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Ripping the pig

Robert Bernard Martin, 5 August 1982

The Letters of Alfred Lord Tennyson: Vol. 1 1821-1850 
edited by Cecil Lang and Edgar Shannon.
Oxford, 366 pp., £17.50, February 1982, 0 19 812569 0
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Tennyson: ‘In Memoriam’ 
edited by Susan Shatto and Marion Shaw.
Oxford, 397 pp., £25, March 1982, 0 19 812747 2
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... Emily Tennyson had never liked the picture, perhaps in part because she also disliked Edward FitzGerald, who had originally commissioned it from Samuel Laurence. Earlier she had asked Watts to repaint it, but he refused, and during her husband’s lifetime she had not succeeded in finding another painter whom she trusted to touch it, so that it had hung ...

The Duckworth School of Writers

Frank Kermode, 20 November 1980

Human Voices 
by Penelope Fitzgerald.
Collins, 177 pp., £5.25, September 1980, 0 00 222280 9
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Winter Garden 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 157 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 7156 1495 9
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... Morgan since 1926, and there is clearly a case for fishing the novels out of oblivion. In Penelope Fitzgerald’s last novel, Offshore, the wide distribution of which may have had the fortuitous effect of sending up the price of de Morgan tiles, two rather forward little girls conspired to fish two out of Battersea Reach, when the tide was down and the ...
Citizen Lord: Edward Fitzgerald 1763-98 
by Stella Tillyard.
Chatto, 336 pp., £16.99, May 1997, 0 7011 6538 3
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... fumble in a greasy till’. Was it For this that all the blood was shed, For this Edward Fitzgerald died, And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone, All that delirium of the brave? ‘Delirium’ suggests Yeats’s usual equivocal insight; but more magnificently it celebrates the fever in the blood which was about to ...

Human Boys

Penelope Fitzgerald, 7 December 1989

True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole, Margaret Hilda Roberts and Robert and Susan Lilian Townsend 
by Sue Townsend.
Methuen, 117 pp., £5.99, August 1989, 0 413 62450 1
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CounterBlasts No 9: Mr Bevan’s Dream 
by Sue Townsend.
Chatto, 74 pp., £2.99, November 1989, 0 7011 3468 2
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... Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13¾ came out at much the same time as John Pocock’s The Diary of a London Schoolboy 1826-30, published by the Camden Society. John Pocock, 12¾, decisively a real person, was a builder’s son who lived on the edge of Kilburn, two miles out of London. In his journal, written on the empty pages of an old bankbook, he notes that on 23 May 1826 he walked to school: ‘Old Monk drinks like a fish ...

Obstacles

Penelope Fitzgerald, 4 July 1996

Edward Thomas: Selected Letters 
edited by R. George Thomas.
Oxford, 192 pp., £30, March 1996, 0 19 818562 6
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... my accursed temper and moodiness.’ Even so, it might be true of him, as Ian Hamilton wrote of Robert Frost, that ‘he knew his own failings, knew what the world would think of him if it found out, and yet believed the world was wrong.’ In this short selection of Edward Thomas’s letters George Thomas has aimed, he says, at reflecting the entire ...

Standing at ease

Robert Taubman, 1 May 1980

Faces in My Time 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 230 pp., £8.50, March 1980, 0 434 59924 7
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... tone. He recounts a good deal of literary as well as military life; there are anecdotes of Scott Fitzgerald, ‘Waugh, Greene, Eliot and others. Only Malcolm Muggeridge is given a full, persuasive study, bristling with interest and Mr Powell’s kind of psychological deconstructions, recalling those of the novels (and incidentally his admiration for ...

Vous êtes belle

Penelope Fitzgerald, 8 January 1987

Alain-Fournier: A Brief Life 1886-1914 
by David Arkell.
Carcanet, 178 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 85635 484 8
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Henri Alain-Fournier: Towards the Lost Domain: Letters from London 1905 
translated by W.J. Strachan.
Carcanet, 222 pp., £16.95, November 1986, 0 85635 674 3
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The Lost Domain 
by Henri Alain-Fournier, translated by Frank Davison.
Oxford, 299 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 19 212262 2
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... by an Afterword by John Fowles, less sensitive, but more enthusiastic. Fowles, who follows Robert Gibson* in taking Seurel as the central character, tells us that he was once under the influence of Alain-Fournier, and is still ‘a besotted fan’. He deserts the text, however, when he says that Frantz de Galais, like Meaulnes, ‘strives to maintain a ...

Tennyson’s Nerves

Frank Kermode, 6 November 1980

Tennyson: The Unqulet Heart 
by Robert Bernard Martin.
Oxford/Faber, 656 pp., £12.95, October 1980, 0 19 812072 9
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Thro’ the Vision of the Night: A Study of Source, Evolution and Structure in Tennyson’s ‘Idylls of the King’ 
by J.M. Gray.
Edinburgh, 179 pp., £10, August 1980, 0 85224 382 0
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... Robert Martin’s book is not one of those literary biographies that reshuffle a familiar narrative and perhaps add a few bits of new information or conjecture. It is a full-scale life, founded on primary sources, many of them previously unpublished. As the first major biography since Hallam Tennyson’s pious memoir of 1897, it has obvious importance ...

Shakers

Denis Donoghue, 6 November 1986

Write on: Occasional Essays ’65-’85 
by David Lodge.
Secker, 211 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 436 25665 7
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... Short Stories of J.D. Salinger, a book about the ‘Catholic sensibility’ of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Blake Morrison’s The Movement, Martin Amis’s Success, Tony Tanner’s Adultery in the Novel, Graham Greene’s Ways of Escape, Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, Truman Capote’s Music for Chameleons, the Oxford American Dictionary, two books ...

On the imagining of conspiracy

Christopher Hitchens, 7 November 1991

Harlot’s Ghost 
by Norman Mailer.
Joseph, 1122 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7181 2934 2
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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs 
by Theodore Draper.
Hill and Wang, 690 pp., $27.95, June 1991, 0 8090 9613 7
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... a cake and a Bible to Tehran to discuss an arms-for-hostages trade with the Ayatollah Khomeini. Robert Macnamara went to a briefing on Cuba believing that it was more than likely that he would not live through the weekend. The Central Intelligence Agency was caught, in collusion with the Mafia, plotting to poison Fidel Castro’s cigars. Ronald Reagan’s ...

Miserable Creatures

C.H. Sisson, 2 August 1984

The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy. Vol. IV: 1909-1913 
edited by Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 337 pp., £21, March 1984, 0 19 812621 2
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The Letters and Prose Writings of William Cowper. Vol. IV: 1792-1799 
edited by James King and Charles Ryskamp.
Oxford, 498 pp., £48, March 1984, 0 19 812681 6
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The Land and Literature of England: A Historical Account 
by Robert M. Adams.
Norton, 555 pp., £21, March 1984, 0 393 01704 4
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The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hardy. Vol. II 
edited by Samuel Hynes.
Oxford, 543 pp., £35, June 1984, 0 19 812783 9
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... for their own sakes, as one does the letters of Madame de Sevigné, Madame du Deffand, Edward Fitzgerald – or indeed of William Cowper, the new edition of whose Letters and Prose Writings has just reached its fourth volume. Yet Hardy’s letters are admirable in their way, laconic and to the point, written with his eye on the spirit-level, as becomes ...

Diary

Robert Irwin: The Best Thing since Sex, 2 December 1993

... roll-call of writer-enthusiasts: Horace, Sidney, Marlowe, Byron, Arnold, Brooke, Gide, Scott Fitzgerald and, most recently, Charles Sprawson. It is true, of course, that Vladimir Nabokov was a keen roller-skater back in Berlin in the Twenties. More recently, my own novel The Limits of Vision included an extravagantly irrelevant vignette of a Victorian ...

Asking to Be Looked at

Wayne Koestenbaum, 25 January 1996

Mapplethorpe: A Biography 
by Patricia Morrisroe.
Macmillan, 461 pp., £20, September 1995, 9780333669419
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Playing with the Edge: The Photographic Achievement of Robert Mapplethorpe 
by Arthur Danto.
California, 206 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 520 20051 9
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... New York’s Guggenheim Museum contains in an annex a covert Robert Mapplethorpe gallery, a sober exhibition space which, like the masterpieces of its namesake, seems consecrated to the unusual and the mortifying. The current show – Joel-Peter Witkin’s photographs of corpses, amputees and hermaphrodites – holds a grotesqueness sufficient to remind the visitor of how sweet, how antique already, the infamous Mapplethorpe images have become ...

Various Woman

Penelope Fitzgerald, 2 April 1987

A Voyager Out: The Life of Mary Kingsley 
by Katherine Frank.
Hamish Hamilton, 333 pp., £14.95, February 1987, 0 241 12074 8
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Marilyn 
by Gloria Steinem and George Barris.
Gollancz, 182 pp., £12.95, February 1987, 0 575 03945 0
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Joe and Marilyn: A Memory of Love 
by Roger Kahn.
Sidgwick, 268 pp., £10.95, March 1987, 0 283 99427 4
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I leap over the wall 
by Monica Baldwin and Karen Armstrong.
Hamish Hamilton, 308 pp., £4.95, March 1987, 9780241119747
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Diary of a Zen Nun: A Moving Chronicle of Living Zen 
by Nan Shin (Nancy Amphoux).
Rider, 228 pp., £5.95, January 1987, 9780712614320
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... Even after her death, which now seems to have become more interesting than her life, the claims of Robert Kennedy, the Communist Party and the Mafia are undecided. On every point Steinem is protective. Marilyn was doubly unfortunate in dying ‘before women began to be honest in public’. The same stories appear in Joe and Marilyn, though more luridly told ...

Living Doll and Lilac Fairy

Penelope Fitzgerald, 31 August 1989

Carrington: A Life of Dora Carrington 1893-1932 
by Gretchen Gerzina.
Murray, 342 pp., £18.95, June 1989, 0 7195 4688 5
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Lydia and Maynard: Letters between Lydia Lopokova and John Maynard Keynes 
edited by Polly Hill and Richard Keynes.
Deutsch, 367 pp., £17.95, September 1989, 0 233 98283 3
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Mazo de la Roche: The Hidden Life 
by Joan Givner.
Oxford, 273 pp., £18, July 1989, 0 19 540705 9
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Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby: A Working Partnership 
by Jean Kennard.
University Press of New England, 224 pp., £24, July 1989, 0 87451 474 6
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Dangerous by Degrees: Women at Oxford and the Somerville College Novelists 
by Susan Leonardi.
Rutgers, 254 pp., $33, May 1989, 0 8135 1366 9
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The Selected Letters of Somerville and Ross 
edited by Gifford Lewis.
Faber, 308 pp., £14.99, July 1989, 0 571 15348 8
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... worked with James Guthrie at the Peartree Press. She might have lived in Hampstead and gone to Robert Bevan’s Sundays, or tramped with Eleanor Farjeon to Edward Thomas’s cottage. As it was, she found herself in Bloomsbury. Even if they were, as Quentin Bell called them, ‘as amorphous as friends can be’, they were nearly all highly literate, and ...

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