Victorian Maenads: on Michael Field's Callirrhoe and being driven mad

Bickle, Sharon (2010) Victorian Maenads: on Michael Field's Callirrhoe and being driven mad. The Michaelian (2). pp. 1-10.

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It is not unwarranted to describe the reception that greeted Michael Field’s debut book of verse dramas, Callirrhoë: Fair Rosamund, as frenzied. This ‘New Poet’ was compared to Swinburne, to George Eliot, and to Shakespeare; his “poetic fire” sounding “like the ring of a new voice, which is likely to be heard far and wide among the English-speaking peoples” (“A New Poet” 681). From the sober perspective of 1886, less than two years later, the Liverpool Mercury noted this ‘lady’ had at first “laboured under the grievous disadvantage of rather indiscreet adulation” (“The Year 1886”). Before the chill reservations of lady authorship, however, Victorian Britain was mad for Michael Field: uncertain, discomforted, but clearly enthralled by what Mary Robinson called the “glories of enthusiasm … the gospel of ecstasy” (395). In the remorse of the ‘morning after,’ Literary London awoke to the realization they had flung themselves not at the feet of a beautiful, languid boy-poet, but a far more prosaic aunt-niece partnership—Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper: spinsters from the suburbs of Bristol. Never again would reviewers swing the thyrsus pole with such abandon. This article seeks to reclaim what it is about Callirrhoë—now a little known historical closet drama—that fired up London with Maenadic madness

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Arts - Department of Humanities and International Studies
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2014 05:38
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2015 02:31
Uncontrolled Keywords: Michael Field; 19C women writers; collaboration; British literature; verse drama
Fields of Research : 20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2005 Literary Studies > 200503 British and Irish Literature

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