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Pat Rogers

1 April 1982
A Model Childhood 
by Christa Wolf, translated by Ursule Molinaro and Hedwig Rappolt.
Virago, 407 pp., £8.95, April 1982, 0 86068 253 6
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The Safety Net 
by Heinrich Böll, translated by Leila Vennewitz.
Secker, 314 pp., £7.50, March 1982, 9780436054549
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The Country of her Dreams 
by Janice Elliott.
Hodder, 186 pp., £6.95, March 1982, 0 340 27830 7
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The Soul’s Gymansium and Other Stories 
by Harold Acton.
Hamish Hamilton, 165 pp., £7.95, February 1982, 0 241 10740 7
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... could say of the novel is that it’s modest and conventional: the best, that it displays some capacity for analysis and description, with evident enjoyment of the human spectacle. The stories by Sir HaroldActon are pervaded by something nearer resignation: oddity is exposed, and not really put down, but celebrated only in back-handed ways. They concern expatriates in Florence, and take a good old ...
7 July 1988
Young Betjeman 
by Bevis Hillier.
Murray, 457 pp., £15.95, July 1988, 0 7195 4531 5
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... Hillier acknowledges what, if Martin Gilbert had been a shade less thorough, might be a record number of helpers and informants. Flagging only in the last stretch of the alphabet, they range from Sir HaroldActon to Douglas Woodruff, and like his subject the author has evidently ‘made it his business to know people whom he thought worth knowing’. He dissociates himself from what he calls ‘the ...
5 December 1991
With and Without Buttons 
by Mary Butts, edited by Nathalie Blondel.
Carcanet, 216 pp., £13.95, October 1991, 0 85635 944 0
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... and associates during these two decades is impressive. Man Ray photographed her, Jean Cocteau sketched her, Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot praised her work, Aleister Crowley exploited it. In the Twenties HaroldActon came across her in Paris, not exactly among ‘the bevies of truculent women’ who surrounded Hemingway and Ford Madox Ford but somewhere near. On the fringe of the Montparnasse bars were a ...

Nit, Sick and Bore

India Knight: The Mitfords

3 January 2002
The Mitford Girls: The Biography of an Extraordinary Family 
by Mary Lovell.
Little, Brown, 611 pp., £20, September 2001, 0 316 85868 4
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Nancy Mitford: A Memoir 
by Harold Acton.
Gibson Square, 256 pp., £16.99, September 2001, 1 903933 01 3
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... biographies and two vast volumes of correspondence to sustain them, the latter brilliantly annotated by Charlotte Mosley; as well as Selina Hastings’s clear-sighted, of-the-milieu biography. HaroldActon’s knowing, gossipy, intimate memoir, long out of print and now reissued, is a welcome readdition to the canon: it makes you weep with laughter on most pages. Or scream, perhaps. That Nancy ...
18 December 1986
Between the Woods and the Water 
by Patrick Leigh Fermor et al.
Murray, 248 pp., £13.95, October 1986, 0 7195 4264 2
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Coasting 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins, 301 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 00 272119 8
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The Grand Tour 
by Hunter Davies.
Hamish Hamilton, 224 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11907 3
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... of Western civilisation. Now a journalist uses his connections (BBC, Fleet Street) to get interviews along the way with famous people. If they are sweet to him, he writes them up handsomely: Sir HaroldActon gets a good press, the Countess Anne Maria Cicogna was nice to Davies in Venice, Graeme Souness and Trevor Francis took time out from the football pitch to chat with him, Nabokov and Davies ...
23 March 1995
Cyril Connolly: A Nostalgic Life 
by Clive Fisher.
Macmillan, 304 pp., £20, March 1995, 0 333 57813 9
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... perceptive about Connolly’s future than the boy himself. ‘He has not any very romantic ideals. His point of view is more that of a journalist than of a scholar or scientist.’ Absorbed, with HaroldActon and Brian Howard, in the creation of a daring aesthetic manifesto to be called ‘The Eton Candle’, Connolly would have been greatly disturbed by this deflating prophecy, which was soon to be ...

Poor Hitler

Andrew O’Hagan: Toff Humour

15 November 2007
The Mitfords: Letters between Six Sisters 
edited by Charlotte Mosley.
Fourth Estate, 834 pp., £25, September 2007, 978 1 84115 790 0
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... Gentlemen do not take soup at luncheon’; ‘Dear me, I never knew that the lower classes had such white skins’; ‘Gentlemen never wear brown in London.’ (‘It is necessary to admit,’ Harold Nicolson wrote in his own fawning Curzon biography, ‘that it required several months of close association with Lord Curzon before even the most well-intentioned observer could wholly rid himself of ...

A Toast at the Trocadero

Terry Eagleton: D.J. Taylor

18 February 2016
The Prose Factory: Literary Life in England since 1918 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 501 pp., £25, January 2016, 978 0 7011 8613 5
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... paid for a weekly newspaper article in the 1960s, or for how much Anthony Burgess sold the film rights of A Clockwork Orange. The book is crammed with intriguing chunks of information. We learn that Harold Monro, who established the Poetry Bookshop shortly before the First World War, was a twice-married homosexual of Scottish ancestry whose family owned a private lunatic asylum. Of the writers who made ...
12 November 1987
For Love and Money: Writing, Reading, Travelling 1969-1987 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins Harvill, 350 pp., £11.50, November 1987, 0 00 272279 8
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Original Copy: Selected Reviews and Journalism 1969-1986 
by John Carey.
Faber, 278 pp., £9.95, August 1987, 0 571 14879 4
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... capacity for giving pleasure is pretty well exhausted.’ A man who feels like this about parsnips is likely to enjoy such books as Martin Green’s Children of the Sun, in which people like HaroldActon and Brian Howard and Cyril Connolly, and all who profess to believe that heterosexual affairs are ‘the mark of state-subsidised undergraduates’, are dug reeking from their lairs, scraped ...

Is the lady your sister?

E.S. Turner: An innkeeper’s diary

27 April 2000
An Innkeeper's Diary 
by John Fothergill.
Faber, 278 pp., £23.95, January 2000, 0 571 15014 4
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... Spying a very short man with a big head (no candidate for measurement) Fothergill says, ‘I think you must be Mr J.M. Barrie,’ to which Sir James, ‘slyly’, says: ‘You are not far wrong.’ HaroldActon, with his ‘Big Ben’ voice, presides at the last dinner of Oxford’s banned Hypocrites’ Club, which ends in much goat-like leaping about, the sort of conduct which would not have been ...

Diary

Thomas Jones: Death in Florence

21 June 2012
... Despite the bank’s sense of history, there was clearly no way they were going to let me sniff around for traces of my ancestor’s ghost and I headed over the river to the British Institute’s HaroldActon Library. The institute was founded in 1917, so had no contemporary records of my great-great-grandfather’s death. What it did have were two copies of the diary that Arnold Bennett kept while ...

No False Modesty

Rosemary Hill: Edith Sitwell

20 October 2011
Edith Sitwell: Avant-Garde Poet, English Genius 
by Richard Greene.
Virago, 532 pp., £25, March 2011, 978 1 86049 967 8
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... her and her work, Geoffrey Grigson being particularly obnoxious in attacking the imagery in her poems as such as ‘could only have been contrived by a poet who had never experienced pregnancy’. To HaroldActon she was ‘the essential hysterical intellectual spinster’ and however unpleasant his tone it is impossible to disagree with his conclusion that ‘dear Edith wasn’t exactly what you might ...
4 August 1988
... about it; I was only a child, so she probably wouldn’t have. She lived very much in the present. Some younger people saw her as a sort of relic – people like the Sitwells and Ronald Firbank and HaroldActon – but all that rather bored her. She was very up to the minute, and would be full of the latest musical comedy or the latest thing that had been written. But she wrote a memoir of Wilde ...
20 June 1985
... Firbank, Strachey. Wode-house – bred at Oxford a collection of wits some of whose humour has perished since it found no other form than conversation. This was the generation of Bowra, Betjeman, HaroldActon, John Sutro, Connolly, Powell and Alan Pryce-Jones. Waugh was the supreme master and his novels are fit to stand by The Importance of Being Earnest. His vision is so penetrating and fantastical ...

Reach-Me-Down Romantic

Terry Eagleton: For and Against Orwell

19 June 2003
George Orwell 
by Gordon Bowker.
Little, Brown, 495 pp., £20, May 2003, 0 316 86115 4
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Orwell: The Life 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 448 pp., £20, June 2003, 0 7011 6919 2
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Orwell: Life and Times 
by Scott Lucas.
Haus, 180 pp., £8.99, April 2003, 1 904341 33 0
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... the case with Hitchens, unless Vanity Fair is a lot meaner than one imagines. Some of Orwell’s impoverishment, to be sure, was self-inflicted: while a few of his fellow Etonians (Cyril Connolly, HaroldActon) were bursting precociously into print, Orwell chose to slave away in Parisian kitchens even when he was coughing up blood, sleep in dosshouses while cadging the odd ten shillings off his ...

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