Seller
Your price
£11.95
Out of Stock

Parallel Lives

Five Victorian Marriages

By (author) Phyllis Rose
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Vintage Publishing, London, United Kingdom
Imprint: Chatto & Windus
Published: 29th Feb 1984
Dimensions: w 140mm h 220mm
Weight: 558g
ISBN-10: 0701128259
ISBN-13: 9780701128258
Barcode No: 9780701128258

New & Used

Seller Information Condition Price
-New
Out of Stock

What Reviewers Are Saying

Submit your review
Kirkus US
Mixing feminist disdain for "the patriarchal ideal of marriage" with wry, even-tempered curiosity and sympathy, Rose (A Woman of Letters) offers narrative essays on five famous Victorian couples - de-emphasizing the abnormal psychology that's often on view, stressing instead "imaginative projections" (each mate's literary/philosophical notion of marriage) and "arrangements of power." This approach is least persuasive in the case of John Ruskin and Effie Gray: though acknowledging that Ruskin's sexuality "is a rich field for psychoanalytic speculation," Rose seeks "the typical" in that notorious wedding-night (familiar generalizations about Victorian sexuality); she sees the ensuing marital tension largely in terms of conflicting ideology, "a clash of two sets of assumptions about power and authority"; and she brings no special illumination to a summary of the Ruskin/Effie/Millais triangle, which emerges more clearly in the two recent Ruskin biographies. Unimpressive, too, is the view of Charles Dickens' mid-life dumping of dullish wife Catherine - overstating, one feels, the impact of the melodrama The Frozen Deep on Dickens' piggish behavior and self-pitying, self-dramatizing attitude. (Rose, herself, in fact, seems less taken with this contrived thesis than with a plain presentation of "a fine example of how not to end a marriage.") When the partners are less unequal or less neurotic, however, Rose's method works a good deal better. The epistolary courtship of Thomas Carlyle and Jane Welsh is viewed from a multiplicity of angles, with Jane's reading of Rousseau's La Nouvelle Heloise given just the right weight; the nature of their marriage ("She sacrificed; he thanked her") is vividly conveyed; and its breakdown, reflected in Jane's enraged posthumous journals, is almost - if not quite - convincing as a paradigm. ("The strains do not seem to result from the individual characters" but from "the structure of traditional marriage.") The John Stuart Mill/Harriet Taylor relationship - sexless adultery followed by probably-sexless marriage - is wittily rendered, with well-balanced attention to their idealized feminism, their concept of sensuality, their intellectual collaboration. . . and their arrival, nonetheless, at inequality. ("Harriet ran the show. . . . Mill's mind approved equality but his soul craved domination.") And Rose's "favorite couple" stars in the book's best sequence: the non-legal union of married George Henry Lewes and homely spinster Marian Evans - with George Eliot born out of Marian's "belated acquisition of love" (though Rose attacks the "myth of George Eliot's dependency"), with 24 years of happiness founded on mutual devotion and a "stoical, a tragic sense of life." As an attempt to find general principles in some highly anomalous relationships, then, Rose's mosaic is often strained or obvious. As shrewd, stylish, close-up portraiture, however, it's entertainingly insightful about half the time - especially for those not already familiar with the biographical specifics. (Kirkus Reviews)