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Tobias Gregory: George Herbert, 18 December 2014

Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert 
by John Drury.
Penguin, 396 pp., £9.99, April 2014, 978 0 14 104340 1
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... Corona’ to her, and years later preached at her funeral. In 1609 she was remarried, to Sir John Danvers, a cultured and attractive gentleman half her age; the marriage was evidently a happy one, and George Herbert enjoyed a close relationship with his young stepfather. Walton depicts Magdalen as a helicopter parent, at least in the case of her eldest ...

Scribblers and Assassins

Charles Nicholl: The Crimes of Thomas Drury, 31 October 2002

... and has brought me more particularly to consider the activities of a shadowy figure named Thomas Drury, who was closely involved in the business, but who has until now managed to evade the spotlight. His name has been known since the early 1970s, when a letter of his turned up in the manuscript-stacks of Lambeth Palace library, but who exactly he was, and ...

Wittgenstein’s Confessions

Norman Malcolm, 19 November 1981

Ludwig Wittgenstein: Personal Recollections 
edited by Rush Rhees.
Blackwell, 235 pp., £9.50, September 1981, 0 631 19600 5
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... Hermine; Fania Pascal, who taught him Russian in the 1930s; F.R. Leavis, the literary critic; John King, who attended Wittgenstein’s lectures and became a friend; M.O’C. Drury, a close friend over many years, who gives an unmatched account of Wittgenstein’s spiritual concerns; Rush Rhees, another close friend, who ...

Reading the Bible

John Barton, 5 May 1988

The Literary Guide to the Bible 
edited by Robert Alter and Frank Kermode.
Collins, 678 pp., £20, December 1987, 0 00 217439 1
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... Auerbach’s, including Kermode’s ‘Introduction to the New Testament’ and his chapter on St John’s Gospel, and Alter’s Introduction to the Old Testament and his essay ‘The Characteristics of Hebrew Poetry’ – probably the best treatment of this difficult subject now available. Attention to conventions does not mean, however, that the majority ...

Gentlemen and ladies came to see the poet’s cottage

Tom Paulin: Clare’s anti-pastoral, 19 February 2004

John Clare: A Biography 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 650 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 330 37106 1
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‘I Am’: The Selected Poetry of John Clare 
edited by Jonathan Bate.
Farrar, Straus, 318 pp., $17, November 2003, 0 374 52869 1
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John Clare, Politics and Poetry 
by Alan Vardy.
Palgrave, 221 pp., £45, October 2003, 0 333 96617 1
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John Clare Vol. V: Poems of the Middle Period 1822-37 
edited by Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 822 pp., £105, January 2003, 0 19 812386 8
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... In 1865, a year after John Clare’s death in the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, Frederick Martin, a former amanuensis of Thomas Carlyle, published the first biography of the ‘peasant poet’. It laid the foundations, Jonathan Bate says in his new Life, ‘for both the enduring myths and some of the key truths about Clare ...

The Reptile Oculist

John Barrell, 1 April 2004

... John Taylor, the journalist, newspaper editor and poet, was born in 1757. His grandfather, the legendary ‘Chevalier’ Taylor, had been oculist to George II, and afterwards, so his grandson assures us, to ‘every crowned head in Europe’. He was as famous for his womanising as for his knowledge of ophthalmology, but most famous, perhaps, for his habit of prefacing every operation he performed with a long speech in praise of his own skill, composed in what he claimed was ‘the true Ciceronian’, with each main verb cunningly held back to the end of the sentence ...

A Dreadful Drumming

Theo Tait: Ghosts, 6 June 2013

The Undiscovered Country: Journeys among the Dead 
by Carl Watkins.
Bodley Head, 318 pp., £20, January 2012, 978 1 84792 140 6
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A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proof 
by Roger Clarke.
Particular, 360 pp., £20, November 2012, 978 1 84614 333 5
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... ghost-hunter, Joseph Glanvill, to Christopher Wren and Charles II. A Hampshire landowner called John Mompesson imprisoned William Drury, a busker and vagrant, and confiscated his drum. Mompesson’s house was then beset by terrible knockings from inside and out. Beds shook, heavy objects were thrown about, children were ...

Trust the Coroner

John Bossy: Why Christopher Marlowe was probably not a spy, 14 December 2006

Christopher Marlowe: Poet and Spy 
by Park Honan.
Oxford, 421 pp., £25, October 2005, 0 19 818695 9
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... of the country. Riggs puts together Marlowe’s atheism and his spying to make of him (I quote John Gross) ‘the eternal rebel’; he reads the Tamburlaine plays, a wildly successful strip-cartoon in blank verse, as an engine of social criticism, and supposes that Marlowe’s death was personally procured by the queen, scandalised by his violation of ...

Here to take Karl Stead to lunch

C.K. Stead, 30 January 1992

Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilisation 
by John Lahr.
Bloomsbury, 242 pp., £14.99, October 1991, 0 7475 1021 0
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... fact no alcohol. I told him how a few years previously I had hesitated outside the Theatre Royal Drury Lane after his show, wondering whether I should ask to see him. He said: ‘I was probably in my dressing-room asking: “Where are all my friends?” ’ John Lahr is not the first writer on Humphries to wonder how it is ...

Let him be Caesar!

Michael Dobson: The Astor Place Riot, 2 August 2007

The Shakespeare Riots: Revenge, Drama and Death in 19th-Century America 
by Nigel Cliff.
Random House, 312 pp., $26.95, April 2007, 978 0 345 48694 3
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... to the liberating possibilities offered by the New World. An ode by William Havard, recited at Drury Lane in 1757, identifies Shakespeare as the Columbus of world drama, anticipating the installation, more than a century later, of statues of the playwright and the explorer opposite one another in Central Park, as two proto-founding fathers. The value of ...

Golden Dolly

John Pemble: Rich Britons, 24 September 2009

Who Were the Rich? A Biographical Directory of British Wealth-Holders. Vol. I: 1809-39 
by William Rubinstein.
Social Affairs Unit, 516 pp., £20, May 2009, 978 1 904863 39 7
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... a touring Irish company, and she’d caught the eye of Thomas Coutts after she’d graduated to Drury Lane and was performing for Sheridan on £12 a week. They married after the death of his first wife (the mother of his daughters) in 1815, when she was 37 and he was 79. She was trounced as a predator and lampooned as a parvenue. Disraeli portrayed her as ...

Cough up

Thomas Keymer: Henry Fielding, 20 November 2008

Plays: Vol. II, 1731-34 
by Henry Fielding, edited by Thomas Lockwood.
Oxford, 865 pp., £150, October 2007, 978 0 19 925790 4
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‘The Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon’, ‘Shamela’ and ‘Occasional Writings’ 
by Henry Fielding, edited by Martin Battestin, with Sheridan Baker and Hugh Amory.
Oxford, 804 pp., £150
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... and establish himself as a writer of classical comedy for the prestigious Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. His grim comedy of manners, The Modern Husband, renounces the hastily written farces that made his name, and even seems to blame the audience for their haphazard style: ‘Hence, your nice Tastes he strove to entertain,/With unshap’d Monsters of a ...

Meaningless Legs

Frank Kermode: John Gielgud, 21 June 2001

Gielgud: A Theatrical Life 1904-2000 
by Jonathan Croall.
Methuen, 579 pp., £20, November 2000, 0 413 74560 0
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John G.: The Authorised Biography of John Gielgud 
by Sheridan Morley.
Hodder, 510 pp., £20, May 2001, 0 340 36803 9
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John Gielgud: An Actor’s Life 
by Gyles Brandreth.
Sutton, 196 pp., £6.99, April 2001, 0 7509 2752 6
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... These biographies of John Gielgud by Jonathan Croall and Sheridan Morley are quite hard to tell apart. They are of much the same size, bear handsome pictures of the actor in old age on the front of their dust-jackets, and are, inevitably, affectionate and indulgent towards their subject. As Dirk Bogarde remarked when Croall consulted him about the work in hand, ‘everybody adored him, so the book might make rather flat reading ...

Dig, Hammer, Spin, Weave

Miles Taylor: Richard Cobden, Class Warrior, 12 March 2009

The Letters of Richard Cobden. Vol. I: 1815-47 
edited by Anthony Howe.
Oxford, 529 pp., £100, November 2007, 978 0 19 921195 1
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... will take its place alongside Gladstone’s diaries, the letters of Carlyle and Disraeli, and John Stuart Mill’s collected works as an indispensable resource for understanding the Victorians. With the possible exception of Adam Smith, there can be few economic gurus who have been so vulnerable to sustained political hijacking by left and right. From the ...

Hazlitteering

John Bayley, 22 March 1990

Hazlitt: A Life. From Winterslow to Frith Street 
by Stanley Jones.
Oxford, 397 pp., £35, October 1989, 0 19 812840 1
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Shakespearean Constitutions: Politics, Theatre, Criticism 1730-1830 
by Jonathan Bate.
Oxford, 234 pp., £27, September 1989, 0 19 811749 3
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... at the six volumes of Brian Vickers’s Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage, Bate shows that one John Potter had stoutly defended the play’s oddities many years earlier in the Theatrical Review. The real aficionados had always been enlightening and surprising in their championship of the Bard: what mattered in Hazlitt’s time, however, was a more general ...

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