Seamus Perry

Seamus Perry is a professor of English at Oxford. He presents the LRB podcast series Close Readings, with Mark Ford.

Closet Virtuoso: Magic Mann

Seamus Perry, 24 February 2022

Thomas Mann’s​ most noteworthy appearance in Irish letters until now came in one of the last poems of W.B. Yeats. In the spring of 1938 the poet read a piece in the Yale Review by Archibald MacLeish, the only article on his work ‘which has not bored me for years’ – a disarming piece of Yeatsian egotism since most of the article was not about him. True, he made a...

With a Da bin ich! Properly Lawrentian

Seamus Perry, 9 September 2021

D.H. Lawrence is a ‘teller’ in the sense of telling you what to do – and, more particularly, what not to do: as Aldous Huxley observed, he could be ‘bloodthirstily censorious’. Lawrence had a philosophy, or as he self-deprecatingly put it, a ‘pseudo-philosophy’, coupled with a strong urge to dish out spiritual advice. ‘I want folk – English folk – to alter, and have more sense,’ as he said in a letter

When​ the posthumous Collected Poems of W.H. Auden appeared in 1976, Seamus Heaney wrote an appreciative review for the magazine Hibernia in which he told

a story about a Ballymena listener calling the BBC one morning in 1969, after the Northern Ireland news had given a lot of coverage to speeches by civil rights leaders the previous evening. ‘Tell us this,’ he said, ‘are...

Wire him up to a toaster: Ordinary Carey

Seamus Perry, 7 January 2021

Thisbook is a departure from John Carey’s normal mode, much more intently introductory than anything else he has written in a long and distinguished career. A Little History of Poetry canters from Gilgamesh and Homer to Mary Oliver and Les Murray in three hundred pages with a breezy sense of mission, assuming in the reader no previous acquaintance with the subject...

StephenSpender had spent two terms as an undistinguished student at University College, Oxford, before he finally met W.H. Auden. It was not for want of trying. Michael, Spender’s elder brother, an insufferable turbo-brain at Balliol, had known Auden at school and kept in touch, but refused to arrange an introduction for Stephen, fearing, as Spender later put it, that ‘in...

The Terrifying Vrooom: Empsonising

Colin Burrow, 15 July 2021

Reading an Empson essay is like being taken for a drive by an eccentric uncle in a terrifyingly powerful old banger. There are disturbing stains on the upholstery and an alarming whiff of whisky in the...

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Alphabeted: Coleridge the Modernist

Barbara Everett, 7 August 2003

An informal Times feature on literary classics, published recently, included a list drawn up by a director of Penguin Classics: ‘The 50 Greatest Classics (pre-1900).’ Such lists can...

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