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"Alone into the wide, wide world": Trollope's Miss Mackenzie and the Mid-Victorian Etiquette Manual Andrew Maunder The mid-Victorian era saw a massive increase in the production and consumption ofbooks and articles on etiquette. For a rapidly expanding bourgeoisie possessing the means, but not the social decorum , either to carve out a new position ofascendancy or to assimilate with the aristocracy, the "how to" book became an indispensable guide for the nouveau riche anxious on how to deport themselves in polite society. Recently, twentieth-century researchers have stressed the etiquette book's links with the nineteenth-century novel, in terms of both form and ideology. In Desire and Domestic Fiction, Nancy Armstrong has argued that advice and etiquette manuals played an important role in creating a new ideal crucial to the development ofthe novel and thence to the hegemony of the middle class in Britain. Elizabeth Langland, in Nobody's AngeU has analyzed how class functions in nineteenth-century etiquette books and how midVictorian realist fictions, often those by women, draw into themselves etiquette's complex system ofsignifiers and social codes designed to consolidate a public image within the middle-classes. Determining the real authorship of the etiquette books is a matter ofspeculation although it is possible to envisage an army of male "experts" stressing the importance ofsocial rules to a readership largely composed of women. In focusing on the links between etiquette book and novel this paper argues that, amongst the range of representational codes or frames operating in his novels, Anthony Trollope accommodated and included in his fictions ideological and narrative devices compatible with, or deriving from the former. In doing so, I take my cue not only 48volume 26 number 2 "Alone into the wide, wide world" from those twentieth-century new historicist and cultural materialist critics who have identified ways in which the literary discourse of the realist novel co-operates with, extends and is extended by other signifying practices ofthe Victorian age, but also from the novelist's contemporary reviewers. In 1864, Richard Holt Hutton suggested that rather than developing his characters alone as individuals, Trollope could be seen to take the interaction between them as his subject, using the "complicated social strategy" ofthe present day as his means ofcharacterization (Smalley 197). Hutton, whom Trollope felt was his most perceptive critic, believed that the key to understanding the novelist's work lay in his treatment ofand scrupulous adherence to these socially imposed bounds. "His characters themselves," Hutton wrote: [N]ever vary; they are always the same, and always affect us as if they were data of Mr Trollope's mind ... as if all that his imagination really had to work at was to find out the little incidents which would best throw a variety of lights upon these fixed centres of his thought and on their relation to each other. We have noticed before . . . how skilful he is in delineating the small manoeuvres . . . ofsocial life, how finely he delineates the effect ofplace, ofdress, ofall the most trivial associations in modifying the mutual influence exerted by men and women over each other, how he makes sometimes a hair turn the scale... (Smalley 222-223) Despite these and many other similar comments by Trollope's contemporaries,1 recent investigation of the shared concerns ofnineteenth -century etiquette-book writers and mid-Victorian novelists has not caught up with Trollope. My aim in this paper is as follows: first, to discuss very briefly some of the strategies ofand concerns of nineteenth-century etiquette and conduct books; second, to highlight contemporary ideas regarding the pedagogical role ofTrollope's fiction ; third, to take as an example, one Trollope novel where these discursive practices ofmanners and etiquette and their policing functions seem to emerge particularly strongly, namely Miss Mackenzie (1865). For Richard Holt Hutton, Miss Mackenzie was part love Victorian Review49 A. Maunder story, part attack on Evangelicalism, but more than anything else it was a "scientific" education, a "painting" of "character in the very act of using or coping with minute social circumstances" (Smalley 224). The Athenaeum suggested that the novel could be seen as "a study rather than a novel, and a very clever study" (Smalley 227). Miss...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 48-74
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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