Angel or Eve?: Victorian Catholicism and the Angel in the House



The influence of the conflicting and contradictory Victorian imagery for women — Angel in the House or Eve, sexual temptress — is evident in George Moore’s presentation of Evelyn Innes, an acclaimed opera singer, as illustrated in this scene where she is about to sing Cherubini’s Ave Maria:

There were on that afternoon assembled in the little white chapel of the Passionate Sisters about a dozen elderly ladies ... and perhaps three or four spare women who wore a little more colour in their hats; these might be spinsters, of ages varying between forty and fifty-five. Amid these Evelyn was surprised and glad to perceive three or four young men ... Even though she was converted, she did not wish to sing only to women, and it amused her to perceive that something of the original Eve still existed in her.1


Young Lady Catholic Faith Catholic Woman Woman Question Elderly Lady 
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  1. 1.
    George Moore, Evelyn Innes (London: Fisher Unwin, 1898), p. 453.Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    Mrs Humphry Ward, Helbeck of Bannisdale (London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1898), p. 33.Google Scholar
  3. 10.
    See E.R. Norman, Anti-Catholicism In Victorian England (London: Allen & Unwin, 1968).Google Scholar
  4. 13.
    Originally in the Introduction to the Westmoreland edition of Helbeck, quoted in V. Colby, The Singular Anomaly: Women Novelists of the Nineteenth Century (New York: New York University Press, 1970).Google Scholar
  5. 17.
    Elaine Showalter, A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists From Brontë to Lessing (London: Virago, 1982), p. 227.Google Scholar
  6. 21.
    Margaret Maison, Search Your Soul, Eustace: A Survey of the Religious Novel in the Victorian Age (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1961), p. 161.Google Scholar
  7. 22.
    The letter ‘To George Moore on his Eightieth Birthday’ was printed in The Times on 22 February 1932. It is cited in full, but without the list of signatures, in J.M. Hone, The Life of George Moore (London: Victor Gollancz, 1936), p. 437.Google Scholar
  8. 29.
    Patricia Stubbs, Women & Fiction: Feminism and the Novel 1880–1920 (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1979), p. 88.Google Scholar
  9. 30.
    Robert Lee Wolff, Gains and Losses: Novels of Faith and Doubt in Victorian England (London: John Murray, 1977), p. 106.Google Scholar
  10. 31.
    Lloyd Fernando, ‘The New Woman’ in the Late Victorian Novel (University Park & London: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977), p. 104.Google Scholar
  11. 34.
    Virginia Woolf, ‘The Death of the Moth’, quoted in Killing the Angel in the House: Seven Essays (London: Penguin Books, 1995).Google Scholar

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© Anne Hogan 1998

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