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England’s End

Peter Campbell, 7 June 1984

English Journey 
by J.B. Priestley.
Heinemann, 320 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 434 60371 6
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English Journey, or The Road to Milton Keynes 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth/BBC, 158 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 563 20299 8
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Crisis and Conservation: Conflict in the British Countryside 
by Charlie Pye-Smith and Chris Rose.
Penguin, 213 pp., £3.95, March 1984, 0 14 022437 8
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Invisible Country: A Journey through Scotland 
by James Campbell.
Weidenfeld, 164 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 297 78371 8
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Literary Britain 
by Bill Brandt.
Victoria and Albert Museum in association with Hurtwood Press, 184 pp., £8.95, March 1984, 0 905209 66 4
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... called the Kondratieff Laureates. Fifty years ago, when the economic cycle last hit bottom, J.B. Priestley made his English Journey. A few years later Orwell wrote The Road to Wigan Pier, and Edwin Muir Scottish Journey. Now, as the succeeding wave reaches the bottom of its downward swing, the BBC send out Bainbridge to follow ...

From the Motorcoach

Stefan Collini: J.B. Priestley, 19 November 2009

English Journey 
by J.B. Priestley.
Great Northern Books, 351 pp., £25, July 2009, 978 1 905080 47 2
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... something that can’t simply be inferred from looking out of the car window. Bournville, J.B. Priestley declared after his visit there in 1933, ‘is one of the small outposts of civilisation, still ringed round with barbarism’. Taken in isolation, the remark is superior and windily apocalyptic. But isn’t that true of much ‘Condition of ...

Knives, Wounds, Bows

John Bayley, 2 April 1987

Randall Jarrell’s Letters 
edited by Mary Jarrell.
Faber, 540 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 571 13829 2
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The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore 
edited by Patricia Willis.
Faber, 723 pp., £30, January 1987, 0 571 14788 7
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... It was once observed by J.B. Priestley that the literary life in England was ‘a rat-race without even a sight of the other rats’. English authors on the whole prefer to work on their own and find their friends outside the confraternity – indeed, because of this preference, there is hardly such a thing as a confraternity ...

Watching himself go by

John Lahr, 4 December 1980

by Noël Coward.
Eyre Methuen, 358 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 413 46050 9
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... and vanity: ‘I’m bursting with pride, which is why I have no vanity.’ A performer’s job is to be sensational; and in his songs, plays and public performances, Coward lived up to the responsibility of making a proper spectacle of himself. His peers had difficulty in fathoming this phenomenon. T.E. Lawrence thought Coward had ‘a hasty kind of ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Soar: Running Out of Time, 8 January 2015

... it turns out, were as boring – and as little about the future – as anyone else’s). J.B. Priestley made a more public show of it: in 1963 he made a programme about Dunne for the BBC’s Monitor, and solicited listeners for their own experiences; he and his secretary carefully sifted through the hundreds of responses to sort the loonies from the ...


Andrew Saint: The Jubilee Line Extension, 20 January 2000

... In a late story by J.B. Priestley, ‘Underground’, an adulterer bent on escape to voluptuous Brazil boards the Northern Line. At Hampstead everyone else exits; but at the next station, a Golders Green of the imagination, dead souls crowd in and the train trundles him away to the underworld. In A Word Child, surely the best of Iris Murdoch’s non-magical novels, a civil servant racked with remorse cruises for solace round and round the Circle Line, stopping only for refreshment at the platform bars of Sloane Square and Liverpool Street – both, alas, now no more ...
... would dearly have loved. On the other hand, that redoubtable holder of the Order of Merit, J.B. Priestley, did not think so. But then whom would he have nominated? Orwell, Elizabeth Bowen, Ivy Compton-Burnett? Or conceivably ... himself? Waugh has even proved exportable to America: Brides-head Revisited was the most popular series ever shown on American ...

Time for Several Whiskies

Ian Jack: BBC Propaganda, 30 August 2018

Auntie’s War: The BBC during the Second World War 
by Edward Stourton.
Doubleday, 422 pp., £20, November 2017, 978 0 85752 332 7
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... time. As a talks producer at the BBC, working in the Indian section of the Eastern Service, his job was to show Britain’s intentions towards its proudest imperial possession in the kindest of lights. India’s growing demand for independence made it a focus of Axis propaganda: why should Indians die for the nation that denied their political freedom? In ...

Nabokov’s Dreams

John Lanchester, 10 May 2018

... seems kooky now, but H.G. Wells took an interest, and so did the Tolkien/Lewis Inklings, and J.B. Priestley, among others. Dunne was an aeronautical engineer and former soldier, and part of the appeal of his book was probably that he dressed his speculations with the correct amount of scientific apparatus. It is also evident from reading him that he believed ...

Funny Mummy

E.S. Turner, 2 December 1982

The Penguin Stephen Leacock 
by Robertson Davies.
Penguin, 527 pp., £2.95, October 1981, 0 14 005890 7
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Jerome K. Jerome: A Critical Biography 
by Joseph Connolly.
Orbis, 208 pp., £7.95, August 1982, 0 85613 349 3
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Three Men in a Boat 
by Jerome K. Jerome, annotated and introduced by Christopher Matthew and Benny Green.
Joseph, 192 pp., £12.50, August 1982, 0 907516 08 4
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The Lost Stories of W.S. Gilbert 
edited by Peter Haining.
Robson, 255 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 86051 200 2
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... philosopher. His style was zestful, easy and lucid, free from tags and tired allusions. J.B. Priestley, who edited The Bodley Head Leacock (1957), claimed that, at his best, the Professor, by steering between the ‘amiable nonsense’ of English humour and the ‘hard-cutting wit and almost vindictive satire’ of America, was able to express an ...

Phantom Jacks

John Bayley, 5 January 1989

Jack: C.S. Lewis and His Times 
by George Sayer.
Macmillan, 278 pp., £14.95, November 1988, 0 333 43362 9
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J.B. Priestley 
by Vincent Brome.
Hamish Hamilton, 512 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 9780241125601
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Eddy: The Life of Edward Sackville-West 
by Michael De-la-Noy.
Bodley Head, 341 pp., £16, October 1988, 0 370 31164 7
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... life, of ourselves to ourselves and to others. Everyone knows that jolly Jack Lewis and jolly Jack Priestley were not jolly at all inside, but there is a perennial pleasure in finding out what they did, what they liked and felt, and thus, in some degree, who they are. I doubt they would have got on together. Their loudnesses were not compatible. And both were ...

Huw should be so lucky

Philip Purser, 16 August 1990

Sir Huge: The Life of Huw Wheldon 
by Paul Ferris.
Joseph, 307 pp., £18.99, June 1990, 0 7181 3464 8
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... he had been allowed to join the local Hitler Youth.) As a student at LSE, then in a variety of jobs he didn’t suit, finally in the Army – where he got on famously – he had a number of love affairs. Ferris enterprisingly tracked down two or three of the ladies and is fairly discreet about what he learned: Huw couldn’t reconcile love with lust; the ...

Fashion Flashes

Zoë Heller, 26 January 1995

Kenneth Tynan: Letters 
edited by Kathleen Tynan.
Weidenfeld, 669 pp., £22, November 1994, 0 297 81076 6
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... national conscience needs nudging, an episode of Cracker, or even a Guardian editorial, does the job rather more efficiently than any number of marvellous J.B. Priestley revivals. As a schoolboy, Tynan once wrote to Julian Holland, urging his friend to ‘worry about words’ and quoting the French Symbolist writer, Remy ...

The Flow

Paul Myerscough: ‘The Trap’, 5 April 2007

The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom 
directed by Adam Curtis.
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... of The Trap when he cuts to a clip from the 1964 series Conversations for Tomorrow, in which J.B. Priestley sits smoking a cigar and reaching for the port while Isaiah Berlin and A.J. Ayer discuss concepts of liberty. Curtis stays with Berlin for an unusually long time, perhaps as relieved as we are to have a talking head worth listening to, especially one so ...

Just off Lexham Gardens

John Bayley, 9 January 1992

Through a Glass Darkly: The life of Patrick Hamilton 
by Nigel Jones.
Scribner, 408 pp., £18.95, December 1991, 0 356 19701 8
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... or patronage. Whatever social message or indignation may be implicit, of the kind his friend J.B. Priestley was putting into Angel Pavement at about the same time, they are ignored both by the way the story is told and the kind of impression it makes. What with his success in the theatre and the suc·cès d'es·time of his novels the ball at this point of the ...

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