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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 OliverGoldsmith? 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 into the ...

The Name of the Beast

Armand Marie Leroi

11 December 1997
by Jacques Roger.
Cornell, 492 pp., £39.50, August 1997, 0 8014 2918 8
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The Platypus and the Mermaid and Other Figments of the Classifying Imagination 
by Harriet Ritvo.
Harvard, 274 pp., £19.95, November 1997, 0 674 67357 3
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... anus, Ovula ovum, and Penicillus penis, the names given by Linnaeus to two snails and a clam?), but it is an introverted and academic humour, not calculated to appeal to a wider audience. ‘Goldsmith is writing a Natural History,’ Samuel Johnson said to Boswell, ‘and you can be sure that he will make it as entertaining as a Persian Tale.’ So he did, turning naturally to Buffon for his ...

Paddling in the Gravy

E.S. Turner: Bath’s panderer-in-chief

21 July 2005
The Imaginary Autocrat: Beau Nash and the Invention of Bath 
by John Eglin.
Profile, 292 pp., £20, May 2005, 1 86197 302 0
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... effect to impose his own tax-supported empire, or ‘Company’, on the Corporation of Bath, is the puzzle explored by John Eglin in The Imaginary Autocrat. It is a task that was first attempted by OliverGoldsmith in a ‘quickie’ life put together immediately after Nash’s death. What was a beau? He was no more than a dandy much occupied with fashion and deportment; if he had a soul, it was that ...

Angry ’Un

Terry Eagleton

8 July 1993
The Hand of the Arch-Sinner: Two Angrian Chronicles of Branwell Brontë 
edited by Robert Collins.
Oxford, 300 pp., £30, April 1993, 0 19 812258 6
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... Later in the novel, Heathcliff will stage a mysterious disappearance and re-enter the narrative as an English gentleman. It’s a transformation with a venerable Irish history, all the way from OliverGoldsmith to Oscar Wilde. Unlike Goldsmith and Wilde, however, Heathcliff doesn’t make too impressive a job of impersonating the English upper class. You can take Heathcliff out of the Heights, but ...

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 shot to prominence in his twenties for the revolutionary naturalism of his acting style, notably his startling performance as Richard III. Garrick was elected to the Club in 1773; the playwrights OliverGoldsmith and George Colman were already members and Richard Brinsley Sheridan would be admitted a few years later. The Club wasn’t just full of luvvies; it began with quite serious purposes and ...

Picture in Little

Charles Nicholl: Hilliard’s Trajectory

9 December 2019
Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist 
by Elizabeth Goldring.
Yale, 337 pp., £40, February, 978 0 300 24142 6
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... such lucidity of detail – ‘the heads and beards are so well perform’d that almost each single hair is express’d’. Later in the century, Horace Walpole pored over a miniature by Isaac Oliver – Hilliard’s brilliant French-born pupil – and found that ‘the largest magnifying glass only calls out new beauties.’The​ 400th anniversary of Hilliard’s death this year has been marked ...


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 OliverGoldsmith, 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 ...


John Upton: Damilola Taylor

4 January 2001
... Police walk in pairs along the street. Further on there are no longer any schoolchildren waiting at bus stops, and the shops grow shabbier. Here on the corner of Peckham Road and Southampton Way is OliverGoldsmith School, which Damilola Taylor attended. Another group of policemen stands outside it. Behind the railings which line one side of the building are laid out the inevitable floral tributes to ...

A Spot of Firm Government

Terry Eagleton: Claude Rawson

23 August 2001
God, Gulliver and Genocide: Barbarism and the European Imagination 1492-1945 
by Claude Rawson.
Oxford, 401 pp., £25, June 2001, 0 19 818425 5
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... that of their autistic rulers, it was often enough to the Celtic fringes that they turned, from which some semblance of pre-modern Gemeinschaft might still just about be salvaged. Richard Steele, OliverGoldsmith, Laurence Sterne, Francis Hutcheson and Edmund Burke all made vital Irish contributions to this nouvelle vague of meekness, tendresse, womanliness, the glowing, melting sentiments, while ...
18 March 1982
The Watercolours and Drawings of Thomas Bewick and his Workshop Apprentices 
by Iain Bain.
Gordon Fraser, 233 pp., £125, July 1981, 0 86092 057 7
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... are we to make of this homo rusticus who quotes Dr Johnson, uses James Thomson as a model for his rural descriptions, praises Bacon and Locke, refers to the poetry of Thomas Gray, Allen Ramsay and OliverGoldsmith, casually mentions that he does not need to read David Hume on miracles, and obliquely compares his own work with that of Milton? There is a paradox here: the more Bewick strove to ...

Maybe he made it up

Terry Eagleton: Faking It

6 June 2002
The Forger’s Shadow: How Forgery Changed the Course of Literature 
by Nick Groom.
Picador, 351 pp., £20, April 2002, 9780330374323
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... it becomes at one point a kind of scriptive equivalent of such programmes, as Groom portrays himself rambling around Bristol in search of Chatterton’s ghost (‘I paced about, in the footsteps of OliverGoldsmith, Samuel Johnson, James Boswell and many others . . .’), for all the world like a print version of Simon Schama. One can almost see the make-up and microphone. It is a smart rather than ...

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, OliverGoldsmith, 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 ...

Irishness is for other people

Terry Eagleton: Enrique Vila-Matas

19 July 2012
by Enrique Vila-Matas, translated by Anne McLean and Rosalind Harvey.
Harvill Secker, 245 pp., £16.99, June 2012, 978 1 84655 489 6
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... unconscious. They are feckless, indolent, wildly imaginative brawlers whom other people look down on but would secretly like to be, and as such they evoke a mixture of derision and admiration. From OliverGoldsmith and Oscar Wilde to George Bernard Shaw, Brendan Behan and Graham Norton, John Bull’s other island has furnished the British with a series of talented court jesters, praised and patronised ...

A Row of Shaws

Terry Eagleton: That Bastard Shaw

21 June 2018
Judging Shaw 
by Fintan O’Toole.
Royal Irish Academy, 381 pp., £28, October 2017, 978 1 908997 15 9
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... outsider twice over, a peripheral Protestant at home washed up in alien London with only his wits and verbal dexterity to hawk. As such, he joined an honourable lineage of Irish licensed jesters from OliverGoldsmith to Brendan Behan (Terry Wogan and Graham Norton are minor offshoots), men who punctured English pomposity and found moral earnestness irresistibly comic, yet whose capacity to amuse ...

Reasons to Comply

Philippe Sands: International law

20 July 2006
The Limits of International Law 
by Jack Goldsmith and Eric Posner.
Oxford, 262 pp., £17.99, February 2005, 0 19 516839 9
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War Law: International Law and Armed Conflict 
by Michael Byers.
Atlantic, 214 pp., £16.99, April 2005, 1 84354 338 9
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... by Parliament, unless they address an issue of EU law. In the United States, there is an appropriately lively and informed debate about international law-making, democracy and constitutionalism. Jack Goldsmith and Eric Posner, the authors of The Limits of International Law, have contributed significantly to that debate and have played an important role in focusing attention on issues of legitimate concern ...

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