Gay Clifford

Gay Clifford teaches English at University College, London and is the author of a book on Medieval allegory.

Poem: ‘Confession’

Gay Clifford, 15 July 1982

My ghostly Mother, I me confess I’ve been indecent, more or less. Lapses of courage are always indecent.

You had a greyer time, in which was lent The social way to lie. It was not meant That you should say exactly what you miss.

It seems to me that I was always bent Doing the things were safely social, meant To block the questions are without redress.

But now I dread old fears that...

Learning to speak

Gay Clifford, 21 February 1980

Lawrence felt that Hardy’s Sue Bridehead was ‘no woman’ because ‘that which was female in her she wanted to consume within the male force … in the fire of understanding, of giving utterance. Whereas an ordinary woman knows that she contains all understanding, that she is the unutterable which man must forever continue to try to utter.’ No woman would assent to that last sentence unless she wanted to end up a white goddess, or an ordinary white elephant. (The Kings of Siam used to give a white elephant to hated courtiers, who would then promptly ruin themselves on its costly maintenance.) Yet John Goode notes in Women Writing that Lawrence is here unwittingly acute about something central to sexist ideology: that ‘woman is an image to be uttered’ – uttered, that is, by other people.

Letter

Women Painters

22 November 1979

SIR: Brigid Brophy’s review of Germaine Greer’s The Obstacle Race suffers itself from amblyopia. This is unimportant where it is attributable merely to divergent taste, however snidely expressed (‘if his taste ran to the work of Gwen John’; ‘the melodramatic Artemisia Gentileschi’ – painting when melodrama was central to contemporary aesthetics). What is serious...

Hugging the cats

John Bayley, 14 June 1990

Good writing, in prose or verse, can seem a sort of visible distillation, brandy-like, of the anima vagula blandula, the tenuous and transparent daily self that produced it. Another kind of good...

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