Review by Choice Review
Jane Carlyle spent decades in the center of London literary and intellectual life. After her sudden death in 1866, her husband, Thomas, studied and edited her letters, which began a controversy that has existed to this day: Was Jane Carlyle a self-abnegating martyr or a shrew? This question remains both relevant and interesting, rather than voyeuristic, because Jane Carlyle's thwarted literary ambitions can be seen as a paradigm of troubled Victorian womanhood. Before marriage an ambitious writer, after marriage an ardent letter writer, Jane Carlyle receives fascinating treatment in this studious examination of frustrated aspirations. Clarke considers Jane Carlyle's life, friendships, and work. For 25 years, she was friends with Geraldine Jewsbury, whose life offers a counterpoint and comparison. Virginia Woolf in 1935 discussed Jane and Geraldine, initiating interest in the forces of permission and prohibition that shaped Victorian women's selfhood. Light is also shed on the interesting, but largely ignored figures of the Jewsbury sisters and Felicia Hemans. Helpful notes and bibliography complete this provocative study which carefully traces the complex friendships and interactive dynamics of these currently neglected Victorian figures. Reliant upon modern feminist scholarship, Clarke's significant contribution draws on the collected letters of the Carlyles and on unpublished papers, and she corrects the narrow judgments of such commentators as J.A. Froude (Life of Carlyle, 1883), Waldo Dunn (Froude and Carlyle, 1930), and John Clubbe (Froude's Life of Carlyle, 1979). Strongly recommended for students of Victorian culture and women's studies. S. A. Parker Hiram College
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
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