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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 has not made the difficult project of embracing their careers any more attractive. The two books 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 ...

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 ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Ageing Crims

3 June 2015
... difficult to know for sure, they must have adored him at a slight distance, as he spent an inordinate 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 ...

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 ...

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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... followed, in another two hundred, by settlement in two distinct zones, one mainly Celtic – behind those 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 ...

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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... no inquiry of any kind into this strange death. As in the Murrell case, the very idea of a conspiracy 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 ...

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 ...
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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... sufficiently resourceful mind, and a persuasive style, of course, you can stimulate them by going for 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 ...
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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... impracticable luxury to include letters written to Conrad: since he usually threw them away, however, 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 ...

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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... things and has no interest in sport of any form, despite sponsoring Carlisle United FC’. He has a Ferrari 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 ...

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 ...

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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... In a recent letter to 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 ...

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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... but when one doesn’t – it’s as if one had no pride at all.’ In October 1907 he wrote: ‘I 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 ...
10 January 1991
51 Soko: To the Islands on the Other Side of the World 
by Michael Westlake.
Polygon, 258 pp., £8.95, September 1990, 0 7486 6085 2
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Behind the Waterfall 
by Chinatsy Nakayama.
Virago, 213 pp., £12.99, November 1990, 1 85381 269 2
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Dirty Faxes, and Other Stories 
by Andrew Davies.
Methuen, 243 pp., £13.99, October 1990, 0 413 63270 9
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... planned haphazard, the melding of literal and figurative, the brilliant subversion of all notions of category and order. Genji, as one might expect, writes exclusively to women (including Mandy Rice-Davies, the Andrews Sisters and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Ramsay), and displays an endearing capacity for romantic aberration, as when he assumes from her name that Barbara Windsor must be one of our royal ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Soar: Leveson Inquiry

21 June 2012
... few hacked phones into a scandal that came close to bringing down one branch of the world’s most powerful media empire was a piece of mistaken reporting. For two years a handful of people – Nick Davies at the Guardian, the MP Tom Watson – kept insisting that the problem was bigger than a couple of ‘rogue’ journalists misbehaving at the News of the World. But whatever they said, and however ...

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