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A Room of His Own

A Literary-Cultural Study of Victorian Clubland

Barbara Black

Publication Year: 2012

In nineteenth-century London, a clubbable man was a fortunate man, indeed. The Reform, the Athenaeum, the Travellers, the Carlton, the United Service are just a few of the gentlemen’s clubs that formed the exclusive preserve known as “clubland” in Victorian London—the City of Clubs that arose during the Golden Age of Clubs. Why were these associations for men only such a powerful emergent institution in nineteenth-century London? Distinctly British, how did these single-sex clubs help fashion men, foster a culture of manliness, and assist in the project of nation-building? What can elite male affiliative culture tell us about nineteenth-century Britishness?

A Room of His Own sheds light on the mysterious ways of male associational culture as it examines such topics as fraternity, sophistication, nostalgia, social capital, celebrity, gossip, and male professionalism. The story of clubland (and the literature it generated) begins with Britain’s military heroes home from the Napoleonic campaign and quickly turns to Dickens’s and Thackeray’s acrimonious Garrick Club Affair. It takes us to Richard Burton’s curious Cannibal Club and Winston Churchill’s The Other Club; it goes underground to consider Uranian desire and Oscar Wilde’s clubbing and resurfaces to examine the problematics of belonging in Trollope’s novels. The trespass of French socialist Flora Tristan, who cross-dressed her way into the clubs of Pall Mall, provides a brief interlude. London’s clubland—this all-important room of his own—comes to life as Barbara Black explores the literary representations of clubland and the important social and cultural work that this urban site enacts. Our present-day culture of connectivity owes much to nineteenth-century sociability and Victorian networks; clubland reveals to us our own enduring desire to belong, to construct imagined communities, and to affiliate with like-minded comrades.

Published by: Ohio University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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p. v


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

For their generous and able assistance, I would first like to thank Marcus Risdell, librarian of the Garrick Club; Sheila Markham, librarian of the Travellers Club; and Simon Blundell, librarian of the Reform Club. I am particularly grateful for their permission to reproduce the materials from their club archives that appear within. As....

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pp. 1-4

This book takes up the gauntlet thrown down by George Augustus Sala long ago when he taunted us with an insider’s challenge: “Clubbism is a great mystery” (Twice, 213). To clarify this mystery and to consider all that it can tell us about Victorian society at the same time as it casts some light on certain fundamental desires in us all, one...

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Introduction: The Man in the Club Window

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pp. 5-32

A man’s home is his castle—or is it not? The nineteenthcentury architect Robert Kerr seemed to think it was in his brash tribute The Gentleman’s House (1864). This far-from-timid volume aims to establish the pedigree of the English gentleman’s house, tracing through a wide historic scope its patrimony “from the Hall of...

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1. A Night at the Club

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pp. 33-87

Numerous are the accounts of other clubmen more adventurous than Smith, who often ended their nights at the club with cards or billiards until 2:00 in the morning.1 It was not uncommon for Victorian men to belong to several clubs and to...

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2. Conduct Befitting a Gentleman

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pp. 88-111

When Pip moves to London to realize his great expectations, he aspires to join a club, “The Finches of the Grove,” as part of his plan to become a smart young gentleman. This longing to belong is only one of Pip’s “lavish habits,” which include hiring the servant the Avenger, purchasing new furnishings that place...

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3. Clubland’s Special Correspondents

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pp. 112-146

If the focus of my preceding chapter is the importance of clubland to the novel—the genre committed both to the “new” and to that which is “news”—then this chapter takes the currency of novelty one step further by examining the ties between club culture and the fourth estate, journalism. This step is also justifiable, of course...

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4. Membership Has Its Privileges

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pp. 147-174

In 1866, Anthony Trollope profiled a prominent personage, the Alpine Club man, in his Travelling Sketches. His interest in his subject had two likely sources. As a lover of foxhunting in particular and the sporting life more generally, Trollope had longed to join the Alpine Club but realized that both his age and his..

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5. The Pleasure of Your Company in Late-Victorian Pall Mall

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pp. 175-200

About his iconic protagonist, Jules Verne need only write, “Phileas Fogg belonged to the Reform Club—and that was all” (8). Verne’s reticence, his assertion that “that was all” his readers needed to know, makes for a peculiar introduction to the hero...

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6. A World of Men

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pp. 201-218

Masterful at shaping narrative structure, John Galsworthy knew precisely where to begin The Forsyte Saga (1922): a chronicle of a family can start at no better place than at home, with an “at home” at old Jolyon’s Stanhope Gate in celebration of his granddaughter June’s engagement to the architect Philip...

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Epilogue: A Room of Her Own

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pp. 219-238

For much of the nineteenth century, conventional wisdom deemed women intractably unclubbable. The standard arguments in circulation at the time often began by pointing to women’s “natural” inclination not to be social. As shy creatures, they did not...


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pp. 239-276


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pp. 277-292


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pp. 293-301

E-ISBN-13: 9780821444351
E-ISBN-10: 0821444352
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821420164
Print-ISBN-10: 082142016X

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 823040716
MUSE Marc Record: Download for A Room of His Own

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • English literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism
  • Literature and society -- England -- History -- 19th century.
  • Clubs -- England -- London -- History.
  • Men -- Books and reading -- England -- History -- 19th century.
  • London (England) -- Intellectual life -- 19th century.
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