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19 August 1993
Shakespeare and Ovid 
by Jonathan Bate.
Oxford, 292 pp., £35, May 1993, 0 19 812954 8
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... is Ovid unmoralised, undisguisedly erotic. Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis is a heterosexual Ovidian story but that scarcely renders it safe, for Venus is the active party, Adonis the pursued. As JonathanBate says, the poem is partly about a woman who wishes to rape a man and is frustrated by physiological difference. The magisterial Jonson, in his play Poetaster, drew the moral conclusion: if that ...

Gobsmacked

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare

16 July 1998
Lyric Wonder: Rhetoric and Wit in Renaissance English Poetry 
by James Biester.
Cornell, 226 pp., £31.50, May 1997, 0 8014 3313 4
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Reason Diminished: Shakespeare and the Marvellous 
by Peter Platt.
Nebraska, 271 pp., £42.75, January 1998, 0 8032 3714 6
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Shakespeare and the Theatre of Wonder 
by T.G. Bishop.
Cambridge, 222 pp., £32.50, January 1996, 0 521 55086 6
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The Genius of Shakespeare 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 386 pp., £20, September 1997, 0 330 35317 9
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... finds, in the USA, Peter Plan and T.G. Bishop combing the plays for miracles and James Biester finding the key to Renaissance courtly poetry in its strategies for eliciting astonishment. Back home, JonathanBate is gobsmacked by the sheer Genius of Shakespeare. It’s perhaps as well to remember that in cooler moments Jonson complained that ‘Shakespeare wanted Art’ and Milton berated Charles I for ...
29 September 1988
The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Vol. V: Lectures 1808-1819 On Literature 
edited by R.A. Foakes.
Princeton/Routledge, 604 pp., £55, December 1987, 0 691 09872 7
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... Henry Crabb Robinson had a busy evening on 27 January 1818: having attended William Hazlitt’s lecture on Shakespeare and Milton at the Surrey Institution, he hurried over the river to the London Philosophical Society to hear the first lecture in a new course by Coleridge. He was gratified to find there ‘a large and respectable audience – generally of very superior looking persons’. There was ...

Players, please

Jonathan Bate

6 December 1984
The Oxford Book of War Poetry 
edited by Jon Stallworthy.
Oxford, 358 pp., £9.50, September 1984, 0 19 214125 2
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Secret Destinations 
by Charles Causley.
Macmillan, 69 pp., £7.95, September 1984, 0 333 38268 4
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Fast Forward 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 64 pp., £4.50, October 1984, 0 19 211967 2
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Dark Glasses 
by Blake Morrison.
Chatto, 71 pp., £3.95, October 1984, 0 7011 2875 5
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... The Great War was the war of the great war poets. Was ‘the war to end all wars’ also the war to end all war poetry? The best part of Jon Stallworthy’s introduction to his Oxford Book of War Poetry is a discussion of the chivalric ideal in the British public school classes of the 19th century. ‘Honour the charge’ makes the cavalrymen of the Light Brigade into Arthurian heroes; ‘Noble Six ...

Spivsville

Jonathan Bate

27 July 1989
Train, Train 
by Graham Coster.
Bloomsbury, 225 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 9780747503941
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The Philosophers 
by Alex Comfort.
Duckworth, 176 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 9780715625118
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The King of the Fields 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer.
Cape, 256 pp., £10.95, July 1989, 0 224 02663 1
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Sister Hollywood 
by C.K. Stead.
Collins, 224 pp., £11.95, June 1989, 0 00 223479 3
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Penelope’s Hat 
by Ronald Frame.
Hodder, 440 pp., £12.95, July 1989, 0 340 49397 6
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... In Book Two of Disraeli’s Sybil, or The Two Nations the hero meets two strangers in the ruins of an abbey. One of them claims that the monasteries represented the only authentic communities England has ever known. In modern times, ‘there is no community in England; there is aggregation, but aggregation under circumstances which make it rather a dissociating than an uniting principle.’ This dissociating ...

Cry Treedom

Jonathan Bate

4 November 1993
Forests: The shadow of Civilisation 
by Robert Pogue Harrison.
Chicago, 288 pp., £19.95, May 1992, 0 226 31806 0
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... It must be cause for at least mild celebration that the United States now has a Vice-President who can use the word ‘Cartesian’ in place of one who could not spell the word ‘potato’. In a chapter called ‘Dysfunctional Civilisation’ in his book Earth in the Balance, Al Gore writes that ‘the Cartesian approach to the human story allows us to believe that we are separate from the earth ...

Silly Willy

Jonathan Bate

25 April 1991
William Blake: His Life 
by James King.
Weidenfeld, 263 pp., £25, March 1991, 0 297 81160 6
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... To write well about William Blake you need to be enthusiastic, aphoristic and contrary. It also helps to be slightly mad. You need to begin your book with a paragraph like this: When Blake spoke the first word of the 19th century there was no one to hear it, and now that his message, the message of emancipation from reality through the ‘shaping spirit of imagination’, has penetrated the world ...
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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... 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, JonathanBate says in his new Life, ‘for both the enduring myths and some of the key truths about Clare’. Though there have been other biographies since Martin’s, Bate’s should finally disprove ...
10 May 2007
William Shakespeare, Complete Works: The RSC Shakespeare 
edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen.
Macmillan, 2486 pp., £30, April 2007, 978 0 230 00350 7
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... To which are added notes by Sam. Johnson. This edition, with its much reprinted preface and doggedly commonsensical approach to the text, still exerts a palpable influence on Shakespeare scholars: JonathanBate’s introduction to this new edition of the Complete Works makes regular appeals to Johnson’s authority and Johnson’s precedent. The differences between the circumstances and the procedures ...

And That Rug!

Michael Dobson: Images of Shakespeare

6 November 2003
Shakespeare’s Face: The Story behind the Newly Discovered Portrait 
by Stephanie Nolen.
Piatkus, 365 pp., £18.99, March 2003, 0 7499 2391 1
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Imagining Shakespeare: A History of Texts and Visions 
by Stephen Orgel.
Palgrave, 172 pp., £25, August 2003, 1 4039 1177 0
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Shakespeare in Art 
by Jane Martineau et al.
Merrell, 256 pp., £29.95, September 2003, 1 85894 229 2
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In Search of Shakespeare 
by Michael Wood.
BBC, 352 pp., £20, May 2003, 9780563534778
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... by pursuing Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo in The Tempest, and so on. To be fair, there are some nicely written pieces in Nolen’s book – Tarnya Cooper is good on the painting’s genre, and JonathanBate does his usual expert job on the still widespread folk belief that Shakespeare didn’t write his own plays (which would make the Sanders portrait, even if it is all that its current possessor ...

Saint Terence

Jonathan Bate

23 May 1991
Ideology: An Introduction 
by Terry Eagleton.
Verso, 242 pp., £32.50, May 1991, 0 86091 319 8
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... In 1978 Terry Eagleton wrote an essay on John Bayley in the New Left Review. It is a ritual excoriation of that most tactful of ‘liberal humanist’ critics, punctuated with predictable sneers about ‘a view of life from the Oxford senior common room window’ and how Bayley’s criticism prizes a liberal disorder that depends on a conservative order ‘within which the gentleman may wear his art ...
15 August 1991
Constable 
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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... only by a refusal to make any statement about his art which is not a statement of fact. The triumph of the West and the crisis of the planet are the avowed contexts of another work on landscape art, JonathanBate’s robust and opportunistic essay Romantic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition. The book claims to set ‘a new agenda for the study of Romanticism in the 1990s’, and it ...

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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... of course, for Shakespeare has penetrated his mode of presentation because of his omnipresence in Hazlitt’s own outlook and essays. ‘The Example of Hazlitt’ occupies the second part of JonathanBate’s book, by far its longest section, and the whole literary atmosphere of Regency London, seen through Hazlitt’s eyes and those of his two critics, is alive with Shakespearean character and ...

Sorrows of a Polygamist

Mark Ford: Ted Hughes in His Cage

17 March 2016
Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life 
by Jonathan Bate.
William Collins, 662 pp., £30, October 2015, 978 0 00 811822 8
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... his death, it is hard to feel confident that his actions and beliefs and literary achievement can be judiciously and authoritatively assessed. For a start, he wrote and published at such a rate: JonathanBate’s bibliographic tally of Hughes’s books runs to more than seventy items, while the various Hughes archives contain nearly a hundred thousand pages of manuscript material. The vast Collected ...
6 August 1992
The Lyrical Ballads: Longman Annotated Texts 
edited by Michael Mason.
Longman, 419 pp., £29.99, April 1992, 0 582 03302 0
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Strange Power of Speech: Wordsworth, Coleridge and Literary Possession 
by Susan Eilenberg.
Oxford, 278 pp., £30, May 1992, 0 19 506856 4
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The Politics of Nature: Wordsworth and Some Contemporaries 
by Nicholas Roe.
Macmillan, 186 pp., £35, April 1992, 0 333 52314 8
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... in describing the thought of the Ballads seems likelier to recruit them, against the grain of his argument, to an older Anglican or Catholic tradition of nature-writing. In Romantic Ecology (1991), JonathanBate made a useful case, more solid than Roe’s, for the adoption of Wordsworth along with Ruskin by, say the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, as the twin John the Baptists of ...

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