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Before Wapping

Asa Briggs, 22 May 1986

Victorian News and Newspapers 
by Lucy Brown.
Oxford, 305 pp., £32.50, November 1985, 0 19 822624 1
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... News was allowed to make drawings of the buildings, the objects inside them, and the crowds. Lucy Brown does not choose this particular example of the demand for press publicity on the part of a Victorian organiser, but she gives many examples from the 1850s and later of the demand for it on the part of politicians, some of whom had to face similar ...

Want-of-Tin and Want-of-Energy

Dinah Birch: The lives of the Rossettis, 20 May 2004

The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Formative Years 1835-62: Charlotte Street to Cheyne Walk. Volume One 
edited by William Fredeman.
Brewer, 464 pp., £95, July 2002, 9780859915281
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The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Formative Years 1835-62: Charlotte Street to Cheyne Walk. Volume Two 
edited by William Fredeman.
Brewer, 640 pp., £95, July 2002, 0 85991 637 5
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William and LucyThe Other Rossettis 
by Angela Thirlwell.
Yale, 376 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 300 10200 3
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... lingers around his life. Something similar might be said of the woman William married – Lucy Madox Brown, the daughter of Ford Madox Brown and his first wife, Elizabeth Bromley. Lucy seems to have been pushed to the side when Elizabeth ...

In praise of work

Dinah Birch, 24 October 1991

Ford Madox Brown and the Pre-Raphaelite Circle 
by Teresa Newman and Ray Watkinson.
Chatto, 226 pp., £50, July 1991, 0 7011 3186 1
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... Ford Madox Brown’s greatest picture is called Work, and it depicts the laying of a sewer. It is not beautiful. But that is part of Brown’s point, for he was after qualities that counted for more than beauty. Its subject was carefully chosen. Brown knew that sewers mattered ...

Answering back

James Campbell, 11 July 1991

The Intended 
by David Dabydeen.
Secker, 246 pp., £13.99, February 1991, 0 436 20007 4
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Cambridge 
by Caryl Phillips.
Bloomsbury, 185 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 0 7475 0886 0
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Lucy 
by Jamaica Kincaid.
Cape, 176 pp., £11.99, April 1991, 0 224 03055 8
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... under the guidance first of the great W.E.B DuBois, then of the poets Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown, and next a line of novelists headed by Richard Wright, began the task of reclamation about two generations earlier than the Caribbean writers who identified – if one can nowadays put it that way – with Europe, specifically England. Their literary ...

Sydney’s Inferno

Jonathan Coe, 24 September 1992

The Last Magician 
by Janette Turner Hospital et al.
Virago, 352 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 1 85381 325 7
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Vinland 
by George Mackay Brown.
Murray, 232 pp., £14.95, July 1992, 0 7195 5149 8
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... a good deal of apparatus to dismantle before we can arrive at it. The narrator of these events is Lucy, a call-girl turned TV researcher, who is a generation younger than the traumatised quartet but becomes a close friend of both Charlie and Catherine, as well as having an affair with Robinson Gray’s son, Gabriel. This makes for a peculiar narrative ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: When is a planet not a planet?, 18 August 2005

... data from which the object was discovered were obtained’, as one of its discoverers, Michael Brown, carefully puts it – in the second half of October 2003 (the 21st fortnight of the year; U is the 21st letter of the alphabet). Brown and his colleagues, Chad Trujillo and David Rabinowitz, have submitted a name to the ...

The Bad Thing

Lidija Haas: Ariel Levy’s Memoir, 3 May 2017

The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir 
by Ariel Levy.
Fleet, 207 pp., £16.99, March 2017, 978 0 349 00529 4
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... wants only the good parts of everything: both security and thrills. When she falls in love (with Lucy, who was someone else’s girlfriend), she wants to get married but assumes she shouldn’t have to be monogamous. The freedoms she aspires to are in some sense masculine: no limits, no encumbrances. She cites Joni Mitchell’s fear that marriage would turn ...

Never Seen a Violet

Dinah Birch: Victorian men and girls, 6 September 2001

Men in Wonderland: The Lost Girlhood of the Victorian Gentleman 
by Catherine Robson.
Princeton, 250 pp., £19.95, June 2001, 0 691 00422 6
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... did boys enter a more markedly masculine sphere – an experience finely dramatised in Tom Brown’s Schooldays. The growing boy is removed from the inadequate female guidance of mother, sisters and nursery-maid, and socialised in the exclusively masculine institution of a public school. Girls, by contrast, remained where they had always been, in the ...

Marksmanship

John Sutherland, 14 November 1996

From Potter’s Field 
by Patricia Cornwell.
Warner, 405 pp., £5.99, June 1996, 0 7515 1630 9
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Cause of Death 
by Patricia Cornwell.
Little, Brown, 342 pp., £9.99, October 1996, 0 316 87885 5
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... her $24 million for the North American rights. British rights were disposed of to Little, Brown and their paperback subsidiary Warner Books for a reported £2 million. A film of From Potter’s Field is in production. An exultant Cornwell described the Putnam deal as ‘the biggest ever for a woman’, which it may not be (Danielle Steel is more ...

Lotti’s Leap

Penelope Fitzgerald, 1 July 1982

Collected Poems and Prose 
by Charlotte Mew, edited by Val Warner.
Carcanet/Virago, 445 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 85635 260 8
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... with Bedford College. Here, at the age of 14, she fell violently in love with her headmistress, Lucy Harrison. Miss Harrison was one of the great educationalists of the turn of the century. ‘There was something royal in her nature,’ Octavia Hill wrote. There was also a strongly masculine element. She was one of the conspicuous successes of the liberal ...

Missingness

John Bayley, 24 March 1994

Christina Rossetti: A Biography 
by Frances Thomas.
Virago, 448 pp., £9.99, February 1994, 1 85381 681 7
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... The Victorians revelled in it. Stephen Foster’s audience grieved for Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair, the lost one ‘who comes not again’. The big Romantics all had their more portentous versions, from Lucy ceasing to be, to Shelley’s solipsistic sad heart, filled with grief ‘but with delight/No more, oh ...

Fellow Freaks

Sam Thompson: Wells Tower, 9 July 2009

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned 
by Wells Tower.
Granta, 238 pp., £10.99, April 2009, 978 1 84708 048 6
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... title suggests, they are prone to destructive acts. The protagonist of the opening story, ‘The Brown Coast’, is typical in that he has inflicted violence on his own life: after losing his job through incompetence, his inheritance due to rear-ending an attorney, and his wife by having an affair, Bob is in exile, doing odd jobs at his uncle’s beach ...

Just William

Doris Grumbach, 25 June 1987

Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice 
by Sharon O’Brien.
Oxford, 544 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 19 504132 1
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... had all been men who shielded her gallantly from any disrepute and in some cases – E.K. Brown, James Woodress – raised her to the rare air of perfection of her own fictional goddesses, heroines like Alexandra, Antonia and Thea. Her female friends idolised her and her male biographers romanticised her. Sharon O’Brien has given some facts a new ...

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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... anger of Henry James, when he discovered that the novel she had dedicated to him, Miss Brown, contained diminishing portraits of a large number of his acquaintances. William and Lucy Rossetti appeared as a stodgy reviewer with a shallow, garrulous wife obsessed by the charms of her children. William and Jane ...

Oh, you clever people!

Tom Crewe: The Unrelenting Bensons, 19 April 2017

A Very Queer Family Indeed: Sex, Religion and the Bensons in Victorian Britain 
by Simon Goldhill.
Chicago, 337 pp., £24.50, October 2016, 978 0 226 39378 0
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... passionate bonds: somewhere on the scene was always an Ellen, Annie, Charlotte, Ethel, Susan, Lucy. Most of these friendships began with what Minnie called the ‘My God, what a woman!’ stage, progressing from awe-struck enthusiasm to endless letter-writing, pet-names and hand-kissing. It’s doubtful they went much further, though it is clear that ...

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