The Idea of Music in Victorian Fiction

The Idea of Music in Victorian Fiction

Language: English

Pages: 318

ISBN: 113825391X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Idea of Music in Victorian Fiction seeks to address fundamental questions about the function, meaning and understanding of music in nineteenth-century culture and society, as mediated through works of fiction. The eleven essays here, written by musicologists and literary scholars, range over a wide selection of works by both canonical writers such as Austen, Benson, Carlyle, Collins, Gaskell, Gissing, Eliot, Hardy, du Maurier and Wilde, and less-well-known figures such as Gertrude Hudson and Elizabeth Sara Sheppard. Each essay explores different strategies for interpreting the idea of music in the Victorian novel. Some focus on the degree to which scenes involving music illuminate what music meant to the writer and contemporary performers and listeners, and signify musical tastes of the time and the reception of particular composers. Other essays in the volume examine aspects of gender, race, sexuality and class that are illuminated by the deployment of music by the novelist. Together with its companion volume, The Figure of Music in Nineteenth-Century British Poetry edited by Phyllis Weliver (Ashgate, 2005), this collection suggests a new network of methodologies for the continuing cultural and social investigation of nineteenth-century music as reflected in that period's literary output.

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debate. See Gabriel Tarde, ‘Foules et sectes au point de vue criminel’, Revue des deux mondes (15 November 1893) 367; George Frederick Drinka, The Birth of Neurosis: Myth, Malady and the Victorians (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984) 152. Quoted in Vrettos, Somatic Fictions, 81, 202. Trilby has links with La dame aux camélias, as I discuss in Women Musicians in Victorian Fiction, 1860–1900 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000) 247, 258. 24 Vrettos, Somatic Fictions, 81–4. The connection with insanity is

M. Stuart (New York: Penguin Books, 1985) [hereafter VF]. 38 For more on the way fiction operates in conjunction with the shifting marital ideologies of the early nineteenth century, see Nancy Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987). 92 JODI LUSTIG in polite society such seductions in fact took place. Bourgeois marital ideology does differ from the aristocratic ideal by valuing qualities of mind over lineage, but the

institution is still maintained through the transmission of capital from one generation to the next through heirs whose paternity can only be ensured by the regulation of female sexuality. Becky’s scandalous pianistic exploits reflect the very real fact that the piano becomes an increasingly unstable signifier as the century progresses. What in the early decades of the century reasonably communicates certain economic truths about its purchasers no longer does in Thackeray’s day. As the instrument

David is left to wonder how he ‘could best make’ his ‘way with a guitar-case through the forest of difficulty’ (608). The singularity of Rosa Dartle’s harp playing marks her as similarly flawed. No one but Steerforth’s mother has heard Rosa perform for the past three years, and only under duress does Rosa agree to sing for 41 In Charles Dickens and Music (London: C. H. Kelly, 1912; repr. New York: Haskell House Publishers, 1970), James Thomas Lightwood suggests David is actually more pleased to

appropriate pastime for the angel in the house. John Ruskin believed that music was ‘the first, the simplest, the most effective of all instruments of moral instruction’.14 Rev H. R. Haweis similarly stressed the benefits of music, arguing that music provides an emotional outlet for women, thereby maintaining domestic harmony: ‘That domestic and long-suffering instrument, the cottage piano, has probably done more to sweeten existence and bring peace and happiness to families in general, and to

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