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Love among the Cheeses

Lidija Haas: Life with Amis and Ayer, 8 September 2011

The House in France: A Memoir 
by Gully Wells.
Bloomsbury, 307 pp., £16.99, June 2011, 978 1 4088 0809 2
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... Dee succeeded in her campaign to get Freddie, marrying the ‘pear-shaped Don Giovanni’, as John Osborne, a rare Freddie dissenter, called him. By then he was Wykeham Professor of Logic, leaving for New College on Tuesdays and coming home on Fridays. Dee moved from the Express to the leftier Daily Herald, which suited her ...

Be flippant

David Edgar: Noël Coward’s Return, 9 December 1999

1956 and All That 
by Dan Reballato.
Routledge, 265 pp., £40, February 1999, 0 415 18938 1
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Collected Plays: Six 
by Noël Coward.
Methuen, 415 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 413 73410 2
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Collected Plays: Seven 
by Noël Coward.
Methuen, 381 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 413 73410 2
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Collected Revue Sketches and Parodies 
by Noël Coward.
Methuen, 282 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 413 73390 4
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Noël Coward: A Life in Quotes 
edited by Barry Day.
Metro, 116 pp., £9.99, November 1999, 9781900512848
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Noël Coward: The Complete Lyrics 
Methuen, 352 pp., £30, December 1998, 0 413 73230 4Show More
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... of admission’ was pretty much Coward’s verdict on the playwrights who emerged in the wake of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger (Wesker included), and largely their verdict on him. And despite a revival of interest in his early work during the Sixties (‘Dad’s renaissance’, he called it), Coward has been regarded since 1956 as being on the ...

The Undesired Result

Gillian Darley: Betjeman’s bêtes noires, 31 March 2005

Betjeman: The Bonus of Laughter 
by Bevis Hillier.
Murray, 744 pp., £25, October 2004, 0 7195 6495 6
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... The dust jacket of the final volume of Bevis Hillier’s epic life of John Betjeman shows the poet laureate seized by giggles. In this lengthy coda to Hillier’s authorised biography Betjeman appears in many lights, but he’s rarely carefree. ‘Nothing frightens me more than the thought of dying,’ he told a friend in 1958 ...

Ejected Gentleman

Norman Page, 7 May 1987

John Galsworthy’s Life and Art: An Alien’s Fortress 
by James Gindin.
Macmillan, 616 pp., £35, March 1987, 0 333 40812 8
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... The Life and Letters of John Galsworthy by H.V. Marrot appeared at the end of 1935, not quite three years after its subject’s death, and must be one of the very last examples of what was by that time a gravely endangered species. In the preface to Eminent Victorians Strachey had wittily mocked the solemn pretensions of the Victorian and Edwardian monumental biography, ponderously discreet as an old-fashioned manservant: but 17 years later Marrot found it still possible to produce a work of unblushing hagiography ...

Modernism’s Future

Jon Whiteley, 18 March 1982

The Meanings of Modern Art 
by John Russell.
Thames and Hudson, 429 pp., £18, October 1981, 0 500 27248 4
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The Oxford Companion to 20th-Century Art 
edited by Harold Osborne.
Oxford, 656 pp., £19.50, November 1981, 0 19 866119 3
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Abstract Expressionism: The Formative Years 
by Robert Hobbs and Gail Levin.
Cornell, 137 pp., £17.50, November 1981, 0 8014 1365 6
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... the title of the new companion, the Oxford Companion to 20th-Century Art, also edited by Harold Osborne, cautiously avoids the issue. Yet 90 per cent of the artists mentioned inside the recent book (although not, of course, 90 per cent of 20th-century artists) are the spiritual progeny of two or three French artists working at the turn of the century. Not a ...

A Toast at the Trocadero

Terry Eagleton: D.J. Taylor, 18 February 2016

The Prose Factory: Literary Life in England since 1918 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 501 pp., £25, January 2016, 978 0 7011 8613 5
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... irritated by talk of class conflict, and is not exactly in congratulatory mood when he calls John Carey the most class-conscious critic of the modern age. (The literary hackles raised by Carey’s recent memoir, The Unexpected Professor, which puts the petty-bourgeois boot into patrician dons, revealed just what kind of talk remains unacceptable in a ...

Taking sides

Karl Miller, 17 April 1980

W.H. Auden: The Life of a Poet 
by Charles Osborne.
Eyre Methuen, 336 pp., £7.95, March 1980, 0 413 39670 3
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... 1960, Auden completed his third decade as a poet with the volume Homage to Clio. By then, Charles Osborne writes, he was ‘widely regarded as among the few really great poets of the century’. No slur on the century seems intended here: part of what we mean by talking of great poets is that there are never very many of them about. But Mr ...

Et in Alhambra ego

D.A.N. Jones, 5 June 1986

Agate: A Biography 
by James Harding.
Methuen, 238 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 413 58090 3
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Subsequent Performances 
by Jonathan Miller.
Faber, 253 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 571 13133 6
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... to give the audience a new idea. It is easiest to make such changes when the playwright is dead. John Osborne and Peter Nichols did not want Miller to alter their plays, but he was more fortunate when he directed Robert Lowell’s version of Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound. Since Miller did not want to set this play in the Caucasus, with an actor tied to ...

Artovsky Millensky

Andrew O’Hagan: The Misfit, 1 January 2009

Arthur Miller, 1915-62 
by Christopher Bigsby.
Weidenfeld, 739 pp., £30, November 2008, 978 0 297 85441 8
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... understanding of what is personal in America. Willy Loman is a grandson of Tom Sawyer, just as John Proctor is a kinsman of the upholders of the Scarlet Letter: they are each sons of the singer of himself in Walt Whitman, or of the powerful American addressee, Ishmael. Loman bears a relation to the figment and self-projection that is Jay Gatsby, as much as ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Unlikeabilityfest, 17 February 2011

... Having backtracked on that as the price of his new job, Balls is now set to go for George Osborne’s throat. That will play well in the House of Commons, and also in the soundbite wars. But it will have risks too. We’re back to the question of narrative. Balls has three salient qualities: he is right on the main issue; he scares the Tories; but he ...

Diary

Frank Kermode: What Went On at the Arts Council, 4 December 1986

... and what isn’t, the Council’s main concern is of course with cash. Out of office, Norman St John-Stevas would say that government provision for the arts was wholly inadequate: in office, he reduced that provision. Lord Gowrie, better attuned to his party’s mood, was so far from thinking the grant inadequate that he cut it again and encouraged the ...

History and Hats

D.A.N. Jones, 23 January 1986

The Lover 
by Marguerite Duras, translated by Barbara Bray.
Collins, 123 pp., £7.95, November 1985, 0 00 222946 3
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Stones of the Wall 
by Dai Houying, translated by Frances Wood.
Joseph, 310 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 7181 2588 6
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White Noise 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 326 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 330 29109 2
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... pair, failing to make any conclusion of a courtship on a park bench, and it was denounced by John Osborne for being pointless. Days Spent in the Trees was about a greedy, possessive mother doting on her son – but what was Duras driving at? Harold Hobson found an abstract idea in it, the idea of ‘indulgence’, and other theatre reviewers ...

Rug Time

Jonathan Steinberg, 20 October 1983

Kissinger: The Price of Power 
by Seymour Hersh.
Faber, 699 pp., £15, October 1983, 0 571 13175 1
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... and get them called out of any meeting. Below that level they don’t know who we are.’ The late John Osborne, who for years wrote a column for the New Republic called ‘White House Watch’, was one of the few American journalists who took the court and its behaviour seriously. He saw that personality and place in the White House yielded power to ...

Memories of Lindsay Anderson

Alan Bennett, 20 July 2000

... by the distinction of a cast that included Beatrix Lehmann, Arthur Lowe, Nicol Williamson and John Osborne. Nicol Williamson, who played the lead, was no farceur and seldom wrung a laugh from the audience, whom he chose to intimidate rather than entertain. Very shaky on the words he would pause lengthily, snarl ‘Yes?’ and stare malevolently at ...

Sod off, readers

John Sutherland, 26 September 1991

Rude Words: A Discursive History of the London Library 
by John Wells.
Macmillan, 240 pp., £17.50, September 1991, 0 333 47519 4
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Swearing: A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths and Profanity in English 
by Geoffrey Hughes.
Blackwell, 283 pp., £16.95, August 1991, 0 631 16593 2
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... 150th anniversary, the present guardians of the London Library have chosen an eminent comedian, John Wells, to write their celebratory history. The sage of Chelsea would not have been amused. But then, nothing did amuse him. He seems to have been immune to such essentially human feelings. Carlyle happened to be in the library in 1875 when Bryan Courthope ...

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