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Victorian Perceptions of Childhood in the Arab World: A Study


of Emmeline Lott, Mary Whately and Ellen Chennells.
Anirudh Mandagere
Word Count: 11,996












2

Contents

Introduction 3

Chapter 1: The pith of the tree has lost all its vital powers
1
: 8
Perceptions of Family and Childhood


Chapter 2: Strong Prejudices
2
: 17
Perceptions of Gender and Childhood

Chapter 3: A subjectso dreaded by the Moslems in General
3
: 29
Perceptions of Sickness and Death in Childhood

Conclusion 40

Bibliography 42












1
E. Lott, The English Governess in Egypt: Harem Life in Egypt and Constantinople (London, 1867), p. 312.
2
E. Chennells, Recollections of an Egyptian Princess (Edinburgh and London, 1893), p. 372.
3
M. Whately, Ragged Life in Egypt (London, 1863), pp. 73-4.
3

Introduction

Children mattered in Victorian Britain. It was in children that the Victorians invested their
hopes for the next generation, and it was felt that the state of childhood reflected the
conditions of contemporary society. William Steads sensational article in 1885 on the
horrors of child prostitution, The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon, lent weight to the
claim that heathens and savages existed at the heart of the imperial capital.
1
Yet, the history
of the Victorian perception of foreign children has been underdeveloped. In particular,
perceptions of children in the Middle East have been under-explored in both histories of
Victorian notions of childhood and of British interaction with the Arab world. The cover of
Edward Saids Orientalism (1978) portrayed a naked child, leered at by a group of Arab men.
Despite the striking nature of this image, Western perceptions of children and childhood in
the Middle East were not examined in this seminal text. This absence persists in more recent
works. In her 1995 book, Billie Melman analysed Victorian womens interaction with the
Arab domestic sphere, but focuses on the experiences of adult women rather than children.
2

An emphasis on Victorian interaction with women is even more marked in Helen Murre-van
der Bergs work on Protestant missionaries in the Middle East, which argued that missionary
activity focused on activities directed towards women.
3
On the contrary, this thesis will
argue that the condition of Arab children was vitally important to observers views of the
Middle East, for it was they who represented the next generation. In the writings of mid-
Victorian travel writers, child-rearing practices could be used as evidence to show the future
condition of the Arab world. This thesis uses a detailed examination of three important travel

1
S. J. Brown, Providence and Empire, 1815-1914 (Harlow, 2008), p. 330.
2
B. Melman, Womens Orients: Englishwomen and the Middle East, 1718-1918: Sexuality, Religion and Work
(Basingstoke, 1992), pp. 140-1.
3
H. Murre-van der Berg, Nineteenth-Century Protestant Missions and Middle-Eastern Women in I. Okkenhaug
and I. Flaskerud (ed.), Gender, Religion and Change in the Middle East: Two Hundred Years of History (Oxford,
2005), p. 103.
4

narratives by women who visited Egypt in the second half of the nineteenth century to show
how Victorian perceptions of childhood in the Arab world were central to their understanding
and representation of wider Arab society.

This failure to examine Victorian perceptions of childhood in the Orient is particularly
striking when considering the increasing openness of the Ottoman Empire and the Khedivate
of Egypt to British observers in the mid-19
th
century. Mediterranean travel was becoming
increasingly more affordable, sparking a surge in middle-class travellers keen to observe life
in the Orient.
4
The popularity of such travel manifested itself in the wide array of travel
narratives, which provide a particularly fruitful source-base with which to examine Victorian
perceptions of the Middle East. Melmans research has usefully identified two distinct
modes of modern travel in the Victorian period which redefined the travelogue proper.
5
I
draw on Melmans categorisation to understand the three narratives this thesis rests on. The
first of Melmans modes was the pilgrimage mode of travel, in which British missionaries
would travel abroad to spread Christianity.
6
She referenced Mary Whatelys narratives as an
example of this form of travel literature. Whately, an evangelical missionary who founded
schools for Muslim girls in Cairo, held a great personal interest in the lives of Arab children,
and wrote extensively about them in her narratives, dating from the early 1860s to the later
1870s. Her concern with the lives of peasant households rather than aristocratic ones
distinguished her narrative from others, a fact that was noted in her obituary.
7
Thus, it is
suitable for her observations of Egyptian children to be included in an analysis of Victorian
perceptions of childhood in the Arab world.


4
Melman, Womens Orients, p. 105.
5
Ibid. pp. 16-7.
6
Ibid. pp. 53-5.
7
E. J. Whately, The Life and Work of Mary Louisa Whately (London, 1890), p. 56.
5

The second mode of Melmans categorisations of the Victorian travel narrative is harem
literature, a form concerned with domestic life in the Orient.
8
An important example of this
form was the work of Emmeline Lott, governess to the child-Prince of Egypt Ibrahim Pasha
in the later 1860s, which provides an important example of this form. While Whately framed
her analysis to demonstrate the daily pleasures and troubles
9
of peasant children, Lott
presented her analysis of Ibrahims childhood as an indication of the future state of the
Egyptian government. Ellen Chennells position as governess to Princess Zeyneb in the early
1870s used a similar technique of portraying the domestic upbringing of the Princess as an
indication for the future of the Egyptian state.
10
While Chennells narrative was published in
1893, subsequent to the British occupation of Egypt in 1882, her narrative is rooted in an
analysis of the pre-occupation period. All three observers used their authority as women to
traverse the domestic sphere and report its conditions to British audiences. The convention of
Western women entering the forbidden spaces of the Orient and reporting back what they
saw was well-established by the mid-nineteenth century, so much so that the influential
French art critic Theophile Gautier argued that only women should go to Turkey.
11


While there has been little work specifically on representations of children in the Arab world
in this period, research on the nineteenth century perceptions of the Arab family has opened
up some dialogue about the perceptions of children in the Middle East. Kenneth Cunos
discussion on Ambiguous Modernisation in the Khedive of Egypts household briefly
discussed the importance that the Khedive Tawfiq Pasha placed on British family culture
12


8
Melman, Womens Orients, p. 16.
9
Whately, Ragged Life, p. 5.
10
A similar argument is made in L. Pollard, Nurturing the Nation: The Family Politics of Modernising,
Colonising and Liberating Egypt, 1805-1923 (Berkeley, 2005), p. 49.
11
R. Lewis, Gendering Orientalism: Race, Family and Representation (London, 1996), p. 57.
12
K. Cuno, Ambiguous Modernisation: The Transition to Monogamy in the Khedival House of Egypt in B.
Doumami (ed.), Family History in the Middle East: Household, Property and Gender (New York, 2003), p.
248.
6

to ensure that girls would grow up to be companions to their husbands.
13
Lisa Pollards
work on Western perceptions of the domestic sphere demonstrated that the perceived disorder
in Egyptian family life was regarded as a microcosm of the disorder of Egyptian society.
14

However, in both these texts the emphasis is still on the perception of women in the context
of the Egyptian family, rather than on the perception of children. Reina Lewiss research on
the French painter Henriette Brown and her paintings of Oriental children threw some light
on perceptions of children in the Arab world. However, she underplayed the contemporary
importance of such perceptions, arguing that no-one has much to say about Brownes
children.
15
This thesis will demonstrate that there was interest in the upbringing of Arab
children among the British public, for it reinforced perceptions of the Arab world in the
Victorian mind.

Whately, Lott and Chennells all travelled to Egypt during the reign of the Khedive Ismail
Pasha, from 1863-1879. This was of particular relevance to their narratives due to the
modernisation reforms that Ismail sought to implement in Egypt. In this period, the
education budget increased tenfold, and was used to embark on a wide-scale program of
school-building and technical institutions.
16
Furthermore, Cairo was remodelled in the style
of Paris, complete with boulevards and parks.
17
The purpose of his modernisation was made
clear at the grand opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, during which the Khedive declared that
My country... is no longer in Africa, it is in Europe.
18
The texts under study must be read in
the light of this modernising context. All the three observers implicitly related the upbringing

13
Ibid. p. 253.
14
Pollard, Nurturing the Nation, p. 49.
15
Lewis, Gendering Orientalism, p. 176.
16
W. C. Cleveland, A History of the Modern Middle East (Oxford, 2004), p. 95.
17
Ibid. p. 97.
18
Ibid. p. 97.
7

of Egyptian children to the technological development of Egypt, and in doing so used
childhood in Egypt as a way of measuring modernity.

Historians have been careful not to homogenise the experience of female travellers, and so
accordingly this thesis will demonstrate the subtle differences that pervade each observers
work.
19
However, it is evident that there are shared similarities between their perceptions of
childhood in the Arab world. Chapter One will show how all three observers framed the
Egyptian family as a problem family which neglected childrens needs. Chapter Two will
demonstrate that the perceived failure of the Arab family to inculcate Victorian standards of
gender roles contributed to the perception that child-rearing practices in Egypt were
inadequate. Finally, Chapter Three will show how the language and symbolism of sickness
and death in all the observers narratives contributed to the perception that Egypt was morally
diseased for children. The importance of such perceptions has not been truly recognized by
historians, despite the fact that attitudes to children and child-rearing fuelled major debate
over the condition of England question.
20
This thesis will show that perceptions of children
and child-rearing in the Arab world were crucial in detailing how the Victorians perceived the
wider condition of the Middle East.







19
Melman, Womens Orients, p. 7.
20
J. Walvin, A Childs World: A Social History of English Childhood 1800-1914 (Middlesex, 1984), p. 84.
8

1. The pith of the tree has lost all its vital powers
1
: Perceptions of
Family and Childhood

There can be no security to society, no honour, no prosperity, no dignity at home
unless the strength of the people rests upon the purity and firmness of the domestic
system.
2



Lord Shaftesburys proclamation on the virtues of domesticity provides an insight into its
importance to British national identity. The Victorian ideal of the bourgeois nuclear family
was exalted as the natural home in which to raise children and ensure the vitality of the next
generation. The home was conceived of as the cornerstone of civilisation and the family
was where children first learned the moral, religious, ethical and social precepts of good
citizenship.
3
Conversely, families which deviated from the nuclear norm were derided and
portrayed as detrimental to the health of the nation. The exaltation of the nuclear family was
as much a product of fear that feminine rebellion was propelling the disintegration of the
nuclear family and the social order.
4
If the family was diseased, so too would be the nation.
Historians have explored relatively extensively the perception of family in Victorian travel
literature. Melman argued that Victorian female travellers saw the harem as a bourgeois
home while the Arab family was considered a child-orientated family.
5
Similarly, Susan
Bassnett claimed that Victorian female travellers described daily life in the harem as part of
the normality of womens lives against highly sexualised fantasies.
6
On the contrary, it is
the contention of this chapter that such observers perceived the Egyptian family as a problem
family which neglected childrens needs and stunted the growth of the nation. Lisa Pollard

1
Lott, The English Governess, p. 312.
2
A. Wohl, The Victorian Family: Structures and Stresses (London, 1978), p. 9.
3
Ibid. p. 10.
4
F. M. L. Thompson, The Rise of Respectable Society: A Social History of Victorian Britain (London, 1988), p.
85.
5
Melman, Womens Orients, p. 157.
6
S. Bassnett, Travel Writing and Gender in P. Hulme and T. Youngs (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to
Travel Writing (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 229-30.
9

noted that in Egypt both the harem and the hovel were criticized as unsuitable domestic
spaces.
7
While criticism of Egyptian family lives was inherent in the travel literature of
Victorian women, this chapter will show that the harem and the hovel were both criticized
for their effects on children on different grounds based on class assumptions.

Criticism of the Arab family had been prevalent in earlier observers accounts of the Middle
East. Le Pre Antonius Gonzales late seventeenth-century work Le Voyage en gypte
described the depraved and odd habits that Arab parents inculcated into their children.
8

Similarly, Edward Lane, author of Manners and Customs of the Early Egyptians (1836), was
one of the first British observers to portray the harem as a depraved, corrupt institution for
raising children.
9
However, their male authorship denied them access to the innermost parts
of the harem. This was noted in the introduction of Lotts narrative, in which she proclaims
that life in the harems has never been faithfully described by any observer.
10
Her privilege
is emphasised from the title page of Lotts narrative, which is marked by a photo of Lott
covered in a veil.
11
This demonstrates her authority by showing how she, unlike the reader,
can enter the secluded domestic sphere and narrate what she saw there.

Aristocratic Egyptian child-rearing practices were condemned as damaging and neglectful by
contemporary Victorian observers. In their eyes, the family of the children of the Khedive
consisted of the women of the harem who failed to instil the proper morals that a nuclear
family could. The cruelty that pervaded the harem was denounced forcefully by Lott. This is
reflected in her depiction of Ibrahims nurse, an Ethiopian slave whom she names Shaytan.

7
Pollard, Nurturing the Nation, p. 49.
8
Ibid. p. 59.
9
B. Melman, The Middle East/Arabia: The Cradle of Islam in Hulme and Youngs (ed.), The Cambridge
Companion to Travel Writing, p. 112.
10
Lott, The English Governess, p. 4.
11
M. Roberts, Intimate Outsiders: The Harem in Ottoman Art and Orientalist Art and Travel Literature
(Durham and London, 2007), p. 92.
10

Lott seeks to highlight Shaytans cruelty to Ibrahim, narrating how her punishments make
him [shriek] with pain.
12
Throughout the text, Shaytan is presented as the inversion of the
ideal English mother. For example, Lott insinuates that Shaytan attempted to give her a
poisoned apple, so that she could eradicate any rival to her authority.
13
Indeed, Shaytan
represents a rival to Lotts authority and by extension constructions of English motherhood.
14

Her cruelty and corruption are portrayed as representative of aristocratic Egyptian child-
rearing practices. Lott presents Shaytan in such a manner to show that by devolving care of
children to the cruel inmates of the harem, the Khedivate has failed to inculcate the Prince
with the morals worthy of office. In doing so, Lott draws upon conceptions of the middle-
class familys role as central to the moral education of the child. It was commonplace in this
period that, as Scottish intellectual Lord Kames put it, educating children was considered part
of the capital duties of a wife in Britain. Equally, aristocratic mothers were criticized for
pursuing perpetual rounds of pleasure at the expense of their children.
15
In Lotts work,
Shaytan is dramatized as a witch who wields power over the future care of Egypts
leaders.
16
By portraying the ill-effects of delegating maternal authority to the women of the
harem, Lott affirms the superiority of British child-rearing practices and depicts
contemporary Egyptian child-rearing methods as damaging to the children.

The contrast between British and Egyptian child-rearing methods is more distinct in
Chennells work. In her narrative, she presents two separate spaces for raising children in
Egypt: the Khedives palace, which she typifies as an English household, and the Eastern

12
Lott, The English Governess, p. 139.
13
S. Najmi and R. Shrikanth, White Women in Racialized Spaces: Imaginative Transformation and Ethical
Action in Literature (Albany, 2002), p. 234.
14
Ibid. p. 234.
15
E. Gordon and G. Nair, Public Lives: Women, Family, Society and Victorian Britain (New Haven & London,
2003), p. 135.
16
Najmi and Shrikanth, White Women, p. 234.
11

harem.
17
The effects of such spaces are reflected in the development of the children.
Chennells depicts the English household as a free community which encourages education
and liberty for the Princess and her half-sister, Kopss.
18
By contrast, the harem is regarded
as little more than a prison for such children. Kopss is silenced in the harem, and is
transformed into a quiet dignified Oriental
19
, while the young Princess is described as a
bird [that] pines in a cage for liberty.
20
In a similar manner, Chennells description of the
children in the harem reinforces the contemporary perception of the Arab world as illiberal by
demonstrating the restrictive nature of aristocratic Egyptian child-rearing methods. Both Lott
and Chennells give social meaning to physical spaces they encountered in Egypt to
emphasize their depravity, a narrative feature of Victorian literature that has been noted by
Irvin Schick.
21
Emphasis on the privacy of the harem is used to underscore the space as one
that is untouched by modernisation, and thus outside the model of the British nuclear
family.
22


The transformation of Kopss into a silenced woman reflects Chennells perception of the
harem as an institution which promotes tradition ahead of modernity. Conversely, Lotts
presentation of Ibrahim shows how an environment of moral depravity has turned him into a
little emperor, with three of the worst vices a child could possibly demonstrate: cruelty,
avarice and greediness.
23
The lack of proper models in the harem means that the child learns
the vices of their guardians. She shows how such vices have infected the child, and failed to
nurture the morality needed to successfully guide a nation. The bitter cruelty of Shaytan

17
Chennells, Recollections, p. 214.
18
Ibid. p. 42.
19
Ibid. p. 42.
20
Ibid. p. 278.
21
I. C. Schick, The Harem as a Gendered Space and the Spatial Reproduction of Gender in M. Booth (ed.),
Harem Histories: Envisioning Places and Living Spaces (Durham, 2011), p. 74.
22
Lott, The English Governess, p. 39.
23
Ibid. p. 141.
12

towards Ibrahim is mirrored in his cruelty to his servants, as he almost condemns a slave to
be thrown into a river full of crocodiles for his own amusement.
24
In her narrative, Lott aims
to explain the despotism and cruelty that the British population felt were endemic in the Arab
world in terms of the failure to bring up children. The exposition of vast riches and a cruel
atmosphere inculcates the depravity of the harem into the child. This is captured by Lott in
her reflections on her time in Egypt:

Having lived in the Harems, I am satisfied that the soil is capable of producing only crippled
plants
25



Here, Lott uses the metaphor of soil to reflect the degeneracy of the harem in producing
capable state leaders. In doing so, she challenges whether Egypt can be made into a
successful modern nation if its leaders are brought up in such an environment. While the
harem plays a less substantial role in Chennells work, she still equates it with an institution
of ages that reflects Egypts backwardness. Contemporary discourse on motherhood in
Britain equated a strong family structure with racial preservation and a strong nation.
26
By
criticising the family structure of the harem, Lott integrates such discourse in her analysis of
Egypt. In doing so, she implies that the modernisation of Egypt is superficial without
reform of child-rearing practices.

Aristocratic child-rearing practices were criticized by observers such as Lott and Chennells
for their undue restrictions on childrens liberty. By contrast, the fellah (peasant) family was
often romanticized by virtue of their poverty. In a contemporary work, Women in the Mission
Field, the author John Telford noted that the life of the peasant women was brighter than

24
Ibid. p. 140.
25
Ibid. p. 311.
26
A. M. Burton, The White Womans Burden: British Feminists and the Indian Woman, 1865-1915 in N.
Chaudhuri and M. Strobel (ed.), Western Women and Imperialism (Indianapolis, 1992), p. 138.
13

that of the upper-class because of her comparative freedom.
27
While observers such as
Whately praised the fellah family for their love of children
28
, she also noted that such a
family had additional problems which contributed to its weakness.

In particular, Whately criticized the custom of child marriage among fellah families. Child-
marriage was a prevalent topic in British discourse, due to outrage at its practice in India. As
Jaya Haripasad noted, the passing of the Age of Consent Act (1860) highlighted the plight of
children and women who were abused and suffering in the name of marriage.
29
In her
narrative, Whately claimed that early marriage harmed both the children that are married, and
the children that they produce. For those that are married off at a young age, Whately noted
that they still remained young girls who failed to enjoy their childhood. Describing her
meeting with the family of the Boab (gatekeeper), she exclaims her disgust at the betrothal of
Sallah, his eldest daughter:

It seemed a horrid mockery in the name of marriage, when this little creatures childishness
was so plainly shown by her conduct; she was eleven years old, but neither in looks or
manners was at all older than the girls of that age among city children
30



Whatelys criticism of child-marriage takes inspiration from notions of the innocence of
childhood, which reached their climax in the Victorian period. As Hugh Cunningham has
shown, childhood came to be seen as a special time of life[in which] the childlike quality
of the child needed to be preserved.
31
Childhood came to be seen as a period when one could
be shielded from the dangers of the world, and have free time to enjoy recreation and

27
J. Telford, Women in the Mission Field: Glimpses of Christian Women among the Heathen (London, 1895), p.
162.
28
M. Whately, Among the Huts in Egypt: Scenes from Real Life (London, 1871), p. 288.
29
J. Hariprasad, Marriage and the Nation: Victorian Literature, the Anglo-Indian tradition and the 19
th
century
Indian novel (Rice University Ph.D. thesis, 2009), p. 13.
30
Whately, Ragged Life in Egypt, p. 62.
31
H. Cunningham, Children and Childhood in Western Society since 1500 (London, 1995), p. 75.
14

delight in imagination.
32
Whately contrasts Victorian perceptions of the innocence of
childhood with the danger of child marriage, which forces the child to leave their innocence
behind for an unsuitable relationship. In criticizing child marriage, Whately castigates the
failure of the Arab fellah family to protect the innocence of childhood and force such children
into roles which they are not suited for.

Child marriage was increasingly seen by such observers as a national problem which
threatened the vitality of the domestic sphere. Whately noted that if Egyptian girls were
married off at at a young age, they wouldnt be able to develop the skills to be good mothers.
In doing so, she elevates the problem of child marriage as an issue that harms the next
generation of Egyptian children:

The girls marry so early that they are totally unfit for the responsibility of a familyan
Egyptian girl of twelve or fourteenis more unfit to take care of little children than an
ordinary specimen of an English village-girl at eight years old.
33



Here, Whately highlights the role of child marriage in propagating irresponsible child-rearing
practices. The immaturity of child parents means that they are more likely to propagate the
foolish customs that stunt childrens growth. Indeed, she notes that such mothers cram [the
childs] mouth with food before their teeth have developed, and attributes this form of
feeding to the shrunken limbs and unnaturally large bodies of the children.
34
Much like
Lott, racial difference plays a role in her analysis of childhood. By criticizing child-marriage
for creating unfit mothers, Whately raises concern over the racial strength of native
Egyptians and highlights British superiority, reflected in her comparison between an eight
year old English girl and a fifteen year old Egyptian girl. Indeed, Victorian anthropological

32
Walvin, A Childs World, p. 15.
33
Whately, Ragged Life in Egypt, p. 120.
34
Ibid. p. 120.
15

studies had argued that child marriage was clear evidence for the backwardness of a
particular society.
35
Thus, Whatelys perception of child-marriage is used to demonstrate the
superiority of British child-rearing methods over Egyptian ones.

Further to this, the Egyptian fellah family structure came under scrutiny and was found
wanting. While the Victorian family was lionized as the cornerstone of civilization, the
Egyptian family was perceived as weak due to the omnipresence of divorce. In Whatelys
narrative, the ease of divorce in Egypt is central to the breakdown of the fellah family and the
separation of children from their siblings:

The effect on the children of the frequent separation of their parents may be imagined;
brothers and sisters early parted a step-mother and step-father while their own are still alive
the little ones sometimes residing with one parent and sometimes with another.
36



Whatelys opposition to divorce is not surprising. Evangelical reaction against the 1853
Royal Commission on Divorce resulted in over 90,000 lay signatures protesting against its
potential legislation.
37
She engages in such debates by demonstrating how, in Egypt, divorce
had contributed to a generation of broken families. Moreover, Whatelys vivid portrayal of
divorce is presented as evidence of the degenerate condition of Egypt under Islam, and
underscores the need for Christian missionary activity. Islam is presented as a force which
engenders family breakdown by encouraging divorce on the most trivial pretext, contrasting
against the Anglican conception of indissoluble marriage.
38
Whately justifies her role as an
evangelical missionary by demonstrating how Anglican Christianity provides a better life for

35
J. DePlato, Multiple Wives, Multiple Pleasures: Representing the Harem, 1800-75 (London, 2002), p. 191.
36
Whately, Ragged Life, p. 120.
37
G. Parsons, J. R. Moore, Religion in Victorian Britain: Controversies (Manchester, 1988), p. 93.
38
Ibid. p. 76.
16

children because it averts the family breakdown that comes with divorce.
39
The consequences
of divorce are well-illustrated in Whatelys narrative, showing how divorced women are
now living on a pittancewhich barely keeps her and her child above starvation.
40
In this
instance, she demonstrates how divorce negates the husband and fathers primary role as
breadwinner to support the family. Her narrative presents the Muslim family as a negation of
the Christian domestic idyll that she inculcates in her school. Thus, Whatelys criticism of
Islam in relation to divorce is integrated with an understanding of the superiority of Anglican
Christianity in providing children with a safe and secure family life.

Thus, all three observers identified that the Arab family was in a state of crisis. They sought
to emphasize the gravity of the situation by portraying the ill-effects of native customs upon
children, and in doing so elevated it to a level of national concern for the future of Egypt.
However, it is important to note that all three writers held subtle differences in their work;
indeed this chapter has shown how different attitudes to class and religion shaped each
writers portrayal of the Arab familys failure to successfully raise their children.
Nevertheless, Lotts extended metaphor at the end of The English Governess sums up the
attitude of all three women to the state of Arab children suffering from the failure of the Arab
family to bring them up properly: the pith of the tree has lost all its vital powers.
41




39
Whately, Ragged Life, p. 76.
40
Ibid. p. 78.
41
Lott, The English Governess, p. 312.
17

2. Strong Prejudices
1
: Perceptions of Gender and Childhood

We English, when we speak of our children, do not class them with our cattle.
We rear our girls to be the ornaments of our hearth, not as objects of barrier and
exchange.
2


This quote is taken from the imperial dramatic piece, Freedom, which was performed in
Britain shortly after the conclusion of the Urabi Revolt in 1882. The assertion of British
values in Freedom rests significantly on the perceived treatment of girls in Egypt. In one
scene, the villainous Arab, Araf Bey, attempts to buy the daughter of Loring, a British
banker. Lorings anger at the treatment of Egyptian girls as chattel is juxtaposed against the
love and care he bestows upon his own daughter.
3
Such perceptions of gender in the Arab
world were often derived from travel narratives of the region. Indeed, Reina Lewis and
Nancy Mickelwright noted how Western women emphasized the being-there-ness of their
harem accounts to demonstrate their authority on gender to Western audiences.
4
It is the
contention of this chapter that the perceived failure of Egyptians to live up to appropriate
conceptions of gender was denounced by the British observers on the basis that their children
were neglected. Some historians have chosen to explore the perceptions of gender in Arab
childhood. Melman focused on the relationship between the creation of a familial relationship
between the English missionary and the Jewish girl in Palestine.
5
This chapter extends her
analysis by showing how such relationships were used to compensate for the perceived
failure of the Arab mother to live up to her maternal role. Schicks analysis suggested that it
was the spatial configuration of the harem that taught female children how to be Muslim

1
Chennells, Recollections, p. 372.
2
E. Ziter, The Orient on the Victorian Stage, (Cambridge, 2003) p. 170.
3
Ibid. pp. 171-2.
4
R. Lewis and N. Mickelwright, Gender, Modernity and Liberty Middle Eastern and Western Womens
Writings: A Critical Sourcebook (New York, 2006), p. 4.
5
Melman, Womens Orients, p. 203.
18

women and male children how to be Muslim men.
6
This chapter will demonstrate that, on
the contrary, while the harem was important in configuring Victorian perceptions of gender in
aristocratic Arab childhood, it did not apply to conceptions of gender in fellah childhood.

In her research on Travel Narrative and Gender, Susan Bassnett reflected on the importance
of social documentation in the works of Victorian female travellers.
7
While male travel
accounts were replete with stories of fantasy, womens accounts focused on the importance of
everyday life.
8
A prime example of such was Lady Elizabeth Eastlakes Letters from the
Shore of the Baltic (1842), which addressed problems of childcare and girls education in
imperial Russia.
9
In doing so, such narratives tapped into the prevailing notion of the
womans position in upholding the strength of the family and home.
10
The notion of the
sanctity of the home was given added force in light of its emphasis by British missionaries.
The research of Alison Twells demonstrates the role of female missionaries in teaching native
women the importance of domesticity heathen lands so as to improve the moral condition of
such families.
11
Yet even secular observers in Egypt noted the absence of domesticity and a
failure to conform to the expectations of motherhood as reasons for the wilful state of the
Egyptian child. This is demonstrated in Lotts narrative, by her understanding that the women
in the harem fail to understand the proper duties of motherhood and inhibit the development
of the child. She dramatically demonstrates this in her examination of infanticide in Egypt:

In their Mansions of Bliss, after once or twice bearing children, they conceive a horror of the
natural duties of maternity, more especially if their offspring has been of the female sex. The

6
I. C. Schick, The Harem as a Gendered Space, p. 73.
7
Bassnett, Travel Writing and Gender, p. 230.
8
Ibid. p. 230.
9
Ibid. p. 230.
10
K. Gleadle, Women in the Nineteenth Century (Hampshire, 2001), pp. 83-4.
11
A. Twells, The Civilising Mission and the English Middle Class, 1792-1850: The Heathen at Home and
Overseas (Hampshire, 2009), pp. 8-9.
19

destruction of the unborn babe is thus no more to them than the act of a woman weary of a
mothers delight.
12


Here, Lott suggests that infanticide is the result of culture that does not value its mothers.
Without the promotion of mothers as Angels of the House, Egyptian women are unable to
understand the importance of children, and are more inclined to kill their offspring due to the
[weariness] of a mothers delight. As the last chapter showed, Lott associated the harem
with the violence and cruelty of its inmates. Her description of infanticide further
substantiates the cruelty of the women towards children, marking such women as unfit
guardians. By narrating the omnipresence of infanticide in the Arab world, Lott was actively
engaging in public debates about the topic in the mid-Victorian period. The repeal of the
newspaper tax in 1855 led to a surge of sensational stories about murdered infants in the
mainstream press.
13
While in Britain infanticide was condemned as barbarous, Lott portrays
infanticide as commonplace and acceptable in Egypt due to a lack of appreciation for
mothers. Indeed, she emphasizes this further by proclaiming that Very seldom, do they
[Egyptian parents] possess, or even comprehend, feelings natural to European parents.
14
Her
juxtaposition between the feelings of European parents with the neglect of Egyptian parents
contributes to her perception that Egyptians are unfit parents. Lott shows that the lack of
interest in the natural duties of maternity reflects the selfishness of Egyptian mothers and
their willingness to kill their children so that they continue living without responsibilities.

The concept of Egyptian mothers abandoning their natural duties is a theme which runs
consistently across the narratives. While Chennells work is not as sensationalist as Lotts in

12
E. Lott, The Mohaddetyn in the Palace: Nights in the Harem or The Mohaddetyn in the Palace of Ghezire
(London, 1867), p. 194.
13
G. Behlmer, Deadly Motherhood: Infanticide and Medical Opinion in Mid-Victorian England, Journal of
the History of Medicine, 34 (1979), pp. 406-7.
14
Lott, The Mohaddetyn, p. 194.
20

its portrayal of Arab mothers, it echoes the core themes in Lotts text. The lack of scrutiny in
childbirth reflects the lax attitude of such mothers to their children in the harem:

It is the custom in Egypt, when a child is born, to wash it in wine, and then bandage it up for
forty dayssome old harem nurses always remained present throughout the daycoming
back to see whether the child was still alive
15



The emphasis that Chennells places on whether the child was still alive reflects the
inadequacy of the harem nurses and demonstrates the failure of maternal duties for women
that choose to rely on such a system. She criticizes the native customs of Egypt for
undervaluing the role of mother and placing the child under the control of uncaring nurses,
and in doing so alludes to debates within Egypt about the competence of its midwives.
Indeed, the traditional midwife, the daya, was held up by the Khedivate as responsible for
Egypts high infant mortality rate due to her irrational practices.
16
Chennells criticism
demonstrates that the incompetence of the daya was prevalent in the harem. In doing so, she
implies that the modernisation of Egyptian childcare and midwife practices is incomplete
without a similar cultural change which values the role of mothers. Without such changes,
she implies that Egyptian children will continue to be neglected.

While Lott and Chennells focus on the superstition and neglect of contemporary Egyptian
child-birth procedures, Whately roots her analysis of the failure of women to live up to
Victorian gender roles in the condition of their home. This is particularly evident in her
critique of the low status ascribed to the homes cleanliness:


15
Chennells, Recollections, p. 239
16
K. Fahmy, Women, Medicine and Power in Nineteenth-Century Egypt, in L. Abu-Lughod (ed.), Remaking
Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East (Princeton, 1998), p. 41.
21

The good womans household duties are not varied; she has no cups or plates to wash, or beds
to make; and though she might sweep the house, she rarely does so; she, therefore, frequently
dawdles about
17


Here, Whately demonstrates that fellah mothers do not provide a good model for their
children because of their failure to keep their homes tidy and in order. She regards this
disorder as both a result of and manifestation of Egyptian mothers mismanagement of
infants.
18
Her portrayal of the lazy Egyptian mother is designed to demonstrate the failure of
the Egyptian womans duty as a mother, and to reflect the unrespectability of the Egyptian
family. In narrating the failure of the Egyptian mother to keep control of her household,
Whately subtly contrasts her situation to the respectable artisan family in Victorian
England. Gertrude Himmelfarbs research has demonstrated the importance of housework
and cleanliness in the creation of a respectable working-class.
19
The household was central
to the life of a working-class woman, and thus the ability to keep it in a clean, orderly and
thrifty state was regarded with a sense of pride.
20
In keeping the house clean, working-class
women were seen to be sharing in a positive work ethic that was lionised by contemporary
middle-class discourse. The failure of the Egyptian mother to fulfil the expectations of
cleanliness signified that such women lacked a sense of maternal duties. This is reflected
further in Whatelys visit to wealthier women, in which she notes that, while the dwelling
was full of wealth[it was] very unlike a home.
21
In narrating this, she presents the failure
of the domestic household as one that universally afflicts all Egyptian women, regardless of
social status.


17
Whately, Among the Huts, p. 33.
18
Ibid. p. 29.
19
G. Himmelfarb, In Defence of the Victorians in K. Boyd and R. McWilliam (ed.) The Victorian Studies
Reader (New York, 2009), p. 216.
20
Ibid. p. 215.
21
Whately, Among the Huts, p. 177.
22

The symbol of the Egyptian home took on significance in Victorian travel writing as a
microcosm of Egypts troubles.
22
In Whatelys narrative, the disorder in the home mirrors
with the disorder of the Egyptian family and the state due to the failure of women to live up
to gender roles. While Whately and Lott both present the Egyptian woman as lacking in a
sense of maternal duties, they attribute this to different causes. While Lott focuses on the
normalisation of female violence in the harem, Whately focuses on the lack of female
education as the cause of this failure. This theme is central to her narrative, as she regards the
diffusion of female education as paramount to the creation of a respectable working-class:

In a country where there is no female education, and no moral standard, the difference is very
trifling between the children of a beggar and those of an honest workman
23


Here, Whately demonstrates how the lack of female education adversely affects the Egyptian
child. Without the provision of education, young Egyptian girls are unable to learn the skills
to develop into good housewives and keep their homes in order. This means that such
families are unable to provide a firm foundation for the upbringing of their children. Without
a respectable working-class family which inculcates moral standards to their children,
Whately shows how the Egyptian state is damaged, since an entire generation is brought up
with the manners of the unrespectable working-class. Thus, by failing to provide female
education, Whately shows how the Egyptian state creates a generation of women lacking in a
sense of maternal duties who bring up their children in disorder.

The unrespectability of the Egyptian family associated with the failure of gender roles in
Egypt is remedied in the eyes of all three authors by their moral authority. All three observers
presented themselves as having a solution to the failure of Egyptians to adopt appropriate

22
Pollard, Nurturing the Nation, p. 66.
23
Whately, Ragged Life, p. 120.
23

gender roles. All regard education as a means of reinforcing gender roles and ensuring that
Egyptian children can grow up with maternal love and care. Yet all three observers view
education in different manners depending on their position. Whatelys school is targeted at
helping Muslim girls provide housework skills that will benefit them in motherhood:

The children were delighted when the work-hour arrived, the real inducement to most of them
and the mothers being the needlework
24


Having established a school for Muslim girls, Whately is keen to emphasise the power of
education to restore appropriate gender roles. The inclusion of sewing lessons reflects the
importance of domestic housework in Whatelys eyes. Her insistence on teaching domestic
skills is vindicated further on in her travels, as she notes seeing habits of cleanliness starting
to make their way in Egyptian families.
25
In doing so, Whately cements her position as a
moral educator to the girls in light of the failure of the Egyptian mother to teach her daughter
such skills. The relationship between Whately and her pupils is reminiscent of teacher-
student relationships in other Victorian narratives of the Middle East. Indeed, Melman noted
in her analysis of Domestic Life in Palestine that the English mother disciplines her
pupil-daughter, educates her and sometimes Christianizes her.
26
In a similar manner,
Whately educates the pupil-daughters about needlework and the need to keep a good home.
In doing so, she fosters a maternal relationship with her students and teaches them domestic
skills that their Egyptian mothers failed to inculcate in them. The centrality of the womans
mission in presiding over a good home was present in Victorian attitudes to girls education.

24
Ibid. p. 53.
25
M. Whately, Child-Life in Egypt (London, 1866), pp. 236-7.
26
Melman, Womens Orients, p. 203.
24

It was felt that without learning household management, nursing and sewing, working-class
girls would be unable to live up to Victorian conceptions of motherhood.
27


As a missionary, the education that Whately gives her students is designed to encourage them
to embrace conversion to Christianity. Such endeavours were regarded with suspicion by
some individuals in Britain; it was felt that unwanted and interfering missionary activity had
spurred on the Indian Mutiny (1857).
28
In light of such criticism, Whately emphasises the
positive benefits of Christianity by demonstrating how it empowers women. This is
particularly emphasised in her description of Islamic attitudes to women:

The women are told that God cannot love them, and they are not even encouraged to pray.
29


Throughout Whatelys text, she makes clear that her efforts at spreading Christianity are
embraced by Egyptian women. By introducing Christianity to the women, she introduces the
idea of religious equality between man and woman. She shows that while the Muslim woman
is denigrated by her religion as soulless; the Christian woman is empowered by scripture and
is liberated from her position as a beast.
30
Furthermore, the general claim that education
empowered girls is one that is echoed in other narratives. Chennells work elevates girls
education as necessary for a happily married life, noting that men in contemporary Egypt
wish to have an educated wife for company rather than a doll.
31
Thus, education is
regarded as a tool to empower Egyptian girls from their lowly position. Whately underlines

27
J. Purvis Hard Lessons: The Lives and Education of Working-Class Women in Nineteenth-Century England
(Cambridge, 1989), p. 76.
28
T. Thomas, Foreign Missions and Missionaries in Victorian Britain in J. Wolffe (ed.), Religion in Victorian
Britain: Culture and Empire (Manchester, 1997), p. 124.
29
Whately, Ragged Life, p. 76.
30
Whately, Among the Huts, p. 184.
31
Chennells, Recollections, p. 293.
25

the point poignantly in her description of a young Egyptian boy who exclaims that he wishes
to be a girl after seeing the beneficial effects of Whatelys school.
32


Indeed, the education that all three authors aim to develop is also geared towards
inculcating proper conceptions of masculinity in boys. Evangelical conceptions of
masculinity were particularly evident in the contemporary discussion on how to provide
moral education for boys in Britain. John Tosh has shown how evangelicals placed most
emphasis on character or the inner resources of which a man dealt with the world as the
prime indicator of masculinity.
33
Masculine concepts of sturdiness and courage had both a
moral and physical dimension in determining the superiority of character.
34
As an
evangelical missionary, Whately makes clear the importance of character in teaching Arab
boys proper concepts of masculinity. In particular this is present in her discussion of the
establishment of a boys school in Cairo:

All who have had any experience among Easterns, know the importance of getting them as
young as possible under instruction; even at home, we all know the advantage which a child
enjoys who has some moral discipline and mental culture under ten years old.
35



Here, Whately presents the reinforcement of moral character as an intended product of a
boys school. In doing so, she demonstrates her attachment to character as the focus for
masculinity. While the vagrant donkey-boys of Cairo view the use of profane English
words as an indicator of their manliness, Whately criticizes their insolence and instead focus
on the formation of moral discipline as an indicator of true masculinity in Gods eyes.
36
The
education of her ragged school is portrayed as the best means of inculcating good character

32
Whately, Ragged Life, p. 178.
33
J. Tosh, A Mans Place: Masculinity and the Middle-Class Home in Victorian England (New Haven &
London, 1999), p. 112.
34
Ibid. p. 112.
35
Whately, Ragged Life, p. 144.
36
Ibid. p. 139.
26

into the donkey-boys, before they fall into the whirlwind of bad example.
37
Indeed,
education and learning is regarded by Whately as a means for cementing Evangelical notions
of masculinity in the Arab child. Her image of the Moslim boylounging around with his
comrades in the streethis soul and body are in dust
38
, is contrasted against the energy and
work present in her school. The Christian education that she provides stops street boys falling
into idleness, and promotes the ideal of hard work, a quality which had acquired hallowed
authority in the Victorian period.
39
Despite the weaker emphasis on religion, Lotts narrative
details similar themes of Egyptian boys corrupted masculinity and the importance of
character in redeeming it:

Had [the grand Pasha] been left alone with me, away from the disgusting manners of the
ladies of the Harem and the slaves, he might have been made a man of and even a
gentleman
40


Despite the difference in class between the Khedive and the donkey-boys, Lotts presentation
of corrupted masculinity is similar to Whatelys. In both instances, children are corrupted by
different dimensions of Egyptian life which means that they learn about masculinity from bad
examples. Similarly, in both examples the observer places herself in a position of moral
authority to instruct proper versions of masculinity. In Lotts case, her moral authority is
manifested in her disciplining of Ibrahim which teaches him correct forms of behaviour. Such
values were considered crucial to the role of the British governess; as Kathryn Hughes noted,
they were paid to embody the bourgeois-Christian virtues of sobriety, honesty and order.
41

Thus, both Whately and Lott present themselves as role models to Egyptian boys by
promoting a construction of masculinity, based on the content of ones character.

37
Ibid. p. 144.
38
Ibid. pp. 146-7.
39
Tosh, A Mans Place, p. 112.
40
Chennells, The English Governess, p. 140.
41
K. Hughes, The Victorian Governess (London, 1993), p. 81.
27

In remedying the lack of proper male role models in Egypt, Whately criticizes adult male
Egyptians for failing to provide positive role models of masculinity. She contrasts the
paternalism of the British gentleman with the apathy of the Egyptian male:

Morally, however, the Moslim boy is worse off [than an English boy]no open-air preacher
for him, no city missionaryno kind gentleman to stop him in his corner of vice and idleness
...and telling him of the ragged school in such a street.
42



Here, Whately shows that the lack of father-figures in Egypt is a consequence of the lack of
the Evangelical spirit. Without the energy of evangelicalism, there is little scope for male
philanthropists promoting social reform. This is further referenced by Chennells, who notes
there is no public spirit in Egypt.
43
Whatelys criticism of Egyptian masculinity rests on the
failure of such men to provide suitable role models to Egyptian boys. The lackadaisical
attitude of the Egyptian male is explicitly contrasted against Whatelys own school in Egypt.
Moreover, by critiquing this attitude, Whately cements the superiority of British masculinity
in promoting social reform and providing paternal figures across the world. Indeed, as Alison
Twells notes, one of the central aims of missionary policy was to provide Christian men
who would be able to extend the Christian moral system and community across the globe.
44

Thus, Whately integrates evangelical masculinity with social issues to highlight the failure of
Egyptian men to live up to such roles, which condemns the young street Arabs to a
miserable life.

In her preface to The English Governess, Lott denigrated the work of Lady Montagu. In
particular, she criticized Montagus indelicacy and argued that as an aristocratic woman,

42
Whately, Ragged Life, p. 146.
43
Chennells, Recollections, pp. 255-6.
44
Twells, The Civilising Mission, p. 5.
28

Montagu was not interested in the lives of ordinary women.
45
By framing herself as the
opposite of Montagu, Lott justifies her authority in critiquing the position of the women in
Egypt. She described herself as the most humble and devoted servant
46
, accentuating her
claim to speak for the position of ordinary women and not the far-famed Odalisques that
Montagu associated with.
47
In a similar manner, all three observers focused less on portraying
excess, and more on the moral condition of Egyptian men and women. In doing so, they
paralleled contemporary interest in the condition of England problem.
48
The examination of
gender roles in Egypt by the three observers demonstrated a perception that the Egyptian
people had failed to live up to such roles. Consequently, all three writers blame the inferior
quality of child-rearing on this failure, and try to remedy it through education.











45
Melman, Womens Orients, p. 100.
46
Lott, The English Governess, p. v.
47
Ibid. p. viii.
48
Melman, Womens Orients, p. 105.
29

3. A subjectso dreaded by the Moslems in General
1
: Perceptions
of Sickness and Death in Childhood
Grandmother, grandmother
Tell me the truth.
How many years, am I
Going to live?
One, two, three, four
2


Contemporary Victorian discussion on childhood was not confined solely to the childs lived
experience. As the excerpt above from a street game demonstrates, the untimely death of
children was a prevalent issue in Victorian Britain. Infant mortality remained constant at
around 153 deaths per thousand throughout the century.
3
Inadequate sanitation and relentless
overcrowding fuelled the proliferation of typhoid, cholera and smallpox in Britains urban
centres. In light of this, new conceptions of medical authority were popularised to address
these problems. Calls for social reform were driven by experts such as Edwin Chadwick,
whose Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain (1842)
was instrumental in the passing of the 1848 Public Health Act.
4
Equally, the conception of
medical authority was an important aspect of the 1858 Medical Act, which sought to codify
the qualities of a professional doctor.
5


This conception of medical and scientific authority was frequently deployed in all of the
travel narratives by Lott, Chennells and Whately. All three observers located medical
authority in figures of the West, and contrasted it against the backwardness of Egyptian
superstition. Much of the historical attention upon Orientalist concepts of medical authority

1
Whately, Ragged Life, pp. 73-4.
2
A. Walsh, Endangered Lives: Public Health in Victorian Britain (London, 1983), p. 10.
3
Ibid. pp. 10-1.
4
D. McLean, Public Health and Politics in the Age of Reform: Cholera, the State and the Royal Navy in
Victorian Britain (London, 2006), p. 7.
5
W. E. Bynum, Science and the Practice of Medicine in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, 1994), p. 179.
30

has focused on India. For example, David Hardiman has shown how female missionaries in
India used their medical authority to gain entry into the domestic sphere.
6
Yet, some
historians have chosen to explore concepts of British medical authority in the Middle East.
Narin Hassans research on womens travel has illuminated how Victorian female observers
used their gender to traverse the private sphere and document foreign bodies using their
medical knowledge.
7
This chapter will extend Hassans work by showing how the language
of medical authority is used by such observers to further emphasise the depravity of the
Egyptian family and the neglect of the child. The observers further highlighted the depravity
of the Arab world in their presentation of child death. Patricia Jalland argued that in Victorian
Britain the death was presented as a respite for the deceased children, who were spared the
suffering of a sinful world.
8
The chapter will show how conceptions of child-death as a
release from suffering took on a special meaning in Whatelys and Chennells accounts. In
these texts, a childs death was further perceived as a release from the sin and depravity of the
Arab world.

Earlier observers accounts of visits to Egypt were divided over whether it should be
presented as a space of health and vitality or as a site of contagion and disease.
9
Medical
experts such as Antoine Clot posited that Egyptians were healthier than Europeans because of
Egypts benign climate and their frequency of steam baths.
10
Baron Romanique Larrey, the
Surgeon General of the French expedition, argued that the dry sunny climate of the Nile
Valley meant that wounds healed quickly, and diseases such as scabs and gout disappeared.
11


6
D. Hardiman, Missionaries and their medicine: A Christian Modernity for Tribal India, (Manchester, 2008), p.
141.
7
N. Hassan, Female Prescriptions: Medical Advice and Womens Travel in Nineteenth Century Gender
Studies, 5 (2009), pp. 2-4.
8
P. Jalland, Death and the Victorian Family (Oxford, 1996), p. 123.
9
Hassan, Female Prescriptions, p. 1.
10
L. Kuhnke, Lives at Risk: Public Health in Nineteenth Century Egypt (Oxford, 1990), p. 26.
11
Ibid. p. 26.
31

However, this romantic image was contrasted against other travellers accounts, which
portrayed Egypt as the worlds largest cesspit. Many eighteenth-century travellers
complained of the medieval quality of refuge disposal, the variety of debris that floated on the
canal and above all the stench that seemed to envelop Egypt.
12
Most noticeable, however,
was the fact that earlier accounts drew their evidence on Egypts health in public spaces.

As has been demonstrated earlier, female observers were privileged in their view of Egypt,
for only they could enter the private sphere.
13
And all three observers capitalised on this
privilege to offer a new perspective on health in Egypt, documenting the reality of health in
the private sphere, and its effects on children. They portrayed the domestic conditions of
Egypt as places of sickness and disease. In their narratives, the moral disease of Egyptian
domestic spaces manifested itself in the physical diseases which infected Egyptian children.
This was particularly reflected in Lotts description of the harem. As Hassan shows, Lott
suggests that the rituals and patterns of domestic life in the harem breed disease.
14
Her
presentation of depravity and cruelty of the harem is manifested in the intoxication
15
that
occurs when individuals take the Haschisch:

When taken, it causes violent palpitations, followed by excruciating pangs and qualms, which
produce a hallucination of the senses, that makes the mind fancy all kinds of improbable
things...at times his memory becomes impaired, and he sinks into a deep lethargy.
16



Here Lott demonstrates how the harem ritual of taking opiates is physically noxious and
contributes to the ill-health of the members of the harem. The moral disease of the harem is
manifested in the physical sickness of its inhabitants. Even more alarmingly, hashisch is

12
Ibid. p. 25.
13
Hassan, Female Prescriptions, p. 4.
14
N. Hassan, Diagnosing Empire: Women, Medical Knowledge and Colonial Mobility (Farnham, 2011), p. 31.
15
Ibid. p. 31.
16
Lott, The English Governess, pp. 148-9.
32

described as one of the principal charms
17
used by the mothers of the harem for women
undergoing childbirth. Lott presents the unscientific and immoral use of hashisch as
evidence for the sickness that infests the Egyptian child. She reinforces the presentation of
the harem as a space untouched by modernisation by noting how the trained medical men of
the Pasha are seldom or never called into the Harem.
18
In doing so, she suggests that
beneath the veneer of respectability, Egypts future leaders were still being brought up in a
superstitious, diseased environment which stunts childrens growth. The association of the
Orient with narcotics was prevalent in earlier travellers accounts of the Middle East. Jean
Chardins Travels in Persia (1764) highlighted the ubiquity of opium in the dens of the
Orient.
19
Figures in the Victorian period castigated the growing opium trade by presenting it
as a threat to the purity of the English domestic sphere. In an article in his journal All Year
Round (1866), Charles Dickens presented a vivid picture of the East End opium divan
which portrayed the Englishwoman as a helpless victim who was seduced and Orientalized in
the opium den by Chinese opium-dealers.
20
In a similar manner, Lott presents haschisch as
evidence of the corrupted domestic sphere. Her description of haschisch as a pernicious
influence
21
and the ways she drew on contemporary criticism of drug use lends weight to her
claim that the Egyptian household is unfit for raising children.

The domestic sphere is further presented by Whately as a place of sickness in her
presentation of fellah children, particularly in light of Egypts abnormally high infant
mortality. Statistical research has shown that a child in Cairo had a 50% chance of surviving

17
Ibid, p. 148.
18
Ibid. p. 148.
19
B. Milligan, Pleasures and Pains: Opium and the Orient in 19
th
century British Culture (Virginia, 1995), p.
20.
20
Ibid. pp. 86-7.
21
Lott, The English Governess, p. 149.
33

into adulthood.
22
. For Victorian female observers the habits of the domestic sphere were used
to explain why infant mortality in Egypt was perceived to be so high. They especially
criticized the superstition that pervaded Egyptian families and stopped them from seeking
proper medical help. This was demonstrated in Whatelys analysis of the effects of
superstition:

The fear of the evil eye is well known; indeed even women of the higher classes frequently
keep their children ill-dressed and unwashed
23



In this passage, Whately shows how superstitious attitudes prevent the development of a
healthy child. This is contrasted against the education and knowledge that she presents in her
school. The illustrations of her classroom in her narrative portray her school as a clean and
homely environment.
24
In doing so, she juxtaposes the disease of the Egyptian domestic
space with the cleanliness and education of her school, a Christian and British domestic
space. As has been demonstrated earlier, cleanliness was considered central to Victorian
conceptions of working-class respectability.
25
The lack of cleanliness in the Egyptian
domestic sphere is presented as evidence for why so many Egyptian children grew up in an
environment of disease, and were ill-thrived compared to children in Britain.

The association of superstition with needless suffering is documented further in Whatelys
narrative. She shows that native customs and superstitions create a sense of pessimistic
fatalism among Egyptian parents to the sickness of their children. This is demonstrated in her
observation of an Egyptian Coptic family, and their reaction to the sickness of their daughter:


22
P. Hargues, Family and Household in Mid-Nineteenth Century Cairo, in B. Doumami (ed.), Family History,
p. 23.
23
Whately, Ragged Life, pp. 120-1.
24
Ibid. p. 52.
25
Himmelfarb, In Defence of the Victorians, p. 216.
34

I heard that she was very ill, that the mother was in despair, and expected she would die.
However, she would not call a doctor, but said If it were Gods will her child should die, she
would die; and if it were Gods will she should live, she would live.
26


Whately uses this example to demonstrate the native ideas respecting the treatment of the
sick.
27
Her depiction of parental fatalism reflects a long-standing trend in Western
observation of life in the Middle East. As Laura Kuhnke has shown, submission, dubbed
fatalism, has been frequently addressed by Western travellers.
28
Whately domesticates
conceptions of fatalism, showing how its prevalence in the domestic sphere leads to tragedy
and needless suffering on behalf of the family. The depiction of superstition and fatalism is
also presented by her as evidence for the importance of her missionary activity. Anglican
Christianity is presented as an active force in her narrative, one that is responsible for all
manner of philanthropic work, education and empowerment of women. Stewart Browns
research has illuminated this trend, showing how evangelicalism could inspire believers with
an ethic of duty and work.
29
By preaching that all individuals were accountable to God, it
infused individuals with a sense of divine purpose and manifested itself in the need to
spread Christianity throughout the world and promote righteousness.
30
By contrast, the
Egyptian religions of Coptic Christianity and Islam are presented as fatalistic; indeed
Whately suggests that the omnipresence of fatalism in Egypt is [mistaken] for faith and
makes them ultimately unwilling to seek medical intervention in times of crisis.
31
Thus,
Whately shows that the fatalism of Coptic Christianity and Islam makes everyday life
sorrowful for children.


26
Whately, Ragged Life, p. 124.
27
Ibid. p. 123.
28
Kuhnke, Lives at Risk, p. 42.
29
Brown, Providence, p. 3
30
Ibid. p. 3.
31
Whately, Ragged Life, p. 124.
35

The language and symbolism of death is also used by Chennells to contrast the superstition of
the common Egyptian against the modernity of the Khedives English Household. This is
demonstrated by her anger at the frightful performance of the doseh:

Two or three hundred men are induced...to throw themselves across the road to be trampled
upon by a horse, convinced that if they are killed they will go straight to Paradise.
32



Chennells condemns such a practice as barbarous, and hopes that as civilisation spreads it
will disappear.
33
Perceived as an authentically Egyptian and Islamic practice, Chennells uses
this incident to reinforce the stereotype of fatalistic Arabs, who are more interested in the
fruits of the next world than the condition of the material one. She contrasts this against the
modernity of the Khedive who immensely promoted the health of [Cairo].
34
. By presenting
the common Egyptian as besotted by superstition, to the point of dying an unnecessary death,
she notes that the common Egyptian family is still unfit for raising a child.

In the eyes of all three observers, disease and suffering in Egypt would be remedied by the
medical authority of the West. Medicine and medical knowledge is held up as a symbol of
modernity that improves family life. Indeed, in Chennells narrative medical knowledge in
the English household is represented by the figure of Dr. Zohrab Bey, an Armenian
physician. Chennells roots the conception of medical knowledge in the West by claiming
that Dr. Bey spoke English without the slightest foreign accent; rather like an educated
Scotsman.
35
Thus, she implies that an understanding of medical knowledge is essential to
the Westernisation of the other. Yet while Chennells roots medical knowledge in Dr. Bey,

32
Chennells, Recollections, p. 66.
33
Ibid. p. 66.
34
Ibid. p. 221.
35
Ibid. pp. 9-10.
36

Lott presents herself as a figure of medical authority. This is shown by Lotts use of self-
medication:

Having providentially taken the precaution to bring a medical chest with me, I began to
doctor myself.
36


Here, Lott contrasts her experience of disease with the Egyptian women. While the mothers
of the harem languish in intoxication, she is able to self-medicate using a medical chest
brought from Britain.
37
In doing so, she presents herself as an active and independent healer,
and substantiates the role of the West in providing medical knowledge to a lethargic and
beleaguered Orient. Hassans research has demonstrated the importance of the medical kit
in Victorian travel literature as a symbol of modernity and British values in an alien
environment.
38
However, while Hassan argues that in some narratives, the travellers healing
ability can seem to magically transform other sites of disease and dissatisfaction, this is
clearly inapplicable to Lotts narrative.
39
Her self-medication is presented as a mark of
difference between herself and the Egyptian women, and serves to mark out the harem as an
environment of disease and superstition. Lotts emphasis on her self-medication is used as a
tool to serve Western superiority rather than to portray herself as a universal medical healer.

Overall, in these texts, Egypt is characterised as an environment of sickness and suffering.
All the observers use examples from the private sphere to emphasise its omnipresence, and to
characterise Egypts disease-ridden environment as a product of its moral disease. Given
this environment, in these accounts, child-death is represented as a release from the miserable
life that children lead and the barbarity of Egyptian society. Both Whatelys and Chennells

36
Hassan, Diagnosing Empire, p. 32.
37
Ibid. p. 32.
38
Hassan, Female Prescriptions, p. 2.
39
Ibid. p. 8.
37

narratives feature the death of children, and use it as a tool to discuss Egyptian society.
Whately devotes an entire chapter in Among the Huts in Egypt to narrating the death of
Khaleel, a child who lived close to her. In doing so, she draws on the ideal of the good
Evangelical death to reflect the release from suffering that the child undergoes in death. In
particular, her use of Christian imagery in Khaleels deathbed conversion is fruitful for
analysis:

My son, I said,, you are now passing through the valley of the shadow of death, but you
know what David said, I fear no evil for thou art with me, only trust in the Lord Jesus,
and fear not; the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world will never forsake you.
40



Here, Whatelys Christian imagery of the Lamb of God is used to emphasise the joy of
paradise that awaits the Christian child. This was a common trope in descriptions of child-
death in Victorian consolation literature, which portrayed the childs death as a means of
escaping the suffering of a sinful world.
41
For example upon the death of his child, Lord
Skelmserdale drew comfort from the fact that his little bright one is now certainly one
among the many that surround the throne of our Saviour.
42
Whately redefines this trope in
her deathbed conversion of Khaleel. Not only is the child spared the suffering of a sinful
world, more appropriately he is liberated from the superstition, depravity and disease of
Egypt. Her portrayal of the ignorant, dirty and ill-dressed Egyptian children is contrasted with
the Christian redemption of the dying child, who [touched] the hem of Christs garment and
prayed with such sweet words.
43
Moreover, the Christian nature of the childs death is also
used by Whately to justify the moral purpose of her mission. The calmness of the Christian
death is contrasted against the fear and panic that Egyptian women face when thinking about

40
Whately, Among the Huts, p. 87.
41
Jalland, Death and the Family, p. 122.
42
Ibid. p. 124.
43
Whately, Among the Huts, p. 88.
38

death, as she notes how they are greatly afraid of death.
44
Thus, Whately emphasises the
superiority of Victorian Anglicanism over Egyptian Islam in providing a calmer, more
hopeful, and happier death. Similarly, Chennells also presents the death of the Egyptian child
as a release from the degradation of Egypt. In this instance, the child is the Princess, and the
environment is the harem. Earlier in the narrative, she notes how the Princesss forced
seclusion in the harem represented a loss of liberty in which privacy was non-existent.
45

The death of the Princess means that she is able to escape the corruption of the harem, and
still retain the innocence and purity that she exhibited at the start of Chennells narrative. This
point is emphasised in Chennells reflection on the Princesss death, which focuses on her
real goodness of her heart and gentle unassuming manners.
46
Both Whately and Chennells
use child-death to place emphasis on the children being spared the suffering of the depraved
environment.

Conceptions of sickness and death are crucial to all three observers depictions of childhood
in Egypt. The sickness of Egypts society was used as evidence that the Egyptian family
model was flawed, and all three writers warned that Egypts children were in danger of
repeating the same cycle of depravity. Even when the targets of disease were adults, these
observers still placed it in context of childrens needs. However, such works were not
uniform in their analysis; indeed this chapter has demonstrated how Whately emphasised the
power of religion in her description of Khaleels death to appeal to her evangelical audience.
By contrast, Chennells does not explicitly write for a religious audience, and thus focuses on
the purity of the Princess in her death rather than heavenly bliss. Drawing on their belief in

44
Whately, Ragged Life, p. 192.
45
Ibid. pp. 140-1.
46
Ibid. p. 372.
39

the superiority of Western medicine, all three observers use an appeal to medical authority to
characterise Egypt as a diseased environment.




















Conclusion

The gulf between the veneer of Egyptian modernity and reality of Egyptian customs is central
to this thesis. Chapter One showed that such customs were seen as responsible for
40

undermining the strength of the family for children and highlighted the ways in which the
Victorian domestic ideal could remedy the influence of such customs. Chapter Two
demonstrated that such observers perceived that Egyptian men and women were failing to
live up to the Victorian ideal of gender roles. Finally, Chapter Three portrayed how the
depravity of such customs manifested themselves in the sickness and death of children. All
three observers placed the child at the centre of their narrative in order to show their
helplessness in the face of Egyptian child-rearing practices. The juxtaposition between
modernity and reality in all three narratives is also manifested in their literary style. As the
second chapter has shown most clearly, interest in the moral welfare of Egyptian families
shaped such narratives. This contrasted against previous narratives of the Orient, which
were criticized for their sexual excess.
1
Each observer shows an alternative to the
eroticisation of the Orient by detailing the problems that existed at the heart of the Egyptian
domestic sphere, and how they impacted children.

In her work, Pollard argued that such discourse on the Egyptian family was used as a
legitimising tool for British intervention.
2
While there is some truth in this statement, this
thesis has shown how each observer defined intervention in their own unique manner. Both
Lott and Chennells approved of intervention, but only insofar as encouraging more British
role models for children to grow up with so that they would not be tainted by the depraved
atmosphere of the harem. Whatelys definition of intervention focuses on the diffusion of
Christianity in Egypt. Her praise for the Egyptian Christian Mansoor Shakur, and his
establishment of a school for Muslim boys demonstrates her emphasis on spreading the
Christian gospel without specific British intervention. This thesis has shown how discourse

1
Melman, Womens Orients, p. 100.
2
Pollard, Nurturing the Nation, p. 71.
41

on childhood in Egypt encouraged the observers to portray themselves as figures of authority,
bringing knowledge of Victorian child-rearing habits to the Arab world.

The contemporary critical reception of such texts in Britain was mixed. While Whatelys
work was lauded by her evangelical audience for accurately depicting the lives of the fellah
families, both Lotts and Chennells works were castigated precisely for their realism.
3
A
contemporary review in The Spectator castigated Lotts book for being coarse
4
, while The
Manchester Guardian noted that Chennells work was dull.
5
Yet, while reviews mocked the
literary quality of Lotts and Chennells texts, they did admit that Lotts narrative was one
well worth the reading of educated men
6
and Chennells text gives us the true atmosphere
of the harem.
7
While the de-eroticisation of the harem was denounced on stylistic grounds
by critics, the interest in the Egyptian domestic ideal held in the narratives of Egyptian
domestic life vindicate this thesis claim that discourse on Egyptian childhood was used as a
wider analysis of the Middle East. As this thesis has shown, the significance of childhood in
Victorian Britain was transmuted in an analysis of the Orient. Furthermore, criticism of
Egyptian mothers persisted in the discourse of twentieth-century Egyptian intellectuals, who
criticized the neglect of children as detrimental to national health.
8
The continuation of child-
orientated discourse in Egypt, even in nationalist circles, demonstrates its enduring influence.

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