‘She and I have Lived Together’: women’s celibacy and signature in Cobbe’s early writing



When Frances Power Cobbe’s ‘What Shall We Do with Our Old Maids?’ appeared in the November 1862 issue of Fraser’s Magazine, she was a forty-year-old Anglo-Irish woman, recently returned from a trip abroad. The trip had taken her to Italy, and had introduced her to a circle of feminist women artists based in Rome, including the woman who would become her life-long partner, Welsh sculptor Mary Lloyd. In 1862, living in London on a £200 inheritance from her father, Cobbe began to boost her income by writing for the press.1 One of her first employers, Fraser’s Magazine, was one of the most prestigious nineteenth-century periodicals, and was distinct amongst Victorian political journals in its self-proclaimed focus on principles rather than party-specific interests. It was also known for its style and fine writing, as well as its focus on politics, religion, and social conditions.2 One of Cobbe’s earliest periodical pieces, the witty, powerful ‘What Shall We Do with Our Old Maids?’ introduced a new voice to the Victorian periodical reading public, launching its author’s long career as a distinguished writer on topics as diverse as women’s education and employment, workhouse reform, theology, domestic violence, and anti-vivisection. She would become one of Fraser’s Magazine’s most frequent contributors. Cobbe’s article became part of what she termed a ‘continuous series’ that she quickly repackaged in book form as Essays on the Pursuits of Women, published the next year in 1863.


Single Woman Woman Writer Intimate Friend Original Italic Feminist Signature 
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© Susan Hamilton 2006

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