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Name the days

Marina Warner: Holy Spirits, 4 February 2021

Angels & Saints 
by Eliot Weinberger.
Norton, 159 pp., £21.99, September 2020, 978 0 8112 2986 9
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... of absurdist wisdom, echoing Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell but nothing like as sublime: ‘Snow cannot burst into flames’; ‘Waves never leave the sea’; and the oddly timely ‘A man who has heard himself sentenced to death will not worry about the way theatres are run.’Weinberger describes many visions of angels: St Teresa of Avila’s ...


Frank Kermode, 8 June 1995

Angus Wilson 
by Margaret Drabble.
Secker, 714 pp., £20, May 1995, 0 436 20038 4
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... story, but it is also the sort of thing that he himself would in principle have deplored. As Margaret Drabble emphasises, he disliked that anti-American reflex, attributing it (perhaps too simply) to simple envy. He loved the USA, where he had dozens of friends, whom he treated, so far as one can tell, with his usual amiability and generosity. Yet the ...


Blake Morrison, 21 February 1991

The Chatto Book of Love Poetry 
edited by John Fuller.
Chatto, 374 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 0 7011 3453 4
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The Faber Book of Blue Verse 
edited by John Whitworth.
Faber, 305 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 571 14095 5
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Self-Portrait with a Slide 
by Hugo Williams.
Oxford, 62 pp., £5.95, June 1990, 0 19 282744 8
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The Virago Book of Love Poetry 
edited by Wendy Mulford.
Virago, 288 pp., £6.99, November 1990, 1 85381 030 4
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Erotica: An Anthology of Women’s Writing 
edited by Margaret Reynolds, foreword by Jeanette Winterson .
Pandora, 362 pp., £19.99, November 1990, 9780044406723
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Daddy, Daddy 
by Paul Durcan.
Blackstaff, 185 pp., £5.95, August 1990, 0 85640 446 2
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... living sense of the loved one. She is composed of polished ivory, red coral, alabaster, cherries, snow, diamonds and rubies, none of which thinginess helps bring her into focus. Even Carew, who begins boldly by describing the mole on Celia’s bosom as a bee, is soon enough onto the romantic staples of aromatic dew, ambrosial meat, phoenix fire and Elysian ...

Palmers Greenery

Susannah Clapp, 19 December 1985

by Jack Barbera and William McBrien.
Heinemann, 378 pp., £15, November 1985, 0 434 44105 8
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... sea – prompted, one poem suggests, by a baleful look shot by the poet from her pram – Florence Margaret Smith lived in her Palmers Green house; from her mid-twenties, nicknamed Stevie after the jockey Steve Donoghue, she lived there alone with her aunt, producing three novels and a torrent of poems and articles, and working as a secretary at Newnes and ...

Besieged by Female Writers

John Pemble: Trollope’s Late Style, 3 November 2016

Anthony Trollope’s Late Style: Victorian Liberalism and Literary Form 
by Frederik Van Dam.
Edinburgh, 180 pp., £70, January 2016, 978 0 7486 9955 1
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... a few more about Jane Austen; a tribute to the Brontës and a sketch of Haworth Parsonage under snow … a respectful allusion to George Eliot; a reference to Mrs Gaskell and one would have done.’ Women novelists had come late to English literature, and had no more than a toehold in what was still a male domain. They were second-class citizens – just ...

Who’s the real cunt?

Andrew O’Hagan: Dacre’s Paper, 1 June 2017

Mail Men: The Unauthorised Story of the ‘Daily Mail’, the Paper that Divided and Conquered Britain 
by Adrian Addison.
Atlantic, 407 pp., £20, March 2017, 978 1 78239 970 4
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... his death. ‘He loved the old smells of lead and ink.’ But what spare love he had, after loving Margaret Thatcher, was kept for a version of Britain in which the natural condition was to be white and born here, in which the unemployed were scroungers and the rich (or some of them) were heroes, where single mothers were letting the side down and ‘political ...

Main Man

Michael Hofmann, 7 July 1994

Walking Possession: Essays and Reviews 1968-1993 
by Ian Hamilton.
Bloomsbury, 302 pp., £20, May 1994, 0 7475 1712 6
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Gazza Italia 
by Ian Hamilton.
Granta, 188 pp., £5.99, May 1994, 0 14 014073 5
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... atmosphere, their identical reference points of hands and heads and hair and flowers and grass and snow and shadow. That ‘silence on other subjects’ that Brecht mentioned in a quite different context, is part of the effect. Nothing else, Hamilton implies, can have any being next to such losses. Each individual poem is pruned back to an austere and ...

I blame Foucault

Jenny Diski: Bush’s Women, 22 September 2005

Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species 
by Laura Flanders.
Verso, 342 pp., £10, July 2005, 1 84467 530 0
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... heads that, barring some anatomy, women are very like men. Being able to write their name in the snow when they pee doesn’t entitle men to rule the world, but shaving under their arms doesn’t stop women being self-serving believers in rampant capitalism. And what about the women voters who were persuaded by Bush’s women that the war is defensible, that ...

Fashionable Gore

Katherine Rundell: H. Rider Haggard, 3 April 2014

King Solomon’s Mines 
by H. Rider Haggard.
Vintage, 337 pp., £7.99, May 2013, 978 0 09 958282 3
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by H. Rider Haggard.
Vintage, 317 pp., £8.99, May 2013, 978 0 09 958283 0
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... months the temperature in the Chimanimanis is between 12 and 15 degrees Celsius; Nyangani last had snow in 1935. Haggard knew Southern Africa – he made his first trip to South Africa as secretary to the governor of Natal at 19 and was later master and registrar of the High Court in the Transvaal – but the land he paints is as lurid and fantastical as the ...

How one has enjoyed things

Dinah Birch: Thackeray’s daughter, 2 December 2004

Anny: A Life of Anne Thackeray Ritchie 
by Henrietta Garnett.
Chatto, 322 pp., £18.99, January 2004, 0 7011 7129 4
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... as Anny was chaotic, welcomed the young women into his ‘sweet old prim, chill house wrapped in snow’. Tennyson was a close friend, and the Isle of Wight, where Anny and Minny were sheltered by the irrepressible Julia Margaret Cameron, became a lifelong refuge. Anny relished the island isolation, which allowed for ...

Here you are talking about duck again

Mark Ford: Larkin’s Letters Home, 20 June 2019

Philip Larkin: Letters Home, 1936-77 
edited by James Booth.
Faber, 688 pp., £40, November 2018, 978 0 571 33559 6
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... of malice in Amis’s allusion? There certainly was in his portrayal of Monica Jones – full name Margaret Monica Beale Jones – as Margaret Peel (in the manuscript Margaret Beale, but altered at Larkin’s insistence) as a neurotic, needy academic. Larkin’s relationship with Monica ...

Putting Religion in Its Place

Colm Tóibín: Marilynne Robinson, 23 October 2014

by Marilynne Robinson.
Virago, 261 pp., £16.99, October 2014, 978 1 84408 880 5
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... as if expectantly … miming their perished fruitfulness. Every winter the orchard is flooded with snow, and every spring the waters are parted, death is undone, and every Lazarus rises, except these two.’ Later, when Ruth is on a boat with her aunt, she witnesses the dawn. Writers should always be careful with the dawn – it’s tempting to be overblown ...

An Address to the Nation

Clive James, 17 December 1981

... welfare cheque spells doom For any spark of spiritual agility. She sounds, in other words, like Margaret Thatcher – Though words are just where Thatcher couldn’t match her. It’s easy for the Yanks to preach self-help: There’s so much protein they can help themselves. In Britain we’d be feeding children kelp And watching them grow up the size of ...

Her eyes were wild

John Bayley, 2 May 1985

Letters of Dorothy Wordsworth: A Selection 
edited by Alan Hill.
Oxford, 200 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 19 818539 1
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Dorothy Wordsworth 
by Robert Gittings and Jo Manton.
Oxford, 318 pp., £12.50, March 1985, 0 19 818519 7
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The Pedlar, Tintern Abbey, The Two-Part Prelude 
by William Wordsworth, edited by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Cambridge, 76 pp., £7.95, January 1985, 0 521 26526 6
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The Ruined Cottage, The Brothers, Michael 
by William Wordsworth, edited by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Cambridge, 82 pp., £7.95, January 1985, 0 521 26525 8
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... partner and natural outlet – she had recorded the moment when, after clearing a path through the snow to ‘the necessary’ outside Dove Cottage, he had proudly summoned her to view it, and been promptly drenched by a fresh fall from the roof. And yet she had also faithfully followed her brother’s road to social respectability, brought about as much as ...

Living Doll and Lilac Fairy

Penelope Fitzgerald, 31 August 1989

Carrington: A Life of Dora Carrington 1893-1932 
by Gretchen Gerzina.
Murray, 342 pp., £18.95, June 1989, 0 7195 4688 5
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Lydia and Maynard: Letters between Lydia Lopokova and John Maynard Keynes 
edited by Polly Hill and Richard Keynes.
Deutsch, 367 pp., £17.95, September 1989, 0 233 98283 3
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Mazo de la Roche: The Hidden Life 
by Joan Givner.
Oxford, 273 pp., £18, July 1989, 0 19 540705 9
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Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby: A Working Partnership 
by Jean Kennard.
University Press of New England, 224 pp., £24, July 1989, 0 87451 474 6
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Dangerous by Degrees: Women at Oxford and the Somerville College Novelists 
by Susan Leonardi.
Rutgers, 254 pp., $33, May 1989, 0 8135 1366 9
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The Selected Letters of Somerville and Ross 
edited by Gifford Lewis.
Faber, 308 pp., £14.99, July 1989, 0 571 15348 8
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... their London office into a Canadian log cabin, with bearskins nailed to the wall and imitation snow.) After the early Twenties the two women were never apart for more than a day or two. Caroline was the secretary and willing partner. Joan Givner has subtitled her biography The Hidden Life. Mazo, however, at the age of 78, published an autobiography of ...

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