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No Fol-de-Rols

Margaret AnneDoody: Men in suits, 14 November 2002

The Three-Piece Suit and Modern Masculinity: England 1550-1850 
by David Kuchta.
California, 299 pp., £29.95, May 2002, 0 520 21493 5
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... just the military officer with his red coat and sword who allured with dangerous attractions. Anne Hollander has pointed out in Seeing through Clothes that the male body, as presented in the fashions of the 18th century and the Regency, is crotch-centred. Breeches – in their beautiful unpractical light colours of fawn or yellow or grey or white – were ...

Where a man can be a man

Margaret AnneDoody, 16 December 1993

All the Pretty Horses 
by Cormac McCarthy.
Picador, 302 pp., £5.99, November 1993, 0 330 33169 8
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... order. McCarthy has been considered one of the Southern Gothic writers, along with Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor; he shared O’Connor’s religion, having been bred a Roman Catholic. His latest novel marks a departure; the wild country is now the Texas-Mexico border; Eastern Tennessee, with its new ski resorts and neon-lit tourist sites edging into the ...

Marshy Margins

Frank Kermode, 1 August 1996

The True Story of the Novel 
by Margaret AnneDoody.
Rutgers, 580 pp., $44.95, May 1996, 0 8135 2168 8
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... Literary criticism seems to be putting on weight in its old age – Margaret AnneDoody’s book is well over three hundred thousand words and loaded with learning, which may appal the fainthearted, but they should take into account that throughout its length it is written with verve and wit, and is by any standard an extraordinary and idiosyncratic achievement ...

Dressed in black

Margaret AnneDoody, 11 March 1993

The Furies 
by Janet Hobhouse.
Bloomsbury, 296 pp., £15.99, October 1992, 0 7475 1270 1
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... black (like her heroine), tall and alienated and dramatic, stalking through the corridors of Lady Margaret Hall. I had only one real conversation with Janet Hobhouse, and that, as I remember it, was in Oxford train station – a location suitable to the memory of one who was always in transition. Janet said passionately how much she disliked Oxford ...

In praise of manly piety

Margaret AnneDoody, 9 June 1994

The 18th-Century Hymn in England 
by Donald Davie.
Cambridge, 167 pp., £27.95, October 1993, 0 521 38168 1
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... abbreviations of longer works; hymns by Watts have been truncated and changed in exactly the same manner. Davie has no other reason to offer as to why he finds Bishop Ken’s hymn inferior, save that it appeals to sentimental associations (described in a Kipling story) which Davie dismisses as ‘mawkish’. One is left on one’s own to decide why Davie ...

Preceding Backwardness

Margaret AnneDoody, 9 January 1992

Women’s Lives and the 18th-Century English Novel 
by Elizabeth Bergan Brophy.
University of South Florida Press, 291 pp., $29.95, April 1991, 0 8130 1036 5
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Fictions of Modesty: Women and Courtship in the English Novel 
by Ruth Bernard Yeazell.
Chicago, 306 pp., £19.95, August 1991, 0 226 95096 4
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... life’ writers. In presenting us with fascinating quotations from private papers, in a manner very like that of the 18th-century novel, Brophy ignores what the novelists themselves never ignore – the hard facts of parentage, professions, income. At the end of the book, we still know much more about the social placement and economic struggles of ...

Royal Classic Knitwear

Margaret AnneDoody: Iris and Laura, 5 October 2000

The Blind Assassin 
by Margaret Atwood.
Bloomsbury, 521 pp., £16.99, September 2000, 0 7475 4937 0
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... Margaret Atwood’s tenth novel is both familiar and new. As it is an Atwood novel, we get eggs, a ravine, shit, snow, an ethereal double or sisterly doppelgänger, a bridge, a river, an act of violence – images and themes from her earlier fiction metamorphosed. The Blind Assassin also possesses the unusual lyrical sensuousness that distinguished Alias Grace (1996), Atwood’s last major work ...

Tit for Tat

Margaret AnneDoody, 21 December 1989

Eighteenth-Century Women Poets: An Oxford Anthology 
edited by Roger Lonsdale.
Oxford, 555 pp., £20, September 1989, 0 19 811769 8
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... the male poets: they were among the poets that the male poets read. That Pope adapted a line from Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, when he wrote ‘Die of a rose in aromatic pain’ (Essay on Man) is constantly referred to in footnotes, but editors and critics have generally fought shy of considering the impact on Pope and other poets of his time of ...

Poxy Doxies

Margaret AnneDoody, 14 December 1995

Slip-Shod Sibyls: Recognition, Rejection and the Woman Poet 
by Germaine Greer.
Viking, 517 pp., £20, September 1995, 0 670 84914 6
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... Let us not glamorise or cleanse them, or avert our eyes from their lesions. Greer suggests that Anne Wharton, Rochester’s niece and an admired poet, suffered from inherited ‘primary syphilis’, showing the first symptoms in her childhood. The fact that she settled her whole estate on her husband is brought in as evidence that she might have been making ...

Never mind the neighbours

Margaret AnneDoody, 4 April 1996

by Germaine de Staël, translated by Avriel Goldberger.
Northern Illinois, 468 pp., $50, September 1995, 0 87580 200 1
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... for a new sort of equality, also provoked demands for a new morality. It is these changes in manners and possibilities that de Staël explores in Delphine, a novel set in France in the Revolutionary period. It was the first of two novels by Anne Louise Germaine, Baronne de Staël-Holstein, née Necker. Published in 1802 ...


Margaret AnneDoody, 5 August 1993

The Culture of Sensibility: Sex and Society in 18th-century Britain 
by G.J. Barker-Benfield.
Chicago, 520 pp., £39.95, October 1992, 0 226 03713 4
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Eighteenth-Century Sensibility and the Novel: The Senses in Social Context 
by Ann Jessie van Sant.
Cambridge, 143 pp., £27.95, January 1993, 0 521 40226 3
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Drunks, Whores and Idle Apprentices: Criminal Biographies of the 18th Century 
by Philip Rawlings.
Routledge, 222 pp., £40, October 1992, 0 415 05056 1
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Mother Clap’s Molly House: The Gay Subculture in England 1700-1830 
by Rictor Norton.
Gay Men’s Press, 302 pp., £12.95, September 1992, 0 85449 188 0
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... consciousness. As Barker-Benfield argues in his second chapter, ‘The Reformation of Male Manners’, the new sensitive articulate human being thus set up is ideally suited to the newly-emerging capitalist and urban society. Barriers between domestic and public spheres were in some senses broken down by consumerism, and the domestic sphere was ...

Studied Luxury

Margaret AnneDoody, 20 April 1995

No Gifts from Chance: A Biography of Edith Wharton 
by Shari Benstock.
Hamish Hamilton, 546 pp., £20, October 1994, 0 241 13298 3
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Edith Wharton: An Extraordinary Life 
by Eleanor Dwight.
Harry Adams, 335 pp., $39.95, May 1994, 0 8109 3971 1
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... The title of Benstock’s biography of Edith Wharton is somewhat mal à propos. Edith Wharton, other reviewers have pointed out, had plenty of gifts from chance. She was born, in 1862, into wealth and leisure, she had a sufficiency of good looks (in an era when that mattered even more than now). As a writer she was highly successful, both critically and commercially ...

Fear of Rabid Dogs

Margaret AnneDoody, 18 August 1994

Managing Monsters: Six Myths of Our Time 
by Marina Warner.
Vintage, 104 pp., £4.99, April 1994, 0 09 943361 3
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... For Alexander, the epic was sufficient to ‘trigger desire and excite identification’ in the manner Warner attributes only to modern advertising. The danger here is of mythologising an absolute division between ‘high’ and ‘popular’ culture, a barrier Warner elsewhere tries to break through. Warner is attracted to myth and reacts against it, for ...

Boom and Bust

Margaret AnneDoody, 19 June 1997

A History of the Breast 
by Marilyn Yalom.
HarperCollins, 331 pp., £15.99, March 1997, 0 04 440913 3
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... The sexualised view of the breast,’ Marilyn Yalom asserts, is a Western phenomenon. Non-Western cultures, she assures us, ‘have their own fetishes’. This seems dismissive, running the risk of a National Geographic style of condescension, other cultures representing the (scorned) site of an (inferior) idyll in which everything hangs out, and there are no hang-ups ...

I am an irregular verb

Margaret AnneDoody: Laetitia Pilkington, 22 January 1998

Memoirs of Laetitia Pilkington 
edited by A.C. Elias.
Georgia, 348497 pp., £84.95, May 1997, 0 8203 1719 5
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... does not like men, however. She evidently does, and she can enjoy some genuine masculine manners in male gatherings where men are free from the restrictions and dullness of the supposedly proper conversation between men and women in the drawing-room. Pilkington’s louche position is also a privileged position. Women are not supposed to have the real ...

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