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Unnecessary People

Daniel Eilon, 3 May 1984

Unlikely Stories, Mostly 
by Alasdair Gray.
Penguin, 296 pp., £4.95, April 1984, 0 14 006925 9
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1982, Janine 
by Alasdair Gray.
Cape, 347 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 224 02094 3
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by Snoo Wilson.
Chatto, 160 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 0 7011 2785 6
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Scorched Earth 
by Edward Fenton.
Sinclair Browne, 216 pp., £7.95, April 1984, 0 86300 044 4
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... internal as a literary practice. Compared to Gray’s tapestry, this work is mere blanket-stitch. Edward Fenton’s promising first novel, Scorched Earth, is light and frothy and contains no carcinogenic preservatives, emulsifiers or stabilisers. It recounts ten days in the lives of four ideologically sound kids surviving on the dole in London. Their ...

The Last Years of Edward Kelley, Alchemist to the Emperor

Charles Nicholl: Edward Kelly, 19 April 2001

... was at this inn, on the evening of 3 May 1591, that the English alchemist, clairvoyant and con-man Edward Kelley was arrested by officers of Emperor Rudolf II. At the time of his arrest Kelley was an internationally famous figure, but thereafter the story grows confused: he disappears from view into the dungeons of 16th-century Bohemia. News of his death ...

A Mile or Two outside Worthing

Richard Jenkyns: Edward Trelawny, 26 November 1998

Lord Byron’s Jackal: A Life of Trelawny 
by David Crane.
HarperCollins, 398 pp., £19.99, July 1998, 0 00 255631 6
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... is this odd fish?’ Severn also asked, and Crane’s book is an attempt to answer that question. Edward John Trelawny was born in 1792 and died in 1881. In his later years he was a legendary figure, farouche and craggy, a solitary survivor from an epoch which already seemed fabulously remote: here, living on deep into the later Victorian age was a man who ...

A Prehistory of Extraordinary Rendition

Patrick Cockburn, 13 September 2012

... imperialism. I thought very little about him until around ten years ago, when my friend James Fenton, the poet, said that on a trip to South Korea he had been approached by a Korean professor who asked him if it was true that ‘ck’ in the name ‘Cockburn’ was not pronounced. When James asked him why he was interested the professor explained that he ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... been taken on board in Britain: they engage with a post-Poundian poetic tradition (Charles Olson, Edward Dorn, Robert Duncan, George Oppen) of a kind that gives modern American poetry its variety and experimentalism. Gunn and Davie are included in both anthologies, but to read their collected poems (the next step after reading Davie’s superb ‘Time ...


Alan Bennett: Bennett’s Dissection, 1 January 2009

... in Bodley’s strongroom on the next shelf to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.’ 17 April. George Fenton comes round with a present, an overcoat from John Pearce, the fashionable tailor in Meard Street who specialises in remaking or renovating old clothes. The coat is French, long, black and once having had an astrakhan collar. It’s a lovely thing, but what ...

A Hard Dog to Keep on the Porch

Christopher Hitchens, 6 June 1996

... the latest leaflet, or procuring another drink. And there were the Americans. I remember James Fenton noticing how they would cluster a little closer together and talk in a fashion slightly more intense. Mainly Rhodes or Fulbright scholars, they had come from every state of the union with what amounted to a free pass. The Yanks of Oxford were accustomed to ...

Elegant Extracts

Leah Price: Anthologies, 3 February 2000

The Oxford Book of English Verse 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 690 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 19 214182 1
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The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume One 
edited by M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt.
Norton, 2974 pp., £22.50, December 1999, 0 393 97487 1
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The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume Two 
edited by M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt.
Norton, 2963 pp., £22.50, February 2000, 9780393974911
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The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Volume One 
edited by David Damrosch.
Longman, 2963 pp., $53, July 1999, 0 321 01173 2
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The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Volume Two 
edited by David Damrosch.
Longman, 2982 pp., $53, July 1999, 0 321 01174 0
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Night & Horses & The Desert: An Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature 
edited by Robert Irwin.
Allen Lane, 480 pp., £25, September 1999, 0 7139 9153 4
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News that Stays News: The 20th Century in Poems 
edited by Simon Rae.
Faber, 189 pp., £9.99, October 1999, 0 571 20060 5
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Time’s Tidings: Greeting the 21st Century 
by Carol Ann Duffy.
Anvil, 157 pp., £7.95, November 1999, 0 85646 313 2
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Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the 20th Century in Poetry 
edited by Peter Forbes.
Penguin, 640 pp., £12.99, February 1999, 9780140588996
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... its provenance’, but never quite decides what it does seek to be. Judicious selections from Edward Taylor and Anne Bradstreet extend the anthology’s reach beyond what Ricks terms ‘our precious stones from Land’s End to John o’Groats, leave alone the emerald of Ireland’. On the other hand, the editorial policy excludes ‘the British Empire or ...

Like a row of books by Faber

Peter Porter, 22 January 1987

Other Passports: Poems 1958-1985 
by Clive James.
Cape, 221 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 224 02422 1
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... to answer: ‘Yes, but!’ Many of us who enjoy formal versification and who rejoice with James Fenton that Auden cleared our minds of cant and gave us back our freedom to range the long catalogue of traditional poetic tropes are still unhappy at James’s over-narrow raiding of the past. John Frederick Nims pointed out that you can view the durable iambics ...

Issues for His Prose Style

Andrew O’Hagan: Hemingway, 7 June 2012

The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Vol. I, 1907-22 
edited by Sandra Spanier and Robert Trogdon.
Cambridge, 431 pp., £30, October 2011, 978 0 521 89733 4
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... Arms. The desire for combat is paramount. ‘Not everyone feels such things so intensely,’ James Fenton writes in his introduction to the Everyman edition of the Collected Stories. Many are simply relieved not to have to fight. But the real test for someone of Hemingway’s cast of mind is: to serve in war as a soldier under military discipline. Hemingway ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2011, 5 January 2012

... makeshift coathanger he has rigged up over the bath in order to dry his anorak.14 January. George Fenton tells me of a memorial service he’s been to at St Marylebone Parish Church for Maurice Murphy, the principal trumpet of the LSO, who did the opening trumpet solo in the music for Star Wars. The service due to kick off at 11.30, George arrives with ten ...

Social Arrangements

John Bayley, 30 December 1982

The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry 
edited by Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion.
Penguin, 208 pp., £1.95, October 1982, 0 14 042283 8
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The Rattle Bag 
edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes.
Faber, 498 pp., £10, October 1982, 0 571 11966 2
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... is a close similarity between Wordsworth’s manifesto in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads, and Edward Marsh introducing the first Georgian anthology in 1912 with the statement that ‘English poetry is once again putting on a new strength and beauty.’ The difference is that Wordsworth really was heralding a new era of sensibility, as Ezra Pound was to do ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1995, 4 January 1996

... the police have been found guilty and punished. Or even sacked. 20 June. Three jokes from George Fenton. 1. Man has bad pains in his bum. Friend says it’s piles so he applies various creams which do no good. Another friend says: ‘No, creams are useless. What you want to do is have a cup of tea then take the tea leaves and put them up your arse. It’s ...

Bastard Foreigners

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare v. the English, 2 July 2020

Shakespeare’s Englishes: Against Englishness 
by Margaret Tudeau-Clayton.
Cambridge, 245 pp., £75, October 2019, 978 1 108 49373 4
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... the works of Shakespeare. In The Literature and Art of the Empire (1924), Major A.A. Longden and Edward Salmon claimed that Cranmer’s prophecy supplied ‘proof of Shakespeare’s confidence in England’s destiny’, while for J.A.R. Marriott, writing in 1918, it helped show that to Shakespeare, ‘as to other Elizabethans, England was something more than ...

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