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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Alice Mona Caird (married name, Alice Mona Henryson-Caird) (1854–1932) was a British novelist and essayist whose feminist views sparked controversy in the late 19th century.[1]

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  • H. G. Wells | A Moonlight Fable Audiobook Short Story


A Moonlight Fable by H. G. Wells There was once a little man whose mother made him a beautiful suit of clothes. It was green and gold and woven so that I cannot describe how delicate and fine it was, and there was a tie of orange fluffiness that tied up under his chin. And the buttons in their newness shone like stars. He was proud and pleased by his suit beyond measure, and stood before the long looking-glass when first he put it on, so astonished and delighted with it that he could hardly turn himself away. He wanted to wear it everywhere and show it to all sorts of people. He thought over all the places he had ever visited and all the scenes he had ever heard described, and tried to imagine what the feel of it would be if he were to go now to those scenes and places wearing his shining suit, and he wanted to go out forthwith into the long grass and the hot sunshine of the meadow wearing it. Just to wear it! But his mother told him, "No." She told him he must take great care of his suit, for never would he have another nearly so fine; he must save it and save it and only wear it on rare and great occasions. It was his wedding suit, she said. And she took his buttons and twisted them up with tissue paper for fear their bright newness should be tarnished, and she tacked little guards over the cuffs and elbows and wherever the suit was most likely to come to harm. He hated and resisted these things, but what could he do? And at last her warnings and persuasions had effect and he consented to take off his beautiful suit and fold it into its proper creases and put it away. It was almost as though he gave it up again. But he was always thinking of wearing it and of the supreme occasion when some day it might be worn without the guards, without the tissue paper on the buttons, utterly and delightfully, never caring, beautiful beyond measure. One night when he was dreaming of it, after his habit, he dreamed he took the tissue paper from one of the buttons and found its brightness a little faded, and that distressed him mightily in his dream. He polished the poor faded button and polished it, and if anything it grew duller. He woke up and lay awake thinking of the brightness a little dulled and wondering how he would feel if perhaps when the great occasion (whatever it might be) should arrive, one button should chance to be ever so little short of its first glittering freshness, and for days and days that thought remained with him, distressingly. And when next his mother let him wear his suit, he was tempted and nearly gave way to the temptation just to fumble off one little bit of tissue paper and see if indeed the buttons were keeping as bright as ever. He went trimly along on his way to church full of this wild desire. For you must know his mother did, with repeated and careful warnings, let him wear his suit at times, on Sundays, for example, to and fro from church, when there was no threatening of rain, no dust nor anything to injure it, with its buttons covered and its protections tacked upon it and a sunshade in his hand to shadow it if there seemed too strong a sunlight for its colours. And always, after such occasions, he brushed it over and folded it exquisitely as she had taught him, and put it away again. Now all these restrictions his mother set to the wearing of his suit he obeyed, always he obeyed them, until one strange night he woke up and saw the moonlight shining outside his window. It seemed to him the moonlight was not common moonlight, nor the night a common night, and for a while he lay quite drowsily with this odd persuasion in his mind. Thought joined on to thought like things that whisper warmly in the shadows. Then he sat up in his little bed suddenly, very alert, with his heart beating very fast and a quiver in his body from top to toe. He had made up his mind. He knew now that he was going to wear his suit as it should be worn. He had no doubt in the matter. He was afraid, terribly afraid, but glad, glad. He got out of his bed and stood a moment by the window looking at the moonshine-flooded garden and trembling at the thing he meant to do. The air was full of a minute clamor of crickets and murmurings, of the infinitesimal shouting of little living things. He went very gently across the creaking boards, for fear that he might wake the sleeping house, to the big dark clothes-press wherein his beautiful suit lay folded, and he took it out garment by garment and softly and very eagerly tore off its tissue-paper covering and its tacked protections, until there it was, perfect and delightful as he had seen it when first his mother had given it to him--a long time it seemed ago. Not a button had tarnished, not a thread had faded on this dear suit of his; he was glad enough for weeping as in a noiseless hurry he put it on. And then back he went, soft and quick, to the window and looked out upon the garden and stood there for a minute, shining in the moonlight, with his buttons twinkling like stars, before he got out on the sill and, making as little of a rustling as he could, clambered down to the garden path below. He stood before his mother's house, and it was white and nearly as plain as by day, with every window-blind but his own shut like an eye that sleeps. The trees cast still shadows like intricate black lace upon the wall. The garden in the moonlight was very different from the garden by day; moonshine was tangled in the hedges and stretched in phantom cobwebs from spray to spray. Every flower was gleaming white or crimson black, and the air was aquiver with the thridding of small crickets and nightingales singing unseen in the depths of the trees. There was no darkness in the world, but only warm, mysterious shadows; and all the leaves and spikes were edged and lined with iridescent jewels of dew. The night was warmer than any night had ever been, the heavens by some miracle at once vaster and nearer, and spite of the great ivory-tinted moon that ruled the world, the sky was full of stars. The little man did not shout nor sing for all his infinite gladness. He stood for a time like one awe-stricken, and then, with a queer small cry and holding out his arms, he ran out as if he would embrace at once the whole warm round immensity of the world. He did not follow the neat set paths that cut the garden squarely, but thrust across the beds and through the wet, tall, scented herbs, through the night stock and the nicotine and the clusters of phantom white mallow flowers and through the thickets of southern-wood and lavender, and knee-deep across a wide space of mignonette. He came to the great hedge and he thrust his way through it, and though the thorns of the brambles scored him deeply and tore threads from his wonderful suit, and though burs and goosegrass and havers caught and clung to him, he did not care. He did not care, for he knew it was all part of the wearing for which he had longed. "I am glad I put on my suit," he said; "I am glad I wore my suit." Beyond the hedge he came to the duck-pond, or at least to what was the duck-pond by day. But by night it was a great bowl of silver moonshine all noisy with singing frogs, of wonderful silver moonshine twisted and clotted with strange patternings, and the little man ran down into its waters between the thin black rushes, knee-deep and waist-deep and to his shoulders, smiting the water to black and shining wavelets with either hand, swaying and shivering wavelets, amid which the stars were netted in the tangled reflections of the brooding trees upon the bank. He waded until he swam, and so he crossed the pond and came out upon the other side, trailing, as it seemed to him, not duckweed, but very silver in long, clinging, dripping masses. And up he went through the transfigured tangles of the willow-herb and the uncut seeding grass of the farther bank. And so he came glad and breathless into the highroad. "I am glad," he said, "beyond measure, that I had clothes that fitted this occasion." The highroad ran straight as an arrow flies, straight into the deep blue pit of sky beneath the moon, a white and shining road between the singing nightingales, and along it he went, running now and leaping, and now walking and rejoicing, in the clothes his mother had made for him with tireless, loving hands. The road was deep in dust, but that for him was only soft whiteness, and as he went a great dim moth came fluttering round his wet and shimmering and hastening figure. At first he did not heed the moth, and then he waved his hands at it and made a sort of dance with it as it circled round his head. "Soft moth!" he cried, "dear moth! And wonderful night, wonderful night of the world! Do you think my clothes are beautiful, dear moth? As beautiful as your scales and all this silver vesture of the earth and sky?" And the moth circled closer and closer until at last its velvet wings just brushed his lips . . . . . And next morning they found him dead with his neck broken in the bottom of the stone pit, with his beautiful clothes a little bloody and foul and stained with the duckweed from the pond. But his face was a face of such happiness that, had you seen it, you would have understood indeed how that he had died happy, never knowing the cool and streaming silver for the duckweed in the pond.



Alice Mona Alison was born in Ryde on the Isle of Wight, the older of two daughters of John Alison of Midlothian, Scotland, (who some biographies claim was the inventor of the vertical boiler),[2] and Matilda Hector who, according to the 1871 census records, was born in Schleswig Holstein, Germany. Her parents' marriage was registered on 4 September 1843 in Kensington, when her father's name was incorrectly recorded as John Nelson of Carlisle. Caird wrote stories and plays from early childhood which reveal a proficiency in French and German as well as English.

In December 1877, she married James Alexander Henryson-Caird JP, son of Sir James Caird. Her husband farmed some 1700 acres of his family's estates in Cassencary, Scotland. Some eight years older, her husband was supportive of her independence, and although he resided at Cassencary and at Northbrook House, Micheldever in Hampshire, she spent much of her time in London and travelling abroad. She associated with literary people, including Thomas Hardy who was an admirer of her work, and educated herself in many areas of the humanities and science.[3] The Cairds had one child, a son who was registered in 1884 with the names Alison James (see the England and Wales registrations of births), but whom she called Alister. Her husband died in 1921.

Caird published her first two novels, Whom Nature Leadeth (1883) and One That Wins (1887), under the pseudonym "G. Noel Hatton", but these drew little attention and subsequent writings were published under her own name. She came to prominence in 1888 when the Westminster Review printed her long article "Marriage", in which she analysed indignities historically suffered by women in marriage and called its present state a "vexatious failure", advocating the equality and autonomy of marriage partners. London's widely circulated newspaper, the Daily Telegraph quickly responded with a series called "Is Marriage a Failure?", which drew a reported 27,000 letters from around the world and continued for three months. Feeling that her views had been misunderstood, she published another article called "Ideal Marriage" later that year. Her numerous essays on marriage and women's issues written from 1888 to 1894 were collected in a volume called The Morality of Marriage and Other Essays on the Status and Destiny of Women in 1897.[4]

Continuing to write fiction, Caird published the novel The Wing of Azrael (1889), which deals with the subject of marital rape. In it, Viola Sedley murders her cruel husband in self-defense. Next was a short story collection, A Romance of the Moors (1891). In the title story, a widowed artist, Margaret Ellwood, stirs up the relationship of a young couple by counselling them to each become independent and self-sufficient persons. Her most famous novel, The Daughters of Danaus[5] (1894), is the story of Hadria Fullerton, who has aspirations to become a composer, but finds that the demands on her time by family obligations, both to her parents and as a wife and mother, allow little time for this pursuit. The novel has since been regarded as a feminist classic. Also well known is her short story "The Yellow Drawing-Room" (1892), in which Vanora Haydon defies the conventional separation of "spheres" of men and women. Such of her works have been referred to as "fiction of the New Woman".

Active in the women's suffrage movement from her early twenties, Caird joined the National Society for Women's Suffrage in 1878, and later the Women's Franchise League, the Women's Emancipation Union, and the London Society for Women's Suffrage. Her essay "Why Women Want the Franchise" was read at the 1892 WEU Conference. In 1908, she published the essay "Militant Tactics and Woman's Suffrage" and participated in the second Hyde Park Demonstration for women's suffrage. She was also an active opponent of vivisection, writing extensively on the subject, including "The Sanctuary Of Mercy" (1895), "Beyond the Pale" (1896), and a play "The Logicians: An episode in dialogue" (1902), in which the characters argue opposing views on the issue.

Caird was a member of the Theosophical Society from 1904 to 1909. Among her later writings are a large illustrated volume of travel essays, Romantic Cities Of Provence (1906), and novels The Stones Of Sacrifice (1915), which depicts harmful effects of self-sacrifice on women, and The Great Wave (1931), a social science fiction which attacks the racist policies of negative eugenics.[6]

Mona Caird died on February 4, 1932 in Hampstead.[7]

Writings of Mona Caird

Caird wrote seven novels, several short stories along with various essays and one travel book:[8]

  • Whom Nature Leadeth (1883) novel
  • One That Wins (1887) novel
  • Marriage (1888) essay
  • The Wing Of Azrael (1889) novel
  • The Emancipation of the Family (1890) essay
  • A Romance Of The Moors (1891) stories
  • The Yellow Drawing-Room (1892) story
  • A Defence of the So-Called Wild Women (1892) essay
  • The Daughters Of Danaus (1894) novel
  • The Sanctuary Of Mercy (1895) essay
  • A Sentimental View Of Vivisection (1895) essay
  • Beyond the Pale: An Appeal on Behalf of the Victims of Vivisection (1897) extended essay
  • The Morality of Marriage and Other Essays on the Status and Destiny of Women (1897) essays
  • The Pathway Of The Gods (1898) novel
  • The Ethics of Vivisection (1900) essay
  • The Logicians: An episode in dialogue (1902) play
  • Romantic Cities Of Provence (1906) travel
  • Militant Tactics and Woman's Suffrage (1908) essay
  • The Stones Of Sacrifice (1915) essay
  • The Great Wave (1931) novel

Mona Caird did not write Lady Hetty; that's by John Service. John Sutherland erroneously said Caird did, and the information has been propagated elsewhere.


  1. ^ The year of her birth is sometimes incorrectly given as 1855 or 1858: the England and Wales Birth Registers make it clear that her birth was registered in the July to September quarter of 1854.
  2. ^ "Caird, Mrs. Mona". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. pp. 272–273.
  3. ^ Broomfield, Andrea; Mitchell, Sally (2013-12-16). Prose by Victorian Women: An Anthology. Routledge. ISBN 9781317777588.
  4. ^ "Deviance, disorder and the self : Alice Mona Caird". Retrieved 2017-10-02.
  5. ^ The Daughters of Danaus
  6. ^ "Mona Caird". Retrieved 2017-10-23.
  7. ^ "Mona Caird 1854 – 1932 | Sue Young Histories". Retrieved 2017-10-23.
  8. ^ Heilmann, Ann. "Mona Caird (1854–1932): wild woman, new woman, and early radical feminist critic of marriage and motherhood 1". Women's History Review. 5 (1): 67–95. doi:10.1080/09612029600200100.

External links

Full texts of several of Mona Caird's writings can be found on the web:

This page was last edited on 8 October 2018, at 23:27
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