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“The Ideas Are in the Air”: From Drone Bees to Honey Women, Cultural Paradox in the Democratic Rhetoric of British Chartism and Colonial Australian Suffragism

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Bees, Science, and Sex in the Literature of the Long Nineteenth Century

Part of the book series: Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature ((PSAAL))

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Abstract

Honeybees have long held a literal and figurative position in political representations of the social body. This chapter presents a comparative analysis of the divergent use of honeybees in the literature of two nineteenth-century political movements: the male-dominated working-class political movement known as Chartism and the colonial Australian women’s suffrage movement. An analysis of the literature produced by early radicals like William Cobbett and Henry Hunt, along with later Chartists like Feargus O’Connor and Peter McDouall, indicates that scientific developments in the natural history and comparative zoology of male drone bees were used by working-class men to establish a narrative solution to the existence of political and economic inequality that was ambiguous enough to communicate to the convergent ideologemes drawn into male working-class radicalism. Alternatively, colonial literary representations of New Women as beekeepers in Mary Gaunt’s Kirkham’s Find (1897) and Ada Cambridge’s “A Sweet Day” (1897) avoided associating the asexuality of female working bees with their female protagonists in order to deescalate patriarchal concerns that industrial and political enfranchisement would render the feminine body undesirable. Both narratives romanticise and eroticise the activity of beekeeping by pairing the economic and political autonomy women achieve through it to the romantic codes of heteronormativity.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The first paragraph in this chapter appeared as a query in Notes and Queries (2018): 263–264.

  2. 2.

    Gillian Beer, Open Fields: Science in Cultural Encounter (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 186; Annabel Patterson, Fables of Power: Aesopian Writing and Political History (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991), 15–16.

  3. 3.

    Diane Rodgers, Debugging the Link Between Social Theory and Social Insects (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press), 47, 48.

  4. 4.

    Jan Swammerdam, The Book of Nature, translated by Thomas Flloyd (Soho: C.G Seyferet, 1758), 166.

  5. 5.

    Swammerdam, The Book of Nature, 166.

  6. 6.

    Swammerdam, The Book of Nature, 166.

  7. 7.

    Joseph Warder, The True Amazons: Or The Monarchy of Bees (London: Printed for Jack Pemberton, 1726), 5.

  8. 8.

    R.A.F. Réaumur, Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire des insectes (Paris: De I’imprimerie royale, 1734–1742), 5: 142; Charles Bonnet, Oeuvres d’histoire naturelle et de philosophie (Neuchatel: L’imprimerie de Samuel Fauche, 1781), 158–167; François Huber, Nouvelles observations sur les Abeilles (Paris: J.J Paschoud, 1814), 1: 31.

  9. 9.

    Réaumur, 5: 338; Gilles August Bazin, The Natural History of Bees (London: Printed for J. and P. Knapton 1744), plate 2; Thomas Wildman, Treatise on the Management of Bees (London: Printed for the Author, 1768), 8; Huber, New Observations on the Natural History of Bees, 302; William Kirby, Monographia apum Angliæ (Ipswich: Printed for the Author, 1802), 1: 210.

  10. 10.

    Ian Stell, Understanding Bee Anatomy (Middlesex: The Catford Press, 2012), 116–123; Robert Snodgrass, Anatomy of the Honey Bee (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1956), 108–112.

  11. 11.

    Réaumur, 5: 510: ‘cruelle guerre’ & ‘tuerie effroyable.’

  12. 12.

    Réaumur, 5: plate 35, Fig. 4.

  13. 13.

    Huber, 144.

  14. 14.

    James Duncan, The Natural History of Bees (Edinburgh: W.H Lizars, 1840), verso.

  15. 15.

    Duncan, 71.

  16. 16.

    James Rennie, Insect Miscellanies (London: Charles Knight, 1831), 261.

  17. 17.

    Anonymous, Insect Manufactures (London: Printed for the Society for the Promoting of Christian Knowledge, 1847), 77.

  18. 18.

    Margaret Gatty, Parables from Nature (London: Bell and Daldy, 1865), pp.18–33; Acheta Domestica, Episodes in Insect Life (New York: J.S Redfield, 1851), 1:239; Priscilla Wakefield, An Introduction to the Natural History and Classification of Insects (London: Printed for Darton, Harvey and Darton, 1816), 118.

  19. 19.

    Robert Huish, Bees: Their Natural History and General Management (London: Henry G Bohn, 1844), 96.

  20. 20.

    Robert Huish, 103–104.

  21. 21.

    Robert Huish, The History of the Private and Political Life of the Late Henry Hunt (London: John Saunders, 1836), 238: ‘they seize with avidity, and use without scruple, every shred and remnant of power which remains to them, in order, like drones in a hive, to live at the expense of the people at large.’

  22. 22.

    Huish, The Late Henry Hunt, 253.

  23. 23.

    Huish, The Late Henry Hunt, 253.

  24. 24.

    Robert Huish, Memoires of the Late William Cobbett (London: John Saunders, 1836), 349.

  25. 25.

    Huish, Memoires of the Late William Cobbett, 474.

  26. 26.

    William Cobbett, ‘Summary of Politics,” Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register, 7 September, 1805, n.p., British Library Newspapers.

  27. 27.

    William Cobbett, ‘To the Labouring Classes,’ Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register, 31 May, 1823, n.p., British Library Newspapers.

  28. 28.

    William Cobbett, “To the King,” Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register, 28 April, 1827, n.p., British Library Newspapers: ‘The saucy insolent drones would no longer devour the fruit of the labour of the bee’; William Cobbett, “Corn Laws,” Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register, 15 February, 1834, n.p., British Library Newspapers; “The Remedy,” Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register, 26 November, 1831, n.p., British Library Newspapers.

  29. 29.

    William Cobbett, Rural Rides (London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1832), 34.

  30. 30.

    Henry Hunt, To the Radical Reformers, Male and Female of England, Ireland and Scotland (Ilchester Jail: Anonymous Publisher, 1820), 27–28.

  31. 31.

    Andrew Cooper, “The Appian Way: Virgil’s Bees and Keats’s Honeyed Verse,” Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 33, no.2 (1991): 164.

  32. 32.

    Cooper, 165.

  33. 33.

    Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Masque of Anarchy. To Which is Added, Queen Liberty; Song—To the Men of England (London: J. Watson, 1842), 24.

  34. 34.

    Anonymous, “The Damnable Act,” Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser, 24 March, 1838, n.p., British Library Newspapers.

  35. 35.

    Anonymous, “Meeting of the Working Men’s Association at Bristol,” Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser, 31 March, 1838, n.p., British Library Newspapers; Anonymous, “Great Radical Meeting at Halifax,” Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser, 4 August, 1838, n.p., British Library Newspapers.

  36. 36.

    Anonymous, “Great Popular Demonstrations,” Northern Liberator, 10 November, 1838, n.p., British Library Newspapers.

  37. 37.

    Anonymous, “The Great Lancashire Meeting,” Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser, 1 September 1838, n.p., British Library Newspapers.

  38. 38.

    Ray Challinor, “Peter Murray McDouall and Physical Force Chartism,” International Socialism vol.2 no.1 (1981). For natural law in McDouall’s thought, see Ariane Schnepf, Our Original Rights as a People (Bern: Peter Lang, 2006), 132.

  39. 39.

    Anonymous, “Chartist Intelligence,” Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser 13 February, 1841: n.p., British Library Newspapers.

  40. 40.

    Susan Lever, Real Relations: The Feminist Politics of Form in Australian Fiction (New South Wales: Halstead Press, 2000), 1–18.

  41. 41.

    Ada Cambridge, “A Sweet Day” in At Midnight and Other Stories (London: Ward Lock & Co., 1897); “ A Sweet Day,” The Narracoorte Herald (Narracoorte, South Australia), 25 June, 1897, 1; “A Sweet Day” Australian Town and Country Journal I ( Sydney, New South Wales), 6 August 1898, 32, and 16 August 1898, 32.

  42. 42.

    Cambridge, “A Sweet Day,” 259. From here on citations from “A Sweet Day” will be given intext.

  43. 43.

    Mary Gaunt, Kirkham’s Find (London: Methuen and Co., 1897), 1–30. From here on citations from Kirkham’s Find will be given intext.

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Harrington, C. (2024). “The Ideas Are in the Air”: From Drone Bees to Honey Women, Cultural Paradox in the Democratic Rhetoric of British Chartism and Colonial Australian Suffragism. In: Harley, A., Harrington, C. (eds) Bees, Science, and Sex in the Literature of the Long Nineteenth Century. Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-39570-3_7

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