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With the wind in our shrouds

Mary Beard, 26 July 1990

The Making of ‘The Golden Bough’: The Origin and Growth of an Argument 
by Robert Fraser.
Macmillan, 240 pp., £35, July 1990, 0 333 49631 0
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... operetta based on a play by none other than Lady Frazer (called, appropriately enough, The Singing Wood) and a display of indoor fireworks. Frazer himself, according to the reports, claimed to have been ‘particularly charmed’ by the fireworks – but, as he was by this date completely blind, one suspects a certain irony in the remark, perhaps even an ...

A Whack of Pies

Matthew Bevis: Dear to Mew, 16 December 2021

This Rare Spirit: A Life of Charlotte Mew 
by Julia Copus.
Faber, 464 pp., £25, April 2021, 978 0 571 31353 2
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Selected Poetry and Prose 
by Charlotte Mew, edited by Julia Copus.
Faber, 176 pp., £14.99, October 2019, 978 0 571 31618 2
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... de Fête’, one of the last poems she’d published, copied out in Hardy’s hand. Her friend Sydney Cockerell had found it among Hardy’s things a few months earlier and sent it on, adding that ‘we found no other poem of any sort copied out by T.H.’ Mew wrote to thank him for ‘the poem which no one else I think thought other than jingle’. It ...

i could’ve sold to russia or china

Jeremy Harding: Bradley Manning, 19 July 2012

The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story of the Suspect Behind the Largest Security Breach in US History 
by Chase Madar.
OR, 167 pp., £10, April 2012, 978 1 935928 53 9
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... the head of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a written statement for the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this month that he had indeed ‘caused serious harm to US national security and he should be prosecuted accordingly.’ That might mean little in an election year, but what of the alarming trove of email traffic at Stratfor, the ...

Swish! Swish! Swish!

Patrick Leigh Fermor: The Mani Olive Harvest, 29 July 2021

... like the comb people have for carding wool after the sheep-shearing – it’s just a bit of wood with some nails through it, really, and a handle. It does the work in half the time. You just comb the branches.’‘Is that so?’ Barba Stavro was as impressed as though he were learned of the discovery of steam power for the first time. When they had ...

Kafka at Las Vegas

Alan Bennett, 23 July 1987

... cared to admit. In a letter to Felice Bauer he indulges in the fantasy of being a large piece of wood, pressed against the body of a cook ‘who is holding the knife along the side of this stiff log (somewhere in the region of my hip) slicing off shavings to light the fire’. Many conclusions could be drawn from this image, some glibber than others. One of ...

In Bloody Orkney

Robert Crawford: George Mackay Brown, 22 February 2007

George Mackay Brown: The Life 
by Maggie Fergusson.
Murray, 363 pp., £25, April 2006, 0 7195 5659 7
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The Collected Poems of George Mackay Brown 
edited by Brian Murray.
Murray, 547 pp., £18.99, October 2006, 0 7195 6884 6
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... milieu of 1950s Edinburgh. For a time, Brown mixed there with Hugh MacDiarmid, Norman MacCaig, Sydney Goodsir Smith and other poets and literati. With its prostitutes and smoky, male-dominated pubs sporting signs which stated ‘Women Not Supplied’, Rose Street was a shithole of gender politics, emblematic in some ways of the Edinburgh that Muriel Spark ...

Are we there yet?

Seamus Perry: Tennyson, 20 January 2011

The Major Works 
by Alfred Tennyson, edited by Adam Roberts.
Oxford, 626 pp., £10.99, August 2009, 978 0 19 957276 2
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... many such disarming testimonies. ‘Nothing could be kinder than both Mr and Mrs Tennyson,’ Sydney Dobell wrote, ‘he in his great blind superhuman manner, like a colossal child.’ Jowett, while keen to emphasise his friend’s manly virtues, nevertheless acknowledged that ‘he is as open as the day, and, like a child, tells any chance comer what is ...

Who was David Peterley?

Michael Holroyd, 15 November 1984

... biographer to ignore ... all these sights and the garden sounds too, the hammer beating and the wood chopping, began that riot and confusion of the passions and emotions which every good biographer detests.’ There had been a number of experiments in the late 1920s and early 1930s – among them Harold Nicolson’s delightful vignettes Some People, Lytton ...

Sins and Virtues

Jim Crace, 20 August 1981

... is to take place ...’ He sat at the end of my bed and mentioned Paris and Vienna and Toronto and Sydney and, of course, Chicago. He looked pleased on my behalf. ‘Naturally, this is a partnership,’ he explained. ‘You gain, we gain. We gain foreign currency from the sale of your work. Your government will have some ... discreet money. We will pay it into ...

Damn all

Scott Malcomson, 23 September 1993

Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America 
by Robert Hughes.
Oxford, 224 pp., £12.95, June 1993, 0 19 507676 1
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... descriptive reality’ – 1984) vaults from the page. Born in 1938, Hughes grew up in a prominent Sydney family (ranching, law, politics – a grandfather was Lord Mayor), dropped out of university (having studied architecture) in 1962, went to Italy the following year and to London in 1967, then settled permanently in New York in 1970, having been hired as ...

The Numinous Moose

Helen Vendler, 11 March 1993

Elizabeth Bishop: Life and the Memory of It 
by Brett Millier.
California, 602 pp., £18.50, April 1993, 0 520 07978 7
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... thoughts against thoughts in groans grind. For too long, Bishop had lived these moral choices of life/death, right/wrong, male/female: but at last, the early happy years with Lota had made them seem irrelevant, and Bishop, longing for Paradise since her blighted childhood, felt she had found it at Santarém: That golden evening I really wanted to go no farther; more than anything else I wanted to stay awhile in that conflux of two great rivers ...

Feast of St Thomas

Frank Kermode, 29 September 1988

Eliot’s New Life 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Oxford, 356 pp., £15, September 1988, 0 19 811727 2
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The Letters of T.S. Eliot 
edited by Valerie Eliot.
Faber, 618 pp., £25, September 1988, 0 571 13621 4
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The Poetics of Impersonality 
by Maud Ellmann.
Harvester, 207 pp., £32.50, January 1988, 0 7108 0463 6
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T.S. Eliot and the Philosophy of Criticism 
by Richard Shusterman.
Duckworth, 236 pp., £19.95, February 1988, 0 7156 2187 4
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‘The Men of 1914’: T.S. Eliot and Early Modernism 
by Erik Svarny.
Open University, 268 pp., £30, September 1988, 0 335 09019 2
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Eliot, Joyce and Company 
by Stanley Sultan.
Oxford, 326 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 19 504880 6
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The Savage and the City in the Work of T.S. Eliot 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 251 pp., £25, December 1987, 9780198128694
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T.S. Eliot: The Poems 
by Martin Scofield.
Cambridge, 264 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 521 30147 5
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... and resourceful, Gordon has interviewed many witnesses, and had the cooperation of Maurice Haigh-Wood, Vivien’s brother; she draws on Vivien’s diaries in the Bodleian, the copyright of which, as we learn from the Letters, belongs to Eliot’s widow. And, familiar with virtually all the archives, she has read a great many of the letters. Her ...

Something Rather Scandalous

Jean McNicol: The Loves of Rupert Brooke, 20 October 2016

Rupert Brooke: Life, Death and Myth 
by Nigel Jones.
Head of Zeus, 588 pp., £12, April 2015, 978 1 78185 703 8
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Fatal Glamour: The Life of Rupert Brooke 
by Paul Delany.
McGill-Queen’s, 380 pp., £28.99, March 2015, 978 0 7735 4557 1
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The Second I Saw You: The True Love Story of Rupert Brooke and Phyllis Gardner 
by Lorna C. Beckett.
British Library, 216 pp., £16.99, April 2015, 978 0 7123 5792 0
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... supper party to which some grand guests had been invited, including the governor of Jamaica, Sir Sydney Olivier, who brought three of his four beautiful daughters (Laurence Olivier was their younger cousin). He already knew two of the sisters but now he met the youngest, 15-year-old Noel – he helped her pick up the fragments of the small green coffee cup ...

Four Moptop Yobbos

Ian Penman, 17 June 2021

One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time 
by Craig Brown.
Fourth Estate, 642 pp., £9.99, March, 978 0 00 834003 2
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The Beatles and Sixties Britain 
by Marcus Collins.
Cambridge, 382 pp., £90, March 2020, 978 1 108 47724 6
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The Beatles in Context 
edited by Kenneth Womack.
Cambridge, 372 pp., £74.99, January 2020, 978 1 108 41911 6
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... film, A Hard Day’s Night; an essay by Eula Biss referring to Paul McCartney and ‘Norwegian Wood’; McCartney sporting a man bun during his lockdown vacation; rave reviews for McCartney’s new lockdown solo album; various reflections on the fiftieth anniversary of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass; various reflections on the fortieth ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2000, 25 January 2001

... presumably dead. I have never heard of her. 2 September. In a piece in the LRB on Buñuel Michael Wood mentions among ‘a number of startling and now famous images’ in Viridiana ‘a small crucifix’ that ‘flicks open to become a menacing knife’. The film came out in 1961 but I didn’t see it until some time in the 1970s after Buñuel’s much more ...

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