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Viva la trattoria

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 9 October 2003

Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Her Sister Arabella 
edited by Scott Lewis.
Wedgestone, $300, October 2002, 0 911459 29 4
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... EBB’s fondness for her sister to say that the collection as a whole suffers accordingly. Scott Lewis may be right to contend that she ‘felt no fear or constraint in writing to Arabella’, but the absence of pressure does not necessarily result in greater pleasure for the reader. Between the breathlessly associative style of these letters, their ...

Self-Made Man

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Edith Wharton’s Domestic Arrangements, 5 April 2007

Edith Wharton 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 853 pp., £25, February 2007, 978 0 7011 6665 6
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... Berry’s death in 1927 may have left Wharton ‘utterly rudderless’, as she wrote to Bernard Berenson; but she still managed to get into his Paris apartment and to burn almost all the letters she had ever written to him. ‘No words can say, because such things are unsayable, how the influence of his thought, his character, his deepest ...


Christopher Ricks, 17 June 1982

From the Land of Shadows 
by Clive James.
Cape, 294 pp., £7.95, April 1982, 0 224 02021 8
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... only expensive ones if I can.’ He finds that the reviews of two biographies (of Auden and of Day-Lewis) ‘have been nearly as interesting as the books themselves’. He misses no tricks, though it seems to me that he wins fewer than he used to. He strives: ‘To be witty does not necessarily mean to crack wise.’ He insists on being burly, reassuringly ...

In the Hands of Any Fool

Walter Gratzer, 3 July 1997

A Short History of Cardiology 
by Peter Fleming.
Rodopi, 234 pp., £53.50, April 1997, 90 420 0048 1
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... of the celestial clockwork. That was in the 17th century. Now medicine has become, in the words of Lewis Thomas, the youngest science; and the kind of wanton incompetence that did for Josef Shklovsky has passed into history, at least in the West. Or has it? In 1983, the Journal of the American Medical Society published the results of a study on 100 deaths, all ...


Paul Laity: Henry Woodd Nevinson, 3 February 2000

... father, he was ‘trained in war long before’ 1914. Back in London, he hooked up with Wyndham Lewis, Epstein and Gaudier-Brzeska, who had by this time split from Roger Fry’s Omega Workshop in order to set up their own group, which became the Rebel Art Centre. Nevinson’s paintings grew more geometrical, and soon incorporated Futurist techniques such as ...

An Absolutely Different Life

Michael Wood: Too Proustian, 7 November 2019

Sept conférences sur Marcel Proust 
by Bernard de Fallois.
Editions de Fallois, 312 pp., €20, January 2019, 978 1 03 210214 6
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Proust avant Proust Essai sur ‘Les Plaisirs et les jours’ 
by Bernard de Fallois.
Les Belles Lettres, 192 pp., €21.50, May 2019, 978 2 251 44939 5
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‘Le Mystérieux Correspondant’ et autres nouvelles inédites 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Luc Fraisse.
Editions de Fallois, 174 pp., €18.50, October 2019, 978 1 03 210229 0
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... Bernard de Fallois​ , a legendary French editor and publisher, died in January 2018. He worked for a long time at Hachette, and set up his own company in 1987. At one point, he was considering doing postgraduate work on Proust; he said in one of the lectures now published as Sept conférences sur Marcel Proust that he had been ‘tempted to conduct … a university exercise that one calls a thesis’, and the wording alone tells us a lot ...


A.J.P. Taylor: Personal and Public Affairs, 4 November 1982

... letters, telegrams, personal expostulations and, above all, telephone calls – what the late Sir Lewis Namier called ‘the terror by telephone’. He was himself a skilled operator of this weapon and claimed to have reduced more than one critic of Zionism to a nervous breakdown. The only safe course is never, never, never to have any opinion about the ...

The world’s worst-dressed woman

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 1 August 1996

Queen Victoria’s Secrets 
by Adrienne Munich.
Columbia, 264 pp., £22, June 1996, 0 231 10480 4
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... just as Albert’s radiant bride or the reclusive widow of Windsor, but as the imperious queens of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland, an ageless mother in a child’s alphabet book, even a dominatrix of pornographic fantasy. As Munich reads them, the Gilbert and Sullivan operas are haunted by her presence, and so too is Rider Haggard’s She, whose deathless queen ...

The Best Stuff

Ian Jack: David Astor, 2 June 2016

David Astor: A Life in Print 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 400 pp., £25, March 2016, 978 0 224 09090 2
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... décor is revolting … rain drips sadly onto the oilcloth … sacrifice £3500’). As Jeremy Lewis observes, it was a remarkably handsome newspaper, much more spacious in its page layouts and crisper in its black/white contrasts than its rival, the Sunday Times, which looked untidy and grey by comparison. Throughout the 1950s it was the dominant ...

Reading the Bible

John Barton, 5 May 1988

The Literary Guide to the Bible 
edited by Robert Alter and Frank Kermode.
Collins, 678 pp., £20, December 1987, 0 00 217439 1
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... some theologians in the Fifties to works such as The Bible Designed to be Read as Literature: C.S. Lewis, for example, condemned ‘merely aesthetic’ interpretation of the Bible as a way of dodging its religious claims. But Lewis was not a Biblical scholar, and it would be hard to find a single example of anyone engaged in ...


Philip Horne, 30 August 1990

Henry James and Edith Wharton: Letters 1900-1915 
edited by Lyall Powers.
Weidenfeld, 412 pp., £25, May 1990, 9780297810605
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... left its mark on her – apparent, perhaps, in the account of the King’s Road fiasco. R.W.B. Lewis, Mrs Wharton’s biographer, and editor in 1988 of a selection of her letters, has noticed her ‘displaying in her earliest recorded comments on James clear signs of a restiveness of influence’. Even at the point of becoming one of the Master’s ...

Lily and Lolly

Sarah Rigby, 18 July 1996

The Yeats Sisters: A Biography of Susan and Elizabeth Yeats 
by Joan Hardwick.
Pandora, 263 pp., £8.99, January 1996, 0 04 440924 9
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... discovered that May (who was by then married to Henry Sparling) was having an affair with George Bernard Shaw. Shaw moved into the couple’s house, which shocked Lily; she resigned and never saw May again. Meanwhile, Lolly began training as a Froebel teacher in 1889, and proved very successful: six years later, her first book Brushwork, which outlined her ...
... of the novel trying to absorb the consequences of the spectacle; Black Dogs is in part about how Bernard Tremaine, a politician, scientist and rationalist, drifts away from his wife, June (and vice versa), because of what he deems her fanciful, emotional, overdetermined reading of the trauma that was meted out on her in 1946 by the black dogs of the ...

Cruelty to Animals

Brigid Brophy, 21 May 1981

Reckoning with the Beast 
by James Turner.
Johns Hopkins, 190 pp., £7.50, February 1981, 0 8018 2399 4
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The Social Life of Monkeys and Apes 
by S. Zuckerman.
Routledge, 511 pp., £17.50, March 1981, 0 7100 0691 8
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... very terminology does violence to the pro-animal arguments of such Victorians as Henry Salt and Bernard Shaw (born in, respectively, 1851 and 1856), whose rational and essentially political thinking on the subject was grounded in the recognition that animals have rights. Neither does Mr Turner emphasise the essential point that sensibility, old or ...

Scientific Fraud

Peter Medawar, 17 November 1983

Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science 
by William Broad and Nicholas Wade.
Century, 256 pp., £8.95, July 1983, 0 7126 0243 7
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... reason felt themselves entitled to express an opinion. It is entirely understandable that George Bernard Shaw should have done so, but less obvious why Samuel Butler should have been among their number, especially as he expressed better than anyone else the essence of the teaching of that August Weismann who overthrew Lamarckism. Butler said that according ...

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