Pillors of Fier

Frank Kermode

  • Nothing like the Sun: reissue by Anthony Burgess
    Allison and Busby, 234 pp, £7.99, January 2002, ISBN 0 7490 0512 2

Arguing – redundantly? disingenuously? – that ‘every Shakespeare-lover’ has the right ‘to paint his own portrait of the man’, Anthony Burgess published his version in 1970. Though ‘eschewing invention’, he confessed to an element of ‘conjecture’, adding that the reader should spot his venial departures from fact and excuse them as inevitable in the work of a fiction-writer, his hand subdued to what it had hitherto worked in. Conscience compelled him to end one speculatively ‘onomastic’ paragraph, in which he fools around with the names of Shakespeare’s children, with the words: ‘The whole of this paragraph is very unsound.’ Here is an example of candour rarely matched by Shakespeare’s biographers.

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[*] Penguin, 676 pp., £20, 6 June, 0 14 101162 9.