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My Dagger into Yow

Ian Donaldson: Sidney’s Letters

25 April 2013
The Correspondence of Sir Philip Sidney 
edited by Roger Kuin.
Oxford, 1381 pp., £250, July 2012, 978 0 19 955822 3
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... Letters, Robert Lovelace remarks in Clarissa, are a way of ‘writing from the heart’. A brilliant letter-writer though a terrible etymologist, Lovelace finds warrant for this belief in the word correspondence: letters (so he thinks) touch the core, the coeur, of their senders’ being, revealing their innermost thoughts and sensations, showing their essential character ...

The Tribe of Ben

Blair Worden: Ben Jonson

11 October 2012
Ben Jonson: A Life 
by Ian Donaldson.
Oxford, 533 pp., £25, October 2011, 978 0 19 812976 9
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TheCambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson 
edited by David Bevington, Martin Butler and Ian Donaldson.
Cambridge, 5224 pp., £650, July 2012, 978 0 521 78246 3
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... appearance of a major biography and a major edition is no accident, for the writing of Ian Donaldson’s Life became entwined with the seven-volume collection of Jonson’s writings, of which Donaldson has been one of the triumvirate of general editors. Frequently, the two enterprises echo each other’s ...


Michael Wood

5 May 1983
The Rapes of Lucretia: A Myth and Its Transformation 
by Ian Donaldson.
Oxford, 203 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 19 812638 7
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The Rape of Clarissa 
by Terry Eagleton.
Blackwell, 109 pp., £10, September 1982, 0 631 13031 4
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Samuel Richardson: A Man of Letters 
by Carol Houlihan Flynn.
Princeton, 342 pp., £17.70, May 1982, 0 691 06506 3
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... Is that what heroines have to do? This is perhaps the most troubling of the questions canvassed in Ian Donaldson’s cool and lucid tracing of what his subtitle calls ‘a myth and its transformations’. The book, which looks at paintings and works of philosophy as well as works of literature, is interested in the relations between ‘art and ...

Marching Orders

Ronan Bennett: The new future of Northern Ireland

30 July 1998
... were the Conservative Party and Liberal opponents of Gladstone; its allies at home were the sectarian Orange Order, and the Protestant landowning, professional and business fraternities. In the years before the outbreak of the First World War, the volatile and charismatic lawyer Edward Carson, together with his energetic deputy James Craig, mobilised Ulster ...

Malvolio’s Story

Marilyn Butler

8 February 1996
Dirt and Deity: A Life of Robert Burns 
by Ian McIntyre.
HarperCollins, 461 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 00 215964 3
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... that great but mysterious poem, Wordsworth describes himself walking out on a moist, brilliant May morning. He is about to experience one of the numinous encounters for which he is famous – with another solitary walker, a derelict old man who makes his living gathering leeches from moorland ponds. Before that, his pleasure in the beauty of nature ...

Sinking Giggling into the Sea

Jonathan Coe: Giggling along with Boris

18 July 2013
The Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson 
edited by Harry Mount.
Bloomsbury, 149 pp., £9.99, June 2013, 978 1 4081 8352 6
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... show opened with a huge nuclear explosion, following which, in the words of the producer William Donaldson, the audience was treated to a whole evening’s worth of ‘terrible gloomy stuff – the punchline of every sketch was people dying.’ Nonetheless, it was undoubtedly a strong influence on Peter Cook (one of the original cast members) and the other ...
13 November 1997
Lord Hailsham: A Life 
by Geoffrey Lewis.
Cape, 403 pp., £25, October 1997, 0 224 04252 1
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... of what Lewis delicately calls ‘fragile temperament’. Edward was clearly mad, terrifying his fiancée and the doctors before doing away with himself – with Quintin’s shotgun. Quintin’s first marriage, to Natalie Sullivan, was an absurd disaster: he proposed, changed his mind, asked to be released from the engagement; but when Natalie refused to ...

Out of Bounds

Ian Gilmour: Why Wordsworth sold a lot less than Byron

20 January 2005
The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period 
by William St Clair.
Cambridge, 765 pp., £90, July 2004, 9780521810067
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... things to say about the centuries that followed the invention of printing and also about the Victorian age which succeeded ‘the Romantic period’. St Clair is concerned to reveal not what people should have read or could have read, but what they did read. To discover that and assess the influence of books, as he points out, it is not enough to do what many ...

An Escalation of Reasonableness

Conor Gearty: Northern Ireland

6 September 2001
To Raise up a New Northern Ireland: Articles and Speeches 1998-2000 
by David Trimble.
Belfast Press, 166 pp., £5.99, July 2001, 0 9539287 1 3
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... Féin becoming the main Catholic party in the Province. Ulster and British officials and politicians knew all about the sectarianism that had been used first to construct Northern Ireland’s borders and then to set in place a Unionist hegemony, but the language of constitutional legitimacy could carry on being used as ...

The dogs in the street know that

Nick Laird: A Week in Mid-Ulster

5 May 2005
... the past though he is an SDLP voter now. My mother was raised a Covenanter – a Reformed Presbyterian sect that doesn’t allow music in churches – but joined the Church of Ireland when she married. Both have always had Irish and British passports, though my father, because he was born in Donegal, is designated a ‘British subject’ and my mother, who is ...

Joint-Stock War

Valerie Pearl

3 May 1984
The Age of Elizabeth: England Under the Later Tudors 1547-1603 
by D.M. Palliser.
Longman, 450 pp., £13.95, April 1983, 0 582 48580 0
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After the Armada: Elizabethan England and the Struggle for Western Europe 1588-1595 
by R.B. Wernham.
Oxford, 613 pp., £32.50, February 1984, 0 19 822753 1
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The Defeat of the Spanish Armada 
by Garrett Mattingly.
Cape, 384 pp., £12.50, November 1983, 0 224 02070 6
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The First Elizabeth 
by Carolly Erickson.
Macmillan, 446 pp., £9.95, October 1983, 0 333 36168 7
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The Renaissance and Reformation in Scotland: Essays in Honour of Gordon Donaldson 
edited by Ian Cowan and Duncan Shaw.
Scottish Academic Press, 261 pp., £14.50, March 1983, 0 7073 0261 7
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... ruler in Western Europe. Culturally, a land once considered backward and even barbarous by Italians became famous for its music, drama and literature. By the end of the century English actors were touring Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands and English was influential throughout Northern Europe. Industrially, too, there was progress, even if Nef’s ...


Tom Paulin: Trimble’s virtues

7 October 2004
... he gets it right in ‘In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz’, and it was that Turgenevian poem I was celebrating. Going back onto the lawn I bump into a friend who works in the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin. Knowing that he was closely involved in the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement, I mention Trimble to him. He speaks ...

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