'Evil thought is a dangerous pet.' Jerome K. Jerome and the dark side of passion

Oulton, C. (2012) 'Evil thought is a dangerous pet.' Jerome K. Jerome and the dark side of passion. In: British Association of Victorian Studies Conference 2012: Victorian Value: Ethics, Economics, Aesthetics, 30th August - 1st September 2012, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

Jerome K. Jerome’s fiction and journalism of the 1890s reveals a troubled preoccupation with sexual frailty and the sexual double standard. Notably while his editorials in To-day from this period suggest both hostility and anxiety in relation to the demands of the New Woman, it is male sexuality that he most frequently charts as obsessive and dangerous through pieces published in his monthly journal The Idler. The dream sequence of Novel Notes, serialised in The Idler in 1893, is suggestive of Mary Cholmondeley’s ‘Geoffrey’s Wife’ (1885) in its conflation of the ideal woman and the prostitute. Meanwhile ‘The Woman of the Saeter’, also published in The Idler during this year, references sexual obsession through supernatural imagery.

These depictions of sexual corruption are relegated to dream or foreign landscapes, but they can be productively read against both Jerome’s denial of female passion in To-Day and his depiction of male corruption in the virtually unknown novella Weeds, published in 1892. In its veiled attack on the Victorian insistence that girls should remain ignorant before marriage, Jerome ironically comes close to the position of such New Woman writers as George Egerton. While he persistently depicts sexual desire as threatening, even damaging, he was ultimately wary of value judgements, insisting that ‘Truth is the only thing worth fighting for.’ As he put it in 1896, ‘Of what value is a man’s life to the world if the truth is never to be spoken?’

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain > DA0020 England > DA0028 History > DA0129 By period > DA0300 Modern, 1485- > DA0550 Victorian era, 1837-1901
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman > HQ0019 Sexual behavior and attitudes. Sexuality
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN4699 Journalism. The periodical press, etc.
Divisions: pre Nov-2014 > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English and Language Studies
Depositing User: Dr Carolyn Oulton
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2012 16:16
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2014 14:10
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/10990

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00