Anne Barton

Anne Barton, a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, is the author, most recently, of Essays, Mainly Shakespearean and a study of Byron’s Don Juan.

In George Peele’s Elizabethan play The Old Wives’ Tale, a character called Jack interrogates the ‘wandering knight’ Eumenides: ‘Are you not the man, sir (deny it if you can, sir) that came from a strange place in the land of Catita, where Jackanapes flies with his tail in his mouth, to seek out a lady as white as snow and as red as blood?’ Jack is dead. The...

Once upon a time there was a little girl who, at the age of two, had in some fashion to be told that her father had just cut off the head of the beautiful mother who used to lavish affection on her, and pretty clothes. Shortly afterwards the child learned that, although she retained contact with him, she had been officially repudiated as her father’s daughter, even if she probably had...

Tousy-Mousy: Mary Shelley

Anne Barton, 8 February 2001

Richard Holmes published Shelley: The Pursuit in 1974. More than a decade later, in Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer (1985), he recalled how obsessive his engagement gradually became, not just with Shelley, but with that whole group of English expatriates associated with him, as it moved from Geneva through Italy – Bagni di Lucca, Este, Venice, Rome, Naples, Ravenna, Pisa...

Transparent Criticism

Anne Barton, 21 June 1984

Erich Auerbach’s celebrated study of the representation of reality in Western literature, Mimesis, was published in German in 1946. Grounded on the analysis (mainly syntactic) of passages selected from texts in some nine different languages, ranging from Homer and the Old Testament to Virginia Woolf, it assumes throughout that reality has an objective existence, is open to perception, and needs no apologetic inverted commas. It can be and enduringly is represented by writers whose work bears the impress not only of their own individuality but of a particular historical context, a social and cultural milieu. Auerbach’s book remains, for many readers, one of the great critical achievements of the 20th century: a work marked out not only by its scholarship, breadth of sympathy and imaginative range, but by its author’s ability to validate his generalisations through scrupulous attentiveness to the smallest details of a text.

That Night at Farnham

Anne Barton, 18 August 1983

In Marlowe’s Edward II, the royal favourite Gaveston plans delicious entertainments which ‘may draw the pliant king which way I please’. He will introduce musicians to the court, ‘wanton poets’, Italian masques by night, and ‘pleasing shows’. Edward, walking abroad, is to encounter pages dressed as ‘sylvan nymphs’, and

In the Shady Wood: Staging the Forest

Michael Neill, 22 March 2018

Anne Barton​ delivered the lectures on ‘The Shakespearean Forest’ that form the basis for this, her much anticipated last book, in Cambridge in 2003. The Clark Lectures were...

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Art of Embarrassment

A.D. Nuttall, 18 August 1994

Humane, learned, un-showily stylish and at times moving in their tender intelligence, these essays by Anne Barton, ranging from a richly ‘mellow’ piece first published in 1953 –...

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True Words

A.D. Nuttall, 25 April 1991

‘The French call it pain, the Germans call it Brot and we call it bread; and we are right, because it is bread.’ So wrote (I have been told though I have not been able to verify the...

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Blair Worden, 7 March 1985

In 1892 A.C. Benson published an essay which introduced the modern appreciation of Andrew Marvell. For more than two hundred years Marvell’s verse had shared with Metaphysical poetry a...

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