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Under the Sphinx

Alasdair Gray, 11 March 1993

Places of the Mind: The Life and Work of James Thomson (‘B.V.’) 
by Tom Leonard.
Cape, 407 pp., £25, February 1993, 9780224031189
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... reflects the state of Britain more fully than other poets of his age excepting G. M. Hopkins and Hardy. Before describing how Places of the Mind retrieves his best work from the margin of literature I will suggest why The City of Dreadful Night was mislaid there. Its settled gloom is only part of the explanation. Dante’s Inferno, though gloomier ...

The Great Copyright Disaster

John Sutherland, 12 January 1995

Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright 
by Mark Rose.
Harvard, 176 pp., £21.95, October 1993, 0 674 05308 7
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Crimes of Writing: Problems in the Containment of Representation 
by Susan Stewart.
Duke, 353 pp., £15.95, November 1994, 0 8223 1545 9
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The Construction of Authorship: Textual Appropriation in Law and Literature 
edited by Martha Woodmansee and Peter Jaszi.
Duke, 562 pp., £42.75, January 1994, 0 8223 1412 6
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... so golden for them over the years. The same inertia is evident with the works of Woolf, Joyce, Hardy and Yeats. With much hoo-hah the world was informed in the late Eighties that the text of Ulysses was a disgrace, and a new perfected text would be introduced to coincide with the termination of copyright (this was the ill-fated Gabler edition). Macmillan ...

Shuffling off

John Sutherland, 18 April 1985

Death Sentences: Styles of Dying in British Fiction 
by Garrett Stewart.
Harvard, 403 pp., £19.80, December 1984, 0 674 19428 4
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Forms of Feeling in Victorian Fiction 
by Barbara Hardy.
Owen, 215 pp., £12.50, January 1985, 9780720606119
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Language and Class in Victorian England 
by K.C. Phillipps.
Basil Blackwell in association with Deutsch, 190 pp., £19.50, November 1984, 0 631 13689 4
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... which seems for her the open-ended predication of a new “life story”.’ (If what?) Barbara Hardy shares with Stewart a sense of the Victorian novel’s maturity, a maturity which exacts the full range of 20th-century exegetic skill. But in other respects the two critics are traditions apart. The gulf separating them in starkly evident in a long ...

Going Electric

Patrick McGuinness: J.H. Prynne, 7 September 2000

by J.H. Prynne.
Bloodaxe/Folio/Fremantle Arts Centre, 440 pp., £25, March 2000, 1 85224 491 7
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Pearls that Were 
by J.H. Prynne.
Equipage, 28 pp., £4, March 1999, 1 900968 95 9
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by J.H. Prynne.
Barque, 42 pp., £4, December 1999, 9781903488010
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Other: British and Irish Poetry since 1970 
edited by Richard Caddel and Peter Quartermain.
Wesleyan, 280 pp., $45, March 1999, 0 8195 2241 4
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... called ‘semantic succour’; it is as likely to draw us back to the Metaphysical poets, to Hardy or to Herrick as it is to refer us to Heidegger, Bakhtin or Adorno. It was in order to extend a tradition – rather than to domesticate Prynne – that Donald Davie devoted a section of his 1972 Thomas Hardy and ...

Aversion Theory

Lord Goodman, 20 May 1982

Clinging to the Wreckage 
by John Mortimer.
Weidenfeld, 200 pp., £8.50, March 1982, 0 297 78010 7
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... or Chatterton or Baudelaire or D.H. Lawrence or Ernest Hemingway as conventional, but what about Thomas Hardy or Anthony Trollope or Jane Austen or Charles Dickens or John Galsworthy? And, in particular, what about John Mortimer? He would, I think, indignantly deny the suggestion, but although he espouses unconventional causes he represents the ...

Smoking big cigars

David Herd, 23 July 1992

by Fred Voss.
Bloodaxe, 180 pp., £7.95, November 1991, 1 85224 198 5
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... resourced language would necessarily distort the subject. Writing about the work of Roy Fisher in Thomas Hardy and British Poetry, Donald Davie takes Fisher to be ‘restricting himself as self-denyingly as Larkin to the urbanised and industrialised landscapes of modern England’ and identifies a trade-off: ‘the poem is concerned with a social ...


Claudia Johnson: The history of the novel, 8 March 2001

The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel: From Richardson to George Eliot 
by Leah Price.
Cambridge, 224 pp., £35, September 2000, 0 521 78208 2
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... of Beauties of Sterne, the Wit and Wisdom of Sir Walter Scott, George Eliot’s Sayings, or the Thomas Hardy Calendar, and the few who have actually looked inside such volumes will have done so only because the ‘real’ copy of the novel they were seeking had already been taken out of the library. Trained in a system which encourages the dutiful ...

Downland Maniacs

Michael Mason, 5 October 1995

The Village that Died for England 
by Patrick Wright.
Cape, 420 pp., £17.99, March 1995, 0 224 03886 9
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... in houses grand or primitive. Surrounding them are figures more tenuously linked to Purbeck: Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, James Meade Falkner (who wrote Moonfleet), Gerald Brenan, John Stewart Collis, Fritz Schumacher, John Eliot Gardiner (son of Rolf) and via him Roger Norrington, Lord Hinchinbrooke, Jimmy Edwards, Kenneth Allsop, Tariq Ali, Fenner ...


Patrick Wright: The Deer Park or the Tank Park?, 31 March 1988

... a most beautiful place, and it has been open to the public before. When George III first visited Thomas Weld here in 1789, he came to a house which was already receiving visitors between ten o’clock and two every Wednesday. The Weymouth guidebook described Lulworth Castle as ‘one of the finest scats in the county’, detailing many of the paintings and ...

Nothing could have been odder or more prophetic

Gillian Darley: Ruins, 29 November 2001

In Ruins 
by Christopher Woodward.
Chatto, 280 pp., £12.99, September 2001, 9780701168964
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... The absurdity of the Gothick was captured and its pretensions crisply punctured by Jane Austen and Thomas Love Peacock, but reality was often stranger than anything that even the most fetid literary imagination could come up with. Nothing could have been odder, more menacing or even more prophetic – when viewed with hindsight – than the Broken Column built ...

The Positions He Takes

John Barrell: Hitchens on Paine, 30 November 2006

Thomas Paine’s ‘Rights of Man’: A Biography 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Atlantic, 128 pp., £9.99, July 2006, 1 84354 513 6
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... both rights and reason are under several kinds of open and covert attack, the life and writing of Thomas Paine will always be part of the arsenal on which we shall need to depend.’ In the event, between the dedication and the final sentence the book says nothing about Iraq or the war on terror, perhaps in silent acknowledgment of the difficulty of knowing ...


Donald Davie, 20 May 1982

In Defence of the Imagination 
by Helen Gardner.
Oxford, 197 pp., £12.50, February 1982, 0 19 812639 5
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... Charles Eliot Norton lectures she declares, with no shadow of demonstration or argument, that Thomas Hardy the poet ‘cannot by any standard of evaluation be called great’. Though an Emeritus Professor of English Literature at Oxford obviously speaks on such matters with authority, for Dame Helen to deliver herself of this ex cathedra judgment ...

Very Nasty

John Sutherland, 21 May 1987

VN: The Life and Art of Vladimir Nabokov 
by Andrew Field.
Macdonald, 417 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 356 14234 5
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... and Pale Fire’s Kinbote. It is clear that by giving consent to Field, Nabokov intended to do a Thomas Hardy: that is, write his life through a docile secretary. Indeed, he told Field as much: ‘I wanted to see the thing. The first biography, no matter what comes after, casts a certain shadow on the others.’ As events proved, Nabokov misjudged his ...

Coats of Every Cut

Michael Mason, 9 June 1994

Robert Surtees and Early Victorian Society 
by Norman Gash.
Oxford, 407 pp., £40, September 1993, 0 19 820429 9
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... but watering places and holiday resorts.’ The one novelist in the period this reminds me of is Thomas Hardy, especially in The Mayor of Casterbridge. That novel is full of improvised ceremonies, either wholly concocted or adapted from some imperfectly remembered tradition, and all given a certain gloss of venerability. So effective is the bluff of ...

Clutching at Railings

Jonathan Coe: Late Flann O’Brien, 24 October 2013

Plays and Teleplays 
by Flann O’Brien, edited by Daniel Keith Jernigan.
Dalkey, 434 pp., £9.50, September 2013, 978 1 56478 890 0
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The Short Fiction of Flann O’Brien 
edited by Neil Murphy and Keith Hopper.
Dalkey, 158 pp., £9.50, August 2013, 978 1 56478 889 4
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... sausage, and sound boiled potatoes of the breed of Earthquake Wonder – with Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy propped up against the milk jug … Some people, Tim reflected as he finished his food, thought Hardy a rather repressed and dismal writer, more taken with groans than lightness of the heart. Well, he was ...

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