Highly respected as a writer by critics and commentators, Hesba Stretton (1832-1911) was a vigorous campaigner for the rights of oppressed minorities and a founding member of the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Though she is known today primarily as a writer of evangelical fiction for young people, including Jessica's First Prayer, this characterization fails to acknowledge the extensive range of her writings and social activism. Elaine Lomax re-examines Stretton's writing for children and adults, situating her body of work within the broad social and cultural context of its production to expose the depth and complexity of Stretton's engagement with contemporary ideas, debates, and discourses. Mining nineteenth-century periodicals, archival materials, and the minutes of the Religious Tract Society, as well as Stretton's own revealing log books, Lomax demonstrates Stretton's preoccupation with those at the bottom or on the margins of society. At the same time, she advances our understanding of the intersection of cultural and literary representations of the child and childhood with wider images of the colonized or excluded, and our knowledge of the history and development of juvenile literature and women's writing.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction; Part 1 Private and Public Lives: Writing and Reading Worlds: Personal writings, published texts, biographical perspectives; Publishers, writers, readers and responses. Part 2 Roles, Representations and Social Relations: The child: text, context and intertext; 'Worth her weight in gold': subtexts of sexuality; Versions of womanhood: perspectives on motherhood and gender; Outcast society and society's outcasts; Religion, romance, reform and revolution: the Russian connection; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.
'In her exhaustively researched study of Hesba Stretton, Elaine Lomax combines evidence gleaned from nineteenth-century periodicals and archival research with intelligent close readings to reveal Stretton's importance as a novelist, social activist and children’s book author. As Lomax persuasively shows, Stretton was far more engaged with mid-Victorian issues than people who know her only as the author of Jessica’s First Prayer� would suspect.' Sally Mitchell, Temple University, USA ’...full of stimulating arguments and perceptive insights, which will surely enrich our understanding and appreciation of this important Victorian writer.’ Children's Books History Society Newsletter ’After finishing this well-written, highly informative and analytical book, the reader must agree that Elaine Lomax has succeeded in her attempt to reclaim Hesba Stretton for the 21st century professional audience.’ American and British Studies Annual 'In this thoroughly researched book Lomax succeeds in making her readers aware of how much we don't know about Stretton and convinces us that Stretton is a writer worth further exploration... [This book] will prove valuable for scholars in a variety of fields, from publishing history to Anglo-Russian relations; for anyone studying Stretton's more popular tracts, this book provides a much-needed perspective and a useful bibliography of Stretton's entire oeuvre.' Victorian Studies