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Browning Versions

Barbara Everett, 4 August 1983

Robert Browning: A Life within Life 
by Donald Thomas.
Weidenfeld, 334 pp., £12.95, August 1982, 0 297 78092 1
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The Elusive Self in the Poetry of Robert Browning 
by Constance Hassett.
Ohio, 186 pp., £17, December 1982, 0 8214 0629 9
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The Complete Works of Robert Browning. Vol. V 
edited by Roma King.
Ohio, 395 pp., £29.75, July 1981, 9780821402207
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The Poetical Works of Robert Browning: Vol. I 
edited by Ian Jack and Margaret Smith.
Oxford, 543 pp., £45, April 1983, 0 19 811893 7
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Robert Browning: The Poems 
edited by John Pettigrew and Thomas Collins.
Yale/Penguin, 1191 pp., £26, January 1982, 0 300 02675 7
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Robert Browning: ‘The Ring and the Book’ 
edited by Richard Altick.
Yale/Penguin, 707 pp., £21, May 1981, 0 300 02677 3
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... Browning’s verse as an essentially introspective art, The Elusive Self in the Poetry of Robert Browning. But the thesis seems regrettably mistaken, in that it generates and enforces a wrong notion of ‘poetry’ as well as of Browning: poetry as absolutely distinguished from the normal world in which the writer lives. In his early years ...

Secret Signals in Lotus Flowers

Maya Jasanoff: Myths of the Mutiny, 21 July 2005

The Indian Mutiny and the British Imagination 
by Gautam Chakravarty.
Cambridge, 242 pp., £45, January 2005, 0 521 83274 8
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... Corbett family, ‘who were murdered During the Massacre of the Christians in Delhi’; to Thomas Collins and no fewer than 23 members of his extended family, ‘all barbarously murdered at Delhi on or about the 11th of May 1857’; to Dr Chimmun Lall, a ‘native Christian and a Worshipper in this Church’, who ‘fell a martyr to his faith on the day of ...

His Friends Were Appalled

Deborah Friedell: Dickens, 5 January 2012

The Life of Charles Dickens 
by John Forster.
Cambridge, 1480 pp., £70, December 2011, 978 1 108 03934 5
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Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist 
by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst.
Harvard, 389 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 0 674 05003 7
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Charles Dickens: A Life 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 527 pp., £30, October 2011, 978 0 670 91767 9
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... was in the Marshalsea. It wasn’t the childhood he wanted, so he hadn’t spoken about it. For Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, in his clever new study, the mass of biographies can make Dickens’s life seem as inevitable as a fairy tale, his genius so self-evident that a novelist’s career was certain. But the alternative lives he might have led, as a debtor ...

Making My Moan

Irina Dumitrescu: Medieval Smut, 7 May 2020

Obscene Pedagogies: Transgressive Talk and Sexual Education in Late Medieval Britain 
by Carissa Harris.
Cornell, 306 pp., £36, December 2018, 978 1 5017 3040 5
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... a man called Warner who lived in Normandy wrote a very dirty Latin poem. Addressed to Archbishop Robert of Rouen, it relates the adventures of an Irish grammarian called Moriuht, who has a series of graphic and often disturbing sexual encounters while searching for his wife, who has been kidnapped. He is captured by Vikings, chained, flogged, urinated ...

Frognal Days

Zachary Leader: Files on the Fifties, 4 June 1998

Previous Convictions: A Journey Through the Fifties 
by Nora Sayre.
Rutgers, 464 pp., £27.95, April 1997, 0 8135 2231 5
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... left-wing filmmakers Joseph Losey, Carl Foreman and Abraham Polonsky, the screenwriters Richard Collins, Ring Lardner Jr and Waldo Salt, the critics Harold Clurman and Ken Tynan, the musicians Larry Adler and Yip Harburg, as well as Ingrid Bergman, Constance Cummings and Katharine Hepburn. Most of the expatriate film people Sayre met in Frognal had settled ...

New Ways of Killing Your Father

Colm Tóibín, 18 November 1993

Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History 
by R.F. Foster.
Allen Lane, 305 pp., £22.50, October 1993, 0 7139 9095 3
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... Land League were presented as non-constitutional headaches for O’Connell and Parnell. Michael Collins was a Treaty negotiator rather than a warlord. Outside in the world there were car bombs and hunger strikes, done in the name of our nation, in the name of history. Inside we were cleansing history, concentrating on those aspects of our past which would ...

Seeing Stars

Alan Bennett: Film actors, 3 January 2002

... manners. Except that now, telling the story, I can’t be sure that it was Ronald Colman and not Robert Donat, who was certainly more likely to be in Leeds and indeed in England and who was known to be shy (and, as Mam said, ‘a martyr to asthma’) and therefore more likely to bolt from the shop. Cherished and admired as a local boy was Eric Portman, who ...

On the Lower Slopes

Stefan Collini: Greene’s Luck, 5 August 2010

Shades of Greene: One Generation of an English Family 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 580 pp., £25, August 2010, 978 0 224 07921 1
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... later reflected, that he had had an experienced mentor to call on for advice – someone such as Robert Louis Stevenson, who ‘had always seemed to me “one of the family”’. Greene was distantly related to RLS through his mother’s cousin. ‘Names which appeared in his Collected Letters were photographs in our family album. In the nursery we played ...

Antigone in Galway

Anne Enright, 17 December 2015

... patriot who was executed in 1916 and buried in the yard of what is now Cork Prison, at the rear of Collins Barracks, once the Victoria Barracks. His coffin was first removed to the garrison church, where thousands of people – including Dr John Buckley, the bishop of Cork and Ross – filed past to pay their respects. The funeral echoed the reinterment of ...

Tennyson’s Text

Danny Karlin, 12 November 1987

The Poems of Tennyson 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Longman, 662 pp., £40, May 1987, 0 582 49239 4
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Tennyson’s ‘Maud’: A Definitive Edition 
edited by Susan Shatto.
Athlone, 296 pp., £28, August 1986, 0 485 11294 9
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The Letters of Alfred Lord Tennyson. Vol.2: 1851-1870 
edited by Cecil Lang and Edgar Shannon.
Oxford, 585 pp., £40, May 1987, 0 19 812691 3
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The New Oxford Book of Victorian Verse 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 654 pp., £15.95, June 1987, 0 19 214154 6
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... Writing in 1842 to his friend Alfred Domett, who had emigrated to New Zealand, Robert Browning enclosed ‘Tennyson’s new vol. and, alas, the old with it – that is what he calls old’. Browning was referring to the two-volume Poems of 1842, whose first volume consisted of heavily revised versions of poems published in 1830 and 1832 ...

Puellilia

Pat Rogers, 7 August 1986

Mothers of the Novel: One Hundred Good Women Writers before Jane Austen 
by Dale Spender.
Pandora, 357 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 86358 081 5
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Scribbling Sisters 
by Dale Spender and Lynne Spender.
Camden Press, 188 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 948491 00 0
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A Woman of No Character: An Autobiography of Mrs Manley 
by Fidelis Morgan.
Faber, 176 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13934 5
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Cecilia 
by Fanny Burney.
Virago, 919 pp., £6.95, May 1986, 0 86068 775 9
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Millenium Hall 
by Sarah Scott.
Virago, 207 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86068 780 5
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Marriage 
by Susan Ferrier.
Virago, 513 pp., £4.50, February 1986, 0 86068 765 1
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Belinda 
by Maria Edgeworth.
Pandora, 434 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 074 2
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Self-Control 
by Mary Brunton.
Pandora, 437 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 9780863580840
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The Female Quixote: The Adventures of Arabella 
by Charlotte Lennox.
Pandora, 423 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 080 7
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... than thirty men’. Then follows a remarkable passage: ‘Among the neglected men I have found Robert Bage, Henry Brooke, John Bunyan, Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Delaney [sic], Emanuel Ford, William Godwin, Richard Graves, Robert Greene, Robert Henryson, Charles Johnstone, Charles ...

How does he come to be mine?

Tim Parks: Dickens’s Children, 8 August 2013

Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens 
by Robert Gottlieb.
Farrar, Straus, 239 pp., £16.99, December 2012, 978 0 374 29880 7
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... of the older children. In Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens, Robert Gottlieb quotes the letter in which Dickens explains to his wife what happened: ‘Presently, we heard them come back and say to each other with some alarm: “Why, the gate’s shut, and they are all gone!” Ally began in a dismayed way to cry out, but ...

Keith Middlemas on the history of Ireland

Keith Middlemas, 22 January 1981

Ireland: Land of Troubles 
by Paul Johnson.
Eyre Methuen, 224 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 413 47650 2
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Acts of Union 
by Anthony Bailey.
Faber, 221 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 571 11648 5
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Neighbours 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Faber, 96 pp., £2.95, November 1980, 0 571 11645 0
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Ireland: A History 
by Robert Kee.
Weidenfeld, 256 pp., £9.95, December 1980, 0 297 77855 2
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... the historian with a number of quibbles – in particular, the leading role assigned to Michael Collins in all the events of 1919-22. Yet on fundamental interpretation Kee is less dogmatic and, above all, less Anglo-centric; greener here, indeed, than in his previous book, The Green Flag. It is not simply that he adds an Irish dimension to the Gaelic ...

Walking in high places

Michael Neve, 21 October 1982

The Ferment of Knowledge: Studies in the Historiography of 18th-Century Science 
edited by G.S. Rousseau and R.S. Porter.
Cambridge, 500 pp., £25, November 1980, 9780521225991
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Romanticism and the Forms of Ruin 
by Thomas McFarland.
Princeton, 432 pp., £24.60, February 1981, 0 691 06437 7
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Poetry realised in Nature: Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Early 19th-Century Science 
by Trevor Levere.
Cambridge, 271 pp., £22.50, October 1981, 0 521 23920 6
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Coleridge 
by Richard Holmes.
Oxford, 102 pp., £1.25, March 1982, 0 19 287591 4
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Young Charles Lamb 1775-1802 
by Winifred Courtney.
Macmillan, 411 pp., £25, July 1982, 0 333 31534 0
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... European culture – and as part of ‘high culture’, in ways outlined by Peter Burke and Robert Darnton. Science and technology can then be distinguished, and theoretical advances, in, say, the earth sciences, are not assumed always to have produced great practical breakthroughs. As one of the contributors, Steven Shapin, neatly turns it, Was ist ...

Encyclopedias

Theodore Zeldin, 26 October 1989

Pan Encyclopedia 
edited by Judith Hannam.
Pan, 608 pp., £8.99, August 1989, 9780330309202
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Longman Encyclopedia 
edited by Asa Briggs.
Longman, 1179 pp., £24.95, September 1989, 0 582 91620 8
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International Encyclopedia of Communications: Vols I-IV 
edited by Erik Barnouw.
Oxford, 1913 pp., £250, April 1989, 0 19 504994 2
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The Cambridge Encyclopedia of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives 
edited by Francis Robinson.
Cambridge, 520 pp., £30, September 1989, 0 521 33451 9
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Concise Encyclopedia of Islam 
by Cyril Glass.
Stacey International, 472 pp., £35, February 1989, 0 905743 52 0
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The World’s Religions 
by Ninian Smart.
Cambridge, 576 pp., £25, March 1989, 0 521 34005 5
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The New Physics 
edited by Paul Davies.
Cambridge, 516 pp., £30, March 1989, 0 521 30420 2
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The Middle Ages: A Concise Encyclopedia 
by H.R. Loyn.
Thames and Hudson, 352 pp., £24, May 1989, 0 500 25103 7
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China in World History 
by S.A.M. Adshead.
Macmillan, 432 pp., £35, June 1988, 0 333 43405 6
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... is too highbrow. Instead of Germaine Greer, there is Navratilova. When a poet does scrape in, like Robert Frost, all one needs to know is that he was famous, not why. Success matters more than states of the soul; the successsful are the pagan gods of ordinary life. The reader is judged to need ‘real’ facts, the kind Mrs Thatcher wants schoolchildren to be ...

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