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Sunday Mornings

Frank Kermode, 19 July 1984

Desmond MacCarthy: The Man and his Writings 
by David Cecil.
Constable, 313 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 9780094656109
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... of Life and Letters, and chief reviewer for the Sunday Times. Among his protégés were Raymond Mortimer and Cyril Connolly. Altogether he did as much as anybody to establish or maintain the tone, the interests and the values of weekly literary journalism in the first half of this century. As to whether we ought to be grateful, opinion is divided between ...

Into the Underworld

Iain Sinclair: The Hackney Underworld, 22 January 2015

... building, a 16th-century revision of the 13th-century church founded by the Knights of St John. The Hole is a statement and it is properly capitalised. The labourers, a self-confessed art collective, work the Hole by hand, with pick and shovel, turn and turn about: four days to complete a grave shaft, without any of the tortured grinding and ...


Michael Dobson: How to Be a Favourite, 5 October 2006

Literature and Favouritism in Early Modern England 
by Curtis Perry.
Cambridge, 328 pp., £50, February 2006, 0 521 85405 9
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... even from the bench), but, dissatisfied even with the enormous hall and galleries added by John of Gaunt in the 14th century, he then built what was in effect a whole new Tudor palace within the medieval walls. This entire section of the castle, together with a state-of-the-art garden installed at a speed which would do credit to any television ...

The Undesired Result

Gillian Darley: Betjeman’s bêtes noires, 31 March 2005

Betjeman: The Bonus of Laughter 
by Bevis Hillier.
Murray, 744 pp., £25, October 2004, 0 7195 6495 6
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... The dust jacket of the final volume of Bevis Hillier’s epic life of John Betjeman shows the poet laureate seized by giggles. In this lengthy coda to Hillier’s authorised biography Betjeman appears in many lights, but he’s rarely carefree. ‘Nothing frightens me more than the thought of dying,’ he told a friend in 1958 ...

The Fatness of Falstaff

Barbara Everett, 16 August 1990

... turning on a pound of flesh.The pound of flesh brings us in sight of that ‘Tunne of Man’, Sir John Falstaff. I’ve been arguing that, throughout Shakespeare’s developing power of characterisation, the physical has a special place: from Crab the dog to Richard Crookback, then to Bottom, then to the magnificently delineated yet isolated Shylock, and ...

Floreat Eltona

David Starkey, 19 January 1984

Tudor Rule and Revolution: Essays for G.R. Elton from his American Friends 
edited by DeLloyd Guth and John McKenna.
Cambridge, 418 pp., £27.50, February 1983, 0 521 24841 8
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Essays on Tudor and Stuart Politics and Government. Vol III: Papers and Reviews 1973-1981 
by G.R. Elton.
Cambridge, 512 pp., £27.50, March 1983, 0 521 24893 0
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Which road to the past? Two Views of History 
by Robert William Fogel and G.R. Elton.
Yale, 136 pp., £9.95, September 1983, 0 300 03011 8
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... protection of troublesome recusants under James I – and handles it frivolously. Finally, Mortimer Levine contrives to sink a self-evident truth – that women usually took the back seat in Tudor government – by refusing to admit that there were exceptions, such as Anne Boleyn. Anything but lightweight are the five essays in legal history which in a ...

Miss Joy and Mrs Hayter

Freya Johnston: Anna Letitia Barbauld, 27 September 2018

Eighteen Hundred and Eleven: Poetry, Protest and Economic Crisis 
by E.J. Clery.
Cambridge, 326 pp., £75, June 2017, 978 1 107 18922 5
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... in and liberates its reader from what she expects, is not far from something Coleridge observed in John Bunyan: the way the allegorical characters of Pilgrim’s Progress step out of their types and suddenly become ‘real persons, who had been nicknamed by their neighbours’. Something of this unpredictable, arresting quality informs Barbauld’s character ...

What a carry-on

Seamus Perry: W.S. Graham, 18 July 2019

W.S. Graham: New Selected Poems 
edited by Matthew Francis.
Faber, 144 pp., £12.99, September 2018, 978 0 571 34844 2
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W.S. Graham 
edited by Michael Hofmann.
NYRB, 152 pp., £9.99, October 2018, 978 1 68137 276 1
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... as a poet. ‘It is all a battle,’ he announced to his friend and partner in art, the painter John Minton. He and Dunsmuir lived in conditions of spectacular inconvenience: a poky caravan for some years and later a cottage to which the word ‘spartan’ doesn’t really do justice – ‘a leaking roof, no cooking stove, no electricity, an outside toilet ...


Robert Blake, 18 December 1980

Harold Nicolson: A Biography: Vol. 1, 1886-1929 
by James Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 429 pp., £15, November 1980, 0 7011 2520 9
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Harold Nicolson Diaries 1930-1964 
by Stanley Olson.
Collins, 436 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 00 216304 7
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... other, came to have a deep need for each other. It is extraordinary that his affair with Raymond Mortimer, to name only one of his many partners, or hers with Violet Trefusis, did not break up this odd marriage at an early stage. Not surprisingly, she would not play the orthodox part of a career diplomat’s wife. It is fairly clear that no great future lay ...

Great Instructor

Charles Nicholl, 31 August 1989

Ben Jonson: A Life 
by David Riggs.
Harvard, 399 pp., £27.95, April 1989, 0 674 06625 1
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... papers were fragments of two plays: the pastorale called The Sad Shepherd, and a chronicle-play, Mortimer His Fall. The printed text of the latter concludes curtly, ‘He dy’d, and left it unfinished,’ furnishing an apocryphal vision of the aged maestro finally keeling over with the ink still wet on his quill. It was not probably like that, but Jonson ...

Who is Lucian Freud?

Rosemary Hill: John Craxton goes to Crete, 21 October 2021

John Craxton: A Life of Gifts 
by Ian Collins.
Yale, 383 pp., £25, May, 978 0 300 25529 4
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... all talking about the same house in a backstreet in Chania. Each of them had given the painter John Craxton a lump sum to repair it, in exchange for a half share in the ownership. None of them minded the imposture, which had been going on for about twenty years, and they all remained friends with Craxton, which says something about his character. His ...

Iraq Must Go!

Charles Glass: The Making and Unmaking of Iraq, 3 October 2002

... There is a dry wind blowing through the East, and the parched grasses wait the spark. John Buchan, Greenmantle (1916) As Lloyd George’s wartime Director of Information, John Buchan urged Britain to support an incomprehensible Eastern war with the cry: ‘The Turk must go!’ At the beginning of 1916, the Turk was not going anywhere: he held fast at Gallipoli, driving off the Allied landings in January, and accepted the surrender of a British Mesopotamian invasion force at Kut, south of Baghdad, in April ...

Donald Duck gets a cuffing

J. Hoberman: Disney, Benjamin, Adorno, 24 July 2003

Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant-Garde 
by Esther Leslie.
Verso, 344 pp., £20, August 2002, 1 85984 612 2
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... continued their own war against Disney. Responding to the once famous middlebrow explainer Mortimer J. Adler’s defence of Disney as great art, Horkheimer sneered that ‘the sunbeams almost beg to have the name of a soap or a toothpaste emblazoned on them,’ and compared ‘the generation that allowed Hitler to become great’ to those ...

How to Be Tudor

Hilary Mantel: Can a King Have Friends?, 17 March 2016

Charles Brandon: Henry VIII’s Closest Friend 
by Steven Gunn.
Amberley, 304 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 1 4456 4184 3
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... the marriage, and Anne became pregnant. But Charles abandoned her and married her aunt, Margaret Mortimer, who had more money. Having sold off some of the aunt’s property, he then returned to the niece, who had given birth to a daughter. In 1508 he did marry her, trying to keep the fact quiet, but her family insisted on a second, public ceremony. Two years ...


John Mullan: Fanny Burney, 23 August 2001

Fanny Burney: A Biography 
by Claire Harman.
Flamingo, 464 pp., £8.99, October 2001, 0 00 655036 3
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Fanny Burney: Her Life 
by Kate Chisholm.
Vintage, 347 pp., £7.99, June 1999, 0 09 959021 2
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Faithful Handmaid: Fanny Burney at the Court of King George III 
by Hester Davenport.
Sutton, 224 pp., £25, June 2000, 0 7509 1881 0
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... and therefore that if she marry her husband should adopt this name, too. She falls in love with Mortimer Delvile, whose proud aristocratic family value their name above all else. Mr Monckton, an especially cunning fortune-hunter, is continually scheming to get her. It is not surprising that the novel, drawing much on the literary mode of wounded ...

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