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'Michael Field'


  • Page extent: 286 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.59 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521874182)

‘Michael Field’ Cambridge University Press
9780521874182 - ‘MICHAEL FIELD’ - by Marion Thain


‘Michael Field’ (1884–1914) was the pseudonym of two women, the aunt and niece Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper, who lived and wrote together as lovers. The large oeuvre contains poems, dramas and a vast diary. Marion Thain recounts the development of a fascinating and idiosyncratic poetic persona that, she argues, itself became a self-reflexive study in aestheticism. The constructed life and work of ‘Michael Field’ is used here to deepen and complicate our understanding of many of the most distinctive aesthetic debates of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; a process unified by the recurring engagement with theories of time and history that structures this book. This analysis of poetry, aestheticism and the fin de siècle, through the performance of ‘Michael Field’, has implications that reach far beyond an understanding of one poet’s work. Scholars of both Victorian and modernist literature will learn much from this innovative and compelling study.

MARION THAIN is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Birmingham.


General editor
Gillian Beer, University of Cambridge

Editorial board
Isobel Armstrong, Birkbeck, University of London
Kate Flint, Rutgers University
Catherine Gallagher, University of California, Berkeley
D. A. Miller, Columbia University
J. Hillis Miller, University of California, Irvine
Daniel Pick, Birkbeck, University of London
Mary Poovey, New York University
Sally Shuttleworth, University of Oxford
Herbert Tucker, University of Virginia

Nineteenth-century British literature and culture have been rich fields for interdisciplinary studies. Since the turn of the twentieth century, scholars and critics have tracked the intersections and tensions between Victorian literature and the visual arts, politics, social organisation, economic life, technical innovations, scientific thought – in short, culture in its broadest sense. In recent years, theoretical challenges and historiographical shifts have unsettled the assumptions of previous scholarly synthesis and called into question the terms of older debates. Whereas the tendency in much past literary critical interpretation was to use the metaphor of culture as ‘background’, feminist, Foucauldian and other analyses have employed more dynamic models that raise questions of power and of circulation. Such developments have reanimated the field. This series aims to accommodate and promote the most interesting work being undertaken on the frontiers of the field of nineteenth-century literary studies: work which intersects fruitfully with other fields of study such as history, or literary theory, or the history of science. Comparative as well as interdisciplinary approaches are welcomed.

A complete list of titles published will be found at the end of the book.

Poetry, Aestheticism and the Fin de Siècle


Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo

Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK

Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title:

© Marion Thain 2007

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2007

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

ISBN 978-0-521-87418-2 hardback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or
accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to
in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such
websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

For John and Vivien Thain


Acknowledgementspage viii

Introduction: ‘something fierce, subtle, strange, singular’
1The diaries and dramas: life-writing and the temporal patterns of aestheticism20
2Long Ago: the male pseudonym, fin-de-siècle sexualities and Sappho’s historical leap42
3Sight and Song: Botticelli and ekphrastic paradox66
4Underneath the Bough: dual authorship and lyric song90
5Wild Honey from Various Thyme: apian aestheticism and the lyric book collection130
6The Catholic poetry: the spiritual and historical ‘turn’ of the century168
Conclusion: modernism and the fin de siècle201

Bibliography of material: by Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper247
General bibliography252


This book would not have been written without the enthusiasm of Peggy Reynolds and Kelsey Thornton, who encouraged my interest in this author at its earliest stage, and the more recent support of Gillian Beer and Linda Bree (and the readers for Cambridge University Press). Thanks are also due to Marcus Walsh, former head of the English Department at the University of Birmingham, for actively supporting my research work during those crucial years.

I am grateful for the generous help of a community of scholars working on the fin de siècle, including: Richard Dellamora (for comments on a draft of Chapter 2), Kate Flint, Linda Hughes, Sally Ledger, Diana Maltz, Fred Roden, Margaret Stetz, and Herbert Tucker (for comments on a draft of Chapter 3), and particularly Ana Parejo Vadillo, for valuable discussion and encouragement. My deepest debt is to a group of people who have been most instrumental in bringing this project to fruition: Joseph Bristow, for help that has been simultaneously vital, practical and inspirational; John Henderson, for intellectual support and friendship that has been so crucial to the completion of the project; Kelsey Thornton for advice on the transcription of some manuscript sources, and endless patience and illuminating answers in response to my many queries about all manner of topics; Gordon Johnson and Wolfson College, Cambridge, for exceptional generosity, and for providing the truly stimulating environment in which this project first took shape.

Finally, my profound thanks to Rob Hopkins for everything else, and more.


I acknowledge the generosity of many research libraries (and librarians) and individual manuscript owners and copyright holders. For permission to quote from the manuscripts held in their archives, I thank the British Library, London; the Bodleian Library, Oxford; the Trustees of the National Library of Scotland; the Berg Collection of English and American Literature, the New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations; and the Huntington Library, California.

My grateful thanks for permissions to reproduce quotations from manuscript sources also go to: Leonie Sturge-Moore and Charmian O’Neil, for the material by Michael Field and Charles Ricketts; the Order of Preachers, for the letters from Michael Field to John Gray; the Dominican Council, for the letters of John Gray to Michael Field; Villa I Tatti, for the letters from Bernhard Berenson to Michael Field; Nicholas Deakin, for material by Havelock Ellis; and HarperCollins, for the letter from John Ruskin to Michael Field. Many thanks to Mark Samuels Lasner – the owner of the photograph of Michael Field used as a frontispiece for this book, and the detail from the cover of Wild Honey used on the jacket design – for permission to use these images, but also for his considerable help in supplying them.

Some material included in Chapter 6 was published previously in The Fin-de-Siècle Poem, edited by Joseph Bristow (Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2005); I thank Ohio University Press for permission to use this in an extended and revised version in this book. By the time this book is in print, some material included in Chapter 5 will also be in print within a book of essays on Michael Field edited by Margaret Stetz (Rivendale Press, 2007); my thanks to Rivendale Press for allowing me to use this in a revised fashion and in a different context.

Every effort has been made to secure permissions for reproduction where copyrights are still active. If I have failed in any case to trace a copyright holder, I apologise for any apparent negligence and will make the necessary arrangements at the earliest opportunity.

© Cambridge University Press
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