They are called “fallen women,” “loose women,” or “courtesans.” Among the literati, they are Stephen Crane’s Maggie or Dreiser’s Sister Carrie. They are Shakespeare’s “bawds” and kings’ paramours. But lest the pages of the old texts become separated from reality, it is worth remembering that the real individuals behind these figures, and the complex challenges of their lives, deserve our attention.
That’s one of the reasons I’ve chosen “Reclaiming the irreclaimable” by Gina Dalfonzo for the next ProfoundNet. Here’s a snippet:
The Times Literary Supplement has a review of a new book by Jenny Hartley, Charles Dickens and the House of Fallen Women. No, it’s not what it sounds like. It’s the story of Dickens’s “most important and most characteristic charitable venture,” a home for women deemed “irreclaimable” by others.
Dickens’ project developed because he was “simply unwilling to be indifferent to the suffering that surrounded [him], and unfailingly energetic in pursuing the chances of change for the better.” The house, according to one reviewer quoted in the post, ” gave those who entered its doors decent food and clothing, some education, a library, a garden and even music lessons…”
I haven’t located a copy of the book yet, but I look forward to reading it when I do. This is a poignant reminder to me and literati everywhere that we should not have our noses so firmly implanted in books (or computer screens) that we become indifferent to suffering or lethargic in our pursuit of change for the better.
Thanks, Gina, for the thought-provoking post.