The Wide, Wide World (was: One more question)

shelly at shelly at
Fri Jul 27 19:00:45 EDT 2001

Dorian said:
>I'm currently reading an online copy of a perfectly frightful
>Victorian novel entitled ?The Wide, Wide World? (it's *so* soggy; there's at
>least one, if not two or three bouts of tears in every chapter!  And the
>rampant, in-your-face Christianity gets on my nerves...).  I would never buy
>that in a million years, but it's sort of interesting, which is why I'm
>reading it online.

I agree TWW is fairly lachyrmose - my copy has a wonderful frontispiece of wch the title is "Ellen was wrought up to the last pitch of grief" - , but I think it's fascinating as an account of one way to live as a woman in the 19th century. It seems to me an alternative Jane Eyre - for instance, when Ellen is described as

"She had been a passionate child in earlier days; under religion's happy rule that had long ceased to be true of her; it was only very rarely that she or those around her were led to remember or suspect that it had once been the case. She was surprised & half-frightened at herself now, to find the strength of the old temper suddenly roused."

I think the book - wch was hugely successful - became a sort of primer from wch 19th century girls could learn that here was one way of retaining some kind of strength (using piety as a way of resisting what they didn't want or felt forced by convention into doing) whilst being completely irreproachable. I also think it's not at all badly written - there's a lot of quite vivid dialogue. (Better than the Elsie books at any rate - and they have been edited and reissued recently for modern children.)

Another good thing about these books is they're so cheap to buy - that's why I'm surprised people read them second-hand. My copy cost a pound.

Anyway, midnight here, & seriously OT, so must stop this, but couldn't resist discussing TWW.



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