Somebody's story: Charlotte Smith and the work of writing

Jennie Batchelor

in Women's Work

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780719082573
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781701829 | DOI:
Somebody's story: Charlotte Smith and the work of writing

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This chapter examines Charlotte Smith's treatment of labour, primarily in the fiction, in order to tease out its implications for the novels' arguments about gender, domesticity and authorship. It begins with an examination of Smith's figuring of manual, affective and intellectual labour in Marchmont (1796), arguably her fullest contribution to contemporary debates on woman's work, to reveal how the novel retriangulates its author's rhetoric about the relation between women's work, domesticity and abjection, thus paving the way for a reassessment of Smith's (Lockean) self-conceptualization of her authorial labour as a form of inalienable property. Smith's figuring of writing as work was not simply a strategy to gain her readers' sympathy; rather, it was an attempt to break down the barriers that prevented women writers from laying claim to the new models of literary professionalism which were being cemented in this period. Only when we, like Smith, grapple with the complex question that is women's work can we recuperate her distinctive and ambitious construction of professional authorship as an embodied activity which was simultaneously a labour of mind, body and heart – and, unequivocally, women's work.

Keywords: Charlotte Smith; labour; women's work; women writers; Marchmont

Chapter.  18185 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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