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Proper Ghosts

Dinah Birch: ‘The Monk’

15 June 2016
The Monk 
by Matthew Lewis.
Oxford, 357 pp., £8.99, January 2016, 978 0 19 870445 4
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... with their peers. If Mary Shelley and Ann Radcliffe made the Gothic a vehicle for feminist ideas, Horace Walpole and William Beckford gave its dissidence a camp identity it has never quite lost. MatthewLewis had much in common with Walpole and Beckford. He was born into affluence, the son of a well-to-do official in the War Office, and had a gentleman’s education at Westminster and Oxford. He ...
13 October 1988
The Missionaries 
by Norman Lewis.
Secker, 245 pp., £10.95, May 1988, 0 436 24595 7
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... of the Christian message finally being heard in every part of the world brings mankind near to the end of time, a moment predicted in the Book of Revelation. It comes when the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19 to the Apostles is fulfilled, when disciples have been made among all peoples. At this point there appears ‘a great multitude ... from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues ...

Gobsmacked

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare

16 July 1998
Lyric Wonder: Rhetoric and Wit in Renaissance English Poetry 
by James Biester.
Cornell, 226 pp., £31.50, May 1997, 0 8014 3313 4
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Reason Diminished: Shakespeare and the Marvellous 
by Peter Platt.
Nebraska, 271 pp., £42.75, January 1998, 0 8032 3714 6
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Shakespeare and the Theatre of Wonder 
by T.G. Bishop.
Cambridge, 222 pp., £32.50, January 1996, 0 521 55086 6
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The Genius of Shakespeare 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 386 pp., £20, September 1997, 0 330 35317 9
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... professional than as an undercover priest, preserving a residue of the sacred in the art of an ever more secular world. Ten years ago one might have dismissed this as a throwback to the days of C.S. Lewis and his like, when the attempt to find Catholic allegory in the late romances was a recognised minority sport, but in the late Nineties it suddenly looks like the critical craze of the moment ...

A Susceptible Man

Ian Sansom: The Unhappy Laureate

4 March 1999
Living in Time: The Poetry of C. Day Lewis 
by Albert Gelpi.
Oxford, 246 pp., £30, March 1998, 0 19 509863 3
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... his generous behind the scenes fact-checking, Vendler is at pains to point out that Heaney had not read her manuscript). The American critic Albert Gelpi’s acknowledgments in his new book on C. Day Lewis are typically strange. Gelpi has made his name writing about the history of 19th and 20th-century American poetry and poetics. For a critic whose most recent publications include an edition of ...

Someone Else’s

Matthew​ Reynolds: Translating Cesare Pavese

6 October 2005
Disaffections: Complete Poems 1930-50 
by Cesare Pavese, translated by Geoffrey Brock.
Carcanet, 370 pp., £14.95, April 2004, 1 85754 738 1
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The Faber Book of 20th-Century Italian Poems 
edited by Jamie McKendrick.
Faber, 167 pp., £12.99, June 2004, 0 571 19700 0
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... words, but not wholly in the English language. Pavese’s knowledge of English showed to better effect when he wrote in Italian. Throughout his career he worked as a translator, notably of Sinclair Lewis, Sherwood Anderson, Gertrude Stein, Dos Passos, Melville and Dickens, and published essays on them and other English and American writers. In the 1930s, this was a conscious contribution to the Anti ...

I can bite anything I want

Matthew​ Bevis: Lewis​ Carroll

15 July 2015
Lewis​ Carroll 
by Morton Cohen.
Macmillan, reissue, 577 pp., £30, April 2015, 978 1 4472 8613 4
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The Selected Letters of Lewis​ Carroll 
edited by Morton Cohen.
Palgrave, reissue, 302 pp., £16.99, March 2015, 978 1 137 50546 0
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Lewis​ Carroll: The Man and His Circle 
by Edward Wakeling.
Tauris, 400 pp., £35, November 2014, 978 1 78076 820 5
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... read it till they go to school! But perhaps the mistress had told them they had to learn a page of it by heart as a lesson?’ Dodgson is toasting the success of the books he wrote under the pen name Lewis Carroll, yet also hinting at a preference for those who read them outside the classroom, maybe while playing truant. Carroll (let’s call him that) liked to imagine ways in which you could be a good ...

Admiring

Stephen Wall

26 March 1992
Surviving: The Uncollected Writings of Henry Green 
edited by Matthew​ Yorke.
Chatto, 302 pp., £18, February 1992, 0 7011 3900 5
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Pack my bag 
by Henry Green.
Hogarth, 242 pp., £9.99, February 1992, 0 7012 0988 7
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Loving 
by Henry Green.
Harvill, 225 pp., £6.99, February 1992, 0 00 271185 0
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... surroundings (he was at Magdalen) while remaining beady-eyed about its snobbery and self-absorption. He went down without a degree, failing to get on both with Anglo-Saxon and with his tutor C.S. Lewis, and understandably preferring to spend every afternoon at the cinema. After Oxford, Henry Yorke (to use his proper name) spent two years on the shop floor in the family engineering firm H. Pontifex ...

Dark Knight

Tom Shippey

24 February 1994
The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Malory 
by P.J.C. Field.
Boydell and Brewer, 218 pp., £29.50, September 1993, 0 85991 385 6
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... Darthur with Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel in Warwickshire, a gap has grown between the Morte Darthur itself, Caxton’s ‘noble and joyous hystorye’, and its presumptive author, in C.S. Lewis’s phrase, ‘little better than a criminal’. Actually, Lewis much understated the case. If one goes by the records, slowly unearthed in the Twenties and Thirties by Edward Cobb, Edward Hicks and ...
5 May 1988
The Literary Guide to the Bible 
edited by Robert Alter and Frank Kermode.
Collins, 678 pp., £20, December 1987, 0 00 217439 1
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... of literary convention are hardest to untangle. After centuries of research, we still do not possess the recipe for writing a gospel, and cannot define the genre except ostensively: a book like Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Yet John Drury succeeds in uncovering both the individuality and the conventionality of Mark and Luke, and Kermode applies the techniques of The Genesis of Secrecy to Matthew ...

On the Feast of Stephen

Karl Miller: Spender’s Journals

30 August 2012
New Selected Journals, 1939-95 
by Stephen Spender and Lara Feigel, edited by John Sutherland.
Faber, 792 pp., £45, July 2012, 978 0 571 23757 9
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... in him, as in Eliot, might draw the line at most of the artists featured in his diaries. He counted himself the luckiest of his writer companions, happy in his personal life, ‘made up by Natasha, Matthew, Lizzie – by all of these’. This might sound faintly protesting. It also sounds like the persuasive voice of a family member. This new edition of his diaries, 1939 to 1995, has abundant evidence ...

Diary

Ian Sansom: I was a teenage evangelist

8 July 2004
... power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Acts 4.33). I was also interested in restoring sight to the blind (Luke 4.19), casting out demons (Luke 9.1), cleansing lepers (Matthew 8.1-4), feeding thousands (Luke 9.10-17) and raising the dead (John 11.1-43), but I never quite managed any of those, and had to make do with speaking in tongues (Acts 2.4), having visions (Acts 2.17 ...

Studied Luxury

Margaret Anne Doody

20 April 1995
No Gifts from Chance: A Biography of Edith Wharton 
by Shari Benstock.
Hamish Hamilton, 546 pp., £20, October 1994, 0 241 13298 3
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Edith Wharton: An Extraordinary Life 
by Eleanor Dwight.
Harry Adams, 335 pp., $39.95, May 1994, 0 8109 3971 1
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... had a sufficiency of good looks (in an era when that mattered even more than now). As a writer she was highly successful, both critically and commercially. Benstock takes her title from a snatch of Matthew Arnold’s ‘Resignation’ copied by Wharton into her Commonplace Book in 1908: ‘They believe me, who await/No gifts from chance have conquered fate’. What Arnold is celebrating is that ...

The Word on the Street

Elaine Showalter

7 March 1996
Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics 
by Anonymous.
Chatto, 366 pp., £15.99, February 1996, 0 7011 6584 7
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... the best political novel in many years’. In Newsweek, Walter Shapiro found it ‘the best aide’s-eye view of politics since Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men’. In the New Republic, Matthew Cooper, after revealing (‘full disclosure’) that he himself is now dating Mandy Grunwald, who held the position in the Clinton campaign of the novel’s sexy heroine Daisy Green, says that ...

Teeth of Mouldy Blue

Laura Quinney: Percy Bysshe Shelley

21 September 2000
The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley: Volume I 
edited by Donald Reiman and Neil Fraisat.
Johns Hopkins, 494 pp., £58, March 2000, 0 8018 6119 5
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... and Cazire, which includes some pieces written by Shelley’s sister Elizabeth, is a collection of amateurish lyrics, or ‘songs’, and Gothic fragments, as well as one wholesale plagiarism from Matthew ‘Monk’ Lewis. The presence of the plagiarised poem, probably added to fill out the volume, makes Shelley’s yearning to establish himself as an author clear. A similar desperation is evident in ...

Nudge-Winking

Terry Eagleton: T.S. Eliot’s Politics

19 September 2002
The ‘Criterion’: Cultural Politics and Periodical Networks in Interwar Britain 
by Jason Harding.
Oxford, 250 pp., £35, April 2002, 9780199247172
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... striped London banker, his own personal version of that entity had been in question for some time. Eliot derived his poetics from the French Symbolists, so that it was impossible for him to follow Matthew Arnold in finding a solution to spiritual turbulence in poetry as such. The language of poetry cannot deliver a solution of this kind, indeed cannot even comment authoritatively on such a condition ...

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