Showalter essay

We see him refusing to attend the funeral of his first wife, the funeral of his father, the funeral of his seasonally on the excuse of failing health (he lived to be 81 We see him, a professed Radical, writing a weekly column for a Tory newspaper for money, reading to an old lady every week for money, indeed performing task he could for money: “Meredith was reappeared do anything in the literary line provided he was paid for it,” Williams says. Memorization no interest in his son Will until he was about to marry an heiress (Merchandiser’s wife had been an heiress) and then suddenly he starts writing letters full of hectoring strategy.

The fastidious Meredith, son of a bankrupt tailor, couldn’t tolerate his friend Rosette’s eating habits. In old age he was described by Kipling as “An old, withered little man given to elaboratedepigrammaticspeech”; as a conversationalist he was a show-off and had the habit of changing his feathers to suit his audience. In is last years he developed various theories about blood and race and became monomaniacal the necessity of maladministration. As a reader manuscripts for Chapman Hall he rectitude’s Buttonhole’s(his only comment: “won’t do”) and advised Thomas Hardy not to write verse (Meredith thought himself a great poet).

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Williams is surely right to call Meredith one of the most cosmopolitan and least insular of the nineteenth century English novelists. And his argument that Meredith never spoke of the things closest to him-indeed, that he was never really close to anybody, not even his wives-and that he was intensely secretive and unable to write directly about his own emotions, using fiction as a release for those emotions, seems very convincingness. So is his explanation the characteristicobscurityof Meredith novels: “the rushing about amongst his complications… [he] forgets to ‘place’ himself, and to ‘place’ us. ” On these matters he is perceptive. T is not enough, however, to save this book from its egregious faults. The definitive life of Meredith- awaiting perhaps, the next “revival”-remains to be written. JOHN HAL PERRINE, Universities Southerliness’s A Literature Their Own: British Women Novelists from Bronze SALTWATER, o Leasing 1 977), up. 378, $17. 50. ELAINE Like many histories, A Literature Their Own begins when innocence is lost: Elaine Saltwater opens her account of British women novelists not with Para Been or even with Jane Austin but with the Bronzes and their contemporaries-the first generation, This content downloaded from 210. 12. 129. 125 on Sun, 15 Feb.. 201 5 09:17:51 282 ENVELOPING 1978 she argues, to recognize that they could not write nakedly as women and to adopt the figural of the male pseudonym cover their sex. But this loss of incontestable what it means to be both novelist and female is for Saltwater a fortunate fall, at once a moment of painful self-consciousness and the beginning of a genuine literary tradition.

Taking her title from an observation John Structuralism in 1869-“lowlife lived in a differentiations from men and had never read any of their writings, they would have a literature of their own” -Saltwater does away with Mills subjunctive by suggesting that his fantastic hypothesis was in part secret fact: for all their physical proximity to men, she implies, there is a sense in which Frontierswomen were underlining in a country different from Mill’s, and a sense n which they already possessed the native literature he could only imagine.

While Mill and Greenhorn Less were lamentation women novelists wrote just like men, the women themselves were slowly growing aware of their separateness leaving a recorded that awareness their fiction. It is the growth of a collective self-consciousness, then-the history of a distinct literary subculture-that A Literature Their Own sets out to record. Cultural autonomy grows here by analogy to the personal kind: the sequence Saltwater traces is loosely Erikson, a series of necessary stages by which the group develops an identity of its own.

Indeed, all ultraconservatives,coelenterate’s, can be traced through three macrophages: first a phase of “imitation”and “naturalization” in which the us baccalaureate’s adopts the values and literary forms of the dominant tradition-a phase which here extends from the widespread appearance the male pseudonym in the sass’s to the death of George Eliot in 1880; next a phase of “advocacy” and “protest” in which the subculture rejects prevailing values and begins to declare its autonomy-a stage which Saltwater associates with the years between 1880 and the winning of the vote in 1 920; and finally a phase of “self-discovery”-. Turning inward freed from some of the dependency opposition, a search for identity,” which here begins around 1920 and continues to the present, “entering a new stage of selfsameness around 1960” (p. 13). Having survived a culture’s equivalent of childhood and adolescence, the model implies, the female tradition now approaches genuine maturity. Saltwater labels these three stages of growth the “feminine, “the the “female”-problematic words, their very awkwardness a testimony to our culture’s confusion about the attributes sex. Feminist”is perhaps least ambiguous these, standing as it does for a vaguely contestable of social and political attitudes; but both the distractingly connotative “feminine” and the dry, rather detached “female” prove more troublesome. Thoroughly grounded in sexual convention, an adjective for being as the culture expects women to be, “feminine” is a word difficult to associate with the massive achievement the Bronzes, George Eliot, and Mrs…

Glasses: the very existence of the novels-let alone the separateness’s Schoolteachers us to read in them-continually calls the adjective into question. “Female,” in contrast, seems designedly neutral, its freedom from annotation clearly intended for novelists engaged in radically redefining what it means TX be a woman. But since Saltwater will later argue that her principal “female” novelists, Dorothy Richardson Virginia Wolf, were themselves deeply troubled,even terrified,by their sex, that bravely unencumbered adjectivally proves misleading.

This content downloaded from 210. 212. 129. 125 on sun, 15 Feb.. 201 5 REVIEWERS FEMALE TRADITION 283 The fact is that Shallower written not one history but many-a book whose very richness keeps subverting categories proposes. “l am internationalization… T the ways in which the self-awareness of the woman writer has translated itself into a literary form in a specifically and time- span,how this self-awareness changed and developed, and where it might lead,” she announces at the outset (p. 2); but it is often on those impulses and choices of which her novelists were least aware that Saltwater herself is most original. Whether she is writing about secret anger in Jane Rye or secret fears in Virginia Wolf, many of the most provocative and convincing observations A Literature Their Own have little to do with her novelists’ conscious sense of their own identity.

And though an individual may perhaps be unconsciously aware of who she is, it is hard to know in what sense a subculture: there are many heroines here, but the idea of female “self- awareness”in the abstract,a sort of collective heroine who changes and grows over time, proves terribly elusive. What Saltwater has given us is not really the single life-history her model promises, but a perceptive wide-ranging family chronicle. One of the pleasures Of reading A Literature Their Own lies in discovering pre-. Obviously forgotten branches the family, in tracing hitherto buried lines of kinship and inheritance.

Thaw have failed to sense such connections before, Saltwater suggests, can partly be attributed our insistent concentrations the extraordinary: studying George Eliot or Virginia Wolf in isolation from others of the sex neatly confirms our assumption that they were thus isolated, that the only tradition to which they belonged was the Great. Quoting Wolf herself on the way in which “the extraordinary woman depends on the ordinary woman” (p. 9), Saltwater recovers for us many of these more ordinary ones-sensation novelists like Mary Brandon,Rhoda Brought, and Mrs… Henry Wood; feminists like Lady Efflorescence, Olive

Grandchildren Sarah Grand; suffragettes radicalized Elizabethans and Dora Marines. Simply as an introduction the lives and works of women such as these, A Literature Their Own is illuminating and richly informative. Let is often engagingly plotted besides: to follow the account of Braggadocio’s Dudley as she pushes her husband down a well-or of Robin’s militant heroine, Vida Levering, as she blackmailers Parliamentary-lover into backing the suffrage bill by threatening seduce his new fiancee into the women’s movement-is to share Shelter’s delight in the narrative exuberance’s the female imagination.

And to see the direct kinship between the murderousness of sensation fiction, for example,and Letterhead’s Modularize,the Fractiousness Middleware who coolly does away with her husband because “he wearied me; he was too fond” (Chi. 1 5), is to recognize anew the way in which great art feeds and thrives on the notes- great. The half-unreasonableness Harlem also belongs to this fictional sisterhood, as Saltwater points out, and so too, though she does not mention it, does that “basil plant” whom Legate actually marries, the fatal Roseland herself, who “flourished wonderfully a nurseryman’s brains” (“Finale”).

To what extent Collaborationist’s resemblance undersecretaries direct imitation and sisterly influence, and to what extent they are alike simply because they share common ancestors or have grown up under similar conditions, is of course no easier to sort out here than it is with most families. But beyond the genealogies of character,the family resemblances authors lives and novels’ plots, many of these literary kin can This content downloaded from 210. 212. 129. 125 on Sun, 15 Feb.. 201 5 09:1 7:51 284 Enveloping be recognized by the secrets they kept-even secrets they unconsciously kept, moieties, from themselves.

For Victorian women in particular, as Saltwater observes, “secrecy was simply a way of life” (p. 158): the lawless passions that Brotherliness uncovers in Identified attic are precisely those that Boardinghouse’s later hides, and they are connected both cases to women’s familiarity’s less spectacularly of concealment and disguise. Saltwater is especially good at ferreting out these secrets-the-fictional-attic- not only the madness and lust that rage in the third story of Threefold,but the energy and power that are deterministically the Overstretches or ore obliquely disguised by the limp passivity of a Scarlet Pimpernel.

Arguing that the heroes of many women’s novels “are not so much their ideal lovers as their projected egos” (p. 136), A Literature Their Own characteristicallyteaches us to read in the language “feminine”fiction a secreted of female authoritarian power. In most Victorianism that will-to- female-powers of course not purveyed far, restrained it is by the conventions of sexual behavioral of plotting. Even the sensationalists of the ass’s never gave full rein to their lurid fantasies of escape and revenge: “By the second volume guilt has set in.

In the third volume we see the horseradishes, repentant,and drained all energy” (p. 180). But the very constrainedly which the Victorians labored produced novels that ironically seem richer and more satisfying than many that followed. If “the repression in which the feminine novel was situated… Forced women to find innovative and covert ways to traumatized the inner life, and led to a fiction that was intense, compact,symbolic, and profound”(up. 27-28), the angry candor of the feminists, in contrast, proved more suited to rhetoric than poetry (p. 93).

Yet the impoverishment’s most troubles Saltwater is not so much esthetics as psychological social-an uneasiness in women’s relationship the world around them and to themselves. Beginning with the writers of the ass’s and ass’s and continuing in somewhat altered form even with contemporariness Durable and Leasing, Saltwater finds in her novelists disturbingly Of evasion and retreat,the defensive maneuvers those anxious to deny the full truth of their experience. Let is as if the lifting of repressiveness women terrified their own once-presidium’s and desires: while the

Victoriously write fiction that explicitly affirmed social reordered as it half-consciously, symbolically, rebelled, their successors responded to new freedom by producing literature anxiety and flight. Though the modes of evasion vary, the image which haunts the last third of Shelter’s book is that of a narrowly enclosed female space; from the perspective of A Literature Their Own, apparently, “A Room of One’s Own” can seem nightmarishly claustrophobic.