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Reviews everybody down with his dreadful voice, and always places his person in such disagreeable proximitywith yours and puffs and blows and spits in your face," Mary wrote in her diary, agreeing with the American who had said diat '"Browning has dinnered himself away'" (116). A far more positive representation of Browning at dinner emerges in the preceding excerpt from Hallam Tennyson'sAlfredLordTennyson: aMemoirByHis Son, describing the two poets engaged "in the best talk I have ever heard, so full of repartee, quip, epigram, anecdote, depth and wisdom," but "quite impossible to reproduce," owing "to their very brilliancy." In creating juxtapositions like this one, between Hallam Tennyson's polished, public reminiscences and Mary Gladstone's personal impressions, Garrett's collection is particularly effective. Marjorie Stone Dalhousie University Martha Vicinus, Intimate Friends: Women Who Loved Women, 1778-1928. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 314 pp. Martha Vicinus's Intimate Friendsis the rare scholarly work that will stand for decades as a landmark in lesbian history. After Intimate Friends, historians of lesbian culture will have no need to ask the question that has confounded us since feminism and the lesbian and gay rights movement first opened up the field for historical investigation: did they or didn't they? And do they count as lesbian if they didn't? For the past twenty years, or since 1981 when Lillian Faderman set the field's first landmark with Surpassing the Love of Men, historians have tied themselves in definitional knots struggling to unearth evidence of a sexual identity lesbian' that others argue did not exist before twentieth-century sexology invented it. Silence and invisibility have been the operative categories in the first stage of lesbian history. The history of patriarchy has silenced through trivialization what two women do together in bed and women's economic dependence on sexual relations with men has erased from public viewing the factual evidence deemed necessary to designate women loving women as lesbian. We have never questioned whether the eccentric mid-eighteenth-century 'Ladies of Llangollen' loved each other passionately, but we have pondered whether they belong in Victorian Review (2004)109 Reviews lesbian history if they did not have sex and if they disowned a Sapphic community. Vicinus's finelywoven and deeply researched history turns the assumption of silence and invisibility upside down and catapults lesbian history into another terrain where questions of sexual evidence are rendered obsolete and replaced by an attention to the complex nuances and'selffashioning1 of women's intimate relations with other women. Vicinus accomplishes this radical task by refusing to accept that lesbians were passive victims of patriarchal süencing; she inverts the premiss and argues that "we have too long assumed that women in the past could not name their erotic desires, rather than recognizing their refusal to name them" (xix). Given this radical reviáoning, her historical investigation focuses not on finding evidence of sexual practice (indeed, she acknowledges the "unknowable core that is intrinsic to any history of sexuality," straight or otherwise [xxii)]) but on how women imagined their erotic attachments to other women: "the women I discuss here were erotically attracted to women, whatever their sexual practices" (229). Through the sheer force of accumulative examples and original archival research, Vicinus proves her point and then some. Placed togetherin between the covers of this book, the relations between the women she discusses are unquestionably erotic and intimate. A selected list of some of these women will speak louder than my assertions: she begins with Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Buder (collectively, 'the Ladies of LIaTIgOUCn1) who lived together in rural seclusion in late eighteenth-century Wales. She moves through the nineteenth-century highlighting such figures as: the eccentric landowner Anne Lister whose diary contains the most explicit descriptions of female same-sex sex that exist prior to the twentieth century, the community of women artists in Rome who lived independentiy from men and passionately, sometimes destructively, loved each other (most centrally, the actress, Chadotte Cushman and the sculptor, Harriet Hosmer); the Scots teachers Marianne Woods andJane Pirie whose boarding school was shut down because of accusations of sapphism; Helen Codrington and Emily Faithful whose tempestuous relationship took a turn for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 109-113
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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