Do some ideas "survive all changes of time and national vicissitude"? The question belongs to Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909), the South Berwick, Maine author whose fictions are spun from communities of widowed women living along the Maine seacoast after the death of the shipping industry in Maine. A regional author ever mindful of differences between individuals, regions, and nations, whose fictional sea-captains know "a hundred ports . . . and could see outside the battle for town clerk here in Dunnet," Jewett nevertheless invents female characters who share uncanny, sexualized, exactly symmetrical understandings between them. This essay explores the concept of symmetry and the corresponding affects living in and around those figurations of lesbian desire. "The Queen's Twin" is the title of Jewett's most unusual section in her masterpiece, The Country of the Pointed Firs, and the moniker refers to Mis' Abby Martin, a Maine woman who is convinced that she and Queen Victoria are twins, despite the ocean between them. Throughout the stages of her life, Abby has tracked the similarities between them, including a shared birth date, marriage to men named Albert, sons named Edward, widowhood, and countless other shared realities. Abby's passionate interest in Victoria builds as much on the coincidence of their mutual birth and imagined twinship as on the differences in their stations. Abby's cognizance of their differences occasions the richness of these affective moments.
- 2005 by The Regents of the University of California