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The Human Frown

John Bayley, 21 February 1991

Samuel Butler: A Biography 
by Peter Raby.
Hogarth, 334 pp., £25, February 1991, 0 7012 0890 2
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... proving that the author of the Odyssey was a woman, crossing swords in Shavian style with Bernard Shaw. An admirable, indeed an indispensable, literary sub-species, but not the sort who leaves behind either little masterpieces or great works of art. And yet Virginia Woolf, writing in 1916, not only called him a rare spirit, ‘one of those whom we like, or it ...

Our Founder

John Bayley: Papa Joyce, 19 February 1998

John Stanislaus Joyce: The Voluminous Life and Genius of James Joyce’s Father 
by John Wyse Jackson and Peter Costello.
Fourth Estate, 493 pp., £20, October 1997, 1 85702 417 6
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... rather, and the tones, are those of the old artificer, the father of the tribe, Simon Dedalus, John Stanislaus Joyce. Like the violins of Cremona, Dubliners, Ulysses, Finnegans Wake are the products of a joint concern, a family undertaking. Joyce himself was frank about this. As long as he had escaped he could still be in the bosom of the family. As long ...

The Court

Richard Eyre, 23 September 1993

The Long Distance Runner 
by Tony Richardson.
Faber, 277 pp., £17.50, September 1993, 0 571 16852 3
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... Granville-Barker’s policy was to put on new plays exclusively, among which were his own and Shaw’s. Of the 32 plays which he presented over a period of three years, including premieres of Galsworthy, Ibsen and Maeterlink, 11 were new plays by Shaw. In addition to running the theatre and writing ...


John Lanchester, 21 November 2019

... the show is that we relate to them just enough to make it unalienating – it’s cold-but-warm. Shaw might have been wrong-headed to say that Coriolanus was Shakespeare’s greatest comedy because none of the characters is likeable, but his remark is acute as an observation about what tilts a show towards the comic. Jesse Armstrong, the creator of ...

I sizzle to see you

John Lahr: Cole Porter’s secret songs, 21 November 2019

The Letters of Cole Porter 
edited by Cliff Eisen and Dominic McHugh.
Yale, 672 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 0 300 21927 2
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... She was eight years older than him, with fabled taste and impeccable manners, and counted Shaw, Berenson, Churchill and Léon Bakst among her friends. ‘I’m in a complete rut. I lunch and dine with Linda Thomas every day, and between times, call her up on the telephone,’ he wrote to his bosom buddy from Yale, the actor Monty Woolley. ‘She ...

Three Minutes of Darkness

Theo Tait: Hari Kunzru, 27 July 2017

White Tears 
by Hari Kunzru.
Hamish Hamilton, 271 pp., £14.99, April 2017, 978 0 241 27295 4
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... Carter puts it online, claiming that it’s a 1928 recording of ‘Graveyard Blues’ by Charlie Shaw, a name he has made up. And ‘in the tiny confines of the prewar blues internet, it was like someone had dropped a bomb.’ Collectors go crazy, offering thousands of dollars for the record. One of them, who calls himself JumpJim and writes everything in ...

Gloomy Sunday Afternoons

Caroline Maclean: Modernists at the Movies, 10 September 2009

The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period 
by Laura Marcus.
Oxford, 562 pp., £39, December 2007, 978 0 19 923027 3
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... society’s early members included David Cecil, Roger Fry, J.B.S. Haldane, Julian Huxley, Augustus John, Keynes, Shaw, St Loe Strachey, Ellen Terry and Wells. Stories appeared in the press about ‘the big cars, the women in striking hats, the well-known Bloomsbury figures making themselves conspicuous in the audience with ...


John Bayley, 22 June 1989

The Essential Wyndham Lewis 
edited by Julian Symons.
Deutsch, 380 pp., £17.95, April 1989, 0 233 98376 7
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... even a photograph, with this prose picture of Osbert Sitwell, served up as Lord Osmund Finnian-Shaw. In colour Lord Osmund was pale coral, with flaxen hair brushed tightly back, his blond pencilled pap rising straight from his sloping forehead: galb-like wings to his nostrils – the goat-like profile of Edward the Peacemaker. The lips were curved. They ...

Watching himself go by

John Lahr, 4 December 1980

by Noël Coward.
Eyre Methuen, 358 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 413 46050 9
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... as 1964, taxed him mischievously: ‘What is all this nonsense about being called the Master?’ Shaw, who prophesied success for the fledgling playwright in 1921, warned him ‘never to fall into an essential breach of good manners’. He didn’t. A star is his own greatest invention. Coward’s plays and songs were primarily vehicles to launch his elegant ...

Short Cuts

Jenny Diski: Mary Whitehouse’s Letters, 20 December 2012

... tell the BBC that there is a multitude of one-act plays by classic authors, Chekhov, Strindberg, Shaw, which are good theatre,’ and which could have been used instead. The head of radio drama, Martin Esslin – not an English name, she observed – replied to Whitehouse that the play was simply a comedy about a steam engine enthusiast who wanted to turn an ...

About to be at Tate Britain, or Meanwhile in Cork Street

Peter Campbell: Gwen and Augustus John, 7 October 2004

... painter is entirely of one kind or the other, and fate clearly has a hand in the matter. Augustus John, who was generally of the first sort, had ambitions beyond the marketable portraits which sustained him and his reputation in the latter part of his life. His early drawings persuaded some critics that a great painter was about to emerge, but his figure ...

But she read Freud

Alice Spawls: Flora Thompson, 19 February 2015

Dreams of the Good Life: The Life of Flora Thompson and the Creation of ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ 
by Richard Mabey.
Allen Lane, 208 pp., £9.99, March 2015, 978 0 14 104481 1
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... Grayshott was home, or home away from home, to the Hilltop set, a group that included Conan Doyle, Shaw, Tennyson and Christina Rossetti. The town was modern, fashionably suburban and connected by a new railway line to London, just close enough for something of fashion and suggestions of sex. Richard Le Gallienne, one of Aubrey Beardsley’s friends, ‘raced ...

At the Royal Academy

John-Paul Stonard: Léon Spilliaert, 16 April 2020

... of the Scottish painter Craigie Aitchison. Tree behind a Wall, from 1936, could be a George Shaw. But Spilliaert is best seen in his own time, in the moody coastal gloom of Ostend, and the shadowy rooms of his ...

Canterbury Tale

Charles Nicholl, 8 December 1988

Christopher Marlowe and Canterbury 
by William Urry, edited by Andrew Butcher.
Faber, 184 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 571 14566 3
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John Weever 
by E.A.J. Honigmann.
Manchester, 134 pp., £27.50, April 1987, 0 7190 2217 7
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Rare Sir William Davenant 
by Mary Edmond.
Manchester, 264 pp., £27.50, July 1987, 9780719022869
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... signature – was born in the parish of St George, Canterbury, in February 1564. He was the son of John Marlowe, shoemaker, and Katherine née Arthur, a Dover woman. They had nine children, though only five survived childhood. Christopher was the eldest son, and after the death of his sister Mary in 1568, the eldest child in the family. His father was ...

UK Law

John Horgan, 16 August 1990

Stolen Years: Before and After Guildford 
by Paul Hill and Ronan Bennett.
Doubleday, 287 pp., £12.99, June 1990, 0 385 40125 6
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Proved Innocent 
by Gerry Conlon.
Hamish Hamilton, 234 pp., £12.99, June 1990, 0 241 13065 4
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Cage Eleven 
by Gerry Adams.
Brandon, 156 pp., £4.95, June 1990, 0 86322 114 9
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The Poisoned Tree: The untold truth about the Police conspiracy to discredit John Stalker and destroy me 
by Kevin Taylor and Keith Mumby.
Sidgwick, 219 pp., £15, May 1990, 0 283 06056 5
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... six days after the Woolwich bombing. Were it not for the need to get Hill convicted of the Shaw killing in Belfast in order to weaken further any defence he was to offer to the Guildford charges, these trials would probably have been over in weeks rather than months. This is not the timetable of detection: it is the timetable of LA Law, a scenario in ...

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