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Odd Union

David Cannadine, 20 October 1994

Mrs Jordan’s Profession: The Story of a Great Actress and a Future King 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 415 pp., £18, October 1994, 0 670 84159 5
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... Cruickshank, Rowlandson and Dent; and portrayed by Romney, Beechey, Hoppner, Matthew Peters and John Russell. Nor has she been entirely forgotten by posterity. To be sure, she was not even mentioned by name in Percy Fitzgerald’s two-volume life of King William IV, published in 1884. But she merited an entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, there ...


Colin Burrow: John Donne in Performance, 5 October 2006

Donne: The Reformed Soul 
by John Stubbs.
Viking, 565 pp., £25, August 2006, 0 670 91510 6
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... and finding one’s balance, and then wondering if one has really grasped the thing after all. John Donne’s poems in particular are extremely unstable. Critics have often got into a sweat about the way that they argue implausible cases, and very often, too, things happen in the course of them which make it quite clear that while the speaker is busily ...

What the Dickens

F.S. Schwarzbach, 5 April 1990

The Letters of Charles Dickens. Vol. VI: 1850-1852 
edited by Graham Storey, Kathleen Tillotson and Nina Burgis.
Oxford, 909 pp., £80, June 1988, 0 19 812617 4
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... first, Dora, dying suddenly at the age of eight months. Only a fortnight before that his father, John Dickens, had died after enduring a horrifying surgical operation (while his son looked on) without the benefit of anesthesia. His wife suffered for some time from a ‘nervous’ condition, perhaps post-natal depression, or perhaps simply exhaustion. In 1851 ...

Too Many Pears

Thomas Keymer: Frances Burney, 27 August 2015

The Court Journals and Letters of Frances Burney 1786-91, Vols III-IV: 1788 
edited by Lorna Clark.
Oxford, 824 pp., £225, September 2014, 978 0 19 968814 2
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... series of highlights (Diary and Letters of Madame d’Arblay, 1842-46), they were savaged by John Wilson Croker in the Tory Quarterly Review. Hatchet jobs were Croker’s speciality: it was his review of Endymion that Byron joked was the cause of Keats’s death in Don Juan (‘’Tis strange the mind, that very fiery particle,/Should let itself be ...

The crime was the disease

Mike Jay: ‘Mad-Doctors in the Dock’, 15 June 2017

Mad-Doctors in the Dock: Defending the Diagnosis, 1760-1913 
by Joel Peter Eigen.
Johns Hopkins, 206 pp., £29.50, September 2016, 978 1 4214 2048 6
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... really launches his narrative is that of James Hadfield, who on 15 May 1800 was arrested in the Drury Lane Theatre after firing a pistol at George III as he was blowing a kiss to his subjects from the royal box. There was no question that Hadfield had acted with deadly intent. He had loaded his pistols carefully and aimed like the ex-soldier he was; his ...

Pinned Down by a Beagle

Colin Burrow: ‘The Tragedy of Arthur’, 1 December 2011

The Tragedy of Arthur 
by Arthur Phillips.
Duckworth, 368 pp., £16.99, September 2011, 978 0 7156 4137 8
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... called Vortigern and Rowena. This was eventually performed before a sceptical audience at Drury Lane. Ireland’s play has the typical features of pastiche. His characters always sound like Shakespeare, and usually like Shakespeare’s biggest characters. When Queen Edmunda goes mad she sounds at first like Lear ripping off his vile lendings (‘And ...

Our chaps will deal with them

E.S. Turner: The Great Flap of 1940, 8 August 2002

Dad’s Army: The Story of a Classic Television Show 
by Graham McCann.
Fourth Estate, 304 pp., £7.99, August 2002, 1 84115 309 5
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... Enfields, relics of some forgotten tableau or drama, were discovered among the stage properties at Drury Lane.’ And where did Captain Mainwaring’s men obtain their first serious weapons? Why, from the Peabody Museum of Historic Army Weapons, whose zealous caretaker had first to be outwitted. In the great flap of 1940 the improvisation of infernal devices ...

Play for Today

Adam Smyth: Rewriting ‘Pericles’, 24 October 2019

by Ali Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 336 pp., £16.99, March 2019, 978 0 241 20704 8
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The Porpoise 
by Mark Haddon.
Chatto, 309 pp., £18.99, May 2019, 978 1 78474 282 9
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... with a youthful Thomas Betterton, aged 25, celebrated in the title role at the Phoenix in Drury Lane. In fact Pericles was more than simply popular: the play became a byword for audience appeal and recognition. In The Hog Hath Lost His Pearl (c.1613-14), Robert Taylor speculates, ‘And if [this play] prove so happy as to please,/We’ll say ’tis ...

You Have Never Written Better

Benjamin Markovits: Byron’s Editor, 20 March 2008

The Letters of John Murray to Lord Byron 
edited by Andrew Nicholson.
Liverpool, 576 pp., £25, June 2007, 978 1 84631 069 0
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... The relationship between Byron and his editor John Murray lasted a little over ten years. It began in March 1812 with the publication of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, which made Byron’s name. (‘I awoke one morning and found myself famous,’ he famously wrote, or is said to have written.) It ended twice: first, in the winter of 1822, when, after a number of disagreements and misunderstandings, Byron transferred his business to the publisher John Hunt; and finally in the spring of 1824, when Murray presided over the destruction of Byron’s memoirs, which he had not read, in his rooms at 50 Albemarle Street ...

Howl, Howl, Howl!

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Fanny Kemble, 22 May 2008

Fanny Kemble: A Performed Life 
by Deirdre David.
Pennsylvania, 347 pp., £26, June 2007, 978 0 8122 4023 8
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... that included her aunt, Sarah Siddons, her father, Charles, and her uncle, the great tragedian John Philip Kemble, Fanny herself was deeply ambivalent towards the theatre. She first aspired to be a writer rather than an actress; and it was only when the family faced bankruptcy that the latest Kemble was swiftly prepared for the stage. As the manager and ...

Old Stragers

Pat Rogers, 7 May 1981

The Garrick Stage: Theatres and Audience in the 18th Century 
by Allardyce Nicoll.
Manchester, 192 pp., £14.50, April 1980, 0 7190 0768 2
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The Kemble Era: John Philip Kemble, Sarah Siddons and the London Stage 
by Linda Kelly.
Bodley Head, 221 pp., £8.50, April 1980, 0 370 10466 8
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Early English Stages 1300 to 1660: Vol. 3: Plays and their Makers to 1576 
by Glynne Wickham.
Routledge, 357 pp., £14.50, April 1981, 0 7100 0218 1
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... Opera or The School for Scandal from this reckoning. The tone is likewise snooty towards John Rich: we must hope that the fuller knowledge of Covent Garden practice which is beginning to emerge will permit less condescending treatment. It should be said that Nicoll is good, though brief, on Garrick as director, at a time when London companies ...

Speaking for England

Patrick Parrinder, 21 May 1987

The Radiant Way 
by Margaret Drabble.
Weidenfeld, 396 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 297 79095 1
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by Maureen Duffy.
Methuen, 224 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 9780413576408
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Moon Tiger 
by Penelope Lively.
Deutsch, 208 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 0 233 98107 1
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The Maid of Buttermere 
by Melvyn Bragg.
Hodder, 415 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 340 40173 7
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by A.N. Wilson.
Walker, 175 pp., £8.95, April 1987, 0 7445 0801 0
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... to be small, ugly, ignorant and coarse. Both Wordsworth and Coleridge had known her before she met John Hatfield, a bigamist who tricked her into a fraudulent marriage, and both men were united in their venomous hatred of her seducer. Yet Hatfield, whose exploits eventually brought him to the gallows, was, as Bragg shows, one of the popular heroes of the ...

Degradation, Ugliness and Tears

Mary Beard: Harrow School, 7 June 2001

A History of Harrow School 
by Christopher Tyerman.
Oxford, 599 pp., £30, October 2000, 0 19 822796 5
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... Llandaff. The secret of his puzzling resignation probably lies in a story told in the memoirs of John Addington Symonds, a pupil at Harrow at that time, which were not published till the 1960s. There, a simple tale of blackmail is revealed. For all Vaughan’s intense sermonising on the evils of homosexuality (in one purple passage he referred to a pederast ...

My Old, Sweet, Darling Mob

Iain Sinclair: Michael Moorcock, 30 November 2000

King of the City 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 421 pp., £9.99, May 2000, 0 684 86140 2
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Mother London 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 496 pp., £6.99, May 2000, 0 684 86141 0
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... Cry (a Moorcock favourite), through his love for his cousin Rosie and his spiky relationship with John Barbican Begg, developer and despoiler, global media tycoon. Revelations, betrayals, shifts of fortune, seductions, conspiracies, keep the fingers flicking over the pages. Dead on cue, after some cunningly weighted rhetorical passage, a jibe at ‘Pretty ...

The Professor

Marilyn Butler, 3 April 1980

A Fantasy of Reason: The Life and Thought of William Godwin 
by Don Locke.
Routledge, 398 pp., £13.50, January 1980, 0 7100 0387 0
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... figure. A belief in his national importance led to his refusal in 1794 to visit his radical friend John Thelwall – when Thelwall was in Newgate charged with treason – on the grounds that Godwin must not jeopardise his own life, ‘this treasure which does not belong to me but to the public’. It is hard not to be reminded of the passage Jane Austen had ...

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