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A Cousin of Colonel Heneage

Robert Crawford: Was Eliot a Swell?, 18 April 2019

The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume VIII: 1936-38 
edited by Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden.
Faber, 1100 pp., £50, January 2019, 978 0 571 31638 0
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... gatherings, the poetry looks svelte. Yet the 2015 Faber edition of the Poems by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue itself runs to nearly two thousand densely annotated pages. This, too, is a breathtaking achievement. Very few people will read through all these thousands of pages, and their publication risks making Eliot seem more daunting than ever. While ...

Faber Book of Groans

Christopher Ricks, 1 March 1984

Required Writing: Miscellaneous Pieces 1955-1982 
by Philip Larkin.
Faber, 315 pp., £4.95, November 1983, 0 571 13120 4
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... rings out the more vibrantly if one hears it against the thin words of T. S. Eliot in 1935: ‘Thomas Hardy, who for a few years had all the cry, appears now, what he always was, a minor poet.’ The risk taken by the poet, whom Eliot styptically called ‘the practitioner’, when writing criticism is that things said about others may be taken to be ...

High Punctuation

Christopher Ricks, 14 May 1992

But I digress: The Exploitation of Parentheses in English Printed Verse 
by John Lennard.
Oxford, 324 pp., £35, November 1991, 0 19 811247 5
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... to the modern rendering, ‘–c.’ (how elegantly the ampersand twines!), of the ancient et cetera. But yes, punctuation is an art, and is a resource and a recourse for the art of poetry. (And of prose, but Lennard quite sufficiently had his playful work cut out.)The history of this particular marking of punctuation (lunulae) is told in happy ...

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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... forms of writing and cultural production than the canon of Literature’. Where Christopher Ricks believes that it is the teacher’s job to uphold that canon, his opponents assert that it is now time to challenge various ‘hierarchical’ and ‘élitist’ conceptions of literature and to demolish the bourgeois ideology which has been ...

Shoy-Hoys

Paul Foot: The not-so-great Reform Act, 6 May 2004

Reform! The Fight for the 1832 Reform Act 
by Edward Pearce.
Cape, 343 pp., £20, November 2003, 0 224 06199 2
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... in France, which yet again disposed of the king. Worse, there was unrest in Britain. Hay-ricks were set on fire, and threatening messages from ‘Captain Swing’ sent to the owners of the land they were on. The duke and his ministers saw to it that culprits, guilty or not, were hanged or transported to Australia. But the fires continued, and with ...

Pissing on Idiots

Colin Burrow: Extreme Editing, 6 October 2011

Richard Bentley: Poetry and Enlightenment 
by Kristine Louise Haugen.
Harvard, 333 pp., £29.95, April 2011, 978 0 674 05871 2
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... it was surely unthinkable that the master of Trinity could have pulled the trigger. Or was it? Thomas Gooch, the Tory master of Caius, had in his capacity as vice-chancellor tried to strip Bentley of his degrees. Among all this brouhaha Bentley managed to establish a reputation as the most learned classical scholar in England. Early in his career, after a ...

Walking in high places

Michael Neve, 21 October 1982

The Ferment of Knowledge: Studies in the Historiography of 18th-Century Science 
edited by G.S. Rousseau and R.S. Porter.
Cambridge, 500 pp., £25, November 1980, 9780521225991
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Romanticism and the Forms of Ruin 
by Thomas McFarland.
Princeton, 432 pp., £24.60, February 1981, 0 691 06437 7
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Poetry realised in Nature: Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Early 19th-Century Science 
by Trevor Levere.
Cambridge, 271 pp., £22.50, October 1981, 0 521 23920 6
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Coleridge 
by Richard Holmes.
Oxford, 102 pp., £1.25, March 1982, 0 19 287591 4
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Young Charles Lamb 1775-1802 
by Winifred Courtney.
Macmillan, 411 pp., £25, July 1982, 0 333 31534 0
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... Butler’s Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries, reviewed in the LRB (Vol. 3, No 21) by Christopher Ricks; and Thomas McFarland’s marvellously over-the-top Romanticism and the Forms of Ruin, which also appeared in 1981. (One might commend, en passant, the Princeton University Press as a ...

Too Many Alibis

James Wood: Geoffrey Hill, 1 July 1999

Canaan 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Penguin, 76 pp., £7.99, September 1996, 0 14 058786 1
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The Truth of Love: A Poem 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Penguin, 82 pp., £8.99, January 1997, 0 14 058910 4
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... be not the intolerable wrestle with words, but, as it were, a further wrestle with the wrestle. Thomas Mann, like Hill, an artist wary of the claims and capacities of art, lamented that his Doctor Faustus was ‘joylessly earnest, not artistically happy’, and Hill’s two new books certainly tread the gravel of the joyless. Yet in the past, Hill has made ...

Gentlemen Travellers

Denis Donoghue, 18 December 1986

Between the Woods and the Water 
by Patrick Leigh Fermoret al.
Murray, 248 pp., £13.95, October 1986, 0 7195 4264 2
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Coasting 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins, 301 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 00 272119 8
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The Grand Tour 
by Hunter Davies.
Hamish Hamilton, 224 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11907 3
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... the commonplace of maps, and hold yourself ready for adventure. The tourist class was invented by Thomas Cook when he assembled an excursion to the Paris Exposition in 1855. Tourists change their places in groups, live as comfortably as possible, take pleasure in gregariousness, obey injunctions, keep to the main roads, and fulfil plans made by tour-promoters ...

Resurrecting the Tudors

John Pemble: James Anthony Froude, 23 May 2013

James Anthony Froude: An Intellectual Biography of a Victorian Prophet 
by Ciaran Brady.
Oxford, 500 pp., £45, May 2013, 978 0 19 966803 8
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... caprice, but a nymphomaniac and serial adulteress who was properly tried and legally executed. Thomas More, the genial philosopher, was not a saint but a sadistic bigot. The real Mary Tudor wasn’t the hate figure of myth. Pious, well-meaning and emotionally fragile, she’d been manipulated by Cardinal Pole, a ruthless éminence rouge with his sights on ...

Pffwungg

John Bayley, 19 January 1989

The Amis Anthology 
edited by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 360 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 09 173525 4
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The Chatto Book of Nonsense Verse 
edited by Hugh Haughton.
Chatto, 530 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 7011 3105 5
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... we don’t miss the tone when it gives its orders. Commenting on Housman, the equally stringent Ricks also missed the point in suggesting that what Housman admiringly meant is that some ravishing poetry transcends common sense. In what way does ‘Take O take those lips away’ do that? It knows perfectly well what it is talking about, just as Auden does in ...

Sweaney Peregraine

Paul Muldoon, 1 November 1984

Station Island 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 123 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 571 13301 0
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Sweeney Astray: A Version 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 85 pp., £6.95, October 1984, 0 571 13360 6
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Rich 
by Craig Raine.
Faber, 109 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 571 13215 4
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... The otherwise excellent ‘The Birthplace’, with its evocation of another ‘familiar ghost’, Thomas Hardy – The corncrake in the aftergrass verified himself, and I heard roosters and dogs, the very same as if he had written them – is marred by an arbitrary/obligatory sex-scene ‘in a deep lane that was sexual/with ferns and ...

Diary

Mark Ford: Love and Theft, 2 December 2004

... that follow were indeed first spoken by Democritus. In his 1989 book on plagiarism, Stolen Words, Thomas Mallon excoriated the academic special pleading that elevated Sterne and Coleridge from literary shoplifters into masters of bricolage and intertextuality. Their cases are analysed along with that of the Victorian novelist Charles Reade, and the American ...
Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years 
by Brian Boyd.
Chatto, 783 pp., £25, January 1992, 0 7011 3701 0
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... degrees of debt, direct or indirect, to other writers. For example, he was a lifelong admirer of E.B. White and his correspondence indefatigably quotes White’s colourful definition of a miracle: ‘blue snow on a red barn’. In Lolita, Humbert speaks of ‘our humble blue car and its imperious red shadow’. Of course, Nabokov was abnormally sensitive to ...

No reason for not asking

Adam Phillips: Empson’s War on God, 3 August 2006

Selected Letters of William Empson 
edited by John Haffenden.
Oxford, 729 pp., £40, March 2006, 0 19 928684 1
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... letters (Shakespeare, Marlowe, Herbert, Donne, Marvell, Fielding, Coleridge, Joyce, Orwell, Dylan Thomas), had in his view found ways to resist religious conformity (religion and politics for Empson are virtually inextricable from each other). They give voice to the personal conflicts of their times, not to their resolutions. But they do not endorse the ...

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