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In Praise of Mess

Richard Poirier: Walt Whitman, 4 June 1998

With Walt Whitman in Camden. Vol. VIII: 11 February 1891-30 September 1891 
by Horace Traubel, edited by Jeanne Chapman and Robert MacIsaac.
Bentley, 624 pp., $99.50, November 1996, 0 9653415 8 5
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With Walt Whitman in Camden. Vol. IX: 11 February 1891-30 September 1891 
by Horace Traubel, edited by Jeanne Chapman and Robert MacIsaac.
Bentley, 624 pp., £99.50, November 1996, 0 9653415 9 3
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... question me about the ‘Leaves’, about my philosophy, politics, what I thought of Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Burns. But when he got into the room, the debricity … of things – the confusion, the air of don’t care, the unusual look and atmosphere – must have struck him, abashed him, staggered him. For he hardly said a word beyond ...


Andrew O’Hagan: The Bournemouth Set, 21 May 2020

... The visitors are mostly invalids. Death is the resident.”’ The Taylors became friends with Percy Shelley, the poet’s only surviving son, who had built Boscombe Manor, a grand pile with pillared porticoes that stood not far from the beach. Shelley kept his father’s dried heart in a box. It was said to have ...

Awfully Present

Thomas Jones: The Tambora Eruption, 5 February 2015

Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World 
by Gillen D’Arcy Wood.
Princeton, 293 pp., £19.95, April 2014, 978 0 691 15054 3
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... major economic depression’; not to mention several major works of Romantic literature (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Percy Shelley’s ‘Mont Blanc’, Keats’s ode ‘To Autumn’, Byron’s ‘Darkness’). One of the ways of investigating long-ago eruptions is by looking at the density of sulphate deposits ...

Sheets of Fire and Leaping Flames

Thomas Jones, 24 September 2020

In the Shadow of Vesuvius: A Life of Pliny 
by Daisy Dunn.
Collins, 338 pp., £9.99, August, 978 0 00 821112 7
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... and weight of water.’ A villa was built on the site of the spring near Como in the 16th century. Percy and Mary Shelley tried to stay there in 1818; it’s now a luxury hotel. The spring ‘runs under the building’, according to Dunn, visible from a window ‘on an otherwise unremarkable corridor’. Having retired from ...

An Outline of Outlines

Graham Hough, 7 May 1981

... pages; The Romantic Period excluding the Novel (but including Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Lamb and Hazlitt) gets 127. But American Literature to 1900 requires 330 pages, and Twentieth-Century American Literature no less than 655. Great Writers indeed. Timothy Dwight, born in Northampton, Massachusetts 14 May 1752: ‘In his own time ...

Look, I’d love one!

John Bayley, 22 October 1992

Stephen Spender: A Portrait with Background 
by Hugh David.
Heinemann, 308 pp., £17.50, October 1992, 0 434 17506 4
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More Please: An Autobiography 
by Barry Humphries.
Viking, 331 pp., £16.99, September 1992, 0 670 84008 4
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... and of Bohemian circles between the wars, a period for him as distant and exotic as that of Shelley and Byron. Unfortunately he is also determined to present it as a series of ‘stories’, as in a newspaper interview; and since for this book he apparently had no access to the subject of his ‘portrait’, both portrait and background are generalised ...

Being two is half the fun

John Bayley, 4 July 1985

Multiple Personality and the Disintegration of Literary Character 
by Jeremy Hawthorn.
Edward Arnold, 146 pp., £15, May 1983, 0 7131 6398 4
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Doubles: Studies in Literary History 
by Karl Miller.
Oxford, 488 pp., £19.50, June 1985, 9780198128410
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The Doubleman 
by C.J. Koch.
Chatto, 326 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 9780701129453
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... those feelings of bitterness, and became             MAGNANIMOUS. Keats advised Shelley to ‘curb his magnanimity’, but it was a word dear to Keats as to Dickens, expressive of new and wholly secular political and moral hopes. (A French ship of the line called the Magnanime fought at Trafalgar.) Had Keats died at an advanced age he would ...


Christopher Tayler: Muriel Spark’s Essays, 25 September 2014

The Golden Fleece: Essays 
by Muriel Spark, edited by Penelope Jardine.
Carcanet, 226 pp., £16.99, March 2014, 978 1 84777 251 0
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... book, Child of Light (1951), a biographical study that more or less singlehandedly rescued Mary Shelley from being dismissed as Percy Bysshe’s excessively pious and/or difficult widow, views Frankenstein and The Last Man as – in Spark’s approving words from a Third Programme broadcast – ‘unconscious ...

The Ultimate Socket

David Trotter: On Sylvia Townsend Warner, 23 June 2022

Lolly Willowes 
by Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Penguin, 161 pp., £9.99, October 2020, 978 0 241 45488 6
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Valentine Ackland: A Transgressive Life 
by Frances Bingham.
Handheld Press, 344 pp., £15.99, May 2021, 978 1 912766 40 6
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... increasing desultoriness of her long-standing affair with an older, married man, the musicologist Percy Buck. Life had in the meantime not dealt so kindly with Mary Kathleen Macrory Ackland – universally known as Molly. Robert Ackland’s charisma had always had a punitive edge: he insisted that his daughter accompany him on his rounds in the surgical ...

A Man with My Trouble

Colm Tóibín: Henry James leaves home, 3 January 2008

The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1855-72: Volume I 
edited by Pierre Walker and Greg Zacharias.
Nebraska, 391 pp., £57, January 2007, 978 0 8032 2584 8
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The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1855-72: Volume II 
edited by Pierre Walker and Greg Zacharias.
Nebraska, 524 pp., £60, January 2007, 978 0 8032 2607 4
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... letters by James to be published came in two volumes, overseen by the James family and edited by Percy Lubbock; they contained 403 letters and appeared in 1920, just four years after the novelist’s death. Lubbock found Mrs William James, the formidable widow of Henry James’s elder brother, moving ‘in a cloud of fine discretions and hesitations and ...

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