The binary opposition between money and art in the Victorian theatre is a troubling one, and in using it I am conscious of the danger of simply perpetuating the Victorian valorization of writing for art over writing for money. However, it was an aesthetic and discursive opposition which, although mutating over the century, remained fundamental to the structuring of the London theatre industry, and one which women had to negotiate. To see the ways in which women writers did this is to acknowledge — again — the work of class and gender in the Victorian theatre, and also to observe the ways that discursive constructions could have material effects. Furthermore, understanding these divisions in the nineteenth century are important as they form the foundation of a set of concepts which still dominate British thinking about theatre, art, and, money — concepts which do not match the basic facts of the theatre industry — but indicate much more interestingly the ‘cultural capital’ attached to specific playwriting and production practices. In this chapter, I will look in detail at two areas of women’s playwriting where money — success in the commercial or mainstream theatre — was not the principal motivation for embarking on dramatic writing. In the examples of the dramatic writing of George Eliot and Augusta Webster, we can see the enduring power of poetic drama, its lure for serious and ambitious women writers, and a tradition of women’s performance writing which, like the work of Hemans and Mitford, was grounded in sympathetic presentation of rebellion.


Cultural Capital Woman Writer Domestic Space Dramatic Form Roman Domination 
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© Katherine Newey 2005

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  • Katherine Newey

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