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Saint John Henry

Richard Altick, 5 August 1982

John Henry Newman: His Life and Work 
by Brian Martin.
Chatto, 160 pp., £8.95, May 1982, 0 7011 2588 8
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Protestant versus Catholic in Mid-Victorian England 
by Walter Arnstein.
Missouri, 271 pp., £14, June 1982, 9780826203540
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... The unseen spectator who was most involved in Pope John Paul’s progress through Britain, formerly in partibus infidelium, was the spirit of John Henry Newman, dead these 92 years, who doubtless observed the proceedings with mixed feelings. Surely Newman, a man of retiring temperament, would have been horrified by the crowds and the publicity which for the moment turned the search for a Via Media into a media event ...

Possibility throbs

Richard Altick, 23 July 1987

Palais-Royal 
by Richard Sennett.
Faber, 274 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 571 14718 6
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... size. The architect the duke commissioned was Pierre-François Fontaine, and it is the premise of Richard Sennett’s attractive novel that he chose for his assistant a young Englishman who was just finishing his studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Frederick Courtland was the son of an architect who had learned his profession under the comfortably ...

Street-Wise

Richard Altick, 29 October 1987

George Scharf’s London: Sketches and Watercolours of a Changing City, 1820-50 
by Peter Jackson.
Murray, 154 pp., £14.95, June 1987, 0 7195 4379 7
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... But from then on, he was increasingly beset by money troubles. When, twenty years later, Professor Richard Owen promised him a guinea a week to sketch anything he liked in the British Museum, it was a transparent gesture of charity. Scharf recorded the ongoing life of London as a labour of love. He never made any profit to speak of, and until recently even his ...

Mutual Friend

Richard Altick, 22 December 1983

Lewis and Lewis 
by John Juxon.
Collins, 320 pp., £10.95, May 1983, 0 00 216476 0
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... The celebrated Victorian solicitor George Lewis began his career of more than half a century in the law shop of his father, whose waiting-room was constantly crowded with supplicants for his services. As John Juxon suggests, the elder Lewis could have served as a model for the abrasive Mr Jaggers in Great Expectations, who suspended his moral judgment when dealing with his greasy, grimy riffraff of clients – cracksmen, fences, thieves – and then, in revulsion, went to a washbasin and scrubbed his hands with water and scented soap and even, in extreme cases, gargled ...

Dearest Papa

Richard Altick, 1 September 1983

The Correspondence of Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin 
edited by George Allan Cate.
Stanford, 251 pp., $28.50, August 1982, 0 8047 1114 3
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Ruskin Today 
by Kenneth Clark.
Penguin, 363 pp., £2.95, October 1982, 0 14 006326 9
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John Ruskin: Letters from the Continent 1858 
edited by John Hayman.
Toronto, 207 pp., £19.50, December 1982, 0 8020 5583 4
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... Toward the end of their correspondence, which spanned years 1851-79, John Ruskin, who hitherto had addressed Thomas Carlyle more or less in terms of deferential formality (‘Dear Mr Carlyle’), suddenly shifted to ‘Dearest Papa’, signing himself ‘Ever your loving disciple-son’. Whatever the immediate reasons for the change, it simply made explicit Ruskin’s steady conception of his relation to Carlyle, the older man by 24 years ...

All in pawn

Richard Altick, 19 June 1986

The Common Writer: Life in 19th-century Grub Street 
by Nigel Cross.
Cambridge, 265 pp., £25, September 1985, 0 521 24564 8
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... milieu of the hacks whom Pope had skewered with malicious wit in the Dunciad. Their archetype was Richard Savage, whose profligate life Dr Johnson – himself an industrious, ill-paid hack in his earlier years in London – had narrated in 1744. The Grub Street the Victorians knew was the far-off one described by Smollett in his novels and, in their own ...

Magnanimity

Richard Altick, 3 December 1981

The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman 
by Mark Girouard.
Yale, 312 pp., £12.50, September 1981, 0 300 02739 7
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... It was the muddiest fiasco since the flooding Avon put paid, just seventy years earlier, to Garrick’s Shakespeare Jubilee extravaganza at Stratford. In 1839 the 26-year-old Earl of Eglinton held at his Scottish estate a magnificent chivalric entertainment, complete with chain-mailed jousters on caparisoned horses, a court of noble women attending the Queen of Beauty, and all the pageantry and bloodless combat proper to Medieval entertainment ...

Fuming

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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... Most conscientious biographers are aware of their subjects’ shades vigilantly or solicitously hovering over their shoulders as they write. The biographer of Thomas Carlyle is supervised more severely than most: the irritable, brooding Scotsman, the would-be redeemer, and, failing that, the scourge of Victorian England, seems to breathe flame down his neck ...

Out of the Closet

Richard Altick, 20 August 1981

The Private Case: An Annotated Bibliography of the Private Case Erotica Collection in the British Library 
by Patrick Kearney.
Jay Landesman, 354 pp., £45, July 1981, 0 905150 24 4
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... Erotica are the non-books of the bibliographical world. In most, if not all, of the standard records of book production and book possession their existence has gone unnoticed. They have seldom been recorded in the lists of books entered for copyright at the British Library or the Library of Congress, for the understandable reason that their secret publishers did not wish to bring them to any form of official attention ...

Faces of the People

Richard Altick, 19 August 1982

Physiognomy in the European Novel: Faces and Fortunes 
by Graeme Tytler.
Princeton, 436 pp., £19.10, March 1982, 0 691 06491 1
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A Human Comedy: Physiognomy and Caricature in 19th-century Paris 
by Judith Wechsler.
Thames and Hudson, 208 pp., £18.50, June 1982, 0 500 01268 7
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... There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face,’ said King Duncan in the fourth scene of Macbeth. But there was, and Shakespeare knew this. Almost at the moment he was writing the play, a new law required that anybody who professed ‘a knowledge of phisnognomie’ – one version of the name by which the practice of reading character in facial features was known to the learned – was to be ‘openly whipped untill his body be bloudye ...

Behind the Veil

Richard Altick, 6 March 1986

The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England 1850-1914 
by Janet Oppenheim.
Cambridge, 503 pp., £25, March 1985, 0 521 26505 3
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... The need was pressing, and the answer promptly came, trailing clouds of ectoplasm. Tennyson’s In Memoriam, an instant best-seller in 1850, won him the laureateship largely because its long sequence of troubled, plaintive lyrics, written over a span of 17 years, told a story and described a situation that struck home to countless readers: the sudden death of a beloved friend and the questions it raised about the immortality of the soul and the possibility of spiritual communion now and physical reunion in the hereafter ...

Pity the monsters

Richard Altick, 18 December 1980

The Elephant Man 
by Bernard Pomerance.
Faber, 71 pp., £2.25, June 1980, 0 571 11569 1
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The Elephant Man: the Book of the Film 
by Joy Kuhn.
Virgin, 90 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 9780907080091
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The Elephant Man 
by Christine Sparks.
Futura, 272 pp., £1.25, August 1980, 0 7088 1942 7
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The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences 
by Frederick Treves.
Star, 126 pp., £95, August 1980, 0 352 30747 1
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The Elephant Man and Other Freaks 
by Sian Richards.
Futura, 197 pp., £1.25, October 1980, 0 7088 1927 3
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The True History of the Elephant Man 
by Michael Howell and Peter Ford.
Allison and Busby, 190 pp., £6.95, March 1980, 0 85031 353 8
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... The thing arose slowly and let the blanket that covered its head and back fall to the ground. There stood revealed the most disgusting specimen of humanity that I have ever seen. In the course of my profession I had come upon lamentable deformities of the face due to injury or disease, as well as mutilations and contortions of the body depending upon like causes; but at no time had I met with such a degraded or perverted version of a human being as this lone figure displayed ...

Trollope’s Delight

Richard Altick, 3 May 1984

The Letters of Anthony Trollope 
edited by John Hall.
Stanford, 1082 pp., $87.50, July 1983, 0 8047 1076 7
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Anthony Trollope: Dream and Art 
by Andrew Wright.
Macmillan, 173 pp., £20, October 1983, 0 333 34593 2
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... Anthony Trollope was a self-confessed workaholic. ‘If my success were equal to my energy,’ he remarked at the age of 55, ‘I should be a great man.’ He was also a compulsive writer. Ten years later, aware of advancing age, he told his son: ‘I finished on Thursday the novel I was writing, and on Friday I began another. Nothing really frightens me but the idea of enforced idleness ...

The Old Corrector

Richard Altick, 4 November 1982

Fortune and Men’s Eyes: The Career of John Payne Collier 
by Dewey Ganzel.
Oxford, 454 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 19 212231 2
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... Once convicted, the greatest forgers of English literary documents have stayed convicted. In two famous cases, those of the 17-year-old Thomas Chatterton, who fabricated poems he attributed to a mythical 15th-century Bristol monk, and the equally immature William Henry Ireland, who forged manuscripts by Shakespeare before which Boswell knelt in adoration, apologists have found a degree of extenuation in claiming that theirs were the follies of ambitious but misguided youth ...

Subsistence Journalism

E.S. Turner, 13 November 1997

‘Punch’: The Lively Youth of a British Institution, 1841-51 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 776 pp., £38.50, July 1997, 0 8142 0710 3
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... tackle aspects of British history which would be spurned by British publishers. Without a doubt, Richard Altick chose the best decade of Punch to study, for in many a later period momentous events went unnoticed in its pages and a social conscience was not easy to detect in the weekly output of ‘subsistence journalism’ (...

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