"An Unusual, Trusting Sort of Girl":

Queering Compulsory Able-Mindedness in Neo-Victorian Fiction


  • Helen Davies University of Wolverhampton


disability, eugenics, idiocy, intellectual elitism, Murder on Lenox Hill, normalcy, queerness, Tipping the Velvet, Victoria Thompson, Sarah Waters


This article explores the intersections between queerness and intellectual disability in the representation of two young women in neo-Victorian fiction: Gracie Milne in Sarah Waters’s Tipping the Velvet (1998) and Grace Linton in Victoria Thompson’s Murder on Lenox Hill (2006). I argue that the late-Victorian anxieties about ‘abnormal’ minds, identities and desires are perpetuated in both texts. Gracie Milne, although having some potential in offering Nancy Astley an alternative knowledge of the world, is ultimately figured as the Other to Nancy’s able-minded version of queerness. Grace Linton’s unexplained pregnancy is articulated via eugenicist ideas about who is ‘fit’ to reproduce, and her sexual agency is figured as unthinkable. I conclude by speculating on the implications of this marginalisation of intellectual disability for the genre of neoVictorianism more broadly, questioning how intellectual elitism in critical accounts of neoVictorianism might be queered by a disability studies approach