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Manly Decency

Boris Ford

23 April 1992
... To arrive in Cambridge to study English literature with F.R. Leavis in the mid-Thirties was an act, on my part, of unconsciously astute timing. Since coming to Downing in 1932 as Director of Studies in English, he had written New Bearings in English Poetry and Revaluation, among other books, and had helped to launch Scrutiny. His reputation for iconoclastic criticism, his demotion of Milton compared ...

Maerdy Diary

Boris Ford: The last pit closes

21 February 1991
... As the miners’ lamps at Maerdy, the last of the working pits in the Rhondda, are extinguished for the third and no doubt the last time, a short chapter in my revolutionary past comes back into sharp focus. It was at the end of my first year at Cambridge, in 1937, that I accepted a suggestion from Kay Garland, a fellow student, that we should go off to the Gower Peninsula for a fortnight and help ...


Marilyn Butler

2 September 1982
The New Pelican Guide to English Literature. Vol. I: Medieval Literature Part One: Chaucer and the Alliterative Tradition, Vol. II: The Age of Shakespeare, Vol. III: From Donne to Marvell, Vol. IV: From Dryden to Johnson 
edited by Boris Ford.
Penguin, 647 pp., £2.95, March 1982, 0 14 022264 2
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Medieval Writers and their Work: Middle English Literature and its Background 
by J.A. Burrow.
Oxford, 148 pp., £9.95, May 1982, 0 19 289122 7
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Contemporary Writers Series: Saul Bellow, Joe Orton, John Fowles, Kurt Vonnegut, Seamus Heaney, Thomas Pynchon 
by Malcolm Bradbury, C.W.E. Bigsby, Peter Conradi, Jerome Klinkowitz and Blake Morrison.
Methuen, 110 pp., £1.95, May 1982, 0 416 31650 6
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... even after we have got historians to stop drilling them in the battles we won, and when geographers no longer offer them maps in which the Empire is coloured red. Penguin Books’ reissue of BorisFord’s Pelican Guide to English Literature, which first appeared a quarter of a century ago as an alternative version to ‘authorised’ literary history, is a reminder that not much happens that is ...
3 January 2013
... brokemy heart …in Little Rock … Are these I spy the deserving poor, fully adrift, or breast-fed bohemians (weird thought of the day!) jostling on a street corner beside an all but emptied rack of Boris bikes? Wolves living on wind, sur le Noël, mortesaison …                we do not feel the speck of dust that alights on our shoulder, nor its fatal cousin, the germ we inhale ...
7 January 1993
by Mark Ford.
Chatto, 51 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 7011 3750 9
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The English Earthquake 
by Eva Salzman.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £5.95, May 1992, 1 85224 177 2
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Bleeding Heart Yard 
by William Scammell.
Peterloo, 63 pp., £6.95, May 1992, 1 871471 28 1
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The Game: Tennis Poems 
by William Scammell.
Peterloo, 48 pp., £6, June 1992, 1 871471 27 3
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Marconi’s Cottage 
by Medbh McGuckian.
Bloodaxe, 110 pp., £6.95, May 1992, 1 85224 197 7
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... The excitable, exuberant surface of Mark Ford’s poems makes them instantly attractive. They speak with a bewildered urgency: See, no hands! she cried Sailing down the turnpike, And flapped her arms like a pigeon, And from the backseat Solomon ...
5 April 1984
The World, the Text and the Critic 
by Edward Said.
Faber, 327 pp., £15, February 1984, 0 571 13264 2
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The Deconstructive Turn: Essays in the Rhetoric of Philosophy 
by Christopher Norris.
Methuen, 201 pp., £4.95, December 1983, 0 416 36140 4
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The New Pelican Guide to English Literature. Vol. VIII: The Present 
edited by Boris Ford.
Penguin, 619 pp., £3.50, October 1983, 0 14 022271 5
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... to hear that somebody dislikes it. Actually, Martin Dodsworth dislikes it too. He contributes a primly disapproving piece on formalism, structuralism and post-structuralism to the latest volume of BorisFord’s ‘Pelican Guide’. It’s one of three essays broadly surveying the ‘theory’ scene, the other two being a statement about ‘British Philosophy since 1945’ by Michael Tanner ...

The Raging Peloton

Iain Sinclair: Boris​ Bikes

20 January 2011
... remarks, delivered to a sea of grey heads, at Blackpool in 1981, in the aftermath of the Handsworth and Brixton riots, will have carried a special charge for Barlow. ‘On yer bike!’ Hovis preceded Boris (Mayor Johnson) as sponsor of the cult of cycling, but the whole business, so attractive to ad men and lavishly rewarded imagineers, never moved far from Scott’s syrupy terrain. (Scott was a cycle ...
30 March 1989
Theoria: Art and the Absence of Grace 
by Peter Fuller.
Chatto, 260 pp., £15, November 1988, 0 7011 2942 5
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Seeing through Berger 
by Peter Fuller.
Claridge, 176 pp., £8.95, November 1988, 1 870626 75 3
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Cambridge Guide to the Arts in Britain. Vol. IX: Since the Second World War 
edited by Boris Ford.
Cambridge, 369 pp., £19.50, November 1988, 0 521 32765 2
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Ruskin’s Myths 
by Dinah Birch.
Oxford, 212 pp., £22.50, August 1988, 9780198128724
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The Sun is God: Painting, Literature and Mythology in the 19th Century 
edited by J.B. Bullen.
Oxford, 230 pp., £27.50, March 1989, 0 19 812884 3
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Artisans and Architects: The Ruskinian Tradition in Architectural Thought 
by Mark Swenarton.
Macmillan, 239 pp., £35, February 1989, 0 333 46460 5
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... It has been respectable for some while now to admit to being bored by the huge, flat, ‘pure’ abstracts on the white walls of the museums of modern art. And yet non-representational paintings on a fairly large scale seem still to be what art students are most encouraged to make. Critics now incline to applaud in them evidence of a strenously physical relationship with paint. Thus Mali Morris, Lucy ...
24 August 1995
F.R. Leavis: A Life in Criticism 
by Ian MacKillop.
Allen Lane, 476 pp., £25, July 1995, 0 7139 9062 7
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... Knights, Richards was snubbed on his return to Cambridge in much later life. Knights had ‘ratted’. Richards dared to write congratulating Leavis on his CH (‘Dead Sea fruit’, said his wife). BorisFord was accused of killing Scrutiny off by stealing its contributors for the Penguin Guide to English Literature. Few friends, however loyal, escaped. Wilfrid Mellers, H.A. Mason and others all fell ...

As if Life Depended on It

John Mullan: With the Leavisites

12 September 2013
Memoirs of a Leavisite: The Decline and Fall of Cambridge English 
by David Ellis.
Liverpool, 151 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 1 84631 889 4
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English as a Vocation: The ‘Scrutiny’ Movement 
by Christopher Hilliard.
Oxford, 298 pp., £57, May 2012, 978 0 19 969517 1
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The Two Cultures? The Significance of C.P. Snow 
by F.R. Leavis.
Cambridge, 118 pp., £10.99, August 2013, 978 1 107 61735 3
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... Scrutiny alumni and sympathisers’ and took the master’s values to tens of thousands of new readers. Leavis himself was typically suspicious of the whole enterprise, convinced that the editor, BorisFord, would not be able to find enough contributors of ‘the necessary calibre’. You have to admire the old curmudgeon’s inexhaustible refusal to be pleased. In the year of his retirement from ...


James Wood: These Etonians

4 July 2019
... madly aspirant zeal, her Scottish petit-bourgeois tirelessness. My older brother and I were both effectively scholarship boys. He was the real thing, a King’s Scholar (three years ahead of Boris Johnson); in my case, when my parents demonstrated financial need, the school eventually helped out with a bursary. I was lucky – my religious parents would have insisted on ‘blessed’ – and ...


J. Hoberman: Did the Jews invent Hollywood?

7 March 2002
Hollywood and Anti-Semitism: A Cultural History up to World War Two 
by Steven Alan Carr.
Cambridge, 342 pp., £42.50, July 2001, 9780521798549
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... Catholic Church to ‘rescue the motion pictures from the hands of the Devil and five hundred un-Christian Jews’. The perceived crisis was aggravated by the near-simultaneous publication of Henry Ford’s two articles ‘The Jewish Aspect of the “Movie” Problem’ and ‘Jewish Supremacy in the Motion Picture World’ in his own newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, in February 1921. ‘As soon ...

The Real Magic

David Sylvester

8 June 1995
A Biographical Dictionary of Film 
by David Thomson.
Deutsch, 834 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 233 98859 9
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... irony, doubt and mystery in the voice of E.M. Forster that these films miss? Thomson’s anti-middlebrow fervour also seems to me to come into play in the contrast between his distaste for John Ford and his love of Howard Hawks, perhaps the perfect no-brow. The clue to Hawks’s greatness is that this sombre lining is cut against the cloth of the genre in which he is operating. Far from the ...

The Last London

Iain Sinclair

29 March 2017
... as the site of a new and provisional London: airport, university, marina and conference centre, Olympic sideshows and secure arms trading. And much of it Chinese owned. Jarman’s title recalled Ford Madox Brown’s painting of 1855, depicting the artist and his wife as emigrants shipping out to Australia, part of an economic migration of around 350,000 disaffected British citizens. Posing his ...

The Girl Who Waltzes

Laura Jacobs: George Balanchine

8 October 2014
Balanchine and the Lost Muse: Revolution and the Making of a Choreographer 
by Elizabeth Kendall.
Oxford, 288 pp., £22.99, August 2013, 978 0 19 995934 1
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... already onstage: in the new ballets he made, the old ones he revived and the dancers he chose to perform them. ‘You have to look everywhere, everything, all the time,’ he told the dancer Ruthanna Boris, when she asked him how to be a choreographer. ‘Look at the grass in the concrete when it’s broken, children and little dogs, and the ceiling and the roof. Your eyes is camera and your brain is a ...

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