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Utterly Oyster

Andrew O’Hagan: Fergie-alike, 12 August 2021

The Bench 
by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, illustrated by Christian Robinson.
Puffin, 40 pp., £12.99, May, 978 0 241 54221 7
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Her Heart for a Compass 
by Sarah, Duchess of York.
Mills & Boon, 549 pp., £14.99, August, 978 0 00 838360 2
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... As we wait​ with bated breath for Prince Harry’s memoirs, we might take a moment to consider the royal adverbs. In the days of Lilibet I, the favourites were, in no particular order, ‘jollily’, ‘spiffingly’, ‘thrillingly’ and ‘boringly’. It’s not yet clear how involved Lilibet II will be in palace matters but, under the influence of her mother and her yoga instructor, the preferred adverbs are likely to be ‘honestly’, ‘amazingly’, ‘insanely’ and ‘unbelievably ...

Pound and the Perfect Lady

Donald Davie, 19 September 1985

Pound’s Artists: Ezra Pound and the Visual Arts in London, Paris and Italy 
by Richard Humphreys.
Tate Gallery, 176 pp., £12.95, June 1985, 0 946590 28 1
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Ezra Pound and Dorothy Shakespear: Their Letters 1909-1914 
edited by Omar Pound and A. Walton Litz.
Faber, 399 pp., £25, January 1985, 0 571 13480 7
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... Carpenter, predictably, finds the three essayists – Richard Humphreys, John Alexander and Peter Robinson – ‘taking a rather solemn approach to the whole thing’; whereas, he assures us, Pound’s exertions on behalf of these arts partook ‘more than a little of the amiable joke’. Before it is through, Pound’s centenary year will bring on ...

Diary

Anne Enright: Mrs Robinson Repents, 28 January 2010

... Iris Robinson is, at the time of writing, under acute psychiatric care in a Belfast hospital, after a BBC Northern Ireland documentary revealed that she had, at the age of 59, solicited £50,000 from two property developers to help fund a business run by her 19-year-old lover, Kirk McCambley. She has some experience of the mental health profession ...

Necessary Bishop

John Robinson, 3 July 1980

Ahead of his Age: Bishop Barnes of Birmingham 
by John Barnes.
Collins, 487 pp., £12.95, November 1979, 0 00 216087 0
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... as primitive (as I believe on other grounds it is) because it ‘appeals especially to the modern Christian humanist’ in that it contains no miracles (since it is a manual of early church discipline, that is hardly surprising). And his methods of excising from all the Gospel accounts and from 1 Corinthians the, to him, offending identification by Jesus at ...

Ultimate Place

Seamus Deane, 16 March 1989

Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage 
by Tim Robinson.
Viking, 298 pp., £12.95, February 1989, 0 670 82485 2
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... folklore, flora and fauna, is the book’s subject, it is oddly elusive. Despite the fact that Tim Robinson’s account is the story of a pilgrimage, exhaustively detailed and loyal to every intimation, there is no ultimate moment or place of devotion. The quest is an end in itself, and it is not perhaps a quest for Aran but a quest to which Aran gives shape ...

Secret Purposes

P.N. Furbank, 19 September 1985

Defoe and the Idea of Fiction: 1713-1719 
by Geoffrey Sill.
Associated University Presses, 190 pp., £16.95, April 1984, 0 87413 227 4
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The Elusive Daniel Defoe 
by Laura Curtis.
Vision, 216 pp., £15.95, January 1984, 0 85478 435 7
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Dofoe’s Fiction 
by Ian Bell.
Croom Helm, 201 pp., £17.95, March 1985, 0 7099 3294 4
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Realism, Myth and History in Defoe’s Fiction 
by Maximillian Novak.
Nebraska, 181 pp., £21.55, July 1983, 0 8032 3307 8
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... We owe a large debt to the famous chapter on Robinson Crusoe in Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel. Watt really made us use our wits about that novel and forced us to relate it to our most serious interests. Reread after twenty years, moreover, the chapter still has all of its intellectual impact and verve. The trouble is, I now find myself wanting to quarrel with almost every sentence in it ...

Ink Blots, Pin Holes

Caroline Gonda: ‘Frankenstein’, 28 January 2010

The Original ‘Frankenstein’ 
by Mary Shelley, with Percy Shelley, edited by Charles Robinson.
Bodleian Library, 448 pp., £14.99, October 2009, 978 1 85124 396 9
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... for an unwieldy and dangerous entity created from ill-assorted bits and pieces. As Charles Robinson notes in his new edition of the novel, such confusion set in soon after the book’s first publication in 1818. In October 1823, at a masked ball in Liverpool, a local newspaper reported: ‘Mr Harris, of Preston, personated (we are ...

What’s wrong with that man?

Christian Lorentzen: Donald Antrim, 20 November 2014

The Emerald Light in the Air: Stories 
by Donald Antrim.
Granta, 158 pp., £12.99, November 2014, 978 1 84708 649 5
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... Either way it put me in mind of a passage early in Donald Antrim’s first novel, Elect Mr Robinson for a Better World: I keep seeing Jim’s face, lit red by tail lights, in the long moments before the lines snapped taut, while Bill Nixon tried and retried to start his fume-spewing, out-of-tune Celica. It was all so profoundly uncomfortable; there ...

Putting Religion in Its Place

Colm Tóibín: Marilynne Robinson, 23 October 2014

Lila 
by Marilynne Robinson.
Virago, 261 pp., £16.99, October 2014, 978 1 84408 880 5
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... for their art in Eliot declaring ‘I am an Anglo-Catholic in religion’ and Marilynne Robinson ‘I am a mainline Protestant, a.k.a. a liberal Protestant’? In When I Was a Child I Read Books, her most recent collection of essays, Robinson wrote: ‘Relevance was precisely not an issue for me. I looked to ...

The Case for Geoffrey Hill

Tom Paulin, 4 April 1985

Geoffrey Hill: Essays on his Work 
edited by Peter Robinson.
Open University, 259 pp., £18, March 1985, 0 335 10588 2
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... that fable in his second volume inevitably attaches a disabling reminder of the Dunciad to Peter Robinson and his assembled chorus of scholars. There is something cosy and desperate in their yawping enterprise. It could be that Ricks, in his essay ‘Tenebrae and At-One-Ment’, is deliberately baiting ‘the current scientism and theoreticity’, but his ...

Rongorongo

John Sturrock: The Rosetta Stone, 19 September 2002

Keys of Egypt 
by Lesley Atkins and Roy Atkins.
HarperCollins, 335 pp., £7.99, September 2001, 0 00 653145 8
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The Rosetta Stone: The Story of the Decoding of Hieroglyphics 
by Robert Solé and Dominique Valbelle, translated by Steven Rendall.
Profile, 184 pp., £7.99, August 2002, 1 86197 344 6
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Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World’s Undeciphered Scripts 
by Andrew Robinson.
McGraw Hill, 352 pp., £25.99, June 2002, 0 07 135743 2
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The Man who Deciphered Linear B: The Story of Michael Ventris 
by Andrew Robinson.
Thames and Hudson, 168 pp., £12.95, April 2002, 0 500 51077 6
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... do better to read the summary expertly given in The Rosetta Stone, or, best of all, in Andrew Robinson’s lucid and well illustrated chapter on hieroglyphics in Lost Languages (whose many line drawings are at once valuable and deceptive, since they make the signs displayed look a great deal easier to identify than they are in the worn and weathered ...

Sappho speaks

Mary Beard, 11 October 1990

The Woman and the Lyre: Women Writers in Classical Greece and Rome 
by Jane McIntosh Snyder.
Bristol Classical Press, 199 pp., £25, May 1989, 1 85399 062 0
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The Constraints of Desire: The Anthropology of Sex and Gender in Ancient Greece 
by J.J. Winkler.
Routledge, 240 pp., £30, February 1990, 0 415 90122 7
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Greek Virginity 
by Giulia Sissa, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Harvard, 240 pp., $29.95, March 1990, 0 674 36320 5
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... of vocal harmony, imaginative portrayal, and arrangement of the details of thought.’ For David Robinson, writing in the Twenties and reprinted in the Sixties, the ‘perfection’ of Sappho’s verse was clear enough proof of her unblemished character. He was perhaps unusual in his unshakable confidence that (at least in the case of female writers) fine ...

Uncertainties of the Poet

Nicolas Tredell, 25 June 1992

Kid 
by Simon Armitage.
Faber, 89 pp., £4.99, June 1992, 0 571 16607 5
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Feast Days 
by John Burnside.
Secker, 52 pp., £6, April 1992, 0 436 20103 8
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An African Elegy 
by Ben Okri.
Cape, 84 pp., £4.99, March 1992, 9780224030069
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Memorabilia 
by Colin Falck.
Taxus, 77 pp., £5.95, March 1992, 1 873012 23 3
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Serious Concerns 
by Wendy Cope.
Faber, 87 pp., £12.99, March 1992, 9780571166589
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... rhyme convey the frailty of the victim, the desolate sense of waste. A recurrent persona in Kid is Robinson, partly an alter ego of the poet: ‘we went back years, me and that man Robinson, / the illiterate son of a Maltese policeman.’ He is a seedy, odoriferous, mean fellow, a Sweeney without the massive hams, the brute ...

David Nokes on the duality of Defoe

David Nokes, 19 April 1990

Daniel Defoe: His Life 
by Paula Backscheider.
Johns Hopkins, 671 pp., £20.50, November 1989, 0 8018 3785 5
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... in in this book than the term ‘irenic’. She is less interested in Machiavellian deceit than in Christian principles, and devotes less space to the elucidation of Defoe’s fictional strategies than to the assertion of his homiletic strengths. Thus she considers The Family Instructor as one of Defoe’s ‘best works’, a volume of practical divinity whose ...

Snakes and Leeches

Rosemary Hill: The Great Stink, 4 January 2018

One Hot Summer: Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli and the Great Stink of 1858 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Yale, 352 pp., £25, July 2017, 978 0 300 22726 0
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... the press and kept the specialist scandal sheets in business. One of the most entertaining was Robinson v. Robinson and Lane. Henry Robinson had read his wife Isabella’s diary and found that not only did she dislike him intensely but she had recorded in considerable detail a ...

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