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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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by Anthony West.
Secker, 305 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 436 56592 7
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... by refusing to bear children: which may be a reason why he embarked on fatherhood so energetically, with a variety of women in addition to his wife. One of Wells’s most famous liaisons was with RebeccaWest, 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 ...

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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... There were giant-killers in those days. Storm Jameson, rallying English writers in defence of peace and collective security, had to toss up to decide between RebeccaWest 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 ...
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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by Rebecca West.
Weidenfeld, 190 pp., £10, February 1982, 9780297779636
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... The Young Rebecca is a collection of the writings of RebeccaWest 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 ...

Little Men

Susannah Clapp

7 August 1986
by Rebecca West.
Virago, 276 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 86068 719 8
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... RebeccaWest 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. ‘Small men are so energetic.’ Her posthumous novel Sunflower features fictional versions of two small men with big names ...

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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... RebeccaWest 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 ...
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 RebeccaWest, 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 ...


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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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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... it was Uncle Joe. The whole song needs critical interpretation. Whose side is Monkey Pitter really on? Loyalties does, in its mysterious way, say more about the subject promised by its title than RebeccaWest 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 ...

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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... she came to infuriate him. Then there was a year or so with Elizabeth von Arnim, and a woman who tried to kill herself in front of him, and a few (not many) prostitutes. And there was also of course RebeccaWest, 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 ...


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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... RebeccaWest 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 ...


Edward Pearce

22 October 1992
by Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie.
Hutchinson, 589 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 09 173549 1
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... in the financial world of the British Empire. First as Stairs’s henchman, then as head of his own company, Royal Securities, he became profitably engaged in the municipal utilities of the West Indies through such companies as Trinidad Electric Company; he aspired to finance trams in Quito, Equador and got involved with equivalent enterprises in Brazil and Jamaica. The financial career only ...


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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... not think he was just romancing in depicting Jane as a serene, amused and loyal partner, genuinely free 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 ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

Peter Campbell: Wyndham Lewis

11 September 2008
... a number of powerful images, they are not, by strict criteria, great portraits. The publicity for the exhibition makes much of the telegram Walter Sickert sent Lewis in 1932. The pencil portrait of RebeccaWest, 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 ...

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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... like Mizener, is an academic and has hundreds of scrupulous notes. Mizener had the advantage of being able to consult many surviving friends of Ford, including Allen Tate, Herbert Read, Jean Rhys and RebeccaWest. 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 ...
20 March 1997
Henrik Ibsen 
by Robert Ferguson.
Cohen, 466 pp., £25, November 1996, 1 86066 078 9
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... t remark that Ibsen pulls off this kind of coup again and again. Oddly, Shaw pays little attention in his essay to the structure of the plays, although he analyses the scene in Rosmersholm in which RebeccaWest admits to John Rosmer that she unintentionally provoked Rosmer’s wife, Beate, into killing herself. We know there were two reasons for this: Rebecca’s ambition for Rosmer’s life’s ...

With Luck

John Lanchester

2 January 1997
The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage 
edited by R.W. Burchfield.
Oxford, 864 pp., £16.99, November 1996, 0 19 869126 2
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... opinion, allegation, accusation etc) to be false; to disprove by argument’. When T.S. Eliot (in Murder in the Cathedral) wrote If you make charges, Then in public I will refute them, and when RebeccaWest wrote The case against most of them must have been so easily refuted that they could hardly rank at suspects, both writers could be assured that their use of refute was beyond reproach. At some ...

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