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He ate peas with a knife

John Sutherland: Douglas Jerrold, 3 April 2003

Douglas Jerrold: 1803-57 
by Michael Slater.
Duckworth, 340 pp., £25, September 2002, 0 7156 2824 0
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... The tenth and central chapter of Michael Slater’s biography is entitled ‘Jerrold, Dickens, Thackeray’. This, as Slater reminds us (often), is the company his contemporaries expected Douglas Jerrold to keep. Some partisans might even have thought Slater right to put him first ...

Shakespeare and the Stage

John Kerrigan, 21 April 1983

Elizabethan Popular Theatre: Plays in Performance 
by Michael Hattaway.
Routledge, 234 pp., £14.95, January 1983, 0 7100 9052 8
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Shakespeare the Director 
by Ann Pasternak Slater.
Harvester, 244 pp., £18.95, December 1982, 0 7108 0446 6
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... while his best – on clowning, Kyd, Mucedorus – are really first-rate. Ann Pasternak Slater’s new book is, by contrast, consistently disappointing. And that’s a pity, because the subject – Shakespeare’s articulation of his plays through explicit and implicit stage directions – is a good one, and oddly neglected. We certainly need a book ...

Love of His Life

Rosemarie Bodenheimer: Dickens, 8 July 2010

Charles Dickens 
by Michael Slater.
Yale, 696 pp., £25, September 2009, 978 0 300 11207 8
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... who held strong opinions about virtually everything, had his own view of such occasions. Michael Slater notes his ‘embarrassment’ and ‘irritation’ at the Shakespeare tercentenary celebrations of 1864: always for Dickens the best way for a writer or any other artist to be remembered was not through biographies, unless they redounded as much to the ...

Sexual Whiggery

Blair Worden, 7 June 1984

The Weaker Vessel: Woman’s Lot in 17th-Century England 
by Antonia Fraser.
Weidenfeld, 544 pp., £12.95, May 1984, 0 297 78381 5
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Family Life in the 17th Century: The Verneys of Claydon House 
by Miriam Slater.
Routledge, 209 pp., £10.50, March 1984, 0 7100 9477 9
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... as for most men, the Puritan Revolution was probably a wretched time. Among the rich, as Miriam Slater observes in Family Life in the 17th Century, it brought chaos and contraction to the land market and so to the marriage market. Among the rest, war brought severe hardship. In straitened times women proved useful in suppliant roles. Men sent women to plead ...

His Friends Were Appalled

Deborah Friedell: Dickens, 5 January 2012

The Life of Charles Dickens 
by John Forster.
Cambridge, 1480 pp., £70, December 2011, 978 1 108 03934 5
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Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist 
by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst.
Harvard, 389 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 0 674 05003 7
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Charles Dickens: A Life 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 527 pp., £30, October 2011, 978 0 670 91767 9
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... could not, for the life of me, understand. It wouldn’t be until 1872, when the first volume of John Forster’s biography appeared, that Dickens’s wife and children learned about the pots of boot blacking he’d covered (‘first with a piece of oil paper, and then with a piece of blue paper’) for ten hours a day, six shillings a week, while his father ...

My Kind of Psychopath

Michael Wood, 20 July 1995

Pulp Fiction 
by Quentin Tarantino.
Faber, 198 pp., £7.99, October 1994, 0 571 17546 5
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Reservoir Dogs 
by Quentin Tarantino.
Faber, 113 pp., £7.99, November 1994, 0 571 17362 4
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True Romance 
by Quentin Tarantino.
Faber, 134 pp., £7.99, January 1995, 0 571 17593 7
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Natural Born Killers 
by Quentin Tarantino.
Faber, 175 pp., £7.99, July 1995, 0 571 17617 8
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... a certain age. We shall be lucky if most of them have such benevolent ideas. The hero, Christian Slater, is trying to set up a drug deal, and needs to make contact with the man who will take him to the man. Where are they to meet? He asks his wife, Patricia Arquette, and she says at the zoo in the script, at the roller-coaster in the film. They meet at the ...

Greatest Happiness

Brian Barry, 19 January 1984

The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell. Vol. I: Cambridge Essays 1888-1899 
edited by Kenneth Blackwell, Andrew Brink, Nicholas Griffin, Richard Rempel and John Slater.
Allen and Unwin, 554 pp., £48, November 1983, 0 04 920067 4
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... voice begins to be heard. What is unusual in his case is not extreme precociousness – he was no John Stuart Mill – but a relatively early settling-in to a way of looking at things and a way of expressing it. Russell was, of course, always of well above average ability, but it was only in his mid-twenties that he began to appear exceptional. The practice ...

Rubbishing the revolution

Hugo Young, 5 December 1991

Thatcher’s People 
by John Ranelagh.
HarperCollins, 324 pp., £15.99, September 1991, 0 00 215410 2
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Staying Power 
by Peter Walker.
Bloomsbury, 248 pp., £16.99, October 1991, 0 7475 1034 2
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... falling away. The Sunday Telegraph has ceased its passionate flirtations with nostalgia. Besides, John Major is either dismantling some of what she did or failing to conceal his embarrassment at the consequences of what he cannot undo. In the balance between exalting the Thatcher years and distancing itself from them, the Major Government has slowly but ...

Prodigals

John Sutherland, 19 August 1982

A Prodigal Child 
by David Storey.
Cape, 319 pp., £7.50, June 1982, 0 224 02027 7
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The Prodigal Daughter 
by Jeffrey Archer.
Hodder, 447 pp., £7.95, July 1982, 0 340 27687 8
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Ralph 
by John Stonehouse.
Cape, 318 pp., £6.95, May 1982, 0 224 02019 6
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The Man from St Petersburg 
by Ken Follett.
Hamish Hamilton, 292 pp., £7.95, May 1982, 0 241 10783 0
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The Patriot Game 
by George Higgins.
Secker, 237 pp., £7.50, July 1982, 0 436 19589 5
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... career and turned his hand to best-selling fiction. (Like the other twice-born success, Jim Slater, Archer also dabbles lucratively in children’s fiction.) With a shrewd eye to the market, Archer evidently decided that there was more yield in America than in Britain. Many readers may well assume that this tatty rewrite of the American dream was done ...

Upstaging

Paul Driver, 19 August 1993

Shining Brow 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 86 pp., £5.99, February 1993, 0 571 16789 6
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... crows, is an interesting opera by a composer who has now, regrettably, stopped composing. The poet John Birtwhistle supplied David Blake with the libretto for his unusual opera, The Plumber’s Gift. David Malouf has devised a Kipling libretto, Baa Baa Black Sheep, for Michael Berkeley. Blake Morrison is, with the composer Gavin Bryars, engaged on an operatic ...

Monster Doss House

Iain Sinclair, 24 November 1988

The Grass Arena 
by John Healy.
Faber, 194 pp., £9.95, October 1988, 0 571 15170 1
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... violence: it is a survivalist world, bleak and uncompromising – the world of competitive chess. John Healy arrived there, without papers or proof of identity, a drowning man coming up for the last time. It was his only way of escaping from the slow-motion suicide of alcoholism, and he took it with manic relish. His book, The Grass Arena, is a devastating ...

Adrian

Peter Campbell, 5 December 1985

... even to be thinking of having children) may have been caused by George Mole or by Lucas. Doreen Slater (‘Stick Insect’) is certainly pregnant by George Mole. By the end of the second book Adrian has witnessed his sister’s – half sister’s? – birth, a death and a cremation. He has taken his mother to the National Insurance office to fight ...

Through Plate-Glass

Ian Sansom: Jonathan Coe, 10 May 2001

The Rotters’ Club 
by Jonathan Coe.
Viking, 405 pp., £14.99, April 2001, 0 670 89252 1
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... The Berni Inn and the denim loons – ah, yes. The Blue Nun. The chicken-in-a-basket. And John Denver singing ‘Annie’s Song’. Marvellous. But Coe also includes the text of a speech given by one of the characters in later life, looking back on the 1970s, and complaining that ‘people forget about the 1970s. They think it was about wide collars ...

A Terrible Bad Cold

John Sutherland, 27 September 1990

Dickens 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 1195 pp., £19.95, September 1990, 1 85619 000 5
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... in an area known as New Town or Mile End, just on the outskirts of Portsmouth where his father, John Dickens, worked in the Naval Pay Office. His mother, Elizabeth, is reported to have claimed that she went to a ball on the night before his birth; but no ball is mentioned in the area for that particular evening and it is likely that this is one of the many ...

Ballooning

J.I.M. Stewart, 5 June 1986

The Unknown Conan Doyle: Letters to the Press 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 377 pp., £15, March 1986, 0 436 13303 2
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... of sheer doggedness that made him so formidable a defender of men like George Edalji and Oscar Slater, whom he saw as languishing in prison (or even, as in Slater’s case, under threat of the gallows) as a consequence of judicial error compounded by bureaucratic intransigence. Over all this ground great honour has to be ...

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