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Between centuries

Frank Kermode

11 January 1990
In the Nineties 
by John Stokes.
Harvester, 199 pp., £17.50, September 1989, 0 7450 0604 3
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Olivia Shakespear and W.B. Yeats 
by John Harwood.
Macmillan, 218 pp., £35, January 1990, 0 333 42518 9
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Letters to the New Island 
by W.B. Yeats, edited by George Bornstein and Hugh Witemeyer.
Macmillan, 200 pp., £45, November 1989, 0 333 43878 7
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The Letters of Ezra Pound to Margaret Anderson: The ‘Little Review’ Correspondence 
edited by Thomas Scott, Melvin Friedman and Jackson Bryer.
Faber, 368 pp., £30, July 1989, 0 571 14099 8
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Ezra Pound and Margaret Cravens: A Tragic Friendship, 1910-1912 
edited by Omar Pound and Robert Spoo.
Duke, 181 pp., £20.75, January 1989, 0 8223 0862 2
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Postcards from the End of the World: An Investigation into the Mind of Fin-de-Siècle Vienna 
by Larry Wolff.
Collins, 275 pp., £15, January 1990, 0 00 215171 5
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Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age 
by Modris Eksteins.
Bantam, 396 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 593 01862 1
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Esprit de Corps: The Art of the Parisian Avant-Garde and the First World War, 1916-1925 
by Kenneth Silver.
Thames and Hudson, 506 pp., £32, October 1989, 0 500 23567 8
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... To live in the Nineties is to have first-hand experience of l’entre-siècle, a useful word I picked up from KennethSilver. Expect to see signs of what Henri Focillon in his book on the year 1000 identified as ‘centurial mysticism’, an affliction even more likely to be endemic when the century that is ending is also ...

Two Poems

Donald Hall

19 August 1993
...  with Just Married, pieplates, ribbons, and straw.         I was furious. I rushed forward to kick Al who padlocked         tire chains to an axle, then swung at Dan who sprayed silver paint.         When my friends understood that I was drunk or crazy – drunk and         crazy – they stepped back. We headed towards the airport, Just Married,         my ...
10 December 1998
Between Us Girls 
by Joe Orton.
Hern, 224 pp., £14.99, October 1998, 1 85459 374 9
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‘Fred & Madge’ and ‘The Visitors’ 
by Joe Orton.
Hern, 224 pp., £12.99, October 1998, 1 85459 354 4
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... failed the 11-plus, spent six months in prison, and was bludgeoned to death at the age of 34. He wrote Between Us Girls in 1957, after he had ended a period of collaboration with his lover and mentor Kenneth Halliwell. A classics scholar and failed actor, Halliwell was devoted to the gay literary canon avant la lettre, and had tutored Orton in the homosexual literary tradition from the Greeks to Genet ...

At Tate Britain (2)

Rosemary Hill: Kenneth​ Clark

2 July 2014
... In part ten​ of Civilisation, Kenneth Clark turned his attention to the Enlightenment, the age of the great amateurs. These were men ‘rich and independent enough to do what they liked’, who nevertheless did things which required ...

Royal Anxiety

Gabriele Annan

9 June 1994
The Queen 
by Kenneth​ Harris.
Weidenfeld, 341 pp., £20, April 1994, 0 297 81211 4
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Divine Right: The Inglorious Survival of British Royalty 
by Richard Tomlinson.
Little, Brown, 357 pp., £17.50, June 1994, 0 316 91119 4
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... New Clothes’, except that it’s much less contemptuous: the attitude is indulgent, though, rather than awe-struck. The two books under review approach their subject from opposite corners. Kenneth Harris trudges deferentially through his subject’s life, like one of those grey-haired guides in cardigans who steer tourists through National Trust houses. Until the Epilogue he takes elephantine ...

At the Party

Christopher Hitchens

17 April 1986
Hollywood Babylon II 
by Kenneth​ Anger.
Arrow, 323 pp., £5.95, January 1986, 0 09 945110 7
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Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan 
by Robin Wood.
Columbia, 336 pp., $25, October 1985, 0 231 05776 8
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... on a grand scale. And the same technique, of somehow being present at a wicked party while keeping your own morals intact, has served other breathless and heavy-breathing narrators very well since. Kenneth Anger has been this kind of wallflower at the orgy for years. The dragon king of gorgeous Hollywood has him in thrall. His snappy chapter-headings (‘Closely Observed Blondes’, ‘Babylon Boozers ...

Lola did the driving

Inigo Thomas: Pevsner’s Suffolk

4 May 2016
Suffolk: East, The Buildings of England 
by James Bettley and Nikolaus Pevsner.
Yale, 677 pp., £35, April 2015, 978 0 300 19654 2
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... he bicycled close to the east coast. ‘Part of the charm of one’s exposure to them is that they ask one to rise to no heroics. What is the charm, after all, but just the abyss of the familiar.’ Kenneth Clark, who grew up at Sudbourne Hall, a now demolished Wyatt house near Orford, said that what made the Dark Ages so dark was ‘the isolation, the lack of mobility, the lack of curiosity, the ...

The Past’s Past

Thomas Laqueur

19 September 1996
Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History 
by Jay Winter.
Cambridge, 310 pp., £12.95, September 1996, 0 521 49682 9
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... Modernism it powerfully mobilised elements of a prewar cultural crisis and gave it new, self-conscious definition predicated on rupture. Against this orthodoxy several scholars – the art historians KennethSilver and Romi Golan, for example – have recently argued that, on the contrary, French art in the Twenties and Thirties was far more conservative than Modernist. Winter writes in this revisionist ...
16 August 1990
Sir Huge: The Life of Huw Wheldon 
by Paul Ferris.
Joseph, 307 pp., £18.99, June 1990, 0 7181 3464 8
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... Bowen was forced to abandon television as his setting and make his hero, implausibly, a presenter of short art films in the cinema. Wheldon could be extraordinarily insensitive. I remember the silver wedding party given by dear friends who lived on the banks of the Thames in an idyllic setting but where the architecture ran to the kind of bungalow celebrated by Kingsley Amis in The Riverside ...

At the V&A

Peter Campbell: Penguin’s 70th birthday

2 June 2005
... as an object – things to say about the text it contains. It is a remarkable piece of work which has had a long life, in art college reading lists in particular; a more active one certainly than Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, to which it was an indirect riposte. Schmoller’s anger was misplaced. He might have loathed the look, but here at least was a book which was all of a piece. In 1972, the ...

At Tate Britain

Brian Dillon: Queer British Art

6 September 2017
...  she was sacked by Condé Nast for her relationship with the editor, Dorothy Todd – is made to shine with the same sci-fi glamour Beaton gave to the layabout dandy Stephen Tennant in his famous silver-and-leather portrait of 1927. In the same year, Beaton photographed Tennant dressed in pearls and white silk as a sleeping Prince Charming awaiting a kiss. (The catalogue tells us the picture ...

What did he think he was?

Tom Shippey: Ælfred the Great

10 May 2018
Ælfred’s Britain: War and Peace in the Viking Age 
by Max Adams.
Head of Zeus, 509 pp., £9.99, May 2018, 978 1 78408 031 0
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... And then there were the Picts, who inhabited most of Scotland. Adams says firmly that theirs too was a Q-Celtic language, but although the issue has long been disputed, the great Celtic philologist Kenneth Jackson was quite sure – on the evidence of names like Pittenweem and Pitlochry – that it was P-Celtic, though he thought it was more like Gaulish than Welsh or Cornish or Cumbric. The point is ...

Rose’s Rex

David Cannadine

15 September 1983
King George V 
by Kenneth​ Rose.
Weidenfeld, 514 pp., £12.95, July 1983, 0 297 78245 2
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... than of empathy, of tact rather than tolerance. And although it was received with great acclaim as the first word on the subject, in the nature of things it could scarcely be the last. By contrast, Kenneth Rose’s superb biography will surely stand as the best and most interesting study of George V that we are ever likely to get. There is much greater understanding by the author of his subject, and ...

Doing Chatting

Eleanor Birne: Asperger’s

9 October 2003
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time 
by Mark Haddon.
Cape, 272 pp., £10.99, May 2003, 0 224 06378 2
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... fan and his very favourite book is The Hound of the Baskervilles, which features a painted dog; ‘the curious incident of the dog in the night time’ is a quote from the Sherl0ck Holmes story ‘Silver Blaze’, which features a painted horse and a dog that doesn’t bark. In ‘Silver Blaze’ the horse is missing and a man is dead; in The Curious Incident the dog is dead and a woman is missing ...
21 October 1982
Palmerston: The Early Years, 1784-1841 
by Kenneth​ Bourne.
Allen Lane, 749 pp., £25, August 1982, 0 7139 1083 6
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... tension between his private passions and his public life: a biography of Palmerston as a day worker is very different from a study of him on the night shift. So it is hardly surprising that, as Kenneth Bourne disarmingly puts it in his preface, ‘there is no satisfactory biography of Palmerston, and there probably never will be.’ But this has not deterred a large number of writers from trying ...

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