Modern Prometheus Unbound: May Sinclair and The Divine Fire



The sense of empathy and identity between women and lowermiddle-class men that emerges in the novels of Wells, Bennett, and Gissing was not just a literary phenomenon. The common experience of social and cultural marginality fostered similar sympathies in real life, and there is at least one notable and documented example of a middle-class woman giving the kind of moral support to lower-middle-class men that Jessie Milton gives to Hoopdriver or that the Countess of Chell gives to Denry Machin. In the summer of 1890, members of the newly formed National Union of Clerks (originally the Clerks’ Union) organized a mass meeting to support the expansion of their association. The meeting, according to a report in a short-lived periodical called The Clerk, attracted a ‘small but enthusiastic attendance’, including a handful of politicians – Rev. A. W. Jephson, a Fabian who had served on the London School Board; W. M. Thompson, an Irish journalist and lawyer with radical sympathies who was standing as Liberal candidate for Deptford; and J. Allanson Picton, radical M. P. for Leicester, who addressed the meeting.


Lower Middle Class Literary Convention Class Bias Male Protagonist Social Gulf 
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© Arlene Young 1999

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