Literary Analyses

The Friendship & Correspondence of George Sand & Gustave Flaubert

The friendship and correspondence of George Sand (1804 – 1876) and Gustave Flaubert (1821 – 1880) form a fascinating and valuable chapter in literary history. 

Their letters are vignettes of the tumultuous time of the 1848 revolution, the Franco-Prussian War, and the fall of the Paris Commune. They’re also discussions of the challenges of writing, the world of theater and politics, and the whims of family and friends. 

In Flaubert-Sand, The Correspondence (1993), the late translators and researchers Francis Steegmuller and Barbara Bray opened this 19th-century world to readers. Presenting four hundred letters from earlier books, libraries, and private collections, this volume has extensive footnotes, excerpts from Sand’s diaries, and chronologies for context.   Read More→

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Cassandra Mortmain: Coming of Age in I Capture the Castle

British writer Dodie Smith (1896 – 1990) is best known for the children’s book The 101 Dalmatians (1956). But I Capture the Castle (1948), written after World War II while Smith was living in California and writing scripts for the movies, was her first novel. Here we’ll do a deep dive into the character of Cassandra Mortmain, the story’s heroine.

Excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid 20th-Century Woman’s Novel by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.

I Capture the Castle is very much in the female bildungsroman tradition; though it concerns a teenage girl it is oriented at an adult, literary audience. Read More→

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George Eliot’s Fictional Women: A 19th-Century Overview

George Eliot (1819 – 1880; pen name of Mary Ann Evans) has been recognized for her probing Victorian novels. Middlemarch is her arguably her greatest achievement, though most all of her novels were met with great critical and public acclaim.

Eliot’s writing was politically and socially driven, with many characters who are small-town individuals, some free thinkers, some eccentrics, others learned intellectuals. She drew her characters with great psychological depth whether they played major or minor parts in her narratives.

George Eliot’s heroines were no exception. From Adam Bede (1859), her first novel, through Daniel Deronda (1876), her last, her female characters were imagined fully formed, with dreams and desires of their own. Read More→

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The Transgressive Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle

Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1623 – 1673) was a British poet, philosopher, scientist, and fiction writer. Like some of her predecessors, the eccentric Lady Margaret Lucas Cavendish wrote for an exclusively female audience and was angry at men:

Men are so Unconscionable and Cruel against us, as they Endeavour to Bar us of all Sorts or Kinds of Liberty, as not to Suffer us Freely to Associate amongst our Own Sex, but would fain Bury us in their Houses or Beds, as in a Grave; the truth is, we Live like Bats or Owls, Labour like Beasts, and Die like Worms. (To All Noble and Worthy Ladies)

This essay is excerpted from Killing the Angel: Early British Transgressive Women Writers ©2021 by Francis Booth. Reprinted by permission. Read More→

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The Poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning: A 19th-Century Analysis

The following analysis and overview of the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861), the esteemed British poet, is excerpted from Essays by Arthur Christopher Benson.

Rich in insights and references to other poets of the period, this essay and the book (published in London by William Heinemann in 1896) from which it came are in the public domain. Read More→

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