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Vol. IX (Winter 2017/18)


Dear Readers,
“Without warning, woman suddenly appears on the scene of man's activities, as a sort of new creation, and demands a share in the struggles, the responsibilities and the honours of the world, in which, until now, she has been a cipher” (Woman’s Herald 17 Aug 1893).

It is January 2018 when I read these words in James Diedrick’s article on Mathilde Blind for this issue of The Latchkey. The words describe the appearance of the New Woman, a phenomenon that Diedrick’s carefully researched essay links particularly with Blind and her major prose works. It is January 2018 and women in black attend the Golden Globes awards. Their demands echo those on the page uncannily: “the responsibilities and honours of the world.” A new re-appearance of the old New Woman?

Volume IX of The Latchkey is a reminder that there is nothing new in the rising prominence of #MeToo and #TimesUp. It may seem that we have arrived at this historic juncture all of a sudden, but a woman’s right to work safely and occupy public spaces (albeit through new media platforms) is as important and contentious now as it was over a century ago. It is the work of academics and scholars to emphasize that, far from being a modern phenomenon, these movements build on ideas first put forward by the New Women and New Woman writers of the past.

At the center of this issue are two articles: one by established academic James Diedrick, and one by promising new academic, Anne Summers. Diedrick, whose recent biography of Mathilde Blind has provided a welcome new spotlight on this often neglected late-Victorian writer, has contributed an article on “Mathilde Blind’s (Proto-) New Women.” In this, he focuses on Blind’s role in creating the idea of the New Woman by analyzing representations of proto-New Women in several of her prose writings: her essay on Mary Wollstonecraft, her biographies of Madame Roland and George Eliot, and translation of The Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff, as well as the short story, “At Cross Purposes.” An extremely useful feature of this article is the embedded links from Diedrick’s Mathilde Blind website which enable the reader to access the original essays and stories.

Anne Summers takes on the topic of Vernon Lee’s visual aesthetics and her New Woman novel Miss Brown in her article, “ ‘Real or Imaginary Facts’: Spectral Sensations and Embodied Vision in Vernon Lee.” This article discusses Lee’s representation of the supernatural in Lee’s novel rather than the more critically popular Hauntings. She focuses on the “embodied experience of looking” in the novel and relates this to Lee’s famous theories on the relationship between physicality and art based on her observations of Clementina (Kit) Anstruther-Thompson. This article includes a careful discussion of the complexities of Lee’s visual aesthetics, and an impressively contextualized explanation of her usage of the German term, Einfühlung. Summers concludes that, in all of these texts, Lee presents a fluid and liminal subject that disrupts notions of stable identity in favour of one able to meet and merge with the outside world and the aesthetic object.

This issue's book reviews, compiled by Manchester Metropolitan University's Kirsty Bunting, cover the topics of fin-de-siècle literary collaboration, technology and gender, and libidinal and economic exchange, exploring these topics' intersections with the New Woman in fiction and in fact.

Annachiara Cozzi turns an expert eye to a new work on the too-often critically under-estimated “Somerville and Ross,” with her review of Anna Jamison's E. Œ. Somerville & Martin Ross: Female Authorship and Literary Collaboration, while Zoe Chadwick reviews a hot-off-the-press Gender, Technology and the New Woman by Lena Wånggren (herself a much-valued Latchkey reviewer). Finally, Mariam Zarif explores a very interesting collection, Economies of Desire at the Victorian Fin de Siècle: Libidinal Lives, edited by Jane Ford, Kim Edwards Keats, and Patricia Pulham. All three books are found, to use Zarif's words, to “encourage revisions of the period’s textual legacies for future research.”

We also have a valuable addition to our list of New Woman biographies in Maria Luigia Di Nisio’s discussion of Augusta Webster (1837-1894). Di Nisio’s contribution highlights the range of Webster’s writings, noting not only her major work as an early-nineteenth-century poet, but also as an essayist and dramatist, and the centrality of gender and women’s rights in her writings.

It is with delight that we announce the recent inclusion of the two issues of The Michaelian in the Back Issues section of the journal. This short-lived journal was dedicated to research on the lives and works of “Michael Field,” the collaborative partnership of Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper, and their world. The Michaelian merged with The Latchkey in 2011, a pairing that seemed both natural and inevitable. It is very pleasing to see that several of the contributors to The Michaelian including Jill Ehnenn, Matthew Mitton, Kirsty Bunting, Ed Madden and Sarah Parker continue to be significant names in late-Victorian scholarship.

This year, The Latchkey has received official recognition by the MLA, and our articles will be included in the MLA periodical index—no doubt good news to contributors whose affiliated institutions increasingly require indexed outcomes.

As always, we extend our many thanks to all our contributors for their patience. We acknowledge the hard work and continued commitment of our webmaster and publisher Steven Halliwell and The Rivendale Press along with the heartfelt wish that Steven and his press thrive in 2018.

The Latchkey continues to solicit essays, book reviews, and brief biographical sketches of New Women writers and cultural figures throughout the year.  Future contributors should take some time to review the newly reposted submission parameters found in the document entitled “The Latchkey Submission and Style Guidelines.” We are also happy to announce your conferences, calls for papers, and publications of interest free of charge. Feel free to browse our website and submission guidelines, and contact us at if you are interested in sending in an item for any of our sections.

With best wishes,
Joellen Masters and Sharon Bickle, Co-Editors
Kirsty Bunting, Book Reviews Editor

Table of Contents:

  • James Diedrick, “Mathilde Blind’s (Proto-) New Women.”
  • Anne Summers, “ ‘Real or Imaginary Facts’: Spectral Sensations and Embodied Vision in Vernon Lee.”

Book Reviews

  • Anna Jamison, E. Œ. Somerville & Martin Ross: Female Authorship and Literary Collaboration. Cork University Press, 2016. Reviewed by Annachiara Cozzi.
  • Lena Wånggren, Gender, Technology and the New Woman. Edinburgh University Press, 2017. Reviewed by Zoe Chadwick.
  • Jane Ford, Kim Edwards Keats, and Patricia Pulham (eds.), Economies of Desire at the Victorian Fin de Siècle: Libidinal Lives. Routledge, 2016. Reviewed by Mariam Zarif.

Featured New Woman

  • Augusta Webster by Maria Luigia Di Nisio

Conference News