Frances Wilson

Frances Wilson is the author of Literary Seductions. She teaches at Reading University.

The Italy of Human Beings: Felicia Hemans

Frances Wilson, 16 November 2000

Mrs Hemans – or Hewomans, as Byron called her, for no one was less of a he-man than Felicia – was lavishly praised in her lifetime, and second only to Byron in popularity and sales. But while Byron was disowned by the Victorians, embarrassed that this ‘huge sulky dandy’, as Thomas Carlyle called him, should have received so much adoration and respect, Felicia...

‘I ought to have been among other things a good poet,’ Thomas Lovell Beddoes wrote in the postscript to the brief and perfunctory note he left before swallowing a lethal dose of poison. He was 45 years old and had published nothing, save the odd poem, for a quarter of a century. In 1821, as a precocious Oxford undergraduate, he had brought out a volume called The Improvisatore, which was followed in 1822 by a verse drama, The Brides’ Tragedy. But he was so ashamed of the former, which contained lines such as ‘The snow is falling featherily’, that he destroyed all the copies he could find (friends discovered that the pages of their editions had been cut out and the hollowed books returned to the shelves).‘



30 March 2000

Maybe Jenny Diski was having a bad hair day when she reviewed Literary Seductions (LRB, 30 March) and mistook my analysis of the identities we inhabit and the fantasies we harbour when we read or write as ‘romantic biography’. However, I am grateful to her for pointing out that the affairs between Byron and Caroline Lamb, Robert Graves and Laura Riding and Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller are known...

With a Da bin ich! Properly Lawrentian

Seamus Perry, 9 September 2021

‘Mind’ is never a good word in D.H. Lawrence: the whole problem of modern life was that there was far too much mind in it, operating ‘as a director or controller of the spontaneous centres’ which...

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The Animalcule: Little Mr De Quincey

Nicholas Spice, 18 May 2017

How he didn’t buckle under the weight of his circumstances, how he remained unbroken by such pain and loss, how, despite it all, he kept writing, would seem almost a miracle of fortitude were it not...

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I am the thing itself: Hooray for Harriette

Rosemary Hill, 25 September 2003

Most people know two things about Harriette Wilson, one of which is untrue. She is rightly famous for that most tantalising of opening sentences: ‘I shall not say why and how I became, at...

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At Free Love Corner

Jenny Diski, 30 March 2000

Reading, according to Barthes, is like those other solitary occupations, praying and masturbation. Certainly, there are those who are troubled when they come across people publicly performing the...

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