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98Victorian Review worthwhile person: he was good to his mother, to Agnes, and he was a faithful and loving father. FinaUy, after his union with George EUot, there was never the slightest shadow or hint of infidelity. The author concludes the biography with a comment about Lewes's "particular contribution to the culture of his age" (283). ExceUent scholarly notes and a very useful chronology of both Lewes's and Eliot's professional activities are included in the book. In his biography of EUot, Gordon Haight accounts for her dependent relationships with several men in her Ufe by arguing that she was not "fitted to stand alone." The Lewes biography, whUe covering much of the same territory, is rich in new research, in fresh interpretation, and it most certainly is fit to stand on its own. Rosemary T. VanArsdel DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH, EMÉRITA University of Puget Sound Claudia Nelson. Boys Will Be GirL·: The Feminine Ethic and British Children's Fiction, 1857-1917. New Brunswick and London: Rugters UP, 1991. 215. $27.00 US (cloth). Claudia Nelson's important new book can usefully be located at thejuncture oftwo current critical approaches to mid to later nineteenth-century children's fiction. The first, perhaps best represented by Humphrey Carpenter's Secret Gardens (1985), focuses in a largely celebratory way on what has come to be called the "golden age" of English children's Uterature. This period—beginning with the publication of Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies (1863) and Lewis CarroU's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), and ending with J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan (c. 1904) and Kenneth Gráname's The Wind in the Willows (1908)—is also characterized as an "age of fantasy" (Townsend 94-110), and critics like Carpenter and John Rowe Townsend represent the development of children's literature from purely didactic forms to "works of the imagination clothed in delight" (Demers and Moyles 221). This approach stresses the maturation of a Uterary field and focuses on now canonical writers for children. The second approach, which appUes the methodologies of cultural materialism to writing for children, is weU represented by a number of books published recently by the Manchester University Press (like the 1989 volume edited by Jeffrey Richards, Reviews99 Imperialism and Juvenile Literature), and by the work of cultural historians like Patrick Dunae. As with cultural materialists who examine the ways in which adult Uterary culture is produced and circulated, cultural materiaUst critics of children's Uterature analyze a broad field occupied by minor or popular as weU as canonical writers; in this way, the historical complexities and contradictions of the field can be uncovered. The methodologies of cultural materialism have proven especiaUy useful to the field of children's Uterature, which is marked by a number of peculiarities. It is, for example, a "minority" Uterature which (unlike, say, women's Uterature or african-american Uterature) is not produced by the readership it addresses. A massive apparatus consisting of teachers, bookseUers, Ubrarians, and parents mediates between the child and the book. Children's Uterature is, despite the disclaimers of "golden age" critics, a primarily didactic Uterature addressed to a subject-in-formation, "the child" in whom both the family and the state have such an enormous investment. Because one of its important functions is to call the child into being as a domestic, social, and poUtical subject, children's Uterature can provide a template of an era's discursive preoccupations and strategies, which, in adult Uterature, are usually more diffuse, displaced, or contested. In Boys Will Be GirL·: The Feminine Ethic andBritish Children's Fiction, 1857-1917, Claudia Nelson uncovers the surprising degree to which a discourse of feminine ethics, rooted in evangelical Victorianism but finding its fuUest expression in the mid-Victorian sentimentaUzation of childhood, dominated writings/orboys from the mid-nineteenth century until the 1890s. Boys WillBe GirL· examines the "noveUstic mechanism by which the ideals of womanliness were presented to Victorian boys as the ideals of manliness" and speculates about "some of the reasons that mechanism finaUy stopped working" (5). Nelson focuses on the same Uterary historical period as do the "golden age" critics; however, she broadens their...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 98-102
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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