Chapter

Mutuality, Marriage, and Charlotte Brontë’s Free Traders

Ayşe Çelikkol

in Romances of Free Trade

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199769001
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199896943 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199769001.003.0006
Mutuality, Marriage, and Charlotte Brontë’s Free Traders

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Charlotte Brontë’s fiction explores the internalization of commercial ideals of reciprocity. Brontë’s posthumously published first novel, The Professor (comp. 1846), addresses the clash between nationalist sentiment and free traders’ claim to world citizenship. Brontë returns to this topic in Shirley (1849), shortly after the repeal of the protectionist Corn Laws. Even though Shirley is a historical novel about prohibitions on exportation during the Napoleonic Wars, merchants in the novel anachronistically echo Victorian free traders. Replicating liberal economic rhetoric, the novel’s Belgian-born cotton exporter praises reciprocity in commerce. He expresses his ideals of commerce by employing a Romantic vocabulary of nature and myth. In his opinion, marriage, like commerce, cultivates mutuality, but the novel questions the possibility of such symmetry.

Keywords: Charlotte Brontë; Shirley; The Professor; interiority; cosmopolitanism

Chapter.  8875 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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