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Where’s Esther?

Robert Alter: The Dead Sea Scrolls, 12 September 2013

The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography 
by John Collins.
Princeton, 272 pp., £16.95, October 2012, 978 0 691 14367 5
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The Essenes, the Scrolls and the Dead Sea 
by Joan Taylor.
Oxford, 418 pp., £30, November 2012, 978 0 19 955448 5
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... else associated with the Scrolls, the identification has been hotly contested. A new book by Joan Taylor, a professor at King’s College London, does not really deal with the contents of the Scrolls but instead concentrates on two related issues: the nature of the Essenes and whether they were likely candidates to be keepers of the Qumran ...

I thought you were incredible

Bee Wilson: Elizabeth Taylor’s Magic, 16 November 2023

Elizabeth TaylorThe Grit and Glamour of an Icon 
by Kate Andersen Brower.
HarperCollins, 495 pp., £25, December 2022, 978 0 00 843582 0
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... At​ Elizabeth Taylor’s funeral – which started fifteen minutes late, in deference to her own habitual lateness – Colin Farrell recited ‘The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins. In the last two years of her life, when he was in his thirties and she was in her late seventies, Farrell had become one of Taylor’s closest friends ...


A.J.P. Taylor: An Unexpected Experience, 6 December 1984

... whether most of the audience recognised the allusion, but it gave me my exit line. How I wish that Joan Littlewood would produce Oh, what a lovely war again. But I fear it has vanished. I am glad to think that my copy of ‘Oh, what a lovely war’ is the best preserved of my gramophone records. I look forward to playing it in ten, perhaps even in twenty ...

Dear Miss Boothby

Margaret Anne Doody, 5 November 1992

The Letters of Samuel Johnson: Vol. I: 1731-1772, Vol. II: 1773-1776, Vol. III: 1777-1781 
edited by Bruce Redford.
Oxford, 431 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 19 811287 4
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... intertwined with his. It would be helpful to have explanations of Lucy Porter, Hill Boothby, John Taylor and the Thrales, as major figures in Johnson’s life and letter-writing. The notes are self-referential in a cryptic way, with a delicately archaic use of ante and post; these are not as helpful as the editor thinks, for the reader who is reading straight ...

So Hard to Handle

John Lahr: In Praise of Joni Mitchell, 22 February 2018

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell 
by David Yaffe.
Farrar, Straus, 420 pp., £20, October 2017, 978 0 374 24813 0
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... the process of writing, she’s building a canvas as well as she is putting on the paint,’ James Taylor, another conquest, explained. ‘It’s never straight on.’ Mitchell’s lyrical indirection, the habit of thinking against conventional tropes, is an extension of what she calls her ‘perverse need for originality’, a manifestation of a rebellious ...


Seamus Perry: Southey’s Genius for Repression, 26 January 2006

Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793-1810 
edited by Lynda Pratt, Tim Fulford and Daniel Sanjiv Roberts.
Pickering & Chatto, 2624 pp., £450, May 2004, 1 85196 731 1
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... On 15 June 1794, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, prodigious, garrulous and chubby, his brilliant undergraduate career in tatters, set out from Cambridge in the company of a steady companion called Hucks, picturesquely intent on a walking tour of North Wales. Their route took them through Oxford, where they looked up one of Coleridge’s old schoolmates, who took the visitors to see a notorious democrat at Balliol called Robert Southey ...

The Divine Miss P.

Elaine Showalter, 11 February 1993

Sex, Art and American Culture 
by Camille Paglia.
Viking, 256 pp., £16.99, March 1993, 0 670 84612 0
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... people’. For Paglia, only remote and glamorous icons of pop culture like Madonna and Elizabeth Taylor (of whom she once collected 599 pictures) are spared this resentment, and courted from afar.Although Paglia cites Harold Bloom and Milton Kessler (her professor at Harpur College in the Sixties) as intellectual mentors, and Oscar Wilde as her literary ...

Of the Mule Breed

David Bromwich: Robert Southey, 21 May 1998

Robert Southey: A Life 
by Mark Storey.
Oxford, 405 pp., £25, April 1997, 0 19 811246 7
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... a morbid appeal in the eclipse of a career that spun out Thalaba, The Curse of Kehama, Roderick, Joan of Arc, and the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Adepts of cultural studies have found Southey the most open-minded of the Romantics, but the truth is that he was the most serviceable. He cast his eye in every direction, in book-making as in ...

Seeing Stars

Alan Bennett: Film actors, 3 January 2002

... no good? Had the Queen been flesh and blood and not a cartoon she might well have been played by Joan Crawford, who was always something of an enigma to me. I never liked her, and with her gaunt face, protruding eyes and instinct for melodrama she seemed the embodiment of evil, yet she was often cast in the role of heroine. Even if she managed during the ...

Exceptionally Wonderful Book

John Sutherland, 6 October 1994

Knowledge of Angels 
by Jill Paton Walsh.
Green Bay in association with Colt, 268 pp., £14.99, July 1994, 0 948845 05 8
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... new medium to ‘crawl back into its tube’. It all went wrong. The 1957 film, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, was epic only in the scale of its box-office failure. The chronically self-destructive Clift lost his good looks in an automobile crash during production, and has two disconcertingly different faces at various points in the ...

Promises, Promises

Erin Maglaque: The Love Plot, 21 April 2022

Love: A History in Five Fantasies 
by Barbara Rosenwein.
Polity, 220 pp., £20, October 2021, 978 1 5095 3183 7
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... irrational, of something before and beyond language. This is the concept of fantasy that allows Joan Scott in The Fantasy of Feminist History (2011) to investigate what is not captured by cultural construction, everything that eludes the conscious expression of ideas in language. By describing historical scripts about love as ‘fantasies’ Rosenwein seems ...

At the V&A

Marina Warner: Alexander McQueen, 4 June 2015

... all called at various times for loosening those stays, unbuttoning that collar, undoing that tie. Joan of Arc was the subject of McQueen’s 1998 autumn/winter collection, and there is a poignant photograph in the catalogue of McQueen in full armour, dreaming of chivalry. Much young adult fantasy fiction, in which ...


Elspeth Barker, 9 April 1992

by Robert Liddell.
Peter Owen, 228 pp., £14.95, February 1992, 0 7206 0853 8
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Farewell Sidonia 
by Erich Hackl.
Cape, 135 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 224 02901 0
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... love for each other, something which they had learned to keep well-hidden. Accompanied by baby Joan, who was screaming ‘like the servantless children of the poor’, Elsa returned from Egypt and moved the boys with her from one comfortless house to another. She made initial attempts to be friendly but soon lost interest. She was expecting another ...

Beware of counterfeits

Dror Wahrman: 18th-century fakery, 6 June 2002

The Perreaus and Mrs Rudd: Forgery and Betrayal in 18th-Century London 
by Donna Andrew and Randall McGowen.
California, 346 pp., £24.95, November 2001, 0 520 22062 5
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The Smart: The True Story of Margaret Caroline Rudd and the Unfortunate Perreau Brothers 
by Sarah Bakewell.
Chatto, 321 pp., £17.99, April 2001, 9780701171094
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... her conspicuous and limitless wardrobe, cut a figure worthy of being played by Barbara Stanwyck or Joan Crawford. (Or, judging from the picture on the cover of Sarah Bakewell’s book, Veronica Lake. Except that it isn’t of Mrs Rudd – a publishing imposture to follow on the heels of so many other impostures in this story.) The supporting characters include ...


Inigo Thomas: Michael Wolff’s Book Party, 8 February 2018

... someone they could talk to.Journalistically, what more could you wish for? ‘It was gold,’ as Joan Didion would say. The historian Taylor Branch visited Bill Clinton secretly at the White House once a month in the 1990s. On his first visit, in the spring of 1993, maxims and epigrams were flying about the place. Bill was ...

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