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Mary Gallant (ed.), A Feminist Case-Study in Transnational Migration: The Anne Jemima Clough Journals

Claire Davison-Pegon
p. 195-198
Référence(s) :

Mary Gallant (ed.), A Feminist Case-Study in Transnational Migration: The Anne Jemima Clough Journals. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2009. 246 p. ISBN-13 978-1443804981.

Texte intégral

1In one of the far-reaching questions ingeniously put to “Mary Seton” in the opening chapter of A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf inquires as to where women’s colleges like “Fernham” came from, and how come they are so poorly endowed:

. . . but this college, where we are now sitting, what lies beneath its gallant red brick and the wild unkempt grasses of the garden? What force is behind that plain china off which we dined, and (here it popped out of my mouth before I could stop it) the beef, the custard and the prunes.

2The remarkable archival and editorial work carried out by the editor of the Anne Clough journals can be seen in many ways as part of the answer to that question, for Miss Clough was the Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge from 1880—1892, and very much one of the genteel pioneering spirits behind middle-class women’s education in the latter half of the nineteenth century. What Mary Gallant is offering here is a tremendous insight into the life of Miss Clough before her prestigious nomination to Newnham, giving the reader a remarkable view of a Victorian girlhood, and the formative years and experiences which helped forge her personality and her career. The papers reveal a life that was at once highly normative and quite extraordinary, highlighting both the mid-nineteenth century reformist impetus that made such careers possible, and the everyday lives of so many Victorian women juggling with romantic aspirations, economic instability, a thirst for self-improvement and a fear of unseemliness.

3The story of how the editor Mary Gallant actually came into possession of the papers is itself edifying, for, as she explains in the introduction, the discovery was of the serendipitous sort all humanities researchers dream of, and almost worthy of a neo-Victorian novel in itself. It was during research work into gender roles in late nineteenth-century England that Gallant came across a brief sketch of Anne Jemima Clough. Wanting to know more, she went to Cambridge and delved through the archives, then contacted a relation of Miss Clough’s, and met up with her for tea. And the relation arrived with two carrier bags of documents, and suggested Mary Gallant do with them what she saw fit. The papers consisted of notebooks, letters and diaries that had been tidied away for more than a century. It is to Ms Gallant’s credit that they are now in the library of Newnham College. Both the Clough archive, and this carefully compiled edition of the papers will be of great interest to anyone studying women’s lives and life-writing in the Victorian era, the history of educational reform, the history of reading, family dynamics and the domestic background to the Victorian age or indeed, more tangentially, the life of Arthur Hugh Clough, who happened to be not only Anne’s brother, but also Winston Churchill’s favourite poet.

4The book is divided into six chapters; the first chapter is construed as an introduction giving a biography of Anne Clough from birth through to her years in Newnham, and how she was remembered by former students; a second chapter called “The Charleston Years” draws on a memoir Clough wrote later in life describing her childhood, years of which were spent in the United States; in the third chapter excerpts from her diary portray “the Liverpool years” as Anne reaches early womanhood and settles into the accepted role of a middle-class lady, caring for her family and visiting the poor. Chapter four traces the dawning of a mission, as Anne moves from home visits and helping locally to organising classes and then a local school for underprivileged children. This campaign then develops into a fully-fledged vocation, as chapter five shows, with diary-excerpts and letters recording how Anne founds a school of her own, becoming involved with educational networks across the north of England, and also hones in on the specific needs of middle-class women who were, paradoxically enough from our twenty-first-century perspective, far more overlooked initially in the campaigns to improve women’s education, than were the girls and young women from the working classes. Chapter six is a more narrative conclusion, describing the workings of Anne Clough’s Ambleside School, evoking the sudden U-turn in the family’s fortunes, when an inheritance of railway stock gave Anne Clough the independence to construct her career more freely (a revealing choice in itself), and finally her nomination to Newnham and a brief sketch of her life and contacts thereafter.

5The life of the Clough family as it emerges from these journals and letters proves to be positively fascinating, revealing the contradictory dynamics and perils of Victorian England, and possibly countering many a myth about lives and times then that continue to linger to this day. The family was middle-class, but in that precarious belt of the social hierarchy where ruin and disaster were never far off. The father sought his fortune in cotton trading, but filed for bankruptcy on more than one occasion during his lifetime, and it was during one of his many attempts to conserve the family’s respectability that he took them to America. The Clough children therefore grew up in Charleston, South Virginia, even if they did not put down lasting roots of any sort (one reason being that “Our Father and Mother were too English to let us go to school, which was a pity”, 36) A far more dynamic picture of Victorian entrepreneurial society thus emerges from this portrayal, with James Clough, the father, travelling between Britain and the States, the boys being sent back to England to go to school, the family travelling widely in the southern and northern states, and the mother and daughter keeping house in the local community.

6James Clough’s business projects were no more successful in the States than in Britain, and the family eventually returned to Britain. But financial troubles were soon exacerbated by emotional upheaval as the father and an elder son died, leaving the mother and other children to fend for themselves. Anne’s pedagogical vocation was thus always both a grim economic reality (much to the frustration of her parents, who longed for the day when they could provide sufficiently for her to make teaching unnecessary, and disapproved particular of the prospect of her day-governessing) and a warmly cherished ideal. What emerges eloquently from these journals is indeed Anne Clough’s longing for education, and her passionate and methodical approach to improving her own mind. The meticulous recording of her daily activities shows her getting up early for “prayers, Euclid and devotions,” and then rich and varied readings from literature to politics, from history to travel journals. (Her description of her holiday reading during a month’s vacation in the Lake District is impressive indeed). As Anne becomes more and more committed to her school teaching and administration, so the journal records both her joys with diligent pupils and her weariness at the end of the day, faced with the ingratitude too, that could be a teacher’s lot.

7The records are extremely vivid, and offer superb insights into a variety of domains: theological debates and their repercussions on Anne’s own religious faith, social reform, the marriage market as it appears to someone both romantically inclined and wary of the trivialities of courtship, turmoil in the economy and the banking system, and more generally the restlessness and self-doubts of a woman wanting to order her life carefully and usefully. As she says, page 93, “I desire knowledge—I do not think so much for its own sake but for the sake of exerting my faculties in acquiring it. There is an uneasy restlessness about my mind & it is only by constant exertion and constant employment it can be in any measure appeased & kept quiet”.

8The overall vision that we have of her life and times is made all the clearer by the different types of documents being assembled here: a retrospective memoir, regular diaries, more irregularly kept accounts of recent life, and letters written by various members of her family, the most endearing of which are possibly those from her father. In this case too, another “Victorian myth” is laid to rest, as we witness the warmth and openness between father and daughter, and the very frank honesty with which matters pertaining to health, finances and emotions are tackled.

9One reads these evocations with fascination and often delight, as both an era, and the remarkable life of a single woman, are brought into view. The reader’s task is made all the easier by very detailed notes accompanying each chapter, in which the editor gives background historical and biographical information, cross-references certain entries, recalls the different stages of Anne’s life and highlights links to more recent historical studies. It has to be said, however, that this painstaking editorial endeavour would have benefitted from more thorough copy-editing, for which the publishers must be faulted. The page layout is not always very clear—one moves, for example, from letter extracts to diary entries without always realising. Some shifts are marked by a separating line or an asterisk, others merely by a blank space, and one letter figures twice on pages 178 and 193. The notes, particularly in the earlier chapters, are frequently irregular in their presentation: spacing and punctuation are rather erratic, and a whole series of notes are unsynchronised in chapter 3, which can be rather frustrating. And it has to be said that the title of the work, whether the choice of the editor or the publisher, is rather misleading, and risks the work being overlooked by those students or scholars most likely to appreciate it. For while Anne Clough’s life was certainly far from sedentary in that she lived for some years in the States, before returning to Liverpool, travelling in the Lake District and Wales, moving to London for teacher training and finally settling in Cambridge, this does not necessarily amount to a transnational or migrational life. Moreover the title passes in silence over the most remarkable and visionary aspects of Clough’s life, with the journals recounting the makings of a pioneering figure in the history of women’s education in Britain.

10Beyond these reserves, however, the reader can only be enchanted by the work and grateful to Ms Gallant for having brought to light such a rich documentary source that had been so long overlooked. She thus paves the way for a subsequent generation of students and scholars who can conflate these papers with others of the same era, explore new aspects of Victorian life, economics and education more thoroughly, and trace the selfless determination with which women of the past sought not only to lead lives of their own, but more importantly, to serve generations to come.

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Référence papier

Claire Davison-Pegon, « Mary Gallant (ed.), A Feminist Case-Study in Transnational Migration: The Anne Jemima Clough Journals », Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens, 73 Printemps | 2011, 195-198.

Référence électronique

Claire Davison-Pegon, « Mary Gallant (ed.), A Feminist Case-Study in Transnational Migration: The Anne Jemima Clough Journals », Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens [En ligne], 73 Printemps | 2011, mis en ligne le 05 octobre 2015, consulté le 12 décembre 2017. URL :

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Claire Davison-Pegon

Université de Provence

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Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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