Names and Stories: Emilia Dilke and Victorian Culture

By Kali Israel | Go to book overview

4
BODIES Marriage, Adultery, and Death

This chapter, like the last, ranges through three sets of stories: stories that depict marriage as a site of mortal conflict over bodies and minds; stories of extramarital relationships that invite and elude scandalously sexual interpretations; and stories about dying. In each section, I show stories embedded in the texts of relationships and stories that circulated more widely; the story of sex told by Francis Pattison's letters and the stories Emilia Dilke published about women's bodies; the story constructed by Mark Pattison and Meta Bradley about their innocence and the novel Rhoda Broughton published in revenge for Mark Pattison's involving her in his stories; the story of Mark Pattison's death his wife/widow told and that death's ironic relation to novels. In these tales, bodies--conjugal and celibate, wedded and unlicensed, expressive and paralyzed, healthy and suffering, living and dead--form the stakes in and gesture to urgent struggles over minds, souls, families, and writing.

I begin by examining Emilia Dilke's stories of marriage as a battle over bodies. Francis Pattison's epistolary struggles with Mark Pattison and her relationships of confidence with other women oscillate between fury and guilt, as sexuality forms both a crucial site of struggle and anguish in the Pattison marriage and a language through which other struggles are waged. Francis Pattison/ Emilia Dilke presented bodies as sites of suffering and grounds of resistance, but these stories are not reducible to sexual meanings, and Pattison/ Dilke's stories--published and private--about marriage as a violent contest reveals the usability, as well as the importance, of the language of bodies in other angry narratives of refusal. This theme is continued in the second section. While the program notes for Tom Stoppard Oxford play, The Invention of Love, easily categorize Mark Pattison as "a cuckolded married celibate," I refuse the question

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