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Holy Padlock

Pat Rogers, 6 October 1983

The Religious Life of Samuel Johnson 
by Charles Pierce.
Athlone, 184 pp., £12.50, March 1983, 0 485 30010 9
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... there has been something of a religious revival in Johnsonian scholarship: one might think that Charles Pierce has arrived on the scene a little belatedly, but there is always room for a good book. The sermons have been properly edited for the first time, and a useful monograph on this subject written by James Gray. A pioneering study by Maurice ...

Higher Man

John Sutherland, 22 May 1997

The Turner Diaries 
by ‘Andrew Macdonald’.
National Vauguard Books, 211 pp., $12.95, May 1978, 0 937944 02 5
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... Denver, the book in question is The Turner Diaries. The FBI, who have labelled William L. Pierce’s prudently pseudonymous novel ‘the bible of the racist right’, didn’t take long to leak the information that it accompanied Timothy McVeigh on his (alleged) bombing raid on 19 April 1995. Reference to The Turner Diaries was prominent in ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Ghost Writer’, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, 22 April 2010

The Ghost Writer 
directed by Roman Polanski.
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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 
directed by Niels Arden Oplev.
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... who also shot Polanski’s The Pianist, as well as Taylor Hackford’s glossy biography of Ray Charles. This is important, because the movie is mostly about the way it looks. It’s meant to be a political thriller – based on Robert Harris’s novel The Ghost (the film has that title in the UK) – but it feels as if the writer went home halfway ...

Howl, Howl, Howl!

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Fanny Kemble, 22 May 2008

Fanny Kemble: A Performed Life 
by Deirdre David.
Pennsylvania, 347 pp., £26, June 2007, 978 0 8122 4023 8
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... the mid-18th century; but despite a lineage that included her aunt, Sarah Siddons, her father, Charles, and her uncle, the great tragedian John Philip Kemble, Fanny herself was deeply ambivalent towards the theatre. She first aspired to be a writer rather than an actress; and it was only when the family faced bankruptcy that the latest Kemble was swiftly ...

Reason, Love and Life

Christopher Hill, 20 November 1980

The Letters of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester 
edited by Jeremy Treglown.
Blackwell, 275 pp., £21, September 1980, 9780631128311
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... English poets. Sexually ambivalent, a notorious member of the gang of young roués at the court of Charles II, he nevertheless managed to write a few poignant and haunting poems which suggest that his public notoriety concealed a sensibility reacting to the intellectual crisis of the later 17th century. All my past life is mine no more;   The Flying hours ...

Most Himself

Matthew Reynolds: Dryden, 19 July 2007

The Poems of John Dryden: Vol. V 1697-1700 
edited by Paul Hammond and David Hopkins.
Longman, 707 pp., £113.99, July 2005, 0 582 49214 9
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Dryden: Selected Poems 
edited by Paul Hammond and David Hopkins.
Longman, 856 pp., £19.99, February 2007, 978 1 4058 3545 9
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... Flecknoe, Absalom and Achitophel). There is panegyric: on Cromwell (Heroic Stanzas), on Charles II (Astraea Redux, To His Sacred Majesty), on the new baby heir to James II (Britannia Rediviva); though never on William and Mary. Theological disputation, first Anglican in complexion (Religio Laici), then Roman Catholic (The Hind and the ...

At the Royal Academy

Anne Wagner: America after the Fall , 4 May 2017

... of roadway unfurling through a quiet spring night. Behind the horse and rider, dots of light pierce the depths of the picture’s darkness; ahead, the clapboard houses are still sleeping. The strategic vantage point seems to anticipate the victory to come. Few other painters in the 1930s were able to match this inspired mix of history and legend, or do ...

MacDiarmid and his Maker

Robert Crawford, 10 November 1988

MacDiarmid 
by Alan Bold.
Murray, 482 pp., £17.95, September 1988, 0 7195 4585 4
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A Drunk Man looks at the Thistle 
by Hugh MacDiarmid, edited by Kenneth Buthlay.
Scottish Academic Press, 203 pp., £12.50, February 1988, 0 7073 0425 3
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The Hugh MacDiarmid-George Ogilvie Letters 
edited by Catherine Kerrigan.
Aberdeen University Press, 156 pp., £24.90, August 1988, 0 08 036409 8
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Hugh MacDiarmid and the Russian 
by Peter McCarey.
Scottish Academic Press, 225 pp., £12.50, March 1988, 0 7073 0526 8
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... as ‘megalomaniac’. By 1920, Grieve was employed as a teacher in Caithness on the estate of Charles Perrins, the Worcester Sauce millionaire. The poet’s own verse still lacked the tang of excitement, but he had begun to look to a vast array of international writers for inspiration. Grieve was a late developer. Only in Montrose in 1922 did he ...

Wine Flasks in Bordeaux, Sail Spires in Cardiff

Hal Foster: Richard Rogers, 19 October 2006

Richard Rogers: Architecture of the Future 
by Kenneth Powell.
Birkhäuser, 520 pp., £29.90, December 2005, 3 7643 7049 1
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Richard Rogers: Complete Works, Vol. III 
by Kenneth Powell.
Phaidon, 319 pp., £59.95, July 2006, 0 7148 4429 2
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... its planning has focused on London and its environs, with schemes for Paternoster Square (Prince Charles helped to dash this one), Greenwich Peninsula, Bankside, Wembley and the Lower Lea Valley (including the Olympics master plan); and the same is true of its dock projects, which have included the Royal Albert Docks, Silvertown Docks and Convoys Wharf. Not ...

On the Sixth Day

Charles Nicholl: Petrarch on the Move, 7 February 2019

Petrarch: Everywhere a Wanderer 
by Christopher Celenza.
Reaktion, 224 pp., £15.95, October 2017, 978 1 78023 838 8
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... mission to Prague in 1356 Petrarch was created a count palatine by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV. But increasingly such advancements meant little to him. He turned down a professorship in Florence and an appointment as a papal secretary. The Virgilian urge to solitude and rustic reclusion was powerful: much of the Canzoniere was composed in ...

Young and Old

John Sutherland, 15 October 1981

Life Stories 
by A.L. Barker.
Hogarth, 319 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 7012 0538 5
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Many Men and Talking Wives 
by Helen Muir.
Duckworth, 156 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 7156 1613 7
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Good Behaviour 
by Molly Keane.
Deutsch, 245 pp., £6.50, September 1981, 9780233973326
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A Separate Development 
by Christopher Hope.
Routledge, 199 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 7100 0954 2
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From Little Acorns 
by Howard Buten.
Harvester, 156 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 7108 0390 7
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Fortnight’s Anger 
by Roger Scruton.
Carcanet, 224 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 85635 376 0
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... profundity is also signalled in the title – a quotation from Chief Seathl to President Franklin Pierce, which goes on to warn: ‘the whites too shall pass – perhaps sooner than other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed and you will one day suffocate in your own waste.’ All this suggests that there is an important theme somewhere in the room. But ...

The Great National Circus

Eric Foner: Punch-Ups in the Senate, 22 November 2018

The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War 
by Joanne Freeman.
Farrar, Straus, 450 pp., £20.99, September 2018, 978 0 374 15477 6
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... strode into the Senate chamber shortly after the daily session had ended. Two days earlier, Charles Sumner, the Senate’s most outspoken critic of slavery, had delivered a five-hour speech, ‘The Crime against Kansas’. Sumner not only denounced the ‘rape’ of Kansas by pro-slavery forces, which had terrorised Northern settlers and sacked the town ...

Exotic Bird from Ilford

Robert Baird: Denise Levertov, 25 September 2014

Denise Levertov: A Poet’s Life 
by Dana Greene.
Illinois, 328 pp., £22.99, October 2012, 978 0 252 03710 8
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A Poet’s Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov 
by Donna Krolik Hollenberg.
California, 515 pp., £30.95, April 2013, 978 0 520 27246 0
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Collected Poems 
by Denise Levertov.
New Directions, 1063 pp., £32.99, December 2013, 978 0 8112 2173 3
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... the humid sentiment of the earlier poem is a new determination, inspired largely by Williams, to pierce the haze, to grasp things, people – ‘ourselves!’ – in the immediacy of perception. (Only the ‘dreamlike continuum’ could have found a place in ‘April’, but it would never have been used to describe a freeway.) After her first ...

Johnson’s Business

Keith Walker, 7 August 1980

A Dictionary of the English Language 
by Samuel Johnson.
Times, 2558 pp., £45, June 1980, 0 7230 0228 2
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Dictionary Johnson: Samuel Johnson’s Middle Years 
by James Clifford.
Heinemann, 372 pp., £10, February 1980, 0 434 13805 3
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... by Lawrence Lipking in his important book, The Ordering of the Arts in 18th-Century England – Charles Burney’s History of Music, for example, Joshua Reynolds’s Discourses on Art and Johnson’s own Lives of the Poets. The Oxford History of English Literature hasn’t ‘superceded’ Johnson’s Lives, and there’s a sense in which we must say that ...

Wasp in a Bottle

John Sturrock, 10 February 1994

Charles Sanders Peirce 
by Joseph Brent.
Indiana, 388 pp., £28.50, January 1993, 0 253 31267 1
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The Esssential Peirce: Vol. I 
edited by Nathan Houser and Christian Koesel.
Indiana, 399 pp., £17.99, November 1992, 0 253 20721 5
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... brilliant and outstanding mathematician to appear in America before the Civil War’. Benjamin Pierce was by all accounts a terror, eccentric, intolerant (especially of the Boston Irish) and fearsomely bad-tempered. Looking morosely back on his own life in old age, his son Charles blamed his father for having passed down ...

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