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Diary

Paul Foot: Windsor Girls School on 22 June, 4 July 1985

... were offered Judith Chernaik on Shelley’s feminism or Elma Dangerfield on Byron and Shelley or Marilyn Butler on the background to the politics of the Romantic poets. I had heard Judith a few times before, and reckoned Elma Dangerfield probably a bit right-wing for me, so I plumped for Marilyn Butler. After ...

Citizens

Christopher Ricks, 19 November 1981

Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries: English Literature and its Background 1760-1830 
by Marilyn Butler.
Oxford, 213 pp., £7.95, July 1981, 0 19 219144 6
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... Authors are not the solitaries of the Romantic myth, but citizens.’ The spirit of Marilyn Butler’s excellent book on the Romantics is itself that of citizenship: of belonging to a civilised community, cultural and intellectual, which one helps to sustain and is sustained by, and which makes possible the truest duties, rights and privileges ...

Fiery Participles

D.A.N. Jones, 6 September 1984

Hazlitt: The Mind of a Critic 
by David Bromwich.
Oxford, 450 pp., £19.50, March 1984, 0 19 503343 4
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William Godwin: Philosopher, Novelist, Revolutionary 
by Peter Marshall.
Yale, 496 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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Burke, Paine, Godwin and the Revolution Controversy 
edited by Marilyn Butler.
Cambridge, 280 pp., £25, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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... her collection of ‘English Prose Texts’, Burke, Paine, Godwin and the Revolution Controversy, Marilyn Butler finds it useful to quote Hazlitt when she has to introduce the dull writings of Orator Thelwall. ‘The most dashing orator I ever heard is the flattest writer I have ever read,’ Hazlitt explains. When Thelwall orated, ‘he was the model of ...

The Case for Negative Thinking

V.S. Pritchett, 20 March 1980

Peacock Displayed: A Satirist in his Context 
by Marilyn Butler.
Routledge, 361 pp., £10.95, October 1979, 0 7100 0293 9
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... Aldous Huxley, who, however, fatally lacked Peacock’s tenderness for women and his poetic grace. Marilyn Butler speaks, at one point, of his Mozartian sparkle. Mozart is indeed a source, The Marriage of Figaro especially, for Peacock’s mischievous spell: but she has far more to say about the formation of Peacock’s mind in a book which is ...

The Sage of Polygon Road

Claire Tomalin, 28 September 1989

The Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Vols I-VII 
edited by Janet Todd and Marilyn Butler.
Pickering & Chatto, 2530 pp., £245, August 1989, 1 85196 006 6
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... Just about everything she wrote after that is interesting, and often surprising. Her editors, Marilyn Butler and Janet Todd, have chosen to include all her known translations, her anthology The Female Reader, and her book reviews. This generosity does not work entirely in her favour. Elements of Morality, Young Grandison and the Reader have been hard ...

Grounds for Despair

John Dunn, 17 September 1981

After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory 
by Alasdair MacIntyre.
Duckworth, 252 pp., £24, July 1981, 0 7156 0933 5
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... is gone.’ Peacock is partly mocking Edmund Burke’s famous rhapsody over Marie Antoinette, as Marilyn Butler points out in her recent Peacock Displayed, but his heart is evidently with Anthelia. There is nonetheless some force to Mrs Pinmoney’s reply. What makes Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue such an exciting book is the intensity with which ...

Constable’s Plenty

John Barrell, 15 August 1991

Constable 
by Leslie Parris and Ian Fleming-Williams.
Tate Gallery, 544 pp., £45, June 1991, 1 85437 071 5
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Romatic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition 
by Jonathan Bate.
Routledge, 131 pp., £8.99, May 1991, 0 415 06116 4
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... Like Parris and Fleming-Williams, Bate is not much concerned to argue with his opponents (Marilyn Butler, Marjorie Levinson, Alan Liu, Jerome McGann, David Simpson), and if he does it is often a sign that he has missed the point. When Liu claims that the category ‘nature’ is always constituted in terms of a politics, Bate replies that the ...

Reading the Bible

John Barton, 5 May 1988

The Literary Guide to the Bible 
edited by Robert Alter and Frank Kermode.
Collins, 678 pp., £20, December 1987, 0 00 217439 1
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... Everyone communes with the Bible,’ wrote Marilyn Butler recently in her Cambridge inaugural lecture, commenting on the recent re-inclusion of the Biblical canon in the canon of English literature. Northrop Frye celebrated the literary rediscovery of Scripture in The Great Code, and now Frank Kermode and Robert Alter, two critics who have given a new rigour and seriousness to the ‘Bible as literature’ movement, have brought together a constellation of literary and Biblical specialists, from both sides of the Atlantic, to explain the Bible from a literary standpoint for what the blurb calls ‘cultivated general readers ...

Magical Realism

D.A.N. Jones, 1 August 1985

The House of the Spirits 
by Isabel Allende, translated by Magda Bogin.
Cape, 368 pp., £8.95, July 1985, 0 224 02231 8
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Linden Hills 
by Gloria Naylor.
Hodder, 304 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 9780340360330
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Careful with the Sharks 
by Constantine Phipps.
Cape, 216 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 9780224023085
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... the book ‘gives you an astonishing understanding of a political situation’. On the same day, Marilyn Butler was equally effusive on Radio 3 and Hermione Lee assured us in the Observer that the author has ‘impeccably heroic socialist and feminist credentials’. My daughter-in-law brought home Cosmopolitan with a long extract, prettily ...

Benevolent Mr Godwin

E.P. Thompson, 8 July 1993

Political Justice 
by William Godwin, introduced by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Woodstock, £150, November 1992, 1 85196 019 8
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The Political and Philosophical Writings of William Godwin 
edited by Mark Philp.
Pickering & Chatto, £395, March 1993, 1 85196 026 0
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Political Writings 
by Mary Wollstonecraft, edited by Janet Todd.
Pickering & Chatto, 411 pp., £39.95, March 1993, 1 85196 019 8
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Memoirs of Wollstonecraft 
by William Godwin, introduced by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Woodstock, 199 pp., £8.95, April 1993, 1 85477 125 6
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... and Philosophical Writings of William Godwin, having edited previously, with some help from Marilyn Butler, all of Godwin’s novels. Philp is undoubtedly the country’s leading Godwinian, having established his authority with his study of Political Justice. He has perhaps become over-committed to the role, although he has also edited an ...

Bring some Madeira

Thomas Keymer: Thomas Love Peacock, 8 February 2018

Nightmare Abbey 
by Thomas Love Peacock, edited by Nicholas A. Joukovsky.
Cambridge, 297 pp., £84.99, December 2016, 978 1 107 03186 9
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Crotchet Castle 
by Thomas Love Peacock, edited by Freya Johnston and Matthew Bevis.
Cambridge, 328 pp., £79.99, December 2016, 978 1 107 03072 5
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... Marilyn Butler​ , whose Peacock Displayed was published in 1979, wasn’t the first to connect Peacock’s name with the showy wit of his satires. It started with Shelley, his friend and patron, who joked in 1820 about ‘the Pavonian Psyche’ (pavo: peacock), as though Peacock himself had the kind of name that he specialised in giving to his characters ...

Talk about doing

Frank Kermode, 26 October 1989

Against Deconstruction 
by John Ellis.
Princeton, 168 pp., £13.70, February 1989, 0 691 06754 6
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The New Historicism 
by H. Aram Veeser.
Routledge, 318 pp., £30, July 1989, 0 415 90070 0
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Rethinking Historicism: Critical Essays in Romantic History 
by Marjorie Levinson, Marilyn Butler, Jerome McGann and Paul Hamilton.
Blackwell, 149 pp., £22.50, August 1989, 0 631 16591 6
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Towards a Literature of Knowledge 
by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 138 pp., £16.50, May 1989, 9780198117407
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The Stoic in Love: Selected Essays on Literature and Ideas 
by A.D. Nuttall.
Harvester, 209 pp., £25, July 1989, 0 7450 0614 0
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... and offers some opinions that will always remain pretty mysterious. One typical claim is that Marilyn Butler’s contribution to the collection is distinguished by a calculated absence of Theory, and that this lack is a subtle snub to Mrs Thatcher: for it ‘undermines the deeply abstract objectivity used to legitimate the deeply concrete interests ...

Lunacies

Ian Campbell Ross: ‘provincial genius’, 23 October 2003

Hermsprong; or Man as He Is Not 
by Robert Bage, edited by Pamela Perkins.
Broadview, 387 pp., £8.99, March 2002, 1 55111 279 5
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... merits as a novelist more strongly than even such perceptive predecessors as Gary Kelly or Marilyn Butler, Pamela Perkins balks at the novel’s romance ending. Walter Scott, who distrusted Bage’s politics, grudgingly praised the depiction of Hermsprong while asking: ‘But did such a man ever exist?’ – which suggests he had forgotten ...

Vanishings

Peter Swaab, 20 April 1989

The Unremarkable Wordsworth 
by Geoffrey Hartman.
Methuen, 249 pp., £8.95, September 1987, 0 416 05142 1
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Wordsworth’s Historical Imagination: The Poetry of Displacement 
by David Simpson.
Methuen, 239 pp., £25, June 1987, 0 416 03872 7
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Romanticism in National Context 
edited by Roy Porter and Mikulas Teich.
Cambridge, 353 pp., £30, June 1988, 0 521 32605 2
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Romantic Affinities: Portraits from an Age 1780-1830 
by Rupert Christiansen.
Bodley Head, 262 pp., £16, January 1988, 0 370 31117 5
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... Romanticism, like other serviceable categories and periods, is neither exact nor undisputed. Marilyn Butler, in one of the more polemical essays, contends that it is misleading to begin a narrative of English Romanticism with, say, the French Revolution or Blake’s Songs: she offers an account of its roots in a ‘country’ tradition in the poetry ...

Kingsley and the Woman

Karl Miller, 29 September 1988

Difficulties with girls 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 276 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 9780091735050
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... One Fat Englishman, and in Jake’s Thing. It is there in Stanley and the Women, which persuaded Marilyn Butler – somewhat against the odds, but nonetheless intelligibly – to interpret it in the London Review as a critique of male supremacy. It is compatible with the canon of artistic detachment, but it can cause controversy. Heirs to the freedoms ...

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