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Sleaze: Politicians, Private Interests and Public Reaction 
edited by F.F. Ridley and Alan Doig.
Oxford, 222 pp., £10.99, April 1996, 0 19 922273 8
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Changing Trains: The Autobiography of Steven Norris 
Hutchinson, 273 pp., £16.99, October 1996, 0 09 180212 1Show More
The Quango Debate 
edited by F.F. Ridley and David Wilson.
Oxford, 188 pp., £10.99, September 1995, 9780199222384
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... The abject surrender of Neil Hamilton, the ‘envelope man’ who changed the law so that he could sue the Guardian for libel, deprived the nation of an exhilarating and informative court case. When the Guardian alleged that Hamilton, Tory MP for Tatton, had taken money from Mohammed AI Fayed, chairman of Harrods to lobby Parliament against a Department of Trade inquiry which eventually denounced Fayed as a liar, the cocky MP announced that he was at last going to get even with the liberal press ...

Agh, Agh, Yah, Boo

David Wheatley: Ian Hamilton Finlay, 4 December 2014

Midway: Letters from Ian Hamilton Finlay to Stephen Bann, 1964-69 
edited by Stephen Bann.
Wilmington Square, 426 pp., £25, May 2014, 978 1 905524 34 1
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... Writing​ to his friend Stephen Bann, then a graduate student, in 1964, Ian Hamilton Finlay outlined his plans to treat readers of his brash new journal, Poor. Old. Tired. Horse, to a free lollipop, sellotaped to the magazine’s cover. Like many of his plans from this period it came to nothing. In any case, sugar and spice weren’t really Finlay’s thing ...

Wobble in My Mind

Colm Tóibín: Lizzie, Cal and Caroline, 7 May 2020

The Dolphin Letters, 1970-79: Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell and Their Circle 
edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 560 pp., £35, January, 978 0 571 35741 3
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The Dolphin: Two Versions, 1972-73 
by Robert Lowell, edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Farrar, Straus, 224 pp., £11.99, December 2019, 978 0 374 53827 9
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... In April​ 1970, Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick – both aged 53, married for 21 years – had just been on holiday together in Italy with their 13-year-old daughter, Harriet. Hardwick and Harriet had come home to New York, where Hardwick taught at Barnard College; Lowell had gone to Oxford to take up a fellowship at All Souls ...

Ashamed of the Planet

Ian Hamilton, 2 March 2000

No Other Book: Selected Essays 
by Randall Jarrell, edited by Brad Leithauser.
HarperCollins, 376 pp., $27.50, June 1999, 0 06 118012 2
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Remembering Randall: A Memoir of Poet, Critic and Teacher Randall Jarrell 
by Mary von Schrader Jarrell.
HarperCollins, 173 pp., $22, June 1999, 0 06 118011 4
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... cut. The quotation ends with ‘What unfailing taste he possessed’ – full stop.) Jarrell, as Robert Lowell once observed, was actually more of a eulogist than a destroyer and it was in the realm of eulogy that his weakness for near-spluttering exaggeration was at its most off-putting. When Jarrell admired a writer, that writer had to be vaunted to the ...

Tomorrow is here again

Anne Wagner: The First Pop Age, 11 October 2012

The First Pop Age 
by Hal Foster.
Princeton, 338 pp., £20.95, October 2011, 978 0 691 15138 0
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... soup cans (‘Because I used to drink it. I used to have the same lunch every day’), asked Robert Indiana if Pop was ‘easy art’ (‘Yes’), and sought Jim Dine’s views on whether Pop offers social commentary (‘I’m certainly not changing the world … if it’s art, who cares if it’s a comment?’). He also asked Lichtenstein: ‘Is Pop art ...

‘I intend to support white rule’

Ian Hamilton: Allen Tate, 24 May 2001

Allen Tate: Orphan of the South 
by Thomas Underwood.
Princeton, 447 pp., £21.95, December 2000, 0 691 06950 6
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... mother also made a somewhat pitiable fuss of her Virginia roots and claimed to be descended from Robert E. Lee. When her marriage began to fall apart, she made it her mission to educate Allen and his brothers in the details of her family history, taking them repeatedly on visits to ancestral sites and introducing them to ancient relatives. On one ...

Toto the Villain

Robert Tashman, 9 July 1992

The Wizard of Oz 
by Salman Rushdie.
BFI, 69 pp., £5.95, May 1992, 0 85170 300 3
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... in which the nightmare of Indira Gandhi is fused with the equally nightmarish figure of Margaret Hamilton; a coming-together of the Wicked Witches of the East and of the West.’ There are other examples of Rushdie’s criticism of the film passing into criticism and advocacy of his own work: ‘But of all movies, the one that helped me most as I tried to ...


Ian Hamilton: Two weeks in Australia, 6 October 1983

... branch of the ‘identity’ lobby spoke of the new affinity it felt with Californian poets like Robert Duncan. Again, the word ‘geography’ was used: it made geographical sense for Australians to cosy up with San Francisco. To balance the provincial angst, there were also a number of sneering cosmopolitans, but they tended not to sit on platforms. They ...


Ian Hamilton: Self-Exposure at the Football Terrace, 2 September 1982

... earlier to Lucian [sic] Freud and by her third marriage to the illustrious American poet, the late Robert Frost. Frost and Blackwood? It’s a nice idea, but really ... In the matter of self-accusation, though, Davie makes Lord Longford seem trivial. The Barnsley poet’s grapplings are sombre and serpentine, and even though he usually comes out of the ...


Ian Hamilton: New New Grub Street, 3 February 1983

... Blackheath with their holdalls, or nipping round the corner from the Telegraph with a fistful of Robert Hales or Arthur Barkers. One esteemed figure at the Times used to order a taxi for noon on Friday and when it arrived he would have a flunkey load it up with art books and American encyclopedias. He would then squeeze in beside his booty and, with ...

Bard of Friendly Fire

Robert Crawford: The Radical Burns, 25 July 2002

Robert Burns: Poems 
edited by Don Paterson.
Faber, 96 pp., £4.99, February 2001, 0 571 20740 5
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The Canongate Burns: The Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns 
edited by Andrew Noble and Patrick Scott Hogg.
Canongate, 1017 pp., £40, November 2001, 0 86241 994 8
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... Aberdeen philosopher Thomas Blackwell was writing that Homer was a ‘stroling indigent Bard’. Robert Burns liked that idea. In ‘Love and Liberty’ a bard sings alongside prostitutes and tinkers, and pronounces himself ‘Homer like’. Burns’s footnote (Burns enjoyed footnotes) points out cheekily that ‘Homer is allowed to be the oldest ...

MacDiarmid and his Maker

Robert Crawford, 10 November 1988

by Alan Bold.
Murray, 482 pp., £17.95, September 1988, 0 7195 4585 4
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A Drunk Man looks at the Thistle 
by Hugh MacDiarmid, edited by Kenneth Buthlay.
Scottish Academic Press, 203 pp., £12.50, February 1988, 0 7073 0425 3
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The Hugh MacDiarmid-George Ogilvie Letters 
edited by Catherine Kerrigan.
Aberdeen University Press, 156 pp., £24.90, August 1988, 0 08 036409 8
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Hugh MacDiarmid and the Russian 
by Peter McCarey.
Scottish Academic Press, 225 pp., £12.50, March 1988, 0 7073 0526 8
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... years. There is no mention, for instance, of those quarrels with younger writers such as Ian Hamilton Finlay, and the Edwin Morgan who is in some ways MacDiarmid’s literary heir. It does seem untrue to say that ‘as for MacDiarmid’s legacy, it has to be confined to his own achievement.’ MacDiarmid’s legacy seems present even in the work of those ...

Bugger me blue

Ian Hamilton, 22 October 1992

The Selected Letters of Philip Larkin 
edited by Anthony Thwaite.
Faber, 759 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 571 15197 3
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... or somebody – some murderer – like that. He had probably misread a communication from Robert (The Great Terror) Conquest. Anyway, it is already pretty clear that one of the chief excitements of this publication will be in finding out who has been dumped on, and how badly. Few well-known names escape the Larkin lash and although Anthony Thwaite ...

Young Wystan

Ian Hamilton, 8 September 1994

Juvenilia: Poems 1922-28 
by W.H. Auden, edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Faber, 263 pp., £25, July 1994, 0 571 17140 0
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... can be, and what a torture of guilt it makes breaking away.’Auden was 15 when his schoolfriend Robert Medley suggested that he might try his hand at writing poems.Kicking a little stone, he turned to meAnd said, ‘Tell me, do you write poetry?’I never had, and said so, but I knewThat very moment what I wished to do.At 15, Auden knew, too, that he was ...

One for the road

Ian Hamilton, 21 March 1991

by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 346 pp., £16.99, March 1991, 0 09 174533 0
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... Betjeman. Larkin, of course, is the one contemporary to whom Amis is prepared to yield high marks (Robert Conquest, perhaps the most ‘all right’ of Kingsley’s literary cronies, is shunted off into ‘light verse’). Larkin is named as Amis’s second-favourite poet (Housman is tops, though he may not have stayed tops, we suspect, if Amis had ever sat ...

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