Property and Propriety in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century England: Burney, Austen, Eliot

  • Sally A. Livingston
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The progressive economic disenfranchisement of women from the Middle Ages through the nineteenth century was supported by changing cultural norms that transformed the woman who once could control property into a submissive, financially unstable creature. In this chapter, I look at literary representations of perfect womanhood and trace the growing opposition to women’s plight, which finally resulted in the Married Women’s Property Act of 1882. Finally, I analyze three women writers (Frances Burney, Jane Austen, and George Eliot) to show how they critiqued marriage while still being trapped in its economic consequences. While making the marriage plot central to their novels, they nonetheless find ways to subvert its traditional authority.


Eighteenth Century Marriage Market Female Character Woman Writer Conduct Book 
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© Sally A. Livingston 2012

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  • Sally A. Livingston

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