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The Playboy of West 29th Street

Colm Tóibín: Yeats’s Father in Exile, 25 January 2018

... half-whisper that someone called Colm Tóibín was in the library looking at the correspondence of John Butler Yeats, which had been transcribed, then typed, then donated to the library by William M. Murphy, John Butler Yeats’s biographer. And now I looked up from the Yeats letters to find a man looking at me. It struck me ...

The Sacred Cause of Idiom

Frank Kermode: Lady Gregory, 22 January 2004

Lady Gregory's Toothbrush 
by Colm Tóibín.
Picador, 127 pp., £7.99, September 2003, 0 330 41993 5
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... Yeats was prematurely describing her as a woman stricken with age, she had a delirious affair with John Quinn, the American lawyer who was the great, almost indispensable, patron of the Yeats family. Foster, noting that her son, Robert, unlike Sir William, was short, allows himself (hiding the news in a note at the back of his huge book) to report local ...

Green War

Patricia Craig, 19 February 1987

Poetry in the Wars 
by Edna Longley.
Bloodaxe, 264 pp., £12.95, November 1986, 0 906427 74 6
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We Irish: The Selected Essays of Denis Donoghue 
Harvester, 275 pp., £25, November 1986, 0 7108 1011 3Show More
The Battle of The Books 
by W.J. McCormack.
Lilliput, 94 pp., £3.95, October 1986, 0 946640 13 0
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The Twilight of Ascendancy 
by Mark Bence-Jones.
Constable, 327 pp., £14.95, January 1987, 0 09 465490 5
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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl 
edited by John Quinn.
Methuen, 144 pp., £8.95, November 1986, 0 413 14350 3
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... Wars and battles: these words, appearing prominently in the titles of two of the books under consideration, might give the impression that poetry, or criticism, or the criticism of poetry, is a belligerent business. It doesn’t stop with the book titles, either: the chapter on Edna Longley in W.J. McCormack’s short and contentious study of Irish cultural debate requires us to attend to ‘the reaction from Ulster’, and sums it up thus: ‘Fighting or Writing?’ This humorously echoes the famous anti-Home Rule poster with its caption, ‘Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right,’ while referring specifically to the critical reception of the ‘Field Day’ pamphlets (nine to date), which deal with questions – thorny questions – of identity and cultural heritage in Ireland ...

Can I have my shilling back?

Peter Campbell, 19 November 1992

Epstein: Artist against the Establishment 
by Stephen Gardiner.
Joseph, 532 pp., £20, September 1992, 9780718129446
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... painters to be Epstein’s advocates. His commercial success depended on a few patrons, above all John Quinn, who bought much of his early carving, and on the demand for portraiture from a group very much more nearly coterminous with the political establishment than his detractors were. Epstein found the attitudes of critics understandable: they were a ...

What he did

Frank Kermode, 20 March 1997

W.B. Yeats: A Life. Vol. I: The Apprentice Mage 
by R.F. Foster.
Oxford, 640 pp., £25, March 1997, 0 19 211735 1
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... about what he wrote; this one is principally about what he did.’ Foster has had the benefit of John Kelly’s magnificent, though all too slowly emerging, edition of the correspondence, and has himself done herculean work in the archives. Among his chief sources is of course Yeats’s own ‘disingenuous’ prose masterpiece, the Autobiographies. For this ...


Peter Campbell, 20 July 1995

Pompidou Centre, August 1995Show More
Constantin Brancusi: A Survey of His work 
by Sanda Miller.
Oxford, 256 pp., £45, April 1995, 0 19 817514 0
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Constantin Brancusi Photographe 
by Elizabeth Brown.
Assouline, 79 pp., frs 99, April 1995, 2 908228 23 8
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Constantin Brancusi: 1876-1957 
by Margit Rowell and Ann Temkin.
Gallimard, 408 pp., frs 390, April 1995, 2 85850 819 4
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... for example, a head as simple as a bean seed.) Later there were American connections – in 1916 John Quinn began collecting his work; he knew the photographers Edward Steichen and Man Ray – and Romanian connections, which were maintained all his life. There is hardly a significant name which does not turn up in some context or other, from Picasso and ...

A Palm Tree, a Colour and a Mythical Bird

Robert Cioffi: Ideas of Phoenicia, 3 January 2019

In Search of the Phoenicians 
by Josephine Quinn.
Princeton, 360 pp., £27, December 2017, 978 0 691 17527 0
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... temple prostitution and necromancy.There is just one problem with this picture, Josephine Quinn tells us in her extraordinary book, In Search of the Phoenicians: ‘They did not in fact exist as a self-conscious collective or “people”.’ Quinn’s central claim – that the concept of ‘Phoenician’ identity ...

Awful but Cheerful

Gillian White: The Tentativeness of Elizabeth Bishop, 25 May 2006

Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts and Fragments 
by Elizabeth Bishop, edited by Alice Quinn.
Farrar, Straus, 367 pp., £22.50, March 2006, 0 374 14645 4
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... cheers and sighs over this long-awaited edition of her manuscript materials, edited by Alice Quinn. For nearly a decade, Quinn, who is the poetry editor of the New Yorker, pored over 118 boxes containing some 3,500 pages of Bishop’s papers in the Vassar College library, transcribing and editing them into 108 poem ...

At the Soane Museum

Josephine Quinn: ‘The Romance of Ruins’, 12 August 2021

... Acropolis is the first thing you see in The Romance of Ruins, the current exhibition at the John Soane Museum (until 5 September). The unfinished watercolour is dominated by the eastern portico of the Parthenon, the ancient temple dedicated to the city’s patron goddess, Athena the Virgin. But the picture also shows a small and elegant mosque inside ...

Not a Damn Thing

Nick Laird: In Yeats’s wake, 18 August 2005

Collected Poems 
by Patrick Kavanagh, edited by Antoinette Quinn.
Allen Lane, 299 pp., £25, September 2004, 0 7139 9599 8
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... The Green Fool. The book was well received, though a disparaging remark in it caused Oliver St John Gogarty to sue for libel. (Kavanagh had written: ‘I mistook Gogarty’s white-robed maid for his wife – or his mistress. I expected every poet to have a spare wife.’) In 1939, having decided to leave Inniskeen for good, he moved to Dublin, and for the ...

I gotta use words

Mark Ford: Eliot speaks in tongues, 11 August 2016

The Poems of T.S. Eliot: Volume I: Collected & Uncollected Poems 
edited by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue.
Faber, 1311 pp., £40, November 2015, 978 0 571 23870 5
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The Poems of T.S. Eliot: Volume II: Practical Cats & Further Verses 
edited by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue.
Faber, 667 pp., £40, November 2015, 978 0 571 23371 7
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... other canonical poet of the English language, with the possible exception of his great antagonist John Milton, he was conscious of the previous uses by other writers of the words he deployed in his poems. But what exactly is the difference, one can’t help wondering while reading such notes, between an interesting allusion or echo and a mere verbal ...


Anthony Quinn, 29 August 1991

Varying Degrees of Hopelessness 
by Lucy Ellmann.
Hamish Hamilton, 184 pp., £13.99, July 1991, 0 241 13153 7
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by James Buchan.
Heinemann, 135 pp., £12.99, June 1991, 0 434 07499 3
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Alma Cogan 
by Gordon Burn.
Secker, 210 pp., £13.99, August 1991, 0 436 20009 0
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... dim sense of underachievement. ‘Celebrity is a mask that eats into the face,’ wrote John Updike in Self-Consciousness, a metaphor which gives a startling tilt to our assumptions about fame and its consequences. In a bravura feat of imaginative reconstruction Gordon Burn has taken the idea of celebrity-as-affliction a step further and pursued one ...

Where will we live?

James Meek: The Housing Disaster, 9 January 2014

... war on the poor. But how different would the situation be if it had?Look at things from Pat Quinn’s point of view, for instance. What’s being done to her is happening quite slowly, over a period of months, and is not the work of a gang of thugs breaking down her door and screaming in her face, but is conducted through forms and letters and ...

Realty Meltdown

Geoff Dyer, 24 August 1995

Independence Day 
by Richard Ford.
Harvill, 451 pp., £14.99, July 1995, 1 86046 020 8
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... deeply. Set in Oaxaca – a place like Tangiers? – The Ultimate Good Luck is harder (‘Quinn wanted the money put away fast’) and emptier: ‘Money gave him nerves. It was too important to fuck with.’ Quinn is a Vietnam vet (naturally) who, in the opening pages, takes a girl he’s just met to a boxing ...

Miracle on Fleet Street

Martin Hickman: Operation Elveden, 7 January 2016

... Venables; Alan Tierney, a Surrey police constable who was paid £1250 for passing information that John Terry’s mother had been cautioned for shoplifting, and Ronnie Wood for assaulting his girlfriend; and Tracy Bell, a pharmacy assistant at Sandhurst, who had sold five stories about Princes William and Harry in 2005 and 2006 for around £1000. The arrests ...

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