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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 ...

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 ...
... 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 ...

Watching himself go by

John Lahr, 4 December 1980

Plays 
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 ...

Diary

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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.
BBC2
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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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Jolly Jack and the Preacher

Patrick Parrinder, 20 April 1989

A Culture for Democracy: Mass Communication and the Cultivated Mind in Britain between the Wars 
by D.L. LeMahieu.
Oxford, 396 pp., £35, June 1988, 0 19 820137 0
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... since his version of the common culture of the Thirties and Forties has as its figurehead J.B. Priestley. Priestley, the subject of his final chapter, is presented as a demotic ‘man for all media’, straddling the commercial and élite cultures of his time. Against him are ranged the dissenting voices of the Marxist ...

Pushing on

John Bayley, 18 September 1986

The Old Devils 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 294 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 09 163790 2
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... less by the novelist than by the purely talkative writer – Lamb, Hazlitt, Meredith, J.B. Priestley. Amis has something in common with all of them, and his conversational powers, transposed into the verbal clatter of the typewriter, are as formidable as theirs were as men of the pen. The hero of Take a girl like you was always more than prepared to ...

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