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Out of the closet

Tom Paulin, 29 October 1987

Emily Dickinson 
by Helen McNeil.
Virago, 208 pp., £3.50, April 1986, 0 86068 619 1
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Emily Dickinson: Looking to Canaan 
by John Robinson.
Faber, 191 pp., £3.95, August 1986, 0 571 13943 4
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Emily Dickinson: A Poet’s Grammar 
by Christanne Miller.
Harvard, 212 pp., £15.95, July 1987, 0 674 25035 4
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Emily Dickinson: The Poet on the Second Story 
by Jerome Loving.
Cambridge, 128 pp., £20, April 1987, 0 521 32781 4
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... models among famous women writers of her day – George Eliot, the Brontës, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Yet as Christanne Miller points out, Dickinson didn’t actively support the political campaign for women’s rights ‘or, apparently, sympathise with women generally’. It is in the radical new language of the poems themselves that the battle against ...

A Cousin of Colonel Heneage

Robert Crawford: Was Eliot a Swell?, 18 April 2019

The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume VIII: 1936-38 
edited by Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden.
Faber, 1100 pp., £50, January 2019, 978 0 571 31638 0
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... for Dunbar – but Eliot’s fine sense of naming in poetry owes more to 19th-century precedents. Robert Browning, who called one of his lippiest poems not ‘Filippo Lippi’ (the name by which the artist was usually known) but ‘Fra Lippo Lippi’, had the name-gift, and some of his finest poems bear the names of their speakers. Eliot owed more to ...

This Trying Time

A.N. Wilson: John Sparrow, 1 October 1998

The Warden 
by John Lowe.
HarperCollins, 258 pp., £19.99, August 1998, 0 00 215392 0
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... mind than Berlin’s, and his fall, like Satan’s, was therefore the greater. It would have taken Robert Browning to convey this with anything like the comic pathos, the irony, which it deserved. Sparrow’s ‘failure’, if such it was, to become a poet, or a serious antiquarian, must have felt for much of his life like a success. He ‘saved’ All ...

Make the music mute

John Barrell, 9 July 1992

English Music 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 241 12501 4
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... explicitly excluded. William Byrd becomes indistinguishable, not only from Gustav Holst, but from Robert Browning and John Martin. The serpentine line of Hogarth, the bounding line of Blake – each disappears into the other; the line of music and the line of art merely repeat each other, so that Hogarth, who was entirely sceptical of accounts of visual ...

Thinking Women

Jane Miller, 6 November 1986

... Miller in the early Fifties she was becoming quite famous as the author of a good biography of Robert Browning. I had read two of the seven novels she wrote during the Thirties and Forties. I did not know her well, but I liked her, and that was unusual for me. I was a late developer in this respect as in the matter of women’s civic rights, and I ...


Donald Davie, 11 June 1992

In the Circumstances: About Poems and Poets 
by Peter Robinson.
Oxford, 260 pp., £35, May 1992, 0 19 811248 3
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... presiding presence; his poetry is the bar before which other poets –Auden and Eliot, Hardy and Robert Lowell and Browning. Pound and, yes, Hill – are brought to judgment. This is not overt. Robinson can’t, any more than the rest of us, come on like a latter-day Leavis, a fearlessly normative ...

Anxious Pleasures

James Wood: Thomas Hardy, 4 January 2007

Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 486 pp., £25, October 2006, 0 670 91512 2
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... their lives. In his literary notebook, he copied out sentences from G.K. Chesterton’s book about Robert Browning, published in 1903. Chesterton had written about ‘the terrible importance of detail’ that apparently possessed Browning in an almost demonic way: Any room that he was sitting in glared at him with ...

Doctors’ Orders

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 18 February 1982

‘All that summer she was mad’: Virginia Woolf and Her Doctors 
by Stephen Trombley.
Junction, 338 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 9780862450397
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... is the concluding interpretation of Flush, Woolf’s playful ‘biography’ of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel, here solemnly discovered to contain a repressed autobiographical account of her flirtation with her brother-in-law, Clive Bell. Elizabeth Barrett turns out to be Vanessa, Robert Browning is revealed ...

Rah, Rah, Cheers, Queers

Terry Castle: On Getting Married, 29 August 2013

... voodoo doll maker); rusty razor-blades, broken haircurling gadgets, little bars of perfumed soap browning with age in the upstairs bathroom; mysterious bottles of pills from 1994; giant bags of kitty litter; teak doodads from Pier One Imports; a lifetime’s worth of chipped Royal Family plates and eggcups; mouldy phone books; an enormous collection of ...

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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... renounces the world and despises society. Dante scholarship soon began to operate, however, and Browning perceived that the exposition of a serious and complex intellectual theme could be based on Dante’s example and his characters. Sordello, the ideal poet and man of action combined, ‘half minstrel and half emperor’, provides ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: 10,860 novels, 23 August 2001

... of Granta, suggested that it would be more accurate to say there was a ‘lull’. Since, then, Robert McCrum, the literary editor of the Observer, has discussed the question more than once in his column, ‘The World of Books’. And in a recent issue of the Guardian, Stephen Moss, that paper’s former literary editor, has asked: ‘Why do ...

I want to boom

Mark Ford: Pound Writes Home, 24 May 2012

Ezra Pound to His Parents: Letters 1895-1929 
edited by Mary de Rachewiltz, David Moody and Joanna Moody.
Oxford, 737 pp., £39, January 2011, 978 0 19 958439 0
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... On receipt of a first draft of what would end up as Canto II, the one that begins ‘Hang it all, Robert Browning’, Homer records that reading it made him feel ‘like one going up in an Airship – The Mechanician has honoured me with a seat – and we are soon up in the pure azure – Time and space are nothing.’ He modestly declares his opinion of ...

Unhappy Families

Angela Carter, 16 September 1982

The Beauties and Furies 
by Christina Stead.
Virago, 329 pp., £3.95, July 1982, 0 86068 175 0
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... is really going on. The monologue is Stead’s forte, dramatic monologues comparable to those of Robert Browning. In Letty Fox: Her Luck (1946) she extends this form of the dramatic monologue to the length of an entire novel. It is an elaborate imitation autobiography almost in the manner of Defoe, a completely successful impersonation of an American ...

Collapse of the Sofa Cushions

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 24 March 1994

Victorian Poetry: Poetry, Poetics and Politics 
by Isobel Armstrong.
Routledge, 545 pp., £35, October 1993, 0 415 03016 1
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The Woman Reader: 1837-1914 
by Kate Flint.
Oxford, 366 pp., £25, October 1993, 0 19 811719 1
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... had many reminiscences” – the political eloquence of Swinburne, the psychological curiosity of Browning, and the poetical diction of everybody.’ For all the scepticism currently being directed at the high Modernists themselves, their charges against the Victorians have not altogether lost their sting. An aura of sentimentality and prosaic discursiveness ...

Something about her eyes

Patricia Beer, 24 June 1993

Daphne du Maurier 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 455 pp., £17.99, March 1993, 0 7011 3699 5
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... and depressions of two wars, she re-christened Moper. She referred to her menstrual periods as Robert. In the future some intuitive biographer might put forward a connection with the footman at Manderley whom she also called Robert. The fortunes of Moper, who at this stage had risen to be Major-General Sir Frederick ...

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