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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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... this immortal ‘me’. Discussing a study of 1883 entitled Walt Whitman and written by his friend Richard Bucke, he insists to Traubel that his endorsement of the book was never meant to extend to its interpretations: as to his explication – no, no, no – that I do not accept – for Leaves of Grass baffles me, its author, at all points of its meaning ...

Poe’s Woes

Julian Symons, 23 April 1992

Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance 
by Kenneth Silverman.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £25, March 1992, 9780297812531
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... any tinge of Gothic will have no time for the stories, those who find only windy rhetoric in Swinburne are likely to think ‘The Raven’ and ‘Ulalume’ merely ludicrous. But Auden’s remark about that verbose sentence is followed by his acknowledgment that it shows perfectly the narrator ‘in his real colours, as the fantastic self wno hates and ...

Australia’s Nineties

Clive James, 15 July 1982

Christopher Brennan: A Critical Biography 
by Axel Clark.
Melbourne, 358 pp., £20, May 1980, 0 522 84182 1
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... time. The rest is a tortured pastiche easily mocked; a strained symbolism whose Victorian diction, Swinburne with even more water, does not even let him succeed in sounding Frenchified. Any smart critic who wanted to make a popinjay out of Brennan would have plenty to go on. But those single lines and phrases live in the memory: ‘and sterile wisdom crowned ...

Princes and Poets

Niall Rudd, 4 August 1983

The Augustan Idea in English Literature 
by Howard Erskine-Hill.
Arnold, 379 pp., £33.50, May 1983, 0 7131 6373 9
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Catullus 
by G.P. Goold.
Duckworth, 266 pp., £24, January 1983, 0 7156 1435 5
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Three Classical Poets: Sappho, Catullus and Juvenal 
by Richard Jenkyns.
Duckworth, 242 pp., £24, May 1982, 0 7156 1636 6
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... of Catullus for years to come. As readers of The Victorians and Ancient Greece will know, Richard Jenkyns is an accomplished literary critic with the professional training of a Classicist. The preface to his new book is slightly misleading. One might infer from his attack on one-sidedness and reductivism that he intended to employ a variety of ...

Cheeky

Norman Page, 16 March 1989

Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy: Vol. VI, 1920-1925 
edited by Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 379 pp., £27.50, March 1987, 0 19 812623 9
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Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy: Vol. VII, 1926-1927 
edited by Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 304 pp., £29.50, October 1988, 0 19 812624 7
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Thomas Hardy: The Offensive Truth 
by John Goode.
Blackwell, 184 pp., £17.95, September 1988, 0 631 13954 0
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The Thomas Hardy Journal. Vol. IV: October 1988 
edited by James Gibson.
Thomas Hardy Society, 80 pp., £2.50, October 1988, 0 00 268541 8
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Hardy’s Metres and Victorian Prosody 
by Dennis Taylor.
Oxford, 297 pp., £32.50, December 1988, 9780198129677
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Collected Short Stories 
by Thomas Hardy.
Macmillan, 936 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 333 47332 9
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... there are some vivid glimpses of the distant past. He recalls lunching at Bertolini’s ‘before Swinburne knew the place’, and (the unmistakable Hardy trademark) is back to the 17th century in two more hops: ‘In my time the floors were of stone, sanded, & the front of squared ashlar, just as in Dr Burney’s day, &, no doubt, Sir Isaac ...

Well done, you forgers

John Sutherland, 7 January 1993

The Two Forgers: A Biography of Harry Buxton Forman and Thomas James Wise 
by John Collins.
Scolar, 317 pp., £27.50, May 1992, 0 85967 754 0
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Forgers and Critics: Creativity and Duplicity in Western Scholarship 
by Anthony Grafton.
Princeton, 157 pp., £10.75, May 1990, 0 691 05544 0
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... in the printing trade. The bulk of the forgeries were manufactured by the eminently respectable Richard Clay and Sons. The firm cannot, over a period of twenty years, have turned out a hundred or so piracies and ‘creative forgeries’ without someone noticing that their work was circulating in the second-hand market under false colours and at hugely ...

Grub Street Snob

Terry Eagleton: ‘Fanny Hill’, 13 September 2012

Fanny Hill in Bombay: The Making and Unmaking of John Cleland 
by Hal Gladfelder.
Johns Hopkins, 311 pp., £28.50, July 2012, 978 1 4214 0490 5
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... psychiatrist who is an expert on his own psychosis. This is not true of working on line-endings in Swinburne or desire in Deleuze; but in the long trek from Foucault to Family Guy, literary studies have moved closer to the everyday experience of their practitioners, even if so much of their talk is of otherness. This is also the reason so many students write ...

Anti-Writer

Clair Wills: Plain Brian O’Nolan, 4 April 2019

The Collected Letters of Flann O’Brien 
edited by Maebh Long.
Dalkey Archive, 619 pp., £20, April 2018, 978 1 62897 183 5
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... for himself under other names – whether as Flann O’Brien (‘As a lad I knew Ibsen … Swinburne and Joseph Conrad were also frequent visitors to my grandfather’s place … At dusk, Coleridge would sometimes look in on his way home for a final pipe, and more than once the burly shape of Lord Macaulay was known to grace the gathering’) or Myles ...

A Smile at My Own Temerity

John Barrell: William Hogarth, 16 February 2017

William Hogarth: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings 
by Elizabeth Einberg.
Yale, 432 pp., £95, November 2016, 978 0 300 22174 9
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... fun’, and an essay by Carlyle of 1837: ‘There is nothing more Hogarthian comic.’ Next comes Swinburne, fifty years later, speaking of ‘an excellent Hogarthian comedy, full of rapid and vivid incident, of pleasant or indignant humour’. In 1978 Cecil Beaton attributes to the society philanthropist Lady Anne Tree ‘an oversize personality and ...

Hate, Greed, Lust and Doom

Sean O’Faolain, 16 April 1981

William Faulkner: His Life and Work 
by David Minter.
Johns Hopkins, 325 pp., £9.50, January 1981, 0 8018 2347 1
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... sophisticated seekers after the purely indigenous origins of American fiction, as in the work of Richard Poirier (A World Elsewhere) or R.W.B. Lewis (The American Adam). One can see how smoothly Faulkner’s concentration on one obscure corner of Mississippi fits into this regionalist-patriotic pattern. His latest biographer says on his first page: ‘He is ...

Drugs, anyone?

Seamus Perry: George Meredith, 18 June 2015

Modern Love and Poems of the English Roadside, with Poems and Ballads 
by George Meredith, edited by Criscillia Benford and Rebecca Mitchell.
Yale, 390 pp., £40, April 2015, 978 0 300 17317 8
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... of Vanity Fair. In ‘real life’, Meredith judiciously observes in his novel The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, ‘all hangs together,’ but that’s not obviously the way things work in the Meredithian world. What did his admirers see in him? A good place to start is G.M. Trevelyan’s The Poetry and Philosophy of George Meredith (1906), which helpfully ...

Lemon and Pink

David Trotter: The Sorrows of Young Ford, 1 June 2000

Return to Yesterday 
by Ford Madox Ford, edited by Bill Hutchings.
Carcanet, 330 pp., £14.95, August 1999, 1 85754 397 1
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War Prose 
by Ford Madox Ford, edited by Max Saunders.
Carcanet, 276 pp., £14.95, August 1999, 1 85754 396 3
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... comma counts, in that description); he, too, likes nothing better, while taking tea with Dr Richard Garnett, Principal Librarian at the British Museum, than brutally to crush the aspirations of any young person available for the purpose. Like Virginia Woolf, Ford asks where these abrupt and inexplicable furies came from. As Ford grew older, the beards ...

Lost Mother

Michael Dobson, 17 February 2000

In My End Is My Beginning: A Life of Mary Queen of Scots 
by James Mackay.
Mainstream, 320 pp., £20, March 1999, 1 84018 058 7
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Mary Queen of Scots: Romance and Nation 
by Jayne Elizabeth Lewis.
Routledge, 259 pp., £14.99, October 1998, 0 415 11481 0
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Ancestry and Narrative in 19th-Century British Literature: Blood Relations from Edgeworth to Hardy 
by Sophie Gilmartin.
Cambridge, 281 pp., £37.50, February 1999, 0 521 56094 2
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... to Scotland and was executed after being found under her bed) by William Henry Ireland and by Swinburne. Even so, there are some notable omissions. It is in vain, for example, that the breathless reader anticipates the fun and games Lewis might have with the sorrows Mary bequeaths to James and to us in the epistolary form of C.F. Barrett’s Mary Queen of ...

I want to boom

Mark Ford: Pound Writes Home, 24 May 2012

Ezra Pound to His Parents: Letters 1895-1929 
edited by Mary de Rachewiltz, David Moody and Joanna Moody.
Oxford, 737 pp., £39, January 2011, 978 0 19 958439 0
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... Monroe. Like so many young London literati of the period – Wyndham Lewis and T.E. Hulme and Richard Aldington and F.S. Flint – Eliot fell under the spell of Pound’s beguiling mixture of flamboyance, generosity and startling self-confidence. Together they orchestrated what in hindsight can seem like a hostile takeover of the somewhat moribund London ...

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