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A.J.P. Taylor: Birthdays and Centenaries, 5 May 1983

... of my 21st birthday. The guests included Norman Cameron and Tom Driberg, now both dead, and ‘Michael Innes’, still alive. We had dinner in a private room at the George restaurant, now also dead. Halfway through dinner the waiter asked to speaks to me in private. Then he said: ‘I am a respectable married man and if that gentleman comes out again I ...


Susannah Clapp, 18 February 1988

A Woman of Passion: The Life of E. Nesbit, 1858-1924 
by Julia Briggs.
Hutchinson, 473 pp., £16.95, November 1987, 9780091682101
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Narratives of Love and Loss: Studies in Modern Children’s Fiction 
by Margaret Rustin and Michael Rustin.
Verso, 268 pp., £22.95, November 1987, 9780860911876
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... was wary; important witnesses to her life were squeamish about providing testimony. George Bernard Shaw announced that ‘as Edith was an audaciously unconventional lady and Hubert an exceedingly unfaithful husband he does not see how a presentable biography is possible as yet; and he has nothing to contribute to a mere whitewashing operation.’ The Shavian ...

A Preference for Torquemada

Michael Wood: G.K. Chesterton, 9 April 2009

Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy: The Making of GKC 1874-1908 
by William Oddie.
Oxford, 401 pp., £25, November 2008, 978 0 19 955165 1
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The Man Who Was Thursday 
by G.K. Chesterton.
Atlantic, 187 pp., £7.99, December 2008, 978 1 84354 905 5
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... a disadvantage to be misunderstood.’ And even when he is not genial, he is very funny. ‘Mr Shaw is (I suspect) the only man on earth who has never written any poetry.’ George Moore ‘is in a perpetual state of temporary honesty’. Wells ‘is the only one of his many brilliant contemporaries who has not stopped growing. One can lie awake at night ...

Stalker & Co

Damian Grant, 20 November 1986

... and the subsequent harassment of two students involved in this incident, Sarah Hollis and Steven Shaw. The student story ends (for the present) less happily: within the last few weeks Steven Shaw has fled the country to put himself out of the reach of further police persecution, and to avoid the compounded injury of being ...

Laertes has a daughter

Bee Wilson: The Redgraves, 6 June 2013

The Redgraves: A Family Epic 
by Donald Spoto.
Robson, 361 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 1 84954 394 1
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The House of Redgrave: The Lives of a Theatrical Dynasty 
by Tim Adler.
Aurum, 336 pp., £20, July 2012, 978 1 84513 623 9
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... In the National Theatre’s inaugural season in 1963 Michael Redgrave played Claudius to Peter O’Toole’s Hamlet. Apart from Olivier, the theatre’s first director, Redgrave, then aged 55, was its greatest star. Known to the public from his many film roles, and having just been named actor of the year by the Evening Standard for his Uncle Vanya at Chichester, which one critic called ‘the highest level of acting the contemporary theatre has to offer’, he was good box-office ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Cleopatra’ , 8 August 2013

... started out as two movies, as what we might think of as retakes of the Bernard Shaw and the Shakespeare versions of the queen’s life (first Caesar, then Antony), but became one as the costs escalated. It’s usually described as the American cinema’s most spectacular failure, because it signed the death warrant of the epic and nearly ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Enola Holmes’, 22 October 2020

... a special gothic nastiness to his part as the evil pursuer of the missing marquess, and Fiona Shaw, as headmistress of the school Enola at first avoids and is later condemned to, is something like Mrs Dursley if she’d managed to get a job at Hogwarts. Sam Claflin and Henry Cavill, as Mycroft and Sherlock, are pompous and ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Tree of Life’, 28 July 2011

The Tree of Life 
directed by Terrence Malick.
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... This is America in its disconnected, depopulated solitude. There is a grandmother, played by Fiona Shaw, but I didn’t know she was a grandmother till I read the credits. And the big event early in the movie is the death of Jack’s brother, the middle child, at the age of 19. No one seems likely to get over this, least of all the mother, who travels through ...

Sidney and Beatrice

Michael Holroyd, 25 October 1979

A Victorian Courtship: The Story of Beatrice Potter and Sidney Webb 
by Jeanne Mackenzie.
Weidenfeld, 148 pp., £5.50
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... Bertrand Russell) would have given perspective to her story of their courtship. In the opinion of Shaw, ‘if all marriages were as happy England, and indeed the civilized world, would be a Fabian Paradise.’ Sidney’s part seems to have been similar to that of Leonard Woolf in the support each husband gave to an exceptional wife. It is our loss that Jeanne ...


Frank Kermode, 14 May 1992

The Gonne-Yeats Letters, 1893-1938 
edited by Anna MacBride White and A. Norman Jeffares.
Hutchinson, 544 pp., £25, April 1992, 0 09 174000 2
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... in his belief that Maud Gonne’s beauty was of ‘a kind not natural in an age like this’. Shaw called her ‘outrageously beautiful’ and W.T. Stead, who could no more than Yeats isolate his admiration for her looks from an appraisal of her politics, described her as ‘one of the most beautiful women in the world’, going on to point out that ...


John Sutherland, 5 November 1992

Keepers of the Flame: Literary Estates and the Rise of Biography 
by Ian Hamilton.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £18.99, October 1992, 0 09 174263 3
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Testamentary Acts: Browning, Tennyson, James, Hardy 
by Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 273 pp., £27.50, June 1992, 0 19 811276 9
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The Last Laugh 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 131 pp., £10.99, December 1991, 0 7011 4583 8
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by Victoria Glendinning.
Hutchinson, 551 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 09 173896 2
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... keepers of the flame, while pocketing the revenue for the estate, have no intention of satisfying. Michael Millgate has – quite fortuitously – written a book on exactly the same subject as Ian Hamilton, using the same case-study method. Whereas Hamilton burned his fingers trying to steal Salinger’s flame, Millgate – Hardy’s biographer and the editor ...


Michael Irwin, 19 February 1981

by John Banville.
Secker, 192 pp., £5.95, January 1981, 0 436 03264 3
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The Daughter 
by Judith Chernaik.
London Magazine Editions, 216 pp., £5.50, January 1981, 9780060107574
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We always treat women too well 
by Raymond Queneau, translated by Barbara Wright.
Calder, 174 pp., £8.95, January 1981, 0 7145 3687 3
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... life and death of Karl Marx’s daughter Eleanor, or Tussy. A work that features Engels, Bernard Shaw, Olive Schreiner and Havelock Ellis among the dramatis personae might seem doomed to go the way of Brown’s Savonarola. The adroitness with which the author skirts this risk is only one aspect of an unusual clear-sightedness and sense of proportion. She ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Skyfall’, 22 November 2012

directed by Sam Mendes.
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... ethic. He was going to get the job done and nothing would distract him. He looked more like Robert Shaw, the great villain in From Russia with Love, than like any other Bond. He was unshaken, unstirred; dogged not feline, a terrier who made us wonder what those sleek, overdressed catlike figures had been doing these 44 years. Even his smart suits looked like ...


Ian Gilmour: The Cliveden Set, 19 October 2000

The Cliveden Set: Portrait of an Exclusive Fraternity 
by Norman Rose.
Cape, 277 pp., £20, August 2000, 0 224 06093 7
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... exercised good judgment; he did not display it in 1906, though, when he decided to marry Mrs Nancy Shaw, née Langhorne, from Virginia, who had recently divorced her impossible and drunken husband. She had wanted merely a separation, but had been forced into a divorce by her husband’s family’s discovery that he had married again and was about to be ...

‘Mmmmm’ not ‘Hmmm’

Michael Wood: Katharine Hepburn, 11 September 2003

Kate Remembered 
by A. Scott Berg.
Simon and Schuster, 318 pp., £18.99, July 2003, 0 7432 0676 2
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... clearly you don’t have the brains of a seven-year-old.’ There is the dinner party for Michael Jackson at Hepburn’s New York townhouse, where the singer is silent on all topics except the pleasure he has in watching his pet boa constrictor eat small rodents. And there is the saga of Warren Beatty, with Berg’s help, recruiting Hepburn for Love ...

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