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Porringers and Pitkins

Keith Thomas: The Early Modern Household

5 July 2018
A Day at Home in Early Modern England: Material Culture and Domestic Life, 1500-1700 
by Tara Hamling and Catherine Richardson.
Yale, 311 pp., £40, October 2017, 978 0 300 19501 9
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... Council as long ago as 1914. Its original concern was with the history of furniture and its first curator none other than Marjorie Quennell. This is the intellectual background to Tara Hamling and CatherineRichardson’s ambitious A Day at Home in Early Modern England. Although they are firmly empirical in their approach and never cite Bourdieu or Lefebvre, they are strongly committed to the study of ...

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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... Of Wuthering Heights she observes, ‘the themes of hunger and imprisonment are so closely interwoven that they virtually become synonymous with one another. Whenever Heathcliff is incarcerated, Catherine starves; the two motifs converge in Catherine’s eerie cry, “Ellen, shut the window. I’m starving!”’ A footnote helpfully informs us that the ‘starving’ in this context primarily means ...

Jousting for Peace

Thomas Penn: Henry VIII meets Francis I

16 July 2014
The Field of Cloth of Gold 
by Glenn Richardson.
Yale, 288 pp., £35, November 2013, 978 0 300 14886 2
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... good reasons why both these exceptionally ambitious kings should have turned their encounter, in the Anglo-French borderlands south of Calais, into an apotheosis of conspicuous consumption. As Glenn Richardson notes in his minutely detailed book, relatively abundant surviving sources – documenting everything from the designs for the sprawling tent complexes to the provisioning of food and drink for 12 ...

Vibrations of Madame de V***

John Mullan: Malcolm Bradbury

20 July 2000
To the Hermitage 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Picador, 498 pp., £16, May 2000, 0 330 37662 4
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... he has found a model of vivacious self-consciousness. It is clear because his novel keeps saying so. To the Hermitage takes as its incitement Diderot’s journey to St Petersburg, in 1773, to meet Catherine the Great. In search of pet intellectuals (she had also tried to lure d’Alembert and Voltaire to her court), she offered to print the Encyclopédie, when Diderot was having problems finding a ...

Such a Husband

John Bayley

4 September 1997
Selected Letters of George Meredith 
edited by Mohammad Shaheen.
Macmillan, 312 pp., £47.50, April 1997, 0 333 56349 2
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... them. Her marriage to Meredith went wrong almost from the start, as is revealed by the first and most significant of the external letters which the editor includes. It was written by his wife Catherine to Richard Hengist Horne, a rather rackety literary man, author of the forgotten epic ‘Orion’, who had been a friend of the young Meredith; and it describes, with that striking domestic vividness ...

Four Walls

Peter Campbell

20 April 1989
Living Space: In Fact and Fiction 
by Philippa Tristram.
Routledge, 306 pp., £40, January 1989, 0 415 01279 1
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Building Domestic Liberty 
by Polly Wynn Allen.
Massachusetts, 195 pp., £16.70, December 1988, 9780870236273
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Borderland: Origins of the American Suburb, 1820-1939 
by John Stilgoe.
Yale, 353 pp., £25, February 1989, 0 300 04257 4
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... and the uses fiction makes of them, change as the certainties of taste disintegrate, Tristram has taken examples from canonical English novels published before her cut-off date of 1914. Scott, Richardson, Jane Austen, Dickens, Eliot, Mrs Gaskell, Hardy and James figure largest. She argues that the early 19th-century collapse in norms of taste, and changes in fiction itself, opened many new ...

Fat is a manifest tissue

Steven Shapin: George Cheyne

10 August 2000
Obesity and Depression in the Enlightenment: The Life and Times of George Cheyne 
by Anita Guerrini.
Oklahoma, 304 pp., $25.95, February 2000, 0 585 28344 3
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... to appear in the person of a metaphysical moralist was largely ignored. All authors are sad after composition, but finishing a book made Cheyne physically sick. Late in his life, he told Samuel Richardson that ‘I never wrote a Book in my Life but that I had a Fit of Illness after.’ Neglect and bad reviews made his spirits ‘jumbled and turbid’, throwing him into a ‘vertiginous Paroxysm’ so ...

Ivy’s Feelings

Gabriele Annan

1 March 1984
The Exile: A Life of Ivy Litvinov 
by John Carswell.
Faber, 216 pp., £10.95, November 1983, 0 571 13135 2
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... Ivy Litvinov was the English wife of Maxim Litvinov, Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs in the Thirties and Stalin’s Ambassador to Washington after the war. John Carswell is the son of Catherine Carswell, who was Ivy’s best friend until she followed her husband to Russia in 1920. In 1959, after Catherine and Litvinov were dead, Ivy got permission to visit her native land and turned up on ...

Knife and Fork Question

Miles Taylor: The Chartist Movement

29 November 2001
The Chartist Movement in Britain 1838-50 
edited by Gregory Claeys.
Pickering & Chatto, £495, April 2001, 1 85196 330 8
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... Factories was milked by Engels for his Condition of the Working Class in England (Leach ended up in the 1850s as a soda-water manufacturer). Also from Manchester is the argumentative Reginald Jones Richardson, another Chartist convict from 1840, whose faith in good old Saxon freedoms led him eventually to work for the Ancient Foot Paths Association. The wonderfully melodramatic Dr Peter McDouall, who ...

Nothing Nice about Them

Terry Eagleton: The Brontës

4 November 2010
The Brontës: Tales of Glass Town, Angria and Gondal 
edited by Christine Alexander.
Oxford, 620 pp., £12.99, September 2010, 978 0 19 282763 0
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... allowing her heroines to fulfil their desire but to do so on socially acceptable terms. Wuthering Heights, by contrast, is a tragedy (one of the astonishingly few tragic novels in England between Richardson and Hardy) because no such reconciliation is possible. These childhood texts are almost all fantasy and extravaganza, with few allusions to the dreary conditions of life experienced by their authors ...

Into the Future

David Trotter: The Novel

22 March 2007
The Novel: Vol. I: History, Geography and Culture 
edited by Franco Moretti.
Princeton, 916 pp., £65, June 2006, 0 691 04947 5
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The Novel: Vol. II: Forms and Themes 
edited by Franco Moretti.
Princeton, 950 pp., £65, June 2006, 0 691 04948 3
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... all). To put it in historical terms, the novel is modern. The most influential version of this argument was formulated by Ian Watt in The Rise of the Novel (1957), who found in the writing of Defoe, Richardson and Fielding a new and radical preoccupation with the here-and-now. The name Watt gave this preoccupation was ‘formal realism’: the premise, or primary convention, that the novel is a full and ...

Too Many Pears

Thomas Keymer: Frances Burney

26 August 2015
The Court Journals and Letters of Frances Burney 1786-91, Vols III-IV: 1788 
edited by Lorna Clark.
Oxford, 824 pp., £225, September 2014, 978 0 19 968814 2
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... self-serving embellishment, perhaps even fabrication. His charges were reinforced when the heirs of the famous bluestocking Mary Delany – a cherished mentor of Burney’s who had corresponded with Richardson and Swift – accused her of lying, and made caustic asides about ‘Madame d’Arblay’s well-earned position as a writer of fiction’. ‘Frances d’Arblay’ by Edward Burney (c.1784) But ...
5 February 1987
Jane Austen 
by Tony Tanner.
Macmillan, 291 pp., £20, November 1986, 0 333 32317 3
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... Shakespeare this is old hat: the only surprise is how comparatively reluctant recent theorists have been to move their own special machinery into place on him. But it has happened with Swift, with Richardson, with Dickens and the Romantic poets, and it is now happening with Jane Austen. Not that Tony Tanner’s study is wilfully abstract or – except for his use of the unnecessary term ‘discourse ...

Two Sharp Teeth

Philip Ball: Dracula Studies

25 October 2018
Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote ‘Dracula’ 
by David J. Skal.
Norton, 672 pp., £15.99, October 2017, 978 1 63149 386 7
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The Cambridge Companion to ‘Dracula’ 
edited by Roger Luckhurst.
Cambridge, 219 pp., £17.99, November 2017, 978 1 316 60708 4
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The Vampire: A New History 
by Nick Groom.
Yale, 287 pp., £16.99, October 2018, 978 0 300 23223 3
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... the critics weren’t quite sure exactly what’. The author probably wasn’t sure either. All Stoker seems to have wanted to do was to write a successful shocker. Instead he produced what Maurice Richardson describes as ‘a kind of incestuous, necrophilous, oral-anal-sadistic all-in wrestling match’. Something for everyone, in other words. In particular, there was sex. This is from Jonathan Harker ...

Pay me for it

Helen Deutsch: Summoning Dr Johnson

9 February 2012
Samuel Johnson: A Life 
by David Nokes.
Faber, 415 pp., £9.99, August 2010, 978 0 571 22636 8
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Selected Writings 
by Samuel Johnson, edited by Peter Martin.
Harvard, 503 pp., £16.95, May 2011, 978 0 674 06034 0
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The Brothers Boswell: A Novel 
by Philip Baruth.
Corvus, 336 pp., £7.99, January 2011, 978 1 84887 446 6
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The Life of Samuel Johnson LL.D. 
by John Hawkins, edited by O.M. Brack.
Georgia, 554 pp., £53.50, August 2010, 978 0 8203 2995 6
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... off from his narrative, but for David Nokes they become a central feature of his ability to create a ‘shock effect’. Thus William Hogarth’s first encounter with Johnson at the home of Samuel Richardson: While he was talking, he perceived a person standing at a window in the room, shaking his head and rolling himself about in a strange ridiculous manner. He concluded that he was an idiot whom his ...

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