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Peter Campbell: Anthony van Dyck

16 September 1999
Anthony van Dyck 1599-1641 
by Christopher Brown and Hans Vlieghe.
Royal Academy, 360 pp., £22.50, May 1999, 9780847821969
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Anthony van Dyck: A Life, 1599-1641 
by Robin Blake.
Constable, 435 pp., £25, August 1999, 9780094797208
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... a painter was like. As there are very few letters, and very few first-hand accounts of Van Dyck, Robin Blake’s ‘Life’ is inevitably more a ‘Times’. The fact that Van Dyck’s mother died when he was only seven is significant, but to go beyond generalities about early bereavement and look for its results in Van Dyck’s paintings of mother and ...

I am a false alarm

Robert Irwin: Khalil Gibran

3 September 1998
Kahlil Gibran: Man and Poet 
by Suheil Bushrui and Joe Jenkins.
One World, 372 pp., £18.99, August 1998, 1 85168 177 9
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Prophet: The Life and Times of Kahlil Gibran 
by Robin Waterfield.
Allen Lane, 366 pp., £20, August 1998, 0 7139 9209 3
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... political figure. In Paris he knew Debussy, while Rodin went so far as to acclaim him as ‘the Blake of the 20th century’. As it happened, Gibran could remember not only his previous reincarnation as William Blake, but also a subsequent incarnation as Dante Gabriel Rossetti. During the First World War he was offered a ...
11 March 1993
Churchill: The End of Glory 
by John Charmley.
Hodder, 648 pp., £30, January 1993, 9780340487952
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Churchill: A Major New Assessment of his Life in Peace and War 
edited by Robert Blake and Wm Roger Louis.
Oxford, 517 pp., £19.95, February 1993, 0 19 820317 9
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... not undistinguished author of a good book on Leo Amery among other things, but his co-editor Lord Blake is ... Lord Blake, former Chairman of the Rhodes Trustees, former editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, former ... no, the Disraeli biographer and Tory historian of the Tory Party. Although Lord ...

Making It Up

Raphael Samuel

4 July 1996
Raymond Williams 
by Fred Inglis.
Routledge, 333 pp., £19.99, October 1995, 0 415 08960 3
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... on its theoretical turn in 1962, the ‘virtuoso eloquence’ of Perry Anderson was backed by Robin Blackburn, ‘a beautiful, big, shock-headed youngster’ who had read Sartre and de Beauvoir in the French. Chubby, chummy and balding, imperturbably good-humoured and everybody’s pal, Inglis has a distinct resemblance to Bob Hoskins, the interfering ...

Hobohemianism

Blake Morrison

30 June 2011
The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp 
by W.H. Davies.
Amberley, 192 pp., £14.99, September 2010, 978 1 84868 980 0
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... amid the jingoistic clamour of 1914. Nor is there anything bland or scrubbed-up about Davies’s robin, a creature more terrifying than Ted Hughes’s thrush (‘He sings in triumph that last night/He killed his father in a fight;/And now he’ll take his mother’s blood’), or his description of fields as ‘dewy cemeteries … white with mushroom ...

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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... a composer who has now, regrettably, stopped composing. The poet John Birtwhistle supplied David Blake with the libretto for his unusual opera, The Plumber’s Gift. David Malouf has devised a Kipling libretto, Baa Baa Black Sheep, for Michael Berkeley. Blake Morrison is, with the composer Gavin Bryars, engaged on an ...
6 December 1990
Stick it up your punter! The Rise and Fall of the ‘Sun’ 
by Peter Chippindale and Chris Horrie.
Heinemann, 372 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 434 12624 1
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All played out: The True Story of Italia ’90 
by Pete Davies.
Heinemann, 471 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 434 17908 6
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Gazza! A Biography 
by Robin McGibbon.
Penguin, 204 pp., £3.99, October 1990, 9780140148688
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... traditionally but unimpassionedly been with the Labour Party. Chippindale and Horrie quote Lord Blake on these voters: ‘fairly young, slightly inclined to Labour, largely belonging to the skilled working class, primarily concerned with problems of housing, coloured immigration and the economy (prices and costs) rather than the condition of old-age ...

Nicely Combed

Matthew Reynolds: Ungaretti

4 December 2003
Selected Poems 
by Giuseppe Ungaretti, translated by Andrew Frisardi.
Carcanet, 287 pp., £14.95, April 2003, 1 85754 672 5
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... one way or another Petrarchan: Góngora, Mallarmé, Racine, Shakespeare and – surprisingly – Blake. The activity of translation brings you uniquely close to a writer: you have to find his words again for yourself in your own tongue. Since we cannot translate our own language into itself (or only from texts that have become archaic), it ...

The Cadaver Club

Iain Sinclair

22 December 1994
Original Sin 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 426 pp., £14.99, October 1994, 0 571 17253 9
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Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 282 pp., £14.99, September 1994, 1 85619 507 4
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The Hidden Files: An Autobiography 
by Derek Raymond.
Warner, 342 pp., £5.99, December 1994, 0 7515 1184 6
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Not till the Red Fog Rises 
by Derek Raymond.
Little, Brown, 248 pp., £15.99, December 1994, 0 316 91014 7
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... reflex, the Agatha Christie cornerstone, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Or as Derek Raymond (Robin Cook) frequently proclaimed, paraphrasing Edmund Wilson: ‘who gives a fuck who killed Roger Ackroyd?’ Raymond, attempting in The Hidden Files to define the ‘black novel’ in which he specialised, glossed the Jamesian school as ‘pretentious escapist ...

His Bonnet Akimbo

Patrick Wright: Hamish Henderson

3 November 2011
Hamish Henderson: A Biography. Vol. I: The Making of the Poet (1919-53) 
by Timothy Neat.
Polygon, 416 pp., £14.99, May 2009, 978 1 84697 132 7
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Hamish Henderson: A Biography. Vol. II: Poetry Becomes People (1954-2002) 
by Timothy Neat.
Polygon, 395 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 1 84697 063 4
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... poems, comic operas and humorous essays in the Ingletonian Raconteur. Revelling in the works of Blake, Ruskin and Samuel Palmer, he was inspired by the idea that ‘reality is a thing that has to be reinvented continually.’ With no family to confine him, he used school holidays to venture out. A ‘seasoned hitch-hiker’ by the age of 16, he visited the ...

Escaped from the Lab

Robert Crawford: Peter Redgrove

21 June 2012
A Lucid Dreamer: The Life of Peter Redgrove 
by Neil Roberts.
Cape, 341 pp., £30, January 2012, 978 0 224 09029 2
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Collected Poems 
by Peter Redgrove, edited by Neil Roberts.
Cape, 496 pp., £25, January 2012, 978 0 224 09027 8
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... his work, Kathleen Raine wrote, is ‘like standing under a waterfall in full spate’. Like Blake or Stanley Spencer, Redgrove was a great English visionary eccentric whose way of seeing mixed sexuality with a powerful sense of ritual. Born in Kingston upon Thames in 1932, he spent most of his boyhood in a newly built detached suburban house. Its ...
19 February 2004
John Clare: A Biography 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 650 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 330 37106 1
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‘I Am’: The Selected Poetry of John Clare 
edited by Jonathan Bate.
Farrar, Straus, 318 pp., $17, November 2003, 0 374 52869 1
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John Clare, Politics and Poetry 
by Alan Vardy.
Palgrave, 221 pp., £45, October 2003, 0 333 96617 1
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John Clare Vol. V: Poems of the Middle Period 1822-37 
edited by Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 822 pp., £105, January 2003, 0 19 812386 8
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... The formative texts of his childhood and early youth were, inevitably, Pilgrim’s Progress and Robinson Crusoe, both of which he echoed in ‘To the Snipe’, a lyric whose isolated, islanded atmosphere and slough-like, ‘rude, desolate’ marshes build a distinctive form of Puritan anguish. Bate begins his third chapter with an account of the most ...

Too Obviously Cleverer

Ferdinand Mount: Harold Macmillan

8 September 2011
Supermac: The Life of Harold Macmillan 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Pimlico, 887 pp., £16.99, September 2011, 978 1 84413 541 7
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The Macmillan Diaries Vol. II: Prime Minister and After 1957-66 
edited by Peter Catterall.
Macmillan, 758 pp., £40, May 2011, 978 1 4050 4721 0
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... to Stalin or the Croats to Tito until the conference at Udine on the 26th, Lieutenant-Colonel Robin Rose Price wrote in his diary on 19 May: ‘Order of most sinister duplicity received i.e. to send Croats to their foes, i.e. Tits to Yugoslavia under the impression they were to go to Italy.’ Thorpe does not quote the even more sinister sentence that ...

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