If you could meet one deceased literary figure, who would that be? What would you ask? What would you say, and why? In AfterWord: Conjuring the Literary Dead, eighteen distinguished authors respond to this challenge by creating imagined conversations with a constellation of British and American authors, from Samuel Johnson to Jane Austen to Samuel Beckett to Edith Wharton.
Each chapter embarks on an intellectual, emotional, and often humorous voyage as the layers of time are peeled away, letting readers experience authors as they really were in their own era or, on occasion, transported to the present. As eccentric as it is eclectic, this collection takes the audience on a dizzying descent into a literary Inferno where biographers, novelists, and critics eat the food of the dead and return to tell the tale. Readers will take great pleasure in seeing what happens when scholars are loosed from the chains of fact and conduct imaginary interviews with deceased authors.
Covering 200 years of literary history, the essays in AfterWord draw upon the lifelong, consuming interest of the contributors, each fashioning a vivid, credible portrait of a vulnerable, driven, fully human character. As contributors appeal to what Margaret Atwood calls the deep human desire to “go to the land of the dead, to bring back to the living someone who has gone there,” readers are privy to questions that have seldom been asked, to incidents that have been suppressed, to some of the secrets that have puzzled readers for years, and to novel literary truths about the essential nature of each author.
Contributors to AfterWord are: Catherine Aird (on Rudyard Kipling), Brian Aldiss (on Thomas Hardy), Margaret Atwood (on negotiating with the dead), William M. Chace (on Ezra Pound), Nora Crook (on the Shelleys), Paul Delany (on George Gissing), Colin Dexter (on Alfred Edward Housman), Margaret Drabble (on Arnold Bennett), Peter Firchow (on George Orwell), Alan W. Friedman (on Samuel Beckett), Eugene Goodheart (on Jane Austen), John Halperin (on Edith Wharton), Francis King (on Oscar Wilde), Jeffrey Meyers (on Samuel Johnson), Cynthia Ozick (on Henry James), Jay Parini (on Robert Frost), Carl Rollyson (on William Faulkner), Dale Salwak and Laura Nagy (on literary imagination), Alan Sillitoe (on Joseph Conrad), and Ann Thwaite (on Frances Hodgson Burnett, Edmund Gosse, A. A. Milne, and Emily Tennyson).
In 1940 seven-year-old Tony Bailey was evacuated to the United States—one of more than 16,000 children sent overseas at a time when a Nazi invasion of England seemed inevitable. He spent four years with the wealthy Spaeth family in Dayton, Ohio, before returning to his parents in Southampton. Evocative, heartfelt, and charming, this is a story of a double childhood—of a boy who became American while never ceasing to be British.
"An original, sensitively told story in which the perspectives of the child are carefully remembered. . . . Bailey's book speaks, with gentle eloquence, not only to those who remember being boys, but to everyone who would seek to protect children from the hurts and ravagings that ordinary life can inflict, to say nothing of war." —Richard Montague, Newsday
"No doubt Tony Bailey owed America something for its hospitality during those anxious years, and with this book he has amply repaid the debt." —Joseph McLellan, Washington Post
"An exquisitely controlled, quietly amusing and moving story." —Publishers Weekly
"As tender as it is truthful, and as amusing as it is unpretentious." —John Russell, New York Times Book Review
After a century of critical neglect, poet and writer Amy Levy is gaining recognition as a literary figure of stature.
This definitive biography accompanied by her letters, along with the recent publication of her selected writings, provides a critical appreciation of Levy’s importance in her own time and in ours.
As an educated Jewish woman with homoerotic desires, Levy felt the strain of combating the structures of British society in the 1880s, the decade in which she built her career and moved in London’s literary and bohemian circles. Unwilling to cut herself off from her Jewish background, she had the additional burden of attempting to bridge the gap between communities.
In Amy Levy: Her Life and Letters Linda Hunt Beckman examines Levy’s writings and other cultural documents for insight into her emotional and intellectual life. This groundbreaking study introduces us to a woman well deserving of a place in literary and cultural history.
Arthur C. Clarke
Gary Westfahl University of Illinois Press, 2018 Library of Congress PR6005.L36Z95 2018 | Dewey Decimal 823.914
Already renowned for his science fiction and scientific nonfiction, Arthur C. Clarke became the world’s most famous science fiction writer after the success of 2001: A Space Odyssey. He then produced novels like Rendezvous with Rama and The Fountains of Paradise that many regard as his finest works.
Gary Westfahl closely examines Clarke's remarkable career, ranging from his forgotten juvenilia to the passages he completed for a final novel, The Last Theorem. As Westfahl explains, Clarke’s science fiction offered original perspectives on subjects like new inventions, space travel, humanity’s destiny, alien encounters, the undersea world, and religion. While not inclined to mysticism, Clarke necessarily employed mystical language to describe the fantastic achievements of advanced aliens and future humans. Westfahl also contradicts the common perception that Clarke’s characters were bland and underdeveloped, arguing that these reticent, solitary individuals, who avoid conventional relationships, represent his most significant prediction of the future, as they embody the increasingly common lifestyle of people in the twenty-first century.
Ben Jonson: A Life
David Riggs Harvard University Press, 1989 Library of Congress PR2631.R54 1989 | Dewey Decimal 822.3
Ben Jonson's contemporaries admired him above all other playwrights and poets of the English Renaissance. He was the “great refiner” who alchemized the bleakest aspects of everyday life into brilliant images of folly and deceit. He was also a celebrated reprobate and an ambitious entrepreneur. David Riggs illuminates every facet of this extraordinary career, giving us the first major biography of Jonson in over sixty years.
The story of Jonson's life provides a broad view of the literary procession in early modern England and the milieu in which Elizabethan drama was produced. Beginning as a journeyman actor, Jonson was soon a novice playwright; his first important play was staged in 1598, with Shakespeare in the cast. He was by turns the self-styled leader of a literary elite, a writer of court masques, the first dramatist to publish his own Works, a royal pensioner, and a genteel poet. As Jonson transformed himself from an artisan into a gentleman, his need to transcend his class origins led him to murder, to his notorious quarrels with Thomas Dekker, John Marston, and Inigo Jones, and to his lifelong rivalry with Shakespeare. Riggs traces the roots of Jonson's aggressiveness back to the turmoil of his childhood and adolescence. He offers new and convincing accounts of Jonson's latent hostility toward his bricklayer stepfather, his reckless marriage to Anne Lewis, and his conflicted relationships with his children.
This vivid portrait synthesizes six decades of scholarship and new historical evidence. Sixty halftones beautifully illustrate the story and capture the spirit of the age. With Riggs' original interpretations of Jonson's masterpieces and lesser known works, Ben Jonson: A Life will prove the standard account of this complex man's life and works for many years to come.
Brian W. Aldiss
Paul Kincaid University of Illinois Press, 2022 Library of Congress PR6051.L3Z75 2022 | Dewey Decimal 823.914
Brian W. Aldiss wrote classic science fiction novels like Report on Probability A and Hothouse. Billion Year Spree, his groundbreaking study of the field, defined the very meaning of SF and delineated its history. Yet Aldiss’s discomfort with being a guiding spirit of the British New Wave and his pursuit of mainstream success characterized a lifelong ambivalence toward the genre.
Paul Kincaid explores the many contradictions that underlay the distinctive qualities of Aldiss’s writing. Wartime experiences in Asia and the alienation that arose upon his return to the cold austerity of postwar Britain inspired themes and imagery that Aldiss drew upon throughout his career. He wrote of prolific nature overwhelming humanity, believed war was madness even though it provided him with the happiest period of his life, and found parallels in the static lives of Indian peasants and hidebound English society. As Kincaid shows, contradictions created tensions that fueled the metaphorical underpinnings of Aldiss's work and shaped not only his long career but the evolution of postwar British science fiction.
Samuel Johnson’s life was situated within a rich social and intellectual community of friendships—and antagonisms. Community and Solitude is a collection of ten essays that explore relationships between Johnson and several of his main contemporaries—including James Boswell, Edmund Burke, Frances Burney, Robert Chambers, Oliver Goldsmith, Bennet Langton, Arthur Murphy, Richard Savage, Anna Seward, and Thomas Warton—and analyzes some of the literary productions emanating from the pressures within those relationships. In their detailed and careful examination of particular works situated within complex social and personal contexts, the essays in this volume offer a “thick” and illuminating description of Johnson’s world that also engages with larger cultural and aesthetic issues, such as intertextuality, literary celebrity, narrative, the nature of criticism, race, slavery, and sensibility.
Contributors: Christopher Catanese, James Caudle, Marilyn Francus, Christine Jackson-Holzberg, Claudia Thomas Kairoff, Elizabeth Lambert, Anthony W. Lee, James E. May, John Radner, and Lance Wilcox.
Published by Bucknell University Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
Though historians of English literature have long labeled the eighteenth century the golden age of letter writing, few have paid more than lip service to the unique epistolary craftsmanship of the period. Bruce Redford corrects this omission with the first sustained investigation of the eighteenth-century familiar letter as a literary form in its own right. His study supplies the reader with a critical approach and biographical perspective for appreciating the genre that defined an era.
Redford examines six masters of the "talking letter": Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, William Cowper, Thomas Gray, Horace Walpole, James Boswell, and Samuel Johnson. All seek the paradoxical goal of artful spontaneity. Each exploits the distinctive resources of the eighteenth-century letter writer: a flexible conversational manner, a repertoire of literary and social allusion, a flair for dramatic impersonation. The voices of these letter writers "make distance, presence," in Samuel Richardson's phrase, by devising substitutes for gesture, vocal inflection, and physical context, turning each letter into a performance—an act. The resulting verbal constructs create a mysterious tension between the claims of fact and the possibilities of art. Redford recovers a neglected literary form and makes possible a deeper understanding of major eighteenth-century writers who devoted much of their talent and time to "the converse of the pen."
"Rich in facts and anecdotes, this is the perfect introduction to 18th-century London and a wonderful companion for readers of Johnson and Boswell. . . . Schwartz starts with the sights, sound, and smells of the metropolis—a city of steeples, chimneys, coal smoke, and intolerable street noise—and surveys in succession Work and Money, Pastimes and Pleasures, Daily Routines and Domestic Life, Travel and Transportation, and Health and Hygiene and concludes with a gallery of street 'Londoners,' an independent and assertive lot, notably insolent to foreigners, especially those in French clothes."—Washington Post Book World
"Outstanding. . . . The author packs a remarkable quantity of detail into a small space, even including a discussion of price and wage figures that will be intelligible to Americans [today]. . . . His prose is lucid, graceful, lively. Generously illustrated, the book also includes an extensive bibliography."—Choice
"An excellent source for English Literature and history students studying this period or Samuel Johnson."—Booklist
"An impressive achievement. . . . Udelson provides a trenchant analysis of Zangwill's works set within a historical context, i.e., Jewish emancipation and the dilemma of how one might remain fully Jewish while becoming fully modern, that helps to illuminate Zangwill's life as well as his writings."
—Jewish Book News
"By carefully following the threads of Zangwill's own divided self through the labyrinths of his life and writings, Udelson convinces us not only of the author's startling political prescience, but that he embodies attitudes now shared by almost all secular Jews as a result of events Zangwill did not witness—Nazism and the founding of Israel."
Fonthill, Wiltshire, is typically associated with the writer and collector William Beckford, who built his Gothic fantasy house, Fonthill Abbey, there at the end of the eighteenth century. The collapse of the Abbey’s tower in 1825 transformed the name Fonthill into a symbol for overarching ambition and folly. But Fonthill is much more than the story of one man’s excesses, and the Abbey was only one of several important houses to be built there, all eventually consumed by fire or deliberately demolished—and all strangely forgotten by contemporary history
Fonthill Recovered draws on new research to explore the rich cultural history of this place where little remains today—a tower, a stable block, the ruins of what was once a kitchen, and an indentation in a field. The first half of the book traces the occupation of Fonthill from the Bronze Age to the twenty-first century. Some of the owners surpassed Beckford in terms of their wealth and political power—and even, in one case, their sexual proclivities. They include Charles I’s Chancellor of the Exchequer and the richest British commoner of the nineteenth century. The second half of the book consists of essays on specific topics, examining such crucial areas as the complex history of the designed landscape, the sources of the Beckfords’ wealth and their extensive art collection, and the recent appearance of the Abbey in a video game.
Between 1905 and 1939 a conspicuously tall white man with a shock of red hair, dressed in a silk shirt and white linen trousers, could be seen on the streets of Onitsha, in Eastern Nigeria. How was it possible for an unconventional, boy-loving Englishman to gain a social status among the local populace enjoyed by few other Europeans in colonial West Africa?
In The Forger’s Tale: The Search for Odeziaku Stephanie Newell charts the story of the English novelist and poet John Moray Stuart-Young (1881–1939) as he traveled from the slums of Manchester to West Africa in order to escape the homophobic prejudices of late-Victorian society. Leaving behind a criminal record for forgery and embezzlement and his notoriety as a “spirit rapper,” Stuart-Young found a new identity as a wealthy palm oil trader and a celebrated author, known to Nigerians as “Odeziaku.”
In this fascinating biographical account, Newell draws on queer theory, African gender debates, and “new imperial history” to open up a wider study of imperialism, (homo)sexuality, and nonelite culture between the 1880s and the late 1930s. The Forger’s Tale pays close attention to different forms of West African cultural production in the colonial period and to public debates about sexuality and ethics, as well as to movements in mainstream English literature.
In January 1930 Her Privates We appeared in London, advertised as "a record of experience on the Somme and Ancre fronts in 1916" from the pen of "Private 10922, a well known man of letters, already distinguished in another kind of literature." Reviewers praised the novel as the most accurate and moving portrayal yet rendered of the common soldier, and the work quickly became a bestseller. Shortly thereafter the author was revealed as Frederic Manning, a reclusive and little-known author of narrative poetry, philosophical dialogues, and works on Epicurus. An early contributor to Criterion, Manning enjoyed considerable esteem among his peers—T. E. Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and T. S. Eliot, among others. How did a classical and noncommercial author come to write a grittily realistic war novel? Manning fled from the attendant publicity, avoiding the limelight assiduously and successfully. Marwil's search for the answer to this riddle and for the details of his life (in some ways the search is as interesting and revealing as the results) and his account of Manning's life and work reveal a great deal of the intellectual and social world of Edwardian and Georgian England.
Gentle Flame recounts the life and presents for the first time the hitherto unknown poetry of Dudley, Fourth Lord North. Born during the reign of Elizabeth I, reared in that of James I, elected to Parliament under Charles I, and retired to his country seat during the time of Charles II, the life an poetry of the Fourth Lord North deepens present-day understanding of an age that saw much social change.
George Henry Lewes, consort of George Eliot biographer of Robespierre and Goethe, novelist, editor, and critic, was also a scientist and philosopher. An intellectual figure of great importance on the Victorian scene, he has never before received adequate modern scholarly appreciation. In this book Professor Tjoa not only reconstructs Lewes’ theory of criticism and his social and political opinions but also evaluates his contributions to Darwinian science both as original thinker and as popularizer. With skillful discrimination, moreover, Mr. Tjoa has extracted from Lewes’ massive five-volume Problems of Life and Mind a clear and succinct account of Lewes’ metaphysical views. Literature and art, politics and societs science and an in- formed Victorian philosophy of man and the universe: the effervescent Lewes made important contributions to all. Hitherto in danger of surviving in our minds only as the lover, friend, and counselor of one of the Victorian age’s greatest novelists, Lewes emerges in Mr. Ijoa’s brief and lucid study as a thinker to he remembered for his writings as well.
Denton Welch (1915–48) died at the age of thirty-three after a brief but brilliant career as a writer and painter. The revealing, poignant, impressionistic voice that buoys his novels was much praised by critics and literati in England and has since inspired creative artists from William S. Burroughs to John Waters. His achievements were all the more remarkable because he suffered from debilitating spinal and pelvic injuries incurred in a bicycle accident at age eighteen.
Though German bombs were ravaging Britain, Welch wrote in his published work about the idyllic landscapes and local people he observed in Kent. There, in 1943, he met and fell in love with Eric Oliver, a handsome, intelligent, but rather insecure "landboy"—an agricultural worker with the wartime Land Army. Oliver would become a companion, comrade, lover, and caretaker during the last six years of Welch's life. All fifty-one letters that Welch wrote to Oliver are collected and annotated here for the first time. They offer a historical record of life amidst the hardship, deprivation, and fear of World War II, and also are a timeless testament of one young man's tender and intimate emotions, his immense courage in adversity, and his continual struggle for love and creative existence.
Nineteenth century writers and reformers Frances Trollope and Frances Wright have always been viewed as ideological opposites. In Common Cause: The "Conservative" Frances Trollope and the "Radical" Frances Wright looks at their political commonalities rather than their differences. It traces the way in which these two women have been stereotyped and denigrated for over 100 years. It considers the many contributions of both women to the most significant political movements of their times: anti-slavery; women's rights; and industrial reform.
Edward John Thompson—novelist, poet, journalist, and historian of India—was a liberal advocate for Indian culture and political self-determination at a time when Indian affairs were of little general interest in England. As a friend of Nehru, Gandhi, and other Congress Party leaders, Thompson had contacts that many English officials did not have and did not know how to get. Thus, he was an excellent channel for interpreting India to England and England to India.
Thompson first went to India in 1910 as a Methodist missionary to teach English literature at Bankura Wesleyan College. It was there that he cultivated the literary circle of Rabindranath Tagore, as yet little known in England, and there Thompson learned of the political contradictions and deficiencies of India's educational system. His major conflict, personal and professional, was the lingering influence of Victorian Wesleyanism. In 1923, Thompson resigned and returned to teach at Oxford.
Interest in South Asia studies was minimal at Oxford, and Thompson turned increasingly to writing Indian history. That work, and his unique account of his experiences in the Mesopotamian campaign in World War I, supply a viewpoint found nowhere else, as well as personal views of literary figures such as Robert Graves and Robert Bridges. Thompson was also a major influence on the work of his son, E. P. Thompson, a modern historian of eighteenth-century England.
This important biography covers politically significant events between Thompson's arrival in India and up to his death, and casts considerable light on Thompson and his struggles with his religion and his relationship with India. The first biography of E. J. Thompson, "India's Prisoner" will have widespread appeal, especially to those interested in South Asian and English history, literature, and cultural history.
Inventing Edward Lear
Sara Lodge Harvard University Press, 2019 Library of Congress PR4879.L2Z75 2019 | Dewey Decimal 700.92
“Inventing Edward Lear is an exceptional, valuable, original study, presenting new materials on aspects of Lear’s life and work.” —Jenny Uglow, author of Mr. Lear and The Lunar Men
Edward Lear wrote some of the best-loved poems in English, including “The Owl and the Pussycat,” but the father of nonsense was far more than a poet. He was a naturalist, a brilliant landscape painter, an experimental travel writer, and an accomplished composer. Sara Lodge presents the fullest account yet of Lear’s passionate engagement in the intellectual, social, and cultural life of his times.
Lear had a difficult start in life. He was epileptic, asthmatic, and depressive, but even as a child a consummate performer who projected himself into others’ affections. He became, by John James Audubon’s estimate, one of the greatest ornithological artists of the age. Queen Victoria—an admirer—chose him to be her painting teacher. He popularized the limerick, set Tennyson’s verse to music, and opened fresh doors for children and adults to share fantasies of magical escape. Lodge draws on diaries, letters, and new archival sources to paint a vivid picture of Lear that explores his musical influences, his religious nonconformity, his relationship with the Pre-Raphaelite movement, and the connections between his scientific and artistic work. He invented himself as a character: awkward but funny, absurdly sympathetic. In Lodge’s hands, Lear emerges as a dynamic and irreverent polymath whose conversation continues to draw us in.
Inventing Edward Lear is an original and moving account of one of the most intriguing and creative of all Victorians.
In the looming shadow of dictatorship and imminent war, George Seferis and George Katsimbalis welcomed Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell to their homeland. Together, as they spent evenings in tavernas, explored the Peloponnese, and considered the meaning of Greek life and freedom and art, they seemed to be inventing paradise. This blend of memoir, criticism, and storytelling takes readers on a journey into the poetry, friendships, and politics of an extraordinary time.
The life of Jane Austen has fascinated the millions of readers around the world who cherish her work. A new collection presents an intimate portrait of Austen through her personal possessions, showing the many details of her life that found echoes in her fiction, especially her keen observations of the “little matters”—the routines of reading, dining and taking tea, paying visits to family and friends, and walking to the shops or to send the post.
Brilliantly edited by Kathryn Sutherland, Jane Austen: Writer in the World offers a life story told through the author's personal possessions. In her teenage notebooks, literary jokes give a glimpse of her family’s shared love of reading and satire, which can be seen in the subtler humor of Austen’s published work. Pieces from Austen’s hand-copied collection of sheet music reveal how music was used to create networks far more intricate than the simple pleasures of home recital. A beautiful brown silk pelisse-coat, together with lively letters between Austen and Cassandra, give insight into her views on fashion. All feature in this lavishly illustrated collection, along with homemade booklets in which she composed her novels, portraits made of Austen during her lifetime, and much more. Also included are objects associated with the era in which Austen lived: newspaper articles, naval logbooks, and contemporary political cartoons, shedding light on Austen’s wider social and political worlds.
This collection makes a delightful modern-day keepsake from one of the world’s best-loved writers on the two-hundredth anniversary of her death.
The great English writer and gardener John Evelyn (1620–1706) kept a diary all his life. Today, this diary is considered an invaluable source of information on more than fifty years of social, cultural, religious, and political life in seventeenth-century England. Evelyn’s work is often overshadowed by the literary contributions of his contemporary and friend, Samuel Pepys. This new biography changes that.
John Dixon Hunt takes a fresh look at the life and work of one of England’s greatest diarists, focusing particularly on Evelyn’s “domesticity.” The book explores Evelyn’s life at home, and perhaps even more importantly, his domestication of foreign ideas and practices in England. During the English Civil Wars, Evelyn traveled extensively throughout Europe, taking in ideas on the management of estate design while abroad to apply them in England. Evelyn’s greatest accomplishment was the import of European garden art to the UK, a feat Hunt puts into context alongside a range of Evelyn’s social and ethical thinking. Illustrated with visual material from Evelyn’s time and from his own pen, the book is an ideal introduction to a hugely important figure in the shaping of early modern Britain.
Jad Adams Haus Publishing, 2005 Library of Congress PR4856.A53 2005 | Dewey Decimal 828.809
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was the greatest writer in a Britain that ruled the largest empire the world has known, yet he was always a controversial figure, as deeply hated as he was loved. This accessible biography aims at an understanding of the man behind the image and gives an explanation of his enduring popularity
Margaret Storm Jameson (1891–1986) is primarily known as a compelling essayist; her stature as a novelist and champion of the dispossessed is largely forgotten. In Life in the Writings of Storm Jameson, Elizabeth Maslen reveals a figure who held her own beside fellow British women writers, including Virginia Woolf; anticipated the Angry Young Women, such as Doris Lessing; and was an early champion of such European writers as Arthur Koestler and Czesław Miłosz. Jameson was a complex character whose politics were grounded in social justice; she was passionately antifascist—her novel In the Second Year (1936) raised the alarm about Nazism—but always wary of communism. An eloquent polemicist, Jameson was, as president of the British P.E.N. during the 1930s and 1940s, of invaluable assistance to refugee writers. Elizabeth Maslen’s biography introduces a true twentieth century hedgehog, whose essays and subtly experimental fiction were admired in Europe and the States.
Although the literary circle is widely recognized as a significant feature of Renaissance literary culture, it has received remarkably little examination. In this collection of essays, the authors attempt to explain literary circles and cultural communities in Renaissance England by exploring both actual and imaginary ways in which they were conceived and the various needs they fulfilled. The book also pays considerable attention to larger theoretical issues relating to literary circles.
The essayists raise important questions about the extent to which literary circles were actual constructs or fictional creations. Whether illuminating or limiting, the circle metaphor itself can be extended or reformulated. Some of the authors discuss how particular circles actually operated, and some question the very concept of the literary circle. Literary Circles and Cultural Communities in Renaissance England will be an important addition to seventeenth-century studies.
In a series of intriguing routes through the English countryside, Professor Robert Cooper notes those attractions that the casual tourist might unknowingly pass by, such as the house where Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities, or the windswept quay where John Fowles’s French Lieutenant’s woman walked. Maps and information about restaurants and accommodations give the traveler the opportunity of having pints of “half and half” where Jane Austen dined or visiting the pub where Blake’s scuffle led to his trial for treason.
This newly revised and updated edition of Robert Cooper’s acclaimed handbook combines the utility of current travel information with the appeal of literary history, biography, and anecdote in a leisurely and flavorful guide to the broad sweep of southern England outside of London. A rich and reliable guide to the landscape that fostered one of our most cherished cultures, The Literary Guide and Companion to Southern England is an indispensable resource for those who wish to experience literature firsthand.
Dashingly told and meticulously researched, this double biography of D. H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda von Richthofen is the first to draw fully on Frieda’s unpublished letters and on interviews with people who knew her well. It explores their collision with an industrial world they hated and chronicles the stormy relationship between husband and wife. The strong sexual vitality that inspired Lawrence’s art brought both joy and anguish to his marriage. Here, the Lawrences emerge as proud but not conceited in their unconventional lives, staunch in the face of fierce opposition from a conformist society. Living at the Edge follows the separate lives of Lawrence and Frieda up to their first meeting in 1912. Tracing their new life together, it depicts their grateful escape from the English Midlands; their discovery of exotic places where they made temporary homes—Italy, Cornwall, Australia, New Mexico, and Mexico; Lawrence’s courageous battle against illness; and, after his death in 1930, Frieda’s success in recreating the simple life on ranches near Taos, New Mexico, where she died in 1956.
At the center of their story is Lawrence’s literary career. Biographers Squires and Talbot see Lawrence’s major novels—The Rainbow, Women in Love, Lady Chatterley’s Lover—as a fresh way to understand his turbulent and conflicted life. They reveal the extreme care with which he rewrote his personal experience to satisfy his deepest needs, and they introduce the many influential people who entered the Lawrences’ lives and work. The rich materials from Frieda’s letters reveal a different Lawrence—more difficult as a man but more interesting as an artist; they also reveal a different Frieda—more vibrant as a woman, more substantial as a companion. This superb biography gives both Lawrence and Frieda striking new dimensions.
Loving Dr. Johnson
Helen Deutsch University of Chicago Press, 2005 Library of Congress PR3533.D46 2005 | Dewey Decimal 828.609
The autopsy of Samuel Johnson (1709-84) initiated two centuries of Johnsonian anatomy-both in medical speculation about his famously unruly body and in literary devotion to his anecdotal remains. Even today, Johnson is an enduring symbol of individuality, authority, masculinity, and Englishness, ultimately lending a style and a name—the Age of Johnson—to the eighteenth-century English literary canon.
Loving Dr. Johnson uses the enormous popularity of Johnson to understand a singular case of author love and to reflect upon what the love of authors has to do with the love of literature. Helen Deutsch's work is driven by several impulses, among them her affection for both Johnson's work and Boswell's biography of him, and her own distance from the largely male tradition of Johnsonian criticism—a tradition to which she remains indebted and to which Loving Dr. Johnson is ultimately an homage. Limning sharply Johnson's capacious oeuvre, Deutsch's study is also the first of its kind to examine the practices and rituals of Johnsonian societies around the world, wherein Johnson's literary work is now dwarfed by the figure of the writer himself.
An absorbing look at one iconic author and his afterlives, Loving Dr. Johnson will be of enormous value to students of English literature and literary scholars keenly interested in canon formation.
On the 150th anniversary of the death of the English historian and politician Thomas Babington Macaulay, Robert Sullivan offers a portrait of a Victorian life that probes the cost of power, the practice of empire, and the impact of ideas.
His Macaulay is a Janus-faced master of the universe: a prominent spokesman for abolishing slavery in the British Empire who cared little for the cause, a forceful advocate for reforming Whig politics but a Machiavellian realist, a soaring parliamentary orator who avoided debate, a self-declared Christian, yet a skeptic and a secularizer of English history and culture, and a stern public moralist who was in love with his two youngest sisters.
Perhaps best known in the West for his classic History of England, Macaulay left his most permanent mark on South Asia, where his penal code remains the law. His father ensured that ancient Greek and Latin literature shaped Macaulay’s mind, but he crippled his heir emotionally. Self-defense taught Macaulay that power, calculation, and duplicity rule politics and human relations. In Macaulay’s writings, Sullivan unearths a sinister vision of progress that prophesied twentieth-century genocide. That the reverent portrait fashioned by Macaulay’s distinguished extended family eclipsed his insistent rhetoric about race, subjugation, and civilizing slaughter testifies to the grip of moral obliviousness.
Devoting his huge talents to gaining power—above all for England and its empire—made Macaulay’s life a tragedy. Sullivan offers an unsurpassed study of an afflicted genius and a thoughtful meditation on the modern ethics of power.
The adventures of Mole, Ratty, Mr. Toad, and Mr. Badger—and their tangles with the Weasels—have been adored by children for more than a century. Yet, with its oddly bureaucratic town dramas and the esoteric hobbies of its protagonists, The Wind in the Willows was originally intended almost entirely for adults. Though first inspired by bedtime stories Kenneth Grahame told to his son Alastair, as he wrote them down, the tales of these woodland creatures developed into something much more sophisticated.
Peter Hunt explores the unusual trajectory of The Wind in the Willows through previously unpublished archival materials, original drawings, and fan letters (including one from Theodore Roosevelt). He identifies the colleagues and friends on whom Grahame is thought to have based the characters of Mole, Rat, Badger, and Toad, and explores the literary genres of boating, caravanning, and motoring on which the author drew. He also recounts the extraordinary correspondence surrounding the book’s first publication and the influence of two determined women—publisher’s agent Constance Smedley and the author’s wife, Elspeth Grahame—who helped turn the book into the classic for children we know and love today. Generously illustrated throughout, this book celebrates one of the most beloved works of children’s literature ever published.
"On or about December 1910" human character changed, Virginia Woolf remarked, and well she might have. The company she kept, the Bloomsbury circle, took shape before the coming of World War I, and would have a lasting impact on English society and culture after the war. This book captures the dazzling world of Bloomsbury at the end of an era, and on the eve of modernism.
Peter Stansky depicts the vanguard of a rising generation seizing its moment. He shows us Woolf in that fateful year, in the midst of an emotional breakdown, reaching a turning point with her first novel, The Voyage Out, and E. M. Forster, already a success, offering Howards End and acknowledging his passion for another man. Here are Roger Fry, prominent art critic and connoisseur, remaking tradition with the epochal exhibition "Manet and the Post-Impressionists"; Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant beginning their most interesting phase as artists; Lytton Strachey signing the contract for his first book; and John Maynard Keynes entering a significant new stage in his illustrious career.
Amid the glittering opulence and dismal poverty, the swirl of Suffragists, anarchists, agitators, and organizers, Stansky--drawing upon his historical and literary skills--brings the intimate world of the Bloomsbury group to life. Their lives, relationships, writings, and ideas entwine, casting one member after another in sharp relief. Even their Dreadnought Hoax, a trick played on the sacred institution of the navy, reveals their boldness and esprit. The picture Stansky presents, with all its drama and detail, encompasses the conflicts and sureties of a changing world of politics, aesthetics, and character.
Orwell: Life and Art
Jeffrey Meyers University of Illinois Press, 2010 Library of Congress PR6029.R8Z73555 2010 | Dewey Decimal 828.91209
This remarkable volume collects, for the first time, essays representing more than four decades of scholarship by one of the world's leading authorities on George Orwell. In clear, energetic prose that exemplifies his indefatigable attention to Orwell's life work, Jeffrey Meyers analyzes the works and reception of one of the most widely read and admired twentieth-century authors.
Orwell: Life and Art covers the novelist's painful childhood and presents accounts of his autobiographical writings from the beginning of his career through the Spanish Civil War. Meyers continues with analyses of Orwell's major works, including Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, as well as his style, distinctive satiric humor, and approach to the art of writing. Meyers ends with a scrupulous examination of six biographies of Orwell, including his own, that embodies a consummate grasp and mastery of both the art of biography and Orwell's life and legacy.
Writing with an authority born of decades of focused scholarship, visits to Orwell's homes and workplaces, and interviews with his survivors, Meyers sculpts a dynamic view of Orwell's enduring influence on literature, art, culture, and politics.
Though underexplored in contemporary scholarship, the Victorian attempts to turn aesthetics into a science remain one of the most fascinating aspects of that era. In The Outward Mind, Benjamin Morgan approaches this period of innovation as an important origin point for current attempts to understand art or beauty using the tools of the sciences. Moving chronologically from natural theology in the early nineteenth century to laboratory psychology in the early twentieth, Morgan draws on little-known archives of Victorian intellectuals such as William Morris, Walter Pater, John Ruskin, and others to argue that scientific studies of mind and emotion transformed the way writers and artists understood the experience of beauty and effectively redescribed aesthetic judgment as a biological adaptation. Looking beyond the Victorian period to humanistic critical theory today, he also shows how the historical relationship between science and aesthetics could be a vital resource for rethinking key concepts in contemporary literary and cultural criticism, such as materialism, empathy, practice, and form. At a moment when the tumultuous relationship between the sciences and the humanities is the subject of ongoing debate, Morgan argues for the importance of understanding the arts and sciences as incontrovertibly intertwined.
Vita Sackville-West, novelist, poet, and biographer, is best known as the friend of Virginia Woolf, who transformed her into an androgynous time-traveler in Orlando. The story of Sackville-West's marriage to Harold Nicolson is one of intrigue and bewilderment. In Portrait of a Marriage, their son Nigel combines his mother's memoir with his own explanations and what he learned from their many letters. Even during her various love affairs with women, Vita maintained a loving marriage with Harold. Portrait of a Marriage presents an often misunderstood but always fascinating couple.
"Portrait of a Marriage is as close to a cry from the heart as anybody writing in English in our time has come, and it is a cry that, once heard, is not likely ever to be forgotten. . . . Unexpected and astonishing."—Brendan Gill, New Yorker
"The charm of this book lies in the elegance of its narration, the taste with which their son has managed to convey the real, enduring quality of his parents' love for each other."—Doris Grumbach, New Republic
In 1849—months before the term “confidence man” was coined to identify a New York crook—Thomas Powell (1809–1887), a spherical, monocled, English poetaster, dramatist, journalist, embezzler, and forger, landed in Manhattan. Powell in London had capped a career of grand theft and literary peccadilloes by feigning a suicide attempt and having himself committed to a madhouse, after which he fled England. He had been an intimate of William Wordsworth, Elizabeth Barrett, Robert Browning, Charles Dickens, and a crowd of lesser literary folk.
Thoughtfully bearing what he presented as a volume of Tennyson with a few trifling revisions in the hand of the poet, Powell was embraced by the slavishly Anglophile New York literary establishment, including a young Herman Melville. In two pot-boilers—The Living Authors of England (1849) and The Living Authors of America (1850)—Powell denounced the most revered American author, Washington Irving, for plagiarism; provoked Charles Dickens to vengeful trans-Atlantic outrage and then panic; and capped his insolence by identified Irving and Melville as the two worst “enemies of the American mind.” For almost four more decades he sniped at Dickens, put words in Melville’s mouth, and survived even the most conscientious efforts to expose him. Long fascinated by this incorrigible rogue, Hershel Parker in The Powell Papers uses a few familiar documents and a mass of freshly discovered material (including a devastating portrait of Powell in a serialized novel) to unfold a captivating tale of skullduggery through the words of great artists and then-admired journalists alike.
Meet Netley Lucas, Prince of Tricksters—royal biographer, best-selling crime writer, and gentleman crook. In the years after the Great War, Lucas becomes infamous for climbing the British social ladder by his expert trickery—his changing names and telling of tales. An impudent young playboy and a confessed confidence trickster, he finances his far-flung hedonism through fraud and false pretenses. After repeated spells in prison, Lucas transforms himself into a confessing “ex-crook,” turning his inside knowledge of the underworld into a lucrative career as freelance journalist and crime expert. But then he’s found out again—exposed and disgraced for faking an exclusive about a murder case. So he reinvents himself, taking a new name and embarking on a prolific, if short-lived, career as a royal biographer and publisher. Chased around the world by detectives and journalists after yet another sensational scandal, the gentleman crook dies as spectacularly as he lived—a washed-up alcoholic, asphyxiated in a fire of his own making.
The lives of Netley Lucas are as flamboyant as they are unlikely. In Prince of Tricksters, Matt Houlbrook picks up the threads of Lucas’s colorful lies and lives. Interweaving crime writing and court records, letters and life-writing, Houlbrook tells Lucas’s fascinating story and, in the process, provides a panoramic view of the 1920s and ’30s. In the restless times after the Great War, the gentlemanly trickster was an exemplary figure, whose tall tales and bogus biographies exposed the everyday difficulties of knowing who and what to trust. Tracing how Lucas both evoked and unsettled the world through which he moved, Houlbrook shows how he prompted a pervasive crisis of confidence that encompassed British society, culture, and politics.
Taking readers on a romp through Britain, North America, and eventually into Africa, Houlbrook confronts readers with the limits of our knowledge of the past and challenges us to think anew about what history is and how it might be made differently.
From 1890 to 1960, some of Anglo-America's most heated cultural contests over books, sex, and censorship were staged not at home, but abroad in the City of Light. Paris, with its extraordinary liberties of expression, became a special place for interrogating the margins of sexual culture and literary censorship, and a wide variety of English language "dirty books" circulated through loose expatriate publishing and distribution networks.
A Publisher's Paradise explores the political and literary dynamics that gave rise to this expatriate cultural flourishing, which included everything from Victorian pornography to the most daring and controversial modernist classics. Colette Colligan tracks the British and French politicians and diplomats who policed Paris editions of banned books and uncovers offshore networks of publishers, booksellers, authors, and readers. She looks closely at the stories the "dirty books" told about this publishing haven and the smut peddlers and literary giants it brought together in transnational cultural formations. The book profiles an eclectic group of expatriates living and publishing in Paris, from relatively obscure figures such as Charles Carrington, whose list included both The Picture of Dorian Gray and the pornographic novel Randiana, to bookshop owner Sylvia Beach, famous for publishing James Joyce's Ulysses in 1922.
A Publisher's Paradise is a compelling exploration of the little-known history of foreign pornography in Paris and the central role it played in turning the city into a modernist outpost for literary and sexual vanguardism, a reputation that still lingers today in our cultural myths of midnight in Paris.
He was a servant to the public, a writer for hire. He was a hero, an author adding to the glory of his nation. But can a writer be both hack and hero? The career of Samuel Johnson, recounted here by Lawrence Lipking, proves that the two can be one. And it further proves, in its enduring interest for readers, that academic fashions today may be a bit hasty in pronouncing the "death of the author."
A book about the life of an author, about how an author is made, not born, Lipking's Samuel Johnson is the story of the man as he lived--and lives--in his work. Tracing Johnson's rocky climb from anonymity to fame, in the course of which he came to stand for both the greatness of English literature and the good sense of the common reader, the book shows how this life transformed the very nature of authorship.
Beginning with the defiant letter to Chesterfield that made Johnson a celebrity, Samuel Johnson offers fresh readings of all the writer's major works, viewed through the lens of two ongoing preoccupations: the urge to do great deeds--and the sense that bold expectations are doomed to disappointment. Johnson steers between the twin perils of ambition and despondency. Mounting a challenge to the emerging industry that glorified and capitalized on Shakespeare, he stresses instead the playwright's power to cure the illusions of everyday life. All Johnson's works reveal his extraordinary sympathy with ordinary people. In his groundbreaking Dictionary, in his poems and essays, and in The Lives of the English Poets, we see Johnson becoming the key figure in the culture of literacy that reaches from his day to our own.
It is difficult to think of a family more endowed with literary genius than the Shelley family—from the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife, novelist Mary Shelley, to Mary’s parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft—all were authors in their own right. Using extensive archival material, Shelley’s Ghost explores the making of this remarkable literary family’s reputation.
Drawing on the Bodleian Library’s outstanding collection of letters, poetry manuscripts, rare printed books, portraits, and other personalia—including Shelley’s working notebooks, Keats’s letters to Shelley, William Godwin’s diary, and the original manuscript of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein—Stephen Hebron charts the history of this talented yet troubled family. After Percy Bysshe Shelley’s drowning in 1822, Mary published various manuscripts relating to both her husband’s and her father’s lives, and passed this historical legacy to her son, Sir Percy Florence Shelley and his wife, Lady Jane Shelley. As guardians of the archive until they bequeathed it to the Bodleian in 1892, Sir Percy Florence and Lady Jane helped shape the posthumous reputations of these writers. An afterword by Elizabeth Denlinger of the New York Public Library offers an additional perspective, exploring material relating to the Shelley family that slipped beyond the family’s control.
An unparalleled look at one of the most significant families of British Romantic literature, Shelley’s Ghost will be welcomed by scholars and the many fans of this enduring literacy legacy.
Following his acclaimed life of Dickens, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst illuminates the tangled history of two lives and two books. Drawing on numerous unpublished sources, he examines in detail the peculiar friendship between the Oxford mathematician Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and Alice Liddell, the child for whom he invented the Alice stories, and analyzes how this relationship stirred Carroll’s imagination and influenced the creation of Wonderland. It also explains why Alice in Wonderland (1865) and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass (1871), took on an unstoppable cultural momentum in the Victorian era and why, a century and a half later, they continue to enthrall and delight readers of all ages.
The Story of Alice reveals Carroll as both an innovator and a stodgy traditionalist, entrenched in habits and routines. He had a keen double interest in keeping things moving and keeping them just as they are. (In Looking-Glass Land, Alice must run faster and faster just to stay in one place.) Tracing the development of the Alice books from their inception in 1862 to Liddell’s death in 1934, Douglas-Fairhurst also provides a keyhole through which to observe a larger, shifting cultural landscape: the birth of photography, changing definitions of childhood, murky questions about sex and sexuality, and the relationship between Carroll’s books and other works of Victorian literature.
In the stormy transition from the Victorian to the modern era, Douglas-Fairhurst shows, Wonderland became a sheltered world apart, where the line between the actual and the possible was continually blurred.
Because Thomas Hardy is so closely associated with the rural Wessex of his novels, stories, and poems, it is easy to forget that he was, in his own words, half a Londoner. Focusing on the formative five years in his early twenties when Hardy lived in the city, but also on his subsequent movement back and forth between Dorset and the capital, Mark Ford shows that the Dorset-London axis is critical to an understanding of his identity as a man and his achievement as a writer.
Thomas Hardy: Half a Londoner presents a detailed account of Hardy’s London experiences, from his arrival as a shy, impressionable youth, to his embrace of radical views, to his lionization by upper-class hostesses eager to fête the creator of Tess. Drawing on Hardy’s poems, letters, fiction, and autobiography, it offers a subtle, moving exploration of the author’s complex relationship with the metropolis and those he met or observed there: publishers, fellow authors, street-walkers, benighted lovers, and the aristocratic women who adored his writing but spurned his romantic advances.
The young Hardy’s oscillations between the routines and concerns of Dorset’s Higher Bockhampton and the excitements and dangers of London were crucial to his profound sense of being torn between mutually dependent but often mutually uncomprehending worlds. This fundamental self-division, Ford argues, can be traced not only in the poetry and fiction explicitly set in London but in novels as regionally circumscribed as Far from the Madding Crowd and Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
To earn the reputation of a literary giant within the generation of Waugh, Orwell, and Greene is no mean feat. To do so with the grace and genius that characterized Anthony Powell—whose twelve-volume A Dance to the Music of Time is possibly the only English-language work to match the majestic scope of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past—is nothing short of spectacular. Yet Powell himself remains absent from his writing; he was, said the New York Times, "a writer of mordant succinctness who rewards the reader while revealing little of himself."
Powell did eventually reveal himself in four volumes of memoirs, published between 1976 and 1982. This edition of Anthony Powell's Memoirs is an abridged and revised version of those volumes, a version that has never before been published in this form in the United States. The result is not only a fascinating view of Powell as a man and an author but also a unique history of British literary society and the social elite Powell lampooned and moved within from the twenties through the eighties. From Eton and Oxford to his life as a novelist and critic, Powell observes all—the obscenity trial sparked by Lady Chatterley's Lover; Shirley Temple's libel suit after Graham Greene reviewed Wee Willie Winkie "with even more than his usual verve"—and paints vivid portraits of Kingsley Amis, V.S. Naipaul, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and countless others. Most importantly, Powell's lively memoirs banish all thought of the man as a relic of the British gentry. He was a modernist, a Tory, and more than a little interested in genealogy and peerage, but a man who, according to Ferdinand Mount, "miraculously knew what life was like."
Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth
Edited by Catherine McIlwaine Bodleian Library Publishing, 2018 Library of Congress PR6039.O32Z6956 2018 | Dewey Decimal 002.09
The range of J. R. R. Tolkien’s talents is remarkable. Not only was he an accomplished linguist and philologist, as well as a scholar of Anglo-Saxon and medieval literature and Norse folklore, but also a skillful illustrator and storyteller. Drawing on these talents, he created a universe which is for many readers as real as the physical world they inhabit daily.
Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth explores the huge creative endeavor behind Tolkien’s enduring popularity. Lavishly illustrated with three hundred images of his manuscripts, drawings, maps, and letters, the book traces the creative process behind his most famous literary works—The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion—and reproduces personal photographs and private papers, many of which have never been seen before in print.
Six essays introduce the reader to the person of J. R. R. Tolkien and to main themes in his life and work, including the influence of northern languages and legends on the creation of his own legendarium; his concept of “Faërie” as an enchanted literary realm; the central importance of his invented languages in his fantasy writing; his visual imagination and its emergence in his artwork; and the encouragement he derived from his close friend C. S. Lewis and their literary group the Inklings.
The book brings together the largest collection of original Tolkien material ever assembled in a single volume. Drawing on the extensive archives of the Tolkien collections at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, which stretch to more than five hundred boxes, and Marquette University, Milwaukee, as well as private collections, this hugely ambitious and exquisitely produced book draws together the worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien – scholarly, literary, creative, and domestic—offering a rich and detailed understanding and appreciation of this extraordinary author.
This landmark publication, produced on the occasion of a major exhibition at the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford in 2018 and at the Morgan Library in New York in 2019, is set to become a standard work in the literature on J. R. R. Tolkien.
Histories of autobiography in England often assume the genre hardly existed before 1600. But Tudor Autobiography investigates eleven sixteenth-century English writers who used sermons, a saint’s biography, courtly and popular verse, a traveler’s report, a history book, a husbandry book, and a supposedly fictional adventure novel to share the secrets of the heart and tell their life stories.
In the past such texts have not been called autobiographies because they do not reveal much of the inwardness of their subject, a requisite of most modern autobiographies. But, according to Meredith Anne Skura, writers reveal themselves not only by what they say but by how they say it. Borrowing methods from affective linguistics, narratology, and psychoanalysis, Skura shows that a writer’s thoughts and feelings can be traced in his or her language. Rejecting the search for “the early modern self” in life writing, Tudor Autobiography instead asks what authors said about themselves, who wrote about themselves, how, and why. The result is a fascinating glimpse into a range of lived and imagined experience that challenges assumptions about life and autobiography in the early modern period.
The sexual exploitation of children by adults has a long, fraught history. Yet how cultures have reacted to it is shaped by a range of forces, beliefs, and norms, like any other social phenomenon. Changes in how Anglo-American culture has understood intergenerational sex can be seen with startling clarity in the life of British writer Norman Douglas (1868–1952), who was a beloved and popular author, a friend of luminaries like Graham Greene, Aldous Huxley, and D.H. Lawrence, and an unrepentant and uncloseted pederast. Rachel Hope Cleves’s careful study opens a window onto the social history of intergenerational sex in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, revealing how charisma, celebrity, and contemporary standards protected Douglas from punishment—until they didn’t.
Unspeakable approaches Douglas as neither monster nor literary hero, but as a man who participated in an exploitative sexual subculture that was tolerated in ways we may find hard to understand. Using letters, diaries, memoirs, police records, novels, and photographs—including sources by the children Douglas encountered—Cleves identifies the cultural practices that structured pedophilic behaviors in England, Italy, and other places Douglas favored. Her book delineates how approaches to adult-child sex have changed over time and offers insight into how society can confront similar scandals today, celebrity and otherwise.
When Margaret Thatcher called in 1979 for a return to Victorian values such as hard work, self-reliance, thrift, and national pride, Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock responded that “Victorian values” also included “cruelty, misery, drudgery, squalor, and ignorance.”
The Victorians in the Rearview Mirror is an in-depth look at the ways that the twentieth century reacted to and reimagined its predecessor. It considers how the Victorian inheritance has been represented in literature, politics, film, and visual culture; the ways in which modernists and progressives have sought to differentiate themselves from an image of the Victorian; and how conservatives (and some liberals) have sought to revive elements of nineteenth-century life. Nostalgic and critical impulses combine to fix an understanding of the Victorians in the popular imagination.
Simon Joyce examines heritage culture, contemporary politics, and the “neo-Dickensian” novel to offer a more affirmative assessment of the Victorian legacy, one that lets us imagine a model of social interconnection and interdependence that has come under threat in today’s politics and culture.
Although more than one hundred years have passed since the death of Queen Victoria, the impact of her time is still fresh. The Victorians in the Rearview Mirror speaks to diverse audiences in literary and cultural studies, in addition to those interested in visual culture and contemporary politics, and situates detailed close readings of literary and cinematic texts in the context of a larger argument about the legacies of an era not as distant as we might like to think.
Arthur Munby (1828–1910) was a Victorian gentleman from a respected family of Yorkshire lawyers. He left behind diaries that record his life-long obsession with working-class Victorian women, whom he interviewed, photographed and wrote about. This obsession led to his relationship with, and eventual secret marriage to, his maidservant Hannah Cullwick.
Working women fascinated Munby because they disrupted his Victorian ideal of femininity: their bodies were altered by physical exertion and dirt, and they were also often deformed by disease. Drawing not only on the diaries but also on a vast, untapped archive of documents, photographs, poems and sketches, Watching Hannah is far more than an account of a compulsive observer of working women and a fetishist of hard-working female hands, however. The author analyzes Munby's obsessions in relation to changing definitions of gender, sexual identity and class to reveal wider male preoccupations with femininity, the body, deformity, masculinity and – most of all – sexuality, at a pivotal point in European history.
Working Fictions takes as its point of departure the common and painful truth that the vast majority of human beings toil for a wage and rarely for their own enjoyment or satisfaction. In this striking reconceptualization of Victorian literary history, Carolyn Lesjak interrogates the relationship between labor and pleasure, two concepts that were central to the Victorian imagination and the literary output of the era. Through the creation of a new genealogy of the “labor novel,” Lesjak challenges the prevailing assumption about the portrayal of work in Victorian fiction, namely that it disappears with the fall from prominence of the industrial novel. She proposes that the “problematic of labor” persists throughout the nineteenth century and continues to animate texts as diverse as Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton, George Eliot’s Felix Holt and Daniel Deronda, Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, and the essays and literary work of William Morris and Oscar Wilde.
Lesjak demonstrates how the ideological work of the literature of the Victorian era, the “golden age of the novel,” revolved around separating the domains of labor and pleasure and emphasizing the latter as the proper realm of literary representation. She reveals how the utopian works of Morris and Wilde grapple with this divide and attempt to imagine new relationships between work and pleasure, relationships that might enable a future in which work is not the antithesis of pleasure. In Working Fictions, Lesjak argues for the contemporary relevance of the “labor novel,” suggesting that within its pages lie resources with which to confront the gulf between work and pleasure that continues to characterize our world today.