Matthew Bevis

Matthew Bevis is a professor of English at Oxford. His latest book is Wordsworth’s Fun.

Cool Vertigo: Auden Country

Matthew Bevis, 2 March 2023

Like Byron, Auden would reinvent himself from abroad, and his move to the US in 1939 was in many respects a resistance to what was expected of him. Although he had become famous for capturing the mood of a generation – left-wing, class-conscious – he couldn’t rest easy in the generation of a single mood. ‘Poetry is the clear expression of mixed feelings,’ he observed in a note to The Double Man (1941), and such feelings come to the fore when he’s on the move.

A Whack of Pies: Dear to Mew

Matthew Bevis, 16 December 2021

‘The moonlight​ drips on the parlour floor;/I shall go mad if no one wipes it up.’ So began E.V. Knox’s parody in the August 1921 issue of Punch.

And the moon dripped upon the floor like thisTwo years ago. The floor looked just the same.There is something very terrible about a floor.

Who, if presented with this parody today, would be able to name the figure that inspired it?...

On Charles Wright

Matthew Bevis, 1 April 2021

CharlesWright’s Oblivion Banjo – published in advance of his 85th birthday (Farrar, Straus, £20) – is somewhere between a Collected and Selected and begins with a homage to Ezra Pound:

Today is one of those daysOne swears is a prophecy:The air explicit and moist,As though filled with unanswered prayers

This sounds like the day everything started for Wright. After...

On Rachael Allen

Matthew Bevis, 5 March 2020

When i sawKingdomland (Faber, £10.99) up in lights on its yellow-orange cover, the word conjured up visions of a travelling fairground, dodgily yet enticingly going to seed. Even after I learned that the term is an old name for Rachael Allen’s home county of Cornwall, I didn’t feel my first impressions were wholly misplaced. Kingdomland is Allen’s first collection...

On Douglas Crase

Matthew Bevis, 5 December 2019

‘The most interesting book of first poems in many years’, Richard Howard proclaimed in 1981. James Merrill, John Hollander and John Ashbery spoke in similarly emphatic terms, while Anthony Hecht saluted an ‘extraordinarily fine’ debut and Harold Bloom hailed the arrival of a great original. ‘I think I speak for many,’ David Kalstone wrote, ‘in saying...

Wordsworth​ was the first poet I fell in love with as a teenager. My English teacher (who preferred Pope and Henry James) mocked me for my taste, reminding me of Shelley’s description of...

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Bring some Madeira: Thomas Love Peacock

Thomas Keymer, 8 February 2018

Marilyn Butler​, whose Peacock Displayed was published in 1979, wasn’t the first to connect Peacock’s name with the showy wit of his satires. It started with Shelley, his friend...

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