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In Myrtle Bowers

Blair Worden: Cavaliers, 30 June 2011

Reprobates: The Cavaliers of the English Civil War 
by John Stubbs.
Viking, 549 pp., £25, February 2011, 978 0 670 91753 2
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... title is presumably a market pitch. The subtitle, perhaps another pitch, lays bare a problem which John Stubbs never grips. We are two-thirds of the way through before we reach ‘the English civil war’ of the 1640s. The bulk of the book is set in the generation before it, from the years around the accession of Charles I to the outbreak of fighting in ...

The Gaping Gulf

Mark Ford, 6 September 2007

... between them, as if Adrift on some superannuated schooner. Nearby, on another Kind of scaffold, John Stubbs gallantly raised his hat to the cheering crowd With his left hand, and blessed the Queen, while her Executioner held aloft his right.                            Then he fainted. I’ve the taste Of azure and wind in my ...

Oven-Ready Children

Clare Bucknell: Jonathan Swift, 19 January 2017

Jonathan Swift: The Reluctant Rebel 
by John Stubbs.
Viking, 752 pp., £19.99, November 2016, 978 0 670 92205 5
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... pretension. Swift’s jailbirds and chimney-sweeps took the place of shepherds and milkmaids; in John Gay’s mock-pastoral The Shepherd’s Week, published a few years after ‘A Description of the Morning’, unpoetic swains and maids sing about turnips, potatoes and the intricacies of cheesemaking. The centrepiece of the second book of Alexander Pope’s ...


Colin Burrow: John Donne in Performance, 5 October 2006

Donne: The Reformed Soul 
by John Stubbs.
Viking, 565 pp., £25, August 2006, 0 670 91510 6
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... and finding one’s balance, and then wondering if one has really grasped the thing after all. John Donne’s poems in particular are extremely unstable. Critics have often got into a sweat about the way that they argue implausible cases, and very often, too, things happen in the course of them which make it quite clear that while the speaker is busily ...


Terry Eagleton: Anonymity, 22 May 2008

Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature 
by John Mullan.
Faber, 374 pp., £17.99, January 2008, 978 0 571 19514 5
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... in general. The past itself is alterable, since the future casts it in a new light. Whether John Milton belonged to a species which ended up destroying itself is up to us and our progeny. The future possibilities of Hamlet are part of the play’s meaning, even though they may never be realised. One of the finest English novels, Samuel Richardson’s ...

Gone to earth

John Barrell, 30 March 1989

Sporting Art in 18th-Century England: A Social and Political History 
by Stephen Deuchar.
Yale, 195 pp., £24.95, November 1988, 0 300 04116 0
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... their pictures; of others, we know their names but nothing by them; of very few, other than John Wootton and George Stubbs, do we have the materials to begin to construct a life. This is partly because sporting artists were often itinerant, and worked largely in the provinces, but it speaks also of the lowly status ...


John Bayley, 4 April 1985

With Friends Possessed: A Life of Edward FitzGerald 
by Robert Bernard Martin.
Faber, 313 pp., £17.50, February 1985, 0 571 13462 9
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... Its distance from FitzGerald can be nicely gauged now from the excellent literal translation by John Heath-Stubbs and Peter Avery. Yet Omar and FitzGerald have one important thing in common: they are both deadpan, using the form, however different its effect in Persian and English, to conceal as much as to reveal. As a ...

Can’t you take a joke?

Jonathan Coe, 2 November 2023

Different Times: A History of British Comedy 
by David Stubbs.
Faber, 399 pp., £20, July, 978 0 571 35346 0
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... of humour’: a phenomenon everyone considers to be distinctive but no one can define. As David Stubbs writes in Different Times, his impressive survey of British comedy on stage, radio, film and television, ‘it’s not so much a case of Britain producing comedy as comedy producing Britain.’ The book provides a good opportunity to look at our recent ...

Hateful Sunsets

David Craig: Highlands and Headlands, 5 March 2015

Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place 
by Philip Marsden.
Granta, 348 pp., £20, October 2014, 978 1 84708 628 0
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... turn the matter into a stamping-ground for weird fancies and fantasies. This has been a tendency. John Heath-Stubbs called West Penwith         a hideous and wicked country, Sloping to hateful sunsets and the end of time.A painter friend of Marsden’s ‘watched low clouds drift in over the sea and felt that each ...

What’s Happening in the Engine-Room

Penelope Fitzgerald: Poor John Lehmann, 7 January 1999

John Lehmann: A Pagan Adventure 
by Adrian Wright.
Duckworth, 308 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 7156 2871 2
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... The first volume of John Lehmann’s autobiography, published in 1955, starts: When I try to remember where my education in poetry began, the first image that comes to mind is that of my father’s library at the old family home of Fieldhead on the Thames. It is an autumn or winter evening after tea, for James the butler has been in to draw the blinds and close the curtains, and my father is reading under a green-shaded lamp ...


Matt Foot: Children of the Spied-On, 29 June 2023

... hasn’t yet looked into the extent of this practice.As children of the spied-on, my brother John and I knew that the telephones in both our parents’ houses were tapped (they divorced when we were young). My dad had been a surveillance target since the formation of SDS, and probably before. It was obvious, sometimes, talking to a schoolfriend on the ...

Whig History

Sheldon Rothblatt, 21 January 1982

A Liberal Descent: Victorian Historians and the English Past 
by J.W. Burrow.
Cambridge, 308 pp., £19.50, October 1981, 0 521 24079 4
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... itself for this neglect. Macaulay will presumably not lack readers for a good while to come, and Stubbs will enjoy affectionate and respectful remembrance in the small circle of medievalists. But on the whole the great Victorian histories now seem like the triumphal arches of a past empire, their vaunting inscriptions increasingly unintelligible to the ...

At the Royal Academy

Peter Campbell: How to Draw Horses, 9 October 2003

... is, or was, recognised by one kind of how-to-draw book. I have before me How to Draw Horses by John Skeaping, first published in 1941; this seventh impression is dated 1946. In the same series of twenty or so titles were How to Draw ‘Planes by Frank Wootton and Tanks and How to Draw Them by Terence Cuneo – both highly successful workers in long-lasting ...

Constable’s Plenty

John Barrell, 15 August 1991

by Leslie Parris and Ian Fleming-Williams.
Tate Gallery, 544 pp., £45, June 1991, 1 85437 071 5
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Romatic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition 
by Jonathan Bate.
Routledge, 131 pp., £8.99, May 1991, 0 415 06116 4
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... early 19th-century British artists held at the Tate in the last seven or eight years – George Stubbs in 1984; Manners and Morals: Hogarth and British Painting in 1987; Wright of Derby last year. None of these was quite as blandly factual as Constable, nor so studiously innocent of the desire to situate the objects on display within a context wider than ...

Crossed Palettes

Ronald Paulson, 4 November 1993

Painting for Money: The Visual Arts and the Public Sphere in 18th-Century England 
by David Solkin.
Yale, 312 pp., £40, July 1993, 0 300 05741 5
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... in important ways, anti-academic, or ‘English’: Hogarth himself, Zoffany, Wright of Derby, Stubbs, Gainsborough, Rowlandson and Blake. The second group all shared something of Hogarth’s anti-authoritarian scepticism. Turner acknowledged his allegiance to it when he donated Hogarth’s palette to the Royal Academy, while Constable donated ...

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