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Half-Finished People

Thomas Meaney: Germany Imagines Hellas

11 October 2012
The Tyranny of Greece over Germany 
by E.M. Butler.
Cambridge, 351 pp., £23.99, March 2012, 978 1 107 69764 5
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... of Germany in the study of Greek monuments would be secured … It would be so grand a gesture by the conqueror, who would show himself conscious of his cultural calling in Europe.’ Eliza Marian Butler started studying the Nazis’ designs for Europe in 1933. Born in Lancashire in 1885 and educated extensively on the Continent, she had watched Kaiser Wilhelm inspect his troops, witnessed Germa...
21 February 1991
Samuel ButlerA Biography 
by Peter Raby.
Hogarth, 334 pp., £25, February 1991, 0 7012 0890 2
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... Samuel Butler might be seen as one of those liberators who escort readers and admirers into a new airy sort of cell, and turn the key with an air of bestowing on them perfect freedom and emancipation of mind. So ...

Sly Digs

Frank Kermode: E.M.​ Forster as Critic

25 September 2008
‘The Creator as Critic’ and Other Writings 
by E.M.​ Forster, edited by Jeffrey Heath.
Dundurn, 814 pp., £45, March 2008, 978 1 55002 522 4
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... He therefore pays due respect to Coleridge and ‘Kubla Khan’. Forster claimed he was not much of a novel reader, but there was modesty in the disclaimer. He listed Jane Austen, Proust and Samuel Butler as the three authors who had helped him most, adding that Butler ‘did more than either of the other two to help me look at life the way I do’. He named Dante, Gibbon and Tolstoy the greatest of ...
17 April 1980
Race, Sex and Class under the Raj: Imperial Attitudes and Policies and their Critics 
by Kenneth Ballhatchet.
Weidenfeld, 199 pp., £9.50, January 1980, 0 297 77646 0
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Queen Victoria’s Maharajah: Duleep Singh 1838-1898 
by Michael Alexander and Sushila Anand.
Weidenfeld, 326 pp., £9.95, February 1980, 0 297 77656 8
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... British troops the lock hospital came back strongly into favour. The worldly-wise had reckoned, however, without the Nonconformist conscience and the nascent women’s movement. From 1869, Josephine Butler and the Repeal Association battled against the British Act until, in 1883, they secured its suspension, and, in 1886, its abolition. Successful in Britain, one section of the reform movement turned ...

Thirty Years Ago

Patrick Parrinder

18 July 1985
Still Life 
by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 358 pp., £9.95, June 1985, 0 7011 2667 1
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Wales’ Work 
by Robert Walshe.
Secker, 279 pp., £8.95, July 1985, 9780436561450
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... with Raphael extends, to my mind, to the majority of the Cambridge sections of Still Life, even though these are as packed with ideas and argumentative passages as the ‘prig novels’ of Samuel Butler and H.G. Wells. Although Byatt herself attended Cambridge, there is a feeling of thesis-illustration and slightly strained invention in Frederica’s adventures there. One sees it in the names of the ...

Baffled at a Bookcase

Alan Bennett: My Libraries

28 July 2011
... extract from my diary: 22 February Switch on Newsnight to find some bright spark from, guess where, the Adam Smith Institute, proposing the privatisation of the public libraries. His name is Eamonn Butler and it’s to be hoped he’s no relation of the 1944 Education Act Butler. Smirking and pleased with himself as they generally are from that stable, he’s pitted against a well-meaning but ...
25 June 1987
Computation into Criticism: A Study of Jane Austen’s Novels and an Experiment in Method 
by J.F Burrows.
Oxford, 245 pp., £25, February 1987, 0 19 812856 8
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... modifications of the norm intentional, an aspect of characterisation. It is a case which works well enough for the five most changeable speakers in his table, Marianne Dashwood, Mr Knightley, Fanny, Emma and Henry Crawford, not so well for the next best learners, Mrs Norris and Mrs Bennet. Once again, other authors fail to match Austen’s remarkable diversity. Forster’s Margaret Schlegel ...
28 September 1989
The Brideshead Generation: Evelyn Waugh and his Friends 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Weidenfeld, 523 pp., £17.95, September 1989, 0 297 79320 9
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Osbert: A Portrait of Osbert Lancaster 
by Richard Boston.
Collins, 256 pp., £17.50, August 1989, 0 00 216324 1
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Ackerley: A Life of J.R. Ackerley 
by Peter Parker.
Constable, 465 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 09 469000 6
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... detail: much more in keeping with true Waugh fantasy is Sebastian’s sudden whim of taking Charles Ryder to visit his old nanny at Brideshead, where the two climbed ‘uncarpeted, scrubbed elm stairs, followed more passages, covered with linoleum ... up a final staircase, gated at the head. Here were the nurseries.’ The nurseries! The grand calm of that plural has a magniloquence all the ...

The Voice from the Hearth-Rug

Alan Ryan: The Cambridge Apostles

28 October 1999
The Cambridge Apostles 1820-1914: Liberalism, Imagination and Friendship in British Intellectual and Professional Life 
by W.C. Lubenow.
Cambridge, 458 pp., £35, October 1998, 0 521 57213 4
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... schoolmasters and headmasters abound: not just raffish Etonian schoolmasters such as William Cory Johnson and Oscar Browning, but solid, sober headmasters in the High Victorian style, such as Montagu Butler and J.E.C. Welldon at Harrow, afforced by Kennedy at Shrewsbury, Farrar at Marlborough, and Young at Sherborne. Lubenow is interested in a whole raft of different topics, and the only complaint one ...
12 July 1990
Serious Pleasures: The Life of Stephen Tennant 
by Philip Hoare.
Hamish Hamilton, 463 pp., £20, June 1990, 0 241 12416 6
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... more or less, proposing marriage to her – and she fell for his charms, and then when one day she came to his house for the weekend, he quite shattered her by simply refusing to allow her in. The butler, taking pity on her, let her in after all, only (according to Herbert’s highly-coloured story) to find her later in the cellar, eating coal. What were the circumstances causing a common condition ...


Stephen Wall

26 March 1992
Surviving: The Uncollected Writings of Henry Green 
edited by Matthew Yorke.
Chatto, 302 pp., £18, February 1992, 0 7011 3900 5
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Pack my bag 
by Henry Green.
Hogarth, 242 pp., £9.99, February 1992, 0 7012 0988 7
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by Henry Green.
Harvill, 225 pp., £6.99, February 1992, 0 00 271185 0
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... deep interest in the eternal contrast between everyday life’s flatness and its intensity’. Like all his best work, Loving shows his extraordinary gift for combining the two. When Raunce the butler hears the gramophone playing in the ballroom which the servant girls Edith and Kate are supposed to air once a week, he is at first irritated: ‘The little bitches I’ll show ‘em,’ he said and ...

Fiction and E.M.​ Forster

Frank Kermode: At the Cost of Life

10 May 2007
... to evade. Aspects of the Novel has remarkably little to say about Forster’s novelist contemporaries. It is true that Gide and Wells and James and Bennett, of course, and also Max Beerbohm, Samuel Butler, Galsworthy, David Garnett, Hardy, Robert Hichens, W.H. Hudson, Lubbock, H. de Vere Stacpoole are mentioned, also Forster’s close friend G.L. Dickinson. Of another, highly gifted friend, Virginia ...

Poor Dear, How She Figures!

Alan Hollinghurst: Forster and His Mother

3 January 2013
The Journals and Diaries of E.M.​ Forster Volumes I-III 
edited by Philip Gardner.
Pickering and Chatto, 813 pp., £275, February 2011, 978 1 84893 114 5
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... Pater, the always dependable Shakespeare and Michelangelo, Whitman, Marlowe and Henry Scott Tuke, the painter of bathing boys. Three or four are mere suspects, followed by question marks: Samuel Butler? Luca Signorelli? Forster had presumably seen those great paeans to the male buttocks, Signorelli’s frescoes in Orvieto cathedral, and come to an irresistible conclusion. A felt kinship with ...

Don’t Ask Henry

Alan Hollinghurst: Sissiness

9 October 2008
by Howard Sturgis.
NYRB, 345 pp., £8.99, May 2008, 978 1 59017 266 7
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... looser grasp of the details of ordinary life. As Forster said, Sturgis ‘could no more imagine a gentleman not going to Eton than a servant not dropping an “h”’. One enjoys the odd Thackerayan butler announcing that ‘lunching was served’, but what is odd in a novel whose protagonist is racked by a social conscience, and longs to go ‘into one of those East End parishes and start a place ...
3 April 1980
... furniture, they cannot be established as universals standing for a whole class of singulars, Milly and Maggie and Chad remain nonetheless ideas of a sort. That is, ideas, expelled by a majestic butler at the front door, return by another entrance and stand waiting pathetically to be dressed in words. Before leaving James, hoist – if I am right – by his own petard, I want to ask whether his ...

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