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Straight Talk

Mary Beard

9 February 1995
Marginal Comment 
by Kenneth Dover.
Duckworth, 271 pp., £20, November 1994, 0 7156 2630 2
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... All you need to do, if you want the nation’s press camped on your doorstep, is to say that you once had a wank in 1947.’ Alan Bennett’s remark is quoted with obvious feeling by KennethDover in a late-inserted footnote to his autobiography, Marginal Comment. Someone, he explains, had leaked part of the typescript of his book to the Evening Standard, who, on the scent of celebrity ...

Facing both ways

Hugh Lloyd-Jones

19 August 1993
Bisexuality in the Ancient World 
by Eva Cantarella, translated by Cormac O Cuilleanain.
Yale, 284 pp., £19.95, September 1992, 0 300 04844 0
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... The Italian original of Bisexuality in the Ancient World appeared in 1988, and several new treatments of the topic have appeared since then. First, KennethDover published in The Greeks and their Legacy, the second volume of his collected papers, an article in which he put the case against the theory, lately revived, that the favourable Greek attitude to ...
20 February 1986
Sexual Desire 
by Roger Scruton.
Weidenfeld, 428 pp., £18.95, February 1986, 9780297784791
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The History of Sexuality. Vol. II: The Use of Pleasure 
by Michel Foucault, translated by Robert Hurley.
Pantheon, 293 pp., $17.95, December 1985, 0 394 54349 1
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Western Sexuality: Practice and Precept in Past and Present Times 
by Philippe Ariès and André Béjin, translated by Anthony Forster.
Blackwell, 220 pp., £17.50, April 1985, 9780631134763
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No Magic Bullet: A Social History of Venereal Disease in the United States since 1880 
by Allan Brandt.
Oxford (New York), 245 pp., £18.50, August 1985, 0 19 503469 4
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by Nancy Friday.
Collins, 593 pp., £12.95, January 1986, 0 00 217587 8
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... texts to actual practice in the ancient world is problematic. Foucault makes use of detailed reconstructions of the erotic life of Romans and Greeks by such ancient historians as Paul Veyne and KennethDover (whose authoritative book on Greek homosexuality Roger Scruton oddly, and without authority, dismisses as ‘trivialising’), but his interest is strictly in the origin of particular kinds of ...


Stephen Smith: Make sure you sound British

22 December 1994
... blithely conducts his business in sterling, indifferent to the native coin. He fears closer integration with our European partners, along the lines of the harmonisation of alcohol duty – something Kenneth Clarke alluded to when making his Budget speech at the first time of asking. Bang would go Dave’s percentage on ESP lager, and the matchlessly marqued Wappenbrau, which he sells for as little as £ ...
2 February 1984
The New Testament in Scots 
translated by William Laughton Lorimer.
Canongate, 476 pp., £17.50, October 1983, 0 900025 24 7
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Scotland and the Lowland Tongue 
edited by J. Derrick McClure.
Aberdeen University Press, 256 pp., £17, September 1983, 0 08 028482 5
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... a work of piety – Lorimer lost his faith as an undergraduate, and remained an agnostic – but an attempt to rehabilitate Scots. His prejudices, apparent in his annotations and confirmed by Sir KennethDover’s excellent memoir in the Proceedings of the British Academy, were a dislike of the English and a hatred of Catholicism (Anglo- as well as Roman, I suspect). Dover records that ‘he often ...


John Sutherland: Matthew Arnold

19 March 1998
A Gift Imprisoned: The Poetic Life of Matthew Arnold 
by Ian Hamilton.
Bloomsbury, 241 pp., £17.99, March 1998, 0 7475 3671 6
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... Super completed the 11-volume Complete Prose Works, a venture that seemed quixotic (‘all those school reports!’) when he began it in 1960. The complete Poems, edited, tidied up and annotated by Kenneth and Miriam Allott, were revised and reissued in 1979. A new edition is on the way from Nicholas Shrimpton. Cecil Lang is up to the second instalment of the Letters (despite fierce crossfire from ...

Mr and Mr and Mrs and Mrs

James Davidson: Why would a guy want to marry a guy?

2 June 2005
The Friend 
by Alan Bray.
Chicago, 380 pp., £28, September 2003, 0 226 07180 4
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... pairings of Sappho’s Lesbos or the relationship of Achilles and Patroclus in the Iliad, whose (apparently) non-sodomitical same-sex love was deleted from the history of ‘Greek homosexuality’ by KennethDover and David Halperin, as if the fact that a spectacularly homosexualising culture produced some of the most spectacular (but non-sodomitical) lesbian love poetry and has a spectacular (but non ...
3 July 1997
Number One Millbank: The Financial Downfall of the Church of England 
by Terry Lovell.
HarperCollins, 263 pp., £15.99, June 1997, 0 00 627866 3
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... the malaise it was set up to cure. One man, Charles Knight Murray, assumed great power over the Church estates, but forgot to tell the Commissioners that he was a director of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway and an eager speculator in railway shares. To pay for his prodigious share purchases, he intercepted and converted for his own use Church money drafts to the value of nearly a quarter of a ...

Cures for Impotence

James Davidson

19 October 1995
Foucault’s Virginity: Ancient Erotic Fiction and the History of Sexuality 
by Simon Goldhill.
Cambridge, 194 pp., £30, January 1995, 0 521 47372 1
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... fly-by-wire approach to sexual imagery, have their origins not, surprisingly, in some post-Foucauldian constructionist treatise, but in a ten-page section on ‘Dominant and Subordinate Roles’ in KennethDover’s normally sober work on Greek homosexuality. Here, at the point where it was perhaps most needed, Dover abandons his painstaking philology, turning instead to pornographic vase-paintings ...


Peter Green: Love in Ancient Greece

8 May 2008
The Greeks and Greek Love: A Radical Reappraisal of Homosexuality in Ancient Greece 
by James Davidson.
Weidenfeld, 634 pp., £30, November 2007, 978 0 297 81997 4
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... treated in a romantic way, but instead stripped of all emotional colouring and couched in crude physiological terms.’ Passive homosexuality in fact figures as a stock target for comic insults. KennethDover’s obsession with buggery, both real and metaphorical, in Greek Homosexuality (1978), gave rise to misleading sexual generalisations of the worst sort; but the social realities behind the ...


Iain Sinclair: At Bluewater

3 January 2002
... accident: no shameful moment on the trolley, if he finds himself taken to the Darent Valley Hospital. At first, Bluewater provokes such impulses: the transit point becomes a destination. Folkestone, Dover. The same grid of cars. The same concern about getting into the right stream. White cliffs – with visible evidence of wartime activity, tunnels, huts, gun emplacements. Security (discreet but firm ...

The Fred Step

Anna Swan: Frederick Ashton

19 February 1998
Secret Muses: The Life of Frederick Ashton 
by Julie Kavanagh.
Faber, 675 pp., £12.99, October 1997, 0 571 19062 6
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... I always felt that Fred was seeing Pavlova and that I wasn’t living up to her by any means,’ Margot Fonteyn once said, explaining what it was like to have Ashton watching her dance. Sent to Dover College at the age of 14, Ashton’s response to a teacher’s request to ‘Turn to page 54 in your geometry textbook,’ was: ‘What’s geometry?’ He claimed that he had been unteachable and ...

Shandying It

John Mullan: Sterne’s Foibles

6 June 2002
Laurence Sterne: A Life 
by Ian Campbell Ross.
Oxford, 512 pp., £25, March 2001, 0 19 212235 5
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... reason for the long gap between Volumes VI and VII) became part of his novel. ‘Allons! Said I; the post boy gave a crack with his whip--off I went like a cannon, and in half a dozen bounds got into Dover.’ Writing was life itself, realised in the speed of narration. ‘Time wastes too fast: every letter I trace tells me with what rapidity Life follows my pen.’ Sterne’s punctuation – those ...

The Best Stuff

Ian Jack: David Astor

1 June 2016
David Astor: A Life in Print 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 400 pp., £25, March 2016, 978 0 224 09090 2
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... the things that made us laugh: the column by Paul Jennings that had a tongue-twister about ‘tuskless rustics eating crustless Ruskets’; the strip cartoon by Jules Feiffer; the witty reviews by Kenneth Tynan of plays that we had next to no chance of seeing; the house adverts by the subversive estate agent Roy Brooks that my brother read aloud (‘The décor is revolting … rain drips sadly onto ...

The Tower

Andrew O’Hagan

7 June 2018
... went to the mosque to say the prayer that would close his fast. His sister Nur Huda was revising. She was at Holland Park School and had been commended by her teachers recently for a recitation of ‘Dover Beach’. Just across the corridor from the El Wahabis, Helen Gebremeskel cooked supper and her daughter, Lulya, watched a movie. Helen was so proud of her all-white flat with its little prayer room ...

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