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Sequence: Seven Poems

Patricia Beer, 19 June 1997

... husband waited in my room And in the end they sent for him After an hour or two of this. I heard Patricia. And said ‘Yes?’ Post-Operative Confusion Back home. Sixty years dead my mother Is chattering downstairs. My father Is in the kitchen making tea As if this domesticity Would prove that he had never been A child-abuser or profane, Both of them very ...

Small Talk at Wreyland

Patricia Beer, 9 February 1995

... Our paths almost crossed in the way that paths do on the moors. He was interested in the name Beer and discussed it at length. He believed it identified people who lived near a wood. (In the days of surnaming it would have been difficult not to.) My grandmother’s people were natives of Chagford. If she had not decided to go to Torquay And enter good ...

Make-Believe

Patricia Beer, 8 November 1979

The Intruder 
by Gillian Tindall.
Hodder, 286 pp., £5.95
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Mother Can You Hear Me? 
by Margaret Forster.
Secker, 269 pp., £5.90
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Treasures of Time 
by Penelope Lively.
Heinemann, 199 pp., £4.95
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Wild Nights 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 134 pp., £4.50
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... It is a powerful act of make-believe to put all your foes together in a building and set fire to them; it has also happened in history. At many points throughout The Intruder fantasy and reality come together in this way. In the preface, Gillian Tindall states that she is not writing about identifiable people or places, yet what she relates is firmly based on actual events, including the final tragedy; it is also the stuff of nightmares ...

Big Thinks

Patricia Beer, 20 August 1992

Sleepwalker in a Fog 
by Tatyana Tolstaya, translated by Jamey Gambrell.
Virago, 192 pp., £13.99, April 1992, 1 85381 305 2
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... Tatyana Tolstaya’s collection of short stories, On the golden Porch, published in Britain in 1989, was received with hysterical enthusiasm. Some rather silly things were said, like ‘Tolstaya writes.’ Some rather lazy comparisons were made too: she was likened to every Russian writer one can call to mind, with the exception, as far as I know, of Tolstoy ...

Very like Poole Harbour

Patricia Beer, 5 December 1991

With and Without Buttons 
by Mary Butts, edited by Nathalie Blondel.
Carcanet, 216 pp., £13.95, October 1991, 0 85635 944 0
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... This is a collection of 14 stories by Mary Butts, a dedicated and prolific writer who died comparatively young in the Thirties. She is one of the current victims of the fashionable drive to exhume ‘forgotten women writers’. The category is dreary. Mary Butts is not. Until very recently, it needed the temperament of an archaeologist to find her books ...

Merry Wife of Windsor

Patricia Beer, 16 October 1980

The Duchess of Windsor 
by Diana Mosley.
Sidgwick, 219 pp., £8.95, June 1980, 9780283986284
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... The most terrifying comment made on the Abdication may well be that of Lord Beaverbrook, writing twenty years after the events in which he played such a prominent part: if the British people, he said, had been less absorbed in the affair of Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson the energy thus saved might have been used to avert world war. Possibly the same remark might be made today, for popular, even best-selling, books and plays are still being written about the protagonists ...

Thomas’s Four Hats

Patricia Beer, 2 April 1981

The Poetry of Edward Thomas 
by Andrew Motion.
Routledge, 193 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 7100 0471 0
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... The publishers say that The Poetry of Edward Thomas is the first full-length study to deal exclusively with Thomas’s poetry (in Britain, they must mean). On the face of it, a six-decade gap of this sort shows a strange failure in critical husbandry. Yet it is not really so surprising. In the first place, who would the readers have been? Who are they now? Edward Thomas is a poet with the kind of accessibility that one does not expect to be increased by prolonged exposition: on the contrary perhaps ...

Seeing the light

Patricia Beer, 16 July 1981

Part of a Journey: An Autobiographical Journal 1977-1979 
by Philip Toynbee.
Collins, 398 pp., £9.95, April 1981, 0 00 211696 0
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... I like the revivalist coup de foudre for its recognition that true revelation can instantly change a man, so that his sins simply fall away from him, to be replaced by present joy and future hope.’ Philip Toynbee introduces Part of a Journey with a Which-type survey of the various concepts, and consequent terminology, of religious conversion, at one point making it sound like the best china (‘ “Rebirth” should be kept for very special occasions’) and the next like an unpretentious hock (‘I’ve always liked “Amendment” for its modesty and dryness ...

Bert’s Needs

Patricia Beer, 25 March 1993

Lawrence’s Women: The Intimate Life of D.H. Lawrence 
by Elaine Feinstein.
HarperCollins, 275 pp., £18, January 1993, 0 00 215364 5
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... The modish title of Elaine Feinstein’s excellent book need not make readers fear that they are being lured to yet another study of the great man himself. Lawrence’s Women really is about the women in his life. They are not just lining the route. Neither should readers suspect that the word ‘intimate’ in the subtitle means that they are going to be told more about Lawrence’s sex life than they wish to know ...

Enough is enough

Patricia Beer, 26 September 1991

Diaries 
by Antonia White, edited by Susan Chitty.
Constable, 320 pp., £19.95, September 1991, 0 09 470650 6
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... In her introduction to Antonia White’s Diaries the editor, her elder daughter Susan Chitty, quite naturally raises the question of whether or not they should have been published at all. But such doubts as she may have had, and conquered, have apparently nothing to do with the amount of coverage her mother’s life needs or justifies. She obviously feels the subject is inexhaustible ...

Were I a cloud

Patricia Beer, 28 January 1993

Robert Bridges: A Biography 
by Catherine Phillips.
Oxford, 363 pp., £25, August 1992, 0 19 212251 7
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... Ever since 1930, the year Bridges died, there has been a poet-shaped hole in English biography. Over the years we have been offered a few slight critical articles and studies and many significant references in such biographies as Ann Thwaite’s of Edmund Gosse and, of course, the two recent books on Gerard Manley Hopkins, one by Robert Martin and one by Norman White, but there has been nothing comprehensive ...

Happy Few

Patricia Beer, 23 May 1991

Told in Gath 
by Max Wright.
Blackstaff, 177 pp., £11.95, January 1991, 0 85640 449 7
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... I have not met Max Wright, but a few years ago I read two chapters of a book he was writing about the Plymouth Brethren. I thought highly of the script and looked forward to hearing how it was getting on. Now I have the finished work. Told in Gath is published in the streets of Askelon and the daughters of the Philistines rejoice (2 Samuel 1.20). I align myself on this occasion with the daughters of the Philistines ...

Getting on with it

Patricia Beer, 15 August 1991

Lives in the Shadow with J. Krishnamurti 
by Radha Rajagopal Sloss.
Bloomsbury, 336 pp., £17.99, May 1991, 0 7475 0720 1
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... I doubt it any reviewer has ever converted anybody to anything. But there have been cases where the reviewer has been won over by the book under consideration. Mrs Besant, reviewing Mme Blavatsky on Theosophy, was converted on the spot. So I approached Lives in the Shadow with J. Krishnamurti (an oddly-worded title) with some caution. It proved unnecessary ...

Moving in

Patricia Beer, 20 November 1980

A Poor Man’s House 
by Stephen Reynolds.
London Magazine Editions, 320 pp., £5.50, August 1980, 0 904388 35 2
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... Stephen Reynolds is coming back. There have been at least two indications of this recently. The prophet is no longer without honour in his own, adopted country, for a plaque has just been unveiled to him in Sidmouth, with the blessing of the town council and a photograph of the proceedings on the front page of the local paper. And London Magazine Editions have republished his best-known book, A Poor Man’s House, which first appeared in 1908 ...

Two Hares and a Priest

Patricia Beer: Pushkin, 13 May 1999

Pushkin 
by Elizabeth Feinstein.
Weidenfeld, 309 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 297 81826 0
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... Who do you think will close the door after you? Pushkin?’ The question, which Elaine Feinstein quotes in her introduction to this excellent biography, is one which apparently might still be asked by a Russian mother of a careless child. No British mother would say anything like it, if only because she could not think of a figure with comparable evocative power: writers here are hardly household names ...

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