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Hermione Lee, 17 November 1983

Bartleby in Manhattan, and Other Essays 
by Elizabeth Hardwick.
Weidenfeld, 292 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 297 78357 2
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... classroom in Frankfurt takes off all her clothes as he discourses on the dangers of spontaneity. Lee Harvey Oswald is photographed holding up two guns, together with the Daily Worker and the Trotskyite Militant: ‘There he stands in the midst of his iconography.’ It is the job of the ‘defining imagination’ to explain such moments. (Of course there are ...

All Reputation

Hermione Lee: Eliza and Clara, 17 October 2002

The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch 
by Anne Enright.
Cape, 230 pp., £12.99, September 2002, 0 224 06269 7
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Clara 
by Janice Galloway.
Cape, 425 pp., £10.99, June 2002, 0 224 05049 4
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... Both these outstanding women novelists have decided, with deliberate and rewarding feminist intent, to resuscitate and make central the lives of women whose stories have been overshadowed by the men they spent their lives with. Both have placed so-called women’s subject-matter – domestic details, clothes, female bodies, sexuality and pleasure, pregnancy and childbirth – at the centre of their very physical narratives ...

I like you

Hermione Lee: Boston Marriage, 24 May 2007

Between Women: Friendship, Desire and Marriage in Victorian England 
by Sharon Marcus.
Princeton, 356 pp., £12.95, March 2007, 978 0 691 12835 1
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... In 1852, Elizabeth Barrett Browning met the expatriate American actress Charlotte Cushman (famous for her trouser roles) and her companion Matilda Hays, a writer and feminist. They had ‘made vows of celibacy and of eternal attachment to each other – they live together, dress alike,’ Barrett Browning wrote to her sister. ‘It is a female marriage ...

Uneasy Guest

Hermione Lee: Coetzee in London, 11 July 2002

Youth 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Secker, 169 pp., £14.99, May 2002, 0 436 20582 3
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... By comparison with the acclaim for Disgrace, and the respectful reception of Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life, Youth has been met here with some disappointed and negative reviews (‘a tortuous exercise in intellectual introspection, and not much else’; ‘as fiction it is so interior and cerebral, it fails to engage’; ‘not wholly satisfactory as either novel or memoir ...

Wangling

Hermione Lee: Katherine Anne Porter, 12 February 2009

Collected Stories and Other Writings 
by Katherine Anne Porter, edited by Darlene Harbour Unrue.
Library of America, 1039 pp., $40, October 2008, 978 1 59853 029 2
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... It is 1912, and Miranda Gay, one of Katherine Anne Porter’s versions of her younger self, is travelling to a family reunion in South Texas, in the country between Austin and San Antonio. She has made a rash early marriage and alienated herself from her family. She talks to an elderly woman cousin on the train, who bursts out: ‘Ah, the family … the whole hideous institution should be wiped from the face of the earth ...

Gatsby of the Boulevards

Hermione Lee: Morton Fullerton, 8 March 2001

Mysteries of Paris: The Quest for Morton Fullerton 
by Marion Mainwaring.
New England, 327 pp., £23, March 2001, 1 58465 008 7
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... In the spring of 1907, a few weeks after Edith Wharton had met Morton Fullerton in Paris, she described him to a mutual friend as ‘very intelligent, but slightly mysterious, I think’. Eight years later, by which time her passionate affair with Fullerton was long over, Henry James, in one of his last letters to her, confirmed her first thoughts about the man who had fascinated them both ...

Bewitchment

James Wood, 8 December 1994

Shadow Dance 
by Angela Carter.
Virago, 182 pp., £9.99, September 1994, 1 85381 840 2
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Flesh and the Mirror: Essays on the Art of Angela Carter 
edited by Lorna Sage.
Virago, 358 pp., £8.99, September 1994, 1 85381 760 0
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... is the wicked uncle of Lorna Sage’s collection of critical essays, Flesh and the Mirror. Hermione Lee, in an intelligent and warm-hearted defence of Carter, calls Bayley’s essay ‘a striking exercise in insidious disparagement’; Elaine Jordan, in a less eloquent contribution, calls it ‘a nasty piece of work’. Bayley accused Carter of ...

Smashing the Teapots

Jacqueline Rose, 23 January 1997

Virginia Woolf 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 722 pp., £20, September 1996, 0 7011 6507 3
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... be altogether unreasonable to expect poison gas, or at any rate a bomb. It is a great strength of Hermione Lee’s major new biography of Virginia Woolf that she never lets us forget just how closely Woolf’s life, and her death, were shadowed by the two wars. In a moment of extreme depression during the period after the First World War, Woolf ...

Pioneering

Janet Todd, 21 December 1989

Willa Cather: A Life Saved Up 
by Hermione Lee.
Virago, 409 pp., £12.99, October 1989, 0 86068 661 2
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... secret of her greatness, if that is what she has, and leaves an impression of talents sold short. Hermione Lee, so sensitive an interviewer on television, has not quite interviewed Cather successfully. This may be because Lee refuses to discuss so many cruxes. She says that she wants to avoid the special pleading of ...

Too late to die early

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Virginia Woolf and Harriet Martineaun in the sick room, 5 February 2004

Life in the Sick-Room 
by Harriet Martineau, edited by Maria Frawley.
Broadview, 260 pp., £8.99, March 2003, 1 55111 265 5
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On Being Ill 
by Virginia Woolf, edited by Hermione Lee.
Paris Press, 28 pp., £15, October 2002, 1 930464 06 1
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... other . . . so to crush them together that a brand new word in the end drops out.’ The essay, Hermione Lee explains, had its origins in a fainting spell Woolf suffered at a party given by her sister Vanessa at Charleston in the summer of 1925, which was followed by months of illness marked by terrible headaches, lassitude and an attack of German ...

Self-Made Man

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Edith Wharton’s Domestic Arrangements, 5 April 2007

Edith Wharton 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 853 pp., £25, February 2007, 978 0 7011 6665 6
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... the American belief in perpetual self-improvement, the construction of Edith Wharton, as Hermione Lee’s biography demonstrates, was a lifelong activity. The absence of Wharton’s important women friends from A Backward Glance, Lee suggests, intensifies the impression that the achievement was the author’s ...

Magical Realism

D.A.N. Jones, 1 August 1985

The House of the Spirits 
by Isabel Allende, translated by Magda Bogin.
Cape, 368 pp., £8.95, July 1985, 0 224 02231 8
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Linden Hills 
by Gloria Naylor.
Hodder, 304 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 9780340360330
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Careful with the Sharks 
by Constantine Phipps.
Cape, 216 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 9780224023085
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... of a political situation’. On the same day, Marilyn Butler was equally effusive on Radio 3 and Hermione Lee assured us in the Observer that the author has ‘impeccably heroic socialist and feminist credentials’. My daughter-in-law brought home Cosmopolitan with a long extract, prettily illustrated, and an astounding comment from Emma ...

In the Potato Patch

Jenny Turner: Penelope Fitzgerald, 19 December 2013

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 508 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 7011 8495 7
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... a handbag: acquaintances remember a trusty William Morris carrier, and she took a spongebag, Hermione Lee reports, to the Booker dinner. In her letters she uses the dotty-lady schtick for two main purposes. It’s there to entertain and mollify her daughters, on whom she depended for all sorts of things: ‘Marina Warner came to lecture at the ...

Good enough for Jesus

Charlotte Brewer, 25 January 1990

The State of the Language: 1990 Edition 
edited by Christopher Ricks and Leonard Michaels.
Faber, 531 pp., £17.50, January 1990, 9780571141821
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Clichés and Coinages 
by Walter Redfern.
Blackwell, 305 pp., £17.50, October 1989, 0 631 15691 7
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Rhetoric: The Wit of Persuasion 
by Walter Nash.
Blackwell, 241 pp., £25, October 1989, 0 631 16754 4
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... analogous to that faced by feminists, and in the section on ‘The Body Politic’ Marina Warner, Hermione Lee and Sandra Gilbert explore the ways in which women might or do speak and write so as to convey their experience in a way that communicates a female point of view without being disenfranchising. Marina Warner writes of ‘Fighting Talk’, the ...

Diary

Frank Kermode: Being a critic, 27 May 1999

... trained academics; she further and less continuously laments that it is too often not done at all. Hermione Lee proposes the example of Virginia Woolf, who hadn’t much time for either dons or literary journalists. She believed that ‘one should try to read books as if one were writing them,’ and advised an audience of Cambridge undergraduates ...

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