By SAMANTHA ELLIS
RELICS OF DEATH IN VICTORIAN LITERATURE AND CULTURE
260pp. Cambridge University Press. £60 (US $90). 978 1 107 07744 7
THE BRONTË CABINET Three lives in nine objects 336pp. Norton. £17.99. (US $27.95). 978 0 393 24008 5
For the most part, we don’t keep relics the way the Victorians did. It would be hard, now, to find a story about a widow squabbling with her husband’s best friend over who could keep the heart another friend had snatched from the fire where his body was being cremated. But for Mary Shelley this was not a peculiar thing to do, particularly as other friends were also cherishing Percy’s ashes, and even giving them away as presents. As Deborah Lutz writes, death doesn’t just bring about the tragedy of turning people into things; “it might also start inanimate objects to life, cause them to travel, move about, generate meaning”.