Vernon Lee

Stefano Evangelista

in Victorian Literature

ISBN: 9780199799558
Published online March 2011 | | DOI:
Vernon Lee

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Vernon Lee (b. 1856–d. 1935) is the pen name of the prolific author and critic Violet Paget. Lee was a cosmopolitan intellectual who lived most of her life in Continental Europe, although she published nearly all of her work in Britain. Her output is immensely varied: it comprises over forty volumes, which range from music criticism to fiction, travel writing, and a large body of essays on aesthetics and art appreciation. Lee was close to a number of influential late Victorian authors, including Walter Pater (by many considered the single most important influence on her), John Addington Symonds, Henry James, and the art critic Bernhard Berenson. Today Lee is best known for her supernatural tales, especially those collected in Hauntings (1890), but during her lifetime she was noted for her studies of art and aesthetics, including Belcaro (1881), Euphorion (1884), and Renaissance Fancies and Studies (1895). Her novel Miss Brown (1884) is a satire of the Pre-Raphaelite and aesthetic circles popular in the 1880s, which caused a controversy at the time because of its thinly veiled portrayal of various members of these groups. Together with her intimate friend Clementina (“Kit”) Anstruther-Thomson, Lee devised psychological aesthetics, a controversial “scientific” method of assessing the effect of art on the body expounded in Beauty and Ugliness (1912) and The Beautiful (1913). Like many of her late Victorian contemporaries, Lee suffered a period of neglect during the modernist decades, but her work is now attracting again both general readers and academics in the wake of the resurgent interest in aestheticism, the fin de siècle, and the gendering of decadence.

Article.  7493 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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