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Dying to Make a Point

Shadi Bartsch: Death and the Ancients, 15 November 2007

Death in Ancient Rome 
by Catharine Edwards.
Yale, 287 pp., £25, June 2007, 978 0 300 11208 5
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The Death of Socrates: Hero, Villain, Chatterbox, Saint 
by Emily Wilson.
Profile, 247 pp., £15.99, August 2007, 978 1 86197 762 5
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... the Roman army, the holy martyrs should not take pride in spilling their blood for their faith. Emily Wilson’s book The Death of Socrates provides an interesting counterpart to much of this discussion of the Roman way of death. Socrates’ death, of course, was not a suicide but the result of a sentence passed by an Athenian jury. ...

All Kinds of Unlucky

Rebecca Armstrong: A Polyphonic ‘Aeneid’, 4 March 2021

The Aeneid 
translated by Shadi Bartsch.
Profile, 400 pp., £16.99, November 2020, 978 1 78816 267 8
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... writers and translators from Greek and Latin have come to increased prominence: Alice Oswald, Emily Wilson and Natalie Haynes have been among those offering new perspectives on Homer. Shadi Bartsch explicitly places her translation of Virgil in the context of her own peripatetic childhood and her subsequent experience building a career in a ...

Antigone on Your Knee

Terry Eagleton, 6 February 2020

A Cultural History of Tragedy: Vols I-VI 
edited by Rebecca Bushnell.
Bloomsbury Academic, 1302 pp., £395, November 2019, 978 1 4742 8814 9
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... portrays the precariousness and fragility of human lives, not their culmination in calamity. As Emily Wilson points out in the first volume of this ambitious history of the form, tragedy in ancient times was confined to the theatre. You couldn’t have a tragic novel or a tragic view of the world. Nor could you have a tragic famine or case of heart ...

Throw it out the window

Bee Wilson: Lady Constance Lytton, 16 July 2015

Lady Constance Lytton: Aristocrat, Suffragette, Martyr 
by Lyndsey Jenkins.
Biteback, 282 pp., £20, March 2015, 978 1 84954 795 6
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... modest than Knebworth, though designed by Edwin Lutyens, who was married to Constance’s sister Emily. Lutyens was said by his biographer to have seen it ‘as a doll’s house’: ‘The architect would suddenly remove the front and reveal at each end two women employed after their own hearts.’ In truth, however, both women in the doll’s house toiled ...

Left with a Can Opener

Thomas Jones: Homer in Bijelo Polje, 7 October 2021

Hearing Homer’s Song: The Brief Life and Big Idea of Milman Parry 
by Robert Kanigel.
Knopf, 320 pp., £28.95, April 2021, 978 0 525 52094 8
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... is another such moment). But it also points to a shortcoming in the Parry-Lord hypothesis. As Emily Wilson put it in 2018, ‘there is still a very wide range of opinion about how, exactly, the words of many generations of illiterate and semi-literate bards turned into the written texts of Homer that we have.’Kutuzov didn’t accompany Parry on his ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Who’s Afraid of the Library of America?, 19 June 2008

... A plop on the doormat and Volume 177 in the Library of America is in the house: Edmund Wilson’s writings from the 1930s and 1940s, including Classics and Commercials, The Triple Thinkers and The Wound and the Bow. There is something appropriate and even – without wanting to be corny about it – moving about seeing Wilson take his place in the Library of America ...

A Question of Breathing

John Bayley, 4 August 1988

Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 400 pp., £14.95, June 1988, 0 7011 3018 0
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Selected Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 330 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 7011 3311 2
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The Poetical Works of Robert Browning: Vol. III 
edited by Ian Jack and Rowena Fowler.
Oxford, 542 pp., £60, June 1988, 0 19 812762 6
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The Complete Works of Robert Browning: Vol. VIII 
edited by Roma King and Susan Crowl.
Ohio/Baylor University, 379 pp., £47.50, September 1988, 9780821403808
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... themselves: in a sense, they became themselves. A process especially important for women writers. Emily Brontë was in her own way a self-dramatiser, Charlotte a self-esteemer. Her example was easier to follow, much more influential. When Aurora Leigh was published in 1857, reviewers pointed out a striking resemblance to much in the plot of Jane Eyre. Romney ...

Deity with Fairy Wings

Emily Witt: Girlhood, 8 September 2016

The Girls 
by Emma Cline.
Chatto, 355 pp., £12.99, June 2016, 978 1 78474 044 3
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... centre Russell instead of Charles. The cult’s celebrity patron is called Mitch instead of Dennis Wilson, and the group lives rent-free on a ranch where they help raise llamas instead of renting out horses, as the Manson family did at Spahn Ranch. Cline also removes all reference to Helter Skelter – Manson’s delusional plan to incite a race war in ...


Iain Sinclair: Ferlinghetti, 17 December 2015

I Greet You at the Beginning of a Great Career: The Selected Correspondence of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg, 1955–97 
edited by Bill Morgan.
City Lights, 284 pp., £11.83, July 2015, 978 0 87286 678 2
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Writing across the Landscape: Travel Journals 1960-2010 
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, edited by Giada Diano and Matthew Gleeson.
Liveright, 464 pp., £22.99, October 2015, 978 1 63149 001 9
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... Naomi Ginsberg) soon after his birth, the infant Ferlinghetti was given into the care of his aunt Emily, a French citizen, who took him back to Strasbourg, where they lived for five years. French was Ferlinghetti’s first language, and France was the culture to which, in later years, he aspired. On their return to the US, ...

Properly Disposed

Emily Witt: ‘Moby-Duck’, 30 August 2012

Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea 
by Donovan Hohn.
Union, 402 pp., £8.99, September 2012, 978 1 908526 02 1
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... of Teddy, the Book of Leopold, the Book of Carson, the Book of Hardin, the Books of Brower, Berry, Wilson, Dillard, Lopez, McKibben, Pollan).’ Americans have ‘come to equate beautification with salvation’. We believe in the importance of picking up a stray beer can on a beach. Instead of questioning the notion of disposable packaging, we insist on its ...

Little Mania

Ian Gilmour: The disgraceful Lady Caroline Lamb, 19 May 2005

Lady Caroline Lamb 
by Paul Douglass.
Palgrave, 354 pp., £16.99, December 2004, 1 4039 6605 2
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... There never was such a Woman!!!’ Emily Cowper (later Palmerston) wrote of her sister-in-law, Lady Caroline Lamb. Lady Cowper was not being complimentary. She later described Caroline as being ‘more termagant than ever’. Such disparagement of the woman, who in 1812 had a notorious affair with Byron and was married to a future prime minister, was not confined to the Lamb family ...

Good as boys

Penelope Fitzgerald, 15 August 1991

The Best Type of Girl: A History of the Girls’ Independent Schools 
by Gillian Avery.
Deutsch, 410 pp., £20, January 1991, 0 233 98642 1
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There’s something about a convent girl 
edited by Jackie Bennett and Rosemary Forgan.
Virago, 217 pp., £4.99, January 1991, 1 85381 308 7
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... of poor clergy, as governesses. (Something is said, though, in defence of the Reverend Carus Wilson, decimator of the Brontës, and his Cowan Bridge School.) The High Schools, with the honourable exception of Manchester, lagged behind at first, but by the 1870s and 1890s, although there were still very few women on their governing bodies, they had ...

Tricked Out as a Virgin

Bee Wilson: Respectable Enough, 4 November 2021

The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey: A True Story of Sex, Crime and the Meaning of Justice 
by Julia Laite.
Profile, 410 pp., £16.99, April, 978 1 78816 442 9
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... Slaver, The Girl That Disappears and War on the White Slave Trade. The plot varied little: as J.P. Wilson wrote in The White Slave Traffic in 1912, ‘her slavery lasts some five or six years as a rule, and then she is flung out upon the streets, her character gone, her hope dead, her body diseased, to die before long either in a workhouse or a Lock ...

Punk Counterpunk

Bee Wilson, 20 November 2014

Vivienne Westwood 
by Vivienne Westwood and Ian Kelly.
Picador, 463 pp., £25, September 2014, 978 1 4472 5412 6
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... shop Agent Provocateur), was given the surname Corré in honour of Rose. McLaren’s mother, Emily, was a prostitute. Westwood says that the ‘root of all his troubles’ was that he ‘never knew real maternal love as a child’. He displayed a pathological desire to dazzle and insult the world with his brilliance and to disparage the abilities of ...

How Do You Pay?

Bee Wilson: Falling for Michael Moore, 1 November 2007

Citizen Moore: An American Maverick 
by Roger Rapoport.
Methuen, 361 pp., £8.99, July 2007, 978 0 413 77649 5
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Manufacturing Dissent 
directed by Rick Caine and Debbie Melnyk.
October 2007
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directed by Michael Moore.
October 2007
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... the evils of General Motors could be ‘billed as the feel-good film of the holiday season’, as Emily Schultz wrote in her 2005 biography of Moore. Roger and Me opened on 22 December 1989, a traditional release date for crowd-pleasing blockbusters. Other movies released that month included National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Driving Miss Daisy and The ...

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