The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

February 4, 2017

February 4, 1932

Mona Caird (May 24, 1854 to February 4, 1932) was a Victorian novelist. An article on this writer in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography summarized the thematic content of her work:

[O]f the five novels she published between 1883 and 1915, The Wing of Azrael (1889), A Romance of the Moors (1891), and The Daughters of Danaus (1894), ... have received the most attention from literary critics. In A Romance of the Moors she tells the story of Dick Coverdale and his lover, Bessie Saunders. The plot's catalyst involves Dick's meeting Mrs Margaret Ellwood, a widowed London artist who has lost her way on the moor, who introduces the two young people to the idea of independence. She advises Dick and Bessie to reject the traditional ideas about marriage and to marry when they are mature and able to act reasonably and responsibly. In the end Mrs Ellwood encourages Bessie to return to London with her where she can 'form other interests; that will bring [her] nearer to Dick, not take [her] farther away from him'. While this novel indicates that women's liberation can sometimes be accomplished peacefully, in The Wing of Azrael Caird has the main character, Viola Sedley, murder her husband Philip to end a violent marriage. She escapes into the wilderness to avoid prosecution and she must reject her long-time lover, Harry Lancaster, to save him from a destructive association with her. The ideas expressed in these two novels, while poles apart in tone and action, reflect the positions on women's lives which Caird espoused in her non-fictional tracts and essays as well.

In 1897 Caird collected essays which previously had been published in the
North American Review, the Westminster Review, the Fortnightly Review, and Nineteenth Century for her book The Morality of Marriage and other Essays on the Status and Destiny of Women. Her general ideas are focused on equality for women in marriage and for equal partnerships in the home which will 'bring us to the end of the patriarchal system' .... which she described as repressive both for men, who were trained to see only 'the woman's-sphere and woman's-responsibility condition of things'... and for women, whose 'best qualities ... will disappear'.... if they keep within such a system. Her essays are frequently derisive and she employs irony to make her points about the repressive order of society which cannot separate wives from other types of property. As a progressive thinker, Caird sought legal reforms in childcare and divorce which would improve women's social positions by removing the stigmas of irresponsibility and ignorance.[sic] ... Her efforts earned her the label of 'feminist' in her lifetime and she has been described by John Sutherland as 'one of the most aggressive of the New Woman novelists' .... She was also active in the temperance movement, and was an outspoken antivivisectionist, publishing two works on the subject in 1894 and 1896.

It is not apparent above but Caird can portray touching domestic scenes. This is from The Wing of Azrael (1889):

Mother and daughter descended the stairs together, followed in a zigzag course by the singular and devoted cat. Viola took her up and placed her on her shoulder, entering the dining-room with the creature curling affectionately about her....

Mona Caird's father was an "an inventor from Midlothian." She married James Alexander Caird, son of Sir James Caird, at Christ Church, London in 1877.The couple lived in Hampstead, London, for the next 44 years. Their only child was born in 1884, and named after her father and her husband's father:  Alison James Caird.

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