P.N. Furbank

P.N. Furbank, who died in 2014, wrote forty pieces for the LRB, on subjects including Dante, dinner and Desmoulins. He was general editor, along with W.R. Owens, of The Works of Daniel Defoe. His other books include a consideration of class, Unholy Pleasure, and biographies of Mallarmé, Italo Svevo and E.M. Forster.

Graham Robb, who is well known for his biographies of Balzac, Victor Hugo and Rimbaud, has written a history of what he calls a ‘vanished civilisation’, his theme being that in the 19th century, although homosexual love and homosexual fraternising were hardly admitted to exist, except perhaps in court reports, they were an omnipresent and vital part of the national life. Moreover,...

Enfield was nothing: Norman Lewis

P.N. Furbank, 18 December 2003

‘I hate voyages and explorers,’ Lévi-Strauss writes in his Tristes Tropiques (1955). So what is he doing, he asks himself, in producing this account of his expeditions?

Must I relate so many insipid details and insignificant occurrences? Adventure has no place in the ethnographic profession: it is merely a form of servitude, it burdens effective work with the weight of...

Flower Power: Jocelyn Brooke

P.N. Furbank, 8 May 2003

‘An unjustly neglected author’? This was at least how Anthony Powell wrote of Jocelyn Brooke, none of whose books remained in print at the time of his death in 1966. But the neglect was to some degree remedied when, in 1981, Secker and Warburg reissued his Orchid Trilogy as a single volume, with an introduction by Powell, and it is nice to see this trilogy now reprinted as a...


Fusty Doodlings

17 October 2002

Apropos R.B. Russell’s attack on my review of James Methuen-Campbell’s biography of Denton Welch (Letters, 31 October), I was hoping that readers would take the point that at the time of Welch’s intense infatuation with ‘Dr Farley’ he was, as is stressed in A Voice through a Cloud, a very sick man, prone to wildly unbalanced behaviour. This was not his normal style in his relationships. I...

Like Steam Escaping: Denton Welch

P.N. Furbank, 17 October 2002

In 1936 Denton Welch, who was then an art student at Goldsmiths College and had no thoughts of becoming a writer, suffered an appalling accident. He was bicycling from Greenwich down the main Brighton road, on a Whitsun holiday, when a car ran into him, fracturing his spine and leaving him a permanent invalid, till his death in 1948 at the age of 32.

It is of course a tragic tale, but also an...

Restless Daniel: Defoe

John Mullan, 20 July 2006

Writers do not always know what their best writings are. Daniel Defoe believed his magnum opus to be his huge, passionately political, intermittently philosophical poem in heroic couplets, Jure...

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Fugitive Crusoe: Daniel Defoe

Tom Paulin, 19 July 2001

In 1830, a few months before he died in a Soho rooming-house, Hazlitt published a lengthy essay on a new biography of Daniel Defoe in the Edinburgh Review, where he remarked that in Robinson...

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Norman Hampson, 20 August 1992

Once upon a time, a distinguished French Department in a well-known British university set a question on Diderot in its Final Examination. Owing to a couple of unfortunate misprints, his name...

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Whig Dreams

Margaret Anne Doody, 27 February 1992

This new issue of Daniel Defoe’s Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain is very pretty. It is a glossy book, lavishly illustrated with 18th-century maps, portraits, landscapes,...

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Defoe or the Devil

Pat Rogers, 2 March 1989

Comically observant, admonitory, but not quite reproachful, very English in its good-humoured and long-suffering manner, The Canonisation of Daniel Defoe is in more ways than one a caution. The...

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Peter Robb, 20 June 1985

Printing even a writer’s letters is at times an equivocal business. There’s always the question of what, exactly, of value they may tell us, of what there is that makes their...

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Morgan to his Friends

Denis Donoghue, 2 August 1984

On 10 February 1915 E.M. Forster visited D.H. and Frieda Lawrence at Greatham. The visit went off reasonably well, by the standards appropriate to those participants. The men, according to...

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