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The Restraint of Beasts 
by Magnus Mills.
Flamingo, 215 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 00 225720 3
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... of beasts was impossible.’ After McCrindle’s fence has been tightened, the company boss Donald sends the men on a job to a featureless area of Hereford and Worcester. Their days follow a pattern: they put up fences with numbing slowness, stop for cigarette breaks, eat, go to the pub and then retire to their dingy caravan. This procedure is ...

Other Poems and Other Poets

Donald Davie, 20 September 1984

Notes from New York, and Other Poems 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 64 pp., £4.50, March 1984, 0 19 211959 1
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The Cargo 
by Neil Rennie.
TNR Productions, 27 pp., January 1984
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Collected Poems 1943-1983 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 383 pp., £14.95, April 1984, 0 85635 498 8
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... cannot in honesty avoid sounding the note that gave such offence in Poetry and Metamorphosis. We read for instance that ‘Ungaretti, pulling against the current of d’Annunzian heroics, attempted in his early work something similar to that reconstitution of the strength of the syllable and the short verse line such as one finds in Pound and Williams ...

Fallen Language

Donald Davie, 21 June 1984

The Lords of Limit: Essays on Literature and Ideas 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Deutsch, 203 pp., £12.95, May 1984, 0 233 97581 0
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... of these essays in The Lords of Limit were originally given as lectures – if they are hard to read, what must they have been like to listen to! Hill, however, won’t compromise. In one essay here he excuses, he almost applauds, the Victorian philosopher T.H. Green for being, as a lecturer, perplexed and perplexing. And in another, which doesn’t ...

In praise of manly piety

Margaret Anne Doody, 9 June 1994

The 18th-Century Hymn in England 
by Donald Davie.
Cambridge, 167 pp., £27.95, October 1993, 0 521 38168 1
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... Donald Davie is already known for – among many other things – his striking comments on the hymns of Watts and Wesley in A Gathered Church: The Literature of the English Dissenting Interest 1700-1930 (1978). Now he has devoted an entire book to the hymn in 18th-century England – or rather, as the title indicates, he is trying to define a specific genre or set of modes and tones that constitute ‘the 18th-century hymn ...

Where mine is at

Gordon Burn, 28 May 1992

Outerbridge Reach 
by Robert Stone.
Deutsch, 409 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 223 98774 3
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... adventurer searching out the furthermost reaches of life. But to anybody familiar with the case of Donald Crowhurst and, more particularly, with The Strange Voyage of Donald Crowhurst by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall, published in 1970, Stone’s book raises increasingly uncomfortable questions about when fair use of ...

A Short History of the Trump Family

Sidney Blumenthal: The First Family, 16 February 2017

... The​ most enduring blight left behind by Donald Trump, long after he has smashed things up, will be the pile of books devoted to trying to make sense of him. It will grow after investigative journalists have spent years diving for hidden records, exploring subterranean corporations and foreign partners but never reaching the dark ocean bottom ...

Second Chances

Donald Davie, 22 July 1993

Collected Poems 
by Patricia Beer.
Carcanet, 216 pp., £18.95, July 1990, 9780856357886
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Friend of Heraclitus 
by Patricia Beer.
Carcanet, 59 pp., £6.95, March 1993, 1 85754 026 3
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... poems she’d written since, it turned out that the early poem was the only one any of them had read, and this because it was the one that their tutor, who was present, had photocopied from an anthology and distributed among them. Such things happen on the reading-circuit, as I can attest. And one marvels at what authors will put up with for the sake of a ...

Browning and Modernism

Donald Davie, 10 October 1991

The Poems of Browning. Vol. I: 1826-1840 
edited by John Woolford and Daniel Karlin.
Longman, 797 pp., £60, April 1991, 0 582 48100 7
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The Poems of Browning. Vol. II: 1841-1846 
edited by John Woolford and Daniel Karlin .
Longman, 581 pp., £50, April 1991, 9780582063990
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... Rabelais, the point that is being made. The far from Rabelaisian texts that Browning subsequently read – David Strauss’s and Renan’s Lives of Jesus, for instance – are more to the taste of A.S. Byatt, but they supplied the poet with no comparable occasions for displaying the exuberance of artifice. Moreover this art, pushed so intransigently under our ...


Donald Davie, 20 May 1982

In Defence of the Imagination 
by Helen Gardner.
Oxford, 197 pp., £12.50, February 1982, 0 19 812639 5
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... him as the only check on the theoretically infinite number of meanings that, in his view, can be read out of any given text. One such institution, plainly, is the Church; another, he argues, is the university, or, at any given time in relation to any given discipline, ‘the academic community’. In her rejoinder Helen Gardner resumes her tone as the ...


Mark Ford: Donald Justice, 16 November 2006

Collected Poems 
by Donald Justice.
Anvil, 289 pp., £15, June 2006, 0 85646 386 8
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... Donald Justice, who died in August 2004 at the age of 78, was one of the most subtle and enchanting American poets of his generation. In ‘Variations on a text by Vallejo’, a poem anticipating his own demise, but written some three decades before it, he pictured gravediggers burying him in Miami (his home town): And one of them put his blade into the earth To lift a few clods of dirt, the black marl of Miami, And scattered the dirt, and spat, Turning away abruptly, out of respect ...


Donald Davie, 2 February 1984

A World of Difference 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.95, June 1983, 0 7011 2693 0
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... conceptualising, he never lost touch with sensuous perception. In ‘Nude in a Fountain’ we read: Light perches, preening, on the handle of a pram And gasps on paths and runs along a rail And whitely, brightly in a soft diffusion Veils and unveils the naked figure, pale As marble in her stone and stilled confusion. In such lines, where the abstraction ...

Humming, Gurgling and Whistling

Donald MacKenzie, 11 December 1997

Engineering the Revolution: Arms and Enlightenment in France, 1763-1815 
by Ken Alder.
Princeton, 494 pp., £45, April 1997, 0 691 02671 8
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... break the narrative flow. Nevertheless, Engineering the Revolution is a triumph. It deserves to be read widely, and not just as an inquiry into the origins of modern France, with its distinctive combination of capitalism, relatively small-scale production, and state-led technocracy. As Alder says, ‘until we understand the development of science and ...

What’s in the bottle?

Donald MacKenzie: The Science Wars Revisited, 9 May 2002

The One Culture? A Conversation about Science 
edited by Jay Labinger and Harry Collins.
Chicago, 329 pp., £41, August 2001, 0 226 46722 8
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... each other, not assessing or criticising each other’s work, not building on it. If they even read each other, they would have to do so indiscriminately and thus inefficiently, for they couldn’t draw on the social knowledge that tells them which authors are worth reading and which are cranks, whose results can be relied on and whose should be viewed ...


Ian Sansom: D.J. Enright, 25 September 2003

Injury Time: A Memoir 
by D.J. Enright.
Pimlico, 183 pp., £12.50, May 2003, 9781844133154
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... be sad? Should we be bothered? Writing in the LRB just over twenty years ago, the near-omniscient Donald Davie pre-empted these questions and delivered a cruel judgment. Davie was reviewing Enright’s Collected Poems, and was both pertinent and impertinent in his comments, a combination characteristic both of petty gods and of literary critics trained in the ...


Michael Rogin, 13 October 1988

Guts and Glory: The Rise and Fall of Oliver North 
by Ben Bradlee.
Grafton, 572 pp., £14.95, September 1988, 0 246 13364 3
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For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington 
by Donald Regan.
Hutchinson, 397 pp., £16.95, June 1988, 0 09 173622 6
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... to carry out Presidential desires and protect the President from responsibility for them. Donald Regan does not remember ever meeting Oliver North; he is certain they were never alone together. That is because the compartmentalised Reagan White House not only separated domestic policy (the responsibility of the Chief of Staff) from foreign affairs ...

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