Alternative economies: authorship and ownership in Elizabeth Stoddard's 'Collected by a Valetudinarian.'
It is perhaps surprising, then, to find precisely such bonds operating in Stoddard's own "Collected by a Valetudinarian."(3) Published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in 1870, "Collected" is an intricate tale about Alicia Raymond, a little-known "woman of genius" (p. 289), and the women who encounter her through a diary she leaves as an inheritance. Written at a significant juncture in her career -- Stoddard had at this point virtually abandoned the novel form, where she met with a very limited readership, in favor of the short story -- "Collected" manifests a perhaps predictable interest in the nature of authorial vocation and literary audience.(4) What is less predictable is how Stoddard makes use of the "bonds of sisterhood" to frame her inquiries.
"Collected by a Valetudinarian" gives such bonds a central salvific function. They help restore Eliza Sinclair -- the "valetudinarian" of the title and our first-person narrator -- to physical and emotional health. Eliza has, she tells us, gone "traveling ... in search of something lost, i.e., health, and to appease a heart disquieted by grief' (p. 285).(5) In her "search," she goes to "an old village on our sea-board" (p. 285), a place where "neither laws nor men could trouble a solitary stranger" (p. 286).(6) Eliza's return to health originates on the periphery of larger, conventional social structures, in a world that resembles what historian Carroll Smith-Rosenberg has called the "female world of love and ritual" -- a world where "men made but a shadowy appearance" and women looked to one another for "support and intimacy."(7)
Stoddard's story begins in such a world, but does not end there. Indeed, "Collected" suggests that this notion of a "closed"(8) world is, finally, limiting, and, at least for the woman writer, detrimental. In the text, a world of "`heart' -felt friendship between women" offers a point of entry into a crucially larger world.(9) Although we begin the story with "sisterhood," we end with an extended, affectively-connected, mixed-gender family where gifts -- specifically, the diary of one woman writer -- freely circulate. Through this notion of circulation, Stoddard's story comes to apply the model of kinship relations to the literary marketplace. She uses those relations to counter the anonymity of that marketplace, reimagining it as a site not of the acquisitive drives of what C. B. Macpherson has called the "possessive individual," but rather of bequest and creative inheritance.(10)
In so doing, Elizabeth Stoddard finds a way to solve a riddle that vexed so many of her male counterparts and continues to vex critics today: a riddle about the relationship between the "true" artist and a marketplace that seems inimical to his (or, less often, her) concerns. Taking their lead from various nineteenth-century writers -- Hawthorne, Melville, and others -- literary critics ranging from Michael Gilmore to Henry Nash Smith have defined the mid-nineteenth century as a period dominated by a hopeless conflict between the "artists" and the "market."(11) Ever interested in challenging the boundaries of convention, Stoddard breaks down these boundaries as well: in "Collected by a Valetudinarian," she explores the possibilities of a non-proprietary authorship that can lead to new artist/audience relations; she attenuates the terrors of the marketplace by giving it a new, familial form.
Peter Stallybras and Allon White have noted that from the early seventeenth century, authorship "developed in accordance with the ideal of the individual which was emerging within bourgeois culture,"(12) the ideal of "possessive individualism." The idea that the author could be, like the possessive individual, a "proprietor of his own person or capacities"(13) was codified in the first copyright law, the Statute of Anne, passed by Parliament in 1709, in which authors were granted proprietary rights in their literary efforts.14 Mark Rose argues that the distinct features of the "modern author" in fact originate in copyright law, which renders the author "the owner of a special kind of commodity, the `work'"; copyright thus "produces and affirms the very identity of the author as author."(15)
By virtue of copyright laws which granted a writer property in the literary work, the concept of the author was linked to the concept of the possessive individual.(16) C. B. Macpherson derives the notion of "possessive individualism" from Locke's theory of the foundational relationship between the laboring self and property gained through labor. By codifying literary labor as labor, copyright laws effectively ratified the author's status as a proprietary subject. Secure title to the literary text meant secure title to the self, textual property made authorial individuality manifest. As Meredith McGill points out, however, in America, where republican ideas about the "inherent publicity of print and the political necessity of its wide dissemination" came into conflict with the common-law idea of individual property rights in print, this notion of the author as sovereign owner of the text came under scrutiny and debate.(17) In courts, legislatures, newspapers, and works of fiction, Americans posed a host of queries: to what extent must the author, to be an author, claim ownership of texts? To what extent does authorial identity inhere in such claims? What, in short, are the appropriate property relations of "genius"?
Elizabeth Stoddard takes up just these questions in "Collected by a Valetudinarian," a story in which the exchange of literary property is quite literal. In the diary she leaves as a bequest, Alicia Raymond records her creative aspirations, imaginative life, and sense of artistic selfhood. This female artist bequeaths a concrete artifact that represents, even helps to construct, her artistic self. Stoddard thus figures a constitutive link between property and authorial subjectivity. In her story, the ownership of property is a critical component in the construction of literary selfhood. Nor should this come as a particular surprise. In the context of women's exclusion from the proprietary mechanisms of the capitalist economy and the discourse of possessive individualism, and of women's increasing participation -- despite these exclusions -- in the literary marketplace, we can expect to find a woman writer insisting quite urgently on the importance of proprietary control.(18) For women, the need for ownership rights and for the protection of those rights was a pressing one, as widespread agitation for revisions in the laws of marital property during the mid-1800s would suggest.
Long before publishing "Collected," Stoddard manifested her position on such laws: in 1856, while assuming her "place in the ranks of Women's Shall Haves" (p. 328), she insisted that women should have "the enjoyment of property rights, and legal power to retain or dispose of property" (p. 327). Perhaps her adamancy was linked in part to Stoddard's own negotiations -- or lack thereof -- with publishers. As papers in the Stoddard collection at the New York Public Library reveal, for example, it was not Elizabeth but rather Richard Henry Stoddard who signed the contracts for publication of Stoddard's first and third novels.(19) Perhaps it is no coincidence that one of these novels, The Morgesons (1862), is deeply concerned with the (patriarchal) systems of ownership in which women are implicated and ends with the first-person narrator, Cassandra, writing the "last words" of the book from the family home to which she now claims title (p. 252).
But although Stoddard repeatedly makes such connections between authors and owners, authorship and ownership, she does not imagine a world in which women merely accede to and comply with the structures of proprietary identity that are already in place. Rather, she rewrites those structures, imagining an alternative economy that breaks down the boundaries between private and public property and, perhaps most importantly, the confines of the privatized possessive individual. Stoddard does indeed stake a claim to ownership for the female subject. But she stakes that claim for purposes of bequest, not for purposes of sovereignty. Only by owning can one bequeath -- and only in bequest is the identity of the writer secured. Stoddard's Alicia Raymond is an "original" whose work comes to circulate as a form of common property -- whose work must circulate as such, the story suggests, in order to prevent an autonomy that is precariously self-enclosed.
The issue of relation is foregrounded immediately in "Collected by a Valetudinarian" when Eliza Sinclair explains how, in her quest for health, she seeks not to forge but rather to escape connection, and to live as a "solitary stranger" (p. 286). But Eliza's isolation is quickly broken by Helen Hobson, a fellow boarder. An equally private, "self-contained" woman, Helen "bore a shadowy resemblance to myself, inasmuch as she was dressed in mourning, and looked delicate and feeble" (p. 288). Neither woman seeks an introduction; but the two are drawn together by the inn-keeper, Mr. Binks, who encroaches on their mutual isolation by insisting that they are "Birds of a feather" (p. 288). The connection Binks makes between the women is telling. "By your looks," he asserts, "I conclude you have them `ere mysterious complaints which make women so unaccountable. My wife was the same; first and last, she cost me a couple of hundred in patent medicines. She would try every individual one" (p. 288). Binks' reference to his wife's obsessive purchasing of "patent medicines" points us, indirectly, to a malady so often linked to women in mid-century literature: consumption. Binks signals for us, then, the concerns of this story: the affinities between women, and women's operations in networks of both salutary and unsalutary consumption.(20)
From the point of the meeting between these two invalid women, "Collected by a Valetudinarian" begins to explore the corrective qualities of relation and connection: as Helen and Eliza forge a friendship in "ramble[s] about the country" (p.289), their journey toward health truly begins. The relationship between Eliza Sinclair and Helen Hobson is predicated not on the kinds of intimacies and revelations from one woman to another that Carroll Smith-Rosenberg has documented, but rather on an individualistic respect for privacy: "Mrs. Hobson never told me her history; I never asked it. Having no wish to reveal mine, why should I demand hers?" (p. 288), Eliza declares. But when the women are on one of their "rambles," Eliza's "enthusiasm" over a "fragrant and delicious flower" prompts Helen to offer a first, and significant, confidence -- not about herself, but about Alicia Raymond, the literary "genius" whose story Eliza "collects":
"Eliza, you should have known my cousin Alicia Raymond.
Of all the persons I ever knew, you might have understood
and aided her. I am foolish that I have never told you the
chief reason of my coming to this wild place after my
widowhood. Here for some years lived, and died, a woman of
genius. Beyond yonder point on which stands the lighthouse
is an old house, belonging to me now, where she lived.
Tomorrow we will go there." (p. 289)
Believing that Eliza will "comprehend" Alicia Raymond (p. 291), Helen invites her into a confidence and, thus, into what has previously been a closely-kept community of appreciation and understanding. Although Alicia's father had "published some of her childish performances," "when he died she was forgotten" (p. 289). In fact, the "forgotten" nature of Alicia's "performances" troubles Helen a good deal: "Talk about Chatterton and Keats --," she asserts with a "passion" that "astonishe[s]" the narrator: "if they did not live in their lifetime, they do now, while Alicia's memory only exists in mine and that of her brother. What a mockery the life of genius is! What half of a community knows it? What does even the nearest neighboring soul know of it?" (p. 289).
Overlapping as they do with the story's emphasis on relation and connection, Helen's remarks serve to foreground the questions about authorship to which Stoddard eventually turns in "Collected by a Valetudinarian": to what extent is genius a private quality, and to what extent must it, to be genius, be publicly recognized? What kinds of relations must genius have? Having inherited Alicia's property, Helen feels she has inherited a responsibility for her reputation as well. Thus she vacillates between her feeling that Alicia "was happy without fame" (p. 291) and her belief that public recognition is necessary: without it, the "life of genius" may well be a "mockery." Helen repeatedly queries Eliza as to "whether any of her manuscripts should be published" (p. 295), even as she asserts that despite her lack of recognition, "rank," and "fortune," "this gifted woman, Alicia, discerned a world of beauty and truth that made an everlasting happiness for her great soul" (p. 290).
Helen's hesitating indecision suggests that a choice must be made between a form of creation that is utterly private, unknown "even" to the "nearest neighboring soul," and one that is entirely public, ratified by fame and public recognition. At one point, Eliza too provides commentary on this issue, revealing what she has learned of the "particulars" of Alicia Raymond's life (p. 292). These particulars bear a singular and uncanny resemblance to the particulars of the then little-known Emily Dickinson's life -- perhaps not utterly surprising, since, as Buell and Zagarell suggest, "There are indeed a number of parallels between [Dickinson and Stoddard] in attitude, upbringing, and milieu."(21) About Alicia, Eliza notes that "If she had a mania, it was for composition," not consumption:
[T]here were several manuscript volumes in existence, upon
which months of labor had been bestowed. Her literary habits
were as industrious and methodical as if her work had the
market value of a Thackeray or a Dickens. But she had the
most self-contained, self-sustaining soul that ever existed,
requiring neither praise nor appreciation to feed an
ambition perfectly pure and lofty in its aims. (p. 292)
The literary market makes a bold and somewhat intrusive appearance on the scene, bringing us face to face with what is by now a familiar dichotomy: on the one hand is "market value" and public recognition; on the other is "pure and lofty" ambition and "self-sustaining" genius. The problem of genius, it would appear, is the conflict between the "private" self and the "public" sphere.
In this passage, Stoddard seems to come to a double-bind reminiscent of one reiterated repeatedly by Herman Melville. "Try to get a living by the Truth -- and go to the Soup Societies," Melville famously wrote Hawthorn in 1851; "the silent grass-growing mood in which a man ought always to compose, -- that, I fear, can seldom be mine. Dollars damn me ... " The letter voices Melville's ever-present sense of the clash between the concerns of the market and the (in his formulation) more pure concerns of literary genius and composition.(22) As any student of nineteenth-century literature knows well, Melville was not alone in his anxiety. As the busy marketplaces of antebellum America became even busier, a whole host of writers -- Hawthorne, Emerson, and Thoreau among them -- expressed concerns about the influence of the market on authorial vocation.(23)
Stoddard's vision in "Collected" appears at first glance to match that of Melville and his cohorts: opposing truth-telling art to art with mere "market value," creation for the private self to creation for the public eye, she suggests, through Alicia, that one must choose. Like Melville, Stoddard's putative author wants her narratives to "speak the truth" (p. 299): "Shall I dare tell the truth about men and women? ... Who may speak if I can not?" she wonders at one point (p. 298). But she also appears to believe and even rejoice in the fact that to speak the truth is to write for oneself: "I am alone with my own power. What I decide to be, that I am for myself' (p. 298). Echoing Melville's commendation of Hawthorne as a "man who, like Russia or the British Empire, declares himself a sovereign nature (in himself)"(24) Alicia Raymond suggests that the writer who speaks the truth must stand alone, and write without need for the plaudits, even the acceptance, of the public. "[W]hy and for what should I torture my genius? Let it be in its afrite box- small, neat, compact," she declares (p. 297). Embracing the force of her gift, which she associates with a kind of diabolical power,(25) Alicia proudly rejects the taming of her work for public consumption. She declares her genius her own, laying claim to it as literal and as figurative property.
Alicia's isolation signals her sense that circulation is a threat, to ownership of her genius and to ownership of herself. Alicia retreats to the solitude of her house on the margins of what is itself a marginal village -- a village on the seashore -- and refuses to make herself public. At one point, she receives a proposal of marriage: "Give up your dreadful isolation," her suitor begs her; "come out into my world, and be my wife!" (p. 301). Alicia promptly rejects him, for, as she writes in her diary, "what would become of my literary career?" (p. 301). Alicia's resistance to marriage reveals her awareness that the work of a wife interferes with the work of a writer, that a "literary wife" is a kind of oxymoron. But Alicia is also refusing the kind of open circulation the suitor invites: he wants her to forego her isolation and "come out" into the "world"; she prefers the solitude of her home by the sea and of her intensely private work.
In representing Alicia's unwillingness both to publish and to marry -- to give in to two forms of capitalist commodification -- Stoddard seems to agree with Melville about the private and self-contained nature of authorship; in Alicia, she appears to celebrate an imagination that exists unto itself. Significantly, Alicia, a woman who refuses to circulate as a commodity on either the marriage or the literary market, eventually dies of consumption: "I cough so, I suppose that I must die soon," she remarks in her diary (p. 303). But if here Stoddard seems to concede to the dangers of circulation, ultimately "Collected by a Valetudinarian" suggests that a vision of a non-circulating, pure," and entirely self-sustaining authorship is at best quixotic and at worst dangerous. And if Stoddard has heretofore echoed as well Melville's sense of the gap between creation for a public audience and creation for the private self, the events of the story suggest that there may be a better middle ground. While "Collected" virtually opposes open circulation in a world dominated by market value, and while the story rejects the commodification of the self and the text, neither the authorial heroine nor, to an even greater extent, Stoddard herself appears satisfied with the apparent alternative: total self-containment. As Helen Hobson earlier suggests, declaring that the "life of genius" is a "mockery" when it goes unnoticed by "even the nearest neighboring soul" (p. 289), it is, finally, as much the lack of consumption as consumption itself that threatens the author. For if to circulate freely is to submit to a kind of destructive "torture," to fail to circulate at all is to run the risk of an equally destructive, incestuous self-enclosure.(26)
Finally, then, Stoddard gives us a third alternative: instead of either the unlimited circulation of "a Thackeray or a Dickens" (p. 292) or the incestuous non-circulation of an utterly privatized genius, she presents a specific form of exchange, where property circulates in a community characterized by affective bonds. This circulation is made literal, of course, in Alicia's bequest to Helen Hobson -- a bequest that is passed on to Eliza Sinclair as well. But Alicia leaves more than her home to Helen, for in that home is her diary, on which is printed a message: "He who does not run may read" (p. 292). Aware that the volume will be found, Alicia thus bequeaths it as well. In essence, she creates her own system of literary production and distribution, a network that depends not on market value, or even on intellectual understanding, but on emotional affiliation. In the diary itself, she notes, "This ineffectual record must end. Helen Hobson may read it; perchance, some person she loves" (p. 304). The system Alicia creates thus functions not according to the rules of the capitalist economy but rather to the emotional rules of a gift economy: someone whom Alicia loves (Helen), or someone whom that loved one herself loves (Eliza), "may read."
Clearly, although Alicia Raymond anticipates and even works to construct an audience for her diary, she does not issue an open invitation: only a reader who will not "run" from what she might find -- a reader unafraid of the demon in the "afrite box" of Alicia Raymond's mind -- "may read" (p. 292). But Stoddard goes to lengths to make us understand that while the community is on one level limited, it is not static. Among Alicia's readers during her lifetime are not only her father and her brother, Alton; not only Helen Hobson; but also, eventually, Julia, the woman Alton proposes to marry. The inclusion of Julia in this otherwise private circle is significant. When, at the end of the story, Helen and Eliza discuss whether Alicia's work should be made public, Eliza expresses her "doubt" that "she would ever have been induced to publish any thing":
"But is it not a pity she should be lost to the world?"
"She has her world in Alton, in you, and will have in
me. Did Alton marry Julia?"
"Yes; and she cherishes Alicia's memory tenderly."
"That is enough." (p. 307)
This statement of sufficiency is meant, I suggest, to emphasize not conclusion (as in, "that is all"), but rather inclusion and continuation. The incorporation of Julia into the circle is just "enough" to save the family from a dangerous self-containment and Alicia from the closed exchange that is incest. What Stoddard seems to have in mind here is a kind of genealogical audience -- not a closed circle, but rather a long and continuing line of readers. In this genealogy, the blank consumers of the nineteenth-century marketplace are replaced by emotionally affiliated readers.
That Stoddard's "enough" does not signal a finite circle of such readers -- that this genealogy is an ever-expanding one -- is manifested in the inclusion of Eliza, who notes that Alicia "has her world in Alton, in you, and will have in me" (p. 307, emphasis mine). The "world" that Eliza promises for Alicia is, of course, a very big one. For Eliza does not merely "collect" and preserve the diary: she publishes it, including it in her story. When she does this, she appears in many ways to undo the "moral" of the story, to contradict its vision of controlled circulation by publicizing Alicia's private text -- by, in essence, putting Alicia herself on the market. But in fact, this ever expanding genealogy proves to be, precisely, an antidote to unsalutary consumption. "Maybe I am sent here to be aided by her" says Eliza to Helen, when she discovers that she feels an affinity to "this Alicia" (p. 296). Surely by the end of the story, Eliza has been "aided," restored to health by her inclusion in an alternative economy that is dominated by relations that differ from those set down by "laws" and "men." And if Eliza finds her lost health through the gift of Alicia's journal, she herself performs a salvific function: Helen tells her, "Of all the persons I ever knew, you might have understood and aided [Alicia]" (p. 289).
It is here, in the matter of "aid," that the most startling aspect of this story becomes important, for in aiding Alicia, Eliza is in fact aiding Stoddard herself. As Buell and Zagarell demonstrate, Alicia Raymond's journal is in fact a reworking of Stoddard's own; "Collected by a Valetudinarian" emerged from a journal Stoddard kept between April and October of 1866.(27) The homophonic associations throughout the text -- Alicia leads to Eliza, Eliza (Sinclair) leads to Elizabeth (Stoddard) -- further suggest the ways in which Alicia's story is a re-invention of Stoddard's own. As this reinvention occurs, as each story under- and over-writes the other, Stoddard's meditations on the salutary circulation of genius gain significance. In reworking her own journal and representing it as Alicia's, Stoddard circulates a most "private" text in a most public forum: Harper's New Monthly Magazine.
Stoddard thus seems to let both work and author circulate on an open market that is not affective but impersonal, in a world where literary property may not be appropriately protected or exchanged. But her maneuver can also be understood as an effort to extend her story's vision of an affective readerly genealogy beyond the confines of the story itself and to offer what is in essence a re-invention of the literary marketplace in which the author circulates. Significantly, it is a diary, where the self would appear to bear witness to its privatized status, that Stoddard circulates. Just as Alicia Raymond makes a gift of her journal, blurring the lines between private and public property, so too does Stoddard make a gift of herself.
In doing so, she challenges the very idea of the bounded, autonomous, and self-owning author. In its complex textual and meta-textual maneuvers, "Collected by a Valetudinarian" suggests that authorial identity is secured not in absolute claims to but rather in the exchange of property in networks of emotional affiliation. As the public, we are allowed into the "private" text as long as we will not "run" from the genius we encounter there. Bequeathing her diary as common property, Stoddard makes publicly available her private text, secure in the faith that she will find readers, like Alicia's Eliza, who will value and share the emotional truth she offers there. In "Collected," Stoddard finds a way to annul the terrors of the literary marketplace, reinventing it as a space in which affective bonds can be made. The circulation of literary property goes on, but on the margins, in an alternative economy based on affective understanding rather than competetive demands.
Elizabeth Stoddard resembles Herman Melville in her concern for investigating the meanings of ownership for the author and proprietary relations in the literary community. But where Stoddard manages to break down some of the distinctions between public and private discourses and to imagine an authorial self that is not fully privatized, Melville tries -- but finally fails. He is unable to relinquish the proprietary boundaries of the writing subject.(28) By the time he gets to Pierre, in 1852, his inability to imagine an alternative to the possessive individual leads to a kind of absolute proprietorship manifested in Pierre's obsessive effort to protect and maintain the "sovereign" borders of the self. The end of this effort is, of course, the infamous pile of bodies that concludes the novel.
At one point in Pierre, Pierre himself is accused of having "directly plagiarized from his own experiences, to fill out the mood of his apparent author-hero."(29) What Pierre does in fiction, Stoddard does in reality, and to very different outcome: she "plagiarizes" from her own journal to "fill out the mood" of her "author-hero," Alicia Raymond. But whereas Pierre's self-plagiarism serves only to further isolate him, writing him further and further into a private universe that excludes all others, Stoddard's becomes a means of forging bonds, of creating a readerly genealogy.
Melville cannot account for the possibility of a public bound not by the ethos of market consumption but by the ethics of affective relations. Nor can a literary history which has so fully assumed the split he, imagines between the market, where the writer is consumed freely, widely, and indiscriminately, and some notion of pure and autonomous artistry. The tenacity of this historical narrative is suggested not only by the work of critics arguing from within its perspective, like Gilmore and Smith, but also by the work of those purporting to argue against it. In Beneath the American Renaissance, for example, David S. Reynolds intends to "study the cross-influences and dynamics between the major and minor writers" of popular culture. But Reynolds is unable to sustain a model of the literary text as "democratic meeting place," arguing that what the "major writers" do is give "popular images" a new and more artful "depth and control [that] they lacked in their crude native state."(30) Even in this reformulation, the market poses a threat: public taste is "crude," and the writer who caters to it is brought low. Once again, the artist and the public exist in opposition to one another.
But, as Meredith McGill points out in arguing against what she calls our "stunned" approach to the "fact of the market," "contrary to the image frequently summoned or assumed by critics, the market for books in antebellum America was not a monolithic, totalizing structure which demanded extremes of opposition or complicity. It was a remarkably differentiated set of practices, the configuration of which was the subject of considerable struggle."(31) My reading of Stoddard is meant to draw attention to one fictional engagement in this struggle, and to suggest that our overdetermined narrative of market relations fails to account for the sorts of dialectical interventions between circulation and genius that a writer like Stoddard imagines. Stoddard's story operates on a structural irony: she writes for the market while radically reconfiguring it. Her vision of a gift economy, her attempt to imagine the literary marketplace not as a site of terror but as a space where affective connections can be made, may well be a consoling fiction -- for after all, like Melville, Stoddard virtually wrote herself out of the mainstream. But it is a vision nonetheless, and one that challenges us to think beyond our critical dichotomies to other ways of imagining the artist in the marketplace. And that, as Eliza reminds us, may truly "be enough."
(1) Elizabeth Stoddard, The Morgesons and Other Writings, Published and Unpublished, ed. Lawrence Buell and Sandra Zagarell (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1984), p. 317. Hereafter cited parenthetically.
(2) Lawrence Buell and Sandra Zagarell, "Biographical and Critical Introduction," The Morgesons and Other Writings, pp. xvii-xviii.
(3) See The Morgesons and Other Writings, pp. 285-308.
(4) Before turning more exclusively to the short story, Stoddard published The Morgesons (1862), Two Men (1865), and Temple House (1867). Stoddard also published a children's book, Lolly Dink's Doings, in 1874, and her Poems, in 1895. For an exhaustively researched checklist of Stoddard's publications, see James H. Matlack, The Literary Career of Elizabeth Barstow Stoddard (Diss. Yale University, 1967), pp. 624-31. For a discussion of Stoddard's career as a journalist, see James H. Matlack, "The Alta-California's Lady Correspondent," New York Historical Society Quarterly 58 (1974), 280-303, and Sybil Weir, "Our Lady Correspondent: The Achievement of Elizabeth Drew Stoddard," San Jose Studies, 10 (1984), 73-91. The Morgesons has generated by far the largest -- albeit a still limited -- body of criticism. See, for example, Susan K. Harris, Nineteenth-Century American Women's Novels: Interpretive Strategies (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990); Sybil Weir, "The Morgesons: A Neglected Feminist Bildungsroman," NEQ 49 (1976), 427-39; and Sandra A. Zagarell, "The Repossession of a Heritage: Elizabeth Stoddard's The Morgesons," SAF 13 (1985), 45-56. Lawrence Buell discusses The Morgesons, along with Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables, as an example of New England "provincial gothic" in New England Literary Culture: From Revolution Through Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1986). For a discussion of the problematic placement of Stoddard in literary genres, see Dawn Henwood, "First-Person Storytelling in Elizabeth Stoddard's The Morgesons: Realism, Romance, and the Psychology of the Narrating Self," ESQ 41 (1995), 41-63.
(5) Illness was a constant companion in Elizabeth Stoddard's own household: two of her three children died in infancy, and both Stoddard and her husband, Richard Henry Stoddard, suffered from various debilitating complaints throughout their lives. Matlack discusses the negative effects of these illnesses on the spirits of both Elizabeth and Richard Henry Stoddard; see also the journal and the letters included in The Morgesons and Other Writings.
(6) Stoddard is paraphrasing Chateaubriand here; see "Collected," p. 286, and Buell and Zagarell's note in The Morgesons, p. 307.
(7) Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985), pp. 53, 65. For a discussion that predates Smith-Rosenberg's, see William R. Taylor and Christopher Lasch, "Two `Kindred Spirits'": Sorority and Family in New England, 1839-1846," NEQ 36 (1963), 25-41. See also Nancy Cott, The Bonds of Womanhood: `Woman's Sphere' in New England, 1780-1835 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1977). In New England Local Color Literature: A Women's Tradition (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1983), Josephine Donovan documents the emergence of a similar "female world" in the published texts of New England women writers from the mid- to the late-nineteenth century. According to Donovan, such "woman-identified" literature constitutes a whole literary genre, which she calls "women's literary realism" (p. 3). Within this genre, Donovan argues, "New England women [writers] created a counter world of their own, a rural realm that existed on the margins of patriarchal society, a world that nourished strong, free women" (p. 3). For an exploration of the limitations of Donovan's view, which has become a widely accepted reading of women's regional writing, see Richard Brodhead, Cultures of Letters: Scenes of Reading and Writing in Nineteenth-Century America (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1993).
(8) Smith-Rosenberg, p. 65.
(9) Cott, p. 185.
(10) C. B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1962).
(11) See Michael T. Gilmore, American Romanticism and the Marketplace (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1985), and Henry Nash Smith, "The Scribbling Women and the Cosmic Success Story," Critl 1 (1974), 47-70. See also R. Jackson Wilson, Figures of Speech: American Writers and the Literary Marketplace from Benjamin Franklin to Emily Dickinson (New York: Knopf, 1989). In Poe's Plagiarisms: Literary, Property and the Authorial Self in Antebellum America (Diss. Johns Hopkins University, 1993; Ann Arbor: UMI), Meredith McGill offers a contrasting view of the author/market relationship that is situated in a more nuanced examination of "the complexity and instability of the antebellum literary marketplace" (p. 7).
(12) Peter Stallybras and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1986), p. 77.
(13) Macpherson, p. 3.
(14) Prior to this, the right to literary property was vested primarily in booksellers and publishers. In this scheme, the author was seen not as the source of unique thoughts -- an originator of a special kind of labor -- but as what Mark Rose calls the "reproducer of traditional truths"; see Rose, "The Author as Proprietor: Donaldson v. Becket and the Genealogy of Modern Authorship," Representations 23 (1988), 56. For further discussion of this shift in views of authorship, see Martha Woodmansee, "The Genius and the Copyright: Economic and Legal Conditions of the Emergence of the `Author.'" Eighteenth-Century Studies 17 (1984), 425-48. For the most thorough history of copyright law, see Lyman Patterson, Copyright in Historical Perspective Nashville: Vanderbilt Univ. Press, 1968); also see Philip Wittenberg, The Law of Literary Property (Cleveland: World Publishing Company, 1957).
(15) Rose, p. 54. Looking at the evolution of copyright protection in America, Meredith McGill argues, by contrast, that a "radically different conception of authorship ... obtained in the new nation" (p. 8): "In the American context, the central tenets of republicanism which ally the printed text with the public sphere qualify the impact of the `principles of possessive individualism' on the development of literary property ... and work to postpone the emergence of the modern property-owning author until late in the century" (p. 32). See her extensive and compelling discussion of the landmark 1834 copyright case, Wheaton v. Peters. For the purposes of this essay, I am less concerned with whether the "possessive author" existed as a legal fact than with how the concept might function as an imaginative trope and a starting point for various writers' investigations into the matter of authorial subjectivity.
(16) Rose notes that "the development of the Lockean discourse of possessive individualism ... occurred in the same period as the long legal and commercial struggle over copyright" (p. 56).
(17) McGill, p. 31.
(18) Placing her discussion in the context of the "true woman's" exclusion from what was deemed the "sordid" world of business, Susan Coultrap-McQuin examines the elaborate and, finally, mutually beneficial relationship that evolved between nineteenth-century women writers and the "Gentleman Publishers" upon whom they relied. See Doing Literary Business: American Women Writers in the Nineteenth Century (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1990). Coultrap-McQuin makes only the briefest of references to Stoddard, naming her as the recipient of a letter from Helen Hunt Jackson in discussing a suit between Mary Abigail Dodge and the publisher James T. Fields (p. 155).
(19) See Matlack, pp. 206. 412. Richard H. Stoddard was apparently deeply involved in the publication of Stoddard's work; in a letter to a mutual friend, for example, Edmund Stedman wrote that "R.H.S. is just now very busy, rushing Mrs. Stoddard's new novel [Temple House] through the press" (Matlack, Literary Career, p. 416).
(20) Binks may, also have hysteria in mind. As Smith-Rosenberg notes, "Hysteria was one of the classic diseases of the nineteenth century" and was seen as a "peculiarly female" malady (p. 197).
(21) Buell and Zagarell. p. xii. Buell and Zagarell discuss the similarities and differences between Dickinson and Stoddard. In 1870, the year Stoddard published "Collected," Thomas Wentworth Higginson wrote to his wife about his first meeting with Dickinson: "If you had read Mrs. Stoddard's novels you could understand a house where each member runs his or her own selves" (quoted in Matlack, p. 470; see also Buell and Zagarell, p. xii). Matlack notes that in the early 1890s, after Higginson had begun to make Dickinson's work more widely known, Stoddard wrote to a friend that Dickinson "was not really a poet. `An eccentric arrangement of words -- or ebullition of feeling do not constitute poetry'" (p. 470). Matlack, Stoddard's most exhaustive biographer, does not suggest that Stoddard had encountered Dickinson's work prior to the writing of "Collected."
(22) Herman Melville, Correspondence, ed. Lynn Horth, Harrison Hayford, G. Thomas Tanselle, et al. (Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern Univ. Press and The Newberry Library, 1993), p. 191. This sense of clashing concerns and needs is now the consensus reading of Melville's relation to his antebellum audience. For a representative and extremely thorough perspective, see William Charvat, The Profession of Authorship in America 1800-1870, in The Papers of William Charvat, ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli (Columbus: Ohio State Univ. Press, 1968).
(23) For discussions of these anxieties, see Gilmore. Operating on the assumed split between the "market," where the writer circulates freely and widely, and true "artistry," Smith contrasts the work of the "artful" American romantics with that of the "scribbling women" who, he suggests, cater to the lowest common denominator of popular taste; see "The Scribbling Women and the Cosmic Success Story." My reading of Stoddard is intended to challenge this notion of the artist's "predicament."
(24) Melville, Correspondence, p. 186
(25) According to Buell and Zagarell, "An `afrite' box would be a box with an evil demon (`afrit') in it" (The Morgesons and Other Writings, p. 308).
(26) The latter risk is figured in the story literally, in Stoddard's treatment of the relationship between Alicia and her brother, Alton -- a relationship saved from endogamous isolation by the entrance of Alton's fiancee, Julia, into the secluded home by the sea. Incest figures thematically throughout Stoddard's work, most notably in The Morgesons and Two Men. For a discussion of Stoddard's fictional "incest fantasies" see Weir, pp. 436-37. Matlack discusses Stoddard's relationship with her brother, Wilson, which strongly resembles the relationship between Alicia and Alton in "Collected."
(27) The Morgesons and Other Writings, p. 347; Buell and Zagarell reprint the journal, pp. 347-59. For the context of the diary's writing, see Matlack, pp. 400-402.
(28) Ellen Weinauer, "Plagiarism and the Proprietary Self: Policing the Boundaries of Authorship in Herman Melville's `Hawthorne and His Mosses,'" forthcoming in AL, December 1997. For other discussions of Melville's negotiations of authorial subjectivity, see Gillian Brown, Domestic Individualism: Imagining Self in Nineteenth-Century America (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1990); and Wai-chee Dimock, Empire for Liberty: Melville and the Poetics of Individualism (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1989).
(29) Herman Melville, Pierre: or The Ambiguities, ed. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (Evanston: Northwestern Univ. Press and The Newberry Library. 1971). p. 302.
(30) David S. Reynolds, Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imagination in the Age of Emerson and Melville (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1989), pp. 4. 9-10.
(31) McGill. p. 3.
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|Publication:||Studies in American Fiction|
|Date:||Sep 22, 1997|
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