Current Release

Current Release
Sold to the Viking Warrior

Thursday, June 19, 2008

contests, Byron and governesses

The contest winners from my newsletter contest are: Caroline and Lois. I have contacted them privately . Many thanks to everyone who entered.

I have finished reading Other People's Daughters. While interesting, it did not give me as much of a background about governesses as the Victorian Governess did. It did however explore the life of Claire Clairmont, the woman who seduced Byron and lived in a complicated menage a trois with Shelley and her step-sister Mary. Clairmont bore Byron a child -- Allegra who died of a childhood illness. Bryon comes across as rather a misogynist pig and utterly selfish. Mad, bad and dangerous to know can certainly be applied to him in this instance. And I did find it ironic that he did not hold much store by an educated woman and yet his daughter Ada was such a brilliant mathematician.
Clairmont had an eventful early life to say the least. While she is waiting for her legacy from Shelley's estate, she ends up as governess. However such was the notoriety of the family that even in Russia, she had difficulty and lost lucrative positions.
I suspect that some of the problems for women of that era and class was that there was no other real option. What was possible in the 18th century became closed to them. And do not get me started on the lack of life insurance or the Married Women's Property Acts. Or how they were expected to provide for their brothers and rarely do the brothers appear to have come through.
The problem with studying the governess is that really there is not much primary source material. It is interesting that much of the governess literature revolves around the governess as Cinderella.
Anyway, I now have a good handle on the governess as an institution. Its myths and mythologies as well as its grim realities.

1 comment:

Kate Hardy said...

The MWPA? Hmm. I imagine you know the story of Caroline Norton (i.e. the one who got that Act pushed through, as well as various Factories Acts)?

Now there was a woman who changed the world. (I still want to strangle her husband, though. His behaviour was callous in the extreme.)