Scottish Women's Writing in the Long Nineteenth Century: The Romance of Everyday Life

Cambridge University Press
Publication year

The "romance" of the title is not that of modern popular romance:

[Sir Walter] Scott himself regarded the marvellous and uncommon as entirely compatible with accuracy of detail, explaining in his Essay on Romance (1827) that romance and history were originally one and the same. As narratives of a tribes or nation s origins were passed down over generations, they were enhanced by tributes from the Imagination of storytellers, thus becoming increasingly mythological and fabulousover time. Scotts novels embody the definition of romance he offers in this essay, recounting a series of conflicts that were central to the centuries-long consolidation of the modern British nation-state. (5)

However, these novels and their successors could include romantic plots. Margaret Oliphant, in fact, mentions this in her scathing judgement of Annie S. Swan's novels :

In a review essay published in Blackwoods Magazine in 1889, Oliphant dismissed Swans novels as cheap,”“silly,and narrow, although she disdainfully allowed them to be perfectly well adapted, with their mild love-stories and abundant marriages, for the simpler classes, especially of women. Swan was taken aback by what she described as Oliphants virulent attack,perhaps because it reflected not just on herself but also on her readership, of whom Swan was very protective and by whom she was deeply beloved. Swan prided herself on knowing how to please readers who spent their days in the stuffy din of a jute mill or cleaning other womans homes before seeking a harmless escape in themild love stories that Oliphant so condescendingly dismissed. (25)


Hsu-Ming Teo explains that [Flora Annie] Steel and other late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British women writers who wrote imperial romances modified the genres focus on masculine adventure by introducing the conventions of the domestic novel –“attraction, courtship, tribulations, suffering and marriage”–into imperial territory. (124)


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