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Tramlines

Oliver Reynolds

23 November 1989
... The thought of writing a poem about tramlines beginning: The city lies bound in its net of tramlines ... got no further. Go out and look at the tramlines, they don’t bind the city at all, they lie in the street between comradely ranks of cobblestones, go out and look at the city, it’s not bound, cities can’t be bound. No, tramlines are for putting small change on, the tram paraded uphill over ...
5 September 1985
... for Sebastian Barry Possible seals disappearing far-out off Pembrokeshire, sleek commas suddenly lost in the sea’s murky prose, came back to me (memories taking a year to surface) as we returned at midnight from the Laird and Dog. It was our daily goal, two poets retreating from a Writers’ Retreat to beer’s bitter salve. We’d walk out at twilight, up a drive squeezed through firs, shuttled ...

Narrow Places

Brad Leithauser

15 October 1987
Selected Poems 
by Molly Holden.
Carcanet, 126 pp., £6.95, June 1987, 0 85635 696 4
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The Player Queen’s Wife 
by Oliver Reynolds.
Faber, 78 pp., £8.95, November 1987, 0 571 14998 7
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The Consuming Myth: The Work of James Merrill 
by Stephen Yenser.
Harvard, 367 pp., £21.95, June 1987, 0 674 16615 9
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... more tellingly here because the ‘sage side’ emerges only in death. Knowledge carried a dear price in Holden’s precise and constricted world. In The Player Queen’s Wife, his second collection, OliverReynolds does Hopkins and his ‘curtal sonnet’ one better. Hopkins trimmed the sonnet to ten and a half lines; Reynolds pares it to five. Here is ‘Map’, from ‘Seven Little Sonnets for ...

Dialect does it

Blake Morrison

5 December 1985
No Mate for the Magpie 
by Frances Molloy.
Virago, 170 pp., £7.95, April 1985, 0 86068 594 2
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The Mysteries 
by Tony Harrison.
Faber, 229 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 9780571137893
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Ukulele Music 
by Peter Reading.
Secker, 103 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 40986 0
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Hard Lines 2 
edited by Ian Dury, Pete Townshend, Alan Bleasdale and Fanny Dubes.
Faber, 95 pp., £2.50, June 1985, 0 571 13542 0
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No Holds Barred: The Raving Beauties choose new poems by women 
edited by Anna Carteret, Fanny Viner and Sue Jones-Davies.
Women’s Press, 130 pp., £2.95, June 1985, 0 7043 3963 3
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Katerina Brac 
by Christopher Reid.
Faber, 47 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 571 13614 1
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Skevington’s Daughter 
by Oliver Reynolds.
Faber, 88 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 571 13697 4
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Rhondda Tenpenn’orth 
by Oliver Reynolds.
10 pence
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Trio 4 
by Andrew Elliott, Leon McAuley and Ciaran O’Driscoll.
Blackstaff, 69 pp., £3.95, May 1985, 0 85640 333 4
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Mama Dot 
by Fred D’Aguiar.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, August 1985, 0 7011 2957 3
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The Dread Affair: Collected Poems 
by Benjamin Zephaniah.
Arena, 112 pp., £2.95, August 1985, 9780099392507
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Long Road to Nowhere 
by Amryl Johnson.
Virago, 64 pp., £2.95, July 1985, 0 86068 687 6
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Mangoes and Bullets 
by John Agard.
Pluto, 64 pp., £3.50, August 1985, 0 7453 0028 6
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Ragtime in Unfamiliar Bars 
by Ron Butlin.
Secker, 51 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 07810 4
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True Confessions and New Clichés 
by Liz Lochhead.
Polygon, 135 pp., £3.95, July 1985, 0 904919 90 0
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Works in the Inglis Tongue 
by Peter Davidson.
Three Tygers Press, 17 pp., £2.50, June 1985
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Wild Places: Poems in Three Leids 
by William Neill.
Luath, 200 pp., £5, September 1985, 0 946487 11 1
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... bracketed with Craig Raine, but the alien quality of this book lies less in faux-naif visual parallels than in the eerie detachment of the language and the strange familiarity of Brac’s landscapes. OliverReynolds is another Faber poet with Martian smatterings; his long opening poem, ‘Victoriana’, ends lamely in a blind alley with the image of glue globules on the pages of a book: ‘braille ...

Tea-Leafing

Duncan Campbell

19 October 1995
The Autobiography of a Thief 
by Bruce Reynolds.
Bantam, 320 pp., £15.99, April 1995, 0 593 03779 0
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... before the beak at Old Street magistrate’s court and gets three months. A robber takes the girlfriend off to Longchamp for the weekend. A thief goes home to the wife in Up-minster. So why did Bruce Reynolds, a main player in this country’s robbery of the century, choose to call his book The Autobiography of a Thief ? It was, he says, a bit of homage to Jean Genet. The Thief’s Journal was being ...

At least that was the idea

Thomas Keymer: Johnson and Boswell’s Club

10 October 2019
The Club: Johnson, Boswell and the Friends who Shaped an Age 
by Leo Damrosch.
Yale, 488 pp., £20, April, 978 0 300 21790 2
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... and by the mid-18th century thronged with coffee houses and taverns. A blue plaque commemorates Dryden, but on the wrong house. At No. 9, a more accurately sited plaque marks where, in 1764, Joshua Reynolds and Samuel Johnson founded the Literary Club, or simply the Club, which met weekly to dine in an upstairs room at the Turk’s Head until the landlord died and the dinners moved elsewhere. The ...

A Skeleton My Cat

Norma Clarke: ‘Poor Goldsmith’

21 February 2019
The Letters of Oliver​ Goldsmith 
edited by Michael Griffin and David O’Shaughnessy.
Cambridge, 232 pp., £64.99, July 2018, 978 1 107 09353 9
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... Is​ there an 18th-century writer to rival Oliver Goldsmith? Who else achieved lasting popular and critical success in all three major genres? The Vicar of Wakefield has never been out of print; The Deserted Village was a schoolroom favourite well ...

Vendlerising

John Kerrigan

2 April 1987
The Faber Book of Contemporary American Poetry 
edited by Helen Vendler.
Faber, 440 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 571 13945 0
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Selected Poems 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 348 pp., £16.95, April 1986, 0 85635 666 2
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The Poetry Book Society Anthology 1986/87 
edited by Jonathan Barker.
Hutchinson, 94 pp., £4.95, November 1986, 0 09 165961 2
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Two Horse Wagon Going By 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 143 pp., £5.95, October 1986, 0 85635 661 1
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... that Wallace Stevens has ‘shaped’ the style of our brightest young writers. The anthology may not begin with ‘Sunday Morning’, but Jonathan Barker suggests that Ron Butlin, James Lasdun, OliverReynolds and other talents have been influenced, like Vendler’s Americans, by the world of Canon Aspirin. This seems doubtful. To read the PBS volume after the Faber Book is to be almost crushed by ...

Let us breakfast in splendour

Charles Nicholl: Francis Barber

15 July 2015
The Fortunes of Francis Barber: The True Story of the Jamaican Slave Who Became Samuel Johnson’s Heir 
by Michael Bundock.
Yale, 282 pp., £20, May 2015, 978 0 300 20710 1
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... The engraving​ called A Literary Party at Sir Joshua Reynolds’s shows nine men seated around a table convivially cluttered with decanters and after-dinner debris. From left to right they are James Boswell, Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, David Garrick ...

On a par with Nixon

Stephen Alford: Bad Queen Bess?

17 November 2016
Bad Queen Bess? Libels, Secret Histories, and the Politics of Publicity in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I 
by Peter Lake.
Oxford, 497 pp., £35, January 2016, 978 0 19 875399 5
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Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years 
by John Guy.
Viking, 494 pp., £25, May 2016, 978 0 670 92225 3
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... In​ 1948 Allan Wingate published British Pamphleteers, a collection of tracts assembled by Richard Reynolds and introduced by George Orwell. The first pamphlet in the book is John Knox’s First Blast of the Trumpet (1558), which begins: ‘To promote a woman to beare rule, superioritie, dominion or empire ...

Rub gently out with stale bread

Adam Smyth: The Print Craze

2 November 2017
The Print Before Photography: An Introduction to European Printmaking 1550-1820 
by Antony Griffiths.
British Museum, 560 pp., £60, August 2016, 978 0 7141 2695 1
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... put a little smoak about the Cottages’. (After Constable’s death, the quality of the prints collapsed.) Artists could grow quickly famous – and wealthy – via prints of their paintings; Joshua Reynolds’s sold in their thousands. In 1789, the publisher John Boydell opened his ‘Shakespeare Gallery’ in Pall Mall, where, for an entrance fee of one shilling, visitors could enjoy paintings of ...

Had he not run

David Reynolds: America’s longest-serving president

2 June 2005
Franklin Delano Roosevelt 
by Roy Jenkins.
Pan, 208 pp., £7.99, May 2005, 0 330 43206 0
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Franklin D. Roosevelt 
by Patrick Renshaw.
Longman, 223 pp., $16.95, December 2003, 0 582 43803 9
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Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom 
by Conrad Black.
Weidenfeld, 1280 pp., £17.99, October 2004, 0 7538 1848 5
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... anchoring’ the United States in the world. The judgments are sometimes eccentric, but this is a biography that must be taken seriously. ‘A second-class intellect but a first-class temperament.’ Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous line, which dates from 1933, was, as Black reminds us, quite possibly a reference to Theodore Roosevelt rather than Franklin. But FDR was certainly no systematic thinker ...

Self-Hugging

Andrew O’Hagan: A Paean to Boswell

5 October 2000
Boswell's Presumptuous Task 
by Adam Sisman.
Hamish Hamilton, 352 pp., £17.99, November 2000, 0 241 13637 7
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James Boswell’s ‘Life of Johnson’: Research Edition: Vol. II 
edited by Bruce Redford and Elizabeth Goldring.
Edinburgh, 303 pp., £50, February 2000, 0 7486 0606 8
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Samuel Johnson: The Life of an Author 
by Lawrence Lipking.
Harvard, 372 pp., £11.50, March 2000, 0 674 00198 2
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Dr Johnson's London 
by Liza Picard.
Weidenfeld, 362 pp., £20, July 2000, 0 297 84218 8
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... Liza Picard allows the opportunity for lesser mortals to mire themselves in ghastliness; it is hard to imagine, as you pass through the London of 1740-70, that this was also a place where Johnson and Oliver Goldsmith, Edmund Burke and Joshua Reynolds, Edmund Malone, William Pitt and David Garrick could meet in the upstairs room of a pub to exchange genial perceptions on the course of the moral universe ...
22 March 1990
Wright of Derby 
by Judy Egerton.
Tate Gallery, 294 pp., £25, February 1990, 1 85437 038 3
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... way’. The peculiarity distinguishes him from metropolitan contemporaries. ‘Artists are, or should be, different from each other,’ Egerton says. ‘Wright is not elevated by putting down Reynolds, nor are his gifts easily measured against Gainsborough’s. Wright is his own man.’ The point is taken, but Wright’s differences, the strangeness which creeps into some of his portrait groups ...

A Light-Blue Stocking

Helen Deutsch: Hester Lynch Salusbury Thrale Piozzi

14 May 2009
Hester: The Remarkable Life of Dr Johnson’s ‘Dear Mistress’ 
by Ian McIntyre.
Constable, 450 pp., £25, November 2008, 978 1 84529 449 6
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... Wife was not to stink of the Kitchen’), she found that hostess was the occupation that suited her best. Johnson was soon the star attraction of a circle that included Edmund Burke, David Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith, Frances Burney and Joshua Reynolds, whose portraits of the group adorned the walls of the library in Streatham. Hester presided with remarkable wit, vivacity and in Burney’s neologism ...

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