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153 Reviews undermining, highly cultivated infidelity” (letter 1756; page 209), suggests stronger emotions. Over her adult life, the fervent, idealistic religion that she espoused in youth dwindled away around Rossetti, until she might well have feared the apocalypse; maybe this prompted The Face of the Deep. Family emotions were no less distressing, though rarely alluded to. Lucy’s chronic illness was accompanied by intemperate unkindness amounting to estrangement from William. She moved children and husband unilaterally to a house held in her name and in 1893 made a will excludingWilliam from all share in her estate, a source of acute embarrassment on her death the following year. Christina’s frequent letters toWilliam do not, of course, hint at these troubles, but she writes always in terms of affectionate support, as if she knew. She had her own difficulties with her sister-in-law, and her equally frequent letters to Lucy have an uncomfortably submissive, flattering tone that seems placatory; one wonders if she feared Lucy might cut off contact between her children and their aunt. Christina Rossetti has now been well served by scholarly editions of her poetry and correspondence. I hope companion volumes of her prose are being planned, together with studies of her critical reception over the past 150 years, to complete her restitution into the canon. Ja n M a rsh National Portrait Gallery,London • Victorian Interpretation by Suzy Anger; pp. xii + 207. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005. $39.95 cloth. That interpretation was a topic of compelling interest toVictorian writers is an idea long familiar to students of Victorian literature and culture. In her transformative book, however, Suzy Anger explores this subject with an unprecedented depth and range of scholarship, clarity of perspective, and concision of argument. In the aftermath of this splendid study, it will be impossible to read theVictorians in the same way, for (to adopt George Eliot’s remark in chapter 54 of Adam Bede) we “will no longer be the same interpreters.” Anger aims to demonstrate both how completely hermeneutics pervaded every aspect of Victorian culture and how the secular hermeneutic tradition that emerged in the era shaped modern literary criticism and theory.To these ends she constructs a narrative about the transition from scriptural to secular hermeneutics in Britain, a process that culminated in the development of the discipline of literary criticism. Her central chapters link Carlyle, Eliot, and Wilde, whose own narratives, Anger argues, “test the theoretical statements victorian review • Volume 33 Number 1 154 that they . . . made in essays and reviews” (3). Interwoven with these chapters are three“intertexts”—brief excursus exploring the interpretive concerns of selected segments ofVictorian intellectual culture.Throughout,Anger argues that the topics informing current critical debates derive from questions that vexedVictorian interpretive discourses. Chapter 1 analyzes the concerns and conflicts ofVictorian biblical hermeneutics .Anger identifies two broad positions on the locus of textual meaning: the idea that meaning is discovered in the past—that is, in authorial intention or in a recoverable original meaning of the text—and the opposed idea that meaning changes in history and is therefore always to be found in the present.Anger explores the first perspective primarily in the work of Benjamin Jowett, who in 1860 famously declared (in Essays and Reviews) that we should interpret the Bible “like any other book”—by which he meant that biblical narrative must be understood through a reconstruction of the historical, political , and philosophical contexts in which it was written.This intentionalism was countered by Newman’s “presentism”—his view that meaning changes over time and must be understood, as Anger puts it, in the “context of an interpretive community and in the light of tradition” (33). Interestingly the impulses behind these hermeneutic stances were the antitheses of what we might assume today: Jowett’s intentionalism arose not from a desire to limit the possible interpretations of scripture, but was rather a“defense against the text’s political use”; he was concerned about the Church’s“authoritative control of meaning” (27). Newman’s view, on the other hand, was in the service of establishing the authority of Catholic doctrine and scriptural interpretations legitimated by the Catholic Church. Chapter 2 traces Carlyle’s...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 153-156
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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