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Pillors of Fier

Frank Kermode: Anthony Burgess, 11 July 2002

Nothing like the Sun: reissue 
by Anthony Burgess.
Allison and Busby, 234 pp., £7.99, January 2002, 0 7490 0512 2
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... brother Gilbert was an epileptic, or that the poet was ever betrothed to somebody called Anne Whately. He couldn’t bring himself to say anything about the mature Shakespeare finding his wife in bed with his brother. Yet Burgess’s biography, granted the unstoppable flow of his fancy, is well enough in its way, yielding no more bravura excursions ...

No wonder it ached

Dinah Birch: George Eliot, 13 May 1999

The Journals of George Eliot 
edited by Margaret Harris and Judith Johnston.
Cambridge, 447 pp., £55, February 1999, 0 521 57412 9
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George Eliot: The Last Victorian 
by Kathryn Hughes.
Fourth Estate, 384 pp., £20, November 1998, 1 85702 420 6
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... her own name? One reason is that it has never been quite clear what it was. She began life as Mary Anne Evans, daughter of Robert Evans, a sturdy and prosperous land agent in Warwickshire. But Mary Anne sounds rather like a servant’s name (the White Rabbit’s housemaid is called Mary Ann). As the rising fortunes of the ...

Gynaecological Proletarians

Anne Summers, 10 October 1991

The Charge of the Parasols: Women’s Entry to the Medical Profession 
by Catriona Blake.
Women’s Press, 254 pp., £6.95, October 1990, 0 7043 4239 1
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Women under the Knife: A History of Surgery 
by Ann Dally.
Radius, 289 pp., £18.99, April 1991, 9780091745080
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The Science of Woman: Gynaecology and Gender in England, 1800-1929 
by Ornella Moscucci.
Cambridge, 278 pp., £35, April 1991, 0 521 32741 5
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... Comparable justifications were found for the practice of female circumcision. Isaac Baker Brown’s London Surgical Home for Diseases of Women was established in 1858 largely for the performance of clitoridectomies on women whose illnesses were deemed the result of an excess of ‘peripheral excitement’: patients ranged from a dressmaker with ...

But You Married Him

Rosemary Hill: Princess Margaret and Lady Anne, 4 June 2020

Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown 
by Anne Glenconner.
Hodder, 336 pp., £20, October 2019, 978 1 5293 5906 0
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... Lady​ Anne Glenconner has lived her life ‘in the shadow of the crown’. She is a friend of many members of the royal family and was, for thirty years, a lady in waiting to Princess Margaret. Her memoir, however, is written in the shadow of The Crown, ‘the popular Netflix series’ in which she was played by Nancy Carroll with Helena Bonham Carter as Margaret ...

All Reputation

Hermione Lee: Eliza and Clara, 17 October 2002

The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch 
by Anne Enright.
Cape, 230 pp., £12.99, September 2002, 0 224 06269 7
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by Janice Galloway.
Cape, 425 pp., £10.99, June 2002, 0 224 05049 4
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... good novel Foreign Parts, and uses a quite different kind of prose here from her earlier work. Anne Enright moves out and away from Dublin, though Eliza Lynch’s Irishness, and her childhood in the ‘bitter town’ of Mallow, do call her home. Both take on the fiction writer’s tussle with history and biography, shaping these real lives to their own ...

Grisly Creed

Patrick Collinson: John Wyclif, 22 February 2007

John Wyclif: Myth and Reality 
by G.R. Evans.
Lion, 320 pp., £20, October 2005, 0 7459 5154 6
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... the first task of an impartial biographer of Wyclif was the removal of ‘several layers of rich brown Protestant varnish’. For him, Wyclif’s uncompromising predestinarianism was ‘a grisly creed’. To read Wyclif was ‘not fun’. And he wrote of Wyclif’s ‘catastrophic incompetence as a practical reformer . . . Nothing is to be gained by ...

Bury that bastard

Nicole Flattery, 5 March 2020

by Anne Enright.
Cape, 264 pp., £16.99, February, 978 1 78733 206 5
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... This scene reminds me of something I underlined in ‘The Portable Virgin’, an early story of Anne Enright’s: ‘I’m not that old after all. Revenge is not out of the question.’ The title of Enright’s seventh novel could easily be ‘I’m going to bury that bastard.’ Then again, as a title Actress is good, Actress is snappy, slightly ...


Terry Castle: Moving House, 27 August 2009

... Hoping single clean pair of jeans don’t fall down on the way there. Was a regular Capability Brown yesterday directing the hauling guys in the backyard – yes, take away that Grecian urn from Home Depot (legacy of previous owners) – but the risk of accidental self-exposure had been great. For reasons I’ll explain in a moment, the new house is named ...

Man Is Wolf to Man

Malcolm Gaskill: C.J. Sansom, 23 January 2020

by C.J. Sansom.
Pan Macmillan, 866 pp., £8.99, September 2019, 978 1 4472 8451 2
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... Shardlake has a gimlet eye and a sharp mind. His character owes something to Chesterton’s Father Brown, except that where Brown draws on insights into human nature deriving from years in the confessional, Shardlake’s speciality is the sifting and weighing of evidence.Like all the best detectives, Shardlake is also an ...

Owning Art

Arthur C. Danto, 7 March 1996

Kings and Connoisseurs: Collecting Art in 17th-Century Europe 
by Jonathan Brown.
Yale, 264 pp., £35, September 1995, 0 300 06437 3
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Art & Money 
by Marc Shell.
Chicago, 230 pp., £27.95, June 1995, 0 226 75213 5
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... to other items of luxury consumption such as jewellery or silver-plate’, according to Jonathan Brown in Kings and Connoisseurs, who makes the comparison vivid by observing that the cost of lace on a gown worn in 1613 by the daughter of James I was, at £1700, ‘more valuable than all but a few paintings in the famous collection of his brother, Charles ...


David Craig: Episodes on the Rock, 13 May 1993

... by our feet plummet onto the rusty roofs. The crash-crash arouses the guard dogs in No 26: a brown Alsatian, a white Alsatian and a pair of dusty blackish mongrels. They bark furiously, fight each other in little circles, then settle down again in the shade. As I do myself for the next half-hour – hour – hour and a half. Why is Neil so slow on that ...

Tesco and a Motorway

Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite: In the Coalfields, 9 September 2021

Anne & Betty: United by the Struggle 
by Anne Scargill and Betty Cook.
Route, 256 pp., £20, November 2020, 978 1 901927 81 8
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Women of the Durham Coalfield in the 20th Century: Hannah’s Daughter 
by Margaret Hedley.
History Press, 159 pp., £14.99, March, 978 0 7509 9504 7
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Coal Country: The Meaning and Memory of Deindustrialisation in Postwar Scotland 
by Ewan Gibbs.
University of London, 306 pp., £25, February, 978 1 912702 55 8
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Scottish Coal Miners in the 20th Century 
by Jim Phillips.
Edinburgh, 336 pp., £24.99, February, 978 1 4744 5232 8
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The Shadow of the Mine: Coal and the End of Industrial Britain 
by Huw Beynon and Ray Hudson.
Verso, 402 pp., £20, June, 978 1 83976 155 3
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... lowest ranks – the closest to peat – are lignite and sub-bituminous coal, known in Britain as brown coal. These have been estimated to make up nearly a third of proved global reserves, but are not much exploited in areas where higher-grade coal is available, because they produce a lot of smoke and relatively little heat (they are also difficult to ...

What Blair Threw Away

Ross McKibbin: Feckless, Irresponsible and Back in Power, 19 May 2005

... to Labour? Or in those seats with a high-minded middle class? Perhaps Oona King, Barbara Roche and Anne Campbell could ask him. (Indeed Oona King could ask herself what she thought was going to happen.) The prime minister’s self-indulgence should not be rewarded by another long spell in Downing Street. That is not the only thing to be said against his ...

What mattered to Erasmus

James McConica, 2 March 1989

Erasmus’s Annotations on the New Testament. The Gospels: Facsimile of the final Latin text with all earlier variants 
edited by Anne Reeve.
Duckworth, 284 pp., £35, March 1986, 9780715619902
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Erasmus’s Annotations on the New Testament: From Philologist to Theologian 
by Erika Rummel.
Toronto, 234 pp., £24.50, January 1987, 0 8020 5683 0
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A New Rabelais Bibliography: Editions of Rabelais before 1626 
by Stephen Rawles and M.A. Screech.
Droz, 691 pp.
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The Library of Robert Burton 
by Nicholas Kiessling.
Oxford Bibliographic Society, 433 pp., £25, May 1988, 0 901420 42 5
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... commentary on the Vulgate textus receptus of the day. Thanks to the critical scholarship of Andrew Brown, we have known also since 1985 that Erasmus’s Latin text was not begun in 1505-6 under inspiration from Valla, as was long thought, but composed, as he claimed, under considerable pressure of time during his stay in Basel. Of the three elements contained ...

The Love Object

Adam Mars-Jones: Anne Garréta, 30 July 2015

by Anne Garréta, translated by Emma Ramadan.
Deep Vellum, 120 pp., £9.87, April 2015, 978 1 941920 09 1
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... He had auburn hair, with one of those patches of white that do not always signify age; and he had brown eyes. But it is too late to describe him. The reader has his own picture of Bran by now. I ought to have done it earlier.’ The final piece of dialogue in the book more or less spells things out: ‘Bran has fleas.’ ‘Of course he has fleas! Haven’t ...

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