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Thirty Years Ago

Patrick Parrinder, 18 July 1985

Still Life 
by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 358 pp., £9.95, June 1985, 0 7011 2667 1
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Wales’ Work 
by Robert Walshe.
Secker, 279 pp., £8.95, July 1985, 9780436561450
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... the half-way stage. Already its scale and substance begin to rival the sequences of C.P. Snow and Anthony Powell. Byatt’s view of the middle class centres on the Potter family: Northern, Nonconformist, and professionally preoccupied with teaching, writing, and caring for others. The poor, in this view of England, are unthinkable except as marginal ...

The Purser’s Tale

Frank Kermode, 5 April 1984

Home and Dry: Memoirs III 
by Roy Fuller.
London Magazine Editions, 165 pp., £8.95, February 1984, 0 904388 47 6
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... but owing something, I believe, to certain not dissimilar contortions in the work of his friend Anthony Powell. Here he is telling us the circumstances under which he allowed to go forward an absurd requisition for flying-helmets – 30,000 for a Fleet Air Arm that probably needed about a quarter of that number. ‘It is no defence,’ he writes, ‘to ...

All This Love Business

Jean McNicol: Vanessa and Julian Bell, 24 January 2013

Julian Bell: From Bloomsbury to the Spanish Civil War 
by Peter Stansky and William Abrahams.
Stanford, 314 pp., £38.95, 0 8047 7413 7
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... joy of reading the letter’ containing what Julian called ‘great news’: he was sleeping with Anthony Blunt – his ‘first love affair’. She realised then that he ‘meant to tell me things. I had never expected it.’ After Blunt Julian’s affairs were heterosexual, but there were quite a few of them, they often ran concurrently and he provided a ...

Art’s Infancy

Arthur C. Danto, 22 April 1993

The Mind and its Depths 
by Richard Wollheim.
Harvard, 214 pp., £19.95, March 1993, 9780674576117
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Psychoanalysis, Mind and Art: Perspectives on Richard Wollheim 
edited by Jim Hopkins and Anthony Savile.
Blackwell, 383 pp., £40, October 1992, 0 631 17571 7
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... Family Romance, but his philosophical writings are marked by that kind of sudden ‘turn’ which Forster used to such effect in dealing with the dramatic incidents that change his characters’ lives; and he likes to stop, as we say in the States, on a dime, ending his pieces abruptly, implying an abyss of thought beyond the point where his essay leaves ...

He don’t mean any harm

John Bayley, 28 June 1990

A.A. Milne: His Life 
by Ann Thwaite.
Faber, 554 pp., £17.50, June 1990, 0 571 13888 8
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... and letters, sometimes rather sickeningly so; and it produces a lot of sticky passages in E.M. Forster’s novels A Room With a View and The Longest Journey. Forster, too, was a great admirer of The Way of All Flesh, about which there was nothing in the least sentimental. So quickly can emancipation become overripe. Yet ...

British Worthies

David Cannadine, 3 December 1981

The Directory of National Biography, 1961-1970 
edited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 1178 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 19 865207 0
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... as are made about the private lives of Harold and Vita, Somerset Maugham, Joe Orton and E.M. Forster add nothing that is new: they are informative but not titillating. On the other hand, the statement that Nancy Astor’s friendship with Lord Lothian was ‘always regarded as platonic’ is merely salacious innuendo: it is titillating but not ...

Not Dead Yet

Anthony Grafton: Latin, 8 January 2015

Latin: Story of a World Language 
by Jürgen Leonhardt, translated by Kenneth Kronenberg.
Harvard, 352 pp., £22.95, November 2013, 978 0 674 05807 1
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... as the epithalamia, sexier and less discreet than their ancient models, which served, as Leonard Forster argued long ago, as safety valves for Renaissance Latinists. Their arteries would have snapped like pipestems if they had been confined to writing chaste Petrarchan verse. Only​ in the late 18th century, Leonhardt argues, did elites gradually ...

The Literature Man

Charles Nicholl, 25 June 1987

by Malcolm Bradbury.
Hutchinson, 106 pp., £6.95, April 1987, 0 09 168280 0
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No, Not Bloomsbury 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Deutsch, 373 pp., £17.95, May 1987, 9780233980133
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The Last Romantics 
by Caroline Seebohm.
Weidenfeld, 322 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 297 79056 0
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The Magician’s Girl 
by Doris Grumbach.
Hamish Hamilton, 206 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 241 12114 0
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... itself, of the adaptation by Christopher Hampton, and of the charismatic central performance by Anthony Sher – and partly due to the blushes of self-congratulation that suffuse the BBC when it oversteps its own maidenly limits in matters sexual and political. More than all this, Bradbury has written books of academic literary criticism. A brief canter ...


John Bayley: On V.S. Pritchett, the Man of Letters, 30 January 1992

... are, and they have come to dread the direct untreated response by their students, pronouncing E.M. Forster soppy, or Virginia Woolf a bit of a bitch. High-tech negates such responses, rescuing itself from social and worldly critical converse – the medium in which the novel naturally swims. To discuss in the old fashion the characters of War and Peace or Anna ...

Just off Lexham Gardens

John Bayley, 9 January 1992

Through a Glass Darkly: The life of Patrick Hamilton 
by Nigel Jones.
Scribner, 408 pp., £18.95, December 1991, 0 356 19701 8
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... promise, and never as it were challenging the life on its own separate terms. For this reason E.M. Forster, say, is not a cult writer, although he used to complain to people for whom ‘my works included me rather than I them’; and nor was Virginia Woolf. They have become themselves, whereas Corvo or Lowry, Hamilton or Conrad Aitken, and maybe poets like ...

With Slip and Slapdash

Frank Kermode: Auden’s Prose, 7 February 2008

The Complete Works of W.H. Auden. Vol. III: Prose, 1949-55 
edited by Edward Mendelson.
Princeton, 779 pp., £29.95, December 2007, 978 0 691 13326 3
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... Groddeck, Homer Lane. Some quietly faded away, but with a few he enjoyed an enduring sympathy: Forster and Virginia Woolf, for instance, and Eliot, with the respect due to the publisher of his first book of poems, but staying well short of idolatry. Such connections ensured that he wrote many letters; he asked that they be destroyed after his death, but ...

Good Things: Pederasty and Jazz and Opium and Research

Lawrence Rainey: Mary Butts, 16 July 1998

Mary Butts: Scenes from the Life 
by Nathalie Blondel.
McPherson, 539 pp., £22.50, February 1998, 0 929701 55 0
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The Taverner Novels: ‘Armed with Madness’, ‘Death of Felicity Taverner’ 
by Mary Butts.
McPherson, 374 pp., £10, March 1998, 0 929701 18 6
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The Classical Novels: ‘The Macedonian’, ‘Scenes from the Life of Cleopatra’ 
by Mary Butts.
McPherson, 384 pp., £10, March 1998, 0 929701 42 9
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‘Ashe of Rings’ and Other Writings 
by Mary Butts.
McPherson, 374 pp., £18.50, March 1998, 0 929701 53 4
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... Thomson was gay, something he carefully, almost pathologically, sought to conceal all his life. Anthony Tommasini, in his recent biography of the composer, has dismissed the entire affair as a fabrication on Thomson’s part, and Blondel may be too ready to accept the story at face value. (Butts also refers to an otherwise unnoticed affair with Wyndham ...

Baffled at a Bookcase

Alan Bennett: My Libraries, 28 July 2011

... with literature by drawing breasts on a photograph of Virginia Woolf and kitting out E.M. Forster with a big cigar. Orton himself notoriously defaced library books before starting to write books himself. This resentment, which was, I suppose, somewhere mine, had to do with feeling shut out. A library, I used to feel, was like a cocktail party with ...


Alan Bennett: A Round of Applause, 7 January 2021

... she should think: ‘Here is somebody who knows what it is like to be me.’ It’s not what E.M. Forster meant by ‘only connect,’ but it’s what I mean.These days ‘only connect’ means bumping elbows.7 May. Some time in the afternoon Alex Jennings and Lesley Moors call by and we have a socially distanced chat on the doorstep, me sitting on a ...


Stephen Wall, 26 March 1992

Surviving: The Uncollected Writings of Henry Green 
edited by Matthew Yorke.
Chatto, 302 pp., £18, February 1992, 0 7011 3900 5
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Pack my bag 
by Henry Green.
Hogarth, 242 pp., £9.99, February 1992, 0 7012 0988 7
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by Henry Green.
Harvill, 225 pp., £6.99, February 1992, 0 00 271185 0
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... relatively trivial things. As his titles indicate, he deals with states rather than plots. E.M. Forster once complained that most of life is so dull that nothing can be said about it, but for Green that is never the case. Some of the pieces in Surviving deal with tiny incidents, on the bus or in the pub, that other writers would never bother ...

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