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Our Soft-Shelled Condition

Katha Pollitt: Corsets

14 November 2002
The Corset: A Cultural History 
by Valerie Steele.
Yale, 204 pp., £29.95, September 2001, 0 300 09071 4
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Bound to Please: A History of the Victorian Corset 
by Leigh Summers.
Berg, 302 pp., £15.99, October 2001, 9781859735107
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... exercise, dieting, liposuction, breast implants and so on – while the corset itself, popularised by Madonna and beloved by the transgendered, has re-emerged as outerwear. In Bound to Please, LeighSummers acknowledges the complexities emphasised by the revisionists, but rejects their celebratory tone. A corset-burner, she still thinks that 19th-century corsets were instruments of oppression, a word ...
7 November 1985
The Letters of Ann Fleming 
edited by Mark Amory.
Collins, 448 pp., £16.50, October 1985, 0 00 217059 0
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... footnotes, which aren’t always accurate, he has written an introduction which tells the story of her life up to 1946 when the letters begin. She was born in 1913; ‘during the last of the long hot summers before the First World War,’ he notes, reviving yet again the idea that the country and the weather lost their charm at the same time. (I thought the summer of 1911 was the really hot one.) Her ...

Adulation or Eggs

Susan Eilenberg: At home with the Carlyles

7 October 2004
Thomas and Jane Carlyle: Portrait of a Marriage 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Pimlico, 560 pp., £15, February 2003, 0 7126 6634 6
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... Carlyle’s emotional world was his mother. It was to her that he confided the disquiets of his honeymoon, about her illnesses (and not Jane’s) that he worried, with her that he spent most of his summers, sometimes with Jane, more often without. Though barely able to read, she nevertheless taught her young son his letters, and in recompense he later taught her to write. His early years were a muddle ...

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