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