Download e-book for iPad: Women's Theatre Writing in Victorian Britain by Katherine Newey

By Katherine Newey

ISBN-10: 0230554903

ISBN-13: 9780230554900

ISBN-10: 140394332X

ISBN-13: 9781403943323

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As I shall argue in my discussion of Mary Russell Mitford and Felicia Hemans as playwrights, their investment in the ‘legitimate’ drama was in part dictated by their social identities as respectable women. And in a very practical sense, in a laissez-faire market for writing, women were disadvantaged in negotiating, bargaining or demanding payment for their writing; this book is peppered through with examples of the struggles of women to manage their financial affairs. It is noticeable that women playwrights returned to the theatre from the 1860s when patterns of production stabilize again, and although they do not revert to the relative certainty of the Theatres Royal model of the eighteenth century, the pattern for longer runs in established companies, as well as the emergence of not-for-profit theatrical ventures seemed to create a working environment which offered opportunities for women playwrights.

The Finding of Nancy is a striking dramatisation of a young woman’s desperate attempts to change her ‘cramped, narrow life’62 without compromising her optimism, individuality, or respectability. Although the play never names it, the ‘life’ Nancy seeks, and the self she must find, is bound up with her sexual experience. Syrett’s play presents a rather grim view of the respectable middle-class single working woman’s prospects, with Nancy’s declaring to her artteacher friend, Isabel: I have the misfortune to be fastidious.

It’s the one thing that women in our position have little chance to do. If I were a shop girl, I could meet the shop-walker round the corner; if I were a duchess that would account for many little eccentricities. But for the modern young woman who works for a living wage, and has the misfortune to be a lady, there is no chance of any kind. Not even of going to the devil. (ff. 7–9) Eventually, Nancy does ‘go to perdition,’ and lives with Will Fielding, a married man, for four years. ’63 And, indeed, after a series of dramatic misunderstandings, Nancy and Fielding do marry.

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Women's Theatre Writing in Victorian Britain by Katherine Newey


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