Incest in Victorian Literature
Incest in Victorian Literature
The complex human reaction to incest and its prohibition have taken a central position in psychological and sociological scholarship from these disciplines' early twentieth-century beginnings up through today. The taboo of incest in the physical, emotional, and moral senses, especially in father-daughter and brother-sister relationships, was a familiar and persistent theme in literature during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early-twentieth centuries, and consequently has been a popular focus of modern critical discussion.
Anthropologists and psychologists focused heavily on the study of incest in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Considered a universally prohibited act by most Victorians, it took center-stage when Sigmund Freud gave the wish for incest and its repression or sublimation a central role in human psychological growth and development. In contrast to this fairly recent anthropological and psychological interest, the significance of incest has long been acknowledged in literature; the theme gained special treatment in Jacobean Drama, the eighteenth-century novel, the novels of the American South, and in Romantic Poetry. Literary critics contend that, especially for the Romantic Poets, the incest theme is at the heart of writing about sibling relationships. The Romantics emphasized shared childhood experiences between brothers and sisters, basing the perfection of their union upon the mutual associations built during an idyllic childhood. Critics view this interpretation and representation of brother-sister relationships as being closely related to the Romantic valorization of childhood, where the familial bond is so strong that it survives and is more powerful than anything either adult sibling can feel for someone else. In the eighteenth-century novel, by contrast, brothers and sisters are usually separated at birth and form an attraction to each other during the course of the story. This mutual appeal is a result of the nature versus nurture conflict and is used to illustrate the intuitive attraction of a blood tie.
Most incestuous relationships, including those idealized by the Romantic poets, end in tragedy. Freud saw this tragic culmination as equivalent to the standard punishment for incest in primitive times—death. He interpreted the relationships featured even in such works as The White Doe of Rylstone (1815), where the brother and sister do not share a sexual relationship but are remarkably close and share a common fate, as implicitly incestuous. But there were numerous other overtly incestuous relationships depicted in Romantic poetry and writing, including Lord Byron's Manfred (1817) and Shelley's Laon and Cythna (1818), all of which culminate in tragedy. For the Romantic poets in particular, incest represented a facet of extreme self-love, in addition to the potentially purest form of love. Although it was incorrect in society's eyes, this very mixture of social defiance and self-degradation made the theme of incest attractive to many writers. Variations on the sibling relationship theme as developed by the Romantics exist in Victorian literature as well, although not as explicitly. Two compelling examples of the Victorian manifestation of incest in literature that are often cited by critics are The Mill on the Floss (1860) and Wuthering Heights (1847).
While the incest theme dates back to classical literature, there is a lack of agreement among sociologists and anthropologists regarding the incest taboo and its origins. This inconsistency, in fact, has led many scholars to believe that the taboo derives not from some inherent moral code, but from our self-imposed need to separate ourselves from the animal world where all sexual activity is indeterminate. The derivation of the word “incest”, which means incestum or “unchaste” in Latin, supports this interpretation. Incest has been treated as both a taboo and a special privilege in different eras. The Adam and Eve story, say some critics, posits incest as the very foundation of humankind. Many scholars contend that the controversy regarding the “incest taboo as a result of innate revulsion” has been effectively refuted, especially since there is a long history of stringent laws and punishments against incest. For many of these scholars, the incest taboo is a representation of our most fundamental attempt at social order. According to this theory, the family unit is the most basic representation of social order. Incest represents a serious violation of that order and is therefore disruptive and animalistic.
By 1490 B.C.E. restrictions against incest were firmly established. Sociologists theorize that the world population had increased to the point where the introduction of restrictions on sexual mating was in fact necessary. From this point on, the punishment for incest was consistent throughout differing cultures and ages, though definitions of incest vary according to time and place. Significant legal measures against incest in England coincided with two major literary periods—the Elizabethan and the Victorian. In 1583 Queen Elizabeth I began penalizing incest and created a court of high commission to address crimes associated with it. The next major legal act regarding incest did not become reality until 1908, when the Punishment of Incest Act was passed. Although there were concerns that legal strictures would call attention to the offense and lead to increased frequencies of occurrence, the act simply resulted in more cases being brought to court. And while sociological data provides a valuable context for the recurrence of the incest theme at various times in literature, most critics acknowledge the lack of correspondence between life and literature.
What is consistent between life and literature, however, is that the most common incestuous relationship occurs between fathers and daughters. Precipitating causes for these relationships in real life mirror those represented in literature—an absent mother, a nubile daughter, and/or a radical polarization in the family. Critics also agree that most literature of incest presents a paternalistic culture, where feminine desire for masculine approval is cultivated. By the nineteenth century, the growing cultural repression of purely incestuous impulses made it increasingly difficult to detect acts of incest in literature as they began to be more symptomatically expressed. With the development of Freudian analysis in the early twentieth-century, discussion of incest and its emotional, moral impetus was brought out in the open. The fundamental components of psychoanalytic literary criticism were in place and all literature could now be analyzed in light of incestuous relationships, real or inferred, in search of a deeper understanding of both the work and ourselves.
Sense and Sensibility (novel) 1811
Mansfield Park (novel) 1814
Emma (novel) 1816
Jane Eyre; an Autobiography [as Currer Bell] (novel) 1847
Wuthering Heights. A Novel [as Ellis Bell] (novel) 1847
Manfred, A Dramatic Poem (verse) 1817
The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, Edited by “Boz” (novel) 1836-1838
Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son, Wholesale, Retail, and for Exportation (novel) 1847
The Personal History of David Copperfield (novel) 1850
The Mill on the Floss (novel) 1860
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (novel) 1818
Mathilda (novella) 1959
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Laon and Cythna; or, The Revolution of the Golden City: A Vision of the Nineteenth Century [revised as The Revolt of Islam; A Poem of Twelve Cantos] (poem) 1818 [i.e., 1817]
The Cenci. A Tragedy, in Five Acts (verse drama) 1819
William M. Thackeray
The History of Henry Esmond, Esq., a Colonel in the Service of Her Majesty Q. Anne, Written by Himself (novel) 1852
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Criticism: Overviews And General Studies
SOURCE: “Introduction,” in The Incest Theme in Literature and Legend: Fundamentals of a Psychology of Literary Criticism, by Otto Rank, Johns Hopkins University, 1992, pp. xi-xxv.
[In the following essay, Rudnytsky traces the evolution of psychoanalysis and literary criticism in the early twentieth century, focusing on the work of Sigmund Freud and Otto Frank.]
The first three meetings of the Psychological Wednesday Society for which minutes are extant took place on October 10, October 17, and October 24, 1906. Viennese physicians and other intellectuals interested in Freud's ideas had begun gathering for weekly discussions in his apartment at Berggasse 19 as early as 1902, but not until 1906, with Otto Rank's appointment as salaried secretary to the group—an appointment that lasted until 1915, when World War I intervened—were the proceedings recorded in writing.
Rank's function at these October 1906 meetings was pivotal in two respects, for he not only transcribed them but also read the paper that was discussed. His three-part presentation, “The Incest Drama and Its Complications,” outlined the ideas that he fully elaborated in his 1912 magnum opus, Das Inzest-Motiv in Dichtung und Sage: Grundzüge einer Psychologie des dichterischen Schaffens [The incest theme in literature and legend: Fundamentals of a psychology of literary creation], which appears here for the...
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SOURCE: “Incest Patterns in Two Victorian Novels,” in Literature and Psychology, Vol. XV, No. 3, Summer, 1965, pp. 135-62.
[In the following essay, Smith argues that incest is a central theme in both Jane Eyre, where Jane struggles against her incestuous feelings for father figure Rochester, and Mill on the Floss, where the controversial flood-death scene and the passionate embrace between brother and sister illuminate the incestuous undercurrent of the novel.]
1. HER MASTER'S VOICE: JANE EYRE AND THE INCEST TABOO
Even the initial reading of Jane Eyre1 will reveal that the central organizing element is Jane's psychic conflict concerning her relationship with Rochester. I shall attempt to show that this conflict is much deeper and more fundamental than she (or probably Charlotte Brontë) realized. Whether Jane realized it or not (and I think she did not) and whether Charlotte realized it or not (and I suspect she did not), Jane's problem is not really one of bigamy: it is one of incest, incest between daughter and father. Jane's psyche is the battleground for warring impulses: on the one hand, a powerful instinctual inclination for intimacy with the father or his representative; on the other hand, a powerful internalization of the communal taboo against incest. A corollary to this incest conflict is Jane's obsession with the family...
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SOURCE: “Incest, Demonism, and Death in Wuthering Heights,” in Literature and Psychology, Vol. 23, No. 1, 1973, pp. 27-36.
[In the following essay, Mitchell theorizes that there is no compelling moral or social reason for Heathcliff and Cathy not to marry each other, but they abstain from a sexual or marital relationship because they are already tightly bound by other ties, including a brother-sister relationship.]
It is clear to most readers of Wuthering Heights, and it is equally clear to Catherine Earnshaw, that she is betraying herself when she decides to marry Edgar Linton.1 She says that she loves Edgar “entirely and altogether” (p. 71) and a few lines later that she loves Heathcliff far more (p. 72). She knows that she is being inconsistent because she says that she has “no business to marry Edgar Linton” (p. 71). Cathy justifies the marriage by saying that as Edgar's wife she can raise Heathcliff out of his degradation. This, she says, is her best motive for marrying Edgar, a somewhat strange statement in light of her protestations of love for him. Cathy insists that her marriage will not separate her from Heathcliff. Rather facile critical opinion on this point would have it that because Cathy and Heathcliff have the psychic union of which she speaks (p. 74), they indeed cannot be separated. But Cathy seems to doubt the consolations of such a union, for while...
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SOURCE: “Incest and the Structure of Henry Esmond,” in Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 34, No. 2, September, 1979, pp. 194-213.
[In the following essay, Manning contends that the incest motif permeates Henry Esmond beyond the commonly acknowledged feature of Henry and Rachel's marriage; Manning also theorizes that the author's own subconscious incest fantasy underlies the conflict between desire and social convention in the novel.]
The broader incestuous features of Henry Esmond are commonly acknowledged. Henry marries Rachel, who not only has served him as foster mother and called him her son, but who is the biological mother of the younger woman, more appropriate to Henry's age, whom he pursues ardently through most of the story.1 But the incest motif penetrates the novel long before this marriage and its anticipatory images; it drives the story through all its Thackerayan convolutions—including the events of Book II, which critics generally disregard—and impresses itself upon elements ranging from characterization to syntax.
The purpose of this essay is to unpack the incest motif from the narrative—to illustrate its workings throughout the novel—stopping short of the biographical speculation that might follow. Roughly, however, the fantasy of incestuous triumph is not Henry Esmond's but the novel's, or Thackeray's. It is much richer than...
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SOURCE: “Genealogy and Incest in Wuthering Heights,” in Studies in the Novel, Vol. XIV, No. 4, Winter, 1982, pp. 359-76.
[In the following essay, Goetz examines two interpretation problems in Wuthering Heights: first he examines Catherine's choice to marry Edgar Linton instead of Heathcliff, and then he discusses the second half of the novel's complex kinship relationships.]
In arguing for the basic equivalence between language and systems of kinship, Claude Lévi-Strauss has pointed out that the situations of the two, in one important respect, are symmetrical but inverse. In the case of language, we know what the function or meaning of the phenomenon is, but we do not (or did not until recently) know how it functions as a system. In the case of kinship, the structure of the system itself is more or less apparent, but the meaning or function the system serves remains obscure.1 It is this notion that a kinship system, just as well as a natural language, can have a “meaning” that I would like to test in reference to Wuthering Heights. This complex novel has of course various meanings that are generated by different aspects of its total design: thus certain meanings have been deduced from careful studies of its imagery (by Dorothy Van Ghent, Mark Schorer, and others) and others from the study of its narrative frames.2 Many critics have alluded to the...
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SOURCE: “Frankenstein's Hidden Skeleton: The Psycho-Politics of Oppression,” in Science-Fiction Studies, Vol. 10, No. 30, July, 1983, pp. 125-35.
[In the following essay, Vlasopolos suggests that despite some awkwardness of style and plot improbabilities Frankenstein is a coherent novel because of the conflict it presents between accepted socio-political forces and the private struggle of a man who views himself as driven to incest.]
Renewed interest in Frankenstein suggests that the novel possesses a covert structure which, despite some critics' charges of awkwardness of style and improbabilities of plot, gives the novel a coherence that has been felt by generations of fascinated readers.1 The hidden logic of Frankenstein rests on Mary Shelley's fusion of the socio-political forces used to ensure the survival of the aristocracy with the private drama of a man who sees himself as ineluctably driven to incest. Class selection, namely the survival of the upper class and its will-to-power, appears in incident after incident throughout the novel and acts as the barely visible crack which in the end causes the collapse of the house of Frankenstein. The inbreeding practiced by the aristocracy subjects their children to irrational fears and unreconcilable conflicts, and thereby contains the seeds of destruction. The principal dynamics of Victor Frankenstein's actions...
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SOURCE: “‘My Only Sister Now’: Incest in Mansfield Park,” in Studies in the Novel, Vol. XIX, No. 1, Spring, 1987, pp. 1-15.
[In the following essay, Smith regards the happy ending of Mansfield Park to be a dismal failure and contends that the incestuous overtones of Fanny and Edmund's relationship reveal the crippling effects of sister-brother relationships within a constricted, hierarchical family structure.]
Regarded as a happy ending to Mansfield Park, the marriage of Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram is a dismal failure. Jane Austen, I believe, intends this failure: as Fanny settles into smug seclusion at Mansfield, “the daughter that he wanted”1 to Sir Thomas and sister-wife to Edmund, her marriage reveals the constrictions of family in the novel. The incestuous overtones of Fanny's relationship with Edmund suggest an approach to these constrictions that illuminates not only Mansfield Park but the effects of nineteenth-century idealization of sister-brother love. In this essay I will attempt to show that incest in Mansfield Park demonstrates the crippling effects of sister-brother love within a hierarchical family structure.
I begin by linking the nineteenth-century idealization of sister-brother love to incest in Mansfield Park. I then define incest as both an emotional relationship and a social strategy and delineate...
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SOURCE: “The Incest Taboo in Wuthering Heights: A Modern Appraisal,” in American IMAGO, Vol. 45, No. 2, Summer, 1988, pp. 217-24.
[In the following essay, McGuire explores the incest theme in Wuthering Heights in the context of modern psychological breakthroughs in the study of incest; the critic draws on Ernest Jones' thesis of the relationship between incest, Satanism, vampirism, lycanthropy, and necrophilia, stating that Heathcliff demonstrates all these traits.]
Wuthering Heights has long been admired as a unique and powerful novel. The brooding atmosphere of Wuthering Heights, the intense characters, and the disturbing theme lure the reader into a world at once repelling and seductive. Who or what is the mysterious Heathcliff? Why does the mutual passion between Cathy Earnshaw and him remain unrequited when there is no apparent obstacle to their union? Why is their consuming physical attachment superseded by a morbid fascination with union after death? I propose that an unconscious incest taboo impeded the two lovers' expectations of normal sexual union and led them to spiritualize their attachment, eventually leading them to believe that they could find union only after death.
Criticism of Wuthering Heights has characteristically taken one of two approaches when the question of incest has been raised. Some critics have suggested that Heathcliff was...
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SOURCE: “Incestuous Sibling Relationships: Mansfield Park, Emma and Sense and Sensibility,” in Sibling Love and Incest in Jane Austen's Fiction, Macmillan, 1992, pp. 33-60.
[In the following excerpt, Hudson proposes that far from being elegiac and nostalgic, most of Austen's novels conclude with an optimistic expulsion of menacing intruders from the home and family. Hudson maintains that, in Austen's works, incest creates a loving family circle where familial bonds are tightened and strengthened.]
Jane Austen's sister Cassandra attempted to persuade her to change the dénouement of Mansfield Park. According to Cassandra, Austen's failure to allow Henry Crawford to marry Fanny, and Fanny's cousin Edmund to marry Mary Crawford, constituted a major flaw in the work.1Mansfield Park concludes with the heroine happily securing a place as a member of the family at Mansfield and with the removal of the immoral, unprincipled Crawfords. However, Cassandra Austen's assessment, like that of many critics, overlooks or fails to appreciate the significance of the incestuous marriage of cousins Fanny and Edmund.
The issue of incest may also be considered as relevant in the case of Emma and Mr. Knightley. No literal tie of kinship forms a barrier between them, although it has sometimes proved otherwise between a man's brother and his wife's sister in...
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SOURCE: “‘Knew shame, and knew desire’: Ambivalence as Structure in Mary Shelley's Mathilda,” in Iconoclastic Departures: Mary Shelley after Frankenstein, edited by Syndy M. Conger, Frederick S. Frank, and Gregory O'Dea, Associated University Presses, 1997, pp. 115-29.
[In the following essay, Himes explains that while incest was a conventional theme of nineteeth-century literature, Mary Shelley treats this theme very differently in Mathilda by presenting Mathilda's desire as especially transgressive.]
“Such is my name, and such my tale, Confessor—to thy secret ear, I breathe the sorrows I bewail, And thank thee for the generous tear This glazing eye could never shed.”
—Lord Byron, “The Giaour” (1813)
Mathilda is an arresting, riveting work, strange in its representation of incestuous love yet believable in its evocation of forbidden desire. The tightly confined internal and external spaces of and around the title character, who is the scriptor of this confessional work, force the reader to participate with Mathilda in the text. The reader cannot objectively receive the novel but must engage with Mathilda in her psychological landscape, and that is an area fraught with ambivalence created by vacillation between two equally powerful poles: Mathilda's position as both the subject and the object of the...
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SOURCE: “Incest and Rage in Charlotte Brontë's Novelettes,” in Creating Safe Space: Violence and Women's Writing, edited by Tomoko Kuribayashi and Julie Tharp, State University of New York Press, 1998, pp. 61-77.
[In the following essay, Carlson offers a close reading of Brontë's novelettes written between 1836 and 1839 and theorizes that the secret of Angria that Brontë created for her works allowed her to create a safe space and outlet for her forbidden fantasies of father-daughter seduction and female masochism.]
Charlotte Brontë, between the ages of thirteen and twenty-three, created a secret fantasy world called Angria, a world that she constructed in hundreds of pages of tiny manuscripts that make up her juvenilia (Alexander, Early Writings 3). Brontë did not write these alone; until 1833 the stories were a joint venture with her two sisters, Anne and Emily, and her brother Branwell (Alexander, Early Writings 62), and the later works, including her novelettes, were written in an eleven-year collaboration with her brother (Alexander, Early Writings 161). But the stories themselves were kept a secret from the outside world; Brontë's father and aunt never read the juvenilia, though they knew it was being written, and none of Charlotte's school friends were ever permitted to see her writing (Gerin, Evolution 73).
Brontë uses this secret writing,...
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SOURCE: “The Triangle in Charles Dickens,” in Patriarchy and Incest from Shakespeare to Joyce, University Press of Florida, 1998, pp. 54-79.
[In the following excerpt, Ford traces events in Dickens' life that parallel a search for first love depicted in many of his works. She explains that Dickens' lifelong fascination with father/daughter relationships was explored in most of his novels, and that Dombey and Son is an especially significant work on this theme.]
The relationship between psychobiographical data and the recurrent father/daughter theme is particularly explicit for Charles Dickens (1812-70). The early trauma of his relegation to the blacking factory at the age of twelve, which entailed his own banishment from the oedipal circle at home,1 occurred at the outset of a life punctuated by a series of unhappy or unsatisfactory relationships with women. Mollie Hardwick sums this up:
His strange, deep idealistic love for Mary Hogarth—the cause of years of haunting sorrow to him—his early passion for Maria Beadnell, the “Dora” who rejected her “David” and left a scar on his mind and whose deterioration in middle-age caused Dickens such cruel disillusion; and worst of all his terrible incompatibility with his wife. … All these were to culminate in that 13-year relationship with Ellen Ternan—a “disappointing partnership,” …...
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SOURCE: “The Incest Motif in Shelley's The Cenci,” in Comparative Drama, Vol. 19, No. 3, Fall, 1985, pp. 222-39.
[In the following essay, Groseclose contends that the rape/incest between Beatrice and Count Cenci is the event that controls the The Cenci structurally and histrionically. Groseclose also feels that the incestuous act is Shelley's way of symbolically denouncing the destructiveness of tyranny, and proposing violent insurrection as a means to eliminating it.]
Mary Shelley admired her husband's 1819 play, The Cenci, because it was, she felt, the most direct of his works.1 The author himself, apparently both pleased and abashed that the writing of the drama consumed scarcely two months, implied a similar simplicity when he told E. J. Trelawny that in The Cenci he had expended considerably less effort on poetic language and “metaphysics” than was his wont.2 One scarcely wishes to contradict the two persons most intimately connected with the work, but a survey of the critical literature suggests that the drama is among the poet's densest, richest, and most ambiguous creations.3 Explored from every viewpoint—i.e., from its theatricality to its philosophy—The Cenci has yielded itself to interpretation in a most rewarding manner, though its paradoxes stubbornly remain. One feature, Shelley's decision to include incest...
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SOURCE: “Incest in Laon and Cythna: Nature, Custom, Desire,” in The Keats-Shelley Review, No. 2, 1987, pp. 49-90.
[In the following essay, Donovan traces the publishing history of Laon and Cythna, from its inception to its reprinting as The Revolt of Islam,and argues that the changes between the two versions make it difficult to understand Shelley's intent.]
The printing history of Laon and Cythna; or, the Revolution of the Golden City: A Vision of the Nineteenth Century includes a notorious peculiarity. Shelley's grand attempt at a narrative romance on the epic scale, and his longest poem, was composed in draft at Marlow during the spring and summer of 1817, finished and seen through the press in the autumn and put on sale early in December, only to be withdrawn from circulation within a few days; quickly revised, it reappeared in January 1818 as The Revolt of Islam.1 The revisions were not extensive—leaving aside the new title-page and the removal of a paragraph from the Preface, only some five dozen lines out of a total of 4818 were affected—but they carried important changes of sense.2 Two kinds of alterations were made to the original text, each a series of functional substitutions for words and phrases judged to be objectionable. The larger number has to do with religion: ‘Power’ or ‘Heaven’ is put in place of ‘God’;...
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SOURCE: “Incest, Narcissism and Demonality in Byron's Manfred,” in Mosaic, Vol. 25, No. 2, Spring, 1992, pp. 25-38.
[In the following essay, Macdonald theorizes that Manfred is a powerful revision of Goethe's Faust and of the tradition behind it. Macdonald explains that the central act of the poem, the pact with the devil, can be traced to the psychodynamics of incest.]
In 1816, Byron left England forever, his reputation ruined by the collapse of his marriage and the rumors of his affair with his half-sister, Augusta Leigh. He went first to Switzerland, where he met the Shelleys and suggested that they all pass the time by writing ghost stories. The most famous fruit of this suggestion was Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818). Byron himself began a story but soon gave it up; it was completed by his personal physician, J. W. Polidori, and eventually published, under Byron's name, as The Vampyre (1819). Byron did not, however, entirely abandon the ghost-story project: later in the summer, after a visit by the Gothic novelist M.G. Lewis, he wrote his “supernatural” tragedy Manfred (1817).
Critics have often been baffled by Manfred, but we cannot say that Byron failed to warn us. He first described it to his publisher as “a kind of poem in dialogue … but of a very wild—metaphysical—and inexplicable kind”: “Almost all the...
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SOURCE: “Shelleyan Incest and the Romantic Legacy,” in Keats-Shelley Journal, Vol. XLV, 1996, pp. 61-76.
[In the following essay, Cronin explores the evolution and significance of the themes of love and incest in Shelley's poetry. The critic contends that Romantic poetry in general and Shelley's work in particular left a difficult legacy for the Victorians, challenging them to accommodate these themes in an acceptable manner for the reading public.]
I begin with a particular legacy, with the copy of The Revolt of Islam owned by Arthur Hallam and bequeathed, after his early death, to his friend and fellow-Apostle, Henry Alford. Like Hallam, Alford was a minor poet, but he lived to earn a more substantial reputation as Dean of Canterbury cathedral and as the English editor of the Greek Testament. This book was doubly precious to Alford who revered both Hallam and Shelley, and when he married on 10 March, 1835, he chose it as his wedding gift to his wife, first inscribing on the flyleaf some blank verse lines that explained its special value to him.1 What was he thinking of, this pious, conventional young clergyman giving into the hands of his bride a copy of The Revolt of Islam, a fiercely anti-clerical poem dedicated to the ideals of the French Revolution? It is true that the poem he inserted into the text himself ends with a warning. Fanny is advised:
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Brophy, Robert J. “Tamar, The Cenci, and Incest.” In American Literature XLII, No. 2 (May 1970): 241-44.
A brief comparison of the treatment of the incest theme in Tamar and The Cenci.
Durbach, Errol. “The Geschwister-Komplex: Romantic Attitudes to Brother-Sister Incest in Ibsen, Byron, and Emily Brontë.” In Mosaic (Summer 1979): 61-73.
Examines an understanding of incest behavior as it relates to the nineteenth-century crisis of existence following the age of Enlightenment.
Garrett, Margaret Davenport. “Writing and Re-writing Incest in Mary Shelley's Mathilda.” In Keats-Shelley Journal XLV, (1996): 44-60.
Proposes that although Mathildahas generally been acknowledged as an autobiographical representation of the author's own life, it also showcases Shelley's evolving ideas about a woman's role in a love relationship.
Glass, Loren. “Blood and Affection: The Poetics of Incest in Manfred and Parisina.” In Studies in Romanticism 34, No. 2 (Summer 1995): 211-26.
Contends that both texts reviewed in this article use incest to elaborate a theory of history and poetics, synthesizing major currents in contemporary literary and cultural theory.
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