Literatures and Cultural Studies Faculty Publications and Presentations

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Book Review

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In 1684 Jean de La Bruye`re wrote that women letter writers ‘‘find at the tip of their pens expressions and turns of phrase that often, in men, are the result of long searching. . . . they have an inimitable way of putting words together that seems to come naturally.’’1 Are letters by women indeed more natural, more effortless, and more emotionally attuned than men’s? By contrast, others throughout literary history have demonstrated a ‘‘long-term prejudice against women’s letters’’ as ‘‘of no importance’’ (8), author James Daybell writes, and in doing so he illustrates the other extreme to which women’s letters have been put: they have been either idealized or neglected. With Daybell’s book, however, we can finally test the validity and accuracy of such valuations of women’s letter writing, for what Daybell has researched and composed is a thorough study of women’s letters and letter writing that, in historical and literary scholarship, has been long overdue; and the scope of his work enables him to claim authority on women’s letter writing precisely because of the impressive range of his book.


© 2010, The University of Chicago. Original published version available at

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Publication Title

Modern Philology





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