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Preceding Backwardness

Margaret Anne Doody

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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... from the novels, restricted to the work of seven novelists: Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Sarah Fielding, Charlotte Lennox, Sarah Scott, Clara Reeve and Frances Burney. (There are occasional references to other writers, such as Jane Austen.) A segment on, for instance, ‘Daughters’ will discuss daughters and ...

A Smile at My Own Temerity

John Barrell: William Hogarth

16 February 2017
William Hogarth: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings 
by Elizabeth Einberg.
Yale, 432 pp., £95, November 2016, 978 0 300 22174 9
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... attributed to those in the ‘middling’ station. They look like the kind of women the novelist Sarah Scott would describe as not perhaps endowed with the musical accomplishments of more elevated ladies, but capable of ‘making their own gowns, stays, caps, &c’, mending their own linen, making ‘pastry, cakes, jellies, sweet-meats’ and excelling ...

Puellilia

Pat Rogers

7 August 1986
Mothers of the Novel: One Hundred Good Women Writers before Jane Austen 
by Dale Spender.
Pandora, 357 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 86358 081 5
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Scribbling Sisters 
by Dale Spender and Lynne Spender.
Camden Press, 188 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 948491 00 0
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A Woman of No Character: An Autobiography of Mrs Manley 
by Fidelis Morgan.
Faber, 176 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13934 5
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Cecilia 
by Fanny Burney.
Virago, 919 pp., £6.95, May 1986, 0 86068 775 9
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Millenium Hall 
by Sarah Scott.
Virago, 207 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86068 780 5
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Marriage 
by Susan Ferrier.
Virago, 513 pp., £4.50, February 1986, 0 86068 765 1
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Belinda 
by Maria Edgeworth.
Pandora, 434 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 074 2
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Self-Control 
by Mary Brunton.
Pandora, 437 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 9780863580840
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The Female Quixote: The Adventures of Arabella 
by Charlotte Lennox.
Pandora, 423 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 080 7
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... Lever, M.G. Lewis, Thomas Lodge, Henry MacKenzie [sic], Thomas Malory, Charles Maturin, Walter Scott, Philip Sidney, Horace Walpole ... twenty, plus the recognised fathers of the novel ... Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, Samuel Richardson, Tobias Smollett and Lawrence [sic] Sterne; generosity indeed to double the number!’ A list so nakedly daft obviates ...
18 April 1996
Scott Inquiry Report 
by Richard Scott.
HMSO, 2386 pp., £45, February 1996, 0 10 262796 7
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... The most remarkable aspect of the Scott Report is its simplicity. The famous length and the differing interpretations to which it has been subjected since its publication suggest a learned and complex treatise full of ambiguity and complex allusion, a sort of political bible with Sir Richard Scott in the role of the Yahweh/ Saviour and Robin Cook and Ian Lang fighting it out to play St Paul ...

Julia Caesar

Marilyn Butler

17 March 1983
The Prince and the Wild Geese 
by Brigid Brophy.
Hamish Hamilton, 62 pp., £5.95, February 1983, 0 241 10894 2
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... and making her into a monster, or William Hazlitt, who in 1822-3 imagined a dialogue with the girl Sarah Walker which is always neurotically monologue. Sarah, daughter of Hazlitt’s London landlord, and heroine of his autobiographical letter-novel the Liber Amoris, acts the part of goddess and slut in Hazlitt’s fevered ...

Elegy for Gurney

Sarah Howe: Robert Edric

4 December 2008
In Zodiac Light 
by Robert Edric.
Doubleday, 368 pp., £16.99, July 2008, 978 0 385 61258 6
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... familiar from Michael Hurd’s biography, The Ordeal of Ivor Gurney (1978). The first is Marion Scott, a friend from Gurney’s Royal College days. She would loom large in any account, as the person who collated Gurney’s scattered manuscripts and intervened with his doctors to help him write. Edric’s plausible if somewhat uninspired take on her is as ...
20 August 1992
A Place of Greater Safety 
by Hilary Mantel.
Viking, 896 pp., £15.99, September 1992, 0 670 84545 0
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... When Sarah Orne Jewett sent her friend Henry James a copy of her latest work, a historical novel entitled The Tory Lover, he told her it would take a very long letter to ‘disembroil the tangle’ of how much he appreciated the gift of this ‘ingenious exercise’ of hers, and how little he was in sympathy with historical novels ...

Mind’s Eye

Sarah Rigby: Beryl Bainbridge

4 June 1998
Master Georgie 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 190 pp., £14.99, April 1998, 0 7156 2831 3
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... about real life. Private and public experiences merged in the process: male heroes like Captain Scott of The Birthday Boys tended to be modelled on her father. Imagination and an awareness of her own mortality allowed her to understand what it must have been like to stand on the deck of the Titanic, waiting for it to sink. Master Georgie has been described ...

New Women

Patricia Beer

17 July 1980
The Odd Women 
by George Gissing.
Virago, 336 pp., £2.50, May 1980, 0 86068 140 8
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The Beth Book 
by Sarah Grand.
Virago, 527 pp., £3.50, January 1980, 0 86068 088 6
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... of women at the end of the 19th century. Gissing’s The Odd Women is one of them. Another is Sarah Grand’s The Beth Book, published in 1897. One would expect the man’s treatment of the subject to differ from the woman’s, but though the two books are as dissimilar as they could be, the difference has little to do with gender. From the point of view ...

A History of Disappointment

Jackson Lears: Obama’s Parents

5 January 2012
The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama’s Father 
by Sally Jacobs.
Public Affairs, 336 pp., £20, July 2011, 978 1 58648 793 5
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A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother 
by Janny Scott.
Riverhead, 384 pp., £18.99, May 2011, 978 1 59448 797 2
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... When Habiba withdrew from him, Onyango turned to other women, including the one who became ‘Mama Sarah’, a surrogate grandmother to the president. He also took to beating Habiba. One night, after he nearly killed her, she fled to her family in Kolonde. Barack and his sister were heartbroken. They walked 100 miles to try to get her back. She refused. The ...
4 July 2013
Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of ‘The Great Gatsby’ 
by Sarah Churchwell.
Virago, 306 pp., £16.99, June 2013, 978 1 84408 766 2
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The Great Gatsby 
directed by Baz Luhrmann.
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... when you’re young. ‘I want to be one of the greatest writers who have ever lived,’ Scott Fitzgerald said to his friend Edmund Wilson when they were just out of college, ‘don’t you?’ Wilson was the son of a lawyer, a bit chilly, a prodigious reader steeped in Plato and Dante. He thought Fitzgerald’s remark foolish – just what you might ...

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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... pioneer life, but she saw no special value in that subject-matter until the Maine regional writer, Sarah Orne Jewett (whom she came to know in Boston while she was researching articles for Mc-Clure’s Magazine) wrote to her, in 1922: ‘Of course, one day you will write about your own country. In the meantime, get all you can. One must know the world so well ...
5 December 1991
Randall Jarrell: A Literary Life 
by William Pritchard.
Farrar, Straus, 335 pp., $25, April 1990, 0 374 24677 7
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Randall Jarrell: Selected Poems 
edited by William Pritchard.
Farrar, Straus, 115 pp., $17.95, April 1990, 0 374 25867 8
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... Prufrock volume can now be seen ‘to stain the whole sea’ of modern verse. His advocacy of Scott Fitzgerald began with, or endured through, the appalling This Side of Paradise to the triumph of Gatsby. Stevens, Cummings, Pound, Crane, Dos Passos: their merits and possibilities of development were noted at an early stage in their careers. For two ...

A Perfect Eel

Elaine Showalter: ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’

21 June 2012
Lady Audley’s Secret 
by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, edited by Lyn Pykett.
Oxford, 448 pp., £9.99, January 2012, 978 0 19 957703 3
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... or sometimes ‘neo-sensationalism’, whose exponents include A.S. Byatt, Sarah Waters and Michel Faber. M.E. Braddon’s secrets would make a sensational novel of their own. Brought up and educated by her mother, she was ‘a keen, precocious and eclectic reader’ of Shakespeare, ...

Secrets are like sex

Neal Ascherson: Whitehall Spookery

2 April 2020
The State of Secrecy: Spies and the Media in Britain 
by Richard Norton-Taylor.
I.B. Tauris, 352 pp., £20, March 2019, 978 1 78831 218 9
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... would call it a roll of honour. From recent years, it would include Clive Ponting, Cathy Massiter, Sarah Tisdall and Katharine Gun. Norton-Taylor seems to have known them all. Most of his best stories, however, came from the numerous civil servants, some of them very senior, who used a discreet journalist to reveal that government was up to something morally ...

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