In making the award, Adam Wood, Chair of the SAMLA Studies Book Award, had this to say about the book:
“James Diedrick in Mathilde Blind: Late-Victorian Culture and The Woman of Letters provides a highly readable biography of an important but overlooked intellectual of the late-Victorian era. His thoroughly researched book illuminates politics and history as it shows Blind’s multi-genre literary influence. This biography sheds new light on writers and a time period that we thought we knew well.”
Linda Wetherall reviewed Mathilde Blind in the Fall 2017 issue of The Victorian Periodicals Review (pp. 666-69). I am happy to see the book reviewed here, since Victorian periodicals provided both a home and proving ground to Mathilde Blind as she was establishing her reputation as a cosmopolitan woman of letters. In fact, this is something I discuss in one of my first essays on Blind, which appeared in the VPR in 2003 (“A Pioneering Female Aesthete: Mathilde Blind in the Dark Blue“).
Wetherall’s review begins with this assessment and overview:
The biography is a pioneering work that uses periodical reviews of Mathilde Blind’s literary works, as well as letters from her circle of friends to create a highly detailed account of her life. Diedrick, who has spent nearly two decades meticulously researching Blind’s life, . . . identified two main goals for this biography. First, he aimed to show that “Blind’s story has a historical as well as literary significance, illustrating the complex affiliations linking radical thought, revolutionary politics, and aestheticism in the mid- to late nineteenth century” (xii). Diedrick’s second goal was to demonstrate how “feminist theory and theories of cosmopolitanism” are “rooted in and linked to Victorian discourse—on aesthetics, citizenship, nationhood, imperialism, gender, and sexuality—and how Blind herself contributed to this discourse” (xii). Diedrick succeeds in accomplishing these goals through the passionate and thorough research encompassed by this 336-page biography.
She concludes her review thus:
As Blind’s first biographer, Diedrick undoubtedly had a challenging task before him. But this book skillfully balances extensive historical research into Blind’s life and the lives of those within her social circle with thoughtful and thorough literary analysis of her writing and critical reception. Furthermore, this biography contains a wealth of information on late Victorian periodicals for scholars interested in feminism, aestheticism, and cosmopolitanism, as well as contemporary critical reactions to those ideologies and movements. Mathilde Blind is a welcome addition to the scholarship on women writers and intellectuals at the fin de siècle.
Victorian Periodicals Review is published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. For access to the full review and information about the journal go to: https://www.press.jhu.edu/journals/victorian-periodicals-review