Thus one sees over and over in the reviews words like "sensual," "gross," and "animal. Oliphant could not conceal her annoyance at Martineau's woeful claim that overwork had destroyed her health and would send her to an early grave. Approaching an anonymous or pseudonymous novel, reviewers would break it down into its elements, label these masculine or feminine, and add up the total.
Early critics of Jane Eyre were obsessed with discovering the sex of Currer Bell. Linton would display her embroidered cushions, fire-screens, and chair-seats; Mrs. Instead of gaining supernatural power, Lady Macbeth convinces her husband to commit the murderfreeing her from the burden of actually c ommitting the crime.
Reviewers deplored the immaturity of the fiction but could not bring themselves to do away with or expand the role.
Female authors such as Virginia Woolf led the way to modernism and the reinvention of the novel in the early 20th century. To their contemporaries, nineteenth-century women writers were women first, artists second. They may concur represented the frustration that women and men might have felt over the ever-changing society that both writers endured.
Allison presents herself as a promoter of sexual freedom and not a promoter of feminism. In the latter, she put her own doubts, ludicrously exaggerated, into the mouths of libertines and rogues: "The intrinsic value of a woman's work out of her own sphere is nothing, and what are the qualities developed to make up for it?
Browning, Gerald Massey wrote: "It is very doubtful if the highest and richest nature of woman can ever be unfolded in its home life and wedded relationships, and yet at the same time blossom and bear fruit in art or literature with a similar fulness.
Oliphant would pose in black silk and lace. Like Lewes and Mill, Hutton felt that lack of imagination was the "main deficiency of feminine genius": "It can observe, it can recombine, it can delineate, but it cannot trust itself farther: it cannot leave the world of characteristic traits and expressive manner, so as to imagine and paint successfully the distinguishable, but not easily distinguished, world out of which those characteristics grew.