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Shorn and Slathered

Christine Smallwood: ‘Reynard the Fox’, 5 November 2015

Reynard the Fox: A New Translation 
by James Simpson.
Liveright, 256 pp., £16.99, March 2015, 978 0 87140 736 8
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... because he thought it would sell. It did: there were 23 editions between 1481 and 1700. Now James Simpson, a medievalist at Harvard, has translated Caxton’s History of Reynard the Fox into colloquial modern English. The book opens with the lion, the king of the beasts, calling the animals to court to celebrate the feast of Pentecost. The first thing we ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Ulysses v. O.J. Simpson, 28 July 2016

... between Joyce’s great, many-peopled novel and the recent ten-part TV series on the fall of O.J. Simpson. I can’t remember if it was Joyce or the O.J. trial’s Judge Ito who referred to ‘the ineluctable modality of the visible’, but that’s the kind of thing we’re talking about: the tendency of reality to give way to the fiction-maker’s ...

Bonking with Berenson

Nicholas Penny, 17 September 1987

Bernard Berenson. Vol. II: The Making of a Legend 
by Ernest Samuels.
Harvard, 680 pp., £19.95, May 1987, 0 674 06779 7
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The Partnership: The Secret Association of Bernard Berenson and Joseph Duveen 
by Colin Simpson.
Bodley Head, 323 pp., £15, April 1987, 9780370305851
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... world’. Berenson’s recorded utterances sound all too self-consciously sagacious. ‘Young John Carter Brown, who one day was to become director of the National Gallery of Art’, came with a plan ‘to prepare for a museum career by first taking a business course’. Berenson urged him to ‘look, look, look, until you are blind with looking, and out ...

Cartwheels over Broken Glass

Andrew O’Hagan: Worshipping Morrissey, 4 March 2004

Saint Morrissey 
by Mark Simpson.
SAF, 224 pp., £16.99, December 2003, 0 946719 65 9
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The Smiths: Songs that Saved Your Life 
by Simon Goddard.
Reynolds/Hearn, 272 pp., £14.99, December 2002, 1 903111 47 1
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... with her friend Katherine. They wrote it most evenings in the desolate hours between the end of John Craven’s Newsround and the arrival of the ice-cream van on their housing estate, a period marked by the combustion of chip pans in the kitchens of the negligent, pans then carried hurriedly onto doorsteps and thrown into the air like torches at a Viking ...

Glittering Fiend

Ian Hamilton: John Berryman, 9 December 1999

Berryman's Shakespeare 
edited by John Haffenden.
Farrar, Straus, 396 pp., $35, February 1999, 0 374 11205 3
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John Berryman’s Personal Library: A Catalogue 
by Richard Kelly.
Lang, 433 pp., £39, March 1999, 0 8204 3998 3
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... In one of John Berryman’s more lucid dream songs (No. 364), there is amusing reference to the reading habits of Henry, the song sequence’s screwed up protagonist: O Henry in his youth read many things he gutted the Columbia – the Cambridge libraries – Widener – Princeton – the British Museum – the Library of Congress but mostly he bought books to have as his own cunningly, like extra wings ...


Peter Swaab, 20 April 1989

The Unremarkable Wordsworth 
by Geoffrey Hartman.
Methuen, 249 pp., £8.95, September 1987, 0 416 05142 1
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Wordsworth’s Historical Imagination: The Poetry of Displacement 
by David Simpson.
Methuen, 239 pp., £25, June 1987, 0 416 03872 7
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Romanticism in National Context 
edited by Roy Porter and Mikulas Teich.
Cambridge, 353 pp., £30, June 1988, 0 521 32605 2
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Romantic Affinities: Portraits from an Age 1780-1830 
by Rupert Christiansen.
Bodley Head, 262 pp., £16, January 1988, 0 370 31117 5
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... for figurative language is a feature of his style, and also a pointer to his critical interests. John Ashbery’s poetry is said to be ‘like an electrotherapy relieving the stiff neck of the sublime, and helping our numbness to speak’. Does our cultural plight put us in a madhouse or a massage parlour here? Hartman is thinking about his style, not our ...


John Sutherland, 14 June 1990

CounterBlasts No 10. The Monarchy: A Critique of Britain’s Favourite Fetish 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Chatto, 42 pp., £2.99, January 1990, 0 7011 3555 7
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The Prince 
by Celia Brayfield.
Chatto, 576 pp., £12.95, March 1990, 0 7011 3357 0
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The Maker’s Mark 
by Roy Hattersley.
Macmillan, 558 pp., £13.95, June 1990, 9780333470329
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A Time to Dance 
by Melvyn Bragg.
Hodder, 220 pp., £12.95, June 1990, 0 340 52911 3
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... then in a very rocky state. Dennis repeated, and deprecated, the widespread gossip that Mrs Simpson had been the Duke of Windsor’s mistress before marriage and that England’s recently abdicated king sometimes drank too much. A writ was served and the action heard before the Lord Chief Justice, who declared in court that ‘these particular libels, a ...

The great times they could have had

Paul Foot, 15 September 1988

Wallis: Secret Lives of the Duchess of Windsor 
by Charles Higham.
Sidgwick, 419 pp., £17.95, June 1988, 0 283 99627 7
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The Secret File of the Duke of Windsor 
by Michael Bloch.
Bantam, 326 pp., £14.95, August 1988, 9780593016671
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... the Order of the Crown of Italy, one of the highest decorations of the Mussolini regime. Ernest Simpson, the dull partner in a shipping firm whom Wallis married in 1928, had close business ties with Fascist Italy. But her feeling for Fascism cannot be attributed only to her men friends. On the contrary, the ‘new social order’ brayed around the world by ...

Damnable Heresy

David Simpson: The Epic of Everest, 25 October 2012

Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest 
by Wade Davis.
Vintage, 655 pp., £12.99, October 2012, 978 0 09 956383 9
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... world’. There was, it seems, no other way to imagine this desire to carry on against all odds. John Buchan stage-managed Howard-Bury’s 15 reports for the Times from the 1921 expedition and made them as popular ‘as a serial novel by Dickens’. Mallory and others returned to undertake a gruelling series of public lectures, all of which were supposed to ...

Petulance is not a tragic flaw

Rosemary Hill: Edward and Mrs Simpson, 30 July 2015

Princes at War: The British Royal Family’s Private Battle in the Second World War 
by Deborah Cadbury.
Bloomsbury, 407 pp., £25, April 2015, 978 1 4088 4524 0
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... full of confidence. Her first action was to move her bed out of her mother’s room and have Sir John Conroy, her mother’s intimate adviser, banished from court. Such determination, veering at times into wilfulness, continued undiminished until her death, 64 years later. By then she was Empress of India, and thanks to the carefully planned marriages of her ...

On the Shelf

Tom Crewe: Beryl Bainbridge’s Beats, 7 May 2020

... It is a sort of dinner party farce, except better. The aptly named Edward Freeman asks his friend Simpson and Simpson’s wife, Muriel, to spend the evening with him and his mistress, Binny, at Binny’s house. Binny, a divorced single mother, is ‘sick to death of being introduced only to those boozy male acquaintances of ...

The Kid Who Talked Too Much and Became President

David Simpson: Clinton on Clinton, 23 September 2004

My Life 
by Bill Clinton.
Hutchinson, 957 pp., £25, June 2004, 0 09 179527 3
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... to destoy him, only to confess that after all he rather liked the guy. The Arkansas senator John McClellan was capable of a ‘kindness’ that few could notice, George H.W. Bush was (and remains) a gentleman and an honourable politician, Bob Dole could be ‘tough and mean in a fight’ but Clinton likes him. He would have liked more downtime with Tom ...

The Mourning Paper

David Simpson: On war and showing pictures of the dead, 20 May 2004

... years have also been circulating recently, some of them apparently to be trusted (the young John Kerry standing with the crew of his gunboat), others notoriously faked: the young John Kerry on a podium with ‘Hanoi Jane’ Fonda at an antiwar rally. A half-hour before midnight on 30 April, far from prime time, Ted ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Caster Semenya, 8 October 2009

... you do start to wonder. Two historical figures I’ve heard mentioned in this context are Wallis Simpson and Marlene Dietrich. The condition (the XY one, not the dead mouse one) is rare, but not that rare: one case in 15,000. That means that there are four thousand of these women in the UK alone. Globally there are 400,000. Since encountering this fact, I ...


Christopher Hitchens: On the Original Non-Event , 20 April 1995

... off the screen as the evening wore on, or off. Somewhere over on the other side of town, the O.J. Simpson jury sat in sequestration. Judge Lance Ito had decreed, in yet another of his loopy rulings, that they should not even be allowed to watch the Oscars on TV. He feared, irrationally but not without reason, that there might be some O.J. gags during the ...

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