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Reviews75 Perhaps he would not wish them to be. But, to the average observer what will have been accomplished in the span of twenty years between Waterloo I in 1976 and the end of the English project in 1995, seems simply incredible. Efforts to tame and control the vast mass of Victorian periodical literature have produced distinguished reference works: The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals, 1824-1900, ed. Walter E. Houghton and Esther Rhoads Houghton, 1966-1989; British Literary Magazines: the Victorian and Edwardian Age, ed. Alvin Sullivan, 1984; and Union List of Victorian Seriah, ed. Fulton, Richard D. and CM. Colee, 1985. John North and his Waterloo Dictionary may take their places with pride among this illustrious company, and know that they, too, have changed forever the course of British Victorian scholarship. ROSEMARY T. VANARSDEL Emérita, University ofPuget Sound Michael Timko, Fred Kaplan & Edward Guiliano, eds. Dickens Studies Annual, Vol. 18. New York: AMS Press, 1989. xiv + 462. $45.00 US. Since 1980 the Dickens Studies Annual has opened its doors to nonDickensian topics and has added the subtitle Essays in Victorian Fiction, but it is still Dickens's stern features who look out from the dust-jacket (what, one wonders, did he look like when he smiled or laughed?), Dickens's flamboyant signature that adorns the binding, and Dickens who, quite characteristically, appropriates and dominates the bulk of this substantial volume. To begin, like Mr Gradgrind, with a few Facts: it contains eighteen items, of which thirteen are on Dickens, one on Hawthorne, and two each on Thackeray and the Brontes; ten of the contributors are women, and all but two teach in American universities. Dickens studies have, it seems, come a long way since major contributions were made by writers standing firmly outside the Academy (Gissing, Chesterton, Orwell, Lindsay, and others), and a volume such as this is essentially an expression of the institutionalization of our greatest novelist. Granted that to a large extent editors have to make the best of what 76Victorian Review swims into their net, it seems a pity that international interest in Dickens, inside and outside the English-speaking world, is not more fully represented. The Dickens essays divide into those on individual novels (two each on Hard Times, Dombey and Son, Little Dorrit; one each on The Old Curiosity Shop and OurMutual Friend) and those on general themes. At first glance some of the latter bear a disconcerting resemblance to those amiable essays by old-fashioned Dickensians on such subjects as Dickens and dogs or Dickens and pipe-smoking: here we have William Palmer on "Dickens and Shipwreck," Robert Bledsoe on "Dickens and Opera," and to open the collection John O. Jordan writes on Dickens and handkerchiefs. As it turns out, the sense of a half-century slippage is soon dispelled: Jordan begins by telling us that "Pocket-handkerchiefs abound in Oliver Twist" but proceeds to a discussion of the "textualization" of handkerchiefs and the argument (not wholly compelling to this reader) that lower-class characters who tied handkerchiefs round their necks were expressing an unconscious fear of hanging that itself represented "the displacement upward of a repressed castration complex." The real strength of such explorations, however, is that they make the reader sensitive to details of the text that may on previous re-readings have been overlooked or marginalized, and one finished Jordan's essay with the feeling that the next reading of Oliver Twist, or even the next glance at Cruikshank's illustrations, will be modified by it. The same is true of Palmer's lively analysis of Dickens's use of shipwreck as incident and metaphor. He begins with a startling sketch of the frequency of shipwreck in the nineteenth century (1153 vessels lost round the coast of Britain in 1856 alone), arguing plausibly that it must have been a fact of life that touched the experience, more or less closely, of nearly everyone; then shows how the loss of the Son and Heir in Dombey and Son and the great shipwreck scene in Chapter 55 of David Copperfield relate to contemporary fact. The other Dickensian essays, too numerous to discuss here in detail, include John P. Frazee...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 75-77
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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