Strange and Secret Peoples: Fairies and Victorian Consciousness / Edition 1

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Teeming with creatures, both real and imagined, this encyclopedic study in cultural history illuminates the hidden web of connections between the Victorian fascination with fairies and their lore and the dominant preoccupations of Victorian culture at large. Carole Silver here draws on sources ranging from the anthropological, folkloric, and occult to the legal, historical, and medical. She is the first to anatomize a world peopled by strange beings who have infiltrated both the literary and visual masterpieces and the minor works of the writers and painters of that era.

Examining the period of 1798 to 1923, Strange and Secret Peoples focuses not only on such popular literary figures as Charles Dickens and William Butler Yeats, but on writers as diverse as Thomas Carlyle, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Charlotte Mew; on artists as varied as mad Richard Dadd, Aubrey Beardsley, and Sir Joseph Noel Paton; and on artifacts ranging from fossil skulls to photographs and vases. Silver demonstrates how beautiful and monstrous creatures—fairies and swan maidens, goblins and dwarfs, cretins and changelings, elementals and pygmies—simultaneously peopled the Victorian imagination and inhabited nineteenth-century science and belief. Her book reveals the astonishing complexity and fertility of the Victorian consciousness: its modernity and antiquity, its desire to naturalize the supernatural, its pervasive eroticism fused with sexual anxiety, and its drive for racial and imperial dominion.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A fascinating and beautifully written book. Victorianists who think they have no interest in the subject should think again. Silver finds fairies in every imaginable aspect of nineteenth-century British life. Scholars of Victorian anthropology and sociology; biology; genealogy; medical, legal, and women's history; imperialism; Darwinism; photography; art; and literature will all benefit from this marvelous book.... In her passionate, jargon-free prose Silver reminds us that literature always has been and literary criticism can be a sheer delight to read."—Journal of English and Germanic Philology

"While Silver presents a mainly academic approach, it is highly readable and fascinating material to anyone who loves this literary period."—Michigan Alumnus Magazine

"Carol G. Silver does much to remedy the dearth of historical analysis in this rich field.... Silver's book is a significant contribution to this fascinating hallmark of the Victorian era."—Victorian Review [Canada]

"[A] fascinating account...Silver, a literature professor, provides a generally valuable service in integrating anthropological, linguistic, and folkloric materials into her discussion of Victorian conceptions of alternative worlds of existence. Recommended especially for Victorian specialists and sophisticated readers of fairy tales."—Choice

"This is an entertaining and informative study of Victorian culture....Provides some of the most original reading on the subject we have."—The New York Times Book Review

"Highly accessible....This is essential for academic libraries, and highly recommended for public libraries as well."—Library Journal

"This is a masterful examination of [the nineteenth] century's burgeoning interest in the folklore of fairies, and an interpretation of this folklore in cultural and political terms.... This is a long overdue study, especially significant to anyone interested in the full range of Victorian culture from its scientific and pseudoscientific extensions of Darwinism, ethnography, and genetics to its focus on the occult 'sciences'—theosophy, spiritualism, and so on."—Marvels & Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies

"[Features] the choicest discoveries...Silver has culled from her vast reading in fairy lore and the Victorian folklorists....Handsomely illustrated."—Studies in English Literature

Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Silver's scholarly study is for students and teachers of folklore and fairy tales, rather than young readers of the works. She really gets into the nitty-gritty of the Victorian mind as she takes on topics such as the belief in changelings brought on by a combination of fears, including lower birth rates, abduction scares, misunderstood debilitating childhood diseases, and Darwinism. Yes, Darwinism and its counterpoint in Theosophy and occultism-not to mention the Brothers Grimm-were unknowing villains in hysterical outbursts throughout the 19th century. Silver documents these outbursts in loving, if dry, detail. The book will be fascinating for anyone who ever fell in love with fairies as a child.
James R. Kincaid
This clever and entertaining book need not only be enjoyed by the true believers. And anyhow, some beliefs (not many) may be nourishing. -- The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195144116
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Carole G. Silver is Professor of English and holds the Humanities Chair at Yeshiva University (Stern College). She is also Adjunct Professor of English at New York University. Among her publications are The Romance of William Morris and The Earthly Paradise: Arts and Crafts by William Morris.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Greetings from Another World: Romantic Rediscoveries 3
1 On the Origins of Fairies 33
2 "Come Away Thou Human Child": Abductions, Change, and Changelings 59
3 "East of the Sun and West of the Moon": Victorians and Fairy Brides 89
4 Little Goblin Men: On Dwarfs and Pygmies, Racial Myths and Mythic Races 117
5 The Faces of Evil: Fairies, Mobs, and Female Cruelty 149
6 Farewell to the Fairies 185
Notes 213
Works Cited 235
Index 251
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2013

    So cool

    Rivr Eteewa

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