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Marilyn Butler

19 December 1985
The Beauty of Inflections: Literary Investigations in Historical Method and Theory 
by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 352 pp., £19.50, May 1985, 0 19 811730 2
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The Politics of Language: 1791-1819 
by Olivia Smith.
Oxford, 269 pp., £19.50, December 1984, 0 19 812817 7
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... Inquiry, the profession ‘now feels the need for a new historicism in order to scrutinise the values, interests and powers served by the proliferation of hermeneutic techniques’. Jerome McGann and OliviaSmith are two good critics, both Americans publishing in England, who fall in with Mitchell’s injunction to ‘historicise’. Each regards a work of the past as both an individual literary ...

I am the Watchman

Linda Colley: William Cobbett, forerunner of the Sun

20 November 2003
William Cobbett: Selected Writings 
edited by Leonora Nattrass.
Pickering & Chatto, 2312 pp., £495, December 1998, 1 85196 375 8
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Rural rides 
by William Cobbett, edited by Ian Dyck.
Penguin, 576 pp., £9.99, September 2001, 0 14 043579 4
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... Buxton, later Sir Fowell’), perhaps because Nattrass is a literary scholar and not a historian. Yet it is historians who need to work hardest at seeing Cobbett afresh. Literary specialists such as OliviaSmith and Nattrass herself have done sterling work demonstrating the rhetorical art and innovativeness behind his seemingly artless prose, but with some few exceptions – Ian Dyck is one – current ...

Make use of me

Jeremy Treglown: Olivia​ Manning

9 February 2006
Olivia​ Manning: A Life 
by Neville Braybrooke and June Braybrooke.
Chatto, 301 pp., £20, November 2004, 0 7011 7749 7
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... A great many novels nowadays are just travel books,’ Ivy Compton-Burnett grumbled to Barbara Pym in 1960. ‘Olivia has just published one about Bulgaria.’ She hadn’t noticed that the setting of The Great Fortune is in fact Romania. But she had a point. Journeys, voluntary and enforced, are big in Olivia ...

I like you

Hermione Lee: Boston Marriage

24 May 2007
Between Women: Friendship, Desire and Marriage in Victorian England 
by Sharon Marcus.
Princeton, 356 pp., £12.95, March 2007, 978 0 691 12835 1
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... t believe women did such things. Marcus, to her credit writing boldly against the feminist critics and queer theorists – such as Judith Butler, Martha Vicinus, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Carroll Smith-Rosenberg – through whom she has evidently formulated her thinking, proposes a new account of women’s lives in the mid to late 19th century. The advantage of her method is that it complicates our ...

Working under Covers

Paul Laity: Mata Hari

8 January 2004
Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War 
by Tammy Proctor.
New York, 205 pp., $27, June 2003, 0 8147 6693 5
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... Sands and other spy-adventure stories, and were incorrigibly boysy from the start (codes! invisible ink!), run "by the sort of men who called each other Wolly, Bunter, Biffy and Blinker. Mansfield Smith Cumming, the original ‘C.’, thought espionage ‘a capital sport’, and is memorably described by Phillip Knightley in his recently reissued study of 20th-century spying, The Second Oldest ...

Palmers Greenery

Susannah Clapp

19 December 1985
Stevie 
by Jack Barbera and William McBrien.
Heinemann, 378 pp., £15, November 1985, 0 434 44105 8
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... This biography gets off to a bad start with its title. The writer called Stevie Smith was also a celebrity called Stevie – a spiky sprite who was famous for being unfashionable. This creature thrived on being a spinster, which licensed her to be a bit cuckoo, and on speaking her ...

Waving

Anthony Thwaite

27 October 1988
Stevie SmithA Critical Biography 
by Frances Spalding.
Faber, 331 pp., £15, October 1988, 0 571 15207 4
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... In a long tape-recorded conversation she had with Kay Dick in November 1970 (the best source for the flavour of her speech), Stevie Smith remarked: I’m straightforward but I’m not simple ... In some ways I’m romantic but my basic root is profoundly sensible – profoundly sensible. About everything. There is a balance; I am ...

Little Philadelphias

Ange Mlinko: Imagism

25 March 2010
The Verse Revolutionaries: Ezra Pound, H.D. and the Imagists 
by Helen Carr.
Cape, 982 pp., £30, May 2009, 978 0 224 04030 3
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... your great pines On our rocks, Hurl your green over us, Cover us with your pools of fir. The sea poem had come a long way from ‘Casabianca’. As a historian, Carr is ecumenical: William Brooke Smith, a student who died of tuberculosis in 1908, is given as much consideration as Pound’s other early friend William Carlos Williams; Marianne Moore, who matriculated at Bryn Mawr in the same year as ...

Had I been born a hero

Helen Deutsch: Female poets of the eighteenth century

21 September 2006
Eighteenth-Century Women Poets and Their Poetry: Inventing Agency, Inventing Genre 
by Paula Backscheider.
Johns Hopkins, 514 pp., £43.50, January 2006, 0 8018 8169 2
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... range of forms: the fables of Anne Finch, the devout soliloquies of Elizabeth Singer Rowe, the classical elegies of Mary Darwall and Anna Seward, the sonnet sequences of Mary Robinson and Charlotte Smith are only a few examples. The woman poet herself thus becomes a complex character, contemplating her public image with the pleasure of Mary Jones at mid-century: ‘Well, but the joy to see my works ...

Incandescent Memory

Thomas Powers: Mark Twain

28 April 2011
Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol. I 
edited by Harriet Elinor Smith et al.
California, 736 pp., £24.95, November 2010, 978 0 520 26719 0
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... it. After ‘a sober talk’ she allowed the boy, not yet 12, to leave school and learn typesetting at a local printing office. The Florentine dictations stopped with the death of Twain’s wife, Olivia, in June 1904, the second of two powerful blows struck Twain by death. The first had been the sudden and unexpected death of his daughter Susy at 24 in 1896. Twain was in London when the news arrived ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 1986

18 December 1986
... which is shed for thee,’ but, more palatably: ‘This is my ruby liquid.’ And while we’re at it, why not ‘This is the fibre-enriched bread of the New Testament’? London, 5 August. Neville Smith plays the police inspector in the Orton film. He was an undergraduate at Hull and is unimpressed by the current canonisation of Larkin. He came across him twice. Once, waiting at a bus-stop in ...

A Djinn speaks

Colm Tóibín: What about George Yeats?

20 February 2003
Becoming George: The Life of Mrs W.B. Yeats 
by Ann Saddlemyer.
Oxford, 808 pp., £25, September 2002, 0 19 811232 7
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... might marry. In this world of esoteric reading, leisured mysticism, visiting lecturers and poets making it new, Yeats had iconic status. George’s mother knew him: her second husband’s sister was Olivia Shakespear, Dorothy’s mother, with whom Yeats had had an affair and remained on good terms. George met Yeats in 1911. She remembered vividly that she saw him and recognised him one morning in the ...

Between the Raindrops

David Bromwich: The Subtlety of James Stewart

12 December 2002
James Stewart at the NFT 
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... the industry, he later professed to have pleasant memories of the experience. He had affairs with many of his leading ladies, including Ginger Rogers and Marlene Dietrich, as well as Norma Shearer, Olivia de Havilland and others, with no hard feelings on either side except in the case of Dietrich. Maybe he ‘walked between the raindrops’, as a marvelling collaborator once said. But reports are just ...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies

26 January 2012
An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
by J. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... to the Hush-Hush columns of L.A. Confidential: November 16 [1943], six thousand rally at the Shrine Auditorium to celebrate the tenth anniversary of US-Soviet relations, complete with a speech by Olivia de Havilland … The next day, John Wayne learns that the Selective Service board has extended his 3-A deferment. Hot dog! The star celebrates Thanksgiving Day by carving turkeys at the canteen, even ...

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