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162 LETTERS IN CANADA 1991 terized by a Freudian obsession with Oedipal hostilities. Yet Gaetano, Polidori's father, seems to have been a fairly normal father for the age: preoccupied with money, domineering - but also genuinely concerned with his son's education, career, and contacts. A literary man himself, Gaetano had seen a good deal; he supported a family in what was for him a foreign land (like Collins's Pesca, he taught Italian). His judgment does not seem to have been abnormally crazy for a father. If there is a flaw to this study, it is its Freudian determinism; many of the men Polidori knew are automatically surrogate fathers needing to be combatted (including Byron, seven years his elder). The 'family romance,' a misnomer if ever there was one, is everywhere - thus critic Robert Gleckner is chided because he 'seems to have something against incest'! Poor Polidori is beautifully produced and illustrated. It is a genuine work of scholarship, distilling much archival labour - almost a third of the book is apparatus. Above all, it is a good read, and in an age that idolizes Derrida and Lacan, that is saying something. Anybody interested in the Byron-Shelley complex will enjoy this study, though not for the meagre light it throws on them, especially the Shelleys (Mary comes across as unreliable, Percy as hysterical and unreliable). Poor Polidori also usefully summarizes and discusses Polidori's other work, of which The Fall of the Angels and Ernestus Berchtold sound the most promising. An appendix with selections would have been welcome (the essay on the 'Positive Source of Pleasure' has a certain appeal). But fortunately, so that readers can judge for themselves, Macdonald and Kathleen Scherf of UNB have prepared an edition of Polidori's prose; one hopes it will appear as soon as possible. (MERVYN NICHOLSON) Michael R. Booth. Theatre in the Victorian Age Cambridge University Press. xx, 218 This is, in many ways, a very Victorian book. It is as full of facts as Mr Gradgrind could wish - Hard Times, as it happens, is one of the very few novels of the period that is mentioned - but it must be said at once that the effect is not that of an oppressive bully, but of a scholar deeply engaged with his subject. Michael Booth has been writing about the Victorian theatre for thirty years, and his research has contributed enormously to our knowledge of it. He has edited and prefaced its popular plays, assembled bibliographies, collected descriptions of theatrical trades, and reconstructed its more spectacular productions. This consolidation of his knowledge is like a plum pudding, juicy items everywhere. We learn about the costs of management, the prices of admission, the wages of actors, the lengths of runs, payments to authors, seating capacities, techniques of scene painting, methods of lighting, the HUMANITIES 163 various forms of drama, costumes, and makeup - everything, in short, that you would want to know if your aim was to reconstruct the Victorian theatre as accurately as possible. There are, however, some difficulties. The reign of her late majesty does not exactly provide as neat a bracket for the study of the English theatre as Booth pretends. Nothing theatrical makes 1837 or 1901 a magical date. Indeed, the chronology at the beginning of the book has nothing at all in its theatrical column for 1901. Better, say, 1843, the year of the Theatre Regulation Act and Macready's departure from Drury Lane, to 1905, when Henry Irving was on his last legs, the Barker-Vedrenne management was presenting the plays of Bernard Shaw to an eager new public at the Royal Court Theatre, and, as Booth himself notes, 'the popularity of the new cinema began to drain away audiences from theatres in working-class districts.' To be sure, Booth frequently reaches back before 1837, to the theatre of Edmund Kean and even as far back as the eighteenth century, but he is less inclined to project himself forward into the twentieth century, even though it might be argued that the English theatre remained stuck in its past and resisted modernism for longer than most, occasional experiments notwithstanding. It is clear that Booth sees little of value...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 162-164
Launched on MUSE
2017-05-25
Open Access
No
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