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What Kitty knew : George Moore’s John Norton, multiple personality and the psychopathology of late-victorian sex crime

Heilmann, Ann and Llewellyn, Mark (2004) What Kitty knew : George Moore’s John Norton, multiple personality and the psychopathology of late-victorian sex crime. Nineteenth-Century Literature, 59 (3). pp. 372-403. ISSN 0891-9356

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Abstract

Framed by sensational Ripper stories that turned fact into fiction and lurid murder into gripping reading matter, the extraordinary popularity of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), George du Maurier's Trilby (1894), and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) clearly indicate that the fin de siecle was a time enthralled by the concept of split selves and sadistic impulses, of insidious male desires metaphorically and literally inscribed on the body of unconscious, hysterical, or hypnotized women. With his John Norton narratives of the late 1880s to mid 1890s, George Moore made a significant contribution to this important cultural preoccupation in late-Victorian literature and culture. In this essay we trace the development of the theme in Moore's A Mere Accident (1887), Mike Fletcher (1889), and "John Norton" (which appeared in his collection Celibates, 1895). We read Moore's stories in the context of the emerging discourses of psychoanalysis and its reliance upon and relation to earlier work on the theories of the "double brain" and "multiplex personality". We also draw on works of late-nineteenth-century sexology-Havelock Ellis's Studies in the Psychology of Sex (1897-1910) and Richard von Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis (first published in German, 1886)-in order to explore the psycho-sexual nature of the malaise that afflicts the Norton character and highlight his ambivalent role in the "accident" that befalls the vicar's daughter, Kitty Hare. In addition, we pay close attention to the proto-Freudian language of dreams that haunt Kitty in the aftermath of her assault, arguing that in his 'John Norton" narratives Moore engaged with the evolving concept of trauma. These stories, we argue, reflect an important and hitherto neglected aspect of late-Victorian narrative explorations of hysteria and sexual pathology.