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England and Other Women

Edna Longley, 5 May 1988

Under Storm’s Wing 
by Helen Thomas and Myfanwy Thomas.
Carcanet, 318 pp., £14.95, February 1988, 0 85635 733 2
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... The structural ironies of Edward Thomas’s life still condition his reputation. Just as he made a late poetic start, so criticism has been slow to gather momentum. Even the recent spate of studies – by Michael Kirkham, Stan Smith, and the contributors to Jonathan Barker’s Art of Edward Thomas – seems more fortuitous than co-ordinated ...

Thomas’s Four Hats

Patricia Beer, 2 April 1981

The Poetry of Edward Thomas 
by Andrew Motion.
Routledge, 193 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 7100 0471 0
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... The publishers say that The Poetry of Edward Thomas is the first full-length study to deal exclusively with Thomas’s poetry (in Britain, they must mean). On the face of it, a six-decade gap of this sort shows a strange failure in critical husbandry. Yet it is not really so surprising ...

Private Thomas

Andrew Motion, 19 December 1985

Edward ThomasA Portrait 
by R. George Thomas.
Oxford, 331 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 19 818527 8
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... R. George Thomas is a cautious man. His life of Edward Thomas (no relation) is ‘a portrait’ not ‘a biography’. Maybe this is just as well. The poet was a cautious man too. He was also a scrupulous one, and when we read in the first few pages that research for this book began ‘in the early 1960s’, we are encouraged to feel that author and subject are kindred spirits ...

I fret and fret

Adam Phillips: Edward Thomas, 5 November 2015

Edward ThomasFrom Adelstrop to Arras 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Bloomsbury, 480 pp., £25, May 2015, 978 1 4081 8713 5
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... Edward Thomas​ believed that up to about the age of four what he called ‘a sweet darkness’ enfolded him ‘with a faint blessing’. It was, though, a darkness and the blessing was faint. ‘From an early age’, Jean Moorcroft Wilson writes, Thomas ‘felt cursed by a self-consciousness he believed the chief cause of his later problems and depression ...

Obstacles

Penelope Fitzgerald, 4 July 1996

Edward ThomasSelected Letters 
edited by R. George Thomas.
Oxford, 192 pp., £30, March 1996, 0 19 818562 6
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... It would be quite possible to read about Edward Thomas and wonder how it was that so many people made such allowances for him. A man who had a house built for himself and then refused to live in it, he tormented his wife and children with his restlessness – he calculated he was never happy for more than a quarter of an hour in the day ...

First Puppet, Now Scapegoat

Inigo Thomas: Ass-Chewing in Washington, 30 November 2006

State of Denial: Bush at War 
by Bob Woodward.
Simon and Schuster, 560 pp., £18.99, October 2006, 0 7432 9566 8
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... one of her less perceptive observations: she was hardly right about everything. In an obituary, Helen Thomas, a journalist Mitchell liked to ring, said: ‘She was a personal victim of the political war of Watergate, and one of its very few heroines.’ Five years after the Watergate break-in, Nixon said: ‘If it hadn’t been for Martha ...

Family Fortunes

Helen Cooper: The upwardly mobile Pastons, 4 August 2005

Blood and Roses: The Paston Family in the 15th Century 
by Helen Castor.
Faber, 347 pp., £8.99, June 2005, 0 571 21671 4
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... So violent and motley was life that it bore the mixed smell of blood and of roses.’ Helen Castor quotes Johan Huizinga’s description of the waning of the Middle Ages at the very end of her book, with something approaching a denial of its relevance to her own account of the same period. ‘Blood and roses’ suggests violence and sex – or at least violence and sentimentality ...

Our Little Duckie

Thomas Jones: Margaret Atwood, 17 November 2005

The Penelopiad 
by Margaret Atwood.
Canongate, 199 pp., £12, October 2005, 1 84195 645 7
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... when she was 15. Various men compete for her by running a race, which Odysseus wins by cheating. Helen, already married to Menelaus, is unpleasant about it. ‘I think Odysseus would make a very suitable husband for our little duckie,’ she says. ‘She likes the quiet life . . . She can help him look after his goats. She and Odysseus are two of a ...

Surviving the Reformation

Helen Cooper: Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, 15 October 1998

The Beggar and the Professor: A 16th-Century Family Saga 
by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Chicago, 407 pp., £11.95, June 1998, 0 226 47324 4
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... to their assured place in a Protestant society and culture, but that they told the story at all. Thomas Platter, the father, was persuaded by his son to record his memoirs; Felix, the son, kept a diary in which he recorded not only his achievements but, more important, the minutiae of his life. The result is a picture of unrivalled detail of what it was like ...

Two Sonnets

Anne Carson, 3 February 2011

... class="highlight-term">Helen,    today’s visitor,    comes a legendary remark:    ‘So light,    like the mind,’ she says,  with her hand on the waist ...

The Cow Bells of Kitale

Patrick Collinson: The Selwyn Affair, 5 June 2003

... In a court in western Kenya, on 13 July 1934, Major Geoffrey Selwyn and his wife, Helen, were jointly charged with the murder of a ‘native’. Geoffrey Selwyn, my father-in-law, died before the trial began. Proceedings continued in his absence, and my children’s grandmother was found guilty of manslaughter and sent to prison ...

No One Left to Kill

Thomas Jones: Achilles, 24 May 2001

Achilles 
by Elizabeth Cook.
Methuen, 116 pp., £12.99, March 2001, 0 413 75740 4
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... arrow that pierces his heel. After the funeral, the fall of Troy – which Cook tells mostly from Helen’s point of view. When Yeats wrote, in ‘Leda and the Swan’, ‘A shudder in the loins engenders there/The broken wall, the burning roof and tower/ And Agamemnon dead,’ he was thinking as much of Clytemnestra as of ...

Did she go willingly?

Marina Warner: Helen of Troy, 7 October 2010

Helen of Troy: From Homer to Hollywood 
by Laurie Maguire.
Wiley-Blackwell, 280 pp., £55, April 2009, 978 1 4051 2634 2
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... with a political agenda. Homer could assume that his audience knew the outline of the myth of Helen of Troy, and that in consequence he didn’t need to lay it all out. But perhaps there never was a consistent and complete version of any myth, one that you could walk all the way around and find that everything matched and agreed from every angle. In the ...

Certainties

Donald Davie, 20 May 1982

In Defence of the Imagination 
by Helen Gardner.
Oxford, 197 pp., £12.50, February 1982, 0 19 812639 5
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... forms, and in those getting good results in their A-level examinations, would continue.’ But for Helen Gardner, who served at that time on the Robbins Committee on Higher Education, those confident extrapolators of trends figure cosily enough as ‘our statisticians’; and she is not assailed by any suspicion that she, as representing the literary ...

Dressed in black

Margaret Anne Doody, 11 March 1993

The Furies 
by Janet Hobhouse.
Bloomsbury, 296 pp., £15.99, October 1992, 0 7475 1270 1
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... forces of retribution; and since Orestes at last escapes maternal retribution, Janet Hobhouse’s Helen is arguably the more tragic character of the two. Yet the saddest page of the book comes before the story: ‘Hobhouse, Janet, 1948-91 ... Copyright 1993 by the Estate of Janet Hobhouse’. I had met (I cannot say ‘I knew’) Janet Hobhouse in her ...

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