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The Road to Sligo

Tom Paulin, 17 May 1984

Poetry and Metamorphosis 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Cambridge, 97 pp., £9.95, March 1983, 0 521 24848 5
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Translations 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 120 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 19 211958 3
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Conversation with the Prince 
by Tadeusz Rozewicz, translated by Adam Czerniawski.
Anvil, 206 pp., £4.95, March 1982, 0 85646 079 6
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Passions and Impressions 
by Pablo Neruda, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden.
Farrar, Straus/Faber, 396 pp., £16.50, October 1983, 0 571 12054 7
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An Empty Room 
by Leopold Staff, translated by Adam Czerniawski.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £3.25, March 1983, 0 906427 52 5
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... a slight resentment towards translations, and in his clever ‘Poem Waiting to be Translated’, Peter Porter asks: Why not remember the heroes of hard situations, those who answered inquisitors in fresh parables, whose lyrical rejoinders are assembled here in memorial Penguins? Porter is glancing at the work of ...

Sink or Skim

Michael Wood: ‘The Alexandria Quartet’, 1 January 2009

Justine 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Folio Society, 203 pp., £19.95, January 2009
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Balthazar 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Folio Society, 198 pp., £19.95, January 2009
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Mountolive 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Folio Society, 263 pp., £19.95, January 2009
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Clea 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Folio Society, 241 pp., £19.95, January 2009
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... edition, with its alternately haunting and embarrassing photomontages and a fine introduction by Peter Porter, is a perfect invitation to rereading. There are many people who are sure the Quartet is a masterpiece of some sort, however patchy; and there are people who are sure it’s not a masterpiece because they find it unreadable. I have, at different ...

Escaped from the Lab

Robert Crawford: Peter Redgrove, 21 June 2012

A Lucid Dreamer: The Life of Peter Redgrove 
by Neil Roberts.
Cape, 341 pp., £30, January 2012, 978 0 224 09029 2
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Collected Poems 
by Peter Redgrove, edited by Neil Roberts.
Cape, 496 pp., £25, January 2012, 978 0 224 09027 8
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... Peter Redgrove had a secret. It was called ‘the Game’. Sexual in nature, this obsessive ritual ignited some of his most arresting poetry, and was vital to his personal mythology for sixty years. Known only to his lovers and a few in his inner circle, the Game has now been made public in Neil Roberts’s remarkable biography of the poet, published almost a decade after Redgrove’s death, along with a new Collected Poems ...

Rowlandsonian

John Brewer, 5 August 1982

English Society in the Eighteenth Century 
by Roy Porter.
Allen Lane/Pelican, 424 pp., £12.50, April 1982, 0 7139 1417 3
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... have come of age. The work of two generations of researchers, led by such avatars as Alan Everitt, Peter Laslett, J. H. Plumb, Lawrence Stone, Keith Thomas and E. P. Thompson, now constitutes a substantial body of knowledge that has transformed our conception both of British history and of what constitutes legitimate historical inquiry. The modish topics of ...

Vendlerising

John Kerrigan, 2 April 1987

The Faber Book of Contemporary American Poetry 
edited by Helen Vendler.
Faber, 440 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 571 13945 0
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Selected Poems 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 348 pp., £16.95, April 1986, 0 85635 666 2
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The Poetry Book Society Anthology 1986/87 
edited by Jonathan Barker.
Hutchinson, 94 pp., £4.95, November 1986, 0 09 165961 2
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Two Horse Wagon Going By 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 143 pp., £5.95, October 1986, 0 85635 661 1
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... a huge leap from the ‘dauntless master’ of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company to Peter Porter among the ‘takeaways’, ‘civic galleries’ and ‘cement escarpments’ of Rusholme. When the history of indebtedness comes to be written, quirkier contributions will be charted: Eberhart’s gift to Geoffrey Hill; Muldoon’s ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: Van Dyck’s Portraits, 12 March 2009

... here is his contemporary William Dobson’s powerful portrait of Van Dyck’s friend Endymion Porter. Compare it with the self-portrait with Porter that Van Dyck painted ten years earlier and you see the thickening of age and weight of care descend on a man. Dobson died in poverty at the age of 36. ...

Punch-up at the Poetry Reading

Joanna Kavenna: Dorothy Porter’s verse novel, 7 May 1998

The Monkey's Mask 
by Dorothy Porter.
Serpent’s Tail, 264 pp., £9.99, October 1997, 1 85242 549 0
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... self-destructive, stripped of family, a figure who slides towards pathos and even absurdity (Peter Sellers as moustache-twitching Gallic ingénu). At the beginning of the trail, the central event has already happened; the detective, divested of any power to abort or determine, can only reconstruct, seeking an origin, an ‘answer’. The genre is ...

Something an academic might experience

Michael Neve, 26 September 1991

The Faber Book of Madness 
edited by Roy Porter.
Faber, 572 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 571 14387 3
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... shared by the social services who now look after him. It is a tribute to the social historian Roy Porter that he has devoted three books, and any number of articles, to the history of the John Sylvesters of this world. A prodigious historian, Porter has done the work that French historians can only theorise about. He has ...

At Dulwich Picture Gallery

Peter Campbell: Norman Rockwell, 20 January 2011

... of Posts in the alcove of the hospital where the shrouds were stored when I had a holiday job as a porter. At home it was airmail copies of the New Statesman and the occasional New Yorker. I was doubtless snobbish, but not to the point of ignoring visual and literary fast food. The Post was full of images that made no concession to hierarchies of taste. My ...

De Mortuis

Christopher Driver, 28 June 1990

The Ruffian on the Stair: Reflection on Death 
edited by Rosemary Dinnage.
Viking, 291 pp., £14.99, April 1990, 0 670 82763 0
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Death, Ritual and Bereavement 
edited by Ralph Houlbrooke.
Routledge, 250 pp., £35, October 1990, 0 415 01165 5
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In the Face of Death 
by Peter Noll, translated by Hans Noll.
Viking, 254 pp., £15.99, April 1990, 0 670 80703 6
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... views about hopes and fears, and the social-historical essays edited by Ralph Houlbrooke: Roy Porter, the historian of medicine. Both in his recorded conversation with Dinnage, who is a research psychologist by discipline, and in his academic essay, ‘Death and the Doctors in Georgian England’, Porter exhibits a ...

The Need for Buddies

Roy Porter, 22 June 2000

British Clubs and Societies 1580-1800: The Origins of an Associational World 
by Peter Clark.
Oxford, 516 pp., £60, January 2000, 0 19 820376 4
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... digesting the Times at the Reform or Athenaeum, before sorting out the world’s evils. But as Peter Clark, Britain’s leading urban historian, notes in a characteristically fact-packed but thoughtful study, that most English of institutions was going strong long before then. Indeed, Sam Johnson’s beloved ‘clubbable’ men must have been in clover in ...

Incriminating English

Randolph Quirk, 24 September 1992

Language, Self and Society: A Social History of Language 
edited by Peter Burke and Roy Porter.
Polity, 358 pp., £45, December 1991, 0 7456 0765 9
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Images of English: A Cultural History of the Language 
by Richard Bailey.
Cambridge, 329 pp., £16.95, March 1992, 0 521 41572 1
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The Oxford Companion to the English Language 
edited by Tom McArthur and Feri McArthur.
Oxford, 1184 pp., £25, September 1992, 9780192141835
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The History of the English Language: A Source Book 
by David Burnley.
Longman, 373 pp., £25, January 1992, 0 582 02522 2
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The Cambridge History of the English Language. Vol. I: Beginnings to 1066 
edited by Richard Hogg and Norman Blake.
Cambridge, 609 pp., £60, August 1992, 9780521264747
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... deal in depth with English linguistic history. For example, the collection of papers edited by Peter Burke and Roy Porter, Language, Self and Society. This, you’d think (I thought), is just what is needed to excite a fresh interest in the history of English. Well, I thought wrong. The volume is too miscellaneous in ...

More Interesting than Learning how to Make Brandy Snaps

Bernard Porter: Stella Rimington, 18 October 2001

Open Secret: The Autobiography of the Former Director-General of MI5 
by Stella Rimington.
Hutchinson, 296 pp., £18.99, September 2001, 0 09 179360 2
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... and how much more he could tell if only his mouth was not what he was pleased to call closed.’ Peter Wright’s Spycatcher (1987) got the same kind of treatment; even Stella Rimington rubbishes it. Nobody loved him, whether they accepted his charges – a Russian mole in MI5, the ‘Wilson plot’ – or not. This is understandable. Ministers (like ...

From Notre Dame to Cluny, via a Beehive Hut

John Bossy: Abelard’s Final Fling, 2 July 1998

Abelard: A Medieval Life 
by M.T. Clanchy.
Blackwell, 416 pp., £45, January 1997, 0 631 20502 0
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... well, and matches with a wide and happy learning, which runs from Socrates to Eliot and from Cole Porter to Eco, his intense engagement with the mind and heart of Western Christendom in the 12th century, a time which always seems particularly springlike. His engagement is no less with the authors who have already written about Abelard, 76 of whom are cited ...

Trying to Make Decolonisation Look Good

Bernard Porter: The End of Empire, 2 August 2007

Britain’s Declining Empire: The Road to Decolonisation, 1918-68 
by Ronald Hyam.
Cambridge, 464 pp., £17.99, February 2007, 978 0 521 68555 9
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The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire 
by Peter Clarke.
Allen Lane, 559 pp., August 2007, 978 0 7139 9830 6
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Forgotten Wars: The End of Britain’s Asian Empire 
by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper.
Allen Lane, 673 pp., £30, January 2007, 978 0 7139 9782 8
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... they were so much cleverer than the Romans, but they never told the Romans this.’ (That is in Peter Clarke’s book.) He won’t have been serious; but the levity of the remark suggests that the fall of the empire wasn’t upsetting him too much. The inevitability of the end of empire was accepted mainly because it was so blindingly obvious to all save ...

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