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BOOK reviews cretion of critical writings about him, including an essay in ELT in 1996 drawn from the Shaw pages in Dekker's book. Perhaps the book itself, the first since Robertson's death, will initiate a revaluation, as Robertson wrote far too much and far too redundantly for today's readers to digest . Dekker's distillation of his subject's thought may do what Robertson could not accomplish in his own lifetime and after. Stanley Weintraub The Pennsylvania State University Manliness in the 19th Century David Alderson. Mansex Fine: Religion, Manliness and Imperialism in Nineteenth-Century British Culture. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1998. iv + 207 pp. $79.95 ALDERSON'S self-proclaimed "strange title" may be the most provocative element of his book. Without question, he has a knack for suggestive headings. Chapters on "Hysterical Celts," "The Wreck of an English Subject," and "Buggering Gerald" raise a variety of expectations . But once one gets beyond the titles, Mansex Fine can be dull going. Page after page of earnest, opaque prose moves from one topic to the next with little sense of urgency, much less excitement. Perhaps it is misguided to expect pleasure in criticism—a holdover from the benighted past when writers unabashedly amused in order to instruct?—but Alderson's thesis is important and so I wish he wrote better—and gave fewer opportunities to circle agreement errors. Mansex Fine sets out to show that Protestantism was "a crucial determinant in perceptions of manliness in nineteenth-century England" and that "consciousness of this provenance lost its significance to the extent that religious values transmuted into secular common sense." (The quoted phrases illustrate what I mean by opacity. What is meant by the consciousness of a thing losing its significance is not entirely clear. Does it mean that people remained conscious of the provenance of manliness but no longer regarded that consciousness as meaningful or that they simply lost sight of the connection, as religious notions were naturalized into common sense?) In fairness, the lack of excitement in Alderson's writing may follow from his effort to problematize an issue, rather than propose a simple solution to anything. He writes in opposition to recent studies, like Herbert Sussman's Victorian Masculinities, that explain the Victorian ideal of manliness in terms of bourgeois values of self111 ELT 43 : 1 2000 restraint and sublimation. It's not that this approach is wholly wrong, Alderson argues, merely that it is inadequate. For Alderson, "manly ideals were a good deal more overdetermined" than the bourgeois explanation suggests and are strongly linked to a complex notion of Englishness that emerged from the counterrevolutionary , anti-egalitarian tendencies of the late-eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He explores this complex notion by examining bits and pieces of it—Burke's and Carlyle's separate responses to the French Revolution, the moral lessons of Austen's Mansfield Park, Coleridge's notion of a national Church, Charlotte Bronte's treatment of French Catholicism. In the hands of another author, this kind of wideranging investigation, with its promise of unexpected connections, might make for engaging prose. Here, what emerges is the sense of a subject about which it is difficult to generalize—along with a certain puzzlement about the choice of examples. From these beginnings, Alderson's argument winds its way among a variety of figures and issues—from Kingsley's connection of French and Irish revolutionism with Catholicism, to the "elision of self with nation" characteristic of muscular Christianity, to the eroticized manliness of the writings of the Rev. E. E. Bradford. Chapter three, which centers on Newman, offers an important new interpretation of the quarrel between Newman and Kingsley; and chapter four explores the significance of the Celt-Teuton dichotomy that proved useful to English notions of a national character. Readers of ELT may be particularly interested in the book's final chapters, which focus on Hopkins and Wilde; however, Alderson's treatment of Hopkins follows from his treatment of Newman and what he has to say about the Irish has significant bearing on his account of Wilde—as well as on his account of Hopkins's attitude toward Ireland. And, since the entanglement...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 111-114
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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