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How to Hiss and Huff

Robert Alter: Mann’s Moses, 2 December 2010

The Tables of the Law 
by Thomas Mann, translated by Marion Faber and Stephen Lehmann.
Haus, 113 pp., £10, October 2010, 978 1 906598 84 6
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... Mann wrote this engaging novella in a few weeks in 1943. (The new translation by Marion Faber and Stephen Lehmann, which is brisk and direct, is a welcome replacement of the fussier and less accurate English version done by Helen Lowe-Porter for the original publication.) The novella was written after Mann helped pitch a film on the Ten Commandments to ...

A Conversation with Gore Vidal

Thomas Powers: Meeting Gore Vidal, 30 July 2014

... and if so, why? A complicated story. It happened that Vidal had information on this subject: both Stephen Spender and John Lehmann had been told by Hugh Walpole – in identical words, apparently – of an occasion mentioned by Edel. Walpole, then young, beautiful, and awed by the Master, had offered himself to James. After ...

What’s Happening in the Engine-Room

Penelope Fitzgerald: Poor John Lehmann, 7 January 1999

John LehmannA Pagan Adventure 
by Adrian Wright.
Duckworth, 308 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 7156 2871 2
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... The first volume of John Lehmann’s autobiography, published in 1955, starts: When I try to remember where my education in poetry began, the first image that comes to mind is that of my father’s library at the old family home of Fieldhead on the Thames. It is an autumn or winter evening after tea, for James the butler has been in to draw the blinds and close the curtains, and my father is reading under a green-shaded lamp ...

On the Feast of Stephen

Karl Miller: Spender’s Journals, 30 August 2012

New Selected Journals, 1939-95 
by Stephen Spender and Lara Feigel, edited by John Sutherland.
Faber, 792 pp., £45, July 2012, 978 0 571 23757 9
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... Stephen Spender was a visitor to the city of Hamburg both before the war and after, when he played a part in the work of occupation and recovery. He was well on his way to being the noted ex-communist poet, whose lyricism of the left spoke up in praise of pylons and the landing aeroplane, gliding over the suburbs, ‘more beautiful and soft than any moth ...

Meringue-utan

Rosemary Hill: Rosamund Lehmann’s Disappointments, 8 August 2002

Rosamond Lehmann 
by Selina Hastings.
Chatto, 476 pp., £25, June 2002, 0 7011 6542 1
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... Rosamond Lehmann was born the day after Queen Victoria’s funeral. When the First World War broke out she was 13, on holiday with her family on the Isle of Wight. The imminence of hostilities had put an end to a plan, much dreaded by Rosamond, to send her and her sister to stay with relatives in Germany. From her own point of view the war was ‘a personal and miraculous reprieve’: ‘of the world crisis, I remember only that sudden emptiness of the beach and the expression on my father’s face as he sat reading the papers all day ...

Flings

Rosemary Hill: The Writers’ Blitz, 21 February 2013

The Love-Charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War 
by Lara Feigel.
Bloomsbury, 519 pp., £25, January 2013, 978 1 4088 3044 4
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... novelists: Bowen, Graham Greene, Henry Yorke (who wrote as Henry Green), Rose Macaulay, Rosamond Lehmann and the Austrian émigrée Hilde Spiel. The combination of danger and novelty made the times ‘an absolute gift to the writer’, as Yorke put it to Lehmann: ‘Everything is breaking up.’ Amid the physical and ...

At Home in the Huntington

John Sutherland: The Isherwood Archive, 10 June 1999

... to be a mysterious cove comprehensible only to his pals (among whom Waugh did not number himself). Stephen Spender, Waugh declared, had been granted at birth all the fashionable literary neuroses but his fairy godmother ‘quite forgot the gift of literary skill’. (Once celebrated as the Shelley of the Thirties, he was later described by Geoffrey Grigson as ...

A Great Big Silly Goose

Seamus Perry: Characteristically Spenderish, 21 May 2020

Poems Written Abroad: The Lilly Library Manuscript 
by Stephen Spender.
Indiana, 112 pp., £27.99, July 2019, 978 0 253 04167 8
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... Stephen​ Spender had spent two terms as an undistinguished student at University College, Oxford, before he finally met W.H. Auden. It was not for want of trying. Michael, Spender’s elder brother, an insufferable turbo-brain at Balliol, had known Auden at school and kept in touch, but refused to arrange an introduction for Stephen, fearing, as Spender later put it, that ‘in producing me he would be playing the weakest card in his hand ...

Kitty still pines for his dearest Dub

Andrew O’Hagan: Gossip, 6 February 2014

Becoming a Londoner: A Diary 
by David Plante.
Bloomsbury, 534 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 1 4088 3975 1
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The Animals: Love Letters between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy 
edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 481 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 0 7011 8678 4
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... by Bloomsbury – the books, the people, the scarves, the gossip – which led them to venerate Stephen Spender as one of its last links. Squeezed into a narrow bed, they would read Spender’s World within World together and admire ‘that entirely English’ set-up in which, Plante wrote at the time, ‘I fantasise having a place, even if that world no ...

Neglect

Ian Hamilton, 26 January 1995

An Unmentionable Man 
by Edward Upward.
Enitharmon, 102 pp., £5.99, October 1994, 1 870612 64 7
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Journey to the Border 
by Edward Upward.
Enitharmon, 135 pp., £5.99, October 1994, 1 870612 59 0
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The Mortmere Stories 
by Christopher Isherwood and Edward Upward.
Enitharmon, 206 pp., £7.99, October 1994, 1 870612 69 8
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... he is approached by a present-day admirer, a ‘lecturer at a Yorkshire polytechnic’. At first Stephen Highwood is suspicious. He doesn’t expect people to know who he is. His books have long been out of print and are not to be found in public libraries. In surveys of modern literature, his name barely rates a mention. ‘Are you some kind of highclass ...

Seventh Eighth Men Uncovered

Humphery Spender, 7 May 1981

... Grigson. (It happened that the previous day a national newspaper had given publicity to my brother Stephen in some sensationally farfetched connection with Guy Burgess, John Lehmann and other names they hoped to involve.) ‘Ah that rings a bell,’ and significant looks passed between uniformed men at desks and with ...

At Tate Britain

Brian Dillon: Queer British Art, 6 September 2017

... was jailed during the Second World War for his homosexuality. McBean’s 1937 portrait of Beatrix Lehmann twins the actress’s face with incongruous block and tackle, and frames this ‘surrealised’ arrangement with silk drapery. His 1941 study of Quentin Crisp is an astonishing instance of the retoucher’s art, the subject’s burnished flesh so perfect ...

I am a cactus

John Sutherland: Christopher Isherwood and his boys, 3 June 2004

Isherwood 
by Peter Parker.
Picador, 914 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 330 48699 3
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... Xtopher,’ Stephen Spender wrote in April 1931, ‘is a cactus.’ Prickly, solitary, self-sufficient, hard to handle and difficult to love. How to get to grips with ‘Isherwood’ (as he has chosen to address him) was a problem for Peter Parker: something that perhaps explains the 12 years this usually brisk biographer has spent on his task ...

A Susceptible Man

Ian Sansom: The Unhappy Laureate, 4 March 1999

Living in Time: The Poetry of C. Day Lewis 
by Albert Gelpi.
Oxford, 246 pp., £30, March 1998, 0 19 509863 3
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... and country clay. The poet wrote until his dying day. The final nail in the coffin came from Stephen Spender, Day Lewis’s old friend and longest surviving hydra head of Roy Campbell’s monstrous ‘MacSpaunday’, who admitted, writing in 1992 at the time of the long-awaited publication of Day Lewis’s Complete Poems, that while he admired the ...

Scenes from British Life

Hugh Barnes, 6 February 1986

Stroke Counterstroke 
by William Camp.
Joseph, 190 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 7181 2669 6
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Redhill Rococo 
by Shena Mackay.
Heinemann, 171 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 434 44046 9
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Striker 
by Michael Irwin.
Deutsch, 231 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 233 97792 9
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... writing a novel about Parliament relates to the characters’ credibility. Trouble begins, as John Lehmann once pointed out, when the author feels obliged to introduce a high-ranking minister. The real-life holders of office are too vividly before our eyes. Camp surmounts this problem by avoiding it. He opts instead for a recent past in industrial ...

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