Anti-Fox Hunting, Women Novelists, and the First World War
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article
Fox hunting was, in the years preceding the First World War, a crucial part of rural English life, and a means of promoting a variety of ideologies associated with class, gender and rule. At this time, the anti-hunt movement was virtually nonexistent. Though the First World War was not a catalyst for a mass movement, it did occasion change, both materially in the hunting community and in societal attitudes to blood sports. As anti-cruelty societies, such as the Humanitarian League (marginal though they were), garnered increasing support, so too did the notion that the callous treatment of animals reflects an inherently debased human nature. In this article, literary analysis has been used as a tool to identify this non-mainstream attitude towards the hunt, whereby the savagery of war and the savagery of the chase are linked. Though this stance may not have immediately filtered through to the public consciousness at large, these literary representations were, I argue, ahead of their time. Here I take up three novels—Mary Webb's Gone to Earth (1917), Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness (1928), and Winifred Holtby’s South Riding (1936)—which explore the ramifications of fox hunting and are, I suggest, progressive in their impulse to equate cruelty to animals with human cruelty more generally.