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

Chapter

Abstract

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

Keywords

Temperance Movement Temperance Fiction Separate Sphere Lunatic Asylum Total Abstinence 
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.
    L. Davidoff and C. Hall, Family Fortunes (London: Hutchinson, 1987), pp. 148–92Google Scholar
  2. C. Hall, White, Male and Middle Class (Cambridge and Oxford, Polity Press, 1992), pp. 75–93.Google Scholar
  3. A. Vickery, ‘Historiographical Review: Golden Age to Separate Spheres? A Review of the Categories and Chronology of English Women’s History’, The Historical Journal 36:2 (1993), 383–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 5.
    See Clare Midgley, Women Against Slavery: The British Campaign 1780–1870 (London: Routledge, 1992), p. 94Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    See E. Heisinger, R. Sheets and W. Veeder, eds, The Woman Question: Society and Literature in Britain and America 1837–1883 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1983).Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    See L. Holcombe, Wives and Property: Reform of the Married Women’s Property Law in Nineteenth-Century England (Oxford: Martin Robertson, 1983)Google Scholar
  7. 23.
    For an analysis of Mrs Ellis’s ‘moral manipulation’ as an attempt to empower women, and the adverse reaction it provoked from Punch writers such as Thackeray, see my article ‘Woman supportive or woman manipulative? The “Mrs Ellis” woman’, in C. Campbell Orr, ed., Wollstonecraft’s Daughters, Womanhood in England and France 1780–1920 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  8. 25.
    Sarah Lewis’s Woman’s Mission (London: J.W. Parker, 1839)Google Scholar
  9. 28.
    See John Eimeo Ellis, Life of William Ellis Missionary To The South Seas And To Madagascar (London: John Murray, 1873), pp. 190–1Google Scholar
  10. 36.
    L. Shiman, Crusade against Drink in Victorian England (London: Macmillan, 1988), pp. 18–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 38.
    See Mrs Alexander Ireland, ed., Selections from the letters of Geraldine E. Jewsbury to Jane Welsh Carlyle (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1892), pp. 348–9.Google Scholar
  12. J. Wilkes’ introduction to her edition of The Half-Sisters (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. xiv.Google Scholar
  13. 39.
    See Juliet Barker, The Brontes (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1994), p. 219Google Scholar
  14. 43.
    See Anne Brontë ‘Preface to the Second Edition’, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (London: Thomas Newby, 2nd edn, 1848).Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

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