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Man in Space

Charles Boyle, 10 January 1991

... No, I said, the title wasn’t sexist, I was thinking about the Russian cosmonauts who were stuck in orbit, and how they hooked up a British princess and an interpreter and got them to make polite conversation. Then there was Daniel, who wanted a child but whose girlfriend didn’t. After five years of precautions he began sleeping with another woman ...

Two Poems

Charles Boyle, 20 April 1995

... The Expert An old girlfriend appears on TV answering questions about the homeless. Yes, the new government initiative is welcome as far as it goes. No, it doesn’t even attempt to tackle the root of the problem. Phones are ringing behind her, colleagues are bent over keyboards ... I want to ask how much she earns, whether she still leaves the cap off the toothpaste and if she has children, what are their names? Just before we go off the air she gives me that patient look – as if a grasp of the basic issues will for ever elude me, as if I think I can make a difference by giving money to beggars in the street or offering them a bed for the night ...

Four Poems

Charles Boyle, 23 November 1989

... The Wren All that day, beginning hot, they'd set out to find Cocteau's grave, he couldn't help seeing the tiny bruise on her throat where her necklace, she said, had got caught. The weather broke, the grave turned out to be Braque's, her shoes were a size too small ... Home and dry, she peeled off her socks and showed him the rubbed-red patch, about the size of a farthing, where a blister had formed, and expired ...

Travellers

John Kerrigan, 13 October 1988

Archaic Figure 
by Amy Clampitt.
Faber, 113 pp., £4.95, February 1988, 0 571 15043 8
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Tourists 
by Grevel Lindop.
Carcanet, 95 pp., £6.95, July 1987, 0 85635 697 2
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Sleeping rough 
by Charles Boyle.
Carcanet, 64 pp., £5.95, November 1987, 0 85635 731 6
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This Other Life 
by Peter Robinson.
Carcanet, 96 pp., £5.95, April 1988, 0 85635 737 5
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In the Hot-House 
by Alan Jenkins.
Chatto, 60 pp., £4.95, May 1988, 0 7011 3312 0
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Monterey Cypress 
by Lachlan Mackinnon.
Chatto, 62 pp., £4.95, May 1988, 0 7011 3264 7
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My Darling Camel 
by Selima Hill.
Chatto, 64 pp., £4.95, May 1988, 0 7011 3286 8
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The Air Mines of Mistila 
by Philip Gross and Sylvia Kantaris.
Bloodaxe, 80 pp., £4.95, June 1988, 1 85224 055 5
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X/Self 
by Edward Kamau Brathwaite.
Oxford, 131 pp., £6.95, April 1988, 0 19 281987 9
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The Arkansas Testament 
by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 117 pp., £3.95, March 1988, 9780571149094
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... in every language, Therefore unreal, out beyond a gap No one can cross, figures inside a mirror. Charles Boyle – a stouter Carcanet poet – would sooner lose his touring bike, his rucksack, all his travellers cheques, than admit such diminution. Ranging between London and North Africa, Israel and somewhere (close to Jamestown?) called Merriland, his ...

Quite a Gentleman

Robert Irwin: The invariably savage Tamerlane, 19 May 2005

Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World 
by Justin Marozzi.
HarperCollins, 449 pp., £25, August 2004, 9780007116119
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... of the sanguinary career of Tamerlane for the Time-Life History of the World. After my editor, Charles Boyle, had read the first draft, he went home and dreamed a strange dream in which ‘Old Hoppity’ turned up at Time-Life’s London offices. The dream, in time, metamorphosed into a poem, which he included in his collection The Very Man (1993). It ...

Jihad

James Wood, 5 August 1993

TheNew Poetry 
edited by Michael Hulse, David Kennedy and David Morley.
Bloodaxe, 352 pp., £25, May 1993, 1 85224 244 2
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Who Whispered Near Me 
by Killarney Clary.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £5.95, February 1993, 1 85224 149 7
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Sunset Grill 
by Anne Rouse.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £5.95, March 1993, 1 85224 219 1
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Half Moon Bay 
by Paul Mills.
Carcanet, 95 pp., £6.95, February 1993, 9781857540000
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Shoah 
by Harry Smart.
Faber, 74 pp., £5.99, April 1993, 0 571 16793 4
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The Autonomous Region 
by Kathleen Jamie.
Bloodaxe, 79 pp., £7.95, March 1993, 9781852241735
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Collected Poems 
by F.T. Prince.
Carcanet, 319 pp., £25, March 1993, 1 85754 030 1
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Stirring Stuff 
by Selwyn Pritchard.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 145 pp., £8.99, April 1993, 9781856193085
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News from the Brighton Front 
by Nicki Jackowska.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 86 pp., £7.99, April 1993, 1 85619 306 3
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Translations from the Natural World 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 67 pp., £6.95, March 1993, 1 85754 005 0
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... or bad, clever or stupid? Stendhal asks himself in the summer of 1832 is the opening of a poem by Charles Boyle. Wet from the shower    towelling your breasts you ask me if I’ve read    Motley’s Rise of the Dutch Republic goes Michael Hulse’s poem ‘Fornicating and Reading the Papers’. Meanwhile, Didsbury has ‘The sky is like an entry ...

You have to be educated to be educated

Adam Phillips, 3 April 1997

The Scientific Revolution 
by Steven Shapin.
Chicago, 218 pp., £15.95, December 1996, 0 226 75020 5
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... Applying these thoughts to the Early Modern period – and particularly to the study of Robert Boyle – Shapin showed that science in this period, and by implication not only then, was effectively a gentleman’s agreement: that so-called objective criteria had more to do with etiquette than Truth; that Truth or what counted as truth was akin to what ...

Hellmouth

Michael André Bernstein: Norman Rush, 22 January 2004

Mortals 
by Norman Rush.
Cape, 715 pp., £18.99, July 2003, 0 224 03709 9
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... often rather heavy-handedly – in nearly all the early chapters. But Ray is no helpless Charles Bovary. He is by temperament suspicious and by training a professional spy, and he starts to use all the resources of his position to shadow Morel – against the explicit orders of his superior, who wants him to concentrate on Kerekang’s grass-roots ...

Making strange

John Sutherland, 19 March 1981

Other people 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 223 pp., £5.95, March 1981, 0 224 01766 7
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The Magic Glass 
by Anne Smith.
Joseph, 174 pp., £6.50, March 1981, 9780718119867
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The Book of Ebenezer Le Page 
by Gerald Edwards.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £7.50, March 1981, 0 241 10477 7
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Sharpe’s Eagle 
by Bernard Cornwell.
Collins, 266 pp., £6.50, February 1981, 0 00 221997 2
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XPD 
by Len Deighton.
Hutchinson, 397 pp., £6.95, March 1981, 0 09 144570 1
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... why Lowland Scots, as different in pedigree as David Daiches, the film-maker Bill Douglas, Jimmy Boyle and Anne Smith, should be so determined to rake over and publicly display their childhoods (all more or less deprived childhoods, though in Daiches’ case less so from poverty than from an austerely Judaist upbringing). To take a topical example: what ...

Rough Trade

Steven Shapin: Robert Hooke, 6 March 2003

The Man Who Knew Too Much: The Strange and Inventive Life of Robert Hooke 1635-1703 
by Stephen Inwood.
Macmillan, 497 pp., £18.99, September 2002, 0 333 78286 0
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... watch, monitoring their performance over weeks and months in the royal closet at Whitehall. Charles II had time for repeated discussions with this physically ill-favoured, socially maladroit and reputedly malodorous mechanic because he understood very well what such an invention was worth, and, accordingly, what mechanics who could deliver such goods ...

Reason, Love and Life

Christopher Hill, 20 November 1980

The Letters of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester 
edited by Jeremy Treglown.
Blackwell, 275 pp., £21, September 1980, 9780631128311
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... English poets. Sexually ambivalent, a notorious member of the gang of young roués at the court of Charles II, he nevertheless managed to write a few poignant and haunting poems which suggest that his public notoriety concealed a sensibility reacting to the intellectual crisis of the later 17th century. All my past life is mine no more;   The Flying hours ...

Our Boys

John Bayley, 28 November 1996

Emily Tennyson 
by Ann Thwaite.
Faber, 716 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 571 96554 7
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... natural capacity for exuberant togetherness. What about Hallam’s eventual wife, Audrey Boyle? Well-known to them as she was, must she not have found it a strain to be swallowed whole by the Tennyson establishment, an extra daughter in the house, who happened to be married to the eldest son and heir? Not a bit: it seems to have come as quite a ...

No High Heels in Paradise

Keith Thomas: John Evelyn’s Elysium Britannicum, 19 July 2001

Elysium Britannicum, or the Royal Gardens 
by John Evelyn, edited by John Ingram.
Pennsylvania, 492 pp., £49, December 2000, 0 8122 3536 3
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... Flora (1665) Evelyn also pillaged, is not distinguished from John Ray, the great botanist. Robert Boyle appears as ‘Mr Royle’ and is solemnly indexed as such. The editor has no great pretensions to be either a classical scholar or an expert on English 17th-century history; and he deserves gratitude for his labours on a difficult text. It is a shame that ...

Diary

Gillian Darley: John Evelyn and his gardens, 8 June 2006

... to the latest plant introductions from overseas, even garden burials. He planned to present it to Charles II on his restoration, then on his coronation, then later. But only fragments were ever published, including Acetaria, a book about salad vegetables, advocating a ‘herby-diet’, the Food for Free of 1699. Evelyn’s problem with excess information was ...

I have written as I rode

Adam Smyth: ‘Brief Lives’, 7 October 2015

‘Brief Lives’ with ‘An Apparatus for the Lives of Our English Mathematical Writers’ 
by John Aubrey, edited by Kate Bennett.
Oxford, 1968 pp., £250, March 2015, 978 0 19 968953 8
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John Aubrey: My Own Life 
by Ruth Scurr.
Chatto, 518 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 0 7011 7907 6
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... the depleted printers ‘could gett no better’. Fascinated with Roman remains, Aubrey took Charles II to see Avebury in 1663 after discovering the stones while hunting with aristocratic friends; he commissioned drawings of the 12th-century Osney Abbey before it was demolished. Like all busy people, he worked all the time, and felt he wasn’t working ...

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