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R.W. Johnson: Magdalen College, 19 November 2009

... Oxford has ever since lived in fear of another. In the new era Magdalen was headed by Herbert Warren, a man bursting with all the energy, self-belief and ambition of the imperialist Victorian. He was also a hearty and a snob, who did all he could to recruit aristocrats and muscular Christians. Among his prize captures were Prince Chichibu of Japan and ...

Screaming in the Castle: The Case of Beatrice Cenci

Charles Nicholl: The story of Beatrice Cenci, 2 July 1998

... e morto.’ The infamous Count Cenci was dead. His body was lying in what was called the ‘warren’, a dense patch of scrub below the castle rock which was used as a refuse tip. It appeared he had fallen from the wooden balcony that ran around the upper storey of the castle. There was a drop of six canne (about thirteen metres) into the ...


R.W. Johnson: Alan Taylor, Oxford Don, 8 May 1986

... Oxford college is likely to leave its mark on any man – and on any college. There was, for a new young fellow like myself, no shortage of AJP stories, by no means all apocryphal. How, at one college meeting, Alan had proposed that the chapel be turned into a swimming-pool. How Alan had loathed the loathsome Dylan Thomas. How Alan had crossed swords with ...


James Meek, 5 April 2018

... they will almost certainly cross that boundary, but until it is crossed, it is possible for the young and middle-aged to regard the old as if oldness is their essential nature. It isn’t a lack of compassion; after all, for the not-elderly, the elderly are their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. Partly it’s a problem of scale. Your mother ...

Close Relations

T.H. Barrett: Tibet and the Dalai Lama, 2 April 1998

The Buddha of Brewer Street 
by Michael Dobbs.
HarperCollins, 288 pp., £16.99, January 1998, 0 00 225412 3
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The Book of Tibetan Elders: Life Stories and Wisdom from the Great Spiritual Masters of Tibet 
by Sandy Johnson.
Constable, 282 pp., £17.95, February 1997, 0 09 476950 8
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The Art of Tibet 
by Robert Fisher.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £7.95, November 1997, 0 500 20308 3
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Tibetan Nation: A History of Tibetan Nationalism and Sino-Tibetan Relations 
by Warren Smith Jr..
Westview, 732 pp., £59.50, December 1996, 0 8133 3155 2
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The Way to Freedom 
by His Holiness The Dalai Lama.
Thorsons, 181 pp., £7.99, February 1997, 0 00 220043 0
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Awakening the Mind, Lightening the Heart 
by His Holiness The Dalai Lama.
Thorsons, 238 pp., £8.99, February 1997, 0 00 220045 7
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Kundun: A Biography of the Family of the Dalai Lama 
by Mary Craig.
HarperCollins, 392 pp., £17.99, May 1997, 0 00 627838 8
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... needs more explicit testimony than even these powerful images provide. It is obvious from Warren Smith’s marathon retelling of the tangled tale of Tibet and its longstanding relationship with China that things may be yet more complex than his seven hundred pages allow for, since he reads neither Chinese nor Tibetan, and depends for the most part on ...

Never Not Slightly Comical

Thomas Jones: Amit Chaudhuri, 2 July 2015

Odysseus Abroad 
by Amit Chaudhuri.
Oneworld, 243 pp., £12.99, February 2015, 978 1 78074 621 0
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... are present in the title of Amit Chaudhuri’s intelligent and funny new novel, which follows a young Bengali man and his uncle on their uneventful wanderings around London on a mid-1980s summer’s day. Homer and Joyce are clearly present, too, but Ananda isn’t impressed by Homer, ‘noting that the “rosy-fingered dawn” recurred without ...

‘I intend to support white rule’

Ian Hamilton: Allen Tate, 24 May 2001

Allen Tate: Orphan of the South 
by Thomas Underwood.
Princeton, 447 pp., £21.95, December 2000, 0 691 06950 6
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... problem, it emerged, was to do with Tate’s complicated love-life. In his youth, as an ambitious young literary blade, Tate was known to have enjoyed some indiscretions (vide his ‘discovery’ of Laura Riding) but it was not until his later years – post-1940; he was born in 1899 – that he achieved Great Lover status. This randiness of Tate’s was ...

Purging Stephen Spender

Susannah Clapp, 26 October 1989

Sylvia Townsend Warner: A Biography 
by Claire Harman.
Chatto, 358 pp., £16.95, July 1989, 0 7011 2938 7
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For Sylvia: An Honest Account 
by Valentine Ackland.
Chatto, 135 pp., £6.95, July 1989, 9780701135621
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... mother and as owning a ‘preponderantly masculine’ intellect. At the age of 36 she fell for a young woman with a face like a sulky choirboy, and relaxed into a lifelong partnership, explaining: ‘I lean more and more on her trousers.’ Claire Harman has written a bright and freshly-expressed biography, which is full of interesting ...
A Traitor’s Kiss: The Life of Richard Brinsley Sheridan 
by Fintan O’Toole.
Granta, 516 pp., £20, October 1997, 1 86207 026 1
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Richard Brinsley Sheridan: A Life 
by Linda Kelly.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 366 pp., £25, April 1997, 1 85619 207 5
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Sheridan’s Nightingale: The Story of Elizabeth Linley 
by Alan Chedzoy.
Allison and Busby, 322 pp., £15.99, April 1997, 0 7490 0264 6
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... and moved with his family to England at the age of eight. After a miserable period at Harrow, the young Sheridan settled with his family at Bath, where his father attempted to set up a Rhetorical and Grammatical Academy. Here Sheridan met Eliza Linley, rescued her from the unwelcome attentions of a soi-disant army captain, and eloped with her to France. On ...

Wodehouse in America

D.A.N. Jones, 20 May 1982

P.G. Wodehouse: A Literary Biography 
by Benny Green.
Joseph, 256 pp., £8.95, October 1981, 0 907516 04 1
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Wodehouse on Wodehouse: Bring on the girls (with Guy Bolton), Performing Flea, Over Seventy 
Penguin, 655 pp., £2.95, September 1981, 0 14 005245 3Show More
P.G. Wodehouse: An Illustrated Biography 
by Joseph Connolly.
Eel Pie, 160 pp., £3.95, September 1981, 0 906008 44 1
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P.G. Wodehouse: A Centenary Celebration 1881-1981 
edited by James Heineman and Donald Bensen.
Oxford, 197 pp., £40, February 1982, 0 19 520357 7
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The World of P.G. Wodehouse 
by Herbert Warren Wind.
Hutchinson, 256 pp., £5.95, October 1981, 0 09 145670 3
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... though, let us glance at an American clubman’s book, The World of P.G. Wodehouse by Herbert Warren Wind, a New Yorker writer, described on the blurb as ‘America’s most distinguished golf correspondent’. His book is a tribute, written in good American lapidary prose. We might have hoped for some account of Wodehouse’s relationship with golf: but ...

A Little Electronic Dawn

James Francken: Perlman, Anderson and Heller, 24 August 2000

The Reasons I Won't Be Coming 
by Elliot Perlman.
Faber, 314 pp., £9.99, July 2000, 0 571 19699 3
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Turn of the Century 
by Kurt Anderson.
Headline, 819 pp., £7.99, February 2000, 0 7472 6800 2
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Slab Rat 
by Ted Heller.
Abacus, 332 pp., £10.99, March 2000, 0 349 11264 9
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... are frequently written in awkward, clotted prose. ‘We were at each other’s throats,’ says a young Jewish woman in one of the stories, an assistant working in a Moscow bookshop whose attempts to emigrate to Australia have led to family break-down: ‘The walls moved closer in to each other and every shout set off in each of us an unscheduled train of ...

All about Me

Kevin Kopelson: Don Bachardy, 9 April 2015

by Don Bachardy.
Glitterati, 368 pp., £45, October 2014, 978 0 9913419 2 4
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... Astaire, Katharine Hepburn, Angela Lansbury, the much too pretty Teri Garr, the much too beautiful Warren Beatty, Julianne Moore (who also stars in the film A Single Man), Montgomery Clift (with rather more eyebrow than eyelashes), the late, great Joan Rivers (drawn in ink while talking to the gay writer Armistead Maupin, and therefore not self-consciously ...

Done Deal

Christopher Hitchens: Nixon in China, 5 April 2001

A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China 
by Patrick Tyler.
PublicAffairs, 512 pp., £11.99, September 2000, 1 58648 005 7
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... and any consideration of human rights. The story of the cave-in is instructive. In March 1994, Warren Christopher paid his first visit to China as Secretary of State. A few days before his arrival, the authorities arrested Wei Jingsheng, the highest-ranking Party member to have become a dissident, and one of the founders of the ‘Democracy ...

Skating Charm

James Wolcott: Kenneth Tynan, 13 December 2001

The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan 
edited by John Lahr.
Bloomsbury, 439 pp., £25, October 2001, 0 7475 5418 8
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... in Room at the Top, but more convivial and amused – an amiable shark. No one looks that eagerly young anymore. Two decades after his death, Tynan is still getting the star treatment, a rare thing for any writer; even rarer for a critic, whose work tends to date fast. The morbid, sexy idolatry usually reserved for rock stars, dead poets and suicide blondes ...

Leave off saying I want you to be savages

Sandra Gilbert: D.H. Lawrence, 19 March 1998

D.H. Lawrence: Dying Game 1922-30 
by David Ellis.
Cambridge, 814 pp., £25, January 1998, 0 521 25421 3
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... his still oddly scandalous paintings at which, David Ellis reports, 13,000 visitors to London’s Warren Gallery gawked in the early summer of 1929, he was a figure of extraordinary fascination, even during his lifetime. Paradoxically, then, to contemplate works by the author of that famous critical maxim ‘Never trust the artist. Trust the tale’ is more ...

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