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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 ...

Up the Levellers

Paul Foot, 8 December 1994

The New Model Army in England, Ireland and Scotland, 1645-53 
by Ian Gentles.
Blackwell, 590 pp., £14.99, January 1994, 0 631 19347 2
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... sections on the Putney Debates. In 1938, a new edition of the debates was published by A.S.P. Woodhouse, with a foreword by the radical Oxford don, A.D. Lindsay, who had stood in a famous by-election that year as an anti-Tory candidate. Woodhouse’s version gave life and spirit to the debates, and became popular ...

With a Da bin ich!

Seamus Perry: Properly Lawrentian, 9 September 2021

Burning Man: The Ascent of D.H. Lawrence 
by Frances Wilson.
Bloomsbury, 488 pp., £25, May, 978 1 4088 9362 3
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... of itself,’ he says in his Study of Thomas Hardy, a sentiment which might have been uttered by John Stuart Mill himself. But what Lawrence meant by ‘self’ was not to be confused with the ‘cheap egotism’ of the ‘self-conscious little ego’ described by modern individualism. ‘I know that life, and life only, is the clue to the ...


Terry Castle, 3 August 1995

Jane Austen’s Letters 
edited by Deirde Le Faye.
Oxford, 621 pp., £30, March 1995, 0 19 811764 7
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... names and now meaningless events: Yesterday I introduced James to Mrs Inman; – in the evening John Bridges returned from Goodnestone – and this morn before we had left the Breakfast Table we had a visit from Mr Whitfield, whose object I imagine was principally to thank my Eldest Brother for his assistance. Poor Man! – he has now a little intermission ...

Grub Street Snob

Terry Eagleton: ‘Fanny Hill’, 13 September 2012

Fanny Hill in Bombay: The Making and Unmaking of John Cleland 
by Hal Gladfelder.
Johns Hopkins, 311 pp., £28.50, July 2012, 978 1 4214 0490 5
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... much in the book to justify it. It is an impressively learned, scrupulously detailed study of John Cleland, author of one of the most salacious pieces of fiction in the English language; but it is no disrespect to Hal Gladfelder to wonder whether the Johns Hopkins press would have been quite so eager to take on an erudite study of an obscure 18th-century ...

Hard Romance

Barbara Everett, 8 February 1996

... Margaret. Much of the very best recent criticism of Jane Austen has been in essays (those by John Bayley and by Peter Conrad stand out) but there is one brilliant full-length study, Roger Gard’s Jane Austen’s Novels, that serves as the best possible introduction to her work. And Gard does notice Margaret: he calls her ‘the one completely ...

On the Shelf

Tom Crewe: Mrs Oliphant, 16 July 2020

... Lucilla. We believe in her. She is a genius. In nothing important is she a fraud. She is no Emma Woodhouse (though she is clearly a genealogical descendant): enlightenment never comes, because it is never needed. Q.D. Leavis, who saw Oliphant as the bridge between Austen and Eliot, regarded Lucilla as ‘a triumphant intermediary between their Emma and ...

Do Not Scribble

Amanda Vickery: Letter-Writing, 4 November 2010

The Pen and the People: English Letter-Writers 1660-1800 
by Susan Whyman.
Oxford, 400 pp., £30, October 2009, 978 0 19 953244 5
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Becoming a Woman in the Age of Letters 
by Dena Goodman.
Cornell, 408 pp., £24.50, June 2009, 978 0 8014 7545 0
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... of any literary stature were only too aware of the tradition of publishing correspondence. John Evelyn, for example, arranged his manuscript letter books to resemble a collection on the classical model. The privacy of the letter was a vexed issue. Once cast into the mailbag it was lost to the sender but might never arrive: ‘I am very uneasy about the ...

Allergic to Depths

Terry Eagleton: Gothic, 18 March 1999

Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin 
by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Fourth Estate, 438 pp., £20, December 1998, 1 85702 498 2
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... trouble in drumming up a fan club. Satanism is in this sense just the flipside of suburbia. As John Carey has observed, the grotesque freaks who populate the fringes of a Dickens novel represent the sadistic vengeance which the text wreaks on its own decorous middle-class story-line. Nobody would ask Oliver Twist to dinner if they could hook Fagin ...

Floating Hair v. Blue Pencil

Frank Kermode, 6 June 1996

Revision and Romantic Authorship 
by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 354 pp., £40, March 1996, 0 19 812264 0
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... husband’s poems. In such cases writing does in a sense become a ‘genuinely social activity’. John Clare’s dealings with his publisher Taylor provide a variation on this theme. Clare’s peculiar circumstances resulted in revisions that were necessarily ‘social’, but modern editors have a persistent tendency to revert to the earliest unsocial ...

I’ll be back

Marjorie Garber: Sequels, 19 August 1999

Part Two: Reflections on the Sequel 
edited by Paul Budra and Betty Schellenberg.
Toronto, 217 pp., £40, February 1999, 0 8020 0915 8
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... of Meriton; that the ‘considerable sum’ Mrs Norris gave William Price was one pound; that Mr Woodhouse survived his daughter’s marriage, and kept her and Mr Knightley from settling at Donwell, about two years; and that the letters placed by Frank Churchill before Jane Fairfax, which she swept away unread, contained the word ‘pardon’. Of the good ...

I, Lowborn Cur

Colin Burrow: Literary Names, 22 November 2012

Literary Names: Personal Names in English Literature 
by Alastair Fowler.
Oxford, 283 pp., £19.99, September 2012, 978 0 19 959222 7
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... name of a fictional spy? Why couldn’t Fleming have used another pair of common monosyllables – John Clark, say? Bond is a solid, blue-chip, faith-giving kind of a name. Who wouldn’t prefer a government Bond under their mattress (we’re talking AAA British) to a petty clerk? Is your word your clerk? I don’t think so. Bond. It’s in the name. More than ...

Outside the text

Marilyn Butler, 19 December 1985

The Beauty of Inflections: Literary Investigations in Historical Method and Theory 
by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 352 pp., £19.50, May 1985, 0 19 811730 2
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The Politics of Language: 1791-1819 
by Olivia Smith.
Oxford, 269 pp., £19.50, December 1984, 0 19 812817 7
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... and editors. Other leading figures also do both, including, in this country, Christopher Ricks and John Carey. But most critics in good repute don’t seem to want to edit, and wouldn’t be any good if they tried. The provocative element in McGann’s position for them will be his serious belief in the centrality of the role of the editor. He goes back to the ...

Keeping up with Jane Austen

Marilyn Butler, 6 May 1982

An Unsuitable Attachment 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 256 pp., £6.95, February 1982, 0 333 32654 7
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... should be so much admired by the cohort from which she took General Tilney, Sir Thomas Bertram, Mr Woodhouse and Sir Walter Elliot.) Is Barbara Pym, too, a novelist for older men? Certainly they have so far been more gallant and vociferous than women in championing her. Lord David Cecil, John Bayley and Philip Larkin have ...

Leaf, Button, Dog

Susan Eilenberg: The Sins of Hester Thrale, 1 November 2001

According to Queeney 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Little, Brown, 242 pp., £16.99, September 2001, 0 316 85867 6
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... Leatitia Hawkins (whose memoirs of the Johnson circle would revisit material her father, Sir John Hawkins, had treated in his 1787 Life of Samuel Johnson), and all about a past Queeney would rather forget. Although the characters do things (fart, masturbate, cross-dress) that Boswell never told us about and fail to do things (persuade us of their charm ...

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