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Child of Evangelism

James Wood, 3 October 1996

The Quest for God: A Personal Pilgrimage 
by Paul Johnson.
Weidenfeld, 216 pp., £14.99, March 1996, 0 297 81764 7
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Is There a God? 
by Richard Swinburne.
Oxford, 144 pp., £20, February 1996, 0 19 823544 5
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God in Us: A Case for Christian Humanism 
by Anthony Freeman.
SCM, 87 pp., £5.95, September 1993, 0 344 02538 1
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Robert Runcie: The Reluctant Archbishop 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Hodder, 401 pp., £20, October 1996, 0 340 57107 1
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... Christ) and added, in his Journals, that it was ‘quite literally lunacy’ to try to become one. Richard Swinburne’s book demonstrates the dangers of speaking about God rationally, or of arming him pragmatically. Swinburne is a theist. He hardly mentions Jesus, who is little more than a topcoat to keep the believer ...

Thinking about Death

Michael Wood: Why does the world exist?, 21 March 2013

Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story 
by Jim Holt.
Profile, 307 pp., £12.99, June 2012, 978 1 84668 244 5
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... of philosophical summary alternate with accounts of visits to Adolf Grünbaum in Pittsburgh, to Richard Swinburne in Oxford, to David Deutsch in Headington, to John Leslie in Canada, to Derek Parfit, again in Oxford. He meets Roger Penrose in New York, has phone conversations with Steven Weinberg and John Updike. These conversations become a way of ...

Dr Küng’s Fiasco

Alasdair MacIntyre, 5 February 1981

Does God exist? 
by Hans Küng, translated by Edward Quinn.
Collins, 839 pp., £12, November 1980, 0 00 215147 2
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... Robert M. Adams, Peter Geach, Anthony Kenny, Terence Penelhum, Alvin Plantinga, James Ross and Richard Swinburne, for example, have all made contributions far too substantial to be thus ignored. Dr Küng’s enormous apparatus of bibliography and references gives no evidence that he even knows most of their work, even when he cites some relevant ...

In the Hothouse

Peter Howarth: Swinburne, 8 November 2018

21st-Century Oxford Authors: Algernon Charles Swinburne 
edited by Francis O’Gorman.
Oxford, 722 pp., £95, December 2016, 978 0 19 967224 0
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... Swinburne​ was proud of sticking to his guns. In the dedication to his collected Poems (six volumes, 1904), he declared himself a writer who ‘has nothing to regret and nothing to recant’, who ‘finds nothing that he could wish to cancel, to alter, or to unsay, in any page he has ever laid before his reader ...

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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... design. Not that one hears the ‘splat-splat’ of the mudpies (to use the politest figure) that Swinburne and F.J. Furnivall were to shy at each other in an embarrassing exchange of Billingsgate in 1880, over the poet’s A Study of Shakespeare: the scholars of Collier’s time phrased their acrimony with pens dipped in acid, a practice that was much more ...

Art of Embarrassment

A.D. Nuttall, 18 August 1994

Essays, Mainly Shakespearean 
by Anne Barton.
Cambridge, 386 pp., £40, March 1994, 0 521 40444 4
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English Comedy 
edited by Michael Cordner, Peter Holland and John Kerrigan.
Cambridge, 323 pp., £35, March 1994, 0 521 41917 4
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... Barton, ranging from American luminaries like Jonas Barish and Stephen Orgel to newcomers like Richard Rowland (who contributes a thumpingly good piece on Heywood). Shakespeare is still the most challenging object in the literary canon, the most generous with meaning and, at the same time, the most apt to find out folly in those who would interpret ...

At Hyde Park Corner

Jonathan Meades: The Bomber Command Memorial , 25 October 2012

... include the late Bee Gee Robin Gibb, the mobile phone baron John Caudwell and the pornographer Richard Desmond: their name liveth for evermore all right, prominently, in a niche on the western side of the structure. The memorial to the 55,573 nameless dead airmen of Bomber Command and its few thousand survivors has evidently been squatted by fiscally ...

Feet on the mantelpiece

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 21 August 1980

The Victorians and Ancient Greece 
by Richard Jenkyns.
Blackwell, 386 pp., £15, June 1980, 0 631 10991 9
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... concise manner of expression gives him a real claim to be considered a distinguished writer. Sir Richard Jebb (1842-1905) devoted the main effort of his life to the making of an edition of Sophocles with commentary. In certain technical respects he was surpassed by his German contemporaries, while to modern taste he seems to make Sophoclean tragedy too much ...

Mauve Monkeys

William Fiennes, 18 September 1997

Wilde’s Last Stand: Decadence, Conspiracy and the First World War 
by Philip Hoare.
Duckworth, 250 pp., £16.95, July 1997, 0 7156 2737 6
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... by banks of hydrangeas. It’s hard to believe, but people were taking it in turns to recite Swinburne. Philip Hoare’s Wilde’s Last Stand is concerned with a more energetic strain of hedonism. By the end of 1915 it was estimated that there were 150 nightclubs in Soho alone: haunts such as the Cave of the Golden Calf, where aristocratic bohemians like ...

Out of the Closet

Richard Altick, 20 August 1981

The Private Case: An Annotated Bibliography of the Private Case Erotica Collection in the British Library 
by Patrick Kearney.
Jay Landesman, 354 pp., £45, July 1981, 0 905150 24 4
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... the interpretation of literature, the more so now that we know that not only Pierre Louÿs and Swinburne but women as different as Edith Wharton and Anais Nin wrote – what? Wharton: erotica? Nin: pornography? (Hers, like the French police official’s, was ‘bespoke’.) Some day an alert or lucky explorer of erotica will identify the ‘scrofulous ...

Major and Minor

Frank Kermode, 6 June 1985

The Oxford Companion to English Literature 
edited by Margaret Drabble.
Oxford, 1155 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 19 866130 4
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... before know anything about it. Who was Aholah, who Aholibah? You might want to know while reading Swinburne, and Harvey will tell you, but not Drabble. Are you clear about Herod, Herod Agrippa, Herodias? Harvey will help if you’re not. And so on. In other areas the information provided is curiously selective. Why are there entries for ...

In the Châtelet

Jeremy Harding, 20 April 1995

François Villon: Complete Poems 
edited by Barbara Sargent-Bauer.
Toronto, 346 pp., £42, January 1995, 0 8020 2946 9
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Basil Bunting: Complete Poems 
edited by Richard Caddel.
Oxford, 226 pp., £10.99, September 1994, 0 19 282282 9
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... homage and general ventriloquism on the part of a wide and posthumous circle of acquaintance from Swinburne to Lowell and beyond, like a request to be left in peace – Villon is something of a cottage industry and the generator has been whirring fairly constantly beside the mallow patch. But it’s the translators most of us have to thank for knowing him at ...

A Frisson in the Auditorium

Blair Worden: Shakespeare without Drama, 20 April 2017

How Shakespeare Put Politics on the Stage: Power and Succession in the History Plays 
by Peter Lake.
Yale, 666 pp., £25, November 2016, 978 0 300 22271 5
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... part of the book explores the plays about English history: the six King Henry plays and two King Richard plays, which relate the origins and course of the Wars of the Roses, and King John. But there are also extensive discussions of the contemporary political pertinence of Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida and even The Merry Wives ...

Let in the Djinns

Maya Jasanoff: Richard Burton, 9 March 2006

The Highly Civilised Man: Richard Burton and the Victorian World 
by Dane Kennedy.
Harvard, 354 pp., £17.95, September 2005, 0 674 01862 1
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... of a man regarded as one of the most unreal, isolated and timeless figures of the Victorian era. Richard Burton arrived in the Adriatic port in 1873 as Britain’s consul. He had pretty much seen everything. He had visited sacred centres from Benares to Salt Lake City, with a pilgrimage to Mecca in between; he had trekked thousands of miles into central ...

Australia’s Nineties

Clive James, 15 July 1982

Christopher Brennan: A Critical Biography 
by Axel Clark.
Melbourne, 358 pp., £20, May 1980, 0 522 84182 1
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... time. The rest is a tortured pastiche easily mocked; a strained symbolism whose Victorian diction, Swinburne with even more water, does not even let him succeed in sounding Frenchified. Any smart critic who wanted to make a popinjay out of Brennan would have plenty to go on. But those single lines and phrases live in the memory: ‘and sterile wisdom crowned ...

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