A "wet blanket of intolerable routine and deadly domesticity": The feelings, freedoms and frustrations of Hilda Lessways, Arnold Bennett's 'ordinary' new woman
In a 1911 New York Times review of the second book in Arnold Bennett’s Clayhanger trilogy , Hilda Lessways, the reviewer asserted that, as with the entire novel, ‘The attitude of always expecting something tremendous, of being on the eve of ultimate adventure, is the perpetual state of mind of Hilda herself.’ Bennett’s job, as the reviewer saw it, was to reveal this ‘young person’ to his readers. And this he argues Bennett did well for, he adds, ‘here is the girl, her inmost personality, so far as she can see it herself and so far as Mr. Bennett can see it for her, laid bare and thrust naked under the microscope for the curious reader to watch the quivering and the writhings of it.’ The task of keeping Hilda Lessways in a perpetual state of expectation is achieved, in the reviewer’s words again, by ‘casting over’ her, to keep her ‘smouldering’, ‘a wet blanket of intolerable routine and deadly domesticity.’
Crozier-De Rosa, S. 2010, 'A "wet blanket of intolerable routine and deadly domesticity": The feelings, freedoms and frustrations of Hilda Lessways, Arnold Bennett's 'ordinary' new woman', The Latchkey: Journal of New Woman Studies, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 1-12.