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Impatience

J.P. Stern, 30 August 1990

Unmodern Observations 
by Friedrich Nietzsche, translated by Herbert Golder, Gary Brown and William Arrowsmith.
Yale, 402 pp., £30, February 1990, 0 300 04311 2
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The Importance of Nietzsche 
by Erich Heller.
Chicago, 200 pp., £23.95, February 1989, 0 226 32637 3
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... he should wish to give the impression that he is the first scholar to do so is another question. Edwin Muir’s calling as a poet, the many years he spent in Prague as well as his deep interest in German literature, made him the ideal reviewer for Erich Heller’s first English book, The Disinherited Mind. In his review, which appeared in the Observer ...

Foreigners

Denis Donoghue, 21 June 1984

Selected Essays 
by John Bayley.
Cambridge, 217 pp., £19.50, March 1984, 0 521 25828 6
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Collected Poems: 1941-1983 
by Michael Hamburger.
Carcanet, 383 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 9780856354977
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Poems: 1953-1983 
by Anthony Thwaite.
Secker, 201 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 436 52151 2
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... need now is to be put through antic paces. In such poems I am reminded of Hamburger’s friends, Edwin Muir, David Gascoyne, Vernon Watkins and Robert Francis, poets whose common styles share the knowledge of what words have gone through. What such knowledge proposes is patience, certainly not the petulance in which Hamburger indulges himself when the ...

Malvolio’s Story

Marilyn Butler, 8 February 1996

Dirt and Deity: A Life of Robert Burns 
by Ian McIntyre.
HarperCollins, 461 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 00 215964 3
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... audience with a message intended to do credit to Burns and Scotland. In 1936 the poet and critic Edwin Muir regretfully acknowledged the historical process that meant a poor man’s poet was now the property of the upper classes. ‘Holy Willie, after being the poet’s butt, has now become the keeper of his memory.’ By no means Holy Willie, but a ...

A Big Life

Michael Hofmann: Seamus Heaney, 4 June 2015

New Selected Poems 1988-2013 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 222 pp., £18.99, November 2014, 978 0 571 32171 1
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... and weightlessness (‘a pillar of radiant house-dust’). Collective and put-upon (the rather Edwin Muir-ish ‘From the Canton of Expectation’, where even the – for once lower-case – line beginnings seem to look glum): When our rebel anthem played the meeting shut we turned for home and the usual harassment by militiamen on overtime at ...

How Does It Add Up?

Neal Ascherson: The Burns Cult, 12 March 2009

The Bard: Robert Burns, a Biography 
by Robert Crawford.
Cape, 466 pp., £20, January 2009, 978 0 224 07768 2
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... ever set it. Nowhere is it more difficult to observe than in the matter of Robert Burns. Long ago, Edwin Muir said that ‘for a Scotsman to see Burns simply as a poet is almost impossible.’ Robert Crawford, himself an admired and graceful poet, writes on the closing page of The Bard that ‘Burns’s poetry carries so much of its maker with it that it ...

O Wyoming Whipporwill

Claire Harman: George Barker, 3 October 2002

The Chameleon Poet: A Life of George Barker 
by Robert Fraser.
Cape, 573 pp., £25, February 2002, 0 224 06242 5
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... was impressive, and attracted the attention and patronage of John Middleton Murry, T.S. Eliot and Edwin Muir. Murry gave the 19-year-old poet two books to review for the Adelphi on the strength of some pages of diary (later worked up into the first novel) and Barker had published in New Verse, Criterion and the Listener at an age when most of his ...

Double Thought

Michael Wood: Kafka in the Office, 20 November 2008

Franz Kafka: The Office Writings 
edited by Stanley Corngold, Jack Greenberg and Benno Wagner, translated by Eric Patton and Ruth Hein.
Princeton, 404 pp., £26.95, November 2008, 978 0 691 12680 7
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... I have taken most of the translations in this piece, renders the word as ‘hopeless’. Willa and Edwin Muir have ‘dismal and cheerless’, J.A. Underwood has ‘bleak’. I also rather like ‘desolate’ myself, but all of these words point in the right direction. Trostlos can also be used of a dreary landscape, and in this sense calls up another ...

Comprehensible Disorders

David Craig, 3 September 1987

Before the oil ran out: Britain 1977-86 
by Ian Jack.
Secker, 271 pp., £9.95, June 1987, 0 436 22020 2
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In a Distant Isle: The Orkney Background of Edwin Muir 
by George Marshall.
Scottish Academic Press, 184 pp., £12.50, May 1987, 0 7073 0469 5
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... our migrations ‘exile’ (a chapter-heading in George Marshall’s lucid and thorough study of Edwin Muir’s native culture), although the individual choice is usually our own. As Stevenson wrote in The Silverado Squatters, ‘I do not know if I desire to live there, but let me hear in some far land a kindred voice sing out, “Oh why left I my ...

The Excursions

Andrew O’Hagan, 16 June 2011

... found notorious in the country.We made a trip into Glasgow to a care home on the Crow Road, where Edwin Morgan was then living and writing. He and I had corresponded when he left his old flat and lost his library. I sent him some books and we agreed to see each other in Glasgow. Eddie was a city man. He was a city poet. It must have been odd for him to have ...

Davie’s Rap

Neil Corcoran, 25 January 1990

Under Briggflatts: A History of Poetry in Great Britain 1960-1988 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 261 pp., £18.95, October 1989, 0 85635 820 7
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Annunciations 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 55 pp., £5.95, November 1989, 0 19 282680 8
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Possible Worlds 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 68 pp., £6.95, September 1989, 0 19 282660 3
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The boys who stole the funeral: A Novel Sequence 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 71 pp., £6.95, October 1989, 0 85635 845 2
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... Briggflatts is a sustained, learned and densely implicative comparison of two poems about horses: Edwin Muir’s well-known, post-Apocalypse poem ‘The Horses’ and Austin Clarke’s much less familiar ‘Forget me not’, a poem written out of Clarke’s angry response to the Irish trade in horse meat in the 1950s. Although generously receptive to ...

Blessed, Beastly Place

Douglas Dunn, 5 March 1981

Precipitous City 
by Trevor Royle.
Mainstream, 210 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 906391 09 1
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RLS: A Life Study 
by Jenni Calder.
Hamish Hamilton, 362 pp., £9.95, June 1980, 0 241 10374 6
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Gillespie 
by J. MacDougall Hay.
Canongate, 450 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 903937 79 4
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Scottish Satirical Verse 
edited by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 236 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 85635 183 0
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Collected Poems 
by Robert Garioch.
Carcanet, 208 pp., £3.95, July 1980, 0 85635 316 7
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... of the kind there was to be for Scott. It was Burns who gave his guinea to the cause of Thomas Muir at the same time as the young Scott was rehearsing solo cavalry charges on the sands of the Firth of Forth, with more conscientiousness than his companions thought decent. Muir, a revolutionary, added a detested novelty to ...

Heimat

David Craig, 6 July 1989

A Search for Scotland 
by R.F. Mackenzie.
Collins, 280 pp., £16.95, May 1989, 0 00 215185 5
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A Claim of Right for Scotland 
edited by Owen Dudley Edwards.
Polygon, 202 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 7486 6022 4
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The Eclipse of Scottish Culture 
by Craig Beveridge and Ronald Turnbull.
Polygon, 121 pp., £6.95, May 1989, 0 7486 6000 3
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The Bird Path: Collected Longer Poems 
by Kenneth White.
Mainstream, 239 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 1 85158 245 2
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Travels in the Drifting Dawn 
by Kenneth White.
Mainstream, 160 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 1 85158 240 1
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... areas of Scotland in the first half of the 17th century.’ Calvinism, they imply (against Edwin Muir, Fionn MacColla and many other of our writers), did not entail a snuffing out of joy and beauty. No doubt its effects were as mixed as those of, say, Islam today: but it is a fact that around 1700 in Edinburgh, under a Calvinist religious and ...

The Ticking Fear

John Kerrigan: Louis MacNeice, 7 February 2008

Louis MacNeice: Collected Poems 
edited by Peter McDonald.
Faber, 836 pp., £30, January 2007, 978 0 571 21574 4
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Louis MacNeice: Selected Poems 
edited by Michael Longley.
Faber, 160 pp., £12.99, April 2007, 978 0 571 23381 6
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I Crossed the Minch 
by Louis MacNeice.
Polygon, 253 pp., £9.99, September 2007, 978 1 84697 014 6
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The Strings Are False: An Unfinished Autobiography 
by Louis MacNeice, edited by E.R. Dodds.
Faber, 288 pp., £9.99, September 2007, 978 0 571 23942 9
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... reviewer had no difficulty in categorising I Crossed the Minch with other books of the time (by Edwin Muir and Neil Gunn) that treat Scotland and its islands in hard, socio-economic terms. MacNeice knew that the Hebrides – unlike Synge’s Aran Islands – had been much written about by inhabitants who were novelists and poets. On Barra he visited ...

A Country Emptied

Ian Jack: The Highland Clearances, 7 March 2019

The Scottish Clearances: A History of the Dispossessed 1600-1900 
by T.M. Devine.
Allen Lane, 464 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 0 241 30410 5
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... Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. But the effect by the mid-20th century was clear enough. Edwin Muir, writing in 1935, saw a country ‘gradually being emptied of its population, its spirit, its wealth, industry, art, intellect and innate character’. ‘All the best people have left’ was a sentiment still heard in the 1950s: I remember ...

Early Lives

P.N. Furbank, 5 June 1986

The Inner I: British Literary Autobiography of the 20th Century 
by Brian Finney.
Faber, 286 pp., £14.95, September 1985, 0 571 13311 8
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... is a matter of their having found their own form. It is instructive to compare them with Edwin Muir’s Autobiography, which fails in just this respect. It is a book with a following, and is certainly not a negligible work: it contains some very vivid character sketches, and some admirable evocative writing – for instance, the pages on his ...

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