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Mending the curtains

Rosalind Mitchison, 24 January 1991

Naomi MitchisonA Biography 
by Jill Benton.
Pandora, 192 pp., £15.95, September 1990, 0 04 440460 3
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... in the big drawing-room curtains which I thought I had mended once and for all. Jill Benton’s Naomi Mitchison lies on the sofa ignored by its subject, who is correcting proofs of a book of short stories. Is a biography of someone living acceptable? Is it likely to be true, or fair? Biography isn’t just the record of a life, or a life and work, but ...

Inventing Africa

Caroline Moorehead, 18 September 1980

Fantastic Invasion 
by Patrick Marnham.
Cape, 271 pp., £6.50, May 1980, 0 224 01829 9
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Images of Africa 
by Naomi Mitchison.
Canongate, 139 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 903937 70 0
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... of the African predicament is visible. There could be no better complement to this sad book than Naomi Mitchison’s Images of Africa. The images give the other picture, the African side of things, expressed in tales and fables. In ‘The Coming of the New God’, one of the more bitter tales, Protestant missionaries offer to protect villagers’ lands ...

Golden Boy

Denis Donoghue, 22 December 1983

W.H.Auden: The Critical Heritage 
edited by John Haffenden.
Routledge, 535 pp., £19.95, September 1983, 0 7100 9350 0
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Auden: A Carnival of Intellect 
by Edward Callan.
Oxford, 299 pp., £12.50, August 1983, 0 19 503168 7
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Drawn from the Life: A Memoir 
by Robert Medley.
Faber, 251 pp., £12.50, November 1983, 0 571 13043 7
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... promising poet. In September 1930 Auden’s Poems came out. ‘Dare I spot him as a winner?’ Naomi Mitchison asked in one of the earliest reviews. A few months later William Empson wrote at some length about ‘Paid on Both Sides’. He was impressed by Auden’s ability to make ‘psychoanalysis, surrealism, and all that’, all the irrationalist ...

At the IWM North

Jon Day: Wyndham Lewis, 5 October 2017

... for its Summer Exhibition (much to Lewis’s pretend outrage). He painted the Scottish novelist Naomi Mitchison looking down at him with one eyebrow raised, as though gently mocking his radical pretentions. Lewis’s series of portraits of his second wife, Gladys Hoskyns, show the same attention he paid to machines and artillery in the war, attention ...

Hit by Donald Duck

Oliver Hill-Andrews: The Red Scientist, 24 May 2018

Popularising Science: The Life and Work of J.B.S. Haldane 
by Krishna Dronamraju.
Oxford, 367 pp., £26.99, February 2017, 978 0 19 933392 9
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... There was a laboratory on the ground floor of the house where J.B.S. and his younger sister, Naomi (later, as Naomi Mitchison, a prolific writer and political campaigner), grew up. Haldane wrote later that from an early age he had associated scientific experiments with play. Soon, he even joined his father in ...

Women of Quality

E.S. Turner, 9 October 1986

The Pebbled Shore 
by Elizabeth Longford.
Weidenfeld, 351 pp., £14.95, August 1986, 0 297 78863 9
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Leaves of the Tulip Tree 
by Juliette Huxley.
Murray, 248 pp., £7.95, June 1986, 9780719542886
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Enid Bagnold 
by Anne Sebba.
Weidenfeld, 317 pp., £15, September 1986, 0 297 78991 0
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... Place and Charlton; also Carradale, in Argyllshire, home of another grande dame of the Left, Naomi Mitchison (‘In the morning Naomi would say “Shall I shoot a sheep for dinner?” ’). At a Labour Conference in Birmingham in 1936 the author was involved in a ‘ludicrous scene’. While fastening her ...

Doris and Me

Jenny Diski, 8 January 2015

... to supper, Alan Sillitoe and his wife, the poet Ruth Fainlight, Arnold Wesker and his wife Dusty. Naomi Mitchison. Ted Hughes, Christopher Logue (whose recording of poetry and jazz, Red Bird, I’d bought with my pocket money at St Christopher’s), Lindsay Anderson, Fenella Fielding. A Portuguese couple, described to me as ‘a poet in exile and his ...

That’s what Wystan says

Seamus Perry, 10 May 2018

Early Auden, Later Auden: A Critical Biography 
by Edward Mendelson.
Princeton, 912 pp., £27.95, May 2017, 978 0 691 17249 1
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... came to think of his own memorability as an ambiguous gift, and when in later years his old friend Naomi Mitchison regretted that he no longer wrote memorable poems, Auden answered: ‘If, by memorability, you mean a poem like “Sept 1, 1939”, I pray to God that I shall never be memorable again.’ He blamed no one but himself for his failings, but he ...

Where on Earth are you?

Frances Stonor Saunders, 3 March 2016

... a ‘humiliation’ – but for others it opened a door onto the world. Having a British passport, Naomi Mitchison remarked, made her feel like ‘the spiritual heir of all the milords who have in the grand commercial past swaggered over the continent’. There are still plenty of milords a’swaggering. I haven’t been able to confirm this, but I think ...

Reasons for Liking Tolkien

Jenny Turner: The Hobbit Habit, 15 November 2001

... has had its admirers – my battered 1970s paperback carries endorsements from Richard Hughes, Naomi Mitchison and C.S. Lewis, and Auden was an early fan. (Auden was a patron saint of lost causes. He was also the only major writer to stand up for Laura Riding.) But mostly, the sort of people who get their opinions published have lashed it with ...

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