edited with an introduction & notes by Barbara Tilley
Aristocratic Jessamine Halliday, suffering a “splenetic seizure” brought on by high breeding, is prescribed a therapeutic break in the Scottish Highlands. While there, she falls in love with handsome crofter Colin Macgillvray and makes an indecent proposal by offering him the “unconditional surrender” of her body but refusing to give her hand in marriage. A Superfluous Woman is an audacious exploration of the fin-de-siècle preoccupation with race, class, and the sexual double standard.
Unsurprisingly, Brooke’s novel caused outrage among critics. Campaigner W. T. Stead denounced it as “an immoral tale,” and The Times lamented its distinctly feminist message. This reaction, and Brooke’s boldness, ensured that it became one of the best-selling New Woman novels of the 1890s.
This edition includes:
- Critical introduction by Barbara Tilley
- Explanatory footnotes
- Brooke’s original preface
- Selection of contemporary reviews
- The full text of Brooke’s article, ‘Women and their Sphere’ from Our Corner
Barbara Tilley is a Visiting Assistant Professor at DePaul University in Chicago. She is in the Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse department where she teaches a range of first year writing courses. Her literary background is in the long nineteenth century and she has published short pieces on John Keats and the Lake School poets. She is currently working on a critical biography of Emma Brooke, which focuses on Brooke’s socialist politics as they relate to her interests in and promotion of women and worker’s rights during her lifetime. Tilley is examining Brooke’s central and active leadership within the Fabian Society and the Fabian Women’s Group between 1885 and 1918. Included in the book will be an exploration of Brooke’s most important relationships with those writers and intellectuals whom she befriended in the early years of the Fabian Society, including George Bernard Shaw, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, and Edward Pease.