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Afternoonishness

Jeremy Harding: Syd Barrett, 2 January 2003

Madcap: The Half-Life of Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd’s Lost Genius 
by Tim Willis.
Short Books, 175 pp., £12.99, October 2002, 1 904095 24 0
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... on their chests. Only it wasn’t quite ‘rock’ in those days – and certainly not while Syd Barrett, the master of whimsy, was floating around on the English pop scene. Barrett remains a big name from the Sixties music archive – a piece of psychedelic heritage. Mostly out of it, very flowers-and-frillsy, yet clever ...

I like you

Hermione Lee: Boston Marriage, 24 May 2007

Between Women: Friendship, Desire and Marriage in Victorian England 
by Sharon Marcus.
Princeton, 356 pp., £12.95, March 2007, 978 0 691 12835 1
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... In 1852, Elizabeth Barrett Browning met the expatriate American actress Charlotte Cushman (famous for her trouser roles) and her companion Matilda Hays, a writer and feminist. They had ‘made vows of celibacy and of eternal attachment to each other – they live together, dress alike,’ Barrett Browning wrote to her sister ...

Everything bar the Chopsticks

T.H. Barrett, 30 October 1997

The City of Light 
by Jacob d’Ancona, translated and edited by David Selbourne.
Little, Brown, 392 pp., £22.50, October 1997, 0 316 63968 0
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... phrase corresponding exactly to our ‘terra incognita’, a label unknown to Chinese cartography. David Selbourne was probably unaware of these fakes when he embarked on his translation of the text he now entitles The City of Light, but it is worth pointing them out, just to make clear that the notion that Italian manuscripts concerning medieval Asian travel ...

Into the Gulf

Rosemary Hill, 17 December 1992

A Sultry Month: Scenes of London Literary Life in 1846 
by Alethea Hayter.
Robin Clark, 224 pp., £6.95, June 1992, 0 86072 146 9
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Painting and the Politics of Culture: New Essays on British Art 1700-1850 
edited by John Barrell.
Oxford, 301 pp., £35, June 1992, 9780198173922
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London: World City 1800-1840 
edited by Celina Fox.
Yale, 624 pp., £45, September 1992, 0 300 05284 7
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... to flatten himself into a cartoon. We come to understand why Keats was fond of him and Elizabeth Barrett admired him, as well as the reasons his son despised him and his painting failed. Even so, Haydon is not the hero, or even quite the centre of the book. A Sultry Month is a demonstration of how martyrdom takes place in a corner. We see exactly who is ...

Brief Shining Moments

Christopher Hitchens: Donkey Business in the White House, 19 February 1998

Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65 
by Taylor Branch.
Simon and Schuster, 746 pp., $30, February 1998, 0 684 80819 6
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‘One Hell of a Gamble’: Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy, 1958-64 
by Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali.
Murray, 416 pp., September 1997, 0 7195 5518 3
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The Dark Side of Camelot 
by Seymour Hersh.
HarperCollins, 497 pp., £8.99, February 1998, 9780006530770
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Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson , Bobby Kennedy and the Feud that Defined a Decade 
by Jeff Shesol.
Norton, 591 pp., £23.50, January 1998, 9780393040784
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The Year the Dream Died 
by Jules Witcover.
Warner, 512 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 446 51849 2
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Without Honor: The Impeachment of President Nixon and the Crimes of Camelot 
by Jerry Zeifman.
Thunder's Mouth, 262 pp., $24.95, November 1996, 9781560251286
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The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis 
edited by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow.
Howard, 740 pp., £23.50, September 1997, 0 674 17926 9
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Lyndon B. Johnson’s Vietnam Papers: A Documentary Collection 
edited by David Barrett.
Texas A & M, 906 pp., $94, June 1997, 0 89096 741 5
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Taking Charge: The Johnson Whitehouse Tapes 1963-64 
edited by Michael Beschloss.
Simon and Schuster, 624 pp., £20, April 1998, 0 684 80407 7
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Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes 
edited by Stanley Kutler.
Free Press, 675 pp., $30, November 1997, 0 684 84127 4
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The Other Missiles of October: Eisenhower, Kennedy and the Jupiters, 1957-63 
by Philip Nash.
North Carolina, 231 pp., £34.70, October 1997, 0 8078 4647 3
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... In Arthur Schlesinger’s court history, A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, which might without unfairness be called the founding breviary of the cult of JFK, there appears the following vignette. Schlesinger had been asked to carpenter a ‘White Paper’ justifying Washington’s destabilisation of Cuba, in which the high-flown rhetoric of the New Frontier might form a sort of scab over the fouler business of empire ...

Resurrection Man

Danny Karlin: Browning and His Readers, 23 May 2002

The Ring and the Book 
by Robert Browning, edited by Richard Altick and Thomas Collins.
Broadview, 700 pp., £12.99, August 2001, 1 55111 372 4
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The Poetical Works of Robert Browning. Vol. VIII: The Ring and the Book, Books V-VIII 
edited by Stefan Hawlin and Tim Burnett.
Oxford, £75, February 2001, 0 19 818647 9
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... a classical epic in 12 books, a ‘novel-poem’ to rival his wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh, a historical romance to challenge Scott, an urban realist fiction to emulate Dickens or Balzac, a religio-philosophical-aesthetic treatise in the modern vein of the Higher Criticism. From the 1830s he had been a dedicated ...

Language Writing

Jerome McGann, 15 October 1987

In the American Tree: Language, Poetry, Realism 
by Ron Silliman.
National Poetry Foundation, 628 pp., $34.50, June 1986, 0 915032 33 3
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‘Language’ Poetries: An Anthology 
by Douglas Messerli.
New Directions, 184 pp., $19.95, March 1987, 0 8112 1006 5
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... contain a great deal of unpleasant and difficult poetry – for example, this passage from David Melnick’s Pcoet which Silliman prints: seta colecc puilse, i canoe it spear heieo as Rea, cinct pp pools we sly drosp Geianto     (o sordea, o weedsea!) The Canadian writer Steve McCaffrey once wrote of Pcoet that its text ‘seems less like writing ...

Performing Seals

Christopher Hitchens: The PR Crowd, 10 August 2000

Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals 
by David Laskin.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., $26, January 2000, 0 684 81565 6
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... Norman Podhoretz). Queenie Leavis of course became an official widow, and it is les veuves on whom David Laskin relies most heavily in this relatively orderly account of sexual and matrimonial chaos. Diana Trilling outlived Lionel by many a book; Mary McCarthy enjoyed the same revenge on Edmund Wilson; the witches of Eastwick (lacking only their Hardwick) have ...

Damsons and Custard

Paul Laity: Documentary cinema’s unsung poet, 3 March 2005

Humphrey Jennings 
by Kevin Jackson.
Picador, 448 pp., £30, October 2004, 0 330 35438 8
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... which jumped around all over the place when he talked – which was a great deal of the time’. David Gascoyne described in his journal in 1936 how Jennings dominated a meeting of the English Surrealists, ‘as usual … boiling over with energy and excitement’. He reported, too, the scene when Jennings and Tom Harrisson met to discuss the formation of ...

Infatuated Worlds

Jerome McGann, 22 September 1994

Thomas Chatterton: Early Sources and Responses 
Routledge/Thoemmes, £295, July 1993, 0 415 09255 8Show More
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... of a hoax he was perpetrating on various interested Bristolians, in particular the antiquarian Barrett and the literary enthusiast Catcott. Chatterton wanted to get money from his forgeries; he was also energised by his ability to carry off his remarkable, not to say brazen, deceptions. As one sees from his letters and satirical poetry, he had no high ...

Emily v. Mabel

Susan Eilenberg: Emily Dickinson, 30 June 2011

Lives like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Virago, 491 pp., £9.99, April 2011, 978 1 84408 453 1
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Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries 
by Helen Vendler.
Harvard, 535 pp., £25.95, September 2010, 978 0 674 04867 6
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... and, to a lesser extent, her sister, Lavinia; her love of the Book of Revelation, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the Brontës, George Eliot and a sentimental writer who went by the name of Ik Marvel; her passionate friendship with Susan Gilbert Dickinson, whom Austin married after a difficult courtship and who thereafter lived next door to Dickinson in The ...

Cardigan Arrest

Robert Potts: Poetry in Punglish, 21 June 2007

Look We Have Coming to Dover! 
by Daljit Nagra.
Faber, 55 pp., £8.99, February 2007, 978 0 571 23122 5
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... At the end of David Dabydeen’s poem ‘Coolie Odyssey’ (1988), the poet, deracinated by education, distance and time from the dirt-poor ancestors he is elegising, considers his British audience: congregations of the educated Sipping wine, attentive between courses – See the applause fluttering from their white hands Like so many messy table napkins ...

Diary

Daniel Finn: Ireland’s Election, 17 March 2011

... a couple of dozen other stalwarts to listen to them – the likes of Séamus Healy, Richard Boyd Barrett and Thomas Pringle, all now catapulted into the Dáil with a mandate to disturb the political peace. While the Fianna Fáil aristocracy were punching their cards at local meetings and stealthily ascending the party ladder, these newcomers spent their time ...

Poor Stephen

James Fox, 23 July 1987

An Affair of State: The Profumo Case and the Framing of Stephen Ward 
by Phillip Knightley and Caroline Kennedy.
Cape, 268 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 224 02347 0
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Honeytrap: The Secret Worlds of Stephen Ward 
by Anthony Summers and Stephen Dorril.
Weidenfeld, 264 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 297 79122 2
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... lying. Mandy Rice-Davies later wrote that her testimony in the Ward case had been untrue. Vicky Barrett, a prostitute who had described Ward as a conventional pimp, did the same. Of the two books, An Affair of State is the more polished and convincing. Honeytrap, in some sections an admirable piece of sleuthing, gets diverted into loose speculation. Summers ...

The Kentish Hog

Adrian Desmond, 15 October 1987

The Correspondence of Charles Darwin. Vol. II: 1837-1843 
edited by Frederick Burkhardt and Sydney Smith.
Cambridge, 603 pp., £30, March 1987, 0 521 25588 0
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The Works of Charles Darwin 
edited by Paul Barrett and R.B. Freeman.
Pickering & Chatto, 10 pp., £470, March 1987, 1 85196 002 3
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The Darwinian Heritage 
edited by David Kohn.
Princeton, 1138 pp., £67.90, February 1986, 0 691 08356 8
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Western Science in the Arab World: The Impact of Darwinism, 1860-1930 
by Adel Ziadat.
Macmillan, 162 pp., £27.50, October 1986, 0 333 41856 5
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Theories of Human Evolution: A Century of Debate 1844-1944 
by Peter Bowler.
Blackwell, 318 pp., £25, February 1987, 0 631 15264 4
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Controversy in Victorian Geology: The Cambrian-Silurian Dispute 
by James Secord.
Princeton, 363 pp., £33.10, October 1986, 0 691 08417 3
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Darwin’s Metaphor: Nature’s Place in Victorian Culture 
by Robert Young.
Cambridge, 341 pp., £30, October 1985, 0 521 31742 8
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... David Kohn opens his monumental Darwinian Heritage with a deftly-delivered kick, observing that a study of the wider institutional culture of Darwin’s day seems to be ‘beyond the present ken of historians of 19th-century biology’. It’s a well-aimed blow. Little of the Darwin industry’s capital has been spent on exploring evolution in its social context ...

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