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The Psychologicals

Christopher Tayler, 25 October 2018

by Anna Burns.
Faber, 348 pp., £8.99, September 2018, 978 0 571 33875 7
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... to Ardoyne, the Catholic, Irish nationalist district that’s also the main setting of Anna Burns’s first novel, No Bones (2001). That novel, in which the characters have names like Roberta and Fergal and Bernadette and Vincent, centres on Amelia Lovett, who is a small girl when the Troubles start in 1969 and can’t believe that they’re ...

Do fight, don’t kill

Susan Pedersen: Wartime Objectors, 20 October 2022

Battles of Conscience: British Pacifists and the Second World War 
by Tobias Kelly.
Chatto, 367 pp., £22, May 2022, 978 1 78474 394 9
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Practical Utopia: The Many Lives of Dartington Hall 
by Anna Neima.
Cambridge, 313 pp., £75, April 2022, 978 1 316 51797 0
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... slide into despotism. Mill made resisting social norms a social duty of its own.Tobias Kelly and Anna Neima are Millians. Both authors admire their subjects. Kelly’s are the conscientious objectors who refused to fight during the Second World War; Neima’s are the creators of the utopian community of Dartington Hall. Both show how thoughtfully these ...

How Does It Add Up?

Neal Ascherson: The Burns Cult, 12 March 2009

The Bard: Robert Burns, a Biography 
by Robert Crawford.
Cape, 466 pp., £20, January 2009, 978 0 224 07768 2
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... that Crick ever set it. Nowhere is it more difficult to observe than in the matter of Robert Burns. Long ago, Edwin Muir said that ‘for a Scotsman to see Burns simply as a poet is almost impossible.’ Robert Crawford, himself an admired and graceful poet, writes on the closing page of The Bard that ‘...


Peter Campbell, 5 January 1989

The Letter of Marque 
by Patrick O’Brian.
Collins, 284 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 9780241125434
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by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 347 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 241 12527 8
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From Rockaway 
by Jill Eisenstadt.
Penguin, 214 pp., £3.99, September 1988, 0 14 010347 3
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The High Road 
by Edna O’Brien.
Weidenfeld, 180 pp., £10.95, October 1988, 0 297 79493 0
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Loving and Giving 
by Molly Keane.
Deutsch, 226 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 0 223 98346 2
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by Louise Erdrich.
Hamish Hamilton, 226 pp., £11.95, October 1988, 9780241125434
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... post-war concerts and political meetings) and illuminating juxtapositions (Russian officers at a Burns Night celebration) occasion conversations in which individuals stand for types. They are not illdrawn as characters, but what they represent is the reason for attending to what they say. For example, a young woman casts her vote for Attlee: what she says ...

Miss Joy and Mrs Hayter

Freya Johnston: Anna Letitia Barbauld, 27 September 2018

Eighteen Hundred and Eleven: Poetry, Protest and Economic Crisis 
by E.J. Clery.
Cambridge, 326 pp., £75, June 2017, 978 1 107 18922 5
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... She​ started off with A and ended up at B: born in 1743 as Miss Aikin, Anna Letitia died in 1825 as Mrs Barbauld. Poet, editor, biographer, essayist, pamphleteer and children’s writer, she was once known only for finding ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ improbable. Many of her poems were lost: one survives only in the form of its title, but even that scrap – ‘Verses on the boy who would not say A lest he should be made to say B’ – follows alphabetical order while resisting it ...


Kathleen Jamie: Stay alive! Stay alive!, 18 August 2022

... went out to the May this year to show the seabirds to a young friend, a student of Arctic biology. Anna was studying in Tromsø and had been on a research ship right up to the ice. She had witnessed polar bears hunting ringed seals, but she had never seen anything like the May. That was then.Highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 is a known disease in ...

Some Wild Creature

James Meek: Tolstoy Leaves Home, 22 July 2010

The Death of Tolstoy: Russia on the Eve, Astapovo Station, 1910 
by William Nickell.
Cornell, 209 pp., £18.95, May 2010, 978 0 8014 4834 8
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The Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy 
translated by Cathy Porter.
Alma, 609 pp., £9.99, February 2010, 978 1 84688 102 2
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A Confession 
by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Anthony Briggs.
Hesperus, 146 pp., £7.99, February 2010, 978 1 84391 190 6
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Anniversary Essays on Tolstoy 
by Donna Tussing Orwin.
Cambridge, 268 pp., £55, February 2010, 978 0 521 51491 0
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... a white horse. She tells her husband she wants to read a letter he has written to Chertkov, then burns it. She is afraid to go swimming in case she drowns herself. She longs to kill herself with an opium overdose, but doesn’t find the courage, and instead lies and tells Tolstoy that she has taken poison. ‘They are out to attack me, condemn me and bring ...

Tilting the day

Lisa Cohen: Writing about Clothes, 7 November 2019

Dressed: The Secret Life of Clothes 
by Shahidha Bari.
Cape, 312 pp., £25, June 2019, 978 1 78733 149 5
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... you think, ‘All right, I’ll do anything for good clothes. Anything – anything for clothes.’Anna Morgan is struggling to exist in an England that disgusts her and is disgusted by her. Part of the white detritus of colonialism (she has just arrived from the Caribbean), she can’t stand the smell of the dark, dank place she’s ended up in, is haunted by ...

Short Cuts

Caroline Phillips: In Symi, 9 October 2014

... families out later, less perilously. Fadia, a 42-year-old businessman with untended second-degree burns, unfailingly polite – as they all seemed to be – had made the crossing with 25 others. He told me that his group – including a 75-year-old woman and Alla, who was six months pregnant – was abandoned by Turkish traffickers on Nimos, a rocky island ...

Why edit socially?

Marilyn Butler, 20 October 1994

Lord Byron: The Complete Poetical Works, Vol. VII 
edited by Byron.
Oxford, 445 pp., £52.50, March 1993, 0 19 812328 0
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The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse 
edited by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 832 pp., £25, April 1993, 0 19 214158 9
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... Lamb, Lady Caroline; Lee, Harriet; Lee, Sophia; Radcliffe, Ann: Sévigné, Marie de; Seward, Anna; Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft; Staël-Holstein, Anne Louise Germaine, Baronne de Worldly, informed and informal, the index is a fitting finale to an edition which extends the range of information scholarly editions usually provide. It responds not only to ...

Gentlemen and ladies came to see the poet’s cottage

Tom Paulin: Clare’s anti-pastoral, 19 February 2004

John Clare: A Biography 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 650 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 330 37106 1
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‘I Am’: The Selected Poetry of John Clare 
edited by Jonathan Bate.
Farrar, Straus, 318 pp., $17, November 2003, 0 374 52869 1
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John Clare, Politics and Poetry 
by Alan Vardy.
Palgrave, 221 pp., £45, October 2003, 0 333 96617 1
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John Clare Vol. V: Poems of the Middle Period 1822-37 
edited by Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 822 pp., £105, January 2003, 0 19 812386 8
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... and Other Poems(1827) and The Rural Muse(1835). For a short time, he was celebrated as the English Burns, but his work hasn’t had Burns’s lasting popularity and in recent years it has been hard to find in paperback (Bate’s useful selection won’t be published in this country until his biography appears in ...


David Edgar: The Angry Brigade, 16 December 2004

The Angry Brigade: The Cause and the Case 
by Gordon Carr.
ChristieBooks, 168 pp., £34, July 2003, 1 873976 21 6
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Granny Made Me an Anarchist 
by Stuart Christie.
Scribner, 423 pp., £10.99, September 2004, 0 7432 5918 1
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... have received little mainstream historical attention. An instant ‘documentary novel’ by Alan Burns sought to explore the minds of the Brigade in the immediate aftermath of the 1972 trial of eight alleged members. Various documentary compilations were produced by left-wing publishing houses. A play by Dennis Potter, which he intended to call ‘The ...

The End

James Buchan, 28 April 1994

The City of London. Vol. I: A World of Its Own, 1815-1890 
by David Kynaston.
Chatto, 497 pp., £25, February 1994, 0 7011 6094 2
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... made £105,000 out of it; only that it was built in time for Vronsky to catch his first glimpse of Anna Karenina. For though businesses can survive for centuries, they must be refashioned by each generation; but art is a language in which the generations can converse. Having praised this book so incontinently, I must now record my frustrations with it, which ...

Sergeant Jones’s Sleeping-Bag

Michael Ignatieff, 17 July 1997

Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture 
by Elaine Showalter.
Picador, 244 pp., £16.99, June 1997, 0 330 34670 9
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... for example, wives have reported that, since returning from the Gulf, their husband’s semen burns them during intercourse. The fact that we take many of these complaints seriously is a sign of how far we have become a Freudian culture. In 1914, patients wouldn’t have ventured forth to a doctor with such symptoms, and if they had, the doctor would have ...

Po-210 as a Poison

Norman Dombey: Death by Polonium, 2 August 2007

Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB 
by Alex Goldfarb, with Marina Litvinenko.
Simon and Schuster, 369 pp., £18.99, June 2007, 978 1 84737 081 5
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... of working with radioactive materials initially seemed restricted to occasional fatigue and skin burns but in November 1925 Nobus Yamada, who had worked in the Curies’ laboratory on the preparation of polonium sources, fainted suddenly a few days after his return to Japan. He died eighteen months later. In the summer of 1927, the Curies’ daughter Irène ...

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