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Frank Kermode: Remembering William Empson, 16 November 2006

William Empson. Vol. II: Against the Christians 
by John Haffenden.
Oxford, 797 pp., £30, November 2006, 0 19 927660 9
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... disagreeing about the correct reading of a particular line in Elegy XIX, Empson took on Helen Gardner and John Carey (and me, though I was of neither party) with ferocity. Haffenden gives a good account of this once celebrated row, not without a pardonable bias in favour of the man to whose life and work he has devoted ...


Ferdinand Mount: British Weeping, 17 December 2015

Weeping Britannia: Portrait of a Nation in Tears 
by Thomas Dixon.
Oxford, 438 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 0 19 967605 7
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... At bedtime, tears would gather in his blue-bloodshot eyes as he read his favourite poems to us. John Dowland’s ‘Weep you no more, sad fountains’ was a favourite. Another was Christina Rossetti’s ‘When I am dead, my dearest, sing no sad songs for me’. Both injunctions not to cry made us cry too, as such injunctions do, the admonishment of the ...

Departure and Arrival Times

Sheldon Rothblatt, 18 August 1983

The History Men: The Historical Profession in England since the Renaissance 
by John Kenyon.
Weidenfeld, 322 pp., £16.50, March 1983, 0 297 78081 6
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... of Geoffrey Elton, Hugh Trevor-Roper and Lewis Namier as one thinks of Edward Freeman, Samuel Gardner and Edward Gibbon, humanised and distanced at the same time. Vanity and virtue, foolishness and brilliance rub shoulders. One imagines one has heard it all before, but the cumulative effect cannot be denied. Kenyon obviously knows a great deal. The ...

Deeper Shallows

Stefan Collini: C.S. Lewis, 20 June 2013

C.S. Lewis: A Life 
by Alister McGrath.
Hodder, 431 pp., £20, April 2013, 978 1 4447 4552 8
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... to whom they offered the chair during Lewis’s initial dithering, was that devout Anglican Helen Gardner.) As in the wider culture, such literary Christianity fell sharply out of fashion in the 1960s and 1970s, and Lewis’s reputation dipped correspondingly; though perhaps his children’s books maintained their standing. Once again, his reputation in the ...

Whirring away

P.N. Johnson-Laird, 18 October 1984

The Modularity of Mind: An Essay on Faculty Psychology 
by Jerry Fodor.
MIT, 145 pp., £15.75, January 1984, 0 262 06084 1
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... the same way that heart, lungs and other physical organs grow to maturity. And the psycholinguist John Marshall has drawn attention to the resemblance between this ‘new organology’ and aspects of phrenological thinking. The educational psychologist Howard Gardner has refurbished the old idea that there are distinct ...

Goings-On at Eagle Lake

Christopher Tayler: Barry Hannah, 29 November 2001

Yonder Stands Your Orphan 
by Barry Hannah.
Atlantic, 336 pp., £9.99, September 2001, 1 903809 16 9
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... crime prevention. Various interested parties – including Egan, the saxophonist Max Raymond and John Roman, a Vietnam veteran who is also the only black character in the book – eventually decide to take action against Mortimer, but their plans seem worryingly ineffectual. Nor are these the only goings-on around Eagle Lake: indeed, Mortimer’s reign of ...

Possibility throbs

Richard Altick, 23 July 1987

by Richard Sennett.
Faber, 274 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 571 14718 6
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... was the son of an architect who had learned his profession under the comfortably traditionalist John Nash, but his own vision, actuated by the ‘throb of possibility’ (lovely, phrase), was engaged with the architecture of the future as embodied in Fontaine’s designs. He was a practical idealist, and the heart of the novel is the fate of his dream. The ...

Poor Dear, How She Figures!

Alan Hollinghurst: Forster and His Mother, 3 January 2013

The Journals and Diaries of E.M. Forster Volumes I-III 
edited by Philip Gardner.
Pickering and Chatto, 813 pp., £275, February 2011, 978 1 84893 114 5
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... the fragmentary memoir called ‘Sex’, written in the Locked Diary but sadly excluded by Philip Gardner, ‘My instinct has never given me true information about sex’; ‘not till I was 30 did I know exactly how male and female joined’ – that is to say, when he was writing Howards End, with its extramarital pregnancy that ‘deeply ...

National Treasure

Christopher Hitchens, 14 November 1996

Jacqueline Bouvier: An Intimate Memoir 
by John Davis.
Wiley, 256 pp., £14.99, October 1996, 0 471 12945 3
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... is pretentious unless you are her first cousin or something, which is the status enjoyed by John Davis. His mother was Jackie’s father’s sister, and the list of his previous book-titles (The Bouviers, The Kennedys, The Guggenheims) shows a well-developed sensitivity to the uses of dynasty. This ‘intimate memoir’ joins a seasonal shelf of at ...

Try the other wrist

Lara Feigel: Germany in the 1940s, 23 October 2014

The Temptation of Despair: Tales of the 1940s 
by Werner Sollors.
Harvard, 390 pp., £25.95, April 2014, 978 0 674 05243 7
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... have descended on us. Their hoofbeats are still ringing in our ears.’ Three months later John Dos Passos reported in Life magazine that the Americans were ‘losing the victory in Europe’. Visiting Germany as an army journalist, he found that Europeans, ‘friend and foe alike, look you accusingly in the face and tell you how bitterly they are ...

Merely a Warning that a Noun is Coming

Bee Wilson: The ‘Littlehampton Libels’, 8 February 2018

The Littlehampton Libels: A Miscarriage of Justice and a Mystery about Words in 1920s England 
by Christopher Hilliard.
Oxford, 256 pp., £30, June 2017, 978 0 19 879965 8
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... of Littlehampton in Sussex, was accused of sending a letter to a sanitary inspector called Charles Gardner that contained words of ‘an indecent, obscene and grossly offensive character’. The full letter has not survived, but the gist of it was that Mr Gardner would be very sorry that he had ever called Swan’s ‘dust ...

A Particular Way of Looking

J. Hoberman: NeoRealismo, 21 November 2019

NeoRealismo: The New Image in Italy 1932-60 
edited by Enrica Viganò.
Prestel, 349 pp., £49.99, September 2018, 978 3 7913 5769 0
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... first feature, Pather Panchali (1955), is a masterpiece of non-Italian Italian Neorealism. So is John Cassavetes’s first movie, Shadows (1959), populated by underemployed jazz musicians and shot in and around Times Square. Neorealism was the inspiration for British ‘free cinema’ and kitchen-sink realism. Jean Rouch’s ethnographic features made in ...

Et in Alhambra ego

D.A.N. Jones, 5 June 1986

Agate: A Biography 
by James Harding.
Methuen, 238 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 413 58090 3
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Subsequent Performances 
by Jonathan Miller.
Faber, 253 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 571 13133 6
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... and Agates. Miller’s suspicion was strengthened by reading some remarks made by Dame Helen Gardner, ‘one of Eliot’s most distinguished sponsors’. She had remembered some good stage performances she had seen before 1960 – with ‘extremely beautiful costumes by a firm called Motley’ – but she claimed she could hardly remember the names of ...

Sexual Tories

Angus Calder, 17 May 1984

The Common People: A History from the Norman Conquest to the Present 
by J.F.C. Harrison.
Croom Helm and Flamingo, 445 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 7099 0125 9
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British Society 1914-45 
by John Stevenson.
Allen Lane/Penguin, 503 pp., £16.95, March 1984, 0 7139 1390 8
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The World We Left Behind: A Chronicle of the Year 1939 
by Robert Kee.
Weidenfeld, 369 pp., £11.95, April 1984, 0 297 78287 8
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Wigan Pier Revisited: Poverty and Politics in the Eighties 
by Beatrix Campbell.
Virago, 272 pp., £4.50, April 1984, 0 86068 417 2
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... Harrison’s subversive, utterly anti-Whiggish suggestion, drawing on recent research by Dr Philip Gardner, that the working-class private-venture schools of the mid-19th century, the notorious ‘dame schools’ denounced by middle-class reformers, were better institutions (if we take the common person’s point of view as our standard of ‘good’) than the ...

Mortal Beauty

Paul Delany, 21 May 1981

Feminine Beauty 
by Kenneth Clark.
Weidenfeld, 199 pp., £10, October 1980, 0 297 77677 0
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Of Women and their Elegance 
by Norman Mailer.
Hodder, 288 pp., £12.50, March 1981, 0 340 23920 4
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Nude Photographs 1850-1980 
edited by Constance Sullivan.
Harper and Row, 204 pp., £19.95, September 1981, 0 06 012708 2
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... whether of Marilyn or of other women whose look set the standards of glamour in that decade: Ava Gardner, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly, Anita Ekberg, and models such as Lisa Fonssagrives or Suzy Parker. It is a look now coming back into fashion, probably because it owes more to art than nature. These faces are the most perfect ...

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