Any scholar working on the origins of the feminist journey of the actress turned writer Elizabeth Robins ought to be aware of her two earliest short works of fiction she wrote and published in The New Review under nearly perfect anonymity. This paper will profile these two earlier stories, published in 1894 even before her first novel, George Mandeville's Husband, attracted attention when it appeared under her perhaps thinly disguised pseudonym, C. E. Raimond.
Robins saw the potential and, yes, to her mind, the necessity, of establishing herself as a writer so that she could more securely support herself. Her journey of the 1890s is one not only of becoming a leading Ibsen actress, but includes that of securing her own voice as a writer, independent of any associations with her performances. In addition to writing for income, of course, we value where her secret personae reveal aspects of her later feminist voice.
"A Lucky Sixpence," the first of these pieces, reads like the sometimes-anthologized Jemima's story segment of Mary Wollstonecraft's Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman. Yet Robins tells her story with some distance and irony. A poor waif of a servant becomes the target of her master's affections.
The second short story from The New Review, "Dedicated to John Huntley," is told from the point of view of a young writer who looks up to the more established John Huntley until Huntley dismissed –even yawned at—the oral description of a story the narrator conveys to the mentor. While the narrator is touring Central American and then recuperating from a tropical illness, he remembers his long-abandoned work and returns to complete it with fresh vigor. Meanwhile, back in London, John Huntley has appropriated the oral version of the narrator's story and writes his own version of it. When the younger writer returns to London, he discovers that decent old John Huntley has plagiarized his own story--told it in a tawdry, sensational way—he is left with no choice but to burn his entire opus, down to the last sheet, "Dedicated to John Huntley." This could well be read as melodrama if not for one fact: the anonymous author of The New Review story is the woman who first acted the role of Hedda Gabler on the English stage.
Gates, Joanne E. "Anonymity as a Bridge from Actress to Author: The Case of Elizabeth Robins." Presentation at the 18th Annual Conference of 18th- and 19th-Century British Women Writers Association. Theme of Conference: Journeys. Panel Title: "Anonymity, Pseudonymity, and Autobiography: Elizabeth Robins Adapts Herself for Multiple Roles." Held at Texas A&M University. College Station, TX. April 2010. Archived in 2022 for JSU Digital Commons, Faculty Presentations. [URL]