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A Victorian Taxonomy of Occupations

By Alison Hedley

In Summer 2018, the Ryerson Centre for Digital Humanities launched the website for the Yellow Nineties Personography, a biographical database of persons who contributed to a number of little magazines produced in Britain at the fin de siècle, as documented by the Yellow Nineties Online. The website is a culmination (but not the final output) of many years’ research and development. One of the most theoretically challenging aspects of this work has been developing the Personography’s domain model—a formal representation of its organizational structure which describes the Personography’s knowledge domain by assigning the data classes, attributes, and rules. The taxonomy of Victorian occupations that constitutes a specific sub-structure of this ontology illustrates how digitally documenting the Victorians can enhance our recognition of the possibilities and limitations inherent in both historical and contemporary models for structuring cultural knowledge.

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Henry Hawkins’s Newspaper Heist of 1892

By Stephan Pigeon

“March of Education.” Punch Historical Archive [London, England] 17 May 1879: 227. Punch Historical Archive, 1841-1992. Web. 3 Aug. 2018. Gale News Vault.

In the nineteenth-century newspaper marketplace, journalists and editors prized access to the latest news. Consistently delivering desirable correspondence and the most up-to-date information meant a dedicated readership. An edge on competitors meant greater sales and profits.

While many British newspapers paid for updates and intelligence through a news agency or supplied their own correspondents, some papers relied on reprinting news from articles that had already been published. Without an effective copyright in news, texts regularly circulated throughout the press. While cutting out an article and reprinting it – known as ‘scissors-and-paste’ journalism – was a handy method to deliver the latest information, it still meant waiting for another paper to publish the news first. For some newspaper proprietors, this was not sufficient.

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A Crisis of Liberalism

Fosco pets a dog

“Count Fosco and the Dog” from The Woman in White (New York: Harper, 1873). Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

by Sophia Hsu

Like the Victorians, we in the contemporary West are not as liberal as we think. The idea that the West is the world’s timeless arbiter of freedom is a myth that has been ingrained in our thinking since at least the nineteenth century. Whig historians such as Thomas Macaulay were largely responsible for creating this myth by obscuring English liberalism’s violent, erratic past—a myth that twenty-first-century Britons, Americans, and other Western peoples have inherited and rewritten for their own stories about their respective nations’ foundings.

In my article, I show how Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White disrupts the liberal fantasies Victorians liked to tell about themselves. Through its Italian characters Pesca and Fosco, the novel shines a light on English liberal hypocrisy, exposing the fallacy of England’s self-perception as a liberal sanctuary. Collins might seem like a strange figure to discuss to problematize the West’s liberal narratives. For a while, Victorianists viewed his sensation novels and the sensation genre in general as complicit in liberal ideology.[1] More recently, however, scholars argue that sensation fiction is more critically sophisticated than previously believed.[2] With my article, I join these scholars in illuminating the critical capacity of sensation fiction. Through my rereading of The Woman in White, then, perhaps we can not only reconsider the political function of the sensation genre but also remind ourselves of liberalism’s entanglement with violence, thus providing us with a model to unsettle our own complacencies about our national histories and identities.

Indeed, in revisiting my article to write this blog post, I’ve become increasingly struck by the continued relevance of Collins’s critique. As a Victorianist living in the U.S., I find myself thinking a lot about what it means to do Victorian studies in the age of Trump. I know I’m not alone in such contemplation. In addition to the many conversations I’ve had with friends, family, and colleagues, I’ve read numerous articles and blog posts that tackle this very question: what role do we as scholars of Victorian literature and culture play in what feels like a heightened time of racism, white nationalism, sexism, distrust, etc.?[3] My first answer usually lies in the significance of teaching and modeling critical thinking. Entangled with this is my second answer: teaching students how to think critically means giving them the tools to “historiciz[e] the present.”[4]

The importance of historicizing is, of course, not new. But historicizing gains a new sense of urgency now when both sides of the political spectrum appeal to popular but categorically false myths about the U.S. as a beacon of liberty, democracy, and order. For example, just before drafting this post, I spent my morning reading news articles that reported how Trump supporters and opponents alike are using the idea that the U.S. is a land of laws and equality in order to defend or attack the administration’s recent policy to separate immigrant families. While it may seem contradictory that these factions can appeal to the same national narrative, their appeal makes sense when we consider how and why this narrative persists. In exposing the beginnings of this myth, The Woman in White might not be the story we (or the Victorians) want to read, but it is perhaps the story we desperately need.

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Hsu, Sophia. “The History of Liberal Violence in The Woman in White,” Victorian Review
vol 43, no 1, Spring 2017, pp. 111-128.

Notes

[1] See, for example, Jonathan Loesberg, “The Ideology of Narrative Form in Sensation Fiction,” Representations 13 (1986): 115–38 and D. A. Miller, The Novel and the Police, Univ. of California Press, 1988, 146–91.

[2] See, for example, Anna Maria Jones, Problem Novels: Victorian Fiction Theorizes the Sensational Self, Ohio State Univ. Press, 2007.

[3] For a recent example of this literature, see the latest V21 series on pedagogy, “Victorian Teaching Now: Teaching Under Trump” (http://v21collective.org/victorian-teaching-now-teaching-trump/).

[4] Mary Mullen, “Teaching Under Trump: Historicizing the Present,” http://v21collective.org/teaching-trump-historicizing-present/. See also Ryan Fong, “Connection as Confrontation,” http://v21collective.org/connection-as-confrontation/.

Hamilton Prize Winner

We’d like to congratulate the Hamilton Prize winner for 2017, Scott Thompson of Temple University. Thompson’s prize-winning essay is entitled, “Subjective Realism and Diligent Imagination: G. H. Lewes’ Theory of Psychology and George Eliot’s Impressions of Theophrastus Such“; it will appear in the Fall 2018 issue of the Victorian Review.

Wilkie Collins and the Sensational Baby

Black and white photograph of a baby in a bonnet.

Baby ‘Pictet,” by Julia Margaret Cameron, image courtesy wikimedia commons.

by Tamara Wagner

The Victorian baby is generally thought of as a cliché, a useful icon of domesticity, an accessory in idealisations of motherhood, childhood, or the family. Once one takes a closer look, however, the baby of nineteenth-century popular culture emerges as a very volatile and flexible figure that appears in surprising forms and undertakes a range of narrative functions. The most provocative manifestation of odd literary babyhood in Victorian fiction is indisputably the sensational baby. Sensation novelists were aware of the controversial potential and often played out striking instances of incongruity, and yet the most revealing instances push the placements of infants in sensational scenarios beyond their usefulness as emblems of innocence that enhance – through sheer force of contrast – a sensational incursion into the domestic. Instead, babies are central to mysteries or import a potential threat. Wilkie Collins not only features infants in startling moments that play with the baby’s expected sentimentalisation; he challenges conventional representations of such controversial issues as illegitimacy, child-stealing, or adoption. In the process, he exposes the precariousness of childcare at a time when blended families were fairly common, but there was little to no legal protection for informally adopted or fostered children. He also interrogates normative conceptions of breastfeeding, for example, and in his early sensational novel Hide and Seek (1854), a clown’s wife offers to suckle a starving infant at the roadside, drawing attention to the wide variety of very visible breastfeeding scenes in Victorian literature. In his later novels, he explores the distress of birth mothers who have given up or lost their babies and creates one of the most explicit evocations of a baby-farmer in nineteenth-century fiction. Collins’s fictional babies indeed offer a compelling entry-point into a revealing re-examination of the ambiguities and contestations that lay underneath the Victorian iconography of babyhood.

Wagner, Tamara S. “Wilkie Collins’s Sensational Babies: Lost Mothers and Victorian Babyhood,” Victorian Review, vol 43, no 1, Spring 2017, pp. 129-142.

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CFP: Victorian Animals, Deadline August 15

The dormouse speaks to Alice, the birds and a crab

Illustration to the third chapter of Alice in Wonderland by John Tenniel. Wood-engraving by Thomas Dalziel.

In light of the recent flowering of scholarship that brings together Victorian Studies and Animal Studies we are soliciting submissions for a cluster of essays on Victorian Animals, which will be published in our Spring 2019 issue. Essays might address any aspect of Victorian Animality, from studies of specific animals, institutions, and organizations, to readings of the figure of the animal in the literature and art of the period. Queries can be addressed to Submissions Editor Kristen Guest at vreview@unbc.ca.

Submissions are due August 15 to vreview@unbc.ca and should conform to the requirements of the journal (5,000-8,000 words, MLA style; full guidelines at http://victorianreview.org).

Island Encounters in Focus

by Carla Manfredi

Lloyd Osbourn

Lloyd Osbourne dressed as a Marquesan. Image Courtesy The Writers’ Museum, Museums and Galleries Edinburgh.

In June 1888, Robert Louis Stevenson and his family set sail for the Pacific Islands aboard the Casco. It was not long before the famous author, encouraged by his wife and step-son who had packed at least two cameras and 1200 plates, became an enthusiastic practitioner of travel photography. Over the course of three years spent cruising, Stevenson visited no less than fifty islands across the areas known as Polynesia and Micronesia and, in collaboration with his family, produced approximately 600 photographs. When the peripatetic family settled in Sāmoa in 1891, they organized their photographs into four family albums. Stevenson, however, never left the Pacific; after his death in 1894, the precious album collection remained with his family until they bequeathed them to Edinburgh’s Writers’ Museum in the 1930s.

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Special Issue of VR: Trans Victorians

Submission Date: 15 October 2017

The Victorian Review invites submissions for its special issue devoted to Trans Victorians. From the Chevalier/Chevalière D’Eon, Fanny and Stella, Dr. James Miranda Barry, and Vernon Lee, to the intersecting identities found in gender diverse side shows, including Madame Clofullia and Julia Pastrana, and the political cross-dressing of the Welsh Rebecca Riots, the Victorian era was populated by all manner of non-binary and gender expansive slippages. At the same time, Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s conflation of queer sexual orientation and trans gender identity and expression became part of the scientific foundation that informed cisnormative and heteronormative standards not only in medicine and the law, but the popular imagination. This special issue seeks to explore the overt and covert constructions of resistance to the constructions of more rigid gender binaries throughout Victorian Britain and abroad.

Recent critical work in Transgender/Trans Studies has begun to reconsider narratives of “transness” within structures of intersecting identities that focus on race, class, national identity, ability, colonialism and imperialism, and has begun to tease out the mis-readings and differences between sexual orientation and gender identity and gender expression. Within post-colonial contexts, trans research has also begun to interrogate the British global mis-readings of gender diversity among various groups in the colonies such as the hijras in India and tangata ira tane and takatapui (Maori) in New Zealand. How might we approach Victorian Trans Studies while recognizing that the term “trans” or “transgender” and the meanings we now grant to them did not exist in the Victorian period?

Possible topics may include (but are not limited to):

Trans Representation in Victorian Literature (all genres) including Supportive and/or Derisive Depictions
Gender Diversity in Colonial Contexts
British and European Authoritative Readings of Trans
British and European Embodiments of Trans
Trans and Sex Crimes
Trans and Medicine
Trans and Law
Trans and Religion
Trans Communities and Cultures
Cross-Dressing as Theatrical Performance
Cross-Dressing as Political Theatre
Cross-Dressing as Embracing Trans Identity
The Spectacle of Trans Embodiment
Trans Celebrity/Trans Legends

Essays must be between 5000 and 8000 words and formatted according to MLA (8th edition) guidelines. Please submit manuscripts to Ardel Haefele-Thomas (guest editor):
Electronic Submissions: athomas@ccsf.edu

Mailed Submissions:
Dr. Ardel Haefele-Thomas, Chair
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies
City College of San Francisco
50 Phelan Avenue
Box C11
San Francisco, CA 94112
USA

Tennyson and the French Poets

by Ann Kennedy Smith

Oil Portrait of Tennyson

1840 portrait of Tennyson by Samuel Laurence. Copyright National Portrait Galley, London.

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) is often seen as a very British poet. A new book, The Reception of Alfred Tennyson in Europe, examines how Tennyson’s poetry was published, distributed, translated and reviewed in the wider context of Europe from 1832 until today. I wrote about his French reception in it, and in this blog I’ll focus on some of the French poets and writers who admired, were influenced by, borrowed or stole from Tennyson.

Perhaps surprisingly, one of Tennyson’s very first fan letters was from a French poet. Hippolyte Lucas’s first collection of poetry was published in 1832, the same year that Tennyson’s early Poems appeared. Lucas’s letter has since been lost, but Tennyson’s reply of April 1834 shows how flattered he was to receive it.

It is a pleasurable thing to have found out a poetical spirit that can sympathize with me on the other side of the broad seas. Poets, as you say, are – at least they ought to be – bound together by an electric chain – for a Poet does not speak only to his own countrymen but wishes that his words and feelings penetrate wherever there exists a brother to echo them.[i]

Was the ‘electric chain’ that Tennyson refers to here connected to early experiments in electrical telegraphy? It’s a delightful image if so, evoking an international network of poets communicating and sharing their ideas across borders, regardless of differences in language and culture. Unfortunately, his optimism was unfulfilled, and for many years Tennyson’s poetry went largely unread outside Britain. Most nineteenth-century Europeans were still in love with the dashing, dramatic poetry of Lord Byron, who had died a hero fighting for Greek independence, and Tennyson seemed rather tame and insular by comparison.

But French poets did continue to read Tennyson, sometimes discovering his poetry through unusual channels. In 1851 Charles Baudelaire was preparing to translate some stories by Edgar Allan Poe, then a little-known writer. By chance he came across an obituary of Poe by the editor John R. Thompson. ‘Among modern authors his favourite was Tennyson,’ Thompson wrote,

and he delighted to recite from ‘The Princess’ the song ‘Tears, idle tears’; a fragment of which ‘– when unto dying eyes / The casement slowly grows a glimmering square’ he pronounced unsurpassed by any image expressed in writing.[ii]

This was Baudelaire’s introduction to the English poet’s work and he began reading it in earnest. Six years later he instructed his publisher to send copies of his own first collection of poetry, Les Fleurs du mal (1857) to just three English writers: De Quincey, Browning and Tennyson. We don’t know if Tennyson ever received it. Soon afterwards Baudelaire was prosecuted for offending public morals, and all remaining books were seized and destroyed.

Other French poets paid tribute to Tennyson by borrowing freely from him. Joseph Autran’s ‘Gertrude’ (1856) was a straightforward translation of Tennyson’s ‘Dora’, even if Autran did not admit it. André Theuriet’s eleven-part poem ‘In Memoriam’ (1857) went further, taking the name and theme of deep mourning from Tennyson’s 1850 work, and inserting lines from ‘Mariana’, an earlier poem.

In 1864 Tennyson’s Enoch Arden, etc was an immediate bestseller both in Britain and in Europe. The title poem tells the story of a shipwrecked sailor who returns home after ten years to find his wife, believing him dead, has remarried. It struck a lasting chord with French readers, and was translated many times over the years. One translator, Émile Blémont, agreed with Browning who admired Tennyson’s poem but disliked the ending. So Blémont simply changed it. In his translation, the heroic Enoch ensures that his identity is kept secret after his death. The poet Stéphane Mallarmé loved Blémont’s version: ‘The real translation! And how one hears Tennyson singing through it, if one has the slightest ear for English!’[iii] Mallarmé himself had published a ‘poetic prose’ translation of ‘Mariana’ in 1874 while translating Poe’s stories. As Gerhard Joseph has pointed out, the musicality of Poe’s and Tennyson’s English language inspired the French poet’s own stylistic concept of pure poetry.[iv] Mallarmé acknowledged his debt to the English poet in his 1892 essay ‘Tennyson, vu d’ici’ (‘Tennyson, seen from here’) which was included in his collection of poetic critical essays, Divagations in 1897.[v]

Other French writers took a less reverent approach. Émile Zola’s brilliant novella, Jacques Damour (1880), about a former Communard who returns to Paris after the amnesty to find his newly bourgeois wife does not want him back, is clearly a satirical reworking of ‘Enoch Arden’. Zola always claimed that he had never read a line of Tennyson, but I’m convinced that he knew the story well. One mystery remains. Did Victor Hugo ever read Tennyson? If he did, he kept quiet about it. Despite their political differences, Tennyson read and admired Hugo’s poetry throughout his life, and even wrote a questionable sonnet in his honour. Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately – Hugo did not return the compliment.

Bio:

Dr Ann Kennedy Smith is a panel tutor at Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education. She is currently researching Cambridge’s university wives 1870-1914, and has contributed to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Her Twitter handle is @akennedysmith.

Notes

[i] The Letters of Alfred Lord Tennyson eds Cecil Y. Lang and Edgar F. Shannon, 3 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982–90). III: 451

[ii] ‘The Late Edgar E. Poe’ (1849), in appendix of Edgar Allan Poe: sa vie et ses ouvrages, Charles Baudelaire, W.T. Bandy (ed.), (Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1973)

[iii] Clerget, F., Emile Blémont (Paris: Bibliothèque de l’Association, 1906) pp. 130–31

[iv] ‘Stéphane Mallarmé’s Tennyson vu d’ici’ in Tennyson Research Bulletin, 7. 5: November 2001

[v] In Mallarmé in Prose, Caws, M. A. (ed.) (New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2001) pp. 70–73