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Tobias Gregory: George Herbert

18 December 2014
Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert 
by John Drury.
Penguin, 396 pp., £9.99, April 2014, 978 0 14 104340 1
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... mother, Magdalen Herbert, celebrated by her contemporaries for both beauty and wit. Donne dedicated ‘La Corona’ to her, and years later preached at her funeral. In 1609 she was remarried, to Sir John Danvers, a cultured and attractive gentleman half her age; the marriage was evidently a happy one, and George Herbert enjoyed a close relationship with his young stepfather. Walton depicts Magdalen ...

Scribblers and Assassins

Charles Nicholl: The Crimes of Thomas Drury

31 October 2002
... and with his violent death in Deptford. The occasion of a second edition has brought me back to them, and has brought me more particularly to consider the activities of a shadowy figure named Thomas Drury, who was closely involved in the business, but who has until now managed to evade the spotlight. His name has been known since the early 1970s, when a letter of his turned up in the manuscript-stacks ...
19 November 1981
Ludwig Wittgenstein: Personal Recollections 
edited by Rush Rhees.
Blackwell, 235 pp., £9.50, September 1981, 0 631 19600 5
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... and personality, moral force, stunning intelligence. The contributions are by Wittgenstein’s sister, Hermine; Fania Pascal, who taught him Russian in the 1930s; F.R. Leavis, the literary critic; John King, who attended Wittgenstein’s lectures and became a friend; M.O’C. Drury, a close friend over many years, who gives an unmatched account of Wittgenstein’s spiritual concerns; Rush Rhees ...

Reading the Bible

John​ Barton

5 May 1988
The Literary Guide to the Bible 
edited by Robert Alter and Frank Kermode.
Collins, 678 pp., £20, December 1987, 0 00 217439 1
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... literary culture. The outstanding essays here are those which most clearly continue this insight of Auerbach’s, including Kermode’s ‘Introduction to the New Testament’ and his chapter on St John’s Gospel, and Alter’s Introduction to the Old Testament and his essay ‘The Characteristics of Hebrew Poetry’ – probably the best treatment of this difficult subject now available. Attention ...
19 February 2004
John​ Clare: A Biography 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 650 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 330 37106 1
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‘I Am’: The Selected Poetry of John​ Clare 
edited by Jonathan Bate.
Farrar, Straus, 318 pp., $17, November 2003, 0 374 52869 1
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John​ Clare, Politics and Poetry 
by Alan Vardy.
Palgrave, 221 pp., £45, October 2003, 0 333 96617 1
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John​ Clare Vol. V: Poems of the Middle Period 1822-37 
edited by Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 822 pp., £105, January 2003, 0 19 812386 8
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... In 1865, a year after John Clare’s death in the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, Frederick Martin, a former amanuensis of Thomas Carlyle, published the first biography of the ‘peasant poet’. It laid the foundations ...

The Reptile Oculist

John​ Barrell: On the trail of the mysterious John Taylor

1 April 2004
... John Taylor, the journalist, newspaper editor and poet, was born in 1757. His grandfather, the legendary ‘Chevalier’ Taylor, had been oculist to George II, and afterwards, so his grandson assures us ...

A Dreadful Drumming

Theo Tait: Ghosts

6 June 2013
The Undiscovered Country: Journeys among the Dead 
by Carl Watkins.
Bodley Head, 318 pp., £20, January 2012, 978 1 84792 140 6
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A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proof 
by Roger Clarke.
Particular, 360 pp., £20, November 2012, 978 1 84614 333 5
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... the Civil War, the Demon Drummer of Tedworth excited the interest of everyone from the era’s chief ghost-hunter, Joseph Glanvill, to Christopher Wren and Charles II. A Hampshire landowner called John Mompesson imprisoned William Drury, a busker and vagrant, and confiscated his drum. Mompesson’s house was then beset by terrible knockings from inside and out. Beds shook, heavy objects were thrown ...
30 January 1992
Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilisation 
by John​ Lahr.
Bloomsbury, 242 pp., £14.99, October 1991, 0 7475 1021 0
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... seemed that nothing had changed, except that there were now no dips into alcoholic despondency, and in fact no alcohol. I told him how a few years previously I had hesitated outside the Theatre Royal Drury Lane after his show, wondering whether I should ask to see him. He said: ‘I was probably in my dressing-room asking: “Where are all my friends?” ’ John Lahr is not the first writer on ...

Let him be Caesar!

Michael Dobson: The Astor Place Riot

2 August 2007
The Shakespeare Riots: Revenge, Drama and Death in 19th-Century America 
by Nigel Cliff.
Random House, 312 pp., $26.95, April 2007, 978 0 345 48694 3
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... even before the rebellion of the colonies, some had linked the imaginative scope of Shakespearean drama to the liberating possibilities offered by the New World. An ode by William Havard, recited at Drury Lane in 1757, identifies Shakespeare as the Columbus of world drama, anticipating the installation, more than a century later, of statues of the playwright and the explorer opposite one another in ...

Trust the Coroner

John​ Bossy: Why Christopher Marlowe was probably not a spy

14 December 2006
Christopher Marlowe: Poet and Spy 
by Park Honan.
Oxford, 421 pp., £25, October 2005, 0 19 818695 9
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... end of Elizabeth’s reign, and caused the conventional to think in apocalyptic terms about the future of the country. Riggs puts together Marlowe’s atheism and his spying to make of him (I quote John Gross) ‘the eternal rebel’; he reads the Tamburlaine plays, a wildly successful strip-cartoon in blank verse, as an engine of social criticism, and supposes that Marlowe’s death was personally ...

Meaningless Legs

Frank Kermode: John​ Gielgud

21 June 2001
Gielgud: A Theatrical Life 1904-2000 
by Jonathan Croall.
Methuen, 579 pp., £20, November 2000, 0 413 74560 0
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John​ G.: The Authorised Biography of John​ Gielgud 
by Sheridan Morley.
Hodder, 510 pp., £20, May 2001, 0 340 36803 9
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John​ Gielgud: An Actor’s Life 
by Gyles Brandreth.
Sutton, 196 pp., £6.99, April 2001, 0 7509 2752 6
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... These biographies of John Gielgud by Jonathan Croall and Sheridan Morley are quite hard to tell apart. They are of much the same size, bear handsome pictures of the actor in old age on the front of their dust-jackets, and are ...

Cough up

Thomas Keymer: Henry Fielding

20 November 2008
Plays: Vol. II, 1731-34 
by Henry Fielding, edited by Thomas Lockwood.
Oxford, 865 pp., £150, October 2007, 978 0 19 925790 4
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‘The Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon’, ‘Shamela’ and ‘Occasional Writings’ 
by Henry Fielding, edited by Martin Battestin, with Sheridan Baker and Hugh Amory.
Oxford, 804 pp., £150
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... his early successes – hits such as The Author’s Farce and Tom Thumb, first staged at a fringe venue – and establish himself as a writer of classical comedy for the prestigious Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. His grim comedy of manners, The Modern Husband, renounces the hastily written farces that made his name, and even seems to blame the audience for their haphazard style: ‘Hence, your nice ...

Dig, Hammer, Spin, Weave

Miles Taylor: Richard Cobden, Class Warrior

12 March 2009
The Letters of Richard Cobden. Vol. I: 1815-47 
edited by Anthony Howe.
Oxford, 529 pp., £100, November 2007, 978 0 19 921195 1
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... Anthony Howe’s comprehensive, erudite and superbly annotated edition of his correspondence will take its place alongside Gladstone’s diaries, the letters of Carlyle and Disraeli, and John Stuart Mill’s collected works as an indispensable resource for understanding the Victorians. With the possible exception of Adam Smith, there can be few economic gurus who have been so vulnerable ...

Hazlitteering

John​ Bayley

22 March 1990
Hazlitt: A Life. From Winterslow to Frith Street 
by Stanley Jones.
Oxford, 397 pp., £35, October 1989, 0 19 812840 1
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Shakespearean Constitutions: Politics, Theatre, Criticism 1730-1830 
by Jonathan Bate.
Oxford, 234 pp., £27, September 1989, 0 19 811749 3
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... so that reading or watching it is ‘like going on a journey’. But by taking a close look at the six volumes of Brian Vickers’s Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage, Bate shows that one John Potter had stoutly defended the play’s oddities many years earlier in the Theatrical Review. The real aficionados had always been enlightening and surprising in their championship of the Bard: what ...

Madame, vous fatiguez les singes

E.S. Turner: The Tower Menagerie

24 July 2003
The Tower Menagerie: Being the Amazing True Story of the Royal Collection of Wild and Ferocious Beasts 
by Daniel Hahn.
Simon and Schuster, 260 pp., £15.99, March 2003, 0 7432 2081 1
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... start a chronicle, a writer needs an attention grabber, usually a piquant item borrowed from mid-narrative. This history of the Tower Menagerie, founded 1235, begins on a winter day in 1764, when John Wesley, aged 61, arrived at the Tower with a flute-playing companion, to conduct what he called ‘an odd experiment’. The idea was to observe how the lions reacted to music, which might give some ...

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