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Swaying at the Stove

Rosemary Hill: The Cult of Elizabeth David, 9 December 1999

Elizabeth David: A Biography 
by Lisa Chaney.
Pan, 482 pp., £10, September 1999, 0 330 36762 5
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Waiting at the Kitchen Table. Elizabeth David: The Authorised Biography 
by Artemis Cooper.
Viking, 364 pp., £20, November 1999, 0 7181 4224 1
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... of pastoral romance to which Mediterranean Food belonged. Like Leach’s Japan and William Morris’s Middle Ages, it offered if not an innocent then a simpler world, ‘small and white and clean’, the sort of other Eden with which the English and at times the Scots have consoled themselves ever since they became too powerful as nations to be quite ...

Strenuously Modern

Rosemary Hill: At Home with the Stracheys, 3 March 2005

Bombay to Bloomsbury: A Biography of the Strachey Family 
by Barbara Caine.
Oxford, 488 pp., £25, February 2005, 0 19 925034 0
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... pathological … a house afflicted with elephantiasis’. As an absolute verdict on the age of Morris and Ruskin, however, it was ridiculous, though it still persists. Caine is sometimes too inclined to take at face value the post-Freudian Stracheys’ own estimation of themselves, especially their claim to be living lives of ‘unprecedented’ sexual and ...

Keep Calm

Rosemary Hill: Desperate Housewives, 24 May 2007

Can Any Mother Help Me? Fifty Years of Friendship through a Secret Magazine 
by Jenna Bailey.
Faber, 330 pp., £16.99, March 2007, 978 0 571 23313 7
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... the only one to take any explicit interest in feminism. Her Descent of Woman, a riposte to Desmond Morris and other ‘male-centred’ evolutionists, appeared in 1972. If the CCC felt any envy (or approval) of the greater opportunities available to their daughters none of them mentioned it, though Cornelia was disappointed to discover that despite all that had ...

Against Michelangelo

Rosemary Hill: ‘The Pinecone’, 11 October 2012

The Pinecone 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 332 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 0 571 26950 1
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... disciplining priests for officiating from the wrong side of the altar. As Ruskin and then Morris developed theories about the crafts and workmanship, the heterodox church at Wreay, which had so remarkably anticipated them, slipped into obscurity. It took another century for Losh’s profound, symbolic vision of the mysteries of time and creation to ...

One’s Self-Washed Drawers

Rosemary Hill: Ida John, 29 June 2017

The Good Bohemian: The Letters of Ida John 
edited by Rebecca John and Michael Holroyd.
Bloomsbury, 352 pp., £25, May 2017, 978 1 4088 7362 5
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... it was about Dorelia that exerted such fascination is difficult now to know. Perhaps like Janey Morris she had to be seen to be believed, though the effect was due only partly to her looks. Nicolette Devas, who was later absorbed as a child into the John household, recalled the impression she made on a sharp but innocent eye: Hers was a fierce beauty, a ...

Do put down that revolver

Rosemary Hill, 14 July 2016

The Long Weekend: Life in the English Country House between the Wars 
by Adrian Tinniswood.
Cape, 406 pp., £25, June 2016, 978 0 224 09945 5
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... Margaret Biddulph, Rodmarton was finished in 1929, having been built over thirty years on William Morris principles of handwork. The materials were local as were the builders and furnishers, who produced joinery for the timber framing, needlework and metalwork. It was a reinvention of the country house as social force, ‘a quiet attempt to change the ...

Take my camel, dear

Rosemary Hill: Rose Macaulay’s Pleasures, 16 December 2021

Personal Pleasures: Essays on Enjoying Life 
by Rose Macaulay.
Handheld Classics, 256 pp., £12.99, August 2021, 978 1 912766 50 5
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... red-lipped and sultry-eyed at the wheel of a green Bugatti. Macaulay, however, has only an elderly Morris. She reflects that she is often stuck in traffic, occasionally lost, and at the end of ‘Fastest on Earth’ she gets a parking fine in St James’s Square. Many of the pleasures are urban and precisely located in the area around Macaulay’s Bloomsbury ...

So Much Smoke

Tom Shippey: King Arthur, 20 December 2018

King Arthur: the Making of the Legend 
by Nicholas Higham.
Yale, 380 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 0 300 21092 7
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... the most interestingly historical of them, Y Gododdín, does so only tangentially. Whatever John Morris and Leslie Alcock may have written in the 1970s and 1980s, the evidence provides ‘no space … for an “Age of Arthur” during which a victorious British emperor-like figure held back the barbarian hordes’. That image really dates back to the ...
... the back of Blenheim Park. Here Rowse began collecting notes for a poem so I pointed out a great rosemary bush in flower to him and told him it was marjoram. I look forward to the published error. At North Leigh we saw Mr Hevesi gardening and hurried by (we hope) unseen. The Jacobean-Caroline rectory was beautiful with honeysuckle, clematis and lupins. The ...

Populist Palatial

Rosemary Hill: The View from Piccadilly, 4 March 2021

London’s West End: Creating the Pleasure District, 1800-1914 
by Rohan McWilliam.
Oxford, 400 pp., £30, September 2020, 978 0 19 882341 4
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Survey of London: Volume 53, Oxford Street 
edited by Andrew Saint.
Paul Mellon Centre, 421 pp., £75, April 2020, 978 1 913107 08 6
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... the crowd at a John Lewis sale, and similar remarks were made about the Iraq War protests. William Morris, a leading figure in the SDF, was issued with a summons for obstruction in July 1886, six years after his firm had been commissioned to decorate the throne room at St James’s Palace. In a demonstration on the afternoon of 1 March 1912, suffragettes broke ...

In the Potato Patch

Jenny Turner: Penelope Fitzgerald, 19 December 2013

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 508 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 7011 8495 7
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... in the sales, and seemed never to acquire a handbag: acquaintances remember a trusty William Morris carrier, and she took a spongebag, Hermione Lee reports, to the Booker dinner. In her letters she uses the dotty-lady schtick for two main purposes. It’s there to entertain and mollify her daughters, on whom she depended for all sorts of ...

Self-Made Women

John Sutherland, 11 July 1991

The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present 
edited by Virginia Blain, Isobel Grundy and Patricia Clements.
Batsford, 1231 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 7134 5848 8
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The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 854 pp., $45, March 1991, 0 8142 0518 6
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... of predilection. Sappho gets in, but not Patience Strong; ‘John’ Radclyffe Hall, but not Jan Morris; Julia Kristeva, but not Elizabeth David (nor Jane Grigson, nor even Mrs Beeton – writing about cooking does not rate high). Betty Friedan gets in, but not Mary Douglas; Hannah Arendt, but not Barbara Wootton. In general, journalists get a raw ...

A New Kind of Being

Jenny Turner: Angela Carter, 3 November 2016

The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography 
by Edmund Gordon.
Chatto, 544 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 7011 8755 2
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... with, she tried her hand at writing poetry. ‘Unicorn’, the star of the collection published by Rosemary Hill last year, first came out with a tiny press in 1963. A cardboard theatre and a vulgar virgin; a mythical beast with ‘little hooves’ that ‘click like false teeth’. At the age of 23, Carter had ‘arrived’, as Hill writes, ‘as it were in a ...

Hoarder of Malt

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare, 7 January 1999

Shakespeare: A Life 
by Park Honan.
Oxford, 479 pp., £25, October 1998, 0 19 811792 2
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Shakespeare: The ‘Lost Years’ 
by E.A.J. Honigmann.
Manchester, 172 pp., £11.99, December 1998, 0 7190 5425 7
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... a parade which by 11 a.m. will stretch through the middle of the town is wearing a large sprig of rosemary. (That, courtesy of Ophelia, is for remembrance, though the scent seems less funereal than paschal.) Most celebrants are also carrying substantial mixed bouquets – in the economic life of Stratford’s florists, Shakespeare is nearly as important as St ...

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