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Embarrassed

Graham Hough, 7 October 1982

Thomas Hardy: A Biography 
by Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 637 pp., £15, June 1982, 0 19 211725 4
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The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy. Vol. III: 1902-1908 
edited by Richard Purdy and Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 367 pp., £19.50, July 1982, 0 19 812620 4
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The Neglected Hardy: Thomas Hardy’s Lesser Novels 
by Richard Taylor.
Macmillan, 202 pp., £17.50, May 1982, 0 333 31051 9
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Good Little Thomas Hardy 
by C.H. Salter.
Macmillan, 200 pp., £15, August 1982, 0 333 29387 8
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Thomas Hardy and Women: Sexual Ideology and Narrative Form 
by Penny Boumelha.
Harvester, 178 pp., £18.95, April 1982, 0 7108 0018 5
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Illustration and the Novels of Thomas Hardy 
by Arlene Jackson.
Macmillan, 151 pp., £15, October 1981, 0 333 32303 3
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... There has been an abundance of good critical writing about Thomas Hardy, from Lionel Johnson in 1894 to our own day, but his biography has been in a curious condition from the start. The authorised version (Early Life, 1928; Later Years, 1930) is supposed to be by Florence, his second wife, but is wholly composed from notes by Hardy himself, and for the most part actually dictated by him ...

Auld Lang Syne

Graham Hough, 1 December 1983

Sebastian or Ruling Passions 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Faber, 202 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 571 13445 9
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Woman Beware Woman 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 176 pp., £7.95, November 1983, 0 224 02164 8
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Queen of Stones 
by Emma Tennant.
Picador, 159 pp., £2.50, September 1983, 0 330 28074 0
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Blue Rise 
by Rebecca Hill.
Joseph, 296 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 7181 2372 7
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Here to get my baby out of jail 
by Louise Shivers.
Collins, 141 pp., £6.95, October 1983
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... It is not the easiest thing to discuss a novel that is the fourth of a series of five. Sebastian is not properly intelligible without an acquaintance with its predecessors, Monsieur (1974), Livia (1978), Constance (1982); and the ultimate destination, if there is to be one, is not yet visible. As it happened, I read them in the wrong order, but such is the vitality and attack of Durrell’s writing that it hardly mattered ...

A la mode

Graham Hough, 18 October 1984

Kinds of Literature: An Introduction to the Theory of Genres and Modes 
by Alastair Fowler.
Oxford, 357 pp., £15, December 1982, 0 19 812812 6
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... New works of literary theory, abundant in France and America, are not very frequent in England. When one does appear, it is customary first to deplore its defiance of nature and reason, and secondly to decide that we have known it all along. It would be difficult to follow this convention with Alastair Fowler’s book. Kinds of Literature contains nothing subversive of public order or contrary to revealed truth: indeed it is a celebration of order and aims to illuminate neglected truths ...

Eliot’s End

Graham Hough, 6 March 1980

Thomas Stearns Eliot, Poet 
by A.D. Moddy.
Cambridge, 365 pp., £12.50, March 1979, 0 521 22065 3
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Theory and Personality: the Significance of T.S. Eliot’s Criticism 
by Brian Lee.
Athlone, 148 pp., £9.95, November 1979, 0 485 11185 3
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... For the last 45 years – ever since Matthiessen’s book in 1935 – the steady flow of critical lucubration on T.S. Eliot has gone on unabated. Not particularly contentious – at any rate since the early days, not particularly progressive – it does not seem to be getting anywhere, it has settled down into a decorously repetitive exercise, rather like chewing the cud ...

Survivors

Graham Hough, 3 April 1980

Old Soldiers 
by Paul Bailey.
Cape, 120 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 224 01783 7
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Nocturnes for the King of Naples 
by Edmund White.
Deutsch, 148 pp., £3.95, February 1980, 0 233 97173 4
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Solo Faces 
by James Salter.
Collins, 220 pp., £5.50, February 1980, 0 00 221983 2
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Sol 
by Mario Satz, translated by Helen Lane.
Sidgwick, 432 pp., £7.95, February 1980, 0 283 98607 7
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... No doubt it is yet another symptom of the decline of the West that we can so rarely afford proper novels nowadays, only skimpy little pieces of 130 pages or so, barely enough to last from dinner to bedtime. These are not novellen, purpose-built long-short-stories, with their defined themes and central symbols, but stripped-down, elliptical narratives that once would have been told at far greater length ...

Gertrude

Graham Hough, 18 September 1980

Nuns and Soldiers 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 505 pp., £6.50, September 1980, 0 7011 2519 5
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Collin 
by Stefan Heym.
Hodder, 315 pp., £7.95, August 1980, 0 340 25721 0
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An Inch of Fortune 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 176 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 85634 108 8
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Virgin Kisses 
by Gloria Nagy.
Penguin, 221 pp., £1.25, July 1980, 0 14 005506 1
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... Even to Iris Murdoch fans, of whom I am one of the most constant, Nuns and Soldiers will be a disappointment. It is a long solid book, purposely digressive, and there is a good deal of hard slogging before we get to the main theme. The title promises more than the performance. There is only one nun and no soldiers at all. We are in London in 1978, in the thick of a large, prosperous, mainly Jewish family – bankers, civil servants, professional men ...

Prisoners

Graham Hough, 8 May 1986

To the Kwai and Back: War Drawings 1939-1945 
by Ronald Searle.
Collins/Imperial War Museum, 192 pp., £15, March 1986, 0 00 217436 7
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A World Apart 
by Gustav Herling, translated by Joseph Marek.
Heinemann, 262 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 434 35710 3
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... but what happened to 2072249 Sapper Searle R., RE, was pretty much what happened to 13906 Gunner Hough G., SRA(V). We were in the same places, in Siam our paths criss-crossed up and down the river, though I was far luckier in getting out of the worst hellholes at the worst times. Since we were both other ranks, we belonged to the same sub-culture and saw ...

Heartlessness is not enough

Graham Hough, 21 May 1981

Loitering with Intent 
by Muriel Spark.
Bodley Head, 221 pp., £6.50, May 1981, 0 370 30900 6
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Burnt Water 
by Carlos Fuentes, translated by Margaret Peden.
Secker, 231 pp., £6.50, January 1981, 0 436 16763 8
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The Leaves on Grey 
by Desmond Hogan.
Picador, 119 pp., £1.50, April 1981, 0 330 26287 4
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Children of Lir 
by Desmond Hogan.
Hamish Hamilton, 136 pp., £6.95, April 1981, 0 241 10608 7
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Walking naked 
by Nina Bawden.
Macmillan, 220 pp., £5.95, April 1981, 0 333 31304 6
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... Critical reactions to Muriel Spark puzzle me a good deal. The general consensus among reviewers seems to find her riotously funny; and in the midst of this open-hearted merriment I am a skeleton at the feast. Or rather, I can’t find the feast; I feel that I have been at a picnic with people I don’t really know; the sandwiches are made with margerine, the thermos is full of cold tea, there is a nasty east wind; and just as the unluscious viands are spread out, dead on cue, it starts to rain ...

My Stars

Graham Hough, 21 March 1985

The Magical Arts 
by Richard Cavendish.
Arkana, 375 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 1 85063 004 6
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Astrology and the Third Reich: A Historical Study of Astrological Beliefs in Western Europe since 1700 and in Hitler’s Germany 1933-45 
by Ellic Howe.
Aquarian, 253 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 85030 397 4
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The Astrology of Fate 
by Liz Greene.
Allen and Unwin, 370 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 04 133012 9
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Dreams, Illusion and Other Realities 
by Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty.
Chicago, 361 pp., £21.25, June 1984, 0 226 61854 4
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Fruits of the Moon Tree: The Medicine Wheel and Transpersonal Psychology 
by Alan Bleakley.
Gateway Books, 311 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 946551 08 1
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... Some little time ago the art of printing with movable types was developed, and this has meant in the end that everybody can know everything. There is no hidden knowledge. There is no longer any point in seeking out the venerable archimage behind the iron-studded door in some darkling alleyway of the old town. He has no secret doctrine; there are no more arcana; the ancient wisdom has all been reprinted ...

Afro-Fictions

Graham Hough, 3 July 1986

A Forest of Flowers 
by Ken Saro-Wiwa.
Saros International, 151 pp., £7.95, June 1986, 978 2460 03 6
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Fools, and Other Stories 
by Njabulo Ndebele.
Longman, 280 pp., £2.95, June 1986, 0 582 78621 5
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Hungry Flames, and Other Black South African Stories 
edited by Mbulelo Mzamane.
Longman, 158 pp., £2.95, June 1986, 0 582 78590 1
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Coming to Birth 
by Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye.
Heinemann, 150 pp., £10.95, June 1986, 0 434 44028 0
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Contre-Jour: A Triptych after Pierre Bonnard 
by Gabriel Josipovici.
Carcanet, 137 pp., £8.95, May 1986, 0 85635 641 7
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The Seven Ages 
by Eva Figes.
Hamish Hamilton, 186 pp., £9.95, May 1986, 0 241 11874 3
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... Three African writers, from very different parts of the continent – Saro-Wiwa from Nigeria, Ndebele from South Africa, Macgoye from Kenya. My ignorance of all three regions being deep and extensive, I am obliged to accept these three books in great part as documentary reports, as information about unknown ways of life. But perhaps this is right. One of the many problems for an African writer in the English language is the question of his audience ...

Culture and Sincerity

Graham Hough, 6 May 1982

... It is not often that a literary critic receives the crown of a collected edition, and if he does he is probably something more than a literary critic. So it is with Lionel Trilling, whose complete works are now appearing from the Oxford University Press. There is indeed a novel, and a few short stories, besides the works of literary history and criticism, but it is not chiefly by these that he exceeds the limits of the man of letters ...

Yeats and the Occult

Seamus Deane, 18 October 1984

The Mystery Religion of W.B. Yeats 
by Graham Hough.
Harvester, 129 pp., £15.95, May 1984, 0 7108 0603 5
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Yeats, Eliot, Pound and the Politics of Poetry 
by Cairns Craig.
Croom Helm, 323 pp., £14.95, January 1982, 9780856649974
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Yeats. Poems 1919-1935: A Selection of Critical Essays 
edited by Elizabeth Cullingford.
Macmillan, 238 pp., £14, July 1984, 0 333 27422 9
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The Poet and his Audience 
by Ian Jack.
Cambridge, 198 pp., £20, July 1984, 0 521 26034 5
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A New Commentary on the Poems of W.B. Yeats 
by A. Norman Jeffares.
Macmillan, 543 pp., £35, May 1984, 0 333 35214 9
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Poems of W.B. Yeats 
by A. Norman Jeffares.
Macmillan, 428 pp., £17, August 1984, 0 333 36213 6
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... The first three of the four chapters in Graham Hough’s book were the Lord Northcliffe Lectures in Literature given at University College London in February 1983. The audience was general and the lectures were pitched accordingly. Yet all Yeatsian specialists will profit from this book and the ‘radical simplification’ of Yeats’s occult philosophy which it so lucidly achieves ...

Superhistory

Patrick Parrinder, 6 December 1990

Curfew 
by Jose Donoso, translated by Alfred MacAdam.
Picador, 310 pp., £13.95, October 1990, 0 330 31157 3
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War Fever 
by J.G. Ballard.
Collins, 176 pp., £12.95, November 1990, 0 00 223770 9
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Great Climate 
by Michael Wilding.
Faber, 147 pp., £12.99, November 1990, 0 571 14428 4
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Honour Thy Father 
by Lesley Glaister.
Secker, 182 pp., £13.99, September 1990, 9780436199981
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... All novels are historical novels, as my late teacher, Graham Hough, used to say; but some are more historical than others. Novelists can improve on history, and if they are Science Fiction writers they can anticipate it. History can be invented, but most novelists only do so within strict limits. According to Hough, they would tend to invent a Prime Minister but not a major political party, a provincial town but not a capital city ...

My Americas

Donald Davie, 3 September 1981

... an elegantly archaic usage that we might do well to refurbish. In LRB at the end of May, Graham Hough, reviewing Burnt Water by the Mexican Carlos Fuentes,2 complained that, whereas ‘the novel today is virtually an international form,’ so that Tolstoy is still Tolstoy though ‘an English writer to the English, a German to the ...

Structuralism Domesticated

Frank Kermode, 20 August 1981

Working with Structuralism 
by David Lodge.
Routledge, 207 pp., £10.95, June 1981, 0 7100 0658 6
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... space attacking a critical method of which he seems to have a somewhat imperfect understanding. Graham Hough, in the TLS, was equally put out that one of the confraternity should fall for this Parisian nonsense, but makes a more positive attempt to convict the young man of heresy. He claims, quite rightly, that Lodge uses a very limited set of ...

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