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Former Lovers

Michael Mason, 6 September 1984

The Bourgeois Experience. Victoria to Freud Vol. I: Education of the Senses 
by Peter Gay.
Oxford, 608 pp., £18.50, March 1984, 0 19 503352 3
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Austin and Mabel: The Amherst Affair and Love Letters of Austin Dickinson and Mabel Loomis Todd 
by Polly Longsworth.
Farrar, Straus, 449 pp., £18.50, September 1984, 0 374 10716 5
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The Memoirs of John Addington Symonds 
edited by Phyllis Grosskurth.
Hutchinson, 319 pp., £14.95, May 1984, 0 09 154170 0
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... The same goes for one of the most celebrated passages in all Victorian sexual literature, Dr William Acton on the female sexual response: The majority of women (happily for them) are not very much troubled with sexual feelings of any kind. What men are habitually, women are only exceptionally ... No nervous or feeble young man need, therefore, be ...

Pushy Times

David Solkin, 25 March 1993

The Great Age of British Watercolours 1750-1880 
by Andrew Wilton and Anne Lyles.
Prestel, 339 pp., £21.50, January 1993, 3 7913 1254 5
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... summer of 1743, the English engraver George Vertue paid tribute to his friend the ‘ingenious’ William Taverner, who ‘besides his practice of the Law ... has an extraordinary Genius in drawing and painting Landskips, equal if not superior in some degree to any painter in England’. Like other contemporary amateur producers of landscape ...

Topping Entertainment

Frank Kermode: Britten, 28 January 2010

Journeying Boy: The Diaries of the Young Benjamin Britten 
edited by John Evans.
Faber, 576 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 0 571 23883 5
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... as it performed the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven. Beecham is ‘irresponsible’, others such as Vaughan Williams and most English composers, Elgar in particular, provided numerous examples of ‘incompetant’ conducting and playing; most of the rest, always excepting his teacher Frank Bridge, have fallible technique. Bernard van Dieren (who fails to ...

I am a false alarm

Robert Irwin: Khalil Gibran, 3 September 1998

Kahlil Gibran: Man and Poet 
by Suheil Bushrui and Joe Jenkins.
One World, 372 pp., £18.99, August 1998, 1 85168 177 9
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Prophet: The Life and Times of Kahlil Gibran 
by Robin Waterfield.
Allen Lane, 366 pp., £20, August 1998, 0 7139 9209 3
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... the 20th century’. As it happened, Gibran could remember not only his previous reincarnation as William Blake, but also a subsequent incarnation as Dante Gabriel Rossetti. During the First World War he was offered a high-ranking political post and agents of the Ottoman Empire tried to assassinate him. He was impervious to pain and he communicated with a ...

Great Instructor

Charles Nicholl, 31 August 1989

Ben Jonson: A Life 
by David Riggs.
Harvard, 399 pp., £27.95, April 1989, 0 674 06625 1
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... would hardly think so from his portrait. The earliest dateable likeness is the engraving by Robert Vaughan, done in the mid 1620s, when Jonson was around fifty. The face is jowly, bearded, dour, heavily lived-in. The shadowed eyes remind me of photos of Tony Hancock. Comedy, they seem to say, is no laughing matter. It was one of Jonson’s sayings that ‘he ...

Britten when young

Frank Kermode, 29 August 1991

Letters from a Life: The Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten Vol. I 1923-39, Vol. II 1939-45 
edited by Donald Mitchell and Philip Reed.
Faber, 1403 pp., £75, June 1991, 9780571152216
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... a fine sermon’ by the Rev. Thomas Henry Stanley, who was standing in for the incumbent, the Rev. William Reeve. Reeve was away – in case you care, he was in Blankenberghe, Belgium. On August Bank Holiday in that year Britten went to see a show with Paul Robeson in it; a supporting act was ‘a clown’ – this performer, the editors explain, was ‘Clown ...

Last Night Fever

David Cannadine: The Proms, 6 September 2007

... 3; and the evening ended (again rousingly but not nationalistically) with Rossini’s Overture to William Tell. The result was an eclectic mixture, but it was much more European than British, and the programmes were conspicuously devoid of those military, nautical, jingoistic or imperial overtones so much in evidence in Britain during those years. But while ...

Wordsworth’s Crisis

E.P. Thompson, 8 December 1988

Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years 
by Nicholas Roe.
Oxford, 306 pp., £27.50, March 1988, 0 19 812868 1
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... I am of that odious class of men called democrats,’ Wordsworth wrote to his friend William Mathews in 1794. Much the same can be said of Coleridge, on the evidence of his letters and publications of the mid-1790s. By the early decades of this century, British, French and American scholarship concurred in finding both poets to be, in the 1790s, republicans and advanced reformers, who then suffered disappointment in the course of the French Revolution and, in different ways and at different times, changed their minds ...

Unhoused

Terry Eagleton: Anonymity, 22 May 2008

Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature 
by John Mullan.
Faber, 374 pp., £17.99, January 2008, 978 0 571 19514 5
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... about Mansfield Park’s view of its own heroine. If we did not know that industrial imagery in William Blake’s work generally carries a negative charge, it would be harder to argue that the speaker of the ‘Tyger’ poem is not Blake himself, a point highly relevant to the work’s meaning. On the other hand, if we discovered that ...

Breeding

Frank Kermode, 21 July 1994

The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner 
edited by Claire Harman.
Chatto, 384 pp., £25, June 1994, 0 7011 3659 6
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Sylvia and David: The Townsend Warner/Garnett Letters 
Sinclair-Stevenson, 246 pp., £20, June 1994, 1 85619 341 1Show More
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... feminism has proved of interest to the second wave, and much of her work has been republished. William Maxwell, a friend and correspondent who was for years her editor at the New Yorker, published a selection of her letters in 1982, and Claire Harman, having edited the Collected Poems in 1983, published a good biography in 1989. Wendy Mulford’s lively ...

Writing Machines

Tom McCarthy: On Realism and the Real, 18 December 2014

... course, exactly how events and memory both proceed: associatively, digressing, jolting, looping. William Burroughs makes the same point when discussing his cut-up technique: ‘Take a walk down a city street … You have seen a person cut in two by a car, bits and pieces of street signs and advertisements, reflections from shop windows – a montage of ...

The Phonic and the Phoney

Nicholas Spice: Being Hans Keller, 4 February 2021

Hans Keller 1919-85: A Musician in Dialogue with His Times 
by Alison Garnham and Susi Woodhouse.
Routledge, 421 pp., £34.99, December 2018, 978 1 138 39104 8
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... minutiae as though the future of civilisation depended on it. There’s a long letter to William Mann taking him to task for his misconception of the umlaut; and, in the LRB archive, a hilarious correspondence, from the early 1980s, between Keller and the editors, about the distinction between the colon and the semi-colon, the use of the dash, the ...

What’s Happening in the Engine-Room

Penelope Fitzgerald: Poor John Lehmann, 7 January 1999

John Lehmann: A Pagan Adventure 
by Adrian Wright.
Duckworth, 308 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 7156 2871 2
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... New Signatures (February 1932), which included contributions from Julian Bell, Richard Eberhart, William Empson, Cecil Day Lewis, Stephen Spender, William Plomer and Lehmann himself. Through Spender he met Christopher Isherwood. The friendship with Spender from the very first seemed edgy, uncertain and uneasy, but durable ...

Grass Green Stockings

Eleanor Hubbard: A Spinster’s Accounts, 21 March 2013

The Business and Household Accounts of Joyce Jeffreys, Spinster of Hereford, 1638-48 
edited by Judith Spicksley.
Oxford, 413 pp., £90, March 2012, 978 0 19 726432 4
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... sending gifts from her farms: ‘my Lady Cornwall’ was given eight muscovy duck eggs and Ursula Vaughan received ‘a baskitt of apricocks’. These sociable exchanges were at least as important to the servants who trundled back and forth with the presents as they were to the recipients: tips were a cherished perquisite and all those sixpences added ...

‘Where’s yer Wullie Shakespeare noo?’

Michael Dobson: 17th-century literary culture, 11 September 2008

Archipelagic English: Literature, History, and Politics 1603-1707 
by John Kerrigan.
Oxford, 599 pp., March 2008, 978 0 19 818384 6
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... regarded as a pillar of modern British statehood just as significant as the Bill of Rights (which William and Mary had accepted before they replaced James II): the Act of Union of 1707. I seem to recall that in the summer of 1974 we went to the Lake District. Strangely, though, when I left home for university at the end of the decade, the English literature I ...

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