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Doubling the Oliphant

Ruth Bernard Yeazell

7 September 1995
Mrs Oliphant: ‘A Fiction to Herself’ 
by Elisabeth Jay.
Oxford, 355 pp., £25, February 1995, 0 19 812875 4
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... Professions of failure need not be taken at face value, of course, and here as elsewhere Oliphant’s rhetoric of self-pity and self-criticism was far from straightforward. Even ‘commonplace’, ElisabethJay suggests in another context, may not have been altogether a term of abuse in the lexicon of this ‘fat, little, commonplace woman’. (Revealingly, she later described Tennyson’s appearance as ...

Nelly gets her due

John Sutherland

8 November 1990
The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 317 pp., £16.99, October 1990, 0 670 82787 8
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The Autobiography of Margaret Oliphant 
edited by Elisabeth Jay.
Oxford, 184 pp., £16.95, October 1990, 0 19 818615 0
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... and Vineta Colby’s study, The Equivocal Virtue – the virtue in question being industriousness. A ‘critical biography’ by Merryn Williams came out in 1986, confounding Oliphant’s prediction. ElisabethJay’s edition substantially alters our sense of the Autobiography and its author. The earlier version was assembled by members of Oliphant’s family from ‘autobiographical bits’. Jay ...

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