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Fan-de-Siècle

Brigid Brophy, 6 October 1983

Murasaki Shikibu: Her Diary and Poetic Memoirs, A Translation and Study 
by Richard Bowring.
Princeton, 290 pp., £21.70, August 1982, 0 691 06507 1
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Evelina 
by Fanny Burney.
Oxford, 421 pp., £2.50, April 1982, 0 19 281596 2
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The Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney 
edited by Peter Hughes and Warren Derry.
Oxford, 624 pp., £37.50, September 1980, 0 19 812507 0
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Colette 
by Joanna Richardson.
Methuen, 276 pp., £12.95, June 1983, 0 413 48780 6
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Letters from Colette 
translated by Robert Phelps.
Virago, 214 pp., £7.95, March 1982, 0 86068 252 8
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... A small ad in Private Eye seeks a companion ‘sexy, feminine and discrete’. Siamese twins, I suppose, need not bother to apply. It is harder to divine why this translation of Murasaki’s Diary renders one passage by the words: ‘This is not to say that her women are always so genteel; if they forget themselves they can come out with the most indiscrete verses ...

Arts Councillors

Brigid Brophy, 7 October 1982

The State and the Visual Arts 
by Nicholas Pearson.
Open University, 128 pp., £5.95, September 1982, 0 335 10109 7
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The Politics of the Arts Council 
by Robert Hutchison.
Sinclair Browne, 186 pp., £7.95, June 1982, 0 86300 016 9
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... My fellow members of the Left often seem to have met an entirely different middle class from the one I was brought up in. Left-wing chat about education accepts without challenge the thesis that book learning comes easily to middle-class children because they come from homes conversant with books. Chat (which is rarer) about arts policy accepts that ‘standards’ and ‘quality’ are bourgeois conventions which the middle class has contrived to impose on public patronage of the arts, thereby getting itself, at the taxpayers’ expense, a bonanza of the kinds of art which it happens to enjoy ...

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 ...

Animal Happiness

Brigid Brophy, 5 June 1980

Practical Ethics 
by Peter Singer.
Cambridge, 237 pp., £10, February 1980, 0 521 22920 0
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... You possess two pain-killing injections and you encounter two casualties of an earthquake. Should you administer a shot apiece or give both to the person in the worse pain? Alternatively, you have enough medicine to treat one wound. Do you save the endangered leg of X or the endangered toe of Y, who has already lost a leg? Those are two of the variations Peter Singer puts forward on the exam question that used to ask whether, in a fire of just such severity as to let you rescue one and no more, you would plump for your grandparent, your grandchild or the Titian that so surprisingly shared houseroom with them ...

Shaviana

Brigid Brophy, 2 December 1982

Bernard Shaw: The Darker Side 
by Arnold Silver.
Stanford, 353 pp., $25, January 1982, 0 8047 1091 0
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Bernard Shaw and Alfred Douglas: A Correspondence 
edited by Mary Hyde.
Murray, 237 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 7195 3947 1
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... The most charming fact I have stumbled on in intellectual history is that Freud and Shaw were shocked by one another. Freud’s wounded romanticism speaks in his reference (in Group Psychology, 1921) to ‘Bernard Shaw’s malicious aphorism to the effect that being in love means greatly exaggerating the difference between one woman and another ...

In praise of Brigid Brophy

John Bayley, 5 March 1987

Baroque ’n’ Roll 
by Brigid Brophy.
Hamish Hamilton, 172 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 241 12037 3
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... read them, have been unable to find it? We read therefore we are. The idea is suggested to me by Brigid Brophy’s essays, which constitute one of the strongest proofs of personal identity I have ever come across. If a real person is not here, where is a person to be found? She writes therefore she is, and to receive such an impression, so clearly, is ...

Julia Caesar

Marilyn Butler, 17 March 1983

The Prince and the Wild Geese 
by Brigid Brophy.
Hamish Hamilton, 62 pp., £5.95, February 1983, 0 241 10894 2
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... Prince and the Wild Geese is a story of 1832 told in words and pictures, the words almost all Brigid Brophy’s, the pictures by Prince Grégoire Gagarin, artist son of the Russian ambassador in Rome after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Graceful and witty, Gagarin’s drawings portray his social world much as Pope in ‘The Rape of the ...

A Writer’s Fancy

D.J. Enright, 21 February 1980

Hackenfeller’s Ape 
by Brigid Brophy.
Allison and Busby, 125 pp., £5.50, October 1980, 0 85031 314 7
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Flesh 
by Brigid Brophy.
Allison and Busby, 124 pp., £1.95, October 1980, 9780850313185
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The Snow Ball 
by Brigid Brophy.
Allison and Busby, 143 pp., £1.95, October 1980, 0 85031 316 3
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... Brigid Brophy’s novels have often been described as ‘brilliantly written’: a judgment which can have done her sales little good. (‘Don’t bother with that book – it’s brilliantly written!’) The notion that a writer ought actually to be able to write as distinct from slapping down words on paper is a dying one ...

Skinned alive

John Bayley, 25 June 1987

Collected Poems 
by George Barker, edited by Robert Fraser.
Faber, 838 pp., £27.50, May 1987, 0 571 13972 8
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By Grand Central Station I sat down and wept 
by Elizabeth Smart, introduced by Brigid Brophy.
Grafton, 126 pp., £2.50, July 1987, 0 586 02083 7
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... wept, written for its republication by Grafton Books in 1966 – it first appeared in 1945 – Brigid Brophy stresses the idea of metamorphosis, which is also the aesthetic factor in the composition of these great pictures. Metaphor and metamorphosis – the same Greek preposition signalling an act of change. She calls this short book one of ‘the ...

Oque?

John Bayley, 30 November 1995

Byrne 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 150 pp., £14.99, October 1995, 0 09 179204 5
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... before soundbites and even before That Was the Week that Was, I found myself pushed by the late Brigid Brophy into taking part in an early TV quiz show. In those days such things were done in a touchingly amateurish way, with make-up persons fussing about and everyone, even the cameramen, looking highly nervous. It was a literary guessing-game, done ...

Recognising Mozart

Peter Gay, 7 July 1988

Mozart the Dramatist: The Value of his Operas to Him, to his Age and to Us 
by Brigid Brophy.
Libris, 322 pp., £17.50, June 1988, 1 870352 35 1
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1791: Mozart’s Last Year 
by H.C. Robbins Landon.
Thames and Hudson, 240 pp., £12.95, March 1988, 0 500 01411 6
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Mozart: Studies of the Autograph Scores 
by Alan Tyson.
Harvard, 381 pp., £27.95, January 1988, 0 674 58830 4
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... that Mozart’s stature is in no way diminished by such microscopic examination. Brigid Brophy’s Mozart the Dramatist, originally published in 1964, is no doubt the bravest among this trio, the text most open to wholesale challenge. Yet, while this reissue comes to us virtually unrevised, it remains as welcome as it was a ...

Exasperating Classics

Patricia Craig, 23 May 1985

Secret Gardens 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Allen and Unwin, 235 pp., £12.95, April 1985, 0 04 809022 0
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Reading and Righting 
by Robert Leeson.
Collins, 256 pp., £6.95, March 1985, 9780001844131
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Pipers at the Gates of Dawn 
by Jonathan Cott.
Viking, 327 pp., £12.95, August 1984, 0 670 80003 1
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... J.M. Barrie’s ‘Lost Boys’, in later life called Peter Pan ‘that terrible masterpiece’. Brigid Brophy, having reread Little Women and its sequels, dried her eyes and blown her nose, resolved that ‘the only honourable course was to come out into the open and admit that the dreadful books are masterpieces.’ She did it, though, ‘with some ...

Diary

Giles Gordon: Experimental Sideshows, 7 October 1993

... though they meant it to matter ... Samuel Beckett (of course), John Berger, Christine Brooke-Rose, Brigid Brophy, Anthony Burgess, Alan Burns, Angela Carter, Eva Figes, Giles Gordon, Wilson Harris, Rayner Heppenstall, even hasty, muddled Robert Nye, Ann Quin, Penelope Shuttle, Alan Sillitoe (for his last book only. Raw Material indeed), Stefan ...

At war

Iain McGilchrist, 25 January 1990

The Faber Book of Fevers and Frets 
edited by D.J. Enright.
Faber, 364 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 0 574 15095 1
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... shocks in the 18th century (‘universally effective’ in an episode of mass hysteria) to Brigid Brophy learning that she had multiple sclerosis in the 20th. ‘He that sinneth before his Maker, Let him fall into the hands of the physician.’ Miss Brophy finds the experience chilling: Indian files of medical ...

Born of the age we live in

John Lanchester, 6 December 1990

Stick it up your punter! The Rise and Fall of the ‘Sun’ 
by Peter Chippindale and Chris Horrie.
Heinemann, 372 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 434 12624 1
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All played out: The True Story of Italia ’90 
by Pete Davies.
Heinemann, 471 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 434 17908 6
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Gazza! A Biography 
by Robin McGibbon.
Penguin, 204 pp., £3.99, October 1990, 9780140148688
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... a 21-year-old woman who had had 789 lovers. ‘Prince Philip, Mary Whitehouse, Lord Hailsham and Brigid Brophy were all quoted on what they thought about the subject.’ The only sex-related subject not permitted in the paper was homosexuality. Murdoch was against it: ‘Do you really think the readers are interested in poofters?’ The Pacesetters ...

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