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The School of English

Hilary Mantel: ‘The School of English’: A Story, 7 May 2015

... don’t know this word.’ She had irritated Mr Maddox. ‘I thought you came here via the Lady. And good English guaranteed thereby.’ ‘The Lady is not my employer,’ Marcella said. ‘It is only a means to an end.’ She stopped and wondered at the phrase: ‘a means to an end’. She said, ‘I am ...

I could light my pipe at her eyes

Ian Gilmour: Women and politics in Victorian Britain, 3 September 1998

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire 
by Amanda Foreman.
HarperCollins, 320 pp., £19.99, May 1998, 0 00 255668 5
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Aristocratic Women and Political Society in Victorian Britain 
by K.D. Reynolds.
Oxford, 268 pp., £35, April 1998, 0 19 820727 1
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Lady Byron and Earl Shilton 
by David Herbert.
Hinckley Museum, 128 pp., £7.50, March 1998, 0 9521471 3 0
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... on top of the daughter he had fathered before he married, he had himself had two children by Lady Elizabeth Foster (Bess); according to the double standards of the day that, however, was fully acceptable, and the Duke’s bastards by Bess were brought up alongside his legitimate children. Rather more unusually, Bess, too, lived in Devonshire House with ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’, 27 January 2022

... the thought that fair is foul and foul is fair. We could call it a ‘filthy witness’, to borrow Lady Macbeth’s term for her husband’s blood-smeared hands. This is the first Coen movie to have been directed by just one of the brothers, and Joel Coen is also credited as the writer. Writing must mean skilful cutting, since as far as I can tell the words ...

Not bothered

E.S. Turner, 29 August 1991

The Bachelor Duke: William Spencer Cavendish, Sixth Duke of Devonshire, 1790-1858 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 234 pp., £19.95, March 1991, 0 7195 4920 5
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... that they bolted for the safety of Revolutionary Paris. The party included the Duke’s mistress, Lady Elizabeth Foster, and his four young children, two of them by Lady Elizabeth, whose company Georgiana ‘for reasons best known to herself ... loved more than that of any living soul’. Georgiana’s mother, Countess ...

Rembrandt and Synge and Molly

Denis Donoghue, 1 December 1983

The Collected Letters of John Millington Synge. Vol. I: 1871-1907 
edited by Ann Saddlemyer.
Oxford, 385 pp., £30, August 1983, 0 19 812678 6
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... and theosophy were more in his line than the activities of the Land League. Like Yeats, Lady Gregory and Douglas Hyde, he brooded over the ‘spirit of the nation’ and thought it would be a fine thing to express it in a theatre, but he didn’t want to see it manifested in a rough form. Maud Gonne was too rough. Yeats had to hover about her ...

Momentary Substances

Nicholas Penny, 21 November 1985

Patterns of Intention 
by Michael Baxandall.
Yale, 148 pp., £12.50, September 1985, 0 300 03465 2
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The Enigma of Piero 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by Martin Ryle and Kate Soper.
Verso, 164 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 86091 116 0
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... which he has just expertly expounded, provides any ‘purchase’ on Chardin’s painting, A Lady Taking Tea, to which ‘our primary explanatory duty is due.’ It is bracing to discover that we have this duty but I am puzzled by what exactly needs explanation. Chardin was a painter of the kitchen table with its coppers and onions and of the dessert ...

A Tale of Three Novels

Michael Holroyd: Violet Trefusis, 11 February 2010

... you will find your tormented soul, changed, and free. Challenge, in the words of Vita’s mother, Lady Sackville, is ‘a brilliantly dull’ book which comes momentarily alive in the descriptions of Eve, the character based on Violet. We hear the dark drowsy tone of her voice, see her tempting red mouth and strange shadowy eyes, deep-set and slanting ...

Thunder in the Mountains

J. Hoberman: Orson Welles, 6 September 2007

Orson Welles: Hello Americans 
by Simon Callow.
Vintage, 507 pp., £8.99, May 2007, 978 0 09 946261 3
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What Ever Happened to Orson Welles? A Portrait of an Independent Career 
by Joseph McBride.
Kentucky, 344 pp., $29.95, October 2006, 0 8131 2410 7
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... intractable nature of character was a career-long concern for Welles. Human nature is eternal: The Lady from Shanghai (1947) stops dead in its tracks so that Rita Hayworth can say so, claiming it’s a ‘Chinese proverb’; some versions of his 1955 film Mr Arkadin begin with a printed title that uses the fable of the scorpion and the frog to assert it. But ...

But You Married Him

Rosemary Hill: Princess Margaret and Lady Anne, 4 June 2020

Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown 
by Anne Glenconner.
Hodder, 336 pp., £20, October 2019, 978 1 5293 5906 0
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... Lady​ Anne Glenconner has lived her life ‘in the shadow of the crown’. She is a friend of many members of the royal family and was, for thirty years, a lady in waiting to Princess Margaret. Her memoir, however, is written in the shadow of The Crown, ‘the popular Netflix series’ in which she was played by Nancy Carroll with Helena Bonham Carter as Margaret ...

In the Company of Confreres

Terry Eagleton: ‘Modern British Fiction’, 12 December 2002

On Modern British Fiction 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 328 pp., £14.99, October 2002, 0 19 924932 6
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... During the half-century since 1950, Lindsay Duguid writes in an essay in this collection, ‘the lady novelist turned into the woman writer,’ the historical novel became respectable once again, crime fiction became respectable for the first time, and the English novel was reborn as the British novel. Indian novelists revealed a ‘fondness for identical twins’, while angels, giants, babies and women who pass as men grew curiously fashionable ...

A life, surely?

Jenny Diski: To Portobello on Angel Dust, 18 February 1999

The Ossie Clark Diaries 
edited by Henrietta Rous.
Bloomsbury, 402 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 7475 3901 4
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... design and effect of the first dress Ossie Clark made for the editor and annotator of his diaries, Lady Henrietta Rous. Ossie made a skirt, knee-length, with 84 panels, like a wonderful balletic creation, with a purple fitted corseted top and romantic puffed sleeves. The colours were yellow, turquoise, red, green, pink and mauve ... This dress was later ...

Etheric Vibrations

E.S. Turner: Marie Corelli, 29 July 1999

The Mysterious Marie Corelli: Queen of Victorian Bestsellers 
by Teresa Ransom.
Sutton, 247 pp., £25, June 1999, 0 7509 1570 6
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... mode’, ‘déjeuner’ and ‘fallen lady’, terms which the Board School readers took in their stride, along with all those Biblical references. The narrator of The Sorrows of Satan, Geoffrey Tempest, is a self-pitying failed novelist who receives by the same post the news that he has been left ...

Audrey and Her Sisters

Wayne Koestenbaum, 18 September 1997

Audrey Hepburn 
by Barry Paris.
Weidenfeld, 454 pp., £20, February 1997, 0 297 81728 0
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... Taylor herself wanted the part of Eliza Doolittle: reportedly, she said, ‘Get me My Fair Lady,’ to then-husband Eddie Fisher and agent Kurt Frings. I wonder if Liz knew that Audrey had turned down the part of Cleopatra in 1959. Audrey later said: ‘Oh come on, I’m not a movie star. Liz Taylor is a movie star.’ For a movie star, that’s a ...

Forbidden to Grow up

Gabriele Annan: Ahdaf Soueif, 15 July 1999

The Map of Love 
by Ahdaf Soueif.
Bloomsbury, 529 pp., £18.99, June 1999, 0 7475 4367 4
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... new novel felt bereaved: ‘I have derived more enjoyment from Anna Karenina and War and Peace,’ Lady Anna Winterbourne notes in her diary, ‘than from any other novels that I have read.’ The Map of Love suggests that Soueif herself may have Tolstoyan aspirations. Aspirations, not pretensions: there is an engaging modesty about her voice. Still, both her ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘A Star is Born’, 25 October 2018

... in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, and Cooper’s now with himself and Lady Gaga, alias Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta – are remarkably faithful to their initial premise and themes. They are about fame, addiction, ambition and gender. The slayer of the king is the woman he has turned into a star, and she doesn’t want to slay ...

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