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Barbara Taylor: 18th-Century Women, 4 November 2010

Women and Enlightenment in 18th-Century Britain 
by Karen O’Brien.
Cambridge, 310 pp., £17.99, March 2009, 978 0 521 77427 7
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... In 1779, a Scottish doctor called William Alexander published a two-volume History of Women. Alexander was a man of the Enlightenment who regarded politeness to women as a mark of civilisation. Savages and ‘musselmen’ might treat their women as sexual helots, but a gentleman was solicitous of his womenfolk. Whether women deserved such treatment was another matter ...

Mother-Haters and Other Rebels

Barbara Taylor: Heroine Chic, 3 January 2002

Inventing Herself: Claiming a Feminist Intellectual Heritage 
by Elaine Showalter.
Picador, 384 pp., £16.99, June 2001, 0 330 34669 5
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... Mary Wollstonecraft, feminist heroine sans pareil, didn’t approve of heroines. Great Women – or ‘icons’, as Elaine Showalter prefers to call the three centuries’ worth of feminist ‘rule-breakers and path-blazers’ celebrated in her new book – get short shrift in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: I shall not lay any stress on the example of a few women who, from having received a masculine education, have acquired courage and resolution … Sappho, Eloisa, Mrs Macaulay, the Empress of Russia, Mme d’Eon etc ...

Guinea Pigs

Barbara Taylor: Eighteenth-Century Surveillance Culture, 8 February 2007

The Spirit of Despotism: Invasions of Privacy in the 1790s 
by John Barrell.
Oxford, 278 pp., £53, January 2006, 0 19 928120 3
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... In the 1790s revolutionaries on both sides of the Channel abandoned wigs and powder for hair worn au naturel. The English jacobin John Thelwall, tried for treason in 1794, cut his short in the Roman manner. A radical songster celebrated the look: ‘Each Brutus, each Cato, were none of them fops/But all to a man wore republican crops.’ In 1795 the style took on added significance when Pitt introduced a guinea tax on hair powder ...

Yikes

Barbara Taylor: My Mennonite Conversion, 2 June 2005

A Complicated Kindness 
by Miriam Toews.
Faber, 246 pp., £7.99, June 2005, 0 571 22400 8
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... Nomi Nickel, the 16-year-old narrator of Miriam Toews’s A Complicated Kindness, is one of the damned. Abandoned by her family, betrayed by her boyfriend, shunned by her community, she sits alone in an empty house, dreaming of lost happiness. This is the unpropitious end-scene from which Toews, winner of the 2004 Canadian Governor General’s Literary Award, unspools a blackly comedic tale of teenage life in East Village, a one-church Mennonite town in southern Manitoba where pastors rule and apostates receive no quarter ...

Too Much

Barbara Taylor: A history of masturbation, 6 May 2004

Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation 
by Thomas Laqueur.
Zone, 501 pp., £21.95, March 2003, 1 890951 32 3
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... but violations of a hierarchical, providential order. Laqueur follows the line of Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self (1989) and argues that premodern men and women knew little of the angst of self-governance, the seedbed of anti-onanism. Authority lay without: in God, monarch and a ‘hierarchic, organic universe’. The displacement of this ...

Nature’s Chastity

José Harris, 15 September 1983

Eve and the New Jerusalem: Socialism and Feminism in the 19th Century 
by Barbara Taylor.
Virago, 402 pp., £9.95, March 1983, 0 86068 257 9
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Virgins and Viragos: A History of Women in Scotland from 1080 to 1980 
by Rosalind Marshall.
Collins, 365 pp., £13.50, June 1983, 0 00 216039 0
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... was equally severe: ‘the Owenites were too abstract, too metaphysical and accomplish little.’ Barbara Taylor’s study, mainly concerned with the Owenites in spite of its misleadingly ambitious title, challenges these views in a number of different ways. She queries the Owenites’ reputation for utopianism, arguing that ‘what has counted as ...

Assertrix

Elizabeth Spelman: Mary Wollstonecraft, 19 February 2004

Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination 
by Barbara Taylor.
Cambridge, 331 pp., £45, March 2003, 0 521 66144 7
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... as they can to the people who look after their children and clean their houses. One of the reasons Barbara Taylor thinks Mary Wollstonecraft rewards our attention two hundred years after her death is that Wollstonecraft’s fervid opposition to sexism was based on a ‘root and branch’ egalitarianism not easily compromised by ‘firm class and race ...

I haven’t been nearly mad enough

Jenny Diski: Modern Madness, 6 February 2014

TheLast Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in Our Times 
by Barbara Taylor.
Hamish Hamilton, 296 pp., £18.99, February 2014, 978 0 241 14509 8
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... Madness is a childish thing,’ Barbara Taylor writes in The Last Asylum, a memoir of her two decades as a mental patient. The book records her breakdown, her 21-year-long analysis, her periods as an inmate at Friern Mental Hospital in North London, and in addition provides a condensed history of the treatment of mental illness and the institutions associated with it ...

Wake up. Foul mood. Detest myself

Ysenda Maxtone Graham: ‘Lost Girls’, 9 December 2019

Lost Girls: Love, War and Literature, 1939-51 
by D.J. Taylor.
Constable, 388 pp., £25, September 2019, 978 1 4721 2686 3
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... Rather​ D.J. Taylor than me, when it comes to untangling the unbelievably complicated and messy love lives of the so-called Horizon circle: the people who clustered adoringly around Cyril Connolly during his years as editor of the short-lived literary magazine (1939-50). Was Connolly still carrying on his affair with Diana Witherby when he started his affair with Lys (while still married to Jean and while Lys was still married to Ian)? Was Barbara Skelton having an affair with the Polish war artist Feliks Topolski when Peter Quennell came onto the scene, still married to his third wife, Glur, but making Topolski so jealous that the men resorted to fisticuffs over Barbara? What made Janetta, still married to Hugh Slater, fall in love with Kenneth Sinclair-Loutit, and would that relationship last?Taylor wades deep into the cigaretty fug of that small literary circle awash with till-boredom-do-us-part love affairs conducted in rented accommodation ...

Politics First

José Harris, 19 April 1984

The Chartists 
by Dorothy Thompson.
Temple Smith, 399 pp., £19.50, February 1984, 0 85117 229 6
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Languages of Class: Studies in English Working-Class History 1832-1982 
by Gareth Stedman Jones.
Cambridge, 260 pp., £22.50, January 1984, 0 521 25648 8
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Class Power and State Power 
by Ralph Miliband.
Verso, 310 pp., £18.50, March 1984, 0 86091 073 3
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... involvement in the anti-Poor Law campaign (there is no reference to the charge recently made by Barbara Taylor that Chartists in general and O’Connorites in particular were indifferent and often hostile to women’s concerns). On Chartist policies Mrs Thompson challenges the conventional dichotomy between moral and physical-force Chartism, arguing ...

One of the Cracked

Dinah Birch: Barbara Bodichon, 1 October 1998

Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon: Feminist, Artist and Rebel 
by Pam Hirsch.
Chatto, 390 pp., £20, July 1998, 0 7011 6797 1
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... Like many forceful Victorian women, Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon had a strong father and an obscure mother. Benjamin Smith, known in the family as ‘the Pater’, came from a formidable line of radical activists who had campaigned vigorously against the slave trade, and fostered projects for educational and political reform ...

The Cult of Celebrity

Jacqueline Rose, 20 August 1998

... is the so much more brazen, upfront way it puts this on display. One of my favourite moments was Barbara Taylor Bradford renewing her marriage vows in the total privacy of a completely deserted tropical island on which no tourists step; with only black luggage carriers in attendance , as well as the whole photographic and editorial team of Hello!. (She ...

Alphabeted

Barbara Everett: Coleridge the Modernist, 7 August 2003

Coleridge’s Notebooks: A Selection 
edited by Seamus Perry.
Oxford, 264 pp., £17.99, June 2002, 0 19 871201 4
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works I: Poems (Reading Text) 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1608 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 00483 8
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works II: Poems (Variorum Text) 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1528 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 00484 6
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works III: Plays 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1620 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 09883 2
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... An informal Times feature on literary classics, published recently, included a list drawn up by a director of Penguin Classics: ‘The 50 Greatest Classics (pre-1900).’ Such lists can be dispiriting, and it could be said of this one that it had too little Shakespeare and no short poems at all (in such contexts, ‘great’ means ‘long’). But though there were omissions, there were no silly inclusions; Homer and Virgil and Chaucer accompanied Stendhal and Jane Austen, Dickens and Tolstoy and Henry James; and near the end was one poem that certainly might, in its intensity, be described as ‘short’ – Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner ...

The Partisan Coffee House

Nicholas Faith, 31 May 2017

... until midnight, it hosted meetings addressed not just by usual suspects such as Michael Foot, Barbara Castle, Kenneth Tynan, the publisher John Calder, Doris Lessing, Michael Redgrave and Wolf Mankowitz, but also such distinguished figures as William Empson. ‘Events’ were held in the basement where various tendencies including ‘skiffle, trad ...

Dictators on the Loose

Miles Taylor: Modelling Waterloo, 6 January 2005

Wellington’s Smallest Victory: The Duke, the Model Maker and the Secret of Waterloo 
by Peter Hofschröer.
Faber, 324 pp., £14.99, April 2004, 0 571 21768 0
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... century, the most revered British veteran of Waterloo was not an ordinary private, but a woman – Barbara Moon – who died in 1903, still able to recall being driven as a four-year-old over the battlefield by her officer father. And when the centenary year approached, Britain came up not with a memorial, but a movie. The director Charles Weston took over ...

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