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Walsingham’s Plumber

Patrick Collinson: John Bossy, 5 July 2001

Under the Molehill: An Elizabethan Spy Story 
by John Bossy.
Yale, 189 pp., £18.95, May 2001, 0 300 08400 5
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... about Salisbury Court, the London home in the early 1580s of the French Ambassador to the Court of Elizabeth I, Michel de Castelnau, seigneur de Mauvissière, an establishment described by John Bossy as ‘zany, convivial and leak-ridden’. Bossy asks us to take our places at the dinner table at Salisbury Court in November 1583, ‘as in a late novel by Henry ...

Enormities

C.H. Sisson, 27 September 1990

Collected Poems 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 475 pp., £25, September 1990, 0 85635 875 4
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... poets of the Fifties, which marks him as originally associated with, among others, Thom Gunn, Elizabeth Jennings and Philip Larkin. No less than they, he has gone his own way and no purpose is served by hanging this historical label round his neck now. Even in its time it contributed more to publicity than to enlightenment. Robert Conquest, as editor of ...

Nietzsche’s Centaur

Bernard Williams, 4 June 1981

Nietzsche on Tragedy 
by M.S. Silk and J.P. Stern.
Cambridge, 441 pp., £27.50, March 1981, 0 521 23262 7
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Nietzsche: A Critical Life 
by Ronald Hayman.
Weidenfeld, 424 pp., £18.50, March 1980, 0 297 77636 3
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Nietzsche. Vol. 1: The Will to Power as Art 
by Martin Heidegger, translated by David Farrell Krell.
Routledge, 263 pp., £11.50, March 1981, 0 7100 0744 2
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... and notes, of very different dates, which Nietzsche’s dreadful sister, the energetic anti-semite Elizabeth, put together from his Nachlass according to an outline – only one of many different such plans – which Nietzsche had written on one sheet of paper for a book of that title. The Will to Power is a deeply interesting and powerful collection of ...

Ashamed of the Planet

Ian Hamilton, 2 March 2000

No Other Book: Selected Essays 
by Randall Jarrell, edited by Brad Leithauser.
HarperCollins, 376 pp., $27.50, June 1999, 0 06 118012 2
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Remembering Randall: A Memoir of Poet, Critic and Teacher Randall Jarrell 
by Mary von Schrader Jarrell.
HarperCollins, 173 pp., $22, June 1999, 0 06 118011 4
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... assassinations was to put oneself in line for immortality. Who would nowadays remember Oscar Williams’s verses if Jarrell had not said that they seemed to have been written on a typewriter by a typewriter? Williams at that time was a powerful anthologist and in career terms it was bad policy to mock ...

Against the Same-Old Same-Old

Seamus Perry: The Brownings, 3 November 2016

The Brownings’ Correspondence, Vol 21 
edited by Philip Kelley, Scott Lewis, Joseph Phelan, Edward Hagan and Rhian Williams.
Wedgestone, 432 pp., $110, April 2014, 978 0 911459 38 8
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The Brownings’ Correspondence, Vol 22 
edited by Philip Kelley, Scott Lewis, Joseph Phelan, Edward Hagan and Rhian Williams.
Wedgestone, 430 pp., $110, June 2015, 978 0 911459 39 5
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Robert Browning 
edited by Richard Cronin and Dorothy McMillan.
Oxford, 904 pp., £95, December 2014, 978 0 19 959942 4
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Browning Studies: Being Select Papers by Members of the Browning Society 
edited by Edward Berdoe.
Routledge, 348 pp., £30, August 2015, 978 1 138 02488 5
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... into an open lawn, on a breezy day in May’. Their letters circle round and round the idea of Elizabeth’s relationship with the world outside her window, of which Robert is the representative: ‘I seem turning round to the outward world again,’ she tells him in her very first letter as though at the start of a long journey. It is certainly difficult ...

Nasty Lucky Genes

Andrew O’Hagan: Fathers and Sons, 21 September 2006

The Arms of the Infinite 
by Christopher Barker.
Pomona, 329 pp., £9.99, August 2006, 1 904590 04 7
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... Elizabeth Smart was browsing one day between the wars in the bookshops of the Charing Cross Road. Young, blonde and original, unclaimed by her Ottawa upbringing or her mother’s social hopes, Smart came to lean against those London bookshelves as if they alone contained all the answers. That day, she drew her finger over a line of volumes, took one down and read the poems where she stood, deciding by the last page that the author was the man she was put on earth to marry ...

Knife, Stone, Paper

Stephen Sedley: Law Lords, 1 July 2021

English Law under Two Elizabeths: The Late Tudor Legal World and the Present 
by John Baker.
Cambridge, 222 pp., £22.99, January, 978 1 108 94732 9
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The Constitutional Balance 
by John Laws.
Hart, 144 pp., £30, January, 978 1 5099 3545 1
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... a power which is itself part of the common law and subject to its constraints. It was so when Elizabeth I’s autocratic successor, James I and VI, wanted to rule by proclamation; it was so in 2010 when Theresa May wanted to use the royal prerogative to bypass Parliament; it was still so in 2017 when it was proposed that the UK leave the EU by ministerial ...

Versatile Monster

Marilyn Butler, 5 May 1988

In Frankenstein’s Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity and 19th-century Writing 
by Chris Baldick.
Oxford, 207 pp., £22.50, December 1987, 0 19 811726 4
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... a peasant-servant repeats the central plot-device of Godwin’s allegory of class conflict, Caleb Williams. These early reviewers simplified the book they had to deal with. Baldick’s more careful comparison of Mary Shelley’s protagonists with those of any model in the 1790s shows that her sympathies are unusually evenly distributed, her message complex ...

Trust the Coroner

John Bossy: Why Christopher Marlowe was probably not a spy, 14 December 2006

Christopher Marlowe: Poet and Spy 
by Park Honan.
Oxford, 421 pp., £25, October 2005, 0 19 818695 9
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... never became a Catholic monk. Michel de Castelnau, the French ambassador, did not ‘trust’ that Elizabeth could be assassinated, and his secretary, Courcelles, did not become an English mole. (I confess that I said he did, but withdrew the charge in a second account which Honan cites.) Padua was not an independent city-state. The English College at Douai ...

How do they see you?

Elizabeth Spelman: Martha Nussbaum, 16 November 2000

Sex and Social Justice 
by Martha Nussbaum.
Oxford, 476 pp., £25, July 1999, 0 19 511032 3
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Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach 
by Martha Nussbaum.
Cambridge, 312 pp., £17.95, May 2000, 0 521 66086 6
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... race legal theorists’. One particularly prominent feminist legal scholar among them is Patricia Williams (see for example The Alchemy of Race and Rights, 1991). It just isn’t fair to ignore relevant literature and then be cross about its absence and present oneself as filling in the gap. Nussbaum’s sense of what constitutes feminism itself suffers in ...

Prolonging her absence

Danny Karlin, 8 March 1990

The Wimbledon Poisoner 
by Nigel Williams.
Faber, 307 pp., £12.99, March 1990, 0 571 14242 7
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The Other Occupant 
by Peter Benson.
Macmillan, 168 pp., £12.95, February 1990, 0 333 52509 4
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Possession 
by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 511 pp., £13.95, March 1990, 0 7011 3260 4
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... Henry Farr is – or, as it turns out, is not – the ‘Wimbledon Poisoner’ of Nigel Williams’s title. He is a Pooterish solicitor, middling and muddling his way through life; the plot concerns his repeated farcical failure to murder his awful wife, bumping off (he thinks) other innocent people instead. Then, as the plot unravels and a real poisoner shows his hand, Henry discovers that his wife is not so awful after all ...

The Virgin

David Plante, 3 April 1986

... Elizabeth was in bed. The dog had its front paws between her breasts, and, its tongue out, it stared at her as she spoke to it. Charles, the husband, undressed and hung his clothes askew on the silent butler. When he took off his underpants, he held them in his hands a moment, expecting his wife to look towards him naked ...

At the Nailya Alexander Gallery

August Kleinzahler: George Tice, 11 October 2018

... New Jersey, 1979 – or as starkly documentary as Walker Evans: National Barbershop, Bay Circle, Elizabeth, New Jersey, 1990. He is difficult to characterise. There is a formal quality to his work. The photographs are very much composed. There’s almost nothing of the glancing provisionality of the earlier generation of New York photographers, or the street ...

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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... conduct seminars to his groupies on the Dylan family’s garbage; fervent hagiographers like Paul Williams; politicians (Jimmy Carter was always quoting Dylan when on the stump), rock journalists, music historians, cultural historians, hard-core fanzine-types; and even an English international fast-bowler – Bob ‘Dylan’ Willis changed his name by ...

Leaf, Button, Dog

Susan Eilenberg: The Sins of Hester Thrale, 1 November 2001

According to Queeney 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Little, Brown, 242 pp., £16.99, September 2001, 0 316 85867 6
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... stolen from a nurse’s work-basket and fraudulently labelled, a poem about sunsets written by Mrs Williams all by herself with no help at all from Dr Johnson, a tuft of hair looking like something ‘plucked from the rump of a squirrel’ and purporting to come from the head of Mr Pope, together with an empty space reserved for a promised monkey’s paw. Here ...

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