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Baby Face

John Bayley, 24 May 1990

William GerhardieA Biography 
by Dido Davies.
Oxford, 411 pp., £25, April 1990, 0 19 211794 7
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Memoirs of a Polyglot 
by William Gerhardie.
Robin Clark, 381 pp., £5.95, April 1990, 0 86072 111 6
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Futility 
by William Gerhardie.
Robin Clark, 198 pp., £4.95, April 1990, 0 86072 112 4
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God’s Fifth Column: A Biography of the Age 1890-1940 
by William Gerhardie, edited by Michael Holroyd and Robert Skidelsky.
Hogarth, 360 pp., £8.95, April 1990, 0 7012 0887 2
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... genius’? Evelyn Waugh had been reading Futility, which first came out in 1922, but his favourite Gerhardie novel was to be Jazz and Jasper. This almost forgotten work appeared in 1927, two years earlier than Vile Bodies. Its author wanted to call it Doom, a title not adopted until the 1974 edition. In 1947 it made a brief appearance as My Sinful Earth, and ...

Posterity

Frank Kermode, 2 April 1981

God’s Fifth Column: A Biography of the Age, 1890-1940 
by William Gerhardie, Michael Holroyd and Robert Skidelsky.
Hodder, 360 pp., £11.95, March 1981, 0 340 26340 7
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Futility 
by William Gerhardie.
Penguin, 184 pp., £1.75, February 1981, 0 14 000391 6
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... Gerhardie is one of those writers who are periodically rescued from near-oblivion. In 1947, a temporary revival of interest was brought about by the publication of a ‘Uniform Edition’ of his novels, and there was another in 1970, when the same edition was republished with prefaces by Michael Holroyd. Gerhardie himself prefixed to the reissue of his first book, Futility, an important essay called ‘My Literary Credo’, which is unfortunately omitted from the new Penguin Modern Classics reprint ...

Cityscape with Figures

Julian Symons, 21 August 1980

The Great Fortune, The Spoilt City, Friends and Heroes 
by Olivia Manning.
Penguin, 287 pp., £1.25, March 1980, 0 14 003543 5
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... is a limitation also in the depiction of people, one that perhaps springs from her admiration for William Gerhardie. It is the Gerhardie of Futility and The Polyglots (Gerhardi, rather, since he had not then added an ‘e’ to his name) of whom one is often reminded. A preference for glancing rather than direct ...

Charging Downhill

Frank Kermode: Michael Holroyd, 28 October 1999

Basil Street Blues: A Family Story 
by Michael Holroyd.
Little, Brown, 306 pp., £17.50, September 1999, 0 316 64815 9
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... but here the truth sounds very like fiction. Hugh Kingsmill was his other model and with him and William Gerhardie he established friendships that made up for some of the deficiencies of family. These writers left their mark on his style, and Gerhardie himself was a splendidly eccentric subject. For the rest, Holroyd ...

Hooting

Edward Pearce, 22 October 1992

Beaverbrook 
by Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie.
Hutchinson, 589 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 09 173549 1
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... first fascinating thing about Beaverbrook is his origins, the second his rise. He was the son of William Aitken, a scholarly, but plodding minister who migrated to Canada from Torphichen in Fife. Young Max’s New Brunswick upbringing was one of paternal ineffectiveness and physical retribution from his mother. A classic non-adapter to school, he was the ...

The Great Escape

Philip Purser, 18 August 1994

The Fortunes of Casanova, and Other Stories 
by Rafael Sabatini, selected by Jack Adrian.
Oxford, 284 pp., £15.95, January 1994, 9780192123190
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... escape, Friar Balbi, but wins over the reader by buttonholing him directly. In The Casanova Fable William Gerhardie and Hugh Kingsmill throw away all these possibilities by transposing the story into the third person, and furthermore adopt a disapproving narrative voice; their odd little book is eventually going to turn into a mock-judicial arraignment ...

Make use of me

Jeremy Treglown: Olivia Manning, 9 February 2006

Olivia Manning: A Life 
by Neville Braybrooke and June Braybrooke.
Chatto, 301 pp., £20, November 2004, 0 7011 7749 7
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... if helpfully complaisant, philanderer. Among other men she was attracted to, the novelist William Gerhardie proved to have sadistic tendencies which she didn’t enjoy, while the theatre and film director Tony Richardson was so nervous of her that when lodging with the Smiths in St John’s Wood he hardly dared to take a bath. Manning’s ...

Who was David Peterley?

Michael Holroyd, 15 November 1984

... of this book, anywhere. They do not appear in the biography of Arthur Machen by Aidan Reynolds and William Charlton, though Peterley Harvest has some vivid pages on Machen. From this biography, published three years after Peterley Harvest, the facts of Peterley’s narrative may be verified. There was, for example, a dinner held in Machen’s honour at the ...

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