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Do put down that revolver

Rosemary Hill, 14 July 2016

The Long Weekend: Life in the English Country House between the Wars 
by Adrian Tinniswood.
Cape, 406 pp., £25, June 2016, 978 0 224 09945 5
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... interval between the horrors of the first half of the 20th century. The title is borrowed from Robert Graves and Alan Hodge, whose social history of Britain from 1918 to 1939, The Long Weekend, appeared in 1940, and it conjures up a sepia image of a tranquil Indian summer ‘in which the sun set slowly on the British Empire and the shadows lengthened on ...

Wild about Misia

Clive James, 4 September 1980

Misia 
by Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale.
Macmillan, 337 pp., £10, June 1980, 0 333 28165 9
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... and privilege meet. This book has several faults but at least one great merit: Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale have seen that Misia’s personality, even if it can never quite be captured, remains highly interesting for the light it casts on how talent can cohabit with gracious living and yet still keep its distance. Misia features a good deal of ...

Posthumous Gentleman

Michael Dobson: Kit Marlowe’s Schooldays, 19 August 2004

The World of Christopher Marlowe 
by David Riggs.
Faber, 411 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 571 22159 9
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Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys through the Elizabethan Underground 
by Roy Kendall.
Fairleigh Dickinson, 453 pp., $75, January 2004, 0 8386 3974 7
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Tamburlaine Must Die 
by Louise Welsh.
Canongate, 149 pp., £9.99, July 2004, 1 84195 532 9
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History Play: The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe 
by Rodney Bolt.
HarperCollins, 388 pp., £17.99, July 2004, 0 00 712123 7
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... by Mark Thornton Burnett’s edition of the plays for Everyman in 1999, and Frank Romany and Robert Lindsey’s for Penguin in 2003; the first Cambridge Companion to Christopher Marlowe appeared last month (edited by Patrick Cheney).* Even without the bloodshed and intrigue that the fatal stab wound in Deptford supplies, the biographers’ Marlowe is ...

Seductress Extraordinaire

Terry Castle: The vampiric Mercedes de Acosta, 24 June 2004

‘That Furious Lesbian’: The Story of Mercedes de Acosta 
by Robert Schanke.
Southern Illinois, 210 pp., £16.95, June 2004, 0 8093 2579 9
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Women in Turmoil: Six Plays 
by Mercedes de Acosta, edited by Robert Schanke.
Southern Illinois, 252 pp., £26.95, June 2003, 0 8093 2509 8
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... in the early 1960s, she nonetheless continued picking up nubile girls with aplomb, including (says Robert Schanke) a ‘tubercular young British actress who was a waitress in a coffee shop’. Once one might have welcomed such a seduction, fang marks, TB and all. I remember much relishing de Acosta’s gossipy 1960 autobiography, Here Lies the Heart, when it ...

House of Miscegenation

Gilberto Perez: Westerns, 18 November 2010

Hollywood Westerns and American Myth 
by Robert Pippin.
Yale, 198 pp., £25, May 2010, 978 0 300 14577 9
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... sunset was never exactly a paragon of family values. A boy in the 1950s, the heyday of the genre, Robert Pippin grew up steeped in the Western. He watched them both on television (his favourite show was Have Gun, Will Travel) and ‘all day Saturdays at the movies (ten in the morning until six at night) … one Western after another’. Growing up in Havana ...

What makes a waif?

Joanne O’Leary, 13 September 2018

The Long-Winded Lady: Tales from the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 215 pp., £10.99, January 2017, 978 1 906539 59 7
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Maeve Brennan: Homesick at the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Angela Bourke.
Counterpoint, 360 pp., $16.95, February 2016, 978 1 61902 715 2
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The Springs of Affection: Stories 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 368 pp., £8.99, May 2016, 978 1 906539 54 2
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... two women to be admitted to the Irish Republican Brotherhood. After the Rising was suppressed, Robert, her father, narrowly escaped the firing squad, and was in Lewes Prison when Maeve was born. Her childhood was punctuated by raids from ‘unfriendly men dressed in civilian clothes carrying revolvers’; they were looking for her father, who was often on ...

Falling in love with Lucian

Colm Tóibín: Lucian Freud’s Outer Being, 10 October 2019

The Lives of Lucian Freud: Youth, 1922-68 
by William Feaver.
Bloomsbury, 680 pp., £35, September 2019, 978 1 4088 5093 0
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... for a Portrait by Lucian Freud, Martin Gayford reports that Freud told him that when Andrew Parker-Bowles protested about the way his stomach protruded, Freud ‘thought I’d better emphasise it more’. Freud​ met Caroline Blackwood at a party in 1949 when she was 18. Three years later, he painted her portrait. Just as John Minton had commented when ...

So Ordinary, So Glamorous

Thomas Jones: Eternal Bowie, 5 April 2012

Starman: David Bowie, the Definitive Biography 
by Paul Trynka.
Sphere, 440 pp., £9.99, March 2012, 978 0 7515 4293 6
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The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s 
by Peter Doggett.
Bodley Head, 424 pp., £20, September 2011, 978 1 84792 144 4
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... to the record sleeve, Bowie played most of the guitar on Diamond Dogs (1974) himself. But Alan Parker, whose contribution is acknowledged for only one song, ‘1984’, perhaps deserves more credit than that. Of the guitar part on ‘Rebel Rebel’, Parker told Trynka: ‘I can tell my own playing, and my own sound, and ...

Yuh wanna play bad?

Christopher Tayler: Henry Roth, 23 March 2006

Redemption: The Life of Henry Roth 
by Steven Kellman.
Norton, 372 pp., $16.99, September 2005, 0 393 05779 8
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Call It Sleep 
by Henry Roth.
Picador US, 462 pp., $15, July 2005, 0 312 42412 4
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... Lester Winter, a ‘polished, worldly, well-groomed’ young man who introduced him to the work of Robert Frost and Edna St Vincent Millay. Winter planned to become a dentist but had artistic aspirations too, and liked disparaging his family as avaricious philistines (his father was a successful dry-goods merchant). He valued Roth’s immigrant ...

Female Bandits? What next!

Wendy Doniger: The incarnations of Robin Hood, 22 July 2004

Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography 
by Stephen Knight.
Cornell, 247 pp., £14.50, May 2003, 0 8014 3885 3
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... And I guess the "robin” means he stole birds.’ Robin is more likely to be a nickname for Robert, though the resonance with ‘robber’ may also count for something, and Hood may suggest his frequent disguises, for Robin is a great trickster whose masquerades inevitably bamboozle his foolish oppressors: he specialises in pretending to help people ...

That Wild Mercury Sound

Charles Nicholl: Dylan’s Decade, 1 December 2016

The Bootleg Series, Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-66 
by Bob Dylan.
Columbia, £60, November 2015
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... the record’s contents. He’d been using the alias since the summer of 1960. His given name was Robert Zimmerman and he had grown up in Hibbing, a small mining town in Minnesota; he was the son of Abe, an electrical goods supplier, and Beatty, and the grandson of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. The name he chose has often been said to be a tribute to ...

Fugitive Crusoe

Tom Paulin: Daniel Defoe, 19 July 2001

Daniel Defoe: Master of Fictions 
by Maximilian Novak.
Oxford, 756 pp., £30, April 2001, 0 19 812686 7
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Political and Economic Writings of Daniel Defoe 
edited by W.R. Owens and P.N. Furbank.
Pickering & Chatto, £595, December 2000, 1 85196 465 7
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... him to various other forms of secrecy’. He was to become a government spy when Robert Harley was Lord High Treasurer (effectively Prime Minister) and he uses the word ‘secret’ obsessively in Crusoe (it occurs five times on one page). Novak sees his experience of prison and the survival strategies to which it led as crucial to his ...

Middle Positions

John Hedley Brooke, 21 July 1983

Archetypes and Ancestors: Palaeontology in Victorian London 1850-1875 
by Adrian Desmond.
Blond and Briggs, 287 pp., £15.95, October 1982, 0 85634 121 5
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Evolution without Evidence: Charles Darwin and ‘The Origin Species’ 
by Barry Gale.
Harvester, 238 pp., £18.95, January 1983, 0 7108 0442 3
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The Secular Ark: Studies in the History of Biogeography 
by Janet Browne.
Yale, 273 pp., £21, May 1983, 0 300 02460 6
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The Descent of Darwin: A Handbook of Doubts about Darwinsm 
by Brain Leith.
Collins, 174 pp., £7.95, December 1982, 0 00 219548 8
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... fossil record, anxious as he had then been to dissociate himself from the Lamarckian atheism of Robert Grant. It is these twists and turns which make the intellectual history of Early Victorian science so captivating, and, when discussed in an essay of this quality, so rewarding. By emphasising the cultural context and cultural uses of different forms of ...

What are judges for?

Conor Gearty, 25 January 2001

... which can then be cast off when no longer required. Like Hannen, Day and Levin Smith, Lords Parker and Widgery, for example, are now remembered as much for their reports on aspects of security practice in Northern Ireland as for anything they achieved as successive Lord Chief Justices. The memory is not a warm one. This whole question of ...

How to be a wife

Colm Tóibín: The Discretion of Jackie Kennedy, 6 June 2002

Janet & Jackie: The Story of a Mother and Her Daughter, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis 
by Jan Pottker.
St Martin’s, 381 pp., $24.95, October 2001, 0 312 26607 3
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Mrs Kennedy: The Missing History of the Kennedy Years 
by Barbara Leaming.
Weidenfeld, 389 pp., £20, October 2001, 0 297 64333 9
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... and Lady G. were eventually acted out in full view of the tabloids by Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. James knew a dramatic subject. In some contemporary writing about lone, long-suffering and much-photographed female celebrities who have haunted our dreams, there is an attempt to compare them to figures from Greek tragedy. In many ...

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