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Almighty Godwin

Paul Foot, 28 September 1989

The Godwins and the Shelleys: The Biography of a Family 
by William StClair.
Faber, 572 pp., £20, June 1989, 0 571 15422 0
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... of a family and it is not about the Godwins and the Shelleys. Perhaps the publishers persuaded William StClair against his better judgment to downgrade his hero in the title and to include the Shelleys, who are more famous. This rich, glorious book is, however, a biography of ...

Out of Bounds

Ian Gilmour: Why Wordsworth sold a lot less than Byron, 20 January 2005

The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period 
by William StClair.
Cambridge, 765 pp., £90, July 2004, 9780521810067
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... of which British poets should be honoured by inclusion in the book. Such behaviour, as William StClair amply demonstrates in his magnificent, original and compelling study, was characteristic of the London publishers. His book stretches far wider than its title suggests. He has a mass of new and fascinating ...

Ink Blots, Pin Holes

Caroline Gonda: ‘Frankenstein’, 28 January 2010

The Original ‘Frankenstein’ 
by Mary Shelley, with Percy Shelley, edited by Charles Robinson.
Bodleian Library, 448 pp., £14.99, October 2009, 978 1 85124 396 9
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... Strongly fancied at the start of 1833 to win the Great Doncaster St Leger, Mr Gully’s bay colt Frankenstein (by Young Phantom, out of My Lady) failed to live up to expectations. Beaten into fourth place at the York Spring Meeting by Muley Moloch, Satan and Lot, in October Frankenstein, by now renamed Deceiver, finished last but two in the worst St Leger the Sporting Magazine’s correspondent had ever seen: ‘There was no necessity to re-name Frankenstein Deceiver; I think his abilities are so bad that he never could possibly deceive any one ...

Tousy-Mousy

Anne Barton: Mary Shelley, 8 February 2001

Mary Shelley 
by Miranda Seymour.
Murray, 665 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 7195 5711 9
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Mary Shelley in Her Times 
edited by Betty Bennett and Stuart Curran.
Johns Hopkins, 311 pp., £33, September 2000, 0 8018 6334 1
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Mary Shelley's Fictions 
edited by Michael Eberle-Sinatra.
Palgrave, 250 pp., £40, August 2000, 0 333 77106 0
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... is some excellent and fresh new work in the various anthologies – the Gonda piece, for instance, William StClair on ‘The Impact of Frankenstein’, Michael O’Neill on Mary Shelley as an editor, Charles Robinson on ‘Mathilda as Dramatic Actress’ (the last three in the Bennett/Curran collection) or Nora ...

Pity the monsters

Richard Altick, 18 December 1980

The Elephant Man 
by Bernard Pomerance.
Faber, 71 pp., £2.25, June 1980, 0 571 11569 1
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The Elephant Man: the Book of the Film 
by Joy Kuhn.
Virgin, 90 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 9780907080091
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The Elephant Man 
by Christine Sparks.
Futura, 272 pp., £1.25, August 1980, 0 7088 1942 7
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The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences 
by Frederick Treves.
Star, 126 pp., £95, August 1980, 0 352 30747 1
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The Elephant Man and Other Freaks 
by Sian Richards.
Futura, 197 pp., £1.25, October 1980, 0 7088 1927 3
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The True History of the Elephant Man 
by Michael Howell and Peter Ford.
Allison and Busby, 190 pp., £6.95, March 1980, 0 85031 353 8
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... twisted lip. A year or so before he wrote his tale of the actor-turned-mendicant, Neville St Clair, Doyle would have read the Elephant Man’s brief obituary in the Times. If he was tempted to use some of the facts in the case – the man’s never appearing in public unless concealed by a curtain-like mask with a single slit, a hat the ...

No Waverers Allowed

Clair Wills: Eamonn McCann, 23 May 2019

War and an Irish Town 
by Eamonn McCann.
Haymarket, 288 pp., £14.99, October 2018, 978 1 60846 567 5
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... union organiser. Like Seamus Deane and Seamus Heaney, who were both a few years ahead of him at St Columb’s Catholic Grammar School (where John Hume and Brian Friel had also been pupils), he belonged to the first generation to have access to free secondary schooling after the war. He went to university at Queen’s in Belfast, spent time in London, and by ...

Like a boll weevil to a cotton bud

A. Craig Copetas, 18 November 1993

New York Days 
by Willie Morris.
Little, Brown, 400 pp., £19.45, September 1993, 0 316 58421 5
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... houses. We have not the time to laugh at this speculation because dinner is announced, and William Faulkner is seated next to Candy author Terry Southern. Willie Morris, of the Texas Observer and Harper’s Magazine by way of a place called Yazoo and a university named Oxford, is now listening. ‘Mr Bill,’ Southern whispers into Faulkner’s ...

Make the music mute

John Barrell, 9 July 1992

English Music 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 241 12501 4
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... Eliot’s fingerprints are all over this book). There is a dream of a music lesson taught by William Byrd, a history of English poetry in the manner of one of Blake’s prophetic books, and a perambulation of London in which Hogarth repeats passages of The Analysis of Beauty and marches Timothy through the scenes of his engravings of London life. Most ...

A Traveller in Residence

Mary Hawthorne, 13 November 1997

... on 42nd Street, then one as a fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar. A couple of years later, William Shawn hired her to write the ‘briefly noted’ reviews of historical novels and murder mysteries for the New Yorker. I asked people at the office who had known Maeve what she looked like when she arrived (strangely, I hadn’t been able to find any ...

What makes a waif?

Joanne O’Leary, 13 September 2018

The Long-Winded Lady: Tales from the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 215 pp., £10.99, January 2017, 978 1 906539 59 7
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Maeve Brennan: Homesick at the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Angela Bourke.
Counterpoint, 360 pp., $16.95, February 2016, 978 1 61902 715 2
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The Springs of Affection: Stories 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 368 pp., £8.99, May 2016, 978 1 906539 54 2
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... became engaged to the playwright and theatre critic Walter Kerr. He broke her heart. (Years later William Shawn told a colleague that Kerr would never write for the New Yorker ‘because of Maeve’.) In 1941, Brennan moved to Manhattan and soon found work at Harper’s Bazaar, where she stayed for seven years, rising through the ranks from a copywriter to an ...

‘Kek kek! kokkow! quek quek!’

Barbara Newman: Chaucer’s Voices, 21 November 2019

Chaucer: A European Life 
by Marion Turner.
Princeton, 599 pp., £30, April 2019, 978 0 691 16009 2
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... than any other premodern poet: 493 of them, meticulously compiled by Martin Crow and Clair Olson in Chaucer Life Records (1966). What they record is the career of a competent civil servant. A member of the king’s household and lifelong retainer of John of Gaunt, Chaucer served as a diplomat, controller of the wool custom, clerk of ...

The Tower

Andrew O’Hagan, 7 June 2018

... children, were elaborate cakes and the latest iPhone.She was fond of a quote she’d found from William Golding. ‘I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men,’ it said. ‘They are far superior and always have been.’ Most of the women thought this was a bit untrue, but Rania was very much herself. When her brother-in-law Tariq became ...

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