Nineteenth-Century Studies Seminar

Nineteenth-Century Studies Seminar
3 November 2017, 5.30pm - 7.30pm
Room 243, Second Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Professor Rosemary Mitchell, Leeds Trinity University

Dr Brian H Murray , KCL


Rosemary Mitchell and Brian Murray discuss religion, politics and progress in the mid-Victorian historical novel.

Prof. Rosemary Mitchell (Leeds Trinity University) 'Fallen Fathers and Cavalier Children: Restoring the Nation through Royalist Family Fictions'

Dr Brian H Murray (King's College London) 'Hagiography and the Historical Novel: Forms Ancient and Modern'


Fallen Fathers and Cavalier Children: Restoring the Nation through Royalist Family Fictions

This paper will principally focus on the representation of Cavalier children in two Victorian historical fictions – Frederick Marryat’s well-known The Children of the New Forest (1847) and Charlotte M. Yonge’s obscure The Pigeon Pie (1860). I will consider how far their construction of images of vulnerable and victimised children, deprived of their fathers by political events, can be considered as a ‘domesticisation’ of the historical text which questions overarching narratives of constitutional development: in other words, how did the Cavalier family serve as a metaphor for the English nation, deprived of its political father, Charles I? Did the Victorian representation of orphaned Cavalier children and the ‘domestication’ of the narrative, eliding the separation of private and public spheres, critique the dominant Whig constitutional narrative by offering a literarily paternalistic riposte?  Could Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha (1680) be rewritten in a decidedly domestic idiom to promote a nineteenth-century Tory Romantic agenda?

Hagiography and the Historical Novel: Forms Ancient and Modern

For Thomas Carlyle, ‘Hero Worship’ was ‘the germ of Christianity itself’. But although the lives of exemplary men and women were a staple of Victorian print culture, Christian hagiography was a problematic and contested genre. In a society obsessed with chronology and progress, this ancient form still had the power to absorb the linear and contingent events of history into a recurring and circular model of devotional time. Ever since Georg Lukács’s pioneering study of the nineteenth-century historical novel, critics have tended to characterise this form as a characteristic product of bourgeois modernity and advanced capitalism. Yet if historical novels dramatised, valourised and problematised social and economic change, they also re-invented and re-imagined earlier literary forms (like hagiography) for a critical age.  By looking at some intersections between fiction and the lives of the saints – in works by John Henry Newman, J.A. Froude, Nicolas Wiseman and George Eliot – I aim to show how Victorian novelists forged a modern brand of hagiography committed to its own peculiar form of novelistic realism.

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