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A Knife to the Heart

Susan Pedersen: Did the Suffragettes succeed?, 30 August 2018

Rise Up, Women! The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes 
by Diane Atkinson.
Bloomsbury, 670 pp., £30, February 2018, 978 1 4088 4404 5
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Hearts and Minds: The Untold Story of the Great Pilgrimage and How Women Won the Vote 
by Jane Robinson.
Doubleday, 374 pp., £20, January 2018, 978 0 85752 391 4
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... National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) and other non-militant groups, enabling Jane Robinson to write a history of the constitutionalist cause in much the same vein. Robinson focuses especially on the six-week suffrage pilgrimage in the summer of 1913, when constitutionalists marched from all corners ...

Crusoe and Daughter

Patricia Craig, 20 June 1985

Crusoe’s Daughter 
by Jane Gardam.
Hamish Hamilton, 224 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 241 11526 4
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The Tie that Binds 
by Kent Haruf.
Joseph, 246 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 0 7181 2561 4
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Hannie Richards, or The Intrepid Adventures of a Restless Wife 
by Hilary Bailey.
Virago, 265 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 9780860683469
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A Fine Excess 
by Jane Ellison.
Secker, 183 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 436 14601 0
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Victory over Japan 
by Ellen Gilchrist.
Faber, 277 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 0 571 13446 7
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... nor offshoots, but playful and original tributes to the work that’s set them off. With Jane Gardam’s latest novel the background book, and enriching ingredient, is Robinson Crusoe. Mrs Gardam is not new to the practice. The Summer after the Funeral (1973) has a heroine (aged 16 – it’s ostensibly a ...

Kitchen Devil

John Bayley, 20 December 1990

Emily Brontë: A Chainless Soul 
by Katherine Frank.
Hamish Hamilton, 303 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 9780241121993
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... meaningless. Emily, then, was much less wholeheartedly in her novel than Charlotte was to be in Jane Eyre. Wuthering Heights concealed itself in its own structure, even in its own properties – passion, Gothicism and so forth – much as Lermontov was doing at the other end of Europe in A Hero of Our Time. Drug addicts are adepts at hiding what they are up ...

Snakes and Leeches

Rosemary Hill: The Great Stink, 4 January 2018

One Hot Summer: Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli and the Great Stink of 1858 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Yale, 352 pp., £25, July 2017, 978 0 300 22726 0
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... glass eye. The painter Benjamin Haydon approaches a crisis in his unhappy career. Browning annoys Jane Carlyle by putting a hot kettle down on her new carpet. Haydon takes his own life. So, from day to day and street to street, the sublime and the ridiculous appear in the proximity they occupy in life. This is surely one reason for the rise of ...

What’s wrong with that man?

Christian Lorentzen: Donald Antrim, 20 November 2014

The Emerald Light in the Air: Stories 
by Donald Antrim.
Granta, 158 pp., £12.99, November 2014, 978 1 84708 649 5
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... Either way it put me in mind of a passage early in Donald Antrim’s first novel, Elect Mr Robinson for a Better World: I keep seeing Jim’s face, lit red by tail lights, in the long moments before the lines snapped taut, while Bill Nixon tried and retried to start his fume-spewing, out-of-tune Celica. It was all so profoundly uncomfortable; there ...

Sappho speaks

Mary Beard, 11 October 1990

The Woman and the Lyre: Women Writers in Classical Greece and Rome 
by Jane McIntosh Snyder.
Bristol Classical Press, 199 pp., £25, May 1989, 1 85399 062 0
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The Constraints of Desire: The Anthropology of Sex and Gender in Ancient Greece 
by J.J. Winkler.
Routledge, 240 pp., £30, February 1990, 0 415 90122 7
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Greek Virginity 
by Giulia Sissa, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Harvard, 240 pp., $29.95, March 1990, 0 674 36320 5
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... of vocal harmony, imaginative portrayal, and arrangement of the details of thought.’ For David Robinson, writing in the Twenties and reprinted in the Sixties, the ‘perfection’ of Sappho’s verse was clear enough proof of her unblemished character. He was perhaps unusual in his unshakable confidence that (at least in the case of female writers) fine ...

Waving the Past Goodbye

Lorna Sage, 3 April 1997

A Regular Guy 
by Mona Simpson.
Faber, 372 pp., £15.99, February 1997, 0 571 19079 0
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The Keepsake 
by Kirsty Gunn.
Granta, 224 pp., £14.99, March 1997, 9781862070134
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... view we share, even if she is in the third person, is Owens’s illegitimate and disowned daughter Jane. She is ten years old at the beginning, the questing girl in search of Dad whom Simpson always needs to get the show on the road. This is another plot in which parents have failed to grow up, to stay together, to make a home, or even to concoct a shared ...

Tousy-Mousy

Anne Barton: Mary Shelley, 8 February 2001

Mary Shelley 
by Miranda Seymour.
Murray, 665 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 7195 5711 9
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Mary Shelley in Her Times 
edited by Betty Bennett and Stuart Curran.
Johns Hopkins, 311 pp., £33, September 2000, 0 8018 6334 1
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Mary Shelley's Fictions 
edited by Michael Eberle-Sinatra.
Palgrave, 250 pp., £40, August 2000, 0 333 77106 0
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... to staunch Mary’s haemorrhage by plunging her up to the waist in ice: his flirtation with Jane Williams (with whom Mary herself was later to fall in love); his nightmares of strangling Mary and of the sea overwhelming the house; various hallucinations including the one about meeting his own double, who asked him disconcertingly, ‘How long do you ...

Menagerie of Live Authors

Francesca Wade: Marys Shelley and Wollstonecraft, 8 October 2015

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley 
by Charlotte Gordon.
Hutchinson, 649 pp., £25, April 2015, 978 0 09 195894 7
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... biographies, their intellectual significance has often been doubted. Shelley’s daughter-in-law Jane wrote an ‘antiseptic’ biography claiming that Shelley and Mary eloped only after his wife had died, which led to Mary being seen as merely a virtuous wife, tender of her husband’s flame following his early death. In 1951, Muriel Spark rescued Mary’s ...

If It Weren’t for Charlotte

Alice Spawls: The Brontës, 16 November 2017

... are luxury editions, befitting the occasion, and reprints of the novels and of the manuscript of Jane Eyre, updated selections of the letters, non-updated editions of Charlotte’s and Emily’s poetry, books about the novels (scholarly and not), books of essays, books about their belongings, about the parsonage and Haworth, comic books, volumes of artwork ...

Do Not Scribble

Amanda Vickery: Letter-Writing, 4 November 2010

The Pen and the People: English Letter-Writers 1660-1800 
by Susan Whyman.
Oxford, 400 pp., £30, October 2009, 978 0 19 953244 5
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Becoming a Woman in the Age of Letters 
by Dena Goodman.
Cornell, 408 pp., £24.50, June 2009, 978 0 8014 7545 0
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... were ‘familiar chat spread upon paper’ she was parroting a line at least as old as Erasmus. Jane Austen, unsurprisingly, was mistress of the conventions: ‘I have now attained the true art of letter-writing, which we are always told is to express on paper exactly what one would say to the same person by word of mouth; I have been talking to you almost ...

Mismatch

Rosemary Ashton, 17 October 1985

Troubled Lives: John and Sarah Austin 
by Lotte Hamburger and Joseph Hamburger.
Toronto, 288 pp., £19.50, May 1985, 0 8020 2521 8
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... joyless document’, as the Hamburgers call it, was unpromising. No fictional would-be husband in Jane Austen, George Eliot or Meredith outdoes Austin in epistolary stiffness. Having set before Sarah his prospects – not good – in the legal profession, and the probability that they would have to wait several years before they could marry, he asked her to ...

As God Intended

Rosemary Hill: Capability Brown, 5 January 2012

The Omnipotent Magician: Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown 1716-83 
by Jane Brown.
Chatto, 384 pp., £20, March 2011, 978 0 7011 8212 0
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... was earning on average £6000 a year and he went on to stamp his ideal landscapes, including, as Jane Brown estimates, about a hundred and fifty ornamental lakes, all over the face of England. Not everyone liked his work. Some contemporaries were hostile and even friends and clients were occasionally uneasy about the scale of his influence. A neighbour in ...

She’s a tiger-cat!

Miranda Seymour: Birds’ claw omelettes with Vernon Lee, 22 January 2004

Vernon Lee: A Literary Biography 
by Vineta Colby.
Virginia, 387 pp., £32.50, May 2003, 0 8139 2158 9
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... rewarding than Fielding (largely on moral grounds), Maria Edgeworth to write more enjoyably than Jane Austen, Villette to be superior to Jane Eyre, and a certain Mrs Jenkin to be a finer writer by far, in the realistic mode, than George Eliot. (Mrs Jenkin was a close friend of the Ruffinis.) At 15, Vernon Lee was already ...

How to Kowtow

D.J. Enright: The thoughts of China, 29 July 1999

The Chan’s Great Continent: China in Western Minds 
by Jonathan Spence.
Penguin, 279 pp., £20, May 1999, 0 7139 9313 8
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... iron to make nails.) Even the armour they wore was made from shiny paper. (In the second part of Robinson Crusoe, Defoe had ridiculed China’s trade, pitiful in comparison with ‘the universal commerce’ of Europe, and its pathetic army, furnished with erratic firearms and powder lacking in strength. What particularly annoyed Defoe in his fiction was ...

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