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The Friendship of Israel Zangwill and Mabel E. Wotton: "Faithfully yours, Margaret" Meri-Jane Rochelson Florida International University SINCE 1986, when Margaret Stetz reprinted "The Fifth Edition" in the journal Turn-of-the-Century Women, the fiction of Mabel E. Wotton has become familiar to scholars, teachers, and students of lateVictorian literature. "The Fifth Edition" appears in Elaine Showalter's anthology Daughters of Decadence, and "The Hour of Her Life" is one of only eight short stories reprinted in Broadview's New Woman Reader.1 Carolyn Christensen Nelson, in her headnote to Wotton's story in that volume, gives the names of Wotton's parents, information about some of her published works, and the facts that she "never married and died in London." Apart from those spare details, writes Nelson, "Little is known about her life,"2 and teachers have had to admit the same lack of knowledge to students who consistently greet Wotton's fiction with enthusiasm . In the summer of 2004, however, while doing research for a study of Israel Zangwill, I came upon an extraordinary find that helps fill in the picture of Mabel Wotton's life: a collection of approximately three hundred letters, postcards, and telegrams sent by Wotton to Israel Zangwill between 1896 and 1920, along with a small number of his replies , mostly from 1918 and later. The collection, which makes up six files at the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem (CZA), is incomplete, with many apparent gaps between letters and personal allusions that are difficult to interpret in the letters themselves. Yet the correspondence that exists, supplemented by other references to her in the Zangwill archives, reveals Mabel Wotton as a devoted friend who in many ways epitomized the care-giving and self-sacrifice of Janet Suttaby in "The Fifth Edition" but who also—unlike the unfortunate heroine ofthat story—was active in ensur305 ELT 48 : 3 2005 ing the publication of her works and connected to prominent literary and theatrical figures of her day. Moreover, the archival evidence makes clear that Wotton was the source for a character in a bestselling novel. Janet Suttaby was a writer who starved to death as a male author made his fortune using the details of her life in fiction. Mabel Wotton, however, was appreciative of the tribute paid her by Israel Zangwill in The Mantle of Elijah. The evidence of the correspondence confirms without doubt that Margaret Engelborne in Zangwill's novel is a portrait of Mabel Wotton that has been available since 1900, and one that suggests a more complex relation toward "the world of books and bookmen " than the "lingering bitterness" reflected in some of Wotton's fiction .3 Mabel E. Wotton and Israel Zangwill were both prolific writers in their day, but Zangwill (1864-1926) made a more enduring name for himself as a literary interpreter of the turn-of-the-century Jewish immigrant community, his most well-known works on that subject the novel Children of the Ghetto (1892) and the play The Melting Pot (1908). However , he also wrote on a wide variety of topics and became a leading figure in the Zionist and Jewish Territorialist movements, a supporter of peace during the First World War, and an important male suffragette who frequently spoke and wrote on behalf of the Women's Social and Political Union and other suffrage groups. His archive shows that he was connected socially and professionally with many of the leading writers of the 1890s and early 1900s, and as a significant literary figure was the subject of reviews, articles, and interviews in a great many contemporary publications.4 Wotton (1863-1927) published articles in the Cornhill and Temple Bar in the 1880s and 90s, according to the Wellesley Index; at least one story and a poem were reprinted in America in Littell's Living Age. According to Elaine Showalter, Wotton's 1892 novel, A Girl Diplomatist, was poorly reviewed, and indeed the Athenseum found its hero a prig and its "love passages" overly sentimental.5 But in 1890 the same periodical had favorably reviewed Wotton's A Pretty Radical, and Other Stories , and in 1896 the Bookman's reviewer linked Wotton with Zangwill approvingly as...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 305-323
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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