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Updike’s Innocence

Craig Raine, 25 January 1990

Just Looking: Essays on Art 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 210 pp., £19.95, November 1989, 0 233 98501 8
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... denounce the sentimental are generally unaware of what sentiment is’. The paintings of Fairfield Porter, traditional, carried out in the teeth of Abstract Expressionism, are subjected to a stern interrogation, during which any number of flaws are stigmatised (like Porter’s difficulty with faces) before Updike can allow ...

Blood Running Down

Helen Cooper: Iconoclasm and theatre in early modern England, 9 August 2001

The Idolatrous Eye: Iconoclasm and Theatre in Early Modern England 
by Michael O'Connell.
Oxford, 198 pp., £30, February 2000, 9780195132052
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... the stage must present a single place. There should be no subplots, no mingling of genres, no porter in Macbeth nor gravediggers in Hamlet nor a king in Love’s Labour’s Lost, and no Winter’s Tale at all. Those Roman dramatists conformed very nicely to the model. Seneca’s armchair violence was familiar to every schoolboy. But that was not what the ...

Dear Miss Boothby

Margaret Anne Doody, 5 November 1992

The Letters of Samuel Johnson: Vol. I: 1731-1772, Vol. II: 1773-1776, Vol. III: 1777-1781 
edited by Bruce Redford.
Oxford, 431 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 19 811287 4
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... and whose life history was intertwined with his. It would be helpful to have explanations of Lucy Porter, Hill Boothby, John Taylor and the Thrales, as major figures in Johnson’s life and letter-writing. The notes are self-referential in a cryptic way, with a delicately archaic use of ante and post; these are not as helpful as the editor thinks, for the ...

Oh, My Aching Back

Roy Porter, 2 November 1995

The History of Pain 
by Roselyne Rey, translated by Elliott Wallace and J.A. Cadden , and S.W. Cadden.
Harvard, 394 pp., £25.50, October 1995, 0 674 39967 6
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... which involved severing nerve fibres, a string of ingenious investigators from Pierre Flourens to Henry Head and Charles Sherrington laid bare the central nervous system’s intricate mechanisms. By 1900, the sensory-motor alterations which, it had long been known, could be effected by severing spinal nerve roots, were being produced by slicing segments off ...

Robin’s Hoods

Patrick Wormald, 5 May 1983

Robin Hood 
by J.C. Holt.
Thames and Hudson, 208 pp., £8.95, May 1982, 0 500 25081 2
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The Early History of Glastonbury: An Edition, Translation and Study of William of Malmesbury’s ‘De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie’ 
by John Scott.
Boydell, 224 pp., £25, January 1982, 9780851151540
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by John Michell.
Thames and Hudson, 168 pp., £8.50, March 1982, 9780500012611
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... years ago by Joseph Hunter, who spotted a Robert Hood at Wakefield in 1316-17 and a ‘Robyn Hode, porter’ in the royal chamber in 1324. Since the Gest envisages a tour of the North by ‘Edwarde, our comly kynge’ as the context of Robin’s pardon and entry into royal service, and since Edward II is known to have made such a tour in 1323, the pieces ...

Identity Parade

Linda Colley, 25 February 1993

People and Places: Country House Donors and the National Trust 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 232 pp., £19.99, October 1992, 0 7195 5145 5
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The Making of the National Poet: Shakespeare, Adaptation and Authorship, 1660-1769 
by Michael Dobson.
Oxford, 266 pp., £30, October 1992, 0 19 811233 5
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Myths of the English 
edited by Roy Porter.
Polity, 280 pp., £39.50, October 1992, 0 7456 0844 2
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Fields of Vision: Landscape Imagery and National Identity in England and the United States 
by Stephen Daniels.
Polity, 257 pp., £39.50, November 1992, 0 7456 0450 1
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... is not only a composite of three much older nations, but also fractured throughout by regionalism. Henry James is quoted to the effect that Warwickshire ‘is the core and centre of the English world ... unmitigated England’. Conversely, the gardens of Wallington in far Northumberland are Scottish in style. And Blickling in Norfolk is as culturally and ...

Silly Buggers

James Fox, 7 March 1991

The Theatre of Embarrassment 
by Francis Wyndham.
Chatto, 205 pp., £15, February 1991, 0 7011 3726 6
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... Meriel McCooey, both aficionados of Hollywood musicals, could be heard breaking into duets of Cole Porter or Noël Coward – Meriel in tune, Francis undoubtedly faultless with the lyrics. At six o’clock a half-bottle of Teachers would be purchased for ‘pre-drink drinks’ – a deadline gradually pulled forward to 5.30. You would hear, at ...

The Road to Sligo

Tom Paulin, 17 May 1984

Poetry and Metamorphosis 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Cambridge, 97 pp., £9.95, March 1983, 0 521 24848 5
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by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 120 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 19 211958 3
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Conversation with the Prince 
by Tadeusz Rozewicz, translated by Adam Czerniawski.
Anvil, 206 pp., £4.95, March 1982, 0 85646 079 6
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Passions and Impressions 
by Pablo Neruda, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden.
Farrar, Straus/Faber, 396 pp., £16.50, October 1983, 0 571 12054 7
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An Empty Room 
by Leopold Staff, translated by Adam Czerniawski.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £3.25, March 1983, 0 906427 52 5
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... author becomes culturally effective, and the translator a “noble collateral” with him.’ Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, relied heavily on Douglas’s Eneados when he translated Books Two and Four of Virgil’s epic into English. Surrey rejected Douglas’s use of rhyming couplets and drew on Italian verso sciolto to create the earliest form of blank ...

The Shape of Absence

Hilary Mantel: The Bondwoman’s Narrative, 8 August 2002

The Bondwoman’s Narrative: A Novel 
by Hannah Crafts, edited by Henry Louis Gates.
Virago, 338 pp., £10.99, May 2002, 1 86049 013 1
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... I am so nervous that I hardly know what I write. The letter brought almost five thousand dollars; Henry Louis Gates paid about twice that for the unpublished manuscript of a three-hundred-page novel, undated, by an author whose name at the time meant nothing. It seems little enough for what Gates calls ‘history in waiting’; his tone is almost gloating as ...

A Light-Blue Stocking

Helen Deutsch: Hester Lynch Salusbury Thrale Piozzi, 14 May 2009

Hester: The Remarkable Life of Dr Johnson’s ‘Dear Mistress’ 
by Ian McIntyre.
Constable, 450 pp., £25, November 2008, 978 1 84529 449 6
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... Hester Salusbury married first the wealthy brewer, MP, womaniser and ‘Southwark macaroni’ Henry Thrale, with whom she had 12 children, only four of whom survived, and then the Italian music master Gabriel Piozzi, for whom she pined passionately at the ripe old age of 40, and scandalised her circle by not only marrying but happily introducing him into ...

To Be Worth Forty Shillings

Jonah Miller: Early Modern Inequality, 2 February 2017

Accounting for Oneself: Worth, Status and the Social Order in Early Modern England 
by Alexandra Shepard.
Oxford, 357 pp., £65, February 2015, 978 0 19 960079 3
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... and her husband, and was often accused of sexual misdemeanours too. Witnesses in the case of Henry Mitchell, a hardworking iron porter, blamed his imprisonment for debt on his wife Lucy’s ‘great extravagances’. She had pawned her clothes and valuable household goods, calling it ‘good house keeping’, and ...
... lynching, a hodgepodge of offences, large and small, against the niceties of racial domination: Henry Bedford lynched for ‘talking disrespectfully to a young white man’; Jesse Thornton for ‘addressing a white police officer without the title “mister”’; Malcom Wright for ‘yielding too little of the roadway to a white man as he passed in his ...

Capital W, Capital W

Michael Wood: Women writers, 19 August 1999

Women Writers at Work 
edited by George Plimpton.
Harvill, 381 pp., £9.99, February 1999, 1 86046 586 2
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Just as I Thought 
by Grace Paley.
Virago, 332 pp., £8.99, August 1999, 1 86049 696 2
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... she describes is familiar, and memorable, and can be recognised more generally. The pages of Henry James, for example, are full of a sexual desire he has ‘forgotten’ in this sense, that is, neither shouted out nor encrypted nor entirely repressed, just allowed to slip beyond the reach of his conscious word-choices. In her very sharp introduction to ...

The Perfect Plot Device

Dinah Birch: Governesses, 17 July 2008

Other People’s Daughters: The Life and Times of the Governess 
by Ruth Brandon.
Weidenfeld, 303 pp., £20, March 2008, 978 0 297 85113 4
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... as a governess in Russia, accepting hardship and insecurity as the price of independence. Agnes Porter earned the respect and affection of her wealthy employers and fought hard, and finally successfully, to secure a long promised and richly earned pension. Ellen Weeton’s life was blighted, but it was marriage with a violent man, not her work as a ...

Double Act

Adam Smyth: ‘A Humument’, 11 October 2012

A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel 
by Tom Phillips.
Thames and Hudson, 392 pp., £14.95, May 2012, 978 0 500 29043 9
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... officers in uniform, the prettiest officer making the most of his cheeks’. Or: ‘on a sofa the porter found himself damp and it was not last night’s smell.’ Or: ‘a fart for moralists’. Or: ‘Paul Veronese. he suddenly ejaculated, You know Veronese – above the sideboard. up in the cupboard on the wall; On the contrary.’ Or, more simply: ‘up ...

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