By Kate Summerscale
"I imagine humans marry a long way an excessive amount of; it's this type of lottery, and for a bad woman—bodily and morally the husband’s slave—a very uncertain happiness." —Queen Victoria to her lately married daughter Vicky
Headstrong, high-spirited, and already widowed, Isabella Walker turned Mrs. Henry Robinson at age 31 in 1844. Her first husband had died unexpectedly, leaving his property to a son from a prior marriage, so she inherited not anything. A profitable civil engineer, Henry moved them, via then with sons, to Edinburgh’s dependent society in 1850. yet Henry traveled frequently and used to be chilly and distant whilst domestic, leaving Isabella to her fantasies.
No doubt millions of Victorian ladies confronted an identical conditions, yet Isabella selected to checklist her innermost thoughts—and specifically her infatuation with a married Dr. Edward Lane—in her diary. Over 5 years the entries mounted—passionate, sensual, suggestive. One fateful day in 1858 Henry found the diary and, broaching its privateness, learn Isabella's intimate entries. Aghast at his wife’s perceived infidelity, Henry petitioned for divorce at the grounds of adultery. till that 12 months, divorce were unlawful in England, the marital bond being a cornerstone of English lifestyles. Their trial will be a reason celebre, threatening the principles of Victorian society with the threat of "a new and anxious determine: a center category spouse who was once stressed, unsatisfied, avid for arousal." Her diary, learn in courtroom, was once as explosive as Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, simply released in France yet thought of too scandalous to be translated into English until eventually the 1880s.
As she complete in her award-winning and bestselling The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, Kate Summerscale brilliantly recreates the Victorian global, chronicling in beautiful and compelling aspect the lifetime of Isabella Robinson, in which the longings of a annoyed spouse collided with a society clinging to inflexible rules approximately sanity, the limits of privateness, the establishment of marriage, and feminine sexuality.
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Extra resources for Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady
Unlike her forerunners, however, she wrote and published with the avowed hope of achieving lasting fame (Prologue of Playes), an ambition which echoes Aphra Behn's wistful wish for immortality. This flouted the canons of respectability of her sex and even more the decorum of her class, which regarded publication as the reward of fame, not as a means of achieving it. 14 In fact, she was more ambitious than talented as a dramatist, but by dint of her feminist outspokenness she has lately received a lot of attention from modern scholars.
The hero, in the meantime, has turned profligate out of grief, refuses to give his siblings the heritage Aphra Behn 41 he owes them, and with the foppish Sir Timothy visits a brothel, where he meets the latter's mistress, Betty Flauntit, a wonderfully comic and lively figure. Sir Timothy is tricked into marrying Bellmour's sister, who has been left destitute without her portion. Bellmour gains everybody's forgiveness because of his undying love for his first wife, and Diana begs her uncle to procure a divorce.
For characters like the archrake Horner in Wycherley's The Country Wife, female lust is merely a convenient means to gain this end, and he is not really interested in the women themselves, or even in the sexual satisfaction they can afford him, but in the secret pleasure of humiliating and fooling other men. Like many later women playwrights, Behn counterpoints the male community with a female one, in which friendships, mutual help as well as rivalries are as common as in the men's world. Characteristically, Behn devotes more space than most of her male rivals to the women characters, allowing them not only more say but also an important influence on the action.