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John Bayley

24 March 1994
Christina Rossetti: A Biography 
by Frances Thomas.
Virago, 448 pp., £9.99, February 1994, 1 85381 681 7
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... her temperament and period, and especially women poets, the reader always has the desire to know more of what may have inspired the poems. In this admirably sensitive and also very sensible biography FrancesThomas goes over the known ground, and makes some shrewd suggestions of her own. She is an excellent scholar of the period, and she writes with humour, clarity and restraint. In spite of their ...

Flying the Coop

John Sutherland: Mama Trollope

19 February 1998
Fanny Trollope: The Life and Adventures of a Clever Woman 
by Pamela Neville-Sington.
Viking, 416 pp., £20, November 1997, 0 670 85905 2
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... life are laid down in the second chapter of An Autobiography – ‘My Mother’. There is no corresponding chapter on ‘My Father’. The sprightly daughter of a West Country clergyman, Frances Milton waited until she was 30 before making a good match with a London barrister. Thomas Anthony Trollope had professional prospects and ‘expectations’ of a rich, unmarried and conveniently ...

Short Cuts

Thomas​ Jones: National Poetry Day

5 October 2000
... today’ is a week or two off, at least for readers in the UK, there’s still a bit of time to get ready, and what better way to prepare than by reading The Poet’s Manual and Rhyming Dictionary by Frances Stillman. Thames and Hudson first published it in 1966 – even then it was based on The Improved Rhyming Dictionary by Jane Shaw Whitfield, in its turn an updated version of an earlier unimproved ...
18 August 1994
The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson. Vol. I: 1854-April 1874 
edited by Bradford Booth and Ernest Mehew.
Yale, 525 pp., £29.95, July 1994, 0 300 05183 2
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The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson. Vol. II: April 1874-July 1879 
edited by Bradford Booth and Ernest Mehew.
Yale, 352 pp., £29.95, July 1994, 0 300 06021 1
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...  though, unknown to his parents, Louis’s beloved nurse ‘Cummy’ would give him nightmares with her terrifying talk about damnation. It so happened, however, that one day Stevenson’s father Thomas came on a document drawn up by Louis and his friends – it was the constitution of a secret society known as the ‘L.J.R.’ – calling for the abolition of the House of Lords and a rejection of ...

Too Many Pears

Thomas​ Keymer: Frances​ Burney

26 August 2015
The Court Journals and Letters of Frances​ Burney 1786-91, Vols III-IV: 1788 
edited by Lorna Clark.
Oxford, 824 pp., £225, September 2014, 978 0 19 968814 2
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... When​ Frances Burney’s journals were published by her niece in a seven-volume series of highlights (Diary and Letters of Madame d’Arblay, 1842-46), they were savaged by John Wilson Croker in the Tory Quarterly ...

Poetry is a horrible waste of time

Frances​ Wilson: Thomas​ Lovell Beddoes

28 October 1999
Thomas​ Lovell Beddoes: Selected Poetry 
edited by Judith Higgens and Michael Bradshaw.
Carcanet, 116 pp., £8.95, June 1999, 1 85754 408 0
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... I ought to have been among other things a good poet,’ Thomas Lovell Beddoes wrote in the postscript to the brief and perfunctory note he left before swallowing a lethal dose of poison. He was 45 years old and had published nothing, save the odd poem, for a ...

Never mind the neighbours

Margaret Anne Doody

4 April 1996
by Germaine de Staël, translated by Avriel Goldberger.
Northern Illinois, 468 pp., $50, September 1995, 0 87580 200 1
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... In England during her exile of 1792, Mme de Staël was puzzled as well as offended that Frances Burney, who was then 40, should have felt it necessary to obey her father’s instruction no longer to associate with the adulterous Baronne. Mme de Staël remarked in some puzzlement to Susanna ...

Sans Sunflowers

David Solkin

7 July 1994
Nineteenth-Century Art: A Critical History 
by Stephen Eisenman, Thomas​ Crow, Brian Lukacher, Linda Nochlin and Frances​ Pohl.
Thames and Hudson, 376 pp., £35, March 1994, 0 500 23675 5
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... this difference (and I’m not sure it is a difference) may count for very little if the end-result is to reconstruct the old affirmative art history by another means. No such risks are run by Frances Pohl’s two chapters on American art, which in many respects function as the exceptions that prove the rule. Neither monographs nor surveys, they consist instead of thematic studies on issues of ...

‘A Naughty House’

Charles Nicholl: Shakespeare’s Landlord

24 June 2010
... at the Middlesex Sessions of 1 December 1613 was one which involved three French ‘goldworkers’ resident in the parish of St Giles without Cripplegate, and a woman from Whitechapel called Frances Williams. The charge was fornication. Though not in itself unusual, the charge had an extra twist, repeated with minor variations in most of the entries relating to it: ‘they were all 4 seene in ...


Elaine Jordan

21 April 1983
The Viaduct 
by David Wheldon.
Bodley Head, 176 pp., £5.95, March 1983, 0 370 30519 1
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Rates of Exchange 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 310 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 436 06505 3
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by Maggie Ross.
Collins, 280 pp., £8.95, April 1983, 0 00 222602 2
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No Place on Earth 
by Christa Wolf, translated by Jan van Heurck.
Virago, 110 pp., £6.95, March 1983, 9780860683636
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Look at me 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 192 pp., £7.50, March 1983, 0 224 02055 2
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Not Not While the Giro and Other Stories 
by James Kelman.
Polygon, 207 pp., £3.95, March 1983, 9780904919653
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... her message for the hero remains: ‘I mean to give you a better sense of existence.’ But the manuscript that bears her meaning gets blown up. Maybe Brookner’s view, which holds, like Thomas Mann’s, that to be a writer means dying to ordinary life, is less discouraging. Wolf’s Kleist feels something of this kind, but struggles at the boundaries between ideas and writing and life ...

Out of Babel

Michael Hofmann: Thomas​ Bernhard Traduced

14 December 2017
Collected Poems 
by Thomas​ Bernhard, translated by James Reidel.
Chicago, 459 pp., £25, June 2017, 978 0 85742 426 6
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... The​ posthumous progress in English of the Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard (1931-89) is marked by deaths: those of his majoritarian and minoritarian translators David McLintock and Ewald Osers, in 2003 and 2011 respectively; and in 2015 that of Carol Brown Janeway ...


John Bossy: Simon Forman

22 February 2001
The Notorious Astrological Physician of London: Works and Days of Simon Forman 
by Barbara Howard Traister.
Chicago, 260 pp., £19, February 2001, 0 226 81140 9
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Dr Simon Forman: A Most Notorious Physician 
by Judith Cook.
Chatto, 228 pp., £18.99, January 2001, 0 7011 6899 4
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... Historicism stick out awkwardly. She invokes these occult powers apropos of the most sensational case in that career, Forman’s connection with the amorous projects of the Jacobean society beauty Frances Howard, who wanted to divorce her husband and marry James I’s favourite Robert Carr, and apparently procured the death by poison of Carr’s friend Sir Thomas Overbury, who was against the marriage ...

How to Be Tudor

Hilary Mantel: Can a King Have Friends?

17 March 2016
Charles Brandon: Henry VIII’s Closest Friend 
by Steven Gunn.
Amberley, 304 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 1 4456 4184 3
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... that phrase evokes! The knocking of Tudor knees echoes down the years. Can a king have friends? Could Henry VIII have friends? The pertinent anecdote is well known: he walked affectionately with Thomas More, an arm around his neck, but More told his son-in-law: ‘If my head would win him a castle in France … it would not fail to go.’ Charles Brandon fought in showy campaigns to recover those ...


Maurice Keen: The diabolical Sir John Hawkwood

5 May 2005
Hawkwood: Diabolical Englishman 
by Frances​ Stonor Saunders.
Faber, 366 pp., £17.99, November 2004, 9780571219087
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... The greatest mercenary of an age when soldiers of fortune flourished,’ says the cover flap of Frances Stonor Saunders’s biography of Sir John Hawkwood (c.1320-94), one-time leader of the White Company made famous by Conan Doyle’s historical novels. The 14th century was indeed an age of ...
27 June 1991
Dance till the stars come down 
by Frances​ Spalding.
Hodder, 271 pp., £25, May 1991, 0 340 48555 8
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Keith Vaughan 
by Malcolm Yorke.
Constable, 288 pp., £25, October 1990, 0 09 469780 9
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... the mouth stretches into a toothy grin. His work, once famous, is now probably best remembered by those who saw it when it first appeared in Penguin New Writing, or on book jackets and in magazines. Frances Spalding’s biography gives us the life with too many adjectives but an abundance of facts and first-hand accounts. She is tentative about the value of the work, which is understandable, and about ...

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