Sensations of loss: Eliza Lynn Linton’s Sowing the Wind

Oulton, C. (2015) Sensations of loss: Eliza Lynn Linton’s Sowing the Wind. In: ICVWW Conference: Reassessing Women’s Writing of the 1860s and 1870s, 6th-7th July, 2015, Canterbury Christ Church University.

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Eliza Lynn Linton’s Sowing the Wind (1867) includes just about every one of the key tropes associated with the sensation novel: rebellious women, a near fatal fire, a mysterious will, illegitimacy, a lost inheritance, and even madness. While the depiction of an obsessive marriage may owe something to Caroline Clive’s 1855 Paul Ferroll, the interplay between contrasting heroines Isola and her cousin Jane is immediately suggestive of Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White (1860). The impoverished Jane is described as outspoken, masculine and unattractive, and she is almost parodically lacking in maternal instinct; meanwhile the more conventional and naive Isola is strikingly beautiful and becomes the ideal substitute mother to her husband’s orphaned nephew. However the novel refutes simplistic binaries even as it upholds the essential differences between the two figures. The complexity of Isola’s characterisation is implied from the start in the narrator’s observation that ‘her hands, though white and shapely, were a trifle large – like the hands of all capable women’, and her physical courage is demonstrated in her escape from a house fire by climbing out of a top floor window and across a ledge. If Isola resembles Laura Fairlie in her ingenuous integrity, she is clearly as competent and as physically agile as Marian Halcombe. Linton also modifies Collins’s portrayal of the tyrannical husband, giving St John Aylott the small feet and effeminate bearing of Frederick Fairlie as well as the implied infertility and illegitimate birth of Sir Percival Glyde, and it is St John who loses both his inheritance and his mental faculties, finally dying in a madhouse. Isola herself derives independence from the loss of wealth, status and husband. Only then is her chivalric lover Gilbert ratified by the watchful Jane in the words ‘he may turn out be Prince Great-Heart before all’s done’.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English Literature > PR0111 Women authors
P Language and Literature > PR English Literature > PR0161 By period
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Humanities > International Centre for Victorian Women Writers (ICWW)
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Prof Carolyn W. de la L. Oulton
Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2015 15:17
Last Modified: 16 Jul 2015 15:17

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