The early novels of Elinor Glyn (1864–1943) were very well received
for their ‘originality, wit and high spirits’. They were written at the
turn of the century when Glyn was in her early 30s in order to solve
financial problems and they are acutely observed accounts of the late
Victorian and Edwardian marriage market. She contrasts British high
society with continental arrangements to manage wives and
mistresses and in doing so tentatively begins to explore the place of
sexuality within marriage or more significantly the prospect of extramarital
liaisons as young brides become mature women. Biographical
accounts of Glyn’s career emphasise the surprise and hurt she felt at
the response from the press and society acquaintances to Three Weeks
(1907) when it was published. Whereas her other novels were seen as
humorous and daring, this is the novel that overstepped the mark.
Three Weeks became notorious because its focus is not society
manners or pre-nuptial morality, but an adulterous affair that is treated
sympathetically, almost reverentially by the authoress. Even more
controversially, it is an older woman who seduces a younger man,
with the intention of conceiving a child. The gender relations
regarding class, culture, money, initiative, status, and more specifically
power are unequivocally reversed and celebrated in the
expression of a mature woman’s sexual pleasure.
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