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John Bayley, 29 October 1987

How I Grew 
by Mary McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 278 pp., £14.95, September 1987, 0 297 79170 2
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Myself and Michael Innes 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 575 04104 8
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... masterpiece of ‘Seaton’s Aunt’. The process works another way, too. In his splendid stories John Updike creates a far more telling image of himself as a denizen of suburban America, and a participator in its ritual matings and partings, than if he had spelt it all out in the true first person, recounting his triumphs and disasters in the field of sex ...

Hustling off the Crockery

John Bayley: Kipling’s history of the Great War., 4 June 1998

The Irish Guards in the Great War: The First Battalion 
by Rudyard Kipling.
Spellmount, 320 pp., £24.95, January 1997, 1 873376 72 3
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The Irish Guards in the Great War: The Second Battalion 
by Rudyard Kipling.
Spellmount, 223 pp., £24.95, January 1998, 1 873376 83 9
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... Guards in the Great War. He was shaken and humbled, as the British Empire was to be. When his son John, aged barely 17, was rejected by the Navy because of poor eyesight, he wanted to go off and enlist in the ranks, but his father used his friendship with Lord Roberts to get him a commission in the Irish Guards. He disappeared the following year in the Battle ...

Last Words

John Bayley, 7 January 1988

The Collected Stories of Angus Wilson 
Secker, 414 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 0 436 57612 0Show More
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... done, and says: ‘It’s not those misfits I’m worrying about, it’s you.’ ‘Me?’ said John. ‘Why?’ ‘You’re getting too fond of bullying,’ said Veronica, ‘it interferes with your charm, and charm’s essential for your success.’ She went out to make the coffee. What Veronica said was very true, thought ...

Azure Puddles

John Bayley, 21 May 1987

Compton Mackenzie: A Life 
by Andro Linklater.
Chatto, 384 pp., £14.95, May 1987, 0 7011 2583 7
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... story about other writers, and was delighted when his friend Frank Swinnerton ventured to call on John Galsworthy in the country, and reported that the great man had risen from his work-table exclaiming gravely: ‘I say, Swinnerton, this is very sporting of you, very sporting indeed.’ Oddly enough, Walpole has probably lasted better than Mackenzie and ...

Make mine a Worcester Sauce

John Bayley, 23 June 1994

Richard Hughes 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Deutsch, 491 pp., £20, May 1994, 0 233 98843 2
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... mostly Scottish, and Hughes partly Welsh. The presidential or father figure of the group would be John Buchan, another Scot, whose innings was over before the younger ones started to play, although he was still around as they became famous. This English angle was partly suggested to me at the time when Hughes’s penultimate novel, intended as the first of a ...

The Last Georgian

John Bayley, 13 June 1991

Edmund Blunden: A Biography 
by Barry Webb.
Yale, 360 pp., £18.50, December 1990, 0 300 04634 0
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... gloves, which were unsporting. No gesture was involved, but a certain amount of quiet conviction. John Betjeman and Joan Hunter-Dunn would have approved: indeed Betjeman was a great admirer of Blunden’s poetry. His English Poems ‘was the first book by a living poet I remember saving up to buy. I learned many of his poems by heart and can still recite them ...

Female Heads

John Bayley, 27 October 1988

Woman to Woman: Female Friendship in Victorian Fiction 
by Tess Cosslett.
Harvester, 211 pp., £29.95, July 1988, 0 7108 1015 6
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Sentiment and Sociability: The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century 
by John Mullan.
Oxford, 261 pp., £25, June 1988, 0 19 812865 7
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The Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney. Vol. I: 1768-1773 
edited by Lars Troide.
Oxford, 353 pp., £45, June 1988, 9780198125815
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... Fanny Burney and Jane Austen, should have taken their feminine image from Richardson-Clarissa. As John Mullan shows in his useful and scholarly book, the early prestige of Richardson went underground, his ‘fairer and better sex’ taking on its vulgar Victorian form, but also appearing metamorphosed in George Eliot’s measured approval (‘we have fallen ...

Sha-sha-sha through the open windows

John Bayley, 2 March 1989

Friends of Promise: Cyril Connolly and the World of ‘Horizon’ 
by Michael Shelden.
Hamish Hamilton, 254 pp., £15.95, February 1989, 0 241 12647 9
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Coastwise Lights 
by Alan Ross.
Collins Harvill, 254 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 00 271767 0
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William Plomer 
by Peter Alexander.
Oxford, 397 pp., £25, March 1989, 0 19 212243 6
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... to the writers who give each literary age its actual and particular flavour. Once it was Sir John Squire and Edward Shanks – obviously the most significant and influential voices of the time. During or just after the last war it was Connolly and Koestler and Spender, William Plomer, Alun Lewis, Dylan Thomas, Peter Quennell. Some still have life or fame ...

Knives, Wounds, Bows

John Bayley, 2 April 1987

Randall Jarrell’s Letters 
edited by Mary Jarrell.
Faber, 540 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 571 13829 2
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The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore 
edited by Patricia Willis.
Faber, 723 pp., £30, January 1987, 0 571 14788 7
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... a year as Literary Editor for the Nation, doing so well at matching books and reviewers that John Crowe Ransom said he deserved a Pulitzer Prize for it. ‘Not since Poe had an American poet laid down the law in quite such a carnival spirit.’ In those days of talented amateurs the Eng Lit business was still the Gay Science. Used by Nietzsche, and as a ...

Diary

John Bayley: Serious Novels, 10 November 1994

... being in the right place, as in Arnold Bennett and J.B. Priestley, and it moves rather close to John Wain’s posthumous novel, in his Bildungsroman series about a young man growing up in Oxford – a trifle ironical in view of Amis’s strongly-expressed disdain for Wain’s mode and temper of writing. Both novels join in a mood of mellow ...

Pals

John Bayley, 23 May 1991

The Oxford Book of Friendship 
edited by D.J. Enright and David Rawlinson.
Oxford, 360 pp., £15, April 1991, 0 19 214190 2
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... but to have a ‘friend’ – no, it really won’t do. ‘I’m your friend,’ said Myfanwy to John as they crouched in the ‘dark and furry cupboard while the rest played hide-and-seek’. Betjeman got that about right.‘We’ve always been the greatest friends’ – that is the kind of thing the lady says about her dentist or accountant, or a woman ...

Pffwungg

John Bayley, 19 January 1989

The Amis Anthology 
edited by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 360 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 09 173525 4
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The Chatto Book of Nonsense Verse 
edited by Hugh Haughton.
Chatto, 530 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 7011 3105 5
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... and he opens with a marvellous one – surely his own discovery – by the Medieval chronicler John Lydgate, about a horse called Lyarde, too old now to work. They lead him to the smithy to pull off his shoon And put him to greenwood, there for to gone. The idea is echoed by Larkin, also well represented here, in his poem about race horses, ‘At ...

A Proper Stoic

John Bayley, 8 May 1986

Duff Cooper: The Authorised Biography 
by John Charmley.
Weidenfeld, 265 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 297 78857 4
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... else does. Christopher Sykes attributed Waugh’s dislike of Duff to sexual envy and jealousy, and John Charmley agrees that it exhibits Waugh ‘in an oddly unfamiliar light’. Waugh may well have been frustrated and made to feel small by not knowing what the Cooper protocol was really like, or what Diana Cooper was about. She did not behave as he thought ...

Such a Husband

John Bayley, 4 September 1997

Selected Letters of George Meredith 
edited by Mohammad Shaheen.
Macmillan, 312 pp., £47.50, April 1997, 0 333 56349 2
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... her best to mend her father’s shaky finances, writing on his behalf to Byron’s old friend Sir John Hobhouse, and almost, if not quite, soliciting him for a handout. She was close to her father, probably much closer than she ever was to either of her husbands, or to the lover who succeeded them. Her marriage to Meredith went wrong almost from the start, as ...

Come along, Alcibiades

John Bayley, 25 January 1996

Terence Rattigan: A Biography 
by Geoffrey Wansell.
Fourth Estate, 428 pp., £20, October 1995, 1 85702 201 7
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... she wouldn’t be at all disturbed or shocked. The fundamental part of his appeal, as the critic John Barber observed, ‘was both to mirror and to indulge the middle-class fear of sex’. Rattigan’s own father – their relations form another subtext in most of the plays – was a famous roué who had been eased out of the Foreign Office for ...

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