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Great Instructor

Charles Nicholl, 31 August 1989

Ben Jonson: A Life 
by David Riggs.
Harvard, 399 pp., £27.95, April 1989, 0 674 06625 1
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... too much canary wine, and the warts and blemishes which more malicious caricaturists like Thomas Dekker dwell on: ‘a face full of pockey-holes and pimples ... a most ungodly face, like a rotten russet apple when ’tis bruised’. You can confirm that, as Aubrey noted, he had one eye bigger and lower than the other. And you can guess at what was by then ...

We shall not be moved

John Bayley, 2 February 1984

Come aboard and sail away 
by John Fuller.
Salamander, 48 pp., £6, October 1983, 0 907540 37 6
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Children in Exile 
by James Fenton.
Salamander, 24 pp., £5, October 1983, 0 907540 39 2
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‘The Memory of War’ and ‘Children in Exile’: Poems 1968-1983 
by James Fenton.
Penguin, 110 pp., £1.95, October 1983, 0 14 006812 0
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Some Contemporary Poets of Britain and Ireland: An Anthology 
edited by Michael Schmidt.
Carcanet, 184 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 85635 469 4
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Nights in the Iron Hotel 
by Michael Hofmann.
Faber, 48 pp., £4, November 1983, 0 571 13116 6
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The Irish Lights 
by Charles Johnston and Kyril Fitzlyon.
Bodley Head, 77 pp., £4.50, September 1983, 0 370 30557 4
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Fifteen to Infinity 
by Ruth Fainlight.
Hutchinson, 62 pp., £5.95, September 1983, 0 09 152471 7
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Donald Davie and the Responsibilities of Literature 
edited by George Dekker.
Carcanet, 153 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 9780856354663
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... There remains a most decided difference – indeed it grows wider every year – between what Philip Larkin calls ‘being a writer’, or ‘being a poet’, and managing to write something which will delight or amaze people without their having to respond to it in the context of poets and writers. Religion and other activities used to concentrate an audience by figuring in a non-literary context, and Blake or Emily Dickinson used religion, as they used the context of childhood responses, to appeal directly to an audience over the head, as it were, of literature ...

Art of Embarrassment

A.D. Nuttall, 18 August 1994

Essays, Mainly Shakespearean 
by Anne Barton.
Cambridge, 386 pp., £40, March 1994, 0 521 40444 4
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English Comedy 
edited by Michael Cordner, Peter Holland and John Kerrigan.
Cambridge, 323 pp., £35, March 1994, 0 521 41917 4
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... Jacobean marriage law and female desire, are nourishing to the spirit. Livy, Machiavelli, Ford, Dekker, Heywood and Jonson all figure in the book, but the main recurring subject is Shakespeare. It is, moreover, good to see the publication of this book marked by an accompanying Festschrift – a volume of essays on comedy by friends and colleagues of ...

‘A Naughty House’

Charles Nicholl: Shakespeare’s Landlord, 24 June 2010

... 1613 with burying her baby in the backyard of the house. Another name to mention here is that of George Wilkins, hack author and brothel-keeper: he too was a St Giles character until he shifted operations to Clerkenwell in about 1610. Wilkins frequently appeared before the Middlesex magistrates, sometimes on charges of gross violence against the prostitutes ...

Canterbury Tale

Charles Nicholl, 8 December 1988

Christopher Marlowe and Canterbury 
by William Urry, edited by Andrew Butcher.
Faber, 184 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 571 14566 3
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John Weever 
by E.A.J. Honigmann.
Manchester, 134 pp., £27.50, April 1987, 0 7190 2217 7
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Rare Sir William Davenant 
by Mary Edmond.
Manchester, 264 pp., £27.50, July 1987, 9780719022869
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... spelling, the one he used in his only extant signature – was born in the parish of St George, Canterbury, in February 1564. He was the son of John Marlowe, shoemaker, and Katherine née Arthur, a Dover woman. They had nine children, though only five survived childhood. Christopher was the eldest son, and after the death of his sister Mary in ...

Glimpsed in the Glare

Michael Neill: Shakespeare in 1606, 17 December 2015

1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear 
by James Shapiro.
Faber, 423 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 0 571 23578 0
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... has a history involving dozens of paintings, stretching back to the early 18th century, when George Vertue identified the so-called Chandos portrait as an image of Shakespeare painted by a friend and fellow actor, John Taylor. Donated to the National Portrait Gallery in 1856, the Chandos is the only candidate to have been granted much credence, but new ...

I want to love it

Susan Pedersen: What on earth was he doing?, 18 April 2019

Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History 
by Richard J. Evans.
Little, Brown, 800 pp., £35, February 2019, 978 1 4087 0741 8
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... deciding to read some drama, he raced through Aeschylus, Beaumont and Fletcher, Chapman, Chekhov, Dekker, Dryden, Ford, Heywood, Jonson, Marston, Massinger, Middleton, Marlowe, O’Neill, Sophocles, Strindberg and Webster; in March he went on to Coleridge, Chaucer, Fielding and Petronius, and then had a go at Proust, Mann, Boswell and David Hume. He took a ...

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