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Lamentable Thumbs

Blake Morrison: The Marvellous Barbellion, 21 June 2018

The Journal of a Disappointed Man 
by W.N.P. Barbellion.
Penguin, 394 pp., £9.99, November 2017, 978 0 241 29769 8
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... Rousseau says, promising ‘a portrait in every way true to nature’, a claim echoed by W.N.P. Barbellion when he writes: ‘My journal keeps open house to every kind of happening in my soul.’ But Rousseau was guilty of certain economies and the last words of The Journal of a Disappointed Man – ‘Barbellion died on ...

Brain Spot Men

Gavin Francis, 4 May 2023

by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst.
Cape, 260 pp., £18.99, February, 978 1 78733 125 9
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by A.J. Lees.
Notting Hill, 135 pp., £14.99, March 2022, 978 1 912559 36 7
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... earlier, the naturalist B.F. Cummings, who published his journals under the pseudonym W.N.P. Barbellion, recorded his experience of demyelination: ‘In a horrible panic – the last few days – I believe I am developing locomotor ataxy. One leg, one arm and my speech are affected, i.e. the right side and my speech centre … I stutter a little in my ...

At war

Iain McGilchrist, 25 January 1990

The Faber Book of Fevers and Frets 
edited by D.J. Enright.
Faber, 364 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 0 574 15095 1
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... in the excruciating pains of gout, the ‘only enemy I do not wish to have at my feet.’ W.N.P. Barbellion, alias the diarist and biologist B.F. Cummings, who died of multiple sclerosis at the age of 30, treated his afflictions with a bitter humour. A woman on a bus, ‘exposing a large red udder’, offers it to her infant with the words ‘Come ...

Sun and Strawberries

Mary Beard: Gwen Raverat, 19 September 2002

Gwen Raverat: Friends, Family and Affections 
by Frances Spalding.
Harvill, 438 pp., £30, June 2001, 1 86046 746 6
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... she calls, even now, ‘the most outstanding piece of writing on multiple sclerosis’ – W.N.P. Barbellion’s Journal of a Disappointed Man. Barbellion was the pseudonym of Bruce Frederick Cummings, journalist and scientist, who died of multiple sclerosis, aged 30, a few years before Jacques (the W.N.P. were ...

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