The Literary Fate of the Woman Artist

Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's The Story of Avis


Although the "male imagination" (if such a thing exists) proved extremely ingenious in the 19th century in the creation of strong female characters such as Anna Karenina and Isabel Archer, the female artist as major protagonist was rare in novels by men.(1) The reason may well lie in the frequently autobiographical background of many a künstlerroman. For the most part, the female artist as heroine is the creation of women writers, as in Rebecca Harding Davis's Earthen Pitchers, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's The Story of Avis or Willa Cather's The Song of the Lark, to name just a few.(2) It is interesting to note, however, that none of these novels has ever achieved even minimal canonization, let alone the fame of Gottfried Keller's Der Grüne Heinrich or James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Phelps's novel, which caused a literary uproar at the time of its publication in 1877 and may well have influenced W.D. Howells and Henry James, is known at best to feminists or specialists in late nineteenth century American literature.

As early as the middle of the nineteenth century, several novels appeared in America with a female artist as central character, among them Augusta Evans's St. Elmo and Fanny Fern's Ruth Hall. Despite the unusual occupations of their heroines, these two novels can still be classified in the general category of "literary domesticity" or "sentimentalism." Many women authors in the middle of the nineteenth century created strong, competent female protagonists, but at the same time they continued to subscribe to a traditional separation of the spheres.(3) While the reformation of man seemed to consist of his acquiring "feminine" virtues, the literary domestics still insisted that woman's place was in the home, the difference being that she was accorded the power to save the world from her limited sphere.

Although the literary domestics were not directed exclusively by a conservative impulse, their critique of the "defects of man"(4)often amounted to little more than the idealization of traditional feminine virtues, thus strengthening the old role assignments. When Ruth's daughter asks her if she shall write books too when she grows up, Ruth gives an utterly conventional response: "`God forbid,' murmured Ruth, ... "no happy woman ever writes. From Harry's grave sprang 'Floy.'" (175) Their domination of the marketplace was accompanied by a self-effacing attitude and a reluctance to regard their work as a legitimate feminine occupation.(5) There is no doubt that the literary domestics wanted to exert a moral influence on society, but as Myra Jehlen has pointed out, "... the women novelists, being themselves conceived by others, were conceptually totally dependent." (593) Literary domesticity was limited by women's self-conception (or lack of it) and characterized by fantasy and wish-fulfillment - the urge to make the average, mundane female existence more attractive. The glorification of domesticity was intended to advance women's social position within the given system, at least on an ideological plane - but without changing the social system itself.

> One of the first American women novelists to point out the fallacy of this logic after the heyday of the cult of domesticity was Elizabeth Stuart Phelps in her novel The Story of Avis. Phelps was in a singular position to recognize the fiction in the fantasy: she was herself the daughter of a successful literary domestic, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Sr., whose major novel, The Sunny Side (1851) portrayed a nineteenth-century "superwoman", the wife of a clergyman who manages to fulfill all her domestic duties, help her husband in his work, deal with financial difficulties, and still maintain a sunny nature. Phelps Sr. herself, however, died at the age of thirty-seven of "cerebral disease" after suffering from nervous disorders ever since her marriage. Her daughter was eight at the time, and at some point after her mother's death, she assumed her name. The young Elizabeth Stuart Phelps apparently saw her mother as a victim of the impossibility of reconciling artistic ambition and a woman's traditional role: The Story of Avis is in part based on her mother's biography.

Avis Dobell, a gifted painter, has already decided at the outset of the novel that she will never marry. She has spent several years studying in Europe, and her teacher in Paris has given her two years to make a reputation for herself. On a visit home to the university town of Harmouth, however, she meets the promising young professor Philip Ostrander. She represses her attraction to him at first, rejecting him when he speaks to her of love. After his disappointment, he enlists and is wounded in the Civil War, and in his weakness Avis finds it increasingly difficult to resist him. She finally admits she loves him but begs him not to ask marriage of her; she has her work and her life, which she cannot yield to anyone. Besides, she adds, thinking of him, "the coffee wouldn't be right." (108) But Ostrander assures her that he will not ask anything of her that he cannot give:

"I will take from you only what I can yield to you,--the love of a life. I do not want your work, or your individuality. I refuse to accept any such sacrifice from the woman I love. You are perfectly right. A man ought to be above it. Let me be that man." (107)

But even in this generous offer not "to accept any such sacrifice from the woman I love," Ostrander betrays a male posture. He makes his proposal with "haughty humility," and he sees his own response to Avis's originality as a challenge to his manhood. (108)(6) Thus it comes as no surprise when he is unable to live up to his idealistic proposal. Ostrander proves to be vain and dishonest, losing his position at the university and even starting a flirtation with another woman.

As Avis has foreseen it is her inability to take care of his "creature comforts" that makes him dissatisfied with her after all. The cream is sour, the steak is cold, and the coffee causes "bilious headache" (153) - and of course Ostrander complains. Despite his promises, he takes it for granted that she will make their life "comfortable." In this situation, Avis the artist finds herself drowning in domesticity: crying babies, unreliable servants, cooking and cleaning, all these little details of domestic life overcome her and her talent. The studio Philip has promised her never materializes and they are plagued by debts. Even after his death, Avis finds that she can no longer paint. The one hope remaining to her is her young daughter Wait, whose name indicates that the time has not yet come for the fulfillment that Avis dared to dream of, but that perhaps a future generation will be able to enjoy.

One of the most extraordinary things about The Story of Avis is the radical and explicit critique of marriage and the ideology of "women's place" that it contains, a marked contrast to the vague discontent expressed by many of the literary domestics. Avis's personal tragedy is not caused only by her disappointment in a specific man: it is to a large extent a result of the of the forms of male domination and the institution of marriage itself. As Avis herself has foreseen artistic ambition and marriage are irreconcilable for a woman: "... there is no division of labor possible in her economy." (69)

The initial presentation of Philip is relatively sympathetic, and Avis's reasons for falling in love with him are well established, even though the reader is given clues early of his superficiality. This discrepancy between the character's and the reader's level of information may well account for the objection of some critics that Avis's marriage seems overly contrived. Alfred Habegger, for example, very defensively takes exception to the character of Ostrander and implies that anyone with a little sense would never have married him, ignoring the circumstance that even the faculty of Harmouth University is initially enthusiastic about the young man.(7) All the rest of the characters, including Avis's father, are impressed by Philip as well.

Avis's gradual disillusionment with her husband, who is weak rather than evil, forms a large part of the drama, but just as important if not more so is the deterioration of the integrity of the woman artist through marriage. An indication that marriage itself is more at fault than the man is that Avis's weariness and hopelessness begin before she finds out about any of Philip's more serious betrayals. In fact, at one point Philip is described as speaking to Avis "more tenderly than a husband who has been six months married may be expected to speak upon an especially busy day." (142) At this point in the novel, Philip does not appear any worse than the average, run-of-the-mill husband, but rather relatively typical in his insensitivity to his wife's concerns. This makes the indictment of marriage itself much stronger than it would be if Philip were simply a "bad guy," an obviously evil character. By adopting the strategy of making Philip barely worse than average, Phelps implies that Avis's fate is the rule rather than the exception, and that a talented woman, even without a husband quite as weak and selfish as Philip, would have a great deal of difficulty finding fulfillment in an institution which relies upon the selflessness of the wife. Avis postpones her painting and her ambitions when domestic duty calls; she is not selfish enough to put herself first. As Phelps's narrator proclaims:

Women understand--only women altogether--what a dreary will-o-the-wisp is this old, common, I had almost said commonplace, experience, "When the fall sewing is done," "When the baby can walk," "When house-cleaning is over," "When the company has gone," "When we have got through with the whooping-cough," "When I am a little stronger," then I will write the poem, or learn the language, or study great charity, or master the symphony; then I will act, dare, dream, become. Merciful is the fate that hides from any soul the prophecy of its still-born aspirations. (149)

In portraying marriage as detrimental to women's aspirations, Phelps was making a radical break with the kind of fiction written by American women before her, including her mother.(8) Ruth Hall, despite the audicity of its artist heroine, conforms to the wish-fulfillment of the popular category of "woman's fiction," as Nina Baym calls it, telling the story of "the `trials and triumph' ... of a heroine who, beset with hardships, finds within herself the qualities of intelligence, will, resourcefulness and courage sufficient to overcome them." (22) Phelps indicated in her autobiography, Chapters From a Life (1896) that she was not in the habit of reading the popular domestic novels (91) but it may be assumed that she was familiar with the typical plot construction and subject matter. As opposed to these novels of the successful, beloved heroine, who gets everything she wants in the end, including a man she wasn't looking for, Phelps refused to go through with the wish-fulfillment and compromise of the domestic happy ending.

She also refused to make her heroine a successful housewife. Even Fanny Fern, a feminist as well, made her artist Ruth Hall an exemplary housekeeper and mother in the tradition of the literary domestics; Avis on the other hand is unequal to clogged drainpipes and unexpected guests. Phelps shows little reverence for the myth of blissful domesticity. Rather, she points out that the negative effect of a romanticized myth is ignorance. This is pointedly demonstrated in The Story of Avis by the difficulties her young married couple has in dealing with a baby:

Their vague ideas of the main characteristics of infancy were drawn as, I think I may safely say, those of most young men and women are at the time of marriage chiefly from novels and romances, in which parentage is represented as a blindly deifying privilege, which it were an irreverence to associate with teething, the midnight colic, or an insufficient income. (151)

In an article which appeared in 1871, Phelps explicitly attacked the ideal of the "true woman," calling it "an impertinence and an absurdity," the purpose of which was in "regulating the position of women by conformity."(9) During this period, Phelps published a number of feminist articles, and The Story of Avis reflects many of the concerns current in the feminist movement of the time. These included women's financial dependence on men, the negative effects of unrealistic feminine ideals, and the question of careers for women, in addition to the debate on marriage. These concerns were overshadowed when the women's movement concentrated on the battle for suffrage at the turn of the century, and this may well be the reason that the ideological criticism in Avis still appears surprisingly pertinent to the modern reader.

For Phelps, there was a basic injustice in the traditional relationship between men and women. One of the most crippling aspects with which Phelps was concerned in her fiction, was the fact that a woman's identity was defined by the men in her life, primarily her husband. In her earlier novel of social protest, The Silent Partner (1871), both of the female protagonists refuse attractive offers of marriage, and Phelps regarded this as one of the strengths of the novel.(10) In her correspondence with George Eliot, Phelps wrote that Dorothea Brooke should "...never accept wifehood as a metier. The woman's personal identity is a vast undiscovered territory--with which Society has yet to acquaint itself, and by which it is yet to be revolutionized."(11)

With The Story of Avis, Phelps attempted to write a book in which the heroine did not accept wifehood as her metier, "a woman's book" as she called it in her autobiography.(12) She was well aware of the serious intent of such a project, although she did not feel qualified to carry it out, as she indicated in the same letter to Eliot. She was also aware that a book of such a radical nature probably would not be popular: "I had not expected that book to have a wide circle of friends." (Chapters, 156-7) As a result, she was very grateful for the recognition and understanding that she did receive as her praise of Longfellow shows:

I have ... never met with any other man who showed, from the author's point of view, such a marvelous intuition in the comprehension of an unusual woman; or of what the author of "Avis" tried to do, in relating her history. (Chapters, 157)

Her own father, by contrast, began publishing anti-feminist essays opposed to women's suffrage directly after the appearance of his daughter's novel. Phelps, perhaps as a result of her conservative background, appears to have been a reluctant radical; after the completion of Avis, she experienced a physical collapse, the nineteenth century version of an "anxiety attack." (See Chapters, 226)

Phelps's criticism of institutionalized roles for men and women and her creation of a female protagonist who want to be defined through her art rather than her marriage was indeed a radical revision of the traditional American marriage plot; not surprisingly, Avis caused quite a controversy when it appeared and was reviewed in the major journals of the period. Some critics admitted that there was hardly a fault with it artistically but objected to the moral, "no less dangerous than untrue,"(13) as one critic saw it. Conversely, others thought it displayed weakness in form, but praised it anyway for its sincerity and advanced opinions. The feminist Lucy Stone gave the work her unqualified approval, certain that the artistic skill and message would give it "a permanent place in English literature."(14) This obviously did not prove true, but at its publication, The Story of Avis was a literary event which was not to be ignored. W.D. Howells even published a number of anonymous commentaries in the Atlantic Monthly's "Contributor's Club" which reflected the intensity of the controversy.(15) Howells may well have been indebted to Phelps himself in his portrayal of broken marriage in A Modern Instance (1882), and even Henry James, who did not participate in the discussion surrounding Avis, may well have been influenced by Phelps when he wrote The Portrait of a Lady (1881). Remarkable parallels between the two novels have been noted by critics familiar with Avis, even if the critical opinion of the merits of Phelps's novel has differed widely.(16)

James himself, of course, had the reputation for being an incorrigible snob, and although he appears to have been acquainted with Phelps, he never acknowledged it. Phelps reviewed James's unpopular study Hawthorne in The Independent,(17) and James participated in at least two collaborations in which Phelps was also a contributor.(18) Constance Fenimore Woolson refers to her in a letter to James as "your poor serious soul-to-soul enemy" and goes on to ask, "I wonder if you saw her," only to answer her own question: "But you do not want to know the little literary women. Only the great ones--like George Eliot."(19) The attitude toward Phelps displayed here, however, does not rule out the possibility that Avis influenced Portrait.(20) On this point, it is tempting to say that the novels speak for themselves. Avis and Isabel are both exceptional, independent women who do not intend to be defined by marriage, but end up succumbing to the institution anyway. Both are associated with the imagery of birds and flying, sporting telling names which refer to their initial high-soaring freedom: Avis Dobell, and Isabel Archer. The construction of the novels is also similar: approximately the first half is devoted to the establishment of the heroine's unusual character and her courtship, and concludes, of course, with her marriage; the second part traces the development of her disillusionment. Both women marry men who are their moral and intellectual inferiors, and even the names of their husbands are similar: Ostrander and Osmond.

Especially striking is the similarity in the way their disillusionment is portrayed despite the fact that Avis is not the psychological novel that Portrait is. Avis realizes during a dismal night when she cannot sleep for considering her situation that "it shall befall the stronger to wear the yoke of the weaker soul." (178) This scene, although only a page long, is reminiscent of the chapter in Portrait in which Isabel recognizes that in the future, Osmond "would have the better of her there." (357) Isabel sees her situation as "a dark, narrow alley" (357) and Avis hers in "solitary corridors." (178) For both heroines, it is the cooling of their own affection which is especially painful for them, in both cases linked with a sense of terror:

With a terror ... Avis watched departing love shake the slow dust of his feet against her young life. With a dread which shook to the roots of belief, she received that her own slighted tenderness had now begun to chill. (201)

Isabel too first feels love disappear and then terror: "She could live it over again, the incredulous terror with which she had taken measure of her dwelling." (360)

One of the major differences in the novels, however, is in the characters of the two men the protagonists marry. While Ostrander is merely weak and superficial, Osmond is malignant, even evil. Avis is not the victim of a deliberate deception, but rather the charm of an attractive, intelligent man too superficial to live up to his potential. Interestingly enough, it is especially to the character of Ostrander that many male critics object. Habegger for example claims:

The terms under which Isabel must live with Osmond are set before us with infinitely greater honesty than the terms Phelps fantasized in The Story of Avis. Philip Ostrander was basically a crude boyish scapegrace.... But Gilbert Osmand is real and strong. (69)

One conclusion that can be drawn form this interpretation is that, for Habegger at least, it is preferable, or perhaps I should say more realistic, for male characters to be evil than to be weak. Habegger's assertion that James shows greater honesty in his portrait of a marriage is difficult to substantiate as well. Phelps may have made Avis too ideal for modern tastes, but this is not what Habegger is objecting to here. The terms of Avis's ordeal differ in two important aspects from those of Isabel, which makes a comparison of the "honesty" difficult: first, Isabel is an heiress, and Avis is an artist; second, James was primarily concerned with the inner drama of Isabel's disillusionment whereas in Avis we are confronted in great detail with the torture of domestic chores for a talented, exceptional woman. In this respect, Avis was perhaps unique in its time: cooking and cleaning certainly do not play a part in Isabel's ordeal. But it has yet to be proven that metaphysical despair is more "honest" than domestic drudgery.

Avis was also unique in the situation of the heroine - none of the classic "problem novels" of the nineteenth century concerned a heroine who was an artist, with the exception of Meredith's Diana of the Crossways (1885). Of course, the disillusionment and "fall" of the exceptional woman was a standard plot of European realism at the time, and Phelps and James were admittedly both influenced by Eliot. But even taking this into consideration, the similarities between the two novels are striking and probably would have been noted more frequently by now if Phelps's novel hadn't drifted into almost total obscurity. Apart from the interest of the novel itself, the influence Avis may have exerted on America's two greatest Realists once again makes the old feminist question relevant - was this particular novel really "worthless" enough to warrant such a failure of memory? Or is it just the fate of the woman artist? Both Avis and Avis can be seen as victims of sexual politics, of the rules and regulations of artistic creation and survival.

The main reasons for Avis's descent into obscurity are probably to be found in the objectionable subject-matter and the radically female perspective of the novel. Phelps's much cited "stylistic infelicities"(21) are no worse than those of many accepted and respected male authors, Theodore Dreiser for one, and offer only a weak pretext not to take this particular novel seriously. At its best, her prose is characterized by memorable imagery and poetic expression; it is not merely unalleviated melodrama and, as some critics seem to imply, a constant embarrassment to her readers.(22) According to the critical assessment of Arthur Hobson Quinn in 1936, twenty-five years after Phelps's death, her narrative art is anything but absurd and belletristic:

With an artistic sincerity, a narrative ability of a high order, and a descriptive power at times rising to greatness, she combined a sense of moral values which give weight and substance to her fiction. (203)

Her characteristic seriousness is necessarily objectionable by modern standards, which set a premium on ironic distance, but Victorian works are frequently regarded with a relatively lenient eye in this respect. Phelps is not without humor, or even irony at times. The reasons for her obscurity are probably to be sought elsewhere.

The outright feminist point of view from which Avis is related may well be one of the main reasons that it has lost its status as a memorable work of American fiction. As feminist critics have been pointing out for years, the male perspective, as represented by the works of Henry Fielding, Herman Melville, and Ernest Hemingway, to name just a few, can be praised as "universal" when it obviously is not, while a female perspective is criticized for being partial rather than objective. The few exceptions to the rule do not disprove this fact. Most of the women writers who have survived the test of time are so obviously great that it would be hard to ignore them; Jane Austen, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf come to mind. It is more difficult to find women's names among the "minor" writers. It would be hard to dispense with a George Eliot, but an Elizabeth Stuart Phelps can be allowed to drift into obscurity by merely cutting her from the literary histories. Fred Lewis Pattee, Phelps's contemporary and an influential and respected critic at the turn of the century, considered Avis required reading for students of American literature; (416) today, few scholars have even heard of Phelps.

Another reason for her current obscurity may be her bestselling utopian religious novels, The Gates Ajar and its successors. The Gates Ajar was the second best selling novel of the century, preceded only by Uncle Tom's Cabin,(23) and this incredible success may have served to obscure her other, artistically superior works. The Gates series, with its sentimental heavenly visions, does not appeal to the modern sensibility, and since it is these books that initially made Phelps internationally famous, it shouldn't be surprising when she is known only for her religious writings today.(24) In the footnotes to Leon Edel's edition of the letters of Henry James, for example, she is referred to as a New England religious writer.

But it was not only her religious works which lead to her exclusion from the canon - the figure of Avis as the woman artist who who is incapacitated by marriage was offensive to the male sensibility. The sarcastic, superior tone of Van Wyck Brooks comments on Avis in New England: Indian Summer (1940) make this all too obvious:

Should woman artists marry? Should Avis have married? This question reverberated in many a feminine breast in Boston; and many a reader rejoiced in Miss Phelps's conclusion. Avis's daughter, please God, should only be an artist!(25)

Given the combination of an offensive, unusual heroine, an offensive righteous tone, stylistic infelicities and a religious ouvre, it is not surprising that Phelps's fame was allowed to fade. But even if the situation is not surprising, it is still unfortunate. The Story of Avis is pertinent, interesting and highly readable, and like Kate Chopin's The Awakening could serve as another appropriate and necessary correction to the overly masculine view of American literary history.


The original version of this paper was delivered at the annual meeting of the German Society for American Studies in Bremen in June 11 1987.



Baym, Nina. Woman's Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and about Women in America, 1829-1870. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1978.

Brooks, Van Wyck. New England: Indian Summer 1865-1915. Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing Co., 1940.

Buitenhuis, Peter. The Grasping Imagination: The American Writings of Henry James. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970.

Donovan, Josephine K. New England Local Color Literature: A Woman's Tradition. New York: Frederick Unger, 1983.

Edel, Leon, and Dan H. Laurence. A Bibliography of Henry James. London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1961.

Habegger, Alfred. Gender, Fantasy and Realism in American Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.

Jacobson, Marcia. Henry James and the Mass Market. University, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1983.

(James, Henry.) Henry James: Letters. Volume III, 1883-1895. Ed. Leon Edel. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1980.

------. The Portrait of a Lady. Ed. Robert D. Bamberg. New York: W.W. Norton, 1975.

Jehlen, Myra. "Archimedes and the Paradox of Feminist Criticism." Signs 6,4 (1981), 575-601.

Kelley, Mary. Private Woman, Public Stage: Literary Domesticity in Nineteenth Century America. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984.

------. "The Sentimentalists: Promise and Betrayal in the Home." Signs 4,3 (1979), 434-46.

Kessler, Carol Farley. Elizabeth Stuart Phelps. Boston: Twayne Pub., 1982.

Lears, T. Jackson. No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture 1880-1920. New York, Pantheon Books, 1981.

Nestvold-Mack, Ruth. Grenzüberschreitungen. Die fiktionale weibliche Perspektive in der Literatur. Erlangen: Verlag Palm und Enke, 1990.

Pattee, Fred Lewis. A History of American Literature. New York, Boston, Chicago: Silver, Burdett, 1897.

Phelps, Elizabeth Stuart. Chapters From a Life. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1896.

------. The Story of Avis. Ed. Carol Farley Kessler. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1985.

Quinn, Arthur Hobson. American Fiction: An Historical and Critical Survey. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1936.

Stansell, Christine. "Elizabeth Stuart Phelps: A Study in Female Rebellion." Massechusetts Review 13 (1972), 239-56.



1. The great exception to this rule is George Meredith's novel, Diana of the Crossways (1885). Hawthorne's novel The Marble Faun contained no less than two women artists, but their artistic careers are not decisive for the plot of the novel.

2. Elsewhere I have called these novels of the female artist "Künstlerinnen-Romane": see Grenzüberschreitungen (140).

3. See Kelley, "Sentimentalists" (436).

4. Kelley, "Sentimentalists" (444).

5. See Kelley, Private Woman, Public Stage (180-83).

6. For this insight, I am indebted to an unpublished paper by Christian Schmidt, "The Transformation of the Woman Artist: Fanny Fern's Ruth Hall and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's The Story of Avis.

7. See Habegger (48). On the critical reception of Avis see also Kessler, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (126-27).

8. An exception is Rebecca Harding Davis's Earthen Pitchers. Phelps's own earlier novel, The Silent Partner, also portrayed marriage even to a superior man as damaging to a woman's individuality.

9. "The True Woman," rpt. in The Story of Avis (270).

10. See Kessler, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (50).

11. As quoted in Kessler, "Introduction," The Story of Avis (xviii).

12. See Chapters (157, 272).

13. Review from Philadelphia Inquirer, rpt. in Avis (273).

14. See review from The Woman's Journal, rpt. in Avis (274). See also Kessler's summary of her contemporary stature (124-27).

15. See Habegger (45-46).

16. See Habegger (46 and 54), where he quotes a contemporary commentator, Elizabeth T. Spring. See also Kessler, "Introduction" (xvii). Quinn too refers to Phelps as a predecessor of Howells and James (192).

17. See Buitenhuis (105-6).

18. See Edel and Laurence (235-38).

19. Letter of Feb. 12 1882, rpt. in Henry James: Letters (528).

20. In Henry James and the Mass Market, Marcia Jacobson makes a convincing case for Phelps's influence on James while he was working on The Bostonians, pointing out that he could hardly have been unaware of the important novels by women at the time (24-27). Phelps published in all the major magazines of the period, which James read.

21. See for example Donovan (83).

22. Compare Habegger's comments (46 and 48).

23. See Stansell (239).

24. See for example Lears's comments on Phelps (23-24) in which he lumps her with the reactionary views of the literary domestics. Buitenhuis lets this prejudice lead him to the conclusion that The Independent is a religious publication (105).

25. Brooks (155-56).


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