacMillan. Victoria and Ellen Furlough (eds) The Sex of Things: Gender and Consumption in Historical Perspective. ‘Engendering Naturalism: Narrative Form and Commodity Spectacle in U. Claire.) Wharton. Veblen. The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study in the Evolution of Institutions. Edith and Ogden Codman. Merish. Kathy. Edith Wharton’s Social Register. Cynthia Griffin. Chapel Hill and London: North Carolina Press. [1897] 1997. Judith. Lori. Michaels. New York: Norton. 2000. Walter Benn. 1986. Appleton-Century. The Decoration of Houses. Jr. 1994. Maureen E.B. Preston.) Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth: A Casebook. The Gold Standard and the Logic of Naturalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 85–105. . Frederick (ed). Janet Beer. Amy. London: MacMillan. London: Routledge.Public Space and Spectacle 123 Fryer. Naturalist Fiction’ in Singley. 2003. 1934. Wharton. Edith Wharton: Traveller in the Land of Letters. Goodwyn.W. [1899] 1994. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 229–70. 1996. ‘Making Up. Berkeley: University of California Press: 311–36. A Feast of Words: The Triumph of Edith Wharton. Carol J (ed. Kaplan. Montgomery.S. 1998. London: Vintage. Robinson. A Backward Glance. Consumer Culture. Wolff. Lillian S. ‘The Traffic in Women: A Cultural Critique of The House of Mirth’ in Benstock. Princeton: Princeton University Press. and Women’s Identity’ in de Grazia. Felicitous Space: The Imaginative Structures of Edith Wharton and Willa Cather. Making Over: Cosmetics. Basingstoke: MacMillan. . [1905] 2000. Edith Wharton: A Biography. ‘Crowded Spaces in The House of Mirth’ in Singley. R.) Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth: A Casebook. Lewis. The House of Mirth. Thorstein. Displaying Women: Spectacles of Leisure in Edith Wharton’s New York. Edith Wharton: The Uncollected Critical Writings. Edith. New York: Bedford Books: 340–58. Carol J (ed.


jury. intimate space required by the heroines ironically prefigures the prison cells allotted by the symbolic space of male power. Public. F. Tennyson Jesse.Tracing the Female Triptych of Space: Private. Altick’s Victorian Studies in Scarlet (1970). At the same time. but for details of the private lives and secrets that lay behind the dreadful act. avid. the courtroom. Tennyson Jesse’s A Pin to See the Peepshow (1934) Janet Stobbs abstract This chapter explores parallelisms in the use of private and public space in Gertrude Atherton’s Patience Sparhawk and Her Times (1897) and F. as woman and as culprit. In this way. and Power Strongholds in Gertrude Atherton’s Patience Sparhawk and Her Times (1897). work. trial. a journey from dependence to independence. marriage. Gertrude Atherton. a step toward a “room of one’s own”. murder. Secrets became scandals in the newspaper reports of the trial read by a general public from all walks of life. and F.1A guilty verdict for the 1 The murderess as a public and literary figure has been analysed in several fascinating studies such as: Richard D. and in symbolising this threat in the death of the husband. 1. Courtrooms were crowded with a curious public. two novels that coincide in describing how the publicly visible rejection of the role of submissive wife was considered a social threat. privacy. the personal. the work place and the courtroom depicted in these novels form a triptych of women’s experience of privacy and publicity in traditionally private and public spaces. Keywords: women. which ends in the glass-ceiling destination of a male stronghold of power. Mary S . independence. and the accused was tried twice over. Tennyson Jesse’s A Pin to See the Peepshow (1934). courtroom. Women on trial Never were women more emphatically public figures than when they were in the dock and accused of murder. The chapter argues that the home. Atherton and Jesse link their protagonists’ escape from domestic spaces into work spaces to their appearance in the courtroom. not necessarily for the truth. power stronghold. home. Lack of privacy in the home provokes a need to escape into the public work space. public spectacle.

and a trial at which they are found guilty. As the defence counsel in Patience Sparhawk and Her Times warns Patience: “‘[the jury] will be surely prejudiced against you because you did not love your husband and because you left him’” (Atherton 1897: 413). expressing their traumatic experience of public exposure.2 Hartman’s Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French and English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes (1977). it was seriously endangered if she failed in its depiction. although they are really innocent. written in 1934 by the British novelist. and. As anticipated. and the injustice of the proceedings. but whose progress towards success is brought to an abrupt halt by the death of their husbands. the treatment they receive in court as the accused is blatantly biased. Virginia Morris’s Double Jeopardy: Women Who Kill in Victorian Fiction (1990). from the perspective of analysis of literary portrayals of women on trial in literature. Tennyson Jesse. and Judith Knelman’s Twisting in the Wind: The Murderess and the English Press (1998). Literary representations of women in the dock previous to. and it becomes apparent during the trial that they are punished for their “bad” behaviour as wives.126 Janet Stobbs former increased the likelihood of a conviction for the crime. at times. Even so. They are difficult women. […] that no unloved husband’s life would be safe were not such women exploited and punished” (Atherton 1897: 447). written in 1897 by the Californian novelist Gertrude Atherton. while innocence could be enhanced if the defendant reinforced the stereotype of morality and feminine passivity. 2 See. or narrated the scene from an external narrative viewpoint. the prosecution case against Patience focuses on painting a portrait of her as a heartless wife: “With masterly ingenuity he made each juror feel what an awful being a bad women was. and far from likable characters. In this chapter I consider the political and social implications of women on trial for murdering their husbands in two novels: Patience Sparhawk and Her Times. selfish. is that the trial is narrated from the point of view of the accused women. who the reader feels distant from. an ensuing murder charge against them. for example: the trial of Mary Monson for the murder of her landlord in The . rebellious and wilful. and A Pin to See the Peepshow. If a defendant was accused of murdering her husband. these two novels have mainly focused on women’s aspect and behaviour. rather than on solid evidence. and rather judgemental of. playwright and criminologist F. an unloving undutiful wife. and contemporary with. These novels offer striking portrayals of spirited. The female protagonists are budding career women whose priorities lie outside the home. the prosecution could present her to the court as a bad or unfaithful wife in order to persuade the jury of her guilt. What makes these two works interesting. independent women who aspire to greater experience of life than marriage can offer them. Anthea Trodd’s Domestic Crime in the Victorian Novel (1989).

It was first published in England. Mathers (1885). professional activity outside the home. Smith. 1984: 134 & 190). jointly tried. although she took a keen interest in the proceedings and collected information on the case (Colenbrander. . Tennyson Jesse. the trial of Beryl Booth for the murder of her husband in Murder or Manslaughter by Helen B. Bywaters and Thompson by Jean Graham Hall and Gordon D. Sayers (1930). F. as she published “recipes” for eliminating tiresome husbands in the San Francisco Examiner (Leider 1991: 273). the trial of Catherine Gaunt in Griffith Gaunt by Charles Reade (1865–6). see Criminal Justice: The True Story of Edith Thompson by René Weiss (1988). independent-minded woman’s failed marriage. Atherton and Jesse focus on the impossibility of reconciling the traditional.3 The build-up to the trial focuses on the impact of the First World War on women’s lives. 3 F. the trial of Bess Haywood for stabbing an admirer in A Writer of Books by George Paston (1899). and the trial of Harriet Vane for the murder of her ex-lover in Strong Poison by Dorothy L. The trial scenes are very close to the real event. the trial of Anne de Barrigan for the murder of her husband in “Kerfol” by Edith Wharton (1916).Tracing the Female Triptych of Space 127 Atherton’s story has many autobiographical echoes in its description of a young. For a legal analysis of the trial and discussion of whether the outcome was a miscarriage of justice see R v. and she imaginatively elaborated and fictionalised her youth and married life. But Jesse also illustrates how tradition and stereotyped notions of love trap the heroine in a fantasy romance which ends in tragedy. convicted and executed for the murder of Edith’s husband in London in 1922. and successful newspaper career in the United States of the end of the nineteenth century. Tennyson Jesse did not write the account of the Thompson and Bywaters trial for the Notable British Trials series. Gertrude Atherton had certainly given some thought to the subject of wives murdering husbands. based her novel A Pin to See the Peepshow on the Old Bailey trial of Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters. They envisage the evolution of women Ways of the Hour by James Fenimore Cooper (1850). née Almond. Even so. and how it was instrumental in helping women out of the house and into the world of work as substitutes for the men away fighting. In these novels. For details of the Thompson and Bywaters trial and the life story of Edith Thompson. the main inspiration for the murder plot of Patience Sparhawk and Her Times was the sensational press coverage of real contemporary murder trials (Leider 1991: 148). domestic role of wife with a more personally fulfilling. the trial of Lydia Gwilt for the murder of her husband in Armadale by Wilkie Collins (1864). in order to create her heroine Julia Starling. who was editor of several volumes of the famous series of Notable British Trials. but Jesse changed several of Edith Thompson’s personal circumstances. where it was taken to be a New Woman novel (Leider 1991: 150). the trial of Hetty Sorrel for infanticide in Adam Bede by George Eliot (1859).

and it also reached into the ranks of the respectable middle classes” (Emsley 1996: 152). such as robbery and violence. Their heroines use the freedom and self-confidence that this professional activity affords to challenge the established status quo of power in the home. and patriarchal anger on the husband’s part. This contravening of the male-dominated power structure is symbolised in the novels by the death of the husband.” (Heidensohn 1996: 154–5)4 She also explains that. and O. and her attempts at self-realisation are viewed as selfish and anti-social. in studies in the 1970s and 1980s. C. mirroring deeply-entrenched fears that women’s independence was conducive to criminal behaviour.128 Janet Stobbs towards independence as a very physical movement out of the home and into the world of work. the wife’s independent lifestyle is used to forge a picture of her guilt. and observes that: Growths in female crime rates have been linked to the emancipation of women for more than a century. In the courtroom. for which the wives are indicted. 4 References are to the following works: L. . albeit rare. Bishop (1931) argued that there were already signs of increases in female criminality which he attributed to increasing emancipation.O. Pike (1876) argued that as women grew more independent they would also grow more criminal. thus converting the courtroom into the inevitable destiny of these heroines. Bishop: Women and Crime (1931). thereby giving rise to matrimonial friction. In Women and Crime. examples of this challenge: “The offence was the ultimate negation of the behaviour expected of the dutiful wife or servant. the apparent increase in numbers of women committing “unfeminine” crimes. Clive Emsley suggests that the criminal woman in the nineteenth century was considered a threat to the established power relations between men and women. which were based on woman’s confinement to the domestic sphere (Emsley 1996: 152. was leading to the emancipation of women into taking a bigger share of crime” (Heidensohn 1996: 6). Pollack: The Criminality of Women (1961). Also describing Pike’s preoccupations with women’s independence leading to crime. 163). was also interpreted as a side-effect of “the movement for women’s liberation which. […] Pollak claimed that “the total volume of female crime has increased as a result of the progressing emancipation of women in our society. Pike: History of Crime in England (1876). construed as murder. Emsley stipulates that women charged with murdering their husbands were considered extreme. In particular. her refusal to submit makes her untrustworthy. it was suggested. The trials that take place in these novels are emblematic of the debate on women’s position in society. Frances Heidensohn analyses the theories of female criminality since the nineteenth century.

Virginia Morris claims in Double Jeopardy that Victorian writers were aware of the political reverberations of murders committed by women: “they implied. if they did not always explicitly state that the individual cases were part of a larger. until 1828. Frances Dolan has written about this crime as depicted in seventeenth century texts and she explores how it was clearly identified in both legal and literary texts of the time with resistance and rebellion: The murderous wife calls into question the legal conception of a wife as subsumed by her husband and largely incapable of legal or moral agency. authority. representing a highly significant public space where. and ultimately judges. legitimate gender battle – a power struggle between men and women – rather than a simply individual example of depravity or immorality” (Morris. cultural constructions of women as incapable of initiative or autonomous action […] through violent action. and the specific act of murdering a husband has been interpreted as a struggle for power between the genders. as “petty treason is in some sense a ‘political offence’” (1984: 61). or a wife murdering a husband) belonged to a special category of murder classified as “petty treason”. despite the tentative moves towards equality between the sexes evident in the public world of work. although only women who were householders were eligible. Atherton and Jesse clearly represent this power struggle in a triptych of spaces where men were the established authority. In Patience Sparhawk and Her Times. murdering a husband was once a form of insurrection or rebellion and. Furthermore. In the United States women did not automatically become eligible for jury . and even after women won the vote.Tracing the Female Triptych of Space 129 From a historical point of view. the killing of a superior by an inferior (as. The first triptych “panel” portrays women negotiating an inviolate space of their own within the four-walled privacy of the home. which women were beginning to enter on terms of limited equality with men. if not necessarily descriptive. 1990: 3). lawyers. the most imposing “panel” of this triptych of private and public space is the courtroom. As can be seen from the above. She also violates the vigorous and persistent. and A Pin to See the Peepshow. although mainly in a supplementary role. Thirdly. and speech. Women have mainly appeared in courtrooms as either witnesses or the accused and only more recently as members of the jury. women were allowed to serve on juries after the Sex Discrimination (Removal) Act 1919. (Dolan 1992: 3) Margaret Anne Doody maintains that literary portrayals of women who murder husbands have political connotations. the case of a servant killing a master. In Britain. for example. the contradictions of wives’ social and legal status erupt as uncontainable. men maintained an enduring monopoly on decision-making. The second “panel” deals with the hierarchical world of work. the association between women’s criminality and their independence has a long history.

the developments outlined above mean that the trials the heroines undergo (because written in different contexts) register certain differences. and I shall be considering the trials in parallel. and even after winning the right to vote and sit on juries. as Mary Hartman describes in Victorian Murderesses (Hartman 1985: 256). details of their private lives and marriages are dragged out into the public view “while the whole world was watching”. as Julia realises. According to Marina Angel. for Julia’s adultery becomes the basis of the prosecution case. Those ten men looked as though they had never been lovers” (Jesse 1979: 359). women on the jury make little difference to the verdict in Jesse’s novel. as they are both political rights that enable women to take part in making and applying the law. not even the two women on the jury would be able to understand why she got involved in an affair: “those two women looked as though they had never had a lover in their lives. although in the real-life trial on which Jesse’s novel is based there was. although their gender does not seem to be her main preoccupation. set in 1922. she argues that only when women started working outside the home as wage earners did their role become sufficiently visible and relevant in the community to make a gender-based exemption from jury service obsolete (Angel 1996). there are two women on the jury at Julia’s trial. there is an important parallel between voting and serving on juries. as the story takes place prior to women gaining the vote. The similarities between the trials. Mikhail Bakhtin drew attention to the importance of the criminal trial in the history and development of the novel as a prime narrative structure for exposing private life and making it public in ‘Forms of Time and Chronotype in the Novel’ (1981: 123). she finds being “at the mercy” of a jury composed of men from an inferior social class and of inferior intellect “humiliating” and terrifying (Atherton 1897: 422). and. are perhaps symptomatic of the lack of real progress in the treatment that women received at the hands of justice. More importantly. as complementary portrayals of the same type of “miscarriage” of justice. In the case of the two novels studied here. Patience is very aware that the men who will decide her future are not her peers. despite differences. where. However. In A Pin to See the Peepshow. These two novels show how the heroines find themselves converted in public spectacle in the courtroom. as happened to real-life murderesses. the experience of public exposure and sexual prejudice is similar in both novels.130 Janet Stobbs service when they won the vote in 1920. notwithstanding the time difference. . Gertrude Atherton’s heroine faces a jury composed of twelve men. only one woman on the jury. regardless of their gaining position and status in the world of work. However.5 Hartman argues that the law “opened the 5 Prior to Mary Hartman’s observations on the narrative potential of the sensation caused by criminal acts being discovered in court. in fact. and voluntary exclusion for women was only ended in 1975.

Tracing the Female Triptych of Space 131 closed doors of these women’s lives”. and a million people signed a petition for their reprieve. and experience the nightmare of public spectacle. F. claims that she adapted the sensational 1892 trial of Carlyle Harris. work and courtroom) are physically “hinged” together. provoked tremendous public interest in 1922. on which she based her A Pin to See the Peepshow. . to be on-lookers and observers from a vantage point that makes them the subject rather than the object. as happened in real life to Edith Thompson. the prison where Patience is confined to await execution. Emily Wortis Leider. and the women’s endeavour to resist. Gertrude Atherton also took the death plot for her novel Patience Sparhawk from a real murder case. 1984: 189–90). of space (home. However. and also that Patience Sparhawk owed a lot to the popular interest in the much-publicised and talked-about British trial of the American citizen Florence Maybrick for poisoning her husband in 1889 (Leider 1991: 147). What is more. as happens in Jesse and Atherton’s fictional trials. The novel reflects the fervent public interest in murder trials. Movement between home and work is facilitated by public transport. 1991: 147). which never came. and journeys are adventures offering women the chance to visually penetrate the city. The Thompson and Bywaters trial. Apparently. including Holloway. F. Atherton even attended a murder trial in order to document her courtroom scenes. accused of murdering his secret bride. or panels. these women lose their capacity to be subjects. between the public space of work and the courtroom. and many British prisons. the normally “hidden history of domestic power relationships” was also exposed when women were on trial for murder (Hartman 1985:4). When Patience’s arrest hits the newspaper headlines she becomes the “heroine of the most sensational drama of the day” (Atherton 1897: 414). where her heroine is imprisoned and executed. when letters read out in court and witness testimony reveal the husbands’ attempts to master their wives. revealing a whole range of taboo issues centring on women’s sexuality. In her capacity as criminologist. Her biographer. and she provided Jesse with information and advice during the writing of the last chapters of A Pin to See the Peepshow (Colenbrander. Tennyson Jesse was also interested in prisons and visited several in the States (including Sing Sing). the journeys become nightmarish transportations in which the women’s outward vision is impeded or confused. Tennyson Jesse was well aware of the potential scandal and spectacle of a murder trial and upheld the truth behind the observation “everyone loves a good murder” (Jesse 1958: 7). The novels narrate the heroines’ evolution from one space to the next. Jesse became friends with the woman who had been Deputy Governor of the prison while Mrs Thompson was awaiting execution. with an overdose of morphine drops. Helen Potts. and she was allowed to sit in the electric chair (Leider. Taken between prison cell and courtroom.6 The three representations. creating the sensation 6 Atherton also documented the prison scenes by visiting Sing Sing.

supposedly the truly private space. “Up in her room. this place was hers” (Jesse 1979: 40). for decency and freedom. Primarily. which in turn furnish her lonely imagination with a composite romantic hero to desire and dream about. it was her own soul” (Jesse 1979: 124). there is an almost aggressive lack of privacy within the domestic space of the home. is also her bedroom. They have stepped over the line of permitted independence – taken things too far – and they wake up to the warped reality of a crowded courtroom. by rejecting professional fulfilment in favour of romance. and Patience and Julia struggle to secure or improvise spaces where they can be introspective. 2. out into public. Patience’s bedroom. and theoretically the domain of the woman. prized as the only space that she can call her own: “it stood for something very special in her life. because the husbands veto this right. The home. “This wasn’t a mere room. Despite the very different settings and social contexts. Their journey to self-realisation ends abruptly the day of the husband’s death. think and dream. describing the situations and experiences that determine their future. literally represented by the womb-like library where she is introduced to the classics. In A Pin to See the Peepshow Julia’s sanctuary. neither heroine is properly aware of the importance of their move outside the home because they are victims of a romantic heritage that moulds and deforms their aspirations and ambitions. and consequent appearances in the courtroom charged with murdering their husbands. Paradoxically. above all for possession” (Jesse 1979: 32). The dreams that she indulges in are wanderings “of her ego through the books she has read” (Atherton 1897: 23). provides them with independence. for instance. and the prosecution’s version of their story. Patience’s childhood is a constant evasion of her damaging home life. Atherton’s Patience Sparhawk and Jesse’s Julia Almond share similar vital experiences of their family and home environment. reading is a form of retreat into a safe world. which in turn bolsters their authority at home and helps towards achieving an individual private space in the home.132 Janet Stobbs that the courtroom is their inevitable destination. becomes eloquently out of bounds when she bolts the door. shutting herself in and others out of her protecting prison. they partly collude in their own downfall. in reality does not provide the privacy they need. She appropriates the parlour as private living space and uses the library of her father’s friend as a comforting womb-like retreat. However. Here she was alone at last. her “city of refuge” (Jesse 1979: 134). love and self-sacrifice. the heroines incite social censure. going out to work. Behind Closed Doors Both novelists begin their novels with the formative years of their heroines. girlish adaptations . In Atherton’s novel. By rejecting the traditional role of wife. Julia drew a deep breath of pleasure.

When Patience marries Beverly Peele. These intimate dreaming spaces provide a taste of freedom and independence. from bedroom to library. as it reduces “the pattern of life to a romantic assumption that is translated into truth for very few. filling her head with standard helpings of fairy tale endings. with Patience as heroine. however. submission. staking claims and brooding when outmanoeuvred. she will have control over the bedroom. which fuels the heroines’ need to escape from the family home. pampering of husband’s ego. at the end of the war her husband is back at home. and to counteract the stultifying normality of her home: “Julia lived only in escape from the dull and somewhat sordid facts of life as it had to be lived within its confines” (Jesse 1979: 31). As real escape from her home seems to be impossible. it is loss of exclusive possession of her bedroom that precipitates her into a marriage destined to fail. . Patience. with her husband knocking at the door to gain admittance. ultimately. compromise. they both choose the erroneous path of marriage to move out. Whenever 7 In her study of Gertrude Atherton’s life and works. these childhood venues of privacy disclose the inadequacy of Patience’s preparation for the wider world. and the battle over Julia’s exclusive rights to the bedroom as her own private space begins. she marries into “society” and a family that has occupied Peele Manor for over three hundred years. she naturally falls into a romantic escapism. As indicated by the exaggerated gothic style of the ruined church tower. on the other hand. For Julia. McClure aptly points out that Patience finds no guidance or practical help in literature. and those few either exceptionally lucky or – not so exceptionally – undiscerning” (Jesse 1979: 46–47). reading for romantic sustenance. the same struggle over personal space within traditional marriage occurs in Patience Sparhawk and Her Times as happens in A Pin to See the Peepshow. and. and Patience’s husband invades all those spaces she guards as intimate. marries for the respectability and social status that she was deprived of as a child. as Mrs Starling. As Mrs Beverly Peele she is required to play her part as decorative wife and to hide her intelligence. In private. indignantly claiming authority in the house. Both husbands are possessive and jealous of their wives’ time and space. The wives employ survival tactics to ensure some freedom of movement and respite from suffocating domestic intimacy. and suggests that Gertrude Atherton was fully aware that “promiscuous reading of novels is a form of killing time and escaping dull existences” (McClure 1979: 44). She deludes herself that. The narrator is critical of this undiscriminating consumption of cultural and literary sources. Charlotte S.7 Julia Almond in A Pin to See the Peepshow also falls prey to misguided romantic notions. Inevitably. where Patience goes to dream.Tracing the Female Triptych of Space 133 of the classics to the world of popular romance. This usually involves placation with wifely attentions.

the family home. rather like. incarceration with her husband becomes unbearable. offering a window to look out at the urban landscape. Various means of transport bring the public spaces of the street. animals in a zoo (Jesse 1979: 338). and feared confinement of the house. he threatens to lock her up. intimacy and freedom presages the privation of all three in the final chapters of the novels. trolley buses and trains whisk Patience and Julia through and across the city. when the heroines must share cells with other inmates. Julia has a back-street abortion to prevent this from happening. In reply. damned if I don’t’” (Atherton 1897: 220).134 Janet Stobbs the husbands feel their position is challenged by their wife’s independence they threaten them with confinement: Julia’s husband threatens to cause a scene at work. when the rest of the family move to New York for the winter months. so that she will lose her job. The tram in A Pin to See the Peepshow represents the progress and modernity of George V’s reign. despite her husband’s disapproval. Forced to stay at Peele Manor. with loss of all privacy because of constant surveillance in prison. Crossing the threshold and traversing the city In marked contrast to the forced intimacy of the couple. or he secretly hopes she becomes pregnant. public transport in the shape of trams. The importance of movement and mobility is apparent in the ultimatum Patience presents to her husband: as an alternative to the divorce that Beverly will not concede. Even her retirement to the library to read provokes him: “‘The idea of forgetting your husband for a book – a book! You are a lovely wife! You are a disgrace to the name! You would rather read than kiss your husband! I’ll lock this room up. her mobility is arrested. Ironically. the street and the city offer an escape route from the control of the family or husband. and this makes escape the only remaining option (Atherton 1897: 304). The means of transport mirrors the importance of each step of her journey: a frustratingly slow horse and trap in her home town. city and workplace within reach. as Julia describes. so that she has to stay at home with the baby. and it contrasts with the Victorian backwater where . she asks to be able to travel. and she shows the first signs of rebellion when she travels into town to visit friends.) In Patience Sparhawk Patience’s husband throws tantrums if she does not pay him her undivided attention when required. however. the gliding steamer that transports her to a fairytale New York. 3. (In fact. During marriage to Beverly. or the street cars that provide the enraptured Patience with a window and a view of an immense and densely thronging metropolis. the significant connection between privacy. In Patience Sparhawk and Her Times mobility and transport signify independence and the author associates travel with Patience Sparhawk’s career and future.

Julia likes the “height and authority” (Jesse 1979: 3) of the front seat upstairs because it makes her feel in control. greedily absorbing the passing street scenes and imaginatively penetrating “behind lighted windows at night” (Jesse 1979 13). inside and without a view. her mere existence at Saint Clement’s Square. No one would understand the dream. the narrow brightness of her eyes and the gleam of her hair through a haze that lay like a bloom over everything at which she looked” (Jesse 1979: 7). sharp and hard. which (the narrator assures us) she is not: “She was very shortsighted. but they would see the deed” (Jesse 1979: 311). that swift flicker of knowledge between her and men with whom she did not exchange a word – she even veiled her glance with a sort of glassy impassivity – yet excited Julia” (Jesse 1979: 34).Tracing the Female Triptych of Space 135 Julia lives. and her life of the imagination” (Jesse 1979: 225). of preferring her fantasy world to her real one. where she is not likely to be observed) does she really participate in life around her. .The narrator explains that this capacity is one of Julia’s greatest virtues – her “zest for life” (Jesse 1979: 13). autonomous and adventurous. as the quotation below. downstairs. and she saw the pallor of her skin. Julia chose to be seen” (Jesse 1979: 187). and her mind is free to move outside. and that yet in some fantastic fashion was the outcome of it. she dreams rather than looks. taken from the scene of her husband’s murder (“the deed”). This haze is self-imposed because Julia does not want to wear her glasses in public. preferring a role as object: “It was tiresome being a woman if there were anything wrong with your sight. providing her with moments of rhythmic unison with the city. Her refusal to wear glasses is a rejection of seeing in favour of being seen. When she is deprived of a view she falls back on this damaging romantic assumption. The tram journey to school is Julia’s “daily great adventure” (Jesse 1979: 5). something complete and round. becoming a romantic heroine of a double. a deed that seemed to have nothing to do with the dream. This fatal confusion between fantasy and reality leads to the murder of her husband by her lover. and lives out a fantasy life. Julia considers herself pretty. It had fallen away like a great wave and. even triple. illustrates: “The dream was over. which represents “an age when folk were content to stay in that class of life in which they had been born” (Jesse 1979: 32). you had to choose between seeing and being seen. Only when Julia wears her glasses (usually in places like the top deck or the theatre. that was what she wanted’” (Jesse 1979: 387). a condition which prevents her from perceiving reality. one deed remained. She becomes part of “the orchestra of Greater London” (Jesse 1979: 3). Julia particularly enjoys being the object of admiration: “this contact of eyes. This romantic assumption is symbolised in the novel by Julia’s short-sightedness. one that is based on a “‘romantic assumption that there was something wonderful and golden. “and the world would leap into sharp reality for her” (Jesse 1979: 210). On the other hand. life: “her life at the shop.

is a converted Georgian house whose family rooms have become fitting-rooms and work rooms. autonomy and money. Patience reports on “society” news while her male colleagues deal with more serious news. and operates as an exclusive club for women. and the adverse side effects on health (such as. Opening Doors The world of work is the antithesis of the dream or fantasy world that Patience and Julia indulge in to stem the inadequacies of their dependent situations. where they can exchange information. . However. Both authors emphasise the importance of the world of work for women. and loss of weight). because women “would lose their nonsensical sentimental notions and learn the principles of composition. Although it has a public presence on the street. where women are admitted in a secondary role. amateur. Tennyson Jesse. Patience and Julia go out to work for different reasons: for Patience. It is a world where the practical comes to the fore and the fanciful recedes. it is a domestic space redesigned as work space. steadily gaining responsibility. Drawing on her own experience. and she is expected to provide a woman’s perspective while writing in a style aimed at the male reader. McClure describes how Gertrude Atherton considered work as a newspaper reporter a good introduction to real life and an apprenticeship in writing. it is an act of rebellion. on the other hand.8 F. this discrimination does not affect interpersonal relations between the men and women of the press office and Patience learns to take her editor’s advice. like a second-hand public sphere. a “queer topsy-turvy world” (Jesse 1979: 77). L’Etrangère. nervous exhaustion. a prototype woman’s work space. she imagined a newspaper job for Patience Sparhawk as a part of her initiation into knowledge of the world” (McClure 1979: 36). listlessness. It is at once escape and fulfilment” (Jesse 1979: 49). Julia’s contact 8 Charlotte S. portrays the predominantly female space of an up-market dress-maker’s shop. with limited professional prospects. The work contexts are also quite different: Atherton describes the male territory of a newspaper. at most a Sunday editorship or the setting up of a woman’s newspaper or magazine. Nevertheless. and family atmospheres. while work for Julia is an inevitable fact of lower-middle class life: “The life of everyone born in Julia’s class is of necessity intermingled with the idea of a job. the smart West End dress-maker’s where Julia works. The newspaper is a restricted world for women. without playing down the physical demands it makes on them. and each is very successful in her line of business. tiredness. It is a marked feminine space. criticism and judgement of her work without expecting concessions for her position as a woman.136 Janet Stobbs 4. Both heroines find the world of work exhausting but challenging. transforming women’s work inside the home into women’s work outside the home. unpredictably combining professional.

with strict hierarchy. the shop displaces her fantasy world: “More and more she was becoming aware that life wasn’t like the storybooks after all […] the practical Julia was over-laying the dreamer” (Jesse 1979: 121). the role of a paid job outside the home is fundamentally the same in each novel. Even during her adulterous affair with a younger man. Unlike Patience. encountered at work. and a life of her own. Even though these differences between work spaces are important ones. she is morally stronger. even though the small room she rents in a boarding house represents struggle. self-confidence and authority. ensuring financial independence from her estranged husband. it does endow her. it is also a symbol of her freedom (Atherton 1897: 307. The war gives Julia a break from marital monotony and it also means increased business in the shop because many customers take men’s places at work while these are away fighting. when the shop loses some of its “objective reality” (Jesse 1979: 230). When her husband comes back from the war. ironically. and she manages to support herself on her earnings. and she is acutely aware that total financial dependence on her husband would reduce her to “a general servant” (Jesse 1979: 235). Peele Manor.Tracing the Female Triptych of Space 137 with women from the upper classes allows her to overhear snippets of privileged information about the impending war. Even though Patience is physically and psychologically exhausted after a year. as a general rule. which they can exploit to achieve more personal space and privacy in the home. In this way. Julia does not earn enough to afford a comfortable room. there is more money to spend on clothes and going out. and is set against romance. As Julia becomes more interested and involved in the business. than she ever was at her husband’s family home. Julia enters as a silent spectator into the public sphere. In other respects. . she feels happier in the “cubby-hole” room of her own. and earns more responsibility. an alternative to Julia’s fantasy world. Their jobs. L’Etrangère [the shop]” (Jesse 1979: 204). In Patience’s case. not available in the press. her job is a happier alternative to her marriage. it is still preserved as a “sacred” place (Jesse 1979: 246). nonetheless. with “a certain authority in the household. and. Her job literally allows her a “room of her own”. she had. the professional has precedence over the personal. and a private space in which to develop and mature. Her real life becomes a more fulfilling balance between a satisfying domestic independence and the world outside. and where. the shop is a microcosmic working world. and the money they earn. as solid fact. provide Patience and Julia with a sense of freedom. which would not otherwise have been hers” (Jesse 1979: 182). If she could not have that. and. 319). resuscitated by the patent lack of love and romance in her marriage: “She wanted what she had read about in all the storybooks ever since she could read at all. work becomes a form of refuge.

She looked like an angel. nothing less […] Honora bowed her head with an expression of deep humility. both heroines participate in their own downfall. plainly seeks retribution for the treachery of leaving her husband: “‘you have dishonoured an ancient house […] and left it without an heir. and her concession to patriarchal authority ultimately traps her in a murder investigation. In this way. Her father-inlaw. a distinguished lawyer. after nearly three hundred years in this country alone. and lets herself be persuaded by her husband’s family to return to the husband she is separated (although not divorced) from. Return to her husband’s house is a regression that curtails her freedom. and their husbands’ deaths lead them directly to the courtroom. and in court she gets away with committing perjury. and Patience is framed by Honora. Patience and Julia follow different routes to the courtroom: Patience’s husband mistakenly takes an overdose of morphine. and she sacrifices a promising career as a business woman for an adulterous affair. must die with me. During the affair she weaves a web of fanciful lies written in love letters that are subsequently read out in court to frame her as a murderous . This fanatical woman represents innocence incarnate. as a child might that had been justly rebuked […] As Patience passed out of the room with Tarbox she heard the word “angel” more than once. and treated as a professional nurse. confessing to perjury. which she deludes herself is “the real thing”. but this destiny is circumvented in both stories. Although Patience insists on being paid. a relative who lives with the Peeles and who is secretly in love with Patience’s estranged husband. Resistance to her husband and his family’s authority is used in court to make her appear guilty. Its name.138 Janet Stobbs One senses that the working world should be women’s destiny rather than marriage. and then committing perjury a second time. (Atherton 1897: 439. Julia falls into a romantic trap of her own making. to attend him on his (alleged) death bed. 440 & 442) While Patience is stabbed in the back by the stereotype of the ideal woman. However. and knew that it did not refer to her. In A Pin to See the Peepshow Julia is unable to relinquish her dream of romance. Patience is unable to resist the authority of tradition. and one that converts her into an adulterer. The jury and the public are totally taken in by her carefully-studied angelic appearance and behaviour: As Honora ascended the stand there was a deep murmur of admiration. but now I hope to heaven you’ll go to the chair’” (Atherton 1897: 386). she knows that her emancipation has been effectively curtailed (Atherton 1897: 344) along with access to the public world of work. If you had borne a son I should move heaven and earth to get you out of the country. as opposed to wife.

she had referred to as “Julia” (Colenbrander 1984: 190–91). people looking at her from every possible angle of the courtroom. becoming trapped in the courtroom peepshow. her presence at the scene implicates her. and the peepshow she had just been living in for a fraction of time” (Jesse 1979: 21). the courtroom becomes a stage on which their private life is held up to public scrutiny. Julia has little chance of proving her innocence to the charge of murder because. . F. Patience is conscious of playing a part as if in a play. until that moment. and Jesse. Tennyson Jesse. where the judge warned the jury not to think that they were at a play or reading a novel (Graham Hall and Smith. Guilty of adultery. Tennyson Jesse leads us to doubt the validity of the jury’s verdict of guilt. she is very aware of being centre stage. men stare in eager curiosity. than that of a “‘paltry theater’” (Leider 1991: 149). and her letters read out in court incriminate her. 1979: 360). 9 In her biography of F. Julia’s nightmare trial is an inversion of the “little private world” (Colenbrander. “and assuredly there has been no such theatre as the court room since the world began” (Atherton 1897: 420). in the form of a peepshow. she thought. This is a metaphor for Julia’s future in which she confuses illusion and reality. “Everywhere there were eyes” (Jesse 1979: 339). drowning light of the courtroom. Likewise. which. even though the hand that killed her husband was her lover’s. dazzled by the bright. and immediately decided on this for the title of her novel. and it affects her in an unsettling way: “And suddenly Julia became muddled between this world that she knew so well and which she knew was the real world. Even the title of the novel itself is a reference to the idea of theatre. Atherton’s experience as member of the public in the murder trial that she attended taught her the dramatic potential of the witness and defendant on the stand – far greater. Julia is enraptured by the “strange glamour” of the peepshow. and experiences “being shot upon by a battery of eyes” (Atherton 1897: 421) from the public. 1997: 42. and the district attorney fixes her with narrowed eyes that look at her with “cold speculation” (Atherton 1897: 422). 5. Joanna Colenbrander describes how Jesse heard a friend describe these peepshows made by children at school. By putting the reader in Julia’s place in court.Tracing the Female Triptych of Space 139 wife. and converted in a monstrous collective public eye a “strange many-headed beast that surged and muttered and stared at her” (Jesse 1979: 327). 1984: 190) of the peepshows that the sixteen-year-old Julia looked into at school: “at once amazingly real and utterly unearthly […] a complete and self-contained world” (Jesse 1979: 19)9. In A Pin to See the Peepshow the concept of the courtroom as a theatre and the trial as a play originates from the real trial of Edith Thompson. Doors Closing Atherton and Jesse coincide in describing the extreme sense of public exposure that the women on trial experience.

with the judge appearing as a “blot of scarlet” with a “grey fuzz” of a wig (Jesse 1979: 339). a Galatea manufactured by a clever lawyer” (Atherton 1897: 428–29). at times. It was herself and not herself. where the queen bypasses the verdict to directly pass sentence (Carroll. clever. She takes her bearings from the graphic layout of the courtroom and the position of the audience. Margaret Anne Doody has pointed out that women on trial in the eighteenth century were faced with one of the few real-life opportunities for women 10 Charlotte McClure considers Atherton’s description of “the tense drama of the courtroom” to be “a highly realistic picture of the judicial system” (McClure 1979: 61). but. a sense of numbness takes over. even though she knows that her becoming appearance will not win her any points with the jury. Julia makes up her face to combat the bright light and dresses carefully. Patience Sparhawk manages her demeanour and performance better. “she awoke in the morning with a violent start.10 Patience is mainly lucid and has moments of insight during the trial. She would look cautious. She also takes extreme care over her dress for her appearance in court. jury and legal protagonists. The woman he depicted was enough to inspire any jury with horror. She speculated. revealed in the description of “his silver chin-tuft […] shaped like the queen of hearts” (Atherton 1897: 421). and she senses the latent hostility of the judge.140 Janet Stobbs To face her public ordeal. I would add that the emphasis on class barely hides a latent criticism of male dominance in the courtroom. and young any longer. and she even falls momentarily asleep. and felt for them a sort of terrified pity”(Atherton 1897: 423). although nervousness makes her rigid and proud. She tries to keep her head high. but at the same time she no longer has her body under control: her hands shake. She is aware of what is happening during the trial. She mustn’t look that whatever she did” (Jesse 1979: 322). . but she dreads having to testify after her father-in-law has testified to her failure as dutiful wife: “Patience’s blood congealed. driving home the possible fate of “an open grave” (Atherton 1897: 422). she cannot swallow. In consequence. tiredness overwhelms her. an allusion to the farcical trial scene in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (1865). her blurred vision magnifies the nightmarish quality of the trial. Impaired vision is accompanied by a “mist in her mind” (Jesse 1979: 340). in as far as the stark contrast between the upper class lawyer and the lower class jurors is concerned. With glasses “she wouldn’t look pretty. comprehending her vulnerability. The open antagonism of the district attorney (prosecuting counsel) chills Patience’s blood. The inferior male jurors haunt her at night. making it difficult for her to follow the proceedings and understand the legal terminology. those pinched grubbing lives. prey to vanity. seeing them for a moment in a row on the foot board of her bed. 1970: 161). upon the lives of those men. just as she did when questioned by the police. she decides against wearing glasses. and helpless.

but this deceptively familiar jury judges Julia on her deficiencies and failure as a dutiful wife. but is told that not to do so would set the jury against her. She is warned that it is not like a business deal. or the two women might remind her of the milliner at the shop. 1994:291). She mistakes the jurors for equals: the men may look like business contacts. and of the public at large. thought Julia desperately. on the contrary. and so. is desperate to go into “the box” (Jesse 1979: 333) and tell her own story. She confuses the tolerance of the business world toward women with the intolerance of the legal world. she realises that only her barrister’s eloquence will save her. she follows her lawyer’s script. but looking back carefully as she could upon the cross-examination. especially when she knew she was telling the truth?” (Jesse 1979: 333). finally converted in her saviour and the hero at the novel’s close. Patience is reluctant to testify. . using men’s words to defend herself. In the novels discussed here. Julia. both heroines have the opportunity to speak in public when they take the stand at their trials. she is (literally) blind to the dangers involved and the possible trap she walks into.11 The prosecution counsel skilfully corners Julia into a narrative of contradictions and guilty-sounding admissions. but they do so with very different feelings. buyers and sales representatives. and becomes romantically and literally dependent on her lawyer–lover. also maintains that the courtroom scene was one of the few “fictional excuses” for gentlewomen to appear in public in fiction: “The heroine in court could become a woman in public without resorting to the streets or the boards – the main public arenas for women” (Trodd 1989: 131). she could not see the point at which she 11 Edith Thompson’s counsel in the real life trial considered that he could have got an acquittal for her if she had not given evidence herself (Graham Hall and Smith 1997: 77). During her imprisonment and trial Patience looses all vestige of her hard-won independence. Anthea Trodd. Although Julia relishes the opportunity to tell her story in public.Tracing the Female Triptych of Space 141 to speak out in public and to be heard: “Defending her life in a public court was […] one of the few occasions in the eighteenth century in which woman was urged to take command of the public forum – or at least to have a voice in it” (Doody. Why should this be different. I never even tried that. writing about the Victorian era. represented by the jury. Renouncing her own version. and that she will not be able to convince the jury. recognising the weakness of her defence case. and that she ruined her chances by obstinately going into “the box”. Numerous rehearsals prepare her for her cross-examination by the district attorney. despite all attempts by her lawyer and barrister to stop her. She insists on testifying. while the judge’s “acid” incursions on Julia’s story stun her (Jesse 1979: 353): “Why did I say that. so she is aware of performing a part she has been primed for. but Julia is oblivious to the danger: “She had always been able to make men believe what she said.

One barrister was in no doubt about the judge’s role and responsibility in this trial: “‘the disgust of the trial Judge. . Sayers reportedly wanted the adulterous wife in her novel to resemble Edith Thompson. Tennyson Jesse make it very clear that their protagonists do not receive a fair trial. at which it had become possible for the man to trap her into such an admission” (Jesse 1979: 356). but. The heroines feel prey to these men who have the power of taking their lives. In her biography of Sayers.13 Although Elaine Morgan considers that Julia is more than just a symbol of 12 Graham Hall and Smith discuss the judge’s biased summing up of the Thompson and Bywaters trial. manipulated and used against them. 1984: 134 & 190). Dorothy Sayers was obviously not convinced by Edith Thompson’s defence. aimed to write about a miscarriage of justice. G. and she made her into “ ‘a dreadful person’ ” (Sayers qtd. More importantly. Mr Justice Shearman. “adultery apparently was quite as bad as murder!” (Jesse 1979: 355). possibly because she had not the courage to do so” (Reynolds 2002: 254). Tennyson Jesse probably read Dorothy L. as Elaine Morgan explains in her introduction to Jesse’s novel. At the time of the trial she had collected exhaustive material and documentation on the case from all sources: “the story and the woman haunted her mind. 13 F. qtd. whereas Jesse considered the trial amounted to a miscarriage of justice. for marital infidelity and his unimaginative. and only by re-creating them in fiction form could she rid herself of the uncanny knowledge of the affair that seemed to possess her […] Fryn immersed herself so deeply in their lives she almost suffocated” (Colenbrander. but her novel takes a political stance from which Jesse exposes the terrible sexual prejudice that influenced the jury more than the evidence presented by the prosecution. Sayers’ novel The Documents in the Case published in 1930. Barbara Reynolds attributes F. Even more damaging is the judge’s prejudice against Julia for her adultery: “but there again he kept on using the words ‘adultery’ and ‘adulterer’” (Jesse 1979: 364). and in her novel Sayers made the wife guilty for “egging on” her lover to kill her husband (Reynolds 2002: 250). literal mind hanged this unhappy creature’” (C. in particular. in Graham Hall and Smith 1997: 44). and partly based on the Thompson and Bywaters case. and did not hesitate to make them known throughout this trial […] Extra marital relationships were anathema to him” (Graham Hall and Smith 1997: 42–3). F. and perhaps represented Edith Thompson in a truer light. Tennyson Jesse with succeeding where Sayers’ novel failed: “This is the powerful love-story Dorothy was groping for but never grasped. and the authors explicitly show how the testimony of the accused is twisted. Tennyson Jesse. Du Cann 1960: 206.142 Janet Stobbs had taken the wrong turning.12 Gertrude Atherton and F. above all. L. and it is clear that Jesse was not exaggerating in her fictional version: “He held very strong opinions on moral issues. in Reynolds 2002: 250). the most striking impression is of the hostility of the court room and the dominance of the male protagonists who wield the power. According to her biographer. Tennyson Jesse was greatly affected by the Edith Thompson trial and was especially shocked by the “harsh verdict”. F.

Patience Sparhawk and Her Times reflects the limitations and frustrations of women’s emergence into the public world of work. thus admitting a defeat which is later forced home by the bathetic romance of the final scene. but that if they neglected or rejected their traditional role of wife. despite Patience’s independence and spirit. Julia’s unsuitability as a wife and her social transgression weigh heavily against her. This finale proffers small sense of resolution to the question of Patience’s quest to find a goal in life.Tracing the Female Triptych of Space 143 woman. showing that the prejudice and bias that Julia is subjected to in the courtroom is precisely because she is a woman who has committed adultery. instead. and perhaps here. The courtroom scene is a revelation scene and. Jesse 1979). in fact. they would be ostracized. on Julia as a woman (rather than just “any human being”) on trial for murdering her husband. and even encouraged. and by a hypocritical double morality. This type of abrupt ending was a contemporary fashion used “to suggest a problem of life or character” (McClure 1975: 68). because she is forced to place her life in the hands of the one man with whom she could live in equality. Gertrude Atherton and F. handing it over to be scripted and judged by men. Access to the public world of work.which Charlotte McClure claims is Atherton’s antidote to middle-class women’s belief in romantic love. showing how tradition and romance become the enemies of women’s independence. the judge. Speaking out in the public courtroom does neither accused woman any good. the “psychological drama of a woman’s quest for identity and for a life purpose within and beyond her procreative function” (McClure 1979: 41). Tennyson Jesse were aware that men were still very much in control of women’s independence and that they were prepared to punish those who over-stepped the mark and challenged the basis of men’s authority in the . “she is the symbol of any human being caught up in a judicial machine where the pretence of administering justice is irrevocably skewed by the prejudices of the people appointed to dispense with it” (introduction to A Pin to See the Peepshow. the problem is that happiness for Patience requires selling out to romance. Patience and Julia’s stories show how women’s emergence into the public working world was tolerated. in the hostile male stronghold of the courtroom she relinquishes her authority and her story. necessary during the war. or success in. I feel that the emphasis is. The lead up to the court scene is important in itself as a portrait of a young woman trapped by her class and gender. become a glass ceiling to curb women’s growing independence. because their rejection of the conventional role of wife. and their unwomanly behaviour make them culpable in the eyes of the jury. Despite the presence of two women on the jury at Julia’s trial. strongholds of male power such as the court of law which. and success in the public world of business did not signify access to. the courtroom audience and the general public.

Harmondsworth: Penguin. Tennyson Jesse. George. Marina. 1984. Joanna. Margaret Anne. ‘Criminal Law and Women: Giving the Abused Woman Who Kills a Jury of Her Peers Who Appreciate Justice’ in American Criminal Law Review 33: 230–348. Emsley. [1859] 1960. Frances E. Bibliography Atherton. Dolan. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1994. . 1996. Catherine Peters) (Oxford World’s Classics). Smith. Angel. New York: Norton. Adam Bede. Collins. ‘Home-Rebels and House-Traitors: Murderous Wives in Early Modern England’ in Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities 4: 1. exposing it as a reserve of power wielded by men and which. 1996. on these occasions. is used to punish women for their independence. London: André Deutsch.144 Janet Stobbs home. and Feminism. 1970. Wilkie. Bywaters and Thompson (The Then and Now Series 1). Eliot. M. Susan Sage and Zipporah Batshaw Wiseman (eds) Representing Women: Law Literature. D. Atherton and Jesse exploit the situation to cast a critical eye upon the representative public space of the courtroom. ‘“Those Eyes Are Made So Killing”: Eighteenth-Century Murderesses and the Law’ in Princeton University Library Chronicle 46 (1): 49–80. James Fenimore. Cooper. The Annotated Alice: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (ed. Bishop. Carroll. A Portrait of Fryn: A Biography of F. Stroud: Alan Sutton. [1864] 1996. R. London: J. Armadale (ed. 1981. ‘Forms of Time and Chronotype in the Novel’ in The Dialogic Imagination. Du Cann. In these two novels the stigma of public appearance follows the women into the courtroom. Tennyson Jesse emphasise the impotence of women in courts dominated by male power structures. Lewis. C. . Crime and Society in England. 1931. M. Colenbrander. C. The Ways of the Hour. London: Frederick Muller. v. [1865] 1970. Texas: University of Texas Press. Altick. 1750–1900 (second edition). L. Gertrude. ‘Voices of Record: Women as Witnesses and Defendants in the Old Bailey Sessions Papers’ in Heinzelman. Patience Sparhawk and Her Times. 1960. G. Miscarriage of Justice. M. London: Chatto and Windus. [1850] 1996. Dent. Women and Crime. Victorian Studies in Scarlet. Chichester: Barry Rose Law Publishers. Doody. London: John Lane The Bodley Head. 1997. Jean and Gordon D. 1897. 1992. thrusting them into the hostile public eye. Bakhtin. Clive. Durham: Duke University Press. London: Longman. Graham Hall. At the end of the nineteenth and first part of the twentieth centuries Gertrude Atherton and F. Gardner). 1984.

R.). 1989. Jesse. A Writer of Books. 1991. California’s Daughter: Gertrude Atherton and her Times. O. Mary S. . 1979. [1898] 1999. Domestic Crime in the Victorian Novel. Tennyson. Trodd. [1993] 2002. 1961. Double Jeopardy: Women Who Kill in Victorian Fiction. Reynolds. Boston: Twayne. London: Pan. Pollack. [1924] 1958. Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French and English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes. Strong Poison. Knelman. [1916] 1971. Reade. [1934] 1979. Morgan. Griffith Gaunt serialised in The Atlantic Monthly. Morris. Frances. Introduction in A Pin to See the Peepshow by F. Weiss. [1985] 1996. Sayers: Her Life and Soul. McClure. New York: A. Edith. London: Virago. Tennyson Jesse. Sayers. London: Virago. California: Stanford University Press. ‘Kerfol’ in The Collected Short Stories of Edith Wharton (ed. Emily Wortis. S. London: Macmillan. 1988. The Criminality of Women. Barnes. 1979.Tracing the Female Triptych of Space 145 Hartman. Dorothy L. Stanford. Charles. Dorothy L. Lewis). René. London: Robson. Murder or Manslaughter. Twisting in the Wind: The Murderess and the English Press. Murder and Its Motives. London: Hodder and Stoughton. Judith. 1885. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Elaine (ed. 1990. [1930] 1968. 1865–66. London: Macmillan. History of Crime in England. Wharton. W. 1930. Virginia B. Gertrude Atherton. Pike. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. B. Heidensohn. and Eustace Robert. Barbara. London: Ernest Benn. O. The Documents in the Case. New York: George Munro. 1876. 1998. Chicago: Academy Chicago Publishers. L. Boston: Houghton Mifflin: 283–300. Dorothy L. London: Hamish Hamilton. Anthea. London: Hodder and Stoughton. Sayers. . A Pin to See the Peepshow. Women and Crime (second edition). London: Smith and Elder. F. Leider. George (Emily Morse Symonds). [1977] 1985. Paston. Helen B. Charlotte S. Criminal Justice: The True Story of Edith Thompson. Mathers.


Approaching the City .


flânerie.1 Peter Walsh. Most closely associated with the metaphysical inner recesses of consciousness or with physical interiors. John Strange Winter (Henrietta Eliza Vaughan Stannard). When the desire comes upon us to go street rambling the pencil does for a pretext. She shows notably how they were challenging and re-negotiating the stereotypical spheres assigned to women. urban space. relishes the opportunities 1 The obvious exceptions are Lucrezia and Septimus Smith. Ella Hepworth Dixon and George Paston Valerie Fehlbaum abstract In Victorian Britain gender governed space. Virginia Woolf. Ella Hepworth Dixon and George Paston. Victorian periodicals. or so we have been led to believe. one senses an exhilaration in Woolf. From Mrs Dalloway’s delight in leaving her domestic interior. whether private or public. (Woolf [1930] 1967: 155) Space. in particular. Woolf also had plenty to say about women’s relation to urban space. Clearly throughout the eponymous novel Mrs Dalloway is not the only character who enjoys the metropolis. a liberating impulse which only the streets of the city can satisfy. representations of London. .Paving the Way for Mrs Dalloway: The Street-walking Women of Eliza Lynn Linton. rooms to call one’s own. to the aptly-titled essay. is undoubtedly a prominent concern in Virginia Woolf ’s writing. Eliza Lynn Linton. lady journalists. George Paston (Emily Morse Symonds). “Street Haunting: A London Adventure”. Keywords: Ella Hepworth Dixon.” as if under cover of this excuse we could indulge safely in the greatest pleasure of town life in winter – rambling the streets of London. but it is not the city per se which is the cause of their malaise. thereby paving the way for the likes of Mrs Dalloway in the twentieth century. In this essay Fehlbaum draws attention to divergent representations of public and private space in the latter half of the nineteenth century in the writings of Eliza Lynn Linton. and getting up we say: “Really I must buy a pencil.

At the same time access to them can be somewhat restricted according to gender and class. may be officially open to all. but also of domestic space provided by women themselves in their fiction and non-fiction. In this chapter I would like to examine some of the conflicting ways in which this simple binary divide. on the other hand. it’s better than walking in the country” (ibid: 8). openly declares. as their names indicate. A few decades earlier. or for women of a lower class.150 Valerie Fehlbaum that the streets and parks of London offer. At a pinch a woman of a certain class might become “an angel out of the house”. shops and theatres. however. restaurants. “I love walking in London […] Really. particularly by women writers. forerunners of Virginia Woolf. Nevertheless. and I would like to draw attention to various divergent representations not only of urban. in itself a contentious issue. such as art galleries. It is also important to bear in mind that the conception of social space was. perhaps less at ease than her mother. the former reserved for men. but his is primarily a traditional stance – the male flâneur observing and fantasising about the women he sees. She thought perhaps she need not go home just yet. museums. and still is. such apparently simple pleasures. leaving the public forum for the male of the species. prefers to “dally a little longer” (Woolf [1930] 1967: 157). are on the one hand public places and on the other confined interior spaces. It was so nice to be out in the air. perpetuated not only by the Victorians themselves. found “London was so dreary compared with being alone in the country with father and the dogs” (Woolf [1925] 1972: 149). Mrs Dalloway. whilst the latter. or so we have been led to believe. usually with a separate entrance. So she would get on to an omnibus” (Woolf [1925] 1972: 149). but as a rule the private and domestic were considered her domain. would have been rather more limited for women. was already being contested. One has only to think of old-fashioned public houses which generally after the 1880s had both a public and a lounge bar. and unchaperoned women on the streets could well have been assimilated with street-walking women of dubious morals. in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Ideologically. doing good works amongst the poor. Some spaces. a few feminists included. Elizabeth Dalloway. had a more refined atmosphere and was designed for mixed company or even for women to drink alone. Likewise public parks and gardens. “It was so nice to be out of doors. the gendering of space is somewhat more complicated than this stereotypical view would suggest. but who frequents them . there may indeed have been a desire to maintain clearly defined separate spheres according to gender. thereby keeping women within restricted limits. aimlessly experiencing the life of the city. and yet she. too. but also by some twentieth and twenty-first century critics and historians. In Victorian Britain gender governed space.

journalists. Elizabeth Wilson likewise in “The Invisible Flâneur” draws attention to the unprecedented changes taking place in the literary world. It gave birth to a new kind of literature of the myriad sights. An ever-moving procession of people poured like a torrent up and down the street. the crowded. country folk. undertakes to visit Kentish Town. Liberty’s (1876). or simply resorting to anonymity as had been the case in the past. Evans (1879) opened. actors. as did cafes and teashops such as ABC Teashops and Lyons Corner Houses. loafers – all the curious shifting world of the Strand was jogging elbows on the pavement. easier transit for the capital’s inhabitants and its visitors. whilst public transport – buses and the underground – facilitated faster. brightly coloured omnibuses. reviews. she announces. In The Story of a Modern Woman Ella Hepworth Dixon describes a typical morning in London thus: Sunshine brightened the huge gilt letters over the newspaper offices. in every cranny of urban life. Department stores such as John Lewis (1864). I told Worth when I was in Paris that I always went on the tops of omnibuses. In “Pictures from the Magazines” in The Victorian City: Images and Realities Michael Wolff and Celina Fox observe a close link between the growth of the city and the expansion of the periodical press. the hansoms laden with portmanteaux on their way to Waterloo Station. By signing their periodical contributions in their own names. At the same time there was also much concern about the whole notion of what constituted the public domain. Urban industrial life generated a demand for new forms of writing – the feuilleton. . and he designed me this little frock on purpose” (Dixon [1894] 2005: 76). “the angel out of the house”. sounds and spectacles to be found on every corner. As she says. the magazine article. rather than using pen-names. many writers were thus going public This was exactly the sort of journalism. betting men. With the growth of a more consumer-oriented society. the flaxen hair and beflowered hats of the little actresses hurrying along to rehearsal. D. season of the year and so on.Paving the Way for Mrs Dalloway 151 and when may vary considerably depending on time of day. H. a socially-acceptable reason to leave the home. “I’m going on top of one of those charming trams. stories. office boys. During the last decades of the nineteenth century London expanded phenomenally. theatres and clubs flourished. (Wilson 1992: 96) There was indeed a remarkable increase in the number of journals of various sorts and an overall tendency to assume authorship of articles. the metropolis increasingly offered people of different classes and genders the opportunity to come into contact. (Dixon [1894] 2005: 106) At one point in the story when the upper middle-class female protagonist.

young woman. were visibly entering the public arena. and appropriating for themselves areas traditionally considered the preserve of men. renowned for her liberal views and her comments are hence all the more revelatory. a precursor of the New Woman. Eliza Lynn Linton was not. who through her questioning of the womanly ideal. who. complaining that a female relative and female friend had been seriously incommoded on a visit to London. and well-conducted girls together are not safe. particularly those also dubbed with the derogatory adjective “New”. One polemic in particular was sparked off by a letter to The Times on 7 January 1862. embodied by the likes of W. especially in the fin de siècle period some women writers. Not surprisingly. unchaperoned women on the streets. readers at the British Museum. Stead.L. she continues: What becomes of all the modest single women of the middle ranks. if they walk at all.”. however. There ensued a seemingly endless public debate culminating in July in a long article in Temple Bar entitled “Out Walking” signed simply with the intials “E. that even earlier some literary discourses contrasted glaringly with the apparently fixed ideologies of gender-specific spaces. demanding. therefore. are obliged to walk alone. an epithet she applied to the deviant (deviant in her eyes). was obviously seen as a threat to the established order and severely castigated for it. however quiet their demeanour and unalluring their attire? (Linton 1862: 132) Somewhat surprisingly. art-students. In the 1860s already there had been much discussion about women’s use of the streets. easier access to higher education and meaningful employment. She begins logically enough by asking: Is it a fact that modest women are continually being spoken to if they walk alone? And that even two well-bred. Eliza Lynn Linton . which offered many opportunities to aspiring women writers.L. I would argue. as early as the 1860s there were plenty of respectable. therefore. encroaching upon urban space. This was in fact Eliza Lynn Linton (1822–98).152 Valerie Fehlbaum “new journalism” to use Matthew Arnold’s disparaging phrase. probably most familiar to present-day readers as the coiner of the phrase “Girl of the Period”. from a certain “Paterfamilias from the Provinces”. yet who never dream that they are thereby reduced to the standard of social evils? What becomes of the daily teachers. They were thus literally stepping outside the limits of conventional behaviour. for example. and the many other instances of unprotected womanhood abounding? (My italics) This suggests that. contrary to popular belief.T. otherwise often accused of being too inward-looking. well-dressed. “assistants” of every kind.

tea-rooms. chapter 6 “The New Woman in the Modern City” in which she discusses the flâneuse or the woman of the streets. to what was not yet Marble Arch. were pleasure-seeking. my surrounding”. in spite of castigating young women for indulging in curiosity when out walking in London. does she suggest that they should stay at home. however. I would argue that some women such as Ella Hepworth Dixon (1857–1932) in their lives and in their writing were seriously engaged in advo2 Letter to Mrs Cooper. 15 September 1869. where she suggests “[p]erhaps the best means of experiencing it is to write a book […] and wake up one morning to find it reviewed at length in The Times” (Lady’s Pictorial (23 May 1896): 774). in Layard 1901: 54) Several years later Ella Hepworth Dixon echoed similar sentiments in her descriptions of “Things which THRILL” in one of her “Pensées de Femme”. when and why? For example. For example describing the excitement of receiving a favourable review in The Times for her first novel. but also which ones. Women of differing classes. an elegant shopping area during the day. where the flâneur. More recently some feminist critics such as Elizabeth Wilson and Sally Ledger3 have challenged this notion of the masculine flâneur suggesting that to different ends women also strolled through the streets in search of sensation: shopping. and there are all my best friends. Not all. therefore. “London is my Home. Elsewhere Eliza Lynn Linton also claimed.Paving the Way for Mrs Dalloway 153 then offers advice to such women on how to avoid becoming “the object of attentions not altogether to [their] mind”. 3 See in particular Ledger 1997. For I could not rest in the house. It is clearly important to ask not only who occupied the streets. Regent Street. elsewhere in personal writings and in her fiction Eliza Lynn Linton appears to foreshadow Virginia Woolf ’s exhilarating relationship to the city. my Ambition. my work. another sort of conduct manual. and so on. apparently ruled supreme.2 Critics such as Walter Benjamin have noted that as the century drew to a close urban space in cities like Paris or London became prime sites for spectacle. I remember the sunset as I went up Oxford Street. were generally participating more openly in the life of the city. became the empire of prostitutes in the evening. and provides to all intents and purposes a practical guide. Azeth the Egyptian. Moreover. . for women on how to behave in the street. she writes: I seemed to tread on air. I felt as if I must have stopped the passers-by to shake hands with them […]. On the contrary. I could not even go home to dinner. going to parks. Qtd. however. in Nead 2000: 77. Nowhere. to walk in a cloud of light […]. I felt compelled to walk as if for ever […] (Qtd. window-shopping. gendered male.

Mary Erle. as does that of one of her protagonists in The Story of a Modern Woman. surely a passing reference to Sarah Grand’s The Heavenly Twins another New Woman novel. in all its intensity. thereby contributing to far-reaching changes in the real and in the literary world. is rarely presented as an enviable or preferable state. When. of Harley Street”. Marriage. but avoids drawing attention to it: “I couldn’t bear any one to say that I had ‘taken up slumming’. the title of a famous New Woman novel by Arabella Kenealy. She claims. At one point her wealthier friend. and she “tasted for the first time. unless one had an income of over five thousand pounds a year” (ibid: 149) (my italics). including such unlikely topics as a visit to a leper colony in Norway. “It would look like a pose”. Her journalistic career may have begun. Alison Ives. Ella Hepworth Dixon therein recounts how in the role of an English nurse she visited the leper colony with a ship’s doctor. which held her two wrists […]. no outsiders being permitted.154 Valerie Fehlbaum cating greater overall independence for their sex and were actively challenging the distribution of power. “[h]is hands. Alison remains the angel out of the house and “devote[s] herself to the task of helping young girls”. . but very quickly she preferred a less restrictive type of journalism. however.4 Likewise. but they both lead busy lives outside the domestic sphere. deliberately rejects the two options traditionally offered to unmarried. 5 See Eagleton 1995. felt like links of iron”. the inborn feeling of subjection to a stronger will” (ibid: 82). her fictional heroines often preferred the streets of London to the cosy interiors so fraught with unexpected dangers. the helplessness of woman. As it turns out neither woman marries. fatherless young women of her class —becoming a companion to a High-Church spinster aunt in Bournemouth or marrying a wealthy man she does not love. she also refuses to become the kept mistress abroad of the man she once loved. one had to marry some day or other” ([1894] 2005: 92) adding “the later the better”. for example. on the 4 “A Leper’s Paradise” in The World (4 July 1894): 31–32. Having toyed with the idea of calling herself “Dr Janet. “One couldn’t permit one’s self the luxury of being an old maid. Mary Erle’s fiancé proposes. In The Story of a Modern Woman Mary Erle. arguably the “modern woman” of the title. By the example of her own professional life and through her fiction Ella Hepworth Dixon demonstrated that it was possible for a woman “to make her way in the world and compete with men” (Dixon [1894] 2005: 98). she was finally admitted as “Sister Diavolina”. she adds. comments “in her world. by writing a few “interviews at home” of some personal friends.5 You know how I detest the whole attitude of the upper and middle classes toward the poor” (ibid: 48). she contributed several travel articles to various periodicals. Like Jane Eyre. For instance.

if not all.Hubbard who in the same year also started the monthly Woman’s Gazette – or news about work. having fallen in love with a lady journalist. or occasionally the medical domain. In the late 1850s the Langham Place Circle became particularly active in drawing attention to the plight of such women. financially much less secure than her friend. The Lady’s Pictorial. From the mid-Victorian period onwards. she actually begins by attempting to make a career in art. This fundamental distinction between mere pastime and paid employment was a subject to which Ella Hepworth Dixon often returned. Journalism. The inherent difficulties facing women artists during the Victorian period have been amply discussed elsewhere in recent years by eminent critics such as Deborah Cherry and Pamela Gerrish Nunn. especially the kitchen.6 It should be remarked that most. from its début in 1881. there had in fact been increasing concern about the growing numbers of women seeking employment and the inadequate possibilities available. school. . but quickly abandons her paint brush for a pen. asks her to give up her newspaper 6 See for example English Woman’s Journal edited by Bessie Rayner Parkes. to fight the battle of life unaided” (ibid: 192). as its name implies.Paving the Way for Mrs Dalloway 155 other hand. first appeared in 1875. ultimately chooses “to walk alone. usually ironically. and then only in the lower echelons. Like her creator. Ella Hepworth Dixon rarely lost an occasion in her fiction and non-fiction to comment. and was edited by Louisa M. she finds various writing jobs. which. Nevertheless. on her contemporary Art world. or merited separate treatment altogether. significantly. Suffice to say at this point that it was simply easier and more acceptable for a woman to earn a living wage through writing. Mabel Collins cites the example of a naval officer “of the old school of thought and feeling” who. The Year-Book of Women’s Work. In February 1890 writing on “Journalism for Women” in Woman. Another publication. as in the Lady’s Pictorial when she comments on the “amazing revolution” of Woman demanding “to be paid proper wages for work performed” (Dixon 1907: 834). Nor was she alone in raising further questions about equal pay for equal work. but this was generally restricted to the home. which changed its name to Work and Leisure in 1880 and remained in circulation until 1893. of the activities proposed could still be carried out within the confines of the home and remain hobbies rather than jobs. In order to keep herself and her younger brother. ran a series called “Woman’s Work”. concentrated entirely on this subject. John Strange Winter (Henrietta Eliza Vaughan Palmer Stannard) in Winter’s Weekly regularly advocated that a woman should “by all means do all the work she can get to do. was rarely included in such surveys of possible employments for women. and over the next few decades numerous publications and articles in the periodical press contributed to the discussion. but let her insist on being paid at the same rate as a man would receive” (Winter 1894: 5).

It should be mentioned that even for men the world of journals was regularly looked down upon. Barrie’s When a Man’s Single. An earlier unsigned article in Woman had indicated as much: There can be no doubt as to the increasing opportunities which journalism as a profession offers to a bright. and how they may best fit themselves for it. Ella Hepworth Dixon comments on the situation with a telling choice of metaphors.” (Barrie [1888] 1923: 188) Even when it was accepted that women could write for the press. Here prejudice reigned supreme. the year Mrs Dalloway was published. . These modern days are certainly the opportunity of the Women. As late as 1925. clever woman. The profession of letters is a noble one. there was often a desire to maintain a gender divide within the world of journals. A similar opinion is echoed by Mary Erle in The Story of a Modern Woman when she declares. mamma. their true sphere in journalism lies. whether in newspaper offices. Woman (3 July 1890): 3–4. This article also prefigures many of the issues raised in Journalism for Women. a short exchange between the hero’s beloved and her mother is revelatory: “He is evidently to be a newspaper man all his life.” “Perhaps it is.” “I wish you would say journalist. “I can understand a lady taking up her pen when she has some fancy she wants to express prettily – but newspaper work!” (Collins 1890: 2) (My italics). In J. […] One of the last citadels to fall was the newspaper office. a Guide published in 1898 by Arnold Bennett. compete with men. but I am not among those who are disposed to believe that the newspaper of the future is to be altogether the work of the ladies. (Dixon 1925: 6) For my present purposes. it is interesting to note that Ella Hepworth Dixon’s fictional budding journalist is rather more at ease in the streets than she is indoors. and do. “Aunt Julia […] thinks I am given over to the Evil One since I’ve become a journalist” (Dixon [1894] 2005: 144). The very title of Bennett’s guide surely suggests that society’s prescribed gender-based distinctions were to be upheld within the press world as well. one time editor of Woman. […] but I can’t think it is very respectable. “A woman’s sphere in journalism generally lies far away from the office or composing-room”.7 (My italics) The writer overtly maintains. and I may perhaps be permitted to point out where.M.156 Valerie Fehlbaum work. according to my experience. For the first time they can. her new lodgings or even “kettledrums” amongst 7 “Women as Journalists by a Man Editor”. […] But today the Bastille of Journalism has fallen. […] or a literary man.

it behooved her to be able to take care of herself. men who had tired eyes and a dubious smile. the sordid little eating-houses and the “battered leavings of the vice of a great city” (Dixon [1894] 2005: 152) as well as chic districts like Portman Square. as their public image has to hide their personal sufferings. have commented on the overall claustrophobic atmosphere of the novel. and who were fond of starting doubtful topics with a side-long. As Mary Erle traipses alone through the city in the course of her work visiting editors. Acutely aware of a multiplicity of images and possibilities that urban space offers. however tired or worried or preoccupied she may be. going to interviews and so on. and notes. even as a fairly young woman she feels less threatened under the gaze of the men in the streets than she does under that of the men of her own class in so-called safe surroundings: With her chin in the air. Throughout her long writing career Ella Hepworth Dixon frequently commented on women’s obligation to keep up appearances behind “an acquiescent smile”. after all. is expected to be for ever “wreathed in smiles”. It is a rule. the other in a hospital for the poor. thus obliging them to exert admirable self-control. she negotiates her way around public places. including Steve Farmer in his Introduction to the new 2005 edition of The Story of a Modern Woman. A woman. For example in 1898 in the Lady’s Pictorial she writes: Not the least tiresome of the conventions of Society is the one which ordains that we should always be smiling when we appear in public. for example. whilst I would agree that this is indeed “clearly symbolic of the plight of the nineteenth-century Englishwoman […] cornered by the cant of tradition” (Farmer 2005: 23). in the half-dark. (Dixon [1894] 2005: 67) Furthermore. Some critics. but. More importantly. she is both observed and observer.Paving the Way for Mrs Dalloway 157 the wealthy. tentative glance. She was twenty-two. In no way does she idealize the city. moments when they learn the truth about their respective suitors. (Dixon 1898: 732) . and a young woman now. the prostitutes outside Charing Cross station. they were perhaps more easily disposed of than some of the men who took her in to dinner. to be sure. I would suggest that urban space offered some relief from the constraints of domestic domains and semi-restricted public interiors. both female protagonists in the novel experience moments of crisis. looking straight before her. she stepped along. and perhaps contrary to what one might expect. Regent’s Park and South Kensington. with a royal scorn for the well-dressed loafers who find their pleasure in accosting ladies in the street. one in a fashionable theatre. And. not in the privacy of their respective homes but in public places which are nonetheless enclosed spaces. which is applied with special rigour to feminine persons […]. neither a street-walker nor a flâneuse.

whilst Mary. This rejection of these simple binary options and the open-endedness of some New Woman fiction might thereby indicate further opportunities elsewhere. whilst visiting a hospital for destitute women. and even Ella Hepworth Dixon offered revised versions for different editions of her novel. Here and there a dome. of the change and travail of human life.” said the girl suddenly. making her also perhaps a modern woman. of the failures who must go. of partings. Alison had learnt of the eminent doctor’s hypocritical double life and his callous casting off of one of his mistresses. the dun-colour of the buildings lost in the murkiness of the horizon line. at their feet. revealing perhaps some difficulty in attaining the exact mood she wished to imprint on a reader’s imagination. the modern woman. and brutal and strong. As she now awaits his arrival with dread. the angel. In the last scene Mary Erle returns to Highgate cemetery to the site of her father’s grave where she had earlier stood with her brother. Much has been written about the final scene. with both her brother and her lover married and her best friend dead. she too contemplates the “foolish. ostensibly much more alone. On that occasion Out yonder. a spire loomed out of the dim bluish-grey panorama. London was spread out. spoke of the bustle of journeys.” (Dixon [1894] 2005: 48) Now as she once again surveys London. a theme to which Virginia Woolf would turn her attention a few decades later to greater effect. of the strangers who come. “she made a feint as if to grasp the city spread before her. you and I. In contrast. here and there a faint fringe of tree-tops told of a placid park. We’re not going to be afraid of it . whether in or out of the house. A little earlier.158 Valerie Fehlbaum “Public” here must surely mean not the general crowd. Towards the end of the novel. defying the constraints of social propriety within the domestic sphere. dies from a disease caught during the course of her charity work in slum areas. A warm haze hung over the great city. but the . fixed smiles of the women” (Dixon [1894] 2005: 156).just because it’s big. but the restricted company of select society. as custom would have it. she greets the doctor with a “hard look on her face” and “a royal scorn in her glance”. taking the boy by the arm. “Jim. the supposedly traditional woman. survives. blown northward by the wind. of arrivals. this time unaccompanied. I would suggest that part of the problem arises from a resistance to end the novel with marriage or death. after various trials and tribulations Alison. now and again the shrill whistle of an engine. of the turmoil of railway-stations. “There’s London! We’re going to make it listen to us. and was surely a deliberate attempt on the part of some writers to challenge the fixed codes society imposed on women in life and in literature. as in the last meeting between Alison Ives and her suitor Dr Strange which takes place at one of her mother’s famous dinner parties.

“A nous deux maintenant!” (The Penguin Modern Classics edition translates this as “It’s war between us now”. unlike Adam and Eve. 9 Eugène de Rastignac in the original. This may be interpreted as “gloomy” to use Ella Hepworth Dixon’s own phrase. but there is little lamentation and even less of a sense of defeat. but she is no Ruth. at the end of the original French version Rastignac merely surveys Paris and says. “The world was all before them” (Paradise Lost Book XII: 646). Mary Erle’s preference for the city. therefore. In Streetwalking the Metropolis: Women.Paving the Way for Mrs Dalloway 159 movement ended in a vain gesture. . could certainly be read in this light. that Mary Erle also has her portion of “defiance and conflict and victory” and hopes. remains positive. itself a reflection of the end of Milton’s Paradise Lost. It is also possible to see similarities with the opening of Wordsworth’s Prelude. the epitome of domesticity. […] Doubtless. and comments on the number of women who choose to remain alone. “The New Woman and the Wandering Jew”: 82–122. Père Goriot’s daughter.8 At the same time Ella Hepworth Dixon would seem to be drawing on the well-read reader’s familiarity with earlier works. however tenuous. however. between this scene and That awful passage at the close of Père Goriot in which Lucien de Rubempré9 looks down from Père la Chaise on Paris. the City and Modernity Deborah Parsons draws attention to the city as both exhilarating and isolating.) His first “act of defiance” is then to go and dine with Mme de Nucingen. unlike Wordsworth she 8 See Parsons 2000. surely emphasizing the triumph of life over death. O’Connor in his contemporary review of the novel notes the resemblance. The final note. Lucien de Rubempré shakes his clenched hand in fierce and brave defiance. “from yon City’s walls set free […]. disregarding the suburbs. too. (O’Connor 1894: 2)10 I would argue. but tranquil endurance and blind obedience is the highest to which woman can reach. Mary Erle may not have achieved all she set out to do. Defiance and conflict and victory are the hopes. Mary Erle was to stand alone. “sick for home”. for the two passages mark the everlasting difference between man and woman. for example. the resemblance is intentional. in particular chapter 3. but the woman’s hand “ended in a vain gesture”. and the radiance of her face was blotted out as she began to plod homeward in the twilight of the suburban road”. She has survived and can “plod homewards”. T.P. There may be disillusion. The earth is all before me” (The Prelude Book First: 7–15). 10 In fact. not on the city. If. and often the portion of the man. but Mary Erle ultimately turns her back on the grave-yard. with the city as a sort of surrogate lover. “hand in hand”.


Valerie Fehlbaum

has no desire to flee the city. Moreover, as she proceeds homewards towards the metropolis she describes it not in typically hostile Victorian terms, but as “majestic, awe-inspiring, inexorable, triumphant London”. In so doing she surely has some of the makings of a Paul Morel or a Mrs. Dalloway, and Ella Hepworth Dixon, I would maintain, had added a paving stone to the road towards Modernism. I would also suggest that The Story of a Modern Woman led to a spate of fictions, novels and serials, based on the experiences of lady journalists. In June 1894 the Sunday Times reviewer of The Story of a Modern Woman commented, “So far as we know the career of the heroine is new to fiction”,11 but two years later in July 1896 in her overview of “Leading Lady Journalists”, which somewhat surprisingly makes no mention of Ella Hepworth Dixon, M.F. Billington declared, “Fiction has made heroines of us, and the ‘lady journalist’ has figured in more than one recent play or burlesque” (1896: 101). In fact, even earlier, in 1888, Eliza Lynn Linton herself had already included a subplot about a newspaper woman in her novel Sowing the Wind. After the death of her father, Jane Osborn finds herself, rather like Mary Erle later, having to work to cater for her own needs and those of her family, and elects to write rather than become a governess. Although the story touches on various issues concerning women’s quest for both respect and equality with men in work, it remains in many ways a curiously unflattering portrait. Jane Osborn claims to be proud of being able to do the work of a man among men, and does her work “manfully”, but at the same time describes herself as “ungainly” and as an “unlovely boy-woman”. Her editor even calls her “Mr. Jane” and “old Johnny Osborn”, suggesting that only unwomanly women could thus succeed in a man’s world. Fortunately, rather more flattering images were propagated in the 1890s. After The Story of a Modern Woman, the most notable series about lady writers were Cottrel Hoe’s “Jennie Baxter, Journalist” which appeared in The Windsor Magazine from December 1897 to November 1898, and was later published in book form and signed by the author’s own name, Robert Barr, and Annie S. Swan’s “Journal of a Literary Woman in London” in Woman at Home from April 1901 to September 1902. As the title suggests, the latter consists of a series of stories told by Miriam Carter, and includes several descriptions of literary women, but here, too, a woman author is not as generous to her sex as one might expect. For example Kitty Ford, a “journalist for the latest ladies’ paper”, is described as an “odd little figure in a very limp and soiled white nun’s veiling frock peering through her shabby lorgnette at the smart guests. Jennie Baxter, on the other hand, perhaps due to the male gaze of her creator, is “always most
11 Sunday Times (3 June 1894): 2.

Paving the Way for Mrs Dalloway


beautifully attired, and her whole affect was so charming that men have been known to turn in the streets and say ‘By Jove!’”. She also has a strong sense of her profession, but is tired of relying on a “fitful income”, and, as the story unfolds, reveals admirable enterprise. She rarely walks the streets of London, however, and usually “stepped lightly into a hansom cab” (The Windsor Magazine 7 (December 1897): 205). More pertinent for my present purposes is George Paston (Emily Morse Symonds)’s full-length novel, A Writer of Books,12 which appeared in 1899. Four years earlier she had published a short story entitled “A Lady Journalist” in which the lady journalist of the title, Evelyn Lambert, is in fact rather dubious, since she persuades her fiancé to write for her and passes his work off as her own, ultimately doing him out of a job until she marries the editor and persuades him to reinstate her former lover. Interestingly, however, it is her editor who engages in the more stereotypical traditional behaviour of women – window-shopping and thinking about his appearance: “He was seen by a member of his staff standing in front of a hairdresser’s window, gazing wistfully at the bottles of hair-restorer therein displayed” (Paston 1895: 72). In A Writer of Books the female protagonist, Cosima Chudleigh, is a more complex character altogether, and bears many resemblances to Mary Erle as she experiences the city, including, of course, Grub Street. More of a sensationseeker than Ella Hepworth Dixon’s woman writer, Cosima is nevertheless by no means a mere flâneuse; she deliberately explores urban space in search of material for her fiction.
Often, as she passed through the crowded streets, she felt tempted to slip between two lovers and listen to their whispered words, to follow the tiredlooking shop girls and chattering factory hands as they hurried home from their work, to eavesdrop at the doors of sinister-looking houses in narrow back streets, or to strike up an acquaintance with the sandwich-men and flowers-sellers who lined the Strand. (Paston [1898] 1999: 37)

Interestingly, Rachel Bowlby in Still Crazy After All These Years: Women, Writing and Psychoanalysis comments on the close links between walking the city and writing for women such as Virginia Woolf, and Woolf ’s pretext for venturing out, a pencil, would certainly endorse this argument. In A Writer of Books, however, the woman writer is seen initially rather as a reader of the city: “Every day […] she explored the sights of London, but still she felt impatiently that the great city lay like a clasped book before her, a book every page of which she wished to turn, while as yet she could only gaze upon the cover” (Paston [1898] 1999: 37).
12 I am indebted to Margaret Stetz for drawing my attention to this text and its rich source of comparisons and contrasts with The Story of a Modern Woman.


Valerie Fehlbaum

Unlike Mary Erle, Cosima had grown up in the provinces, but she demonstrates none of the typical provincial anxiety about the metropolis. On her first day she immediately sets about her self-assigned task with gusto.
Once more she glanced at the well-studied map of London. Yes, she felt sure she could find her way unaided to her destination […] Across Holborn she directed her course, and presently through a narrow alley emerged upon the wide-stretching fields of Lincoln’s Inn. Resisting the temptation to stop and examine the picturesquely gloomy buildings that lined her route, she pressed forward till at length she stood at the junction of the Strand with the highway of letters, and saw the long wings of the griffin which, like the dragon in a fairy tale, seemed to be guarding the approach to the gold-paved streets of the city. With beating heart and dilated eyes, she took her first walk down Fleet Street, stopping from time to time to gaze upon the temples dedicated to the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Chronicle, or Punch. Ludgate Circus had but little interest for her beyond the fact that from thence she obtained her first view of St Paul’s […] (Paston [1898] 1999: 18–19)

Cosima displays a positive enjoyment of the freedom of the city and partakes of its various pleasures, even more intrepid than Elizabeth Dalloway twenty-five years later.
She [Elizabeth Dalloway] looked up Fleet Street. She walked just a little way towards St Paul’s, shyly, like someone penetrating on tiptoe, exploring a strange house with a candle, on edge lest the owner should suddenly fling wide his bedroom door and ask her business, nor did she dare wander off into queer alleys, tempting by-streets, any more than in a strange house open doors which might be bedroom doors, or sitting-room doors, or lead straight to the larder. For no Dalloway came down the Strand daily; she was a pioneer, a stray, venturing, trusting. […] She penetrated a little farther in the direction of St Paul’s. She liked the geniality, sisterhood, motherhood, brotherhood of this uproar. It seemed to her good. (Woolf [1925] 1972: 152)

Again, as in the case of Mary Erle, for Cosima the streets of London are more enticing than her boarding-house, and regularly she “would wander out and indulge herself with a cheap seat at a concert or theatre” (Paston 1999 [1899]: 39). Her enthusiasm and desire to experience everything the city has to offer sometimes lead her into a few awkward situations, reminiscent of the abovementioned 1860’s Times’ debate.
It was on the occasion of one of these outings […] that she met with her first adventure worthy of the name […] When the concert was over she passed slowly out into Regent Street […]

Paving the Way for Mrs Dalloway She had not proceeded more than a few paces, however, when she became aware that a young man was walking alongside her, and glancing with a sort of furtive eagerness into her face. She quickened her pace a little, and he quickened his; she slackened, and he fell back on a level with her. It was not the first time that she had thus been “shadowed” by tentative admirers; but hitherto, thanks perhaps to her studiously unconscious air, not one of them had summoned up courage to speak to her. (Paston [1898] 1999: 39) (My italics)


She would appear to have followed Eliza Lynn Linton’s advice in “Out Walking”, and acquired “that enviable street-talent, and pass men without looking at them, yet all the while seeing them” (Linton 1862: 133). None-the-less, she still comments on the “oddity of such a situation (which) had always impressed her”, again noting the unspoken distinction between the open public arena of the street and restricted public spheres:
The man hovering at the woman’s elbow, the woman conscious of his proximity in every nerve, yet maintaining an expression set and impassive as that of a waxen mask. And both of them human beings, who would be free to enjoy each other’s society and conversation were but a few unintelligible words muttered by a common acquaintance. After all, it was only conventionality that forbade a respectable woman to enter into conversation with a stranger in the street, since in a railway carriage or on board ship the proceeding would not be regarded as a social crime. (Paston [1898] 1999: 39)

As it happens, “her literary curiosity” gets the better of her and she does strike up a conversation with the young man, which in turn leads to her making the acquaintance of Bess Heywood, a would-be actress, working as a barmaid who not surprisingly is a far more knowledgeable woman of the world. Like Mary Erle, Cosima runs greater risks from so-called respectable quarters. Mr Carlton, a fellow lodger, whom she considers a “harmless, elderly coquette”, first invites her to his room for tea, slightly compromising in itself, and afterwards offers to take her, chaperoned, to a restaurant and then the theatre. Here, not only is the chaperon useless, and the performance not up to Cosima’s expectations, but the behaviour of her escort is even worse.
Half an hour of almost intolerable boredom had well-nigh reduced her to tears, when her attention was distracted from the imbecilities on the stage to the peculiar behaviour of her host. Mr Carlton’s arm was stretched along the back of her seat, and he was leaning towards her, his eyes gazing with maudlin tenderness into hers, his wine-scented breath almost scorching her cheek. As she turned away her head, she felt a hand close tightly over hers. An immense disgust seized her, an overpowering repulsion. She snatched away her fingers, and sitting forward, tried to forget her discomfort in an endeavour to catch the words of a thrice-encored patter-song. (Paston [1898] 1999: 66)


Valerie Fehlbaum

On the way home in the cab, a restricted yet still public space, he again importunes her. Sometimes, however, public places offered greater security, for example from her over-zealous fiancé.
She could no longer blind herself to the fact that in his capacity of lover, Tom was growing day by day less timid, less submissive, in a word, less bearable. He now assumed the privileges of affianced husband with a confidence that silenced while it appalled her. She had no right to shrink from his caresses, and her one consolation lay in the fact that it was easy to avoid opportunities of being alone with him. Their meeting-places were of necessity restaurants, theatres, and railway carriages, and Cosima grew to love the great open-eyed, open-eared public that acted as a continual check upon the terrible demonstrativeness of her lover. (Paston [1898] 1999: 133)

Also, like Mary Erle, and before Virginia Woolf ’s more advanced women, in moments of crisis she found relief in taking to the streets on her own even at night to escape the claustrophobic atmosphere indoors. Similarly, at the end of the novel, she finds herself alone. This time, however, the female writer goes even further than Ella Hepworth Dixon’s protagonist – she has left her unfaithful husband and offered herself to a much older man whom she has grown to love and who persuades her against acting rashly. She then accepts that there is more to life than love and marriage. “Her old-fashioned prototype” gave way to a modern woman for whom “all was not lost, […] life was not over”, and she sets about writing “the book, the flawless masterpiece that every author is always going to write” (ibid: 258) (her italics). Like Mary Erle, she finds solace in activity, and one is reminded here of the plight of the nameless narrator in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) who is driven mad by confinement and enforced inactivity. Some spaces such as the home, ostensibly safe havens for women, could prove to be even more dangerous than public places. Earlier novelists, both male and female such as Charlotte Brontë in Jane Eyre (1847) and Wilkie Collins in The Woman in White (1860) had raised the question of the dangers of domestic interiors, but I would argue that writers such as Ella Hepworth Dixon and George Paston went a step further, and showed that a life outside the home was not only possible, but also at times preferable. By the end of the century, to return to Cosima Chudleigh’s figurative language, not only did such women writers start to turn the pages of “the great city [that] lay like a clasped book”, they even began to add some pages of their own. It would take another generation to argue for a room of their own, after which, the next step would be to “become part of that vast republican army of anonymous trampers, whose society is so agreable after the solitude of one’s own room” (Woolf [1930] 1967: 155).

Paving the Way for Mrs Dalloway Bibliography


primary sources de Balzac, Honoré. [1835] 1951. Le Père Goriot (tr. M.A. Crawford). Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics. Barr, Robert (“Cottrel Hoe”). 1899. Jennie Baxter, Journalist. London: Methuen. Barrie, J.M. [1888] 1923. When a Man’s Single. London: Hodder and Stoughton. Benjamin, Walter. 1973. Charles Baudelaire: a Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism (tr. Harry Zohn). London: New Left Books. Bennett, E.A. 1898. Journalism for Women: A Practical Guide. London: John Lane. Billington, M.F. 1896. ‘Leading Lady Journalists’ in Pearson’s Magazine 11 (July-December 1896): 101–11. Brontë, Charlotte. [1847] 1966. Jane Eyre. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Collins, Mabel. 1890. ‘Journalism for Women’ in Woman (15 February 1890): 2. Collins, Wilkie. [1860] 1996. The Woman in White. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dixon, Ella Hepworth. 1894. ‘A Leper’s Paradise’ in The World (4 July 1894):31–32. . [1894] 2005. The Story of a Modern Woman. Peterborough: Broadview. . 1898. ‘Pensées de Femme’ in Lady’s Pictorial (14 May 1898): 732. . 1907. ‘In a Looking Glass’ in Lady’s Pictorial (16 November 1907): 834. . 1925. ‘The Modern Way: A Social Causerie’ in Westminster Gazette (14 January 1925): 6. Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. [1892] 1981. The Yellow Wallpaper. London: Virago. Hubbard, Louisa M. (ed.). 1873. The Year-Book of Women’s Work. Layard, G.S. 1901. Mrs. Lynn Linton: Her Life, Letters, and Opinions. London: Methuen. E.L.L. (Eliza Lynn Linton). 1846. Azeth the Egyptian. London: Newby. . 1862. ‘Out Walking’ in Temple Bar V (July 1862): 132–39. . 1868. ‘The Girl of the Period’ in Saturday Review (14 March 1868): 339–40. . 1888. Sowing the Wind. London: Chatto and Windus. T.P. (O’Connor). 1894. The Weekly Sun (29 July 1894): 2. Swan, Annie S. 1901–2. ‘Journal of a Literary Woman in London’ in Woman at Home (Vol. XI, April 1901–September 1901): 149–56, 241–48, 322–31, 487–95; (Vol. XII, October 1901–March 1902): 42–45, 138–44, 377–84, 494–502, 587–94; (Vol. XIII, April 1902–September 1902): 42–50, 150–57 (as ‘The Diary of a Literary Woman in London’). Paston, George (Emily Morse Symonds) 1895 ‘A Lady Journalist’ in English Illustrated Magazine (January 1895): 65–73. . [1898] 1999. A Writer of Books. Chicago: Academy Chicago Publishers. Winter, John Strange. (Henrietta Eliza Vaughan Palmer Stannard). 1894. Winter’s Weekly. 10 November 1894): 5. Woolf, Virginia. [1925] 1972. Mrs Dalloway. Harmondsworth: Penguin. . [1930] 1967 ‘Street Haunting: A London Adventure’ in Collected Essays Volume 4: 155–66. . 1967. Collected Essays, 4 Volumes, ed. Leonard Woolf, London: Chatto and Windus.


Valerie Fehlbaum

secondary sources Bowlby, Rachel. 1985. Just Looking: Consumer Culture in Dreiser, Gissing and Zola. New York and London: Methuen. . 1992. Still Crazy After All These Years. London: Routledge. . 1997. Feminist Destinations and Further Essays on Virginia Woolf. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Dyos, H.J. and Michael Wolff (eds). 1973. The Victorian City: Images and Realities. London: Routledge. Eagleton, Terry. 1995. ‘The Flight to the Real’ in Ledger and McCracken (1995): 11–21. Farmer, Steve. 2005. Introduction to The Story of a Modern Woman. Peterborough: Broadview. Layard, George Somes. 1901. Mrs Lynn Linton: Her Life, Letters, and Opinions. London: Methuen. Ledger, Sally and Scott McCracken (eds). 1995. Cultural Politics at the Fin de Siècle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. . 1997. The New Woman: Fiction and Feminism at the Fin de Siècle. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Marcus, Jane. (ed.). 1982. New Feminist Essays on Virginia Woolf. London: Macmillan. Nead, Lynda. 2000. Victorian Babylon: People, Streets and Images in Nineteenth Century London. New Haven: Yale University Press. Parsons, Deborah L. 2000. Streetwalking the Metropolis: Women, the City and Modernity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Snaith, Anna. 2000. Virginia Woolf: Public and Private Negotiations. Basingstoke: Macmillan. Walker, Lynne. 1993. ‘Vistas of Pleasure: Women Consumers of Urban Space in the West end of London 1850–1900’ in Cracks in the Pavement. London: Sorella Press. Walkowitz, Judith R. 1992. City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in LateVictorian London. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Wilson, Elizabeth. 1992. ‘The Invisible Flâneur’ in The New Left Review 191 (Jan/Feb 1992): 90–110. Wolff, Janet. 1985 ‘The Invisible Flâneuse’ in Theory, Culture and Society special issue ‘The Fate of Modernity’, Volume 2, Number 3. Wolff, Michael and Celina Fox. 1973. ‘Pictures for the Magazines’ in Dyos and Wolff Volume II: 559–82. Unsigned review of The Story of a Modern Woman, ‘What to Read and What to Avoid’ in Sunday Times (3 June 1894): 2. Unsigned, but perhaps Arnold Bennett, ‘Women as Journalists by a Man Editor’ in Woman (3 July 1890): 3–4. Unsigned, but probably John Strange Winter, Winter’s Weekly (10 November 1894): 5.

Miriam Henderson. one public – in Pilgrimage: the bedsitting-room and the café.Dwelling. Eliot. lack of plot. establishes Miriam’s predilection for the café scene. Both are defined as places of public-privacy —as interstitial spaces. monotony and narcissism. Keywords: Dorothy Richardson. a thirteen part novel-series published over a period of 52 years. S. 31 December 1914 The hunt for the “invisible” flâneuse of modernity has prompted many critics to turn their attention to Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage. Its central task is to demonstrate how the specific nature and conditions of Miriam Henderson’s use of her Bloomsbury rooming-house determine her New Woman-style spatial practices in the public sphere. Its early critics singled out its excessive length. Its recent apologists have argued that it is an invaluable document of the public world of the streets as experienced by a woman in the turn of the century London. from 1915 to 1967. publicprivacy. The novel-series is replete with scenes of its protagonist. Pilgrimage. . café. which allow Richardson’s heroine to experience more heterogeneous freedoms. turning Pilgrimage into a portrait and a product of the alternately reposeful and stimulated female consciousness at creative work. and one’s refinement rises up like a wall whenever opportunity approaches. formlessness. The bedsit’s paradoxical qualities of inviolability and porosity. Pilgrimage is remarkable for a number of reasons. spatial practices. Her use of the bedsit and the café registers the novel’s twin preoccupations with solitude and solicitude. Letter to Conrad Aitken. obscurity. One walks about the streets with one’s desires. T. bedsit. Dreaming: Housebreaking and Homemaking in Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage Melinda Harvey abstract This essay dispenses with feminism’s easy platitudes regarding the liberating effects of a “room of one’s own” to offer an in-depth inspection of two key sites of female inhabitation – one private. it argues. Poaching.

as such. I have argued elsewhere that Miriam’s frequent night-time rambles are crucial to her development as a writer (Harvey 2001: 746–64). The urban historian and critic Richard Sennett calls these heterotopic and inspiriting areas of engagement “live space” – zones in which people are drawn to “live the complexities of the society directly and physically” in a way that goes above and beyond any quantitative use-value (Sennett 1992: 3). more accurately. I will be arguing here that the bedsit’s inviolable but inexhaustible porosity – its provision for. public) and interior (internal. enter and use live space.1 and as such it is as much interested in interiority as it is in concrete spaces. Like the stranger encounter of the streets. intimate. This love of spaciousness matures over time to become less 1 All quotations from Pilgrimage are taken from Gill Hanscombe’s four-volume edition of the novel-sequence published by London’s Virago Press in 1979. At the interstices of the realms commonly understood as exterior (external. fleeting and. The status. This essay. paradoxically. spaces of public-privacy are porous. Miriam’s estrangement from the enclosed home will be considered in terms of its spatial consequences. civic. evocatory. These are places that are “permeated by streams of communal life” (to use a phrase of Walter Benjamin’s) but house a range of activities commonly thought of as occurring in the domestic sphere (Benjamin 1924: 74). Walking has long served as a metaphor for the act of writing itself. for all its limitations of size. both models and gives Miriam license to discover. The room of one’s own. This essay will. Both entail seeing and judging and imagining. precious solitude as well as an enduring attachment to the transient world outside – sets the standard for Miriam’s choice of secondary sites of inhabitation in Pilgrimage. but characterised by an inexorable homeyness – are examples of spaces of public-privacy. also consider the role that remembered places play in Miriam’s selection of actual comfort zones in the city. A deep nostalgia for her rambling childhood home will be shown to determine Miriam’s choice of lodging and eating locations. scope and function (or. therefore. character and function of two specific locations Miriam frequents will provide the focus – the bedsit and the café. . public-privacy denotes contact that is covert. 168). The bedsit and the café – exempt from the responsibilities and restrictions of domestic life. They offer a more attenuated kind of the promiscuous sociability the flâneuse experiences when walking in the city. private).168 Melinda Harvey playing flâneuse. the most notable of which is the café. arbitrary. is interested in exploring the locations at either end of the peregrinative trail that make walking-writing possible – the flâneuse-friendly dwelling and dallying places of Pilgrimage’s London. But Pilgrimage is a novel that holds to the view that there’s “more space within than without” (Iv. however. precisely because of them).

dressing. I hazard that this impulse to glorify the bedsit is as much due to the lack of historical or sociological studies of spinster spaces as it is to literary feminism’s habit of utopian retrieval of female-centered texts. drinking. Dreaming 169 parochial and exclusionary and more synonymous with the kind of speculative openness we associate with the exiled modernist writer. The Bedsit Since the late-nineteenth century. with groans. 1. Pilgrimage celebrates the “little shabby enclosure” (Iii. one room […] The awful feeling. I attempted a compressed retrospect & achieved almost nothing at all” (Richardson 1921: 48–49). Readers of Pilgrimage pay their first visit to the bedsit in The Tunnel. as to the opening of The Tunnel. 2 I think Ann Heilmann and Pilar Hidalgo. have been prone to over-eulogise the bedsit as a utopian site of female creativity and freedom. This section has come to stand for the novel-sequence as a whole in the minds of readers. It also has befuddled the critics more than any other. Despite its limitations. deceived by Woolf ’s class-blind rubric of the “room of one’s own”. 17). we have failed to see it for what it usually is: a locus of economic hardship and social deprivation as well as a site of intellectual and sexual freedom. . Small. talking and entertaining. for example. seeing a bedsit for the first time. no house to move in. are a little guilty on this count: see Heilmann (1995) and Hidalgo (1993). Feminist critics. shabby and expediently furnished. the bedsit’s modest dimensions have been seen to be spinster spaces. no society” (Iii. The possession and use of a Bloomsbury bedsit does on the rare occasion actualise for Richardson’s Miriam some feeling of horror. particularly in vogue during the late 1970s and early 1980s.Dwelling. Poaching. in general.3 John Mepham has identified The Tunnel’s opening thirteen-and-a-half pages as Pilgrimage’s most “notorious” and “unreadable” constituent section – a weighty charge given the novel-cycle’s infamy for impenetrability (Mepham 2000: 449–64). recognises this: “This is the furnished room.2 Thus. bathing. Even Richardson herself conceded it was problematic: “I agree. no dancing. the first chapter-novel of the novel-sequence set in central London. however. the bedsit is the family home slashed to meanness. fit and proper for the woman who is neither an Angel of the House nor a mistress of the streets. cooking. and can be seen to have contributed directly to the fading appeal of the Miriam books generally. reading. It is a sleeping cubicle divested of its separate supplementary spaces for eating. Miriam. 321) as a “dream world” offering “evening and week-end freedom” (Ii. It has often been confused with the kind of rooms that money – and five hundred pounds a year is real money – could supply. cleaning. following Richardson’s own lead. 3 Each of the thirteen separate books that comprise Pilgrimage will be referred to as “chapter-novels”. no tennis. 163).

the room is in the house. like the empty room at the top of the Tansley Street stairs. the globeless gas bracket. Open for Inspection The first chapter of The Tunnel delineates Miriam’s impressions of the room and its contents for the first time as its occupant. the ragged carpet. The Tunnel’s beginning chapter is. then closes again – Miriam registers every physical aspect of the attic: the barred lattice window. 2. opens. 12). as a door whose handle we wrench ineffectively calls our attention to the fact that it is locked” (Woolf [1919] 1992: 15). and the deal table covered with a cotton-print table-cloth.170 Melinda Harvey According to Virginia Woolf. to “provide an amusing spectacle of hasty critics seeking in vain”: The Tunnel’s method. The tour around Miriam’s room is our first live and exclusive look at Pilgrimage’s London. that things or objects exist independently of human appetites and desires”. Howard Finn and John Mepham have recently seen in the first chapter’s “very long. exists as an enjoinment to reader participation. the discoloured mantlepiece. see import and design and not just a kind of reality effect here. tapping in the breeze” (Ii. to the city. traditionally used to represent a woman’s social and psychic existence. I. indigestible solid blocks” of detail much more than a vivid surface signifying nothing (Radford 1991: 50–52. she says. to continue Woolf ’s conceit. her use of the larger figure (the city) in conjunction with the smaller figures of rooms and houses makes possible a more mobile and extensive set of figures: streets. Motionless just inside the door – which she alternately closes. These notorious pages are Richardson’s open invitation to inspect and understand the topological and textual geography of the novel-sequence as a whole. Finn 2002: 115–22. a “door ajar. Mepham 2000: 453–56). she adjudged rather backhandedly “is a method that demands attention. more often than not. as readers. the bevel roof. doors and windows. a fascination for the first chapter of The Tunnel tends. I intend to show that Richardson’s protracted account of Miriam’s arrival at Tansley Street is not. and the house is in London – and indeed that London is a city in the wider world […] Richardson extends the figure of the house. Jean Radford. too. the public and private realms are brought into a new textual relation […] (Radford 1991: 51–52) . vainly struggle. and as a way of demonstrating the bedsit’s imbrication with the greater public sphere: Another effect achieved by the technique here [in Chapter I] is to make the point that Miriam is in the room. a closed door at whose knob we. intersections and city zones as well as walls. In this way. Detail. the yellow wallpaper and wardrobe. Rather. Radford’s suggested explanations are closest to the mark. as a way of insisting upon “the room’s material existence.

carries out two very noteworthy actions pertaining to the room’s primary thresholds. by the careful catalogue in Chapter I of all cupboards and drawers – they are. Gaston Bachelard tells us. 3. A space for long-term inhabitation for Miriam has been found. static for most of the first chapter of The Tunnel. shared rooms and other people’s houses. the outlying squares and their bare trees. especially – will be explored more closely in due course. space[s] that [are] not open to just anybody” (Bachelard [1958] 1994: 78). that Chapter I must be read. the door: when Miriam enters the attic she closes it immediately. After chronicling Miriam’s unsuccessful search for a home over the course of three chapter-novels. of course. First. This is intimated. I agree with Radford that what we are being alerted to here is that Miriam has come into possession of is not one room. the stairwell. furniture and fittings for us. the easterly breeze. as well as the succession of false stops in schools. the landing and the skylight. the cheeping birds. of the “universal marvel of existence” (Richardson 1921: 91). This. after attending to the play of the light “pouring through the barred lattice window” against the wallpaper and roof. I want to make some general comments about Miriam’s bedsit – in particular its ability to connect itself so intimately with city spaces. obliges her reader with an unhurried conducted tour. Richardson is keen to establish the bedsit as safehouse and storehouse. later on. Unquestionably. First. Dreaming 171 The Tunnel’s notorious opening chapter is intended to be neither infuriating nor abstruse. window. the violin and the bells of St Pancras – is peculiar. That said. This porosity is given greater emphasis by Miriam herself who. though. the traffic noise. for example. without any apparent intention to pass though it. the attention paid to exterior phenomena – first. This is the place upon which everything else will depend. floor. but a whole house. the neighbouring house-fronts. Miriam reopens the door.Dwelling. Why? Part of the reason lies simply in the fact that Miriam is always alive to a passionate interest in the sacred concreteness of objects. the paper-boy’s cry. “veritable organs of the secret psychological life […] intimate space[s]. its door and window. But a short time later. it is in the context of Miriam’s loss of the maison natale. Thus. finding her protagonist ready and willing to settle in a Bloomsbury bedsit. Richardson. and that this house includes both the transit spaces of the lodging-house and the streets. Poaching. But it is the bedsit’s capacity for propitious porosity that stands out as its defining characteristic. parks and buildings nearby. is natural enough and one need not take account of it. so Richardson takes the time to enumerate its walls. Later in the novel-sequence she reflects: . The Street Inside These far-off “rooms” – the café.

1957. the dialectics of inside and outside no longer exists – the interior is effaced with one stroke. itself. Bachelard says of the casket: When a casket is closed. is that there should be anything anywhere to behave. Richardson and Alan Odle. .9. note the jiggle of its knob in her hand as well as its flapping in the breeze and the happy squeal of its hinges. a porte de passage to the porous life. anywhere.’ Talk to the Friday Club. Miriam cannot help but play with her door – push it closed and pull it open. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Alan] treated inanimate objects as if they had some life of their own […] And when I left Trevone to go home. opening and then closing it again. 4 Rose Odle. the street. each enriching rather than compromising the other. in The Dorothy Richardson Collection.172 Melinda Harvey The astonishingness of doors opening when you push them. The unbolting of the door allows Bachelard’s “atmosphere of novelty and surprise” to reign in the room. By closing. (Bachelard 1958: 78) A like rationale holds for Miriam’s manipulation of the door. it takes place in exterior space. II. covets openness – it is her portal to publicity and privacy.” she confessed once.211. [the] dialectics [of inside and outside] no longer exist. is a threshold) – Miriam comes to a fuller awareness of the most private parts of her new living sphere. The outside has no more meaning. No longer are the attic’s carpet. Dorothy’s sister-in-law and literary executrix. Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space points us toward the truth behind the alternately closed and opened door. 18 November. 455) It was an attitude shared by Miriam with Richardson herself: “For what astonished. 17. But what is much more astonishing than things behaving after their manner. Why does this pass unnoticed? (Iv. bed and scattering of furniture swallowed by the abject gloom. it is returned to the general community of objects. If a room has its doorway open wide. London. The outside is effaced with one stroke. and ultimately. “was the existence. of anything at all”. Discussing “images of secrecy”. the vestibule. This is a door that. an atmosphere of novelty and surprise reigns. above all things.4 But there is more going on here than simply this. Miriam dissolves the traditional limits of the room. See Odle. the staircase. ‘Some Memories of Dorothy M. window grate. Dorothy would write that my used Burgundy glass and squashed cushion on the chair had been left overnight to hold some of my presence the next day”. and still astonishes me more than anything else. substantiates this with a relevant anecdote: “They both [Richardson and her husband. But it opens! […] From the moment the casket is opened. The movement of “silence” from outside to inside also reminds us that Miriam’s attic is related to the passageways directly contiguous with it – the landing. Courtesy of the exterior – namely the skylight out on the landing (which.

Upon arrival. a source of light and warmth for the room and a frame through which Miriam can encounter the external world. Dreaming 173 Miriam’s dormer window is the garret’s other key permeable limit. By this way of thinking. and as such. and “the clear brown shock” of the attic-room itself foretell untrammelled freedom. 14–15). tired out by the horrors of previous lodgings – by the “ugly clean little room[s]” and the censure of “awful” women (Ii. I say returns because the furnished garret betrays a look of the exterior. in fact. as if it had at one time been exposed to the elements. a convolution of constrictive iron bars. “generally. Throughout the novel-series Bloomsbury’s roads and house-fronts are characterised as “dingy” and “shabby” (Iii. This is indeed the promise of Tansley Street’s “large brown dinginess” for Miriam. They afford the visual presentness of people. however. immovable panes and double lattice. Ignoring the housekeeping obligations of ideal femininity. returns the room to an equivalence relation with the exterior world. Iii. attics have been dangerous places for women who refuse to submit to the restrictions of the patriarchal order. more obviously than doors. Bachelard notes in The Poetics of Space that. Miriam follows the room’s lead and leaves her things “half unpacked about the floor”. Miriam’s bedsit contravenes the classification of matter as interior or exterior and the systematic ordering of space as private or public. Latterly a governess and an orphan too (Mrs Henderson dies at the end of the previous chapter-novel. but they enlarge the scope of rooms by informing them with an external prospect without meddling with their actual size and scale. Mrs Bailey’s “shabby and worn” appearance. then. she settles in. . In a room that otherwise cries freedom for women. the landing linoleum’s dust-encrusted cracks and fissures. a guarantee of public-privacy. places or things without demanding intimacy or recognition. of its happy correspondence with the life of the streets. The room’s dust. instead. Honeycomb). a point of both entry and egress. transgress the binary of inside and outside. Dirt is the mark of porosity. roofs and sky. its fadedness and shabbiness. Miriam’s hard-fought liberation of the window and grate means that her view from the attic is no longer delimited to a sealed glimpse of outside walls. described by Richardson for a whole page (Ii. What follows is an almost ritualistic avulsion of the window’s various trappings. messiness is homeliness for the independent woman with artistic intent. for a spot of reading. Windows. the stairwell’s faded umbers. 177). Since Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. buffs and madders.Dwelling. Doors are entrances and exits. protective barriers and terminating impasses. beauty exteriorises and disturbs intimate meditation” ([1958] 1994: 107). Poaching. Her act. 194. is evidence of its porosity. Miriam’s window is. Framed panes of glass act as conduits and barriers too. Miriam recognises that she must take affirmative action against the habiliments of imprisonment. 20. 284). I.

15. it is an imagined structure constituted by “a pattern of regular doings” in real space. appear indistinct. 22). which integrates memories and images. 7. La Maison de Passe The Tunnel’s first chapter is not merely a tour of a single attic-room in Bloomsbury but a revealing glimpse at a sprawling. lecture halls. A violinist is described as if immediately present. just outside all the time. but a diffuse and complex condition. 23). too. desires and fears. as Michael Seidel notes. personal rhythms and routines of everyday life. perfectly new” (Ii. and in the brilliant sunshine the unchanging things began again. the bells of St Pancras’ church clamour and jangle “in” – not “into” – the garret (Ii. fashions for herself a domicile that interpenetrates London’s zones of public-privacy – its streets. By extending the boundaries of her home to include live spaces. Watching an unscreened dormer window opposite. are wanderers by nature. likewise. Miriam makes the city fit and proper for flânerie. Reassured that her movements inside her own room would. coming in with the light. Miriam gives up the thought of a shrouding window-blind: “London could come freely in day and night through the unscreened happy little panes: […] London. Miriam makes out only “a dim figure amongst motionless shapes”. A home is also a set of rituals. shops. buses and trains. the past and the present. as Juhani Pallasmaa explains: It is evident that home is not merely an object or building. And a home cannot be produced at once. and it is a gradual product of the dweller’s adaptation to the world. like years going backwards to the beginning. 16). synonymous with the four outer walls of No. restaurants. Tansley Street. A primary intention of the London chapter-novels of Pilgrimage is to elaborate (and . it has its time dimension and continuum. Instead. house. Miriam’s home consists of the bedsit as well as a number of publicly accessible indoor and outdoor spaces she habitually visits. the room is thoroughly awash with outside sights and sounds. The bedsit’s happy admittance to the life of the streets is not compromised by a lack of privacy. Ii. to use Mary Douglas’ helpful formulation (Douglas 1991: 287). be it actual (physical) or mental (imaginary). is normalised by the manufacture of an imaginary enclosure. coming in with the darkness […]” (Ii. if decidedly unorthodox. Homes are no different. (Pallasmaa 1995: 133) Exiles. Loitering. joins the room’s irresistible porous vortex: “The night was like a moment added to the day. however. Time. This house is not. theatres. Architects and phenomenologists have pointed out for some years now that architecture is an event. 4. but homebodies by habit (Seidel 1986: 10).174 Melinda Harvey By the end of The Tunnel’s first chapter. displaced and disenfranchised. Miriam. that most illicit of acts for the respectable woman.

circumstances or desires. The bedsit has its limitations: food. safety and a profound sense of happiness within these primary limits. needs to be sought outside. statesmen. Harriett. her husband. 30) But there are some very basic needs neither the bedsit nor the transit zones of a house can provide. (Ii. hidden. Dreaming 175 when Miriam’s living conditions change. For food and companionship – hallmark beneficences of the traditional household – Miriam annexes numerous places external to the Tansley Street house and yokes them to her own rented room. poets. partitioned off. Miriam never fails to find easefulness. This is a fact presaged early in The Tunnel when Miriam returns home for the first time to Tansley Street after a lazy Sunday spent with her sister. It was all she wanted. 196. musicians. actors. 86. and Miriam must seek these further afield. This is the geographical area known as Bloomsbury and the West End. and their friends: Strolling home towards midnight along the narrow pavement of Endsleigh Gardens. In this way the stairs leading from the fourth-floor garret to the green front door of Mrs Bailey’s house become a passageway to the vestibule of Bloomsbury’s streets and squares. painters. 336–37). Gerald. The café manages both to satisfy the high demands and make up for the more practical shortcomings of the bedsit. An “oasis”. can be remodelled – extended up or out. . “The Magic Circle” Any building. the preferred quarters “for writers. 5. given a change in its user’s needs. Over the entire course of her time in London. Iv. scientists – leaders of thought and action in every sphere of activity” (Gordon and Deeson 1950: 11). Iv. or utterly overhauled. the part where she was going to live. in freedom. Miriam scours the city’s public sphere seeking its atmosphere of simultaneous isolation and community. on her pound a week.Dwelling. Miriam felt as fresh and untroubled as if it were early morning. With the ever-porous bedsit setting the standard. Miriam’s house demonstrates a like elasticity. historians. she had found that the street had lost its first terrifying impression and had become part of her home. It was the borderland of the part of London she had found for herself. Need also determines Miriam’s choice of satellite sites of inhabitation around town. Bloomsbury itself is also a tributary to a variety of vital places – “islands” Richardson called them (1939: 61) – of which eating-places make up a not insubstantial part. When she had got out of her Hammersmith omnibus into the Tottenham Court Road. Poaching. for one thing. From Chapter I of The Tunnel we gleaned an enduring connection between the room’s freed window and fluttering door and what Miriam comes repeatedly to call “the magic circle” (Iii. philosophers. complicate) the configuration of this extraordinary house that is at the heart of her New Woman freedom.

is a nominal “part of the family of the occupier”. for example. In between removing the window grate and retiring for the night under her dusty counterpane. falls into thoughtful retrospection. lives separate and apart. on the other hand. boarding. A boarder. and that in this intervening time Miriam has been living in London as a boarder. social and psychical) that I shall now turn. at least to start – a half-crown (that is. heating nor use of any additional living areas. carrying water and coal. Why? To answer this question we must return to The Tunnel’s now familiar first chapter. It is immediately apparent that this is. Lodging ensures shelter. in short. however. but no food. propped up on her mattress. so it is worth explaining. A lodger. Miriam. who dates Mrs Henderson’s suicide to have occurred in July or August 1895 and Miriam’s arrival at Tansley Street at Saturday 4 April 1896. [and] running errands”. . Leonore Davidoff. making fires. Thomson (1998: 64). not a boarder. emptying slops such as waste water and chamber pots. defines a lodger as a tenant who pays a specified weekly sum of money to live in segregated quarters in another family’s household. a family unto him or herself (Davidoff 1979: 64–97). is not inside the “magic circle”. in her pioneering work on women and housing in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century. also. for Miriam. book banished to her knee. an eighth of her weekly wage) procures her a week’s accommodation in a furnished room with rudimental attendance. a far from loathsome or incommodious arrangement. furnishings and basic services such as “cleaning. This is a very important distinction.176 Melinda Harvey But Miriam’s choice of additional living space changes as Miriam’s circumstances change. agreements and allegiances (spatial. authorises a more integrated and wholesale use of the house – for example. drink.6 Miriam has learned that ancillary services 5 See George H. the right to laundry facilities and/or the inclusion at family meals. 6. since it is described as being situated among “maddening endless roads of little houses in the east wind” (Ii.5 Having done her time in houses outside the “magic circle” of Bloomsbury and the West End. as Scott McCracken has noted. the outer limits of Miriam’s house are under constant construction. Honeycomb to its abrupt conclusion. but we can safely assume it. In Miriam’s case – that is. It is to these arrangements. We learn that nine months have passed since the fatal visit to Brighton that brings the previous chapter-novel. Pilgrimage is. The Artful Lodger Miriam starts her life at Mrs Bailey’s as a lodger. the complicated codes of access and disbarment that define the difference between a boarder and a lodger” (McCracken 2000: 56). 6 Richardson does not specifically locate the first of Miriam’s boarding houses. 17). “extraordinarily detailed about social relations that produce space. While the interior rooms remain secure and intact.

. Significantly. “heavy with disapproval”. It was better to begin as she meant to go on. 77). that Miriam is genuinely horrified by the news of Tansley Street’s impending conversion from lodging-house to boarding-house at the end of The Tunnel. she learns of Mrs Bailey’s entrepreneurial ambitions as a result of an unprecedented encroachment – into the downstairs diningroom. 20. then. it must be a life lived among strangers. 17). 7. By the time Mrs Bailey has spelled out for her the reasons behind her decision to transform Tansley Street into a boarding-house. In the opening moments of The Tunnel. fixed in richly enclosed rooms in the heart of London”.Dwelling. by virtue of its multitude of deprivations. The Tunnel comes to an end with a dire prognostication of Mrs Bailey’s ultimate humiliation. If Miriam’s London life is a pilgrimage as the book’s title suggested. This life of communal apartness simulates the exhilarating publicprivacy of the flâneur in modernity. so Miriam can safely have hers open without feeling invaded. ratifies Miriam’s preference for public-privacy over over-familiarity. 285). in the present secret wonder” (Ii. staircase. Ferns and spotlessness and trays of food amount to prying eyes and rash admonitions – the horror of women’s scornful looks. It also. we find Miriam unwilling to make conversation with Mrs Bailey. and making her “nearly mad with sorrow” (Ii. 287). Poaching. Miriam’s remorse has turned to calamitous fear. There was something waiting upstairs that would be gone if she stayed talking to Mrs Bailey” (Ii. making it “impossible to read or think or play”. Ii. The Doleful Boarder It is little wonder. 11). then by definition. The reader is left with an image of the house’s wrongful usurpation by boarders. Behind Mrs Bailey the staircase was beckoning. and it is met with instantaneous regret: “The hall and the stairs and her own room would be changed now she knew what this room was like” (Ii. “h[o]ld[s] all the lodgers secure and apart. then. Intimacy would enfeeble the borderlands of her newly-acquired terrain of liberty. as Miriam herself notes with pleasure a little later on. corridors and landings – this is Miriam’s very first inter-room traversal at Tansley Street. The move to Tansley Street and the concomitant shift in status from boarder to lodger. Excepting her everyday use of the house’s transit spaces – its vestibule. Miriam’s exalted lodger status is premised on the virtual absence of the other lodgers: she knows they are there but they keep their doors closed. for spaciousness over confinement: “No one knew her here … no past and no future … coming in and out unknown. can be understood as a concerted attempt on Miriam’s part to avoid interruption. Dreaming 177 like cooking and cleaning come at the cost of privacy. its celebrated thresholds choked by a haemorrhage of bodies staking their illegitimate claims (Ii. The lodging-house. and her fear of this is palpable: “She held herself in. observation and speculation.

When she crossed a wide thoroughfare it was reinforced from the north […] At every crossing in the many little streets. 144) on a bicycle. Ii. “perfectly and awfully dreadful”: The whole house and even her room had been changed in a twinkling. likewise. The situation as it stands back at the house is. the many large closed doors. Here they were. waiting for her when she found it. indeed. Though it is Christmas time. locks and ramparts: The icy wind drove against her all the way. Miriam finds there to be “no warmth anywhere in the world” (Ii. dead space. Richardson presents us with an incongruous tableau of a “tidy room with everything mended [… and] put away in tidy drawers” (Ii. North London is. sworn off books and men. Tansley Street was the guarantor and criterion of public- . 320) and a darning and fussing Miriam. the “perfect stage for the last completion of a misery as wide at the world”. a place she declared just months before that “[i]t was torture even to be in it. the great staircase. dealing with bars. the lonely obscurity of her empty top floor. all its rooms naked and visible. there was some big vehicle just upon her keeping her shrinking in the cold while it rumbled over the cobbles. the sheltered dimness of the hall. Miriam’s passage towards home is as difficult as if she were. the green door she waited for as she turned unseeing into the road from the quiet thoroughfare of Endsleigh Gardens. Miriam does not return to her garret until a week or so later. the green squares at either end. her appearance at the Brooms’ bears the unmistakable marks of a forced flight. It is as if the room – and. What had come now was the fulfilment of the apprehension she had had when Mrs Bailey had spoken the word boarders. 323). The chapter-novel begins with a tired-out Miriam plonking her Gladstone bag down on Grace and Florrie Broom’s doorstep. “smack-bang” in the middle of “barren” North London that Miriam sits out an entire one-fifth of Interim. as such. it had had warmth. Returning to Tansley Street from Wimpole Street late the following Saturday. her triumphant faithful latchkey. 324) The description of Miriam’s walk home here is consistent with all the classic symptoms of the anxiety dream. Now it lay open and bleak. It is here. at its spotless centre. even in the cold twilight. Miriam herself – has been made exposed by the new boarding-house status and. each step. (Ii. overwhelming her with a harsh grating roar that filled the streets and the sky. going through it” (Iii. the two rows of calm balconied façades.178 Melinda Harvey Interim. (Ii. The Tunnel’s follow-up. the quiet road of large high grey mysterious houses. Coming in. shows Miriam proceeding to minister to this spectre of sinister porosity. to Miriam’s mind. must be made to look respectable. a house “foreign young gentlemen” heard of and came to live in […] The house had been her own. 324–25) As a lodging-house. 208.

Under the amended compact with Mrs Bailey. The Amphibian Difference A longer inspection of Miriam’s Tansley Street life reveals that boarding-house inhabitation. contrary to Miriam’s expectations. the house. now and again. Dreaming 179 privacy at home and away. should she choose it. But. 30) – has invalidated its invigorating correspondence with the outside world and lies. No longer the boarding-house’s sole lodger. Previously. She is also invited to inhabit numerous . around-the-clock access to the large heated drawing-room. secure and private. Tansley Street’s porosity is worn away to comfortless overexposure. She is free to avoid or avail herself completely of the communal rooms downstairs. the house. Miriam enjoys the right to a double manner of existence at Tansley Street. 8. the incursion is not designed to cause “dismay”. vouchsafed a serene and comfortable aloneness. Mrs Bailey breaches the threshold of Miriam’s attic-room later on in Interim. As it turns out. Poaching. and a place at the Bailey dining-table at any time. By pledging to dispense. Michael Shatov. According to Miriam. timorously scuttling from front-door to garret and vice versa behind the backs and under the noses of Mrs Bailey’s boarders. the house was able to hold the house’s occupants and their variety of doings separate. a smattering of French phrases from a Havet. It is arranged that quarter-hour French lessons for Sissie Bailey will entitle Miriam to a cooked breakfast every day. ultimately extends rather than delimits the boundaries of her imagined home – that is to say. “cosmopolitan” Jewish refugees. as she describes it later to fellow Tansley Street resident. By dwelling from time to time in Mrs Bailey’s downstairs rooms Miriam appends these dingy and dusty rooms inside the house to her own upstairs. Miriam finds she is able to now enjoy using the downstairs rooms. With this agreement in place. all its rooms naked and visible” (ibid. Miriam becomes. 81) but with all the advantages of both. Miriam sidesteps the shameful indebtedness to the Baileys she feared last night might dog her forever (Ii.). “amphibious” – “neither a lodger nor a boarder” (Iii.Dwelling. 328). Mrs Bailey’s intention is to strike a deal with Miriam – to ratify in a business-like fashion Miriam’s rightful admittance to “the life that was beginning to flow downstairs” (Ii. as well as England’s own home-grown riff-raff “in mysterious disgraceful difficulties” (Iii. as boarding-house. Solitude and sociability have become equally viable modes of conduct. Alive with the absent presence of strangers and the attendant prospects for enlivening indirect encountering. once a crucial adjustment has been made with her landlady. at the same time. instead. “open and bleak. 329). by opening wide its doors to all and sundry – “young Norwegian gentlemen”.

Eating-house habituation. that is. Tansley Street was very literally a tunnel providing safe and reliable passage for Miriam from garret-sanctuary to a scattering of familial and familiar locales in wider London. For the cost of a drink. after all. which privileges spectacle and stimulation as well as freeform and fleeting solidarity. foreign – avenues or arenas of potential engagement. Lyons & Co. A part of the street but.” (Ii. things. as well as the Slater’s restaurants) were as much responsible for the emergence and performance of New Woman identities in London as the department store (McCracken 2000: 63). 257–59) – entirely convince Miriam of the advantages of home-dining.B. irrespective of Miriam’s status as a lodger or an “amphibious” boarder.180 Melinda Harvey new and different zones of encountering beyond her own reach and experience in the city thanks to the people she meets there. 10. enjoying a succession of small encounters (with people. 9. Miriam’s .s) and J. For Scott McCracken.C. forces her to eat out. The café is one of the metropolis’s best outlets for a like public-privacy. Neither Mrs Bailey’s offer of “single meals at any time for a very small sum” (Ii. concurrent with Miriam’s first forays into the warm downstairs common-rooms.B. is Miriam’s spatial beau ideal – the benchmark against which all other places are judged. safeguarded from it. There is no better evidence for the widening of Miriam’s sphere of home-like emplacement than in her rejection of the A. in a space that does not compromise on homely comforts. In Pilgrimage as a whole. the café is a site of rest and refuge. As a lodging-house. all at a “cost less than a small egg and roll and butter at an A. 330) nor the “wonderful and astonishing” bedsit cooking-class conducted by Eleanor Dear in The Tunnel – “savoury” haddock with a “lovely little loaf ” of bread. without the headache of making convivial conversation or shopping for supplies. acknowledged or remembered. chain eating-houses (such as the teashops/coffeehouses of the Aerated Bread Company (A. I asserted earlier in this chapter that the bedsit. From English Chain to Cosmopolitan Café (1) Around about the time of Mrs Bailey’s visit to the attic room. Eating Out It is clear that living at Tansley Street. teashop for the cosmopolitan café. all the same.B. protective but porous. using only a shallow steaming pan and a single gas-ring. tenders cheap replenishment in “live” space. a café habitué can tarry in a state of detached involvement. the café never ceases being a site in which Miriam can reliably enact her anonymity and autonomy.. But it is by virtue of Tansley Street’s conversion to a boarding-house that Miriam’s imaginary home is expanded and diversified to include wholly unknown – indeed.C.C. thoughts) that need never be registered.

From Interim through to Clear Horizon.B.Dwelling. Miriam punctuates an eleventh-hour lamentation about leaving home for Hanover with the following elegiac lament: Miriam stared into the fire and began to murmur shamefacedly. home-style meals.B. Miriam eats exclusively at chain coffee-houses throughout The Tunnel. in Pilgrimage reveals a legacy of childhood pleasures” (McCracken 2000: 63). In short. teas … no more insane times … no more anything.B. 199) in an attempt to lift her spirits. and. we see Miriam escorting her mother to “our ABC [sic]… . in The Tunnel – that is. depot’s inexpensive. However.” (i. the teashop chain has been mentioned twice before in previous chapter-novels.B. Dreaming 181 taste in eating venues undergoes a dramatic modification. Tansley Street facilitates chain restaurant usage. but as Scott McCracken notes. How can we account for this changing of allegiance? I contended earlier in this chapter that it was possible to explain Miriam’s predilection for particular eating-houses by referring directly to her concurrent housing arrangements. In Backwater. more cosmopolitan café.C.C. however. the theatre and especially A. 11. then: as lodging-house. teas all become staples of her Tansley Street existence. We see Miriam pay her first actual visit to an A. as a home for boarders it. appeal to Miriam.C. Prior to this. I want to suggest that Miriam’s use of chain coffee-houses and teashops is linked more strongly to a nostalgia for a lost familial past than any emancipatory present or future for women. Apart from meals at the houses of family members or friends. by contrast. inversely. she increasingly chooses to frequent the continental-style cafés of Bloomsbury and the West End. [t]he one we go to after the Saturday pops” (i. as well as its enlivening anonymity. in ways that declare their incontrovertible tie to her carefree days in the maison natale. but the result of an unconscious strategy on Miriam’s behalf.B. that regular attendance at Donizetti’s and Ruscino’s is suggestive of a less parochial and more self-reliant pilgrim. once her autonomous London life has begun. Poaching. Miriam chooses to live in a Bloomsbury lodging- . encourages Miriam to explore and embrace the much less familiar. I would like to go as far as to assert here that this correspondence between the leisure activities of family life and lodging-house life is not the workings of pure chance.C. “[t]racing the genealogy of the A. 18) Miriam’s prophesy of her future days could not be more mistaken: West-Central London.C. The Chain Restaurant and the Maison Natale The A. “No more all day bezique … No more days in the West End … No more matinees … no more exhibitions … no more A. Simply put.

the house at Barnes grew in a way to be the same. only the sea and the rocks. 213. The remark prompts Miriam to confess to him the deep nostalgia she still feels for the Babington house and garden. Michael suggests that the “free life of garden and woods” she enjoyed there still resides within her. the peaked shapes of it. and the porches and French windows and the way the lawns went off into the mysterious parts of the garden. 124) among Richardson’s critics (Raitt 1993: 132). and I feel then as if going away were still to come. when you are young you know how happy you are by “how desperately you love a place”. engraved within Miriam an absolute set of spatial expectations specific to the English country house. Yes. Shatov solemnly states. 123–24). Harriett.182 Melinda Harvey house because its porosity gives her the freedom to imagine herself back in the family home. After listening to Miriam reminisce about the childhood antics of her sister. 124. I used to run up and down it to make it more. but I never got over the suddenness of the end of the garden and always expected it to branch out into distances. “homeliness” for her means the kind of . I often dream I am there and wake there. the first home she ever knew. Of course after the years in the small house by the sea. 124) Miriam’s behaviour as a child at the house in Barnes is an accurate rendition of the way she continues to see. Miriam “run[s] up and down” the transit zones of the Tansley Street house (the faded ruins of a once-glorious Georgian home – that is. To console Miriam. As a consequence. i. in the same grand architectural vein as the family house at Barnes) and its surrounding streets of “gentle charm and grace” in order to make the bedsit “more” (Gordon and Deeson 1950: 139). (Iii. Iv. and for a few minutes I could draw the house. To better explain this idea I want to turn to a conversation that takes place between Miriam and Michael Shatov in the Tansley Street drawing-room halfway through Deadlock (Iii. every time I ran down it. and now commonly referred to as the “bee-memory”(Iii. Her partiality for places is nostalgic in the original sense of the word: in its deep longing for that safe and unchanged home. use and manipulate space as an adult. 243). I don’t remember the house. the maison natale has. She goes on to relate the story of her last day at Babington – a memory recalled by Miriam frequently throughout Pilgrimage (i. Though she vows she will never give up the “New Woman” life for anything (Ii. 150). 316–17. from which she was prematurely exiled by her father’s bankruptcy and her mother’s suicide. nonetheless. 425. Miriam’s response to Michael’s kind assuagement reveals the way that the maison natale continues to play an active part in her experience of place: I know it is there. Ii.). an awful thing that had never happened. “A happy childhood is perhaps the most-fortunate gift in life […] This early surrounding lingers and affects all the life” (ibid. Still not cured of the expectation of domestic spaciousness. Iii. she says.

my determination to remain from that time forth. as we have already seen. to which she achieves free and easeful access through the “tunnel” of the building’s hall and stairwell. by bedsit inhabitation. was a shape […] Was this bright shape that drew her.B. at any cost.C. Ii. herself. of all the places in which we see Miriam reside only Mrs Bailey’s lodging-house makes it possible for her to imaginatively gentrify her dwelling place. then. Back to the chain restaurant.C. without sacrificing any of her precious independence.B. Ii. in this separate existence. 382–84). thus.C. the secret of her nature … the clue she had carried in her hand through the maze? It would explain my love of kingly old Hanover.B. From the remote. restaurants are the most significant of these poached exterior locations. something that might return a mother’s tormented mind to sanity in remembering. to the manor born. As I mentioned earlier. topmost corner of the Tansley Street house. amidst beautiful surroundings. A. The uniform sheet of dust that spreads from bedsit to coffee-house affirms that both locations are part of Miriam’s spacious imagined domicile. Miriam.B.s in the early London chapter-novels of Pilgrimage (for example. This is a realisation Miriam comes to. indoor and outdoor leisure activities consistent with English middle-class life. in Revolving Lights: But here. whose bedsit ignominy is signalled by her “everlasting war on grubbiness” (Lehmann 1936: 77). unsupervised. (Iii. But the presence of this dirt throughout Miriam’s self-constituted home also serves as a stern reminder to the reader that she is.C. The Tansley Street house offers Miriam a foothold from which she can fancy herself back at home. Miriam’s fondness for the “dowdy” . outings were a much beloved feature of Henderson family life – something Miriam expects to miss when in Germany. and A. Miriam’s repeated patronage of A. Dreaming 183 extensiveness that can accommodate the full range of social and private. Miriam refuses to lift a finger against the dirt that surrounds her. This is a continuum further signalled by the A. the stately ancient house in Waldstrasse. 150). 244) Excepting perhaps the Corrie family’s private home at Newlands. builds her dream-house out of a select number of pre-existing sites outside in the world. despite her salaried penury. the way the charm of the old-fashioned well-born Pernes held me so long in the misery of north London.Dwelling. the relief of getting away to Newlands. Though life has drawn me away these things have stayed with me […] My drifting to the large old house in grey wide Bloomsbury was a movement of return. consolidates the link between the New Woman present and the bourgeois past established.’s endemic “dowdiness” (Ii. Poaching. 329. Unlike Rosamond Lehmann’s Olivia Curtis. We have already seen that this is the way Richardson symbolically denotes live space in Pilgrimage.

she very quickly senses that . the more ready she is for writing. Her initial participation in the life of the boarding-house is reluctant. consequently. Martin Amis tells us. tenders Miriam the chance to invent for herself a much more independent metropolitan existence. or somehow reminiscent of the originary home’s easeful spaciousness. To begin with. Tansley Street allowed Miriam to imaginatively recreate the spatial conditions of her insulated country house past. By reviving her bourgeois set of accomplishments – flaunting her fluent French in front of Sissie.B. even resentful. A fellow boarder. As a lodging-house. The last section of this essay will explain how Miriam’s embracement of the continental café is instrumental in this transformation. is Miriam’s unwitting accomplice in her plot to steal back her lost home. 343–44) or playing a Chopin nocturne on the piano – Miriam forgets she is “the fag-end of the Baileys’ stock-in-trade” (Ii. Participation in boarding-house life. all places aspire to the condition of home. is. Despite first feeling a “stiff middle-class resentment of his vulgar appearance”. is tantamount to accepting that a return to the English country house is impossible. The benign porosity of the bedsit conferred upon Miriam the privilege to pick and choose the terms of her interaction with foreignness. in the oneiric house. like her embrace of dirt and disorder in the bedsit. however. it must be noted that there is in Miriam’s frequentation of the continental café some small strain of homesickness.184 Melinda Harvey A. offers her the opportunity to overcome the trauma and shame of her father’s bankruptcy and her mother’s suicide. The conversion of the Tansley Street lodging-house into a boarding-house. distance and differentiate herself from the Baileys. “a homesickness for the mud. 12. Since for the uncured nostalgic. though much dreaded by Miriam.C. the Spanish Jew Bernard Mendizabal. as she did in the lodging-house days. whom she is supposed to be teaching (Ii. for the stickiness and ooziness of childhood” (Amis 2002: 267) – but it is also another defiant defence of her middle-class status and her ties to the rambling house of her youth. the other is that it reveals a resistance to change. 336) and can envision herself again. a clear example of nostalgie de la boue – literally. It is palatable to her only because of the opportunities it presents to revel in public displays of the middle-class ways of the past and. the Miriam of The Tunnel does not stray far from locations already familiar to her due to prior frequentation as a child. however. From English Chain to Cosmopolitan Café (2) There are two secret truths about nostalgia: one is that it arises when a return home is no longer a real option. But the more Miriam involves herself in the life of the Tansley Street house and the wider Miriam’s “magic circle” grows in Pilgrimage. This opportunity.

He is instrumental in refashioning her London home to include strangeness as well as familiar sameness. This is confirmed by Mendizabal himself when. talking of his life in Amsterdam. veiled in mist […] The confines of the room were invisible. to her mind. True. To deliberately make the Baileys feel like “strangers in their own dining-room” she urges him to talk of Amsterdam. Poaching. By pairing herself off with Mendizabal in Interim. 392). Jews were with “frequency […] positioned as ‘other’ to the ‘English nation’” (Cheyette 1993: 53) from the 1870s as a means of shoring up the racial boundaries of Englishness in the wake of its imperialist successes and the ever-increasing tides of immigration to the country. 337–38). Though I do not wish to make light of the fact that the affinity Miriam feels for Mendizabal is shot through with significant ambivalences. set in a circle of balconied gloom. Mendizabal is soldered intractably to the notion of the continental café: meeting him for the first time Miriam immediately thinks him “a man from a café. but in the last assessment of it. like a first visit to a foreign country: Continental London ahead of her. A few weeks later. thrilling swing of music. 392). Miriam’s decision to fraternise with him is heavily influenced by the fact that being in relation with the “foreignness” of the Jew provides her with a potent reminder of “her inexorable Englishness” – an Englishness inseparable. streaming towards her in mingled odours of continental food and wine. 393). Ii. with the country house family life of her past (Ii. throbbing with the solid. From the start. 344. he tells her he “conduct[ed] a café” there. rich intoxicating odours in an air heavy and parched with the flavour of cigars. 392). 340–41. he is whisking Miriam away to the hedonistic Ruscino’s. 394) . Dreaming 185 a zone of “equal companionship” can exist between them due to her good breeding and “his polyglot experience” (Ii. It is in this – admittedly stereotypical – Jewish role of “cosmopolitan” that Mendizabal introduces Miriam to the continental café.C. by right of her happiness abroad […] In a vast open space of light. it is their “equal knowledge” that first lures her out of the boarding-house and away from the A. All about them were worldly wicked happy people. Antoine Bowdoin’s piano-playing on the family (ii. more urbane London. Ii. It was a café! Mr Mendizabal was evidently a habitué. flamboyantly argues with him in a foreign language and delights in the alienating effects of his friend. restaurant (Ii. (Ii. 346). She could be.B.Dwelling. filmy. Mendizabal is less Miriam’s obliging attaché than her guide to an unknown. innumerable little tables held groups of people wreathed in a brilliancy of screened light. It is. As Bryan Cheyette and others have demonstrated. A foreign waiter in his best clothes”(Ii. for Miriam. the effect of which is the expansion of Miriam’s “magic circle” (Ii. Miriam does feel a sense of having her birthright returned to her.

her rovings no longer over-determined by a yearning for the lost home. This is evident in her relationships with Shatov and Amabel. In the subsequent chapter-novels of Pilgrimage we find Miriam much more willing to seriously encounter foreignness and difference (Iv. by embracing the café at the same time she enjoys an increased liminality. Mendizabal. By Deadlock – the beginning of her relationship with Michael Shatov – she is railing against the derogatory image of the boarding-house in the public consciousness and pitying “all English people who had not intelligent foreign friends” (Iii. While Miriam will continue to cling to the solitude of the bedsit. as well as her fortnight’s trip to the Bernese Alps in Oberland. unravels to her a world of alternative vastness and charm to the country house life. Miriam is. Ii. Iii. and. plays a crucial role in her transformation. 87) at Ruscino’s. “neither English nor civilised”. “at the height of his happy foreign expansiveness” (Iii. who is content to be confined to some tiny corner of the world. her more extended stay at the Roscorla’s Quaker farm in Dimple Hill. 108. Concurrent with her frequentation of the continental café. 151). In the same way as “the figure of Michael Shatov. 71). as opposed to the separatist. ultimately. for the rest of the novel-sequence. His happy exile offers her a model for a freedom that is not haunted by family traumas and the loss of the originary home. 134). 14. but Mendizabal. There is in Miriam’s embracement of unfamiliar London still the same love of live space that has always been apparent. Miriam discovers. Edward Said has told us that the truly worldly individual endeavours to inhabit the large. Miriam ultimately rejects a Jewish identity for herself by refusing to marry Michael Shatov in Deadlock.186 Melinda Harvey The boarding-house conversion and the inaugural trip to the continental café mark the start of Miriam’s appreciation for the spaciousness of strangeness rather than sameness. but this. nonetheless. can be found much further afield than in both the house at Tansley Street and the chain coffee-houses of her youth. with Europe stretching wide behind him” will later make the walls of her room “transparent” and “force them into companionship with all the walls in the world”. . genuinely “poised between the competing interests of many worlds” (Iii. the act of writing itself. Miriam becomes less parochial and worldlier. manywindowed house of culture.

. Maria Jolas (trans. London: New Left Review Editions. Benjamin. Ann. Raitt. London: Croom Helm: 64–97.) On Modern British Fiction. Davidoff. ‘The Future of the Novel’ in Starr. 2000. Melinda. Pilgrimage. Vita and Virginia: The Work and Friendship of Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf. Richardson. (ed. Pallasmaa. ‘Embodying the New Woman: Dorothy Richardson. Douglas. The Poetics of Space. ‘Years of Bloomsbury’ in Life and Letters To-day 21: 60–66. Dreaming Bibliography 187 Amis. Walking and Writing in Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage’ in The Journal of Urban History. 1950. Leonore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1979. [1936] 1981. Edward and Deeson. Howard. Textuality. Avril and Angela Keane (eds). Boston MA: Beacon Press.). London: Virago. F. 1939. Sandra (ed. ‘The Idea of a Home: A Kind of Space’ in Social Research 58 (1): 287–307. . Corporeality. McCracken. ‘Against Dryness’ in Leader. ‘Identity. Pilar. 2002. Jean. Work and the London Café’ in Horner. 2000. Heilmann. 1995. London: Heath Cranton: 91.and Twentieth-Century England’ in Burman. One-Way Street and Other Writings. . John. [1958] 1994.). ‘Dorothy Richardson’s “Unreadability”: Graphic Style and Narrative Strategy in a Modernist Novel’ in English Literature in Transition. 43 (4): 449–64. ‘Feminist Resistance. Suzanne. Bloomington and Indianapolis: University of Indiana Press. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1995. Martin. Meanings and Environments. Body Matters: Feminism. Gaston. Zachary (ed. ‘Objects of Modernist Description: Dorothy Richardson and the Nouveau Roman’ in Paragraph 25: 107–24. 2001. Hidalgo.) The Future of the Novel: Famous Authors on their Methods – a Series of Interviews with Renowned Authors. Poaching. Cheyette. Harvey.). Juhani. Gordon. 1921. Scott. Brookfield VT: Avebury: 131–47. 1993. 1979. Manchester: Manchester University Press: 58–71. Terry. ‘The Separation of Home and Work? Landladies and Lodgers in Nineteenth. 1875–1945. Mary.) Fit Work for Women. 2002. London: Edward Gordon. Finn. Meredith (ed. 1993. Edmund Jephcott and Kingsley Shorter (trans. Special Issue ‘Imagining the City’ 27 (6): 746–64. Walter. Castle. Dorothy Richardson.Dwelling. Lehmann. 1991. Bryan. the Artist and “A Room of One’s Own” in New Woman Fiction’ in Women’s Writing 2 (3): 37–49. The Home: Words. [1915–67] 1979. ‘Female Flânerie in Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage’ in Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses 6: 93–98. Intimacy and Domicile: Notes on the Phenomenology of Home’ in Benjamin. Oxford: Oxford University Press. The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture. Rosamond. A. 1993. London: Virago. Radford. Aldershot. The Book of Bloomsbury. Bachelard. Dorothy. ‘From Passante to Flâneuse: Women. The Weather in the Streets. L. 1991. David N. Constructions of ‘the Jew’ in English Literature and Society: Racial Representations. 1993. Interpretations. Mepham. New York: Columbia University Press.

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city. London. class. It argues that flânery has not only allowed Frame and Lessing to assert their visibility in the modern city as women and as authors. Jean Rhys or Doris Lessing. whose gaze is more tolerant than authoritative. As a consequence of the latter. Besides. life-writing. an issue which has been overlooked or inadequately emphasised in recent flâneur scholarship. the 1960s and contemporary London. both a voyage in and a voyage out. the observed city functions both as a setting and as “constituent of identity” (2000: 7). Certainly. The gallery of women writers that Parsons draws on in her study ranges from figures like Virginia Woolf and Dorothy Richardson to Djuna Barnes. flânery is not necessarily confined to the late-nineteenth and earlytwentieth century. Parsons expands the subject by breaking its gender. gender. publishing. Furthermore. Deborah Parsons persuasively argues for a “post-Benjaminian” notion of the flâneur figure (2000: 41). This has also been argued by Keith Tester who considers the flâneur a “recurring motif in the literature. spectacle.Colonial Flâneurs: the London Life-writing of Janet Frame and Doris Lessing Mª Lourdes López Ropero abstract This chapter traces the motif of the female flâneur in a selection of autobiographical works by Janet Frame and Doris Lessing set in the 1950s. Doris Lessing. While retaining the methodological framework of the flâneur artist as the observer and walker of the city. visibility. Janet Frame. and more connective than detached. Keywords: flâneur. and time constraints. palimpsest. sociology and art of […] the metropolitan existence” (1994: 1. but may even encroach into the postmodern city. My analysis emphasises the impact of their colonial background on their urban visions. colonialism. Parsons qualifies the urban vision of the female flâneur. . the activity of flânery is susceptible of being carried out by women who may be working class and outsiders. space. but has provided them with rich materials for their writing. empire. In her path-breaking Streetwalking the Metropolis. 16).

2 The urban vision of Commonwealth writers like Doris Lessing or Janet Frame – my case studies – in the British metropolis is. their background 1 See also Woollacott 2002. 3 In her chapter in Susan Merril’s Women Writers and the City. drawing on social workers and reformers. in her analysis of the flâneur in Doris Lessing’s semi-autobiographical novel The Four-Gated City. What I attempt to do in this chapter is to explore the interaction between the metaphoric quality of the flâneur figure and the actualities of a given flâneur.190 Mª Lourdes López Ropero In this light. the flâneur becomes a capacious trope. More recent studies of flânery in the work of Lessing do not take a postcolonial outlook (Arias 2005) and the same applies to analyses of the works of other Commonwealth expatriates such as Caribbean-born Jean Rhys (Bowlby 1992). as outsiders. settler countries. as well as writers and artists. Even though she refers to Martha. In fact. she does not follow this line of argument in her chapter. overlooking “the particular influences of their race and class” (2000: 227). 2 An earlier version of the Janet Frame’s section of this chapter appeared in “Walking the Imperial Metropolis: Janet Frame’s The Envoy from Mirror City”. that the concept of the colonial urban observer has been put forward by Angela Woollacott in her article ‘The Colonial Flaneuse: Australian Women Negotiating Turn-of-the-Century London’. Parsons approaches the flâneur as a gendered concept that draws attention to women’s encroachment on urban space. Raised in “New World”. which explores the “less familiar” (2000: 762)1 connection between urban space. as a “native from Africa” who enjoyed “the freedom and anonymity of being an outsider in London”(2000: 215). a “conceptual metaphor for urban observation and walking” (2000: 41). Parsons admits. at least inevitably influenced by their un-Englishness. however. otherwise jeopardised by the stifling atmosphere of their peripheral and provincial homelands. Besides. as well as by their gender. they contribute a contrapuntal reading of the London urban text. she warns. may lead to arbitrarily blending diverse subject positions into the figure of the flâneur. On the one hand. these writers are irresistibly drawn to the historical metropolis and especially alert to its palimpsestic nature3. This new inclusiveness. On the other. though not over-determined. Feminismo/s 5 (2005): 85–95. the protagonist. gender and colonialism. It is important to note. their encounter with the metropolitan literary establishment is instrumental in their writing careers. paying special attention to cultural and national affiliations. Wollacott’s approach is multidisciplinary rather than literary. I gratefully acknowledge the editor’s permission to use this material. Parsons does not take issue with the bearing that Lessing’s Commonwealth background may have on her depictions of the London cityscape. Their encroachment on the metropolis results in a two-way exchange. Christine Sizemore argues that women writers are particularly responsive to the multilayered nature of .

Maya Angelou. While blending Lessing and Frame into the flâneur trope. Lessing is not included in Baisnée’s book. a sense of inadequacy. ‘The New Café’ – and her documentary In Pursuit of the English. . as well as some sketches from her collection London Observed – ‘In Defence of the Underground’. her alienation and her family bereavements triggered an emotional breakdown. Whereas the first volume of her autobiography covers her difficult childhood and youth in colonial Africa. which includes a strong sense of historical time (1984: 176–77. Sizemore explores the image of the palimpsest in Lessing’s novel The Four-Gated City. To the Island (1982). I wish to highlight their specific subject positions. In her volume Gendered Resistance.Colonial Flâneurs 191 in racially-troubled societies makes them aware of cultural differences and social injustice. 1949–1962 (1997) fits in with her argument. The Envoy from Mirror City. The third volume of Frame’s trilogy. for both were white colonial women pursuing writing careers in the metropolis. and the deaths by drowning of two of her sisters. a more fitting activity for a woman than writing. and The Envoy from Mirror City (1984). a knowledge that permeates their observations of the urban landscape. where her father worked for the railways. Lessing grew up in the British colony of Southern Rhodesia (modern Zimbabwe). 180). where her father became a maize farmer. evokes the process by which Frame. Valérie Baisnée analyses the autobiographies of Simone de Beauvoir. The Envoy from Mirror City. which doctors mistook for schizophrenia. a determined young woman. although she does not consider the writer’s outsider status. Under my Skin (1994) and Walking in the Shade. Janet Frame’s autobiographical London invites a comparison with that of Doris Lessing. Born in Persia (Iran) to British parents. This selection includes the third volume of Frame’s autobiographical series. Frame spent her early life in New Zealand small towns. I will focus on a selection of London autobiographical pieces by these writers. While she was working as a trainee teacher in Dunedin in 1945. Her autobiographical trilogy. Marguerite Duras and the first instalment of Janet Frame’s trilogy to illustrate how “autobiography has become a place in which the female subject not only records personal growth but also tackles certain political issues linked to the position of women in society” (1997: 12). I argue that this is even more so in the case of colonial women writers. left her New Zealand home behind to seek a career as a writer in mid-1950s London. but her two-volume autobiography. Her upbringing was blighted by her family’s poverty. Walking in the Shade. and both of them documented their urban experiences in their life-writing. a misdiagnosis which kept her in mental hospitals for almost a decade. has drawn the attention of feminist critics. and the first volume of Lessing’s. the latter records the city. ‘Storms’. An Angel at My Table (1984). which distinguish them from other female flâneur artists.

and some contemporary sketches gathered in the short story collection London Observed (1992). The Grass is Singing. which describes her stay in a boarding house after her arrival in London in 1949. In London. writing and elbowing her way through London’s literary world. “where. streets. The volume charts her career since the publication of her first novel. then it was always about the Colour Bar and the inadequacies of the blacks”(1998: 3).192 Mª Lourdes López Ropero her move to London in 1949 as a single mother. her longest and most ambitious novel and a feminist classic. Frame managed to stretch her grant money by doing part-time jobs which did not divert her from her main task. railway stations. longing to become “self-created. which reminded her of “a mental hospital without the noise” (1987: 19). A crucial part of Frame’s daily agenda in London are her daily strolls and bus rides though the city. (1987: 154) On arriving in London after a one-month sea voyage from New Zealand.Walking in the Shade is an account of Lessing’s development into a prolific writer of international renown. Frame experiences this mundane incident as a moment of intense feeling where some truth is revealed: “For a moment the loss of the letter I had written seemed to me unimportant beside the fictional gift of the . Frame realizes that the letter she had sent booking a room at the Society of Friends’ Hostel at Euston Road had never reached its destination and there was no room available for her there. Urban observers The Envoy from Mirror City recounts Frame’s seven-year stay in London. choosing from the displayed treasure fragments and moments that combined to make a shape of a novel or poem or story. people I met in buses. where she travelled in 1956 on a literary grant awarded by her country to broaden her experience as a writer. up to the writing of The Golden Notebook. but also includes In Pursuit of the English: A Documentary (1960). Nothing was without its use. away from the stifling atmosphere of provincial and racially-troubled Southern Rhodesia. if there was a serious conversation. She eventually got a room for two nights at the YMCA Hostel. which spurs her creativity and provides her with materials for her fiction: […] during my time at Grove Hill Road I had been aware of a subtle shifting of my life into a world of fiction where I spread before me everything I saw and heard. whose manuscript she had brought with her to London. Lessing is still a London-based writer. and where I lived. Her London life-writing is not confined to the second volume of her autobiography. twice married and divorced. Indeed. self-sufficient” (1998: 3). Frame displays a modern sensibility towards the city. Despite the nuisance. which she admits to be “absorbing in its seasons” (1987: 112). 1.

which point at her longing for a metropolitan existence. with its impersonal crowd. cowslips. thus displaying the motifs associated with the figure of the flâneur. Frame observes the spectacle of the city. the new life of London. From early in the volume Frame reveals herself as “a secret spectator of the spectacle of the spaces and places of the city”. “English. speaks a more meaningful language to Frame than nature does: In Suffolk I […] was […] eager to go walking in the dew-wet lanes. The city. the flux of metropolitan life unfolds before her eyes: I watched the leaves turning and falling and drifting against the black iron railing of the parks. paying attention to its most fleeting moments as well as to its rituals of public spaces. walk the dog. but my heart was in London. In her restless search for the best place to live in London. in spite of the peaceful and pastoral atmosphere. In a dark winter evening. bluebells. a walker endowed with an active imagination for whom experienced reality has the meaning she attributes to it. “garden. to borrow Keith Tester’s words drawing on Baudelaire (1994: 7). watching the hares in the corn.Colonial Flâneurs 193 loss as if within every event lay a reflection reached only through the imagination and its various servant languages” (1987: 19). the bustle of London is more congenial to her writing. she soon realizes that. although it – we – had destroyed or crippled much of the natural world. of the human race. hurrying to their homes. could still send representatives to explore the Mirror City. Frame misses her place in the metropolitan crowd and feels the need to escape from the seclusion of the Suffolk countryside and its domestic tasks. shop” (1987: 157). primroses. surrounded and sustained by the immensity of people. where she is allowed to live in exchange for her caretaking services. seeing the wildflowers. she is seized by the fever of digging out stones. the people in taxis and dark polished cars […] the wandering misfits shouting at the sky […] (1987: 170) . bearing out Tester’s statement that “The poet is the man for whom metropolitan spaces are the landscape of art and existence” (1994: 2). I wanted to return there where I was happy to be alone in the crowd. clean. if they had homes to escape the dark and the cold. blackthorn. underneath the arches. and […] struggle home to create their works of art. Danish relics from another city” (1987: 159). However. (1987: 158) While in Suffolk. who. including my northern hemisphere sky. and those with no homes depending for warmth and shelter on the doorways of peopleless places like banks and insurance buildings and […] on the seats of the railway stations and bus terminals and down from the Strand. Then after dark. Roman. I saw the sun change to blood-red and stand on end upon the winter-beaten grass of the Common. Frame stays in a cottage in the Suffolk countryside. the glitter. by the river. While performing her gardening duties. Saxon. I watched the people with a new urgency in their gait.

Actually. It is not surprising. The fat . The title of the second volume of Doris Lessing’s autobiography. pubs. the haves and the have-nots. The buildings along Pall Mall seemed to float. its lack of “convivial” places – coffee bars. the drifting of the leaves. Walking in the Shade does not abound in happy scenes of female flânery.194 Mª Lourdes López Ropero In this passage. the redness of the sun. restaurants – where people can connect. with a soft glistening light falling through a low golden sky. Lessing feels intimidated by the “incipient violence” of the buildings in Earl Court. suffice to show the centrality of the city in her work. She notices the effect the encroaching darkness and cold has on the city-dwellers. Despite the bleakness of post-war London. reflecting soft blues and greens on to a wet and shining pavement. In one of the epigraphs to the volume. significantly. and of her late collection of short stories and autobiographical sketches. Even though Lessing’s mobility and visibility in the public spaces of the city – including its literary and communist political circles – is obvious from her account. illustrates this point: It was a wet evening. Lessing at times displays an aesthetisicing gaze. Walking in the Shade. misunderstanding the purpose of her walk (1998: 164–5). The ‘Warwick Road SW’ section features an extended description of night time London as a threatening wasteland. This gloomy atmosphere poses a bigger threat to the walker than the kerb-crawlers that inevitably address her. the commuters returning home at the rush hour. from In Pursuit of the English. and the simultaneity and frenetic rhythm of contemporary city life as it renews itself after sunset. London Observed. The rituals of public spaces that she witnesses are those of a country trying to get over the war. In fact. aestheticising the colours of the city: the greenness of leaves and parks. the dismaying “enormousness” of the city and. mostly due to the fact that Lessing’s arrival in the city took place six years before Frame’s. therefore. Frame is attentive to the transient moments of nature. the blackness of iron railings and cars. the polish and the glitter of the metropolitan night. She records her impressions with the eyes of a poet. Yet the perceptions of London that Frame and Lessing record in their autobiographies differ. behind pillars and balustrades. some of the houses she inhabited were “war-damaged and surrounded by areas of bombed buildings” (1998: 19). The following passage. The starlings squealed overhead. or the red sunset against the green of the Common. the four-section structure of her autobiographical volume is dictated by the four different addresses Lessing had in the 1949–62 period. Dusk was gathering along walls. the London that she encountered in the late 1940s and early 1950s was still a war-torn city whose citizens she describes as a “tired people” (1998: 11) drained by the war effort. Lessing defines herself as a “rover” on the streets. that the walks described in this volume should be night walks.

Lessing captures the colours and rhythm of the metropolitan evening with the sensibility of a painter. all set in contemporary London. In ‘Storms’. captures the fear of commitment that often ruins human relations. a French prostitute and fellow boarder. Lessing lightens up her London descriptions.4 ‘The New Café’ features Lessing at her most voyeuristic. which parallel the city’s and Europe’s recovery after the war. the sharp-eyed psychologist. With a few brushstrokes. In the late 1950s a new age is dawning.” Lessing uses city metaphors to describe her personal and professional achievements in London. displaying a tolerance and empathy that counters the traditional male flâneur’s gaze. Lessing’s autobiographical volume ends on a happy note which concludes with the epigraph mentioned above. showing herself to be an observer of its spectacles: “It was like a great theatre. with burnished hair and glittering clothes. Miss Privet is another flâneur herself. Lessing. and his brief and dramatic encounter with his alleged true love and their child. I said. disembarking a race of creatures clad in light. The shopping along Oxford Street is enlivened by jazz musicians. its noises and “street companionship”. The autobiographical sketches featured in London Observed. who revels in revisiting the London walks that Samuel Pepys describes in his Diary (1996: 40). It was a city of light I stood in. observing “real-life soap operas” (1993: 97) like the flirting activities of a young man with German tourists. you could watch what went on all day … you could sit for hours in a cafe or on a bench and just watch. who now lives in a flat within walking distance of Soho and Oxford Street. for hunger and ruins have given way to affluence. including the sketches ‘The New Café’ and ‘Storms’. which she acknowledges as sources of inspiration for her stories (1998: 277). taken from the Louis Armstrong song ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street’: “I used to walk in the shade / My blues on parade / Now this rover / Crossed over / To the sunny side of the street. Lessing tries to convey to her provincial taxi driver her love for the city. Always something remarkable or amusing […]” (1993: 129). 4 For an extended discussion of theatricality in Lessing’s works. and a new generation is untouched by the war (1998: 276). a city of bright phantoms. A more convivial culture is fuelled by the new restaurants and coffee shops. see Arias 2005. Lessing. This sketch testifies to the importance of observation in furnishing Lessing with materials for her fiction. came rolling gently along beneath us. relishes daytime London. which Miss Privet. (1996: 40) 195 As Frame in the passage discussed above. are also in this vein. The blurriness of the picture is probably induced by her earlier exposure to a print of Monet’s ‘Charing Cross Bridge’. . had shown to her. their hardness dissolved in mist. their scarlet softened. This has affected the public rituals of the city. In the last section of Walking in the Shade.Colonial Flâneurs buses.

with friends and enemies clearly. Australia. as . the brave. kings. comes from an overwhelmingly black society. and literature. Frame is more “favoured”. fits the pattern of the lone. all the people she interacts with and with whom she identifies herself in the metropolis tend to be from countries like Ireland. (1987: 34) Both Frame and Nigel come from cultures in which Britishness is the norm. Patrick expects Janet to understand “what the English had done to Ireland” (1987: 23). Colonial Flâneurs Having established the degree to which Frame and Lessing display a modern sensibility to the metropolis. The ambivalence of Frame’s identity is clear when we notice that whereas she is perceived as English by a Nigerian. A similar bond develops between Frame and her neighbour Patrick Reilly. English history. Frame is outspoken about her marginality as a New Zealander in London: she knows that speaking the English language and having received an English education does not guarantee acceptance in the Mother Country. cities. the brave. the strong. in post-war Britain the Irish suffer as much housing discrimination as other immigrants. an Irish immigrant whom she considers her first friend in London. in turn. or West Africa. in having my ancestors placed among the good. where the British ruled as a small elite. however. he warns her about the blacks in London. Frame’s outsider status gains her a high degree of freedom and anonymity in London. Janet Frame. Yet Frame resents Patrick’s bigotry since. As Woollacott has pointed out in the context of turn of the century Australian women (2000: 766).196 Mª Lourdes López Ropero 2. We were both colonials with “similar” education – heavy doses of British Empire. the New Zealand writer going about mid-1950s London on a grant. I was more favoured. uprooted traveller that traditional scholarship on the flâneur has conventionally considered male (Wolff 1991: 39). although it is not acceptance as British that she is after. the strong. she sees herself as a colonial in awe of the imperial metropolis of the Old World. other worlds with a mantel of invisibility cast upon his own world. for a long time solely attributed to the male artist. despite being an immigrant himself. He too had read of other places. I shall go on to qualify their subject positions as colonial strollers in the Mother Country. because she is a Pakeha. It is thanks to her outsider status that she is able to wander the streets confidently and unacknowledged. He too had been given lists of the good. the blessed givers. however. who “are stealing all the work” (1987: 25). rivers. the descendant of the British settlers and not a Maori native. Significantly. Soon after her arrival in London she develops a brief friendship with Nigel. produces. permanently identified. or white New Zealander. the friendly. Nigel. in the position of the patronizing disposers. a Nigerian: We shared much. That is the reason why Nigel addresses Frame as “you English” (1987: 35).

Colonial Flâneurs


the signs “‘no children, pets, coloured or Irish’” (1987: 130) that Frame encounters suggest. In her interactions with other foreigners in London, Frame shows a strong awareness of the cultural construction of difference. Her biases are first put to the test during the sea-voyage towards Britain. When the ship stops at Curaçao, a Dutch colony, she walks about the streets of its capital, Willenstad, feeling tempted to survey the poverty surrounding her with a civilizing gaze characteristic of nineteenth century British explorers.5 The “dusky black” inhabitants of the colony make her recall the Maories of her native New Zealand. But as soon as she becomes aware of her resorting to “the old clothes of prejudice”(1987: 12), she makes an effort to overcome them. This gesture implies that, when she is the subject of the look, Frame refuses to be complicit with prevailing stereotypes, in this case those associated with a colonizing masculinist gaze, “viewing space as more fluid than fixed” (Pollock 1994: 121). Frame is doing here what Pollock describes when analysing the paintings of Mary Cassatt. Whereas male impressionist painters portray women as the passive subjects of their gaze, Cassatt carries out a “rearticulation of traditional space so that it ceases to function primarily as the space of sight for a mastering gaze” (1994: 87). Thus, the women depicted by her, specially the widow in ‘At the Opera’ (1879), appear as agents of their own looking or any other activity. The space of Willenstad, its exoticism and backwardness, is susceptible to being the object of a mastering gaze, which Frame will not hold. As I pointed out above, her mind is a receptacle of new experiences, alert to the “displayed treasures” that her stay abroad unravels. Raised in a dominion, Lessing shares Frame’s sense of strangeness and understanding of racial politics. Early in Walking in the Shade, Lessing acknowledges her difficulties in defining herself (1998: 15). Her move to Britain was partly due to her unbelonging in Southern Rhodesia, where she admits to have been “hated and ostracised” for being a “Kaffir-lover”, or for sympathising with the plight of the native population (Lessing 1997: online). Once in London, she joins people on the margins of British society – Italians, French, West Indians, South Africans, Communists, McCarthy exiles. Lessing’s arrival in London in 1949 coincides with the first arrivals of colonial immigrants to the metropolis. Under her gaze, Britain takes a racial attitude similar to that of segregated Southern Rhodesia:
In Oxford Street underground, I watched a little bully of an official hectoring and insulting a recently arrived West Indian who could not get the hang of the ticket mechanism. He was exactly like the whites I had watched all my life in Southern Rhodesia shouting at blacks. (1998: 12–13) 5 See Pratt 1992, chapter 9.


Mª Lourdes López Ropero

Yet this Britain, described as a “Sleeping Beauty” “fenced all around with sharp repelling thorns” (1998: 87) will inevitably yield to the pressure of multiculturalism in the course of time. The underground trip described in the contemporary sketch ‘In Defence of the Underground’ allows Lessing to comment on the changes that have taken place in the racial makeup and racial attitudes of the British in the last few decades. Lessing observes with amusement the women dressed in “saris and cardigans” in her carriage (1993: 84), which symbolise their adjustment to the new place. She reflects on an incident she saw in a London hospital, where a representative of the more reluctant older generation had to “come to terms with the impossible”, that is, being looked after by a black nurse (1993: 90). It is precisely the variety of London, its modern transitory character, exemplified by the people she sees getting on and off her train, which turns the city into a great theatre for the writer to observe. The urban landscape of London, the heart of the empire, becomes a place of search full of “spaces of mystery” (Tester 1994: 13) for the colonial flâneur to observe. In her London strolls, Frame becomes a “reader of the urban text”, to quote Parkhurst’s words:
And the words of London fascinated me – the stacks of newspapers and magazines, sheets of advertisements in the windows of the tobacconists and newspapers shops, the names on the buses, the street signs, the menus chalked on blackboards outside the humble Transport Cafes […] the numerous bookshops and libraries. I had never had so much opportunity for public reading. (1987: 26)

Besides common names on advertisements and shops, Frame is haunted by proper names such as “Mortlake, Shepherd’s Bush, Swiss Cottage” (1987: 26), or “Crystal Palace, Ponders End, Piccadilly Circus, High Wycombe” (1987: 27). The poetry and historical reverberations in these names stimulate Frame’s sense of wonder in a way that New Zealand’s names do not. New Zealand is a New World where place names “still echo with their first voice” (1987: 28). London, in turn, is the source, a site to be excavated by Frame in her search for origins and meanings, a palimpsestic city accumulating fragments of history. Michel de Certeau states that “people are put in motion by the remaining relics of meaning, and sometimes by the […] remainders of great ambitions. Things that amount to nothing, or almost nothing, symbolize and orient walkers’ steps: names that have ceased precisely to be proper” (2001: 133). The motivation of names, the value engraved on them by urban planners and managers, is slowly lost in the course of time and replaced, Certeau explains, by the meaning that these names have in walkers’ lives. Set in motion by London’s proper names, Frame ponders on such contradictions. The spell cast on her

Colonial Flâneurs


by the reverberations of British history and literature that these names bring is broken once she observes the spectacle of urban decay they have come down to. Very often, the topographical features reflected in names have not survived centuries of history and change. Indeed, the pastoral connotations of “Shepherd’s Bush” are at odds with the street “dreary-looking buildings set in a waste of concrete and brick and full of people who appeared to be pale and worried” (1987: 26) that Frame notices in her strolling. Likewise, Frame learns “the truth of Piccadilly Circus”, that it was not a real circus (1987: 20). In fact, even the circular shape evoked by the word circus has changed through years of urban planning. London’s names and buildings are in fact relics of earlier, more pastoral times, and of the city’s former glory as the heart of a vast empire.6 Lessing also responds to London’s historical palimpsest, where layers of pastoral names combine with decades of urban development. Her colonial sensibility is amused by the history names encapsulate and the inconsistencies it engenders at the present time. As she stands outside the underground station in Hampstead, the West End, where she lives at present, she ponders on the fact that this area used to mark the end of London (1993: 80). In fact, well into the nineteenth century, the West End, which started as a woodland clearing in the Middle Ages, was a peripheral hamlet of agricultural workers, gardeners and craftsmen with very few gentry. The rural past of the West End lingers in street
6 London’s architecture and urban planning bears, indeed, the imprint of past ambitions. As Jane Jacobs states, “the cultural politics of place and identity in contemporary First World cities is enmeshed in the legacies of imperialist ideologies and practices” (2002: 4), which were the work of men. Piccadilly Street was named after a house belonging to a wealthy tailor famous for selling “piccadillies”, a kind of collar, in the 18th century; this came to replace the street’s former name, Portugal Street, in honour of Catherine de Braganza, the queen consort of King Charles II of England. In the nineteenth century, John Nash, George IV’s favourite designer, undertook a massive renovation of central London, designing the big avenues of Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus, among others. Nash saw the construction of Regent Street as an opportunity to separate the good from the bad streets, leaving the latter to the East (Tucker 1999: 434). At the turn of the century, the London City Council realised the city lacked the broad avenues of continental cities like Paris (Schneer 2001: 24). The face of London did not match the city’s splendour as the heart of a global empire. They thus undertook the broadening of the Strand and the construction of a big artery running north from it which would eventually be called Kingsway. In the crescent built to link the Strand and Kinsway, the Aldwych, several emblematic representations of the British Empire were located – the Australia House, the India House, and the Africa House (2001: 27), creating the kind of atmosphere the Council had intended. At present, the city is pervaded with symbols of the country’s wealth and power – Trafalgar Square, Cleopatra’s Needle and Sphinxes, the Bank of England, and the like.


Mª Lourdes López Ropero

names such as Mill Lane, though the mill has long gone. These thoughts crowd Lessing’s mind as she travels from West London to the City on the Jubilee line, although she realises that the ordinary London dweller is unencumbered by such realisation, for “the weight of those buildings, pavements, roads, forbids thoughts” of this kind (1993: 86). Lessing’s musings on the inconsistencies of place names in present times should not be mistaken for nostalgia for a more pastoral England. Paradoxically, Lessing links such pastoral nostalgia with the attitude of the older generation, who long for a “Lost Eden of decently uniform pinko-grey people”, a “Paradise Isle” without foreigners, which also includes her, despite having lived in the country for forty years (1993: 89, 83). The taxi driver depicted in ‘Storms’ hates the city “violently” on these same grounds (1993: 128). As the title of the sketch ‘In Defence of the Underground’ indicates, Lessing prefers urban London, which also offers moments of pastoral bliss, when the natural and the urban world are reconciled. She relishes nature as she waits for her train: “At the station you stand to wait for trains on a platform high above roofs and the tree tops are level with you. You feel thrust up into the sky. The sun, the wind, the rain, arrive unmediated by buildings. Exhilarating” (1993: 82). Standing in front of a florist shop whose shelves encroach into the pavement, she feels as in a “pavement garden” where a blooming lily “scents the air stronger than the stinks of the traffic” (1993: 80). It is worth comparing these impressions with the description of the West End recalled by an old Londoner Lessing encountered: “It was all fields and little streams, and we took off our shoes and stockings and sat with our feet in the water and looked at the cows. They used to come and look at us. And the birds, there were plenty of those” (1993: 81).The exhilaration that London offers Lessing makes the images of pastoral London summoned by her elderly informants seem trite and exclusive. 3. Conquering the Metropolis The routes that Frame and Lessing take through the metropolis describe a shift away from peripheral marginality as colonials into the heart of the city and its literary establishment. In one of the concluding chapters of The Envoy from Mirror City Frame carefully describes the bus ride and walk that took her from Camberwell, a district in South East London where she lived at that time, up to the Strand area, where she was to meet her publisher, W. H. Allen:
I set out to the Strand and the publisher W.H. Allen in Essex Street. I sat in the bus enjoying the familiar route […] Now down past the Institute of Psychiatry, the Maudley Hospital, King’s College hospital […] past the new council flats, the dilapidated shops, the surge of East Street market and cluttered pavements, past the Elephant, the Eye Hospital, the Old Vic, Waterloo Station, Waterloo Bridge to the Strand […] I had my photo taken in a PolyFoto studio

Colonial Flâneurs at Charing Cross. Then I walked back towards Essex Street, loitering as I was too early, by looking at shop windows. And then I had turned the corner from the Strand and was in Essex Street, standing in front of W. H. Allen. (1987: 148–9)


The route described in this passage, which culminates in a publishing house of central London where Frame would sign the contract of her lifetime, encapsulates Frame’s appropriation of the public spaces of the city, those of decision-making and visibility. Similarly, towards the end of Walking in the Shade, Lessing has stepped out of darkness onto “the sunny side of the street”, light being here a metaphor for visibility. As I anticipated earlier, the four sections of the volume, headed by Lessing’s London addresses (‘Denbigh Road W11’, ‘Church Street, Kesington W8’, ‘Warwick Road SW5’, ‘Langham Street W1’), chart her encroachment on the city, as well as her achievement of “a place of her own” (1998: 131) thanks to the success of her writing. In Denbigh Road W11, Lessing rented a garret which was too small to “unpack a typewriter” (1998: 6) in a war-damaged house. In contrast, the flat that Lessing inhabits in Langham Street W1 at the end of the volume is within walking distance of Central London, where she roams at ease in search of street companionship (1998: 277). Lessing’s, like Frame’s, London narrative is one of conquest. If in In Pursuit of the English she had stated that England was a “grail” for her (1996: 9), in the course of the ten-year pilgrimage depicted in Walking in the Shade she has become a successful writer and a self-supporting woman. My concern in this chapter has been to show how Janet Frame and Doris Lessing have resorted to flânery to assert their presence in the modern city as women and writers. Rather than the traditional space of female invisibility, the public spaces of the metropolis have become the setting of these writers’ strolling and a rich source of materials for their writing. Furthermore, they have achieved visibility in the London publishing world, located at the heart of the city, and earned the international success that their home countries did not grant them. An important part of my argument has been to explore the connections between urban space, gender and colonialism. Thus, I have highlighted the impact of these writers colonial background on their perception of the city, which has granted them a contrapuntal angle of vision. As Deborah Parsons warns, the inclusiveness of the flâneur trope in recent criticism should not obscure the diversity of female subject positions that it may encompass. Far from being transparent, urban visions are mediated by gender, but also by race, culture and national affiliations. The latter tend to be ignored or not duly emphasised by recent flâneur scholarship. As women, Frame’s and Lessing’s gazes are more tolerant and connective. As white colonials, they have a deeper awareness of difference and history than the average city stroller.


Mª Lourdes López Ropero Bibliography

primary sources Frame, Janet. 1987. The Envoy from Mirror City. London: Paladin. Lessing, Doris. 1998. Walking in the Shade. London: Flamingo. . 1993. London Observed. London: Flamingo. . 1996. In Pursuit of the English: A Documentary. New York: Harper Perennial. secondary sources Arias, Rosario. 2005. ‘‘All the World’s a Stage’: Theatricality, Spectacle and the Flâneuse in Doris Lessing’s Vision of London’ in Journal of Gender Studies 14(1): 3–11. Baisneé, Valérie. 1997. Gendered Resistance: The Autobiographies of Simone de Beauvoir, Maya Angelou, Janet Frame and Marguerite Duras. Amsterdam: Rodopi. Blunt, Alison and Gillian Rose (eds). 1994. Writing Women and Space: Colonial and Postcolonial Geographies. New York: The Guilford Press. Bowlby, Rachel. 1992. Still Crazy After All These Years: Women, Writing, and Psychoanalysis. London: Routledge. De Certeau, Michel. 2001. ‘Walking the City’ in During, Simon (ed.) Cultural Studies: A Reader. London: Routledge: 126–33. Jacobs, Jane. 2002. Edge of Empire: Postcolonialism and the City. London: Routledge. Lessing, Doris.1997: ‘A Notorious Life. The Salon Interview: Doris Lessing’. Online at: (consulted 15.02. 2006). Parkhurst Ferguson, Priscilla. 1994. ‘The flâneur on and off the streets of Paris’ in Tester, Keith (ed.) The Flâneur. London: Routledge: 22–44. Parsons, Deborah. 2000. Streetwalking in the Metropolis: Women, the City and Modernity. New York: Oxford University Press. Pollock, Griselda. 1994. Vision and Difference: Femininity, Feminism and Histories of Art. London: Routledge. Pratt, Mary Louise. 1992. Imperial Eyes. London: Routledge. Schneer, Jonathan. 2001. London 1900: The Imperial Metropolis.Yale: Nota Bene. Sizemore, Christine.1984. ‘Reading the City as Palimpsest: The Experiential Perception of the City in Doris Lessing’s The Four-Gated City’ in Merrill Squier, Susan (ed.) Women Writers and the City. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press: 176–90. Tester, Keith. 1994. ‘Introduction’ in Tester, Keith (ed.) The Flâneur. London: Routledge. Tucker, Herbert. 1999. Victorian Literature and Culture. London: Blackwell. Wolff, Janet. 1991. Feminine Sentences: Essays on Women and Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press. Woollacott, Angela. 2000. ‘The Colonial Flâneuse: Australian Women Negotiating Turn-of-the-Century London’ in Signs: Journal of Women Culture and Society 25(3): 761–87. . 2002. ‘The Metropole as Antipodes: Australian Women in London and Constructing National Identity’ in Gilbert, Pamela (ed.) Imagined Londons. New York: State University of New York Press.

Conquering the Spaces of War


Even though she felt that the war had “shaken all the foundations of reality” (ibid. markets and blacked out towns to the labyrinth of the first-line trenches. Gardens. The world since 1914 has been like a house on fire. Keywords: First World War. and one gets glimpses of their furniture.In a Literary No Man’s Land: A Spatial Reading of Edith Wharton’s Fighting France Teresa Gómez Reus and Peter Lauber abstract This essay examines Edith Wharton’s Fighting France through a range of disparate spaces. domestic space. Edith Wharton. The essay finally follows Wharton into the trenches where. (Wharton [1919] 1997: xvii) Ten days after the General Mobilization. from hospitals. she managed to capture and transmit a note of that same absurdity and relativism that has been the key note of the literature which later would emerge at the front. revelations of their habits. Their doors are swinging wide. This spatial interpretation seeks to demonstrate that Wharton’s critically neglected compilation of war essays is an integral part of her writing project as well as a daring and original attempt to penetrate the darkness that had descended over Europe with the outbreak of World War I. Fighting France. that a life-time of ordinary intercourse would not offer. it is impossible to ignore the note of anxious expectation in her words. reveals the radical implications of Wharton’s personal aesthetic in the pathos with which she invests the ruins of private houses and expressly denies to the war-damaged monuments. The plunge out of normality into the torrents of uncontrollable events. trench experience. from bombarded buildings to replanted fields and gardens. the authors argue. in dishabille. and whiffs of their cooking. All the lodgers are on the stairs.). the sweeping away of ordinary concerns and the celebration of a sense . but very sad to see” (Lewis & Lewis 1988: 333). hospitals and markets freely manifest her faith in France. Fighting France. treatment of houses and monuments. garden imagery. Houses become the veiled sounding board for all the sensitive material which personal reservations or wartime censorship prevented her from expressing openly. Edith Wharton wrote to her friend Bernard Berenson: “It is all thrillingly interesting. as early as 1915.

She impressed on her reluctant editor that she had been offered “unexpected opportunities for seeing things at the front”. she set up and managed a complex relief network that provided assistance for thousands of French and Belgian refugees. “no one has been allowed to visit as yet” (Lewis & Lewis . Edith Wharton was deeply committed to the allied cause and her response to the war was dedicated and immediate. on others full of the excitement that Sandra Gilbert recognizes in so many women who managed to get to the front (1982). She entered “the forbidden zone” on the request of the French Red Cross who asked her to report on the special requirements of the front-line hospitals. As with many other women during the Great War. Without any previous experience in either charity work or business.206 Teresa Gómez Reus and Peter Lauber of community inconceivable in times of peace profoundly marked Wharton’s experience of the First World War. she writes in Fighting France. in carts and on mule. too. ranging from images of Paris during and after the general mobilization. which in turn would open up “the doors” of the nation and funnel the multitude of unrelated lives into one single direction. to her vivid accounts of the five extensive trips she undertook between February and August of 1915 to every section of the Western Front. towards the all-encompassing task of fighting for France. Living in Paris since 1907. The declaration of war established a sense of common purpose that seemed to eradicate individual distinctions and rendered personal occupations insignificant. Wharton was very proud of her role as an eyewitness reporter and she made good use of the “I was there” strategy to lend authority to her voice. “who only two days ago had been leading a thousand different lives in indifference or antagonism to each other […] were bumping up against each other in an instinctive community of emotion” (1915: 16–17). she toured hospitals and field ambulances. It was generally accepted that “the war effaced the boundaries of individuality and privacy and thus made possible a more intense and immediate sociability” (Leed 1979: 45). to capture in words the exceptional events she was witnessing. the anxiety to help was accompanied by an irrepressible urge to write. given the French government’s reservations about issuing passes to women. on occasions utterly appalled by what she saw. “People”. In the six articles gathered into Fighting France: From Dunkerque to Belfort (1915) she conveys her impressions of a nation at war. Wharton. a philanthropic mission that opened the doors for her to a physical and literary space that was largely denied to women. felt carried away by this intense sensation of being part of an amalgamated community. and that she had visited towns. an achievement which earned her the Croix de la Légion d’Honneur in 1916. Travelling by car. The “house” had been set “on fire”. such as Ypres and Verdun. nobody else had been granted before her. and even entered the first-line trenches –which in itself was no mean achievement.

“One finds it in the midst of all this as hard to apply one’s words as to endure one’s thoughts. The nearest she comes to touching the realities of the trench war is in her description of “a long line of ‘éclopés’ – the unwounded but battered. The resulting articles. She “wanted to put them into words” (1934: 368). been more overstrained and knocked about and voided of the happy semblance during the last six months than in all the long ages before” (qtd. they have. Edith Wharton herself felt similarly hamstrung at the outbreak of hostilities. The scale and ferocity of the fighting had left many writers without words or ideas in their attempt to comprehend the unfolding disaster. that makes her refrain from anything other than the most oblique reference to the horrors of modern war: “It is a grim sight to watch them limping by. in Price 1998: xii-xiii). The war has used up words: they have weakened. Edmund Blunden’s Undertones of War (1928) or Robert Graves’ Goodbye to All That (1929). Wharton’s solutions do not conform to the open brutality and bitterness we have come to associate with the literature of World War I. as she later noted in her autobiography. and in Fighting France she came to develop her own strategies to deal with Henry James’ artistic conundrum. MSS 42. they have deteriorated like motor car tires. However. But she neither mentions the horrific injuries she is bound to have witnessed. and accounts of actual combat are rare. Wharton has direct contact with soldiers in the trenches. and they remain even today a vividly interesting account of the war in its opening stages. like millions of other things. It is hard to know whether it is her respect for the severe French censorship regulations or whether she finds herself “inarticulate” where she might have wished “to be most affectionately expressive”. Her presentation of the conflict bears only a distant resemblance to the eyewitness accounts of Ernst Jünger’s Storm of Steel (1920). she “could not sit still and brood over” the losses the war was resulting in. “I am so shattered by this war […] that I am inarticulate even when I want to be most affectionately expressive” (Beinecke Library. as she wrote to her friend Gaillard Lapsley. the garrison towns and the hospitals. Henry James confessed in an interview to the New York Times six months into the conflict. nor does she ever lend her voice to the soldiers who have returned from battle.In a Literary No Man’s Land 207 1988: 356–7). which were written with the intention of mobilizing her compatriots’ moral and financial support. frost-bitten. which have since been endowed with something approaching canonical status. shattered. are among the first to have come from an American woman. deafened and half-paralyzed wreckage of the awful struggle” (1915: 49). Series VII). and to meet the dazed stare of eyes that have seen what one dare not picture” (1915: . She shows little awareness of the way the war is progressing. It proved uncommonly difficult to put into words the trauma the First World War was producing.

What makes the text so resistant to critical commentary is that. It is all the more noteworthy to find it published in full in the French anthology of important reports written during World War I. she lets the empty expression in the eyes of the battle-weary soldiers intimate an unutterable reality on the other side of silence. these articles do not dwell on its crudest realities but centre instead on the undaunted spirit of resistance which she read into every facet of wartime France. “Wharton’s work is something of an anomaly” (2004: 15). Yet. It shares with travel writing the theme of discovery and an air of adventure and suspense. apparently more peripheral. to be of significant journalistic value. See: Alain Quella-Villéger and Timour Muhidine (2005). (1999) nor in The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the First World War. it navigates between disparate narrative forms. rather than adhere to the conventions of a recognizable genre. eds. Judith Hattaway. it is the people’s unflagging energy in remaking their lives within the ruins of recaptured towns which maintains her faith in the survival of France. It is on their behalf that she feels at liberty to express her anxiety and grief. The volume has been excluded from women’s anthologies on World War I1 and it has elicited little analysis and scant appreciation. too sophisticated and idiosyncratic. Dorothy Goldman. But the volume is too emotionally charged and ideologically committed to fit the description of a travelogue. as Julie OlinAmmentorp has noted. ed.2 Julie Olin-Ammentorp (2004) has been one of the few critics to Fighting France features neither in Suzanne Raitt and Trudi Tate (1997). At the same time. All her restraints in describing the plight of the combatants disappear in the pitiful portraits of shattered houses. These considerations may help to explain the scarce attention Fighting France has received from contemporary critics. See Sherry (2005). Instead of making wounded combatants relate their harrowing stories. “for inclusion in the category of war reporter” (2005: 1). Joyce Marlow. 2 In Women and War (1987) Jean Bethke Elshtain has dismissed Wharton’s war 1 . as Kate McLoughlin believes. The acuteness of Wharton’s eyewitness accounts should easily qualify her. aspects of the conflict connects her work with that of a host of other women writers whose accounts display a similar “reliance on elusiveness [and] on indirection” that Dorothy Goldman (1995: 88) has identified as a distinctive feature in women’s narratives about the Great War. it includes few personal and contextual details. Agnes Cardinal. Although they are clearly denotative of the enormous havoc resulting from the war. (1998).208 Teresa Gómez Reus and Peter Lauber 50). and yet her observations are too elusive. for it does not conform to present expectations of either men’s or women’s literature of war. Cast in a manner suggesting a journal. Wharton’s tendency to displace the focus of interest from the reality of combat to other. in spite of the excellent reception its first publication was granted both in America and in France.

Their bombed and burnt out ruins act as an effective metaphor of the “horrors unnameable” (Wharton 1915: 164) on the score of which the text maintains a stubborn silence. Whether a victim of human violence or simply a prey to natural decay. Her apparent neglect of human beings in favour of their inanimate surroundings has been touched upon by Sharon L. Other interpretations include Jean Gallagher’s study of the iconography of war propaganda in Wharton’s essays (1998) and Mary Suzanne Schriber’s reading of the text as “travel writing in the grotesque” (1999). her underlying purpose was the discovery of thematic and stylistic patterns within Wharton’s war-related literature. Gledhill and Hattaway. . but rather than treating it in its own right. More pertinent to our argument is Annette Larson Benert (1996). from hospitals. accounts. Yet her discussion of Fighting France rarely ventures beyond the listing of spatial images that help to convey Wharton’s reverence for French civilization and its resilience in the face of “troubled times”. nothing remains but a squalid absurdity. from bombarded buildings to replanted fields and gardens. (1995: 27). she relies exclusively on the language of natural disasters. In our reading of Fighting France. which “indicates that Wharton had no other field of imagery to draw on to project the magnitude of the disaster” (1998: 12). Dean. In this twilight of civilization she invests the private home with a pathos she persistently denies to the grand historic monument. Thus it is that Wharton makes the countless ravished homes at the front attest to the irrationality of a wasteful and unnecessary war. but as a daring and original attempt to penetrate the darkness that descended over Europe with the outbreak of World War I. in his otherwise excellent analysis of Wharton and World War I. Alan Price. The object of this spatial interpretation is to vindicate Fighting France not only as a piece of writing whose marked preoccupation with living space creates a vital link with the remainder of Wharton’s literary production. markets and blacked-out towns to the labyrinth of trenches and subterranean passages. its houses and gardens are as indissolubly linked to the fate of their residents as houses and gardens are impossible to separate from Wharton’s own life and work. claims that.In a Literary No Man’s Land 209 discuss the work at any length. claiming that she had no concrete experiences on which to base her writings. in Fighting France. See the critique of Elshtain’s work on Wharton in Goldman. In the present essay we propose to read Edith Wharton’s wartime reports through the full range of their disparate spaces. both of which offer a rather limited account of the book’s scope and interest. who claims that “Wharton’s sensations do not come from empathy with the people and their suffering but from the aesthetics of the scene” (2002: 77). a cathedral survives aesthetically in its transmogrified state. who has focused on the vital importance that “civilised space” assumes in Wharton’s writings related to the Great War. whereas the moment a house has ceased to be a living space.

The war itself had vanished underground and entering the outlandish world of the trenches she strains her eyes and her imagination in order to grasp the nature of a conflict which was defying traditional logic. Auve came to represent “all separate terrors. The narrator was to pass through many other flattened villages. whose voices the war had silenced. It is a place where the customary distinctions of gender and social rank have been surrendered to the common cause and where the difference between the soldiers defending their positions and the “army” of ordinary citizens who keep the nation alive has lost its practical significance. 1. Of all that had connected them securely with their past and given “meaning and continuity to the present”. In her walks through war-time Paris. now. Wharton’s “fighting France” is not a nation divided into armed combatants and helpless civilians. the bundles of letters laboriously written and as painfully deciphered – of all that accumulated warmth nothing was left but a brick-heap and some twisted stove-pipes!” (1915: 58). the old wedding-dresses in brass-clamped trunks. It is Wharton’s ability to give a literary form to this great European tragedy. Murdered Houses It is one of the salient features of Fighting France that it is a story told by towns and houses rather than by people. The village of Auve. Wharton’s wariness in exposing human suffering completely disappears in her detailed descriptions of broken towns and shattered homes. discloses the rhetorical role that ruined houses are made to play as indices of human suffering. uprooting and rending apart involved in the destruction of the obscurest of human communities” (1915: 58). as the mauled and flattened dwellings speak out on behalf of their missing residents. she had been haunted by the “look of concentrated horror.210 Teresa Gómez Reus and Peter Lauber and it is on this account that the image of “the house on fire” assumes the role of a leading metaphor for the agony of an entire nation. on the river Aisne. It is for more than merely stylistic reasons that she reverts to the same anthropomorphic language she had used in connection with churches and houses in her peace- . We are to read the grief and affliction of its lodgers into every shattered and abandoned building. anguishes. which are cast as the leading actors in an unfolding drama. In Auve. “the photographs on the walls. but being the first. at a time when rumours and propaganda were paralysing the judgement of an entire continent that must earn for her an enduring place among the women who have written on a war they dared to go and see with their own eyes.). the rubble and cinders of its former homes give voice to a people who are lost in “dumb bewilderment” (ibid. But it is also a story of a people told through its bombed and deserted houses. full of the reflection of flames and ruins” (1915: 33) that she saw written in the faces of French and Belgian refugees.

Wharton’s own “poetics of space” attributes to an inhabited place a significance that far transcends its purely geometrical reality. 82) are the outward expression of German violence against the civilian population. and in her portrayal of “fighting France” this preoccupation would assume a new and tragic dimension. in Wharton “living space is always significant space. Throughout her life.B. As Marilyn Chandler contends. In Flanders. an abandoned convent recalls “a mind from which memory has gone” (1915: 156). and the outer walls of its houses are still standing. “Murdered houses spread out in their last writhings” and “beheaded villages” (1915: 93. so that it presents the distant semblance of a living city. the lay-out of carefully designed gardens. Having grown up in Victorian New York. Anticipating Gaston Bachelard. with the houses moulding the inner being of its residents as surely as the residents give shape to the houses they inhabit. sometimes amounting to an obsession” (1975: 121) with living space. and in the hills of Massachusetts she would construct “a truly literary house” (Luria 1999: 188) that reflected her own existential needs. the church itself had been left “so stripped and wounded and dishonoured that it lies there by the roadside like a human victim” (1915: 82). of vital significance. while near by it is seen to be a disembowelled corpse” (1915: 152–53). is present throughout her eloquent accounts of ravished homes and martyred churches. for her. To be able to live in perfect communion with the space she occupied was. and Ypres. In her fiction. had been “bombarded to death. It is a subtle way of making houses reveal what censorship and personal reserve prevent her from treating openly. appeared like “extensions of her physical and spiritual self ” (1986: 174). the creation of living space remains one of her most deeply cherished themes. according to Judith Fryer. The same houses that were “breathing” with significance and that spoke of “intelligent enjoyment of living” in A Motor-Flight through France ([1908] 1991: 29) agonize in Fighting France.In a Literary No Man’s Land 211 time travelogues. It is no accident that houses in ruins should become one of the leitmotifs in Wharton’s portrait of wartime France. with the arrangement of rooms. itself. Lewis notes.W. The language of death and injury. with its overloaded architecture and stifling interior designs. In the village of Heiltz-le-Maurupt. As R. Wharton developed an awareness and sensibility in the creation of harmonious homes. Wharton had “a profound addiction. never free of moral resonance” (1991: 157). Nowhere in Fighting France is the immolation of living space presented in a more engagingly dramatic language than in the haunting impressions of . all of which. the relationship between her characters and their homes is emphatically reciprocal. which she uses sparingly in reference to human victims. and whose range she now imaginatively expands to fit the novel theme of war. which found its place in the co-authored volume The Decoration of Houses (1897).

and some house-fronts are sliced clean off. But beyond the tediously familiar stage-instructions. the house itself appears to be in agony. in which “whiskered photographs fade on morning-glory wallpapers” and “yellowing diplomas display their seals on office walls” (ibid. The author of Fighting France seems personally quite untouched. To her eyes. Wharton makes use of the same operatic imagery as the German veteran Ernst Jünger in his representation of another “theatre of war”. Not a human being was in the streets. and the only “actors” in this silent mise en scène are “the poor little household gods [who] shiver and blink like owls surprised in a hollow tree” (Wharton.Eloi was draped in the dignity of martyrdom. where a peaceable French town had been transformed into a picture of unmitigated desolation: “Whole houses had been flattened or ripped apart by shells. revealing aspects of people’s existence “that a life-time of ordinary intercourse would not offer”. dangling bedsteads. but nowhere had she witnessed an “emptiness like this. with the different stories exposed.). the spectacle of a ravished dwelling is “far more painful” (ibid. but the poor little house reminded one of some shy humdrum person suddenly exposed in the glare of a great misfortune” (ibid. which had its entire front torn away. by the damage done to important public monuments. this absurd drama repeated ad infinitum before an empty house has been left without a script. on the other hand. so that the rooms and their furnishings were left hanging over the chaos like theatre flats” (Jünger [1920] 2004: 94). Endless lines of houses looked down on us from vacant windows” (1915: 151–2). 1915: 153). Wharton’s injured sense of privacy makes her sympathize with the Penates of these ruthlessly uncovered homes. in which “a hundred signs of intimate and humble tastes. The only “people” remaining in the city are the lifelike buildings which meet her eyes with a hollow stare: “Every window-pane is smashed. Fascination gives way to indignation in her picture of “a poor bourgeois house” in the adjacent city of Dunkerque.) than the sight of a shattered Gothic church in the immediate vicinity of the broken home: “St. smashed wardrobes. of humdrum pursuits. of family association. With its shattered walls incapable of shielding the private calamity of its residents against the prying eyes of the public. Wharton had passed through many evacuated towns.). as if for the stage-setting of a farce” (1915: 153). It is as though she found herself before the cited “house on fire” whose “doors are swinging wide”.212 Teresa Gómez Reus and Peter Lauber Ypres. Her tender solidarity goes hand in hand with the curiosity and fascination that any novelist might feel before these unexpected insights into other peoples’ living-rooms which normal times could never have furnished. cling to the unmasked walls”. The people . “The squalid revelation of caved-in floors. nearly every building unroofed. heaped-up blankets [and] topsy-turvy chairs” (1915: 174) had no associations left with a stage-set.

it is neither calling out for pity. rather. however. before us. not in the creation and preservation of artistic masterpieces. the notion of culture that interested her was never limited to “the narrow sense of a country’s accumulated artistic and intellectual production”. The result was “a structure so strange and beautiful. St. not even such a radical reappraisal of cultural values is sufficient to account for the serene detachment with which she reports on the famously bomb-damaged basilica of Rheims: “The Cathedral square was deserted. In Wharton’s “poetics of space”. which is never made to look more human than after it has ceased to be a home. And there. rose the Cathedral – a cathedral. all the houses around it were closed. In the hierarchy of life. Not only does the fascination with which she contemplates the velvety black of the scorched façade contrast with the scant interest she had shown for this emblem of Gallic culture in A Motor-flight through France (1991: 176–77). but in “real living” – “a deep and slowly-developed thing. The celebration of ordinary houses as the mainspring of civilized life is a perennial feature in her written work. As Cynthia Griffin Wolff has noted.) is treated in the same anthropomorphic language as the “poor bourgeois house”. A more weighty reason exists. whereas the private home makes up its all-important foundation.In a Literary No Man’s Land 213 are gone and all that is left is the “personal” affliction of a little house. but extended to all those features of daily living that give “continuity [to] countless insignificant human lives” (1978: 262). In French Ways and their Meaning she explicitly locates the core of French culture. But being a public edifice whose “martyrdom” confers an added dignity to its lofty Christian mission. The German bombardment had set on fire the scaffolding that covered its front and enveloped the whole church in flames. her lack of moral . that one must search the Inferno. Laurent takes to mean that “all art is inextricably rooted in the material conditions that produce it” (1993: 167). for words to picture the luminous unearthly vision” (1915: 185). the grand artistic monuments constitute no more than the stylish “ornamental façade” (Wharton [1901] 1989: 178). or some tale of Eastern magic. the outcome of an old and rich social experience” ([1919] 1997: 102).). Wharton’s concept of an “underlying relation between art and life” Maureen E. houses and gardens which have no recognized position in our cultural inventory are destined to take precedence over the canonized forms of art and architecture. for it was not the one we had always known” (1915: 184–85). nor does it claim the kind of privacy that a “shy humdrum person” might desire. However. an inversion of the commonly accepted priorities that challenges the critical opinions which have dismissed Wharton’s aesthetics as narrow and elitist. The “wounded church” (ibid. for the undisputed priority which is granted to the disgrace of a humble dwelling over the “martyrdom” of “a graceful Gothic church” (ibid.

prophesied that “the cathedral [would] for ever shout this crime from its emaciated towers” (Quella-Villéger and Muhidine. In Ypres. Rather than victims of German violence.). Leon Wolff writes. these medieval edifices seem to make a deeper impression on her in their state of ruin than when she saw them intact in 1908. Our trans. Wharton followed Ruskin in his deep distrust of restoration and she shared with him his passionate appreciation of art and architecture in their unreconstructed state. without fronts and without inhabitants. Just as in Rheims. is gone. it is not the disappearance of its medieval towers. . “that it is destroyed but not abased” (ibid. still lift themselves above the market place with a majesty that seems to silence compassion” (ibid. It appears. and Wharton does not seem anxious to differentiate between the preventable ravages that are caused by war and the natural fate of any work of stone. however. “the glorious ruins of Ypres” are inextinguishable symbols of Belgian endurance: it is “the singular distinction of the city”. the long bulk of the Cloth Market.). the scars of battle are an integral part of an historic building. in Benstock 1994: 304) and Albert Londres. If the damage in Rheims was limited. 3 Referring to Ypres. Schooled in the aesthetic tradition of Ruskin.). that cause her any anguish. she concludes. And yet. however. if anything. In Fighting France. who visited Rheims shortly after the event. but rather the endless rows of houses without roofs. what might be mistaken for a lament is in reality no more than a pensive observation. Ypres had been left without a single landmark standing:3 “every monument that marked it. to have added to their splendour: “The walls of the Cathedral. The war had not robbed the Flemish monuments of any of their former glory. the monumental façades that are “so proud in death” (1915: 154) serve as fuel for her poetic imagination. “By grace of time”. “the town was shelled day and night and since 1914 had been bombed more than any other target on the Western Front” (1979: 115). Henry James had denounced it as “the most unspeakable and immeasurable terror and infamy” (qtd.214 Teresa Gómez Reus and Peter Lauber outrage is also singularly at odds with the scandal its shelling had provoked in intellectual circles all around Europe. It is a town without a profile” (1915: 151). as enduring testaments to past ages. and the modern German siege guns only did with more efficiency what catapults and battering rams had perpetrated centuries ago. Wharton dares to carry Ruskin’s celebration of medieval ruins to its logical conclusion. the continued exposure to the elements converts an ancient monument into a “work of nature” (Wharton [1908] 1991: 9). 2005: 17. that gave it an individual outline. Wharton candidly admits that the heightened aesthetic appeal of its calcined statues was a “beauty of disease and death” and that the Cathedral of Rheims was “glowing and dying before us like a sunset…” (1915: 186). Whether ancient or of recent date.

she was delighted to see soldiers carve out colonies of dugouts in the second-line trenches that created an atmosphere of genuine domesticity: “they are real houses. The German armies had broken into the “house” of France and set it “on fire”. at a moment when their very survival as a nation was hanging in the balance. as Wharton once called herself. Their defensive assignment helps to align them with the doctors and nurses in the field hospitals. sizzling sauce-pans over kitchen-fires. Rediscovering signs of ordinary domestic life in the environment of the front. mess-tables. and “in other cheery catacombs [she] found neat rows of bunks. it is perhaps not surprising that in Fighting France she did not choose to focus upon the death and suffering she witnessed. In the colonel’s dugout “a big bunch of spring flowers bloomed on the table. but rather as guards protecting their imperilled country. in the role of defenceless victims. In this inauspicious world of mud and filth. it is because it would have been as inconceivable to her as it was for the country’s wartime press to portray the French as a helpless people. In no other place that Wharton passed through on her expeditions into the war zone was this as literally the case as in “the martyr town” of Gerbéviller. her artistic eye was quick to capture any detail that might produce a sense of cosiness and intimacy or add a touch of beauty to the drabness of life at the front (Benert 1996: 331).). Being an “incorrigible life-lover”. a portrait of a nation at war. Wharton never presents the French soldiers as aggressive fighters or conquerors. In reporting on the war. for strategic effect ” (2007: 484). . with real doors and windows under their grass-eave. “she was more interested in those things that provided unexpected coherence and continuity” (Wolff: 1978: 266). where every single house had been burnt to the ground in the three days of German occupation. The only “house” that really counted now was the one he shared with all his French compatriots. helped her feel more at home in that bizarre and unsettling arena. in the very places from which all militarily redundant features were supposed to have disappeared. above anything else. a former mayor takes Wharton on a tour round the ruins of his home. real furniture inside. If Wharton has cast the houses. Hermione Lee notes.In a Literary No Man’s Land 215 2. Wharton was writing “from life [and] from the heart. Freshly Raked Gardens Fighting France is. also. the same amused pride in the look of things” (ibid. Everywhere were endless ingenuities in the way of camp-furniture and household decoration” (1915: 126). and real beds of daisies and pansies at their doors” (1915: 120). In Lorraine. instead of their inhabitants. With stoic composure. and. and everywhere we saw the same neatness and order. recalling the wooden panelling in what was left of his dining-room and the beautiful view from what had once been his sitting-room. with that dignified air of resignation which constitutes the hallmark of what she calls “the tone of France” (1915: 219).

Those curtains must do almost as much as the hot water to make over the morale of the men: they were the most comforting sight of the day” (1915: 78). Wharton does not enter the moral debate about the meaning of the conflict and the manner in which it was waged.216 Teresa Gómez Reus and Peter Lauber whose dedication and resourcefulness in treating the wounded earn them a special place in Fighting France. and each cabin was shut off by a gay curtain of red-flowered chintz. was herself in no doubt about the restorative effect that clean linens and gay coverlets could have on wounded combatants: “They even […] made the difference sometimes between a man’s slipping away or back into the world when he awoke” (1929: 161). Wharton’s portrait of hospitals and first-aid posts. But if we recall the dreariness of the winter landscape. and a clean kitchen in which ‘tisanes’ were brewing over a cheerful fire” (1915: 67). those unwonted touches of comfort and beauty may have had a significance for the poilus that is easy to overlook. but had given it that element of homely comfort which the war was supposed to have rooted out as an unnecessary luxury. Heating and the general lack of hygiene were among the most pressing problems Wharton encountered in the desperately overcrowded hospitals she had been sent to inspect. a pharmacy. therefore. the desolation of the battlefield and the drabness and dirtiness of life in the trenches. . But with his inventiveness and attention to detail he had not only succeeded in creating a fully functioning surgical unit. Mary Borden. Unlike Mary Borden who in The Forbidden Zone exposes the irony of military expediency that would send those it heals back to the front “to be torn again and mangled” (Borden 1929: 121). Assuming “the stance of a patriot” (Wright 1997: 90) she is principally concerned with establishing connections between the physical and spiritual landscapes of a vulnerable and wounded but heroically resisting nation. does not contain any of the acrimony and sarcasm which permeate some of the memoirs written by nurses who had served at the front. a bandage-room. The dressing station was “little more than a hovel in a mere hamlet of scattered cottages and cowstables” (1915: 66–7). a well-filled wood-shed. The hot showers fitted on a moored canal-boat which belonged to a dressing post outside Verdun was. bound to attract her attention: “The boat was spotlessly clean. the médecin-chef of Blercourt is a true master of improvisation: “With admirable ingenuity he had managed to create out of next to nothing the indispensable requirements of a second-line ambulance: Sterilizing and disinfecting appliances. Like the poilus responsible for the dugouts. who had run a hospital unit at the front. which celebrates the role of medicine as a form of resistance to the physical and spiritual destruction the war was causing. Her preoccupation with red-flowered shower curtains may appear gratuitously eccentric and her insistence on their importance for the morale of convalescing soldiers out of tune with the harsh realities of war.

who was head of the poor-house and hospital of Gerbéviller when the Germans entered the village. Wharton had the highest regard for the French success in forcing back the German army “during those burning autumn days” (1915: 97) of 1914. was a peasant woman. . It is a curious coincidence that Wharton should meet this nun. she combines religious faith with leadership and domestic common sense. they feature in her pages “as a symbol of conscious human energy coming back to replant and rebuild the wilderness …” (1915: 94). everywhere we have seen flowers and vegetables springing up in freshly raked and watered gardens” (1915: 93). on her second visit to Lorraine in May 1915 she was delighted to discover that “new life was budding everywhere” (1915: 94). No soldier expresses the spirit of Fighting France as poignantly as this Sister of Charity with her tenacity. Rather than lamenting over the “streets and streets of […] murdered houses” (1915: 93). The former mayor of Gerbéviller had picked them in the garden of his ruined home and they make their entry in her article from Lorraine. But more significantly still. Brick-layers and masons were at work in every village and “even in the most mortally stricken there were signs of returning life: children playing among the stone heaps. Like the former mayor. she was awarded the Croix de la Légion d’Honneur in 1916.In a Literary No Man’s Land 217 It is easy to detect a semantic link between those flowers on the curtains of chintz that had impressed Wharton near Verdun and a vase full of “jolly roundfaced pink peonies” (1915: 93) which decorated her writing desk in Nancy. Fighting France is not about conquest and military victories. For her fortitude in the face of the German invasion. sixtytwo years old. her courage and her life-affirming optimism. the “indomitable” (1915: 103) Soeur Julie4 represents the very embodiment of this creative energy. not for the sake of adding force to that “stale allegory of unconscious Nature veiling Man’s havoc”. “before the black holes that were homes. she too had “held her own” during the three days Gerbéviller had been occupied. she reserves for the energy and speed with which the inhabitants of the recovered territories manage to “replant and rebuild the wilderness”. however. If the peonies of Gerbéviller stand for the “conscious human energy” that turns barren soil into budding gardens. who. whose religious name was Sister Julie. A nun in farmer’s boots. was to be awarded a decoration that was rarely granted to women. “interposing her short stout figure” 4 Amelia Rigard. belonging to the Order of Saint Charles of Nancy. along the edge of the chasms that were streets. and now and then a cautious older face peering out of a shed propped against the ruins” (1915: 94–5). the same year as herself. with its capacity to endure the worst calamities and recover from its deepest wounds. They too have a significance that reaches far beyond their purely aesthetic appeal. it is a homage to the creative force of human life. If anything. Her greatest admiration.

in the meantime. quietly and as a matter of course. nor is it at all surprising that she should come to revere “the carefully combed gardens align[ing] their radishes and lettuce-tops” (1915: 95) as perfect emblems of life and regeneration. that the war scars seem like traces of a long past woe” (1915: 97). She suffered with her gardens in times of drought. and hiding “the signs of German havoc” (ibid. is so alive with ploughing and sowing and all the natural tasks of spring. In musing admiration Wharton adds: “I seemed to see my pink peonies flowering in the very prints of her sturdy boots!” (ibid. the war and the market are barely taking notice of one another.218 Teresa Gómez Reus and Peter Lauber between her Hospice and the “fury of the Germans” (ibid. It is neither a coincidence that Wharton should make the broken houses represent the death and destruction the war was wreaking. saw the market reappropriating a space the war had wrested away from it: “All . jostling each other” (1929: 15).) behind their booths and merchandize. who had passed through Dunkerque a few months before Wharton. in its first sweet leafiness.). The alluring sight of the land of Lorraine recovering from the ravages it had suffered the autumn before is enough. Her call was for field-labourers’ boots. the gardens to tend. we can trace her conscious attempt always to arrest the chaos around her by conquering. The local population had returned to “this desert” and wanted feeding and clothing. Wharton was deeply sensitive to the seasonal rhythms of outdoor nature. for a moment. The American journalist and writer Mary Robert Rinehart. planting. In her vignette. and turning up “a hob-nailed sole” (1915: 104) she declared with a smile that all the women had taken the place of men and were working in the fields. Her life-long enthusiasm for house design went hand in hand with a passion for gardens. Soeur Julie explains (ibid. cultivating space” (Fryer 1986: 170). They had to come back”.). were setting up their wooden stalls” (1915: 175) around the craters and debris left over from the shelling of the previous evening. to spirit away the sombre reality of a war which was turning ever larger stretches of her beloved France into a life-denying desert: “The landscape. and when they bloomed she too was in a state of well-being. Mary Borden had remarked about just such a market held on the very edge of the war: “The business of killing and the business of living go on together in the square beneath the many windows. “From her attempts to impose upon the stubborn soil of New England a classical house and garden to her reestablishment of continuity after the War. the wounded in the ambulances do not know about the women in the square and the market women have no time to wonder what was in those cars with the bright red crosses. In the city of Dunkerque. She has little time to dwell on the woes of the recent past. war and peace were treading on the heels of each other within the same densely crowded space.). “There are the crops to sow. dominating. “The marketpeople.

who had retreated to a little summer house in La Panne. 1915: 174). two hearts at the highest pitch of human constancy have held up a light to the world” (1915: 177). […] Now all has changed. 2007: 487). The significance which the continued presence of the Belgian sovereigns will have had for their hard tried subjects is very likely to have prompted her unforeseen homage to liberty.5 In all probability. dead faiths have come to life. Dorothy Goldman surmises that these “two hearts” refer to the Baroness de T’Serclaes and Mairi Chisholm (1995: xiv). Wharton had visited their secret residence in June 1915 (Lee. For Wharton. only yards away from the firing-line. The square had become a village filled with canvas houses. could not refrain from making the errands of this indomitable city her own personal affair: “I should have liked to stop and spend all I had in the market of Dunkerque …” (1915: 175). this strangely hyperbolic language and the air of mystery with which she surrounds those “two hearts” are pointing to King Albert and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. the striped red-and-white booths of the market people. gazing at the grief of a nation” (Rinehart. lie at the root of all civilization. a Belgian fishing village surrounded by sea grass and sand. and long endurance has kept the fire of impulse” (1915: 177). weak convictions have grown strong. fiery impulses have turned to long endurance. their dressing-station was not located in a “villa in the dunes” but inland in the cellar of a village house. . Eloi that the foundations of French culture must be sought. The France the soldiers are defending is the France that is kept alive by the market-people of Dunkerque. which she deftly turns against her American compatriots to 5 Moreover. two British women who had gained notoriety with their first-aid post in the annihilated village of Pervyse. 1915: 126). however. But Wharton’s rhetoric is too opulent and grandiose to fit convincingly with the “Heroines of Pervyse”. and no biographical evidence suggests that Wharton ever met the “Women of Pervyse”. lorries. these French civilians holding their own within easy range of the German siege-guns become impossible to distinguish from the poilus in the trenches who are doggedly holding “their bit of France” (Wharton. where “for nearly a year. 1915: 174). the same month she composed this remarkable panegyric. but in the shell-cratered Place Jean Bart where the local population is keeping up those ordinary everyday activities which. in spite of the decorations these nurses had been awarded: “Because of the light that comes from [that house]. passing guns. The most enigmatic illustration of this life-affirming spirit Wharton encounters in a “villa in the dunes” (1915: 178) in an unnamed place near the border between Belgium and France. in Wharton’s eyes. War had given way to peace” (Rinehart. Rinehart contemplates the trading and bargaining with the uneasy distance of “an intruder. Wharton.In a Literary No Man’s Land 219 week long it had been crowded with motor ambulances. It is not in monuments like the ruined church of St.

“War experience”. nor conventional roles. Queens and Pawns in war-time Britain. as he observes. their significance and purpose remains entirely self-explanatory. . attending wounds in a clean and well-run ambulance. claiming back the devastated land. the médecin-chef of Blercourt. In a world turned inside out. the officer. Wharton’s cryptic and portentous style should be appreciated as her own sophisticated way of concealing this sensitive piece of information from all who had not learnt the art of reading between the lines. In providing bridges across the boundaries between the visible and the invisible. for the time. Wharton touches a phenomenon which Eric Leed has called “the liminality of war” (1979: 12). a royal sovereign occupies in secrecy a bourgeois summer residence while market-women face enemy shells as if they were soldiers at the front. however. Whatever defamiliarizing effect the war might have. nor the representatives of the church. and guarding a trench against a hidden enemy on the other side of no-man’s land are morally indistinguishable parts in that unfolding drama which Wharton has condensed into Fighting France. Rinehart had no reservations about disclosing the location of the Belgian sovereigns and it is reasonable to believe that this indiscretion was responsible for the prohibition of her Kings. 3. the people of Dunkerque and the soldiers in the trenches to form together one “long wall of armies guarding the civilized world from the North Sea to the Vosges” (1915: 179). Reading Fighting France is a perpetual quest for the unspoken text concealed behind a sometimes disconcerting rhetoric. nuns parade in farmers’ boots. A Black Labyrinth Houses. gardens. with its persistent recourse to houses for the purpose of shielding the “unnameable” from the eyes of the censor. from the king and the queen all the way to the farmer and the soldier. The entire body politic is represented in this venerable frieze. leaving aside neither the professional. however. hospitals and markets are spaces whose traditional meaning is never put into question. In the world of trenches and observation posts. doctors convert hovels into hospitals and soldiers make domestic spaces out of dank holes in the ground. In the ranks of this procession.220 Teresa Gómez Reus and Peter Lauber try to goad them out of their complacent neutrality: “In the harbour of New York there is a pompous statue of a goddess with a torch. these “two hearts” who are holding their position on the beaches of Belgium link hands with the Sister of Charity in Gerbéviller. the merchant. Keeping alive a town under fire. “is nothing if not a transgression of categories. It seems as though the title on her pedestal might well. designated as “Liberty enlightening the World”. there exist neither social orders. women take the place of men. In Fighting France. be transferred to the lintel of that villa in the dunes” (1915: 177–8).

Wharton’s feeling of thrill and exhilaration as she catches her first glance of one of the endless lines of military vehicles rumbling up to the front is impossible to overlook: “This is war!” (1915: 47). Rumours were circulating that it had been a German attempt to create confusion. And then. The soldiers replacing the vanished inhabitants rarely even knew the name of the village they were guarding and when questioned. the sound of the cannon began” (1915: 106). Wharton’s constructed transparency of a nation marching in single file does not preclude a variety of instances where the atmosphere of war dissipates clarity. She recalls a variety of nocturnal episodes in which the experience of hearing battle is given life by means of an impressive range of literary devices. The pounding noise of the artillery seems “to grow nearer and more incessant” (1915: 72) as night falls over the silent. generals and politicians were all suffering in this struggle. where vision is impaired. On her first trip to the front. and where confusing. some sixty miles to the east of Paris. war offered numerous occasions for the shattering of distinctions that were central to orderly thought” (1979: 21). “their answer [was] almost invariably: ‘We don’t know – we don’t belong here’” (1915: 83).In a Literary No Man’s Land 221 the known and the unknown. whose villages were now in ruins or had simply been abandoned. not a breath of air drew under the arches. In Nancy. soldiers. It was a war in which signs had ceased to signify. and all night . confusedness replaced transparency and certainty was being substituted by the wildest form of rumours. Wharton found herself enveloped “in such complete night” that. her disorientation becomes a literal reality in the “chartless wilderness” she is obliged to traverse. A moment later […] a pigeon began to coo. although it seemed more plausible to believe that it was a precautionary measure of the local population. the thunder ceased. not a leaf rustled. through the dumb night. as though the female writer-journalist wished to compensate her expectant readers for the scarce visual representations of genuine combat. where all the sign-posts had been demolished and the mile-stones plastered over. blacked-out city of Verdun. “just as the strained imagination could bear no more. and the lack of visual stimulus was prone to magnify the portentous presence or absence of auditory impressions. Walking through a blacked-out city was as eerie an experience as driving through a landscape stripped of sign-posts. Yet her physical proximity to the battlefield was no warrant for any genuine understanding of a conflict which seemed to have lost its way in an inscrutable maze of trenches and caves. And suddenly. she had the sensation of standing in an enchanted city: “Not a footstep sounded. The nightmare which resulted from the absence of familiar reference points serves as a perfect reflection of the disorientation which civilians. contradictory and uncanny sensations take the place of organizing thought. barely able to distinguish the silhouettes of its buildings.

On both of her expeditions to the actual firing-line Wharton makes every effort to construct her narrative around the suspense and excitement created by the opportunity of “being there” and seeing the war with her own eyes. Nothing moved in the lethal zone where the great armies brushed against each other. and a wooded cliff rising abruptly on its other side. For this was the peculiarity of the Western Front: the uproar seldom ceased and the number of men involved was countless. The sense of danger. she remarks: “I looked out and saw a strip of intensely green meadow just under me. (1979: 34) In No Man’s Land. further increases her sense of the unheimlich. there was nothing to show that we were not a dozen miles away” (1915: 132). and the motionless intentness of a soldier’s back at the peephole. Occasionally a man actually fired a gun of some size. she finds that “except for another shot or two [from an enemy sniper]. seemingly at random. Wharton’s reports from the trenches convey the same feeling of incomprehension. The phantasmagoric nature of trench warfare has been masterfully captured by Leon Wolff: As for men. The juxtaposition of the emblem of peace which is straining to answer the implacable voice of destruction rolling down from the shrouded hills beyond remains one of Wharton’s most arresting images of a world turned inside out. the intolerable uneasiness of sensing the presence of danger and yet seeing “nothing out there” that was possible to contend with. contrary to her expectations. except when serious fighting occurred. “Here we were. they were seldom to be seen. concealed in the vernal landscape. but stems rather from the dubious reliability the sense of vision had acquired in a subterranean war. That was all. But. Here and there somebody stared through a loop-hole. On taking “a cautious peep” at the German lines in front. “seemed to make the war experience peculiarly subjective and intangible” (1979: 19). actually and literally in the first lines!” (1915: 132). Eric Leed takes up the bewildering ambivalence which the enemy’s retirement into the soil would produce in the minds of many combatants: “The battlefield was ‘empty of men’ and yet it was saturated with men” (1979: 20). The anti-climatic effect of this observation is not the result of any failure on her part to represent a scenario that is totally unfamiliar to her. In another passage. Yet the casualties went on – about seven thousand each day.222 Teresa Gómez Reus and Peter Lauber long the two sounds strangely alternated …” (1915: 73). The wooded cliff swarmed with ‘them’ […] yet all about us was silence and the peace of the forest” (1915: 133). It seemed impossible that anyone could be hit by it. combined with the impossibility of giving the enemy any recognizable human face. Nobody appeared to be fighting. the lurking “presence” of the enemy. then. but the terrain seemed deserted. . This perceptual conundrum becomes even more acute after scrambling down a winding passage to a hollow within yards of the enemy positions.

A further veil of unreality drops away at the moment of beholding a fallen soldier from the other side. Jean Gallagher has seized upon “the intensification of specularity” (1998: 27) in Wharton’s frontline reports. she seems oddly insensible of the fact that the difference between seeing and being seen is the difference between killing and being killed. dozing farms. the more oppressive and menacing the invisibility of the foe became. “There they are –and there – and there. but saw only calm hillsides. the glaring “eye of the cannon” (1915: 109). What she sees is neither a body nor a face but only a shapeless uniform whose colour betrays its German origin. “They are there. but in a war whose fighting armies have vanished from sight. at the bottom of the harmless glen […] a grey uniform huddled in a dead heap” (1915: 134). (1915: 109–10) 223 The sudden sighting of what seems to be a soldier from the opposite side engaging in a spying activity identical to her own strikes Wharton with the force of a revelation: “the loudest cannonade had not made ‘them’ seem as real as that!” (1915: 111). Wharton’s reports from the war-zone are saturated with ocular motifs and metaphors: the narrator’s “straining eyes”. “The fixed object” of Wharton’s own “intensification of specularity” is not to kill the Boche but to turn him into a living entity which can be seen in the light of day and not only heard in the darkness of night. are all facing in the same direction. the look-outs on the “unsleeping hill” (1915: 119) and the “iron-rimmed eye of the mitrailleuse” (1915: 131). the silent snipers at their peep-holes. Auditory impressions may enrich our imagination.” We strained our eyes obediently. to grasp him in his physical reality and not only hear about him in rumours and propaganda. in this spectral world . Yet. the opportunity to see the enemy while remaining invisible to his prying eyes assumes a literally vital significance.In a Literary No Man’s Land Nothing but the wreck of the bridge showed that we were on the edge of war […].) was daily resulting in thousands of casualties all along the Western Front. Wharton never closed her eyes to the fact that in a world replete with lethal technology the explicit purpose of this unrelenting “game” of hide-and-seek was not just the killing of time. and that this “unbroken mirroring” (ibid.” the officer said. Peering through a concealed hole “one saw at last … saw. Suddenly an officer said: “Do you see that farm?” […] but the whole place seemed to be sleeping the sleep of bucolic peace.). watching at the highest level of alertness for those “human masks of hate” which are lying in wait with their weapons primed for action. But there the Germans were […] The longer one looked. It was as if the earth itself were the enemy. but in her suggestion that “the final fixed object of the soldierly gaze is the Other-as-mirror” (ibid. as if the hordes of evil were in the clods and grass-blades […]. and the innocent vignette framed by my field-glass suddenly glared back at me like a human mask of hate.

Troy Belknap imagines France as “a great traceried window opening on the universe” (1918: 9). but only symmetry and stultifying uniformity: the same trenches. along the whole sleepless line from Dunkerque to Belfort. the metaphorical “house on fire” has been reduced to an empty shell. stretching on. Her lofty image of a “long wall of armies guarding the civilized world” against “the fury of the German invader” gives way inside this ghostly carcass of a farm to a vision of the struggle that no longer recognizes either just defenders or iniquitous invaders. and silent watchers in helmets of another shape sat there watching on the same high shelves. There was nothing to suggest that only a few yards separated the French from the nearest German position. Plunging underground and “creeping through an unlit passage with different levels and countless turnings” (1915: 212). capable only of providing the most rudimentary shelter against the unsleeping eye of the enemy next door. she descends through another. contrives to see the Great War with eyes that are no longer blinkered by the immediate and the anecdotic. little by little. there came over me the sense of that mute reciprocal watching from trenches to trench: the interlocked stare of innumerable pairs of eyes. with no doors to the outside and no windows. it is only on descending into the bowels of the earth “on the extreme verge of the defences” (1915: 214) and following “a black labyrinth” (1915: 215) of narrow shafts and tunnels to their furthest point that Wharton. But peering through this tiny chink. finally to emerge inside a gutted house that had been transformed into an observation post. nor was it immediately apparent why the “lodgers” of the house should whisper “as they do about a death-bed” (1915: 215). It was only on peering through a crack in the wall that Wharton notices another gutted farmhouse close by in another orchard: it was an enemy outpost. mile after mile. even “darker and narrower tunnel” (1915: 213). (1915: 215–16) In her wartime novel The Marne. the same deadlock. But all this was infinitely less real and terrible than the cannonade above the disputed village […] I could not understand where we were.). And then. with most partitions between the rooms and the floor of the second story missing. on both sides the same sniping. the same fear of being sniped at and the same waiting. for a short inspired moment. except for a small number of peep-holes. the same guns. Censorship and propaganda may have reduced this open window to a little loop-hole in a wall.224 Teresa Gómez Reus and Peter Lauber of spying eyes this meagre evidence was sufficient proof that “it was after all a tangible enemy hidden over there across the meadow …” (ibid. one year into the conflict. the same outposts. In this avant-garde position. or what it was all about. still remained beyond the reach of ordinary observers. The building had only kept its outer walls. or why a shell from the enemy outpost did not suddenly annihilate us. However. . Wharton grasps a reality that. the same binoculars.

In a Literary No Man’s Land 225 watching and weariness. 1990: 436). This is the conclusion Wharton reaches at the end of her pilgrimage “from the North Sea to the Vosges”. nor was she merely a detached spectator. she found a personal way of exposing the absurd and futile nature of a war which no-one at that moment knew either how to fight or how to end. which has unceremoniously stripped the language of patriotic idealism of all its former legitimacy. expressing her commitment to the cause of the Entente at a time when America showed no desire to become involved in a European war. it is possible to recognize what has since become the accepted and expected way of reading the First World War. and when Wharton sat down to write about this European calamity. Many of Wharton’s phrases and comments may sound ill-attuned to the acknowledged “Myth of the War” (Hynes. But in her concluding remarks it is possible to detect the first tentative signs of that same disillusionment and irony which became the key note of the literature which in due course would emerge out of the trenches and field hospitals. Her articles were written for a neutral audience overseas. out of sight and out of reach for anybody who wished to capture its significance and render it intelligible to a bewildered public. Although she had inspected many hospitals. But in this summer of 1915. She was neither directly involved in the conflict. But in this vignette which unveils the nightmare of a petrified front. and she did so in that same controlled and self-assured idiom which Henry James had deemed exhausted and irrelevant. Wharton was not in daily contact with the horrific price the war was exacting. She wrote in English. for an American readership. She did not understand the generals’ thinking nor could she possibly imagine what it meant for soldiers to “go over the top”. Wharton never abandoned her patriotic vision of a wall of allied armies “guarding the civilized world”. but neither was she one of those civilians who voiced their opinions from the safety of their desks without ever having heard the detonation of a shell. With the outbreak of the Great War. no new language lay ready for her use. Wharton did not experience the war the way a soldier would have done. Perplexed. Conclusion Fighting France is a book that was written in a literary no man’s land. Her personal experience of war never went beyond “that mute reciprocal watching” in which she had taken a tiny part. the unquestioning confidence that words could adequately represent reality disappeared along with so many other assumptions that had previously been accepted on faith. disorientated and with her visual field reduced to the width of a chink in the wall. but she did so from a French perspective. for an instance she loses sight of all the higher objectives the war was supposed to have had. She had to grapple with the unprecedented phenomenon of a war that had retreated underground. but .

however. [1920] 2004. Sassoon and Blunden provide the only pattern for a legitimate representation of World War I. were written during the opening phases of the conflict. Wharton could still make mention of “the gaiety of war” (ibid. without an available model or a ready-made standard of composition. The resulting book is a bold and original compilation of an important writer’s personal impressions that was published at the point of an historic watershed. just across the valley from where she was standing. on occasions. without the risk of causing scandal among her readers. uninhibited by censorship rules. Milton and Tolstoy employ without any fear of appearing either callous or frivolous as a result of it. she was able to capture “a little corner of the battle of Vauquois” (1915: 64). Wharton had no way of anticipating the cataclysmic proportions the First World War was destined to reach. Bibliography primary references Borden. Wharton’s articles. But not before the unprecedented calamities of Verdun and the Somme in the following year did a new perception begin to emerge that would change the way we think about war forever. London: William Heinemann. The multitude of “horrors unnameable” make up the hidden subtext of Fighting France.). that the books of these veterans were published several years after the armistice was signed. Mary. when the old ways of representing war were no longer valid and a new style had not yet emerged. had been the spectators of combat. The Forbidden Zone. in the same old way in which people. However conscious she was of facing a phenomenon which transcended anything she had ever heard or read about. 1929.226 Teresa Gómez Reus and Peter Lauber her rhetoric and her style reflect the severe restrictions a nation at war imposes on its writers. The futile offensives of that year resulted in appalling carnage along the Western Front. . Ernst. is the phrase forever recurring in ‘War and Peace’” (1915: 146). from drawing on the same language that Homer. and with the shift away from a heroic patriotism that was well on its way to becoming a post-war dogma. For all these reasons Fighting France is liable to trouble any modern reader for whom Graves. In the titanic battles that were waged in 1916 and 1917 any civilian close enough to witness the fighting would inevitably be swallowed up by the juggernaut of war. since times immemorial. and even as late as 1915. It is pertinent to recall. just out of range of its arrows or bullets. on the other hand. Storm of Steel. When Wharton wrote her articles it was possible for civilians to follow the course of battles that were delivered before their very eyes. but this does not prevent its author. Jünger. London: Penguin. From a garden in the Argonne. “‘It was gay and terrible’.

A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture. 1990. The Marne. Goldman. Edith Wharton: A Biography. New York: Norton. Samuel. Hynes. M. NJ: Ecco Press. New York: George H. 1999. Queens and Pawns: An American Woman at the Front. Edith and Ogden Codman. 1995. secondary references Benert. Literary Women. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Domestic Space: Reading the Nineteenth-Century Interior. Sandra. Berkeley: University of California Press. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Gallagher. Doran. Series VII. Lee. 2002. New York: Scribner’s. New York: Twayne. Jean. MSS 42. Dorothy. 2007. Women’s Writing on the First World War. London: Penguin. and the Great War’ in Signs 8 (3): 282–309. Jane Gledhill and Judith Hattaway (eds). ‘Soldier’s Heart: Literary Men. 1999.[1908] 1991. Edith Wharton Collection. . 1918. The Decoration of Houses. London: Chatto & Windus. Gilbert. [1919] 1997. London: Constable Luria. [1901] 1989. 14–18 Grands Reportages. . . R. Londres. French Ways and their Meaning. 1998. Mary Roberts.B. 1988. The Imaginative Structures of Edith Wharton and Willa Cather. . Lenox. A Backward Glance. Edith Wharton and the Mount’ in Bryden. The Letters of Edith Wharton. Dwelling in the Text: Houses in American Fiction. ‘L’Agonie de la Basilique de Reims’ in Quella-Villéger. . Sarah. Benstock. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press. New York: Scribner’s. 1986. London: The Bodley Head. 1915. Albert. New York: Scribner’s. Lewis. 1982. ‘Edith Wharton at War: Civilized Space in Troubled Times’ in Twentieth Century Literature 42 (3): 322–43. [1914] 2005. Dorothy Goldman and Judith Hattaway (eds). Rinehart. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. . No Man’s Land: Combat & Identity in World War I. Hermione. 1991. Paris: Omnibus: 15–17. . Fryer.In a Literary No Man’s Land 227 Lewis. Chandler. Alain and Timour Muhidine (eds). 1915. Hopewell. Cardinal. Judith.B. Italian Backgrounds. Kings. 1979. Agnes. 1934. Annette Larson. Sharon L. . Marilyn R.W. Edith Wharton. Yale Collection of American Literature. Inga and Janet Floyd (eds).: Berkshire House. Eric C. Felicitous Space. Wharton. Constance Fenimore Woolson and Edith Wharton: Perspectives on Landscape and Art Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. Manchester: Manchester University Press: 186–209. No Gifts from Chance: A Biography of Edith Wharton. Leed. 1975. Women Writers and the Great War. and Nancy Lewis (eds). 1996. A Motor-Flight through France. Mass. Fighting France: From Dunkerque to Belfort. 18 September 1914. New York: Scribner’s. Oxford: Oxford University Press.W. World Wars through the Female Gaze. Letter to Gaillard Lapsley. Dean. [1897] 1978. R. ‘The Architecture of Manners: Henry James. Shari. 1994. Chapel Hill: University of Carolina Press.

Julie. Women’s Fiction and the Great War. New York: St. Price. London: Virago. 1997. . 1997. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Quella-Villéger. 1978. Oxford: Oxford University Press.228 Teresa Gómez Reus and Peter Lauber Marlow. Wolff. Kate. [1959] 1979. The End of the Age of Innocence: Edith Wharton and the First World War. Leon. Sarah Bird. Vincent. (ed. Martin’s Press. 1998. Raitt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Olin-Ammentorp. (eds). Grainesville: University Press of Florida. ‘Edith Wharton. Joyce (ed. Clare et al. E. 2005. A Forward Glance: New Essays on Edith Wharton. 2005. Paris: Omnibus. Mary Suzanne. Suzanne and Trudi Tate (eds). Alan. War Correspondent’ in The Edith Wharton Review XXI (2): 1–10.). Maureen. London: Penguin. Cynthia Griffin. St. New York: St. Martin’ Press. (eds). Wretched Exotic: Essays on Edith Wharton in Europe. A Feast of Words: The Triumph of Edith Wharton. Edith Wharton’s Writings from the Great War. ‘Fighting France: Travel Writing in the Grotesque’ in Colquitt. Katherine and Alan Price (eds). 14–18 Grands Reportages. The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the First World War. 1993. 2005. Schriber. ‘Pathways to a Personal Aesthetic: Edith Wharton’s Travels in Italy and France’ in Joslin. McLoughlin. Alain and Timour Muhidine. The Virago Book of Women and the Great War. Wolff. 2004. Edith Wharton’s Travel Writing: The Making of a Connoisseur. In Flanders Fields. Wright. 1998.). 1999. New York: Peter Lang: 165–79. Sherry. Newark: University of Delaware Press: 139–48. Laurent.

and the position of batteries and the movements of armies. Women’s work at the front line. at home and at the front. this is now well understood through writings and other documents (Ouditt 2000). on the broader scale. (Sinclair. and the relationship of these women to the places they encountered. the war period became a . critics’ views of Sinclair’s writing. Women’s complex relationship with war zones.Women and War Zones: May Sinclair’s Personal Negotiation with the First World War Laurel Forster abstract May Sinclair’s emotionally-charged journal recording her short time near the Belgian front lines offers a highly personalised account of a female presence in war. Keywords: May Sinclair. shell shock. women’s lives changed drastically. the difficulties they experienced. but there were other things of which I was dead sure. psychological responses to WW1. access to the front for women. Sinclair’s war novels and poetry. 1915a: x–xi) Women were active participants in the various spaces of the First World War. However. Firstly. war reporting. the level of acceptance of women in the war zones. I make no apology for my many errors – where they were discoverable I have corrected them in a foot-note. World War I. much less readily understood are issues such as the conditions of their placement. masculine attitudes in evidence and Sinclair’s own modernist writerly techniques. Women’s experience of and participation in the First World War is made complex by a number of factors. and this record has at least the value of a “human document”. to this day I do not know how wildly wrong I may have been about kilometres and the points of the compass. interior and exterior war zones. as thousands of men were lost to the war or killed in action. spaces and places is revealed through personal experience. women writers of WW1. This essay explores the roles performed and the spaces encountered by Sinclair and the other women she met.

women were expected to be contributing to the war effort in some way whilst also accepting a more passive role embodying the image of those remaining stolidly at home. Inconceivable within this idealised image was the prospect of women. increased manifold for those women who were close to the front line. She goes on to make a list recording that it was wrong to be “smugly patriotic and pro-War. Secondly. and cultural change. or as a military chauffeuse. from the sole management of home and family to the communal rolling of bandages or knitting of socks for soldiers in local village halls. and many more roles in between. on the personal scale. of course. being fought for and thus giving the sacrifice at the front a purpose. waiting patiently. This raised a number of personal issues for women who were very used to having their behaviour dictated by class expectations. it was essential to maintain the image of women remaining passively at home. disruption to social class structures. Part of such changes was a re-emergence of the questions concerning gender roles and contested spheres of work and domesticity. and how should they dress. Should they be ladylike or business-like. possibly in uniform. where their physical presence in the dangerous spaces of war was perhaps essential – say in the running of military hospitals – but ideologically disastrous. to the joining of a women’s corps such as the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) or the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). women contributed to the war effort in ways too numerous to mention. Yet there is also a larger irreconcilable difficulty here: ideologically and in terms of propaganda for the men in the trenches. and from the retraining in first aid. Simultaneously then. now made necessary and urgent by practical circumstances. It was wrong to be too detached from it […] . Nicola Beauman expresses the depth of this problem when she questions whether there was “any ‘right’ (that is acceptable) behaviour for the women who lived through the years of the Great War and for the heroines whom the writers among them recreated in their fiction”. there were now no clear guidelines as to how they should behave in their war effort. How could the soldier hero believe he was protecting his women folk if they refused to stay put at home and insisted on entering the war zones and encountering similar levels of danger to himself? At the very least this must have caused confusion and gender conflict regarding the ways women experienced the spaces of war. contributing to the war effort and also working hard to save their country. in uniform (which they could purchase) or practical work clothes? Women’s literature of the First World War often reveals a tension between what was expected of women before the war and what became newly acceptable or redefined under the new circumstances of wartime conditions.230 Laurel Forster time of domestic upheaval. This sense of conflicting roles for women was. maintaining the much-loved status quo as a significant part of the idealised “home and country” at stake in war.

masculine gallantry and the new feminism proved a challenge to many a fine female writer. They had to determine their own tone and balance. May Sinclair was a writer who encountered the First World War from within the war zones. was the difficulty of finding a suitable mode of recording their experiences and encounters. This divided engagement enabled an unusual approach in her particular mode of war writing. A close reading of Sinclair’s war writing will help to dismantle a one-dimensional. By concentrating on feelings. wrong for women to nurse or drive an ambulance to help to fight for the same freedom” (1993: 145–6). thus denying a larger truth about the war (1993: 1–2). and constantly respond to the truth . But as Beauman claims. make choices about what to include and what to omit. In this way Sinclair’s war writings. but experienced it in many ways as an outsider too. But for women it is more complex and much less well defined. For Sinclair. masculinised domination of the story of the First World War. which also adhered to conventions of propaganda. It was wrong to enjoy the war […] wrong merely to devote oneself to one’s children […] It was right for men to go to war to fight for ‘freedom’. She warns of the potential danger of marginalising women because they remained true to their own experiences.Women and War Zones 231 wrong to indulge in complacent martyrdom. Participation in war for men can be largely seen as ideologically focussed on the single concept of the soldier hero. The intensity of feeling expressed not only in her diarised account but also in later novels is what sets Sinclair’s war writing apart from other similar works. their voices on the subject of war remained unheard. start to investigate whether war zones could also be understood and imagined as female spaces. women’s lives were “irrevocably changed” by the war. 146). with little else to offer the war effort besides her powers of observation. her writing prioritises her impressions of people and places over more factual commentary on military command or war action. she both participates in the war and yet remains outside the usual mode of discourse. because of their unusual approach. This can be detected in the way women writers of the time struggled to reconcile ideological femininity with female participation in the war effort. often taking the internalised (even psychologised) inner response to war and projecting this onto the exterior spaces of war situations. related to these conflicting roles and expectations for women in wartime. and so they had a right to respond (128. Finding a mode of expression or appropriate tone which could encompass a sense of being protected by the masculine war effort as well as describing the authority of female war work. Dorothy Goldman also argues that “women suffered differently” in war but because they were not part of the physical agony. emotional responses and strong belief in female capabilities. The women who did “talk of mud” had to find a means of expressing themselves. Thirdly.

For instance. On September 25th 1914 May Sinclair. Tasker Jevons (1916). with no practical skills to offer. Suzanne Raitt has commented that Sinclair was one of those who were thrilled at the prospect of having her chance at the war (Raitt 1997: 78). Theophilus Boll. thus effectively buying her place. War zones were variously open or closed to a female presence and participation depending on a range of variable and inconsistent factors. Some details of this expedition are clear. this trip to the front line offered her the opportunity to enter spheres not normally open to middle-age middle-class women. Certainly the war had a marked impact on Sinclair’s work: out of her day book. whereas Tree of Heaven (1917). Even more intriguingly. Any first hand discussion about the front by a woman writer was normally dependent upon the access arrangements she could make involving suitable transport and military permissions. Although Sinclair had travelled abroad before. mostly made up of women. and then a number of novels which refer to WW1 in various ways. This link between Sinclair’s eventual access to the front and the emotional honesty of her writing is a crucial one. which recorded her experiences at the front. Sinclair recorded in her Journal the difficulties involved in even getting permission to travel to Belgium and the necessary badgering of embassies and the War Office. She certainly anticipated danger and excitement within the war zone. Far End (1926) and History of Anthony Waring (1927) use the war more conceptually or as a backdrop for the narrative progression.) and that Munro was not unreasonable in his request. Unlike other writers who never visited the war zones at the front. Sinclair’s first biographer. Sinclair’s direct contact with the spaces of war gave her the confidence to write about the war as she experienced it and not as convention demanded. set off with Dr Hector Munro’s ambulance corps. in order to provide assistance for the Belgian refugees.232 Laurel Forster of their own war (Goldman 1993: 8). emerged her Journal of Impressions (1915a). we know from the Journal that Sinclair’s time at the front only lasted fourteen days. others remain curiously hazy. Sinclair’s desperation to get to the front and her repeated accounts of favouritism and “luck” of other women getting to the front before her are testament to this. Although Sinclair was witness to the way . knew that Dr Munro “had requested the War Office not to allow her to rejoin the corps” and tried to get Munro to explain. the funding for the venture is still open to speculation: Sinclair may have funded it all or just made a contribution. a modernist writer aged about fifty. Boll suggests that Sinclair “did not subordinate her strongly critical mind to the disciplinary phase of the military machine” (ibid. yet the background to her return or dismissal remains a mystery. However. The Romantic (1920) and Anne Severn and the Fieldings (1922) are the three which most closely echo her own experiences at the front. but without success (1973: 107).

and almost never attempts to extend her discourse to a more expansive war commentary. and the well-known A Hilltop on the Marne. Sinclair uses the modernist techniques of fragmentation of consciousness. and bringing to light the human aspects of war some would prefer to remain hidden. her honesty at times is uncomfortable. has a much more practical. she focuses on women’s stories. also 1915. giving confident prominence to personal feelings. Sinclair does try to adhere to overarching propagandist conventions of foregrounding heroic behaviour. She offers neither practicalities nor overview. from the outset. de-sensitised. . Alongside a mapping of emotions onto war landscapes is the employment of modernist experimental literary techniques. Although her Journal is self-indulgent. and maintaining discretion about actual place names and people. Sinclair’s diary is unusual in making the connection between psychical and physical landscapes. understated and sometimes ironic tone which became the standard (highly masculinised) mode of discussing the First World War (Fussell 1977: 29–35). Nonetheless. Her subversion lies in her unconventional subject matter and in her mode of expression. daily survival feel to it. by Mildred Aldrich has the authority of a visual panorama of the battlefields. particularly unusual in war writing. a propagandist agreement (Smith 2000a: 5). and surprising juxtapositions between matters large and small. All this sets her journal apart from other writers who. She limits herself to her own particular boundaries of comprehension and interpretation. Sinclair’s account differs from other accounts by being much more personal. She further disrupts her own text by presenting herself as an unreliable narrator and achieves this by digressing and contradicting herself. As the diary progresses through its three hundred and thirty two pages. it becomes far removed from the sensible. and by making clear links between inner and outer worlds. she personally seems to have found such a level of compliance almost impossible.Women and War Zones 233 women worked in war zones. but remaining in Antwerp during the German occupation. In doing this she remained almost painfully true to her own experiences and responses. in writing about war. Other war diaries adopt a different tone: Louise Mack’s account of being in Belgium at a similar time to Sinclair. exploration of dreams and hallucinations. reactions and observations. but she does make detailed links between the war zones she encountered and her emotional responses. she had after all signed Masterman’s “Author’s Manifeso”. the intensity of Sinclair’s responses to war is clear from the level of emotional expression in her Journal and the way she reiterated the same material in subsequent novels. which borders on the experimental. by playing with time and sequence. obeying orders and complying with military structures and bureaucracy. it is also unusually revealing and insightful. commenting positively on the war. Yet.

I suggest that while there are moments of heightened emotion. Sharon Ouditt has described Sinclair as “rapidly seduced by the alterative glories of warfare” and as one who “articulates her excitement in hedonistic terms” (1994: 34). Suzanne Raitt argues that Sinclair’s writing embodied the shame of being a woman in the war zone. Sinclair’s role as secretary to the commandant. In literary terms then. and goes on to describe Sinclair’s many humiliations: her sexual jealousy of other women finding favour with officers. but outside the normative style of war writing. publicity officer and fundraiser (which she claims she was partly goaded into taking). At times her intense excitement is at odds with the brutal realities of war. were reworked at length into her later novels. even “narcissistic and myopic” but nonetheless genuine (1990: 30). With each new zone. her writing reveals attempts to accept and understand her often complicated relationship to that space. Within this context. Sinclair’s contemporary Rebecca West saw it as a work of sincerity. her lack of medical training. her lack of understanding of war. It also made her acutely sensitive regarding the entry of women into the various arenas of war. Claire Tylee has described Sinclair’s war journal as self-indulgent and self-absorbed. “one of the few books of permanent value produced by the war” (Marcus 1982: 305). their participation and exclusion from the obvious and less palpable spaces of war. the Journal is best understood overall as a modernist text –one which exhibits modernist literary techniques and uses the devices associated with this mode to explore the internal response to war. her excitement at danger. Sinclair’s war journal has variously been found to be both within the canon of war literature and outside acceptable discourse about the Great War. Critics have varied in opinion on this war diary. anxiously awaiting opportunities to come her way. and “the shame of a middle-aged woman who sees in middle-age her last chance at life” (1997: 65). Sinclair was both within the modernist fold. their treatment and their behaviour. Some issues and incidents.234 Laurel Forster reverted to a realist mode. amongst an ambulance crew unusually . As Sinclair entered each new war zone she did so in the spirit of adventure. Later. and her personal determination to “help out” during her war adventure. Always her negotiation with war spaces is filtered through the strangeness of being a woman at war. Whilst Tylee has argued that Sinclair indulged a Victorian penchant for ecstatic expression concerning war. Sinclair brought her interests in feminism and emerging psychological discussions to bear on her attempts to rationalise and understand the chaos of war and the different aspects of life it affected. often using one to explore the other. combined with her excitement at the prospect of war. She negotiates between the external space and her internal emotional response. recorded initially in her Journal. all in all made her position a precarious one (1915a: 16–17). without a proper role or any medical skills to offer.

She is not without a guilty conscience about this. they are given “a fine suite of rooms” (1915a: 21). into a military hospital: “the billiard-room is an operating theatre. the Flandria Palace Hotel. Later she enjoys the beauty of the Flemish landscape. The discrepancy between her previously imagined “limbs entangled in intestines. Sinclair is struck by the effectiveness of the conversion of a rather grand hotel. Once at Ghent. with its low vividly-painted houses. She describes their mess-room in detail with French windows and a balcony and a “pale blonde light” that fills the room. However. As they wait for . and her sense of being somewhere she has no right to be is a dominant preoccupation. in discussing the thrill which turns into ecstasy. Moreover. and Sinclair has to temper her obvious excitement. Sinclair’s first-hand observations of her surroundings refute a totalising image of a country at war. Thus Sinclair’s is a highly individualised representation of war expressed through a gendered. The Journal may be read as a woman’s negotiation with the internal and external spaces of war. “Is it possible that I am enjoying myself?” with her awareness of the disapproval of others (1915a: 12). At this moment in the Journal the war-torn Belgium is described as a tourist venue. 10). On arriving at Ostend after five weeks of what Sinclair describes as “black funk” (a terrible fear of what she might encounter). corpses by every roadside” and her actual experience of the beautiful peace of the open countryside is vast (1915a: 8). straight roads and tall trees (1915a: 11–12). her enjoyment of the sights and the drive to Ghent enable us to understand one of the incongruities of this war. this interior space. Sinclair uses the opportunity to “sneak into the Cathedral” and then again she “wanders forth” to look at the “motor ambulances on Cockerill’s Wharf ” (1915a: 8–10). but finds it difficult to conceive of this beautiful place as a war zone. The idea that a country at war might at once encompass touristic landscapes and war-torn villages and battlefields is an arresting juxtaposition and raises questions about privilege and non-combatants. internalised and often analytical response. Her imagined war zone and her first experience of Belgium are diametrically opposed. Sinclair experiences this space as a tourist and is even accused of sight-seeing by one of the nurses in the ambulance corps (9. and when a moment of spare time presents itself. and the spatial images of war-zone and Flemish landscape are awkwardly juxtaposed. the great dining-hall and the receptionrooms and the bedrooms are wards” (1915a: 23). becomes an oppressive place for Sinclair.Women and War Zones 235 made up of a large number of women. Her honesty in including this in her Journal. At the very least. It is where they are to set up their quarters and whilst Sinclair had expected “two bare dormitories”. and situated in a surprising range of war zones. Sinclair is also at war with her conscience over her presence in the war zone. with its marble-topped tables set out for conference in a U shape.

She describes the vast building as “rather like Olympia” (1915a: 61). and whilst this might in the past have been a venue for horticultural shows. Sinclair becomes increasingly aware of the divisions of space in the hospital and the qualifications and permissions needed to enter into the different sections. but a humbled “adoration” (1915a: 47). which only inadequately accounts for what she has seen. Within the building of the hospital and nearby to the front lines. n’est-ce pas?’” whilst she tries to account for this numbness: “And you who look at them cannot speak or think or feel” (1915a: 63–9).). Sinclair compartmentalises her emotions spatially within this hospital: in the mess-room she rails against her inactivity and uselessness. feeling not horror as she expected. 1 Claire Tylee has argued that this moment evades Sinclair’s powers of description.236 Laurel Forster orders Sinclair understands that they are to confine themselves patiently to the mess-room. Sinclair’s shock at the sight of so many displaced families and individuals is clear from her unusually controlled and detached way of commenting on the refugees: “four thousand of them lying on straw”. But as she follows the orderly through the wards she feels she is “in another world”. the men and women who tilled these fields and their children that are being shown here” (ibid. until she strikes up a conversation with one of the hospital orderlies and asks if she could hand round some cigarettes to the patients. who. sheltered and somewhat protected by the orderly. “litter of prostrate forms” (ibid. “laid out in rows”.1 The most she can do is to repeat a phrase as a sine qua non. Sinclair negotiates a role for herself. now “It is the peasants. smoothing the way between my shyness and this dreaded majesty of suffering”( 1915a: 46). .). Sinclair thus leaves the confines of their quarters and enters the designated spaces of the hospital. possibly sulking. and yet kept apart by the mandates of required skill-sets and military appropriation of different spaces in wartime. After the chosen crew has left. Sinclair does seem to spend some time sitting in the deserted mess-room. When some of the corps do have the “luck” to go out in the ambulance to the rescue of some injured soldiers. Frustrated at the confines of the mess-room. Sinclair explains how she feels “stunned and stupefied” by the sight of so much human sorrow and destitution and seems so overwhelmed that her usual emotional responses have not yet come to the surface. “with his instinct of protection […] glides before me. and in the wards she has to deal with her fear and the imagined horrors of physical mutilation and pain she may witness. and she resentfully reflects that it is a space “to contain us” (1915a: 28). Back in the mess-room again. she becomes miserable once more and watches with longing the movement of vehicles rushing towards the “fighting lines” (1915a: 49). “‘C’est triste. helping out with the thousands of refugees at the Palais des Fêtes serving at the evening meals for three hours. Sinclair is tantalisingly close to significant war zones.

As she assists with the serving of the coffee and slice of plain white bread. She is attracted to the seeming liveliness of the hotel. tier above tier of seats” at either end (1915a: 84). She describes how the refugees “come in relays to be fed” down a gangway of ropes in an ordered. She has already met a sculptor she knew before the war. measured fashion. She describes the layout of the makeshift mass dining arrangements in some detail. and the way they control the crowd. the spatial organisation and manipulation of so many pitiful refugees enables Sinclair’s emotional state to come to the fore. she works herself into a frenzy. “The War Correspondents will tell me what is being done”. The order and structure given by the physical barriers help Sinclair deal with the chaos of so many displaced people. and they have live words to tell about them” (1915a: 107). The Flandria seems to have made her feel inactive and imprisoned. Even though her new room “is more like a prison than any view from the ‘Flandria’” Sinclair still makes the move (1915a: 112). It is the energy of this alternative place close to the action. someone who also came from “the world where people make busts and . and of men who have their business not with the wounded and the dying but with live men and live things. You can take it in” (1915a: 85). and turning the washing up into a competition: “You contend with brawny Flemish women for the first dip into the tub and the driest towel. which attracts Sinclair and gives her renewed enthusiasm for one of her objectives as war reporter. which is full of correspondents and Belgian officers. At night she has a nightmare in which people are plucking at her sleeve and pleading for more food. Her aim with this shift of venue is to “write some articles” and she anticipates at least having her ear closer to the action here. perhaps imagining that through some superhuman effort of racing round the tables manically she would be able to alleviate the unbearable misery. “It is full of live. whilst she anticipates more productivity and energy at the Poste (1915a: 109). Thus. “a prisoner in a Hotel-Hospital”. even if she actually gets physically no closer to the battlefields (1915a: 111). that make these thousands of people less threatening for her. Sinclair decides that she must move from the Hospital Quarters and take a room in this War Correspondents’ hotel for a week. exultant fighters. During an evening’s visit to the local Hôtel de la Poste. and then with your jug. Then you race round the tables with your pile of crockery.Women and War Zones 237 When it comes to the evening meal service. although the refugees are controlled by the spatial arrangements. a credible spectacle. as opposed to the apathy of the corps’s quarters at the hospital. and so on over and over again” (1915a: 87). Sinclair is not. “The barriers make it a steady procession. For Sinclair it is these temporary barriers. with the “enormous oblong space” of the Inner Hall and its “immense auditorium. bypassing the established system of serving the coffee. but when in close proximity to them she is barely able to control her pity or herself.

she disrupts her own text. dates and specific battles has an unreliable feel. Quite purposefully Sinclair offers the reader few general overarching signposts for the progress of war. With this newly acquired freedom. she was restricted as part of the corps. Furthermore. In part this is due to temporal confusion and in part due to an unevenness of tone and the excessive attention to seemingly insignificant domestic or personal issues such as her fuss over a writing table. with no-one to accuse her of sight-seeing this time. In stark contrast to this her portrayal of her own experiences rings true.238 Laurel Forster pictures and books” (1915a: 106) and so associates the new location with a different mindset. Moreover. but Sinclair’s envy and even sexual jealousy is what leads her to argue so ferociously with Munro (Raitt 1997: 79). trapped in the mess-room of their designated quarters and forced to wait for permission to do anything worthwhile. She is conscious of her inappropriate placement in this . His recklessness in taking the young and attractive Ursula Dearmer (Lady Dorothie Fielding in real life) with him to the front line seems to have infuriated Sinclair. using malaria fever as a reason for the discrepancy and also as a way of excusing her aggressive and accusatory behaviour towards Munro. The story of Sinclair’s time at the front in terms of places. Sinclair does not shy from revealing heightened emotions and fraught human relationships in her impressions of the effects of war. The now broken promise made to Ursula’s mother to keep her daughter out of danger is part of Sinclair’s annoyance. but it also highlights personal difficulties. and more direct contact with the war. She frequently operates the convention of using only the first letter of a proper noun to conceal a significant place name. In this way her modernist non-realist technique and her concentration on linking her inner world to the outer one succeed very well in conveying the chaos of war. For not only did Munro and his corps become part of the bureaucratic system. and footnotes her confusion about the sequence of days. and necessarily have to wait for their orders to leave for the front. In the Flandria. Sinclair does indeed find inspiration enough to write a few articles. a more active outlook. it is hard to gauge a sense of the progress of military operations from her text. In some ways this move works out well for Sinclair. There is a stark contrast for Sinclair between the sense of inhibiting imprisonment she felt at the hospital-hotel and the freedom and buzz she absorbs at the journalists’ hotel. she has to reconstruct its linearity and does so deliberately within the text and footnotes. She enjoys her new freedom to wander around the town and particularly enjoys the old quarter and the cathedral. The reader is able to understand the German invasion of Belgium from vague snippets only. when those orders did come in Munro very much presided over the decision over who would go and who would stay. quite surprisingly for a day book of such a limited period.

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space of war, and yet desperate to make the most of her time there. This can be read through her mixed-up behaviour. For instance, when installed in the Hôtel de la Poste, even though she is desperate for information, she initially tries to conceal herself beyond a glass screen from the one journalist she knows, “Mr L”, and she does this to avoid making an “infernal nuisance” of herself (1915a: 121–2). Nonetheless, when they meet at breakfast the next day, Sinclair evidently pumps him for all the information he can give her about the war. Although Sinclair produced a few war-time articles such as “The Woman at the Front” (1915b), her output was limited. Her lack of writing productivity may be initially linked to the inertia and imprisonment she felt at the Flandria, but is also more complex: there are many instances where she is reluctant to make copy out of her experiences and numerous times when she prioritises her emotional response over the facts of an event. In addition, she knows there are things which shouldn’t be passed on as they are either confidential or would subvert British propaganda on the home front. Given this, it is easy to see why her impressions of the war did not easily translate into newspaper copy. Although her Journal indicates that she is excited by the prospect of a great journalistic scoop (1915a: 104), it seems to be those most directly involved in the war that she admires the most, and this idea of charging round the front lines rather than using contemplative writing skills is explored much more in Tasker Jevons, her war novel. Sinclair was also sensitive to the restrictions placed upon her as a woman. She was impressed by the work of many women she met at the front and comments accordingly. For example, the two women originally with Sinclair’s corps who went on to manage a vital triage and dressing station and became known as “the two Heroines of Pervyse” (Mitton 1916); and the hospital totally staffed by women and run by Mrs St. Clair Stobart; and although the details are hazy – was it a converted concert hall or a convent? – Sinclair manages to convey a good deal about the conditions for the patients and the dedication of the allfemale staff, concluding that “this Hospital is a Feminist Show” (1915a: 147–51). Sinclair’s use of the idea of feminism and what she terms “the New Chivalry” become fused into a mode of understanding women’s entry and acceptance into various war zones.2 Sinclair uses the term feminist about Hector Munro, describing him as a “curious psychic monster” taking women with him to the “siege-guns” at the front line. She questions, “Is it uncanniness? Is it obstinacy? Is it dreamy innocence? Or is it some gorgeous streak of Feminism? Is it the New Chivalry that refuses to keep women back, even from the firing-line? The New Romance that gives them their share of danger?” (1915a: 111–2). Whilst The Romantic became the title of one of her war novels, it is this term the “New
2 For another discussion of Sinclair and chivalry see Wilson (2003: 179–88).


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Chivalry” which Sinclair uses, sometimes quite ironically, to discuss the opportunities given by whichever masculine authority (Munro or other) to women to travel within the war zone. For instance, “The General—he cannot have a spark of the New Chivalry in his brutal breast— has ordered Mrs. Torrence off her chauffeur’s job” and of one of the ambulance corps, “the chauffeur Tom has none of the New Chivalry about him. He is the mean and brutal male, the crass obstructionist, who grudges women their laurels in the equal field” (1915a: 113–4). Sinclair is particularly conscious of Tom, the chauffeur, and Munro, the corps leader, as gatekeepers of her freedom to enter the war zones. Those who determine her ability to venture to the front line are measured against the New Chivalry. Once she assumes what she believes to be the newly-authoritative role of war correspondent she feels a newly-found impetus to travel and her show of independence is followed by a few permissions from Munro to go out in the car and then the ambulance. Tom, the chauffeur, is a frequent barrier to Sinclair’s entry into war zones. He is of the old school, takes no orders from a woman and shows his disapproval either by defying Sinclair directly and refusing to transport her, or by questioning how he is “to steer his car and protect his women at the same time?” (1915a: 237). Other men adopt more equivocal positions on the question of women at the front, “ ‘Mr. L.’ may have disapproved of ‘taking a lady into danger’”, but did not restrict Sinclair’s movements in any way in the war zone (1915a: 178). This contact, Mr. L., and the comings and goings of the Hotel lead Sinclair closer to the war zones. She has a number of excursions both with the ambulance corps and with others and each time records her different impressions, albeit haphazardly. Because it was impossible for Sinclair (and perhaps anyone in truth) to grasp a broader sense of the war, she relates what she witnesses in terms of the people and the places she encounters. On one errand to transport two doctors, the passengers see for themselves the mass exodus from Antwerp, and Sinclair describes this in terms of the landscape: “endless processions of refugees; endless, for the straight, flat Flemish roads are endless, and as far as you can see the stream of people is unbroken”( 1915a: 138). Another time on the road out of Baerlaere with “Mr L”, Sinclair finds herself in a “joyous adventure” where the road is blocked by the ruins of a small hamlet. Her description of the ruined houses gives us an immediate sense of the devastation caused by the bombardment, and the wall of the barn was “the only thing that stood between us and the German batteries” (1915a: 176–7). This playful tone continues when Sinclair has to stop a fellow passenger from leaping out of cover “to find some pieces of nice hot shell for me” (1915a: 177). She stops him, not because souvenir hunting is distasteful, but in order to keep him out of danger.

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Sinclair, who largely led her life alone, enjoyed the prospect of comradeship in the ambulance corps; whether she functioned at all well as part of this group, or even recorded it accurately, has been hotly contested (Raitt 2000: 162–3). Nonetheless, it was important to Sinclair that she not only witnessed the war but that she did so with other people. And although some of those people restricted her access to the front, others made it possible not just to get there, but also to try and make sense of the incomprehensibility of it all. The various moments in this Journal in which Sinclair does feel connected and involved with the war are also times when others help her or share the experience. In this way Sinclair relies on what Patricia Yaeger describes as a “communal intimacy”, which Yaeger goes on to explain, quoting Arendt, as “the presence of others who see what we see and hear what we hear”. This “reassures us about ‘the reality of the world and ourselves’” (1996: 1–38). Her connections with places and people at the front helped her to make at least some sense of the chaos of her war. The reality of spaces in the war zone was significant for Sinclair. She discusses the concept of philosophical reality in a number of contexts in her writing, including this Journal. On one mission to bring back the wounded from a small village near Lokeren, accompanied by two stretcher bearers, to her great joy she finds a badly wounded soldier in one of the houses. She becomes obsessively possessive about him, “to me he was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen […] He was my first wounded man” (1915a: 196). The whole episode turns into something of a mystical experience for Sinclair, “There was something odd about that short stretch of grey road and the tall trees at the end of it and the turn. These things appeared in a queer, vivid stillness, as if they were not there on their own account, but stood in witness to some superior reality. Through them you were somehow assured of Reality with a most singular and overpowering certainty” (1915a: 193–4). The sense of finally doing the task she had secretly hoped for all this time, recovering the wounded from the front line and virtually under fire, is given epiphanic status. She bestows her belief in philosophical Reality upon the physical manifestation of the surrounding landscape. Through her various trips and her earnest but largely inconsequential efforts to offer “help”, she locates her time in Belgium within the detail and reality of her immediate surroundings. She attaches emotional significance to various places, often displacing her emotional reaction onto those places. Her regret at the whole war is expressed when they pick up wounded from a convent in Ecloo, where time has stood still for centuries and Sinclair is charmed by the life there. It is as though in this place alone there was opportunity for psychic rest. Something in the calmness and order of the convent allows her a momentary pause to contemplate the larger destructive force of the war in


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general, seeing the threatened invasion as “a horror of the Middle Ages” (1915a: 306). Similarly, at the end of her trip, when Sinclair is manipulated into returning to England, she associated her very great disappointment with the white cliffs of Dover, “And I hate the white cliffs. I hate them with a sudden and mysterious hatred”(1915a: 331). Even afterwards Sinclair continued to project her emotions and responses to war onto the places she encountered in her travels. In her poem “After the Retreat”, written in the style of the Imagists, she mournfully displaces and anthropomorphises the sadness of Belgium onto a house: “It looked / Through windows blurred like women’s eyes that have cried too long” (1915c). Yet because this house is the destination of her night-time flights of fancy, there is a sense that Sinclair also maps her deep regret at being forced out of the war onto the topography of the same house, making it represent both the fall of Belgium and the hurtful curtailment of her own war. The house, standing for this longing of Sinclair’s, speaks the disappointment she can hardly name. Of all the ways in which Sinclair could have presented an account of her short time in Belgium in the First World War, she positions it meticulously and determinedly as a journal of “impressions”, stating that she has no intention of producing a factual diary or social commentary, or general record of field ambulance work (1915a: ix).3 She doesn’t want her account to be “second-hand” (1915a: xi) and announces her intention of including her “temperament” – her emotional experience and internal response as an untrained but intelligent female observer. In this way the text does not function as a conventional, factual war narrative, but as a series of fragmented impressionistic sketches. Moreover, there seem to be deliberate strategies to make the text unreliable. The overtly-stated sincerity and authenticity of tone with which the Journal is written masks a number of factors: the Journal itself was not written at the front and Sinclair comes close to admitting that it was not even written directly from daily notes; it underwent several full revisions before the final version was sent for publication (Raitt 2000: 160–61). And for an acclaimed and highly professional writer, there are a large number of amateurish oversights, such as the unevenness of pace, the periods of sketchy detail, the “lost” days of Sinclair’s illness, the confusion over place names and the unconsciousness of time, with much footnoting and questioning of accuracy. Sinclair uses her authorial control, either consciously or unwittingly, to construct a wartime self of an unreliable narrator. Two selves are present: the self that witnesses the front (the narrator); and the self that writes and edits these impressions later with a meta-narrative of self-judgement (the author). Her extensive explanation of her method seems to be an excuse for her infelicities and an apologia for
3 Although she did try to offer some more factual accounts in her few newspaper articles later.

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her self-indulgence, but also an attempt to find a tone of voice that might help explain the effects of war on the emotions of a sensitive woman. For Sinclair, the problem of writing about her experience of the places of war will not be moulded into a conventional form and structure. The question arises why such a competent and professional writer would produce such a haphazard account. Why has authenticity and reliability been subsumed into another project? If her only desire was to reproduce the frantic, disorganised and chaotic nature of war, then Sinclair could have used her novelist’s powers of description. By producing such a disrupted narrative, Sinclair can be seen to be, on the one hand, conforming to agreed standards of propaganda, and on the other, producing a non-conformist female perspective of war. Rebecca Hogan has argued for the diary form as a subversive, écriture féminine style of writing (Hogan 1991 99–100). Seen this way, the Journal’s fragmentation and unreliability, its focus on the inner life and emotional responses, and its constant reference to the women workers at the front, all combine to disrupt masculinist conventions of fact, linearity, rational explanation and purpose.4 Sinclair has thus found a way to be both within the war, but outside its conventions. It is her engagement with the places and spaces of the different war zones which enables her to write a war narrative at such odds with convention. Place becomes a catalyst for stating the truth of her experience. By rooting her war continually in a sense of place, albeit a mess-room, an hotel, a hospital or a battlefield, she can explore the underside of war experience, the greed for adventure, the petty bureaucracy, the limitations put on women, the achievements and the arguments among those women, the incongruous beauty of the war zone, the Reality at the front, and so on. All the while she manages not to be bound by the conventions of “positions of batteries and the movements of armies” (1915a: x) in her writing and to focus on the bravery and heroism of women, resisting the masculine totalising one-dimensional image of the First World War. In her war novels Sinclair continues her themes of being both involved with the war and yet set apart from its normal constructs and modes of conveying meaning. The focus on the inner life in a time of physical brutality gives Sinclair the critical space and distance to explore the adjunctive aspects of war. Unusual, even distasteful, aspects of war such as the pursuit of personal glory; cowardice and psychosis; hostility and competition between women at the front; and war neurosis all feature in her war fictions. Tasker Jevons, the eponymous hero of Sinclair’s first novel after A Journal of Impressions, is a gifted writer who, without the security of class and position,
4 See Sharon Ouditt’s discussion of Woolf ’s war writing, which I have found helpful here (Ouditt 1994: 169–71). See also Angela K. Smith’s discussion of a “different kind of female language for the literary representation of war” (Smith 2000b: 3).


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becomes very successful. Attracted to him is an intelligent and spirited upperclass girl with a disregard for social propriety, and through Viola and her family the novel explores the cruelty and hilarity of English pre-war snobbery. Shortly after the outbreak of war, Jevons takes himself, his chauffeur and his much loved and now khaki-painted car to the front line in Belgium (1916: 266–71). The reason for the writer’s being at the front is a poignant theme for Sinclair, and perhaps her thoughts about her own position had crystallised when she wrote of Jevons in the novel, “‘I don’t want to go out to the war to write about it. I want to do things’”(1916: 262). Jevons, then, in his self-purchased khaki, eschews the idea of merely reporting the war and opts for a more directly involved participation as a rescue worker, with himself and his chauffeur picking up injured soldiers from the front line in Belgium. This rejection of the writing career and the driving around the battlefields reflects Sinclair’s ambition to do something useful in the practical sense. There is a desire to engage more directly with the war zone, to engage with it physically as a bodily presence rather than intellectualising the war and engaging only with the mind (and the pen). In this novel Sinclair directly recycles much material from the Journal, from the hotel name and layout to the restrictions imposed by being under orders, from speculations and conversations about the war to actual events and places such as battlefields, besieged villages and a convent. Jevons’s bravery earns him the respect and admiration of those other elite men of action: the “officers of the General Staff ” (1916: 293). Viola, who through her persistence catches up with Jevons, witnesses “through the glass screen” the scene of “public homage” to him by the officers for entering the most dangerous zones in his scouting car, under fire, to rescue the wounded (1916: 293–94). Viola herself, through persistence and negotiation works her way into front line danger for some of the time too, and echoing the Journal there is a discussion about women entering the war zone. Viola responds to a comment made about chivalry in a way “that drove her back in sheer defence on a Feminist line. She said that nowadays women had chivalry too” (1916: 317). The war zones, as Sinclair observed them in life and in fiction, were open or closed to rescue workers not just in the most obvious way, according to their gender, but in a more complex way, which depended on female chivalry, bravery and determination as well as on the powers of persuasion of the women involved. Her next war novel, The Romantic (1920), very much focusses on bravery and cowardice, and follows two characters, John and Charlotte, in an uneasy relationship, out to the front in Belgium amongst a voluntary ambulance corps. In this work of fiction the places and spaces of war which Sinclair encountered in real life become a direct means of expressing an interior psychological landscape of psychosis, misogyny and cowardice. Using her interest in the new

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psychoanalysis, and her connections with the Medico-Psychological Clinic of which Hector Munro was a founding doctor (Boll 1962: 310–26), Sinclair explores the link between the physical circumstances of war and the more abstract science of psychology. The story of John’s cowardice is exposed against a detailed backdrop of different war zones. Once at the front, the novel focusses on the spaces of war as Sinclair previously experienced them and on how these spaces provide an opportunity for airing aspects of human emotions not normally associated with more conformist accounts of war-time behaviour. Competitiveness, for instance, comes to the fore over the allocation of quarters to volunteer groups. At the Flandria military hospital (taken directly out of the Journal, even with the same foolish statue above the staircase), the group learn that their field ambulance crew will have to share quarters with another corps. Once in the quarters (with the same glass door and blonde light) the corps already in situ is possessive about the space, making no room for the new arrivals. As the groups get their turn on the battlefield, John’s cowardice comes to notice as he drives away in the ambulance without the wounded, or refuses to carry the stretcher and runs away round the turn of the road with its “curving screen of trees” (1920: 101, 123). Whilst the landscapes of the battlefield help to mask John’s acts of cowardice, the different interior spaces of the quarters function as places for disclosure and reflection on his behaviour. The psychotherapist, Dr. McClane, quite likely a portrait of Hector Munro, discusses John’s illness with Charlotte in her bedroom, away from the public area of the mess-room. And when Charlotte needs time on her own to come to terms with his cowardice, she tries to hide from general view on the balcony, but is brought back into the group, back into the mess-room. They all now know how John has behaved, and by making room for her to sit down, they offer her their support. The different spaces of the mess signify private and public understanding and acknowledgement. And as John’s behaviour becomes public knowledge, so it is increasing talked about in the joint public space of the mess, and then in open spaces: John and Charlotte’s final conversation is in Convent Garden as he is trying to bolt from the war; and McClane’s final resume of John’s condition (voicing Sinclair’s psychoanalytical explanation) takes place on the deck of the boat taking them back to England. This final space of the novel is a transitional space moving between war and real life back home, a space in which to try and make sense of the events of war. Anne Severn and the Fieldings (1922) is the last novel of Sinclair’s which has the First World War as a central focus. In some ways Anne Severn is perhaps Sinclair’s most sophisticated attempt to account for the war in terms of the interior mental and psychological experience, intricately mapped out against places and spaces.


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Through the character of Anne, yet again a member of an ambulance corps in Belgium, Sinclair revisits her never-forgotten rancour at her dismissal from the front. When Colin, one of the Fielding brothers, develops a bad case of war neurosis, it is Anne his cousin and not Queenie his wife (also a member of the same corps), who is sent home to look after him. In the fictionalised version of Sinclair’s own tale, Queenie manipulates the situation so that Anne is fired “out of the Corps” (1922: 114–7). In the character of Queenie we see the unpleasant pursuit of female glory again with this woman bossily dominating the ambulance corps and greedily seeking all the action in the war zone. Yet Sinclair wreaks her revenge, and Queenie is portrayed as over-bearing and domineering, reviled by Colin and objectified as part cause of his nervous terror. Anne, on the other hand, matures in personality and looks, takes over the running of the cousins’ family estate and devises a multi-faceted, holistic approach to bringing Colin back to full mental health. Just as in other novels Sinclair used the war zones to explore heightened emotions and psychological issues, so in Anne Severn she uses the domestic interior and peace-time exteriors to portray the topography for a return to mental health. Anne’s home-made strategies for curing Colin depend upon the layout and spaces of the house and farm for their success. It is as if the interior battle against war neurosis can only be fought back in the familiar territory of the domestic space, using the actual rooms of the house and fields of the farm as a map for mental recovery. Inter-connecting bedrooms with doors left open, the terrace and the library, become places where Colin spends his time, shivering, screaming and remembering the horrors of war (1922: 120–1). Anne resists her father’s instruction to send Colin to a nursing home and instead she effects a programme of revisiting the places of their childhood. Slowly, through a combination of memory and place, he starts to recover. His final recovery has to take place outside the confines of the farm, in Sicily in fact, where the “beauty of the place” gives him the sense of inner peace he so craves (229–30). Perhaps following Sigmund Freud’s metaphor of the mind as a house, Sinclair explores the effects of the newly-prominent shell shock in terms of the interior of the house and his recovery in terms of exterior places. Whereas Freud really used the house only abstractly as a metaphor for the mind, Sinclair’s approach is perhaps more easily understood as a technique after the Symbolists, or even the Imagists where the thing stands for the idea, as in this case the house stands for Colin’s mental landscape. There is something of a displacement of the effects of shell shock onto the layout of the house. In this novel the war is on the inside, in the mind, in the home; the cure lies in being able to face the exterior. Sinclair’s negotiations with the places and spaces of her short time with a field ambulance corps are to be understood in terms of her personal encounter

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physically and psychologically in those zones. Her Journal of Impressions remains an intriguing document because of its first hand emotional response (from someone who was never in any real danger) together with its depth of insight and commentary. An apparatus of modernist techniques is employed to bypass convention and expose the aspects which concern Sinclair most of all. By locating her experiences so directly – in hospital, hotel or refugee centre – and by “placing” her self in the context of war, Sinclair’s journal reveals much concerning the experience of a non-combatant in the First World War. By the very use of places and spaces to signify her responses, by melding the external location with an internal psyche, Sinclair, neither truly inside or outside the war, negotiates an alternative voice to enrich our understanding of women, consciousness and war.

Bibliography Aldrich, Mildred. 1915. A Hilltop on the Marne: Being Letters Written June 3-September 8, 1914. London: Constable. Beauman, Nicola. 1993. ‘“It is not the place of women to talk of mud”: Some Responses by British Women Novelists to World War I’ in Goldman, Dorothy (ed.) Women and World War I: The Written Response. London: Macmillan: 128–49. Boll, Theophilus. E. M. 1962. ‘May Sinclair and the Medico-Psychological Clinic of London’ in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 106 (Aug): 310–26. . 1973. Miss May Sinclair: Novelist: A Biographical and Critical Introduction. Cranbury, New Jersey: Associated University Presses. Fussell, Paul. 1977. The Great War and Modern Memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hogan, Rebecca. 1991. ‘Engendered Autobiographies: The Diary as a Feminine Form’ in Prose Studies: Special Issue on Autobiography and Questions of Gender 14 (2, Sept): 95–107. Mack, Louise. 1915. A Woman’s Experiences in the Great War. London: Fisher Unwin. Mitton, G. E. (ed.). 1916. The Cellar-House of Pervyse: A Tale of Uncommon Things from the Journals of The Baroness T’Serclaes and Mairi Chisholm. London: A & C Black. Ouditt, Sharon. 1994. Fighting Forces, Writing Women: Identity and Ideology in the First World War. London: Routledge. . 2000. Women Writers of the First World War: An Annotated Bibliography. London: Routledge. Raitt, Suzanne. 1997. ‘“Contagious Ecstacy”: May Sinclair’s War Journals’ in Raitt, Suzanne and Trudi Tate, (eds) Women’s Fiction and the Great War. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 65–84. . 2000. May Sinclair: A Modern Victorian. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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Sinclair, May. 1915a. A Journal of Impressions in Belgium. London: Hutchinson. . 1915b. ‘The Woman at the Front: A Wild Spirit of Adventure Awakened’ in Daily Chronicle (2 February 1915). . 1915c. ‘After the Retreat’ in The Egoist 2 (1 May): 77. . 1916. Tasker Jevons: The Real Story. London: Hutchinson. . 1920. The Romantic. London: Collins. . 1922. Anne Severn and the Fieldings. London: Hutchinson. . 1919. The Tree of Heaven. London: Cassell. . 1926. Far End. London: Hutchinson. . 1927. History of Anthony Waring. London: Hutchinson. Smith, Angela. K. 2000a. Women’s Writing of the First World War: An Anthology. Manchester: Manchester University Press. . 2000b. The Second Battlefield: Women, Modernism and the First World War. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Tylee, Claire. 1990. The Great War and Women’s Consciousness: Images of Militarism and Womanhood in Women’s Writings, 1914–64. Iowa: University of Iowa Press. West, Rebecca. 1982. ‘Miss Sinclair’s Genius’ in Jane Marcus (ed.) The Young Rebecca: Writings of Rebecca West 1911–17. London: Macmillan: 304–07. Wilson, Leigh. 2003. ‘“She in her ‘Armour’ and He in his Coat of Nerves”’ in Heilmann, Ann (ed.) Feminist Forerunners: New Womanism and Feminism in the Early Twentieth Century. London: Pandora: 179–88. Yaeger, Patricia. 1996. ‘Introduction: Narrating Space’ in Yaeger, Patricia (ed.) The Geography of Identity. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan: 1–38.

Expanding the Private and Public Spaces of War: Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth Aránzazu Usandizaga
abstract Since 1990 critics have proved that women considerably enlarged their territory during WWI. Their intrusions were physical as well as moral, imaginative and literary. Modernism encouraged and taught women to steadily invade forbidden territories. This chapter analyses Vera Brittain’s appropriation of war space in her 1933 text Testament of Youth. In the context of her critics and biographer, we suggest that in spite of Brittain’s limitations, particularly in terms of comprehending the conditions imposed by class and gender, her text is groundbreaking. It dares to trespass the most dangerous spaces of war writing: the contradictions of patriotism; the risks and humiliations of being a VAD; the need to assimilate the enemy; the suffering of losing a lover, a brother and most friends in the war; the difficulties of adapting to the dramatic changes undergone by women during and after the war; the acceptance of women’s responsibilities towards the home front as well as the war front; of suffering men’s anxiety and fear of women during and after the war; the desolation of having to adapt to a post-war scenario intent on forgetting the war; the futility of the post-war peace efforts. The chapter focuses on her discourses, passionate and convincing, as well as detached and objective; a testament of herself and her generation. It traces the connections between her text and the new genres of the thirties, such as reportage, and her influence over the important war reports provided by British and American women of the period. Keywords: Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth, modernism, space.

1. Introduction
Focusing on female war experience leads to an awareness of war as less firmly bounded in both space and time than conventional historiography would have it. (Debra Rae Cohen 2001: 37)

Access to unknown spaces began to have profound effects on women’s lives since the late-nineteenth century, both in public and private terms; in terms of self-knowledge as well as of public and political projection because, as Virginia Woolf suggests in A Room of One’s (1929), private and public spaces are


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intricately connected. At the same time, the complex tensions women writers faced in their changing negotiations with the redefinition of spaces traditionally excluded to them inspired an intense exploration of metaphorical and symbolic spaces in literary representation. These changes became particularly visible after 1914 when women’s penetration of new territories acquired an unprecedented scale. Their dramatic advance was indeed mostly due to the tragic events of World War I. As Sandra Gilbert famously discussed in her 1982 article, “Soldier’s Heart: Literary Men, Literary Women, and the Great War”, the Great War intensely and very suddenly subverted the accepted culture of women because for the first time in western history women were actively and urgently needed in the war effort. The surprisingly prolific inspiration these changes inspired to women writers during the war and the two decades of the post-war is the best testimony of their need to come to terms with the private and public relocation which was to unexpectedly and profoundly affect their culture and their understanding of themselves. Indeed the most important consequence of this new sudden awareness is their wish for expression and self-expression not only in trying to understand the war but also in grasping the meaning of their own involvement in the conflict and in the events of the decades after the war. Yet the rediscovery and canonical recognition of women’s war writing has been remarkably slow and gradual. Though women were dramatically committed to the war effort, the full responsibility in what was understood to be the truthful interpretation of the war was initially and for many decades attributed to the war soldier-poets and authors. Critic Margaret Higonnet indicates the emergence of this new group of combatant writers: “Canonical interpretation has held that mass conscription created a new kind of artist: a soldier-poet who recorded his direct experience” (1994: 144). Direct experience and ironic detachment from events initially became the acceptable approaches in the narrative of a conflict considered too tragic and unintelligible to be comprehended and explained. The impossibility of coming to terms with the magnitude and the sheer irrationality of the war inevitably led soldier-poets to give up interpretation in favour of minute description and irony, and to silence the overall rationalization of unbearable experience. Such is the case of many of the best known soldier-writers of the war: Robert Graves, Richard Aldington, Siegfried Sassoon, Edmund Blunden, etc. These processes inevitably reinforced old beliefs and prejudices as to the authority in the description of war because direct access to actual fighting was, of course, practically restricted to soldiers. In one of the most widely read war novels, All Quiet in the Western Front (1930) by Erich Maria Remarque, its soldier-hero, Paul Baumer, stands for a clear example of such attitudes. When at home for

biographies. Quinn and Steven Trout emphasize its originality at the time of its publication. women’s need to make their dramatic experience believable seemed to justify a literature closely committed to the narrative of facts. women authors were forced to find their own imaginative voices in accounting for their understanding and interpretation of the spaces newly occupied by them during the Great War. that is to say. many women appear to have turned to another genre. letters. short stories. Margaret Higonnet. dramas and autobiographies on the war period and its aftermath. Since the 1980s. Dorothy Goldman. 2. Baumer’s reaction continued to radicalise the theoretical distance between front and home-front. Trudi Tate. Unlike soldier-poets. They have shown that the imaginative effort invested in its narration and interpretation by women and non combatants. and critics Claire Tylee. Sharon Ouditt. It further lent itself to the handling of women’s urgent need to experiment in the projection of their own problems and limitations. Given the lack of a tradition in the writing of war. Higonnet recognises these tensions in women’s war texts and defines the strategies they used in their writing: “In order to confront the censorship of critiques of war. such as the home fronts and the areas outside the fronts. Critics Patrick J. Paul decides not to talk to his family and home-front friends about the war because he feels his experiences at the front cannot possibly be comprehended except by actual soldiers. The tradition of women’s autobiography was well established by 1918 and the profound social and psychological changes for women triggered by the war stimulated women writers to imaginatively invade physical and mental spaces so far unknown. poems. Intense research has been going on since the early nineties. diaries. Though history proves that “war is a national activity that destroys behind the lines as well as at the front” (Higonnet 1993: 154). between war-loving men and peace-loving women. they often chose revised versions of the autobiographical for their interpretations of the war. According to them it was recognised to be: . Narrating the Great War One of the most ambitious autobiographical war texts published by a woman is Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth (1933).Expanding the Private and Public Spaces of War 251 a few weeks on leave from the front. the semifictional. sketch” (Higonnet 1993: 155). Though they used many different genres in their war writing. novels. and others have undertaken serious revisions of a great number of documents by non-combatants. the writing from spaces other than the actual fronts. critics and scholars have convincingly argued and proved that texts by non-combatants are essential in order to complete our understanding of the political and military events of World War I. is truly relevant. semitestimonial.

her text can be seen as importantly contributing to the expansion of the genre of women’s war autobiography. (Patrick J. A Farewell to Arms. or Goodbye to All That. Though not committed to any specific political ideology but to an intellectual objectivity and emotional detachment. international communism deeply affected the literature and culture of the period. Testament of Youth may have been particularly relevant to the important number of autobiographical war texts . Quinn and Steven Trout 2001: 1) Several issues must be looked into in order to approach both Brittain’s purposes in her choice of the genre of autobiography as well as of the kind of autobiographical text she produced.252 Aránzazu Usandizaga […] the single female contribution to a supposedly masculine genre. Also the date and publisher of her text should be considered as relevant to its understanding since Testament of Youth can be seen as influenced by the genre defined by George Lukács as reportage: a genre capable of providing the adequate connection between the general and the particular [.. its descriptions present connections. Though theoretically respectful of the intense modernist literary experimentation taking place at the time. the writing of the war poets or the prose literature of so-called disillusionment texts such as All Quiet in the Western Front. In the early nineteen thirties literature and culture were undergoing an intense revision. and foresee their consequences. show their causes. by Victor Gollancz. (Coiner 1995: 28) Brittain’s text was published in London in 1933. In the case of women writers it further allowed them to move openly away from the conventions of confessional autobiography and to penetrate public spaces so far inaccessible to them. as stated by Leon Trotsky in his influential study. a famous intellectual of the left at the time. The cultural policies recently initiated by the extremely influential communist Popular Front both in England and the United States during the Great Depression focussed on imposing the communist revolution by dominating culture and literature as opposed to the previous policies of international communism mainly targeted towards influencing and controlling the working classes. and of becoming very influential in the writing of later autobiographical texts and war texts by women. became extremely influential. the genre of reportage. Given the urgency to respond to the dramatic social consequences of economic depression in the west. Literature and Revolution (1924). Testament of Youth is very probably influenced by reportage in its attempt at finding the rhetoric capable of reworking the balance between the personal and the political.] True reportage was not limited to simply narrating events. the autobiographical report. The author openly confesses her literary intentions when writing her war autobiography by insisting that “the poetry of this age lies in its prose” (1933: 125)..

Though certainly concerned with the literary. Brittain’s writing and also the kind of life she chooses. as well as to similar attempts by women during and after World War II. As suggested by Gorham. religious – are to be labelled inadmissible as subjects for fiction. Brittain believes it is no longer possible to dissociate the personal from the political. or moral protest against. both personal and professional. Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth lacks the deft. Sassoon. Though ambivalently received by critics. the war […] In contrast to the literature of the trenches. Muriel Mellown confirms Brittain’s beliefs in the tight connections between one’s private and public selves: “Brittain contended that a principal function of the novel is to reveal the impingement of public affairs on private lives” (Mellown 1983: 216). Graves and similar writers is important because it replaced the language of traditional heroism with an ironic vision. understated irony that has become the hallmark of the best Great War literature. Brittain’s autobiography wishes to understand “why the war happened”. The author openly admits her literary and political convictions and purposes in her novel Honourable Estate (1936): “If large areas of human experience – political. Testament of Youth does not attempt the more radically modernist literary experiment in the writing of autobiography of the period. social. economic. and given the dramatic economic and political situation in the west since the last years of the nineteen twenties and early thirties. Private choices and literary initiatives must assume and meet public responsibilities. Brittain’s biographer. then fiction is doomed as organic art” (qtd. Brittain is too affected by events to submit them to the unexplored paths of literary experimentation. (Gorham 1996: 233) Though challenging within the genre of war autobiography as well as openly experimental within the conventions of the genre. like many other writers and intellectuals. it does not offer a coherent explanation for. After the unexpected suffering caused by World War I. Deborah Gorham partly explains the aspects that distinguish Brittain’s text from other war autobiographies and provides some of the reasons for its immediate popularity: While the work of Blunden. reflects the urgent need prevalent since the war and particularly in the nineteen thirties to locate the private in the context of the public. and its effects on herself and . Testament of Youth became an immediate bestseller because of its significant difference from the autobiographical texts written by war poets. But it has something to offer that understated irony does not: namely a reasoned analysis of why the war happened and of how to prevent a future war. by Mellown 1983: 216).Expanding the Private and Public Spaces of War 253 written by English and American women on the Spanish Civil War a few years later.

both in terms of space and of emotion. As the war proceeds. Brittain had always been deeply tied to her only brother Edward. a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment). professional and social terms. social and cultural changes imposed by the war. and imaginatively connecting them to the wider publicized and interpreted spaces of the political and military scenario. The war is the central event in her text. In spite of its limits. her brother Edward and their close group of friends. hospitals move closer to the threatening fronts. nevertheless Brittain does experiment with original ways of integrating the personal and the historical: of introducing and giving expression to the private spaces of her feelings and ideas. pivots around the war and its consequences both in personal. The early pages of the text devoted to the narrative of her happy. and the description of her experience during the war and her response to it occupies the long. she refuses to abandon them and decides to share their dangerous destiny by joining soldiers all the way to their deaths. As we read in Testament of Youth. by Cohen 2001: 37). and also she decided to give up her education and join the war as a voluntary nurse. Also the last third part of her text.254 Aránzazu Usandizaga others. as well as all of their intimate friends. In tracing her persona from her earliest memories all the way to 1933. Testament of Youth inaugurates an independent approach to the narrative of war. it is accurate to recognise that her text manages to achieve what Claire Tylee defines as “[the] enlarging [of] the landscape of the mind” (qtd. the pages covering the period between 1918 and 1933. Her first training as a voluntary nurse takes place in Buxton and London hospitals where the war wounded are sent in from the French and Belgian fronts. and the author is forced to experience invasion (Brittain . Brittain was twenty one when the war broke out. as well as “the deconstruction of a particular way of remembering and representing war by deploying a new arsenal of war imagery” (Cooke 1993: 200). Though not radically modernist in its literary experimentation. In the summer of 1914 her brother. Brittain’s autobiographical persona narrates her wish to closely follow the British soldiers in their changing fighting scenarios. Roland Leighton. her brother’s intimate friend and Brittain’s lover. Profoundly attached to her lover Roland. central part of her narrative. privileged childhood and early youth are presented as the background to the terrible events of 1914 as well as the point of departure to the dramatic personal. Also the author had been accepted at Somerville College at Oxford in 1914. Next she chooses to follow the troops abroad: initially for a year to Malta and immediately to the deadly western fronts of northern France. Brittain describes how they were all immediately to volunteer and eventually to die at different times and fronts during the war. and the very interesting post war period she records derives directly from the war experience. were students at Oxford with a promising future ahead of them.

As a result her testament of youth encompasses. her whole generation’s reactions to war as well as that of many members of other generations involved in the tragedy and affected by it. her narrator becomes a tentative self composed of many fragments. All these voices provide complementary as well as contradictory information. In terms of her literary persona. The literary persona Within the limits of straightforward. an aspiring narrator sharing the difficult responsibility of describing the many aspects of the conflict.Expanding the Private and Public Spaces of War 255 1988: 385–90). 2. She also critically revises her own memories by rereading and quoting from the diary she kept until the end of the war as well as from the notes she wrote at the time. Far from limiting her text to the exclusive expression of her own personal experiences and intimate responses and ideas to events. Testament of Youth is thus an autobiography written in permanent dialogue initially with the living as well as with the dead. She further completes her own ideas and perceptions with those of many others by quoting from letters sent and received in the present and the past. from conversations she accurately remembers. In order to achieve her goal of providing voices other than her own and creating a richer and more complex narrative texture. bombardments (Brittain 1988: 417–20) and is ultimately submitted to all kinds of war suffering. and eventually also with her persona’s past self. besides her own. those of her friends and family as well as to opinions and information stated by public figures and sometimes published in the media. The extended persona capable of incorporating many dissonant voices. personal responses to the event as well as those of her closest family and friends. and allow for a constant critical contrast to her present individual memories and feelings. It enables the narrator to locate the hidden spaces of intimacy in the well-known context of public spaces. one of the most interesting experiments Brittain introduces in her text is her decision to expand her literary persona. and often even from conversations she imagines.1. poems and occasionally even music fragments. realistic autobiography. simultaneously caught in the complex process of trying to articulate a consistent autobiographical whole. positions and responses to the war also allows the author to experiment with original ways of integrating the personal and the historical: the wider publicized and interpreted spaces of the political and military scenario and her intimate. the author also incorporates other people’s versions of events and situations by introducing quotations from texts. so that though events are presented in . the narrator manages to include a broad spectrum of opinions and points of view by always contrasting her persona’s own intense impressions and reactions to the increasingly dramatic events to those of others.

located in a devastated scenario. when the persona faces one of the most difficult narrative moments in the text.2. I look fixedly at the sky […] At Keymer a fierce gale is blowing and I am out alone […] It is late afternoon. Her account of the war years is truly absorbing in that it includes her narrator’s description of both the front and the home front. Her reactions to her lover’s death are reported by introducing a series of disconnected images irrelevant to the tragic fact of Roland’s death. that of having to narrate her character’s reaction to intimate loss at the news of her lover Roland Leighton’s death at the front. A solitary cup of coffee stands before me on a hotel breakfast table. This ubiquity enables her to transcend accepted notions of war space both for combatants and non-combatants and provides her with a new authority.256 Aránzazu Usandizaga relation to the narrator’s experiences and personal interpretation. for example. Not only is Brittain very near the fronts most of the time. like a kaleidoscope through my mind. Forbidden territories Perhaps Brittain’s most interesting accomplishment in her war text is her daring invasion of narrative space both physical and metaphorical. In following what could be described as the language of film. disconnected but crystal clear. at the organ of the small village church. Though devastated by the event. Outside. but indeed her narrator dares to enter forbidden metaphorical territory in dealing with the deepest and mostly unanswered questions both men and . Her efficiency is proved. in front of the promenade. dismal grey waves tumble angrily over one another […] In an omnibus going to Keymer. The event is thus efficiently referred to from the perspective of a detached observer: Whenever I think of the weeks that followed the news of Roland’s death. the narrator is made to completely deconstruct her intense emotional response to the tragedy by projecting it from the writer’s present. These precarious balances can be seen to be adequately controlled by the author in the distance she manages to establish between herself and the intense emotion of some of the most dramatic events she is forced to experience. they remain interesting historical testimonies. a series of pictures. I try to drink it but fail ignominiously. Edward is improvising a haunting memorial hymn for Roland […] I am back on night duty at Camberwell after my leave […] (Brittain 1988: 239–41) 2. the narrator is prevented from invading the narrative moment with her own excess of feeling. a series of scenes which evoke and contemplate from the distance of time and space a number of isolated memories of a character belonging to the past. unroll themselves.

from the perspective of the present in which she fight that you may save your country’s freedom from falling into the hands of this terrible and ruthless foe. surely it is a worthy idea . quasimystical. (Brittain 1988: 370) The feeling of total desolation takes hold of her very early in time and she cannot avoid referring to her perplexity when writing from the first hospital in which she trains as a nurse: “This war means such a waste of life even when people don’t die” (Brittain 1988: 220).. Yet. illimitable . she needs to evoke the intrinsic contradictions raised by the war. when suspicion and doubt began to creep in. the narrator recognises it also as a source of extraordinary vitality: “France was the scene of titanic. It is awful to think that the very progress of civilization has made this war what it is […] Just to think that we have got to the stage of motors. in the constant re-affirmation of incredible courage. and went on trying to believe.] In the light of all you have seen. She looks into the most intricately dangerous mental and physical spaces of war. lofty and ideal. Undoubtedly this state of mind was what anti-war propagandists call it – hysterical exaltation. To refuse to acknowledge this is to underrate the power of those white angels which fight so naïvely on the side of destruction. and critically claiming her generation’s excessive innocence. the enemy. the more ardent and frequent was the periodic re-dedication. heroism. She discusses patriotism. idealistic hysteria – but it had concrete results in stupendous patience. the narrator asks: Is it really all for nothing – for an empty name – an ideal? […] Will the issue not be worth one of the lives that have been sacrificed for it? Or did we need this gigantic catastrophe to wake up all that was dead within us? [. the more deliberate the self-induced conviction that our efforts were disinterested and our cause was just.Expanding the Private and Public Spaces of War 257 women faced in their need to come to terms with the conflict. tell me what you think […] Surely. and though harshly denouncing the perverse reasons that triggered the conflict. disastrously pure in heart and unsuspicious of elderly self-interest and cynical exploitation.. and tackles the most upsetting personal and public matters. the narrator recognises the greatness involved in the tragic sacrifice: Between 1914 and 1918 young men and women. telephones […] and yet have not passed the stage of killing one another […] (Brittain 1988: 116) Such reflections are later passionately and intensely contradicted. Though war is far more deathly and tragic than one can imagine. and the possible meanings of life and death. aeroplanes. were continually rededicating themselves – as I did […] – to an end that they believed. in superhuman endurance. She further dares to give expression to some of the most disturbing questions raised by the war: Freely quoting from one of the letters she had sent to her lover Roland Leighton shortly before his tragic death at the Belgian front in 1915. When patriotism wore threadbare.

Brittain’s narrator also goes through the terrible struggle of having to nurse wounded German soldiers-prisoners. perhaps a week or two earlier. and for this very reason it had become the heart of the fiercest living ever known to any generation” (Brittain 1988: 372). can be increasingly recognised in much front war writing. Brittain has her persona profoundly reject war but she also forces her to assume the enormous energy it raises: Looking back upon the psychological processes of us who were very young sixteen years ago. As did many soldierpoets. Paul Fussell reveals this profound ambivalence as reflected by many soldier-poets. does produce heroism to a far greater extent than it brutalises. where the poet imagines a haunted unexpected meeting between the ghosts of dead soldiers of both fighting sides. (Brittain 1988: 376) The narrator identifies with the problems and ambivalences of Allied soldiers at this stage of the war. The poem’s last line. (Brittain 1988: 370) Another ambiguous and slippery edge of war Brittain forces her persona to penetrate can be seen in her response to the sympathy felt by many soldiers towards the enemy. thinking how ridiculous it was that I should be holding this man’s hand in friendship when. my friend”. Edward. dying boys and I were paying alike for a situation that none of us had desired or done anything to bring about. the anxiety that the real enemy was not the soldier at the other side of the trenches. As a nurse working in field hospitals located close to the western fronts.258 Aránzazu Usandizaga death. The world was mad and we were all victims […] These shattered. When a very badly wounded Prussian soldier thanks the narrator for her help. perhaps expressed most famously by Wilfried Owen in his well known poem “Strange Meeting” (1918). but the war itself and those who supported it. it seems to me that […] our task is infinitely complicated by the fact that war. up at Ypres had been doing his best to kill him. she is faced with the complexity of the situation: [He] held out an emaciated hand to me […] After barely a second’s hesitation I took the pale fingers in mine. she also wrote about the intimate conflicts produced by the experience. while it lasts. becomes the ultimate recognition of the essentially tragic destiny common to soldiers on both sides in being forced to take part in an increasingly irrational fight and in having to destroy an unknown enemy. As the war dragged on for months and years. “I am the enemy you killed. and the similarity of her feelings and responses to the . Owen summarizes the feeling which was to have devastating psychological effects on soldiers. of perhaps having to look after the very men responsible for the deaths of her lover and friends.

in a war hospital at Malta. she contemplates for the first time with new hope the newly arrived American troops. Her uncle also writes to her in 1916 about Lloyd George’s abilities and the amount of hope his new Government raises (Brittain 1988: 315). Though often critical of militarism and ambivalent about patriotism. as the first glimpses of hope begin to be recognised her attitude towards patriotism and the war seems to also change. ‘and it does show how absurd the whole thing is’” (Brittain 1988: 377). abundantly quoted in the text allow the persona to be aware of the many government tensions and crises taking place in England during the war. Brave and . In November of 1917. Nothing had quite equalled them before – not the Somme. I have never been able to visualise Lord Haig as the colossal blunderer […] of the Somme massacre of 1916” (Brittain 1988: 420). incredible fear that we might lose the War. (Brittain 1988: 411) She also has significant personal impressions to communicate about people’s reactions to events at home. not Arras. what they eat and don’t eat. and has interesting remarks to make about controversial politicians and military commanders. not Passchendaele – for into our minds had crept for the first time the secret. when she confesses: I shall never forget the crushing tension of those extreme days. She provides information about war in the Mediterranean while working as a V. in particular of Commander Douglas Haig (Brittain 1988: 420). and in the last stages of the war she knows exactly what is going on in the Italian front because her brother writes to her uninterruptedly from his position in Italy until his death in 1918. As is the case with soldier-poets and writers Brittain’s narrator is very capable of communicating the anguish of their bombarded field hospital on March 22. what they do. Brittain’s persona has all the details about a war simultaneously fought in geographies widely distant from one another. and his letters. Her uncle. Not only does the narrator receive and quote their letters constantly but she also visits them from time to time and knows exactly how they live. working in the war administration.Expanding the Private and Public Spaces of War 259 matter are confirmed in her quotation from the letter her brother writes to her at the time: “‘It is very strange that you should be nursing Hun prisoners. in the devastated spaces of what was by then an endless and aimless conflict.A. The text provides opinions significantly in agreement with those proposed in some of the latest contemporary studies on his performance as war commander: “Although […] the publication of official revelations has stripped from the Haig myth much of its glory.D. what they think and feel. 1918.’ wrote Edward from the uproar in the Salient. becomes the source of inside administrative and political information otherwise inaccessible.

Though they had shared their lives in the past. and is reinforced in the last stages of the war with the perspective of victory. of Haig’s Special Order of April 11. so splendidly unimpaired in comparison with the tired. Personal Loss In one of its most interesting aspects. moods and emotions of the dangerous last months of war. She reproduces in her text the dramatic order sent to them by Commander Haig to hold out and if necessary. at this stage the narrator records the gradual distances emerging from the differing experiences that drive them inevitably apart. 459) Brittain has her persona remember the tensions. She dares to look into the darkest corners of war culture . 1918. to die: There is no course open to us but to fight it out. her lover as well as the world. The new tentative persona she works out in her text is profoundly affected by what she experiences as well as by her long and difficult argument with trying to come to terms with it. with her effort at trying to understand how war has changed not only herself. 2.260 Aránzazu Usandizaga capable American soldiers and “triumphant battle” are visualised in all their military glory: They looked larger that ordinary men […] so god-like. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight to the end […] (Brittain 1988: 419) Her patriotism. the narrator is finally made to come to terms with her country and tradition when the royal family visits the hospital she is working in. her brother’s and her friends during the war. to whom it was addressed. prevails at this hugely dramatic moment. nerve-racked men of the British Army […] the old armies reinforced by the exultant. so magnificent. when the German offensive seemed to be at its worst. inexhaustible Americans […] [in] the growing crescendo of triumphant battle […] (Brittain 1988: 421. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. she also realises that the values commonly held in the past are no longer sustainable in the context of the extraordinary subversions and contradictions of war and of the unexpected feelings. Brittain’s text offers an unusual and very precise analysis of the gradual destruction of her own pre-war self as well as of that of her lover’s. questioned in the previous pages of the text. In a key scene in the text. but her family and friends. If she and her peers have ceased to share the most determining experiences of the present. thoughts and emotions it brought about. She evokes the enormous impact upon “All ranks of the British Army in France and Flanders”.3.

Again in a letter to Rowland she gives expression to such uncertainties: The War. after seeing some of the dreadful things I have to see here. and this second part also shows some of its limitations. Back to Peace Brittain’s long text of 668 tight pages in its 1988 Virago edition covers not only the war years and the years of her childhood and early youth previous to the outbreak of war. The widening gap she acknowledges between herself. but also those after Armistice until 1933. of experiences bound to have determining personal consequences which cannot be shared with those with whom one has always been in permanent dialogue. also recognises the unbridgeable distance between them and in one of his many letters suggests that the only possible consolation to it lies in clinging to the memory of the past: “[…] you find me changed. Having ceased to share the dramatic events of war and not being able to easily communicate their reactions and responses to them. more than I find you. Testament of Youth is thus not exclusively a war text but a post-war memoir as well. Personally. and to a failure as yet to understand completely how deep-rooted and far-reaching its ultimate consequences must be. This third part is initially triggered by the narrator’s wish to describe the difficulties the generation of war survivors were forced to face in their realisation of how profoundly war had determined their future: I resembled many other contemporaries who were at last recovering from the numbing shocks of the wartime years. our hopefulness was due to a belief that the War was really over. I feel I shall never be the same person again […] (Brittain 1988: 215) There is but scarce consolation for such feelings of tragic distance and isolation. with the increasing tensions it creates between them and between their different ways of understanding and interpreting the experience of war. and causing the qualities which mattered most to appear unimportant […] I wonder how much really all you have seen and done has changed you.Expanding the Private and Public Spaces of War 261 in dealing with the threatening distance the war establishes between men and women. I expect. her family and her friends – between herself and her lover. But we share a memory which is worth all the rest of the world and the sun of that memory never sets” (Brittain 1988: 361). her brother and her intimate friends – leads to her tragic awareness of the increasing misunderstanding between those at the front and those left behind. making real values seem unreal. Edward. was dividing us as I had so long feared that it would. The narrator’s brother. that is perhaps the way of Life. (Brittain 1988: 537) . 3. their psychological distance gradually widens. I began to feel.

They must face the loss of a solid post war community. the author moves in the direction of choosing to accomplish a radical change of class. Her reaction at the overwhelming refusal on the part of survivors and of the younger generations to glance backward becomes increasingly painful and particularly unacceptable in view of the silent official agreement that the war generation must accept and survive the terrible suffering on its own.262 Aránzazu Usandizaga If the war had hugely broadened Brittain’s spatial scenario. and devotes her whole energy to such attempts. Indeed her next immediate move after demobilisation in 1920 is to return to Oxford.1. she decides to penetrate the realm of feminism as well as of pacifism. It takes the narrator a long time to learn to live in a changed world no longer inhabited by her beloved peers and in which the culture she shared with them has all but disappeared. At this stage her search for possible spaces of survival is dominated by her personal conflicts and sorrows. Brittain has her narrator invade three post-war spaces in the pages of her testament: her first steps take her back to the spaces of the past and to the necessary effort in the recovery of its memory so as to be able to understand and accept the tragedy of war. Secondly. the narrator very soon needs to tread the most difficult territory for the war generation: the need to merge in an environment no longer interested in their suffering. Though the narrator returns to the life she had left in 1914. Her exploration of new spaces in the years immediately after the war is presented as full of contradictions. the spaces she reencounters are now radically transformed. The best choices seem unclear to her. and the much expected new and rewarding spaces of peace seem increasingly difficult to find. Her generation’s eventual reaction to the new lack of response and respect for the past is to be “ashamed of war” (Brittain 1988: 510) and it takes some time for them to get over the feeling. It takes some time before she can come to terms with the apparent and generalised lack of concern with the war as soon as it was over. of personal loss as well as the extraordinary social change imposed after the war. This state of affairs has a profound effect on the narrator who very soon collapses with depression. 3. Spaces of the past As an Oxford student suddenly submerged in a world populated by the post-war generation. The narrator projects her own depression and neurosis (Brittain 1988: 511) in the face of the general decision to forget and move on to a profoundly changed post-war scenario. . the author encounters important difficulties in her wish to expand and psychologically grow both personally and artistically in times of peace. but the changing world imposes new trials as well as further rites of passage upon her and her generation. and finally.

the narrator gives up her previous choice of studying for a degree in Literature. no matter how painful. implicit in history. from happening to other people in the days to come. to find out all about it. mistaken and incomprehensible it may have been. (Brittain 1988: 471) In “Oh. Testament of Youth. Indeed. in so far as one person can. the author argues that the First World War was so intensely written about because in 1914 literature was still very much the dominant art and entertainment for a broad section of the British population.2. her lover . Perhaps the means of salvation are already there. The change is extremely significant given her lack of preparation in historical studies and her awareness of the many difficulties that lie ahead. now. and to gather as much information as possible about their deaths. From Literature to History The war radically determines the narrator’s return to peace and the importance of remembering is provided also as the source for her decision to reorient her studies.Expanding the Private and Public Spaces of War 263 In view of this the narrator gradually realises that the first and most important space to be recovered by her and her generation of war survivors. carefully concealed by the war-mongers. This approach to the physical context of their individual tragedies aims at establishing the first necessary mental structures of sense and understanding capable of articulating and explaining their heroism as well as of leaving a true record of their individual tragic destinies (Brittain 1988: 524–34). unadvertised. and she must make sure its hopes. Yet it responds to her priority in devoting her life to the understanding of the true reasons that led to World War I. very successfully initiated by her just before the war. the initial stages of this recovery take her to Italy and France to find the tombs of her brother. The awareness of this need to remember. their greatest responsibility. Back in Oxford in 1920. assumed and given new sense. Brittain’s persona. and chooses to take History instead. as well as her brother. is the recovery of the past by means of memory. its extraordinary effort and its overwhelming suffering are not obliterated in a new world adamant about forgetting. The Great War and Modern Memory. only awaiting rediscovery to be acknowledged with enthusiasm by all thinking men and women. The disappeared spaces of the past must be brought back to memory. one of the most inspired chapters in Paul Fussell’s famous book. What a Literary War”. of her lover and of her other dead friends. 3. Perhaps the careful study of man’s past will explain to me much that seems inexplicable in this disconcerting present. as well as to her priority in the urgent need to work in the prevention of a new conflict: It’s my job. It also stimulates her to get in touch with as many of their surviving comrades as can be found. In personal terms. and try to prevent it. becomes one of the reasons and sources of her autobiographical narrative. to never forget the past.

Later in her story. of youthful hope. does not abandon the tradition of realism. that of the intellectual and the writer. are all already great readers and aspirant writers before the war. her work. the narrator’s early decision to study Literature in Oxford before the war had been inspired by the passion her generation had felt towards the great tradition of literature in English. and in emphasizing her early unquestionable wish to become a member of a broader intellectual class. Like much of the writing of the nineteen thirties. when working as a nurse at the western front in 1916. After the war. The intellectual class In the case of Brittain the choice of a literary career was at the same time profoundly related with issues of class. she renounces literary creation as her main target at a time in which literature had become radically experimental. The first time she attends a lecture in Oxford on a visit previous to her enrolment. even her fiction. at a time of great social and political uncertainty it was widely supported and promoted. the narrator receives a letter from her previous English tutor and feels excessively comforted by it: For it represented a link with the world once so rapturously chosen and now incredibly remote – the world of intellectual experiment. though Brittain’s persona chooses to become a writer. I had some excuse for thinking that I had strayed by accident into the most exclusive circle of a celestial hierarchy” (Brittain 1988: 64).264 Aránzazu Usandizaga and friends. and had responded to her own strong literary inclination shared by her brother. Yet the argument she provides to justify her desire to change class and her attitudes towards the class she aims to join is often questionable. her lover and her friends. Her early acknowledged passion for the life of the intellect and for literature in particular had originated already in her childhood and had become the source of her early rejection of the industrial and merchant upper-middle class she was born into and of her choice of a new class. of all the profound and lovely things that belong to the kingdom of the mind. and after the war. 3.3. In such terms Brittain chooses a form of writing indebted to the past over the more challenging modernist writing. profoundly concerned with the historical and political. According to Brittain’s text. (Brittain 1988: 246) The description provided in the text of the heroine’s romance with Roland . if not at times openly uncritical. she refers to the city as an “Earthly Paradise […]. The narrator is consistent throughout her war testament in showing her awareness of the limitations attached to the class into which she had been born. Intellectual life was already prestigious for its inclination to favour liberal change.

rather than in their intimate attraction their love seems to emerge from their common readings and find reason and support in their mutual purpose to become writers: “Months of intimate correspondence had bound us together. Yet Brittain’s chosen change of class is seen to have been more difficult and contradictory than it is made to seem in her autobiography. 3.4. the author “had built herself a solid career […] as a journalist. as well the reasons she provides for her decision to become an intellectual and a writer. Old versus new ethics According to Ouditt. Again Ouditt critically comments on the author’s . and yet between us was this physical barrier of the too conscious. For example. According to her biographer. before the publication of Testament of Youth in 1933. One of the aspects of Roland’s life the narrator most values is significantly the fact that both his father and mother are writers. these uncertainties become very relevant in evaluating Brittain’s discussion of the moral responsibilities assumed in the writing of Testament of Youth. the persona is allowed to be carried away by a process of indiscriminate idealization in describing her appearance to the narrator’s “rapturous eyes as the individual embodiment of that distant Eldorado. somehow question the validity of her choice. One of them is Olive Schreiner. too sensitive flesh” (Brittain 1988: 114). The first time she sees his mother. The processes leading to the narrator’s change of class and the systematic steps she takes towards becoming an intellectual and a writer are indeed accomplished by 1933. an issue of the greatest relevance given the serious moral complexities raised by the war.Expanding the Private and Public Spaces of War 265 before the war also seems to respond to her passion for the literary and to originate almost exclusively in their shared interest for certain authors and texts. as a lecturer. something less affluent women were forced to do if they wished to pursue professional independence. the world of letters” (Brittain 1988: 115). Writing Women: Identity and Ideology in the First World War. In her study Fighting Forces. Ouditt traces the presence of some of the less attractive forms of upper-class snobbery in Brittain’s text and denounces a sense of privileged distance on the part of the narrator on several occasions. for example. As the narrator candidly admits. as a writer of non-fiction and even as a novelist” (Gorham 1996: 187). Sharon Ouditt offers critical remarks on the subject of Brittain’s attitudes to class as expressed by her heroine in Testament of Youth. Literature is not only an inclination and an interest they share but it is turned into the basis of their mutual understanding and love. her unquestioned dismissal of the idea of working as a professional nurse after the war.

Also the narrator’s representation of sexuality remains uncertain: sometimes suggested but always treated from a distance. In that sense. in the presentation of the narrator’s mother as denounced by Ouditt. and specifically to George Eliot. she omits from her text. Yet Eliot’s vision inevitably corresponds to a world of the past. In fact. remains in the end unambiguously accepted and supported. Woolf was not only devastated and outraged by the war but was further to take to its most dramatic consequences the investigation of the war’s deathly effects upon the old self: in the case of Septimus Smith. The text does not face the narrator’s need to assume her necessarily contradictory feelings towards her mother whose kind of life she obviously rejects but whom she simultaneously dearly loves. Though her autobiographical text is in many ways very daring. The intellectual and. Virginia Woolf for instance. in particularly as dramatised in Daniel Deronda and Felix Holt. ambivalent to her and particularly difficult to handle because of the profound revisions they were being submitted to. the Radical. and Eliot’s attitudes cannot possibly be made to wholly account for the moral tensions and contradictions raised by the conflict. becomes the ethical reference of Brittain’s autobiography of 1933. dared to assume the greater intellectual and literary risks in penetrating all the way into the dangerous psychological spaces of patriotism. This she does. Indeed throughout the text the narrator herself openly proposes her moral notions of responsibility as directly connected to the nineteenth century. and defines them as old-fashioned: “There is a puritan reserve that seems to belong […] to the generation of a Dorothea Brooke” (Ouditt 1994: 33). Eliot’s moral imagination. motherhood or women’s cultural revisions.266 Aránzazu Usandizaga notions of morality as expressed by her narrator in the text. the many issues her autobiography leaves unquestioned and unanswered point towards her moral uncertainties. Also patriotism. Brittain does indeed seem to leave important new ethical realms unexplored in her text. as a consequence. The ethical dimension of some key cultural questions at the time. though questioned in specific moments in the text. for example. the moral revolution at the turn of the century is perhaps too radical to be understood in terms of the past. I believe it is not unfair to say that Brittain does not propose the profound revision both in understanding and in the reinterpretation of moral spaces which had began to take place at the turn of the century and most dramatically after the Great War. though Brittain chooses and undertakes an apparent change of class in rejecting the ways of the English upper-middle class at the turn of the century. These issues that other contemporary writers dared to question to their final consequences remain ultimately unexplored and undefined in Brittain’s testament. a world in which the Great War was still unimaginable. . for example. Only a few writers of fiction started to imaginatively experiment in the dramatisation of such radical changes.

perhaps exaggerated by his tragic death in 1918. Feminism and pacifism This is certainly not to negate the value of Brittain’s defence of feminist spaces in Testament of Youth. according to her text. But struggles interest us less for their success than for their purpose and meaning. Perhaps these differences respond to those between history and imagination. Indeed the author belonged. the sister’s life was enhanced through vicarious access to and knowledge of the public world. for example. .” (Heilbrun 1992: 40) Again Ouditt suggests the author’s ambivalences also in the realm of feminism. and it was. Brittain’s political efforts in favour of women and peace were acknowledged in 1982 by Carolyn Heilbrun: It is too concise but not inaccurate to say that she devoted her life to a redefinition of women and peace. Thus she proposes a rediscovery of unknown female realms in Mrs.5. and she denounces a prevailing rhetoric of “glamorous submission”. for example. Dalloway’s discourse.Expanding the Private and Public Spaces of War 267 but also in defining the creative dimensions which emerge from the destruction of old spaces and their values. (Woollacott 1993: 137) The crisis in the social codes dominating brother/sister relations begins to be questioned with the war and some writers provide remarkable revisions of this issue: Sylvia Townsend Warner’s war short story. Angela Woollacott summarises the codes dominating social relations between brothers and sisters before the Great War and their sudden subversion after the conflict: When a brother (in the middle class) went off to school. we cannot claim that she was successful in either struggle. Brittain’s interiorised attitudes of “submission” and “self-devaluation” may perhaps be related to the devotion and idealisation the author felt for her brother. to university. The narrator projects herself in her testament as working very hard and very efficiently in favour of peace and of women’s rights since the war. to the City. a reduced world. but to establish its limits. a “sense of devaluation” in her vision of herself in relation to men. or to India. Looking about us today. 3. the third realm she aims at recovering. “A Love Match”. But waving them to war was entirely different […] War threatened not only the loss of a brother but the loss of mediated access to public events and. Brothers played a relevant role in determining their sister’s lives until the war. between reportage and fiction. to the first generation of women students to be granted an Oxford degree. therefore. or of a newly born Persephone-like heroine in Lily Briscoe’s search of a truly feminine cultural. moral and artistic scenario. the result of a long and hard battle in which she also played a considerable role (Brittain 1933: 504). between realism and modernism.

In Warner’s story. her spatial expansion was indeed interrupted in the post-war scenario. unusual and open friendship with another woman.268 Aránzazu Usandizaga suggests a subversive alternative to the traditional relations between brothers and sisters. . Again in Heilbrun’s terms: She has not only offered us one of the rare accounts of women’s friendship. Though the complexities of their relationship have been amply discussed.G.E. their interest in literature and their common wish to become writers drew them initially together. to the memory of their extraordinary friendship. she has also here described her refusal to live by any of the accepted scripts for women’s lives. Even after Brittain married G. As she had done with her war experience in Testament of Youth and though Holtby is also permanently present in the last third of her first autobiography. Holtby shared their life and their home most of the time. Testament of Friendship (1940). “‘Alien Experiences’: Virginia Woolf. the virility and romance of men going to war is acknowledged as a proper masculinity. and the second was her also unprecedented and agreed upon experimental marriage arrangement. Brittain devoted a new autobiographical text. But again Woolf ’s work. In fact. Yet there are two important initiatives deserving attention introduced in the last part of Brittain’s Testament of Youth which nevertheless confirm her post-war expansive intentions. Shaw suggests that the author’s representation of her heroine’s position as a sister is also meaningful of the author’s often contradictory notions of feminism: [Brittain’s] emphasis on the difference between women and men […] is at the heart of conflicting emotions in Testament of Youth where […] though war is lamented. The issue is of course of great significance in the understanding of Woolf ’s feminism. author Winifred Holtby. though Brittain’s experience of war managed to penetrate new and very important cultural spaces for women. (Shaw 1997: 48) Brittain’s testament confirms Sandra Gilbert’s theory in her definition of the effects of war and of post-war upon women (Gilbert 1982). In relation to Brittain. a brother and sister devastated by the war find peace and survival in mutual incestuous love. Caitlin in 1925. it is important to remember that their close friendship lasted until Holtby’s relatively early death in 1935. Winifred Holtby and Vera Brittain in the Thirties”. as discussed by Marion Shaw in her 1997 article. (Heilbrun 1982: 41) Having met at Oxford in 1920. The first was her daring. is placed at the centre of the literary revision of brother/sister relationship as a consequence of the Great War. and eventually they both continued to write and work in the newly created League of Nations. The claustrophobic atmosphere of the novels she wrote immediately after the war proves her anxieties.

Between marriage and desire women have doomed themselves. and almost shattering in their passionate. like herself. Brittain proposes a persona who. but without forgetting or denying that she knew marriage to be death for women as individuals. relevant idealism” (Brittain 1933: 155). The huge difficulties she faces in transforming and reinventing the genre of autobiography in order to meet her purposes can be recognised in her constant references to other writers from the present and the past. she is left without models in the writing of the late war and post-war. what can perhaps be defined as one of the most unexpected and tragic events in western history. Again Heilbrun points to the importance of her decisions: Frank about desire.Expanding the Private and Public Spaces of War 269 Brittain’s concern with the expansion of women’s experience can also be recognised in her attempt at trying to work out a married relationship very different from traditional ones. Lily Briscoe for example. courageous. As opposed to most modernist experimental heroines. I wonder. had he lived until 1933? Had he lived to the ‘grey and tragic present?’ ” (Brittain 1933: 155). . The greatest challenge she meets in writing her text is that of finding the adequate language in which to narrate her experiences of the war as well as of its dramatic effects to her generation. Brittain’s text. and many later feminist heroines. With Brooke’s early death at the front. they (Brittain and Holtby) were analytic about marriage. does marry and decides to have children but who tries to find a way of avoiding the traditional limitations imposed upon women in marriage. and after war. Testament of Youth is her attempt at refusing to forget the “shatteringly passionate and relevant idealism” of the past and of coming to terms with “the grey and tragic present”. Testament of Youth. (Heilbrun 1992: 42–43) 4. to domesticity and marginality […] [Brittain] married. and in many ways her achievements were truly groundbreaking. and with the disappearance of so many promising poets and writers. In one of the many difficult and painful moments of her narrative. One example might best illustrate her anxieties. as Brittain knew. Her testimony manages to achieve a great deal in bravely describing and interpreting some of the more complex realms of war. Brittain’s testament aims precisely at answering this question. and she confesses her literary uncertainties in the question she immediately raises: “How would Rupert Brooke have written. from the perspective of the author’s own time and social space. Brittain’s persona remembers the poet Rupert Brooke’s powerful early war sonnets and defines the poems as “unhackneyed. who were made by their authors to refuse marriage and remain alone. Conclusion Beyond its limitations. should be read as an important literary effort in trying to penetrate and articulate in coherent terms.

Paul. Retelling the War Myth’ in Cooke. Constance. Testament of Friendship: The Story of Winifred Holtby. Oxford: Blackwell. [1933] 1988. Sharon. Writing Women: Identity and Ideology in the First World War. Patrick J. 1994. Shaw. Owen. and Steven Trout (eds). . Patrick J. . London: Palgrave. Class. Ouditt. Gilbert.270 Aránzazu Usandizaga Bibliography Brittan. Helen. London: Victor Gollancz. Princeton. London: MacMillan: 165. ‘Vera Brittain’s Testament of Experience’ in Hamlet’s Mother and Other Women: Feminist Essays in Literature. Deborah. 1975. Gorham. 1913–1917. 2001. London: Virago. Sarah and Elisabeth Bronfen (eds) Death and Representation. Debra Rae. [1940] 1981. ‘Soldier’s Heart: Literary Men. 1989. New York: Oxford University Press. Better Red: The Writing and Resistance of Tillie Olsen and Meridel Le Seuer. Carolyn G. 1995. Adrienne Munich and Susan Squier (eds) Arms and the Woman: War. Cooke. Vera. 1993. Cooper. ‘Arms and the Woman. Quinn. ‘Encoded Enclosures: the Wartime Novels of Stella Benson’ in Quinn. Keith and Steven Matthews (eds) Rewriting the Thirties: Modernism and After. Fussell. and Steven Trout (eds) The Literature of the Great War Reconsidered: Beyond Modern Memory. Adrienne Munich and Susan Squier. Chronicle of Youth: Vera Brittain’s War Diary. Gender and Literary Representation. 1983. London: Routledge. 1997. London: Longman: 37–53. 1996. 2001. New York: Oxford University Press.). Heilbrun. Cohen. 1981. Mellown. Muriel. Testament of Youth. 1992. The Literature of the Great War Reconsidered: Beyond Modern Memory. 1983. Miriam. ‘Sisters and Brothers in Arms: Family. Woollacott. London: Palgrave: 159–72. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. 1994. 9–25. New Jersey: Princeton University Press: 177–205. Helen. Angela. ‘Reflections on Feminism and Pacifism in the Novels of Vera Brittain’ in Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 2 (2): 215–28. Higonnet. ‘Wo-Man. Vera. . Ithaca: Cornell University Press: 144–62. Winifred Holtby and Vera Brittain in the Thirties’ in Williams. Alan (ed. Fighting Forces. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1993.) Borderwork: Feminist Engagements with Comparative Literature. London: The Women’s Press: 38–50. Literary Women. Margaret. and Gendering in World War I Britain’ in Cooke (1993): 128–48. ‘ “Alien Experiences”: Virginia Woolf. [1918] 1986. The Con[tra]caption of the War Text’ in Cooper. ‘Strange Meeting’ in Hibberd. and the Great War’ in Signs 8 (3): 282–309. London: Fontana. The Great War and Modern Memory. Brittain: A Feminist Life. Marion. Miriam and Angela Woollacott (eds) Gendering War Talk. ‘Women in the Forbidden Zone’ in Goodwin. Coiner. Margaret (ed. 1993. Wilfred. ‘Cassandra’s Question: Do Women Write War Novels?’ in Higonnet. Bishop. Sandra M. Dominic and John Onions (eds) Poetry of the Great War: An Anthology.

Transformations in Nature .


well-being. To . Robinson. natural environment. Terror and Refugia in Romantic Women’s Literature Stephen E. Charlotte Smith (1749–1806). Mary Robinson and Charlotte Smith accompanied their husbands in the King’s Bench debtors’ prison. Keywords: Mary Robinson. prison. Helen Maria Williams. This chapter explores the depiction of “natural” spaces in adverse situations in selected late-eighteenth century writings. these also strive to open up imaginative space for recuperation by negotiating the border between the natural and cultural. Romanticism. Helen Maria Williams (1761–1827) and Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–97). a letter by Charlotte Smith fondly embraces the reassuring familiarity of the countryside and reunion with her family in a single conceit. In the excerpts that follow. contemplation of the natural environment and attention to non-human species become intimately connected with ideas concerning human well-being. Helen Maria Williams was held captive in the Luxembourg Prison in Robespierre’s France. improvement and consolation. Such writings provide a counterpoint to more familiar Rousseauan and Wordsworthian evocations of the natural world. derived from engagement with the natural world and transformed by the literary imagination. While such a gendered distinction between the mutual and the solitary appreciation of nature is complicated by Wollstonecraft’s autobiographical essays.Friends of our Captivity: Nature. For example. resilience. Smith and Williams in particular reiterate their desire for shared experience of the natural world. often predicated on the masculine convention of the solitary wanderer. Mary Wollstonecraft also experienced and survived the Paris of the Terror but suffered protracted depression that culminated in two suicide attempts in the years that followed. Hunt abstract This essay explores the way that four Romantic women writers confronted perilous situations involving physical captivity. personal trauma and depression through engagement with the natural world. helped these writers to cope with intensely threatening and disempowering spaces. Mary Wollstonecraft. Charlotte Smith. by Mary Robinson (1758–1800). French Revolution. Resilience.

however. In such circumstances the sentimentalised bucolic idyll represented a popular imaginative space.274 Stephen E. In Reflections on the Revolution in France. Hunt step out into the English countryside or the woods surrounding Paris during the Terror was to distance themselves from the intense personal and political turmoil of their lives and times. and all the unutterable abominations of the furies of hell [. learn to respect the sovereignty of reason” in the Vindication of the Rights of Men and . sustaining the literary imagination. embittered class conflict accompanying the process of industrialisation and countless narratives of individual hardship. written following a suicide attempt. The eighteenth century’s close is characterised by internecine European war. Marie Antoinette’s retreat at the “petit hameau”. Trianon...] of the vilest of women” occurred during the march from Paris to the Royal estate in the countryside at Versailles (Burke [1790] 1968: 165). the argument is developed that Romantic women’s writing also offers glimpses of ways in which nature sympathy opens up mental and physical space for resilience and recuperation in circumstances of extreme distress and peril. Smith and Williams all endured physical imprisonment and found that natural imagery provided a regenerative power. Here.. “after reviewing this gust of passion.. and frantic dances. In canonical masculine texts such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Reveries of a Solitary Walker and William Wordsworth’s The Prelude.] with a serene patience” and “the dignity of a Roman matron” (Burke [1790] 1968: 169). contrary to personal and political upheaval. away from court gossip and the recriminations of an increasingly hostile population. This sharply contrasted with the violation of rural space when the “horrid yells. Robinson. a cherished image of settled tranquillity. epitomised such an idyll. A development from sensibility to a more complex and uneasy engagement with the natural environment can be traced in Wollstonecraft’s later writings such as A Short Residence. At the same time less attention has been paid to appreciation of scenery and feeling for other species in Romantic women’s literature. For her detractors Marie Antoinette’s behaviour became synonymous with frivolity and scandal. Mary Wollstonecraft deftly reversed the polarity of Burke’s rhetoric urging him. and the exile of all her friends [. the gardens of courtly Versailles are geographically distinct from metropolitan Paris. and infamous contumelies. yet also to inspire writings that step into central debates about sensibility and rationalism. Edmund Burke defended her fortitude of character: “she bears the imprisonment of her husband. however. Despite its proximity beyond the city’s central quartiers. and shrilling screams. Among the many ripostes to the Reflections. solitary encounters with the natural world have come to define a central theme in the Romantic tradition. Here she would dress up as a faux shepherdess. to tread upon them was to violently break decorum. and her own captivity.

Poet and playwright Maria Barrell (fl. or in the woodbine grove. with thee to rove O’er the wide heath. in what follows a more complex relationship between romantic sensibility and the countryside is apparent in the writings of other incarcerated women. a commonplace instance of what Raymond Williams termed the “appeal to simplicity” (Williams 1973: 74). gentle maid.Friends of our Captivity 275 defended urban working women deprived of the “advantages of education” in the ancien régime (Wollstonecraft [1790] 1994: 26. in reality the domestic sphere was often an insecure retreat from social upheaval. Where innate Goodness. Such a conceit of rustic liberty is familiar in neo-pastoral verse. 29). Mary Robinson and Charlotte Smith both spent several months accompanying their husbands in the debtors’ prison. Where rural Mirth. Mary Robinson (and young daughter. and dignifies the heart. while Helen Maria Williams was taken from her home and detained in captivity in France. And joys extatic cheer the rustic band. Among prominent Romantic women writers. Or to the hospitable cottage. unadorn’d by Art. Instances such as Marie Antoinette’s escape to the rigorously sanitised “petit hameau” while the real rural poor suffered longstanding deprivation make it easy to caricature pastoral idealisation as sentimental detachment from harsh social and political realities. The confines of a prison cell may seem an unexpected and unpromising point of departure for a discussion about engagement with the natural world. However. In “Captivity” (1777) Mary Robinson addressed lines to the personified “Tranquillity”: Permit me. 1788–90) who . are not a landowning gentleman’s privileged tribute to an idealised rural acreage but an imprisoned woman’s attempt to preserve her mental well-being in a struggle for life and dignity. and Health go hand in hand. The King’s Bench prison was known for its filth and squalor. Maria) accompanied her husband Thomas Robinson to the King’s Bench prison in 1775 where the family remained for more than nine months (Robinson [1801] 1930: 90). while the home and its warm flickering heart the hearth. These lines. However. however. were frequently sanctified as harmonious feminine space. (lines 211–18) By writing such poetry Robinson was able to imaginatively reach out to a space where she was not only liberated from confinement in prison but could escape the demands of social recognition. overcrowding and typhus. free To ample Virtue’s pure society. At once expands.

.. and unknown to die. intimate with the body politic that cartoonists such as James Gillray later caricatured in satirical representations of the Prince of Wales’s own overblown body. To the benevolent.... And plenteous fields display a vivid green ......... refers to witnessing “scenes of sorrow almost incredible” in The Captive (1790) (Todd 1987: 40). To view each varied scene.. and Meditation made.. In her verse Robinson desires shared moments and experiences that strengthen intimate relations and affective bonds.. Thus let me live. Such conditions would have doubled the sense of felicity in imagining the possibilities of roving “far from the town”: Grant me. In common with Robinson... What is imagined is not an individual engagement between the unitary self and the natural world epitomised in the poetry of William Wordsworth and other male Romantic poets.. And hear the feather’d choir exulting sing. women.. However. A fertile and cultivated landscape is evoked: one to be enjoyed with “a social friend/In whom good humour and affection blend”.. indeed infamous..276 Stephen E. By 1780 Robinson had thus became situated at the epicentre of metropolitan “giddy scenes”. Subject position is also critical in interpreting the writing of Charlotte Smith. and friendless poor..... indulgent Heaven.... bless’d with a social friend........ while “Captivity” is a dream of rural seclusion. (Robinson 1777: lines 227–44) Ironically the demands of fame were shortly to become particularly exacting given Robinson’s public affair with the young Prince of Wales (later George IV). from giddy scenes I’d fly.. This was prompted by her stage appearance as Perdita.......... To live unenvied. Hunt spent five years there. Smith’s optimistic representations of nature ... Not idly gay.. rather than unaccompanied confrontations with the sublime. which subsequently rendered her one of England’s most famous... Where Nature opes the vegetable scene.. a small retreat.... In whom good humour and affection blend: For joys like these. in some secluded shade........ but elegantly neat.. and sweets exhale Which breathe in every flow’r.. and longs for mutual enjoyment of the natural environment. For blooming Health. Far from the town. Free of access for ever be the door. There would I rove amid the sweets of spring... rural maid and heroine of the Winter’s Tale. it celebrates companionship not isolation.. in every gale..

Smith made a pragmatic decision that her moral duty to her nine children outweighed any loyalty to the profligate Benjamin. After her wedding she was transplanted from the cherished Sussex countryside of her childhood to live an emotionally isolated existence in Cheapside in “one of the narrowest and most dirty lanes in the city” (Dorset [1826] 1929: 307). (Ch. One consequence of Smith’s disastrous marriage was that (like Robinson less than a decade earlier) she was confined in the King’s Bench prison. but under compulsion of. perceived with delight the beloved group. from whom I had been so long divided. to accompany her equally feckless and disloyal husband. thus indicating the extent to which this was a predominantly male environment (Innes 1980: 263). Charlotte Smith endured a desperate domestic situation. Her work stresses the positive value and gratification to be enjoyed through contact with the natural world. The following letter extract describes the thrilling spatial transition Smith experienced on her release from prison in 1784. amidst the perfumed turf with which one of those fields was strewn. Benjamin. amidst scenes of misery. Smith produced several works on botany.[…] After such scenes and such apprehensions. Innes further notes that prison reformer John Howard estimated male-to-female ratios to be 19:1 (in 1779) and 25:1 (in 1782). As such . The occasion of her departure signified not only Smith’s reunion with her children but also joy in returning to her beloved Sussex downlands. breathing over the dewy grass. Her account of “misery”. of vice. ornithology and other branches of natural history. and. and even of terror. destitution. In addition to a substantial output of multi-volume novels and poetry. thus enabling her to keep a step ahead of creditors.Friends of our Captivity 277 are a consistent antidote to the unhappiness of her life experience. There can be no clearer documentation of the natural environment’s capacity to replenish and bring about a sense of reintegration in contrast to the worst urban dislocation. Smith 2003: 5–6) Smith’s beloved “native hills” are remembered not for solitary rambles but for the associations they have with her happy upbringing and present family. as (having slept one night on the road) we passed over the heaths of Surrey. I beheld once more the fields where I had passed my happiest days. In such circumstances. she was an author who wrote not in spite of. Eventually. Rarely has the sense of imprisonment in a patriarchal relationship appeared so literal. My native hills at length burst upon my view. As she wrote in 1784: For more than a month I had shared the restraint of my husband in a prison. “vice” and “terror” are corroborated by Joanna Innes’s fascinating study of the life and organisation of the King’s Bench prison which recorded that of the 570 prisoners held in 1791. how deliciously soothing to my wearied spirits was the soft pure air of the summer’s morning. 340 had wives and children living with them at least occasionally.

The rhetorical devices of sensibility are brought to bear on an extreme situation in which Williams’s personal accounts of contemporary events appear to merge with Gothic fiction. After a sleepless night a sense of 1 See Roy McMullen’s introduction to Botany. the natural world existed as a place of familiarity and sanctuary in sharp contrast to the oppressive realities of city life. Charlotte Smith’s exhilaration upon reaching the Sussex countryside following captivity was matched by Helen Maria Williams’s pleasurable refuge in the rural environs of Paris after being released from the Luxembourg Prison during the Terror. as a “soft. Williams [1795–96] 1975: II. the Letters from France are factual yet dramatized and even set within a “romance frame” (Keane 1992: 280). Hunt they represent a desirable continuity in her life. For Williams too. The study was morally suspect because its chief exponent. throughout. As Alan Bewell argues in “Jacobin Plants”. Poet Richard Polwhele (1760–1838) singled out both Smith and Williams and also Mary Wollstonecraft for their “gallic licentiousness” and subversion of the natural order due to their interest in botany in his popular anti-Jacobin verse diatribe The Unsex’d Females (1798: 19). complicit in a way of looking at the world that culminated in sexual wantonness and regicide. was held to be an inspiration for revolution. In such instances there is a companionate engagement with the countryside. Smith described the beauty of the natural world. Bernardin de Saint-Pierre as director of the Jardin des Plantes and the Muséum Nationale d’Histoire Naturelle during the Terror. .278 Stephen E. 1979: 19. familiar in Wordsworthian poems such as “Daffodils”. This is not genteel rural retirement but a euphoric expression of liberation experienced visually and through synaesthesia. Women writers such as Robinson and Smith present a relational self in contrast to the individualised unitary self. commendations by radical authors made botany seem dangerously Jacobin during the reactionary aftermath of the French Revolution (1989: 132). when she was interrupted by news that foreign nationals were to be arrested by state decree (H. after the radical disjunction of the prison regime which substituted “terror” for kinship and friendship. removes the presence of Dorothy upon whose diary entry the verse is based. Love of place is intimately linked here to love of family. pure” and “soothing” space away from the “terror” suffered in gaol. This self-representation as someone inhabiting a fable illustrates Angela Keane’s observation that. Such an image was substantiated by the promotion of Rousseau’s close friend and disciple. A Study of Pure Curiosity: by JeanJacques Rousseau. in which William famously wandering “lonely as a cloud”.1 In her autobiographical Letters from France. both types of affective bonding become mutually reinforcing. Williams records that she had been in a “fairy land” evoked by a conversation with Bernardin.i.6). Rousseau. W.

Such shimmering movement. she curiously visualized as a picturesque landscape in spots of time: Sometimes. In artfully constructed representations inspired by the picturesque landscapes of Salvator Rosa and Claude Lorraine. thereby using imaginative power to gain some respite from captivity: To be seated at the foot of those sheltering hills which embosomed some mimic habitations. Williams recollected the terror and panic of the moment of her arrest as partially connected details which.37) .i. It seems that Williams recognised all too literal parallels between Emily’s fictional situation and her own vulnerability and loss of freedom. M. (H. to call up the surrounding scenery: such is the feeling with which I recall the moments when. Williams [1795–96] 1975: II. the most acute sensations are excited by little circumstances which form a part of the whole. Gazing upon the “majestic trees” she remarks: “it is scarcely possible to contemplate the beauties of nature without the enthusiastic pleasure which swells into devotion” (H. or beneath a mighty elm which rose majestically in the fore-ground of the piece. appeared to me to the summit of earthly felicity. W. they were to be spared as female citoyennes.Friends of our Captivity 279 bathos set in as Williams assumed that. Emily looks out upon sparkling mountain streams rushing through sunlit woods. like certain points in a landscape. This disjunction represents Emily’s inner conflict. The next morning she managed to mount a table and “saw through our grated windows the beautiful gardens of the Luxembourg”. Williams subsequently used the figure of a beautiful landscape to come to terms with her embittered experiences of prison life. A striking passage recounts how a picturesque tapestry inspired her to contemplate the beauties of nature.9) Williams was further disappointed to discover that the apartment used as their makeshift cell had blocked lower windowpanes. in retrospect. and spread its thick foliage over a green slope. we stood upon the stair-case surrounded with guards […] (H. W. Aubin seeks consolation in scenery when gazing from a Gothic prison in Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho. light and colour contrasts dramatically with her present predicament.i. and serve in the retrospect of memory. Persis and Cecilia. having got out of our apartments. as she is held in a gloomy casement against her will. The call from the commissaries of the revolutionary committee therefore dealt a second shock of the unexpected the following night. published the previous year (Bohls 1995: 132). Bohls draws attention to the strong reminiscence here of the way in which imprisoned Emily St. Elizabeth A. Williams [1795–96] 1975: II. together with her mother and sisters. as her mind recovers its strength she is spiritually revived by the sublimity of the natural world that eases her sense of apprehension and psychic anguish. under the pressure of a great calamity.8).Williams 1795: I.

] bring to the mind images of nature. Hunt Unfortunately. Kennedy 2002: 169). the process of association and the consolation prompted by this “pleasing illusion” became inversely mirrored long after Williams had attained her freedom. Williams 1795: III.2 When describing her release following two months of imprisonment. Williams undertakes a 2 See introduction to H.20). Julia ([1790] 1995). M. The pleasures of imagining the verdant outside when inside also unhappily made her recall being inside when outside. While subsequently travelling in Switzerland the discovery of a “towering elm”.14). Williams attributes the idea of such a process of recall and association to Mark Akenside’s Pleasures of the Imagination (1744). Kindness to dogs and other animals was also a feature of the sensibility demonstrated in Williams’s novel. to which she contributed new poems on sensibility and natural history. While she was confined she also began to translate Bernardin’s novel Paul et Virginie. A further imaginative device that helped Williams to transcend the compressed space of her existence within walls was to count passing days of captivity by using Philippe Fabre d’Églantine’s new revolutionary calendar – with its allusion to vegetative fertility rites in the changing weather. which in every aspect has some power of giving pleasure” (H. Williams ([1790] 2001: 25) and Kennedy (2002: 122–25). Williams and writers such as Catharine Macaulay went so far as to extend legal protection and rights to other species (Macaulay 1996: 277. 370). So persistent was the effect of this tapestry of the elm that Williams found. Both Williams and Charlotte Smith made progressive arguments for attention to the welfare of non-humans for their own sakes and as a vital stage in the creation of a more humane society.103).. and zones which still held danger because of their proximity to the ongoing violence of political persecution.. .280 Stephen E. instilling the virtues of kindness to animals is a key aspect in bringing children up to be “rational creatures” (Wollstonecraft [1788] 1989: IV. Williams 1795: III. Paul Davies suggests that “compassion is the link between the mystical and political wings” of Romanticism (Davies 1998: 91). In Wollstonecraft’s Original Stories. appearing to share her melancholy (H. because her imagination had become “disordered”. that she later responded to scenes of natural beauty by remembering her incarceration. immediately called to mind the tapestry and the familiar trees of the Luxembourg gardens because it “resembled the friend of my captivity” (H. Another friend in captivity was the dog that accompanied a fellow Englishwoman in a neighbouring cell. flowers and harvesting – because its “appellations [. Williams sets up a polarized contrast between the pastoral space to which she retreats outside the city. Williams 1795: III. M. M. M.

as we had done the preceding year. the wild woods of Meudon. pleading the cause of humanity and mercy. and sometimes by the sanguinary decemvirs themselves. and again in this instance there is a familiar gendered distinction between the sublime and the beautiful. The physical presence of the “despots” is impressed upon the degradation and disenchantment of a now fallen countryside. Williams [1795–96] 1975: II. or the elegant gardens of Bellevue. once the residency of fallen royalty. all within an hour’s ride of Paris. Even the revolutionary jury used sometimes on a decadi. The defilement of humanity and sense of horror in the city woods is sharply counterpointed to the open pastoral terrain to which Williams escapes. Enclosed woodland environments are often threatening spaces for women. never has the contrast between city and country been so extreme. were now haunted by vulgar despots. Often they held their festive orgies in those scenes of beauty. itself a victim toppled by the sweep of history as surely as any political dynasty. Once “noble”.ii. by revolutionary commissaries. without being haunted by the mangled spectres of those whom they had murdered the preceding day. The relaxation of the old customs and codes of the ancien régime left the woods vulnerable to the uncontrolled grazing of livestock and caused the boles of the trees to meet the blades of a rural populace desperate for fuel (1995: 180). the only suspension from their work of death. . Those seats. Cloud. they saw nature in her most benign aspect. In Williams’s terrorized woods enchantment is 3 Simon Schama records that many French woodlands were decimated during the Revolutionary Wars. (H. and “elegant”. and tread with profane steps her hallowed recesses.2–3) The former Royal estates are emphatically personified as female nature.3 Steven Blakemore suggests that Williams might be inferring a “repetitive link between the Jacobins and the Old Regime” (Blakemore 1997: 189).Friends of our Captivity 281 sustained engagement with Burke in which she explores the implications of the revolutionary events themselves through figurative representations of the sublime and the beautiful (Blakemore 1997: Chapter 11). These woods are associated not only with the terror of the dangerous characters that inhabit them but directly with the Terror as an historical and political moment: We no longer dared. by spies of the police. they have now been subjected to the violation expressed by the syntactic antagonism between “profane” and “hallowed”. Two highly charged spaces are opposed in a series of substantial distinctions. and returned to feast upon the groans of those whom they were to murder on the morrow. “wild”. and. to go to Marly or Versailles. W. steeped as they were to the very lips in blood. where they dared to cast their polluting glance on nature. to forget awhile the horrors of our situation by wandering occasionally amidst the noble parks of St.

Williams’s delight at reaching such countryside is not the abandoned experience of the solitary wanderer but pleasure in finding a space subject to less official control in which she can enjoy stolen and shared moments with her mother and sisters. She repeatedly sets up an opposition in which the contours of pleasure and pain are traced through natural imagery. The air was full of delicious fragrance. “delicious fragrance”. however beautiful nature may be. The tears with which the spectacle of the guillotine had petrified with horror now flowed again with melancholy luxury. the wizard bowers profaned” (H. “congenial”. Williams’s contradictory feelings and anxieties about the course of revolutionary events are displaced onto the natural environment in sharply defined dystopian and utopian spaces. and the stillness of the scene was only disturbed by sounds the most soothing in nature. it is Williams’s personified nature that pleads the cause of humanity because such inhumane humans are no longer unable to do so. can grieve. Although the regime’s functionaries might still enjoy the opportunity for repose in the parks. “graces”. Hunt destroyed by sacrilege: “the fairy scenes have been polluted. “unfrequented”. In an exploration of female metaphors of . “soothing”. Ironically. W. The space of refugia is constructed in terms of the beautiful and is described in terms such as: “charming variety”. in such an extreme political situation it is human presence that defines nature. though not unpopulated because of the presence of a single shepherd.ii. By contrast. This more open terrain is bucolic. a soft veil was thrown over nature. the soft rustling of the leaves.85). and objects indistinctly seen were decorated by imagination with those graces which were most congenial to the feelings of the moment. are constructed as a place where the self.282 Stephen E. Williams [1795–96] 1975: II. which still reflected the fading colours of the day. nature does not have the transformative power to change sensibility or lead to the love of humankind. (H.iii. or the plaintive notes of the wood-pigeon. the open country to which Williams retreats with her family is safer. Williams [1795–96] 1975: II. recuperate and begin to heal: The hills were fringed with clouds. the woods were in deep shadow. and the repetition of “soft”. an effect enhanced by the sibilance of words such as “soothing”. It is clear that. “stillness”. although they continue to endure rigorous surveillance.9) This description of being lulled and immersed or enfolded in nature is suggestive of a foetal cocooning. suffering a psychic pain that would now be diagnosed as post-traumatic stress syndrome. “soft rustling”. they have become so desensitized that their response is limited and they are closed to the moral and humanitarian benefits of nature that is the Romantic standard of the civilized being. safer than the city centre. W. The environs of Paris.

she was transgressing propriety by speaking out as a political commentator on public events (Keane 1992: 287). such oppositions can be fluid and. because she was situated on the opposite side of an embattled geographical and political boundary. the creature endowed with a sense of refuge huddles up to itself. as a woman. Williams’s new-found rural idyll remains dangerously adjacent to the barriers of the city. while conscious of the limitations of such representations of women as nature. Williams’s political discourse about nature. not frozen with terror as she had earlier been as an eyewitness of political executions. concealed” (Bachelard [1958] 1994: 91). However. This primal sense of physical security and well-being is given great emphasis in Gaston Bachelard’s discussion of human hiding-places and homely dwellings that echo nests and burrows in which “physically. leads to the doubling of a sense of exile. She also went into internal exile in the French countryside due to her critical and hence vulnerable position outside the power structure of the new body politic. Jack Fruchtman notes that the oftengendered pairs of oppositions in Williams’s prose. “the parameters of the original home.Friends of our Captivity 283 landscape in American literature. despite her profound disillusionment with this regime. again in Kolodny’s words. though temporary and provisional dwelling in the land recalls. becomes a kind of archetypal primary landscape to which subsequent perceptual configurations of space are related” (Kolodny 1975: 156). became an emblematic displacement of the torments of social division and conflict. the womb)” (ibid: 152). which rhetorically divide nature and anti-nature. Williams adapted the conventionally private genre of the letter into a public form. takes to cover. . Even while she. lies snug. scents and sounds of the hills and woods. reflect the author’s commitment to the Girondins rather than the Jacobin faction of the Convention (Fruchtman 1995: 228–29). such as Laetitia Hawkins that. the maternal embrace (or even. Williams’s demonstration of her own continued ability to respond sensitively and imaginatively to the natural environment implicitly enables her to distinguish herself from the bloodthirsty excesses of the Terror and the state apparatus in a society riven by class conflict. argues that “the mother’s body. as the first ambience experienced by the infant. Williams’s sense of a comfortable. perhaps. and thus morally distanced from the violence and corruption of Robespierre’s regime. which makes use of a language that opposes defilement to purity. Able to weep once more. hides away. her humane response elevates her as a moderate in touch with the sights. and so faced accusations by critics at home. Williams’s reluctance to leave France and to lapse into reaction and Francophobia. She had betrayed her origins according to nationalist discourse. Annette Kolodny. The space enables Williams to become human again. just as the reason and passion of revolutionary vertu may overspill into atrocity.

Both particularly identified with Madame Roland and keenly felt her loss to the guillotine. they are aware that their movements are monitored by the state and that they are fugitives who could only risk a return to Paris “on forfeiture of [their] heads”. suddenly vanished. and the temporary political relaxation of the Directory. that Miss Williams has behaved very civilly to me and I shall visit her frequently. because I rather like her. as if Demeter were allowing the resurgence of seasonal change as Ventôse finally gave way to Germinal: Upon the fall of Robespierre. the pre-lapsarian reaches of the pastoral countryside themselves geographically eclipse the perilous liminal space of the despot-haunted woods. Hunt and her close female relatives. In the highly charged debates of the 1790s all sides recruited “Nature” as a powerful rhetorical ally.190) Acquaintances in revolutionary France. yet the simple goodness of her heart continually breaks . both Helen Maria Williams and Mary Wollstonecraft found themselves in precarious situations as exiles. In 1794 it became expedient to leave France altogether and Williams crossed the border to undertake the writing and botanizing and to experience the sublime that is commemorated in her travelogue A Tour in Switzerland. the black precipices. and I meet french company at her house. that both Williams and the French population were able to emerge from the frozen and barren underworld of the Terror. Their participation in the intellectual milieu of the salon created a space for women to debate current affairs beyond the separate spheres imposed by their formal exclusion from political office. (H. W. Williams [1795–96] 1975: II. Regeneration became possible in the blighted land. the bottomless gulphs. Her manners are affected. the terrible spell which bound the land of France was broken. Furthermore. the shrieking whirlwinds.284 Stephen E. Within France they became perilously placed due to “counter-revolutionary” Girondist affiliations that caused the execution of several of their associates during the Terror. at turns democratic. revolutionary or despotic.ii. It was not until the overthrow of Robespierre. Wollstonecraft was a visitor at Williams’s salon on the Rue Helvétius in 1792. experience intense pleasure in spending time in the countryside. Their political writings are among many responses to the attack upon the French Revolution in Edmund Burke’s infamous Reflections. Wollstonecraft wrote back to her sister Everina. In Britain they were regarded as politically suspect and morally scandalous due to their extramarital relationships. and reviving nature covered the wastes with flowers. and the rocks with verdure.

Wollstonecraft later moved towards a more critical engagement with these former influences (Wollstonecraft [1788] 1976). .] I felt my breath oppressed. ed. Imlay is the recipient of the letters in Wollstonecraft’s autobiographical travelogue. by Janet Todd (London: Penguin. Rousseau had provided an immediate model for the trope of wandering and botanizing along in the Reveries of the Solitary Walker (1782). till forced to leave a world of which I had seen so little. by Janet Todd. ostensibly as a representative for Imlay’s business interests. Janet Todd. and the fashion for sensibility and the pastoral. was to be bastilled by nature – shut out from all that opens the understanding. if not as picturesquely wild. or enlarges the heart [. and remaining here. for the character of the inhabitants is as uncultivated. 20 August 1794.Friends of our Captivity through the varnish. Wardle (Ithaca. to love than admire her. See letter to Gilbert Imlay. 260. both her daughter Fanny. I found the solitude desirable. (Wollstonecraft [1796] 1987: 131) Wollstonecraft is stimulated with “astonishing rapidity” by the experience of a 4 Letter to Everina Wollstonecraft. had inspired Mary. challenges as unfounded speculations by Roger Ingpen and Ralph Wardle that later comments made to Gilbert Imlay about his former lover as a “cunning woman” refer to an affair with Helen Maria Williams that immediately preceded Wollstonecraft’s own relationship with him. 5 In the Penguin edition of Wollstonecraft’s Short Residence. by Ralph M. Collected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft. Richard Holmes notes that Reveries of the Solitary Walker was one of Wollstonecraft’s favourite books and that the epistolary Short Residence was in part modelled on its confessional tone (1987: 282). New York: Cornell University Press. 2004). my mind was stored with ideas. By 1796 her attitudes towards rural communities were deeply ambivalent: Talk not of bastilles! To be born here. The most recent editor of Wollstonecraft’s letters. in the solitude of ignorance. But I shuddered at the thought of receiving existence. at least I should. A Short Residence in Sweden..5 However. Norway and Denmark (Wollstonecraft [1796] 1987). 215. a Fiction. and French maid Marguerite. 260 and 280. while Rousseau. Furthermore. ed. It was in such circumstances that she left for Scandinavia in June. 1979). as their abode. though nothing could be clearer than the atmosphere.4 285 A complex combination of factors including the traumatic loss of associates during the Terror and personal depression exacerbated by her relationship with Gilbert Imlay culminated in Wollstonecraft’s suicide attempt in May 1795. ed. which this new scene associated with astonishing rapidity. Todd is responding to notes in The Collected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft. Wandering here alone. so that one would be more inclined.. The Collected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft. accompanied Wollstonecraft throughout the travels described in A Short Residence. 24 December 1792.

indeed. For centuries mining. smoking. Her abhorrence for the behaviour of the rural poor is accentuated when her sensibility is offended by the “infernal appearance” of a country fair. Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett 1969: I. because the true value of wild nature is most fully appreciated and cherished by the mind cultivated with sensibility. for they seldom even open their windows. drinking brandy. a place leading inevitably she fears to “gross debauch” (Wollstonecraft [1796] 1987: 156). who rest shut up. lest the purity of his neighbours shd be corrupted. which is most likely to be developed and refined in the social milieu of larger towns. the idealization of rural life. is to humanise these beings. quarrelling & extreme licentiousness with women. and by the images that would impress themselves upon the inner mind. Wollstonecraft’s response anticipates Harriet Martineau. Hunt solitary stroll in the natural world. who in a letter to Elizabeth Barrett mocked Wordsworth as oblivious to the way that “sensual vice abounds in rural districts” in the 1840s: […] while every Justice of the peace is filled with disgust.286 Stephen E. At the same time however. and driving bargains? I have been almost stifled by these smokers”(Wollstonecraft [1796] 1987: 132). Such comments are redolent of puritan disdain for “unimproving” pleasures and the luxuries of alcohol and nicotine. (Browning. The local inhabitants seem compelled to anaesthetize themselves against the outside world. The rural environment affects character in a negative way that directly contradicts pastoral conventions. and tinged with a characteristic distaste for trade. While occasional solitude may have a beneficial effect upon the human mind. this passage explicitly modifies. Paradoxically. hermetically sealed existence: “What. forestry and other economic activities had inevitably altered such scenery but now it appeared that the new dynamism in . 462) Wollstonecraft was an acute observer. & every clergyman with (almost) despair at the drunkenness. preferring rather to escape into a claustrophobic. and rejects. & deprecating any intercourse with towns. In an approach antagonistic to that of Wordsworth. quick to offer a critique of the effects of capitalism upon human sensibility and to recognize the potential conflict between the drive for economic return and the conservation of the natural environment. it is coupled with “ignorance” in this passage and associated with the limitation rather than the expansion of individual vision. those that are “bastilled” within wild nature take care to shut out its harshness most determinedly. – here is good old Wordsworth for ever talking of rural innocence. Wollstonecraft’s contemplation of the prospect of living among unenlightened provincialism in such districts inspires in her something approaching horror. Wollstonecraft suggests that rural life cannot be intrinsically efficacious.

leaving her to regret that “such a noble scene had not been left in all its solitary sublimity” (Wollstonecraft [1796] 1987: 160). 68). Jacobus 1995: 76–77). yet filled with fascinated horror when confronted with the material reality of the industrial landscape. She acknowledged a marked revival of spirits and return of well-being during her sojourn in rural Scandinavia. it seems that Wollstonecraft was also profoundly disturbed by an incipient awareness of a dilemma that was to constitute a singularly modern conflict. was asked by a knowing hand.Friends of our Captivity 287 European commerce was accelerating the destructive impact: The views of the Elbe. Wollstonecraft’s discursive negotiation of rural districts and “natural” spaces is a sophisticated and complex one.6 In Letter One Wollstonecraft’s mood was uplifted by stark and unpromising landscape: 6 This was short-lived and was followed by a further suicide attempt on her return to London (Kelly 1996:176). Yet. and walk close to the water edge. offering anecdotally. in the vicinity of the town. I attempted to descend. the hand of man to perfect it” and rejecting a primitivist return to nature in the form of “Rousseau’s golden age of stupidity” (Wollstonecraft [1796] 1987: 121–22).” (Wollstonecraft [1796] 1987: 194) William Hazlitt later provocatively satirized parochial attitudes in an essay entitled “Character of the Country People” (1819). particularly as the prospects here afford so little variety. Critics such as Gary Kelly and Mary Jacobus argue that in Wollstonecraft’s case distaste for commercialism was strongly connected to her disaffection with her relationship to Imlay. Although it appears to be out-proportioned by its surroundings. But to commerce every thing must give way. profit and profit are the only speculations – “double – double. hanging to dry. she is candid enough to voice dismay at the physical despoliation entailed in such enterprises. but there was no path. In particular he despised the lack of cultural feeling for natural beauty he experienced in the Lake District. toil and trouble. and the smell of glue. She found herself at once eager to embrace industrial and technological progress as an emancipatory force with the capacity to ameliorate the human condition. the construction of the new canal at Trollhattan in Sweden represented an insolent intrusion upon the landscape for Wollstonecraft. believing anthropocentrically that “the world requires. despite some Promethean enthusiasm. However. . Wollstonecraft is no proto-deep ecologist. I found extremely disagreeable. if he could tell how many foot of timber it contained?”(Hazlitt [1819] 1930–34: XVII. are pleasant. an extensive manufactory of which is carried on close to the beach. I see. whom she felt had been “embruted by trade” (Kelly 1996: 172. 177–79. “An artist who was making a sketch of a fine old yew tree in a romantic situation.

Hunt The view was sterile: still little patches of earth. with understanding and compassion. every tongue rang changes on the pleasures of the country” (Wollstonecraft [1797] 1989: VII. feeling and the imagination – a belief in a radical transition akin to the one she continued to hope for in a revolutionary transformation of the social sphere. too often. Again adopting the pose of the solitary walker. dishevelled and twigged hair. and felt more of that spontaneous pleasure which gives credibility to our expectation of happiness. Her scepticism about the improving qualities of time spent in the countryside coexists with an underlying belief that a cultivated mind. seemed to promise the goats and a few straggling cows luxurious herbage. Wollstonecraft’s sharpness clearly indicates that by this period there is some social capital to be gained from publicly displaying an affection (or rather affectation) for nature. gracious God! damped by the tears of disappointed affection. which had cast a gloom over all nature. (Wollstonecraft [1796] 1987: 67–68) Helen Maria Williams portrayed an assault upon a feminized nature. Such ideas are developed further in “On Poetry and Our Relish for the Beauties of Nature” (1797). and muddy boots that inevitably accompany country rambles. Wollstonecraft’s meditation begins with an acerbic observation that casts some doubt upon those that flaunt their propensity for rural delights. 7). The objects of . long time before.288 Stephen E. of the most exquisite verdure. than I had for a long. What was to be Wollstonecraft’s final essay illustrates a late-eighteenth century writer’s awareness of the importance of subject position in the experience and representation of the natural world. I gazed around with rapture. to be lighted up afresh. she both anticipated Wordsworth’s programme for “natural” diction and pointed to a number of different forms and qualities of engagement and “relish” for nature. How silent and peaceful was the scene. the natural environment offers solace in the precise historical moment of the aftermath of the Terror’s most oppressive and bloody phase. I forgot the horrors I had witnessed in France. She notes with heavy irony that while wandering alone in the countryside she invariably met no one but the occasional labourer. In her writings about nature. care took wing while simple fellow feeling expanded my heart. yet on her return found that “when I joined the social circle. can enjoy benefits foreclosed to those motivated by considerations of status and commercial self-interest. ironically often in the absence of any actual engagement with it. This point underlines her scepticism towards the drawing-room dilettantes who might earnestly eulogize the picturesque but in reality avoid the stinging nettles. Wollstonecraft attempts to construct an elevated form of sensibility that unites the mind and the heart. enamelled with the sweetest wild flowers. yet found refuge and serenity in the countryside after the violence of the Parisian streets and parks. and suffering the enthusiasm of my character. forging an alliance between rationality. Here too.

in which Charlotte Heywood. its glassy surface in a calm. 11). is made possible because there is no longer any necessity to directly work the land which exists as a source of revenue and retreat. who leave. characteristic of Vindication of the Rights of Women and other writings in Wollstonecraft’s oeuvre. – The terrific grandeur of the ocean in a storm. as “those. In Charlotte Smith’s Emmeline. 7). finally. Wollstonecraft places real value upon the beneficial experiences to be gained in natural surroundings and goes on to outline a tripartite schema for possible depths of response to the countryside. The critique of this perspective. in particular. whose primary aim in learning about nature is “to enable them to talk” (Wollstonecraft [1797] 1989: VII. its quick vicissitudes. the crowded cities in which they were bred” (Wollstonecraft [1797] 1989: VII. indolent and inauthentic. its mariners tempting it in sunshine and overwhelmed by the sudden tempest.Friends of our Captivity 289 Wollstonecraft’s disdain have an urban perspective. as a luxury object of choice. and descriptive of the undescribable emotions they excite in the mind of sensibility. and the deep fathoms of its abysses. others that can enjoy the countryside if it is mediated through an artist’s eye and. its gulls and its samphire. its direful deceptions. all were eagerly and fluently touched. with the strictures against the luxurious. Bellozane. Notwithstanding such scepticism. rather than a “real perception”. though temporarily amused. those that respond authentically and directly to nature. Jane Austen captured the type precisely in her unfinished final novel. for a season. (Austen [1817] 1974: 184) . who learn about natural history to impress were indeed occasionally satirized in women’s novels at this time. and contrasted to the “trudging” of the “labouring man” (Wollstonecraft [1797] 1989: VII. is continuous. quickly becomes bored by Sir Edward Denham’s enthusiasms: He began in a tone of great taste and feeling to talk of the sea and the sea shore – and ran with energy through all the phrases employed in praise of their sublimity. therefore. characterized as “artificial”. dismissed as “witlings”. There are some that merely learn fashionably sublime phrases to impress in society. thus elucidating a number of different subject positions that might be engaging with the natural world. – rather commonplace perhaps – but doing very well from the lips of a handsome Sir Edward. a sensibility that therefore reflects rather a degree of disassociation from the natural world. Such characters recall the would-be wits of William Congreve’s dramas who merely attempt to cultivate the appearance of refinement by learning a selection of bon mots. Men. a Swiss suitor who initially found his aunt’s plants the “most boring subjects in the world”. In the first category are those. quickly begins to study botany when he discovers Emmeline’s interest (Smith [1788] 1971: 359–60). Such sensibility towards the natural world. 7). Sanditon (1817).

by identifying herself as someone who takes part in “solitary rambles”. 9). and a desire of attaining elegance of diction. 10). Wollstonecraft more vigorously objects that images from nature are consequently all too often rendered “disgusting. “the store which of all others he has most sparingly touched” (Aikin 1777: 4). . Powerful nature poetry. there are those rare individuals able to respond to nature forcefully and spontaneously. are. in practice. “Servile” is a politically charged word and there are echoes of the Platonic condemnation of imitation in this denunciation. incompatible with sublime. indeed unavoidable and natural. Wollstonecraft laments the dearth of direct nature observation and in doing so echoes John Aikin’s earlier complaint that “the grand and beautiful objects” of nature which “are the most obvious store of new materials to the poet”. Wordsworth’s reminder. Wollstonecraft’s essay foreshadows the Wordsworthian conception of poetry as powerful feeling. “from the want of a lively imagination”.290 Stephen E. uninteresting and lacking the spontaneity that Wollstonecraft commends. Finally. because they have been servileely copied by poets” (Wollstonecraft [1797] 1989: VII. should be the product of a more direct encounter with natural sublimity. it is suggested. she suggests. if human concerns should arise in the mind during the course of the contemplation of nature. occasions an attention to words. 8–9). Such lines reveal a commitment to the expression of a visionary feeling for nature. able to express emotions that are not reducible to analytical reason. Written in 1797 and thus contemporaneous with the first edition of the Lyrical Ballads. While. require a poet or painter to mediate and concentrate pleasing views into picturesque prospects to enjoy the countryside (Wollstonecraft [1797] 1989: VII. Hunt The second category of nature appreciation Wollstonecraft identifies is made up of those whose appreciation for nature is unfeigned. natural description that is primarily informed by the stock diction and recycled representations often associated with later mimetic Augustan literature is rendered sterile. These. The balance between outer nature and inner expression is a delicate one in Wollstonecraft’s argument. This is in keeping with later Romantic criticism and further grounds the currency of the ideas of fancy and imagination later to be made the centrepiece of Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria: “The silken wings of fancy are shrivelled by rules. it is permissible. that the task of the poet to record the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling” should be “recollected in tranquillity”. impassioned thoughts” (Wollstonecraft [1797] 1989: VII. one at odds with the supposedly puritanical tone of cool intellectualism that urges the repression of passion in Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Wollstonecraft. but who lack the capacity for direct spontaneous response. asserts her own individualist subjectivity and implicitly numbers herself among them.

the possibility that nature can address ennui and alienation because it has the capacity to whet the understanding in a civilization in which popular taste has been impaired by sensual overindulgence. and the occasion to further exercise a lively and discriminating mind.7 The latter are threefold: First. but it can only be formed by frequent contemplation of the objects with which it is conversant” (Aikin 1777: 154).Friends of our Captivity 291 closely glosses Wollstonecraft’s advice that “effusions” ought to be “softened or expunged during the cooler moments of reflection” (Wollstonecraft [1797] 1989: VII. again. 9). Wollstonecraft indicates that she was conscious that the word was a slippery signifier. In her suggestion that “the poetry written in the infancy of society. is most natural”. Conceding. that the relish of the natural environment is both a manifestation of. 8). second. is problematized by her own acknowledgement of the semantic instability of “natural” as a “very indefinite expression”. Wollstonecraft hypothesizes a purity of encounter with the natural environment. of which the direct experience of the natural environment is but one dimension. . There is an optimistic claim that the individual self can be enlarged by an act of will through the accumulation of knowledge. Given that evidently “a poet is rather the creature of art. an idea which. 7). than of nature”. at least in the sense of a straightforwardly innate and universally experienced process. 7). 7 The title indicates Wollstonecraft’s direct debt to Aikin who spoke of the “relish for the beauties of poetry” (Aikin 1777: 2). the idea of nature as a human textual construct is a paradoxical and troubling one if the positive aspects of Wollstonecraft’s argument are to be sustained (Wollstonecraft [1797] 1989: VII. a criterion that she realizes may lead to a paradox because it is dependent upon what the human mind can bring with it to nature from culture. that “natural is a very indefinite expression” (Wollstonecraft [1797] 1989: VII. It is suggested that the true appreciation of nature is best enjoyed by the poet for whom “the understanding has been enlarged by thought and stored with knowledge” (Wollstonecraft [1797] 1989: VII. Aikin had suggested that there were strong parallels between accuracy of representation and a philosophical truth on the part of the poet and further associated elevated taste with the integrity of empirical experience: “Taste may perhaps be fixed and explained by philosophical investigation. The greatest depth of feeling and felicity of expression exists in those that have educated and cultivated themselves. the idea that the love of nature leads to devotion to the creator (an argument drawn from natural theology with its Protestant emphasis upon individual accommodation with God). and inconveniently imply that the love of nature is not natural. A tension is apparent here which must be resolved if Wollstonecraft’s explanation of the “relish for the beauties of nature” is to be logically coherent. factors that militate against the broader emphasis upon direct experience and spontaneity. in a parenthetic aside. finally.

that is best able to relish the subtleties and nuances of experience and emotion when enjoying the countryside. 10) It is the true poet. and taste gains ground. To rouse the thoughtless. Wollstonecraft consistently employs metaphors of sexual heat and coolness to create a curiously libidinized effect in “On Poetry”. to be attentive to the broader context of knowledge. who profits from inner growth and a deeper understanding. appear to them the light vapours of a dreaming enthusiast. and often follows with ardour till he is mocked by a glimpse of unattainable excellence. picturesque forms which a contemplative man gazes on. the passions become stronger. Hunt Such a potential contradiction in the love of nature. She makes use of metaphors of sexuality . however. (Wollstonecraft [1797] 1989: VII. In a letter from Sweden about the manners of country girls she writes “as the mind is cultivated. who gives up the substance for the shadow. This idea that too much artificial green verse may jade the senses recalls familiar strictures upon the excesses of sexual appetite as a consistent theme in Wollstonecraft’s prose.292 Stephen E. correct diction and mechanical rhyming schemes. Wollstonecraft’s passion for the countryside may likewise be more accurately interpreted as emphasizing the concentration rather than the dissipation of human energies rather than the alleged repression of the sensory. contrasting the fickle feeling of the landscape libertine or voluptuary with the quieter yet more enduring “ardour” of the true aesthete and faithful lover of nature. Such an argument extends the purlieus of Wollstonecraft’s early morning stroll in the countryside out to the parameters of her more expansive personal cosmology. In human relationships the promiscuous and relentless search for extraordinary stimulation leads to an unsatisfactory and frivolous absorption in surface forms: Gross minds are only to be moved by forcible representations. the unsubstantial. It is apparent then that Wollstonecraft’s ideas about the “beauties of nature” are interwoven with social concerns. and to prefer longer term purpose and content to ephemeral desire. this is the ability to ground the universal in the particular or to extrapolate the eternal from the immediate. calculated to produce tumultuous emotions. True nature poetry is produced by a dynamic interchange between the poet of discrimination and the directly experienced countryside and not by the encyclopaedic learning of stock phrases. objects must be presented. True education is a faculty that exists to sharpen critical discrimination and bring about self-improvement. is addressed by analogy to the nature of love. The quality of the enlarged potentiality of the human imagination is preferred to the quantity of knowledge. and rest on something more stable than the casual sympathies of the moment”(Wollstonecraft [1796] 1987: 83).

takes a discursive explanation of different tastes before circuitously returning to its point of departure and to closure with an insistence that “the understanding must bring back feelings to nature”. There is an identity of form and content in the essay which.ii. Yet while Wollstonecraft avoids Williams’s romance frame. It is fitting then that. reflecting the specific habitus that she attributes to these categories. Botany and natural history were key to the project for enlightened education that Williams admired in the Parisian Lycée in Letters from France (H. They are also derived from and some cases anticipate masculine texts. W. “On Poetry” itself perhaps amounts to an unintended coda to the rest of her work. extraordinary first hand experiences of imprisonment and depression are mediated through and further develop prevailing fictional tastes for sensibility. and the imitative sycophancy of mass taste. as Wollstonecraft’s last published essay.30). Wollstonecraft’s writings invoke the author’s desire to assert a rationalist feminist perspective. setting out from a regret that the taste for nature popular with her contemporaries is not grounded in “real perception”. In such prose. frequently contesting discursive categories of nature and culture. the presence of natural history was to signify more than mere background colour. both associated with sensibility. the main prototypes for a Short Residence are Laurence Sterne’s Sentimental Journey (1768) and Rousseau’s Reveries of the Solitary Walker. Williams [1795–96] 1975: I. a sense that partly counterpoints the sensibility of Williams’s chronicles of life in revolutionary France. The foregoing examples demonstrate Romantic women writers’ use of personal literature to negotiate natural spaces in extremely adverse circumstances. Charlotte Smith undertook extensive work in popularising natural history and was a talented botanical illustrator. Deborah Kennedy notes that later Williams’s translation of Alexander von Humboldt’s Personal Narrative (1814–29) was to inspire Charles Darwin to take up science and travel (Kennedy 2002: 186).Friends of our Captivity 293 and intimates significant variation in the responses of different socio-economic groups to the natural world. the gothic and the picturesque. Wollstonecraft’s commendation of the natural world in “On Poetry” is one of an active engagement that demands effort. In the literature of Helen Maria Williams and Charlotte Smith in particular. Written for the largely non-conformist readership of the Monthly Magazine. the epistolary form enabled a narrative voice that combined the personal and the political (Jones 1993: 302). As Vivien Jones comments. Wollstonecraft privileged the importance of the countryside by developing a theory of the literary use of natural . The celebration of the civilizing consequences of an individual accommodation with the natural environment is articulated through a meritocratic sentiment which critiques both the preoccupations of a leisured urban class that devalues the countryside as a site of retreat and relaxation.

an actual captivity she suffered in common with Williams and Smith and the figurative restriction of extreme depression suffered by Wollstonecraft. Edmund. John.‘Charlotte Smith’ in Sir Walter Scott. The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett. Richard. [1821] 1979. Howe). Johnson. Rousseau.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ‘Captivity’ [from ‘Captivity’. London: William Pickering. Jean-Jacques. with an introduction). [Catherine Ann Turner]. London: Dent. with an introduction by Conor Cruise O’Brien) London: Penguin. 2 vols. London: Dent. Browning. Mary. The Lives of the Novelists.294 Stephen E. 1930–34. but there remains a belief in the value of authentic engagement with nature and doubts about the direction of progress in purely quantitative terms that marks the Romantic disquiet with the civilising project in “On Poetry” and A Short Residence. Hunt imagery in “On Poetry”. Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett. Lady Susan. Austen. Mary. Robinson. [1801] 1930.chadwyck. Polwhele. Dorset. Sanditon (ed. Harmondsworth: Penguin. with an introduction by Roy McMullen). On line at: http://lion. London: Cobden-Sanderson. The Complete Works of William Hazlitt (ed. Reflections on the Revolution in France and on the Proceedings in Certain Societies in London Relative to that Event (ed. The Unsex’d Females. P. London: Michael A Study of Pure Curiosity: The Botanical Letters and Notes Towards a Dictionary of Botanical Terms (3rd ed. (ed. The critical engagement with the rural ideal in Wollstonecraft’s final works retains a belief in the natural environment’s value for human well-being. 1777. Memoirs of the Late Mrs. [1817] 1974. Cambridge. Macaulay. Botany. trans.. [1790] 1996. For all of them attention to the natural environment not only supported physical health but buttressed mental resilience and was vital to the literary imagination. Catharine. The sensibility demonstrated in earlier works such as Mary gives way to a more sceptical attitude. The Watsons. Jane. by Kate Ottevanger. Margaret Drabble). [1826] 1929. 21 vols. P. . a tale (1777)]. 1798. William. Letters on Education with Observations on Religious and Metaphysical Subjects. Bibliography primary sources Aikin. London: J. [1790] 1968. Elvan Kintner). a poem. and ‘Celadon and Lydia’.uk (consulted 11 November 2006). 1969. Robinson. Robinson. 1777. An Essay on the Application of Natural History to Poetry. London: Cadell and Davies. For the four women under discussion the “vivid green” of the countryside symbolically allows the imagination to slip the bars and walls of what Mary Robinson calls “the dark galleries of a prison” (Robinson [1801] 1930: 99). Mass. Hazlitt. Written by Herself (a new ed. Burke.

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Kennedy. 1992. NC: University of North Carolina Press. Todd. London: Chatto and Windus. Hunt Innes. 16 (1–3): 299–305.). 1995. 1992. and Psychoanalysis. John and John Styles (eds) An Ungovernable People: The English and their Law in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. 1993. A Dictionary of British and American Women Writers 1660–1800. 2002. Gary. Basingstoke: Macmillan. Jones. 1973. Janet (ed. The Country and the City. 1980. Simon. 1975. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press. Schama. London: Methuen. Chapel Hill. Deborah. ‘Helen Maria Williams’s Letters from France: A National Romance’ in Prose Studies. The Lay of the Land: Metaphor as Experience and History in American Life and Letters. London: Harper Collins. Vivien. Williams. London: Hutchinson: 250–98. Keane. ‘Femininity. . 1987. 15 (3): 271–94. First Things: The Maternal Imaginary in Literature. Art. rpt with minor alterations 1996. authority and order in a London debtors’ prison’ in Brewer. Jacobus. 1995. Revolutionary Feminism: The Mind and Career of MaryWollstonecraft. Kelly. Kolodny. New York: Routledge. Nationalism and Romanticism: The Politics of Gender in the Revolution Controversy’ in History of European Ideas. Raymond. Joanna. Helen Maria Williams and the Age of Revolution. Annette. ‘The King’s Bench prison in the later eighteenth century: law. Mary. Angela.296 Stephen E. Landscape and Memory.

male gaze. but I push on. yet is unable to achieve the same public privacy as men because she is always accompanied by gender specific fears (primarily rape). spatial patriarchy. Terry Gifford. Annie Proulx. Similar to the constraints a modern woman felt who wanted to wander the city anonymously. (John Muir [1938] 1979: 439) Not to have known—as most men have not—either the mountain or the desert is not to have known one’s self. and the internalization of the male gaze that censors her actions even when men are not present.Public Land and Private Fears: Reclaiming Outdoor Spaces in Gretchen Legler’s Sportswoman’s Notebook Lilace Mellin Guignard abstract This chapter examines the struggles women often face negotiating wild outdoor spaces. Gretchen Legler’s book. All the Powerful Invisible Things: A Sportswoman’s Notebook. Mona Domosh and Joni Seager. Gretchen Legler. Keywords: women and nature. By using personal essays to explore these issues. and camping. I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown. provides a nonfiction account of one contemporary American woman who is successful at hunting. I found. are forms of spatial patriarchy still operating today. a contemporary woman alone far from settled areas is immediately suspect unless she has a socially sanctioned purpose. Feminist geographers have shown that cultural conditioning of women to feel most unsafe in public spaces (against all statistical evidence). wilderness. Legler enlists the pastoral mode of nature writing in nontraditional ways that Terry Gifford terms “post-pastoral”. was really going in. but also the masculine and heterosexual bias within the traditional pastoral mode privileged in American nature writing. flâneur. (Joseph Wood Krutch. pastoral. qtd. rape. paddling. post-pastoral. for going out. public privacy. or is with a man (and often then is an unwelcome reminder of civilized manners and domesticity). lesbian. in Zwinger 2002: 577–8) I’m always afraid alone in the woods. Ultimately Legler’s essays reveal not only the cultural impediments to American women accessing outdoor spaces on their own terms. (Gretchen Legler 1995: 34) . fishing.

incapable of being sufficiently detached from the commerce of city life” (2000: 237). a term originating in early nineteenth century Paris for a city stroller. she could not lose herself in the crowd and enjoy the luxury of unaccountability because “any deviation from the evidence of such purpose immediately renders her suspect – a loiterer. which is still embedded in American culture. For instance. according to Rebecca Solnit (2000: 198–9). has traditionally been linked with her task. “it can be concluded that the flâneur was male […] with little or no domestic life”. thus without access to the benefits of power and voice that identification with the cultural side of the dualism affords white men. what has been called the “right to escape to public privacy” was not afforded to women (Wolff 1990: 40). Nature was not perceived as feminine space. and that task has been linked to domesticity. nature was seen as female itself. This essay will extend the conversation of women’s mobility in the modern city to women’s mobility in . Unless she cross-dressed like George Sand (Wolff 1990: 41). The acceptability of woman’s presence. it was a “purposive mobility which [had] nothing to do with the detached and aimless strolling of the flâneur” (Wolff 1995: 102). Literary critic Stacy Alaimo (2000) traces the ways most feminist theory distances woman from nature. a space for women and their activities. whether in the city or outdoors. In the early twentieth century. shopping allowed women greater mobility but. and leads Alaimo to refer to woman “as that which is mired in nature [and] outside the domain of human subjectivity” (2000: 2). There is an important distinction to make between feminine spaces and “land-as-woman”. A discussion of more natural or wild outdoor spaces has long been outside mainstream feminist attention. a purposeless and anonymous crowd watcher. feminist discourse has concerned itself largely with recasting indoor spaces and reclaiming public spaces outside the home which are associated with political and economic power. alone and unrestricted by city manners and customs. Such conflation with nature is a more intense version of the hurdles a woman faced to becoming a flâneur. as either commodities or consumers. passive and silent. This perception. In much the same way women were mired in nature.298 Lilace Mellin Guignard Until recently. Though the term “has never been satisfactorily defined”. in frontier America it was appropriate for women to engage nature as gardeners or homesteaders – even without men (Domosh and Seager 2001: 147). an unrespectable woman” (Wolff 1995: 102). that is. again. a concept that Annette Kolodny argues is “the central metaphor of American pastoral experience” (1975: 158). due in large part to Simone de Beauvoir’s analysis of how Cartesian rationalism set woman up as nature incarnate. poses a problem for women if they wish to retreat to nature in the tradition of the literary pastoral. Thus. Solnit states: “One of the arguments about why women could not be flâneurs was that they were.

or accountable to someone. but how she begins to access the public privacy which. 2 Indeed. While two essays received Pushcart Prizes. considers herself an outsider in the male world of the outdoors” (Hughes 1996: 25). women nature writers explain that critics have begun “re-examining genre and genre expectations” (Edwards 2001: 4). See Johnson 2000. which according to ecocritic Don Scheese “has become […] the most popular form of pastoralism” (2002: 6). Hogan 1998 and 2001. But Legler’s work may also get passed over because a book full of woman’s issues is not what we expect in nature writing. the nonhuman environment at times seems more a framing device or mere setting than understood as having its own legitimate interest. Gretchen Legler’s (1995) book All the Powerful Invisible Things: A Sportswoman’s Notebook is described as “part nature guide. lesbian lovers. and 2003. and self. “who has spent the better part of her life hunting and fishing.Public Land and Private Fears 299 outdoor spaces removed from the garden or permanent settlement to show not only how one twentieth-century woman navigates the public aspects of being outdoors.1 the book has not received critical attention from scholars of American nature writing. and Rogers 1994. They claim that “much nature writing in America has 1 Awarded annually by inclusion in a collection of poetry and prose from “the Best of the Small Presses” in America published by Norton. Scheese says. as with city wandering. 2002. Critic Lawrence Buell reminds us that. though women’s presence in the nature writing tradition may not receive much attention.3 the editors of a collection of critical articles on U. It is a postmodern woman’s pastoral that frames each essay with an excursion outdoors designed to let the writer reflect on her relationships with family.S. . though her eye is keen and her description vivid. Perhaps because anthologies of women’s nature writing are appearing with greater frequency. rests on her ability to move around without always feeling watched. threatened. and. Perhaps this is because the essays offer little in the way of natural history. Legler’s book falls under the classification of contemporary nature writing.2 “pastoral modes have functioned as a means of empowerment for women writers” (1995: 44). part family history and part feminist tract” in which Legler. 3 For examples see Anderson 1991. “nature writing is a descendant of ‘natural history’ and ‘spiritual autobiography”’ (2002: 6). husband. Susan Fenimore Cooper’s book Rural Hours (1850) was hugely popular – even Thoreau read at least some of it before writing Walden – yet only Walden is read in American classrooms. Here the otherness the writer is most concerned with is her own. As such. And though she demonstrates a mature biocentrism. Characterized by a non-fiction account of a writer’s outward and inward journey in a “predominantly nonhuman environment”. environmental responsibility receives little emphasis.

were ‘the body’s world’ less damaged. behavioural responses shared by many women when engaging in activities that occur in 4 Gifford defines the post-pastoral as an “alternative […] vision” that goes “beyond traditional conventions” and limitations “of the pastoral and anti-pastoral” which encompasses “the best new writing about nature” (1999: 4–5). or both”. it is not because it is written by a woman. fishing. It calls for more self-conscious reflection on how the body we are given – woman or man – is an extension of the earth. He identifies six main qualities. a proponent of the continuing importance of pastoral modes in this age of environmental degradation. “for many post-pastoral ecofeminist writers. and expectations it carries. While through a traditional pastoral lens Legler’s essays might appear sentimental. but accessing them on her own terms. environmentally and socially” (1999: 166). of which I only refer to a few. a pattern that also separates nature and culture. but that “post-pastoral literature”4 conveys “an awareness of both nature as culture and of culture as nature” (1999: 162). such “philosophical assumptions” have often meant overlooking the “women authors [who] experience nature as intimately connected to culture” (Edwards 2001: 2). He continues. 165). Gifford posits that further elements to look for in a post-pastoral work include: “recognition that the inner is also the workings of the outer” and “that the exploitation of the planet is of the same mindset as the exploitation of women and minorities” (1999: 156. agrees that this is the way it has been. This perspective allows. whether through travel. from Gifford’s perspective her retreat to nature to understand her body. discussed in detail in Chapter Six. Terry Gifford. When I call A Sportswoman’s Notebook a woman’s pastoral. especially in the sense that they are separate from the private world of home. Legler guides us through her exploration of the “spatial expression of patriarchy” out-of-doors (Domosh and Seager 2001: 100). Arcadia might be located within the body. Likewise. and camping are culturally constructed as public. it seems to me. but actual bodies and desires. but because her content stems from the body she was given. desires. instead slipping from self-consciousness into a public privacy that can be shared with others and the earth.300 Lilace Mellin Guignard followed a pattern of separation. emotions. for more than just spiritual autobiographies in nature writing. and how the expectations society attaches to our bodies travel with us into the woods and beyond. at times achieves post-pastoral status. or isolation. and responsibilities. and then shows her struggles to be outdoors without being controlled by fear. that is. . Legler’s problem is not so much accessing such spaces. One of the main obstacles to her feeling like she belongs is how the spaces she occupies while hunting. My analysis charts the ways in which Legler is made to feel that her presence in such spaces is unwelcome and unnatural. and the fears. calling attention to how one woman’s body navigates the masculine space of wild America. family.

No Girls Allowed One of the ironies of outdoor spaces in the United States is that much of the land we recreate in and on is public. Craig is an important figure because he portrays an alternative male way to be outdoors. or dismiss Legler. presumably because it was considered impossible for a woman to be overcivilized. In addition to literary critics. “I used to hate being a woman”. recalling how she had always liked being one of the guys (1995: 8). judge. Knowing this is like an earthquake. Her job was to stay home and instill strong moral values in the children until the boys were at the pivotal age when a mother’s influence became detrimental. “All my friends were men. or went fishing on the Rainy River” (1995: 8). the more they were considered as a resource for American men so they did not lose their “virility” by becoming “overcivilized” as the frontier diminished (Nash [1967] 1982: 149. is a narrative about a yearly spring fishing trip to the Rainy River that introduces Legler. Craig. then men whisked them off to learn to hunt and gain additional education consisting of the “savage virtues” (Nash [1967] 1982: 152). Craig. I am not a man. and the conflict at the heart of the collection. historians. a contrast to the men who threaten. Yet since the time of Teddy Roosevelt. So in many ways they were a private public space. The first essay. based in outmoded ideas of gender. I am thirty years old now. are fixed in our everyday places and spaces” (Domosh and Seager 2001: xxiii). preserved as a “wilderness cure” (Nash [1967] 1982: 151) that women did not need. Just now all the lies are starting to unfold” (Legler 1995: 8). Rather than her three years of taking this trip and her many more years of general fishing experience increasing her comfort level. or crouched up in a tree with a rifle waiting for deer. In fact many women are introduced to wilderness activities by men. Legler was taught to fish by her father and goes hunting with her husband. I will rely on the work of feminist cultural geographers who can help us better understand how “the decisions that are made about our everyday lives. the more rugged and removed the natural spaces. and philosophers. this new awareness . her reconnecting to herself as a woman explains why Legler says. supported by federal or state taxes paid by men and women. Obviously this general cultural attitude based in outmoded ideas of gender has not kept women from recreating in public land. Legler states.Public Land and Private Fears 301 outdoor spaces where a woman’s presence is not traditionally expected or accepted. 150). “Until recently it never occurred to me to wonder why I was the only woman I knew who walked in the woods with a shotgun looking for grouse. While the reader does not yet know what lies she refers to. “Border Water”. or sat in a duck blind or a goose blind. and I feel alone. 1.

or .302 Lilace Mellin Guignard of herself as a woman makes Legler “uneasy” about the fishing weekend (1995: 5). and her difficulty in gaining entrance to the fish house attests to her feeling she is unwelcome and her fear of what she might become if she tries to belong on their terms. and even in the absence of other women it might be one place Legler feels like she is on her own turf (1995: 6). starting campfires. feeling watched and unsafe (1995: 6). and though Legler is “happy to be outside” she looks over her shoulder and into the woods. This reaction to a gender-specific fear is the dominant “spatial expression of patriarchy” according to geographer Gill Valentine. The fact that they have a “women’s outhouse” suggests that women do camp there. Yet psychologists and geographers agree that this “female fear feeds on misinformation about rape” (Gordon and Riger 1989: 6). in the woods. at Franz Jevne State Park in Minnesota. women “avoid walking in certain places. She rushes to pull up her many layers. which is only “a few dirt pullouts and two outhouses” without paved roads or street lights (Legler 1995: 6). the fear of rape is so pervasive and insidious it leads “most women” to live under “self-imposed” restrictions (Domosh and Seager 2001: 100). firing up cooking stoves” (1995: 6). But this too has been claimed by at least one male with a “thick black marker” whose grotesque picture of a woman’s vulva is accompanied by the message: “ ‘I want to fill your pussy with a load of hot come’” (Legler 1995: 6).” but that is not the reason she feels “surrounded” and “vaguely gloomy” (Legler 1995: 6). by extension. or mountains. not on the streets” (Domosh and Seager 2001: 100) – or. her depiction of the boat/river space shows why she fears being judged and publicly ridiculed. The couple stays. as they have past years. This and the accompanying graffiti leave Legler so “terrified and sickened” that she “can’t pee anymore” (1995: 6). The threat Legler hears is “I want to rape you” (1995: 6). but even without the evidence of such a threat. “since it reflects and reinforces the traditional notion that women belong at home. rivers. and often will not go out alone” (ibid.). they are accompanied by “muffled. Consequently. According to geographers Mona Domosh and Joni Seager. Legler is aware of the men in the other campsites “lighting lanterns. Even though the tasks she lists are domestic. Their small site “is in the middle of tall evergreens. she portrays the three main physical spaces she inhabits during the weekend in ways that illustrate three aspects of her fear. under the protection of a father or husband. Her depiction of the campsite demonstrates why she fears a physical threat to her body. One of the great misconceptions that continues to propagate the separation of the private-female sphere from the public-male sphere is the notion that women are safer in the home. at particular times. rough voices” that remind her she is “the only woman here” (Legler 1995: 6). She has literally seen the writing on the wall.

As literary critic and Americanist Leo Marx. He says. statistically are our greatest threat of physical assault. is what . ‘All these guys are out here to get away from their wives’” (1995: 7). In this situation Legler would rather not be noticed. she thinks anyone knows she is a woman. a risk that has been “exaggerate[d]” to keep women “in their ‘place’”. Legler’s body disrupts the wilderness fantasy. The fact that Legler is not alone. Through the scene in the campsite and outhouse Legler gives the reader her experience of how such cultural conditioning is perpetuated. such an interruption brings “tension. so in this way the men’s public privacy is shattered. as does Craig: “We watch ourselves being watched. the men have no trouble turning the gaze back on the couple. The common references to “drunken” men Legler encounters add further credence to her perception of them as “dangerous” and illustrate how the expectations of civilized conduct do not exist here (1995: 5). Probably from a mix of choice and necessity. They have found a good spot for fish so it is “crowded” with “boats push[ing] together” where again there are no other women. To the men. Then maybe they would think I was a woman. but through sheer numbers and a sense of entitlement that culture has conditioned into them. conflict. and anxiety” ([1964] 2000: 16). The trees. This is where Legler most feels the male gaze. those whom we allow into our private space.Public Land and Private Fears 303 at least with walls and locks between them and what is wild. simply by being female and representing the world of family. She ponders what would tip them off: “[M]aybe when you lean over in the boat and kiss me. and responsibilities the men wished to escape. instead of a “machine in the garden” (the boats. civility. states. have motors). her clothes disguise her gender: Craig asks her if. Legler represents the gaze of polite society. and darkness afford the campsite a modicum of privacy compared to being in the jig on the river. dressed as she is. But I wouldn’t necessarily have to be” (Legler 1995: 7). The irony is that our protectors. that she is with a man. the result is that “although most violence against women is actually perpetuated in the private spaces of home. A man’s presence outdoors represents conquering while a woman’s presence represents civilizing (Domosh and Seager 2001: 147). Legler’s unexpected presence has interrupted the men’s pastoral idyll much the way the sudden “shriek of the locomotive” (Marx [1964] 2000: 16) brings Nathaniel Hawthorne’s musings away from a “simple pleasure fantasy” of nature and back to the industrial world and society (Marx [1964] 2000: 15). it is those spaces defined as “public” that the majority of women fear most” (Domosh and Seager 2001: 100). and many of the men are “swigging beer” and smoking cigars (Legler 1995: 7). after all. who coined the expression. tent. of wives. Fearing the stranger crouching behind the bushes is all out of proportion to the occurrence of stranger rape.

Nichols 1978. uncivilized and therefore not deserving of society’s protection. I felt sure they were making fun of my incompetence. A good rhetorical analysis of such guides is Glotfelty 1996. Art and cultural critic John Berger claims that “this has been at the cost of a woman’s self being split in two” (1972: 46). while struggling to set up my tent. heard some men in the next site whispering and laughing. a topic to which women’s backpacking guides often devote whole chapters. she is anxious to do it well. It is interesting to note that Legler’s account lacks any preoccupation with her physical appearance and femininity. the water and wind blowing in her face and hair. It is too big a thing for me. Legler makes it to shore “where men line the banks” and immediately starts to lecture herself: “I have fucked up. she feels at peace: “My image of myself and my self come together here” (Legler 1995: 11). Legler muses.304 Lilace Mellin Guignard removes any possibility of her moving about anonymously. and were laughing at how they would not have been able to. “grow up believing they can’t do anything” 5 See Farmer 1976. women have had to learn to anticipate the male gaze and act so as to earn or keep its favour. The last scene on the river demonstrates this phenomenon. In order to gain a “social presence” in the “limited space” to which they have been allowed access (Berger 1972: 46). it is important to note that at no time in the essay does Legler show any evidence that men are judging her. When all is going well. Once I arrived at a campsite after dark and. Spatial patriarchy perpetuates itself much like Foucault’s Panopticon. and Thomas 1980. 6 I have experienced similar feelings of inadequacy when camping on my own.5 The male gaze she feels is not voyeristic but mocking. Too dangerous. This response continues. nor does she argue that they are. though Craig’s reaction is not the angry one she has been taught to expect. He even takes some of the blame for her not feeling confident in the task. When Legler takes the boat by water to the landing while Craig brings the van around. She expects Craig not to trust her with it and he does not understand her misgivings. I found out they were impressed that I could do it at all. realizing he must step back and let her practice (away from strangers) driving the boat and trailer. I never should have been trusted with this […] It is not my place to drive a boat. “Many women”. What she does is recount the situation so that we can see that she has internalized the gaze so pervasive in western culture. as well as lighting the lantern and stove. Even one book written by and for outdoor lesbians has a section on appearance that suggests dressing to suit your sweetie’s taste (see Thacker 2002). not loose. A loose or wild woman would carry the connotation of sexually immoral. Yet being with a man is also what allows her easier access along with some protection – his presence is a sign that she is claimed.6 Although she claims that they are being watched. . too demanding” (1995: 12). But then the propeller scrapes loudly against rocks.

their message being that we are women and we are climbing. most girls grow up under the assumption that much of their social role is passive or occurs in private. as Craig reveals. except for – now – in sports where public. Like a man might” (Legler 1995: 11). 7 My experiences backpacking alone. and in outdoor spaces this means being able to protect and provide against more-than-human forces. they did not initially listen to my commands. possibly in ways more harsh and cruel. goes about such tasks in public. Confronting wilderness “is a test. The man in the woods. This is the same conditioning that prompted Miriam O’Brien Underhill. mechanical task. he is not threatened by his wife gaining equal competence or becoming able to take care of herself.7 This scene on the river exposes the ways in which one woman feels herself performing male tasks in front of a group of strange men.Public Land and Private Fears 305 (1995: 11). What I regret is that I do not simply assume I can do it. a combination unusual enough to warrant commentary” (2005: 3). Once on the river. a proving of his essential pluck and resourcefulness and manhood. I wish I could charge into it without reserve […] free of doubt. physical success and failure are practiced. Unlike patriarchal society in general. But since women are generally discouraged from being responsible for their own survival. . there is often an element of spectacle when one. “I know that I can learn to do this physical. She explained that “in any emergency. The pressure of being (or seeming) competent is the cultural albatross around male necks. It takes a conscious effort to break the pattern. She does not want to be like that. So much of what men do is physical and happens in public spaces – by adulthood they are accustomed to it (even those who may not like it). a measuring of strength. by necessity or choice. “we still encounter comments ranging from complimentary and kind to condescending and rude. Large. having more faith in their brawn than my knowledge and skill. the ability to endure and to take care of himself ” (ibid. and paddling have been similar. It was especially apparent when I worked as a raft guide. declared Stewart Edward White in 1903. when climbing with her girlfriends. particularly in an outdoor sport […]. and how there is no need for them to say anything aloud or openly heckle her because she is judging herself already. “matches himself against the forces of nature” (qtd.). a renowned early twentieth-century American climber. strong men – often military types – resisted being assigned to my boat. in Nash [1967] 1982: 154). climbing. However. to decide she must climb without the company of a man in order to reach her potential as a mountaineer. yet he and Legler automatically fall into the routine of him handling the mechanical tasks with technical gadgets. This view of the male role when “in the woods” can be enacted unwittingly. what man wouldn’t spring to the front to take over?” (Loomis 2005: 4). Molly Loomis points out how.

but another man arrives and “barrels” past her. I am saying to myself. and she asks if there is room for someone else. When I do this. such “multiple nestings” occur within the broader context of . In the van Legler tells Craig “I should give up and stay home […]. not dominance and ends by saying. 2. “there’s no room for a goddamned girl in that fish house” (1995: 13) and describes setting up a make-shift station on the ground and angrily. and furious at him for not showing basic manners when he saw her standing there. In the same way scholars break down the interiors of the Victorian home to analyze which rooms are more public or private. Going Out to Go In Susan Gal (2004) rightly claims that public and private are not fixed distinctions but ideological ones. cleaning and slicing her catch. the men make room at the table (1995: 13). the answer is not a simple yes or no.” I feel defiant and confident. I use the terms here in order to argue that American men can access public outdoor spaces without gender-based fears. proud and suddenly cruel. Legler tells Craig.306 Lilace Mellin Guignard When Legler goes to the fish house we find the most overt example of her not belonging due to gender conditioning – in this case to always be polite. thus allowing them a greater sense of privacy or escape. Legler is told it is “kind of cozy” and chooses to wait at the door. and. When Craig asks if they would not let her in. Legler makes clear that she can do so. I am leaping across a line between the fish’s life and mine […] And I can do it as well as any. A group of men are already inside talking and filleting. claim their right to be outdoors away from homes and malls. I realize. of course. Better than any of them. but crossing the line and assuming the power side of the dualism (this time between humans and other animals) does not make her happy. Craig quietly responds that if she does not take her place then she will lose it. She is furious at herself for not doing the same thing the man did. “I can do this better than any of those bastards. I can move as easily as anyone across this space. “there has to be a space for me. (Legler 1995: 13) She has achieved access and competence in the task. Many of the essays that follow detail her struggle to discover what accessing such spaces on her own terms entails. but still does not belong. the worse it gets the more I see I don’t have a place out here” (1995: 14). women must forcefully. And the necessity of taking her place is the crux of the matter. Legler wants co-existence. or at least aggressively. rather than reverently. and the possibility that this is the only way to have access to these spaces scares her. Rather than the birthright that wilderness is for American men. civilized domesticity and commerce. space for me as a woman out here” (1995: 14).

it does not provide reliable access to the private aspects. it generally demands we be alone and.8 This nesting of the inner/outer or public/private dichotomy is highlighted by American explorer and author John Muir’s well-known observation that going out is really going in. He encapsulates the way the Romantic pastoral impulse of retreat has been a means of inner reflection. whether actual or internalized. I want to examine what happens when a woman performs many private activities outdoors. There is an important distinction to be made between feeling conscious of having an audience. The American definition of “wilderness” found in the Wilderness Act (1964) states the tract of land must be big enough to have “outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation” (online at wilderness. and safely when alone in nature. as nature writer Joseph Wood Krutch would say (at least about men). . In order to be able to 8 The necessity of going to the bathroom outside deters many women from venturing outdoors on longer excursions. Legler struggles to feel she can move freely. high heels and the “ideologies that encourage women to be physically frail” (2001: 117) were not as interested as their male counterparts in “naming and claiming new geographical discoveries”. Instead of “embedding ‘public’ activities in private spaces” (Gal 2004: 272). and feeling so comfortable in what one does and where one is that the self-monitor recedes. But spatial oppression has limited women’s outdoor roaming. unselfconsciously. Like women in the modern city.Public Land and Private Fears 307 outdoor spaces (Gal 2004: 265). as a woman who has agency. when urinating. but for women this may be another instance where the importance of size is overstated. Domosh and Seager note that Victorian lady travellers who did escape the constraints of tight corsets. as someone who does not have to censor or watch herself. has been limited as well. Legler’s experience suggests that though physically accessing outdoor spaces gains women the public aspect of such spaces. But Legler shows us what her terms would be: as a sexual being not there for men. as playing a role. and therefore one must assume that their self-knowledge. rather their purpose lay in “self-discovery” (2001: 144–5). as a body separate yet linked with the body of the earth. not just observation of the outer landscape. The fact that she feels she must deny parts of herself when hunting. It is not possible to feel solitude if one always feels watched or on-guard. or camping – hide her body or not act in stereotypically feminine ways of being emotional or polite – adds to Legler’s sense of herself as an “imposter” (1995: 106). One of the most private acts. or at least as dependent upon a male as guide or provider. more exposed than men. as camp aid (domestic partner). Under culture’s terms she has limited ways to claim a place outdoors: as a sexual resource (a wife or girlfriend). as not-a-woman (renouncing her sex).

and thighs. and is glad when he does not” (Legler 1995: 35–6). “She has never done this before” and “wonders if he will follow her. and. lets the shirt fall. and leans against a birch. chews on pine needles. but never both. She rubs against a spruce. What she never lets go of is her own gaze. away from him” (1995: 35). As she begins to dress a new desire takes hold. her feet land on rocks and twigs but are not hurt.. where there is “a multiplicity of sensing subjects” (Abram 1996: 38). This losing of herself in nature might be alarming to feminists. Legler’s descriptions of the woods merge her body with the earth: “In this light. especially how even Legler’s language objectifies herself.308 Lilace Mellin Guignard slip from self-consciousness into an inner privacy. three days into the excursion. but the self gaze that is aware of moving into a new relation to nature. . Legler lets go of his gaze. She is experiencing what phenomenologists would call “intersubjective phenomena”. In this light. the trees radiate greenness. .. “I start to button [the shirt]. so new it does not seem like her own. In “Gabimichigami”. Her only concern is that he should not interfere. I read this as an indication of Legler’s struggle to shed binary logic that decrees one can be a subject or an object. Water falls on her back but she is not cold. It is not a seamless transition. Her response to the only male gaze around is significant because she is not embarrassed or preoccupied with what Craig may think. This morning. Legler does not explain the phenomenon but gives us . . Legler must find a way to lose the sense that she is always performing outdoors. as her shifting point of view conveys. She does not pretend that she is dressed […] But she walks outside without any shyness. hips.] She ignores them. when he does not follow. which is not the internalized gaze of the patriarchy such as we saw in “Border Water”. Legler says before changing to third person (1995: 35): She doesn’t want clothes. with the same confidence of movement she would have if she were covered. comparing the textures of these to her shoulders. Legler wakes in the tent with Craig already outside preparing breakfast. given how women have been conflated with nature against their will. Her boots are set outside the tent door [.. She undresses. Legler re-creates a fleeting moment when she felt absorbed in a public privacy where her awareness was filled with only her body and the earth. However. (Legler 1995: 35) Craig sees Legler as “she walks into the woods. but it represents a brief escape from selfconsciousness. then stop”. an early essay a scant two pages long. She and Craig are camping on a cliff in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness while on a paddling trip. blue veins glow through her skin” (1995: 36).

Foremost here is her experience of being in direct sensory contact with natural surroundings. but “no matter how sweet and pastoral her longing for the wild. yet it is likely that it is only possible because he is there. enacting the longing for an Arcadian ideal within the body that Gifford has identified in other ecofeminist writers (1999: 166). even briefly. once there. we face it more often. For one thing. Yet there is a further retreat to a privacy that is both of the body and of the earth. he calls to her (and Legler once again shifts to first person). she finds her old companion fear has come along” (1994: 172). and focuses overmuch on her own situation without using that insight as a lens to view outward. since we inherit a historical legacy of men’s social and physical power over us” (1994: 172). This reverie helps illuminate a comment in the essay immediately preceding “Gabimichigami” in which Legler says: “I am always afraid alone in the woods. Both Legler and Deming implicitly raise the question: What could women achieve if they had access to the self-knowledge acquired through wandering that is associated with great male thinkers and artists? In this collection Legler does not give an answer. “Gabimichigami” is a nested pastoral. By escaping. In “Gabimichigami” Legler reaches a level of public privacy deeper than that she shares with Craig outdoors. at last. and with new female lovers. Yet she gives us early in the book (too early to function as a climax or epiphany) an example of achieving the public privacy which she spends subsequent essays trying to reclaim on her own after ending her marriage. into a solitary public privacy. But perhaps this is where each wanderer begins. but that seems more an analysis aimed at a piece of fiction than nonfiction. Legler begins already in a remote place with only one other person. Fear is a “radar” that women carry everywhere. but I push on” (1995: 34). a sense that “her body is fine. she knows the benefits. a man with whom she is intimate. out . and Deming suggests women go to the forest to “escape” it. Her unexpected disinterest in clothes could be read as a symbolic casting off of cultural oppression. Deming states: “Women in our culture understand and respond to fear differently than men do. Having a trusted male in the vicinity. Now we see that she pushes on for moments that take her briefly beyond her preoccupation with self and identity and the constraints culture places upon her. Acclaimed nature writer Alison Hawthorne Deming (1994) is one of the few who has directly addressed this issue in her essays. clothed or not we still carry gender expectations.Public Land and Private Fears 309 an example of feeling a sense of merging without denying agency to herself or nature. Later essays make clear Legler’s ideological position that nature and culture can not be separate. Despite all her fears. and he does not break her reverie until. Legler can relax her guard. Legler does discover a less judgmental body image.

. . to “prepare for [her] future” which involves burying her sister’s ashes (1995: 155). she still seems a long way from comfortable with choosing to shorten her route. While she recognizes this as being wise rather than copping out. It is important to recognize that Legler does not present herself as freed from all her previous fears and anxieties outdoors. with wet. Legler did realize something about herself: “I enjoy solitude. Perhaps with the awareness that she is competent enough to go solo. Legler still internalizes the judgmental male gaze when she drags her canoe due to exhaustion. which takes place after she has left Craig (1995: 155). Legler’s solo excursion was a going in as well as a going out. In “Lake One. not going as far or as fast as she and Craig had previously done. nevertheless. Legler is also still afraid and finds she must really work to concentrate on the tasks of setting up camp in an attempt to “evaporate [her] fear. I chose not to push myself ” (1995: 163). Legler no longer has to prove anything and can choose to enjoy her solitude outdoors with others. she gets lost at first. ‘If you were half the outdoorswoman you claim to be you’d do it. Legler recounts her “first-ever solo canoe trip”. Legler is going out to go in. something watching” (1995: 159). “There was that voice. the descriptions of packing provisions. However. significant gains – inner and outer. However. knowledge. has trouble hanging her food bag to keep the bears out. but it does not rule her. Legler’s work suggests that a woman’s increased comfort level outdoors is accompanied by letting go of some cultural inhibitions and gender conditioning. Do it’” (Legler 1995: 163). Though she did not get a sign or message about what to do when burying her sister’s ashes. and the social construction of both” (Domosh and Seager 2001: 112).310 Lilace Mellin Guignard here” (1995: 36). She is not totally confident or competent. but I do not enjoy being alone […] I yearn for contact” (1995: 167). Lake Three. of setting the tent up “quickly. Most of all. rattling on . and often struggles carrying her canoe when portaging. bodies. and what she does and does not go outdoors for. It should not seem odd that her body image and her comfort level outdoors are so tightly joined because “in all societies there is an intertwined reciprocity between space. success lies in Legler’s response: “Wisely. Lake Four”. Yet there are also peaceful moments on the lake and at camp. a time to reflect both on what grieving is. 162). the fear that behind [her] was something terrible. and comfort she does have outdoors (Legler 1995: 158. physical and mental – have been made. Fear remains. Lake Two. What follows is the description of an imperfect trip where. . for once. of paddling straight. of starting a fire. of keeping “the cream cold by weighing it down in the water with rocks” attest to the skills. Do it. and especially when she decides to alter her plans. cold hands”.

The Brokeback Pastoral While fear (whether of men or bears or getting lost) is a major barrier to many women’s sense of comfort outdoors. Yet there is often still fear . some of Legler’s essays such as “Cold” and “All the Powerful Invisible Things” set up a pattern in which the natural world is “a secret safe place away from everything that could ever hurt [Legler or her lover]”. these later essays present pastoral escape as retreat from city manners and norms that are laden with heterosexual bias and precede the publication of Annie Proulx’s (1999) short story “Brokeback Mountain” by several years. The tension in the story centers around one of the men wanting to leave his wife and child to ranch together and the other’s commitment to his children and knowledge that they would never get away with it in homophobic twentieth-century America. Yet historically the pastoral is a form which came to include fiction (Gifford 1999: 1). It is a blissful time for young men who had not expected such companionship. one’s desire to make Arcadia permanent and the other’s awareness that Arcadia is more a notion than reality. Similarly. two cowboys come to love each other one summer while herding sheep. in fact. Carol Gilligan (1982) has noted that women tend to be more relational than solitary. shepherds for a time. and comparing some of Legler’s essays with Proulx’s story reveals an interesting trend of post-pastoral retreat to a safe place for unsanctioned companionship rather than for isolation. Instead. a place where “it feels like everything is possible” (1995: 189). They can never recapture this time. they never escape as completely as they did that summer. “Brokeback Mountain” – the basis for Ang Lee’s controversial and awardwinning movie by the same name in 2005 – is fiction and would not be considered by some ecocritics to be nature writing. though they escape to the wilds for brief trysts as years go by. Since the cowboys are. or she hopes will soon be. In Legler’s case one might wish she did enjoy it more.Public Land and Private Fears 311 3. “There were only the two of them on the mountain flying in the euphoric. in other words. the feeling of invisibility (though in truth they were seen). or give it another chance. this story is actually a pastoral of the “historical form” (Gifford 1999: 1). In the story. Legler demonstrates how solitude may just not be seen as fun. suspended above ordinary affairs” (Proulx 1999: 260). and this dislike of strict isolation may be another reason pastoral modes are not as readily available to women. bitter air. her lovers. going “manless” as Underhill termed it. and. looking down on […] the crawling lights of vehicles on the plain below. is underexplored though she does write of all-woman camping and ski trips. Likewise. the public privacy women can find in small groups. several essays focus on outdoor excursions with women who are. While annoying in how unworldly her tone becomes compared to previous essays that contain critiques of how our cultural approach to the natural world parallels our approach to women and sexuality.

This fear is more pervasive than for the gay cowboys who. but convincing: “I ask you if you like this – to be isolated in this way. Karla Mantilla makes a strong argument that. as well as gays. Legler and her lover find themselves in weather at least forty below zero. feel they belong in the wild and experience no fear that first summer. is severe cold. to be warm and to be the happiest you might ever be. that the constant vigilance women. ‘I could live like this. If nothing else can reassure one that there are not killers who target women or lesbians9 lurking nearby. See Mantilla 1996. gay or not. . it appears extreme weather can. but only once they descend the mountain. all random attacks on women and lesbians are more political than targeted attacks and serve to gain control over more than the victim by causing many women to restrict their activities. to label the mode. “too cold to make love” (1995: 103).’ you say” (Legler 1995: 103). Cold enough to kill. This gives the impression that living is equated with not having to keep one’s fear radar always on. in the absence of other motives. the one thing that makes Legler feel safest. she prefers to retreat briefly with women for a companionship unrestricted by societal heterosexual norms. A strange idyll. Legler’s accounts resist the pastoral pattern of a solitary escape from “the entrammeling society” to “the promising landscape”.10 “Brokeback Mountain” takes the Romantic image of the loner cowboy and suggests that. at least in these essays. and nature is separate from culture. A good example of an African-American post-pastoral is Harris 1988. yet they extend their stay longer than planned. must exercise daily is merely existing. Ultimately. some men might have relational inclinations. challenge pastoral assumptions from the outside. even more so than if she had limited her focus to her struggles as a woman and left out the added difficulties of being a lesbian. They sense a presence watching from the woods and lock their cabin door. because they are men. Even though the FBI has never found evidence to indicate it was a hate crime (they do not say whether there was sexual assault). both of which “are [traditionally] depicted in unmistakably feminine terms” (Baym 1981: 133). These retreats are imperfect but 9 The 1996 double murder of two lesbians on the Appalachian Trail put such fears in the spotlight. faraway place like this in the bitter cold. They add another layer of fear she has to deal with and another challenge for a writer trying to make space for her voice within a genre defined by masculine qualities and freedoms. Interestingly. where the outer is prioritized over the inner. in a lonely. Camping in remote cabins heated by wood they must chop. 10 Obviously the same is true of marginalized heterosexual male populations.312 Lilace Mellin Guignard when she and her female lover are out alone. It challenges pastoral assumptions from the inside by showing men using the public privacy of the wilds for love and companionship – activities perceived as feminine. Legler’s brokeback pastorals.

in large part because “the essential quality of America comes to reside in its unsettled wilderness and the opportunities that such a wilderness offers to the individual” (1981: 130.Public Land and Private Fears 313 still seem to be desired as a means of making everyday life back in the city more easily endured. Willard felt that “there was a special value to women in the conquest of the bicycle by a woman […] who had so many comrades in the […] army of temperance workers that the action would be widely influential” ([1895] 1991: 74). as cultural geographers call it. There is an interesting caveat in John Ruskin’s description of the female character.] the creator. “The first openly feminist mountaineers of genuine renown were Americans”. Though not necessarily pastorals. Later that century climbers Annie Peck Smith and Fanny Bullock Workman openly competed for the women’s altitude record. 132). the discoverer . As the main character in “Brokeback Mountain” reminds us. these demonstrate how written examples of a woman’s efforts to gain skill and comfort in outdoor spaces can act as aids to other women by sharing frustrations. Nina Baym has shown that in American literary criticism. The “sense of agency offered to white boys through imperialist fiction” is an example of how “imaginative space”. a journal run by women devoted to feminist social reforms (Mazel 1994: 7). wrote about them. accomplishments. the “American experience is inherently male”. the man is “active [. Many women who pioneered various outdoor activities. but because they felt women would be encouraged to try such sports if they were given female examples. The fact that these opportunities were rarely available to women affected more than just women’s experience on the ground. . and realizations. Julia Archibald Holmes. it was primarily men’s experience” (1990: 35). accounts such as when Legler details her struggles and pleasures hunting. influential leader in women’s social reform movement. Willard ([1895] 1991). but also their vicarious experience of outdoor spaces through literature. not because they were writers. published an account of her 1858 summitting of Pikes Peak in The Sibyl. Thus. . can “position and enable” a “spatial self ” (Crang and Thrift 2000: 10). using their fame to “further the cause of women’s rights” and authoring numerous accounts (Mazel 1994: 9). About the same time there was Frances E. Stereotypically. who wrote a small volume about learning to ride a bike at age fifty-three. “if you can’t fix it you got a stand it” [sic] (Proulx 1999: 269). and fishing enable women to more easily access male terrain in the United States both on the ground and on the page. claims David Mazel (1994: 8–9). such as climbing and bicycling. Just as Janet Wolff has argued that “insofar as the experience of ‘the modern’ occurred mainly in the public sphere. women’s cultural exile from wilderness has been reinforced. tips. “Bloomer girl”. By not being able to read much about themselves in such wild spaces. paddling. camping.

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On line at: http://www. 1995. . ‘Definition of Wilderness’ sec. Lynn. wilderness.01. 2c. Berkeley: University of California Press. ‘Of Red-Tailed Hawks and Black-Tailed Gnatcatchers’ in Elder. Willard. New Haven: Yale University 2002.2006). Resident Alien: Feminist Cultural Criticism. 1990. 2002. [1895] 1991. Garden City. Janet. New York: Norton. Chicago: Warwick Park Press. Ann. Frances E. New York: Anchor Books. . California: Fair Oaks Publishing. Carol O’Hare) Sunnyvale. [1964] 2006. 1980. The Backpacking Woman. Beck. John and Robert Finch (eds) The Norton Book of Nature Writing. Amazon Girls Handbook. Wilderness Act. Wolff. Feminine Sentences: Essays on Women and Culture. How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle: Reflections of an Influential 19th Century Woman (ed. Thomas. Zwinger.316 Lilace Mellin Guignard Thacker.cfm?fuse=NWPS&sec=legisAct (consulted 07.

Negotiating the City .


At a time when the American ideal placed women in the domestic sphere of private. the prevalence of urban spaces in her poetry indicates the impact of the city on her work. flâneuse. crowd. Rich transforms Baudelaire’s nineteenth century. Eliot.” “End of an Era.” “The Blue Ghazals. I argue that.Adrienne Rich’s City Poetry: Locating a Flâneuse Kirsten Bartholomew Ortega abstract As Adrienne Rich indicates in the essay “Teaching Language in Open Admissions. requiring revision and reconstruction.S. Rich’s poetry focuses directly on the city as early as 1961 in the poem “End of an Era” when the speaker addresses the city through apostrophe and invokes Charles Baudelaire. T. city. whose Paris poems in Les Fleurs du Mal set the . sexuality. Although Adrienne Rich is rarely considered a “city poet” the way some poets are (Gwendolyn Brooks as a Chicago poet. Yet the role of urban space is rarely examined in critical studies of Rich’s work. and Langston Hughes. race. contributing to the challenge of addressing her incomparable range. Ariadne. Frank O’Hara as a New York poet). Walter Benjamin. flâneur.” “Frame. suburban homes. Keywords: Adrienne Rich. Rich inserts herself into an urban poetics characterized by the influence of Charles Baudelaire and his flâneur. Drawing on the theories of Walter Benjamin and Anne Friedberg about the flânerie.” labyrinth. and class issues in an activist poetic gaze. Charles Baudelaire.” urban spaces such as New York City had a profound impact on her work for many years. it also contributes to critical discussions about the value of Baudelaire’s flâneur to contemporary urban studies and brings it back to poetry studies. urbanity. Parisian flâneur into a twentieth century flâneuse in the modern American city that requires the perspective created by flânerie to consider gender. This essay analyzes ways in which Rich simultaneously builds on a history of poetry in and of the city and exposes those roots as unstable. flânerie. but it is rarely explored in the work of women poets. “Twenty-One Love Poems. this essay not only reveals the impact of public urban life on Rich’s poetry. Rich was exploring her private identity in relation to her location in public city spaces. American literary history has often noted the presence and influence of the city on male poets such as Walt Whitman. like these male poets.

Lucy Collins explains that in Twenty-One Love Poems. demonstrating her double entrapment in and between the architecture of urban spaces and patriarchal literary tradition. “End of an Era” suggests the presence of a flâneuse in Rich’s poetry. and culture that men have created. She lived primarily in three major east-coast cities until the mid-1970s: Baltimore. to which she and her family moved in 1966. Therefore. between male. even defined. where she attended Radcliffe College and later lived with her husband and children. and class through flânerie. while city spaces offer the possibility of public recognition that the private spaces of suburbia are designed to deny. by virtually eliminating private space.1 Furthermore. Urban space is marked. and controlled by men to implicitly exclude women. At a time when Rich was rejecting the American ideal that placed women in the private. who engage in all the activities of relationships. which had arrested me 1 Adrian Oktenberg supports Collins’s interpretation by referring to the city as the apex of the “civilization” because it is the center of industry. In New York. careers.320 Kirsten Bartholomew Ortega standard for city poetry that still influences poets today. where she was born and raised. constructed. the city and city poetry. “The Blue Ghazals”. and New York City. a gendered form of Baudelaire’s flâneur. commerce. Rich engages the city’s limitations. The city is a vexed place for a feminist poet trying to construct an identity outside the confines of patriarchal expectations. race. women’s ability to access that recognition is still defined by men. it is a dynamic space within which relations of power and identity are contested. the city imposes on the lives of its inhabitants. specifically. or at least to control their movement with surveillance. domestic sphere. In poems such as “End of an Era”. and families while rarely being out of sight or ear-shot of other people. She describes her motivation for taking a job in City College’s SEEK program as coming partly from “a need to involve myself with the real life of the city.and femaledefined space. and between a poetic style that adheres to tradition and one that rejects it. “the city exemplifies civilization – growing from man’s achievements in industry and commerce. who attempts to redefine traditionally male-centered spaces. by the masculine” (2004: 146). but also traps her in the conflicted identity of a flâneuse who is caught between public and private space. law. “Frame”. specifically Cambridge. Boston. Rich explored the liberating possibilities of stepping into the human and cultural congestion of the city crowd. . Rich’s desire to understand and capture the “real” city in poetry allows her to address issues of gender. Rich confronts city spaces that have traditionally been designed. suburban. and “Twenty-One Love Poems”. the city offered an enticingly public alternative. Rich’s city poems articulate her struggle to transition from what Paula Bennett calls a “dutiful daughter” poet to a specifically “woman poet” (1986: 9). In attempting to appropriate flânerie for women.

suburban sphere of marriage and motherhood and into the public sphere of the city streets as a flâneuse. Because she fails to navigate the labyrinth herself. left stranded on an island by Theseus. Like Ariadne. The legacy of city poetry in American literature mimics the male-centered construction of the city. including women.” Rich writes: “City of accidents. all of which fall on stressed syllables. your true map / is the tangling of all our lifelines” (1984: 123). Like Ariadne helping Theseus navigate Daedalus’s labyrinth. Rich’s “true map” of the city incorporates the “lifelines” of all its inhabitants. like women’s contributions to the city space have been secondary. Rich’s poetry suggests. She identifies this “real” city in the City College students. as the provider of the “map” in the thread. In order to insert women’s perspectives and contribution into the city space. The male poets who established forms of city poetry based in flânerie constructed reflections of patriarchal city space. and almost articulates women’s flânerie. whose tools she thinks she needs to escape the labyrinths. In “The Blue Ghazal” dated “5/4/69. The students provide a connection to city life that enables Rich to move her poetic and personal voice out of the private. Rich seeks to provide a thread for women to follow through the urban labyrinth as it is literally constructed by architects and figuratively constructed by poets. hints at. In Skyline: The Narcissistic City. and yet it is repeatedly obstructed by poetic history.Y. whose comfort in the public spaces of the city must have seemed foreign to Rich. Ariadne represents the prevention of women’s movement through literal and figurative labyrinths: the literal city (public space) and the figurative maze of social standards and expectations (private space). They suggest Rich’s desire to revise the city’s cultural construction by writing a new map of the city in her poetry. By considering the city a labyrinth. its map must be rewritten to include their lives. Hubert Damisch connects cities to the ancient labyrinths of Greece and Egypt: city streets create maze-like spaces (2001). The short “a” sound – as opposed to the strong. Rich is abandoned by her poetic forefathers.” Ezra Pound claims that New York City is “My city. long “a” vowel sound as it is pronounced in the naming of the letter – is secondary. my beloved”. By naming the map of the city with an emphasis on the short “a” sounds. these lines recognize the omission or neglect of women’s perspectives in the city. always on the brink of realizing a twentieth century flâneuse. “a maid with no breasts” into whom he will “breathe” a soul through his poetic apostrophe . indicates the beginning of a new map of the city. In “N. Ariadne.Adrienne Rich’s City Poetry 321 from the first weeks I began living here” (1979: 53). Rich finds that depending on men to rescue her from patriarchal control backfires. Ariadne’s legacy clouds Rich’s ability to articulate a flâneuse in her poetry. The assonance of the short “a” vowel sound in these lines. becomes a precursor to the flâneuse.

they have to be able to blend into the crowd and go unnoticed as well. observing the crowd and interpreting it in his poetry. For women to participate in flânerie. enabling her flânerie. The flâneur is a distinctly private person who observes and records public spaces precisely because he is able to retain anonymity and invisibility in public spaces. but a death emblematic of the death that is epidemic in modern society. City poetry excludes women’s perspectives not only by objectifying and controlling them as Pound does. but also undermining her attempts to create a specifically woman flâneuse. The streets were rich with human possibility and vicious with human denial […] (1979: 54) The city paradoxically nurtures creativity and production and destroys it at the same time. more charged with knowledge. Anke Gleber. Rich flirts with the traditional mode of flânerie for writing city poetry. his role as an “unwilling detective” who stumbles upon crime in the crowd. Grappling with the contradictions of a city whose streets teem with “possibility” but also with “denial”. flânerie was the exclusive domain of men in the nineteenth century. Eliot. Rich looks to her poetic forefathers to provide methods for translating the complexities of city life into poetry. his emotionally distanced gaze. but. The flâneur was an upper-class gentleman who had the leisure to wander the city streets. The influence of Baudelaire’s flâneur can be traced through the work of such male American poets as Walt Whitman. Flânerie is a problematic motif for Rich to adopt because it often contributes to the exclusion of women from the cultural construction of the city. According to Walter Benjamin’s analysis of Baudelaire’s urban poetry. the city as Baudelaire and Rilke had provisioned it. or William Blake for that matter. and Deborah Parsons provide analyses that establish the prevalence and importance of women’s participation in forms of flânerie. his ability to be directed by the movement of the crowd. she resists the flâneur’s exclusive rights over how flânerie functions. than life elsewhere […] Here was this damaged. Although critics such as Janet Wolff and Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson claim that anonymity and emotional detachment in the crowd are impossible for women.S. critics such as Anne Friedberg. preying and preyed upon. In Benjamin’s description. All of the hope and possibility that Rich sees in the city are defined by her inheritance of urban response from such male poets: The city as object of love. self-destructive organism. and his intoxication in the city and crowd. Echoes of their city poetry reverberate through her city poetry.322 Kirsten Bartholomew Ortega ([1926] 1990: 58). T. more costly. death in life. and a life more edged. Friedberg identifies shopping as a means of . like the use of her roots in formal poetic style in order to resist its very limitations. and Langston Hughes. flânerie is defined by a variety of factors including the flâneur’s alienation in the crowd. but also by preventing women from participating in flânerie. a love not unmixed with horror and anger.

shopping relegates women to consumer address in an artificial environment. . The shopping mall offers the ideal setting for women to participate in flânerie because “[i]t defers urban realities. crime. setting her city poetry in spaces such as the public street rather than consumer-driven malls. Friedberg also locates women’s flânerie in film. Rich insists that the actual city recognize women’s perspectives. By writing the city. The poem “End of an Era” implies that Rich struggled early in her career to locate her identity in the city. to redeem the city after she becomes disillusioned by her discovery of women’s exclusion. 3 This poem is probably set in Boston as it was written in 1961. one that reveals the interplay of self/city identity. women are portrayed as consumers of products in the city rather than as producers of the city. Although Friedberg’s analysis establishes the possibility of women’s flânerie. one that is related to but distinct from the city of asphalt. a freedom linked to the privilege of shopping alone” (1991: 421). Rich’s poetry acknowledges that her gender restricted her contribution to the city’s cultural production in a way that her prose does not. where Rich attempts to create a map of her identity and of America. one that results from the interconnection of body.Adrienne Rich’s City Poetry 323 women’s flânerie in the early twentieth century: “The female flâneur was not possible until a woman could wander the city on her own. By acknowledging women’s participation in writing the city. through apostrophe. and desire. he/she is also the producer of a city. a fact on which Friedberg’s analysis of the flâneuse in the mall is predicated. Repetition of the words “map” and “atlas” throughout Rich’s oeuvre2 indicates her desire to make the material spaces around her more legible. those of social interaction but also of myth. and space. even weather […] The mall creates a nostalgic image of a clean. The writer adds other maps to the city atlas. when Rich was living in Cambridge. Rich inadvertently creates an unsustainable position for her flâneuse by attempting to appropriate the poetic 2 These terms are most prominent in the title and poems of An Atlas of a Difficult World. metaphorical city space. Parsons includes their perspectives in the production of the city.3 She engages the patriarchal legacy of city poetry by asking Baudelaire. blocks urban blights – the homeless. memory. mind. According to Deborah Parsons. fantasy. safe. legible town center” (Friedberg 1991: 424). the role of the writer in the city is more complex than as a simple recorder of experiences: The urban writer is not only a figure within a city. and stone. implying that they can construct their own. beggars. (2000: 1) Traditionally. Rich is producing a version of it that provides a map to make the city space familiar for readers. removing it from its original artistic form in poetry. brick. traffic.

alluding to Eliot’s “Unreal City” of The Wasteland in the capitalization of the word “city. like Baudelaire’s flâneur. disables her physical and poetic response to the city.” itself a nod to Baudelaire: […] City. When her apostrophe to the city. fails. The lines are rhythmically choppy. trembling under my five grey senses’ weight. The city is constantly changing. I think of you […] Nothing changes” (1993: 174). but the speaker finds this position to be disillusioning rather than empowering. the speaker of “End of an Era” then calls directly to Baudelaire. but now it is “dumb” to her: incapable of speech. nothing more than an illusion. and possibly to Eliot. but it also flattens. The speaker realizes that she cannot see herself in the city map. separated out between a comma and the end of the line. The paradoxical city causes the speaker of “End of an Era” to achieve her goal of connecting to Baudelaire’s city for the very reasons that she feels excluded from it. you flatten onto the table. Despite her persistence (the metaphoric cards are “thumbed”). reflecting nothing” (1993: 174). you once had snap and glare and secret life. The double meaning of “current” as the flow of the crowd on the city streets and as the marker of present time demonstrates the dual aspects of the speaker’s alienation in the city space. leaves it hanging and accusatory.324 Kirsten Bartholomew Ortega power of Baudelaire’s flâneur despite her latent awareness of the politics of the position that prohibit her gendered voice. The speaker of “End of an Era” first addresses the city directly. (1993: 174) The city once had “snap and glare” for the speaker. disrupting the flow both of her understanding of the city and of her communication with the reader. now. the city turns out to be “flat”. the line “you flatten” suggests a double meaning: the city is flattened. Rich’s self-conscious second reference to The Wasteland in the metaphoric cards. which allude to the Tarot cards that Eliot uses to demonstrate his foreboding response to the modern city. nor can she contribute to that map. with the tools to observe the city as a flâneuse. trying to renew what made the city seem special before: “Baudelaire. dumb as a pack of thumbed cards. keeping up an illusion of progress that only further distances the speaker of “End of an Era” from identifying with the . The emphasis on the word “you” at the end of the second quoted line. This alienation provides her. Similarly. Baudelaire has no impact on the city that she is in: “rude and selfabsorbed the current / dashes past.

the nature of the city’s effect on women. “Frame” connects to the literary roots of flânerie in Edgar Allan Poe’s detective stories by employing the perspective of a flâneuse who has stumbled upon crime in the city space (Benjamin 1973: 42). she does not move out into the city spaces. She observes an incident between a woman and the police that exemplifies. The word “laboratory” is broken by enjambment so that it makes the two words “lab” and “oratory”’ an overt comment on the implied connotation of the word in contrast with the denotation of its parts. The poem is located in a specific time and place – “This is Boston 1979” – defining the city in a specific time. The speaker notices the woman coming “out of the lab. mimicking the ongoing struggle in Rich’s city poems between her identity in the city and poetic spaces. exemplifies Rich’s struggle to connect her emotional response to the urban setting to flânerie (1984: 303). for her. Despite this connection. The setting is further established by the class implications of the woman’s use of public transportation. “The neighborhood is changing / even the neighbors are grown. Even the people she knows.Adrienne Rich’s City Poetry 325 space in which she lives. but also the common term that most people know for a space of scientific research. the speaker of “Frame” watches a crime occur from a protected distance. making the speaker of “End of an Era” closer to the forefathers of city poetry than she thinks. The woman whom the speaker of “Frame” watches is trapped between the spaces on the city streets that present dangers from weather and the academic space of the science laboratory that presents dangers from intellectual rejection. The speaker is an outsider because of her knowledge of the city’s patriarchal construction. peculiar” (1993: 174). She allows the alienation to prohibit her movement rather than using it as a moment of intoxication. The poem indicates that Rich feels that turning off one’s senses (they are grey) in order to observe prohibits women’s ability to respond. according to Benjamin. Like the narrator of Poe’s “The Man of the Crowd” who watches the flâneur pass his window in the crowd.” written in 1980. Rich gives the space a more complex definition since “oratory” might refer to this poem’s speaking out about the following events. her neighbors. The speaker watches a woman emerge from a university building and wait for a bus in the shelter of a doorway. By separating “lab” from “oratory”. an identification of comfort with the space. methinks. “Lab” is probably how the students refer to the space casually. The speaker of “Frame” writes from a specifically gendered perspective.” This sense of alienation is essential to flânerie. challenging the assumption that women are in danger primarily from random attacks on the city streets since the crime she witnesses is committed by the academic elite and the police. The poem “Frame./ oratory” at the beginning of the poem. but more . preventing “End of an Era” from pursuing an example of women’s flânerie. are changed by this knowledge and appear “peculiar.

The city space between the two women silences the victim’s protests. safe from the danger that will occur. As a flâneuse. Although a flâneuse should be silent in her observations. The speaker of the poem specifically identifies her location when the poem switches to first person. She bridges class. In the narrative of the poem. Her success would undermine the professors’ faith in man’s superiority in the academy. she cannot hear what is said but sees it all. but she observes the events that happen to the woman. The events of “Frame” force the speaker. The declaration of her presence resists the limitations of the role of flânerie as pure observation without emotional implication. The implication that the woman may be black (all of the other characters in the poem are identified specifically as “white”) further isolates her in the academic setting. suggests the word’s meaning as a place of prayer. as flâneuse. Being a woman in the sciences makes her invisible to professors who assume that scientists are. the “lab” is also made private in this connection. “he twists the flesh of her thigh / with his nails”) (1984: 304–05). and should be. The policeman arrests the woman (presumably for trespassing) and violently shoves her into the police car (her head “bangs” on the car. Recognizing the woman’s innocence. and spatial divisions to demand recognition of women’s voices. to recognize the emotional implications of witnessing violence and the bonds between women in the . she stands outside the frame of events. As a public facility. the violence that occurs to her in this poem is caused by the assumption that she has no right to be in this place of science and knowledge. The speaker identifies her role in witnessing the events several times: she is standing at the edge of the frame. race. trying to see” (1984: 304). accosts her. I say I am there” (1984: 305). By entering this male-defined space and exposing its contradictions. men. and then brings a police officer to aid in the removal of the woman from the doorway of the building. and how she can convince professors to write recommendations for her. As a flâneuse watching from a distance. the female student disrupts the male power structure of the laboratory.326 Kirsten Bartholomew Ortega importantly. the speaker resists the silent. Finally. The contradiction between scientific reason and faith is highlighted by the elevation of a “lab” to a site of implied holiness in an “oratory”. the speaker takes the liberty of projecting an identity onto the woman in “Frame” that may or may not be based in fact: the woman is thinking about organic chemistry. visually demonstrated by italics: “I don’t know her. how to pay her rent. the speaker of this poem resolves that she must become a recognized witness to crime against women in the city. I am / standing though somewhere just outside the frame / of all this. a white man approaches the woman. observer role that she has assumed as the flâneuse by saying: “What I am telling you / is told by a white woman who they will say / was never there.

but . and class had on the woman in “Frame. considered together with “The Blue Ghazals” and “Twenty-One Love Poems”. The poem does not achieve flânerie because the speaker gets stuck between the role of detective (like the narrator of “The Man of the Crowd” who watches from his window) and a flâneuse who can remain emotionally detached. detached. She wants not only the ability to walk and witness the city streets as the speaker of “Frame” does (she is entirely unnoticed. and society in general. The flânerie is limited by this frame which may be literal. neglect. Rich wants more from the city. Creating a poetic map of the city is crucial to Rich’s interpretation of women’s flânerie. She was set up by academia. Her flâneuse should be able to show women how to navigate the physical and figurative city spaces to avoid the kind of restriction. Rich’s flâneuse has returned to the city streets only to discover that her privilege of sight empowers her to witness the “urban reality” but that it does not provide her with a means of changing that reality. the speaker of the poem recognizes that the woman she watched was framed in the criminal sense as well.” As a (possibly) black woman who had to take the bus to school. but certainly has more than one figurative level: the doorway that frames the woman as she waits for the bus. While the poems “End of an Era” and “Frame” expose Rich’s struggle to locate a woman poet’s position in the city. they create a poetic map that narrates Rich’s conflicted relationship with flânerie. Such a position would allow Rich to use her sense of alienation to prevent other women’s alienation in the city. The flâneuse witnesses the violence as through a “frame”. Most importantly. but the ability to actively change that scene as well. the police. remaining an observer rather than trying to help the woman – because no one will believe her anyway. she did not fit the model of “scientist” for similar reasons that Rich’s speaker does not neatly fit into the definition of “flâneuse”. or even the boundaries that define how far the speaker is willing to interact with the events she witnesses. recording rather than interacting. like a picture. gender. ‘around which she cannot see or move. Although the poem suggests elements of flânerie. the speaker implies that the city has framed all women this way. Rich’s flâneuse cannot help but recognize the effect that race. but also to recognize that she has been forced to become a flâneuse in this situation – removed. Rich attempts to provide threads for others to follow while navigating literal and figurative city labyrinths. its socio-political conscience resists allowing the speaker to become a flâneuse. even if it is denied.Adrienne Rich’s City Poetry 327 crowd. to the point that any knowledge of her presence will be denied by men). All she can do is state her presence. In fact. Both women are appropriating roles that have been defined to exclude them in spaces that are designed to limit their access. the frame that captures this moment. or violence that she describes in “End of an Era” and “Frame”.

a woman. I’m tired of walking your streets he says. A man. A sexual heat on the pavements. suggesting not affection. “The Blue Ghazal” from 9/28/68 addresses the city as an “object of love”4 (1984: 121). (1984: 121) The lovers are conflated with the city. Like Ariadne. Anger and filth in the basement. By acknowledging her limited power in the city. the fate of the woman in the poem undermines the poem’s success. she recognizes that she may never be able to fully navigate or produce the city space. the city is described as distinctly 4 Interestingly. Air of dust and rising sparks. unable to leave her. While the speaker of the ghazal achieves the distance and scope of flânerie. Rich looks to love to lead her out of the patriarchal city that represses her and discovers that using love as a map still leads to silencing or abandonment. . it is followed immediately by “anger and filth in the basement”. Moreover. Rich demonstrates the emotional relationship between people and spaces in the city that challenges the perception of flânerie as necessarily removed from emotional entanglements with the crowd. The city as object of love. Turning to the staple theme of lyric poetry. but rage and destruction brewing under the surface of the city streets.328 Kirsten Bartholomew Ortega she expresses Ariadne-like frustration at her own inability to navigate them. a city. a woman. Trees erected like statues. The furnace stoked and blazing. Although the city is identified as the “object of love” in the first couplet. the city burning her letters. Therefore. and which was written after this poem chronologically. Yellow for hesitation. this line of the poem also appears in the “Teaching in Open Admissions” essay that I already discussed. Eyes at the ends of avenues. she must appropriate the flâneur’s mode of navigating the city to then resist the very limitations that it provides and make her vision of the city recognized. The triangular relationship between a man. unable to separate their love for each other from their love of the city. and the city provides a motif for the series of couplets. love.

all caused by man […] The city will continue to be more and more a space of violation.Adrienne Rich’s City Poetry 329 masculine: the “sexual heat” of the pavements is emphasized by “erected” trees like “statues”. suggesting the kinds of phallic monuments to patriarchal construction that herald city spaces. the woman has been erased by the city. Myriam Diaz-Diocaretz explains that the poem “records the relationship between a man. “Twenty-One Love Poems” demonstrates the conflict between Rich’s desire to employ poetic traditions such as flânerie and her need to establish a voice and form that breaks out of the traditional mode so that it can prioritize individual experience that includes recognition of the effects of race. but of how love in the city can destroy the woman. Because the woman’s body (and her implied sexuality through the love relationship with the man) is either erased or contaminated in the city. which she often identifies with womanhood. Transitioning to lesbian love does not alter the impact of the patriarchal city on women or improve their chances at embodying a flâneuse in Rich’s poetry. suggesting that the trees have been “erected” the way buildings are conveys Rich’s sense that they are artificial replacements for nature. The city imposes on their love as the limits of public acceptability obstruct their happiness. observing the dangers of the city is part of the intrigue of flânerie. in the couplet’s phrasing – but he is unable to leave “her”. and sexuality in the city. The speaker’s relationship with her lover is obstructed by the city’s literal and figurative labyrinths. By the end of the poem. a woman. gender. like a part of her body. The love that is portrayed in this ghazal is not of love for the city. But Rich has no way of articulating a woman’s independent identity in such a role. as Audre Lorde describes in Zami. and despite the anger that Diaz-Diocaretz identifies in Rich’s poetry. the city space housed (maybe without sheltering) a lesbian community in . the poem fails to allow her to move freely through the city space or to define herself within that space. and a city: the city is filth and chaos. Ironically. class. The images are reminiscent of Baudelaire’s “O filthy grandeur! O sublime disgrace!” (Baudelaire [1857] 1993: 55) The risk that women take in attempting to connect to the city is that they will become similarly sullied by the environment. evidence of her voice and evidence of her ability to produce anything that would contribute to the city scene or the relationship by burning her letters. The city completes the erasure by destroying the evidence of the woman’s love. which could either be the female lover or the city. The male character in “The Blue Ghazal” first erases her by conflating her with the city. Yet. anger. corruption” (1984: 12). He becomes tired of walking the city streets – which could also be the woman’s streets. Although skyscrapers make a more obvious symbol of patriarchy in the city. The traffic lights – “eyes at the ends of avenues” – provide surveillance of the city streets by controlling the speed and timing of crowd’s movement through the city.

The speaker is trying to imagine a city where she and her lover can exist. but what this flâneuse observes proves that the only spaces in which women can exist in the city are pornographic. so it would appear that Rich’s implication of the lovers being alone in a city that denies their existence is an observation about the separation of public and private space through issues of social acceptability. and “victimized hirelings” (1984: 236). Her flâneuse moves between public spaces where she is simply woman and private spaces where she is lesbian uneasily. but the word “rooted” implies that they are incapable of moving or of removing their love from the city streets. they should be free to leave. my limbs streaming with a purer joy? did I lean from any window over the city listening for the future as I listen here with nerves tuned for your ring? (1984: 237) . In “Twenty-One Love Poems”. where women have not been defined solely as sexual commodities. The speaker interprets these images as manifestations of patriarchal power that warps women’s sexuality. the speaker wakes in her lover’s apartment. She sees a “red begonia perilously flashing / from a tenement sill six stories high”. Rich demands recognition beyond that of the lesbian community in the city. evoking traditional femininity – the flower – conflated with the prostitute’s red light. In the second poem. This poem conflates the lover with poetry. exploring the tension between public and private space in the city. The first poem opens as the speaker is walking through the city. Their love is rooted in the city. but they want to be connected with nature like trees. but the speaker valiantly tries to define a nurturing space for her love in the city. which the city has made phallic in “The Blue Ghazals”. / … our animal passion rooted in the city” (1984: 236). that it will destroy her. and the third poem builds on the connection by conflating the speaker’s love of the city with her love for her lover. “science-fiction vampires”. The first poem’s despair foreshadows the fate of the lovers. This speaker’s movement through the city replicates flânerie but it only reinforces her sense that the city does not belong to her. Evidence of flânerie appears at the very beginning of “Twenty-One Love Poems”. We want to live like trees. The act of walking and observing alone suggest flânerie. “No one has imagined us. She compares the feeling of joy one experiences as a youth in the city to her feelings for her lover: Did I ever walk the morning streets at twenty.330 Kirsten Bartholomew Ortega New York as early as the 1950s. noticing urban “blight”: “pornography”. Because no one has “imagined” the women. and worse. exploring the emotional developments of their love and her discoveries about herself from that emotional state.

The speaker does not dwell on the man’s comment. the speaker walks home from being with her lover. The distance of the lover is crucial as the speaker is confronted with patriarchal oppressions in the city scene. but the phrasing of the lines separates out “narrow” from “wide enough”. imaging that the city is both wide enough to give them their own space and narrow enough to keep them emotionally attached. The leisure allows her to return her attention to the city and to flânerie. Moving back onto the streets of the city in Poem IV. and narrow”. Rich’s sequence of poems dismantles the euphoric illusion. she calls for a man to hold the elevator and he calls her “hysterical” – instantly returning her to the stereotyped public image of women. the speaker opens a letter from a man in jail who has been physically and sexually tortured which causes her to break down. but also symbolically by the city: the city which represents the horrors of patriarchal control (“men who “love wars” “still control the world”).Adrienne Rich’s City Poetry 331 The speaker’s excitement in anticipation of her lover’s arrival surpasses the excitement that she felt the city held when she was younger. Although she is carrying grocery bags. I’m with you”: the lovers are divided by the city. Her lover is removed from her literally. This flâneuse’s intoxication in the city – a characteristic aspect of flânerie according to Benjamin – is driven by love. in her walk down the street the speaker had become an anonymous member of the crowd. The women’s love has to be separate because it cannot be open and known to the city crowd. triggering the reader’s awareness of the speaker’s struggle to be acknowledged in the city space. Once at her building. but the speaker does not yet recognize its insidious influence. the city’s crowd is “narrow”-minded even if there is enough space for them all to live. She says. the speaker’s awareness of the public city space returns. . but it weighs on the poem. there is no urgency about getting home. the Pez Dorado. lost in a private emotional state. creating a space between the terms that emphasizes their contradiction (1984: 244). but the speaker believes that they are still connected (1984: 244). the shoe-store” (1984: 238). and her lover so that they overlap. Between the second and third poems. neither significant nor insignificant for participating in a domestic act. The lines imply that. rendering flânerie a critical rather than an inspirational position for women. For instance. giving the appearance of domesticity. the city. The city further imposes on the women’s relationship in Poem XVI. not by the city. the speaker has conflated her feelings of love for poetry. the experience of being young in the city was the strongest feeling of love that the speaker had experienced. “Across a city from you. At home. “This island of Manhattan is wide enough / for both of us. She notes images of the city along her way: “I come home from you through the early light of spring / flashing off ordinary walls. prior to this relationship. / the Discount Wares. Although she has a destination. As the relationship progresses through the poems.

She recognizes and claims her role as part of the city despite her inability to demand recognition from the crowd. and to become the city by writing the city. Although the speaker of the “Twenty-One Love Poems” struggles between private anonymity in flânerie and public recognition of her lesbian love. She “chooses” to “walk” in the city – she chooses to traverse the city map. but because she is also woman. The inability of the lovers’ relationship to function in public spaces prevents them from being able to function in private spaces. the woman realizes that she is the city: she is the color of stone. defining her new role as woman articulating the city: I choose to be a figure in that light. In this moment. she is something more. Sure that their love will survive public recognition. Like the traffic on the highway. to make it her own. This is a woman who can move as a flâneuse . the speaker abandons her observant flânerie and examines the meaning of love in poem XVII. half-blotted by darkness. the color of stone greeting the moon. (1984: 245) Unlike the colon which connects these four lines.332 Kirsten Bartholomew Ortega The optimism of poem “XVI” is immediately tempered by the acknowledgement that lesbian love has no public place in the city. but no connection can be made between them. The city reflects the speaker’s disillusionment with love and her thwarted return to flânerie in Poem XVIII: Rain on the West Side Highway. (1984: 246) Here at the end. In the end. yet more than stone: a woman. something moving across that space. the speaker no longer moves through the city because she is not motivated to be moving between her home and her lover’s home any longer. Instead of seeing a connected crowd. the speaker claims a space within the city. I choose to walk here. the highway represents the speed of traffic moving through the city. the speaker discovers that she cannot connect the public spaces of the city with the private spaces of her love. once again conflating the city and love. her retaliation against the city’s silencing positions her as a new kind of flâneuse. only to be jolted out of her reverie by the realization that there are “forces” that are “within us and against us. the speaker realizes that the city is made up of individuals whose movement is stopped at the light. red light at Riverside: the more I live the more I think two people together is a miracle. And to draw this circle. against us and within us” (1984: 244).

“The Blue Ghazals”. “As she describes them. Margaret Dickie explains that. Although Rich’s poetry clearly explores the effect of urban space on her identity. she talks about the issue of space in a different way in her critical work. Rich fails to write a map of the city that makes women’s perspectives a priority. her body is the first location that identifies her and constructs her understanding of the world. she locates herself in relation to socio-political problems to articulate the figurative labyrinths that she must navigate just to enter the physical labyrinth of streets. “End of an Era”. She has had to come out of the South. Ultimately. they have been tied to coming out of particular locations. Wendy Martin notes that. rather. Instead she turns inward. Rich identifies specific “locations” from which she works. She challenges the notion of “location” as a physical landscape and suggests that the first “location” she must work from is her own body. “Rich uses the details of daily urban life to state her political message” about disenfranchised and exploited people and to “convey a sense of the cultural fragmentation and urban dislocation and destruction” (1984: 186–87). in order to see the differences within herself ” (1997: 183 [italics Dickie’s]). out of Cambridge. As a feminist woman. out of New York. Therefore. The problem of appropriating a malecentered form and attempting to make it incorporate the perspectives of women eventually suppresses Rich’s potential revision of both the city and city poetry. resists. and “Twenty-One Love Poems” do not realize a “woman poet” voice with which Rich is comfortable. to motivate the crowd to action. they outline the possibility of women’s flânerie in twentieth century American poetry. Although “End of an Era”. writing a map of herself that can extend out to the natural world in An Atlas of the Difficult World. the political positions of her life have been tied to the many locations in which she has lived or. They try to make public statements. The city spaces of Cambridge and New York became symbols of patriarchal containment and limitation that Rich resisted as a feminist. lesbian woman. In “Notes toward a Politics of Location”. but flânerie is an intentionally anonymous position that prevents interaction . Other “locations” that she identifies include race locations – she locates herself as a white. Rich retaliates. Jewish woman – and sexual locations – she identifies her location as lesbian. Furthermore. “Frame”. “Frame”.Adrienne Rich’s City Poetry 333 through the city. and “Twenty-One Love Poems” fail to articulate a flâneuse or to emblemize the city the way other city poets have because Rich is unwilling to meddle with poetic tradition. “The Blue Ghazals”. and struggles against the confines of flânerie. but the restrictions of the form consistently disappoint the poems’ speakers. trying to make it her own. in the physical city. but she appears only at the very end of the sequence and is never successfully articulated in a poem. By deeming the city devoid of possibility for women. but it anticipates voices of other poets who refuse to give up on the city.

Adherence to poetic tradition betrays Rich by restricting her ability to construct a vision of a city that empowers women.) The Flâneur. NY: Rodopi. 1973. Diaz-Diocaretz. 1991. Ann Arbor. Amsterdam and New York. 2002. James McGowan). NC: University of North Carolina Press. An Atlas of the Difficult World: Poems 1988–1991. NY: W. Secrets.. The Transforming Power of Language: The Poetry of Adrienne Rich. Bibliography Baudelaire. 1993. Wendy. John Goodman). Hubert. Friedberg. Lorde. Stanford. Wolff. Oktenberg. ‘ ‘‘Disloyal to Civilization”: The Twenty-One Love Poems of Adrienne Rich’ in Cooper. 1999. My Life a Loaded Gun: Female Creativity and Feminist Poetics. Rich. Fact of a Doorframe: Poems Selected and New. New York: Oxford University Press. and Film in Weimar Culture. London: NLB. CA: The Crossing Press. 1951–81. and Silence: Selected Prose 1966–1978. 1984. Netherlands: HES Publishers. Norton. An American Triptych: Anne Bradstreet. Literature. Benjamin. NC: The University of North Carolina Press. New York: New Directions Books. . Personae: The Shorter Poems (revised and ed. 1993. 1984. The Flowers of Evil (tr. Charles. War. Damisch. Ferguson. Pound. Bennett. New York: Norton. New York. CT: Yale University Press. Princeton. 1991. and Place. Keith (ed. 1979. Utrecht. NJ: Princeton University Press. 1995. ‘The flâneur on and off the streets of Paris’ in Tester. MI: The University of Michigan Press. The Art of Taking a Walk: Flanerie. 1950–1984. Walton Litz). and Rich: Lyrics of Love. Walter. 1990. Lea Baechler and A. 1950–1970. New York: Norton. . New York: Norton. ‘‘Les Flâneurs du Mal(l): Cinema and the Postmodern Condition’ in PMLA 106(3): 419–31. Adrian. ‘ ‘‘Our Lives Inseparable”: The Contingent World of Adrienne Rich’s Twenty-One Love Poems’ in Hinds. and Modernity. Harry Zohn). Stein. Martin. Resident Alien: Feminist Cultural Criticism. . . Lucy. 2004. Ezra. Margaret. New Haven. Jane Roberta (ed. Deborah L. Janet. Chapel Hill. Priscilla Parkhurst. 1994. Adrienne Rich. Dickie. Freedom. 1997. Chapel Hill. 1986. Adrienne. 1982. Collins. Parsons. Bishop. the City. Michael and Stephen Matterson (eds) Rebound: The American Poetry Book. Collected Early Poems.334 Kirsten Bartholomew Ortega with the crowd. Gleber. 2000. Anke. New York: Routledge. Paula. Emily Dickinson. On Lies. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name.W.) Reading Adrienne Rich: Reviews and Re-Visions. Anne. CA: Stanford University Press. Skyline: The Narcissistic City (tr. 2001. New York: Oxford University Press. Boston: Beacon Press. Audre. 1984. Myriam. Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism (tr. Streetwalking the Metropolis: Women.

Instead. In particular. varied. Mort Lucide (qtd. nation. as she presents the suburban home space as a full and complex world. Keywords: Irish. Its walls contract and expand as I desire. I draw them close about me like protective armor […] But at others. Boland undermines the nationalist tradition of the Irish lyric that would turn living women into silenced and static icons. Eavan Boland. suburb. political poem. Object Lessons. re-making the rituals of daily life and dissolving the borders between public and private spheres. (Georges Spyridaki. which is infinitely extensible. the external. home. private sphere. At times. My house is diaphanous. In both her poetry and her artistic autobiography. . her work encourages its readers to see familiar objects and spaces in a different light.Writing Inside and Outside: Eavan Boland’s Poetry of the Domestic Space Sara Sullivan abstract This chapter considers the reappraisal and invigoration of domestic space that occurs in the poetry of Eavan Boland. Boland’s work champions the often-overlooked suburb as a place of relevance to the public concerns of the nation as she expands the borders of the domestic sphere. liminal. Boland presents complex domestic interiors that resist boundary definition and offer artistic nourishment to the women within them. domestic space. but it is not of glass. well-suited to the staging of issues related to the public realm. Boland’s poetry reveals the political and historical factors unavoidably present in the private Irish dwelling. The women in Boland’s mature poetry transform the domestic interior by discovering elements of the exotic. and aging women and the domestic interiors they inhabit are connected to the life of the nation and the writing of the political poem. and the mythological within it. It is more of the nature of vapor. in Bachelard 1964: 51) Eavan Boland’s poetics is one of transformation and re-appraisal. interior. Object Lessons. Boland shows how real. The common and seemingly prosaic spaces of the domestic sphere serve as the most frequent subject of her transforming vision. I let the walls of my house blossom out in their own space. woman. In her poetry collections and prose.

The poem then returns to the indoor scene. from Boland’s poem collection The Journey (1987). Boland often uses domestic objects to evoke the familiarity of the home space even as she destabilizes that space through surprising metaphors and images. Everyone asleep. introducing a note of the uncertain and the otherworldly in the figure of the resident black cat who shares equal space with more prosaic objects from the domestic sphere: The cat comes into his own. the home in “Nocturne” becomes an increasingly mysterious and shifting place. / The way it draws in like atmosphere or evening” (1–3). The poem’s first lines suggest the intimacies of the home: “After a friend has gone I like the feel of it: / The house at night. In these early lines Boland reappraises the interior spaces of the home by comparing them to powerful elements of the outdoors. Time is a tick. but by the poem’s midpoint. foreign place. sealing its borders and clearing the detritus of the day before she retires to bed. the familiar borders of the home are not easily defined. Once “[t]he clock strikes”. showcases the transformative impulse that lies at the heart of her work (1995a: 115). a drop”. mysterious on the stairs. As the poem makes clear. (lines 6–13) Instead of becoming a more subdued and stable environment as it is shut down for the night.336 Sara Sullivan “Nocturne”. a black ambivalence around the legs of the button-back chairs. time is told in multiple ways. a purr. The poem emphasizes the creature-like qualities of an inanimate . presenting two familiar objects from the kitchen in a deliberately truncated sentence that contains no motion or action. “Nocturne” is set in a quiet domestic setting that Boland will turn into an unexpected. Boland’s concentration on domestic objects and their details is a significant feature of her poetry and her artistic autobiography. however. The speaker secures her house for the night. all of which represent different. the saucer with the thick spill of tea which scalds off easily under the tap. animated elements of the household reduced to their aural incarnations: “a tick. a drop. suggesting that these emblems of domestic normalcy are significant enough to warrant mention alone: “A floral teapot and a raisin scone” (4). Object Lessons (1995). the poem’s center shifts again. Only the objects themselves appear. the hour of the night is clearly delineated by the speaker and the striking clock (“One-o-clock”). an insinuation to be set beside the red spoon and the salt-glazed cup. At the poem’s beginning. a purr. As she does here in “Nocturne”.

the speaker . Boland next ushers a spider into the scene. For this reason. an architecture instant and improbable. but to reframe its familiar corners. both aspects drawing equal attention from Boland’s poetic gaze. to offer new juxtapositions for the spaces and objects most commonly seen. inside and outside. Even while defamiliarizing the home’s interior spaces as they become nocturnal territory. In engaging in the process of securing her home for the night. become intermingled. the domestic interior – turned over to the foreign reign of the nocturnal realm – is shown in the last stanza of “Nocturne” to be a place of open borders.Writing Inside and Outside 337 domestic object (the button-back chair around whose legs the cat weaves itself). has exotic and other-worldly associations. The woman may bolt the doors. Regardless of the spider’s location. This realization is made most clear by the striking image of the poem’s last lines. the poem retains an interest in the natural rhythms of domestic activity. while the animal in the poem is transformed into an intangible “insinuation”. but the borders of the home space itself are not fixed. like the black cat. Even upstairs and down become indeterminable as the in-between space of the landing becomes the focus of action in the second stanza. the “insinuation” into which the cat has turned is “to be set beside / the red spoon and the salt-glazed cup”. This combination of mystery and normalcy is an important element of Boland’s treatment of the home space. The poem continues to frustrate binary divisions as the prosaic and the mysterious. the speaker identifies her actions with that of the silent visitor as she initiates a final act of transformation: The spider on the dining room window has fallen asleep among complexities as I will once the doors are bolted and the keys tested and the switch turned up of the kitchen light which made outside in the back garden an electric room – a domestication of closed daisies. including the rinsing of tea from a saucer in the kitchen sink. a creature who. (lines 13–21) Despite the speaker’s deliberate actions of closing and shutting down. the transformed and the unknown put right up against the everyday. Elements of the outdoors and the otherworldly are not introduced to provide escape from the domestic interior. the poem does not specify whether the spider on the window is actually inside or outside the home. In another blurring of boundary definition.

As in all of her poems. Boland demonstrates how those elements conspire in a new way in the suburb to create poetic subject matter and to illuminate the public sphere as well as the private. Through her volumes of work. despite closing her family in for the night. a back garden. This interest in both the physical and ephemeral space of the home persists throughout Boland’s poetry as she explores the shifting dynamics within the seemingly fixed borders of the home space. Boland ultimately embraces the environment for its artistic and political potential and imbues the objects of domestic life with multiple layers of meaning that transport the reader beyond the closed borders of a strictly defined architectural space. the suburb is in-between territory. here the suburb is a shifting place where liminality is always on display. Boland’s nuanced treatment of the domestic space reflects her growing understanding of the suburb as a hybrid zone well-suited to the complexities of her poetry. The War Horse (1975). Rather than consider the suburb as removed from myth. Boland challenges the deepest assumptions about what constitutes appropriate subject matter for the Irish poem and reinterprets the Irish home space. functional world or simply the desultory result of urban sprawl. nor is it an insular and insignificant location sheltered from the concerns of the nation. and art. Instead of looking for ways to escape the Dublin suburb in which she produces the majority of her work. The reversal is presented in deliberately spatial terms: the poem emphasizes the alternative “architecture” that is created as a result of a simple domestic act. The home’s occupant discovers that. This instability is not dangerous. an aspect that emerges vividly in the poem “Suburban Woman” (1995a: 50) from Boland’s earliest widely-published collection. This sudden outdoor room functions as an instant parallel universe. into the interior space of a well-lit room. an alternate space has been created which calls the simple boundaries of the home into question.338 Sara Sullivan instigates an alternate world that turns the space of her home inside out. she is no longer properly “inside”. The suburban neighborhood for Boland is not an accidental. These dynamics often occur in the suburb. the suburban woman its “sole survivor”(13). the poem’s tone towards the instantly created “electric room” is that of wonder and appreciation. instead. The simple “switch turned up of the kitchen light” – the speaker’s last act before turning in – transforms the space of the outdoors. Here the suburb is a violent battlefield “caught in cross-fire” between town and country. Instead. revealing a shifting and spiraling environment whose fluctuating borders make it part of the public world. history. creating a destabilizing refraction of the domestic space through which both spaces accumulate a transforming hint of strangeness. The hybrid quality of the suburb that is a liability in this early poem will become one of the suburb’s most valuable features in Boland’s later work. Boland’s poetry . Straddling the extremes of city and country.

To start with. Boland draws our attention to seemingly commonplace objects and events – the bicycles and jumble sales of her suburban street – in the same way that her poetry encourages us to take a deeper look at these elements of everyday life in order to perceive their sublime qualities. two levels of a house. with children selling comics and stale raisin buns. The bicycles will be gone. Its instigation is residential 1 Boland’s attraction to the twilight hour is evident in numerous places. . banks are shut and shops are opened. and doors will stay closed. “Energies” (1995a: 92) likewise begins. evanescent place. Numerous other examples abound throughout Boland’s poems. a place whose doors open and shut on a schedule. it seems. The suburb also has a particular relation to the space of the domestic interior in which Boland’s poetry is so heavily invested. / neither here-nor-there hour of evening” (1995a: 114) – and the first lines of “Self-Portrait on a Summer Evening”: “Jean-Baptiste Chardin / is painting a woman in the last summer light” (1995a: 92). and. The second most frequent time of day in Boland’s poetry is dawn. Almost as soon. The public calendar defines a city. ultimately. between darkness and light. but the portals of the domestic space are more fluid.Writing Inside and Outside 339 constantly confronts the reader with these liminal states. or commercial. But the private one shapes a suburb. “This is my time: / The twilight closing in …” In “The Black Lace Fan my Mother Gave me” (1995a: 137). Curtains will be drawn till late morning. jumble sales. In one year it can seem a whole road is full of bicycles.1 She is highly attuned to the hybrid quality of the suburban environment. the same road will be quiet. drawing attention to details that confirm the environment’s worthiness as a setting for her poetic attention: A suburb is altogether more fragile and transitory. weddings. including the first lines of “The Women” – “This is the hour I love: the in-between. There will be shouting and calling into the summer night. (1995b: 160) The “state of process” that defines the suburb stands in stark contrast to the well-defined grooves of the public city. Like domestic space as Boland represents it. roller skates. the reader is not surprised to find the past described as “An airless dusk before thunder” (22). whether between two countries. or at that half-lit time of day that recurs most frequently in Boland’s work: dusk. The primary purpose of the suburb is not industrial. it is composed of lives in a state of process. two eras in an individual’s life. Garages will be wide open. It waxes and wanes on christenings. agricultural. The suburb opens and closes as well. responsive to the movements of individuals and their private lives. birthdays. The shouting and laughing will be replaced by one or two dogs barking in the back gardens. the suburb is a shifting. the natural counterpart to dusk and a moment that is equally transitional. Boland’s poetry recognizes that this liminal zone offers metamorphic and artistic potential for the woman who finds herself within its borders. Boland contrasts the suburb favourably to the city in Object Lessons as a place of openness and aura.

Boland wrote The War Horse after marrying and moving from the city of her youth to the suburbs of Dublin. “Suburban Woman” (1995a: 50) uses the terminology of battle to describe the suburb as the soiled. its conversations and memories seemed made for poetry. In this volume. apply broad allegories to turn the suburb into a place of foreboding. The suburb is neither urban nor rural. the cherishing of literature. but instead is the domestic sphere writ large. speculative possibility. Boland’s earliest poems about the suburb from her first widely published collection. suggestive of her own early experiences trying to locate her poetic vocation far from the city in which it had been nurtured: No creature of the streets will feel the touch Of a wand turning the wet sinews Of fruit suddenly to a coach. In “Ode to Suburbia” (1995a: 44). a move she credits as a fundamental influence on her life and her art: “Nothing has ever been a greater influence on me than to move from the world of urbane learning. and violence. Boland uses the Cinderella story as an informing metaphor to present the suburb as an endlessly repeating tableau of ugliness and limitation. oppressive. violent consequence of a clash between two opposites. to the quiet barbarities of the suburbs […] where everything is surreally domestic. In this way the suburb can be seen as the unfolding of domestic space across the landscape. entrapment. fractured environment on the outskirts of meaningful existence. a conglomeration of domestic interiors that create an exterior community. the suburb is a lost. No magic here […] (lines 19–25) In a similarly dark vein. In both poems. Boland’s assessment of the suburb changes significantly after The War . In contrast to this magical place. There was even an enchantment about it” (1995b: 94). noticeable” (Kennelly 1979: 114). the suburb is a wholly negative location that has a detrimental effect on the woman within it. “Ode to Suburbia” and “Suburban Woman” from The War Horse characterize the suburban environment as a destructive place with brutal consequences for the creation of art and for the women who resided there. providing an ideal setting for Boland’s exploration of the nuances of the home space. In Object Lessons. The War Horse (1975). While this rat without leather reins Or a whip or britches continues Sliming your drains. Boland states that the city of her youth “with its twilights and meeting places.340 Sara Sullivan – to create and multiply the domestic space.

they thrived. At times it could be a shelter. as she re-evaluates her suburban environment and recognizes that its hybridity can be a boon to the woman living within it. the suburb is represented as the fertile ground from which Boland’s poetry springs. In every season the neighbourhood gathered around me and filled my immediate distance. In subsequent volumes such as Night Feed (1982). Instead of being lost in the suburb’s liminality or feeling constrained by the domestic realm. began. The winter flowering jasmine casts a shadow outside my window in my neighbour’s garden. 21–28) In this manifesto-like poem. and Outside History (1990). I might have found it hard to say how or why. In these later collections and throughout Boland’s poetry to date. Boland recognizes in the suburb an expansive environment that will nurture her art and broaden its scope. waned. These are the things my muse must know. the suburb is no longer a place that traps its female inhabitants in a state of limbo or shuts down the creating artist. The Journey (1987). (lines 9–12. … If she will not bless the ordinary. it was never a cloister. if she will not sanctify the common. Boland’s relates her commitment to turning the “ordinary” and “common” elements of everyday life into poetry. “Envoi”.Writing Inside and Outside 341 Horse. then here I am and here I stay and then am I the most miserable of women. I could have said that there were summer dusks and clear. the speaker invokes a new muse to guide and bless her endeavour: Under the street-lamps the dustbins brighten. In Object Lessons. Instead. explicitly lays out Boland’s desire to turn the elements of suburban life into art (1995a: 123). In the poem. changed. from The Journey. a single roller skate. and ended here. Boland describes how the constant change and flux of the suburb has a positive effect on her poetry: At one level. using the religious terms “bless” and “sanctify” to demonstrate the level of devotion she has to this ideal. (1995b: 166) . Everywhere you looked there were reminders – a child’s bicycle thrown sideways on the grass. a tree in its first April of blossom – that lives were not lived here in any sort of static pageant. Boland’s presentation of the suburb undergoes a significant evolution from the one revealed in “Ode to Suburbia” and “Suburban Woman”. vacant winter mornings when I was certain the suburb nurtured my poetry.

Her work instead recognizes women as varied. that draws upon the private and personal experiences of her life as an Irish woman instead of essentializing womanhood as an expression of Irish nationalism. most important. addressed.342 Sara Sullivan As the scope of her poetic vision expands. As she states in Object Lessons. connecting items in the public consciousness to her own history and making the private details of real women relevant to the national political poem. The Irish lyric that taught and influenced Boland contains a deadly element for the woman writer: The heroine. She was Ireland or Hibernia […] She was invoked. In her artistic autobiography. a figure who draws upon the permeability and liminality of the home space to create art that interacts with the wider world. was utterly passive. the fluid nature of the suburb and its enormous capacity for change and transformation provide an opportunity for the creating female artist. Instead of turning inward. Boland is able to compel the world of politics. demonstrating how seemingly separates spheres are entangled. examining only private interiors in her effort to create works of poetic value. like a flawed photograph. Boland shows how that fluidity is a boon to the woman in the household. national identity. Object Lessons chronicles Boland’s efforts to find a poetic identity. Women. She became aware of the division between art and womanhood even as a young poet: “However much my powers of expression made my mind as a human being the subject of the poem. and active subjects for poetry. loved. “I wanted to see the effect of an unrecorded life – a woman in a suburban twilight under a hissing streetlight – on the prescribed themes of public importance” (1995b: 187). as such. both public and political. she is up against the formidable foe of tradition. . The most visibly political act of Boland’s poetry is her removal of women from their historical position as silenced object and icon of the Irish lyric. Boland applies her transforming vision to the omissions and tragedies of Irish history as well. Home and Nation This wider world becomes the defining feature of Boland’s exploration of the domestic space as her poetry matures. remembered. my life as a woman remained obdurately the object of it” (1995b: 28). Having rejected fixed and static boundaries for the dwelling place and expanded the borders of the domestic sphere. complex. After revealing the borders of the domestic interior to be porous and shifting. in which “women were often double-exposed. In enacting this goal. And. regretted. showing how private and public worlds are interlinked. and history into that space. Boland powerfully engages with political and national history by bringing it into the personal realm. over the image and identity of the nation” (1995c: 486). Boland chronicles the dangerous conflation of woman and nation that has been common to Irish cultural history and literature.

who “bore Cuchulainn the valiant” and who is “older than the Old Woman of Beare”. 3 Pearse (1879–1916). the women that inhabit it. but each of them works to pry the Irish woman from the trap of lyric objectification. her children killed. from The Journey (1995a: 102). Boland undermines the iconic status of women in the Irish lyric by ignoring sweeping panoramas and bringing the reader’s attention down to the smallest footnotes of history. Concentrating on the realm where many Irish women dwell. To do this. this move was “enormously liberating” to the young Boland when she encountered Ulysses (1998: 18). Boland affirms the layers and nuances of this space and. Through poems that subvert and expand the borders of the domestic interior. “by reference and inference. Not all of Boland’s poems are set in the domestic space. Her identity was an image. she takes her reader to the spaces where actual women like herself live and act. Instead. If her harvests were spoiled. The poem. Her decision to focus her poetic eye so intensely on the domestic interior reveals Boland’s belief that Irish women need not be elevated to the status of untouchable myth nor subsumed into an icon of nation in order to be worthy subjects for poetry. wrote “Mise Eire” in 1912 (1991: 559). he takes his revenge. the militant Irish nationalist who led the Easter Rising and died for it. Her hair was swept or tied back. Yeats’s drama Cathleen ni Houlihan. She was a mother or a virgin. as well as the false heroics of suffering and 2 Boland acknowledges a significant exception to this tradition in the figure of James Joyce. “Mise Eire” rejects this identification. And she had no speaking part. Boland implies that a form of liberation from the binding tradition of nationalist objectification can be discovered where real women exist. He holds at a glittering. manageable distance a whole tendency in national thought and expression. Boland imagines two Irish women whose actual experiences are long lost to remembrance or the fine stylizations of an art form. by disproportions of language.Writing Inside and Outside died for.2 (1995b: 66) 343 Boland’s poetry attempts to reverse this tradition. written in the voice of Mother Ireland. then it was for someone else to mark the reality. her mother tongue wiped out. and dismisses it” (1995b: 144–5). Joyce “did not beg any favours from that image of Ireland”. [Joyce] shows himself to be intent on breaking the traditional association of Ireland with ideas of womanhood and tragic motherhood […] By cunning inflations. creating individuals instead of images. In “Mise Eire”. two works that are based on the conception of Ireland as a female figure of nationhood. . Her flesh was wood or ink or marble. like the prow of a ship.B. The poem echoes the title of Padraid Pearse’s poem “I am Ireland” 3 and W. is based on the image of a suffering woman in search of heroes. In including the image of the old milkwoman in “Telemachus” and then subverting its iconic power. giving her women subjects voice and context. Boland’s artistic exploration of the domestic space is a crucial part of her project to remove women from their perch on the pedestal of the Irish lyric. by extension.

Through its concentration on the precise details of two actual women affected by their country’s fate. the poem retains a sense of national identity through the grief felt at the loss of a country and a language. The poem also suggests that the easy feminization of the national that turns Ireland into a suffering. Boland uses the first person to bring these silenced women alive. Jeannette Riley makes the connection between art and politics clear: “The images of Ireland as a woman and of a woman as Ireland greatly reduce both Ireland’s and Irish women’s potential for meaningful. if either are to maintain any independence at all” (1997: 25). and the truth of the individual women who actually compose Ireland. personal. independence. speaking through them in a voice they were not given in life: I am the woman in the gansy-coat on board the Mary Belle. oaths made 4 In an essay about Boland’s progress in the face of challenges presented by Irish literary history. noble martyr is unjust to the nation as well as to its individual women:4 I won’t go back to it – my nation displaced into old dactyls. which states “I am Ireland”. the defeats suffered by these women are actual.344 Sara Sullivan martyrdom that accompany it. Instead. active. the poem does not reject Ireland itself. . This layered claim demonstrates the fine distinction Boland makes in the poem between a forced substitution that represents a lie. and unrecorded by history. the poem does not force the women to stand as noble icons of a defeated nation. This sense is conveyed in the possessive insistence of its Gaelic title. in the huddling cold. holding her half-dead baby to her as the wind shifts east and north over the dirty waters of the wharf mingling the immigrant guttural with the vowels of homesickness […] (lines 28–38) Even though it fundamentally revises the trope of woman-as-Ireland. even while the poem rejects the static idealizing of woman as nation.

but not a baby. It has given me insight into the flawed permissions which surround the inherited Irish poem. In fact. she sees it in exactly the opposite way. a country of “scalded memory” composed only of songs and verses. the imagined experiences of the dissimilar Irish women in “Mise Eire” are told without sublimation or universal claims made on behalf of Ireland or all women. Boland hints at the ever-present danger that exists for the poet – the impulse to lyricize and to objectify. Boland signals the Irish poet’s potential complicity in this act with the self-consciously poetic word “dactyls”.Writing Inside and Outside by the animal tallows of the candle – land of the Gulf Stream. but not the suburbs under them. Boland reminds herself of that hazard and tries to avoid it. (lines 1–14) 345 The speaker’s nation has been “displaced / into old dactyls”. the small farm. the scalded memory. It is certainly true that this ordinary street. the words that make a rhythm of the crime where time is time past. Boland claims that her desire to put individuals marginalized and forgotten by history at the center of her poems emerges from her own experience as a woman writing in and about an Irish suburb. and a line of hills. of young trees and younger children. has provided me with one of the most challenging components in a poetic theme: a devalued subject matter. in which you could have a political murder. to make images out of human experience. Boland believes her political and historical engagement with Ireland is absolutely connected with her attempts to create poetry about a suburban woman’s life: By now I have come to terms with the fact that a suburb is an awkward and unlikely theater for a poem. but . Her persistent attention to the domestic realm might seem to the uninformed reader like a deliberate withdrawing from the public arena. (1995b: 204) Boland claims that her struggle to turn a marginalized artistic perspective into a valued poetics makes her not only capable of writing a political poem. a focus on the personal and the private to the exclusion of the political and the national. its experiences and history abstracted into poetic form until Irish reality is absent. the songs that bandage up the history. With this word.

From this indispensable vantage point. not images. and instead turned them into art – iconoclasts such as James Joyce. having preceded her introduction of the tragedy with the weight of myth and relatable details of a contemporary woman’s life. another poem about the mother-daughter relationship that both laments and celebrates change and loss. As a poet attempting to put real women. In the myth of Ceres and Persephone. .5 Ceres descends to the underworld to rescue 5 Boland fruitfully returns to this myth in “The Pomegranate” from the In a Time of Violence collection (1994). transform.346 Sara Sullivan best-suited for the task. Boland does not write from a secure position within the male Irish bardic tradition. as she does in “The Making of an Irish Goddess” from the Outside History collection (1995a: 150). and contain multiple levels of meaning allows it to encompass yet another element: a history of Irish suffering. The poem begins by introducing a figure that will serve as both parallel and contrast to the Irish goddess of its title. This marginalized position ironically offers her an advantaged capacity for the creation of political poetry: “I do not believe the political poem can be written with truth and effect unless the self who writes that poem – a self in which sexuality must be a factor – is seen to be in a radical relation to the ratio of power to powerlessness with which the political poem is so concerned” (1995b: 185). after which the narrative moves to the suburb to explore the most intimate details of the speaker’s body. who made the events of an ordinary day in Dublin into a powerful force of twentieth century literature. Boland boldly aligns herself with the Modernist revolutionaries of Ireland’s literary history who refused to accept that their own artistic visions of the nation were “devalued subject matter”. Boland powerfully combines private experience. Like those Modernists who insisted that their peculiar styles or unlikely subject matter be considered art. the language of myth. With this assertion. and Irish tragedy. Boland considers her decision to write poetry that reflects her lived experiences – especially her experience as a woman in the seemingly unpoetic and apolitical suburbs – as nothing short of a political act that recasts the traditional Irish poem. with the inherited authority and comfortable power relations that position might entail. Here the ability of the suburban environment to shift. The poem begins in the world of the ancient Greek myth. Only then does Boland introduce the reality of the Irish famine. at the centre of the Irish poem and to make the details of her suburban life worthy of artistic attention and respect. one of the poet’s favorites. Boland claims that her own position – and the position of other Irish women poets like her – on the margins of traditional Irish poetry grants to them an important significance: she has “come to believe that the woman poet is an emblematic figure in poetry now in the same way the modernist and romantic poets once were” (1995b: 235).

but unlike Ceres. An Irish goddess must carry an awareness of time and the seasons in which her people suffered: In my body. making the story personal: “But I need time – / my flesh and that history – / to make the same descent” (11–13). already resides in the mutable suburb. they would have said. (lines 6–10) Ceres’s recovery of her daughter from the underworld will result in the end of her unchanged world. In the meantime. 18.Writing Inside and Outside 347 her daughter who was captured by Hades. she has always lived in a world of seasons upon which an entire population can be dependent. The suburban mother will. the speaker connects the myth to her own life. the same distance in the usual light. however. on the other hand. unscarred earth. After introducing Ceres. evoking the decimating crop failures of the 1840s that resulted in a barren and desperate landscape. the poem then introduces the national history of the Irish famine. 21–29) . as her bargain with Hades to keep her daughter for half the year will instigate the arrival of seasons to a previously static landscape. went straight to hell. her gaze falls upon a plentiful and unravaged scene. (lines 14. upon her descent to hell. […] in my gestures – […] must be an accurate inscription of that agony: the failed harvests. Ceres looks back and sees the diligence of rivers always at one level. In Boland’s poem. wheat at one height. Moving through myth and personal history. a seasonless. The contemporary speaker of “The Making of an Irish Goddess”. followed by their own. the fields rotting to the horizon. the children devoured by their mothers whose souls. a place attuned to the cycles of change and loss. leaves of a single color. also retrieve her daughter by the poem’s end. like Ceres.

holding up my hand sickle-shaped. her seed grown into flesh. Boland centers the work around a short but devastating stanza that reverses this dynamic completely. showing the extent of the barbarity caused by this moment in Irish history. but the destroyers. As she searches for her daughter. taking the form of her own progeny. (lines 31–42) Boland uses the word “sickle-shaped” near the poem’s end.348 Sara Sullivan In a poem about the retrieval of daughters by their mothers. In her constantly changing world. to my eyes to pick out my own daughter from all the other children in the distance. suggesting at once a tool for gathering crops and a chilling symbol of death (as borne by the Grim Reaper). Like a scarred earth. After the poem telescopes out to encompass Greek myth and one of the darkest periods in Irish history. this woman bears the “marks of . This compacted adjective deftly combines overtones of the goddess of agriculture Ceres with the perverse substitution of children for harvests during a desperate time in Ireland’s history. one tempered both by the classical story and by Irish reality. her back turned to me. Her definition incorporates her awareness of time’s passage (her body “neither young now nor fertile”) and the personal dynamic so vital to Boland’s poetics. its focus narrows to an ordinary moment in suburban life to end the poem. the speaker is given the opportunity for connection despite the ever-present possibility of loss: Myth is the wound we leave in the time we have – which in my case is this March evening at the foothills of the Dublin mountains. The harvest reaped by this modern-day Irish mother is figurative and hopeful. The unchristened young victims of the famine descend to the underworld. across which the lights have changed all day. the speaker offers her own definition of myth. As a result of the poem’s earlier inflections. this moment is infused with the drama of loss and redemption that is enacted by Ceres and Persephone and subverted by the horrors of the Irish famine. followed by mothers who in this story are not the rescuers.

Millennia away from the myth of Ceres and more than a century removed from the famine. the poem stresses their connection. The famine was the result of agricultural calamity and policy conducted in the realm of the public. Boland makes the ancient world of myth and the past tragedy of the famine relevant to ordinary contemporary life. Boland creates a figure that is shifting and multi-representational. was thoroughly immersed in the domestic space. The poem is grounded in the suburb. the poems “came to the very edge of the rooms I worked in. listened for a child’s cry in” (1997: 17). while the voice of a real woman with private concerns remains at its center. The sickled shape of her hand which gathers in her daughter contrasts both to the uncut wheat of Ceres’s world and to the catastrophic lack of harvests to be reaped by the Irish of the nineteenth century. at poem’s end represents not only a suburban mother but also a re-interpreted Ceres and a newly molded Irish goddess. and the wider world is not only possible in the suburb. Boland first encountered Rich’s poetry as a woman in her thirties living in the suburbs of Dublin. an era in which Boland. because of the overlap between public events and private experiences. inevitable and necessary. the woman who holds up her hand. and mythology. distance. As described in the essay. since she has chosen to be a mouthpiece for Ireland’s pain. but. The re-evaluation and expansion of domestic space characteristic of Boland’s work is made possible by the boundary-resistant and transformative nature of her poems themselves. but Boland makes the Irish famine about the private tragedies that resulted – the unfathomable lengths to which the event drove Irish mothers. but the narrative transports the reader to the public places of myth and history.Writing Inside and Outside 349 childbirth” on her body. but it is not introduced to be held up as lofty poetic material. Instead. even though they ostensibly exist in separate worlds. “sickle-shaped”. the speaker’s body must nonetheless carry Ireland’s scars. an artist who greatly influenced Boland’s poetic development. . Boland demonstrates the surprising proximity of these mother figures separated by time. politics. or to objectify its participants. but those scars have been life-giving. She relates the powerful affect Rich’s poems had on her at this time. The poem is exemplary of Boland’s belief that an engagement with history. a mother of small children. The subject of the famine is central to “The Making of an Irish Goddess”. By recasting the myth of Ceres in an Irish context and setting its final action in the suburbs. infusing the domestic environment with the weight of Irish history and suffering. to galvanize nationalist feeling. In “The Making of an Irish Goddess”. her location in the liminal suburb does not exclude her from Irish history or a legend of antiquity – it allows her to bring both to bear upon her present existence. dreamed in. For this Irish goddess. Boland discusses the power of the written word to effect this kind of expansion in an essay about the poetry of Adrienne Rich.

. Maria Jolas0). Pearse. . Eavan. Boland presents the poems not as static words on a page. Kennelly. ‘James Joyce: the Mystery of Influence’ in Lawrence. ‘Writing the Political Poem in Ireland’ in Southern Review 31: 485–98. Riley. Manchester: Carcanet. The books become emblems that contain active movement and the power to change – they are shown as capable of crossing boundaries and “the barriers of place and distraction”. she is able to select “whichever book they were happening in” (emphasis added). [1912] 1991. 1995c. The poems. and the books that contain them. animated entities that use their power of motion to infiltrate Boland’s half-lit suburban environment and reveal its expansive possibilities – they “passed through the frost of the suburban dark [and] the early light of a neighbourhood summer”. these poems also began to open my mind to new ideas of who writes a poem and why. Gaston. Padraid. 1997. . but as ongoing events. yet they open up that space to a larger universe. ‘Eavan Boland’ in Hogan. ‘Mise Eire’ in Deane. Derry: Field Day Publications: 559. (1997: 17) Significantly. The books intermingle with the house’s effects until they become reinterpreted domestic objects themselves. propping it against jars and leaving it after me on chairs and beside coffee cups […] And as they permeated the small barriers of place and distraction. Jeannette E. 1997. ‘Reading Adrienne Rich’ in PN Review 28 (4) 114: 17–18. 1979. 1995b. Vol. Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time. 1995a. II. 1964. Seamus (ed. Collected Poems. Robert. Bibliography Bachelard. New York: Norton. are comfortably integrated into the domestic detritus of Boland’s home. Brendan. As Boland explores her predecessor’s work.) Transcultural Joyce. 1998.) The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing. Westport: Greenwood Press. items that open up not only the home space but Boland’s awakening artistic and political consciousness: I took whichever book [the poems] were happening in from place to place. et al (eds) Dictionary of Irish Literature. ‘Becoming an Agent of Change: Eavan Boland’s “Outside History” and “In a Time of Violence” ’ in Irish Studies Review 20: 23–29. one in which the domestic space of the Irish suburb is revealed as a location that nourishes artistic inspiration and enables meaningful political engagement. the physical presence of Rich’s poetry books becomes a part of Boland’s home life. .350 Sara Sullivan the poems become vivid. Karen (ed. . New York: Orion Press. The Poetics of Space. (trans. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 11–20. This is an apt approximation of Boland’s lifetime poetic project. Boland.

the idea of home drives these other individual experiences of inside and interior to the margins. However hollowed out the spaces of the home become at the hands of the modern state. or the disposition of power without inside and outside. most of what matters to people is happening behind the closed doors of the domestic sphere”: The home itself has become the site of their relationships and their loneliness: the site of their broadest encounters with the world through television and the internet but also the place where they reflect upon and face up to themselves away from others. “Inside” is. Nor is this a merely rhetoric or convention. “outside” and the idea of “inside-out” in the light of the essays in this volume and to reflect on the ground covered. as scholars. The comparison with other insides and interiors may be telling. I want to consider “inside”. interior and exterior. colonial “interiors” and “domestic” politics. however great the publicity beaming down on “private” life. Daniel Miller is surely right to insist that “in industrialised societies. But such terms are protean. We.Concluding remarks Janet Floyd The plotting of inside and outside. and we generalise about experience of them at our peril. (2001: 1) . The most sacred zones of sanctuaries. In the face of homelands. post-industrial world and raise questions about the relationship between the particular and the general. Still. the word used to describe incarceration in penal institutions. In these concluding remarks. with our attentiveness to the particular spaces and experiences invoked and invented in writing – and to the spaces from which texts are written – we begin to sketch tentative maps of the insides and outsides of a changing. When we turn to “inside”. we tend first to turn to the domestic space. struggle to describe their range and contain their significances. a social existence. We can scarcely think about subjectivity. are inner sanctums. the domestic space retains its primacy as the essential interior. home fronts. These distinctions structure the imagination and experience of the world. Nonetheless. after all. private and public have been and remain matters of profound cultural importance. spaces of intense interior experience. the focus of much of our thinking about inside and interiority.

power and fame. fairs. in the sense that Habermas uses that term. When Efterpi Mitsi describes the Turkish baths of the Ottoman Empire. Café houses. a beyond or surpassing (outdoing). healing power and tradition. she evokes the richness and complexity of the institution for Eastern users and their Western observers. can be imagined as having a coherent social or political force. outdated). is instructive in suggesting the fertility of the term: “Out” can also signify an end or resolution (outcome. while the phrase “ins and outs” was coined in the nineteenth century to label the nomadic poor who regularly sought admission to the workhouse. in a discussion that reflects on the significance of “coming out” for the gay community. perhaps. (1991: 9) Since the Greeks. Hamann’s “philanthropic flâneuses” in Victorian London and Melinda Harvey’s “flâneuse-friendly dwelling and dallying places” of London in Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage): all such characters seem to venture towards an infinitely variable experience. nowhere evokes outside’s potential more than the street. a different intensity because of its possibility of unstructured openness. In the modern West. of course. New “outsides” proliferate: Sullivan evokes the “fragile and transitory” suburb in which it is possible to develop new ways of disposing of time and space. The phrase “coming out” can refer to a debutante’s ceremonious and ostentatious introduction to high society. revolution and carnival. the figures picked out in this volume (Valerie Fehlbaum’s “modern women” in fin de siècle London. alibi. Virginia Woolf ’s flâneuse in 1920s London. the private sphere has been understood as the place to leave in order to enter a public world of infinite possibility. intimacy and longing. a fullness or excessiveness (to deck out or rig out). The “natural” landscape outside the city has traditionally seemed to offer another . where no single public sphere. or an utterance or cry (to call out). malls: all are recovered as métiers of discussion and improvisation. Cathleen J. memory and repose. Ryan writes evocatively of people being “strewn across the seemingly boundless space of the public” (1997: 172). department stores. means of escape (an easy out). Traditionally the public is. We still tend to find the greatest vitality in the changing spaces of the city that we do not attribute to the “over-familiar space of the home”. Baudelaire’s strolling spectator of nineteenth-century Paris. though Diana Fuss’s gloss on “out”.352 Janet Floyd The home’s profound national importance is never in doubt but the ideological work that the privatised domestic space performs for the state seems not to compromise its availability as a repository of ideas of modernity and progress. Outside has. to use Sara Sullivan’s term in this volume. an excuse. school’s out). The term cannot escape certain contradictory class connotations as well. an expiration or exhaustion (outmoded. Mary P. the arena of courageous action.

finding widening circles of determined exclusion beginning in the private and mushrooming into the public. Exclusion and separation on grounds of race and class as well as gender characterise experiences of outside spaces too. in part. of the salon to the fashionable few. Lucy Bending brings our attention to a different construction of internalised constraint in Harriet Martineau’s sense of existing at the spatial . less privileged visitors within the home’s complex geography encourage us to think of axes of up and down as well as inside and outside. It is. Lilace Mellin Guignard’s essay suggests a world in which there is. Conversely. write. If the complexities of “inside” must be negotiated. from consumption and the churning excitements of the city. scarcely any “outside” and where the consciousness of patriarchal constraint distorts even the supposed experience of freedom in the wilderness. begs an important question. less privileged family members. of course. critical attention has focused more and more insistently on the ideological and imaginative (rather than the actual) status of such conventions of difference between inside and outside. To whom. this well-developed predilection for exclusion that has inspired scholarship that emphasizes an affect of compression in every space. for example. The blurring of boundaries. though. of the working-class home to middleclass philanthropic surveillance. This is not peculiar to the conditions of “inside”. the boarding house.Concluding Remarks 353 circle of “outside” freedom: freedom from political corruption. for women. the restaurant. freedom to think. in the domestic adoption of the bright lighting or large windows of public spaces. the domestic inside suggests modes of being in public spaces: in the soft velvety interiors of theatres. The boundaries of the domestic space have been subjected to critical enquiry: the openness of the bourgeois drawing-room to visitors. We have become used to thinking about how the experience of the outside suggests ways of inhabiting the inside. of the aristocratic reception rooms to clients. are any of these spaces penetrable and on what terms? The boundaries of the middle-class home have never been blurred for most of those attempting to cross them. As we move our gaze from the domestic spaces of the bourgeoisie and the working-class family. Anna Despotopoulou evokes a late nineteenth century social arena in which “exposure” is absolute. from dutiful public service. enjoy Nature and revel in solitude. we find other domestic spaces that seem to suggest different relationships between inside and outside: the hotel. playfully or in the service of the state. Recently. the nooks and resting places of the department store. servants. then the “outside” seems a space of improvisation and creativity. The relegation of children. the waiting room. exactly. and Stephen Hunt’s essay suggests how such a retreat might encompass rather more pointed purposes. of course. Harvey’s vividly evoked bedsit.

“inside-out” reminds us of Freud’s idea of the unhomely (unheimlich). Such analyses privilege movement. In their different ways both Janet Stobbs and Anna Despotopoulou do just this. They also force us to recall the violence that has always been available to enforce the conventional relations of the domestic space and perhaps more fundamental to its life than we (or the writers whom we study) have chosen to acknowledge. though. of course. These are not exceptional experiences of space and they are surely as germane to our understanding of inside and out as the intricate movements and routines of leisure time. The public space may seem less sinister and less intense by comparison: a . empires and colonies. Still foregrounding movement. in which it is not intrusions into the domestic space from outside that generate fear. Despotopoulou evokes the “brutal exposure” visited on the inhabitants of the home. The home is exposed as a “cauldron” indeed in which the passions of the private life boil dangerously.354 Janet Floyd extreme – on an edge – in a domestic space in which boundaries. but also within the family itself. This volume’s title encourages us to adopt another tactic still: to turn the terms inside and outside “inside-out”. Laurel Forster describes the paradoxical experiences of “new” spaces and conventions of behaviour faced by May Sinclair. sometimes permeable. sometimes secure. Sara Sullivan finds the poet Eavan Boland approaching the home as a live space in which objects and humans interact. In a different vein. contingent activity in constant change and variation. as has Bruno Latour’s writing on networks of transient. For some scholars conceptual strategies that foreground human experience and movement in space rather than thinking of space in terms of constraint or ritual have proved fruitful. each with their complex dispositions of inside and outside. It also produces extraordinary experiences of space. journeying and. situations and arenas that unravel and defy the structures of routine. The work of Michel De Certeau on the production of meaning by individuals through consumption has been influential. and bring them to the heart of quotidian experience. allow us to approach the convergence of conventional and improvisational negotiations of space. walking. War structures space according to the most traditional constructions of gender. but the very familiarity of the home. Stubbs’s murderesses on trial remind us of the forensic attention given to a space conventionally characterised as a sanctuary in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Battlegrounds and war zones. are spatial worlds that suffuse experience. advance and recede. in which those from the colonised “margins” of the homeland travel to the “home” that is and is not their own. Lourdes López Ropero explores the peculiar movements generated by empire. thus giving ourselves the opportunity to expose and know thoroughly the invisible workings of both terms. Equally. not only by or with outsiders.

envisages the ways in which experiences of “outside” might prove confusing. When. unincorporated ideologically and yet sophisticated in analysis. using the case of May Sinclair. but also women going about their daily routines of paid and unpaid work? Recent work on the urban experiences of women may have turned our sense of women’s participation in the world outside the home inside-out. long after we have exhaustively explored their domestic politics? The case of Edith Wharton is an interesting one: while the dynamics of entrapment and exposure are the subject of many studies of Wharton and her . as well as liberating and productive. This reminds us of what different and conflicting issues were at stake in some women’s visibility and indeed of the dangers of public space for women. Here the impersonal. Rob Shields suggests that the figure of the flâneur is “as much mythic as it was actual”. neglect and violence” visited on a woman whom she feels herself powerless to assist. How often are the writers on whom we focus writing safely at home and why is it often with some surprise that we discover them wrangling with publishers or throwing themselves into activity. this work attends instead to the women in various class positions who were “at home” in the street and in the many other public spaces of work and leisure that have characterised modern industrial societies. shoppers and investigators of one kind or another. It is this sense of what can be experienced in the city that has made the subject-position of the flâneur the object of fascination and desire. however. poets and writers. while Laurel Forster. even excruciating. reflective stance of the flâneur is turned inside-out in Adrienne Rich’s petrified stance in the face of the “restriction. individually and collectively. Where in all this are the women writers whose work is examined so carefully here? Where do they situate themselves? Stephen Hunt’s description of Mary Robinson’s and Charlotte Smith’s lives provides an invigorating vision of what such a life could be. small wonder that feminist scholars have looked to recover a woman’s flânerie and have adapted the term to draw in the urban experiences characteristic of women. If this is a capacious figure of infinite possibility and un-plotted movement.Concluding Remarks 355 space of freedom in intimacy and an escape from the relentless judgements and receding spaces of the domestic. and that it “has something of the quality of oral tradition and bizarre urban myth” (1994: 62). yes. he gives us pause for thought and pulls us back to what we. Anne-Marie Evans’s discussion of Lily Bart is suggestive of the ways that a well-connected woman might seek to manipulate her public appearances. The distance between Baudelaire’s urban stroller and many women’s experience of the city is measured in Kirsten Bartholomew Ortega’s essay. know of the city. Pulling our attention away from the individual middle-class subject stepping out. How far has the fascination of Baudelaire’s model city dweller distracted us from exploring the movements of the multiplicity of women on the street: streetwalkers.

but the relation of that founding feminist statement to the post-Romantic association between. seclusion and security of attachment that produces much scholarly writing as well as that of many of our subjects. getting away from domestic routine and writing. finally. And as the scholarly distaste for the home as a space and as a subject begins to recede. politics. experiment and freedom. Dana Heller is justified in suggesting that scholars of women’s writing have “overinvested” in the question of private and public as a focus for our thinking about women’s oppression (1995: 220). far from being left behind. while other contributors suggest how different. for example. too. is mobilized within her writing of that outside experience. writing and space? As Janet Wolff began this collection by remarking. What would happen if we shaped our vision of women writers’ analysis of inside and outside around such experiences as these. What. Perhaps. Nonetheless. more specifically. the question of women’s place “outside” and the nature of her interventions in the public sphere condense vital questions about what has constituted power and agency. Teresa Gómez Reus and Peter Lauber explore the sheer range of spatial experience experienced by Wharton as she travelled around the front and the ways in which Wharton’s interest in the house. In our scholarly tendency to privilege openness. empire. . Aránzazu Usandizaga describes how Vera Brittan expands the range of what could be written about war. Surely we would be more attentive to genres other than the novel where very different spatial politics are explored. war to the margins of their texts. change and lack of closure we easily forget the relative privacy. Implicit in a number of the essays in this volume is the relationship between space and writing. should we be saying about our own role in the work of turning inside and outside inside-out in our search for understanding of the relationship between women. unconventional experiences of space generate or demand new or particular forms of writing and conceptions of creativity. whilst relegating industry. Virginia Woolf ’s association between creativity and “a room of one’s own” remains a powerful idea. walking and writing or. rather than by imagining them in rooms of their own? Perhaps we would become more sharply analytical about novelists’ insistent focus on a fraught division between inside and outside. is an interesting one. we should not forget how unresolved issues of access (to insides or outsides) remain in Western culture and beyond. we can read the unhomely work of canonical writers with different questions and ever more intricate spatial relations in mind. her activities during the First World War have only very recently been accorded sustained attention and significance.356 Janet Floyd work. lighting out and literary experimentation. This volume is a witness to the continuing vitality of the debate about inside and outside and the space that it offers for zestful scholarship.

2001. Oxford: Berg: 1–19. Heller. 1997. London: Routledge. Mary P. 1994. Civic Wars: Democracy ad Public Life in the American City during the Nineteenth Century. London: Routledge. Keith (ed. ‘Housebreaking History: Feminism’s Troubled Romance with the Domestic Sphere’ in Elam. Dana. Inside/out: lesbian theories.Concluding Remarks Bibliography 357 Fuss. Berkeley: University of California Press. New York: Routledge: 217–33. 1994: 61–80. Miller. Diane and Robyn Wiegman (eds) Feminism Beside Itself. Daniel.) The Flâneur. Shields. gay theories. 2001. Rob. ‘Behind Closed Doors’ in Home Possessions: Material Culture Behind Closed Doors. . 1991. ‘Fancy Footwork: Walter Benjamin’s notes on flânerie’ in Tester. Ryan. Diana.


48. Elaine S. Theophilus 232 Booth. 355 Baudelaire. 250. J. Mildred 233 Allen. M. Martin 184 Ammons. John 304 Besant. Lily 26. Richard 250 Aldrich. Lucy 24. 22 AEDEAN 20 Agnew. Mary 216. 156 Bart. 47 Passage 47–49. Annette Larson 209. Troy 224 Benert. Paula 320 Bending. 328 Armstrong. Rupert 269 Brooks. John 290. Thomas 44 Bigelow. Nina 312–13 Beauman. Maya 191 Antoinette. 319 flânerie 30. 92. Djuna 189 Barr. Marina 130 Angelou. Charlotte 164. 322. Stacy 298 Albert. 99n.F. Simone de 191. 298 Belknap. 291n Akenside. Nancy 90. Edmund 207. W. Marie 274–75 Aravamudan. Steven 281 Blunden. 353 Bennett. King of Belgium 219 Aldington. 57 Ariadne 319. Gillian 119 Angel.M. Bernard 205 Berger. Srinivas 53. 53. 70. Rachel 161 Braidotti. Edward 254. 335–50. Walter 168. Nicola 230–31 Beauvoir. 215 Benjamin. 355 Baym. 81 Bewell. 52n. William 67n Borden. 322–23. 253 Bohls. Rosi 61 Brake. 211. Matthew 152 Atherton. 153 post-Benjamin notion of 189 Parisian Arcade 24. 66 Bowlby. 70. Charles 30. Robert (alias Cottrel Hoe) 160 Barrell. Walter 66–68. 119 Aikin. Jane 289 Bachelard. Vera 28–9. 331 flâneur 53. Mikhail 130n Banta. Louis 195 Armstrong. 279 Boland. Laurel 36 Brittain. 47 poetry of 319. 101 Arnold. 261 Brittain. Martha 114n Barnes. 77. 218 “botanising the asphalt” 25. Charles 67n. 352. 320. Mark 280 Alaimo. 173 Brooke. Elizabeth 49n. 354 Boll. 324. 125–44 Austen. 66. Gordon 91–92 Billington. Maria 275–76 Barrett. 160 Blake. Arnold 156 Berenson. Elizabeth 120n Anderson. 200–01 Amis. 325. 321. 75 Booth. Alan 278 Bewick. 60 Bennett. 226. Gwendolyn 319 . 322. Eavan 30. Gertrude 26.H. Gaston 171–73. Elizabeth 286 Barrie. 258–59. Jean-Christophe 95.Index Abelson. William 322 Blakemore. 249–69 Brontë. 329 flâneur/urban stroller 193. 283 Bakhtin.

G. 266 Eliot. Alison Matthews 57n Davidoff. 281. William 289 Cooper. Frances 129 Domosh. 293 feminist critics 15. Jane 44. 89. Edouard 51 Deming. 19. Ogden 109 Cohen. 164 Doane. Théodore 51 Chaudhuri. H.E. 300. Thomas S. Philippe Fabre 280 Dean. Alison Hawthorne 309 Despotopoulou. Nupur 49n Cherry. 307. 352 Felski. George 25. 88n Evans. Steve 157 Fehlbaum. 139. Karen 87–88. 284 Burney. 151. Mona 298. 71 Easley. 353–54 Diaz-Diocaretz. Charles 293 Dawson-Damer. 77n. Frederick 127. 167. Jill 52 Cardinal. Anna 25. 169. Hubert 321 Dante [Alighieri] 58 David. Robert 118 Bryden. Gustave 25 Douglas. Sarah Stickney 94 Elshtain. 169n. Ann-Marie 26. Leonore 15. 301–03. 234. Terence 119 Darwin. Benjamin 59. 191 feminist founding statement 356 feminist mountaineers 313 feminist poet 320 Damisch. 92–101. Debra Roe 249.S. Charles 25. 101. 153–61. Deborah 155 Cheyette. De Wolfe 299. Marilyn 21. 211 Chase. Mabel 155–56 Collins. Mary 174 Duras. 131n. John Wilson 36 Index Debat-Ponsan. Bryan 185 Chi. 140–41 Doré. Clive 128 Ender. Margaret Anne 129. Judith 61 Bywaters. 262. Valerie 26. 27. Ella Hepworth 26. Lewis 140 Certeau. 71 Dixon. 87. 322. 142n Caitlin. 355 Eyre. Ursula (Lady Dorothy Fielding) 238 . 268 Campbell. Susan Fenimore 299n Croker. 239. 324 Elizabeth. Paul 280 Davis. Lucy 320 Collins. Inga 23 Buell. Margaret 333 Disraeli. 254 Colenbrander. Georgianna 52. Marguerite 191 Dyos. Sharon L. 142 Coleridge. Samuel Taylor 290 Collins. 300 Eliot. Mary 197 Chandler. 91 Chassériau. T. Edmund 274. Mairi 219 Codman. 354 Cassatt. Hsin Ying 21 Chisholm. 56–57 D’Églantine. 231. 154 Farmer. 176 Davies. Lawrence 299 Burke. Myriam 329 Dickens. 131.360 Browning. Wilkie 164 Congreve. Agnes 208n Carlyle. Rita 105 feminism 16. Joanna 127n.J. Jean Bethke 208n Emsley. Evelyn 96 ESSE 44n. 21. Mary Ann 93–94 Dolan. and Elizabeth A. 127n. 167. 310 Doody. 239. 209 Dearmer. 105. 153. Alexis 36–38 Eastlake. 149. Queen of Belgium 219 Ellis. 91–92 Dickie. 103. Frances 90n Butler. 150.G. 25. Thomas 38. 40 Carroll. 267–68 Feminismo/s 190n feminist 99. Lady Elizabeth 61–62 écriture feminine 243 Edwards. Michel de 198.

Julia Archibald 313 Holmes. 226. Dana 356 Hidalgo. 319. Tennyson 26. John 277 Hubbard. 69–71. 139. Rebecca 243 Holmes. Annie 52. 141n. Janet 23 Forster. Cheryl 304n Goldman. Lloyd 259 Gerôme. 355 Imagists 242. 251 Gollancz. 309. 246 Imlay. 352 361 Haig. 309 Hazlitt. Charlotte Perkins 164 Gleber. Diana 352 Fussell. Howard 170 Floyd. 306–07 Gallagher. 285n Ingres 50–51. 251 Hill. 82 Hoe. Winifred 268. 19. Graham 127n. F. Alexander von 293 Hunt. 114n. 209n. 300. Dorothy 208. Jean-Leon 51. Frances 128 Heilbrun. Jane 287 Jacobus. Anke 322 Gledhill. 107. alarming to 303 “feminotopia” 52 Fielding. 100–05 and Edith Wharton 26. 354–55 Foucauldian approach to body 61 Foucault’s Panopticon 304 Fox. 231–32. Jane 209n Glotfelty.R. 87. 130 Harvey. 88. Mary 126. 27. 55 Gifford. Catherine 15 Hall. Margaret 67n Harris. Graeme 77 Gillray. 356 “good wives” 16 Gorham. Joanna 277 Iskin. 190–201 Frawley. 311 Gilbert. 125–44 . 268. 260 Hall. 48. Lilace Mellin 29. 250. Roger 285n Innes. Victor 252 Gómez Reus. Ruth 73. 222–223 Fryer. 142n Hamann. Mary 270 James. Robert 207. 250. Pilar 169n Higonnet. 72 Gregory. Louisa M. Richard 285n Holtby. Celina 151 Frame. William 287 Heidensohn. 219. Laetitia 283 Hawthorne. 42 Freud. 52n. Stephen E.Index feminists. Melissa Valiska 91 Grosz. Judith 208n. Maria H. Carlyle 131 Hartman. Douglas 259. 118n. 269 Homer 226 Howard. Langston 30. 353. 90n. 82 Jacobs. 269 Heilmann. Cathleen J. Carol 311 Gilloch. Carolyn 267. Janet 27. 268 Gilligan. 353 Habermas. 258. Teresa 20. Deborah 253. Susan 88n. 154n Graves. Judith 21. Anne 30. Elizabeth 61 Guignard. 25. 67. Cottrel (Robert Barr) 160 Hogan. Melinda 27 Hattaway. 265 Grand. Sarah 99. Sandra 206. 354 Friedberg. 223 geography of the sick-room 39 George. 253 Greg. 211. Ann 169n Heller. 209n Hawkins. Laurel 28. Jürgen 25. 89. 78. Gilbert 285. Sigmund 246. Jean 209n. Terry 13. Paul 233. 91–92. 59 Harvey. Margaret 250. Henry 25. James 276 Gilman. 225 on bombed cathedral of Rheims 214 on World War I 207 Jesse. W. 263 Gal. Lady Dorothy (alias Ursula Dearmer) 238 Finn. 218 Fuss. 352 Harkness. 297. 155n Hughes. 322 Humboldt. 73–75. Nathaniel 303. 55 Ingpen. Octavia 65.

Efterpi 24. Ang 311 Lee. 129 Muhidine. 354 Lorde. T. Molly 305 López Ropero. 159. Kate 208 McMullen. Thomas 36 Mantilla. 189–92. Bruno 354 Lauber. 180. Daniel 351 Milton. 110 Morgan. 307 Munro. 160. Roy 278n Meade.P. Albert 214 Loomis. 74. Amy 110. Nicolas de 50–51 Nord. Virginia 126n. 211 Linton. Vivien 293 Jünger. John 199n nature writing 297. 169. Emily Wortis 127. Adrian 320n Olin-Ammentorp. Eliza Lynn 26. Thad 101 Londres. Peter 13. 252–54. 238. 245 Nash. 311 Newtonian space 19 Nead. 27. Annette 283. R. Doris 27. 136n. 300. 212 Kaplan. David 313 McClintock Anne 58 McClure. Hermione 215 Leed. Ernst 207. 60 Montgomery. Leo 303 Masterman’s “Author’s Manifesto” 233 . George 252 Macaulay. Rosamond 183 Leider. 110 Michie. 222 Legler. 25. 58. Eric 206. L. Hector 232. Jean Jules Antoine Leconte de 47 Nunn. 140n. 226 Mitsi. Lori 109. 353 Marx. Sarah 197n Novy. 346 Monet. Charlotte S. 143 McCracken. Lourdes 15. Gretchen 29.J. 78. Frank 319 Oktenberg. 23. 181 McLoughlin. 52. 48. 68 Kelly. 115 Keane. 113. Catherine 280 Malthus.163 Logan. 79–81 Meister.W. Rose 172n O’Hara. 307 Index Maybrick. Joyce 208n Martin. Joseph Wood 297.362 Jewsbury. 67–68. 65. Gaillard 207 Latour. 88. 159 Odle. 356 Ledger. 61. 24 Jones. Claude 279 Lukács. Wilhelm 19 Mepham. Geraldine 94 John.149. Gary 287 Kennedy. Deborah 22. 81 Norton. Michael 87. 194–201 Levenson. 219 Lee. Lady Mary Wortley 47. 35–46. Elaine 142 Morris. 139 Leighton. 297. 352 Modernism 160. Angela 278 Keates. John 169. 229. Sally 153. John 52n. Gwen 21. 131. 247. 286. 50–55. Harriet 24. Lynda 22. Florence 131 Mayhew. Roland 254. Karla 312 Marlow. Maureen E. Claude 195 Montagu. 238–40. 77. Julie 208 Lapsley. Pamela Gerrish 155 O’Connor. Scott 176. 267 Modernist 21. 232–34. 299 Lehmann.T. 170 Merish. 133n. Deborah 293 Kolodny. 153n Nicolay. 269. Augustus 25 Mazel. Timour 208n Muir. Debra 23 Keating. 220. John 297.B. 299. 152–53. 58. 70. 249. 298 Krutch. 91 Lewis. Wendy 333 Martineau. P. Helena 99n Miller. 256–57 Lessing. Audre 329 Lorraine.

303. Deborah 13. Ella 74n Quella-Villéger. Richard 278 Poole.275 “Paterfamilias from the Provinces” 152 Peabody. George 298 Sapho 51 Sassoon. W. 313–14 Ryan. Bernardine de 278 Sand. 273–74. 352 Richter. 167. Maria 21. 169–73. George 67n Pearse. 302–04 Remarque. 294. Gillian 61 Rousseau. Rob 355 Showalter. 52. Dorothy L. 284–86. 241–42 rape 297. Samuel 195 People’s Palace 69 Poe. 310 Seidel. Jean-Jacques 29. Marion 268 Sherry. 300. 190 postmodern 16. Helen 131 Pound. 313 Pycroft. Edward 49. 189–90. Erich Maria 250 reportage 249. 300–03. 327–31. 56. 275. Siegfried 226. 20. Joan 94 Robinson. 251–52 Radcliffe. Richard 168 Shaw. Lillian S. Jeannette 344n Rilke. 265–67 Ouida 90n. Joni 297–98. 234. 29. 197n Proulx. Suzanne 182. Auguste 21 Roland. Mary Louise 52. 175–76. 57–58 postcolonial 25. 352 Said. 100 Owen. 333–34. 251. Olive 261 Seager. 231–46. 193.Index Ortega. George (Emily Morse Symonds) 26. 199. 214 Quinn. John 90–91. 55. Vincent 208n Shevelow. 297–300. 208n. 58 Parkes. Padraid 343 Peiss. 49.H. Ezra 321–22 Pratt. 293 Rosen. 355 Robinson. 267 Reynolds. 243n. 88n Rigard. May 28. Rainer. Sir Joshua 117–19. Mary 29. 88n Riehl. 186 Saint-Pierre. Amy G. 309. Madame 284 Roosevelt. 287. Jean 189–90 Rich. Ann 279 Radford. Adrienne 29. 307. 120 Robinson. Mary P. 311–13 pastoral. 322 Rinehart. Annie 311. 48. 299 post-pastoral 297. Michael 174 Sennett. 311. 30. 189. Don 299 Schreiner. 354–55 . Kathy 121 Pepys. 232. 253 Sayers. Kirsten Bartholomew 29. Sharon 229. Wilfred 258 Pallasmaa. Thomas 275 Rodin. 280–81. 312n post-traumatic stress syndrome 282 Potts. 273–78. Mary Robert 218–20 Riviere. 142n Scott. 355 Richardson. Salvator 279 Rose. Judith 94 Ruskin. 285. Dorothy 27. Juhani 174 Pardoe. Barbara 142n Reynolds. 197 Polwhele. 178. Julia 47. 355 Ouditt. Kathryn 89 Shields. 161–64 pastoral 29. 127n. 182–83. Bessie Rane 155n Parsons. 250. Alain 208n. Edgar Allan 325 Pollock. 234. 22. 120n 363 Rhys. Simon 281n Scheese. Joan 23 Schama. 319–25. 252. Jean 170–71 Raitt. Teddy 301 Rosa. 229. Amelia 217n Riley. 23. 159. 349–50. Sophia Lane 52. 322–23 Paston. 201. 278. Griselda 21. Patrick J. 198. 200. 99. neo. Elaine 91 Silver Fork novels 40 Sinclair.

Claire 234. Susan Merrill 21 St. 273–75.M. 275 Wilson. 141n. 69–70. 75–77. Septimus 149n. 79. Margaret 161n Stobbs. George H. 355 Smith. 113. 139.T. Gill 302 Vane. 293–94 Williams. 66. 81–82 Wegner. Phillip 19 West. Janet 21–22. 280. Henry David 299n “time geography” 61 Todd. Georges 335 Squier. Leon 252 Trout. J. Cynthia Griffin 107n. Erasmus 59 Wilson. 155 Wolff. 288. W. 322 on Gwen John 22. Leon 214n. Trudi 208n. Charlotte 29. 273278. 356 Valentine. 213 Stanhope. Steven 251–52 T’Serclaes. 115. 243n Smith. 139. Janet 26. Laurence 293 Stetz. 322. Harriet 127n Veblen. 205–26. Walt 30. Beatrice 65–67. Michael 151 . 198 Thompson. 266 Solnit. Elizabeth 66n.M. Edith 26–28. 120–21 Vicinus. 58. Miriam O’Brien 305. 278–84. Frances E. 81 Ward. 251. 191n Smith. 141n. Henrietta Eliza Vaughan Palmer (alias John Strange Winter) 149. Margaret 49 Sullivan. John Strange (Henrietta Eliza Vaughan Palmer Stannard) 149. 293–294. 153 Wilson. 222 Wolff. 355–56 White. 285n.364 Sizemore. 142n Smith. 127n. Vane. Martha 72 Vigarello. Keith 189. 298 Wolff. Ralph 285n Warner. 208. 149. 69. 215 Wolff. Christine 22 Stead. Maureen E. Mary Augusta 65. 313–14. Lady 40–42 Sterne. 151. Annie Peck 313 Smith. 79 Wardle. Stobart 239 St. 60 Walkowitz. Rebecca 234 Wharton. 311 Urquhart. Thorstein 107–10. Rebecca 22. 251 Tester. 127n. Baroness de 219 “Turkish Bath Movement” 59 Index Tylee. Helen Maria 29. 236n. 356 disagreement with 81. David 59 Usandizaga. 127n. 24. 24 on shopping 73. Stuart Edward 305 Whitman. 254 Underhill. 118. 131. Anthea 126n. Janet 276. Raymond 74n. Jean and Gordon D. 352. 74–75. 196. 88n Trodd. 193. Frances-Anne 52. H. 142 Thomson. 319. Angela K.A. Susan 190n. 285n tourism 47–48 travel writing 47. Judith 74n. Clair. 322 Willard. Georges 56n. Laurent. 213. 141 Trotsky. 161–64 Tate. 155 Stansell. 119 Webb. 73. 209n Trevelyan. 48. Leigh 239n Winter. 67. 152 Stepney. 109–22. 176n Thoreau. 354 Symbolists 246 Symonds. G. Sylvia Townsend 267–68 Watteau. 70. 49. Edith 127. 112. 354 Strobel. 298 Spanish Civil War 253 Spyridaki. Lady Hestor 53–54 Stanley. Emily Morse (alias George Paston) 26. Aránzazu 28. Sara 30. 118–19. 107. 67n Stannard. 313 Williams. 77n.