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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: September 2009

1 - The diaries and dramas: life-writing and the temporal patterns of aestheticism


The concerns with patterns of time and history which form the backbone of this study might be thought more intrinsic to the genres of life-writing and historical drama than they are to lyric poetry. Certainly one can see, through an exploration of these themes within the diaries and plays as well as the poetry, a kind of intellectual unity in the writings of Michael Field. Moreover, the experiments in these other genres provide a crucial theoretical frame for reading the lyric poems.


The life-writing of Michael Field has been studied very little; no doubt in part because of the daunting number of hand-written manuscript sources left to us in the archives. My aim is not to offer an overview of that material, but rather to analyse the mode and structures of self-creation and narration which are apparent in Bradley and Cooper's diaries. What we find here are the same preoccupations which shape the literary work. In fact, I will be suggesting that we need to read the diary more as a crafted ‘work’ – as much worthy of literary attention as their poetry and plays – than as an intimate outpouring.

That Bradley and Cooper write the diaries under the name ‘Michael Field’ foregrounds the artificiality inherent in the construction of any life-narrative, and lays bare its methods.