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Handsome, Charming …

David A. Bell: Beaumarchais, 22 October 2009

Beaumarchais: A Biography 
by Maurice Lever, translated by Susan Emanuel.
Farrar, Straus, 411 pp., $26, May 2009, 978 0 374 11328 5
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... Spanish trickster of the titles. Beaumarchais has inspired scores of biographies, including Maurice Lever’s exhaustive and exhausting three-volume work, which his widow, along with the translator Susan Emanuel, has now boiled down to a much more manageable size. Beaumarchais was a manic character, of the sort who would now be diagnosed at a young ...

Doing Some Measuring ahead of Time

Richard Davenport-Hines: Sade in Prison, 9 August 2001

Letters from Prison 
by the Marquis de Sade, translated by Richard Seaver.
Harvill, 401 pp., £20, October 2000, 1 86046 807 1
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De Sade's Valet 
by Nikolaj Frobenius, translated by Tom Geddes.
Marion Boyars, 242 pp., £9.95, November 2000, 0 7145 3060 3
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... After a telephone interview with the New York Times Book Review, one of his French biographers, Maurice Lever, was quoted as saying: ‘Sade was the first to dare to write about his own neuroses and obsessions. In that sense, he preceded Freud by a hundred years. He made us discover that the sexual instinct is anarchic and uncontrollable. After ...

Putting on Some English

Terence Hawkes: Eagleton’s Rise, 7 February 2002

The Gatekeeper: A Memoir 
by Terry Eagleton.
Allen Lane, 178 pp., £9.99, January 2002, 0 7139 9590 4
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... less than hospitable, it wasn’t altogether surprising that another gate opened, courtesy of Maurice Bowra and Lord David Cecil, to a fellowship at Oxford. The only begetter of the study of literary theory at Oxford, he became the subject’s best-known teacher there, the leading authority in the field in Britain, and one of its most acclaimed proponents ...


Nicholas Penny, 15 July 1982

Victorian Sculpture 
by Benedict Read.
Yale, 414 pp., £30, June 1982, 0 300 02506 8
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... the object represented. A good example of this is Onslow Ford’s haunting Snowdrift in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight. A bony, pre-pubescent, nude girl (a subject quite unknown to Classical art) sleeps in a feverish attitude upon a bed of snow which floats upon a glassy block of pale-green banded onyx. The tight and silky surface of the skin is ...

Who invented Vercingétorix?

Julian Jackson: French national identity, 27 June 2002

Rethinking France: Les Lieux de mémoire. Volume I: The State 
by Pierre Nora, translated by Mary Trouille.
Chicago, 475 pp., £25, October 2001, 0 226 59132 8
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... many myths about the Palace: contrary to popular belief, there were lots of toilets; the famous lever and coucher ceremonies were apparently never central to the life that was led there; and there was little solar iconography. Indeed, the author tells us that the expression ‘Sun King’ is as apocryphal as the phrase ‘L’Etat c’est moi,’ though ...

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