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The Queen and Victorian Writers
Gail Turley Houston

BUY Cloth · 192 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813918938 · $43.50 · Oct 1999

Queens, by definition, embody a historical contradiction between femininity and power. Queen Victoria, whose strength and longevity defined an age, possessed immense cultural as well as political power, even becoming a writer herself.

This cultural sovereignty, argues Gail Turley Houston, in the hands of a female monarch troubled writers, especially men, who worked during a reign that viewed women as domestic angels. By exploring a wide range of representations of the queen by significant Victorian writers, Houston points out the complexity of Victorian constructions of gender, representation, authority, and identity. She works to demystify such canonized authors as Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Margaret Oliphant by examining the ways they encounter Victoria in their writings. The queen's feminine power seems to be at odds with the masculine profession of author, which was also coming to be viewed as a significant representative of the culture.

Part of the recent movement by feminist scholars to recuperate and analyze Queen Victoria's important meanings in nineteenth-century British culture, Royalties dissects the anomaly of the queen and her effect on dominant cultural attitudes about gender.


Houston's book very neatly demonstrates how the profession of writing got feminized alongside the monarchy during the nineteenth century. From Dickens with his defensive masculine posturing to Oliphant with her constructive use of the identity she shared with Victoria, writers of all kinds represented what they did in relation to the central figure of their queen.

Margaret Homans, Yale University

About the Author(s): 

Gail Turley Houston is Assistant Professor of English at the University of New Mexico. She is the author of Consuming Fictions: Gender, Class, and Hunger in Dickens's Fiction.

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