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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 ...

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 ...

A Big Life

Michael Hofmann: Seamus Heaney, 4 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 ...

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 ...

War is noise

Jonathan Raban: Letters from My Father, 17 December 2020

... them difficult to spot from the air.This slow progress allowed my father, Territorial Army Captain Peter Raban of (to give his full address) ‘A’ Troop, 265 Battery, 67th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, to spend much of 21 January putting the finishing touches to an unusually long and well-thought-out letter to my mother, which reads as if he put it ...

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 ...

Great Kings, Strong Kings, Kings of the Four Quarters

Peter Green: The Achaemenids, 7 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 ...

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 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 ...

Florey Story

Peter Medawar, 20 December 1979

Howard Florey: The Making of a Great Scientist 
by Gwyn Macfarlane.
Oxford, 396 pp., £7.95
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... publishers with the notion of a biography, they wondered if he would not do better to write on Alexander Fleming instead. This, Macfarlane surmises, was because the public had already cast Fleming as the hero of the great penicillin story: he was a closer approximation than Howard Florey to the public’s stereotype of a great scientist, for, although a ...

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 ...

Short Cuts

Peter Geoghegan: Brexit and the SNP, 3 November 2016

... in Edinburgh. Even then Labour could have reasserted control. In 2008, its then leader, Wendy Alexander, tried to push the SNP into calling an independence referendum – ‘Bring it on,’ she said – but she was slapped down by Gordon Brown, under the advice of Alexander’s brother Douglas. Within months she was out ...

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