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Doomed to Sincerity

Germaine Greer: Rochester as New Man, 16 September 1999

The Works of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester 
edited by Harold Love.
Oxford, 712 pp., £95, April 1999, 0 19 818367 4
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... copy-text, a manuscript now in the Beinecke Library at Yale. As Rochester’s most recent editor, Harold Love, points out, ‘the very earliest collections, in manuscript and print, were directed at connoisseurs of the pornographic and the profane’; it was Rochester’s fate to have stick to him all the pornographic and profane verse that emanated from ...

Tam, Dick and Harold

Ian Aitken, 26 October 1989

Dick Crossman: A Portrait 
by Tam Dalyell.
Weidenfeld, 253 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 297 79670 4
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... perceived conspiracies was cheerful, even benign. Unlike that other supreme conspiracy theorist, Harold Wilson, Dick didn’t brood about them endlessly or allow his obsession to corrode everything that he did. Above all, he remained to the end of his life a top-class WEA lecturer, dedicated to the education of ordinary people by the simple process of ...

Protocol and Pink Slippers

Harold Strachan: Story, 12 December 2002

... to unlock me, although he clearly hates it. It occurs to me that it may just for now spoil his love of life, even love for these beauteous sisters of cakehood. We take our seats at the table and the kids fetch a couple of high stools from the kitchen. They don’t speak, because they haven’t been spoken to; night-time ...

Vita Longa

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 1 December 1983

Vita: The Life of V. Sackville-West 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Weidenfeld, 430 pp., £12.50, September 1983, 0 297 78306 8
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... a worn piece of green velvet on her dressing table, I felt my whole being dissolve in love. I have never ceased to love her from that moment.’ The person who said that was known as Christopher St John, though her real name was Christabel Marshall. We know how she felt about the object of her passion, Vita ...

On Top of Everything

Thomas Jones: Byron, 16 September 1999

Byron: Child of Passion, Fool of Fame 
by Benita Eisler.
Hamish Hamilton, 835 pp., £25, June 1999, 0 241 13260 6
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... would revile Caroline Lamb to those of his friends who didn’t like her, while swearing undying love in his letters to her. The extraordinary lengths to which he went to suit his behaviour and manner to his environment meant that nobody, himself included, had a very clear sense of who he was. One consequence of trying to make everyone like him was to make a ...

Short Cuts

Jenny Diski: Fragrant Antonia Fraser, 25 February 2010

... Fraser, say, going through her own diaries written daily during her 33-year relationship with Harold Pinter, and editing them with a few linking comments into a book published by Weidenfeld (£20). Obviously, there’s the matter of fame. Her publisher will not have charged Fraser a fee to have her book printed and distributed, because lots of people know ...

An American Genius

Patrick Parrinder, 21 November 1991

The Runaway Soul 
by Harold Brodkey.
Cape, 835 pp., £15.99, November 1991, 0 224 03001 9
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... of Myself’, its 800 pages of first-person narrative are formless, plotless and graceless. Harold Brodkey, who began his career in the New Yorker in the Fifties, has been slowly maturing not a well-tempered masterpiece but the garrulous, profligate self-celebrations of a precocious adolescent who never grew up. It is not even clear why the novel ends ...

At Free Love Corner

Jenny Diski, 30 March 2000

Literary Seductions: Compulsive Writers and Diverted Readers 
by Frances Wilson.
Faber, 258 pp., £12.99, October 1999, 0 571 19288 2
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... physically present but not actually there is a disturbing reminder that people who are supposed to love and care for you live inside their own heads and that their thoughts are their own. It can be a worry. And those writers, what are they up to, also sitting alone, making or remaking worlds that are not present, for unknown readers to step into? Solitary ...

Theory with a Wife

Michael Wood, 3 October 1985

Mr Palomar 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 118 pp., £8.50, September 1985, 0 436 08275 6
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Parrot’s Perch 
by Michel Rio, translated by Leigh Hafrey.
Dent, 88 pp., £7.95, September 1985, 0 460 04669 1
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Light Years 
by Maggie Gee.
Faber, 350 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 571 13604 4
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... they prefer him to the others ... No, nothing vibrates ... Perhaps, for all the sincerity of his love of galantines, galantines do not love him.’ An albino gorilla, lost in his biological loneliness, hugs a rubber tire as if he knew what a symbol was. This, Palomar thinks, is how we seek to escape from ‘the dismay of ...


Robert Blake, 18 December 1980

Harold Nicolson: A Biography: Vol. 1, 1886-1929 
by James Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 429 pp., £15, November 1980, 0 7011 2520 9
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Harold Nicolson Diaries 1930-1964 
by Stanley Olson.
Collins, 436 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 00 216304 7
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... Harold Nicolson was a diarist of genius who would have loved to make a success of public life or literature. He was an able but not outstanding diplomat who retired at 43, a journalist and broadcaster of talent, an MP for ten years and a junior minister in 1940-41. His literary achievements were voluminous, but few of his forty-odd books have lasted, apart from his study of Curzon, his lives of King George V and of Tennyson, and his Byron, The Last Phase ...
Stories in an Almost Classical Mode 
by Harold Brodkey.
Knopf, 596 pp., $24.95, September 1988, 0 394 50699 5
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... Harold Brodkey, whose debut collection of stories, First Love and Other Sorrows, was greeted with well-deserved acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic when it appeared in1958, has produced a hefty new collection: Stories in an Almost Classical Mode. During the intervening thirty years his reputation, bolstered by occasional stories in the New Yorker and other glossy American magazines, has grown formidable ...

Christian v. Cannibal

Michael Rogin: Norman Mailer and American history, 1 April 1999

The American Century 
by Harold Evans.
Cape, 710 pp., £40, November 1998, 0 224 05217 9
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The Time of Our Time 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 1286 pp., £25, September 1998, 0 316 64571 0
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... civilisation by acts of courage, generosity and vision unparalleled in the history of man.’ So Harold Evans introduces his lavishly illustrated ‘popular political history’ of ‘the American century’, written to educate American immigrants like himself about the ‘nature of their heritage’. Something goes wrong when the page numbers change from ...

Interpretation of Dreams

Harold James, 5 February 1981

Cosima Wagner’s Diaries. Vol. II: 1878-1883 
edited by Martin Gregor-Dellin and Dietrich Mack, translated by Geoffrey Skelton.
Collions, 1200 pp., £20, January 1981, 0 00 216189 3
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... from the bustle; they long for the seclusion of the villa Tribschen, their first secure refuge of love. At times the villa Wahnfried at Bayreuth looks like a second Tribschen. Cosima says that the world of Wahnfried is quite separate from the outside world; it has its own mysterious principles for the adulatory cult of Richard Wagner. A constant source of ...

Death in Greece

Marilyn Butler, 17 September 1981

Byron’s Letter and Journals. Vol. XI: For Freedom’s Battle 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 243 pp., £11.50, April 1981, 0 7195 3792 4
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Byron: The Complete Poetical Works 
edited by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 464 pp., £35, October 1980, 0 19 811890 2
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Red Shelley 
by Paul Foot.
Sidgwick, 293 pp., £12.95, May 1981, 0 283 98679 4
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Ugo Foscolo, Poet of Exile 
by Glauco Cambon.
Princeton, 360 pp., £15, September 1980, 0 691 06424 5
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... written before Byron left England in 1816, and Volume II has the whole of the masterpiece Childe Harold, including Cantos III and IV, which were written in exile in 1816 and 1818. The difference this makes can be seen from Marchand. In addition to the Journals which Byron kept intermittently, he has printed about 2,900 letters, compared with 1,198 in the ...

The Virgin

David Plante, 3 April 1986

... expanded and contracted. The mouth said to him: maybe it’s not your fault, maybe Elizabeth made love with someone while you were away and got a disease and gave it to you. I’d forgive her, he thought. I really would forgive her. Supposing the stain were the discharge of an infectious disease, if he put his underpants in the hamper, they could infect all ...

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