A.S. Byatt’s critical writings span her whole career and stand in an elusive and yet inescapable relation with her fiction. In the ‘Introduction’ to Passions of the Mind (1991), the volume which collects 21 pieces which first appeared elsewhere and which range widely in subject matter, nature and length, Byatt asserts her difference from ‘[n]ovelists’ who ‘claim that their fiction is quite a separate thing from their other written work’, declaring instead: ‘I have never felt such a separation’ (1). Indeed, the very title of the book, published only a year after the success of Possession, seems to return to the central theme of the novel, the communion of intellectual and romantic pursuits. It is therefore tempting to assess her criticism in light of the fiction, so that, for instance, the long essays on Robert Browning’s use of the figure of Lazarus or on George Eliot’s essays and religious belief in that collection, with their expert historical and literary knowledge of the Victorians and their ideas, are seen as companions to the re-creation of the nineteenth century (and, of course, the creation of the character of Randolph Ash) in Possession.
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