A hundred years ago to be one of a million Englishwomen was to be doomed. Even intelligent and educated girls could not get a post as a governess – there were too many. Hundreds of thousands resorted to plying their needle in the genteel trade of dressmaking for the wealthy middle and upper classes. Ironically the great Victorian families whose hobby was doing good were the best customers, unaware that they were wearing spectral apparel. Tubercle bacillus, cholera, measles and typhus germs were coughed and breathed into the fabric by the girls who stitched themselves to death. More girls blinded themselves sewing black bombazine to be festooned with jet beads, fringing and braid by the mile, in which ladies mourned their dead. The girls were packed into airless rooms beneath gas-lamps each of which took up five times the oxygen one girl needed to stay alive. In their love-starved and stunted lives they became emotionally dependent on the garments they sewed and the fashionable women who would wear them. The excitement of the Season when they worked all night was the nearest they got to fun.
Follow Literary Review on Twitter
'Unlike much that was extracted from India, these paintings were not plunder, and those who created them were properly remunerated and often received due credit.'
@PParkerWriting on 'Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company'.
‘"I feel", Lowell told Hardwick ... "as if I were pulled apart and thinning into mist, or rather being torn apart and still preferring that state to making a decision."'
Richard Davenport-Hines on the letters of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick.
'To me, Elmore Leonard is as comforting in extremity as Pym, and as safe, in the last resort, as Wodehouse. The guys with the best lines are going to come out the other side; the dumb fucks are going to get it in the head or chest.'