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What the doctor saw

Peter Ackroyd, 5 March 1981

The Horror of Life 
by Roger Williams.
Weidenfeld, 381 pp., £15, February 1981, 0 297 77883 8
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... pessimism and disgust toward life’. As it turns out, the book is more Marie Curie than Mario Praz. Roger Williams, a Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Wyoming, has supped his full of horror. He opens with a modest disclaimer: he began this study ‘with the understanding that all five had been syphilitic, and with the ...

Don’t Move

Jeremy Noel-Tod: Fictional re-creations of Vermeer, 9 August 2001

Girl with a Pearl Earring 
by Tracy Chevalier.
HarperCollins, 248 pp., £5.99, July 2000, 0 00 651320 4
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Girl in Hyacinth Blue 
by Susan Vreeland.
Review, 242 pp., £6.99, May 2001, 9780747266594
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A View of Delft: Vermeer Then and Now 
by Anthony Bailey.
Chatto, 288 pp., £16.99, April 2001, 0 7011 6913 3
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Vermeer's Camera 
by Philip Steadman.
Oxford, 207 pp., £17.99, February 2001, 0 19 215967 4
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... a saint from thirty-odd depictions of heaven on earth (‘what peace desired of man,’ Mario Praz remarked, ‘has ever held greater enchantment than that which breathes from Vermeer’s interiors?’). Vermeer’s genius lies partly in his subtle variations on stock scenarios: as Bailey points out, he frequently ‘showed no originality in ...

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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... Historian, thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks, THANKS from your affect. Vernon.’ Baring shared with Mario Praz admiration for Vernon Lee as one of a dying breed, an elegant and erudite woman who chose females for her companions, but could never bring herself to take the risk of an intimate relationship. ‘I cannot like, or love, at the expense of having ...

On the library coffee-table

Clive James, 17 March 1983

An Illustrated History of Interior Decoration 
by Mario Praz, translated by William Weaver.
Thames and Hudson, 396 pp., £35, March 1982, 0 500 23358 6
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by Keith Roberts.
Phaidon, 48 pp., £10.50, March 1982, 0 7148 2226 4
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Monet at Argenteuil 
by Paul Tucker.
Yale, 211 pp., £15, April 1982, 0 300 02577 7
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... Last year, the year of his death, Mario Praz’s An Illustrated History of Interior Decoration was once again made available, after being out of print for a decade. William Weaver’s English translation of La Filosofia dell’ Arredamento was first published in 1964, which means that there were about ten years when you could buy it new, and then about ten years when you couldn’t ...


Joseph Frank, 2 December 1993

A Writer’s Diary. Vol. I: 1873-1876 
by Fyodor Dostoevsky, translated and annotated by Kenneth Lantz.
Northwestern, 805 pp., $49.95, July 1993, 0 8101 1094 6
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... that led the populist critic N.K. Mikhailovsky to call Dostoevsky ‘a cruel talent’, and Mario Praz to include him among those writers who created ‘in the shadow of the divine Marquis’. But in the midst of the horror as Dostoevsky lingers over the husband’s first blows, delivered ‘methodically, indifferently, even sleepily’, he ...


Frank Kermode, 27 January 1994

The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry 
by T.S. Eliot, edited by Ronald Schuchard.
Faber, 343 pp., £25, November 1993, 0 571 14230 3
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... was somewhat shaken by the criticisms of his friend Herbert Read and of the Italian polymath Mario Praz, then teaching at Liverpool, whose work in the same field Eliot greatly admired. In 1937 Eliot pronounced them ‘pretentious and immature’. Should one now agree with Schuchard that they contribute to our understanding, if not of Donne, then of ...

Buffed-Up Scholar

Stefan Collini: Eliot and the Dons, 30 August 2012

Letters of T.S. Eliot, Vol. III: 1926-27 
edited by Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden.
Faber, 954 pp., £40, July 2012, 978 0 571 14085 5
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... of this particular episode, though Eliot’s subsequent exchanges with H.J.C. Grierson and Mario Praz show how anxious, and deferential, he could be when exposing his work to the critical eyes of the professionals in the field.† This volume is more revealing about an episode in which Eliot came even closer to academia, albeit in the rather ...

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