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Frank Kermode: Atonement by Ian McEwan, 4 October 2001

by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 372 pp., £16.99, September 2001, 0 224 06252 2
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... sent a novella called Two Figures by a Fountain to Horizon. It was not accepted, but the editor, Cyril Connolly (or anyway someone who signs himself simply as ‘C.C.’), wrote her a letter running to over a thousand words, with favourable comment on sentences we have already admired. The implication is that the present novel is an expansion of that early ...

Boofy’s Bill

Alex Harvey, 18 September 1997

... drinking tea in the attendant’s room of public lavatories, scratching at the white painted glass to get a better look at the courtships taking place on the other side: some officers were said to take an ‘unhealthy’ interest in their work and were themselves arrested for importuning. Cottaging, like gardening, seems to have brought together a ...


Julian Barnes: On the Booker, 12 November 1987

... that the bookshops can shift. They can further reflect that whereas in 1972 the three judges were Cyril Connolly, George Steiner and Elizabeth Bowen, in 1987 a television newscaster, by virtue of having written a biography of Viv Richards, was at least more ‘literary’ than one of the other judges. And then the novelists had better conclude that the only ...

Seeing yourself dead

Nicolas Tredell, 21 February 1991

Love in a Life 
by Andrew Motion.
Faber, 62 pp., £11.99, March 1991, 0 571 16101 4
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Three Variations on the Theme of Harm: Selected Poetry and Prose 
by Douglas Oliver.
Paladin, 255 pp., £6.99, November 1990, 0 586 08962 4
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Spoils of War 
by John Eppel.
Carrefour Press, 48 pp., August 1989, 0 620 13315 5
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Music for Brass 
by Brian Waltham.
Peterloo, 64 pp., £5.95, November 1990, 1 871471 20 6
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by Rosamund Stanhope.
Peterloo, 64 pp., £5.95, November 1990, 1 871471 19 2
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... on a train to St Pancras to deliver, to his sovereign, the unique bloom of a lily, enclosed in a glass bubble. The man is a harbinger of death, showing how the bloom in its misty bubble is dead as a stone, how the beat of my heart in time with his journey is steadily slower. Other poems recall the mother in a hospital bed, fed with oxygen through a tube in ...

Belgravia Cockney

Christopher Tayler: On being a le Carré bore, 25 January 2007

The Mission Song 
by John le Carré.
Hodder, 339 pp., £17.99, September 2006, 9780340921968
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... of beef’ and ‘breast of chicken from the jar’ fed to the convalescing Leamas to the ‘glass-fronted sentry box with a “Scenes of England” calendar and a line of mossy telephones’ in the secret service’s lobby in Tinker Tailor, the surface realism generated by the vigilant class arrangements is assisted by le Carré’s command of gloomy ...

Astral Projection

Alison Light: The Case of the Croydon Poltergeist, 17 December 2020

The Haunting of Alma Fielding: A True Ghost Story 
by Kate Summerscale.
Bloomsbury, 345 pp., £18.99, October, 978 1 4088 9545 0
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... all apparently of their own accord. While they were gathered in the front parlour, a wine glass escaped a locked cabinet in the kitchen and smashed; Alma’s teacup and saucer rose from her hands, the saucer splitting neatly in mid-air; a huge piece of coal in the grate careered across the living room and slammed into the wall. On an inside page the ...

Who is Lucian Freud?

Rosemary Hill: John Craxton goes to Crete, 21 October 2021

John Craxton: A Life of Gifts 
by Ian Collins.
Yale, 383 pp., £25, May, 978 0 300 25529 4
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... home met Peter Watson. In Watson, the heir to the Maypole Dairy Company fortune, and founder with Cyril Connolly and Stephen Spender of Horizon, Craxton found a friend, an indulgent patron and a way into the avant-garde. He had a narrow brush with conscription, from which he was exempted because, according to the sergeant who gave him the news, ‘You’d be ...

On Some Days of the Week

Colm Tóibín: Mrs Oscar Wilde, 10 May 2012

Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde 
by Franny Moyle.
John Murray, 374 pp., £9.99, February 2012, 978 1 84854 164 1
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The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition 
by Oscar Wilde, edited by Nicholas Frankel.
Harvard, 295 pp., £25.95, April 2011, 978 0 674 05792 0
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... with tiles designed by William Morris, and its staircase led to a corridor illuminated by stained glass designed by Edward Burne-Jones.’ By the end of 1890 Constance and Lady Mount-Temple had become so close that Constance was referring to her as her ‘mother’. When she was ill at Christmas, Lady Mount-Temple visited her. On 26 December she ...

Biscuits. Oh good!

Anna Vaux: Antonia White, 27 May 1999

Antonia White 
by Jane Dunn.
Cape, 484 pp., £20, November 1998, 9780224036191
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... warned by her mother that something so appalling was going to happen to her that she should put a glass of milk and a plate of biscuits by her bedside to console her when it was all over, left her new husband drinking downstairs and went to bed to wait for him. She was later woken as he stumbled in, glanced in her direction, mumbled, ‘Biscuits. Oh ...

Baffled at a Bookcase

Alan Bennett: My Libraries, 28 July 2011

... a flight of marble steps under open arches, through brass-railed swing doors panelled in stained glass which by 1941 was just beginning to buckle. Ahead was the Adults’ Library, lofty, airy and inviting; to the right was the Junior Library, a low dark room made darker by the books which, regardless of their contents, had been bound in heavy boards of ...

Further Left

R.W. Johnson, 16 August 1990

Prepared for the worst: Selected Essays and Minority Reports 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Hogarth, 357 pp., £9.99, July 1990, 0 7012 0903 8
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Blood, Class and Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Chatto, 398 pp., £18, July 1990, 0 7011 3361 9
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... too respectful of Henry Kissinger. Hitchens is at his best when on the attack. He can’t stand Cyril Connolly, whom he sees as a precious old reactionary: ‘another dose of the familiar compound ... some rackety travelling, a tincture of furtive sex (with much sniggering about lesbians), and the business of voyaging long distances the better to fret about ...


Michael Church, 9 October 1986

The Children of the Souls: A Tragedy of the First World War 
by Jeanne Mackenzie.
Chatto, 276 pp., £14.95, June 1986, 9780701128470
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Voices from the Spanish Civil War: Personal Recollections of Scottish Volunteers in Republican Spain 1936-39 
edited by Ian MacDougall, by Victor Kiernan.
Polygon, 369 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 948275 19 7
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The Shallow Grave: A Memoir of the Spanish Civil War 
by Walter Gregory, edited by David Morris and Anthony Peters.
Gollancz, 183 pp., £10.95, June 1986, 0 575 03790 3
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Spanish Front: Writers on the Civil War 
edited by Valentine Cunningham.
Oxford, 388 pp., £15, July 1986, 0 19 212258 4
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The Spanish Cockpit 
by Franz Borkenau.
Pluto, 303 pp., £4.95, July 1986, 0 7453 0188 6
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The Spanish Civil War 1936-39 
by Paul Preston.
Weidenfeld, 184 pp., £10.95, June 1986, 0 297 78891 4
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Images of the Spanish Civil War 
by Raymond Carr.
Allen and Unwin, 192 pp., £14.95, July 1986, 0 04 940089 4
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... promised goods, and Cunningham makes the mistake of laying fictional extracts by Sartre, Malraux, Cyril Connolly and Graham Greene alongside factual accounts which blast them off the page. The Chicago reporter Jay Allen catches the tail-end of the Badajoz massacre, where the bull ring was inches deep in blood, and he watches a workman stopped in the street to ...

The World of School

John Bayley, 28 September 1989

The Brideshead Generation: Evelyn Waugh and his Friends 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Weidenfeld, 523 pp., £17.95, September 1989, 0 297 79320 9
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Osbert: A Portrait of Osbert Lancaster 
by Richard Boston.
Collins, 256 pp., £17.50, August 1989, 0 00 216324 1
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Ackerley: A Life of J.R. Ackerley 
by Peter Parker.
Constable, 465 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 09 469000 6
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... they possess in Lewis Carroll or in Kafka. The chapel at the great house, with its Art Nouveau glass and trappings, is based on the church at Madresfield, the Lygon house near Bristol. But that is mere corroborative detail: much more in keeping with true Waugh fantasy is Sebastian’s sudden whim of taking Charles Ryder to visit his old nanny at ...


Mary-Kay Wilmers, 27 July 1989

Jigsaw: An Unsentimental Education 
by Sybille Bedford.
Hamish Hamilton, 328 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 241 12572 3
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... sea and sky were clear; living was cheap; there were few motor-cars, there were few people.’ (Cyril Connolly hadn’t yet got there.) And Elizabeth David herself couldn’t have found fault with the food. Her mother for the time being was calm, a pleasure to be with. ‘So there we sat Chez Schwob, my mother and I, sun-warmed, looking at the sea and ...

A Cheat, a Sharper and a Swindler

Brian Young: Warren Hastings, 24 May 2001

Dawning of the Raj: The Life and Trials of Warren Hastings 
by Jeremy Bernstein.
Aurum, 319 pp., £19.99, March 2001, 1 85410 753 4
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... fellows of All Souls, both lawyers, also had reason to be interested in Hastings at the time: Cyril Radcliffe served on the Boundary Commission for India, while the egregiously indolent John Sparrow would shortly be asked if he would provide a constitution for Pakistan, a request about which he made the characteristic observation, ‘Declined: too busy ...

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