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Jane Austen’s Children

Brigid Brophy, 6 December 1979

Jane Austen’s Letters 
edited by R.W. Chapman.
Oxford, 519 pp., £15
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... In one respect at least we must be glad Jane Austen refused the proposal of marriage made her in 1802. Literature would be a little less seemly had she obliged us to think of our greatest (indeed, I more and more suspect, the greatest) novelist as Jane Bigg-Wither. Her invention was more euphonious. Trying, in 1809, to recover the novel that a publisher had bought for £10 and sat on, unpublished, for six years (one of the lessons of the Letters is that nothing changes in the book trade), she asked for the manuscript to be returned to her as ‘Mrs Ashton Dennis ...

Graham Greene Possessed

Brigid Brophy, 1 May 1980

Doctor Fischer of Geneva. Or The Bomb Party 
by Graham Greene.
Bodley Head, 140 pp., £4.50, March 1980, 0 370 30316 4
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... What can have possessed Graham Greene? The answer, I suspect, is the ghost of Thomas Mann. The Swiss setting of Doctor Fischer of Geneva might be determined by some generic effluvium of Mann, a compound of his Magic (Swiss) Mountain, his post-war return to Switzerland and, perhaps, his rather landlocked position at the centre of European letters. But the Dybbuk that seems to have taken over Mr Greene’s imagination is specific: German Mann, pre-war Mann, long-short-story Mann (author of, in particular, that other piece of magic-making, Mario and the Magician) and, positively and peculiarly, Mann in translation ...

In search of Eaffry Johnson

Brigid Brophy, 22 January 1981

Reconstructing Aphra 
by Angeline Goreau.
Oxford, 339 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 19 822663 2
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... Angeline Goreau calls her chapter on the beginning of Aphra Behn’s life not ‘Birth’ but ‘“Birth” ’. She turns out, however, not to be disputing that Aphra Behn was born or even suggesting that she was from her mother’s womb untimely ripped. It’s merely that Ms Goreau is given to an illiterate use of inverted commas and is under the misapprehension that the time and place of her subject’s birth are unknown ...

Abbé Aubrey

Brigid Brophy, 2 April 1981

Aubrey Beardsley: An Account of his Life 
by Miriam Benkovitz.
Hamish Hamilton, 226 pp., £8.95, February 1981, 0 241 10382 7
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... Although he was only 17, his interests were iridescent.’ I wonder what Miriam J. Benkovitz, sometime Professor of English, thinks ‘iridescent’ means. The next stage after ‘adolescent’, perhaps. Something, certainly, to do with growing. A hundred or so pages further on, she suggests that Beardsley’s ‘iridescent interests’ may have ‘enlarged his stature ...

A Good Ladies’ Tailor

Brigid Brophy, 2 July 1981

Bernard Shaw and the Actresses 
by Margot Peters.
Columbus, 461 pp., £8.75, March 1981, 0 385 12051 6
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... Mozart had a discernible tendency to fall in love with his sopranos, Shaw something little short of a compulsion to fall in love with, first, women who took singing lessons from his mother and then, after he turned dramatist, his actresses. This must be one of the hazards of creating works of art that need executants to perform them. Ordinary lovers are sometimes dismayed to find that their beloved is in effect their own invention, a fantasy they have unwittingly devised to inhabit the attractive externals of some real person; and something similar seems liable to happen in reverse when an artist deliberately invents a dramatis persona and designs it, as he goes along, to wear the trappings of a particular executant ...

Small Boys and Girls

Brigid Brophy, 4 February 1982

The Handbook of Non-Sexist Writing for Writers, Editors and Speakers 
edited by Casey Miller and Kate Swift.
Women’s Press, 119 pp., £3.25, November 1981, 0 7043 3878 5
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... Ah, Jane Austen! He is such a great novelist!’ That was said to me by a Hungarian émigré, who, when I mildly queried the ‘he’, explained: ‘I find those English pronouns tiresome. We don’t have them in Hungarian.’ Thus I stumbled on the fact, which I report now in Mario Pei’s words (and on his authority, since mine doesn’t rise to vouching for a syllable of Hungarian), that ‘in Hungarian the same word means “he”, “she”, “it” ...

Anyone for sex?

Brigid Brophy, 16 July 1981

The Game: My 40 Years in Tennis 
by Jack Kramer and Frank Deford.
Deutsch, 318 pp., £8.95, June 1981, 0 233 97307 9
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... It is funny of Jack Kramer to recount his ‘40 years in tennis’ under the title The Game, given that he was a pioneer of tennis as a business. I received my serious call to a life of devout tennis-watching in the year (1947) when Mr Kramer took the men’s singles championship at Wimbledon. His court personality was that of a Nice American Kid ...

Transference

Brigid Brophy, 15 April 1982

Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession 
by Janet Malcolm.
Picador, 174 pp., £1.95, February 1982, 9780330267373
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Psychoanalytic Psychology of Normal Development 
by Anna Freud.
Hogarth, 389 pp., £15, February 1982, 0 7012 0543 1
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Record of a Friendship: The Correspondence of Wilhelm Reich and A.S. Neill 
edited by Beverley Placzek.
Gollancz, 429 pp., £12.50, January 1982, 0 575 03054 2
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... The phenomenon of transference – how we all invent each other according to early blueprints – was Freud’s most original and radical discovery. The idea of infant sexuality and of the Oedipus complex can be accepted with a good deal more equanimity than the idea that the most precious and inviolate of entities – personal relations – is actually a messy jangle of misapprehensions, at best an uneasy truce between powerful solitary fantasy systems ...

Son of God

Brigid Brophy, 21 April 1983

Michelangelo 
by Robert Liebert.
Yale, 447 pp., £25, January 1983, 0 300 02793 1
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The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse 
edited by Stephen Coote.
Penguin, 410 pp., £3.95, March 1983, 0 14 042293 5
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... The heavenly ruler looked down, noted the inadequacy of Giotto and his successors and decided to dispatch Michelangelo to earth, there to demonstrate perfection in no fewer than four arts (drawing, painting, sculpture and architecture) and thus redeem mankind from errors of taste. So runs the exordium of Giorgio Vasari’s Life of Michelangelo ...

The One-Eyed World of Germaine Greer

Brigid Brophy, 22 November 1979

The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work 
by Germaine Greer.
Secker, 373 pp., £12.50, November 1979, 1 86064 677 8
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... Why portable paintings have acquired such prestige is not immediately obvious, especially because we have all grown up taking their prestigiousness for granted and calling other art forms, including the massive ones of architecture and gardening, minor arts.’ With this one sentence Germaine Greer provokes several queries and a vehement expostulation ...

Liberties

Brigid Brophy, 2 October 1980

Deliberate Regression 
by Robert Harbison.
Deutsch, 264 pp., £8.95, September 1980, 0 233 97273 0
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... Something is amiss with Robert Harbison’s sentences. They seem to consist almost wholly of last-minute additions. The way out of the impasse brought on by the decay of religion available to Wilson was an authorised version of Ruskin’s symbolic correspondence, authorised by duplicated evidence from the distant past excavated by science, and institutionalised by the artist in specific forms, like the Brighton chalice, also a calyx, a flower on its stem, attempting to work a magic which would inhere in a thing not just in one’s method for contemplating it ...

Mozart’s Cross

Brigid Brophy, 7 August 1986

The Letters of Mozart and his Family 
translated by Emily Anderson.
Macmillan, 1038 pp., £38.50, November 1985, 0 333 39832 7
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... Mozart the letter-writer, like Mozart the composer of virtually every form and species of music, is the supreme non-bore. The ‘daughter of Hamm, the Secretary for War’, must, he reports to his father from Augsburg in 1777, have a gift for music since, even without having been well taught, she can play several clavier pieces ‘really well’. Yet she is an affected performer ...

James Joyce and the Reader’s Understanding

Brigid Brophy, 21 February 1980

James Joyce and the Revolution of the Word 
by Colin MacCabe.
Macmillan, 186 pp., £8.95, February 1979, 0 333 21648 2
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... him not as a revolutionary, and not as numinous (even though Ulysses makes mention of ‘Brophy, the lame gardener’), but as a norm – almost a ‘classic realist text’, indeed. I think it would be wiser to admit that the sensuous and intellectual attractions of almost any given page of Finnegans Wake don’t include much inducement to turn to ...

To be continued

Brigid Brophy, 6 November 1980

The Mystery of Edwin Drood 
by Charles Dickens and Leon Garfield.
Deutsch, 327 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 0 233 97257 9
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... The boldest way to supply the missing second half of Edwin Drood would be in the idiom of the present time. Such a course would nowadays come naturally or at any rate fashionably to an architect were he required to complete a building that had stopped short in 1870. But the mini-vogue among writers (or is it among publishers?) for endings to fictions that their authors left unfinished during the 19th century has not thrown up a single modern-dress production ...

Cruelty to Animals

Brigid Brophy, 21 May 1981

Reckoning with the Beast 
by James Turner.
Johns Hopkins, 190 pp., £7.50, February 1981, 0 8018 2399 4
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The Social Life of Monkeys and Apes 
by S. Zuckerman.
Routledge, 511 pp., £17.50, March 1981, 0 7100 0691 8
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... William Blake is surely the locus classicus for human sympathy with other-than-human animals. Anyone who is, as I am, seared by the cruelty and injustice humans inflict on their fellow animals will recognise in Blake his own perceptions expressed with unsurpassed accuracy and poignancy. Blake died a decade before Victoria came to the throne. I am bound therefore to think that James Turner (who ‘teaches history’, the back flap says, ‘at the University of Massachusetts, Boston’) is mistaken in his central thesis that the Victorians witnessed ‘the emergence of a new, distinctively modern sensibility’ about animals ...

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