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The Playboy of West 29th Street

Colm Tóibín: Yeats’s Father in Exile

25 January 2018
... New York. About an hour earlier, I had heard one of the librarians telling someone on the phone in a half-whisper that someone called Colm Tóibín was in the library looking at the correspondence of JohnButler Yeats, which had been transcribed, then typed, then donated to the library by William M. Murphy, JohnButler Yeats’s biographer. And now I looked up from the Yeats letters to find a man ...

On the white strand

Denis Donoghue

4 April 1991
The Selected Writings of Jack B. Yeats 
edited by Robin Skelton.
Deutsch, 246 pp., £12.99, March 1991, 0 233 98646 4
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... properties and types. The illustrator of The Rivals retained more than his draughtsmanship when he painted The Priest perhaps fifteen years later. Jack B. Yeats was born on 29 August 1871, son of JohnButler Yeats and Susan Yeats, at 23 Fitzroy Road, London. His brother, William Butler Yeats, was then six years old. JohnButler Yeats was a portrait painter in search of commissions. Finding few, he ...

To the End of the Line

Ferdinand Mount: The Red Dean

26 April 2012
The Red Dean of Canterbury: The Public and Private Faces of Hewlett Johnson 
by John Butler.
Scala, 292 pp., £16.95, September 2011, 978 1 85759 736 3
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... the unacceptable face of capitalism. The prize money of £10,000 (perhaps £200,000 in today’s money) from the Stalin Peace Prize which he had won the year before was icing on a substantial cake. JohnButler is a Canterbury man and an emeritus professor at the University of Kent, best known for his book The Quest for Becket’s Bones. The dean now and then compared his own struggles for truth with ...

Lily and Lolly

Sarah Rigby

18 July 1996
The Yeats Sisters: A Biography of Susan and Elizabeth Yeats 
by Joan Hardwick.
Pandora, 263 pp., £8.99, January 1996, 0 04 440924 9
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... Shortly before he died in 1922, JohnButler Yeats wrote an angry, defensive letter to his eldest son William. W.B. Yeats had published a memoir in the Dial and his father objected to the almost parenthetical mention in one episode of an ...

Speaking well

Christopher Ricks

18 August 1983
Cyril Connolly: Journal and Memoir 
by David Pryce-Jones.
Collins, 304 pp., £12.50, July 1983, 0 333 32827 2
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J.B. Yeats: Letters to His Son W.B. Yeats and Others, 1869-1922 
edited with a memoir by Joseph Hone.
Secker, 296 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 436 59205 3
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... feline understatement, nothing can overtake the words of Kenneth Clark (who was all eyes), that ‘Cyril was not conventionally handsome.’ The crayon sketch of Connolly on the jacket, by Augustus John, is no oil painting. But what might make us reluctant to spring to Connolly’s defence is that he said the same sort of thing about others, while characteristically mingling it with self-disgust ...
6 June 1996
A Peculiar Man: A Life of George Moore 
by Tony Gray.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 344 pp., £20, April 1996, 1 85619 578 3
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... him to ‘a very prosperous Mellon’s Food baby’; and Oscar Wilde found his face ‘vague, formless, obscene’. So it is a comfort to find all these cruelties belied in the portrait of Moore by JohnButler Yeats, reproduced in Gray’s book. There sits a harmless, walrus-moustached gentleman of 53, a little melancholy in expression, but by no means satyr-like, fresh-from-the-womb or squiffy. The ...

Short Cuts

John​ Sturrock: Reading Butler

5 August 2004
... promised the House of Commons he had been acting in when marching lockstep into Iraq with his role model in Washington. Tony Blair’s assurance was given as a response to the publication of the Butler Report (Stationery Office, £22.50), which he assumes has demonstrated that he is not in fact the Bliar of all those banners that were carried down Whitehall eighteen months ago. The report does no ...

Top Failure

John​ Rodgers

17 September 1981
R.A. ButlerAn English Life 
by Patrick Cosgrave.
Quartet, 167 pp., £6.95, April 1981, 0 7043 2258 7
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... Patrick Cosgrave presents us in this short book with a remarkable analysis of why Mr Butler was never chosen to be prime minister. When I think of Rab Butler, I recall Addison’s words: ‘’Tis not in mortals to command success, but we’ll do more, Sempronius, we’ll deserve it.’ He undoubtedly had one of the best brains in post-war government – ...

The Human Frown

John​ Bayley

21 February 1991
Samuel ButlerA Biography 
by Peter Raby.
Hogarth, 334 pp., £25, February 1991, 0 7012 0890 2
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... Samuel Butler might be seen as one of those liberators who escort readers and admirers into a new airy sort of cell, and turn the key with an air of bestowing on them perfect freedom and emancipation of mind. So ...

Post-Modern Vanguard

Edward Mendelson

3 September 1981
After the Wake: An Essay on the Contemporary Avant-Garde 
by Christopher Butler.
Oxford, 177 pp., £7.95, November 1980, 0 19 815766 5
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... Christopher Butler’s survey of post-war literature, music and painting maintains a judicious critical distance from its subject. Readers who wish a more direct report from the front lines of the avant-garde should ...

Sit like an Apple

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Artists’ Wives

23 October 2008
Hidden in the Shadow of the Master: The Model-Wives of Cézanne, Monet and Rodin 
by Ruth Butler.
Yale, 354 pp., £18.99, July 2008, 978 0 300 12624 2
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... The relation between Camille Doncieux and her representation on canvas was more ambiguous, however. Monet did not pay her to sit for him: like the other two women who are the subject of Ruth Butler’s new book – Hortense Fiquet (Paul Cézanne) and Rose Beuret (Auguste Rodin) – Doncieux was first the artist’s mistress and later his wife. Hiring a model cost a minimum of one franc an hour ...

Redheads in Normandy

R.W. Johnson: The 1997 election

22 January 1998
The British General Election of 1997 
by David Butler and Dennis Kavanagh.
Macmillan, 343 pp., £17.50, November 1997, 0 333 64776 9
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Labour's Landslide 
by Andrew Geddes and Jonathan Tonge.
Manchester, 211 pp., £40, December 1997, 0 7190 5159 2
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Britain Votes 1997 
edited by Pippa Norris and Neil Gavin.
Oxford, 253 pp., £12.99, January 1998, 9780199223220
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Collapse of Stout Party: The Decline and Fall of the Tories 
by Julian Crtitchley and Morrison Halcrow.
Gollancz, 288 pp., £20, November 1997, 0 575 06277 0
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Les Election Legislatives, 25 Mai-1er Juin 1997: Le president desavoue 
Le Monde, 146 pp., frs 45, June 1998Show More
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... of the ‘feel-good’ factor, it was an astonishing result. It was in 1945, that other great Labour landslide year, that the first Nuffield election study appeared, with the hand of a young David Butler already apparent. It was, sadly, a jejune and disappointing volume which explains very little of the last great realigning election of modern times. Since then Butler has taken an increasingly ...

Drink hard, pray hard and simply vanish

Jack Rakove: The history of the American revolution

5 April 2001
Becoming America: The Revolution Before 1776 
by Jon Butler.
Harvard, 324 pp., £19.50, May 2000, 0 674 00091 9
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Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans 
by Joyce Appleby.
Harvard, 322 pp., £17.95, May 2000, 0 674 00236 9
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... first modern nation than the marchland of North America. Are the origins of modernity in America therefore to be found in its colonial past, or are they better located in the break with Britain? Jon Butler argues the former, Joyce Appleby the latter. Butler also wants to argue, however, that although a recognisably modern society took shape in America during the ‘provincial decades’ following ...

Get the placentas

Gavin Francis: ‘The Life Project’

1 June 2016
The Life Project: The Extraordinary Story of Our Ordinary Lives 
by Helen Pearson.
Allen Lane, 399 pp., £20, February 2016, 978 1 84614 826 2
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... In November​ 1981 at a function in London, Neville Butler, a professor of paediatric medicine at Bristol University, contrived to drop a cup of coffee at Margaret Thatcher’s feet. He stooped down to mop it up, then sprang up and asked her for money. ‘I ...
20 March 1980
Peacock Displayed: A Satirist in his Context 
by Marilyn Butler.
Routledge, 361 pp., £10.95, October 1979, 0 7100 0293 9
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... had a revival in the Twenties and Thirties of this century and an explicit influence on Aldous Huxley, who, however, fatally lacked Peacock’s tenderness for women and his poetic grace. Marilyn Butler speaks, at one point, of his Mozartian sparkle. Mozart is indeed a source, The Marriage of Figaro especially, for Peacock’s mischievous spell: but she has far more to say about the formation of ...

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