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Poe’s Woes

Julian Symons, 23 April 1992

Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance 
by Kenneth Silverman.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £25, March 1992, 9780297812531
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... his drinking bouts. Under the prosecutor’s eye he can be made to look like a less amiable Dylan Thomas. The merit of the stories and poems called in to excuse or justify such a life has also been questioned. D.H. Lawrence called ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ an overdone and vulgar fantasy. Yvor Winters said Poe’s was an art for servant girls. Both ...

Untouched by Eliot

Denis Donoghue: Jon Stallworthy, 4 March 1999

Rounding the Horn: Collected Poems 
by Jon Stallworthy.
Carcanet, 247 pp., £14.95, September 1998, 1 85754 163 4
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... readers through a particular poem. Valéry, Allen Tate, William Empson, John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren and Robert Lowell were instructive in that way. But it is rare for a poet to lead readers through a poem, draft by draft, or explain how he settled for one word rather than another. Yeats did not offer to explain how he got to ‘the indignant desert ...

Bouvard and Pécuchet

C.H. Sisson, 6 December 1984

The Lyttelton Hart-Davis Letters: Correspondence of George Lyttelton and Rupert Hart-Davis. 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Murray, 193 pp., £13.50, April 1984, 0 7195 4108 5
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... are put forward. Lord Nugent? ‘My first pupil,’ Lyttelton says. The Lord Chamberlain, Eric Penn? ‘He was in my house.’ Sir Edward Ford? ‘He is my cousin.’ Sir Michael Adeane! ‘He is my wife’s cousin.’ The Queen Mother? ‘She was a great friend, before marriage, of my wife’s.’ For Hart-Davis, naturally, it is more a question of active ...

From Victim to Suspect

Stephen Sedley: The Era of the Trial, 21 July 2005

The Trial: A History from Socrates to O.J. Simpson 
by Sadakat Kadri.
HarperCollins, 474 pp., £25, April 2005, 0 00 711121 5
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... and his fellow jurors in 1670 to go to jail rather than obey the judge and convict the Quakers Penn and Mead of creating a tumultuous assembly by preaching in Gracechurch Street. Kadri recounts the extraordinary refusal of a disinterested jury of London property-owners to be browbeaten into returning a verdict against their conscience; and, in spite of ...

Reality Is Worse

Adam Mars-Jones: Lydia Davis, 17 April 2014

Can’t and Won’t 
by Lydia Davis.
Hamish Hamilton, 304 pp., £16.99, April 2014, 978 0 241 14664 4
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... though he didn’t make the most successful film made according to Dogme principles, which was Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen – wasn’t really a vow of chastity but of poverty, since any film made according to the principles would come in cheap. Disowning the kitsch manipulativeness of Hollywood style was a strategic way of claiming the moral high ground ...

Freaks of Empire

V.G. Kiernan, 16 July 1981

Revolutionary Empire: The Rise of the English-Speaking Empires from the 15th Century to the 1780s 
by Angus Calder.
Cape, 916 pp., £16.50, April 1981, 0 224 01452 8
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... of the first group of four eras, but none later, take their titles from names of individuals – Thomas Cromwell, Raleigh, Sir Thomas Smythe. Later on, individuals were increasingly overtopped by events. But the limelight is always ready for outstanding men, bad or semi-good: no copybook heroes make an appearance. Great ...

Southern Discomfort

Bertram Wyatt-Brown, 8 June 1995

The Southern Tradition: The Achievement and Limitations of an American Conservatism 
by Eugene Genovese.
Harvard, 138 pp., £17.95, October 1994, 0 674 82527 6
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... but takes still greater delight in their Thirties successors, the Nashville Agrarians – Robert Penn Warren, John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate and Donald Davidson, to name the most prominent. Turning to more recent times, Genovese relies on the anti-modernist commentaries of Richard Weaver, a Southern sociologist in Chicago, and Melvin Bradford, a literary ...

Bush’s Useful Idiots

Tony Judt: Whatever happened to American liberalism?, 21 September 2006

... and Eudora Welty. These and other signatories – the economist Kenneth Arrow, the poet Robert Penn Warren – were the critical intellectual core, the steady moral centre of American public life. But who, now, would sign such a protest? Liberalism in the United States today is the politics that dares not speak its name. And those who style themselves ...

Magical Orange Grove

Anne Diebel: Lowell falls in love again, 11 August 2016

Robert Lowell in Love 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Massachusetts, 288 pp., £36.50, December 2015, 978 1 62534 186 0
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... Kenyon, he and Stafford moved to Baton Rouge, where he studied under Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren and became a fanatical Catholic. One night he tried to strangle Stafford and punched her in the face, breaking her nose a second time. When she spoke a former lover’s name in her sleep, he ‘reached at midnight/for your wind-pipe’ (this is from a ...

Hate, Greed, Lust and Doom

Sean O’Faolain, 16 April 1981

William Faulkner: His Life and Work 
by David Minter.
Johns Hopkins, 325 pp., £9.50, January 1981, 0 8018 2347 1
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... is now probably best remembered by the outstanding writers associated with it, such as Robert Penn Warren (All the King’s Men), John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, even Robert Lowell, who literally pitched his tent on Tate’s lawn. All of these must have responded warmly to Robert Frost’s patriotic poem ‘The Gift Outright’: ours before we were the ...

I adore your moustache

James Wolcott: Styron’s Letters, 24 January 2013

Selected Letters of William Styron 
edited by Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin.
Random House, 643 pp., £24.99, December 2012, 978 1 4000 6806 7
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... even Hemingway’s white-boned prose acquired loose flaps. Two years later, still stricken with Thomas Wolfe elephantiasis, Styron sends haunted dispatches from the asphalt jungle. ‘New York is vast, hideous and strewn with the wrecks of lost and fidgeting souls.’ Unlike so many others of his word-besotted WWII-vet generation, he would retain this Old ...

Does one flare or cling?

Alice Spawls, 5 May 2016

‘Vogue’ 100: A Century of Style 
by Robin Muir.
National Portrait Gallery, 304 pp., £40, February 2016, 978 1 85514 561 0
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‘Vogue’ 100: A Century of Style 
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... ephemeral’. Withers, like Todd, was more interested in writers and artists than clothes: Dylan Thomas, Kingsley Amis, Bertrand Russell and Simone de Beauvoir all wrote for Vogue under her editorship and she ran features on Gore Vidal, Isherwood, Bacon, Freud and Matisse. She employed Elizabeth David to write on food. And she was a socialist. Her ...

Robin Hood in a Time of Austerity

James Meek, 18 February 2016

... generous outlaw of Sherwood Forest, still occasionally bubbles up, as when the actor-director Sean Penn called Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán, head of the world’s biggest supplier of banned narcotics, ‘a Robin Hood-like figure who provided much needed services in the Sinaloa mountains’. This is Robin Hood the ‘noble robber’, in Eric Hobsbawm’s ...

11 September

LRB Contributors, 4 October 2001

... the great champion of New York, in the old cemetery of Trinity Church near the WTC. While Thomas Jefferson waxed pastoral about an agrarian America, Hamilton insisted on the cosmopolitanism of the city as the wellspring of the nation. To see his grave buried again was difficult, but the rubble will be removed. So come delight in the city again, swap ...

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