As Aurora Leigh was being reviewed by most of the leading periodicals, the Divorce and Married Women's Property Bills were being hotly debated in their pages. In this way this chapter explores how the literary text Aurora Leigh was part of a broader ideological clash. The obvious but crucial difference between Richardson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning is that of gender. By comparison with the eighteenth-century middle class, women in mid-nineteenth-century England had hardly begun to construct a public discourse of their own. This meant that Aurora Leigh was more exposed and vulnerable to assimilation than Clarissa. Terry Eagleton shows how Richardson as a master printer was at the centre of an ideological network – 'the nub of a whole discursive formation'. Barrett Browning, by contrast, spent years reading and writing in a darkened room, sending messages (poems, letters, reviews) out into a world from which she was cut off.