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482 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 to write them down in the latter part of his life. The interrelationship between those and the autobiography proved to be one of s~ch intricacy that the decision was taken to weave the various bits together and produce a fully comprehensive narrative. The scrupulous use of inverted commas enables the reader to identify the many passages taken from the journals and interpolated into the autobiography text. The document that has emerged from this complicated exercise in conflation, a kind of palimpsest, provides us with a richly detailed view of life in the upper layers of European society, as lived by a young man of inquiring mind and excellent connections, mainly in the years between Waterloo and the Congress of Vienna. After a childhood spent partly in what must have been a stimulatingly exotic Russia, Bentham was brought up in a second alien culture, the family having settled in the south of France. There his roots lay until he came permanently to Englan.d in his mid-twenties to embark on what was to prove but a short-lived professional career as a barrister (to which he found himself temperamentally unsuited ). Roughly half of the autobiography covers that first part of his life. Polished, bright, and a good linguist, Bentham clearly moved with ease in both high society and international learned circles. In addition to an impressively high proportion of the continent's then leading scientific figures, statesmen, diplomats, and the daughters of the nobility regularly feature in his pages. There are penetrating descriptions of numerous places and institutions in many parts of Europe as well as the alert reporting of someone who enjoyed travelling, was capable of capturing in well-chosen words the scenery he passed through, and had a sufficiently wide experience of other countries to be able to make enlightening comparisons. Even when he attends the opera, he writes down afterwards his .carefully considered verdicts on the performances and provides pen-portraits of the divas. And all the time in the background there is Uncle Jeremy and many a titbit from his tea-table talk, which will surely be as gold for all students of that man and the social setting in which he produced his monumental output.ยท Unfortunately, the high price of the book is likely to exclude it from private shelves. Historians of many stripes, however, should make a point of borrowing it from a library, for apart from the many specialist nuggets they can expect to encounter they will also find it enjoyable no less than instructive general reading. (DAVID ALLEN) John Thurston. The Work ofWords: The Writing of Susmma Stricklrmd Moodie MeGill-Queen's University Press 1996. xii, 2.64. $55.00 While scholarship in the last quarter-century has revealed much ofSusanna Moodie's life, surprisingly little attention has been paid to her literary HUMANITIES 483 . output beyond, of course, Roughing It in the Bush. Given her prominence in Canadian literature, despite the uneven quality of her artistry, a 'comprehensive examination of the whole of Moodie's writing' continues to be long overdue. John Thurston's The Work of Words, which promises just such a study, is in fact more memorable for its contribution to our knowledge of the context. This is due to Thurston's use of historicist and feminist critical theory to illuminate Moodie's texts. Indeed, such an approach offers considerable insight into their tensions and instability by examining their manifestations of nineteenth-century views of class, gender, and race. Thurston's book follows an ambitious project 'not to displace Susanna Moodie from the canon but to replace one Moodie with another. The Moodie this study constructs is more in accord with the drift of canonical values away from topocentrism and nationalism and towards concern with issues ofclass and gender.' Dividing her life and work into two sections (before and after 1832), Thurston offers a biographical and historical introduction to each period, followed by chapters discussing most ofMoodie's published works in relation to that background. The chapters are extensively and impressively endnoted, and the volume includes a comprehensive bibliography of primary and secondary materials. In his introduction Thurston asserts: 'Moodie may have tried...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 482-484
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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