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A Skeleton My Cat

Norma Clarke: ‘Poor Goldsmith’, 21 February 2019

The Letters of Oliver Goldsmith 
edited by Michael Griffin and David O’Shaughnessy.
Cambridge, 232 pp., £64.99, July 2018, 978 1 107 09353 9
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... of condescension has tended to accompany Goldsmith’s name, so that Adam Sisman in his book on Boswell could describe Goldsmith as ‘an awkward, improvident and slightly ridiculous Irishman … whose genius [Johnson] nevertheless acknowledged and championed’ – though in fact almost every reference to Goldsmith in the Life of Samuel Johnson itself ...

Pepys’s Place

Pat Rogers, 16 June 1983

The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Vol X: Companion and Vol XI: Index 
edited by Robert Latham.
Bell and Hyman, 626 pp., £19.50, February 1983, 0 7135 1993 2
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The Diary of John Evelyn 
edited by John Bowle.
Oxford, 476 pp., £19.50, April 1983, 0 19 251011 8
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The Brave Courtier: Sir William Temple 
by Richard Faber.
Faber, 187 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 571 11982 4
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... stick with Matthews), without often being read or assessed as literature. Books such as Boswell’s Johnson and Macaulay’s History once gave rise to the same apparent category error, but they have long since received the full hermeneutic treatment. So far Pepys has survived intact, greater in the public imagination than his own words. The ...

On the Feast of Stephen

Karl Miller: Spender’s Journals, 30 August 2012

New Selected Journals, 1939-95 
by Stephen Spender and Lara Feigel, edited by John Sutherland.
Faber, 792 pp., £45, July 2012, 978 0 571 23757 9
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... I imagine, who stayed with the intriguing literary eminence kindly characterised, eventually, in John Sutherland’s biography.* Nevertheless, a suspicion persisted. Sharp little verses – by Thom Gunn and John Coleman – were flighted; and Ian Hamilton capped it all with a brilliant and damaging New Yorker ...

I have no books to consult

Stephen Sedley: Lord Mansfield, 22 January 2015

Lord Mansfield: Justice in the Age of Reason 
by Norman Poser.
McGill-Queen’s, 532 pp., £24.99, September 2013, 978 0 7735 4183 2
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... a central role in politics as cabinet member, counsellor and confidant; he knew everyone from Boswell to Blackstone and Pope to Pitt; and at Kenwood in Hampstead he constructed a mansion, designed by Robert Adam, and a park which remain a high point of British design. Norman Poser is not Mansfield’s first biographer, but he is arguably the best so ...

Calf and Other Loves

Wendy Doniger, 4 August 1994

Dearest Pet: On Bestiality 
by Midas Dekkers, translated by Paul Vincent.
Verso, 208 pp., £18.95, June 1994, 0 86091 462 3
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... Christianity when so lightly passing over the reference to the lamb of God in the Revelation of St John: ‘Come hither, I will show thee the Bride, the Lamb’s wife’ (21.9). John Boswell, in Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe, sees in this metaphor ‘a hint of bestiality’ which raises problems that ‘were ...

Samuel Johnson goes abroad

Claude Rawson, 29 August 1991

A Voyage to Abyssinia 
by Samuel Johnson, edited by Joel Gold.
Yale, 350 pp., £39.50, July 1985, 0 300 03003 7
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Rasselas, and Other Tales 
by Samuel Johnson, edited by Gwin Kolb.
Yale, 290 pp., £24.50, March 1991, 0 300 04451 8
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A Dictionary of the English Language (1755) 
by Samuel Johnson.
Longman, 1160 pp., £195, September 1990, 0 582 07380 4
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The Making of Johnson’s Dictionary, 1746-1773 
by Allen Reddick.
Cambridge, 249 pp., £30, October 1990, 0 521 36160 5
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Samuel Johnson’s Attitude to the Arts 
by Morris Brownell.
Oxford, 195 pp., £30, March 1989, 0 19 812956 4
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Johnson’s Shakespeare 
by G.F. Parker.
Oxford, 204 pp., £25, April 1989, 0 19 812974 2
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... suggest animus against ‘Moors’, not Portuguese. The Voyage is an early work. Johnson later, as Boswell reports, ‘seemed to think it beneath him’. It’s apparently the style and not the opinions that he would have wished to disavow, though he may also have wanted to forget the poverty-driven hack work of his early years. What we know of his views on ...

Excepting the Aristocratical

Ian Gilmour, 23 March 1995

Marriage, Debt and the Estates System: English Landownership 1650-1950 
by John Habakkuk.
Oxford, 786 pp., £65, September 1994, 0 19 820398 5
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... wisdom to laymen. From about the middle of the 17th century to the end of the 19th, as Sir John Habakkuk, who thinks more kindly of the legal profession than Hogg and Godwin, shows in his massive and compelling account of English land-ownership over three hundred years, the most common of the ‘entails created’ by the lawyers was the strict ...

Shakers

Denis Donoghue, 6 November 1986

Write on: Occasional Essays ’65-’85 
by David Lodge.
Secker, 211 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 436 25665 7
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... The Rebel Angels, William Golding’s The Paper Men, Peter Brooks’s Reading for the Plot, and John Updike’s Hugging the Shore. There are also essays on Ring Lardner, on D.H. Lawrence, and on Structuralism, which Lodge as late as 1980 regarded as ‘the most significant intellectual movement of our time’. Such a collection is bound to be of uneven ...

No Clapping

Rosemary Hill: The Bloomsbury Memoir Club, 17 July 2014

The Bloomsbury Group Memoir Club 
by S.P. Rosenbaum, edited by James Haule.
Palgrave, 203 pp., £20, January 2014, 978 1 137 36035 9
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... Strachey found something of the same attraction in Newton’s older contemporary, the biographer John Aubrey. Strachey saw himself as the product of an ‘embryonic generation’ almost as remote now from the Victorians as Aubrey had been from the Middle Ages, yet as Aubrey was haunted by the lost world of medieval magic, so Strachey and the other club ...
Carrington: A Life and a Policy 
by Patrick Cosgrave.
Dent, 182 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 460 04691 8
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Thatcher: The First Term 
by Patrick Cosgrave.
Bodley Head, 240 pp., £9.95, June 1985, 0 370 30602 3
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Viva Britannia: Mrs Thatcher’s Britain 
by Paolo Filo della Torre.
Sidgwick, 101 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 283 99143 7
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... journalist who has been within and without the Conservative Party for many years. He has played Boswell to Margaret Thatcher’s Johnson, having come in from the cold, as it were, of the Heath years. He has now written a book about Peter Carrington, who resigned, of course, as Foreign Minister after the Argentines invaded the Falklands in April 1982. The ...

Freaks, Dwarfs and Boors

Thomas Keymer: 18th-Century Jokes, 2 August 2012

Cruelty and Laughter: Forgotten Comic Literature and the Unsentimental 18th Century 
by Simon Dickie.
Chicago, 362 pp., £29, December 2011, 978 0 226 14618 8
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... refuges for repentant prostitutes or bankrupted merchants. Shortly before his death in 1791, John Wesley looked back on the century as one in which ‘benevolence and compassion toward all the forms of human woe have increased in a manner not known before, from the earliest ages of the world.’ Not everyone was sympathetic to forms of woe – especially ...

Short Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Successive John Murrays, 8 November 2018

... the relations between authors and publishers never change. Dear Mr Murray, edited by David McClay (John Murray, £16.99), a collection of letters written to six generations of the Murray family, is full of familiar complaints. Jane Austen was ‘very much disappointed … by the delays of the printers’. Maria Rundell, author of A New System of Domestic ...

Maschler Pudding

John Bayley, 19 October 1995

À la Pym: The Barbara Pym Cookery Book 
by Hilary Pym and Honor Wyatt.
Prospect, 102 pp., £9.95, September 1995, 0 907325 61 0
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... it helps the would-be novelist to know from the inside, as it were, what his people are up to. As John Francis more elegantly puts it in his Introduction, ‘you feel Pym knew more about her characters than is necessary for us to know, but that these reserves are expended only if essential for her art.’ As Johnson observed to ...

Gentleman Jack from Halifax

Elizabeth Mavor, 4 February 1988

I know my own heart: The Diaries of Anne Lister, 1791-1840 
edited by Helena Whitbread.
Virago, 370 pp., £7.95, February 1988, 0 86068 840 2
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... The keeping of diaries prompts the question why, and for whom? James Boswell at 22, and going to London for the first time, piously hoped that keeping a diary might engender ‘a habit of application and improve me in expression’, possibly even ‘make me more careful to do well’. At all events, 24 pages of this self-imposed devoir were sent off each Tuesday to his friend John Johnston of Grange, a dullish youth of about Boswell’s own age, but one in whose affectionate and uncritical company he felt more at peace than with anyone ...

Under-Labourer

John Mullan, 19 September 1996

The Correspondence of Thomas Warton 
edited by David Fairer.
Georgia, 775 pp., $85, September 1995, 9780820315010
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... assistant. A typical letter from Malone asks where he might find a particular prologue by Sir John Denham, wonders whether Warton has come across any mention of ‘Marocco’ (a famous acrobatic horse exhibited around Europe in the 1590s), enquires about any use of ‘the pun on Ajax and A-jakes previous to Sir ...

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