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Out of the Lock-Up

Michael Wood: Wallace Stevens, 2 April 1998

Collected Poetry and Prose 
by Wallace Stevens, edited by Frank Kermode and Joan Richardson.
Library of America, 1032 pp., $35, October 1997, 1 883011 45 0
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... Asked in 1933 what his favourite among his own poems was, Wallace Stevens said he liked best ‘The Emperor of Ice-Cream’, from Harmonium (1923). The work ‘wears a deliberately commonplace costume’, Stevens said, ‘and yet seems to me to contain something of the essential gaudiness of poetry’. He didn’t remember much about writing the poem except ‘the state of mind from which it came’: ‘I dislike niggling, and like letting myself go ...

The Court

Richard Eyre, 23 September 1993

The Long Distance Runner 
by Tony Richardson.
Faber, 277 pp., £17.50, September 1993, 0 571 16852 3
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... tense, it is not immune to the arcadian virus: ‘the National Theatre at the Old Vic’ and ‘Joan Littlewood at Stratford East’ are robust strains, and in the case of Joan Littlewood I believe that there was a ‘genius’, an innocent virtue, that can never be replicated. The work that is done at the National ...

Costume Codes

David Trotter, 12 January 1995

Rebel Women: Feminism, Modernism and the Edwardian Novel 
by Jane Eldridge Miller.
Virago, 241 pp., £15.99, October 1994, 1 85381 830 5
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... Towards the end of Radclyffe Hall’s The Unlit Lamp (1924), the heroine, Joan Ogden, who has grown miserably old in a small provincial town, overhears two young women discussing her. She recognises them as women of the same ‘type’ as her: unattached, independent, sexually ambiguous. They dress like her, and wear their hair cut in a similar style ...

Snap among the Witherlings

Michael Hofmann: Wallace Stevens, 22 September 2016

The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens 
by Paul Mariani.
Simon and Schuster, 512 pp., £23, May 2016, 978 1 4516 2437 3
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... from the brisk 15-page sketch called ‘Wallace Stevens: A Likeness’ by his previous biographer Joan Richardson (I haven’t read her biography); not to mention Parts of a World: Wallace Stevens Remembered, Peter Brazeau’s disciplined and rather stylish oral biography from 1983. It is Brazeau who supplies a fascinating list of Stevens’s annual ...

Ruin it your own way

Susan Pedersen, 4 June 2020

Tastes of Honey: The Making of Shelagh Delaney and a Cultural Revolution 
by Selina Todd.
Chatto, 304 pp., £18.99, August 2019, 978 1 78474 082 5
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A Taste of Honey 
by Shelagh Delaney.
Methuen, 112 pp., £14.44, November 2019, 978 1 350 13495 9
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... they were to be masculine, rebellious and shocking. When, in April 1958, Delaney sent her play to Joan Littlewood, the director of the avant-garde Theatre Workshop in East London, she adopted a naive, Northern persona that was more than a little misleading. ‘A fortnight ago I didn’t know the theatre existed,’ she gushed to Littlewood – but then a ...

Laertes has a daughter

Bee Wilson: The Redgraves, 6 June 2013

The Redgraves: A Family Epic 
by Donald Spoto.
Robson, 361 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 1 84954 394 1
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The House of Redgrave: The Lives of a Theatrical Dynasty 
by Tim Adler.
Aurum, 336 pp., £20, July 2012, 978 1 84513 623 9
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... Kempson – Vanessa, Corin and Lynn – became actors. Vanessa then married the film director Tony Richardson and gave birth to two more actresses, Natasha and Joely Richardson. The latter was born the same year as Corin’s daughter Jemma Redgrave, also an actress. Corin was named after the shepherd in As You Like It and ...

Puellilia

Pat Rogers, 7 August 1986

Mothers of the Novel: One Hundred Good Women Writers before Jane Austen 
by Dale Spender.
Pandora, 357 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 86358 081 5
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Scribbling Sisters 
by Dale Spender and Lynne Spender.
Camden Press, 188 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 948491 00 0
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A Woman of No Character: An Autobiography of Mrs Manley 
by Fidelis Morgan.
Faber, 176 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13934 5
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Cecilia 
by Fanny Burney.
Virago, 919 pp., £6.95, May 1986, 0 86068 775 9
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Millenium Hall 
by Sarah Scott.
Virago, 207 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86068 780 5
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Marriage 
by Susan Ferrier.
Virago, 513 pp., £4.50, February 1986, 0 86068 765 1
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Belinda 
by Maria Edgeworth.
Pandora, 434 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 074 2
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Self-Control 
by Mary Brunton.
Pandora, 437 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 9780863580840
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The Female Quixote: The Adventures of Arabella 
by Charlotte Lennox.
Pandora, 423 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 080 7
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... twenty, plus the recognised fathers of the novel ... Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, Samuel Richardson, Tobias Smollett and Lawrence [sic] Sterne; generosity indeed to double the number!’ A list so nakedly daft obviates detailed scrutiny. It may be worth asking how Lever (born 1806) contrived to predate Jane Austen. If Spender wants to double her ...

Mansions in Bloom

Ruth Richardson, 23 May 1991

A Paradise out of a Common Field: The Pleasures and Plenty of the Victorian Garden 
by Joan Morgan and Alison Richards.
Century, 256 pp., £16.95, May 1990, 0 7126 2209 8
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Private Gardens of London 
by Arabella Lennox-Boyd.
Weidenfeld, 224 pp., £25, September 1990, 0 297 83025 2
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The Greatest Glasshouse: The Rainforest Recreated 
edited by Sue Minter.
HMSO, 216 pp., £25, July 1990, 0 11 250035 8
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Religion and Society in a Cotswold Vale: Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, 1780-1865 
by Albion Urdank.
California, 448 pp., $47.50, May 1990, 0 520 06670 7
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... The garden whose pleasures and plenty are described in A Paradise out of a Common Field is neither typical nor representative. Its owner is extremely rich, and its location a Victorian form of Arcadia: a place where money is no object, where all the world is the topmost Society, and where the servant class knows its place. Perhaps because this flawless corner of Victoria’s England is so very unlike what we know of it from Dickens and Mayhew, George Eliot and Mrs Gaskell, it seems rather an unreal landscape ...

Olivier Rex

Ronald Bryden, 1 September 1988

Olivier 
by Anthony Holden.
Weidenfeld, 504 pp., £16, May 1988, 0 297 79089 7
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... his pool in the altogether and attending the first nights of the three children who have followed Joan Plowright and himself into the theatre. Anyone likely to be interested in this book or its successors must remember that the actor published his own autobiography only six years ago, and a complementary professional memoir in 1986. In such ...

Demi-Paradises

Gabriele Annan, 7 June 1984

Milady Vine: The Autobiography of Philippe de Rothschild 
edited by Joan Littlewood.
Cape, 247 pp., £10.95, June 1984, 0 224 02208 3
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I meant to marry him: A Personal Memoir 
by Jean MacGibbon.
Gollancz, 182 pp., £10.95, May 1984, 0 575 03412 2
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... How lucky he was in his ghost: not some wan emanation from a publisher’s stable, but punchy Joan Littlewood, formerly the director of the Theatre Royal, Stratford East and the co-author of Sparrers can’t sing and O What a lovely war. She writes with tremendous verve and seems to get the Baron’s tone exactly right with debonair period idioms like ...

Six hands at an open door

David Trotter, 21 March 1991

Intertextual Dynamics within the Literary Group: Joyce, Lewis, Pound and Eliot 
by Dennis Brown.
Macmillan, 230 pp., £35, November 1990, 9780333516461
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An Immodest Violet: The Life of Violet Hunt 
by Joan Hardwick.
Deutsch, 205 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 233 98639 1
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... there has been a surge of interest in ‘Modernist women’: H.D., Bryher, Gertrude Stein, Dorothy Richardson, Djuna Barnes, Harriet Monroe and many others. These women experimented not only in their writing, but also in their lives, by rejecting conventional sexual roles and by establishing networks of support and patronage. Unfortunately, however, the ...

Vampiric Words

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 26 May 1994

The Hunger Artists: Starving, Writing and Imprisonment 
by Maud Ellmann.
Virago, 136 pp., £7.99, September 1993, 1 85381 675 2
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... Holy Feast and Holy Fast (1987) ‘owes its very splendour to its intellectual voracity’, and Joan Brumberg’s Fasting Girls (1988) is yet ‘more engorged with references, as if it were compelled to lick the data clean’, The Hunger Artists comes dangerously close to starving for evidence altogether. Taking ‘disembodiment’ as her theme seems to ...

Everybody

Craig Raine, 3 February 1983

Confessions of an Actor 
by Laurence Olivier.
Weidenfeld, 305 pp., £9.95, October 1982, 0 297 78106 5
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... morning.’ I prefer the Olivier on all-fours in Moscow being coaxed into bed by his third wife, Joan Plowright. Or even the Olivier who tends to avoid glittering parties because they make him pass out. Either seems more natural to him. This relatively recently induced naturalness has some bearing on Olivier the performer. He isn’t a great theorist: At ...

What if you hadn’t been home

Mary-Kay Wilmers: Joan Didion, 3 November 2011

Blue Nights 
by Joan Didion.
Fourth Estate, 188 pp., £14.99, November 2011, 978 0 00 743289 9
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... This is how it begins: July 26 2010. Today would be her wedding anniversary. Joan Didion’s daughter, Quintana Roo, was married at the Cathedral of St John the Divine on Amsterdam Avenue in New York in 2003. Dates are important. In a writer as fastidious as Didion they carry a lot of weight. Detail matters too, sometimes more than the main thing, or instead of it: Seven years ago today we took the leis from the florist’s boxes and shook the water in which they were packed onto the grass … The white peacock spread his fan ...

Un Dret Egal

David A. Bell: Political Sentiment, 15 November 2007

Inventing Human Rights: A History 
by Lynn Hunt.
Norton, 272 pp., £15.99, April 2007, 978 0 393 06095 9
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... Letters). Instead, Hunt draws attention to epistolary novels of private lives and loves, above all Richardson’s Pamela and Clarissa, and Rousseau’s Julie. These books received frenzied popular and critical acclaim, but not because they said anything about constitutions and rights, even allegorically. What they did do, according to Hunt, was to encourage ...

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