Victorians Undone : Tales of the Flesh in the Age of Decorum

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9780007548361: Victorians Undone : Tales of the Flesh in the Age of Decorum

In Victorians Undone, renowned British historian Kathryn Hughes follows five iconic figures of the nineteenth century as they encounter the world not through their imaginations or intellects but through their bodies. Or rather, through their body parts. Using the vivid language of admiring glances, cruel sniggers, and implacably turned backs, Hughes crafts a narrative of cinematic quality by combining a series of truly eye-opening and deeply intelligent accounts of life in Victorian England.

Lady Flora Hastings is an unmarried lady-in-waiting at young Queen Victoria’s court whose swollen stomach ignites a scandal that almost brings the new reign crashing down. Darwin’s iconic beard provides important new clues to the roles that men and women play in the great dance of natural selection. George Eliot brags that her right hand is larger than her left, but her descendants are strangely desperate to keep the information secret. The poet-painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, meanwhile, takes his art and his personal life in a new direction thanks to the bee-stung lips of his secret mistress, Fanny Cornforth. Finally, we meet Fanny Adams, an eight-year-old working-class girl whose tragic evisceration tells us much about the currents of desire and violence at large in the mid-Victorian countryside.

While ‘bio-graphy’ parses as ‘the writing of a life,’ the genre itself has often seemed willfully indifferent to the vital signs of that life―to breath, movement, touch, and taste. Nowhere is this truer than when writing about the Victorians, who often figure in their own life stories as curiously disembodied. In lively, accessible prose, Victorians Undone fills the space where the body ought to be, proposing new ways of thinking and writing about flesh in the nineteenth century.

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About the Author:

Kathryn Hughes is the professor of life writing at the University of East Anglia and a literary critic for The Guardian. She is the author of The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton and George Eliot: The Last Victorian.

Review:

"Intriguing, gleefully contentious and―appropriately enough―fizzing with life, Victorians Undone is the most original history book I have read in a long while."

(The Daily Mail)

"A page-turner... brilliant all the way through. One of the best books I’ve read in ages."

(Sunday Express)

"Elegantly sidestepping the usual clichés of Victorian history, from foggy streets to whimpering urchins, each page becomes a window on to a world that is far stranger than we might expect. It is writing that takes the raw materials of everyday life, starting with the body’s ‘bulges, dips, hollows, oozes and itches,’ and makes them live again. A dazzling experiment in life writing... Every page fizzes with the excitement of fresh discoveries."

(The Guardian)

"This lively study goes behind the frills and furbelows to explore aspects of the Victorians’ notoriously strange attitude to the body."

(The Guardian)

"It is rich and scholarly, something fascinating to be discovered on every page... Hughes is a thoroughly engaging writer: serious-minded but lively, careful yet passionate... Some of the encounters in its pages, whiffy and indelible, will stay with me for ever."

(The Observer)

" Victorians Undone is a work of formidable scholarship, but Hughes has a fluid, jaunty style that propels the reader from idea to idea. Reading it is like unraveling the bandages on a mummy to find the face of the past staring back in all its terrible and poignant humanity."

(Financial Times)

"History so alive you can smell its reek... With her love of bodily detail, Hughes does indeed put the carnal back into biography."

(The Telegraph)

"No one remotely interested in books should miss it."

(The Sunday Times)

"I can’t think of a recent social history I’ve enjoyed more."

(The Big Issue)

"Beautifully constructed, narrated not only with wit and gusto, but a clear sense of purpose."

(Mail on Sunday)

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2017. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. `Intriguing, gleefully contentious and - appropriately enough - fizzing with life, Victorians Undone is the most original history book I have read in a long while John Preston, Daily Mail A groundbreaking account of what it was like to live in a Victorian body from one of our best historians. Why did the great philosophical novelist George Eliot feel so self-conscious that her right hand was larger than her left? Exactly what made Darwin grow that iconic beard in 1862, a good five years after his contemporaries had all retired their razors? Who knew Queen Victoria had a personal hygiene problem as a young woman and the crisis that followed led to a hurried commitment to marry Albert? What did John Sell Cotman, a handsome drawing room operator who painted some of the most exquisite watercolours the world has ever seen, feel about marrying a woman whose big nose made smart people snigger? How did a working-class child called Fanny Adams disintegrate into pieces in 1867 before being reassembled into a popular joke, one we still reference today, but would stop, appalled, if we knew its origins? Kathryn Hughes follows a thickened index finger or deep baritone voice into the realms of social history, medical discourse, aesthetic practise and religious observance - its language is one of admiring glances, cruel sniggers, an implacably turned back. The result is an eye-opening, deeply intelligent, groundbreaking account that brings the Victorians back to life and helps us understand how they lived their lives. Bookseller Inventory # AA89780007548361

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2017. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. `Intriguing, gleefully contentious and - appropriately enough - fizzing with life, Victorians Undone is the most original history book I have read in a long while John Preston, Daily Mail A groundbreaking account of what it was like to live in a Victorian body from one of our best historians. Why did the great philosophical novelist George Eliot feel so self-conscious that her right hand was larger than her left? Exactly what made Darwin grow that iconic beard in 1862, a good five years after his contemporaries had all retired their razors? Who knew Queen Victoria had a personal hygiene problem as a young woman and the crisis that followed led to a hurried commitment to marry Albert? What did John Sell Cotman, a handsome drawing room operator who painted some of the most exquisite watercolours the world has ever seen, feel about marrying a woman whose big nose made smart people snigger? How did a working-class child called Fanny Adams disintegrate into pieces in 1867 before being reassembled into a popular joke, one we still reference today, but would stop, appalled, if we knew its origins? Kathryn Hughes follows a thickened index finger or deep baritone voice into the realms of social history, medical discourse, aesthetic practise and religious observance - its language is one of admiring glances, cruel sniggers, an implacably turned back. The result is an eye-opening, deeply intelligent, groundbreaking account that brings the Victorians back to life and helps us understand how they lived their lives. Bookseller Inventory # AA89780007548361

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