In contrast, Michelle Lovric's anthology, Bleeding Hearts: Poems for the Nervous and Highly Strung (Aurum pounds 9.99) strikes an aggressively modern note. 'They amputated / your thighs from my hips,' begins one poem. Lovric's sources are wide and curious: Edith Sodergran rubs shoulders with Adrien Henri. The Lover's Companion, ed Elizabeth Jane Howard, has been reissued (Macmillan pounds 16.99). First published in 1978, it's an altogether more sober and high-minded collection, featuring John Donne, Nancy Mitford, Byron, and Walter Raleigh's tragic letter of farewell to his wife before his execution.
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Victorian Love Stories, ed Kate Flint (Oxford pounds 7.99), is a wonderful, slow-burning read, the perfect antidote to the sex-in-the-first-chapter blockbuster. Henry James begins his courtly tale 'A Day of Days' with a typically unhurried and convoluted sentence; lovers have names like Granville Dudley and Clara Stanley. Yet romance is frequently tinged with a hint of dread for the woman. Thomas Hardy sounds an ominous note with his casual comment: 'She was generally believed to be a woman with a story - an innocent one, but a story of some sort or other.'