In her afterword to the new Valancourt edition of Elizabeth Jenkins' Harriet (1934), based on the murder of Harriet Staunton in 1877, Catherine Pope notes that the novel is akin to Victorian "sensational novels" in turning the supposed haven of the domestic sphere into a site of terror (loc. 3320). The novel also deconstructs, it seems to me, the sentimentalization of characters with developmental disabilities in Dickens' novels--Smike in Nicholas Nickleby, for example, or Maggy in Little Dorrit. Harriet inspires no emotional response in her tormenters other than dread or disgust; her presence expands no hearts and her influence sheds no warming rays over anyone's soul. Nor is she represented as an inspirational angel: when conscious that something is wrong, Harriet, who has no other way of articulating her objections, flies out into a "sudden start of rage" (loc. 494) or explodes in a destructive "outbreak of rage" (loc. 1330). The novel's scathingly ironic point, however, is that despite Harriet's inability to engage in abstract reasoning or to understand cause and effect, virtually nothing separates her desires and pleasures from those of the people around her--all of whom, needless to say, have moral problems that far outweigh Harriet's intellectual difficulties. Harriet's "intelligence was perfectly normal" when matters of "food or dress" are involved (loc. 64), and it's hard to distinguish her elegant tastes in clothing from Alice Hoppner's agonized yearning for her ideal dress, a "delicate, heavenly creation" (loc. 133), or her appreciation of delicious meals from her future husband Lewis' decision to splurge on the wedding feast (loc. 1164). Similarly, Harriet's anger may occasionally become destructive, but it is far less dangerous than her brother-in-law Patrick's emotionally and physically abusive treatment of his wife and children. Her sister-in-law Elizabeth's single-minded fixation on Patrick, meanwhile, duplicates Harriet's own obsessive passion for Lewis (both men being equally unworthy objects into the bargain). In fact, of all the characters other than Harriet's mother, the only one who finally grasps that something is wrong is the initially comical servant, Clara, a "bulging-eyed creature" who loves "penny-press novels and stories of crime" (loc. 378). Despite her initial contempt, Clara, not being "blinded by morbid love, by perverted passion, by avarice, selfishness, or lust" (loc. 2720), manifests one of the few glimmers of moral compunction in the text by trying to get help for Harriet's baby and testifying against Patrick, Elizabeth, and Alice at their trial. Only Clara and Harriet's mother show themselves capable of grasping that Harriet is a human being deserving equal moral consideration--and the former is treated with contempt by her employers and the latter by the legal and medical system. Our final glimpse of the imprisoned Elizabeth, incapable of doing anything but awaiting the delivery of food to her cell, suggests an impervious moral obtuseness: the narrator notices the irony (Elizabeth, who gets fed in her prison, is still far better off than Harriet, starved to death in hers), but Elizabeth engages in no self-reflection at all, not even when notified of her husband's own death in prison. Surface cleverness in this novel merely covers up for an (aspirationally) middle-class banality of evil.