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Denis Donoghue

2 February 1984
Towards 2000 
by Raymond Williams.
Chatto, 273 pp., £9.95, October 1983, 9780701126858
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Writing in Society 
by Raymond Williams.
Verso, 268 pp., £18.50, December 1983, 0 86091 072 5
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Radical Earnestness: English Social Theory 1880-1980 
by Fred Inglis.
Martin Robertson, 253 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 85520 328 5
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... or pluralist theories of political life’. The writers Inglis presents under this rubric are William Morris, T.H. Green, John Maynard Keynes, R.G. Collingwood, F.R. Leavis, George Orwell, Adrian Stokes, Tony Crosland – as he calls him – Richard Titmuss, Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams, John Berger, E.P. Thompson and Isaiah Berlin. If you need a stereotype of the English socialist, you ...
18 May 2000
Franz Liszt. Vol. III: The Final Years, 1861-86 
by Alan Walker.
Faber, 594 pp., £45, February 1998, 0 571 19034 0
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The Romantic Generation 
by Charles Rosen.
HarperCollins, 720 pp., £14.99, March 1999, 0 00 255712 6
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Franz Liszt: Selected Letters 
edited by Adrian Williams.
Oxford, 1063 pp., £70, January 1999, 0 19 816688 5
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... To be fair to Alan Walker, I should confess that I’m an amateur pianist who loves playing – or trying to play – some of the virtuoso music Liszt both composed and, of course, performed: relatively easy pieces like Waldesrauschen and Un Sospiro, which are concert études, and also the three ‘Petrarch’ Sonnets. More difficult ones – like Gnomenreigen or the first ‘Mephisto’ Waltz – ...
18 April 1996
Foreign Country: The Life of L.P. Hartley 
by Adrian​ Wright.
Deutsch, 304 pp., £17.99, March 1996, 0 233 98976 5
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... Oblomov reproved his friends for comparing him with Other People. It is fatal to this kind of art to be standardised critically in terms of other people and their conventional problems. To assert, as Adrian Wright continually does, that familiar traumas and ‘terrible truths’ lie under it collapses art into convention, and indeed into banality. Shorn of the disguise that is itself, the allurements ...

Diary

Stephen Spender: Towards a Kind of Neo-Paganism

21 April 1983
... of poets, for the purpose of the weekend was to judge Sotheby’s International Poetry Competition held in support of the Arvon Foundation, and we were the judges: Basil Bunting, Gwendoline Brooks, Adrian Mitchell, George Barker and myself. I feel vaguely paranoid about any poets but those of my own generation (all dead except for Empson and myself) and was delighted at how well we all got on together ...

Wild Hearts

Peter Wollen

6 April 1995
Virginia Woolf 
by James King.
Hamish Hamilton, 699 pp., £25, September 1994, 0 241 13063 8
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... In 1978, at a seminar on John Maynard Keynes held by the University of Kent, Raymond Williams talked about ‘The Significance of Bloomsbury as a Social and Cultural Group’. He accepted Leonard Woolf’s characterisation of Bloomsbury as consisting ‘of the upper levels of the professional ...
6 October 1994
... to work. His Apocalypse was yet to come; and when it did (in August at the Albert Hall), Union Jacks were unfurled in the national press, while recollections of the happy times of Elgar and Vaughan Williams encouraged proposals that after Sir Michael Tippett, the next candidate for composer-laureate and international standard-bearer should be Tavener. As soon as a young or not-so-young composer in the ...

Topping Entertainment

Frank Kermode: Britten

28 January 2010
Journeying Boy: The Diaries of the Young Benjamin Britten 
edited by John Evans.
Faber, 576 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 0 571 23883 5
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... vulnerable to ‘beastly colds’. About music Britten had, from very early days, strong opinions, to which the privacy of the diary permitted strong expression. Conductors were vulnerable, Sir Adrian Boult being a favourite target: ‘terrible execrable conductor’; ‘Orchestra bad all evening; Boult worse’; ‘disgraceful perf. under A. Boult’; ‘Boult as slow, dull & ignorant as is his ...

Martian Arts

Jonathan Raban

23 July 1987
Home and Away 
by Steve Ellis.
Bloodaxe, 62 pp., £4.50, February 1987, 9781852240271
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The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper 
by Blake Morrison.
Chatto, 48 pp., £4.95, May 1987, 0 7011 3227 2
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The Frighteners 
by Sean O’Brien.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £4.50, February 1987, 9781852240134
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... bad colonial influence by more than half the 35 contributors, few of whom bother to make it clear whether they mean Robert Lowell, or Allen Ginsberg, or the Black Mountain imitators of William Carlos Williams. ‘The Liverpool Poets’ are regarded with a mixture of fear and derision. ‘The ranks of the illiterate raise puerile and rhythmless voices,’ wrote Roy Fuller. ‘Infantile simplicity is all ...
20 September 1984
Notes from New York, and Other Poems 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 64 pp., £4.50, March 1984, 0 19 211959 1
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The Cargo 
by Neil Rennie.
TNR Productions, 27 pp., January 1984
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Collected Poems 1943-1983 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 383 pp., £14.95, April 1984, 0 85635 498 8
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... would say, a long-standing scandal – that this poet enjoys the esteem of foreign readers (not only the English-speakers) to just the degree that among the compatriots of Betjeman and Larkin and Adrian Mitchell he is a prophet without much honour; and there has not been lacking the rather plain implication: ‘Go and live with those furriners that like you so much.’ But Tomlinson won’t go away ...

Heat in a Mild Climate

James Wood: Baron Britain of Aldeburgh

19 December 2013
Benjamin Britten: A Life in the 20th Century 
by Paul Kildea.
Allen Lane, 635 pp., £30, January 2013, 978 1 84614 232 1
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Benjamin Britten: A Life for Music 
by Neil Powell.
Hutchinson, 512 pp., £25, January 2013, 978 0 09 193123 0
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... amateurish and folksy’. Britten wanted only to ‘develop’, as he put it years later, ‘a consciously controlled professional technique. It was a struggle away from everything Vaughan Williams seemed to stand for.’ Vaughan Williams taught composition at the RCM, but Britten bypassed him anyway. Since the age of 14 he had been having lessons with Frank Bridge; his mother would take him to ...
16 December 1993
Aren’t We Due a Royalty Statement? 
by Giles Gordon.
Chatto, 352 pp., £16.99, August 1993, 0 7011 6022 5
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Yesterday Came Suddenly 
by Francis King.
Constable, 336 pp., £16.95, September 1993, 9780094722200
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Excursions in the Real World 
by William Trevor.
Hutchinson, 201 pp., £16.99, September 1993, 0 09 177086 6
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... on a consistent act of not being able to remember a thing, which in the circumstances seems a ‘smidgen’, as he would say, foolish. He cannot recall the name of the funeral parlour where Tennessee Williams lay in state nor can he remember the venue (‘some pub in Fleet Street’) where he was to meet Gore Vidal. Probably it had been so with us had we been there, but we might not have thought it ...

Last Night Fever

David Cannadine: The Proms

6 September 2007
... some significant changes, as the BBC Symphony Orchestra was joined by the London Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestras, and as Wood himself began to share the heavy conducting load with Adrian Boult and Basil Cameron. Boult and Cameron (along with Constant Lambert) conducted the Proms in the 1945 season, including the final concert, but this was an occasion which neither enjoyed, as they ...
29 August 1991
Letters from a Life: The Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten Vol. I 1923-39, Vol. II 1939-45 
edited by Donald Mitchell and Philip Reed.
Faber, 1403 pp., £75, June 1991, 9780571152216
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... went to a concert we are given the programme. If a work of his was played we get a large selection of the reviews. Performers at concerts get scrupulous mini-biographies. Britten spoke sourly of Adrian Boult; the question why he did so is understandably gone into, since Boult had a good record with modern music and even gave some acceptable performances of Britten’s, but it seems that Britten ...
30 December 1982
The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry 
edited by Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion.
Penguin, 208 pp., £1.95, October 1982, 0 14 042283 8
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The Rattle Bag 
edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes.
Faber, 498 pp., £10, October 1982, 0 571 11966 2
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... keeps its cool, and it is never devoted to constructing a personality for the poet. Its scale is small, but that is the case with almost all the contributors with good poems included here – Hugo Williams, Anne Stevenson, Carol Rumens, Andrew Motion. The exceptions, who compose naturally in a more spacious sequence, are James Fenton and of course Seamus Heaney himself. Heaney, in collaboration with ...

Our Island Story

Stefan Collini: The New DNB

20 January 2005
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 
edited by H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison.
Oxford, sixty volumes, £7,500, September 2004, 9780198614111
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... encouragingly. The last entry, in terms of date of death, is Sir Jack Jacob (1908-2000, ‘barrister and jurist’), who died on 26 December 2000, but the last to be born are, soberingly, Stephen Adrian Lawrence (1974-93, ‘murder victim’) and James Patrick Bulger (1990-93, ‘murder victim’). And so ends the 20th century. Turning from subjects to contributors, the roll-call is undeniably ...

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