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Sunday Mornings

Frank Kermode, 19 July 1984

Desmond MacCarthy: The Man and his Writings 
by David Cecil.
Constable, 313 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 9780094656109
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... miscellaneous essays by MacCarthy, all of which have been collected before, and a memoir by Lord David Cecil, of which a portion appeared as preface to an earlier selection. Desmond MacCarthy was probably the best-known London literary journalist of his time, and it is clearly the view of publisher and editor that his influence can be extended into our ...

Barbara Pym’s Hymn

Karl Miller, 6 March 1980

... when readers were alerted to her fiction by the commendations of two admirers, Philip Larkin and David Cecil. Having been out, she became ‘the in-thing to read’, and reviewers rushed to praise the late novel Quartet in Autumn – now in paperback – as if it were a match for her early work.* Meanwhile her early work has been reissued, including ...

Maschler Pudding

John Bayley, 19 October 1995

À la Pym: The Barbara Pym Cookery Book 
by Hilary Pym and Honor Wyatt.
Prospect, 102 pp., £9.95, September 1995, 0 907325 61 0
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... wilderness, Pym’s novel Quartet in Autumn had at last been accepted for publication: Larkin and David Cecil had independently named her as their choice of ‘most undervalued writer’ in the 75th-anniversary number of the TLS. As Pym’s diary records, they had kipper pâté to start, after sherry; and then ‘veal done with peppers and ...

Woman in Love

Brigid Brophy, 7 February 1985

The Life of Jane Austen 
by John Halperin.
Harvester, 400 pp., December 1984, 0 7108 0518 7
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... of which he judges ‘the most underrated’ Joan Rees’s and ‘the most overrated that by David Cecil’. After this apparent jettisoning of pusillanimity, readers are in for a shock when they turn to the notes which, with divisions to indicate roughly which section of the text they refer to, are clumped in read-straight-on format at the end of ...

What’s wrong with Desmond?

Ian Hamilton, 30 August 1990

Clever Hearts: Desmond and Molly MacCarthy 
by Hugh Cecil and Mirabel Cecil.
Gollancz, 320 pp., £18.95, July 1990, 0 575 03622 2
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... Leavis’s influence was at its peak. It was not until 1984, when MacCarthy’s son-in-law, Lord David Cecil, edited a new selection of MacCarthy’s writings, that it occurred to me to find out about him for myself – i.e. to read something he had written. He turned out to be much sharper and funnier, and more stylish, than I had been led to believe ...

Unmuscular Legs

E.S. Turner, 22 August 1996

The Dictionary of National Biography 1986-1990 
edited by C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 607 pp., £50, June 1996, 0 19 865212 7
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... of incense and a fine model of a Russian destroyer of 1912’. There is a withering account by Sir David Hunt of the reputed master-spy Sir William Stephenson, who encouraged the writing of best-selling works of fantasy about himself, in the best tradition of Buffalo Bill. Earlier volumes of the DNB tell of disreputable divines in George Ill’s time who ...

Gloomy Sunday Afternoons

Caroline Maclean: Modernists at the Movies, 10 September 2009

The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period 
by Laura Marcus.
Oxford, 562 pp., £39, December 2007, 978 0 19 923027 3
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... images on a wide range of writers and critics in the first three decades of the 20th century. As David Trotter notes in Cinema and Modernism,* his account of the impact of film on Woolf, Joyce and Eliot, critics have tended to associate modernist literature with montage, a term used by Russian film-makers of the 1920s to indicate a quick succession of ...

Supermax

John Bayley, 8 December 1988

The Letters of Max Beerbohm 1892-1956 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Murray, 244 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7195 4537 4
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The Faber Book of Letters 
edited by Felix Pryor.
Faber, 319 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 571 15269 4
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... to put people right about other people is incorrigible, indeed obsessional. In his review of David Cecil’s biography of Max Beerbohm Malcolm Muggeridge allowed it to be a graceful job of work, but said it missed the real point about Beerbohm and his lifestyle, which was that he concealed his Jewish origins and was a crypto-homosexual. Of ...

Trounced

C.H. Sisson, 22 February 1990

C.S. Lewis: A Biography 
by A.N. Wilson.
Collins, 334 pp., £15, February 1990, 0 00 215137 5
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... us, by his defeat at the Socratic Club.It is difficult to know what to make of Lewis, whom Lord David Cecil declared to be ‘a great man’, yet who seems to have had only a minimal self-knowledge and who had a capacity for getting things ‘plumb wrong’ in human relationships. It was certainly a man of unusual talent who produced some sixty ...

Sisterly

A.N. Wilson, 21 October 1993

Love from Nancy: The Letters of Nancy Mitford 
edited by Charlotte Mosley.
Hodder, 538 pp., £20, September 1993, 0 340 53784 1
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... After a visit to England in 1958, during which she has visited Evelyn Waugh. L.P. Hartley, David Cecil and others, she writes: ‘I find all these writers take themselves very seriously & Tony Powell speaks of Punch, of which he is literary editor, as though it were an important vehicle of intellectual opinion.’ This is probably very well ...

Happy Knack

Ian Sansom: Betjeman, 20 February 2003

John Betjeman: New Fame, New Love 
by Bevis Hillier.
Murray, 736 pp., £25, November 2002, 0 7195 5002 5
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... he was 45 and she was 25. Cavendish was the daughter of the Duke of Devonshire, a cousin of Lord David Cecil, et cetera, and became a lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret – the next best thing, perhaps, to Betjeman bagging a royal. His relationship with Cavendish was clearly one of the most important in his life, but the reader is left to infer from ...

Putting on Some English

Terence Hawkes: Eagleton’s Rise, 7 February 2002

The Gatekeeper: A Memoir 
by Terry Eagleton.
Allen Lane, 178 pp., £9.99, January 2002, 0 7139 9590 4
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... it wasn’t altogether surprising that another gate opened, courtesy of Maurice Bowra and Lord David Cecil, to a fellowship at Oxford. The only begetter of the study of literary theory at Oxford, he became the subject’s best-known teacher there, the leading authority in the field in Britain, and one of its most acclaimed proponents in the world ...

The Pleasures of Poverty

Barbara Everett, 6 September 1984

A Very Private Eye: An Autobiography in Letters and Diaries 
by Barbara Pym, edited by Hazel Holt and Hilary Pym.
Macmillan, 320 pp., £12.95, July 1984, 0 333 34995 4
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... 1977. In that year, two contributors to a Times Literary Supplement survey, Philip Larkin and Lord David Cecil, spoke so highly of her work as to effect a change in this situation. Three more novels by Barbara Pym were published, this time by Macmillan, who finally added to them in 1982 – two years after the writer had herself died – the book ...

A Piece of Single Blessedness

John Burrows, 21 January 1988

Jane Austen: Her Life 
by Park Honan.
Weidenfeld, 452 pp., £16.95, October 1987, 0 297 79217 2
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... substantial biographies of Jane Austen within a decade smacks of excess. But, compared with Lord David Cecil’s A Portrait of Jane Austen (1979) and John Halperin’s The Life of Jane Austen (1984), the work under review is in so many ways the best that it deserves to make its mark. The three authors, moreover, approach their subject (or subjects) from ...

Fat and Fretful

John Bayley, 18 April 1996

Foreign Country: The Life of L.P. Hartley 
by Adrian Wright.
Deutsch, 304 pp., £17.99, March 1996, 0 233 98976 5
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... goes another more personal one about Hartley’s great, perhaps greatest, friend, Lord David Cecil. In keeping with his views on what fiction ought to be, Wright insists that this warm, heartfelt but altogether jokey relationship was the tragedy of Hartley’s own life, leaving him with a legacy of disconsolements, and a desolating sense of ...

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