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Brave as hell

John Kerrigan, 21 June 1984

Enderby’s Dark Lady, or No End to Enderby 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 160 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 09 156050 0
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Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Modern Edition 
edited by A.L. Rowse.
Macmillan, 311 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 333 36386 8
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... another instinct. Scott knew that the poet had been a child during Leicester’s courtship of Elizabeth, but he chose to ignore it for the sake of romance. Once Shakespeare became a character, a romantic hero like Rob Roy, known facts were suddenly flexible. Apocryphal episodes like the deer-stealing became, in the wake of Scott, not a means of ...


Mark Ford: Love and Theft, 2 December 2004

... documentary element in much late Modernist American writing, and epics such as William Carlos Williams’s Paterson or Charles Olson’s Maximus Poems (set in Gloucester, Massachusetts) are in essence enormous collages that attempt to capture the spirit of a place by combining memoirs, histories, town records, overheard scraps of speech, newspaper ...

Dazzling Philosophy

Michael Hofmann, 15 August 1991

Seeing things 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 113 pp., £12.99, June 1991, 0 571 14468 3
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... new poems, is aimed squarely at transcendence. The title has a humble and practical William Carlos Williams ring to it, but that is misleading. It is better understood as having been distilled from ‘I must be seeing things’, said seriously, and with a fair amount of stress on the ‘I must’. The greatest difficulty for the poet is how to go on being ...


C.H. Sisson, 22 February 1990

C.S. Lewis: A Biography 
by A.N. Wilson.
Collins, 334 pp., £15, February 1990, 0 00 215137 5
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... the collection of memorabilia of such Christian writers as George MacDonald, T.S. Eliot, Charles Williams and Tolkien. It is evidence of some sort of fame. A.N. Wilson sees ‘unmistakable and remarkable evidence of something like sanctification which occurred in him towards the end of his days’, but that I do not pretend to be able to judge.Wilson himself ...

How much?

Ian Hamilton: Literary pay and literary prizes, 18 June 1998

Guide to Literary Prizes, 1998 
edited by Huw Molseed.
Book Trust, 38 pp., £3.99, May 1998, 0 85353 475 6
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The Cost of Letters: A Survey of Literary Living Standards 
edited by Andrew Holgate and Honor Wilson-Fletcher.
W Magazine, 208 pp., £2, May 1998, 0 9527405 9 1
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... he trumpeted. ‘He is merely the first. It is the restart of civilisation.’ William Carlos Williams, working fairly happily as a doctor in New Jersey, was to be Pound’s second escapee. Marianne Moore might be his third. At one stage, he envisaged annual liberations – assuming, of course, that a sufficient supply of stifled talent was available. The ...

To Stir up the People

John Barrell: Pitt’s Reign of Alarm, 23 January 2014

Unusual Suspects: Pitt’s Reign of Alarm and the Lost Generation of the 1790s 
by Kenneth Johnston.
Oxford, 376 pp., £30, July 2013, 978 0 19 965780 3
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... Priestley, were veterans of public discussion; others, like William Godwin, Coleridge, Helen Maria Williams and James Montgomery, were just setting out on careers that promised extraordinary achievements. They are unusual suspects because they were not organisers and activists, orators and pamphleteers who urged direct action in support of reform, or who set ...

New Women

Patricia Beer, 17 July 1980

The Odd Women 
by George Gissing.
Virago, 336 pp., £2.50, May 1980, 0 86068 140 8
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The Beth Book 
by Sarah Grand.
Virago, 527 pp., £3.50, January 1980, 0 86068 088 6
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... of independence, reasonable hours and professionalism. The day of the comic female clerk, like Elizabeth Gaskell’s Miss Galindo, is, of course, for the New Woman, in the dark past. Monica does not finish the course; it was absurd to talk to her about business. She makes a rash marriage, which turns out disastrously. The moral of the Maddens is that not ...

Soldier, Sailor, Poacher

E.S. Turner, 3 October 1985

Great Britons: 20th-Century Lives 
by Harold Oxbury.
Oxford, 371 pp., £14.95, September 1985, 0 19 211599 5
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The Oxford Book of Military Anecdotes 
edited by Max Hastings.
Oxford, 514 pp., £9.50, October 1985, 0 19 214107 4
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The Long Affray: The Poaching Wars in Britain 
by Harry Hopkins.
Secker, 344 pp., £12.95, August 1985, 9780436201028
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... and De Valera. The subtitle ‘20th-century Lives’ does not disqualify a Great Victorian like Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, who was born in 1836 and in 1873 became the first woman member of the British Medical Association (she died in 1917). Harold Oxbury is principal editor of the Concise Dictionary of National Biography 1901-1970 and it is from the parent ...

In Coleridge’s Bed

Ange Mlinko: Dead Poets Road Trip, 20 April 2017

Deaths of the Poets 
by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts.
Cape, 414 pp., £14.99, February 2017, 978 0 224 09754 3
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... winter for years’); the frequent cut-away for exposition or meditation (‘The late Robin Williams, in his role as the inspirational English teacher in Dead Poets Society, has his pupils gather round a faded photo… “Carpe diem, boys”’), then the cutting back; the cameos (‘At the junction of Fitzroy Road and Chalcot Road we meet the poet Jo ...

Elegy for Gurney

Sarah Howe: Robert Edric, 4 December 2008

In Zodiac Light 
by Robert Edric.
Doubleday, 368 pp., £16.99, July 2008, 978 0 385 61258 6
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... tailor. He won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in 1911 and studied under Vaughan Williams, who recognised the genius of his early song-settings. Gurney’s mental instability was already apparent when war interrupted his studies. He served as a private in France and wrote his first volume of poems before being wounded, gassed and finally sent ...

Placing Leavis

Geoffrey Hartman, 24 January 1985

The Leavises: Recollections and Impressions 
edited by Denys Thompson.
Cambridge, 207 pp., £15, October 1984, 0 521 25494 9
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The Social Mission of English Criticism: 1848-1932 
by Chris Baldick.
Oxford, 264 pp., £19.50, August 1983, 0 19 812821 5
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Radical Earnestness: English Social Theory 1880-1980 
by Fred Inglis.
Robertson, 253 pp., £16.50, November 1982, 0 85520 328 5
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The Critic as Anti-Philosopher: Essays and Papers by F.R. Leavis 
edited by G. Singh.
Chatto, 208 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 7011 2644 2
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... supervisions and classes? Or simply record – reconstruct – his talk? One exception is Raymond Williams, who did not meet him till 1961. ‘I have never known a social situation in which a group seemed so obsessed by one man,’ he remarks of Cambridge. Even Williams can describe only Leavis’s behaviour in the ...

By the Width of a Street

Christopher Prendergast: Literary geography, 29 October 1998

An Atlas of the European Novel 1800-1900 
by Franco Moretti.
Verso, 206 pp., £16, August 1998, 1 85984 883 4
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... geopolitical reality of the nation-state’. In Austen’s world ‘local gentry’ (Elizabeth Bennet) marries into the ‘national élite’ (Darcy) and, through that transaction, what in Northanger Abbey Austen calls ‘the central part of England’ comes to serve as a metonym for ‘England’ tout court. The maps are designed to shed light ...

A House Full of No One

Colm Tóibín, 6 February 1997

Heaven’s Coast: A Memoir 
by Mark Doty.
Cape, 305 pp., £16.99, October 1996, 0 224 04390 0
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by Mark Doty.
Cape, 95 pp., £7, July 1996, 0 224 04400 1
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This Wild Darkness: The Story of My Death 
by Harold Brodkey.
Fourth Estate, 177 pp., £14.99, November 1996, 1 85702 546 6
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PWA: Looking Aids in the Face 
by Oscar Moore.
Picador, 185 pp., £6.99, November 1996, 0 330 35193 1
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... tide.’) The echoes of early Lowell and Keats and the Old Testament have given way to echoes of Elizabeth Bishop and William Carlos Williams. (In one poem, ‘Grosse Fuge’, perhaps the least successful in Atlantis, there are direct references to lines from Bishop and Williams.) Some ...

A Resonance for William Styron

Gabriele Annan, 7 November 1985

Savage Grace 
by Natalie Robins and Steven Aronson.
Gollancz, 473 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 575 03738 5
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... bouts of violence and religious mania. At times ‘the combined efforts of de Sade and Tennessee Williams couldn’t have done justice’ to the scene. Tony attacked Barbara (and her mother) several times before he killed her. Unfortunately fearlessness was her outstanding virtue. The last act of the tragedy in New York would not have happened if Tony had ...

On Robert Silvers

Andrew O’Hagan: Remembering Robert Silvers, 20 April 2017

... and before I even read the piece I felt victorious, because the issue opened with an essay by Elizabeth Hardwick. The glamour of the moment was helped when Barbara Epstein came to my party at the Old Town Bar. She walked in clutching a copy of the paper and proceeded to smoke all my cigarettes, speaking about Lizzie and Wystan and how a good piece was ...

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