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Anything but Staffordshire

Rosemary Hill, 18 September 1997

Rare Spirit: A Life of William De Morgan 1839-1917 
by Mark Hamilton.
Constable, 236 pp., £22.50, September 1997, 0 09 474670 2
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... anything the ceramics ever achieved. These last ten years of De Morgan’s life occupy almost half Mark Hamilton’s book, which has been written in the hope that ‘perhaps the wheel has turned full circle’ and we are ready to appreciate De Morgan again as a writer. Unfortunately this is most unlikely. In any case, the first biography since that of his ...

On Richard Hamilton

Hal Foster, 6 October 2011

... Richard Hamilton, who died on 13 September at the age of 89, invented the idea of Pop art, along with his colleagues in the Independent Group, more than 50 years ago. In ‘Persuading Image’, a lecture he gave in 1959, Hamilton argued, well before it was a commonplace, that consumer society depends on the manufacturing of desire through design, forever updated by the forced obsolescence of style ...

First-Class Fellow Traveller

Terry Eagleton, 2 December 1993

Patrick HamiltonA Life 
by Sean French.
Faber, 327 pp., £20, November 1993, 0 571 14353 9
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... Stalinist, alcoholic, sexually ambivalent, Patrick Hamilton had all the prerequisites of a successful Thirties writer. That his success was uneven would seem simply another sign of the times, the mark of an epoch grimly wedded to failure. His work was praised by Greene, Priestley, Lessing, Powell; but if he survives today it is for a couple of memorably macabre dramas – Rope and Gaslight – which Hamilton himself scorned as callow sensationalism ...


A.J. Ayer, 20 May 1982

by Iain Hamilton.
Secker, 397 pp., £12, April 1982, 0 436 19191 1
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... The Spanish Testament and Scum of the Earth, of which the main interest is autobiographical. Mr Hamilton admits to drawing heavily upon these works, but does no more than summarise their contents in a less forceful style than Koestler’s own. His prolongation of the story beyond the year 1940, where Koestler abandons it, is mainly devoted to Koestler’s ...

Just what are those teeth for?

Ian Hamilton, 24 April 1997

... there seems to be some Toytown farce in progress. What, for instance, would Gore make of Christine Hamilton? What would he make of Martin Bell? Too British to be true, the pair of them, in very different ways. It was a relief to learn that several of Vidal’s hours here have been spent discussing Montaigne (so he said) with Michael Foot. Sadly, when Vidal ...

Glittering Fiend

Ian Hamilton: John Berryman, 9 December 1999

Berryman's Shakespeare 
edited by John Haffenden.
Farrar, Straus, 396 pp., $35, February 1999, 0 374 11205 3
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John Berryman’s Personal Library: A Catalogue 
by Richard Kelly.
Lang, 433 pp., £39, March 1999, 0 8204 3998 3
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... that he had intermittently toiled on since the Thirties – and this in spite of being told by Mark Van Doren, his one-time professor and lifelong mentor in these matters, that ‘you will never finish the Sh. book ... you have this illusion you are a scholar, but you know damn well that you are nothing of the sort.’ Forty years earlier, Van Doren had ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Handwriting, 8 November 2012

... if they want’.) Or an interview in the Telegraph with ‘a psychologist called Dr Scott Hamilton’, who suggests that if pupils know how to sign their name in a cursive hand, teachers should leave it at that. ‘The time allocated for cursive instruction,’ Hamilton goes on, ‘could then be devoted to learning ...


Mark Ford: Donald Justice, 16 November 2006

Collected Poems 
by Donald Justice.
Anvil, 289 pp., £15, June 2006, 0 85646 386 8
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... completely. It was his story. It would always be his story. Lately he had wandered between St Mark’s Place and the Bowery, Already half a spirit, mumbling and muttering sadly. O the boredom, and the horror, and the glory. All done now. But I remember the fiery Hypnotic eye and the raised voice blazing with poetry. It was his story, and would always ...


Patricia Craig, 19 September 1985

But for Bunter 
by David Hughes.
Heinemann, 223 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 434 35410 4
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Bunter Sahib 
by Daniel Green.
Hodder, 272 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 340 36429 7
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The Good Terrorist 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 370 pp., £9.50, September 1985, 0 224 02323 3
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Unexplained Laughter 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 155 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 7156 2070 3
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Polaris and Other Stories 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 237 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 340 33227 1
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... Magnet cast: for instance, we are asked to suppose that Frank Richards (his real name was Charles Hamilton, but Hughes affects not to know this), scouring Eton with a literary purpose in mind, came face to face with a boy called Anthony Eden and put him down on paper as Harry Wharton. (In fact, this isn’t too wide of the ...

Smartened Up

Ian Hamilton, 9 March 1995

Louis MacNeice: A Biography 
by Jon Stallworthy.
Faber, 538 pp., £25, February 1995, 0 571 16019 0
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... many talkative celebs: actors, musicians, singers as well as literary types. For a quick-off-the-mark chronicler, there might have been rich pickings. Certainly, MacNeice himself would not have objected to a prompt post-mortem. In 1940, anticipating a biography, he sent his friend and mentor E.R. Dodds a list of what he called ‘the best authorities’ on ...

Disastered Me

Ian Hamilton, 9 September 1993

Rebecca’s Vest: A Memoir 
by Karl Miller.
Hamish Hamilton, 186 pp., £14.99, September 1993, 0 241 13456 0
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... my chum.’ This taste for grief: did it betoken a sterile, eroding self-absorption, or was it the mark of something more ample and impressive – an extra soulfulness, perhaps? Adolescents like to portray themselves as doomed – but what if this one really was doomed, doomed to go on feeling doomed, till Doomsday? In Miller’s case, we would now say, he ...

What’s wrong with Desmond?

Ian Hamilton, 30 August 1990

Clever Hearts: Desmond and Molly MacCarthy 
by Hugh Cecil and Mirabel Cecil.
Gollancz, 320 pp., £18.95, July 1990, 0 575 03622 2
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... as the character Fitzgerald, who ‘seemed to take no pains whatsoever to keep himself up to the mark ... He might have been impressive if he had shown the slightest desire to be so.’ For several years ‘What’s wrong with Desmond?’ was the cry and many similes were strained for: he was like a ‘sieve, a drain, a wastepaper basket’, or ‘like a ...

Call me unpretentious

Ian Hamilton, 20 October 1994

Major Major: Memories of an Older Brother 
by Terry Major-Ball.
Duckworth, 167 pp., £12.95, August 1994, 0 7156 2631 0
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... some of it proved difficult to follow up, or even to substantiate. By the time John had made his mark in politics, both of his parents had been dead for several years. So much for visions of double-page spreads of the old troupers in their leotards. The garden-gnome business had gone bust; data on the trapeze artistry were hard to come by. The Prime Minister ...

I want to boom

Mark Ford: Pound Writes Home, 24 May 2012

Ezra Pound to His Parents: Letters 1895-1929 
edited by Mary de Rachewiltz, David Moody and Joanna Moody.
Oxford, 737 pp., £39, January 2011, 978 0 19 958439 0
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... is clear, by no means provided a paternal template for the aggressive individualism that came to mark Pound’s increasingly vituperative attacks on targets ranging from literary London to F.D. Roosevelt (or ‘Franklin D. Frankfurter Jewsfeld’ as he took to calling him), from the Victorian anthologist Palgrave to the ‘kikefied usurers’ – to borrow a ...

Evil Days

Ian Hamilton, 23 July 1992

The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice among the Literary Intelligentsia 
by John Carey.
Faber, 246 pp., £14.99, July 1992, 0 571 16273 8
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... to shut a window or moderate the volume. One summer afternoon, when I was doggedly trying to mark a batch of A-level papers, my patience gave out, and I crossed the street in protest. Rereading this now, in the light of Carey’s book, I find myself wondering what he would make of such a tale if the complainer had been a drippy poet and the noisemakers ...

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