Philip Rogers, ““Tory Brontëë: Shirley and the ‘‘man’’”” (pp.141––175)
Charlotte Brontëë's politics in Shirley (1849) conform to the Tory principles implicit in the Duke of Wellington's responses to Chartist unrest and parliamentary reform. Brontëë's representation of Robert Moore's defense of his mill against Luddite rioters directly reflects Wellington's hostility to mob violence and also his strategy, as Commander-in-Chief, for suppressing the Chartist demonstration of 10 April 1848. The novel's defensive eulogizing of Wellington derides the liberal Manchester politics of Richard Cobden and the Peace Society as unmanly and unpatriotic. The Duke also serves subtextually as the model for changes that Robert and Louis Moore must undergo to make them suitable matches for Caroline and Shirley. Wellington consequently presides over the joint resolutions of the novel's domestic and political narratives. In this essay I challenge the view of Brontëë's politics presented by Elizabeth Gaskell, subsequent biographers, and manycritics——who, understandably wishing to view Brontëë's proto-feminism as evidence of political liberalism, have blunted the anti-democratic edge of her conservatism.
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