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Reviews105 engagement with virtually everyone who has written about Tennyson during the last forty years, he demonstrates how our criticism of Tennyson is always implicated in other people's comments. Tennyson's Characters begins with an account of an actual critical seminar and ends with a meditation on Merlin as the archetypal critic. Tennyson, who had his own anxious fascination with critics, knew that all his commentators long to be Merlins: And none can read the text, not even I; And none can read the comment but myself; And in the comment did I find the charm. ("Merlin and Vivien" 679-81) Peter Hinchcliffe St Jerome's College University of Waterloo Debra N. Mancoff. The Arthurian Revival in Victorian Art. New York: Garland, 1990. xxü + 358 + Plates. $75.00 US (cloth). The author wrote a dissertation on this subject several years ago, but this new study is a superior, more sophisticated and authoritative version of that material in terms of writing, analytical insight, and research. Organized into eight chapters and accompanied by 101 black and white and eight color plates, this perceptive book raises many important issues in the Introduction which reflect recent revisionist and iconological approaches as well as Mancoff1 s own critical intelUgence in marshalling several interdisciplinary areas of inquiry. One of her major points consistently threading throughout the text concerns the subliminal appeal to the Victorian period of King Arthur, whom she convincingly describes as a modern counterpoint to both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and, simultaneously, as an emerging metaphor of national identity. Advising readers of Arthur ' s mythopoetic origins, Mancoff in this opening section provides a very useful overview of the warrior king and the connotations of virtue and honour which he embodied in oral and written traditions from the twelfth to the nineteenth centuries. 106Victorian Review Chapter One continues to untangle various sources and permutations of the Arthurian Legend, suggesting how both escapist and archaeological attitudes differed in their interpretations and focus. The related tenets of the Gothic Revival influenced an entire earlier generation of artists and architects, thus setting the stage for Victorian fantasies about the Middle Ages. Indeed, the Victorians generally envisioned medievalism as a better, more moral and ideal period of existence. These preconceptions served to strengthen, as Chapter Two affirms, what Mancoff calls "ethical medievalism and revivalist chivalry," and these forces further entrenched the Arthurian legend as "a paradigm of action, time-honoured and indisputably British" (28). For the metaphor truly to succeed, however, much less for it to become internalized as an integral part of the national identity, the Victorians had to see themselves in the legend, and the author suggests that this is precisely what happened. Accordingly, the "Arthurian metaphor was empowered as a moral exemplar and a transforming mirror, inspiring the modern Englishman to strive for the standards of his mythic fathers, while seeing himself reflected in their glorified image" (29). In terms of revivalist chivalry, the seeds of this had been sown—for example, in the earlier nineteenth-century writings of George Ellis and in the historical novels of Sir Walter Scott and Kenhelm H. Digby. These resulted in a literary cult of the knight which, as an encoded emblem of modern behaviour and ideals, "held a flattering mirror to the image of the upper-class male, who embraced its reflection with enthusiasm" (48). The romanticizing of the knight as an appealing modern hero was also highly visible in popular culture in such events as tournaments and processions, and even the High Church Movement was able to incorporate the high-born, morally and socially responsible male into its own ethical creeds. Equally strong is the third section on "Politics, Painting, and the New Palace at Westminster," which reflects considerable original research and synthesis, especially on the proposed evolution of the interior palace decorations. In addition, Mancoff briefly outlines a survey of national art sponsorship, adding to the recent (long over-due) spurt of scholarship on art patronage and here remarkably free of theoretical jargon. She also provides readers with important background on the rise and role ofhistory painting in Britain, at the same time indicating the inherent strengths and weaknesses of this lofty gerne of art...


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pp. 105-108
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