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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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... set against Barnes is his English near-contemporary John Clare. No one, thank goodness, sells Clare to us as ‘Northamptonshire dialect-poet’; yet to their Clare: Selected Poems and Prose (1966), EricRobinson 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 ...
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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... tyranny’, but he was good at maths, something which helped him in negotiations with publishers. The formative texts of his childhood and early youth were, inevitably, Pilgrim’s Progress and Robinson Crusoe, both of which he echoed in ‘To the Snipe’, a lyric whose isolated, islanded atmosphere and slough-like, ‘rude, desolate’ marshes build a distinctive form of Puritan anguish. Bate ...

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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... fascist – salute. Soon afterwards he gave an interview to Playboy magazine: ‘I believe very strongly in fascism,’ he said. ‘Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars.’ In August, Eric Clapton took a break from a performance in Birmingham to demand the repatriation of Britain’s immigrant and black population. ‘You should all just leave,’ he said to members of his audience ...
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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... Tibble and Margaret Grainger give in their selections of his prose; and he left numerous fragments of 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 ...

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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... aware that their treatment on city buses was a deeply-felt grievance among Montgomery’s black population and that local black leaders were actively seeking an incident to inspire a boycott. Jo Ann Robinson, a professor of English at the all-black Alabama State University, had publicly threatened city officials with a boycott in 1954. In March 1955, Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old high school junior ...


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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... abstruse procedures of the decipherment alone. Anyone who wants to swallow these down in one go would 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 ...
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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... New York is also a milestone in American labour history. As in Britain, there was a remarkable transformation in this subject in the two decades after 1965. Inspired by the work of E.P. Thompson and Eric Hobsbawm, American scholars redefined a field which had been almost exclusively taken up with the history of trades union to encompass working-class life and culture outside the workplace as well as ...

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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... this sense of never quite stepping into the same river twice is reading the first editions of John Clare’s volumes and then reading the same poems in the unpunctuated original manuscript versions EricRobinson 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 ...
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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... decline of Trollope’s critical fortunes coincides for Letwin with a national loss of direction in the 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 ...


W.G. Runciman: Dining Out

4 June 1998
... 26 November 1997. To hear Gordon Brown again, this time over a Coopers & Lybrand breakfast at the Savoy. Is it a wish for genuine consultation with the business community, or just spinnery? Geoffrey Robinson presides, prompting reflections about the kind of businessmen who succeed, however improbably, in winning the trust of left-wing politicians. Who exploits who? When it’s David Lloyd George, he ...

At Kettle’s Yard

Eleanor Birne: The Reopening

22 March 2018
... best with his art collection. The collection itself had taken a while to acquire, much of it coming 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 ...

Destined to Disappear

Susan Pedersen: ‘Race Studies’

19 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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... the political scientists Ralph Bunche (PhD Harvard 1934) and Merze Tate (PhD Radcliffe 1941) – though he also notes the contributions of the historians E. Franklin Frazier (PhD Chicago 1931) and Eric Williams (PhD Oxford 1938), who taught at Howard before returning to Trinidad in the late 1940s. Of the main four, all but Tate – the first African-American woman to receive a PhD in this field ...

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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... obstacle to the appreciation of the mannered elegance of Hill’s prose. There is a further change from 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 ...
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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... Lieutenant Kens DSC, RNR, a submarine officer, was lost at sea.’ And again: ‘Captain David Hart-Dyke was another of my officers from a family with dark blue naval blood. His father Commander Eric Hart-Dyke fought the U-boats in the Second World War ... David’s wife Diana bore the well-known naval name of Luce, both her grandfathers being admirals ... her uncle was Admiral Sir David Luce ...

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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... did not set out to write a comprehensive study in the manner of W.G. Collingwood’s The Lake Counties, 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 ...

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