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Poetry to Thrill an Oyster

Gregory Woods: Fitz-Greene Halleck, 16 November 2000

The American Byron: Homosexuality and the Fall of Fitz-Greene Halleck 
by John W.M. Hallock.
Wisconsin, 226 pp., £14.95, April 2000, 0 299 16804 2
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... could count major cultural figures among his friends – Mozart’s librettist Da Ponte and James Fenimore Cooper, for instance. Others he kept at a slight distance. Having done time with the notorious bore Hawthorne, he had the wit to remark: ‘Last night Nathaniel Hawthorne and I sat together at dinner and talked for an hour, although Hawthorne said ...

Surrealism à la Courbet

Nicholas Penny: Balthus, 24 May 2001

Balthus: Catalogue raisonné of the Complete Works 
by Jean Clair and Virginie Monnier.
Abrams, 576 pp., £140, January 2000, 0 8109 6394 9
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by Nicholas Fox Weber.
Weidenfeld, 650 pp., £30, May 2000, 0 297 64323 1
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... Then, in 1932, after completing French military service, Balthus made some copies after Jacob Reinhardt’s late 18th-century paintings of Swiss peasant couples in traditional costumes, exaggerating the doll-like quality of the originals: these are the earliest examples of the faux naive manner to which he was attracted throughout his life. Having ...

I Love You Still

Russell Jacoby, 9 February 1995

Intellectuals in Exile: Refugee Scholars and the New School for Social Research 
by Claus-Dieter Krohn, translated by Rita Kimber and Robert Kimber.
Massachusetts, 255 pp., $15.95, July 1994, 0 87023 864 7
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... World War One. This precipitated the resignations of two leading historians, Charles Beard and James Robinson, both of whom had long bridled at interference by trustees and college presidents. With some associates at the New Republic, Beard and Robinson hatched plans for a ‘new’ school. ‘New’ was in the air. The New Republic had been founded just ...

Back to the Ironing-Board

Theo Tait: Weber and Norman, 15 April 1999

The Music Lesson 
by Katharine Weber.
Phoenix House, 161 pp., £12.99, January 1999, 1 86159 118 7
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The Museum Guard 
by Howard Norman.
Picador, 310 pp., £12.99, February 1999, 9780330370097
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... apportion blame, can also be problematic. The more skilful writers of genre fiction – Le Carré James Ellroy – have progressed beyond merely pointing the finger at ‘them’ (the Russians, SPECTRE) or, failing that, ‘us’ (moles, corrupt superiors), by depicting worlds in which betrayal, double-cross and conspiracy are all-pervasive, where everyone is ...

Newton and God’s Truth

Christopher Hill, 4 September 1980

A Portrait of Isaac Newton 
by Frank Manuel.
Muller, 478 pp., £11.75, April 1980, 0 584 95357 7
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Philosopher at War: The Quarrel between Newton and Leibniz 
by Rupert Hall.
Cambridge, 338 pp., £15, July 1980, 0 521 22732 1
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... and the later Whig hero. Newton first came into political prominence when he led the opposition to James II’s attempt to intrude a Benedictine monk into Cambridge without his taking the statutory oath of loyalty to the Established Church. Newton refused to take Anglican orders, but Popery for him had always been absolute evil: in 1714, he tried to get an Act ...

Beyond the Cringe

John Barrell: British Art, 2 June 2016

Art in Britain 1660-1815 
by David Solkin.
Yale, 367 pp., £55, October 2015, 978 0 300 21556 4
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... Richard Wilson and Sawrey Gilpin, all of whom are adjudged to be of ‘good family’, and Sir James Thornhill, who came from ‘good Dorset stock’, a phrase more at home in a book on country cooking than in a serious work of scholarship. Why pedigree mattered to him is rarely clear, as by his own account it seems to have no particular influence on the ...

Intelligent Theory

Frank Kermode, 7 October 1982

Figures of Literary Discourse 
by Gérard Genette, translated by Alan Sheridan.
Blackwell, 303 pp., £15, August 1982, 0 631 13089 6
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Theories of the Symbol 
by Tzvetan Todorov, translated by Catherine Porter.
Blackwell, 302 pp., £15, July 1982, 0 631 10511 5
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The Breaking of the Vessels 
by Harold Bloom.
Chicago, 107 pp., £7, April 1982, 0 226 06043 8
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The Institution of Criticism 
by Peter Hohendahl.
Cornell, 287 pp., £14.74, June 1982, 0 8014 1325 7
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Unspeakable Sentences: Narration and Representation in the Language of Fiction 
by Ann Banfield.
Routledge, 340 pp., £15.95, June 1982, 0 7100 0905 4
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... and the early structuralist critics showed a decided preference for trivial books like the James Bond novels. Genette was nevertheless strongly affected by the revival of Russian Formalism and by Jakobson in particular; he is as interested as Todorov (and some modern American critics) in the relations between new forms of discourse analysis and old ...


Frank Kermode, 3 February 1983

Gissing: A Life in Books 
by John Halperin.
Oxford, 426 pp., £18.50, September 1982, 0 19 812677 8
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George Gissing: Critical Essays 
edited by Jean-Pierre Michaux.
Vision/Barnes and Noble, 214 pp., £11.95, March 1981, 0 85478 404 7
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... fantasies at work. Soon he gave up writing about the poor; and without altogether abandoning what Jacob Korg calls ‘the iconography of degradation’, he had occasional fits of relative jollity, as in the successful and lively novel of 1889, The Town Traveller. Less Dickensian than Wellsian, this novel is brightened by that rare person in Gissing, a ...

Stop screaming, Mrs Steiner

Wendy Steiner, 17 December 1992

The American way of Birth 
by Jessica Mitford.
Gollancz, 237 pp., £16.99, October 1992, 0 575 05430 1
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... would not have been so shy. Another harrowing story concerns a 19th-century American doctor, James Marion Sims, who was dubbed the ‘Architect of the Vagina’. Because only the poorest women gave birth in hospitals before the 20th century, physicians found in the wards a ready supply of powerless subjects for experimentation. Sims used black slaves and ...

Men in Aprons

Colin Kidd: Freemasonry, 7 May 1998

Who’s Afraid of Freemasons? The Phenomenon of Freemasonry 
by Alexander Piatigorsky.
Harvill, 398 pp., £25, August 1997, 1 86046 029 1
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... still in its infancy. In 1717, the Grand Lodge of England was formally established and in 1723, James Anderson, commissioned in 1721 to ‘digest’ the old ‘Gothic’ charges of Masonry, published its modern Constitutions. A Jacobite, the Duke of Wharton, did hold the Grand Mastership in 1722-23, but left – tongue and throat intact – in 1723, under ...

White Hat/Black Hat

Frances Richard: 20th-Century Art, 6 April 2006

Art since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism 
by Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois and Benjamin H.D. Buchloh.
Thames and Hudson, 704 pp., £45, March 2005, 0 500 23818 9
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... that the sidebar on Bloomsbury neglects to mention that it was the Hogarth Press that sponsored James Strachey’s translation of Freud, beginning in 1924. Gertrude Stein receives her own sidebar, only to be marginalised as a collector of Picassos, with no mention of her own groundbreaking experiments in literary genre and poetics. The most serious ...

Get off your knees

Ferdinand Mount: An Atheist in the House, 30 June 2011

Dare to Stand Alone: The Story of Charles Bradlaugh, Atheist and Republican 
by Bryan Niblett.
Kramedart, 391 pp., £19.99, January 2011, 978 0 9564743 0 8
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... pages of a book. All his life he was desperately concerned about appearances. He fired the poet James Thomson from the paper he edited for drunkenness (‘The City of Dreadful Night’ first appeared in Bradlaugh’s National Reformer). And though he was more or less in love with his long-time collaborator Annie Besant (and she desperately so with ...

Upside Down, Inside Out

Colin Kidd: The 1975 Referendum, 25 October 2018

Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum and Seventies Britain 
by Robert Saunders.
Cambridge, 509 pp., £24.99, March 2018, 978 1 108 42535 3
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... a hideous woolly jumper displaying the flags of the EEC nations. Back in the mid-1970s the tycoon James Goldsmith, the future founder of the anti-European Referendum Party, was a prominent supporter of the Common Market. The position of the press also changed. In the earlier campaign the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express enthusiastically made the case ...

Against Passion

James Meek: Passionate Politics, 30 November 2017

The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics 
by Mark Lilla.
Harper, 160 pp., £19, August 2017, 978 0 06 269743 1
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The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction 
by Mark Lilla.
NYRB, 166 pp., £9.99, September 2016, 978 1 59017 902 4
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... Schmitt has also been useful to certain thinkers on the left – Derrida, Kojève, Alain Badiou, Jacob Taubes and, more recently, Slavoj Žižek. Schmitt’s appeal at this end of the spectrum is his evocation of a force that smashes the liberal façade of the dominant class, his endorsement of the virtue of antagonism when there is a ruling elite to be ...

A Topic Best Avoided

Nicholas Guyatt: Abraham Lincoln, 1 December 2011

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery 
by Eric Foner.
Norton, 426 pp., £21, February 2011, 978 0 393 06618 0
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... of election to the House of Representatives on the Whig ticket, the timing was dreadful. President James K. Polk, a Democrat, had just declared war on Mexico. Along with many other Whigs, Lincoln denounced Polk, incurring the charge of disloyalty to the troops. Then the Whig Party confirmed its meretriciousness by nominating Zachary Taylor, a returning ...

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