84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

By Helene Hanff

This publication is the extremely simple tale of the affection affair among omit Helene Hanff of latest York and Messrs Marks and Co, of infrequent and secondhand books, at eighty four Charing go street, London'. day-by-day TELEGRAPH advised in a chain of letters in eighty four CHARING move street after which in diary shape within the moment half THE DUCHESS OF BLOOMSBURY road, this actual tale has touched the hearts of thousands.

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This claim to universal human experience is conventional in early English autobiography, its corollary being the readerly habit of searching a biographical text for personal applications of its episodes or morals. Universal applicability is precisely what Hunt and Clarke wish to deny Charke's Life, however. To them the text is "curious," marked by the "extreme singularity" of the "pursuits and tendencies" of its author; it traces the career of a "reckless and anomalous individual"; Charke is a "lusus naturae of the moral world" (v-vi).

Lord Place. 89 Yet, beyond these instances, we might assume that the unnamed and unnameable origin of Charke's pain is her transvestism or, in a larger sense, her unfulfilled desire for a masculine identity and patriarchal privileges. Page 41 From her childish theft of her father's clothes to her successful career as a male actress to her various stints in men's jobs to her life in breeches with Mrs. Brown, Charke usurped forms that patriarchy had reserved for itself. And she usurps again in writing autobiography.

She includes two long segments of genealogy, one tracing the paternal line (9-25), the other the maternal (25-32), both including details of the family estates, finances, and public honors. When the narrative proper gets under way, the Memoirs follows the career of Fanshawe's husband, who served as secretary of war to Charles II (then Prince of Wales), later as ambassador to Portugal and Spain. Because Ann Fanshawe witnessed foreign court life in both its official pomp and its unofficial details, her account records many political events from a "feminine" perspective.

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