Mona Caird’s literary output is considerable and consistent in subject matter and feminist message. Altogether she published seven novels, a collection of short stories, a number of polemical essays and letters to the press. At the turn of the century, Caird published four important pamphlets: A Sentimental View of Vivisection (1895), Beyond the Pale: An Appeal on Behalf of the Victims of Vivisection (1896), The Ethics of Vivisection (1900) and The Inquisition of Science (1904), which criticised the practice of experimenting on life animals. Caird provided arguments that man does not have the right to exercise absolute power over animals, and called into question the humanness of Victorian society. Barbara T. Gates contended that Caird ‘laid the blame for vivisection both on the cancerous power of the medical profession to do what it wished and on the indifference of an amoral society that persistently looked the other way. Caird hoped for the end of patriarchy and the beginning of a civilization based upon a respect for human and nonhuman creatures alike’ (129). Simultaneously, Mona Caird continued to explore the marriage crisis theme. In 1897, she published The Morality of Marriage and Other Essays on the Status and Destiny of Woman, a collection of her five earlier feminist essays: 'The Emancipation of the Family', 'The Future of the Home', 'The Morality of Marriage', 'A Defence of the ‘Wild Women', ‘Phases of Human Development’. In these highly polemical essays she blamed Victorian gendered ideology and exposed the marital indignities suffered by women both historically and contemporaneously. She also criticised Victorian ideals of marriage and motherhood, proposed changes both in marriage legislation and social attitudes and called for equality between spouses and women’s economic independence.

Left two:The Title page and contents page of The Morality of Marriage. Right: The title-page of The Ethics of Vivisection. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Apart from that, in 1906, Caird published a nostalgic and feminist travel book, Romantic Cities of Provence, which provided descriptions of her tour in the South of France with her woman friend. Full of erudition, the book recounts the history and literary reminiscences of several cities including Avignon, Arles, Tarascon and Carcassonne. Caird was under a great spell of Provence — ‘the country of mediaevalism’, ‘the country of paganism’, ‘the country of Greek temples, Phoenician inscriptions and tombs, Roman baths, amphitheatres, aqueducts’, ‘exquisite churches, splendid mediaeval castles; scenes of troubadour history, of the reputed Courts of Love’, ‘the birthplace of Chivalry’ (23). The book was illustrated by charming sketches of the American artist Joseph Pennell and the Irish painter and engraver Edward Millington Synge, the brother of the writer and playwright John Millington Synge.

Bibliography

Bland, Lucy. Banishing the Beast: English Feminism and Sexual Morality, 1885–1914. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996.

Brown, Stuart, ed. Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Philosophers. Volume 1. Bristol: Thoemmes Continuum, 2005.

Caird, Mona. Beyond the Pale: An Appeal on Behalf of the Victims of Vivisection. London: Bijou Library, 1896.

____. The Morality of Marriage and Other Essays on the Status and Destiny of Woman. London: George Redway, 1897.

____. Romantic Cities of Provence. New York: Charles Sbribner’s Sons and London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1906.

Gates, Barbara T. Kindred Nature: Victorian and Edwardian Women Embrace the Living World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Hamilton, Susan, ed. Animal Welfare & Anti-vivisection 1870-1910: Nineteenth-Century Women’s Mission. Frances Power Cobbe. London and New York: Routhledge, 2004.

Heilmann, Ann. New Woman Strategies: Sarah Grand, Olive Schreiner, Mona Caird. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2004.

___. ‘Mona Caird (1854–1932): Wild Woman, New Woman, and Early Radical Feminist Critic of Marriage and Motherhood’, Women’s History Review, 5 (1996), 67–95.

Richardson, Angelique. Love and Eugenics in the Late Nineteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Stead, William Thomas. ‘Mrs. Mona Caird in a New Character’, Review of Reviews, 1893(7).

Youngkin, Molly. Feminist Realism at the Fin de Siècle: The Influence of the Late-Victorian Woman's Press on the Development of the Novel. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2007.


Last modified 20 February 2019