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Suffocating Suspense

Richard Davenport-Hines, 16 March 2000

Cult Criminals: The Newgate Novels 1830-47 
by Juliet John.
Routledge, 2750 pp., £399, December 1998, 0 415 14383 7
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... of the mother as a Vernon.’ After an infatuation at 16, and a later scandal with Lady Caroline Lamb, Bulwer-Lytton married in 1827 an Irishwoman, Rosina Wheeler. His mother severed his allowance as a mark of her displeasure. This forced him to write for money and increased the attraction for him of déclassé men. The life of Bill Gawtrey, in Night and ...

A Smile at My Own Temerity

John Barrell: William Hogarth, 16 February 2017

William Hogarth: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings 
by Elizabeth Einberg.
Yale, 432 pp., £95, November 2016, 978 0 300 22174 9
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... of this definition seem to tell a different story. They include a letter of 1829 by Charles Lamb, in which he speaks of ‘true broad Hogarthian fun’, and an essay by Carlyle of 1837: ‘There is nothing more Hogarthian comic.’ Next comes Swinburne, fifty years later, speaking of ‘an excellent Hogarthian comedy, full of rapid and vivid ...


Frank Kermode: Wordsworth at Sea, 6 February 2003

The Wreck of the ‘Abergavenny’ 
by Alethea Hayter.
Macmillan, 223 pp., £14.99, September 2002, 0 333 98917 1
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... serene. Hayter undertakes to describe the sorrows of the family and their friends, among them Lamb and De Quincey and Coleridge; but her purposes are not simply literary or literary-domestic. Much is known and much has been written about the loss of the Abergavenny; salvage work is still going on after almost two centuries. She has used this information ...

The Old Corrector

Richard Altick, 4 November 1982

Fortune and Men’s Eyes: The Career of John Payne Collier 
by Dewey Ganzel.
Oxford, 454 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 19 212231 2
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... and skilfully argued review is that Collier was not guilty as charged. Granted that he was no lamb among the wolves, was he the victim of an outright conspiracy? Although Ganzel uses the word, there was never a conspiracy in the sense that a whole cabal, a veritable mutton-chop mafia, merging their individual grievances into a common hatred of ...


Richard Altick, 3 December 1981

The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman 
by Mark Girouard.
Yale, 312 pp., £12.50, September 1981, 0 300 02739 7
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... countenance even when describing the ‘ardent and inspired nuttiness’ of figures like Charlie Lamb, the Earl of Eglinton’s half-brother, who peopled his ‘Camelot of battlemented hutches’ with several hundred guinea pigs which he transformed into knights, counts and dukes and further dignified with elaborate coats-of-arms, and Sir Kenelm Digby, a man ...


P.N. Furbank, 15 October 1981

Ford Madox Ford: Prose and Politics 
by Robert Green.
Cambridge, 218 pp., £16.50, July 1981, 9780521236102
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... Henry James and Conrad worked. And one strand of it came from Balzac. I refer to the theme of the Lamb thrown to the Wolves: the spectacle, implacably presented by the novelist, of innocence cast to its devourers amid the total misunderstanding of motives and with no glimmer of hope that things should be otherwise. The theme, and the particular pathos which ...


Donald Davie, 5 May 1983

Later Poems 
by R.S. Thomas.
Macmillan, 224 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 333 34560 6
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Thomas Hardy Annual, No 1 
edited by Norman Page.
Macmillan, 205 pp., £20, March 1983, 0 333 32022 0
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Tess of the d’Urbervilles 
by Thomas Hardy, edited by Juliet Grindle and Simon Gatrell.
Oxford, 636 pp., £50, March 1983, 0 19 812495 3
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Hardy’s Love Poems 
by Thomas Hardy, edited by Carl Weber.
Macmillan, 253 pp., £3.95, February 1983, 0 333 34798 6
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The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hardy. Vol. I: Wessex Poems, Poems of the Past and the Present, Time’s Laughingstocks 
edited by Samuel Hynes.
Oxford, 403 pp., £19.50, February 1983, 0 19 812708 1
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... and as he remarks, ‘maybe someone has written it.’ If so, it will not escape the eagle-eye of Richard H. Taylor, of the University of London Institute of Education. Taylor, who each year from now on will provide a survey of recent Hardy studies, remarks happily: ‘Guidance into the rich pastures of Hardy scholarship becomes increasingly essential.’ The ...


Barbara Everett: Coleridge the Modernist, 7 August 2003

Coleridge’s Notebooks: A Selection 
edited by Seamus Perry.
Oxford, 264 pp., £17.99, June 2002, 0 19 871201 4
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works I: Poems (Reading Text) 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1608 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 00483 8
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works II: Poems (Variorum Text) 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1528 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 00484 6
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works III: Plays 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1620 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 09883 2
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... function, she thinks of verse as private and therefore inconsiderable, grouping Coleridge with Lamb (in many ways the best literary critic of his age) as a pair of malingerers: ‘Like Coleridge in “Kubla Khan” . . . Lamb values literature as fantasy, otherness; in some sense magical. It is the mal du siècle.’ In ...

Worse than Pagans

Tom Shippey: The Church v. the Fairies, 1 December 2016

Elf Queens and Holy Friars: Fairy Beliefs and the Medieval Church 
by Richard Firth Green.
Pennsylvania, 285 pp., £36, August 2016, 978 0 8122 4843 2
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... or, alternatively, a bastard – both accusations could get you into trouble. The word was used of Richard II as well, another less-than-royal king. In Piers Plowman, Dame Study calls the Dreamer a ‘conyon’ – an impostor, Green suggests, pretending to be a proper clerk. The most striking instances of people being described as changelings, however, are to ...

Prophet in a Tuxedo

Richard J. Evans: Walter Rathenau, 22 November 2012

Walther Rathenau: Weimar’s Fallen Statesman 
by Shulamit Volkov.
Yale, 240 pp., £18.99, April 2012, 978 0 300 14431 4
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... frugality of his dinners, where, the writer Franz Blei complained, one could expect only ‘fish, lamb cutlets and dumplings … a tiny glass of champagne, never refilled by the servant’ and ‘that bottomless pot of black coffee, intended to keep the guests awake till the early morning’, while Rathenau delivered speeches, in Kessler’s ...

Mr Lion, Mr Cock and Mr Cat

Roger Lonsdale, 5 April 1990

A Form of Sound Words: The Religious Poetry of Christopher Smart 
by Harriet Guest.
Oxford, 293 pp., £35, October 1989, 0 19 811744 2
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... of Christ (1729) was written when he was still a schoolboy at Winchester, and the much-derided Sir Richard Blackmore. Johnson later respected Blackmore’s The Creation (1712), which for Guest illustrates the route to divine wisdom through demystifying natural philosophy. Guest wisely doesn’t dwell too long on these individual cases, but her categories may ...

Balloons and Counter-Balloons

Susan Eilenberg: ‘The Age of Wonder’, 7 January 2010

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science 
by Richard Holmes.
HarperPress, 380 pp., £9.99, September 2009, 978 0 00 714953 7
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... questions that they askd was, when it would thunder. Joseph Banks, The ‘Endeavour’ Journal Richard Holmes describes The Age of Wonder as a ‘relay race of scientific stories’ about the explosion of exploration and scientific achievement in England between two celebrated voyages, Captain James Cook’s first circumnavigation of the world in the ...

The Pleasures of Poverty

Barbara Everett, 6 September 1984

A Very Private Eye: An Autobiography in Letters and Diaries 
by Barbara Pym, edited by Hazel Holt and Hilary Pym.
Macmillan, 320 pp., £12.95, July 1984, 0 333 34995 4
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... to give to all who read and enjoy her novels another book by Barbara Pym.’ There are, as Charles Lamb pointed out, books which are not books, biblia abiblia. Certainly A Very Private Eye is a long way from being a substitute for a Barbara Pym novel. Even its second or post-1950 half, where we come at last nearer to hearing something recognisable as the voice ...


Elisa Segrave: Is this what it’s like to be famous?, 11 May 1995

... my house, taken to Heathrow Airport and flown to Manchester. It’s presented by a couple called Richard and Judy. I’d better watch the programme tomorrow morning. For several nights now I’ve only had a few hours’ sleep. I’m hysterical. Is this what it’s like to be famous? No wonder Stephen Fry tried to escape across the Channel. The woman in ...

Wordsworth and the Well-Hidden Corpse

Marilyn Butler, 6 August 1992

The Lyrical Ballads: Longman Annotated Texts 
edited by Michael Mason.
Longman, 419 pp., £29.99, April 1992, 0 582 03302 0
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Strange Power of Speech: Wordsworth, Coleridge and Literary Possession 
by Susan Eilenberg.
Oxford, 278 pp., £30, May 1992, 0 19 506856 4
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The Politics of Nature: Wordsworth and Some Contemporaries 
by Nicholas Roe.
Macmillan, 186 pp., £35, April 1992, 0 333 52314 8
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... the youthful Southey and Coleridge alone, together, or in conjunction with friends such as Lamb – account for most of the modern English poets lampooned for their radicalism in the Government-funded satirical magazine, The Anti-Jacobin, from November 1797 to July 1798. By adding the implicitly genteel ‘Lyrical’ to the plebeian ‘Ballad’, the ...

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