The Daisy Chain,
or Aspirations


Daisy Chain title page Daisy Chain: "Very soon there was a discovery"

Online text of The Daisy Chain   Virago printed edition

  Charlotte Yonge's own Preface to The Daisy Chain

Tyntesfield House and Charlotte Mary Yonge: Sacralizing the domestic in Victorian Gothic representation

Dating The Daisy Chain     The Charity Bazaar and Women's Professionalization in The Daisy Chain

Online text of The Daisy Chain

Click here to reach the latest online version of The Daisy Chain from Gutenberg
(Many thanks to Sandra Laythorpe and others)

Virago edition of The Daisy Chain

Virago published an edition of The Daisy Chain in 1988 in their Virago modern classics series.
This edition had a new introduction by Barbara Dennis and a new afterword by Georgina Battiscombe.

The Virago edition ISBN 0860688798
is no longer in print.

The Novelist's Purpose

Jacqueline Banerjee, Department of English, Kobe College, Nishinomiya, Japan

For a commentary on death in childhood, including comments on The Daisy Chain, see the page 3 of The Novelist's Purpose on The Victorian Web.

(This material is excerpted with permission of the publisher from Chapter 4 of Through the Northern Gate: Childhood and Growing Up in British Fiction, 1719-1901, by Jacqueline Banerjee [New York: Peter Lang, 1996].

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Charlotte Yonge's own Preface to The Daisy Chain

'No one can be more sensible than is the Author that the present is an overgrown book of a nondescript class, neither the "tale" for the young, nor the novel for their elders, but a mixture of both.

Begun as a series of conversational sketches, the story outran both the original intention and the limits of the periodical in which it was commenced; and, such as it has become, it is here presented to those who have already made acquaintance with the May family, and may be willing to see more of them. It would beg to be considered merely as what it calls itself, a Family Chronicle - a domestic record of home events, large and small, dining those years of early life when the character is chiefly formed, and as an endeavour to trace the effects of those aspirations which are a part of every youthful nature. That the young should take one hint, to think whether their hopes and upward-breathings are truly upwards, and founded in lowliness, may be called the moral of the tale.

For those who may deem the story too long, and the characters too numerous, the Author can only beg their pardon for any tedium that they may have undergone before giving it up.'

Feb. 22nd, 1856

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Victoria Coulson
University of Cambridge, England

Given at
Text & Architecture –
An international Word & Image Conference, Paris, 26-28 June 2003

This paper 'reads' Victorian Gothic domestic architecture alongside the English nineteenth-century domestic novel in order to articulate common themes and structures in these contemporaneous representational forms. Using photographs, plans, and other visual materials as well as literary texts, the paper focuses on the mid-Victorian commitment to purifying domestic representational forms (novels and houses) through a sacralization of both verbal and non-verbal structures of meaning.

The paper takes as the first of its two central 'texts' Tyntesfield House, near Bristol in England. The self-made millionaire, and Oxford Movement Christian, William Gibbs bought a Georgian manor house which he commissioned a local architect, Norton, to redesign, enlarge, and glorify (1863–6). After Gibbs's death, his son commissioned further alterations (Woodyer, 1885–9) which consolidated the building's whole-hearted Gothicism. The result was Tyntesfield House, a spectacular 43-bedroom Victorian Gothic mansion, which remained in the ownership of the Gibbs family until 2002.

In relation to ecclesiastic architecture, George L. Hersey has analyzed High Victorian Gothic as an eloquent medium of missionary Christianity whose roots lie in nineteenth-century associationism, a theory of design which held that buildings should 'express' their function through contrasting volumes, masses, and distribution of detail; the central 'message' of Victorian Gothic churches, Hersey argues, is one of didactic torment, 'offer[ing] to the observer the prospect of his own suffering for Christ'.

This paper uses a comparable semiotic approach to propose that the expressive function of domestic Gothic may be understood as a religious purification of family life. The most extraordinary – yet archetypal – feature of Tyntesfield is the enormous private chapel (by Arthur Blomfield), fully integrated into the main body of the house and thus expressing at the level of architectural structure the cultural project of sacralizing the domestic sphere. Blomfield later completed a consonant commission in the design of Selwyn College, Cambridge, whose Master's Lodge (1883) similarly effects domestic comfort within an ecclesiastic architectural idiom. Tyntesfield House may thus be analyzed as an architectural text whose physical structures narrate an authoritative Victorian story about the relations between material, domestic experience and the redemptive realm of Oxford Movement Christianity.

In the sphere of literary production, the most prolific and popular exponent of this mid-Victorian missionary Christianity was Charlotte Mary Yonge (1823–1901), a close friend of the Gibbs family, and frequent visitor to Tyntesfield. Yonge's bestselling novel The Daisy Chain (1856) forms the second major focus of the paper.

The paper argues that The Daisy Chain may be seen as the literary counterpart to Tyntesfield House, in that its expressive and didactic project is a cognate purification of domestic narrative through the sacralizing cadences of religious discourse. The novel begins with a happy family of eleven children, and proceeds to dismantle this extravagantly procreative nucleus by a series of disasters and sacrifices whose effect is to break up domestic and sexual relations and replace them with missionary work at home and abroad; the plot culminates in the consecration of a new church, and the almost total imposition of celibacy on its protagonists. Like a Gothic church, The Daisy Chain functions as a purifying medium, a machine à souffrir for characters and readers alike, participating in a Victorian literary tradition of the house as torture appliance that stretches from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1847) to Henry James's The Spoils of Poynton (1897). Yonge's characters shift at moments of high drama into fluent biblicalese, an effect which echoes at sentence-level the novel's symbolic and structural commitments to a sacralization of secular discourse clearly akin to the semiotic project of Victorian Gothic domestic architecture.


Website note:

Tyntesfield House was recently bought by the National Trust and is open to limited public access. For current details see the Tyntesfield National Trust page.

For another article on Tyntesfield see An Extraordinary Property by Lyle Eveillé of CMYF.

The Charity Bazaar and Women's Professionalization in Charlotte Mary Yonge's The Daisy Chain (2007)

Thorne-Murphy, Leslee
"The Charity Bazaar and Women's Professionalization in Charlotte Mary Yonge's The Daisy Chain"
SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 - Volume 47, Number 4, Autumn 2007, pp. 881-899

Extract from abstract: As an established author musing on the changes in women?s professionalization that had occurred during her lifetime, Charlotte Mary Yonge remarked that women's involvement in bazaars had changed the way her society thought about women earning money. By examining the depiction of a charity bazaar in The Daisy Chain, we see how she used the methods and logic of the charity bazaar to represent her own participation in the publishing marketplace. In 1877, as an established novelist, Charlotte Mary Yonge reflected on a change that had happened during the course of her career. As a child, she had understood that a lady did not accept payment for her work, yet just thirty years later, she observed, "everybody does want to make money." She mused, "I suppose the bazaar system first led to the change of tone." In typical understated fashion, Yonge pinpointed a seemingly minor element of Victorian life that, according to her observations, had fundamentally changed society's attitude toward women earning money: "the bazaar system."

The Daisy Chain in E. Nesbit’s The Wouldbegoods (1901)

.... This took our breath away and we went home. As we went, Oswald, who notices many things that would pass unobserved by the light and careless, saw Denny frowning hard. So he said, ‘What’s up?’ …

‘Well, then, do you know a book called The Daisy Chain?’

We didn’t.

‘It’s by Miss Charlotte M. Yonge,’ Daisy interrupted, ‘and it’s about a family of poor motherless children who tried so hard to be good, and they were confirmed, and had a bazaar, and went to church at the Minster, and one of them got married and wore black watered silk and silver ornaments. So her baby died, and then she was sorry she had not been a good mother to it. And – ‘ Here Dicky got up and said he’d got some snares to attend to, and he’d receive a report of the Council after it was over. But he only got as far as the trap-door, and then Oswald, the fleet of foot, closed with him, and they rolled together on the floor, while all the others called out ‘Come back! Come back!’ like guinea-hens on a fence.
Through the rustle and bustle and hustle of the struggle with Dicky, Oswald heard the voice of Denny murmuring one of his everlasting quotations -

‘”Come back, come back!” he cried in Greek,

“Across the stormy water,
And I’ll forgive your Highland cheek,
My daughter, O my daughter!”‘

When quiet was restored and Dicky had agreed to go through with the Council, Denny said –

‘The Daisy Chain is not a bit like that really. It’s a ripping book. One of the boys dresses up like a lady and comes to call, and another tries to hit his little sister with a hoe. It’s jolly fine, I tell you.’

Denny is learning to say what he thinks, just like other boys. He would never have learnt such words as ‘ripping’ and ‘jolly fine’ while under the auntal tyranny. Since then I have read The Daisy Chain. It is a first-rate book for girls and little boys.

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