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Mrs Webb and Mrs Woolf

Michael​ Holroyd

7 November 1985
... lack of status as a biographer, it was also, I think, some measurement of where Bloomsbury stood in the scheme of things. Twenty-five years ago, Strachey’s books were not in paperback and Virginia Woolf was not the feminist idol she has since become. The reputation of E.M. Forster was in decline. The paintings of Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell were not privately collected and had been demoted to the ...

See you in court, pal

John Lanchester: The Microsoft Trial

30 September 1999
The Nudist on the Late Shift 
by Po Bronson.
Secker, 248 pp., £10, August 1999, 0 436 20477 0
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Infinite Loop: How Apple, the World’s Most Insanely Great Computer Company, Went Insane 
by Michael​ Malone.
Aurum, 598 pp., £18.99, April 1999, 1 85410 638 4
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Burn Rate: How I Survived the Gold Rush Years on the Internet 
by Michael Woolf.
Orion, 364 pp., £7.99, June 1999, 0 7528 2606 9
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The Cathedral and the Bazaar: revised edition 
by Eric S. Raymond.
O'Reilly, 256 pp., £11.95, February 2001, 0 596 00108 8
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... this rich neighbour called Xerox, and you broke in to steal the TV set, found I’d been there first, and said: “No fair, I wanted to steal the TV set.”’ The striking thing about this – as Michael Malone points out in his ultra-detailed history of Apple, Infinite Loop – is that there isn’t a shred of truth in the idea that Gates had the GUI first. It was pure gorilla-think. ‘In his ...

Three Poems

Michael​ Hofmann

21 July 1994
... slippery city. The London plane tree by my window hangs its green leatherette sleeves, exhausted by a hard May. My varsity jacket. The sky between leaves is the brightest thing in nature, Virginia Woolf told the inquiring Rupert Brooke. Whatever. Laisser-faire I can really only feign disapproval of my youngest dibbling his semolina’d fingers in the satiny lining of her red coat. Is it decided ...

Ah, la vie!

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Lytton Strachey’s letters

1 December 2005
The Letters of Lytton Strachey 
edited by Paul Levy.
Viking, 698 pp., £30, March 2005, 0 670 89112 6
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... Lytton Strachey loved reading letters, including the published kind, but after glancing at a few sentences of George Meredith’s correspondence in 1912, he felt ‘so nauseated’, he told Virginia Woolf, that he shut the book at once: Is it prejudice, do you think, that makes us hate the Victorians, or is it the truth of the case? They seem to me to be a set of mouthing bungling hypocrites; but ...

Capital W, Capital W

Michael​ Wood: Women writers

19 August 1999
Women Writers at Work 
edited by George Plimpton.
Harvill, 381 pp., £9.99, February 1999, 1 86046 586 2
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Just as I Thought 
by Grace Paley.
Virago, 332 pp., £8.99, August 1999, 1 86049 696 2
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... It is fatal for a woman,’ Virginia Woolf wrote, ‘in any way to speak consciously as a woman.’ Fatal for her as a writer, Woolf meant, but even so, not many people will now agree with this view. Not all that many, perhaps, will understand it straight off. How could it be fatal? How could you not write or speak as a woman if ...
20 November 1980
The Sickle Side of the Moon: The Letters of Virginia Woolf, Vol. V, 1932-1935 
edited by Nigel Nicolson.
Hogarth, 476 pp., £12.50, September 1979, 0 7012 0469 9
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Leave the Letters till we’re dead: The Letters of Virginia Woolf, Vol. VI, 1936-41 
edited by Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautman.
Hogarth, 556 pp., £15, September 1980, 0 7012 0470 2
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The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Vol. III: 1925-1930 
edited by Anne Olivier Bell.
Hogarth, 384 pp., £10.50, March 1980, 0 7012 0466 4
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Virginia Woolf 
by Michael​ Rosenthal.
Routledge, 270 pp., £7.95, September 1979, 0 7100 0189 4
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Virginia Woolf’s Major Novels: The Fables of Anon 
by Maria DiBattista.
Yale, 252 pp., £11, April 1980, 0 300 02402 9
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... Having read some of Henry Brewster’s letters to Ethel Smyth, Virginia Woolf wrote to Ethel that she found them ‘very witty, easy, well written, full of sparks and faces and shrewdness’, though she admitted that she got ‘a little tired of the lunches and dinners and ...

A Tale of Three Novels

Michael​ Holroyd: Violet Trefusis

11 February 2010
... ambiguous body was upholstered, rather than dressed, in what appeared to be an assortment of patterns, lace, brocades, velvets, taffetas. Shopping lists were pinned to her bosom. Virginia Woolf read the American edition of Challenge in the mid-1920s when she began writing Orlando, described by Sackville-West’s son Nigel Nicolson as ‘the longest and most charming love letter in ...

No Clapping

Rosemary Hill: The Bloomsbury Memoir Club

16 July 2014
The Bloomsbury Group Memoir Club 
by S.P. Rosenbaum, edited by James Haule.
Palgrave, 203 pp., £20, January 2014, 978 1 137 36035 9
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... leaving everything to Canada and nothing to Forster, who was disappointed. The domestic and sexual permutations would have caused no consternation among listeners who included Virginia and Leonard Woolf and Clive Bell. Nor, perhaps, would Forster’s own discomfort with the question of Sex, which played a large, complicated part in his own life: ‘You work it out,’ his essay goes on: ‘I can’t ...
18 September 1997
Trial of Strength: The Battle Between Ministers and Judges over Who Makes the Law 
by Joshua Rozenberg.
Richard Cohen, 241 pp., £17.99, April 1997, 1 86066 094 0
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The Politics of the Judiciary 
by J.A.G. Griffith.
Fontana, 376 pp., £8.99, September 1997, 0 00 686381 7
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... If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, it follows that the enemy of Michael Howard is my hero. So awful was Howard’s long reign at the Home Office that many liberals sought democratic relief from the most blatantly undemocratic section of the establishment: the judiciary ...
1 August 1985
Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer 
by Richard Holmes.
Hodder, 288 pp., £12.95, July 1985, 0 340 28337 8
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... essay which charts the frontiers of biography. The cumulative effect of the travels, revolutions, exiles and dreams that form this book is to extend those frontiers. Some fifty years ago Virginia Woolf likened the biographer to the miner’s canary ‘testing the atmosphere, detecting falsity, unreality, and the presence of obsolete conventions’. Compared to fiction and poetry, biography had only ...

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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... 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 MacKenzie has not entered this Fabian Paradise and presented the choice between Mrs Webb and Mrs Woolf that ...

Entryism

Jacqueline Rose: ‘Specimen Days’

22 September 2005
Specimen Days 
by Michael​ Cunningham.
Fourth Estate, 308 pp., £14.99, August 2005, 0 00 715605 7
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... At the centre of Michael Cunningham’s new novel, in the second of its three tales, Cat, a black woman police investigator in New York, has the job of receiving and recording the calls of people threatening to blow ...

The Real Johnny Hall

Penelope Fitzgerald

3 October 1985
Our Three Selves: A Life of Radclyffe Hall 
by Michael​ Baker.
Hamish Hamilton, 386 pp., £13.95, June 1985, 0 241 11539 6
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... When The Well of Loneliness came out in July 1928 the reviewers were not astonished. Both Leonard Woolf and L.P. Hartley thought the book sincere, but overemphatic. The Times Literary Supplement also called it sincere, and Vera Brittain said it was ‘admirably restrained’. It sold quite well, going ...

Shee Spy

Michael​ Dobson

8 May 1997
The Secret Life of Aphra Behn 
by Janet Todd.
Deutsch, 545 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 233 98991 9
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... Aphra Behn, 1640-89, Behn was still known principally as the celebrated but largely unread founder of women’s writing, the figure who had been hymned but effectively dismissed by Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own (1929). ‘All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds,’ Woolf wrote, only to ...

Azure Puddles

John Bayley

21 May 1987
Compton Mackenzie: A Life 
by Andro Linklater.
Chatto, 384 pp., £14.95, May 1987, 0 7011 2583 7
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... of writing a full-scale appreciation of Mackenzie, though he never got around to it. A connoisseur of the social influence of ‘good bad books’, he probably saw that Mackenzie’s heroes – the Michael Fanes and John Ogilvies – lacked a true personality linking them to their author, and at the same time lacked the constructed persona with which writers like John Buchan managed to endow themselves ...

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