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23 March 1995
Cyril Connolly: A Nostalgic Life 
by Clive Fisher.
Macmillan, 304 pp., £20, March 1995, 0 333 57813 9
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... His friends used to say that Cyril Connolly had been sent into the world for one purpose: to be talked about. He was an object of fascination to everyone who knew him. It was not exactly that he was a legend, or that there was anything romantic or Byronic about him. Though his funny face had great charm he was the reverse of handsome: John Sparrow, in one of his feline mots, remarked that ‘the trouble with Cyril is that he is not so beautiful as he looks ...


Theodore Zeldin

26 October 1989
Pan Encyclopedia 
edited by Judith Hannam.
Pan, 608 pp., £8.99, August 1989, 9780330309202
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Longman Encyclopedia 
edited by Asa Briggs.
Longman, 1179 pp., £24.95, September 1989, 0 582 91620 8
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International Encyclopedia of Communications: Vols I-IV 
edited by Erik Barnouw.
Oxford, 1913 pp., £250, April 1989, 0 19 504994 2
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The Cambridge Encyclopedia of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives 
edited by Francis Robinson.
Cambridge, 520 pp., £30, September 1989, 0 521 33451 9
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Concise Encyclopedia of Islam 
by Cyril Glass.
Stacey International, 472 pp., £35, February 1989, 0 905743 52 0
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The World’s Religions 
by Ninian Smart.
Cambridge, 576 pp., £25, March 1989, 0 521 34005 5
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The New Physics 
edited by Paul Davies.
Cambridge, 516 pp., £30, March 1989, 0 521 30420 2
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The Middle Ages: A Concise Encyclopedia 
by H.R. Loyn.
Thames and Hudson, 352 pp., £24, May 1989, 0 500 25103 7
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China in World History 
by S.A.M. Adshead.
Macmillan, 432 pp., £35, June 1988, 0 333 43405 6
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... Why does every home not have a whole wall of encyclopedias, now that we supposedly live in the Information Age? Why have they failed to establish themselves as indispensable items of furniture, against the competition of electronic gadgetry? Because they are contenting themselves with just giving information, instead of sharpening it, so that it points somewhere ...


A.J.P. Taylor: An Unexpected Experience

6 December 1984
... The Wigmore Hall has inaugurated a season of concerts on a Sunday morning which conclude with a glass of sherry for free. One Sunday recently I heard a Beethoven string septet which was new to me and very acceptable. The City Music Society causes me more difficulties. The Society concerts are given at the Bishopsgate Institute on a Tuesday morning. I am the ...

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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... Unlike the publication in 1975 of the touching acute letters of Cyril Connolly to Noel Blakiston, the publication of Connolly’s Journal (1928-1937) does not serve him, except right. He found D.H. Lawrence insufficiently magnanimous (‘Notice how carefully Lawrence refuses to recognise virtue in anyone but himself’), and his sponsor David Pryce-Jones now finds F ...

Beau Beverley

George Melly

27 June 1991
Beverley Nichols 
by Bryan Connon.
Constable, 320 pp., £20, March 1991, 0 09 470570 4
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... He would, unfortunately, drink a great deal when writing, and even secreted a bottle to top up his glass en route to the lavatory. Why, then, did he turn, not only against his father, but, with one exception, against the whole Nichols family? According to his brother, he was a much-indulged and happy boy: why did he describe his childhood as that of a ...

Nelly gets her due

John Sutherland

8 November 1990
The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 317 pp., £16.99, October 1990, 0 670 82787 8
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The Autobiography of Margaret Oliphant 
edited by Elisabeth Jay.
Oxford, 184 pp., £16.95, October 1990, 0 19 818615 0
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... In 1852, the 24-year-old Margaret Wilson married her cousin Frank Oliphant, an artist in stained glass. Over the next seven years, her mother, three of her children and her husband died. He knew that he had advanced tuberculosis, but did not think Margaret strong enough to be told. The widow was left penniless in Rome, with two small children and one on the ...
6 February 1997
The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh 
edited by Charlotte Mosley.
Hodder, 531 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 340 63804 4
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... how much he will give me for them.’ Literary jackals abound. Waugh warns that Cyril Connolly is ‘up to something rather fishy in collecting letters, I think for sale in America. Be wary! There is a nice nest egg for us all in our senility in our correspondence. American Universities are buying them at extravagant prices.’ It is an odd ...


Gabriele Annan

7 June 1984
Milady Vine: The Autobiography of Philippe de Rothschild 
edited by Joan Littlewood.
Cape, 247 pp., £10.95, June 1984, 0 224 02208 3
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I meant to marry him: A Personal Memoir 
by Jean MacGibbon.
Gollancz, 182 pp., £10.95, May 1984, 0 575 03412 2
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... out. He also established a wine museum at Mouton, not the usual mouldering old presses and dusty glass cases full of corks and tasters, but a beautiful pleasure dome filled with works of art connected with wine. During the war he spent eight months in a French military prison in Algiers, returned to France, then escaped on foot across the Pyrenees, joined ...

Molasses Nog

Ange Mlinko: Diane Williams

18 April 2019
The Collected Stories 
by Diane Williams.
Soho, 764 pp., £20, October 2018, 978 1 61695 982 1
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... of a Naked Girl’; ‘What a Great Man Learned about Reflection and Emotion’; ‘Aggressive Glass and Mirrors’. Really, they could be the names of songs: ‘Oh, Darling I’m in the Garden’; ‘It Can Take Years to Remain’; ‘Nancy Weak’; ‘Vicky Swanky Was a Beauty’. When a writer aspires to be a musician, she violates the basic terms of ...

Eating Jesus

Andrew O’Hagan

8 July 1993
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha 
by Roddy Doyle.
Secker, 282 pp., £12.99, June 1993, 0 436 20135 6
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... waiting for it to start again, or louder. A door sort of slammed; the back door – I heard the glass shake. – Francis? – What? – That’s what it’s like every night.    He said nothing. – It’s like that every night, I said ... – It’s only talking, he said. – It’s not. – It is. – It’s not; they’re shouting. Paddy Clarke ...

Oh! – only Oh!

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Burne-Jones

9 February 2012
The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination 
by Fiona MacCarthy.
Faber, 629 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 0 571 22861 4
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...  ...

Boofy’s Bill

Alex Harvey

18 September 1997
... drinking tea in the attendant’s room of public lavatories, scratching at the white painted glass to get a better look at the courtships taking place on the other side: some officers were said to take an ‘unhealthy’ interest in their work and were themselves arrested for importuning. Cottaging, like gardening, seems to have brought together a ...

Point of View

Frank Kermode: Atonement by Ian McEwan

4 October 2001
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 372 pp., £16.99, September 2001, 0 224 06252 2
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... sent a novella called Two Figures by a Fountain to Horizon. It was not accepted, but the editor, Cyril Connolly (or anyway someone who signs himself simply as ‘C.C.’), wrote her a letter running to over a thousand words, with favourable comment on sentences we have already admired. The implication is that the present novel is an expansion of that early ...


Ian Hamilton: Francis Hope, and Tom and Vic

15 March 1984
... simply thought that he was more promising than we were: he had a duty to deliver. Then, his death. Cyril Connolly’s famous tag had been one of Hope’s favourites, and I have to confess that it plopped lumpishly into my head a minute or two after I heard that he’d been killed: ‘Whom the gods wish to destroy they first call promising.’ He wouldn’t ...


Julian Barnes: On the Booker

12 November 1987
... that the bookshops can shift. They can further reflect that whereas in 1972 the three judges were Cyril Connolly, George Steiner and Elizabeth Bowen, in 1987 a television newscaster, by virtue of having written a biography of Viv Richards, was at least more ‘literary’ than one of the other judges. And then the novelists had better conclude that the only ...

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