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She’s a tiger-cat!

Miranda Seymour: Birds’ claw omelettes with Vernon Lee, 22 January 2004

Vernon Lee: A Literary Biography 
by Vineta Colby.
Virginia, 387 pp., £32.50, May 2003, 0 8139 2158 9
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... anger of Henry James, when he discovered that the novel she had dedicated to him, Miss Brown, contained diminishing portraits of a large number of his acquaintances. William and Lucy Rossetti appeared as a stodgy reviewer with a shallow, garrulous wife obsessed by the charms of her children. William and Jane ...

Oh, you clever people!

Tom Crewe: The Unrelenting Bensons, 20 April 2017

A Very Queer Family Indeed: Sex, Religion and the Bensons in Victorian Britain 
by Simon Goldhill.
Chicago, 337 pp., £24.50, October 2016, 978 0 226 39378 0
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... passionate bonds: somewhere on the scene was always an Ellen, Annie, Charlotte, Ethel, Susan, Lucy. Most of these friendships began with what Minnie called the ‘My God, what a woman!’ stage, progressing from awe-struck enthusiasm to endless letter-writing, pet-names and hand-kissing. It’s doubtful they went much further, though it is clear that ...

In the Box

Dale Peck, 6 February 1997

How Stella Got Her Groove Back 
by Terry McMillan.
Viking, 368 pp., £16, September 1996, 0 670 86990 2
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by Sapphire.
Secker, 142 pp., £7.99, September 1996, 0 436 20291 3
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The Autobiography of My Mother 
by Jamaica Kincaid.
Vintage, 228 pp., £8.99, September 1996, 0 09 973841 4
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... of the first half of this decade, writers as diverse in talent and sensibility as Rebecca Brown, Dennis Cooper, Kathy Acker, Gary Indiana and Sarah Schulman, writers whose main similarity seemed to be that they all started out at small presses before being ‘discovered’ by big houses. By now – by which I mean, in the most Nixonian sense of the ...

The Powyses

D.A.N. Jones, 7 August 1980

After My Fashion 
by John Cowper Powys.
Picador, 286 pp., £2.50, June 1980, 0 330 26049 9
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Weymouth Sands 
by John Cowper Powys.
Picador, 567 pp., £2.95, June 1980, 0 330 26050 2
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Recollections of the Powys Brothers 
edited by Belinda Humfrey.
Peter Owen, 288 pp., £9.95, May 1980, 0 7206 0547 4
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John Cowper Powys and David Jones: A Comparative Study 
by Jeremy Hooker.
Enitharmon, 54 pp., £3.75, April 1979, 0 901111 85 6
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The Hollowed-Out Elder Stalk 
by Roland Mathias.
Enitharmon, 158 pp., £4.85, May 1979, 0 901111 87 2
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John Cowper Powys and the Magical Quest 
by Morine Krissdottir.
Macdonald, 218 pp., £8.95, February 1980, 0 354 04492 3
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... the vicar; the vicar, the Reverend Nut, wants only the ghost of William Cowper to come into his brown study and read him The Task; the Sexton wants worms; worms want the vicar. Lambkins on those impossible hills, frolic, gambol and are sheepish under the all-seeing eye of Uncle Teapot, the Celestial Tinker ...’ In this parody (the Listener, 17 October ...


Lulu Norman: In Ethiopia, 4 September 1997

... a story about an attendant at the National Museum in Addis Ababa who, when challenged that the Lucy – the first A. afarensesis australopithecine hominid to be discovered – was a plaster cast, had ushered him to a dusty back room and proudly opened a huge, unlocked box to reveal the real one. The explorer James Bruce came to Ethiopia in 1769 to look for ...

Secretly Sublime

Iain Sinclair: The Great Ian Penman, 19 March 1998

Vital Signs 
by Ian Penman.
Serpent’s Tail, 374 pp., £10.99, February 1998, 1 85242 523 7
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... in a journal extract published in the Bristol magazine, Entropy. (Hannon describes how David Jay Brown and John Lilly in Mavericks of the Mind ‘discuss the notion that ketamine renders the brain directly susceptible to TV transmissions.’ And goes on that ‘Lilly even claims that he once found himself inside a TV soap opera while on ketamine, and was ...

What is going on in there?

Hilary Mantel: Hypochondria, 5 November 2009

Tormented Hope: Nine Hypochondriac Lives 
by Brian Dillon.
277 pp., £18.99, September 2009, 978 1 84488 134 5
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... to perfect her language skills. Her novels, Dillon points out, are full of hypochondriacs: Lucy Snowe in Villette, for example, is subject to ‘an overheated and discursive imagination’. In Brontë’s work the boundaries of the term are explored; the ‘hypochondria’ from which Jane Eyre suffers on the eve of her wedding is a crawling (and ...


Peter Pomerantsev: At Potemkin Productions, 3 February 2011

... a Soviet-era building the size of five football pitches. Meetings involved walking down miles of brown corridors, to a smoke-filled boardroom where a producer would quite comfortably say: ‘We need something to keep the nation pacified. The financial crisis has the Kremlin worried. Ideas?’ The other group was made up of the entertainment ...

Educating the Utopians

Jonathan Parry: Parliament’s Hour, 18 April 2019

The Oxford Handbook of Modern British Political History, 1800-2000 
edited by David Brown, Robert Crowcroft and Gordon Pentland.
Oxford, 626 pp., £95, April 2018, 978 0 19 871489 7
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... Victorian invention of the lobby correspondent, a role filled by men like William White or Henry Lucy, brought parliamentary debates alive for the newspaper reader. The correspondents usually did this by dwelling on the MPs’ individuality: their mannerisms, their dress, their hobby-horses. This humanised the institution and undermined radical stereotypes ...

An Element of Unfairness

Ross McKibbin: The Great Education Disaster, 3 July 2008

... usually called ‘faith’ schools, and a new type of school, the city academy. Of the two, Gordon Brown’s government is clearly putting its money on the academies. The faith schools were a particular enthusiasm of Blair’s but are viewed with suspicion by the Labour Party as a whole. Their admirers believe they have an ‘ethos’ and an academic ...

The Inevitable Pit

Stephen Greenblatt: Isn’t that a Jewish name?, 21 September 2000

... to popular radio shows like Fibber McGee and Molly or Burns and Allen, when they watched I Love Lucy or the Ed Sullivan Show, when they went to Red Sox baseball games and outdoor concerts by the Boston Pops, they were participating in a collective culture that did not acknowledge – either with interest or dislike – their difference. There was an ...

If It Weren’t for Charlotte

Alice Spawls: The Brontës, 16 November 2017

... other letters at the time and her dramatisation of a similar event in Villette, where Lucy Snowe explains her actions by saying ‘I had a pressure of affliction on my mind.’ Harman goes on to speculate about the nature of her confession, presuming that (and she doesn’t tell us so much as lead us up to the conclusion) it concerned ‘the ...

The Impermanence of Importance

David Runciman: Obama, 2 August 2018

The World as It Is: Inside the Obama White House 
by Ben Rhodes.
Bodley Head, 450 pp., £20, June 2018, 978 1 84792 517 6
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... a gallon. We had it all teed up.”’ This brings to mind an image drawn from another sport: Lucy endlessly lining up the football for Charlie Brown to kick, only to pull it away at the last moment and send him flying. Obama did the opposite of that. He went out of his way to ensure the ball was where it needed to ...

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