Redefining the angel in the house: Evelyn Everett-Green and the historical novel for girls.

  • H Skelding
  • Published 2001 in
    Women's writing : the Elizabethan to Victorian…

Abstract

The article reassesses the work of Victorian girls' fiction author, Evelyn Everett-Green. Her position as a writer of historical fiction for a juvenile female market has led most critics to dismiss her as an apologist for an oppressive order, the girls' historical romance genre being perceived as one which validates "traditional", restrictive, domestic-oriented versions of femininity by demonstrating that they have long-established historical precedents. The author questions these assertions by focusing upon Everett-Green's depiction of matriarchal figures and authority in many of her historical works. The author suggests that Everett-Green depicts her matriarchs as types of "universal mothers", capable of rejuvenating a bigoted and selfish patriarchal society by exerting an explicitly feminine/maternal power. In addition, these women are depicted as the possessors of real economic and political power, which originates from within the domestic sphere but extends far beyond its confines. The article sets her works within the context of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century women historians, whose work represents a similar attempt to redefine the women's domestic role and reclaim for women a more vital role within history. It also suggests parallels between Everett-Green's imaging of woman as a type of "universal mother" and the use of similar figures which emerge from the work of Virginia Woolf and the ideas of late nineteenth-century feminists. The suggestion is that Everett-Green's historical works responded to a contemporary climate of opinion which perceived society as degenerate and saw the woman's loss of matriarchal power, whereby she had declined from the potentially all powerful "universal mother" of the past to the restricted, passive "angel in the house", as a symptom of this degeneration.

Cite this paper

@article{Skelding2001RedefiningTA, title={Redefining the angel in the house: Evelyn Everett-Green and the historical novel for girls.}, author={H Skelding}, journal={Women's writing : the Elizabethan to Victorian period}, year={2001}, volume={8 1}, pages={119-38} }