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Browning’s Last Duchess

Virginia Surtees, 9 October 1986

... Entries for September 1869 from the diary of the Hon. Mrs George Howard (Rosalind, youngest daughter of the second Lord Stanley of Alderley) are published here for the first time, with the permission of the Hon. Simon Howard. They cover the visit of the 57-year-old Robert Browning to Naworth Castle, the Cumberland home of the George Howards. Browning had recently published his great poem The Ring and the Book, with its dedication to his dead wife ...

Wives, Queens, Distant Princesses

John Bayley, 23 October 1986

The Bondage of Love: A Life of Mrs Samuel Taylor Coleridge 
by Molly Lefebure.
Gollancz, 287 pp., £15.95, July 1986, 0 575 03871 3
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Jane Welsh Carlyle 
by Virginia Surtees.
Michael Russell, 294 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 85955 134 2
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... Jane had other tastes, preferring the dashing and magnificent physical bravura of Edward Irving. Virginia Surtees has done a delicate and admirable job of investigating her life, and his, in terms of their external relations and dream commitments. Carlyle’s infatuation with Harriet Baring has something touching about it and exemplifies a romantic ...
... where I suffered so.’2 Two years later, in the remarkable diary entries found by Virginia Surtees, Edith Story reports Browning as telling her that he has been in love with her for ‘years’ – a period which must include the writing of this letter, along with other letters in which Browning denied rumour after rumour that he was ...

Burnished and braced

Alethea Hayter, 12 July 1990

A Second Self: The Letters of Harriet Granville 1810-1845 
edited by Virginia Surtees.
Michael Russell, 320 pp., £14.95, April 1990, 0 85955 165 2
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... Relaxation is my bane, Lady Morpeth. All my habits and tastes lean that way and in consequence I am going to wage war upon them all. I dread a languid yellow old age, hot, perfumed and dawdling, and I prefer our Julia’s course, active, smart, burnished and braced.’ This selection of letters to an adored sister concentrates on the ‘active, smart, burnished and braced’ aspect of an ambivalent personality and pattern of life ...

Super-Real

Peter Campbell, 18 March 1982

The Pre-Raphaelites 
by Christopher Wood.
Weidenfeld, 160 pp., £18, October 1981, 0 297 78007 7
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The Diary of Ford Madox Brown 
edited by Virginia Surtees.
Yale, 237 pp., £15, November 1981, 0 300 02743 5
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Eric Gill: Man of Flesh and Spirit 
by Malcolm Yorke.
Constable, 304 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 0 09 463740 7
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... You know a Pre-Raphaelite picture when you see one, but definitions come hard. The paintings are likely to be detailed, but Rossetti’s are soft and generalised; they often take subjects from English poetry or the Bible, but can be pure landscapes, or illustrations of Greek myths, or even about modern politics. The Pre-Raphaelite programme – to replace an exhausted tradition, of painterly conventionalities and trivial subject-matter, with a style which paid close attention to the detail of natural appearances and took themes of an aesthetically and morally elevated sort – is clear enough ...

A Question of Breathing

John Bayley, 4 August 1988

Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 400 pp., £14.95, June 1988, 0 7011 3018 0
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Selected Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 330 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 7011 3311 2
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The Poetical Works of Robert Browning: Vol. III 
edited by Ian Jack and Rowena Fowler.
Oxford, 542 pp., £60, June 1988, 0 19 812762 6
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The Complete Works of Robert Browning: Vol. VIII 
edited by Roma King and Susan Crowl.
Ohio/Baylor University, 379 pp., £47.50, September 1988, 9780821403808
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... equal dependence of her man. When her sister Henrietta finally managed to marry her soldier lover Surtees Cook, in the teeth of their father’s antagonism, Elizabeth Barrett was dubious about the results: but as well as being rich, Surtees proved himself a genial and doting husband and father. In a letter to her sister ...

Self-Made Women

John Sutherland, 11 July 1991

The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present 
edited by Virginia Blain, Isobel Grundy and Patricia Clements.
Batsford, 1231 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 7134 5848 8
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The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 854 pp., $45, March 1991, 0 8142 0518 6
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... written by the three executive editors (Isobel Grundy taking responsibility for the early period, Virginia Blain for the Victorian and Edwardian periods, Patricia Clements for the 20th century). The supporting mass of scholars, one gathers, was used for the more exotic writers and for fact-checking. As a result of its extensively deployed woman power, the ...

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