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Arabia Revisita

Reyner Banham, 4 December 1980

Travels in Arabia Deserts 
by Charles Doughty.
Dover, 674 pp., £11.35, June 1980, 0 486 23825 3
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... an unrepeatable moment in which everything is already different from the way it had been when Burton penetrated Mecca in drag, and from the way it would be when the Blunts and Gertrude Bell cut their own very different tracks across the Peninsula. So the reader of the 1980s would be well-advised to skip all the Introductions and Prefaces, and start ...

Fitz

John Bayley, 4 April 1985

With Friends Possessed: A Life of Edward FitzGerald 
by Robert Bernard Martin.
Faber, 313 pp., £17.50, February 1985, 0 571 13462 9
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... fished several copies out of the bargain box and gave some to friends, including Monckton Milnes, Richard Burton and D.G. Rossetti. Ruskin and Burne-Jones discovered it; Meredith was bowled over by it. By the century’s end it had already gone through hundreds of editions. In his ABC of Reading Ezra Pound proposed the critical exercise: try to find out ...

Meaningless Legs

Frank Kermode: John Gielgud, 21 June 2001

Gielgud: A Theatrical Life 1904-2000 
by Jonathan Croall.
Methuen, 579 pp., £20, November 2000, 0 413 74560 0
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John G.: The Authorised Biography of John Gielgud 
by Sheridan Morley.
Hodder, 510 pp., £20, May 2001, 0 340 36803 9
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John Gielgud: An Actor’s Life 
by Gyles Brandreth.
Sutton, 196 pp., £6.99, April 2001, 0 7509 2752 6
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... love with it, especially in Shakespeare. He knew a lot about Shakespeare and one understands why Richard Sterne, who was in the Hamlet Gielgud directed for Richard Burton, spoke of the ‘scattered scholarship of John’s remarkable mind’. As a Shakespearean he claimed that he had come ‘to trust the sweep of ...

Olivier Rex

Ronald Bryden, 1 September 1988

Olivier 
by Anthony Holden.
Weidenfeld, 504 pp., £16, May 1988, 0 297 79089 7
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... and poor at sums. He gives the age of Olivier, born in 1907, as 39 when he achieved his triumph as Richard III in 1944. Tarquin Olivier, born in 1936, is credited with a visit at the age of seven to Notley Abbey, bought by his father in 1945. Nor has Holden checked all the stories he takes over from previous biographers. Like most of them, he tells how Olivier ...

Back to the futuh

Robert Irwin, 1 August 1996

The Middle East: 2000 Years of History from the Birth of Christianity to the Present Day 
by Bernard Lewis.
Weidenfeld, 433 pp., £20, September 1995, 0 297 81345 5
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... other (welcome) inclusions and omissions that reflect the work done by scholars in recent decades: Richard Bulliet on the economic importance of the camel, Andrew Watson on the role of the Arabs as introducers of new crops, Oleg Grabar on the Dome of the Rock, and so on. It is, however, a tribute to both the scope and depth of Lewis’s research in the past ...

When in Rom

John Sutherland, 9 June 1994

The English Poetry Full-Text Database 
editorial board: John Barnard, Derek Brewer, Lou Burnand, Howard Erskine-Hill and Danny Karlin et al.
Chadwyck-Healey, £30,000, June 1994
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... they will in time subvert the whole notion of what it is to be a scholar, a teacher or a student. Richard Altick called his 1960 guide for the aspiring student The Scholar Adventurers. The tiro entering the British Museum or the Widener could picture himself as Richard Burton going into darkest Africa. It was an ...

Diary

Charles Nicholl: At the Maison Rimbaud in Harar, 16 March 2000

... any impact, in the sense that their names are known and recognised. One is the English explorer Richard Burton, who arrived in 1855 and was probably the first European to enter this Muslim stronghold. The other is the nomadic French poet Arthur Rimbaud, who worked here as a trader in the 1880s, and who made the place – more than anywhere in his ...

Diary

Robert Walshe: Bumping into Beckett, 7 November 1985

... a flat that was something of a miniature Versailles. Immediately above lived the widow of Richard Wright, author of Native Son. Above above, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, known to outsiders as Le Corbusier. At the end of the courtyard, the house – la maison – and this calls for historical extrapolation. At some moment in the latter half of the 17th ...

Fashionable Gore

Katherine Rundell: H. Rider Haggard, 3 April 2014

King Solomon’s Mines 
by H. Rider Haggard.
Vintage, 337 pp., £7.99, May 2013, 978 0 09 958282 3
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She 
by H. Rider Haggard.
Vintage, 317 pp., £8.99, May 2013, 978 0 09 958283 0
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... it isn’t; nor is it run of the mill. It is the book which sowed the seed for John Buchan’s Richard Hannay, for Indiana Jones and James Bond, and though less slick than its successors, its anxieties and lunacies are more interesting. It isn’t suitable for children; perhaps not suitable at all.As a child Henry Rider Haggard was believed to be ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Cleopatra’ , 8 August 2013

... Taylor said the film was ‘not at all bad’ when she saw it again in 1971. We learn this from Richard Burton’s Diaries. Burton himself ‘popped in at one point for about ten seconds and went away and slept’. ‘No reflection on the film’, he adds, but it’s hard not to believe that another film might have ...

Bad Medicine

Frank McLynn, 23 July 1992

The Malaria Capers 
by Robert Desowitz.
Norton, 288 pp., £14.95, February 1992, 9780393030136
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... anti-malaria teams of making their roofs fall down by the use of DDT. Ensued incredulity, as Sir Richard Burton would say. The roofs were made of attap (palm fronds), and there was an attap-devouring caterpillar that dwelt in the roof. In normal conditions a parasitic wasp preyed on these pests and kept their numbers down, but the wasps were highly ...

tarry easty

Roy Foster: Joyce in Trieste, 30 November 2000

The Years of Bloom: James Joyce in Trieste 1904-20 
by John McCourt.
Lilliput, 306 pp., £25, June 2000, 1 901866 45 9
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... of a great seaport. Previous literary exiles had included Stendhal, Charles Lever and Richard Burton. In addition, Trieste had its own literary world: Futurism flourished there, Marinetti visited frequently and contributed to local papers, and Joyce’s pupil and friend Ettore Schmitz would later – encouraged by his teacher – become ...

Yearning for Polar Seas

James Hamilton-Paterson: North, 1 September 2005

The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule 
by Joanna Kavenna.
Viking, 334 pp., £16.99, February 2005, 0 670 91395 2
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The Idea of North 
by Peter Davidson.
Reaktion, 271 pp., £16.95, January 2005, 1 86189 230 6
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... by the 19th century had turned into an exotic northern Arcadia for intrepid British travellers. Richard Burton, William Morris, Anthony Trollope, Mrs Alec Tweedie and Sabine Baring-Gould all trooped to the land of pumice and geysers. Most were ravished by the spectacle but all eventually had to come to terms with Iceland as a real country, struggling ...

Bragga

Julian Loose, 25 June 1992

Crystal Rooms 
by Melvyn Bragg.
Hodder, 342 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 0 340 56409 1
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... sweeping along any number of clichés, truisms and allusions in its wake, as when describing Richard Burton in Rich (1988): ‘He was driven by a devil that he never knew but he never stopped fighting, a maker of his own myths, Celtic, Faustian, an Icarus and a Don Juan, coming out from his beloved Wales like a mystical warrior to rove the world for ...

Don’t laugh

Amit Chaudhuri: Hari Kunzru, 8 August 2002

The Impressionist 
by Hari Kunzru.
Hamish Hamilton, 435 pp., £12.99, April 2002, 0 241 14169 9
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... takes his epigraph from Kipling’s novel) and Colonel Skinner, and masters of disguise like Richard Burton. Forrester is not the only one caught in the powerful storm. A beautiful, ‘ungovernable’ woman, Amrita, is in a palanquin on her way to get married. In the storm, which rapidly becomes a flood, she is separated from her retinue; she ...

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