Tag Archives: Rothesay

The Kisses of Dinah Mulock Craik’s Olive, Pt. 2

Looking at Racial Hybridity through the Kisses of the Rothesay Family

            Both Juliet Shields and Alisha Walters offer close-reading interpretations of the interracial couples and mixed offspring in Olive. Both argue that Craik wrote Olive midst racial tension, evidenced in part by Robert Knox’s text published the same year, 1850, as Craik’s novel (Shields 285-86; Walters 326). Some, like Knox were against racial mixing and under the opinion that only Saxons (English or Scottish Lowlands heritage) were British, which thus excluded Welsh, Scottish Highlands and Irish Celts, not to mention peoples in the British colonies, from the national identity (Shields 285; Walters 326). Though argued and nuanced differently, both Shields and Walters show Olive (and the character Olive) as a statement showing the benefits of a racially hybrid conception of Britishness (Walters 326; Shields 297-98).

            While it seems somewhat unlikely that the kiss data could speak of the racial qualities within a character,[1] as a kiss is an interpersonal interaction, the kiss data, in general, appears to support the ideas of Shields and Walters, showing a high degree of physical, likely emotionally charged, interaction between races. Figures 1 and 2 show whether the kisses were interracial or kept within one race. All races and racial-mixes are included in the first figure; the mixed-races (Celt-Saxon mix [Ailie and Olive] and Octoroon [Christal]) are filtered out in the second pie chart.

Figure 1 - Same Race (All Kisses)

Figure 1 – Same Race? (All Kisses)

Figure 2 - Same Race (No Mixed-Race Individuals)

Figure 2 – Same Race? (No Mixed-Race Individuals)

In both cases, kisses between different races outnumber those within one race (or type of racial hybrid). In fact, if limited just to instances with a Saxon kisser and/or Saxon kissed, one can see that every Saxon kiss is an interracial one (figs 3A and 3B).

Figure 3A - Saxon Kissers

Figure 3A – Saxon Kissers

Figure 3B - Saxons Kissed

Figure 3B – Saxons Kissed

Thus, if kisses can be used as a pointer towards sexual and/or emotional connection, or what Walters calls “emotive engagement with raced Others” (326), the data indicates that the novel seems to be strongly against Saxon isolationism. Unfortunately, the data does not include anyone who is not a “kisser” or a “kissed”, thus making it impossible to tell if the Saxon and Celt kissers form a majority of the novel’s character “population”. Perhaps gathering that data could add additional support, by informing us whether Craik made her interracial kissers a true majority, rather than just an exceptional minority that she focused the majority of her novel on.

            Still, the kiss data can reveal something about the interactions between Craik’s characters, and thus about Craik’s presentation of interracial contact. Looking just at the kisses of the Rothesay family – the Celt Angus, the Saxon Sybilla, and their mixed offspring Olive – reveals a troubled family unit, perhaps indicative of the racial tensions in Craik’s Britain. Shields herself posits such a reading by calling Olive a descendent of “Scottish and Irish novels by women”, which “construct an analogy between the domestic and the national” (288). So, one can read the Rothesay family’s kisses as political or social interaction between Saxons, Celts and hybrids; perhaps showing how Craik saw the situation, and what she hoped for.

            So, let us examine the data, beginning with the married couple, through the lens of racial analogy, while cautiously keeping aware of possible interpretive errors. Figure 4 is an overview of every kiss that actually happens[2] in the novel; it shows kissers on the x-axis and kissed on the y-axis. The colour and size of the circles at the intersections of kisser and kissed show how many kisses occurred.

Figure 4 - All the Kisses

Figure 4 – All the Kisses

Looking at the far right, one can see that Sybilla kisses Angus eight times – the most times any character kisses another – whereas (bottom row, left) Angus only kisses Sybilla three times. One could thus mistakenly conclude that this unbalanced situation shows a relationship where the Saxon wants integration with the Celt, more than the Celt wants the same. More nuance appears when looking at other elements of the data. Figure 5, limited just to the three Rothesays, groups the data first by kisser, then by kissed, colour coding “the reason for/quality of” the kiss.

Figure 5 - Rothesay Family (Reasons/Quality)

Figure 5 – Rothesay Family (Reasons/Quality)

Here, one sees that six of Sybilla’s kisses were long-distance.[3] This means that their face-to-face relationship is not as uneven: three kisses to two.[4] Additionally, since Sybilla kissed Angus more often when he was away, one could ask if the data indicates a Saxon desire for what the Celt had to offer Britain that was greater when the Celt was “out of the house”, as it were. Perhaps one could use the fact that four of the couple’s five face-to-face kisses were at partings[5] to support the notion that Craik saw that the two races wanted to be separated. Another nuance to the racial relationship picture comes from looking at which kisses were requested. Figure 6 shows that Angus only kisses Sybilla when asked, whereas Sybilla always kisses him without prompting. This points to a hesitancy on Angus’ part towards the relationship, and by analogous extension of Celts to a relationship with Saxons. A close-reading could connect these data points with Angus being upset by Sybilla’s “deceitfulness” regarding Olive (chap 5)[6], and thus to Celtic wariness towards Saxon “affection”.

Figure 6 - Rothesay Family (Requested by)

Figure 6 – Rothesay Family (Requested by)

            Of course, the “requested by” graph (fig 6) also opens up the question of how these two race-exemplars treat their mixed offspring. Angus kisses Olive without request five times, Sybilla never does (fig 6). Does this mean Craik saw Celts as more accepting of hybrid individuals than Saxons were? Further research, perhaps into the author’s letters, could potentially offer answers. Regardless, Figure 6 alone is not conclusive enough about Sybilla and Olive’s kissing relationship – though it shows requests, it does not show how they were answered.[7] Figure 7 shows the “reason for/quality of” each kiss given from mother to daughter, separated by who asks (top names – Elspie or Olive).

Figure 7 - Mother kisses Daughter (Requested by X Reason for/Quality of)

Figure 7 – Mother kisses Daughter (Requested by X Reason for/Quality of)

Of the three that occur – the comforting one does not clearly happen (see first blog post) – two are rather positive: “free/loving” and “celebratory”. Thus, the data indicates that even though asked the Saxon still cheerfully responded to her daughter; a closer reading would clarify if this was so. Furthermore, out of all the kisses Olive gives Sibylla, the mother asks for one; and the circumstance is Sybilla’s death (fig 8).[8]

Figure 8 - Daughter kisses Mother (Requested by X Reason for/Quality of)

Figure 8 – Daughter kisses Mother (Requested by X Reason for/Quality of)

So, the Saxon asks the hybrid to kiss her at the Saxon’s death. Given Elizabeth Gitter’s reading of such kisses as the transmission of the soul (165-66), which clearly happens in the text (see fig 8 annotation; chap 32), one could argue that this moment reflects Craik’s hope that the Saxon people would willingly give up their soul (i.e. Britishness) to a more hybrid conception of nation. A close reading could support such a reading, given Sybilla’s movement from rejecting Olive to full acceptance.

            The kiss data of the Rothesay family, can be read using an analogy for the British nation, showing tensions between races and distaste towards hybridity. Still, the overall picture that interracial kisses are the norm in the novel, combined with a reading of the final kiss Olive shares with her mother could offer strong evidence for an argument on Craik’s stance in the racial arguments of the day. Thus the kiss data can offer quantitative support to the work of Shields and Walters.



            [1] It says little or nothing directly about Olive’s Celtic or Saxon qualities for example. That said, the possibility exists that the data could be used, with some further interpretive work, to look at character and thus race. Seeing how Olive’s kisses resemble those of the Celt and Saxon characters, for example. Space and time do not allow for such an investigation at present.

            [2] See first post.

            [3] Similarly graphing “body part kissed” would confirm that Sybilla is kissing Angus’s letters those six times.

            [4] This is altogether less than Harold and Olive’s relationship, which is even five-to-five, perhaps indicating a) that the Angus-Sybilla marriage is colder (as close reading supports), or that Celts, like Harold, are more accepting of Hybrids. Again, this aspect is beyond the present study.

            [5] “Parting” from the Rothesay home as a whole, or just for another room. “Parting” is a very simplified term in the spreadsheet.

            [6] All Olive citations are from the 1875 edition of the novel, as found on the Project Gutenberg website, as this was the text I used for the collection of the data. Unfortunately, that means there are no page numbers, thus chapters are cited.

            [7] Such an examination could also look at Angus and Sybilla, though for space and time considerations, it was omitted.

            [8] One should note that there are two other potential “death” kisses that do not actually happen in the narrative. Both are imagined by Olive, between her and her mother, and between Olive and the Celt Elspie. Given the forthcoming interpretation of the one “death kiss” that does occur, further could be done with these two instances.


Works Cited

Craik, Dinah Maria. Olive. London: Macmillan, 1875. Project Gutenberg. 24 Oct. 2012. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.

Gitter, Elizabeth G. “The Victorian Literary Kiss.” Browning Institute Studies 13 (1985): 165-80. JSTOR. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.

Shields, Juliet. “The Races of Women: Gender, Hybridity, and National Identity in Dinah Craik’s Olive.” Studies in the Novel 39.3 (2007): 284-300. JSTOR. Web. 2 Feb. 2015.

Walters, Alisha R. “Affective Hybridities: Dinah Mulock Craik’s Olive and British Heterogeneity.” Women’s Writing 20.3 (2013): 325-43. EBSCO Host. Web. 21 Mar. 2015.


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The Kisses of Dinah Mulock Craik’s Olive by Aaron Ellsworth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The Kisses of Dinah Mulock Craik’s Olive, Pt. 4

Who Does Olive Actually Marry?

            After doing some research, the question occurred to me: what if Olive is marrying Harold as a substitute for some other character? Sara, perhaps, given our discussion last post. To explore such a possibility, the approach used was to let the data about Olive and Harold’s shared kisses determine what qualities to examine. To explain, Olive marries Harold; the kisses between them are indicative of their courtship.[1] So to see if the kiss data could show that Harold is a substitute for someone else, it was necessary to let the details of their kisses become the “filter” for comparison. For example, Figure 1 shows which of Harold’s body parts Olive kissed: eyes, forehead and lips.

Figure 1 - Where Olive Kisses Harold

Figure 1 – Where Olive Kisses Harold

Thus, I set the “body part kissed” filter to just show the data for those three parts when Olive was the kisser, and I opened the “kissed” filter to include “All”. The data on kisses between Olive and Harold became the lens through which all Olive’s other relationships were viewed. Therefore, all characters had a shot, regardless of my preconceptions. Though Sara seemed a good possibility at first, in total the data provides stronger evidence that Olive actually marries both her parents in the guise of Harold, with the case for Olive’s mother being somewhat more solid than the one for Angus.

            Unlike the last post, this question is not based on a close reading of Olive. Rather, the question was raised upon reading the sociological paper “Cousin Marriage in Victorian England” by Nancy Anderson. Anderson argues that because of the limits placed on “extra-familial heterosexual social contacts” in the Victorian age, romantic or sexual longing was largely focused on “incestuous feelings” for parents and/or siblings (286). Marrying a cousin, Anderson writes, was often a socially accepted manner of realizing the bond between “nuclear family members”, making the cousin a sexual substitute for one’s taboo desire for sibling or parent (286, 287, 289, 290, 291). Such a conception fits for Olive and Harold as they are technically relatives linked through Aunt Flora, though the relation is at least partly by marriage and not by blood. Therefore, Olive’s family members joined Sara as candidates for who Olive actually marries.

            After reading Anderson’s paper, I hypothesized two options for such “incestuous” desire: Angus and Sibylla. Olive’s deceased infant brother (chap 7)[2] was quickly rejected, simply because with only one kiss to look at, the data was almost useless (chap 7). Christal, though she is Olive’s sister, was also raised as a possibility, but she seemed problematic as Olive only learned Christal was her sister (chap 41) after she started loving Harold (chap 35). Even though I had my theories, the data was left open so it could show me otherwise.

            Before looking at the parents, one should note that two other extra-familial options were also considered quite strong, before ever looking at the data: Harold as a substitute for Sara, and Harold loved for-his-own-sake. The queer and sisterly aspects of Sara and Olive’s relationship were touched on last time, hence her candidacy. That Sara was also Harold’s first wife, helped her case (Bourrier ENG 607 class notes). However, Sara’s kisses with Olive show little similarity[3] to Harold’s kisses with Olive, at least not any similarities that other characters could not be said to share too. With regards to the idea of Harold not being a substitute for anyone, hypothetically, if no kiss-similarities showed up, that might not prove that Olive loves Harold for his own sake; though it would definitively remove the kiss data as a support for a love-substitution theory.

            Likewise, the kiss data itself does not prove that Olive marries an Angus and Sybilla substitute named Harold; though it does offer compelling evidence in support of such a hypothesis. Beginning with the weaker case, that for Angus, Figures 2 and 3 help show two limited similarities the father-daughter kisses have with those of the courting couple.

Figure 2 - Where People Kiss Olive [Compared to Harold]

Figure 2 – Where People Kiss Olive [Compared to Harold]

Figure 3 - Harold and Others Kiss Olive [QualityReason]

Figure 3 – Harold and Others Kiss Olive [QualityReason]

Figure 2 shows that of all the characters to kiss Olive only Harold and Angus kiss her hair.[4] Additionally, these are the only two hair-kisses in the whole novel (fig 4). Problematically, the rest of the kisses from these men to Olive lack any similarity, though that perhaps does not rob the power of the fact that these two pairings are the only two to engage in this kiss type.

Figure 4 - All Kisses by Body Part Kissed

Figure 4 – All Kisses by Body Part Kissed

Figure 3, comparing the “reason for/quality of” kisses shows another, less convincing, similarity. Comparing Harold to Angus here requires a recognition of the limits inherent to the “reason for/quality of” kisses (see first post). A close reading of Angus’s “comforting”, “long-distance” and “parting” kisses could show if they are also “free/loving”. A cursory reading of the quotations for these seems to support that notion, as does the fact (fig 5) that these five kisses were unasked for. Harold, too, kisses Olive five times unasked (fig 5). So there is some tenuous kiss-based evidence, requiring further support, that the love Olive receives from Harold is similar to that which she receives from her father.

Figure 5 - Harold and Angus Kiss Olive Unasked

Figure 5 – Harold and Angus Kiss Olive Unasked

            Figures 2 and 3 also reveal that the kisses from Harold to Olive are nothing like the ones from Sybilla to her daughter; however, when Olive is the kisser, the picture changes dramatically, allowing one to use the kiss-data as a basis for a Harold-as-substitute-mother interpretation. Figure 6 takes the data from Figure 1 above – showing which of Harold’s body parts Olive kisses – and expands it to all the people Olive kisses. Two things become immediately clear. First, Olive seems to kiss both Harold and Sybilla the same amount of times. Second, the breakdown of body parts kissed is nearly identical: eyes, forehead and lips, all in almost the same amount.

Figure 6 - Where Olive Kisses People [Compared to Harold]

Figure 6 – Where Olive Kisses People [Compared to Harold]

As I do not wish to change the data to fit my established concepts (Heuser and Le-Khac 81), I will avoid equating face and forehead, though a case could be made based on the quote that covers both kisses.[5] Unfortunately, there is a potential error in this graph (fig 6), as Olive’s single kiss to her mother’s forehead does not “actually happen” in the novel’s narrative (Actually happened? = NO). However, there is a strong reason for including it from the data itself; though the instance does not occur, it is an iteration (see first post) (fig 7).

Figure 7 - Olive kisses Sybilla: Single or Iteration?

Figure 7 – Olive kisses Sybilla: Single or Iteration?

The quote itself – “it must come—she would kiss her mother’s brow for the last time” – shows the iterative quality; Olive must have kissed her mother on the forehead at least once, in order to do it one final time. Though the “body parts kissed” connection is the strongest, some few other weaker similarities show up between Harold and Sybilla as well. If one sees Olive’s “healing” and “death” kisses to her mother as akin to “comforting”,[6] then Olive kisses both her mother and future husband for similar reasons, though not in the same amounts (fig 8). Likewise, both Sybilla and Harold sometimes ask for Olive’s kisses and sometimes get them without asking (fig 9).

Figure 8 - Olive Kisses Harold and Others [Reason for/Quality of]

Figure 8 – Olive Kisses Harold and Others [Reason for/Quality of]

Figure 9 - Who Asks Olive for a Kiss?

Figure 9 – Who Asks Olive for a Kiss?

However, if that did not seem convincing for Sara’s case, why should it here? So, other than the strong correlation between the total number of kisses Olive gives to Harold and Sybilla, and the convincing similarity in body parts kissed, the data does not do much for the theory that Olive marries Harold as a substitute for her mother.

            Still those two similarities are quite striking, offering a least some evidence towards the hypothesis; perhaps further distant- and close-reading evidence could supplement what the kiss data alone cannot provide. Distant wise (fig 10), only three people in the novel call another “darling” in direct conversation with that person: Olive calls Sybilla “darling”, and both Harold and Sybilla call Olive likewise.[7] Additionally Harold and Sybilla do so about the same amount.

Figure 10 - Direct Address All Uses of "Darling"

Figure 10 – Direct Address All Uses of “Darling”

The word “darling” could be an important mother-daughter relationship indicator, [8]  as Olive says it protectively toward her mother, thus potentially making Harold’s inclusion significant. Close reading could help determine this possibility. Close reading does reveal that Harold replaces Sybilla in Olive’s heart within chapters of Sybilla’s death. Sybilla dies in Chapter 32; the next three chapters largely focus on Olive’s growing feelings for Harold (despite a religious interlude), culminating in her admission to herself that she loves him (chap 35). The kissing data is not the sole pointer to Harold being a substitute-Sybilla.

            The kiss data opens the possibility that Harold is a cousin substitute for Olive’s love for her mother, perhaps with some elements of his affection resembling her father’s. More work, both distantly and closely with the text is required to make a strong interpretation in that direction; especially if, following Anderson, one wishes to look at the potential sexual element. The first seeds of this particular Olive tree are there for the planting; and they are there in kisses.



            [1] Olive and Harold never kiss in the final chapter, the only chapter in which they are married. Perhaps this fact warrants a paper of its own.

            [2] All citations from Olive are from the 1875 edition of the novel, as found on the Project Gutenberg website, as this was the text I used for the collection of the data. Unfortunately, that means there are no page numbers, thus chapters are cited.

            [3] There are a few commonalities, such as: both Harold and Sara ask Olive for kisses some of the time (see Fig 9 below).

            [4] Though Angus only kisses a lock of her hair sent to him in Jamaica.

            [5] The quote for both face and forehead is: “To chase it thence, she stooped and softly kissed the face which to her was, and ever had been, the most beautiful in the world; and then, following the train of her former musings, came the thought that one day—it might be far distant, but still, in all human probability, it must come—she would kiss her mother’s brow for the last time” (chap 26). Therefore, arguably the feared future “brow” kiss is strongly linked with the “face” kiss; perhaps making them the same body part.

            [6] Again, like the Angus argument this requires close reading or other evidence to justify.

            [7] This data comes from my counting of the approximately 950 direct addresses in Olive – with “Direct Address” simply meaning what Person A calls Person B when, and only when, talking to Person B. What person A calls Person B when talking to Person C is not counted. The data was collected with strict rules, most similar to the kissing data, or analogous to it. There is not enough space here to get into all the details.

            [8] “Darling” is one of two appellations that the narrator described directly: “Olive often said “darling” quite in a protecting way” (chap 19). The other is a cold “my dear” (chap 10).


Works Cited

Anderson, Nancy Fix. “Cousin Marriage in Victorian England.” Journal of Family History 11.3 (1986): 285-301. Web. 21 Mar. 2015.

Bourrier, Karen. ENG 607 L01. University of Calgary. Winter 2015. Class discussion notes.

Heuser, Ryan, and Long Le-Khac. “Learning to Read Data: Bringing out the Humanistic in the Digital Humanities.” Victorian Studies 54.1 (2011): 79-86. JSTOR. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.


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The Kisses of Dinah Mulock Craik’s Olive by Aaron Ellsworth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.