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A Ryder (London UK)

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Brotherly Love or the Cudham Quartet: Being the Story of Two Brothers and Two Sisters, the Penge Murder Mystery of 1877 and the Trial and Subsequent ... and Alice Rhodes (Crime & Custom (SAGA))
Brotherly Love or the Cudham Quartet: Being the Story of Two Brothers and Two Sisters, the Penge Murder Mystery of 1877 and the Trial and Subsequent ... and Alice Rhodes (Crime & Custom (SAGA))
by Dorothy Cox
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Reads like faction, 6 May 2012
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I sought this out after reading Elizabeth Jenkins's 'Harriet', newly reprinted by Persephone Books. This was written as a factual account in 1989 and is an interesting counterpoint to the Jenkins novelisation of this sensational 1877 case. While Jenkins leaves the reader in no doubt where her sympathies lie, Dorothy Cox is more restrained, and in fact clearly believes that death sentences for the Stauntons and Alice Rhodes would have been a miscarriage of justice.

There are fascinating peripheral facts here that Jenkins, as a novelist, left out, such as the existence of Harriet's siblings, and the family circumstances of the Stauntons. Where it frustrates in the first instance is that it blurs the boundary of fact and fiction, which 'Harriet' and even 'The Suspicions of Mr Whicher' avoid. (The latter is cited as a 'new' genre, which will come as a surprise to anyone who has read this book.) Ms Cox makes assertions about motives and feelings without bothering to name her sources, with only a scant bibliography at the end of the book. While she states that she hasn't set out to defend the accused in any way, she tellingly thanks the Stauntons' descendants in the acknowledgments.

Undeniably, there was prejudice in the case from the judge, 'Hanging' Henry Hawkins, who continually directed the jury away from the medical evidence, such as it was, and towards the moral culpability of the four on trial. Legally it would seem there was not enough evidence to convict any of them of murder and sentence them to death. However, Cox's own arguments, while stating that they had behaved badly towards Harriet, seem a weak defence of their innocence. Marriage for money may have been common enough - and arguably still is - but it is hard to believe that Louis Staunton had any intention of being a faithful husband, or of caring for his incapable wife. Elizabeth Staunton may have had no legal obligation to provide Harriet with food, but she was presumably more than the unwilling handmaiden of her husband, who was being paid to provide for Harriet and her baby. All four colluded in keeping Harriet at the Woodlands, away from her husband, and out of sight of the locals, or of those who loved her. The maid, Clara's assertions were at best unreliable: she could have changed her story because of fear for her own neck, at the behest of the police, or she could have been less afraid of her violent employers, who were also her relatives, once they were in the dock. Another argument employed by Ms Cox - that there was a large cellar at the Woodlands in which they would have kept Harriet had they intended to starve her - is not consistent with their preoccupation with the appearance of things, occasioned by Alice's passing herself off as Mrs Louis Staunton and their last-minute dash to Penge with the dying Harriet, supposedly in search of a doctor. That they were keeping her at the tiny cottage against her will is almost certain, given her expressed love and longing for her husband, which was never denied.

Perhaps the mystery wasn't a murder, but it was a serious crime, and what is the point of the dry framework of the law, if not to uphold morals and safeguard the vulnerable? The Notable British Trials coverage is hard to obtain, but is possibly a better perspective than either the novelist's imagination or the journalist/historian's reconstruction.


Harriet
Harriet
by Elizabeth Jenkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: 12.88

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing, 23 April 2012
This review is from: Harriet (Paperback)
It doesn't seem right to call a book 'wonderful' when the subject matter is as grim as this. It's a novelised version of a true crime which happened in Penge, now a suburb of London, in the 1870s, and Jenkins wrote it in the early 1930s (it beat 'Frost in May' and 'A Handful of Dust' to a prestigious literary award). The eponymous Harriet is a rich young lady who had what we would now call learning difficulties, and she was married for her money and then shut away and neglected until she and her baby died of starvation. The stuff of Victorian melodrama is here rendered in a chillingly matter-of-fact, unflinching way which only heightens the tragedy of a vulnerable, trusting young woman in the hands of predators. Jenkins was apparently upset herself, by what she'd written, wondering how such a terrible thing could happen. All credit to her that she doesn't portray the Omans as soulless monsters, but corruptible, selfish and weak-willed human beings. What shocked Victorian and inter-war society should perhaps be less horrifying in an age of genocide and terrorism, but the tragedy here is undiminished.

I have also read two other Persephone titles, 'The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes' and 'The Victorian Chaise-Longue' by Marghanita Laski and both were great, well-written reads. If you like the sinister, the tragic and the Victorians in a quality package, this is definitely worth a read.


The Invention of Murder
The Invention of Murder
by Judith Flanders
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Devil in the Detail, 20 Dec 2011
Having enjoyed 'The Victorian House' I bought copies of 'Consuming Passions' and 'The Invention of Murder' and was disappointed with both, for similar reasons. Other reviewers of both books have made the points, so I'll not repeat them at length, but this reads like a compendium of crimes, or more accurately the 19th Century reporting and replaying of crimes for public consumption, and while there are nuggets of fascinating detail, the narrative is disjointed enough to make it a bit of a slog to read. Ms Flanders is clearly immersed in her subject, but so much so that she fails to make it as engaging as she might. Almost every study of Victorian murders portrays it as a distinctive era for them and links them to coverage in the press and elsewhere, so sadly this adds less to the subject than I expected.


KC-Electronics HTC Wildfire S PREMIUM PU Red Leather Flip Case + Red High Capacitive Stylus Pen + X3 LCD Screen Protector Guards
KC-Electronics HTC Wildfire S PREMIUM PU Red Leather Flip Case + Red High Capacitive Stylus Pen + X3 LCD Screen Protector Guards

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fit for purpose, 27 Oct 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This isn't a luxury product, but I agree with the reviewer who says it's very good value for money. As described, it's PU leather, which is synthetic and not as durable as genuine leather. However, phone contracts are 24 months and it should last that long. The colour is nice, the pen is useful for the Wildfire's tiny virtual keyboard and there are 3 screen protectors included. Best of all, it will do its job of preventing the phone from getting knocked around too badly in my bag, and for what it cost I won't mind if it loses its looks over time.


Victorian costume and costume accessories (Victorian collector series)
Victorian costume and costume accessories (Victorian collector series)
by Anne Buck
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good guide, 16 Sep 2011
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A surprisingly slim volume for a subject so voluminous in every sense. The structure is helpful, with overview chapters followed by others devoted specifically to categories such as 'hats and bonnets' and 'children's clothing'. These are explained in a roughly chronological sense to give a feeling for how the length and decoration of gloves, for example, changed during Victoria's reign.

The text itself sometimes assumes a knowledge of dressmaking terms that the modern reader may not have, however, and the plates as well as the illustrations are in black and white, which reduces the effect somewhat. It also doesn't say much about the wider context of clothing in the era - class or labour-specific dress, relative costs, re-sold and re-made items etc although it makes no claims to include them.

Overall a handy introduction, or companion to other volumes such as 'Fashion and Reality', 'Corsets and Crinolines' and 'Crinolines and Crimping Irons'.


In Search of the Picturesque: The English Photographs of John Wheeley Gough Gutch 1856 - 59
In Search of the Picturesque: The English Photographs of John Wheeley Gough Gutch 1856 - 59
by Ian Charles Sumner
Edition: Paperback
Price: 14.83

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lost way of life captured by a little-known photographer, 16 Sep 2011
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Gough's photographs are well reproduced here and the text is helpful without wild speculations about what he was trying to achieve. The pictures have a direct appeal in showing both the 'lost idyll' and hard realities of rural life in the Mid-Victorian era.


Cecilia: Life and Letters of Cecilia Ridley, 1819-45 (Northern classics)
Cecilia: Life and Letters of Cecilia Ridley, 1819-45 (Northern classics)
by Ursula Ridley
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.13

4.0 out of 5 stars Rare female voice from the earlier 19th Century, 13 Sep 2011
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Cecilia Ridley led a brief but comfortable life in England in the early part of the 19th Century. She made a good marriage but lived far away from her childhood home and wrote very often to her mother. As the preface points out, had the telephone been invented, we would never have had the letters, which piece together the story of her short life and illuminate little facets of upper-class life in a bygone age.

Her letters were fluent, if lacking punctuation, and she used the then-common habit of 'crossing', turning the paper around and writing across the previous lines, without adding dates, so her descendants had a difficult task making sense of them. What emerges is almost the life of a Jane Austen heroine. Born to money and status, Cecilia was considered attractive and accomplished and had a close relationship with her sister, whose death preceded hers. She sought and rejected suitors before marrying a man she hesitated to call by his first name and had three children, one of whom died in infancy. Those are the major events of her life, but the gems in the letters are the little incidental details of daily life and the revealing of attitudes, for example regarding class, alien to the modern reader. These and the frankly catty remarks she makes about other women of her acquaintance render it difficult at times to agree with the opinion of her family that she was wholly good and pure etc. etc. but personally I prefer the titular Emma to Fanny Price, so I found her agreeable enough!


Chinese Designs (Design Source Books)
Chinese Designs (Design Source Books)
by Elaine Hill
Edition: Paperback
Price: 4.77

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not very Chinese!, 13 Sep 2011
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On the plus side, this is an inexpensive book and contains clear pictures which are easy to trace and transfer for papercraft or needlecraft work. Some are very pretty designs.

On the negative, avoid if you want 'authentic' Chinese patterns, since many of these show a western influence and the ones of female figures are invariably Japanese! Also, the written characters are meaningless and so just added for effect. It's fine if that doesn't bother you, but some of the more pedantic among us find it sloppy and even a little ignorant to lump this collection under the title 'Chinese'. Calling it 'Oriental Designs' would have been less misleading.


Victorian Comfort: Social History of Design, 1830-1900
Victorian Comfort: Social History of Design, 1830-1900
by John Gloag
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars The A-Z of ugly furniture, 6 Sep 2011
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John Gloag writes with humour, and quotes that of others, in his canter through the niceties of Victorian furnishings and their evolution. It is generally accepted that the elegance of the Regency period gave way to the tasteless, heavy decoration so beloved of the 'mushroom' class and continued to be made and bought despite the gradual coming into vogue of the Arts and Crafts and later the Art Nouveau movements. To be really comprehensive, considering the vast amount of ephemera and junk collected and displayed, the book would have to be about ten volumes if not more, but Gloag covers the major trends and fashions in all their fussy detail. Looking for an overmantel to display your shell collection? Perhaps a stove made to look like a suit of armour? Look no further for stockists, illustrations and likely design faults. No props department should be without one.


The Diary (American Library)
The Diary (American Library)
by Alice James
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Late Victorian ennui, 6 Sep 2011
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I came to this through a mention in a book about the treatment of mental illness in women over the last two centuries. Alice James, the only daughter of an intellectual Boston family, was the sister of high-achieving brothers, one of whom was the novelist Henry James. She suffered since adolescence from an unnamed malady which even today evades clear labelling, though its symptoms are noticeable enough: melancholy, malaise, general aches and pains. In addition, she had in her youth had periods of severe mental breakdown. Ultimately, she was diagnosed with a definite and undeniable illness, cancer, of which she died in middle-age.

I hoped to hear a voice from the 19th Century who could describe mental anguish, and I approached with sympathy for bright, enervated, forty-something Alice who had failed in the only duty ascribed to Victorian women, that of being a wife and mother. Alice, however, is highly articulate, with a sharp pen and, according to her, tongue to match. Her jottings encompass the politics of the day, acquaintances, servants, family and general gossip, with only occasional slides into self-pity or bad humour. Katherine Loring, her companion who inherited the diary, was the recipient of her love, although whether this was romantic is unclear. The flowery style of writing owes as much to the times as to her own inclinations, I suspect, and is mercifully less tortuous than her brother's.

So, not a sensation-packed diary, and not yielding much in the way of insight into mental illness in the late 19th Century, but an interesting sidelight for students of Henry James, and a coruscating glimpse of the frustrations of a woman surrounded by talent, who found herself unfulfilled.


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