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19 April 1990
Daniel Defoe: His Life 
by Paula Backscheider.
Johns Hopkins, 671 pp., £20.50, November 1989, 0 8018 3785 5
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... In many ways, Paula Backscheider has written a highly appropriate life of Defoe. Fat, fact-filled and repetitious, her book offers a meandering narrative of merchant adventures and spying, opportunism and piety, taking us from fire and plague to bankruptcy via the battlefield of Sedgemoor, Newgate prison and the pillory. It is, in other words, much like a novel by Defoe ...
5 June 1986
Jonathan Swift: A Hypocrite Reversed 
by David Nokes.
Oxford, 427 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 19 812834 7
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... The main problem for David Nokes or for any other biographer of Swift is that the agenda has already been prescribed. Within a few years of Swift’s death in 1745, questions were raised which are still the standard issues. What kind of man wrote the fourth Voyage of Gulliver’s Travels? Did his imagination give him away? ‘In painting Yahoos he becomes one himself,’ according to the Earl of Orrery’s Remarks on the Life and Writings of Dr Jonathan Swift (1752 ...

Liveried

Frank Kermode

11 May 1995
John Gay: A Profession of Friendship. A Critical Biography 
by David Nokes.
Oxford, 563 pp., £25, February 1995, 0 19 812971 8
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... Like most biographies nowadays, David Nokes’s John Gay is very long, but unlike some of the others it is not much longer than it needed to be. Gay devoted so much of his attention to people grander than himself that his life story can’t be told without allusion to those of more complicated and ambitious figures like Pope, Swift and Addison ...
26 January 1995
The Invention of Pornography: Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity, 1500-1800 
edited by Lynn Hunt.
Zone, 411 pp., £24.25, August 1993, 9780942299687
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... A recent ‘free uncensored’ supplement to Company magazine featured a display of 29 male bottoms. ‘How’s this for bare-faced cheek!’ it proclaimed above this set of ‘spanking pics of real-life bums’: slim bums and flabby bums, muscly bums and pimply bums, hairy bums and smooth bums. Pornography has always had an obsession with comparisons and quantifications ...
1 June 1989
The Well-Known Troublemaker: A Life of Charlotte Charke 
by Fidelis Morgan.
Faber, 231 pp., £19.95, November 1988, 0 571 14743 7
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The Ladies: Female Patronage of Restoration Drama 
by David Roberts.
Oxford, 188 pp., £22.50, February 1989, 0 19 811743 4
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The Complete Lover: Eros, Nature and Artifice in the 18th-Century French Novel 
by Angelica Goodden.
Oxford, 329 pp., £32.50, January 1989, 0 19 815820 3
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... yet does so in a jaunty tone that turns somersaults over despair. Such energy is sadly absent from David Roberts’s book The Ladies: Female Patronage of Restoration Drama, though, like Charke, Roberts is more concerned with events behind the scenes and in the auditorium than with those on the stage. Determinedly old-fashioned, this study clearly betrays its ...
4 August 1988
Eros Revived: Erotica of the Enlightenment in England and America 
by Peter Wagner.
Secker, 498 pp., £30, March 1988, 0 436 56051 8
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’Tis Nature’s Fault: Unauthorised Sexuality during the Enlightenment 
edited by Robert Purks Maccubin.
Cambridge, 260 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 521 34539 1
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The New Eighteenth Century: Theory, Politics, English Literature 
edited by Felicity Nussbaum and Laura Brown.
Methuen, 320 pp., £28, February 1988, 0 416 01631 6
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... Mary Fiddler, a fine blooming lass of 18, her – is like silk itself, and bubbles as white as snow; she is just in her prime, and fit for business, she is broke in this spring, by a well-known gentleman of the turf. Her movements are regular, her pace elegant, and her action is good: and when you mount her, she begins to f—k away to the tune of the ‘Dandy O ...

Pay me for it

Helen Deutsch: Summoning Dr Johnson

9 February 2012
Samuel Johnson: A Life 
by David Nokes.
Faber, 415 pp., £9.99, August 2010, 978 0 571 22636 8
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Selected Writings 
by Samuel Johnson, edited by Peter Martin.
Harvard, 503 pp., £16.95, May 2011, 978 0 674 06034 0
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The Brothers Boswell: A Novel 
by Philip Baruth.
Corvus, 336 pp., £7.99, January 2011, 978 1 84887 446 6
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The Life of Samuel Johnson LL.D. 
by John Hawkins, edited by O.M. Brack.
Georgia, 554 pp., £53.50, August 2010, 978 0 8203 2995 6
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... audience. Boswell brackets Johnson’s physical particularities off from his narrative, but for David Nokes they become a central feature of his ability to create a ‘shock effect’. Thus William Hogarth’s first encounter with Johnson at the home of Samuel Richardson: While he was talking, he perceived a person standing at a window in the ...
16 June 1983
The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Vol X: Companion and Vol XI: Index 
edited by Robert Latham.
Bell and Hyman, 626 pp., £19.50, February 1983, 0 7135 1993 2
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The Diary of John Evelyn 
edited by John Bowle.
Oxford, 476 pp., £19.50, April 1983, 0 19 251011 8
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The Brave Courtier: Sir William Temple 
by Richard Faber.
Faber, 187 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 571 11982 4
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... By comparison Pepys’s linguistic aberrations have an innocent air. It has been pointed out by David Nokes that the Companion is distinctly reticent about sex. In this it reflects the new edition as a whole: the facts are there, but not dwelt on (good) or ever really analysed (dubious). Not only is there no entry for Sex (as ...

Plenty of Pinching

John Mullan: The Sad End of Swift

29 October 1998
Jonathan Swift 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Hutchinson, 324 pp., £20, September 1998, 0 09 179196 0
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... of character and the assessment of anecdotal evidence.) There is an accessible biography in print, David Nokes’s excellent Jonathan Swift: A Hypocrite Reversed (1985), but this was written with an eye on the student (and teacher), rather than the non-academic reader whom Glendinning has in mind. Nokes, subtitling his ...

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