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Ouida’s Rhetoric of Empathy: A Case Study in Victorian Anti-Vivisection Narrative

  • Mary Sanders Pollock

Abstract

Ouida, born in 1839 as Maria Louise Ramé, grew up in the small town of Bury St. Edmonds, a few hours northeast of London. During her childhood, she was surrounded by an attentive extended family and imaginatively inspired by an affectionate (though usually absent) father, whose desultory labors as a French master seem to have been a cover for his real work as an agent for Louis Napoleon.2 Louis Ramé’s influence was erratic, but it was profound: from him, Ouida learned to love the French realists, especially Balzac, and to hate bourgeois politics, society, and religion. In 1857, Ouida moved with her mother and grandmother to London. Two years later, she began a long and wildly successful writing career with the publication of her first short story, “Dashwood’s Drag; or, The Derby and What Came of It,” in Bentley’s Miscellany. Soon, her work was so commercially successful that she was able to support her small family in lavish style. She moved to Italy, settled in a villa with her mother and their dogs, and traveled widely throughout Europe. On one of those journeys, the ménage landed for a period back in London, where Ouida set up for a few months in the luxurious Langham Hotel, entertaining such luminaries as Robert Browning and Oscar Wilde, Henry James and Edward Bulwer Lytton, the explorer Richard Burton and his wife Isabel, famous musicians, editors, MP’s, and ambassadors. In 1950, V. S. Pritchett described the (imagined) scene of her boudoir in an article written for the New Statesman and Nation :

One walked into the Langham Hotel out of the London daylight and was shown, at last, into a large, darkened apartment twinkling with candles. Heavy black velvet curtains were drawn over the windows; masses of exotic flowers were banked against them and, enthroned in an enormous bed in the midst of all this sat the genius: a small, ugly, dank-eyed woman with her hair down her back, scratching away fast with a quill pen on large sheets of violettinted paper and throwing each sheet on to the floor when it was done with. A large dog guarded the morning’s work from the visitor’s touch. One had gone to have one’s head bitten off either by Ouida or her dog.3

Keywords

Nonhuman Animal Happy Ending Subsequent Reference Animal Cruelty Narrative Style 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 3.
    V. S. Pritchett, “The Octopus,” in Books in General (London: Chatto & Windus, 1953, 223–228).Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    James Turner, Reckoning with the Beast: Animals, Fain, and Humanity in the Victorian Mind (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  3. Harriet Ritvo, The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Deborah Rudacille, The Scalpel and the Butterfly: The War between Animal Research and Animal Protection (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000).Google Scholar
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    Marc D. Hauser, Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think (New York: Henry Holt, 2000), 255–56.Google Scholar
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    Michael J. McDowell, “The Bakhtinian Road to Ecological Awareness.” Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm, eds., in The Ecocritical Reader (Athens: University Georgia Press, 1996), 372.Google Scholar
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    Bernard E. Rollin, The Unheeded Cry: Animal Consciousness, Animal Tain and Science (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 227.Google Scholar
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    Coral Lansbur, The Old Brown Dog: Women, Workers, and Vivisection in Victorian England (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985).Google Scholar
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    Mary Midgley, Animals and Why They Matter (Athens: University Georgia Press, 1983).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Mary S. Pollock and Catherine Rainwater 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Sanders Pollock

There are no affiliations available

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