Within the body of Michael Field criticism it is the operation of the male pseudonym, in the sociosexual realm and the textual domain, that has attracted the most attention. Such discussion has taken place almost entirely in relation to the Sapphic lyrics of Long Ago (1889). This chapter is therefore well placed to introduce the major part of the critical debate. The pseudonym raises issues of number as well as gender – and these are dealt with, albeit to a lesser extent, in the critical literature I will survey – but my exploration of the duality of Michael Field's authorship will be saved for Chapter 4, where I suggest that Underneath the Bough addresses such issues more specifically. This may seem a slightly artificial separation of two aspects of the pseudonym, but it is a necessary one, and one that is justified by Michael Field's conception of each volume of poetry as based around a quite distinct set of concerns, and, usually, one overriding conceit.
After introducing current critical thinking on the workings of the pseudonym, I situate Bradley and Cooper's use of the male name more tightly within late nineteenth-century debates about sexuality. In so doing, I will suggest a new ‘fetishistic’ understanding of its operation which will bring together the main concerns of this chapter and enable a reading of Long Ago in their light.