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Icicles by Cynthia

Michael Wood: Ghosts

22 December 2019
Romantic Shades and Shadows 
by Susan J. Wolfson.
Johns Hopkins, 272 pp., £50, August 2018, 978 1 4214 2554 2
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... if he believed in ‘ghosts and apparitions’, Coleridge said no. But that wasn’t all he said. The complete sentence was: ‘No, madam! I have seen far too many myself.’ Quoting this passage, SusanWolfson goes on to remind us that Freud comments on a neat variant of the same gag: ‘Not only did he disbelieve in ghosts; he was not even frightened of them.’ As Dr Johnson said on the subject ...

Regrets, Vexations, Lassitudes

Seamus Perry: Wordsworth’s Trouble

18 December 2008
William Wordsworth’s ‘The Prelude’: A Casebook 
edited by Stephen Gill.
Oxford, 406 pp., £19.99, September 2006, 0 19 518092 5
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... embarrassed. The questions, according to this view, are full of troubled self-reproach: with that childhood, still I can’t write this thing? The lines betray a ‘crisis in reckoning’, as SusanWolfson put it in her book Formal Charges, excerpted in Stephen Gill’s finely judged anthology of the best recent criticism of the poem. Once he had got going on that track, Wordsworth seems to have ...

Moderation or Death

Christopher Hitchens: Isaiah Berlin

26 November 1998
Isaiah Berlin: A Life 
by Michael Ignatieff.
Chatto, 386 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 7011 6325 9
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The Guest from the Future: Anna Akhmatova and Isaiah Berlin 
by György Dalos.
Murray, 250 pp., £17.95, September 2002, 0 7195 5476 4
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... people to abstract ends, or totemic dogmas?As against all that, the pleadings of Alsop to Mac Bundy did succeed in getting the latter to release a huge tranche of Ford Foundation money to endow Wolfson College, Oxford, the foundation of which was Berlin’s noblest enterprise. So perhaps he was on to something when he expatiated about ethical ‘trade-offs’ between contrasting or alternative ...

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