Feminized Correspondence, the Unknown Public, and the Egalitarian Professional of Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White

  • Laura Rotunno
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


Victorian social commentator and journalist James Grant, as early as 1838, said of Ted Underwood, a famous begging-letter writer: ‘Had he turned his attention to novel-writing, instead of to the profession of begging-letter imposter, there is no saying how high his name might at this moment have stood in the current literature of the country.’1 Grant tapped into the fear arising from egalitarianism afoot in the Victorian literary world: that it would invite and institute manipulators into the profession. David Copperfield and The Woman in White differ in their reactions to such a claim for begging-letter writers and their ilk. Dickens’s David Copperfield betrays a desire to celebrate all who write with relative aesthetic sophistication and social consciousness, no matter their class rank. The novel even toys with the idea of deeming all such writers literary professionals. However, David Copperfield also maintains that the Victorian literary world is not yet fully open to those marginalized voices, not even to those capable of producing true art. The funereal cast surrounding David, the established literary professional, does not necessarily bode imminent or egalitarian change for the Victorian literary world.


Lower Class Literary Professional Woman Writer Letter Writer Postal Plot 
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Copyright information

© Laura Rotunno 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura Rotunno
    • 1
  1. 1.Penn State AltoonaUSA

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