Category Archives: Books

Edwardian Opulence – Catalogue Review


Angus Trumble and Andrea Wolk Rager, ed. Edwardian Opulence: British Art at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century (Yale Center for British Art; Yale University Press, 2013).

The last couple of years have witnessed an upsurge of interest in art of the Edwardian era. Recent months have seen a special edition of Visual Culture in Britain dedicated to ‘Edwardian Art and its Legacies’, the launch of the Tate-based Camden Town Group in Context, and the first part of Yale’s Edwardian project, The Edwardian Sense (published in 2010). Now we have Edwardian Opulence, the four-hundred page catalogue to the exhibition currently showing at the Yale Center for British Art, and the culmination of a decade’s research into early twentieth-century British culture.

Long seen, in the wonderful words of Edwardian Opulence curators Angus Trumble and Andrea Wolk Rager, as ‘an indolent coda drifting behind the long Victorian era’, the first decade of the twentieth century has struggled for some time to find its own voice, with many commentators holding onto the cliché of the ‘long summer afternoon’ or the ‘country house garden party’. This trope has not been accepted by all: Samuel Hynes, in his 1968 book The Edwardian Turn of Mind, was one of the first to call attention to the darker undercurrents of the age – an idea taken up with gusto in the field of art history by the 1987 exhibition The Edwardian Era. Indeed, it is fair to see both of these as foundational texts to which this current influx of Edwardian surveys owe a large debt. The title – and bold, Boldini cover – of Edwardian Opulence, however, suggests a slight shift in interests. Continue reading

Edwardian Art and its Legacies

'A Problem in White' by Charles Moxon Quiller Orchardson

‘A Problem in White’ by Charles Moxon Quiller Orchardson

The most recent issue of Visual Culture in Britain, guest-edited by Andrew Stephenson, is dedicated to ‘Edwardian Art and its Legacies’. It contains six essays by leading scholars of Edwardian art, drawn from the recent Tate symposium of the same name. Subjects include: Japonism, the Transatlantic art market, the post-war legacy of Walter Sickert, and ‘character-reading’ at the Royal Academy. Needless to say, this comes highly recommended! Click on the link above for more information.

Upstage: A Journal of Turn-of-the-Century Theatre


The fifth issue of UpStage: A Journal of Turn-of-the-Century Theatre, is now available online.

In it, you will find:

– Two scholarly articles: Suzanne J. Flynn analyzes Thomas Hardy’s rarely-discussed play The Dynasts, and Jill Wolfe sheds light on little-known late-Victorian Scottish popular theatre companies.

– A “Current Research” section focused on Italy: Antonius J. Jesenšek discusses G. B. Shaw’s reception in Italy, and Maria Pia Pagani introduces a multimedia research project at the University of Turin dedicated to fin-de-siècle theatre.

– Several book and performance reviews: Ibsen’s Foreign Contagion: Henrik Ibsen, Arthur Wing Pinero and Modernism on the London Stage, 1890-1900 by T. Carlo Matos (reviewed by Petra Dierkes-Thrun); Symbolism in Nineteenth-Century Ballet: Giselle, Coppelia, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake by Margaret Fleming-Markarian (reviewed by Heather Marcovitch); Strindberg: A Life by Sue Prideaux (reviewed by Sven-Johan Spanberg) Continue reading

Review: A Life of Jerome K. Jerome

Carolyn W. de la L.Oulton, Below the Fairy City: A Life of Jerome K. Jerome (Victorian Secrets, Brighton, 2012)

The English writer Jerome K. Jerome is usually remembered for one book: his 1889 novel Three Men in a Boat, which was immensely popular in its day, and continues to spawn countless adaptations and homages. This is no surprise: the book still reads like a handbook for the modern observational comic, with its sharp one-liners about hypochondria, DIY, consumerism and dogs. Despite its meandering, anecdotal tone, the book more than holds its own against competitors, from George Grossmith to P. G. Wodehouse and, later, Nancy Mitford; not least because its perspective is not that of the upper-class twit, or self-important middle-class, but of a proud lower-middle class: a world Jerome K. Jerome knew, and knew better than to patronise. In siding with this class, Jerome risked mockery – Punch referred to him, scathingly, as a ‘cockney pilgrim’, whilst others branded his work ‘vulgar’ – but he also garnered a huge, appreciative audience, becoming a leading figure in what was termed, a little lazily,  ‘The New Humour’. Continue reading

Review: The Real Life Women of Downton Abbey and Life Below Stairs

Instinct invites me to be suspicious of any book with ‘real’ in the title, let alone one that also manages to fit ‘really’ into its sub-title. Such is the case with Pamela Horn’s The Real Life Women of Downton Abbey: How wives & daughters really lived in country house society over a century ago, recently published in hardback by Amberley Press. If one ‘real’ is unfortunate, two seems careless.

There are plenty of other reasons to be suspicious of this book, not least the fact that it is actually a re-printing of a much earlier text, first published in 1991 with the title Ladies of the Manor. Re-printing a book is no crime in itself – especially if it is in demand – though there is something a little cynical about the way this book has been re-branded to cater for a new audience (although, it must be noted, it is by no means alone). If the book had been re-written, or at least edited, to appeal to Downton Abbey fans, it would be a different proposition. Instead, the book has simply be re-titled and printed in a smart hard-back edition. All very handsomely produced, though at £20 many readers might prefer to scour second-hand book stores for old copies of Ladies of the Manor.

This is not, then, a new book by any means, nor is it in any way connected with the TV show Downton Abbey. Continue reading

Lord Dunsany, Call for Submissions

Lord Dunsany – Wanderer in Dream
Collected Essays

“Two players sat down to play a game together to while eternity away and
for their board they chose the sky from rim to rim, whereon lay a little
dust; and every speck of dust was a world upon the board of playing.”

Since the publication of The Gods of Pegāna in 1905, Lord Dunsany has
occupied a unique place in the cannon of fantasy literature. Beloved by
figures as diverse as H.P Lovecraft, Yeats and Jorge Borges he continues
to attract devotees and scholarly research in equal measure. This
collection of essays aims to address not only Dunsany’s works themselves
but also to relate them to wider critical, historical and theoretical
fields by publishing works that examine either Dunsany’s influences, his
presence in contemporary culture or his long-term effects upon literature. Continue reading

Neo-Edwardian Fiction

Many thanks to Celia M. Cruz Rus (postgraduate student, University of Malaga) for providing the following guest post on Neo-Edwardian fiction:

If you want to immerse yourself in the Edwardian period while enjoying some literature, you can always go back to Henry James or E. M. Forster but if you want to try some contemporary fiction, here are  a few suggestions:

Falling Angels (2001), Tracy Chevalier. The Waterhouses and the Colemans meet at the cemetery on the day Queen Victoria dies. From that day onwards, thanks to their little girls’ friendship and fascination with the graveyard, their destinies will be tragically entangled.

Snobbery with Violence (2003), M. C. Beaton. The first novel of the Edwardian Murder Mystery Series is a funny, light-hearted story which sees Lady Rose Summer, a debutante who has a reputation as an ex-suffragette, investigating the death of a guest with the help of her maid and a detective on her first season.

Arthur & George (2005), Julian Barnes. This is a beautiful tale based on the real story of how acclaimed the Sherlock Holmes author became a sort of detective himself and helped prove a young solicitor innocent.

– “Dictation” (2008), Cynthia Ozick. This short story found in the collection Dictation: A Quartet imagines a meeting between Henry James’s typist and that of Joseph Conrad, who has designed a plan which will make them immortal.

[If you are interested in providing a guest post for this blog, based on your research, please e-mail us at]