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Charles Osborne: Arts Council Subsidies, 7 June 1984

... A few weeks ago, in New York, I accompanied a friend on a shopping expedition. While we were in a novelty gift shop on Columbus Avenue, she bought me a rubber stamp which she said I’d find useful when I got back to my Arts Council office in London. I know what she means, though, in fact, I’ve found myself using it, not on office memos (strong at times though the temptation has been), but on press clippings relating to the Arts Council ...

Taking sides

Karl Miller, 17 April 1980

W.H. Auden: The Life of a Poet 
by Charles Osborne.
Eyre Methuen, 336 pp., £7.95, March 1980, 0 413 39670 3
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... In 1960, Auden completed his third decade as a poet with the volume Homage to Clio. By then, Charles Osborne writes, he was ‘widely regarded as among the few really great poets of the century’. No slur on the century seems intended here: part of what we mean by talking of great poets is that there are never very many of them about ...

Verdi’s Views

John Rosselli, 29 October 1987

Verdi: A Life in the Theatre 
by Charles Osborne.
Weidenfeld, 360 pp., £18, June 1987, 0 297 79117 6
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... a good deal about the progress of his work and his passing moods. All this makes it possible for Charles Osborne to organise his new biography round generous quotations from the letters (some of which he has previously translated and published in a separate volume). It makes a readable narrative, packed with information. The chief drawback is the lack ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1990, 24 January 1991

... of State and not to have to write plays – just make history. And no Czechoslovak equivalent of Charles Osborne snapping at your ankles complaining that the history you’re making falls between every possible stool, or some Prague Steven Berkoff snarling that it’s not the kind of history that’s worth making anyway. I wonder whether Havel has lots ...


Frank Kermode: What Went On at the Arts Council, 4 December 1986

... The failure of the Council’s literature policies cannot be attributed to popular opinion. Since Charles Osborne was for a long time the director of the Literature Department, we might expect to find the true explanation of its demise in his memoirs, the first fruits of his leisure in early retirement.† There is an odd devil in Mr ...

Big Fish

Frank Kermode, 9 September 1993

Tell Them I’m on my Way 
by Arnold Goodman.
Chapmans, 464 pp., £20, August 1993, 1 85592 636 9
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Not an Englishman: Conversations with Lord Goodman 
by David Selbourne.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 237 pp., £17.99, August 1993, 1 85619 365 9
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... retirement dinner, though of course on such occasions one is not on oath. White’s successor was Charles Osborne, whose sins as assistant director Goodman here attributes to the influence of White, though I very much doubt if Osborne, who has always known how to look after himself, would agree. The unsuccessful ...


J.I.M. Stewart, 5 May 1983

A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie 
by Robert Barnard.
Collins, 203 pp., £7.95, April 1980, 0 00 216190 7
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The Agatha Christie Hour 
by Agatha Christie.
Collins, 190 pp., £6.50, September 1982, 0 00 231331 6
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The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes 
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Allen Lane, 1122 pp., £7.95, August 1981, 0 7139 1444 0
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The Quest for Sherlock Holmes 
by Owen Dudley Edwards.
Mainstream, 380 pp., £12.50, November 1982, 0 906391 15 6
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The Unknown Conan Doyle: Essays on Photography 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 128 pp., £8.50, November 1982, 0 436 13302 4
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The Unknown Conan Doyle: Uncollected Stories 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 456 pp., £8.95, November 1982, 0 436 13301 6
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The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie 
by Charles Osborne.
Collins, 256 pp., £9.95, September 1982, 0 00 216462 0
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... Gerard still make lively reading, but elsewhere there is little that wears particularly well. Charles Osborne’s labours on behalf of Agatha Christie are almost as exhaustive as Mr Edwards’s on behalf of Conan Doyle. Again there is a striking title. There is an even more striking dust-cover: this one a splendidly mysterious multi-coloured creation ...

I am a cactus

John Sutherland: Christopher Isherwood and his boys, 3 June 2004

by Peter Parker.
Picador, 914 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 330 48699 3
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... adolescent quality in our relationship alive’. In his biography of the recently deceased Auden, Charles Osborne claimed that while at Oxford he had slept with Spender, at a period when the younger man was still a ‘verger’ – gang-speak for ‘virgin’. The allegation was indignantly denied. Nor was there any suggestion of a sexual relationship ...

Downsize, Your Majesty

David Cannadine, 16 October 1997

The Royals 
by Kitty Kelley.
Warner, 547 pp., $27, September 1997, 0 446 51712 7
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... in Zoffany’s delightful conversation pieces. Think of Victoria and Albert, happily ensconced at Osborne, all Gemütlichkeit and Christmas trees, with Landseer and Winterhalter conveniently to hand to paint them. Think of George V and Queen Mary, an inseparable couple, who did so much to uphold decent family values in the rackety era of the Bright Young ...

Heir to Blair

Christopher Tayler: Among the New Tories, 26 April 2007

... they are helping us define ourselves on the centre ground of British politics,’ George Osborne, Cameron’s right-hand man and shadow chancellor, told the Times in September, ‘then thank you very much, Tony Blair.’ And, to borrow the Blair model, Cameron is still at the Bambi stage of development; his cardinal attributes are yet to be agreed ...

Horrid Mutilation! Read all about it!

Richard Davenport-Hines: Jack the Ripper and the London Press by Perry Curtis, 4 April 2002

Jack the Ripper and the London Press 
by Perry Curtis.
Yale, 354 pp., £25, February 2002, 0 300 08872 8
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... in the extreme. Nearly all the jurors were afflicted with vomiting or fainting. The inquest on Charles Bravo in 1876 lasted a month and provided his parents’ solicitor, George Lewis, with the national celebrity which made him the upper classes’ favourite, and most expensive, legal confidant. In 1865, Sir James Willes wept as he sentenced Constance Kent ...

Coalition Monsters

Colin Kidd, 6 March 2014

In It Together: The Inside Story of the Coalition Government 
by Matthew D’Ancona.
Penguin, 414 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 670 91993 2
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... the Rockinghamites (nominally headed by the Marquess of Rockingham, but whose effective leader was Charles James Fox) and the followers of Lord Shelburne. This ministry was riddled with dispute, and on Rockingham’s death in the summer of 1782 the Foxites abandoned Shelburne’s new government, which itself imploded in the spring of 1783. As in 2010, when the ...

The Last Intellectual

Rosemary Hill: The Queen Mother’s Letters, 6 December 2012

Counting One’s Blessings: The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother 
edited by William Shawcross.
Macmillan, 666 pp., £25, October 2012, 978 0 230 75496 6
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... believing that jobs should go to men and writing airily to her old friend D’Arcy Osborne that ‘women can be idle quite happily – they can spend hours trying their hair in new ways & making last year’s black coat into this year’s jumper.’ Osborne, no sycophant, wrote back drily that he thought it ...

In Russell Square

Peter Campbell: Exploring Bloomsbury, 30 November 2006

... as Thackeray imagined it when, in Vanity Fair, he set the early prosperity of the Sedley and Osborne families there, and later made it the scene of the sale that followed John Sedley’s bankruptcy, the sale at which Becky Sharp was outbid by Captain Dobbin for Amelia’s little square piano. (Building began in 1800, so Becky Sharp saw the square when it ...

You Know Who You Are

Colin Kidd: About Last Year, 25 January 2018

Fall Out: A Year Of Political Mayhem 
by Tim Shipman.
William Collins, 559 pp., £25, November 2017, 978 0 00 826438 3
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... offered opportunities galore for score-settling with enemies, whether big beasts, like George Osborne and the chancellor, Philip Hammond, or smaller fry in the office, like Katie Perrior, May’s official director of communications, who had dared to direct communications, an area of activity that fell squarely within Hill’s bailiwick. The book is ...

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