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Utopia Limited

David Cannadine, 15 July 1982

Fabianism and Culture: A Study in British Socialism and the Arts, 1884-1918 
by Ian Britain.
Cambridge, 344 pp., £19.50, June 1982, 0 521 23563 4
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The Elmhirsts of Dartington: The Creation of an Utopian Community 
by Michael Young.
Routledge, 381 pp., £15, June 1982, 9780710090515
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... of Utopian designs. One late 19th-century approach, exemplified by Ruskin in his Guild of St George and by William Morris in his News from Nowhere, sought salvation in a world of rustic, artsy-craftsy, thatched and timbered, anti-machine socialism: ‘small is beautiful’ before its time. Another, more pragmatic coterie, presided over by Ebenezer Howard ...

Self-Made Women

John Sutherland, 11 July 1991

The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present 
edited by Virginia Blain, Isobel Grundy and Patricia Clements.
Batsford, 1231 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 7134 5848 8
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The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 854 pp., $45, March 1991, 0 8142 0518 6
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... thought to have provoked lifelong neurosis about sex. The Companion does not record that George Meredith was instrumental in getting The Story of an African Farm published (poor old Meredith also loses his credit for helping Ouida and Marie Corelli into print). In her later career in England, the Companion portrays Schreiner’s relationships with ...


Robert Morley: Give me a Basher to travel, 20 March 1986

... occasion and now it’s just a question of attending in Berkeley Square when I imagine Ronnie Barker will hand over the prize. Trusting that a similar scheme was now envisaged by the Bradford Exchange to whose London office in Wembley my three similar missives were to be returned in the event of non-delivery, I opened one cautiously and prepared to set to ...

Well done, you forgers

John Sutherland, 7 January 1993

The Two Forgers: A Biography of Harry Buxton Forman and Thomas James Wise 
by John Collins.
Scolar, 317 pp., £27.50, May 1992, 0 85967 754 0
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Forgers and Critics: Creativity and Duplicity in Western Scholarship 
by Anthony Grafton.
Princeton, 157 pp., £10.75, May 1990, 0 691 05544 0
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... This blanket description would cover everything from Chatterton’s fake poems to George MacDonald Fraser’s ‘Flashman’ spoofs without any automatic presumptions of wrong-doing. Carter and Pollard’s unmasking of T. J. Wise with their Enquiry into the Nature of Certain 19th-Century Pamphlets (1934) is often described as an exemplary ...

I myself detest all Modern Art

Anne Diebel: Scofield Thayer, 9 April 2015

The Tortured Life of Scofield Thayer 
by James Dempsey.
Florida, 240 pp., £32.50, February 2014, 978 0 8130 4926 7
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... promoter. He left the hawking to people like Ezra Pound, ‘that agitated agitator’, ‘official barker outside the tent – or is it a pagoda? – of imagism et al’. In The Tortured Life of Scofield Thayer, James Dempsey makes a persuasive case for placing Thayer at the centre of modernism. He spent much of the 1920s running a magazine that made no ...

‘Someone you had to be a bit careful with’

David Sylvester: Gallery Rogues, 30 March 2000

Groovy Bob: The Life and Times of Robert Fraser 
by Harriet Vyner.
Faber, 317 pp., £20, October 1999, 0 571 19627 6
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... he treated them. They all complain about the difficulty or impossibility of getting paid. Clive Barker spells out the most maddening part of it: In the mid-1960s Robert would say to me, ‘I’ll give you that money when I see you.’ But he didn’t realise I needed it that day, to live on. He didn’t understand. It was inconceivable to him that I could ...

Inexhaustible Engines

Michael Holroyd, 1 March 1984

Bernard Shaw: A Bibliography, Vols I and II 
by Dan Laurence.
Oxford, 1058 pp., £80, December 1983, 0 19 818179 5
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Bernard Shaw. Vol. I: 1856-1907 
by Margery Morgan.
Profile, 45 pp., £1.50, July 1982, 0 85383 518 7
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The Art and Mind of Shaw: Essays in Criticism 
by A.M. Gibbs.
Macmillan, 224 pp., £20, October 1983, 0 333 28679 0
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... to Rupert Hart-Davis and his wife is a fitting vote of thanks to the man who (as the letters to George Lyttleton indicate) has encouraged him since the mid-1950s. In future, such labour as this must increasingly be supplied by technology. The ‘bog, clay and rubble, and the stark black dearth’ that Mr Laurence has had to tread is not beneficial for human ...

Brute Nature

Rosemary Dinnage, 6 March 1997

Masters of Bedlam: The Transformation of the Mad-Doctoring Trade 
by Andrew Scull, Charlotte Mackenzie and Nicholas Hervey.
Princeton, 363 pp., £23, February 1997, 0 691 03411 7
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... even necessary for their care. Not that it was eccentric to aim for a career in mad-doctoring – George III’s illness had aroused general curiosity, and appointment to an asylum at least provided board and lodging and a few hundred a year. At the upper end of the profession were the acceptable and gentlemanly doctors who treated the rich; but, without a ...


Jenny Turner: Eat the Document, 7 June 2007

Eat the Document 
by Dana Spiotta.
Picador, 290 pp., £12.99, April 2007, 978 0 330 44828 4
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... which Joan Didion attacked ‘the women’s movement’ in her famous breaking-eggs essay of 1972. George Clinton’s ‘cryptic nonsense’ on that album is neither difficult to hear nor to understand: ‘Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time, for y’all have knocked her up. I have tasted the maggots in the mind of the universe – I was not ...


Tom Paulin, 9 May 1996

T.S. Eliot, Anti-Semitism and Literary Form 
by Anthony Julius.
Cambridge, 308 pp., £30, September 1995, 0 521 47063 3
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... billboard announcement of a Victorian melodrama’, or the urgent canvassing of a ‘fairground barker’. As we can see by comparing the actual title-page with the review heading, the typography was a contribution by the Criterion. This is a striking and significant substitution: Eliot used the lower-case j to diminish Jews in ‘Gerontion’, but here ...

Olivier Rex

Ronald Bryden, 1 September 1988

by Anthony Holden.
Weidenfeld, 504 pp., £16, May 1988, 0 297 79089 7
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... of Venice in 1970, he says, Olivier turned up with a hook nose and goatee modelled on George Arliss’s Disraeli and had to be persuaded by his director, Jonathan Miller, to evolve in the succeeding weeks a characterisation based on his own face. No one seems to have told Holden that dress rehearsals normally complete, not commence, the rehearsal ...

Gielgud’s Achievements

Alan Bennett, 20 December 1979

An Actor and his Time 
by John Gielgud.
Sidgwick, 253 pp., £8.95
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... occurred in a period of theatrical history vividly re-created by Irving Wardle in his biography of George Devine. Devine brought Gielgud to Oxford to direct the OUDS production of Romeo and Juliet in 1932. He had never directed before, though he had played Romeo at the Old Vic. Gielgud has always been interested in stage design; he had at one time considered ...

The End of British Farming

Andrew O’Hagan: British farming, 22 March 2001

... in the price of fuel could kill many of them off.’ Before leaving I had rung a pig farmer, David Barker, whose farm is north of Stowmarket in Suffolk. Barker is 50 years old. His family has been farming pigs in Suffolk for four generations; they have lived and worked on the present farm since 1957. He owns 1250 acres and ...


Terence Hawkes, 22 February 1990

Rebuilding Shakespeare’s Globe 
by Andrew Gurr and John Orrell.
Weidenfeld, 197 pp., £15.95, April 1989, 0 297 79346 2
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Shakespeare and the Popular Voice 
by Annabel Patterson.
Blackwell, 195 pp., £27.50, November 1989, 0 631 16873 7
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Re-Inventing Shakespeare: A Cultural History from the Restoration to the Present 
by Gary Taylor.
Hogarth, 461 pp., £18, January 1990, 0 7012 0888 0
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Shakespeare’s America, America’s Shakespeare 
by Michael Bristol.
Routledge, 237 pp., £30, January 1990, 0 415 01538 3
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... it as ‘the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life’, and 1914, when Granville Barker tried to dispense with the scenic display that generations of spectacular musical versions had imposed, ‘the play that Shakespeare wrote’ emerges in a powerful and startlingly different light. The major beneficiary of such a re-vision is the character ...

What’s left of Henrietta Lacks?

Anne Enright: HeLa, 13 April 2000

... Click. ‘Dresses for Henrietta Lacks’, an installation by Brisbane-based artist Jill Barker. ‘Dresses made of silver contact paper have been adhered to the windows. Each contains intricate structural patterns, like the DNA and other molecular structures of which we are all composed.’ A picture of a metal dress. In the text, John Gey has ...

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