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‘We would rather eat our cake than merely have it’

Rosemary Hill: Victorian men and women, 4 October 2001

A Circle of Sisters: Georgiana Burne-Jones, Agnes Poynter and Louisa Baldwin 
by Judith Flanders.
Penguin, 392 pp., £17.99, September 2001, 0 670 88673 4
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The Hated Wife: Carrie Kipling 1862-1939 
by Adam Nicolson.
Short Books, 96 pp., £4.99, May 2001, 0 571 20835 5
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Victorian Diaries: The Daily Lives of Victorian Men and Women 
edited by Heather Creaton.
Mitchell Beazley, 144 pp., £14.99, February 2001, 1 84000 359 6
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... Carrie Kipling, once arrived at their house in Sussex to find Rudyard in a sweat in front of the hall fireplace shovelling a pile of his manuscripts into the flames. It was a horrifying sight, especially to a publisher. ‘For heaven’s sake, Rud, what are you doing?’ Doubleday asked. To which the answer came: ‘I was looking over old papers and I got ...


Philip Horne: Common Assault, 2 March 1989

... sufficiently indicates his persuasive view that the trial was a miscarriage of justice and that Edith Thompson was innocent of the charge of conspiracy to murder – that she was unprepared for her lover’s rash act. René and I have been putting our hands to a screen treatment of the story. On a bright mild Saturday morning in January we drove East to ...

Good Girls and Bad Girls

Anita Brookner, 2 June 1983

by Deborah Moggach.
Cape, 236 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 224 02948 7
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The Banquet 
by Carolyn Slaughter.
Allen Lane, 191 pp., £6.95, May 1983, 0 7139 1574 9
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Binstead’s Safari 
by Rachel Ingalls.
Faber, 221 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 9780571130160
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In Good Faith 
by Edith Reveley.
Hodder, 267 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 340 32012 5
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by Monica Furlong.
Weidenfeld, 172 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 297 78231 2
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The Moons of Jupiter 
by Alice Munro.
Allen Lane, 233 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 7139 1549 8
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On the Stroll 
by Alix Kates Shulman.
Virago, 301 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 0 86068 364 8
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The Color Purple 
by Alice Walker.
Women’s Press, 244 pp., £3.95, March 1983, 0 7043 3905 6
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Mistral’s Daughter 
by Judith Krantz.
Sidgwick, 531 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 0 283 98987 4
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... shops at the Kensington branch of Marks and Spencer, falls in love with an assistant in the Food Hall, a girl called Blossom, who is slavishly described and compared with various edibles in the high-quality range: indeed, food plays a considerable part in Harold’s sensorium, as does the noble house of Marks and Spencer. For a while all is King Cophetua and ...

Dressed in black

Margaret Anne Doody, 11 March 1993

The Furies 
by Janet Hobhouse.
Bloomsbury, 296 pp., £15.99, October 1992, 0 7475 1270 1
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... of desperate solitaries, operating like loose ball bearings in outer space. ‘Why, this is Edith Wharton!’ I thought as I started reading it: ‘a new Edith Wharton for our time.’ Of course, I was wrong about Wharton, as I found on reading the book further. Janet Hobhouse is concerned with the intensities of the ...

Heat in a Mild Climate

James Wood: Baron Britain of Aldeburgh, 19 December 2013

Benjamin Britten: A Life in the 20th Century 
by Paul Kildea.
Allen Lane, 635 pp., £30, January 2013, 978 1 84614 232 1
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Benjamin Britten: A Life for Music 
by Neil Powell.
Hutchinson, 512 pp., £25, January 2013, 978 0 09 193123 0
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... for the queen mother’s 75th birthday, got the queen to open the Maltings, his fine new festival hall, and holidayed with minor European royalty. But he was himself of solidly middle-class origin, the son of a Lowestoft dentist, and often seemed to care very little about social status, just as long as his orderly days allowed for hours of composition and ...

Give us a break

Rosemarie Bodenheimer: Gissing’s Life, 9 July 2009

George Gissing: A Life 
by Paul Delany.
Phoenix, 444 pp., £14.99, February 2009, 978 0 7538 2573 0
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... also come to mind). It is his second marriage, to an uneducated London stonemason’s daughter, Edith Underwood, made when he was experienced enough to know better, that drives a reader to wonder about Gissing’s soundness of mind. In 1890, when he allegedly picked Edith up on the Marylebone Road and took her to the ...


Gabriele Annan, 7 June 1984

Milady Vine: The Autobiography of Philippe de Rothschild 
edited by Joan Littlewood.
Cape, 247 pp., £10.95, June 1984, 0 224 02208 3
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I meant to marry him: A Personal Memoir 
by Jean MacGibbon.
Gollancz, 182 pp., £10.95, May 1984, 0 575 03412 2
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... Party version was ‘Masturbation not Mass Starvation’. The MacGibbons assumed that their maid Edith was with them politically. ‘She even consented to appear on the platform in the Conway Hall at a meeting to discuss the formation of a Domestic Servants’ Union, and spoke shortly and to the point – after the ...

Down with Cosmopolitanism

Gillian Darley, 18 May 2000

Stylistic Cold Wars: Betjeman v. Pevsner 
by Timothy Mowl.
Murray, 182 pp., £14.99, March 2000, 9780719559099
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... the sources of Betjeman’s much improved later writing style – in particular the influence of Edith Olivier. At this time his passions were instinctive but still uncertain and his facts quite often wrong. Pevsner may have judged the young Betjeman to be an immature dilettante – but he never let on. Betjeman, by contrast, never let up on the ...

Lyris, Clovis, Nat and Candy

Gabriele Annan: Shena Mackay, 16 July 1998

The Artist's Widow 
by Sheila Mackay.
Cape, 288 pp., £12.99, July 1998, 0 224 05134 2
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... because when she notices the shrub behaving like that, the heroine, Lyris Crane, is thinking about Edith Sitwell’s unhappy childhood. Lyris is very recently widowed and herself an artist. On another occasion she hears a suspicious noise in the hall, and ‘her slippery heart hurt as it leapt. As a dark shape bulked into ...


Iain Sinclair: Eccentric Pilgrims, 30 June 2016

... English warrior who is cradled, in serpentine embrace, by his lover and unofficial consort, Edith Swan-Neck, mother of his children. This piece, by the Anglo-German sculptor Charles Augustus William Wilke, was banished from the grounds of Hastings Museum to a corner of the West Marina Gardens in St Leonards-on-Sea adequate to its transcendent ...

Henry James’s Christmas

P.N. Furbank, 19 July 1984

Henry James Letters. Vol. IV: 1895-1915 
edited by Leon Edel.
Harvard, 835 pp., £24, April 1984, 9780674387836
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... with his style, which was equally, in a sense, rootless. Consider this sentence from a letter to Edith Wharton (2 January 1908): ‘I have passed here a very solitary and casanier Christmas-tide (of wondrous still and frosty days, and nights of huge silver stars), and yesterday finished a job of the last urgency for which this intense concentration had been ...

Maisie’s Sisters

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Sargent’s Daughters, 5 August 2010

Sargent’s Daughters: The Biography of a Painting 
by Erica Hirshler.
MFA, 262 pp., £23.95, October 2009, 978 0 87846 742 6
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... to an entire suburb. Like others of their class and time, including their friends Henry James and Edith Wharton, the Boits travelled back and forth across the Atlantic and took up residence in France and Italy at various periods, as well as in Boston and Newport. Sometime in the late 1870s, Ned Boit, as he was always known, met Sargent in Paris, either ...

Rain, Blow, Rustle

Nick Richardson: John Cage, 19 August 2010

No Such Thing As Silence: John Cage’s 4'33" 
by Kyle Gann.
Yale, 255 pp., £16.99, April 2010, 978 0 300 13699 9
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... a crowd of avant-garde aficionados and local music enthusiasts filed into the Maverick Concert Hall near Woodstock to hear a piano recital by the young virtuoso David Tudor. That they should be here, tucked away in the Catskills, was already extraordinary. The Maverick is more hermitage than concert hall: a ...

Nine White Men Armed with Iron Bars

Andy Beckett: Postwar Immigrant Experience, 2 November 2017

Lovers and Strangers: An Immigrant History of Postwar Britain 
by Clair Wills.
Allen Lane, 442 pp., £25, August 2017, 978 1 84614 716 6
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... research fellowship at the new Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham, Stuart Hall, the Jamaican-born analyst of Britain, went looking for somewhere to live. He had already been in Britain for 13 years, in Oxford and London. He wasn’t unaware that prejudice against immigrants existed. But the West Midlands was the first place, he ...

At Manchester Art Gallery

Inigo Thomas: Annie Swynnerton, 27 September 2018

... money. In that ambition she seems to have been mostly successful. James, Rodin, Thomas Beecham, Edith Wharton, Sargent were among her many fans and beneficiaries. In August 1911, James wrote to Alice, his sister-in-law, and explained why he was at Hunter’s house. ‘I am adding day to day here, as you see – partly because it helps to tide me over a bad ...

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