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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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... Before 1922 Hugh MacDiarmid did not exist. And only Christopher Murray Grieve would have dared to invent him. Alan Bold’s valuable biography points out that when the 30-year-old Grieve began to write in the Scottish Chapbook under the pseudonym ‘M’Diarmid’, he was already editing the magazine under his own name, reviewing for it as ‘Martin Gillespie’, and employing himself as its Advertising Manager (and occasional contributor), ‘A ...

Corncob Caesar

Murray Sayle, 6 February 1997

Old Soldiers Never Die: The Life of Douglas MacArthur 
by Geoffrey Perret.
Deutsch, 663 pp., £20, October 1996, 9780233990026
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... deal by a crooked mayor who was later murdered. We still don’t know what to think about General Douglas MacArthur; almost all of us, it seems, would rather forget him. Except writers. There have been more than a dozen biographies of MacArthur. Part of the fascination is his contradictoriness: could the same MacArthur really have been a military genius, a ...

Lords loses out

R.W. Johnson: Basil D’Oliveira and racism in sport, 16 December 2004

Basil D’Oliveira: Cricket and Conspiracy: The Untold Story 
by Peter Oborne.
Little, Brown, 274 pp., £16.99, June 2004, 0 316 72572 2
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Reflections on a Life in Sport 
by Sam Ramsamy and Edward Griffiths.
Greenhouse, 168 pp., £7.99, July 2004, 0 620 32251 9
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... the possibility of D’Oliveira being chosen for the tour. Oborne has somehow prevailed on Bruce Murray of Wits University, who has spent years going through the archives to piece together what really happened, to make his research available to him – a remarkable act of generosity, for this should really have been ...

Davie’s Rap

Neil Corcoran, 25 January 1990

Under Briggflatts: A History of Poetry in Great Britain 1960-1988 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 261 pp., £18.95, October 1989, 0 85635 820 7
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Annunciations 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 55 pp., £5.95, November 1989, 0 19 282680 8
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Possible Worlds 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 68 pp., £6.95, September 1989, 0 19 282660 3
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The boys who stole the funeral: A Novel Sequence 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 71 pp., £6.95, October 1989, 0 85635 845 2
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... newly and very anciently landed – imagining an Australia both futuristic and aboriginal; and Les Murray’s The boys who stole the funeral, first published in Australia in 1980, also concludes with startling aboriginal visions. Versions of reconciliation and appeasement, they construct a new Christianised-pagan myth of blood sacrifice, eucharistic ...

Drinking and Spewing

Sally Mapstone: The Variousness of Robert Fergusson, 25 September 2003

‘Heaven-Taught Fergusson’: Robert Burns’s Favourite Scottish Poet 
edited by Robert Crawford.
Tuckwell, 240 pp., £14.99, August 2002, 1 86232 201 5
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... Fergusson’ want to discuss Fergusson’s ‘Elegy, on the Death of Scots Music’. Douglas Dunn tells us that ‘spirited elegy, of a kind that trades more on celebration than mourning, is characteristic of the male Scottish mind.’ It takes a while to recover from the massiveness of that statement, and its inappropriateness to, say, Robin ...

Grand Old Sod

Paul Driver: William Walton, 12 December 2002

The Selected Letters of William Walton 
edited by Malcolm Hayes.
Faber, 526 pp., £30, January 2002, 0 571 20105 9
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William Walton: Muse of Fire 
by Stephen Lloyd.
Boydell, 332 pp., £45, June 2001, 9780851158037
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William Walton, the Romantic Loner: A Centenary Portrait Album 
by Humphrey Burton and Maureen Murray.
Oxford, 182 pp., £25, January 2002, 0 19 816235 9
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... to Britten about the premiere of Peter Grimes, he is also shooting off a note to the copyist Roy Douglas asking: ‘Did you see or hear “Grimy Peter”?’ Asperities about fellow composers are in plentiful supply. Tippett was another admired colleague/bugbear. To Douglas in 1945 he describes him as ‘arse over ...

Last Exit

Murray Sayle, 27 November 1997

The Last Governor: Chris Patten and the Handover of Hong Kong 
by Jonathan Dimbleby.
Little, Brown, 461 pp., £22.50, July 1997, 0 316 64018 2
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In Pursuit of British Interests: Reflections on Foreign Policy under Margaret Thatcher and John Major 
by Percy Cradock.
Murray, 228 pp., £18.99, September 1997, 0 7195 5464 0
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Hong Kong Under Chinese Rule: The Economic and Political Implications of Reversion 
edited by Warren Cohen and Li Zhao.
Cambridge, 255 pp., £45, August 1997, 0 521 62158 5
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The Hong Kong Advantage 
by Michael Enright, Edith Scott and David Dodwell.
Oxford, 369 pp., £20, July 1997, 0 19 590322 6
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... of the lease was first raised with China by the most far-sighted of Hong Kong’s governors, Sir Murray (now Lord) Maclehose, during the first visit ever by a governor to Beijing in March 1979. The tall, dignified Scot had seen a vision of the Hong Kong that was to be; under his aegis, the first harbour tunnel and subway line were begun, and the new ...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies, 26 January 2012

An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
by J. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... the Hollywood CP, after the ‘fair seed-time’ of the Popular Front) are almost all unwatchable. Murray Kempton in Part of Our Time entertained himself by naming some of them: They Shall Have Music, I Stole a Million, Army Girl, The Kid from Kokomo, Mama Runs Wild, Tenth Avenue Kid. One can think of exceptions (Angels with Dirty Faces, for instance), but the ...

Hypnotise Her

Thomas Jones: Axel Munthe’s exaggerations, 29 January 2009

Axel Munthe: The Road to San Michele 
by Bengt Jangfeldt, translated by Harry Watson.
Tauris, 381 pp., £25, March 2008, 978 1 84511 720 7
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... Munthe. His extraordinary memoir, The Story of San Michele, was published by John Murray in 1929, when Munthe was 72. The first edition rapidly sold out; it went into its 20th impression in January 1931, and has been in print ever since.* The reasons for its wide and enduring appeal have to do partly with its subject-matter – Munthe led a ...

Sweeno’s Beano

Nigel Wheale: MacSweeney, Kinsella and Harrison, 1 October 1998

The Book of Demons 
by Barry MacSweeney.
Bloodaxe, 109 pp., £7.95, September 1997, 1 85224 414 3
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Poems 1980-94 
by John Kinsella.
Bloodaxe, 352 pp., £9.95, April 1999, 1 85224 453 4
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The Silo: A Pastoral Symphony 
by John Kinsella.
Arc, 108 pp., £7.95, January 1997, 1 900072 12 2
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The Kangaroo Farm 
by Martin Harrison.
Paper Bark, 79 pp., £8.95, May 1998, 0 9586482 4 7
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... version of Thomas Chatterton’s (already fake) mode. Another poem in his ambit is probably Douglas Oliver’s The Infant and the Pearl (1985), a dream-allegorical confrontation in which malign powers are named with outlandish blazons such as ‘Zandra’, ‘Saatchi’ and ‘Margaret’. In a moving climax, Oliver’s dreamer lying ‘in my grey ...

Cave’s Plato

A.D. Nuttall, 7 July 1988

In Defence of Rhetoric 
by Brian Vickers.
Oxford, 508 pp., £40, February 1988, 0 19 812837 1
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Recognitions: A Study in Poetics 
by Terence Cave.
Oxford, 530 pp., £40, March 1988, 0 19 815849 1
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... rehabilitation of probability in relation to certainty – could have been strengthened had Douglas Lane Patey’s work been taken into account. But the general character of his method is clear. His defence of rhetoric is itself not rhetorical but rational. One senses that he would scorn the idea of persuading an academic reader by emotive ...

Must they twinkle?

John Sutherland, 1 August 1985

British Literary Magazines. Vol. III: The Victorian and Edwardian Age 1837-1913 
edited by Alvin Sullivan.
Greenwood, 560 pp., £88.50, December 1984, 0 313 24335 2
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The Book Book 
by Anthony Blond.
Cape, 226 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 224 02074 9
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... as a puritanically radical journal, under the influence of the ‘savage little Robespierre’, Douglas Jerrold. In 1846, Punch changes direction, and dedicates itself to apolitical fun. Dickens, among others, objected to the ensuing ‘eternal guffaw’ with its narcotic implication that nothing under the sun is serious or urgent. But Dickens’s own ...

The Powyses

D.A.N. Jones, 7 August 1980

After My Fashion 
by John Cowper Powys.
Picador, 286 pp., £2.50, June 1980, 0 330 26049 9
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Weymouth Sands 
by John Cowper Powys.
Picador, 567 pp., £2.95, June 1980, 0 330 26050 2
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Recollections of the Powys Brothers 
edited by Belinda Humfrey.
Peter Owen, 288 pp., £9.95, May 1980, 0 7206 0547 4
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John Cowper Powys and David Jones: A Comparative Study 
by Jeremy Hooker.
Enitharmon, 54 pp., £3.75, April 1979, 0 901111 85 6
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The Hollowed-Out Elder Stalk 
by Roland Mathias.
Enitharmon, 158 pp., £4.85, May 1979, 0 901111 87 2
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John Cowper Powys and the Magical Quest 
by Morine Krissdottir.
Macdonald, 218 pp., £8.95, February 1980, 0 354 04492 3
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... a novelist. The very title reminds us he was a Victorian, only two years younger than Lord Alfred Douglas. His most celebrated novels of English life were published in the 1930s. Then he moved to Wales, became very Cymric, historical and metaphysical; a sage, visited by disciples, he wrote of mysteries and antiquities until his death, aged 91, in ...

Bertie and Alys and Ottoline

Alan Ryan, 28 May 1992

The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell. Vol. I: The Private Years, 1884-1914 
edited by Nicholas Griffin.
Allen Lane, 553 pp., £25, March 1992, 0 7139 9023 6
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... he said of that time. Snobbery was an even less sympathetic part of the story. When Gilbert Murray got him to write The Problems of Philosophy for the Home University Library, Russell referred to the assignment contemptuously, described it as a ‘shilling shocker’, said it was ‘philosophy for the Midwest’ and intended to enlighten shop ...

The Whole Bustle

Siobhan Kilfeather, 9 January 1992

The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing 
edited by Seamus Deane.
Field Day Publications/Faber, 4044 pp., £150, November 1991, 0 946755 20 5
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... been specially translated for this work.’ That is untrue. There are the familiar translations by Douglas Hyde, Frank O’Connor, Cecile O’Rahilly, Standish O’Grady, Thomas Kinsella and others, as well as the contributing editors. The advantage here is that readers taken with these excerpts should be able to obtain fuller texts through libraries. There is ...

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