Non-canonical women's novels of the Romantic era: Romantic ideologies and the problematics of gender and genre.
Some recent works address the situation by simply treating the era's novels as comprising a valid field of study without explicitly or consistently addressing the genre's relation--or lack of it--to the canonized poetry of the period. Gary Kelly's English Fiction of the Romantic Period: 1789-1830, for instance, suggests that all literary genres produced in that period emerged in response to the same cultural issues and concerns, albeit in different ways.(4) Such an approach is valuable for making it possible to deprivilege canonical Romantic poetry's aesthetics and ideologies as the mark against which all other works must be measured and, generally, found lacking. And this approach is the more important for its enabling greater attention to be directed to the production of female authors in the period, the novel being that genre women were judged most capable of writing and with which women remain associated in the Romantic era. Women did write in other genres, including plays, journalism, and poetry, and recent critical works, anthologies, and bibliographies reflect their doing so and increasingly bring these authors and their importance in the period to our attention.(5) The genre with which women remain most closely associated in the period, however, has mostly remained neglected, leaving the thousand or so works by Romantic-era women novelists by and large unknown.
Current attention to women novelists of the period remains focused predominantly on gothic novels, Shelley's and Radcliffe's taking primacy of place; on Jacobin novels, such as those by Wollstonecraft, Smith, Hays, Inchbald, and, to some extent, Opie; and on novels by Austen, Edgeworth, and Burney, who all wrote what Kelly refers to as novels of manners, sentiment, and emulation (English Fiction, p. 20 passim).(6) Other writers and their novel genres remain marginalized, treated primarily as providing the groundwork for Romanticism proper but as inadequate to that movement. Sentimental fiction, for instance, arguably the largest category of novels written by women in the era, gets mentioned as the genre to which women writers may have felt driven if they wanted to address "real" Romantic issues but hesitated to write in the more respected genre of poetry, a genre which when itself not sentimental was gendered male; after being thus mentioned, sentimental fiction is usually dismissed, in accordance with its ostensibly having been dismissed as trivial at the time, even though avidly consumed.(7)
Treating the Romantic-era novel as worthy of study in its own right is certainly better than ignoring it or assuming its inferiority to canonized Romantic poetry; examining the ways currently marginalized novels by women address issues of concern to the canonized Romantic poets, however, can prove equally valuable, offering as it does a means to bring the era's genres together without simply condemning most forms of the novel. Anne Mellor takes a similar approach in Romanticism and Gender, focusing, however, primarily on non-novelistic works by women or on novels already often discussed, such as Wuthering Heights, rather than explicitly addressing ways her approach might enable recuperation of currently denigrated Romantic-era novel forms. In what follows, I will take an approach that does make such recuperation possible, examining how different novel genres written by Romantic-era women involve themselves with high Romanticism's concerns.
To do so, I will first explain why novels--those by women especially--have been seen as incapable of addressing some of canonical Romanticism's primary interests. I will then demonstrate that rather than simply failing at reaching Romanticism's heights because confined to a delimiting genre, Romantic-era women novelists used the very "limitations" of the genre to enter into active, critical dialogue with canonical Romanticism, responding to, challenging, and supplementing that movement's central tenets. Such a treatment will allow us to cease marginalizing or denigrating these texts from judging them vis-a-vis tenets they themselves challenge; it will also enable a greater understanding of the complex interrelation of the era's different genres, as they reveal their shared preoccupations with contemporary concerns and as they react to each other's responses to those concerns.
Rather than develop a point-by-point account of elements of canonical Romanticism that novels by the era's female writers incorporate and challenge, I will concentrate on two elements to which female novelists respond in particularly noteworthy ways: the Romantic focus on the self as the basis for creative power, be it epistemological or aesthetic; and the revolutionary stance ostensibly inherent in the movement. These points are central to canonical Romanticism, and other Romantic interests--foci on language, nature, the imagination, and subjectivity and objectivity, for instance--may be considered subsumed in them.
The focus on the self as the seat of creative power enters Romanticism with Wordsworth, of course, in whose work interactions with the external world are presented as important primarily for what the external world tells him about himself and his poetic powers of perception (Mellor, Romanticism and Gender, pp. 17-29). This interest in self-consciousness and the creative nature of the mind constructs a subjectivity based on "the concept of an autonomous and self-conscious `I' that exists independently of the Other" (Mellor, Romanticism and Gender, p. 6), and Romantic poets from Wordsworth on take this "I" as subject matter. Canonical Romanticism's revolutionary nature enters the picture equally early; it emerges both in an enthusiasm toward the liberty and equality theoretically offered by the American send French revolutions and in a choice to write in the language of the common man, at first glance a revolutionary rejection of the class system and its location of worth in upper-class birth. Contradictions delimiting the radical nature of these poets' moves have been identified;(8) nonetheless, the ideology of Romanticism has remained linked with a revolutionary stance and with the democratic values represented by the original impetus of the period's revolutions.
The novel of the era is generally seen as incapable of incorporating or valorizing not only these elements of Romanticism but other defining characteristics as well, such as the transcendental, rather than social, experience of oneness with the world beyond the self.(9) Gary Kelly argues that while gothic novels and novels of passion move from transgression toward transcendence, which he identifies as a hallmark of Romanticism, their very form restricts the extent to which they can attain or portray transcendence, leading figures he identifies as "serious" Romantics, such as Charles Lamb and P. B. Shelley, to repudiate the form (English Fiction, pp. 64-69; pp. 104-09). Traditional thematic interests and formal requirements of the genre also seem inimical to Romantic poetry's focus on the autonomous "I." Before the twentieth century especially, the genre focused more on communities than on individuals in isolation, depicting individuals in terms of their admittedly sometimes conflicted place in their community. Even the form most nearly and obviously embracing elements of Romantic ideology, the sentimental novel, is compromised by requirements of genre; while it valorizes individuals' subjectivity over society's conventions, it still must introduce society in ways unnecessary in Romantic lyric poetry especially--and in ways that ultimately compromise their "Romanticism." In prose, dwelling on the isolated self is more easily accomplished in the essay or autobiography.
If the novel in general is thus incapable of engaging in canonical Romanticism's interests, most forms produced by all but the most radical women in the period have been seen as hemmed in by even greater limitations. The novel itself was judged in the Romantic era to be tied to immorality and responsible for causing all sorts of depravity.(10) As Mary Poovey, Jane Spencer, and J.M.S. Tompkins have argued, for women to publish their writing was held for the most part to be unfeminine. Women who wanted to venture into print and yet protect their reputations for proper femininity needed to protect their works from charges of immorality, which they could best ensure in part by making certain that their novels could be read as teaching their ostensibly female readership the period's sanctioned code of behavior for women.
Generally authors met this requirement by framing heroines' stories in the marriage plot, a form corresponding to the most desirable trajectory for women's lives at the time; their using this form could be read as reinforcing and perpetuating societally approved views for women by teaching their female readership what they in fact already knew: that the only imaginable and/or desirable goal for women was marriage. Female authors could also present their novels as properly moral by creating heroines whose behavior could be seen as providing female readers with models to emulate to fit them for their role as subordinate dependents in male-dominated culture. Heroines' treatment then suggested that femininity rewardable with a happy marriage is chaste; self-effacing rather than attention-seeking; and tractable to the desires of others (parents and later husbands), except when such tractability required transgressing the greater authority of God and Christian morality.(11) Such novels thus teach that for the sake of integration into society, women must relinquish desires for the autonomous and independent identity or subjectivity celebrated by the Romantic poets. And heroines who do not relinquish such desires pay a high price: Transgressive heroines in this era generally meet with a death signalling their incapacity to be incorporated into social life and so to assume a sanctioned social role--any role by which women's very identity in the period was defined.(12)
Some novels explicitly express revolutionary views, including works by female writers associated with the Jacobins, such as Smith's 1792 Desmond, and, to a lesser extent, Inchbald's 1796 satire Nature and Art;(13) others clearly critique elements of the patriarchal system of the period, as the recent large production of feminist discussions of Austen and Burney demonstrates. By and large, however, the formal and social requirements accepted as obtaining on the era's female novelists have been seen as forcing them to write works ultimately conservative in most senses, and certainly so in terms of the attacks on the class system ostensibly offered by canonical Romanticism. After all, the model of female behavior they are accepted as needing to uphold ensures the preservation of the class structure of Romantic-era British society. Teaching women to comply with others' desires, for instance, entailed teaching them to repress self-initiated sexual desire and develop instead a sexuality responsive to others' desires. Such a sexuality would result in women's being less likely to marry outside their own class because less likely to marry men their parents did not view as acceptable. Novels from the 1748 publication of Samuel Richardson's Clarissa on reinforced tractable sexuality by arguing that while a woman should not be forced to marry a man she does not love, a virtuous woman should not willingly marry a man of whom her parents or guardians do not approve; Burney's Cecilia and Charlotte Smith's Emmeline are just two well-known novels that make this point clear.(14) Getting women to internalize the tractable sexuality these novels teach also meant that married women would be less likely to have affairs potentially resulting in the misrecognition of illegitimate offspring as legitimate. Such a danger was considered particularly threatening because property might then pass out of the family line and family lines themselves could become blurred; class lines too would then become blurred, resulting in social (order) chaos.
Moreover, in the weddings with which these novels customarily close, class lines are never radically crossed; as such, these wedding endings affirm the desirability and apparent inevitability of the class system. That the heroines and heroes of these novels are nearly always very well born affirms too the desirability not only of the behaviors and values traditionally at least theoretically associated with high birth--ladylike or gentlemanlike behavior and charitability, for instance--but actual high birth as well. It is not enough that the titular heroine of Burney's 1778 Evelina is more ladylike than most aristocratic women she meets; her story's conclusion shows that being high born after all is worthwhile too.(15)
Although such novels may seem too socially focused and conservative to have much to do with canonical Romanticism, some frame these "limitations" as critical responses to Romantic ideologies. One is Harriet Lee's Kruitzner, a novel first published in 1801 as "The German's Tale: Kruitzner" in Harriet and Sophia Lee's The Canterbury Tales,(16) three years after the publication of Coleridge and Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads, the work inaugurating the English Romantics' use of "the growing inner self" as subject for poetry.(17)
Kruitzner first evokes Romanticism through using a German in its title and as its main character, Germany and Germanness being linked in England with excesses of sensibility and Romantic self-interest following the 1774 publication of The Sorrows of Young Werther.(18) This evocation is furthered by the novel's characterization of its male protagonist, Frederick, son of Bohemian Count Siegendorf, who views himself as specially chosen and self-created and thus resembles the Romantic poets' "quasi-autobiographical heroes[, who] . . . are all engaged in the extraordinary enterprise of seeking to re-beget their own selves" (Bloom and Trilling, p. 4). The narrator points out, however, that Frederick is wrong to believe that for all his "endowments . . . he was indebted [only] to Nature" (p. 60; italics mine), wrong "never [to stop] to inquire what he could have made himself, had he been born any thing but what he was" (p. 61)--privileged aristocracy. This attacks not only the Romantics' suggestion that one can be self-creating but also their view that the inner qualities of vision and imagination they valorize are available to all, irrespective of class. Lee's treatment of Siegendorf argues that the opportunity to develop the creative apprehension valorized by the Romantics may always be class bound.
More notable yet is the novel's critique of what such self-absorbedness can bring: a selfishness that may lead, finally, to failing one's family, country, and wider human community. Frederick fights on his country's side during the Thirty Years' War, but after losing a battle because he was sleeping off the effects of a night's drunken carousing when he should have been leading his troops, he is stripped of military responsibility and exiled. Refusing to accept blame because he holds what he identifies as his essential self to be more important than his actions when assessing himself, he considers fighting on the opposition's side to revenge himself on those he feels have wronged him--his father and country, both of whom gave him the opportunity to thrive and both of whom he himself betrayed.
Instead, he moves to Hamburg, assumes the alias Kruitzner, meets a Florentine, Michelli, and falls in love with and marries Michelli's daughter, Josephine. After the birth of their son, Conrad, Frederick seeks to reinstate himself and his family into the position into which he was born. This wish is based in a laudable desire to improve his loved ones' position, but it is never clear that his loved ones are any other than himself. Michelli and Josephine fear he will sacrifice them to reconcile with his father (p. 96), and when he goes for news from his father, he takes money meant for his wife and son and begins living as decadently as he had earlier. His father in disgust disowns Frederick but offers to place Conrad in the forfeited position. Still denying the validity of being judged by his actions, Frederick envies Conrad's being granted that to which he feels himself entitled (p. 120).
Frederick also draws on elements of canonical Romanticism other than the high valuation of the self. He "now and then cast wild and eager glances upon his wife and child. These temporary starts of sensibility excepted, Kruitzner was somber, abstracted, and frequently employed in writing" (p. 14). Although he writes letters, not poetry, this image of the man of strong feeling who writes in some kind of tranquility links him with canonical Romanticism, a link strengthened when we learn that when overwhelmed with emotion, Frederick turns toward nature.
These moments linking Kruitzner to Romanticism come early in the novel; later we learn that the thoughts and feelings which absorb and overwhelm him are more material than transcendental: they revolve around his desire to retrieve the fortune he has lost through self-indulgence. This is the case with his relationship to nature as well. When emotionally overwhelmed early in the novel, he looks "earnestly towards a particular spot" over scenes of nature carefully described: "The snow, which had fallen so late in the season, had rapidly thawed before the increasing heat of the sun; traces of vegetation were obvious throughout the whole country around; and a thousand streams, swelled suddenly to petty torrents, and seen both in the valley and nearer hills, brightened the prospect" (pp. 31-32). Kruitzner, however, here looks over the natural scene--overlooks nature; he is actually gazing only in the direction of Bohemia, which represents to him material wealth and social position. While lacking the Romantics' ability to interact with nature in a way that transcends temporal and social existence, his connection here with nature, problematic as it is, along with other elements linking him to Romanticism, makes him appear a failed, earth-grounded Romantic. This treatment of Kruitzner reflects not only on the male protagonist; his relationship with Romanticism works as well to burlesque and deflate Romanticism itself, to suggest that transcendental visions and strong emotional responses are perhaps always rooted in selfishness--or that the self-absorption they require must be linked to selfishness, with its potential for wide-ranging damage to one's community.
The deleterious effects of Kruitzner's selfishness peak when he and Josephine hear that Count Siegendorf has died and that Conrad's right to the inheritance will be contested; they then want to return to the family estates to authenticate Conrad's claims, to protect both his interests and their own. Their poverty stops them, but this seems solved by events that first lead Baron Stralenheim, the pretender to the Siegendorf inheritance, into the area in which Frederick and Josephine are living, and then lead Frederick through secret passageways to a room in which Stralenheim sits sleeping before a table piled with gold. Believing his desires authorize all, Kruitzner steals the gold, calling this crime venial because it ostensibly gives him the means toward accomplishing a worthy goal: allowing him to continue to Prague to keep the inheritance in its proper line.
Unfortunately he delivers this opinion to Conrad, who is now also upon the scene. When Conrad learns that the Baron may stand between him and the inheritance, he takes the easiest way of preventing this "theft": he kills the Baron and allows another man to be incriminated. And Conrad makes clear that his act is the logical extension, hence the fault, of his father's way of thinking: "`Remember who told me . . . that there were crimes rendered venial by the occasion . . . the man who is at once intemperate and feeble engenders the crimes he does not commit . . . is it so wonderful that I should dare to act what you dared to think? . . . You pointed out the path!'" (pp. 353-55).
By demonstrating that self-absorption--dwelling on one's own qualities--may lead to forgetting from whence those qualities come and hence the responsibilities the gift of those qualities entails, Kruitzner suggests that the egotistical sublime too easily slips into simple egotism, which itself too easily slips into criminality. Some of this dangerous slippage is certainly an issue with which Wordsworth, at least, grappled. And Lee is not the sole author in the period to critique this tenet of Romanticism by highlighting its criminality; Mary Shelley performs a similar critique in her 1818 Frankenstein, first published seventeen years after Kruitzner. Poovey foregrounds this element of Shelley's novel in arguing that "in her dramatization of the imaginative quest Mary Shelley is actually more concerned with [its] antisocial dimension than with its metaphysical implications" (p. 124). And Tayler and Luria assert that this later novel
may be read as Romantic Woman's ultimate judgment on the alienated
artist of male romanticism . . . [who] in isolation creates monsters--the
very embodiment of his alienation-that destroy his home and everything
he loves.... The novel suggests that to realize oneself as "one
person in law" is to find oneself morally and emotionally alone, at
incalculable loss to self and other, to civilization and human growth.
In many ways, Frankenstein--at least the 1818 version, as Poovey explains (pp. 122-42)--may be a more thorough-reaching critique of Romanticism than Kruitzner is, suggesting as Shelley's novel does that the imagination and nature celebrated by other Romantics are deadly, destructive to both "human beings and human relationships" (Poovey, p. 126).(19) By offering the possibility of reading Kruitzner as a failed Romantic, Lee denies herself the chance to explore in any depth or with any sophistication whether the imagination is as thoroughly dangerous as Shelley suggests. Lee adopts another strategy, however, to critique the autonomous questor of canonical Romanticism represented by Kruitzner's imitation or partial occupation of that stance. In addition to burlesquing and rejecting the stance Kruitzner represents, Lee's novel offers a better alternative, one modeled by Josephine, whose attitudes and behavior balance self-regard with social responsibility.
Josephine shows she acknowledges the claims of self by recognizing when her husband wrongs her first by threatening to sacrifice her to reconcile with his father and later by indulging vices that consistently endanger her welfare in addition to his. After Frederick robs but does not kill the baron, for instance, he reports proudly to Josephine on his partial forebearance, but her recognition that his forebearance is always limited demonstrates that she knows he has injured her:
This [report] . . . brought too close to . . [Josephine's heart] that
afflicting doubt she had so often banished from it--on what point of her
husband's character she could finally depend! She saw him driven from
error to error--from temptation to temptation--still yielding--still
repenting--and where would be the last? Sacrificing every thing by
turns, either to false calculations, or ungoverned passions: his father--his
wife--even his honor! (pp 172-73)
To her acknowledgment of what is due to herself, however, she adds an awareness of the responsibilities that come with living within a community; she recognizes and tends to the needs of others. Not only does she nurse the sick Kruitzner back to health shortly after meeting him, she later continually does her best to assuage his destructive self-absorption, diverting his "corrosive reflections" (p. 119) and protecting him by distracting guests from his erratic behavior and exclamations. The novel makes clear that this is the best she can do to counteract his traits and their effects.
The appeal of her social connectedness and responsibility is stressed when Frederick finally recognizes them as more desirable than social separateness and self-absorption. Once reunited with Conrad, he comes to value close bonds between family members. Josephine is surprised that he is depressed rather than triumphant over the repossession of family lands, wealth, and position (pp. 300-01), and we learn that he is so because he knows that Conrad "neither loved nor esteemed [him]" (p. 303). Frederick learns that most important to him, in other words, are relationships based in emotional closeness rather than in the awe that high position can bring.
By refracting Kruitzner through the Romantic ideology of the self and then placing him in the social context of a novel, Lee draws attention to the harmfulness of the Romantic autonomous "I." By countering Kruitzner's philosophy of self with Josephine's, and by countering Kruitzner's early selfishness with his later recognition of the value of human bonds based on love, the novel brings two versions of identity into dialogic contact, which further reveals the inadequacies of the self-sufficient "I" and offers as alternative the self-in-connection. Through this dialogic confrontation, Kruitzner counters elements of canonical Romanticism--what Mellor calls "masculine Romanticism"--with what she defines as the feminine Romantic--what others too have called feminine discourse during the period, a discourse that stresses and lauds social connectedness rather than the self alone.(20)
Mellor presents feminine Romanticism as originating with Mary Wollstonecraft, whom she sees as revolutionary in moving to suppress women's sexuality to stress their equal potential for rationality, a move meant to demonstrate that men and women deserved equal rights. Also socially and hence politically revolutionary, Mellor suggests, is Wollstonecraft's redefinition of the family as a unit in which men and women are equal rather than as a patriarchal unit in which women must bow to the rule of men. Mellor sees this revision of Burke's body politic as providing the basis by which other female writers created a sense of self and a politics at odds with, possibly intentionally opposed to, the bases of masculine Romanticism. Mellor explains, then, that
feminine Romanticism was based on a subjectivity constructed in
relation to other subjectivities.... This self typically located its identity
within a larger human nexus, a family or social community. Taking the
family as the grounding trope of social organization, feminine Romanticism
opposed violent military revolutions . . . in favor of gradual or
evolutionary reform under the guidance of benevolent parental instruction.
(Romanticism and Gender, p. 209)
Mellor's argument is certainly useful, as are similar arguments of other writers identifying feminine discourse's distinctiveness from masculine discourse in the era. Such distinctions, however, threaten to mask elements of Romantic-era woman-penned novels worth noting. One problem resides in the strategy of splitting behaviors and attitudes by gender. Naming the autonomous self as particular to masculine Romanticism and the self-in-connection as particular to feminine Romanticism, for instance, is to situate in one period specifically a way of breaking down behaviors, attitudes, and psychological structures that can be broken down in such ways in other eras too; Nancy Chodorow, for instance, identifies these as gender-specific psychological structures that obtain in any culture based on a patriarchally-structured nuclear family. such as those both preceding and following the Romantic period.(21) And to some extent, even if one recognizes that certain stances or modes of relating to others have culturally been tied to one gender or the other--have culturally become gender-marked--it may prove more harmful than not to continue identifying these stances or modes as either masculine or feminine. It is certainly laudable to identify "masculine" behaviors and attitudes on the one hand and "feminine" ones on the other as subject positions adoptable by either sex rather than as traits rooted in biological difference, but continuing to gender those stances contributes to their becoming reified and so less available as positions that can be occupied by either sex without their adoption seeming to be a colonization of the other sex's qualities.
Furthermore, thus gendering stances and traits also ultimately requires overlooking that the ways behaviors and attitudes are currently gendered were not as strictly or identically gender-defined at the time. Referring to attitudes such as valuing self-in-connection as an element of feminine rather than masculine Romanticism may lead us away from recognizing the extent to which that view of the self is also presented as valued by males--as not specifically a female mode of behavior and self-definition. In Kruitzner, for example, the self-in-connection that gets identified as gendered feminine is treated as a mode of behavior and self-definition available to both sexes, albeit manifesting itself, at times, differently for each. Kruitzner's father shares Josephine's familial feeling; more significant, perhaps, is the self-in-connection the novel suggests that men feel that enables them to perform military duty responsibly. Kruitzner's military irresponsibility is a failing of a self-in-connection traditionally gendered masculine, rather than an adoption or colonization of a behavior traditionally gendered feminine; it is what the novel treats as a general, non-gendered human failing, manifesting itself in this case in a male realm of action. The novel thus rejects this gendering, by extension rejecting the self in isolation as inappropriate for either sex.(22)
The centrality of suppressed (female) sexuality here, as Mellor describes it, is even knottier, becoming especially complex when combined with the issue of gendered behaviors and attitudes on the one hand and revolutionary stances on the other. Seeing suppressed sexuality as inhering in Wollstonecraft's position is problematic because Wollstonecraft was not consistent on this topic.(23) The Jacobins as a group held that by allowing rationality to rule over the passions, both sexes could best move toward a general (non-gender specific) human perfection.(24) They also favored reforming the world through individuals' recognition of the value of a meritocracy over the ancien regime and gradually through something akin to the "benevolent . . . instruction" Mellor identifies as characterizing feminine Romanticism, rather than by more radically and abruptly overthrowing institutions (Kelly, English Fiction, pp. 26-42). In the Jacobins' position, such a stance is neither feminine nor masculine.
Suppressing either sexuality or sensibility becomes feminist but not necessarily revolutionary in the hands of both radicals such as Wollstonecraft and conservatives such as Hannah More.(25) Both argue that as long as women are educated only to be sentimental and decorative, whether women might be as capable of rationality as men must remain unknown. And if calling for the suppression of female sexuality and emotions can be embraced by either cause, then inscribing this suppression in heroine-centered novels cannot definitively be called revolutionary--but neither can it definitively be called conservative. Suppressing an active female sexuality to stress women's ability to think rationally might well be seen as a revolutionary improvement over long-held views of women as hindered by their sexual appetite and body-rooted sensibility from being rational. All the same, however, this female sexuality is identical to that provided by novels written by women supposedly reinscribing conservative ideology to protect their reputations. Given the construct of female sexuality there, and given that most marriages at these novels' conclusions unite their heroines with male protagonists from the same, or virtually same class, it is hard to see these works as equally capable of assailing the class system as canonical Romanticism has seemed.
And as long as one refers only to widely available novels such as Austen's, Burney's, Edgeworth's, and Smith's--except perhaps her most obviously Jacobin works, Desmond and The Young Philosopher(26)--it is easy to conclude that however good they may be at forwarding women's rights, women's novels from this era other than Jacobin works cannot assail the class system, precisely because they revolve around heroines whose chaste behavior ultimately supports the dominant ideology and its basis in the class system, and because the texts end with marriages that uphold that system. In other novels, however, heroines depart from our current construct of the codes for female behavior of the period. When heroines depart from these codes, the novels in which they appear offer ways of breaking down the strict class boundaries that tractable sexuality--suppressed sexuality, or what Mellor treats as revolutionary sexuality--best protects. When these heroines' stories end with rewards rather than the punishment of death, these novels challenge the assumption that all heroine-centered novels of the period except those linked with Jacobinism must be socially conservative. Like Kruitzner, by once again using the "limitations" of the novel form and the social context it requires, these novels can be seen as entering into dialogic relation with the versions of revolutionary stances presented by Romantic poetry and its ideologies, with their concentration on the self alone.
Miss Street's 1793 The Recluse of the Appenines, for example, links revolutionary politics with female sexual freedom and rewards both.(27) Here, overt revolutionary stances make up the story of male protagonist Ferdinand de Rohilla and his father, Don Pedro. The novel opens with Ferdinand accompanying his father into exile in the Appenines. Don Pedro had represented the local underclass in their complaints against the injustices of the governor of Castille, but the king, as abusively despotic as the governor, had sided with his governor, dispossessed Don Pedro of his lands, and declared him a traitor. Ferdinand too sides with the downtrodden rather than the ruling classes; as his story progresses, he fights for Spain in Mexico, but after meeting the deposed Mexican prince, Ferdinand switches allegiance, deserting the group he sees as the oppressors.
While still in the Apennines, however, Ferdinand and Don Pedro observe the local peasantry, who are presented in Rousseauian terms as naturally good, not having developed the decadent hypocrisy and ambitions of more "civilized" parts of the Old World. Ferdinand meets a shepherdess, Luxuna, who is as ignorant of the world and thus as innocently pure as the rest of the locals; he teaches her to read and write, falls in love with her, and seduces her. But there is no real seduction; child of nature rather than society, Luxuna sees no reason not to have sex with the man she loves. And the novel endorses her view; rather than punishing her by death or social exile, as is the case for pre-or extramaritally sexually active women in most familiar novels of the era, Luxuna receives the reward we expect to be lavished on strictly virtuous heroines only: she gets to marry the man she loves, who ultimately brings with him fortune and status; she also becomes reunited with her true, well-born parents by the novel's end, themselves reunited by Ferdinand, and thereby promoted from poor peasant status to the illustrious family standing and fortune that is rightfully hers by birth.
Because Luxuna is well born after all, her marriage crosses no class boundaries, so the novel might seem no more pitched against the class system than others about false Cinderellas, such as Evelina and Emmeline, in which the heroine seems born into a class well below that of the man who eventually marries her, but is discovered to be high born after all and so not raised in status simply through marriage. What makes Street's novel socially subversive nonetheless is its allowing its heroine to indulge in a female sexuality elsewhere treated as dangerous in part precisely for its potential to undermine the class system. The radical aspect of this sexuality is underscored by Luxuna's being depicted alongside overt revolutionary politics. By pairing the story of a heroine who is sexually active before marriage and still fares sensationally with one in which male characters fight despots to support the rights of the oppressed, the novel suggests Luxuna's attitudes and behaviors and their outcome are as revolutionary as Don Pedro's and Ferdinand's.
My point here is not that the era's heroine-centered novels must grant heroines sexual freedom to be revolutionary; extending sexual freedom to women is always only problematically helpful, because valorizing women's active sexuality traditionally precludes their being seen as capable of developing other attributes as fully as can men, a point which Wollstonecraft addressed. And in this period, women's suppressing their sexuality proved fruitful, opening new realms of action for them.(28) Furthermore, The Recluse of the Appenines is hardly feminist in its treatment of its heroine's powers of ratiocination; Luxuna is almost simple-minded, which is clearly meant to be part of her charm. Other novels with unpunished premaritally sexually active heroines, such as Mary Robinson's 1799 The Natural Daughter and Mrs. Yeates' 1800 Eliza, do better in this respect; in each of these, female characters who are premaritally sexually active but otherwise virtuous demonstrate themselves better able to think in complex ways than other characters, perhaps precisely because the precariousness of their situation demands it.(29)
It is in fact misguided to detach sexuality from other questions of female behavior in the late eighteenth century, as doing so gives it an importance in itself that it did not then have. As Foucault and Abelove make clear, the particular way sexual behavior gets defined and named, what gets valorized and delegitimized, what gets recognized as an act on the one hand or something defining a personality type on the other, is culturally inflected and era specific.(30) And rules on women's sexual behavior in the eighteenth century have to be viewed in terms of their relation to a whole set of rules controlling women's bodies and speech and regulating their actions and public appearances; rules on women's sexual behavior were thus only part of a tightly interwoven web of female behavior addressed by prescriptive discourses such as conduct books and explicitly didactic novels. These discourses policed women into internalizing a habit of self-regulation that, if adopted, would ensure their avoiding all thoughts and actions except those most likely to uphold inherited values and traditional social structures. Internalizing these rules ensured women's compliance to their legal and cultural role as men's property, and as conduits for men's property--to their role in participating nondisruptively in protecting the social status quo. Leniency toward Luxuna's sexuality is thus significant for the same reason as would be leniency toward lapses from other elements of sanctioned female behavior: it permits behavior that threatens the social structure.
Even if The Recluse of the Appenines and other novels with extramaritally sexual but nonetheless rewarded heroines were to call greater extended attention to the heroines' sexuality of and for itself, the end result would be the same. Such would be the case were they to highlight the issue of passion, for instance, which Kelly notes is "very prominent in Romantic fiction," where it may be seen as a "most important form of the transcendental, and one directly related to the idea of authentic selfhood" (English Fiction, p. 43). And some novels of the period do dwell on female characters' sexuality; one can argue that Amelia Opie's 1804 Adeline Mowbray is a case in point.(31) But novels like The Recluse of the Appenines hardly touch on passion of any sort, referring to the heroines' sexuality only after the fact, rather than exploring the topic at length. There is no question in these novels of heroines wanting to develop any kind of transcendent or otherwise authentic selfhood. Neither do they actively seek nor, except in Luxuna's particular case, advocate extramarital sexuality, however much they end up indulging in it; most are tricked into false marriages but recognize that despite their being victims, their sexuality remains nonetheless illegitimate. Even Luxuna, arguably the most radical of these female characters, remains passive rather than the instigator of the premarital sexual behavior she sees as no crime since she loves her partner.
If these novels were to focus on rather than virtually suppress the issue of passion, they would risk valorizing a self-assertive female subjectivity, one at odds with the self-effacing femininity held proper for women at the time. Were they to highlight heroines' "right" to passion and sexuality, that is, they would still invoke that code of behaviors prescribed for women precisely to ensure that they remain tractable in their sexuality, so as the best to operate as reliable conduits for men's property. Kelly foregrounds the connection in noting that the passion one finds in Romantic-era novels valorizes a "plenitude or excess of self that seems to lead inevitably to transgression of limits, especially social conventions, codes, and laws" (Kelly, English Fiction, pp. 43-44). In this period, a "plenitude or excess of self," whether it express itself sexually or otherwise, is always seen as dangerous--especially when manifesting itself in women--precisely for its transgression of social strictures. But The Recluse of the Appenines, The Natural Daughter, and Eliza need not--indeed do not--highlight women's right to active sexual freedom to imply that their heroines' sexuality is transgressive. By raising the issue of extramarital sexuality but looking primarily away from the sexuality itself, these novels make clear that such sexuality is important not in and of itself but rather for what it represents in less individual, personal terms: a transgression of the social order, one that potentially threatens to destroy the social order altogether. As critics have pointed out, in this period following the French Revolution, any slippage from the purest female modesty or chastity and modesty was all too quickly viewed as treasonous, threatening to the survival of civilized society itself.(32)
That the issue is not a call for sexual freedom but rather for what transgressive sexuality represents in other terms is highlighted in novels in which heroines who are unexpectedly rewarded are themselves not actively sexual but bear the sign of other women's unrestrained sexual appetites, being themselves illegitimate. In the logic of the period, any connection with illicit sexuality made a woman unreliable as a conduit for the transferral of property between males in the period's patrilineal system; illegitimate daughters were seen as carrying the seed of wayward sexuality, as though sexual depravity were genetic. In part for this reason, in many of the period's novels--in Evelina and Emmeline, for instance, along with Edgeworth's 1812 The Absentee, in which the issue of female sexual reproachability's being passed from mother to daughter is explicitly addressed(33)--heroines suspected of illegitimacy are proved in the end to have been conceived and born in wedlock after all. Given the period's logic and ostensible constraints on women writers, a truly illegitimate heroine should be as little likely as one who is sexually active to receive heroines' conventional rewards; such a woman represents, after all, the same potential for the sexual laxness that can lead to social chaos as does the premaritally sexually active woman.
In novels such as Miss A. Kendall's 1798 Derwent Priory, however, heroines conceived and born out of wedlock are as well rewarded as any heroine.(34) This work contains the marriage plots of two female protagonists: the well-born, wealthy Lady Laura Merioneth and the illegitimate, relatively fortuneless Miss Rutland. Lady Laura is an orphan who lives with her aunt, but because her aunt cannot interfere with Lady Laura's getting her fortune upon coming of age, Lady Laura is not answerable to anyone in choosing a spouse. She is therefore able to insist on marrying Mr. Clifford, though his fortune and status are well below her own, he being the son of a banker of compromised fortune. He has a small property but of course no title; at one point he has a job, but he loses it and so any prospect of matching her fortune. After they wed, he inherits more property but not the title or movement above middle class origin that would bring him close to Lady Laura's aristocratic status. His remaining middle class in birth preserves the threat to strict class boundaries represented by his marriage to Lady Laura, in which the incursion of the bourgeois classes into the realm of the aristocracy remains unsoftened.
Miss Rutland's marriage to Lady Laura's cousin Lord Merioneth, heir to the family estate, threatens strict class boundaries in other ways, all based in her being illegitimate. Both her parents were well born, so had she been born in wedlock, the match would not radically cross class boundaries. But given her birth, not only would she be assumed to bring potential destructive sexuality to the match, she is herself casteless, having no legitimate claim to her parents' class. The novel attempts to disarm her illegitimacy by revealing late that her parents had been wed by a Catholic priest when her mother was pregnant. Because the father lacked the fortune required to make him acceptable as a son-in-law and the mother was underage, however, the two could not go through a conventional, legal marriage ceremony, and each died soon after Miss Rutland's birth. Miss Rutland therefore remains irredeemably illegitimate, despite her grandfather's repenting his earlier harshness and so claiming Miss Rutland and making her his heiress late in the novel.
In Derwent Priory, as in The Recluse of the Appenines, the radical nature of the plot line involving a female character associated with suspect sexuality is stressed by being linked to one in which class boundaries are explicitly crossed, the class system itself thereby compromised. Although the radical nature of Miss Rutland's story is imperiled by the novel's attempt to recuperate her birth, Kendall prevents such a possibility in her 1800 Tales of the Abbey, another novel that pairs revolution with illicit female sexuality; here Kendall makes no move to whitewash the illegitimacy or penury of one female character, Magdalena, who is also rewarded with a marriage that brings her love, wealth, and status.(35)
At first glance, these novels do not seem extremely radical; no one from the laboring classes marries into the aristocracy, for instance, and by and large, all marrying characters' fortunes end up relatively equal. And everyone acts well born; middle-class Clifford is described as a "gentleman" or "gentlemanlike," and female characters, even if classless because illegitimate, act as ladies should, distracting us from the class differences that do exist. Female characters who either are sexually active before marriage or suggest active sexuality through the illegitimacy of their birth do not show signs that they will go on to depravity after marriage. Other than early sexual lapses or a link with them, they exhibit sanctioned female behavior, such as a high valuation of the family and a concern for others that leads, at times, to effacement of their own needs and desires. And few of these novels devote themselves as overtly or thoroughly to providing attacks on the abuses of a class-bound social structure as does Desmond, for instance. But that is not to mitigate or contain the radical nature of the forms of rewardable femininity these novels include.
As such, these novels demand we rethink our views on the kinds of work women could produce and see published while still retaining their reputations for propriety. As long as we hold that women novelists were constrained to replicate conservative social attitudes in their work or risk losing their reputations, we have three alternatives: we can assume their authors did not care about their reputations--Robinson may have recognized she'd already lost hers, for instance; we can question our current construct of what behaviors were then tolerated in women; or we can wonder why authors writing novels containing ideas characterizable as scandalous identified themselves on their works' title pages, as Robinson, Kendall, and Yeates all did.(36)
The situation regarding the Romantic-era novel and its reputation is in fact more complex than many discussions of women and publishing in the period suggest. The belief that novels led to depravity was held to be true particularly of works produced by the Minerva Press.(37) Minerva's authors actually included not only radicals--Robert Bage, for instance--but also conservatives, including Barbara Hofland, Dr. John Gregory, and Jane West. Publishing conservative hence "serious" works alongside "dangerous" novels was not, however, enough to negate Minerva's reputation as purveyor of deleterious trivial literature; it nonetheless worked as a sort of scapegoat for fears about the negative effects the novel might have on the social structure and on ostensibly female readers' willingness to stay in their own class, in their marriages, and off the streets. There may have been more imagination than truth in identifying women as novels' main readers and their reading habits as dangerous,(38) but such a construct goes hand in hand with the kind of scapegoating Minerva received as the fount of literature whose worthlessness threatened to lead to social depravity of all imaginable sorts.
But Minerva's having this role meant works published elsewhere had to be viewed as relatively respectable. Given the split between Minerva as the publishing house of ill-repute, however undeserved, and others, one would think that female novelists incorporating content of questionable ideological bent would head toward Minerva, as Miss Street in fact did. Other publishing houses may have produced these other novels, with their titillating, slightly scandalous story lines because they, like Minerva, imagined such texts would sell; but that Robinson's, Kendall's, and Yeates' works were published elsewhere--Longman, Symonds, and Tibson, respectively--must have given these novels the stamp of relative repute. For a novel to be published by a house other than Minerva, after all, provided an invitation for its critics to view it as at least potentially non-detrimental. And perhaps because all these novelists, with the exception of Street, did find publishers other than Minerva, they also found the confidence to affix their names to their works. Their doing so certainly suggests that these authors did not seriously fear devastating effects resulting from their departures from a conservative norm.
After all, these works do depart fairly thoroughly from that norm we have come to see as necessary for women writers' retaining their reputations for feminine propriety: Without overthrowing entirely the model for female behavior accepted at the time, providing matches obviously radical in their class boundary crossing, or railing against the class system, they stretch the limits of rewardable female behavior in a way which remains, in some senses, the most socially radical of all, in its offering the potential to break apart the class system from within. And being framed within the social context of the novel genre, these works remind the reader that choosing to adhere to or depart from codes of sanctioned behavior, including but not limited to those on sexuality, always has ramifications on the culture's social structure. That these female novelists were not afraid to claim authorship of their works reveals not only that women writers were not utterly constrained by conservative publishing strictures; it reveals as well that they were willing to own up to writing a form of fiction that may be more revolutionary than Romantic poetry itself.
(1) Some recent works do discuss non-gothic novels too in terms of Romanticism. In Romanticism and Feminism, Anne Mellor, ed. (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1988), see, for instance, Laurie Langbauer's "An Early Romance: Motherhood and Women's Writing in Mary Wollstonecraft's Novels" (pp. 208-19). From Beyond Romanticism: New Approaches to Texts and Contexts 1780-1832, Stephen Copley and John Whale, eds. (London: Routledge, 1992), see Vivien Jones's "Women Writing Revolution: Narratives of History and Sexuality in Wollstonecraft and Williams" (pp. 178-99). See also many essays in Re-visioning Romanticism: British Women Writers, 1776-1837, Carol Shiner Wilson and Joel Haefner, eds. (Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1994). Most such works focus on writers involved with the Jacobins.
Despite this trend, most work expanding our knowledge of writing in the era, whether or not it links that writing to traditionally identified Romantic interests and genres, concentrates on essays, autobiographical discourses, and poetry. One text providing Romantic-era texts and authors well beyond those usually anthologized is Romanticism: An Anthology, Duncan Wu, ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994). Wu leaves out fiction, however, because it cannot easily be abridged for anthology form, certainly a valid reason. Nonetheless, the separation of genres makes it the harder to treat the novel as related to or deriving from the same interests as those to which the other genres respond.
(2) This approximation is based on the count in the Corvey collection in Germany, which, containing over 2200 English novels published between 1790-1834, is claimed to be the world's largest collection of such works; the number may therefore be considered representative. See Rainer Schowerling, "Forgotten Novels of the Romantic Era, Part I," in English Romantic Prose, Gunter Ahrends and Hans-Jurgen Diller, eds. (Essen: Die Blaue Eule, 1990), p. 31.
(3) Essayists such as Hazlitt and Lamb are generally considered canonical, but as Joel Haefner points out in "(De)Forming the Romantic Canon: The Case of Women Writers" (College Literature 20.2 : 44-57), Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, P. B. Shelley, Keats, and Blake still "dominate our critical discussions" of Romanticism (p. 46); essayists, along with most other writers of any genre, have been treated as subordinate to these privileged six poets. All the same, male essayists have been more frequently anthologized, hence valorized, than most women writers of the period in any genre. Focusing on women writers and referring to a survey by Harriet Kramer Linkin published in 1991, Haefner points out, for instance, that except for Mary Shelley and Dorothy Wordsworth, who were connected "with already-canonized figures," female Romantic-era authors are rarely taught, appearing in only 4% of Romanticism classes at best; numbers drop frighteningly low when one turns to the MLA Bibliography's listings of critical works on such writers, be they poets, essayists, or novelists (Haefner, pp. 46-47). Much may have changed in scholarship and in some classrooms since 1991, but many course requirements still concentrate primarily, if not exclusively, on the traditionally canonized poets. At Illinois State University, where I taught when writing this essay for instance, the Romanticism course is described thus: "Writers of England, 1780 to 1830--the Romantic Reaction. Chief attention to Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, [P. B.] Shelley, Keats, and Scott" (Illinois State University 1994-1995 Undergraduate Catalogue [Normal: Illinois State Univ., 1994], p. 108).
Given the tenacious link between the canonized Romantic poets and definitions of Romanticism in toto, I occasionally use "Romantic poetry" and "canonical Romanticism" interchangeably. This is not to say that I believe or support the idea that the canonized Romantic poets' interests should continue to define what is important in the period's literature. My goal here, after all, is to aid in unseating their rule to others' denigration.
(4) Gary Kelly, English Fiction of the Romantic Period 1789-1830 (London: Longman, 1989); subsequent citations from this work will be incorporated parenthetically in my text and will refer to it by author and shortened title (English Fiction). Kelly does address the relation of various novel genres of the 1790s to what I have been calling canonical Romanticism, seeing Romanticism as sharing their concerns but as growing out of them, so to speak, because leaving behind their treatment of topical issues. He occasionally explicitly compares the era's novel to Romantic poetry's interests, however, as when discussing Charles Lamb's 1798 A Tale of Rosamund Gray (pp. 64-69) and woman-penned gothic novels, romances, and what he calls novels of passion--novels which are based on transgressive subjectivity as are gothic novels but that were published slightly later, in the 1810s and 1820s; among these he includes Lady Caroline Lamb's Glenarvon and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (pp. 184-201). I retain his terminology when referring to these works.
He also draws such comparisons implicitly at various points, usually to suggest novels cannot reach the heights (of transgression and transcendence) attained by Romantic poetry. The implicit comparison is signalled whenever he talks about a particular novel or novel genre as more Romantic--or romantic--than others; the situation is made the more confusing by his calling all novels of the period "Romantic fiction." When he discusses the period in which novels of passion were published, for instance, he asserts that it "seem[s] to be the period of Romantic fiction, and Romantic literature in general, that is most romantic' in the usual sense of that word at the time--`fantastic, extravagant, irrational'--rejecting the domestic, the familiar, the rational, and the realistic" (p. 184). He similarly discusses Austen as perhaps the Romantic novelist par excellence but as not considered romantic enough by later more romantic post-Romantic era Charlotte Bronte (p. 111). Despite such hierarchizing comparison, his overall schema is to establish socio-historical conditions out of which all genres of the period arose and to which they responded and he generally privileges these conditions, rather than a particular genre.
Other recent works also treat the Romantic-era novel as worthy of study without addressing its relation to or judging it in terms of canonical Romantic poetry; see, for instance, Scott Simpkins, ed., The Romantic Novel, spec. issue of Studies in the Novel 26.2 (1994): 1-197
(5) Stuart Curran draws attention to Romantic-era women's prominence in dramatic and journalistic writing in "Women Readers, Women Writers," Stuart Curran, ed., The Cambridge Companion to British Romanticism (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993): 177-96. But the work of the era's female poets has received greater attention. In "Gender and Genre: Women in British Romantic Literature," What Manner of Woman: Essays on English and American Life and Literature, Marlene Springer, ed. (New York: New York Univ. Press, 1977), Irene Tayler and Gina Luria assert that the few women writing poetry in the period penned primarily anonymous poetry "to be used as fillers for magazines and newspapers" (p. 105), a view reiterated by Gary Kelly (English Fiction, p. 185). But Curran counters this argument, enumerating 339 women poets producing in the period (cited in Anne K. Mellor, Romanticism and Gender [New York: Routledge, 1993], p. 7). Other works listing these poets include J. R. de J. Jackson, Romantic Poetry by Women, A Bibliography, 1770-1835 (Oxford Univ. Press, 1993), and Jennifer Breen, ed., Women Romantic Poets, 1785-1832: An Anthology (London: Dent, 1992). Curran also argues that female poets were more important and influential during the Romantic era than Kelly, Tayler, and Luria acknowledge; see his "Women Readers, Women Writers"; "Romantic Poetry: The I Altered," in Mellor, Romanticism and Feminism, pp. 185-207; and "Mary Robinson's Lyrical Tales in Context," in Wilson and Haefner, pp. 17-35.
Marlon Ross makes a similar argument in The Contours of Masculine Desire: Romanticism and the Rise of Women's Poetry (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1989), following a critical approach like Kelly's, albeit focusing on poetry rather than the novel. Ross too argues that we must return to the historical situation out of which Romanticism arose rather than treating that movement as defining the period if we are to recognize the actual literary situation of the era. He argues
we must ask how the romantics fit within a larger historical, literary, and
cultural context, and we have to begin to flesh out the other crucial
literary strains that were competing with and joining with "romanticism"
during the period . . . [so we can] examine the tradition of feminine poetry
that emerges during the period, not as a minor tradition feebly mirroring
romanticism, but as a read force in its own right shaping romanticism as it
shapes itself. (P. 5)
(6) The "Romanticism" of Austen's works continues to be debated. Charles Rzepka usefully summarizes works and debates on this issue in "Making it in a Brave New World: Marriage, Profession, and Anti-Romantic Ekstasis in Austen's Persuasion," in Simpkins, p. 116.
(7) Kelly treats the sentimental novel, along with the related novel of passion, in this way without highlighting the problem in doing so (English Fiction, pp. 24-70; p. 73; p. 185). Stephen C. Behrendt, on the other hand, provocatively addresses this critical trend of ignoring what was consumed in the period and claiming works' validity vis-a-vis some other category of judgment; he argues that doing so has led to ignorance about the role the novel played in the cultural imagination and thus to an incomplete understanding of the period's concerns and ways of addressing them. In this, his focus is similar to mine. See his "Questioning the Romantic Novel" in Simpkins, pp. 5-25.
(8) Most canonized Romantic poets were from the same class, for instance, and in representing their interests as ideology free, they represented their class's interests as universal; on this see Jerome McGann, The Romantic Ideology--A Critical Investigation (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1976). Furthermore, the forms in which they chose to write and that they valorized were those to which the classically educated in particular--relatively well-born males--would be most likely to be familiar; on this point, see Uwe Boker, "The Disordered Imagination: The Novel, Criticism of the Novel, and the Literary Market during the Romantic Period," Ahrends and Diller, pp. 51-78, and Mellor, Romanticism and Gender, p. 6. The poets' valorization of certain forms already involves an elitism that is class (and gender) based, in other words, compromising their ostensible revolutionary attitudes in treating worth as based on something different than accidents of birth.
Clearly the situation is not simple. Even while valorizing the kind of language presumably accessible to everyone, Wordsworth names as poet only he [sic] who has unusual sensibility and has reflected on what he sees and experiences, thus ruling out most people's chances to be poets. But he complicates the issue, as Tayler and Luria point out, by recognizing that not all who had what he identified as poetic vision or feeling might be able to realize poetic production, either because they lacked education or had the wrong sort of temperament, yet these too he saw as poets (p. 102). Naming non-producers poets based on their vision alone mitigates the elitism apparent in the valorization of poetic forms easily produced primarily by the well-educated.
(9) Jay Clayton, Romantic Vision and the Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1987).
(10) Kelly, English Fiction, pp. 6-7 and Nancy Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987), pp. 15-18.
(11) This construct of proper female behavior and strictures on women publishing is articulated clearly by Mary Poovey, The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer (Chicago: Univ. Of Chicago Press, 1984), pp. 35-39; Jane Spencer, The Rise of the Woman Novelist from Aphra Behn to Jane Austen (New York: Blackwell, 1986), pp. 20-28; and J. M. S. Tompkins, The Popular Novel in England 1770-1800 (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1961), pp. 116-22. Further references to these works will be included parenthetically in my text.
(12) On female characters' meeting death for transgression, see Nancy K. Miller, The Heroine's Text: Readings in the French and English Novel, 1772-1782 (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1980). On women's identity being defined by social roles, see Vivien Jones, Women in the Eighteenth Century: Constructions of Femininity (London: Routledge, 1990), esp. pp. 1-10.
(13) Charlotte Smith, Desmond, 3 vols. (London: G. G. and J. Robinson, 1792) and Elizabeth Inchbald, Nature and Art, 2 vols. (London: G. G. and J. Robinson, 1796).
(14) Samuel Richardson, Clarissa, 7 vols. (London: Richardson, 1748); Frances Burney. Cecilia, 5 vols. (London: T. Payne and Son and T. Cadell, 1782); and Charlotte Smith, Emmeline, 4 vols. (London: T. Cadell, 1788).
(15) Frances Burney, Evelina, 3 vols. (London: T. Lowndes, 1778).
(16) Lee's work originally appeared as "The German's Tale. Kruitzner" in Sophia and Harriet Lee, Canterbury Tales, 5 vols. (London: Robinson, 1797-1805), 4:3-268(1801). After its original publication, it appears as an autonomous novel under the titles Kruitzner, or the German's Tale and The German's Tale, Kruitzner; an adaptation of it by Lord Byron in 1823 is then named Werner, a Tragedy. For consistency and ease of presentation, and because I am discussing novels here, I will refer to Lee's text by its shortened novel title, Kruitzner. Citations, however, are based on the text in its first appearance, as a (novel-length) tale in the first edition of Canterbury Tales, and will appear parenthetically in my text.
(17) Harold Bloom and Lionel Trilling, Romantic Poetry and Prose (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1973), p. 125. Subsequent citations from this work will appear parenthetically within my text.
(18) Marilyn Butler, Jane Austen and the War of Ideas (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), p. 28. Butler erroneously states that Werther appeared in English in 1771, three years before it was actually written.
(19) Poovey argues that while Wordsworth and Percy Shelley believed the nullity of nature was overcome by the "irradiating virtue" of the imagination, in the 1818 version of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley presents the imagination as "aiding and abetting the ego . . . expand[ing] the individual's self-absorption to fill the entire universe, and, as it does so . . . murder[ing] everyone in its path"; she believed too that "nature simply encourages imaginative projection," thus becoming fatal to individuals and any kind of human society (p. 126). In the 1831 revision, however, as Poovey explains, Shelley presents both Frankenstein and his monster more as victims of fate, downplaying the perniciousness of imagination and nature (pp. 122-42).
(20) Many recent essays identify social connectedness as part of feminine discourse in the period. From Copley and Whale, these include Harriet Guest, "The Wanton Muse: Politics and Gender in Gothic Theory after 1760," pp. 118-39, Jones, "Women Writing Revolution"; Angela Leighton, "De Quincey and Women," pp. 160-77; and Jane Moore, "Plagiarism with a Difference: Subjectivity in `Kubla Kahn' and Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark," pp. 140-59. From Mellor's Romanticism and Feminism, see Alan Richardson, "Romanticism and the Colonization of the Feminine," pp. 13-25, and Susan J. Wolfson, "Individual and Community: Dorothy Wordsworth in Conversation with William," pp. 139-66. Wolfson in particular treats this element of Romantic-era women writers' work as developed in response to and as a rejection of a masculine mode of being.
(21) Nancy Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1978).
(22) Mellor's treatment of the military and Romanticism appears in a very different context, hence her very different conclusion (Romanticism and Gender, pp. 135-42).
(23) Janet Todd, Feminist Literary History, (Cambridge: Blackwell-Polity, 1 988), pp. 108-09.
(24) On this, see Gary Kelly, The English Jacobin Novel 1780-1805 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), and Butler.
(25) On this, see Mitzi Myers, "Reform or Ruin: `A Revolution in Female Manners,'" Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, Harry C. Payne, ed. (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1982), pp. 199-216. Myers explains that it is difficult to assign most stances on the period's women's issues to either conservative or radical camps of female writers exclusively, given the overlap in stances among radicals, moderates, and "religionists" (p. 201). Kelly addresses the overlap in liberal, radical, conservative, and moderate camps by tracing the overlap in philosophies in various novel genres at the end of the century (English Fiction, esp. pp. 24-70).
(26) Charlotte Smith, The Young Philosopher, 4 vols. (London: T. Cadell, jun. & W. Davies, 1798).
(27) [Miss Street], The Recluse of the Appenines, 2 vols. (London: Minerva, 1792).
(28) On this, see Nancy Cott, "Passionlessness: An Interpretation of Victorian Sexual Ideology, 1790-1850," Signs 4 (1978): 219-36.
(29) Mary Robinson, The Natural Daughter, 2 vols. (London: T. N. Longman and O. Rees, 1799), and Mrs. Yeates, Eliza, 2 vols. (London: S. Tibson, 1800). I discuss these novels in this respect in my "Illegitimate Female Sexualities in Romantic-Era Woman-Penned Novels in Corvey" (Corvey Journal 5.2/3 : 44-52).
(30) Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality. Vol. 1: An Introduction, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage-Random, 1990), and Henry Abelove, "Some Speculations on the History of `Sexual Intercourse' During the `Long Eighteenth Century' in England," Nationalisms and Sexualities, Andrew Parker et al., eds. (New York: Routledge, 1992), pp. 335-42.
(31) Roxanne Eberle discusses this novel in these terms in her "Amelia Opie's Adeline Mowbray: Diverting the Libertine Gaze; or, The Vindication of a Fallen Woman," in Simpkins, pp. 121-52.
(32) Eberle makes this point, referring to and summarizing the arguments of others who have done so too, p. 123 and note 12 and 13, p. 147.
(33) Maria Edgeworth, first published as "The Absentee" in Tales of Fashionable Life, 6 vols. (London J. Johnson & Co., 1809-1812), 5:201-392 & 6:1-452 (1812; reprinted as The Absentee, Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1988). Lord Colambre, male protagonist of this novel, decides against marrying his cousin, Miss Nugent, because he's heard that none of the women in her family line are "sans reproche" and because his mother has (mistakenly) confirmed that the woman is illegitimate. In conversation, Lord Colambre asserts he would like the woman he marries to be from a family in which "all the daughters [were] chaste"; his interlocuter responds, "In marrying, a man does not, to be sure, marry his wife's mother; and yet a prudent man, when he begins to think of the daughter, would look sharp at the mother; ay, and back to the grandmother too, and along the whole female line of ancestry" (pp. 221-22). While tracing a family's female sexual history might be important for ascertaining what has been modelled and hence taught within a family, the further back one goes, the more irrelevant the issue of behavior modelling becomes; looking back one or two generations would be sufficient if such were really the issue. When so many generations are examined, the interest becomes more clearly one of traits passed on elsewise--genetically, for instance.
(34) Miss A. Kendall, Derwent Priory, 2 vols. (London: Symonds, 1798).
(35) Miss A. Kendall, Tales of the Abbey, 3 vols. (London: Symonds, 1800).
(36) While Miss A. Kendall does not give her first name, she does identify her city of residence--Bristol--making herself accessible to those who might change their treatment of the author on the basis of what she published and claimed as her own. Yeates makes her identity even clearer, discussing her family members and appending to her novel a work written by her brother. Street is the only of these authors whose reticence in identifying herself might signal awareness that what she wrote about might have negative repercussions on her reputation and others' behavior toward her.
(37) Dorothy Blakey, The Minerva Press: 1790-1820 (London: Bibliographical Society, 1939), pp. 1-2.
(38) Peter de Bolla, The Discourse of the Sublime: Readings in History, Aesthetics and the Subject (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989), pp. 230-78.
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|Publication:||Studies in the Novel|
|Date:||Dec 22, 1996|
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