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Magnanimous Cuckolds

Jack Matthews, 10 November 1988

The Lyre of Orpheus 
by Robertson Davies.
Viking, 472 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 9780670824168
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... No novelist can bring off a committee meeting with quite the flourish and high style of Robertson Davies. So it is good to report that his latest novel, The Lyre of Orpheus, opens (the theatrical metaphor is appropriate) upon a meeting in a Canadian city, presumably Toronto, of the board of the Cornish Foundation. They are gathered to decide whether they should subsidise a project which Arthur Cornish characterises as ‘crackbrained’ and ‘absurd’, adding that it ‘could prove incalculably expensive, and violates every dictate of financial prudence’, after which he recommends that, in view of all these disadvantages, they should, of course, vote to go ahead with it ...

Things

Karl Miller, 2 April 1987

The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories 
by Michael Cox and R.A. Gilbert.
Oxford, 504 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 19 214163 5
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The Ghost Stories of M.R. James 
by Michael Cox.
Oxford, 224 pp., £12.45, November 1986, 9780192122551
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Supernatural Tales 
by Vernon Lee.
Peter Owen, 222 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 7206 0680 2
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The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural 
edited by Jack Sullivan.
Viking, 482 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 670 80902 0
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Ghostly Populations 
by Jack Matthews.
Johns Hopkins, 171 pp., £11.75, March 1987, 0 8018 3391 4
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... of story-making, a nervous weakness like mine is sure to lead to all manner of excited fancies.’ Jack Matthews’s collection of stories, Ghostly Populations, contributes to the study of these questions; an earlier collection was entitled Dubious Persuasions. Matthews also contributes, as does Peter Taylor, to an ...

Horrid Mutilation! Read all about it!

Richard Davenport-Hines: Jack the Ripper and the London Press by Perry Curtis, 4 April 2002

Jack the Ripper and the London Press 
by Perry Curtis.
Yale, 354 pp., £25, February 2002, 0 300 08872 8
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... Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, was not exaggerating when he told the Home Secretary, Henry Matthews, that the murders were ‘unique in the history of our country’. They were not the first serial sex crimes, but the first media(ted) serial sex crimes. They influenced Wedekind, Berg and Brecht, and have provided a staple film subject since Marie ...

Diary

Iain Sinclair: Out of Essex, 8 January 2004

... a pylon, a purple sky. An invitation to an invisible art manifestation: Lost Memories by Emma Matthews. ‘Very elegant, very Paul Klee,’ the punters say. Rusting English metal, from somewhere down the A13, near Rainham Marshes, rendered as a grid of delicately balanced reds and pinks, with just enough green to cancel the headache. This, so often, is ...

Metaphysical Parenting

James Wood: Edward P. Jones, 21 June 2007

All Aunt Hagar’s Children 
by Edward P. Jones.
Harper Perennial, 399 pp., £7.99, March 2007, 978 0 00 724083 8
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... themselves accept no confinements. ‘Old Boys, Old Girls’ concerns the hopeless life of Caesar Matthews, who is convicted of murder and sent to a tough prison in Lorton, Virginia, just outside DC. There, he is taught to bully and dominate; Jones’s depiction of prison life is full of calmly vicious detail, and his narrative voice mimics Caesar’s ...

Higher Man

John Sutherland, 22 May 1997

The Turner Diaries 
by ‘Andrew Macdonald’.
National Vauguard Books, 211 pp., $12.95, May 1978, 0 937944 02 5
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... the time, The Franklin Papers, whose plot anticipates The Turner Diaries. Both novels derive from Jack London’s ‘revolutionary’s memoir’, The Iron Heel. National Vanguard Books currently offers in its catalogue an edition of The Iron Heel, impudently described as ‘London’s version of The Turner Diaries’. London was, it’s explained, ‘a ...

Snap among the Witherlings

Michael Hofmann: Wallace Stevens, 21 September 2016

The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens 
by Paul Mariani.
Simon and Schuster, 512 pp., £23, May 2016, 978 1 4516 2437 3
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... on a show of busy inwardness. Sometimes the effect is that of being taken past a whole series of Jack-in-the-boxes, unsurprising, shot, and wobbling a little sadly on their long springs. ‘As for Wallace, he had once again transformed himself,’ we read, or ‘It was Jane who had telephoned her uncle with the news of his sister’s death.’ Amazingly, it ...

Good History

Christopher Hill, 5 March 1981

After the Reformation: Essays in Honour of J.H. Hexter 
edited by Barbara Malament.
Manchester, 363 pp., £17.95, December 1980, 0 7190 0805 0
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Puritans and Adventurers 
by T.H. Breen.
Oxford, 270 pp., £10, October 1980, 0 19 502728 0
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On History 
by Fernand Braudel, translated by Sarah Matthews.
Weidenfeld, 226 pp., £10.95, January 1981, 0 297 77880 3
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Sociology and History 
by Peter Burke.
Allen and Unwin, 116 pp., £6.95, August 1980, 0 19 502728 0
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... and apprentices, this is done by crediting them with the chivalric virtues. But in Deloney’s Jack of Newbury the King has to accept Jack as a king in his own domain, and comes to recognise that ‘the welfare of the Commonwealth of Ants is more important to England’s wellbeing than the ambitious wars of the Prince of ...

Flat-Nose, Stocky and Beautugly

James Davidson: Greek Names, 23 September 2010

A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. Vol. V.A Coastal Asia Minor: Pontos to Ionia 
edited by T. Corsten.
Oxford, 496 pp., £125, March 2010, 978 0 19 956743 0
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... just a few per cent of children received the most popular names for girls or boys – Olivia and Jack – and the top ten now includes the names of barely 10 rather than 80 per cent of newborns. In many modern classrooms most children will be identifiable by their first name alone. Boys’ names remain less susceptible to fashion – ...

Gangs

D.A.N. Jones, 8 January 1987

The Old School: A Study 
by Simon Raven.
Hamish Hamilton, 139 pp., £12, September 1986, 0 241 11929 4
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The Best Years of their Lives: The National Service Experience 1945-63 
by Trevor Royle.
Joseph, 288 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 7181 2459 6
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Murder without Conviction: Inside the World of the Krays 
by John Dickson.
Sidgwick, 164 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 9780283994074
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Inside ‘Private Eye’ 
by Peter McKay.
Fourth Estate, 192 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 947795 80 4
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Malice in Wonderland: Robert Maxwell v. ‘Private Eye’ 
by Robert Maxwell, John Jackson, Peter Donnelly and Joe Haines.
Macdonald, 191 pp., £10.95, December 1986, 0 356 14616 2
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... of the shooting of George Cornell, who had called Ronnie Kray a fat pouf, and of the murder of Jack the Hat by Reggie Kray, assisted by his cousin, Ronnie Hart (‘who had joined the firm when he came out of the army and was a good-looking guy’). The mysterious ‘Albert’ was shot in the foot by Reggie Kray but became ‘Reggie’s right-hand man ...

Lumpy, Semi-Dorky, Slouchy, Smarmy

John Lanchester, 23 August 2001

Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous 
by Don Foster.
Macmillan, 340 pp., £14.99, April 2001, 0 333 78170 8
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... profiling’. Douglas is the FBI man who inspired Thomas Harris to invent the character Jack Crawford in the Hannibal Lecter novels, so he should know. This is the psychological portrait Brussel came up with of the Mad Bomber: He’s symmetrically built … neither fat nor skinny … a co-operative worker … punctual and neatly dressed … a ...

Prime Ministers’ Pets

Robert Blake, 10 January 1983

Benjamin Disraeli Letters: Vol. I 1815-1834, Vol. II 1835-1837 
edited by J.A.W. Gunn, John Matthews, Donald Schurman and M.G. Wiebe.
Toronto, 482 pp., £37.50, June 1982, 0 8020 5523 0
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The Gladstone Diaries: with Cabinet Minutes and Prime Ministerial Correspondence, Vol. VII, January 1869-June 1871, Vol. VIII, July 1871-December 1874 
edited by H.C.G. Matthew.
Oxford, 641 pp., £35, September 1982, 0 19 822638 1
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Disraeli 
by Sarah Bradford.
Weidenfeld, 432 pp., £14.95, October 1982, 0 297 78153 7
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Gladstone: Vol. I 1809-1865 
by Richard Shannon.
Hamish Hamilton, 580 pp., £18, November 1982, 0 241 10780 6
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H.H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley 
edited by Michael Brock and Eleanor Brock.
Oxford, 676 pp., £19.50, November 1982, 0 19 212200 2
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... as ‘the Assyrian’ in his letters. He liked nicknames. Sir John Simon was ‘the Impeccable’. Jack Seeley ‘the Arch Colonel’. Montagu’s suit was hampered by a proviso of his father’s will: he would forfeit most of his inheritance if he married a gentile. In the end Venetia was ‘converted’. They were married in July 1915 – to Asquith’s ...

The Unrewarded End

V.G. Kiernan: Memories of the CP, 17 September 1998

The Death of Uncle Joe 
by Alison Macleod.
Merlin, 269 pp., £9.95, May 1997, 0 85036 467 1
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Enemy Within: The Rise and Fall of the British Communist Party 
by Francis Beckett.
Merlin, 253 pp., £9.95, August 1998, 0 85036 477 9
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... though the latter continued to dominate, she believes – was a likeable character; and George Matthews (still active today) seemed, as he did to everyone, a man full of ‘earnest honesty’. The Party set up in 1920 was designed to be ready for immediate action. Its modes of speech might suggest that it was already on a war footing; this persisted long ...

Memoirs of a Pet Lamb

David Sylvester: A Memoir, 5 July 2001

... was a fishmonger. In the early 1920s he had had an offer from a friend in the film industry, Jack Hyams, to become a partner. Had he accepted he’d have owned a large share in Gaumont-British, but he hadn’t been prepared to take the risk of moving into unknown territory. Within his familiar trade he had done reasonably well in a modest way, owning two ...

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