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Sunday Mornings

Frank Kermode

19 July 1984
Desmond MacCarthy: The Man and his Writings 
by David Cecil.
Constable, 313 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 9780094656109
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... This is not, as the title might at first suggest, a critical biography, but a collection of miscellaneous essays by MacCarthy, all of which have been collected before, and a memoir by Lord David Cecil, of which a portion appeared as preface to an earlier selection. Desmond MacCarthy was probably the best-known London literary journalist of his time, and it is clearly the view of publisher and ...
19 April 1990
Letters of Leonard Woolf 
edited by Frederic Spotts.
Weidenfeld, 616 pp., £30, March 1990, 0 297 79635 6
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... Leonard Woolf’s earlier years coincided with the last great age of letter-writing. Moreover his friends were people who had what may now seem an unusually pressing need to keep in touch with one another, even ...

What’s Happening in the Engine-Room

Penelope Fitzgerald: Poor John Lehmann

7 January 1999
John Lehmann: A Pagan Adventure 
by Adrian Wright.
Duckworth, 308 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 7156 2871 2
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... and part-time commercial traveller at the Hogarth Press. They had already run through two assistants, but, all the same, Wright is perhaps rather too hard on them. In her biography of Virginia Woolf, Hermione Lee describes Lehmann as one of the ‘ambitious, thwarted, talented young men’ who ‘rubbed up against Leonard’s adamantine proprietariness and perfectionism ... It was a well-known ...

Meringue-utan

Rosemary Hill: Rosamund Lehmann’s Disappointments

8 August 2002
Rosamond Lehmann 
by Selina Hastings.
Chatto, 476 pp., £25, June 2002, 0 7011 6542 1
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... smoked, danced and divorced her way through the interwar years with gayer abandon than most. During one particularly frank sexual discussion at a party she was tapped on the shoulder by Virginia Woolf, who said, somewhat dampeningly, ‘Remember: we won this for you.’ Nearly twenty years younger than Woolf, on the threshold of adolescence in 1914, Lehmann was more ambivalent about the past. The ...
30 August 1990
Clever Hearts: Desmond and Molly MacCarthy 
by Hugh Cecil and Mirabel Cecil.
Gollancz, 320 pp., £18.95, July 1990, 0 575 03622 2
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... worked on the large and brilliant work of fiction that was at first confidently expected of him by his Bloomsbury acquaintances and chums, both old and young. ‘When I first saw Desmond,’ Leonard Woolf later recalled, ‘he looked like a superb young eagle who with one sweep of his great wing could soar to any height he chose ... Why did he never fulfil his promise? Why did the splendid eagle ...

Gloomy Sunday Afternoons

Caroline Maclean: Modernists at the Movies

10 September 2009
The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period 
by Laura Marcus.
Oxford, 562 pp., £39, December 2007, 978 0 19 923027 3
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... impact of moving images on a wide range of writers and critics in the first three decades of the 20th century. As David Trotter notes in Cinema and Modernism,* his account of the impact of film on Woolf, Joyce and Eliot, critics have tended to associate modernist literature with montage, a term used by Russian film-makers of the 1920s to indicate a quick succession of images, not unlike the jumble ...
19 October 1995
À la Pym: The Barbara Pym Cookery Book 
by Hilary Pym and Honor Wyatt.
Prospect, 102 pp., £9.95, September 1995, 0 907325 61 0
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... and it was Larkin’s first and, as it turned out, his only visit. After her years in the wilderness, Pym’s novel Quartet in Autumn had at last been accepted for publication: Larkin and David Cecil had independently named her as their choice of ‘most undervalued writer’ in the 75th-anniversary number of the TLS. As Pym’s diary records, they had kipper pâté to start, after sherry; and ...

By San Carlos Water

Neal Ascherson

18 November 1982
Authors take sides on the Falklands 
edited by Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Cecil Woolf, 144 pp., £4.95, August 1982, 0 900821 63 9
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The Falklands War: The Full Story 
by the Sunday Times ‘Insight’ Team.
Deutsch and Sphere, 276 pp., £2.50, October 1982, 0 233 97515 2
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The Winter War: The Falklands 
by Patrick Bishop and John Witherow.
Quartet, 153 pp., £2.95, September 1982, 0 7043 3424 0
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Iron Britannia: Why Parliament waged its Falklands war 
by Anthony Barnett.
Allison and Busby, 160 pp., £2.95, November 1982, 0 85031 494 1
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Falklands/Malvinas: Whose Crisis? 
by Martin Honeywell.
Latin American Bureau, 135 pp., £1.95, September 1982, 0 906156 15 7
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Los Chicos de la Guerra 
by Daniel Kon.
Editorial Galerna, Buenos Aires, August 1982
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A Message from the Falklands: The Life and Gallant Death of David Tinker, Lieut RN 
compiled by Hugh Tinker.
Junction, 224 pp., £3.50, November 1982, 0 86245 102 7
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... When they heard that Britain was sending troops to recover the Falklands, many in this country were inclined to laugh. Some farcical anti-climax was expected – Anguilla on a wider stage, with penguins. Events which soon followed, ending with Mrs Thatcher taking the salute at a victory parade, have made it hard to remember why it all at first seemed so comic. But the early incredulity often made points ...
16 July 1998
Mary Butts: Scenes from the Life 
by Nathalie Blondel.
McPherson, 539 pp., £22.50, February 1998, 0 929701 55 0
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The Taverner Novels: ‘Armed with Madness’, ‘Death of Felicity Taverner’ 
by Mary Butts.
McPherson, 374 pp., £10, March 1998, 0 929701 18 6
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The Classical Novels: ‘The Macedonian’, ‘Scenes from the Life of Cleopatra’ 
by Mary Butts.
McPherson, 384 pp., £10, March 1998, 0 929701 42 9
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‘Ashe of Rings’ and Other Writings 
by Mary Butts.
McPherson, 374 pp., £18.50, March 1998, 0 929701 53 4
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... present at the Modernist moment, yet oddly unidentifiable. These new editions and the biography should change that. Scarcely a month after the birth of her daughter in 1920, Butts became the lover of Cecil Maitland, an aspiring writer who would eventually be overwhelmed by alcoholism, drug abuse and suicidal impulses. She left Rodker, naively hoping that she could maintain some form of relationship ...

Baffled at a Bookcase

Alan Bennett: My Libraries

28 July 2011
... young Joe Orton in the film script of Prick Up Your Ears, and in The Old Country another young man reacts more dramatically, by hurling half the books to the floor. In Me, I’m Afraid of Virginia Woolf someone else gives vent to their frustration with literature by drawing breasts on a photograph of Virginia Woolf and kitting out E.M. Forster with a big cigar. Orton himself notoriously defaced ...

Bourgeois Reveries

Julian Bell: Farmer Eliot

3 February 2011
Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf​ to John Piper 
by Alexandra Harris.
Thames and Hudson, 320 pp., £19.95, October 2010, 978 0 500 25171 3
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... harrows for H.J. Massingham’s Country Relics. These are threaded together by a historian’s fascination with how the past conceived its own past. How did 1930s sensibilities, from John Betjeman to Cecil Beaton, engage with Georgian and Victorian architecture? What of the interwar flirtation with the Baroque, spoken for by Sacheverell Sitwell, or the period’s notions of Neolithic Britain ...

Root Books

Julie Davidson

7 November 1985
Henry Root’s A-Z of Women 
by William Donaldson.
Weidenfeld, 180 pp., £7.95, July 1985, 0 297 78593 1
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... definitions (‘Womanisers: They dislike women, of course, and at bottom are afraid of them’) were interrupted from time to time by some quite straightforward piece of information, as in Woolf, Virginia (1882-1941): ‘One of the foremost experimenters with the technique and form of the novel. She was a leading member of the Bloomsbury Group among whom many new artistic ideas were ...

You better not tell me you forgot

Terry Castle: How to Spot Members of the Tribe

27 September 2012
All We Know: Three Lives 
by Lisa Cohen.
Farrar Straus, 429 pp., £22.50, July 2012, 978 0 374 17649 5
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... and valuable of the tasks this marvellous work of gay and lesbian history accomplishes. ‘In one of her essays on biography, “Lives of the Obscure”,’ Cohen notes in the preface, Virginia Woolf writes that ‘one likes romantically to feel oneself a deliverer advancing with lights across the waste of years to the rescue of some stranded ghost … waiting, appealing, forgotten, in the ...

Much of a Scramble

Francesca Wade: Ray Strachey

13 January 2020
A Working Woman: The Remarkable Life of Ray Strachey 
by Jennifer Holmes.
Troubador, 392 pp., £20, February 2019, 978 1 78901 654 3
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... between aunts, family friends and boarding schools. (Julia herself recalled feeling ‘deserted and betrayed’ by her parents and her stepmother.) Soon after she met Oliver, Ray told Virginia Woolf that she could ‘quite imagine falling in love with him’. After a month, she proposed to him on a walk ‘between the sewage station and the lunatic asylum at Littlemore’ in Oxford.Alys Russell ...
18 April 1996
Foreign Country: The Life of L.P. Hartley 
by Adrian Wright.
Deutsch, 304 pp., £17.99, March 1996, 0 233 98976 5
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... a foreign country but the nature of such novels before the present time. Allied with this misunderstanding goes another more personal one about Hartley’s great, perhaps greatest, friend, Lord David Cecil. In keeping with his views on what fiction ought to be, Wright insists that this warm, heartfelt but altogether jokey relationship was the tragedy of Hartley’s own life, leaving him with a legacy ...

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