Monday, November 5, 2012
Something that is interesting.
Education has played a vital part in Victorian society. From early ages, boys and girls, traditionally, mothers educated them unless the family can afford a governess to teach the children the required, appropriate attire of living in a Victorian lifestyle. Soon as, the boys were old enough, their parents sent to school or a private tutor taught them. Girls were taught either by their mothers or a governess if the women were of the higher class. The parents would then seek for someone who could teach the “genteel accomplishments which were the aims of female education” to their daughters (Peterson, 9).
When George Elliot wrote Middlemarch, a college known as the Anglican Queen's College was open. Girls and women, beginning from age of twelve, could enter the doors as the college become as “a very fine public school” to teach these women how to become governesses (Web). Another college opened later in 1849. Bedford College was established through a woman named Elizabeth Jesser Reid. Mrs. Reid gathered her educated friends to provide opportunities for women’s higher education. Women came from many parts of England with a foundation of a governess’s education. As the college became successful, more degrees were given, and women had earned the privilege to attend a college strictly for them. Among the many women who attended the college, whether it was one year or many years, was George Elliot.
Before Elliot’s time, there were very few occupations a woman could enter if she were single. The first, women could employ themselves as a governess. The role of a governess was considered an honor. Interest of having went “beyond that of entertainment or economic analysis” to the Victorians (1), since the position demanded energy and many hours of spending time with children.
The second, a woman could become a school teacher. As seen in Jane Eyre, young girls were also sent from their homes to an unknown place. Jane, upon her aunt’s insistence, went to Lowood and became one of the teachers. As the novel progressed, Jane found herself as not only a teacher, but she became a governess to a gentleman named Edward Rochester.
In Middlemarch, Rosamond Vincy had been taught at Mrs. Lennon’s School. While Rosamond engaged herself into conversation with Lydgate, she spoke about knowing two men who could sing. She said that within Middlemarch, “you will find” the town to be “tuneless” (Eliot, 159). Rosamond furthered to explain she had studied under the organist at St. Peter’s. Mr. Lydgate answered, “An accomplished woman almost always knows more than we men, though her knowledge is of a different sort” (160). Having women educated, at least in Lydgate’s eyes, is seen as a good thing, and Rosamond can teach him “a thousand things” (16).
Compared to Dorothea, “Rosy,” as she is called by the family, is used for a foil against Dorothea. Dorothea’s mother is not in the novel. When introduced, the younger sister, Celia goes to Dorothea and asks her to divide the jewels their mother left them. Dorothea learned to be accomplished in horseback. Although Dorothea loves riding, she gives it up for what she thinks is a good cause. Rosamond’s education consisted of the arts whereas Dorothea enjoyed learning from books and developing plans to build cottages.
Banerjee, Jacqueline, Ph.D. Contributing Editor, The University of London and Women Students, Victorian Web, http://www.victorianweb.org/history/education/ulondon/3.html
Peterson, M. Jeanne, Victorian Studies, Indiana University Press, Vol. 14, No. 1, The Victorian Woman (Sep., 1970)