Bleak Houses: Marital Violence in Victorian Fiction

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Ohio University Press, 2005 - Fiction - 271 pages
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?Professor Surridge exhibits a clear and persuasive historical sense as well as sensitivity to the novels and stories. I believe this study will have lasting value because of its careful historical research and corresponding interpretation of the texts,” says Naomi Wood, Kansas State University The Offenses Against the Person Act of 1828 was a piece of legislation that opened magistrates' courts to abused working-class wives. Newspapers in turn reported on these proceedings and in this way the Victorian scrutiny of domestic conduct began. But how did popular fiction treat the phenomenon of ?private” family violence? Bleak Houses: Marital Violence in Victorian Fiction traces novelists' engagement with the wife-assault debates in the public press between 1828 and the turn of the century. Lisa Surridge examines the early works of Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, in the context of the intense debates on wife assault and manliness in the late 1840s and early 1850s. George Eliot's Janet's Repentance is read in light of the parliamentary debates on the 1857 Divorce Act. Marital cruelty trials provide the structure for both John Sutherland's The Woman in White and Anthony Trollope's He Knew He Was Right. Locating the New Woman fiction of Mona Caird and the reassuring detective investigations of Sherlock Holmes in the context of late-Victorian feminism and the great marriage debate in the Daily Telegraph, Surridge illustrates how fin-de-siècle fiction brought male sexual violence and the viability of marriage itself under public scrutiny. Bleak Houses thus demonstrates how Victorian fiction was actively engaged with the wife-assault debates of the nineteenth century, debates which both constructed and invaded the privacy of the middle-class home. ABOUT THE AUTHOR---Lisa Surridge is associate professor of English at the University of Victoria, Canada. She is co-editor of Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Aurora Floyd and has published on Victorian fiction in many journals including Victorian Literature and Culture, Women's Writing, Dickens Studies Annual, Victorian Newsletter, and Victorians Institute Journal.   
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
1 Private Violence in the Public Eye
15
2 Domestic Violence and MiddleClass Manliness
44
3 From Regency Violence to Victorian Feminism
72
4 The Abused Woman and the Community
103
5 Strange Revelations
132
6 Strange Revelations
165
7 Marital Violence and the New Woman
187
8 Are Women Protected?
216
Notes
247
Bibliography
255
Index
263
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About the author (2005)

Lisa Surridge is Professor of English and Associate Dean Academic of the Faculty of Humanities, University of Victoria. She is author of Bleak Houses: Marital Violence in Victorian Fiction. With Mary Elizabeth Leighton, she coedited the Broadview Anthology of Victorian Prose, 1832-1901 and was coeditor of the Victorian Review. Her articles and book chapters appear in Victorian Studies, Victorian Periodicals Review, Dickens Studies Annual, Victorian Literature and Culture, the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature, and elsewhere.

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