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Obstacles

Penelope Fitzgerald, 4 July 1996

Edward Thomas: Selected Letters 
edited by R. George Thomas.
Oxford, 192 pp., £30, March 1996, 0 19 818562 6
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... went out and thought what effects my suicide would have. I don’t think I mind them ... W.H. Davies would suffer a little, Helen and the children less in reality than they do now, from my accursed temper and moodiness.’ Even so, it might be true of him, as Ian Hamilton wrote of Robert Frost, that ‘he knew his own failings, knew what the world would ...

Hobohemianism

Blake Morrison, 30 June 2011

The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp 
by W.H. Davies.
Amberley, 192 pp., £14.99, September 2010, 978 1 84868 980 0
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... According to W.H. Davies, tramps often buried surplus items of clothing or footwear by the side of the road, knowing they could retrieve them should they pass the same way again. In his second volume of autobiography, Later Days, published in 1925, Davies lists a few of his deposits: a shirt on the banks of the Mississippi, a pair of boots in the Allegheny mountains, a coat under rocks on Long Island Sound ...

Settling down

Karl Miller, 20 November 1980

Young Emma 
by W.H. Davies.
Cape, 158 pp., £5.95, November 1980, 0 224 01853 1
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... Davies? Oh, he was a sort of natural, wasn’t he – like Clare?’ James Reeves’s Introduction to his Penguin anthology of Georgian poetry puts this absentminded question into the mouth of an unidentified intellectual of recent times. It refers to the author of the present book, who is also the author of the once-famous Autobiography of a Super-Tramp and of some six hundred poems ...

Young Wystan

Ian Hamilton, 8 September 1994

Juvenilia: Poems 1922-28 
by W.H. Auden, edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Faber, 263 pp., £25, July 1994, 0 571 17140 0
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... ecstasy of sound / Of leaves drinking the young dew’. Or was this meant to be like W.H. Davies? The submission to Hardy, while it lasts, is almost comically abject: ‘Who’d have dared to say / There would come a day / When, passing this spot, / I should not stay / But go on my way’; ‘For little we sensed of the delight/Hid in the laughter ...
Frost: A Literary Life Reconsidered 
by William Pritchard.
Oxford, 186 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 19 503462 7
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... a long time’). Frost soon became friendly with the Georgian poets, Lascelles Abercrombie, W.H. Davies and Wilfrid Gibson, and he formed a truly close friendship, probably the closest of his life, with Edward Thomas. Frost and his family sailed for home early in 1915. The outbreak of war had cut short his foray into literary London, but from a crassly ...

Bolsheviks and Bohemians

Angus Calder, 5 April 1984

The Life of Arthur Ransome 
by Hugh Brogan.
Cape, 456 pp., £10.95, January 1984, 0 224 02010 2
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Bohemia in London 
by Arthur Ransome, introduced by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Oxford, 284 pp., £3.50, January 1984, 0 19 281412 5
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... the author of children’s tales loved by millions – nor that his liking for the verse of W.H. Davies, from which he quoted at length in Bohemia, was the portent of a shift in taste which would dominate middlebrow readers for decades. Young Ransome – 23 when he published Bohemia – did realise that he lived in a phase of transition. He evokes, with long ...

Their Mad Gallopade

Patrick McGuinness: Nancy Cunard, 25 January 2018

Selected Poems 
by Nancy Cunard.
Carcanet, 304 pp., £12.99, October 2016, 978 1 78410 236 4
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... the Augustan Books of Modern Poetry series, which published, among others, Walter de la Mare, W.H. Davies and Laurence Binyon. Thompson was editing Cunard’s Selected Poems, and the two worked closely on its composition. His sudden death in 1946 put an end to the project, and it was never revived. It would have helped Cunard to have a solid, discriminating ...

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 a dingy flat in Bayswater, where over the years Yeats and Graham Greene, W.H. Davies, T.S. Eliot and Aldous Huxley were among those who came for tea and buns under a single, unshaded electric light bulb. It also added lustre to some of her put-downs. Dealing with a Boston psychiatrist who demanded to know why she wrote about Christ rather ...

We shall not be moved

John Bayley, 2 February 1984

Come aboard and sail away 
by John Fuller.
Salamander, 48 pp., £6, October 1983, 0 907540 37 6
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Children in Exile 
by James Fenton.
Salamander, 24 pp., £5, October 1983, 0 907540 39 2
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‘The Memory of War’ and ‘Children in Exile’: Poems 1968-1983 
by James Fenton.
Penguin, 110 pp., £1.95, October 1983, 0 14 006812 0
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Some Contemporary Poets of Britain and Ireland: An Anthology 
edited by Michael Schmidt.
Carcanet, 184 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 85635 469 4
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Nights in the Iron Hotel 
by Michael Hofmann.
Faber, 48 pp., £4, November 1983, 0 571 13116 6
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The Irish Lights 
by Charles Johnston and Kyril Fitzlyon.
Bodley Head, 77 pp., £4.50, September 1983, 0 370 30557 4
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Fifteen to Infinity 
by Ruth Fainlight.
Hutchinson, 62 pp., £5.95, September 1983, 0 09 152471 7
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Donald Davie and the Responsibilities of Literature 
edited by George Dekker.
Carcanet, 153 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 9780856354663
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... most. This may beg a lot more questions, but except to critics it is clear enough. When W.H. Davies says he saw the wind dragging the corn by her golden hair into a dark wood, the startling and exciting information goes straight inside us. Complex reactions then occur; theorists of rhetoric can tell us how the effect is achieved; but the truth of the ...

Ministry of Apparitions

Malcolm Gaskill: Magical Thinking in 1918, 4 July 2019

A Supernatural War: Magic, Divination and Faith during the First World War 
by Owen Davies.
Oxford, 284 pp., £20, October 2018, 978 0 19 879455 4
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... were so many real reports of supernatural phenomena on the front line. In A Supernatural War, Owen Davies leads us from the conflict into a haunted world filled with magical thinking and uncanny experiences. ‘The greatest virtue [of history],’ the historian Tom Griffiths has written, ‘is uncompromising complexity.’ And that’s what we get in ...

In the Golfo Placido

P.N. Furbank, 9 October 1986

The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. II: 1898-1902 
edited by Frederick Karl and Laurence Davies.
Cambridge, 483 pp., £27.50, August 1986, 0 521 25748 4
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... and the deepest source of his power. Thus I’m not sure that we need go along with Laurence Davies’s reference in his Introduction to these Letters to ‘the curse of a manic-depressive temperament’. For one gets the impression that Conrad needed his writer’s block: it was a necessary ritual of his psyche as a writer to re-experience over and over ...

Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Sonnet

Barbara Everett: The Sonnets, 8 May 2008

... Complaint’ is simply too bad to be Shakespearean but competent enough to be the work of John Davies of Hereford, a minor poet whose admiration led him to assimilate his style to Shakespeare’s. Whether the case for John Davies is finally accepted, there can be little doubt that Vickers’s clear and forceful study ...

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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... to live as he likes as far as society will let him; secondly, that other people besides Angel Dan Davies enjoy poetry, jazz and sex; and thirdly that, appalling as it would be to have Itchy Dave Gelden coming in one’s door ‘fidgeting and scratching his crotch’ (‘Hi, what’s cookin’? Are we gonna blow some poetry, maybe?’), he would probably be no ...

Funny Mummy

E.S. Turner, 2 December 1982

The Penguin Stephen Leacock 
by Robertson Davies.
Penguin, 527 pp., £2.95, October 1981, 0 14 005890 7
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Jerome K. Jerome: A Critical Biography 
by Joseph Connolly.
Orbis, 208 pp., £7.95, August 1982, 0 85613 349 3
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Three Men in a Boat 
by Jerome K. Jerome, annotated and introduced by Christopher Matthew and Benny Green.
Joseph, 192 pp., £12.50, August 1982, 0 907516 08 4
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The Lost Stories of W.S. Gilbert 
edited by Peter Haining.
Robson, 255 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 86051 200 2
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... for nearly twenty years. All three items appear in the present Penguin anthology. Robertson Davies’s choice follows closely that of J.B. Priestley, but this is no doubt because large areas of the humorist’s works are undeniably dated. There is a generous helping from Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, the nearest he got to writing a novel, and also ...

Georgian eyes are smiling

Frank Kermode, 15 September 1988

Bernard Shaw. Vol. I: The Search for Love, 1856-1898 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 486 pp., £16, September 1988, 0 7011 3332 5
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Bernard Shaw: Collected Letters. Vol. IV 
edited by Dan Laurence.
Bodley Head, 946 pp., £30, June 1988, 0 370 31130 2
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Shaw: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies. Vol. VIII 
edited by Stanley Weintraub.
Pennsylvania State, 175 pp., $25, April 1988, 0 271 00613 7
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Shaw’s Sense of History 
by J.L. Wisenthal.
Oxford, 186 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812892 4
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Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. III: 1903-1907 
edited by Frederick Karl and Laurence Davies.
Cambridge, 532 pp., £35, April 1988, 0 521 32387 8
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Joseph Conrad: ‘Nostromo’ 
by Ian Watt.
Cambridge, 98 pp., £12.50, April 1988, 0 521 32821 7
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... There were already good biographies of Shaw, notably those of Frank Harris and Hesketh Pearson, both of whom knew Shaw and had the benefit of his energetic interventions. Pearson in particular will not be easily supplanted. Nevertheless the archives of the world are full of Shaviana inaccessible before his death, and because there had not been a serious attempt since 1956 – the centenary year – the Shaw Estate sensibly decided that the time had come for a new biography, and invited Mr Holroyd to write it ...

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