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The testamentary acts of Michael Millgate's title are those strategies of self-protection and self-projection--textual and personal, before and after death--by which authors seek in old age to enhance posterity's view of themselves and their work. The four figures examined here in detail--Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson, Henry James, and Thomas...
The testamentary acts of Michael Millgate's title are those strategies of self-protection and self-projection--textual and personal, before and after death--by which authors seek in old age to enhance posterity's view of themselves and their work. The four figures examined here in detail--Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson, Henry James, and Thomas Hardy--sought to maintain their personal privacy and control the integrity of their texts by, for example, destroying documents, writing autobiographies, revising their earlier works and supplying them with retrospective prefaces, and publishing so-called "collected" editions that omitted items they no longer wished to preserve. These and other strategies have been widely practiced by writers, but can have entirely unanticipated results, as Millgate shows. His study also examines the difficult role of such literary executors as Pen Browning, Hallam Tennyson, and Florence Hardy, called upon to exercise a delegated, hence compromised, authority. The final section of the book considers the wills and wishes of many other literary figures, from Samuel Johnson to Walt Whitman to Philip Larkin, emphasizing the importance for contemporary biographers and editors of attention to these end-games--to the often disregarded final years of writers, and to both the intentions and the consequences of their explicit and implicit testamentary acts.
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