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4 April 1991
A Traveller’s Alphabet: Partial Memoirs 
by Steven Runciman.
Thames and Hudson, 214 pp., £16.95, February 1991, 9780500015049
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... life’; and he is startled by a boy in the Philippines giving a remarkable performance as Lady Macbeth and showing ‘a quality of sinister ambition that was somewhat disquieting’. He relishes the expression on the faces of a group of Rotarians and their matrons watching a cabaret consisting of four boys and girls dancing naked, painted gilt and leering ...

Wholly Given Over to Thee

Anne Barton: Literary romance

2 December 2004
The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare 
by Helen Cooper.
Oxford, 560 pp., £65, June 2004, 0 19 924886 9
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... In George Peele’s Elizabethan play The Old Wives’ Tale, a character called Jack interrogates the ‘wandering knight’ Eumenides: ‘Are you not the man, sir (deny it if you can, sir) that came from a strange place in the land of Catita, where Jackanapes flies with his tail in his mouth, to seek out a lady as white as snow and as red as blood?’ Jack is dead ...
22 February 2001
Lectures on Shakespeare 
by W.H. Auden, edited by Arthur Kirsch.
Faber, 398 pp., £30, February 2001, 9780571207121
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... a law we consider unjust’, in Othello we can identify ‘two types of despair’. To understand Macbeth one must recognise ‘three classes of crime’ and ‘three kinds of societies’. The rhetoric of love may also be said to be of three kinds. Less schematic but not a bit less serious are disquisitions on such subjects as the Comic, which includes the ...

Differences

Frank Kermode

22 October 1992
The Jew’s Body 
by Sander Gilman.
Routledge, 303 pp., £10.99, September 1992, 0 415 90459 5
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Shylock: Four Hundred Years in the Life of a Legend 
by John Gross.
Chatto, 355 pp., £18, September 1992, 0 7011 3523 9
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Faultlines: Cultural Materialism and the Politics of Dissident Reading 
by Alan Sinfield.
Oxford, 365 pp., £27.50, September 1992, 0 19 811983 6
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... of a persecuted race; almost the only gentleman in the play, and the most ill-used’. The critic George Sampson rather acutely recommended that we distinguish between the plot and the play. Others saw as clearly that the elevation of Shylock to a figure of moral authority or tragic grandeur was at odds with the stereotypical element in the character, and the ...

Into Thin Air

Marina Warner: Science at the Séances

3 October 2002
The Invention of Telepathy 
by Roger Luckhurst.
Oxford, 334 pp., £35, June 2002, 0 19 924962 8
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... in psychology and literature. Pamela Thurschwell’s fine study of Henry James, Oscar Wilde and George du Maurier1 showed how profoundly the developments in ‘magical thinking’ reverberated in fiction and its portrayal of character and perception; and Malcolm Gaskill recently tackled, with amused brio, the life and times of the last of the materialising ...

We do it all the time

Michael Wood: Empson’s Intentions

4 February 2016
... is a moment​ in William Empson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity when he decides to linger in Macbeth’s mind. The future killer is trying to convince himself that murder might be not so bad a crime (for the criminal) if he could just get it over with. This is about as unreal as a thought could be, coming from a man who seems to have been plotting murder ...

The Powyses

D.A.N. Jones

7 August 1980
After My Fashion 
by John Cowper Powys.
Picador, 286 pp., £2.50, June 1980, 0 330 26049 9
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Weymouth Sands 
by John Cowper Powys.
Picador, 567 pp., £2.95, June 1980, 0 330 26050 2
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Recollections of the Powys Brothers 
edited by Belinda Humfrey.
Peter Owen, 288 pp., £9.95, May 1980, 0 7206 0547 4
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John Cowper Powys and David Jones: A Comparative Study 
by Jeremy Hooker.
Enitharmon, 54 pp., £3.75, April 1979, 0 901111 85 6
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The Hollowed-Out Elder Stalk 
by Roland Mathias.
Enitharmon, 158 pp., £4.85, May 1979, 0 901111 87 2
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John Cowper Powys and the Magical Quest 
by Morine Krissdottir.
Macdonald, 218 pp., £8.95, February 1980, 0 354 04492 3
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... Big guns (J. B. Priestley, G. Wilson Knight, George Steiner, Angus Wilson) have been booming the name of John Cowper Powys for many years, outraged that other big guns will not join the salute. In the first number of the Powys Review, in 1977, George Steiner blamed Dr Leavis for praising Theodore Francis Powys above John Cowper, thus denying J ...

Little Bastard

Patrick Collinson: Learning to be Queen

6 July 2000
Elizabeth: Apprenticeship 
by David Starkey.
Chatto, 339 pp., £20, April 2000, 0 7011 6939 7
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Elizabeth I: Collected Works 
edited by Leah Marcus and Janel Mueller.
Chicago, 436 pp., £25, September 2000, 0 226 50464 6
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... In a recent TV programme about King George VI, Peregrine Worsthorne commended his late sovereign for being a dull man, brains being the last thing the British constitution requires of a monarch. It was not always so. Whatever else has been said about the first Elizabeth (one recalls Sheridan’s ‘no scandal about Queen Elizabeth I hope?’) no one has ever complimented her on being dull ...

Diary

Elaine Showalter: On the Phi Beta Kappa Tour

10 March 1994
... fear to tread. Its president, the evangelist Bob Jones III, was starring in a production of Macbeth as ‘an ambitious man whose deliberate commitment to evil destroys him and his kingdom’. (According to Don, who had reviewed it for the local paper, the play was presented, not implausibly, as a story of demonic possession.) The Bob Jones campus looks ...

Exit Humbug

David Edgar: Theatrical Families

1 January 2009
A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and Their Remarkable Families 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 620 pp., £25, September 2008, 978 0 7011 7987 8
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... those characters move. So, when the 15-year-old Ellen Terry enters the artistic colony in which George Frederic Watts is to paint and later to marry her, the narrative voice becomes a prissy, late Victorian chorus: ‘The atmosphere was curiously liberal. Surely it was not quite fitting that the guests, whatever their rank, should be treated as models for ...
27 May 1993
Annie Besant: A Biography 
by Anne Taylor.
Oxford, 383 pp., £25, April 1992, 0 19 211796 3
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... three remarkable women of the century. But for another of her political companions of the 1880s, George Bernard Shaw, she was above all an actress. ‘She was successively a Puseyite Evangelical and Atheist Bible smasher, a Darwinian secularist, a Fabian socialist, a strike leader, and finally a Theosophist exactly as Mrs Siddons was a Lady ...

Eye-Catchers

Peter Campbell

4 December 1986
Survey of London: Vol. XLII. Southern Kensington: Kensington to Earls Court 
Athlone, 502 pp., £55, May 1986, 0 485 48242 8Show More
Follies: A National Trust Guide 
by Gwyn Headley and Wim Meulenkamp.
Cape, 564 pp., £15, June 1986, 0 224 02105 2
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The Botanists 
by David Elliston Allen.
St Paul’s Bibliographies, 232 pp., £15, May 1986, 0 906795 36 2
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British Art since 1900 
by Frances Spalding.
Thames and Hudson, 252 pp., £10.50, April 1986, 0 500 23457 4
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Paintings from Books: Art and Literature in Britain, 1760-1900 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 527 pp., £55, March 1986, 0 8142 0380 9
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History of the British Pig 
by John Wiseman.
Duckworth, 118 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 9780715619872
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... stores (Derry and Toms and Barkers) and the houses in Harrington and Collingham Gardens by George and Peto. The façades of the latter development suggest that the constituent buildings were, like those in the Flemish street front it resembles, ‘erected in casual but emulous sequence by individuals’. In fact, it was a speculation. Some of the ...

Porcupined

John Bayley

22 June 1989
The Essential Wyndham Lewis 
edited by Julian Symons.
Deutsch, 380 pp., £17.95, April 1989, 0 233 98376 7
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... wit in verse. After flowery and carefully euphonious Edwardian fine writing, the paragraphs of a George Moore or of Chesterton himself with his well-turned paradoxes, Lewis’s style – expressed by the apparent lack of any – might indeed have seemed the thing. ‘The style is not, as it looks, artless, but the product of careful design, devised as the ...

Italy Stirs

Adrian Lyttelton

22 June 1995
Mazzini 
by Denis Mack Smith.
Yale, 302 pp., £19.95, April 1994, 0 300 05884 5
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Verdi: A Biography 
by Mary Jane Phillips-Matz.
Oxford, 941 pp., £30, October 1993, 0 19 313204 4
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The Real Traviata 
by Gaia Servadio.
Hodder, 290 pp., £20, October 1994, 9780340579480
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... the two most important architects of the Versailles peace settlement, Woodrow Wilson and Lloyd George, both acknowledged Mazzini’s inspiration. According to Lloyd George, ‘the map of Europe as we see it today is the map of Joseph Mazzini. He was the prophet of free nationality ... He taught us not merely the rights ...

Sabotage

Gavin Millar

13 September 1990
Citizen Welles: A Biography of Orson Welles 
by Frank Brady.
Hodder, 655 pp., £18.95, January 1990, 0 340 51389 6
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If this was happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth 
by Barbara Leaming.
Weidenfeld, 312 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 297 79630 5
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Norma Shearer 
by Gavin Lambert.
Hodder, 381 pp., £17.95, August 1990, 0 340 52947 4
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Ava’s Men: The Private Life of Ava Gardner 
by Jane Ellen Wayne.
Robson, 268 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 86051 636 9
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Goldwyn: A Biography 
by Scott Berg.
Hamish Hamilton, 579 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 241 12832 3
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The Genius of the System: Hollywood Film-Making in the Studio Era 
by Thomas Schatz.
Simon and Schuster, 514 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 671 69708 0
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... himself. He was an enfant terrible in the theatre, with adaptations of Shakespeare, a negro Macbeth, a famous Mercury Julius Caesar and the banned The cradle will rock by Marc Blitzstein. The notorious radio production of The War of the Worlds and his epic compilation of Shakespeare’s History plays, Five Kings, convinced Hollywood that they wanted him ...

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