The Alice Behind Wonderland by Simon Winchester

September 9, 2013

This is a preprint of a review published in Britain and the World, Volume 6, pp. 298-300. The title of this book is slightly misleading, as the reader learns little of Alice Liddell, the girl who famously inspired Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Instead, in this slim volume, Simon Winchester focuses his attention on Charles Dodgson […]

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How to Create the Perfect Wife by Wendy Moore

August 4, 2013

If anything is guaranteed to get my feminist dander up, it’s the idea of wifely perfection, and this enthralling book had me seething from start to finish. On a summer’s day in 1769, wealthy (but unprepossessing) bachelor Thomas Day visited the orphan hospital in Shrewsbury to choose himself a wife. This was not the way […]

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Robert Elsmere by Mrs Humphry Ward

July 27, 2013

When Mrs Humphry Ward first had the idea for her bestselling novel Robert Elsmere (1888), she wrote to her publisher that it was all planned and that she would take “five quiet months in the country to write it. It will be two volumes”. The gestation period of what she referred to as her “baby” was […]

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More amusing Victorian short story titles

July 18, 2013

As my last post on amusing and bizarre Victorian short story titles proved so popular, here are some more of my favourites: Her Majesty the Flapper: Episodes in Her Career Cupid the Entomologist Much-married Grandma In the House of Bondage The Romance of a Pair of Slippers Borrowing a Parrot! Progressive Whist and the Muffin […]

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Amusing Victorian story titles

June 9, 2013

One of my many current projects is digitising the Victorian Fiction Research Guides, a useful collection of  bibliographies covering authors and journals. During the nineteenth century there was an insatiable demand for fiction in all formats, and many writers were churning them out at an astonishing rate. Florence Marryat, the subject of  my thesis, is likely to […]

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Fanny and Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England by Neil McKenna

May 20, 2013

To be decadent in an age of utility was unforgivable, as Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton were to find out in a trial that scandalised London in 1870. Better known as Fanny and Stella, the two young clerks were arrested and charged with outraging public decency by dressing as women and “conspiring to incite others […]

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Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England

May 9, 2013

The trouble with reading a lot of Victorian potboilers is that they start to seem like reality. The madwoman in the attic is a pervasive image throughout nineteenth-century culture, from Bertha Mason, through to Laura Fairlie and Lady Audley. In this gripping and insightful study, Sarah Wise reveals that it was actually husbands who were […]

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Capturing the Light: The Birth of Photography by Roger Watson and Helen Rappaport

April 25, 2013

Anyone who has developed their own photographs will recall that miraculous moment as the image slowly materialises before your very eyes. The story behind the discovery of this alchemical technique is no less exciting. As with most good stories, there is a rivalry at it heart, albeit an unintentional one. During the 1830s two men […]

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Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary

April 2, 2013

Having led an unexpectedly irreligious life for a Pope, my current thesis chapter on nineteenth-century Catholicism is involving a great deal of background reading. Thank you, therefore, to OUP for a very timely review copy of Marina Warner’s Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary. This book is […]

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No Place for Ladies: The Untold Story of Women in the Crimean War by Helen Rappaport

March 8, 2013

As Russophobia gripped Britain, the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1854 provoked joy among many who wanted to give the “Rooshians” a jolly good beating. At the forefront of the warmongers was Queen Victoria, who longed to don armour and join soldiers on the frontline. But this imagined glory soon faded to reveal the […]

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