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Confession

Gay Clifford

15 July 1982
... My ghostly Mother, I me confess I’ve been indecent, more or less. Lapses of courage are always indecent. You had a greyer time, in which was lent The social way to lie. It was not meant That you should say exactly what you miss. It seems to me that I was always bent Doing the things were safely social, meant To block the questions are without redress ...

Learning to speak

Gay Clifford

21 February 1980
Gya/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism 
by Mary Daly.
Women’s Press, 485 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 7043 2829 1
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The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the 19th Century 
by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar.
Yale, 719 pp., £15.75, October 1980, 0 300 02286 7
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Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes 
by Margaret Dickie Uroff.
Illinois, 235 pp., £6.95, November 1980, 0 252 00734 4
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Women Writing and Writing about Women 
edited by Mary Jacobus.
Croom Helm, 201 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 85664 745 4
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... Lawrence felt that Hardy’s Sue Bridehead was ‘no woman’ because ‘that which was female in her she wanted to consume within the male force … in the fire of understanding, of giving utterance. Whereas an ordinary woman knows that she contains all understanding, that she is the unutterable which man must forever continue to try to utter.’ No woman would assent to that last sentence unless she wanted to end up a white goddess, or an ordinary white elephant ...
14 June 1990
Poems 
by Gay Clifford.
188 pp., £14.99, May 1990, 0 241 12976 1
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Selected Poems 1940 – 1989 
by Allen Curnow.
Viking, 209 pp., £15.99, May 1990, 0 670 83007 0
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Collected Poems and Selected Translations 
by Norman Cameron, edited by Warren Hope and Jonathan Barker.
Anvil, 160 pp., £14.95, May 1990, 0 85646 202 0
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Collected Poems 
by Enoch Powell.
Bellew, 198 pp., £9.95, April 1990, 0 947792 36 8
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... poet, literary critic, and academic critic (three classes now notoriously indistinguishable)’. Gay Clifford was an academic, and by all accounts a brilliant and effective one, a lecturer in English at Warwick, where she was a colleague of Germaine Greer, and the author of a subtle and distinguished book of criticism called Transformations of ...

Understanding Forwards

Michael Wood: William James

20 September 2007
William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism 
by Robert Richardson.
Mariner, 622 pp., £15, September 2007, 978 0 618 43325 4
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... the most recent in a long run of biographies. Its predecessors were by Ralph Barton Perry (1935), Gay Wilson Allen (1967) and Linda Simon (1998). There are also fine portraits in Jean Strouse’s biography of Alice James (1980) and in Louis Menand’s Metaphysical Club (2001). No lack of attention, then, but Richardson’s book is very welcome, in part ...

Delightful to be Robbed

E.S. Turner: Stand and deliver

9 May 2002
Outlaws and Highwaymen: The Cult of the Robber in England from the Middle Ages to the 19th century 
by Gillian Spraggs.
Pimlico, 372 pp., £12.50, November 2001, 0 7126 6479 3
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... that an admiring mob snatched his body from the anatomists. He died in 1739, a decade after John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera had audaciously set up the highwayman as a figure of romance. In his original version Gay had destined his dashing and wildly promiscuous Captain Macheath for the gallows, but when informed that ...

A Light-Blue Stocking

Helen Deutsch: Hester Lynch Salusbury Thrale Piozzi

14 May 2009
Hester: The Remarkable Life of Dr Johnson’s ‘Dear Mistress’ 
by Ian McIntyre.
Constable, 450 pp., £25, November 2008, 978 1 84529 449 6
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... Hester’s literary-critical afterlife, a series of affectionate or antagonistic dismissals. James Clifford began his fine 1942 biography with the observation that ‘today, even in the perspective of over a century, she still arouses ardent admiration or intense dislike.’ His fellow Johnsonians Sir Walter Raleigh and A.E. Newton were also admirers ...

Tied to the Mast

Adam Mars-Jones: Alan Hollinghurst

18 October 2017
The Sparsholt Affair 
by Alan Hollinghurst.
Picador, 454 pp., £20, October 2017, 978 1 4472 0821 1
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... but as an exile that was also a passport to freedom. The 1980s were not a wonderful time to be gay in Britain: the year of the novel’s publication was also the year Clause 28 of the Local Government Bill became Section 28 of the Local Government Act, and the year the first residential centre for people living with Aids and HIV was opened. The ...

Nothing in a Really Big Way

James Wood: Adam Mars-Jones

24 April 2008
Pilcrow 
by Adam Mars-Jones.
Faber, 525 pp., £18.99, April 2008, 978 0 571 21703 8
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... necessary hypocrisies of the age, whereby Oliver’s sexual adventures are yearningly evoked by a gay author, yet punished as at once the inevitable fruit of disability and the seed of a judicial death. Whether Williams knew it or not, his story proposes homosexuality as a deficiency the body must register, leading to deficient behaviour: ‘Before ...
7 August 1980
A Dictionary of the English Language 
by Samuel Johnson.
Times, 2558 pp., £45, June 1980, 0 7230 0228 2
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Dictionary Johnson: Samuel Johnson’s Middle Years 
by James Clifford.
Heinemann, 372 pp., £10, February 1980, 0 434 13805 3
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... including the Iliad and the Odyssey. Addison complete. Steele complete. Swift complete. Prior, Gay and Arbuthnot. Thomson’s Seasons. For theology he went to Hooker, Tillotson, William Law and Robert South. For technical and ‘philosophic’ (i.e. scientific) expressions he went to John Ray’s Wisdom of God in the Creation, Grew’s Cosmologia ...

Top Grumpy’s Top Hate

Robert Irwin: Richard Aldington’s Gripes

18 February 1999
Richard Aldington and Lawrence of Arabia: A Cautionary Tale 
by Fred Crawford.
Southern Illinois, 265 pp., £31.95, July 1998, 0 8093 2166 1
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Lawrence the Uncrowned King of Arabia 
by Michael Asher.
Viking, 419 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 670 87029 3
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... with Cairo buggery – O good Lord!’ As he saw it, Lawrence of Arabia had posthumously become a gay icon. In a later book, Frauds (1957), he dealt mercilessly with such miscellaneous charlatans as Lambert Simnel, George Psalmanazar, the 18th-century literary impostor, and Maundy Gregory, the honours-salesman and broker for the Zinoviev Letter. In the ...

Fuming

Richard Altick

19 July 1984
Thomas Carlyle: A Biography 
by Fred Kaplan.
Cambridge, 614 pp., £25, January 1984, 0 521 25854 5
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Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages 
by Phyllis Rose.
Chatto, 318 pp., £11.95, March 1984, 0 7011 2825 9
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A Carlyle Reader 
edited by G.B. Tennyson.
Cambridge, 544 pp., £25, May 1984, 0 521 26238 0
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... Gascon spirit very strong in him, has a most musical, plaintively-singing, and yet essentially gay and jaunty treble voice; talks unweariedly, and in a very neat and clear and carelessly frank and ingenious way ... close-cropped, bullet-head, of fair weight, almost quite white; laughing little hazel eyes, jolly hooked nose and most definite ...

Rumour Is Utterly Unfounded

Jenny Diski: Family Newspapers

8 October 2009
Family Newspapers?: Sex, Private Life and the British Popular Press 1918-78 
by Adrian Bingham.
Oxford, 298 pp., £55, February 2009, 978 0 19 927958 6
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... Sunday Express and even when the law was finally enacted in 1967, the papers continued to describe gay men as predators of the young, until they came up with the separate and more reliable monster of the paedophile, a universal hate figure for our time, and one that no legislation is going to mess up. Until the mining of royal and celebrity seams was cranked ...

Diary

August Kleinzahler: My Last Big Road Trip

2 December 2010
... Ten billion shit-covered insects swarm the vehicle. He has found what he was looking for. It is Clifford Brown and Max Roach. It is 1954 in Los Angeles. With Harold Land on tenor and Bud’s younger brother Richie Powell playing piano, George Morrow on bass, they are playing ‘Daahoud’, and playing it as well as it can possibly be played. The Maestro ...

Love-of-One’s-Life Department

Terry Castle: The lesbian scarcity economy

21 October 2004
Wild Girls: Paris, Sappho and Art: The Lives and Loves of Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks 
by Diana Souhami.
Weidenfeld, 224 pp., £18.99, July 2004, 9780297643869
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... the only game in town. When, you wonder, will someone new turn up? If it’s true – as a famous gay male writer has suggested – that there are really only 500 people in the world and after a while one has slept with most of them, then the sapphic dating pool has got to be even smaller: eight or ten perhaps, 12 or 15 at most. It’s ...

History as a Bunch of Flowers

James Davidson: Jacob Burckhardt

20 August 1998
The Greeks and Greek Civilisation 
by Jacob Burckhardt, edited by Oswyn Murray, translated by Sheila Stern.
HarperCollins, 449 pp., £24.99, May 1998, 0 00 255855 6
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... shadow looming over some of the classics which have been most influential among modern historians. Clifford Geertz’s treatment of the Balinese cockfight as a novel or a play, Stephen Greenblatt’s ‘self-fashioning’ or Foucault’s notion of the Greek Self as a ‘stylisation of freedom’, produced out of an ‘aesthetics of existence’. When Simon ...

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