Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website ( — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.

  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.


Vol. 17 No. 17 · 7 September 1995

Search by issue:

In Praise of Ulster Scots

In his Diary Tom Paulin refers to the film he is making, with David Hammond, about the Ulster Scots dialect (LRB, 24 August). In passing he describes a poem of mine as ‘packed with Ulster Scots words’; and goes on to wonder: ‘Maybe the poet is wanting to ruffle his deft parnassian or to raise certain readers ’hackles? For there’s a calculated over-determined quality to the language in the poem that makes it more like a piss-take.’ In my new collection The Ghost Orchid there are, in fact, two poems so ‘packed’, and a few others which use the dialect more sparingly. I hope that I can allay Paulin’s apparent suspicions about my motives.

In the Poetry Book Society’s Bulletin for Summer 1995 I try to explain what I am up to: ‘I had long wanted to make a self-contained lyric out of the scene in Book XXII of the Odyssey where Phemios the bard and Medon the herald beg for mercy from Telemachos and Odysseus who have just finished slaughtering Penelope’s suitors. By serendipity or subconscious design I was leafing through an Ulster Scots glossary, and found that dialect from my region was making available to me the terror and comedy of this scene out of Greek epic. Words such as banny, bam, gabble-blooter, keeking made fresh sounds and suggestions.’

Or perhaps Paulin has the other poem in mind, ‘The Mad Poet’, in which I use Ulster Scots to underline the satire at the end of Horace’s Ars Poetical? As someone who speaks fairly standard English I would, as a rule, choose Ulster Scots words only when they set free a concept or phrase or emotion which would otherwise not be accessible to me. In a third poem, for instance, dialect words for ‘birdsong’ (tweetle, wheep, chitter, chirl) help me to write tenderly about a very old (Scottish) relative who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

Paulin is right to praise the Ulster Scots poet and United Irishman James Orr, the Bard of Ballycarry. His ‘Donegore Hill’ (according to Paulin, ‘a brilliant, almost unknown political poem’) is probably the greatest poem to come out of 1798. As directors of Field Day as well as students of Ulster Scots, how did David Hammond and Tom Paulin allow the compendious Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (1991) to omit not only ‘Donegore Hill’ but all writing in Ulster Scots? James Orr is represented by one poem, but it is in standard English, alas.

Michael Longley

Tom Paulin in his references to Hazlitt and Coleridge omits (admittedly in the company of other commentators past and present) to identify as Unitarian the church at Wem, of which the poet’s father, the Rev. William Hazlitt, was minister. A toast and watchword of Unitarianism from the 18th century onwards has been ‘civil and religious liberty’ and so it should be no surprise to find many of the revolutionary and Romantic thinkers of the early 19th century associated with it. Samuel Taylor Coleridge preached in a number of Unitarian pulpits in the West Country and it was to the Unitarian chapel in Shrewsbury that Hazlitt walked ten miles to hear him. Indeed Coleridge had been proposed as the new minister and it was only an annuity provided for him by a Unitarian layman, Thomas Wedgwood, son of Josiah, that enabled the poet and philosopher to devote himself to writing.

May I add a footnote? In the (often fitful) light of the turbid history of Christianity in Ireland, I think – when referring to Presbyterian churches and meeting-houses – Paulin should acknowledge his awareness of the non-subscribing (to the Westminster confession) Presbyterian Church of Ireland, a creedless denomination, albeit small, which for two centuries has preached and practised tolerance in religion, in education and in social service.

Peter Sampson

Tillyard and Leavis

Frank Kermode (LRB, 24 August) rightly says that Dr Tillyard disliked Leavis. As one of Tillyard’s pupils, however, I can attest that he positively encouraged me to attend Leavis’s lectures and classes in order to hear a point of view different from his own. I learnt a lot from both, and remain deeply grateful to both of them.

S.S. Prawer
The Queen’s College


Professor Castle takes the British media too seriously. What she calls their ‘hysterical reaction’ (Letters, 24 August) was simply journalists earning their keep in hyping up a story. I was interviewed by four or five and can testify that they were their usual hard-nosed selves.

As to Cassandra’s feelings for Jane, we have the surviving letters to go on and we must make of them what we can. Professor Castle finds Jane writing to Cassandra ‘flirtatiously’, Cassandra being ‘seduced’ by the ‘constant foolery’ of the letters. Guided by accounts of ‘the psychic complexity of female-female relationships in late 18th and early 19th-century Britain’, Professor Castle is able to identify in the letters ‘a kind of homophilic fascination’ in Jane Austen’s ‘physical descriptions of women’, ‘the sexuality of women’s bodies’ eliciting ‘oddly visceral effects’. In her letters to Fanny Knight, Professor Castle suggests, one could look for evidence to support ‘the vulgar case for Austen’s homoeroticism’.

Discussions of Jane Austen’s sexuality are notable for their rarity, largely, one suspects, because they have so little to do with the way we read the novels. The yield from Professor Castle is meagre and curiously unconvincing: ‘that so many of the final happy marriages seem designed not so much to bring about a union between hero and heroine as between the heroine and the hero’s sister’; and that ‘the heroes are often more like sisters than lovers in the conventional sense.’ One hunts for examples. Professor Castle produces Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney. And the rest?

On the matter of sexuality, too, Professor Castle must be judged on the evidence produced and its handling. Her major exhibit is an extract of twenty lines from a letter Jane wrote to Cassandra in May 1801 describing a new gown, a description Professor Castle calls ‘so fantastically detailed as to border on the compulsive’. ‘Such passages remind us strikingly of how important a role clothes have played in the subliminal fetish-life of women.’ Professor Castle’s paragraph of commentary concludes by connecting the gown description to the two women’s acting out of ‘unconscious narcissistic or homoerotic imperatives’. And, in the next paragraph, the discussion is extended, referring back to the gown description, with the idea of Jane’s ‘desire to be seen and imaginatively embraced’ by Cassandra.

Whether or not we like this line of argument, it has to be taken seriously. But there’s something missing, the sentence before, a sentence which tumbles the entire edifice of Professor Castle’s speculation. For, in introducing the description of the gown, Jane tells Cassandra a signal circumstantial fact: ‘Mrs Mussell [her dressmaker] has got my Gown, & I will endeavour to explain what her intentions are.’ The ‘compulsive’ diagnosis, and all that follows from the discovering of that first neurotic trait, collapses before our eyes. For Jane Austen’s description of the gown is an accurate and detailed explanation of Mrs Mussell’s ‘intentions’: the outcome of discussions with Jane, using Mrs Mussell’s professional knowledge about what can best be done with these particular materials. Far from being ‘compulsive’, all this is what any woman would meet with today, as Jane Austen did in Bath, two hundred years ago, in submitting her ideas to the judgment of a dressmaker.

This part of the letter, packed with information, is written from one amateur dressmaker to another, for that is what the Austen sisters were, except on special occasions, such as this, when one or other of them could afford to splash out on a real dressmaker’s gown, or, in this case, possibly, be treated to one, by Mrs Leigh-Perrot, the well-to-do Aunt at whose smart address (No 1 Paragon) Jane and her mother were then staying. Hence her concluding sentence, about fearing she has not been ‘particular enough’. Jane wanted to tell Cassandra what was fashionable about her gown as well as what was practicable; and she continues the letter to its end, nine lines later, with an account of what is in fashion in Bath by way of ‘Bonnets’ (both ‘straw’ and ‘Cambric Muslin’) and ‘Cloaks’ of ‘Black gauze’. Pursuing her case, Professor Castle could have quoted these lines, too, as evidence of Jane Austen’s ‘compulsive’ bent, as further evidence of the sisters’ ‘subliminal fetish-life’. But we know different.

Professor Castle complains that, in the press, her ‘comments have been grotesquely, indeed almost comically, distorted’. We could reply, on behalf of Jane Austen, that this passage from her letter has been treated to no less distortion – equally grotesque, equally comic – at the hands of Professor Castle.

Brian Southam
Jane Austen Society

Shame on the London Review for deliberately provoking a controversy over Terry Castle’s review of the new edition of Jane Austen’s letters (LRB, 3 August). The mischief created by your eye-catching rubric ‘Was Jane Austen Gay?’ was compounded in your 24 August issue by your publication of Marianne Macdonald’s letter in which she erroneously assumed that Castle must be a man. Obviously knowing that Ms Macdonald was making an embarrassing mistake, you nevertheless chose to publish her letter, apparently because it offered the smug opportunity to humiliate her on the spot, whilst also allowing a dig at the Independent for employing such an ‘unalert’ Arts Reporter.

Linda-Jo Bartholomew
Wivenhoe, Essex

I am flattered you thought my letter on Terry Castle’s absurd review of Jane Austen’s Letters worthy of publication, even though you wondered at the end what I would have written had I been ‘alert to the fact that Terry Castle is a woman’. A fair enough point, had not your own press release on the subject described Ms Castle as a man.

Marianne Macdonald
Arts Reporter, the Independent

Would Ms Macdonald like to take another look at the press release?

Editor, ‘London Review’

Find Your Level

In his review of Edward O. Wilson’s Naturalist and Bert Hölldobler and Wilson’s Journey to the Ants (LRB, 20 July), Steven Rose repeats some of his objections to sociobiology. He is entitled to be uncomfortable with ‘reductionism’ but he cannot discredit sociobiological research by reducing it to a straw man; and he cannot dictate what can or cannot be explained in the sciences. He trivialises Wilson’s position by stating that in his ‘reductionist argument’ Wilson fails to see that ‘it is not only religion which cannot be explained exclusively in terms of atoms or genes.’ Neither Wilson nor (probably) any other sociobiologist claims that cultural systems can be explained ‘exclusively’ by biology (or physics). As for Rose’s assertion that ‘even the self-organising properties of a single cell’ cannot be explained ‘merely’ in terms of atoms or genes, that issue is the subject of ongoing research. Rose’s confident pronunciamento cannot close the question. His metaphysical argument that ‘each level of complexity of living systems requires study in its own terms’ carries little weight at this point in the history of science. Those hallowed ‘levels’ – presumably mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology – are shifting historical artefacts, not rigid categories, and what they can or cannot explain are subjects of research. In the 17th century the Church advised Galileo that in science planetary astronomy may be studied in terms of mathematics but not physics. How the planets actually move, it was claimed, had been determined on the ‘level’ of theology.

Gabriel Dover’s review of Robert Pollack’s Signs of Life: The Language and Meaning of DNA (LRB, 3 August) is an ill-tempered attack on evolutionary genetics. He refers to theoretical geneticists as ‘thousands of molecular zombies’ and his review makes the unsubstantiated claim that the fundamental processes of life are not merely unknown, they are unknowable. He quotes approvingly Pollack’s prediction that ‘experimentation on human genes, no matter how imaginative, will never give a single, complete meaning to the human genome’ as well as his belief that ‘genes and proteins … are time-dependent and historically rooted; and we are finding out the hard way, neither is totally knowable or predictable.’ (Pollack’s argument, incidentally, is based on an analogy between the levels of physics – ‘unpredictable atoms’ – and biology.) Many scholars and scientists are understandably concerned that the liberal programme of reforming society may be restricted by the misuse of scientific knowledge to perpetuate social injustice. Rose faults Wilson for failing to ‘comment on the pseudo-scientific use of sociobiological claims by racists on the far right’. Would it not be better to engage political opponents on the ‘level’ of politics rather than by finding philosophical fault with scientific research?

Harold Dorn
Stevens Institute of Technology

Will Blair do it?

While I am sure that Scotland is entitled to whatever form of autonomy or independence its people may decide they want, how does Tom Nairn (LRB, 24 August) think the experience of the ordinary person in Glasgow is any different from, for example, that of the ordinary person in Tottenham? If the answer is that there is no difference of significance, as I believe it is, then the question becomes not one of Scottish independence but of how ordinary people can get the profit system off their backs. This leads to a second point. If it is possible to achieve some form of Scottish independence, why stop there? Why no discussion of John Maclean’s workers’ republic? Finally, does Nairn think that Tony Blair and New Labour will grant Scotland independence?

Keith Flett
London N17

Down with Authenticity

Daniel Eisenstein takes up the gage for authentic classical music performance (Letters, 20 July). I’d like to thwack it back into his court. First, most of the classical repertoire familiar to us carries great increments of significance picked up in its passage through the Romantic period onwards. I love this patina and wouldn’t want it too thoroughly scrubbed away. Second, though study of performance practice years ago does lead to new insights into the meaning of the work, to follow them closely may not convey what was then intended. For instance, an all-male Shakespeare production in the commercial theatre today will have lots of unintended resonances. As far as musicians being able to play whatever they want if not tied to rigorous period authenticity, we all know who they are and will bad-mouth them on plenty of other valid grounds.

Caroline Norwood
Rochester, New York


In his review of surveys of sexual behaviour, Lawrence Stone (LRB, 3 August) notes that the Kinsey Report used ‘biased samples’ and received ‘devastating reviews at the time in the scientific journals’. Given his awareness of the controversy around Kinsey’s claim that 10 per cent of men were homosexual, Stone’s unquestioning acceptance of the new, but equally controversial, claim of 3 per cent is bizarre. The new surveys use samples that are geographically random, meaning that a 30-year-old white skilled working-class male living in Northumberland was as likely to be interviewed as a similar 30-year-old in London. The method fails to recognise that if the man in Northumberland was gay and didn’t want to live in the closet, he would probably have chosen to leave Northumberland several years before the re searchers arrived.

Roger Pebody
London W1

Lawrence Stone accuses Shere Hite of using biased samples in her Reports. He refers to her use of respondents recruited through magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse, giving the impression that these were her only sources. In this he reveals his own bias and prejudice. First, although he does not say so, he is referring only to The Hite Report on Male Sexuality, and not to the three Hite Reports which dealt with female sexuality. Second, in The Hite Report on Male Sexuality, only 11 per cent of the replies came from readers of men’s magazines, and I would think that at least 11 per cent of the US male population read sexually-oriented magazines. Fifteen per cent of the responses came from men who had read The Hite Report on Female Sexuality, and 48 per cent from members of men’s clubs, church organisations, professional associations and sports groups. The remaining 26 per cent came from geographical areas and sectors of the population that were not adequately represented in the first wave of replies.

Ethna Viney
Westport, Co. Mayo

Emerson’s Great Essay

Injury succeeds insult for Ralph Waldo Emerson in the pages of the London Review of Books. Ian Hamilton’s poem ‘Steps’ (LRB, 3 August) reads like a hastily versified set of notes taken from the first paragraph of ‘Experience’. The text of Emerson’s great essay reads as follows:

Where do we find ourselves? In a series of which we do not know the extremes, and believe that it has none We wake and find ourselves on a stair; there are stairs below us, which we seem to have ascended; there are stairs above us, many a one, which go upward and out of sight. But the Genius which according to the old belief stands at the door by which we enter, and gives us the lethe to drink, that we may tell no tales, mixed the cup too strongly, and we cannot shake off the lethargy now at noonday.

Hamilton’s poem reproduces not only the paragraph’s central image (that of the staircase), which is commonplace enough, but also, word for word, its opening sentence (‘Where do we find ourselves?’), its second sentence, in a somewhat altered version (‘we know not the extremes’), and, in a very slight variation, one of the paragraph’s most striking phrases (‘this lethargy at noon’). I question the tact of the author, and the judgment of his editors, in publishing this work without acknowledgment.

J. Mark Smith
Mammoth Lakes, California

Ian Hamilton made it clear when he offered us ‘Steps’ for publication that the poem had its source in an essay by Emerson. Archaisms like ‘We know not’ and ‘Alas’ surely signal that there is a source and that the poet is not addressing us in his own person. A formal acknowledgment, it seemed to us and to him, would have been heavy-handed.

Editor, ‘London Review’

What’s the fuss about?

Ian Sansom offers a provocative explanation for the popularity of Carol Ann Duffy’s verse (LRB, 6 July). He suggests it ‘has undoubtedly made a lot of English teachers very very happy’. It’s ‘accessible’, i.e. it’s easy, so kids like it.

I sympathise with teachers who are nervous of poetry: it is difficult to teach, especially if you neither like nor read it yourself. But anxiety can make one easy prey to unscrupulous ‘experts’. Witness the amount of mediocre contemporary poetry on English syllabuses and exam papers and crowding stock-room shelves. Outside the narrow world of contemporary poetry most of this stuff would pass unremarked. Good stand-up comics are wittier and more perceptive; much TV drama (including soaps) more skilful and thought-provoking; most popular music more fun. But here’s Ian McMillan telling teachers that this very ordinary poet is ‘at the height of her powers’ and Sean O’Brien placing her ‘high on my list’ of exemplars. Come off it.

Barry Simner
Tywyn, Gwynedd

Crazy Don

Michael Wood’s essay on translations of Cervantes’s Don Quixote (LRB, 3 August) brought back memories of some seventy years ago when as a teenager I read this masterpiece translated into Hungarian, my mother tongue. Professor Wood writes about ‘the great challenge’ in translating Cervantes and mentions, as an example, the opening of the first chapter. Translated literally, as he says, the sentence should be in English: ‘In a place in Mancha whose name I do not want to recall’. Though I’m aware that very few, if any, of your readers understand the difficult language of Magyars, I venture to quote this beginning in Hungarian: ‘La Mancha egyik falujában amelynek nevét nem akarom emliteni’. Well, the Hungarian translation should please Professor Wood. In English it reads: ‘In a village of La Mancha whose name I do not want to mention’. Striking similarity, isn’t it? The two-volume Don Quixote was among the few books I could bring out from Hungary after the 1956 Revolution. Now, having read Professor Wood’s excellent piece, I am especially happy I did.

Endre Marton
Chevy Chase, Maryland

‘Chambers’ wins

Professor Sutherland, in his review of John Willinsky’s Empire of Words: The Reign of the ‘OED’ (LRB, 8 June), informs us that ‘no longer will scholars use OED in the same way that Scrabble players use the Shorter Oxford and Webster, as a Bible on matters linguistic.’ I do not know about Webster and the US, and I would not quibble about the Shorter Oxford as a Bible on matters linguistic but, according to the information inside the cover of my copy of the 1993 edition of Chambers Dictionary, it is the official reference dictionary for the UK National Scrabble Championship. Chambers is, therefore, the Bible for Scrabble players.

L.B. McKenzie
West Pennant Hills, New South Wales

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.