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After the Woolwich

Frank Kermode, 7 February 1991

Spanner and Pen: Post-War Memoirs 
by Roy Fuller.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 190 pp., £16.95, February 1991, 1 85619 040 4
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... Seven years ago Roy Fuller published the third volume of his memoirs, which covered his life up to the end of the war. Reviewing it in this journal, I lamented his decision to stop there and called for a continuation, ‘all about the Woolwich, the Arts Council, the BBC and Oxford, with incidental observations on the conduct of the young, the remembered follies of youth, the tiresome defects of old age, and so forth ...


Frank Kermode, 22 May 1980

The Reign of Sparrows 
by Roy Fuller.
London Magazine Editions, 69 pp., £3.95, February 1980, 0 904388 29 8
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by Roy Fuller.
London Magazine Editions, 191 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 904388 30 1
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... Forty years ago, Roy Fuller was taking a close look at himself and finding the image unsatisfying, already a little disappointed. This one is remembered for a lyric. His place and period – nothing could be duller. In his new book of poems there is one called ‘On Birkett Marshall’s Rare Poems of the 17th Century’: Coppinger, Pordage, Collop, Fayne, Fettiplace, Farley, Chamberlain – They could be the darling poets of my youth: I almost search among the names for mine ...

With the Woolwich

C.H. Sisson, 18 July 1985

New and Collected Poems: 1934-84 
by Roy Fuller.
Secker in association with London Magazine Editions, 557 pp., £14.95, June 1985, 0 436 16790 5
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The Sea at the Door 
by Sylvia Kantaris.
Secker, 70 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 23070 4
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... Roy Fuller was born in 1912, under what conjunction of planets I do not know, but the place of his birth was somewhere between Manchester and Oldham. His next stop was Blackpool, where he attended the High School until the age of 16. He might even in those distant days have been expected to go on at the age of 17 or 18 to a university, but, whether through parental or his own native caution or some other cause, he was instead articled to a local solicitor and was admitted in 1934 ...


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

... out of the language by assigning it such narrow, youthful duties? The three quotations are by 1. Roy Fuller, from Souvenirs,1 the first volume of his memoirs. The second, Vamp till ready,2 has recently appeared and its excellence shamed me into tracking down Vol. One. 2. Donald Davie, from his memoirs, just published under the title These the ...


Ian Sansom, 11 December 1997

The Bounty 
by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 78 pp., £14.99, July 1997, 0 571 19130 4
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... Porter); ‘I feel that the fuss and the language are not quite justified by the donné’ (Roy Fuller). Derek Walcott has suffered, perhaps more than any other contemporary poet writing in English, from accusations that his work is too showy. Some of the accusations stick. Much of Walcott’s early work – ‘Prelude’, for example, and ‘A Far ...

The Purser’s Tale

Frank Kermode, 5 April 1984

Home and Dry: Memoirs III 
by Roy Fuller.
London Magazine Editions, 165 pp., £8.95, February 1984, 0 904388 47 6
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... This is the third and last volume of Roy Fuller’s memoirs, and it takes him up to the end of the war. It may sound ungracious, but I can’t help wondering why I find all three books so appealing that the strong implication of finality seems quite unacceptable. Though literate and pleasantly, even amusingly morose, these are not what are commonly called compulsive reads ...

A Human Kafka

Gabriel Josipovici, 5 March 1981

The World of Franz Kafka 
edited by J.P. Stern.
Weidenfeld, 263 pp., £9.95, January 1981, 0 297 77845 5
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... anguish. This book is a celebration of that Kafka. Its epigraph could well be this sentence from Roy Fuller’s splendid essay, which sets out to overturn Brod’s view that Kafka’s daily stint at the Insurance Office was totally destructive: ‘There are advantages,’ Fuller writes, ‘in a life, however ...


Frank Kermode, 2 November 1995

Roy FullerWriter and Society 
by Neil Powell.
Carcanet, 330 pp., £25, September 1995, 1 85754 133 2
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... One of Roy Fuller’s ‘Quatrains of an Elderly Man’ is called ‘Poetry and Whist’: How enviable Herrick’s Fourteen hundred lyrics!   Though, as the Scot complained when they dealt him all The trumps, a lot of them were small. The envy seems unjustified, for Fuller must have written far more than 1400 lyrics – indeed there are more than that in the Collected Poems of 1985, with dozens more to come ...

Martian Arts

Jonathan Raban, 23 July 1987

Home and Away 
by Steve Ellis.
Bloodaxe, 62 pp., £4.50, February 1987, 9781852240271
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The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper 
by Blake Morrison.
Chatto, 48 pp., £4.95, May 1987, 0 7011 3227 2
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The Frighteners 
by Sean O’Brien.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £4.50, February 1987, 9781852240134
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... of fear and derision. ‘The ranks of the illiterate raise puerile and rhythmless voices,’ wrote Roy Fuller. ‘Infantile simplicity is all,’ wrote Julian Symons.What no one in the symposium quite manages to say, yet almost everyone darkly hints at, is that in 1972 the ‘Poundian revolution’ still looked as if it was carrying the world before ...

Advice for the New Nineties

Julian Symons, 12 March 1992

HMS Glasshouse 
by Sean O’Brien.
Oxford, 56 pp., £5.99, November 1991, 0 19 282835 5
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The Hogweed Lass 
by Alan Dixon.
Poet and Printer, 33 pp., £3, September 1991, 0 900597 39 9
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Collected Poems 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 319 pp., £18.95, November 1991, 0 85635 923 8
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... of rhythm and metre even while rejecting verse that goes yakkety-yakkety-yak. In his last years Roy Fuller was much absorbed by theories of prosody, the nature of metrical stresses, and what he called the artifice of versification. He concluded that ‘rhythm is the root of the matter in poetry’, rhythm as complex as Swinburne’s or as ...


Julian Symons, 9 November 1989

The Politics of Literary Reputation: The Making and Claiming of ‘St George’ Orwell 
by John Rodden.
Oxford, 478 pp., £22.50, October 1989, 0 19 503954 8
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... is ubiquitous – I came across it while writing this piece in the autobiography of Roy Fuller, no admirer of Orwell. Various images of Orwell, both literary and personal, are examined in the book’s search for the making of a reputation. Rodden believes that V.S. Pritchett’s obituary in the New Statesman was more important than any ...

Main Man

Michael Hofmann, 7 July 1994

Walking Possession: Essays and Reviews 1968-1993 
by Ian Hamilton.
Bloomsbury, 302 pp., £20, May 1994, 0 7475 1712 6
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Gazza Italia 
by Ian Hamilton.
Granta, 188 pp., £5.99, May 1994, 0 14 014073 5
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... The poetry section is still weirder: Larkin one can understand, from Hamilton; also Alun Lewis, Roy Fuller, Frost and Graves. But Wilbur and Merrill, Heaney and Motion? I’m not surprised there’s little evidence of attachment to their work, just oblique dismay. For any sort of poetic credo, you have to go back to the poems, or the essays in A Poetry ...

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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... sensitive and influential slot.’ The highly sensitive slot, incidentally, went that year to Roy Fuller, who, when asked, declared himself ‘absolutely sympathetic to Marxist ideas’ and spoke of his ‘fundamental belief in the materialist conception of history’. And five years alter that, it went to the highly sensitive John Wain, thus ...

A Dingy Start to the Day

Frank Kermode, 10 September 1992

Kingsley Amis: Modern Novelist 
by Dale Salwak.
Harvester, 302 pp., £24.99, April 1992, 0 7450 1096 2
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London Calling: V.S. Naipaul, Postcolonial Mandarin 
by Rob Nixon.
Oxford, 229 pp., £27.50, May 1992, 0 19 506717 7
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... others might call commitments.’ Naipaul himself, we are told, is obsessed with ruins, which, as Roy Fuller observed before him, are ‘implicit in every structure’. This obsession is no help when the desperate need is for improvement, any improvement. Nixon is keenly aware of the difference between actually living in a country full of chaos and ...

Being all right, and being wrong

Barbara Everett, 12 July 1990

Miscellaneous Verdicts: Writings on Writers 1946-1989 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 501 pp., £20, May 1990, 9780434599288
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Haydn and the Valve Trumpet 
by Craig Raine.
Faber, 498 pp., £20, June 1990, 0 571 15084 5
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... to say about Powell himself as a writer. Though he deals competently with some poets (Betjeman and Roy Fuller, Kingsley Amis and Larkin), verse isn’t really his medium. Powell responds with most certainty to those literary forms most involved with time’s randomness, its ‘miscellaneousness’: the novel, the diary, the biography. Literature is for ...

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