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Title: "A touch of in'nard fever": Illness and moral decline in 'Elster's Folly'
Authors: Cox, J
Keywords: Mrs Henry Wood;Elster’s Folly;Victorian fiction;Representations of illness;Morality
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Citation: Women’s Writing, 15(2), 232 - 243, 2008
Abstract: The important relationship between illness and morality in the fiction of Mrs Henry Wood looms large in her 1866 novel Elster's Folly. This article argues that Wood's apparently conservative sensationalism, suggested by the presence of a moralizing narrator in many of her works, as well as by the conclusions to her novels, in which order is almost inevitably restored, in fact conceals a more subversive element in her fiction. In Elster's Folly, transgression, and specifically sexual transgression, is figured as contagious (a common ploy in Victorian fiction), and a superficial reading would seem to reinforce the notion of Wood as a conservative sensation writer: a number of characters whose morality is in question fall ill and die, while moral health is clearly linked to physical health through Wood's portrayal of the Countess Dowager, an immoral woman who suffers from an obsessive phobia of illness. However, the conclusion of the novel undermines this reading: the illegitimate daughter, unlike the illegitimate son, is not only permitted to live, but also retains the title to which she is not, in fact, legally entitled. In this way, Wood subtly undermines conventional Victorian morality through her representation of sin, illness and the family.
Description: This is the author's accepted manuscript. The final published article is available from the link below. Copyright @ 2008 Taylor & Francis.
ISSN: 0969-9082
Appears in Collections:English and Creative Writing
Dept of Arts and Humanities Research Papers

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