Colin Burrow

Colin Burrow is a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. His books include Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity and Imitating Authors: Plato to Futurity, as well as editions of Ben Jonson, Shakespeare and the metaphysical poets. His first contribution to the LRB, in 1999, was on British and Irish poetry of the Civil War; he has since written more than seventy pieces for the paper, on subjects from Catullus and Virgil to Hilary Mantel and Ursula Le Guin.

You’vegot to love Zadie Smith. When The Fraud arrived I did what no self-respecting reviewer should ever do. I flipped the book open and peeked at a random chapter. I know, I know. Never peek. It can spoil Christmas. But sometimes it’s just too tempting, and sometimes knowing what’s under the wrapping paper can make it even more fun to tear it off when the big day comes....

What​ a difference six inches can make. George Orwell was shot in the neck on 20 May 1937 while fighting in the Spanish Civil War for the POUM (roughly translatable as ‘The Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification’). He was six foot two. If he’d been five foot eight the bullet would have gone through his head. If that had happened, what would the world think of him...

I’m​ a neurotic rule-follower. Whenever I fly I anguish about possible minor transgressions. Is my hand baggage less than the maximum permitted depth of 23 cm? Is my tube of toothpaste under the regulation 100 ml? Is the transparent bag in which I’ve put it transparent enough? Do I have to take my shoes off now? Then there’s the horror of the automated passport reader with...

The Comeuppance Button: Dreadful Mr Dahl

Colin Burrow, 15 December 2022

Matilda sold half a million copies in its first six months. It isn’t true that half a million people can’t be wrong, as anyone who’s ever scanned the results of an election will know. But Dahl aimed to sell, and his worst writing derived from his aggressively simple-minded view of what children want: ‘They love ghosts. They love the finding of treasure. They love chocolate and toys and money.’ Some do, some don’t, surely?

Think outside the bun: Quote Me!

Colin Burrow, 8 September 2022

The problem with Wilde is not just that he and every character he created always sound like they’re quoting Oscar Wilde, but that after him quotations that didn’t sound at least a little bit like Oscar Wilde were unlikely to be quoted, because they didn’t sound like quotations.

Don’t break that fiddle: Eclectic Imitators

Tobias Gregory, 19 November 2020

The boundary between the broader and narrower senses has never been firm, and the history of literary imitation has always been bound up with the histories of philosophy, rhetoric and education. Plato,...

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I must needs acknowledge, that the Greeke and Latine tongues, are great ornaments in a Gentleman, but they are purchased at over-high rate. Montaigne, Essays I grew up​ in postwar...

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Mr Who He? Shakespeare’s Poems

Stephen Orgel, 8 August 2002

In his own time, Shakespeare was much better known to the reading public as a poet than as a playwright. Venus and Adonis went through ten editions before his death in 1616, and another six...

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