Miss Robins and Mrs. Brown

Sue ThomasLa Trobe University, Australia
Vol. 20, No. 1 (Spring 2001), 33-55

Taking up the case for Elizabeth Robins against a number of feminist modernists from Virginia Woolf to the present, this essay examines Robins’s responses to modernist writing. Well known as a realist and a suffragist, Robins had both aesthetic and feminist reservations about aspects of modernist literature. Robins nonetheless admired and was inspired by Joseph Conrad’s Chance and Richardson’s The Tunnel and Deadlock. This article explores her observations about such texts in her diaries, notebooks, letters, notes for her fiction, and her novels Time is Whispering and Ancilla’s Share. Robins pursued the problem she formulated as “sex antagonism” and the sex disgust of male modernist writers, as well as the limiting ideals of women’s place projected by social visionaries like H. G. Wells. Although her feminist project partly conformed to a racist shift among Anglophiles towards a more parochial sense of Englishness, her writings about feminist social reclamation based on production and women’s participation in the public sphere suggest the ways that male modernists’ sex antagonism was implicated in other antagonisms—generation conflict, militarism, and imperialist alienations.

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]