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Missingness

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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... of what may have inspired the poems. In this admirably sensitive and also very sensible biography Frances Thomas 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 Italian looks and background the Rossettis were wholly ...

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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... 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 antique uncle. The ...

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 Review. Hatchet jobs were Croker’s speciality: it was his review of Endymion that Byron joked was the cause of Keats’s death in Don Juan (‘’Tis strange the mind, that very fiery particle,/Should let itself be snuff’d out by an article ...

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 quarter of a century. In 1821, as a precocious Oxford undergraduate, he had brought out a volume called The Improvisatore, which was followed in 1822 by a verse drama, The Brides’ Tragedy ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: National Poetry Day, 5 October 2000

... 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 edition – and they’ve reprinted it a dozen times ...

What sort of man?

P.N. Furbank, 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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... 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 the doctrines of the Established Church. It caused him to ...

Never mind the neighbours

Margaret Anne Doody, 4 April 1996

Delphine 
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 Phillips, Burney’s younger sister: ‘But is a woman under guardianship all her life in your country? It appears to me that your sister is like a girl of 14 ...

Haleking

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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... 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. Howard had ...

At least that was the idea

Thomas Keymer: Johnson and Boswell’s Club, 10 October 2019

The Club: Johnson, Boswell and the Friends who Shaped an Age 
by Leo Damrosch.
Yale, 488 pp., £20, April 2019, 978 0 300 21790 2
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... kind of shadow club’ where Johnson could spar at leisure with other intellectual women: Frances Burney, Elizabeth Montagu, Hannah More. Johnson had his own room at Streatham Place, and wrote most of Lives of the Poets there, reading manuscript sections aloud to those present much as Samuel Richardson had read draft novels to his ‘female ...

‘A Naughty House’

Charles Nicholl: Shakespeare’s Landlord, 24 June 2010

... 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 bed together at one tyme.’ The documentation is ...

Perpetual Sunshine

David Cannadine, 2 July 1981

The Gentleman’s Country House and its Plan, 1835-1914 
by Jill Franklin.
Routledge, 279 pp., £15.95, February 1981, 0 7100 0622 5
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... set eyes upon the mansion which frequently dominated the novel. An early example of this is in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Making of a Marchioness, where Emily comes upon Palstrey Manor and ‘almost wept before the loveliness of it’. More composed, but no less enamoured, was Harriet Wimsey (née Vane), as she visited Denver Ducis for the first ...

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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... 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 race and its representations: one chapter deals with the ...

Travelling

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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Milena 
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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... 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. Boundaries are important, too, in connecting these ...

The Italy of Human Beings

Frances Wilson: Felicia Hemans, 16 November 2000

Felicia Hemans: ‘Records of Woman’ with Other Poems 
edited by Paula Feldman.
Kentucky, 248 pp., £15.50, September 1999, 0 8131 0964 7
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... But while Byron was disowned by the Victorians, embarrassed that this ‘huge sulky dandy’, as Thomas Carlyle called him, should have received so much adoration and respect, Felicia Hemans’s reputation grew, and her work went out of print only after the First World War. Her importance in dictating the taste for patriotism, obedience and sacrifice in ...

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, his publisher at Knopf, his unlikely champion over decades (because, for all his influence and cultishness, Bernhard in English never exactly sold), and the translator herself of the posthumous My Prizes, in an exquisitely bound volume from Notting Hill Editions, with a justly amused introduction by Frances Wilson: ‘Few writers have received more applause than Thomas Bernhard, Austrian novelist, playwright and enfant terrible, and few have bitten more sharply the hand that clapped ...

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