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A Talent for Beginnings

Michael Wood: Musil starts again, 15 April 1999

Diaries 1899-1942 
by Robert Musil, translated by Philip Payne.
Basic Books, 557 pp., £27.50, January 1999, 0 465 01650 2
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... Writers in the early part of our century fell in love with the interminable work, the book that seemed infinite. The Cantos, Remembrance of Things Past, The Man without Qualities were all tasks designed to last the writer’s lifetime, and they did. But there are degrees and differences among these projects. The Cantos were a ragbag, as Pound once half-mockingly called them, into which he could throw the contents of his mind in the form of poetry, but they were a ragbag that dreamed of a secret ordering ...


Ian Hamilton, 21 October 1982

Women Working: Prostitution Now 
by Eileen McLeod.
Croom Helm, 177 pp., £6.95, August 1982, 0 7099 1717 1
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An English Madam: The Life and Work of Cynthia Payne 
by Paul Bailey.
Cape, 166 pp., £7.50, October 1982, 0 224 02037 4
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All the Girls 
by Martin O’Brien.
Macmillan, 268 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 333 31099 3
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... if Carol let them play on into extra time. Or so I hazard after reading the confessions of Cynthia Payne, the ‘madam’ jailed in 1978 for running ‘a disorderly house’ in Streatham. The police raided her place during a Christmas party and picked up 17 women and 53 ‘middle-aged to elderly’ men, including clergymen, MPs, barristers and diplomats. Only ...

Radio Fun

Philip Purser, 27 June 1991

A Social History of British Broadcasting. Vol. I: 1922-29, Serving the Nation 
by Paddy Scannell and David Cardiff.
Blackwell, 441 pp., £30, April 1991, 0 631 17543 1
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The Collected Essays of Asa Briggs. Vol. III: Serious Pursuits, Communication and Education 
Harvester Wheatsheaf, 470 pp., £30, May 1991, 0 7450 0536 5Show More
The British Press and Broadcasting since 1945 
by Colin Seymour-Ure.
Blackwell, 269 pp., £29.95, May 1991, 9780631164432
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... so small it couldn’t be measured. Same with dance music in the heyday of the dance bands: Jack Payne, Henry Hall and Ambrose were all tuneful and popular; the more rarified Fred Elizalde at the Savoy was so disliked that he had to be dropped from the rota. And for the first time, as far as I know, a history of pre-war radio pays serious attention to the ...

Manufactured Humbug

Frank Kermode: A great forger of the nineteenth century, 16 December 2004

John Payne Collier: Scholarship and Forgery in the 19th Century 
by Arthur Freeman and Janet Ing Freeman.
Yale, 1483 pp., £100, August 2004, 0 300 09661 5
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... of others, and had justified doubts about some of the work of one senior scholar, John Payne Collier. Halliwell was still only 20 when, in 1840, he joined three distinguished figures – Alexander Dyce, Charles Knight and Collier – in founding the Shakespeare Society. Collier was then around fifty, with another forty-odd years to live. He was ...

In Finest Fig

E.S. Turner: The Ocean Greyhounds, 20 October 2005

The Liner: Retrospective and Renaissance 
by Philip Dawson, foreword by Stephen Payne.
Conway Maritime, 256 pp., £30, July 2005, 0 85177 938 7
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... masters, cutting out the ship’s stewards, a Cunard carry-on I did not know about until I read Philip Dawson’s The Liner. Perhaps such things also happened aboard the ‘ocean greyhounds’ of the Axis. Hitler’s dashing duo were the Bremen, which had a catapult-operated light aircraft, and the Europa; Mussolini’s matched pair were the Rex and the ...

Sour Plums

John Lanchester, 26 October 1989

The Letters of John Cheever 
edited by Benjamin Cheever.
Cape, 397 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 224 02689 5
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Mary McCarthy 
by Carol Gelderman.
Sidgwick, 430 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 283 99797 4
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The company she keeps 
by Mary McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 246 pp., £4.50, October 1989, 0 297 79649 6
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... told Farrell that his action had ‘changed my life – for the better’. She fell in with Philip Rahv, Dwight Macdonald and other young intellectuals disillusioned with Stalinism, and they founded Partisan Review, with the intention of making it an independent, left-minded commentator on literature and politics. The personal consequences of all this ...

Well, was he?

A.N. Wilson, 20 June 1996

Bernard Shaw: The Ascent of the Superman 
by Sally Peters.
Yale, 328 pp., £18.95, April 1996, 0 300 06097 1
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... metaphor might be the long, reasonably happy and apparently sexless marriage with Charlotte Payne-Townshend, who belonged to that class from which Shaw felt excluded by the alcoholism and improvidence of his immediate forebears: the Protestant Irish gentry. For all his frequent and often passionate flirtations with women – mainly actresses, but a few ...

Magical Orange Grove

Anne Diebel: Lowell falls in love again, 11 August 2016

Robert Lowell in Love 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Massachusetts, 288 pp., £36.50, December 2015, 978 1 62534 186 0
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... him in America; Hardwick waited for the episode to pass. Lowell was conducting the affair from the Payne Whitney Clinic, to which he had been committed after his third breakdown. ‘The whole business was sincere enough,’ he told a friend after his release from hospital and return to Hardwick, ‘but a stupid pathological mirage, a magical orange grove in a ...

Who wouldn’t buy it?

Colin Burrow: Speculating about Shakespeare, 20 January 2005

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Cape, 430 pp., £20, October 2004, 9780224062763
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... a steady income for himself and his heirs. He was never above suing: in 1604 he took his neighbour Philip Rogers to court for a debt of 35 shillings and ten pence. When a group of local notables sought late in his life to enclose common land near Stratford, he prudently did not interfere, once he had satisfied himself that his income from tithes was safe. The ...

Astral Projection

Alison Light: The Case of the Croydon Poltergeist, 17 December 2020

The Haunting of Alma Fielding: A True Ghost Story 
by Kate Summerscale.
Bloomsbury, 345 pp., £18.99, October, 978 1 4088 9545 0
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... that their ‘astral bodies’ were probably specks of dust on the plates (a version, perhaps, of Philip Pullman’s ‘dark materials’). He got himself injected with mescaline to enhance his senses. Fodor and Evans also examined the ‘psychic telegraph’, the ‘Communigraph’ and ‘Reflectograph’, inventions marketed by the medium Louisa Bolt and ...

Eliot and the Shudder

Frank Kermode: The Shudder, 13 May 2010

... to steal it. If, as I think, the only textual support for ‘bewildering’ was supplied by John Payne Collier, the Victorian scholar and forger, we can even say that Eliot chose a reading he knew to be fraudulent just because he liked it better. (You need authority to do that, and Eliot had some to spare: compare the acceptance into English dictionaries of ...

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