16 July 2013
In the first book-length treatment of Elizabeth von Arnim's fiction, Isobel Maddison, College Lecturer and Director of Studies in English at Lucy Cavendish College, examines her work in its historical and intellectual contexts, demonstrating that von Arnim's fine comic writing and complex and compelling narrative style reward close analysis. Organised chronologically and thematically, Maddison's book is informed by unpublished material from the British and Huntington Libraries, including correspondence between von Arnim, her publishers and prominent contemporaries such as H.G. Wells, Bertrand Russell and her cousin Katherine Mansfield -- whose early modernist prose is seen as indebted to von Arnim's earlier literary influence. Maddison's exploration of the novelist's critical reception is situated within recent discussions of the ‘middlebrow’ and establishes von Arnim as a serious author among her intellectual milieu, countering the misinformed belief that the author of such novels as Elizabeth and Her German Garden, The Caravaners, The Pastor's Wife and Vera wrote light-hearted fiction removed from gritty reality. On the contrary, various strands of socialist thought and von Arnim's wider political beliefs establish her as a significant author of British anti-invasion literature while weighty social issues underpin much of her later writing.
Contents: Biographical preface; Introduction: ‘artful necklaces’; ‘Scourgers and scavengers of society’: Elizabeth von Arnim and the critics; The ‘German’ novels: Elizabeth and Her German Garden, The Solitary Summer and Christine; ‘Worms of the same family’: Elizabeth von Arnim and Katherine Mansfield; Revenge, lampoon and litigation: Vera; Love, marriage, Expiation; An afterlife in moving images: The Enchanted April and Mr Skeffington; Afterword; Bibliography; Appendix; Index.
Reviews: ‘Elizabeth von Arnim is remembered now as the author of Elizabeth and Her German Garden, and for being Katherine Mansfield's cousin. But there is much more to this witty, talented, intelligent writer who produced more than 20 books in a career which spanned some 40 years. Isobel Maddison's detailed and engaging study draws upon a wealth of original sources and leads us back to the richness of von Arnim's writing. Elizabeth von Arnim was well respected by other writers, including Bertrand Russell, H.G. Wells, Ethel Smyth, Bernard Shaw, E.M. Forster and Vernon Lee. It is a pleasure to see von Arnim finally given the attention she deserves.’ Trudi Tate, Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, UK
'This study of Elizabeth von Arnim's writing is rich in its treatment of her intermodern cultural contexts. Maddison liberates von Arnim from value judgments about popular vs modernist writing by examining the distinct ways she took up concerns shared with notable modernists, including her younger cousin, Katherine Mansfield, and Virginia Woolf. This study will convince many to rediscover and enjoy her novels.' Bonnie Kime Scott, San Diego State University, USA
'The book provides a useful biographical preface and a particularly helpful appendix, compiled by Gayle M. Richardson, lists the contents of Von Arnim’s archive at The Huntington Library. Maddison concludes with the hope that her study will inspire more work on Von Arnim.' Edwardian Culture.