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Introduction

Chapter

Abstract

The Victorian feminine ideal of angelic virtue, used originally by Coventry Patmore in his domestic epic The Angel in the House (1845–62), embodied sexual purity and a strong sense of Christian morality, placing women in a secondary role to men. Woman’s appropriate sphere of influence was seen as domestic, and with this a clear line was drawn between the ‘female’ values expressed in the well-run Victorian Christian middle-class home and the ‘male’ public values of a fast-expanding capitalist economy. Yet, while the angelic image remained a defining idea throughout the nineteenth century, Patmore’s angel — with its emphasis on women’s moral and spiritual superiority — was always a more complex figure than she at first seemed. While in many a Victorian household she undoubtedly was held up, in Virginia Woolf’s phrase, as ‘the woman that men wished women to be’, others found her image a challenging, even emancipating, one; it is this complexity which informs the discussion in this book.

Keywords

Nineteenth Century Christian Morality Religious Woman Mission Field Popular Fiction 
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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Note

  1. 1.
    Virginia Woolf, ‘Professions for Women’, a Paper read to The Women’s Service League, in Harriet Scott Cheesman (ed.), Literary Angels (New York: Ballantine Books, 1994), pp. 136–7.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Anne Hogan and Andrew Bradstock 1998

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