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Raven’s Odyssey

D.A.N. Jones, 19 July 1984

by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 312 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 0 575 03446 7
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First Among Equals 
by Jeffrey Archer.
Hodder, 446 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 340 35266 3
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Morning Star 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 264 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 9780856341380
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... ambitious: he has his eye on posterity. Galsworthy and Snow have left their sagas behind them, Anthony Powell rests on his laurels, but Simon Raven soldiers on. His new saga is to be called The Firstborn of Egypt and we may presume a reference to Exodus 12, 29. The forthcoming novels will be concerned with the children of Raven’s repertory ...

Bugger me blue

Ian Hamilton, 22 October 1992

The Selected Letters of Philip Larkin 
edited by Anthony Thwaite.
Faber, 759 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 571 15197 3
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... Ted Hughes (‘boring old monolith, no good at all – not a single solitary bit of good’) and Anthony Powell, aka ‘the horse-face dwarf’. There is even a ‘Hi, Ian’: he calls me ‘the Kerensky of poetry’. Not too bad, I thought at first. Alas, though, the book’s editor advises me that Larkin almost certainly meant to say Dzerzhinsky, or ...

Female Heads

John Bayley, 27 October 1988

Woman to Woman: Female Friendship in Victorian Fiction 
by Tess Cosslett.
Harvester, 211 pp., £29.95, July 1988, 0 7108 1015 6
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Sentiment and Sociability: The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century 
by John Mullan.
Oxford, 261 pp., £25, June 1988, 0 19 812865 7
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The Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney. Vol. I: 1768-1773 
edited by Lars Troide.
Oxford, 353 pp., £45, June 1988, 9780198125815
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... him’. Creating an imaginary fresco of King Candaules awaiting his wife on the nuptial couch, Anthony Powell observes that the expectant monarch has in him ‘something of all men’, his spouse absorbed in her own rituals ‘something of all women’. In the legend, Candaules dies for thinking his wife’s nakedness belongs exclusively to him, to ...

No more alimony, tra la la

Miranda Carter: Somerset Maugham, 17 December 2009

The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham 
by Selina Hastings.
John Murray, 614 pp., £25, September 2009, 978 0 7195 6554 0
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... he provoked that an attempt to publish a festschrift to him in 1954 was abandoned when only Anthony Powell and Raymond Mortimer agreed to contribute. He was deeply disappointed, that unlike Hardy and Galsworthy, he was never given the Order of Merit, having to settle instead for being made a Companion of Honour. ‘I am the greatest living ...

I Should Have Shrieked

Patricia Beer, 8 December 1994

John Betjeman: Letters, Vol. I, 1926-1951 
edited by Candida Lycett Green.
Methuen, 584 pp., £20, April 1994, 0 413 66950 5
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... day, and the Rosslyns’ young daughter was won over by the same method. And on and on it goes. Anthony Powell remembers that when they were both staying with the Longfords ‘John made everybody laugh.’ ‘Betch made me laugh,’ attests Pamela Mitford. ‘Throughout our lives, whenever we met, we always burst out laughing,’ corroborates John ...

Woof, woof

Rosemary Hill: Auberon Waugh, 7 November 2019

A Scribbler in Soho: A Celebration of Auberon Waugh 
edited by Naim Attallah.
Quartet, 341 pp., £20, January 2019, 978 0 7043 7457 7
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... relentless in pursuit of vendettas, one of the most successful of which was the campaign against Anthony Powell, which offered scope for every element of Waugh’s mixed feelings about literary life. He objected to Powell’s ‘abominable’ prose, to his pretentiousness in insisting that his name be pronounced ...
... thing, with a ghastly woodcut on it. Nobody knew how this woodcut got on it. There was a piece 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 ...


John Bayley, 4 December 1986

Evelyn Waugh: The Early Years 1903-1939 
by Martin Stannard.
Dent, 537 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 460 04632 2
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... original story bears a striking resemblance to a very early effort of Waugh’s, a story called ‘Anthony, Who sought Things that were Lost’, written as an undergraduate for Harold Acton’s avant-garde student magazine Oxford Broom, and never afterwards republished. ‘Anthony’ is a typical undergraduate ...


John Lanchester, 5 June 1997

Journals 1990-92 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 238 pp., £20, May 1997, 0 434 00430 8
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... to capture is the feeling that nothing much is happening. If I had to praise only one aspect of Anthony Powell’s work, it would be his ability to capture this dailiness and ordinariness, and to combine it with a range of incidents and characters as broad as that tackled by any English-language novelist this century. There is a stereotype of ...

Into Council Care

John Bayley, 6 July 1995

Elizabeth Bowen and the Dissolution of the Novel 
by Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle.
Macmillan, 208 pp., £35, December 1994, 0 333 60760 0
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... as it was in the days when the Modern was invented, and practised by novelists like Hemingway or Anthony Powell, both of whom significantly reverted, in their later work, to the older authorial convention of a time-free consciousness. As a pre-war writer Elizabeth Bowen made gestures towards the Modern but preferred her own pattern of ...

Snob Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Modern Snobbery, 3 November 2016

... and Spencer cardigans. One of the more recent sources to which Taylor has frequent recourse is Anthony Powell, the snob’s snob, whose obsession in his fiction and his life with heredity and recondite forms of etiquette was epitomised by his insistence that his name was pronounced ‘poel’. As his Telegraph obituary explained, this was because the ...

Performance Art

John Bayley, 16 November 1995

... before Lucky Jim appeared. It had no great success, and Larkin cannot have been best pleased (as Anthony Powell would say) by the runaway sales of Lucky Jim – indeed his letters show that he wasn’t. Powell, an expert judge of fictional techniques, was greatly impressed by Jim, and in his recent journals points out ...

Belfryful of Bells

Theo Tait: John Banville, 19 November 2015

The Blue Guitar 
by John Banville.
Viking, 250 pp., £14.99, September 2015, 978 0 241 00432 6
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... impressive ones. The original, and surely the best, is The Untouchable (1997): his reworking of Anthony Blunt’s life, by way of Louis MacNeice, which stands out among the vast literature inspired by the Cambridge spies. Ten years ago he published The Sea, a sometimes mesmerising novel that won the Booker Prize. Some found it mannered, chilly and ...


Ruth Scurr: A.S. Byatt, 10 August 2000

The Biographer's Tale 
by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 224 pp., £14.99, June 2000, 0 7011 6945 1
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... So a good starting point might be John Aubrey, but perhaps it would be better to begin with Anthony Powell, the standard biographer of the first great English biographer. In his introduction to Aubrey’s Brief lives, Powell points out a significant difference between his approach to biographical writing and that ...


John Bayley, 6 September 1984

The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Vol. V: 1936-1941 
edited by Anne Olivier Bell and Andrew McNeillie.
Chatto, 402 pp., £17.50, June 1984, 0 7012 0566 0
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Deceived with Kindness: A Bloomsbury Childhood 
by Angelica Garnett.
Chatto, 181 pp., £9.95, August 1984, 0 7011 2821 6
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... sense Shakespeare is Hamlet and Falstaff, Desdemona and Miranda; Dickens is Quilp and Mrs Gamp; Anthony Powell is Widmerpool; Henry James is Isabel Archer and Gilbert Osmond. The character as work of art has the closest possible relation with his creator’s projected being. He is an embodiment of all that is present in his author, but which his author ...

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