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No False Modesty

Rosemary Hill: Edith Sitwell, 20 October 2011

Edith Sitwell: Avant-Garde Poet, English Genius 
by Richard Greene.
Virago, 532 pp., £25, March 2011, 978 1 86049 967 8
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... years her local department store in Bayswater) – is one of several interesting points on which Richard Greene has nothing to say in this disappointingly flat biography. Why she did it she explained herself. It was, like so much in her life and work, the result of a famously (if productively) unhappy childhood. The Sitwells, Edith and her two younger ...

Cervantics

Robert Taubman, 7 October 1982

Monsignor Quixote 
by Graham Greene.
Bodley Head, 221 pp., £5.95, September 1982, 0 370 30923 5
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... or bad, but thinking makes it so.’ Perhaps rather carefully, the words at the head of Graham Greene’s new novel are ascribed to William Shakespeare rather than to Hamlet, but inevitably it’s Hamlet they bring to mind. Very Hamlet, this complete scepticism – but not, surely, very Graham Greene; and what has it to ...

Dignity and Impudence

Oliver Whitley, 6 October 1983

A Variety of Lives: A Biography of Sir Hugh Greene 
by Michael Tracey.
Bodley Head, 344 pp., £15, September 1983, 0 370 30026 2
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... Described as a biography, this is also a detective story. Repeatedly Hugh Greene’s BBC colleagues are quoted, anonymously, as being unsure as to what were or are his values, his principles, his philosophy. Occasionally someone doubts if there were or are any. Once, we are told, in an oblique attempt to find a clue to the elusive pattern of his motives, he was asked to say with whom in the English Civil War he could identify himself ...

A Spanish girl is a volcano

John Pemble: Apostles in Gibraltar, 10 September 2015

John Kemble’s Gibraltar Journal: The Spanish Expedition of the Cambridge Apostles, 1830-31 
by Eric Nye.
Macmillan, 416 pp., £100, January 2015, 978 1 137 38446 1
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... are all had. Spain is an emotional luxury to a gang of sap-headed dilettantes.’ Graham Greene hadn’t replied to the Left Review because he couldn’t make up his mind. As a Catholic he was sickened equally by Republican atrocities against nuns and priests, and by Franco’s brutal suppression of the devout Basques. But he wanted to say ...

Female Bandits? What next!

Wendy Doniger: The incarnations of Robin Hood, 22 July 2004

Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography 
by Stephen Knight.
Cornell, 247 pp., £14.50, May 2003, 0 8014 3885 3
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... Many people firmly believe there was. We owe the widespread belief that Robin lived in the time of Richard I (1157-1199) to William Stukeley (1687-1765), an eccentric scholar of ancient British history who fabricated for him a crazy family pedigree going back to the Normans. Knight argues that the search for the historical Robin is as quixotic as the search ...

Boss of the Plains

D.A.N. Jones, 19 May 1983

The Boy Scout Handbook and Other Observations 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 284 pp., £9.95, January 1983, 0 19 503102 4
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... to them that a boy who tries to obey Scout Laws, whatever else he does, will not grow up like Richard Nixon. (In Britain, of course, where Scoutcraft entails wiliness, such a boy might well grow up like Harold Wilson.) On Fussell’s cover is a picture of a keen-eyed lad with ‘Boy Scouts of America’ stitched on his khaki shirt: he is wearing the ...

Poetry to Thrill an Oyster

Gregory Woods: Fitz-Greene Halleck, 16 November 2000

The American Byron: Homosexuality and the Fall of Fitz-Greene Halleck 
by John W.M. Hallock.
Wisconsin, 226 pp., £14.95, April 2000, 0 299 16804 2
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... When the American poet Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790-1867) travelled to Europe in 1822 he was carrying letters of introduction to Byron, Scott, Southey, Wordsworth, Lafayette and Talleyrand, though he never actually met any of them – whether through shyness or negligence or something else is not clear. Dickens called on Halleck on arrival in New York in 1842, but later wrote him off as a mere imitator ...

My Stars

Graham Hough, 21 March 1985

The Magical Arts 
by Richard Cavendish.
Arkana, 375 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 1 85063 004 6
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Astrology and the Third Reich: A Historical Study of Astrological Beliefs in Western Europe since 1700 and in Hitler’s Germany 1933-45 
by Ellic Howe.
Aquarian, 253 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 85030 397 4
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The Astrology of Fate 
by Liz Greene.
Allen and Unwin, 370 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 04 133012 9
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Dreams, Illusion and Other Realities 
by Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty.
Chicago, 361 pp., £21.25, June 1984, 0 226 61854 4
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Fruits of the Moon Tree: The Medicine Wheel and Transpersonal Psychology 
by Alan Bleakley.
Gateway Books, 311 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 946551 08 1
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... has its quota of resident yogins, astrologers and cabalists. Guidebooks to these regions abound. Richard Cavendish in The Magical Arts makes an ambitious survey of the whole field – numerology, the Cabala, alchemy, astrology – and then, crossing the boundary between the dubiously permissible and the outright dangerous, goes on to ritual magic ...

I am them

Richard Wollheim, 7 October 1993

Love of Beginnings 
by J.-B. Pontalis, translated by James Greene and Marie-Christine Régius.
Free Association, 260 pp., £13.95, May 1993, 9781853431296
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... J.-B. Pontalis is a Parisian intellectual de pur sang. Born into a wealthy upper-middle-class family, he was brought up in Neuilly, and, as a child, spent long summers at a family house in Cabourg, Proust’s Balbec. He studied philosophy under Sartre, and taught it for some years. He entered psychoanalysis under the aegis of Lacan, and having weaned himself from that unfortunate affiliation, is now one of the leading figures in the French psychoanalytic world ...

Chonkin’s Vicissitudes

Graham Hough, 1 October 1981

Pretender to the Throne: The Further Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin 
by Vladimir Voinovich, translated by Richard Lourie.
Cape, 358 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 9780224019668
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The Temptation of Eileen Hughes 
by Brian Moore.
Cape, 224 pp., £6.50, October 1981, 0 224 01936 8
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Silver’s City 
by Maurice Leitch.
Secker, 181 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 436 24413 6
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The Christmas Tree 
by Jennifer Johnston.
Hamish Hamilton, 167 pp., £6.50, September 1981, 0 241 10673 7
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... stands for boredom, frustration, suffocating routine, aborted loves and fetid pieties. Graham Greene is quoted as saying that Brian Moore is his favourite living novelist, and one can see why. All those Pelagian notions anathema to Mr Greene – that man might save himself by his own efforts, or improve his arrangements ...

Diary

Ruth Dudley Edwards: Peddling Books, 21 January 1988

... in some ways rather proper, had a taste for the risqué: his literary adviser in the early days, Richard Le Gallienne, poetaster, philanderer and drinker, had an instinct for the mood of the times. The Bodley Head rapidly became a succès de scandale as well as modestly profitable for some years. Aubrey Beardsley and Charles Ricketts were among the ...
Darkness Visible 
by William Golding.
Faber, 256 pp., £4.95, January 1979, 0 571 11646 9
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... the German-style version of Hesse or Grass is too instinctively metaphysical, not homespun enough. Richard Hughes was one of our most effective local magicians; John Fowles has become one; William Golding has had the status a long time. His new novel confirms him as a master craftsman in his particular sort of magic. It is beautifully constructed, it grips the ...

Answering back

James Campbell, 11 July 1991

The Intended 
by David Dabydeen.
Secker, 246 pp., £13.99, February 1991, 0 436 20007 4
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Cambridge 
by Caryl Phillips.
Bloomsbury, 185 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 0 7475 0886 0
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Lucy 
by Jamaica Kincaid.
Cape, 176 pp., £11.99, April 1991, 0 224 03055 8
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... then of the poets Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown, and next a line of novelists headed by Richard Wright, began the task of reclamation about two generations earlier than the Caribbean writers who identified – if one can nowadays put it that way – with Europe, specifically England. Their literary industry, centred largely in London, only really ...

Diary

Robert Walshe: Bumping into Beckett, 7 November 1985

... publication of a novel called Wales’ Work.1 In Paris, where I have lived even longer than Graham Greene, avoiding literature is not on. Whether he chooses to or not, the Parisian swims in literature the way his motor-car bathes in traffic. It is not possible to round a corner on a Paris street without running pellmell into an author, a publisher, or a nègre ...

Back to Isfahan

Richard Lloyd Parry, 27 April 2000

A Good Place to Die 
by James Buchan.
Harvill, 343 pp., £10.99, September 1999, 1 86046 648 6
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... man who escapes the nullness of life in posh London to become a scared, amateur spook in Beirut. Richard, the hero of Heart’s journey in Winter, is another ambiguous journalist-spy, this time in Cold War Germany. John Pitt’s historical moment – Iran during the Revolution – is the most dramatic of all, and his relationship with the British ...

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