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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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... 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 people suffering a ...

Among the Bobcats

Mark Ford, 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 be around much longer ...

Why Goldwyn Wore Jodhpurs

David Thomson, 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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... 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 never a sure movie-maker, Dunne had enough of an eye ...

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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... 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 Greer, however loathsome she claims to find the verses ...

With Gods on Their Side

Basil Davidson, 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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... 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 para-colonial institutions of African ...

Hawkesbiz

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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... 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 residually, was Catholic, and argues with more certainty ...

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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Source 
by Mark Doty.
Cape, 69 pp., £8, April 2002, 9780224062282
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... 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). He recognises how fond of description he is, and ...

Fear the fairies

John Gallagher: Early Modern Sleepe, 18 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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... 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 at ease: Thomas Bentley, of Turvey in ...

Dummy and Biffy

Noël Annan, 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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... 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 from the press? Or Malcolm Muggeridge’s chronicles ...

Insouciance

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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... 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 old norms of female being and behaviour. Fashion for ...

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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... 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 consideration showed a corrupt mind. She thereby ...

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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... 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 in the Romantic period: a particular interest of this ...

East Hoathly makes a night of it

Marilyn Butler, 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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... 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 the incision the surgeon made in the abdomen, a large ...

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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... 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’s account of the pretty bedroom walls at the Oxford ...

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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... 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 rationalism found quite uncongenial – the fantastical ...

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