George Eliot: The Last Victorian by Kathryn Hughes

June 5, 2014

Although George Eliot declared biography to be “a disease of English literature,” it hasn’t yet been eradicated, and there have been almost 20 attempts to tell the story of her life and career. The number of Victorian women writers who enjoyed both critical and commercial success can be counted on the fingers of one hand, […]

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The Victorian Guide to Sex by Fern Riddell

May 25, 2014

Although Queen Victoria was supposedly prudish, she popped out nine tiny Saxe-Coburgs and the population more than doubled during her reign. We might think of the Victorians as sexually repressed, but they were clearly at it like stoats. In The Victorian Guide to Sex, Fern Riddell synthesises a wealth of material from marriage guides, newspapers, and […]

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Sights and Frights – a one-day conference

May 23, 2014

If you fancy a magic lantern show, a presentation on the ectoplasm-producing medium, and a host of papers on Victorian spookiness, then book your place at Sights and Frights. It’s a one-day conference at the University of Sussex on 19th June 2014, organised by a group of nineteenth-century researchers (including me). We’re trying to create […]

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Did She Kill Him? A Victorian Tale of Deception, Adultery and Arsenic by Kate Colquhoun

March 23, 2014

Anyone who saw the recent BBC documentary Hidden Killers of the Victorian Home knows that arsenic was everywhere in the late nineteenth century. It was used as a beauty product, as a medicine, and also to achieve a vibrant green colour in wallpaper. This ubiquity made it devilishly difficult to prove cases of deliberate poisoning and […]

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The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter by Lucinda Hawksley

March 16, 2014

If someone had thought to ask Queen Victoria what sort of daughter she didn’t want, she might have described Princess Louise: a smoker, a cyclist, and a strong-minded feminist who consorted with the likes of Josephine Butler and George Eliot. It is this tense mother-daughter relationship that dominates Lucinda Hawksley’s lively and enjoyable biography of an […]

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The Convert by Elizabeth Robins (1907)

March 2, 2014

Last year saw the 100th anniversary of the death of Emily Wilding Davison, the brave and determined suffragette who attempted to stop the King’s horse during the Epsom Derby. Many have decried the foolishness of such acts, believing that female suffrage would somehow have happened spontaneously, if only these silly women had been patient; others, […]

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Her Father’s Name by Florence Marryat

January 5, 2014

Now that I’ve finished writing my thesis on Florence Marryat (just a few tweaks and proofreading to go), I can take a more objective view of her fiction. Having read all 68 of her novels, it’s fair to say that they are not of equal merit; in fact, some are downright dreadful. With 7 children […]

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End of Year Book Meme 2013

January 1, 2014

It’s time for the end of year meme, in which I recount the year’s literary adventures, and wish you all a very happy 2014. How many books read in 2013? 106, mainly thanks to having (very uncharacteristically) taken a holiday in September. I also had to re-read quite a few books for my thesis, as […]

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Will Warburton (1905) by George Gissing

December 31, 2013

I’ve always been slightly chary of Will Warbuton, having been warned that it features a happy ending. Anyone familiar with Gissing’s novels will know that he is relentlessly bleak, and anything else would be plain wrong. Much to my relief, misery still abounds in this story, and Gissing’s characteristic obsession with money, sex, and class is […]

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Life According to Literature 2013

December 27, 2013

It’s time for the annual meme, providing an excellent excuse to ignore my thesis revisions for half an hour. The rules: Using only books you have read this year (2013), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. Describe yourself: The ‘Improper’ Feminine (Lynn Pykett) How do you feel: You Are Not So […]

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