As the semester draws to a chilly close, thanks to the ominous signs of an approaching upstate NY winter, an instructor's thoughts naturally turn to...ordering books for the next semester. All of next semester's courses are old standbys--Brit Lit II again, intro to lit analysis, upper-division/MA Victorian survey--which means that it's time to shake things up a bit, assignments-wise. Without, of course, bankrupting the students (an increasingly difficult proposition, given the ever-rising costs of anthologies and the like). As always, there was the usual angst, brought on by books deciding to go out of print as soon as I wanted to assign them; this year, it was William Buckler's old and reasonably-priced collection of Victorian prose, which I chose to replace with e-texts. In the "students may conclude I have sadistic tendencies, but what the heck" category, I've rotated Bleak House back into the upper-division course. (To be fair, whenever I've assigned the novel, the students have read it. Granted, one of them claimed that she was permanently traumatized by the experience, but you can't have everything.) In Brit Lit II, I've decided to switch out the Norton anthology for the Longman, partly as an experiment and partly because I disagree with the last round of Norton's editorial decisions. (In anthologies, it's a given that Carlyle's Past and Present will turn into Pastless Present, but you really can't delete "Midas" from the excerpts. You know, the chapter that introduces the "Condition of England"? The phrase for which the book is most famous?) More work-intensively (for me), I concluded that it was time to redo the Shakespeare unit at the end of ENL 303. Out with King Lear/A Thousand Acres/Ran; in with Hamlet/Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead/Gertrude and Claudius/erm, a film (Kurosawa's The Bad Sleep Well, maybe?), none of which I've taught before. I had ambitions to do the Scottish play, but every time I came across something that looked like an interesting fictional or dramatic reworking--aside from Leskov's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk--it was out of print. (The curse in action?)
Most of the time, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall behaves like a conventional historical novel in the realist mode. (Certainly, Mantel's own description of her project fits the bill.)The narrative, focalized through its subject, Thomas Cromwell, dwells at greatest length on Henry VIII's quest for an heir and the earth-shattering social, political, and religious consequences it entailed. In other words, Mantel poses her novel at the (violent) turning point between "old" and "new" England, as Catholicism slowly and painfully loses ground to Protestantism. Walter Scott would have approved (although he would not have chosen Cromwell as the protagonist). Moreover, thanks to Cromwell's particular tastes, the narrative accretes the usual colorful period details--from gold plate to sixteenth-century culinary dainties--that grant historical novels their verisimilitude. (We're even invited to compare the novel's Cromwell to Hans Holbein's portrait.) And the novel runneth over with the All-Star team of Tudor England, from Catherine of Aragon to Eustache Chapuys (a prime source of sometimes dubious information, here fictionalized himself) to, of course, Henry VIII. Too, the novel's interest in the "domestic" Cromwell, with his wretched childhood, his marriage, his children, and so forth, rounds out the public man with the private life--and, of course, makes him far more sympathetic.
As Dan Hartland points out, the novel expects you to know its characters already. Or, to put it differently, the novel expects you to know one of the most popular stories about the English Reformation, which was that it was essentially "erotic": Henry VIII rebels against the Pope and turns England Protestant because he wanted to sleep with Anne Boleyn. And, as Hartland (and everyone else who has written about Wolf Hall) further observes, the novel expects you to have Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons lurking at the back of your mind, complete with Paul Scofield looking righteous. (Although Wolf Hall is not reverse hagiography--Cromwell is nicer than Thomas More, not to mention good to animals and children, but nobody "nice" could survive in Henry VIII's England--it doesn't leave much of Bolt's More standing.) In effect, this is a novel written less against academic history--although Cromwell's reputation with scholars has not been that wonderful, either--and more against other historical fictions.
Still, the reader aware of the popular narratives will also notice some noteworthy absences. Because Mantel does not exit Cromwell's POV, many famous moments are simply not there: Wolsey's last words, for example, or any particularly noteworthy executions. We are not, in other words, asked to revisit the best-known historical set-pieces. Sometimes, we see these set-pieces in a kind of reverse--not More on the scaffold, but a terrified More in jail, "crying out, shuddering, beating the table" (521) as he imagines the worst his execution might have to offer. Moreover, because Mantel does not intend this to be a stand-alone novel (there's a sequel in the works), its plot arc doesn't follow the expected trajectory for a story about a famous protagonist. Instead of beginning at the very beginning and culminating with the bloody end, Mantel starts with an adolescent Cromwell, beaten by his wastrel father, and ends with More's death. (Even Anne Boleyn still has her head on her shoulders.) Effectively, the novel concludes with the climax.
Any novel set during this time period must deal with the Bible, not just Protestantism, but Mantel pursues an interesting thematic tack: she is less concerned with what the Bible says (although that crops up) than with its dissemination in the vernacular. In Wolf Hall, language goes hand-in-hand with power. As a child, the impoverished Cromwell encounters an adolescent Thomas More at his studies; when Cromwell asks More what's in his book, he replies, "'Words, words, just words'" (93). This dismissive attitude to language turns out to be More's blindspot. (Which is a rather odd thing to say about one of the sixteenth century's more famous authors.) The vernacular Bible empowers the common reader by revealing holes in the Roman Catholic Church's foundation--"You read it, you'll be surprised what's not in it" (32)--while mastering Greek and Latin are the key to participating in elite culture. Cromwell learns his classics, but his real strength lies in multiple vernaculars, allowing him to eavesdrop and negotiate at ease. Pitting Cromwell against More means pitting English against the classical languages, so to speak. More's Latin turns out to be filthy ("No one has rendered the Latin tongue more obscene" ), and his English seems to work at cross-purposes. "If another man were saying this, he'd be trying to start a fight," Cromwell (or the narrator) muses, but "[w]hen Thomas More says it, it leads to an invitation to dinner" (101). Except when his daughter Meg is involved, More says nothing friendly that is not insulting, nothing affectionate that is not cruel. Near the end, someone I hope is Cromwell (more in a moment) comments that More's refusal to take the oath was "fear of plain words, or the assertion that plain words pervert themselves; More's dictionary, against our dictionary" (527). More's doubled or tripled meanings, his displays of wit, fall prey to the new world summed up in Tyndale's Bible and speakers like Cromwell, whose power derives from French, Spanish, German, English...
Part of More's problem, of course, is that history relativizes his position. More defends his torture of heretics by arguing that "'[w]hen I compel an answer from a heretic, I have the whole body of law behind me, the whole might of Christendom. What I am threatened with here is one particular law, one singular dispensation of recent make, recognized here but in no other country--'" (514). Not just speech, but the power to elicit speech, are at issue. More's self-justification inadvertently demonstrates his inability to grasp the import of the new historical moment: Protestantism is not just a fashionable, evanescent novelty, but also the end of the very ability to speak of "the whole might of Christendom"; whether or not Protestantism dominates, it definitely becomes a permanent alternative. Where there once was global Christendom, now there are multiple instances of Protestantism. It makes sense that the multilingual Cromwell, able to flourish in several countries, proves (temporarily) victorious in the brave new world of localized Protestant culture.
If this novel has a stumbling-block, though, it's in its use of the third person. I'm going to agree with other readers who have complained about the omnipresent "he": when I said that "someone I hope is Cromwell" is talking on p. 527, I genuinely meant I hope that's Cromwell. As Mantel words the sentence, "he" may well be the man to whom Cromwell is talking. There's nothing else particularly complex about the novel's language, which is graceful enough, but D. G. Myers is dead on about the "needless difficulty" involved. The reader doesn't learn anything from trying to figure out the pronoun's antecedent; the momentary obstacle doesn't seem to have much to do with questions about Cromwell's identity, say, or his security as a speaker. As Alfred Bester demonstrated years ago in "Fondly Fahrenheit," you can effectively play games with pronouns in order to make a larger point about the protagonist's mental state, but that's not happening here.
I'm in Southern CA for Thanksgiving. It's a bit...ah...warmer than upstate NY. This will provide me with an excellent opportunity to engage in what my family dubs "weather sadism" ("Did I mention that it was ninety degrees on Thanksgiving Day?").
In other news, a cross-country plane flight provided a convenient opportunity for reading Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, about which I'll have a post sometime tomorrow.
EDITOR'S NOTE. I obtained the following e-mail exchange from Professor O. Notagain, who teaches intergalactic literature of the early modern period (nineteenth to twenty-first centuries) at the Global University of Terra, College of the United States. Prof. Notagain and I agreed that this exchange brilliantly illuminated all the wrong tactics for convincing a professor to change a final grade, and therefore deserved preservation in a more permanent--and public--form. Admittedly, there are times when Prof. Notagain herself appears in a somewhat imperfect light.
All italicized and bracketed notes are the work of Prof. Notagain; strike-throughs indicate material deleted from the final drafts. For convenience, we have eliminated the full e-mail headers.
RE: My final grade in Early Modern Novel I: Jane Austen to S'krr'La'Men
I received my grade of "C" at 17:03:21 this evening. This grade is highly unsatisfactory; my calculations indicate that the grading rubric must have been improperly formulated. The correct grade is "A."
FROM: Professor O. Notagain
TO: Captain Solok
RE: Your final grade
Thank you for double-checking my scoring system. However, a quick review of my grade book indicates that you received a "B" on the first paper, a "C" on the midterm, a "C" on the final, a "C-" on the second paper, and...oh dear, you missed all of the quizzes. Under the circumstances, given that you received what amounts to an "F" on an assignment worth a total of one hundred points, I cannot justify raising your grade to an "A."
FROM: Captain Solok
TO: Professor O. Notagain
The quizzes were suitable for humans and other species lacking eidetic memories. Requiring a Vulcan to take such a quiz is illogical. Under the circumstances, penalizing me for devoting my time to more constructive pursuits reflects a certain...small-mindedness, inappropriate in an instructor of intergalactic literature.
[Before answering this e-mail, Prof. Notagain visits CuddlyAndorianCreatures.com and coos over the baby Andorian bunny rabbits.]
FROM: Professor O. Notagain
TO: Captain Solok
RE: The presence of snowflakes on Vulcan
The quizzes did not test memory, eidetic or otherwise; they tested whether or not you had read the material. Had you taken the quizzes, you would have received a perfect score, no doubt, and thus received a higher grade in the course. As you didn't take the quizzes, however, I couldn't award you points for non-existent work. I'm just small-minded that way.
FROM: Captain Solok
TO: Professor O. Notagain
RE: Grading procedures, plus climate conditions on Vulcan
Let us say that I concede to your intransigence on the matter of the quizzes. Nevertheless, you, in turn, must admit that your comments on my papers were most imprecise--hardly sufficient to justify such inappropriate and, indeed, approximate evaluations of my work. I will remind you that I am a published author; in fact, my work has appeared in the three most prestigious journals in the field of psychology (The Vulcan Journal of Comparative Psychology; Orion Studies in Humanoid Psychology; Telepathy Quarterly). You, by contrast, are a junior scholar, with no such accomplishments to boast.
As you must be aware, Vulcan experiences rain only once every 2.2673 years. We do not have snow, let alone individual snowflakes.
[Before answering this e-mail, Prof. Notagain drinks a glass of Romulan ale, then alphabetizes her print-outs from the IG-LIT newsfeed.]
FROM: Professor O. Notagain
TO: Captain Solok
RE: Learned commentary
Let me look again at your essays and exams. Here are some of my comments:
1. "Does a wrestling match from over two decades ago effectively introduce an essay comparing-and-contrasting Charles Dickens' Bleak House to K'brok's Look Homeward, Klingon? Try to find a 'hook' drawn from the novels under discussion."
2. "Could you explain how Eliza Reed is the real heroine of Jane Eyre? I don't see this argument justified by the text."
3. "You've used 'indeed' as a transition at least eight times; what would be a more appropriate word?"
4. "Given that Srao's The Man with One Antenna repeatedly celebrates its heroine's love for Shrail, how did you conclude that the novel criticizes the effects of 'irrational affective attachments'?"
I'd be glad to explain these or any other comments. especially since you seem incapable of reading basic Standard. What seems "imprecise" to you?
Also. Those psych essays? My colleague over in the psych dept. tells me that they haven't registered a single blip on the Mental Sciences Citation Index. So take your "prestigious journals" and situate them forcefully in an anatomical location where the Vulcan sun's radiation fails to penetrate.
FROM: Captain Solok
TO: Professor O. Notagain
RE: On writing comments suitable for a scholar of my standing
To begin with, all of these marginal notations are phrased as questions. As you clearly know none of the answers, I cannot grant you any authority on these matters.
Now, as for these "comments" (I believe that these are what humans call "scare quotes"):
1. If you had progressed beyond Intro to Psych 101, you would be capable of grasping just how illuminating my introduction was. The wrestling match illustrates how human beings, under the influence of rampant emotionalism (not to mention what, I am told, was three steins of Warp Ten Light Beer), fail to calculate the probable outcomes of their actions--specifically, challenging a Vulcan to a wrestling match. Such emotional excess disfigures all of the characters in both novels.
2. Only a human unfamiliar with the importance of organization would fail to see that Eliza, alone of all the novel's characters, truly perceives the need for logical order in every aspect of life. (Incidentallly, the hologram I viewed of your office indicates that you require considerable instruction in the art of filing. Perhaps you would allow me to suggest twelve useful strategies?)
3. I gather that you were bored by my use of "indeed." Vulcans, however, are incapable of boredom, and therefore do not ask for such purposeless verbal variations.
4. It is clear to me that the novel's tragic ending demonstrates that love is an undesirable emotion. If I were capable of being surprised and grieved, I would be surprised and grieved that you were unable to comprehend the novel on such an obvious literal level.
Under the circumstances, justice demands that all of my work be reassessed by a more...competent member of your department. For example, your chair, Prof. Sevek.
[Before answering this e-mail, Prof. Notagain programs the automatic house cleaner, supervises the robot lawn mower, repaints the living room, and drinks a Risan martini.]
FROM: Prof. O. Notagain
TO: Captain Solok
CC: Prof. Sevek
RE: I bow to your superiority in this matter
By all means, ask Sevek to assess your work. I am crushed by your revelations about my intellectual abilities, so much so that I tremble in terror at the thought of entering a classroom. Never again will I seek to convince a Vulcan that his interpretation of a text is wildly wrong by any standard known to sentient life in the galaxy. Nor will I dare to suggest that any Vulcan has failed to master basic prose style. I shall spend the rest of the evening sobbing into my drink celebrating the fact that I've just handed you over to my Vulcan department chair, who will turn you into dinner for his pet sehlat.
FROM: Prof. Sevek
TO: Prof. O. Notagain
RE: To quote a wise android from twentieth-century Terran cinema, "Oh, dear"
As you predicted during our 20.12 minute conference in my office, Captain Solok took your e-mail seriously ("It is rare to encounter a human who can be convinced of her relative intellectual incapacity"). Despite apparent evidence to the contrary, most Vulcans do understand sarcasm. If pressed, we will even admit to feeling amused. On occasion. (Do not tell anyone else in the department I wrote that.)
I shall dispatch my assessment of Solok's performance within 2.3 hours.
FROM: Prof. Sevek
TO: Captain Solok
CC: Prof. O. Notagain
RE: Your final grade in Prof. O. Notagain's Early Modern Novel I: Jane Austen to S'krr'La'Men
As per your request, I have reassessed your work. I must agree with your account of Prof. Notagain's grading procedures: they show a regrettable lack of precision. By which I mean that she indulges in a peculiarly human trait--namely, being charitable.
I, however, am not given to charitable grading. As a fellow Vulcan, you will have no difficulty understanding this.
Therefore, with Prof. Notagain's permission, I have lowered your grade to a "D."
Live long and prosper,
ADDENDUM. Six weeks later, Prof. O. Notagain found that Captain Solok used her "intransigence" as an example of the average human's unwillingness to "properly assess Vulcan skill levels in upper-level academic coursework." This prompted her to rename her blog "The Intransigent Professor"--with a proud link to Solok's essay in the "About" section.
[No actual students were harmed in the making of this post.]
Nikolai Leskov, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (Hesperus, 2003). Novella (first published in 1865) translating elements of the Scottish play to Russia; inspired an opera by Shostakovich. Also known as Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. (Amazon [secondhand])
Stanley Elkin, George Mills (Dalkey Archive, 2003). The centuries-long family saga of the George Mills men, all members of whatever working class existed at the time. (Amazon [secondhand])
Marlon James, John Crow's Devil (Akashic, 2005). Historical novel about the gruesome battle between two preachers in 1950s Jamaica. (Amazon [secondhand])
James Hogg, Anecdotes of Scott (Edinburgh, 2005). Hogg's extremely controversial memoirs of his relationship with Sir Walter Scott. (eBay)
Benjamin Gough (1805-77), a Wesleyan Methodist, achieved some moderate renown as a poet and hymnodist. His Our National Sins: A Poem of Warning and Exhortation appeared posthumously in 1878, and was dedicated to the evangelical reformer Anthony Ashley-Cooper, the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury. Given Gough's call for social action at all levels of English culture, his choice of dedicatee is not surprising. Gough's long poem is a jeremiad in rather unambitious heroic couplets that suffer from some clumsy handling. One suspects that "[w]hile hecatombs are hurried to the tomb"(9) does not achieve quite the effect that Gough desired. The poem's interest lies not in its formal quality, or lack thereof, but its attempt to meld some exceptionally traditional notions about Roman Catholicism (bad), luxury (also bad), and English modernity (necessarily Protestant) with more recent challenges to the national health, including Biblical criticism, vivisection, and Darwinian evolution.
The first five sections take us from "England in the Olden Time" to "England under Queen Victoria," and celebrate England's post-Reformation development into a great imperial power. Gough, like a number of his contemporaries, insists that England is naturally Protestant: the English were "l]ong tied and bound beneath the priestly bane" (1) and "[h]eld back for centuries, to foul rites confined" (2), suggesting that an entirely foreign Roman Catholic power artificially constrained England's native spiritual impulses. Protestantism, by contrast, proves entirely liberatory. Under Protestantism's influence, the nation "[r]e-lit" its loathing for Roman Catholicism (2)--implying, again, that the Reformation merely releases an innate religious tendency--and "sprang with swift rebound/To a new life, with peace and freedom crowned" (2). As is typical in such narratives, Protestant conversion determines; it is not determined by. That is to say, although national and international politics may imprison or conceal the true, invisible church, they do not produce it in the way that they produce Roman Catholicism. Protestantism's essence, contained in the Bible alone, remains universal and unchangeable, whatever its merely local historical fortunes. By the same token, England's culture, economic power and military might emerge from a uniquely Protestant mindset, instead of shaping it. As the last two poems in this section make clear, a Catholic country like Spain rapidly devolves into the "fifth-rate" (3) because it remains Catholic, and thus resists the Protestant winds of change (which include technological advances like the telegraph ). In England, however, the Protestant era of Queen Victoria issues in a new age of international strength and domestic tranquility, apparently turning England into the globe's sole superpower. This is not so much a history of Protestantism as a claim that without Protestantism, England would have no history worth the writing.
As I noted earlier, Gough's historical narrative offers nothing new. Nor does his complaint about the nation's paradoxical collapse under the weight of its own success. The "England's Wealth and Luxury" section signals the poem's transition from celebration to prophecy. Invoking the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, Gough warns his readers that those countries "[...] raised to wealth and luxury, soon were weak/And fell, self-slain, who conquered Goth and Greek" (6-7). In this inevitable cycle of triumph and collapse, the nation strong enough to indulge itself in pleasures, untroubled by war, soon ennervates itself; readers familiar with classical republicanism should recognize the point. Thus, the Victorian age, the site of Protestantism's greatest triumph, also marks its moment of decay. (Anti-Catholic propagandists frequently made a similar argument, sans the republican overtones: Protestantism's very success threatened its ability to resist Catholicism, precisely because Protestants felt sure that nothing could uproot their religious dominance.) Modern man, Gough bluntly warns, has been "[e]masculated" (7) by a course of unlawful indulgences, all enabled by the nation's financial prosperity. Hence the need for this poem...
The next several sections, then, crusade against England's dominant "sins," which develop from the utopia that Gough had been celebrating just a few lines earlier. Gough sees the tide of national corruption beginning (and, indeed, engineered) at the aristocratic top, gathering speed as it races to the working-class bottom. Thus, the "statesmen" who profit from taxes on liquor (8) deliberately encourage working-class drunkenness and, ultimately, the sex trade (10), just as upper-class gamblers facilitate the "dread infection" of their sport (18). Although all sin, Gough clearly holds the upper- and professional classes responsible for modeling Christian virtues--indeed, as in the case of drinking, he charges the wealthy with debauching the nation in pursuit of profit. More interestingly, Gough's attacks on hunting and vivisection intersect with contemporary feminist critiques of both activities: he charts a direct line of descent from riding to hounds to "wife-beating," arguing that "murder crowns what cruelty begins" (26). The purportedly refined, elegant pleasures of the genteel hunt, which kills "God's creatures in their innocence of joy" (24), actually inculcates a disrespect for life in general and the weak in particular. Working-class men, who cannot afford to cloak a lust for killing under the equestrian's fashionable garb, reveal the upper-class hunter's true motivations in their ugliest light. Similarly, the scientific vivisector only demonstrates that "[n]othing is heinous or revolting now,/And murder wears no brand upon its brow!" (29) In both cases, cruelty to animals, however dressed-up or explained, is merely the first step on the road towards murdering human beings--especially weaker human beings, like women.1
With "England's Scepticism," one of the poem's longest sections, Gough changes tack: specifically, he indicts the country's clerical leaders for demolishing the Protestant reverence for the Bible they ought to encourage. Here, his parody of liberal Christianity--"The Bible's but half true and uninspired,/The writers only wrote what they desired" (30)--suggests that he's thinking of the previous decade's controversies over Essays and Reviews and Bishop Colenso, as well as the cautious acceptance of Biblical criticism in their wake. Bearing in mind that Gough identifies Englishness itself with Protestantism, any attack on the Bible threatens not only orthodox religion (however defined), but the very fabric of the nation itself. There is no way to separate belief from England's ongoing viability as an imperial power. Darwinian biology, which claims that "Man's great progenitor in Time's forenoon/Sprang from the oyster and the stark baboon" (33), falls into the same error, abandoning "truth's strong rock/the glory of our land" (34) for the stormy waters of heresy. Both Biblical critics and Darwin's followers reject the authentic lessons of the Reformation in favor of mere, self-aggrandizing novelty, leading the nation on to certain ruin.
But this "intellectual" revolt is nothing compared to Roman Catholicism's project: reversing history itself. Looking back on the joined legacies of Catholic Emancipation and the Oxford movement, Gough accuses Anglo-Catholics of believing that "[t]he Reformation was a downright sin,/So a new Reformation they begin!" (36) Returning us to the beginning of the poem, Gough, in a typically anti-Catholic moment, mourns that "[w]ives, mothers, maidens, and young Children come,/And sell their souls to slavery and Rome" (37). Like the hunters earlier on, Anglo- and Roman Catholics prey on the weak, whom they convince to voluntarily relinquish their hard-won liberties, once again, to a foreign power. By tolerating Catholicism, in other words, England has effectively permitted its own betrayal by "faithless traitors" (39). Thus, Gough's poem imagines a politico-theological cycle that moves from Roman Catholic slavery to Protestant liberty to Protestant decadence to Roman Catholic slavery again--but a slavery that the English willingly choose for themselves. Only a new "Champion" (39), in the mode of the first reformers, can restart the cycle. There will be no champion, however, as long as England dwells in its own forgetfulness, refusing to acknowledge, as Gough puts it in the next section, that "from the hour that Popery returns/'Twill not be long before she brands and burns!" (42). What England lacks, in other words, is any self-consciousness of this dangerous historical cycle, in which Antichrist eternally wars with the forces of God; just as England's national prosperity rests on an unchanging rock, so too does Roman Catholicism's inner corruption.
After admitting, however, that there are still signs of goodness within England, Gough concludes with the one solution to rule them all--the "living gospel" (49). In other words, having posited an apparently inevitable cycle of decline, Gough now argues that the cycle can be broken with a few timely reminders. This is not, however, quite so self-contradictory as it might seem, for Gough's point remains that England already has Protestant truth. Unlike the ancient empires, which imploded because there was no corrective to the corruptions of luxury, England can arrest her own fall by simply reverting to "truth's strong rock"; the cycle begins, in effect, from an entirely different historical location. Those who fall from the rock can climb back up. With true atonement, Gough exults, "[w]hy should not earth its Paradise regain?" (50) With Protestant truth at hand, England can become truly self-aware of her participation in that cycle of triumph and decay...and, so, consciously make her own historical (and transcendent) destiny.
1 On the links beween feminism and anti-vivisectionism during the Victorian period, see Lucy Bending, The Representation of Bodily Pain in Late Nineteenth-Century English Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 116-76.
My maternal grandmother, Helen Rowe Bergtrom, died on Sunday at the age of 96. Grandma Helen was not only a talented painter (my readers may recall that I used to have her self-portrait as my blog's image), but also a gifted seamstress: she quilted, she embroidered, and she made dolls. I'll post some of her watercolors next week. Today, though, I've put up some images of two Victorian dolls she made approximately thirty years ago for my sister and me.
A few years ago, I had the dolls restored at a local doll's hospital. This one required only minor work (loose stitching repaired and the yarn wig retucked).
The hairstyle is fairly elaborate:
The dolls even have (handsewn) corsets...
The second doll's silk skirt had to be almost entirely restored (the floral pattern is the original cloth).
We interrupt this Victorian blog to note that Dad the Emeritus Historian of Graeco-Roman Egypt will be appearing on the Discovery Channel at 8:00 PM this Sunday, courtesy of the "Cleopatra" documentary.