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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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... Laetitia Pilkington has been remembered chiefly as a source of information about Swift. In their happier days, she and her husband were friendly with Swift, whom it was in their interest to cultivate. She and her husband were rather small people, physically, socially and economically, but they were brave enough to have Swift as a visitor: The Dean came to dine with us in our Lilliputian Palace, as he called it, and who could have thought it? he just looked into the Parlour, and ran up into the Garret, then into my Bed-chamber and Library, and from thence down to the Kitchen; and well it was for me that the House was very clean; for he complimented me on it, and told me: ‘That was his Custom; and that ’twas from the Cleanliness of the Garret and Kitchen he judged of the good Housewifery of the Mistress of the House; for no doubt but a Slut would have the Rooms clean, where the Guests were to be entertained ...

Vibrations

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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... Pray, sir, give me leave to ask you ... what, in your opinion, is the meaning of the word sentimental, so much in vogue amongst the polite, both in town and country? In letters and common conversation, I have asked several who make use of it, and have generally received for answer, it is – it is – sentimental. Every thing clever and agreeable is comprehended in that word; but ...

The One We’d Like to Meet

Margaret AnneDoody: Myth, 6 July 2000

Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India 
by Wendy Doniger.
Chicago, 376 pp., £43.95, June 1999, 0 226 15640 0
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The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth 
by Wendy Doniger.
Columbia, 212 pp., £11.50, October 1999, 0 231 11171 1
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... Do real queens or goddesses get raped? Can beauty become vile? Such problems are raised by Helen of Troy, wife of King Menelaus, and by Sita, wife of Rama. Their stories (in multiple versions) are entertainingly retold and analysed by Wendy Doniger, a professor of the history of religions and of South-East Asian languages and civilisations. As Doniger – who can read Sanskrit and Hindi as well as Greek, Latin and modern languages – tells us, in the earliest versions of these stories (the Iliad and the Ramayana), both women are carried off by a rival to the husband king; both are ravished (or commit adultery ...

Whig Dreams

Margaret AnneDoody, 27 February 1992

A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain 
by Daniel Defoe, edited by P.N. Furbank and W.R. Owens.
Yale, 423 pp., £19.95, July 1991, 0 300 04980 3
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James Thomson: A Life 
by James Sambrook.
Oxford, 332 pp., £40, October 1991, 0 19 811788 4
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... Whigs. It is of course fitting that his Tour should come into prominence again now, for Margaret Thatcher has taught us to ‘think Whig’, and the present so-called Tory Party is really a throwback Whig (not Liberal) party, with a fringe of puzzled Tories. However, this presentation of Defoe combs away much of the rebelliousness, adventurousness ...

Dear Miss Boothby

Margaret AnneDoody, 5 November 1992

The Letters of Samuel Johnson: Vol. I: 1731-1772, Vol. II: 1773-1776, Vol. III: 1777-1781 
edited by Bruce Redford.
Oxford, 431 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 19 811287 4
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... Life is never perfectly happy for the hero of a Collected Letters. One of the things that letters rather than biographies display is how much incidental illness human beings tend to undergo, even those of reasonable health who are destined to make old bones. Johnson has all the 18th-century’s bluntness on matters of health. ‘The old flatulence distressed me again last night,’ he tells Hester Thrale in 1775, adding with comic intent: ‘The world is full of ups and downs, as I think I once told you before ...

Women beware men

Margaret AnneDoody, 23 July 1992

Backlash: The Undeclared War against Women 
by Susan Faludi.
Chatto, 592 pp., £9.99, March 1992, 0 7011 4643 5
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The War against Women 
by Marilyn French.
Hamish Hamilton, 229 pp., £9.99, March 1992, 0 241 13271 1
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... and widowhood. Yet she was merely a charming eccentric at bottom, one of those comic ladies, like Margaret Rutherford playing Miss Marple; Keith’s character, like that of Addison’s Sir Roger de Coverley, was there to inform us of the harmlessness and ineffectuality of a defunct class represented by this posthumously lively personality. Helen Mirren’s ...

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 ...

Daddying

Alethea Hayter, 14 September 1989

Frances Burney: The Life in the Works 
by Margaret AnneDoody.
Cambridge, 441 pp., £30, April 1989, 9780521362580
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... In a spirited attempt to forestall criticism, Margaret Doody warns her readers that they may ‘feel horrified at what they they regard as a changeling-substitution of a mad Gothic feminist for the cheerful little Augustan chatterbox’ which is the conventional picture of Fanny Burney. Stimulated to anger by past biographers who see Fanny Burney as sunny and shallow, ‘dear little Burney’, who class her with, but below, Jane Austen, who are interested only in Evelina and the Journals, Professor Doody sets out to present an altogether different version ...

Englamouring the humdrum

Rosemary Ashton, 23 November 1989

Arguing with the past: Essays in Narrative from Woolf to Sidney 
by Gillian Beer.
Routledge, 206 pp., £25, August 1989, 0 415 02607 5
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Samuel Richardson: Tercentenary Essays 
edited by Margaret AnneDoody and Peter Sabor.
Cambridge, 306 pp., £35, July 1989, 0 521 35383 1
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... Gillian Beer’s Arguing with the past, a collection of essays published in recent years (with one, on Richardson and Milton, dating from as long ago as 1968), is richly written, contains many sharp critical insights, and shows the author to have a good ear for nuances of language in the literary works she chooses to discuss. At the same time, she reveals some straining in her pursuit of the chief ‘argument’ – namely, that half-readings, ‘failed’ readings and forgettings of other authors can make up an important part of a writer’s experience and creativity ...

Heroes

Pat Rogers, 6 November 1986

Hume and the Heroic Portrait: Studies in 18th-Century Imagery 
by Edgar Wind, edited by Jaynie Anderson.
Oxford, 139 pp., £29.50, May 1986, 0 19 817371 7
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Augustan Studies: Essays in honour of Irvin Ehrenpreis 
edited by Douglas Lane Patey and Timothy Keegan.
University of Delaware Press, 270 pp., £24.50, May 1986, 9780874132724
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The 18th Century: The Intellectual and Cultural Context of English Literature 1700-1789 
by James Sambrook.
Longman, 290 pp., £15.95, April 1986, 0 582 49306 4
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... grey in the dark doings of romantic opera. The longest and most significant item is an essay by Margaret AnneDoody connecting Gulliver’s Travels and Virgil’s Georgics. This covers a variety of animal and vegetable themes; the links which it proposes range from the bones and skulls dug up in Brobdignag (from the ...

Vampiric Words

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 26 May 1994

The Hunger Artists: Starving, Writing and Imprisonment 
by Maud Ellmann.
Virago, 136 pp., £7.99, September 1993, 1 85381 675 2
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... enumerates each of her uneaten meals with his habitual exhaustiveness’; but while Pamela, as Margaret AnneDoody has shown, dwells with loving concreteness on the satisfactions of the appetite, Clarissa carefully avoids such specificity, purposefully obscuring cause and effect where the heroine’s lack of hunger ...

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