Remapping Ouida: her works, correspondence and social concerns
This thesis examines the popular and non-canonical Victorian novelist Ouida (Maria Louise de la Ramée) her relationship with her publishers and the reception of her works. In particular, through the study of published and unpublished correspondence, as well as nineteenth century periodicals, certain views concerning the writer and her oeuvre will be revised and amended, especially in the context of social and moral standards, anticipated from the female fictional character and the artist, the writer. The first chapter will concentrate on Ouida’s correspondence and will argue that the author’s reputation and sales were not only damaged by her ostensibly immoral plots but also as a result of her publishers’s differing priorities. In order to delineate the content of these ‘indecent’ novels and later the impact they had on reviewers, critics and readers, as well as Ouida’s writing, four of her three-decker novels have been selected for critical discussion. Strathmore (1865) is discussed in relation to sensation fiction and marriage law and Folle-Farine (1871) as an examination of inequality between classes and genders. Francis Cowley Burnand’s parody Strapmore (1878) is then read as a critical account of and response to Ouida’s ideologies. The thesis will then examine the controversy surrounding Moths (1880), and In Maremma (1882) will be read as a response to this controversy through its relation to mythology and the representation of the artist. The analysis of these novels and Ouida’s correspondence with her agent and publishers will trace the path that led to the gradual decline in her reputation and the posterior obscurity of her works.