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Grand Old Sod

Paul Driver: William Walton, 12 December 2002

The Selected Letters of William Walton 
edited by Malcolm Hayes.
Faber, 526 pp., £30, January 2002, 0 571 20105 9
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William Walton: Muse of Fire 
by Stephen Lloyd.
Boydell, 332 pp., £45, June 2001, 9780851158037
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William Walton, the Romantic Loner: A Centenary Portrait Album 
by Humphrey Burton and Maureen Murray.
Oxford, 182 pp., £25, January 2002, 0 19 816235 9
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... merely a quarter of a fifth of those so far available, but one would not want the volume longer. William Walton is no prose stylist, not much of an anecdotalist, and his letters reveal remarkably little about him. They are nearly always utilitarian – money, advice, favours to be sought, contracts to be finalised, parts to be corrected, a libretto to be ...

Can there be such a thing as music criticism?

John Deathridge, 20 February 1986

Music and Civilisation: Essays in Honour of Paul Henry Lang 
edited by Edmond Strainchamps, Maria Rika Maniates and Christopher Hatch.
Norton, 499 pp., £35, March 1985, 0 393 01677 3
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The Farthest North of Humanness: Letters of Percy Grainger 1901-1914 
edited by Kay Dreyfus.
Macmillan, 542 pp., £25, December 1985, 0 333 38085 1
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by Joseph Kerman.
Collins/Fontana, 255 pp., £10.95, March 1985, 0 00 197170 0
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... disputes with colleagues like Cecil Sharp (whose ideas about folk-song were later endorsed by Vaughan Williams) were superficially about Grainger’s pioneering use of the phonograph. But Sharp’s hard-nosed rejection of the infernal machine as the only means of accurately transcribing folk-song had less to do with practicalities (Grainger’s ...

Górecki’s Millions

David Drew, 6 October 1994

... Jacks were unfurled in the national press, while recollections of the happy times of Elgar and Vaughan Williams encouraged proposals that after Sir Michael Tippett, the next candidate for composer-laureate and international standard-bearer should be Tavener. As soon as a young or not-so-young composer in the post-Górecki era has been convincingly reified ...

Absolutely Bleedin’ Obvious

Ian Sansom: Will Self, 6 July 2006

The Book of Dave 
by Will Self.
Viking, 496 pp., £17.99, June 2006, 0 670 91443 6
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... the Psalms – reading Tyndale, Coverdale, Milton, Sidney, Sir Thomas Wyatt, Francis Bacon, Henry Vaughan, Richard Crashaw and the inspired committee-work of the Authorised Version – one immediately notices that the biblical texts are really quite vile, and that the poets’ ‘personal agendas’ seem almost without exception bizarre, baffling or ...

I am a cactus

John Sutherland: Christopher Isherwood and his boys, 3 June 2004

by Peter Parker.
Picador, 914 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 330 48699 3
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... possessed of – and by – the ‘sexuality of a schoolboy’. The artist Keith Vaughan saw him in late middle age as a ‘dehydrated schoolboy’. ‘It was not in Isherwood’s nature to treat his partners as adults,’ Parker says. ‘A large part of their attraction was that they were considerably younger than he was, and they were ...

Costume Codes

David Trotter, 12 January 1995

Rebel Women: Feminism, Modernism and the Edwardian Novel 
by Jane Eldridge Miller.
Virago, 241 pp., £15.99, October 1994, 1 85381 830 5
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... Hunt’s The Workaday Woman (1906), to Mary Datchet in Woolf’s Night and Day (1919) and Delia Vaughan in Winifred Holtby’s The Crowded Street (1924), whose function is to embody an unromantic and ‘unfeminine’ independence which the heroine admires but does not in the end want for herself, and about whom Miller has virtually nothing to say. These ...

Ten Poets

Denis Donoghue, 7 November 1985

Selected Poems 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 124 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 9780856355950
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Collected Poems: 1947-1980 
by Allen Ginsberg.
Viking, 837 pp., £16.95, April 1985, 0 670 80683 8
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Instant Chronicles: A Life 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 58 pp., £4.50, April 1985, 9780019211970
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Selected Poems 
by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 596 8
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Selected Poems 
by Jeffrey Wainwright.
Carcanet, 79 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 598 4
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Selected Poems 
by Gillian Clarke.
Carcanet, 112 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 594 1
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The Price of Stone 
by Richard Murphy.
Faber, 92 pp., £4, May 1985, 0 571 13568 4
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Selected Poems 
by Iain Crichton Smith.
Carcanet, 121 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 597 6
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Selected Poems 
by Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Carcanet, 95 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 585 2
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From the Irish 
by James Simmons.
Blackstaff, 78 pp., £3.95, May 1985, 0 85640 331 8
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... for authority. Ginsberg often claims to have issued indirectly from Whitman’s and directly from William Carlos Williams’s overcoat: but Williams’s presence of mind in language is quite different from Ginsberg’s, and his poems are far more fully composed. Most of Ginsberg’s poems document his time and collapse into it. They haven’t survived the ...

Roaring Boy

Adam Phillips: Hart Crane, 30 September 1999

The Broken Tower: A Life of Hart Crane 
by Paul Mariani.
Norton, 492 pp., $35, April 1999, 0 393 04726 1
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O My Land, My Friends: The Selected Letters of Hart Crane 
edited by Langdon Hammer and Brom Weber.
Four Walls Eight Windows, 562 pp., $35, July 1997, 0 941423 18 2
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... as Mariani shows, he could inspire extreme affection in people. But too soon they would feel, as William Carlos Williams wrote, ‘uncomfortable’ with his ‘roaring boy, predatory reputation’. It seemed that nothing could contain him, except his poetry. So when the poetry stopped, in a very real sense he had nowhere to go. Like the visionary company ...

Peter Conrad’s Flight from Precision

Richard Poirier, 17 July 1980

Imagining America 
by Peter Conrad.
Routledge, 319 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7100 0370 6
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... day. ‘So have I,’ interrupted the bored instructor. Lucy Gray, alas, was the form that William Wordsworth thought fit to give the Great God Pan. And then he crossed over to the young United States: I mean Pan did. Suddenly he gets a new name. He becomes the Oversoul, the Aliness of everything. To this new Lucifer Gray of a Pan Whitman sings the ...

Saint Shakespeare

Barbara Everett, 19 August 2010

... in Anglican form in the great phase of Christian writing that spanned Donne himself, Herbert and Vaughan, Milton and Marvell; in each of the three centuries that followed, there emerged in England a different religious poetry, orthodox and unorthodox. But the historians’ negations are helpful, and echo another witticism of Donne’s, this time from ‘A ...

Hidden Consequences

John Mullan: Byron, 6 November 2003

Byron: Life and Legend 
by Fiona MacCarthy.
Faber, 674 pp., £9.99, November 2003, 0 571 17997 5
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... transcribes a nostalgic pencilled note from Byron’s former servant and cast-off lover Susan Vaughan, sent with a lock of her hair, and apparently written just before emigration, we glimpse suddenly a whole world of hidden consequences. It is not that MacCarthy’s is a bad book. On the contrary. Not only is it conscientiously researched, it is also ...

Lethal Pastoral

Paul Keegan: Housman’s Lethal Pastoral, 17 November 2016

Housman Country: Into the Heart of England 
by Peter Parker.
Little, Brown, 446 pp., £25, June 2016, 978 1 4087 0613 8
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... of an English folksong tradition, from the founding of the Royal College of Music in 1882 onwards. Vaughan Williams, George Butterworth and Ivor Gurney studied there, and all were to produce song-cycles from A Shropshire Lad, as did John Ireland. The appeal of the poems lay partly in their concision and surface simplicity of rhythm and metre, their lack of ...

At the White House’s Whim

Tom Bingham: The Power of Pardon, 26 March 2009

... it was laid down that a child under seven could not be convicted of felony. Much later, in 1748, William York, aged ten, murdered a child of five and buried her in a dunghill. ‘When he was examined, he showed very little concern, and appeared easy and cheerful . . . The boy was found guilty and sentenced to death; but he was respited from time to time on ...


Colm Tóibín: The Great Irish Famine, 30 July 1998

... its demolition in 1941 was a disgrace.Augusta Persse was born in 1852, and in 1880 she married Sir William Gregory, who was 35 years older than her. He died in 1892, and she outlived him by forty years. Lady Gregory made herself useful to Yeats, as Roy Foster shows in his biography of the poet, because of her interest in folklore and her knowledge of the area ...

Pint for Pint

Thomas Laqueur: The Price of Blood, 14 October 1999

Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce 
by Douglas Starr.
Little, Brown, 429 pp., £20, February 1999, 0 316 91146 1
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... ship blood or its derivatives to the battlefronts of Europe and the Pacific. One of them, Janet Vaughan, a British doctor (in later life Principal of Somerville College, Oxford), warned blood banks to prepare for injury on a massive scale and gave her name to the modified milk bottle in which donated blood was stored. Another, Charles Drew, Columbia’s ...

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