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Whig Dreams

Margaret Anne Doody

27 February 1992
A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain 
by Daniel Defoe, edited by P.N. Furbank and W.R. Owens.
Yale, 423 pp., £19.95, July 1991, 0 300 04980 3
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James ThomsonA Life 
by James Sambrook.
Oxford, 332 pp., £40, October 1991, 0 19 811788 4
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... at once in the period’s quaintness and its sense of opportunity. At the same time that Defoe was travelling on the muddy highways and muddier byways of England and Scotland, a young poet, James Thomson (b. 1700), was roaming the cold hills of Scotland. Defoe, who toured through the area where James Thomson was born, thought little of it: agriculture in Roxburghshire was in a pitiful state, the ...
23 May 1991
The Dylan Companion 
edited by Elizabeth Thomson and David Gutman.
Macmillan, 338 pp., £10.99, April 1991, 0 333 49826 7
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Bob Dylan: Performing Artist. Vol. I: 1960-73 
by Paul Williams.
Xanadu, 310 pp., £14.99, February 1991, 1 85480 044 2
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Dylan: Behind the Shades 
by Clinton Heylin.
Viking, 528 pp., £16.99, May 1991, 0 670 83602 8
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The Bootleg Series: Vols I-III (rare and unreleased) 1961-1991 
by Bob Dylan.
Columbia, £24.95, April 1991
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... May the 24th is Bob Dylan’s 50th birthday. To anyone involved with Dylan in the mid-Sixties, say during his medicine-fuelled blaze with the Band through Australia and Europe in 1966, the fact that he is not only alive but still performing twenty-five years later must in itself seem utterly extraordinary. One of the key aspects of the Dylan myth during those roller-coaster years was that he wouldn’t ...

Poxy Doxies

Margaret Anne Doody

14 December 1995
Slip-Shod Sibyls: Recognition, Rejection and the Woman Poet 
by Germaine Greer.
Viking, 517 pp., £20, September 1995, 0 670 84914 6
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... deaths of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. The middle ground between 17th and 20th-century examples of disappointment and morbidity is largely filled in by a long, long chapter on L.E.L. – Letitia Elizabeth Landon. The length of this chapter urges it to become a mini-biography in itself, and its abnormal extension in relation to other chapters distorts the shape of the book. Landon evidently fascinates ...
7 September 1995
The Church in Africa, 1450-1950 
by Adrian Hastings.
Oxford, 706 pp., £65, January 1995, 0 19 826921 8
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A History of Christianity in Africa from Antiquity to the Present 
by Elizabeth​ Isichei.
SPCK, 420 pp., £25, February 1995, 0 281 04764 2
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Religion in Africa: Experience and Expression 
edited by Thomas Blakely, Walter van Beek and Dennis Thomson.
Currey, 512 pp., £45, November 1994, 0 85255 206 8
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... now resident in Britain, not in Borrioboola Gha. Adrian Hastings seems right to tell us that in 1960, the misnamed ‘Year of Africa’, ‘a new era of the African Church was about to begin’; and Elizabeth Isichei has clearly felt the same Christian impulse from a somewhat more African-centred approach. Both writers are using a scale of reference wider than that of a mere transition from colonial to ...
22 June 2000
The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper 
by Dominick Dunne.
Crown, 218 pp., £17.99, October 1999, 0 609 60388 4
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Gary Cooper Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers 
by Maria Cooper Janis.
Abrams, 176 pp., £22, November 1999, 0 8109 4130 9
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... Belden Katleman (a Las Vegas gentleman) at a wedding, looking like Corleones. There are also fearsome glimpses of melodrama, or worse – a quarrel springing up among Gig Young, George Hamilton and Elizabeth Montgomery. And there’s absolute vacancy – as in one picture of Edie Goetz, a daughter of Louis B. Mayer. These pictures say so much more than discreet testimony could ever allow. Even if he was ...


Frank Kermode

11 February 1993
Meaning by Shakespeare 
by Terence Hawkes.
Routledge, 173 pp., £30, October 1992, 0 415 07450 9
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Shakespeare’s Professional Career 
by Peter Thomson.
Cambridge, 217 pp., £24.95, September 1992, 0 521 35128 6
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Shakespeare’s Mouldy Tales 
by Leah Scragg.
Longman, 201 pp., £24, October 1992, 0 582 07071 6
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Reading Shakespeare’s Characters 
by Christy Desmet.
Massachusetts, 215 pp., £22.50, December 1992, 0 87023 807 8
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Bit Parts in Shakespeare’s Plays 
by Molly Mahood.
Cambridge, 252 pp., £35, January 1993, 0 521 41612 4
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... by following it up, give a very desirable new turn to the conversation. Meanwhile Bardbiz of all kinds continues at an unflagging pace, often getting by without puns and politics. For example, Peter Thomson’s Shakespeare’s Professional Career is an exceptionally lively and up-to-the-minute introduction to ‘Shakespeare’s job’. It leans slightly towards the view that his family, and he himself ...

Creases and Flecks

Laura Quinney: Mark Doty

3 October 2002
Still Life with Oysters and Lemon 
by Mark Doty.
Beacon, 72 pp., $11, January 2002, 0 8070 6609 5
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by Mark Doty.
Cape, 69 pp., £8, April 2002, 9780224062282
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... word once meant the description of a work of visual art within a poem, but has come to mean poetic description more generally. Sometimes Doty describes a work of art (Murano glass, a watercolour by Elizabeth Bishop), sometimes an ordinary object (a second-hand kimono, a crab shell), sometimes a part of the natural world (beaches, horses, dogs), sometimes a man-made scene (gardens, harbours, Times Square ...

Fear the fairies

John Gallagher: Early Modern Sleepe

17 May 2017
Sleep in Early Modern England 
by Sasha Handley.
Yale, 280 pp., £25, August 2016, 978 0 300 22039 1
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... often.’ Margery Dayrell worried that her son Nathaniel could not sleep, though he was drowsy. John Windmill complained that he ‘cannot sleepe nor take any rest on his bed or up or Downe’. Hugh Thomson feared that his son, ‘who he supposeth to be taken or planet stroken’, had been unable to sleep the previous night. Broken and disrupted sleep could be a symptom of illness or a mark of being ill ...
17 October 1985
Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community 
by Christopher Andrew.
Heinemann, 616 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 434 02110 5
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The Secret Generation 
by John Gardner.
Heinemann, 453 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 434 28250 2
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Two Thyrds 
by Bertie Denham.
Ross Anderson Publications, 292 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 86360 006 9
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The Ultimate Enemy: British Intelligence and Nazi Germany 1933-1939 
by Wesley Wark.
Tauris, 304 pp., £19.50, October 1985, 1 85043 014 4
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... creature who will identify an innocent colleague with the mole he is hunting and kill the wrong man. For him Philby and Co are the modern equivalents of heroic Jesuit priests plotting against Elizabeth. In Le Carré’s world the dingy agents of the KGB and MI6 are interchangeable. Who can forget A.J.P. Taylor’s jibe that no spy ever told his masters anything of value they could not have gleaned ...

Fearful Thoughts

Stephen Mulhall: Morality by Numbers

22 August 2002
The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life 
by Jeff McMahan.
Oxford, 554 pp., £35, February 2002, 0 19 507998 1
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... concerns itself with morality, since in such a context a reductio argument confronts us with moral absurdity – or, to put it more bluntly, with the morally intolerable, the morally unthinkable. Elizabeth Anscombe once said that anyone who thought in advance that it was open to question whether an action such as procuring the judicial execution of an innocent person should be entirely excluded from ...


Anne Hollander: Wild Lee Miller

20 July 2006
Lee Miller 
by Carolyn Burke.
Bloomsbury, 426 pp., £12.99, March 2006, 0 7475 8793 0
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... except by experts in either photography or Surrealism, or by those eager to retrieve the honour of all women whose creative work was allowed to lapse unexamined in a man’s world. But when Elizabeth Miller, born in 1907 and comfortably reared in Poughkeepsie, first arrived in New York and attracted public notice, she did it by typifying the post-Great War flapper, a new creature who threatened ...

Hoarder of Malt

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare

7 January 1999
Shakespeare: A Life 
by Park Honan.
Oxford, 479 pp., £25, October 1998, 0 19 811792 2
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Shakespeare: The ‘Lost Years’ 
by E.A.J. Honigmann.
Manchester, 172 pp., £11.99, December 1998, 0 7190 5425 7
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... is always to extirpate some residual romantic indulgence. The pleasant notion that Shakespeare’s father might have taken his ten-year-old son to Coventry to see the entertainments laid on for Queen Elizabeth is firmly quashed (there’s no evidence for any such excursion and Tudor family life wasn’t like that), and, as if as an emblem of the fate of all such sweetly decorative fancies, even Schoenbaum ...
6 December 1984
The Diary of Thomas Turner 1754-1765 
edited by David Vaisey.
Oxford, 386 pp., £17.50, November 1984, 0 19 211782 3
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John Clare’s Autobiographical Writings 
edited by Eric Robinson.
Oxford, 185 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 19 211774 2
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John Clare: The Journals, Essays, and the Journey from Essex 
edited by Anne Tibble.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 85635 344 2
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The Natural History Prose Writings of John Clare 
edited by Margaret Grainger.
Oxford, 397 pp., £35, January 1984, 0 19 818517 0
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John Clare and the Folk Tradition 
by George Deacon.
Sinclair Browne, 397 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 86300 008 8
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... indicates some passing sympathy with the woman in such cases (‘poor creature’): his attitude seems businesslike and not censorious. An exceptional case which drew a stronger reaction was that of Elizabeth Elless, who was taken violently ill and died when only two days from full term. Turner saw there would have to be an autopsy, arranged it and attended it; his unemotional entry records the shape of ...

Public Works

David Norbrook

5 June 1986
The Faber Book of Political Verse 
edited by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 481 pp., £17.50, May 1986, 0 571 13947 7
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... of the Restoration and 18th century is a little patchy: he does not show us the republican tradition as it continued, albeit in diluted form, in the panegyrics of liberty by Akenside, Collins, Thomson and others. He includes Gray’s Elegy because of its compassion for the poor, but one might expect a radical poet to be a bit less dismayed at the fact that Cromwell was born. Paulin is more at home ...

Look on the Bright Side

Seamus Perry: Anna Letitia Barbauld

25 February 2010
Anna Letitia Barbauld: Voice of the Enlightenment 
by William McCarthy.
Johns Hopkins, 725 pp., £32, December 2008, 978 0 8018 9016 1
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... reminded by McCarthy that Barbauld drew at least as much on other religious and poetic traditions of the earlier 18th century, especially the philologist-philosopher James Harris and the poet James Thomson, author of The Seasons. Actually, it might be truer to say that Barbauld’s most remarkable achievement was to complicate the tenor of most Unitarian writing by including stuff that its prevailing ...

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