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Buffed-Up Scholar

Stefan Collini: Eliot and the Dons, 30 August 2012

Letters of T.S. Eliot, Vol. III: 1926-27 
edited by Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden.
Faber, 954 pp., £40, July 2012, 978 0 571 14085 5
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... his bank job (at the time the epitome of secure and respectable employment) to take on a role in Geoffrey Faber’s new publishing firm, and he was about to expose the patchiness of his scholarship by giving a set of lectures to an exacting audience of Cambridge dons. Ruin was still a possibility, even if not a vocation, and the main interest of the third ...

Unshockable Victorians

John Bayley, 19 June 1986

The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud. Vol. II: The Tender Passion 
by Peter Gay.
Oxford, 490 pp., £19.50, June 1986, 0 19 503741 3
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... the Anglican parson was a male chauvinist, a macho bore. Gay quotes the delightful story, told in Geoffrey Faber’s Oxford Apostles, of how the convert W.G. Ward once described a dream he had had, in which he found himself at a dinner party next to a veiled lady, who charmed him more and more as they talked. At last he ...

Fine Chances

Michael Wood, 5 June 1986

Literary Criticism 
by Henry James, edited by Leon Edel.
Cambridge, 1500 pp., £30, July 1985, 0 521 30100 9
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Henry James: The Writer and his Work 
by Tony Tanner.
Massachusetts, 142 pp., £16.95, November 1985, 0 87023 492 7
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... complete a gathering of his criticism has ever been made. Two volumes of fiction (from Watch and Ward to The Bostonians) are already out; four more are to come. I puzzled a bit over how complete the collection was, looking in vain for James’s essays on Tennyson’s plays and on Ibsen. Then I unravelled the phrase (offered by the editor, Leon Edel): ‘the ...

Dance of the Vampires

Neal Ascherson, 19 January 1984

by Roman Polanski.
Heinemann, 393 pp., £12.95, January 1984, 0 434 59180 7
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... student, who was tormented into paranoid schizophrenia by his colleagues and committed to a mental ward by the Director after Arct had warned him of a counter-revolutionary plot, and who was last seen by Polanski lying in a hospital bed muttering and covered with bruises, the other patients having duffed him up for tearing a crucifix off the wall – there’s ...


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 Spark. She ...

Boomster and the Quack

Stefan Collini: How to Get on in the Literary World, 2 November 2006

Writers, Readers and Reputations: Literary Life in Britain 1870-1918 
by Philip Waller.
Oxford, 1181 pp., £85, April 2006, 0 19 820677 1
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... any such crew would include both A.S. Byatt and Jilly Cooper or place Jeffrey Archer alongside Geoffrey Hill. How, if at all, are these two vignettes from the literary life of the period to be connected? Should we be wondering about the ways commercial changes in the world of publishing affected the standing of authors? Should we be thinking about the ...

Streamlined Smiles

Rosemary Dinnage: Erik Erikson, 2 March 2000

Identity’s Architect: A Biography of Erik Erikson 
by Lawrence Friedman.
Free Association, 592 pp., £15.95, May 1999, 9781853434716
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... his unusual background, was the man to step forward, though others – Margaret Mead, Erich Fromm, Geoffrey Gorer – were writing along the same lines. Friedman quotes Erikson’s account of how he first saw the centrality of his concept when he was one of a panel examining traumatised war veterans. Always averse to the psychoanalytical view of the world as ...


Elizabeth Lowry: Malcolm Lowry, 1 November 2007

The Voyage That Never Ends: Malcolm Lowry in His Own Words 
edited by Michael Hofmann.
NYRB, 518 pp., £16.99, November 2007, 978 1 59017 235 3
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... only critical and commercial success; Lunar Caustic, which would draw on his stay in a psychiatric ward; a two-part saga about an embattled author figure very much like Lowry himself called The Ordeal of Sigbjørn Wilderness; a trilogy about the writing (and drinking) life, Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend Is Laid, Eridanus and La Mordida, again featuring ...

Little Mania

Ian Gilmour: The disgraceful Lady Caroline Lamb, 19 May 2005

Lady Caroline Lamb 
by Paul Douglass.
Palgrave, 354 pp., £16.99, December 2004, 1 4039 6605 2
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... others to do the same. When in 1810 her daughter-in-law was in the midst of a dalliance with Sir Geoffrey Webster, Lady Holland’s son, Lady Melbourne told Caroline that her behaviour the previous night had been ‘disgraceful in its appearances and . . . disgusting in its motives’. That may seem pretty rich coming from her. But she was complaining not ...

Corncob Caesar

Murray Sayle, 6 February 1997

Old Soldiers Never Die: The Life of Douglas MacArthur 
by Geoffrey Perret.
Deutsch, 663 pp., £20, October 1996, 9780233990026
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... most modern soldier of our time. The trap into which he fell is still set. This new biography by Geoffrey Perret, an Anglo-American soldier-turned-historian, is not the last word; but it is a big improvement on its forerunners, and Perret has dug up important new material. MacArthur was born in a dusty US Army post at Little Rock, Arkansas, on 26 January ...

Rigging the Death Rate

Paul Taylor, 11 April 2013

... decisions unit’, others to the so-called emergency assessment unit (EAU), a large ward described by the Healthcare Commission as poorly designed, busy, noisy, ‘chaotic’. Nurses in the EAU were inadequately trained and it was common for a patient’s condition to deteriorate unnoticed or for necessary medication not to be ...


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

... with all the hardships of his young life. While he was in St James’s one of the patients on his ward hanged himself in the toilets, presumably driven mad by the intolerable itching. Michael P. is as kindly as ever and me as dull, three old(-ish) men having their lunch, next stop the bowling green. 10 March. To Durham where there are not many visitors this ...

Grim Eminence

Norman Stone, 10 January 1983

The Twilight of the Comintern 1930-1935 
by E.H. Carr.
Macmillan, 436 pp., £25, December 1982, 0 333 33062 5
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... and then as assistant editor of the Times, of which he might have become editor if Barrington-Ward had had his way. He wrote a great deal at this time. International Relations between the World Wars, first published in 1937 (under a different title), is a very useful little work if you want to look up, say, the details of Reparations. In this period, he ...

What was it that drove him?

David Runciman: Gordon Brown, 4 January 2018

My Life, Our Times 
by Gordon Brown.
Bodley Head, 512 pp., £25, November 2017, 978 1 84792 497 1
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... career, and he often succeeded. His closest colleagues from his time at the Treasury, including Geoffrey Robinson, Ed Balls and Ed Miliband, remained remarkably loyal. But there was​ , inevitably, a downside. The higher he rose, the more political these friendships became. Being part of Gordon’s band was not a costless enterprise – it deeply alienated ...

The Greening of Mrs Donaldson

Alan Bennett: A Story, 9 September 2010

... and said her name was Dewhirst. ‘And your first name?’ said Parfitt, pen poised. ‘Geoffrey.’ ‘Geoffrey?’ ‘Yes,’ said Dewhirst, ‘with a G.’ Parfitt looked wild-eyed at the class hoping someone would help. No one did. ‘We’re waiting,’ said Ballantyne. ‘The patient doesn’t have all ...

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