Conclusion: The Playwright as Woman of Letters

  • Katherine Newey


In 1908, Elizabeth Robins used the language of collective political action to declare war on the ‘Exceptional Woman’ for the sake of all women’s progress, rather as Virginia Woolf later wrote about the need to murder the Angel of the House to enable women writers to work freely. In this concluding chapter, I want to look at the careers of some women who worked outside the framework of the ‘Exceptional Woman’ or ‘exceptionality’ as it was constructed earlier in the century: writers of the second or third rank (if we’re counting this way) who included playwriting as a normal part of their ‘portfolio careers’ as professional writers, or as Susan Croft titled her bibliography She Also Wrote Plays.1 Florence Bell, Florence Marryat, and Lucy Clifford were all successful playwrights, whose reputations rested largely on other work, and in this way are representative of many other women in the literary marketplace at the end of the century. Apart from Florence Bell, wife of industrialist Hugh Bell, these women made their livings of necessity by their writing. They were all well-connected, educated, middle- and upper-middle class — indeed Marryat was at various times quite a wealthy woman through her work — and all were vitally interested in the theatre, both as another avenue for income and professional recognition, but also for its own sake.


Gender Ideology Woman Writer Professional Writer Joint Household Victorian Period 
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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Susan Croft, She Also Wrote Plays: An International Guide to Women Playwrights from the 10th to the 21s Century (London: Faber and Faber, 2001).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Tracy C. Davis, Actresses as Working Women (London and New York: Routledge, 1991), 10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. and Tracy C. Davis, ‘Laborers of the Nineteenth-Century Theater: The Economies of Gender and Theatrical Organization,’ Journal of British Studies, 33: 1 (January 1994), 50–1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 3.
    Elizabeth Robins, Theatre and Friendship: Some Henry James Letters with a Commentary (London: Jonathan Cape, 1932), 17.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Florence Bell, ‘Introduction,’ At the Works: A Study of a Manufacturing Town (1907; New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1969), x.Google Scholar
  6. For one of the few recent discussions of Bell’s social investigation, see Deborah Epstein Nord, Walking the Victorian Streets: Women, Representation, and the City (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1995), 227–30.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    Reprinted in Florence Bell, Landmarks. A Reprint of some Essays and other Pieces Published Between the Year 1894 and 1922 (London: Ernest Benn, 1929).Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    Florence Bell, The Way the Money Goes (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1910).Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    Florence Bell and Elizabeth Robins, Alan’s Wife in Linda Fitzsimmons and Viv Gardner (eds), New Woman Plays (London: Methuen, 1991), 19.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Catherine Wiley, ‘Staging Infanticide: The Refusal of Representation in Elizabeth Robins’s Alan’s Wife,’ Theatre Journal, 42: 4 (1990), 433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 12.
    Elin Diamond, Unmaking Mimesis (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), 37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 13.
    Cited in Angela V. John, Elizabeth Robins: Staging a Life, 1862–1952 (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 89.Google Scholar
  13. 29.
    Tess Cosslett, Woman to Woman: Female Friendship in Victorian Fiction (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  14. 35.
    Clo. Graves, B. L. Farjeon, Florence Marryat, G. Manville Fenn, Mrs Campbell Praed, Justin Huntly McCarthy, and Clement Scott, The Fate of Fenella (London: Hutchinson, 1892),Google Scholar
  15. and Clo. Graves, B. L. Farjeon, Florence Marryat, G. Manville Fenn, Mrs Campbell Praed, Justin Huntly McCarthy, and Clement Scott, Seven Christmas Eves, Being the Romance of a Social Evolution (London: Hutchinson and Co. [1893]).Google Scholar
  16. 36.
    David Hannay, Life of Frederick Marryat (London: Walter Scott, 1889), 12.Google Scholar
  17. 37.
    Helen C. Black, Notable Women Authors of the Day (Glasgow: David Bryce and Son, 1893), 87. See also the card catalogue for the Lord Chamberlain’s Collection of Plays, British Library.Google Scholar
  18. 41.
    Talia Schaffer, The Forgotten Female Aesthetes, Literary Culture in Late-Victorian England (Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 2000), 41.Google Scholar
  19. 44.
    Andrew Maunder, ‘Introduction,’ to Florence Marryat, Love’s Conflict (1865; London: Pickering and Chatto, 2005). This is the best recent account of Marryaťs life and writing.Google Scholar
  20. 45.
    Edward Clodd, Memories (London: Chapman & Hall, 1916), 37–9.Google Scholar
  21. See also Marysa Demoor and Monty Chisholm (eds), ‘Bravest of women and finest of friends’: Henry James’s Letters to Lucy Clifford (University of Victoria: English Literary Studies, 1999), 11–16.Google Scholar
  22. 46.
    Gordon S. Haight (ed.), The George Eliot Letters, Vol. VII (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955), 123.Google Scholar
  23. 50.
    Lucy Clifford, The Likeness of the Night: A Modern Play in Four Acts (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1900).Google Scholar
  24. The story is reprinted in Kate Flint (ed.), Victorian Love Stories: An Oxford Anthology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  25. 53.
    Lucy Clifford, The Searchlight (London: Samuel French, 1904).Google Scholar
  26. 54.
    Lucy Clifford, The Hamilton’s Second Marriage, in Plays (London: Duckworth, 1909), and A Honeymoon Tragedy (London: Samuel French, 1904).Google Scholar
  27. 58.
    Mellor, Romanticism and Gender (New York and London: Routledge, 1993), 1.Google Scholar
  28. 59.
    Rita Felski, The Gender of Modernity (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995), 10.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Katherine Newey 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine Newey

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations