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The Shoreham Gang

Seamus Perry: Samuel Palmer, 5 April 2012

Mysterious Wisdom: The Life and Work of Samuel Palmer 
by Rachel Campbell-Johnston.
Bloomsbury, 382 pp., £25, June 2011, 978 0 7475 9587 8
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... A bearded patriarch, possibly in Elizabethan dress, rests on his elbow, stretched out on a snug little hillock in the middle of a wedge-shaped field of corn. He is leaning against some sort of natural cushion, and it’s possible he is asleep, though he has a large book open in front of him so perhaps it’s just that his eyes are cast down to scrutinise its pages ...

Half-Fox

Seamus Perry: Ted Hughes, 29 August 2013

Poet and Critic: The Letters of Ted Hughes and Keith Sagar 
edited by Keith Sagar.
British Library, 340 pp., £25, May 2013, 978 0 7123 5862 0
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Ted and I: A Brother’s Memoir 
by Gerald Hughes.
Robson, 240 pp., £16.99, October 2012, 978 1 84954 389 7
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... Among the many delights to be found in Roger Lonsdale’s New Oxford Book of 18th-Century Verse is a squib by Thomas Holcroft, provoked by some disparaging remarks Voltaire made about Shakespeare. In fact, Voltaire was perfectly ready to concede that Shakespeare was possessed of real genius, though of a rough and ready kind, but in denying that he had ‘so much as a Spark of good Taste, or knew one Rule of the Drama’, and other such remarks, he scandalised what Gibbon once described as the ‘idolatry for the Gigantic Genius of Shakespeare which is inculcated from our infancy as the first duty of an Englishman ...

Against the Same-Old Same-Old

Seamus Perry: The Brownings, 3 November 2016

The Brownings’ Correspondence, Vol 21 
edited by Philip Kelley, Scott Lewis, Joseph Phelan, Edward Hagan and Rhian Williams.
Wedgestone, 432 pp., $110, April 2014, 978 0 911459 38 8
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The Brownings’ Correspondence, Vol 22 
edited by Philip Kelley, Scott Lewis, Joseph Phelan, Edward Hagan and Rhian Williams.
Wedgestone, 430 pp., $110, June 2015, 978 0 911459 39 5
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Robert Browning 
edited by Richard Cronin and Dorothy McMillan.
Oxford, 904 pp., £95, December 2014, 978 0 19 959942 4
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Browning Studies: Being Select Papers by Members of the Browning Society 
edited by Edward Berdoe.
Routledge, 348 pp., £30, August 2015, 978 1 138 02488 5
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... Romanticism​ bequeathed a good many things to the beleaguered modern imagination, one of the most provoking of which was the thought that it should get out more. That bit of advice proved all the more challenging because it contradicted the other basic idea which the Romantics left behind – namely, that what mattered was staying inside, wrapped in the private world of subjectivity and ‘mental space ...

That’s what Wystan says

Seamus Perry, 10 May 2018

Early Auden, Later Auden: A Critical Biography 
by Edward Mendelson.
Princeton, 912 pp., £27.95, May 2017, 978 0 691 17249 1
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... What​ became of his face? In his memorial address Stephen Spender, who had known Auden since they were undergraduates, contrasted the young man, Nordic and brilliant, with a ‘second image of Wystan … of course one with which you are all familiar: the famous poet with the face like a map of physical geography, criss-crossed and river-run and creased with lines ...

Cute, My Arse

Seamus Perry: Geoffrey Hill, 12 September 2019

The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Oxford, 148 pp., £20, April 2019, 978 0 19 882952 2
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... You​ would be hard pressed to describe Geoffrey Hill’s final work. To say it is a sort of notebook cast as a prose poem in 271 sections of greatly varying length doesn’t get you very far. In one way it is squarely in the tradition of Pope’s Dunciad (which it mentions): it is a poem about the betrayal of England, a yowl of anger and outrage at the prevailing imbecility Hill often addressed in his later works ...

The Terrifying Vrooom

Colin Burrow: Empsonising, 15 July 2021

Some Versions of Pastoral 
by William Empson, edited by Seamus Perry.
Oxford, 496 pp., £80, November 2020, 978 0 19 965966 1
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The Structure of Complex Words 
by William Empson, edited by Helen Thaventhiran and Stefan Collini.
Oxford, 672 pp., £95, November 2020, 978 0 19 871343 2
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... rather than being an ‘organised’ regiment of counterpoised attitudes. In this way, as Seamus Perry says in his admirable introduction to the grand, fully annotated Oxford edition of this very miscellaneous book, ‘the poet’s inward conflicts, explored so dazzlingly in Ambiguity, are cast as versions of the conflicts that shape the culture ...

Alphabeted

Barbara Everett: Coleridge the Modernist, 7 August 2003

Coleridge’s Notebooks: A Selection 
edited by Seamus Perry.
Oxford, 264 pp., £17.99, June 2002, 0 19 871201 4
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works I: Poems (Reading Text) 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1608 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 00483 8
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works II: Poems (Variorum Text) 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1528 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 00484 6
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works III: Plays 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1620 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 09883 2
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... constitute a revival. The recent Cambridge Companion to Coleridge has a remarkable essay by Seamus Perry on ‘The Talker’, which in itself would serve as an excellent general introduction to the writer in both literary and philosophical terms. He has also edited a well-judged and helpfully annotated selection from Coleridge’s Notebooks that is ...

Lecherous Goates

Tobias Gregory: John Donne, 20 October 2016

John Donne 
edited by Janel Mueller.
Oxford, 606 pp., £95, July 2015, 978 0 19 959656 0
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... his sermons. Mueller’s editorial choices follow the guidelines developed by the series editor, Seamus Perry, to ‘convey something of the circumstances of the original appearances of the texts’. On historical grounds this is a worthwhile goal, and by printing the two manuscripts she has found an effective way to meet it. Short of reading the ...

Waiting for the Poetry

Ange Mlinko: Was Adrienne Rich a poet?, 15 July 2021

The Power of Adrienne Rich: A Biography 
by Hilary Holladay.
Doubleday, 416 pp., £25, November 2020, 978 0 385 54150 3
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Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution 
by Adrienne Rich.
Norton, 345 pp., £13.99, May, 978 0 393 54142 7
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... in Santa Cruz, recently liberated from the metal halo, tending to a collection of cacti.Listen to Seamus Perry and Mark Ford discuss Adrienne Rich on the LRB ...

Bitchy Little Spinster

Joanne O’Leary: Queens of Amherst, 3 June 2021

After Emily: Two Remarkable Women and the Legacy of America's Greatest Poet 
by Julie Dobrow.
Norton, 448 pp., £13.99, January 2020, 978 0 393 35749 3
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... still fathomless – not least to herself.Listen to Joanne O’Leary discuss Emily Dickinson with Seamus Perry and Mark Ford on the LRB ...

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