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Incompetents

Stephen Bann

16 June 1983
Worstward Ho 
by Samuel Beckett.
Calder, 48 pp., £5.50, April 1983, 0 7145 3979 1
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That Voice 
by Robert Pinget, translated by Barbara Wright.
Red Dust (New York), 114 pp., $10.95, May 1983, 0 87376 041 7
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King Solomon 
by Romain Gary, translated by Barbara Wright.
Harvill, 256 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 00 261416 2
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A Year in Hartlebury, or The Election 
by Benjamin Disraeli and Sarah Disraeli.
Murray, 222 pp., £8.50, May 1983, 0 7195 4020 8
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The Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 180 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 224 02130 3
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... concern for the good of another’. In his own way, Romain Gary was also cutting a track ‘Between Fantoine and Agapa’. Gary’s King Solomon kept its alias for no more than a year: Benjamin and SarahDisraeli’s A Year at Hartlebury, or The Election has remained pseudonymous for a century and a half, to await republication at this most appropriate of seasons. No literary subterfuge was involved ...
10 January 1983
Benjamin Disraeli​ Letters: Vol. I 1815-1834, Vol. II 1835-1837 
edited by J.A.W. Gunn, John Matthews, Donald Schurman and M.G. Wiebe.
Toronto, 482 pp., £37.50, June 1982, 0 8020 5523 0
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The Gladstone Diaries: with Cabinet Minutes and Prime Ministerial Correspondence, Vol. VII, January 1869-June 1871, Vol. VIII, July 1871-December 1874 
edited by H.C.G. Matthew.
Oxford, 641 pp., £35, September 1982, 0 19 822638 1
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Disraeli 
by Sarah​ Bradford.
Weidenfeld, 432 pp., £14.95, October 1982, 0 297 78153 7
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Gladstone: Vol. I 1809-1865 
by Richard Shannon.
Hamish Hamilton, 580 pp., £18, November 1982, 0 241 10780 6
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H.H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley 
edited by Michael Brock and Eleanor Brock.
Oxford, 676 pp., £19.50, November 1982, 0 19 212200 2
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... In reviewing the Gladstone Diaries and the Disraeli Letters I must declare an interest. I am chairman of the committee which superintends the publication of the former and one of the research consultants involved in the latter. But the quality and ...

The Man Who Never Glared

John Pemble: Disraeli

5 December 2013
Disraelior, The Two Lives 
by Douglas Hurd and Edward Young.
Orion, 320 pp., £20, July 2013, 978 0 297 86097 6
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The Great Rivalry: Gladstone and Disraeli 
by Dick Leonard.
I.B. Tauris, 226 pp., £22.50, June 2013, 978 1 84885 925 8
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DisraeliThe Romance of Politics 
by Robert O’Kell.
Toronto, 595 pp., £66.99, February 2013, 978 1 4426 4459 5
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... All actors want to play Disraeli, except fat ones,’ the American filmmaker Nunnally Johnson said. ‘It’s such a showy part – half Satan, half Don Juan, man of so many talents, he could write novels, flatter a queen, dig the ...

Rachel and Her Race

Patrick Parrinder

18 August 1994
Constructions of ‘the Jew’ in English Literature and Society: Racial Representations, 1875-1945 
by Bryan Cheyette.
Cambridge, 301 pp., £35, November 1993, 0 521 44355 5
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The Jewish Heritage in British History: Englishness and Jewishness 
edited by Tony Kushner.
Cass, 234 pp., £25, January 1992, 0 7146 3464 6
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... devils’, a ‘spirit out of Tophet’ delighting her audience with a glimpse of hell. Vashti is easily identified as the tragedian Elisa Rachel, whom Charlotte Brontë had seen in London in 1851. Sarah Bernhardt may be better known today, but it was Rachel who haunted the English literary imagination throughout the 19th century. In James’s The Tragic Muse, the Jewish Cockney actress Miriam Rooth ...

The Shirt of Nessan

Patricia Craig

9 October 1986
The Free Frenchman 
by Piers Paul Read.
Secker, 570 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 436 40966 6
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Dizzy’s Woman 
by George MacBeth.
Cape, 171 pp., £9.95, August 1986, 0 224 02801 4
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On Foreign Ground 
by Eduardo Quiroga.
Deutsch, 92 pp., £7.95, April 1986, 0 233 97894 1
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A New Shirt 
by Desmond Hogan.
Hamish Hamilton, 215 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 241 11928 6
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... standpoints. Some potentially loose ends are gathered up in the last page or two. George MacBeth’s declared intention is to supply a want. In the series of letters exchanged between Benjamin Disraeli and Frances Anne Vane-Tempest, Lady Londonderry (known as ‘Vane’) there’s an unexplained hiatus. A silence, beginning in 1839, the year of Disraeli’s marriage, and persisting until 1845 ...
5 December 1991
Randall Jarrell: A Literary Life 
by William Pritchard.
Farrar, Straus, 335 pp., $25, April 1990, 0 374 24677 7
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Randall Jarrell: Selected Poems 
edited by William Pritchard.
Farrar, Straus, 115 pp., $17.95, April 1990, 0 374 25867 8
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... the Fifties he published little poetry. Instead, in 1954, there appeared the remarkable Pictures from an Institution. The book is based on his experiences at the ‘advanced’ or ‘experimental’ Sarah Lawrence College outside New York, where he gave a writing course while at the Nation, although ‘observations’ would be a better word than ‘experiences’ since he spent little time at the ...

The Ruling Exception

David Cannadine

16 August 1990
Queen Victoria: Gender and Power 
by Dorothy Thompson.
Virago, 167 pp., £6.99, May 1990, 0 86068 773 2
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... Ever since Disraeli made Queen Victoria Empress of India in 1876, the Conservative Party has been one of the lion-supporters of the British Crown, and to this day, the monstrous regiment of Tory women, and the blimpish ...

The Candidate of Beauty

Alexander Stille: D’Annunzio and the Pursuit of Glory

2 July 1998
Gabriele D’Annunzio: Defiant Archangel 
by John Woodhouse.
Oxford, 420 pp., £25, February 1998, 0 19 815945 5
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... defects of their work as its merits, and what they wrote increases in historical density as it loses literary freshness, becoming a kind of stratigraphic layer in an archaeological dig. The novels of Disraeli, Vita Sackville-West, Georges Sand and Jack London and the plays of Clifford Odets come to mind. Gabriele D’Annunzio is now best known as a historical figure, as a dandy-poet in Fin-de-Siècle Rome ...

Brideshead Revered

David Cannadine

17 March 1983
The Country House 
by James Lees-Milne.
Oxford, 110 pp., £4.50, November 1982, 0 19 214139 2
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English Country Houses and Landed Estates 
by Heather Clemenson.
Croom Helm, 244 pp., £15.95, July 1982, 0 85664 987 2
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The Last Country Houses 
by Clive Aslet.
Yale, 344 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 300 02904 7
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... country house, as described by some of its more outspoken and opinionated habitués, the cumulative effect of which is to leave an overriding impression of eccentricity and bad temper. We meet Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, lamenting her ‘misfortune to suffer very great mischiefs from the assistance of architects’; Sir John Cope, of Bramshill, whose ‘apartments are so vastly spacious that ...

What was it that drove him?

David Runciman: Gordon Brown

4 January 2018
My Life, Our Times 
by Gordon Brown.
Bodley Head, 512 pp., £25, November 2017, 978 1 84792 497 1
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... call in the jostle of the crowded train, wondering whether there’ll ever be time to sit down, never mind wind down. Brown harks back to the age when prime ministers had the leisure to read poetry (Disraeli and Gladstone), write love letters (Asquith) or take morning drinks and afternoon naps (Churchill). I imagine there are lawyers, doctors, accountants, even writers, who feel the same sense of ...

Touching and Being Touched

John Kerrigan: Valentine Cunningham

19 September 2002
Reading after Theory 
by Valentine Cunningham.
Blackwell, 194 pp., £45, December 2001, 0 631 22167 0
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... have done some good. They have made us more aware of the competences involved in reading. By rejecting the hegemony of Dead White European Males they have helped to bring such neglected writers as Sarah Fielding into the canon. Theory has drawn attention to marginalised groups, making it harder to ignore the ‘black-creole face of Bertha Mason’ in Jane Eyre. Above all, Theory has highlighted the ...

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