Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 48 (2017)
This is a superb book, written with deep scholarship by one of our leading biographers, which breaks new ground in its attention to the physicality of its subjects. In her introduction Kathryn Hughes says that she has felt 'chronically short-changed by the lack of physical detail in biography'. This book, she says, is 'an experiment to see what new stories emerge when you use biography .... to put mouths, bellies and beards back into the nineteenth century' by introducing 'a certain lumpiness to canonical life narratives that have previously been rendered as smooth, symmetrical, and as strangely unconvincing as a death mask. For it is in lop-sidedness and open-endedness, in bulges, dips, hollows, oozes and itches, that we come closest to a sense of what it feels like to live in the solitude of a single body, both then and now.'