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C.H. Sisson, 18 February 1982

The Public School Revolution: Britain’s Independent Schools, 1964-1979 
by John Rae.
Faber, 188 pp., £6.50, September 1981, 0 571 11789 9
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... When, in 1682, the Reverend Mr Busby, headmaster of Westminster School, expelled or suspended John Dryden’s son, the poet wrote him an excellent letter. Busby had already been at Westminster for more than forty years: he was that terrifying thing, a Great Headmaster. Moreover, Dryden had himself been among his pupils and knew well enough what tricks the old autocrat could get up to ...

1662

D.A.N. Jones, 5 April 1984

Old Catholics and Anglicans: 1931-1981 
edited by Gordon Huelin.
Oxford, 177 pp., £12.50, April 1983, 0 19 920129 3
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Anglican Essays 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 141 pp., £6.95, April 1983, 0 85635 456 2
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The Song of Roland 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 135 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 9780856354212
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TheRegrets 
by Joachim du Bellay, translated by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 147 pp., £4.50, January 1984, 0 85635 471 6
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... gramophone records of Rumanian church music on the table, next to a pile of prayers composed by John Donne (who also preached at St Dunstan’s). This sturdy English church is encircled with chapels for several of the independent Churches which are in communion with the Church of England, Coptic and Ethiopian, Polish (with a figure of the redoubtable Black ...

The Great Accumulator

John Sturrock: W.G. Grace, 20 August 1998

W.G. Grace: A Life 
by Simon Rae.
Faber, 548 pp., £20, July 1998, 0 571 17855 3
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W.G.’s Birthday Party 
by David Kynaston.
Night Watchman, 154 pp., £13, May 1998, 0 9532360 0 5
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... of social class that money incubates, comes into Grace’s life-story at every turn, and Simon Rae’s new biography does well to start by recording that, where one of his grandfathers had been a butler, one of his sons became an admiral. This was a family promotion that turned on his own hugely newsworthy command of a game which, as it grew in scope and ...

Heavy Sledding

Chauncey Loomis, 21 December 1989

The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the Northwest Passage and the North Pole, 1818-1909 
by Pierre Berton.
Viking, 672 pp., £16.95, May 1989, 0 670 82491 7
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Overland to Starvation Cove: With the Inuit in Search of Franklin 1878-1880 
by Heinrich Klutschak and William Barr.
Toronto, 261 pp., £17.50, February 1988, 0 8020 5762 4
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Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition 
by Owen Beattie and John Geiger.
Bloomsbury, 180 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 0 7475 0101 7
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... to juggle the names of explorers, famous in their day, but now known only to Arctic buffs, such as John and James Clark Ross, Rae, Pullen, Collinson, M’Clure, Austin, Ommanney, Richardson, Penny, DeHaven, Kane, Forsyth, Bellot, Kennedy, Belcher, Inglefield, M’Clintock – and names of ships, such as ...

Short Cuts

John Sturrock: At the Test Match, 6 September 2001

... subtitled ‘Skulduggery, Sharp Practice and Downright Cheating in the Noble Game’, Simon Rae has a chapter on sledging, tracing it back well beyond recent Australian teams to the sorts of thing W.G. Grace was famous for saying to cowed batsmen. A batsman known to Short Cuts decades ago was sledged one day in the Parks at Oxford, by Fred Trueman no ...

Where Things Get Fuzzy

Stephanie Burt: Rae Armantrout, 29 March 2017

Partly: New and Selected Poems 2001-15 
by Rae Armantrout.
Wesleyan, 234 pp., £27, September 2016, 978 0 8195 7655 2
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... By​ 1979, when Rae Armantrout published her second book, The Invention of Hunger, with Lyn Hejinian’s Tuumba Press, she was already what much of the literary world would soon learn to call a ‘language poet’. Like Hejinian, like their Bay Area friend and ally Ron Silliman, and like the writers from the East Coast who ran the magazine L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, Armantrout sought a recalcitrant, even opaque, way of writing that could get out from under the assumptions, conventions and restrictions of (among other things) capitalism, patriarchy, Romantic lyric, transparent exposition and prose sense ...

Operation Backfire

Francis Spufford: Britain’s space programme, 28 October 1999

... had a plan for a shoestring, all-British satellite launcher. The Space Department won. In 1965 the RAE got the green light to construct their Black Arrow vehicle – on condition that it cost virtually nothing. It’s hard to imagine a cheap space rocket. Our image of rockets was fixed by the Apollo programme: gigantic, overwhelming, needing the deep pockets ...

I just let him have his beer

Christopher Tayler: John Williams Made it Work, 9 December 2019

The Man who Wrote the Perfect Novel: John Williams, ‘Stoner’ and the Writing Life 
by Charles Shields.
Texas, 305 pp., £23.99, October 2018, 978 1 4773 1736 5
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Nothing but the Night 
by John Williams.
NYRB, 144 pp., $14.95, February 2019, 978 1 68137 307 2
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... between the appearance of Thomas Pynchon’s first book and the Beatles’ second long-player, John Williams, a professor at the University of Denver, sent his agent in New York a draft of his latest novel, which detailed the unhappy marriage, undistinguished career and early death from cancer of an imagined professor at the University of Missouri a ...

Doughy

John Sutherland: Conrad’s letters, 4 December 2003

The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. VI: 1917-19 
edited by Laurence Davies, Frederick R. Karl and Owen Knowles.
Cambridge, 570 pp., £80, December 2002, 0 521 56195 7
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... enterprise is a dumb move. Particularly in a profession marching to the quickstep of RAE quinquennial assessments and septennial promotion rungs. Academic life, like everything else, is afflicted by James Gleick’s hurry sickness. The cost of ventures like the Conrad Collected Letters (only a fraction of it borne by CUP) is not easily ...

Out of the jiffybag

Frank Kermode, 12 November 1987

For Love and Money: Writing, Reading, Travelling 1969-1987 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins Harvill, 350 pp., £11.50, November 1987, 0 00 272279 8
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Original Copy: Selected Reviews and Journalism 1969-1986 
by John Carey.
Faber, 278 pp., £9.95, August 1987, 0 571 14879 4
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... Quennell – and he seems to enjoy being generous to other reviewers, as when he justly praises John Updike. He is full of gratitude to literary editors, commemorating Ian Hamilton’s work on the New Review in terms only this side of idolatry. Such writers and editors do the work he wants to help with – they keep going some intelligent conversation about ...

Phantom Gold

John Pemble: Victorian Capitalism, 7 January 2016

Forging Capitalism: Rogues, Swindlers, Frauds and the Rise of Modern Finance 
by Ian Klaus.
Yale, 287 pp., £18.99, January 2015, 978 0 300 18194 4
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... Victorian decade began in 1856, when the Tipperary Bank collapsed and the chairman’s brother, John Sadleir, a serial swindler up to his neck in debt, made the headlines with that suicide by poison on Hampstead Heath (thereby achieving immortality as Merdle in Little Dorrit). A sequence of failures followed: the Royal British Bank, the Western Bank of ...

Anglophobe Version

Denton Fox, 2 February 1984

The New Testament in Scots 
translated by William Laughton Lorimer.
Canongate, 476 pp., £17.50, October 1983, 0 900025 24 7
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Scotland and the Lowland Tongue 
edited by J. Derrick McClure.
Aberdeen University Press, 256 pp., £17, September 1983, 0 08 028482 5
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... especially to mark speakers from the lower classes. Complementary points are implied by the late John Thomas Low, writing on the wealth (or at least number) of modern historical plays in Scots – if you want to have Scots-speaking characters who are not peasants, you must go back in time – and by W.F.H. Nicolaisen, who shows how often novelists use ...

Part of the Fun of being an English Protestant

Patrick Collinson: Recovering the Reformation, 22 July 2004

Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490-1700 
by Diarmaid MacCulloch.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £25, September 2003, 0 7139 9370 7
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... with Roman Catholicism, to the extent that in the late 20th century, in the person of Pope John Paul II, it took charge of the latest episode in the history of a reactive, not to say reactionary, Counter-Reformation. One of the great merits of MacCulloch’s book is that it teaches us that all this, not to speak of what happened in Hungary and ...

Must poets write?

Stephanie Burt: Poetry Post-Language, 10 May 2012

Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century 
by Marjorie Perloff.
Chicago, 232 pp., £11.50, April 2012, 978 0 226 66061 5
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Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age 
by Kenneth Goldsmith.
Columbia, 272 pp., £15.95, September 2011, 978 0 231 14991 4
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Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing 
edited by Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith.
Northwestern, 593 pp., £40.50, December 2010, 978 0 8101 2711 1
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Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004, The Joy of Cooking: [Airport Novel Musical Poem Painting Film Photo Hallucination Landscape] 
by Tan Lin.
Wesleyan, 224 pp., £20.50, May 2010, 978 0 8195 6929 5
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... tracing a line from Rimbaud through Futurism to Gertrude Stein, Wittgenstein, Frank O’Hara, John Cage and beyond – who have advanced what she sees as modernist goals: above all, the up-to-date, sceptical investigation of the materials and ideas from which a work of art gets made. Though much of Perloff’s writing concerns the great dead, she became ...

Winklepickers, Tinned Salmon, Hair Cream

Bee Wilson: Jonathan Meades, 13 July 2016

An Encyclopedia of Myself 
by Jonathan Meades.
Fourth Estate, 341 pp., £9.99, February 2015, 978 1 85702 905 5
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... various uncles and aunts (‘Uncle Hank and Uncle Wangle … Uncle Cecil, pharmacist. Wife: Auntie Rae. Uncle Edgar, dislikable optician. Wife: Auntie Cath’). Left to his own devices, he made lists: Why were people called Salmon, Pike, Gudgeon, Whiting, Chubb, Grayling, Roach, Haddock, Spratt, Bass? But not ...

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