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Victorian Literature and Culture (2016), 44, 741–759. © Cambridge University Press 2016. 1060-1503/16

Victorian Literature and Culture (2016), 44 , 741–759. © Cambridge University Press 2016. 1060-1503/16 doi <a: 10.1017/S1060150316000206 JANE EYRE’S PURSE: WOMEN’S QUEER ECONOMIC DESIRE IN THE VICTORIAN NOVEL By Meg Dobbins Who holds the purse will wish to be master . . . whether Man or woman —Charlotte Bronte, ¨ Letter to Ellen Nussey, 1845 “Y OUNG LADIES DON ’ T UNDERSTAND political economy, you know,” asserts the casually misogynistic uncle of Dorothea Brooke in George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871) (17; bk. 1, ch 1). Although Eliot’s heroine resents both her uncle’s remark and “that never-explained science which was thrust as an extinguisher over all her lights,” her attempt to teach herself political economy in the novel only seems to confirm her uncle’s assessment (18; bk. 1, ch. 1): Dorothea gathers a “little heap of books on political economy” and sets forth to learn “the best way of spending money so as not to injure one’s neighbors, or – what comes to the same thing – so as to do them the most good” (805; bk. 5, ch. 48). Naively likening “spending money so as not to injure one’s neighbors” to “do[ing] them the most good,” Dorothea fails to grasp the self-interest at the core of nineteenth-century political economic thought and so misunderstands the subject matter before her: “Unhappily her mind slipped off [the book] for a whole hour; and at the end she found herself reading sentences twice over with an intense consciousness of many things, but not of any one thing contained in the text. This was hopeless” (805; bk. 5, ch. 48). Women are often depicted as poor students of the “dismal science” in Victorian literature. In Margaret Oliphant’s Miss Marjoribanks (1866), Lucilla atypically learns political economy alongside other, traditional feminine subjects (“She had taken her French and her German and her singing and her political economy” [18; ch. 1]). Yet because, in this instance, political economy is portrayed as part of a ladies’ education, Lucilla acquires only a superficial knowledge of the subject. While Middlemarch depicts economics as an exclusive, masculine realm of knowledge from which women are excluded, Oliphant’s novel satirizes the female student of economics who “do[esn’t] pretend to be better than other people” but repeatedly boasts that she has gone through “a course of political economy” and “thought it all over” (60; ch. 8). Despite their reputations as innately domestic “angels,” women in Victorian fiction often prove poor economists in the home as well. While Charles Dickens’s fiction praises dutiful housekeepers such as Agnes Wickfield in David Copperfield (1850) and Esther Summerson in Bleak House (1853), his novels also contain memorable portraits of women’s 741 Downloaded from https:/www.cambridge.org/core . R o m a ni a n Co n so r t i u m R e m ote M ob il e Use r , o n 22 May 2017 at 19:38:58, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at https:/www.cambridge.org/core/terms . https://doi.org/10.1017/S1060150316000206 " id="pdf-obj-0-12" src="pdf-obj-0-12.jpg">

JANE EYRE’S PURSE: WOMEN’S QUEER ECONOMIC DESIRE IN THE VICTORIAN NOVEL

By Meg Dobbins

Who holds the purse will wish to be master

. . .

whether Man or woman —Charlotte Bronte, ¨ Letter to Ellen Nussey, 1845

“YOUNG LADIES DONT UNDERSTAND political economy, you know,” asserts the casually misogynistic uncle of Dorothea Brooke in George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871) (17; bk. 1, ch 1). Although Eliot’s heroine resents both her uncle’s remark and “that never-explained science which was thrust as an extinguisher over all her lights,” her attempt to teach herself political economy in the novel only seems to confirm her uncle’s assessment (18; bk. 1, ch. 1): Dorothea gathers a “little heap of books on political economy” and sets forth to learn “the best way of spending money so as not to injure one’s neighbors, or – what comes to the same thing – so as to do them the most good” (805; bk. 5, ch. 48). Naively likening “spending money so as not to injure one’s neighbors” to “do[ing] them the most good,” Dorothea fails to grasp the self-interest at the core of nineteenth-century political economic thought and so misunderstands the subject matter before her: “Unhappily her mind slipped off [the book] for a whole hour; and at the end she found herself reading sentences twice over with an intense consciousness of many things, but not of any one thing contained in the text. This was hopeless” (805; bk. 5, ch. 48). Women are often depicted as poor students of the “dismal science” in Victorian literature. In Margaret Oliphant’s Miss Marjoribanks (1866), Lucilla atypically learns political economy alongside other, traditional feminine subjects (“She had taken her French and her German and her singing and her political economy” [18; ch. 1]). Yet because, in this instance, political economy is portrayed as part of a ladies’ education, Lucilla acquires only a superficial knowledge of the subject. While Middlemarch depicts economics as an exclusive, masculine realm of knowledge from which women are excluded, Oliphant’s novel satirizes the female student of economics who “do[esn’t] pretend to be better than other people” but repeatedly boasts that she has gone through “a course of political economy” and “thought it all over” (60; ch. 8). Despite their reputations as innately domestic “angels,” women in Victorian fiction often prove poor economists in the home as well. While Charles Dickens’s fiction praises dutiful housekeepers such as Agnes Wickfield in David Copperfield (1850) and Esther Summerson in Bleak House (1853), his novels also contain memorable portraits of women’s

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failed domestic management. In Our Mutual Friend (1864), for example, the impetuous Bella Wilfer is found studying a cookbook “with her elbows on the table and her temples on her hands, like some perplexed enchantress poring over the Black Art” (682; bk. 4, ch. 5). Bella eventually masters the Black Art, yet the same cannot be said for David Copperfield’s first wife, Dora Spenlow, who, we can only conclude, would rather die than learn the principles of proper home economy. As David reports, “[t]he cookery-book made Dora’s head ache, and the figures made her cry” (645; ch. 41). Rather than crunching the numbers, Dora prefers to draw “little nosegays” and portraits of David and her dog Jip in the margins of her tablets. What are we to make of mid-century depictions of women as amateur, marginal, and failed participants in nineteenth-century economic thought? When Dorothea’s mind “slip[s] off” the page of her book on political economy, where does it go? When she reads sentences twice and fails to grasp the singular, proper object of political economy, what are the “many things” not “contained in the text” to which she turns her attention? For, despite her heroine’s failure to grasp the principles of political economy, Eliot foreshadows early in the text that Dorothea will prove an economically disruptive force, the sort of woman who “might awaken you some fine morning with a new scheme for the application of her income which would

interfere with political economy

a man would naturally think twice before he risked

. . . himself in such fellowship” (10; bk.1, ch. 1). In its own way, even Dora’s idle doodling in the pages of her cookery-book indicates her resistance to the principles of moderate consumption. Her spoiled dog who “must have a mutton-chop every day at twelve, or he’ll die” expresses Dora’s own resentment at being turned into David’s “pet” to perform the little tricks of housekeeping that a good wife should. Thus, on the few occasions when Dora does manage to “enter two or three laborious items in the account-book,” David laments that Jip “walk[s] over the page, wagging his tail, and smear[ing] them all out” (689; ch. 44). Taking scenes such as these as a starting point, in this article, I reassess the marks Victorian women make in the nineteenth-century account-book. More than simply satirizing women’s economic abilities or anticipating the economic emancipation of women later in the century, I argue that the figure of Economic Woman in mid-century fiction emblematizes a specific, queer moment in the history of modern economic thought. Over the course of the nineteenth century, rapid changes in England’s economy put pressure on existing structures of class, gender, and family. Popular fiction helps “take stock” of these developments by telling stories of economic change in social terms. If the middle-class form of the Victorian novel often seems to promote dominant ideologies of modern, economic progress, fiction simultaneously illuminates queer sites of mobility and fluidity within England’s emergent capitalist society. Here, I consider how the uncertain economic position of Victorian women in the latter half of the century rendered Economic Woman a figure through whom mid- century authors critically reappraised heteronormative imperatives of emergent capitalist ethos and explored the social possibilities of other, queer economic desire.

I. Recovering “Economic Woman”

DANIEL DEFOES 1719 DEPICTION of Robinson Crusoe is often cited by economists as the first portrayal of “economic man”: a “model of economic individualism,” as Lana L. Dalley and Jill Rappoport describe him, who exemplifies the virtues of “prudence, production, and power” (1). In fact, the economic term homo economicus only entered common parlance later in the nineteenth century in response to an 1836 essay about political economy written

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by John Stuart Mill. There, Mill posited a definition of an “arbitrary” economic subject “who invariably does that by which he may obtain the greatest amount of necessaries, conveniences, and luxuries, with the smallest quantity of labour and physical self-denial with which they can be obtained in the existing state of knowledge” (Mill). While the notion of this abstract yet implicitly masculine homo economicus shaped and continues to determine conceptions of the self and desire in a capitalist economy, in recent decades, a number of scholars have noted the conspicuous absence of women in the history of modern economic thought. The Marxist scholar David Harvey, for example, points out that although economists prefer Robinson Crusoe for “naturalizing capitalism,” Defoe’s second novel, Moll Flanders (1722), would actually provide a more accurate model for the speculative capitalist market (43-44). In the early nineties, feminist economists more forcefully began to challenge the androcentrism of modern economics, most notably Marianne A. Ferber and Julie A. Nelson in their Beyond Economic Man: Feminist Theory and Economics (1993) and Feminist Economics Today (2003). In the introduction to the latter text, Ferber and Nelson point out that “culturally ‘masculine’ topics, such as men and market behavior, and culturally ‘masculine’ characteristics, such as autonomy, abstraction, and logic” tend to define economic discourse, while “topics such as women and family behavior as well as characteristics of connection, concreteness, and emotion are all considered ‘feminine’” (1). Economist and transwoman Deirdre McCloskey further interrogates the ideal of homo economicus by breaking the figure into masculine and feminine elements: vir economicus, whom she jokingly describes as “a cross between Rambo and an investment banker,” and the figure of femina economica, an economic subject more concerned with solidarity with others (79). 1 McCloskey argues that economists and humanists alike would benefit from efforts to combine the traditionally masculine and feminine traits of their respective disciplines, to develop what she calls a “conjective” viewpoint, a subjective as well as objective understanding of “what we know together, by virtue of a common life and language” (76). Despite successful efforts to complicate the rational, autonomous figure of Economic Man, as scholars such as Dalley and Rappoport have recently pointed out, Economic Woman “remains, at best a liminal figure” (1). In part, the history of Economic Woman has proved difficult to recover because of the system of coverture, a common law arrangement which considered women legally and economically “covered” by their husbands under marriage. 2 The Married Women’s Property Acts of 1870 and 1882 are generally cited as watershed events in the economic history of women. 3 While there can be no doubt that the Property Acts granted women important new economic freedoms, other scholars have suggested that an overemphasis on women’s property laws inadvertently contributes to an overdetermined understanding of the “separate spheres ideology,” the notion that Victorian women were isolated from everyday economic activities when in fact they were not. 4 As an exciting and growing body of research by literary and economic historians reveals, women played active and diverse roles in the nineteenth century economy as laborers, investors, consumers, and beneficiaries of money. 5 Because it remains difficult to study women’s independent economic activity with any certainty in the nineteenth century, however, Victorian fiction has played a particularly important role in learning more about the various ways women participated in nineteenth- century economic culture as both readers and writers. 6 For example, George Robb reveals that even when women were barred from direct participation in the Stock Exchange, fiction allowed them vicariously to partake in the excitement of trade (131). In the latter half of

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the century, a popular genre of melodrama about finance and business by women authors such as Catherine Gore and Charlotte Riddell emerged alongside new capitalist board games “whereby players achieved success through competitive capitalist behavior” (Robb 131). 7 As recent scholarship contends, economic and literary discourses in the nineteenth century overlapped and shaped one another. 8 Even in texts which do not ostensibly depict financial topics, Anna Kornbluh argues that economic ideas are reflected in the “financial formalism” of the novel itself (13; 15). In the economic culture of nineteenth-century England, a number of women writers joined public intellectuals in shaping economic ideas for the broader public through fiction. To cite one important example, Harriet Martineau taught readers the theories of Jeremy Bentham, Thomas Malthus, and David Ricardo in her popular, multi-volume series of novellas Illustrations of Political Economy (1832-1834). In a preface to the work, Martineau explains her stories are not a “trap designed to catch idle readers” (a device she claims she “detests”), but simply “the best [form] in which Political Economy can be taught” (Martineau). More than merely “entertaining,” in Martineau’s view, fiction proves “the most faithful and the most complete” way to illustrate economic principles. Martineau’s work is often taken as the precursor to the more well-known industrial novels of Elizabeth Gaskell. Like Martineau, Gaskell sees her work in conversation with political economic discourse. In the preface to Mary Barton (1848), Gaskell explains her interest in writing about the “unhappy state of things” between employers and employees who need to work in cooperation (3), but she goes on to disclaim that she “know[s] nothing of Political Economy, or the theories of trade,” and that “if [her] accounts agree or clash with any system, the agreement or disagreement is unintentional” (4). These prefatory remarks help capture the complicated relationship between economic and literary discourse in the period: on the one hand, Gaskell professes ignorance of the science of political economy, yet she simultaneously signals the importance of engaging, in fiction, ethical questions absent or marginal in that science. 9 Further complicating a recovery of women’s economic history is the role the abstract figure of Woman played in shaping economic ideas in the Victorian era. As Deanna Kreisel reveals in her pioneering Economic Woman: Demand, Gender, and Narrative Closure in Eliot and Hardy (2012), fears pertaining to capitalist growth were often represented vis-a- ` vis metaphors of women’s sexuality. In Kreisel’s view, Economic Woman mobilizes a set of metaphors common to political economy and the realist novel whereby the “idealized model of feminine sexual restraint and wise domestic management” is always “shadowed by her opposite: the degraded prostitute whose sexual excesses and economic mismanagement seem to threaten the very stability of the young capitalist economy” (14). 10 Yet if women are often abjected in the Victorian novel for their economic desires, other research calls attention to how depictions of women’s economic activity in fiction promote alternative forms of social exchange. In Giving Women: Alliance and Exchange in Victorian Culture (2012), Jill Rappoport challenges the dominant view that women’s acts of giving in the nineteenth century are “selfless acts of charity or sacrifice” (4). Instead, Rappoport shows how gifts enabled women to overcome political and economic limitations in the nineteenth century and resist dominant cultural understandings of intimacy and community (4). Here, I argue that it is vital not only to recover the figure of Economic Woman, but the queer moment in mid-century economic culture which seemed not to fear, but rather to urgently desire her difference from Economic Man. In what follows, I chart how

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Economic Woman emerges in the fiction of one canonical women writer, Charlotte Bronte. ¨ While the myth of Charlotte Bronte¨ as an “intuitive genius” isolated from broader social, cultural, and political goings-on in the nineteenth century has long been challenged, Bronte’s ¨ engagement with economic matters has only garnered scholarly interest more recently (Shuttleworth 1). 11 As Nancy Henry points out, Bronte¨ was in fact “among a growing number of women who supplemented their income by investing in companies that funded railways, canals, and public utilities” (“Ladies do it?” 111). Indeed, many of the funds Brontinvested were profits she originally earned from her fiction. Although Bronte¨ is most famous for her vivid depictions of brooding psychological interiority, all of her novels are more concretely about the economic challenges that face middle class men and women in the nineteenth century. From her first novel The Professor (published posthumously in 1857) to her more famous portrayals of Victorian women in Jane Eyre (1847) and Villette (1853), Bronte’s ¨ fiction revises homo economicus, gradually adapting the masculine “business mind” to her female heroines and later more radically overturning economic narratives of self-help, upward social mobility, and heterosexual partnership common to the Victorian bildungsroman and capitalist ethos. In Jane Eyre, Bronte¨ revises the economic plot of The Professor by exploring the story of individual economic prosperity within a different emotional economy, one which invests the Victorian heiress in queer possibilities of consuming and redistributing wealth. As an economic protagonist, Jane differs from Economic Man not simply by her gender, but more crucially, in the instability of her economic position – a material and affective precariousness which not only unsettles but begins to redress errors in the normative account of homo economicus. In Bronte’s ¨ final novel, Villette, Economic Woman emerges as a queer economic subject whose unstable and diverse investments challenge conventional notions of domestic security. As I will show, Bronte¨ first imagines Economic Woman as a figure whose economic story necessarily departs from the realist plot of the Victorian novel. Yet, in revising the narrative of homo economicus, Bronte’s ¨ novels ultimately produce “queer accounts” of nineteenth-century social mobility: more complete economic stories of the costs, perks, benefits, and liabilities of life and love in an unpredictable capitalist society.

II. “The Hill of Difficulty” and “The Wheel of Fortune”: Economic Plots in The Professor and Jane Eyre

BRONT

ES ¨ FIRST NOVEL, THE PROFESSOR, tells the story of a man’s gradual rise to professional

and personal prosperity. As an orphan with few prospects, William Crimsworth begins working as a clerk in his brother’s mill, and eventually pursues a teaching career in Brussels. Over the course of the novel, Crimsworth falls in love with and marries a sewing teacher named Frances Henri. The two remain in Brussels long enough to earn money to return to England and start a family. The novel was never a success, failing to find a publisher in Bronte’s ¨ lifetime and perplexing its readers since its posthumous publication. Yet if the novel is a dry read, it perhaps sets out to be. In the preface, Bronte¨ delineates her goal:

I said to myself that my hero should work his way through life as I had seen real living men work theirs – that he should never get a shilling he had not earned — that no sudden turns should lift him in a moment to wealth and high station; that

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  • 746 VICTORIAN LITERATURE AND CULTURE

whatever small competency he might gain, should be won by the sweat of his brow; that, before he could find so much as an arbour to sit down in, he should master at least half the ascent of “the Hill of Difficulty.” (Preface 37)

Bronte’s ¨ interest in tracing a “real” man’s ascent of “the Hill of Difficulty” reflects what Ellen Moers has called the “quest for fact” that characterizes women writing about money in the nineteenth century (86). More than the novel’s boring plot, however, readers find Bronte’s ¨ male narrator particularly off-putting. As Heather Glen observes, “[t]here is something oddly disagreeable, even repellent about Crimsworth’s story. It seems altogether more disturbing

than one might expect

full of suggestions of a barely suppressed violence, a peculiarly

. . . sadistic sexuality” (11). Judith Mitchell concurs that The Professor is “a strange novel” with an “eminently unlikable as well as unreliable” narrator (31). Early in the novel, Crimsworth notes that his “self-denying economy” isolates him from his peers (55). Crimsworth regrets that his friends view him as a “miser,” yet he persists in “husbanding [his] monthly allowance with anxious care, in order to obviate the danger of being forced, in some moment of future exigency, to beg additional aid” (55; ch. 3). At first, Crimsworth claims his stinginess is a temporary necessity, an “anxiety” he endures in youth for the sake of future happiness, yet his chilly approach to personal finance only increases over the course of the novel. His narrative concludes with all the excitement of a well-drawn ledger, detailing his and his wife’s return to England:

Accounts being wound up, and our professional connection disposed of, we both agreed that, as mammon was not our master, nor his service that in which we desired to spend our lives; as our desires were temperate, and our habits unostentatious, we had now abundance to live on – abundance to leave our boy; and should besides always have a balance on hand, which, properly managed by right sympathy and unselfish activity, might help philanthropy in her enterprises, and put solace into the hand of charity. To England we now resolved to take wing. (280; ch. 25)

In The Professor, “accounts” wind up with unnerving simplicity, yoking together Victorian ideals of economic, national, and domestic stability. Crimsworth attains the perfect “balance” of funds to start a homegrown English family and live a moderate life by repudiating ostentation and excess. The “unselfish activity” of philanthropy may receive an obligatory line in the budget, yet Bronte’s ¨ hero stresses, to the very end, the importance of temperate moderation above all else. Despite the failures of her first novel, in writing and seeking a readership for The Professor, Bronte¨ first seems to have recognized the limitations of homo economicus and his story. As she muses, “Men in business are usually thought to prefer the real; on trial the idea will be often found fallacious: a passionate preference for the wild, wonderful, and thrilling – the strange, startling, and harrowing – agitates divers souls that show a calm and sober surface” (Preface 37). In her second and most successful novel, Jane Eyre, Bronte¨ tries her hand at a more “wild” economic plot, and in producing an alternative story of social mobility, begins to contest both the gender and the genre of homo economicus. At first, Jane Eyre seems to prepare for a traditional plot of women’s upward mobility through marriage. After the tribulations of her early childhood, living as a penniless orphan with her wealthy but coldhearted aunt, Jane is sent to Lowood charity school for girls where she works her

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way up to the position of teacher. Upon advertising for work as a governess, Jane attains a position at Thornfield where she begins to accrue a small amount of wages at the same time that her courtship plot with Rochester begins. Yet the Victorian heroine’s quest for economic self-sufficiency inevitably juts up against the plot of marriage:

And where is Mr. Rochester?

He comes in last

. . . .

I try to concentrate my attention on those netting-needles, on the meshes of the

purse I am forming – I wish to think only of the work I have in my hands, to see only the silver beads

and silk threads that lie in my lap; whereas, I distinctly behold his figure

. . .

(202; vol. 2, ch. 17)

As the courtship plot approaches its apex, the novel becomes increasingly uncertain about how best a Victorian woman can “form” her purse after all. When Mrs. Reed falls sick and Jane asks Rochester for permission to return to Gateshead, Bronte¨ pauses to register the intertwining of Jane’s financial and romantic economies. While Rochester recognizes that Jane needs funds to travel, he does not want to pay Jane as a servant, so he attempts to convert her wages into a gift: “‘Here,’ said he, offering me a note; it was fifty pounds, and he owed me but fifteen, I told him I had no change” (259; vol.2, ch. 21). 12 Jane’s refusal forces her lover-employer to adopt a new tactic:

He scowled at first; then, as if recollecting something, he said – “Right, right! Better not give you all now; you would, perhaps, stay away three months if you had fifty pounds. There are ten; is it not plenty?” “Yes, sir, but now you owe me five.” “Come back for it then; I am your banker for forty pounds.” (259; vol. 2, ch. 21)

The joke of the exchange is predicated on the fact that at the denouement ´ of the marriage plot, a woman is worth very little and very much at the same time. Because Jane will soon share Rochester’s wealth as his wife, he perceives her salary as a negligible detail. Rochester ultimately triumphs over Jane by underpaying her. If he cannot be her benefactor, then he will be her banker. Jane leaves with her dignity intact because it is clear that Rochester still “owes” her: a mere five pounds, but also a marriage proposal. Flirtations aside, however, the exchange also serves to assess the risk of the normative courtship trajectory that would empty the pockets of the governess with the promise of filling them up as a wife: “How much have

you in the world, Jane? [Rochester] asked smiling

He took the purse, poured the hoard

. . . . into his palm, and chuckled over it as if its scantiness amused him” (259; vol. 2, ch. 21). By

calling our attention to the “scant” and “amus[ing]” contents of the woman’s purse, Brontforeshadows that the Bank of Rochester will indeed fail. When Bertha Mason is revealed as Rochester’s wife, Jane is left destitute, bereft not only of the wealth of a Mrs. Rochester, but also of her wages as a governess. In a number of mid-century novels, economic disasters elevate women to traditionally masculine positions of social and economic authority and motivate them to invest in new social relations. 13 To point to a few examples: at the beginning of Gaskell’s North and South (1855), Mr. Hale resigns as clergyman in Helstone and relocates his family in the industrial town of Milton where Margaret is soon “overpowered by the discovery of [her] own genius for management” when she takes on a number of new economic and social roles in the Hale household (60; ch. 7). Later Margaret becomes friends with mill worker and labor organizer

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Nicholas Higgins, and she is instrumental in facilitating cooperation between the union and Mr. Thornton. In Oliphant’s Hester (1873), the threat of a run on the Vernon Banking House enables Catherine Vernon to step forward and save her town and the family business from disaster. Although Catherine never marries, her house becomes “gay with young friends and tender friendship” (24; ch. 3). In an establishment called “The Vernonry,” Hester houses a number of poor relations, and Oliphant claims that Catherine becomes “the first love of more girls than she could count” (24). In Our Mutual Friend, the young, disabled Jenny Wren identifies herself as the “person of the house” and tends to her alcoholic father as if her were her own child (222; bk. 2, ch. 1). Here too, it is only the inversion of traditional familial roles which allows Jenny to expand her sphere of intimates into “Queer Street,” supplementing insufficient paternal care with other domestic and economic partnerships with Lizzie Hexam and the Jewish moneylender Riah. 14 When Jane’s marriage plot fails, she once again becomes the object of charity at Moor House, relying on the hospitality of the Riverses to restore her to health and to provide her with food, shelter, and eventual employment as a schoolteacher. This position affords Jane a difficult and meager living; yet her suffering is fleeting. When St. John uncovers Jane’s real identity, she learns she is actually the heiress of a fortune. Her uncle has died and left her a sudden windfall. Once again, Bronte¨ pauses to assess the contents of her heroine’s purse:

“Perhaps now you will ask how much you are worth?” “How much am I worth?” “Oh, a trifle! Nothing of course to speak of – twenty thousand pounds, I think they say – but what is that?” “Twenty thousand pounds?” Here was a new stunner – I had been calculating on four or five thousand. This news actually took my breath for a moment. (441; vol. 3, ch. 33)

As in the earlier exchange between Rochester and Jane, Bronte¨ again reflects on the difficulty of assessing the value of the Victorian woman on the rise. At first Jane assumes St. John “[has] read the figures wrong; it may only be two thousand pounds (442; vol. 3, ch. 33). Only when St. John emphasizes that the sum is written in letters not figures, does Jane believe the fortune belongs in her narrative (442; vol. 3, ch. 33). The windfall is a common bookend to the plot of women’s economic ruination in the Victorian novel. In North and South, for example, Margaret suddenly gains an inheritance from a college friend of her father’s, which she then invests in her fiance’s ´ failing cotton mill. In Anne Bronte’s ¨ The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), Helen is doubly blessed when her first husband and her uncle die, and she inherits the estates as feme sole. Anthony Trollope parodies such plots (and their association with women) in the novel that Lady Carbury is writing in The Way We Live Now (1875). Mrs. Carbury begins with only a title, The Wheel of Fortune:

She had no particular fortune in her mind when she chose it, and no particular wheel; – but the very idea conveyed by the words gave her the plot which she wanted. A young lady was blessed with great wealth, and lost it all by an uncle, and got it all back by an honest lawyer, and gave it all up to a distressed lover, and found it all again in a third volume. (360; ch. 89)

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As Trollope portrays it, the windfall functions as a cheap, novelistic trick – a sensational plot device or a way to “reward” good characters in the final hour for their hard work, moral development, and good character. Yet, the unrealistic double plot of bankruptcy and boon also suggests a crucial difference in the plot of Economic Man and Economic Woman, for the second half of Jane Eyre is filled with precisely the “sudden turns” Bronte¨ repudiates in the preface to The Professor; rather than slowly and steadily ascending the “Hill of Difficulty,” Bronte’s ¨ Economic Woman oscillates between more extreme forms of having and not having wealth. Not only does Bronte’s ¨ portrayal of Jane’s unstable value upset the realism of the traditional story of upward mobility but these sudden gains and losses of lump sums of money render her ascent to economic independence all that lumpier, exaggerating, in the most extreme terms, what economic excesses and privations feel like from one moment to the next. In The Professor, after all, part of what enables Crimsworth’s even-tempered approach to his personal economy is that he never has very much or very little all at once. Whether painful or pleasurable, for Economic Woman money incites more feelings, and it is precisely the queer feeling of money which enables authors such as Bronte¨ to reappraise the terms of individual economic security within the nineteenth century.

III. “A Fact That Still Takes My Breath Away”: The Queer Feeling of Money

IN A ROOM OF ONES OWN (1929), when her narrator must pay a bill for tea Virginia Woolf has an opportunity to reflect on the economic freedom the modern woman enjoys: “it came to five shillings and ninepence. I gave the waiter a ten-shilling note and he went to bring me the change. There was another ten-shilling note in my purse; I noticed it, because it is a fact that still takes my breath away – the power of my purse to breed ten-shilling notes automatically. I open it and there they are” (37). Later, we learn that this legacy comes from the narrator’s aunt who “died by a fall from her horse when she was riding out to take the air in Bombay” (37). This everyday scene of consumption and exchange serves to dramatize the first half of Woolf’s now famous materialist thesis that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction” (4). Yet Woolf’s description of the modern woman paying her bill also implies that women have entered into money just as they have entered into fiction – obliquely, carrying the mark of gender and the history of a sex that has been denied access to that medium. Like Woolf’s modern heiress, Jane approaches her wealth tentatively, with mixed feelings of desire, curiosity, and shame. Jane’s breath is “t[aken] for a moment” when she first learns of her inheritance, and her initial reaction is not one of excitement: “One does not jump,

and spring, and shout hurrah! at hearing one has got a fortune

one begins to consider

. . . responsibilities, and to ponder business; on a base of steady satisfaction rise certain grave cares, and we contain ourselves, and brood over our bliss with a solemn brow” (441; vol. 3,

ch. 33). In part, Jane’s inheritance distresses her because the financial gain entails social loss. The death of her estranged uncle makes her rich, yet reminds her of her isolation as an orphan, an outcast, an almost-bride: “The words Legacy, Bequest, go side by side with the

words, Death, Funeral

This money came only to me: not to me and a rejoicing family, but

.... to my isolated self” (441; vol. 3, ch. 33). The money also makes Jane feel guilty. As St. John observes, “If you had committed a murder, and I had told you your crime was discovered,

you could scarcely look more aghast” (441; vol. 3, ch. 3). Jane’s inheritance may make her feel responsible for murdering a number of characters: her uncle, the Riverses (to whom

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this sum of money would otherwise have been directed), and perhaps also Bertha Mason. 15 Indeed, if we read this scene of assessing Jane’s “worth” alongside the earlier scene in which the contents of Jane’s purse are first emptied into Rochester’s hand, the windfall almost magically seems to fulfill Rochester’s earlier promise to pay Jane what he “owes” her. Jane feels herself as “gorged with gold” that she “never earned and do[es] not merit” (447; vol. 3, ch. 33), and she overcomes the new, overfull feeling of economic prosperity not by refusing to spend, but by indulging herself in turning Moor House into a “beau-ideal” to welcome home Diana and Mary, whom Jane insists no longer need to work for their livings (450; vol. 3, ch. 34). While previous readers have taken Jane’s excessive investments in Moor House as a sign of Bronte’s ¨ tacit complicity in imperial exploitation, these readings overlook how Bronte’s ¨ exaggerated depiction of Jane as “gorged” heiress revises her depiction of staid homo economicus in The Professor. 16 Much as the “Wheel of Fortune” plot defies the realist plot of the “Hill of Difficulty,” Jane breathless excitement in the renovation of Moor House flouts the ideals of moderate domestic economy and luxuriates in precisely the ostentatious details Crimsworth repudiates. St. John (one could say the dour Crimsworth of this novel) disapproves of Jane’s domestic frivolities, cautioning her to “restrain the disproportionate fervor” with which she “throw[s]” herself into “commonplace home pleasures,” and urging her when “the first flush of vivacity is over” to “look a little higher than domestic endearments and household joys” (451; vol. 3, ch 34). He even attempts to curtail Jane’s happiness by fitting it into what he deems a reasonable timeline: “I excuse you for the present: two months’ grace I allow you for the full enjoyment of your new position, and for pleasing yourself with this late-found charm of relationship; but then, I hope you will begin to look beyond Moor House and Morton, and sisterly society, and the selfish calm and sensual comfort of civilised affluence” (451; vol. 3, ch. 34). The lecture St. John gives Jane is in keeping with his own economization of pleasure. In a particularly cringe worthy (or we might rather say crims-worthy) scene earlier in the novel, Jane watches St. John set a watch for fifteen minutes, permitting himself a limited amount of time to daydream about Rose, the beautiful heiress he wants to marry. As the clock ticks, he “breathe[s] fast and low” as “that little space” given over to “delirium and delusion” elapses (430; vol. 3, ch. 32). By the end of the novel, Jane defiantly rejects St. John’s joyless economy and his advice to fit “sisterly society” into its proper “little space” and time in order to prioritize what he perceives as more noble investments of the Victorian woman’s wealth. Rather than channeling her inheritance into the appropriate, if limited economy of heterosexual marriage and St. John’s proposal to become a missionary’s wife in India, Jane impulsively chooses to finance the domestic happiness of her female kinsmen by dividing her legacy among them:

“Were we not four? Twenty thousand pounds shared equally would be five thousand each, justice – enough and to spare: justice would be done, – mutual happiness secured” (445; vol. 3, ch. 33). In her refusal of St. John, Jane exposes what Kreisel has identified as a problem of private wealth in the nineteenth century, “its vulnerability to the whims and fancies of individual owners and investors who are not acting with the best interest of the system in mind” (4-5). If The Professor concludes by affirming moderation, with Crimsworth setting aside a small sum of money for helping others while retaining most of his wealth for his family, in Jane Eyre the bulk of Jane’s inheritance is transformed into a gift that keeps on giving: “Now the wealth did not weigh on me: now it was not a mere bequest of coin, – it was a legacy of life, hope, enjoyment” (445; vol. 3, ch 33).

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Jane Eyre does not refuse so much as it radically refunds the marriage plot. By dividing her legacy, Jane not only invests in “sisterly society,” but hedges her investment so that she has other “partners” if her bank fails again, as a woman’s bank always might: “I will have a home and connections. I like Moor House, and I will live at Moor House; I like Diana and Mary, and I will attach myself for life to Diana and Mary” (446; vol. 3, ch. 33). Not everyone is accommodated in the “sisterly” economy of Jane Eyre (it would be difficult to imagine Jane giving a fifth and sixth share to Hannah, the domestic servant at Moor House, and Bertha Mason), yet the extramarital bonds Jane forges with other women undermine the economic trust of heterosexual partnership. As Jill Rappoport points out, “the deferment of [Jane’s] wedding makes possible her fleeting possession of £20,000 and her immediate gift of £15,000. It allows her to benefit her cousins and simultaneously, to limit the wealth that her (future) husband will acquire” (50); Jane “condenses and even conceals” her inheritance from Rochester, “simply informing him that her dead uncle ‘left [her] five thousand pounds’” (51). Even if we leave Rochester out of it, Jane’s pre-marital gift to her cousins has the ultimate effect of depriving her future heir the fortune his mother would otherwise have brought into her marriage. Rachel Blau DuPlessis contends that Jane Eyre only offers an individual or particularistic tactic that may succeed in “chang[ing] the material basis of marriage” but “does not change the emotional basis in romantic love” (9). Yet in many novels, women’s queer economic feelings reveal disruptive sites of desire within the Victorian family fortune. In Middlemarch, for example, it is not Dorothea’s desire for Will Ladislaw, but feelings towards Julia, Will’s disinherited grandmother, which first threaten her union with Causabon. As Dorothea comes to terms with the lonely disappointments of her married life, a miniature of Aunt Julia hanging in Dorothea’s boudoir becomes a “companion” to her: “the colors deepened, the

lips and chin seemed to get larger, the hair and eyes seemed to be sending out light, the face was masculine and beamed on her” (275; bk.3, ch. 28). Dorothea’s emotional attachment to the “masculine” portrait ultimately leads her to conclude that her husband and his family have acted unjustly to Julia: “What a wrong, to cut off the girl from the family protection

and inheritance only because she had chosen a man who was poor!

. . .

Was inheritance a

question of liking or of responsibility?” (371; bk. 4, ch. 37). Like Jane, Dorothea’s wealth

leaves her feeling “gorged” by gold. As she says, “my own money buys me nothing but an uneasy conscience” (372; bk. 4, ch. 37). Eventually, this guilty conscience becomes a third

party in the marital bed, keeping Dorothea up at night, “thinking about money

. . .

that

I have always had too much, and especially the prospect of too much” (373; bk. 4, ch. 37). To point out that Victorian women are more inclined to act on behalf of “poor relations” in the Victorian novel is not merely to imply that women are inherently more generous or emotional about money than men, but that Victorians imagined the reappraisal of a woman’s value as an essential step in projects of redistributive justice. While Jane shares her legacy only within her larger family network, in other novels, the queer economic desires of women can lead to more pronounced queer economic partnerships beyond traditional structures of kin. In Eliot’s Romola (1862), for example, after Romola becomes a widow, she cares for her husband’s peasant mistress, Tessa, and her two illegitimate children. Instead of living off of Tito’s inheritance, Romola surrenders this wealth to the state, choosing to cohabitate with Tessa and the children under the care of her aunt, the widow Monna Brigida. Romola’s refusal of Tito’s ill-gotten gains and her commitment to raising the family he swindles reveals

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Economic Woman as a corrective figure, intervening on behalf of others and compensating for damages accrued in the heteronormative economy.

IV. “A Woman and Something More”: Economic Woman in Shirley and Villette

ALTHOUGH CRIMSWORTH IS Bronte’s ¨

only male narrator, the relationship between economic

independence and masculinity continues to fascinate Bronte¨ and inform her depictions of

Economic Woman in the two novels she writes after Jane Eyre. Bronte¨ sets her third novel, Shirley (1849), in 1811, a period of economic turmoil when foreign trade was restricted and Luddite rebellions broke out as new machinery was introduced into English mills. As Rosemarie Bodenheimer and others have observed, the novel is “built on the intertwined stories of unemployed rebellious workers and idle, suppressed middle-class women” (37). 17 Shirley focuses on the lives of two heroines: the penniless Caroline Helstone and the wealthy heiress Shirley Keeldar. Though Caroline lacks an independent fortune or vocation, she

“muse[s] over the mystery of “business,” and trie[s] to comprehend

. . .

its perplexities,

liabilities, duties, exactions

to realize the state of mind of a ‘man of business,’ to enter

. . . into it, feel what he would feel, aspire to what he would aspire” (166-167; ch. 10). Shirley by contrast has been given a man’s name and repeatedly boasts that the business “state of

mind” has masculinized her: “Business! Really the word makes me conscious I am indeed

no longer a girl, but quite a woman and something more

They gave me a man’s name;

. . . . I hold a man’s position. It is enough to inspire me with a touch of manhood” (193-94; ch.

11; emphasis added). Insisting that she is more at home in “the countinghouse” than in her “bloom-coloured drawing-room,” Shirley occupies a man’s position, but represents, as she stresses, “something more” – a queer excess in which Bronte¨ begins to trouble the connection between the masculine business “state of mind” and the sex of the economic subject (195; ch. 11). The masculine Economic Woman Bronte¨ first figures in the strapping Shirley Keeldar emerges more soberly, if completely, in the stoic heroine of her final novel, Lucy Snowe. In Villette, as in Shirley, economic independence masculinizes Victorian women. At Rue Fossette, Lucy admires the cool-headed business prowess of Madame Beck, a character who, in moments of assertion seems “not [to] wear a woman’s aspect, but rather a man’s” (87; vol. 1, ch. 8). Lucy details Madame Beck’s “high administrative powers,” running a pensionnat with more than a hundred day-pupils and “a score” of boarders, supervising the work of “four teachers, eight masters, six servants, and three children, managing at the

same time to perfection the pupils’ parents and friends ...

without apparent effort

. . .

bustle,

fatigue, fever, or any symptom of undue, excitement” (81; vol. 1, ch. 8). In the much-discussed scene when Lucy plays the part of a male suitor in a vaudeville on the occasion of Madame Beck’s birthday, Lucy has the opportunity to don the masculine “aspect” herself. Though Lucy greatly enjoys her dramatic debut as a vain fop vying for the attentions of Ginevra Fanshawe, she modifies the male costume to retain elements of her femininity, insisting that “it must be arranged in my own way” (159; vol. 1, ch. 14). 18 Previous readers of Villette have pointed to Lucy’s fluid gender identification and attractions in the novel as signs of her queerness. 19 Yet, if Villette is Bronte’s ¨ queerest novel, it is significant that Bronte¨ herself considered Villette a “sequel” to The Professor (Preface, Professor 37). As her husband Arthur Bell Nicholls noted, though the “two stories are in most respects unlike” Bronte¨ made use of material in her first novel in Villette (Preface, Professor 37).

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Like Crimsworth, Lucy is a “rising character,” yet her rise is unpredictable and reflects the economic precarity of the other Victorian heroines I have examined here (358; vol. 1, ch. 27). As a child, Lucy suffers unnamed hardships; when we first encounter her, she is dressed in mourning garb for which she never accounts. At Bretton and again in Rue Fossette, Lucy finds “safe asylum” with her “active godmother” Louisa Bretton (198; vol. 2, ch. 16; 210; vol. 2, ch. 17). While the Brettons offer Lucy friendship and comfort, their support is unpredictable at best. Earlier in the novel, they lose their money in an unnamed joint-stock undertaking and while Graham Bretton resurfaces later in the novel as a friend to Lucy, his attention dwindles when he begins courting the elegant and now-wealthy Countess Paulina Mary (38; vol. 1, ch. 4). Lucy finds an unlikely benefactor in an elderly spinster, Miss Marchmont, whom Lucy serves as a companionate nursemaid. Shortly before her death, Miss Marchmont promises to leave Lucy a legacy; however, when the old woman passes away before she can put her gift down in writing, the sum is seized by a miserly, second- cousin (46; vol. 1, ch. 5). At Rue Fossette, Lucy doesn’t fare much better. Though she gains employment with Madame Beck as a nursery-governess and works her way up to an English teacher, by the end of the novel, Lucy’s employer turns rival, numbering among the Catholic “secret junta” conspiring to keep Paul Emanuel and his money away from Lucy (533; vol. 3, ch. 38). When Paul Emanuel presumably dies at sea on his way home from the West Indies, we cannot be surprised; this final stroke of bad luck in the life of Bronte’s ¨ heroine has been all but preordained by the novel’s pattern of repeated economic failure. Because Lucy cannot count on family, benefactors, employers, or lovers to provide her with consistent emotional and financial support in Villette she retreats inward, becoming an emotionally repressed and guarded heroine whose day-to-day existence is a kind of “living death” (Gilbert and Gubar 400). Enhancing Lucy’s “buried life” are the numerous Gothic elements of the novel – the haunting nun, the buried letters, the Catholic conspiracy, etc. – Mary Jacobus has argued that “supernatural haunting and satanic revolt, delusion and dream” in Villette “disrupt a text which can give no formal recognition to either Romantic or Gothic modes” (41). More recently, however, Gail Turley Houston has shown that Gothic tropes like those in Villette were common to a broader culture of panic in the mid-Victorian economy. As Houston explains, Lucy “lives with the ‘horrors of PANIC’ on a regular basis,” and this perpetual state of anxiety leads her to believe that she can survive, “only if her emotional economy is restricted to the lowest possible level” (55). In Houston’s view, Lucy obsessively guards her self-interest in an unstable economic environment. At the end of the novel, when Paul Emanuel leaves Lucy to wait for his return, Lucy is left with “no closure but the promise of being continually accountable for the fluctuations of political and emotional economy” (70). Restricted as Lucy’s emotional economy may be, the economic plot of Villette is equally driven by its heroine’s insatiable appetite for risk and speculation. As Lucy herself asks when she first makes the decision to travel to London, “Who but a coward would pass his whole life in hamlets, and for ever abandon his faculties to the eating rust of obscurity”? (52; vol. 1, ch. 6). When Lucy first ventures to the city, she is less fascinated by the West-end, the parks, and the “fine squares” than she is by the “business,” “rush,” and “roar” of London’s financial district (56; vol. 1, ch. 6). 20 Later, she buys a small book, “a piece of extravagance I could ill afford,” from a “dried-in man of business” who seems to her “one of the greatest” of human beings (53; vol. 1, ch. 6). After witnessing these lively scenes of economic exchange, Lucy begins to liken her own life to a “game” in which “the player cannot lose and may win” (67;

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  • 754 VICTORIAN LITERATURE AND CULTURE

vol. 1, ch. 7). As she contemplates seeking teaching abroad in Belgium, she reasons, “I had

nothing to lose

. . . .

If I failed in what I now designed to undertake, who, save myself, would

suffer? If I died far away from – home, I was going to say, but I had no home – from England,

then, who would weep”? (54; vol. 1, ch. 6). Lucy’s independence in Villette often comes at a steep price, yet the thrills of Lucy’s independent life ultimately prove too dear to relinquish: “to do this, and to do it utterly alone, gave me, perhaps an irrational, but a real pleasure,” Lucy marvels of her self-sufficiency in London (53-4; vol. 1, ch. 6). Later in the novel, Lucy again asserts an “irrational” preference for an independent, if unstable economic life when she refuses a “handsome sum” (three times her salary at Rue Fossette) offered by Mr. Home to become a companion to his daughter Polly (345; vol. 2, ch. 26). Rather than serve as a governess or a companion in a “great house,” Lucy maintains that she “would deliberately have taken a housemaid’s place, bought a strong pair of gloves, swept bedrooms and staircases, and cleaned stoves and locks, in peace and

independence

...

Iwould

have made shirts and starved” (345; vol. 2, ch. 26).

In London and again when she first arrives in Villette, Lucy is in danger of being robbed or swindled out of her money, but on such occasions she “console[s] [herself] with the reflection that such is “the price of experience’” (56; vol. 1, ch. 6). The “price of experience” very well characterizes Lucy’s economic progress throughout the novel as a single, working woman. As Lucy bounces from one position to the next, she stories up “piece[s] of casual information, as careful housewives store seemingly worthless shreds and fragments for which their prescient minds anticipate a possible use some day” (48-49; vol. 1, ch 5). A housewife without a house and a businesswoman without a business, it is out of these sundry “shreds and fragments” that Bronte’s ¨ heroine eventually fashions a scrappy, if sustainable life for herself in the “economical town” of Villette (418; vol. 3, ch. 31). Paul Emanuel plays a crucial role in offering Lucy an initial financial foothold, yet it would be a mistake to overemphasize the part the heterosexual partner plays in rescuing Lucy from “eating the rust of obscurity.” In the ending of her final novel Bronte¨ rather makes a point of rewarding the diversity of her heroine’s investments: while Paul Emanuel provides the start-up funds, in the middle of the school’s second year (a few months before Paul would have been due home), Lucy receives an additional hundred pounds in the form of a “peace-offering” from Miss Marchmont’s now contrite cousin (571; vol. 3, ch. 42). With this sum, Lucy is able to purchase an adjoining building and act on the business model she has borrowed from Madame Beck to expand her externat into a pensionnat and attract a class of higher-paying pupils. Even the writing of Villette itself can be seen as part of Lucy’s business plan. Lucy’s landlord, we learn, is “none other than M. Miret, the short-tempered and kind-hearted bookseller” who assists Lucy earlier in the novel, and who, we might speculate, lends his assistance a second time by finding his tenant an audience for her “good account” after all (566; vol. 3, ch. 41). In Jane Eyre, Bronte¨ confounds the value of heterosexual marriage by multiplying Jane’s partners in the “sisterly society” she forms with her kinswomen. In the ending of Villette, Bronte¨ goes one step further to eschew partnership as a requisite for domestic security altogether. More than documenting how the Victorian woman can survive without marrying, Villette offers a queer account of upward social mobility in which a single, working woman profits in an uncertain economy through a series of intimate, temporary, and risky connections with friends, lovers, benefactors, and employers who come and go. Whereas Jane Eyre defies the moderation of the homo economicus plot with a flourish of a young woman’s spending and gift-giving, in her final novel, Bronte¨ delves further into the “business mind” of an older

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Victorian woman to raise the more fundamental question of who or what, the passionate “woman and something more” invests in when she has neither husband, children, nor family for which to provide. The uncertain and thrilling economic prospects facing the Victorian woman with “nothing to lose” are perhaps the “many things” Dorothea contemplates when her mind strays from her book on political economy. For it is here, in the margins of the Victorian novel, where we see the queer economic desires of women contesting capitalist family values based on economic self-interest, moderation, and rationality. More than simply anticipating the economic emancipation of women, in the precarious figure of Economic Woman, novelists envision how to correct a flawed account of Victorian economic prosperity. A provocative figure who possesses wealth while emblematizing its vexed nature in the mid-nineteenth century, Economic Woman furnishes us with a new understanding of the Victorian woman’s purse, its power, and its queer economic possibilities.

Washington University in St. Louis

NOTES

  • 1. McCloskey acknowledges that the idea of femina economica raises questions about gender essentialism. I agree with McCloskey, however, that the fact that “‘feminine’ qualities are not unique to women does not prevent an inquiry into a difference, as long as there is a notable difference on average. There is no need to take a stand on nature versus nurture to admit that for some reason men and women . . . think rather differently, especially about society” (70).

  • 2. In the Commentaries on the Law of England (1756), William Blackstone defines coverture as a system in which “by marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs every thing” (279).

  • 3. The first Act granted women access to their own earnings as well as limited forms of inheritance (although it did not apply retroactively to money brought into marriage). The later Act of 1882 furnished married women with the same rights as widows and unmarried women, effectively rendering them femmes sole rather than femmes covert. Shanley argues that the 1882 Act represented “the single most important change in the legal status of women in the nineteenth century” (103). The Women’s Suffrage Journal hailed the Act as “‘the Magna Carta’ of women’s liberties” (qtd. in Shanley 124).

  • 4. For more on the “separate spheres” ideology and subsequent criticism of his model, see Welter and Vickery.

  • 5. This literature is now extensive. For a well-known summary of the role middle class women played as the beneficiaries of trusts, annuities, and various assets, see Davidoff and Catherine Hall. For more about the role of working class women in the nineteenth-century economy see Johnson and Valenze. For more on women as investors and speculators see Henry’s “‘Ladies do it?’: Victorian Women Investors in Fact and Fiction” and Robb. For more on women’s consumer culture see Erika Rappaport and Lysack.

  • 6. As Robb argues, reliable figures on women’s capital investment are difficult to come by because they only “count shareholders designated as ‘widow’ or ‘spinster.’ In England, married women’s shares would have been listed under their husbands’ names until 1880s” (123).

  • 7. For more on Charlotte Riddell, see Henry, “Charlotte Riddell: Novelist of ‘The City.’”

  • 8. For a general argument about genre, see Poovey, Genres of the Credit Economy. Poovey traces the history of what she claims are three, related genres that “mediate” value: monetary genres (such as

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  • 756 VICTORIAN LITERATURE AND CULTURE

coin, paper money, or paper forms of credit); writing about the market (economic periodicals, writings on political economy, etc.), and literature (2). Poovey argues that economic and imaginative writings were first similar and were only gradually distinguished over the course of the century. See also Gagnier and Gallagher. 9. Klaver argues that fiction both represented and contested ascendant economic values in the nineteenth

century. In Klaver’s view, “whether as a discarded remainder, as supplemental effect, as disturbing factor, or as ground for a radical reinvisioning of economic knowledge, the discourse of morality, ethics, and virtue plays a key and troubling role in the discursive and intuitional foundation of economic authority in nineteenth century Britain” (xii). For more on ethics and economics, see also Blumberg and Hilton.

  • 10. For a related argument, see Michie. Michie shows how the rich heiress becomes “the natural locus of the nineteenth-century novel’s exploration of capitalism’s loathing of its own propensity to amass wealth” (xii).

  • 11. Bronte¨ mostly invested in railways. See Henry, “Ladies do it?” 121-22 and Houston 55-60.

  • 12. Poovey notes that “because the governess was like the middle-class mother in the work she performed, but like both a working-class woman and man in the wages she received” she ultimately threatened the “naturalness of separate spheres” (Uneven Developments 127). The problem of paying Jane reflects the complications of paying women to perform the duties that all women are supposed to perform naturally.

  • 13. Hunter argues that bankruptcy narratives become “a powerful rhetorical mechanism for promoting social and economic change, in terms of supporting women’s widening engagement in the public sphere and promoting the social dimensions of economic exchange” (138). For earlier discussions of bankruptcy in the novel, see Weiss and Lester.

  • 14. Tosh observes that to be head of a household in the Victorian era is “essential to masculine status” (60-61).

  • 15. The connection between Jane and Bertha has been an ongoing site of critical disagreement. In their seminal reading of the figure in The Madwoman in the Attic, Gilbert and Gubar argue that on “a figurative and psychological level it seems suspiciously clear that the specter of Bertha is a threatening

. . .

. avatar of Jane, doing what Jane herself wants to do (357-58). In contrast, Spivak

. .

describes Jane Eyre as a “cult text of feminism” reflective of the British imperial project and argues that the novel can “be read as the orchestration and staging of the self-immolation of Bertha Mason as ‘good wife’” (259).

  • 16. Critics have proposed numerous interpretations of domestic interiority in the Victorian novel. Nancy Armstrong understands the domestic in opposition to the political, exploring how the realist novel “detache[s] sexuality from political history” (Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990, 65). For Armstrong, the domestic is the site in which women exercise power over aspects of life associated with the private: household management, surveillance, leisure time, courtship procedures, kinship relations, and the development of human identities (3). Freedgood points out that Moor House is “decorated with the literal and figural proceeds of Atlantic trade” (35), arguing that Jane’s domestic designs partake of an imperial impulse in which “the idea of empty space invites the exercise of habitation as a demonstration of power” (33).

  • 17. Terry Eagleton and Catherine Gallagher argue that class conflict is ultimately a subordinate concern in the novel. See Eagleton, Myths of Power: a Marxist Study of the Brontes¨ , New York: Palgrave, 2005, 50 and Gallagher, The Industrial Reformation of English Fiction: Social Discourse and Narrative Form 1832–1867, Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985, xi n1. For a different view, see Herbert Heaton, “The Economic Background of Shirley,” Bronte¨ Studies 38. 4 (2013): 290–99.

  • 18. Critics have offered differing interpretations of Lucy’s desires for the masculine role. In their reading of the scene, Gilbert and Gubar argue that “by refusing to dress completely like a man onstage and by choosing only certain items to signify her male character, Lucy makes the role her own” (413). In Litvak’s view, however, “the novel’s motif of female androgyny or transvestism

. . .

appears not

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so much daringly iconoclastic as grimly expressive of the ambitious woman’s confinement to male impersonation” (85).

  • 19. Weinstone argues that Villette is driven by an “anti-straight” politic which decenters heterosexual union while privileging Lucy’s non-normative partnership with Paul Emanuel. According to Weinstone, Paul Emanuel offers Lucy a “chaste relationship of diffused eroticism with a male brother-mate” (367), which explores queer relationships between men and women outside of heterosexual marriage (369). More recently, Marcus has studied repressed lesbian desire in Villette in the context of female friendship in Victorian culture. As Marcus summarizes, Lucy “has passionate responses to several other female

characters, takes immense pleasure in partially dressing as a man and flirting with a woman

and is

haunted by a nun

who ends up in Lucy’s bed” (102). In Marcus’s reading, however, it is ultimately

perpetually outside

the bosom of the family” (108).

  • 20. For more on this passage and the appeal of the City to Lucy and Victorian women see Houston 64 and Henry, “Charlotte Riddell: Novelist of the City.”

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