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Hyacinth Boy

Mark Ford: T.S. Eliot, 21 September 2006

T.S. Eliot: The Making of an American Poet 
by James E. Miller.
Pennsylvania State, 468 pp., £29.95, August 2005, 0 271 02681 2
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The Annotated ‘Waste Land’ with Eliot’s Contemporary Prose 
by T.S. Eliot, edited by Lawrence Rainey.
Yale, 270 pp., $35, April 2005, 0 300 09743 3
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Revisiting ‘The Waste Land’ 
by Lawrence Rainey.
Yale, 203 pp., £22.50, May 2005, 0 300 10707 2
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... male and, like Phlebas, appears to have drowned, or so the section’s concluding quotation from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde suggests: ‘Öd’ und leer das Meer’ (‘Desolate and empty the sea’). James Miller was the first critic inspired by Peter’s speculations and the appearance of the drafts to attempt a thorough outing of Eliot. His ...


David Cannadine, 21 March 1985

Elgar, the Man 
by Michael De-la-Noy.
Allen Lane/Viking, 340 pp., £12.95, September 1984, 0 7139 1532 3
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Edward Elgar: A Creative Life 
by Jerrold Northrop Moore.
Oxford, 841 pp., £35, June 1984, 0 19 315447 1
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Spirit of England: Edward Elgar in his World 
by Jerrold Northrop Moore.
Heinemann, 175 pp., £10.95, February 1984, 0 434 47541 6
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The Elgar-Atkins Friendship 
by E. Wulstan Atkins.
David and Charles, 510 pp., £15, April 1984, 0 7153 8583 6
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... he was given a knighthood and the OM; he was swept up into the arms of the Establishment; even Edward VII recognised a good tune when he heard one. By 1911, Elgar was one of the most famous men in the land: the hoped-for glory had come. But in 1920, Alice died, and Elgar the composer died with her. As the last verse of ‘The Music ...

Thoughts on Late Style

Edward Said, 5 August 2004

... of late works which crown a lifetime of aesthetic endeavour. Rembrandt and Matisse, Bach and Wagner. But what of artistic lateness not as harmony and resolution, but as intransigence, difficulty and contradiction? What if age and ill health don’t produce serenity at all? This is the case with Ibsen, whose final works, especially When We Dead ...

In the Chair

Edward Said, 17 July 1997

Glenn Gould: The Ecstasy and the Tragedy of Genius 
by Peter Ostwald.
Norton, 368 pp., $29.95, May 1997, 0 393 04077 1
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When the Music Stops: Managers, Maestros and the Corporate Murder of Classical Music 
by Norman Lebrecht.
Simon and Schuster, 400 pp., £7.99, July 1997, 0 671 01025 5
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... he was, I think, interested in creating himself anew with each performance of a Bach fugue or Wagner transcription. And yet the effect of his playing is that it always recalls something, whether a harpsichord, or a pianoforte, or the human voice, in the process of telling-itself (as Gerard Manley Hopkins put it) with originality and inventiveness. From ...

On ‘Fidelio’

Edward Said, 30 October 1997

... far too swift and almost magical about the opera for it to represent a political process. Unlike Wagner or even Mozart, Beethoven was neither particularly well-read nor philosophically inclined. He read the great contemporary poets like Schiller and Goethe, but when it came to philosophical ideas or how to think about history, he was more or less a ...


Anthony Thwaite, 26 October 1989

Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath 
by Anne Stevenson.
Viking, 413 pp., £15.95, October 1989, 0 670 81854 2
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... to acknowledge her contribution to the biographical material in the last four chapters.’ Linda Wagner-Martin’s 1988 biography* reveals typographically, to anyone who examines it closely, that many passages were rewritten at a late proof stage, presumably under duress. Earlier attempts to write about Plath were either soured by authorial complaints ...

Wigan Peer

Stephen Koss, 15 November 1984

The Crawford Papers: The Journals of David Lindsay, 27th Earl of Crawford and 10th Earl of Balcarres, during the Years 1892 to 1940 
edited by John Vincent.
Manchester, 645 pp., £35, October 1984, 0 7190 0948 0
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... so insistent as to be a positive fatigue.’ This tart commentary was provided by David Alexander Edward Lindsay, better-known (after he succeeded his father in 1913) as the 27th Earl of Crawford, and probably best-known as the tenth Earl of Balcarres, a junior title that did not bar him from the House of Commons. To unravel his pedigree, as his forbears ...

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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... but frequently more discursive than some might think the occasion requires, as when the late Edward Said is chastised at length for his errant opinion of A Passage to India. Forster’s devotees, a party that includes the present editor, are clearly unwilling to treat the paralipomena of an admired author as undeserving of the fullest canonical ...

So Much to Hate

Bernard Porter: Rudyard Bloody Kipling, 25 April 2002

The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling 
by David Gilmour.
Murray, 351 pp., £22.50, March 2002, 0 7195 5539 6
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... the Kaiser would die of throat cancer. He also claimed the Liberal Government had killed King Edward VII. David Gilmour, who does the best he can to defend Kipling against his detractors, insists that some of this was not intended ‘personally’, but it is hard to see how that could be. In fact Kipling comes over as a deeply unsympathetic character in ...

Dat’s de Truth

Terence Hawkes, 26 January 1995

Dancing to a Black Man’s Tune: A Life of Scott Joplin 
by Susan Curtis.
Missouri, 265 pp., £26.95, July 1994, 0 8262 0949 1
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King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era 
by Edward Berlin.
Oxford, 334 pp., £19.99, September 1994, 0 19 508739 9
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... no less, entitled A Guest of Honour. Even today, it has the air of a massive cultural oxymoron. Edward Berlin speculates that the libretto may celebrate Theodore Roosevelt’s politically dangerous invitation to a black man – the celebrated educationalist, Booker T. Washington – to dine at the White House. Styled a ‘ragtime opera’, A Guest of Honour ...

In the Hothouse

Peter Howarth: Swinburne, 8 November 2018

21st-Century Oxford Authors: Algernon Charles Swinburne 
edited by Francis O’Gorman.
Oxford, 722 pp., £95, December 2016, 978 0 19 967224 0
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... interests of free speech his critics should stop trying to sniff out moral wrongdoing. But when Edward Moxon pulled the book, Swinburne stood firm. ‘To alter my course or mutilate my published work seems to me somewhat like deserting one’s colours,’ he told Lord Lytton. ‘One may or may not repent having enlisted, but to lay down one’s arms, except ...

Hons and Wets

D.A.N. Jones, 6 December 1984

The House of Mitford 
by Jonathan Guinness and Catherine Guinness.
Hutchinson, 604 pp., £12.95, November 1984, 0 09 155560 4
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... Thomas ‘Tap’ Bowles were both tremendous swells. They looked rather similar, something like Edward Elgar, and when they were in the House of Commons they worked together in a spirited, efficient and defiantly independent manner, never as lobby-fodder. Neither could be called ‘democratic’ or ‘anti-racist’; but Tap Bowles was always keen to praise ...

Maximum Assistance from Good Cooking, Good Clothes, Good Drink

Frank Kermode: Auden’s Shakespeare, 22 February 2001

Lectures on Shakespeare 
by W.H. Auden, edited by Arthur Kirsch.
Faber, 398 pp., £30, February 2001, 9780571207121
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... very idiosyncratic account of Christian history, ‘tracing patterns unimaginable by others’, as Edward Mendelson remarks – a disparaging view the poet himself later accepted. Throughout the time he was working on The Age of Anxiety the tone of his thinking was rather bleakly religious. The poem is set on the night of All Souls, a feast of which the ...

Business as Usual

J. Hoberman: Hitler in Hollywood, 19 December 2013

Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-39 
by Thomas Doherty.
Columbia, 429 pp., £24, April 2013, 978 0 231 16392 7
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The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler 
by Ben Urwand.
Harvard, 327 pp., £19.95, August 2013, 978 0 674 72474 7
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... Syberberg commented in his filmed interview with the aged, unashamed Führer-familiar Winifred Wagner in 1975. Eighty years after Hitler came to power in Germany, is it possible to imagine the world when the Third Reich was new? Before September 1939 and even after the Second World War began, the West was full of enablers and apologists. Hitler’s ...

The Cool Machine

Stephen Walsh: Ravel, 25 August 2011

by Roger Nichols.
Yale, 430 pp., £25, April 2011, 978 0 300 10882 8
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... Debussy was continually at war with the fusty theoreticians of the Conservatoire. His biographer Edward Lockspeiser records a remarkable conversation between Debussy and his old composition teacher, Ernest Guiraud, in which Guiraud plays a sequence of simple parallel chords and asks Debussy how he would ‘get out of this’ (manage it, that is, as harmony ...

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