Silent Voices

Silent Voices: Forgotten Novels by Victorian Women Writers
edited by Brenda Ayres

Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 2003

from the publisher’s website:

Some of the greatest English novels were written during the Victorian era, and many are still widely read and taught today. But many others written during that period have been neglected by scholars and modern readers alike. A number of these novels were written by women and were popular when published. Moreover, they reveal perspectives of 19th-century British culture not present in canonized works and therefore revise our understanding of Victorian life and attitudes. With the increasing interest in revising Victorian history and gender scholarship, especially through the rediscovery of lost texts written by women, this book is a timely and much needed study.

The expert contributors to this volume argue the value of novels by such Victorian women writers as Grace Aguilar, Catherine Crowe, Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna, Annie E. Holdsworth, Ella Hepworth Dixon, Flora Annie Steel, Anne Thackeray, Sarah Grand, Marie Corelli, and others. Most of the chapters address numerous works by a particular writer. Each focuses on different social issues as well, though most of them share an interest in gender politics. Topics discussed include a 19th-century Jewish novelist’s navigation through Protestant spirituality, the relationship of noncanonical governess novels to class and gender issues, and forgotten works by women crime writers. Other chapters analyze how women writers impelled social reform and subverted patriarchally defined religious issues.

Novels discussed:

Ardath, Marie Corelli

The Heavenly Twins, Sarah Grand

Helen Fleetwood, Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna

Histories of the Spirit, Grace Aguilar

Olive, Dinah Mulock Craik

On the Face of Waters, Flora Annie Steel

The Story of a Modern Woman, Ella Hepworth Dixon

The Story of Elizabeth, Anne Thackeray

Susan Hopley, Catherine Crowe

The Years That the Locust Hath Eaten, Annie E. Holdsworth

Table of Contents:

  • Preface
  • Introduction by Brenda Ayres
  • “Not the Superiority of Belief, But Superiority of True Devotion”: Grace Aguilar’s Histories of the Spirit, by Miriam Elizabeth Burstein
  • The Victorian Heroine Goes A-Governessing, by Cecilia Wadsö Lecaros
  • The Detective Maidservant: Catherine Crowe’s Susan Hopley, by Lucy Sussex
  • Deathbeds and Didacticism: Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna and Victorian, by Mary Lenard
  • Class Counts: The Domestic-Professional Writer, the Working Poor and Middle-Class Values in The Years That the Locust Hath Eaten and The Story of a Modern Woman, by Sueann Schatz
  • On the Face of the Waters: Flora Annie Steel and the Politics of Feminist Imperialism, by LeeAnne Richardson
  • Rereading the Domestic Novel: Anne Thackeray’s The Story of Elizabeth, by Helen Debenham
  • “I am not Esther”: Biblical Heroines and Sarah Grand’s Challenge to Institutional Christianity in The Heavenly Twins, by Jennifer Stolpa
  • Dinah Mulock Craik: Sacrifice and the Fairy-order, by Robyn Chandler
  • Marie Corelli: “The Story of One Forgotten,” by Brenda Ayres

Leave a Comment