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The Real Johnny Hall

Penelope Fitzgerald

3 October 1985
Our Three Selves: A Life of Radclyffe Hall 
by Michael Baker.
Hamish Hamilton, 386 pp., £13.95, June 1985, 0 241 11539 6
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... but overemphatic. The Times Literary Supplement also called it sincere, and Vera Brittain said it was ‘admirably restrained’. It sold quite well, going into a second impression, and Radclyffe Hall, with her lover Una Troubridge, thought of taking a cottage in Rye. She may have felt some disappointment, having planned her novel in a crusader’s spirit. She claimed to have written the first ...

Grand Theories

W.G. Runciman

17 October 1985
The Return of Grand Theory in the Human Sciences 
edited by Quentin Skinner.
Cambridge, 215 pp., £17.50, July 1985, 0 521 26692 0
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Classes 
by Erik Olin Wright.
Verso, 344 pp., £20, September 1985, 0 86091 104 7
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Powers and Liberties: The Causes and Consequences of the Rise of the West 
by John Hall.
Blackwell, 282 pp., £19.50, September 1985, 0 631 14542 7
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... where he hopes that ‘the time, travel and intellectual stimulation that my present position gives me may expand the space for critical thought more than the privileges I enjoy erode it.’ JohnHall, now at the University of Southampton, read history at Oxford but was seduced (his word) by Barrington Moore’s Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy into historical sociology in the liberal ...

Trollopiad

John​ Sutherland

9 January 1992
The Chronicler of Barsetshire: A Life of Anthony Trollope 
by R.H. Super.
Manchester, 528 pp., £29.95, July 1990, 0 472 10102 1
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Anthony Trollope: A Victorian in his World 
by Richard Mullen.
Duckworth, 767 pp., £25, July 1990, 0 7156 2293 5
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Trollope: A Biography 
by N. John Hall.
Oxford, 581 pp., £25, October 1991, 0 19 812627 1
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... sons to carry on his name. Trollope wrote more fiction than most and must also have written a lot of correspondence. But most of it has disappeared. The collected letters are excellently edited by N. JohnHall, but they run only to a couple of volumes. Dickens, by contrast, looks like amassing 15 or so fatter volumes in the Pilgrim edition. George Eliot’s eight volumes and Thackeray’s four (soon ...
26 November 1998
The Restraint of Beasts 
by Magnus Mills.
Flamingo, 215 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 00 225720 3
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... breaks, eat, go to the pub and then retire to their dingy caravan. This procedure is punctuated only by accidental homicides and the protagonists’ growing unease about the obscure activities of Hall Brothers, a local family business. Initially, the Halls appear to run a rival fencing company, but it emerges that their main concern is a large meat factory, producing sausages and pies. As the ...

Crusoe was a gentleman

John​ Sutherland

1 July 1982
The Gentleman in Trollope: Individuality and Moral Conduct 
by Shirley Letwin.
Macmillan, 303 pp., £15, May 1982, 0 333 31209 0
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The Idea of the Gentleman in the Victorian Novel 
by Robin Gilmour.
Allen and Unwin, 208 pp., £10, October 1981, 0 04 800005 1
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... Library, the Dover reprint series and the new paperback World’s Classics have returned an impressive number of the 47 novels to print. A new and complete edition of the letters (edited by N. JohnHall) is about to take over from Bradford Booth’s handy but imperfect single volume. A new and definitive biography (by Hall again) is in hand. And there has been an astonishing number of monographs and ...

After-Lives

John​ Sutherland

5 November 1992
Keepers of the Flame: Literary Estates and the Rise of Biography 
by Ian Hamilton.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £18.99, October 1992, 0 09 174263 3
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Testamentary Acts: Browning, Tennyson, James, Hardy 
by Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 273 pp., £27.50, June 1992, 0 19 811276 9
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The Last Laugh 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 131 pp., £10.99, December 1991, 0 7011 4583 8
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Trollope 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Hutchinson, 551 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 09 173896 2
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... memoir, In Search of J.D. Salinger. Keepers of the Flame is a further cogitation on the woes of biography, this time in a more objectively historical context. Hamilton offers 22 case studies, from John Donne – the first properly biographed English author – to Philip Larkin of last month’s Observer fame. Hamilton could not, if he tried, write an unreadable book. Keepers of the Flame is that ...

Two Poems

Donald Hall

19 August 1993
... dead now; soon the rest of the wedding party. The Advocate         On the Advocate in nineteen- forty-eight, we argued all         night about whether a poem was good enough for us. John         Ashbery sat in a corner shelling pistachio nuts;         Robert E. Bly wore a three- piece suit and a striped tie; Kenneth         Koch was always sarcastic. Once as ...

Best Known for His Guzzleosity

Helen Hackett: Shakespeare’s Authors

11 March 2010
Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? 
by James Shapiro.
Faber, 367 pp., £20, April 2010, 978 0 571 23576 6
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... for the sort of Shakespeare people wanted produced the forgeries of William-Henry Ireland in the 1790s (which included a letter from Elizabeth I thanking him for his ‘prettye Verses’) and John Payne Collier in the 1830s and 1840s (which showed Shakespeare to have been a well-connected member of metropolitan literary circles from an early stage). But for Shapiro the real villain is Edmond ...

What’s not to like?

Stefan Collini: Ernest Gellner

2 June 2011
Ernest Gellner: An Intellectual Biography 
by John Hall.
Verso, 400 pp., £29.99, July 2010, 978 1 84467 602 6
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... two as analysts of ‘modernity’, of the distinctiveness of the West, of the role of the world religions, and as philosophers of social-scientific method. The comparison becomes almost a reflex in JohnHall’s outstanding biography: ‘Gellner’s understanding and account of modern cognition were profoundly Weberian’; ‘No modern thinker has stood so close to Weber in insisting that our times ...

Unsluggardised

Charles Nicholl: ‘The Shakespeare Circle’

18 May 2016
The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography 
edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells.
Cambridge, 358 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 107 69909 0
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... the part of Hamlet’s ghostly father (first mentioned by Nicholas Rowe in 1709) adds force. The book opens with a brisk pair of essays by David Fallow and Michael Wood on the subject of his parents: John Shakespeare, born in about 1530, the son of a tenant farmer in the outlying village of Snitterfield, and Mary née Arden, some years younger, of a more prosperous family from Wilmcote. Neither of ...

Haar

John​ Burnside

8 January 2004
... amusements; a tidy marina; boys in their hot-cars, waiting for someone to see them; fishermen; coaches; pleasure boats; tailored poodles. It’s warmer at night, when the lights go on in the pool hall, the moon on the empty firth like the spirit of neon, girls from the Glasgow Fair drifting down to The Ship for vodka and cranberry, Budweiser, rum and black, but days are best: these days of salt ...
30 October 1997
Noel Coward and Radclyffe HallKindred Spirits 
by Terry Castle.
Columbia, 150 pp., £15.95, November 1996, 0 231 10596 7
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Your JohnThe Love Letters of Radclyffe Hall 
edited by Joanne Glasgow.
New York, 273 pp., £20, March 1997, 0 8147 3092 2
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Radclyffe HallA Woman Called John 
by Sally Cline.
Murray, 434 pp., £25, June 1997, 9780719554087
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... Honey, she’s a forerunner, that’s what she is, a kind of pioneer that’s got left behind. I believe she’s the beginning of things like me.’ Radclyffe Hall has long since been left behind, along with Joan Ogden, the heroine of her first novel, The Unlit Lamp, and the character to whom these words refer. The young women she had overheard, Ogden thought ...

Sour Notes

D.A.N. Jones

17 November 1983
Peter Hall’s Diaries: The Story of a Dramatic Battle 
edited by John​ Goodwin.
Hamish Hamilton, 507 pp., £12.95, November 1983, 0 241 11047 5
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... Sir Peter Hall is a man of Notes. He is a director of plays who has become Director of the National Theatre. The skills of play directors are not those of performers (like his predecessor at the National, Lord ...
3 May 1984
The Letters of Anthony Trollope 
edited by John Hall.
Stanford, 1082 pp., $87.50, July 1983, 0 8047 1076 7
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Anthony Trollope: Dream and Art 
by Andrew Wright.
Macmillan, 173 pp., £20, October 1983, 0 333 34593 2
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... to Baron Tauchnitz, the Leipzig mogul of the cheap reprint trade: ‘I have perhaps had more dealings with publishers than any man living.’ His letters to his chief publishers, Chapman and Hall, Blackwood, and Smith, Elder, are those of a hard-headed bargainer, civil but firm, who knew the market value of his product and was determined to get the best price for it. In a day when the royalty ...

Beware Bad Smells

Hugh Pennington: Florence Nightingale

4 December 2008
Florence Nightingale: The Woman and Her Legend 
by Mark Bostridge.
Viking, 646 pp., £25, October 2008, 978 0 670 87411 8
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... the present war with Russia,’ but it cannot be denied but that the national spirit for engineering enterprise has not failed to show itself in the most favourable light. Thus in the Crimea Uncle John has carried his railroads with him, and the locomotive is used there to wheel up shot, shell and other implements of war … from the camp in the Crimea, to the War Office in London, the Commander in ...

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