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Empowering the sister: female rescue and authorial resistance in The Heart of Midlothian.

Most of what has been written about the pervasiveness of the idea of rescue in the Victorian age presents it as a male fantasy. Adrienne Auslander Munich, for example, looking at the Andromeda myth "and its cognate, St. George and the dragon" (1), in Andromeda's Chains, decides that whether men are using these myths "to celebrate the rewards of a patriarchal system |or~ to record their discomforts with it" (2), it is men who usually invoke them. Munich admits the variation that some men, either overtly or symbolically, "imagine themselves as Andromeda" (3 -- her example is Browning's Pauline), or, in the case of George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, can be portrayed as the object of rescue, but in such allusions the rescuer is always male. Joseph Kestner finds male aggressiveness and female passivity in rescue motives throughout classical-subject painting in Victorian England, and concludes that such paintings are male vehicles expressing attitudes about male superiority and female inferiority. Kestner lists more than thirty artists who treated some aspect of the Perseus and Andromeda story during Victoria's reign (39-40). It is hardly surprising that in the decades of Robert Browning's rescue of Elizabeth Barrett (or vice-versa), of Millais's rescue of Effie Gray (or vice-versa), and of Gladstone's rescue of fallen women in the streets of London (or vice-versa?), that rescue should be so pervasive a topic in art and literature. But those permutations of the rescue plot in which the rescuer is a woman remain comparatively rare, and tend to be limited to works concerning sisters.

In poetry, Christina Rossetti treats the subject of a sister's rescue of her fallen sister in "Goblin Market" (1862). In novels, there are rescues or attempted rescues of actual or figurative sisters by sisters in Little Dorrit, The Woman in White, No Name, Rhoda Fleming, and Wives and Daughters. One sister attempts the rescue of another who is "fallen" or caught in a sexual trap, though that trap is sometimes encoded as servitude, loss of "name" in a legal or economic rather than moral sense, or actual incarceration -- in Little Dorrit, No Name, and The Woman in White, respectively. In The New Magdalen a "fallen" woman attempts her own rescue by adopting the identity of a respectable woman she thinks has died. In Middlemarch Dorothea Brooke attempts the rescue of three people: her rival/sister Rosamond Vincy Lydgate, Rosamond's husband Tertius Lydgate, and Dorothea's own husband-to-be Will Ladislaw, who is another figurative "sister" of Dorothea.

All of these rescues are in part enabled by the first novel to recognize the heroic possibilities of sisterhood, Sir Walter Scott's The Heart of Midlothian. But despite a historical source fairly unequivocal about it, Scott's narrative fights the idea of female empowerment every step of the way, and the story turns out to be a woman's triumph in spite of what he has done to defuse and isolate the characters of Jeanie and Effie Deans. Considered from the point of view of these sisters and of Jeanie's rescue of Effie, Scott's treatment of history is everywhere a question in The Heart of Midlothian. He ties his story of female rescue to a mob scene that was a Scottish manifestation of a new revolutionary spirit, and he puts the head of the mob in the costume of a woman. But this revolutionary is in fact a man, George Staunton, and moreover, as the seducer of two of the book's three strong female characters, he is even more reactionary than the father of the Deans sisters, who is a caricature of the dour patriarch. Finally, Scott adapts a salacious bit of Georgian history when he brings into his story the king's mistress, Henrietta Howard, Lady Suffolk, as the companion of Queen Caroline when Jeanie Dean makes her appeal for a royal pardon. By doing so he opposes the queen's agency in granting Effie's pardon against the fact that the queen is empowered partly through her use of Suffolk in an arrangement that makes the queen a bawd and the favor granted a bit of upper-class condescending recognition that the lower classes -- and even the Scots -- perhaps should not always be hanged for a little fornication.

Scott's subject is the different forms of truth and their working in the sisters' relation at the heart of the book. His thesis seems romantic enough: truth is a form of power. Contention begins in the source story itself, because it narrates a struggle between the truth Jeanie tells at the trial -- a negative truth that is really silence and that condemns her sister -- and the truth that empowers her when she tells it to the Duke of Argyle -- the whole story of the two sisters. Scott's imagination, strongly scenic, constructs about half a dozen key scenes in which truth is alternately seen as restriction and as empowerment. He first sets out the opposition of an imperilling and a rescuing truth that gives Jeanie dangerous but also redemptive power over her sister. Then he complicates the matter with other kinds of truth -- historical truth from his reading of the Queen Caroline/Lady Suffolk connection, and a fictive or mythic "truth" that comes from doubling key characters in the book, especially from parallelling Effie with Madge Wildfire.

The action begins during "a cottage evening scene" (98), as Effie Deans is about to confess to her sister Jeanie her growing intimacy with George Staunton. She is interrupted by her father David Deans, a stern dissenter, who hears the girls talking of a dance and enters the house in a rage. He threatens to disinherit them for even talking about dancing. This scene establishes the negative "truth" of a failed confidence, and the story hangs on just this lack of confidence between the sisters. Had Effie confessed her assignations with Staunton, these might not have led to greater intimacy and to Effie's pregnancy. Because Effie has moved out of the house to work in town, she can conceal her condition from Jeanie and her father. Had Effie later revealed her pregnancy to Jeanie, such a confession, testified to by Jeanie, would have freed Effie from the charge of having murdered her child, because the statute assumes the guilt of a woman who has told no one about her pregnancy and whose child is not in evidence.

The book's second key scene, between the heroine and the one who wrongs the heroine's sister, is a kind of prototype for such scenes that appear in one form or another in many nineteenth-century novels. Effie's lover George Staunton summons Jeanie to a meeting at "Muschat's Cairn" in the hills outside Edinburgh, giving her hope that she "might even yet be the rescue of" Effie (144). He tries to make her swear to perjure herself -- to give an oath to break an oath -- to save her sister at Effie's trial; then he threatens and begs her, meanwhile confessing his responsibility for fathering Effie's child, who he is convinced was murdered by the unscrupulous Meg Murdockson, with whom he arranged Effie's lying-in. He tells her, "Nothing is so natural as that Effie should have mentioned her condition to you" (155), and he argues that "even the retainers of the law, who course life as greyhounds do hares, will rejoice at the escape of a creature so young -- so beautiful; that they will not suspect your tale; that, if they did suspect it, they would consider you as deserving, not only of forgiveness, but of praise for your natural affection" (156). He offers some truth in his confession, but then he insists she tell a lie that everyone wishes for. Jeanie, against his persuasiveness and the appeals of her affection, refuses to give false evidence.

Characteristically in rescue plots the male seducer makes a confession and the sister stands her ground against her own fears and possibly against his attempts to intimidate her. The confession may come from the rescuer rather than the seducer. Something like this scene happens in both Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. In the first book, Willoughby makes a visit to Cleveland and confesses to Elinor how he has led Marianne on. Elinor, convinced by this recital that Willoughby is not completely wicked and did care for her sister, awaits her time and then relays a selected portion of what he said to the convalescent Marianne, whose response is, "I have now heard exactly what I wished to hear" (Ch. 47). Elsewhere in that book Brandon tells Elinor about Willoughby's sins against Eliza. In Pride and Prejudice the scene is Darcy's first proposal to Elizabeth, where he admits what he has done to impede the romance of Bingley and Jane. The retaining or sharing of dangerous knowledge is the quintessential sisterly act in Austen and the closest thing to a rescue one sister can attempt. In these books the construction of the feminine, which means the construction of the sister, includes the possibilities of confidante and of rival, but not the possibility of one woman's active championing of another.

In later books the sister becomes a real agent in confession scenes, which occur in Rhoda Fleming, Wives and Daughters, and, in a greatly transmuted form, in Middlemarch. In each of these books the scene is a key indication of gender attitudes and the relative empowerment of the heroine. In The Heart of Midlothian Jeanie's unwillingness to act against her conscience, even under Staunton's threat of death, lets her control the interview with him even in her terror. Eventually, her grasp of the truth will enable her to change the course of the action, directly or through the agency of other women.

A short but important scene occurs between Jeanie and David Deans, who has religious scruples about any testimony before an English -- and therefore establishmentarian -- court. David conquers these scruples so far as to tell Jeanie she must be guided by her own conscience. But she misunderstands, imagining that he is trying to justify perjury to save her sister (199). His message is, "testify if your conscience says so," but she hears, "perjure yourself." This impression increases her pain without weakening her resolve to tell the truth. Deans's longtime patriarchal instruction to tell truth takes precedence over the momentary adjuration to lie that she mistakenly hears.

In the prison, "The two sisters walked together to the side of the pallet bed, and sate down side by side, took hold of each other's hands, and looked each other in the face, but without speaking a word" (203). This scene and the trial scene are introduced with a quote from Measure for Measure: Jeanie's first, refused opportunity to rescue her sister is presented as a prostitution. As Claudio asks his sister Isabella to pretend her yielding to Angelo would be a virtue (3.2.136), so Effie at first wants her sister to sacrifice another kind of "honesty." She wants Jeanie to lie for her. Jeanie is close to agreeing, but then Effie, "better minded," says, "At my best, I was never half sae gude as ye were. and what for suld you begin to mak yoursell waur to save me, now that I am no worth saving? God knows, that in my sober mind I wadna wuss ony living creature to do a wrang thing to save my life" (208). Effie concludes that the "truth" is more valuable than her miserable life -- but this "truth" is hardly complete. It is a silence about her pregnancy that the warped statute takes as proof of guilt for murder. Not only is the inference invalid and the assumption morally wrong, but it is also untrue in the particular case: Effie did not kill her child.

For Effie as well as Jeanie, the indoctrination of the father's word triumphs. Later, in the courtroom, the patriarchal word is reinforced at the swearing-in when Jeanie, "educated in deep and devout reverence for the name and attributes of the Deity, was, by the solemnity of a direct appeal to His person and justice, awed, but at the same time elevated above all considerations save those which she could, with a clear conscience, call HIM to witness" (229). And finally, if these admonitions were not enough, another patriarchal figure in the person of the judge makes a special point of warning her that she owes the truth to her country and to her God. The truth triumphs over any ties of blood, Jeanie testifies that her sister told her nothing of her condition, and Effie is sentenced to death. But Effie has the last word:

"God forgive ye, my lords," she said, "and dinna be angry wi' me for wishing it -- we a' need forgiveness. As for myself, I canna blame ye, for ye act up to your lights; and if I havena killed my poor infant, ye may witness a' that hae seen it this day, that I hae been the means of killing my grey-headed father. I deserve the warst frae man, and frae God too. But God is mair mercifu' to us than we are to each other." (239)

There is more in Effie's speech than the conventional Christian sentiment of "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." She speaks as if knowing more than they can. She condemns through her whole story the law contravening the most vital protection of English legal tradition -- the presumption of innocence -- and removing the burden of proof from the prosecution along with any necessity of corpus delicti. But Effie says more than Scott could have said with any other voice -- perhaps more than he could have thought without this source to prompt him. "Ye act up to your lights," she says, and so they do, in enforcing a lethal statute that cannot be invoked against a man. Guiltless of her baby's death as she says, Effie is condemned on account of the father. But Effie denies that her God is made in the image of the stern father. She condemns the apotheosis of the father in religious, legal, and familial systems while she reaffirms her oppression: she thinks she has committed the ultimate crime in killing the father and she thinks she deserves death for having done it.

At this point the possibility of a rescue changes from the way George Staunton had presented it to Jeanie, as Effie had pleaded to Jeanie to effect it, and as Jeanie imagined that her father had suggested she accomplish it. Even before the trial Jeanie has started to feel "that, by some means or other, she would be called upon and directed to work out her sister's deliverance" (180). Up to this point truth for Jeanie has been silence, and it has upheld a male hierarchical system and, within it, an egregiously unjust law aimed at women alone. She could only have avoided condemning her sister by a lie that would also be acquiescing to the construction of sisterhood that Staunton invokes: everyone, he suggests, will believe that Jeanie was Effie's confidante. But after Effie's sentencing Jeanie's truth changes and becomes positive. She sees the chance to carry her story to a sympathetic listener whom she will convince by the plainness -- that is, the truth -- of it. Jeanie's truth turns from silence that can kill her sister to speech that can save her.

As Jeanie goes toward the south, the arena becomes more public, and other truths begin to contend in Scott's narrative. One of these is historical "truth" -- not so much the extent to which Scott's use of figures such as Queen Caroline and Lady Suffolk corresponds with what can be known of their relationship and actions, but rather the reading Scott gives to history as it impinges on his source story of Helen Walker. Yet another "truth" is what may be called mythic truth -- the use of folk characters such as Madge Wildfire, who have no basis in the source story of Helen Walker or the public history of the period, in order to parallel and contrast the principals. I have to conclude that Scott has used his reading of historical truth and his invention of mythic truth to work against the personal truth that empowers Jeanie. This friction occurs in a number of places but most notably in the interview with Queen Caroline and the lynching/drowning of Meg Murdockson and her daughter Madge Wildfire.

Jeanie's successful interview with Queen Caroline, at first blush, looks as if Scott intends to show us an exclusively female rescue. He starts with the story of Helen Walker of Dalquhairn, who procured a pardon for a sister by application to the Duke of Argyle, and he changes it in a way that seems to make it entirely a woman's affair. The Duke in Scott's version is merely an intermediary who secures an audience with the queen. One woman petitions for the rescue and another grants it. He even doubles the audience of women who hear Jeanie's petition, so that instead of Queen Caroline alone, Jeanie meets the queen and her ally/rival, the king's mistress Lady Suffolk, the two women linked by a kind of sisterhood reflecting that of Jeanie and Effie, the pure and the sullied. But in this doubling, and in what he does with Effie's rustic double Madge Wildfire, Scott reveals his reactionary approach to his material. His tale is of a woman rescuing from punishment another woman who is both a sexual sinner and a sister. Practically every narrative strategy he chooses tends toward cushioning or gainsaying the subversive impact of this story.

He begins by burying the story of Effie and Jeanie in enclosing narrative within narrative -- an evening's conversation among travelers (26), recorded in the manuscript of Peter Pattieson, related at third hand by Jedediah Cleishbotham. The apparent interest of the sisters' story lies in its link to "more important" events: the Wilson execution and the Porteous mob. In the fifth chapter, fifty pages into the book, we begin to hear about Effie. From that point the sisters' story takes over, despite Scott's wishes to go back to his absurd character George Staunton, the son of a gentleman, corrupted by his nurse (the "wretched hag" Margaret Murdockson, not the least of whose sins is having a pretty daughter for Staunton to seduce), who becomes a smuggler and highwayman. Scott changes his source to make Jeanie and Effie Deans half-sisters -- a not-so-subtle narrative move copied by some Victorian novelists and having the effect of emphasizing other differences between sisters and therefore helping to explain sexual difference. The change also means that a mother can be blamed: there are mothers who produce pure offspring and mothers who produce impure offspring, not, inconveniently and inexplicably, one mother who produces both.

Presumptive child-murder was only briefly a capital offense in Scotland, but fornication was punishable by death in British novels for a much longer time. Although we are accustomed to thinking this retributive pattern a Victorian one, it is clearly operating, despite the restraints of the source story, in The Heart of Midlothian. If Effie is spared according to the story Scott begins with, others die in the story he eventually writes. The Helen Walker story says nothing about the sisters' mother, but Scott's story kills her. The living mother would presumably have ignored her husband's, or anyone else's, scruples about lying to save her child -- hence, no imprisonment and no story. But others also die. Madge Wildfire serves as surrogate for Effie as a sacrifice to retributive "justice": she has also been seduced by Staunton and is a "sister under the skin," a fellow Magdalen who is in fact named Magdalen. But her popular name, from the Ophelia-like songs she sings in her madness, is Wildfire, a name that points to the rawness of a feared sexual energy, as does the madness itself; Madge's difference is externalized, on the outside for everyone to see and eventually to attack. They do attack, in the second lynching in the book.(1) Meanwhile Effie's perhaps-equivalent wildness is carefully enclosed in prison or convent throughout most of the book. The only place where it is not so sequestered is during Effie and George's return to England. The story as received by Scott, with Helen Walker's sister living out a quiet life in Scotland, is not allowed here: Scott first locks Effie up and then shows her as impersonating a "respectable" woman -- as living a lie about her identity -- in London. In a letter to Jeanie, Effie describes her life in London as "a miserable impostor, indebted for the marks of regard I receive to a tissue of deceit and lies, which the slightest accident may unravel" (454). Scott anticipates a concern George Meredith and Wilkie Collins will dramatize later in the century: the fear that a "low" woman -- and the lowness may be a matter of class or of a sexual "fall" or both -- will, through boldness and deceit, penetrate the ranks of respectable society and manage to convince us that she is one of us.

Madge's death is not only included but witnessed by Jeanie, shortly following Madge's mother's death. Together the two deaths constitute the equivalent of Effie's in the sense that Jeanie can see through them what would have happened to her sister and why. When Meg Murdockson is hanged at Carlisle at the very moment Jeanie's carriage is passing, Jeanie sees "a female culprit in the act of undergoing the fatal punishment from which her beloved sister had been so recently rescued" (390), and, though the hanging apparently takes place for robbery, Meg is actually guilty of the very crime of child-murder for which Effie was condemned. When the mob lays hold of Madge to give her a ducking, ostensibly for witchcraft, the clear implication, as always with that accusation, is that the defiance of social norms that constitutes the mob's notion of witchcraft has a sexual component: "Shame the country should be harried wi' Scotch witches and Scotch bitches this gate," says one of the mob, "but I say hang and drown" (391).

Yet Madge's death is apparently not enough: the social outrage of Staunton and Effie's sexual transgression is finally atoned with the blood of one of the actual partners. Staunton dies, killed in fact by his illicit love, by the love child for whose presumed death Effie herself almost died, and who has been living like a wild animal in Scotland. Then the child, like Madge Wildfire a living representation of dangerous sexuality, is absorbed into an Indian tribe in America, and "it may therefore be presumed that he lived and died after the manner of that savage people, with whom his previous habits had well fitted him to associate" (506).

Staunton's functional relation to Madge Wildfire is signalled early in the book when he appears at the prison, the Edinburgh Tolbooth, called The Heart of Midlothian, dressed in Madge's clothes. As Madge Wildfire he attempts to rescue Effie from the prison, but she will not budge. Staunton's cross-dressing ineffectually disguises an ineffectual first, male attempt at rescue while it identifies Staunton with both of his female victims. Jeanie's sisters thus include Effie and her various surrogates: Madge, Meg, and Staunton. The ineffectual male rescue has the effect of making the female one more difficult; because of the Porteous riot, at least half motivated by Staunton's desire to free Effie, the Queen is the less inclined to grant a Scotch request for pardon.

For Lukacs, Jeanie's "simple heroism" is that of a woman caught in a great historical movement; she is not herself "an exceptional human being" or "an outstanding talent" (52). But this view exaggerates connections between Jeanie's rescue and anything revolutionary. Jeanie, far from being caught up in a powerful expression of the popular will, is impeded in her own purposes by the Porteous mob and its aftermath. Scott has used the Porteous incident to complicate rather than to assist the female rescue. He avoids the suggestion that female empowerment has found its historical moment.

Michel Foucault notes in Discipline and Punish that a frequent manifestation of the new revolutionary century that began in Europe before 1789 was the crowd that shifted suddenly from the popular witnesses (and therefore approvers) of official acts of punishment to the reverse -- a mob viewing the accused as a hero and the executioner as a villain to be punished with summary violence:

. . . the people, drawn to the spectacle intended to terrorize it, could express its rejection of the punitive power and sometimes revolt. Preventing an execution that was regarded as unjust, snatching a condemned man from the hands of the executioner, obtaining his pardon by force, possibly pursuing and assaulting the executioners, in any case abusing the judges and causing an uproar against the sentence -- all this formed part of the popular practices that invested, traversed, and often overturned the ritual of the public execution. This often happened, of course, in the case of those condemned for rioting. . . . But apart from these cases, when the process of agitation had been triggered off previously and for reasons that did not concern some measure of penal justice, one finds many examples when the agitation was provoked directly by a verdict and an execution. (59-60)

Foucault's description might have been written with the Porteous mob in mind, from the execution of Wilson to the vengeance exacted on Porteous himself. But only in the second decade of the nineteenth century could this 1730s bunch have been so described: Scott's mob is purposeful, but disciplined -- polite to Reuben Butler even as it shanghais him, bloody without being unruly, vengeful without being promiscuously violent. The implication is that revolution can have limits -- a comforting sentiment, and a way, perhaps, of consciously denying to himself the very thing Scott forecasts by combining these various story elements. Nothing impelled his connection of a female rescue with revolution aside from the image of prison-breaking itself -- admittedly a powerful image since the Tolbooth, like the Bastille and later the Marshalsea in Dickens's Little Dorrit, stood for an old order and no longer stands. But only the Bastille came down through revolutionary force.

Scott's handling of the historical intervention of Queen Caroline is also curious and problematic. Queen Caroline and King George II's mistress, Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk, can be read as a kind of parallel of the principals, the two Deans sisters, in a pairing that has the effect, not of underlining and reinforcing the exclusively female nature of the rescue, but of diluting it, and the dilution is increased by the characterization of the queen herself and her relation to the king. Caroline is presented in one breath as masculine: "With all the winning address of an elegant, and, according to the times, an accomplished woman, Queen Caroline possessed the masculine soul of the other sex" (360).(2) With the next breath she has all the submissive and self-deprecating features of the worst stereotype of wifely virtue: "whatever she did herself that was either wise or popular she always desired that the king should have the full credit as well as the advantage of the measure, conscious that, by adding to his respectability, she was most likely to maintain her own" (360). The word respectability here is just teetering on the edge of the denotation of "worthy of respect," ready to slide down to its more modern, pejorative meaning of "conventional; acceptable to the middle classes." Scott does not quite know where to have the queen; he wants to cancel her real empowerment (she defers to the king in everything), make it unfemale ("the masculine soul of the other sex"), or sully it (the Suffolk connection). The queen's power works partly by controlled, but illicit, sexuality in Scott's version:

It was not the least instance of the Queen's address that she had contrived that one of her principal attendants, Lady Suffolk, should unite in her own person the two apparently inconsistent characters of her husband's mistress and her own very obsequious and complaisant confidante. By this dexterous management the Queen secured her power against the danger which might most have threatened it -- the thwarting influence of an ambitious rival; and if she submitted to the mortification of being obliged to connive at her husband's infidelity, she was at least guarded against what she might think its most dangerous effects, and was besides at liberty now and then to bestow a few civil insults upon "her good Howard," whom, however, in general, she treated with great decorum. (361)

What is the decorum, one wonders. Does the protocol officer have a category for mistresses? Where does she sit at state dinners? Suffolk and Caroline domesticate a prostitution arrangement in the Scott version of Hanoverian history, with its disingenuous acknowledgment to Horace Walpole's memoirs. The two women might merely have had some things in common, aside from the affection of George, and might even have liked each other. As it is, one is made an "obsequious and complaisant confidante" and the other a royal pimp who "submitted to the mortification of being obliged to connive at her husband's infidelity." I do not think I exaggerate the unpleasant implications of this for the Deans sisters' story, nor yet can I entertain the idea that Scott was fully aware of them. His Queen Caroline is at one moment an empowered woman dispensing power to women in despite of men's lust, and at another moment she is only a bawd whose power is an imitation of male power and who, to get it, services male lusts at the expense of another woman. It is as if, while the author looked away, the narrator addressed us directly with an apology for not destroying Effie Deans and said "What can I do when sexual sin is so connived at in high places, and these high sisters pardon their low petitioners? But Jeanie will see, on her way home, how the common folk treat such offenders." For the last mob image in The Heart of Midlothian is not that of the controlled violence of the Porteous Mob, but rather the savage glee of the Murdockson lynch mob that attends the execution of the mother and then drowns the daughter for the witchcraft they are certain is the crime of both women, "Scotch witches and Scotch bitches."

Throughout the novel Scott empowers his heroines with one hand while he takes power away with the other. He links female rescue (and literal liberation) with revolutionary events, but he muffles the significance of this linkage by depicting the Porteous mob as tame and disciplined, an orderly posse whose actions impede rather than assist the heroine. Attacking the presumptive child-murder law reveals a misogynistic bias in the whole scheme of English law, but the challenge is contained by shifting the focus to an anti-Scot bias in that law. Scott weights the relation between the sisters, stressing the importance of confidence between them by having its absence the main evidence of a murder trial, but then he alters his source to dilute their relation to half sisters. All the book's circumstances render Effie a victim, but the victim is punished by banishment, an inauthentic life, a murderous love-child, and the hanging and drowning of Effie's surrogates. Empowering Queen Caroline legitimizes Jeanie's empowerment, but then Caroline's power is sullied by the suggestion that it comes from pandering.

Regardless of these qualifications, Scott's novel manages to define new possibilities for heroic action for women. For Susan Morgan, it is nothing less than a new definition of heroism itself, and a true one that reveals the older masculine conception to be a time-bound, artificial construct that substituted martial values for human values (78-81). The moral may be that one does not have to be singlemindedly committed to revolution to make change. "As the story of Jeanie and Effie suggests," writes Morgan, "the progressive human community, as imaged in many nineteenth-century novels, may well be a sisterhood" (82). Scott shows us a powerful bond of sisterhood, but he shies from some of its implications for a progressive human community.


1 When Harry Shaw talks about Scott's ambiguous feelings about lynching and mob violence (235-37), he writes exclusively about the Porteous riot and seems to forget there is more than one lynching in The Heart of Midlothian.

2 In her eulogy for Catherine Macaulay in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft wants to praise her friend's strength of mind, but she also wants to avoid male-appropriated language: "I will not call hers a masculine understanding, because I admit not of such an arrogant assumption of reason" (164). The word shows up applied to female understanding in the male writers most tortuously contesting received ideas about gender. Dickens does not use it; he may be convinced there is nothing to recommend masculine understanding even if such a thing could be found. Scott uses it here, Meredith uses it to describe Rhoda Fleming standing up to Edward Blancove, and Collins uses it to describe his forceful and intelligent sisters Marian Halcombe and Magdalen Vanstone. Eliot puts it to rest as an adjective for describing minds, at least for any but the most obtuse novelist, when she says of Sir James Chettam, "A man's mind -- what there is of it -- has always the advantage of being masculine" (12).


Austen, Jane. The Novels of Jane Austen. Ed. R. W. Chapman. 3rd edition with revisions. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1965.

Collins, Wilkie. The Works of Wilkie Collins. 30 vols. New York: Peter Fenelon Collier, 1895. Rpt. New York: AMS, 1970.

Eliot, George. Middlemarch. Ed. Bert G. Hornback. Norton Critical Edition. New York: W. W. Norton, 1977.

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Pantheon, 1977.

Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn. The Works of Mrs. Gaskell. The Knutsford Edition. 8 vols. 1906. Rpt. New York: AMS, 1972.

Kestner, Joseph A. Mythology and Misogyny: The Social Discourse of Nineteenth-Century British Classical-Subject Painting. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1989.

Lukacs, Georg, The Historical Novel. 1937. Trans. Hannah and Stanley Mitchell. London: Merlin, 1962.

Meredith, George. The Works of George Meredith. Memorial Edition. 27 vols. New York: Scribner's, 1909-11.

Morgan, Susan. Sisters in Time: Imagining Gender in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction. New York: Oxford UP, 1989.

Munich, Adrienne Auslander. Andromeda's Chains: Gender and Interpretation in Victorian Literature and Art. New York: Columbia UP, 1989.

Scott, Sir Walter. The Heart of Midlothian. Ed. Claire Lamont. New York: Oxford UP, 1982.

Shaw, Harry E. The Forms of Historical Fiction: Sir Walter Scott and His Successors. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1983.

Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, with Strictures on Moral and Political Subjects. 1792. Ed. Charles W. Hagelman, Jr. New York: Norton, 1967.

Cohen is at work on a study of sisterhood as it is depicted in nineteenth-century English painting and novels. He has also written Hamlet in My Mind's Eye (Georgia 1989), which won the SAMLA Studies Award, and Engaging English Art: Entering the Work in Two Centuries of English Painting and Poetry (Alabama 1987).
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Title Annotation:novel
Author:Cohen, Michael
Publication:College Literature
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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