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I have written as I rode

Adam Smyth: ‘Brief Lives’

7 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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... words, ‘politically tone-deaf’ is a ranging inclusivity in his social relations: John Dryden, Andrew Marvell, Edmund Waller, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, John Milton, Wenceslaus Hollar. As KateBennett 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 ...

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, 978 1 78914 062 0
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... he was wearing, whether he was carrying a sword and what he had in his pockets. When it came to his height, however, he was defeated. There was no easy way of doing it and according to his biographer KateBennett, 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 ...

Hating

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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... to say goodbye. Have not long to live. Hospital set on fire. Germans cruel. A man here has had his 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 ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2012

3 January 2013
... flag on each cheek and on her forehead and colours them in. This is done so unselfconsciously and without a smile R. feels that for this alone they deserve to win. Brian, Stewie, David Mamet, Alan Bennett and Yasmina Reza in Family Guy. 25 April. At five a car comes to take me down to Silk studios on Berwick Street to record a voiceover (of my own voice) for an episode of Family Guy, the story being ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2005

5 January 2006
... spot for that bookshop. It was there my little granddaughter had her ears pierced.’ And it’s true 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 ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Finding My Métier

4 January 2018
... I would like to take part in the video for his new album. ‘The basic premise of the video is that M. 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 ...
20 December 1979
An Actor and his Time 
by John Gielgud.
Sidgwick, 253 pp., £8.95
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... 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 interval I said in a loud voice to Marion, “Grandmother had a ...

Malice

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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... would seem unthreatened. There would have been regret about the loss of her plays, none of 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 ...

I sizzle to see you

John Lahr: Cole Porter’s secret songs

19 November 2019
The Letters of Cole Porter 
edited by Cliff Eisen and Dominic McHugh.
Yale, 672 pp., £25, October, 978 0 300 21927 2
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... afterwards – his account illustrates the function of music-making’s in his life: a dandy’s masquerade 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 ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 1998

21 January 1999
... of which are alive with bright green and yellow birds which twitter like hawks. I look them up 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 ...
20 February 1997
... file: ‘I suppose he is like a caged bird – given the opportunity he flies off. All very sad.’ Two 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 ...

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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... unabashed worldliness of the drama. Both crowd out any attention to lyric. Book historians’ gravitation 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 ...

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