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She’s a tiger-cat!

Miranda Seymour: Birds’ claw omelettes with Vernon Lee, 22 January 2004

Vernon Lee: A Literary Biography 
by Vineta Colby.
Virginia, 387 pp., £32.50, May 2003, 0 8139 2158 9
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... on to his young half-sister. For the most part, however, she was left to her own devices. Henry James’s story ‘The Pupil’ was partly based on the unsettled childhood of his friend John Singer Sargent, but he might as well have been describing Violet Paget’s youth. It was Mrs Sargent, encountered when Violet was ten, who became the first of a series ...

Educating Georgie

E.S. Turner, 6 December 1984

Matriarch: Queen Mary and the House of Windsor 
by Anne Edwards.
Hodder, 462 pp., £12.95, September 1984, 0 340 24465 8
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... that identifies Prince Eddy, the Queen’s first fiancé, as Jack the Ripper? Indeed it can. James Pope-Hennessy did not find room to discuss this matter in his 685-page life of Queen Mary published in 1959, possibly because the hue and cry after Prince Eddy had not then gained its full impetus, possibly for other reasons. What can Anne Edwards tell us ...

Unmuscular Legs

E.S. Turner, 22 August 1996

The Dictionary of National Biography 1986-1990 
edited by C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 607 pp., £50, June 1996, 0 19 865212 7
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... Honourable Artillery Company, was a devout Christian who launched the Hammer House of Horror (Sir James Carreras). All demonstrated that a spell in uniform, as the sovereign’s trusty and well-beloved, never cramped a creative talent, and perhaps that a creative talent never cramped a military one. The singularity of their careers has earned them a place ...

Round up the usual perverts

Michael Wood: ‘L.A. Confidential’, 1 January 1998

L.A. Confidential 
directed by Curtis Hanson.
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... film ends. One of the many attractions of LA Confidential, a glossy, atmospheric movie based on a James Ellroy novel, is its unembarrassed pleasure in this kind of stuff. You get the world but you lose the girl. The girl is damaged goods, but she is Kim Basinger. The other figure in the triangle, played by Russell Crowe, is another policeman, an ex-thug who ...

Great Thoughts

E.S. Turner, 7 May 1981

The Macmillan Treasury of Relevant Quotations 
edited by Edward Murphy.
Macmillan, 658 pp., £3.95, August 1980, 0 333 30038 6
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... Sherwood Anderson (64), George Santayana (61), Henry Miller (56), Emerson (55), William James (49), Nietzsche (46) and Anaïs Nin (40). These are only the familiar names; the unknown table-talkers, maxim-mongers and cracker-barrel wiseacres buttonhole the reader hardly less repetitively. Among the prolific pronouncements on human nature and the ...

The water-doctors vanish

E.S. Turner: The social history of British spas, 4 June 1998

British Spas from 1815 to the Present Day: A Social History 
by Phyllis Hembry and Leonard Cowie.
Athlone, 292 pp., £50, June 1997, 0 485 11502 6
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... one, a brace of doctors at Malvern decided to turn that spa into the English Gräfenberg. Both Dr James Wilson and Dr James Manby Gully made quick fortunes, though Gully was eventually disgraced by his involvement in the Charles Bravo murder mystery. Hembry records that those who undertook the cold-water cure at Malvern ...

The Sacred Sofa

E.S. Turner, 11 December 1997

The House of Lords: From Saxon Wargods to a Modern Senate 
by John Wells.
Hodder, 298 pp., £20, October 1997, 0 340 64928 3
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... less scorn, as Wells points out, is visited on descendants of those who bought their rank from James I, or of war profiteers who wrote fat cheques to Lloyd George. Keeping faith with the hereditary principle has not always been easy. We are treated to a whole chapter about a peer who owed his seat in the Lords to being the product of a virgin birth, which ...

Madame, vous fatiguez les singes

E.S. Turner: The Tower Menagerie, 24 July 2003

The Tower Menagerie: Being the Amazing True Story of the Royal Collection of Wild and Ferocious Beasts 
by Daniel Hahn.
Simon and Schuster, 260 pp., £15.99, March 2003, 0 7432 2081 1
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... who slaughtered five thousand wild beasts on the opening day of the Colosseum. It was left to James I to popularise baiting as an attraction at the Tower, thus promoting the sport from the disreputable status it enjoyed in the urban bear gardens. For better viewing, James refashioned the Lion Tower, but there was little ...

A New Twist in the Long Tradition of the Grotesque

Marina Warner: The monstrousness of Britart, 13 April 2000

High Art Lite: British Art in the 1990s 
by Julian Stallabrass.
Verso, 342 pp., £22, December 1999, 1 85984 721 8
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This is Modern Art 
by Matthew Collings.
Weidenfeld, 270 pp., £20, June 1999, 0 297 84292 7
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... pictures of his family escape Stallabrass’s everlasting fire. Concurrently with last year’s Turner Prize show at the Tate, Ana Maria Pacheco, a Brazilian artist long resident in this country, showed the works resulting from her year’s residency at the National Gallery. Dark Night of the Soul is a monumental piece, consisting of 19 massive figures ...

Phenomenologically Fucked

Alex Abramovich: Percival Everett, 19 November 2009

I Am Not Sidney Poitier 
by Percival Everett.
Graywolf, 234 pp., $16, June 2009, 978 1 55597 527 2
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... read about game theory and evolution, about genetics and fluid dynamics. I read about Jesse James, Bonnie and Clyde, Joseph McCarthy. I read the service manual for my parents’ ’63 Saab …’ And so on. And yet, a few years ago, Everett suddenly found himself writing ‘black’ novels – or, at least, novels about black novels. Erasure (2001) was ...

Scottish Men and Scottish Women

Jenny Turner, 27 June 1991

The Burn 
by James Kelman.
Secker, 244 pp., £13.99, April 1991, 0 436 23286 3
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by Janice Galloway.
Secker, 179 pp., £12.99, March 1991, 0 436 20027 9
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... James Kelman was born in Glasgow in 1946. After spells in the US as a teenager, London as a young adult, he returned to Glasgow, where he now lives and works. Janice Galloway was born in Ayrshire in 1956. She worked in Ayrshire as a schoolteacher until recently, when she started making enough money from her writing to give up teaching and move to Glasgow ...


Nick Richardson: Stalking James Lasdun, 25 April 2013

Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked 
by James Lasdun.
Cape, 224 pp., £14.99, February 2013, 978 0 224 09662 1
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... In September 2011, the LRB published a Diary by James Lasdun about learning to fire a gun. A few weeks later we received an email from his stalker. It read: ‘His writing is boring and doesn’t sell. Stop publishing that hairy-nosed Jewish wanna-be-Protestant bore of a boar. His wife’s cunt smells of dead rabbits ...

Grand Gestures

Janette Turner Hospital, 25 May 1995

A River Town 
by Thomas Keneally.
Sceptre, 330 pp., £15.99, March 1995, 9780340610930
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... desperate, a wild child, a cynical and alarmingly intelligent all-seeing observer. Only in Henry James does one encounter another such riveting portrait of cursed innocence, and Keneally’s Lucy is a more vibrantly warm flesh-and-blood waif than any of the little lost souls in James. Think what you will of the republic ...

Sorcerer’s Apprentice

E.S. Turner, 19 December 1991

Alistair MacLean 
by Jack Webster.
Chapmans, 326 pp., £18, November 1991, 1 85592 519 2
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Alistair MacLean’s Time of the Assassins 
by Alastair MacNeill.
HarperCollins, 288 pp., £14.99, December 1991, 0 00 223816 0
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... Already any number of hands, licensed and otherwise, have helped to further the adventures of James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Jeeves, Billy Bunter and Charles Pooter; not forgetting, from an earlier age, Flashman and Rochester’s mad wife. In a class of their own come the surrogate writers who are authorised to enrich the leftovers of a dead ...


John Bossy: Simon Forman, 22 February 2001

The Notorious Astrological Physician of London: Works and Days of Simon Forman 
by Barbara Howard Traister.
Chicago, 260 pp., £19, February 2001, 0 226 81140 9
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Dr Simon Forman: A Most Notorious Physician 
by Judith Cook.
Chatto, 228 pp., £18.99, January 2001, 0 7011 6899 4
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... of the Jacobean society beauty Frances Howard, who wanted to divorce her husband and marry James I’s favourite Robert Carr, and apparently procured the death by poison of Carr’s friend Sir Thomas Overbury, who was against the marriage. Howard had consulted Forman about the fulfilment of her passion, and her confidante Mrs Anne ...

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