Socialism, Capitalism and the Fiction of Lucas Malet: “The Spirit of the Hive"

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Abstract

As a socialist motif, the beehive gained currency the turn of the nineteenth century, associated with principles of altruism, decentralised organisation and cooperative labour. Lucas Malet had socialist sympathies and deployed the motif to articulate the inequalities of an exploitative capitalistic system. However, her conversion to Catholicism made her suspicious of the kind of utopian, cooperative society of which the beehive had become the emblem. This article breaks fresh ground in the scholarship on Malet. While her reluctance to align her faith and economic ideas might seem surprising to some, this discussion contends that Malet, believing in man’s fallenness, came to regard the idea of a perfect social whole as apocryphal in any terrestrial sense of the term. Her developing economic ideas, with reference to The History of Sir Richard Calmady and The Far Horizon, explain how the beehive and other similar corporate figures (including the human body and city banking house) operate in figurative shorthand for the idea of “the whole” in its social and spiritual appearances. In this way, the notion of “wholeness” and its antitheses, “fragmentation” and “dismemberment,” form part of the conceptual apparatus with which Malet articulates man’s proximity to the divine.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-571
JournalEnglish Literature in Transition, 1880-1920
Volume58
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015

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