Gerald Gray′s Wife and Lily: A Novel

Gerald Gray′s Wife and Lily: A Novel

Book Pages: 400 Illustrations: Published: November 1993

American Studies, History > U.S. History, Literature and Literary Studies > Fiction

Susan Petigru King wrote and published virtually all of her novels and short stories just before and during the American civil war, although her fiction deals neither with slavery nor sectional politics. Set in her native Charleston and its surrounding plantations, King's novels explore the social life and sexual politics of South Carolina's privileged antebellum elite. In the tradition of nineteenth-century domestic novels, King's writings chronicle courtships and marriages, love and jealousy. The republication of these long-neglected novels will introduce contemporary readers to the imaginative power of an important southern American woman writer.
Lily, King's best known novel, was originally published by Harper and Brothers in 1855. In this work, King skewers the rituals of courtship that propel its wealthy young heroine toward marriage and a melodramatic death. Gerald Gray's Wife, King's last novel, plays out the ironies of a plain woman who survives—but barely—the revelations that destroy her seemingly perfect marriage and acquired beauty. In both novels, women's jealousies and men's deceptions are the forces that propel King's often satirical pen. Largely lacking the moral instruction so common among nineteenth-century domestic novelists, King's novels are differentiated by their critical perspective on women's position, their exploration of themes of failure and frustration, and their focus on the drawing room and ballroom rather than the kitchen and nursery.


“The novels and short stories [King] produced from 1854 to 1864 are important documents for social and literary historians. . . . [King anticipates] so extensively the practical and theoretical issues of twentieth-century women’s studies: the relationship between power and gender, the commodification of women, the objectification that results from the idealization of women and the enclosure of women.” — Nan Morrison, Southern Quarterly

"King's characterization of women's roles and plantation life is arresting, interesting. Even more compelling is her response to the literary trends and writers of the day." — Peggy Whitman Prenshaw, Louisiana State University

"What makes King's writing so striking . . . is that she wrote from the inside, but from the perspective of an outsider. . . . Where so many women's authors struggled to close the gap between morals and manners, and thus discover their femininity, King speaks from the gap--often angry, always knowingly. . . . She articulates many of the key social and moral struggles that marked the experience of upper class southern women." — Steven. M. Stowe, Indiana University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Susan Petigru King (1824-1875) was the author of numerous short stories and novels. She lived her life in Charleston. She married twice (her first husband died during the war) and had one child.
Jane H. Pease and William H. Pease are Professors Emeriti at the University of Maine and Associates in History at the University of Charleston.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction vii

Lily: A Novel 1

Gerald Gray's Wife 207
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1411-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1407-3
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