British Literature 1880–1900
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: ELT Press
Title Page, Copyright
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When I published Victoria: An Intimate Biography in 1987, the centenary year of her Golden Jubilee on the throne, most English reviewers were surprised to discover that the queen was not a Victorian. In reaction to the laxity of upper-class Regency England, remembered now for its prudery and its Sabbatarianism, the evangelical...
Exasperated Admiration: Bernard Shaw on Queen Victoria
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In 1882, Cetewayo, King of the Zulus, was captured by the British. Brought to London to be impressed by English might at its peak before being restored to his diminished throne, he appeared tall and broad, and considered himself, at fifty-two, an “old man.” That August he had an audience with Queen Victoria, arriving...
His Brother’s Keeper: William Michael and Dante Gabriel Rossetti: 1828–1919
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At nineteen, bored by the rigidity of his art studies and absent from classes as usual, Dante Gabriel Rossetti encountered a curious notebook at his free university, te British Museum, during a time when he should have been copying plaster casts in the Royal Academy’s Sculpture Room. In April...
Disraeli’s Endymion and the Unfinished Falconet
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Out of office and ailing in 1880, Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, left 10 Downing Street for his country home, Hughenden, and used his unwelcome leisure to complete a novel. He had last published Lothair in 1870, when he...
Disraeli and Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray
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Despite his increasingly self-destructive lifestyle, Oscar Wilde not only read voraciously but remembered much of it. His notorious The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) has been persuasively linked to that omnivorous reading, but in...
Collecting the Quarrels: Whistler and The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
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For Jimmy Whistler the only thing more gratifying than coining a mot was publishing it. When Walter Sickert fathered one, and wanted to ensure its publication, he attributed it to Whistler, which gained it the front page of the Westminster Gazette directly under the leading article. “Very nice of you, very proper, to invent...
Oscar Wilde and The Green Carnation: Narcissus Exposed
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No one had taken seriously the suggestion that Wilde had written the book. It satirized him just within the laws of libel and was hardly the kind of publicity he needed at the time; but swelled by the megalomania of success Wilde arrogantly called attention to it himself. Privately...
The Critic in Spite of Himself: Oscar Wilde
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When Wilde played Oscar in the columns of a dozen journals in the eighties and nineties, as well as in his essays and stories and poems and plays, he was also being an instinctual critic. Nevertheless, that aspect of his work is usually dismissed. “Scholars and readers are generally agreed,” such commentary...
Beardsley Before The Yellow Book
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For one’s reputation, at least, it’s often a good thing to die young. It’s also helpful to the biographer, although there have been some very long biographies of Keats, whose life span paralleled Beardsley’s twenty-six years. Most young geniuses begin setting...
Another Look at The Yellow Book
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In The Yellow Book, literature stands on the threshold of the twentieth century. Concealed beneath such familiar tags as “The Aesthetic Decade,” “The Beardsley Period,” “The Yellow Nineties” and others is the transitional nature of the 1890s; and the prevalence of yellow in many of the descriptions suggests...
Beardsley and The Savoy
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Without Aubrey Beardsley The Savoy would not have happened. Yet The Savoy itself was an unexpected piece of good fortune for the doomed young artist, provided through the offices of such improbable genies as a dedicated...
Shaw’s Lady Cicely and the Remarkable Mary Kingsley
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When Bernard Shaw in 1912 tried to account for the inability of his Captain Brassbound’s Conversion (1899) to achieve a popular success, he took the strange position that its subject matter was too familiar to the theatergoing public. As an appendix to the first printing of the play he had attached notes...
A.D. 3,000. The True Report of a County Council Candidate’s Dream, The People He Saw, What They Thought of Him, and He of Them
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Unlike his contemporary, H. G. Wells, Bernard Shaw rarely took flights into prophecy. His most significant efforts in that genre would come much later, in the fantasies and prophecies of Back to Methuselah (1921), The Apple Cart (1929), The Simpleton of the Unexpected Isles (1934), and Farfetched Fables (1948). In some...
Reclaiming Late-Victorian Popular Fiction
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Only Leo Tolstoy’s moral earnestness and limited acquaintance with late-Victorian fiction accounted for his lofty appraisal that Mrs. Humphry Ward was the greatest novelist writing in English in his time. In the 1880s and 1890s, publishing flourished in an increasingly (if marginally) literate society. Memorable...
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Publication Year: 2011