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I jolly well would have

Paul Foot, 20 August 1992

Claire clairmont and the Shelleys 
by Robert Gittings and Jo Manton.
Oxford, 281 pp., £20, April 1992, 0 19 818594 4
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Mab’s Daughters 
by Judith Chernaik.
Pan, 229 pp., £5.99, July 1992, 0 330 32379 2
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... This rescue was carried on by Marion Stocking, and has now been triumphantly completed by John Gittings and Jo Manton. They have not much to add to the familiar part of the story – Claire’s life with the Shelleys until the poet’s death, at the age of 29, in 1822. It is in their account of Claire’s long, tough life after Shelley’s death – nearly ...

Inspiration, Accident, Genius

Helen Vendler, 16 October 1997

by Andrew Motion.
Faber, 612 pp., £25, October 1997, 9780571172276
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... biographies of Keats appeared within a short time: W.J. Bate’s and Aileen Ward’s in 1963, Robert Gittings’s in 1968. Each is still very useful; all were admirable, if in different ways. W.J. Bate, who had been interested in Keats ever since he wrote his undergraduate thesis on the poet in 1939, paid special attention to Keats’s stylistic ...


A.J.P. Taylor: Problems for the Solitary Housekeeper , 3 March 1983

... During my solitary evenings I have been reading the two volumes of Thomas Hardy’s biography by Robert Gittings. I have just finished it and this recalls to me Hardy’s funeral at Westminster Abbey, which I actually attended. Or rather the funeral of most of him: his heart had been left behind in Dorsetshire. I suppose I was one of the ...

Her eyes were wild

John Bayley, 2 May 1985

Letters of Dorothy Wordsworth: A Selection 
edited by Alan Hill.
Oxford, 200 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 19 818539 1
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Dorothy Wordsworth 
by Robert Gittings and Jo Manton.
Oxford, 318 pp., £12.50, March 1985, 0 19 818519 7
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The Pedlar, Tintern Abbey, The Two-Part Prelude 
by William Wordsworth, edited by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Cambridge, 76 pp., £7.95, January 1985, 0 521 26526 6
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The Ruined Cottage, The Brothers, Michael 
by William Wordsworth, edited by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Cambridge, 82 pp., £7.95, January 1985, 0 521 26525 8
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... the way’, since his help was not worth the cooking of his meals. The wholly admirable account by Gittings and Manton brings out even more effectively than their previous biographies the texture and development of these famous lives. To read them on the relationship of William and Dorothy with Coleridge and their other friends is to see these things as if for ...

His Only Friend

Elaine Showalter, 8 September 1994

by Martin Seymour-Smith.
Bloomsbury, 886 pp., £25, February 1994, 0 7475 1037 7
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... but rather with the alleged critical assassins: Carl Weber (‘a boorish vulgarian’), Robert Gittings (‘unscrupulous’), Richard Purdy (‘incapable of psychological insight into sexual matters’) and Michael Millgate (‘prim’), the devoted Hardy scholars who have given us studies of the work, an edition of the letters and several ...


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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... difficult terrains in any case) than there appeared in 1978 The Older Hardy, the second volume of Robert Gittings’s biography, which had the effect of vindicating, exhaustively and unforgivingly, Edward Clodd’s epitaph. Ever since, the Trade Union has been on the defensive. The first move was to prefer to ...

Would he have been better?

John Gittings: Chiang Kai-shek, 18 March 2004

Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the China He Lost 
by Jonathan Fenby.
Free Press, 562 pp., £25, November 2003, 0 7432 3144 9
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... spoke of his messiah complex and noted his ‘sharp eyes looking out of the same austere mask’. Robert Payne (a profound observer of wartime China, whose books are now forgotten) described Chiang’s face as ‘always the same: calm, detached, unemotional’. The problem has always been how to penetrate the mask. Early contemporaries speak of Chiang’s ...

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