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Ripping the pig

Robert Bernard Martin, 5 August 1982

The Letters of Alfred Lord Tennyson: Vol. 1 1821-1850 
edited by Cecil Lang and Edgar Shannon.
Oxford, 366 pp., £17.50, February 1982, 0 19 812569 0
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Tennyson: ‘In Memoriam’ 
edited by Susan Shatto and Marion Shaw.
Oxford, 397 pp., £25, March 1982, 0 19 812747 2
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... Emily Tennyson had never liked the picture, perhaps in part because she also disliked Edward FitzGerald, who had originally commissioned it from Samuel Laurence. Earlier she had asked Watts to repaint it, but he refused, and during her husband’s lifetime she had not succeeded in finding another painter whom she trusted to touch it, so that it had hung ...

The Duckworth School of Writers

Frank Kermode, 20 November 1980

Human Voices 
by Penelope Fitzgerald.
Collins, 177 pp., £5.25, September 1980, 0 00 222280 9
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Winter Garden 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 157 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 7156 1495 9
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... Morgan since 1926, and there is clearly a case for fishing the novels out of oblivion. In Penelope Fitzgerald’s last novel, Offshore, the wide distribution of which may have had the fortuitous effect of sending up the price of de Morgan tiles, two rather forward little girls conspired to fish two out of Battersea Reach, when the tide was down and the ...

Left with a Can Opener

Thomas Jones: Homer in Bijelo Polje, 7 October 2021

Hearing Homer’s Song: The Brief Life and Big Idea of Milman Parry 
by Robert Kanigel.
Knopf, 320 pp., £28.95, April, 978 0 525 52094 8
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... of illness. She grew up in Milwaukee, where her maternal grandfather owned a department store (Robert Kanigel describes him as ‘a force in the local Jewish community and a major philanthropist’). Her mother thought the Californian climate would help Marian recover from Spanish flu – and also wanted to enrol at the university herself. Marian’s ...
Citizen Lord: Edward Fitzgerald 1763-98 
by Stella Tillyard.
Chatto, 336 pp., £16.99, May 1997, 0 7011 6538 3
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... fumble in a greasy till’. Was it For this that all the blood was shed, For this Edward Fitzgerald died, And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone, All that delirium of the brave? ‘Delirium’ suggests Yeats’s usual equivocal insight; but more magnificently it celebrates the fever in the blood which was about to ...

Human Boys

Penelope Fitzgerald, 7 December 1989

True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole, Margaret Hilda Roberts and Robert and Susan Lilian Townsend 
by Sue Townsend.
Methuen, 117 pp., £5.99, August 1989, 0 413 62450 1
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CounterBlasts No 9: Mr Bevan’s Dream 
by Sue Townsend.
Chatto, 74 pp., £2.99, November 1989, 0 7011 3468 2
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... Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13¾ came out at much the same time as John Pocock’s The Diary of a London Schoolboy 1826-30, published by the Camden Society. John Pocock, 12¾, decisively a real person, was a builder’s son who lived on the edge of Kilburn, two miles out of London. In his journal, written on the empty pages of an old bankbook, he notes that on 23 May 1826 he walked to school: ‘Old Monk drinks like a fish ...

Obstacles

Penelope Fitzgerald, 4 July 1996

Edward Thomas: Selected Letters 
edited by R. George Thomas.
Oxford, 192 pp., £30, March 1996, 0 19 818562 6
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... my accursed temper and moodiness.’ Even so, it might be true of him, as Ian Hamilton wrote of Robert Frost, that ‘he knew his own failings, knew what the world would think of him if it found out, and yet believed the world was wrong.’ In this short selection of Edward Thomas’s letters George Thomas has aimed, he says, at reflecting the entire ...

Standing at ease

Robert Taubman, 1 May 1980

Faces in My Time 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 230 pp., £8.50, March 1980, 0 434 59924 7
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... tone. He recounts a good deal of literary as well as military life; there are anecdotes of Scott Fitzgerald, ‘Waugh, Greene, Eliot and others. Only Malcolm Muggeridge is given a full, persuasive study, bristling with interest and Mr Powell’s kind of psychological deconstructions, recalling those of the novels (and incidentally his admiration for ...

Vous êtes belle

Penelope Fitzgerald, 8 January 1987

Alain-Fournier: A Brief Life 1886-1914 
by David Arkell.
Carcanet, 178 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 85635 484 8
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Henri Alain-Fournier: Towards the Lost Domain: Letters from London 1905 
translated by W.J. Strachan.
Carcanet, 222 pp., £16.95, November 1986, 0 85635 674 3
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The Lost Domain 
by Henri Alain-Fournier, translated by Frank Davison.
Oxford, 299 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 19 212262 2
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... by an Afterword by John Fowles, less sensitive, but more enthusiastic. Fowles, who follows Robert Gibson* in taking Seurel as the central character, tells us that he was once under the influence of Alain-Fournier, and is still ‘a besotted fan’. He deserts the text, however, when he says that Frantz de Galais, like Meaulnes, ‘strives to maintain a ...

Tennyson’s Nerves

Frank Kermode, 6 November 1980

Tennyson: The Unqulet Heart 
by Robert Bernard Martin.
Oxford/Faber, 656 pp., £12.95, October 1980, 0 19 812072 9
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Thro’ the Vision of the Night: A Study of Source, Evolution and Structure in Tennyson’s ‘Idylls of the King’ 
by J.M. Gray.
Edinburgh, 179 pp., £10, August 1980, 0 85224 382 0
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... Robert Martin’s book is not one of those literary biographies that reshuffle a familiar narrative and perhaps add a few bits of new information or conjecture. It is a full-scale life, founded on primary sources, many of them previously unpublished. As the first major biography since Hallam Tennyson’s pious memoir of 1897, it has obvious importance ...

Shakers

Denis Donoghue, 6 November 1986

Write on: Occasional Essays ’65-’85 
by David Lodge.
Secker, 211 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 436 25665 7
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... Short Stories of J.D. Salinger, a book about the ‘Catholic sensibility’ of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Blake Morrison’s The Movement, Martin Amis’s Success, Tony Tanner’s Adultery in the Novel, Graham Greene’s Ways of Escape, Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, Truman Capote’s Music for Chameleons, the Oxford American Dictionary, two books ...

On the imagining of conspiracy

Christopher Hitchens, 7 November 1991

Harlot’s Ghost 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 1122 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7181 2934 2
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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs 
by Theodore Draper.
Hill and Wang, 690 pp., $27.95, June 1991, 0 8090 9613 7
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... a cake and a Bible to Tehran to discuss an arms-for-hostages trade with the Ayatollah Khomeini. Robert Macnamara went to a briefing on Cuba believing that it was more than likely that he would not live through the weekend. The Central Intelligence Agency was caught, in collusion with the Mafia, plotting to poison Fidel Castro’s cigars. Ronald Reagan’s ...

Miserable Creatures

C.H. Sisson, 2 August 1984

The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy. Vol. IV: 1909-1913 
edited by Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 337 pp., £21, March 1984, 0 19 812621 2
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The Letters and Prose Writings of William Cowper. Vol. IV: 1792-1799 
edited by James King and Charles Ryskamp.
Oxford, 498 pp., £48, March 1984, 0 19 812681 6
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The Land and Literature of England: A Historical Account 
by Robert M. Adams.
Norton, 555 pp., £21, March 1984, 0 393 01704 4
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The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hardy. Vol. II 
edited by Samuel Hynes.
Oxford, 543 pp., £35, June 1984, 0 19 812783 9
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... for their own sakes, as one does the letters of Madame de Sevigné, Madame du Deffand, Edward Fitzgerald – or indeed of William Cowper, the new edition of whose Letters and Prose Writings has just reached its fourth volume. Yet Hardy’s letters are admirable in their way, laconic and to the point, written with his eye on the spirit-level, as becomes ...

Diary

Robert Irwin: The Best Thing since Sex, 2 December 1993

... roll-call of writer-enthusiasts: Horace, Sidney, Marlowe, Byron, Arnold, Brooke, Gide, Scott Fitzgerald and, most recently, Charles Sprawson. It is true, of course, that Vladimir Nabokov was a keen roller-skater back in Berlin in the Twenties. More recently, my own novel The Limits of Vision included an extravagantly irrelevant vignette of a Victorian ...

Asking to Be Looked at

Wayne Koestenbaum, 25 January 1996

Mapplethorpe: A Biography 
by Patricia Morrisroe.
Macmillan, 461 pp., £20, September 1995, 9780333669419
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Playing with the Edge: The Photographic Achievement of Robert Mapplethorpe 
by Arthur Danto.
California, 206 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 520 20051 9
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... New York’s Guggenheim Museum contains in an annex a covert Robert Mapplethorpe gallery, a sober exhibition space which, like the masterpieces of its namesake, seems consecrated to the unusual and the mortifying. The current show – Joel-Peter Witkin’s photographs of corpses, amputees and hermaphrodites – holds a grotesqueness sufficient to remind the visitor of how sweet, how antique already, the infamous Mapplethorpe images have become ...

Full of Hell

Fatema Ahmed: James Salter, 5 February 2004

Cassada 
by James Salter.
Harvill, 208 pp., £10.99, August 2003, 1 86046 925 6
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Light Years 
by James Salter.
Vintage, 320 pp., £6.99, August 2003, 0 09 945022 4
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... Film Festival in 1962) and screenwriter: his credits include Downhill Racer (1969), starring Robert Redford as a champion skier. His novel about mountaineering, Solo Faces (1979), started life as a script for Redford. As well as subsidising some unprofitable novels, the movie business brought Salter into contact with a more hedonistic world: he spent ...

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