Silent Voices: Forgotten Novels by Victorian Women Writers

Silent Voices: Forgotten Novels by Victorian Women Writers

Silent Voices: Forgotten Novels by Victorian Women Writers

Silent Voices: Forgotten Novels by Victorian Women Writers

Synopsis

Discusses a wide variety of forgotten novels by Victorian women writers and argues that these once popular but now neglected works deserve greater critical attention.

Excerpt

I dedicate this book to aunts, which I think is quite fitting, considering the topic. Aunts are like the women writers of the nineteenth century who are under query in this collection. Not George Eliot or Charlotte Bronte or Elizabeth Gaskell or even Harriet Martineau, the recognized "mothers" in the "Victorian canon," but the ones who often do not get as much as a footnote in literary history anymore, let alone serious consideration—women such as Grace Aguilar, Catherine Crowe, Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna, Annie E. Holdsworth, Ella Hepworth Dixon, Flora Annie Steel, Anne Thackeray, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Sarah Grand, Dinah Mulock Craik, Ouida, Marie Corelli, Ellen Wood, Elizabeth Sewell, Isabella Beeton, Julia Buckley, Rosina Bulwer Lytton, Eliza Cheap, Irene Clifton, Rosa Nouchette Carey, Anna Maria Hall, E.P. Hamilton, Barbara Hofland, Margaret Hunt, Violet Hunt, Anna Jameson, Rachel M'Crindell, Emma Marshall, Mary Maurice, Dora Ross, Mary Martha Sherwood, Florence Warden, Charlotte Yonge, and so many more talented women, now forgotten. You can find their books only if you know first that at some point they existed. And then you have to work hard at getting your hands on copies buried in special collections here and there. If you're lucky, you might come across some of them through diligent searches or accidental discoveries at flea markets and used book sales. And then you need to turn their delicate pages with care or they will crumble and tear between your fingertips, because most of them have not been reprinted since the nineteenth century. These were written by women who at one time spoke with oft-heard voice that forged the attitudes, behavior, and perspectives of our old aunts and grandmothers and great-grandmothers, who, in turn, imprinted Victorian values in us. Maybe the books have been mostly lost to boxes in our attics and basements, and their sentiments equally as lost to our current understanding and accessibility to Victorian culture, but they are as important as aunts are to our legacy from the nineteenth century.

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