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Today

Derwent May

17 July 1980
... I sometimes lie in the darkness Glad there is nothing I can see To blot the pictures in my memory: Sunlight in a fallen tree Where I hung on the wilting branches; Woodlarks circling in the sky Or folding like a bell into the heather; Blue light hardening to die Out of which there hurry faces, Lips, smiles, a sudden frown, A body white in the bracken, Raindrops where the leaves lay brown, Water, pavements ...

Cartoon Quality

Zachary Leader

6 December 1979
Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943-1954 by Jeffrey Cartwright 
by Steven Millhauser.
Routledge, 305 pp., £4.95
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A Prize Paradise 
by Oliver Pritchett.
Eyre Methuen, 171 pp., £4.95
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A Revenger’s Comedy 
by Derwent May.
Chatto, 191 pp., £5.95
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... in, as when Edwin’s neck, ‘as if it were a pale fruitjuice container into which cherry-flavored Kool-Aid had been poured, darkened perceptibly’. That the artist’s wholly conscious intention may well be realised in a passage like this doesn’t matter in the least: we still wince, finding the repellent cuteness quite untransmuted. Though Jeffrey’s solemn pedantry is the source of much of ...

Phut-Phut

James Wood: The ‘TLS’

27 June 2002
Critical Times: The History of the ‘Times Literary Supplement’ 
by Derwent May.
HarperCollins, 606 pp., £25, November 2001, 0 00 711449 4
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... was being introduced at a lecture in New York. Mysticism, the introducer said sarcastically, is nothing; but a history of nothing – well, that is science. The same can be said, multipliedly, of DerwentMay’s book, which is essentially a history of the book review, a genre of such tiny dignity that its life might better be left unexamined. Over large portions, this book is about nothing – or ...

Mixed Blood

D.A.N. Jones

2 December 1982
Her Victory 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Granada, 590 pp., £8.95, September 1982, 0 246 11872 5
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This Earth of Mankind 
by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, translated by Max Lane.
Penguin, 338 pp., £2.50, August 1982, 9780140063349
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... talking. There is an important scene in This Earth of Mankind wherein the mighty Native nyai, the Dutchman’s courtesan, is hauled before a Dutch colonial court, so that her daughter and her wealth may be taken from her. All subtleties of language are reduced to the plain, prurient coarseness of the law-courts and the press. ‘She was not allowed to use Dutch and ordered to use Javanese. She ...

In Soho

Peter Campbell: Richard Rogers Partnership

24 May 2001
... were to be found there in the 18th century and they are found there still. It was not, in the past, a healthy place – morally or physically. If the whores didn’t get you, infections did – which may explain why it gained so many hospitals in the mid-19th century. In 1854, Dr John Snow advanced the cause of public health – and epidemiology – by persuading the local Board of Guardians to ...

Who whom?

Christopher Ricks

6 June 1985
The English Language Today 
edited by Sidney Greenbaum.
Pergamon, 345 pp., £12.50, December 1984, 0 08 031078 8
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The English Language 
by Robert Burchfield.
Oxford, 194 pp., £9.50, January 1985, 9780192191731
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A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language 
by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik.
Longman, 1779 pp., £39.50, May​ 1985, 0 582 51734 6
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Words 
by John Silverlight.
Macmillan, 107 pp., £17.50, May​ 1985, 9780333380109
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Faux Amis and Key Words: A Dictionary-Guide to French Language, Culture and Society through Lookalikes and Confusables 
by Philip Thody, Howard Evans and Gwilym Rees.
Athlone, 224 pp., £16, February 1985, 0 485 11243 4
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Puns 
by Walter Redfern.
Blackwell, 234 pp., £14.95, October 1984, 0 631 13793 9
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Fair of Speech: The Uses of Euphemism 
edited by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 222 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 19 212236 3
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... though for opposite reasons, to delight improperly in the exercise of power. For if the new descriptivists proclaim ‘Power to the people’ in making usage the only criterion of whether something may be said, there is then for them an immediate opening-up of rich new possibilities of authority and authoritarianism. For who is to tell the people how the people are (is?) using their (its?) immense ...

Diary

Ben Walker: ‘A test case for Corbynism’

25 November 2019
... Derby City Council​ ’s offices sit on the River Derwent, a stone’s throw from the site of Lombe’s Mill, built in 1721, which claims to be the first fully mechanised factory in the world. In his Tour thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain, Daniel ...

Happier Days

Rosalind Mitchison

4 April 1991
Scottish Voices 1745-1960 
by T.C. Smout and Sydney Wood.
Collins, 334 pp., £16.95, August 1990, 0 00 215190 1
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... For instance, James Myles of Dundee on the life of factory children: ‘balmy sleep had scarcely closed their infant eyelids and steeped their infant souls in blessed forgetfulness.’ The sympathy may be accepted, but in no way can the words be taken as a ‘voice’ from the past, for they can never have been spoken. Liz Lochhead on lodging with relatives has the rhythms of spoken speech. It is ...
20 April 1989
William Wordsworth: A Life 
by Stephen Gill.
Oxford, 525 pp., £17.50, March 1989, 0 19 812828 2
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... of ‘spots of time’, and to his constant rewriting of his poems. All biographers, however skilled, are committed to chronology, but Gill’s reduction of his chapter titles to bare dates may indicate the fragile significance that Wordsworth himself attached to dates as such. Where Lamb considered that the chronological was the only possible arrangement for a collection of poems, since ...

Inside the Head

John Barrell: The Corruption of Literary Biography

2 November 2000
Coleridge: Darker Reflections 
by Richard Holmes.
HarperCollins, 512 pp., £9.99, October 1999, 0 00 654842 3
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... Holmes, if he wants to swim against the tide, is finding it harder and harder to do so. The rules that Holmes observes, in the present volume especially, seem to be as follows. Coleridge’s poetry may be quoted where it appears to throw light on his private life. His prose writings may be discussed only so long as that discussion does not interrupt or retard the narrative: so long, that is, as the ...

Somewhere else

Rosalind Mitchison

19 May 1988
The Peopling of British North America: An Introduction 
by Bernard Bailyn.
Tauris, 177 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 1 85043 037 3
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Voyagers to the West: Emigration from Britain to America on the Eve of the Revolution 
by Bernard Bailyn.
Tauris, 668 pp., £29.50, April 1987, 1 85043 038 1
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Migration and Society in Early Modern England 
edited by Peter Clark and David Souden.
Hutchinson, 355 pp., £25, February 1988, 0 09 173220 4
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Gypsy-Travellers in 19th-Century Society 
by David Mayall.
Cambridge, 261 pp., £25, February 1988, 0 521 32397 5
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... picture of the group of Methodist farming families from northern Yorkshire who sailed in the Duke of York for Nova Scotia, and notes how the wetland techniques necessary near the Yorkshire Derwent served them well in the marshlands of the Bay of Fundy. He makes mistakes, particularly on the Scottish setting. He is one of many historians who have obviously never been there, who insist on ...

Little England

Patrick Wright: The view through a bus window

7 September 2006
Great British Bus Journeys: Travels through Unfamous Places 
by David McKie.
Atlantic, 359 pp., £16.99, March 2006, 1 84354 132 7
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... to recite when he was leader of the GLC. One day, he had found himself taking the Underground in the company of a Tory MP. The arriving train was heavily congested and the unaccustomed Tory – who may or may not have been Alan Clark – recoiled from the throng revealed by the opening doors, suggesting that they might do better to walk along the platform to the restaurant car. Jeffrey Archer may ...
19 June 1997
The Life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Blackwell, 480 pp., £25, December 1996, 0 631 18746 4
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Coleridge: Selected Poems 
edited by Richard Holmes.
HarperCollins, 358 pp., £20, March 1996, 0 00 255579 4
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Coleridge’s Later Poetry 
by Morton Paley.
Oxford, 147 pp., £25, June 1996, 0 19 818372 0
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A Choice of Coleridge’s Verse 
edited by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 232 pp., £7.99, March 1996, 0 571 17604 6
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... to be precarious. Anticipations of his own poetic end arrive almost at once with the mature poetry. Hardly had ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ been published than its author announced (in May 1799) his intention ‘to dedicate in silence the prime of my life’ to metaphysics, a turn made necessary, as he said a year later, by his sense that his ‘faculties’ were ‘dwindling’, or at ...

Adjusting the Mechanism

Colin Burrow: Robert Graves

11 October 2018
Robert Graves: From a Great War Poet to ‘Goodbye to All That’, 1895-1929 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Bloomsbury, 461 pp., £25, August 2018, 978 1 4729 2914 3
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The Reader over Your Shoulder: A Handbook for Writers of English Prose 
by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge.
Seven Stories, 613 pp., £30, September 2017, 978 1 60980 733 7
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... school, which he hated. He got through by learning to box, by falling in love with a boy he referred to as ‘Dick’ (actually called George Harcourt Vanden-Bempde-Johnstone, later 3rd Baron Derwent), and by joining a poetry society run by some charismatic masters. He said in his autobiography, Goodbye to All That, written in 1929 when he was only 34, that by the end of his time at Charterhouse ...

North and South

Raphael Samuel

22 June 1995
Coming Back Brockens: A Year in a Mining Village 
by Mark Hudson.
Cape, 320 pp., £16.99, October 1994, 0 224 04170 3
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... of the Sixties ‘discovery’ of the North, falls firmly within the ambit of the ludic, staging its dramas not at the pithead or the factory gate but at the Rover’s Return. Improbable as it may now seem, the North in the Sixties – anyway the early Sixties, when Harold Wilson made his appearance as the great iconoclast, when the Mersey Sound first captured the nation’s record-players and ...

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