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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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... of the community was enormous. Residents of Celebration were watched and watched each other like hawks. The watchers were even within their community. Ross in his apartment, and Douglas Frantz and CatherineCollins 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 ...

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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... be a sham because my parents were never really married? If all else failed, there was always laudanum, 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 ...

Disaster

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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... Nixon went on to perpetrate the Arnon Street massacre on 1 April 1922, and in July his gang killed 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 ...

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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... pocket. He has no way of knowing how much has been rejected. ‘By such choices we gradually become 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 ...

At the V&A

Jenny Turner: Ballgowns

5 July 2012
... killed herself to get me a nice dress for it, do you remember?’ ‘You’re exhausted, love, 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 ...

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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... the realisation of his childish ambition. The household at Gad’s Hill hardly matched the domestic 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 – ...

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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... In letters to his friend Forster, Dickens admitted he was not without blame for the deterioration of 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 ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Fastsellers

22 March 2001
... Grisham was trailing P.D. James, whose new Death in Holy Orders was ahead by a nose (5408 units to 5061), 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 ...

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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... one picture has he given us of the wife and mother in her domestic circle’. Forster, a barrister, had 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 ...

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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... by a woman who abused him for daring to treat his lovely wife so badly. More disturbing still is 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 ...

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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... is as hard-headed and hard-hearted about financial management as she is about seizing her chance with 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 ...

Hard Romance

Barbara Everett

8 February 1996
... wars acquiring the benefits of civilisation from a blind-drunk despairing aficionado. Hopeful of reward, 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 ...
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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... satisfying that the sociable Admiral Croft of Persuasion uses ‘we’, ‘us’ and ‘our’ more 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 ...
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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... public acclaim. And yet, there was pathos, if not downright tragedy, in the core of his being. His idealism 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 ...

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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... with her comic minor characters often involves a suspension of sympathy that is also true to the 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 ...

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