“Yes, but rehearsals!—and—embracing the tenor.”
“Well, but only on the stage.”
“Oh, Mr. Ashmead, where else does one embrace the tenor?”
“And was that a grievance? Why, I’d embrace fifty tenors—if I was paid proportionable.”
Charles Reade (1814–1884) was another of those nineteenth-century writers who were enormously popular in their time, but never made it onto the Because It’s Good For You list. But there’s not a thing wrong with his writing—so long as you don’t mind the fact that none of the main characters in A Woman-Hater are particularly believable.
If you look at datable external events—which our author probably didn’t—the dramatic date at the beginning of the story can only be the first half of 1872. Item: Homburg’s casino, the setting of the first part of Volume I, relocated to Monte Carlo in 1872. Item: Immediately after the casino section, one character describes a historical event that took place in late 1870, and says explicitly that it was 14 months ago.
Spoiler: The author withholds—that is, he has one of his characters withhold
A Woman-Hater was originally published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in thirteen monthly installments, from June 1876 through June 1877. Most installments were the lead story in their issue. Some decades later, the book was republished in the United States by the Grolier Society in a limited edition of 1000 copies. Though the book is undated, the illustrations suggest that Woman-Hater was one of its earliest publications.
The Grolier Society—no relation to the Grolier Club, except that both were named in honor of Jean Grolier—was established in 1895. In 1936, the Grolier Society became Grolier, Inc., now best known for textbooks and reference works. It’s interesting that the present book identifies itself as “Paris and Boston”; Grolier is now a subsidiary of French publisher Lagardère.
Grolier prided itself on high-quality editions. For A Woman-Hater, that meant new illustrations by Frank Thayer Merrill (1848–1923), who had illustrated Little Women some years earlier.
This ebook is based on the undated Grolier Society edition: Volume 1, Volume 2. Some appparent errors were checked against Blackwood’s: Chapters I-II in Vol. 119, No. 778; Chapters III-XVIII in Vol. 120, Nos. 779-784; Chapters XIX-XXXIV in Vol. 121, Nos. 785-790.
Although the book was printed in two volumes, chapter numbers and pagination are continuous. Volume II starts with Chapter XIX, page 279.
The book’s noisy typography is carried over faithfully from Blackwood’s. I have restored one feature the Grolier edition didn’t retain: the occasional extra gaps or “thought breaks” at mid-chapter.
Typographical errors are marked with and are listed again at the end of each chapter. The word “invisible” means that the letter or punctuation mark is missing, but there is an appropriately sized blank space.
Off and on from 1914 to 1916, critic Edna Kenton wrote a series of articles under the umbrella title “The Pap We Have Been Fed On”. Number VIII in the series, “‘Lady Doctresses’ of Nineteenth Century Fiction”, appeared in The Bookman (New York), Vol. 44, No. 3 (November 1916), pg. 280-287.
Books she talks about:
Three of these titles—A Woman-Hater, Helen Brent, Dr. Janet—were also treated some twenty years earlier in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (see Dr. Edith Romney). Feel free to make comparisons.[B280]
It is hardly possible to fathom to-day the depth or daring with which Blackwood’s Magazine published Charles Readers A Woman Hater in 1876; the first English novel, on its editorial word, “to have a lady doctress as a heroine.” “The Shameless Seven” were still fighting at Edinburgh University—the seven pioneer women who faced prurient mud for years before they were granted medical degrees from a British medical school. The “delicacy” of the Victorian spinsterhood, male and female, waxed fat and luscious for years on the mental food furnished by this shameless demand of shameless women for shameful knowledge, and revelled in imaginings of the dissecting rooms that outdid any reality. Current comment in the British medical and other journals of the sixties and seventies make clearer than crystal the humourous inanity of a “lady” of that strange, dehumanised era.
In A Woman Hater Charles Reade makes Doctress Gale, as he punctiliously calls her, not so much the heroine of a great struggle as it raged, as the historian of it. And a Victorian lady Doctress Gale certainly was not. But she had ladylike reactions, many of them, ‖ lapses hardly to be avoided at so early a stage in the development of a doctress in life or fiction. And she could recount! Anyone who wishes an impassioned and fairly accurate account from the woman’s side of that particular battle between the old and the new will not find it misapplied time to run through Doctress Rhoda Gale’s “Little Narrative of Dry Facts Told to a Woman Hater by a Woman” that runs through fifty prolonged pages.
As the first doctress known to English fiction Rhoda Gale’s personal appearance may not be without hints to the wary. When Harrington Vizard, a Barfordshire squire, with twelve thousand acres, a library, and a hatred of woman that he cherished above all his other possessions, first met her, it was as a half-fainting young woman in black merino and clean collar and cuffs, who is, to be brief, half-starved. She had large hands, a fine, large frame, a “stride,” and verged rather toward “the masculine.” Temperamentally she “was not amorous, and because of this she was all the more open to female attachments.” Of these she has several throughout the novel, and betrays a cool disregard of the human male that in the [B281] end outran Vizard’s temperamental and cultivated “hatred” of women. He and Rhoda are, however, very good friends after the male model of friendship in fiction. Vizard took her into a restaurant, immediately after he found her in distress and, while he fed her, began to ask himself “What manner of woman is this woman?” For she uses Latinistic English, speaks of the English daisy as “Bellis superflua,” and comments upon her nerves with an air of scientifically intimate friendship. When she finally told him she had gauged him from the first as “gentlemanly,” and added: “Not even hunger would make me sit in a tavern beside a fool or a snob or (with a faint blush) a libertine,” Vizard’s curiosity at this sort of converse from a mid-Victorian female roused him to the point of demanding query, and the young woman responded vibrantly:
“You will hear a story that the public is deeply interested in and does not know it; ay, a story that will be referred to with wonder and shame whenever civilisation shall become a reality and law cease to be a tool of injustice and monopoly. I am a medical student; a would-be doctor.”
Vizard commented with a simple gasp, and she added quickly:
“And so well qualified by genuine gifts, by studying from my infancy, by zeal, quick senses, and cultivated judgment, that, were all the leading London physicians examined to-morrow by qualified persons at the same board as myself, most of these worthy practitioners would cut an indifferent figure in modern science compared with me, whom you have had to rescue from starvation because I am a woman!”
With this impassioned gambit she set forth upon her little narrative of twenty thousand words, beginning with her childhood. Rhoda’s mother had seemingly made a little intellectual gymnast of her daughter, for before she was seven she had studied wild flowers, birds, eggs, Agassiz, ants, in short, Nature. Born in Boston, she studied medicine in Zurich first. “But the school deteriorated,” ‖ said Rhoda contemptuously. “Too many ladies poured in from Russia; some were not in earnest and preferred flirting to study, and did themselves no good and made the male students idler and wickeder than ever—if possible.” So she passed on to southern France, where “a French professor” told her with a shrug that it was not for them to teach her delicacy, but rather to learn it from her. “That was a French sneer,” said Rhoda keenly, “and I received both shrug and sneer like marble.”
Then Rhoda went to Edinburgh, where in real life Miss Jex Blake had preceded her, and, for the sufficient purposes of romance, became one of the Dauntless Seven who fought the fight for medical freedom on behalf of would-be doctresses of Queen Victoria’s middle reign. From now on her narrative becomes truly one of dry facts and figures, for she pours out names and dates of early feministic achievements that read like a Woman’s Who’s Who of the Italian Renaissance, and statistics up to 1876 until Vizard forces the ardent Reade to make him say: “Fancy your remembering figures like that!” She designates the British medical society as a “doctors’ union,” a closed shop against women.
“We were seven ladies who wished to be doctresses. . . . Our enemies suggested that we must be seven shameless women who pursued medicine as a handle to sexuality; who went into the dissecting rooms to dissect males; and who demanded mixed classes, that we might have male companions in those studies which every feminine woman would avoid altogether. . . . What a monstrous interpretation of pure minds by minds impure! To us the dissecting room was a temple, and the dead an awe, revolting to all our senses until the knife revealed to our minds the Creator’s hand in structural beauties that the trained can appreciate if wicked dunces can’t. . . . And as to the infirmary, we should have done just what we did at Zurich. We held a little aloof from the male students, unless some good-natured lecturer gave us a signal, and then we came [B282] forward. If we came uninvited, we always stood behind the male students, but we did crowd round the beds of the female patients, and claimed the inner row; and, sir, they thanked God for us openly!”
Rhoda Gale despised music, art, dress. She was a French doctress, but under the English law she could not practise in England. Harrington Vizard, woman hater, is dared to defy this law, and declares she shall doctor all Barfordshire, keep seven hundred villagers well, practise at her will in the county hospital and infirmary; “and no magistrate will ever summons you, or jury convict you!”
In Barfordshire, therefore, we take leave of the first doctress in English fiction, prescribing roast beef and port wine for an old man who is “nearly exsanguis”; doing up a bleeding head after the manner of the unsterilised seventies, and adding data from time to time to her projected treatise on The Cure of Disorders by Esculents.
But in America, three or four years before Doctress Gale’s time, Ruth Bolton, Quakeress and doctress, had been hammered into a semblance of life by the earnest hands of Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in The Gilded Age. As she sat in her father’s house, in Philadelphia, aged eighteen, “reading a medical work,” she said suddenly to her Quaker mother, “Mother, I’m going to study medicine.” Mrs. Bolton, of the Friends’ Society, is as completely upset as a born and bred Quaker may be. “Thee, study medicine!” she exclaimed. “A frail, slight girl like thee, study medicine! And then the lectures and the dissecting rooms, has thee thought of the dissecting rooms!” Of course Ruth had—it seems to be the sum total of argument pro and con against the medical profession for women.
Ruth’s father, strangely enough, was not so hostile. According to Twain, he said indeed that he didn’t see why a woman shouldn’t enter the medical profession ‖ if she felt a call to it, and suggests that Ruth study at the Woman’s Medical College in Philadelphia. She does, and we are given a harrowing scene in a dissecting room, when Ruth and another girl student go up alone to this grisly place at night to complete “before dawn” a nice little problem in nerve ganglia. But Ruth’s mother is right; Ruth was too frail and slight. Furthermore she becomes truly womanly and falls completely in love; therefore, though duly graduated, she marries this young man, named Philip, and gives up her profession.
In Dr. Breen’s Practice, Mr. Howells cuts his heroine from the same piece of cloth, a fabric neither all wool, nor warranted to wear. Grace Breen is temperamentally unfitted for the arduous profession she chose to enter upon, and she does not necessarily prove much one way or the other. She is a heroine of 1881, and a homeopathic doctress at that. Somehow homeopathy seemed to the quizzical Mr. Howells, and, later, to the earnest Miss Phelps, more ladylike than the rougher drugs of the regular school. Certainly both Dr. Breen and Dr. Zay go about their little worlds dispensing pleasant pellets, to children, women, and men. Grace Breen had had a “romance,” a recalcitrant lover who had deceived her, and had, later, married her dearest friend. She had no need of her profession for support, and, because of her unusual delicacy, “its study has cost of her more than the usual suffering that it brings to persons of sensitive nerves. Some details were almost insuperably repugnant.” One infers that here Mr. Howells refers indirectly to the dissecting room. Her mother had never opposed her. Grace’s ambition “had harmonised very well with certain radical tendencies of her own, and it was at least not marriage, which she had found tolerable only in its modified form of widowhood.”
The world of the charming eighties, which included at that time Mr. Howells, had not yet got over its awed or supercilious amazement at women who [B283] could learn things from books—life was still a sealed book to most Anglo-Saxon heroines—and its delineators who struggled, were afflicted with a universal and involuntary impulse to put them all into some sort of sternly conceived and relentlessly modelled uniform. Both Dr. Breen and Mr. Howells repressed this impulse consciously:
If it had not been so much like affectation and so counter to her strong æsthetic instinct, she might have made her dress somehow significant of her complete abeyance in such matters, but as it was, she only studied simplicity. . . . There had been a time when, in planning her career, she had imagined herself studying a masculine simplicity and directness of address, but the oversuccess of some young women, her fellows at the school, had disgusted her with it, and she had perceived that, after all, there is nothing better for a girl, even a girl who is a doctor of medicine, than a ladylike manner.
In those days, this was not pap, but the strong meat of doctrine. Grace is conscious of her sex—as conscious as Mr. Howells.
“I am not a man. I have accepted that with all the rest I don’t rebel against being a woman. If I had been a man, I shouldn’t have studied medicine. You know that. I wished to be a physician because I was a woman. . . . I think it’s rather hard, mother, that you should always be talking as if I meant to take my profession mannishly! All that I intend is not to take it womanishly; but as for not being a woman about it, or about anything else, that’s simply impossible. A woman is reminded of her insufficiency to herself every hour of the day. And it’s always a man that comes to her help. . . . Talk about men being obstacles! It’s the other women. There isn’t a woman in the house who wouldn’t trust herself sooner in the hands of the stupidest boy that got his diploma with me than she would in mine!”
Dr. Breen is twenty-eight, a mature age for a heroine of the early eighties, before the recognised days of Bella Donnas and The Dangerous Age. But she could not yet bear coldly the confusion ‖ to which her quality as diplomaed doctress put men confronted for the first time with a graduate of the New York Homeopathic School. It was hardly less routing, however, than the attitude of women compelled by exigencies to accept her medical services. By one of them she is forced into consultation with a certain Dr. Mulbridge, who treats her as a lady until he learns she is a doctress; then he treats her as one might a pretty child who has precociously and preciously learned a Latin conjugation, until he becomes aware that she is of the homeopathic school, when he faces her as if “she had suddenly changed from a piquant mystery to a terrible dilemma.” But he falls headlong and with a certain Scotch dourness in love with her, and tells her she is too nervous and conscientious ever to qualify as a doctress; that she is, in short, a woman, and must give up this man’s profession. Grace is by then totally discouraged, and says honestly enough that it has given her up, that she never liked it. She is still obsessed with a Victorian consciousness of sex:
“And I don’t give it up because I am unfit as a woman. I might be a man, and still be impulsive and timid and nervous, and everything I thought I was not.”
“Yes,” said Dr. Mulbridge, “you might be all that and be a man; but you’d be an exceptional man, and I don’t think you’re an exceptional woman. If you’ve failed, it isn’t your temperament that’s to blame.”
“I think it is. The wrong is in me individually somewhere.”
But the harsh male allopath insists that she has failed not individually, but solely because she is woman, not man; and though Mr. Howells refuses to give this gentleman his heart’s desire in Grace Breen’s love, he undoubtedly accepts Dr. Mulbridge’s intellectual conclusions, at least for the “advanced woman” type of the eighties.
A year later Elizabeth Stuart Phelps brought out Dr. Zay, in which she [B284] dared far more than the sex-conscious Mr. Howells, though one cannot completely argue away Miss Phelps’s personal consciousness of sex differentiations, as she gives Waldo Yorke of Boston, suffering severely from wounds “in the head, the foot, and the right arm,” into the professional care of Dr. Atalanta Lloyd, known to her community as “Dr. Zay.” Young Mr. Yorke has been in a female doctor’s hands for hours before he realises that the physician who is changing the bandages on his head has a woman’s hands! Even the reader of today, inured by a long procession of “sex problem” novels to shock, feels a reflex sense of the horror of 1882 at such a state of affairs. “I am in a woman’s hands?” says Mr. Yorke nervously. He perceived a woman of medium height, with well-shaped head, and he observed unusual signs of strength in her fingers, “which were not yet deficient in delicacy.” Just then a deep wound opens below the shoulder, and blood from a severed artery spurts forth. Dr. Zay serenely “bared” his arm, selected an artery forceps, ligated the artery, and rebandaged it. She also bathed and rebandaged his “foot.” Her face betrayed no uneasiness, “only studious attention.” Later she tells him what befell him as he pitched from the broken bridge. “A dislocation of the ankle; a severed artery in the arm; and concussion of the brain. It was a beautiful dislocation,” adds the doctor with enthusiasm. Then she surveyed him closely, and he felt most conscious and wondered why. But the female doctor merely observed of his eyes and facial colour: “That is a chichona look!”
If Waldo Yorke had ever thought deeply upon doctresses, which he had not, he held them to be higher nurses, poor women who wore unbecoming clothes, took the horse cars, and probably dropped their “g’s.” But Dr. Zay was, quaintly enough, “a lady,” who wore “fine cashmere dresses,” and bits of carmine ribbon about her immaculate ‖ linen collars. Later it developed, to his entire satisfaction, that she was a perfect lady, with Boston affiliations; that she had even known his family—and him—in their childhood. She, like Rhoda Gale, had studied at Zurich and at Vienna.
“I was at Vassar,” said the doctor quietly.
“I have seen educated women before, though you mightn’t think it,” said Yorke. “My mother had them it the house sometimes. I never saw one like you. . . . You never shrink, never want to give up.”
“It was hard sometimes in the foreign lecture rooms, among the men. They were very courteous to me. But they could not make it easy. I never saw a woman rudely treated but once; that was her own fault. Then the dissecting room was a trial to me at first.”
“Did you ever have a man for a patient before?”
“Oh, yes. But I do not desire it. It will sometimes happen. Most of my patients are women and children. That is as I prefer it.”
“Did you ever treat a young man—a fellow like me?”
“I should never have known but that you have them every day.”
“And why should you!” she answered coolly, and left him without another word.
With the daring of the female novelist Miss Phelps offers for discussion between her hero and heroine the case of “a poor girl,” and one feels young Mr. Yorke’s coincident shock and interest at being able to discuss such a social question with a young woman of his day. He is, in fact, fascinated with the novelty of it. Later he assists Dr. Zay in forcing a marriage between this poor girl and her reluctant betrayer, and, this far-reaching piece of doubtful morality accomplished, he makes his first social call upon the doctor. He finds her in a feminine gown of violet muslin, trimmed with fluttering ribbons and bits of lace, and when he comments admiringly upon the change from professional attire, she blushes with vexation. “I do not wear such things,” she says. “I do not respect [B285] them. I feel as if I ought to apologise to ideal womanhood every time I cumber my feet and other people’s in this way.”
Then she adds that the day is warm and the violet muslin is the coolest thing she has. And Miss Phelps comments that it no more occurred to the young man that there was a remote touch of coquetry in the coincidence of his call and the violet muslin, than it did to the lady that he might think so. But this is, of course, nothing more than a bit of mid-Victorian finessing between the gentleman, the lady, and Miss Phelps’s highest ideals, and merely goes to show what has been noted before, that “advanced women” must explain why they do not dress like gentlemanly males.
As befits, perhaps, a medical novel, Mr. Yorke’s early attempts at courting Dr. Zay tend more to the pathological than the romantic. Dr. Zay, of course, revolts against anything lesser than the perfect marriage, and doubts if this can be that. Yorke wishes to discuss the possibilities in the case. “It only wastes nerve fibre,” says Dr. Zay. “Can you give me nothing?” he finally cries passionately. “Nothing that you would care for,” says Dr. Zay patiently. “Men do not value a woman’s friendship. They do not understand it. They do not know what to do with it.” So she sends him away, telling him that what he needs is “absolute separation from all this pathological sentiment and the exciting cause or it.”
But in proving her fine point, that Dr. Zay, though a doctress, is refined, womanly, a lady, Miss Phelps errs with most of her contemporary creators of this then new type, and proves too much. The line between the ever-womanly and the martyr is, at best, all too thin, and when Doctress Zay surrenders finally to love, “an incident in human life,” it is with the captive’s air of surrendering all for it. One feels that Dr. Zay vanishes into Mrs. Waldo Yorke, though this transformation is distinctly not the author’s desire or intention.‖
Helen Brent, M.D., appeared anonymously in 1892, and she is as much of a lady as any of her predecessors, always excepting the somewhat militant and boisterous Doctress Rhoda Gale. “To look at her,” says the author apologetically and pridefully, “you would never suspect she was guilty of having graduated from a co-educational college, or of having served as the only woman interne in the Fudge Hospital, or of having gone to Germany alone and braved the medical lions in their dens, or of having been the only woman that the great and only Professor Schwetterberger had consented to instruct, and of having, on her return to America, performed difficult gynecological operations, the success of which had interested the entire medical profession—operations that required nerve, coolness, daring, skill, a steady hand and a delicate one; and when they were over she had never been known either to faint or go into hysterics.” She was a very amiable, handsome woman, “surely not past thirty,” and very tastefully and quietly dressed.
Now Helen Brent loved Harold Skidmore, but Harold broke their engagement when she took her doctor’s degree. For Harold held that love meant giving up “all”—and at this point we begin to suspect that this anonymous novel is written by a woman with a mission to prove that also for women, love is not “all.” Helen is willing to compromise by limiting her work to consultations and operations only. “But Harold shuddered to think of his wife coming to him fresh from performing an operation, smelling of ether and carbolic acid.” Helen promised him in addition a perfectly managed house, even though she was not to be the brewer of its household yeast and the baker of its daily bread. But Harold held stubbornly to his former views, and she realised sadly, as she handed him back his ring, that “there is nothing for women to do to help on the solution of this great problem of marriage. The change must come from the men. They must be educated to allow [B286] greater liberty of thought and action in their wives, to seek in them companionship in marriage, not merely physical gratification.”
Harold is badly educated, however, for marriage with the New Woman, and he marries a less granite-like type, who in the end makes a runaway match with a notorious rake, while Dr. Brent climbs high in her profession, and, in her domestic solitude, enjoys “a peaceful reading of the career Dorothea Dix or Mary or Margaret Fuller, of some woman that had nobly lived up to some definite purpose, some great life Incidentally she encounters in her practice among the other characters of the novel, cases that gave her more than sufficient data for a Brieux play, and like most of these self-conscious rebel heroines, she blames man too much. After the Skidmore elopement, however, she receives a letter from Harold, who forecasts that not now, but some day “will come knocking at your door a broken Harold; as a suppliant will he come, hat off, eyes lowered, kneeling in the dust.” Alas, the latter state of Harold is more noxious than the first.
Rudyard Kipling does full justice to the wittiest woman in India, and to the baddest woman anywhere. But to the young girl, and to the mediocre or aspiring female generally he is merciless. It is rather interesting, therefore, to find, in Kate Sheriff of The Naulahka, a girl of 1890, who, if she had dared parental authority and studied medicine instead of nursing merely, would quite likely have made a really human doctor. Rather evidently, too, Kate succumbed less to her parents than to her literary creators.
The life at the training school was a cruel disillusionment. . . . She had hoped to befriend misery, to bring help and healing to pain. . . . What she was actually set to do was to scald babies’ milk cans. . . . The talk of the Arkansas girl who sat on the table and swung her legs while she talked of her flirtations with the young doctors at the ‖ clinics seemed in itself sometimes a final discouragement. The repulsive aspects of nursing did not discourage her, and the surgical operations seemed good to her because they allowed her to help a little.
But Kate and Nick Tarvin re-argue the same old arguments: “Suppose I ask you to give up the centre and meaning of your life. And suppose I offered in exchange—marriage! What man would pay that price for it!” demands Kate. To which Tarvin, grandly: “Oh, look here, a man isn’t an orphan asylum or a home for the friendless. It’s just a general agreement to drink your coffee with him in the morning, and be somewhere around, not too far from the fire, in a not too ugly dress, when he comes home in the evening. It’s an easy contract.”
So Kate goes to India, and establishes herself in the hospital at Rhatore. And when, after an enormous expenditure of energy and moneys, her hospital empties and its patients flee away, the dishonoured Queen calls her to the palace to tell her why: according to the Indian Queen—and the English Kipling—it is because: “Little sister, with us women it is thus and no other way. From all except such as have borne a child the world is hid. How couldst thou understand life that never gave it. . . . To-day the hospital broke from under thee, and the women went out, one by one. And what didst thou say to them? Upon what would a maiden call to bring wavering women back again? There was no child in thy arms. The mother look was not in thy eyes. By what magic wouldst thou speak to women? Thou hast given thy life to the helping of women. Little sister, when wilt thou also be a woman?”
Overwhelmed by the logic of this ever-prisoned Queen, Kate also gives up her career and goes back with Nick Tarvin to Topaz, America.
Dr. Janet of Harley Street, published early in the nineties by Arabella Kenealy, is the story of a thoroughly gentlemanly lady doctor. She has “the heart of a [B287] woman,” “the mind of a man,” and the dress of the prehistoric among advanced females. She was “a middle-aged, genial-looking woman, of a height and figure whose ample proportions she made no effort to disguise by dress.” She wore loosely fitting tweeds—not a dress, but a garb; for the skirt was “divided,” and the “bodice” was fashioned after the pattern of a man’s shooting coat. Her forehead, chin, hands, and nose were large and massive. Her will was firm, and her temper fiery. “Of no particular politics, her social ethics were inherently radical. She gave precedence to none!” On her list of patients she had royalties, and she dared keep them waiting upon “an humble tradesman’s wife” whose babies were ailing. She found a protégé in Phyllis Eve, a seventeen-year-old girl, who had run away an hour after her marriage to the wealthy and vicious Marquis de Richeville, and by one of those happy chances of fiction came into Dr. Janet Doyle’s hospital. Dr. Janet seized upon her as fit material to prove “what the woman-mind,” properly educated, would bring to materialistic science. Herself she proclaims loudly as of “neuter-nature.” “It would not be polite,” she said once, “to point out the masculine massiveness of my head, my height, and breadth, and girth; my large broad hands, my masculine features and voice. I tell you, with but few exceptions, there is not a man in this room as muscular, rational, and energetic—in a word, what you call masculine—as I!”
So, with a divinely feminine logic, she seeks to keep Phyllis virgin, and, at the same time, fights against the development of the girl’s “neuter-nature,” as she puts her protégé’s nose deep into medical books. Dr. Janet desires that Phyllis shall never forget that human nature is not circumscribed by anatomy and chemistry. She wishes Phyllis not to think “as men think.” She hopes that Phyllis will bring to bear upon Nature’s ‖ problems processes and modes of thought entirely “unmasculine.” “As we shall when women have got over their first folly of aping!” she cries, striding strengthfully forth in her divided skirt, shooting coat, shirt front and billycock hat!
Yet one rather admires Dr. Janet, if for no other reason than for the advice she gives that wreck of manhood, the Marquis de Richeville, who finally finds Phyllis, and begins to interfere with the Mephistophelian acridity in her life. For Phyllis, who loves and lives at last, an English divorce is the only way out, and this divorce the Marquis refuses. Whereupon Dr. Janet calls upon him one evening and invites him to commit suicide. Seemingly rather stunned by the proposition, he acts upon it, and Dr. Janet endures a fleetingly feminine bit of repentance before she settles down to enjoy the sight of the happiness she has created. “I am a wicked woman!” she says. “But I thank God that he did it!”
As for that “woman-mind, properly educated,” that Phyllis was to have brought to the rescue of “man-ridden science,” Dr. Janet was doomed again to disappointment. For Phyllis, from the beginning, is so thoroughly feminine, so endowed by Nature herself with infinite capacity for octopus-armed affection and tender suffering, as to shatter all of her patron’s hopes for the indelible impress of Phyllis’s loving woman-mind upon medicine. Again, as in the case of Dr. Breen and Dr. Zay, alas!
By the beginning of the twentieth century the shouting and clamour over “lady doctresses” had died down. Since then women doctors have appeared now and then in fiction, but not so stridently, more humanly, less as personified arguments for or against a question thrust upon a reading world. After all, these early “lady doctresses” are not, perhaps, so inherently funny as the states of mind in which their authors created them.
[The usage makes me think of Mark Twain in “The Awful German Language”, glossing Die Engländerin as “the she-Englishwoman”.]
speaks of the English daisy as “Bellis perennis-syngensia superflua”
[Close. Rhoda really says “Bellis perennis—syngenesia superflua” as two separate terms.]
Born in Boston
[Where does she get this stuff? Rhoda Gale was born in England “near Epsom”. The error is more puzzling because Edna Kenton obviously has the book in front of her, or she would not be able to quote it at such length.]
in real life Miss Jex Blake had preceded her
[Correctly Jex-Blake, hyphenated.]
She is a heroine of 1881, and a homeopathic doctress at that.
[This is more admirable in 1881 than it would be today. Alongside its well-attested offenses against Avogadro’s Number, homeopathy originally involved things like diet and hygiene that have since become part of standard medical practice.]
Dr. Breen is twenty-eight, a mature age for a heroine of the early eighties
[Edith Romney, another heroine of the early eighties, is also twenty-eight.]
But the harsh male allopath insists that she has failed not individually, but solely because she is woman, not man
[One of my pet generalizations is: Women personalize (“It’s my fault”), men universalize (“That’s how men are”).]
Helen Brent, M.D., appeared anonymously in 1892
[The author was Annie Nathan Meyer.]
“a peaceful reading . . . great life work.”
[Errors in this passage are Kenton’s—or her editor’s—not Meyer’s. To top it off, she forgot the close quote at the end, which is what finally compelled me to look up the original. From Helen Brent, M.D.:
She would take down some volume from her shelf and enjoy a peaceful reading of the career of Dorothea Dix, or Mary Somerville, or Margaret Fuller; of some woman that had nobly lived up to some definite purpose, some great life work.
Mary Somerville-note-spelling was the namesake of Oxford’s Somerville College.]