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Accidents of Language

John Lucas, 3 November 1983

The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Agenda and Deutsch, 31 pp., £3, April 1983, 0 233 97549 7
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... In the issue of Agenda for Spring 1983 there is an essay by Geoffrey Hill which will obviously become required reading for anyone who is seriously interested in his poetry. ‘Our word is our bond’ is in many ways an apologia for Hill’s view of poetry and, more particularly, for his sense of himself as poet. It is as dense and allusive as much of his poetry, and so closely argued that it’s almost impossible to tease out individual threads without running the risk of damaging the entire fabric ...

For ever England

John Lucas, 16 June 1983

Sherston’s Progress 
by Siegfried Sassoon.
Faber, 150 pp., £2.25, March 1983, 9780571130337
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The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon 
by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Faber, 160 pp., £5.25, March 1983, 0 571 13010 0
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Siegfried Sassoon Diaries 1915-1918 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Faber, 288 pp., £10.50, March 1983, 0 571 11997 2
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... With the appearance of Sherston’s Progress in 1936, Siegfried Sassoon completed what Howard Spring, writing in the Evening Standard, called ‘the most satisfying piece of autobiography to be published in our time’. Other reviewers and commentators, then and later, seem to have agreed with Spring’s assessment. Not Hugh MacDiarmid, however. In a poem which contrasts those who went to fight in 1914 with the International Brigaders, MacDiarmid writes: Despite the undeniable honesty, the little literary gift, What is Sherston’s Progress but an exposure Of the eternal Englishman Incapable of rising above himself, And traditional values winning out Over an attempted independence of mind ...

Fallen Language

Donald Davie, 21 June 1984

The Lords of Limit: Essays on Literature and Ideas 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Deutsch, 203 pp., £12.95, May 1984, 0 233 97581 0
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... great credit to the publishers. This particular essay has provoked in another attentive reader, John Lucas (LRB, Vol. 5, No 20), the reflection that ‘language cannot be innocent.’ But surely it needs to be remarked that whereas indeed the British English that Hill and Lucas share cannot be in this sense ...

‘Come, my friend,’ said Smirnoff

Joanna Kavenna: The radical twenties, 1 April 1999

The Radical Twenties: Aspects of Writing, Politics and Culture 
by John Lucas.
Five Leaves, 263 pp., £11.99, January 1997, 0 907123 17 1
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... Edward Marsh stubbornly published best-selling poetry collections, featuring Walter de la Mare, John Drinkwater, Harold Monro, Rupert Brooke, Wilfrid Blunt, nervously commemorating a threatened pastoral. Other writers, more diffident or isolated, threw in their lot with entropy: Charlotte Mew’s poetry of the early Twenties is littered with speakers on the ...

Raining

Donald Davie, 5 May 1983

Later Poems 
by R.S. Thomas.
Macmillan, 224 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 333 34560 6
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Thomas Hardy Annual, No 1 
edited by Norman Page.
Macmillan, 205 pp., £20, March 1983, 0 333 32022 0
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Tess of the d’Urbervilles 
by Thomas Hardy, edited by Juliet Grindle and Simon Gatrell.
Oxford, 636 pp., £50, March 1983, 0 19 812495 3
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Hardy’s Love Poems 
by Thomas Hardy, edited by Carl Weber.
Macmillan, 253 pp., £3.95, February 1983, 0 333 34798 6
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The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hardy. Vol. I: Wessex Poems, Poems of the Past and the Present, Time’s Laughingstocks 
edited by Samuel Hynes.
Oxford, 403 pp., £19.50, February 1983, 0 19 812708 1
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... status, briefly elevated as the great modern poet that independent witnesses like Yvor Winters and John Crowe Ransom had always considered him, and in many quarters is now being just as promptly and precipitately returned to the Victorian cobwebs. What has done most damage – and understandably, since it’s the verdict of a friend over many years, with no ...

Footpaths

Tom Shippey, 26 July 1990

England and Englishness: Ideas of Nationhood in English Poetry, 1688-1900 
by John Lucas.
Hogarth, 227 pp., £18, February 1990, 0 7012 0892 9
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The Englishman’s England: Taste, Travel and the Rise of Tourism 
by Ian Ousby.
Cambridge, 244 pp., £45, February 1990, 0 521 37374 3
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Fleeting Things: English Poets and Poems, 1616-1660 
by Gerald Hammond.
Harvard, 394 pp., £24.95, March 1990, 0 674 30625 2
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... retaining it and FIFA be damned – what is this about ‘Englishness’? It is this question that John Lucas sets himself to answer, in considering the poetry of two centuries. He has one immediate cultural handicap: he cannot refrain from sniping at his own side (the English), as if to provide credentials of fairness. But what he says often seems more ...

Cut-Ups

Robert Crawford, 7 December 1989

Perduta Gente 
by Peter Reading.
Secker, £5, June 1989, 0 436 40999 2
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Letting in the rumour 
by Gillian Clarke.
Carcanet, 79 pp., £4.95, July 1989, 9780856357572
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Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Woman 
by Grace Nichols.
Virago, 58 pp., £4.99, July 1989, 1 85381 076 2
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Studying Grosz on the Bus 
by John Lucas.
Peterloo, 64 pp., £4.95, August 1989, 1 871471 02 8
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The Old Noise of Truth 
by Joan Downar.
Peterloo, 63 pp., £4.95, August 1989, 1 871471 03 6
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... is obviously having an affair with me’) is definitely about the real stuff as opposed to the John Travolta variety, and works because it’s wry and faithful to its subject, without straining after the big effects that phrases like ‘the geography of my thighs’ or ‘cosmic spite’ announce are as yet unavailable to her. With lines like The smell of ...

On Nicholas Moore

Peter Howarth: Nicholas Moore, 23 September 2015

... Laudanum, Kenelme Sexnoth Pope, H.N. (Helga Nevvadotoomuch, c/o Lord Godmanchester (Gumster), The John Peelcroft Hadmanchester Podgoets, Night Slide Clubb, P.O. Box 1AA, BBC-wise, W.1, and others. The translations were just as elastic as these cartoon-rubber composites. In the Robert Lowell version actually used by the Sunday Times, ‘Spleen’ opens: I’m ...

Star Warrior

John Sutherland, 6 October 1983

Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas 
by Dale Pollock.
Elm Tree, 304 pp., £9.95, July 1983, 0 241 11034 3
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Olaf Stapledon: A Man Divided 
by Leslie Fiedler.
Oxford, 236 pp., £17.50, June 1983, 0 19 503086 9
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... George Lucas is the most money-successful film-maker there has ever been. Of the eight films he has directed or produced (he eludes the conventional Hollywood division of labour), Star Wars and The empire strikes back have sold getting on for $900m worth of tickets. C-3PO and R2-D2 are as well known as Pope John Paul or Mickey Mouse ...

Ceaseless Anythings

James Wood: Robert Stone, 1 October 1998

Damascus Gate 
by Robert Stone.
Picador, 500 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 37058 8
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... American realism, once a belief, is now an idle liberty. Writers such as Robert Stone, Joan Didion, John Irving and even Don DeLillo, are praised for their ‘realism’, for the solidity of their plots, the patience of their characterisation, the capillary spread of their social portraits, the leverage of their political insight ...

I hear, I see, I learn

Nicholas Spice, 4 November 1993

The Green Knight 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 472 pp., £15.99, September 1993, 0 7011 6030 6
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... even before we get to know them, by their names. In The Green Knight we have to contend with Lucas and Clement Graffe, Harvey Blacket, Bellamy James and his dog Anax, the Anderson women – Louise and her daughters Alethea (Aleph), Sophia (Sefton) and Moira (Moy) – Emil and Clive and the Adwardens. A reader alert to social differences will find such ...

The Virtues of Topography

John Barrell: Constable, Gainsborough, Turner, 3 January 2013

Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape 
Royal Academy, until 17 February 2013Show More
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... to speak directly of the times we live in. ‘The Watering Place’ after Peter Paul Rubens by John Browne (1770) There is, however, nothing irrelevant about the new show at the Royal Academy, featuring Gainsborough, Constable and Turner; not because of anything it has to say about ‘the making of landscape’, but because it is so evidently a show for ...

Pentecost

John Burnside, 19 June 2003

... For Lucas Morning; the usual walk to the harbour: the tide half-out the fat mud fretted with bird-prints light slurred with oil and slicked reflections ice white or coffee brown strawberry red or a blue that never arrives at daylight. We are here so you can name the world you know one object at a time: fishing boat, lighthouse, herring gull, open sky, those shoals of fish that skirt the harbour walls searching for food a work you never tire of watching as they break in hungry waves against the weed ...
... for Lucas There is too much light in the world to bear the weight of Euclid, too much fog, with shore birds, bright in the salt-water channels thinning the sands, the Black-Tailed Godwit, the Curlew Sandpiper, named from the field guide, but still uncertain, still defiantly heraldic. I’ve lived through days like these before and scarcely noticed, skylarks hidden in my sleeves, whole afternoons of stork and oriole ...

How the sanity of poets can be edited away

Arnold Rattenbury: The Sanity of Ivor Gurney, 14 October 1999

‘Severn and Somme’ and ‘War’s Embers’ 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 152 pp., £7.95, September 1997, 1 85754 348 3
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80 Poems or So 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by George Walter and R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 148 pp., £9.95, January 1997, 1 85754 344 0
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... scattered collections – made by Marion Scott, the Gurney family, Ivor’s Gloucester friend John Haines, Vaughan Williams and others – into a central archive. The process continued after Finzi’s death in 1956. Neither Gurney nor Scott had bothered much about dates and the habit of confusion grew by amalgamation. Blunden, returning manuscripts ...

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