Portions Wholly Savage: Ongoing Reforms at Home and Abroad

  • Timothy L. Carens


In Lord Ormont and His Aminta (1894), George Meredith depicts a heroine who rebels against her overbearing husband. After Lord Ormont returns to England from India, having lost his commission in the Indian army for using excessive force, Aminta abandons him to live with her lover, Matthew Weyburn, a scholar who promotes internationalism and sexual equality. In this broad outline, the novel seems, like other New Woman novels of the period, to endorse a woman’s bid for freedom within oppressive patriarchal culture. Yet Meredith specifically withholds self-governing sovereignty from Aminta, restricting her agency through a pattern of figures comparing her to India. He seeks to amend the oppressive treatment of the “dark brown-red” heroine not by granting her independence, but rather by reforming the colonial authority to which she is subject (123). The sequence of romantic relationships in the novel corresponds to an idealized historical narrative of colonial relations between England and India. Meredith characterizes Lord Ormont as a military force that first conquers and subjugates Aminta, Matthew as a colonial government concerned to cultivate her intellectual and moral progress. Thus conferring authority upon a newly installed administration committed to “civilizing” the heroine, the novel strategically defers her own independence.


Colonial Rule Moral Progress Colonial Government East India Company Colonial Administration 
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  1. 6.
    For an informative account of this affair, see Bernard Semmel, Jamaican Blood and Victorian Conscience: The Governor Eyre Controversy (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1963).Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, “The Future of Self-Government,” Fortnightly Review 37 (1885): 386–98. This essay culminates a series of five articles (jointly titled Ideas About India) in which Blunt elaborates the liberal perspective on self-government in India.Google Scholar
  3. For other contemporary examples, see the following articles. Andrew H. L. Fraser, “Local Self-Government in the Central Provinces of India, Fortnightly Review 39 (1886): 238–47.Google Scholar
  4. Henry M. Hyndman, “Bleeding to Death,” Nineteenth Century 8 (1880): 157–76.Google Scholar
  5. Henry George Keene, “Some Aspects of Lord Ripon’s Policy,” Fortnightly Review 33 (1883): 901–10 and “Home Rule for India,” National Review 15 (1890): 261–76.Google Scholar

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© Timothy L. Carens 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy L. Carens
    • 1
  1. 1.English DepartmentCollege of CharlestonUSA

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