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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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... has a modern feel about him. Among the poets of his age, dying young or turning, like Wordsworth, into pillars of the establishment, he represents a kind of muddling through, an honesty baffled and contingent, inconsistent even; not living in the world of romantic ideals and simplifying gestures but ground in the daily mill of intrigue and ...

Desk Job

Deborah Friedell: Bernard Malamud, 15 November 2007

Bernard Malamud: A Writer’s Life 
by Philip Davis.
Oxford, 377 pp., £18.99, September 2007, 978 0 19 927009 5
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... years, Malamud has been championed by a new generation of Jewish-American writers. Dara Horn, Jonathan Safran Foer, Jonathan Lethem and Jonathan Rosen have all written loving introductions to his novels, and sometimes it seems that what they most admire about them is all the ...

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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... to me so deeply because those who wander thus are my own favourite poets: Ovid, Ariosto, Spenser, Wordsworth, Shelley, Clare – and, interpreting ‘poets’ generously, Constable, Thoreau, Conrad, Calvino and Frank Lloyd Wright, whose Fallingwater is Harrison’s model house, built on the Ruskinian principle of ‘not only coming to rest in its environment ...

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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... famous account in the Biographia Literaria of how a government agent spied on him and Wordsworth in Somerset in 1796 and misheard ‘Spinoza’ as ‘Spy Nozy’, but ‘could not catch a word about politics’. Morrison’s persona is a spy; like Browning’s poet, he is an outsider, an inquisitor. For a time he was a schoolteacher, but was ...

Funny Water

Frank Kermode: Raban at Sea, 20 January 2000

Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meanings 
by Jonathan Raban.
Picador, 435 pp., £16.99, November 1999, 0 330 34628 8
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... Jonathan Raban is afraid of the sea, saying it is not his element, which is probably why he spends so much time on it. He does not claim to be a world-class sailor, though he is obviously a competent one. One good reason for sailing is that, being a writer, he likes to write about having sailed. Sailing is guaranteed to provide alarms and achievements for his pen to celebrate ...

Is it a crime?

P.N. Furbank, 6 June 1985

Peterley Harvest: The Private Diary of David Peterley 
edited by Michael Holroyd.
Secker, 286 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 0 436 36715 7
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... 18th-century sonneteer – a somewhat obscure poet who nevertheless wrote four lines so good that Wordsworth appropriated them for a sonnet of his own (‘How sad a welcome!’). Pennington considered that work of such ‘compact excellence’ deserved universal fame, though a satisfactory second-best would be the esteem of ‘the few lovers of good ...

Something of His Own

Jonathan Rée: Gotthold Lessing, 6 February 2014

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: His Life, Works and Thought 
by H.B. Nisbet.
Oxford, 734 pp., £85, September 2013, 978 0 19 967947 8
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... of facts all obtaining in a single moment. For some reason Laocoön caught on in England: Dorothy Wordsworth read it with pleasure, and Henry Fuseli lectured on it at the Royal Academy and persuaded William Blake to take an interest. George Eliot admired its style (‘the most un-German of all German books that I have ever read’), de Quincey translated ...

Celtic Revisionism

Patrick Parrinder, 24 July 1986

A Short History of Irish Literature 
by Seamus Deane.
Hutchinson, 282 pp., £15, March 1986, 0 09 161360 4
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The Peoples of Ireland 
by Liam de Paor.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £15, April 1986, 9780091561406
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Portrait of Ireland 
by Liam de Paor.
Rainbow, 192 pp., £13.95, May 1986, 1 85120 004 5
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The Complete Dramatic Works 
by Samuel Beckett.
Faber, 476 pp., £12.50, April 1986, 0 571 13821 7
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The Beckett Country: An Exhibition for Samuel Beckett’s 80th Birthday 
by Eoin O’Brien and James Knowlson.
Black Cat, 97 pp., £5, May 1986, 0 948050 03 9
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... use of historical imagination to reveal a hidden identity between the present and the remote past. Wordsworth, walking across Salisbury Plain, pictured the Druids of Stonehenge as ‘long-bearded teachers’ – remote ancestors, in fact, of the English poets. Books on Irish literature and culture almost invariably find themselves embodying (or ...

Mr Who He?

Stephen Orgel: Shakespeare’s Poems, 8 August 2002

The Complete Sonnets and Poems 
by William Shakespeare, edited by Colin Burrow.
Oxford, 750 pp., £65, February 2002, 9780198184317
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... power of women, on the other, have a striking relevance to our own social and political history. Jonathan Crewe, in the recent, excellent Pelican Shakespeare Narrative Poems (1999), is particularly good on the sexual politics of these works, and the new and complex critical life they have taken on. The sonnets are, editorially and bibliographically, another ...

Unhoused

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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... poet’s richly particularised voice is largely a way of giving tongue to the transcendent. From Wordsworth to D.H. Lawrence, one speaks most persuasively when one articulates what is not oneself, whether one calls this Nature or the creative imagination, the primary processes or the dark gods. The self runs down to unfathomably anonymous roots. Men and ...

Exasperating Classics

Patricia Craig, 23 May 1985

Secret Gardens 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Allen and Unwin, 235 pp., £12.95, April 1985, 0 04 809022 0
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Reading and Righting 
by Robert Leeson.
Collins, 256 pp., £6.95, March 1985, 9780001844131
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Pipers at the Gates of Dawn 
by Jonathan Cott.
Viking, 327 pp., £12.95, August 1984, 0 670 80003 1
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... Beatrix Potter and her darker allegories (‘Squirrel Nutkin ... external menace ... paranoia’). Jonathan Cott would have done well to take to heart the warning communicated here. Pipers at the Gates of Dawn consists of interviews with six children’s authors and illustrators, and one pair of folklorists (the Opies). Cott has studied his material ...

The Cookson Story

Stefan Collini: The British Working Class, 13 December 2001

The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes 
by Jonathan Rose.
Yale, 534 pp., £29.95, June 2001, 0 300 08886 8
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... at least the middle of the 20th century. Can there be a proper history of working-class reading? Jonathan Rose believes that there can be, and after five hundred pages, 24 tables and more than 1600 footnotes it’s clear he has a point. His introduction (still more the publisher’s blurb) makes much of the book’s ‘innovative research techniques’, the ...

Peripheries

Charles Rzepka, 21 March 1991

The Puritan-Provincial Vision: Scottish and American Literature in the 19th Century 
by Susan Manning.
Cambridge, 270 pp., £32.50, May 1990, 0 521 37237 2
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... examples, Manning traces the provincialising of Calvinist attitudes in the writings of David Hume, Jonathan Edwards, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson and Ralph Waldo Emerson, among others. Far from a mechanical application of rigid doctrinal categories, Manning’s thoughtful critique shows how contradictory attitudes can arise out of, and in reaction to, a common ...

Going Electric

Patrick McGuinness: J.H. Prynne, 7 September 2000

Poems 
by J.H. Prynne.
Bloodaxe/Folio/Fremantle Arts Centre, 440 pp., £25, March 2000, 1 85224 491 7
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Pearls that Were 
by J.H. Prynne.
Equipage, 28 pp., £4, March 1999, 1 900968 95 9
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Triodes 
by J.H. Prynne.
Barque, 42 pp., £4, December 1999, 9781903488010
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Other: British and Irish Poetry since 1970 
edited by Richard Caddel and Peter Quartermain.
Wesleyan, 280 pp., $45, March 1999, 0 8195 2241 4
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... is also part of a vigorous poetic and critical counter-culture. His work sends critics to Blake or Wordsworth or Coleridge as often as it propels them to the OED in search of what Beckett called ‘semantic succour’; it is as likely to draw us back to the Metaphysical poets, to Hardy or to Herrick as it is to refer us to Heidegger, Bakhtin or Adorno. It was ...

I am a false alarm

Robert Irwin: Khalil Gibran, 3 September 1998

Kahlil Gibran: Man and Poet 
by Suheil Bushrui and Joe Jenkins.
One World, 372 pp., £18.99, August 1998, 1 85168 177 9
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Prophet: The Life and Times of Kahlil Gibran 
by Robin Waterfield.
Allen Lane, 366 pp., £20, August 1998, 0 7139 9209 3
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... Blaise Pascal, George Fox, Jacob Boehme, Angelus Silesius, William Law, William Blake, William Wordsworth and Bernardette, among tens of thousands of others, needs lessons in spirituality or mysticism from Asia. Gibran’s fans seem to think that it is incumbent on the unenchanted to explain why he remains so popular and why his books sell so many copies ...

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