• The country in the writings of Elizabeth Gaskell

      Billington, Josie; Wynne, Deborah; Best, Aline M. (University of Liverpool (University College Chester), 2004-09)
      The country is an element within all the writings of Elizabeth Gaskell, in her letters, short stories and novels, even the 'condition-of-England' novels set within the city, and The Life of Charlotte Bronte. Yet, it is an aspect of her writing which has suffered from relative critical neglect. It is, therefore, an interesting and appropriate choice of subject for a dissertation for the M.A. in Literary Studies: 'The Country and the City'. The Introduction, after indicating the significance of Gaskell's letters in relation to the country, gives reasons for the selection of the short stories as the basis of the study of Gaskell's depiction of the country, together with the novel, Sylvia's Lovers, which is closest in stance and technique to the portrayal of country life in the short stories and also offers an interesting contrast between life in the country and the town. Reference is also made to other texts wherever appropriate. The study is essentially text-based, as a means of examining in depth Gaskell's subtlety as a writer. The chapter, 'The Country in the Letters', explores the extent to which Gaskell's letters reveal her lifelong love of the countryside and empathy with country people, as well as indicating early literary influences and evidencing many of the techniques found in her fictional writing. The next chapter, 'The Country in the Short Stories', after discussing the influence of Wordsworth, considers the element of social history within Gaskell's fictionalisation, before turning to the significance of the countryside as setting, the inherent characteristics of country people and realist techniques. The following chapter, 'The Country and the Town in Sylvia's Lovers' after treating the background to the work and certain key elements, analyses Gaskell's use of the country setting, her depiction of the principal country characters and her realist techniques, before considering the contrast between country and town, particularly in relation to Sylvia Robson's life after her marriage. The final chapter, 'The Country in the Writings of Elizabeth Gaskell: an Overview', summarises the significance of the portrayal of the country in the works studied in detail, while touching upon the difference in perspective in North and South and Wives and Daughters. The chapter concludes that: 'through the breadth of her picture, the acuity of her observation and her engagement, Gaskell's depiction of the countryside and country people is unique in nineteenth century English literature'.
    • Horse racing in nineteenth-century literature

      Heaton, Sarah; Wise, Jamie (University of Chester, 2013)
      The popularity of nineteenth-century horse racing is firmly established. Throughout the century it provided entertainment, amusement and employment across all the classes. Most scholarship focuses on horse racing in terms of leisure and the negotiation of class values, noting the shift from the sport as a predominantly aristocratic playground in the early part of the nineteenth century, to the commercialised arena of entertainment it became towards the end of the Victorian era. What is unexplored by both historical and literary critics however is the representation of horse racing in nineteenth-century literature. This dissertation attempts to fill that void. The carnival values of the racecourse, horse racing’s shift towards commercialism, concepts of class defined leisure and the sports inevitable association with gambling are all scrutinised with reference to both the historical context of horse racing and their inclusion in nineteenth-century fiction. George Moore’s Esther Waters, Émile Zola’s Nana and Charles Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop and ‘The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices’ are all closely analysed in terms of their representation of the racecourse carnival, racecourse space and infrastructure and working-class gambling. The aim of this dissertation is ultimately to provide an in depth reading of the few significant representations of horse racing in nineteenth-century literature and to shed light on why the popularity of the sport across the nineteenth century is not replicated by meaningful inclusion within the literature of the day.
    • Male-only preserves: Homosocial environments in the nineteenth century

      Edwards, Carol (University of Chester, 2013)
      This dissertation explores those areas of nineteenth-century life from which women were excluded. Links are made throughout to literary texts as illustrations of how male-only groups were depicted in literature and how homosociality was represented. As well as describing the national picture, examples of male-only environments in Cheshire, which are still in existence in the twenty-first century, are used. The Introduction describes the background to the project and considers the development of male-only environments in the light of nineteenth-century attitudes to the respective roles of men and women. It reviews expectations with regard to men’s behaviour that were current at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and considers the changes in those attitudes that took place during Queen Victoria’s reign. The first chapter deals with public schools and the consequences for young boys of growing up in a female-free environment, paying particular regard to the aspirations of their parents, the pupils’ everyday lives and their relationships. Chapter 2 deals with adult male associations and societies: gentlemen’s clubs, Freemasonry, and examples of other local groups that survive today. It looks at their rules and rituals, specifically with regard to their attitude to the presence of women. The final chapter is concerned with intense male relationships and nineteenth-century public opinion about them; particular attention is given in this section to literary examples of close friendships between men and to the role of bachelors. Finally, the Conclusion reflects on the complexity of the subject matter and highlights the different perceptions, historical and contemporary, of the changes that took place during the nineteenth century; and considers how much, or little, has changed since then.
    • The professional identities of Ellen Wood

      Holland, Chloe (University of Chester, 2013)
      As author of the 1861 bestseller, East Lynne, Ellen Wood forged a successful literary career as a prolific writer of sensation fiction and celebrity-editor of The Argosy magazine. While this project will examine the construction and maintenance, of her most famous persona, the pious, conservative ‘Mrs Henry Wood’, an equal focus is afforded to the other literary identities under which Wood operated during her illustrious career. Although recent scholars have considered the business-like tenacity of Wood as a commercially driven writer in contrast to the fragile, conservative ‘Mrs Henry Wood’ persona, this dissertation integrates the identities forged in the early anonymous writings in periodicals and publications made under male pseudonyms with these contrasting representations to procure a comprehensive view of the literary identities adopted by Wood. Situating Wood in the context of her contemporaries, the role of the female writer in the mid-nineteenth-century is primarily outlined to inform Wood’s development of anonymous identities as a periodical writer through the semi-anonymous signature in contributions during the 1850s which foregrounded the ‘Mrs Henry Wood’ persona. The reputation of Wood’s most famous professional identity and recent challenges by critcis to that carefully devised image, are outlined through examination of the construction, conservation, and contradictions of Wood’s most profitable trademark, ‘Mrs. Henry Wood’. Finally, the inclusion of masculine identities provides a contrasting insight into Wood’s writings, including the relatively unsuccessful boys stories hampered by the ‘Mrs. Henry Wood’ reputation, alongside her successful male pseudonyms ‘Ensign Pepper’ and ‘Johnny Ludlow’. The consideration of the under studied professional identities adopted by Wood, alongside the famous ‘Mrs. Henry Wood’ literary persona, develops a comprehensive perception of the astute, tenacious businesswoman who deliberately crafted a popular yet respectable role in a saturated literary market.
    • The runaway train: The railways and social anxiety in Victorian Britain

      Siddle, Yvonne; Price, Valerie (University of Chester, 2013)
      This essay examines whether the concerns and anxieties expressed over the railways in nineteenth-century Britain are in reality an expression of the wider concerns of the time. The Chester to Holyhead line, including the branch line from Llandudno to Blaenau, was taken as the basis for the essay as it encapsulates many of the points under consideration. Chapter one explores the physical problems of the railway looking at the apprehension over the speed of the locomotives and lack of control over expansion of the network as it destroyed housing and seized land. Social expansion was a source of concern epitomised by the rise of the new ‘middle class’. Wealth was generated rather than inherited allowing the permeation of class boundaries. Technology became more complex and less comprehensible to the people using it. The apparently unstoppable nature of the railway was causing anxiety across society. Chapter two examines the cultural impact of the railway, including the mobility of much larger proportions of the population and the incursion of mass numbers of people into areas previously considered the territory of the upper classes. The introduction of ‘Railway’ time across the country was also studied as well as the effect on language, culture and the economy in Wales. Chapter three looks at literature, with particular reference to Wordsworth, Dickens, Braddon, Gissing and Trollope and how the railways influenced their writing. Examination was made of the expansion of printing and the availability of cheaper literature and the effects this had on the structure of the reading public. Religious symbolism was explored and the use of the train as metaphor for modernity.