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Bloody Horse

Samuel Hynes, 1 December 1983

Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography 
by Peter Alexander.
Oxford, 277 pp., £12.50, March 1981, 0 19 211750 5
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The Selected Poems of Roy Campbell 
edited by Peter Alexander.
Oxford, 131 pp., £7.50, July 1982, 9780192119469
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... decency nor even polemical coherence: it is, in every way, a bad book. And it is a fascist book. Peter Alexander, in his biography, dismisses the charge that Campbell was a fascist as a ‘slur’: he was, says Alexander, merely a political simpleton. That’s true, certainly: but then, fascism is a simpleton’s ...
Friends of Promise: Cyril Connolly and the World of ‘Horizon’ 
by Michael Shelden.
Hamish Hamilton, 254 pp., £15.95, February 1989, 0 241 12647 9
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Coastwise Lights 
by Alan Ross.
Collins Harvill, 254 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 00 271767 0
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William Plomer 
by Peter Alexander.
Oxford, 397 pp., £25, March 1989, 0 19 212243 6
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... the last war it was Connolly and Koestler and Spender, William Plomer, Alun Lewis, Dylan Thomas, Peter Quennell. Some still have life or fame or both, some not: but then, not now, was their moment. Was Connolly himself any good as a writer? The question means little because the point of Connolly turned out to be Connolly not producing the masterpieces which ...

Pound and the Perfect Lady

Donald Davie, 19 September 1985

Pound’s Artists: Ezra Pound and the Visual Arts in London, Paris and Italy 
by Richard Humphreys.
Tate Gallery, 176 pp., £12.95, June 1985, 0 946590 28 1
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Ezra Pound and Dorothy Shakespear: Their Letters 1909-1914 
edited by Omar Pound and A. Walton Litz.
Faber, 399 pp., £25, January 1985, 0 571 13480 7
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... thereafter in Italy. Carpenter, predictably, finds the three essayists – Richard Humphreys, John Alexander and Peter Robinson – ‘taking a rather solemn approach to the whole thing’; whereas, he assures us, Pound’s exertions on behalf of these arts partook ‘more than a little of the amiable joke’. Before it is ...

State Theatre

Peter Burke, 22 January 1987

The Rome of Alexander VII: 1655-1667 
by Richard Krautheimer.
Princeton, 199 pp., £16.80, November 1985, 9780691040325
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Firearms and Fortifications: Military Architecture and Siege Warfare in 16th-century Siena 
by Simon Pepper and Nicholas Adams.
Chicago, 245 pp., £21.25, October 1986, 0 226 65534 2
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... book, which focuses on Rome in the middle of the 17th century, in the age of Bernini and Pope Alexander VII. Written with a marvellous economy and clarity in a prose at once elegant and colloquial, sound in its scholarship, and penetrating in its judgments, stripped bare of superfluities and going straight to essentials, this book is a fine example of the ...

At the Hayward

Peter Campbell: Alexander Rodchenko, 24 April 2008

... When Alexander Rodchenko began taking photographs in 1924 he was in his early thirties and already known as a painter of severe abstracts and maker of constructions and photomontages. He produced many of his most memorable photographs during his first few years with a camera: his wife, Varvara Stepanova, smiling with a cigarette gripped between her teeth; his mother, holding folded spectacles up to one eye; and several portraits of Mayakovsky ...

A Big Life

Michael Hofmann: Seamus Heaney, 3 June 2015

New Selected Poems 1988-2013 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 222 pp., £18.99, November 2014, 978 0 571 32171 1
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... is light years on the go/From far away and takes light years arriving.’ Murray’s biographer, Peter Alexander, makes the striking claim that Murray had the poorest background of any English poet since Keats. Enough to bend anyone not double – which is a misnomer really – but half. One might as well go for an astronaut. And yet Heaney is ...

The Tsar in Tears

Greg Afinogenov: Alexander I, 7 February 2013

Alexander I: The Tsar Who Defeated Napoleon 
by Marie-Pierre Rey, translated by Susan Emanuel.
Northern Illinois, 439 pp., £26, November 2012, 978 0 87580 466 8
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... I am satisfied with Alexander and he ought to be satisfied with me,’ Napoleon wrote to the Empress Josephine in 1807. ‘If he were a woman, I think I would make him my mistress.’ Within five years, the tsar would repay Napoleon’s condescension by rolling back his conquests all across Europe, driving him to Paris and then St Helena, and finally building the Concert of Europe on the remains of his empire ...

For his Nose was as sharpe as a Pen, and a Table of greene fields

Michael Dobson: The Yellow Shakespeare, 10 May 2007

William Shakespeare, Complete Works: The RSC Shakespeare 
edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen.
Macmillan, 2486 pp., £30, April 2007, 978 0 230 00350 7
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... and its reprints (1632, 1663-64, 1685), followed by the editions of Nicholas Rowe (1709), Alexander Pope (1725), Lewis Theobald (1733), Sir Thomas Hanmer (1744) and William Warburton (1747) – and each had been able to offer what a modern commissioning editor would call a Unique Selling Point. The First Folio had supplied 18 plays which had never ...

Great Kings, Strong Kings, Kings of the Four Quarters

Peter Green: The Achaemenids, 6 May 2015

Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550-330 BCE 
by Matt Waters.
Cambridge, 252 pp., £19.99, January 2014, 978 0 521 25369 7
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... above 57 lbs, the Persian empire’s reputation for vast wealth wasn’t a literary myth. When Alexander raided the Achaemenid treasuries a century later, the takings funded his costly campaigns – including vast bribes to battle-weary veterans – for several years, and still left plenty for his successors. The vast size of the empire didn’t diminish ...

Falling Stars

Alan Coren, 5 November 1981

Richard Burton 
by Paul Ferris.
Weidenfeld, 212 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 297 77966 4
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Peter Sellers 
by Alexander Walker.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 297 77965 6
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... to determine which is the better book. Richard Burton was printed by Butler and Tanner Limited, Peter Sellers by the Fakenham Press, and since the one establishment is in Somerset and the other in Norfolk, it is fair to absolve both of them from the sort of catchpenny opportunist hustling which these days has the publishing world of London by the ...

What the hell happened?

Alexander Star: Philip Roth, 4 February 1999

I Married a Communist 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 323 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 224 05258 6
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... and lawyers in support of Henry Wallace’s 1948 Presidential campaign. And in My life as a Man, Peter Tarnopol’s brother Moe offers his children edifying bedside stories: ‘Instead of Pinocchio, Joe McCarthy; instead of Uncle Remus, tales of Paul Robeson and Martin Luther King.’ Even Alexander Portnoy is a trusted ...

Homage to Ezra Pound

C.K. Stead, 19 March 1981

The Poetic Achievement of Ezra Pound 
by Michael Alexander.
Faber, 247 pp., £7.95, April 1979, 0 571 10560 2
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Ezra Pound and the Pisan Cantos 
by Anthony Woodward.
Routledge, 128 pp., £7.95, April 1980, 0 7100 0372 2
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Ezra Pound and the Cantos: A Record of Struggle 
by Wendy Stallard Flory.
Yale, 321 pp., £12.60, July 1980, 0 300 02392 8
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Ezra Pound and His World 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Thames and Hudson, 127 pp., £5.95, February 1981, 0 500 13069 8
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End to Torment: A Memoir of Ezra Pound with Poems from Ezra Pound’s H.D. Book 
edited by Norman Holmes Pearson and Michael King.
Carcanet, 84 pp., £2.95, February 1980, 0 85635 318 3
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... of the Fifties) Donald Davie, who kept the subject respectable, the interest alive. Michael Alexander suggests that ‘indifference and bafflement are today more common than hostility,’ and that may be so. But there has been some excellent work done on Pound recently: Richard Sieburth’s Instigations, Leon Surette’s A Light from Eleusis, and now ...

Barclay’s War

David Chandler, 19 March 1981

The Commander: A Life of Barclay de Tolly 
by Michael Josselson and Diana Josselson.
Oxford, 275 pp., £12.95, June 1980, 0 19 215854 6
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... of Austerlitz on his reputation, but set over Barclay’s head as supreme commander (after Tsar Alexander) as the crisis of the 1812 campaign was reached after the abandonment of Smolensk. Of course, Kutusov’s reputation with posterity owes much to Tolstoy’s portrait in War and Peace, where the drunken old womaniser is depicted as a Russian ...

Against Hellenocentrism

Peter Green: Persia v. the West, 8 August 2013

Trouble in the West: Egypt and the Persian Empire, 525-332 BC 
by Stephen Ruzicka.
Oxford, 311 pp., £45, April 2012, 978 0 19 976662 8
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King and Court in Ancient Persia 559 to 331 BCE 
by Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones.
Edinburgh, 258 pp., £24.99, January 2013, 978 0 7486 4125 3
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... of the Persian empire (335-23) by the short-lived and ambiguously Hellenic world conqueror Alexander III of Macedon. These extraordinary events – and the Greek writers who, propagandists all, preserved them for posterity – dictated, in definitive and compelling fashion, the triumph, over two millennia of European history, of the Hellenocentric ...

The vanquished party, as likely as not innocent, was dragged half-dead to the gallows

Alexander Murray: Huizinga’s history of the Middle Ages, 19 March 1998

The Autumn of the Middle Ages 
by John Huizinga, translated by Rodney Payton.
Chicago, 560 pp., £15.95, December 1997, 0 226 35994 8
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... feeds a suspicion – and fed one for Huizinga’s contemporary critics, his countryman Peter Geyl foremost among them – that Huizinga saw ‘autumn’ in his sources because he had a pessimistic cast of mind. It was surely that same, slightly aloof sense that civilisation was crumbling which led him to focus his researches mainly on the ...

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