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Scandal’s Hostages

Claire Tomalin, 19 February 1981

The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: Vol. 1 
edited by Betty Bennett.
Johns Hopkins, 591 pp., £18, July 1980, 0 8018 2275 0
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... 1948), but there are enough new ones here to cause excitement, and every reason to be grateful to Betty Bennett for her careful and considerable labours. The new material also provides at least one curious story. It concerns Jane Williams, whose lover Edward drowned with Shelley, and who became the emotional centre of Mary’s life for some time ...


Anne Barton: Mary Shelley, 8 February 2001

Mary Shelley 
by Miranda Seymour.
Murray, 665 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 7195 5711 9
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Mary Shelley in Her Times 
edited by Betty Bennett and Stuart Curran.
Johns Hopkins, 311 pp., £33, September 2000, 0 8018 6334 1
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Mary Shelley's Fictions 
edited by Michael Eberle-Sinatra.
Palgrave, 250 pp., £40, August 2000, 0 333 77106 0
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... grievous wound. Seymour tells this story of betrayal well. She is also able, largely thanks to Betty Bennett’s painstaking and brilliant recovery of the history of ‘Walter Sholto Douglas’, as set out in her book Mary Diana Dods: A Gentleman and a Scholar (1991), to illuminate Mary Shelley’s proud assertion, in her journal for October ...

‘Two in Torquay’

Alan Bennett: A short play, 10 July 2003

... empty bottle of Jeyes fluid . . . Of course it’s bleak. MR MORTIMER: Miss Plunkett. Betty. MISS PLUNKETT: You know my name? MR MORTIMER: It’s embroidered on your knitting bag. Betty. There is hope. MISS PLUNKETT: Where? MR MORTIMER: It is in the nature of the companion that she is never entirely ...

It starts with an itch

Alan Bennett: ‘People’, 8 November 2012

... Antiques Roadshow, a brass and pewter gill measure from a milk pail, for instance (wielded at the Bennett family back door by the milkman, Mr Keen, his horse and trap waiting in the street); a posser for the clothes wash and jelly moulds galore. Even so I was surprised this summer when going round Blickling to see a young man rapt in contemplation of a ...

Alas! Deceived

Alan Bennett: Philip Larkin, 25 March 1993

Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life 
by Andrew Motion.
Faber, 570 pp., £20, April 1993, 0 571 15174 4
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... Elsie, secretary to his father, took her bottom-pinching Führer-friendly boss in her stride, so Betty, the secretary to the son, never turned a hair when she came across his lunchtime reading in the shape of the splayed buttocks of some gym-slipped tot, just covering it briskly with a copy of the Library Association Record and carrying on cataloguing. One ...

Pissing on Pedestrians

Owen Bennett-Jones: A Great Unravelling, 1 April 2021

Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell 
by John Preston.
Viking, 322 pp., £18.99, February, 978 0 241 38867 9
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... family member to consider. Preston is consistently sympathetic to Maxwell’s long-suffering wife, Betty. Her book about her life with him, A Mind of My Own, published in 1994 after she asked for, and received, personal help from Murdoch, is a poignant contribution to the various accounts of his life. She describes Maxwell on his first arrival in liberated ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1999, 20 January 2000

... a master spy, though not much harder than accommodating to the known fact that he was a big fan of Betty Hutton and Carmen Miranda (Judy Garland one would have understood). And even though Wittgenstein was never big on small talk, he must have been tempted in those dark days of the war to drop the name of his former schoolmate, which he never seems to have ...

Speaking well

Christopher Ricks, 18 August 1983

Cyril Connolly: Journal and Memoir 
by David Pryce-Jones.
Collins, 304 pp., £12.50, July 1983, 0 333 32827 2
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J.B. Yeats: Letters to His Son W.B. Yeats and Others, 1869-1922 
edited with a memoir by Joseph Hone.
Secker, 296 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 436 59205 3
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... valued friend’, ‘it amused me to hear Peter laughing at Evelyn’s “provincial little Arnold Bennett arriviste appearance”.’ If Chelsea (and Oxford) might be at odds with Bloomsbury (and Cambridge) for territorial competitive reasons, the two were at one when it came to making bad blood. ‘Never tell lies,’ the young Connolly had adjured ...

Always the Same Dream

Ferdinand Mount: Princess Margaret, 4 January 2018

Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret 
by Craig Brown.
Fourth Estate, 423 pp., £16.99, September 2017, 978 0 00 820361 0
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... Russell Harty on his deathbed had his tracheotomy tube removed, in order to be able to tell Alan Bennett that the princess had asked how he was, twice.Every celebrity seems to have fantasised about sex with the princess. Eddie Fisher claimed that he had had an affair with her. When her marriage was breaking up, Peter Sellers was besotted with the idea that ...

Father! Father! Burning Bright

Alan Bennett, 9 December 1999

... a widow. A widow ... This afternoon. Half-past two ... How’s it feel to be bereaved?’ ‘Betty,’ said the young man. ‘Congratulations. You’re an aunty. Aunty Betty. I won’t ask you to guess,’ he went on hurriedly. ‘It’s a girl. Susan’s over the moon. And I am.’ With each call his enthusiasm had ...

I only want the OM

Christopher Tayler: Somerset Maugham, 1 September 2005

Somerset Maugham: A Life 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Vintage, 411 pp., £12, April 2005, 1 4000 3052 8
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... to batter the highbrows with in The Intellectuals and the Masses (1992), he turned to Arnold Bennett. Morgan’s biography had a memorable centrepiece: a description of the senile Maugham crapping on somebody’s rug and scooping up ‘a handful of faeces like a guilty child’. In his new biography, Jeffrey Meyers quotes one of the two alleged witnesses ...

The Laying on of Hands

Alan Bennett, 7 June 2001

... plumply to a reassuring pat from his wife. One of the names submitted in contention with Max was Betty, the claims for which had been quite belligerently advanced by a smallish young man in a black suit and shaven head who was sitting towards the front with several other young men similarly suited and shorn, one or two of them with sunglasses lodged on top ...

My Heroin Christmas

Terry Castle: Art Pepper and Me, 18 December 2003

... That Dare Not Speak Its Name. (Consider Stein and Hemingway, Bishop and Lowell, k.d. lang and Tony Bennett, or me and my best pal Rob.) But even she acknowledges that Art had a ‘sadistic streak’ and liked to play nasty games with people. She disses poor Laurie (the interviewer-wife) for falling in with Pepper’s ‘egotistical’ demands. Like all ...

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