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Loathed by Huysmans

Julian Barnes

Too early or too late?

David Runciman

Short Cuts: Five Victorian Marriages

Tom Crewe

Society as a Broadband Network

William Davies

Indefinite Lent

Thomas Jones

In 1348

James Meek

The Yorkists

John Guy

At the Movies: Pasolini’s ‘Teorema’

Michael Wood

Whitehall Spookery

Neal Ascherson

Poem: ‘The Bannisters’

Paul Muldoon

Clarice Lispector

Rivka Galchen

Marius Petipa

Simon Morrison

At the Foundling Museum: ‘Portraying Pregnancy’

Joanne O’Leary

Gordon v. O’Connor

Rupert Thomson

Revism

Joe Dunthorne

Poem: ‘The Reach of the Sea’

Maureen N. McLane

Diary: Where water used to be

Rosa Lyster

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Safe in his excavated gallery

Christina Rossetti

Lady Lassetter sits at her mirror;
presented as a woodland frieze in May,
her drapery is appliquéd
with specimens of British botany.
On the dresser’s marbled top
a signed invitation can explain
this flowered and zoomorphic frock,
designed to be a favourite verse sartorialised.

So, astride her décolletage squirrels skip and catch
as leaping lambs begin to settle
the low-hilled grazing of her frontage.
Sequin birds perch undiscovered in her pits;
a wood pigeon finds foot in the peach nook of her coccyx.

Flowers and fruit are strewn!
There’s a mouse on her bustle
and caterpillars, snails and slugs
decorate an undulating hem; her sleeve is frilled
in hedgehog quills, all for this infernal ball in Piccadilly.

‘George, you don’t suppose it’s too much,
the flowers? I don’t want them to fall out of my hair
and into my soup: though they are quite wonderful.’

Sir George appears from the bathroom
costumed as a fat toad:
‘I hardly think one can talk any longer
of too much. I think much was some time ago.’

‘Oh George! You are sour. At times I’ve the definite suspicion
you don’t care a jot for the world’s respect.
And everyone thinks you’re the creative one!
With an attitude like that, how do you ever expect
to become a proper Academician?’

Sir George, in green pleats of taffeta,
imagines, quite gently, that he’s somewhere else entirely
colouring a stream by a hidden spot in Cumbria,
forming with a repeated dab
shrub-dressed hills that are a gathering of verdant cloud …

With learnt precision,
Lady Lassetter interrupts this silly vision,
instructs the servant girl loudly not to stoop –
and go chase down a hansom cab.

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