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Book Reviews Their contributions to the study of Enghsh literature in transition have gone significantly beyond their written record, as significant as their written record has been. Ray Stevens Western Maryland College The English Novel: 1875-1914 Peter Keating. The Haunted Study: A Social History of the English Novel 1875-1914. London: Seeker & Warburg, 1989. ix + 533 pp. £30.00 THEHAUNTED STUDY has been widely welcomed on this side of the Atlantic—as it deserves to be—and it is good to see that the welcome has come initiaUy from the newspapers rather than the more learned journals . It was cheering to see one reviewer writing that one effect was to make him rush out to a bookshop and buy some of the books—even more cheering that his taste and Keating's was good enough to make one of the books that minor masterpiece, Mark Rutherford's Clara Hopgood. But the book is far more than a reading list—valuable though that role is with Keating's insistence on the sheer range of fiction that was available, and his implied süent criticism that too many of us may have faUed to cast our critical net far enough. Despite the apparently studied modesty and neutrahty of the subtitle, Keating is not without his axes to grind—though the grinding is profoundly unostentatious. But one of the book's many merits is the way Keating shows the sheer complexity of the history of the period, and some of the significant detaU he picks out is amusing as weU as relevant. Given Gissing's hostility to Tit-Bits (minimaUy disguised as Chit-Chat in New Grub Street), given the way in which Modernist authors are so often presented (or present themselves), it comes as a salutary shock to be told that Conrad, Woolf and Joyce aU submitted work to Tit-Bits (though the traditional celebrators of Modernism wiU no doubt be relieved to hear that they were all re-jected). Given one stUl popular view of Queen Victoria, it is equaUy salutary to be told that in 1897 as part of the Jubilee celebrations Queen Victoria and the Archbishop of Canterbury attended a performance of Ibsen's Ghosts—even though the play was still not technically licensed. Was Queen Victoria amused? How very different from the home life of our own dear Queen. 235 ELT: VOLUME 34:2, 1991 There may be a subtle figure in Keating's carpet, but there is also a sheer profusion of facts—though that emphasis, of course, contains its own quiet polemic, a polemic against one kind of literary criticism: any kind of formalism which sees the hterary work as free of its history (and sees the critic as free of his or her history). I am not entirely sure that at this late date this repudiation of a-historical criticism is necessary, and, in so far as it is necessary, there is a danger (which I don't think Keating has entirely avoided) of throwing the critical baby out with the a-historical bath-water. But Keating can fairly enough retort that detailed analysis and evaluation are not his principal concern, that what he is offering is an explicatory historical context out of which the texts emerged. And here we certainly do get a lot. To pick out a few of the topics he discusses, we have the sinking of the three-decker, the problematic development of the royalty system, the strange emergence of literary agents, the attempt of authors to "unionize" with the Society of Authors, the importance of the free library system, and much, much more. Keating is particularly good about money, not just the money that authors might expect but money potential buyers might have had avaUable . AU the information is provided with exemplary detaü and clarity. But—and, of course, there has to be a "but"—valuable, indeed, essential, as all this is, I find certain critical questions won't go away. One of Keating's theses seems to me to be not so much an historical explanation of the causes of Enghsh Modernism, as one critic has suggested, but at least as much an historical explanation of the high...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 235-237
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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