The Romance of a Shop
  • Publication Date: March 28, 2006
  • ISBN: 9781551115665 / 1551115662
  • 278 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Romance of a Shop

  • Publication Date: March 28, 2006
  • ISBN: 9781551115665 / 1551115662
  • 278 pages; 5½" x 8½"

The Romance of a Shop is an early “New Woman” novel about four sisters, who decide to establish their own photography business and their own home in central London after their father’s death and their loss of financial security. In this novel, Amy Levy examines both the opportunities and dangers of urban experience for women in the late nineteenth century who pursue independent work rather than follow the established paths of domestic service. By outfitting her characters as photographers, Levy emphasizes the importance of the gendered gaze in this narrative of the modern city.

This Broadview edition prints for the first time since the 1880s Levy’s essay on Christina Rossetti and a short story set in North London, both published in Oscar Wilde’s magazine The Woman’s World. Other appendices include poetry by Levy, Michael Field, Dollie Radford, and A. Mary F. Robinson, and essays on Victorian photography, literary realism, “the woman question” at the end of the nineteenth century, and the plight of women working in London.


“It is an unexpected pleasure to have Amy Levy’s fascinating 1888 novel, The Romance of a Shop, in a well-annotated modern edition. Levy, an Anglo-Jewish poet and novelist who was educated at Newnham College and frequented the London circles of Eleanor Marx and Olive Schreiner, has been the subject of increasing interest over the last ten years. Levy’s novel chronicles the romance of work and the trials of independent urban life for the ‘new woman’; Susan David Bernstein gives us a splendid edition, with appendices that include Levy’s essays and poems, reviews, and other invaluable contemporary materials.” — Deborah Nord, Princeton University

Amy Levy: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

The Romance of a Shop

Appendix A: Contemporary Reviews of The Romance of a Shop

  1. From “The Newest Books,” British Weekly (26 October 1888)
  2. “The Romance of a Shop,” The Jewish Chronicle (2 November 1888)
  3. “The Romance of a Shop,” The Spectator (3 November 1888)
  4. From George Saintsbury, “New Novels,” The Academy (10 November 1888)
  5. From H.C. Brewer, “New Novels,” The Graphic (24 November 1888)
  6. Oscar Wilde, “Amy Levy,” The Woman’s World (1890)

Appendix B: Other Writing by Levy

  1. “The Poetry of Christina Rossetti,” The Woman’s World (February 1888)
  2. “Women and Club Life,” The Woman’s World (June 1888)
  3. “Readers at the British Museum,” Atalanta (April 1889)
  4. “Eldorado at Islington,” The Woman’s World (1889)
  5. Poetry

Appendix C: Literary Contexts

  1. From John Ruskin, “Fiction—Fair and Foul,” The Nineteenth Century (October 1881)
  2. From Oscar Wilde, “The Decay of Lying,” The Nineteenth Century (January 1889)
  3. A. Mary F. Robinson, “Will,” Women’s Voices (1887)
  4. Michael Field, “The Moon Rose Full,” Long Ago (1889)
  5. Dollie Radford, “From Our Emancipated Aunt in Town,” Songs and Other Verses (1895)

Appendix D: The Woman Question

  1. From Grant Allen, “The Girl of the Future,” The Universal Review (1890)
  2. From Clementina Black, “The Organization of Working Women,” The Fortnightly Review (November

Appendix E: Victorian Photography

  1. From [Lady Elizabeth Eastlake], “Photography,” Quarterly Review (April 1857)
  2. Levy at Newnham College: Norwich House (1880)

Appendix F: Map of Levy’s London from Bacon’s New Map of London (1885)

Select Bibliography

Susan David Bernstein is a Professor of English, Jewish Studies, and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of Confessional Subjects: Revelations of Gender and Power in Victorian Literature and Culture (University of North Carolina Press, 1997).