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Demob

Robert Morley, 7 July 1983

Downing Street in Perspective 
by Marcia Falkender.
Weidenfeld, 280 pp., £10.95, May 1983, 0 297 78107 3
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... every imaginable facility from changing-room and showers to a pantry for drinks and tea-making. Douglas Hurd’s two sons learned to swim at Chequers and so did mine.’ Chequers deserves a whole chapter, there are so many tributes to be paid. To the telephone girls, ‘quite simply the best telephone girls in the world’, who go down to operate the ...

The Real Johnny Hall

Penelope Fitzgerald, 3 October 1985

Our Three Selves: A Life of Radclyffe Hall 
by Michael Baker.
Hamish Hamilton, 386 pp., £13.95, June 1985, 0 241 11539 6
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... instead mildly successful at W.H. Smith and the Times Bookshop. The case was altered only by James Douglas, the editor (also in a crusader’s spirit) of the Sunday Express. Douglas decided, a month later, to feature the book and its photogenic author, in her ‘severe’ smoking-jacket, as evidence of ‘the plague stalking ...

Out of the Gothic

Tom Shippey, 5 February 1987

Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction 
by Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove.
Gollancz, 511 pp., £15, October 1986, 0 575 03942 6
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Eon 
by Greg Bear.
Gollancz, 504 pp., £10.95, October 1986, 0 575 03861 6
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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Four Parts 
by Douglas Adams.
Heinemann, 590 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 434 00920 2
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Humpty Dumpty in Oakland 
by Philip K. Dick.
Gollancz, 199 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 575 03875 6
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The Watcher 
by Jane Palmer.
Women’s Press, 177 pp., £2.50, September 1986, 0 7043 4038 0
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I, Vampire 
by Jody Scott.
Women’s Press, 206 pp., £2.50, September 1986, 0 7043 4036 4
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... not, as he was in this book’s 1973 precursor, Billion Year Spree, a trifle over-persuaded by Mary Shelley? There is of course much to be said for seeing Frankenstein as simultaneously a Gothic novel and a work of Science Fiction, and Aldiss says it well. Mary Shelley had the right scientific background; the ...

Amigos

Christopher Ricks, 2 August 1984

The Faber Book of Parodies 
edited by Simon Brett.
Faber, 383 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 571 13125 5
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Lilibet: An Account in Verse of the Early Years of the Queen until the Time of her Accession 
by Her Majesty.
Blond and Briggs, 95 pp., £6.95, May 1984, 0 85634 157 6
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... without the ‘very’. A poet called Lord Alfred Tennyson, not to be confused with Alfred Lord Douglas, briefly surfaces like the Kraken; the poem is here a Mort and there a Morte. Max Beerbohm’s parody of Henry James is readily and roughly transcribed: for ‘caught in her tone’, read ‘caught her tone’; for ‘feverish’, read ...

Picassomania

Mary Ann Caws: Roland Penrose’s notebooks, 19 October 2006

Visiting Picasso: The Notebooks and Letters of Roland Penrose 
by Elizabeth Cowling.
Thames and Hudson, 408 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 500 51293 0
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... by jealousy. What most upset the ever polite Englishman was the effrontery of his arch-rival, Douglas Cooper. Penrose’s letters to Picasso mentioning Cooper are not always entirely truthful: from time to time, as Cowling puts it, ‘personal animosity got in the way of strict accuracy.’ Cooper didn’t tell the truth either. Angry at not having been ...

Mother-Haters and Other Rebels

Barbara Taylor: Heroine Chic, 3 January 2002

Inventing Herself: Claiming a Feminist Intellectual Heritage 
by Elaine Showalter.
Picador, 384 pp., £16.99, June 2001, 0 330 34669 5
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... Mary Wollstonecraft, feminist heroine sans pareil, didn’t approve of heroines. Great Women – or ‘icons’, as Elaine Showalter prefers to call the three centuries’ worth of feminist ‘rule-breakers and path-blazers’ celebrated in her new book – get short shrift in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: I shall not lay any stress on the example of a few women who, from having received a masculine education, have acquired courage and resolution … Sappho, Eloisa, Mrs Macaulay, the Empress of Russia, Mme d’Eon etc ...

Tousy-Mousy

Anne Barton: Mary Shelley, 8 February 2001

Mary Shelley 
by Miranda Seymour.
Murray, 665 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 7195 5711 9
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Mary Shelley in Her Times 
edited by Betty Bennett and Stuart Curran.
Johns Hopkins, 311 pp., £33, September 2000, 0 8018 6334 1
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Mary Shelley's Fictions 
edited by Michael Eberle-Sinatra.
Palgrave, 250 pp., £40, August 2000, 0 333 77106 0
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... were drowned off Leghorn in July 1822. Shortly thereafter, Byron and Trelawny embarked for Greece, Mary Shelley’s troubled and troubling step-sister Claire Clairmont departed to become a governess in Russia, and in 1823 Mary and her last surviving child returned to the England she had not seen since 1818. ‘The ...

How bad can it get?

LRB Contributors, 15 August 2019

... Neal Ascherson, Mary Beard, Jonathan Coe, Tom Crewe, William Davies, Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, Lorna Finlayson, Daniel Finn, Katrina Forrester, Jeremy Harding, Daisy Hildyard, Colin Kidd, James Meek, Ferdinand Mount, Jan-Werner Müller, Jonathan Parry, David RuncimanNeal Ascherson‘On​ 17 June poor France fell ...

The Old, Bad Civilisation

Arnold Rattenbury: Second World War poetry, 4 October 2001

Selected Poems 
by Randall Swingler, edited by Andy Croft.
Trent, 113 pp., £7.99, October 2000, 1 84233 014 4
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British Writing of the Second World War 
by Mark Rawlinson.
Oxford, 256 pp., £35, June 2000, 0 19 818456 5
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... World War poetry cannot do without reference back to that of the First; and it’s true that Keith Douglas was always conscious of Isaac Rosenberg behind his shoulder, Alun Lewis of Edward Thomas. But the idea of modern warfare as one thing and of poetic response to it as another seems, in retrospect, almost Churchillian in its fixedness. Back then, although ...

On Some Days of the Week

Colm Tóibín: Mrs Oscar Wilde, 10 May 2012

Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde 
by Franny Moyle.
John Murray, 374 pp., £9.99, February 2012, 978 1 84854 164 1
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The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition 
by Oscar Wilde, edited by Nicholas Frankel.
Harvard, 295 pp., £25.95, April 2011, 978 0 674 05792 0
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... illegitimate children before his marriage. The year Oscar was born his father began an affair with Mary Travers, the daughter of a colleague. She was also his patient. When Sir William tried to end the relationship, Travers claimed that it had begun while she was under anaesthetic. She wrote angry letters to the Wildes and published a pamphlet about a girl ...

A Life of Henry Reed

Jon Stallworthy, 12 September 1991

... his son Henry seem, paradoxically, to have been inherited from a mother who was illiterate. Born Mary Ann Ball, the eldest child of a large family that had migrated from Tipton to Birmingham, she could not be spared from her labours at home during what should have been her schooldays, and when, in her late middle age, her granddaughter ...
Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature 
by Linda Lear.
Allen Lane, 634 pp., £25, March 1998, 0 7139 9236 0
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... America’s intellectual élite and ensure runaway sales. The Supreme Court Justice, William O. Douglas, in a comment for Houghton Mifflin, called Silent Spring ‘the most revolutionary book since Uncle Tom’s Cabin’. It was selected by the Book of the Month Club and Douglas introduced it in the Club News as ‘the ...

Good Things: Pederasty and Jazz and Opium and Research

Lawrence Rainey: Mary Butts, 16 July 1998

Mary Butts: Scenes from the Life 
by Nathalie Blondel.
McPherson, 539 pp., £22.50, February 1998, 0 929701 55 0
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The Taverner Novels: ‘Armed with Madness’, ‘Death of Felicity Taverner’ 
by Mary Butts.
McPherson, 374 pp., £10, March 1998, 0 929701 18 6
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The Classical Novels: ‘The Macedonian’, ‘Scenes from the Life of Cleopatra’ 
by Mary Butts.
McPherson, 384 pp., £10, March 1998, 0 929701 42 9
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‘Ashe of Rings’ and Other Writings 
by Mary Butts.
McPherson, 374 pp., £18.50, March 1998, 0 929701 53 4
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... For the first time since Mary Butts died more than sixty years ago, all her major work is available in Britain, together with a first, full-length biography by Nathalie Blondel. Their appearance promises an occasion to assay the limits of the canon, for Butts’s second novel, Armed with Madness, first published in 1928, is, I would say, a masterpiece of Modernist prose ...

A Vast Masquerade

Deborah Cohen: Dr James Barry, 2 March 2017

Dr James Barry: A Woman ahead of Her Time 
by Michael du Preez and Jeremy Dronfield.
Oneworld, 479 pp., £16.99, August 2016, 978 1 78074 831 3
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... fraud? James Barry arrived in Edinburgh from Ireland in 1809, accompanied by a middle-aged woman, Mary Anne Bulkley, whom he introduced as his aunt. Slight, with reddish blond hair, Barry dressed in a surtout, a sort of overcoat, which he never took off, not even in hot weather. At the University School of Anatomy, where he enrolled on a three-year course, he ...

Smart Alec

Peter Clarke, 17 October 1996

Alec Douglas-Home 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 540 pp., £25, October 1996, 1 85619 277 6
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... eight hundred years of history gave a 14th earl’ may suggest an unduly deferential image of Alec Douglas-Home – the name to which he was born and to which he reverted between 1963 and 1974, before retiring from politics as Lord Home of the Hirsel. It was under the courtesy title of Lord Dunglass that he first made his mark in politics, carrying Neville ...

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