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Reviews201 Unfortunately, such coherence cannot be found, due to the ambivalence in David's own attitude: He trusts and admires an open heart, a childlike simplicity and immediacy of emotional response, as a guarantee of moral integrity. But at the same time, his rites of passage out of childhood persuade him of the dangers of an 'undisciplined heart'. This dilemma lies at the core of the novel. (148) Just as David proves unable to fuse Sis childhood qualities, even those explicitly valued in the text, with his adult, self, so Andrews fails to clarify the shape such a fusion might take. He claims that Dickens's fiction "is the very form and expression of the grown-up child — that achieved, composite version of the integration of child-like sensibility and worldly maturity" (174). But he also implies tiiat such integration is never achieved, since the grown-up child in Dickens is really "an adult whose personality the interior child and interior grown-up are endlessly reconstituting, either collaboratively or competitively" (174). What the book does deliver is a richly contextualized and insightful reading of Dickens, particularly of Dombey and Son and David Copperfield — indeed, a reading so pleasing that the lack of a clearly defined ideal child/adult is forgotten. Robert M. DeGraaff St. Lawrence University Rosemarie Bodenheimer. The Real Life ofMary Ann Evans: George Eliot, Her Letters and Fiction. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1994. xviii + 295. In her excellent new book, The RealLife ofMary Ann Evans: George Eliot, Her Letters and Fiction, Rosemarie Bodenheimer avoids falling into reductive biographical criticism while nonetheless reading George Eliot's prolific writings as intimately related to her life experience. She takes the novel approach of focusing on Eliot's letters, often, as Bodenheimer points out, cited as unproblematically "factual" evidence in support of critical arguments about her fiction or her life rather than treated as further constructions of reality. "Letters and novels are both acts of self-representation in writing," Bodenheimer says, "and, as such, may both be taken, to begin with, as fictions" (5). 202Victorian Review After an informative introductory chapter examining letter-writing conventions and some methodological and theoretical problems of letter reading, The Real Life of Mary Ann Evans focuses on particular episodes in Eliot's life, interpreting both her letters and her fictions as intellectual and imaginative reworlrings of these situations in "a phenomenological study of the narrative gestures that most deeply characterize the productions of a writer" (21). This assumption of continuity and relationship among all of Eliot's writing proves immensely fruitful. In Chapter Two, "Constructing the Reader," for instance, Bodenheimer's attentive readings of letters written during Eliot's adolescence reveal the young Mary Ann Evans as a writer already acutely aware of her audience, always anticipating misinterpretation or opposition. Bodenheimer finds in these letters a narrative pattern characteristic, she argues, of all ofEliot's prose: "each sentence rereads and responds to the unstated implications of the one before" (38). Eliot's prose is "generated from the act of rereading," she says; "this always double activity, in which the writer both immerses herself in writing and assumes die position of a suddenly critical reading audience" (46), gives Eliot's writing its peculiar density and accounts for the difficulty so many critics have when writing about it: "George Eliot was, and had always been, her own best resisting reader" (55). In compact but illuminating comments, Bodenheimer shows this strategy of preemptive response at work in the fiction, using examples from Scenes of Clerical Life, Adam Bede, Mill on the Floss, and Middlemarch. The chapters typically progress in this way from biographical incident (rendered tersely but in sufficient detail to inform those not already familiar with Eliot's life of its chief events), through a selection of pertinent letters, to the novels. A quick survey will suggest the book's range and results, although it cannot do justice to Bodenheimer's perceptive and nuanced analyses. Chapter Three, centering on the correspondence surrounding the "Holy War," shows the emergence of what would become one of Eliot's most characteristic scenarios: "the bold setting forth and the chastened return" (84). Chapter Four, about her decision to live with Lewes and her...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 201-204
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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