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It’s Mummie

Jenny Diski, 16 December 1993

The Little Princesses 
by Marion Crawford, introduced by A.N. Wilson.
Duckworth, 128 pp., £14.99, November 1993, 0 7156 2497 0
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... Family. The ‘mystique of kingship’, Wilson explains, was restored in the late Thirties by George VI and Elizabeth, who, even before they moved into Buckingham Palace, erected a wall of silence around the House of Windsor, as soundproof as the walls of all those castles they processed around. Who knew of David Windsor’s dereliction of duty in favour ...

Thunder in the Mountains

J. Hoberman: Orson Welles, 6 September 2007

Orson Welles: Hello Americans 
by Simon Callow.
Vintage, 507 pp., £8.99, May 2007, 978 0 09 946261 3
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What Ever Happened to Orson Welles? A Portrait of an Independent Career 
by Joseph McBride.
Kentucky, 344 pp., $29.95, October 2006, 0 8131 2410 7
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... Welles anticipated Andy Warhol, who also enjoys a posthumous existence as a movie character.) George Orson Welles was born in 1915 and appeared first as the wunderkind whose Shakespeare productions – the ‘Fascist’ Julius Caesar, the ‘voodoo’ Macbeth – dazzled New York theatregoers in the 1930s and who, when ...

Descent into Oddness

Dinah Birch: Peter Rushforth’s long-awaited second novel, 6 January 2005

Pinkerton’s Sister 
by Peter Rushforth.
Scribner, 729 pp., £18.99, September 2004, 0 7432 5235 7
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... hasn’t read, or doesn’t remember. Oscar Wilde, the Brontës, Robert Louis Stevenson, Tennyson, George MacDonald, Charles Reade, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Louisa May Alcott, Wilkie Collins, Mary Braddon, Conan Doyle, Du Maurier, and plenty more. Her literary memory is a compendium of every syllabus in Victorian ...
The Invasion Handbook 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 201 pp., £12.99, April 2002, 0 571 20915 7
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... Abercrombie and Stefan Zweig. From the list of two thousand people to be eliminated Lloyd George and Shaw are expressly exempted. When the invasion has succeeded the Duke of Windsor will resume his throne and Henry Williamson replace the Poet Laureate, John Masefield. If these instructions and predictions derive from a genuine document, then that ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: Samuel Palmer’s dream landscapes, 17 November 2005

... the strangeness which made the Shoreham pictures so striking was not to come again. In a letter to George Richmond in 1834, Palmer wrote: I believe in my very heart … that all the very finest original pictures and topping things in nature have a certain quaintness by which they partially affect us – not the quaintness of bungling – the queer doing of a ...

Jangling Monarchy

Tom Paulin: Milton and the Regicides, 8 August 2002

A Companion to Milton 
by Thomas N. Corns.
Blackwell, 528 pp., £80, June 2001, 0 631 21408 9
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The Life of John Milton: A Critical Biography 
by Barbara K. Lewalski.
Blackwell, 816 pp., £25, December 2000, 0 631 17665 9
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... attractive work’, Milton gives thanks to God chiefly for three reasons. The first, in George Burnett’s 1809 translation, is that I was born in those times of my country, when the effulgent virtue of its citizens – when their magnanimity and steadiness, surpassing the highest praise of their ancestors, under the inspection of God first ...

Bare feet and a root of fennel

John Bayley, 11 June 1992

Strong Representations: Narrative and Circumstantial Evidence in England 
by Alexander Welsh.
Johns Hopkins, 262 pp., £21.50, April 1992, 0 8018 4271 9
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... She was writing in the day of Wilson Knight and the L.C. Knights of ‘How many children had Lady Macbeth?’, and at a time when the Bradleyan method had fallen thoroughly out of fashion. But there is nothing wrong with Bradleyan fantasy, provided it is recognised as such, for it enormously increases our sense of the depth and complexity of the plays, and ...

Olivier Rex

Ronald Bryden, 1 September 1988

Olivier 
by Anthony Holden.
Weidenfeld, 504 pp., £16, May 1988, 0 297 79089 7
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... The Merchant of Venice in 1970, he says, Olivier turned up with a hook nose and goatee modelled on George Arliss’s Disraeli and had to be persuaded by his director, Jonathan Miller, to evolve in the succeeding weeks a characterisation based on his own face. No one seems to have told Holden that dress rehearsals normally complete, not commence, the rehearsal ...

Skinned alive

John Bayley, 25 June 1987

Collected Poems 
by George Barker, edited by Robert Fraser.
Faber, 838 pp., £27.50, May 1987, 0 571 13972 8
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By Grand Central Station I sat down and wept 
by Elizabeth Smart, introduced by Brigid Brophy.
Grafton, 126 pp., £2.50, July 1987, 0 586 02083 7
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... in Ottawa in 1913. She was in London before the Second World War and read, in a bookshop, some of George Barker’s poems. She fell for him in print. This was a visitation of love as the ancients knew about it, a sudden incurable and unconquerable malady. Or that was how it seemed to the victim, and how she presents it to us. She got to know Barker, who was ...

Faces of the People

Richard Altick, 19 August 1982

Physiognomy in the European Novel: Faces and Fortunes 
by Graeme Tytler.
Princeton, 436 pp., £19.10, March 1982, 0 691 06491 1
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A Human Comedy: Physiognomy and Caricature in 19th-century Paris 
by Judith Wechsler.
Thames and Hudson, 208 pp., £18.50, June 1982, 0 500 01268 7
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... no art to find the mind’s construction in the face,’ said King Duncan in the fourth scene of Macbeth. But there was, and Shakespeare knew this. Almost at the moment he was writing the play, a new law required that anybody who professed ‘a knowledge of phisnognomie’ – one version of the name by which the practice of reading character in facial ...

It’s only a paper moon

Patrick Parrinder, 13 June 1991

Wise Children 
by Angela Carter.
Chatto, 234 pp., £13.99, June 1991, 0 7011 3354 6
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... Uncle Peregrine takes them on an August Bank Holiday outing to Brighton. They get to see Gorgeous George, the stand-up comedian at the Pier Pavilion, followed by Melchior Hazard in Macbeth at the Theatre Royal. Gorgeous George, ‘the rudest man in England’, does a striptease which ...

All hail, sage lady

Andrew O’Hagan: ‘The Crown’, 15 December 2016

... we come to Philip’s internal strife, we have to contend with the randy bonhomie of old King George. It is said that American viewers are distressed to find the word ‘cunt’ used in the first episode, spoken by George VI (Jared Harris) to his valet, but perhaps this is merely the latest in a long line of gifts from ...

We do it all the time

Michael Wood: Empson’s Intentions, 4 February 2016

... is a moment​ in William Empson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity when he decides to linger in Macbeth’s mind. The future killer is trying to convince himself that murder might be not so bad a crime (for the criminal) if he could just get it over with. This is about as unreal as a thought could be, coming from a man who seems to have been plotting murder ...

The Flight of a Clergyman’s Wife

Gareth Stedman Jones, 27 May 1993

Annie Besant: A Biography 
by Anne Taylor.
Oxford, 383 pp., £25, April 1992, 0 19 211796 3
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... three remarkable women of the century. But for another of her political companions of the 1880s, George Bernard Shaw, she was above all an actress. ‘She was successively a Puseyite Evangelical and Atheist Bible smasher, a Darwinian secularist, a Fabian socialist, a strike leader, and finally a Theosophist exactly as Mrs Siddons was a Lady ...

Flights of the Enchanter

Noël Annan, 4 April 1991

A Traveller’s Alphabet: Partial Memoirs 
by Steven Runciman.
Thames and Hudson, 214 pp., £16.95, February 1991, 9780500015049
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... life’; and he is startled by a boy in the Philippines giving a remarkable performance as Lady Macbeth and showing ‘a quality of sinister ambition that was somewhat disquieting’. He relishes the expression on the faces of a group of Rotarians and their matrons watching a cabaret consisting of four boys and girls dancing naked, painted gilt and leering ...

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