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Reviews WaUace, a tendency that has marred most previous treatments of his thought. But a book that makes such a sound effort to get at the coherence of WaUace's thought must surely have a responsibiHty to think through a bit its incoherences, the places where WaUace fails to Hve up to his own "scientific" standards, and may be vulnerable to the critiques of his own contemporaries. Indeed, there is a kind of repetitiveness in the book as a whole as we proceed through WaUace's work and find not elaborated discussion of the problems with WaUace's thought but reassertions of that thought — as WaUace seems to have reasserted his ideas in book after book. One motif that would have profited from further exploration is the relation between the science and the ideology. Fichman provides plenty of extremely valuable evidence here for the contingency of the relation of social, poHtical, and ideological commitments to particular scientific ideas, and he is very good in pointing out how our Victorian coUocations of poHtics, culture, reHgion, and science are very different from our present one, and one can only be grateful for this material. It is surely ungrateful, however, to complain about a book with such enormous scholarly labour behind it, and one that does indeed open up Wallace as never before for serious rethinking. But the book is not a good read. It is too assiduous in restating WaUace's arguments and positions. It has, alas, a plodding quaHty. But it is important to repeat that the book's achievement is a great one and that while we wiU now have to wait for more searching explorations of WaUace's thought and the larger impHcations of his ideas and his career, it is clear that such explorations wiU only be possible because of the superb work Fichman has done here. George Levine Rutgers University Jad Adams. MadderMusic, Stronger Wine: The Ufe of ErnestDowson, Poetand Decadent. (London, New York: Tauris, 2002), pp. ? + 211, $17.95 US. Of aU the writers associated with British decadence, it is Ernest Dowson who has come to best exempHfy the stereotype of the decadent: the artist devoted to an artistic ideal whose ambitions are thwarted by his Victorian Review (2004)97 Reviews (the decadent artist is almost without exception a man) interest in drugs, drink, promiscuity, and debauchery, vices that tend to contribute to the untimely deaths of such artists. And indeed, Dowson partook of aU these vices. He frequendy drank to excess and was often an aggressive drunk, enjoyed hashish and absinthe, took pleasure in prostitutes, and felt strong attachments to Httie girls. This image of Dowson, which has come to be known as the "Dowson legend," was perpetuated by Arthur Symons, WiUiam Buder Yeats, Frank Harris, and others after the poet's early death at the age of 32. The Dowson legend persists because it feeds so weU into our fascination with the "Hve fast, die young" Hfestyle of artists and rock musicians but, as with most legends, it is only pardy true. Whüe the tide of Adams's work - "Madder Music, Stronger Wine" (a quotation from one of Dowson's most weU-known poems, "Cynara") — exploits Dowson's legendary reputation as a drunken profligate, Adams is not interested in perpetuating the Dowson legend. His account of Dowson's Hfe is a balanced and sympathetic representation of a much more complex Dowson than the legend aUows for. Whüe not denying some of the less savoury aspects of Dowson's character, Adams provides a context for understanding them. Adams, for example, places what might be perceived as Dowson's bizarre attachments to Httie girls in the broader context of the late-Victorian cult of the child. Furthermore, in discussing Dowson's amorous relations with girls in their early to mid-teens, Adams reminds us that this practice, though unseemly by today's standards, was not unheard of in the late-Victorian era. It was only in 1886, after aU, that the age of consent for girls was raised from 13 to 16 under the Criminal Law Amendment Act In addition, while Dowson did drink a fair amount, he was certainly not debiHtated by it...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 97-100
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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