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Shouting across the gulf

Mary Midgley, 18 October 1984

Greenham Common: Women at the Wire 
edited by Barbara Harford and Sarah Hopkins.
Women’s Press, 171 pp., £3.95, June 1984, 0 7043 3926 9
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Weapons and Hope 
by Freeman Dyson.
Harper and Row, 347 pp., £10.95, May 1984, 0 06 337037 9
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... Is there anyone who can keep in focus both sides of the debate about armaments, who can see fully what is meant by both armers and disarmers? To the armers, who occupy most of the positions of power, British arms, and Western arms generally, appear as the natural and only possible response to a pressing danger. They look like a roof over our heads. To the disarmers, they appear as the main source of that danger ...

You bet your life

Margaret Walters, 21 April 1988

Oscar and Lucinda 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 512 pp., £10.95, March 1988, 0 571 14812 3
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The Fifth Child 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 131 pp., £9.95, April 1988, 0 224 02553 8
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Eight Months on Ghazzah Street 
by Hilary Mantel.
Viking, 299 pp., £11.95, April 1988, 0 670 82117 9
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... odds, in our existence. And the narrator’s account of his great-grandfather, the Reverend Oscar Hopkins, is, by any standards, a weird one. It begins in Devon, with a Christmas pudding snatched from the child’s lips by his harsh Plymouth Brethren father. It ends – as a direct consequence of that pudding – half a world away in 1866, as Oscar sits, ill ...

Christina and the Sid

Penelope Fitzgerald, 18 March 1982

Christina Rossetti: A Divided Life 
by Georgina Battiscombe.
Constable, 233 pp., £9.50, May 1981, 0 09 461950 6
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The Golden Veil 
by Paddy Kitchen.
Hamish Hamilton, 286 pp., £7.95, May 1981, 0 241 10584 6
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The Little Holland House Album 
by Edward Burne-Jones and John Christian.
Dalrymple Press, 39 pp., £38, April 1981, 0 9507301 0 6
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... heart seems not to be in the subject – as it was, for example, in her life of Gerard Manley Hopkins. This listlessness is most unfortunate in the dialogue. What is the use of Ruskin making an appearance to say, ‘All right, then, temporarily I will pay for a suitable room large enough to accommodate her needs,’ or Gabriel adding, ‘Perhaps John and ...

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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... infant prince’s brow metamorphosed into a devout drenching. In rather the same spirit, Father Hopkins wrote an epithalamion for a friend’s wedding which goes off into a vividly lyrical picture of boys bathing in a stream, and returns to remind us that water is ‘spousal love’. And to record the breaking of the great drought of 1984 made ‘a fitting ...

Diary

Elisa Segrave: Revved Up on Solpadeine, 22 July 1993

... thinks this is terribly vulgar and refuses to do it. Also, he says, according to research at Johns Hopkins University, people who change sex quite often commit suicide. I feel worried for Caroline, who at the moment looks so happy. Monday. I am out of hospital but I missed the literary party. Still, my cousin Cate is giving one for single people. I am on three ...

Where am I in all this?

Michael Newton: Pola Negri, 19 February 2015

Pola Negri: Hollywood’s First Femme Fatale 
by Mariusz Kotowski.
Kentucky, 322 pp., £29.95, April 2014, 978 0 8131 4488 7
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... own words that her models were the divas of opera and theatre, or the great dancers of ballet: Sarah Bernhardt, Eleonora Duse et al (silent movies are much closer to ballet and grand theatre than they are to Breaking Bad). Both Bernhardt and Duse offered the young Negri the same melancholy advice: one could choose perfection of the life or perfection of ...

His Peach Stone

Christopher Tayler: J.G. Farrell, 2 December 2010

J.G. Farrell in His Own Words: Selected Letters and Diaries 
edited by Lavinia Greacen.
Cork, 464 pp., €19.95, September 2010, 978 1 85918 476 9
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... of Cardinal Newman might have been another matter’). Edward, in turn, has an affair with Sarah Devlin, a sharp-tongued Catholic girl from a nearby village, while fulminating against Irish disloyalty and growing more and more eccentric – violently so, in the end. But the plotting is less important than the large-scale set pieces, such as a ...

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