Bleak Houses (Paperback)
Marital Violence in Victorian Fiction
Ohio University Press, 9780821416433, 272pp.
Publication Date: November 15, 2005
Other Editions of This Title:
The Offenses Against the Person Act of 1828 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 “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 and reads Dombey and Son and Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in the context of the intense debates on wife assault and manliness in the late 1840s and early 1850s. Surridge explores George Eliot's Janet's Repentance in light of the parliamentary debates on the 1857 Divorce Act. Marital cruelty trials provide the structure for both Wilkie Collins'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 concerned about 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 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.