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Frank Kermode: Being a critic, 27 May 1999

... trained academics; she further and less continuously laments that it is too often not done at all. Hermione Lee proposes the example of Virginia Woolf, who hadn’t much time for either dons or literary journalists. She believed that ‘one should try to read books as if one were writing them,’ and advised an audience of Cambridge undergraduates ...

Happy Bunnies

John Pemble: Cousin Marriage, 25 February 2010

Incest and Influence: The Private Life of Bourgeois England 
by Adam Kuper.
Harvard, 296 pp., £20.95, November 2009, 978 0 674 03589 8
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... already well investigated. If you’ve read David Newsome, Annan himself, Michael Holroyd and Hermione Lee on the Wilberforces, Leslie Stephen, Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf, you’re likely to know what’s coming before you’ve turned the page – and there’s a limit to the appeal even of Clapham psychodrama and Bloomsbury libido. But some ...


Tom Crewe: The Queen and I, 1 August 2019

... John Wilson Croker’s new edition of Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson, and emphasised, as Hermione Lee has noted, how biography, by recording ‘many a little Reality’, can make the reader see the world as it existed around the central figure, its depths and contours suggested by his or her ramifying contacts and associations. He gave as an ...
The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen 
introduced by Angus Wilson.
Cape, 782 pp., £8.50, February 1981, 0 224 01838 8
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Elizabeth Bowen: An Estimation 
by Hermione Lee.
Vision, 225 pp., £12.95, July 1981, 9780854783441
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... fact impose by the author’s private, subjective view of the life within and around that house. Hermione Lee, in her indispensable, scholarly, penetrating and sympathetic study of Bowen’s work, puts her finger on the tap-root of her author’s powers when she says that her ‘best work was done in the “subjective”, “personal” novels and ...

Sisyphus at the Selectric

James Wolcott: Undoing Philip Roth, 20 May 2021

Philip Roth: The Biography 
by Blake Bailey.
Cape, 898 pp., £30, April, 978 0 224 09817 5
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Philip Roth: A Counterlife 
by Ira Nadel.
Oxford, 546 pp., £22.99, May, 978 0 19 984610 8
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Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth 
by Benjamin Taylor.
Penguin, 192 pp., £18, May 2020, 978 0 525 50524 2
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... had enough and Miller was relieved of duties, the position now open for a more experienced hand. Hermione Lee, then at work on her biography of Penelope Fitzgerald, was invited to be Miller’s successor, but had to decline, sparing herself no end of eventual aggravation.Into this vacancy the editor and biographer James Atlas tentatively ventured. He ...

Into Council Care

John Bayley, 6 July 1995

Elizabeth Bowen and the Dissolution of the Novel 
by Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle.
Macmillan, 208 pp., £35, December 1994, 0 333 60760 0
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... and all the rest of it. This is perhaps a trifle unfair to the good work done previously by Hermione Lee and Victoria Glendinning, to name but two more orthodox critics: but it does indeed help – and very strikingly – to remove Bowen from the socially feminine personality on which her admirers used fondly to dote, and see how far she can run ...

Short Cuts

Deborah Friedell: American Girls, 8 March 2007

... and she becomes ‘no longer capable of following the action on the stage’. So it was with me. Hermione Lee’s biography of Edith Wharton was published on 1 February. On 2 February, I sat behind Professor Lee to watch Happy Days at the National. In Wharton’s story ‘His Father’s Son’, a man stealthily ...

Our Island Story

Stefan Collini: The New DNB, 20 January 2005

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 
edited by H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison.
Oxford, sixty volumes, £7,500, September 2004, 9780198614111
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... Stephen noted), but with the help of his indefatigable assistant and eventual successor, Sidney Lee, the ship was put back on an even keel. Curiously, although the Grosart debacle, fully documented in John Bicknell’s edition of Stephen’s letters, is briefly mentioned in Alan Bell’s exemplary entry on Stephen in the ODNB, these misdemeanours make no ...

More Pain, Better Sentences

Adam Mars-Jones: Satire and St Aubyn, 8 May 2014

Lost for Words 
by Edward St Aubyn.
Picador, 261 pp., £12.99, May 2014, 978 0 330 45422 3
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by Charlie Hill.
Tindal Street, 192 pp., £6.99, November 2013, 978 1 78125 163 8
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... St Aubyn’s chair of judges, a backbench MP called Malcolm Craig, shows no overlap with either Hermione Lee (2006) or Robert Macfarlane (2013). The Elysian judges for 2013 are Jo Cross, a columnist whose criterion for imaginative literature is its ‘relevance’; Penny Feathers, retired from the Foreign Office and attempting to write topical ...

Harnessed to a Shark

Alison Light: Who was Virginia Woolf afraid of?, 21 March 2002

Three Guineas 
by Virginia Woolf, edited by Naomi Black.
Blackwell, 253 pp., £60, October 2001, 0 631 17724 8
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... capitalism (The Roots of War, published by the Hogarth Press in the same year, took this line). As Hermione Lee pointed out in her biography of Woolf, Three Guineas reiterates much of the debate over peace and war which split the Left in the mid-1930s, but whose complexity, it might be added, has disappeared beneath the weight of that derogatory ...

His Dark Example

Colin Burrow: ‘The Book of Dust’, 4 January 2018

The Book of Dust, Vol. I: La Belle Sauvage 
by Philip Pullman.
David Fickling, 546 pp., £20, October 2017, 978 0 385 60441 3
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Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling 
by Philip Pullman.
David Fickling, 480 pp., £20, October 2017, 978 1 910200 96 4
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... Could I yet again suppress the inner groan as the apparently tricephalic hybrid of Harry-Ron-and-Hermione proceeded to do exactly the same thing yet again, or as, once more, I had to recite a tedious recapitulation of the past? Some books, though, just read themselves – E. Nesbit with her wit and hidden political mischief, C.S. Lewis when his eye was on ...

If It Weren’t for Charlotte

Alice Spawls: The Brontës, 16 November 2017

... of human lives and relationships, and also the most pleasurable. ‘Biography,’ as Hermione Lee says, ‘has so much to do with blame.’ Biographers deal in the back and forth of accusations. I could sniff the mud clinging to them, and if I somehow knew they might bore or disgust me, it may be that I feared they might excite me too. But ...

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