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Secret Purposes

P.N. Furbank, 19 September 1985

Defoe and the Idea of Fiction: 1713-1719 
by Geoffrey Sill.
Associated University Presses, 190 pp., £16.95, April 1984, 0 87413 227 4
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The Elusive Daniel Defoe 
by Laura Curtis.
Vision, 216 pp., £15.95, January 1984, 0 85478 435 7
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Dofoe’s Fiction 
by Ian Bell.
Croom Helm, 201 pp., £17.95, March 1985, 0 7099 3294 4
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Realism, Myth and History in Defoe’s Fiction 
by Maximillian Novak.
Nebraska, 181 pp., £21.55, July 1983, 0 8032 3307 8
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... We owe a large debt to the famous chapter on Robinson Crusoe in Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel. Watt really made us use our wits about that novel and forced us to relate it to our most serious interests. Reread after twenty years, moreover, the chapter still has all of its intellectual impact and verve ...

Georgian eyes are smiling

Frank Kermode, 15 September 1988

Bernard Shaw. Vol. I: The Search for Love, 1856-1898 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 486 pp., £16, September 1988, 0 7011 3332 5
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Bernard Shaw: Collected Letters. Vol. IV 
edited by Dan Laurence.
Bodley Head, 946 pp., £30, June 1988, 0 370 31130 2
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Shaw: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies. Vol. VIII 
edited by Stanley Weintraub.
Pennsylvania State, 175 pp., $25, April 1988, 0 271 00613 7
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Shaw’s Sense of History 
by J.L. Wisenthal.
Oxford, 186 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812892 4
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Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. III: 1903-1907 
edited by Frederick Karl and Laurence Davies.
Cambridge, 532 pp., £35, April 1988, 0 521 32387 8
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Joseph Conrad: ‘Nostromo’ 
by Ian Watt.
Cambridge, 98 pp., £12.50, April 1988, 0 521 32821 7
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... the exposition of Shaw, continues to attract so many students. They will be glad to have Ian Watt’s little book, which is informative, authoritative and unaffected. It is part of the Cambridge ‘Landmarks’ series, ugly outside but valuable within, that includes Wolfgang Iser’s distinguished ‘maverick’ volume – disregarding the ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: I ♥ Concordances, 22 August 1996

... DOWNING)/Good. Concordances needn’t be all fun-and-games. Indeed, the Larkin editor, R.J.C. Watt, makes a good case for the critical usefulness of his word-lists. He points, for instance, to ‘the extraordinary series of words beginning with the prefix un-’ that can be found in Larkin’s work, and certainly the series, ploughed through at one ...

Heart-Stopping

Ian Hamilton, 25 January 1996

Not Playing for Celtic: Another Paradise Lost 
by David Bennie.
Mainstream, 221 pp., £12.99, October 1995, 1 85158 757 8
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Achieving the Goal 
by David Platt.
Richard Cohen, 244 pp., £12.99, October 1995, 1 86066 017 7
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Captain’s Log: The Gary McAllister Story 
by Gary McAllister and Graham Clark.
Mainstream, 192 pp., £14.99, October 1995, 9781851587902
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Blue Grit: The John Brown Story 
by John Brown and Derek Watson.
Mainstream, 176 pp., £14.99, November 1995, 1 85158 822 1
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Kicking and Screaming: An Oral History of Football in England 
by Rogan Taylor and Andrew Ward.
Robson, 370 pp., £16.95, October 1995, 0 86051 912 0
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A Passion for the Game: Real Lives in Football 
by Tom Watt.
Mainstream, 316 pp., £14.99, October 1995, 1 85158 714 4
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... Screaming is admirably undecided on the matter of which epoch it prefers. Less useful is Tom Watt’s A Passion for the Game, which pokes about ‘behind the scenes’ of week-to-week league soccer, interrogating the game’s faceless servants, from club secretaries to groundsmen to tea-ladies. Watt says that ...

Georgie

Karl Miller, 18 September 1980

The Oxford Chekov. Vol. IV: Stories 1888-1889 
edited by Ronald Hingley.
Oxford, 287 pp., £14, July 1980, 0 19 211389 5
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... the speakers do not listen to one another. Of the art of Ford’s friend and collaborator, Conrad, Ian Watt writes in his recent book on that writer’s 19th-century texts: ‘The need to derive moral meaning from physical sensation partly arises from the fact that both the impressionists and the symbolists ... proscribed any analysis, prejudgment, or ...

Vibrations of Madame de V***

John Mullan: Malcolm Bradbury, 20 July 2000

To the Hermitage 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Picador, 498 pp., £16, May 2000, 0 330 37662 4
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... aimlessly from inn to inn. It pays its dues to Tristram Shandy, but is stripped of the novelistic (Ian Watt would have said ‘realist’) attributes of that work: the concerns with particulars, with what makes a character individual, with place and time and circumstance, with the laws of probability. Unlike 18th-century novels, it seems to have no ...

Love-of-One’s-Life Department

Terry Castle: The lesbian scarcity economy, 21 October 2004

Wild Girls: Paris, Sappho and Art: The Lives and Loves of Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks 
by Diana Souhami.
Weidenfeld, 224 pp., £18.99, July 2004, 9780297643869
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... can go back to women born over a hundred years ago. A late (and much missed) Stanford colleague, Ian Watt, once told me that as an undergraduate at Cambridge he was put in charge of escorting Gertrude Stein when she came to give a lecture in the 1930s. He took her to a tea shop for a snack and Virginia Woolf was sitting at the next table. (Neither great ...

Whisky out of Teacups

Stefan Collini: David Lodge, 19 February 2015

Quite a Good Time to Be Born: A Memoir, 1935-75 
by David Lodge.
Harvill Secker, 488 pp., £25, January 2015, 978 1 84655 950 1
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Lives in Writing: Essays 
by David Lodge.
Vintage, 262 pp., £10.99, January 2015, 978 0 09 958776 7
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... previous generation had addressed to poetry. He drew on eclectic older critics like John Holloway, Ian Watt and, above all, Frank Kermode – many of his circle, he reports, ‘were covert Kermodians inasmuch as we regarded him as the most accomplished literary critic of his generation’ – but also on outliers of American formalism such as Wayne ...

Lunacies

Ian Campbell Ross: ‘provincial genius’, 23 October 2003

Hermsprong; or Man as He Is Not 
by Robert Bage, edited by Pamela Perkins.
Broadview, 387 pp., £8.99, March 2002, 1 55111 279 5
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... whose members also included Priestley, Josiah Wedgwood, Thomas Day, Matthew Boulton, James Watt and Richard Lovell Edgeworth. William Hutton was also in touch with the ‘Lunatics’ and hence not merely with advanced scientific, religious, educational and political ideas but with a new sense of the shifting balance of social and cultural power in late ...

Memories of Frank Kermode

Stefan Collini, Karl Miller, Adam Phillips, Jacqueline Rose, James Wood, Michael Wood and Wynne Godley, 23 September 2010

... more than itself, insisted on its contaminated but victorious description of the world (what Ian Watt called ‘the literal imagination’). In beautiful words, he writes that if fictional forms appear in shapes preposterously false we will reject them; but they change with us, and every act of reading or writing a novel is a tacit acceptance of ...

Positively Spaced Out

Rosemary Hill: ‘The Building of England’, 6 September 2001

The Buildings of England: A Celebration Compiled to Mark 50 Years of the Pevsner Architectural Guides 
edited by Simon Bradley and Bridget Cherry.
Penguin Collectors’ Society, 128 pp., £9.99, July 2001, 0 9527401 3 3
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... kind of thing better done than it has been done before.’ A Celebration includes an extract from Ian Buruma’s study of anglophilia, Voltaire’s Coconuts (1999), which discusses Pevsner in terms of the clash between ‘nativism and internationalism’ – a conflict which, Buruma suggests, he embodied without ever resolving. The objections, which rumble on ...

Presto!

James Buchan, 14 December 1995

The Life of Adam Smith 
by Ian Simpson Ross.
Oxford, 495 pp., £25, October 1995, 0 19 828821 2
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... called his stupendous scheme of commercial revival and stock-jobbery in Paris his Système, while Watt actually built a steam engine in the precincts of Smith’s beloved university. Unlike Hume, whose deathbed became a raree-show as he calmly countenanced extinction, Smith could not quite dispense with final causes. With the deployment of a highly ...

Hindsight Tickling

Christopher Tayler: Disappointing sequels, 21 October 2004

The Closed Circle 
by Jonathan Coe.
Viking, 433 pp., £17.99, September 2004, 0 670 89254 8
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... morality, but The Accidental Woman is clearly the work of a young man who’s read Murphy, Watt and First Love. The allegiance to Beckett is chiefly signalled by a studied disdain for the conventions of realism (‘Here you are to imagine a short scene of family jubilation, I’m buggered if I can describe one’), along with some suitably cryptic ...

Napoleon was wrong

Ian Gilmour, 24 June 1993

Capitalism, Culture and Decline in Britain 1750-1990 
by W.D. Rubinstein.
Routledge, 182 pp., £25, April 1993, 0 415 03718 2
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British Multinational Banking 
by Geoffrey Jones.
Oxford, 511 pp., £48, March 1993, 0 19 820273 3
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Going for Broke: How Banking Mismanagement in the Eighties Lost Thousands of Billions of Pounds 
by Russell Taylor.
Simon and Schuster, 384 pp., £17.50, April 1993, 0 671 71128 8
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... spirit of feudalism rife and rampant in the midst of the antagonistic development of the age of Watt, Arkwright and Stephenson! Nay, feudalism is everyday more and more in the ascendant in political and social life.’ Wiener comments that ‘as capitalists became landed gentlemen, JPs and men of breeding, the radical ideal of active capital was submerged ...

On the Threshold

Tom Nairn, 23 March 1995

Frameworks for the Future 
Northern Ireland Office, 37 pp., February 1995Show More
Northern Ireland: The Choice 
by Kevin Boyle and Tom Hadden.
Penguin, 256 pp., £6.99, May 1994, 0 14 023541 8
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... music always returns. The outside world now mainly sees Protestant Belfast in terms of Ian Paisley Snr, a man who believes that bridges are built primarily to let the Devil in. But the bridges of Morrison’s music have connected Hyndford Street outwards to a strange semi-mystical realm of angels, children and (ultimately) the Calvinist Nirvana of ...

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