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Talking about Manure

Rosemary Hill: Hilda Matheson’s Voice, 25 January 2024

Hilda Matheson: A Life of Secrets and Broadcasts 
by Michael Carney and Kate Murphy.
Handheld, 260 pp., £13.99, September 2023, 978 1 912766 72 7
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... status. She also got her employer safely through the general elections of 1922, 1923 and 1924. Kate Murphy, whose essay forms a somewhat awkward appendix to Carney’s biography, makes a case for their work that implicitly questions his somewhat dismissive view of Astor as a politician. Despite her influence on attitudes to the rights of women and ...

Fed up with Ibiza

Jenny Turner: Sybille Bedford, 1 April 2021

Sybille Bedford: An Appetite for Life 
by Selina Hastings.
Chatto, 432 pp., £35, November 2020, 978 1 78474 113 6
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... women, the lives and relative freedoms they made for themselves with their trust funds. Esther Murphy, for example, the entertainingly anti-travel ‘E’ who accompanied Bedford through Mexico for her first book, The Sudden View (1953; since renamed A Visit to Don Otavio) was herself acclaimed, in her own circles, as a polymath and raconteuse. The story ...


Chris Mullin: A report from Westminster, 25 June 2009

... place traumatised. No one talking about anything else. The Speaker gave a right bollocking to Kate Hoey and Norman Baker for allegedly colluding with our oppressors in the media. A good five minutes’ worth. I’ve never seen him so worked up. Actually, it was way over the top. Gave the impression he is rattled, which I imagine he is.  Then to a ...

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 ...

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