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How peculiar it is

Rosemary Hill: Gorey’s Glories, 3 June 2021

Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey 
by Mark Dery.
William Collins, 512 pp., £9.99, October 2020, 978 0 00 832984 6
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... series of unseasonal scenes includes three children discovering Father strangled with a Christmas stocking. Gorey was, however, fond of his cousins, Elizabeth and Eleanor Garvey, and cousinship was perhaps the degree of separation he found most palatable. Cousins often feature in his stories and tend to come off better than parents or siblings. The ...

Some Sad Turtle

Alison Light: Spinsters and Clerics, 29 July 2021

The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym: A Biography 
by Paula Byrne.
William Collins, 686 pp., £25, April, 978 0 00 832220 5
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... glass of blessings’ – the title of the novel she appears in. (The quotation is borrowed from George Herbert, one of Pym’s favourite poets.) Gently mocking self-love, Pym’s novels find redemption in commonplace pleasures – though without sanctimony. ‘The trivial round, the common task,’ Belinda repeats from Keble’s hymn ‘New Every Morning Is ...

Seductress Extraordinaire

Terry Castle: The vampiric Mercedes de Acosta, 24 June 2004

‘That Furious Lesbian’: The Story of Mercedes de Acosta 
by Robert Schanke.
Southern Illinois, 210 pp., £16.95, June 2004, 0 8093 2579 9
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Women in Turmoil: Six Plays 
by Mercedes de Acosta, edited by Robert Schanke.
Southern Illinois, 252 pp., £26.95, June 2003, 0 8093 2509 8
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... on, fairly cynically, with Leopold Stokowski, Cecil Beaton, the director Rouben Mamoulian, and George Schlee, the husband of her dress designer. De Acosta was reduced to trundling around the world in Garbo’s wake, waiting for the phone to ring. Every now and then Garbo would send her – without explanation – moronic cartoons clipped out of the ...

A Man with My Trouble

Colm Tóibín: Henry James leaves home, 3 January 2008

The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1855-72: Volume I 
edited by Pierre Walker and Greg Zacharias.
Nebraska, 391 pp., £57, January 2007, 978 0 8032 2584 8
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The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1855-72: Volume II 
edited by Pierre Walker and Greg Zacharias.
Nebraska, 524 pp., £60, January 2007, 978 0 8032 2607 4
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... of letters, having paid close attention to the published correspondence of Balzac, Flaubert and George Sand, and alert to the power of editors. After reading Sidney Colvin’s edition of the letters of his friend Robert Louis Stevenson, he wrote: ‘One has the vague sense of omissions and truncations – one smells the thing unprinted.’ In the years ...

Velvet Gentleman

Nick Richardson: Erik Satie, 4 June 2015

A Mammal’s Notebook: The Writings of Erik Satie 
edited by Ornella Volta, translated by Antony Melville.
Atlas, 224 pp., £17.50, June 2014, 978 1 900565 66 0
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... tucked under his arm, and staggering back in the small hours. According to another friend, George Auriol, he carried a hammer in his pocket for protection as he crossed the bandit-ridden stretch between Glacière and La Santé. Friends would sometimes accompany him and Satie would entertain them with his knowledge of Parisian history. Pierre-Daniel ...

Walk on by

Andrew O’Hagan, 18 November 1993

... George Baroli and I were soaked to the skin. We sat on a wooden bench in the rain, a green bottle of sherry sat between us. George stared straight ahead most of the time, tilting the bottle up to his mouth with both hands, getting it into position, holding it there, and breathing through his nose ...

Maurice Thomson’s War

Perry Anderson, 4 November 1993

Merchants and Revolution: Commercial Change, Political Conflict and London’s Overseas Traders 1550-1653 
by Robert Brenner.
Cambridge, 734 pp., £40, March 1993, 0 521 37319 0
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The Nature of the English Revolution 
by John Morrill.
Longman, 466 pp., £32, June 1993, 0 582 08941 7
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... followed. By the 1640s, Thomson and his associates were planting Barbados with sugar, and stocking it with slaves from West Africa. Soon they were embarking on another huge arc of operations, breaking into the chasses gardées of the Old World, with voyages to the Guinea Coast and then schemes for bases in Madagascar and the Celebes. On the eve of the ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2000, 25 January 2001

... scheme, displaying them with the relish of a beggar on the streets of Calcutta. In her body-stocking and headband she looks like a downtrodden Beatrice Lillie. 19 February. ‘Police killing was lawful,’ says inquest. What police killing isn’t? I can’t recall any that has been censured and none certainly without the policeman concerned being ...

The End of British Farming

Andrew O’Hagan: British farming, 22 March 2001

... I asked him to tell me about his family history a glint appeared in Jim’s eye. ‘My grandfather George was born in 1860,’ he said, ‘and he worked as a butcher and a restaurant owner up in London, near St Paul’s. My father was Arch Fordham and he started a farm in Berkshire, but my mother, Elsie, who was born in 1901, her family was called ...

A New Kind of Being

Jenny Turner: Angela Carter, 3 November 2016

The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography 
by Edmund Gordon.
Chatto, 544 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 7011 8755 2
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... she grudgingly conceded was English literature’s greatest modern writer as well as its biggest stocking fetishist, as outlined in ‘Lorenzo the Closet Queen’, her brilliant essay on Lawrence and lingerie with special attention to Women in Love.) Pornography, as Sage writes, was not the only sort of ‘practical fantasy’ that engaged Carter at this ...

In the Egosphere

Adam Mars-Jones: The Plot against Roth, 23 January 2014

Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books 
by Claudia Roth Pierpont.
Cape, 353 pp., £25, January 2014, 978 0 224 09903 5
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... pardons the renegade. In 2003 Lenny Bruce received a posthumous pardon for his conviction from George Pataki, then governor of New York. And in 2005 the Library of America started publishing Roth’s work in a uniform edition. It wasn’t the first time a living author’s work had been honoured in this way: Eudora Welty and Saul Bellow went before ...

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