Amy Levy in Bloomsbury: The Poet as Passenger

  • Ana Parejo Vadillo
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)

Abstract

After a century of critical demotion, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Amy Levy (1861-1889) has been elevated back into the literary canon. Since the publication in 1993 of Melvyn New’s critical edition of The Complete Novels and Selected Writings of Amy Levy, scholars have not stopped paying critical attention to her poetry, prose, and literary theory. Vital in this revival has been the publication of the first ever book-length biography, Amy Levy: Her Life and Letters by Linda Hunt Beckman (2000), a biography that has stimulated further interest and developments in the field. In 2002, The University of Southampton organised an international colloquium on Levy, and critical editions of Amy Levy’s novels The Romance of a Shop (1888) and Reuben Sachs (1888), edited by Susan Bernstein, are forthcoming from Broadview Press. As Emma Francis and Cynthia Scheinberg have argued, Levy’s work is receiving so much critical attention because, as Scheinberg puts it, ‘so many of the issues she addresses in her writing speak to concerns of the contemporary critical moment: Jewish Diasporic identity, lesbian identity, women’s emancipation, and more general theories of “otherness” within the English literary tradition’.3 But, in addition, I would suggest, the subject of Amy Levy is an important one now because she is increasingly being recognized as crucial to our understanding of the fin-de-siècle period, since her writings challenge the way in which we think about the interconnections between the discourses of gender and race in British aestheticism and the New Woman novel.

Keywords

Fatigue Vortex Steam Transportation Assimilation 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 2.
    Amy Levy, ‘Jewish Humour’ in The Complete Novels and Selected Writings of Amy Levy, 1861–1889, ed. Melvyn New (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1993), 523.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Emma Francis, ‘Amy Levy: Contradictions? Feminism and Semitic Discourse’ in Armstrong and Blain, Women’s Poetry, 183–204. Cynthia Scheinberg, Women’s Poetry and Religion in Victorian England: Jewish Identity and Christian Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 5.
    Katie Solomon, ‘Letters to the Editor’, The Observer (7 July 1929): 10. Levy’s friend could be Dorothy Frances Blomfield (b.1858), who became in the late 1880s one of Levy’s closest friends. She was the eldest daughter of the Reverend F. G. Blomfield, who was himself the eldest son of the first Bishop Blomfield, a Rector of St Andrews. She wrote a hymn for her sister’s wedding in 1885 which became so successful that it was subsequently set up as an anthem for the marriage of the Duke of Fife with Princess Louise of Wales. British Library, MS. Add. 57507 ff.188–190v. She was, like Levy, a contributor to The Woman’s World, edited by Oscar Wilde (see for example her poem ‘A Roman Love–Song’ [The Woman’s World (1888): 363] or ‘Disillusioned’ [The Woman’s World (1889): 352]), though she is perhaps best known for her transgressive short story ‘The Reputation of Mademoiselle Claude’, Temple Bar 74 (July 1885): 358–70. Blomfield also befriended Vernon Lee, who invited her to become her brother’s [the poet Eugene Lee–Hamilton] secretary in 1893. See Vernon Lee, Vernon Lee’s Letters, ed. with a Preface by her Executor I. Cooper Willis (privately printed, 1937), 345–6. Christine Pullen, however, suggests this was the novelist Bertha Thomas. See Christine Pullen, Amy Levy: Her Life, Her Poetry and the Era of the New Woman (PhD, University of Kingston–upon–Thames, 2000), 106.Google Scholar
  4. 11.
    Thesing, The London Muse, 149. For an examination of late–Victorian women poets and the sonnet see Natalie M. Houston, ‘Towards a New History: Fin–de–Siècle Women Poets and the Sonnet’ in Victorian Women Poets edited by Alison Chapman (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, The English Association, 2003), 145–64.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    Amy Levy, Xantippe and Other Verse (Cambridge: E. Johnson, 1881), 19–21.Google Scholar
  6. 15.
    Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Idea. Vol. I. Translated from the German by R. B. Haldane and J. Kemp (London: Trübner & Co., 1883), 403 and 514.Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    Levy, Complete, 527. Helen Zimmern, Arthur Schopenhauer: His Life and His Philosophy (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1876).Google Scholar
  8. 18.
    Levy, ‘The Two Terrors’ in A London Plane–Tree, 64. Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays. Trans. By E. F. J. Payne. Vol. 2 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), 310.Google Scholar
  9. 20.
    James Richardson, Vanishing Lives: Style and Self in Tennyson, D.G. Rossetti, Swinburne and Yeats (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1988), 121.Google Scholar
  10. 22.
    Michael Field, ‘Men, looking on the Wandering Jew’ in Underneath the Bough: A Book of Verses (London: George Bell and Sons, 1893), 14. Google Scholar
  11. 23.
    Timothy P. Martin, ‘Joyce, Wagner, and the Wandering Jew’ in Comparative Literature 42 (1990): 53–4.Google Scholar
  12. 25.
    Jonathan Freedman, The Temple of Culhire: Assimilation and Anti-Semitism in Literary Anglo-America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 25.Google Scholar
  13. 27.
    See Richard Sennett, The Conscience of the Eye: The Design and Social Life of Cities (New York: W. W. Norton, 1992), 92.Google Scholar
  14. 28.
    Hermione Hobhouse, Lost London: A Century of Demolition and Decay (London: Macmillan, 1971), 83, 86.Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    Levy, Complete, 527. Helen Zimmern, Arthur Schopenhauer: His Life and His Philosophy (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1876).Google Scholar
  16. 18.
    Levy, ‘The Two Terrors’ in A London Plane–Tree, 64. Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays. Trans. By E. F. J. Payne. Vol. 2 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), 310.Google Scholar
  17. 20.
    James Richardson, Vanishing Lives: Style and Self in Tennyson, D.G. Rossetti, Swinburne and Yeats (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1988), 121.Google Scholar
  18. 30.
    Anthony Vidler, The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992) 207.Google Scholar
  19. 32.
    Alan A. Jackson, London’s Termini (Newton Abbot: David and Charles, 1969), 37.Google Scholar
  20. 33.
    Edward Verall Lucas, A Wanderer in London (1906; New York: The Macmillan Company, 1910), 222. Unfortunately, the station was demolished and then rebuilt in the 1960s because of the mainline electrification. See Olsen, Growth of Victorian London, 97.Google Scholar
  21. 36.
    Levy, Reuben Sachs: A Sketch (London: Macmillan, 1888) reprinted in Complete, 197–293.Google Scholar
  22. 39.
    John Wolfe Barry, Address on the Streets and Traffic of London, Delivered at the Opening Meeting of the Session (1898–1899) of the Society of Arts, on Wednesday, November 16, 1898 (London: William Trounce, 1899), 22–3.Google Scholar
  23. 42.
    The British Museum Station was opened in 1900 and closed in 1933. For further information on the opening of these stations see Laurence Menear, London’s Underground Stations: A Social and Architectural Study (Kent: Midas Books, 1983), 135–42.Google Scholar
  24. 44.
    See Yvonne Kapp, Eleanor Marx: Family Life, 1855–1883, Vol. I. (London: Virago, 1979), 283. Her reader ticket no. was 266.Google Scholar
  25. 45.
    See Amy Levy, ‘Readers at the British Museum’, Atalanta 2:7 (April 1889): 449. She kept what she called her British Museum notebook, which is in the possession of Camellia plc.Google Scholar
  26. 46.
    W. G. Morris, The Squares of Bloomsbury: Lunch-time Rambles in Old London (London: The Homeland Association, [1926]), No. 20: 1.Google Scholar
  27. 49.
    James Thomson wrote in 1875 to Bertram Dobell after he had moved to 7 Huntley Street that ‘I shall settle in this neighbourhood for a time, as I want to be near Foote for the Secularist business, and also near the British Museum for the Reading–Room’. See H. S. Salt, The Life of James Thomson (‘B. V.’) With a Selection from his Letters and a Study of his Writings (London: Reeves & Turner, 1889), 131.Google Scholar
  28. 53.
    Max Beerbohm, Rossetti and His Circle (London: Heinemann, 1922), plate 12.Google Scholar
  29. 58.
    Vernon Lee, ‘A Worldly Woman’ in Vanitas (London: Heinemann, 1892), 128.Google Scholar
  30. 65.
    See Joseph F. Lamb, ‘Symbols of Success in Suburbia: The Establishment of Artists’ Communities in Late Victorian London’ in Victorian Urban Settings: Essays on the Nineteenth-Century City and its Contexts, eds Debra N. Mancoff and D. J. Trela (New York: Garland, 1996), 60–1. Lamb is concerned here only with painters and artists, not with writers.Google Scholar
  31. 70.
    Liselotte Glage, Clementina Black: A Study in Social History and Literature (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, Universitätsverlag, 1981), 25. According to Glage, Constance Black, like Amy Levy, studied in Newham College, and after taking her examinations moved to London to live with her sisters (Clementina and Grace). She then started to work in Charles Booth’s house as a governess (this was the period when he was writing his Labour and Life of the People of London), and from here she went to work as a librarian at Besant’s People’s Palace.Google Scholar
  32. 71.
    Olive Garnett, Tea and Anarchy! The Bloomsbwy Diary of Olive Garnett, 1890–1893, ed. Barry C. Johnson (London: Bartletts Press, 1989), 156–7, 220.Google Scholar
  33. 73.
    For a study of Amy Levy and her relationship with Eleanor Marx and Beatrice Webb, see Nord, Walking the Victorian Streets, 181–206. See also Yvonne Kapp, Eleanor Marx: The Crowded Years 1884–1898. Vol. II (London: Virago, 1979), 258–60.Google Scholar
  34. 76.
    Peter Gibson, The Capital Companion: A Street-by-Street Guide to London and Its Inhabitants (Exeter: Webb & Bower, 1985), 143.Google Scholar
  35. 80.
    Arthur Symons, Selected Letters, 1880–1935, eds Karl Beckson and John M. Munro (London: Macmillan, 1989), 49.Google Scholar
  36. 81.
    See Amy Levy, ‘The Poetry of Christina Rossetti’, The Woman’s World ed. Oscar Wilde, Vol. I(1888): 178–80. Levy needed leave to print D. G. Rossetti’s portrait of his sister. Rossetti replied that she had no objection to what Levy proposed but that the copyright of the picture was in the hands of her brother, William Michael Rossetti. W. M. Rossetti must have granted her the right as the article indeed includes D. G. Rossetti’s portrait of the poet. Christina Rossetti’s letter is at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, University of California, Los Angeles. It is dated 17 October 1887. MS Wilde W 6721LL668.Google Scholar
  37. 88.
    John Dennis, ‘The Poetry of the Century: A Retrospect and Anticipation’ in Leisure Hour; rpt. Littell’s Living Age (3 May 1890): 311.Google Scholar
  38. 91.
    Ada Wallas, ‘The Poetry of Amy Levy’, The Academy 57 (12 August 1899): 162.Google Scholar
  39. 95.
    Georg Simmel, ‘Sociological Aesthetics’ first published as ‘Soziologische Aesthetik’ Die Zukunft 17 (1896): 204–16, and reprinted inGoogle Scholar
  40. Georg Simmel, The Conflict in Modern Culture and Other Essays trans. K. Peter Etzkorn (New York: Teachers College Press, 1968), 74.Google Scholar
  41. 96.
    See John Connell, W. E. Henley (London: Constable, 1949), 181. See also Linda K. Hughes, ‘My Sister, My Self’. I wish to thank Linda K. Hughes for sharing a longer version of this paper with me. See also her forthcoming ‘A Club of Their Own: The “Literary Ladies”, New Woman Writers, and Fin–de–siècle Authorship’, Victorian Literature and Culture. Google Scholar
  42. 104.
    For a wonderful history of London’s Temple Church see David Lewer and Robert Dark, The Temple Church in London (London: Historical Publications, 1997). See especially illustration 99 (page 126) for a photograph of the church in 1862.Google Scholar
  43. 110.
    John Ruskin, ‘George Eliot’ in The Literary Criticism of John Ruskin, ed. by Harold Bloom (New York: Da Capo Press, 1965), 384–5.Google Scholar
  44. Woolf, A Woman’s Essays. Selected Essays: Volume I, ed. and intro. by Rachel Bowiby (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1992), 187.Google Scholar
  45. 116.
    Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space. Trans. Donald Nicholson–Smith (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991) 27.Google Scholar
  46. 117.
    Whitechapel, for instance, was known as ‘Jew–town’. See Todd M. Endelman, The Jews of Britain, 1656 to 2000 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. David Feldman, ‘The importance of being English: Jewish immigration and the decay of liberal England’ in Metropolis London: Histories and Representations since 1800, eds David Feldman and Gareth Stedman Jones (London: Routledge, 1989), 56.Google Scholar
  48. 130.
    Levy, ‘Eldorado at Islington’, The Woman’s World, ed. Oscar Wilde, II (1889): 488.Google Scholar
  49. 140.
    Walter Pater, ‘Conclusion’ in The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry, ed. Donald L. Hill (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), 186, 451.Google Scholar
  50. 146.
    Georg Simmel, ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’ in The Sociology of Georg Simmel, trans., ed. and with an introduction by Kurt H. Wolff (New York: The Free Press, 1950), 410.Google Scholar
  51. 153.
    Tom Gunning, ‘Tracing the Individual Body: Photography, Detectives, and Early Cinema’ in Cinema and the Invention of Modem Life, eds Leo Charney and Vanessa R. Schwartz (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 16.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ana Parejo Vadillo 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ana Parejo Vadillo

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations