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Who Runs Britain?

Christopher Hitchens, 8 December 1994

The Enemy Within: MI5, Maxwell and the Scargill Affair 
by Seumas Milne.
Verso, 352 pp., £18.95, November 1994, 0 86091 461 5
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... in the bare-faced Special Branch framing of two of my journalist colleagues (Crispin Aubrey and Duncan Campbell – two of the then-celebrated ‘ABC’ defendants) and had written several editorials about torture in Ulster when Roy Mason was Callaghan’s minister for the Province and a Yorkshire area-sponsored NUM Member of Parliament. Forgive me this ...

Back to Life

Christopher Benfey: Rothko’s Moment, 21 May 2015

Mark Rothko: Towards the Light in the Chapel 
by Annie Cohen-Solal.
Yale, 296 pp., £18.99, February 2015, 978 0 300 18204 0
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... Surely, Rothko knew that what was wanted was something like the alluring paintings in the Duncan Phillips mansion in Georgetown, or the colourful mural that Josef Albers had designed to be placed above a stairway descending to Grand Central Station. Instead, Rothko set out to design austere murals in maroon and black that would resist a merely ...

Pound & Co.

August Kleinzahler: Davenport and Kenner, 26 September 2019

Questioning Minds: Vols I-II: The Letters of Guy Davenport and Hugh Kenner 
edited by Edward Burns.
Counterpoint, 1817 pp., $95, October 2018, 978 1 61902 181 5
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... Scholar, was spending the summer tramping around France and Italy with a recently made friend, Christopher Middleton. They had only two books with them, a collection of Donne’s poems and Pound’s Cantos. ‘Neither of us, I think, had much notion as to what the long poem was about,’ Davenport remembered, ‘except that it had strangeness and beauty in ...

Poisonous Frogs

Laura Quinney: Allusion v. Influence, 8 May 2003

Allusion to the Poets 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 345 pp., £20, August 2002, 0 19 925032 4
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... for Measure) into ‘Those hallowed and pure motions of the sense’. He softens ‘Duncan is in his grave’: Mathew is in his grave, yet now, Methinks, I see him stand, As at the moment, with a bough Of wilding in his hand. Ricks provides many examples of this ‘reversal from evil’. They draw out, strikingly, something fundamental about ...

Toss the monkey wrench

August Kleinzahler: Lee Harwood’s risky poems, 19 May 2005

Collected Poems 
by Lee Harwood.
Shearsman, 522 pp., £17.95, May 2004, 9780907562405
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... be their best and most enduring. Fulcrum also published two important early collections by Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg’s Ankor Wat and, most significantly, two volumes by Lorine Niedecker, North Central and My Life by Water, and George Oppen’s Collected Poetry. Of British poets, apart from Bunting, Montgomery published four collections by Roy ...

Be careful what you wish for

Stephen Sedley: Human Rights Acts, 30 August 2018

The Conservative Human Rights Revolution: European Identity, Transnational Politics and the Origins of the European Convention 
by Marco Duranti.
Oxford, 502 pp., £59, February 2017, 978 0 19 981138 0
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... integration’. The European Movement’s director of operations was Churchill’s son-in-law, Duncan Sandys. Its legal draftsman was Sir David Maxwell Fyfe QC, a right-wing libertarian with potent credentials as a principal prosecutor at Nuremberg. It was Maxwell Fyfe who told a Conservative Party rally in 1948 that just as Nazism had crept first ...

Grand Old Sod

Paul Driver: William Walton, 12 December 2002

The Selected Letters of William Walton 
edited by Malcolm Hayes.
Faber, 526 pp., £30, January 2002, 0 571 20105 9
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William Walton: Muse of Fire 
by Stephen Lloyd.
Boydell, 332 pp., £45, June 2001, 9780851158037
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William Walton, the Romantic Loner: A Centenary Portrait Album 
by Humphrey Burton and Maureen Murray.
Oxford, 182 pp., £25, January 2002, 0 19 816235 9
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... fleetingly evokes light-music classics by Anthony Collins (a notable conductor of Façade), Trevor Duncan or Ernest Tomlinson. In a sense (an uncharitable one) Walton is the greatest British composer of light music, transforming it at will but retaining its immediacy in a surprising variety of contexts. The popular-tune quality of Façade leads straight into ...

Speaking well

Christopher Ricks, 18 August 1983

Cyril Connolly: Journal and Memoir 
by David Pryce-Jones.
Collins, 304 pp., £12.50, July 1983, 0 333 32827 2
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J.B. Yeats: Letters to His Son W.B. Yeats and Others, 1869-1922 
edited with a memoir by Joseph Hone.
Secker, 296 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 436 59205 3
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... his despair.’ He can observe himself and all observers, as when thinking about Isadora Duncan on stage: ‘Several people said: Is it not like watching a kitten playing for itself? We watched her as if we were each of us hidden in an ambush.’ He can turn a sentence which is itself ‘as real as the toothache and as terrible and impressive as the ...

Scoop after Scoop

Ian Jack: Chapman Pincher’s Scoops, 5 June 2014

Dangerous to Know: A Life 
by Chapman Pincher.
Biteback, 386 pp., £20, February 2014, 978 1 84954 651 5
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... for meeting people of distinction,’ Pincher writes. The list is long: cabinet ministers such as Duncan Sandys and Julian Amery; industrialists in the arms business such as Arnold Weinstock of General Electric and the Clark brothers, who ran Plessey together with ‘two splendid shooting estates’; the old airplane maker Sir Thomas Sopwith, who owned a ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... in Britain: they engage with a post-Poundian poetic tradition (Charles Olson, Edward Dorn, Robert Duncan, George Oppen) of a kind that gives modern American poetry its variety and experimentalism. Gunn and Davie are included in both anthologies, but to read their collected poems (the next step after reading Davie’s superb ‘Time Passing, Beloved’ and ...

My Dagger into Yow

Ian Donaldson: Sidney’s Letters, 25 April 2013

The Correspondence of Sir Philip Sidney 
edited by Roger Kuin.
Oxford, 1381 pp., £250, July 2012, 978 0 19 955822 3
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... gaps in this plump epistolary corpus are letters to or from women, in whose company, as Katherine Duncan-Jones has convincingly argued, Sidney seems always to have been most happy, productive and at ease. There are no surviving exchanges with his wife, Frances, or with his sister, Mary, and no letters relating to his time at Wilton House in Wiltshire, where ...

Hard Labour

Frank Kermode: Marvell beneath the Notes, 23 October 2003

The Poems of Andrew Marvell 
edited by Nigel Smith.
Longman, 468 pp., £50, January 2003, 0 582 07770 2
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... The Longman series has a distinguished history stretching over nearly half a century. It includes Christopher Ricks’s exemplary Tennyson volume, later much enlarged to include variants from the Trinity MS, still under ban at the time of the first edition; the Milton volumes of Alastair Fowler and John Carey; and a good many others, including, more ...

Something Rather Scandalous

Jean McNicol: The Loves of Rupert Brooke, 20 October 2016

Rupert Brooke: Life, Death and Myth 
by Nigel Jones.
Head of Zeus, 588 pp., £12, April 2015, 978 1 78185 703 8
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Fatal Glamour: The Life of Rupert Brooke 
by Paul Delany.
McGill-Queen’s, 380 pp., £28.99, March 2015, 978 0 7735 4557 1
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The Second I Saw You: The True Love Story of Rupert Brooke and Phyllis Gardner 
by Lorna C. Beckett.
British Library, 216 pp., £16.99, April 2015, 978 0 7123 5792 0
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... one of the other trustees, complained that even Keynes’s version was insufficiently sanitised. Christopher Hassall was asked to write the authorised biography in part because, as Nigel Jones notes in his own biography of Brooke, Hassall’s lengthy Life of Eddie Marsh had managed ‘to avoid the topic of his subject’s homosexuality’ and he could ...

Death in Belgravia

Rosemary Hill, 5 February 2015

A Different Class of Murder: The Story of Lord Lucan 
by Laura Thompson.
Head of Zeus, 422 pp., £20, November 2014, 978 1 78185 536 2
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... and what it reveals about postwar Britain and its social structure. Lord Lucan and Veronica Duncan on their wedding day, 28 November 1963. Thompson’s book is a mixture of all of these and the result is persuasive and revealing in some parts, absurd and tasteless in others. Yet it is a compelling read. The story doesn’t pall because it has become a ...

Unsluggardised

Charles Nicholl: ‘The Shakespeare Circle’, 19 May 2016

The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography 
edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells.
Cambridge, 358 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 107 69909 0
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... by specific occasion or active collaboration to have known Shakespeare personally, which relegates Christopher Marlowe to a glowering presence on the sidelines, and also excludes that engaging gadfly Thomas Nashe, though both had a decisive stylistic influence on Shakespeare in the 1590s, and both must surely have known him. I would also have liked more about ...

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