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About meSixty-ish reader in upper Midwest teaches English/journalism tries to "keep up" with literary trends. Ecclectic tastes--hell, I like to read knitting patterns from the 1950s--but I draw the line at any more Twilight or Left Behind.

About my libraryI've offloaded a lot of it at, and only use the library or buy on Kindle. I'm getting too old to be dusting a lot of paper. Can't take it with you.

GroupsDystopian novels, Feminist SF, Girlybooks, Knitters Inc., Trollope lovers unite or fight


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One slight correction regarding Martineau's self-serving Autobiography discussion of CB. This was written after CB's death but may have been relatively contemporaneous with the Gaskell biography, or perhaps even written shortly before Gaskell's publication. Since Martineau reserved her Autobiography for posthumous publication (it was published in 1877, a year after Martineau's death), it was still a case of her "getting the last word" on CB and Gaskell.
Hi Jean,

I'm not at all crazy about Martineau. I read her because of her literary influence, especially on the Brontes and Gaskell. In fact, Martineau's Deerbrook may be the singlemost important influence on CB's Shirley (though I'm currently reading Judith Barker's biography, which suggests that CB significantly derived Shirley from some of her Angrian juvenilia). As I recall from Martineau's Autobiography, CB sent Martineau a copy of Shirley as a way of introducing herself to Martineau.

I'll summarize my Martineau reading in the order in which I've read them:

The Hour and the Man is a biographical romance of Toussaint Louverture that Martineau wrote in support of her abolitionist views. I call it a "biographical" romance but it's really more of a "hagiographical" romance, because Martineau portrays Toussaint more as saint than as human. It's a bit icky ("soapy" might be a better word) for that reason, but still, Martineau does give a very real image of the geography, flora and fauna, and nature generally of Haiti. I don't know why I read this one first (or even at all), but it may have been because of my familiarity with The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James. I read it on Kindle.

✔ My next reading was Deerbrook. This is what I really started out wanting to read most of all, because of its literary influence that I noted above. I started on Kindle, found it tedious, and put it down. Then I decided to read it for ALL VIRAGO/ALL AUGUST, bought a Virago copy from an AbeBooks seller, and found it impossible reading. I think my Virago problem was that the type-size and font just contributed to the overall tediousness, and I finally managed to get through it on Kindle with a larger and more readable font. It's one of those books, if you know what I mean, that a Brontean is glad to have read while having hated reading it, because the "romantic quadrilateral" in a country village is something you in find in Shirley. Considering that Martineau criticized Villette for being insufficiently "feminist," though, I find Shirley a good bit stronger on "the women's issue" than Deerbrook is.

✔ Then I read Florence Fenwick Miller's biography of Martineau on Kindle. Fenwick Miller was a younger contemporary and admirer of Martineau, and I think it's telling that Fenwick Miller herself didn't hold much stock in Deerbrook. Fenwick Miller's a reasonably quick read and might be worth your looking at since it's available in e-book format.

✔ Next I read Deborah Anna Logan's critical biography The Hour and the Woman: Harriet Martineau's "Somewhat Remarkable" Life. (The title is taken from the Toussaint novel and the "somewhat remarkable" phrase from Martineau's Autobiography.) This is really magnificent and I'd recommend it highly. Logan gives very short shrift to Deerbrook but a great deal of attention to Martineau's Illustrations of Political Economy, her breakthrough work, which was a highly successful series she wrote, for popular reading, of short stories that didactically illustrated laissez-faire economic theory, of which Martineau was a strong proponent. "Demerara" was a strongly anti-slavery "illustration," and the title character of "Ella of Garveloch" was a favorite of then-Princess Victoria. Logan also includes discussion of Martineau's relationship with and feelings toward contemporary women novelists (generally not all that favorable, considering Martineau's highly didactic streak) as well as her relationship with the abolitionist movement in the U.S. and her relationship with Florence Nightingale on "the women's issue."

✔ Finally, Martineau's two-volume Autobiography published by Virago, which (I think) shows Martineau's priggishness and self-righteousness (but I have an obvious Brontean bias, of course, and CB cut Martineau after Martineau's unfavorable review of Villette). Just as one example, Martineau strongly condemns the practice of publication of an author's private letters, but her Autobiography itself contains extensive use of private correspondence. The first volume also tends to be rather tedious, at least once Martineau's done discussing her very early life, unless you like reading about such of Martineau's political acquaintances as Lord Brougham, though this first volume does contain some interesting material on Carlyle (and also some brief and uncomplimentary references to Macaulay). I did discover a couple of interesting writers from this first volume, though -- Joanna
Baillie (which led me to the Everyman volume of Female Playwrights of the Nineteenth Century, currently in a Mount TBR) and Catharine Maria Sedgwick, whose Hope Leslie (also in a Mount TBR) seems to have been some kind of feminist variation on Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking tales.

The second volume of Martineau's Autobiography is where the interest more picks up, including as it does her mid-1830s tour of the United States and her association there with the abolitionist movement. It's also got more commentary on familiar literary figures, especially Wordsworth (her neighbor in the Lakes District), along with Martineau's self-serving description of her relationship with CB (written after CB's death and the publication of the Gaskell biography). You've really got to read the first volume of the Autobiography, though, to get a good feel for the second, so slog on through any tediousness in the first volume.

Summary: Deerbrook (available on Kindle) is a must-read for its influence on subsequent women writers, but it's a really tedious slog to get through. The Autobiography is more interesting, at least once you get to the second volume. Logan's critical biography is magnificent but it's university press and a little pricy if you can't get it on inter-library loan. I'm not sure if the Autobiography is available in e-format, but you should be able to find the out-of-print Virago (two volumes) on AbeBooks.

Sorry that I haven't included any links. This message is quite lengthy, so I wrote it in a text editor to review and proof it before sending and including LT links got cumbersome in the text editing.
Goodness, you loved The Small Room enough to prepare a paper! Sarton would be gratified to have her honor so vigorously defended. Are you approaching it in the light of your own college's plagiarism woes?

Are You Somebody? arrived, thanks so much. Maybe I should pour a stiff whiskey before I open it up-- make it a practice run for O'Faolain's Irish wake. I'll leave the rest of the bottle for whoever runs my estate sale. Seems only fair.
You're welcome! It's a pleasure to recommend good books to others who love them.
That's great! I do still want it--my book club will read it sometime this spring. I really appreciate it! I owe you one. - Joyce
Thanks! You're awesome.
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