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Blake’s Tone

E.P. Thompson, 28 January 1993

Dangerous Enthusiasm: William Blake and the Culture of Radicalism in the 1790s 
by Jon Mee.
Oxford, 251 pp., £30, August 1992, 0 19 812226 8
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... Chancellor,’ ‘Christ died an Unbeliever,’ It appears to me Now that Tom Paine is a better Christian than the Bishop,’ ‘A Last Judgment is Necessary because Fools flourish’. None of these is funny ha-ha, but while the brow may be furrowed with indignation there is a twist of humour at the corners of the mouth which is also part of the ...

Silly Willy

Jonathan Bate, 25 April 1991

William Blake: His Life 
by James King.
Weidenfeld, 263 pp., £25, March 1991, 0 297 81160 6
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... whose intense, unique vision led him to create his own philosophy and mythology. He was a Christian who despised Christianity. He was an extremely private person who retreated from society. But he was tortured by his rejection of the world: he wanted fame – and yet he did not want to be tainted with success. This is James King, who despite having ...

Too Much

Barbara Taylor: A history of masturbation, 6 May 2004

Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation 
by Thomas Laqueur.
Zone, 501 pp., £21.95, March 2003, 1 890951 32 3
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... rich and lively history, did a practice tolerated by the ancients and largely ignored by Judeo-Christian moralists, come to be seen as the height of erotic depravity? Laqueur, who teaches at Berkeley, is the author of Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (1990), one of the most heavily cited and argued about books of the last few ...

Carers or Consumers?

Barbara Taylor: 18th-Century Women, 4 November 2010

Women and Enlightenment in 18th-Century Britain 
by Karen O’Brien.
Cambridge, 310 pp., £17.99, March 2009, 978 0 521 77427 7
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... womanly, suffused with the traditional female vices of profligacy and sensuality. If Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was Economic Man in the heroic mode, he was shadowed by Economic Woman: Moll Flanders, the emblem of an age of passions run rampant. Not everyone shared this pessimism. A very different mood could also be found in Enlightenment Britain, as ...

Toolkit for Tinkerers

Colin Burrow: The Sonnet, 24 June 2010

The Art of the Sonnet 
by Stephanie Burt and David Mikics.
Harvard, 451 pp., £25.95, May 2010, 978 0 674 04814 0
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... should be nervous, and, where the subject will with propriety bear elevation, sublime.’ Mary Robinson (described by Coleridge as ‘a woman of undoubted genius’, but perhaps too full of dim memories of Gray and Milton quite to deserve that praise) duly described the moon as ‘sublimely still, and beautifully pale!’ In ‘On Bamborough ...

In Fiery Letters

Mark Ford: F.T. Prince, 8 February 2018

Reading F.T. Prince 
by Will May.
Liverpool, 256 pp., £75, December 2016, 978 1 78138 333 9
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... the work of Mallarmé, Verlaine and Valéry, set him apart from his fellow pupils at Kimberley’s Christian Brothers College. In his late teens a chance conversation with the philosopher J.N. Findlay, whom he met on a cruise ship, inspired him to abandon the architecture course on which he had embarked at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and ...

Warm Drops in Baghdad

John Simpson, 22 November 1990

... faded. We were left with a still photograph of date palms at sunset. ‘Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson’ was played by violins. It was time for the News. President Saddam Hussein would feature heavily in that, too. This is landscape I have explored before. Romanian Television used to call Nicolae Ceausescu ‘our bright morning star’ and ‘our ...


John Kerrigan, 13 October 1988

Archaic Figure 
by Amy Clampitt.
Faber, 113 pp., £4.95, February 1988, 0 571 15043 8
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by Grevel Lindop.
Carcanet, 95 pp., £6.95, July 1987, 0 85635 697 2
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Sleeping rough 
by Charles Boyle.
Carcanet, 64 pp., £5.95, November 1987, 0 85635 731 6
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This Other Life 
by Peter Robinson.
Carcanet, 96 pp., £5.95, April 1988, 0 85635 737 5
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In the Hot-House 
by Alan Jenkins.
Chatto, 60 pp., £4.95, May 1988, 0 7011 3312 0
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Monterey Cypress 
by Lachlan Mackinnon.
Chatto, 62 pp., £4.95, May 1988, 0 7011 3264 7
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My Darling Camel 
by Selima Hill.
Chatto, 64 pp., £4.95, May 1988, 0 7011 3286 8
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The Air Mines of Mistila 
by Philip Gross and Sylvia Kantaris.
Bloodaxe, 80 pp., £4.95, June 1988, 1 85224 055 5
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by Edward Kamau Brathwaite.
Oxford, 131 pp., £6.95, April 1988, 0 19 281987 9
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The Arkansas Testament 
by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 117 pp., £3.95, March 1988, 9780571149094
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... of experience, if only one of several made available by verse. To set Sleeping rough beside Peter Robinson’s latest recension, This Other Life, is to recover a sense of the depths which belong to places which exist then as well as there. Robinson’s fidelity to life’s temporal infrastructure, its recessive inward ...

East Hoathly makes a night of it

Marilyn Butler, 6 December 1984

The Diary of Thomas Turner 1754-1765 
edited by David Vaisey.
Oxford, 386 pp., £17.50, November 1984, 0 19 211782 3
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John Clare’s Autobiographical Writings 
edited by Eric Robinson.
Oxford, 185 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 19 211774 2
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John Clare: The Journals, Essays, and the Journey from Essex 
edited by Anne Tibble.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 85635 344 2
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The Natural History Prose Writings of John Clare 
edited by Margaret Grainger.
Oxford, 397 pp., £35, January 1984, 0 19 818517 0
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John Clare and the Folk Tradition 
by George Deacon.
Sinclair Browne, 397 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 86300 008 8
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... than is the wealthy Jeremiah French, just as he is more like a clergyman (and a primitive Christian) than the boisterous Mr Porter. Turner’s tart reactions to his betters are rather like those of an NCO observing the officer class; suppressed rancour jaundices his descriptions of social life in East Hoathly. His excellence as an observer derives ...

Smoking for England

Paul Foot, 5 July 1984

Smoke Ring: The Politics of Tobacco 
by Peter Taylor.
Bodley Head, 384 pp., £9.95, March 1984, 0 370 30513 2
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... spurred on by the medical profession, set out to curb the tobacco industry. They were Kenneth Robinson and David Owen (Labour) and Sir George Young (Tory). All three were routed. The hardest fighter of the three was Sir George Young. His determination to cut down, for instance, on tobacco’s sponsorship of sports made him unpopular in those parts of the ...

Turncoats and Opportunists

Alexandra Walsham: Francis Walsingham, 5 July 2012

The Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I 
by John Cooper.
Faber, 400 pp., £9.99, July 2012, 978 0 571 21827 1
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... as necessary concessions in a larger strategic game designed to defeat the forces of the anti-Christian papacy. Insisting that Walsingham followed his conscience when it came into conflict with his duty to queen and country, Cooper suggests that there are times when he resembles his predecessor as principal secretary, Thomas More, executed for refusing to ...

Child of Evangelism

James Wood, 3 October 1996

The Quest for God: A Personal Pilgrimage 
by Paul Johnson.
Weidenfeld, 216 pp., £14.99, March 1996, 0 297 81764 7
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Is There a God? 
by Richard Swinburne.
Oxford, 144 pp., £20, February 1996, 0 19 823544 5
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God in Us: A Case for Christian Humanism 
by Anthony Freeman.
SCM, 87 pp., £5.95, September 1993, 0 344 02538 1
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Robert Runcie: The Reluctant Archbishop 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Hodder, 401 pp., £20, October 1996, 0 340 57107 1
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... least attractive women in the congregation (at 13, this was important). The frondy dresses worn by Christian women in the late Seventies and the visionary intensity gave everything an odd resemblance to the film of Woodstock that I first saw at the age of 12 (Joe Cocker as rhapsode). I was disturbed at how many adults broke into tears during these ...

Flat-Nose, Stocky and Beautugly

James Davidson: Greek Names, 23 September 2010

A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. Vol. V.A Coastal Asia Minor: Pontos to Ionia 
edited by T. Corsten.
Oxford, 496 pp., £125, March 2010, 978 0 19 956743 0
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... of Elizabeths, Sarahs, Janes and variform Anns (Nancys, Nans and Hannahs), you would have the Christian names of something close to 80 per cent of the female population. There was a similar pattern with Johns. About one fifth of all males in the UK between 1800 and 1850 were christened John and the vast majority of the other men and boys around at the ...

But Stoney was Bold

Deborah Friedell: How Not to Marry if You’re a Millionaire, 26 February 2009

by Wendy Moore.
Weidenfeld, 359 pp., £18.99, January 2009, 978 0 297 85331 2
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... that nearly scans, about Saladin and his betrothed, the unfortunate Princess Erminia, who loves a Christian. Although Linnaean classifications were ‘too smutty’ for English women – all those reproductive organs – she was an ardent botanist, and sent expeditions to Africa, to bring back geraniums. While other bluestockings might have found themselves ...

Always the Bridesmaid

Terry Castle: Sappho, 30 September 1999

Victorian Sappho 
by Yopie Prins.
Princeton, 278 pp., £40, May 1999, 0 691 05918 7
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... During the Middle Ages both she and her work were largely forgotten. (According to one legend, the Christian patriarch Gregory of Nazianzos, offended by the licentiousness of her subject-matter, put her books to the torch in 380 AD.) Neither Dante nor Chaucer refers to her. Only with the recovery and translation of certain ancient texts in the Renaissance ...

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