Mathilde Blind: Late-Victorian Culture and the Woman of Letters reviewed in Choice, July 2017

Choice Issue: July 2017 Vol. 54 No. 11; Review #: 54-5053

Reviewed by Miriam E. Burstein, SUNY Brockport

Mathilde Blind was a consummate late-Victorian professional woman writer, distinguished for both her feminist politics and her wide-ranging intellectual interests spanning multiple languages. Associated from childhood with radical German politics—her stepfather, Karl Blind, was a leading activist and an associate of Karl Marx, and her brother, Ferdinand Cohen-Blind, attempted to assassinate Otto von Bismarck—Blind exemplified, as Diedrick (Agnes Scott College) argues, late-nineteenth-century cosmopolitanism. A poet, a literary journalist, a critic, an editor, a biographer, a lecturer, and an occasional fiction writer, Blind experimented with poetic form and versification, efforts that put her into sometimes contentious dialogue with those in the aesthetic movement (whose politics she suspected). But Blind’s most lasting contributions may have been as a scholar of Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose reputation she helped rehabilitate, and as an innovative biographer of George Eliot (on whom she partly sought to model herself) and Madame Roland. Diedrick carefully reconstructs Blind’s overlapping social networks, which included figures ranging from A. C. Swinburne to painter Ford Madox Brown to women’s rights activist Clementia Taylor. Although a quick summation of Blind’s posthumous reception would have served the volume well, the biography successfully delineates Blind’s complex personality, her rejection of late-Victorian mores, and her literary accomplishments.


Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.


Recommendation: Recommended

Readership Level: Upper-division Undergraduates, Graduate Students, Researchers/Faculty

Interdisciplinary Subjects: Women’s & Gender Studies

Subject: Humanities – Language & Literature – English     & American


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