University of Leicester
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Clotilde Graves: Journalist, Dramatist and Novelist. Writing to Survive in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century

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posted on 2013-06-25, 15:00 authored by Jenny Bloodworth
Katherine Newey, in her study of nineteenth century female playwrights, has written of those, ‘who routinely worked for money, in theatres where the takings were as important as aesthetic achievement or legitimacy’. While Joanne Shattock, in a study of women authors, acknowledges that earnings were the key to a woman’s professionalism. With her short hair, masculine style of dress and her penchant for cigarettes, Clotilde Graves (1863-1932) epitomised the vigorous New Woman of the fin de siècle. Drawing on previously unused material from Graves’s case file, held in the Royal Literary Fund Archive, this thesis charts her progress as a writer to explore both the motivational force of economics on her literary career, and its impact on her various discourses as a journalist, playwright and novelist. The study, divided into three sections, explores a number of key themes including: sexual abuse, marriage, the fallen woman, and the maternal ideal, to assess Graves’s development as both a writer and an advocate of social purity feminism. The thesis exposes the precarious nature of the writer’s profession, especially for a woman, and reveals the demands on Graves to balance personal beliefs against the immediate need to earn a living. Though she died penniless her extensive output included innumerable articles, twenty plays, nine compilations of short stories, and fifteen novels. The thesis appraises Graves’s adoption of male aliases and her employment of autobiographical material, which is contextualised against the production of her most popular novel, The Dop Doctor. This work shows that compromise was often a prerequisite and confirms that commerciality did not necessarily translate into financial achievement, nor did it provide economic security. This recovery of a forgotten female writer, of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, contributes to the growing body of work in this field.



Foulkes, Richard; Brock, Claire

Date of award


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University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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