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I was Mary Queen of Scots

Colm Tóibín: Biographical empathy, 21 October 2004

My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots 
by John Guy.
Harper Perennial, 574 pp., £8.99, August 2004, 1 84115 753 8
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Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens 
by Jane Dunn.
Harper Perennial, 592 pp., £8.99, March 2004, 9780006531920
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... Mitford wrote to Evelyn Waugh on the subject: I used to masturbate whenever I thought about Lady Jane Grey so of course I thought about her constantly and even executed a fine watercolour of her on the scaffold, which my mother still has, framed, and in which Lady Jane and her ladies-in-waiting all wear watches hanging ...

Georgie came, Harry went

Frank Kermode, 25 April 1991

A Passionate Apprentice. The Early Journals of Virginia Woolf, 1897-1909 
edited by Mitchell Leaska.
Hogarth, 444 pp., £25, October 1990, 0 7012 0845 7
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A Very Close Conspiracy: Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf 
by Jane Dunn.
Cape, 338 pp., £16.99, October 1990, 0 224 02234 2
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... its object, unmitigated devotion make the saint a bore. This, I’m afraid, is what happens in Jane Dunn’s book. Ms Dunn has had access to much unpublished material (some now made available by Leaska), and she uses it to fill out a general outline of the sisters’ lives that is already rather well-known – there ...

Biscuits. Oh good!

Anna Vaux: Antonia White, 27 May 1999

Antonia White 
by Jane Dunn.
Cape, 484 pp., £20, November 1998, 9780224036191
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... of moral Truth she radiates. Exposed to their selves, her intimates begin to wilt.’ So lucky Jane Dunn, who can breathe the less infectious air of a safely dead Antonia, and who ‘now that the dust has settled’ is free to admire her with relatively little danger. And lucky Antonia, who might now escape the legacy of her daughters and their ...

Falling in love with Lucian

Colm Tóibín: Lucian Freud’s Outer Being, 10 October 2019

The Lives of Lucian Freud: Youth, 1922-68 
by William Feaver.
Bloomsbury, 680 pp., £35, September 2019, 978 1 4088 5093 0
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... chores were not, and would never be, Freud’s thing. His laundry was done by a friend called Jane all his life. ‘I don’t think he had the faintest idea what laundry was,’ Frank Auerbach said. ‘He put it into this basket and it came back from Jane immaculately laundered.’ After he left school, his father took ...

English Changing

Frank Kermode, 7 February 1980

The State of the Language 
edited by Leonard Michaels and Christopher Ricks.
California, 609 pp., £14.95, January 1980, 0 520 03763 4
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... system’. But with the world as it is, these advantages may not be as great as they seem. Jane Miller, in a memorable essay on bilingual children in London schools, shows that bilingualism (and in one classroom you can find English-speaking children whose native languages are Egyptian, Greek, Urdu, Tamil, Spanish, Italian, French Creole) is regarded ...


Ian Hamilton: Novels for the Bright, Modern Woman, 1 July 1982

... She, too, will find herself ‘occasionally’ reaching for a Pavanne. And the same goes for Carol Dunn, housewife and borough councillor (‘there are nights, though, when Carol will settle down with one of Pavanne’s new novels’), and Jane Forsyth, partner in ‘a rapidly expanding firm of estate agents’ – ‘one of ...


Celia Paul: Painting in the Dark, 17 December 2020

... his infatuated English student. Charlotte pined for him. She channelled her yearning into her art. Jane Eyre is the result. These two women, Gwen John and Charlotte Brontë, are the artists to whom I feel most deeply connected. Longing powers my own art.In the second volume of William Feaver’s biography of Lucian Freud (Bloomsbury, £35), David ...

Maschler Pudding

John Bayley, 19 October 1995

À la Pym: The Barbara Pym Cookery Book 
by Hilary Pym and Honor Wyatt.
Prospect, 102 pp., £9.95, September 1995, 0 907325 61 0
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... of sex as Hardy’s. Sex is a little personal mystery which may or may not be taking place, as Jane finds when she vainly interrogates Prudence about the exact nature of her relations with her admirer. What we do know is that when poor Prudence is left high and dry she comforts herself by cooking a solitary meal in her flat – a poussin and a salad nicely ...

Why are you still here?

James Meek: Who owns Grimsby?, 23 April 2015

... with a withered right wing and a pumped-up, mutant left. In 2013 a Labour councillor in Grimsby, Jane Bramley, defected to Ukip, saying it was a ‘fairer’ party. At last year’s council elections, Ukip gave Labour a drubbing, reducing it to a minority administration. Yet when Labour needed backing to pass its budget this year, Ukip members lined up ...

The Lives of Ronald Pinn

Andrew O’Hagan, 8 January 2015

... down the names of Paul Ives, Graham Paine (‘who lost his life by drowning’), Clifford John Dunn, Ronald Alexander Pinn and John Hill, all of whom were born in the 1960s, as I was, and died early.The practice of using dead children’s identities began in the Metropolitan Police Force in the 1960s. Until very recently, it was thought, in-house, to be a ...

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