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Sacred Monster

Graham Hough

20 August 1981
Edith Sitwell: A Unicorn among Lions 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Weidenfeld, 391 pp., £9.95, July 1981, 0 297 77801 3
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... status, like Oscar Wilde, have been left by it in a sort of limbo, where we never know what it is we are being asked to admire, their life-style or their art. Edith Sitwell comes in this class, and VictoriaGlendinning’s biography brings these dubieties to the surface again. She is much aware of them herself, and she begins her book by asking – or almost asking – the unforgivable, inescapable ...

Dame Cissie

Penelope Fitzgerald

12 November 1987
Rebecca West: A Life 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Weidenfeld, 288 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 297 79084 6
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Family Memories 
by Rebecca West and Faith Evans.
Virago, 255 pp., £14.95, November 1987, 0 86068 741 4
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... wrote is not worth studying.’ ‘Authentic art never has an explicit religious and moral content.’ These are sweeping statements – though sweeping, of course, can be a worthwhile activity. VictoriaGlendinning says in the introduction to her new biography of Rebecca West that it is ‘the story of 20th-century woman’, but that it is a sadder story than she had expected. She has divided her ...

Vita Longa

Mary-Kay Wilmers

1 December 1983
Vita: The Life of V. Sackville-West 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Weidenfeld, 430 pp., £12.50, September 1983, 0 297 78306 8
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... kept a ‘love-journal’ in Vita’s honour. Miss Sackville-West, who had recently (and most unusually) been abandoned by another woman, allowed Miss St John to hold her hand. She even allowed her, VictoriaGlendinning reports, to accompany her in her car ‘all the way’ to Tonbridge: in Tonbridge Christopher was put on a train back to London. But on the way out of London – on the Westminster Bridge ...


John Sutherland

5 November 1992
Keepers of the Flame: Literary Estates and the Rise of Biography 
by Ian Hamilton.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £18.99, October 1992, 0 09 174263 3
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Testamentary Acts: Browning, Tennyson, James, Hardy 
by Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 273 pp., £27.50, June 1992, 0 19 811276 9
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The Last Laugh 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 131 pp., £10.99, December 1991, 0 7011 4583 8
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by Victoria Glendinning.
Hutchinson, 551 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 09 173896 2
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... Trollope claimed to write his novels in the same way that he took hedges on the hunting field. He closed his eyes and charged like hell without any thought of what might lie on the other side. VictoriaGlendinning seems to have approached her biography in the same neck and crop spirit. ‘When I began my research in early 1988,’ she writes, ‘there had been no full-length biography of Anthony ...

Stuck in Chicago

Linda Colley

12 November 1987
by Naim Attallah.
Quartet, 1165 pp., £15, October 1987, 0 7043 2625 6
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... the nature of female creativity. Why are we so good at writing novels, but so much less adept at poetry? Why some uses of words rather than others? What is the point in interviewing Margaret Drabble, VictoriaGlendinning and Marina Warner, but failing to discuss such matters? Yet for all the evident faults and the egregious condescension of this book, it does almost despite itself have some value. The ...

Plenty of Pinching

John Mullan: The Sad End of Swift

29 October 1998
Jonathan Swift 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Hutchinson, 324 pp., £20, September 1998, 0 09 179196 0
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... have often imagined the author’s fury or disgust or horror, but without actually hearing his voice. And yet, at the end, he seemed to declare that the satire came from his own wounded heart. VictoriaGlendinning is not the first to take this epitaph as an explanation not only of Swift’s satirical impulses, but also of some kind of deep disturbance within his personality. ‘Swift is immoderate ...

Written out of Revenge

Rosemary Hill: Bowen in Love

9 April 2009
Love’s Civil War: Elizabeth Bowen & Charles Ritchie Letters and Diaries 1941-73 
edited by Victoria Glendinning, by Judith Robertson.
Simon and Schuster, 489 pp., £14.99, February 2009, 978 1 84737 213 0
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People, Places, Things: Essays by Elizabeth Bowen 
edited by Allan Hepburn.
Edinburgh, 467 pp., £60, November 2008, 978 0 7486 3568 9
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... about it.’ The story of the complex relations between three women united by a childhood secret, the novel draws on Bowen’s many long female friendships, a side of her life that she tended, as VictoriaGlendinning notes, not to reveal to Ritchie. Played out between the characters’ childhoods on the eve of the First World War and their adult lives, it is both comic and sinister. It is also a book ...

Fyodor, Anna, Leonid

Dan Jacobson: Leonid Tsypkin

9 May 2002
Summer in Baden-Baden 
by Leonid Tsypkin, translated by Roger Keys and Angela Keys.
New Directions, 146 pp., $23.95, November 2001, 0 8112 1484 2
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... language rights to Quartet Books in London. Their edition came out in the late 1980s, and is still in print. In response to my enquiries, Quartet Books have told me that it was well reviewed by VictoriaGlendinning in the London Daily News (she is quoted on the jacket of the present edition) and briefly noticed in the Sunday Times and the Irish Times. And that was that. It will be interesting to see ...


D.A.N. Jones

21 November 1985
The Prague Orgy 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 89 pp., £5.95, October 1985, 0 224 02815 4
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by Raymond Williams.
Chatto, 378 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 7011 2843 7
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Cousin Rosamund 
by Rebecca West.
Macmillan, 295 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 333 39797 5
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The Battle of Pollocks Crossing 
by J.L. Carr.
Viking, 176 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 670 80559 9
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The Bone People 
by Keri Hulme.
Hodder, 450 pp., £9.95, July 1985, 0 340 37024 6
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... characters and presenting grand scenes through their eyes. Cousin Rosamund, a posthumous fragment of an ambitious project, is an admirable example of her talent. There is a helpful afterword by VictoriaGlendinning, explaining that Cousin Rosamund was part of the novel sequence begun in 1956 with The fountain overflows. When Rebecca West died, aged 90, in 1983, some of the typescript she left behind ...
6 July 1995
Elizabeth Bowen and the Dissolution of the Novel 
by Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle.
Macmillan, 208 pp., £35, December 1994, 0 333 60760 0
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... inside her blurbs, inside her ‘passionate and intense’sensitivity, and sensibility, and all the rest of it. This is perhaps a trifle unfair to the good work done previously by Hermione Lee and VictoriaGlendinning, to name but two more orthodox critics: but it does indeed help – and very strikingly – to remove Bowen from the socially feminine personality on which her admirers used fondly to ...

Both Ends of the Tub

Thomas Karshan: Nicholson Baker

24 July 2003
A Box of Matches 
by Nicholson Baker.
Chatto, 178 pp., £10, February 2003, 0 7011 7402 1
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... They are, in short, as self-propelling and potentially dangerous as the sexual fantasies of The Fermata. The Fermata lost Baker a number of fans (‘Goodbye Nicholson Baker, goodbye for ever,’ VictoriaGlendinning said). He has been scrambling ever since to recover his accreditation as a nice person. In The Everlasting Story of Nory (1998), he wrote down the thoughts and stories of his nine-year ...

No False Modesty

Rosemary Hill: Edith Sitwell

20 October 2011
Edith Sitwell: Avant-Garde Poet, English Genius 
by Richard Greene.
Virago, 532 pp., £25, March 2011, 978 1 86049 967 8
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... to Sitwell’s own shy yet outspoken self and its somewhat ambiguous expression: ‘The woman in me kneels and weeps in tender rapture, the man in me rushes forth, but only to be baffled.’ VictoriaGlendinning, in her more perceptive life of Sitwell, A Unicorn among Lions, published in 1981, pointed out the connection between Nathan and Tchelitchew but Greene does not comment on it. Nor does he ...

Our Island Story

Stefan Collini: The New DNB

20 January 2005
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 
edited by H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison.
Oxford, sixty volumes, £7,500, September 2004, 9780198614111
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... I (1533-1603, ‘queen of England and Ireland’), Cromwell (1599-1658, ‘Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland’), Wellington (1769-1852, ‘army officer and prime minister’), Victoria (1819-1901, ‘queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and empress of India’), Churchill (1874-1965, ‘prime minister’), and so on. So far, so conventional, though none of this ...

Hats One Dreamed about

Tessa Hadley: Rereading Bowen

9 February 2020
Collected Stories 
by Elizabeth Bowen.
Everyman, 904 pp., £18.99, October 2019, 978 1 84159 392 0
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... yet the work grows stranger, and more sympathetic. Bowen hadn’t read many short stories when she began to write her own: no ‘Hardy, Henry James, Maupassant or Katherine Mansfield’, VictoriaGlendinning says in her 1977 biography: ‘she was not following any genre theoretically familiar to her.’ And for whatever reason, as she finds her way, it isn’t to drift Mansfield and Woolf ...
7 May 1981
... in favour. A rough list of printed pieces, in alphabetical order of reviewers and interviewers, might look like this:FavourablePaul Ableman(Spectator)J.G. Ballard(Tatler)Helen Chislett(Company)VictoriaGlendinning(Listener)Ian Hamilton(Sunday Times)Tim Heald(Now)Thomas Hinde(Sunday Telegraph)Bernard Levin(Sunday Times)Blake Morrison(TLS)John Nicholson(Times)Richard Rayner(Time Out)Anthony Thwaite ...

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