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Ovid goes to Stratford

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare Myths

5 December 2013
Thirty Great Myths about Shakespeare 
by Laurie Maguire and Emma Smith.
Wiley-Blackwell, 216 pp., £14.99, December 2012, 978 0 470 65851 2
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... culminating in The Infant Shakespeare Attended by Nature and the Passions (1799). In this Anglicised, semi-secularised version of the Nativity, according to the subtitle supplied to Benjamin Smith’s engraving for the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery, ‘Nature is represented with her face unveiled to her favourite Child, who is placed between Joy and Sorrow. On the right of Nature are Love ...
27 September 1990
Jane Fairfax 
by Joan Aiken.
Gollancz, 252 pp., £12.95, September 1990, 0 575 04889 1
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Lady’s Maid 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 536 pp., £13.95, July 1990, 0 7011 3574 3
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Mary Swann 
by Carol Shields.
Fourth Estate, 313 pp., £12.99, August 1990, 1 872180 02 7
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... fails to recognise that these are incompatible aims. She plunders Austen’s novel (sometimes quoting it verbatim or paraphrasing it closely, though ‘her’ Miss Bates or Mr Woodhouse or Emma have embalming-fluid in their literary veins); other characters derive weakly from other Austen novels (a brutal fop from Northanger Abbey, a kind-hearted mother from Sense and Sensibility) and one ...

Pals

John Bayley

23 May 1991
The Oxford Book of Friendship 
edited by D.J. Enright and David Rawlinson.
Oxford, 360 pp., £15, April 1991, 0 19 214190 2
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... of ‘friendship’, that is. What about John Masefield asking a correspondent ‘whether you ever think about the place of friendship in life’? That was to the friend of his old age, Audrey Napier-Smith, and it is touching because he was old, she young: but he is also making up to her, being flirtatious, a little coy. As my quotation from Betjeman shows, emphasising friendship can be a form of love ...

Endless Uncertainty

Colin Kidd: Adam Smith’s Legacy

19 July 2001
Economic Sentiments: Adam Smith, Condorcet and the Enlightenment 
by Emma​ Rothschild.
Harvard, 366 pp., £30.95, June 2001, 0 674 00489 2
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... Among the intellectual figures who have shaped the modern world Adam Smith stands out as someone who doesn’t frighten the laity, might be positively welcomed indeed by middle England. Should the neighbours catch a glimpse of the Wealth of Nations sitting on the bookshelf ...

Noticing and Not Noticing

John Mullan: Consciousness in Austen

20 November 2014
The Hidden Jane Austen 
by John Wiltshire.
Cambridge, 195 pp., £17.99, April 2014, 978 1 107 64364 2
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... been the declared pleasure of all Austen admirers. Lewes had counted his readings – ‘We have reread them all four times’ – and was ready to embark on another round. In their introduction to Emma in the Cambridge edition of the novels, Richard Cronin and Dorothy McMillan argue that Austen wrote for the rereader. In Emma she deliberately sacrificed ‘readability’ for the sake of a novel ...

His Only Friend

Elaine Showalter

8 September 1994
Hardy 
by Martin Seymour-Smith.
Bloomsbury, 886 pp., £25, February 1994, 0 7475 1037 7
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... speaking to Larkin in the Beyond; later Larkin sent a posthumous word of approval for the book. Could the cosmic wires have been crossed and could the spiritualist have been talking to Martin Seymour-Smith? For this massive biography of Hardy – or ‘Tom’, as Seymour-Smith chummily calls him – has the vehemence of divine revelation and the fervour of personal mission. ‘I wrote Hardy,’ the ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Godot on a bike

5 February 2004
... rely on their vanity, or else their sense of shame: either they won’t recognise themselves in your unflattering portrayal, or they’ll be too embarrassed to own up to it. In the words of Lee Smith, the author of Fair and Tender Ladies and, most recently, The Last Girls: ‘It’s easy to disguise them enough for the purposes of putting them in a novel – just add a moustache, or change their ...

Unsluggardised

Charles Nicholl: ‘The Shakespeare Circle’

18 May 2016
The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography 
edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells.
Cambridge, 358 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 107 69909 0
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... that he was the first of beings the Seal belonged to him – Oh Lord!’ The sceptic might answer that it could have belonged to someone else with the same initials – the Stratford draper William Smith, for instance – but the possibility remains strong that it was Shakespeare’s. It is certainly a genuine ring of the period, and there are other pointers in its favour. The field where it was ...
25 June 1987
Computation into Criticism: A Study of Jane Austen’s Novels and an Experiment in Method 
by J.F Burrows.
Oxford, 245 pp., £25, February 1987, 0 19 812856 8
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... modifications of the norm intentional, an aspect of characterisation. It is a case which works well enough for the five most changeable speakers in his table, Marianne Dashwood, Mr Knightley, Fanny, Emma and Henry Crawford, not so well for the next best learners, Mrs Norris and Mrs Bennet. Once again, other authors fail to match Austen’s remarkable diversity. Forster’s Margaret Schlegel ...

Make-Believe

Patricia Beer

8 November 1979
The Intruder 
by Gillian Tindall.
Hodder, 286 pp., £5.95
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Mother Can You Hear Me? 
by Margaret Forster.
Secker, 269 pp., £5.90
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Treasures of Time 
by Penelope Lively.
Heinemann, 199 pp., £4.95
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Wild Nights 
by Emma​ Tennant.
Cape, 134 pp., £4.50
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... a relative engaged in unlawful sexual activity, the multiple-recall method is on the whole very suitable for all the contradictory fantasies and hallucinations that the author wishes to convey. Emma Tennant’s Wild Nights is the most ambitious and the most exciting of these four novels. It gives us reality through the five senses of a child narrator, and is not so much fantasy as a witch’s ...

And what did she see?

Graham Robb: The Bête du Gévaudan

19 May 2011
Monsters of the Gévaudan: The Making of a Beast 
by Jay Smith.
Harvard, 378 pp., £25.95, March 2011, 978 0 674 04716 7
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... In the summer of 2007, Jay Smith, who teaches history at the University of North Carolina, was in Paris collecting information for a book about a mysterious beast that terrorised the remote French province of the Gévaudan between ...

Maiden Aunt

Colin Kidd: Adam Smith

7 October 2010
Adam SmithAn Enlightened Life 
by Nicholas Phillipson.
Allen Lane, 345 pp., £25, August 2010, 978 0 7139 9396 7
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Adam Smith​ and the Circles of Sympathy: Cosmopolitanism and moral theory 
by Fonna Forman-Barzilai.
Cambridge, 286 pp., £55, March 2010, 978 0 521 76112 3
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... told the Scottish Conservative Conference in 1988. ‘Well, I find that hard to believe – because the Scots invented Thatcherism, long before I was thought of.’ The Scot she meant was Adam Smith, a figure popularly identified as the founder of economics, an apostle of capitalism and honoured prophet of the new right. It was exasperating for Thatcher, and a pleasing irony for her opponents ...

Putting down

Emma​ Rothschild

4 June 1981
The Zero-Sum Society 
by Lester Thurow.
Harper and Row, 230 pp., £7.95, February 1981, 0 465 09384 1
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... for economists in America. The country is preoccupied with its economic misfortunes. Yet the most esteemed theorist of economic recovery seems to be the early 19th-century French populariser of Adam Smith known to Marx as ‘the inane Jean-Baptiste Say … [who] refutes himself again’. The most successful recent guide to the economy – a work called Wealth and Poverty, described by the Republican ...
24 October 1991
Ford Madox Brown and the Pre-Raphaelite Circle 
by Teresa Newman and Ray Watkinson.
Chatto, 226 pp., £50, July 1991, 0 7011 3186 1
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... to pay his way, saw the issues from quite another perspective – moreover, he had fallen in love with an illiterate bricklayer’s daughter, and that made all the difference. She was called Emma, and she was one of several women who found work as a model in Brown’s studio. Her quiet, light-eyed face looks out from many of Brown’s pictures – most famously from The Last of England, where ...

Pleased to Be Loony

Alice Spawls: The Janeites

8 November 2012
Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures 
by Claudia Johnson.
Chicago, 224 pp., £22.50, June 2012, 978 0 226 40203 1
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... his readiness ‘to live with and to marry’ Elizabeth Bennet and serve as ‘a knight (or at least a squire) of the order of St Jane’. In 1949, after writing two books about Austen, Sheila Kaye-Smith had a conversation with her about electric lamps and radios. Inevitably there have been squabbles over whose Austen is the real one. Lionel Trilling warned the new reader of her novels that ‘Jane ...

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