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Quod erat Hepburn

John Bayley, 3 April 1986

Katharine Hepburn: A Biography 
by Anne Edwards.
Hodder, 395 pp., £12.95, March 1986, 0 340 33719 2
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... that of Inspector Lestrade in six Sherlock Holmes films during the Forties. One of the virtues of Anne Edwards’s book is that she gives in a footnote a potted biography of every actor and actress she mentions. These notes have great period interest, as well as commending themselves to film buffs. The Depression was on when Jane Eyre was produced, and ...

Frocks and Shocks

Hilary Mantel: Jane Boleyn, 24 April 2008

Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford 
by Julia Fox.
Phoenix, 398 pp., £9.99, March 2008, 978 0 7538 2386 6
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... opera, Jane Boleyn is more often known as Jane Rochford, wife of George Boleyn, sister-in-law to Anne the queen. There are some lives we read backwards, from bloody exit to obscure entrance, and Jane’s is one of them. She was beheaded in 1542, with Henry VIII’s fifth queen, Catherine Howard. She was one of Catherine’s ladies, and for reasons which ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: The Matrix, 22 May 2003

... The first of the summer blockbusters is with us. For weeks, Carrie-Anne Moss has glowered beautifully from posters on the Underground, ‘21.05.03’, the release date of The Matrix Reloaded, stamped across her coat. Even cooler, a poster of incomprehensible green computer code resolves holographically into Keanu Reeves glowering beautifully as you walk past ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: New Writing, 8 March 2001

... directed at the number of familiar names on the contents page: Barbara Trapido, Anthony Thwaite, Anne Stevenson, Alan Brownjohn, Helen Simpson, Andrew Motion, Michael Hofmann, Alan Sillitoe, Louis de Bernières and Geoff Dyer are ten of them, and ‘new’ isn’t the first word that springs to mind. But there are plenty of good reasons, too obvious to need ...

Going underground

Elaine Showalter, 12 May 1994

The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes 
by Janet Malcolm.
Knopf, 208 pp., $23, April 1994, 0 679 43158 6
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... she publish big chunks of previously unpublished correspondence between Ted Hughes, Olwyn Hughes, Anne Stevenson and Al Alvarez? While she so vehemently condemns the motives of those who rifle the drawers of the dead, Malcolm is herself impelled to do the same, and it is this pull between its overt and covert narratives that makes The Silent Woman such a tour ...

Time to think again

Michael Neve, 3 March 1988

Benjamin Disraeli: Letters 1838-1841 
edited by M.G Wiebe, J.B. Conacher, John Matthews and M.S. Millar.
Toronto, 458 pp., £40, March 1987, 0 8020 5736 5
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Salisbury: The Man and his Policies 
edited by Lord Blake and Hugh Cecil.
Macmillan, 298 pp., £29.50, May 1987, 0 333 36876 2
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... political ambition. He was not public school; he was not Oxbridge; his education was erratic. Mary Anne Lewis would do. The Ontario team have not tried very hard to help us follow the correspondence during the ‘romance’, in that they print Mary Anne’s replies to Disraeli at the back of the volume, making the ...

Silly Buggers

James Fox, 7 March 1991

The Theatre of Embarrassment 
by Francis Wyndham.
Chatto, 205 pp., £15, February 1991, 0 7011 3726 6
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... photographers – seemed to want to write for the Magazine, then under the editorship of Godfrey Smith. It was both a serious and a very glamorous publication, soon to be the apogee of photo-journalism; its style was a vital part of the machinery of ‘the Sixties’ – all hard to imagine now. The newspaper itself was perhaps the best in the world, well ...

On Sophie Collins

Stephanie Burt: Sophie Collins, 18 July 2019

... who seems to be a stand-in for the author, especially in fanfiction. The term comes from Paula Smith’s parodic story ‘A Trekkie’s Tale’ (1973), originally published in a mimeographed journal for Star Trek fans. In mocking ‘Mary Sue’, Smith was not attacking fanfiction but trying to bolster its literary ...

Noticing and Not Noticing

John Mullan: Consciousness in Austen, 20 November 2014

The Hidden Jane Austen 
by John Wiltshire.
Cambridge, 195 pp., £17.99, April 2014, 978 1 107 64364 2
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... Captain Wentworth acknowledges this when, in the happy afterglow of declaring himself to Anne and being accepted, he explains his past behaviour to her. He tells her that, in the eight years since she was persuaded to reject his first proposal of marriage, ‘he had been constant unconsciously, nay unintentionally; that he had meant to forget ...

Unsluggardised

Charles Nicholl: ‘The Shakespeare Circle’, 19 May 2016

The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography 
edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells.
Cambridge, 358 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 107 69909 0
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... it could have belonged to someone else with the same initials – the Stratford draper William Smith, for instance – but the possibility remains strong that it was Shakespeare’s. It is certainly a genuine ring of the period, and there are other pointers in its favour. The field where it was found, Mill Close, was on land that Shakespeare had owned: it ...

Protestant Country

George Bernard, 14 June 1990

Humanism, Reform and the Reformation: The Career of Bishop John Fisher 
edited by Brendan Bradshaw and Eamon Duffy.
Cambridge, 260 pp., £27.50, January 1989, 0 521 34034 9
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The Blind Devotion of the People: Popular Religion and the English Reformation 
by Robert Whiting.
Cambridge, 302 pp., £30, July 1989, 0 521 35606 7
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The Reformation of Cathedrals: Cathedrals in English Society, 1485-1603 
by Stanford Lehmberg.
Princeton, 319 pp., £37.30, March 1989, 0 691 05539 4
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Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Weidenfeld, 271 pp., £25, October 1989, 0 297 79343 8
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The Birthpangs of Protestant England: Religious and Cultural Change in the 16th and 17th Centuries 
by Patrick Collinson.
Macmillan, 188 pp., £29.50, February 1989, 0 333 43971 6
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Life’s Preservative against Self-Killing 
by John Sym, edited by Michael MacDonald.
Routledge, 342 pp., £29.95, February 1989, 0 415 00639 2
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Perfection Proclaimed: Language and Literature in English Radical Religion 1640-1660 
by Nigel Smith.
Oxford, 396 pp., £40, February 1989, 0 19 812879 7
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... for joy on hearing the prophecy of Elizabeth Barton, the nun of Kent, that if Henry were to marry Anne, he would not remain king for long. Once Fisher and More and a handful of public opponents had been crushed, Henry proceded to dissolve the monasteries, and to attack abuses relating to the doctrines of intercession and purgatory. More radical religious ...

Puffed up, Slapped down

Rosemary Hill: Charles and Camilla, 7 September 2017

Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life 
by Sally Bedell Smith.
Michael Joseph, 624 pp., £25, April 2017, 978 0 7181 8780 4
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The Duchess: The Untold Story 
by Penny Junor.
William Collins, 320 pp., £20, June 2017, 978 0 00 821100 4
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... 1994 No one with even the most cursory interest in the subject will learn much from Sally Bedell Smith’s Prince Charles, which relies heavily on Jonathan Dimbleby’s biography of 1994, but her plod through the material builds into a detailed, sometimes affecting picture of Charles and of the curious concoction of fantasy, celebrity and tradition that is ...

Making a Mouth in a Contemptuous Manner

John Gallagher: Civility Held Sway, 4 July 2019

In Pursuit of Civility: Manners and Civilisation in Early Modern England 
by Keith Thomas.
Yale, 457 pp., £25, June 2018, 978 0 300 23577 7
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... though formal greetings could also be used in an uncivil manner. Thomas notes that in 1620, ‘Anne Lea, walking through Nantwich churchyard, passed Anne Lewis, a former servant whom she had dismissed; Anne acknowledged her by making “a curtsy in a scornful and deriding ...

Oscar and Constance

Tom Paulin, 17 November 1983

The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 185 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 241 10964 7
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The Importance of Being Constance: A Biography of Oscar Wilde’s Wife 
by Joyce Bentley.
Hale, 160 pp., £8.75, May 1983, 0 7090 0538 5
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Mrs Oscar Wilde: A Woman of Some Importance 
by Anne Clark Amor.
Sidgwick, 249 pp., £8.95, June 1983, 9780283989674
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... associated with the Fenian Movement. In 1882, Wilde told a lecture audience in San Francisco that Smith O’Brien, one of the leaders of the abortive uprising of 1848, was the ‘earliest hero of my childhood’, and he said that he had been trained by his mother to love and reverence the Fenians ‘as a Catholic child is the saints of the ...

Royal Bodies

Hilary Mantel, 21 February 2013

... of the superhuman role she was required to fulfil. When I think of Diana, I remember Stevie Smith’s poem about the Lorelei:There, on a rock majestical,A girl with smile equivocal,Painted, young and damned and fair,Sits and combs her yellow hair.Soon Diana’s hairstyles were as consequential as Marie Antoinette’s, and a great deal cheaper to copy.In ...

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