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We Are Michael Field (Outlines) Paperback – October, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Author of some 30 plays and 11 books of poetry, Michael Field was a prolific if relatively minor late-Victorian literary figure. Field's first verse play, Callirrhoe and Fair Rosamund, was published to wide acclaim in 1884; what early reviewers didn't know was that "Michael Field" was actually two women, Katherine Bradley and her sister's daughter, Edith Cooper, who were not only literary collaborators but also lovers. Donoghue's (Kissing the Witch) brief but absorbing biography is based on the detailed journals in which Bradley and Cooper recorded their life together for nearly half a century. Describing her subjects as "hardworking, witty, generous in love and friendship" but also "bitchy, snobbish and monstrously egotistical," Donoghue finds Bradley and Cooper "superbly contradictory" in the way that so many late-Victorian literary figures are. Indeed, as lesbians who wrote blatantly erotic love poetry and celebrated "art for art's sake" but who also clung to many of the pieties of their haute-bourgeois upbringing, they emerge here as embodiments of the complex fin de siecle literary zeitgeist. Donoghue suggests that their work deserves more attention than it has received. That's a debatable point, but given their literary friendships with such notables as Robert Browning, John Ruskin and Oscar Wilde; their struggles to maintain their literary reputation as Michael Field's true identity gradually became known; and their constant straddling of the lines between respectability and transgression, Bradley and Cooper were undeniably a remarkable pair.

Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

These short biographies belong to the "Outlines" series, which serves to introduce the lives and works of significant gay and lesbian writers, artists, singers, dancers, composers, and actors. Although compact, they are quite dense, and each includes a bibliography and a list of recommended readings. Donoghue (Passions Between Women: British Lesbian Culture, 1668-1801, HarperCollins, 1996) uses nearly 30 volumes of letters and journals to tell the story of the two Englishwomen who shared the pseudonym Michael Field: Katherine Bradley (1846-1914) and Edith Cooper (1862-1913). Donoghue sheds light on the obscure careers of these women, who collaborated to write 30 plays and 11 volumes of poetry. More than co-writers, the two women were aunt and niece as well as lovers. Donoghue provides an engaging, informal overview of their history, including family origins, their decision to use a male pseudonym, their rise to fame, their intimate relationship, and their colorful circle of friends. French scholar Ivry (he translated Todd Olivier's Albert Camus, LJ 11/15/97) has the Herculean task of condensing the life story of the poet Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91) into a handful of chapters, which he does admirably well. Rimbaud, considered one of France's greatest modern poets, created complex poems that used language in ways that had never been attempted in poetry. Ivry covers the evidence of Rimbaud's early genius as a schoolboy, his fateful meeting with the poet Paul Verlaine and their tempestuous love affair, the aftermath of their breakup, Rimbaud's phenomenal prowess as a poet (he reached the zenith of his career at 20), his travels, and his continuing influence on artists today. For more in-depth biographical information on Michael Field and Arthur Rimbaud, consult Mary C. Sturgeon's Michael Field (1922; Ayer, 1975. reprint) and Enid Starkie's Arthur Rimbaud (Norton, 1968. reprint). Recommended for larger collections of gay and lesbian materials.AKimberly L. Clarke, Univ. of Minnesota Lib. Minneapolis
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Outlines
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Absolute Press (October 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1899791663
  • ISBN-13: 978-1899791668
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 5.7 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #857,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Dublin in 1969, Emma Donoghue is a writer of contemporary and historical fiction whose novels include the bestselling "Slammerkin," "The Sealed Letter," "Landing," "Life Mask," "Hood," and "Stirfry." Her story collections are "The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits," "Kissing the Witch," and "Touchy Subjects." She also writes literary history, and plays for stage and radio. She lives in London, Ontario, with her partner and their two small children.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
Michael Field was a successful, well-regarded poet and playright in Victorian England... until critics discovered that "Michael Field" was a pseudonym used by not one, but TWO women writing collaboratively. What even the suddenly-lukewarm critics didn't appreciate - not only were "the Michaels" (as they were known to friends) aunt and niece, but they were also lovers and partners in an extraordinay personal and artistic life. They wrote eleven volumes of poetry and thirty historical tragedies, but perhaps their most fascinating work was the diary that the two women shared for a quarter of a century. Novelist Emma Donaghue has done a marvelous bit of literary biographical research in this revealing look at the lives, loves, and eccentricities of Katherine Bradley (1846-1914) and her niece Edith Cooper (1862-1913).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By I ain't no porn writer on June 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a good short introductory biography about two wealthy spinsterish Victorian women, an aunt and her niece, who were lovers and lived together writing poetry *together* under a single pseudonym. Their poetry was highly acclaimed in their day and published under the masculine pseudonym "Michael Field". Unfortunately, this eccentric pair and their writings are no longer remembered today and little has been known about them until this book was published, bringing to light rare information culled from unpublished journals and letters. This is the story of two unusual and extraordinary artists who did everything together, including write with each other by day and sleep with each other by night. They had likeable and unlikeable sides to their perosnality and not all of their views and attitudes would be acceptable in today's more liberal times. But they proved, above all, that they were human, and their talent deserves a second glance, a second chance.
David Rehak
author of "Poems From My Bleeding Heart"
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By G. Messersmith VINE VOICE on March 5, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Michael Field was the psuedyonm used by two women to write poetry, plays, prose, and keep a detailed journal of their lives. It is a remarkable story by all accounts. Their poetry has recently, in the past 10 years or so, been re-discovered and places them in the same category as many of the Great Victorian Poets, i.e., Wilde, Swinburne, Rossetti, and others. To label them simply by the title of lesbian literature limits 2 women whose works are some of the best produced during their time period. What Emma Donoghue does is tell Elizabeth Bradley and Edith Cooper's story simply and easily. After reading her book, I was so interested in these 2 women I spent days, weeks and even months searching down more information on them. Donoghue brings them to us in a moving and unexpected way. This book is a joy to read whether you are interested in Victorian literature, Lesbian literature, or simply human interest stories. I highly recommend this book as an introduction to 2 wonderful and creative writers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Deepforestowl on December 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent introductory biography of Michael Field. There is not much written about these two remarkable women writing under a pseudonym in the late-Victorian period, but this book broadly covers all of the bases. The major negative from a scholarly point of view is that nothing is foot or endnoted, making discovering exactly where Donoghue came up with certain information something of a guessing game. Still, this book is an excellent, easy, interesting, and detailed read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Victorian Catmom on April 7, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
wonderful quick read chock-full of info from the author's extensive research. readable and insightful.
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