Elizabeth Jane Howard

Mothers & Daughters

Private Papers

By

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The relationship between mother and daughter is probably the most insidious, powerful, elaborate and devastating connection known to woman. (It can, of course, alternatively be the most powerful, elaborate, rewarding and positive relationship, but either there is far less of that about, or novelists find it harder or less interesting to deal with.) Fathers and daughters have had their share of dramatic and literary interest, but that is generally cruder stuff – the tyrant, the sexually hung-up bully manipulating his child, often ineffectually: Elizabeth Barrett simply eloped with Browning, and the most that Mr Bronte could do to obstruct Charlotte’s happiness was to refuse to give her away at her marriage, but if either of these women had had mothers they could remember, it is a fair bet that the maternal influence would have persisted long past the altar.

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