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What’s Happening in the Engine-Room

Penelope Fitzgerald: Poor John Lehmann, 7 January 1999

John Lehmann: A Pagan Adventure 
by Adrian Wright.
Duckworth, 308 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 7156 2871 2
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... James, the always reliable butler, deals with that, the illusion of a dedication to poetry. Adrian Wright, in this new biography, refers several times to Lehmann’s half-commitment (in spite of his energy) to the professional life he chose. Fieldhead was the magic enclosure to which, as an adult, he looked back, wishing that it might have been ...

Fat and Fretful

John Bayley, 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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... 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 and the personality of its humours, it can look no ...

What architects said before they said ‘space’

Andrew Saint: The vocabulary of modern architecture, 30 November 2000

Words and Buildings: A Vocabulary of Modern Architecture 
by Adrian Forty.
Thames and Hudson, 335 pp., £28, April 2000, 0 500 34172 9
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... route of the architect ran between the drawing board and the building site. After Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, both as cavalier with language as they were scrupulous with architectural detail, you could scarcely be thought an internationally significant architect unless you not only built but wrote and globetrotted, discoursing as you went. The ...

Staggering on

Stephen Howe, 23 May 1996

The ‘New Statesman’: Portrait of a Political Weekly, 1913-31 
by Adrian Smith.
Cass, 340 pp., £30, February 1996, 0 7146 4645 8
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... extended discussion of the Statesman’s first years was Edward Hyams’s ‘house’ history. Adrian Smith makes a fuller attempt to place the early New Statesman in its various political and intellectual contexts and relates the fortunes of the small-circulation political weekly to the seismic political changes of 1916-29 that virtually destroyed British ...

Unreal Food Uneaten

Julian Bell: Sitting for Vanessa, 13 April 2000

The Art of Bloomsbury 
edited by Richard Shone.
Tate Gallery, 388 pp., £35, November 1999, 1 85437 296 3
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First Friends 
by Ronald Blythe.
Viking, 157 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 670 88613 0
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Bloomsbury in France 
by Mary Ann Caws and Sarah Bird Wright.
Oxford, 430 pp., £25, December 1999, 0 19 511752 2
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... McEwen’s phrase about the ‘fickle pursuit of French fashion’ catches one end of the tone. Adrian Searle’s dismay at Bloomsbury’s ‘domesticated’ and ‘palatable’ dilutions of European Modernism catches the other, hinting at the particular nightmare that haunts half the English art world, which finds the Bloomsbury example embarrassing ...
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology 
edited by T.F. Hoad.
Oxford, 552 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 9780198611820
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Dictionary of Changes in Meaning 
by Adrian Room.
Routledge, 292 pp., £14.95, May 1986, 0 7102 0341 1
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The Story of English 
by Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert McNeil.
Faber/BBC, 384 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 563 20247 5
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Dictionary of American Regional English. Vol. I: Introduction and A-C 
edited by Frederic Cassidy.
Harvard, 903 pp., $60, July 1985, 0 674 20511 1
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... could bear the specific sense of ‘female infant’. This semantic shift is not mentioned in Adrian Room’s Dictionary of Changes in Meaning, but it seems to be one of the few things that have escaped his notice. There are books that please you greatly by telling you what you know already, and almost as much by telling you what you do not ...

Ballooning

J.I.M. Stewart, 5 June 1986

The Unknown Conan Doyle: Letters to the Press 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 377 pp., £15, March 1986, 0 436 13303 2
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... from his acceptance as genuine of absurd photographs faked by two enterprising small girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths. This final phase of eccentricity and sheer gullibility had succeeded upon a long lifetime’s interest in spiritualism and psychical research. In his later twenties Doyle was beginning to organise séances, and the first of these to ...

French Air

John Sutherland, 12 November 1987

The Foul and the Fragrant: Odour and the French Social Imagination 
by Alain Corbin, translated by Miriam Kochan.
Berg, 307 pp., £18, November 1986, 0 907582 47 8
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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer 
by Patrick Süskind, translated by John Woods.
Penguin, 263 pp., £3.95, September 1987, 0 14 009244 7
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The Double Bass 
by Patrick Süskind, translated by Michael Hofmann.
Hamish Hamilton, 57 pp., £8.95, September 1987, 9780241120392
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... strong smell as a bad smell. In one of the few investigations of the subject before Corbin’s, Adrian Stokes noted that unlike the other four senses, that of scent had not inspired any art, or aesthetic cultivation. (I think Stokes may have overlooked the use of the nose in wine-bibbing.) There is no educational encouragement to improve one’s keenness of ...

Last Night Fever

David Cannadine: The Proms, 6 September 2007

... has recently been brilliantly treated in a collection of essays edited by Jenny Doctor, David Wright and Nicholas Kenyon.* In terms (for instance) of its performing space, the crucial dates were 1893 and 1941 (when the Queen’s Hall was destroyed and the concerts moved to the Albert Hall); in terms of sponsorship and organisation, the key years were 1927 ...

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