Love and Eugenics in the Late Nineteenth Century Rational Reproduction and the New Woman

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2003-07-24
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Eugenics - the science of human selective breeding - can be traced back to classical times, but it was galvinized by Darwin's Origen of Species and developed and popularized by the Victorian scientist Francis Galton. It became an integral part of the Victorian frame of mind. For the first time, Love and Eugenics among the Late Victorians: Science, Fiction, Feminism reveals just how pervasive the idea became, and how fiercely debated - both in the press and as a recurrent theme in late nineteenth-century fiction. On both sides of the Atlantic middle-class women, notably New Woman writers, came out strongly in favour of eugenics. While the emphasis in the United States was on race, in Britain, as Richardson demonstrates, it was primarily a discourse about class, determined by the fear that the nation would be overrun by the poor unless their rate of reproduction could be checked and the middle classes encouraged to have more children. Supporters included the sociologist and philosopher Herbert Spencer, the novelist Grant Allen (author of The Woman who Did), George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Marie Stopes, and Virginia Woolf. George Egerton sought to develop a new, eugenic aesthetic in her fiction; the bestselling novelist Sarah Grand argued that the marriage of certain types of men should be made a criminal offence. Among the strongest opponents were the novelist and polemical humanitarian Mona Caird, who inspired the most famous newspaper debate of the century, on marriage; Thomas Huxley; the humanitarian anarchist Peter Kropotkin; G. K. Chesterton; Hillaire Belloc; and the MP Josiah Wedgwood. Love and Eugenics among the Late Victorians is a fascinating, lucid, and controversial study of the centrality of eugenic debate to the Victorians. Reappraising the operation of social and sexual power in Victorian society and fiction, it makes a radical contribution to English studies, nineteenth-century and gender studies, and the history of science.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi
Prologue xvii
1. Introduction 1(32)
2. Women and Nature 33(25)
3. Charity and Citizenship 58(20)
4. Science and Love 78(17)
5. Sarah Grand and Eugenic Love 95(37)
6. Sarah Grand, the Country, and the City 132(24)
7. George Egerton and Eugenic Morality 156(23)
8. Mona Caird: Individual Liberty and the Challenge to Eugenics 179(36)
Afterword 215(13)
Select Bibliography 228(11)
Index 239

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