Advertisement

Albums, Belongings, and Embodying the Feminine

  • Samantha Matthews
Chapter
  • 125 Downloads
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)

Abstract

In chapter 22 of David Copperfield (1850), the enterprising beautician Miss Mowcher sums up her view of society as a ‘set of humbugs’ by displaying the nail-clippings of her most prestigious client, a Russian prince. The grotesqueness of valuing an aristocratic émigré’s nail-clippings (‘Fingers and toes!’) as precious relics is articulated through Mowcher’s speculation that young ladies ‘of the genteel sort’, who pride themselves on their refined sensibilities, enshrine them in a socially sanctioned medium: the album. Carried as it is on the stream of Mowcher’s ‘volatile’ patter, the import of this satire of bourgeois materialism and snobbery might easily be overlooked. At mid-century, the album was synonymous with the culture of respectable middle-class women. As a young, usually unmarried, woman filled her blank album with personally significant texts and images it became a record of her values and interests, her friends and connections, and, most important, her subjectivity. At the same time, the album, whether carried on the body, or kept, with other intimate and private belongings, in close physical proximity, functioned as a symbolic stand-in for the feminine body. Thus Mowcher’s robust humour insinuates an impropriety in the incorporation of the male body’s intimate waste products into the feminine album.

Keywords

Young Lady Feminine Body Modern Poet Young Female Subject Affective Transaction 
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.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, ed. Jeremy Tambling (London: Penguin, 2004), pp. 337–9.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Todd S. Gernes, ‘Recasting the Culture of Ephemera’, in Popular Literacy: Studies in Cultural Practices and Poetics, ed. John Trimbur (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001), p. 109.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    See Patrizia Di Bello, Women’s Albums and Photography in Victorian England: Ladies, Mothers and Flirts (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Justyna Beinek, ‘The Album in the Age of Russian and Polish Romanticism: Memory, Nation, Authorship’, unpublished PhD thesis, Harvard University, 2001, p. 7.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    George Eliot, Middlemarch, ed. Bert. G. Hornback (New York: Norton, 2000), p. 169.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    Renate Lachmann, Memory and Literature: Intertextuality in Russian Modernism, trans. Roy Sellars and Anthony Wall (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), p. 3, quoted in Beinek, ‘The Album in the Age of Russian and Polish Romanticism’, p. 1.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    Charles Lamb, The Letters of Charles Lamb, to Which Are Added Those of His Sister Mary Lamb, ed. E. V. Lucas, 3 vols. (London: Dent, 1935), III, 125.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Mayflower; or, Sketches of Scenes and Characters among the Descendants of the Pilgrims (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1843), pp. 49–50.Google Scholar
  9. 18.
    Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), p. 133.Google Scholar
  10. 19.
    Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret, ed. Jenny Bourne Taylor (London: Penguin, 1998), p. 43.Google Scholar
  11. 23.
    William Cox Bennett, Poems (London: Routledge, Warner and Routledge, 1862), p. 50, 11. 1–4.Google Scholar
  12. 26.
    Frederick William Orde Ward, Twixt Kiss and Lip or Under the Sword (London: Gardner and Co, 1890), p. 819. Further references are given parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
  13. 28.
    Christina Rossetti, The Complete Poems of Christina Rossetti, ed. R. W. Crump (London: Penguin, 2001), pp. 754–5. Further references are given parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
  14. 31.
    Amy Woolner, Thomas Woolner, R.A.: Sculptor and Poet (New York: Dutton, 1917), p. 34.Google Scholar
  15. 34.
    Samantha Matthews, ‘Psychological Crystal Palace? Late Victorian Confession Albums’, Book History, 3 (2000), 125–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 35.
    Robert Browning, The Poems of Robert Browning, ed. John Woolford, Daniel Karlin, and Joseph Phelan, 4 vols. (Harlow: Pearson Education, 2007), III, 230.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Samantha Matthews 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samantha Matthews

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations