The woman author-editor and the negotiation of professional identity, 1850-1880
AbstractThis thesis examines the professional identities of three Victorian novelists, George Eliot (1819-1880), Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901) and Florence Marryat (1837-1899), all of whom worked as editors between 1850 and 1880. I explore the practices that these women adopted as journalists in order to survive, and indeed thrive, within a male-dominated literary marketplace, revealing a number of strategies in common as well as some important differences. I also consider how these author-editors represented the experience of the female artist-professional in their fiction, demonstrating that each woman figured the mid-Victorian ideal of domesticity as useful when seeking to negotiate a public identity within a challenging professional climate. Working in the press during a period which has been described as a ‘golden age of women’s journalism,’ these writers nevertheless faced numerous challenges. The purpose of this thesis is to examine why George Eliot, Charlotte Yonge and Florence Marryat found useful the particular practices they chose when editing and writing fiction within the context of this rapidly changing climate. By examining this very diverse sample of writers, I demonstrate how women responded to the demands of the mid-Victorian periodical press, and their role within it, through the practices of anonymity, male pseudonyms, signature and posing as amateurs. The Introduction examines the nature of the professional/amateur divide at mid-century, and demonstrates how women could usefully subvert domestic ideology to position themselves as amateurs and thus covertly enter the public sphere. I offer an overview of research into the periodical press, as well as the position of the woman journalist. In the second part of my Introduction, I introduce the magazines that Eliot, Yonge and Marryat edited, describing a typical issue and offering important contextual information. Chapter One looks at George Eliot’s editorship of The Westminster Review (1852-1854), arguing that while Eliot adopted the tactic of anonymity and pseudonymity she nevertheless developed the persona of an ‘editress’ through her private correspondence. Chapter One examines the ideal of women’s literary professionalism that Eliot developed through the articles she published in The Westminster Review, based upon the values of hard work, training and excellence, and how this was then reflected in her representation of the female artist-professional in her fiction in texts as diverse as Scenes of Clerical Life (1858) and Daniel Deronda (1876). Chapter Two explores Charlotte Yonge’s editorship of The Monthly Packet (1851-1899) and the lesser-known privately circulated magazine The Barnacle (1863-1867). I examine Yonge’s practice of signature and posing as an amateur, as well as her editorial character of ‘Mother Goose,’ arguing that Yonge shared many of Eliot’s ideals of literary professionalism and that this is reflected in novels such as Dynevor Terrace (1857) and The Clever Woman of the Family (1865). In Chapter Three, I examine Florence Marryat’s editorship of London Society (1872-1876). I explore Marryat’s practice of signature, posing as an amateur when new to her profession and her editorial character of the ‘spiritualist editress,’ arguing that like Yonge, Marryat’s vision of women’s professionalism was similar to that of Eliot and that this was reflected in her representation of the female artist-professional in texts such as Her World Against a Lie (1878) and My Sister the Actress (1881). Despite writing for very different markets, what emerges from the fiction of all three author-editors is an idealised combination of posing as an amateur and skilful performance as an artist. Drawing on original archival research, this thesis recovers their hitherto under-researched editorial work, prompting a reconsideration of the canonical work of George Eliot, stressing the significance of the more familiar work of Charlotte Yonge and introducing Florence Marryat as an important but neglected literary figure.
TypeThesis or dissertation
SponsorsGladstone Fellow Scholarship from the University of Chester
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