restricted access Leslie Stephen
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BOOK REVIEWS with psycho-literary and biographical studies, which range from flatfooted Freudian dissections of Woolf s mental breakdowns to those who discount her symptoms and/or focus on the material conditions of Woolf s life within a patriarchal system. Chapter Two surveys Marxist and aesthetics critics' combative views of the Bloomsbury Group's politics: as formalists, were they isolated in the eternal, or could such a cult of sensibility be rooted in the real? Chapter Three shines as Mepham answers Chapter Two's question by reminding us that modernism is subversive and multidimensional in so many ways that "either/or" approaches are ultimately reductionistic and miss the point. Chapter Four is equally distinguished: Mepham's summary of how feminist scholars have been inspired by Woolf to explore both her and their own critical and political projects is admirable, tackling complex issues such as whether women should write in a gender-specific way, and whether Woolf s notion of androgyny is too mystical and inclusive not to betray women writers to patriarchy. Mepham joins the fray here, but doesn't become a referee; instead, he shows us how even unresolvable differences between feminist critics should urge us to further insights. Chapter Five surveys research into Woolf s contribution to twentieth-century philosophy (does she, for instance, seek an ur-narrative that underlies all others?), and so strikes the reader as old-fashioned and diffuse. Chapter Six gives those critics who define themselves as "practical" (because they are unencumbered by any theoretical agenda) a chance to examine details that others have overlooked, while Chapter Seven describes the many published drafts of Woolf s work, how certain proofs were corrected differently, and which novels are available in holograph form—uninteresting for the general reader, but for the beginning student extremely useful. Mepham's book is thus a condensed overview of a critical industry that has become behemoth in the last two decades. It is a surprisingly valuable reference source, though why a slim 135-page book should cost $39.95 is left unanswered. Students who need an introduction to the field will buy it, but the general reader will hesitate. Thomas C. Caramagno _______________ University of Nebraska Leslie Stephen Gillian Fenwick. Leslie Stephen's Life in Letters: A Bibliographical Study. Aldershot, England: Scolar Press; Brookfield, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 1993. xxxi + 436 pp. £50 $79.95 531 ELT 37:4 1994 IN THE EARLY DECADES of the twentieth century, the literary reputation and achievement of Sir Leslie Stephen (1832-1904), the eminent Victorian editor, philosopher, essayist, and biographer, slowly sank into oblivion. Today, if his name is mentioned at all, it is as father of two talented daughters, Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, uncle of poet and Ripper suspect, J. K. Stephen, or as an example of that vanished institution, the man of letters. As the title of this encyclopedic work of resurrection suggests, it is something more than a standard author bibliography, "a list of books.. . a comprehensive checklist," a work of "enumeration and library retrieval ." In her introduction, Fenwick goes on to say that "a bibliography . . . would be incomplete without a recognition of the man in his work. This bibliography is, therefore, more than an elaborate checklist of his books, articles, and miscellaneous writings because its aim is to describe not only the finished product on the bookshelf, but also the processes of conception, composition, publication, and reception...." The book contains a chronology, preface, introduction, nine sections describing Stephen's works, five appendices, a few illustrations, and a general index. Almost anything a reader might wish to know about Stephen's life and work is at least touched on or pointed to somewhere in this volume. The material included ranges from an overview of Stephen's life in the introduction, to descriptions of books, pamphlets, periodical contributions, published letters, the Dictionary of National Biography, and miscellaneous works, continues through tables summarizing Stephen's income, major collections of resource materials, and ends with a checklist of books and articles about Stephen. It is no small matter, either, to say that Leslie Stephen's Life in Letters is handsomely printed and bound, and seems remarkably free of typographical errors and obvious factual mistakes...