Fated marginalization: women and science in the poetry of Constance Naden.
HOW CAN A VICTORIAN WOMAN FIND A VOICE WITHIN THE PATRIARCHAL realm of scientific discourse that judges her an intellectual inferior? More broadly, how can she even position herself within a culture that disdains rigorous cognitive work by women as unnatural and dangerous? Constance Naden (1858-1889) grapples with these questions in a series of poems published in the fin de siecle, herself wielding the language of science to interrogate the Victorian woman's relation with intellectuality, rationality, and logic. Naden's ultimately pessimistic negotiation of these issues suggests that a woman cannot participate unproblematically as an authoritative voice in the rarefied field of scientific endeavor, with its esoteric and complex lexicon, or the wider universe of learning in which the discipline is located. Instead, Naden deems efforts to enter this masculine world as insurmountably thwarted by nineteenth-century perceptions of female subjectivity that valorize acquiescence, silence, morality, sensibility, and passivity for the gender presumed inevitably flawed in its mental capacity. The discourse of science, then, serves as a vehicle of power whereby Victorian women can be delimited and defined as the Other.
Published in the 1880s, Naden's poetic works appeared at a significant moment in Victorian cultural history. (1) The previous decade saw Darwin's The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, with its brief but censorious pronouncements on the female mind, as well as a plethora of scientific texts penned by psychologists, physicians, anthropologists, biologists, and others who unequivocally placed women on a lower evolutionary rung in comparing their cognitive abilities to those of men. Darwin, for instance, asserted in the 1871 Descent that "the chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes is shown by man's attaining to a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than can woman." He continued, "If men are capable of a decided pre-eminence over women in many subjects, the average of mental power in man must be above that of woman." (2) Psychologist George Romanes made a similar contention in an 1887 essay, noting that "on merely anatomical grounds we should be prepared to expect a mark ed inferiority of intellectual power" in women. (3) Mental differences between the sexes could be succinctly differentiated, he surmised, for "in the feminine type the characteristic virtues, like the characteristic failings, are those which are born of weakness" (p. 660). In the early 1870s, Herbert Spencer, ironically one of Naden's heroes, claimed: "That men and women are mentally alike, is as untrue as they are alike bodily." (4) In fact, Spencer maintained, women experienced "a somewhat earlier arrest of individual evolution" (p. 32), a point with which numerous other Victorian scientists agreed. One of the most outspoken critics of women's mental abilities, anthropologit J. McGrigor Allan, reinscribed in an 1869 essay the common belief that "mans realm is the intellect--woman's the affections." "In reflective power," Allan opined, "woman is utterly unable to compete with man" (p. cxcvii) and "will always fall far short of man" (p. ccvi). He went on to sputter, "No distinction in the minds of men and wom en! Nature flatly contradicts the absurd assertion" (p. ccxv). Another anthropologist, Luke Owen Pike, reiterated his colleague's view and argued three years later that "if man's highest prerogative is to think, woman's noblest function is to love." (6) All of these scientists mustered ostensibly objective evidence to support centuries-old presumptions of an inferior female intellect, shaping their conclusions to tread well-established ideological paths.
Constance Naden's own life history contradicts these patronizing estimations of women's mental abilities. An avid reader and inquisitive student, Naden included among her many interests a fascination with the natural sciences. Her early studies of botany at the Midland Institute in Birmingham were complemented by later work at nearby Mason College where, as one of her professors recalled, she was the school's "most brilliant student" and received "a very thorough drilling in the subject-matter of the sciences of physics, chemistry, botany, zoology, and geology," even winning top honors in the science and art examinations. (7) "Distinctly an evolutionist," as William R. Hughes described her in an 1890 memoir (p. 24), Naden dexterously infused many of her poems with Darwinian and Spencerian language. Her publications included not only volumes of poetry but essays on philosophical matters, which received enthusiastic approval from both her peers and the press. (8) Naden's devotion to the study of philosophy--wh ich exceeded her interest in what she considered the amusing diversion of poetry, a rather surprising preference in view of her substantial oeuvre--led to her avocation of the creed of "hylo-idealism," under the tutelage of Dr. Robert Lewins, and its presumption that knowledge is relative and subjective. (9) Naden received the approbation of such diverse figures as the admired Spencer, who, as the Sr. James's Gazette reported, "thought her endowed with the exceptional combination of 'receptivity and originality' in an equally great degree," (10) and William Gladstone, who numbered her among the century's finest poets with their "splendid powers." (11)
Naden's adoption of scientific discourse in her verse recalls Romantic poet Charlotte Smith's similar strategy in seeking to craft an authoritative voice. Smith's lengthy 1807 "Beachy Head," one of her most celebrated poems, combines the imaginative and the scientific in an intriguing double voice, through which the conventionally poetic language of the main text is glossed through a multitude of footnotes detailing botanical and ornithological facts, as well as geographic, cultural, historical, and other practical matters. Common terminology used to identify a particular bird or plant, for example, is systematically accorded the Latin scientific name in the paratext, and obscure references to events, practices, or locales are carefully elaborated upon in extensive notes. (12) The effect is to convey upon the ungendered speaker of the poetic narrative the perspicacity, omniscience, and reliability demonstrated through the breadth of knowledge revealed in the verse's supplemental components.
Although Naden almost entirely eschews the paratextual format, scientific language dominates and informs many of her poems. (13) Yet a marked distinction in the frequency, sophistication, and rationale for these references emerges depending on the gender of the speaker. Male or ungendered speakers wield the diction of science assuredly and elaborately, while female speakers display a far more hesitant and limited deployment of this authoritative language. Naden thereby suggests that a female can participate in this discourse only tangentially and equivocally, as distanced from it in a poetic register as in the quotidian realm of Victorian culture.
Naden was not the only late-Victorian woman poet who found evolutionary issues compelling, however. Mathilde Blind, for example, penned the lengthy "Ascent of Man," which traces human evolution in Darwinian tones and deftly shifts among an array of poetic forms such as the epic and ode. L. S. Bevington weaves an evolutionary strand into "Egoisme a Deux," as does A. Mary Robinson more directly in "Darwinism," while May Kendall's "Lay of the Trilobite" and "The Lower Life" bring a humorous element to the topic. Though Kendall's "Woman's Future," like Mary Elizabeth Coleridge's "A Clever Woman," protests the conventional scientific views of the female mind and probes women's relation to science, it is in Naden's body of work that we find the most elaborate treatment of the subject.
Critical commentary, both contemporary and modem, has tended to remark upon the often-playful tone of Naden's verses, characterizing her manipulation of scientific language in positive terms. In an 1891 essay, for instance, R.W. Dale points to the entertaining aspects of several poems and notes that they "showed a delightful capacity for making fun of her own serious studies" in the natural sciences. (14) In a series of complimentary commentaries affixed to the collected poems, the Pall Mall Gazette and her own Mason College magazine approvingly remark on the charm and humor of Naden's writings ("Some Personal and Press Opinions," pp. 11, 15). More recently, Angela Leighton observes that "many of her verses cheerfully appropriate a scientific vocabulary to the subject of romance," yet Leighton adds that "the difficult choice of love or work, marriage or vocation, is still presented as primarily a female one." (15) Although I concur that Naden's poems seem to invite a lighthearted appraisal with their droll i nfusion of scientific terminology, they urge us to consider them in far more somber fashion. Underlying the verses' frolicsome tone is a disconcerting realization that the world of science and learning always already marginalizes women through exclusion and condescension. The poems' formal qualities frequently and persistently compel us to interpret the narrative in an unsettlingly ironic register to provide a dramatically different reading.
Let us begin our examination of Naden's work with "Scientific Wooing," one of four poems contained in the 1887 grouping titled "Evolutional Erotics," because this poem provides an especially striking view of a confident male speaker at ease in the world of science, a confining construction of female subjectivity, the marginalization of women from scientific activity, and a deceptively airy tone. At first glance, "Scientific Wooing" presents an amusing blend of the discourses of science and love in tracing the speaker's early dedication to his absorbing studies, his subsequent attraction to the fair but disconcerting Mary Maud Trevylyan, and a systematic plan to win her affections. Yet, from the opening stanza, the poem subtly signals that troublesome revelations about the masculine perception of women and their separation from the scientific arena will unfold:
I was a youth of studious mind, Fair science was my mistress kind, And held me with attraction chemic; No germs of Love attacked my heart, Secured as by Pasteurian art Against that fatal epidemic. (16)
Drawing upon the conventional dichotomy that allies the male with the mind and the female with the body, the stanza stresses, through its choice of topic for the opening line, the male speaker's acceptance of this cultural truism. Rationality is unambiguously privileged over the emotionality traditionally associated with the body. The speaker invokes the tropes of disease to describe the effects of affection: he refers to the "germs of Love" that attack the heart, the "fatal epidemic" that love precipitates, and his belief that "Pasteurian art" has rendered him immune. Through these tropes, the speaker follows the unpleasant tradition of portraying women as vitiating influences who besmirch, bewilder, and bedevil those men unlucky enough to fall prey to their wiles. Since the speaker, at this point in the poem, has not experienced the distractions of corporeal love, the series of powerful caesuras unleashed in the stanza underscores his resoluteness in pursuing his cognitive interests. The language of desire is wielded only within an intellectual register in these lines, as it is in the following two stanzas; the dream states that traditionally envelop a lover are characterized not by visions of the beloved's face but by a parade of personified chemicals, and the conventional equation of passion with fire is employed only in reference to the speaker's scientific ambitions. Indeed, in choosing emphatic /d/, /t/, and /p/ sounds as he describes "[t]he daring dreams of trustful twenty" that would enable him to "set the river Thames on fire I If but Potassium were in plenty," the speaker displays a surety in achieving his goal that distinguishes him from the humility, wistfulness, and self-abnegation of a typical suitor. That assurance is further conveyed through the speaker's tendency, in this stanza and others in which he is asserting a gritty determination, to adopt predominantly one- and two-syllable words that require particularly forceful pronunciation and protract the reading process, requiring us to absorb slo wly and in measured tones each insistent word.
The unwelcome emergence of desire for Mary is depicted in especially harsh terms, as the speaker's scientific "yearnings so sublime," with their harmonious sibilance, are violently disrupted by an acoustically powerful predicate; they are "blasted" by the "hazel eyes and lips vermilion" that serve as the poem's first reference to Mary, a disturbing choice of phrasing that firmly connects her to the negative image of the body introduced in the first stanza. Again the alliterative quality of the verse contrasts the dichotomous states of rationality and emotionality:
Ye gods! restore the halcyon days While yet I walked in Wisdom's ways And knew not Mary Maud Trevylyan!
The gentle sibilance of the first line of the tercet and the silky /w/ vocalizations of the next simulate the peace that the speaker derives from immersion in his work, which is aurally convulsed by the final line's sequence of sharp nasals and aspirates, associated with Mary, that require distinct, discrete, and fierce pronunciation for each syllable. Indeed, the tone becomes vituperative in a subsequent stanza, as the speaker resentfully exclaims with definitive punctuation, "Away with books; away with cram / For Intermediate Exam! / Away with every college duty!"
The speaker's tone abruptly shifts, however, as he imitates a Petrarchan lover lamenting his bashfulness, Mary's aloof response to his presence, and his despair that he can "ever dare / To cross the gulf, and gain my Mary." As he describes his beloved, he converts her into the idealized figure of the Victorian woman that the Marian resonances of her name carry: this "fairest fair" is a "worshipped image" that he will "cherish," a "virgin Saint" he now idolizes, and a modest maiden who is "never coy." Through these attributes, the speaker converts the individual Mary into an exemplar of Woman, an entity who can be defined and thus presumably controlled and contained.
The speaker's uncharacteristic self-abasement is short-lived, though, for he transforms himself from passive admirer into active pursuer once he realizes that Mary's dispassionate response can be supplanted by intense affection if he plans his courtship carefully. The apparent irreconcilability of rationality and emotionality that surfaced in earlier stanzas begins to collapse as Mary becomes not simply the object of desire but the object of scientific experimentation. As the poem progresses, the multisyllabic jargon of science is gradually blended with the mellifluous language of love, which the somewhat oxymoronic title, "Scientific Wooing," presaged; the speaker begs Mary to be a "solar sphere," regrets the lack of a spectroscope to gauge her affection for him, initiates his suit "with Optics," intends to win it "by Magnetism," and foresees an ultimate "Chemic union." Mary simply becomes another intellectual puzzle, linked to the world of science not as a participant in its language and rituals but solely as a commodity that is examined, quantified, and regulated. The speaker will manipulate the discourse of science to deceive and control, as he muses that he cannot "fail to please / If with similitudes like these / I lure the maid to sweet communion." The vigorous caesuras that characterized the opening stanza reappear as the speaker stridently announces his determination to triumph:
At this I'll aim, for this I'll toil, And this I'll reach--I will, by Boyle, By Avogadro, and by Davy! When every science lends a trope To feed my love, to fire my hope, Her maiden pride must cry "Peccavi!"
We have traveled a substantial distance from the vulnerable Petrarchan lover who had appeared briefly a few stanzas earlier. By invoking the secular gods of science in the above passage, the speaker not only undermines the quasi-religious hold that the beloved exercised in his previous idolatry, but he reshapes her from a stainless Marian figure into a repentant Eve whose use of the Latin language of science is limited to a recognition of her own unworthiness and guilt.
The impassive tone of the detached scientist that the speaker has displayed becomes increasingly disturbing as the poem moves toward its final stanzas. He will imitate the successful strategies that lower organisms have adopted in the process of sexual selection, craft a "Darwinian lay" that will point to the naturalness and desirability of his suit, apply "rigorous Logic" with a calculated mathematical precision to make his case, and script his words so coldly and designedly that "not a word I'll say at random." Indeed, this segment hints at an unnerving deviousness that exists covertly on a narrative as well as sonic level; from the opening line, the final stanzas are marked by an abundance of smooth /l/ sounds that seem not only alluringly liquid but distressingly oily. Through his cunning and "Syllogistic stress," Mary will be conquered, signaling her defeat by the "tearful 'Yes"' and the "sweet" utterance of submission that would be expected of the paradigmatic Victorian woman who rightly bows to male a uthority. As in her plaintive "Peccavi," Mary's final words in the poem are limited to her recognition of the male's superior knowledge and position.
As my reading has suggested, the sense of control that Mary exercised over the speaker's emotions in the early stanzas is undermined in significant ways that respond to the Victorian diptych of Woman as virgin or whore. First, as we have seen, Mary's awe-inspiring effect on the speaker as an apparent model of ideal womanhood--saintly, unattainable, and chaste--is countered by his reconfiguration of her as an errant and conquerable Eve. Second, the eroticized Mary is reduced to a manageable collection of body parts that are drained of their dangerous and sexual components. The eyes that could suggest an assertive and troubling female gaze in initially "blast[ing]" the speaker's concentration on his studies instead become in his musings the "gentle eyes" that assume a "tranquil gaze" and unmenacingly reveal "[l]ove's vapour, pure and incandescent." The suggestive mouth that could portend an all-consuming and disastrous immersion in desire is neutralized through her faltering and docile responses to the speaker 's initiatives.
That Naden is urging us to view the poem nor unproblematically as a clever and amusing exercise in melding the discourses of science and love but as a sardonic and angry portrait of masculine conceptions of women is accentuated by a variety of formal qualities. Naden plays with the convention of the romance stanza, dutifully following the six-line framework and standard rhyme scheme of aabccb, but departs from the usual tercet sequence of a pair of iambic tetrameters and a line of iambic trimeter. The latter is instead replaced with an unexpected nine-foot line of four iambs and a truncated final iamb consisting of a feminine ending. Moreover, an iambic tetrameter line, in some cases, can be scanned as a nine-syllable line, depending on whether or not one decides to read an occasionally ambiguous word as a syneresis. As an additional complication of the romance stanza, the first foot in each presumably iambic opening line of a stanza can be scanned instead as a spondee. All of these deviations from the roman ce form undermine the overall sense of containment and invincibility that the words' denotative and connotative valences seek to assert. With the questionable opening iambs, unstable syneresis, and insistent feminine endings that transgress beyond the expected endpoint of the meter, the poem conveys not only a sense of protest against its stifling narrative but of subterfuge, defiance, and revolt.
Other formal aspects similarly counter the overall sense of control that the speaker's narrative aims to establish. Though the poem has no extended stanzas, suggesting by their omission that every stanza of the speaker's words is to be viewed as a tightly managed unit dominated by an appropriately masculine rhyme, the tail rhyme of each tercet depends upon a feminine ending. Those tail rhymes seem to defy the abrupt and definitive masculine endings, as if asserting a right to be heard and heeded. In addition, the pairing of the feminine rhymes is inconsistent through a blending of syllabic possibilities, fluctuating among two double-syllable words ("cherish," "perish"), di- and tri-syllabic words ("Davy," "Peccavi") and other unequal syllabic couplings ("crescent," "incandescent"), and even two words and a single word ("began it," "planet"). Such randomness of pattern is seen not only with rhyme but with caesuras, which vary in their intensity and placement throughout the poem, and with enjambment, which per iodically evokes erratic and unplanned movement. All of these anomalies war against the speaker's efforts to assert control and resolutely marginalize women through the systematic language of science.
Several of the thematic, linguistic, and formal elements that mold "Scientific Wooing" are manipulated in similar ways in "Natural Selection," another offering in "Evolutional Erotics." Again the male speaker exudes remarkable self-confidence, adopts the language of science to describe his courtship, and offers a problematic perspective on women. The unsuccessful suitor of "Natural Selection" defuses the power the inconstant Chloe has exercised through her eventual rejection of his affections by conferring upon her an ethical and physiological inferiority that establishes him as her irrefutable superior. Chloe is recast from desired object into a piece of scientific proof attesting to Darwinian verities. Early in the poem, however, Chloe is crafted as a worthy object of affection who, like the proper Victorian woman, functions as the moral compass in the pair's relationship. Evidencing a "filial regard," of which the speaker approves, for the graves that he ransacks in his scientific pursuits, Chloe displays a principled concern that her lover "ne'er could be true" if he did not respect these ancestral burial places. Yet that supposedly moral stance is immediately dissolved by her paradoxical fascination with such fossils and the unsavory influence she exerts on the speaker, for "Not a fossil I heard her admire,/ But I begged it, or borrowed, or stole." Her interest in the fossils is made to appear unwomanly and inappropriate, for it negates the positive moral influence she should wield. Moreover, Chloe is quietly indicted for unwomanliness on another count through the speaker's suspicion that she does not adequately respect his work; she blithely dismisses the repository of his "splendid collection" and temple of science, his study, by disparagingly terming it "a hole."
Through these unseemly allusions, the speaker prepares his readers for Chloe's poor choice in a Darwinian sexual selection:
And we know the more dandified males By dance and by song win their wives-- 'Tis a law that with Ayes prevails, And even in Homo survives. Shall I rage as they whirl in the valse? Shall I sneer as they carol and coo? Ah no! for since Chloe is false, I'm certain that Darwin is true!
In effect, the speaker situates Chloe in an unenviable double bind. On the one hand, a reader can assume that Chloe has followed an unpromising and rarely trodden evolutionary path that allies her more tightly with lower species than with humanity and preordains her line's eventual doom; her interest in the "idealess lad," who is demeaned through his strutting, staring, and smirking, implies that Chloe is no more advanced on the evolutionary ladder than the animal species that likewise choose "dandified" males. In arguing that the law governing selection among non-human species on the basis of surface qualities "even in Homo survives," the speaker intimates with this verb that Chloe's application of the law on such antiprogressive grounds represents a vestigial anomaly rather than a universal pattern. On the other hand, a reader can assume that Chloe has followed the usual practice of sexual selection among women but has failed to recognize the speaker as a more desirable specimen who will help lead humanity to the next stage of evolutionary development. The successful suitor lacks the speaker's scientific acumen and intellectual curiosity--"Of Science he hasn't a trace, / He seeks not the How and the Why"--but simply displays evolutionarily unproductive attractions. Chloe's preference is thereby tainted because her criteria for sexual selection are based not on superiority but inferiority. She is unfavorably linked to the body rather than the mind, for the other suitor triumphs solely through his corporeal appeal--the singing and dancing abilities that Chloe values. Whichever of the two scenarios we choose, the effect is the same. In the final stanza, we are left to infer from the Darwinian reference that sexual selection on Chloe's terms is destined for failure, since the process of natural selection is predicated on a species' apt choices in the struggle to survive.
As in "Scientific Wooing," women are marginalized through their depiction as objects of scientific discourse rather than participants in it and as curiosities to be detachedly examined. The sense of power associated with a male speaker is even more apparent in "Natural Selection," however, as a prosodic examination reveals. The eight quatrains, with their pounding abab rhyme scheme, exclusively feature masculine endings that suggest through their muscular enunciation that a feminine influence has been successfully excluded. Although the lines in each stanza inconsistently shift between anapestic trimeters and an iamb followed by two anapests, which could seem to signal a disruptive presence that undermines the poem's overall impression of mastery, the curious format instead mimics the randomness of natural selection itself and testifies to the speaker's proficiency and comfort within the scientific realm. Indeed, the fact that the first and final stanzas both feature a pair of anapestic trimeters, followed b y an iamb and an anapest coupling, counteracts any supposition that the speaker lacks authority, for the two stanzas serve as inviolable boundaries between which the play of verse is allowed. Like "Scientific Wooing," the poem is dominated by one- and two-syllable words, primarily the former, which lend themselves to the same type of measured and decisive reading of each line, as do the abundance of rugged consonant sounds and the frequent caesuras. On both formal and narrative levels, then, "Natural Selection" decisively establishes science as a masculine purview that provides virtually no opening for a woman.
A similarly problematic view of women comes in "Solomon Redivivus, 1886" a third poem in "Evolutional Erotics" with a male speaker. The poem builds upon biblical allusions in that its narrator, King Solomon, was sought out by its silent listener, the queen of Sheba, who wished to question the famed wise man (1 Kings 10.1-13). The speaker adopts a commanding and condescending attitude toward Sheba, a querulously childish figure whose interrogatories precede the poem's opening and initiate the speaker's monologue. He immediately assumes the role of confident superior in identifying himself with the fruits of civilization: aside from his self-perception as a "modern Sage," he is "Seer, savant, merchant, poet"--"in brief," he smugly summarizes, "the Age." He excludes his listener from participation in the accomplishments of the period by firmly situating himself in the subject position, boldly proclaiming, "I am," in the forceful declarative phrases delineating his multiple roles. Sheba serves as a kind of specu lar entity that the poem establishes through a dichotomy between a privileged "I" and inferior "you," a relationship crafted in part through Sheba's obtuse requests for information with which she is already cognizant, in this reminder of Victorian science's estimation of women as child-like in their mental processes, as well as her Sphinx-like proclivity for posing riddles that the speaker patiently and adeptly answers. Imperious commands further place Sheba in a subordinate position as the speaker physically assumes dominance in demanding that she "sit," metaphorically directs her gaze in warning her to "[hook not" upon his glory, guides her behavior in telling her to "[c]ount not" his treasures, and advises her to accept his imperatives to "hear our wondrous tale." As the latter reference indicates, it is the speaker who controls their narrative, while Sheba is relegated to the role of passive listener; even the question that led to the speaker's recitation of their story is presented in his voice rather th an hers in the poem's opening lines.
In crediting himself for humanity's progression, the speaker relies upon the Victorian presumption that evolution favored the male and the female represented a lesser stage of development. Men, the argument went, were responsible for evolutionary advances on a physiological as well as intellectual level. It is surprising, then, that the speaker identifies Sheba as the one who initiates their metamorphosis from the "soft Amoeba" that were "[u]norganed, undivided" and existing in happy sloth" to the next evolutionary stage, even though he casts her development in decidedly unflattering terms: she "incurred the odium / Of fission and divorce" and ''strayed'' her ''lonely course.'' Despite the disparaging characterization, the speaker identifies the female as the one who initiated the series of changes that would transform the pair from one-celled organisms to complex humans. That admission leads us to a parodic reading of the speaker, transforming him from the assured and masterful superior of his female listene r that he has crafted in his self-presentation into a ridiculously pompous and ignorant inferior to her. In effect, the poem challenges the masculine scientific view of women as a secondary entity and implies that a reinterpretation of presumably objective precepts is necessary. By so doing, the poem anticipates the prose writings of such iconoclastic evolutionists as Eliza Burt Gamble and David Ritchie who would argue a few years after Naden's poetry appeared that scientists' conclusions about female inferiority were based on self-serving predispositions rather than careful analyses. We are tempted, then, to interpret the titular adjective of "Solomon Redivivus" in mocking fashion to infer very different connotations for the word's seemingly solemn denotations of rebirth and uncovering.
The poem's form, too, can be productively assessed in this sardonic register. With its abab quatrains featuring alternating seven- and six-syllable lines, the poem approximates the scheme of common meter, which in turn conveys the commonality of the speaker's perspective on women. Yet in failing to include the final stressed syllable of common meters paradigmatic a-lines of iambic tetrameter, the poem covertly points to the deficiencies in such a view. Indeed, the feminine rhymes of the a-lines offer a relentless challenge to the masculine rhymes of the b-lines, mirroring the assertion of female importance and vitality that appeared on the thematic plane. In these ways, a female presence is made as significant to the poem as a male one and wars against the speaker's strategy of marginalization.
Despite the quietly empowering message that we may read in "Solomon Redivivus," the sole poem in "Evolutional Erotics" with a female speaker distances her profoundly from the scientific world to provide an inescapably despairing commentary on the relation of women to that public sphere. "The New Orthodoxy" follows a somewhat different trajectory in detailing the relation of a woman to science in that the speaker chastises her lover for his rumored loss of faith in Darwin, Spencer, and other noteworthy evolutionists. At first glance, we might view Amy, the speaker, as an erudite and independent woman who adeptly demonstrates an understanding of the latest scientific advancements and theories. A Girton graduate, she evidences a comfort with and confidence in Darwinian thought:
Things with fin, and claw, and hoof Join to give us perfect proof That our being's warp and woof We from near and far win; Then you jest, because Laplace Said this Earth was nought but gas Till the vast rotating mass Denser grew and denser:
Yet that nominally assured self-presentation becomes problematic in light of the speaker's revelatory assumption elsewhere that she is infused with the female essence that Victorians considered the defining quality of all women. In the opening stanza, the speaker obliquely aligns herself with traditionally feminine Nature, as did her suitor, in remarking that "I've kept that spray you sent I Of the milk-white heather." Addressing his concern that she has become "too 'advanced,"' Amy seeks to correct the misapprehension:
Trust me, Fred, beneath the curls Of the most "advanced" of girls, Many a foolish fancy whirls, Bidding Fact defiance, And the simplest village maid Needs not to be much afraid Of her sister, sage, and staid, Bachelor of Science.
The passage is disconcerting not only because of its subtle link between women and the body in its seemingly offhand reference to "curls," but also because it tends to nullify Amy's intellectual achievements. The qualities of sagacity and steadiness that Amy identifies in the bachelor of science lose much of their impact and import in being presented within an essentialist context that equates women with folly, capriciousness, and illogicality. In characterizing herself as a "sister" to an unlearned rustic, which seems the unlikeliest choice of commonality imaginable for an urbane college graduate, Amy positions herself as simply an exemplar of Woman among women.
The ostensible independence that Amy displays in disputing Fred's blithe assumption that the pair will be immediately married, now that he has come of age, also carries disturbing implications. Amy first counters his brusque imperatives that "[w]e will, we must/Now, at once, be married!" with an assurance that appears, through her initial adverbial choice, to be an attempt to silence him: "Softly, sir! there's many a slip/Ere the goblet to the lip/Finally is carried." Yet we can read her response as merely one among several similar pieces of evidence in the poem that Amy is exhibiting not a defiance of the stereotypical role of the Victorian wife but an acceptance of the cultural belief that women serve as the moral authorities within the culture. Although Amy's championship of Darwinism may seem a bizarre manifestation of this gendered function of ethical stewardship, the poem's title leads us to this reading. In labeling Darwinian thought as "The New Orthodoxy," Naden implies that this form of belief has a ssumed the status of a religion, albeit a secular one. Abundant references in the poem reinforce the connection between Darwinism and religion that the title suggests. Amy refers to Fred, for example, as "a hardened skeptic" in his dismissal of the wisdom of evolutionist T. H. Huxley and his counterparts, chides Fred for his "flippant doubts" like any heretic would be admonished, exhorts him to "pin your faith to Darwin," and reprises that common noun and invokes other devotional terminology in her parting words:
Yet--until the worst is said, Till I know your faith is dead, I remain, dear doubting Fred, Your believing AMY.
Amy's ardent advocacy of Darwinism itself serves to situate her within the traditional framework of female moral purity, in that she unswervingly adheres to the doctrines in which she has been taught to believe. No skeptical undertones mar her own presentation of her faith, but instead she emerges as a dedicated apostle and proselytizer of the creed.
The inference that Amy simply performs a traditional role rather than charts new paths for a female subjectivity based on intellectual accomplishment and assertion gains additional credence through the relatively passive and specular role she tends to assume. In the first stanza, for instance, Amy positions herself as reacting to Fred's initiatives instead of asserting her own agency. Thus, she keeps the flowers Fred sent, responds to his concerns that she is "advanced," and "quote[s] the books you lent." This latter reference is particularly important, for it suggests that Amy is less an independent thinker than a mimic who merely repeats the words deemed suitable for her perusal. Fred, in effect, is crafting her views, following the customary patriarchal role as the arbiter of the knowledge that a woman can appropriately learn. As a result, Amy's pretensions to intellectuality are drained substantially of their significance, for she can be perceived more as a vessel unquestioningly absorbing male directive s than as an independent analyst of ideas.
Elsewhere in the poem, Amy similarly positions herself as a responder to Fred's initiatives and interests. Although Fred never speaks directly, his voice nevertheless dominates Amy's narrative, as he writes, plans, speaks, jests, scoffs, and woos. In each case, Amy is merely the recorder of his directives or opinions, serving as a loyal listener who asserts her own voice only in conforming to his lead. In the final stanza she surrenders any pretense of agency in portraying herself as one ready for his commands and his words: "Write--or telegraph--or call! / Come yourself and tell me all." In her closing comment that "I remain, dear doubting Fred, I Your believing Amy," she reiterates her submission to him; as one who "remains," she occupies a state of passivity, and as "your" Amy, she concedes possession of herself to him.
The poem's prosody reinforces that Amy is a mimic of patriarchal language and interests who reaches for but cannot attain the knowledge and skill of a male. It is important to assess the poem's formal qualities within the context of the other three works in "Evolutional Erotics" to gauge appropriately the similarities and dissimilarities between the female and male speakers; if not viewed as part of a whole, the piece would lend itself to a vastly different and misleading reading. In light of the other poems, the prosodic techniques in "The New Orthodoxy" present Amy as a pale imitator of the male speakers with her timid voice and unsure poetic hand. The first clue comes in the overall form of eight-line stanzas rhyming aaabcccb. Rather than adopting the vigorous quatrains or ironic romance format found in the other "Evolutional Erotics" works, "The New Orthodoxy" instead employs an anomalous verse form that imitates the eight-line structure of an ottava rima or a triolet but does not conform to the rhyme sc heme of either, as if the speaker had only a vague understanding of poetic conventions. (17) In fact, the poem is given a decidedly femininized character, for the final line, "Your believing AMY," follows the spacing of a letter in dropping her name to a visual tenth line; to the Victorian mind, private letters--not the weighty tomes of science or elaborately crafted verse--represented one of the few acceptable forms for women's writing.
More significant than the epistolary element, though, are the predominance of masculine rhyme in the poem, which appears in all but the b-lines, and the presence of an extra syllable in the masculine lines. Feminine rhyme, like the female speaker herself, is made peripheral in the poem, implying only a limited opportunity for a woman to participate in the discourse of science, as well as poetry. The extra beat in the masculine lines, resulting from a clipped initial iamb, further insinuates that the feminine voice is a feeble version of its male counterpart. The aggressive tone of the poems that featured a male speaker, with their determined consonants and bold caesuras, is not apparent here. Instead, the language seems tentative with its predominance of short rhyming vowels that impart a sense of weakness rather than strength; in the only stanza in which long rhyming vowels prevail, they serve to accentuate a catalog of exclusively male thinkers. A multitude of enjambments, appearing inconsistently and lack ing definitiveness, also contributes to the uncertain quality of Amy's language. All of these formal moves mirror the equally subtle ways in which Victorian ideology viewed a woman as a tangential rather than central figure who could never gain intellectual parity with the men who would always be evolving beyond her.
It is appropriate here to turn to the earlier "Love Versus Learning" because it offers a helpful clarifying perspective on the poems comprising "Evolutional Erotics" through its complementary thematic strains. As the title hints, the poem establishes an unbridgeable distance between the spheres of emotionality and intellectuality for a woman. The 1881 piece relates the musings of a female speaker who recalls her idealized conception of a lover and the subsequent dissolution of her dream as she enters into an actual relationship. In her depiction of the imagined inamorato, the speaker envisions that he would value her intellectual as well as physical gifts. Once the speaker encounters her real suitor, however, that expectation proves chimeric:
My logic he sets at defiance, Declares that my Latin's no use, And when I begin to talk Science He calls me a clear little goose. He says that my lips are too rosy To speak in a language that's dead, And all that is dismal and prosy Should fly from so sunny a head.
Love and learning are mutually exclusive in women, according to the lover's estimation, through the mind/body dichotomy he unquestionably accepts. Under such logic, the "rosy lips" are therefore incapable of uttering learned phrases, and the female brain represents an inappropriate repository of serious thought. The suitor's designation of the speaker as "a dear little goose" diminishes her on multiple levels in its condescending affectional tone, dismissive adjectives, and appalling comparison.
Further distancing the speaker from learned endeavors are her dictional choices in relating her experience, for, as in "Scientific Wooing," the language of science is spoken by the male. She becomes, in effect, merely a conduit for her suitor's words as she indirectly transfers the narrative voice to him:
He scoffs at each grave occupation, Turns everything off with a pun; And says that his sole calculation Is how to make two into one. He says that the sun may stop action, But he will not swerve from his course; For love is his law of attraction, A smile his centripetal force.
The surrender of her voice seems a logical progression when assessed in relation to her similar capitulation to male agency in the poem's early stanzas. An initial assertion of subjectivity and autonomy emerges through a series of statements that begin with a puissant "I" charting the direction of her narrative and guiding our interpretation of events. Yet she proceeds from her strong "I" to one who merely responds to the suitor's actions in her dismal realization that "1 saw, and I heard, and I wavered, /1 smiled, and my freedom was past." Agency subsequently shifts almost entirely to the male, as signaled by the next lines in which the speaker laments, "He promised to love me for ever,/ He pleaded, and what could I say?" Her loss of agency becomes particularly acute in the penultimate stanza, as her provisional comment that "often I think we must part" is overridden by her capitulation to his "compliments so scientific" that "[r]ecapture my fluttering heart." The phrasing is vexing not only because the imag e of emotionality implies that the speaker, like the suitor, views herself in terms of the body, but also because the references represent, as in "Scientific Wooing," a masculine manipulation of the language of science to conquer a desired object.
Equally disquieting is the speaker's recognition that the suitor is unworthy of her virtual self-sacrifice through his marked intellectual disparity with her ideal, as well as a suspicion that he is mentally inferior to herself. We can, perhaps, better understand the speaker's acceptance of her flawed suitor in exploring the expectations she held in the poem's opening stanza, for she advises that "I planned, in my girlish romances,/ To be a philosopher's bride." Of interest in this revelation is her untroubled acceptance of the Victorian presumption of a woman's proper ambition--the acquisition of a husband. Not until the poem has progressed more than halfway through its narrative does the speaker refer in any detail to her own cognitive abilities, signaling through the delayed placement the secondary importance she accords them, as well as her absorption in and acquiescence to cultural dictates. We are prepared, then, for her unhappy choice of the unsuitable suitor over rigorous intellectual endeavors as th e poem draws to its close:
Yet sometimes 'tis very confusing, This conflict of love and of lore-- But hark! I must cease from my musing, For that is his knock at the door!
Coupled with the negative implications of her selection on a personal level is the underlying danger that the speaker's choice presents for the evolutionary development of the human species in general. Victorian culture compels a woman to stifle her own intellectual gifts and assume her destined role within the domestic sphere, even if she is intellectually superior to her mate, as is the speaker in this poem. Victorian ideology works against humanity's evolutionary goal of adaptive improvements on two counts, then--by not encouraging women to choose the most desirable and advanced suitors and by discouraging women from honing their own cognitive abilities that could help the species as a whole move to a higher plane of development.
The culturally crafted opposition between love and learning for a female subject that the poem has drawn thematically is reflected on the formal level, as is the distancing of women from the masculine sphere of the mind. In the first regard, the poem is set in abab quatrains with alternating masculine and feminine rhymes to suggest the conflict between the gendered arenas of rationality and emotionality. Yet the masculine a-lines carry nine syllables, rather than the eight syllables of the feminine b-lines, to intimate that the masculine view of the proper sphere for a woman will prevail, as do the virile end-stops that characterize nearly all of the poems lines. Like "The New Orthodoxy," the poem hints through its structure that a woman is simply viewed by her culture as a faint mimic of an authoritative patriarchal voice. Though the speaker adopts the quatrain form employed by her male counterparts in "Natural Selection" and "Solomon Redivivus" and gestures toward their stylistic approaches, her version lac ks the vigor of the other two poems. Despite the fact that "Natural Selection" has a heavy concentration of anapestic feet and shifts between eight-and nine-syllable lines, as "Love Versus Learning" does, each of the lines ends with a stress and a masculine rhyme; in "Love Versus Learning," only the a-rhymes conclude with those markers of authority. Similarly, though "Solomon Redivivus" features alternating feminine and masculine rhymes, as does "Love Versus Learning," the male voice's iambs call more attention to the stressed syllable of each foot than can the female voice's anapests with their two unaccented syllables.
The stanzas quoted above from "Love Versus Learning" also offer important interpretive clues through their acoustic pattern. Each of the four stanzas in which the speaker merely transmits her suitor's words is dominated by sibilants rather than potent consonants to underscore again that she is an attenuated mimic of a male voice. Only in the final stanza is there an abundance of hard consonants, but they are intermixed with sibilants to convey on an aural level the titular conflict that the speaker undergoes, rather than a powerful female voice. Ultimately, the vying of those implacable sounds with the softer ones causes the poem to end on a dissonant and unpleasant note that reverberates with the speaker's thematically unsatisfying decision to accept her suitor.
The portrait of female subjectivity that we have seen thus far in Naden's oeuvre has both drawn from and interrogated Victorian conceptions of womanhood in foregrounding the parameters of proper behavior and interests. In each case, women have been distanced from the world of science in significant ways and prevented from fully participating in its discourses and practices. Yet what are we to make of the rare woman who defies cultural constraints and plunges into this masculine sphere by adopting science as a profession? In the 1881 poem, "The Lady Doctor," Naden warns of the exorbitant price that must be paid. In the Victorian mindset, a woman becomes a kind of transvestite, both intellectually and somatically, if she seeks to ally herself with the rationality and logicality conventionally attributed to the male. She cannot comfortably inhabit both the masculine realm of intellectuality and the feminine realm of emotionality; if she chooses the former, the poem cautions, she virtually unsexes herself in the eyes of her myopic culture.
Despite the fact that in the late nineteenth century women did presume to become physicians--medical schools had reluctantly begun allowing women to pursue the vocation at the time Naden was writing, and doctors like Elizabeth Garrett Anderson were making their marks--they often met with disapproval and disdain. To many male physicians and other scientific observers, women who chose to engage in intense intellectual work jeopardized their reproductive capacities because they were unnaturally channeling the body's finite energy and resources into their studies. In so doing, these observers believed, women imperiled future generations of humanity. As physician Henry Maudsley maintained in 1874, "When Nature spends in one direction, she must economise in another direction." (18) Women, he argued, "cannot choose but to be women" and "cannot rebel successfully against the tyranny of their organization" (p. 468). These opinions led Maudsley to the conclusion that "it would be an ill thing, if it should so happen, that we got the advantages of a quantity of female intellectual work at the price of a puny, enfeebled, and sickly race. In this relation, it must be allowed that women do not and cannot stand on the same level as men" (p. 472). (19)
Told in the third person by an ungendered speaker, "The Lady Doctor" relates the history of the title character as a youthful beauty who rejects her lover, pursues her vocation, disdains marital satisfaction, and gradually changes from beautiful maiden into repellent hag:
Saw ye that spinster gaunt and gray, Whose aspect stern might well dismay A bombardier stout-hearted? The golden hair, the blooming face, And all a maiden's tender grace Long, long from her have parted.
In her youth, before she had decided to pursue a vocation, she is unproblematically associated with the feminine markers of the body and nature: she displayed "[t]he golden hair, the blooming face, / And all a maiden's tender grace"; she conferred "blushing looks, and many a smile, / And kisses sweet as manna"; and "[s]he wandered through the meadows green / To meet a boyish lover." Once she has decided to leave her lover, the dissolution of her bond with nature, and inferentially, her link to femininity, is presaged: "She threw away the faded flowers, / Gathered amid the woodland bowers."
Surprisingly, for a brief interlude, the character can combine intellectual work with traditional feminine traits and corporeal attractions, as she, "young and fair, / With rosy cheeks and golden hair, / Learning with beauty blended." Yet that unexpectedly harmonious conjunction occurs because, despite her learning, she evinces conventional womanly qualities and charms. (20) Again the body becomes a significant trope. She can cure disease through "[a] lady's glance," her eyes prove more effective than quinine, and her smile acts as a tonic. In rejecting love in favor of a profession, however, the character initiates a physical and emotional deterioration, which is couched as a violation of female nature through a muted reference to the natural world:
But soon, too soon, the hand of care Sprinkled with snow her golden hair, Her face grew worn and jaded; Forgotten was each maiden wile, She scarce, remembered how to smile, Her roses all were faded.
Indeed, in the next couplet, the "Doctor she" becomes a witch whose "sole delight" is "[t]o order draughts as black as night"--an unnatural act, as the clangorous iteration of the dental /d/ sounds hints, through which the Medusan physician's "very glance might cast a spell" as she produces her "chill and acrid potions." In violating female nature she has become unsexed: her appearance is "so grim and stern" that no "heart could burn / For one so uninviting"; she no longer displays a normative woman's "gentle sympathy" but eschews "[a]ll female graces"; and, most ominously, "[s]he seems a man in woman's clothes." In its final stanza, titled "Moral," the poem reiterates its distressing message. (21)
Fair maid, if thine unfettered heart Yearn for some busy, toilsome part, Let that engross thee only; But oh! if bound by love's light chain, Leave not thy fond and faithful swain Disconsolate and lonely.
As in "Scientific Wooing," Naden adopts the basic structure of the romance form with its six-line aabccb stanzas but again plays with the meter, in this case to convey an ironic tone. Though "The Lady Doctor" follows the usual romance pattern in its a- and c-lines with their iambic tetrameters, the b-lines add an extra syllable to the iambic trimeters to conclude with a feminine ending. The stanza's pair of feminine rhymes is overshadowed by the masculine rhymes of the other four lines, however, to accentuate the doctor's more pronounced association with masculinity. Though the brhymes depend on short vowels, intimating a feminine fragility and softness, long vowels dominate the overall rhyming scheme to impart instead a sense of masculine strength, especially in the stanzas that concentrate on the woman's scientific work.
Let us return to the first stanza, for it sets the poem's unsettling tone through alliterative and caesural maneuvers. In the first tercer, "Saw ye that spinster gaunt and grey, I Whose aspect stern might well dismay I A bombardier stout-hearted?" the sibilants that generally evoke fluidity and smoothness instead call attention to the character's unseemly attributes-- spinsterhood and a dismayingly stern aspect--and resonate with the masculine stout-heartedness of the third line. The guttural contrast of the velars in "gaunt and grey" adds a harsh tone to the opening line, as do the interruptions from the light caesura that precedes this phrase and the similarly weak caesuras in the second and third lines. The tercet's enjambed line provides a concussive element with its shift to the onomatopoetic staccato sound of "bombardier," an interesting word choice in view of its inescapable link to the manly arena of war and its insinuation that even this most masculine of men would find the doctor unnerving. The stan zas final tercet continues to jolt the reader through an abrupt tonal change, for the fourth line accentuates the womanly qualities associated with the body--"[the golden hair, the blooming face"--that the doctor lacks, in that the line features more euphonious sounds and a caesura that vies with its counterparts in the first tercet to stress femininity. The enjambmenr of the final line pair--"And all a maiden's tender grace I Long, long from her have parted"--initiates another discomfiting shift that underscores the character's unnatural transformation from womanly model to manly aberration.
"The Lady Doctor," like the other scientifically grounded poems we have explored, leaves us with a disquieting message. The Victorian woman can find virtually no space in which she can challenge and broaden traditional perceptions of female subjectivity. She repeatedly encounters ideological preconceptions that associate a woman with the body instead of the intellect, reinforce her role as moral authority, view her as a specular counterpart to the Victorian male, depend upon an essentialist view that accepts the notion of an enduring female nature, and value her subservience and rectitude. No wonder, therefore, that the intellectually inquisitive woman can assert a voice within the realm of science and learning only in unsatisfying ways as an attenuated mimic of patriarchal authority or a virtual transvestite who has surrendered any valid claims to womanhood in the view of her culture. Constance Naden's poetry disturbingly unmasks the discourse of science as a complicit and duplicitous participant in a Victor ian ideology that validates and reconfirms the gendered power relationship through which women are always already marginalized.
(1.) Naden's poetic works include Songs and Sonnets of Springtime (1881) and A Modern Apostle, The Elixir of Life, and Other Poems (1887). Her collected poems were published posthumously in 1894.
(2.) Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (New York: Burt, n.d.), p. 643.
(3.) George J. Romanes, "Mental Differences Between Men and Women," Nineteenth Century 21 (1887): 654-655.
(4.) Herbert Spencer, "Psychology of the Sexes." Popular Science Monthly 4 (1873-74): 31.
(5.) J. McGrigor Allan, "On the Real Differences in the Minds of Men and Women," Journal of the Anthropological Society 7 (1869): cci.
(6.) Luke Owen Pike, "Woman and Political Power," Popular Science Monthly 1 (1872): 86.
(7.) William A. Tilden, "Part III." In William R. Hughes, Constance Naden: A Memoir (London: Bickers & Son, 1890), pp. 67, 68.
(8.) See, for example, the personal and press views on Naden included in The Complete Poetical Works of Constance Naden, ed. Robert Lewins (London, 1894).
(9.) For a discussion of Naden and this philosophical creed, see James R. Moore, "The Erotics of Evolution: Constance Naden and Hylo-Idealism," in One Culture: Essays in Science and Literature, ed. George Levine (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1987), pp. 225-257.
(10.) "Some Personal and Press Opinions on the Works of Constance Naden," in The Complete Poetical Works of Constance Naden, p. 11.
(11.) W. E. Gladstone, "British Poetry of the Nineteenth Century." The Speaker (January 11, 1890): 35.
(12.) Stuart Curran makes the intriguing observation that the references suggest "an alternate Romanticism that seeks not to transcend or to absorb nature but to contemplate and honor its irreducible alterity" (Introduction, The Poems of Charlotte Smith, ed. Stuart Curran [New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1993], p. xxviii).
(13.) "Lament of the Cork-Cell" is the only Naden poem featuring the type of gloss used by Charlotte Smith. With an explanatory footnote of the titular organism, the poem not only adopts scientific terminology but is entirely placed within a biological and botanical context. The inanimate speaker reflects in its final conscious moments on the progression in its life cycle from vibrant organism to deadened cork, describing the chemical and physiological changes experienced.
(14.) R.W. Dale, "Constance Naden," Contemporary Review 59 (1891): 513.
(15.) Angela Leighton, "Constance Naden," in Victorian Women Poets: An Anthology, eds. Leighton and Margaret Reynolds (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), p. 559. In a related vein, J. Jakub Pitha observes, "Although her poetry is rarely overtly feminist, many of the 'love' poems, humorous or nor, explore the delicate negotiations of power in female/male relationships" ("Constance Naden," Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 199, ed. William B. Thesing [Detroit: Gale, 1999], p. 214). Despite Naden's poetic achievements, however, she has received little coverage in modern scholarship, an unfortunate omission.
(16.) All quotations from Naden's poetry come from The Complete Poetical Works of Constance Naden.
(17.) Naden's devotion to form is evident in her belief, as R.W. Dale observed, "that sins against form are unpardonable in a poet" (p. 518). Naden's "Poet and Botanist" is also instructive in this regard. Like the naturalist, the poet can be a "ruthless" practitioner who metaphorically employs a "cruel knife and microscope to "work a spell! Of love or fame" and tear apart a bud's "tender leaves" to tell "His thoughts, and render up its deepest hue / To tinge his verse." The poet is gendered male in this verse, underscored by Naden's emphatic italics, which suggest a woman's displacement not only from the Victorian world of science but also of the similarly masculinized sphere of literary endeavor into which the intellectually rigorous work of poetic accomplishment, as opposed to the "light" literary efforts conventionally associated with women writers, would presumably fall. As anthropologist.]. McGrigor Allan believed, women were "diligent workers" in "the lighter departments of literature" (p. ccvii) while "man reigns supreme" in literature's "highest realms" (p. ccx).
(18.) Henry Maudsley, "Sex in Mind and in Education," Fortnightly Review 21 (1874): 467.
(19.) Even Naden herself was considered to be a female aberration by none other than Herbert Spencer. After her death he opined "that in her case, as in other cases, the mental powers so highly developed in a woman are in some measure abnormal, and involve a physiological cost which the feminine organization will not bear without injury more or less profound" (Hughes, pp. 89-90).
(20.) One of Naden's professors, geologist Charles Lapworrh, applied the same spurious logic to Naden's own case in the introduction he wrote for Hughes' memoir. Though Lapworth effuses about Naden's intelligence, he is careful to stress that "[s]he was always womanly" (Hughes, p. xvi). "There was nothing of the sexless 'blue stocking' about her," he proclaimed, for Naden evinced "many of the instinctive proclivities, and all the tender sympathies of her sex." Biographer Hughes emphasized the same point in observing that, "although a scientist and philosopher . . . her womanly grace and womanly sympathy were always dominant" (p. 22). He added, "Like George Eliot, she had the intellect of a man, but the heart of the most womanly of women, and though science and literature were much to her, love and friendship were infinitely more" (p. 63).
(21.) A Naden character who adheres to the advice and chooses love over learning is the eponymous woman in "The Story of Glance," a lengthy narrative in which she, in her formative years, lives in isolation with her father "with books for comrades." In the opening stanzas, Clarice is presented as intellectually gifted, yet that precocity apparently precludes the possibility of romantic involvement in distancing her from potential suitors. More disconcerting, though, is the negative effect her learning has upon the blossoming of her womanhood, lying latent but thwarted in development:
Grave was her mouth, and yet was formed for smiles; Pale were her cheecks--how lovely, had they blushed! No sweet gay looks were hers, no girlish wiles; Not that her woman's instincts had been crushed; But, like azaleas in a darkened room, They had not air and light enough to bloom.
Intellectuality is curiously viewed as stunting her maturation; despite her learning, the narrator remarks, Glance is "so child-like," a conclusion reiterated through a reference to her "childlike eyes." Although a suitor subsequently appears, Glance's preoccupation with learning prevents her from responding appropriately to his romantic initiatives. Books are subsequently expelled from the narrative altogether, as the expected realization of wedded bliss dominates the final stanzas.
PATRICIA MURPHY is Assistant Professor of English at Missouri Southern State College. She has published several articles on Victorian literature and is author of Time Is of the Essence: Temporality, Gender, and the New Woman (State University of New York Press, 2001).