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The Cultural Work of the Late Nineteenth-Century Hostess

"The Cultural Work of the Late Nineteenth-Century Hostess" explores the influence upper-class, socially engaged women had on literary and political culture in the U.S. and in England in the years 1870-1920. Annie Fields, an American, was first married to James T. Fields, a prominent Boston publisher; after his death she became companion to Sarah Orne Jewett, one of the foremost New England writers. Mary Gladstone was a daughter of William Gladstone, one of Great Britain's most famous Prime Ministers. Both became well known as hostesses, entertaining the leading figures of their day; both also kept journals and wrote letters in which they recorded those figures' conversations. Susan K. Harris reads these records to exhibit the impact such women had on the cultural life of their times and to show how the skills acquired as hostesses in the 19th century facilitated their entry into the public arena in the 20th. "The Cultural Work of the Late Nineteenth-Century Hostess" shows how Fields and Gladstone negotiated alliances, won over key figures to their parties' designs, and fought to develop major cultural institutions ranging from the Organization of Boston Charities to London's Royal College of Music.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Late Nineteenth-Century Hostess The Hostess as a Diarist The Hostess as a Correspondent Moral Landscapes: Mary Gladstone's Reading Community The Hostess as the Historian of a Reading Community: Annie Fields Balancing Acts: The Hostess and the New Bureaucratic Order

Promotional Information

Susan K. Harris's publications include "The Courtship of Olivia Langdon and Mark Twain", "19th-Century American Women's Novels: Interpretive Strategies" and "Mark Twain's Escape from Time: A Study of Patterns and Images".

About the Author

SUSAN K HARRIS currently is Professor of American Literature at Penn State - University, University Park. Previously, she taught for fifteen years at Queens - College, of the City University of New York. Her publications include The - Courtship of Olivia Langdon and Mark Twain (Cambridge University Press, 1996); 19th-Century American Women's Novels: Interpretive Strategies (Cambridge University Press, 1990); and Mark Twain's Escape from Time: A Study of Patterns and Images (University of Missouri Press, 1982). She has also edited Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Houghton Mifflin, 2000); Harriet Beecher Stowe's The Minister's Wooing (Penguin, 1999); and Mark Twain: Historical Romances (The Library of America, 1994). Her essays have appeared in collections published by Oxford, Johns Hopkins, and Rutgers University presses, and in journals such as American Literature, New England Quarterly, and Studies in the Novel. She has edited Legacy: A Journal of American Women's Writing, and has served on advisory boards for Leviathan: the Melville Society Journal, The Oxford Reader's Companion to Mark Twain, and the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal, Missouri.


"Thoroughly engaging for readers fascinated by the nineteenth century, and essential reading for understanding the complex ways women have found to wield cultural and political influence." - Marjorie Pryse, University at Albany "In this scintillatingly-written book, as intelligent as the conversations generated by the two hostesses that are its main subject, Harris serves up to a wide audience a virtual feast of well-prepared information. As an important contribution to the new and growing field of trans-Atlantic studies, the book offers a range of methods for future work while it lays out a broad social panorama." - Adrienne Munich, author of Queen Victoria s Secrets

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