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Menagerie of Live Authors

Francesca Wade: Marys Shelley and Wollstonecraft

7 October 2015
Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley 
by Charlotte Gordon.
Hutchinson, 649 pp., £25, April 2015, 978 0 09 195894 7
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... was suggested at school that he needed to learn to think for himself, Mary Shelley said: ‘Oh God, teach him to think like other people!’ Percy Florence was unusual in a uniformly cerebral family. CharlotteGordon’s premise for writing a dual biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley is that while their lives overlapped only for ten days, they shared a spirit. Wollstonecraft’s work – ...

Her pen made the first move

Ruth Bernard Yeazell

7 July 1994
Charlotte​ Brontë: A Passionate Life 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Chatto, 418 pp., £17.99, March 1994, 9780701161378
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Shared Lives 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Vintage, 285 pp., £6.99, March 1994, 0 09 942461 4
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The Sickroom in Victorian Fiction: The Art of Being Ill 
by Miriam Bailin.
Cambridge, 169 pp., £30, April 1994, 0 521 44526 4
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... When Charlotte Brontë was not yet 21, she submitted a sample of her work to the reigning poet laureate, Robert Southey, together with a letter in which she apparently confided her ambition ‘to be for ever known ...

If It Weren’t for Charlotte

Alice Spawls: The Brontës

16 November 2017
... A wood engraving​ by the illustrator Joan Hassall, who died in 1988, shows Elizabeth Gaskell arriving at the Brontë parsonage. Patrick Brontë is taking Gaskell’s hand; Charlotte stands between them, arms open in a gesture of introduction. We – the spectators, whose gaze Charlotte seems to acknowledge (or is she looking at her father apprehensively?) – stand in the ...

Lotti’s Leap

Penelope Fitzgerald

1 July 1982
Collected Poems and Prose 
by Charlotte​ Mew, edited by Val Warner.
Carcanet/Virago, 445 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 85635 260 8
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... During her lifetime Charlotte Mew was either greatly liked or greatly disliked, and now, more than fifty years after her death, those who are interested in her are very much interested. There are at least two collections of her ...

The Death of a Poet

Penelope Fitzgerald: Charlotte​ Mew

23 May 2002
... of a Poet’ in 1980 or 1981, intending it to form part of a group portrait of the writers published by Harold Monro’s Poetry Bookshop in Bloomsbury. In the event, however, she wrote a biography of Charlotte Mew, Charlotte Mew and Her Friends, which was published, and reviewed in the LRB in 1984 – and will be reissued this summer. In 1927 Charlotte Mew was 58 and living with her sister Anne, a ...
7 October 1993
Maximilian and Juárez 
by Jasper Ridley.
Constable, 353 pp., £16.95, March 1993, 0 09 472070 3
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Maximilian’s Lieutenant: A Personal History of the Mexican Campaign, 1864-7 
by Ernst Pitner, translated and edited by Gordon​ Etherington-Smith.
Tauris, 256 pp., £35, October 1993, 9781850435600
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... it, a royal couple more suitable for export could scarcely be imagined. Maximilian was a scion of the most illustrious of royal houses, used to governing an unlikely combination of polyglot subjects. Charlotte was the beautiful and ambitious daughter of the most successful off-the-peg monarch, Leopold I of the Belgians, who had shown since 1831 how ersatz German royalty could offer a new and shaky state ...


Zachary Leader: Oscar Talk at the Huntington

16 April 1998
... of Shakespeare’s works in the world, including four first Folios, and important holograph manuscripts by Swift, Pope, Gray, Fielding, Johnson, Goldsmith, Garrick, Blake, Burns, Shelley, Lamb, Charlotte Brontë and Dickens. Amis is hardly the only 20th-century writer represented here: the Library has significant Modernist holdings (Joyce, Yeats, Wallace Stevens – none of whom Amis had much time ...

At Portobello

Susannah Clapp

4 April 1985
Scotch Verdict 
by Lillian Faderman.
Quartet, 320 pp., £12.95, February 1985, 0 7043 2505 5
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... noise – a noise that was ‘like putting one’s finger into the neck of a wet bottle’. Jane Cumming was giving evidence in the libel suit brought against her grandmother, Dame Helen Cumming Gordon, by the two schoolmistresses. Marianne Woods and Jane Pirie claimed that, acting on the word of her granddaughter, Dame Helen had brought about the ruin of their school and their reputations: she had ...

Out of Sight, out of Mind

Frank Kermode: A.J. Ayer’s Winning Ways

15 July 1999
A.J. Ayer: A Life 
by Ben Rogers.
Chatto, 402 pp., £20, June 1999, 9780701163167
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... a fine teacher this proved a better idea than might ordinarily be thought. He had a department of varied talents and no orthodoxy except an un-Oxfordian devotion to Russell. The department, housed in Gordon Square, became famous, not least because of the Professor’s furious lifestyle. London offered everything: in Gordon Square a stream of celebrated visiting speakers and perpetual high-level ...

Progress Past

Paul Langford

8 November 1990
The Idea of Progress in 18th-Century Britain 
by David Spadafora.
Yale, 464 pp., £22.50, July 1990, 0 300 04671 5
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George III and the Satirists from Hogarth to Byron 
by Vincent Carretta.
Georgia, 389 pp., £38.50, June 1990, 0 8203 1146 4
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... But his five Englishmen (who actually include two Welshmen) are not all equally famous. Richard Price, Joseph Priestley, and perhaps Edmund Law, need no introduction. But William Worthington and John Gordon have not previously been placed in the august company of the Humes and Priestleys. Worthington figures briefly in the DNB and Williams’s Eminent Welshmen, but is not a household name even among ...
31 August 1989
Carrington: A Life of Dora Carrington 1893-1932 
by Gretchen Gerzina.
Murray, 342 pp., £18.95, June 1989, 0 7195 4688 5
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Lydia and Maynard: Letters between Lydia Lopokova and John Maynard Keynes 
edited by Polly Hill and Richard Keynes.
Deutsch, 367 pp., £17.95, September 1989, 0 233 98283 3
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Mazo de la Roche: The Hidden Life 
by Joan Givner.
Oxford, 273 pp., £18, July 1989, 0 19 540705 9
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Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby: A Working Partnership 
by Jean Kennard.
University Press of New England, 224 pp., £24, July 1989, 0 87451 474 6
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Dangerous by Degrees: Women at Oxford and the Somerville College Novelists 
by Susan Leonardi.
Rutgers, 254 pp., $33, May 1989, 0 8135 1366 9
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The Selected Letters of Somerville and Ross 
edited by Gifford Lewis.
Faber, 308 pp., £14.99, July 1989, 0 571 15348 8
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... Massine, and was only 30, her great days were over. In spite of innumerable friends, she was adrift. Maynard was working very hard, travelling between London and Geneva; he had installed her at 50 Gordon Square, where Vanessa Bell was also living, terribly disturbed by Lydia’s entrechats upstairs. For Lydia the necessary thing was to hold on to Maynard, who was prepared to take responsibility for ...
7 February 1991
Jean Stafford: The Savage Heart 
by Charlotte​ Margolis Goodman.
Texas, 394 pp., $24.95, May 1990, 0 292 74022 0
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Jean Stafford: A Biography 
by David Roberts.
Chatto, 494 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7011 3010 5
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... scenes are sensational, wallowing in squalor and foolishness; its dominant images are physical and deflating; its shrill theme is “failed promise”, if not outright “tragedy”.’ In contrast, Charlotte Margolis Goodman’s Jean Stafford: The Savage Heart is a respectful literary biography written from a feminist perspective, which draws extensively on Stafford’s unpublished novels and stories in ...

Devolution Doom

Christopher Harvie: Scotland’s crisis, and some solutions

5 September 2002
... Thins has gone bust, leaving Scottish bookselling to Anglo-America. Over-expansion has left huge dents in the valuations of Scottish Power and Stagecoach. The once-booming finance sector, centred on Charlotte Square in Edinburgh, now boils down to the Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life, the latter now landed with the pensions crisis. The prospect of a decent rail system is retreating to the 2020s ...

One Thing

John Bayley

22 November 1990
Jean Rhys 
by Carole Angier.
Deutsch, 780 pp., £15.99, November 1990, 0 233 98597 2
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A Lot to Ask: A Life of Barbara Pym 
by Hazel Holt.
Macmillan, 308 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 333 40614 1
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... one of her male characters ‘marvels at the sharpness of even the nicest women’), and she is unquestionably the more sophisticated narrator, just as Jane Austen has a cooler head for fiction than Charlotte Brontë. One can read a Pym again and again, like playing patience or stitching grospoint, but I doubt if even her warmest admirers would want to revisit the Rhys haunts more than once or twice. In ...
6 December 1990
Listening for a Midnight Tram: Memoirs 
by John Junor.
Chapmans, 341 pp., £15.95, October 1990, 9781855925014
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... matters, with Mrs Thatcher. For the key Thatcher lunch, we leave Boulestin’s and move to the White Tower. Junor is tickled pink, as who wouldn’t be, that the Prime Minister is prepared to come to Charlotte Street to eat with him alone in June 1981. This wasn’t their first meeting, but it reassures Sir John – knighted at her instance a year before – on the point that really matters. There are ...

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