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John and Henry

Christopher Reid

2 December 1982
The Life of John Berryman 
by John Haffenden.
Routledge, 451 pp., £15, September 1982, 0 7100 9216 4
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Poets in their Youth: A Memoir 
by Eileen Simpson.
Faber, 272 pp., £10.95, September 1982, 0 571 11925 5
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... kind, than has been volunteered by the poet. A clear case, then, for objective biographical comment. The almost simultaneous appearance of John Haffenden’s The Life of John Berryman and EileenSimpson’s Poets in their Youth seems fortuitous. John Haffenden has already edited manuscripts of Berryman’s for posthumous publication (Henry’s Fate – Other Poems) and he is the author of John ...

Glittering Fiend

Ian Hamilton: John Berryman

9 December 1999
Berryman's Shakespeare 
edited by John Haffenden.
Farrar, Straus, 396 pp., $35, February 1999, 0 374 11205 3
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John Berryman’s Personal Library: A Catalogue 
by Richard Kelly.
Lang, 433 pp., £39, March 1999, 0 8204 3998 3
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... struggles and career setbacks. These were also the years in which he began to manifest symptoms of the paranoia that would eventually engulf him. In her memoir, Poets in their Youth, his first wife, EileenSimpson, has recorded many hair-raising episodes from this period, and told of her own gradual realisation that ‘no amount of love and care could protect him from external circumstances, and that ...

All the girls said so

August Kleinzahler: John Berryman

1 July 2015
The Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 427 pp., £11.99, October 2014, 978 0 374 53455 4
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77 Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 84 pp., £10, October 2014, 978 0 374 53452 3
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Berryman’s Sonnets 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 127 pp., £10, October 2014, 978 0 374 53454 7
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The Heart Is Strange 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 179 pp., £17.50, October 2014, 978 0 374 22108 9
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Poets in their Youth 
by Eileen Simpson.
Farrar, Straus, 274 pp., £11.50, October 2014, 978 0 374 23559 8
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... Songs. Berryman​ the poet was closing in on that voice, measure, form and idiom in 1947, even as Berryman the man was becoming seriously unmoored. Married, happily it would seem, for five years to Eileen Mulligan (who 35 years later, as EileenSimpson, now a psychologist, would write Poets in Their Youth, easily the most clear-eyed, intelligent and compassionate record of what it’s like to live ...

A Hammer in His Hands

Frank Kermode: Lowell’s Letters

22 September 2005
The Letters of Robert Lowell 
edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 852 pp., £30, July 2005, 0 571 20204 7
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... kind of glory to it all that people coming later will wonder at.’ Jarrell he admired most, welcoming his criticism; Berryman he also admired, but with a keener edge of rivalry. (Berryman’s widow, EileenSimpson, best catches the manner of their encounters and rivalries, in her memoir, Poets in Their Youth.) Delmore Schwartz, Roethke, Jarrell and Berryman were all self-consciously poètes maudits ...

All hail, sage lady

Andrew O’Hagan: ‘The Crown’

15 December 2016
... dying king spitting blood into the lavatory bowl and he is almost followed in this habit of expectoration by his brave wife, Cookie, who runs short of breath every time she hears the words ‘Wallis Simpson’. Everyone smokes, especially Princess Margaret, who smokes for the United Kingdom, plus Antigua and Barbuda – yet the smoke fails quite to obscure the devastations brought about by American ...

Iraq, 2 May 2005

Andrew O’Hagan: Two Soldiers

6 March 2008
... an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eye-witnesses and servants of the Word.’ Memory was the issue for Mr Simpson. A former maths teacher at the school, he now suffers from Parkinson’s disease and he said he found it difficult to settle and remember things. Mr Simpson sat in a high-backed chair wearing purple ...

Always the Same Dream

Ferdinand Mount: Princess Margaret

4 January 2018
Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret 
by Craig Brown.
Fourth Estate, 423 pp., £16.99, September 2017, 978 0 00 820361 0
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... of the Savoy to receive Communion from Eric Abbott, the former dean of Westminster. On her deathbed, Archbishop Carey came to give her Communion and left her a bottle of olive oil which his wife Eileen had brought back from the Holy Land. Margaret was thrilled. All the harsher then that she should have been a victim of such strong-armed humbug by the combined forces of Church and State. But an even ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2000

25 January 2001
... very enthusiastic about the play when he goes round afterwards, though I’d have thought the chances of him persuading his mamma to come are pretty slim. John Gielgud was once telling me about Mrs Simpson and how smart she was. ‘Mind you,’ he said, ‘she’d have made a disastrous queen. Didn’t go to the theatre at all.’ 19 January. Alan Bates opens tonight at the Barbican in the RSC ...

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