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Female Heads

John Bayley, 27 October 1988

Woman to Woman: Female Friendship in Victorian Fiction 
by Tess Cosslett.
Harvester, 211 pp., £29.95, July 1988, 0 7108 1015 6
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Sentiment and Sociability: The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century 
by John Mullan.
Oxford, 261 pp., £25, June 1988, 0 19 812865 7
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The Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney. Vol. I: 1768-1773 
edited by Lars Troide.
Oxford, 353 pp., £45, June 1988, 9780198125815
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... honesty of that remark shows just how far, in the post-Drabble-Byatt novel, the process has gone. Elizabeth Bowen or Elizabeth Taylor ignored, in their individual ways, all idea of being ‘women novelists’, as Anita Brookner does today. However ‘feminine’ their subject-matter, they don’t approach it determinedly as ...

Hard Romance

Barbara Everett, 8 February 1996

... incestuous, Austen reserves the excitement of conflict for those characters erotically attracted: Elizabeth and Darcy, Emma and Knightley. But these arguments are unnecessary given a simple fact. Sense and Sensibility is not about two sisters; it is about three sisters. 19-year-old Elinor and 17-year-old Marianne have a sister, the 13-year-old ...

Hats One Dreamed about

Tessa Hadley: Rereading Bowen, 20 February 2020

Collected Stories 
by Elizabeth Bowen.
Everyman, 904 pp., £18.99, October 2019, 978 1 84159 392 0
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... up three wide steps covered in yellow linoleum. There, not knowing how to choose, I gravitated to Elizabeth Bowen – along with others, including Compton Mackenzie and Hugh Walpole, of whose writing I can’t now recall even the faintest flavour. I’d never heard of any of them – I’d not heard of anybody much – but I was reassured by bound sets of ...

Pleased to Be Loony

Alice Spawls: The Janeites, 8 November 2012

Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures 
by Claudia Johnson.
Chicago, 224 pp., £22.50, June 2012, 978 0 226 40203 1
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... she sat by the leaded gothic windows of her Princeton study editing the Norton Critical Edition of Mansfield Park, she was stumped about where a comma ought to go. In the second sentence of the eighth chapter there is a discrepancy between the first and second edition of the novel: did Mr Rushworth’s mother come ‘to be civil, and to shew her ...

Inside Mr Shepherd

James Wood: In conversation with Jane Austen, 4 November 2004

Jane Austen and the Morality of Conversation 
by Bharat Tandon.
Anthem, 303 pp., £45, March 2003, 1 84331 101 1
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Jane Austen, or The Secret of Style 
by D.A. Miller.
Princeton, 108 pp., £12.95, September 2003, 0 691 09075 0
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... there has been disagreement about the ideological price of that harmony. Do Emma and Mr Knightley, Elizabeth and Darcy, Anne and Captain Wentworth, Fanny and Edmund, represent ideal or merely idealised marriages? Do Austen’s novels foreclose their own vitality by choosing the safety of proper settlements? Are romance and marriage at odds ...

Just William

Doris Grumbach, 25 June 1987

Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice 
by Sharon O’Brien.
Oxford, 544 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 19 504132 1
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... every literate citizen of Red Cloud or scholar at the university – most notably Bernice Slote, Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, Mildred Bennett and Elizabeth Moorhead. Her earlier biographers had all been men who shielded her gallantly from any disrepute and in some cases – E.K. Brown, James Woodress – raised her to the ...

Capital W, Capital W

Michael Wood: Women writers, 19 August 1999

Women Writers at Work 
edited by George Plimpton.
Harvill, 381 pp., £9.99, February 1999, 1 86046 586 2
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Just as I Thought 
by Grace Paley.
Virago, 332 pp., £8.99, August 1999, 1 86049 696 2
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... of woman writer who’s a capital W, capital W. Virginia Woolf certainly was one, and Katherine Mansfield was one.’ McCarthy doesn’t think Eudora Welty is one, but then changes her mind: Welty has ‘become one lately’ (the date of this interview is 1961). Elisabeth Sifton, interviewing, asks McCarthy what happens to turn a woman writer into a Woman ...

Ode on a Dishclout

Joanna Innes: Domestic Servants, 14 April 2011

Labours Lost: Domestic Service and the Making of Modern England 
by Carolyn Steedman.
Cambridge, 410 pp., £21.99, November 2009, 978 0 521 73623 7
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... of children, his comments on servants did not make it into print. She tells us that when Lord Mansfield, the chief justice, was making judgments about the legal status of servants, including one who had come into the country as a slave, he had in his household a black relative of ambiguous status, the daughter of his nephew and a slave woman. William ...

Keeping up with Jane Austen

Marilyn Butler, 6 May 1982

An Unsuitable Attachment 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 256 pp., £6.95, February 1982, 0 333 32654 7
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... the hypochondria of Sanditon’s Diana Parker with the injudicious high living of Dr Grant in Mansfield Park. ‘Bertha’s health,’ says her husband Randolph regretfully, ‘wouldn’t have stood any district but W1 or SW1. Anything near the Harrow Road, or the canal, or Kensal Green cemetery had to be avoided at all costs. My particular cross is to ...

I could light my pipe at her eyes

Ian Gilmour: Women and politics in Victorian Britain, 3 September 1998

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire 
by Amanda Foreman.
HarperCollins, 320 pp., £19.99, May 1998, 0 00 255668 5
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Aristocratic Women and Political Society in Victorian Britain 
by K.D. Reynolds.
Oxford, 268 pp., £35, April 1998, 0 19 820727 1
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Lady Byron and Earl Shilton 
by David Herbert.
Hinckley Museum, 128 pp., £7.50, March 1998, 0 9521471 3 0
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... on top of the daughter he had fathered before he married, he had himself had two children by Lady Elizabeth Foster (Bess); according to the double standards of the day that, however, was fully acceptable, and the Duke’s bastards by Bess were brought up alongside his legitimate children. Rather more unusually, Bess, too, lived in Devonshire House with the ...

His and Hers

Matthew Reynolds: Robert Browning, 9 October 2008

The Poems of Robert Browning. Vol. III: 1847-61 
edited by John Woolford, Daniel Karlin and Joseph Phelan.
Longman, 753 pp., £100, November 2007, 978 0 582 08453 7
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... for only a few months of lectures at UCL. (One part of the dazzlement of his flight to Italy with Elizabeth Barrett two decades later was that he was at last leaving home.) In his twenties he wrote Pauline, Paracelsus and Sordello: all long, and all clad in the vesture of prestigious genres handed down from the Romantics; the poems are, respectively, a ...

Cold-Shouldered

James Wood: John Carey, 8 March 2001

Pure Pleasure: A Guide to the 20th Century’s Most Enjoyable Books 
by John Carey.
Faber, 173 pp., £6.99, September 2000, 0 571 20448 1
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... Picture is still a dominant text), and one feels he is being absurd when he favours Katherine Mansfield over Woolf only because, ‘as a “colonial” and a banker’s daughter Mansfield knew what it was to be cold-shouldered by the literati’ – despite all this, one feels an attractive spirit of partisanship in ...

Snouty

John Bayley, 4 June 1987

The Faber Book of Diaries 
edited by Simon Brett.
Faber, 498 pp., £12.95, March 1987, 0 571 13806 3
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A Lasting Relationship: Parents and Children over Three Centuries 
by Linda Pollock.
Fourth Estate, 319 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 947795 25 1
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... it so much, a fix that becomes hard to do without? ‘What a vile little diary,’ wrote Katherine Mansfield on January 1915, ‘but I am determined to keep it this year.’ Bereavements and troubles made the ‘other’ in it infinitely precious, a release from the daily grind of consciousness, in which most people without the lust for words have to be ...

Up from Under

John Bayley, 18 February 1988

The Faber Book of Contemporary Australian Short Stories 
edited by Murray Bail.
Faber, 413 pp., £12.95, January 1988, 0 571 15083 7
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... out still. Such stories here – and there are good ones by slightly older writers, such as Elizabeth Jolley, Olga Masters, Judah Waten – bring out something important in the nature of the form. It can carry an immense charge of social implication provided this remains immanent and tacit, visible only in the perspective and depth. Any attempt to make ...

Baby Face

John Bayley, 24 May 1990

William Gerhardie: A Biography 
by Dido Davies.
Oxford, 411 pp., £25, April 1990, 0 19 211794 7
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Memoirs of a Polyglot 
by William Gerhardie.
Robin Clark, 381 pp., £5.95, April 1990, 0 86072 111 6
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Futility 
by William Gerhardie.
Robin Clark, 198 pp., £4.95, April 1990, 0 86072 112 4
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God’s Fifth Column: A Biography of the Age 1890-1940 
by William Gerhardie, edited by Michael Holroyd and Robert Skidelsky.
Hogarth, 360 pp., £8.95, April 1990, 0 7012 0887 2
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... Waugh but to Rebecca West and Arnold Bennett – the young and the old alike – H.G. Wells, Elizabeth Bowen, Olivia Manning, Anthony Powell. In his time Gerhardie was at least as potent a literary influence in England as Hemingway, and more pervasive, more part of the new metropolitan air that English authors breathed: they absorbed him as Dostoevsky ...

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