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Zoë Heller: Ronald Reagan

2 March 2000
Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan 
by Edmund Morris.
HarperCollins, 874 pp., £24.99, October 1999, 0 00 217709 9
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... Fourteen years ago, EdmundMorris won the job of writing the official Reagan biography. With the job came all kinds of unprecedented access. Morris was allowed to attend senior staff meetings at the White House and to travel as part of the Presidential entourage on foreign trips. He had permission to examine the President’s conscientiously ...

A Preference for Strenuous Ghosts

Michael Kammen: Theodore Roosevelt

6 June 2002
Theodore Rex 
by Edmund Morris.
HarperCollins, 772 pp., £25, March 2002, 0 00 217708 0
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... FDR’s elder cousin, Theodore, who occupied the White House from 1901 to 1909, has not exactly been neglected, but Nathan Miller’s 1992 biography was the first since Henry Pringle’s in 1931. EdmundMorris won a Pulitzer Prize in 1980 for The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, a bestseller despite its 863 pages, and now he gives us the Presidential years in a svelte, eminently readable 772 pages. Some ...
18 September 1997
Rare Spirit: A Life of William De Morgan 1839-1917 
by Mark Hamilton.
Constable, 236 pp., £22.50, September 1997, 0 09 474670 2
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... still hankering after the ‘great silent libraries’, and the ‘intoxicating traditions of ancient learning’, which in the early 1850s fired the imaginations of the Oxford undergraduates William Morris and Edward Burne Jones. But De Morgan was enrolled at University College, where there was no scope for picturesque medievalism. The spirit of place did not haunt Gower Street. Having failed to get a ...

Character Building

Peter Campbell

9 June 1994
Black Riders: The Visible Language of Modernity 
by Jerome McGann.
Princeton, 196 pp., £25, July 1993, 0 691 06985 9
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Letters from the People 
by Lee Friedlander.
Cape, 96 pp., £75, August 1993, 9780224032957
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Margins and Marginality 
by Evelyn Tribble.
Virginia, 194 pp., $35, December 1993, 0 8139 1472 8
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... too, have a body language. But does the way they are physically presented impinge in any significant way on the texts they contain? Jerome McGann reckons that the private press movement (William Morris and his followers) was an agent in the rise of Modernist poetry, and goes on to make large claims for the ability of poetry in the Modernist tradition to unknot linguistic and philosophical binds ...

In Letchworth

Gillian Darley: Pevsner's Hertfordshire

22 December 2019
... substituted for the spire after its removal in the 15th century.In 1877 the abbey church became a cathedral, just as Gilbert Scott’s planned renovations gathered momentum. Scott died in 1878 and Edmund Beckett, an exceedingly rich and entirely unsupervised architectural amateur stepped in. He considered the cathedral a tabula rasa, to be rebuilt at his own expense. William Morris, whose Society for ...

Strawberries in December

Paul Laity: She Radicals

29 March 2017
Rebel Crossings: New Women, Free Lovers and Radicals in Britain and the United States 
by Sheila Rowbotham.
Verso, 512 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 1 78478 588 8
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... a body that aspired to ‘the attainment of the higher ideals of life’ regardless of class or sex. Its members met in coffee houses, read from their favourite poets – Whitman, Shelley, William Morris – and listened to ‘rousing glees’; Carpenter was one of their most popular speakers. The two women were swept up in the ‘new unionism’ that energised British socialism at the end of the ...

Sour Apple

José Harris

5 July 1984
H.G. Wells: Aspects of a Life 
by Anthony West.
Hutchinson, 405 pp., £12.95, June 1984, 0 09 134540 5
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by Anthony West.
Secker, 305 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 436 56592 7
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... There are severe indictments of many of Wells’s contemporaries, suggesting that Anthony West’s penchant for black and white judgments is not confined to his assessment of his parents. William Morris, for example, was a purveyor of ‘bogus archaisms and mock heroics’, Beatrice Webb was an ‘arrogant woman of limited intelligence’, Edmund Gosse was the ‘gentleman’s outfitter’ of ...
17 July 1980
... Then Agnes bore a fifth son whose father was Lewes’s friend and colleague Thornton Leigh Hunt. Unwilling to stigmatise the child, Lewes forgave the offence and allowed the boy to be registered as Edmund Lewes – perhaps with a wry glance at the bastard in King Lear. But the offence was repeated; and before Agnes bore the second of her four or five children by Hunt, Lewes had ceased to regard her as ...


Nicolas Freeling: On Missing the Detective Story

11 June 1992
... to make the message felt. The heap of Crime Club volumes is now an Assyrian monument; would make a fine pyramid of skulls but who would be bothered? ‘Who cares who killed Roger Ackroyd?’ shouted Edmund Wilson, exasperated, but it would barely be a mutter today. For who, sleepless in the guest bedroom in even the dankest of shires, is going to pounce gleefully upon Freeman Wills Crofts? But in 1930 ...


C.H. Sisson

9 November 1989
Edgell Rickword: A Poet at War 
by Charles Hobday.
Carcanet, 337 pp., £16.95, October 1989, 0 85635 883 5
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... the vantage-point of the late 20th century,’ the biographer says, ‘his eagerness to plunge into the slaughter seems incomprehensible, and incompatible with his Socialism.’. (He had read William Morris, and was ‘still at grips with social problems’.) There is here perhaps a certain lack of historical imagination, on Hobday’s part. Rickword did in due course join the Artists’ Rifles, a corps ...

Incidence of Incest

Edmund​ Leach

19 February 1981
The Red Lamp of Incest: A Study in the Origins of Mind and Society 
by Robin Fox.
Hutchinson, 271 pp., £7.95, January 1981, 0 09 144080 7
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Betrayal of Innocence: Incest and its Devastation 
by Susan Forward and Craig Buck.
Penguin, 154 pp., £1.95, February 1981, 0 14 022287 1
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... of a group of authors who have been made a very profitable exploration of the border zone between journalism and serious human ethology. These authors include Konrad Lorenz, Robert Ardrey, Desmond Morris and E.O. Wilson. The present work is dedicated to the memory of Robert Ardrey, so the reader should know what to expect. The radical difference between social anthropology and the kind of thing ...


Terry Eagleton: T.S. Eliot’s Politics

19 September 2002
The ‘Criterion’: Cultural Politics and Periodical Networks in Interwar Britain 
by Jason Harding.
Oxford, 250 pp., £35, April 2002, 9780199247172
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... by those for whom Eliot and his magazine were themselves of this persuasion. In fact, Eliot was not a Fascist but a reactionary, a distinction lost on those of his critics who, in the words of Edmund Burke, know nothing of politics but the passions they incite. Ideologically speaking, Fascism is as double-visaged as the Modernism with which it was sometimes involved, casting a backward glance to ...

How the sanity of poets can be edited away

Arnold Rattenbury: The Sanity of Ivor Gurney

14 October 1999
‘Severn and Somme’ and ‘War’s Embers’ 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 152 pp., £7.95, September 1997, 1 85754 348 3
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80 Poems or So 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by George Walter and R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 148 pp., £9.95, January 1997, 1 85754 344 0
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... poverty and distress. Gurney would, in fact, have nothing to do with the attempt to wedge apart the urban and rural radical traditions – an attempt which contrived, for instance, to make William Morris look bosky. Indeed, in ‘The Road’, a crucial 86-line poem which is not in Kavanagh, he celebrates their essential congruity – and a politics we do not meet again until the recollected ‘war ...

The Crystal Palace Experience

E.S. Turner: The Great Exhibition of 1851

25 November 1999
The Great Exhibition of 1851: A Nation on Display 
by Jeffrey Auerbach.
Yale, 280 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 300 08007 7
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... the human race. There was a travelling crane capable of doing the work of six men which could be operated by a boy at ten shillings a week – the sort of claim which, when made on behalf of the Rev. Edmund Cartwright’s power loom, had led to rioting and arson in the North. According to Auerbach, the organisers held ‘a remarkably sophisticated view of the British economy’ and were interested even ...


John Kerrigan: Lost Shakespeare

6 February 1986
... written even one more play, the Stratford whirligig would be less giddy, and the company less dependent on coachloads of US tourists. Hence the frisson created here by Shakespeare’s Lost Play: ‘Edmund Ironside’. But by the time a copy of Eric Sams’s edition reaches me through theatrical hands, it’s been marked up and rejected. Understandably, because the play is dull and its attribution ...

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