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Diary

Paul Foot: Windsor Girls School on 22 June

4 July 1985
... of Slough’ – ‘those bombs aren’t such a huge joke any more.’ The main session over, we were offered Judith Chernaik on Shelley’s feminism or Elma Dangerfield on Byron and Shelley or MarilynButler on the background to the politics of the Romantic poets. I had heard Judith a few times before, and reckoned Elma Dangerfield probably a bit right-wing for me, so I plumped for MarilynButler ...
7 February 1980
Walter Scott and the Historical Imagination 
by David Brown.
Routledge, 239 pp., £9.75, August 1980, 0 7100 0301 3
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... Scott perhaps illustrates more clearly than other writers the gap between the ideas of the general educated reader and those of the professional academic. The non-professional thinks of him as the mildly spurious Laird of Abbotsford, the sentimental reviver of a heroic Border and Highland past, who was still in the early 19th century more than half a Jacobite. The literary academic, especially since ...

No Fear of Fanny

Marilyn Butler

20 November 1980
Fanny 
by Erica Jong.
Granada, 496 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 246 11427 4
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The Heroine’s Text 
by Nancy Miller.
Columbia, 185 pp., £10, July 1980, 0 231 04910 2
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... Erica Jong’s Fanny has had a long gestation. In 1961, as an undergraduate, she was taught by the late Professor James L. Clifford, Johnson’s biographer, who had the admirable policy of inviting his class to imitate an 18th-century author instead of writing yet another academic paper on him. At the time, Ms Jong came up with a mock epic in heroic couplets in the manner of Pope, and a novella in ...

Citizens

Christopher Ricks

19 November 1981
Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries: English Literature and its Background 1760-1830 
by Marilyn Butler.
Oxford, 213 pp., £7.95, July 1981, 0 19 219144 6
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... Authors are not the solitaries of the Romantic myth, but citizens.’ The spirit of MarilynButler’s excellent book on the Romantics is itself that of citizenship: of belonging to a civilised community, cultural and intellectual, which one helps to sustain and is sustained by, and which makes ...
6 September 1984
Hazlitt: The Mind of a Critic 
by David Bromwich.
Oxford, 450 pp., £19.50, March 1984, 0 19 503343 4
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William Godwin: Philosopher, Novelist, Revolutionary 
by Peter Marshall.
Yale, 496 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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Burke, Paine, Godwin and the Revolution Controversy 
edited by Marilyn Butler.
Cambridge, 280 pp., £25, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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... as trustingly as E.P. Thompson did, in The Making of the English Working Class. Similarly, in her collection of ‘English Prose Texts’, Burke, Paine, Godwin and the Revolution Controversy, MarilynButler finds it useful to quote Hazlitt when she has to introduce the dull writings of Orator Thelwall. ‘The most dashing orator I ever heard is the flattest writer I have ever read,’ Hazlitt ...

Julia Caesar

Marilyn Butler

17 March 1983
The Prince and the Wild Geese 
by Brigid Brophy.
Hamish Hamilton, 62 pp., £5.95, February 1983, 0 241 10894 2
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... The Prince and the Wild Geese is a story of 1832 told in words and pictures, the words almost all Brigid Brophy’s, the pictures by Prince Grégoire Gagarin, artist son of the Russian ambassador in Rome after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Graceful and witty, Gagarin’s drawings portray his social world much as Pope in ‘The Rape of the Lock’ portrayed his, in a spirit of satire touched with ...

Bloom’s Gnovel

Marilyn Butler

3 July 1980
The Flight to Lucifer: A Gnostic Fantasy 
by Harold Bloom.
Faber, 240 pp., £4.95, May 1980, 0 374 15644 1
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... Harold Bloom of Yale has become strangely hard to avoid. Eloquent, prolific, charismatic, he is unmistakably one of the leading living mandarins of literary criticism. His manner of writing has not endeared him to the professional Establishment – his hyperboles, as he once remarked, have been unacceptable to the scholars of poetic tradition. On the other hand, there has been something in his matter ...

Amor vincit Vinnie

Marilyn Butler

21 February 1985
Foreign Affairs 
by Alison Lurie.
Joseph, 291 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 0 7181 2516 9
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... The question is least academic when the reader is a British woman academic heading for leave in the States, who has moreover on previous transatlantic crossings imbibed, at a conservative listing, Marilyn French’s Bleeding Heart, Malcolm Bradbury’s Stepping Westward and Rates of Exchange, and David Lodge’s Changing Places and Small World. Now, all around the large cabin, other refugees from ...
20 March 1980
Peacock Displayed: A Satirist in his Context 
by Marilyn Butler.
Routledge, 361 pp., £10.95, October 1979, 0 7100 0293 9
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... pieces had a revival in the Twenties and Thirties of this century and an explicit influence on Aldous Huxley, who, however, fatally lacked Peacock’s tenderness for women and his poetic grace. MarilynButler speaks, at one point, of his Mozartian sparkle. Mozart is indeed a source, The Marriage of Figaro especially, for Peacock’s mischievous spell: but she has far more to say about the formation ...
28 September 1989
The Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Vols I-VII 
edited by Janet Todd and Marilyn Butler.
Pickering & Chatto, 2530 pp., £245, August 1989, 1 85196 006 6
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... some notoriety, and her true originality appeared in 1792, with her Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Just about everything she wrote after that is interesting, and often surprising. Her editors, MarilynButler and Janet Todd, have chosen to include all her known translations, her anthology The Female Reader, and her book reviews. This generosity does not work entirely in her favour. Elements of ...
12 September 1991
The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830 
by Paul Johnson.
Weidenfeld, 1095 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 297 81207 6
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... Paul Johnson’s thousand-page book is geared to the present age of long print runs and mass marketing. It is one of the currently popular narrative histories written by Britons who position themselves mid-Atlantic, in order to address the American reader. At a thousand pages Johnson’s book is longer than Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, 1988 (subtitle, ‘Economic Change and ...

The Verity of Verity

Marilyn Butler

1 August 1996
Essays in Appreciation 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 363 pp., £25, March 1996, 0 19 818344 5
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... Christopher Ricks’s new book makes available many of his distinguished lectures given in the Eighties and Nineties. The essays retain a sense of occasion, and of a star performance on Ricks’s part, while the book has been designed with the aggressive sobriety that signals a class act. Presumably it was the author who decreed that the title, in defiance of commercial logic, should give no clue to ...
7 July 1983
William Wordsworth: The Borders of Vision 
by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Oxford, 496 pp., £25, February 1983, 0 19 812097 4
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William Wordsworth: The Poetry of Grandeur and of Tenderness 
by David Pirie.
Methuen, 301 pp., £14.95, March 1982, 0 416 31300 0
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Benjamin the Waggoner 
by William Wordsworth, edited by Paul Betz.
Cornell/Harvester, 356 pp., £40, September 1981, 0 85527 513 8
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... One evening, declares Jonathan Wordsworth as he begins his new critical book, a poet happened to be walking along a road, when the peasant who was with him pointed out a striking sight:         ’Twas a horse, that stood Alone upon a little breast of ground With a clear silver moonlight sky behind. With one leg from the ground the creature stood, Insensible and still; breath, motion gone ...

Reviewers

Marilyn Butler

22 January 1981
Three-Quarter Face 
by Penelope Gilliatt.
Secker, 295 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 9780436179587
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Show People 
by Kenneth Tynan.
Weidenfeld, 317 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 297 77842 0
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When the lights go down 
by Pauline Kael.
Boyars, 592 pp., £8.95, August 1980, 0 7145 2726 2
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... The short topical review-article is a literary discovery of the last two hundred years or so – the age of mass literacy and the mass-circulation newspaper. A good review column is read by more people than any criticism at book length, and often deserves to be. It should have been the review and not the novel that Jane Austen meant when she hailed the form in which ‘the liveliest effusions of wit ...

Priapus Knight

Marilyn Butler

18 March 1982
TheArrogant Connoisseur: Richard Payne Knight 1751-1824 
edited by Michael Clarke and Nicholas Penny.
Manchester, 189 pp., £30, February 1982, 0 7190 0871 9
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... Richard Payne Knight was an important English intellectual of the era of the French Revolution. He flourished from the 1770s until his death, perhaps by suicide, in 1824. Most of that time he wielded great influence in the art world, as a leading collector, connoisseur and aesthetician, but as the theorist of potent subjects like myth and symbol he mattered almost as much to the poets. So what is oddest ...

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