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Love Among the Archives

Writing the Lives of George Scharf, Victorian Bachelor

Helena Michie, Robyn Warhol

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Two Literary Critics Romancing the Archive at London’s National Portrait Gallery.

  • WINNER of the 2016 NAVSA Book of the Year

Part biography, part detective novel, part love story, and part meditation on archival research, Love Among the Archives is an experiment in writing a life. This is the story of two literary critics’ attempts to track down Sir George Scharf, the founding director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, famous in his day and strangely obscure in our own.

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List of Illustrations
Preface and Acknowledgements
A Vita for Sir George Scharf (Timeline)
Part I. Introduction: Adventures in the Archives
1. Identifying George Scharf
2. Expanding Middles
3. So Many Archives
4. The Ephemeral Archive: The Lives of Objects
5. The Institutional Archive: The NPG on Paper and Screen
6. The Monumental Archive: A Trip to Xanthus
7. The Visceral Archive: A Victorian Dinner Party
8. Writing George Scharf’s ‘Life’
II. Reading for Romance: The Marriage Plot
9. Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
10. A World of Men
11. We Don’t Know Jack about George
12. ‘Don’t Be Shocked!’
13. ‘Jackiana’, or, Giving Jack Away
14. Getting Used To It
15. Piano Wars
16. Romance Plot Redux
17. After Plot: Illegible Romance
III. Reading for Differentiation: The Family Romance
18. Left Behind: George Senior
19. Incorporating the Elderlies: Mother and Aunt
20. Horizontal Narratives (1): Family (Accounting) Systems
21. Horizontal Narratives (2): Brother Henry Disappears
IV. Reading for Success: The Professional Plot
22. Desiring Knole
23. Knole in the National Imaginary
24. In Which We (Maybe) Uncover a Dark-Hearted Villain
25. Days and Nights at Knole
26. Back to the Table
27. In Which We Become Guests of the Sackvilles (Sort of)
28. Friends at Chevening
29. Reading for Death
Coda: Our Archivist, Ourselves
List of Works Cited

About the Author

Helena Michie is Agnes C. Arnold Professor in Humanities and Professor English, Rice University. She is the author of Victorian Honeymoons: Journeys to the Conjugal (CUP, 2006), Sororophobia: Differences Among Women in Literature and Culture (OUP, 1991), and The Flesh Made Word: Women’s Figures, Women’s Bodies (OUP, 1987), co-author, with Naomi R. Cahn, of Confinements: Policing the Reproductive Body (Rutgers University Press, 1997) and co-editor of, with Ronald Thomas, Nineteenth-Century Geographies: From the Victorian Age to the American Century (Rutgers University Press, 2002).

Robyn Warhol is Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor of English, The Ohio State University. She is the author of Having a Good Cry: Effeminate Feelings and Popular Forms (Ohio State UP, 2003) and Gendered Interventions: Narrative Discourse in the Victorian Novel (Rutgers UP, 1989), co-editor, with Diane Price Herndl, of Feminisms: An Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism, Editor in chief of Women’s Worlds: The McGraw-Hill Anthology of Women’s Writing (2007), co-editor, with Diane Price Herndl, of Feminisms Redux (Rutgers UP, 2009) and co-author, with Jim Phelan, Peter Rabinowitz, David Herman, and Brian Richardson, of Narrative Theory: Core Concepts and Critical Debates (Ohio State UP, 2012).


A brilliant and ambitious experiment in life writing, Love Among the Archives is a delicious, witty, learned performance. Part scholarly detective story, part postmodern metanarrative, part cautionary tale about the temptations, limits, rewards, frustrations, and secret desires involved in doing archival research, it recalls both Byatt’s Possession and Symons’s The Quest for Corvo.

- Professor John O. Jordan, University of California, Santa Cruz

Superb. Warhol and Michie’s Love Among the Archives is a triumph of a book, that reinvents academic biography and tells a compelling story of the passions and mysteries of Victorian lives and archives. Inventive, witty and knowing, it is both an important reflection on biographical method and a joy to read.

- John Bowen, Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature, University of York

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