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Snap among the Witherlings

Michael Hofmann: Wallace Stevens, 22 September 2016

The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens 
by Paul Mariani.
Simon and Schuster, 512 pp., £23, May 2016, 978 1 4516 2437 3
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... be told that your bird of paradise, your parrot or your quetzal, is actually a pigeon or a Farmer Matthews turkey. Nothing in writing has the full-on charm of early Stevens, the abundance of colours and scents and sounds, the musical instruments and fruit, and – oh, just the abundance of abundance. He has the nattiest titles, the most full-throated ...

One for Uncle

John Bayley, 5 April 1990

Robert Graves: The Years with Laura 1926-1940 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Weidenfeld, 380 pp., £25, March 1990, 0 297 79672 0
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... bears out pretty well the sense implicit in her lightning sketch. Richard Perceval is the son of John, Robert’s youngest brother, who was also snubbed, patronised and cold-shouldered. Richard Perceval has written excellent studies, admirably researched, of A.E. Housman and of the Powys brothers, but now is the time to strike a blow for father and get ...

The Englishness of English

Roy Harris, 6 November 1980

Studies in English Linguistics for Randolph Quirk 
edited by Sidney Greenbaum and Jan Svartvik.
Longman, 304 pp., £18, September 1980, 0 582 55079 3
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... English) is itself impressive: Noam Chomsky, Ruth Kempson, Sidney Greenbaum, Dwight Bolinger, P.H. Matthews, Sven Jacobson, M.A.K. Halliday, Rodney Huddleston, Geoffrey Leech, Jennifer Coates, F.R. Palmer, R.A. Close, John Sinclair, Jan Firbas, Nils Enkvist, David Crystal, Jan Svartvik, Wolf-Dietrich Bald, Nelson ...

Against Consciousness

Richard Gregory, 24 January 1980

Pavlov 
by Jeffrey Gray.
Fontana, 140 pp., £1.25, September 1980, 9780006343042
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J.B. Watson: The Founder of Behaviourism 
by David Cohen.
Routledge, 297 pp., £8.95, September 1980, 0 7100 0054 5
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... links’. These were discussed in various forms by Hume, both James Mill and his son John Stuart Mill, Bain, and most effectively by Hartley. As Jeffrey Gray points out, a major impact of Pavlov’s work was to bring experiments to bear on philosophical notions of mind, rather as the great physicists have, over a much longer ...

Hidden Consequences

John Mullan: Byron, 6 November 2003

Byron: Life and Legend 
by Fiona MacCarthy.
Faber, 674 pp., £9.99, November 2003, 0 571 17997 5
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... the wake of the couple’s acrimonious separation. Byron’s side of the story went up in smoke in John Murray’s grate when the poet’s publisher presided over the burning of his memoirs. If we want Byron’s relationships with those who knew him, why should we not just read his often wonderful letters? One answer might be that Leslie Marchand’s 12-volume ...

Hound of Golden Imbeciles

John Sturrock: Homage to the Oulipo, 29 April 1999

Oulipo Compendium 
edited by Harry Matthews and Alastair Brotchie.
Atlas, 336 pp., £16.99, March 1999, 0 947757 96 1
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... Cape Y2K once safely rounded, and we shall be faced in short order by 2002, a date that stands suggestively out to the numerological eye as a palindrome. We’re allowed only one of these amphisbaenic years per century, though we lived through the last of them a bare eight-some ago, in 1991. Lived through it and failed for sure to spare it a glance ...

Things

Karl Miller, 2 April 1987

The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories 
by Michael Cox and R.A. Gilbert.
Oxford, 504 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 19 214163 5
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The Ghost Stories of M.R. James 
by Michael Cox.
Oxford, 224 pp., £12.45, November 1986, 9780192122551
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Supernatural Tales 
by Vernon Lee.
Peter Owen, 222 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 7206 0680 2
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The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural 
edited by Jack Sullivan.
Viking, 482 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 670 80902 0
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Ghostly Populations 
by Jack Matthews.
Johns Hopkins, 171 pp., £11.75, March 1987, 0 8018 3391 4
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... and are alike in seeming to celebrate the life that can still be led there by the right people. In John Buchan’s, dear old glamorous Fullcircle wins over what he presents as a bloody awful married couple – ‘Hampstead’ progressives – to a pagan-Catholic frame of mind, while Edith Wharton’s house, Bells, nearest post-office Thudeney-Blazes, tries the ...

Into the Net

Neal Ascherson: Records of the Spanish Civil War, 15 December 2016

Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-39 
by Adam Hochschild.
Macmillan, 438 pp., £25, April 2016, 978 1 5098 1054 3
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¡No Pasarán! Writings from the Spanish Civil War 
edited by Pete Ayrton.
Serpent’s Tail, 393 pp., £20, April 2016, 978 1 84668 997 0
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The Last Days of the Spanish Republic 
by Paul Preston.
William Collins, 390 pp., £25, February 2016, 978 0 00 816340 2
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A Distant Heartbeat: A War, a Disappearance and a Family’s Secrets 
by Eunice Lipton.
New Mexico, 165 pp., £18.50, April 2016, 978 0 8263 5658 1
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... had the social and intellectual distinctionof some famous Brigadiers from elsewhere: Julian Bell, John Cornford or André Malraux. But their motives for fighting were large – larger than Spain. As one old volunteer told Hochschild, ‘For us it wasn’t Franco … it was always Hitler.’ Before the populations of the democracies woke up to what was at ...

Go and get killed, comrade

Gideon Lewis-Kraus: Spanish Civil War, 21 February 2013

Unlikely Warriors: The British in the Spanish Civil War and the Struggle against Fascism 
by Richard Baxell.
Aurum, 516 pp., £25, September 2012, 978 1 84513 697 0
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I Am Spain: The Spanish Civil War and the Men and Women Who Went to Fight Fascism 
by David Boyd Haycock.
Old Street, 363 pp., £25, October 2012, 978 1 908699 10 7
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... study, Unlikely Warriors: The British in the Spanish Civil War and the Struggle against Fascism. John Bassett, who served in the International Brigades for nine months, from March 1938 until they were disbanded that December, articulates the last-great-cause attitude better than anyone: ‘Never again will men of every creed and tongue go to war with the ...

Turning Turk

Robert Blake, 20 August 1981

The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain. Vol. 1: The 19th Century 
by Stephen Koss.
Hamish Hamilton, 455 pp., £20, May 1981, 0 241 10561 7
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... of the press organs in that difficult period, was supported from time to time by the Government. John Walter II, no longer having that support, switched into opposition in 1820 and supported Queen Caroline against George IV. Whether or not his motives were disinterested, his sales more than doubled. There is nothing like sexual scandal and public passion to ...

Michael Foot’s Fathers

D.A.N. Jones, 4 December 1980

My Life with Nye 
by Jennie Lee.
Cape, 277 pp., £8.50, November 1980, 0 224 01785 3
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Debts of Honour 
by Michael Foot.
Davis-Poynter, 240 pp., £9.50, November 1980, 0 7067 6243 6
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... Beaverbrook his ‘second father’ seems bold. It depends on one’s philosophy about fathers. John McGrath’s first play was called A Man Has Two Fathers – based on the idea that a man with a worthy, authoritative father must find a roguish, wastrel father as well. There is a book by Tangye Lean called The Napoleonists – about the kind of man ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: Sport Poetry, 23 January 1986

... sounds like Ezra Pound addressing his first publisher:The greatest of all time, veraglioso,   Matthews,Stoke City, Blackpool and England.His first game, though, is cricket, and it is usually Sussex CCC he has in mind when he is musing on the heroic possibilities of ‘poetry in action’. He himself was good enough to almost play for his home county (and ...

Gangs

D.A.N. Jones, 8 January 1987

The Old School: A Study 
by Simon Raven.
Hamish Hamilton, 139 pp., £12, September 1986, 0 241 11929 4
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The Best Years of their Lives: The National Service Experience 1945-63 
by Trevor Royle.
Joseph, 288 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 7181 2459 6
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Murder without Conviction: Inside the World of the Krays 
by John Dickson.
Sidgwick, 164 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 9780283994074
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Inside ‘Private Eye’ 
by Peter McKay.
Fourth Estate, 192 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 947795 80 4
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Malice in Wonderland: Robert Maxwell v. ‘Private Eye’ 
by Robert Maxwell, John Jackson, Peter Donnelly and Joe Haines.
Macdonald, 191 pp., £10.95, December 1986, 0 356 14616 2
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... life of Civvy Street, when the Kray Twins ruled London – or so the timorous newspapers claimed. John Dickson, a former member of the Krays’ firm, has somehow produced a well-written book, Murder without Conviction. ‘We looked like any normal businessmen in our pin-striped suits,’ he says, describing the firm’s negotiations with the Mafia. The Krays ...

Skimming along

Ross McKibbin, 20 October 1994

The Major Effect 
edited by Anthony Seldon and Dennis Kavanagh.
Macmillan, 500 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 333 62273 1
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... John Major has now been prime minister for four years. For us, as presumably for him, it often seems a lifetime, so crowded has his premiership been with crises of one sort or another. Dennis Kavanagh and Anthony Seldon not unreasonably, therefore, think this the moment to assess his prime ministerial career; the result is The Major Effect, a collection of 26 essays by a distinguished group of commentators – including the editors ...

Heart-Stopping

Ian Hamilton, 25 January 1996

Not Playing for Celtic: Another Paradise Lost 
by David Bennie.
Mainstream, 221 pp., £12.99, October 1995, 1 85158 757 8
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Achieving the Goal 
by David Platt.
Richard Cohen, 244 pp., £12.99, October 1995, 1 86066 017 7
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Captain’s Log: The Gary McAllister Story 
by Gary McAllister and Graham Clark.
Mainstream, 192 pp., £14.99, October 1995, 9781851587902
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Blue Grit: The John Brown Story 
by John Brown and Derek Watson.
Mainstream, 176 pp., £14.99, November 1995, 1 85158 822 1
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Kicking and Screaming: An Oral History of Football in England 
by Rogan Taylor and Andrew Ward.
Robson, 370 pp., £16.95, October 1995, 0 86051 912 0
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A Passion for the Game: Real Lives in Football 
by Tom Watt.
Mainstream, 316 pp., £14.99, October 1995, 1 85158 714 4
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... called Not Playing for Celtic: Another Paradise Lost, and, yes, the paradise in question is indeed John Milton’s – or Big John’s (as he is called here):    Beating Airdrie in this year’s final has hardly sent warning shock-waves reverberating around the football giants of Europe, but having witnessed the ...

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