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Maisie’s Sisters

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Sargent’s Daughters, 5 August 2010

Sargent’s Daughters: The Biography of a Painting 
by Erica Hirshler.
MFA, 262 pp., £23.95, October 2009, 978 0 87846 742 6
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... to an entire suburb. Like others of their class and time, including their friends Henry James and Edith Wharton, the Boits travelled back and forth across the Atlantic and took up residence in France and Italy at various periods, as well as in Boston and Newport. Sometime in the late 1870s, Ned Boit, as he was always known, met Sargent in Paris, either ...

I am a false alarm

Robert Irwin: Khalil Gibran, 3 September 1998

Kahlil Gibran: Man and Poet 
by Suheil Bushrui and Joe Jenkins.
One World, 372 pp., £18.99, August 1998, 1 85168 177 9
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Prophet: The Life and Times of Kahlil Gibran 
by Robin Waterfield.
Allen Lane, 366 pp., £20, August 1998, 0 7139 9209 3
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... From the Holy Mountain instead and, if you want to know what Gibran’s Boston looked like, try Edith Wharton.) Waterfield writes defensively: ‘The Prophet has often been criticised as platitudinous, over-saturated and trite. These are the arrogant criticisms of élitist and hard-hearted intellectuals.’ Hard-hearted and arrogant then, I find ...

He could not cable

Amanda Claybaugh: Realism v. Naturalism, 20 July 2006

Frank Norris: A Life 
by Joseph McElrath and Jesse Crisler.
Illinois, 492 pp., £24.95, January 2006, 0 252 03016 8
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... can be contained within it: Jack London, Theodore Dreiser, Stephen Crane, Charles Chesnutt, Edith Wharton, Kate Chopin. McElrath and Crisler, however, claim that the naturalist novel has been slighted by scholars in favour of the realist. This was true when they began writing their biography, thirty years ago, but it is not true any more. Nor is it ...

A Broken Teacup

Amanda Claybaugh: The ambition of William Dean Howells, 6 October 2005

William Dean Howells: A Writer’s Life 
by Susan Goodman and Carl Dawson.
California, 519 pp., £22.95, May 2005, 0 520 23896 6
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... greater if less direct, he promoted women writers (Sarah Orne Jewett, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edith Wharton), African-Americans (Charles Chesnutt, Paul Laurence Dunbar) and immigrants (Abraham Cahan). He also introduced US readers to foreign literature. British literature was already widely read in the cheap reprints that proliferated before the ...

Feast of Darks

Christine Stansell: Whistler, 23 October 2003

Whistler, Women and Fashion 
by Margaret MacDonald and Susan Grace Galassi et al.
Yale, 243 pp., £35, May 2003, 0 300 09906 1
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Whistler and His Mother: An Unexpected Relationship 
by Sarah Walden.
Gibson Square, 242 pp., £15.99, July 2003, 1 903933 28 5
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... a better place to show the pictures: the dim, stately rooms still have the crepuscular feel of an Edith Wharton setting, and the fashionable women in the paintings look like the fashionable women who once came to the Fricks for the evening and, even better, like the fashionable women right outside on the streets of the Upper East Side. Hung high in the ...


Elaine Showalter: At the Modern Language Association , 9 February 1995

... plus readings by well-known authors, meetings of over a hundred allied organisations such as the Edith Wharton Society (a Salman Rushdie Society had its formative meeting), a book exhibit, business meetings, and the annual job market. As usual, some flamboyantly-titled papers attracted the press, but after several years in which the MLA came under ...


Christopher Beha: Jeffrey Eugenides, 6 October 2011

The Marriage Plot 
by Jeffrey Eugenides.
Fourth Estate, 406 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 0 00 744129 7
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... her by describing her bookshelves: To start with, look at all the books. There were her Edith Wharton novels, arranged not by title but date of publication; there was the complete Modern Library set of Henry James, a gift from her father on her 21st birthday; there were the dog-eared paperbacks assigned in her college courses, a lot of ...

A Little ‘Foreign’

P.N. Furbank: Iris Origo, 27 June 2002

Iris Origo: Marchesa of Val d’Orcia 
by Caroline Moorehead.
Murray, 351 pp., £22, October 2000, 0 7195 5672 4
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... colony – the Berensons, the Actons, Janet Ross, Vernon Lee, with their house-guests such as Edith Wharton and Percy Lubbock – that Iris spent her girlhood. It was a society with a raging appetite for gossip, and before long Sybil had become almost their favourite subject: her dazzling wardrobe, her hypochondria, her high-pitched chatter and ...

Life and Death Stuff

Amanda Claybaugh: Claire Messud, 19 October 2006

The Emperor’s Children 
by Claire Messud.
Picador, 431 pp., £14.99, September 2006, 0 330 44447 6
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... novelist of manners, Claire Messud writes in the tradition of Jane Austen, Henry James and Edith Wharton. Her first novel, When the World Was Steady, even nods to Austen through one of its plots, which involves a vicar and a spinster; its other plot, however, recounts the adventures of an Australian divorcée among the expatriates of Bali: the ...

She’s a tiger-cat!

Miranda Seymour: Birds’ claw omelettes with Vernon Lee, 22 January 2004

Vernon Lee: A Literary Biography 
by Vineta Colby.
Virginia, 387 pp., £32.50, May 2003, 0 8139 2158 9
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... Mr Carlyle . . . What a dreadful little bore and busy-body!’ This was unnecessarily vicious. Edith Wharton and the redoubtable composer Ethel Smyth both admired Lee and relished her sharp but risky wit. (Sir Frederick Leighton was described to friends as a cross between a Greek god and a head waiter.) H.G. Wells, ‘one of the greatest and dearest ...

The Labile Self

Marina Warner: Dressing Up, 5 January 2012

Dressing Up: Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe 
by Ulinka Rublack.
Oxford, 354 pp., £30, October 2011, 978 0 19 929874 7
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... about reaching above one’s station and being thereby exposed to ridicule that Jane Austen and Edith Wharton would explore in their female characters. In Leipzig the sumptuary legislators seem to have given up, realising that the law could never catch up with the fashion: ‘what people wear changes almost every year among the German Nation, and from ...

Looking for Imperfection

Gilberto Perez: John Cassavetes, 23 August 2001

John Cassavetes: Lifeworks 
by Tom Charity.
Omnibus, 257 pp., £10.95, March 2001, 0 7119 7544 2
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Cassavetes on Cassavetes 
edited by Ray Carney.
Faber, 526 pp., £17.99, March 2001, 0 571 20157 1
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... influences and circumscriptions as relentless and inescapable as anything Theodore Dreiser or Edith Wharton might have imagined.’ Henry James would have had no time for a character like Mabel; and Cassavetes gives us nothing like the picture of a society that we find in Dreiser or Wharton. Carney comes from a ...


John Lanchester, 21 October 1993

United States 
by Gore Vidal.
Deutsch, 1298 pp., £25, October 1993, 0 233 98832 7
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What Henry James Knew, and Other Essays on Writers 
by Cynthia Ozick.
Cape, 363 pp., £12.99, June 1993, 0 224 03329 8
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Sentimental Journeys 
by Joan Didion.
HarperCollins, 319 pp., £15, January 1993, 0 00 255146 2
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... for William Howells and Ulysses S. Grant, for Logan Pearsall Smith, Frederick Prokosch, Edith Wharton, Leonardo Sciascia, Thomas Love Peacock and Henry Miller: ‘If he often sounded like the village idiot, that was because, like Whitman, he was the rest of the village as well.’ But alongside the blessings, kicks and curses is a running ...

Sex with Satan

Deborah Friedell, 21 October 2021

by Jonathan Franzen.
Fourth Estate, 592 pp., £20, October, 978 0 00 830889 6
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... new masters. From Proust he learned to let a story extend slowly over long stretches of time. From Edith Wharton, that a ‘good way to write a book is to define a character by what he or she wants’ – something that hadn’t occurred to him before. His sentences became less crowded and he cut down on the puns. The Corrections (2001) and Freedom ...

Illustrating America

Peter Campbell, 21 March 1985

Willem de Kooning: Drawings, Paintings, Sculpture 
by Paul Cummings, Jorn Merkert and Claire Stoullig.
Norton, 308 pp., £35, August 1984, 0 393 01840 7
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Abstract Expressionist Painting in America 
by William Seitz.
Harvard, 490 pp., £59.95, February 1984, 0 674 00215 6
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About Rothko 
by Dore Ashton.
Oxford, 225 pp., £15, August 1984, 0 19 503348 5
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The Art of the City: Views and Versions of New York 
by Peter Conrad.
Oxford, 329 pp., £15, June 1984, 0 19 503408 2
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... York’. Whitman’s desire to embody the city is set against the closed world of Henry James and Edith Wharton. Conrad shows O’Henry and Stephen Crane plucking characters from the crowd; Jacob Riis using photography to document the inhumanities of slum tenements, Stieglitz using it to make skyscrapers monumental; Oldenburg embracing the city by making ...

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