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ELT 44 : 3 2001 independence—for Greece and Italy, but not for the Boer republics in South Africa. This was one more example of what Shannon describes as Gladstone's penchant "for living completely in what he chose to believe." Shannon, quite correctly, makes more of Gladstone's faults and idiosyncracies than the late Colin Matthew did in his fine two-volume study of Gladstone and the more adoring Roy Jenkins's impressionistic review of his career and therefore portrays this "half-hero" in a less favourable light—but closer to what many of Gladstone's contemporaries disliked about the man. Sadly this insightful biography (so well augmented by a splendid endnote apparatus, a superb "Bibliographical Notes" section, and a most useful index) is flawed by Shannon's dense, convoluted, prose and surfeit of complex sentences. Here I share the verdict of some reviewers of this study who, while acknowledging its general excellence, deplore Shannon's "less sure grip on the music of the English language" and "over-wrought prose" which even rivals "the Grand Old Man in opacity." AU of this renders a great work a hard read. J. O. Baylen ______________ Eastbourne, England May Sinclair: A Biography Suzanne Raitt. May Sinclair: A Modern Victorian. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000. xvi + 307 pp. $29.95 MAY SINCLAIR: A Modern Victorian is the first book-length study to appear on Sinclair in nearly thirty years. Drawing on recently discovered manuscripts, it narrates the story of a writer whose life and work reflect the struggles of the women of her age to achieve social and intellectual independence. The aim of Raitt's biography is to move her "from the bottom to the centre of the page," and in order to do that, it concentrates on her literary output, tracing her evolution as a writer and as a thinker and leaving aside her philosophical work. Suzanne Raitt's references to the Brontë sisters open and close her biography , providing a significant framework for her interpretation of Sinclair 's life and writings. Raitt starts drawing a comparison between Sinclair and Charlotte Brontë, one of Sinclair's favourite authors. The comparisons between the Brontes' and Sinclair's lives and fiction are continued throughout the book. In her study The Three Brontes, Sinclair pictures herself as an impressionable little girl who feels fascinated by Elizabeth Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Brontë. Raitt continues to work 360 BOOK REVIEWS Sinclair's identification with the Brontes to build an image of her as a professional writer who found the way to her own self-reconstruction. Like Sinclair, they "had successfully combined secluded lives and an outspoken passionate response to the cramped conditions of women's existence ." Indeed it is in The Three Brontes that Raitt finds the most important material to support her thesis of the parallels between Sinclair and the Brontë sisters. Sinclair notes that "Charlotte destroyed all records of her sister" Emily, so that she "stands apart in an enduring silence, and guards for ever her secret and her mystery." Sinclair was very secretive about her life and she shares the Brontes' reticence regarding the exposure of her privacy. In a letter to an American journalist—who wrote to her asking for some biographical details for an article he was writing about her—Sinclair exemplifies her objections to disclosing her private life: "you may make use of the few notes I am giving you for the article— I cannot give you anything more personal, because I object strongly to the personal note, and in any case it bores me to write about myself." Sinclair was also very careful about the records she left behind, not only opposed to the publication of private letters but even, in certain cases, to their preservation. The personal papers found in her house after her death had been meticulously sorted. Some of the extant letters have small sections carefully cut out. Raitt points out that it is tempting to speculate that Sinclair was especially concerned to cover her tracks because she had something significant to hide. However, Raitt argues that Sinclair's resistance to biography did not mean that she was unconcerned about her being forgotten: "Her anxiety was that if...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 360-364
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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