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Angela Carter on the latest thing

Angela Carter, 5 December 1985

Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity 
by Elizabeth Wilson.
Virago, 272 pp., £11.95, November 1985, 0 86068 552 7
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... The serious study of fashion​ has repeatedly had to justify itself,’ observes Elizabeth Wilson in the introduction to Adorned in Dreams, a study of fashion which, in itself, may help to render such justifications redundant; her book is the best I have read on the subject, bar none. Fashion is part of social practice: it is an industry whose demands have helped to shape modern history, and choosing our clothes is the nearest most of us will ever get to practical aesthetics ...

Mikoyan Shuddered

Stephen Walsh: Memories of Shostakovich, 21 June 2007

Shostakovich: A Life Remembered 
by Elizabeth Wilson.
Faber, 631 pp., £20, July 2006, 0 571 22050 9
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... is practically valueless as a psychological document, and not much less so as a factual one. Elizabeth Wilson knows all this as well as anyone. In her own preface to the original 1994 edition of her documentary biography Shostakovich: A Life Remembered she noted that at the end of the 1980s, when she was conducting her researches, glasnost was ...

Mary Swann’s Way

Danny Karlin, 27 September 1990

Jane Fairfax 
by Joan Aiken.
Gollancz, 252 pp., £12.95, September 1990, 0 575 04889 1
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Lady’s Maid 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 536 pp., £13.95, July 1990, 0 7011 3574 3
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Mary Swann 
by Carol Shields.
Fourth Estate, 313 pp., £12.99, August 1990, 1 872180 02 7
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... it does not imply equivalence. Jane is outshone by Emma (so is the other Jane, Jane Bennett, by Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice: as though characters gifted with their creator’s name were relegated to an ironic secondariness); Austen does not make the injustice of Jane’s lot tell against Emma’s privilege as such: rather, it shows up Emma’s misuse ...

Wonderwoman

Carolyn Steedman, 4 December 1986

The Madwoman’s Underclothes: Essays and Occasional Writings 1968-1985 
by Germaine Greer.
Picador, 305 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 330 29407 5
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... recently been published, together with some of her poems, in Telling the Truth about Jerusalem, Elizabeth Wilson has recently produced Hidden Agendas, and Cora Kaplan’s collection from a ten-year period has just appeared in Sea Changes. Germaine Greer’s Madwoman’s Underclothes, designed, according to the dust-jacket, to demonstrate ‘what a ...

Domineering

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 7 November 1985

The Courtship of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett 
by Daniel Karlin.
Oxford, 281 pp., £12.95, September 1985, 0 19 811728 0
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... the opening line of their correspondence, Robert Browning emphatically recorded his admiration of Elizabeth Barrett’s poetry – ‘I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett’; and though he proceeded in the same letter to append his ‘love’ for the poet as well, she figures significantly as a woman not-yet-seen. ‘I do, as I say, love ...

In Memory of Eustache-Hyacinthe Langlois

Rosemary Hill: Where is Bohemia?, 6 March 2003

Bohemians: The Glamorous Outcasts 
by Elizabeth Wilson.
Tauris, 288 pp., £11.99, October 2002, 1 86064 782 0
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Quentin & Philip 
by Andrew Barrow.
Macmillan, 559 pp., £18.99, November 2002, 0 333 78051 5
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... There are maps both in Elizabeth Wilson’s book, which deals with bohemians in general, and in Andrew Barrow’s, which is a study of two in particular, but the street plans of Soho, Paris or Munich are not much use as a guide to the subject. Bohemia is a country of the mind, a flying island that may land anywhere and take off again just as quickly ...

Special Frocks

Jenny Turner: Justine Picardie, 5 January 2006

My Mother’s Wedding Dress: The Fabric of Our Lives 
by Justine Picardie.
Picador, 336 pp., £12.99, September 2005, 0 330 41306 6
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... for New Society, early in her career. ‘There is something eerie about a museum of costume,’ Elizabeth Wilson wrote in Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity (1985), a study much influenced by Mary Douglas’s Purity and Danger. ‘For clothes are so much part of our living, moving selves that, frozen on display in the mausoleums of culture, they ...
The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen 
introduced by Angus Wilson.
Cape, 782 pp., £8.50, February 1981, 0 224 01838 8
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Elizabeth Bowen: An Estimation 
by Hermione Lee.
Vision, 225 pp., £12.95, July 1981, 9780854783441
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... of genius, or neargenius – time will decide – who was heart-cloven and split-minded it is Elizabeth Bowen. Romantic-realist, yearning-sceptic, emotional-intellectual, poetic-pragmatist, objective-subjective, gregarious-detached (though everybody who resides in a typewriter has to be a bit of that), tragi-humorous, consistently declaring herself born ...

A Question of Breathing

John Bayley, 4 August 1988

Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 400 pp., £14.95, June 1988, 0 7011 3018 0
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Selected Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 330 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 7011 3311 2
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The Poetical Works of Robert Browning: Vol. III 
edited by Ian Jack and Rowena Fowler.
Oxford, 542 pp., £60, June 1988, 0 19 812762 6
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The Complete Works of Robert Browning: Vol. VIII 
edited by Roma King and Susan Crowl.
Ohio/Baylor University, 379 pp., £47.50, September 1988, 9780821403808
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... a woman, a writer, and a person with the right progressive ideas. So could the author of the poem, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. It is only fair to say, though, that this kind of wish-fulfilment is not only an accurate portrayal of the kind of selves that Charlotte and Elizabeth became, and wished to become: it is also a ...

It’s Mummie

Jenny Diski, 16 December 1993

TheLittle Princesses 
by Marion Crawford, introduced by A.N. Wilson.
Duckworth, 128 pp., £14.99, November 1993, 0 7156 2497 0
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... It was not ever thus in England,’ says A.N. Wilson, stilting his prose in deference to the text he’s introducing. He’s speaking of the deluge of intimacies we can expect these days in the press about the Royal Family. The ‘mystique of kingship’, Wilson explains, was restored in the late Thirties by George VI and Elizabeth, who, even before they moved into Buckingham Palace, erected a wall of silence around the House of Windsor, as soundproof as the walls of all those castles they processed around ...

Trounced

C.H. Sisson, 22 February 1990

C.S. Lewis: A Biography 
by A.N. Wilson.
Collins, 334 pp., £15, February 1990, 0 00 215137 5
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... excursion, and indeed to have seen remarkably little of England. He died in 1963.The story A.N. Wilson has to tell is more complicated than that. Empson thought Lewis ‘the best read man of his generation, one who had read everything and remembered everything he read’. He was indeed a man of words, reading, writing and arguing incessantly, when ...

Performing Seals

Christopher Hitchens: The PR Crowd, 10 August 2000

Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals 
by David Laskin.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., $26, January 2000, 0 684 81565 6
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... Diana Trilling outlived Lionel by many a book; Mary McCarthy enjoyed the same revenge on Edmund Wilson; the witches of Eastwick (lacking only their Hardwick) have vented about Robert Lowell. To interview all the exes of Philip Rahv would be an undertaking from which the most committed Boswellian might recoil. (Though it’s fascinating to speculate what ...

At Free Love Corner

Jenny Diski, 30 March 2000

Literary Seductions: Compulsive Writers and Diverted Readers 
by Frances Wilson.
Faber, 258 pp., £12.99, October 1999, 0 571 19288 2
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... end of my fishlike emotion.’ Seduction is a process of leading astray, and all writing, Frances Wilson contends, attempts to seduce, to distract the reader from the world around him to the world on the page. Her conviction that all seducers have themselves been seduced leads to the notion that writers, having been ensnared by writing, become compulsive ...

The butler didn’t do it

Bee Wilson: The First Detectives, 19 June 2008

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or the Murder at Road Hill House 
by Kate Summerscale.
Bloomsbury, 334 pp., £14.99, April 2008, 978 0 7475 8215 1
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... that the boy was missing, did Samuel Kent ride to the nearby town of Trowbridge? The nursemaid, Elizabeth Gough, said that she had noticed Saville’s absence soon after 5 a.m. Why did she wait two hours before alerting the boy’s mother? Some thought Gough didn’t weep enough in the days after her charge’s death. She became the local police’s chief ...

Send them to Eton!

Linda Colley, 19 August 1993

The End of the House of Windsor: Birth of a British Republic 
by Stephen Haseler.
Tauris, 208 pp., £14.95, June 1993, 1 85043 735 1
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The Rise and Fall of the House of Windsor 
by A.N. Wilson.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 211 pp., £16.99, May 1993, 1 85619 354 3
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Royal Throne: The Future of the Monarchy 
by Elizabeth Longford.
Hodder, 189 pp., £16.99, April 1993, 0 340 58587 0
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Diana v. Charles 
by James Whitaker.
Signet, 237 pp., £14.99, May 1993, 0 670 85245 7
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The Tarnished Crown 
by Anthony Holden.
Bantam, 400 pp., £16.99, May 1993, 0 593 02472 9
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Inheritance: A Psychological History of the Royal Family 
by Dennis Friedman.
Sidgwick, 212 pp., £14.99, April 1993, 0 283 06124 3
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Raine and Johnnie: The Spencers and the Scandal of Althorp 
by Angela Levin.
Weidenfeld, 297 pp., £17.99, July 1993, 0 297 81325 0
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... Abroad, and despite the collapse of the ERM, the power of Brussels is increasing. Soon, all Queen Elizabeth II’s subjects will carry much the same kind of passport as their fellow Europeans; and that brave vestige of British self-consequence, ‘Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State requests and requires ...’, may fade from memory. The Empire has ...

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