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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 ...
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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... 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 the man, which seems unkind. The facts are not so ...

This Trying Time

A.N. Wilson: John Sparrow, 1 October 1998

The Warden 
by John Lowe.
HarperCollins, 258 pp., £19.99, August 1998, 0 00 215392 0
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... An odder vagueness occurs when he tells us out of the blue that Sparrow was the friend of ‘Mrs Frances Horner, a relation and friend of the Asquiths who as a widow lived at Mells’. This implies that ‘the Asquiths of Mells’ had taken her in as a lodger. In fact, Frances Graham, one of the favourite and most ...

Looking for a Way Up

Rosemary Hill: Roy Strong’s Vanities, 25 April 2013

Self-Portrait as a Young Man 
by Roy Strong.
Bodleian, 286 pp., £25, March 2013, 978 1 85124 282 5
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... a section is ‘reserved for books by or about people who have most influenced me’; the death of Frances Yates, his former tutor at the Warburg Institute, occurs ‘a few months before I was knighted’. Yet this unswerving concentration on himself has the advantage of particularity. Memoirs, especially perhaps those of the 1960s, risk dissolving into period ...

Starting over

Malise Ruthven, 9 July 1987

Cities on a Hill 
by Frances FitzGerald.
Picador, 414 pp., £4.50, March 1987, 0 330 29845 3
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... The title of Frances FitzGerald’s new book comes from the sermon John Winthrop, first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, delivered on board the Arabella shortly before landing in the New World in 1630. Fully conscious of the exemplary character of their enterprise, he urged his companions to walk humbly in the ways of God by remaining true to the Puritan tenets of a faith they could no longer practise in England ...

Short Cuts

Duncan Campbell: Courthouse Hotel, 20 May 2021

... key findings of the Cairncross Review, published in 2019. The review, led by the former journalist Frances Cairncross, was asked to examine ‘the sustainability of high-quality journalism’ in the wake of plummeting numbers of journalists and newspaper sales. One study quoted found that court reporting had dropped by 30 per cent in the national press and by ...

Nelly gets her due

John Sutherland, 8 November 1990

The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 317 pp., £16.99, October 1990, 0 670 82787 8
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The Autobiography of Margaret Oliphant 
edited by Elisabeth Jay.
Oxford, 184 pp., £16.95, October 1990, 0 19 818615 0
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... break-up of his marriage. Apparently Mrs Ternan acquiesced. Dickens gave Ellen’s older sister Frances money to study singing in Italy (Tomalin suggests this may have been intended to free Nelly from her mother’s chaperonage). Nelly’s not very wonderful career on the stage came to an end at this period, but her fortunes rose. By the age of 21 she owned ...

Tit for Tat

Margaret Anne Doody, 21 December 1989

Eighteenth-Century Women Poets: An Oxford Anthology 
edited by Roger Lonsdale.
Oxford, 555 pp., £20, September 1989, 0 19 811769 8
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... Lonsdale makes a point of the gratuitous nastiness of his attack on the impoverished Elizabeth Thomas, whose poetic name ‘Corinna’, bestowed by Dryden, is for ever defamed in ‘Curl’s Corinna’. Many women writers refer to the Dunciad, but this satiric epic, which cries out against the phenomenon of the very print culture that made Pope’s success ...

The Whole Bustle

Siobhan Kilfeather, 9 January 1992

The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing 
edited by Seamus Deane.
Field Day Publications/Faber, 4044 pp., £150, November 1991, 0 946755 20 5
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... missed some of the Northern women writers such as Charlotte Elizabeth, Amanda McKittrick Ros, Frances Browne and Anne Crone, whose varieties of Unionism and feminism would have been intriguingly disruptive of the meta-narrative. Northern writing is otherwise well-represented. Tom Paulin edits a section on ‘Northern Protestant Oratory and Writing ...

Freebooter

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 opportunity for military adventurers, and for mercenary soldiers in particular ...

John Cheever’s Wapshot Annals

Graham Hough, 7 February 1980

The Wapshot Chronicle 
by John Cheever.
Harper and Row, 549 pp., £6.95, November 1980, 0 06 337007 7
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Florence Avenue 
by Elizabeth North.
Gollancz, 158 pp., £4.95, October 1980, 0 575 02680 4
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McKay’s Bees 
by Thomas McMahon.
Constable, 198 pp., £4.95, November 1980, 0 09 463120 4
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The Siesta 
by Patrice Chaplin.
Duckworth, 174 pp., £5.95, November 1980, 0 7156 1459 2
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... all is simply reported, in a lively one-thing-after-the-other fashion. There are echoes of Frances Trollope, echoes of Huckleberry Finn – probably quite accidental; and the whole is so alive, original and unexpected that without any particular plot, without any element of suspense, the reader is kept in a state of pleased and exhilarating ...

Unbosoming

Peter Barham: Madness in the nineteenth century, 17 August 2006

Madness at Home: The Psychiatrist, the Patient and the Family in England 1820-60 
by Akihito Suzuki.
California, 260 pp., £32.50, March 2006, 0 520 24580 6
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... as much as disempowering them, providing a space in which they could speak publicly. Thomas Telford Campbell, the son of the poet Thomas Campbell, impressed the jury with the ‘urbanity, coolness and composure’ of his performance in cross-examining witnesses, and persuaded them to reject the medical ...

Tuesday Girl

Colin Burrow: Seraphick Love, 6 March 2003

Transformations of Love: The Friendship of John Evelyn and Margaret Godolphin 
by Frances Harris.
Oxford, 330 pp., £25, January 2003, 0 19 925257 2
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... out complex arrangements of the most exotic trees and plants. Like his Norfolk contemporary Sir Thomas Browne, he admired the fact that a tree could ‘generate its like without violation of Virginity’. But he was no Swampy or tree-hugger. His plans for giant plantations of trees had a military and industrial purpose: they were eventually to be felled to ...

Francine-Machine

Jonathan Rée: Automata, 9 May 2002

Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen 
by Barbara Maria Stafford and Frances Terpak.
Getty, 416 pp., £30, February 2002, 0 89236 590 0
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The Secret Life of Puppets 
by Victoria Nelson.
Harvard, 350 pp., £20.50, February 2002, 0 674 00630 5
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Living Dolls: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life 
by Gaby Wood.
Faber, 278 pp., £12.99, March 2002, 0 571 17879 0
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... website and the exhaustive catalogue, with lavish illustrations and meticulous curatorial notes by Frances Terpak. Terpak has left it to her culturalist colleagues to philosophise about epiphany, synaesthesia, cyberspace, the destabilised world order etc, while she describes the objects in the show. Her discussion of automata opens with a 17th-century ...

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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... was carefully trained in the art of letter writing. His bedroom, according to his early biographer Thomas Moffet, ‘overflowed with elegant epistles’ which he had painstakingly written. The opening letter in Roger Kuin’s superb new edition of his correspondence, addressed to the 12-year-old Philip by his father, Sir Henry, urges him ‘to exercise that ...

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