In this essay I examine Harriet Martineau's domestic novel Deerbrook (1839), in which the author, famous for her works in the public discourse of political economy, experimented with the genre most associated with the private. I suggest that the novel be read as a struggle to reconcile the claims of privacy with Martineau's intellectual, social, and political commitments to free circulation. I link the tensions in Martineau's efforts to imagine a domestic sphere organized around the free circulation of information to an ambivalence about privacy in discussions of contemporary economic challenges and argue that this ambivalence lingered even where privacy has been understood to be most at ease——in business, in the novel, and in the home. I trace Deerbrook's uneven treatment of love, desire, and women to the difficulty assimilating them to the ethic of free circulation of information. The taint of suspicion that lingers around the private sphere in the novel suggests that we reconsider what is sometimes presumed: the Victorian faith in the private as the guarantor of morality and ethical identity under capitalist social relations.
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