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Bumming and Booing

John Mullan: William Wordsworth, 5 April 2001

Wordsworth: A Life 
by Juliet Barker.
Viking, 971 pp., £25, October 2000, 9780670872138
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The Hidden Wordsworth 
by Kenneth Johnston.
Pimlico, 690 pp., £15, September 2000, 0 7126 6752 0
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Disowned by Memory: Wordsworth’s Poetry of the 1790s 
by David Bromwich.
Chicago, 186 pp., £9.50, April 2000, 0 226 07556 7
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... faulty passages, but I know of no poet in any language who has written so much that is good,’ Robert Southey wrote (the declaration is emblazoned on the dust-jacket of Juliet Barker’s new Life). Yet any sense of this – of the subtle, elementary qualities of Wordsworth’s verse – is rarely apparent to those who study him, and rarely apparent in ...

How many speed bumps?

Gavin Francis: Pain, 20 August 2014

The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers 
by Joanna Bourke.
Oxford, 396 pp., £20, June 2014, 978 0 19 968942 2
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... inhaling nitrous oxide – laughing gas. ‘Such a gas has Davy discovered, the gaseous oxide!’ Robert Southey wrote to his brother, ‘I am sure the air in heaven must be this wonder-working gas of delight.’ Davy considered whether the gas might be useful in surgery, but the power and tenacity of a humoral vision of the body made him think it would ...

Godmother of the Salmon

John Bayley, 9 July 1992

‘Rain-Charm for the Duchy’ and other Laureate Poems 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 64 pp., £12.99, June 1992, 0 571 16605 9
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... among the dull of ancient days’ in Pope’s Dunciad), Cibber, Whitehead, Warton, Pye, Southey, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Austin, Bridges, Masefield, Day-Lewis, Betjeman ... In 1921 E.K. Broadus wrote a book, The Laureateship. After the First War there must have been a need in the public mind for some good official stuff, like Spring-Rice’s ‘I vow ...

Libel on the Human Race

Steven Shapin: Malthus, 4 June 2014

Malthus: The Life and Legacies of an Untimely Prophet 
by Robert Mayhew.
Harvard, 284 pp., £20, April 2014, 978 0 674 72871 4
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... The​ Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus liked to look on the bright side. True, that hasn’t been the usual assessment: his Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) was intended to drench the parade of Enlightenment optimism about human possibility. The Radical writer Richard Price reckoned that an expanding population was a good thing, and that it would follow inevitably from more virtuous forms of government ...

Skeltonics

Helen Cooper: The maverick poetry of John Skelton, 14 December 2006

John Skelton and Poetic Authority: Defining the Liberty to Speak 
by Jane Griffiths.
Oxford, 213 pp., £50, February 2006, 9780199273607
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... figure, and in Anthony Munday’s Robin Hood play within a play, The Downfall and Death of Robert Earl of Huntingdon, a ‘real-life’ Skelton takes the role of Friar Tuck. His recovery came on the back of the rise of Modernism, with its opening of readers’ minds to new kinds of non-traditional poetry, and it was confirmed with the appearance of ...

The Reptile Oculist

John Barrell, 1 April 2004

... There were fellow poets such as Felicia Hemans, Tom Moore, Samuel Rogers, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Southey; artists of various kinds including the gifted amateur Sir George Beaumont, Francis Chantry, John Constable, Thomas Lawrence, James Northcote and John Soane; and from the theatre, Jack Bannister, George Colman the younger, various Kembles, the ...

Effervescence

Alan Ryan, 9 November 1989

Burke and the Fall of Language: The French Revolution as Linguistic Event 
by Steven Blakemore.
University Press of New England, 115 pp., £10, April 1989, 0 87451 452 5
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The Impact of the French Revolution on European Consciousness 
edited by H.T. Mason and William Doyle.
Sutton, 205 pp., £17.95, June 1989, 0 86299 483 7
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The French Revolution and the Enlightenment in England 1789-1832 
by Seamus Deane.
Harvard, 212 pp., £19.95, November 1988, 0 674 32240 1
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... literary event. Indeed, it was a literary event in a good many different, though related ways. As Robert Darnton has emphasised, it was a literary event in that it unlocked the printing presses and called forth a torrent of newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets and essays. Where France possessed no uncensored newspapers before 1789, almost two hundred journals ...

Umpteens

Christopher Ricks, 22 November 1990

Bloomsbury Dictionary of Dedications 
edited by Adrian Room.
Bloomsbury, 354 pp., £17.99, September 1990, 0 7475 0521 7
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Unauthorised Versions: Poems and their Parodies 
edited by Kenneth Baker.
Faber, 446 pp., £14.99, September 1990, 0 571 14122 6
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The Faber Book of Vernacular Verse 
edited by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 407 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 571 14470 5
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... to an occasional session of sweet silent thought, or even to the consulting of a concordance. Robert Browning, Luria, 1846 – I dedicate this last attempt for the present at Dramatic Poetry to a Great Dramatic Poet: ‘Wishing what I write may be read by his light’: if a phrase originally addressed, by not the least worthy of his contemporaries, to ...

Deleecious

Matthew Bevis: William Hazlitt, 6 November 2008

New Writings of William Hazlitt: Volume I 
edited by Duncan Wu.
Oxford, 507 pp., £120, September 2007, 978 0 19 923573 5
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New Writings of William Hazlitt: Volume II 
edited by Duncan Wu.
Oxford, 553 pp., £120, September 2007, 978 0 19 923574 2
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William Hazlitt: The First Modern Man 
by Duncan Wu.
Oxford, 557 pp., £25, October 2008, 978 0 19 954958 0
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... Lawrence. Wu then points to a notebook entry by Coleridge about a walk he went on with Hazlitt and Southey which ‘describes an occasion on which Southey might have posed in the manner here recalled’. Might have? Even if one feels inclined to allow Wu some latitude, one would want to ask why biographical fact (rather than ...

If It Weren’t for Charlotte

Alice Spawls: The Brontës, 16 November 2017

... sent copies of poems they had been working on to famous poets, including the poet laureate Robert Southey. We don’t have Charlotte’s letter to Southey, or know which poems she sent, but parts of her letter are quoted in his and show her extravagant style of praise – she begs him to ‘stoop from his throne ...

Black Electricities

John Sutherland, 30 October 1997

The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle. Vol. XXV: January-December 1850 
edited by Clyde de L. Ryals and K.J. Fielding.
Duke, 364 pp., £52, September 1997, 0 8223 1986 1
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Reminiscences 
by Thomas Carlyle, edited by K.J. Fielding and Ian Campbell.
Oxford, 481 pp., £7.99, September 1997, 0 19 281748 5
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... wormwood to the Calvinist Scot), ‘Hudson’s Statue’ (a proposed monument to a Mid-Victorian Robert Maxwell), ‘Stump Oratory’ (politicians’ lies). Carlyle’s intention was to wield what he called ‘the red hot poker’ – whether to cauterise or do an Edward II on the body politic is not clear. The whole is suffused with his mood of ...
What is Love? Richard Carlile’s Philosophy of Sex 
edited by M.L. Bush.
Verso, 214 pp., £19, September 1998, 1 85984 851 6
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... looks promising. Didn’t Blake and Shelley believe in free love? Didn’t Coleridge and Southey plan to establish a liberationist commune in America? Didn’t Byron and Hazlitt write with startling candour about sex? On closer inspection, things are more tricky. Whatever their views on heterosexual intercourse, Blake and Shelley both drew a firm ...

Upstaging

Paul Driver, 19 August 1993

Shining Brow 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 86 pp., £5.99, February 1993, 0 571 16789 6
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... of The Magic Flute (all of this under the auspices of the American director Peter Sellars). Robert Lowell meant to write a libretto and duly boned up with intensive attendance at the New York Met, but never delivered. John Ashbery has not, so far as I know, produced a libretto – only the poem, ‘Syringa’, specially composed for a setting by Elliott ...

Into Apathy

Neil McKendrick, 21 August 1980

The Wedgwood Circle, 1730-1897 
by Barbara Wedgwood and Hensleigh Wedgwood.
Studio Vista, 386 pp., £9.95, May 1980, 0 289 70892 3
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... gardening, and established a fashionable gathering-place for such promising young intellectuals as Southey, Coleridge, Beddoes and Mackintosh. The young Josiah was even more aware of the distinction between ‘gentlemen’ and ‘men engaged in business’ and had the insensitivity to lecture his father on the subject. ‘I have been for too long in the habit ...

Regrets, Vexations, Lassitudes

Seamus Perry: Wordsworth’s Trouble, 18 December 2008

William Wordsworth’s ‘The Prelude’: A Casebook 
edited by Stephen Gill.
Oxford, 406 pp., £19.99, September 2006, 0 19 518092 5
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... through the same telescope which he applies to the moon and stars’, as his friend Southey complained – as though he were inadvertently producing a kind of mock-heroic by deploying the resources of verse on all the wrong things. In a way, although obviously unsympathetic, the critics were not being obtuse; but where they detected a perverse ...

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