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Tolkien’s Spell

Peter Godman, 21 July 1983

The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays 
by J.R.R. Tolkien, editor Christopher Tolkien .
Allen and Unwin, 240 pp., £9.95, March 1983, 0 04 809019 0
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The Road to Middle-Earth 
by T.A. Shippey.
Allen and Unwin, 252 pp., £9.95, September 1982, 0 04 809018 2
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Finn and Hengest: The Fragment and the Episode 
 by J.R.R. Tolkien, editor Alan Bliss.
Allen and Unwin, 180 pp., £9.95, January 1983, 0 04 829003 3
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... creativity and explains the secrets of his appeal in a way unmatched by any other critic’. Alan Bliss’s purpose is more modest. Twenty years ago he had the idea of publishing a paper on the Anglo-Saxon story of Finn and Hengest. Discovering that nearly all his conclusions had been anticipated in lectures by Tolkien (the diffident words are ...

Bad John

Alan Bennett: John Osborne, 3 December 1981

A Better Class of Person 
by John Osborne.
Faber, 285 pp., £7.95, November 1981, 0 571 11785 6
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... to as ‘them man-women’. ‘Oh,’ one is tempted to exclaim with the Radlett children, ‘the bliss of being you!’ Or at any rate the bliss of being him now, remembering (and being able to remember) it all. Of course, it wasn’t much fun at the time. There was no cachet in youth at that time. One was merely a failed ...


Susannah Clapp, 23 July 1987

A Life with AlanThe Diary of A.J.P. Taylor’s Wife, Eva, from 1978 to 1985 
by Eva Haraszti Taylor.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £14.95, June 1987, 0 241 12118 3
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The Painted Banquet: My Life and Loves 
by Jocelyn Rickards.
Weidenfeld, 172 pp., £14.95, May 1987, 0 297 79119 2
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The Beaverbrook Girl 
by Janet Aitken Kidd.
Collins, 240 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 00 217602 5
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... I had homesickness.’ Had she perhaps kept a diary? ‘Of course.’ And here it is. Life with Alan has not been Eva Haraszti’s only life. She was 55 when, in 1978, she left Budapest to come to London as A.J.P. Taylor’s third wife: she was a widow, a scholar, and the mother of two grown-up sons. Her diary reports on the time she has spent as an amateur ...

Fire Down Below

Keith Hopkins, 10 November 1994

The Formation of Hell 
by Alan Bernstein.
UCL, 392 pp., £25, December 1993, 1 85728 225 6
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... a neutral holding zone, where the punishment consists in deprivation: sinners cannot share in the bliss of uniting with God in paradise. Such theological debates have a long history. In the third century, Origen, who castrated himself in the hope of frustrating temptation, kindly thought that, at the end of time, all God’s creatures would be saved. So ...


A.N. Wilson, 21 October 1993

Love from Nancy: The Letters of Nancy Mitford 
edited by Charlotte Mosley.
Hodder, 538 pp., £20, September 1993, 0 340 53784 1
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... My great new friend is Noël Coward’, Nancy Mitford confided to a correspondent in 1949. ‘Bliss. He shakes like a jelly at one’s jokes, I adore that.’ It was laughs Nancy Mitford wanted, much more than grandeur. She longs to make people laugh, and sometimes, almost in the manner of a nervous stand-up comedienne, interrupts her letters to make sure that the audience is suitably convulsed ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1998, 21 January 1999

... off the train in Munich on the morning of the Night of the Long Knives and Diana saying: ‘What bliss. The first time I’ve been on a train without a nanny or a husband!’ Ariel’s language is a joy. About meeting Hitler she remarks: I was pregnant at the time so I wasn’t feeling very … brisk. Hitler said, “I only have four words in a foreign ...

Poor Hitler

Andrew O’Hagan: Toff Humour, 15 November 2007

The Mitfords: Letters between Six Sisters 
edited by Charlotte Mosley.
Fourth Estate, 834 pp., £25, September 2007, 978 1 84115 790 0
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... the very notion of the public quite ludicrous. (How she would struggle today!) Her idea of perfect bliss, she once said, was lots of peasants happy in their cottages as she whiled away her time even more happily in the big house. That is quite funny, of course, and it reminds you that the whole, wonderful Mitford achievement depends not only on a perfect ear ...

No more alimony, tra la la

Miranda Carter: Somerset Maugham, 17 December 2009

The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham 
by Selina Hastings.
John Murray, 614 pp., £25, September 2009, 978 0 7195 6554 0
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... voice.’ (Hastings presents this as directly autobiographical.) ‘I have never experienced the bliss of requited love,’ he wrote in 1938 in The Summing Up, an autobiographical essay, ‘I am incapable of complete surrender … I have most loved people who cared little or nothing for me, and when people have loved me I have been embarrassed.’ With time ...

The Female Accelerator

E.S. Turner, 24 April 1997

The Bicycle 
by Pryor Dodge.
Flammarion, 224 pp., £35, May 1996, 2 08 013551 1
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... This was a golden age, too, for the admen, who readily saw that the way to symbolise pneumatic bliss was to identify the product with an ample, bare-bosomed female – in classical mode to allay criticism. Such pictures did more for the cause, at a guess, than the full-length portrait of the courtesan Blanche d’Antigny in her species of bloomer ...

That’s Liquor!

Nick James, 7 March 1996

Leaving Las Vegas 
directed by Mike Figgis.
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... All about Eve, to any Western saloon, booze is the magnifier for all that 30-foot-tall emoting. As Alan Rudolph’s lugubrious 1995 biopic of Dorothy Parker, Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle, illustrates, it was Prohibition that made boozing an essential act of transgression among the Hollywood crowd of the Twenties and Thirties, matching the literary hard ...


James Davidson, 8 February 1996

The Marriage of Likeness: Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe 
by John Boswell.
Fontana, 412 pp., £8.99, January 1996, 0 00 686326 4
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... have followed their example, negotiating a careful periphrasis around the discourse of wedded bliss, opting instead for the unchallenging space of what we might call the parigamic: the language of ‘lovers’, ‘partners’, ‘girlfriends’ and ‘boyfriends’, rather than ‘spouse’, ‘husband’ and ‘wife’. If gay weddings are suddenly more ...

Chinaberry Pie

D.A.N. Jones, 1 March 1984

Modern Baptists 
by James Wilcox.
Secker, 239 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 9780436570988
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by Sven Delblanc, translated by Paul Britten Austin.
Secker, 153 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 9780436126802
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High Spirits 
by Robertson Davies.
Penguin, 198 pp., £2.50, January 1984, 0 14 006505 9
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by Dudley St John Magnus.
Angus and Robertson, 133 pp., £6.95, January 1984, 0 207 14565 2
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Train to Hell 
by Alexei Sayle.
Methuen, 152 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 0 413 52460 4
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The English Way of Doing Things 
by William Donaldson.
Weidenfeld, 229 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 297 78345 9
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... enjoying an adventurous voyage and uttering Enlightenment cries in Romantic language. ‘Oh, bliss, to be young in the light of morning over the sea! To awaken refreshed, young and strong, every sense on the alert! Malte Moritz! My name, hovering like a kite in liberty’s breezes. Malte Moritz von Putbus. To my friends, though, I am often ...

Homo Sexualis

Michael Ignatieff, 4 March 1982

Sex, Politics and Society: The Regulation of Sexuality since 1800 
by Jeffrey Weeks.
Longman, 306 pp., £11, October 1981, 0 582 48333 6
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Sexual Preference: Its Development in Men and Women 
by Alan Bell, Martin Weinberg and Sue Kiefer Hammersmith.
Indiana, 242 pp., £9, October 1981, 9780253166739
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Pornography and Silence 
by Susan Griffin.
Women’s Press, 277 pp., £4.75, October 1981, 0 7043 3877 7
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The History of Sexuality. Vol. 1 
by Michel Foucault, translated by Robert Hurley.
Penguin, 176 pp., £2.25, May 1981, 0 14 022299 5
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... who have difficulty recognising their own sexual experience in this mythology of modern carnal bliss have been tempted to rewrite the story as one of tightening and intensifying patriarchal domination. This is the temptation to which Mary Jane Sherfey succumbs in The Nature and Evolution of Female Sexuality, where ‘the rise of modern civilisation’ is ...

The analyst is always right

Mark Ford: Tessimond and Spencer, 17 November 2011

Collected Poems with Translations from Jacques Prévert 
by A.S.J. Tessimond.
Bloodaxe, 188 pp., £10.95, November 2010, 978 1 85224 857 4
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Complete Poetry, Translations and Selected Prose 
by Bernard Spencer.
Bloodaxe, 351 pp., £15, February 2011, 978 1 85224 891 8
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... a four-line poem dedicated to ‘J.M.’, suggests it was companionship rather than sexual bliss that he sought in his efforts to recover his ‘lost rib’: Ghosts do not kiss, or, if they kiss, they feel    Ice touching ice, and turn away, and shiver; But there as here, perhaps, we still can steal    Quietly off, and talk and talk for ...


Colm Tóibín: The revolutionary Edward Carpenter, 29 January 2009

Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love 
by Sheila Rowbotham.
Verso, 565 pp., £24.99, October 2008, 978 1 84467 295 0
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... value the lives of Oscar Wilde and Roger Casement, and differing from them in its calm, domestic bliss and lack of a tragic ending. Soon after meeting Merrill, Carpenter began a correspondence with Symonds, The question for both of them was how to explain their own homosexuality to the English public: how much to use ancient Greek homosexuality as the basis ...

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