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Total Secret

Norman MacCaig

21 January 1982
Neil M. Gunn: A Highland Life 
by F.R. Hart and J.B. Pick.
Murray, 314 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 7195 3856 4
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... 28 of them, no less), it contains many judgments, many of which are quoted from letters and reviews. The authors tend to avoid making ‘value-judgments’ of their own, though their admiration for the books and for the man can’t help revealing itself. I met Neil Gunn pretty often (but only after 1950) and we got on fine – no boast, he got on fine with everybody. I thought of him as a man of ...

Supermax

John Bayley

8 December 1988
The Letters of Max Beerbohm 1892-1956 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Murray, 244 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7195 4537 4
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The Faber Book of Letters 
edited by Felix Pryor.
Faber, 319 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 571 15269 4
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... in prison. But his letters to their great mutual friend Reggie Turner suggest quite a different view of the trial from the one Ellmann presents. It was not a cathartic and humbling metamorphosis for the poor victim but a smart triumph quite in his usual style. ‘Oscar has been quite superb. His speech about the Love that dares not tell its name was simply wonderful – and carried the whole ...

Performing Seals

Christopher Hitchens: The PR Crowd

10 August 2000
Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals 
by David Laskin.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., $26, January 2000, 0 684 81565 6
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... or ‘committings’ (to mental hospitals, I mean); their dramas of adultery and rivalry. Paradoxically, this is why so many of the club escape mention except in footnotes. Irving Howe, for example, gave no sexual trouble to anyone we know about. Nor indeed did Diana Trilling. William Phillips and William Barrett seem to have been uxorious or monastic by contrast to the friends whose ...

Everybody behaved perfectly

Eric Hobsbawm: Hilde’s Two Husbands

25 August 2011
Scientist Spies: A Memoir of My Three Parents and the Atom Bomb 
by Paul Broda.
Troubador, 333 pp., £17.50, April 2011, 978 1 84876 607 5
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... married, who passed information to the Soviets on the atom-bomb project between 1942 and 1945: Berti, or Engelbert Egon August Ernst Broda, and Alan Nunn May, who was sentenced to ten years for it. Broda, who probably had the longer record of relations with Moscow, was never tried though seen as heavily suspect by the British security services. As it happens, I knew or met all three as well ...

Placing Leavis

Geoffrey Hartman

24 January 1985
The Leavises: Recollections and Impressions 
edited by Denys Thompson.
Cambridge, 207 pp., £15, October 1984, 0 521 25494 9
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The Social Mission of English Criticism: 1848-1932 
by Chris Baldick.
Oxford, 264 pp., £19.50, August 1983, 0 19 812821 5
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Radical Earnestness: English Social Theory 1880-1980 
by Fred Inglis.
Robertson, 253 pp., £16.50, November 1982, 0 85520 328 5
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The Critic as Anti-Philosopher: Essays and Papers by F.R.​ Leavis 
edited by G. Singh.
Chatto, 208 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 7011 2644 2
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... shows him in a jacket impermeable to the insults of time and with the open shirt of a Labour leader. He looks indeed, as his wife wrote of both of them, ‘grey-haired and worn down with battling for survival in a hostile environment’. Queenie Leavis stands beside him, also dressed simply, sharing his pursed lips and focused eyes that tilt only slightly towards a better world. Together they make ...

I gotta use words

Mark Ford: Eliot speaks in tongues

10 August 2016
The Poems of T.S. Eliot: Volume I: Collected & Uncollected Poems 
edited by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue.
Faber, 1311 pp., £40, November 2015, 978 0 571 23870 5
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The Poems of T.S. Eliot: Volume II: Practical Cats & Further Verses 
edited by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue.
Faber, 667 pp., £40, November 2015, 978 0 571 23371 7
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... and ‘he sought out a certain street and number’ in Chapter 20 of Little Dorrit; or, moving beyond literature, between that phrase and the recording of a payment made to ‘R.D. Bennett, for sprinkling a certain street’ in the aforementioned Acts and Resolutions of the 29th General Assembly of Iowa; between Prufrock’s ‘overwhelming question’ (line 10) and the observation in ...

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