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Lawful Charm

Donald Davie

6 July 1995
Selected Poems 
by William Barnes, edited by Andrew Motion.
Penguin, 171 pp., £6.99, May 1994, 0 14 042379 6
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Selected Poems 
by William Barnes, read by Alan Chedzoy.
Canto, £6.99
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... to us as ‘Northamptonshire dialect-poet’; yet to their Clare: Selected Poems and Prose (1966), Eric Robinson and Geoffrey Summerfield appended a glossary of more than two hundred words and expressions. If Barnes’s Dorset poems were put into Standard English, would their glossary be any bigger? Perpetuating Barnes’s pedantries along with his poems ...
19 February 2004
John Clare: A Biography 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 650 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 330 37106 1
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‘I Am’: The Selected Poetry of John Clare 
edited by Jonathan Bate.
Farrar, Straus, 318 pp., $17, November 2003, 0 374 52869 1
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John Clare, Politics and Poetry 
by Alan Vardy.
Palgrave, 221 pp., £45, October 2003, 0 333 96617 1
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John Clare Vol. V: Poems of the Middle Period 1822-37 
edited by Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 822 pp., £105, January 2003, 0 19 812386 8
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... In 1865, a year after John Clare’s death in the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, Frederick Martin, a former amanuensis of Thomas Carlyle, published the first biography of the ‘peasant poet’. It laid the foundations, Jonathan Bate says in his new Life, ‘for both the enduring myths and some of the key truths about Clare ...

What’s going on, Eric?

David Renton: Rock Against Racism

22 November 2018
Walls Come Tumbling Down: The Music and Politics of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge 
by Daniel Rachel.
Picador, 589 pp., £12.99, May 2017, 978 1 4472 7268 7
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... Bowie was photographed at Victoria Station on his return to Britain after two years in North America. Standing in an open-topped Mercedes, he appeared to give his fans some kind of open-handed, straight-armed – possibly fascist – salute. Soon afterwards he gave an interview to Playboy magazine: ‘I believe very strongly in fascism,’ he ...
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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... autobiography, including a letter about himself to his publisher, John Taylor, in 1821, given in Robinson’s book, and a memoir about his four-day walk home from an asylum in Essex in 1841, which both Tibble and Robinson include. But subjective writings make only a part of Clare’s efforts to record his village ...

Tired of Giving in

Eric Foner: Rosa Parks

10 May 2001
Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: The Life of Rosa Parks 
by Douglas Brinkley.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £12.99, January 2001, 0 297 60708 1
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... more than met it. A historian whose previous work has concentrated on Presidential politics and American foreign relations, Brinkley faced a difficult challenge in approaching the life of Parks, and not only because this is his first book on the struggle for racial justice. Despite her status as the ‘mother of the civil rights movement’, as a ...

Rongorongo

John Sturrock: The Rosetta Stone

19 September 2002
Keys of Egypt 
by Lesley Atkins and Roy Atkins.
HarperCollins, 335 pp., £7.99, September 2001, 0 00 653145 8
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The Rosetta Stone: The Story of the Decoding of Hieroglyphics 
by Robert Solé and Dominique Valbelle, translated by Steven Rendall.
Profile, 184 pp., £7.99, August 2002, 1 86197 344 6
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Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World’s Undeciphered Scripts 
by Andrew Robinson.
McGraw Hill, 352 pp., £25.99, June 2002, 0 07 135743 2
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The Man who Deciphered Linear B: The Story of Michael Ventris 
by Andrew Robinson.
Thames and Hudson, 168 pp., £12.95, April 2002, 0 500 51077 6
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... do better to read the summary expertly given in The Rosetta Stone, or, best of all, in Andrew Robinson’s lucid and well illustrated chapter on hieroglyphics in Lost Languages (whose many line drawings are at once valuable and deceptive, since they make the signs displayed look a great deal easier to identify than they are in the worn and weathered ...
1 June 2000
Working-Class New York: Life and Labour Since World War Two 
by Joshua Freeman.
New Press, 393 pp., $35, May 2000, 1 56584 575 7
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... it mainly conjured up images of street violence and urban deterioration, New York is once again America’s number one tourist attraction, and neighbourhoods long in decline are undergoing remarkable revivals. To be sure, a few blemishes mar the renaissance: the periodic killing of unarmed black men by the police, for example, or the persistent failure of the ...

In the Workshop

Tom Paulin: Shakespeare’s Sonnets

22 January 1998
The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets 
by Helen Vendler.
Harvard, 672 pp., £23.50, December 1997, 0 674 63712 7
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Shakespeare's Sonnets 
edited by Katherine Duncan-Jones.
Arden, 503 pp., £7.99, September 1997, 1 903436 57 5
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... Clare’s volumes and then reading the same poems in the unpunctuated original manuscript versions Eric Robinson and his fellow editors print in the big Oxford edition of Clare. A good example is sonnet 19: Deuouring time blunt thou the Lyons pawes, And make the earth deuoure her owne fweet brood, Plucke the keene teeth from the ficrce Tygers yawes, And ...
1 July 1982
The Gentleman in Trollope: Individuality and Moral Conduct 
by Shirley Letwin.
Macmillan, 303 pp., £15, May 1982, 0 333 31209 0
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The Idea of the Gentleman in the Victorian Novel 
by Robin Gilmour.
Allen and Unwin, 208 pp., £10, October 1981, 0 04 800005 1
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... 1880s – a result of the ‘division’ of the English moral consciousness. (Materialists like Eric Hobsbawm have, of course, put it down to such things as German supremacy in steel production.) The kernel of chauvinism at the heart of Letwin’s book – which asserts that if Britain had cleaved to the old monistic Trollopian ways we should still be great ...

Diary

W.G. Runciman: Dining Out

4 June 1998
... Authority), as much to his surprise as everyone else’s. He had been on his way to South America in his capacity as deputy governor of the Bank of England, having just been involved in that same capacity in seeking a successor to Andrew Large as chairman of SIB in its existing form, when Brown rang him up and put it to him. All very good news, both ...

At Kettle’s Yard

Eleanor Birne: The Reopening

22 March 2018
... through friendships, or as gifts from the artists or their families – the first inscription Eric Gill ever made; a Miró – as he got hold of whatever people would let him have: I turned out to be one of Ben Nicholson’s very few admirers at that time, and after he had tried to sell a painting for a year or so he would tell me that I could have it for ...

Destined to Disappear

Susan Pedersen: ‘Race Studies’

20 October 2016
White World Order, Black Power Politics: The Birth of American International Relations 
by Robert Vitalis.
Cornell, 272 pp., $29.95, November 2015, 978 0 8014 5397 7
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... in 1910, was one of a spate of academic journals, associations and institutes founded as American social scientists came to grips with their country’s expanding global and imperial role. The journal’s title, jarring today, reflects perfectly the centrality of the category of ‘race’ to political science at the time. During the ‘Wilsonian ...

Ruling Imbecilities

Andrew Roberts

7 November 1991
The Enemy’s Country: Words, Contexture and Other Circumstances of Language 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Oxford, 153 pp., £19.95, August 1991, 0 19 811216 5
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... the earlier volume, suggesting that Hill may have responded to comments made by, among others, Eric Griffiths. In an essay included in Geoffrey Hill: Essays on his Work (1985, edited by Peter Robinson), Griffiths expressed reservations about Hill’s ‘unsteady reliance on religious metaphors’ in his critical ...
23 April 1992
One Hundred Days: The Memoirs of the Falklands Battle Group Commander 
by Admiral Sandy Woodward and Patrick Robinson.
HarperCollins, 359 pp., £18, January 1992, 0 00 215723 3
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... the mark of a sociology excessively superficial even for that trade, of a naivety excessively American even for Americans. All sorts of statistics no doubt prove the abundance of social mobility in post-war Britain, while the deference to obsolete aristocratic values denounced by Walden cannot be demonstrated ...

Dykes, Drongs, Sarns, Snickets

David Craig: Walking England

20 December 2012
The English Lakes: A History 
by Ian Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £16.99, March 2012, 978 1 4088 0958 7
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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot 
by Robert Macfarlane.
Hamish Hamilton, 432 pp., £20, June 2012, 978 0 241 14381 0
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... first published in 1902, or the more recent The Lake District (1970) by Roy Millward and Adrian Robinson, a book that is perfect of its kind. But what I am asking for is a sense of first-hand experience, which is desirable especially when the subject is our experience as physical beings contriving to live in a physical world. Thompson is a devoted walker ...

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