The nineteenth-century visiting mode and Elizabeth Gaskell’s fiction

Hewitt, Martin (2019) The nineteenth-century visiting mode and Elizabeth Gaskell’s fiction. In: Making Social Knowledge in the Victorian City: The Visiting Mode in Manchester, 1832-1914. Routledge, London, UK, pp. 46-60. ISBN 9780367135683

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The domestic visit was a component of the short stories of nineteenth-­century women’s magazines, of religious and philanthropic periodicals, and in novels, from Austen’s Emma to Eliot’s Middlemarch. 1 These accounts, whether they offered the powerfully negative tone of Mrs Pardiggle’s insensitive and blinkered encounters with a London bricklayer of Dickens’ Bleak House (itself counterposed by the combination of empathy and system embodied in Esther Summerson) 2 or the transformative death-bed experience of Mary Brotherton in Frances Trollope’s Michael Armstrong, the Factory Boy (1839–40), were repeatedly represented as knowledge transactions and potential moments of learning, and rehearsed the conventional components of the visiting mode narrative. Hence, the worldly Manchester novelist Geraldine Jewsbury was not just driven to visiting, but also to framing her mid-century novel Marian Withers with an opening scene involving a servant despatched to a ‘back-garden street’ to deliver clothes to two impoverished children, complete with a guide (the ‘pawnbroker’s man), threats from the ‘hulking men’ in the doorways, a dark and enclosed cellar dwelling, leading to the heroine’s vicarious learning of the ‘invisible world’ of the city’s outcast children.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Faculty: Faculty of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
Depositing User: Lisa Blanshard
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2019 16:01
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 18:54

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