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Diary

Karl Miller: Ten Years of the LRB, 26 October 1989

... to be ‘judgmental’. Reviewers are paid to be judgmental, and few are more judgmental than D.J. Taylor. Writing in the Independent during the present run-up to the Booker Prize award, he asks: ‘Where, in any international literary framework, is the British writer who matters?’ Not one, he suggests, can stand comparison with Marquez, Kundera, Tom ...

Flying the flag

Patrick Parrinder, 18 November 1993

The Modern British Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 512 pp., £20, October 1993, 0 436 20132 1
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After the War: The Novel and English Society since 1945 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 310 pp., £17.99, September 1993, 9780701137694
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... Malcolm Bradbury is a self-conscious progressive, but he writes the old kind of history. D.J. Taylor is a self-conscious reactionary whose book is a rather strange example of the new kind. Taylor’s belief, set out bluntly in his introduction, is that no modern English writer can ‘hold a candle’ to Dickens or ...

Wife Overboard

John Sutherland: Thackeray, 20 January 2000

Thackeray 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 494 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 7011 6231 7
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... study to integrate a wealth of Thackeray illustration into its text, something that D.J. Taylor also does effectively. Taylor’s book represents a third generation of biography. His judgment on Thackeray is generous, but much less inclusive than Ray’s. The basis of ...

A Toast at the Trocadero

Terry Eagleton: D.J. Taylor, 18 February 2016

The Prose Factory: Literary Life in England since 1918 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 501 pp., £25, January 2016, 978 0 7011 8613 5
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... D.J. Taylor​ is the most charitable of critics. However absurd, third-rate or pretentious the authors he examines, he can always find something to say in their favour. In this latest study, he even puts in a good word for the preposterous Sitwell family, having first given them a roasting for their insufferable self-importance, on the grounds that Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell were at least serious about literature ...

Wake up. Foul mood. Detest myself

Ysenda Maxtone Graham: ‘Lost Girls’, 19 December 2019

Lost Girls: Love, War and Literature, 1939-51 
by D.J. Taylor.
Constable, 388 pp., £25, September 2019, 978 1 4721 2686 3
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... Rather​ D.J. Taylor than me, when it comes to untangling the unbelievably complicated and messy love lives of the so-called Horizon circle: the people who clustered adoringly around Cyril Connolly during his years as editor of the short-lived literary magazine (1939-50). Was Connolly still carrying on his affair with Diana Witherby when he started his affair with Lys (while still married to Jean and while Lys was still married to Ian)? Was Barbara Skelton having an affair with the Polish war artist Feliks Topolski when Peter Quennell came onto the scene, still married to his third wife, Glur, but making Topolski so jealous that the men resorted to fisticuffs over Barbara? What made Janetta, still married to Hugh Slater, fall in love with Kenneth Sinclair-Loutit, and would that relationship last?Taylor wades deep into the cigaretty fug of that small literary circle awash with till-boredom-do-us-part love affairs conducted in rented accommodation ...

Snob Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Modern Snobbery, 3 November 2016

... The bookseller was a snob about snobbery and thought it was vulgar to talk about class. D.J. Taylor is perhaps a literary snob for Cooper gets no mention in his much less enjoyable The New Book of Snobs: A Definitive Guide to Modern Snobbery (Little, Brown, £16.99). His first mistake is to attempt a definition rather than rely on examples. He suggests ...

Reach-Me-Down Romantic

Terry Eagleton: For and Against Orwell, 19 June 2003

George Orwell 
by Gordon Bowker.
Little, Brown, 495 pp., £20, May 2003, 0 316 86115 4
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Orwell: The Life 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 448 pp., £20, June 2003, 0 7011 6919 2
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Orwell: Life and Times 
by Scott Lucas.
Haus, 180 pp., £8.99, April 2003, 1 904341 33 0
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... judicious (though not hopelessly balanced) accounts, the new biographies by Gordon Bowker and D.J. Taylor confirm what the law of averages might have led one to suspect: some of this is true, some of it questionable and the rest of it false. (Scott Lucas, by contrast, thinks almost all of it true.) Orwell was indeed unsociable, anti-feminist and ...

Diary

Giles Gordon: Experimental Sideshows, 7 October 1993

... three evenings in September to his achievements as writer and film-maker. Surprisingly, D.J. Taylor doesn’t even mention him in his new survey of post-war fiction. In the late Fifties and after, Kingsley Amis, Johns Wain and Braine, Alan Sillitoe and Co struck a new, demotic note. The ‘traditional’ English novel of good and bad manners was ...

Diary

Gillian Darley: John Evelyn and his gardens, 8 June 2006

... In Evelyn’s own day, young trees were more usually shipped from Holland. I come from what D.J. Taylor has called the ‘pavement-pounding’ school of biography, perhaps particularly because buildings and landscape have been my preoccupation for so long. When I was researching my biography of John Soane I worked in his own house, which he had ensured (by ...

I say, damn it, where are the beds?

David Trotter: Orwell’s Nose and Prose, 16 February 2017

Orwell’s Nose: A Pathological Biography 
by John Sutherland.
Reaktion, 256 pp., £15, August 2016, 978 1 78023 648 3
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Or Orwell: Writing and Democratic Socialism 
by Alex Woloch.
Harvard, 378 pp., £35.95, January 2016, 978 0 674 28248 3
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... health, or lack of it. This recklessness has attracted the attention of previous biographers. D.J. Taylor sees in it a ‘detachment from physical sensation’ that can sometimes appear ‘faintly inhuman’. Sutherland’s suspicions are darker still. Virtually everything Orwell did in life, he notes, ‘was bad for his lungs and his lifespan’. So why did ...

Early Kermode

Stefan Collini, 13 August 2020

... career was concerned (he took up the first of a series of distinguished chairs, the John Edward Taylor Professorship of English at Manchester, the following year), and a book of that sort was more widely reviewed in those days than it would be now. But was the publication of that short book, largely about the Romantic roots of modernist poetry and ...

My Wife

Jonathan Coe, 21 December 1989

Soho Square II 
edited by Ian Hamilton.
Bloomsbury, 287 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 0 7475 0506 3
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... alive. There is still something to be said for this view, and I was reminded of it by D.J. Taylor’s snooty mimicry of textbook journalese in ‘On The Strip’, which purports to describe life on Sunset Strip, Hollywood Boulevard (‘a clotted heatscape of a place, a serpentine coil of stores and diners split in two by a wide thread of tarmac, hazy ...

For the duration

John McManners, 16 June 1983

The Oxford Book of Death 
edited by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 351 pp., £9.50, April 1983, 0 19 214129 5
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Idéologies et Mentalités 
by Michel Vovelle.
Maspéro, 264 pp., £7.15, May 1982, 2 7071 1289 5
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... Dostoevsky. As a cleric of the established Church, I am ranking high. St Augustine, Bede, Jeremy Taylor, Parson Woodforde and Kierkegaard get only one mention each (and strictly speaking, the gloomy Dane was a frondeur on the fringes of establishment piety and ought not to count). Bossuet, Bunyan and George Herbert equal me, but again, only Herbert comes ...

Second Chances

Donald Davie, 22 July 1993

Collected Poems 
by Patricia Beer.
Carcanet, 216 pp., £18.95, July 1990, 9780856357886
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Friend of Heraclitus 
by Patricia Beer.
Carcanet, 59 pp., £6.95, March 1993, 1 85754 026 3
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... in a Modern Church’. This persona says: I long for John Donne, Lancelot Andrewes and Jeremy Taylor To preach, telling me without consultation Something I did not realise I ought to know. Very proper, once again. But why are these sentiments not subscribed: ‘Patricia Beer’? Why instead do we have this persona who has been reading, all too ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2014, 8 January 2015

... and thus a member of Magdalen senior common room. It was a daunting community, with A.J.P. Taylor, Gilbert Ryle and C.S. Lewis regularly met with on high table. I didn’t have much small talk but what was the point as one seldom got a word in with Taylor and had I had anything to chat to Ryle about it would have ...

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