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Laughing Gas

Stephen Knight, 3 May 1984

... use of electricity I walk the corridors         Trailing my fingertips the length of the wall.         I think of adjectives to sum this building up:     Warrenous, respectable, and windowless. When you Talk to me I watch the movement of your lungs, the ripple         Of the fibres of your mohair pullover.         The ...

The Gift

Stephen Knight, 19 July 1984

... Love Mum & Dad) Then fold the wrapping for possible re-use. A breeze laps the posters crusting the wall; Like lily pads, they compete to face the light. I bump into Philip inside the Lodge. He asks to see the gift – another four-sleeved Pullover! Raising it shoulder-high, he Teases me about the additional arms Till I make my excuses and leave him At the ...

Purging Stephen Spender

Susannah Clapp, 26 October 1989

Sylvia Townsend Warner: A Biography 
by Claire Harman.
Chatto, 358 pp., £16.95, July 1989, 0 7011 2938 7
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For Sylvia: An Honest Account 
by Valentine Ackland.
Chatto, 135 pp., £6.95, July 1989, 9780701135621
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... Mr and Mrs Arbuthnot. But when, in 1930, she heard Valentine Ackland wailing through a bedroom wall that she felt unloved, Warner bounded through the door and never again went to bed with a man. Valentine Ackland was 24, with an Eton crop and a ruffled past. At 16 she was disowned by her father, who advised her that infatuation with an older girl would ...


Stephen Fender, 3 April 1980

The London Yankees: Portraits of American Writers and Artists in England, 1894-1914 
by Stanley Weintraub.
W.H. Allen, 408 pp., £7.95, November 1979, 0 491 02209 3
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The Americans: Fifty Letters from America on our Life and Times 
by Alistair Cooke.
Bodley Head, 323 pp., £5.95, October 1979, 0 370 30163 3
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... the cultural horsepower of Europe, as compared to America, which has been fashionable ever since Stephen Spender’s Love-Hate Relations. Philip Toynbee, in the Observer, came right out with it: ‘by now it is hard to see any reason why an American writer or artist should wish to settle either in Paris or London.’ Then, of course, it was another ...

At the NPG

Jean McNicol: ‘Virginia Woolf’, 11 September 2014

... ingredients in each period of her life’, is a blown-up photograph of the exposed side wall of the house. Some of the panels that Woolf’s sister, Vanessa Bell, and Duncan Grant had painted for the third-floor drawing room are, as Virginia told them, ‘still pendant’. ‘I cd just see a piece of my studio ...


Stephen Gray: In Johannesburg, 5 April 1990

... He was not noted for his good neighbourliness. When the plot above bored a hole in the wall to allow flashflood water to continue its natural course towards the Limpopo, he fired a shotgun through before blocking it off again. This warlike Portuguese also stripped the residence of many of its welcoming Edwardian features, erecting a mighty ...


Stephen Smith: Peace in Our Lunchtime, 6 October 1994

... quite close to my target.’ We were gazing across Robinson’s lawn at the ramparts of his garden wall. His closed circuit TV was showing a dull black-and-white road movie about the cars passing his gates. I thought it was curious that Robinson had spoken about a chance of getting his gun out rather than a need to. I made a point of taking the words down in ...

A Visit to My Uncle

Emma Tennant, 31 July 1997

... on her face as if it had been worked there by a knife in marble. It is winter, and a protective wall behind Pamela hosts espaliered trees, apricot and peach. No shadows are visible, anywhere: the dark runnels of shade cast by the fake dovecote at the side of the green are out of frame; the rackets court, disguised as cottages for the rural population Pamela ...

No Cleaning, No Cooking

Richard Beck: Nell Zink, 16 July 2015

‘The Wallcreeper’ and ‘Mislaid’ 
by Nell Zink.
Fourth Estate, 168 pp. and 288 pp., £20, June 2015, 978 0 00 813960 5
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... an MFA instructor proud, even as it seemed to parody MFA style: ‘I was looking at the map when Stephen swerved, hit the rock, and occasioned the miscarriage.’ The miscarriage is the product of a marriage that’s not built to last. This isn’t to say that Tiffany, the narrator, and Stephen, the husband, loathe each ...

Ariel Diary

Stephen Sackur: In Ariel, 27 June 1991

... he says and leads me away from his desk into an adjoining conference room. Dominating the far wall of this cheaply furnished office is a photograph some six feet wide and two feet high. ‘This was taken from a roof terrace across the street,’ he tells me. I see a sky of purplish black, a distant set of yellow lights, and in the foreground the boxy ...

Defining Anti-Semitism

Stephen Sedley, 4 May 2017

... but worry that the IHRA definition requires them to do so. When a replica of Israel’s separation wall was erected in the churchyard of St James, Piccadilly in 2013, the Spectator denounced it as an ‘anti-Israeli hate-festival’ – a description now capable of coming within the IHRA’s ‘working definition’ of anti-Semitism. In such ways the official ...

Outside Swan and Edgar’s

Matthew Sweet: The life of Oscar Wilde, 5 February 1998

The Wilde Album 
by Merlin Holland.
Fourth Estate, 192 pp., £12.99, October 1997, 1 85702 782 5
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Cosmopolitan Criticism: Oscar Wilde’s Philosophy of Art 
by Julia Prewitt Brown.
Virginia, 157 pp., $30, September 1997, 9780813917283
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The Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde 
edited by Peter Raby.
Cambridge, 307 pp., £37.50, October 1997, 9780521474719
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Wilde The Novel 
by Stefan Rudnicki.
Orion, 215 pp., £5.99, October 1997, 0 7528 1160 6
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Oscar Wilde 
by Frank Harris.
Robinson, 358 pp., £7.99, October 1997, 1 85487 126 9
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Moab is my Washpot 
by Stephen Fry.
Hutchinson, 343 pp., £16.99, October 1997, 0 09 180161 3
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Nothing … except My Genius 
by Oscar Wilde.
Penguin, 82 pp., £2.99, October 1997, 0 14 043693 6
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... shows a phalanx of unpainted male prostitutes, leaning on some railings. Watching for a cab, Stephen Fry’s Wilde makes eye contact with one of them. ‘Looking for someone?’ asks the lad (identified as ‘Rent-boy’ in the closing credits), and Fry stares helplessly across the street. Gilbert does all he can to italicise the moment, but since Fry ...


Stephen Smith: Make sure you sound British, 22 December 1994

... in Northern France. It’s fair to say that he is proud of his roots. A naive cartoon on his wall shows Dave’s head mounted on a bulldog’s body. And he blithely conducts his business in sterling, indifferent to the native coin. He fears closer integration with our European partners, along the lines of the harmonisation of alcohol duty – something ...

Walking like Swinburne

P.N. Furbank, 12 July 1990

Serious Pleasures: The Life of Stephen Tennant 
by Philip Hoare.
Hamish Hamilton, 463 pp., £20, June 1990, 0 241 12416 6
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... It is worth stating a few facts about Stephen Tennant, the subject of this excellent biography by Philip Hoare, in case some readers may not have heard of him. He was born in 1906, the son of a rich industrialist, Edward Tennant, who became Lord Glenconner in 1911, and of Pamela Wyndham, one of the Wyndham sisters immortalised by Sargent in his painting The Three Graces ...

The Pain of History

Stephen Brook, 19 February 1981

The Star-Apple Kingdom 
by Derek Walcott.
Cape, 58 pp., £2.50, March 1980, 0 224 01780 2
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Selected Poems 1961-1978 
by David Holbrook.
Anvil, 143 pp., £5.95, November 1980, 0 85646 066 4
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Death Valley and Other Poems in America 
by Alan Ross.
London Magazine Editions, 92 pp., £3, June 1980, 0 904388 32 8
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Poems 1955-1980 
by Roy Fisher.
Oxford, 193 pp., £7.95, November 1980, 0 19 211935 4
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A.R.T.H.U.R. & M.A.R.T.H.A. 
by Laurence Lerner.
Secker, 69 pp., £2.95, November 1980, 0 436 24440 3
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... he is travelling with? It is not clear, and the ambiguity is irritating rather than felicitous. ‘Wall Street’ begins as a neat vignette of men at the bar ‘like frogs with relaxed throats’, and ends: But on afternoons lit By the glitter and disposal of money, They show often a flawed Honesty, a sense of defiance At what the hunt has done to ...

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