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Reviews81 Stone suggests that Barrett Browning's treatment of the woman question through sage discourse was Aurora Leigh's most disturbing element She stresses the feminist element in much of the poet's later writings, but believes that Barrett Browning's feminist critics have done her an occasional disservice. In writing about the ballads, for instance, Stone rejects die feminist tendency to group these narratives within a "feminine" and "sentimental" genre, reading them instead within the Romantic ballad revival. She connects Barrett Browning's concern with common human sympathies and the social conscience with the Lyrical Ballads. Stone calls her last chapter "The Handmaid's Tale: The Critical Heritage"; a handmaid's tale it is, because inevitably it is mainly a record of die multiple ploys which, after Barrett Browning's death, were used to domesticate or to deny her achievements and her subversive power. As Stone notes, these efforts continue, despite the energetic recovery process of the last twenty years. This is a vigorous book based on close knowledge and respect for its subject and her critics, while providing an independent, complex, and sceptical reassessment of both. Its many strengths are obvious; its minor weakness (apart from an unhelpful index) is that, with its density of references to primary texts, critical readings, theoretical approaches, and literary traditions, it sometimes seems too cramped, although it omits discussion of Casa Guidi Windows and Poems Before Congress. I rarely finish a critical work wishing it were longer, but here is an exception. JUNE STURROCK Simon Fraser University Michael J. Childs. Labour's Apprentices: Working-Class Lads in Late Victorian and Edwardian England. Montreal: McGill-Queen's UP, 1992. xiii +223. $47.95 US (cloth); $19.95 US (paper). What were the lives of working-class lads really like in late Victorian and Edwardian England? In die past boys have treated as symptoms of Britain's decline, problems in terms of their misbehavior and willfulness in terms of employment, and hooligans who had escaped tiieir parents' control. Michael J. Childs weaves together these accounts, and employs oral history to give the reader a more rounded vision of lads of the period. This is a very slippery group to treat, no longer really boys, but 82Victorian Review youths moving from their final years of schooling to first years of work and independence. These are lads as they emerge from parental authority-, but before they have settled down. They have been examined before in John Gillis's Youth and History (1974), John Springhall's Coming ofAge (1986), Stephen Humphries" Hooligans and Rebels? (1981), and Harry Hendrick's Images ofYouth (1990), but Childs brings together die pieces in lucid elegant prose which seeks to understand the contradictions of diese lads' lives. Childs understands diat to look at any one portion of a lad's life is to do his whole experience an injustice. He begins, sensibly, in the home, where boys were initially firmly embedded in die female sphere and their mother's influence. He recovers the pleasures of family life and reveals how boys fitted into die household economy by helping round the home when needed, or going out to part-time work when able. His use of oral history sources are especially good in this section where he demonstrates diat die generalizations about working-class family life are often overstated, and diat these units were necessarily flexible in order to meet the exigencies of daily life. This section is closely linked to die chapter on school years, which Childs reminds us were seldom recalled fondly by oral history respondents. As he argues, diis is completely understandable in die context of state education at the turn of die century. Although some reformers wished to expand education out from its restrictive goals of rudimentary education, for most children education was a stultifying experience. Their eagerness to escape from the tyrannies ofrote memorization is hardly surprising. And die pleasures to be derived from first entry to die working world were many. As Childs notes, youths were in much demand in die job market, and jobs for school leavers offered independence, a steady wage, and increased regard within die home. From die constrictions of the classroom where diey...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 81-83
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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