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The Big Man

Alex de Waal: The Rwandan Genocide, 3 November 2016

From War to Genocide: Criminal Politics in Rwanda 1990-94 
by André Guichaoua, translated by Don Webster.
Wisconsin, 424 pp., £73.95, October 2015, 978 0 299 29820 3
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... Did​ the Rwanda genocide happen because a few army officers and politicians, squabbling over whom they should appoint as leader, casually used mass murder as a means of obtaining a temporary consensus? The idea that the largest mass murder of the last 25 years came about through banal politicking is perhaps even more disturbing than the notion that it was the enactment of a grand ideological project ...

Success

Marilyn Butler, 18 November 1982

The Trouble of an Index: Byron’s Letters and Journals, Vol. XII 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 166 pp., £15, May 1982, 0 7195 3885 8
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Lord Byron: Selected Letters and Journals 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 404 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 0 7195 3974 9
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Byron 
by Frederic Raphael.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £8.95, July 1982, 0 500 01278 4
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Byron’s Political and Cultural Influence in 19th-Century Europe: A Symposium 
edited by Paul Graham Trueblood.
Macmillan, 210 pp., £15, April 1981, 0 333 29389 4
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Byron and Joyce through Homer 
by Hermione de Almeida.
Macmillan, 233 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 333 30072 6
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Byron: A Poet Before His Public 
by Philip Martin.
Cambridge, 253 pp., £18.50, July 1982, 0 521 24186 3
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... emerge from the Letters and Journals is Byron’s flirtation in 1813 with Lady Frances Wedderburn Webster, who was beautiful, new-married, and virtuous. While she and Byron played billiards under the nose of her husband, and passed increasingly passionate notes to one another in books, Byron was keeping Lady Melbourne posted on how his intended seduction was ...

Settling accounts

Keith Walker, 15 May 1980

‘A heart for every fate’: Byron’s Letters and Journals, Vol. 10, 1822-1823 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 239 pp., £8.95, March 1980, 0 7195 3670 7
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... the other poet in Byron kept on ‘scribbling’ (it was his favourite description) away at Don Juan, and completed seven cantos (10-16), not to mention ‘The Age of Bronze’ and ‘The Island’. If the reader detects a certain loss of Byron’s accustomed brio in these letters, he should bear in mind that his main writing work was elsewhere. The ...

Umpteens

Christopher Ricks, 22 November 1990

Bloomsbury Dictionary of Dedications 
edited by Adrian Room.
Bloomsbury, 354 pp., £17.99, September 1990, 0 7475 0521 7
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Unauthorised Versions: Poems and their Parodies 
edited by Kenneth Baker.
Faber, 446 pp., £14.99, September 1990, 0 571 14122 6
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The Faber Book of Vernacular Verse 
edited by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 407 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 571 14470 5
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... identification of the praiser of Shakespeare, upon whose words the whole dedication turns: John Webster, in the note ‘To the Reader’ before The White Devil. Browning’s Elizabethanised play has its affinities with Webster: moreover, it was canny of him to emend Webster’s ...

Into the Underworld

Iain Sinclair: The Hackney Underworld, 22 January 2015

... She found her interactions with Lyttle challenging. ‘How come you have a small nose?’ ‘Jews don’t have blue eyes.’ On and on he went, trying to interrogate her on her sexual preferences. Russo recalled legends of lovers who descended into the depths to reclaim partners enraptured by the goddess of death. Now she was involved with a Celtic minotaur ...

Ticket to Milford Haven

David Edgar: Shaw’s Surprises, 21 September 2006

Bernard Shaw: A Life 
by A.M. Gibbs.
Florida, 554 pp., £30.50, December 2005, 0 8130 2859 0
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... survives by what he has in common with Ibsen, and not by what he has in common with Webster’). In polemical theatre, this misconception leads to the notion that the sugar of entertainment can somehow be sucked off the pill of propaganda (or, as T.S. Eliot put it, ‘if the audience gets its striptease it will swallow the poetry’). It is ...

Silly Buggers

James Fox, 7 March 1991

The Theatre of Embarrassment 
by Francis Wyndham.
Chatto, 205 pp., £15, February 1991, 0 7011 3726 6
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... enthusiasm, and Godfrey Smith asked: ‘What do you think about that, Francis?’ He replied: ‘I don’t know. I was asleep.’ There was never anything on his desk. He had a gesture, forbidding to an outside contributor, of sweeping imaginary flotsam from its surface with the little finger of his right hand, which, after a while, had raised a bubble like a ...

That Night at Farnham

Anne Barton, 18 August 1983

Homosexuality in Renaissance England 
by Alan Bray.
Gay Men’s Press, 149 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 907040 16 0
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Comic Women, Tragic Men: A Study of Gender and Genre in Shakespeare 
by Linda Bamber.
Stanford, 211 pp., $18.50, June 1982, 0 8047 1126 7
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Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare 
by Lisa Jardine.
Harvester, 202 pp., £18.95, June 1983, 0 7108 0436 9
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... audience sympathy for her even as she nears death. She is, in fact, only slightly less guilty than Webster’s Duchess of Malfi, a woman ‘lower in her sexual drive than “a beast that wants discourse of reason” ’. Both characters become acceptable, as opposed to ‘surreally-threatening’, or ‘not-women’, only after suffering reduces them to ...

Death in Greece

Marilyn Butler, 17 September 1981

Byron’s Letter and Journals. Vol. XI: For Freedom’s Battle 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 243 pp., £11.50, April 1981, 0 7195 3792 4
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Byron: The Complete Poetical Works 
edited by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 464 pp., £35, October 1980, 0 19 811890 2
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Red Shelley 
by Paul Foot.
Sidgwick, 293 pp., £12.95, May 1981, 0 283 98679 4
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Ugo Foscolo, Poet of Exile 
by Glauco Cambon.
Princeton, 360 pp., £15, September 1980, 0 691 06424 5
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... and contemplating (over a game of billiards) the seduction of the chaste Lady Frances Wedder-burn Webster, while he confided in Lady Melbourne, suavest of older women, about both. The love of women hardly bothers Byron in his last months. His messages even to Teresa Guiccioli, the last attachment, are terse postscripts added to letters she was receiving from ...

Don’t abandon me

Colm Tóibín: Borges and the Maids, 11 May 2006

Borges: A Life 
by Edwin Williamson.
Penguin, 416 pp., £9.99, August 2005, 0 14 024657 6
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... after his father’s death he wrote one of his great serious spoofs, ‘Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote’, a meditation, using a straight face and no ‘fine writing or purple patches’, on the idea of rewriting as an inspired enterprise, and on the concept of the writer as a force of culture imprisoned by language and time to such an extent that ...

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