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Dark Corners

Terence Ranger, 9 July 1987

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written By Herself 
by Harriet Jacobs, edited by Jean Fagan Yellin.
Harvard, 306 pp., £29.95, July 1987, 9780674447455
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The Spirit and the Drum: A Memoir of Africa 
by Edith Turner.
University of Arizona Press, 165 pp., £15.95, July 1987, 0 8165 1009 1
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Kaffir Boy: Growing out of Apartheid 
by Mark Mathabane.
Bodley Head, 354 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 370 31058 6
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... it both as a true life-story and as a classic expression of ‘the Afro-American experience’. Edith Turner’s The Spirit and the Drum, which recounts her visits to western Zambia with her husband Victor a century later than Jacobs’s misadventures in America, is described as ‘a highly personal memoir’ which ‘re-creates the ritual and ...

Naughty Children

Christopher Turner: Freud’s Free Clinics, 6 October 2005

Freud’s Free Clinics: Psychoanalysis and Social Justice 1918-38 
by Elizabeth Ann Danto.
Columbia, 348 pp., £19.50, May 2005, 0 231 13180 1
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... They included Helene Deutsch (‘revolutionism’ was her term), Wilhelm Reich, Otto Fenichel, Edith Jacobson and Karen Horney. They shared Marxist sympathies and met in Fenichel’s radical Children’s Seminar, so called not because it was devoted to child analysis but because Fenichel liked to think of the analysts as ‘naughty children’. They were ...

She’s a tiger-cat!

Miranda Seymour: Birds’ claw omelettes with Vernon Lee, 22 January 2004

Vernon Lee: A Literary Biography 
by Vineta Colby.
Virginia, 387 pp., £32.50, May 2003, 0 8139 2158 9
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... intriguing to learn that another of Paget’s surrogate mothers was Cornelia Boinville de Chastel Turner, the unmarried partner of an Italian republican called Giovanni Ruffini. Ruffini had become friendly in 1868 with Eugene, who effected the introduction; Cornelia, in earlier years, had enjoyed a brief flirtation with Shelley before her husband, Thomas ...

I am not a world improver

Christopher Turner: Building Seagram, 6 February 2014

Building Seagram 
by Phyllis Lambert.
Yale, 306 pp., £45, January 2013, 978 0 300 16767 2
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Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography 
by Franz Schulze and Edward Windhorst.
Chicago, 493 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 0 226 15145 8
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... embroiled in a scandal, a court case over the costs of the house he’d built for the physician Edith Farnsworth, sixty miles south-west of Chicago. It is rumoured that they had an affair, which may have coloured their spectacular falling out and the resulting court case (from which Schulze and Windhorst have discovered transcripts). The Farnsworth ...

I adore your moustache

James Wolcott: Styron’s Letters, 24 January 2013

Selected Letters of William Styron 
edited by Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin.
Random House, 643 pp., £24.99, December 2012, 978 1 4000 6806 7
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... Marlene Dietrich. ‘You could have knocked me over with a pin,’ Styron wrote to his aunt Edith, ‘when Leo took me over to meet Dietrich and she took my cold clammy hand in hers and said she had not only “rad” LDID, but “lawved” it! It was pure Elysium, I can tell you that.’ If the literary histories of the future have less wattage, it ...


Rosemary Hill: The Writers’ Blitz, 21 February 2013

The Love-Charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War 
by Lara Feigel.
Bloomsbury, 519 pp., £25, January 2013, 978 1 4088 3044 4
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... arguing about whether the night sky, riven with fire and the beams of searchlights, is more like a Turner or a John Martin. Further down St James’s Street, on the opposite pavement from where a club that is more or less Brooks’s has been bombed, ‘a group of progressive novelists in firemen’s uniform were squirting a little jet of water into the morning ...

Warrior Women

Patrick Wormald, 19 June 1986

Women in Anglo-Saxon England and the Impact of 1066 
by Christine Fell, Cecily Clark and Elizabeth Williams.
British Museum/Blackwell, 208 pp., £15, April 1984, 0 7141 8057 2
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... century, when the working class was still experiencing its controversial ‘condition’, Sharon Turner (a man, actually) was writing, in one of the half-dozen best-ever books about the Anglo-Saxons: ‘Nothing could be more calculated to produce a very striking dissimilarity, between the Gothic nations and the Oriental States, than this exaltation of the ...


Rosemary Dinnage: In Paris, 2 February 1984

... are beautiful, says Lucienne. The most important one in Paris at present is Joseph Mallord William Turner, who has bowled the town over. Is it worth fighting to see the Turners at the Grand Palais through a six-deep screen of visitors saying ‘Tiens, que c’est beau,’ when we shall soon see them in one great permanent collection here? Yes. But the ...

Is there another place from which the dickhead’s self can speak?

Marina Warner: The body and law, 1 October 1998

Bodies of Law 
by Alan Hyde.
Princeton, 290 pp., £39.50, July 1997, 0 691 01229 6
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... officials’ armchairs were flanked by imposing brass spittoons as if by armorial bearers; Edith Piaf, squatting on the stage to piss, was making a point about women’s restrictions in the land of the public pissoir; Anthea Turner goes ‘the full monty’ on the cover of a glossy this month but the massive phallic ...

Feast of Darks

Christine Stansell: Whistler, 23 October 2003

Whistler, Women and Fashion 
by Margaret MacDonald and Susan Grace Galassi et al.
Yale, 243 pp., £35, May 2003, 0 300 09906 1
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Whistler and His Mother: An Unexpected Relationship 
by Sarah Walden.
Gibson Square, 242 pp., £15.99, July 2003, 1 903933 28 5
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... a better place to show the pictures: the dim, stately rooms still have the crepuscular feel of an Edith Wharton setting, and the fashionable women in the paintings look like the fashionable women who once came to the Fricks for the evening and, even better, like the fashionable women right outside on the streets of the Upper East Side. Hung high in the ...
Mason & Dixon 
by Thomas Pynchon.
Cape, 773 pp., £16.99, May 1997, 9780224050012
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... grown as strong as states themselves. I was reminded of the shock I got when I saw the film of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, with much of Manhattan still, towards the end of the last century, a muddy building-site. The America of Mason – Dixon is more than a century more inchoate, and so is the world around it. The ‘self-evident ...

Fed up with Ibiza

Jenny Turner: Sybille Bedford, 1 April 2021

Sybille Bedford: An Appetite for Life 
by Selina Hastings.
Chatto, 432 pp., £35, November 2020, 978 1 78474 113 6
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... to rich old women who rewarded him with lavish bequests. In 1956 he was charged with murdering Edith Morrell, 81, who had died six years earlier of complications, or so it had been thought, after a stroke. The prosecution’s contention was that it hadn’t been the stroke that killed her so much as the medically unnecessary and bizarrely huge quantities ...

Convenient Death of a Hero

Arnold Rattenbury, 8 May 1997

Beyond the Frontier: the Politics of a Failed Mission, Bulgaria 1944 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin/Stanford, 120 pp., £12.95, December 1996, 0 85036 457 4
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... campaigning. And when it came to literature, why, he had dealt with Belloc, Blunden, Bridges, Edith Sitwell, Graves, Sassoon, Meynell, W.J. Turner, Phillpotts, Day Lewis, Auden – to a tyro like myself, it did at times seem everyone – for the series of Benn’s ‘Sixpenny Poets’ which he edited. (In 1944, though I ...

Too Proud to Fight

David Reynolds: The ‘Lusitania’ Effect, 28 November 2002

Wilful Murder: The Sinking of the ‘Lusitania’ 
by Diana Preston.
Doubleday, 543 pp., £18.99, May 2002, 0 385 60173 5
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Lusitania: Saga and Myth 
by David Ramsay.
Chatham, 319 pp., £20, September 2001, 1 86176 170 8
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Woodrow Wilson 
by John Thompson.
Longman, 288 pp., £15.99, August 2002, 0 582 24737 3
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... munitions going off. It therefore tried to shift the blame onto the Lusitania’s captain, William Turner, and also played up talk of a second torpedo. Both Ramsay and Preston are emphatic, however, that the U-20 fired only once, and they broadly agree on what could have caused a single torpedo to sink a 30,000-ton liner in 18 minutes. In 1903, Cunard had been ...

Reasons for Liking Tolkien

Jenny Turner: The Hobbit Habit, 15 November 2001

... such a life women come as a bit of an afterthought, as they do, indeed, in the books. Tolkien met Edith Bratt in 1909, and was forbidden from pursuing the relationship by his priestly guardian. Despite this, they married in 1916 and went on to have four children. From Carpenter’s account in the authorised biography, the relationship seems to have been ...

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