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ELT 44 : 2 2001 In "Dickensian Decadents," Vincent Newey at least quotes from Symons's "The Decadent Movement in Literature" (especially the passage alluding to "a spiritual and moral perversity") to establish the basis of his interpretation of several of Dickens's "decadent" characters. His first discussion centers on Hard Times, particularly James Harthouse, whose "guiding principle," writes Newey, "lies in having none, his sole creed in taking things as they come." He is, Newey argues, in the "line of descent from Milton's Satan through the Lovelace of Richardson's Clarissa." The "line of descent" is misleading since Harthouse, unlike Satan, is a mere political opportunist. Certainly, Satan does not possess "shallow egotism," as Newey writes of Harthouse, who exits from Coketown , "Bored out of the place"; rather, the fallen angel is consumed by destructive urges on a vast metaphysical scale. Perhaps the most lucid essay in the volume is Julian North's "Defining Decadence in Nineteenth-century French and British Criticism," which focuses on Désiré Nisard's Etudes de moeurs et de critique sur les poètes latins de la décadence (1834), "the first major anatomization of a decadent aesthetic," not often discussed but essential as an early source of literary Decadence. Once, writes North, "the 'spectre' of decadence was made flesh in the work of Baudelaire, Gautier, Huysmans, Symons, Wilde and others, anxieties remained, so much so that having trumpeted a decadent avant-garde, both Baudelaire and Symons decisively rejected the term"—that is, they regarded Decadence, as Symons remarks in his major work, The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1900), as "half a mock interlude [which] diverted the attention of the critics while something more serious was in preparation." Modern scholars of the Symbolist Movement, however, regard such a separation of late nineteenth-century Decadence from Symbolism as questionable. Readers will find Romancing Decay a collection of uneven, rather puzzling performances, often lacking grace and lucidity in the writing —all of this for the extraordinary price of $78.95. Karl Beckson ______________ Brooklyn College, CUNY Intellectual Contexts Josephine M. Guy. The Victorian Age: An Anthology of Sources and Documents . New York: Routledge, 1998. 632 pp. US $150 Canadian $225 THE VICTORIAN AGE is an intelligently chosen, responsibly edited and well-produced anthology of selections from Victorian (and immedi222 BOOK REVIEWS ately pre-Victorian) books and essays which is intended to provide students of literature and cultural history with primary sources on four areas of intellectual debate: (1) the nature of society (including questions of ethics, economics and politics), (2) controversies involving science and religion, (3) theories about art and literature, and (4) questions of sex and gender. Unlike some other recent collections made up of short excerpts, most of the selections are substantial portions of essays or complete sections from books. There are useful topical introductions to the four sections and brief headnotes for each selection. Editorial endnotes succinctly explain the allusions to persons, public events, contemporary legislation, and so forth. I would certainly urge graduate students to buy this book—if only it were affordable. But at a price of $150,1 am somewhat baffled about where and how the book might be used. The anthology contains thirty-seven selections. (Thirty-six, incidentally , are by men; Sarah Stickney Ellis, represented by a passage from The Women of England, is the only woman writer included.) With four or five exceptions, the essays would be available in some form in almost any academic library. Appropriately so: since the editor's purpose is to frame important intellectual debates, the selections are drawn from significant works by eminent thinkers such as Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Robert Owen, Herbert Spencer, Thomas Carlyle, Matthew Arnold, Charles Lyell, Charles Darwin, Benjamin Jowett, John Ruskin, Walter Pater, John Addington Symonds, and so forth. Indeed, a graduate student with $150 to spend could, by my calculations, acquire cheap paperback editions of almost half of the books excerpted (including, for example , On Liberty, Principles of Geology, On the Origin of Species, The Stones of Venice, and Studies in the History of the Renaissance) and still have some change left over. The anthology's price also clearly precludes any easily imagined classroom use. One...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 222-225
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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