The Readers Review: Literature from 1800 to 1910 discussion

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Archives 2012 Group Reads > "The Wings of the Dove" by Henry James. Book Fifth: Mar. 22-31

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message 1: by Silver (new)

Silver | 1243 comments Mod
I will post some of my own thoughts later, but right now I just wanted to get this up so you can begin dicussing.


message 2: by Silver (new)

Silver | 1243 comments Mod
Milly has another mysterious visit with a doctor. I have to admit that there was something in Milly's consultation with the doctor that made me think of one consulting with a psychologist, and I was not sure of the dates off the top of my head, if there would even be an awareness of such a thing at the time in which this book was published, and I discovered that the "Talking Cure" as it was first dubbed was already in use by the time this book was published.

Though I am not certain if indeed Milly is intended to be suffering from any form of mental illness, James was concerned with the psychology of his characters and that is simply the impression that her visit to the doctor had left me with.

As well though on the one hand I can understand why James does not name the specific illness in which she is suffering from, as I believe that the nature of the illness in itself is not important and not what James wants his readers to focus on, but what is important is only the fact that Milly is ill and how she deals with it and the reactions of others around her. Yet at the same time all of the vagueness and secrecy around the illness does bring to mind the stigma which circulates around mental illnesses, and how people do not like discussing such conditions and often are shamed or embarrassed for anyone to know if they are attending therapy.

Another thing which struck me as a bit interesting is that when Milly has her first doctor visit in the third book I think it was, and Susan asks her what was wrong with her Milly replies "Everything" this to me does have something of an existential ring to it. And while the terminology of existentialism did not come about until the later part of the 20th century, the ideas which lead up to it started in the late 18the century.

One more note on a different subject I wanted to make, is in considering the previous thoughts about Milly being the dove. While the dove is a symbol used for some divine presence, peace, the Holy Spirit, there was a scene in which Aunt Maud was talking to Milly and wanting to use her as a sort of go between to find out information in regards to Kate and Deshner which made me think of dove in terms of messenger pigeon.


message 3: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Cancer also had a stigma Silver and that has been suggested elsewhere as the illness Milly had. I think it was what James' young cousin died of.


message 4: by Adelle (new)

Adelle MadgeUK wrote: "Cancer also had a stigma Silver and that has been suggested elsewhere as the illness Milly had. I think it was what James' young cousin died of."

James's cousin Minnie Elliot died of consumption.

But I had no idea there had been a stigma attached to cancer. James's sister, Mary, died in London, of cancer, a few years before James wrote WoD.... So Madge might be on to something there.

Also, having started book 5, I would think that Milly can't have consumption, because she would be coughing up blood, and the doctor had told her that people basically wouldn't know what she had.


message 5: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 23, 2012 01:57AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Cancer long had the stigma of being an 'evil' disease. It had been thought of as an incubus/demon living inside of you.


message 6: by Andreea (last edited Mar 23, 2012 01:58AM) (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 34 comments Adelle wrote: "Also, having started book 5, I would think that Milly can't have consumption, because she would be coughing up blood, and the doctor had told her that people basically wouldn't know what she had. "

25% of TB cases are extra-pulmonary and even in pulmonary cases, blood coughing isn't always present (especially not in the early stages of the disease). We only know of coughing blood as the sure sign of TB because it's such a powerful visual image, it's often used in films and plays. Kafka, for example, died because TB affected lymph nodes in his throat and made it impossible for him to eat.


message 7: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 23, 2012 02:17AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments True Andreea. My grandmother died of TB and I never saw her cough blood, which sometimes happens in the final stages. Most of the time I think patients just waste away, becoming very pale, thin and weak. It used to be known as the 'wasting disease' and was named 'consumption' because it appeared to consumes the body's resources. Treatment used to consist of fresh air (in outdoor sanatoria) and feeding the patient well:-

http://www.genproxy.co.uk/archaic_cli...

http://www.newtbdrugs.org/blog/2010/0...

Venice, which is a damp place, was not a good place to take Milly. She would have felt better in a mountain environment near to the Italian Dolomites, like Lake Maggiore near to the Swiss border - a beautiful location:-

http://www.lifeinitaly.com/tourism/lo...


message 8: by Lily (last edited Mar 23, 2012 06:32AM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments MadgeUK wrote: "http://www.genproxy.co.uk/archaic_cli......"

The timeline on tuberculous embedded in the text here is fascinating. Thx for identifying this article, Madge.

One of my father's brothers died as a young man from tuberculous. It must have been not very many years before the availability of streptomycin in 1946.


message 9: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments @7MadgeUK wrote: "...She would have felt better in a mountain environment near to the Italian Dolomites, like Lake Maggiore near to the Swiss border - a beautiful location..."

Beautiful spot. Have you been here, Madge? I know you have traveled Italy.

Question: is "mastiff" the appropriate word in this sentence: "Don't be fooled by the name, however, Monte Rose isn't one mountain but a mastiff with ten peaks covered in glaciers."

(M-W Unabridged shows only the meaning of "a very large powerful deep-chested smooth-coated dog of a very old breed used chiefly as a watchdog and guard dog.")


message 10: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Lily wrote: "MadgeUK wrote: "http://www.genproxy.co.uk/archaic_cli......"

The timeline on tuberculous embedded in the text here is ..."


Yes and the sanatoria treatments illustrated in the second article were certainly available at the time James was writing about Milly. I can't think of a worse place than Venice to take a sufferer from TB. Not only is the atmosphere inside and out always damp but the ancient furnishings in the old buildings are very damp too:( But of course Lake Maggiore would not be so romantic a setting for a novel.

BTW when the NHS was first established, patients with TB and bronchial illnesses were sometimes sent for Swiss sanatoria cures - my mother went on one around 1950, to treat her chronic bronchitus.


message 11: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments I think we Americans called them sanatoriums and they were frequently in dry, warm places like Arizona, although tuberculous was common enough that I have no recollection of stories of my uncle being sent any considerable distance for his care -- maybe across the state to a state-funded facility.


message 12: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 23, 2012 07:02AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I don't think too much heat was considered good Lily, which is why mountain locations with clear fresh air were considered good, although patients sat outside in the sunshine. The UK has no such places, our hilly places are damp:) Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain deals with the monotony of life in a Swiss sanatorium.


message 13: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments MadgeUK wrote: I don't think too much heat was considered good Lily..."

You are probably correct, Madge. A quick check yielded:

"Beginning in 1890, a series of large and outstanding sanitoriums were built on the outskirts of Colorado Springs. [Edge of the Rockies.] These health facilities were generously staffed and administered by eminent physicians. Glockner (now Penrose Hospital) was established in 1890 and developed into the largest Catholic sanitorium in the country. Bellevue Sanitorium (now Saint Francis Hospital) was begun in 1900, designed to be the world's largest Protestant tuberculosis center. Nordrach Ranch (near the present site of Nation al College) was founded in 1901, and enjoyed the distinction of being Colorado's first open-air sanitorium and the second such institution in the United States. Cragmor Sanitorium, today the campus of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, was officially opened in 1905, under the world-famous physician Edwin Solly, and thereafter became the most luxurious palace for well-to-do consumptives in the United States."

http://www.uccs.edu/~cragmor/history....

Although I don't see the sponsoring organization, so if reliable, this site is an interesting overview of the current status of TB:
http://www.humanillnesses.com/origina...


message 14: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 23, 2012 08:33AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I find it very sad that people felt the need to group themselves into 'Protestants' and 'Catholics' at such a time of their lives:(.

I've just remembered that I went to see the house where D H Lawrence and Frieda stayed, on Lake Garda in the Southern Dolomites, where he went to relieve his TB;.

http://www.visual-italy.it/EN/lombard...

How I enjoyed my holidays on the Italian Lakes, Lake Como especially which is surrounded by the most beautiful villas with large gardens (one of which is owned by George Clooney). I would have recommended them to Milly:).

http://www.europeupclose.com/article/...


message 15: by Silver (new)

Silver | 1243 comments Mod
For those how are familiar with "The Portrait of a Lady" by James, (I know at least Bill has read it) I cannot help but see many parallels between these two books.

One scene which particular struck out at me, as I am curious of what the meaning, if any is meant to be implied is when Lord Mark takes Milly to see the painting, and than Kate with a couple of other people shows up. If I recall correctly there was a very similar instance to this, of people gathered around a painting contemplating it, in Portrait of a lady.

It seems to me that this instance was placed into the book for a reason and there is something of which James is trying to point out to us. What is the significance in the rather strong resemblance that is pointed out between the portrait and Milly?


message 16: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments MadgeUK wrote: "I find it very sad that people felt the need to group themselves into 'Protestants' and 'Catholics' at such a time of their lives:(...."

I suspect it was more that each had established systems of hospitals and of sources of funding, i.e., they were already so grouped and it probably would have been harder and more costly to try to create an umbrella institution. My guess is that each treated patients across faith or no faith preferences, at least that has certainly long been true of the U.S. hospitals.


message 17: by Lily (last edited Mar 24, 2012 06:48PM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments Silver wrote: "...What is the significance in the rather strong resemblance that is pointed out between the portrait and Milly? ..."

This instance has been called "one of the psychological climaxes of the novel" -- whatever that means! LOL. (There is a Jstor article from 1953 that I am not going to try to access.)

Others point to passages like these for significance:

(Used to shorten post, NO spoiler.)(view spoiler)


message 18: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments I really like the doctor, Sir Luke Strett. Even Milly's perception that he might be attracted to her is fun:

(Open spoiler for quotations.) (view spoiler)


message 19: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments I'm not sure what Milly felt she was accomplishing in her relationship with Kate when she invited Kate to her first visit to Sir Luke. In particular, I'm having trouble with what still feels like convoluted logic absolving Milly of suspecting Kate is in love with Denscher, the man Milly seems to desire. It seems to be related to questions of trust, but would somebody cut to the chase on this one?


message 20: by Silver (last edited Mar 24, 2012 07:18PM) (new)

Silver | 1243 comments Mod
Lily wrote: "Silver wrote: "...What is the significance in the rather strong resemblance that is pointed out between the portrait and Milly? ..."

This instance has been called "one of the psychological climaxe..."


I will have to moll this over, but it seems to me that it is working as a bit of foreshadow and perhaps suggestive of the way in which Milly herself is in a way frozen in time, that her own beauty will be immortalized, as whatever the nature of her illness it seems suggested that she is destined to die young. At least Milly herself is convinced of her impending death.

Though Milly has remained secretive about her illness do others recognize her fate within the painting?

I cannot recall if the book specifies the name of the particular painting they are looking at but I looked up Bronzino and something about this painting makes me think of Milly:

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-lCvsxwyiFcI...


message 21: by Silver (new)

Silver | 1243 comments Mod
Lily wrote: "I'm not sure what Milly felt she was accomplishing in her relationship with Kate when she invited Kate to her first visit to Sir Luke. In particular, I'm having trouble with what still feels like ..."

I have begun to develop a possible theory in regards to Milly, Densher, and Kate, and though I am not necessarily saying I think that such was what was intended or that it is what I personally believe, I do think it makes for an interesting possibility.

Considering that discussions in regards to questions of sexuality have already been brought up, and possibly alluded to within the book, than I do not think that it is out of the question that such may be implied.

I have considered the possibility that the feelings expressed by both Milly and Kate on Densher might in fact truly be a reflection of the feelings Milly, and Kate have for each other and Densher is just sort of used as the vehicle, or Middle Man, being that one did have to be discreet when dealing with homosexuality. So they project the feelings they have for each other onto Densher.

There were a couple of instances which happen in Book Six which started getting me on this track of thinking, and so I was going to wait until than to mention it, but since you brought the subject up here, I thought I would share my general thoughts.


message 22: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments One other comment on the centrality of the Bronzino portrait (http://www.lib-art.com/artgallery/764...) in WotD, published in 1902. I noted the similarity with Swan, in Proust's Swan's Way (published 1913), comparing Odette with Botticelli's Zipporah, future wife of Moses, hanging in the Sistine Chapel.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Eve...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zipporah

The Portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi (~1545) is at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. James writes of it: "The lady in question, at all events, with her slightly Michael-angelesque squareness, her eyes of other days, her full lips, her long neck, her recorded jewels, her brocaded and wasted reds, was a very great personage--only unaccompanied by a joy. And she was dead, dead, dead.

Lord Mark says: "...splendid as she is, one doubts if she was good."

The words "Amour dure sans fin" (love lasts eternally) appear on Lucrezia's golden necklace, from a love treatise written for the Grand Duke of Florence, Cosimo I de' Medici, in 1547. (Note the discrepancy in dates -- I would expect the treatise to precede any painting?)


message 23: by Silver (new)

Silver | 1243 comments Mod
Here is the Lucrezia Panciaitichi portrait

http://artblart.files.wordpress.com/2...


message 24: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments Welcome online, Silver. I think I am going to go watch the movie, since I haven't finished it and need to get it back to the library.


message 25: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 24, 2012 11:56PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Could there also be an allusion to Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray - the portrait which aged whilst the subject did not, and which showed the subject's 'sins'?

Also, from Wikipedia:-

Giorgio Vasari describes the two portraits as: "so natural that they seem truly living". The show of refined garments and jewelry was intended not only to underline the élite position of the woman, but also aspects of her personality through a complex symbology, including the words "Amour dure sans fin" on the golden necklace, a reference to a love treatise written for the Grand Duke of Florence, Cosimo I de' Medici, in 1547.


message 26: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 25, 2012 05:03AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Adelle wrote: Have you visited Lake Maggiore Madge....l

Yes I have visited Lake Maggiore Adelle, I have been to all of the Lakes in Northern Italy and have posted elsewhere that this was a better venue for Milly than damp Venice. The word mastiff (a dog) is a a mis-spelling of massif, which is a group of mountain heights. Monte Rosa (4634m) is the outstanding one when viewed from Lake Maggiore - I have a long panoramic postcard of this range of mountains on the wall at the side of my computer! I also went up the Matterhorn by cable car and viewed the massif from there on the Swiss side, where the Monte Rosa plateau is also visible. Wonderful, wonderful holidays - I wish I could post my photo of me in front of the Monte Rosa panorama here - I am with two toy boys!!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dufour_Peak


message 27: by Lily (last edited Mar 25, 2012 05:16AM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments MadgeUK wrote: "The word mastiff (a dog) is a a mis-spelling of massif, which is a group of mountain heights..."

Ah, thank you! This gal from the plains of the U.S. did not know that word, despite her many years in Vermont.

I am with two toy boys!! ???


message 28: by Andreea (last edited Mar 26, 2012 10:23AM) (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 34 comments Silver wrote: "Lily wrote: "Silver wrote: "...What is the significance in the rather strong resemblance that is pointed out between the portrait and Milly? ..."

This instance has been called "one of the psycho..."


Maybe it has something to do with the scene at the National Gallery near the end of Book V where Densher and Kate are compared to a portrait by the American family and it's a more general comment on how human beings construct / understand each other's identity?

It's this bit:

"Handsome? Well, if you choose to say so." It was the mother who had spoken, who herself added, after a pause during which Milly took the reference as to a picture: "In the English style." The three pair of eyes had converged, and their possessors had for an instant rested, with the effect of a drop of the subject, on this last characterisation—with that, too, of a gloom not less mute in one of the daughters than murmured in the other. Milly's heart went out to them while they turned their backs; she said to herself that they ought to have known her, that there was something between them they might have beautifully put together. But she had lost them also—they were cold; they left her in her weak wonder as to what they had been looking at. The "handsome" disposed her to turn—all the more that the "English style" would be the English school, which she liked; only she saw, before moving, by the array on the side facing her, that she was in fact among small Dutch pictures. The action of this was again appreciable—the dim surmise that it wouldn't then be by a picture that the spring in the three ladies had been pressed. It was at all events time she should go, and she turned as she got on her feet. She had had behind her one of the entrances and various visitors who had come in while she sat, visitors single and in pairs—by one of the former of whom she felt her eyes suddenly held.


message 29: by Lily (last edited Mar 26, 2012 10:38AM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments Finished Book 5 this morning and am chomping at the bit for Volume 2! Downloaded it to my Kindle, since the free version comes in two volumes.

Laurele, for me, the Kindle has somehow become my favored place to read WotD. Somehow, I get a segment of text that I can quickly re-read if need be, and that rather disappears, if I moved on. I also can freely highlight and look up words (but not a lot in this, I will say). I had been reading the Modern Library paperback, which was okay. But, somehow the ebook has been easier.

I think my sense of the book has gotten messed up by watching the movie, but it is a lovely film and I am not sorry for viewing it before completing the book. It has given the characters and settings some physical images that have carried back into the ramblings and convoluted sentences of the text. Those are more like feeling as if one is inside James's mind, wondering what it was like to dictate these thoughts, as opposed to write them. How in the world did he do it, i.e., both the overall sustained discipline and the progression, then digression of the ideas, as if pondering on what was just spoken? But it feels less like stream of consciousness of the characters than of James himself (narrator) to me.

I would think listening to this would be very difficult, with all the starts and stops, all the reflective thinking. The ability to jump backward in listening seems not so easy as when reading. (But WotD doesn't strike me as a candidate for teaching speed reading, except perhaps in the hands of an expert teacher training either what to avoid or how to tackle not usual texts.)


message 30: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 115 comments Lily wrote: "Finished Book 5 this morning and am chomping at the bit for Volume 2! Downloaded it to my Kindle, since the free version comes in two volumes.

Laurele, for me, the Kindle has somehow become my fa..."


I finished listening to the book last night, Lily, but I am not done with the book. Listening gave me a good overall impression. A little later, I want to go back and read the book on my Kindle. Also, I just ordered the Norton Critical Edition in order to read the essay by James Thurber, of all persons. A Facebook friend told me about it. I just posted my brief review on Goodreads.


message 31: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments Any comments on the contrast of Milly wandering through the streets of London right after meeting with Sir Luke Strett and then a day or so later roaming the National Gallery?

It is almost as if Milly is plunging into the verisimilitude of life with all its diversity, from abject to sublime, and then selectively choosing to begin to explore the best (and most civilized?) available. I can relate.


message 32: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 115 comments Lily wrote: "Any comments on the contrast of Milly wandering through the streets of London right after meeting with Sir Luke Strett and then a day or so later roaming the National Gallery?

It is almost as if M..."


Good, Lily. I think you're right.


message 33: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments The first direct references to the dove imagery? I'm not sure I "get it".

Text only (no actual spoiler):

(view spoiler) Book 5, Chapter 6 (15), ML pp300-303.


message 34: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 115 comments Hmm. So Millie is deciding that she will be a dove (a sacrifice for poor people?) it seems to me to be telling us that Millie is consciously sacrificing herself, the very thing that Kate is trying to manipulate. "I lay down my own life."


message 35: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments @14 MadgeUK wrote: "I find it very sad that people felt the need to group themselves into 'Protestants' and 'Catholics' at such a time of their lives:(..."

Here is an article that refers to that cross faith charity that Americans pretty much take for granted:

"Catholic charities and hospitals — even Catholic schools — do not turn away Hindu or Jew."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinion...

This is one of several recent articles on church and state under the Constitution as practiced in the U.S. today.


message 36: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments Laurele wrote: "Hmm. So Millie is deciding that she will be a dove (a sacrifice for poor people?) it seems to me to be telling us that Millie is consciously sacrificing herself, the very thing that Kate is trying ..."

The analogy that came to my mind was of the dove descending, in the Holy Spirit sense. But yours of the poor man's sacrifice may fit the situation better


message 37: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Lily wrote:..."

Here is an article that refers to that cross faith charity that Americans pretty much take for granted:c..."


There is much more church in your state than in ours methinks, especially when it is endorsed by the President. A 'National Prayer Brakfast' hosted by a PM would not sit well with us.


message 38: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments Was reading some literary criticism today that talked about placing characters from literature relative to each other. Anyone have thoughts on this topic relative to Milly Theale and Kate Croy; even Mrs. Stringham, Aunt Maud Lowder, and Marian Condrip?


message 39: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments Somehow, Milly encountering Merton Densher at the National Museum with Kate while Sir Strett was conferring with Mrs. Stringham seemed a bit author-ally contrived.

Given the intimations that Milly felt Sir Strett was attracted to her as a woman, I also got the sense that she might have been attempting a bit of passing him along to Susan Shepherd Stringham. Somehow, it would have seemed prudent for Milly to have been present when the good doctor delivered her prognosis, which there is no clear evidence he had really done except through insinuation previously, unless I missed something. Also, as far as I recall, we are never enlightened about Sir Strett's marital status. (There are times in looking back over the text I can almost sense Mr. James (remembering and) dictating an additional detail that he now wants to use, such as when he adds "Shepherd" to Susan's name on p. 131 of the Modern Library edition.)


message 40: by Andreea (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 34 comments Lily wrote: "Was reading some literary criticism today that talked about placing characters from literature relative to each other. Anyone have thoughts on this topic relative to Milly Theale and Kate Croy; ev..."

Could you explain what you mean by "placing characters from literature relative to each other" a bit further?


message 41: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments Andreea wrote: "Could you explain what you mean by "placing characters from literature relative to each other" a bit further? ..."

No, I'm not sure I can, Andreea. I encountered the concept in some criticism of The Great Gatsby which was talking about comparing Daisy with other fictional characters rather than with "real" women of the day. The idea fascinated me and I began to play with it and decided to throw it out here, thinking others may know more about it than I do! LOL!

One of the places I have gone since has been to think about characters with whom one might usefully compare the list in my msg. 38. I don't even have examples I am ready to share yet.

But, I did stumble upon these two lists which confronted me with how much portrayal of feminine characters has changed in the past 100 years:

http://www.pinkraygun.com/2007/09/11/...

http://popwatch.ew.com/2010/06/01/100...

In my cursory explorations, these two seemed also of interest:

http://digitool.fcla.edu/R/XE9M6PQLS5...
(Women in fiction versus in historical writings.)

http://www.history.ac.uk/ihr/Focus/Ge...
(The "new" woman in literature.)


message 42: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 30, 2012 12:45AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I think that the third example shows that writers, usually males, were still presenting women in their pre-plague roles. After the plague, because so many male heads of households had died, women perforce had to take on much more dominant 'male' roles. However, both fiction and non-fiction was largely written by men until the emergence of the woman gothic novelist (and female travel writers) in the late 18thC and even then women were still stereotyped in their older roles, which Jane Austen parodied in Northanger Abbey. Whilst women like Sands, Eliot and the Brontes were still constrained to write under male pseudonymns, the changing role of women was kept under wraps for the benefit of a public taught by both (male) clergy and rulers that 'a woman's place is in the home'. It was not until the 'fin de siecle?' that the New Woman proclaimed in the final link began to emerge from the pens of women like Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf in relatively large numbers. IMO it is also significant that it was a closeted homosexual but male writer, Henry James, who was credited with sympathetic portrayals of 'modern' women at this time.

Until women were as educated as their male peers and well represented in all walks of life, it was impossible to properly compare all but a few of them with their male counterparts and this was a situation which did not begin to exist until after the First World War when women got the vote and began to realise that they could indeed run industries and governments as well as homes. (Successful Queens had been few and far between, the exception rather than the rule.) Yet even today there is a post-feminist backlash from both men and women which seeks to undo many of the gains women have made in this regard.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backlash...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/...

I find it depressing that the women of the future portrayed in Pinkraygun are sexy sexual stereotypes more reminiscent of early Hollywood than of the strong women portrayed by Bronte, Eliot and Wharton. A backlash indeed:(


message 43: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 30, 2012 01:23AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments For light relief I am reading the novella ,An Uncommon Reader by our celebrated playwright Alan Bennett wherein the Queen takes to reading in a big way, which transforms her life. In it he writes of her perusal of Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love '[It] turned out to be a fortunate choice and in its way a momentous one. Had Her Majesty gone for another duff read, an early George Eliot or, say, a late Henry James, novice reader that she was, she might have been put off reading for good and there would be no story to tell. Books, she would have thought, were work.'

Later: 'She was not a gentle reader and often wished authors were around so that she could take them to task'. 'Am I alone' she wrote in her notebook 'in wanting to give Henry James a good talking to?'...It was Henry James she was reading one teatime when she said out aloud 'Oh, do get on!'

Bennet also uses the lovely word 'divagation' to describe James' style of writing:-

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/diva...

I found myself in utmost sympathy both with Her Maj and Bennett:D.


message 44: by Lily (last edited Mar 30, 2012 05:24AM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments MadgeUK wrote: "...I found myself in utmost sympathy both with Her Maj and Bennett:D. ..."

But HM apparently read enough James to know that she wanted to give him "a good talking to." (And that she judged he might have been worthy and capable of hearing what she would say.) Many of us who consider ourselves insatiable readers may not have gotten ourselves there.


message 45: by Bill (new)

Bill (BillGNYC) | 224 comments Just briefly about the earlier comments, have people read Susan Sontag's "Illness as Metaphor"? A later version was "Illness as Metaphor" and "Aids as Metaphor".

A cancer victim, Sontag wrote that a lot of the mythology about tuberculosis was transferred to cancer.

When I read it, she hadn't written Aids as Metaphor yet.

The unrevealed mysteries, the illness and what Lionel Croy actually did, might be a way of focusing attention on the responses of the characters rather than distracting the readers with the thing itself.

Also, the standard line about doctors not necessarily doing more good than harm before the 20th century needs to be kept in mind.


message 46: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments Bill wrote: "Just briefly about the earlier comments, have people read Susan Sontag's "Illness as Metaphor"? A later version was "Illness as Metaphor" and "Aids as Metaphor"...."

???


message 47: by Bill (new)

Bill (BillGNYC) | 224 comments Lily wrote: "Bill wrote: "Just briefly about the earlier comments, have people read Susan Sontag's "Illness as Metaphor"? A later version was "Illness as Metaphor" and "Aids as Metaphor"...."

???"


You'll have to be more precise. :-)


message 48: by Lily (last edited Mar 30, 2012 06:10AM) (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2373 comments Bill wrote: "The unrevealed mysteries, the illness and what Lionel Croy actually did, might be a way of focusing attention on the responses of the characters rather than distracting the readers with the thing itself...."

What do you mean by "the thing itself"? Do you mean exploring how the characters react to each other and to Milly's mysterious illness rather than or as well as exploring the nature of illness and its treatment in the period?

So, for example, how Milly goes to the Museum while leaving Sir Strett to discuss her illness with Susan -- what does that say to us? I guess this morning I can't help but contrast that with messages from family that are following serious medical procedures for an ailing elderly relative in a modern hospital. The contrast feels almost surreal.

(I have not read the books of Sontag you reference.)


message 49: by MadgeUK (last edited Mar 30, 2012 06:42AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments So, for example, how Milly goes to the Museum while leaving Sir Strett to discuss her illness with Susan

Milly may be like myself and prefer not to dwell on illness but to let others be curious if they will and to let professionals, doctors and nurses, take care of her. The modern fascination with wanting to know everything about one's illness and treatment appals me. In no other profession are professionals asked to account for their actions in such overwhelming detail.

James being James I expect he is using the illness and its mystery as a metaphor, for life itself perhaps. Que sera sera. 'In the midst of life we are in death' and all that.


message 50: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments HM did not finish any James Lily and much preferred Proust! The novella ends with her imitating Proust by commencing her own seven-part Remembrance of Things Past:).

There is an interesting review of a book about Meanings in Henry James here:-

http://books.google.co.uk/books/about...


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The Readers Review: Literature from 1800 to 1910

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