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Alan Bennett: What I Did in 2015, 7 January 2016

... you don’t want to worry about that. They’re all the same.’ At which point (we are in Shepherd’s grocers) I hear myself as very rarely shouting at the top of my voice. ‘No, they are not all the same. This lot are self-seeking liars, the cabinet included, and we’re landed with them for another five years.’ She tries to calm me down but I ...


Marina Warner: Abdelfattah Kilito, 17 April 2014

Je parle toutes les langues, mais en arabe 
by Abdelfattah Kilito.
Actes Sud, 144 pp., €19, March 2013, 978 2 330 01634 0
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... a scientific experiment by plucking two newborn babies from their families, handing them over to a shepherd, ordering him never to speak to them and to keep them in solitary confinement, with only a nanny goat coming by occasionally to feed them. Then, as the infants began to talk, they’d reveal the natural language of humanity. The experiment was ...

Everything is over before it begins

A.D. Nuttall: Milton criticism, 21 June 2001

How Milton Works 
by Stanley Fish.
Harvard, 616 pp., £23.95, June 2001, 0 674 00465 5
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... or the idea that all such pagan stuff is wicked or false. In Lycidas the golden shepherd of Graeco-Roman pastoral is played against the stern, responsible shepherd of the Gospels; each has his proper music, producing together a polyphonic effect. When we are in the Christian register we are told that ...

Praise Yah

Eliot Weinberger: The Psalms, 24 January 2008

The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary 
by Robert Alter.
Norton, 518 pp., £22, October 2007, 978 0 393 06226 7
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... the Jedi Master we’re in. That sinking feeling hits bottom as early as Psalm 23: The LORD is my shepherd,             I shall not want. In grass meadows He makes me lie down (And, almost needless to say, for ‘He restoreth my soul,’ Alter has ‘My life He brings back.’) The incessant inversion, combined with the predilection for ...


Peter Burke, 18 March 1982

The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought 
by John Friedman.
Harvard, 268 pp., £14, July 1981, 0 674 58652 2
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Apparitions in Late Medieval and Renaissance Spain 
by William Christian.
Princeton, 349 pp., £16.80, September 1981, 9780691053264
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... has been studying apparitions in Late Medieval Spain. St Ildefonso, St Anthony of Padua and St Michael the Archangel all made their appearance, but the dominant figure was that of the Virgin Mary. At Jaen in 1430, for example, four people saw the Virgin as a tall lady in white: ‘From this lady issued so much brightness that she shone as the sun ...

Coy Mistress Uncovered

David Norbrook, 19 May 1988

Dragons Teeth: Literature in the English Revolution 
by Michael Wilding.
Oxford, 288 pp., £25, September 1987, 0 19 812881 9
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Apocalyptic Marvell: The Second Coming in 17th-Century Poetry 
by Margarita Stocker.
Harvester, 381 pp., £32.50, February 1986, 0 7108 0934 4
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The Politics of Mirth: Jonson, Herrick, Milton, Marvell, and the Defence of Old Holiday Pastimes 
by Leah Marcus.
Chicago, 319 pp., £23.25, March 1987, 0 226 50451 4
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Milton: A Study in Ideology and Form 
by Christopher Kendrick.
Methuen, 240 pp., £25, June 1986, 0 416 01251 5
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... wit when it is devoted to the repression, rather than the defence, of religious dissent. As Michael Wilding points out in Dragons Teeth, changes made by Sir Thomas Browne to Religio Medici in the political crisis of 1642-3 reveal the famously ambiguous wit of that text as defensively conservative. The critical climate is now changing. The books under ...


Michael Neve, 3 September 1981

The Opium-Eater: A Life of Thomas de Quincey 
by Grevel Lindop.
Dent, 433 pp., £12, July 1981, 0 460 04358 7
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... Opium and its effects here receive the jawgrinding judgment of James Hogg, the ‘Ettrick Shepherd’, in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1823, soon after the appearance of Thomas de Quincey’s celebrated Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. Hogg delivers what might be called the Scottish verdict on this awesome substance, a substance full of Eastern ...

Perfect and Serene Oddity

Michael Hofmann: The Strangeness of Robert Walser, 16 November 2006

Speaking to the Rose: Writings, 1912-32 
by Robert Walser, translated and edited by Christopher Middleton.
Nebraska, 128 pp., £9.99, November 2005, 0 8032 9833 1
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... to be my last prose piece. All sorts of considerations make me believe it’s high time this shepherd boy stopped writing and sending off prose pieces and retired from a pursuit apparently beyond his abilities. I’ll gladly look about for another line of work that will let me break my bread in peace.’ Walser found further retreats and retirements. He ...

You Have A Mother Don’t You?

Andrew O’Hagan: Cowboy Simplicities, 11 September 2003

Searching for John Ford: A Life 
by Joseph McBride.
Faber, 838 pp., £25, May 2003, 0 571 20075 3
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... of protecting others, whatever it takes. That’s not being impulsive – it’s deciding to be a shepherd instead of a sheep. The extent to which cowboys are normal people, the extent to which normal people are normal people, were questions that came up all the time in the film-making career of John Ford, a career that lasted fifty years, and which one way ...

The Pills in the Fridge

Adam Mars-Jones: ‘Christodora’, 30 March 2017

by Tim Murphy.
Picador, 432 pp., £16.99, February 2017, 978 1 5098 1857 0
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... the psychologically ruined war veteran Septimus Smith. In that novel the two didn’t meet, though Michael Cunningham, refracting the material in The Hours, had his modern-day Clarissa figure care for Richard, his version of Septimus, worn down by the struggle with HIV. The ending, suicide by jumping, was the same in both books.Murphy has set out, in ...


Alan Bennett: Fresh Revelations, 20 October 1994

... with their knowledge of current affairs and hone their interview techniques. ‘I like that Michael Howard,’ says one. ‘And Kenneth Clarke’s a good bloke too.’ Neither boy, I suppose, has ever known anything but a Tory government nor by the sound of it ever wants to. At Birmingham I have a session with David Edgar’s playwrights’ class, then ...

Not very good at drawing

Nicholas Penny: Titian, 6 June 2013

Titian: His Life 
by Sheila Hale.
Harper, 832 pp., £30, July 2012, 978 0 00 717582 6
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... Joseph’s head is too large for his body in the centre of the very early Holy Family with a Shepherd; the relationship between the left knee and the left foot of Saint Catharine in the Aldobrandini Madonna of twenty years later is no less puzzling; and thirty years after that there is the awkward collision of Christ’s arm with that of the Pharisee in ...

Monk Justice

Kieran Setiya, 30 August 2018

Philosophy within Its Proper Bounds 
by Edouard Machery.
Oxford, 224 pp., £40, August 2017, 978 0 19 880752 0
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... If​ universities had been an invention of the second half of the 20th century,’ Michael Dummett wondered in his last book, The Nature and Future of Philosophy (2010), ‘would anyone have thought to include philosophy among the subjects that they taught and studied?’ Dummett’s anxiety wasn’t whether philosophy could survive at a time when the value of a university education is gauged in increasingly reductive, economic terms ...

What does Fluffy think?

Amia Srinivasan: Pets with Benefits, 7 October 2021

Loving Animals: On Bestiality, Zoophilia and Post-Human Love 
by Joanna Bourke.
Reaktion, 184 pp., £18, October 2020, 978 1 78914 310 2
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... Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask), an Armenian shepherd confesses to being in love with his sheep, Daisy: ‘It was the greatest lay I ever had!’ In Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? (2000), the same premise plays out as family tragedy. The disclosure of the father’s goat-love – ‘a love of ...

Mrs Webb and Mrs Woolf

Michael Holroyd, 7 November 1985

... and woman-power. The nominal founder of the Fabian Society was the illegitimate son of a Scottish shepherd, a man with the gift of tongues and very hot on immortality. He had blazed his way through London in the early 1880s, inflaming a miscellaneous band of idealists and agitators who in his wake formed a sort of club where they read papers to one another ...

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