Keith Walker

Keith Walker teaches English at University College, London.



3 August 1995

Fanny Price may or may not be ‘the nerdiest of all heroines’ as Claudia Johnson says, but Fanny refuses to enter into the marriage games that the men have set up for her. She says no. No to Sir Thomas when he says she has an obligation to marry Henry Crawford, and no again to Edmund when he (rather more mutedly) suggests much the same thing. This takes some distinctly unnerdish pluck, and parallel...

Bad Nights at ‘The Libertine’

Keith Walker, 8 October 1992

Kwabena Nketia tells us, in his book African Music, that ‘music’ is defined in Africa through the social uses to which it is put. Some native African languages don’t have a word for music as a thing in itself (which, of course, it isn’t, looked at socially), but instead have different words for cradle-rocking-to-sounds, pounding-maize-to-sounds, music-for-hunting-to and so forth. But is there such a thing, anyway, as ‘music: a system of organised sounds which give pleasure, and obey’ – ‘obeying’ may include ‘flouting’ – ‘the conventions of its grammar’? The organisation of pop music is imperceptible to me, its grammar foreign, and its pleasures non-existent. I readily concede that this is not the experience of everyone. The phenomenon is widely-known, but doesn’t get much noticed. A woman I was talking to at a party recently thought that I was playing a complicated sort of game and simply could not believe me when I said I had never heard of, let alone heard, the particular rock group all her children were listening to.’


Language Fears

19 January 1989

Professor Nash’s recent review of the Greenbaum/Whitcut Longman Guide to English Usage, though properly welcoming, does less than justice to those areas where the book is unique. 1. The Guide can cause students to fall off their chairs with laughter. Nash has mentioned the keen distinction drawn between weak and week (‘Weak means “not strong". A week is seven days’), but he doesn’t give the...


15 October 1987

SIR: With the dollar at, say, $1.50 to the pound and assuming ‘$2995’ is a misprint for $29.95 (sorry to point these things out), the books reviewed by Peter Burke (LRB, 15 October) come to about £300. Did you also pay him?
Keith Walker writes: Mr Kojecky’s speculation is ingenious, but there are too many similar puzzles about Johnson’s Dictionary which it wouldn’t solve, and everything we know about the circumstances of the making of the Dictionary is against it. Mr Kojecky apparently relies on Boswell’s description, which is confused and misleading on important details. For example, Boswell suggests that Johnson...

Poet Squab

Claude Rawson, 3 March 1988

There is an anonymous portrait of Dryden, ‘dated 1657 but probably 1662’, which shows a full-fed figure with plump alert eyes, comfortable and predatory. He seems poised between...

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Wadham and Gomorrah

Conrad Russell, 6 December 1984

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, one of the original ‘amorous sons of Wadham’, perhaps took part in writing an obscene farce called Sodom. Dr Walker drily observes that ‘to...

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