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Pillors of Fier

Frank Kermode: Anthony Burgess

11 July 2002
Nothing like the Sun: reissue 
by Anthony Burgess.
Allison and Busby, 234 pp., £7.99, January 2002, 0 7490 0512 2
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... is the Earl of Southampton, not, as some still think, William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. The Rival Poet of Sonnet 86 remains George Chapman, not, as some think, Samuel Daniel or Michael Drayton or ChristopherMarlowe or Ben Jonson or, since his was assuredly an ‘alien pen’ (Sonnet 78), Torquato Tasso. Candidates for the doubtful honour of being the Dark Lady are discussed (so far as the list went in ...

Great Instructor

Charles Nicholl

31 August 1989
Ben Jonson: A Life 
by David Riggs.
Harvard, 399 pp., £27.95, April 1989, 0 674 06625 1
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... also plagued by prison informers, ‘two damn’d villains’ who tried to wheedle seditious sentiments out of him. One of these was Robert Poley, the government agent who was present at the death of ChristopherMarlowe in Deptford four years earlier. This was the first of many skirmishes with the authorities. In 1603 his tragedy Sejanus was denounced to the Council for ‘popery and treason’, and in 1605 ...
1 August 1996
Essays in Appreciation 
by Christopher​ Ricks.
Oxford, 363 pp., £25, March 1996, 0 19 818344 5
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... Christopher Ricks’s new book makes available many of his distinguished lectures given in the Eighties and Nineties. The essays retain a sense of occasion, and of a star performance on Ricks’s part, while the ...

Brooke’s Benefit

Anthony Powell

16 April 1981
... was not at all happy at a local preparatory school, which sounds little different from most prep schools of the time. The real disaster came when he entered King’s School, Canterbury (alma mater of ChristopherMarlowe, Somerset Maugham, Patrick Leigh-Fermor), from which Brooke ran away in the first week. He was sent back. The second week he ran away again. The second withdrawal marked the termination of ...

Wilderness of Tigers

Michael Neill: Shakespeare’s Latin

19 March 2015
Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity 
by Colin Burrow.
Oxford, 281 pp., £16.99, September 2013, 978 0 19 968479 3
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... language that could sway the emotions of an audience, and it instilled habits of dialectic and debate that would be essential to dramatic invention. By contrast with university-educated rivals like ChristopherMarlowe and John Marston, or the erudite autodidact Ben Jonson, Shakespeare owed most of his classical knowledge to his education in a provincial grammar school; but, in spite of Jonson’s ...


Charles Nicholl: ‘The Shakespeare Circle’

18 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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... Folio, John Heminges and Henry Condell. It was decided to exclude writers who can’t be proved by specific occasion or active collaboration to have known Shakespeare personally, which relegates ChristopherMarlowe 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 ...

Bereft and Beruffed

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s Last Plays

6 June 2019
Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage: Myth, Music and Poetry in the Last Plays 
by Seth Lerer.
Chicago, 276 pp., £20.50, November 2018, 978 0 226 58254 2
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... all composed between about 1607 and 1613 – between Shakespeare’s 43rd year and his 49th – compound the issue of genre with questions of biography. Given the fates that overtook his colleagues ChristopherMarlowe and Thomas Kyd in 1593 and 1594 – the one stabbed to death at 29, the other eventually dying after an extensive and painful interrogation – you could argue that Shakespeare might have ...

Fetch the Scissors

Colin Burrow: B.S. Johnson

11 April 2013
Well Done God! Selected Prose and Drama of B.S. Johnson 
edited by Jonathan Coe, Philip Tew and Julia Jordan.
Picador, 471 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 1 4472 2710 6
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by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 183 pp., £12.99, February 2013, 978 1 4472 0036 9
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Albert Angelo 
by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 180 pp., £12.99, February 2013, 978 1 4472 0037 6
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Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry 
by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 187 pp., £12.99, February 2013, 978 1 4472 0035 2
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House Mother Normal 
by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 204 pp., £12.99, February 2013, 978 1 4472 0038 3
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... by his pupils, because things are not going well in the school at which he is supply teaching. But when you finally get to the page in question, you discover that the stabbing is actually that of ChristopherMarlowe in an East End pub in 1593. This was famously the result of a squabble over the ‘reckoning’ (or, the bill). Johnson simply couldn’t get away from the reckoning of accounts; but the pain ...
1 July 1982
The Great Detectives: Seven Original Investigations 
by Julian Symons.
Orbis, 143 pp., £7.95, October 1981, 0 85613 362 0
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Critical Observations 
by Julian Symons.
Faber, 213 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 571 11688 4
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As I walked down New Grub Street: Memories of a Writing Life 
by Walter Allen.
Heinemann, 276 pp., £8.95, November 1981, 0 434 01829 5
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... varied and relieved by Mr Symons through all sorts of Pirandello-like dodges. In Los Angeles he interviews an elderly private eye who may or may not be the original of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, and who recounts an ostensibly real-life gangster episode which brought Chandler and the archetypal Marlowe together. Similarly the investigation of the Ellery Queen biographical tangle leads into a ...
13 May 1999
... scale model. Blush at the hubris of the promotional displays. Giant blow-ups of ‘Richard Rogers’s original sketch of the Greenwich Dome’ are twinned with ‘a sketch design for a dome by Sir Christopher Wren’. The puny scale of St Paul’s Cathedral is set against the enclosed acres of the tent on Bugsby’s Marshes. ‘This awesome structure dwarfs the famous domes of history.’ But, walking ...

A Match for Macchu Picchu

Christopher​ Reid

4 June 1981
Translating Neruda: The Way to Macchu Picchu 
by John Felstiner.
Stanford, 284 pp., $18.50, December 1980, 0 8047 1079 1
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The Oxford Book of Verse in English Translation 
edited by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 608 pp., £12.95, October 1980, 0 19 214103 1
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... and the banishment of Johnson’s ‘The Vanity of Human Wishes’, and can be left to puzzle out these anomalies on his or her own. But what are the strengths of the book? To begin with, Wyatt, Marlowe, Chapman, Golding and Ben Jonson are all lavishly represented, as is proper. Many interesting lesser-knowns from the 17th and 18th centuries sport alongside their mightier contemporaries, and here ...
11 December 1997
Issues of Death: Mortality and Identity in English Renaissance Tragedy 
by Michael Neill.
Oxford, 404 pp., £45, May 1997, 0 19 818386 0
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... awareness of his inability to defeat the fate awaiting him forms part of the play’s ironic complexity. The undercurrent of Faustian defiance in the face of extinction finally colours our view of Marlowe himself, who from time to time, like Ovid, deliberately fosters the irony that, in the depiction of death, the artist can achieve immortality. The rise of general interest in anatomy in the 16th ...
22 April 1993
A History of Cambridge University. Vol. IV: 1870-1990 
by Christopher​ Brooke.
Cambridge, 652 pp., £50, December 1992, 9780521343503
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... Who better to be our guide to modern Cambridge than the Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History? Christopher Brooke was brought up in Cambridge, the son of the professor of medieval history and himself a post-war Apostle. He begins by whisking us round the colleges telling us what each was like in Victorian ...
18 April 2019
... Cancer would be more steady and stealthy, keeping calm on match points, returning the ball accurately – low, cross-court strokes – rather than hitting big winners. In literature, blood clots were ChristopherMarlowe, violent, restless, brilliant, while the cancer would be Shakespeare, coming in many guises, dependable, sly, fully memorable. In painting, the blood clots would be Jackson Pollock, the ...
1 August 1985
Diplomacy and Intelligence during the Second World War: Essays in Honour of F.H. Hinsley 
edited by Richard Langhorne.
Cambridge, 329 pp., £27.50, May 1985, 0 521 26840 0
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British Intelligence and the Second World War. Vol. I: 1939-Summer 1941, Vol. II: Mid-1941-Mid-1943, Vol. III, Part I: June 1943-June 1944 
by F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom and R.C. Knight.
HMSO, 616 pp., £12.95, September 1979, 0 11 630933 4
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... them. In 1977 the Times proclaimed to a sceptical public that he was Donald Beves, the delightful tutor of King’s known to generations of undergraduates who performed on stage in the ADC, the Marlowe or the Musical Society, and whose interest in politics or indeed in ideas was negligible: clearly his bonhomie disguised an Iago. When that identification proved too absurd, the hunt shifted to ...

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