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Keeping warm

Penelope Fitzgerald, 30 December 1982

Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner 
Chatto, 311 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 7011 2603 5Show More
The Portrait of a Tortoise 
by Gilbert White and Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Virago, 63 pp., £3.50, October 1981, 0 86068 218 8
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Sylvia Townsend Warner: Collected Poems 
edited by Claire Harman.
Carcanet, 290 pp., £9.95, July 1982, 0 85635 339 6
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Scenes of Childhood and Other Stories 
by Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Chatto, 177 pp., £6.50, September 1981, 0 7011 2516 0
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... skill, composing, as she said, ‘with piteous human care’. There, she can bear comparison with Walter de la Mare, the master of the two-stress line: Winter is fallen early On the house of Stare ... STW almost always succeeds with this precarious metre, which sounds nostalgic in ‘The Repose’, mysterious in ...


Mark Ford: Emily Dickinson’s Manuscripts, 19 June 2014

The Gorgeous Nothings 
by Emily Dickinson.
New Directions, 255 pp., £26.50, October 2013, 978 0 8112 2175 7
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The Marvel of Biographical Bookkeeping 
by Francis Nenik, translated by Katy Derbyshire.
Readux, 64 pp., £3, October 2013, 978 3 944801 00 1
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... is so delicately slanted that it recalls not Tennyson, nor its ostensible subject Walter de la Mare, but Saint Emily of Amherst: Walter de la Mare died 1956 the year of the hungarian uprising so he won’t read my old-fashioned ...

Their Mad Gallopade

Patrick McGuinness: Nancy Cunard, 25 January 2018

Selected Poems 
by Nancy Cunard.
Carcanet, 304 pp., £12.99, October 2016, 978 1 78410 236 4
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... surface where it seeks depth. Cunard’s Pierrots are part of the period décor of the time: a fin-de-siècle poetic hand-me-down who got a second wind in the new century – most radically in Langston Hughes’s ‘A Black Pierrot’ of 1923. In another poem from her first book, ‘Poor-Streets’, Cunard writes, ‘They shall not know the tuneful words of ...

A Subtle Form of Hypocrisy

John Bayley, 2 October 1997

Playing the Game: A Biography of Sir Henry Newbolt 
by Susan Chitty.
Quartet, 288 pp., £25, July 1997, 0 7043 7107 3
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... his last lifeline. For a time he kept up, interesting himself in The Waste Land, encouraging Walter de la Mare, who had always been his protégé and whom he had originally rescued from a depressing job with an oil company. The apparently incongruous pair, the dreamy poet and the would-be poet of action, sport and ...

Favourite Subjects

J.I.M. Stewart, 17 September 1981

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 
edited by Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien.
Allen and Unwin, 463 pp., £9.95, August 1981, 0 04 826005 3
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Tolkien and the Silmarils 
by Randel Helms.
Thames and Hudson, 104 pp., £5.50, September 1981, 0 500 01264 4
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... so with individual writers and artists. He deplores ‘the shallow vulgarity of Browning’; meets Walter de la Mare but records, ‘we had little to say’; judges Robert Graves to be an Ass; declares it ‘possible to dislike Eliot with some intensity’; refers to ‘greasy Epstein’, and to his admirer W.H. Auden ...

Winklepickers, Tinned Salmon, Hair Cream

Bee Wilson: Jonathan Meades, 14 July 2016

An Encyclopedia of Myself 
by Jonathan Meades.
Fourth Estate, 341 pp., £9.99, February 2015, 978 1 85702 905 5
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... value system. It is an England of barrel knots and copperplate handwriting, of verse by Walter de la Mare and dip pens, in which using a Bic or Biro could be seen as an act of reckless modernity that would forever ruin a child’s handwriting. It is a world of decorum and sanctimony where being a major (as ...


John Bayley, 2 June 1988

A.E. Housman: Collected Poems and Selected Prose 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Allen Lane, 528 pp., £18.95, April 1988, 0 7139 9009 0
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... insults against the time he might have occasion to use them), he ends by quoting a verse from Walter de la Mare which he read in some review. ‘May the “rustling” harvest hedgerow / Still the Traveller’s Joy entwine.’ ‘I knew in a moment that Mr de la ...

Lotti’s Leap

Penelope Fitzgerald, 1 July 1982

Collected Poems and Prose 
by Charlotte Mew, edited by Val Warner.
Carcanet/Virago, 445 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 85635 260 8
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... Here, then, it’s all to pay,   It’s good-night at the door. This was the poem, ‘Fin de Fête’, which in 1916 attracted the attention of Thomas Hardy and convinced him of Charlotte Mew’s talent. Hardy, of course, didn’t need to be persuaded that the Spirit of the Universe was exacting, and Charlotte had the kind of temperament that accepted ...

A Whack of Pies

Matthew Bevis: Dear to Mew, 16 December 2021

This Rare Spirit: A Life of Charlotte Mew 
by Julia Copus.
Faber, 464 pp., £25, April 2021, 978 0 571 31353 2
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Selected Poetry and Prose 
by Charlotte Mew, edited by Julia Copus.
Faber, 176 pp., £14.99, October 2019, 978 0 571 31618 2
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... worthy of parody – not just recognisable, but recognised. When Thomas Hardy, John Masefield and Walter de la Mare secured her a civil list pension in 1923, Mew couldn’t decide whether it was more ‘like a dream or a nightmare’. Such diffidence also contained defiance. Her public readings were bracing affairs ...

On the Lower Slopes

Stefan Collini: Greene’s Luck, 5 August 2010

Shades of Greene: One Generation of an English Family 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 580 pp., £25, August 2010, 978 0 224 07921 1
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... of each other, especially the schoolhouse Greenes of the Hall Greenes, and being interesting was de rigueur. ‘He had a dull life,’ Barbara said after the death of her cousin ‘Tooter’ in 1990, ‘and his wives were all dull too.’ There was also the obligatory black sheep, Herbert, who drank and lost jobs yet nonetheless managed to do the odd spot of ...


John Bayley, 4 June 1987

The Faber Book of Diaries 
edited by Simon Brett.
Faber, 498 pp., £12.95, March 1987, 0 571 13806 3
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A Lasting Relationship: Parents and Children over Three Centuries 
by Linda Pollock.
Fourth Estate, 319 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 947795 25 1
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... practising the articulation of a very real gratitude. It would have been well understood by Walter Scott: Some things of the black dog hanging about me but I will shake him off. I generally affect good spirits in company of my family whether I am enjoying them or not. It is too severe to sadden the harmless mirth of others by suffering your causeless ...


Patrick Parrinder, 9 February 1995

The Sin of Father Amaro 
by Eça de Queirós, translated by Nan Flanagan.
Carcanet, 352 pp., £14.95, August 1994, 1 85754 101 4
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The City and the Mountains 
by Eça de Queirós, translated by Roy Campbell.
Carcanet, 217 pp., £14.95, August 1994, 1 85754 102 2
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... Like his elder contemporary Henry James, Eça de Queirós belongs to the small and distinguished group of 19th-century novelists who wrote in exile. He was born in 1845 in a remote town of northern Portugal, but spent most of his working life in England and France. He liked to maintain that his novels were fundamentally French, and that he himself was French in everything but his fondness for ballad-singers and cod with onions ...

Oh for the oo tray

William Feaver: Edward Burra, 13 December 2007

Edward Burra: Twentieth-Century Eye 
by Jane Stevenson.
Cape, 496 pp., £30, November 2007, 978 0 224 07875 7
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... his pastoral scenes à la Claud Lovat Fraser and Chelsea set subjects such as ‘The Thief’ from Walter de la Mare’s Peacock Pie, for which he drew a kidnapper with a sackful of kiddies prancing past wigwam mountains and silhouette trees. Burra probably attended de la ...

Nicely Combed

Matthew Reynolds: Ungaretti, 4 December 2003

Selected Poems 
by Giuseppe Ungaretti, translated by Andrew Frisardi.
Carcanet, 287 pp., £14.95, April 2003, 1 85754 672 5
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... is composed of soft words of the sort which Dante, in a delightful passage of De vulgari eloquentia, called ‘womanly’ and ‘nicely combed’ (‘pexa’); rhythmically, the little lines combine to form a classically harmonious seven-syllable verse, a settenario, such as might have been written by Tasso or Leopardi. The ...

Hairy Fairies

Rosemary Hill: Angela Carter, 10 May 2012

A Card from Angela Carter 
by Susannah Clapp.
Bloomsbury, 106 pp., £10, February 2012, 978 1 4088 2690 4
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... at every length from newspaper reviews to extended essays. Her introduction to a new edition of Walter de la Mare’s Memoirs of a Midget is a subtle exploration of the idea of the novel in which one of her many surprising enthusiasms, in this case for a writer who was neither fashionable nor obviously close to her ...

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