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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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... worked with James Guthrie at the Peartree Press. She might have lived in Hampstead and gone to Robert Bevan’s Sundays, or tramped with Eleanor Farjeon to Edward Thomas’s cottage. As it was, she found herself in Bloomsbury. Even if they were, as Quentin Bell called them, ‘as amorphous as friends can be’, they were nearly all highly literate, and ...

Various Woman

Penelope Fitzgerald, 2 April 1987

A Voyager Out: The Life of Mary Kingsley 
by Katherine Frank.
Hamish Hamilton, 333 pp., £14.95, February 1987, 0 241 12074 8
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Marilyn 
by Gloria Steinem and George Barris.
Gollancz, 182 pp., £12.95, February 1987, 0 575 03945 0
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Joe and Marilyn: A Memory of Love 
by Roger Kahn.
Sidgwick, 268 pp., £10.95, March 1987, 0 283 99427 4
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I leap over the wall 
by Monica Baldwin and Karen Armstrong.
Hamish Hamilton, 308 pp., £4.95, March 1987, 9780241119747
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Diary of a Zen Nun: A Moving Chronicle of Living Zen 
by Nan Shin (Nancy Amphoux).
Rider, 228 pp., £5.95, January 1987, 9780712614320
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... Even after her death, which now seems to have become more interesting than her life, the claims of Robert Kennedy, the Communist Party and the Mafia are undecided. On every point Steinem is protective. Marilyn was doubly unfortunate in dying ‘before women began to be honest in public’. The same stories appear in Joe and Marilyn, though more luridly told ...

Write to me

Danny Karlin, 11 January 1990

The Brownings’ Correspondence. Vol. VII: March-October 1843 
edited by Philip Kelley and Ronald Hudson.
Athlone, 429 pp., £60, December 1989, 0 485 30027 3
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... My dear Lady Olliffe,’ Robert Browning wrote in March 1877: I have just been reading my old friend Miss Martineau’s protest against the publication – and indeed, retention – of all correspondence. Here, now, is a sample of mine: be assured I shall never demand it again, from any apprehension that hereafter the friendliness in it may be at variance with whatever feeling I please to entertain thirty years hence ...

Quod erat Hepburn

John Bayley, 3 April 1986

Katharine Hepburn: A Biography 
by Anne Edwards.
Hodder, 395 pp., £12.95, March 1986, 0 340 33719 2
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... until it becomes their proper nature. It is the same with writers and artists. Byron or David or Robert Lowell cannot slink off and become their ordinary selves in the intervals of being poets and painters and men of the age. Greta Garbo is always Greta Garbo, once she has found the part. But there is quite a different category of actor, as of ...

The Spree

Frank Kermode, 22 February 1996

The Feminisation of American Culture 
by Ann Douglas.
Papermac, 403 pp., £10, February 1996, 0 333 65421 8
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Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the Twenties 
by Ann Douglas.
Picador, 606 pp., £20, February 1996, 0 330 34683 0
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... example, she says more than once that Hemingway proved to be a better writer about the war than Robert Graves or Siegfried Sassoon, even though they saw a lot more fighting than he did, precisely because he was not, as they were, hampered by a literary education and training in ‘conventional strategies of expression’. A similar point is made about the ...

All of Denmark was at his feet

John Sutherland, 12 May 1994

John Steinbeck: A Biography 
by Jay Parini.
Heinemann, 605 pp., £20, March 1994, 0 434 57492 9
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... took a firm moral line and conveyed a message.’ Dyslexia is similarly indulged; ‘Like Scott Fitzgerald, his contemporary, Steinbeck could neither spell nor punctuate.’ When Steinbeck drops out of Stanford, Parini observes that ‘Like so many gifted writers – F. Scott Fitzgerald, W. H. Auden and ...

Manners maketh books

E.S. Turner, 20 August 1981

Debrett’s Etiquette and Modern Manners 
edited by Elsie Burch Donald.
Debrett, 400 pp., £8.95, June 1981, 0 905649 43 5
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... would have been welcome in these pages. To George IV is attributed a stinging judgment on Sir Robert Peel: ‘He is no gentleman. He divides his coat tails when he sits down.’ A letter by Scott Fitzgerald is printed as a charming example of how to coax a 19-year-old daughter into saying thank-you for favours ...

No Crying in This House

Jackson Lears: The Kennedy Myth, 7 November 2013

The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy 
by David Nasaw.
Allen Lane, 896 pp., £12.35, September 2013, 978 0 14 312407 8
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Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch 
by Barbara Perry.
Norton, 404 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 0 393 06895 5
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... self-made father with connections in Hollywood, Wall Street, Washington and London, and by Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, a devout but fashionable Catholic mum, as at home on the golf links or the ski slopes as in Windsor Castle. After making millions in banking, real estate and film distribution, the father wants to devote his life to public service, and to ...

Terrible to be alive

Julian Symons, 5 December 1991

Randall Jarrell: A Literary Life 
by William Pritchard.
Farrar, Straus, 335 pp., $25, April 1990, 0 374 24677 7
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Randall Jarrell: Selected Poems 
edited by William Pritchard.
Farrar, Straus, 115 pp., $17.95, April 1990, 0 374 25867 8
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... volume can now be seen ‘to stain the whole sea’ of modern verse. His advocacy of Scott Fitzgerald began with, or endured through, the appalling This Side of Paradise to the triumph of Gatsby. Stevens, Cummings, Pound, Crane, Dos Passos: their merits and possibilities of development were noted at an early stage in their careers. For two decades or a ...

Plonking

Ferdinand Mount: Edward Heath, 22 July 2010

Edward Heath 
by Philip Ziegler.
Harper, 654 pp., £25, June 2010, 978 0 00 724740 0
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... suppressio veri, with a whiff of suggestio falsi too. There was also in Heath’s manner what Robert Rhodes James, then a senior clerk in the House of Commons, diagnosed as ‘an ominous note of thinly veiled intellectual contempt for those in his party who opposed the application’. Neither then nor later did Heath have much time for vox populi or for ...

Pork Chops

John Bayley, 25 April 1991

Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Very Private Life 
by Robert Bernard Martin.
HarperCollins, 448 pp., £18, April 1991, 0 00 217662 9
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... skills as a biographer, already manifest in his detailed and persuasive studies of Tennyson, FitzGerald and Charles Kingsley, are at their best in that rich Victorian ambience where religion, art and sex mingled in an unself-conscious totality. He several times takes for granted in criticism or exposition that Hopkins is one of the ‘great’ Victorian ...

When Ireland Became Divided

Garret FitzGerald: The Free State’s Fight for Recognition, 21 January 1999

Documents on Irish Foreign Policy. Vol. I: 1919-22 
edited by Ronan Fanning.
Royal Irish Academy and Department of Foreign Affairs, 548 pp., £30, October 1998, 1 874045 63 1
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... including my parents, held in the archives of University College Dublin. My father, Desmond FitzGerald, was Director, later Minister for Publicity, for most of the period and during the last few months of 1922 was minister in charge of the combined Foreign Affairs and Publicity Departments, under the new description ‘External Affairs’. The Irish ...

Vigah

Elizabeth Drew: JFK, 20 November 2003

John F. Kennedy: An Unfinished Life 1917-63 
by Robert Dallek.
Allen Lane, 838 pp., £25, September 2003, 0 7139 9737 0
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... by toadying family retainers or by people bent on destroying the Camelot myth. The historian Robert Dallek is neither; he decided to enter the field, as he explains in his introduction, in part because documents had become available that threw new light on several aspects of Kennedy’s life, and in part because he thought the old ones should be given a ...

Risky Business

Elaine Showalter, 22 September 1994

Telling Women’s Lives: The New Biography 
by Linda Wagner-Martin.
Rutgers, 201 pp., $22.95, July 1994, 0 8135 2092 4
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... of women’s autobiography; Heilbrun and Wagner-Martin agree that Nancy Milford’s study of Zelda Fitzgerald in 1970, coinciding with the early years of the women’s movement, established a new openness and frankness in the writing of biography, as well as illuminating a paradigmatic life – the Wife of the Poet. ‘There was a sense, in the late Sixties ...

Riparian

Douglas Johnson, 15 July 1982

The Left Bank: Writers in Paris, from Popular Front to Cold War 
by Herbert Lottman.
Heinemann, 319 pp., £12.50, May 1982, 0 434 42943 0
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... by the exiled Madame de Staël, that it was this street that she missed most of all – whilst Robert Brasillach lived in the more elongated ugliness of the Rue Lecourbe, not far removed. But when they were in Spain, at the time of the Civil War, they were on different sides, and the books they wrote about the war were in sharp contrast one to the ...

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