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Anglo-Saxon Aptitudes

John Gillingham, 17 November 1983

The Anglo-Saxons 
edited by James Campbell.
Phaidon, 272 pp., £16.50, July 1982, 0 7148 2149 7
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Anglo-Saxon Art: A New Perspective 
by C.R. Dodwell.
Manchester, 353 pp., £35, October 1982, 0 7190 0861 1
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Anglo-Saxon Poetry 
edited by S.A.J. Bradley.
Dent, 559 pp., £10.95, August 1982, 0 460 10794 1
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The Anglo-Saxon World 
edited by Kevin Crossley-Holland.
Boydell and Brewer, 275 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 85115 169 8
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The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles: The Authentic Voices of England, from the Times of Julius Caesar to the Coronation of Henry II 
by Anne Savage.
Heinemann, 288 pp., £14.95, March 1983, 0 434 98210 5
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... a rather comic subtitle describing the work as ‘the authentic voices of England’) is Anne Savage’s profusely illustrated translation of the Anglo-Saxon ...

Blush, grandeur, blush

Norma Clarke: One of the first bluestockings, 16 December 2004

Hannah More: The First Victorian 
by Anne Stott.
Oxford, 384 pp., £20, September 2004, 0 19 927488 6
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... success. She was ambitious for literary fame, and adored the theatre. Bouncy and excitable – Anne Stott describes her at the age of 18 as ‘a practised and persistent attention-seeker’ – she wrote pastoral verse drama for performance by schoolgirls and helped produce plays at Bristol’s Theatre Royal, but her sights were set on London. Quite how ...

A Resonance for William Styron

Gabriele Annan, 7 November 1985

Savage Grace 
by Natalie Robins and Steven Aronson.
Gollancz, 473 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 575 03738 5
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... by putting his head in a plastic bag. By this time it was 1981. It is difficult to react to Savage Grace without sounding like either Savonarola or Lord Longford. Some kind of moral judgment seems to be called for. No aesthetic judgment is possible anyhow, because this is one of those un-books composed of letters and statements by friends, acquaintances ...

When the spear is thrown

J.G.A. Pocock, 8 October 1992

Two Worlds: First Meetings between Maori and Europeans, 1642-1772 
by Anne Salmond.
Viking, 477 pp., £18.99, March 1992, 0 670 83298 7
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... The present book avoids such manichean pitfalls, but confronts their methodological preconditions. Anne Salmond, a Pakeha anthropologist at the University of Auckland, has spent much time with Maori informants, modern and sophisticated people – there are some formidably effective Maori jurists – who have communicated to her a sense of the ...

Making a Mouth in a Contemptuous Manner

John Gallagher: Civility Held Sway, 4 July 2019

In Pursuit of Civility: Manners and Civilisation in Early Modern England 
by Keith Thomas.
Yale, 457 pp., £25, June 2018, 978 0 300 23577 7
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... the ‘civil conversation’ prized by Stefano Guazzo, author of an influential book on manners and behaviour translated into English in the 1580s. In this sense, civility was a Continental import: England’s readers, travellers and theorists were eager to follow the behavioural precepts already mastered by their neighbours. Translations of works ...


Graham Hough, 18 September 1980

Nuns and Soldiers 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 505 pp., £6.50, September 1980, 0 7011 2519 5
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by Stefan Heym.
Hodder, 315 pp., £7.95, August 1980, 0 340 25721 0
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An Inch of Fortune 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 176 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 85634 108 8
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Virgin Kisses 
by Gloria Nagy.
Penguin, 221 pp., £1.25, July 1980, 0 14 005506 1
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... sympathy; and though they are slow in developing, the conflicts are not absent. There are lengthy annexes and excursions that gradually become folded into the main design. And as always with Iris Murdoch, the apparent moral simplicities prove ambiguous or uncertain. The two heraldic supporters of Gertrude are first Peter, known as the Count, a Polish ...

‘If I Could Only Draw Like That’

P.N. Furbank, 24 November 1994

The Gentle Art of Making Enemies 
by James McNeill Whistler.
Heinemann, 338 pp., £20, October 1994, 0 434 20166 9
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James McNeill Whistler: Beyond the Myth 
by Ronald Anderson and Anne Koval.
Murray, 544 pp., £25, October 1994, 0 7195 5027 0
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... that moment trying to create a work of art. But it is reinforced by an anecdote related by Henry Savage Landor. Landor was dining with Whistler (it was in 1896, towards the end of the painter’s life), and in the drawing-room, after dinner, his eye was caught by a skull and a lamp on the grand piano and he suggested that Whistler should sketch this little ...


Barbara Taylor: My Mennonite Conversion, 2 June 2005

A Complicated Kindness 
by Miriam Toews.
Faber, 246 pp., £7.99, June 2005, 0 571 22400 8
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... In his hands Mennonism is a deadly weapon. His instrument is the ‘shunning’, a particularly savage form of excommunication in which the apostate is forbidden all verbal or physical contact, even with family members. One by one the Nickel women are threatened with shunning, and the prospect of death-in-life rips the family apart. ‘That’s the thing ...

Kitchen Devil

John Bayley, 20 December 1990

Emily Brontë: A Chainless Soul 
by Katherine Frank.
Hamish Hamilton, 303 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 9780241121993
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... catalyst in their world. Katherine Frank makes the interesting point that both Charlotte and Anne, in their second published novels, drew heavily for inspiration on Wuthering Heights. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall has a doomed gathering whose names all begin with H. Jane Eyre has the unquiet invisible ghost of the red room, and – more significantly ...

At the Royal Academy

Anne Wagner: America after the Fall , 3 May 2017

... of America in art – the frontier, the cloudless sky, basin and range, the noble or dreadful savage – had turned to dust. O Pioneers! gave way to The Grapes of Wrath. With the Great Plains a dustbowl and the traditional trek westward flooded with starving families, there wasn’t much call for landscapes in the grand m...

The Unlikeliest Loophole

Eamon Duffy: Catherine of Aragon, 28 July 2011

Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen 
by Giles Tremlett.
Faber, 458 pp., £9.99, April 2011, 978 0 571 23512 4
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... the historiography of Tudor England she has become a shadowy figure, a sad frump eclipsed by her savage husband and the brazen mistress who supplanted her. Giles Tremlett’s splendid biography seeks to correct that perception. Notoriously, Henry came to hate the cast-off wife he once doted on, but it’s Tremlett’s contention that when Henry made ...


Ian Hamilton: Novels for the Bright, Modern Woman, 1 July 1982

... to wallow in the old formula romances, but too busy to tackle anything too heavy: ‘Each Pavanne novel is a sophisticated diversion for the bright, modern woman who likes her romance bitter-sweet, and expects a novel to reflect today’s world.’ The spiel goes on to give chirpy, ungrammatical descriptions of Pav...


Hermione Lee: Katherine Anne Porter, 12 February 2009

Collected Stories and Other Writings 
by Katherine Anne Porter, edited by Darlene Harbour Unrue.
Library of America, 1039 pp., $40, October 2008, 978 1 59853 029 2
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... It is 1912, and Miranda Gay, one of Katherine Anne Porter’s versions of her younger self, is travelling to a family reunion in South Texas, in the country between Austin and San Antonio. She has made a rash early marriage and alienated herself from her family. She talks to an elderly woman cousin on the train, who bursts out: ‘Ah, the family … the whole hideous institution should be wiped from the face of the earth ...

Preceding Backwardness

Margaret Anne Doody, 9 January 1992

Women’s Lives and the 18th-Century English Novel 
by Elizabeth Bergan Brophy.
University of South Florida Press, 291 pp., $29.95, April 1991, 0 8130 1036 5
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Fictions of Modesty: Women and Courtship in the English Novel 
by Ruth Bernard Yeazell.
Chicago, 306 pp., £19.95, August 1991, 0 226 95096 4
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... life’ writers. In presenting us with fascinating quotations from private papers, in a manner very like that of the 18th-century novel, Brophy ignores what the novelists themselves never ignore – the hard facts of parentage, professions, income. At the end of the book, we still know much more about the social placement and economic struggles of ...

Where mine is at

Gordon Burn, 28 May 1992

Outerbridge Reach 
by Robert Stone.
Deutsch, 409 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 223 98774 3
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... appeared. Throughout the Seventies, in common with ‘half the publishers in America’, Wolfe scanned ‘the billion-footed city for the approach of the young novelists who, surely, would bring [us] the big novels of the racial clashes, the hippy movement, the New Left, the Wall Street boom, the sexual revolution, the war in Vietnam. But such creatures, it ...

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