The mistress and maid figures in European literature

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

Stewart Crehan (University of Zambia)
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The mistress-maid binary has provided an inexhaustible source of thematic content in narrative fiction as well as in visual art, drama and film. Narratives that deal with the relation between mistress and maid include those of Sarai and Hagar, Rachel and Bilhah, Leah and Zilpah in


16:1-16, 21:1-21 and 30:1-13; Camilla and her maid Leonela in the “Novel of a Curious Impertinent” in Part I of

Don Quixote

(1605); Roxana and her maid Amy in Defoe’s


(1724); Arabella and Lucy in Charlotte Lennox’s

The Female Quixote

(1752); Lady Delacour and her maid Marriott in Maria Edgeworth’s


(1801); Cathy and Ellen Dean in Emily Brontë’s

Wuthering Heights

(1847); Lady Dedlock and Hortense in Dickens’s

Bleak House

(1853); Margaret Hale and her maid Dixon in Elizabeth…

7440 words

Citation: Crehan, Stewart. "The mistress and maid figures in European literature". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 25 January 2023 [, accessed 05 March 2024.]

19650 The mistress and maid figures in European literature 2 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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