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John Sutherland, 9 January 1992

The Chronicler of Barsetshire: A Life of Anthony Trollope 
by R.H. Super.
Manchester, 528 pp., £29.95, July 1990, 0 472 10102 1
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Anthony Trollope: A Victorian in his World 
by Richard Mullen.
Duckworth, 767 pp., £25, July 1990, 0 7156 2293 5
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Trollope: A Biography 
by N. John Hall.
Oxford, 581 pp., £25, October 1991, 0 19 812627 1
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... Mrs Thackeray, no flagrantly unconventional union of the Lewes-Eliot kind. Trollope did not, like Wilkie Collins, steep himself in laudanum and keep two mistresses. He did not, like Bulwer Lytton, lock his wife in a lunatic asylum. He did not die tragically young like the Brontës or poor, like Charles Lever. He did not become Prime Minister of ...

Trollope’s Delight

Richard Altick, 3 May 1984

The Letters of Anthony Trollope 
edited by John Hall.
Stanford, 1082 pp., $87.50, July 1983, 0 8047 1076 7
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Anthony Trollope: Dream and Art 
by Andrew Wright.
Macmillan, 173 pp., £20, October 1983, 0 333 34593 2
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... Life’. There is no necessary discrepancy between the Trollope of the letters and the man of whom Wilkie Collins said: ‘He was an incarnate gale of wind. He blew off my hat; he turned my umbrella inside out.’ The bluster and vulgarity with which he was sometimes taxed do not appear in the letters. On the other hand, he never kicks up his heels as ...

Like a Retired Madam

Rosemary Dinnage: Entranced!, 4 February 1999

Mesmerised: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain 
by Alison Winter.
Chicago, 464 pp., £23.95, December 1998, 0 226 90219 6
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... possibilities were being incorporated into literature – in works by Dickens, Shelley, Poe, Wilkie Collins, Balzac, Browning, Melville, Hawthorne. Its best-known appearance is in du Maurier’s Trilby, which came out in the 1890s, a darker and more sophisticated time than the 1840s. Svengali here is not a benign healer but a force for evil: He’s ...

His Friends Were Appalled

Deborah Friedell: Dickens, 5 January 2012

The Life of Charles Dickens 
by John Forster.
Cambridge, 1480 pp., £70, December 2011, 978 1 108 03934 5
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Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist 
by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst.
Harvard, 389 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 0 674 05003 7
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Charles Dickens: A Life 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 527 pp., £30, October 2011, 978 0 670 91767 9
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... in an appendix. Where Forster praises Dickens’s ‘unbroken continuity of kindly impulse’, Wilkie Collins wrote in the margins of his copy: ‘Wretched English claptrap.’ Forster’s discretion ensured that he wouldn’t be the definitive biographer, even if no writer would ever know as much about Dickens as he did. Long out of print, his life ...

Big Rip-Off

Colin Burrow: Riffing Off Shakespeare, 3 November 2016

Shylock Is My Name: ‘The Merchant of Venice’ Retold 
by Howard Jacobson.
Hogarth, 277 pp., £16.99, February 2016, 978 1 78109 028 2
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Vinegar Girl: ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ Retold 
by Anne Tyler.
Hogarth, 233 pp., £16.99, June 2016, 978 1 78109 018 3
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The Gap of Time: ‘The Winter’s Tale’ Retold 
by Jeanette Winterson.
Hogarth, 291 pp., £16.99, October 2015, 978 1 78109 029 9
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Hag-Seed: ‘The Tempest’ Retold 
by Margaret Atwood.
Hogarth, 293 pp., £16.99, October 2016, 978 1 78109 022 0
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... by heart. It’s relatively easy to pastiche The Moonstone, say, because most people remember from Wilkie Collins not much more than genre and milieu and will smile at the way you remake those into Fingersmith; but with Shakespeare either you depart aggressively from what you know your readers know, or you dip back comfortably into the known, or you flit ...

New Women

Patricia Beer, 17 July 1980

The Odd Women 
by George Gissing.
Virago, 336 pp., £2.50, May 1980, 0 86068 140 8
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The Beth Book 
by Sarah Grand.
Virago, 527 pp., £3.50, January 1980, 0 86068 088 6
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... of the new sexual type had in fact taken place forty years earlier when, in The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins offset his pretty, insipid, helpless heroine by a second heroine who was none of these things: the great Marian Halcombe, whose charm subdued not only the equally great Count Fosco in the book but also such men of the readership as Swinburne ...

As Good as Nude

Anne Hollander: Women in White, 6 April 2006

Dressed in Fiction 
by Clair Hughes.
Berg, 214 pp., £17.99, December 2005, 1 84520 172 8
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... with available men; but at the same time Defoe uses her dangerous secret dress – in the way Wilkie Collins used his woman in white’s dress – as a troubling sign of irrational forces at work. During the 18th and 19th centuries, novelists began to use dress to evoke the inner life of characters, and to show the unconscious ways clothes affect ...

How does he come to be mine?

Tim Parks: Dickens’s Children, 8 August 2013

Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens 
by Robert Gottlieb.
Farrar, Straus, 239 pp., £16.99, December 2012, 978 0 374 29880 7
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... against the young man’s admission to the Garrick Club. He also frowned on Katey’s wedding to Wilkie Collins’s brother Charlie because, as Gottlieb puts it, ‘no one was worthy enough for his beloved daughter.’ The marriage was childless, and it seems sexless; there were suggestions that Charlie Collins was ...

Chop and Burn

Adam Mars-Jones: Annie Proulx, 28 July 2016

by Annie Proulx.
Fourth Estate, 717 pp., £18.99, June 2016, 978 0 00 723200 0
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... the back of a cupboard, hidden beneath her rain cape. This tiny jolt of drama, a moment almost of Wilkie Collins plotting, doesn’t seem extravagant as a long-service award offered – in lieu of a gold watch – to the reader just reaching the 550-page mark, and perhaps considering retirement. It’s another century, and another hundred pages, before ...


Barbara Everett, 31 March 1988

... of a conceit, feasible partly because ridiculous. Literary artists have worked in the genre: Poe, Wilkie Collins, Simenon, Chandler and Michael Innes among others. But the true English ‘classics’ of the 1920s and Thirties, the books we evoke in recalling a body in a locked library in a country house, hardly go in for artistry. V.S. Pritchett once ...

Walking in high places

Michael Neve, 21 October 1982

The Ferment of Knowledge: Studies in the Historiography of 18th-Century Science 
edited by G.S. Rousseau and R.S. Porter.
Cambridge, 500 pp., £25, November 1980, 9780521225991
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Romanticism and the Forms of Ruin 
by Thomas McFarland.
Princeton, 432 pp., £24.60, February 1981, 0 691 06437 7
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Poetry realised in Nature: Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Early 19th-Century Science 
by Trevor Levere.
Cambridge, 271 pp., £22.50, October 1981, 0 521 23920 6
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by Richard Holmes.
Oxford, 102 pp., £1.25, March 1982, 0 19 287591 4
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Young Charles Lamb 1775-1802 
by Winifred Courtney.
Macmillan, 411 pp., £25, July 1982, 0 333 31534 0
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... to break with orthodox form that Romanticism exists for. Coleridge wrote, in 1818, to William Collins: ‘Poetry is out of the question. The attempt would only hurry me into that sphere of acute feelings, from which abstruse research, the mother of self-oblivion, presents an asylum.’ The research asylum. It is surely curious that a biographical ...

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