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Risky Business

Elaine Showalter, 22 September 1994

Telling Women’s Lives: The New Biography 
by Linda Wagner-Martin.
Rutgers, 201 pp., $22.95, July 1994, 0 8135 2092 4
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... such stimulating American precursors as Carolyn Heilbrun’s Writing a Woman’s Life (1988) and Phyllis Rose’s Norton Anthology of Women’s Lives (1990). The writers of these books, along with the historians who contributed to The Challenge of Feminist Biography (1992), did indeed tackle dangerous issues, particularly in relation to the political ...


Richard Altick, 19 July 1984

Thomas Carlyle: A 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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... she was dissuaded only by the advice of their friend Mazzini. Where Kaplan is content to describe, Phyllis Rose explains. In her Parallel Lives, she uses the Carlyles’ marriage as a framing device to enclose case-histories of four other Victorian marriages (or, strictly speaking, three: for better or worse, the Dickenses, Ruskins and John Stuart Mills ...

Mon Pays

Michael Rogin: Josephine Baker, 22 February 2001

The Josephine Baker Story 
by Ean Wood.
Sanctuary, 327 pp., £16.99, September 2000, 1 86074 286 6
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Negrophilia: Avant-Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s 
by Petrine Archer-Straw.
Thames and Hudson, 200 pp., £14.95, September 2000, 0 500 28135 1
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... sexuality.For her first, comic, blackface-derived entrance in La Revue nègre – I quote from Phyllis Rose’s 1989 biography, Jazz Cleopatra – Baker ‘looked more like an animal than a human being, a weird cross between a kangaroo, a bicyclist and a machine gun’. She transformed herself into a sexual animal for ‘La Danse sauvage’, where the ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: ‘Parallel Lives’, 2 April 2020

... I’m astonished​ by it,’ Phyllis Rose said in a recent interview about Parallel Lives, her study of five Victorian marriages, first published in 1983 and now reissued (Daunt, £10.99). ‘It’s miraculous that this girl knew so much.’ In her prologue about love and marriage, probably the best thing in the book, Rose’s wisdom glints like shards of glass ...

It doesn’t tie any shoes

Madeleine Schwartz: Shirley Jackson, 5 January 2017

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life 
by Ruth Franklin.
Liveright, 585 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 87140 313 1
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Dark Tales 
by Shirley Jackson.
Penguin, 208 pp., £9.99, October 2016, 978 0 241 29542 7
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... Jackson told her parents. In her study of marriages between Victorian writers, Parallel Lives, Phyllis Rose suggests that love may be described as the temporary refusal to try to dominate another person. ‘Like an enzyme which blocks momentarily a normal biological process,’ she writes, ‘what we call love may inhibit the process of power ...


Lorna Tracy, 17 June 1982

... have a serpent of delight!’ It was a rare lyric moment for James, who was a pure scientist. Phyllis had responded by quoting Virginia Woolf, although she did not know it. Not stopping her mop, she had said: ‘Something always has to be done next.’ ‘Meet me,’ croaked James, ‘at the Bureau of Birth, Death and Matrimony. Half-past nine next ...

At Tate Britain

Tom Crewe: Burne-Jones, 24 January 2019

... arched to meet the horizon of the sea beyond, as Odysseus’ ships hove into view. The climax was Phyllis and Demophoön (1870), a still-strange image of Phyllis emerging from the tree in which she has been imprisoned – don’t ask – and embracing her lost lover, who pivots away in alarm but can’t help turning to meet ...

Shall we tell the children?

Paul Seabright, 3 July 1986

Melanie Klein: Her World and her Work 
by Phyllis Grosskurth.
Hodder, 516 pp., £19.95, June 1986, 0 340 25751 2
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Bloomsbury/Freud: The Letters of James and Alix Strachey 1924-1925 
edited by Perry Meisel and Walter Kendrick.
Chatto, 360 pp., £14.95, February 1986, 0 7011 3051 2
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... these animosities and the gossip on which they fed persisted for so long makes especially welcome Phyllis Grosskurth’s scholarly book, the first full biography of Klein. Melanie Reizes was born in 1882 in Vienna. Her father was a doctor; her mother was forced by straitened financial circumstances to keep a shop selling plants and (bizarrely, since they were ...

Culture and Personality

Caroline Humphrey, 31 August 1989

Margaret Mead: A Life of Controversy 
by Phyllis Grosskurth.
Penguin, 96 pp., £3.99, May 1989, 0 14 008760 5
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Ruth Benedict: Stranger in the Land 
by Margaret Caffrey.
Texas, 432 pp., $24.95, February 1989, 0 292 74655 5
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... The two books under review take quite different views of the achievements of their subjects. Phyllis Grosskurth’s Margaret Mead: A Life of Controversy, which appears in Penguin’s ‘Lives of Modern Women’ series, is really just another moan about the awfulness of Margaret Mead. She was impatient, bossy, over-zealous, incapable of realising when her ...

Tales of the Unexpected

Jose Harris, 20 November 1986

Marriage and Morals among the Victorians, and Other Essays 
by Gertrude Himmelfarb.
Faber, 253 pp., £15.95, July 1986, 0 571 13952 3
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... deals with the ‘genealogy of morals’. The essay which gives the book its title is a review of Phyllis Rose’s Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages – a study of the pathology of Victorian sexual relationships as revealed by the marriages (or non-marriages) of George Eliot and G.H. Lewes, the Mills, the Ruskins, the Dickenses and the ...

Perfect Light

Jenny Diski, 9 July 1992

Diana: Her True Story 
by Andrew Morton.
Michael O’Mara, 165 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 1 85479 191 5
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Shared Lives 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Bloomsbury, 285 pp., £16.99, April 1992, 0 7475 1164 0
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Antonia White: Diaries 1958-1979 
edited by Susan Chitty.
Constable, 352 pp., £19.95, May 1992, 0 09 470660 3
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... life is the stated purpose of Lyndall Gordon’s biography of her three girlhood friends, Romy, Rose and Ellie, who never became famous for anything before they each died, younger than people are supposed to these days. Of course, an early death is almost as sexy as fame and riches, especially if it’s the death of a woman who is ...

Paddling in the Gravy

E.S. Turner: Bath’s panderer-in-chief, 21 July 2005

The Imaginary Autocrat: Beau Nash and the Invention of Bath 
by John Eglin.
Profile, 292 pp., £20, May 2005, 1 86197 302 0
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... to smelly puddles, the honey-coloured terraces of Bath – which Nash never saw – slowly rose to achieve a rare Palladian grandeur. The waters of Bath now mattered less and less: the ambience was all. And that ambience increasingly lured the new middle classes, who relished a resort in which respectability had begun to encroach on raffishness. Not ...

Former Lovers

Michael Mason, 6 September 1984

The Bourgeois Experience. Victoria to Freud Vol. I: Education of the Senses 
by Peter Gay.
Oxford, 608 pp., £18.50, March 1984, 0 19 503352 3
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Austin and Mabel: The Amherst Affair and Love Letters of Austin Dickinson and Mabel Loomis Todd 
by Polly Longsworth.
Farrar, Straus, 449 pp., £18.50, September 1984, 0 374 10716 5
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The Memoirs of John Addington Symonds 
edited by Phyllis Grosskurth.
Hutchinson, 319 pp., £14.95, May 1984, 0 09 154170 0
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... with bisexual Swiss and Italians. In her Introduction the knowledgeable editor of the Memoirs, Phyllis Grosskurth, is rather ingenuous in accepting this claim at face value: not only because Symonds’s tastes were known to both his father and his wife (as Vaughan’s, incidentally, had been to his), but more importantly because of the allusions throughout ...

Napoleon was wrong

Ian Gilmour, 24 June 1993

Capitalism, Culture and Decline in Britain 1750-1990 
by W.D. Rubinstein.
Routledge, 182 pp., £25, April 1993, 0 415 03718 2
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British Multinational Banking 
by Geoffrey Jones.
Oxford, 511 pp., £48, March 1993, 0 19 820273 3
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Going for Broke: How Banking Mismanagement in the Eighties Lost Thousands of Billions of Pounds 
by Russell Taylor.
Simon and Schuster, 384 pp., £17.50, April 1993, 0 671 71128 8
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... Mathias) or that there was a ‘transformation of the British economy to an industry state’ (Phyllis Deane). The evidence he relies on comes from income-tax returns: ‘The totals for London and the Home Counties may be taken as convenient shorthand or metaphors for commercial and financial-based incomes generated by the British middle classes, while the ...

Into Council Care

John Bayley, 6 July 1995

Elizabeth Bowen and the Dissolution of the Novel 
by Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle.
Macmillan, 208 pp., £35, December 1994, 0 333 60760 0
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... compulsive make her novels come alive. This and other pronouncements are effectively quoted in Phyllis Lassner’s excellent little book in Macmillan’s ‘Women Writers’ series (1990). It is written from a feminist angle, whereas Bennett and Royle are theorists who have found in Bowen, perhaps rather surprisingly, an opportunity for what they call a ...

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