On the surface Bram Stoker's 1897 Dracula and Mary Cholmondeley's 1899 Red Pottage seem alike only in their fin de siècle publication dates and their popularity with the reading public. Yet Stoker's bloody chronicle of vampire hunting and Cholmondeley's melodramatic domestic tale share a common interest in horror as an affective state and an aesthetic technique. This essay argues that by grafting the affect and imagery of horror onto domestic scenes, Red Pottage, like Dracula, envisions a British society assaulted by a corrupting force that saps its vitality and health. But unlike Dracula, Red Pottage locates that monstrosity not in a foreign threat but in the hypocritical degeneracy of the English church, aristocracy, and most fundamentally, bourgeois matrimony. Breaking with contemporaneous imperial gothic and with the earlier generation of sensation fiction that influenced her work, Cholmondeley shifts the blame for corruption away from both the feminine and the foreign, traditional (and often synergistic) sources of threat. The novel portrays patriarchal marriage as destructive to community and to intellectual attainment for men and women alike. Alternatively, it depicts appealing characters that disrupt the gender binary and remain unmarried, traveling abroad as the story concludes. Red Pottage locates hope for the future beyond the traditional domestic sphere: outside romantic and familial relationships and outside Great Britain itself. By infusing realist representation with the emotional and visceral force of more popular literary modes, it also participates in the nascent renegotiation of literary goals and methods that modernism would carry forward.
Gretchen Braun; Horrors at Home: From Sensation Scandal to Gothic Melodrama. Genre 1 April 2015; 48 (1): 73–98. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-2837296
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