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Turncoats and Opportunists

Alexandra Walsham: Francis Walsingham, 5 July 2012

The Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I 
by John Cooper.
Faber, 400 pp., £9.99, July 2012, 978 0 571 21827 1
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... as blunt, uncourtly and dressed always in black, Walsingham has long defied categorisation. John Cooper’s book is a fresh attempt to assess the accuracy of these opposing images. It charts Walsingham’s life from his birth in 1531 or 1532, on the cusp of the Henrician Reformation and the break with Rome, through his education at King’s ...

A Proper Stoic

John Bayley, 8 May 1986

Duff CooperThe Authorised Biography 
by John Charmley.
Weidenfeld, 265 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 297 78857 4
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... profit again and again though it is not entirely easy to see why. Neither Hugh Walpole nor Duff Cooper (who turns out to have been Rupert Hart-Davis’s uncle) were particularly remarkable people, neither geniuses nor ‘great men’. But perhaps this is the reason why they are interesting to read about, when their lives and circumstances are fully and ...

Lurching up to bed with the champion of Cubism

Nicholas Penny: Douglas Cooper, 20 January 2000

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Picasso, Provence and Douglas Cooper 
by John Richardson.
Cape, 320 pp., £20, November 1999, 0 224 05056 7
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... John Richardson is one of those gossips who knows – or at least knows about – everyone. For example (on page 118, to be precise), Marie-Laure (1), Maurice Bischoffsheim (2), the Comtesse de Chevigné (3), the Duchesse de Guermantes (4), the Marquis de Sade (5), Jean Cocteau (6), the Vicomte de Noailles (7), an anonymous gym instructor (8), Igor Markevitch (9), Diaghilev (10), Nijinsky (11), Maurice Gendron (12): I was the daughter of 2, an immensely rich Belgian banker, and the granddaughter of 3, who was said to be the model for 4, and was also – would you believe it? – the great-great-granddaughter of 5 ...

Time of the Red-Man

Mark Ford: James Fenimore Cooper, 25 September 2008

James Fenimore CooperThe Early Years 
by Wayne Franklin.
Yale, 708 pp., £25, July 2008, 978 0 300 10805 7
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... It was a curious set of circumstances that in 1820 drove James Cooper (the ‘middle surname’ Fenimore would not be added for another six years), the son of one of post-independence America’s wealthiest land speculators, to embark on a career in the dubious and unpredictable world of novel-writing. Almost nothing in Cooper’s life up until that year, in which he turned 31, indicates an interest in fiction, or in the arts ...

Wholly Given Over to Thee

Anne Barton: Literary romance, 2 December 2004

The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare 
by Helen Cooper.
Oxford, 560 pp., £65, June 2004, 0 19 924886 9
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... Erinyes optimistically renamed ‘the kindly ones’ at the end of Aeschylus’ Oresteia. (John Lyly had also bestowed it on a questing knight in his comedy Endimion a few years before Peele.) Like Shakespeare’s notorious sea-coast of Bohemia, Catita cannot be found on any map, nor can a winged Jackanapes improbably flying with its tail in its mouth ...

Swaying at the Stove

Rosemary Hill: The Cult of Elizabeth David, 9 December 1999

Elizabeth David: A Biography 
by Lisa Chaney.
Pan, 482 pp., £10, September 1999, 0 330 36762 5
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Waiting at the Kitchen Table. Elizabeth David: The Authorised Biography 
by Artemis Cooper.
Viking, 364 pp., £20, November 1999, 0 7181 4224 1
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... postwar England. The manuscript had been rejected by several more literal-minded publishers before John Lehmann, the editor of New Writing, took it on at the recommendation of his assistant, Julia Strachey, Lytton Strachey’s niece. So it was as a literary work, with a lingering glow of Bloomsbury behind it, that David’s first book made its appearance. To ...

Family Fortunes

Helen Cooper: The upwardly mobile Pastons, 4 August 2005

Blood and Roses: The Paston Family in the 15th Century 
by Helen Castor.
Faber, 347 pp., £8.99, June 2005, 0 571 21671 4
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... over four generations of both men and women – indeed, her letters make Margaret Paston, wife of John Paston I, one of the most prolific woman writers in Middle English. She repeatedly urged her husband to come home, to pursue the family’s interests from Norfolk rather than London; it is our good fortune that he didn’t. The intimacy of the letters can ...

My Dagger into Yow

Ian Donaldson: Sidney’s Letters, 25 April 2013

The Correspondence of Sir Philip Sidney 
edited by Roger Kuin.
Oxford, 1381 pp., £250, July 2012, 978 0 19 955822 3
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... Walsingham gave to Sidney and Languet and other terror-stricken Protestants in Paris. Perhaps, as John Cooper conjectured in his 2011 Life of Walsingham, such scenes were literally indescribable in diplomatic correspondence, their details committed instead for maximum security to the memory of couriers who conveyed the news to London. While the events of ...

Snob Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Modern Snobbery, 3 November 2016

... I once found​ a copy of Jilly Cooper’s Class (1979) in the bargain box outside a friend’s second-hand bookshop. When I asked how much it was he winced visibly and said: ‘Just take it, I can’t bear to have it in the shop.’ Subtitled ‘A View from Middle England’ and written in Cooper’s usual rollicking style, it’s a witty read spiked with detailed observations of life in the 1970s and based on the good-natured assumption that everyone is a snob about something and to that extent we are all ridiculous ...

Skeltonics

Helen Cooper: The maverick poetry of John Skelton, 14 December 2006

John Skelton and Poetic Authority: Defining the Liberty to Speak 
by Jane Griffiths.
Oxford, 213 pp., £50, February 2006, 9780199273607
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... John Skelton should be one of the great figures of English poetry. He is widely regarded as the most significant poet in the 130 years between the death of Chaucer and the flourishing of Thomas Wyatt; but it has to be said that the competition for the top ranking south of the Scottish border is not very fierce, and until the 1930s such a judgment would have struck most people as bizarre ...

Miss Dior, Prodigally Applied

Ian Patterson: Jilly Cooper, 17 May 2017

Mount! 
by Jilly Cooper.
Corgi, 610 pp., £7.99, February 2017, 978 0 552 17028 4
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... Jilly Cooper​ ’s work is not, so far as I know, much studied in universities. In the Senior Combination Room one lunchtime recently, when I mentioned that I was writing this review, a Very Senior Person slumped forward with his head in his hands, muttering: ‘Oh no, soft porn!’ Other people either laugh, or look quizzically at me and hurry away ...

Bright Old Thing

D.A.N. Jones, 23 July 1987

Letters of Conrad Russell: 1897-1947 
edited by Georgiana Blakiston.
Murray, 278 pp., £16.95, May 1987, 0 7195 4382 7
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... it is because my voice is different from theirs.’ Worse was to come. In 1937 he wrote to Diana Cooper about a member of his London club who had raised an objection about Russell ‘talking farming’. The complaint ran: ‘It’s really unbearable. I sometimes think I’ll scream, it suffocates me.’ Russell concedes: ‘Well, you never see yourself as ...

Why Goldwyn Wore Jodhpurs

David Thomson, 22 June 2000

The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper 
by Dominick Dunne.
Crown, 218 pp., £17.99, October 1999, 0 609 60388 4
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Gary Cooper Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers 
by Maria Cooper Janis.
Abrams, 176 pp., £22, November 1999, 0 8109 4130 9
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... often indulged friends or relatives. (Play It as It Lays was scripted by Dominick’s brother, John Gregory Dunne, and his wife, Joan Didion, and was an adaptation of Didion’s warning novel on Hollywood.) But he threw parties, and for a few years real class people came, and he took their pictures. He hadn’t set out to be a studied photographer, but he ...

The German Ideal

Misha Donat, 30 December 1982

Carl Maria von Weber: Writings on Music 
edited by John Warrack, translated by Martin Cooper.
Cambridge, 402 pp., £35, December 1981, 0 521 22892 1
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... the object of the satire as the mysterious slow opening of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony (pace John Warrack, who in his introduction to the present volume raises pedantic objections as to the strict accuracy of Weber’s description of the passage in question): but it is equally clear that, far from identifying with the orchestral players of his day, Weber ...

At Tate Britain

David Craig: Mountain Art, 25 April 2002

... in the rock-leaved Bible of geology’. Those were the words of the pioneering geologist John Wesley Powell, who led the first expedition through the Grand Canyon in 1873. Thomas Moran, an experienced painter from Philadelphia, travelled with Powell, and had been to Wyoming and Montana with the US Geological and Geographical Survey two years ...

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