The Drunkard, the Brute and the Paterfamilias: the Temperance Fiction of the Early Victorian Writer Sarah Stickney Ellis



This opening quotation may come as something of a surprise to those who associate Sarah Stickney Ellis with writings promoting a domestic, supportive and above all subordinate role for women.1 Male excellence is foregrounded and female excellence is not mentioned; but for the attentive reader the implication remains that if men and women are created morally equal, the man who is not ‘altogether good’ will be less good than a ‘truly good man’ or a truly good woman. This passage thus neatly exemplifies the complexities that underlie the interplay between ‘separate spheres’ ideology, gender and serious Christianity2 in the writings of this early to midnineteenth-century writer, best known today for her four conduct-books: The Women of England, The Daughters of England, The Wives of England and The Mothers of England (published between 1839 and 1843).3 However, in her own time Sarah Stickney Ellis was more generally known for her varied literary career, her support for total abstinence and as an educationalist who believed that middle-class girls needed training in household management rather than in accomplishments, in which she anticipated Isabella Beeton by more than a decade. As well as writing about the education of girls, Mrs Ellis also put her theories into practice at Rawdon House, a prestigious boarding-school for girls, which she opened in 1845 and which gained some notoriety through being satirized in the pages of Punch.4


Temperance Movement Temperance Fiction Separate Sphere Lunatic Asylum Total Abstinence 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

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