For the past two and a half years, my co-author Kelly Hager and I, along with our amazing research assistants Kailey Fukushima and Emily Anderson, have been working on a big project.
This project comes from our shared love of Charlotte Yonge. On a long train ride back to Boston from the 2014 CUNY Victorian Studies conference, we came to realize that Yonge was the only Victorian author we could think of who depicted what Leonore Davidoff calls “the long family” in all its glory. Try as we might, we couldn’t think of another Victorian novelist who depicted sibling sets of eleven or fourteeen and gave loving attention to each brother and sister as an individual character. This perplexed us, because, as scholars of the Victorian period, we knew the average family had somewhere around half a dozen children, and yet most of the sibling sets of major fictional characters could think of were sets of one, two, or maybe three.
The following chart shows a cleaned up version of our findings so far. (The data is messy, and we’ve had to code maximum and minimum numbers of siblings depending whether you count Daniel Deronda and his five step-siblings, as one family or two.) Fifty domestic realist novels and 463 sibling sets later, we’ve found that the average number of siblings represented in the novel is 2.44, the median is two, and the mode, or most common number, is one.
We plan on doing more (surface) reading, targeted free text searches of the novels, and delving into guides to all the characters in Dickens and Trollope over winter break 2016, after which we’ll send our paper out for peer review. In the meantime, we’d love any comments you might have on our data set, visualized below. Tell us, whose brothers and sisters have we missed?