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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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... was ‘admirably restrained’. It sold quite well, going into a second impression, and Radclyffe Hall, with her lover Una Troubridge, thought of taking a cottage in Rye. She may have felt some disappointment, having planned her novel in a crusader’s spirit. She claimed to have written the first full-length treatment in English of women who loved women. In ...

Trollopiad

John Sutherland, 9 January 1992

The Chronicler of Barsetshire: A Life of Anthony Trollope 
by R.H. Super.
Manchester, 528 pp., £29.95, July 1990, 0 472 10102 1
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Anthony Trollope: A Victorian in his World 
by Richard Mullen.
Duckworth, 767 pp., £25, July 1990, 0 7156 2293 5
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Trollope: A Biography 
by N. John Hall.
Oxford, 581 pp., £25, October 1991, 0 19 812627 1
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... of Trollope. His adult life was not (as far as we know) sensationally exciting. There is no Ellen Ternan, no mad Mrs Thackeray, no flagrantly unconventional union of the Lewes-Eliot kind. Trollope did not, like Wilkie Collins, steep himself in laudanum and keep two ...

Grand Theories

W.G. Runciman, 17 October 1985

The Return of Grand Theory in the Human Sciences 
edited by Quentin Skinner.
Cambridge, 215 pp., £17.50, July 1985, 0 521 26692 0
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Classes 
by Erik Olin Wright.
Verso, 344 pp., £20, September 1985, 0 86091 104 7
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Powers and Liberties: The Causes and Consequences of the Rise of the West 
by John Hall.
Blackwell, 282 pp., £19.50, September 1985, 0 631 14542 7
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... ironic, implying a loftiness of tone, an inflation of aim, and a pretentiousness of content which no serious academic author could possibly want to be charged with. Professor Skinner begins his Introduction by quoting from a celebrated attack on Talcott Parsons by C. Wright Mills, for whom Grand Theory was the most absurd but also the most serious impediment ...

Crusoe was a gentleman

John Sutherland, 1 July 1982

The Gentleman in Trollope: Individuality and Moral Conduct 
by Shirley Letwin.
Macmillan, 303 pp., £15, May 1982, 0 333 31209 0
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The Idea of the Gentleman in the Victorian Novel 
by Robin Gilmour.
Allen and Unwin, 208 pp., £10, October 1981, 0 04 800005 1
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... with far less celebration than, for instance, George Eliot received in 1980. There is to be no British Library exhibition (although they hold significant manuscripts); no plaque in the Abbey (although Trollope was more devout than the other novelist); no portrait stamp, ...
The Restraint of Beasts 
by Magnus Mills.
Flamingo, 215 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 00 225720 3
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... by accidental homicides and the protagonists’ growing unease about the obscure activities of Hall Brothers, a local family business. Initially, the Halls appear to run a rival fencing company, but it emerges that their main concern is a large meat factory, producing sausages and pies. As the novel draws to its end, the brothers take on the Scottish ...

After-Lives

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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Trollope 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Hutchinson, 551 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 09 173896 2
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... this time in a more objectively historical context. Hamilton offers 22 case studies, from John Donne – the first properly biographed English author – to Philip Larkin of last month’s Observer fame. Hamilton could not, if he tried, write an unreadable book. Keepers of the Flame is that rarest of modern things, lit crit with ...

Two Poems

Donald Hall, 19 August 1993

... forty-eight, we argued all         night about whether a poem was good enough for us. John         Ashbery sat in a corner shelling pistachio nuts;         Robert E. Bly wore a three- piece suit and a striped tie; Kenneth         Koch was always sarcastic. Once as we pasted an issue         together we discovered a ...

Beware Bad Smells

Hugh Pennington: Florence Nightingale, 4 December 2008

Florence Nightingale: The Woman and Her Legend 
by Mark Bostridge.
Viking, 646 pp., £25, October 2008, 978 0 670 87411 8
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... Barrack Hospital at Scutari at night? Yes – but with what to light her way? Mark Bostridge is no revisionist, but he does point out that the evidence from the 1850s has little or nothing to say about the lamp. Nightingale’s path was enormously eased by her circumstances. Her family was wealthy. Her father educated her broadly and well: at 16 she was ...

The market taketh away

Paul Foot, 3 July 1997

Number One Millbank: The Financial Downfall of the Church of England 
by Terry Lovell.
HarperCollins, 263 pp., £15.99, June 1997, 0 00 627866 3
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... of them was that the Church bought out its partners at an early stage and at a generous price. Sir John Hall, the Newcastle entrepreneur, was bought out of the Gateshead Metro shopping centre before it was built. He got £40m, but the Church kept losing money on the project until it was finally sold at a staggering loss in 1990. Sir ...

Best Known for His Guzzleosity

Helen Hackett: Shakespeare’s Authors, 11 March 2010

Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? 
by James Shapiro.
Faber, 367 pp., £20, April 2010, 978 0 571 23576 6
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... is a tease. Shapiro, the author of 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare (2005), is in no doubt that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon is the author of the works published in his name: not Sir Francis Bacon, or Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, or Christopher Marlowe, living on in secret after his apparent death in a brawl in 1593 (before ...

Democratic Sublime

Derek Hirst: Writing the English republic, 19 August 1999

Writing the English Republic: Poetry, Rhetoric and Politics 1627-60 
by David Norbrook.
Cambridge, 509 pp., £40, January 1999, 0 521 63275 7
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... the 350th anniversary of the cold morning when the axe fell on Charles Stuart’s neck, was no mere romantic gesture. Rather, it declared David Norbrook’s belief that to vindicate the cultural vitality and integrity of English republicanism at its moment of flowering – a moment of high energy not only in politics but also in political ...

What’s not to like?

Stefan Collini: Ernest Gellner, 2 June 2011

Ernest Gellner: An Intellectual Biography 
by John Hall.
Verso, 400 pp., £29.99, July 2010, 978 1 84467 602 6
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... contrasting allusions both choose to make their point by invoking the name of Max Weber. Perhaps no other proper name crops up so frequently in discussions of Gellner’s work. There was, for all their evident – indeed, almost laughably obvious and incongruous – differences, an important intellectual affinity between the two as analysts of ...

Haar

John Burnside, 8 January 2004

... pleasure boats; tailored poodles. It’s warmer at night, when the lights go on in the pool hall, the moon on the empty firth like the spirit of neon, girls from the Glasgow Fair drifting down to The Ship for vodka and cranberry, Budweiser, rum and black, but days are best: these days of salt and fog, mornings when last night’s dreams fit snug in my ...

Unsluggardised

Charles Nicholl: ‘The Shakespeare Circle’, 19 May 2016

The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography 
edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells.
Cambridge, 358 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 107 69909 0
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... with an eight-page meditation centred on the echo of ‘Hamnet’ in ‘Hamlet’: the names have no etymological link, but one senses their emotional assonance, to which the old theatrical tradition that Shakespeare acted the part of Hamlet’s ghostly father (first mentioned by Nicholas Rowe in 1709) adds force. The book opens with a brisk pair of essays by ...

Trollope’s Delight

Richard Altick, 3 May 1984

The Letters of Anthony Trollope 
edited by John Hall.
Stanford, 1082 pp., $87.50, July 1983, 0 8047 1076 7
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Anthony Trollope: Dream and Art 
by Andrew Wright.
Macmillan, 173 pp., £20, October 1983, 0 333 34593 2
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... dealings with publishers than any man living.’ His letters to his chief publishers, Chapman and Hall, Blackwood, and Smith, Elder, are those of a hard-headed bargainer, civil but firm, who knew the market value of his product and was determined to get the best price for it. In a day when the royalty system was only beginning to be adopted and formal ...

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