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Doing the bores

Rosemary Ashton

21 March 1991
The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle, Duke–Edinburgh Edition. Vols XVI-XVIII: 1843-4 
edited by Clyde Ryals and Kenneth Fielding.
Duke, 331 pp., £35.65, July 1990, 9780822309192
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... There will be many more years –and many more volumes – before the Carlyles’ Collected Letters are brought to completion. Twenty-two more years of JaneCarlyle’s long, witty, sharp, self-dramatising yet oddly attractive litanies about the obstinacy of servants, her husband’s indifference to her, and the annoyances of her lot as a ‘Lion’s wife ...

Carlyle’s Mail Fraud

Rosalind Mitchison

6 August 1981
The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh CarlyleVol. VIII 1835-1836, Vol. IX 1836-1837 
edited by Charles Sanders and Kenneth Fielding.
Duke, 365 pp., £32.95, May 1981, 0 8223 0433 3
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... These volumes are issued as a pair, with a single index, and rightly, because they hold together for a coherent segment of Carlyle’s life. The dominant theme of the two is the writing of The French Revolution: in Volume VIII Carlyle is struggling with the first two volumes, in IX he produces the third, spends four months ...

Black Electricities

John Sutherland

30 October 1997
The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle. Vol. XXV: January-December 1850 
edited by Clyde de L. Ryals and K.J. Fielding.
Duke, 364 pp., £52, September 1997, 0 8223 1986 1
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Reminiscences 
by Thomas Carlyle, edited by K.J. Fielding and Ian Campbell.
Oxford, 481 pp., £7.99, September 1997, 0 19 281748 5
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... I told the Führer that I had recently been reading Carlyle’s book on Frederick the Great,’ Goebbels records in his diary of 27 February 1945: He knows the book very well himself. I repeated certain passages from the book to him and they affected him ...

Erratic Star

Michael Foot

11 May 1995
Moral Desperado: A Life of Thomas Carlyle 
by Simon Heffer.
Orion, 420 pp., £20, March 1995, 0 297 81564 4
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... thought they could finish off poor John Stuart Mill, but they never succeeded, except in their own estimation. Now, however, we are faced with what may be an even more forlorn effort, to fold Thomas Carlyle to their collective bosom. It so happens that Carlyle had a famous quarrel with Mill, in which most observers would have favoured Mill. Something deep in Mill’s outlook offended Toryism, old or new ...
23 October 1986
The Bondage of Love: A Life of Mrs Samuel Taylor Coleridge 
by Molly Lefebure.
Gollancz, 287 pp., £15.95, July 1986, 0 575 03871 3
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Jane Welsh​ Carlyle 
by Virginia Surtees.
Michael Russell, 294 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 85955 134 2
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... want and what we have to settle for – hardly alters over the centuries: what do change are the fashions in feeling and outlook which determine how it is regarded. There are people in any age, like Jane Austen, or Tom Poole, who see things pretty steadily and whole, and without necessarily being censorious have a good idea of what constitutes decent conduct and bad conduct, selfishness ...

Fuming

Richard Altick

19 July 1984
Thomas CarlyleA Biography 
by Fred Kaplan.
Cambridge, 614 pp., £25, January 1984, 0 521 25854 5
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Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages 
by Phyllis Rose.
Chatto, 318 pp., £11.95, March 1984, 0 7011 2825 9
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A Carlyle​ Reader 
edited by G.B. Tennyson.
Cambridge, 544 pp., £25, May 1984, 0 521 26238 0
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... Most conscientious biographers are aware of their subjects’ shades vigilantly or solicitously hovering over their shoulders as they write. The biographer of Thomas Carlyle is supervised more severely than most: the irritable, brooding Scotsman, the would-be redeemer, and, failing that, the scourge of Victorian England, seems to breathe flame down his neck. To write ...

Adulation or Eggs

Susan Eilenberg: At home with the Carlyles

7 October 2004
Thomas and Jane CarlylePortrait of a Marriage 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Pimlico, 560 pp., £15, February 2003, 0 7126 6634 6
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... It’s a century and a quarter since J.A. Froude’s Life of Carlyle and his edition of Carlyle’s Reminiscences, a hundred years since Alexander Carlyle’s New Letters and Memorials of JaneWelshCarlyle, Froude’s posthumous My Relations with Carlyle, and Alexander Carlyle and Sir James Crichton-Browne’s The Nemesis of Froude. Everyone has long since taken sides, if not with the tactless first ...
1 August 1996
Essays in Appreciation 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 363 pp., £25, March 1996, 0 19 818344 5
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... might even glimpse something of what Hell must have looked like, to those who saw it anticipated all around them. Other essays in the first half (‘John Donne: “Farewell to Love”’ and ‘Jane Austen and the Business of Mothering’) aren’t about death but do explore authors’ writings to elicit patterns of feeling or of the want of feeling. Though none of this is explained in principle ...
6 November 1980
Tennyson: The Unqulet Heart 
by Robert Bernard Martin.
Oxford/Faber, 656 pp., £12.95, October 1980, 0 19 812072 9
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Thro’ the Vision of the Night: A Study of Source, Evolution and Structure in Tennyson’s ‘Idylls of the King’ 
by J.M. Gray.
Edinburgh, 179 pp., £10, August 1980, 0 85224 382 0
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... assumed that it would be wrong for him to do anything else) and to make himself rich in the process. His title, the friendship of the Queen, the affection and admiration of such peers as Dickens, Carlyle, Browning and George Eliot, and the veneration of almost everybody else, somehow came to seem the natural outcome of his use of his talent; and much in his later life may be attributed to his having ...

His and Hers

Matthew Reynolds: Robert Browning

9 October 2008
The Poems of Robert Browning. Vol. III: 1847-61 
edited by John Woolford, Daniel Karlin and Joseph Phelan.
Longman, 753 pp., £100, November 2007, 978 0 582 08453 7
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... were not all sure he was a poet. Wilde’s quip – ‘Meredith is a prose Browning, and so is Browning’ – expresses a view shared by admirers such as George Eliot and Henry James, doubters like Carlyle and Hopkins, and a chorus of others. But the history of poetry is a history of revolutions in what counts as poetry. Today, Browning’s density, his chattiness, his specificity, his preference for ...

A Favourite of the Laws

Ruth Bernard Yeazell

13 June 1991
Married Women’s Separate Property in England, 1660-1833 
by Susan Staves.
Harvard, 290 pp., £27.95, April 1990, 0 674 55088 9
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The Bluestocking Circle: Women, Friendship and the Life of the Mind in 18th-century England 
by Sylvia Harcstark Myers.
Oxford, 342 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 19 811767 1
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Portrait of a Friendship: Drawn from New Letters of James Russell Lowell to Sybella Lady Lyttleton 1881-1891 
by Alethea Hayter.
Michael Russell, 267 pp., £16.95, September 1990, 0 85955 167 9
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Fierce Communion: Family and Community in Early America 
by Helena Wall.
Harvard, 243 pp., £23.95, August 1990, 0 674 29958 2
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... in The Double Helix (1968): ‘at the age of 31 her dresses showed all the imagination of English bluestocking adolescents’ When James Russell Lowell read the recently published letters of JaneWelshCarlyle in 1883, the American ambassador and poet likened the experience to listening to the gossip of female servants: ‘There are disclosures there that should never have been made, as if they had ...

Still Reeling from My Loss

Andrew O’Hagan: Lulu & Co

2 January 2003
I Don't Want to Fight 
by Lulu.
Time Warner, 326 pp., £17.99, October 2002, 0 316 86169 3
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Billy 
by Pamela Stephenson.
HarperCollins, 400 pp., £6.99, July 2002, 0 00 711092 8
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Just for the Record 
by Geri Halliwell.
Ebury, 221 pp., £17.99, September 2002, 0 09 188655 4
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Learning to Fly 
by Victoria Beckham.
Penguin, 528 pp., £6.99, July 2002, 0 14 100394 4
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Right from the Start 
by Gareth Gates.
Virgin, 80 pp., £9.99, September 2002, 1 85227 914 1
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Honest 
by Ulrika Jonsson.
Sidgwick, 417 pp., £16.99, October 2002, 0 283 07367 5
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... more to do with needs than choices, but what happens when those needs are shared by the people who know you best? In literature this sort of thing has a heartbreaking history, if one thinks of, say, JaneWelshCarlyle, or Mrs Tennyson, or Vera Nabokov; but what if Pamela Stephenson, the clinical psychologist married to Billy Connolly, is the modern version? Here is a woman who never fails, in her ...

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