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Victorian Vocations

Frank Kermode, 6 December 1984

Frederic Harrison: The Vocations of a Positivist 
by Martha Vogeler.
Oxford, 493 pp., £27.50, September 1984, 0 19 824733 8
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Leslie StephenThe Godless Victorian 
by Noël Annan.
Weidenfeld, 432 pp., £16.50, September 1984, 0 297 78369 6
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... Frederic Harrison once climbed Mont Blanc and found Leslie Stephen on the top. Not an improbable location for the encounter of two eminent Victorians: and they might equally have met in George Eliot’s drawing-room. Whereas Stephen was much the more distinguished mountaineer, Harrison probably knew George Eliot better: he helped her work out the legal plot of Felix Holt, a service for which she may have owed him more gratitude than we need to feel ...

Athenian View

Michael Brock, 12 March 1992

Public Moralists: Political Thought and Intellectual Life in Britain, 1850-1930 
by Stefan Collini.
Oxford, 383 pp., £40, September 1991, 0 19 820173 7
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... umbrella at Matthew Arnold’s, asks his friend to ‘bring it next time you come to the club’. Leslie Stephen, elected in 1877 on the strength of his History of English Thought in the 18th Century, enjoys the irony that this defence of free thought has given him ‘admission to a respectable haunt of bishops and judges’. By 1850, the Disruption in ...

At the NPG

Jean McNicol: ‘Virginia Woolf’, 11 September 2014

... obscured, but the poses are characteristic. In 1931 Woolf agreed to sit for Bell and the sculptor Stephen Tomlin, ‘pinning me there, from 2 to 4 on 6 afternoons, to be looked at; & I felt like a piece of whalebone bent. This amused & interested me, at the same time I foamed with rage.’ In the resulting sculpture she looks alarmed and alarming, with ...

How one has enjoyed things

Dinah Birch: Thackeray’s daughter, 2 December 2004

Anny: A Life of Anne Thackeray Ritchie 
by Henrietta Garnett.
Chatto, 322 pp., £18.99, January 2004, 0 7011 7129 4
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... dinner. ‘Everybody is either a genius or a poet, or a painter or peculiar in some way. Poor Miss Stephen says is there nobody commonplace?’ Poor Miss Stephen – Milly, Leslie Stephen’s timid sister – had a point. Soon they met ...

Smashing the Teapots

Jacqueline Rose, 23 January 1997

Virginia Woolf 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 722 pp., £20, September 1996, 0 7011 6507 3
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... from the vital, affirmative spirit in which Lee has chosen to approach her subject. When Virginia Stephen moved with her sister Vanessa and her brother Thoby from Hyde Park Gate to Bloomsbury after their father’s death in 1904, one of the most striking, and freeing, things about the new residence was, as Lee puts it, that ‘no one was dying in this ...

Nothing for Ever and Ever

Frank Kermode: Housman’s Pleasures, 5 July 2007

The Letters of A.E. Housman 
edited by Archie Burnett.
Oxford, 1228 pp., £180, March 2007, 978 0 19 818496 6
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... the ones that he conceived to be part of his job. There was a famous exception to this rule, the Leslie Stephen Lecture ‘On the Name and Nature of Poetry’, which he gave in 1933. The lecture was a huge success, though powerfully deplored by some Cambridge dissidents, led, as some report, by Dr Leavis, or, as some less plausibly ...

Raymond and Saxon and Maynard and …

Penelope Lively, 19 February 1981

Memories 
by Frances Partridge.
Gollancz, 238 pp., £9.95, January 1981, 0 575 02912 9
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Notes from Sick Rooms 
by Leslie Stephen.
Puckerbrush, 52 pp., £1.50, March 1981, 0 913006 16 5
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... And now to something very different: Bloomsbury by association but with quite another flavour. Mrs Leslie Stephen’s ‘Notes from Sick Rooms’ is a reissue of a pamphlet privately printed in 1883, a year after the birth of its author’s eminent daughter. It is as though Mrs Ramsay had stepped out of the pages of To the Lighthouse ...

Doctors’ Orders

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 18 February 1982

‘All that summer she was mad’: Virginia Woolf and Her Doctors 
by Stephen Trombley.
Junction, 338 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 9780862450397
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... In the summer following the death of Leslie Stephen in 1904, his daughter Virginia lay in bed, listening to the birds singing in Greek and imagining King Edward lurking naked in the azaleas, shouting obscenities; that same summer she apparently attempted to kill herself by leaping out of the window. ‘I have never spent such a wretched 8 months in my life,’ she wrote to a friend when the crisis had passed ...

Happy Bunnies

John Pemble: Cousin Marriage, 25 February 2010

Incest and Influence: The Private Life of Bourgeois England 
by Adam Kuper.
Harvard, 296 pp., £20.95, November 2009, 978 0 674 03589 8
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... you’ve read David Newsome, Annan himself, Michael Holroyd and Hermione Lee on the Wilberforces, Leslie Stephen, Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf, you’re likely to know what’s coming before you’ve turned the page – and there’s a limit to the appeal even of Clapham psychodrama and Bloomsbury libido. But some of the literary evidence he’s ...

Departure and Arrival Times

Sheldon Rothblatt, 18 August 1983

The History Men: The Historical Profession in England since the Renaissance 
by John Kenyon.
Weidenfeld, 322 pp., £16.50, March 1983, 0 297 78081 6
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... the historians (Kenyon among them) who believe in his greatness. Maitland’s relationship with Leslie Stephen and avid interest in Meredith’s novels would appear to be precisely the kind of detail Kenyon enjoys. Some room might have been found for Sir Henry Mame’s genius, even while debating whether he fits the category of historian. Much better ...

Diary

James MacGibbon: Fashionable Radicals, 22 January 1987

... Another time he had given up because his ‘work fell so far short of the standards set by Leslie Stephen’. But I suspect he was amused by a young man’s persistence and when, eventually, the proof stage of one volume was reached, he would call at the office, listen to my trivial comments, courteously accepting some of them, and then take me ...

A.E. Housman and Biography

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 22 November 1979

A.E. Housman 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Routledge, 304 pp., £9.75
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... it critically, taking account of the literary attitudes expressed in the London Introductory and Leslie Stephen Lectures. The author of such a study would find it helpful to have some understanding of the scholarly work which was the main business of Housman’s life, since the relation of this activity to his poetry is of great interest. Mr Graves ...

Manners maketh books

E.S. Turner, 20 August 1981

Debrett’s Etiquette and Modern Manners 
edited by Elsie Burch Donald.
Debrett, 400 pp., £8.95, June 1981, 0 905649 43 5
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... thank-you for favours received. Outshining it is Henry James’s letter to the newly-bereaved Sir Leslie Stephen, held up as an example of the perfect letter of condolence. It is full of sensibility, to be sure, but it also contains sentences best left unborrowed, like ‘I think of you with inexpressible participation.’ Among lesser names is that of ...

Georgie came, Harry went

Frank Kermode, 25 April 1991

A Passionate Apprentice. The Early Journals of Virginia Woolf, 1897-1909 
edited by Mitchell Leaska.
Hogarth, 444 pp., £25, October 1990, 0 7012 0845 7
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A Very Close Conspiracy: Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf 
by Jane Dunn.
Cape, 338 pp., £16.99, October 1990, 0 224 02234 2
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... awards one to ‘Bosphorus’, himself spelling it ‘Bosporus’, though when the versatile Miss Stephen spells it that way a few pages on, she gets another sic. And with so many of them flying about one can’t help noticing places where they are needed but are absent. Mr Leaska has written a long, informative and devout introduction, filling in much ...

Spruce

John Bayley, 2 June 1988

A.E. Housman: Collected Poems and Selected Prose 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Allen Lane, 528 pp., £18.95, April 1988, 0 7139 9009 0
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... hated for his meticulous standards and his appalling sarcasms on the unscholarly, delivered the Leslie Stephen Lecture on ‘The Name and Nature of Poetry’. In the course of it he quoted ‘O mistress mine, where are you roaming?’ and he quoted it as ‘where art thou roaming?’ He had omitted to verify his memory of something so well-known. He ...

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