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Turncoats and Opportunists

Alexandra Walsham: Francis Walsingham

5 July 2012
The Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I 
by John Cooper.
Faber, 400 pp., £9.99, July 2012, 978 0 571 21827 1
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... queen from assassination that so evidently animated him. Described by one 16th-century Spanish ambassador as blunt, uncourtly and dressed always in black, Walsingham has long defied categorisation. JohnCooper’s book is a fresh attempt to assess the accuracy of these opposing images. It charts Walsingham’s life from his birth in 1531 or 1532, on the cusp of the Henrician Reformation and the ...

Lurching up to bed with the champion of Cubism

Nicholas Penny: Douglas Cooper

20 January 2000
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Picasso, Provence and Douglas Cooper 
by John​ Richardson.
Cape, 320 pp., £20, November 1999, 0 224 05056 7
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... John Richardson is one of those gossips who knows – or at least knows about – everyone. For example (on page 118, to be precise), Marie-Laure (1), Maurice Bischoffsheim (2), the Comtesse de Chevign ...

A Proper Stoic

John​ Bayley

8 May 1986
Duff CooperThe Authorised Biography 
by John​ Charmley.
Weidenfeld, 265 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 297 78857 4
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... it reminded me of Rupert Hart-Davis’s biography of Hugh Walpole, which can be read with pleasure and profit again and again though it is not entirely easy to see why. Neither Hugh Walpole nor Duff Cooper (who turns out to have been Rupert Hart-Davis’s uncle) were particularly remarkable people, neither geniuses nor ‘great men’. But perhaps this is the reason why they are interesting to read ...

Time of the Red-Man

Mark Ford: James Fenimore Cooper

25 September 2008
James Fenimore CooperThe Early Years 
by Wayne Franklin.
Yale, 708 pp., £25, July 2008, 978 0 300 10805 7
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... It was a curious set of circumstances that in 1820 drove James Cooper (the ‘middle surname’ Fenimore would not be added for another six years), the son of one of post-independence America’s wealthiest land speculators, to embark on a career in the dubious and ...

Wholly Given Over to Thee

Anne Barton: Literary romance

2 December 2004
The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare 
by Helen Cooper.
Oxford, 560 pp., £65, June 2004, 0 19 924886 9
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... Eumenides takes his name from classical Greece, where it was a euphemism for the Furies, those terrifying Erinyes optimistically renamed ‘the kindly ones’ at the end of Aeschylus’ Oresteia. (John Lyly had also bestowed it on a questing knight in his comedy Endimion a few years before Peele.) Like Shakespeare’s notorious sea-coast of Bohemia, Catita cannot be found on any map, nor can a ...

Swaying at the Stove

Rosemary Hill: The Cult of Elizabeth David

9 December 1999
Elizabeth David: A Biography 
by Lisa Chaney.
Pan, 482 pp., £10, September 1999, 0 330 36762 5
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Waiting at the Kitchen Table. Elizabeth David: The Authorised Biography 
by Artemis Cooper.
Viking, 364 pp., £20, November 1999, 0 7181 4224 1
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... to dry in Spanish courtyards, Mediterranean Food brought a beakerful of the warm South to chilly, postwar England. The manuscript had been rejected by several more literal-minded publishers before John Lehmann, the editor of New Writing, took it on at the recommendation of his assistant, Julia Strachey, Lytton Strachey’s niece. So it was as a literary work, with a lingering glow of Bloomsbury ...

Snob Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Modern Snobbery

3 November 2016
... I once found​ a copy of Jilly Cooper’s Class (1979) in the bargain box outside a friend’s second-hand bookshop. When I asked how much it was he winced visibly and said: ‘Just take it, I can’t bear to have it in the shop ...

Miss Dior, Prodigally Applied

Ian Patterson: Jilly Cooper

17 May 2017
Mount! 
by Jilly Cooper.
Corgi, 610 pp., £7.99, February 2017, 978 0 552 17028 4
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... Jilly Cooper​ ’s work is not, so far as I know, much studied in universities. In the Senior Combination Room one lunchtime recently, when I mentioned that I was writing this review, a Very Senior Person ...

Bright Old Thing

D.A.N. Jones

23 July 1987
Letters of Conrad Russell: 1897-1947 
edited by Georgiana Blakiston.
Murray, 278 pp., £16.95, May 1987, 0 7195 4382 7
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... amuse me much but I seem to amuse them for they laugh consumedly every time I open my mouth. I think it is because my voice is different from theirs.’ Worse was to come. In 1937 he wrote to Diana Cooper about a member of his London club who had raised an objection about Russell ‘talking farming’. The complaint ran: ‘It’s really unbearable. I sometimes think I’ll scream, it suffocates me ...
22 June 2000
The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper 
by Dominick Dunne.
Crown, 218 pp., £17.99, October 1999, 0 609 60388 4
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Gary Cooper​ Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers 
by Maria Cooper​ Janis.
Abrams, 176 pp., £22, November 1999, 0 8109 4130 9
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... Play It as It Lays, The Panic in Needle Park, The Boys in the Band – were never mainstream, and they often indulged friends or relatives. (Play It as It Lays was scripted by Dominick’s brother, John Gregory Dunne, and his wife, Joan Didion, and was an adaptation of Didion’s warning novel on Hollywood.) But he threw parties, and for a few years real class people came, and he took their pictures ...

At Tate Britain

David Craig: Mountain Art

25 April 2002
... did, that the Earth was God’s creation and that its bones, its visible crust, were ‘a Book of Revelations in the rock-leaved Bible of geology’. Those were the words of the pioneering geologist John Wesley Powell, who led the first expedition through the Grand Canyon in 1873. Thomas Moran, an experienced painter from Philadelphia, travelled with Powell, and had been to Wyoming and Montana with ...

My Dagger into Yow

Ian Donaldson: Sidney’s Letters

25 April 2013
The Correspondence of Sir Philip Sidney 
edited by Roger Kuin.
Oxford, 1381 pp., £250, July 2012, 978 0 19 955822 3
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... there aren’t any extant letters from Walsingham that describe these scenes, or relate the help Walsingham gave to Sidney and Languet and other terror-stricken Protestants in Paris. Perhaps, as JohnCooper conjectured in his 2011 Life of Walsingham, such scenes were literally indescribable in diplomatic correspondence, their details committed instead for maximum security to the memory of ...

Corbyn in the Media

Paul Myerscough

21 October 2015
... refusing to believe that party activists who had ‘heard what people said on the doorsteps’ about Miliband and the deficit would vote for Corbyn. ‘My hunch,’ she wrote on 23 July, ‘is Cooper is the one to beat.’ As reality set in, her hunch became a plea, in which she was joined by the paper itself: in its editorial of 13 August, the Guardian came out for the ‘steadfast’ Cooper ...
20 December 1990
From Early Life 
by William Cooper.
Macmillan, 180 pp., £13.95, August 1990, 0 333 52367 9
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Son of Adam 
by Denis Forman.
Deutsch, 201 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 9780233985930
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A Welsh Childhood 
by Alice Thomas Ellis and Patrick Sutherland.
Joseph, 186 pp., £15.99, September 1990, 0 7181 3292 0
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Alarms and Excursions: Thirty Years in Israel 
by Naomi Shepherd.
Collins, 220 pp., £16, August 1990, 0 00 215333 5
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Birds of Ill Omen 
by Marie Seurat, translated by Dorothy Blair.
Quartet, 168 pp., £10.95, September 1990, 0 7043 2694 9
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... secular – quite unconcerned with the consolations of religion, untroubled by the complications. This is From Early Life by the oldest of the five authors, the novelist and scientist ‘William Cooper’: he was born in 1910 and brought up (as Harry Hoff) in the town of Crewe in Cheshire. Seniors in his family were determined chapel-goers, but Cooper-Hoff looks back at his childhood, over eighty ...

Skeltonics

Helen Cooper: The maverick poetry of John​ Skelton

14 December 2006
John​ Skelton and Poetic Authority: Defining the Liberty to Speak 
by Jane Griffiths.
Oxford, 213 pp., £50, February 2006, 9780199273607
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... John Skelton should be one of the great figures of English poetry. He is widely regarded as the most significant poet in the 130 years between the death of Chaucer and the flourishing of Thomas Wyatt; but ...

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