Ruth Bernard Yeazell is Sterling Professor of English at Yale. Her books include Picture Titles: How and Why Western Paintings Acquired Their Names and Art of the Everyday: Dutch Painting and the Realist Novel. (September 2019)


Stardom Is Born

Sarah Bernhardt listening to a recording of her voice, New York City, early 1890s

The Drama of Celebrity

by Sharon Marcus

Celebrity: A History of Fame

by Susan J. Douglas and Andrea McDonnell
Celebrity culture is not new, even if it often feels that way. Henry James greatly admired Sarah Bernhardt when he first saw her on the Parisian stage in 1876, but what he witnessed when she arrived in London three years later was “the success of a celebrity, pure and simple”—a …

Unnatural Naturalism

Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts and Crafts Movement

an exhibition at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, October 11, 2018–January 6, 2019; the Vero Beach Museum of Art, February 9–May 5, 2019; the Seattle Art Museum, June 13–September 8, 2019; the San Antonio Museum of Art, October 11, 2019–January 5, 2020; the Yale Center for British Art, February 13–May 10, 2020; the Nevada Museum of Art, June 20–September 13, 2020; and the Frick Pittsburgh, October 29, 2020–January 24, 2021

Christina Rossetti: Poetry in Art

edited by Susan Owens and Nicholas Tromans
It’s common for restive artists to conclude that the current generation has lost its way—less common, perhaps, to look back more than four hundred years for a solution. When a small band of would-be reformers met at the London house of John Everett Millais in 1848 and emerged as the …

Loving Lips

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Lady Lilith, 1867

Victorians Undone: Tales of the Flesh in the Age of Decorum

by Kathryn Hughes
Virginia Woolf liked to celebrate modern biographers’ break with Victorian precedent by implying that the books themselves had gone on a diet. “In the first twenty years of the new century,” she wrote in 1927, “biographies must have lost half their weight.” Rather than bulk up their volumes with “countless …

Which Jane Austen?

Jane Austen at Home: A Biography

by Lucy Worsley

Teenage Writings

by Jane Austen, edited and with an introduction and notes by Kathryn Sutherland and Freya Johnston
On July 18, the Bank of England marked the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death by officially unveiling a new £10 note in her honor. It would be nice to imagine that someone at the bank had been reading Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century and thought this an appropriate way of acknowledging the woman who figures in it as one of our most clear-sighted guides to the origins of current economic arrangements. But Austen’s shrewdness about money seems to have been far less on anyone’s mind than a desire to rectify the absence of women other than the queen on British currency.

Growing Up with Middlemarch

George Eliot; chalk drawing by Sir Frederic William Burton, 1865

My Life in Middlemarch

by Rebecca Mead
What did Virginia Woolf mean by calling George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871–1872) “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people”? Like many of Woolf’s most telling critical remarks, it is tossed off without elaboration, as if both the character of Eliot’s “magnificent book” and the judgment on the rest …


The Highest Form of Flattery

Ford Maddox Brown: The Last of England, 1852–1855

Like the nineteenth century, our own moment is one at which the expansion of museums and new technologies for the dissemination of images have combined to make the history of art-making seem open to view as never before. Elizabeth Prettejohn’s elegant new book reminds us that pastiche and ironic “appropriation” are not the only possible responses to that experience.