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ELT 45 : 4 2002 Now, when even fashionable London ladies need wear hats only to Ascot , still the outer reaches of elegance, the manifold implications of hats for men and women are nearly lost. A chapter largely on The Princess Casamassima offers us a reeducation. Until the mid-twentieth century "hats were a mandatory item of one's outward appearance." Hats, often with gloves, furnished "multiple meanings." Head adornment conveyed ideological as well as class identity. Millicent Henning, in Hyacinth Robinson 's young man's imagination, should have "a red cap of liberty on her head and her white throat bared" to shout revolutionary slogans. But she is a product of the new day, "a mass-educated, mass-production society , a girl on whom every telegraphist, typist and shopgirl can realistically afford to model herself." Robinson's idealism and aesthetic longings outrun that reality. He envies Captain Sholto, who can wear a "pot-hat and shabby jacket" as easily as man-about-town hunting garb, topped stylishly by a bowler. James dismisses Sholto as "only a collection of costumes." Hyacinth, however, who cannot find himself, disdains the middle-class bowler for the "pot" hat. "The bowler represented respectability ," Hughes writes. "But despite the hat's promise of upward mobility , gentility and even power, Hyacinth takes up none of the ... offered personae, and the symbolic power of the bowler is resigned to Sholto." How dress is worn, Professor Hughes contends, can be a drama itself —a physical act, a performance. It becomes also a dream "of what one wants be," a declaration of self-image, or of alternative selves, as well as a cover for hidden mysteries or even unintended revelations of identity. Her reading of costume to illuminate specific Jamesian texts becomes something more. Dress in her readings creates "costume moments" in which characters reveal themselves, even as they hide from us. Stanley Weintraub The Pennsylvania State University Wilde's Profession Josephine M. Guy and Ian Small. Oscar Wilde's Profession: Writing and the Culture Industry in the Late Nineteenth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. viii + 314 pp. $74.00 GUY AND SMALL report that their editorial work for the Oxford edition of Wilde now underway "changed profoundly" their view of Wilde, and this study presents the argument for their new view. It's a valuable book that may be underappreciated for several reasons: it attacks other views of Wilde that are heavy industries these days, such as 460 BOOK REVIEWS the gay Wilde and the Irish Wilde; while the authors say that they regard their perspective on Wilde as one possibility among others, this isn't the impression they leave; and finally, the new Wilde that emerges may seem to diminish the Wilde we used to admire. The authors describe their perspective as "material": "We piece together ," they explain, "the material circumstances of Wilde's literary production—we look at the commissioning, the writing, and the economics of his oeuvre, and the power relationships between Wilde, his publishers , and his theatre managers." Their method is also, though this isn't a label they choose for themselves, historicist in a recognizably nineteenth-century sense (I intend this as a compliment). They attempt to understand an extended temporal process, Wilde's career as a writer, from the point of view of an actor in that process, Wilde himself. They do much more than "piece together" the evidence they list above: they infer from it a sustained historical narrative. The narrative begins with Wilde's decision sometime after he leaves Oxford to support himself as a writer, since he wouldn't inherit money and couldn't become a don or civil servant. This choice becomes a kind of telos that allows the authors to shape all their evidence into one story by considering at every point whether what they're examining furthers or hinders Wilde's intention. They construct this story with great care. That list above gives only a partial sense of the wealth of evidence they examine. They also use Wilde 's correspondence to retrieve his efforts, successful and unsuccessful, to place his works or to find backers for his plays; they scrutinize Wilde's contracts (reproducing one...


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pp. 460-464
Launched on MUSE
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Will Be Archived 2021
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