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The critical performances of Martineau, Jameson, Fuller and Eliot, like those of de Staël and Sand, were inevitably marked by gender consciousness, because of nineteenth-century preconceptions about women as writers and intellectuals. The mid-century literary critic had an understandably complex relationship with the category of lady writer, which carried with it the expectation of difference and the assumption of inferiority. Martineau's Autobiography and Biographical Sketches are notable for their often sharp and self-serving comments on fellow writers, snapshots in a daguerreotyped age. Shakespeare was the figure who attracted the most critical attention during the Victorian period. His plays were, like novels, read aloud in domestic circles. Fuller was at her best in her longer works, which accommodated her learned, personal and often digressive style. In Woman in the Nineteenth Century, Fuller saw gender differences as both fixed and fluid.
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