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Unhappy Childhoods

John Sutherland, 2 February 1989

Trollope and Character 
by Stephen Wall.
Faber, 397 pp., £17.50, September 1988, 0 571 14595 7
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The Chronicler of Barsetshire: A Life of Anthony Trollope 
by R.H. Super.
Michigan, 528 pp., $35, December 1988, 0 472 10102 1
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Dickens: A Biography 
by Fred Kaplan.
Hodder, 607 pp., £17.95, November 1988, 0 340 48558 2
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Charlotte Brontë 
by Rebecca Fraser.
Methuen, 543 pp., £14.95, October 1988, 9780413570109
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... say, ‘the authoritative record of facts as they actually occurred’. In her new biography, Rebecca Fraser is rather in two minds about Lowood/Cowan Bridge. She scrupulously notes the major anomaly: would Patrick Brontë – ‘naturally kind-hearted’ – have kept his children at a school only fifty miles away where they were being tortured ...

Her pen made the first move

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 7 July 1994

Charlotte Brontë: A Passionate Life 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Chatto, 418 pp., £17.99, March 1994, 9780701161378
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Shared Lives 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Vintage, 285 pp., £6.99, March 1994, 0 09 942461 4
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The Sickroom in Victorian Fiction: The Art of Being Ill 
by Miriam Bailin.
Cambridge, 169 pp., £30, April 1994, 0 521 44526 4
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... allusions to hidden fires. Though Gordon duly acknowledges 20th-century biographies by Gérin and Rebecca Fraser, among others, she nonetheless contends that the protective design of Gaskell’s Life still obscures our vision of the novelist. Of course, Gaskell did set out to vindicate her friend as well as to commemorate her, and she evidently ...

If It Weren’t for Charlotte

Alice Spawls: The Brontës, 16 November 2017

... to their number … lays a particular obligation on the biographer to make his purpose plain.’ Rebecca Fraser justified her Life on the basis that the twenty years since Gérin’s had brought much material to light. ‘Yet another biography,’ Barker writes in The Brontës, ‘requires an apology, or at least an explanation.’ Harman doesn’t ...

Nice Guy

Michael Wood, 14 November 1996

The Life and Work of Harold Pinter 
by Michael Billington.
Faber, 414 pp., £20, November 1996, 0 571 17103 6
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... Vivien Merchant in 1980 (she died two years later of alcoholic poisoning) and married Antonia Fraser. During the Sixties, Pinter had, we now learn, an affair with TV presenter Joan Bakewell, which Billington, before finally coming clean, presents to us with remarkable coyness. We are first told that Pinter ‘began a serious extra-marital relationship ...

Lotti’s Leap

Penelope Fitzgerald, 1 July 1982

Collected Poems and Prose 
by Charlotte Mew, edited by Val Warner.
Carcanet/Virago, 445 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 85635 260 8
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... a best-seller, instead of an academic “doubtsell”.’ In this he was disappointed, but Dame Rebecca West allowed him to see a letter from G.B. Stern, recalling how May Sinclair had told them, in her ‘neat, precise little voice’, that Charlotte Mew had chased her upstairs into her bedroom, ‘and I assure you, Peter, and I assure you, ...


Stefan Collini: C. Day-Lewis, 6 September 2007

C. Day-Lewis: A Life 
by Peter Stanford.
Continuum, 368 pp., £25, May 2007, 978 0 8264 8603 5
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... what Stanford calls ‘a rousing hymn of classless patriotism at a time of national emergency’. (Rebecca West commented more tartly that it was ‘the East Mediterranean edition of the Farmers’ Weekly … two thousand years out of date’.) The translation sold more than 11,000 copies, an index of the general appetite for reading-matter during the war as ...

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