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The Purchas’d Wave

Bernard Rudden: The history of London’s water supply, 22 July 2004

London's New River 
by Robert Ward.
Historical Publications, 248 pp., £17.95, October 2003, 0 948667 84 2
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... music and a roll-call of the various craftsmen involved, written in bad verse by the poet Thomas Middleton. The reservoir was soon enlarged, and others built nearby. These served three purposes: by providing a large area of still water they allowed many impurities to settle to the bottom; they helped smooth out fluctuation in supply and demand; and they ...

Feast of St Thomas

Frank Kermode, 29 September 1988

Eliot’s New Life 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Oxford, 356 pp., £15, September 1988, 0 19 811727 2
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The Letters of T.S. Eliot 
edited by Valerie Eliot.
Faber, 618 pp., £25, September 1988, 0 571 13621 4
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The Poetics of Impersonality 
by Maud Ellmann.
Harvester, 207 pp., £32.50, January 1988, 0 7108 0463 6
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T.S. Eliot and the Philosophy of Criticism 
by Richard Shusterman.
Duckworth, 236 pp., £19.95, February 1988, 0 7156 2187 4
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‘The Men of 1914’: T.S. Eliot and Early Modernism 
by Erik Svarny.
Open University, 268 pp., £30, September 1988, 0 335 09019 2
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Eliot, Joyce and Company 
by Stanley Sultan.
Oxford, 326 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 19 504880 6
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The Savage and the City in the Work of T.S. Eliot 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 251 pp., £25, December 1987, 9780198128694
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T.S. Eliot: The Poems 
by Martin Scofield.
Cambridge, 264 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 521 30147 5
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... fashionable philosophy: but he soon changed his mind, as is clear from the satirical assault on Middleton Murry, a Bergsonian surrogate, in ‘The Function of Criticism’ (1923). And of course he was well aware that impersonal poetry was produced by persons: but this doesn’t make the impersonality argument bogus, as Ellmann supposes, or entitle us to ...

Eliot and the Shudder

Frank Kermode: The Shudder, 13 May 2010

... remarkably profitable early studies in Jacobean drama. Here are some lines from Tourneur’s (or Middleton’s) The Revenger’s Tragedy, now familiar because of Eliot’s interest, but at the time he pointed out their distinction, known only to readers who had a special interest in this sometimes ‘decadent’ writing; it was, as he put it, ‘a passage ...

Fetch the Chopping Knife

Charles Nicholl: Murder on Bankside, 4 November 2021

... that it was in part written by the up-and-coming Shakespeare. Other writers proposed include Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd and, most recently, Thomas Watson. According to a contemporary account of his death in 1593, Marlowe himself was knifed while playing backgammon. I have sometimes wondered if this detail, not found in the coroner’s report, was an ...

Textual Harassment

Claude Rawson, 5 April 1984

The World, the Text and the Critic 
by Edward Said.
Faber, 327 pp., £15, February 1984, 0 571 13264 2
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The Deconstructive Turn: Essays in the Rhetoric of Philosophy 
by Christopher Norris.
Methuen, 201 pp., £4.95, December 1983, 0 416 36140 4
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The New Pelican Guide to English Literature. Vol. VIII: The Present 
edited by Boris Ford.
Penguin, 619 pp., £3.50, October 1983, 0 14 022271 5
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... experiencing of them, should have enjoyed elaborate articulation in recent years. Both Said and Christopher Norris mention aspects of this, but they’ve obviously missed an article in a theory journal which called for a comprehensive ‘taxonomy of literary experiences’, expressly designed as a sort of manual of textual intercourse, and intended ‘(like ...


John Bayley, 16 June 1983

Dostoevsky and ‘The Idiot’: Author, Narrator and Reader 
by Robin Feuer Miller.
Harvard, 296 pp., £16, October 1981, 0 674 21490 0
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by John Jones.
Oxford, 365 pp., £15, May 1983, 9780198126454
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New Essays on Dostoyevsky 
edited by Malcolm Jones and Garth Terry.
Cambridge, 252 pp., £25, March 1983, 0 521 24890 6
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The Art of Dostoevsky: Deliriums and Nocturnes 
by Robert Louis Jackson.
Princeton, 380 pp., £17.60, January 1982, 0 691 06484 9
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... obsession. Girard is quoted in a useful piece on ‘Formalist and Structuralist Approaches’ by Christopher Pike, one of the contributions to New Essays on Dostoyevsky. (Why is there still no unanimity about how we spell him? – the variations seem a suitable emblem for shatost.) There is no doubt that he is the biggest influence both on the ‘new ...

Torday’s Scorpion

Basil Davidson, 9 April 1992

The African Experience 
by Roland Oliver.
Weidenfeld, 284 pp., £19.99, August 1991, 0 297 82022 2
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A Thousand Years of East Africa 
by John Sutton.
British Institute in Eastern Africa, 111 pp., £8, November 1990, 1 872566 00 6
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When the grass is gone 
edited by P.W.T. Baxter.
Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, 215 pp., December 1991, 91 7106 318 8
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The Scramble for Africa 
by Thomas Pakenham.
Weidenfeld, 738 pp., £20, October 1991, 0 297 81130 4
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... languages from which substantial enlightenments have begun to arrive: as finely set forth by Christopher Ehret and Merrick Posnansky in Archaeological and Linguistic Reconstruction of African History of 1982. In applied archaeology the quantity of research now being published in a panoply of journals goes probably beyond any single person’s ...


Mary Beard: What’s left of John Soane, 17 February 2000

John Soane: An Accidental Romantic 
by Gillian Darley.
Yale, 358 pp., £25, September 1999, 0 300 08165 0
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John Soane, Architect: Master of Space and Light 
by Margaret Richardson and Mary-Anne Stevens.
Royal Academy, 302 pp., £45, September 1999, 0 300 08195 2
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Sir John Soane and the Country Estate 
by Ptolemy Dean.
Ashgate, 204 pp., £37.50, October 1999, 1 84014 293 6
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... enticement and resistance, openness and enclosure ... a mesmerising presence’, according to Christopher Woodward (writing in John Soane, Architect, the lavish catalogue of the recent Royal Academy exhibition of Soane’s work). More mundanely, it is regularly identified as the source of one of the most familiar (and also much vandalised) symbols of ...

True Words

A.D. Nuttall, 25 April 1991

The Names of Comedy 
by Anne Barton.
Oxford, 221 pp., £22.50, August 1990, 0 19 811793 0
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... Restoration drama, names based on ‘heart’ and ‘wild’ perhaps imply a libertine ethic. In Middleton we find some split names, like ‘Folly-wit’. Here the reader begins to wonder whether cratylic comedy, faced with the real fluidity of life and the new complexity of drama, felt a need to hedge its bets. After all, at the end of the morality ...

Bereft and Beruffed

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s Last Plays, 6 June 2019

Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage: Myth, Music and Poetry in the Last Plays 
by Seth Lerer.
Chicago, 276 pp., £20.50, November 2018, 978 0 226 58254 2
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... the issue of genre with questions of biography. Given the fates that overtook his colleagues Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd in 1593 and 1594 – the one stabbed to death at 29, the other eventually dying after an extensive and painful interrogation – you could argue that Shakespeare might have felt that he had been living on borrowed time since the ...


Charles Nicholl: ‘The Shakespeare Circle’, 19 May 2016

The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography 
edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells.
Cambridge, 358 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 107 69909 0
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... in London cover more familiar ground. They include David Riggs on Ben Jonson, Emma Smith on Thomas Middleton, Alan Nelson on Shakespeare’s patrons, John Astington on the Burbages, Bart van Es on the comedians Will Kemp and Robert Armin, and Paul Edmondson on the editors of the First Folio, John Heminges and Henry Condell. It was decided to exclude writers ...

Cardenio’s Ghost

Charles Nicholl: The Bits Shakespeare Wrote, 2 December 2010

The Arden Shakespeare: Double Falsehood 
edited by Brean Hammond.
Arden Shakespeare, 443 pp., £16.99, March 2010, 978 1 903436 77 6
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... he is sighted in London in May 1612, giving evidence in a lawsuit involving his former landlord Christopher Mountjoy, and again in March 1613 when he signed the mortgage deed on a property in the Blackfriars.* The two performances in 1613 bring Cardenio close to the Shakespeare-Fletcher Henry VIII, which was first performed at the Globe in June 1613. It was ...

I want to love it

Susan Pedersen: What on earth was he doing?, 18 April 2019

Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History 
by Richard J. Evans.
Little, Brown, 800 pp., £35, February 2019, 978 1 4087 0741 8
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... and Fletcher, Chapman, Chekhov, Dekker, Dryden, Ford, Heywood, Jonson, Marston, Massinger, Middleton, Marlowe, O’Neill, Sophocles, Strindberg and Webster; in March he went on to Coleridge, Chaucer, Fielding and Petronius, and then had a go at Proust, Mann, Boswell and David Hume. He took a turn through French literature then doubled back to the ...

A Cousin of Colonel Heneage

Robert Crawford: Was Eliot a Swell?, 18 April 2019

The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume VIII: 1936-38 
edited by Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden.
Faber, 1100 pp., £50, January 2019, 978 0 571 31638 0
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... these prodigious gatherings, the poetry looks svelte. Yet the 2015 Faber edition of the Poems by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue itself runs to nearly two thousand densely annotated pages. This, too, is a breathtaking achievement. Very few people will read through all these thousands of pages, and their publication risks making Eliot seem more daunting than ...
... as well as the unbridgeable, while evoking something that is certainly dangerous to approach. Christopher Prendergast FranceTwo days before the Brexit referendum Le Parisien reported that 34 French businesses had written an open letter intended for the British press – the Sun was mentioned, along with the Times and the Telegraph. ‘French bosses beg ...

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