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21 September 2006
... In our just deserts it’s hard to do a well, Assay the soil, dig, drill, and lay it down; That’s why the villain loves the villanelle. The enamoured self is soft and needs a shell Though mentors and tormentors seem to frown; Because it’s hard, you want to do it well. Sportsmen and travellers are inclined to tell The scores and challenges that didn’t get them down; Not why the villain loves the ...

Pffwungg

John Bayley

19 January 1989
The Amis Anthology 
edited by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 360 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 09 173525 4
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The Chatto Book of Nonsense Verse 
edited by Hugh Haughton.
Chatto, 530 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 7011 3105 5
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... as Auden does in ‘Siren’ or Betjeman in ‘Myfanwy’, and because these poems give their orders so confidently, we know too. It hardly matters that in his delightful and learned introduction HughHaughton fails to make the obvious distinction between nonsense poetry and special sense poetry. His spaciously ecumenical anthology includes both, and in so doing gives a variety of different ...
4 April 1985
Geoffrey Hill: Essays on his Work 
edited by Peter Robinson.
Open University, 259 pp., £18, March 1985, 0 335 10588 2
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... party in power. Although Hill’s conservative imagination endorses the cleric’s simple-minded concept of national loyalty, it is possible to read much of his verse as a protest against what HughHaughton terms ‘the indignity of King Log’. Haughton argues that Hill seems to yearn ‘for real authority and real title, the kind of transcendence embodied in a language of kingship derived from the ...

What was left out

Lawrence Rainey: Eliot’s Missing Letters

3 December 2009
The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Vol. I: 1898-1922 
edited by Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton.
Faber, 871 pp., £35, November 2009, 978 0 571 23509 4
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... for the new era marked by the completion of Joyce’s Ulysses. In 1950, D.D. Paige, the editor of Pound’s Selected Letters, mistakenly translated the date as 24 December. His error was noted by Hugh Kenner in 1973, but his correction escaped Valerie Eliot’s attention, and she repeated the mistaken date in the first edition of 1988. Only now is the letter finally assigned to 24 January 1922 ...

Sorry to be so vague

Hugh Haughton: Eugene Jolas and Samuel Beckett

29 July 1999
Man from Babel 
by Eugene Jolas.
Yale, 352 pp., £20, January 1999, 0 300 07536 7
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No Author Better Served: The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider 
edited by Maurice Harmon.
Harvard, 486 pp., £21.95, October 1998, 0 674 62522 6
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... Transition began and of course it meant a great deal to everybody,’ Gertrude Stein wrote in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, her story of ‘how two americans happened to be at the heart of an art movement of which the outside world at the time knew nothing’. The two Americans she had in mind, as so often, were Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. One reason the transatlantic review transition ...

Writing the Night

Hugh Haughton

25 January 1996
Selected Poems 
by David Gascoyne.
Enitharmon, 253 pp., £8.95, November 1994, 1 870612 34 5
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... In the Thirties and early Forties the English poet David Gascoyne was much enamoured of the Continental, Late Romantic image of writing and of the writer as a visionary misfit. By the end of the Thirties, his place in the great Euro-Visionary Song Contest was almost secured. He confessed his ambition in his Journals in 1938: Want to write an essay on ‘The Apotheosis of Lautréamont’ ... stressing ...

Ghosts

Hugh Haughton

5 December 1985
The Life and Work of Thomas Hardy 
by Thomas Hardy, edited by Michael Millgate.
Macmillan, 604 pp., £30, April 1985, 0 333 29441 6
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The Literary Notebooks of Thomas Hardy: Vols I and II 
edited by Lennart Björk.
Macmillan, 428 pp., £35, May 1985, 0 333 36777 4
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Emma Hardy’s Diaries 
edited by Richard Taylor.
Mid-Northumberland Arts Group/Carcanet, 216 pp., £14.95, January 1985, 0 904790 21 5
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The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy. Vol. V: 1914-1919 
edited by Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 357 pp., £22.50, May 1985, 0 19 812622 0
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The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hardy, Vol. III 
edited by Samuel Hynes.
Oxford, 390 pp., £32.50, June 1985, 0 19 812784 7
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Annals of the Labouring Poor: Social Change and Agrarian England 1660-1900 
by K.D.M. Snell.
Cambridge, 464 pp., £30, May 1985, 0 521 24548 6
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Thomas Hardy 
edited by Samuel Hynes.
Oxford, 547 pp., £12.95, June 1984, 0 19 254177 3
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... In a letter of May 1919 Hardy told his friend Sir George Douglas he hadn’t been doing much, ‘mainly destroying old papers’. ‘How they raise ghosts,’ he added. He was still at it in September when he complained of the ‘dismal work’ of destroying papers that were of ‘absolutely no use for any purpose God or man’s’. Such remarks must sound particularly dismal to Hardy’s modern editors ...

You must not ask

Marina Warner

4 January 1996
Lewis Carroll: A Biography 
by Morton Cohen.
Macmillan, 592 pp., £25, November 1995, 0 333 62926 4
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The Literary Products of the Lewis Carroll-George MacDonald Friendship 
by John Docherty.
Edwin Mellen, 420 pp., £69.95, July 1995, 0 7734 9038 8
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... and picture riddles and ways of doing sums which were fun. And he parodied – as in Alice – solemn lessons and high sentiments and lyric poetry. His nonsense upskittled rules and regulations; as HughHaughton says in an exhilarating Introduction to The Chatto Book of Nonsense Poetry, writers like Carroll ‘implicitly brought into question the earnestness of being important, and the importance of ...

Shaggy Fellows

David Norbrook

9 July 1987
A History of Modern Poetry: Modernism and After 
by David Perkins.
Harvard, 694 pp., £19.95, April 1987, 0 674 39946 3
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Collected Poems 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Penguin, 207 pp., £3.95, September 1985, 0 14 008383 9
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The Poetry of Geoffrey Hill 
by Henry Hart.
Southern Illinois, 305 pp., $24.95, January 1986, 0 8093 1236 0
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... presume that they are pretty important people. But at their best Hill’s anatomies of cultural history are sufficiently edged with particularity to work against too banal a contemptus mundi: what HughHaughton has called ‘fraught anachronism’ in Hill’s texts may function, not to indicate that human nature is always the same and always nasty, but to break down a blandly continuous notion of ...

A Lot of Travail

Michael Wood: T.S. Eliot’s Letters

3 December 2009
The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Vol. II: 1923-25 
edited by Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton.
Faber, 878 pp., £35, November 2009, 978 0 571 14081 7
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... I think,’ T.S. Eliot wrote in February 1923, ‘it will take me a year or two to throw off The Waste Land and settle down and get at something better which is tormenting me by its elusiveness in my brain.’ The something better was probably the never finished ‘Sweeney Agonistes’, since ‘The Hollow Men’, the only other poem he worked on between 1923 and 1925, must surely have been less ...

I can bite anything I want

Matthew Bevis: Lewis Carroll

15 July 2015
Lewis Carroll 
by Morton Cohen.
Macmillan, reissue, 577 pp., £30, April 2015, 978 1 4472 8613 4
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The Selected Letters of Lewis Carroll 
edited by Morton Cohen.
Palgrave, reissue, 302 pp., £16.99, March 2015, 978 1 137 50546 0
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Lewis Carroll: The Man and His Circle 
by Edward Wakeling.
Tauris, 400 pp., £35, November 2014, 978 1 78076 820 5
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... says that her jaw isn’t very well shaped. She screams with laughter, but then composes herself and replies: ‘I can bite anything I want.’ In his​ excellent Penguin edition of the Alice books, HughHaughton suggests that nonsense allowed Carroll to explore but also to deflect his attention from the dangerous world of his feelings. Indeed, if Alice isn’t simply Carroll’s heroine, but also ...

A Cousin of Colonel Heneage

Robert Crawford: Was Eliot a Swell?

18 April 2019
The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume VIII: 1936-38 
edited by Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden.
Faber, 1100 pp., £50, January, 978 0 571 31638 0
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... to East Coker two years later was a pilgrimage to an English site firmly associated with the family name. Other people were also interested in the name: ‘T.S. Eliot – it’s a Scottish name,’ Hugh MacDiarmid writes in A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle, and Eliot grew tolerantly fed up with Scots who told him this. The day after April Fools’ Day in 1936 he had ‘to interview’ (the term he ...

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