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I have written as I rode

Adam Smyth: ‘Brief Lives’, 8 October 2015

‘Brief Lives’ with ‘An Apparatus for the Lives of Our English Mathematical Writers’ 
by John Aubrey, edited by Kate Bennett.
Oxford, 1968 pp., £250, March 2015, 978 0 19 968953 8
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John Aubrey: My Own Life 
by Ruth Scurr.
Chatto, 518 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 0 7011 7907 6
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... Andrew Marvell, Edmund Waller, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, John Milton, Wenceslaus Hollar. As Kate Bennett writes in the introduction to her superb new edition of Brief Lives, ‘we may be able to hear, through him, the 17th century talking to and about itself.’ What do we hear? We hear that William Petty teaches anatomy at Brasenose and keeps a ...

Was Plato too fat?

Rosemary Hill: The Stuff of Life, 10 October 2019

Fat: A Cultural History of the Stuff of Life 
by Christopher Forth.
Reaktion, 352 pp., £25, March 2019, 978 1 78914 062 0
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... however, he was defeated. There was no easy way of doing it and according to his biographer Kate Bennett, Aubrey was reduced to saying that he could get one hand between the top of his head and the hat of his friend Thomas Hobbes, who was notably tall. The ways in which the so-called new learning of the 17th century turned the inquiry into the ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2012, 3 January 2013

... Chelsea and so brightens considerably. Meanwhile lurking by the door HMQ is due to come through is Kate O’Mara and when I next look lining up to meet Her Majesty are Ms O’Mara along with Joan Collins and Shirley Bassey, the impression being that anyone can get to speak to the monarch provided you’re pushy enough. But it’s all very casual, so much so ...


Frances Donaldson, 16 October 1980

Dear Old Blighty 
by E.S. Turner.
Joseph, 288 pp., £7.95, February 1980, 0 7181 1879 0
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... head cut off. My right breast has been taken away. This letter turned out to have been written by Kate herself: Nurse Hume, having never been out of England, was quite safe in Huddersfield at the time. But it was published not merely in the Dumfries Standard, where it started, but also in such papers as the Evening Standard, the Pall Mall Gazette and the ...

Gielgud’s Achievements

Alan Bennett, 20 December 1979

An Actor and his Time 
by John Gielgud.
Sidgwick, 253 pp., £8.95
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... 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 interval I said in a loud voice to Marion, “Grandmother had a wonderful reception,” and Marion replied: “Yes, dear. I ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2005, 5 January 2006

... they did used to do ear-piercing, though quite why I’m not sure. 24 September. Good à propos Kate Moss to be reminded of the cowardice of commerce. The Swedish firm H&M, one of several fearless enterprises that have distanced themselves from Ms Moss, declares itself proud to be in the forefront of corporate morality. That most of its clothes are said to ...


Alan Bennett: Finding My Métier, 4 January 2018

... is stricken ill in bed and receives a handful of visitors who seek to administer in some way. Mr Bennett would be among these visitors.’ No fee is mentioned, but a part of me would like to do it even if it risks my making a fool of myself. Though videos being what they are I imagine it would be an almost subliminal appearance. I would also like to know who ...

Gosh, what am I like?

Rosemary Hill: The Revenge Memoir, 17 December 2020

Friends and Enemies: A Memoir 
by Barbara Amiel.
Constable, 592 pp., £25, October 2020, 978 1 4721 3421 9
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Diary of an MP’s Wife: Inside and Outside Power 
by Sasha Swire.
Little, Brown, 544 pp., £20, September 2020, 978 1 4087 1341 9
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... Boss suit is ‘a bit bus conductor’ and they have a couple of trips to Swire’s friend Linda Bennett’s ‘L.K. Bennett’ shops, where Swire has a discount card. Rudd, however, now home secretary, appears ‘only half interested’. It is more like ‘buying school uniform’ for a child. They come away with a couple ...

I sizzle to see you

John Lahr: Cole Porter’s secret songs, 21 November 2019

The Letters of Cole Porter 
edited by Cliff Eisen and Dominic McHugh.
Yale, 672 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 0 300 21927 2
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... of perfect equipoise.Porter (1891-1964) was the cosseted surviving child of three born to Kate and Sam Porter, a pharmacist in Peru, Indiana. He inherited his aptitude for music from his father, a good pianist with an attractive tenor voice. ‘I suppose he started me writing lyrics,’ Porter said – he wrote his first song when he was ten. He ...


John Mullan: Fanny Burney, 23 August 2001

Fanny Burney: A Biography 
by Claire Harman.
Flamingo, 464 pp., £8.99, October 2001, 0 00 655036 3
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Fanny Burney: Her Life 
by Kate Chisholm.
Vintage, 347 pp., £7.99, June 1999, 0 09 959021 2
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Faithful Handmaid: Fanny Burney at the Court of King George III 
by Hester Davenport.
Sutton, 224 pp., £25, June 2000, 0 7509 1881 0
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... which was published in her lifetime. Yet her tragedies are crude and portentous (‘ludicrous’, Kate Chisholm admits), and the only one to have been produced, Edwy and Elgiva, seems to have been laughed off the stage. The comedies are better. A Busy Day has recently been staged and comes over as an engagingly brutal comedy of Regency courtship and ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1998, 21 January 1999

... when I come back and decide, rather doubtfully, that they must have been golden orioles. However Kate M. tells me that they were probably parakeets, which are spreading rapidly in London (a large colony at Sunbury apparently) and may one day oust the pigeons. Yorkshire, 29 March. The conductor on the GNER train to Leeds is now styled Customer Operations ...

During Her Majesty’s Pleasure

Ronan Bennett, 20 February 1997

... years later, McCluskie came up for a parole hearing. Supported by Lorna, his mother, Spence and Kate Akester, a solicitor at Justice with extensive experience of representing life prisoners here and in the European Court, he petitioned for release. Shortly before the hearing, he was interviewed by Ms J. Kinsley, a member of the Parole Board. She described ...

The Tangible Page

Leah Price: Books as Things, 31 October 2002

The Book History Reader 
edited by David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery.
Routledge, 390 pp., £17.99, November 2001, 0 415 22658 9
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Making Meaning: ‘Printers of the Mind’ and Other Essays 
by D.F. McKenzie, edited by Peter D. McDonald and Michael F. Suarez.
Massachusetts, 296 pp., £20.95, June 2002, 1 55849 336 0
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... toward prose fiction (preferably pre or anti-Modernist) inverts the preference identified in Kate Flint’s chapter on Victorian women’s reading: 19th-century critics valued the cerebral appreciation of poetry, she argues, because they conceived of novel-reading by analogy with carnal appetites. (Victorian paintings of female novel-readers feature much ...

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