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Neal Ascherson, 17 November 1983

The Story of the ‘Times’ 
by Oliver Woods and James Bishop.
Joseph, 392 pp., £14.95, October 1983, 0 7181 1462 0
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Good Times, Bad Times 
by Harold Evans.
Weidenfeld, 430 pp., £11.95, October 1983, 0 297 78295 9
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... much redder than the other, and contemplates his next meal. The quotations are from the Woods and Bishop Story of the ‘Times’, which, though commissioned by Sir Denis Hamilton, is not an ‘official’ history. With such an apologia for the status quo, who needs one? And, in a way, one sees what they mean. As an organism, a collective entity, the Times ...

One Enormous Room

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Council of Trent, 9 May 2013

Trent: What Happened at the Council 
by John O’Malley.
Harvard, 335 pp., £20, January 2013, 978 0 674 06697 7
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... the medieval Western Church of the Latin Rite, not least that section which remained loyal to the bishop of Rome. John O’Malley illustrates the room in his superb new history of the Council of Trent: the nave of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Trent, a bishopric in the foothills of the Dolomites. In that grand setting, seated on an amphitheatre ...

Praise Yah

Eliot Weinberger: The Psalms, 24 January 2008

The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary 
by Robert Alter.
Norton, 518 pp., £22, October 2007, 978 0 393 06226 7
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... of the shadow of death; make a joyful noise; go from strength to strength . . . The 1611 King James Authorised Version of the Book of Psalms – and of course of the entire Bible – is so deep in the English language that we no longer know when we are repeating its phrases. Inextricable from the beliefs and practices of its faithful for four hundred ...

A United Caribbean

C.L.R. James, 6 September 1984

Grenada: Revolution, Invasion and Aftermath 
by Hugh O’Shaughnessy.
Hamish Hamilton, 258 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 241 11290 7
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Grenada: Revolution and Invasion 
by Anthony Payne, Paul Sutton and Tony Thorndike.
Croom Helm, 233 pp., £17.95, May 1984, 0 7099 2080 6
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... local tyrant (who had been knighted by the Queen). A new regime was established under Maurice Bishop, who had received a good education abroad and who was (in words, at any rate) socialistically-inclined. Later there was a revolt in Bishop’s party, the New Jewel Movement, and ...

At St Peter’s

Colm Tóibín: The Dangers of a Priestly Education, 1 December 2005

The Ferns Report 
by Francis Murphy, Helen Buckley and Laraine Joyce.
Government Publications, 271 pp., €6, October 2005, 0 7557 7299 7
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... and respected. He was fair-minded and decent. Through him, I got to know another seminarian called James Doyle. He would stop and talk if we met in the corridor, even though fraternisation between seminarians and lay students was frowned on. He had many opinions and enjoyed gossip and had a habit of winding me up so I could never quite tell whether he was ...

Gobsmacked

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare, 16 July 1998

Lyric Wonder: Rhetoric and Wit in Renaissance English Poetry 
by James Biester.
Cornell, 226 pp., £31.50, May 1997, 0 8014 3313 4
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Reason Diminished: Shakespeare and the Marvellous 
by Peter Platt.
Nebraska, 271 pp., £42.75, January 1998, 0 8032 3714 6
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Shakespeare and the Theatre of Wonder 
by T.G. Bishop.
Cambridge, 222 pp., £32.50, January 1996, 0 521 55086 6
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The Genius of Shakespeare 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 386 pp., £20, September 1997, 0 330 35317 9
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... times ought not to surprise us. This batch of studies finds, in the USA, Peter Plan and T.G. Bishop combing the plays for miracles and James Biester finding the key to Renaissance courtly poetry in its strategies for eliciting astonishment. Back home, Jonathan Bate is gobsmacked by the sheer Genius of ...

Mostly Middle

Michael Hofmann: Elizabeth Bishop, 8 September 2011

Poems 
by Elizabeth Bishop.
Chatto, 352 pp., £14.99, February 2011, 978 0 7011 8628 9
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... cake with the solitary little sugar bride on top – for his description of Elizabeth Bishop: she is ‘the poets’ poets’ poet’. It sounds farcical, but it’s strictly true, and there’s as little getting round it as there is improving on it. As I begin, therefore, I feel stirrings of a wholly impersonal desire maybe to pan her. No, not ...

Short Cuts

Adam Shatz: The Short Career of Amy Bishop, 11 March 2010

... When Amy Bishop was hired by the University of Alabama in Huntsville seven years ago, she appeared to have everything going for her: she was young, Harvard-trained, passionate about her field, a mother of four. But there were many things that her new colleagues didn’t know. They didn’t know her adviser at Harvard had forced her to resign her post-doctoral fellowship ...

Rigging and Bending

Simon Adams: James VI & I, 9 October 2003

The Cradle King: A Life of James VI & I 
by Alan Stewart.
Chatto, 438 pp., £20, February 2003, 0 7011 6984 2
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... Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded in 1587. English observers, anxious about James VI of Scotland’s reaction to his mother’s execution, were alarmed to discover that the greatest of the Scottish Catholic peers, George Gordon, Sixth Earl of Huntly, was rapidly becoming his chief confidant. In 1588 James arranged Huntly’s marriage to Henrietta Stuart, daughter of his former favourite the Duke of Lennox, thus admitting him into the wider royal family ...

Lying doggo

Christopher Reid, 14 June 1990

Becoming a poet 
by David Kalstone, edited by Robert Hemenway.
Hogarth, 299 pp., £20, May 1990, 0 7012 0900 3
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... Among her admirers, who tend to be wholehearted and fervent, the feeling is that Elizabeth Bishop has not yet received anything like her critical due. Things are improving – in the United States more rapidly than over here, where admission to the Pantheon seems as slow and grudging a process, and as prone to archaic shibboleths and mysterious blackballings, as election to a Pall Mall club ...
Selected Poems 
by James Merrill.
Carcanet, 152 pp., £9.95, April 1996, 1 85754 228 2
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... That the English have been slow to recognise James Merrill as the best poet in the language after Elizabeth Bishop has long seemed strange to Americans. Come to think of it, British recognition of Bishop herself was belated; for decades she was upstaged by Robert Lowell, probably because he lived in England and behaved in a way that seemed more certifiably poetic ...

Awful but Cheerful

Gillian White: The Tentativeness of Elizabeth Bishop, 25 May 2006

Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts and Fragments 
by Elizabeth Bishop, edited by Alice Quinn.
Farrar, Straus, 367 pp., £22.50, March 2006, 0 374 14645 4
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... had had nearly thirty of her poems published in literary journals or book collections, Elizabeth Bishop, then 28, admitted in a letter to Moore: ‘I scarcely know why I persist at all. It is really fantastic to place so much on the fact that I have written a half-dozen phrases that I can still bear to reread without too much embarrassment.’ ...

Charmed Quarantine

James Wood, 21 March 1996

Soul Says: On Recent Poetry 
by Helen Vendler.
Harvard, 266 pp., £15.95, June 1995, 0 674 82146 7
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The Breaking of Style: Hopkins, Heaney, Graham 
by Helen Vendler.
Harvard, 100 pp., £18.95, January 1996, 0 674 08121 8
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The Given and the Made: Strategies of Poetic Redefinition 
by Helen Vendler.
Faber, 137 pp., £7.99, April 1995, 0 571 17078 1
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... to obstruct her predictions. For Jarrell, these poets were his contemporaries – Lowell, Moore, Bishop, Berryman and Stevens. When Jarrell writes that he is living in a time of great poetry, it is as if he is not merely describing but claiming something. Vendler’s belief in her contemporaries – that, as she has put it, ‘American poetry remains in good ...

Good Manners

Craig Raine, 17 May 1984

The Collected Prose of Elizabeth Bishop 
edited by Robert Giroux.
Chatto, 278 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 7011 2809 7
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... Elizabeth Bishop was refined. Manners interested her, as The Collected Prose makes clear. She can remember learning ‘how to behave in school’ with more recall than most people: ‘this meant to sit up straight, not to scrape your feet on the floor, never to whisper, to raise your hand when you had to go out, and to stand up when you were asked a question ...

The South

Colm Tóibín, 4 August 1994

One Art: The Selected Letters of Elizabeth Bishop 
Chatto, 668 pp., £25, April 1994, 0 7011 6195 7Show More
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... Park and went out some days to swim at Copacabana. It was that time between the death of Elizabeth Bishop and the appearance of the first biography and this volume of letters, when the ordinary reader on this side of the Atlantic knew very little about her. I did not know that for 15 years she stayed in an apartment overlooking the beach. ‘It is such a ...

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