The Dear Old Homesteads Exposed

  • Anthea Trodd
Part of the Macmillan Studies in Victorian Literature book series


The contention of the preceding chapters has been that in mid-Victorian fiction household tensions peculiar to the period were mediated through crime plots and sub-plots. ‘The middle classes of early Victorian Britain were aware of themselves to a greater degree than in the past’,1 as J. F. C. Harrison says, and this new consciousness of distinctive status, particularly of difference from the classes below, manifested itself in the ideal of the home as a place closed off from the outside world. There was thus strong resistance to the idea of any police entry into the middle-class home, a resistance which co-existed with an appreciation of the desirability of working-class homes being kept under careful police supervision. The distinctive status of the middle-class home was seen to lie in its claim to privacy, while working-class homes were often regarded as being in the public domain. Two other major indications of the status of the home as middle-class were the employment of servants, and the presence of a wife whose activities were confined within the home. Middle-class householders affirmed their status by creating a community quite distinct from the external world. Davidoff, L’Esperance and Newby describe this distinct community:

The underlying theme of ‘home’ was also the quest for an organic community; small, self-sufficient and sharply differentiated from the outside world. … Legitimate relationships were seen as vertical only. Subordinates’ whole lives were to be spent within the community thus ensuring total loyalty, privacy and trust. Wives, servants and children, the major subordinate constituents of the household, were never to leave the precincts of the ‘domestic domain’ except under the closest scrutiny and control.2


Public Sphere Female Suspect Detective Story Domestic Domain Crime Story 
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  1. 2.
    L. Davidoff, J. L’Esperance and H. Newby, ‘Landscape with Figures: Home and Community in English Society’, in J. Mitchell and A. Oakley (eds), The Rights and Wrongs of Women (Harmondsworth, Middx.: Penguin, 1976) pp. 152–3.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    F. Moretti, Signs Taken for Wonders (London: Verso, 1983).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    C. Belsey, Critical Practice (London: Methuen, 1985) p. 114.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Anthea Trodd 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthea Trodd
    • 1
  1. 1.University of KeeleUK

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