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Suicidal Women in Victorian England

Blanche Glover committed suicide by jumping from Putney Bridge, her pockets weighted by stones brought back from North Yorkshire by Christabel. Her suicide note had been held down by a piece of granite on a table in the house that Blanche and Christabel shared. Her suicide was the result of being betrayed by the woman she loved.

"Independent women must expect more of themselves, since neither men nor other more conventionally domesticated women will hope for anything, or expect any result other than utter failure."

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Within Victorian England female suicide was more common than generally believed and generally put down to Carlyle's philosophy of self-will. Though many believed suicide was against a woman's nature and temperament, instead they were too weak to resist voluntary death.

Paintings of the time echoed this with famous Pre-Raphaelite incarnations of the floating Ophelia. With some believing that the framing of Millais' 'Ophelia' under an arch caused many Victorian women to take their lives by jumping from bridges. Elizabeth Siddal, who modelled for Millais' 'Ophelia', lived in a veiled life of depression and eventually took her own life with laudanum. In contrast Watts' 'Found Drowned' shows a contemporary woman with spread arms under Waterloo Bridge.

Literature of the Victorian period expressed the tragedy related female suicide, but generally in the context of either the love-starved woman or the fallen wretch. Charlotte Bronte took the case of the former in 'Shirley' and 'The Professor', while Charles Dickens brought judgement on the latter in 'David Copperfield' and 'Bleak House'. Each dealing with the subject by encouraging the reader to believe that those "poor-wretches" shall be judged by God. However, Emily Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights' exposed the tragedy of both a female and male heart with pity.

"I have to remind myself to breathe - almost to remind my heart to beat!"

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For a more indepth study visit the Victorian Web.

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