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Vicarious Sages

Michael Mason, 3 November 1983

John Forster: A Literary Life 
by James Davies.
Leicester University Press, 318 pp., £25, June 1983, 0 7185 1164 6
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Mr George Eliot: A Biography of George Henry Lewes 
by David Williams.
Hodder, 288 pp., £12.95, June 1983, 0 340 25717 2
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Johnnie Cross 
by Terence de Vere White.
Gollancz, 153 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 575 03333 9
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... which have taken up these long-standing biographical challenges do so in very different ways. Dr Davies has written the more orthodox book for the situation: it puts the presenting of a full range of information on a new subject (and this is a carefully researched study) before the achievement of a controversial or intriguing statement about it. Mr ...

Settling down

Karl Miller, 20 November 1980

Young Emma 
by W.H. Davies.
Cape, 158 pp., £5.95, November 1980, 0 224 01853 1
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... Davies? Oh, he was a sort of natural, wasn’t he – like Clare?’ James Reeves’s Introduction to his Penguin anthology of Georgian poetry puts this absentminded question into the mouth of an unidentified intellectual of recent times. It refers to the author of the present book, who is also the author of the once-famous Autobiography of a Super-Tramp and of some six hundred poems ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Ageing Crims, 4 June 2015

... amount of time in Barlinnie Prison, along with his three brothers, Willie Andrew, Charles and James. (His sister Nellie was the head of the Sinn Fein collective in Glasgow.) ‘Sheriff Malcolm, at Dundee yesterday,’ the Scotsman of 6 January 1934 reports, ‘imposed sentences of 18 months’ and five months’ imprisonment respectively on Charles ...

Chinaberry Pie

D.A.N. Jones, 1 March 1984

Modern Baptists 
by James Wilcox.
Secker, 239 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 9780436570988
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Speranza 
by Sven Delblanc, translated by Paul Britten Austin.
Secker, 153 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 9780436126802
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High Spirits 
by Robertson Davies.
Penguin, 198 pp., £2.50, January 1984, 0 14 006505 9
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Hanabeke 
by Dudley St John Magnus.
Angus and Robertson, 133 pp., £6.95, January 1984, 0 207 14565 2
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Train to Hell 
by Alexei Sayle.
Methuen, 152 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 0 413 52460 4
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The English Way of Doing Things 
by William Donaldson.
Weidenfeld, 229 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 297 78345 9
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... James Wilcox’s charming comedy is set in rural Louisiana, among people who read the Bible in an engagingly amateurish way, associating religion with the conventions about drinking and dancing enforced by their anxious parents, and sometimes tempted to ‘modernise’ their lives, while still seeking God’s guidance ...

Hobohemianism

Blake Morrison, 30 June 2011

The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp 
by W.H. Davies.
Amberley, 192 pp., £14.99, September 2010, 978 1 84868 980 0
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... According to W.H. Davies, tramps often buried surplus items of clothing or footwear by the side of the road, knowing they could retrieve them should they pass the same way again. In his second volume of autobiography, Later Days, published in 1925, Davies lists a few of his deposits: a shirt on the banks of the Mississippi, a pair of boots in the Allegheny mountains, a coat under rocks on Long Island Sound ...

Little More than an Extension of France

Hugo Young: The British Isles, 6 January 2000

The Isles: A History 
by Norman Davies.
Macmillan, 1222 pp., £30, November 1999, 9780333763704
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... mountains, and on the Green Isle to the west – the other exclusively Germanic. Thus, Norman Davies writes, ‘the conditions had been created where England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales could begin the initial and most tentative phase of their crystallisation.’ The Isles’ deep history, therefore, was Celtic and, before that, genetically ...

Poor Stephen

James Fox, 23 July 1987

An Affair of State: The Profumo Case and the Framing of Stephen Ward 
by Phillip Knightley and Caroline Kennedy.
Cape, 268 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 224 02347 0
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Honeytrap: The Secret Worlds of Stephen Ward 
by Anthony Summers and Stephen Dorril.
Weidenfeld, 264 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 297 79122 2
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... the Times, Lords Hailsham, Drogheda, Carrington, Goodman and Weinstock, and Messrs Roy Jenkins and James Prior, said they felt it was a good time, in view of the new publicity about the Ward case, to place on record their sense of admiration for the dignity and courage displayed by Mr and Mrs John Profumo and their family in the quarter-century since the ...

He’s Bad, She’s Mad

Mary Hannity: HMP Holloway, 9 May 2019

Bad Girls: The Rebels and Renegades of Holloway Prison 
by Caitlin Davies.
John Murray, 373 pp., £10.99, February 2019, 978 1 4736 4776 3
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... On 26 September​ 1849 the lord mayor of London, Sir James Duke, laid the foundation stone for the new City House of Correction at Holloway. The land had been intended for use as a burial ground for victims of the recent cholera epidemic, but the epidemic had subsided, and the anticipated dead had not arrived. ‘May God preserve the City of London/And make this place a terror to evil-doers,’ the foundation stone read ...

Accidents

Paul Foot, 4 August 1988

Britain’s Nuclear Nightmare 
by James Cutler and Rob Edwards.
Sphere, 200 pp., £3.99, April 1988, 0 7221 2759 6
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... connected with the nuclear power movement seemed grotesque. But then there is the story of Pat Davies of Slough. She was married to a sailor on the Resolution, a nuclear submarine, based at Faslane in Scotland. When her friend, whose husband also sailed on Resolution, had a baby, Pat Davies went to visit her. She was ...

Gentlemen Travellers

Denis Donoghue, 18 December 1986

Between the Woods and the Water 
by Patrick Leigh Fermor et al.
Murray, 248 pp., £13.95, October 1986, 0 7195 4264 2
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Coasting 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins, 301 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 00 272119 8
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The Grand Tour 
by Hunter Davies.
Hamish Hamilton, 224 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11907 3
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... a walk along the local beach or by taking minor trips or otherwise agreeable spells abroad: Henry James in France, D.H. Lawrence in New Mexico, Lawrence Durrell in Corfu, Michel Butor in Istanbul, Henry Miller in Greece. In December 1933, leaving his father in Simla and his mother in London, Patrick Leigh Fermor set off to walk from the Hook of Holland to ...

Conrad’s Complaint

Frank Kermode, 17 November 1983

The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. I: 1861-1897 
edited by Frederick Karl and Laurence Davies.
Cambridge, 446 pp., £19.50, September 1983, 0 521 24216 9
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... there can’t be many of them. This first volume, which has a sprightly introduction by Laurence Davies, opens with a letter written to his father when Conrad was three, his hand guided by his mother, and ends four hundred pages later when the author was 40 and very pleased with the recently published Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’. The early years are ...

Self-Extinction

Russell Davies, 18 June 1981

Short Lives 
by Katinka Matson.
Picador, 366 pp., £2.50, February 1981, 9780330262194
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... silently exacted by the rest or us who have no gift to exercise. Be the protagonist Van Gogh or James Dean, the message from the public is the same. We love you for your talent, but we will love you doubly for dying of it. The proof that we are better off without it is a comfort. It helps to make the complacency of an unrisked life that much more ...

What do you do with them?

Rose George: Eddie Stobart, 4 April 2002

The Eddie Stobart Story 
by Hunter Davies.
HarperCollins, 282 pp., £14.99, November 2001, 0 00 711597 0
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... he doesn’t drive and a yacht he doesn’t sail. He relaxes on a mechanical digger. Hunter Davies calls him the ‘greatest living Cumbrian’. Davies’s book trundles slowly through the birth and marriage of Stobart’s grandfather John and his father’s business beginnings (lime-spreading). We learn how many ...

Ye must all be alike

Catherine Gallagher, 27 January 1994

Writing Women in Jacobean England 
by Barbara Kiefer Lewalski.
Harvard, 431 pp., £35.95, February 1993, 0 674 96242 7
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... The reign of James I has long been considered a period in which patriarchal orthodoxy revived in an especially virulent form to counteract 45 years of female rule. Barbara Kiefer Lewalski quotes King James’s advice to his son to illustrate what she frequently calls the era’s ‘dominant ideology’: Ye are the head, [your Wife] your body; It is your office to command, and hers to obey; but yet with such a sweet harmonie as she should be as ready to obey, as ye to command ...

Obstacles

Penelope Fitzgerald, 4 July 1996

Edward Thomas: Selected Letters 
edited by R. George Thomas.
Oxford, 192 pp., £30, March 1996, 0 19 818562 6
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... went out and thought what effects my suicide would have. I don’t think I mind them ... W.H. Davies would suffer a little, Helen and the children less in reality than they do now, from my accursed temper and moodiness.’ Even so, it might be true of him, as Ian Hamilton wrote of Robert Frost, that ‘he knew his own failings, knew what the world would ...

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