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The Smell of Blood

Blake Morrison: Sarah Moss, 13 August 2020

Summerwater 
by Sarah Moss.
Picador, 202 pp., £14.99, August, 978 1 5290 3543 8
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... feel that something human, or once human, is stalking them. Relationships in the group fall apart; Lord of the Flies is referenced and hopes of a rescue fade. But the last voice in the book, Nina’s comes from a place of safety:I’d always wondered how Virginia Woolf could be so flippant about the 1918 Spanish flu in her journal, slipping it in as a joke ...

The Shoreham Gang

Seamus Perry: Samuel Palmer, 5 April 2012

Mysterious Wisdom: The Life and Work of Samuel Palmer 
by Rachel Campbell-Johnston.
Bloomsbury, 382 pp., £25, June 2011, 978 0 7475 9587 8
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... highly readable because animated by all of Grigson’s brilliant erudition and spirit of advocacy. Lord David Cecil’s long chapter in his 1969 book Visionary and Dreamer: Two Poetic Painters (the other one is Burne-Jones) is a more languid affair, but it usefully brought Cecil’s own Romantic instincts to bear on a painter whose inspiration was often ...

Power Systems

John Bayley, 15 March 1984

Dante and English Poetry: Shelley to T.S. Eliot 
by Steve Ellis.
Cambridge, 280 pp., £20, October 1983, 0 521 25126 5
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Dante the Maker 
by William Anderson.
Hutchinson, 497 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 09 153201 9
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Dante: Purgatory 
translated with notes and commentary by Mark Musa.
Indiana, 373 pp., £19.25, September 1981, 0 253 17926 2
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Dante: Paradiso and Purgatorio 
with translation and commentary by Charles Singleton .
Princeton, 610 pp., £11.80, May 1982, 0 691 01844 8
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Virgil: The Aeneid 
translated by Robert Fitzgerald.
Harvill, 403 pp., £12.50, March 1984, 0 00 271008 0
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... the same reason, that what the poet has said may be taken in many different ways by his readers. Blake would have agreed with Shelley’s note about God at the end of ‘Queen Mab’, that ‘the works of His fingers have borne witness against Him.’ In whatever spirit of humility a great poet undertakes to demonstrate a transcendental view of our ...

Convenient Death of a Hero

Arnold Rattenbury, 8 May 1997

Beyond the Frontier: the Politics of a Failed Mission, Bulgaria 1944 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin/Stanford, 120 pp., £12.95, December 1996, 0 85036 457 4
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... there occurs in it a passing reference to ‘the raw material for half-finished books on William Blake and Customs in Common’, works long since published. From the mid-Eighties mountainous illness surrounded Edward, from which he nonetheless retrieved the last big works: Customs in Common (1991), which traced a disappearing culture back over ground where ...

Mysteries of Kings Cross

Iain Sinclair, 5 October 1995

Vale Royal 
by Aidan Dun.
Goldmark, 130 pp., £22.50, July 1995
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... from The Waste Land, from Chaucer to Spenser and Shakespeare and Donne, through Milton and Blake and Keats, to David Jones, Gascoyne, Dylan Thomas, Nicholas Moore, to Lee Harwood’s Cable Street, Bill Griffiths’s Whitechapel and Brian Catling’s The Stumbling Block. London infected its interpreters, soliciting contributions to an open-ended ...

Topographer Royal

William Vaughan, 1 May 1980

The Diary of Joseph Farington RA: Vols V and VI (1 August 1801-31 December 1804) 
edited by Kenneth Garlick.
Yale (for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art), 447 pp., £15, October 1979, 0 300 02418 5
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... fantasist Fuseli were at the height of their powers, and that embarrassing outsider William Blake was issuing book after book of illuminated prophecy. Farington himself was not a major participant in this rich flowering: his meticulous, straight-laced art belongs more to an earlier age. But he was a great observer. Although the diary has been known to ...

Tribute to Trevor-Roper

A.J.P. Taylor, 5 November 1981

History and Imagination: Essays in honour of H.R. Trevor-Roper 
edited by Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Valerie Pearl and Blair Worden.
Duckworth, 386 pp., £25, October 1981, 9780715615706
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... glad to say. I cannot decide which was the more influential and which was the more neglected – Lord Shelburne or Lord Holland. They make an appropriate pair, both having been educated at Christ’s College. The last two essays make a surprising appearance in a volume which I had mistakenly supposed to be in honour of a ...

Why edit socially?

Marilyn Butler, 20 October 1994

Lord Byron: The Complete Poetical Works, Vol. VII 
edited by Byron.
Oxford, 445 pp., £52.50, March 1993, 0 19 812328 0
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The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse 
edited by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 832 pp., £25, April 1993, 0 19 214158 9
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... or so articles, incorporating most of the best of his critical work, he re-reads poems by Keats, Blake, Coleridge, Christina Rossetti and other 19th-century writers, as both a critical interpreter and a cultural historian who pays unusually close attention to format and circumstance. Working in the American academy, McGann responds to its changing ...

Beach Poets

Blake Morrison, 16 September 1982

The Fortunate Traveller 
by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 99 pp., £3.95, March 1982, 0 571 11893 3
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Sun Poem 
by Edward Kamau Brathwaite.
Oxford, 104 pp., £4.95, April 1982, 0 19 211945 1
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Collected Poems 
by Bernard Spencer, edited by Roger Bowen.
Oxford, 149 pp., £8.50, October 1981, 0 19 211930 3
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Selected Poems 
by Odysseus Elytis.
Anvil, 114 pp., £6.95, November 1981, 0 85646 076 1
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Poems from Oby 
by George MacBeth.
Secker, 67 pp., £4, March 1982, 9780436270178
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The New Ewart: Poems 1980-1982 
by Gavin Ewart.
Hutchinson, 115 pp., £4.95, March 1982, 0 09 146980 5
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The Apple-Broadcast 
by Peter Redgrove.
Routledge, 133 pp., £3, November 1981, 0 7100 0884 8
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... of restlessness, the poet has now acquired: he spreads his ‘booted legs’ and feels like a lord. Even the daily round of country life seems benevolent: a dead hornet, frail and pathetic, ‘its warrior’s head bent sideways’, strengthens the poet’s resolve that his own death will be, not like that, but full of ‘grace and honour’; the decent ...

Complete with spats

A.N. Wilson, 27 May 1993

Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul 
by Barbara Reynolds.
Hodder, 398 pp., £25, March 1993, 0 340 58151 4
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... knowledge of, and evident affection for, Sayers’s fiction – the detective stories about Lord Peter Wimsey especially. And now, she comes forward with what will surely rank as the definitive biography of Sayers. It is not a book which contains any surprises for those of us who have read the previous biographies. Indeed, Dr Reynolds gives us rather ...

Flirting

P.N. Furbank, 18 November 1982

The English World: History, Character and People 
edited by Robert Blake.
Thames and Hudson, 268 pp., £14.95, September 1982, 0 500 25083 9
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The English Gentleman: The Rise and Fall of an Ideal 
by Philip Mason.
Deutsch, 240 pp., £9.95, September 1982, 9780233974897
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... am being unfair, for many of the essays in the volume – on the development of Parliament (Robert Blake), ‘War and Peace with Wales, Scotland and Ireland’ (Hugh Trevor-Roper), art and popular taste (Quentin Bell), the evolution of the English landscape (Richard Muir) – are excellent and briskly-written popularising surveys. But the whole enterprise, I ...

Memres of Alfred Stoker

Christopher Reid, 7 August 1986

... the Gipes with a Thin dog the Spake a forn Langige on a bus Top Told the pasegers Stand prase the LORD but the wod not: Hop it sun shine No more i need a new pensel difrit culer * the river Stech of fith a man fell in pisend you her the Ships woo in the fog Monings the say a Gost of Billie Okins Lost at Sea pa prech the Sea men and perrosterturts when a ...

Zounds

Frank Kermode: Blasphemy, 14 January 2002

Blasphemy: Impious Speech in the West from the 17th to the 19th Century 
by Alain Cabantous, translated by Eric Rauth.
Columbia, 288 pp., £21.50, February 2002, 0 231 11876 7
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... Christianity, that they are inseparably ‘part of the law itself’. That was the judgment of a Lord Chief Justice in 1676, since when blasphemy has been an offence in common law; the sanction may be asleep but it is not dead. If tempted to believe that it is, one needs to recall the 1976 prosecution of Gay News and the subsequent failure in the House of ...

Certainties

Donald Davie, 20 May 1982

In Defence of the Imagination 
by Helen Gardner.
Oxford, 197 pp., £12.50, February 1982, 0 19 812639 5
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... it could hardly be mistaken for a creature of the same name defended long ago by William Blake. Dame Helen herself seems often to speak on behalf of some public body. And sure enough she speaks up for Lord Robbins and her other colleagues, for the most part robustly impenitent though prepared to concede ‘a ...

With Slip and Slapdash

Frank Kermode: Auden’s Prose, 7 February 2008

TheComplete Works of W.H. Auden. Vol. III: Prose, 1949-55 
edited by Edward Mendelson.
Princeton, 779 pp., £29.95, December 2007, 978 0 691 13326 3
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... poem, written quite soon after his arrival in New York, he imagines himself being judged by Dante, Blake, Rimbaud, Dryden, Catullus, Tennyson, Baudelaire, Rilke, Hardy ‘and many others’, and makes confession of his faults: Time and again have slubbered through With slip and slapdash what I do, Adopted what I would disown, The preacher’s loose immodest ...

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