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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 ElizabethWilson 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 ...

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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... be understood as nuanced or ironic? Without some measure of certainty on this score, a letter or interview is practically valueless as a psychological document, and not much less so as a factual one. ElizabethWilson 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 ...
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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... life where Emma is carefree and self-indulged. However pointed and suggestive this contrast may be, 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 ...

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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... of many women. Six years of Ann Oakley’s lectures and occasional writings on medical sociology have recently been published, together with some of her poems, in Telling the Truth about Jerusalem, ElizabethWilson 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 ...

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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... lovers who read long before they saw one another, who admired writing first and persons after. In 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 ...

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 ElizabethWilson’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 ...

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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... best understood and enlarged such traditions – Angela Carter – was also a brilliant fashion critic, for New Society, early in her career. ‘There is something eerie about a museum of costume,’ ElizabethWilson 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 ...
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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... is now helpless and belongs to her. When she falls into the arms of Romney, Aurora can be at once 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’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 ...

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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... to a chair in Cambridge. He seems hardly to have set foot on the European mainland, after his wartime 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 ...
4 March 1982
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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... If there ever was a writer 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 ...

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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... David Laskin relies most heavily in this relatively orderly account of sexual and matrimonial chaos. 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 ...
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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... ethnically far more diverse population than ever before, as well as Welsh and Scottish nationalism. 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 ...
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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... in whose vowel I lose my useless head for a moment. The first and last letters are the beginning and 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 ...

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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... excrement. In the days that followed, no one connected with the affair seemed innocent. Why, on hearing 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 ...

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