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REVIEWS Margaret Homans and Adrienne Munich (eds.). Remaking Queen Victoria. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997. xiii + 279. $59.95 US (cloth); $19.95 US (paper). "[T]o say that you love me without loving the medical man in me, is the same sort of thing as to say that you like eating a peach but don't like its flavour." (Lydgate to Rosamond, Middlemarch, Chapter 45). Remaking Queen Victoria is only incidentaUy about Queen Victoria: Alison Booth's remark tiiat "I entertain the various Victorias constructed . . . not the woman whose life occasioned these constructions" (60) could apply not only to Booth's examination of Victorian Anglo-American "role model anthologies" but to the coUection more generally. Essay after essay reveals that artists, writers, and politicians created their own Victoria to serve their own ends or allay their own anxieties. That Victoria played a vital and multi-faceted symboUc role in the era named for her will probably not surprise anyone, but, as the editors say in their introduction, "Queen Victoria has been hidden in plain view for a hundred years" (1) — the very obviousness of this kind of inquiry has, until recently, inhibited it, and this collection, along with the studies by Homans and Munich that preceded it proves its interest and importance. However, despite die variety of specific texts and topics covered in die individual essays, and despite the insights offered into the ideological and representational crises Victoria's literal or textual presence generates, this volume as a whole has a wearying effect Perhaps because the authors are aU generaUy indebted to Homans and Munich's earlier work, the essays mostly make similar points, albeit with varying applications, and cumulatively they seem repetitive, even predictable. Furthermore, the prose, with some exceptions, abounds witii convolutions, abstractions, and frustrating (if trendy) disregard for precision and intelligibility. This last concern more than anything else leads me to my paradoxical conclusion: I liked Remaking Queen Victoria, but I didn't like its flavour. Reviews65 In an age of supposedly natural restrictive and hierarchical gender roles, Victoria was both a queen and a woman. At once die most important and the most obvious feature of her Ufe, this contradiction did not escape Queen Victoria herself, who wrote to Gladstone in 1870, The Queen is a woman herself — & knows what an anomaly her own position is: — but that can be reconciled witii reason & propriety tho' it is a terribly difficult & trying one. (GuedeUa 1:228) Most of die essays in this coUection focus on attempts to make sense of or represent this anomalous figure. "[T]he possibiUty of female sovereignty dramatically disrupts die purportedly seamless account of the sexes found in Blackstone and die children's writers Victoria read," Gail Turley Houston notes as she studies the conduct books and legal codes that together supposedly taught Victoria how to play her two incompatible roles (167). Maria Jerinic argues that anxieties about Victoria's anomalous rule are displaced onto accounts of die Rani of Jhansee: to teU die Rani's story "is also to express ambivalent feelings towards a British queen and subsequent female leaders who perpetuated Victoria's legacy and lost the British their empire" (138). Nicola J. Watson demonstrates that Elizabeth I hindered radier dian helped die reconciliation of Victoria's role with "reason & propriety": at once too womanly and not womanly enough, Elizabeth could be salvaged as a role model only by focusing on her childhood, before she abandoned the domestic values that were the hallmark of Victoria's queenly identity. Discussing portraits of Queen Victoria, Susan P. Casteras observes tiiat, "portrayals of her as a fair flower of girlhood, dignified matron, respectable lady, or dedicated mother would have defused her power and mitigated some of the threat she presumably posed to some viewers/subjects" (192). More positively, Mary Loeffelholz shows Victoria becoming an exemplary figure of power reconciled with femininity, anticipating new forms of historical agency through her "nineteenth-century woman's mode of exercising power tiirough 'influence'" (54), while Sharon Aronofsky Weltman argues that Victoria's literal presence helped Ruskin create his empowering myth of domestic femininity in "Of Queens' Gardens," while his vision offemale power in tum enhanced Victoria's relatively limited...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 64-67
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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