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Against the Pussyfoots

Steven Shapin: George Saintsbury, 10 September 2009

Notes on a Cellar-Book 
by George Saintsbury, edited by Thomas Pinney.
California, 348 pp., £20.95, October 2008, 978 0 520 25352 0
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... George Saintsbury was in the taste business. By profession, he made judgments of taste on works of literature. He produced dozens of editions of the work of novelists and poets and more than 50 monographs, including A History of Elizabethan Literature, A History of English Prosody, The English Novel, A History of the French Novel and, self-referentially, books about books about books – A History of Criticism and Literary Taste in Europe from the Earliest Texts to the Present Day, A History of English Criticism ...

At the Royal Academy

Peter Campbell: The art of William Nicholson, 18 November 2004

... worth of a 30-inch canvas) that it is registered in half a dozen elegant smudges of paint; George Saintsbury and Gertrude Jekyll sit in patient, unanimated reverie. What we get is the person objectified rather than an expressed personality. The look in the eye, the self-presenting stance – the kind of thing Sargent looked for – is ...

This Trying Time

A.N. Wilson: John Sparrow, 1 October 1998

The Warden 
by John Lowe.
HarperCollins, 258 pp., £19.99, August 1998, 0 00 215392 0
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... he had published a learned edition with Cambridge. It won laudatory reviews from Edmund Gosse, George Saintsbury and others. Surely a future stretched ahead in which Sparrow was destined to be a great scholar and man of letters, perhaps a good minor poet? Who could have predicted that when this learned and precocious adolescent had become an ...

Pleased to Be Loony

Alice Spawls: The Janeites, 8 November 2012

Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures 
by Claudia Johnson.
Chicago, 224 pp., £22.50, June 2012, 978 0 226 40203 1
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... in strange fantasies to sustain the impression of intimacy with Austen that the novels create. George Saintsbury, who coined the term ‘Janeite’ in 1894, made a point of his readiness ‘to live with and to marry’ Elizabeth Bennet and serve as ‘a knight (or at least a squire) of the order of St Jane’. In 1949, after writing two books about ...

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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... reading. There were plenty of other prophets of woe among the bourgeoisie, including the American George Beard, whose influential Treatise on Nervous Exhaustion (Neurasthenia), Its Symptoms, Nature, Sequences, Treatment, was published in 1880 and almost immediately translated into German. Beard’s all too familiar argument was that nervous wear and tear was ...

First Pitch

Frank Kermode: Marianne Moore, 16 April 1998

The Selected Letters of Marianne Moore 
edited by Bonnie Costello and Celeste Goodridge et al.
Faber, 597 pp., £30, April 1998, 0 571 19354 4
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... she celebrated Trollope at a time when nobody read him. Against the current of opinion she admired George Saintsbury, and when she became editor of the Dial commissioned work from this writer, already over eighty and hardly to be thought of as belonging to any avant-garde. Indeed her notion of what was worth having, whether avant-garde or not, was based ...

A Pride of Footnotes

Robert M. Adams, 17 November 1983

The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Vol. VII: ‘Biographia Literaria’ 
edited by James Engell and Walter Jackson Bate.
Routledge/Princeton, 306 pp., £50, May 1983, 0 691 09874 3
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... with which it engages, to become an active component in much modern critical thinking. From George Saintsbury through I.A. Richards to Kenneth Burke, it has exercised the active stimulus, not of a privileged book, but of one which in each generation earns afresh its own authority. For all its oddities – and certainly it is the oddest volume ever ...


Marilyn Butler, 2 September 1982

The New Pelican Guide to English Literature. Vol. I: Medieval Literature Part One: Chaucer and the Alliterative Tradition, Vol. II: The Age of Shakespeare, Vol. III: From Donne to Marvell, Vol. IV: From Dryden to Johnson 
edited by Boris Ford.
Penguin, 647 pp., £2.95, March 1982, 0 14 022264 2
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Medieval Writers and their Work: Middle English Literature and its Background 
by J.A. Burrow.
Oxford, 148 pp., £9.95, May 1982, 0 19 289122 7
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Contemporary Writers Series: Saul Bellow, Joe Orton, John Fowles, Kurt Vonnegut, Seamus Heaney, Thomas Pynchon 
by Malcolm Bradbury, C.W.E. Bigsby, Peter Conradi, Jerome Klinkowitz and Blake Morrison.
Methuen, 110 pp., £1.95, May 1982, 0 416 31650 6
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... he was ruthlessly selective. Gone was the eclecticism of turn-of-the-century scholars like George Saintsbury and Oliver Elton, and of surveys like the Cambridge History of English Literature. In The Great Tradition (1947), Leavis reduced the essential canon to only four writers, dismissing once-great names with scant ceremony, interpreting ...

What a Mother

Mary-Kay Wilmers: Marianne Moore and Her Mother, 3 December 2015

Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore 
by Linda Leavell.
Farrar, Straus, 455 pp., $18, September 2014, 978 0 374 53494 3
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... as ‘largely chivalry’ on their part: ‘I didn’t have time for work of my own,’ she told George Saintsbury, the English man of letters who’d been one of her contributors. At Warner’s insistence, she and her mother left Greenwich Village for a more suitable – ‘spacious’ would be the word – apartment in Brooklyn: they could have had a ...

Strange, Sublime, Uncanny, Anxious

Frank Kermode, 22 December 1994

The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages 
by Harold Bloom.
Harcourt Brace, 578 pp., £22, November 1994, 0 15 195747 9
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... stamp on the whole of literature from Genesis to Ashbery, rivalling the scope of hero-critics like Saintsbury or Curtius or Auerbach though more giddily adventurous than they were. A few years ago he was maintaining that the parts of the Old Testament attributed to J, the Yahwist (that is, the author who refers to God as Yahveh), were written by a woman at the ...

In Praise of History

Earl Miner, 1 March 1984

A History of Japanese Literature. Vol. I: The First Thousand Years 
by Shuichi Kato, translated by David Chibbett.
Macmillan, 319 pp., £20, September 1979, 0 333 19882 4
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A History of Japanese Literature. Vol. II: The Years of Isolation 
by Shuichi Kato, translated by Don Sanderson.
Macmillan, 230 pp., £20, October 1983, 0 333 22088 9
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A History of Japanese Literature. Vol. III: The Modern Years 
by Shuichi Kato, translated by Don Sanderson.
Macmillan, 307 pp., £20, October 1983, 0 333 34133 3
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World within Walls 
by Donald Keene.
Secker, 624 pp., £15, January 1977, 0 436 23266 9
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Modern Japanese Poets and the Nature of Literature 
by Makoto Ueda.
Stanford, 451 pp., $28.50, September 1983, 0 8047 1166 6
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Low City, High City: Tokyo from Edo to the Earthquake 
by Edward Seidensticker.
Allen Lane, 302 pp., £16.95, September 1983, 0 7139 1597 8
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... but defeated. For a successful history of English from a single pen, we must no doubt go back to Saintsbury, who is still readable. There is also Legouis and Cazamian. But the two serviceable histories are written by Americans. As long ago as 1948, Malone, Baugh, Brooke and Chew brought out A Literary History of England in nearly 1700 good-sized pages. In ...

In a Dry Place

Nicolas Tredell, 11 October 1990

On the Look-Out: A Partial Autobiography 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 234 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 85635 758 8
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In Two Minds: Guesses at Other Writers 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 296 pp., £18.95, September 1990, 0 85635 877 0
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... Patrick Kavanagh, who was to be approached ‘with a large whisky in one’s outstretched hand’; George Barker, first seen ‘wearing a check suit and cap, all very new, as if in the course of an attempt to prove that he was not a poet but a bookmaker’. But here too, he feels, as a poet, barely visible: the visible poets speak well of his work, but he ...

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