Archive for the 'sex and gender' Category

Lewis Carroll, Photographer

July 7th, 2012

Anne, in comments below, reminds me that this weekend is, apparently, Alice Weekend here in Oxford. That would explain why there’s a rather good picture of the Mock Turtle just inside the Bodleian Library this week.

Lewis Carroll didn’t just write the Alice books, of course. He also liked to take photographs of young girls–a subject on which Kate Middleton, curiously enough, is an authority, as it was the subject of her undergraduate dissertation at St Andrews. Here’s one of them:

And these are three of my great-great aunts: Honor, Evelyn, and Olive Brooke. (Photo reproduced from over here.)

Honor, the oldest girl here, is the one I’m interested in. She first crossed my radar screen when I came across a footnote in Yvonne Kapp’s classic life of Eleanor Marx, reporting that Brooke, Marx and Edith Lees (later Mrs Havelock Ellis) addressed a rally to support the strike in Silvertown on 29 November 1889. I don’t know anything else about any connection she had to Marx, outside of the information reported in this post, but she was for a time very close to Lees, with Havelock Ellis writing that, “I do not know how they met, but I know that Miss Brooke, with a self-sacrificing devotion and skill that called out Edith’s deep love, nursed her back to health” after a nervous breakdown. And she features in a passage by Lees that is occasionally reprinted in studies of late ninteenth-century feminism:

How well I remember, after the first performance of Ibsen’s drama [A Doll's House] in London, with Janet Achurch as Nora, when a few of us collected outside the theater breathless with excitement. Olive Schreiner was there and Dolly Radford the poetess, Dr. Alice Corthorn, Honor Brooke (Stopford Brooke’s eldest daughter,) Mrs. Holman Hunt and Eleanor Marx. We were restive and impetuous and almost savage in our arguments. This was either the end of the world or the beginning of a new world for women. What did it mean? Was there hope or despair in the banging of that door? Was it life or death for women? Was it joy or sorrow for men? Was it revelation or disaster? We almost cantered home. I remember that I was literally prostrate with excitement because of the new revelation.

Edith Lees / Ellis later wrote a novel, Attainment, with a lightly fictionalised account of the Brooke family in it, ‘Stanley Evans’ a barely disguised Stopford Brooke–who, I have now come to realise, was basically the Rev. Giles Fraser of his day (though he doesn’t come out of the novel especially well).

It’s not, however, a terribly good novel, all things considered. Here is a typical passage, from one of the heroine’s letters home, after she has recently fallen in with ‘Robert Dane’, i.e., William Morris:

I came to Stanley Evans to help to reform the masses. I must be on the verge of delirium, for I feel that the masses are reforming me. I am ashamed to go and offer my patronage any more to these desperately tired people. I try to shake myself free from the convictions that are creeping over me, but they won’t go. Who is Karl Marx, Daddy? What does he know about the poor?

Bonus Kate Middleton-themed bit of trivia (since this has ended up being a post about Victorian feminist aunts): she’s Harriet Martineau’s great-great-great-great-great niece. (Ah–I see in fact that the Daily Telegraph has covered this already, reporting that there is ‘more than a passing resemblance’, apparently.)

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

March 17th, 2012

One of my minor scholarly ambitions is one day to write a short history of big-haired lady Classicists, from the seventeenth century onwards. But one of the reasons that this may be a more challenging exercise that it sounds is that it is sometimes hard to tell whether lady Classicists have big hair or not, given their fondness for being painted wearing large military helmets in the style of the Roman goddess Minerva.

I mentioned this to someone in Celtic Studies the other day, and she observed that lady Celticists in centuries gone by also liked to pose for portraits in flowing Celtic costumes. So there may be a significant comparative dimension to make the project a bit more complicated and interesting than I’d initially anticipated.

But I was interested in the remark about lady Celticists for another reason, which is that I’m a first cousin, six times removed, of Charlotte Brooke–not the international fetish model, but the distinguished eighteenth-century lady Celticist. And so the question immediately poses itself: did she have big hair?

Well, it seems that it’s quite a tricky question. I can’t find any images of her in any of the places you might expect to find one–in the catalogue of the National Portrait Gallery, on her Wikipedia page, in the ODNB, or in the front matter of reprints of her major work. And I’m told that although there was a likeness made of her in the eighteenth century, no-one seems to know what happened to it, whether it survived–or, crucially, whether it recorded a lady Celticist with big hair or not. So the mystery persists.

Anyway: all that is really just a long and frivolous introduction to say that while I was scratching around looking for Charlotte Brooke-related material on the web–and finding along the way that she has her own roundabout in Co. Longford!–I learned that there’s a gorgeous new-ish edition of her major work, Reliques of Irish Poetry (1789), edited by Lesa Ni Mhunghaile, and a copy arrived in the post the other day. And it’s very good indeed: really well done, and I’m going to learn a lot from it.

Anniversary

March 17th, 2012

Twenty four years ago today, Edwina Currie wrote to John Major to break off their relationship.

I wrote to B on Thursday night saying that’s it, no more; posted it Friday morning, so he won’t have seen it yet, maybe not till Tuesday. Because it isn’t quite the fun it was — he has changed… [Diaries, 20.3.1988]

But what fun it once had been!

I wish my flat was filled with one big man in his blue underpants — I wish I was warm and sticky and laughing… [24.1.1991]

Apologies in advance for the mental images this post may conjure up.

All Henry Sidgwick All The Time

October 20th, 2009

So I’ve been spending too much time recently reading things by and about Henry Sidgwick:

Most of Sidgwick’s close friends were gay; the best known is John Addington Symonds. This involved Sidgwick in a great deal of delicate counseling about publicity — what studies and poems to publish (or how to modify them to admit safer construals), what risks in private life to take, and, in the case of Symonds’s posthumous biography, based on his frank memoirs, what (massive) excisions to make so that emotional turmoil appears as religious doubt. At one point, the editor of the biography wrote to Sidgwick that “if I came to this book as an outsider I should only gather from the Davos pages indications of a man who made warm friendships with many people not of his own class”…

[from]

British Advertisers Asking the Questions That Matter (1929 ed.)

March 2nd, 2009

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[via]

Breaking a Long Silence

December 23rd, 2008

There are various reasons why there hasn’t been much ( = anything) here recently. One of them is that my hard drive self-destructed last week — and one consequence of that is that if you sent me any email between 11 and 18 December, you might like to send it again if you ever want to receive any kind of reply…

Oh, and if anyone knows where to get a transcript of the Pope’s recent ruminations on gender, please post a link in the comments. Usually vatican.va is pretty good about this kind of thing, but glancing through the site this morning I found next year’s new year’s message and his recent attempt to engage the world’s Hindus in some kind of conversation, but nothing about trannies.

(He’s had a public debate with Jürgen Habermas, hasn’t he? I don’t see why he shouldn’t go head to head with Judith Butler. It’d be great on YouTube, esp. if he showed up to discuss gender performativity in a dress.)

[Normal service to resume eventually.]

If you’re looking for adventure of a new and different kind / And you come across a Girl Scout who is similarly inclined / Don’t be nervous, don’t be flustered, don’t be scared — Be prepared!

October 20th, 2008

There’s nothing new about Scouts getting sex education; Baden Powell wanted to include a passage on “continence” in the first edition of Scouting for Boys, but it was removed on the advice of the publisher. I’ve transcribed it from the appendix to Elleke Boehmer’s edition over the fold.

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