• Of Cosmetic Value Only: Make-Up and Terrible Old Ladies in Victorian Literature

    Author(s):
    Sara Zadrozny (see profile)
    Date:
    2021
    Subject(s):
    English literature, Nineteenth century, Women
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    cosmetics, Ageing Bodies, Victorian literature
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/f99y-6217
    Abstract:
    By looking at the figure of the painted older woman in nineteenth-century novels, this article examines how changing attitudes to cosmetics punished ageing women who clung to the make-up of their youth. As a warning against such continued practices, Catherine Gore’s ageing Lady Ormington demonstrates how devotion to make-up cannot hold back the signs of ageing. In a similar manner, Dickens’s Mrs Skewton shows how Georgian make-up, her ageing features, and her corrupt personality are equally contaminative. Finally, Percy Fitzgerald’s ‘Terrible Old Lady’ shows how heavy make-up is a literary motif that better delineates the ravages of female ageing than biological change alone. I conclude that in nineteenth-century novels, cosmetics do not function as a worrying disguise or serve as a medical warning, but rather act to depict the ageing woman as extraneous, purposeless, and aesthetically irrelevant.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    1 year ago
    License:
    Attribution
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