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Docility Rampant

Margaret AnneDoody, 31 October 1996

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: Romance Writings 
edited by Isobel Grundy.
Oxford, 276 pp., £14.50, August 1996, 0 19 812288 8
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... Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762) is known to us as the author of travel writings, witty poems and remarkable letters. If it were not for Isobel Grundy’s diligent work in the archives, we should not know that Lady Mary also produced prose fiction. This is hardly strange. She published in her own time neither the travel writings nor (of course) her letters to her daughter ...

Studied Luxury

Margaret AnneDoody, 20 April 1995

No Gifts from Chance: A Biography of Edith Wharton 
by Shari Benstock.
Hamish Hamilton, 546 pp., £20, October 1994, 0 241 13298 3
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Edith Wharton: An Extraordinary Life 
by Eleanor Dwight.
Harry Adams, 335 pp., $39.95, May 1994, 0 8109 3971 1
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... The title of Benstock’s biography of Edith Wharton is somewhat mal à propos. Edith Wharton, other reviewers have pointed out, had plenty of gifts from chance. She was born, in 1862, into wealth and leisure, she had a sufficiency of good looks (in an era when that mattered even more than now). As a writer she was highly successful, both critically and commercially ...

Boom and Bust

Margaret AnneDoody, 19 June 1997

A History of the Breast 
by Marilyn Yalom.
HarperCollins, 331 pp., £15.99, March 1997, 0 04 440913 3
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... The sexualised view of the breast,’ Marilyn Yalom asserts, is a Western phenomenon. Non-Western cultures, she assures us, ‘have their own fetishes’. This seems dismissive, running the risk of a National Geographic style of condescension, other cultures representing the (scorned) site of an (inferior) idyll in which everything hangs out, and there are no hang-ups ...

Whig Dreams

Margaret AnneDoody, 27 February 1992

A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain 
by Daniel Defoe, edited by P.N. Furbank and W.R. Owens.
Yale, 423 pp., £19.95, July 1991, 0 300 04980 3
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James Thomson: A Life 
by James Sambrook.
Oxford, 332 pp., £40, October 1991, 0 19 811788 4
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... Whigs. It is of course fitting that his Tour should come into prominence again now, for Margaret Thatcher has taught us to ‘think Whig’, and the present so-called Tory Party is really a throwback Whig (not Liberal) party, with a fringe of puzzled Tories. However, this presentation of Defoe combs away much of the rebelliousness, adventurousness ...

Dear Miss Boothby

Margaret AnneDoody, 5 November 1992

The Letters of Samuel Johnson: Vol. I: 1731-1772, Vol. II: 1773-1776, Vol. III: 1777-1781 
edited by Bruce Redford.
Oxford, 431 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 19 811287 4
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... Life is never perfectly happy for the hero of a Collected Letters. One of the things that letters rather than biographies display is how much incidental illness human beings tend to undergo, even those of reasonable health who are destined to make old bones. Johnson has all the 18th-century’s bluntness on matters of health. ‘The old flatulence distressed me again last night,’ he tells Hester Thrale in 1775, adding with comic intent: ‘The world is full of ups and downs, as I think I once told you before ...

Women beware men

Margaret AnneDoody, 23 July 1992

Backlash: The Undeclared War against Women 
by Susan Faludi.
Chatto, 592 pp., £9.99, March 1992, 0 7011 4643 5
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The War against Women 
by Marilyn French.
Hamish Hamilton, 229 pp., £9.99, March 1992, 0 241 13271 1
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... and widowhood. Yet she was merely a charming eccentric at bottom, one of those comic ladies, like Margaret Rutherford playing Miss Marple; Keith’s character, like that of Addison’s Sir Roger de Coverley, was there to inform us of the harmlessness and ineffectuality of a defunct class represented by this posthumously lively personality. Helen Mirren’s ...

Marshy Margins

Frank Kermode, 1 August 1996

The True Story of the Novel 
by Margaret AnneDoody.
Rutgers, 580 pp., $44.95, May 1996, 0 8135 2168 8
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... Literary criticism seems to be putting on weight in its old age – Margaret AnneDoody’s book is well over three hundred thousand words and loaded with learning, which may appal the fainthearted, but they should take into account that throughout its length it is written with verve and wit, and is by any standard an extraordinary and idiosyncratic achievement ...

Daddying

Alethea Hayter, 14 September 1989

Frances Burney: The Life in the Works 
by Margaret AnneDoody.
Cambridge, 441 pp., £30, April 1989, 9780521362580
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... In a spirited attempt to forestall criticism, Margaret Doody warns her readers that they may ‘feel horrified at what they they regard as a changeling-substitution of a mad Gothic feminist for the cheerful little Augustan chatterbox’ which is the conventional picture of Fanny Burney. Stimulated to anger by past biographers who see Fanny Burney as sunny and shallow, ‘dear little Burney’, who class her with, but below, Jane Austen, who are interested only in Evelina and the Journals, Professor Doody sets out to present an altogether different version ...

Englamouring the humdrum

Rosemary Ashton, 23 November 1989

Arguing with the past: Essays in Narrative from Woolf to Sidney 
by Gillian Beer.
Routledge, 206 pp., £25, August 1989, 0 415 02607 5
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Samuel Richardson: Tercentenary Essays 
edited by Margaret AnneDoody and Peter Sabor.
Cambridge, 306 pp., £35, July 1989, 0 521 35383 1
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... Gillian Beer’s Arguing with the past, a collection of essays published in recent years (with one, on Richardson and Milton, dating from as long ago as 1968), is richly written, contains many sharp critical insights, and shows the author to have a good ear for nuances of language in the literary works she chooses to discuss. At the same time, she reveals some straining in her pursuit of the chief ‘argument’ – namely, that half-readings, ‘failed’ readings and forgettings of other authors can make up an important part of a writer’s experience and creativity ...

Heroes

Pat Rogers, 6 November 1986

Hume and the Heroic Portrait: Studies in 18th-Century Imagery 
by Edgar Wind, edited by Jaynie Anderson.
Oxford, 139 pp., £29.50, May 1986, 0 19 817371 7
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Augustan Studies: Essays in honour of Irvin Ehrenpreis 
edited by Douglas Lane Patey and Timothy Keegan.
University of Delaware Press, 270 pp., £24.50, May 1986, 9780874132724
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The 18th Century: The Intellectual and Cultural Context of English Literature 1700-1789 
by James Sambrook.
Longman, 290 pp., £15.95, April 1986, 0 582 49306 4
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... grey in the dark doings of romantic opera. The longest and most significant item is an essay by Margaret AnneDoody connecting Gulliver’s Travels and Virgil’s Georgics. This covers a variety of animal and vegetable themes; the links which it proposes range from the bones and skulls dug up in Brobdignag (from the ...

Vampiric Words

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 26 May 1994

The Hunger Artists: Starving, Writing and Imprisonment 
by Maud Ellmann.
Virago, 136 pp., £7.99, September 1993, 1 85381 675 2
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... enumerates each of her uneaten meals with his habitual exhaustiveness’; but while Pamela, as Margaret AnneDoody has shown, dwells with loving concreteness on the satisfactions of the appetite, Clarissa carefully avoids such specificity, purposefully obscuring cause and effect where the heroine’s lack of hunger ...

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