Law, gender and print culture in the lifewriting of Eliza Frances Robertson

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Relationships between public discourse, autobiographical writing and gender merge in Eliza Robertson’s legal disputes and imprisonment for debt as a ‘swindler’ in early nineteenth-century England. The newspaper press took a strong interest not only in Robertson’s swindling, business dealings and litigation with her creditors but also in her gender and sexuality, destroying both her commercial and her personal reputation. Effectively silenced by the justice system, Robertson used autobiographical writing to challenge what she perceived to be misrepresentations of herself in public discourse and legal process. Her autobiographical writing reveals tensions between the competing claims of the sociable and the unsocial, as she simultaneously seeks to challenge public representations of her character and also to construct an autonomous and socially detached self. Robertson’s autobiographical acts — her writing and publication of her life in not one but three forms — demonstrate a strong desire to privilege the social dimensions of selfhood. It matters to Robertson what journalists, lawyers, judges and the public at large think of her, and her publications are designed to counter public constructions of her character and her damaged reputation.1 Yet the self that Robertson presents in her autobiographical writing is distinctly unsocial in being determinedly individualistic. Indeed, Robertson’s protestations of innocence are underpinned by her story of self-reliance, abandonment by family and friends (excepting her partner Charlotte Sharpe), and victimization by creditors, lawyers and judges. Robertson exploits the tradition of the ‘scandalous memoir’ to balance these competing interests in her autobiographical writing
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Unsociable Sociability of Women's Lifewriting
EditorsAnne Collett, Louise D'Arcens
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Pages37-53
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780230294868
ISBN (Print)9780230246478
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2010

Fingerprint

France
Law
gender
creditor
lawyer
legal process
discourse
imprisonment
journalist
victimization
reputation
privilege
indebtedness
sexuality
newspaper
nineteenth century
justice

Cite this

Ailwood, S. (2010). Law, gender and print culture in the lifewriting of Eliza Frances Robertson. In A. Collett, & L. D'Arcens (Eds.), The Unsociable Sociability of Women's Lifewriting (pp. 37-53). Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230294868
Ailwood, Sarah. / Law, gender and print culture in the lifewriting of Eliza Frances Robertson. The Unsociable Sociability of Women's Lifewriting. editor / Anne Collett ; Louise D'Arcens. Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. pp. 37-53
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Ailwood, S 2010, Law, gender and print culture in the lifewriting of Eliza Frances Robertson. in A Collett & L D'Arcens (eds), The Unsociable Sociability of Women's Lifewriting. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 37-53. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230294868

Law, gender and print culture in the lifewriting of Eliza Frances Robertson. / Ailwood, Sarah.

The Unsociable Sociability of Women's Lifewriting. ed. / Anne Collett; Louise D'Arcens. Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. p. 37-53.

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapter

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Ailwood S. Law, gender and print culture in the lifewriting of Eliza Frances Robertson. In Collett A, D'Arcens L, editors, The Unsociable Sociability of Women's Lifewriting. Palgrave Macmillan. 2010. p. 37-53 https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230294868