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3 March 1983
... yourself to madness. 2 ‘God be praised that made Gloucestershire ... ’ The fool! Gloucester or Avon – what Administrative fiction Shall God be praised for? School Poets to sane depiction. Gurney, whose burning need And uninstructed eye Were partisan for Gloucester, Yet at St Albans too Endowed mere masonry With meanings out of true. Of cloud and tower, he cried, Of tower and cloud! ... and ...

How the sanity of poets can be edited away

Arnold Rattenbury: The Sanity of Ivor Gurney

14 October 1999
‘Severn and Somme’ and ‘War’s Embers’ 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 152 pp., £7.95, September 1997, 1 85754 348 3
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80 Poems or So 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by George Walter and R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 148 pp., £9.95, January 1997, 1 85754 344 0
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... Most loyal and protective of Gurney’s many friends, Marion Scott wrote after one of her regular visits to the asylum: ‘Ivor is so heart-breakingly sane in his insanity.’ Letters, reported conversation, music, poems all attest to the fact. He was trained and already admired as a composer before enlistment; in the ...

Elegy for Gurney

Sarah Howe: Robert Edric

4 December 2008
In Zodiac Light 
by Robert Edric.
Doubleday, 368 pp., £16.99, July 2008, 978 0 385 61258 6
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... of men for whom home no longer exists. Edric’s latest novel, In Zodiac Light, revisits similar terrain. Set in the City of London Mental Hospital, Dartford, its protagonist is the poet-composer IvorGurney, who was a patient there from December 1922 until his death from tuberculosis 15 years later. Edric’s fascination with lives on the margins makes Gurney a logical choice. As a poet, his star ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: David Jones’s War

19 March 2015
... to the Great War alongside smaller, perfectly formed monuments – a single sonnet or 28-line poem from the officer class – that are perhaps more stirring and certainly more accessible. Jones, like IvorGurney and Isaac Rosenberg, was not an officer, even though he was offered the chance in the spring of 1916. He said he didn’t think he was ‘that sort of person’, and then, when his commanding ...

Gurney’s Flood

Donald Davie

3 February 1983
Geoffrey Grigson: Collected Poems 1963-1980 
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 85031 419 4Show More
The Cornish Dancer 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Secker, 64 pp., £4.95, June 1982, 0 436 18805 8
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The Private Art: A Poetry Notebook 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 231 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 85031 420 8
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Blessings, Kicks and Curses: A Critical Collection 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, £9.95, November 1982, 0 85031 437 2
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Collected Poems of Ivor​ Gurney 
edited by P.J. Kavanagh.
Oxford, 284 pp., £12, September 1982, 0 19 211940 0
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War Letters 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by R.K.R. Thornton.
Mid-Northumberland Arts Group/Carcanet, 271 pp., £12, February 1983, 0 85635 408 2
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... Slow Bell from the High Hill’, ‘John Hunter’s Canal’, ‘The Lawn of Trees and Rocks’, ‘Quelle Histoire’, and (an unusual exertion of sympathy) ‘Dulled Son of Man’. In a poem to IvorGurney, Grigson, who can sometimes be magnanimous to the dead, hails Gurney as a poet of ecstasy. In his own case, it is his hatreds that are ecstatic, and one wonders how he would get along if ...
21 February 1991
The Collected Letters of Charles Hamilton Sorley 
edited by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Cecil Woolf, 310 pp., £25, November 1990, 9780900821547
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Ivor GurneyCollected Letters 
edited by R.K.R Thornton.
Mid-Northumberland Arts Group/Carcanet, 579 pp., £25, February 1991, 0 85635 941 6
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... no irony but only the acknowledgment of a fall from grace. Sorley’s was the generation, the truly lost one, that might have kept the best of the old world and changed the rest of it, or some of it. IvorGurney’s fate was worse and also better. ‘May 1925 see us both happy and revered by the few who count and know the good when they see it,’ he wrote to F.W. Harvey in February 1915. ‘Meanwhile ...
20 September 1984
Notes from New York, and Other Poems 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 64 pp., £4.50, March 1984, 0 19 211959 1
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The Cargo 
by Neil Rennie.
TNR Productions, 27 pp., January 1984
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Collected Poems 1943-1983 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 383 pp., £14.95, April 1984, 0 85635 498 8
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... 15 poems are about New York and, as always with this poet, when he gets back to England his writing moves into another register, altogether more plangent and dense. For instance, a short poem ‘To IvorGurney’ is deeply sorrowful, and yet it rests on no judgment overtly passed, nor even with any certainty implied, about what has happened to the Cotswold and Malvern hills since Gurney walked on ...
19 December 1985
... which poetry had concealed, only poetry itself could reveal. Only the poets who had been to war could break the enchanted spell and show their people what the face of war was really like. Some, like IvorGurney and Edmund Blunden and Edward Thomas, quietly described their experiences without bitterness or emphasis, with much the same detachment and penetration with which they described the peaceful ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Shot At Dawn

30 November 2006
... seemed in my childhood, a police spotter on the roof of the Wales Office adjusted his bulletproof vest, a Home Guard veteran in a motorised buggy suppressed a cough and I found myself dreaming about IvorGurney, how he’d chosen to sleep out on the Embankment a few months after he’d been discharged. When the second round broke the silence, it set off a car alarm, moments before the ‘Last Post ...

Condy’s Fluid

P.N. Furbank

25 October 1990
A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture 
by Samuel Hynes.
Bodley Head, 514 pp., £20, October 1990, 0 370 30451 9
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Killing in Verse and Prose, and Other Essays 
by Paul Fussell.
Bellew, 294 pp., £9.95, October 1990, 0 947792 55 4
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... myths themselves. Anyway, as literary history, it is not altogether a true story. For after all, the inspiring motive for two of the other finest combatant poets of the Great War, Edward Thomas and IvorGurney, was patriotism. One could, if one wished, even make Edward Thomas out to be a jingoist, for did he not write: But with the best and meanest Englishmen I am one in crying, God save England ...


Denis Donoghue: Karlin’s collection of Victorian verse

4 June 1998
The Penguin Book of Victorian Verse 
edited by Danny Karlin.
Allen Lane, 851 pp., £25, October 1997, 9780713990492
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... in one’s sleep is an arid exercise. And this remains even more true of those whose celebrations are confined to the regional and local past: back to John Clare or back to Edward Thomas, back to IvorGurney: to some inch or other that is for ever England. Karlin is not a Little Englander. His working principle seems rather to be: I’m sure you’ll find many poems here to enjoy, especially if ...
21 January 1982
War Diary 1913-1917: Chronicle of Youth 
by Vera Brittain, edited by Alan Bishop.
Gollancz, 382 pp., £8.50, September 1981, 0 575 02888 2
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The English Poets of the First World War 
by John Lehmann.
Thames and Hudson, 144 pp., £6.95, August 1981, 0 500 01256 3
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Voices from the Great War 
by Peter Vansittart.
Cape, 303 pp., £7.95, November 1981, 0 224 01915 5
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The Little Field-Marshal: Sir John French 
by Richard Holmes.
Cape, 427 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 0 224 01575 3
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... poets Lehmann discusses, with one or two exceptions, are the same as those featured in Ian Parsons’s 1966 anthology Men who march away; the only one whose reputation has shifted much since then is IvorGurney, now admired as a kind of wartime reincarnation of Christopher Smart. Gurney trained as a musician, David Jones and Isaac Rosenberg as artists; they all served in the ranks and were excluded ...

Come and Stay

Arnold Rattenbury

27 November 1997
England and the Octopus 
by Clough Williams-Ellis.
CPRE, 220 pp., £10.95, December 1996, 0 946044 50 3
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Clough Williams-Ellis: RIBA Drawings Monograph No 2 
by Richard Haslam.
Academy, 112 pp., £24.95, March 1996, 1 85490 430 2
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Clough Williams-Ellis: The Architect of Portmeirion 
by Jonah Jones.
Seren, 204 pp., £9.95, December 1996, 1 85411 166 3
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... on plains – than the too exact Straight streets of modern times, that strait and strict And formal keep men’s spirits within bounds, Where too dull duties keep in monotonous rounds. That is IvorGurney in about 1922, and lest there be any mistaking the near-desperation to build with whatever is to hand, the lines come from the heart of a group of poems terrible with the mutilations and death ...
19 May 1983
The Boy Scout Handbook and Other Observations 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 284 pp., £9.95, January 1983, 0 19 503102 4
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... essays is all about travel and travel-books; and Section Four is entitled ‘Britons, Largely Eccentric’. The Britons discussed are notably comical or vulnerable men of talent (Boswell and Corvo, IvorGurney and Evelyn Waugh), men whom an American can patronise a little. Graham Greene does not appear here, since Paul Fussell is suspicious of him. Greene is inclined to patronise Americans: he is ...


Denis Arnold

19 September 1985
Interpreting Bach’s ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’: A Performer’s Discourse of Method 
by Ralph Kirkpatrick.
Yale, 132 pp., £14.95, January 1985, 0 300 03058 4
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Bach, Handel, Scarlatti: Tercentenary Essays 
edited by Peter Williams.
Cambridge, 363 pp., £27.50, April 1985, 0 521 25217 2
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Handel: The Man and his Music 
by Jonathan Keates.
Gollancz, 346 pp., £12.95, February 1985, 0 575 03573 0
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Sensibility and English Song: Critical Studies of the Early 20th Century: Vols I and II 
by Stephen Banfield.
Cambridge, 619 pp., £27.50, April 1985, 0 521 23085 3
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... and English Song, whose second volume lists some five thousand songs written by about fifty composers mainly in the first half of the 20th century. There are one or two bright spots, notably IvorGurney, but it makes dismal reading. Here is a country with a splendid tradition of lyric poetry at a time when such poetry was flourishing, a wealthy country where there are publishing houses and a decent ...

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