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Thank you, Disney

Jenny Diski: The Town that Disney Built, 24 August 2000

The Celebration Chronicles: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Property Value in Disney’s New Town 
by Andrew Ross.
Verso, 340 pp., £17, June 2000, 1 85984 772 2
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Celebration, USA: Living in Disney’s Brave New Town 
by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins.
Holt, 342 pp., £18.99, September 1999, 0 8050 5560 6
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... The watchers were even within their community. Ross in his apartment, and Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins in a house that they actually bought in order to write a book about the town. Both parties were open about their intentions and both invested a year of their lives, and in Frantz and Collins’s case a ...

In Praise of Spiders

Caleb Crain: Wilkie Collins’s Name Games, 11 September 2008

The Woman in White 
by Wilkie Collins.
Vintage, 609 pp., £5.99, October 2007, 978 0 09 951124 3
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... which blurred the edges very nicely. It was in these improper fantasies that the novelist Wilkie Collins found his raw materials. In his world, the tags are always falling off the luggage. The narrator of Basil (1852) has been ‘obliged in honour to resign’ his surname, because his father has literally torn his page out of the family history. In The Woman ...


Ronan Bennett, 16 December 1993

De Valera: Long Fellow, Long Shadow 
by Tim Pat Coogan.
Hutchinson, 772 pp., £20, October 1993, 9780091750305
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... 14 Catholics in the Millfield district of Belfast after a constable was shot. Although Michael Collins brought these killings to the attention of Winston Churchill during the London negotiations, Nixon was never arrested or charged. He became an embarrassment only when Sir James Craig and the Unionist hierarchy got involved with the Governments of the ...

At the V&A

Jenny Turner: Ballgowns, 5 July 2012

... come over here a minute and sit down.’ I also liked the ladies who were having a cackle at Joan Collins: ‘Did you see her, at that Jubilee thing, trying to do a curtsey in those heels.’ The stimulus was an appalling poison-pink and ruffled Emanuel monstrosity, worn by Collins in 1983. What did she think she was ...

A Little Local Irritation

Stephen Wall: Dickens, 16 April 1998

The Letters of Charles Dickens. Vol. IX: 1859-61 
edited by Graham Storey.
Oxford, 610 pp., £70, July 1997, 0 19 812293 4
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... idylls with which his novels so often conclude. Dickens’s wife wasn’t part of it, for a start. Catherine had been pensioned off, following the messy separation of 1858, and was living near Regent’s Park with their eldest son Charley. In a letter to Miss Burdett Coutts – a friend to both parties – Dickens unforgivingly vetoes the reconciliation she ...

Hug me, kiss me

Penelope Fitzgerald, 6 October 1994

Such Devoted Sisters: An Anthology of Stories 
edited by Shena Mackay.
Virago, 330 pp., £6.99, August 1994, 1 85381 755 4
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When the World Was Steady 
by Claire Messud.
Granta, 270 pp., £14.99, July 1994, 0 14 014099 9
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... exiles until at last we are quite alone.’ In ‘My Sister Cherish’ the Grenadian writer Merle Collins describes the death of the youngest of the family, hydrocephalous since birth, much loved. The tragedy is not so much that Cherish died as that she had to die in hospital. And from Louisa May Alcott, Mackay has made the courageous choice of Beth’s last ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Fastsellers, 22 March 2001

... and Matthew Kneale slipped to seventh place, behind Anita Shreve, Jack Higgins, Paul Eddy and Catherine Cookson, without sales falling off too dramatically, as a respectable 1366 units of English Passengers left the shelves. Perhaps in future paperbacks should think twice before proclaiming themselves ‘The No.1 Bestseller’: ‘Second only to ...

As Good as Nude

Anne Hollander: Women in White, 6 April 2006

Dressed in Fiction 
by Clair Hughes.
Berg, 214 pp., £17.99, December 2005, 1 84520 172 8
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... available men; but at the same time Defoe uses her dangerous secret dress – in the way Wilkie Collins used his woman in white’s dress – as a troubling sign of irrational forces at work. During the 18th and 19th centuries, novelists began to use dress to evoke the inner life of characters, and to show the unconscious ways clothes affect wearer and ...

How does he come to be mine?

Tim Parks: Dickens’s Children, 8 August 2013

Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens 
by Robert Gottlieb.
Farrar, Straus, 239 pp., £16.99, December 2012, 978 0 374 29880 7
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... his marriage, but when he came to force the separation he put all the blame on his wife, accusing Catherine in private and public of not being fit for her role, of laziness and lassitude, ‘weakness and jealousy’, of not caring for the children, whom she ‘was glad to be rid of’. She was not worthy of him or them. She doesn’t even have the nous to ...

Forever Krystle

Nicholas Shakespeare, 20 February 1986

Watching ‘Dallas’: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination 
by Ien Ang, translated by Della Couling.
Methuen, 148 pp., £10.50, November 1985, 0 416 41630 6
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... the way real life has been vacuumed into the fantasy. In Dynasty Alexis’s daughter is played by Catherine Oxenberg, the daughter of Princess Elisabeth of Yugoslavia. In the last episode this bona fide royal married the Prince of Moldavia – though the Baltic state had been cleansed of its Communist occupants to look like Monaco, or Portofino. Former ...

His Friends Were Appalled

Deborah Friedell: Dickens, 5 January 2012

The Life of Charles Dickens 
by John Forster.
Cambridge, 1480 pp., £70, December 2011, 978 1 108 03934 5
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Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist 
by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst.
Harvard, 389 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 0 674 05003 7
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Charles Dickens: A Life 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 527 pp., £30, October 2011, 978 0 670 91767 9
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... drafted the deed of separation between the Dickenses after 21 years of marriage, which banished Catherine Hogarth Dickens from the family home, but he loved his friend too much to write more than a few sentences about it. Dickens’s mistress, Nelly Ternan, appears only as the first beneficiary in Dickens’s will, which is included in an appendix. Where ...

Jane Austen’s Word Process

Marilyn Butler, 25 June 1987

Computation into Criticism: A Study of Jane Austen’s Novels and an Experiment in Method 
by J.F Burrows.
Oxford, 245 pp., £25, February 1987, 0 19 812856 8
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... than anyone else in Austen’s world (24.58 incidences per 1000 words), and the egocentric Lady Catherine de Burgh of Pride and Prejudice less than anyone else (2.13 per 1000 words). Equally, we know how utterly opposed in behaviour are the conforming Mr Collins and the wayward Lydia Bennet, but it takes a neat diagram ...

Hard Romance

Barbara Everett, 8 February 1996

... like a good child, he chalks onto the great guns of the battery given names: ‘The Reverend Collins’, ‘General Tilney’, ‘Lady Catherine de Bugg’. Something in the image hints at the mingling of pastoral and violence, of passion and illiteracy which can go to make up both human bonding and human ...

Carnivals of Progress

John Ziman, 17 February 1983

Sir William Rowan Hamilton 
by Thomas Hankins.
Johns Hopkins, 474 pp., £19.50, July 1981, 0 8018 2203 3
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Gentlemen of Science: Early Years of the British Association for the Advancement of Science 
by Jack Morrell and Arnold Thackray.
Oxford, 592 pp., £30, August 1981, 0 19 858163 7
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The Parliament of Science: The British Association for the Advancement of Science 1831-1981 
edited by Roy MacLeod and Peter Collins.
Science Reviews, 308 pp., £12.25, September 1982, 0 905927 66 4
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... extended, naturally enough, to women, and fastened upon the sister of some college friends, Catherine Disney. She loved him too – but before the mutual affinity became evident to them both, she allowed herself to be married to another man to whom she had already given her promise. He was only 20, but he never quite got over it. He worshipped the image ...

Why always Dorothea?

John Mullan: How caricature can be sharp perception, 5 May 2005

The One v. the Many: Minor Characters and the Space of the Protagonist in the Novel 
by Alex Woloch.
Princeton, 391 pp., £13.95, February 2005, 0 691 11314 9
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... ways in which we try to understand others. In a different kind of novel we might find out why Mr Collins is as he is, but in Pride and Prejudice it is enough accurately to trace his unique combination of servility and self-importance. Caricature can be sharp perception of a true pattern of behaviour. In Pride and Prejudice, as Woloch notes, ‘Elizabeth can ...

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