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Gentlemen Travellers

D.A.N. Jones, 15 September 1983

George Borrow: Eccentric 
by Michael Collie.
Cambridge, 275 pp., £19.50, November 1982, 0 521 24615 6
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A World of his Own: The Double Life of George Borrow 
by David Williams.
Oxford, 178 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 19 211762 9
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Eothen: Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East 
by Alexander Kinglake and Jan Morris.
Oxford, 279 pp., £2.95, November 1982, 0 19 281361 7
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Eothen 
by Alexander Kinglake and Jonathan Raban.
Century, 226 pp., £6.95, September 1982, 0 7126 0031 0
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... Bible into Chinese. (‘He boned up feverishly on Manchu,’ enthuses his other biographer, David Williams, in his schoolboyish way.) Borrow had to argue in Russian with the Tsar’s board of censors, hire and supervise ill-educated Estonian compositors to set up Mongolian print (which, he said, ‘differs little from the Mandchou’) and prepare to ...

Making It Up

Raphael Samuel, 4 July 1996

Raymond Williams 
by Fred Inglis.
Routledge, 333 pp., £19.99, October 1995, 0 415 08960 3
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... This biography opens with a vivid chapter on Raymond Williams’s funeral. Entitled ‘Prologue, in Memoriam’, it transports the reader to Clodock Church, ‘a plain little building’ in the foothills of the Black Mountains. It is a comfortless day, Fred Inglis tells us. ‘The light fell crooked and the road fell wrong ...

Exotic Bird from Ilford

Robert Baird: Denise Levertov, 25 September 2014

Denise Levertov: A Poet’s Life 
by Dana Greene.
Illinois, 328 pp., £22.99, October 2012, 978 0 252 03710 8
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A Poet’s Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov 
by Donna Krolik Hollenberg.
California, 515 pp., £30.95, April 2013, 978 0 520 27246 0
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Collected Poems 
by Denise Levertov.
New Directions, 1063 pp., £32.99, December 2013, 978 0 8112 2173 3
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... Her father, born to a prosperous Jewish family in Belarus as Feivel Levertoff, renamed himself Paul and was ordained in the Church of England. Levertov was taught at home by her mother and then went to ballet school. ‘Hitler is not going to make me give up my career,’ she told her parents – but still, she gave up dancing in 1940, the same year she ...

Sixtysomethings

Paul Addison, 11 May 1995

True Blues: The Politics of Conservative Party Membership 
by Paul Whiteley, Patrick Seyd and Jeremy Richardson.
Oxford, 303 pp., £35, October 1994, 0 19 827786 5
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Frustrate Their Knavish Tricks: Writings on Biography, History and Politics 
by Ben Pimlott.
HarperCollins, 417 pp., £20, August 1994, 9780002554954
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... to the world at the Annual Party Conference. From now on there is less excuse for ignorance. Paul Whiteley, Patrick Seyd and Jeremy Richardson have conducted the first national survey of Conservative Party members, based on a sample of 34 constituency associations in various regions, including Scotland. Since the survey is based on a standardised ...

An American Romance

Edward Mendelson, 18 February 1982

Old Glory: An American Voyage 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins, 527 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 9780002165211
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No particular place to go 
by Hugo Williams.
Cape, 200 pp., £6.50, October 1981, 0 224 01810 8
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... naysayers like Ronald Reagan with his Hollywood pieties, and the ‘twinkling demagogue’ John Paul II, who toured America while Raban was on the river. Raban does encounter one local hero worth following, and in Memphis, Tennessee, he abandons his river journey for a few weeks to serve as a squire in a different sort of quest. Judge Otis Higgs is ...

Ask Anyone in Canada

Neal Ascherson: Max Beaverbrook’s Mediations, 24 October 2019

Max Beaverbrook: Not Quite a Gentleman 
by Charles Williams.
Biteback, 566 pp., £25, June 2019, 978 1 84954 746 8
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... managed to suppress it (‘the veriest twaddle’). This snapshot – one of many in Charles Williams’s biography – reveals two factors in Beaverbrook’s success. The first is that posh English society was no match for him. He was ‘vulgar’, but there was a charm in his self-promotion which made languid ladies and gentlemen want to be on his side ...

I jolly well would have

Paul Foot, 20 August 1992

Claire clairmont and the Shelleys 
by Robert Gittings and Jo Manton.
Oxford, 281 pp., £20, April 1992, 0 19 818594 4
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Mab’s Daughters 
by Judith Chernaik.
Pan, 229 pp., £5.99, July 1992, 0 330 32379 2
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... lost touch with them, she moved away from the other members of the Shelley circle, Mary, Jane Williams, whose husband had drowned with Shelley, Jefferson Hogg, Trelawney, Hunt. Her work as governess and teacher took her to Tsarist Russia into the employ of a nobleman who would rather have perished than know he had taken into his home a companion of that ...

Jungle Joys

Alfred Appel Jr: Wa-Wa-Wa with the Duke, 5 September 2002

... Jungle Band’s most extraordinary sounds were produced by the trumpeters Bubber Miley and Cootie Williams (who took Miley’s place in 1929) and the trombonist Joe Nanton, whose nickname ‘Tricky Sam’ projected the essence of ‘jungle’ techniques. Following the example of King Oliver, they developed a wider variety of often speech-like growling and ...

Tales of Hofmann

Blake Morrison, 20 November 1986

Acrimony 
by Michael Hofmann.
Faber, 79 pp., £8.95, October 1986, 0 571 14527 2
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Idols 
by Stephen Romer.
Oxford, 48 pp., £3.95, September 1986, 0 19 281984 4
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Opia 
by Alan Moore.
Anvil, 83 pp., £4.50, August 1986, 9780856461613
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New Chatto Poets 
edited by Andrew Motion.
Chatto, 79 pp., £4.95, September 1986, 0 7011 3080 6
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A.D. Hope: Selected Poems 
edited by Ruth Morse.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £3.95, April 1986, 0 85635 640 9
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The Electrification of the Soviet Union 
by Craig Raine.
Faber, 69 pp., £8.95, August 1986, 0 571 14539 6
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... Hofmann’s book comes in the footsteps of Tony Harrison’s Continuous, Craig Raine’s Rich, Paul Muldoon’s Quoof and Hugo Williams’s Letters Home, all of which voyage round the paterfamilias: that tradition is much more pious and affectionate. The Williams offers the closest ...

If Only Analogues...

Ange Mlinko: Ginsberg Goes to India, 20 November 2008

A Blue Hand: The Beats in India 
by Deborah Baker.
Penguin US, 256 pp., £25.95, April 2008, 978 1 59420 158 5
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... name ‘the Hungry Generation’ (later the ‘Hungryalists’). But, like William Carlos Williams in America, they decried what they called the ‘vegetarian’ vocabulary of the educated classes and championed the demotic: ‘This language had never been heard in Bengali literature. With it they hoped to break down metre, rhyme and, while they were ...

Heat in a Mild Climate

James Wood: Baron Britain of Aldeburgh, 19 December 2013

Benjamin Britten: A Life in the 20th Century 
by Paul Kildea.
Allen Lane, 635 pp., £30, January 2013, 978 1 84614 232 1
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Benjamin Britten: A Life for Music 
by Neil Powell.
Hutchinson, 512 pp., £25, January 2013, 978 0 09 193123 0
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... is sung as the cast processes out of the church); a homespun cacophony.Two biographies, by Paul Kildea and Neil Powell, intelligently appraise this official and unofficial Britten, and are rich with contradiction. Britten was quietly radical and quietly conservative. He was a joiner and a separatist: he lived most of his life in Suffolk, well away from ...

Bustin’ up the Chiffarobe

Alex Abramovich: Paul Beatty, 7 January 2016

The Sellout 
by Paul Beatty.
Farrar, Straus, 288 pp., £17, March 2015, 978 0 374 26050 7
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... The pure products​ of America go crazy, William Carlos Williams wrote, but he was only half right: America’s crazy, and so sometimes its pure products go sane. Consider the eponymous narrator of Paul Beatty’s novel The Sellout. When we first meet him, in the Supreme Court’s ‘cavernous chambers’, the sellout’s hands are cuffed behind his back ...

Short Cuts

Rory Scothorne: Class before Nation, 14 December 2017

... alien and a programme revealing the secrets of alchemy, both shunted from Scottish screens by ‘a Paul Coia quiz show about hills’ and a ‘cartoon series about Gaelic accidents’. There has been no better expression of the deeply Scottish suspicion that the English might be having more fun than we are. ‘Stop the world, Scotland wants to get on,’ the ...

His One Eye Glittering

August Kleinzahler: Creeley’s Chatter, 20 May 2021

The Selected Letters of Robert Creeley 
edited by Rod Smith, Peter Baker and Kaplan Harris.
California, 467 pp., £25, March 2020, 978 0 520 32483 1
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... a ‘self’ at all.Among Creeley’s early correspondents were Charles Olson and William Carlos Williams, who served, somewhat, as father figures. His actual father, a doctor, died when Creeley was four, after which the family’s fortunes took a serious downturn. Creeley first wrote to Williams in February ...

Diary

Paul Barker: Bellamy’s Dream, 19 May 1988

... current intellectual problem is to find an alternative myth (for Rudolf Bahro and Raymond Williams ecology was the green hope, as the red faded). In Das Kapital, published a few years earlier, Karl Marx tore apart the workings of the 19th-century world. But, notoriously, he never said much about the earthly paradise he hoped for. Looking backward ...

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