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In the Shady Wood

Michael Neill: Staging the Forest

22 March 2018
TheShakespearean Forest 
by Anne Barton.
Cambridge, 185 pp., £75, August 2017, 978 0 521 57344 3
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... of the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage, before glancing forward to more contemporary nightmares, like the trees that press menacingly in on Cobweb Castle in Kurosawa’s cinematic adaptation of Macbeth, Throne of Blood. In this, it follows the inclusive approach of Barton’s first book, Shakespeare and the Idea of the Play, which illuminated the playwright’s use of metatheatrical tropes by ...

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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... More than that, he was the first American artist to take ‘the media’ as his medium. (In this, 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 ...

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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... and references that bind her thinking into coherence, if not into sense. There isn’t much she 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 ...
23 May 2002
The Invasion Handbook 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 201 pp., £12.99, April 2002, 0 571 20915 7
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... of the British (Freemasons mostly); there is a special wanted list consisting of two names, Lascelles 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 ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: Samuel Palmer’s dream landscapes

17 November 2005
... by those who wish to find proof that his poetic vision hadn’t faded. They are worth attention, but 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 ...

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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... tormented flesh and the singing head remain separate, even in coincidence. Elizabeth Smart was born 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 ...
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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... Revisited’, it ‘forces a 19th-century legalistic interpretation upon 16th-century material’. 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 ...

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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... or Second Defence of the English People, which Barbara Lewalski, in her biography, oddly calls his ‘least 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 ...

Olivier Rex

Ronald Bryden

1 September 1988
by Anthony Holden.
Weidenfeld, 504 pp., £16, May 1988, 0 297 79089 7
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... right, let alone arrange them into the figure in Olivier’s carpet. At the first dress rehearsal of 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 ...
13 June 1991
Wise Children 
by Angela Carter.
Chatto, 234 pp., £13.99, June 1991, 0 7011 3354 6
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... The Chance children begin to get wise to the ups and downs of the theatre at the age of 13, when 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 uncovers a map of ...

All hail, sage lady

Andrew O’Hagan: ‘The Crown’

15 December 2016
... is already proving a friendly place in which to experience the pomp of our fading national story. Before 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 ...

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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... There’s 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 ...


John Bayley

22 March 1990
Hazlitt: A Life. From Winterslow to Frith Street 
by Stanley Jones.
Oxford, 397 pp., £35, October 1989, 0 19 812840 1
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Shakespearean Constitutions: Politics, Theatre, Criticism 1730-1830 
by Jonathan Bate.
Oxford, 234 pp., £27, September 1989, 0 19 811749 3
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... two critics, is alive with Shakespearean character and quotation, with the wiles of Shylock and the arrogance of Coriolanus, the tears of Desdemona, and the outrageousness and ingratitude of Prince George as Prince Hal. Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park remarks that ‘one gets acquainted with Shakespeare without knowing how. It is a part of an Englishman’s constitution.’ Shakespeare was certainly ...

M for Merlin

Helen Cooper: Chrétien de Troyes

25 November 1999
Perceval: The Story of the Grail 
by Chrétien de Troyes, translated by Burton Raffel.
Yale, 307 pp., £22.50, March 1999, 0 300 07586 3
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... for a long time he is known only by the byname taken from the cross on his shield (the same arms that had in the later grail romances been borne by Galahad). Spenser names him by his true name, St George, only when an impostor has taken his shape, and George does not himself find out who he is until he learns his name from Contemplation, inward knowledge in the sight of God. Allegorical romance, as ...
7 March 1985
Montaigne’s Tower, and Other Poems 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Secker, 72 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 436 18806 6
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Collected Poems: 1963-1980 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 557 3
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The Faber Book of Reflective Verse 
edited by Geoffrey Grigson.
Faber, 238 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 571 13299 5
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Blessings, Kicks and Curses 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 279 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 558 1
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The Private Art: A Poetry Notebook 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 231 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 9780850315592
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Before the Romantics: An Anthology of the Enlightenment 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Salamander, 349 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 907540 59 7
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... are writers he likes, most of them dead: Ronsard, John Clare, William Barnes (‘love of whose poems seems to me a litmus paper of the genuine’), Auden (‘the greatest of my contemporaries’), George Herbert, Vaughan, Crabbe, Hopkins, Whitman, Campion, Morris, Christina Rossetti, John Crowe Ransom, Wyndham Lewis, Louis MacNeice, Stevie Smith. I would think a life of diverse affections could be ...

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