Moral Landscapes: Mary Gladstone’s Reading Community

  • Susan K. Harris


One of the most intriguing aspects of the hostess’s role was serving as a relay station for ideas and opinions generated by members of her intellectual community. Like many of her activities, this one was traditional; for years, disseminating commentary had been part of the hostess’s job, especially women who, like Mary Gladstone and Annie Fields, presided over highly literate gatherings. By the 1870s, however, the rapidity with which ideas could be circulated had accelerated, primarily because, as noted earlier, the mail-train and the postal service could now be depended on to deliver letters within twenty-four hours of their posting.1 Hence the process of discussing an issue before making a final judgment was facilitated by the relative rapidity with which notes could be exchanged.


Relay Station Social Reform Public Arena Aesthetic Criterion Academic Socialist 
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  1. 4.
    Lucy Masterman, Mary Gladstone, Her Diaries and Letters, London: Metheun&Co., 1930, 293.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    See Masterman, Mary Gladstone, Her Diaries and Letters, 123 for information about Stuart. In her autobiographical memoir What I Remember, London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1924, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, one of the suffrage movement’s prominent figures, celebrates Stuart as “one of the wittiest and most delightful of men, equally great in things grave as in things gay,” and noted that he was “an active fellow labourer with Josephine Butler in her crusade against the Contagious Diseases Acts: he had meetings for young men in his rooms on the subject, and worked earnestly for the establishment… of an equal moral standard for men and women.” According to Fawcett, he also sought to bring attention to “the injury done to the whole of society in giving no political representation to women and by the mass of law and custom which differentiates unjustly between the sexes” (74). In his letters, Stuart appears by far the most thoughtful and politically liberal of Gladstone’s correspondents.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Lisle March-Phillips and Bertram Christian, Eds., Some Hawarden Letters, London: Nisbet & Co., 1917, 126–7.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    H. C. G. Matthew, The Gladstone Diaries, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968–1994, entry for Dec. 27, 1883, Vol. XIII, 84.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    According to Masterman, Mary Gladstone met both Burne-Jones and Ruskin at he home of her friend Frances Graham, daughter of William Graham, a collector of pre-Raphaelite art (Masterman, Mary Gladstone: Her Diaries and Letters, 48). I am not convinced that Mary actually met Ruskin there, but it is true that Ruskin did sandwich a visit to the Graham summer home in Perthshire between in January and October visits to Hawardin (Tim Hilton, Ruskin: The Later Years, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000, 395).Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    Stephen Coote, William Morris: His Life and Work, Godalming, Surrey: CLB Publishing Limited, 1995, 145. Ch. 7, “Revolutionary Socialist” (138–61), contains a good synopsis of Morris’s political evolution.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    Herbert Paul, Letters of Lord Acton to Mary Gladstone, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1904, 282.Google Scholar
  8. 33.
    John Sutherland, Mrs. Humphrey Ward: Eminent Victorian, Pre-Eminent Edwardian, New York: Oxford University Press, 1991, 128.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 194–5. Actons dislike for the Italian revolutionary Mazzini was one symptom of his own complex relationship with Italy (where he had been born), and with the rise of nineteenth-century nationalism, which he saw as a precursor to absolutism. See Roland Hill, Lord Acton, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000, 411–416.Google Scholar
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    S. L. Ollard, Ed., Forty Years Friendship: Letters from the Late Henry Scott Holland to Mrs. Drew, London: Nisbet & Co., 1919, 71.Google Scholar

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© Susan K. Harris 2002

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  • Susan K. Harris

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