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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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... These are sweeping statements – though sweeping, of course, can be a worthwhile activity. Victoria Glendinning 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 book into episodes: ‘Cissie’, the unstoppable ...

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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... are being asked to admire, their life-style or their art. Edith Sitwell comes in this class, and Victoria Glendinning’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 preliminary question: is Edith Sitwell’s poetry any ...

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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... been abandoned by another woman, allowed Miss St John to hold her hand. She even allowed her, Victoria Glendinning 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 Road, to be precise – Vita had ‘stretched out ...


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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... He closed his eyes and charged like hell without any thought of what might lie on the other side. Victoria Glendinning 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 Trollope since James Pope-Hennessy’s (1971) and I ...

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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... Why some uses of words rather than others? What is the point in interviewing Margaret Drabble, Victoria Glendinning 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 women interviewed confirm yet again that female ...

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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... voice. And yet, at the end, he seemed to declare that the satire came from his own wounded heart. Victoria Glendinning 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, a man of intense responses, provoked to towering ...

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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... the novel draws on Bowen’s many long female friendships, a side of her life that she tended, as Victoria Glendinning 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 in which men are either dead or faintly ...

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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... in print. In response to my enquiries, Quartet Books have told me that it was well reviewed by Victoria Glendinning 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 whether the book will have better fortune now ...

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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... Fermata. The Fermata lost Baker a number of fans (‘Goodbye Nicholson Baker, goodbye for ever,’ Victoria Glendinning 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-old daughter during a year she spent at school in ...


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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... of an ambitious project, is an admirable example of her talent. There is a helpful afterword by Victoria Glendinning, 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 was published as This Real Night. Now some more ...

Into Council Care

John Bayley, 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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... rest of it. This is perhaps a trifle unfair to the good work done previously by Hermione Lee and Victoria Glendinning, 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 dote, and see how far she can run without her smart ...

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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... in me kneels and weeps in tender rapture, the man in me rushes forth, but only to be baffled.’ Victoria Glendinning, 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 discuss the book’s definition of ...

Hats One Dreamed about

Tessa Hadley: Rereading Bowen, 20 February 2020

Collected Stories 
by Elizabeth Bowen.
Everyman, 904 pp., £18.99, October 2019, 978 1 84159 392 0
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... when she began to write her own: no ‘Hardy, Henry James, Maupassant or Katherine Mansfield’, Victoria Glendinning 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 style, avoiding closure or narrative ...

No Shortage of Cousins

David Trotter: Bowenology, 12 August 2021

Selected Stories 
by Elizabeth Bowen, edited by Tessa Hadley.
Vintage, 320 pp., £14.99, April, 978 1 78487 715 6
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The Hotel 
by Elizabeth Bowen.
Anchor, 256 pp., $16, August 2020, 978 0 593 08065 8
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Friends and Relations 
by Elizabeth Bowen.
Anchor, 224 pp., $16, August 2020, 978 0 593 08067 2
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... Florence died of cancer. Elizabeth was subsequently to be brought up, as her biographer Victoria Glendinning puts it, by ‘a committee of aunts’. There was no shortage of cousins, Irish and English. One of them, Audrey Fiennes, became her lifelong friend and confidante.Bowen was later to recall that transplantation to England at an early and ...

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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... 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 comes close to the monstrous exercise in sycophancy ...

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