Elizabeth von Arnim: Beyond the German Garden by Isobel Maddison (Ashgate 2013)
Type ‘Victorian Literature’ into Google, noted Simon J. James in his keynote lecture for ‘Beyond the Garden Party’, and you’ll find almost eight-million search results for sites hosting scholarly journals and university-affiliated projects. Try the same thing with ‘Edwardian Literature’ and you’ll get just over a million hits, the first of which is a Facebook page. It has six ‘Likes’.
The perception of Edwardian literature – particularly Edwardian fiction – as a literary backwater seems always to have been with us. As early as 1923 Virginia Woolf was pinpointing the Edwardian era as ‘the fatal age’ in literature, naming and shaming ‘Mr Wells, Mr Galsworthy, and Mr Arnold’ as ‘the culprits’ of this literary demise. Such dismissals have proved surprisingly difficult to shake off, no more so than in the case of female Edwardian novelists (who, tellingly, Woolf’s ‘Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown’ didn’t even bother to cite). Continue reading