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John Mullan: The Unpolished Pamela

12 December 2002
Pamelaor, Virtue Rewarded 
by Samuel Richardson, edited by Thomas Keymer and Alice Wakely.
Oxford, 592 pp., £6.99, June 2001, 0 19 282960 2
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... we now call ‘the Novel’ (though Richardson never attached this label to his book) respectable. Pamela caused an unprecedented stir, exciting something like a national argument about the purposes and value of fiction. It was the model for a new literature, whose influence we still feel. For a long time it has been the ...

He wants me no more

Tessa Hadley: Pamela Hansford Johnson

21 January 2016
Pamela Hansford Johnson: Her Life, Works and Times 
by Wendy Pollard.
Shepheard-Walwyn, 500 pp., £25, October 2014, 978 0 85683 298 7
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... Pamela Hansford who​ ? When I asked friends and family, they vaguely knew the name but couldn’t place it – until I said she was married to C.P. Snow and then they vaguely remembered that too. They were much clearer about him: the two cultures argument, and Leavis’s vituperation, and some novels revolving around Cambridge colleges ...
31 July 1997
... Pamela, my grandmother, is in her garden. The photograph shows a woman in the cloche hat and low, belted dress of the early Twenties; the face is smooth, and the jaw more pronounced than in the dreamy pictures of the years before the war. The sun is shining: whoever holds the camera is a favourite, neither a stranger nor a threat ...

What if it breaks?

Anthony Grafton: Renovating Rome

25 November 2019
Engineering the Eternal City: Infrastructure, Topography and the Culture of Knowledge in Late 16th-Century Rome 
by Pamela Long.
Chicago, 369 pp., £34, November 2018, 978 0 226 59128 5
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... of these men, in their different ways, acknowledged a fundamental truth about Rome: the long neglected centre of the Church was transforming itself into the grandest of cities. In the early 15th century, when the papacy returned from its Babylonian captivity in Avignon, Rome was a shadow of its ancient imperial self. Perhaps twenty thousand people ...
23 November 1989
Arguing with the past: Essays in Narrative from Woolf to Sidney 
by Gillian Beer.
Routledge, 206 pp., £25, August 1989, 0 415 02607 5
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Samuel Richardson: Tercentenary Essays 
edited by Margaret Anne Doody and Peter Sabor.
Cambridge, 306 pp., £35, July 1989, 0 521 35383 1
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... collection of essays published in recent years (with one, on Richardson and Milton, dating from as long ago as 1968), is richly written, contains many sharp critical insights, and shows the author to have a good ear for nuances of language in the literary works she chooses to discuss. At the same time, she reveals some straining in her pursuit of the chief ...

Such Little Trousers

Lavinia Greenlaw: Pamela Hansford Johnson

21 March 2019
This Bed Thy Centre 
by Pamela Hansford Johnson.
Hodder, 288 pp., £8.99, October 2018, 978 1 4736 7985 6
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An Impossible Marriage 
by Pamela Hansford Johnson.
Hodder, 352 pp., £8.99, October 2018, 978 1 4736 7980 1
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The Last Resort 
by Pamela Hansford Johnson.
Hodder, 352 pp., £8.99, October 2018, 978 1 4736 7994 8
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The Holiday Friend 
by Pamela Hansford Johnson.
Hodder, 272 pp., £8.99, October 2018, 978 1 4736 7987 0
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... When​ Pamela Hansford Johnson died in 1981, the New York Times described her as ‘one of England’s best-known novelists’. I knew her name, or thought I did, but couldn’t recall the title of any of her books. Her 27 novels are mostly out of print. The New York Times briskly sets them aside, along with their author: Her death came almost a year after that of C ...

Locum, Lacum, Lucum

Anthony Grafton: The Emperor of Things

13 September 2018
Pietro Bembo and the Intellectual Pleasures of a Renaissance Writer and Art Collector 
by Susan Nalezyty.
Yale, 277 pp., £50, May 2017, 978 0 300 21919 7
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Pietro Bembo on Etna: The Ascent of a Venetian Humanist 
by Gareth Williams.
Oxford, 440 pp., £46.49, August 2017, 978 0 19 027229 6
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... In​ 1496 Pietro Bembo, a young Venetian scholar, published a short book on a long walk he had taken with a friend. Their hike led them from Messina, where the two of them had been studying Greek with Constantine Lascaris, to the top of Mount Etna. No one had seen a book like De Aetna. Mountains, though some curious thinkers had climbed them, were usually seen as fearsome and inhuman ...

Un Dret Egal

David A. Bell: Political Sentiment

15 November 2007
Inventing Human Rights: A History 
by Lynn Hunt.
Norton, 272 pp., £15.99, April 2007, 978 0 393 06095 9
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... Hunt draws attention to epistolary novels of private lives and loves, above all Richardson’s Pamela and Clarissa, and Rousseau’s Julie. These books received frenzied popular and critical acclaim, but not because they said anything about constitutions and rights, even allegorically. What they did do, according to Hunt, was to encourage readers to ...
3 December 1981
Who was Oswald Fish? 
by A.N. Wilson.
Secker, 314 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 436 57606 6
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... to be taken for granted, is both demanding and problematic. His heroine, Evelyn Tradescant, not long down from Newnham, finds herself drawn into the orbit of an elderly German, Baron Dietrich Gormann, known to his friends as ‘Theo’. This mysterious figure, once, some suspect, a Nazi sympathiser, but recently an Aldermaston marcher, proves to have ...

Upright Ends

Vincent Newey

1 October 1987
The Origins of the English Novel, 1660-1740 
by Michael McKeon.
Johns Hopkins, 530 pp., £21.25, April 1987, 0 8018 3291 8
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... idealism in favour of old-fashioned ‘humanity’. Anyone who reads McKeon’s chapter on Pamela will find it hard to resist reading or rereading Richardson’s first masterpiece (now undervalued in comparison with the much-discussed Clarissa). The epistolary technique presses to the limit the empiricist pursuit of documentary objectivity, yet ...


Pamela Thomas: Tea with Marshal Tito

6 October 2005
... Bohinj, near Bled, in Slovenia. We rented a one-room shack in a field, and fixed up a kitchen alongside from the tarpaulin that had covered our roof-rack. We three slept in tents, our parents slept in the shack, and the lake became the centre of our lives. We swam in it. We washed our clothes in it. We embedded our tin plates in the pebbles after ...

On Needing to Be Looked After

Tim Parks: Beckett’s Letters

1 December 2011
The Letters of Samuel Beckett: 1941-56 
edited by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn and Lois More Overbeck.
Cambridge, 791 pp., £30, September 2011, 978 0 521 86794 8
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... defined and often extravagantly asymmetrical relationships were nothing new to Beckett and had long been a staple of his narratives. In Murphy the eponymous unemployed hero lounges blindfold on his rocking chair, philosophising, while his girlfriend is expected to pay for everything and obliged to prostitute herself to do so. Murphy is really sorry about ...

Poor Hitler

Andrew O’Hagan: Toff Humour

15 November 2007
The Mitfords: Letters between Six Sisters 
edited by Charlotte Mosley.
Fourth Estate, 834 pp., £25, September 2007, 978 1 84115 790 0
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... just as such lines allowed people to forgive the diarist Alan Clark any number of horrors so long as he raised a smile when he wrote them down. The talent to write poshly is quickly taken as the talent to write well. It remains a kind of honesty that English readers – or English readers of English writers – prize above thoughtfulness, and certainly ...
21 November 1985
Money into Light 
by John Boorman.
Faber, 241 pp., £4.95, September 1985, 0 571 13731 8
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... The sun shines bright on the homely Victorine film studios in Nice. Meet Pamela is poised to go. Director Ferrand, however, is case-hardened; he knows that, on even such a straightforward programme-filler as this, compromise will be inevitable. Sure enough, the cat is disobedient. Increasingly dependent on the bottle, the actress playing the hero’s mother forgets her lines but stands on her dignity: ‘With Federico it was just – One, two three!’ The lab ruins a crowd scene ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Godot on a bike

5 February 2004
... had recently passed, and came across a group of people standing expectantly on a street corner long after the cyclists had disappeared. He asked them what they were doing. ‘Nous attendons Godot,’ they replied, explaining that Godot was the oldest and slowest competitor in the race. Beckett is also supposed to have come up with the idea for the play ...

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