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The Psychologicals

Christopher Tayler

25 October 2018
Milkman 
by Anna Burns.
Faber, 348 pp., £8.99, September 2018, 978 0 571 33875 7
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... or ‘over the water’, the city would appear to correspond to Belfast, and the narrator’s neighbourhood to Ardoyne, the Catholic, Irish nationalist district that’s also the main setting of AnnaBurns’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 ...

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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... excuses. This is a tough standard to follow – so tough that most biographers have tried to forget 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 ...

Crow

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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Klara 
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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Tracks 
by Louise Erdrich.
Hamish Hamilton, 226 pp., £11.95, October 1988, 9780241125434
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... there merely to give a fictional charge to a narrative of public life. Significant events (the first 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 ...

Short Cuts

Caroline Phillips: In Symi

8 October 2014
... it took five hours. Only 10 per cent of the refugees were women and children. Most hoped to get their 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 ...

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 ...

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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... screaming hysterically when she sees ‘the odious figure of Chertkov’ approaching the house on 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 ...

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, 978 1 78733 149 5
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... all crumpled at the back. And your hideous underclothes. You look at your hideous underclothes and 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 ...
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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... 26), The Village Minstrel and Other Poems(1821), The Shepherd’s Calendar; with Village Stories, 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 ...

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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... St Petersburg Railway, that the loan was at 4½ and 93, was oversubscribed 25 times and that Barings 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 ...

Vindicated!

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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... homes of leading Conservative ministers (and the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police), the Angries 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 ...
5 August 2004
Finding an Ending: Reflections on Wagner’s ‘Ring’ 
by Philip Kitcher and Richard Schacht.
Oxford, 241 pp., £14.99, April 2004, 0 19 517359 7
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... detractors claim and at least seem to have, and that he himself lacks . . . They purport to speak with the authority of those who know what the moral order allows and what it forbids . . . Donna Anna and her supporters seem to be making the right judgments (or so one might propose). In other words, they may lack directive authority, but they suppose themselves to have a form of epistemic or ...
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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... the veterans’ symptoms have spread to their families and taken on a certain baroque extravagance: 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 ...

White Slaves

Christopher Driver

3 March 1983
Prostitution and Prejudice: The Jewish Fight against White Slavery, 1870-1939 
by Edward Bristow.
Oxford, 340 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 19 822588 1
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Peasants, Rebels and Outcastes 
by Mikiso Hane.
Scolar, 297 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 0 85967 670 6
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... hence ‘integrity’). To their credit, many brave and tireless Jews on both sides of the Atlantic chose to expose the truth, let it fall where it might. They ranged from Bertha Pappenheim (the ‘Anna O’ of the Freud-Breuer casebook, whose multiple life surely deserves a comprehensive biography) to less celebrated inquirers, social workers and publicists. But they were too close to the traffic ...

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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... polonium, after Marie Curie’s country of origin. Later that year, they isolated radium. The hazards 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 ...

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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... Marguerite, Countess of; bluestockings; Dacre, Charlotte; Edgeworth, Maria; Hemans, Felicia Dorothea; 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 ...

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