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Dear Lad

Penelope Fitzgerald

19 March 1981
The Simple Life: C.R. Ashbee in the Cotswolds 
by Fiona MacCarthy.
Lund Humphries, 204 pp., £7.95, January 1981, 0 85331 435 7
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Philip Mairet: Autobiographical and Other Papers 
edited by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 266 pp., £7.95, February 1981, 0 85635 326 4
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... of this much-loved, offensively beautiful, tactless, irritating, unknowable man – unknowable in spite of his frank gaze – we have to wait for the family biography and for the definitive study by AlanCrawford. Meanwhile Fiona MacCarthy has written The Simple Life, an excellent introduction to C.R.A. and his most ambitious experiment. This was the Great Move of 1902, when he led his band of 150 ...
20 March 1986
C.R. Ashbee: Architect, Designer and Romantic Socialist 
by Alan Crawford.
Yale, 500 pp., £35, November 1985, 0 300 03467 9
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The Laughter and the Urn: The Life of Rex Whistler 
by Laurence Whistler.
Weidenfeld, 321 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 297 78603 2
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The Originality of Thomas Jones 
by Lawrence Gowing.
Thames and Hudson, 64 pp., £4.95, February 1986, 0 500 55017 4
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Art beyond the Gallery in Early 20th-century England 
by Richard Cork.
Yale, 332 pp., £40, April 1985, 0 300 03236 6
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Alfred Gilbert 
by Richard Dorment.
Yale, 350 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 300 03388 5
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... houses in Chelsea, some pretty silver and jewellery of an almost Art Nouveau sinuousness, some indifferent private press books – would not by themselves have warranted a book on the scale of AlanCrawford’s admirable biography. It is Ashbee’s attempts to give practical expression to the idea that art matters that make Crawford’s apology for a book ‘more ponderous than its subject deserves ...
18 September 1997
Rare Spirit: A Life of William De Morgan 1839-1917 
by Mark Hamilton.
Constable, 236 pp., £22.50, September 1997, 0 09 474670 2
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... the products of the Arts and Crafts Movement were too sophisticated to succeed financially is in most cases a simplification, as Charles Harvey and Jon Press have made clear in the case of Morris and AlanCrawford in his work on Ashbee. It would be interesting to know how justified De Morgan was in feeling that now he could ‘make beautiful things ... nobody wants them’. His grief at the failure of ...

Not Mackintosh

Chris Miele

6 April 1995
‘Greek’ Thomson 
edited by Gavin Stamp and Sam McKinstry.
Edinburgh, 249 pp., £35, September 1994, 0 7486 0480 4
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... reputation as a world-class designer has been magnified out of all proportion in the city’s bid to insert itself on the Euro-culture tourist trail. ‘Mackintosh Mania’, to borrow a phrase from AlanCrawford, deflects attention from Glasgow’s splendid Victorian architecture, and this has done real harm to the conservation of its historic environment. For if Mackintosh is a genius then what is ...

Toshie Trashed

Gavin Stamp: The Glasgow School of Art Fire

18 June 2014
... to whom he was devoted, to ‘remember that in all my architectural efforts you have been half if not three-quarters in them,’ and once said that ‘Margaret has genius, I have only talent.’ As AlanCrawford concluded in his sane and succinct 1995 study: ‘Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonald came together not only as man and woman, but also as artists. From this point on, the story of Mackintosh ...


Robert Crawford

7 December 1989
Perduta Gente 
by Peter Reading.
Secker, £5, June 1989, 0 436 40999 2
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Letting in the rumour 
by Gillian Clarke.
Carcanet, 79 pp., £4.95, July 1989, 9780856357572
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Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Woman 
by Grace Nichols.
Virago, 58 pp., £4.99, July 1989, 1 85381 076 2
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Studying Grosz on the Bus 
by John Lucas.
Peterloo, 64 pp., £4.95, August 1989, 1 871471 02 8
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The Old Noise of Truth 
by Joan Downar.
Peterloo, 63 pp., £4.95, August 1989, 1 871471 03 6
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... and reinforced. Those partial to the conspiracy theory of the sinking island of English letters may take comfort from the fact that the selection of poems in Essential Reading (1986) is edited by Alan Jenkins of the TLS. And that book contains a few examples of what are (in part at least) knowing winks: after describing a catalogue of sufferings in C, Reading concludes that ‘this, rendered in ...

MacDiarmid and his Maker

Robert Crawford

10 November 1988
by Alan​ Bold.
Murray, 482 pp., £17.95, September 1988, 0 7195 4585 4
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A Drunk Man looks at the Thistle 
by Hugh MacDiarmid, edited by Kenneth Buthlay.
Scottish Academic Press, 203 pp., £12.50, February 1988, 0 7073 0425 3
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The Hugh MacDiarmid-George Ogilvie Letters 
edited by Catherine Kerrigan.
Aberdeen University Press, 156 pp., £24.90, August 1988, 0 08 036409 8
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Hugh MacDiarmid and the Russian 
by Peter McCarey.
Scottish Academic Press, 225 pp., £12.50, March 1988, 0 7073 0526 8
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... Before 1922 Hugh MacDiarmid did not exist. And only Christopher Murray Grieve would have dared to invent him. Alan Bold’s valuable biography points out that when the 30-year-old Grieve began to write in the Scottish Chapbook under the pseudonym ‘M’Diarmid’, he was already editing the magazine under his ...


Ian Hamilton: Who will blow it?

22 May 1997
... too much of the old showbiz. You could not read about Chelsea in those days without getting a list of their ‘growing array of support from the entertainment world, including Terence Stamp, Michael Crawford, David Hemmings, Lance Percival, Tommy Steele and Marty Feldman’ – and that was just the defence. (Nowadays, of course, it’s Banks up-front, Major on the bench and Mellor for the early bath ...
4 August 1988
... by Anthony Powell called ‘A Reference for Mellors’, which was about somebody coming to Lady Chatterley for a reference for a gamekeeper. The magazine sort of launched me on a career, because Alan Pryce-Jones, who was then the editor of the TLS, gave me a lot of reviewing work. AH: How did you see your future then? FW: I suppose I feebly wanted to be a writer, but, apart from those stories, I ...

Seeing Stars

Alan​ Bennett: Film actors

3 January 2002
... stupid as to be led astray by the patently wicked Fox, or Snow White not know the Queen was up to no good? Had the Queen been flesh and blood and not a cartoon she might well have been played by Joan Crawford, who was always something of an enigma to me. I never liked her, and with her gaunt face, protruding eyes and instinct for melodrama she seemed the embodiment of evil, yet she was often cast in the ...

Seriously ugly

Gabriele Annan

11 January 1990
Weep no more 
by Barbara Skelton.
Hamish Hamilton, 166 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 241 12200 7
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... not say how and why I became, at the age of 15, the mistress of the Earl of Craven’), Skelton tells exactly how – and very casual it sounds, and also very pre-modern: Sidney bought her a flat in Crawford Street, lots of furs, trips abroad and piano lessons. She left him from boredom. Again unlike Harriette, her heart wasn’t in becoming a professional, and she never did. Even her two-part affair ...

Lithe Pale Girls

Robert Crawford: Richard Aldington

22 January 2015
Richard Aldington: Poet, Soldier and Lover 1911-29 
by Vivien Whelpton.
Lutterworth, 414 pp., £30, January 2015, 978 0 7188 9318 7
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... surprise that distinguishes the best work of Wilfred Owen, another poet who went to the battlefront full of Keats; and not much that Aldington wrote is as moving as the plain diction of Ewart Alan Mackintosh in ‘In Memoriam, Private D. Sutherland, Killed in Action in the German Trench, May 16, 1916, and the Others who Died’. Aldington is at his best when less an observer of his own fears ...

Tied to the Mast

Adam Mars-Jones: Alan​ Hollinghurst

18 October 2017
The Sparsholt Affair 
by Alan​ Hollinghurst.
Picador, 454 pp., £20, October 2017, 978 1 4472 0821 1
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... Alan Hollinghurst​ ’s tally as a published novelist is six books over 29 years, so that’s more than two thousand pages of astonishing responsiveness to light, sound, painting, the past, social ...

Always the Same Dream

Ferdinand Mount: Princess Margaret

4 January 2018
Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret 
by Craig Brown.
Fourth Estate, 423 pp., £16.99, September 2017, 978 0 00 820361 0
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... to postpone his daughter’s birthday party until Princess Margaret was back in town. The TV interviewer Russell Harty on his deathbed had his tracheotomy tube removed, in order to be able to tell Alan Bennett that the princess had asked how he was, twice. Every celebrity seems to have fantasised about sex with the princess. Eddie Fisher claimed that he had had an affair with her. When her marriage ...

Got to go make that dollar

Alex Abramovich: Otis Redding

3 January 2019
Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life 
by Jonathan Gould.
Crown, 544 pp., £12.99, May 2018, 978 0 307 45395 2
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... he had no one to love him. So that’s what ‘Tears of a Clown’ was about. But, as it happens, Robinson had been playing around with the theme for years. In 1964, he’d written a song for Carolyn Crawford – ‘My Smile Is Just a Frown (Turned Upside Down)’ – which included the lines ‘Just like Pagliacci did/I’ll keep my sadness hid.’ In 1965, he’d written ‘Tracks of My Tears ...

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