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What did he think he was?

Tom Shippey: Ælfred the Great, 10 May 2018

Ælfred’s Britain: War and Peace in the Viking Age 
by Max Adams.
Head of Zeus, 509 pp., £9.99, May 2018, 978 1 78408 031 0
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... show the same division: Latin is Q-Italic, with quattuor and quinque.) In ninth-century Britain, Cornish and Welsh were P-Celtic languages, and so was the language of the people whose heroes in Welsh poetic tradition were the gwyr y gogledd, the ‘men of the North’: that is, the inhabitants of south-west Scotland, whose kingdom of Strathclyde reached ...

Guts Benedict

Adam Bradbury, 11 June 1992

The Wrecking Yard 
by Pinckney Benedict.
Secker, 195 pp., £7.99, March 1992, 0 436 20062 7
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Sacred Hunger 
by Barry Unsworth.
Hamish Hamilton, 630 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 241 13003 4
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The Butcher Boy 
by Patrick McCabe.
Picador, 217 pp., £14.99, April 1992, 9780330323581
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... to adapt a phrase, a prong short of a pitchfork. And whereas Pynchon and Algren, and more recently William Vollman, tend to have sought out big city trash, Benedict is more at home among the rocks and trees with God’s own good dirt. His one fully-committed excursion from the bush, ‘At the Alhambra’, describing a vacation in Nicaragua, is his least ...

A Dreadful Drumming

Theo Tait: Ghosts, 6 June 2013

The Undiscovered Country: Journeys among the Dead 
by Carl Watkins.
Bodley Head, 318 pp., £20, January 2012, 978 1 84792 140 6
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A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proof 
by Roger Clarke.
Particular, 360 pp., £20, November 2012, 978 1 84614 333 5
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... Dead, Carl Watkins tells one of the earliest ‘veridical’ English ghost stories, recorded by William of Newburgh, an Augustinian canon in Yorkshire in the 1190s. It’s a tale Bram Stoker could have used, one that could feature in the more old-fashioned sort of horror film even today. A local man who became convinced that his wife was unfaithful hid in ...

A Keen Demand for Camberwells

Rosemary Hill: Location, Location, Location, 21 March 2019

Marketable Values: Inventing the Property Market in Modern Britain 
by Desmond Fitz-Gibbon.
Chicago, 240 pp., £79, January 2019, 978 0 226 58416 4
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... get Keating. We’re going to fucking get you.’ While investigating the case in London, the Cornish police visited galleries, dealers and ‘known associates’ of the suspects, including an antique-dealer friend of mine. He answered their questions as fully as he thought prudent. Then, as the police were leaving, one of them turned in the doorway, just ...

Great Portland Street Blues

Karl Miller, 25 January 1990

Boswell: The Great Biographer. Journals: 1789-1795 
by James Boswell, edited by Marlies Danziger and Frank Brady.
Heinemann, 432 pp., £25, November 1989, 0 434 89729 9
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... or am unhappy.’ This is Boswell in 1777, at the age of 37. In 1789 a letter to the depressing Cornish vicar William Temple reports: ‘I may have many gratifications but the comfort of life is at an end.’ His friend and master, Samuel Johnson, is dead. His ‘valuable spouse’, a spouse much deserted, has just ...

Yearning for Polar Seas

James Hamilton-Paterson: North, 1 September 2005

The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule 
by Joanna Kavenna.
Viking, 334 pp., £16.99, February 2005, 0 670 91395 2
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The Idea of North 
by Peter Davidson.
Reaktion, 271 pp., £16.95, January 2005, 1 86189 230 6
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... this large island. Newfoundland’s waters had been exploited by Spanish, Portuguese and Cornish fishermen since at least the 16th century. Theirs was a hugely profitable industry that supplied the whole of Catholic Europe with salt cod and made many fortunes long before the Cape Codders arrived to join in the plunder of this seemingly inexhaustible ...

Gurney’s Flood

Donald Davie, 3 February 1983

Geoffrey Grigson: Collected Poems 1963-1980 
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 85031 419 4Show More
The Cornish Dancer 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Secker, 64 pp., £4.95, June 1982, 0 436 18805 8
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The Private Art: A Poetry Notebook 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 231 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 85031 420 8
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Blessings, Kicks and Curses: A Critical Collection 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, £9.95, November 1982, 0 85031 437 2
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Collected Poems of Ivor Gurney 
edited by P.J. Kavanagh.
Oxford, 284 pp., £12, September 1982, 0 19 211940 0
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War Letters 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by R.K.R. Thornton.
Mid-Northumberland Arts Group/Carcanet, 271 pp., £12, February 1983, 0 85635 408 2
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... re-crosses the Channel. It can only be at his instigation that we are advised on the jacket of The Cornish Dancer to regard Notes from an Old Country as ‘the best gloss on his own poems’. And it’s no good objecting that the Channel-crossing has this effect on him: others of us have found it among the luxuries of expatriation that we can extend to the ...

How are you finding it here?

Patrick Sims-Williams: Celts, 28 October 1999

The Atlantic Celts: Ancient People or Modern Invention? 
by Simon James.
British Museum, 160 pp., £6.99, March 1999, 0 7141 2165 7
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... linguistics in connection with the discovery that ancient British (the ancestor of Welsh, Cornish and Breton) and ancient Gaulish, which had been known to be related since the time of Tacitus, were also related to the Gaelic language of Ireland and Scotland. The first convincing demonstration of this fact was made by the polymath Edward Lhuyd, of the ...

Beyond the Cringe

John Barrell: British Art, 2 June 2016

Art in Britain 1660-1815 
by David Solkin.
Yale, 367 pp., £55, October 2015, 978 0 300 21556 4
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... he lists Henry Vanderborcht, John Vander-heydon, Adrian Van-Diest, Sir Anthony Vandyck, William Vander-velde, Francis Vanzoon, Herman Verelst and F. de Vorsterman, and with a little more diligence he could easily have doubled this collection of foreign Englishmen. Of the 106 painters accorded a biographical sketch by Buckeridge, 55 were immigrants ...

Self-Made Women

John Sutherland, 11 July 1991

The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present 
edited by Virginia Blain, Isobel Grundy and Patricia Clements.
Batsford, 1231 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 7134 5848 8
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The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 854 pp., $45, March 1991, 0 8142 0518 6
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... look now’ was filmed not by Hitchcock, but by Nicolas Roeg. In the entry on Mrs Warre-Cornish the Companion attributes to the author two novels actually written by her husband. At the age of 17, Florence Warden was taught by finishing governesses – she was not employed as one. Elizabeth Linington writes her Vic Varallo (not ‘Vatallo’) novels ...

Sweet Sin

J.P. Stern, 5 August 1982

by Wolfgang Hildesheimer.
Suhrkamp, 326 pp., May 1981, 3 518 03205 4
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... different as the North African desert, Norwegian villages, Mozart’s Vienna and (repeatedly) the Cornish coast, some of his early work has the dreamlike quality of introspective monologue – a genre which is hardly ever free from self-absorption and self-indulgence. But he has always been on the move, and in the literary sense too. At the beginning of his ...

Rome’s New Mission

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Early Christianity, 2 June 2011

Christians and Pagans: The Conversion of Britain from Alban to Bede 
by Malcolm Lambert.
Yale, 329 pp., £30, September 2010, 978 0 300 11908 4
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... yet to be explained, eastern England is short of epigraphy from the centuries between Claudius and William the Conqueror. By contrast, in Wales, Cornwall and Ireland, brief stone-cut inscriptions remain in abundance: for instance, in Llansadwrn on Anglesey one celebrates the church’s patron saint, ‘beatus Saturninus’, whose story was of no use to later ...

Sublimely Bad

Terry Castle, 23 February 1995

Secresy; or, The Ruin on the Rock 
by Eliza Fenwick, edited by Isobel Grundy.
Broadview, 359 pp., £9.99, May 1994, 1 55111 014 8
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... Isobel Grundy tries to make the case for Secresy on both ideological and artistic grounds. The Cornish-born Fenwick, about whose early life little is known, was active in her twenties and thirties in radical political circles, and along with her husband, John Fenwick, an Irish patriot and member of the London Corresponding Society, became friends with ...

High Taxes, Bad Times

John Pemble: Late Georgian Westminster, 10 June 2010

The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1820-32 
by D.R. Fisher.
Cambridge, 6336 pp., £490, December 2009, 978 0 521 19314 6
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... falling into contempt with the people.’ Taxes were high and times were bad, and journalists like William Cobbett were radicalising popular opinion by lambasting ‘Old Corruption’. Parliament, Cobbett stormed, was ruining the nation it no longer represented. An oligarchy of aristocrats and financiers, having hijacked the Commons by means of electoral ...

The Devil upon Two Sticks

Charles Nicholl: Samuel Foote, 23 May 2013

Mr Foote’s Other Leg: Comedy, Tragedy and Murder in Georgian London 
by Ian Kelly.
Picador, 462 pp., £18.99, October 2012, 978 0 330 51783 6
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... after his death, do not disguise an essential seediness. It is noted by his first biographer, William Cooke, that he ‘took snuff in such quantities as often rendered him a very slovenly beau’. Variously called the ‘Hogarth of the stage’ and the ‘English Aristophanes’ – in both cases rather flatteringly – Foote included among his fans Dr ...

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