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A Piece of Single Blessedness

John Burrows, 21 January 1988

Jane Austen: Her Life 
by Park Honan.
Weidenfeld, 452 pp., £16.95, October 1987, 0 297 79217 2
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... spinster sisters did not weaken. Honan gives Mrs Austen a better hearing than some others, notably Geoffrey Grigson, have done: the hypochondria is recognised but it is balanced by much evidence of good humour and good sense. James’s Mary and Edward’s Elizabeth figure more fully than in most accounts, and emerge the worse for it. James’s ...

The Undesired Result

Gillian Darley: Betjeman’s bêtes noires, 31 March 2005

Betjeman: The Bonus of Laughter 
by Bevis Hillier.
Murray, 744 pp., £25, October 2004, 0 7195 6495 6
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... the latter thanking him. ‘Fuck Wain and the prig in the Times who was probably Griggers’ – Geoffrey Grigson, another in his rogues’ gallery. ‘I’ve gone away to escape further blows.’ His publisher hoped to steer Betjeman back to architecture, but despite the rollcall of topics Murray reminded him that they had discussed ...


Christopher Tayler: Muriel Spark’s Essays, 25 September 2014

The Golden Fleece: Essays 
by Muriel Spark, edited by Penelope Jardine.
Carcanet, 226 pp., £16.99, March 2014, 978 1 84777 251 0
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... and Neo-Romantic poetasters, mostly, with Edith Sitwell and Roy Campbell as potential allies, Geoffrey Grigson lurking threateningly in the wings and T.S. Eliot a very distant god. The former Muriel Camberg joined this cast in 1944 after a stint in southern Africa, where she’d ended a short marriage to the unstable if catchily named Sydney ...

The analyst is always right

Mark Ford: Tessimond and Spencer, 17 November 2011

Collected Poems with Translations from Jacques Prévert 
by A.S.J. Tessimond.
Bloodaxe, 188 pp., £10.95, November 2010, 978 1 85224 857 4
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Complete Poetry, Translations and Selected Prose 
by Bernard Spencer.
Bloodaxe, 351 pp., £15, February 2011, 978 1 85224 891 8
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... November 1937 Auden special issue of New Verse (where he was working as an editorial assistant to Geoffrey Grigson, and where most of his own early work appeared) implies that as the 1930s progressed Spencer slowly came to realise that Auden was not the charismatic leader whose example he should follow, but his poetic antithesis: ‘He succeeds,’ the ...

Sounding Auden

Seamus Heaney, 4 June 1987

... early poems gave me enormous trouble when I was an undergraduate. Confident teachers spoke of Geoffrey Grigson’s advice to Thirties poets to ‘report well. Begin with objects and events.’ These poets were socially concerned, we were told; they were tempted by Communism, wanted to open some negotiation with popular culture, and to include the ...

Not Quite Nasty

Colin Burrow: Anthony Burgess, 9 February 2006

The Real Life of Anthony Burgess 
by Andrew Biswell.
Picador, 434 pp., £20, November 2005, 0 330 48170 3
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... wanted his readers to cry out with ‘ahs’ and ‘ohs’ as they reached for their dictionaries. Geoffrey Grigson, in a review that Burgess seems to have learned by heart, said that his journalism was driven by a desire to convince himself that ‘an insatiable liking for words amounts to an ability to use them well and to distinct purpose.’ The ...

No False Modesty

Rosemary Hill: Edith Sitwell, 20 October 2011

Edith Sitwell: Avant-Garde Poet, English Genius 
by Richard Greene.
Virago, 532 pp., £25, March 2011, 978 1 86049 967 8
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... Many of her critics used the misogynistic vocabulary of frigidity against both her and her work, Geoffrey Grigson being particularly obnoxious in attacking the imagery in her poems as such as ‘could only have been contrived by a poet who had never experienced pregnancy’. To Harold Acton she was ‘the essential hysterical intellectual ...

Put a fist through it

Harriet Baker: The Hampstead Modernists, 8 October 2020

Circles and Squares: The Lives and Art of the Hampstead Modernists 
by Caroline Maclean.
Bloomsbury, 296 pp., £30, April, 978 1 4088 8969 5
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The See-Through House: My Father in Full Colour 
by Shelley Klein.
Chatto, 271 pp., £16.99, April, 978 1 78474 310 9
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... the skimpy wine, & the very nice sensible conversation’ left Virginia Woolf cold but where, as Geoffrey Grigson remembered, one might bump into Braque … or Jean Hélion from Paris, or Eliot gayer than his reputation, actually singing ‘Frankie and Johnny’. The exodus from Hitler’s Reich having begun, one might walk into the solemn dignified ...

Everything is good news

Seamus Perry: Dylan Thomas’s Moment, 20 November 2014

The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas: The New Centenary Edition 
edited by John Goodby.
Weidenfeld, 416 pp., £20, October 2014, 978 0 297 86569 8
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Under Milk Wood: The Definitive Edition 
edited by Walford Davies and Ralph Maud.
Phoenix, 208 pp., £7.99, May 2014, 978 1 78022 724 5
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Collected Stories 
by Dylan Thomas.
Phoenix, 384 pp., £8.99, May 2014, 978 1 78022 730 6
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A Dylan Thomas Treasury: Poems, Stories and Broadcasts 
Phoenix, 186 pp., £7.99, May 2014, 978 1 78022 726 9Show More
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... those works which become an old favourite while still brand new. And finally, America adored him. Geoffrey Grigson, an early supporter and subsequently an astringent critic, thought Thomas appealed especially to ‘persons of a kind needing shots of the notion of art as others need shots of insulin, of a kind put on heat by the slightest contact with ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2010, 16 December 2010

... the poet. 21 October. Find in the bookshelf a copy of The Private Art: A Poetry Notebook by Geoffrey Grigson, which I must have read years ago and forgotten. Tipped in, as booksellers say, is a letter from a woman about Louis MacNeice, on whom I’d done a TV programme and who was a friend of Grigson’s. She had ...

Lost Jokes

Alan Bennett, 2 August 1984

... with no line left with which to haul themselves off. Neither Getting On nor Habeas Corpus is what Geoffrey Grigson called ‘weeded of impermanence’ – a necessary condition, apparently, if a play or a poem is to outlast its time. Topical references are out. Of course, plays don’t become timeless simply by being weeded of timely references, any more ...

Even paranoids have enemies

Frank Kermode, 24 August 1995

F.R. Leavis: A Life in Criticism 
by Ian MacKillop.
Allen Lane, 476 pp., £25, July 1995, 0 7139 9062 7
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... that led people to misuse it. When the Radio Times announced a series of broadcast talks by Geoffrey Grigson on the novel, Leavis, in great agitation, tried to have them stopped, on the ground that they would certainly plagiarise The Great Tradition. He was indignant and suspicious when he heard that Graham Hough was writing a book on ...


Seamus Perry: Southey’s Genius for Repression, 26 January 2006

Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793-1810 
edited by Lynda Pratt, Tim Fulford and Daniel Sanjiv Roberts.
Pickering & Chatto, 2624 pp., £450, May 2004, 1 85196 731 1
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... when the spirit of parody is only uncertainly abroad. And it works the other way around too, as Geoffrey Grigson pointed out in the excellent Choice of Southey’s Verse that he made for Faber in 1970 (long overdue for a reprint). Grigson was a fine critic, as well as an anthologist of genius, and his introductory ...


Stefan Collini: C. Day-Lewis, 6 September 2007

C. Day-Lewis: A Life 
by Peter Stanford.
Continuum, 368 pp., £25, May 2007, 978 0 8264 8603 5
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... the sovereign centres. Throughout the 1930s, Day-Lewis’s work attracted the usual venom from Geoffrey Grigson and the usual unsparing criticism from F.R. Leavis, but his consecration in the eyes of a wider public had come with T.E. Lawrence’s judgment in conversation with Winston Churchill, as reported in the Evening Standard in 1934, that ...

Loose Canons

Edward Mendelson, 23 June 1988

History and Value: The Clarendon Lectures and the Northcliffe Lectures 1987 
by Frank Kermode.
Oxford, 160 pp., £15, June 1988, 0 19 812381 7
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by Stephen Haggard and Frank Kermode.
Oxford, 475 pp., £5.95, June 1988, 0 19 282135 0
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British Writers of the Thirties 
by Valentine Cunningham.
Oxford, 530 pp., £30, February 1988, 0 19 212267 3
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... by Christopher Caudwell, the zoo as a place where Stephen Spender thought it worth telling Geoffrey Grigson he had spent an enjoyable Saturday with a friend in 1934. Lists of this kind fill 13 chapters, crowded, fascinating, obsessive, with some important themes like spies and borders turning up in two or three different places. No subject is too ...

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