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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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... 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 full-length treatment in English of women who loved women. In ...

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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... gives me may expand the space for critical thought more than the privileges I enjoy erode it.’ John Hall, 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 tradition of the Scottish ...

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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... correspondence. But most of it has disappeared. The collected letters are excellently edited by N. John Hall, 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 to be supplemented) all outweigh Trollope. There is a ...
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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... the judges give the Booker Prize to a bus driver for the sake of publicity,’ he said, ‘I shall despise them.’ The Booker judge Valentine Cunningham explained that ‘all the women liked the bus driver’ and sneeringly described the book as ‘quite ordinary and evening-class’. The novel is ill-served by these caricatures and is quite a bit more ...
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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... number of the 47 novels to print. A new and complete edition of the letters (edited by N. John Hall) 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 hardbacked ...

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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... 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 rarest of modern things, lit crit with laughs. Hamilton has ...

Two Poems

Donald Hall

19 August 1993
... 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 we pasted an issue         together we discovered a ...

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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... 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 Malone. The usual story is that Malone, as he himself ...

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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... and as philosophers of social-scientific method. The comparison becomes almost a reflex in John Hall’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 must be disenchanted’; Gellner’s account is ...

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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... about Shakespeare of Stratford, even when it’s about Shakespeare in London. Obscurity is also a challenge, of course, and the documentation of his Stratford circle can be pretty threadbare. Tasked with researching Shakespeare’s brother-in-law, the shadowy hatter William Hart, Cathy Shrank notes ‘how invisible to the historical record someone of ...

Haar

John Burnside

8 January 2004
... 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 and fog, mornings when last night’s dreams fit snug in my ...
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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... 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, were ‘aggressively intelligent ... not at all ...

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 Olivier). Play directors pride themselves on their ability to give what they call Notes. This sort of Note (scarcely recognised by dictionaries) is not the sort manual workers make, in notebooks or on notepaper: it is mouth work ...
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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... 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 system was only beginning to be adopted and formal ...

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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... 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 Chief now reports direct the state of the siege every few ...

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