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The Fox and the Duck

Barbara Hardy, 17 September 1981

... As I walk down to the shore at daybreak You cross my path, old softstepper, Just by the Tor where we’ve often smelt you. Making tracks for your earth and cubs, Back from the saltmarsh and watermeadows Cradling a mallard in your mouth. Surprised by me you drop the duck, Present me with your proper prey, Avert eyes and quicken trot To become a part of the browning bracken As I pick up the unmarked cooling body To make a dinner of your breakfast ...

Julia and the Time Machine

Barbara Hardy, 3 February 1983

... She pushes back her hair behind her ears As I have seen her do over the years Staring beyond me with a slaty gaze While she talks about an experiment On the child’s sense of times and distances. Piaget says space is a still of time And time’s the name we give to moving space Julia has designed a time machine Using a beach buggy and a forklift truck Green and red matchbox cars to run a race ...

Shuffling off

John Sutherland, 18 April 1985

Death Sentences: Styles of Dying in British Fiction 
by Garrett Stewart.
Harvard, 403 pp., £19.80, December 1984, 0 674 19428 4
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Forms of Feeling in Victorian Fiction 
by Barbara Hardy.
Owen, 215 pp., £12.50, January 1985, 9780720606119
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Language and Class in Victorian England 
by K.C. Phillipps.
Basil Blackwell in association with Deutsch, 190 pp., £19.50, November 1984, 0 631 13689 4
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... which seems for her the open-ended predication of a new “life story”.’ (If what?) Barbara Hardy shares with Stewart a sense of the Victorian novel’s maturity, a maturity which exacts the full range of 20th-century exegetic skill. But in other respects the two critics are traditions apart. The gulf separating them in starkly evident in a ...

Faces of the People

Richard Altick, 19 August 1982

Physiognomy in the European Novel: Faces and Fortunes 
by Graeme Tytler.
Princeton, 436 pp., £19.10, March 1982, 0 691 06491 1
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A Human Comedy: Physiognomy and Caricature in 19th-century Paris 
by Judith Wechsler.
Thames and Hudson, 208 pp., £18.50, June 1982, 0 500 01268 7
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... non-facial features – the hands and clothes – are more distinctly Lavaterian in inspiration. (Barbara Hardy and John Carey have illuminatingly anatomised the significance of clothes as an index of character in Dickens and Thackeray, without invoking physiognomy.) But the truth is that after the effective build-up in the background chapters which ...

Maschler Pudding

John Bayley, 19 October 1995

À la Pym: The Barbara Pym Cookery Book 
by Hilary Pym and Honor Wyatt.
Prospect, 102 pp., £9.95, September 1995, 0 907325 61 0
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... On 23 April 1977 Philip Larkin came to lunch at Barbara Pym’s cottage in Finstock, near Oxford. She and her sister had only been living there a short while, after Pym’s retirement from her post in Fetter Lane as assistant editor of Africa; and it was Larkin’s first and, as it turned out, his only visit. After her years in the wilderness, Pym’s novel Quartet in Autumn had at last been accepted for publication: Larkin and David Cecil had independently named her as their choice of ‘most undervalued writer’ in the 75th-anniversary number of the TLS ...

Minute Particulars

David Allen, 6 February 1986

New Images of the Natural in France: A study in European Cultural History 1750-1800 
by D.G. Charlton.
Cambridge, 254 pp., £25, December 1984, 0 521 24940 6
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Voyage into Substance: Art, Science, Nature and the Illustrated Travel Account 1760-1840 
by Barbara Maria Stafford.
MIT, 645 pp., £39.95, July 1984, 0 262 19223 3
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... signs that the situation is starting to change. Population pressure is beginning to lure a few hardy pioneers in search of academic lebensraum into this empty strip of land. Three years ago, apparently for the first time ever, a conference (in Sweden) was expressly devoted to reconnoitring it. Now here are two books, one by an American art historian, the ...

The Last Romantic

John Bayley, 5 May 1983

Philip Larkin 
by Andrew Motion.
Methuen, 96 pp., £1.95, October 1982, 0 416 32270 0
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... the French poets, especially Mallarmé. In her essay ‘Philip Larkin: After Symbolism’ Barbara Everett has pointed out these French, echoes: the fact that, for example, ‘Sympathy in White Major’ is a kind of symbolist parody of Gautier’s ‘Symphonie en Blanc Majeur’, and ‘Arrivals, Departures’ echoes Baudelaire’s ‘Le Port’. It is ...

Diary

Andrew O’Hagan: The Hearing of Rosemary West, 9 March 1995

... again on page four. This is surely how it should be. West Country villages – if we follow Thomas Hardy – have enough tragedy of their own, enough worry, without having to deal with the committal hearing of a Rosemary West, whose charge-sheet, if proved true, could make her the most gruesome female killer Britain has ever known. Those charges have of course ...

Believing in Unicorns

Walter Benn Michaels: Racecraft, 7 February 2013

Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life 
by Karen Fields and Barbara Fields.
Verso, 302 pp., £20, October 2012, 978 1 84467 994 2
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... The historian Barbara Fields and her sister, the sociologist Karen Fields, open Racecraft, their collection of linked essays, by denying that there are such things as races. Race today does not, they point out, refer to ‘a traditionally named group of people’ but to ‘a statistically defined population ...

Costa del Pym

Nicholas Spice, 4 July 1985

Crampton Hodnet 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 216 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 0 333 39129 2
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Foreign Land 
by Jonathan Raban.
Harvill, 352 pp., £9.50, June 1985, 0 00 222918 8
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Black Marina 
by Emma Tennant.
Faber, 157 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 9780571134670
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... In a letter to Robert Liddell dated 12 January 1940, Barbara Pym speaks well of her progress on a new novel, Crampton Hodnet, which she finished later that year, but which has only now surfaced for publication: ‘It is about North Oxford and has some bits as good as anything I ever did. Mr Latimer’s proposal to Miss Morrow, old Mrs Killigrew, Dr Fremantle, Master of Randolph College, Mr Cleveland’s elopement and its unfortunate end ...

Self-Positioning

Stefan Collini: The Movement, 25 June 2009

The Movement Reconsidered: Essays on Larkin, Amis, Gunn, Davie and Their Contemporaries 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 336 pp., £18.99, May 2009, 978 0 19 955825 4
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... displaced or driven underground by the cosmopolitan experimentalism of the modernists: Thomas Hardy. It is interesting to find Gunn invoking a writer with whom he might not, at first blush, seem to have much in common. Although Hardy’s ‘mastering obsession’ is loss and ‘regret for the past’, Gunn ...

Body History

Roy Porter, 31 August 1989

The Body and the French Revolution: Sex, Class and Political Culture 
by Dorinda Outram.
Yale, 197 pp., £22, May 1989, 0 300 04436 4
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Victorian Suicide: Mad Crimes and Sad Histories 
by Barbara Gates.
Princeton, 190 pp., £19.95, September 1988, 0 691 09437 3
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Sexual Visions: Images of Gender in Science and Medicine between the 18th and 20th Centuries 
by Ludmilla Jordanova.
Harvester, 224 pp., £19.95, April 1989, 9780745003320
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Family, Love and Work in the Lives of Victorian Gentlewomen 
by Jeanne Peterson.
Indiana, 241 pp., $39.95, May 1989, 0 253 20509 3
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... proof of self-mastery, spirit triumphant over the flesh: they slew the body and called it freedom. Barbara Gates’s fine study of Victorian suicide, taken as the harbinger of what Hardy called ‘the coming universal wish not to live’, ironically opens with the self-slaughter of one of the Revolution’s most implacable ...

Mrs G

John Bayley, 11 March 1993

Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 690 pp., £20, February 1993, 0 571 15182 5
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... What is lacking is the note of intimacy, the tone so natural to Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Barbara Pym or Elizabeth Bowen that their readers (perhaps particularly the male ones) only notice it in terms of their own feeling of gratified response to what seems a subtlety of fellow-feeling, a gratifyingly tacit appeal to their own insight and ...

Becoming a girl

John Bayley, 25 March 1993

Philip Larkin: Writer 
by James Booth.
Harvester, 192 pp., £9.95, March 1992, 0 7450 0769 4
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... put into my head by Anthony Thwaite’s selection of the poet’s letters. Booth, together with Barbara Everett, is among the few critics who have produced real illumination about the way the poems work: ways of working which notoriously have become more and more indefinable the more public and popular a figure the poet has become – and indeed the more he ...

Tunnel Vision

Jenny Diski: Princess Diana, 2 August 2007

The Diana Chronicles 
by Tina Brown.
Century, 481 pp., £18.99, June 2007, 978 1 84605 286 6
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Diana 
by Sarah Bradford.
Penguin, 443 pp., £7.99, July 2007, 978 0 14 027671 8
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... two planks, nonetheless spent her girlhood obsessively reading the books of her step-grandmother, Barbara Cartland. But she was better than Cartland, whose books invariably ended happily for their good girl heroines after a vicissitude or two. Diana understood the more compellingly modern psychological drama of the ineluctably unhappy ending for those ...

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