Victorian Love Stories: An Oxford Anthology

Kate Flint, Editor
Kate Flint, Editor Oxford University Press, USA $29.95 (520p) ISBN 978-0-19-212330-5
Paperback - 528 pages - 978-0-19-288040-6
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Frequently used as a way of reflecting on women's position in society, love was a popular theme in Victorian literature. Coinciding with developing new ideas about relationships, the 1890s also saw the blossoming of the short story genre. Formal, flowery, often sentimental, the 32 stories in this volume are linked by exceptionally strong stylistic continuity. Some seem dated and narrow-minded, such as ""The Captain's Last Love,"" Wilkie Collins's melodramatic tropical island fantasy, and ""De Amicitia,"" Somerset Maugham's tale of friendship reluctantly, almost prudishly, turning to love. Social constraints of the times, particularly the hobbling effects of class, are explored in ""The Son's Veto,"" Thomas Hardy's heartwrenching story of a doomed love affair between a widow and a greengrocer. Fairy tales are provided by Christina Rossetti, Olive Schreiner, Laurence Housman and Walter Besant. Kipling's ""Georgie Porgie"" is a Madame Butterfly-type story set in Burma and India. Many of the stories are tragic, and suicide is common. Honor, duty and obligation motivate Charlotte Mew's protagonist in ""Some Ways of Love,"" while, in ""A Day of Days,"" the elegant Henry James tale of missed opportunity, oblique emotions ruin a love before it can even begin. Laurence Alma-Tadema's account of a young and innocent girl cruelly used to further an illicit affair stands out amid the lace and furbelows, happily-ever-after endings of many of the entries. But it's Oscar Wilde who, in ""The Nightingale and the Rose,"" has the final, most discomforting say on the subject, with a tale about the folly of idealizing love. (Dec.)
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