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A Parlour in Purley

Tessa Hadley: Life as a Wife, 17 June 2021

The True History of the First Mrs Meredith and Other Lesser Lives 
by Diane Johnson.
NYRB, 242 pp., £14.99, July 2020, 978 1 68137 445 1
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... New York Review Books has reprinted a clever little book, published in 1972, about the first Mrs George Meredith, which is nothing so crude as a blow struck in battle: it’s a poignant needling, deflating the male creative genius – not ungenerously – and providing yet another plausible case of a wife abused by posterity. When Diane Johnson was ...

Such a Husband

John Bayley, 4 September 1997

Selected Letters of George Meredith 
edited by Mohammad Shaheen.
Macmillan, 312 pp., £47.50, April 1997, 0 333 56349 2
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... The two most interesting letters in this selection are not by Meredith: a fact suggestive of the Meredithian tendency to evade evidence or embodiment of a personal sort, and disappear into the airier world of ideas about him – his own or those of others. His personality, like that of his creations, is of a gaseous nature ...

Drugs, anyone?

Seamus Perry: George Meredith, 18 June 2015

Modern Love and Poems of the English Roadside, with Poems and Ballads 
by George Meredith, edited by Criscillia Benford and Rebecca Mitchell.
Yale, 390 pp., £40, April 2015, 978 0 300 17317 8
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... they are incoherent enough to constitute a problem is always going to be the nice question. Take George Meredith. No one can regard him as a significant thinker now – almost all of his work is long out of print – but for a few decades at the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th he was the cutting edge, a highbrow’s highbrow, and he ...

All their dreaming’s done

James Francken: Janet Davey, 8 May 2003

English Correspondence 
by Janet Davey.
Chatto, 199 pp., £12.99, January 2003, 0 7011 7364 5
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... No one reads George Meredith any more. His novels are thought to be brainy and obscure, his difficulty is seen as suspect. In the four weeks ending 22 February, according to Nielsen BookScan, 1359 people in Britain bought a copy of Middlemarch; of the noteworthy novels published in the same decade, Hardy’s A Pair of Blue Eyes sold 182 copies; Meredith’s The Egoist sold nine ...

Red

Stephen Bann, 5 July 1984

Time in a Red Coat 
by George Mackay Brown.
Chatto, 249 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 7011 2804 6
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Harland’s Half-Acre 
by David Malouf.
Chatto, 230 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 7011 2737 6
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The Border 
by Elaine Feinstein.
Hutchinson, 113 pp., £6.95, June 1984, 0 09 156320 8
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... more precise theory and practice of language than the on-going bustle of narrative will allow for. George Meredith, to take a good example, plays havoc with the expected sequence of events, expanding and contracting particular elements of the plot so that we can feel the sinews of narrative creaking and cracking under the strain. Then he turns round and ...

Bard of Tropes

Jonathan Lamb: Thomas Chatterton, 20 September 2001

Thomas Chatterton and Romantic Culture 
by Nick Groom.
Palgrave, 300 pp., £55, September 1999, 0 333 72586 7
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... work with ink and ochre to make them look something they were not. In Ackroyd’s Chatterton, George Meredith says to Henry Wallis: ‘There are no words to stamp the indefinite thing.’ Only when ‘steyned with Goere, the Harte of Warre is seen’. Learning and nature, forgery and originality, stand in paradoxical relation in Chatterton’s ...

Mythic Elements

Stephen Bann, 30 December 1982

Queen of Stones 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 160 pp., £6.95, November 1982, 0 224 02601 1
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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 
by William Kotzwinkle, based on a screenplay by Melissa Mathison.
Arthur Barker, 246 pp., £6.95, November 1982, 0 213 16848 0
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Tales of Afghanistan 
by Amina Shah.
Octagon Press, 128 pp., £6.50, November 1982, 0 900860 94 4
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The Masque of St Eadmundsburg 
by Humphrey Morrison.
Blond and Briggs, 228 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 85634 127 4
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A Villa in France 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 0 575 03103 4
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Collected Stories: Vol. III 
by Sean O’Faolain.
Constable, 422 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 09 463920 5
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Work Suspended and Other Stories 
by Evelyn Waugh.
Penguin, 318 pp., £2.75, November 1982, 0 14 006518 0
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... If a 19th-century paternity exists for this novel, it is surely in the mannered accomplishments of George Meredith, who is credited in passing with being the most recent novelist to be studied in the Oxford English School. A Villa in France has that that beguiling property – so eminently characteristic of ...

Under the Sphinx

Alasdair Gray, 11 March 1993

Places of the Mind: The Life and Work of James Thomson (‘B.V.’) 
by Tom Leonard.
Cape, 407 pp., £25, February 1993, 9780224031189
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... quarrels with Bradlaugh. A book of poems is published and brings the acquaintance of Rossetti and Meredith, but lacking a dinner suit he cannot meet such people as an equal. He suffers insomnia and stomach pains. The only journals which pay him cease publication. Six weeks of heavy drinking, shop-lifting, jail, homelessness, lead to a sudden death. The ...

Megawoman

Penelope Fitzgerald, 13 October 1988

Olive Schreiner: Letters. Vol. 1: 1871-1899 
edited by Richard Rive.
Oxford, 409 pp., £30, February 1988, 0 19 812220 9
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... to those who know a Karoo farm’. It was published in 1883, partly on the recommendation of George Meredith, and with its great success Olive Schreiner entered on her passionate dialogue with the world at large. Of all Lyndall’s confused perceptions, the clearest is: ‘When I’m strong, I’ll hate everything that has power, and help everything ...

Give us a break

Rosemarie Bodenheimer: Gissing’s Life, 9 July 2009

George Gissing: A Life 
by Paul Delany.
Phoenix, 444 pp., £14.99, February 2009, 978 0 7538 2573 0
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... to become contagious.’ This confession comes at the end of Delany’s engaging new biography of George Gissing, and suggests the special difficulty of spending long periods in the company of the English novelist most known for the relentless pessimism of his novels and the self-destructive tendencies of his life. The dean of Gissing studies, Pierre ...

Self-Made Women

John Sutherland, 11 July 1991

The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present 
edited by Virginia Blain, Isobel Grundy and Patricia Clements.
Batsford, 1231 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 7134 5848 8
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The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 854 pp., $45, March 1991, 0 8142 0518 6
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... thought to have provoked lifelong neurosis about sex. The Companion does not record that George Meredith was instrumental in getting The Story of an African Farm published (poor old Meredith also loses his credit for helping Ouida and Marie Corelli into print). In her later career in England, the Companion ...

Sink or Skim

Michael Wood: ‘The Alexandria Quartet’, 1 January 2009

Justine 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Folio Society, 203 pp., £19.95, January 2009
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Balthazar 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Folio Society, 198 pp., £19.95, January 2009
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Mountolive 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Folio Society, 263 pp., £19.95, January 2009
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Clea 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Folio Society, 241 pp., £19.95, January 2009
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... He was trying, sometimes precisely and sometimes with unbelievable slackness, to tell us, like George Meredith in his day, what he knew about ‘modern love’, and to find narrative forms that suited his slippery subject. The point is that the slackness may be as important as the precision; and that there are whole reaches of the novels that are ...

Bourgeois Masterpieces

Julian Symons, 13 June 1991

Literature and Liberation: Selected Essays 
by Arnold Kettle, edited by Graham Martin and W.R. Owens.
Manchester, 231 pp., £9.95, February 1991, 9780719027734
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... any other action open to him, is very persuasive. A brisk analysis of Felix Holt the Radical shows George Eliot’s own radicalism faltering after the opening chapters and sums up the book’s weakness in a sentence: ‘By disarming Felix as an effective moral agent, George Eliot commits the blunder of disarming him as an ...

Gatsby of the Boulevards

Hermione Lee: Morton Fullerton, 8 March 2001

Mysteries of Paris: The Quest for Morton Fullerton 
by Marion Mainwaring.
New England, 327 pp., £23, March 2001, 1 58465 008 7
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... and least reliable fictional characters: Merton Densher in The Wings of the Dove (1902) and George Darrow in The Reef (1912). Like other biographies tracking the ‘invisible lives’ of writers’ lovers – Claire Tomalin’s Life of Dickens’s Ellen Ternan, or the now-forgotten but interesting Portrait of Zélide (Benjamin Constant’s mistress, Mme ...

Poor Toms

Karl Miller, 3 September 1987

Chatterton 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 234 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 241 12348 8
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... commemorating the tourist attraction which it was also to become. The third narrative tells how George Meredith modelled for the corpse in the painting and how his wife then ran away with the painter (see also the sonnets in Modern Love). The three tales are deftly assembled and get on very well together. Chatterton is represented in the novel as an ...

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