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Not Very Permeable

Colin Kidd: Rory Stewart’s Borderlands, 19 January 2017

The Marches: Border Walks with My Father 
by Rory Stewart.
Cape, 351 pp., £18.99, October 2016, 978 0 224 09768 0
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... explore the borderlands on foot, in the hope of finding some essence of Britishness in the region James VI and I had described as the ‘navel or umbilic of both kingdoms’. While Stewart set out on his quest with undisguised polemical intent, ‘to show that there were no permanent differences between England and Scotland, between my cottage in Cumbria and ...

Standing on the Wharf, Weeping

Greg Dening: Australia, 25 September 2003

The Enlightenment and the Origins of European Australia 
by John Gascoigne.
Cambridge, 233 pp., £45, September 2002, 0 521 80343 8
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Looking for Blackfella’s Point: An Australian History of Place 
by Mark McKenna.
New South Wales, 268 pp., £14.50, August 2002, 0 86840 644 9
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Words for Country: Landscape and Language in Australia 
by Tim Bonyhady and Tom Griffiths.
New South Wales, 253 pp., £15.50, October 2001, 0 86840 628 7
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The Land Is a Map: Placenames of Indigenous Origin in Australia 
edited by Luise Hercus, Flavia Hodges and Jane Simpson.
Pandanus, 304 pp., AUS $39.95, October 2002, 1 74076 020 4
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... were put on the Memory of the World Register (the list of documentary heritage launched in 1997): James Cook’s journal of the Endeavour, written in his own hand; and the Edward Koiki Mabo Papers, the record of Eddie Mabo’s landmark case before the High Court, which gave legal recognition to the fact that indigenous land ownership existed before European ...


David Craig: Scotland Changes Again, 20 December 1990

... the moor at Culloden, skirting the plain where long low humps in the coarse grass and stunted heather cover the skeletons of the 1100 Highlanders killed in that April hour of 1746, each clan with its name chiselled into a monument like a rounded milestone – Clan Chattan, Clan Cameron, Clan Stewart. Firs stand about like dark angels. The place seems to ...

The German in the Wood

Emma Tennant, 6 December 1984

... had been like. I said I wanted to go up to the Fairy Ring. For I’d had the fairy stories of James Hogg the Ettrick Shepherd read to me and he’d written of this wood, where it was dangerous to go most of the time, and especially to the Fairy Ring. The toadstools, a pale, hideous necklace of poison round the thick, mossy neck of the Ring, had been ...

What sort of man?

P.N. Furbank, 18 August 1994

The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson. Vol. I: 1854-April 1874 
edited by Bradford Booth and Ernest Mehew.
Yale, 525 pp., £29.95, July 1994, 0 300 05183 2
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The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson. Vol. II: April 1874-July 1879 
edited by Bradford Booth and Ernest Mehew.
Yale, 352 pp., £29.95, July 1994, 0 300 06021 1
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... reason that many people who actually knew him, including someone with so good a judgment as Henry James, found him utterly charming. The charm, if one thinks of it, must have lain in a kind of innocence, the insouciance of a born talker. He may have been all the bad things I have called him, but unaffectedly so and without calculation; if he was ...


Mary Wellesley: The Wyldrenesse of Wyrale, 26 April 2018

... But the same is true of manuscripts.Cotton may not have known what he had. His librarian, Richard James, labelled the manuscript: ‘Vetus poema Anglicanum in quo sub insomnii figmento multa ad religionem et mores spectantia explicantur’ (a poem in old English explaining many religious and moral topics using the figure of the dream). It was not until the ...

The Story of Joe

Craig Raine, 4 December 1986

The Orton Diaries 
edited by John Lahr.
Methuen, 307 pp., £12.50, November 1986, 0 413 49660 0
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... And yet. The diaries begin with his mother’s funeral in 1966. Leonie Orton, Joe’s sister, told James Fox of the Sunday Times: He nearly had mother out of her coffin ... He was picking her head up. ‘What’s all this brown stuff?’; ‘try and get her rings off.’ I said: ‘I don’t want to.’ He said: ‘I do.’ He wanted to see her feet, he was ...

Against the Same-Old Same-Old

Seamus Perry: The Brownings, 3 November 2016

The Brownings’ Correspondence, Vol 21 
edited by Philip Kelley, Scott Lewis, Joseph Phelan, Edward Hagan and Rhian Williams.
Wedgestone, 432 pp., $110, April 2014, 978 0 911459 38 8
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The Brownings’ Correspondence, Vol 22 
edited by Philip Kelley, Scott Lewis, Joseph Phelan, Edward Hagan and Rhian Williams.
Wedgestone, 430 pp., $110, June 2015, 978 0 911459 39 5
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Robert Browning 
edited by Richard Cronin and Dorothy McMillan.
Oxford, 904 pp., £95, December 2014, 978 0 19 959942 4
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Browning Studies: Being Select Papers by Members of the Browning Society 
edited by Edward Berdoe.
Routledge, 348 pp., £30, August 2015, 978 1 138 02488 5
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... unmemorable space of which he recalls just the one luminous detail: For there I picked up on the heather And there I put inside my breast A moulted feather, an eagle-feather – Well, I forget the rest.No one else can do a throwaway ending as well as Browning: often his best poems close like that, as though slipping out of poetry and back into the life that ...

Wrecking Ball

Adam Shatz: Trump’s Racism, 7 September 2017

... black people in the United States has produced many martyrs: Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King; James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. And now Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old paralegal killed in Emancipation Park. It is true, as some have sanctimoniously pointed out, that even in her death, Heyer was a ...

Martian Arts

Jonathan Raban, 23 July 1987

Home and Away 
by Steve Ellis.
Bloodaxe, 62 pp., £4.50, February 1987, 9781852240271
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The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper 
by Blake Morrison.
Chatto, 48 pp., £4.95, May 1987, 0 7011 3227 2
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The Frighteners 
by Sean O’Brien.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £4.50, February 1987, 9781852240134
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... briefly before being swallowed by a moving plot.Poem-novels, or poem-stories, are all about us – James Fenton’s ‘A German Requiem’, Anne Stevenson’s ‘Correspondences’, Blake Morrison’s ‘The Inquisitor’, Motion’s ‘Independence’, the plotty, tessellated pattern of the poems in Carol Rumens’s Direct Dialling, with its East-West love ...

Public Works

David Norbrook, 5 June 1986

The Faber Book of Political Verse 
edited by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 481 pp., £17.50, May 1986, 0 571 13947 7
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... interests produced a potentially subversive treatment of republicanism in Sejanus: but he became James I’s court poet, and Paulin deals fairly brusquely with Jonson as a conservative monarchist. He is represented here by ‘To Penshurst’, with a gloss based on Raymond Williams which criticises the poem for concealing its politics behind apparently ...

New Ways of Killing Your Father

Colm Tóibín, 18 November 1993

Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History 
by R.F. Foster.
Allen Lane, 305 pp., £22.50, October 1993, 0 7139 9095 3
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... I have been grappling with Pakenham’s book for years. In the early drafts of my novel The Heather Blazing, the protagonist is working on a history of the rebellion, not from the British side, which is what my father’s friend accused Pakenham of having written, but from ‘our’ side, the Irish side. The following passage from Pakenham’s Preface ...

But she read Freud

Alice Spawls: Flora Thompson, 19 February 2015

Dreams of the Good Life: The Life of Flora Thompson and the Creation of ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ 
by Richard Mabey.
Allen Lane, 208 pp., £9.99, March 2015, 978 0 14 104481 1
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... villagers called her a moll heron, ‘all legs and wings’. Later, having read Freud and Henry James, she hinted at a ‘restricted’ upbringing, but she found refuge in her surroundings as well as her books. Lark Rise has some excellent descriptions of the Oxfordshire countryside, interrupted from time to time by the voice of young ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2014, 8 January 2015

... been that son of Yorkshire Jimmy Savile who seemed made from marzipan. But not now. No cake for James.7 August, Oxford. To Oxford and the Holywell Music Room where Bodley’s librarian emeritus David Vaisey and I have a conversation about our time at Oxford in the 1950s. David and I were first aware of each other at the scholarship examination in Exeter ...

What will be left?

Tom Crewe: Labour’s Prospects, 18 May 2017

... The Conservatives (membership: 149,000) have nothing to compare with this ground operation. Heather explained to me how she had entered into debate with a Tory-leaning voter online, and had succeeded in making her look again at Corbyn: ‘If this is happening 500,000 times,’ she said, spreading her hands to indicate the ramifications. None of them ...

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