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Ars Brevis, Vita Longa

Dan Jacobson, 16 July 1981

The Oxford Book of Short Stories 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Oxford, 547 pp., £9.50, June 1981, 0 19 214116 3
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The Short Story in English 
by Walter Allen.
Oxford, 413 pp., £9.50, February 1981, 0 19 812666 2
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... short story for both V.S. Pritchett, in his introduction to The Oxford Book of Short Stories, and Walter Allen, in his critical survey, The Short Story in English. ‘The short story,’ writes Allen, is ‘rooted in a single incident or perception’; its effect ‘is nearer to that of lyric poetry than the ...

Barriers of Silliness

J.I.M. Stewart, 1 July 1982

The Great Detectives: Seven Original Investigations 
by Julian Symons.
Orbis, 143 pp., £7.95, October 1981, 0 85613 362 0
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Critical Observations 
by Julian Symons.
Faber, 213 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 571 11688 4
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As I walked down New Grub Street: Memories of a Writing Life 
by Walter Allen.
Heinemann, 276 pp., £8.95, November 1981, 0 434 01829 5
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... violence and corruption the raw reality of Red Harvest.’ No mean achievement. But that was it. Walter Allen is another Thirties man. Senior to Mr Symons by less than a year, he was the first boy from King Edward’s Grammar School, Ashton, ever to attempt Oxford entrance, being sent up to Balliol as a candidate for a scholarship in English ...

House History

John Sutherland, 24 January 1980

Allen Lane: King Penguin 
by J.E. Morpurgo.
Hutchinson, 405 pp., £9.95, November 1980, 0 09 139690 5
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... The terms on which this book is set up are prefigured in the split title – Allen Lane: King Penguin. In Elizabethan drama the king’s two bodies might well be a theme for tragedy, and a latterday Lytton Strachey might have made much of the hypocritical discrepancies between public eminence and private person. J ...

A Life of Henry Reed

Jon Stallworthy, 12 September 1991

... University. There he was taught and befriended – as were his Birmingham contemporaries Walter Allen and Reggie Smith – by a young lecturer in the Classics Department, Louis MacNeice. Reed had a remarkable speaking voice and a gift for mimicry (and for assuming the accents of a class not his own), and as an undergraduate he acted in and ...

Fantasia and Fugue for Pan-Pipe

Allen Curnow, 6 July 2000

... both plaintively lovelorn, obscurely set down between Oceanian winds and water. New Zealand Verse. Walter Scott Publishing. London. New York. 1906 – Safe distances, for blushing unseen, big breaths unheard, ‘O cruel nymph’ not unwritten and much more, his drift of ‘low-blown music’ – the words, the lips, the pipes – ‘who love thee ...

Patria Potestas

David Allen, 19 April 1984

Dear Lord Rothschild: Birds, Butterflies and History 
by Miriam Rothschild.
Hutchinson, 398 pp., £14.95, November 1983, 0 09 153740 1
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... biography, written by one of his nieces, was a prime example of the absurdity of that custom. Walter, the second Baron Rothschild, great-great-grandson of the fortune-founding Mayer Amschel, was manifestly without any talent at all for finance, had absolutely no need to earn a living and had a younger brother who possessed in full measure the very ...


William Wootten: Alun Lewis and ‘Frieda’, 5 July 2007

A Cypress Walk: Letters to ‘Frieda’ 
by Alun Lewis.
Enitharmon, 224 pp., £20, October 2006, 1 904634 30 3
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... a small selection was included in the prose collection In the Green Tree (1948): ‘It may be,’ Walter Allen wrote in the New Statesman, ‘that these letters will ultimately take a higher place than either the poetry or the stories for, like Keats’s, they point to a maturity beyond anything their author had been able to express in his work.’ A ...

Unhappy Childhoods

John Sutherland, 2 February 1989

Trollope and Character 
by Stephen Wall.
Faber, 397 pp., £17.50, September 1988, 0 571 14595 7
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The Chronicler of Barsetshire: A Life of Anthony Trollope 
by R.H. Super.
Michigan, 528 pp., $35, December 1988, 0 472 10102 1
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Dickens: A Biography 
by Fred Kaplan.
Hodder, 607 pp., £17.95, November 1988, 0 340 48558 2
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Charlotte Brontë 
by Rebecca Fraser.
Methuen, 543 pp., £14.95, October 1988, 9780413570109
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... has traditionally been mocked (even by critics now as prehistoric-looking themselves as Walter Allen) as the epitome of middlebrow philistinism – on a par with the Janeite who reads Austen every year to relish her ‘wit’. This, however, is the company Wall prefers. Wall takes it for granted that Trollope must be swallowed as the boa takes ...


Pat Rogers, 7 August 1986

Mothers of the Novel: One Hundred Good Women Writers before Jane Austen 
by Dale Spender.
Pandora, 357 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 86358 081 5
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Scribbling Sisters 
by Dale Spender and Lynne Spender.
Camden Press, 188 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 948491 00 0
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A Woman of No Character: An Autobiography of Mrs Manley 
by Fidelis Morgan.
Faber, 176 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13934 5
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by Fanny Burney.
Virago, 919 pp., £6.95, May 1986, 0 86068 775 9
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Millenium Hall 
by Sarah Scott.
Virago, 207 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86068 780 5
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by Susan Ferrier.
Virago, 513 pp., £4.50, February 1986, 0 86068 765 1
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by Maria Edgeworth.
Pandora, 434 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 074 2
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by Mary Brunton.
Pandora, 437 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 9780863580840
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The Female Quixote: The Adventures of Arabella 
by Charlotte Lennox.
Pandora, 423 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 080 7
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... Charles Lever, M.G. Lewis, Thomas Lodge, Henry MacKenzie [sic], Thomas Malory, Charles Maturin, Walter Scott, Philip Sidney, Horace Walpole ... twenty, plus the recognised fathers of the novel ... Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, Samuel Richardson, Tobias Smollett and Lawrence [sic] Sterne; generosity indeed to double the number!’ A list so nakedly daft ...

Concini and the Squirrel

Peter Campbell, 24 May 1990

by John Allen Paulos.
135 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 0 670 83008 9
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The Culture of Print 
edited by Roger Chartier.
351 pp., £35, September 1989, 0 7456 0575 3
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Symbols of Ideal Life 
by Maren Stange.
Cambridge, 190 pp., £25, June 1989, 0 521 32441 6
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The Lines of My Hand 
by Robert Frank.
£30, September 1989, 0 436 16256 3
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... a sane, amusing, unintimidating introduction to the consequences of mathematical illiteracy, John Allen Paulos shows how a little arithmetic can cast light on the cohesiveness of cultures. He quotes an experiment in which the psychologist Stanley Milgrim gave each member of a randomly-selected group of people a document and a ‘target individual’ to whom ...

After the Woolwich

Frank Kermode, 7 February 1991

Spanner and Pen: Post-War Memoirs 
by Roy Fuller.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 190 pp., £16.95, February 1991, 1 85619 040 4
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... One of his friendships I take leave to dwell on. I hadn’t known that the American poet Allen Tate, a friend of mine, was also a friend and correspondent of Fuller’s, and I was interested to learn that Allen’s widow, Helen, wrote to him saying that Tate died not of emphysema but of brain damage caused by ...

Southern Virtues

Frank Kermode, 4 May 1989

A Turn in the South 
by V.S. Naipaul.
Viking, 307 pp., £14.95, April 1989, 0 670 82415 1
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Allen Tate: A Recollection 
by Walter Sullivan.
Louisiana State, 117 pp., $16.95, November 1988, 0 8071 1481 2
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by John Updike.
Deutsch, 245 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 233 98390 2
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... past as a sort of paradise, but held it in a more than commonly lofty way, was the poet Allen Tate, the subject here of an admiringly candid memoir by Walter Sullivan. Tate’s reputation is in its posthumous slump, except perhaps in Nashville and Sewanee, but he is too interesting to stay down for ever. He was ...

On the Dole

Melanie Phillips, 15 July 1982

by Jeremy Seabrook.
Quartet, 226 pp., £8.95, February 1982, 0 7043 2325 7
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The Black Economy: how it works, who it works for, and what it costs 
by Arnold Heertje, Margaret Allen and Harry Cohen.
Pan, 158 pp., £1.95, April 1982, 0 330 26765 5
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... you feel you’re not a whole person. Fifty years separate these two extracts – the first from Walter Greenwood’s Love on the Dole, the second from Unemployment by Jeremy Seabrook. Once again, there are three million out of work; once again, the jobless register the same feelings of apathy, humiliation and futility. Nothing has changed – and yet ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: John White’s New World, 5 April 2007

... seems to have made five of them. He very probably sailed with the 1584 expedition promoted by Sir Walter Raleigh to reconnoitre sites for an English colony. He was certainly one of the party of five or six hundred men (about one hundred of them colonists) who went back in 1585. It was on that voyage that he gathered material for the American drawings. In 1587 ...

Positively Spaced Out

Rosemary Hill: ‘The Building of England’, 6 September 2001

The Buildings of England: A Celebration Compiled to Mark 50 Years of the Pevsner Architectural Guides 
edited by Simon Bradley and Bridget Cherry.
Penguin Collectors’ Society, 128 pp., £9.99, July 2001, 0 9527401 3 3
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... of his books to be written in English, Pioneers of the Modern Movement from William Morris to Walter Gropius. His parents stayed in Germany where, in 1940, soon after his father’s death, his mother killed herself to escape the camps. Pevsner and his family were to remain permanently in this country. The idea for The Buildings of England had occurred to ...

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