“A Difficult Symbol for Women”: The garden book and the garden as retreat in the works of Rosamund Marriott Watson

O'Connell, Rachel (2019) “A Difficult Symbol for Women”: The garden book and the garden as retreat in the works of Rosamund Marriott Watson. Women's Writing. ISSN 0969-9082 (Accepted)

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Abstract

This essay considers how the Aesthete and poet, Rosamund Marriott Watson, explores the idea of the garden as retreat – a treacherously doubled symbol for women, both liberating and confining. In Marriott Watson’s 1891 poetry collection A Summer Night, the garden retreat channels the transgressive energies of the 1890s, sheltering but continuous with the city, fostering the creative, sexually emancipated New Woman. By contrast, in her later garden book The Heart of a Garden (1906), Marriott Watson draws on the idea of the garden as retreat in order to present a valorization of insularity and withdrawal into domesticity. This essay reads this change in garden ethos in relation to Marriott Watson’s own career and also in terms of the conventions of the garden book (a little known genre that was popular at the turn of the nineteenth century). While the garden book has been read as feminist by recent critics, the example of The Heart of a Garden reveals that, like the garden, the garden book carries double and ambivalent meanings. The essay closes by exploring the ways in which we can read Marriott Watson’s garden writing, simultaneously, as a set of reflections on life in the suburbs, another site that conceived, within the Victorian imagination, as a space of retreat.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: garden, retreat, Rosamund Marriott Watson, Aestheticism, feminism, garden book, surburbs, suburban
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for the Study of Sexual Dissidence
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0111 Women authors
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR4000 19th century, 1770/1800-1890/1900
Depositing User: Rachel O'Connell
Date Deposited: 13 Aug 2018 07:52
Last Modified: 24 May 2019 12:50
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/77737

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