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Promises, Promises

David Carpenter: The Peasants’ Revolt

1 June 2016
England, Arise: The People, the King and the Great Revolt of 1381 
by Juliet Barker.
Abacus, 506 pp., £10.99, September 2015, 978 0 349 12382 0
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... that had been one of its major causes. The next government to attempt a poll tax was Thatcher’s. Juliet Barker has written a splendid account of the events of 1381 and their wider context, enlivened with many arresting anecdotes. There is the rebel who ran his sword into the royal bed in the Tower of London, saying he would like to do the same to the ...

Bumming and Booing

John Mullan: William Wordsworth

5 April 2001
Wordsworth: A Life 
by Juliet Barker.
Viking, 971 pp., £25, October 2000, 9780670872138
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The Hidden Wordsworth 
by Kenneth Johnston.
Pimlico, 690 pp., £15, September 2000, 0 7126 6752 0
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Disowned by Memory: Wordsworth’s Poetry of the 1790s 
by David Bromwich.
Chicago, 186 pp., £9.50, April 2000, 0 226 07556 7
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... so much that is good,’ Robert Southey wrote (the declaration is emblazoned on the dust-jacket of Juliet Barker’s new Life). Yet any sense of this – of the subtle, elementary qualities of Wordsworth’s verse – is rarely apparent to those who study him, and rarely apparent in the throng of books and articles and theses that continue to be devoted ...

What Charlotte Did

Susan Eilenberg

6 April 1995
The Brontës 
by Juliet Barker.
Weidenfeld, 1003 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 297 81290 4
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... Juliet Barker’s The Brontës is an uneasy work. It seeks to defend the family it takes as its subject against those who sought to invade its privacy: the Victorian reading public, with its prurient speculations about the mysterious authors Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell; meddling acquaintances whose reports fuelled those speculations; previous biographers who exploited those reports; close friends such as Ellen Nussey who defied Charlotte’s husband Arthur Nicholls and refused to burn the letters Charlotte sent her; even Charlotte herself, who, by reading her sister Emily’s poems, violated her privacy and thus allied herself with the intruders and the voyeurs ...

If It Weren’t for Charlotte

Alice Spawls: The Brontës

16 November 2017
... serious new biography since Lyndall Gordon’s Charlotte Brontë: A Passionate Life in 1994 and Juliet Barker’s The Brontës from the same year (biographies seem to come in generational bursts). All writers on the Brontës now benefit from Margaret Smith’s magisterial – much overdue – edition of Charlotte’s extant letters, published by Oxford ...
20 December 1979
An Actor and his Time 
by John Gielgud.
Sidgwick, 253 pp., £8.95
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... Hence the famous gaffes. The foot went into the mouth quite early. At a first night of Romeo and Juliet in 1919, Ellen Terry’s last professional appearance, the Terry family was out in force. Gielgud’s grandmother Kate Terry and her sister Marion were both given rounds of applause as they made their separate entrances into the auditorium. ‘In the ...

Olivier Rex

Ronald Bryden

1 September 1988
Olivier 
by Anthony Holden.
Weidenfeld, 504 pp., £16, May 1988, 0 297 79089 7
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... and amuse showbiz New York mightily with the statement that, after their star-crossed Romeo and Juliet on Broadway in 1940, Olivier and Vivien Leigh went to lick their wounds for a month in Vermont with ‘the Alexander Woollcotts’. The English period equivalent would be a month in the country with the Beverley Nicholses. Holden is sometimes ...

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