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At Tate Britain

Julian Bell: Van Gogh, 1 August 2019

... derives from the metonym that Luke Fildes devised in 1870 when he represented the death of Charles Dickens by picturing his vacant armchair. Van Gogh’s taste for swingeing, all-confronting symbols would come to fruition in his solar discs and sunflowers. The exhibition demonstrates that while his handiwork may alter, Van Gogh’s will to ...

Tons of Sums

Michael Mason, 16 September 1982

Charles Babbage: Pioneer of the Computer 
by Anthony Hyman.
Oxford, 287 pp., £12.50, July 1982, 9780198581703
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... Most people know that Charles Babbage was a pioneer of the computer. This absorbing, though hagiographical, new life makes very clear how many other things he was as well: pure mathematician, economist, inventor, reformer of scientific institutions, craftsman, even salon host. But Anthony Hyman does not seek to displace the computers from centre-stage in Babbage’s life, and this seems correct ...

Lawrence and the Mince-Pies

Dan Jacobson, 25 October 1979

The Letters of D.H. Lawrence, Vol I: September 1901 – May 1913 
edited by James Boulton.
Cambridge, 579 pp., £15
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... the flagship of modern Anglo-American literary scholarship, the Pilgrim Edition of the letters of Charles Dickens, of which Volume IV (771 pages, covering two years of the author’s life) appeared last year. In terms of the number of letters to be included, the Dickens volumes will in fact be about three times as ...

Boudoir Politics

Bee Wilson: Lola Montez, 7 June 2007

Lola Montez: Her Life and Conquests 
by James Morton.
Portrait, 390 pp., £20, January 2007, 978 0 7499 5115 3
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... until her death in 1861. Late in life, she charged more for one of her ‘lectures’ than Charles Dickens could command for his readings, and her doings would be reported in the same paragraph as news of Queen Victoria. Her fame was huge and preposterous. In an age before the moving image, she turned herself into a cartoonish celebrity: a woman ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: ‘Parallel Lives’, 2 April 2020

... Carlyle; Effie Gray and John Ruskin; Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill; Catherine Hogarth and Charles Dickens; George Eliot and George Henry Lewes. This is the form in which Rose presents the couples, with the women taking precedence and preserving their maiden names. It might seem a sure indication of her approach, but in fact she is interested in ...

Aversion Theory

Lord Goodman, 20 May 1982

Clinging to the Wreckage 
by John Mortimer.
Weidenfeld, 200 pp., £8.50, March 1982, 0 297 78010 7
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... Hemingway as conventional, but what about Thomas Hardy or Anthony Trollope or Jane Austen or Charles Dickens or John Galsworthy? And, in particular, what about John Mortimer? He would, I think, indignantly deny the suggestion, but although he espouses unconventional causes he represents the essential upper-middle-class Englishman, pursuing some ...

Bite It above the Eyes

Susan Eilenberg: ‘Mister Pip’, 4 October 2007

Mister Pip 
by Lloyd Jones.
Murray, 223 pp., £12.99, June 2007, 978 0 7195 6456 7
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... Wife of the Above’ I drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations A book about the delights and healing effects of reading, recalling the novels about precocious readers and intellectual explorers that many of us grew up with, South Pacific cousin to Anne of Green Gables, Little Women ...

In Praise of Spiders

Caleb Crain: Wilkie Collins’s Name Games, 11 September 2008

The Woman in White 
by Wilkie Collins.
Vintage, 609 pp., £5.99, October 2007, 978 0 09 951124 3
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... soon after (set during the fifth-century invasion of Rome, it had actual Goths in it), and in 1851 Charles Dickens distinguished him with an invitation to act in his amateur dramatic troupe. Dickens had a starring role, and Collins was to play his valet, but Collins didn’t mind. Soon the two were slumming and probably ...

Shuffling off

John Sutherland, 18 April 1985

Death Sentences: Styles of Dying in British Fiction 
by Garrett Stewart.
Harvard, 403 pp., £19.80, December 1984, 0 674 19428 4
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Forms of Feeling in Victorian Fiction 
by Barbara Hardy.
Owen, 215 pp., £12.50, January 1985, 9780720606119
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Language and Class in Victorian England 
by K.C. Phillipps.
Basil Blackwell in association with Deutsch, 190 pp., £19.50, November 1984, 0 631 13689 4
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... lapses. This condescension has recently been challenged, particularly by contemporary Dickensians. Dickens’s morbidity was the main item on the agenda of the 1981 Santa Cruz conference, where a number of speakers (Garrett Stewart among them) paid respectful attention to death and resurrection in the novelist’s work. Coincidentally, in 1982, Andrew ...

Daddy’s Girl

Anita Brookner, 22 December 1983

Fathers: Reflections by Daughters 
edited by Ursula Owen.
Virago, 224 pp., £5.50, November 1983, 9780860683940
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... My father’s entire morality – and it was entire – found an equivalence in the novels of Charles Dickens, with which he acquainted me at an early age: the uncles preferred me to read the gamesome tracts of George Bernard Shaw. At no time since my father’s death, which I watched, have I dreamt of him or longed for his advice or indeed ...

Peter Conrad’s Flight from Precision

Richard Poirier, 17 July 1980

Imagining America 
by Peter Conrad.
Routledge, 319 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7100 0370 6
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... of America are located in the writings, in turn, of Frances Trollope, Anthony Trollope and Charles Dickens (gathered in Chapter Two under the heading ‘Institutional America’), Oscar Wilde and Rupert Brooke (‘Aesthetic America’), Kipling and R.L. Stevenson (‘Epic (and Chivalric) America’), H.G. Wells (‘Futuristic ...

The Coat in Question

Iain Sinclair: Margate, 20 March 2003

All the Devils Are Here 
by David Seabrook.
Granta, 192 pp., £7.99, March 2003, 9781862075597
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... the ‘areal’, as proposed by the geographer Carl Sauer (a great favourite of that poet of place Charles Olson). Sauer, like Seabrook, deals in awkward particulars, grit under the eyelid. Areal is what you finish up with when there’s no way out, economically, emotionally, spiritually – with Connex and Railtrack operating the only escape chute. With ...

Versatile Monster

Marilyn Butler, 5 May 1988

In Frankenstein’s Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity and 19th-century Writing 
by Chris Baldick.
Oxford, 207 pp., £22.50, December 1987, 0 19 811726 4
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... Irish Frankenstein’. Usually the creature appears with his middle-class friend, John Bright or Charles Parnell, who cowers in his threatening shadow. But at least once, in 1843, Punch’s monster is on his own, and it’s easy to see how Elizabeth Gaskell, along no doubt with an increasing proportion of the public, came to believe that the name ...

Hoist that dollymop’s sail

John Sutherland: New Victorian Novels, 31 October 2002

by Sarah Waters.
Virago, 549 pp., £12.99, February 2002, 1 86049 882 5
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The Crimson Petal and the White 
by Michel Faber.
Canongate, 838 pp., £17.99, October 2002, 1 84195 323 7
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... Expectations (and Susan in Fingersmith), Fanny’s parentage is not what it seems. But unlike Dickens’s frosty belle, Fanny is not corrupted by her childhood surroundings. She ends up as what Mayhew described as a ‘cohabitant prostitute’ – a kept woman. Half respectable, half whore, she has seen both sides of Victorian society. Running through ...


Valerie Pearl, 4 February 1982

The Shell Guide to the History of London 
by W.R. Dalzell.
Joseph, 496 pp., £12.50, July 1981, 0 7181 2015 9
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... launched. Murray went on to publish 16 editions by 1879, when his guidebook was succeeded by Charles Dickens Jr’s Dictionary of London, although not before there had been a violent altercation between Murray and his alleged imitators and plagiarisers such as Ward Lock and Baedeker, accused of copying not only his binding and colour in the ‘red ...

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