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High-Meriting, Low-Descended

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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... against the advances of her lascivious master (‘Mr B’), given in her own letters, made what 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 ...

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 ...
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 ...

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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... so I left him in his Chamber, and went downe, lamenting to see a spectacle of so great follie.’All 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 ...
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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... Gillian Beer’s Arguing with the past, a 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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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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... directly confronted issues of injustice (Candide, say, or Montesquieu’s Persian Letters). Instead, 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 ...
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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... his prospects were difficult to assess because he was working in a mode which, while fashionable enough 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 ...

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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... with his family, Swift’s conservatism seems to consist, here at least, in a rejection of all ideological 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 ...


Pamela​ Thomas: Tea with Marshal Tito

6 October 2005
... of wine and a warm welcome. There were several regulars, of various ethnicities. There was Jovo, a Montenegrin with a huge black moustache. There was Paul, a Serb, who had been a partisan and had a long scar on his cheek. There was a Slovenian hunter who wore a Tyrolean jacket and played the accordion. My mother would rustle up something to eat, and everybody would sit around the Tilley lamp and ...

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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... income that allows him to buy a piece of land in the country and build himself a house. But rigidly 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 ...

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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... prose. Lines of this sort allowed people to think the great viceroy of India a wise and unburdened fellow, 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 ...
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 ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Godot on a bike

5 February 2004
... about where Beckett got the name from. One is that he was in a town through which the Tour de France 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 ...

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