The Half-Caste
  • Publication Date: August 4, 2016
  • ISBN: 9781554812752 / 1554812755
  • 160 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Half-Caste

  • Publication Date: August 4, 2016
  • ISBN: 9781554812752 / 1554812755
  • 160 pages; 5½" x 8½"

Dinah Mulock Craik’s The Half-Caste concerns the coming-of-age of its title character, the mixed-race Zillah Le Poer, daughter of an English merchant and an Indian princess. Sent back to England as a young girl, Zillah has no knowledge that she is an heiress. She lives with her uncle Le Poer, his wife, and two daughters, and is treated as little more than a servant in the household. Zillah’s situation is gradually improved when Cassandra Pryor is employed as a governess to the Le Poer daughters and takes an interest in the mysterious “cousin.” Craik explores issues of gender, race, and empire in the Victorian period in this compact and gripping novella.

Along with a newly-annotated text, this Broadview edition includes a critical introduction that discusses Craik’s involvement with contemporary racial and imperialist attitudes, her place within the broader genre of Anglo-Indian fiction, and the importance of Zillah Le Poer as a positive symbol of empire. The edition is also enriched with relevant contemporary contextual material, including Dinah Mulock Craik’s writing on gender and female employment, British views on the biracial Eurasian community in India, and writings on the Victorian governess.

For an excerpt from the appendices of The Half-Caste, please see our blog post: Instructional Treatise from A Book for Governesses.

Comments

“Melissa Edmundson has supplied a most useful addition to the literature of Victorian empire and race. Craik’s story is supplemented by excerpts from Philip Meadows Taylor’s novel Seeta along with a story by William Browne Hockley, ‘The Half-Caste Daughter.’ These texts are supplemented by well-chosen supporting materials delineating attitudes toward ‘Eurasians’ in nineteenth-century India, and together they create a rich context for understanding Craik’s often overlooked novella. Edmundson shows how Craik’s work confounds the usual binaries and prejudices of the period even as it creates a sympathetic governess character. This edition would make a fine pairing with Jane Eyre or with Kipling’s Plain Tales from the Hills in an undergraduate course on Victorian empire.” —Mary Ellis Gibson, University of Glasgow

The Half-Caste is a timely and well-contextualized edition of a fascinating work of fiction. The editorial material sheds light on the broader cultural importance of the story’s many threads, including the role of the British Empire, the ‘Eurasian Question,’ and the place of the Victorian governess and work for women.” —Karen Bourrier, University of Calgary

“This edition of Dinah Mulock Craik’s long neglected 1851 novella makes a fine contribution to the scholarship on Victorian studies on empire and race. Melissa Edmundson’s ample introduction provides clear biographical, historical, and cultural background to situate Craik’s life and her fiction within the complexities of views about the Eurasian woman, British identity, and colonial power. Deft summaries, expanded by a rich assortment of supplementary materials, point to the frequency with which Victorian authors addressed the fraught gender and race issues the Eurasian woman emblematized and prove that Craik’s The Half-Caste, with its progressive narrative about cultural merging, struck a decidedly different note. Additional materials assist in categorizing The Half-Caste with that other predominant nineteenth-century genre, the governess novel. Comprehensive explanatory footnotes and an informed and wide-ranging bibliography tempt the reader for future critical (as well as fun) reading. Edmundson ensures her own audience hears Craik’s strong voice about the period’s significant contemporary issues and more than demonstrates her own admiration for this important Victorian woman author.” — Joellen Masters, Boston University, co-editor of The Latchkey: A Journal of New Woman Studies

Acknowledgements
Introduction
Dinah Mulock Craik: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

The Half-Caste

Appendix A: Dinah Mulock Craik on Gender Issues and Female Employment

  1. From Dinah Mulock Craik, A Woman’s Thoughts about Women (1858)
  2. From “Concerning Men, By a Woman,” Cornhill (1887)

Appendix B: The British Empire, Race, and the “Eurasian Question”

  1. From “Half-Castes,” House of Commons, Minutes of Evidence Taken before the Select Committee on the Affairs of
    the East India Company (1832)
  2. From A.D. Rowe, Every-day Life in India (1881)
  3. From Mrs. John B. Speid, Our Last Years in India (1862)
  4. From Graham Sandberg, “Our Outcast Cousins in India,” The Contemporary Review (1892)
  5. William Browne Hockley, “The Half-Caste Daughter” (1841)
  6. From [Philip] Meadows Taylor, Seeta (1872)
  7. From Dinah Mulock Craik, Olive (1850)

Appendix C: The Victorian Governess

  1. From “Hints on the Modern Governess System,” Fraser’s Magazine (November 1844)
  2. From Sarah Lewis, “On the Social Position of Governesses,” Fraser’s Magazine (1848)
  3. From Emily Peart, A Book for Governesses (1868)
  4. From The Letters of Charlotte Brontë
    1. Charlotte Brontë to Ellen Nussey (30 June 1839)
    2. Charlotte Brontë to Ellen Nussey (3 March 1841)
  5. From Dinah Mulock Craik, Bread upon the Waters: A Governess’s Life (1852)

Melissa Edmundson is Professor of English at Spartanburg Methodist College. She specializes in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British women writers, with particular interests in women’s ghost stories, the Gothic, and Anglo-Indian popular fiction. She is the author of Women’s Ghost Literature in Nineteenth-Century Britain (University of Wales Press, 2013).