Saturday, October 31, 2020

Six Victorian marriages, part 6: George Eliot and George Lewes

Mary Ann Evans by George Barker, ca. 1845. Image source: George Eliot Archive

This is the sixth and last in a series of posts based on Phyllis Rose's Parallel Lives (Knopf, 1984) and Diane Johnson's True History of the First Mrs. Meredith (NY Review Books, 2020).

Marian Evans (George Eliot) and George Henry Lewes

Her mind was theoretic, and yearned by its nature after some lofty conception of the world. . .she was enamoured of intensity and greatness, and rash in embracing whatever seemed to her to have those aspects; likely to seek martyrdom, to make retractations, and then to incur martyrdom after all in a quarter where she had not sought it. Certainly such elements in the character of a marriageable girl tended to interfere with her lot, and hinder it from being decided according to custom, by good looks, vanity, and merely canine affection. [1]

This description of Dorothea Brooke, the heroine of Middlemarch, could as well be applied to her creator. For both, a relationship involving mutual love and intellectual sympathy was attained only after fixing their ardent emotions on unsuitable men incapable of returning their affections. Like Dorothea, as a young woman Mary Ann Evans hungered after intense and intimate friendships with men and women who inspired her intellectual admiration.

Daguerreotype of Charles Bray, ca. 1849. Image source: Herbert Art Gallery & Museum

Charles Bray and the Rosehill Circle. The first of these was Charles Bray, who, together with his wife Cara, gathered a circle of freethinkers at their home Rosehill in Coventry. Visitors included the utopian socialist Robert Owen, the social philosopher Herbert Spencer, the social reformer Harriet Martineau, and Trancendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson. It was a heady atmosphere in which religious, social and sexual conventions were questioned, and there has been speculation that for a time Charles Bray and Mary Ann may have become lovers.

Dr. Robert Brabant. Also in the Rosehill Circle was Dr. Robert Brabant, who had been the physician of the Romantic poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas Moore. After his daughter's wedding, Dr. Brabant invited her bridesmaid Mary Ann to his home for an extended visit. His interest in her did not long remain fatherly, however. Mary Ann's stay was cut short when his wife demanded that she leave the house; Mrs. Brabant had evidently caught wind of something suspicious in the tête-à-têtes between her husband and their guest.

John Chapman. It was through the Brays as well that Mary Ann met the London publisher John Chapman, who published her first book (a translation of German theologian David Strauss' The Life of Jesus, which denied the literal reality of the miracles attributed to Christ). After Mary Ann's father died and left her a legacy of £2000, enough to provide an independent, if meagre, annual income, she decided to go to London and support herself by writing. In January 1851, at age 31, she moved into lodgings at Chapman's, whose household included his wife Susanna, their children, and the children's governess Elisabeth Tilley, who was also Chapman's mistress. 

Mary Ann—who now began signing herself Marian, perhaps thinking that Mary Ann sounded too provincial—fell in love with the charismatic Chapman. Although he ultimately confessed that he could not fully reciprocate her feelings, he was not above taking sexual advantage of them. Chapman's wife and mistress grew jealous of Marian; the evidence of his diary, which records all three women's menstrual periods, suggests that they had reason. After ten weeks, emotions in the household became so fraught that Mary Ann moved back to Coventry. Chapman eventually convinced her to return to London—and, incredibly, even back to his house—to be the co-editor of the newly-acquired Westminster Review; and in that role she started to become known in London literary and intellectual circles.

Herbert Spencer, ca. 1860s. Image source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Herbert Spencer was one of the writers who contributed to the Westminster Review, and conveniently he lived across the street. He received free reviewer's tickets to the opera, theater, and concerts, and often invited Marian to accompany him. It gradually dawned on him that others—or worse, Marian—might impute romantic meanings to his attentions. He wrote her a letter explaining that he did not, and could not, love her, but it was too late: she had fallen in love, and declared her feelings to him. When he told her that he could never return them, she wrote him a letter begging him not to abandon her; Rose calls her letter "surely one of the saddest I have ever read":

I want to know if you can assure me that you will not forsake me, that you will always be with me as much as you can and share your thoughts and feelings with me. If you become attached to some one else, then I must die, but until then I could gather courage to work and make life valuable, if only I had you near me. I do not ask you to sacrifice anything—I would be very good and cheerful and never annoy you. But I find it impossible to contemplate life under any other conditions. If I had your assurance, I could trust that, and live upon it.

She went on,

Those who have known me best have already said that if ever I loved any one thoroughly, my whole life must turn upon that feeling, and I find they said truly. You curse the destiny which has made the feeling concentrate itself on you―but if you will only have patience with me you shall not curse it long. You will find that I can be satisfied with very little, if I am delivered from the dread of losing it.

The letter ends, "I suppose no woman ever before wrote such a letter as this―but I am not ashamed of it, for I am conscious in the light of reason and true refinement I am worthy of your respect and tenderness, whatever gross men or vulgar women might say." [2]

Spencer later wrote that "the lack of physical attraction was fatal. Strongly as my judgment prompted, my instincts would not respond." [3] But there may have been something more behind his rejection. In 1854 Spencer (who coined the phrase "survival of the fittest" and embraced Social Darwinism and racist eugenic theories) published an essay, "Personal Beauty," in which he associated facial traits that Marian possessed, such as a large jaw, wide mouth, and prominent cheekbones, with intellectual and racial inferiority. In that essay he wrote, "mental and facial perfection are fundamentally connected, and will, when the present causes of incongruity have worked themselves out, be ever found united." [4]

Spencer felt guilty about involving Marian's feelings, and apparently thought he was honor-bound to marry her. She did not want marriage unaccompanied by love or sexual attraction, however, so she refused his offer. Nonetheless, they continued to see one another as friends.

George Henry Lewes, 1870s. Image source: National Portrait Gallery, London

George Henry Lewes (pronounced, like the town near Glyndebourne, "Lewis") was an acquaintance of Spencer's, a novelist, playwright, and regular contributor to literary periodicals including the Westminster Review. One afternoon in late 1852 or early 1853 he accompanied Spencer on a visit to Marian at Chapman's; a few visits later, he stayed behind after Spencer left, and soon thereafter began visiting her on his own. 

Although Marian was initially unimpressed—for one thing, he wrote a review of Charlotte Brontë's Villette for the Westminster Review that did not do justice to the high regard in which Marian held it―he also received free reviewer's tickets and began escorting her to operas and plays. Marian wrote to Cara Bray, "Mr. Lewes especially is kind and attentive and he has quite won my regard after having a good deal of my vituperation. Like a few other people in the world, he is much better than he seems—a man of heart and conscience wearing a mask of flippancy." [5] Their relationship grew and deepened over the next several months; Rose speculates that "it was, in fact, the lightness and buoyancy of his spirits that made him attractive to her, so dreadfully given herself to despondency." [6]

It was probably during this time, the spring or summer of 1853, that Marian learned of Lewes' unorthodox marital situation. His best friend, Thornton Leigh Hunt, had fallen in love with Lewes' wife Agnes, and she with him. In April 1850 Agnes gave birth to a son by Hunt, but on the birth certificate Lewes recorded the child's name as "Edmund Lewes" and listed himself as the father. By acknowledging the child as his own, Lewes appeared to condone his wife's adultery, and so could not obtain a divorce from her. Agnes gave birth to another child by Hunt, a daughter, in October 1851; by mid-1852 Lewes had moved out of the family home, and by mid-1853 he and Marian were falling in love. [7]

Although in March 1853 Marian had written to Charles Bray that "I think I shall never have the energy to move―it seems to be of so little consequence where I am or what I do," by October she had moved out of Chapman's house and into her own lodgings closer to Lewes. [8] In the summer of 1854 Marian left on a trip to Germany; Lewes joined her at the dock, and from that time on they travelled and lived together openly as a couple, "Mr. and Mrs. Lewes." For the next 24 years, until Lewes' death, they would never again be apart for any extended period of time.

As Rose writes,

Before Lewes, she had been attracted to men who demanded looking up to, who would require sacrifices and were prepared to give little in return: Dr. Brabant, Chapman, Herbert Spencer. Towards these men she experienced the impulse towards self-surrender which she portrayed so brilliantly in Dorothea Brooke's response to Mr. Casaubon, the feminine impulse to over-value a man's work and to derive one's identity from it. [9]

But her relationship with Lewes was one not only of intellectual accord but mutual support and encouragement. She was interested in trying her hand at fiction; as she later wrote,

. . .one morning as I was thinking what should be the subject of my first story, my thoughts merged themselves into a dreamy doze, and I imagined myself writing a story of which the title was—'The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton.' I was soon wide awake again, and told G. He said, 'O what a capital title!' and from that time I had settled in my mind that this should be my first story. [10]

Lewes sent the anonymous manuscript to the publisher John Blackwood, claiming that it had been written by a clergyman friend who soon identified himself as "George Eliot." The first name is clearly a reference to Lewes, and Eliot biographer Blanche Williams has speculated that the last name is as well: "To L—I owe 't." The novelist was born.

The three stories that made up Scenes of Clerical Life, of which "Amos Barton" was the first, were, in Eliot's words, "a great literary success, but not a great popular success." That was achieved with the publication of her second novel, Adam Bede. It sold an astonishing 14,000 copies between its publication in February 1859 and the fall of that year, when she wrote in a letter to François D'Albert Durade, a Swiss painter with whose family she had stayed during her first trip to Europe almost a decade before:

Under the influence of the intense happiness I have enjoyed in my married life from thorough moral and intellectual sympathy, I have at last found out my true vocation, after which my nature had always been feeling and striving uneasily without finding it. . .I have turned out to be an artist—not, as you are, with the pencil and pallet, but with words. [11]

George Eliot by Sir Frederic William Burton, 1865. Image source: National Portrait Gallery, London

She would go on live in "intense happiness" with Lewes for nearly two more decades, and to write six more novels, among them The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, Daniel Deronda, and Middlemarch, frequently chosen (here, for example) as the greatest English-language novel ever written.

Other posts in this series:


  1. George Eliot, Middlemarch, Book I: Miss Brooke, Chapter I. http://gutenberg.org/files/145/145-h/145-h.htm#chap01
  2. Gordon S. Haight, editor, Selections from George Eliot's Letters, Yale University Press, 1985. To Herbert Spencer, [?14 July 1852], pp. 101-102. Quoted in Phyllis Rose, Parallel Lives, p. 201.
  3. Quoted in Haight, p. 102.  
  4. Herbert Spencer, "Personal Beauty," reprinted in Essays: moral, political and aesthetic, Appleton, 1881. https://archive.org/details/essaysmoralpolit00spen/page/162/mode/1up
  5. Quoted in Haight, To Mrs. Charles Bray, [16 April 1853], p. 121. Re: Villette, Marian had written to Cara Bray that it is "a still more wonderful book than Jane Eyre. There is something almost preternatural in its power." (Quoted in Haight, To Mrs. Charles Bray, 15 February [1853], p. 116.)
  6. Rose, p. 223.
  7. Agnes would go on to have two more children with Hunt; Lewes and, later, Eliot supported them their entire lives. Meanwhile, Hunt continued to live with his wife, and she also continued to get pregnant.
  8. Quoted in Haight, To Charles Bray, [18 March 1853], p. 120.
  9. Rose, p. 223.
  10. John W. Cross, editor, George Eliot's Life as related in her Letters and Journals, Chapter VII. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/43043/43043-h/43043-h.htm
  11. Quoted in Haight, To François D'Albert Durade, 18 October 1859, p. 230.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Six Victorian marriages, part 5: Harriet Hardy Taylor and John Stuart Mill

Harriet Hardy Taylor, ca. 1834. Image source: National Portrait Gallery, London

This is the fifth in a series of posts based on Phyllis Rose's Parallel Lives (Knopf, 1984) and Diane Johnson's True History of the First Mrs. Meredith (NY Review Books, 2020). 

Harriet Hardy Taylor and John Stuart Mill

While our image of a typical Victorian marriage is that of endless pregnancy—Queen Victoria herself had nine children—sexless, celibate or companionate marriages were apparently not uncommon in the 19th century. Sexual ignorance, as in the case of Effie Gray and John Ruskin, was one reason; sexual indifference, as in the case of Thomas Carlyle, was another.

But celibacy could be a mutual choice. For one thing, at a time when pregnancy and birth were extremely dangerous, abstinence was a sure form of birth control. Childlessness could also be a way of minimizing the burdens of domestic management, childcare and early education, which, even when servants could be afforded, fell disproportionately on wives. Catherine Dickens was so overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for her nine surviving children that she sank into a permanent state of depression.

Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill chose celibacy as a protest against the "legal subordination" of women in marriage, an institution which gave a man conjugal rights over his wife regardless of her wishes or desires. Forced sex was "the lowest degradation of a human being," wrote Mill in The Subjection of Women, "that of being made the instrument of an animal function contrary to her inclinations." Such unjust laws, he continued, "ought to be replaced by a system of perfect equality." [1]

In an unequal world, the pleasures of sex were enjoyed disproportionately by men, and its dangers, risks and responsibilities borne disproportionately by women. What better demonstration of intellectual respect and equality, what better way to show that you are sincere in your appreciation of your partner's mind and ideas, than to willingly forego the "animal function" of sex?

One circumstance that exacted celibacy during the first 18 years of their relationship was that Harriet was married to another man, the merchant John Taylor, with whom she had three children. But soon after she met Mill in 1831, she told her husband that she would no longer have sex with him because she loved Mill more. She also promised her husband that she wouldn't have sex with Mill either, and remarkably, Taylor believed her assurances. He agreed to allow her to continue seeing and travelling with Mill (while he footed the bill), bought her a home outside London where she could meet Mill inconspicuously, and often absented himself so that they could be together without him.

Curiously, while Mill wrote of the need for perfect equality and opposed slavery, he supported the colonial administration of India. He worked for the East India Company for 35 years and attempted to justify its rule.

Those who are still in a state to require being taken care of by others, must be protected against their own actions as well as against external injury. For the same reason, we may leave out of consideration those backward states of society in which the race itself may be considered as in its nonage. The early difficulties in the way of spontaneous progress are so great, that there is seldom any choice of means for overcoming them; and a ruler full of the spirit of improvement is warranted in the use of any expedients that will attain an end, perhaps otherwise unattainable. Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end. [2]

Mill does not see that by creating hierarchical dichotomies ("civilization" versus "barbarism," "higher" versus "lower" pleasures), he is replicating the very system of thought he ostensibly opposed, in which men were considered superior and women inferior—the intellectually, morally and physically weaker sex requiring male control.

John Stuart Mill, 1865, by John & Charles Watkins. Image source: National Portrait Gallery, London

John Taylor died in 1849, and after waiting two years, Harriet and Mill finally decided to wed. A month before their marriage Mill made an unusual declaration repudiating the "legal power and control over the person, property, and freedom of action of the other party, independent of her own wishes and will" that were conferred upon husbands. He wrote,

in the event of marriage between Mrs. Taylor and me I declare it to be my will and intention, and the condition of the engagement between us, that she retains in all respects whatever the same absolute freedom of action, and freedom of disposal of herself and of all that does or may at any time belong to her, as if no such marriage had taken place; and I absolutely disclaim and repudiate all pretence to have acquired any rights whatever by virtue of such marriage. [3]

It's not clear whether they remained celibate after their marriage, but their intellectual companionship continued until her death in 1858, and, in fact, beyond. In Mill's own view, he and Harriet were a creative partnership of equals. Rose thinks that this formulation masks a reality in which the dominant partner was actually Harriet: it was her experiences that informed Mill's theories, she set the agenda and suggested topics for their consideration. Their interchange was reflected, for example, in The Subjection of Women (1869), which was based on her experience of marriage.

Title page of the first edition of The Subjection of Women. Image source: Internet Archive

In Mill's dedication to On Liberty (1859), published a year after Harriet's death, he wrote that she

was the inspirer, and in part the author, of all that is best in my writings—the friend and wife whose exalted sense of truth and right was my strongest incitement, and whose approbation was my chief reward. . .Like all that I have written for many years, it belongs as much to her as to me.

Harriet's essential contribution to Mill's work and thought has recently received fuller exploration by critics and scholars. But Mill himself always acknowledged it; in his Autobiography (1873) he asserted: "Not only during the years of our married life, but during many years of confidential friendship which preceded it, all my published writings are as much my wife's work as mine." [4]

Following Harriet's death her daughter Helen Taylor came to live with Mill. She became deeply involved in the women's suffrage movement, and worked together with him in that cause and many others.

John Stuart Mill and Helen Taylor in the 1860s. Image source: New York Times

In 1866 Mill presented the Ladies' Petition on suffrage to the House of Commons; Helen "was influential in its wording, organization, and presentation, and was the main conduit of correspondence and contact between Mill and the women petition organizers." [5] She also wrote an article on the petition for the Westminster Review, and engaged in debates on the issue. After Mill's death in 1873 she edited for publication his Autobiography; the Three Essays on Religion: Nature, the Utility of Religion and Theism; Chapters on Socialism; and the fourth and final volume of Dissertations and Discussions

In a late passage in his Autobiography, Mill paid tribute to both of his collaborators:

Surely no one ever before was so fortunate, as, after such a loss as mine, to draw another prize in the lottery of life[—another companion, stimulator, adviser, and instructor of the rarest quality]. Whoever, either now or hereafter, may think of me and of the work I have done, must never forget that it is the product not of one intellect and conscience, but of three. [6]

Next time: George Eliot and George Henry Lewes
Last time: Catherine Hogarth and Charles Dickens


  1. John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women, Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1869. "Legal subordination," p. 1; "lowest degradation," p. 57; "perfect equality," p. 1. Project Gutenberg
  2. Mill, On Liberty (People's Edition), Chapter I: Introductory. Longmans, Green, And Co., 1867, p. 6.
  3. Quoted in Rose, Parallel Lives, p. 119-120.
  4. Quoted in Rose, p. 128.
  5. Philippa Levine, "Taylor, Helen (1831–1907), promoter of women's rights." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2009. Retrieved 24 Oct. 2020. doi: 10.1093/ref:odnb/36431
  6. Mill, Autobiography, Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1873, p. 264. The phrase in brackets is quoted in Rose, p. 139-140. It was apparently deleted by Helen Taylor for the editions published during her lifetime, but was restored in the 20th-century edition consulted by Rose for Parallel Lives.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Six Victorian marriages, part 4: Catherine Hogarth and Charles Dickens

Catherine Dickens, ca 1848 (detail). Engraving by Edwin Roffe, after Daniel Maclise, and after John Jabez Edwin Mayall. Image source: National Portrait Gallery, London

This is the fourth in a series of posts based on Phyllis Rose's Parallel Lives (Knopf, 1984) and Diane Johnson's True History of the First Mrs. Meredith (NY Review Books, 2020).

Catherine Hogarth and Charles Dickens

"'There can be no disparity in marriage like unsuitability of mind and purpose.'" 

—Charles Dickens [1]

Catherine Hogarth was not Charles Dickens' first love. That was Maria Beadnell; they met when he was 17 and she was 19. He pursued her for four years, but she ultimately rejected his marriage proposal because (in the thoughts of Jane Austen's Lady Russell in Persuasion regarding Anne Elliot):

. . .with all her claims of birth, beauty, and mind, to throw herself away at nineteen—involve herself at nineteen in an engagement with a young man, who had nothing but himself to recommend him, and no hopes of attaining affluence, but in the chances of a most uncertain profession, and no connexions to secure even his farther rise in the profession, would be, indeed, a throwing away, which she grieved to think of! [2]

By his twenty-third birthday in 1835 Dickens had begun to publish "Sketches by Boz," and was starting to be acclaimed in the London literary world. He began to frequent the home of a more established journalist colleague, George Hogarth, where he met his 20-year-old daughter Catherine. The two quickly became engaged, and married a year later. They moved into Dickens' rooms, along with Dickens' younger brother Frederick and Catherine's younger sister Mary.

Portrait of Catherine Dickens by Samuel Laurence, 1838. Image source: Charles Dickens Museum

Over the course of that first year of marriage Dickens published The Pickwick Papers and wrote much of Oliver Twist. In 1837, after he and Catherine had moved to a new address, Dickens would write, "I shall never be so happy again as in those Chambers three Stories high—never if I roll in wealth and fame." [3] By Mary's account, Catherine was "happy as the day is long—I think they are more devoted than ever since their marriage, if that is possible." [4] 

Portrait of Charles Dickens by Samuel Laurence, 1837. Image source: Charles Dickens Museum

But their early happiness did not last. After 1850, the year of the publication of David Copperfield and the birth of their ninth child in fourteen years (who would unfortunately only survive eight months), there was an increasing estrangement between Catherine and Charles. She had been almost constantly pregnant since their marriage (and would go on to give birth to one more child in 1852). She was worn out by childbearing, had grown overweight, was overcome by lethargy, and was probably suffering from depression. Meanwhile, he had become world-famous, was in constant demand, and enjoyed a highly active social life. They were growing ever further apart.

As Catherine sank into lassitude, her unmarried sister Georgina, who had been living with them since she was 15, began increasingly to take on Catherine's responsibilities: by the mid-1850s,

Georgina had effectively replaced Catherine both as head of the household and as Dickens's domestic partner. It was to their aunt Georgina that the children turned with their problems. Catherine, flattened by fatigue, lay on the sofa, increasingly irrelevant in her own house. [5]

Georgina Hogarth with Mamie Dickens, 1860s (detail). Carte-de-visite by Herbert Watkins. Image source: National Portrait Gallery, London

Catherine was only 40, while Georgina was in her 20s. There was speculation, both at the time and since, that Georgina had replaced Catherine in the marital bed as well as in the roles of mother and mistress of the house. However, no evidence of any sexual dimension to the relationship between Georgina and Charles has ever been discovered. And we do have evidence that Charles had definitely begun to look outside his marriage for affection and sex. 

In 1855 Dickens received a letter from a Mrs. Henry Winter, or, as he had once known her, Maria Beadnell, and they struck up an impassioned correspondence. He arranged for her to visit him at home without her husband at a time when he knew his wife would be absent for hours. But the young woman he had loved no longer existed; Dickens was dismayed to see that she had become a middle-aged matron.

Maria Beadnell Winter in the decade 1850-1860. Image source: Fórcola Ediciones

Perhaps worse, Maria's attempts at coquettishness struck him (as he wrote when he later used this incident as the basis of a scene in Little Dorrit) as "diffuse and silly. . .That was the fatal blow." After getting through what Rose imagines as "the painful interview he had unquestionably imagined as the beginning of a seduction," Dickens then had to make it through an awkward dinner where the former lovers were joined by their respective spouses. [6] This embarrassing incident may have chastened him, but not for long.

In 1857, when he was 45, Dickens met Ellen (Nelly) Ternan, the youngest daughter of a famous family of actors. Although according to Rose, Dickens did not immediately embark on a sexual affair with the 18-year-old Nelly, he fell in love and began sending her expensive gifts (one of which, a bracelet, came to his home by mistake and was opened by Catherine). He also began supporting Nelly and her family financially.

Ellen Ternan. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Within months Dickens decided to separate from Catherine. At their home he moved out of their bedroom and into his adjacent dressing room, replacing the connecting door with a wall and bookcases—a symbolic entombment of her, and of his once-loving feelings. By the next year he forced her to move out of their home and into a house he'd rented for her; only their eldest son Charley went with her, while the other children stayed with him and Georgina. And this is when, Rose believes, he and Nelly likely consummated their relationship. She retired from the stage in 1860, and was dependent on Dickens until his death a decade later. Dickens' daughter Kate, about the same age as Nelly, suspected that they had a son who died in infancy.

Portrait of Kate Dickens Perugini by Charles Perugini, ca. 1875. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Rose does not blame Dickens for the alteration in his feelings towards his wife. Catherine's constant childbearing narrowed her world; Dickens' increasing fame and deepening art enlarged his. His love had been diminishing for years before he met Nelly. But once he did, it brought the situation to a crisis. He wrote to a friend,
Poor Catherine and I are not made for each other, and there is no help for it. It is not only that she makes me uneasy and unhappy, but that I make her so too—and much more so. . .God knows she would have been a thousand times happier if she had married another kind of man, and that her avoidance of this destiny would have been at least equally good for us both. I am often cut to the heart by thinking what a pity it is, for her sake, that I ever fell in her way. . .What is now befalling me I have seen steadily coming. . .and I know too well that you cannot, and no one can, help me. [7]

He is writing about the woman who has borne him ten children, and whom he has condemned, in the words of Rose, to "a kind of living death." [8] Perhaps Dickens is not at fault for the change in his feelings, but his public repudiation of his wife and his isolation of her from their children seem needlessly cruel. 

Catherine outlived Dickens by nearly a decade. As she lay dying in the late fall of 1879, she gave her daughter Kate the letters Dickens had written her in their courtship and early marriage. "Give these to the British Museum," she told her, "that the world may know he loved me once." [9]

Next time: Harriet Hardy Taylor and John Stuart Mill
Last time: Mary Ellen Peacock Nicolls and George Meredith


  1. Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, Volume 2, Chapman and Hall, 1866, Chapter XVI, p. 234.
  2. Jane Austen, Persuasion, Chapter IV. https://archive.org/details/novelsofjaneaust00aust/page/35/mode/1up
  3. Quoted in Rose, p. 149.
  4. Quoted in Rose, p. 149.
  5. Rose, p. 168.
  6. Rose, p. 164-165.
  7. Quoted in Rose, p. 175.
  8. Rose, p. 190.
  9. Michael Slater, Dickens and Women, Stanford University Press, 1983, p. 159.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Six Victorian marriages, part 3: Mary Ellen Peacock Nicolls and George Meredith

Study of a Girl Sitting in a Chair (detail) by Henry Wallis, ca. 1855; the sitter is possibly Mary Ellen Meredith. Image source: Tate Britain

This is the third in a series of posts based on Phyllis Rose's Parallel Lives (Knopf, 1984) and Diane Johnson's True History of the First Mrs. Meredith (NY Review Books, 2020).

Mary Ellen Peacock Nicolls and George Meredith

Another writer, another disillusioned wife, another sexy artist. 

When she met George Meredith in 1848 Mary Ellen Nicolls was a beautiful 27-year-old widow with a young daughter. George was 20 and had abandoned a legal career to become a writer. It was his literary aspirations that had brought him into contact with her. Mary's brother Edward collaborated with George on a privately circulated literary magazine, The Monthly Observer, to which Mary also contributed. Mary and Edward were the children of Thomas Love Peacock, who was famous as a friend of Shelley and the author of Nightmare Abbey (1818).

Thomas Love Peacock by Henry Wallis, 1858. Image source: National Portrait Gallery, London

Not only beautiful, Mary was witty, well-read, and "a dashing type of horsewoman who attracted much notice from the 'bloods' of the day." [1] George quickly became smitten with her. After he had gotten a poem published in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal (Number 288, 7 July 1849), it may have seemed to both of them that his literary career was launched. They married a month later. 

But after their rapturous honeymoon (that one of the partners was sexually experienced probably helped) problems quickly arose. Mary and her father were adventurous cooks, but George had a delicate stomach, and often experienced nausea and indigestion. Two years after their marriage Mary wrote in a published review of Soyer's Modern Housewife, a cookbook,

The stomach, not the heart, as poets write, is the great centre of existence and feeling. . .When the stomach receives an antagonistic element, it revenges itself by sending up morbid impressions to the brain. . .[M]any a lover's quarrel lies in ambush at the bottom of a tureen of soup, where it jostles with matrimonial squabbles, morbid creeds, and poetic misprisions. [2]
The phrase "poetic misprisions" stands out in this passage. "Misprisions" is an unusual word; it can mean misunderstanding, but also has the sense of guilt by concealment. And the modifier "poetic" suggests that Mary may have been thinking about her poet husband.

Perhaps there was a guilty secret that George had been harboring: he had apparently led Mary, whose mother had Welsh ancestry, to believe that he was descended from Welsh nobility. (Far from being aristocratic, his deceased mother had been the daughter of an innkeeper, and his tailor father had recently emigrated to South Africa with his second wife, who had been his cook.) Mary later confided in a neighbor, Anne Bennett, who years after Mary's death wrote in "My Recollections of Mrs. G Meredith,"

Mrs Meredith's illusions respecting her husband were ere long destined to receive a rude check by discovering that he did not belong to the ancient Welsh family of which he represented himself to be a descendant for in point of fact she discovered from a letter addressed to him that his father was a tailor at Capetown in S Africa. . .Ardent lover of truth as Mrs Meredith was, the very soul of sincerity and frankness such a deception as this which had been practised upon her produced an entire revolution of her feelings and from that time forward the affection and esteem she had hitherto felt for her husband was changed into contempt and aversion. [3]
This doesn't seem as though it can have been the whole story, and indeed there were other possible reasons for her growing disaffection. She had at least one, and probably more, miscarriages or stillbirths (only one child survived, a son born in 1853). George's literary career was hardly flourishing; his book Poems (1851) had been greeted with indifference. And by Meredith's own account, the couple was besieged by creditors; he claimed that his next book, the novel The Shaving of Shagpat: an Arabian Entertainment, published in 1856, had been "written. . .with duns at the door." [4] George also began to spend time apart from his family. In his later novel, The Egoist (1879), Meredith has a character describe a disenchanted couple after a few years of marriage as "staring wide awake. All their dreaming's done. They've emptied their bottle of elixir, or broken it." [5]

Enter Henry Wallis, a young painter (two years younger than George) on the fringes of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. George posed for Wallis's painting on the death of the poet Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770), which, when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1856, made Wallis instantly famous. The painting was praised by no less a critic than John Ruskin as "faultless and wonderful" [6].

Chatterton by Henry Wallis, 1856. Image source: Tate Britain

Wallis's career now seemed to be made, although he was already financially independent (he was the stepson and heir of a well-to-do London architect and property owner). George's frequent absences, moroseness, poverty, and stalled literary career may have contrasted starkly for Mary with Wallis's attentiveness, genial charm, wealth and success. Judging by evidence presented in Johnson's True History, Mary and he may have became lovers in the winter or spring of 1857, sometime after Wallis's 27th birthday. In any case, by the summer Mary had separated from her husband, and was living on her own in Seaford, amid the spectacular white cliffs of the Seven Sisters (the children were probably left with relatives).

The Seven Sisters from cottages at Seaford Head. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Separation was a huge step for a Victorian wife to take. Her husband controlled their property (including any money she had brought to the marriage) and retained legal custody of the children. Any woman living on her own immediately became the object of gossip and scandal, and would also quickly need to find ways to support herself. This was not easy; when Charles Dickens discovered that Mary had apparently not been paid for writing she had done for his magazine Household Words, he directed that George be contacted to find out whether he wanted the money. Most women would leave their husbands only in the most dire circumstances (see Six Victorian marriages, part 2: Effie Gray and John Ruskin).

But Mary was not a typical Victorian wife. Johnson writes, Mary "refused to accept a condition of life that bound people together in loveless chains. . .Mary Ellen thought of herself as a person, as Victorian women [or, perhaps we should rather say 'Victorian men'] often did not." [7]

Whether or not Mary and Wallis had become lovers before she separated from George (which seems highly probable), they certainly had by July, when she became pregnant. Their son, Harold, was born in April 1858 (although, since Mary was still officially married, "George Meredith, Author" was listed as the father on the birth certificate). 

Mary Ellen Meredith by Henry Wallis, 1858. Image source: Ashmolean Museum Oxford

Soon after the birth Mary began to exhibit symptoms of illness, writing to Wallis in London that "I am very weak, as I have never been before, dragging pains in my limbs, and swelled ancles [sic]." [8] Later in the year Wallis took Mary and the baby to Capri, a small island off the coast of Naples, where he liked to spend winters and where they thought the climate might improve her health. 

In the spring of 1859 Mary returned to England with Harold but without Wallis. By the summer of 1860 she was living with Harold in a house near her father, but was in declining health and financial straits. She died, probably of kidney failure, in October 1861; she was only 40 years old. Only three mourners attended her funeral: her maid Jane Wells, her neighbor Mrs. Bennett, and an old friend (probably of her first husband), Captain Henry Howe. Her children were kept away, and her father, her lover and her husband were all absent. Her father was aged and had a "detestation of anything disagreeable"; her lover (almost certainly by this time her former lover) could hardly appear at her graveside without scandal; and her husband remained implacably hostile.

George's bitterness towards Mary provided the subject that enabled him to finally attain literary fame. Both the novel The Ordeal of Richard Feverel (1859) and the 50-sonnet sequence Modern Love (1862) were, in the words of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, "fuelled by the trauma of sexual betrayal," and they made Meredith's (somewhat scandalous) reputation. [9] He would go on to become a major literary figure in the late 19th century, dying at age 81 in 1909.

George Meredith aet. [at the age of] 35 (1863).
Image source: The Kissed Mouth: Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian Art for all!


Modern Love, Sonnet II

It ended, and the morrow brought the task.
Her eyes were guilty gates, that let him in
By shutting all too zealous for their sin:
Each sucked a secret, and each wore a mask.
But, oh, the bitter taste her beauty had!
He sickened as at breath of poison-flowers:
A languid humour stole among the hours,
And if their smiles encountered, he went mad,
And raged deep inward, till the light was brown
Before his vision, and the world, forgot,
Looked wicked as some old dull murder-spot.
A star with lurid beams, she seemed to crown
The pit of infamy: and then again
He fainted on his vengefulness, and strove
To ape the magnanimity of love,
And smote himself, a shuddering heap of pain. [10]
 
 

  1. The painter William Holman Hunt, quoted in Margaret Harris, "Meredith, George, novelist and poet," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2008. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/34991
  2. Quoted in Diane Johnson, The True History of the First Mrs. Meredith and Other Lesser Lives, New York Review Books, 2020, p. 80.
  3. Nicholas A. Joukovsky, "According to Mrs Bennett," Times Literary Supplement, Issue 5297, 8 Oct. 2004, p. 13-15.
  4. Quoted in Harris, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  5. Quoted in Johnson, The True History of the First Mrs. Meredith, p. 87.
  6. Quoted in Johnson, p. 88.
  7. Johnson, p. 125.
  8. Johnson, p. 137.
  9. Harris, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  10. George Meredith, Modern Love, Sonnet II. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44704/modern-love-ii

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Six Victorian marriages, part 2: Effie Gray and John Ruskin

The Order of Release by John Everett Millais, 1853 (detail). Image source: Tate Britain

This is the second in a series of posts based on Phyllis Rose's Parallel Lives (Knopf, 1984) and Diane Johnson's True History of the First Mrs. Meredith (NY Review Books, 2020).

Effie Gray and John Ruskin

With pre-marital chastity demanded absolutely of middle-class women (suggested but not required for men), the Victorian wedding night, a supercharged transition from innocence to experience, could hardly have been easy, may well have been a barbaric trial for at least one, and sometimes for both, of the newly married pair. [1]

John Ruskin, for example, found on his wedding night that his wife's body "was not formed to excite passion. On the contrary, there were certain circumstances in her person which completely checked it." [2] Gray herself wrote in a letter to her father, "he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening 10th April." [3] What caused Ruskin's reaction is not known; it has been speculated that he was shocked by her pubic hair or other differences between her body and the idealized nudes of art.

At the time of her marriage in 1848 Gray (her given name was Euphemia) was the pretty, vivacious 19-year-old daughter of Ruskin family friends who had fallen on hard financial times. He was a decade older, the son of a wealthy wine merchant, and already the author of the first two volumes of Modern Painters. Over the next five years he would publish The Seven Lamps of Architecture and The Stones of Venice, but he would never manage to work up the desire to have sex with his wife; they stayed apart from one another frequently. 

Effie Gray by Herbert Watkins. Albumen print, late 1850s. Image source: National Portrait Gallery, London

Effie increasingly resented Ruskin's coldness and disapproval, which could become outright cruelty. On her twenty-fifth birthday in May 1853 he'd told her that he had no intention of ever consummating their marriage because he considered that she was mentally unstable and would be an unfit mother. As chief evidence of her depravity Ruskin cited Effie's interest in opera.

Both Ruskins admired the work of the artist John Everett Millais. Effie modelled for his painting The Order of Release, but after a sly comment from Ruskin's father began to wonder whether her husband was deliberately throwing her together with Millais. That suspicion may have been heightened in the summer of 1853 when Ruskin, Effie and Millais travelled to the Scottish hills and shared a small house while Millais painted Ruskin's portrait by a waterfall.

Portrait of John Ruskin by John Everett Millais, 1854. Image source: Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

He also painted Effie near the same location. 

The Waterfall by John Everett Millais, 1853. Image source: Delaware Art Museum

As Rose writes, "in that tiny cottage the three of them lived together in disconcerting proximity. Millais could not help but see the neglect which Ruskin bestowed so lavishly upon his wife." [4] Millais learned (probably from Effie) that the marriage was and continued to be sexless, and he, too, began to wonder whether Ruskin was hoping that they would give him an excuse for separation or divorce—Effie's adultery.

John Everett Millais by Herbert Watkins. Albumen print, 1857. Image source: National Portrait Gallery, London

If that was Ruskin's plan, it didn't work quite in the way he'd hoped. Millais and Effie did not begin an affair, but they did fall in love. And that gave Effie a powerful motivation to finally do something about her loveless marriage. On 25 April 1854 she left London on a planned visit to Scotland to stay with her parents; Ruskin was leaving on a tour of Switzerland with his parents in a few days. But Ruskin was unaware that Effie's parents had actually been in London for two weeks, that lawyers had been consulted and that Effie had submitted to what must have been a humiliating medical examination to prove her virginity. That night Ruskin was visited by her lawyers, who served him notice that she had filed suit in ecclesiastical court to have the marriage annulled. Ruskin wrote to his solicitor that he blamed the estrangement between them on her: 

Perhaps the principal cause of it—next to her resolute effort to detach me from my parents—was her always thinking that I ought to attend her, instead of herself attending me. [5]
Since Ruskin's lack of "attendance" to Effie was precisely what was at issue in her suit, his lawyer must have realized the bad effect this document might have if produced in court, and filed it away in his desk, where it remained undiscovered for seventy years.

Effie won the case; on 20 July she received notice that her marriage to Ruskin had been dissolved on the grounds of his "incurable impotency." [6] After waiting a year in order to curtail gossip she married Millais, and went on to have eight children with him (and be his frequent model). Ruskin never married again, although when he was approaching 50 he proposed to a former pupil, 18-year-old Rose La Touche, who ultimately turned him down.

In Parallel Lives Rose sees the Ruskin-Gray marriage as a union of incompatible sensibilities. Ruskin was primarily an observer, thinker and writer; Gray loved the opera and the theater and a varied social life. Rose is not trying to identify a villain or victim in their situation (although one may occur to us); instead she writes that "the novelistic imagination this material seems to me to demand is that of George Eliot, whose great theme was the egotism of perception and who assumed that all action rightly portrayed was a tragic—or comic—clash of understandings":

The plot from his point of view weirdly prefigures (by some twenty years) the story of Lydgate and Rosamund Vincy in Middlemarch: a high-minded man, dedicated to his work, is seduced by a pretty face and appealing manners and thinks he can annex the charming creature for life without seriously altering his pattern of living. . .If, however, we can sympathize with Ruskin as a Lydgate married to a Rosamund Vincy, the story of their marriage from Effie's point of view is uncannily similar to that of Dorothea Brooke's marriage to Casaubon—the story of an ardent, high-spirited woman who married an emotionally and sexually defective man. [7]

Next time: Mary Ellen Peacock Nicolls and George Meredith
Last time: Jane Welsh and Thomas Carlyle


  1. Quoted in Phyllis Rose, Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages. Alfred Knopf, 1984, p. 57.
  2. Quoted in Mary Lutyens, Millais and the Ruskins, Murray, 1967, p. 191.
  3. Quoted in Vanessa Thorpe, "What was John Ruskin thinking on his unhappy wedding night?" The Observer 13 March 2010. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/mar/14/john-ruskin-wedding-effie-gray
  4. Quoted in Rose, p. 80.
  5. Quoted in Rose, pp. 87-88.
  6. Quoted in Rose, p. 91.
  7. Rose, p. 70.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Six Victorian marriages, part 1: Jane Welsh and Thomas Carlyle

"Shewing how wrath began." Illustration by Marcus Stone for Anthony Trollope's He Knew He Was Right (1869). Image source: Project Gutenberg.


Every couple is an enigma to outsiders, and often even to itself. [1]

Marriage is a perilous undertaking. In the U.S. almost half as many people get divorced every year as get married, even though marriage rates have declined and the age of first marriage has increased steadily since the late 1950s, suggesting that the decision to marry is taken ever more deliberately. Even when, without social stigma, we can date dozens of people and live with partners for months or years in a kind of trial marriage to determine the compatibility of our political views, social preferences, domestic habits, family connections, monetary attitudes and sexual practices, we still have a nearly 50% failure rate when choosing spouses.

Imagine how much more difficult it was for the Victorians. Couples typically knew little about one another before uniting, and if they discovered they'd made a mistake there was little that they could do. Nineteenth-century marriages, no matter how miserable, usually were for life: until 1857 it generally took an Act of Parliament to obtain a divorce. 

In books by Phyllis Rose (the classic Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages) and Diane Johnson (The True History of the First Mrs. Meredith and Other Lesser Lives), six Victorian marriages are examined. Rose writes,

. . .like [John Stuart] Mill, I believe marriage to be the primary political experience in which most of us engage as adults, and so I am interested in the management of power between men and women in that microcosmic relationship. Whatever the balance, every marriage is based upon some understanding, articulated or not, about the relative importance, the priority of desires, between its two partners. Marriages go bad not when love fades—love can modulate into affection without driving two people apart—but when this understanding about the balance of power breaks down, when the weaker member feels exploited or the stronger feels unrewarded for his or her strength. [2]

But in the Victorian era, couples often discovered that those tacit or explicit understandings had been founded on inadequate evidence or false premises.

Jane Welsh and Thomas Carlyle


Jane Baillie Carlyle (née Welsh), attributed to Sir Anthony Coningham Sterling, after a painting by Samuel Laurence. Salt print, circa 1852, based on a work of circa 1851.
Image source: National Portrait Gallery, London.

Jane Welsh, like many other women hungry for knowledge then and since, faced the barrier of an implacably sexist educational system. Young middle-class women were supposed to become "accomplished," that is, learn to read and speak a smattering of French or Italian, play the harp or piano, sing, draw, and embroider. Actual learning—studying the classics of history, philosophy and literature—was the purview of men. 

Jane was witty, bright-eyed, and the only child of well-off parents. Not surprisingly she had several beaux, but all were unsatisfactory. They promised to enlarge neither the breadth of her experience nor the scope of her mind. She wanted a suitor who could convincingly play the role of Saint-Preux, tutor and lover of the heroine of Rousseau's Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse (1761), Jane's favorite novel. 

The only suitor who came  anywhere close to St. Preux was the impecunious, uncouth, but brilliant Thomas Carlyle. He had almost immediately confessed his interest in her, but Jane did not think of him romantically:

Now Sir, once for all, I beg you to understand that I dislike as much as my Mother disapproves your somewhat too ardent expressions of Friendship towards me. . .I will be to you a true, a constant, and devoted friend—but not a Mistress—a Sister—but not a Wife—Falling in love and marrying like other Misses is quite out of the question—I have too little romance in my disposition ever to be in love with you or any other man; and too much ever to marry without love. [3]



Thomas Carlyle, 1854. Image source: Future Museum, South West Scotland.

Jane may have been concerned lest her mother forbid any correspondence, and for her Carlyle was an intellectual lifeline. He sent her books and reading lists, exchanged ideas, corrected the grammar of her translations, and urged her to undertake literary projects (for all of which Jane felt herself unsuited). But she steadfastly held him at arm's length—or, rather, pen's, because they kept up a frequent correspondence.

After she had exchanged letters with Carlyle for four years Jane was entering her mid-20s and recognized that she would either have to marry soon or live with her strong-willed mother for the rest of her life. But as a woman uninterested in conventional marriage her options were few. Carlyle had told her that if she married someone else he would stop writing to her, and she knew that likely the same would be true if he married someone else. So she grudgingly acknowledged that the only way they could be sure of continuing their intellectual exchanges was to marry: "Not many months ago, I would have said it was impossible that I should ever be your wife; at present I consider this to be the most probable destiny for me; in a year or so, perhaps, I shall consider it the only one." [4]

Her mother staunchly opposed the match, on the grounds of both Carlyle's relative poverty and his irascibility. (His temper must have been bad indeed for it to be apparent after only a couple of short visits.) Jane, distressingly, begins to sound like a woman making all the accommodations on her side: "No! my own Darling! we shall not be parted on this account. . .And tho' you should never be good-humoured, what then? Do we not love each other? And what is love if it cannot make all rough places smooth?" [5]

His own view of marriage, expressed in letters to her over the 18 months of their engagement, should have given her full warning about what she was letting herself in for: 

Do you not think, that when you on one side of our household shall have faithfully gone thro your housewife duties, and I on the other shall have written my allotted pages, we shall meet over our frugal meal with far happier and prouder hearts than thousands that are not blessed with any duties, and whose agony is the bitterest of all, "the agony of a too easy bed"? [6]

She is relegated to "housewife duties," while he, the great man (though, he warned her, "sick and sulky"), sits in his study while she caters to his needs. Her needs go unmentioned and unmet. 

Jane Baillie Carlyle (née Welsh), attributed to Sir Anthony Coningham Sterling. Salt print, 1855?.
Image source: National Portrait Gallery, London.

Indeed, a "too easy bed" would not be her lot. James Froude, who was chosen by Carlyle to be his biographer, wrote that "Carlyle was impatient, irritable, strangely forgetful of others, self-occupied and bursting into violence at the smallest and absurdest provocation—evidently a most difficult and trying household companion. . .Mrs. Carlyle's pale, drawn, suffering face haunted me in my dreams." [7]

Carlyle's violence was more than verbal: Jane's journal recorded an incident where Carlyle left "blue marks" on her arms because he had grabbed her so forcefully. After her death Carlyle read her diary and "saw that he had made her entirely miserable; that she had sacrificed her life to him; and that he had made a wretched return for her devotion." [8] Jane herself had a sharp tongue and keen wit, of course—she wrote to a childhood friend, "if you but knew what a brimstone of a creature I am behind all this beautiful amiability!"—but no provocation could excuse physical violence. [9]

Froude wrote of Jane,

I thought her the most brilliant and interesting woman that I had ever fallen in with; so much thought, so much lightness and brilliancy, such sparkling scorn and tenderness combined, I had never met with together in any human being. It was evident that she was suffering; she was always in indifferent health, she had no natural cheerfulness, at least, none when I knew her. Rumour said that she and Carlyle quarrelled often, and I could easily believe it from occasional expressions about him. [10]

Their marriage was probably unconsummated, to Jane's dismay. Her friend Geraldine Jewsbury, in whom Jane confided, told Froude that "'Carlyle was one of those persons who ought never to have married,'" because he was uninterested in or incapable of providing physical affection to his wife. [11] And meanwhile Jane was expected to deal with all of the unpleasant tasks of daily life (including talking to their neighbors about the early-morning crowing of their roosters) in order to free Carlyle from such petty concerns and enable him to devote his time to writing. 

After thirty years of marriage Carlyle began to spend more and more time at the soirées of Lady Harriet Ashburton. Although Jane cultivated her own circle of acquaintances, she justifiably felt neglected and taken for granted:

Intellectual and spiritual affection being all which he had to give, Mrs. Carlyle naturally looked on these at least as exclusively her own. She had once been his idol, she was now a household drudge, and the imaginative homage which had been once hers was given to another. This had been the occasion of the most violent outbreaks between them.  [12]

 


Jane Baillie Carlyle (née Welsh), by Robert Scott Tait. Albumen print, April 1855.
Image source: National Portrait Gallery, London.

At this point Jane considered leaving him, but was unable to make the final break. She died a decade later in 1866 after forty years of marriage, and after being in ill health for many years. Remarkably Carlyle decided to publish her journal and letters, which painted him in an extremely unflattering light. Perhaps he considered it a penance. Froude wrote, "He shut himself up in the house with her diaries and papers, and for the first time was compelled to look himself in the face, and to see what his faults had been." [13]

Samuel Butler later wrote to a female friend that "it was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs. Carlyle marry one another and so make only two people miserable instead of four." [14] It seems clear, though, that in their marriage most of the misery was on one side.

Next time: Effie Gray and John Ruskin 



  1. Rachel Donadio, "Domenico Starnone’s New Novel Is Also a Piece in the Elena Ferrante Puzzle," New York Times, 9 March 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/09/books/review/ties-domenico-starnone-jhumpa-lahiri.html
  2. Phyllis Rose, Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages. Alfred Knopf, 1984, p. 7.
  3. Jane Baillie Welsh to Thomas Carlyle, ca. 17 January 1822. Carlyle Letters Online, Duke University Press, 2019: https://carlyleletters.dukeupress.edu/volume/02/lt-18220117-JBW-TC-01
  4. Jane Baillie Welsh to Thomas Carlyle, 29 January 1825. Carlyle Letters Online, https://carlyleletters.dukeupress.edu/volume/03/lt-18250129-JBW-TC-01
  5. Quoted in Rose, p. 42.
  6. Quoted in Rose, pp. 42-43.
  7. James Froude, My Relations With Carlyle, Longmans, Green and Co., 1903, p. 8. https://archive.org/details/a582586800frouuoft/page/n19/mode/1up
  8. Froude, p. 11. https://archive.org/details/a582586800frouuoft/page/n22/mode/1up
  9. Jane Welsh Carlyle to Elizabeth Stodartc, a. 29 February 1836. Carlyle Letters Online, https://carlyleletters.dukeupress.edu/volume/08/lt-18360229-JWC-EA-01
  10. Froude, p. 3. https://archive.org/details/a582586800frouuoft/page/n14/mode/1up
  11. Quoted in Froude, p. 21. https://archive.org/details/a582586800frouuoft/page/n32/mode/1up
  12. Froude, p. 22. https://archive.org/details/a582586800frouuoft/page/n33/mode/1up
  13. Froude, p. 11. https://archive.org/details/a582586800frouuoft/page/n22/mode/1up
  14. Henry Festing Jones, Samuel Butler, Author of Erewhon (1835-1902), A Memoir. Macmillan and Co, 1919, p. 429.