Studies in Literature and Culture
Edited By Carmen Zamorano Llena and Billy Gray
John Wilson Foster - Authority and Wisdom: The Case of Lady Constance Malleson
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JOHN WILSON FOSTER
Authority and Wisdom: The Case of Lady Constance Malleson
Constance Malleson began life as Lady Constance Annesley, the daughter of Hugh, 5th Earl Annesley. She was born in 1895 and grew up in Castlewellan Castle in County Down within sight of the Mourne Mountains. She was the offspring of her father’s second marriage; his first was to Mabel Markham when he was forty-six and she nineteen; Countess Mabel died in her early thirties. Constance was born into a glum atmosphere of Victorian patriarchal authority lightened chiefly by her vivacious and beautiful mother. Priscilla, Countess Annesley (née Moore), was thirty-nine years younger than Constance’s father – and was her husband’s first cousin – and according to Constance’s memoir, Priscilla lived in Castlewellan Castle as though in a prison. The Earl was a melancholic, often sunk in a ‘fathomless gloom’, in Constance’s memory, yet ‘tyrannical and obstinate’ in what we might call his domestic earldom (Malleson 1931: 15). Although Priscilla loved bright colours, her husband required her to dress only in black and was apparently publicly ashamed of her youth even while gratified by her rude good health (his first wife had been a valetudinarian).
One need hardly be Freud to see the 5th Earl Annesley as the first authority against which Constance rebelled – that of the father. The rebellion took, I suspect, several forms: leaving home early, marrying young, abandoning aristocratic values, assuming left-wing perspectives. Another form...
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