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Lucian Freud

Nicholas Penny, 31 March 1988

... which I have had with the artist whilst writing on the early drawings and since seeing the Hay ward exhibition. The group of drawings at the beginning of the exhibition at the Hay ward dates front the Forties – drawings of tense wide-eyed people, the acutest of them Lucian Freud himself, as well as of isolated ...

After-Lives

John Sutherland, 5 November 1992

Keepers of the Flame: Literary Estates and the Rise of Biography 
by Ian Hamilton.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £18.99, October 1992, 0 09 174263 3
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Testamentary Acts: Browning, Tennyson, James, Hardy 
by Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 273 pp., £27.50, June 1992, 0 19 811276 9
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The Last Laugh 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 131 pp., £10.99, December 1991, 0 7011 4583 8
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Trollope 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Hutchinson, 551 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 09 173896 2
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... Ian Hamilton came to biography late and triumphantly with his life of the dead but still warm Robert Lowell. Riding high, he went on to attempt an unauthorised life of the aged but very much alive J.D. Salinger and was comprehensively outfoxed by the second most reclusive man in American letters. Hamilton wrote up his experience as a rueful memoir, In ...

No Surrender

Tom Shippey: Vikings, 22 July 2010

The Hammer and the Cross: A New History of the Vikings 
by Robert Ferguson.
Allen Lane, 450 pp., £30, November 2009, 978 0 7139 9788 0
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... Robert Ferguson’s title has already been used at least twice for Viking-related works, which makes one wonder about his subtitle: what’s ‘new’ in Viking studies? The history of the Vikings has been well known, in outline, for a long time. By early medieval standards, we have very good documentation for it, in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and in Frankish and Irish annals, with further contributions from Arab and Byzantine sources, while the Icelanders’ passion for sagas and poems means that we also have versions of the Vikings’ side of the story ...

Making saints

Peter Burke, 18 October 1984

Saints and Society: The Two Worlds of Western Christendom 1000-1700 
by Donald Weinstein and Rudolph Bell.
Chicago, 314 pp., £21.25, February 1983, 0 226 89055 4
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The Norman Conquest and Beyond 
by Frank Barlow.
Hambledon, 318 pp., £22, June 1983, 0 907628 19 2
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Miracles and the Medieval Mind 
by Benedicta Ward.
Scolar, 321 pp., £17.50, November 1983, 0 85967 609 9
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The Great Debate on Miracles: From Joseph Glanvill to David Hume 
by R.M. Burns.
Associated University Presses, 305 pp., £17.50, July 1983, 0 8387 2378 0
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Saints and their Cults: Studies in Religious Sociology, Folklore and History 
edited by Stephen Wilson.
Cambridge, 435 pp., £35, December 1983, 0 521 24978 3
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... far as the beginning of the century. In a paper published in 1913, the gifted young anthropologist Robert Hertz, soon to be killed in the First World War, studied the cult of Saint Besse as an expression of the values of an Alpine community, ‘taking us inside the consciousness, otherwise so distant and so closed, of the mountain people’. In his Medieval ...

Paley’s Planet

Robert Walshe, 17 April 1986

Three of a Kind 
by Rachel Ingalls.
Faber, 141 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 571 13606 0
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Home Truths 
by Mavis Gallant.
Cape, 330 pp., £9.95, November 1985, 0 224 02344 6
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Later the Same Day 
by Grace Paley.
Virago, 211 pp., £8.95, November 1985, 0 86068 701 5
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... at a ski resort; acquaintances the narrator had crossed an ocean to leave behind; the geriatric ward. Here the structure of the story is identical to that of the first. We are lured along by the devices of a somewhat homespun style, and hit over the head with a mallet. We are not meant to recover. More detail is conveyed about the rich, and we like them ...

The President’s Alternate

Fredrik Logevall: Bobby Kennedy, 18 May 2017

Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon 
by Larry Tye.
Ballantine, 624 pp., £15.58, May 2017, 978 0 8129 8350 0
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... It’s​ nearly fifty years since Robert Kennedy was shot as he walked through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The date was 5 June 1968; and he had just won a narrow victory in the California Democratic primary. The gunman, Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant angry about Kennedy’s support for Israel, fired three shots at close range ...

Just a smack at Grigson

Denis Donoghue, 7 March 1985

Montaigne’s Tower, and Other Poems 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Secker, 72 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 436 18806 6
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Collected Poems: 1963-1980 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 557 3
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The Faber Book of Reflective Verse 
edited by Geoffrey Grigson.
Faber, 238 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 571 13299 5
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Blessings, Kicks and Curses 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 279 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 558 1
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The Private Art: A Poetry Notebook 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 231 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 9780850315592
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Before the Romantics: An Anthology of the Enlightenment 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Salamander, 349 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 907540 59 7
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... Pound (‘the pathos of the loony, traitorous, filthslinging poet in his cage at Pisa or in his ward in the Washington asylum’), to ‘restricted and jejune Eliot’ – Over the Missouri, over the Seine,   Over the Thames, and over the Severn, The soul of white Tom   Shall float to Heaven – to Hardy’s ‘rather monotonously small follower ...

Uncrownable King and Queen

Christopher Sykes, 7 February 1980

The Windsor Story 
by J. Bryan and Charles Murphy.
Granada, 602 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 246 11323 5
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... Duchess with hers, can add much detail but little new basic knowledge, even though Freda Dudley Ward has for the first time broken her silence about her 16-year-long friendship with the Duke when he was Prince. The authors seem indifferent to the perils of the libel laws and in consequence write with refreshing if unchivalrous candour, but unfortunately ...

Human Boys

Penelope Fitzgerald, 7 December 1989

True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole, Margaret Hilda Roberts and Robert and Susan Lilian Townsend 
by Sue Townsend.
Methuen, 117 pp., £5.99, August 1989, 0 413 62450 1
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CounterBlasts No 9: Mr Bevan’s Dream 
by Sue Townsend.
Chatto, 74 pp., £2.99, November 1989, 0 7011 3468 2
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... is devoid of love and laughter.’ He goes to a cremation. He visits his mother in the pre-natal ward and is allowed (rather improbably) to watch the birth of his baby sister. He knows, too, that the baby’s father is the next-door neighbour, Mr Lucas. At school he has his own girlfriend, a little older and a good deal cleverer and better-off than ...

The chair she sat on

J.I.M. Stewart, 19 July 1984

Secrets of a Woman’s Heart: The Later Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett 1920-1969 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hodder, 336 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 340 26241 9
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... this persuasion she did nothing to controvert – so that when her ardent admirer and close friend Robert Liddell engaged in a somewhat demeaning rummage in Burke and Crockford in search of distinguished Compton-Burnetts whether living or dead and gone, he was astonished to discover none at all. Both Burnetts and Comptons had in fact been farm labourers not ...

Steaming like a Pie

Theo Tait: ‘Going Postal’, 4 December 2003

Mailman 
by J. Robert Lennon.
Granta, 483 pp., £15.99, October 2003, 1 86207 625 1
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... a cartoon version of what Philip Roth called ‘the indigenous American berserk’. The hero of J. Robert Lennon’s fourth novel is a postal carrier, a loner in late middle age, moderately disgruntled, deranged to an uncertain extent – raising concerns that he will storm his place of work with a shotgun before the novel is through. But Albert Lippincott ...

Half-Timbering, Homosexuality and Whingeing

Ian Sansom: Julian Barnes, 1 October 1998

England, England 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 272 pp., £15.99, September 1998, 0 224 05275 6
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... terrible vision in On Trust for the Nation). The central character is a composite caricature (part Robert Maxwell, part Mohamed al-Fayed). The story is as old as the hills (love, betrayal, the search for happiness). The plot structure is both obvious and predictable (a three-parter, with the requisite climaxes and crises), the themes comforting and familiar ...

Miracles, Marvels, Magic

Caroline Walker Bynum: Medieval Marvels, 9 July 2009

The Natural and the Supernatural in the Middle Ages 
by Robert Bartlett.
Cambridge, 170 pp., £17.99, April 2008, 978 0 521 70255 3
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... and hence its full power to help us understand how beliefs and events emerge, then as now. Robert Bartlett understands this very well. In The Natural and the Supernatural in the Middle Ages, four lectures given in Belfast, he does something much harder than merely divert us with medieval oddities or explain them away as misunderstandings. He explores ...

Tricked Out as a Virgin

Bee Wilson: Respectable Enough, 4 November 2021

The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey: A True Story of Sex, Crime and the Meaning of Justice 
by Julia Laite.
Profile, 410 pp., £16.99, April, 978 1 78816 442 9
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... expressed pity for the poor women on the street, but many viewed them with misogynist contempt. Robert Fabian, a former London superintendent, wrote in his memoirs that ‘the whore is a bad apple … there is a big brown bruise on her soul, of self-indulgence and selfishness.’ But traffickers and pimps were also vile: ‘the lowest form of animal life on ...

A Book at Bedtime

William Gass, 10 November 1994

The Arabian Nights: A Companion 
by Robert Irwin.
Allen Lane, 344 pp., £20, January 1994, 0 7139 9105 4
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... as the decline of its importance into what, so ironic for the Nights, we call bedtime stories. Robert Irwin’s Companion will describe how these humble and mainly entertaining street stories grew into an enormously influential masterpiece. He will talk about the way the themes in these stories manifest themselves; he will point out their motifs and ...

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