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Women's Literary Networks and Romanticism"A Tribe of Authoresses"$

Andrew O. Winckles and Angela Rehbein

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781786940605

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781786940605.001.0001

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‘Your Fourier’s Failed’

‘Your Fourier’s Failed’

Networks of Affect and Anti-Socialist Meaning in Aurora Leigh

(p.274) Chapter Ten ‘Your Fourier’s Failed’
Women's Literary Networks and Romanticism

Eric Hood

Liverpool University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces the affective forces at work in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s representation of utopian socialist Charles Fourier in Aurora Leigh (1855).  In Barrett Browning’s verse-novel, “Fourier” operates as a sign mediated by networks of affect, referring not only to the political struggles surrounding socialism in the 1850s but also to Barrett Browning’s personal psychoanalytic conflicts against both her father and her own queer desires (particularly, for George Sand).  Thus, “Fourier” functions as a nodal point in Aurora Leigh where a political crisis and the author’s individual psychological needs meet to produce a dismissal of the economic and social alternatives that were available at that historical moment and the forms of queer identity that challenged the heteronormative, liberal order.

Keywords:   Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, socialism, liberalism, Charles Fourier, affect, queer, George Sand, psychoanalysis

The anti-socialist agenda of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh (1855) has received scant attention by scholars. The notable exceptions have been Cora Kaplan’s comparative reading against Charles Kingsley’s Christian Socialist novel, Alton Locke (1850), Deirdre David’s look at EBB’s intellectual conservatism, and Linda Lewis’s study of the political aspects of EBB’s spiritualism – a surprisingly small body of scholarship considering the centrality of the verse-novel’s anti-socialist message. Perhaps others have suspected that such a study could produce only obvious results, but it is my contention that EBB’s relationship with socialism is much more complicated than it might appear on the surface. Although EBB takes aim at several prominent socialists, including Cabet, Comte, Blanc, and Proudhon,1 ‘the principal target for attack … is … Charles Fourier’.2 In fact, Aurora Leigh calls on Fourier by name on five different occasions (II: 483, III: 584, V: 784, VIII: 483, IX: 896), mentions his most prominent disciple, Victor Considerant (III: 585), and references Fourier’s plan for a utopian community (the phalanstery) eight times (III: 108, IV: 756, V: 652, V: 784, V: 1003, VI: 210, VIII: 888, VIII: 961). But if the name of Charles Fourier is made to stand-in for the larger socialist project in Aurora Leigh, it begs the question: why Fourier in particular?

In this study I seek to locate some of the mediated affects that ‘stick’ to ‘Fourier’ in Aurora Leigh.3 Although affect is often considered synonymous with individual emotions, here, affect describes those pre-emergent forces, or intensities, (p.275) that circulate through the body politic as well as the individual body. Affects are described as pre-emergent in that affects circulate beneath more structured forces, like language, ideology and emotions. Affects are understood as intensities because affects motivate those structured forces without necessarily directing them. Affective forces operate at various levels, some at the broad level of cultural possibility, what Raymond Williams discussed as a ‘structure of feeling’, others at the level of the nuclear family, and others, still, at the level of the embodied Subject. Borrowing from the radical interconnectivity of quantum physics, Brian Massumi explains how affects at different levels cross their horizons and interact with one another:

Each individual and collective human level has its peculiar ‘quantum’ mode (various forms of undecidability in logical and signifying systems are joined by emotion on the psychological level, resistance on the political level, the spectre of crisis haunting the capitalist economies, etc.). These modes feed back and feed forward into one another, echoes of each other one and all.4

Here, Massumi recognizes that the affects that underlie our personal feelings, political leanings, and world view rub against each other. In this collisions of affective forces (amplifying, negating, or redirecting other affects), the event emerges, or, in this case, the text.

Since affect is a pre-emergent relation, it must be studied indirectly through the ways it develops and organizes the more visible, higher-ordered systems. Therefore, in order to analyze the affective forces that underlie EBB’s Aurora Leigh, I will focus on the system of meanings that emerges through the sign of ‘Fourier’. The French philosopher, Charles Fourier (1772–1837), was a Romantic-era socialist whose plan for radial utopian communities based on the variety of human passions became influential during the 1840s. Much has been written about the historical Fourier and his ideas, but my interests, here, are directed more towards following the various meanings assigned to his name in the text of Aurora Leigh. Here, ‘Fourier’ becomes a point of convergence for a broad network of meaning that crosses over the horizons of the social, familial, and personal. I will show that ‘Fourier’ refers to [1] the menace of patriarchal domination and the loss of personal liberty; [2] the political defeat of utopian socialism, after 1848; [3] the threat of a revitalized socialist movement under the veil of free love; and [4] the unsanctioned erotic (p.276) desires of the author. At each point in the text, one of these affected meanings may become dominant, but I will contend that all four are always present throughout. Each of these meanings has a different point of origin, or level, within the ‘worlding refrains’ of EBB’s life and thought.5 The second and third meanings (although contradictory) coexisted in the Whig community in which was EBB was immersed, while the first and fourth meanings develop from EBB’s familial experience and psycho-sexual life. As Massumi suggests with his metaphor barrowed from quantum theory, to grasp the affective forces at work in EBB’s feelings about socialism, it is necessary to study the affective interactions across levels, to examine both the public connotations surrounding ‘Fourier’ and those meanings that are private to the author. Unpacking ‘Fourier’ reveals the presence of an affective network constructed out of hope and fear, shame and desire, a network that maps the dangers and insufficiencies of socialism as EBB lived them. Furthermore, the branching of this paradoxical network of meanings makes visible liberalism’s ideological power to block potentially radical responses by channeling affective forces into normalized bourgeois identities, particularly hetero-monogamous sexual identities. By reading ‘Fourier’, as a conjuncture of affective forces operating across different levels, a clearer understanding emerges of the complexities that directed the production of Aurora Leigh, one that begins to explain why EBB – who recognized the horrors of capitalist exploitation – not only rejected socialism as a potential solution but why she focused her attacks on the theories of Charles Fourier.

Fourier as Oppression

Although Aurora Leigh is an anti-socialist text, it should be noted that the need for its anti-socialist message emerges out of a general cultural anxiety concerning capitalism, an affective force that pervaded the world-system in the mid-nineteenth century. The radical economic, political, and social instabilities that attended the modern world-system were not only visible – they were lived. The English credit bubble that fueled massive railroad expansion during the 1840s burst in 1847, sparking a global financial panic that wiped out fortunes and lasted through the mid-1850s. Then, in February of 1848, a workers’ revolt in Paris inspired a revolutionary spirit that swept through much of Europe and Latin America. Meanwhile, the relocation of low-wage workers to cities, already underway for a century, continued to accelerate to meet the needs of an expanding industrial sector. Old money, governments, and ways of life were vanishing. The affective force that arose out of and reinforced (p.277) these instabilities circulated throughout the capitalist world-system. Raymond Williams refers to communal affects like these as ‘structures of feeling’, noting the importance of not exploring an age’s ideologies but how ‘meanings and values … are actively lived and felt’.6

Like all affective forces, this broad dissatisfaction with things-as-they-were was, itself, undirected and full of potentialities, translatable into fear and hope. As Emanuel Wallerstein explains, all three of the ideological attempts to channel this affective force recognized change as normal.7 If the radical democrats and socialists of the Left wanted to sweep away the old institutions and prejudices, the conservatives on the Right only argued that the pace of such changes should always be slower, tempered, often even reversed. Reformist liberalism took the center, seeking to ‘control the pace of change so that it occurred at what they considered an optimal speed’ (p. 6).

When working through the political messaging of this period, then, it is important to realize that nearly every author (whether of the Left, Right, or center) was responding to this affective force through social critique. But, while disillusionment was in the air, the remedies proposed by Carlyle, Marx, and Mill remained very different. If we conflate calls for social change with Leftist politics, the pointedness of EBB’s early reform poetry, like ‘The Cry of the Children’ (1844), may make her appear more radical than she actually was. There is, after all, a recognition in the last stanzas of ‘The Cry of the Children’, of the overwhelming systemic forces involved in the practice of child labor that might have caused EBB to feel that calls for reform and volunteerism were impotent in the face of market pressures. In other words (and in another world), ‘The Cry of the Children’ might have been EBB’s first steps towards a more Leftist politics, a path along which she would have found support in her avid reading of Percy Shelley, a journey that might have culminated with a different, less cynical, Aurora Leigh. By marking EBB’s challenge to the status quo as a response to an underlying affective force that could be channeled into positions across the political spectrum, the confusion over EBB’s politics can be made productive, pointing to ‘the virtual co-presence of potentials’8 in her responses to the exploitation of labor. The study of affects no longer takes her political feelings as fully consistent but redirects the question, asking: what are some of the affective collisions that channeled EBB away from other positions and toward the tendencies of reform-minded liberalism?

(p.278) Kaplan explains that there, indeed, was a gap between what EBB thought of herself as a supporter of the people and how she reacted to the political turmoil she witnessed:

She saw herself as a ‘democrat’, but her response to the failure of the 1848 revolutions suggests that this veneer of democracy was easily scratched. The years between ’48 and ’56 had left her deeply cynical about the ability of the working classes to transform themselves into good bourgeois republicans . … The picture of natural depravity set against natural virtue in Aurora Leigh confirms this disillusionment.9

Her comfortably bourgeois childhood, her disparate reading, and her limited experience of the outside world, all contributed to overturning EBB’s expressions of democracy. However, the complexity of the affective forces at work on her political feelings goes even deeper.

We can begin by noting that EBB’s attitudes about socialism appear captured by the tendencies of liberal ideology. The attacks are predictable: socialism is both an impossibility and an affront to individual liberty. Amid the chaos of the spring of 1848, she wrote to her sister, Henrietta, lamenting that France was now ‘inextricably bound up with Communists’:10

[T]hat wonderful Paris of mine where men see half-truths – so high and pure that they are not seen at all by men in general – but still half-truths, and as such dangerous or impossible to render into practice. Whatever, for instance, touches upon property is a wrong, and whatever tends to the production of social equality is absurd and iniquitous, and oppressive in its ultimate ends. Every man should have the right of climbing – but to say that every man should equally climb, because the right is equal, is a wrong against the strong and industrious (p. 81).

Then, another letter, later that spring:

In France there is every noble aspiration, there are men of splendid talents and virtues – but the ideas go up like rockets, and, in the midst of our acclamation and admiration, drop down in ashes. Little is consequent and consistent, and still less practically possible. Legislation, for the sake of one class, (and that class the most unintelligent and uncultivated) (p.279) must be bad; and government controlled by mobs and sticks must be unwise. If they went on in their present way of governing, there would be an end of – not only trade and peace, but art and literature . … My idea of a republic is for every born man in it to have room for his faculties – which is perfectly different from swamping individuality in a mob (p. 83).

From 1850 she writes, ‘If Fourierism could be realized (which it surely cannot) out of a dream, the destinies of our race would shrivel up under the unnatural heat, and human nature would, in my mind, be desecrated and dishonored . … Genius is always individual’.11 Across these letters we read of the impracticality of economic alternatives and the sanctity of bourgeois individuality. EBB had been repeating these tropes for years, which she recycled again in Aurora Leigh as ‘Fourier’s void’ (IX: 868) and the ‘poet’s individualism’ (II: 478, VIII: 429).

Although her commitments were centrist, recent scholarship has attempted to cast EBB’s politics in a radical light, focusing on the aspects of her work that appear proto-feminist. Lana Dalley, for example, finds in Aurora Leigh ‘a new feminist economic discourse’ (‘Least’, p. 527) that reconciled the labor of the domestic sphere with the economic discourse surrounding the marketplace (pp. 528–9), emphasizing the poem’s ‘revolutionary potential’ (p. 539). While not without merit, these analyses are more attuned to the nascent origins of contemporary gender politics than the liberal class politics that informed much of EBB’s thinking. Even more, they gloss over the comfort with which EBB existed inside the affective network of liberal reformers. Simon Avery points out that the Barretts were not disinterested but ‘fervent supporter[s] of the Whigs, the party of opposition whose political philosophy had at its heart a fundamental concern with the legal, civil, and religious rights of the individual’.12 The affective community of Whigs that EBB entered through her father’s library and by the family’s political activity (including campaigning locally for the Reform Bill) directed her protests, encouraging her to relate to the personal dimensions of politics and interrupting her analyses short of grappling with the systemic forces at work. In short, she was ideologically joined to the network of reformers, aligned with the manufacturing interests of the middle-class. Accordingly, she was fearful of revolution, which she often equated with mob violence (pp. 409–10).

Despite her wealth of reading, her liberal-minded focus on personal liberty meant her politics remained arrested at the level of judgments concerning (p.280) individual morality. In the words of her biographer, Margaret Forster, her opinions were ‘fine sounding political generalizations’ that ‘did not always properly connect cause and effect. She tended to see effects and assume both cause and cure’ (p. 219). In fact, her bookishness may have been an obstacle to viewing the larger social structure. Deirdre David suggests that her dependence on reading about social issues as a substitute for worldly experience drove her toward conservatism,13 and Dalley demonstrates that she echoed the liberal J. S. Mill (Dalley, p. 529, 536) just as Kaplan points to the overbearing influence of the more conservative Thomas Carlyle (p. 100). There can be no denying something of Mill in EBB’s logic and Carlyle in her tone, but there is also an emotional excess to EBB’s anti-socialist feelings, an obsessive circulation and violence, that these analyses do not answer.

Consider, in another letter from 1850 written to her mentor, Mary Russell Mitford:

I love liberty so much that I hate Socialism. I hold it to be the most desecrating and dishonoring to Humanity, of all creeds. I would rather … live under the absolutism of Nicolas of Russia, than in a Fourier-Machine, with my individuality sucked out of me by a social air pump.14

There is, of course, the repetition of ‘desecrate and dishonor’, of ‘the human’ and ‘individuality’, throughout all the letters, but there is an added brutality in this response (‘sucked out of me by a[n] … air pump’) that also indicates an affective intensity existing beyond the standard Whiggish objections channeling her fear.

The question, thus, shifts from where do EBB’s political tropes originate to where do these attacks against Fourier and socialism draw this additional affective intensity? Some answers might be found in a pair of letters. In the first, written to a frustrated Robert Browning before they married, she makes a connection between the absolutism of the State and her father’s controlling behavior, which she judged to be symptomatic of the greater tyranny of State power. ‘The evil is in the system’, she writes, ‘and he [her father] simply takes it as his duty to rule … like the kings of Christendom, by divine right’.15 (p.281) The second letter, written after her elopement, and amidst the turmoil of 1848, draws ‘communism’ into this established cluster of ‘father’, ‘tyranny’, and ‘absolutism’. EBB writes:

As to communism, surely the practical part of that, the only not dangerous part, is attainable simply by consent of individuals … But make a government-scheme of even so much, and you seem to trench on the individual liberty. All such patriarchal planning in a government issues naturally into absolutism.

(Mitford, III: p. 235)

This linking of communism to ‘patriarchal planning’ and ‘absolutism’ is telling. During the year and half between these two letters, EBB had eloped with Robert Browning and fled the country to escape the house of her domineering father who refused to allow any of his daughters to marry. By all accounts this act of rebellion against her father was terribly difficult for her. Since her mother’s death, she had become remarkably close to her father, locked in what looks like codependency: EBB appeared to be suffering from depression and anorexia nervosa, her father from insatiable grief.16 The first letter to Robert Browning provides some indication that she was already preparing for the separation from her father by constructing a narrative that at once justified her leaving and mitigated her father’s responsibility for her distress by redefining the domestic situation in political terms. But the second letter reveals the emotional toll of the actual break. Indeed, when friends saw EBB in France they were startled by the poor condition of her health. Physically and emotionally broken, a friend wrote of EBB: she is ‘nervous, frightened, ashamed, agitated, happy, miserable’, and, ‘in a most feeble state’ (qtd., p. 107). Her father had disinherited her, and then, two miscarriages followed. It seems fair to assume that, on one hand, she was angry with her father for his cruelty, and, on the other, she was angry with herself for her own.17

Meanwhile, already committed to linking her familial hardships to political struggle, the rebellion in Paris likely hit too close to home. Her switch in the letters from the patriarchal power of ‘kings’ to that of ‘communists’ found support in the Whig politics she had already adopted, but what creeps into her letters by 1850 is a violent emotional energy that would lead to the attacks on socialism in Aurora Leigh. Thus, ‘Fourier’ appears to have been captured by affective forces in EBB’s life that were contradictory yet overlapping. An affective force at the geo-cultural level of protest against things-as-they-were (p.282) was directed towards a concern for individual expression and morality thought to be incommensurate with socialism by affective tendencies circulating within Whig networks. Furthermore, affective forces that operated at the level of EBB’s family added an emotional intensity to EBB’s suspicion of revolution. Fourier’s association to socialism, which was linked in the Whig imagination with state paternalism, became a reminder of her overbearing father’s oppressive governance, while the 1848 insurrection seemed to be a restaging of her guilt-ridden challenge to the law-of-the-father.

Fourier as Failure

Thus, an uncanny conjuncture in EBB’s personal history and the history of capitalism reveals, in part, the affective forces mediating the critique of socialism in Aurora Leigh and directing it towards experiencing socialism, even as an idea, as oppressive. But additional affective forces push ‘Fourier’s’ network of meanings to branch in other directions, as well. One of these was the broad sense of the Left’s inefficacy. This affecting and affected narrative emerged out the fall of the French Jacobin government in 1794, and by mid-century, following the disastrous uprisings of 1848, this ‘worlding refrain’ gained a new currency. Indeed, during the 1850s liberal thinkers felt that the threat of socialist movements was generally past. In the words of an American newspaper, in 1854, ‘History has pronounced Socialism, as Communism, a gigantic failure’.18 Moreover, if socialism’s moment was thought to have already passed by the 1850s, it might have been thought even further removed for Fourierism.

From the beginning, Fourier’s writings were hardly the material from which one would expect a post-Enlightenment revolutionary movement to spring. Perhaps more in tune with Dada or Surrealist poetics, which he preceded by nearly a century, Fourier’s writing might generously be called anti-rationalist. To those less sympathetic, however, Fourier was nothing short of mad. He imagined wild systems for processes as mundane as the proper distribution of melons. He classified adultery into a progressive forty-nine level ‘Hierarchy of Cuckoldom’.19 He predicted that the oceans would one day be transformed into ‘a sort of lemonade’ (p. 405). Although Friedrich Engels considered Fourier a brilliant satirist,20 and Roland Barthes read him as a designed practitioner (p.283) of a ‘baroque semantics’,21 Fourier’s most accomplished biographer, Jonathan Beecher, remarked that he ‘would not care to argue that the man was entirely sane’.22 For Fourier’s contemporaries, the weirdness of his ‘speculations … inevitably became an embarrassment to his enthusiasts’.23

Fourier’s ideas remained little more than a subject of curiosity during his lifetime, but, after his death, his followers transformed his theories by stripping away their ‘philosophical, libidinal, and cosmological extravagances’ into a movement of considerable political force (p. 6). The 1840s saw a resurgence of Fourierism in America, Russia, and France. During the 1848 uprising in Paris, Fourierists, including Victor Considerant, were a highly visible faction of the Left coalition. Meanwhile Fourierism found support among rural working poor, and plans were made to establish phalansteries across the French countryside.

When the revolution turned violent in June of 1848, however, the pacifism of the Fourierists made them irrelevant to the realities on the ground.24 Neo-Jacobin elements advanced the revolution by staging violent clashes in the street, leaving Fourierism not so-much rejected as essentially ‘bypassed’:

If one scene of June 1848 best captured this impotence, it was [the American] Garth Wilkinson sitting in bed one night plodding through an obtuse exposition of Fourier’s law of the series while fighting raged between Parisian insurgents and the National Guard in the streets below. Fourierism remained vital only as long as class tensions and political positions could be bridged by compromise that blended socialist and capitalist forms in roughly equal parts. This proved impossible in 1848, and though few realized it, the utopian socialist moment in France had been irretrievably lost. (p. 339)

By the time Aurora Leigh was completed, the socialism of Charles Fourier felt ‘irretrievably lost’, not only in France, but throughout the capitalist world-system. Of the numerous Fourierist communities founded in America, only the North American Phalanx was still operating. Meanwhile in England, Fourierism had largely been assimilated into the Christian Socialist movement (p. 312).

It is with these recent defeats in mind that EBB’s ideal reader first encounters Aurora’s declaration to Romney in book two: ‘your Fourier’s failed’ (483). Seen (p.284) from the repetition of the same phrase in book eight (434), the occurrence in book two can take on a prophetic quality, but this judgment is misleading, since even in the initial utterance Aurora is already speaking in the past tense: ‘your [Fourier has] failed’. At this point in the narrative Romney has hardly even started in his utopian socialist enterprise before Aurora dismisses his work. The reason, of course, is that Aurora is making statement of fact and not a prediction. ‘Fourier’ in this sense is a marker of Romney’s naiveté, which he will have to overcome before he can be a suitable partner for Aurora. Thus, the narrative simply plays out what Aurora has felt to be true all along: Romney is a well-intended, but meddling, fool.

In Aurora Leigh, socialism is felt to be a callow enterprise that miscalculates the potential of ‘the most unintelligent and uncultivated’ classes (Browning, Sister, p. 83). In an early scene that seems intended to convey the aristocratic insensitivity of Aurora’s aunt, it is said of Romney:

  •                                           the sun of youth
  • Has shone too straight upon his brain, I know,
  • And fevered him with dreams of doing good
  • To good-for-nothing people. (II: 243–6)

Aurora’s interruption at this moment appears to mark a disapproval of her aunt’s conservative politics, but later, when Aurora sardonically remarks, ‘Now may the good God pardon all good men’ (IV: 506) the political difference between these two women verges on collapse. Aurora, at least in part, shares her aunt’s negative assessment of the working-class, and echoes Edmund Burke’s judgment of the ‘swinish multitude’, proclaiming, ‘it takes a high-souled man, / To move the masses, even to a cleaner sty’ (II: 480–1). Romney later repeats this sentiment word for word (VIII: 431–2), to which he adds a biblical comparison of the poor he tried to assist with the demon-possessed herd of swine:

  •                             Sty or no sty, to contrive
  • The swine’s propulsion toward the precipice,
  • Proved easy and plain. I subtly organized
  • And ordered, built the cards up higher and higher,
  • Till, someone breathing all fell flat again. (VIII: 446–50)

Romney’s experience compels him, by the end, to admit that his Fourierism, against ‘the men and women of disordered lives’ (VIII: 889), amounted to nothing more than ‘unreal remedies’ (VIII: 804), and Aurora gently excuses him, for ‘He mistook the world’ (IX: 709).

By the 1850s the voices of liberalism had kindly dismissed Louis Blanc, another Parisian socialist from 1848, in much the same way: ‘History has (p.285) pronounced Socialism, as Communism, a gigantic failure – still it will hereafter pronounce it a generous failure’ (‘Letters’, p. 2., emphasis added). In Aurora Leigh, Romney is similarly ‘a generous failure’, sharing with Louis Blanc the tragic combination of being ‘heroic, even if mistaken’ (p. 2). What is important for readers is to recognize that Aurora Leigh never asks them to take the threat of socialism seriously. By labeling Romney’s program as Fourierist, EBB writes socialism off as nothing more than impotent fancy.

Fourier as Free Love

Although EBB’s struggle against her father’s enactments of patriarchal oppression and the historical tragedies of 1848 provide some explanation for the attitudes surrounding socialism in Aurora Leigh, both leave one question still unanswered: why ‘Fourier’? I mean, why Fourier in particular? When we consider that on many economic and social issues Fourier’s philosophy was more tolerable to the Liberal, or Whig, position than the other prominent Socialists, he seems like a curious choice. Fourier did not stand opposed to private property or wealth, and his system was centrally concerned with the free development of the individual. Even the liberal-minded J. S. Mill admired much in Fourier’s teaching.25 As Michael Levin notes, ‘[o]ne might suggest that Fourier was Mill’s favorite socialist because he was the least socialist among them’ (p. 80, n. 13).

So then why Fourier instead of other discredited socialists, like Louis Blanc or Proudhon – who get only scant attention in the text? We know, for example, that in a letter written to Mitford dated 15 March 1853, EBB confides that she has been busy reading Proudhon while working on a ‘new poem’, which was Aurora Leigh (III: p. 381). If EBB had been searching for a socialist foil for her verse-novel, why did she feel that ‘Fourier’ carried an affective force that ‘Proudhon’ did not? After all, Proudhon was not only associated with the failure of 1848 but he was still actively agitating while the verse-novel was written.

The answer, it appears, is that Proudhon did not have the phalanstery. Any of the radicals of 1848 could have stood in for the common claim that socialism was an historic failure, but Charles Fourier, and his doctrines, were uniquely positioned to act as symbols of socialism’s sexual immorality, a charge that widely circulated by the mid-1850s. Thus, ‘Fourier’ became part of a peculiar cultural contradiction, an affectively charged sign with a network of meanings that referred, at once, to the pitiful socialist movements vanquished in 1848 and to the new threat rising against bourgeois order. In the same year Aurora Leigh was published, an article appeared in the liberal, reform-minded New (p.286) York Daily Times, warning the public against complacency following the defeat of the socialist movements after 1848:

The impression has been created that the danger is past – that the advocacy of Socialism, and especially of those aspects of it which involve the overthrow of the Marriage institution, have been abandoned – and that there can be no occasion for any further anxiety concerning its progress. This, in our judgment, is a very great mistake.26

The liberal paradox concerning socialism after 1848 was that although socialism was proven to be a political failure, it still harbored the potential for ‘the overthrow of the marriage institution’, a construction that at once preserved the ideological claim of socialism’s inefficacy as an economic alternative while it kept alive the specter of a subversive cultural revolution from the Left. Indeed, the article’s main thrust is to show that, ‘[t]he championship of Socialism, or universal Libertinism and Adultery, … is but another name for the same thing’ (p. 2). According to this narrative, after socialism was defeated and discredited, it was driven underground, where it hatched a conspiracy to swell its ranks using the seductions of ‘Free Love’:

Their assaults upon the system compelled a change of tactics; Socialism ceased to be openly advocated by its devotees, through their accustomed channels. Argument was ostensibly abandoned . … [C]overt modes of advocacy have been substituted for open argument, and has served a double purpose – diverting public attention to the object sought, and enlisting public sympathy for the evils attributed to the Christian system of society, and thus preparing the way for the remedies they have in view. (p. 2)

Joined in this socialist plot are the advocacy of ‘Free Love’, ‘Spiritualism’, and the ‘Women’s Rights movements’ (p. 2). The radical Left had been accused of advocating free love as early as the 1790s, but, in the wake of 1848, it is the teachings of Charles Fourier that come to be seen as the foundation of this resurgent socialist threat.

‘Fourier’, the report charges, ‘teaches the “higher harmonies” of loving groups’, and, as scandalous as these claims of a Fourierist philosophy advocating group-sex sound, they are nonetheless correct (p. 2). Fourier’s theory of human nature included the ‘butterfly passion’, or the love of variety, which asserted (p.287) that men and women have a natural proclivity to flit from one activity to the next, or among sexual partners. The practice of marriage was, therefore, to be abolished.

A close reading reveals that the threat of Fourierist free love is a considerable obstacle in Aurora Leigh. For, while Romney’s socialism is generally considered quaint, his free love practices represent an honest danger to Aurora’s virtue. For example, when Aurora refuses to marry Romney, she rejects him on the grounds that she refuses to live like a mistress:

  •      Sir, you were married long ago.
  • You have a wife already whom you love
  • Your social history.

(II: 408–10)

Despite the nature of the charge, these lines read rather ambiguously. Romney’s prior marriage is only metaphoric, and Aurora seems only to be suggesting that she would be a neglected spouse. But then she continues:

  •                               Bless you both, I say.
  • For my part, I am scarcely meek enough
  • To be the handmaiden to a lawful spouse.
  • Do I look like a Hagar, you think?

(II: 410–3)

Aurora’s rebuff is becoming more and more accusatory as it progresses. The repetition of this claim to a ‘mistress’ acquires a gravity that begins to challenge its status as only a metaphor. Even more, the comparison to Hagar (the Biblical Abraham’s servant and mistress) joins together the dual foundation of Fourier’s system – menial labor and polyamorous sexuality – at the site of the female body, especially in light of Romney’s plan to set up a phalanstery with Aurora as his helpmate. The charge reaches its apex in the final set of wordplays:

  • You treat marriage too much like, at least,
  • A chief apostle: you would bear with you
  • A wife … a sister … shall we speak it out?
  • A sister of charity.

(II: 408–17)

This last cluster not only summarizes the previous point but extends it. Carrying over the use of Biblical allusions, the Apostle Peter’s endorsement of a celibate marriage provides an echo of the theme of the neglected spouse found in lines 408–10. But the phrase ‘A wife … a sister’ goes beyond providing emphasis and generates a double entendre, suggesting something at once both polygamous (recalling the comparison to Hagar) and incestuous. Yet, despite its repetitions the passage has been building to the final, nearly unspeakable, (p.288) charge. Romney would have Aurora as a ‘sister of charity’, a phrase which could refer to either a nun (a woman emptied of female sexuality) or a prostitute (female sexuality’s lurid embodiment).

The peril of lascivious sexuality is further developed when Howe’s party descends into what Kaplan calls ‘a fully pornographic vision’ of Lady Waldemar at work in Romney’s phalanstery (p. 94). The immodest scene is related by a student who has been arguing against the ‘prejudice of sex / And marriage-law’ (V: 705–6). Against this affront to Christian decency, Sir Blaise seems to speak for the author when he declares Romney’s scheme, ‘a general concubinage expressed / In a universal pruriency’ (V: 726–7). For Kaplan, the raunchy episode is one ‘where corrupt sensuality is vividly evoked as a byproduct of utopian socialism’ (pp. 94–5).

Finally, by book eight, Romney confesses outright to what has happened inside his phalanstery. Romney is one of those ‘socialistic troublers of close bonds’ (VIII: 901), and admits,

  •    I had my windows broken once or twice
  •    By liberal peasants naturally incensed
  •    At such a vexer of Arcadian peace,
  • Who would not let men call their wives their own.

(VIII: 917–20)

The working-class, who in Aurora Leigh are strikingly prone to mob violence, restore their rural patriarchy by defending traditional sexual relations, rebuffing the perversity of Romney’s free love system.

David labels Romney a Christian socialist (p. 120), and Lewis rejects the idea that Romney followed Fourier’s system of free love, citing that ‘he proposes traditional marriage to both Aurora and Marian’ (p. 120). However, there is ample reason to question to what extent any of the marriage proposals, or domestic situations, in the verse-novel qualify as ‘traditional’. Furthermore, the suggestion that Fourierism might exist apart from free love, as though free love was a simple component of Fourier’s socialism that one might choose to either follow or reject, is misleading. Unlike Fourier’s bizarre cosmology, which his disciples often ignored or suppressed, the practice of free love was inextricably bound up with daily life in the phalanstery, both in the minds of Fourierists and in the broader social discourse. Fourierism without free love might only be intelligible as Owenism, and it is telling that Lewis understands these movements to be ‘very similar’ (p. 117). I have been arguing, however, that the choice of Fourier over Robert Owen as the poem’s most prominent socialist foil was neither an accident nor an oversight, and that the moral threat of free love is one of the central concerns in the Aurora–Romney love plot.

(p.289) Fourier as Desire

Yet admittedly, Aurora Leigh resolves the sexual crisis posed by Romney’s Fourierism in marriage, a solution that is all the more enigmatic considering the author’s opinion of the institution. For, although EBB participated (for what appear to be very personal reasons) in the anti-socialist discourse of her day, she was not a defender of traditional marriages. In fact, her understanding of sexuality in many ways mirrored Fourier’s. Like Fourier, she rejected the conventional idea that love was the joining of complements, of two separate yet incomplete powers of male and female. For example, Aurora chastises Romney for thinking as much when she says,

  • You misconceive the question like a man,
  • Who sees a woman as the complement
  • Of his sex merely. You forget too much
  • That every creature, female as the male,
  • Stands single in responsible act and thought
  • As also in birth and death.

(II: 434–9)

And also like Fourier, she found the economic and contractual nature of marriage distasteful. She wrote in a letter, ‘I never could make out how some women, mothers and daughters, could talk of [marriage] as of setting up a trade’.27 The particulars of each marriage were of no concern; in her view, the entire system of marriage produced inequality. In her diary, dated 1 September 1831, she records a nightmare that she was married and frantic to have the bond dissolved (p. 151). ‘I never will marry’, she declares; marriage is ‘a foolish thing’.28 Even up until a few months before she married Robert Browning, she reasserted her wish to remain single in a letter to Mitford (pp. 150–1). Throughout her life, EBB rejected ‘Marriage in the abstract’29 and was at least rationally in agreement with the Fourierist principle that marriage robbed women of their independence, a point she makes repeatedly throughout Aurora Leigh, as Dalley has already shown.

(p.290) But even laying her intellectual objections aside, EBB was also subject to intense desires that likely contributed to her aversion to marriage. Despite layers of psychological repression, EBB’s writings suggest that she experienced embodied affective forces with potentialities that extended far beyond the confines of heteronormal marriage, sexual desires that might have attracted her to the amorous freedoms offered by Fourier’s phalansteries. For example, in what looks to be a preparation for her elopement with Robert Browning, she developed a guilt-ridden taste for the release of erotic fiction (Dally, p. 81). Under the barest cover of humor, she expressed her unspeakable passions in missives to Mitford. In one such letter she jokes as if she were a young woman still coming to grips with her sexual maturity, ‘How astonished [father] would be if I had [Richard] Horne and Robert Browning upstairs in my bedroom!’ (p. 81). She was thirty-six.

Then there was George Sand. EBB so obsessed over Sand that she drove Robert to jealousy (p. 152). The attraction was complicated. On the one hand, it was literary. She vigorously defended Sand’s writing against the opinions of Mitford and Richard Hengist Horne, calling Sand ‘A true woman of genius’ (Mitford, II: p. 85) and placing Sand in the ‘triumvirate’ of great French writers along with Balzac and Hugo.30 If in February of 1844, EBB was only willing to go so far as to proclaim Sand, ‘the greatest female genius the world ever saw – at least since it saw Sappho’ (Correspondence, VIII: p. 211), by March of the same year she had adjusted her opinion even more in Sand’s favor: ‘George Sand’, she wrote to Mitford, ‘is the greatest female poet the world ever saw. The French language grows divine as she speaks it’ (II: p. 392, emphasis added). The talk of divinity, here, may be misleading, for what EBB noticed in Sand was her earthy ‘aggrandizement of the physical aspect of passion’ (II: p. 85). Sand was ‘naughty’ (II: p. 195), ‘shameless’, ‘a fallen angel’ (II: p. 85). And of Sand’s ‘naughty books’ (II: p. 86), the one that impressed EBB most deeply was Lélia (Dally, p. 81). In a confession that playfully reveals her autoerotic impulse, EBB admits to Mitford that Lélia,

made me blush in my solitude to the ends of my fingers – blush three blushes in one … For Her [sic] who [could] be so shameless – for her sex, whose purity she so disgraced – [and] for myself in particular, who [could] hold such a book for five minutes in one hand while a coal-fire burnt within reach of the other. (II: p. 93)

The strength of the affective force behind EBB’s emotional response is indicated by the severity of her swings between desire and shame. As one hand held the (p.291) book, the other was left perilously to decide between the flames of modesty and satisfaction. Peter Dally observes that where EBB says she felt the desire to burn certain books, ‘what she was surely saying was that she felt burned by them’ (p. 81). Later, she denied ever reading Lélia, ‘for all its eloquence’ (Mitford, II: p. 462.), citing Sand’s ‘disgusting tendency … towards representing the passion of love under its physical aspect’ (p. 462). Yet, she returned to Sand – whose Christian name was Aurore – for inspiration time and time again, including, as the name suggests, as a model for the character of Aurora Leigh.31

Perhaps the attraction was never anything more than that of a fan to her literary idol, but this should not cause us to dismiss the erotic layers these relations often express. Kaplan notes that EBB was both ‘fascinated and repelled by the androgyny involved in Sand’s masculine charade’ (p. 88). She dedicated two sonnets to Sand in her 1844 Poems: one titled ‘a recognition’, the other ‘a desire’. Her first attempt to see Sand in Paris had been frustrated, so when EBB got a second chance, she would not be denied; ‘I won’t die … without seeing George Sand’, she scolded Robert (Mitford, III: p. 347). Against the dangerous cold, and Robert’s wishes, EBB made the trip, respirator in tow (Browning and Kenyon, II: p. 55). Her visits with Sand must have been worthy of her fantasies. To Robert’s disgust, Sand received them in a room with a bed where she entertained a company of young men – ‘a society of the ragged Red diluted with the lower theatrical’ (Mitford, III: p. 353). ‘What a strange, wild wonderful woman’ (p. 340), EBB remarked; ‘I do not love her, but I felt the burning soul through all that quietness’ (Browning and Kenyon, II: p. 57). She twice kissed Sand on the lips on her first visit (Mitford, III: p. 349), a thrill that Forster insists ‘almost made her faint’.32

Superadded to the affair was Sand’s association with Fourierist circles.33 Fourierism and the ‘system of free love’ allowed for all these expressions of desire. Whether in same-sex or opposite-sex partnerships, whether participating in coupling or group intimacy, Fourier’s law of ‘passional attraction’ asserted that social harmony could only be achieved through the unfettered expression of desire. Anticipating Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents (1929), Fourier posited that the evils of ‘civilization’ – Fourier’s term for modern society – were chiefly the result of repressed sexual appetites. In a manuscript that was suppressed by Fourier’s disciples, but is now seen as an iconic expression of Fourier’s rich psychological theory, Fourier relates the tale of Madame (p.292) Strogonoff, a Russian princess who sadistically tortured a beautiful female slave with pins. He asks,

What was the motive for her cruel behavior? Was it jealousy? No, it was lesbianism. Madame Strogonoff was an unconscious lesbian; she was actually inclined to love the beautiful slave whom she tortured. If someone had made Madame Strogonoff aware of her true feelings and reconciled her victim, they might have become passionate lovers. But remaining unaware of her lesbian impulse, the princess was overcome by a counterpassion, a subversive tendency. She persecuted the person who should have been the object of her pleasure. (p. 353)

Strogonoff’s malice was not caused by her same-sex desire, but by her prejudicial restraint against it. For Fourier the denial of any sexual desire led to the manifestation of cruel ‘counterpassions’, so that, ‘If a man born to be a hair-plucker or a heel-scratcher in love is not able to satisfy his mania, if he is thwarted and mocked at by those to whom he reveals his penchant, he will succumb to other, harmful manias’ (p. 354). However, if these libidinal impulses were not repressed but allowed to be freely and openly acted upon, they could be harnessed for the benefit of society:

My theory is limited … to utilizing the repressed passions just as nature gives them and without changing anything. That is the whole mystery, the whole secret of the calculus of passionate attraction. We don’t ask whether God was right or wrong to endow human beings with particular passions; the societary order utilizes them without changing anything and just as God has given them.34

Rejecting all but the barest notion of moral sexual restraint, Fourier’s phalan-steries were organized around serving the full diversity of human sexual desires. The erotic wishes of sexual minorities and ‘perverts’ were both respected and accounted for (Beecher, p. 309). There were more than half a dozen varieties of organized public orgies (310–1), and Fourier even encouraged older women to take on younger men as sexual partners – an idea frequently lampooned by his critics but one with which EBB was already comfortable (Loman, p. 13).

Yet, even in light of evidence suggesting the plurality of her sexual desires I would not suggest that EBB’s attacks on free love Fourierism were a crude public screen. Instead, it is important to note that emotions, like disgust, (p.293) draw on affective forces incompletely and without mirroring their focus. Massumi, in ‘The Autonomy of Affect’, makes the distinction between affective forces (intensities) and emotions clear: ‘[e]motion is qualified intensity, the conventional, consensual point of insertion of intensity into semantically and semiotically formed progressions, into narrativizable action-reaction circuits, into function and meaning. It is intensity owned and recognized’ (p. 88). As bodily affective forces are translated into emotions they are not only narrowed but can be twisted or redirected. Freud suggests the same relationship between preconscious forces and emotions when he posits psychological mediations like reaction-formation. In Three Essays on a Theory of Sexuality (1905), Freud speculates that, faced with an onslaught of inexpressible sexual desire, the ego may defend itself by turning on this desire, creating a strong public and conscious show of aversion to the very real wish. The stronger the embodied affective force the more inflexible and severe the outward aversion appears and the more the reaction-formation becomes intertwined within the personality of the Subject.35

Freud warns, however, that although powerful, the reaction-formation is always ‘insecure and constantly threatened by the impulse which lurks in the unconscious’ (p. 533). If EBB’s stance is akin to Freud’s concept of reaction-formation, the reader should be able to find her unconscious sexual desires bubbling up, bursting through the text. In fact, even a rather casual read of Aurora Leigh seems to quickly reveal just that. For example,

  •                                            There were words
  • That broke in utterance … melted, in the fire –
  • Embrace, that was convulsion … then a kiss
  • As long and silent as the ecstatic night,
  • And deep, deep, shuddering breaths, which meant beyond
  • Whatever could be told by word or kiss.

(IX: 719–24)

The moment is clearly one of erotic release, although it might be noted that Romney had to be stricken blind, like Oedipus, before it becomes possible. Or, consider the description of Marian’s heart as she escapes her first sexual encounter (and yet seems not to):

  •                                             While her heart
  • Kept swelling, swelling, till it swelled so big
  • It seemed to fill her body – when it burst
  • (p.294) And overflowed the world and swamped the light;
  • ‘And now I am dead and safe,’ thought Marian Erle.

(III: 1084–8)

Beyond the ‘swelling’ erotics and ejaculatory ‘burst[ing]’, there is also the traditional interplay of death and orgasm in these lines. Then, we might also recall EBB’s adoption of the voyeur’s gaze, especially as it is directed towards women, as it is, for example, in this image of Lady Waldemar:

  • The woman looked immortal. How they told,
  • These alabaster shoulders and bare breasts,
  • Of which the pearls, drowned out of sight in milk,
  • Were lost, excepting for the ruby-clasp!
  • They split the amaranth velvet bodice down
  • To the waist or nearly, with audacious press
  • Of full breathed beauty.

(V: 618–24)

Although these lines are made heteronormative by being placed in the mouth of a man, they issue, of course, from EBB. In passages like these, or in Aurora’s Sapphic proposal to Marian (‘I’ve a home for you / And me and no one else’ (VI: 458–9)), lie glimpses of EBB’s queer desires.

My aim, however, is not to spot erotics; it is to suggest why they appear. For EBB, it seems that ‘Fourier’, in addition to marking the abuses of patriarchy, the waste of naïve politics, and a credible threat to the bourgeois nuclear family, had also come to signify her own erotic desires – affective forces with which she could not consciously come to terms. Throughout EBB’s life there is a pattern of sexual desire linked with crippling repression: a secret delight in erotic fiction that also filled her with shame (Dally, p. 81); a jealous attachment to the blind and married scholar, Hugh Boyd, who was twenty-six years her senior;36 a child-like dependence on her father that lasted late into her thirties;37 an imagined commitment to her deceased brother that nearly prevented her marrying Robert Browning (p. 34). There is even evidence that she went so far as to keep her sexuality at bay through anorexia, which diminished her libido and stopped her menstruation (Dally, p. 83). I am arguing that EBB’s cautious reformism, her multifaceted construction of ‘Fourier’ in Aurora Leigh, (p.295) and her rejection of free love socialism, are also strategies for coping with layers of guilt and shame.

We should be mindful that Romney’s radicalism is shameful, too – always a kind of illicit affair, the guilty obsession of a man who should be happier at home. In him we see that ‘Fourier’, with its contradictory shades, stands for the impossibility of desire, whether economic or erotic. Beneath ‘Fourier’, these unlikely complements join to achieve a political depth for Aurora Leigh, but, in tracing back their origins, they also indicate something of the complex process by which Subjects come to commit themselves to ideological positions and how texts emerge through the interactions of various affective forces, from both outside and inside, including those of politics, family, and sexuality. They suggest how the discourses surrounding the capitalist economy (which claims to be a social organization without credible alternatives) and those of bourgeois sexuality (which denies, as intolerably perverse, all desires beyond the narrow limits of heteronormative coupling) mutually reinforce one another, that what the ideology of liberalism seeks to conserve through reform is not only the dominant socio-economic order but also the myth of the unified, normative self. In short, although EBB might have been drawn to the plurality of Charles Fourier’s free love socialism, the open expression of those burning passions were not choked by socialism’s singular vision, as EBB claimed, but by the unyielding social and economic absolutism of liberal reform.


Bibliography references:

Ahmed, Sara. ‘Happy Objects’. The Affect Theory Reader, ed. Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010.

Avery, Simon. ‘The Voice of the Decade: Elizabeth Barrett’s Political Writings of the 1840s’. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ed. Simon Avery and Rebecca Stott. New York: Longman, 2003.

—. ‘Telling It Slant: Promethean, Whig, and Dissenting Politics in Elizabeth Barrett’s Poetry of the 1830s’. Victorian Poetry 44: 4, 2006.

Barthes, Roland. Sade, Fourier, Loyola. New York: Hill and Wang, 1976.

Beecher, Jonathan. Charles Fourier: The Visionary and His World. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. Aurora Leigh, ed. Kerry McSweeney. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

—. Diary by E. B. B.; the Unpublished Diary of Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, 1831–1832, ed. Philip Kelley and Ronald Hudson. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1969.

—. Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Letters to Her Sister, 1846–1859, ed. Leonard Huxley. London: J. Murray, 1929.

(p.296) —. The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Mary Russell Mitford, 1836–1854, ed. Mary Russell Mitford, Meredith B. Raymond, and Mary Rose Sullivan, 3 vols. Waco, Texas: Armstrong Browning Library of Baylor University, 1983.

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett and Frederic G. Kenyon, The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. 2 vols. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1899.

Browning, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, The Brownings’ Correspondence, ed. Philip Kelley and Ronald Hudson. Winfield, KS: Wedgestone Press, 1984.

Campbell, Robert Jean. Psychiatric Dictionary, 6th edn. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Clarke, Isabel Constance. Elizabeth Barrett Browning: A Portrait. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1929.

Dalley, Lana L. ‘The Least “Angelical” Poem in the Language: Political Economy, Gender, and the Heritage of Aurora Leigh’. Victorian Poetry 44: 4, 2006.

Dally, Peter. Elizabeth Barrett Browning: A Psychological Portrait. London: Macmillan London, 1989.

David, Deirdre. Intellectual Women and Victorian Patriarchy. London: Cornell University Press, 1987.

‘The Free Love System’. New York Daily Times, 8 September 1855.

Forster, Margaret. Elizabeth Barrett Browning: A Biography. London: Chatto & Windus, 1988.

Fourier, Charles. The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier; Selected Texts on Work, Love, and Passionate Attraction, ed. Jonathan Beecher and Richard Bienvenu. Boston: Beacon Press, 1971.

Guarneri, Carl. The Utopian Alternative: Fourierism in Nineteenth-Century America. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991.

Kaplan, Cora. ‘Introduction’, Critical Essays on Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ed. Sandra Donaldson. New York: G. K. Hall, 1999.

Kessous, Naaman. Two French Precursors of Marxism: Rousseau and Fourier. Brookfield, Vt.: Ashgate Pub. Co., 1996.

Laplanche, Jean and J. B. Pontalis. The Language of Psycho-Analysis. New York: Norton, 1974.

‘Letters from England, No. 6: The Refugee – Louis Blanc’. New York Daily Times, 4 October 1854.

Levin, Michael. ‘John Stuart Mill: A Liberal Looks at Utopian Socialism in the Years of the Revolution 1848–49’. Utopian Studies. 14: 2, 2003.

Lewis, Linda M. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Spiritual Progress: Face to Face with God. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1998.

Loman, Andrew ‘Somewhat on the Community-System’: Fourierism in the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Routledge, 2005.

Massumi, Brian. ‘The Autonomy of Affect’. Cultural Critique 31, Autumn 1995.

Massumi, Brian and Mary Zournazi. ‘Navigating Movements’ (interview). Hope: New Philosophies for Change, ed. Mary Zournazi. New York: Routledge 2003.

Patterson, Ian and Gareth Stedman Jones. ‘Introduction’, in Fourier, Charles. The Theory of the Four Movements. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

(p.297) Rodas, Julie Miele. ‘Misappropriations: Hugh Stuart Boyd and the Blindness of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’. Victorian Review. 33: 2, Fall 2007.

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(1) Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, ed. Kerry McSweeney (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), Book III: line 585, IX: 869.

(2) Linda M. Lewis, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Spiritual Progress: Face to Face with God (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1998), p. 118.

(3) According to Sara Ahmed, affects are sticky: ‘Affect is what sticks, or what sustains or preserves the connection between ideas, values, and objects’; Sara Ahmed, ‘Happy Objects’, in The Affect Theory Reader, ed. Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), pp. 29–51 (p. 29).

(4) Brian Massumi, ‘The Autonomy of Affect’, Cultural Critique 31 (Autumn 1995), pp. 83–109 (p. 98).

(5) See Kathleen Stewart, ‘Worlding Refrains’ (afterword), in The Affect Theory Reader, pp. 339–53.

(6) Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 132.

(7) Emanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System IV: Centrist Liberalism Triumphant, 1789–1914 (Berkeley: California University Press, 2011), p. 1.

(8) Brian Massumi and Mary Zournazi, ‘Navigating Movements’ (interview), Hope: New Philosophies for Change, ed. Mary Zournazi (New York: Routledge 2003), pp. 210–42 (p. 213).

(9) Cora Kaplan, ‘Introduction’, in Critical Essays on Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ed. Sandra Donaldson (New York: G. K. Hall, 1999), p. 98.

(10) Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Letters to Her Sister, 1846–1859, ed. Leonard Huxley (London: J. Murray, 1929), p. 87.

(11) qtd. in Lana L. Dalley, ‘The Least “Angelical” Poem in the Language: Political Economy, Gender, and the Heritage of Aurora Leigh,’ Victorian Poetry 44: 4 (2006), p. 529.

(12) Simon Avery, ‘Telling It Slant: Promethean, Whig, and Dissenting Politics in Elizabeth Barrett’s Poetry of the 1830s’. Victorian Poetry 44: 4 (2006), pp. 405–24 (p. 405).

(13) Deirdre David, Intellectual Women and Victorian Patriarchy (London: Cornell University Press, 1987), pp. 97–148.

(14) Elizabeth Barrett Browning, The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Mary Russell Mitford, 1836–1854, ed. Mary Russell Mitford, Meredith B. Raymond, and Mary Rose Sullivan, 3 vols. (Waco, Texas: Armstrong Browning Library of Baylor University, 1983), III: p. 302.

(15) qtd. in Simon Avery, ‘The Voice of the Decade: Elizabeth Barrett’s Political Writings of the 1840s’, in Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ed. Simon Avery and Rebecca Stott (New York: Longman, 2003), p. 107.

(16) Peter Dally, Elizabeth Barrett Browning: A Psychological Portrait (London: Macmillan London, 1989), pp. 27–30.

(17) See also David, pp. 133–4.

(18) ‘Letters from England, No. 6: The Refugee – Louis Blanc’, New York Daily Times, 4 October 1854, p. 2.

(19) Charles Fourier, The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier; Selected Texts on Work, Love, and Passionate Attraction, ed. Jonathan Beecher and Richard Bienvenu (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), pp. 183–5.

(20) Ian Patterson and Gareth Stedman Jones, ‘Introduction’, in Charles Fourier, The Theory of the Four Movements (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. xi.

(21) Roland Barthes, Sade, Fourier, Loyola (New York: Hill and Wang, 1976), p. 99.

(22) Jonathan Beecher, Charles Fourier: The Visionary and His World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), p. 12.

(23) Andrew Loman, ‘Somewhat on the Community-System’: Fourierism in the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne (New York: Routledge, 2005), p. 12.

(24) Carl Guarneri, The Utopian Alternative: Fourierism in Nineteenth-Century America (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991), pp. 336–9.

(25) Michael Levin, ‘John Stuart Mill: A Liberal Looks at Utopian Socialism in the Years of the Revolution 1848–49’, Utopian Studies. 14: 2 (2003), pp. 72–80.

(26) ‘The Free Love System’, New York Daily Times, 8 September 1855, p. 2. My thanks to Michael Moon for directing me to this article in his conference paper, ‘Idiocies Urban and Rural’, presented at the 2009 International Conference on Romanticism in New York.

(27) Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, The Brownings’ Correspondence, ed. Philip Kelley and Ronald Hudson (Winfield, KS: Wedgestone Press, 1984), XII: 62–3; qtd. in Rebecca Stott, ‘How Do I Love Thee?: Love and Marriage’, in Elizabeth Barrett Browning, eds. Simon Avery and Rebecca Stott (New York: Longman, 2003), p. 150.

(28) Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Diary by E. B. B.; the Unpublished Diary of Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, 1831–1832, ed. Philip Kelley and Ronald Hudson (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1969), p. 111, emphasis retained.

(30) Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Frederic G. Kenyon, The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 2 vols. (New York: The Macmillan company, 1899), II: p. 124.

(31) Kaplan, ‘Introduction’, p. 88; Patricia Thomson, George Sand and the Victorians: Her Influence and Reputation in Nineteenth-Century England (London: Macmillan, 1977), pp. 55–6.

(32) Margaret Forster, Elizabeth Barrett Browning: A Biography (London: Chatto & Windus, 1988) p. 260.

(33) Sand, herself, was never a Fourierist, but she was routinely published in the Fourierist presses and kept a friendly correspondence with Victor Considerant.

(34) p. 252; qtd. in Naaman Kessous, Two French Precursors of Marxism: Rousseau and Fourier, Avebury Series in Philosophy (Brookfield, Vt.: Ashgate Pub. Co., 1996), p. 93, emphasis retained.

(35) Robert Jean Campbell, Psychiatric Dictionary, 6th edn. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 533–4; Jean Laplanche and J. B. Pontalis, The Language of Psycho-Analysis (New York: Norton, 1974), pp. 376–8.

(36) Dally, pp. 41–2; Forster, p. 59; for a more complete account of EBB’s troubled relationship with Boyd and the possible connections between Hugh Boyd and blind Romney see Julie Miele Rodas, ‘Misappropriations: Hugh Stuart Boyd and the Blindness of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’, Victorian Review. 33: 2 (Fall 2007), pp. 103–118.

(37) Isabel Constance Clarke, Elizabeth Barrett Browning: A Portrait (London: Hutchinson & co., 1929), pp. 53–4.