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In praise of work

Dinah Birch, 24 October 1991

Ford Madox Brown and the Pre-Raphaelite Circle 
by Teresa Newman and Ray Watkinson.
Chatto, 226 pp., £50, July 1991, 0 7011 3186 1
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... swallowed a weaker man. In this unpretentious and deeply affectionate biography, Teresa Newman and Ray Watkinson show how fiercely Brown maintained this independence. He was closely associated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement, but never as an insider. Nor was he included in the establishment of painters represented by the Royal Academy. Proud and prickly, he ...

Pound & Co.

August Kleinzahler: Davenport and Kenner, 26 September 2019

Questioning Minds: Vols I-II: The Letters of Guy Davenport and Hugh Kenner 
edited by Edward Burns.
Counterpoint, 1817 pp., $95, October 2018, 978 1 61902 181 5
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... In​ 1882, the year Virginia Woolf and William Carlos Williams were born, Friedrich Nietzsche bought a typewriter, a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball. It wasn’t as good as a Remington but it was cheaper. Nietzsche was losing his eyesight, probably as a result of syphilis, and hoped the Writing Ball would help. But first he had to master touch-typing ...

The Right Kind of Pain

Mark Greif: The Velvet Underground, 22 March 2007

The Velvet Underground 
by Richard Witts.
Equinox, 171 pp., £10.99, September 2006, 9781904768272
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... can’t bear to listen to the songs considered their most characteristic (‘Heroin’, ‘Sister Ray’). With a decidedly slim catalogue (four studio albums) but an outsized posthumous reputation, they are not an easy act to place in the history of popular music. Nor is it easy to identify the band as a unit, since members came and went. ‘The Velvet ...

Memories of Tagore

E.P. Thompson, 22 May 1986

... London this month, returned to Bengal in September 1913 after a triumphant spell in England. Sir William Rothenstein had introduced him to English literary and artistic circles in the course of the previous year. His own prose versions of some of his poems, entitled Gitanjali, with a prefatory essay by W.B. Yeats, had met with instant acclaim, and Macmillan ...

At Norwich Castle Museum

Alice Spawls: ‘The Paston Treasure’, 13 September 2018

... a rich widow and built Oxnead Hall, ten miles north of Norwich. Clement’s great-great-nephew, William, inherited it in 1632. ‘The Paston Treasure’ (c.1663) Six years later William set out on a Grand Tour that would take in the German states, Italy, Athens, Constantinople and Cairo. He built up a magnificent ...

Teeth of Mouldy Blue

Laura Quinney: Percy Bysshe Shelley, 21 September 2000

The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley: Volume I 
edited by Donald Reiman and Neil Fraisat.
Johns Hopkins, 494 pp., £58, March 2000, 0 8018 6119 5
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... grounds that they were intellectually unsympathetic; he sought a mentor and father substitute in William Godwin, and then alienated him by eloping with his daughter, Mary; he discarded Harriet and their two small children, and in 1816 she drowned herself. His actions were reckless, destructive and poignantly venturesome; they had consequences which darkened ...

What are they after?

William Davies: How Could the Tories?, 8 March 2018

... and Steve Baker, have military backgrounds. As with the Second World War, Brexit will perform an X-ray of our collective moral fibre. Remainers love facts, but are afraid of the truth. This is, I suspect, as close to a Conservative ideology of Brexit as exists. At the very least, it has some internal coherence, whatever it may lack in detail regarding the ...

Comprehending Gaddis

D.A.N. Jones, 6 March 1986

The Recognitions 
by William Gaddis.
Penguin, 956 pp., £7.95, January 1986, 0 14 007768 5
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by William Gaddis.
Penguin, 726 pp., £7.95, January 1986, 0 14 008039 2
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Carpenter’s Gothic 
by William Gaddis.
Deutsch, 262 pp., £8.95, February 1986, 0 233 97932 8
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... pop up, in a frivolous or portentous spirit, and they are often relevant to the concerns of William Gaddis’s later novels, JR and Carpenter’s Gothic. One of the slighter-seeming themes is the learned American’s scorn for those of his compatriots who know no language but English. If you have ever been in Athens or Rome with an ...


Gillian Darley: John Evelyn and his gardens, 8 June 2006

... paper chase at the British Library, where his archive arrived as late as 1995. In the early 1800s, William Bray, a solicitor and antiquarian, and William Upcott, a librarian whose address was Autograph Cottage and who was a notorious ‘collector’ of other people’s unconsidered trifles, arrived at Wotton and were invited ...

Hallelujah Lasses

E.S. Turner: The Salvation Army, 24 May 2001

Pulling the Devil’s Kingdom down: The Salvation Army in Victorian Britain 
by Pamela Walker.
California, 337 pp., £22.95, April 2001, 0 520 22591 0
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... and Fire, but that was bagged a couple of years ago by Roy Hattersley for his massive biography of William and Catherine Booth, the Army’s founders. William, the ‘Fool of God’ who made such diverse sinners as Cecil Rhodes and Margot Asquith kneel and pray with him in railway carriages, remains something of a background ...

Did You Have Bombs?

Deborah Friedell: ‘The Other Elizabeth Taylor’, 6 August 2009

The Other Elizabeth Taylor 
by Nicola Beauman.
Persephone, 444 pp., £15, April 2009, 978 1 906462 10 9
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... years, the New Yorker published nearly every story she finished, 35 of them between 1948 and 1969. William Maxwell claimed that job applicants were given her stories to edit as a test, ‘and if they touched a hair of its head, by God, they were no editors’. There wasn’t much to tinker with: her style was spare, usually shorn of adverbs and adjectives, and ...

Goings-On at Eagle Lake

Christopher Tayler: Barry Hannah, 29 November 2001

Yonder Stands Your Orphan 
by Barry Hannah.
Atlantic, 336 pp., £9.99, September 2001, 1 903809 16 9
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... Geronimo Rex – a disorganised redneck version of The Adventures of Augie March – won the William Faulkner Prize and a nomination for the National Book Award when it came out in 1976. His 1978 short-story collection, Airships, was even more successful, winning two prizes, but the increasingly fragmented and sometimes mediocre short novels and story ...

In Bexhill

Peter Campbell: Unpopular Culture, 5 June 2008

... his family in Newcastle, Martin Parr’s empty, rained-on tables for a Jubilee street party, Tony Ray-Jones’s group on deckchairs making the best of a cold day on Brighton Beach, Homer Sykes’s naked girls in a fairground peepshow. They all say ‘this is how we are,’ in black and white: something in colour – less wry but also less affectionate, a ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: How We Are, 5 July 2007

... now builds on its own history. In the exhibition you see the influence on later pictures of William Eggleston’s prints of penetratingly ordinary American things and places, which released art photography from puritanical black and white in the mid-1970s. The idea behind the Tate exhibition is simple enough: show pictures that cover the whole range of ...


David Widgery, 21 February 1985

John Winston Lennon. Vol. I: 1940-1966 
by Ray Coleman.
Sidgwick, 288 pp., £9.95, June 1984, 0 283 98942 4
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John Ono Lennon. Vol. II: 1967-1980 
by Ray Coleman.
Sidgwick, 344 pp., £9.95, November 1984, 0 283 99082 1
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John Lennon, Summer of 1980 
by Yoko Ono.
Chatto, 111 pp., £4.95, June 1984, 0 7011 3931 5
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... John Lennon’s mind. Of those people who should not attempt to write biographies of Lennon, Ray Coleman heads the list. A trade editor who might as well have been writing about agricultural machinery as music, he embodies everything Lennon had to fight: social conservatism, intellectual shallowness, gravestone prose, and the sheer boredom of the showbiz ...

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