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Pretending to be the parlourmaid

John Bayley, 2 December 1993

Selected Letters of Vanessa Bell 
edited by Regina Marler, introduced by Quentin Bell.
Bloomsbury, 593 pp., £25, November 1993, 0 7475 1550 6
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... Her half-brothers were not welcome callers, although the tale of their sexual abuse of the Stephen sisters as children is probably a good deal exaggerated. Interesting that in the days of parlourmaids it was not necessary to take the receiver off the hook, but merely to appear resolutely to be the parlourmaid, in the face of unwelcome ...

Our Boys

John Bayley, 28 November 1996

Emily Tennyson 
by Ann Thwaite.
Faber, 716 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 571 96554 7
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... like her own mother, who could be said to have died of it. But domestically speaking, Leslie Stephen was a snivelling and self-pitying bore and tyrant; and Ann Thwaite shows without trying, though with admirable clarity, that Tennyson was nothing of the kind. On the contrary, his wife’s goodness, it could be said, was only made possible by his ...

Mrs G

John Bayley, 11 March 1993

Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 690 pp., £20, February 1993, 0 571 15182 5
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... character’. James’s view was not untypical of the masculine response of the time. Leslie Stephen, a friend and near-contemporary of Mrs Gaskell, regarded her achievements in much the same light as he would have done those of his own daughter; and Jenny Uglow is surely right to stress the implicit comeback in the Gaskell novels, which show them both ...

Drugs, anyone?

Seamus Perry: George Meredith, 18 June 2015

Modern Love and Poems of the English Roadside, with Poems and Ballads 
by George Meredith, edited by Criscillia Benford and Rebecca Mitchell.
Yale, 390 pp., £40, April 2015, 978 0 300 17317 8
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... out in more than one long exhausting walk and vigorous playful tussles, was unwearying.’ Leslie Stephen, one of Meredith’s friends, eulogised the effects of an invigorating tramp in the country in the true spirit: ‘You can consume your modest sandwiches, light your pipe, and feel more virtuous, and thoroughly at peace with the universe, than it is easy ...

When the Mediterranean Was Blue

John Bayley, 23 March 1995

Cyril Connolly: A Nostalgic Life 
by Clive Fisher.
Macmillan, 304 pp., £20, March 1995, 0 333 57813 9
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... had folded and been replaced after a while by Encounter, funded by the CIA, unknown to its editor Stephen Spender or to Cyril, whose intermittently oppressive patronage Spender seems to have borne with remarkable kindness and forbearance. He was to publish Connolly’s last and unfinished attempt in his own inimitable style of demi-fiction, Shade Those ...

Spruce

John Bayley, 2 June 1988

A.E. Housman: Collected Poems and Selected Prose 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Allen Lane, 528 pp., £18.95, April 1988, 0 7139 9009 0
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... for his meticulous standards and his appalling sarcasms on the unscholarly, delivered the Leslie Stephen Lecture on ‘The Name and Nature of Poetry’. In the course of it he quoted ‘O mistress mine, where are you roaming?’ and he quoted it as ‘where art thou roaming?’ He had omitted to verify his memory of something so well-known. He silently put ...

The big drops start

John Bayley, 7 December 1989

Coleridge: Early Visions 
by Richard Holmes.
Hodder, 409 pp., £16.95, October 1989, 0 340 28335 1
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Wordsworth: Romantic Poetry and Revolution Politics 
by John Williams.
Manchester, 203 pp., £29.95, November 1989, 0 7190 3168 0
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Sara Coleridge, A Victorian Daughter: Her Life and Essays 
by Bradford Keyes Mudge.
Yale, 287 pp., £18.95, September 1989, 0 300 04443 7
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... fell-walker on a scale more heroic even than Wordsworth and Wordsworth’s sailor brother John. As Stephen Gill acutely points out in his recent Wordsworth biography, an excellent companion piece to Holmes on Coleridge, ‘Coleridge actually needed action, not the tranquillity of a domestic cot but excitement, whether it be from the demands of London or the ...

Fat and Fretful

John Bayley, 18 April 1996

Foreign Country: The Life of L.P. Hartley 
by Adrian Wright.
Deutsch, 304 pp., £17.99, March 1996, 0 233 98976 5
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... contains a number of tender moments, though none so moving as the scene in The Hireling, in which Stephen Leadbitter, an ex-army sergeant, strides manfully up and down the nave of Winchester Cathedral, since its exact measurements interest his customer Lady Franklin, with whom he is falling in love. Proust writes of the springtime of social flowers that ...

Like ink and milk

John Bayley, 10 September 1992

‘Sons and Lovers’: The Unexpurgated Text 
by D.H. Lawrence, edited by Helen Baron and Carl Baron.
Cambridge, 675 pp., £70, September 1992, 0 521 24276 2
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D.H. Lawrence: The Early Years, 1885-1912 
by John Worthen.
Cambridge, 464 pp., £14.95, September 1992, 0 521 43221 9
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‘Sons and Lovers’ 
by Michael Black.
Cambridge, 126 pp., £19.95, September 1992, 0 521 36074 9
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... a spy is arrested’ was set up in type but never printed: the Westminster’s editor, Stephen Spender’s uncle, was mildly pro-German in 1912, and he also turned down a piece called ‘In Fortified Germany’. But the third and fourth articles made it – Lawrence’s debut as a travel writer – and they already exhibit their author’s hedgehog ...

Saint Terence

Jonathan Bate, 23 May 1991

Ideology: An Introduction 
by Terry Eagleton.
Verso, 242 pp., £32.50, May 1991, 0 86091 319 8
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... In 1978 Terry Eagleton wrote an essay on John Bayley in the New Left Review. It is a ritual excoriation of that most tactful of ‘liberal humanist’ critics, punctuated with predictable sneers about ‘a view of life from the Oxford senior common room window’ and how Bayley’s criticism prizes a liberal disorder that depends on a conservative order ‘within which the gentleman may wear his art and opinions lightly ...

Superchild

John Bayley, 6 September 1984

The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Vol. V: 1936-1941 
edited by Anne Olivier Bell and Andrew McNeillie.
Chatto, 402 pp., £17.50, June 1984, 0 7012 0566 0
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Deceived with Kindness: A Bloomsbury Childhood 
by Angelica Garnett.
Chatto, 181 pp., £9.95, August 1984, 0 7011 2821 6
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... is essential. Occupation had always been her standby as it had been that of her father, Leslie Stephen. And words provided it. But if the words of the Diary prove one thing it is that, for a creative artist, they were no substitute for introspection. Turning back a volume or two we come to the dinner party in January 1930 with the Harrises. Bogey Harris ...

Faculty at War

Tom Paulin, 17 June 1982

Re-Reading English 
edited by Peter Widdowson.
Methuen, 246 pp., £7.95, March 1982, 0 416 31150 4
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Against Criticism 
by Iain McGilchrist.
Faber, 271 pp., £12.50, May 1982, 0 571 11922 0
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... quaint survivor from the world of tentative liberal open-mindedness, rather like the ghost of John Bayley infiltrating a branch of Militant Tendency. Before considering the terminal ironies of this rejection of printed texts, it is essential to examine the history of English as an academic subject. As Brian Doyle shows in the only valuable essay in this ...

Charmed Life

John Bayley, 15 September 1983

The Russian Revolutionary Novel: Turgenev to Pasternak 
by Richard Freeborn.
Cambridge, 256 pp., £27.50, January 1983, 0 521 24442 0
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Boris Pasternak: His Life and Art 
by Guy de Mallac.
Souvenir, 450 pp., £14.95, February 1983, 0 285 62558 6
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Pasternak: A Biography 
by Ronald Hingley.
Weidenfeld, 294 pp., £12.95, August 1983, 9780297782070
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Selected Poems 
by Boris Pasternak, translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France.
Allen Lane, 160 pp., £7.50, February 1983, 0 7139 1497 1
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Poets of Modern Russia 
by Peter France.
Cambridge, 240 pp., £20, February 1983, 0 521 23490 5
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Russian Literature since the Revolution 
by Edward Brown.
Harvard, 413 pp., £20, December 1982, 0 674 78203 8
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... of the most interesting comments that Pasternak ever made on his art, in a letter in English to Stephen Spender: ‘Nineteenth-century art, either in painting or poetry but above all in the great novels of the period, is fixed in narratives which are irrevocable, like verdicts or sentences, beyond recall.’ The fixedness is that of the individual, the ...

Nightingales

John Bayley, 15 April 1982

Nightingale Fever: Russian Poets in Revolution 
by Ronald Hingley.
Weidenfeld, 269 pp., £12.95, January 1982, 0 297 77902 8
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Russian Writers and Soviet Society 1917-1978 
by Ronald Hingley.
Methuen, 296 pp., £4.95, June 1981, 0 416 31390 6
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The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Russia and the Soviet Union 
edited by Archie Brown.
Cambridge, 492 pp., £18.50, February 1982, 0 521 23169 8
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‘Novy Mir’: A Case-Study in the Politics of Literature 1952-1958 
by Edith Frankel.
Cambridge, 206 pp., £19.50, November 1981, 0 521 23438 7
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... flame’ they show is self-deprecating, careful to show that it can make nothing happen. Stephen Spender’s ‘political’ poetry of that pre-war time is simpler and more moving, more Russian in instinct, but from the poet’s – or any imaginative writer’s – point of view the problem in the West of taking an attitude to tyranny and terror is ...

Auden Askew

Barbara Everett, 19 November 1981

W.H. Auden: A Biography 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Allen and Unwin, 495 pp., £12.50, June 1981, 0 04 928044 9
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Early Auden 
by Edward Mendelson.
Faber, 407 pp., £10, September 1981, 0 571 11193 9
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... Carpenter’s excellent life of Auden has a nice turn of phrase in recounting the moment when Stephen Spender, arrived in an Oxford of the later Twenties which was pervaded by the legend of Auden, at last met his fellow undergraduate and ‘found the reality just as remarkable as that legend’. The story appears to have come from Spender, himself ...

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