Love on the Veldt: Romance and Ideology in Gertrude Page’s ‘A Terror That Saved’ (1912)

Stephen Donovan


The following essay offers a close reading of an obscure imperial short story, Gertrude Page’s ‘A Terror That Saved’ (1912), in order to question the assumptions that short fiction about imperial adventure is necessarily masculine, and that short stories with empire settings are primarily vehicles for colonial ideology. When the story in question was written, its author had recently moved from Britain to Rhodesia, a colony whose owner-administrator, the British South Africa Company (BSAC), had strong financial and political incentives for promoting itself to settlers, investors, and the reading public in Britain. Even so, I argue, it would be a mistake to view this tale as being ‘about’ empire in any simple sense, to infer that its huge audience was actively endorsing imperialism, or to equate its generic conventionality and moral conservatism with a static, traditional, and collective worldview. Instead, I draw on Richard Ohmann’s landmark analysis of magazine short stories to sketch an alternative framework within which to understand the popularity of such short stories and to reconstruct the ways in which they were likely read, in particular by women.

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