Focusing on the last will and testament as a legal, literary, and cultural document, Cathrine O. Frank examines fiction of the Victorian and Edwardian eras alongside actual wills, legal manuals relating to their creation, case law regarding their administration, and contemporary accounts of curious wills in periodicals. Her study begins with the Wills Act of 1837 and poses two basic questions: What picture of Victorian culture and personal subjectivity emerges from competing legal and literary narratives about the will, and how does the shift from realist to modernist representations of the will accentuate a growing divergence between law and literature? Frank’s examination of works by Emily BrontÃ«, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Anthony Trollope, Samuel Butler, Arnold Bennett, John Galsworthy, and E.M. Forster reveals the shared rhetorical and cultural significance of the will in law and literature while also highlighting the competition between these discourses to structure a social order that emphasized self-determinism yet viewed individuals in relationship to the broader community. Her study contributes to our knowledge of the cultural significance of Victorian wills and creates intellectual bridges between the Victorian and Edwardian periods that will interest scholars from a variety of disciplines who are concerned with the laws, literature, and history of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Table of Contents
Contents: Part I Writing the Will: Introduction: novel bequests; Writing the will: Victorian testators and legal culture; Writing the novel: Victorian testators and literary culture. Part II Proving the Will: Victorian daughters and the burden of inheritance; Edwardian sons and the burden of inheritance redux. Part III Contesting the Will: Broken trusts: Cy Près, fiction and the limits of intention; Fictions of justice: testamentary intention and the illegitimate heir; Conclusion; Works cited; Index.
Cathrine Frank is Assistant Professor of English at the University of New England, USA.
’... a useful, thoughtfully conceptualized contribution to studies of literature and the law, Frank’s book invites further study of the impact of law on the genres of the novel.’ New Books on Literature '[Frank's] explanation of the link between fiction and contemporary legislative change made a connection for me which I had only faintly appreciated before.' Supreme Court History Program Yearbook 'Frank effectively compares the trajectories of law and literature, making some striking and incisive observations without forcing the similarities or differences between the fields.' Victoriographies '[Frank's] examination of the law is thorough and quite astute; her readings of the novels are insightful and re-conceive the Victorians, Edwardians, and moderns and their relations to each other through a law and literature lens that proves a culturally sensitive way of seeing her novelistic subjects, their inter-relationships, and their identities with fresh clarity.' Nineteenth-Century Contexts ’Cathrine Frank’s Law, Literature and the Transmission of Culture in England, 1837-1927 is a welcome addition to the ever-growing scholarship not only thematically - into the important realm of wills and inheritance - but also in the periods it covers. Frank moves beyond the more common preoccupation of law and literature in the Victorian era and follows their concerns into the twentieth century and into the complexities of modernism.’ English Literature in Transition ’Catherine Frank has done a fine job of pointing out the various ways in which the relationship between law and literature enriches our understanding of Victorian culture. ... [This study] deals with critical and philosophical aspects of our subject both suggestively and interestingly.’ Victorian Periodicals Review '... this jargon-free study is worthwhile reading and will prove useful to Victorian and Edwardian scholars. Indeed, each chapter is well-structured, beginning with an extensive