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Three Poems

Michael Hofmann

2 July 1998
... sitting on the pavement with his boots in the gutter – we must have made his day when we pulled over and asked him for the site of the Iron Age fort in his conservation village. My Life and Loves FrankHarris. And a syringe for afters. Parerga In the bedside drawer of a hotel room in the black naugahyde and pigtail German Eighties, I came upon the Yellow Pages and a Gideon Bible, one of them – ...
15 September 1988
Bernard Shaw. Vol. I: The Search for Love, 1856-1898 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 486 pp., £16, September 1988, 0 7011 3332 5
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Bernard Shaw: Collected Letters. Vol. IV 
edited by Dan Laurence.
Bodley Head, 946 pp., £30, June 1988, 0 370 31130 2
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Shaw: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies. Vol. VIII 
edited by Stanley Weintraub.
Pennsylvania State, 175 pp., $25, April 1988, 0 271 00613 7
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Shaw’s Sense of History 
by J.L. Wisenthal.
Oxford, 186 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812892 4
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Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. III: 1903-1907 
edited by Frederick Karl and Laurence Davies.
Cambridge, 532 pp., £35, April 1988, 0 521 32387 8
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Joseph Conrad: ‘Nostromo’ 
by Ian Watt.
Cambridge, 98 pp., £12.50, April 1988, 0 521 32821 7
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... There were already good biographies of Shaw, notably those of FrankHarris and Hesketh Pearson, both of whom knew Shaw and had the benefit of his energetic interventions. Pearson in particular will not be easily supplanted. Nevertheless the archives of the world are full of ...


J.D.F. Jones: Novels on South Africa

11 November 1999
by Giles Foden.
Faber, 366 pp., £9.99, September 1999, 0 571 19733 7
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Manly Pursuits 
by Ann Harries.
Bloomsbury, 340 pp., £15.99, March 1999, 0 7475 4293 7
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... gift for imitating the song of these birds – and happens to be another gay photographer – is, I assume, fictional, but he is joined at Groote Schuur by Dr Jameson, Alfred Milner, the Kiplings, FrankHarris, Olive Schreiner, the hunter-explorer Selous, the ‘Russian Princess’ who famously tried to ensnare Rhodes, all of them ‘real’, like the friends he has left in England (Dodgson, Ruskin ...

A Little of this Honey

Frank​ Kermode

29 October 1987
Oscar Wilde 
by Richard Ellmann.
Hamish Hamilton, 632 pp., £15, October 1987, 0 241 12392 5
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... a suitable choice. Hesketh Pearson, who wrote the best biography before this one, was advised by Shaw not to attempt it. For, as he saw it, everything that could be said had already been said – by FrankHarris and others, including Shaw himself; and although Wilde was ‘incomparably great as a raconteur, and as a personality ... these points cannot be reproduced.’ There is obviously some truth in ...

Too Young

James Davidson: Lord Alfred Douglas

21 September 2000
Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas 
by Douglas Murray.
Hodder, 374 pp., £20, June 2000, 0 340 76770 7
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... Irish Pig-Doctor’, and promised all and sundry a thrashing within an inch of ‘your dirty life’, more specifically a ‘horsewhipping’ or a ‘dog-whipping’, depending on their rank. When FrankHarris falls out of favour he becomes ‘a dirty skunk and as crooked as a corkscrew’. When the Duke of Richmond refuses him entrance to the private stand at Goodwood, he gets a letter from Bosie ...

Outside Swan and Edgar’s

Matthew Sweet: The life of Oscar Wilde

5 February 1998
The Wilde Album 
by Merlin Holland.
Fourth Estate, 192 pp., £12.99, October 1997, 1 85702 782 5
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Cosmopolitan Criticism: Oscar Wilde’s Philosophy of Art 
by Julia Prewitt Brown.
Virginia, 157 pp., $30, September 1997, 9780813917283
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The Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde 
edited by Peter Raby.
Cambridge, 307 pp., £37.50, October 1997, 9780521474719
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Wilde The Novel 
by Stefan Rudnicki.
Orion, 215 pp., £5.99, October 1997, 0 7528 1160 6
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Oscar Wilde 
by Frank Harris.
Robinson, 358 pp., £7.99, October 1997, 1 85487 126 9
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Moab is my Washpot 
by Stephen Fry.
Hutchinson, 343 pp., £16.99, October 1997, 0 09 180161 3
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Nothing … except My Genius 
by Oscar Wilde.
Penguin, 82 pp., £2.99, October 1997, 0 14 043693 6
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... the late 19th-century belief that sodomites were phenotypically male and psychologically female, and therefore buggers for a sequinned frock. The most brazen hijack of Wilde’s life is performed by FrankHarris’s biography, a generous, boastful book whose shameless exaggerations have the uncanny ring of authenticity. (True to the disingenuous spirit of the memoir, Robinson’s welcome reprint has ...

At the Centre Pompidou

Jeremy Harding: Beat Generation

7 September 2016
... There is No More Street Corner ...’, unpublished manuscript (1960) Jack Kerouac, ‘On the Road’ (original typescript, 1951) Jack Kerouac, ‘The Slouch Hat’ (c.1960) John Cohen, ‘Robert Frank, Alfred Leslie, Gregory Corso’ (1959) Wallace Berman, Untitled (Allen Ginsberg, c.1960)PreviousNext These names belong to the original small group of friends who met in New York in the early 1940s ...

Just be yourself

David Hirson

23 July 1987
Swimming to Cambodia: The Collected Works of Spalding Gray 
by Spalding Gray.
Picador, 304 pp., £3.50, January 1987, 0 330 29947 6
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... each of which attempts to relieve Gray of his anonymity by turning him into someone familiar. He is called, among other things, ‘A new wave Mark Twain’, ‘One of the most candid confessors since FrankHarris’ and ‘An unholy cross between James Joyce and Hunter S. Thompson’. These remarks tend to compound an already severe identity crisis. For almost a decade, Gray has been delivering ...


Frank​ Kermode

12 October 1989
Bernard Shaw. Vol. II: The Pursuit of Power 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 422 pp., £18, September 1989, 0 7011 3350 3
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... She is shrewd, and yet this was his way of being serious. It is strongly implied that the price of all his efforts, and the cause of their relative failure, was what must look, to a Wells or a FrankHarris, and to many a modern eye, a vacuous or at any rate stunted emotional life. But to others, and to himself, it may not have seemed so at the time. It was doubtless in the circumstances ...
9 July 1992
Housman’s Poems 
by John Bayley.
Oxford, 202 pp., £25, April 1992, 0 19 811763 9
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... drama he must be supposed to have lived through, shared the conventional social attitudes of his day. A Shropshire Lad begins with ‘1887’, a poem on Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. Bayley tells how FrankHarris and some of his journalist friends ‘tried to flatter the author ... by praising the “bitter sarcasm” ’ of the poem – a sarcasm more evident to the smart journalists of the 1890s, or ...


Brigid Brophy

2 December 1982
Bernard Shaw: The Darker Side 
by Arnold Silver.
Stanford, 353 pp., $25, January 1982, 0 8047 1091 0
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Bernard Shaw and Alfred Douglas: A Correspondence 
edited by Mary Hyde.
Murray, 237 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 7195 3947 1
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... Explaining that he remained a virgin until he was 29 and thereafter had ‘scruples, and effectively inhibitive ones too, about getting women “into trouble” ’, Shaw bade his biographer (FrankHarris) dismiss ‘any doubts as to my normal virility’ and affirmed: ‘I was not impotent; I was not sterile; I was not homosexual.’ Shaw did not use words imprecisely. At the time he was writing ...
9 October 1986
The Pebbled Shore 
by Elizabeth Longford.
Weidenfeld, 351 pp., £14.95, August 1986, 0 297 78863 9
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Leaves of the Tulip Tree 
by Juliette Huxley.
Murray, 248 pp., £7.95, June 1986, 9780719542886
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Enid Bagnold 
by Anne Sebba.
Weidenfeld, 317 pp., £15, September 1986, 0 297 78991 0
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... her with Pindar at lunches and also asked her to marry him. His proposal, never answered, never repeated, kept her in a glow for months. Down from Oxford (which gets three chapters) she joined Frank Pakenham, who had been her fellow undergraduate, giving educational lectures to the workers in the Potteries. Hitherto apolitical, she was sufficiently moved by conditions in the Five Towns to join ...
22 May 1980
The Life of Katherine Mansfield 
by Antony Alpers.
Cape, 466 pp., £9.50, May 1980, 0 224 01625 3
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... cope with real people, he changed them into literary concepts, wrapping them up with high-flown intellectual notions, then whirling round them in a violent ritualistic dance until he could celebrate FrankHarris as another Shakespeare, James Stephens as greater than Milton, Dostoevsky and D.H. Lawrence as of the same order as Christ: and only a little above the lot of them, in ‘her rightful place ...

Bourgeois Reveries

Julian Bell: Farmer Eliot

3 February 2011
Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper 
by Alexandra Harris.
Thames and Hudson, 320 pp., £19.95, October 2010, 978 0 500 25171 3
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... cut’ ever put his hand to a pitchfork, the incident has gone unreported. And yet in Romantic Moderns, her provocative critical survey of English cultural life between 1930 and 1945, Alexandra Harris points to Eliot’s lines in ‘East Coker’ about ‘Earth feet, loam feet, lifted in country mirth/Mirth of those long since under earth/Nourishing the corn.’ Harris argues that the poet was ...

Home Stretch

John Sutherland: David Storey

17 September 1998
A Serious Man 
by David Storey.
Cape, 359 pp., £16.99, June 1998, 9780224051583
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by David Storey.
Vintage, 555 pp., £6.99, June 1998, 0 09 927408 6
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... Say ‘David Storey’ and readers of my (and his) generation will recall the final shot of This Sporting Life: Frank Machin (Richard Harris), mired, spavined, raising himself on the rugby field to lurch back into hopeless battle. His life as a professional is over. Football chews up its workforce faster even than the pits. But Arthur ...

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