Conflict and Ambiguity in Victorian Women’s Writing: Eliza Lynn Linton and the Possibilities of Agnosticism

Sarah J. Bilston, Yale University
Vol. 23, No. 2 (Fall 2004), 283-310

This article argues that religious agnosticism provided Eliza Lynn Linton with a model for thinking about social gender roles. Linton’s spiritual agnosticism was not about sitting on the fence; rather, it was an intellectual position she adopted for strategic reasons. She did not believe in God, but she did feel that the Church of England was a structure already in place and thus able to offer support to morally nourish the population. The article contends that Linton’s position on the woman question was dynamically related, that separate sphere ideology was something she espoused for similarly strategic reasons in the service of a strong and moral nation. Thus, working to move away from readings of Linton’s richly curious work as submerged or unconscious criticism of patriarchal standards, the piece centers strategic, engaged compromise, arguing that Linton believed agnosticism was the most appropriate position for a conscientious Victorian intellectual.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]