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Modern Virginity

Paul Delany, 27 February 1992

Song of Love: The Letters of Rupert Brooke and Noel Olivier 1909-1915 
edited by Pippa Harris.
Bloomsbury, 302 pp., £17.99, November 1991, 0 7475 1048 2
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... Hastings start excavating the Brooke monument, in The Handsomest Young Man in England. Pippa Harris’s edition opens up a new area in our knowledge of Brooke and her introduction and notes provide useful background to the letters, without undue deference to the ‘Young Apollo’ mystique of previous editions and biographies. However, ...

The Dignity of Merchants

Landeg White, 10 August 2000

In Search of Africa 
by Manthia Diawara.
Harvard, 288 pp., £17.50, December 1998, 0 674 44611 9
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... the end of his Native Stranger: A Black American’s Journey into the Heart of Africa (1991), Eddy Harris spends two despairing weeks waiting at Lisala on the banks of the Zaire river for a steamer to take him to Kisangani. Behind him are North Africa, Francophone and English-speaking Africa, and a disastrous foray into the former black American colony of ...

Too Young

James Davidson: Lord Alfred Douglas, 21 September 2000

Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas 
by Douglas Murray.
Hodder, 374 pp., £20, June 2000, 0 340 76770 7
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... specifically a ‘horsewhipping’ or a ‘dog-whipping’, depending on their rank. When Frank Harris falls out of favour he becomes ‘a dirty skunk and as crooked as a corkscrew’. When the Duke of Richmond refuses him entrance to the private stand at Goodwood, he gets a letter from Bosie regretting that he himself does not enjoy the ‘Privilege ...

Nutmegged

Frank Kermode: The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 by Martin Amis., 10 May 2001

The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 506 pp., £20, April 2001, 0 224 05059 1
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... and Aristophanes can procure a pardon for that sort of thing. Other reviewers may commend Thomas Harris for committing ‘not a single ugly or dead sentence’ but Amis finds enough of them to label Harris ‘a serial murderer of English sentences’ and Hannibal ‘a necropolis of prose’. He finds the opposite response ...

Browning Versions

Barbara Everett, 4 August 1983

Robert Browning: A Life within Life 
by Donald Thomas.
Weidenfeld, 334 pp., £12.95, August 1982, 0 297 78092 1
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The Elusive Self in the Poetry of Robert Browning 
by Constance Hassett.
Ohio, 186 pp., £17, December 1982, 0 8214 0629 9
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The Complete Works of Robert Browning. Vol. V 
edited by Roma King.
Ohio, 395 pp., £29.75, July 1981, 9780821402207
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The Poetical Works of Robert Browning: Vol. I 
edited by Ian Jack and Margaret Smith.
Oxford, 543 pp., £45, April 1983, 0 19 811893 7
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Robert Browning: The Poems 
edited by John Pettigrew and Thomas Collins.
Yale/Penguin, 1191 pp., £26, January 1982, 0 300 02675 7
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Robert Browning: ‘The Ring and the Book’ 
edited by Richard Altick.
Yale/Penguin, 707 pp., £21, May 1981, 0 300 02677 3
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... James Thurber’s best-known cartoon has an impassive little man introducing his spouse to a dazed friend with ‘That’s My First Wife Up There, and This Is the Present Mrs Harris.’ The first Mrs Harris seems to be crouched on all fours on the top of a very high (glazed) bookcase, just behind the second Mrs Harris ...

Georgian eyes are smiling

Frank Kermode, 15 September 1988

Bernard Shaw. Vol. I: The Search for Love, 1856-1898 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 486 pp., £16, September 1988, 0 7011 3332 5
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Bernard Shaw: Collected Letters. Vol. IV 
edited by Dan Laurence.
Bodley Head, 946 pp., £30, June 1988, 0 370 31130 2
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Shaw: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies. Vol. VIII 
edited by Stanley Weintraub.
Pennsylvania State, 175 pp., $25, April 1988, 0 271 00613 7
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Shaw’s Sense of History 
by J.L. Wisenthal.
Oxford, 186 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812892 4
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Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. III: 1903-1907 
edited by Frederick Karl and Laurence Davies.
Cambridge, 532 pp., £35, April 1988, 0 521 32387 8
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Joseph Conrad: ‘Nostromo’ 
by Ian Watt.
Cambridge, 98 pp., £12.50, April 1988, 0 521 32821 7
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... There were already good biographies of Shaw, notably those of Frank Harris and Hesketh Pearson, both of whom knew Shaw and had the benefit of his energetic interventions. Pearson in particular will not be easily supplanted. Nevertheless the archives of the world are full of Shaviana inaccessible before his death, and because there had not been a serious attempt since 1956 – the centenary year – the Shaw Estate sensibly decided that the time had come for a new biography, and invited Mr Holroyd to write it ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’, 30 August 2018

... a companion drive a truck at great speed down a narrowing alley. The vehicle is too tall for the James Bond ruse of tilting it at an angle. It stays level and finally gets stuck between the walls. The two men leap out and climb onto two waiting motorcycles. It was all planned. This is where the mind comes back, of course, and we might think the attraction of ...

The Englishness of English

Roy Harris, 6 November 1980

Studies in English Linguistics for Randolph Quirk 
edited by Sidney Greenbaum and Jan Svartvik.
Longman, 304 pp., £18, September 1980, 0 582 55079 3
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... Wolf-Dietrich Bald, Nelson Francis, Morton Bloomfield, E.L. Epstein, John Lyons, Archibald Hill, James Sledd, R.I. McDavid Jr, R.K. O’Cain, Linda Barnes, Josef Vachck and Barbara Strang. So varied as well as distinguished a gathering must surely prompt the reader to ponder upon what the editors call the ‘Quirkian sense of the unity underlying diversities ...

Look on the Bright Side

Seamus Perry: Anna Letitia Barbauld, 25 February 2010

Anna Letitia Barbauld: Voice of the Enlightenment 
by William McCarthy.
Johns Hopkins, 725 pp., £32, December 2008, 978 0 8018 9016 1
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... and poetic traditions of the earlier 18th century, especially the philologist-philosopher James Harris and the poet James Thomson, author of The Seasons. Actually, it might be truer to say that Barbauld’s most remarkable achievement was to complicate the tenor of most Unitarian writing by including stuff that ...

Superchild

John Bayley, 6 September 1984

The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Vol. V: 1936-1941 
edited by Anne Olivier Bell and Andrew McNeillie.
Chatto, 402 pp., £17.50, June 1984, 0 7012 0566 0
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Deceived with Kindness: A Bloomsbury Childhood 
by Angelica Garnett.
Chatto, 181 pp., £9.95, August 1984, 0 7011 2821 6
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... Turning back a volume or two we come to the dinner party in January 1930 with the Harrises. Bogey Harris was apparently quite a character. In her account, unerring as it clearly is, he ceases to be one, as do his womenfolk and the Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, ‘an unimpressive man; eyes disappointing; rather ...

Strangers

John Lanchester, 11 July 1991

Serial Murder: An Elusive Phenomenon 
edited by Stephen Egger.
Praeger, 250 pp., £33.50, October 1990, 0 275 92986 8
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Serial Killers 
by Joel Norris.
Arrow, 333 pp., £4.99, July 1990, 0 09 971750 6
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Life after Life 
by Tony Parker.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.50, May 1991, 0 330 31528 5
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American Psycho 
by Bret Easton Ellis.
Picador, 399 pp., £6.99, April 1991, 0 330 31992 2
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Dirty Weekend 
by Helen Zahavi.
Macmillan, 185 pp., £13.99, April 1991, 0 333 54723 3
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Silence of the Lambs 
by Thomas Harris.
Mandarin, 366 pp., £4.99, April 1991, 0 7493 0942 3
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... have recently provided the material for works by artists as different from each other as P.D. James, DV8 Physical Dance Theatre and David Lynch. Stephen Egger, an American academic and former policeman who wrote the first doctoral dissertation on the phenomenon, gives a definition/description of serial murder in Serial Murder: An Elusive ...

Just be yourself

David Hirson, 23 July 1987

Swimming to Cambodia: The Collected Works of Spalding Gray 
by Spalding Gray.
Picador, 304 pp., £3.50, January 1987, 0 330 29947 6
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... among other things, ‘A new wave Mark Twain’, ‘One of the most candid confessors since Frank Harris’ and ‘An unholy cross between James Joyce and Hunter S. Thompson’. These remarks tend to compound an already severe identity crisis. For almost a decade, Gray has been delivering monologues which chronicle his life ...

Perfection’s Progress

E.H. Gombrich, 5 November 1981

Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture, 1500-1900 
by Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny.
Yale, 376 pp., £20, March 1981, 0 300 02641 2
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... This conviction even leads him in the last Discourse to quote with approval the opinion of James Harris that ‘we are on no account to expect that fine things should descend to us’ – ‘our taste, if possible, must be made to ascend to them.’ Hence Reynolds endorses the recommendation ‘even to feign a relish, till we find a relish ...

Bang-Bang, Kiss-Kiss

Christian Lorentzen: Bond, 3 December 2015

Spectre 
directed by Sam Mendes.
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The Man with the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters 
edited by Fergus Fleming.
Bloomsbury, 391 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6547 7
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Ian Fleming: A Personal Memoir 
by Robert Harling.
Robson, 372 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 84 95493 65 1
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... About​ two thirds of the way into Spectre, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is tied to a chair in the desert crater headquarters of Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), the head of Spectre and by coincidence both the son and the murderer of a man who took the young Bond under his wing. Oberhauser is operating a contraption that threatens to deprive Bond of his facial recognition abilities by driving a pair of pins into the sides of his skull – a painful operation in its initial stages, as indicated by Craig’s grimacing and an uncontained scream ...

All my eye and Betty Martin

Roy Harris, 1 December 1983

A Dictionary of Mottoes 
by L.G. Pine.
Routledge, 303 pp., £9.95, October 1983, 9780710093394
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Newspeak: A Dictionary of Jargon 
by Jonathon Green.
Routledge, 263 pp., £9.95, October 1983, 0 7100 9685 2
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The Oxford Miniguide to English Usage 
by E.S.C. Weiner.
Oxford, 412 pp., £1.95, October 1983, 0 19 869127 0
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The Oxford Dictionary of Current Idiomatic English: Volume II 
by A.P. Cowrie, R. Mackin and I.R. McCaig.
Oxford, 685 pp., £12.50, October 1983, 0 19 431150 3
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A Dictionary of the Teenage Revolution and its Aftermath 
by Kenneth Hudson.
Macmillan, 203 pp., £12.95, October 1983, 0 333 28517 4
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A Dictionary of Catch-Phrases 
by Eric Partridge.
Routledge, 278 pp., £5.95, October 1983, 0 7100 9989 4
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... which modern lexicography was founded. The great lexicographers of the 19th century, including Sir James Murray, without whose work the Oxford family of dictionaries would not exist today, based lexicography upon the concept of objective historical description. They may not always have been faithful to that concept in practice: but at least they paid ...

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