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Hero as Hero

Tobias Gregory: Milton’s Terrorist

6 March 2008
Why Milton Matters: A New Preface to His Writings 
by Joseph Wittreich.
Palgrave, 253 pp., £37.99, March 2008, 978 1 4039 7229 3
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... the greatest English poet whom it is possible for serious readers to dislike. There are no fans of Marlowe, Jonson or Webster who cannot also find pleasure in Shakespeare; there are no admirers of Piers Plowman or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight who cannot also appreciate The Canterbury Tales. But it is not hard to find enthusiastic readers of Marvell or ...

Lost in Beauty

Michael Newton: Montgomery Clift

7 October 2010
The Passion of Montgomery Clift 
by Amy Lawrence.
California, 333 pp., £16.95, May 2010, 978 0 520 26047 4
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... also a long-standing American paradigm, from Natty Bumppo to the Ringo Kid, from Captain Ahab to Marlowe; in this sense, Clift’s type was just the latest variant on a character already dear to Hollywood. Indeed, as Lawrence remarks, in the first half of his career Clift’s generational struggle was as much about fitting in as rebelling; he was a defiant ...

Cold Feet

Frank Kermode

22 July 1993
Essays on Renaissance Literature. Vol. I: Donne and the New Philosophy 
by William Empson, edited by John Haffenden.
Cambridge, 296 pp., £35, March 1993, 0 521 44043 2
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William Empson: The Critical Achievement 
edited by Chistopher Norris and Nigel Mapp.
Cambridge, 319 pp., £35, March 1993, 0 521 35386 6
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... work hitherto much less influential than the very early (and prodigious) Seven Types of Ambiguity. Christopher Norris comes right out and calls Complex Words ‘a work of deconstruction’. His collection is meant to demonstrate that Empson can be accommodated in modern theory. It can now be shown that he was in many ways anticipating the interests and ...

Forget the Dylai Lama

Thomas Jones: Bob Dylan

6 November 2003
Dylan's Visions of Sin 
by Christopher Ricks.
Viking, 517 pp., £25, October 2003, 9780670801336
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... forms of criticism. Among the most deep and distinguished of this last kind of interpreter is Christopher Ricks, whose previous books include Milton’s Grand Style, Keats and Embarrassment, T.S. Eliot and Prejudice and Beckett’s Dying Words. Dylan’s Visions of Sin is the culmination of at least three decades’ critical engagement with the songs of ...

Old Dad dead?

Michael Neill: Thomas Middleton

4 December 2008
Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works 
edited by Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino.
Oxford, 2016 pp., £85, November 2007, 978 0 19 818569 7
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Thomas Middleton and Early Modern Textual Culture: A Companion to the Collected Works 
edited by Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino.
Oxford, 1183 pp., £100, November 2007, 978 0 19 818570 3
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... for the King’s Men, John Fletcher, the sentimental doyen of romantic tragicomedy. After Marlowe, Middleton had perhaps the most arrestingly individual voice among Shakespeare’s contemporaries; yet whether it is just (or even helpful) to claim for him the title of ‘our other Shakespeare’ is a question this edition repeatedly forces us to ...
7 May 1981
... he and some of his colleagues have developed on the characteristics of books they haven’t read. Christopher Booker did a rather similar job, informing us that ‘I have never read The Road to Oxiana,’ and then telling us his opinion of it, in a recent review of Paul Fussell’s Abroad.By an amiable irony, the same issue of the Spectator which contains ...
15 September 1988
In for a Penny: The Unauthorised Biography of Jeffrey Archer 
by Jonathan Mantle.
Hamish Hamilton, 264 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 241 12478 6
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... therefore, needs to be a Heinrich Schliemann in the cuttings libraries, as well as a Philip Marlowe of the Army List and old postal directories. Archer’s father presents the first difficulty. Mantle tells us that he died in Weston-super-Mare in 1955, when Archer was 15: but who was he and what did he do? Newspaper interviews with Archer offer a ...

No reason for not asking

Adam Phillips: Empson’s War on God

3 August 2006
Selected Letters of William Empson 
edited by John Haffenden.
Oxford, 729 pp., £40, March 2006, 0 19 928684 1
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... promoted. The writers whom he valued, and who crop up most often in these letters (Shakespeare, Marlowe, Herbert, Donne, Marvell, Fielding, Coleridge, Joyce, Orwell, Dylan Thomas), had in his view found ways to resist religious conformity (religion and politics for Empson are virtually inextricable from each other). They give voice to the personal conflicts ...

I want to love it

Susan Pedersen: What on earth was he doing?

18 April 2019
Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History 
by Richard J. Evans.
Little, Brown, 800 pp., £35, February 2019, 978 1 4087 0741 8
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... Fletcher, Chapman, Chekhov, Dekker, Dryden, Ford, Heywood, Jonson, Marston, Massinger, Middleton, Marlowe, O’Neill, Sophocles, Strindberg and Webster; in March he went on to Coleridge, Chaucer, Fielding and Petronius, and then had a go at Proust, Mann, Boswell and David Hume. He took a turn through French literature then doubled back to the English ...

Poor Dear, How She Figures!

Alan Hollinghurst: Forster and His Mother

3 January 2013
The Journals and Diaries of E.M. Forster Volumes I-III 
edited by Philip Gardner.
Pickering and Chatto, 813 pp., £275, February 2011, 978 1 84893 114 5
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... 1923. It’s like Isherwood’s retrospective marvelling, as he sets off to America at the end of Christopher and His Kind, at the unknown future and the unknown life partner who await him: ‘He will be near you for many years without your meeting. But it would be no good if you did meet him now. At present, he is only four years old.’ Forster seems never ...

Something Rather Scandalous

Jean McNicol: The Loves of Rupert Brooke

19 October 2016
Rupert Brooke: Life, Death and Myth 
by Nigel Jones.
Head of Zeus, 588 pp., £12, April 2015, 978 1 78185 703 8
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Fatal Glamour: The Life of Rupert Brooke 
by Paul Delany.
McGill-Queen’s, 380 pp., £28.99, March 2015, 978 0 7735 4557 1
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The Second I Saw You: The True Love Story of Rupert Brooke and Phyllis Gardner 
by Lorna C. Beckett.
British Library, 216 pp., £16.99, April 2015, 978 0 7123 5792 0
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... one of the other trustees, complained that even Keynes’s version was insufficiently sanitised. Christopher Hassall was asked to write the authorised biography in part because, as Nigel Jones notes in his own biography of Brooke, Hassall’s lengthy Life of Eddie Marsh had managed ‘to avoid the topic of his subject’s homosexuality’ and he could ...

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