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John Bayley: Serious Novels, 10 November 1994

... boat, the Ardent Spirit. When James gently but none the less patronisingly dismissed Jane Austen as ‘knowing no more of her process than the brown bird that sings on the orchard bough’, he forgot or ignored the fact that a highly skilled and instinctive artist may know very little about how his task came to be chosen, but a very great deal ...

Reading the Bible

John Barton, 5 May 1988

The Literary Guide to the Bible 
edited by Robert Alter and Frank Kermode.
Collins, 678 pp., £20, December 1987, 0 00 217439 1
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... some theologians in the Fifties to works such as The Bible Designed to be Read as Literature: C.S. Lewis, for example, condemned ‘merely aesthetic’ interpretation of the Bible as a way of dodging its religious claims. But Lewis was not a Biblical scholar, and it would be hard to find a single example of anyone engaged in ...

What does she think she looks like?

Rosemary Hill: The Dress in Your Head, 5 April 2018

... really change in 1910. Looking back there are two significant lines of descent. On the one hand is Jane Austen, who certainly cared about clothes and talked about them in her letters, but who is interestingly uninterested in them in her novels; more than that, she is positively hostile. Women who talk about clothes mark themselves out as stupid, vulgar or ...

Where are all the people?

Owen Hatherley: Jane Jacobs, 27 July 2017

Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs 
by Robert Kanigel.
Knopf, 512 pp., £34, September 2016, 978 0 307 96190 7
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Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs 
edited by Samuel Zipp and Nathan Storring.
Random House, 544 pp., £16.99, October 2016, 978 0 399 58960 7
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... interests of real estate and cash-poor councils were taken into consideration, and that reason is: Jane Jacobs says no. This injunction can be traced back to the epiphany Jacobs experienced as a freelance journalist in Philadelphia in the mid-1950s when she visited new housing estates and old ‘slums’ with the city planner Edmund Bacon. Up to that ...

Beau Beverley

George Melly, 27 June 1991

Beverley Nichols 
by Bryan Connon.
Constable, 320 pp., £20, March 1991, 0 09 470570 4
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... victim to the enemies of promise. I fear he will never be found, as hoped, ‘on the same shelf as Jane Austen, Mrs Gaskell, Hazlitt and Lewis Carroll’. He was quite lucky in life, though. He employed for many years a faithful manservant and outstanding cook called Reginald Gaskin, a kind of gay Jeeves. There was also ...

It’s a Knock-Out

Tom Nairn, 27 May 1993

The Spirit of the Age: An Account of Our Times 
by David Selbourne.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 388 pp., £20, February 1993, 1 85619 204 0
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... about. As rewritten for John Major’s times, England’s epic is all regression. Gilgamesh is Lewis Carroll in disguise: the Queen of Hearts raves uninterruptedly through 11 sanguinary, doom-sodden chapters, then at the end Alice pops out and tells everybody to behave. Where does Selbourne’s stance fit in relation to ongoing international debates about ...


Jay Griffiths: Protesting at Fairmile, 8 May 1997

... climbs a tree to protect it from chainsaws. Theo at Fairmile a few months ago wore a composite Lewis Carroll creation, a mushroom with a Mad Hatter’s hat, and a caterpillar snaking round his body. Ex-circus performers Rosie and Emma perform their tricky arts on the walkways. ‘Protesters are artists,’ says Ratty, a tunneller, ‘trying to make this ...

Oh for the oo tray

William Feaver: Edward Burra, 13 December 2007

Edward Burra: Twentieth-Century Eye 
by Jane Stevenson.
Cape, 496 pp., £30, November 2007, 978 0 224 07875 7
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... good, he found, for grandiose magic lantern effects. Presumably it was decided early on by Jane Stevenson or Cape (perhaps both) that, given the wealth of filmed interviews, surviving correspondence with racy friends and the ever interesting state of his health tested by remarkably extensive travels, Edward Burra: Twentieth-Century Eye could be ...

No Shortage of Cousins

David Trotter: Bowenology, 12 August 2021

Selected Stories 
by Elizabeth Bowen, edited by Tessa Hadley.
Vintage, 320 pp., £14.99, April, 978 1 78487 715 6
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The Hotel 
by Elizabeth Bowen.
Anchor, 256 pp., $16, August 2020, 978 0 593 08065 8
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Friends and Relations 
by Elizabeth Bowen.
Anchor, 224 pp., $16, August 2020, 978 0 593 08067 2
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... Danby, an illegitimate cousin. Fred truculently farms the estate. He and Lilia have two children, Jane and Maud. Cousins, of course, bring with them a plentiful supply of aunts and uncles. Nothing could have done more to convince us that the formidable Lady Waters will play a decisive role in the lives of the protagonists of To the North (1932) than the ...

Short Cuts

Richard J. Evans: Rewritten History, 2 December 2021

... Matter supporters’. The Telegraph, the Express and the Daily Mail all reported that displays at Jane Austen’s house in Chawton would carry out ‘historical interrogation’ of ‘Austen’s tea drinking’ and its links to slavery. This, the papers solemnly declared, was ‘woke madness’. In fact, Austen’s father was a trustee of an Antigua sugar ...

That’s what Wystan says

Seamus Perry, 10 May 2018

Early Auden, Later Auden: A Critical Biography 
by Edward Mendelson.
Princeton, 912 pp., £27.95, May 2017, 978 0 691 17249 1
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... the face was captured by some remarkable photographers, including Cecil Beaton, Richard Avedon and Jane Bown, and a string of artists. The vigorous scribble of Feliks Topolski naturally found him a good subject, as did the heroic sculptural instincts of Henry Moore, who drew Auden’s skin from memory on hearing of his death – ‘the monumental ruggedness of ...

Lily and Lolly

Sarah Rigby, 18 July 1996

The Yeats Sisters: A Biography of Susan and Elizabeth Yeats 
by Joan Hardwick.
Pandora, 263 pp., £8.99, January 1996, 0 04 440924 9
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... by croup. In 1874 John Yeats took his family away from the Pollexfens to London. A sixth child, Jane, was born the following year, on Jack’s fourth birthday, but died within months. Five years later, when money was very short, Jack was sent to Sligo, to be brought up by his grandparents. When Susan Yeats died on 3 January 1900, her daughters were in their ...

The Ramsey Effect

Kieran Setiya, 18 February 2021

Frank Ramsey: A Sheer Excess of Powers 
by Cheryl Misak.
Oxford, 500 pp., £25, February 2020, 978 0 19 875535 7
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... Ramsey’s, one shared with Keynes. In philosophy: Ramsey sentences, the Ramsey test, the Ramsey-Lewis theory of reference, and the Mill-Ramsey-Lewis account of natural laws. Many of his ideas were so groundbreaking that they were taken up in earnest only decades later. This phenomenon has also been named after him: the ...

Horrid Mutilation! Read all about it!

Richard Davenport-Hines: Jack the Ripper and the London Press by Perry Curtis, 4 April 2002

Jack the Ripper and the London Press 
by Perry Curtis.
Yale, 354 pp., £25, February 2002, 0 300 08872 8
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... The inquest on Charles Bravo in 1876 lasted a month and provided his parents’ solicitor, George Lewis, with the national celebrity which made him the upper classes’ favourite, and most expensive, legal confidant. In 1865, Sir James Willes wept as he sentenced Constance Kent to death for suffocating her little brother and hiding his body in the vault of an ...

Wallpaper and Barricades

Terry Eagleton, 23 February 1995

William Morris: A Life for Our Time 
by Fiona MacCarthy.
Faber, 780 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 571 14250 8
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... English literature, radical reactionaries to a man (Yeats, Eliot, Pound, Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis) though not, as it happens, to a Bloomsbury woman. The advent of William Morris was the point where this ambiguous lineage finally joined the modern world. Morris was of course quite as much a neo-medievalist as Carlyle or Ruskin; but his achievement was to ...

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