Emily Dickinson's poem, 'This is my letter to the World/ That never wrote to Me --', opens the Introduction, which focuses on the near-anonymity of nineteenth-century women novelists. Close readings of works by five British novelists Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell, and George Eliot offer persuasive accounts of the ways in which women used stealth tactics to outmaneuver their detractors. Chapters examine the 'hidden manifesto' in Austen's works, whose imaginative heroines defend women's writing; the lasting impact of Jane Eyre, with its modest heroine who takes up the pen to tell her own story, even on male writers outside the English tradition; Cathy's testament as the 'ghost-text' of Wuthering Heights; and the shifting gender roles in Daniel Deronda, with its silenced heroine and androgynous hero. Though the focus is on British novelists, Sabiston's discussion of the Anglo-American connections in the factory novels of Elizabeth Gaskell and the slavery writings of Harriet Beecher Stowe has particular relevance for its demonstration of how the move from the private to the public sphere enables and even compels the blurring of national and ethnic boundaries. What emerges is a compelling argument for the relevance of these novelists to the emergence in our own time of hitherto-silenced female voices around the globe.
Contents: Introduction - 'Letters to the world': from private sphere to world stage; Jane Austen's art of fiction: the hidden manifesto in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion; Not carved in stone: women's hearts and women's texts in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre; Cathy's book: the ghost-text in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights; 'The iron of slavery in her heart': the literary relationship of Elizabeth Gaskell and Harriet Beecher Stowe; George Eliot's Daniel Deronda: 'A Daniel come to judgment'; Conclusion - and a new beginning; Bibliography; Index.