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Sour Apple

José Harris, 5 July 1984

H.G. Wells: Aspects of a Life 
by Anthony West.
Hutchinson, 405 pp., £12.95, June 1984, 0 09 134540 5
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Heritage 
by Anthony West.
Secker, 305 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 436 56592 7
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... with a variety of women in addition to his wife. One of Wells’s most famous liaisons was with Rebecca West, mother of the author of the latest Wells biography. They met in 1912 when she was 19, he 45. He was an established novelist and social critic, she an ambitious young feminist author, who was beginning to make a name for herself by tart and ...

Dame Cissie

Penelope Fitzgerald, 12 November 1987

Rebecca WestA Life 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Weidenfeld, 288 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 297 79084 6
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Family Memories 
by Rebecca West and Faith Evans.
Virago, 255 pp., £14.95, November 1987, 0 86068 741 4
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... English writers in defence of peace and collective security, had to toss up to decide between Rebecca West and Rose Macaulay for the place of honour. Between these three women enough power should have been generated even for an impossible cause. They were tireless collectors of facts – Rose used to take her newspaper-cuttings everywhere – and ...

Ladies and Gentlemen

Patricia Beer, 6 May 1982

The Young RebeccaWritings of Rebecca West 1911-17 
by Jane Marcus.
Macmillan, 340 pp., £9.95, April 1982, 0 333 25589 5
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The Harsh Voice 
by Rebecca West, introduced by Alexandra Pringle.
Virago, 250 pp., £2.95, February 1982, 0 86068 249 8
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The Meaning of Treason 
by Rebecca West.
Virago, 439 pp., £3.95, February 1982, 0 86068 256 0
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1990 
by Rebecca West.
Weidenfeld, 190 pp., £10, February 1982, 9780297779636
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... The Young Rebecca is a collection of the writings of Rebecca West from 1911 to 1917, selected and introduced by Jane Marcus, with just the right amount of explanation and comment. In one respect it is an unfortunate title, suggesting an item from the cast-list of almost any black-and-white film about almost any celebrity, but in the respect that it makes a point of Rebecca West’s youth, it is a good title ...

Little Men

Susannah Clapp, 7 August 1986

Sunflower 
by Rebecca West.
Virago, 276 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 86068 719 8
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... Rebecca West liked short men. Towards the end of her life a young journalist went to interview her. He arrived late, to hear West’s companion announce: ‘He’s worth waiting for!’ When West appeared her face fell. ‘Oh, you’re tall,’ she said damningly ...

Big Thinks

Rosemary Dinnage, 22 June 2000

Selected Letters of Rebecca West 
edited by Bonnie Kime Scott.
Yale, 497 pp., £22.50, May 2000, 0 300 07904 4
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... Rebecca West died 17 years ago at 90, in a comfortable flat overlooking Hyde Park. She was a Dame Commander of the British Empire, to her amusement and gratification. Will she be remembered more as a character, thoroughly damely and commanding, or for her writings? Eleven novels, of no outstanding literary merit; nine other books on general subjects, of which the most admired (and especially relevant today) is Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, on Yugoslavia; a mass of articles on the public affairs of her time ...

‘You are my heart’s delight’

Susannah Clapp, 7 June 1984

A Portrait of Fryn: A Biography of F. Tennyson Jesse 
by Joanna Colenbrander.
Deutsch, 305 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 233 97572 1
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... According to Rebecca West, F. Tennyson Jesse was ‘ideally beautiful. I have never seen a lovelier girl.’ A sketch in Joanna Colenbrander’s biography shows a flat, winsome face with wide, rather fishy eyes; her thin limbs are splayed out with flapperish elegance. It may be that her attractions – a fat bundle of love-letters was destroyed when she died, and Mrs Colenbrander finds several witnesses to testify to her ‘aura’ – had less to do with ideal beauty than with loquaciousness and flair ...

Whakapapa

D.A.N. Jones, 21 November 1985

The Prague Orgy 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 89 pp., £5.95, October 1985, 0 224 02815 4
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Loyalties 
by Raymond Williams.
Chatto, 378 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 7011 2843 7
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Cousin Rosamund 
by Rebecca West.
Macmillan, 295 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 333 39797 5
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The Battle of Pollocks Crossing 
by J.L. Carr.
Viking, 176 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 670 80559 9
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The Bone People 
by Keri Hulme.
Hodder, 450 pp., £9.95, July 1985, 0 340 37024 6
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... on? Loyalties does, in its mysterious way, say more about the subject promised by its title than Rebecca West managed with The Meaning of Treason. She was not very good at moralising, because of her strong tendency to be self-righteous and unfair. But she was good at creating female characters and presenting grand scenes through their eyes. Cousin ...

Big Head, Many Brains

Colin Burrow: H.G. Wells, 16 June 2011

A Man of Parts 
by David Lodge.
Harvill, 565 pp., £18.99, March 2011, 978 1 84655 496 4
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... to kill herself in front of him, and a few (not many) prostitutes. And there was also of course Rebecca West, whom he called his ‘panther’, and by whom he had a son (whose middle name was Panther) in 1914. West was particularly critical of his writing about sex: ‘His prose,’ she wrote, ‘suddenly loses its ...

Megawoman

Penelope Fitzgerald, 13 October 1988

Olive Schreiner: Letters. Vol.1:1871-1899 
edited by Richard Rive.
Oxford, 409 pp., £30, February 1988, 0 19 812220 9
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... Rebecca West said that Olive Schreiner was a ‘geographical fact’. Others were reminded of a natural force, admired and dreaded, unchecked by illness, war or poverty, something new coming out of Africa. To fit her into the history of South Africa, of literature or of women’s movements is an exhausting business ...

Hooting

Edward Pearce, 22 October 1992

Beaverbrook 
by Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie.
Hutchinson, 589 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 09 173549 1
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... birthday in 1911, Max Aitken’s flair had brought him a knighthood to add to membership of the Westminster Parliament, friendship with Bonar Law, the key Tory backbencher Edward Goulding, and the Imperial moralist/moraliser Rudyard Kipling, as well as sundry millions of pounds. The money had come fast, very fast from Halifax, St John and Montreal. Starting ...

Picshuas

P.N. Furbank, 18 October 1984

Experiment in Autobiography: Discoveries and Conclusion of a Very Ordinary Brain (since 1866) 
by H.G. Wells.
Faber, 838 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 571 13330 4
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H.G. Wells in Love: Postscript to an Experiment in Autobiography 
edited by G.P. Wells.
Faber, 253 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 571 13329 0
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The Man with a Nose, and the Other Uncollected Short Stories of H.G. Wells 
edited by J.R. Hammond.
Athlone, 212 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 485 11247 7
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... from sexual jealousy: this is the picture given also by others, including Wells’s son Anthony West. It is just that there is so much more that one would like to know about her, and would need to be told if the autobiography were to be really satisfying. As for H.G. Wells in Love, it consists of two unequal portions. First there is a long ‘Postscript to ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

Peter Campbell: Wyndham Lewis, 11 September 2008

... exhibition makes much of the telegram Walter Sickert sent Lewis in 1932. The pencil portrait of Rebecca West, Sickert said, proved Lewis to be ‘the greatest portraitist of this or any other time’. Sickert would probably not have committed his telegraphic praise of the portraits to print. On the other hand Lewis’s rhythmic curves and hard lines ...

Grandiose Moments

Frank Kermode, 6 February 1997

Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life, Vol. II 
by Max Saunders.
Oxford, 696 pp., £35, September 1996, 0 19 212608 3
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... able to consult many surviving friends of Ford, including Allen Tate, Herbert Read, Jean Rhys and Rebecca West. He also had access to the papers of Ford’s mistress Violet Hunt and the Ford collections in various American libraries, notably those of Cornell and Princeton. Judd and Saunders were denied by death of useful contemporary testimony, except ...

Holy Terrors

Penelope Fitzgerald, 4 December 1986

‘Elizabeth’: The Author of ‘Elizabeth and her German Garden’ 
by Karen Usborne.
Bodley Head, 341 pp., £15, October 1986, 0 370 30887 5
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Alison Uttley: The Life of a Country Child 
by Denis Judd.
Joseph, 264 pp., £15.95, October 1986, 0 7181 2449 9
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Richmal Crompton: The Woman behind William 
by Mary Cadogan.
Allen and Unwin, 169 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 04 928054 6
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... her independent. Independence made her Elizabeth. ‘It is by independence we live,’ she wrote. Rebecca West, who competed later with the Countess as a lover of H.G. Wells, was wrong in calling the book ‘a not too creditable early success’. There was no shortage, in the 1890s, of enigmatic, slight-seeming, best-selling novels – Beatrice ...

Capital W, Capital W

Michael Wood: Women writers, 19 August 1999

Women Writers at Work 
edited by George Plimpton.
Harvill, 381 pp., £9.99, February 1999, 1 86046 586 2
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Just as I Thought 
by Grace Paley.
Virago, 332 pp., £8.99, August 1999, 1 86049 696 2
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... is not lost, though. What these writers have in common – Marianne Moore, Katherine Anne Porter, Rebecca West, P.L. Travers, Simone de Beauvoir, Elizabeth Bishop, Nadine Gordimer and Anne Sexton, who appear in the volume alongside the writers already mentioned – is that they are not men, which is not as tautological a proposition as it looks. Being a ...

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