Time for the list of top ten Ouida moe. Just to recap, I have defined Ouida moe as “the quintessential elements that comprise the characters and the plots of Ouida’s fiction.” Here are my choices for the best examples:
1. Women Smoking
We all know smoking is bad for us, and today the notion of women smoking is considered commonplace. When it comes to nineteenth century fiction, however, Ouida’s cigarette smoking women would have surely raised some eyebrows. During her lifetime, the author actually became associated with smoking in popular culture. Ironic, perhaps, considering that the author’s writings suggest that she viewed the practice as yet another sign of aesthetic decay. Some of the best samples of this moe in the database include the character Cigarette from Under Two Flags (1867) and a scene involving Madame Mila in In a Winter City (1876).
Although Ouida was remarkably independent in her thinking, it is clear that her understanding of race/breeding was steeped in the ideas, perceptions, and discourses of the nineteenth century. The fact that she came from a background of mixed ethnic heritage, however, seems to have enabled her to adopt a more nuanced perspective regarding racial dichotomies. Her work often exhibits her fascination with mixture in terms of breeding across lines of race and class. The “creolized” character appears in a number of her best works including Moths (1882), Folle Farine (1871), and Syrlin (1890)—a novel in which creolization is an important theme.
3. Private Study
It is believed that Ouida developed a life-long passion for self-education after receiving a respectable primary education from her father. She was particularly learned, I believe, in the tradition of the humanities and the liberal arts. Ouida payed homage to her love for the magic of independent learning in several of her novels including Chandos (1866), Guilderoy (1889), and The Tower of Taddeo (1892). Her characters can be found educating themselves in the library, in the studio, or in the comfort of their home studies.
4. Unrequited Love
This moe has probably won over many converts to Team Ouida over the years. Victorianists and Neo-Victorianists alike can hardly resist the dramatics of an unrequited love in fiction. Sadly, Ouida’s biography is often defined by her failure to sustain a meaningful romantic relationship in her own life. For the best examples of this moe see Ariadne (1877), Guilderoy (1889), and Syrlin (1890).
5. Orphan Kids
It is safe to maintain the notion that orphan stories were fairly prevalent in Victorian writing. Ouida’s orphans, however, are really in a league of their own. Relatively recently, actually, her story A Dog of Flanders (1872) has emerged as one of the most globally recognized orphan tales. Other novels with orphan characters include Tricotrin (1869), Folle Farine (1871), and In Maremma (1882).
6. Light and Shadows
The only way to truly understand this moe is to read it for yourself. The way that Ouida describes the interplay of sunlight and shadow in her novels is categorically unique to the author. Read her gorgeously written Pascarel (1873) for the clearest representation of her compositional prowess with description and setting.
7. Social Climbing
Stories about social climbing are probably about as popular today as they have ever been. There is something about “the opportunist” that we collectively love to hate. Some of Ouida’s most diabolical villains are social climbers including Mr. John Trevenna from Chandos (1866), Avice Dare (Laura Pearl) from Puck (1870), and William (Billy) Massarene from The Massarenes (1897), so all of you haters can “dig in.”
8. Enchanted Art
In certain respects, art imitates life and vice versa. However, some believe that art has the power to transcend daily life and touch the soul. Ouida loved to tackle this phenomenon in her writing. It can be a play, or a song, or a book of poetry, or a drawing, or a painting, or a sculpture, or even a figurine; the enchanted art/object moe is perhaps one of the most unappreciated facets of Ouida’s fiction. Many of her novels, in fact, incorporate a work of art that plays an important role in the story or bears some special symbiotic relationship with one of the characters. Ouida often employed this moe as a literary device to foreshadow her plot twists or add veiled layers of symbolic references to her narratives. Prominent illustrations of this moe occur in Puck (1870) and Ariadne (1877).
9. Worth Dresses
When reading Ouida, one sometimes encounters mention of a Worth dress or an ensemble designed by “M. Worth” himself. Undoubtedly, the fashion legacy of Charles Frederick Worth (1825-1895) must have had some impact on her views and opinions concerning style. Check out In a Winter City (1876) for the keenest instance of this moe.
10. Glamorous Transformation
And lastly, my personal favorite Ouida moe is the glamorous transformation moe. It should be noted that in Ouida’s novels these transformations are not always the result of social climbing. Sometimes the transformation happens as a result of circumstance, such as in the case of Viva’s transformation into the Duchess de Lira in Tricotrin (1869). Other times it is a “rags to riches” type of scenario like the one found in Ariadne (1877) with the character Maryx’s rise to prominence. And, in at least a few examples, the transformation occurs as a direct result of an inheritance—as it happened to Bertie Cecil in Under Two Flags (1867) and Speronella Tempesta in Pascarel (1873).
Those are only some of my favorite moe in the Ouida moe database. If you are reading this post right now, then I think that you just might have some favorites in mind as well.