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Hating

Frances Donaldson

16 October 1980
Dear Old Blighty 
by E.S. Turner.
Joseph, 288 pp., £7.95, February 1980, 0 7181 1879 0
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... Britain lost three times as many combatant lives in the 1914 war as in the 1939 and, by the end of 1916, more than in all wars since the Plantaganets. (France lost twice as many as we did in the first war and Germany three times.) The pain and terror of the first war have so invaded the consciousness of later generations that there are always new readers for books about it. In Dear Old Blighty E.S ...

Unemployed

David Cannadine

2 December 1982
Duchess: The Story of Wallis Warfield Windsor 
by Stephen Birmingham.
Macmillan, 287 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 333 34265 8
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The Duke of Windsor’s War 
by Michael Bloch.
Weidenfeld, 397 pp., £10.95, October 1982, 0 297 77947 8
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... in malice, aimed in hatred and wielded in spite. But others, more interested in history than in hearsay, have landed some shrewd blows on their target. Chief among these Windsor-wallopers has been FrancesDonaldson, whose much-acclaimed biography undermined many of the legends which lingered from his time as Prince of Wales, substantiated most of the criticisms levelled against him as King Edward VIII ...
25 October 1990
Yours, Plum: The Letters of P.G. Wodehouse 
edited by Frances Donaldson.
Hutchinson, 269 pp., £16.99, September 1990, 0 09 174639 6
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... skills with daydreams – being a private eye or captaining a ship of the line – in a way that discloses interior personality, the secrecy of a human case. Nothing like that happened with Plum. FrancesDonaldson has done a superb job of editing and writing an informative and perceptive introduction. She arranges the letters under the heading of subject and recipient, which gives a much better and ...
7 February 1980
The Windsor Story 
by J. Bryan and Charles Murphy.
Granada, 602 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 246 11323 5
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... which is happily little in evidence in this book. But it is validly used to explain Edward’s constant preference in his love affairs for married women: it was part of his search for a mother. FrancesDonaldson made the same point in her masterly biography. Late in the day, he found a mother figure in Mrs Simpson, shortly before his accession. The authors dispose of the ridiculous myth, still ...
15 September 1988
Wallis: Secret Lives of the Duchess of Windsor 
by Charles Higham.
Sidgwick, 419 pp., £17.95, June 1988, 0 283 99627 7
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The Secret File of the Duke of Windsor 
by Michael Bloch.
Bantam, 326 pp., £14.95, August 1988, 9780593016671
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... Universally slated’ was how Sidgwick and Jackson described its reception to me. It has been passed over for serialisation. Film rights, once assured, are now in jeopardy. Writing in the Spectator, FrancesDonaldson, modestly omitting to refer to her own worthy, if rather pedestrian biography of Edward VIII, could not contain her indignation. ‘Nor am I alone in thinking it rather shocking,’ she ...

Honest Graft

Michael Brock

23 June 1988
Corruption in British Politics, 1895-1930 
by G.R. Searle.
Oxford, 448 pp., £19.50, November 1987, 0 19 822915 1
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... much the same. Lloyd George’s ‘flutter’ in American Marconis did not suggest that he was an expert at the political form of ‘insider’ dealing. ‘The Chancellor of the Exchequer’, wrote FrancesDonaldson, ‘and the Master of Elibank had done what every tyro indulging in a half-guilty flutter does. They had bought half-way up a boom and sold excitedly at a profit. Then at the first serious ...

My Dagger into Yow

Ian Donaldson: Sidney’s Letters

25 April 2013
The Correspondence of Sir Philip Sidney 
edited by Roger Kuin.
Oxford, 1381 pp., £250, July 2012, 978 0 19 955822 3
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... from women, in whose company, as Katherine Duncan-Jones has convincingly argued, Sidney seems always to have been most happy, productive and at ease. There are no surviving exchanges with his wife, Frances, or with his sister, Mary, and no letters relating to his time at Wilton House in Wiltshire, where his most important writing was done. Apart from a single letter from Philip to his young brother ...

No snarling

Fatema Ahmed: P.G. Wodehouse

3 November 2005
Wodehouse 
by Joseph Connolly.
Haus, 192 pp., £9.99, September 2004, 1 904341 68 3
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Wodehouse: A Life 
by Robert McCrum.
Penguin, 542 pp., £8.99, September 2005, 0 14 100048 1
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... He and Ethel had a joint bank account (which Ethel controlled), separate bedrooms, no children and many Pekinese dogs. Since Wodehouse’s death in 1975 there have been two authorised biographies. FrancesDonaldson’s, published in 1982, is warmer about the man than the work. She was a schoolfriend of Wodehouse’s beloved stepdaughter, Leonora. But she was a surprising choice for official biographer ...

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