By Jonathan Taylor (auth.)
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Extra info for Mastery and Slavery in Victorian Writing
He still obtains, though, almost all the same privileges from their service as he does from Louis’s. ”’ to which Hartright replies, ‘“I will carry it there, myself, Mr. Fairlie”’ (44). Disguised as it is by the language of liberalism, Hartright’s status as employee is both a break with and a continuation of older forms of servitude. 24 Mastery and Slavery in Victorian Writing At the same time, Hartright’s and Louis’s roles in the text function as metaphors for the violence of other contemporary modes of capitalist servitude.
Hartright’s initial description of her repeatedly emphasises her feminine passivity: her eyes, for example, ‘[are] large and tender and quietly thoughtful’ (49). In marked contrast, Marian’s ‘expression … appeared … to be altogether wanting in those feminine attractions of gentleness and pliability, without which the beauty of the handsomest woman alive is beauty incomplete’ (32). Marian’s active masculinity is constituted by her difference to Laura’s and other handsome women’s gentleness and pliability.
42 The main action of The Woman in White is set between 1849 and 1851, just at the time when Louis Napoleon’s threats were most obvious yet still unrealised. Whereas, according to Carlyle, Napoleon Bonaparte rose ‘through Wagrams, Austerlitzes; triumph after triumph [and] … victory over Europe’,43 Fosco and Louis Napoleon gain power by merely threatening such life-and-death violence. Fosco and Louis Napoleon only resemble the Great Napoleon – they are ShamNapoleons whose mastery at once refers to and elides the kind of heroism he represents.