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Dear Sphinx

Penelope Fitzgerald, 1 December 1983

The Little Ottleys 
by Ada Leverson and Sally Beauman.
Virago, 543 pp., £3.95, November 1982, 0 86068 300 1
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TheConstant Nymph 
by Margaret Kennedy and Anita Brookner.
Virago, 326 pp., £3.50, August 1983, 0 86068 354 0
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The Constant Novelist: A Study of Margaret Kennedy 1896-1967 
by Violet Powell.
Heinemann, 219 pp., £10.95, June 1983, 0 434 59951 4
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... things that could happen to a young man,’ persuaded her to turn novelist. Her grandson, Francis Wyndham, has told us that she hated writing,* though it seems almost perverse of her not to enjoy something she did so well. Six novels came out between 1907 and 1917. After that, Grant Richards – although she was in love with him – could only ...

Diary

Susannah Clapp: On Angela Carter, 12 March 1992

... that ‘there must be more to life than this.’ With that remark in mind, the writer and critic Francis Wyndham observed that rich prose such as her own might make one feel that ‘there must be less to life than this.’ Angela, who liked ‘a bit of flash’ and was ‘all for pretension’, would not have minded the point. Her fiction is ...

Adulterers’ Distress

Philip Horne, 21 July 1983

A Nail on the Head 
by Clare Boylan.
Hamish Hamilton, 135 pp., £7.95, July 1983, 0 241 11001 7
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New Stories 8: An Arts Council Anthology 
edited by Karl Miller.
Hutchinson, 227 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 9780091523800
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The Handyman 
by Penelope Mortimer.
Allen Lane, 199 pp., £6.95, May 1983, 0 7139 1364 9
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Open the Door 
by Rosemary Manning.
Cape, 180 pp., £7.95, June 1983, 0 224 02112 5
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A Boy’s Own Story 
by Edmund White.
Picador, 218 pp., £2.50, July 1983, 0 330 28151 8
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... psychic liberation. There are three reminiscential character-sketches: ‘The Half Brother’ by Francis Wyndham, an account of a black sheep step-brother; ‘Remembrance’ by Susan Boyd, which touches on the subject of a dead grandmother; and ‘Trotsky’s Other Son’ by Carol Singh, a story describing a Marxist who ran a bookshop in a Nottingham ...

Kitty still pines for his dearest Dub

Andrew O’Hagan: Gossip, 6 February 2014

Becoming a Londoner: A Diary 
by David Plante.
Bloomsbury, 534 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 1 4088 3975 1
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The Animals: Love Letters between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy 
edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 481 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 0 7011 8678 4
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... must have seemed so young as he asked his questions: ‘How did you get to Berlin?’ I asked Francis [Bacon]. He seemed to like being asked questions about his life. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘my father found me wearing my mother’s underclothes, and to put me right he sent me to a friend – like my father, a horse trainer. This was in Ireland. I left home ...

Heart-Squasher

Julian Barnes: A Portrait of Lucian Freud, 5 December 2013

Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud 
by Martin Gayford.
Thames and Hudson, 248 pp., £12.95, March 2012, 978 0 500 28971 6
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Breakfast with Lucian: A Portrait of the Artist 
by Geordie Greig.
Cape, 260 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 224 09685 0
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... who used to read aloud to his girlfriends from Flaubert’s letters, and portrayed the writer Francis Wyndham with a battered but recognisable copy of the first volume of the Belknap edition in his fist, would have agreed. But having ‘no biography’ is impossible: the nearest you can get is to have no published biography in your own ...

One Thing

John Bayley, 22 November 1990

Jean Rhys 
by Carole Angier.
Deutsch, 780 pp., £15.99, November 1990, 0 233 98597 2
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A Lot to Ask: A Life of Barbara Pym 
by Hazel Holt.
Macmillan, 308 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 333 40614 1
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... come to a predictable end. Meanwhile Jean had vanished altogether from the literary scene. Even Francis Wyndham, who had become a great admirer, thought he was rediscovering a dead author. Even the publisher thought so. ‘I don’t know why Constable thought I was dead,’ Jean said, when the BBC eventually ran her to earth in 1956. ‘It does seem ...

Gangs

D.A.N. Jones, 8 January 1987

The Old School: A Study 
by Simon Raven.
Hamish Hamilton, 139 pp., £12, September 1986, 0 241 11929 4
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The Best Years of their Lives: The National Service Experience 1945-63 
by Trevor Royle.
Joseph, 288 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 7181 2459 6
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Murder without Conviction: Inside the World of the Krays 
by John Dickson.
Sidgwick, 164 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 9780283994074
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Inside ‘Private Eye’ 
by Peter McKay.
Fourth Estate, 192 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 947795 80 4
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Malice in Wonderland: Robert Maxwell v. ‘Private Eye’ 
by Robert Maxwell, John Jackson, Peter Donnelly and Joe Haines.
Macdonald, 191 pp., £10.95, December 1986, 0 356 14616 2
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... David Bailey, who published a handsome photograph of the Twins, with an eloquent caption by Francis Wyndham, comparing them with Humphrey Bogart. It was the little public-school gang of Private Eye that broke through the hype: larger journals seemed awed by the potent Krays, the editors fearful of having their knees nailed to the furniture. The ...

Hairy Fairies

Rosemary Hill: Angela Carter, 10 May 2012

A Card from Angela Carter 
by Susannah Clapp.
Bloomsbury, 106 pp., £10, February 2012, 978 1 4088 2690 4
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... something of a high-wire act, risking bathos on the one side, forced extravaganza on the other. Francis Wyndham was not alone in feeling a certain weary exasperation, commenting of one of her books that ‘there must be less to life than this.’ Like her own Fevvers, however, Carter saw herself as committed to a death-defying act as a storyteller in ...

Home’s for suicides

Lucie Elven: Alfred Hayes’s Hollywood, 18 July 2019

The Girl on the Via Flaminia 
by Alfred Hayes.
Penguin, 151 pp., £7.99, August 2018, 978 0 241 34232 9
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My Face for the World to See 
by Alfred Hayes.
Penguin, 119 pp., £7.99, May 2018, 978 0 241 34230 5
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In Love 
by Alfred Hayes.
Penguin, 120 pp., £7.99, January 2018, 978 0 241 30713 7
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... prose was widely admired – especially in Britain. Angus Wilson, Julian Maclaren-Ross and Francis Wyndham all praised him, as did Elizabeth Bowen, who described In Love as a ‘little masterpiece’. One by one his books fell out of print, until the reissue last year of In Love, My Face for the World to See and The Girl on ...

False Moderacy

T.J. Clark: Picasso and Modern British Art, 22 March 2012

Picasso and Modern British Art 
Tate Britain, 15 February 2012 to 15 July 2012Show More
Mondrian Nicholson: In Parallel 
Courtauld Gallery, 16 February 2012 to 20 May 2012Show More
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... of the pseudo-culture of art from 1910 on; and off to one side there is Picasso-ism for real. Wyndham Lewis is a good example of the first; Gorky and de Kooning of the second. Francis Bacon started, so the Tate show demonstrates, as a diligent – too diligent – student of the second kind, battling away at the enigma ...

Francis and Vanessa

Peter Campbell, 15 March 1984

Francis Bacon 
by Michel Leiris, translated by John Weightman.
Phaidon, 271 pp., £50, September 1983, 0 7148 2218 3
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Vanessa Bell 
by Frances Spalding.
Weidenfeld, 399 pp., £12.95, August 1983, 0 297 78162 6
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The Omega Workshops 
by Judith Collins.
Secker, 310 pp., £15.95, January 1984, 0 436 10562 4
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The Omega Workshops 1913-1919: Decorative Arts of Bloomsbury 
Crafts Council, 96 pp., £6.95, March 1984, 0 903798 72 7Show More
The Omega Workshops: Alliance and Enmity in English Art 1911-1920 
Anthony d’Offay Gallery, 80 pp., £4.95, February 1984, 0 947564 00 4Show More
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... put out of Harry’s mind ... There was also the recurring discomfort of undue homage paid to Francis Bacon – a gathering menace. If Harry Bretton has survived in the limbo where fictional characters live ever after he will find Bacon as menacing as ever. He has not petered out, and even his critics admit his achievement. Peter Fuller who ‘turns ...

Great Thoughts

E.S. Turner, 7 May 1981

The Macmillan Treasury of Relevant Quotations 
edited by Edward Murphy.
Macmillan, 658 pp., £3.95, August 1980, 0 333 30038 6
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... his name relate to works by the unindexed George F. Woodberry (another English humorist, D. B. Wyndham-Lewis, has his entries indexed under Percy Wyndham Lewis). The genuine Wodehouse entries are not really vintage, which may well be the result of trying to find unhackneyed passages. Indeed, the search for the ...

Snouty

John Bayley, 4 June 1987

The Faber Book of Diaries 
edited by Simon Brett.
Faber, 498 pp., £12.95, March 1987, 0 571 13806 3
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A Lasting Relationship: Parents and Children over Three Centuries 
by Linda Pollock.
Fourth Estate, 319 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 947795 25 1
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... and difficulty would be all – the real lyricism of the thing can only flower on the page. Joan Wyndham, on the other hand, another diarist and contemporary of Pym who conveys the same inimitable sense of being a silly girl, or rather of wanting to be a silly girl, as the diary self, also likes to note the solid satisfactions of sex, how it took place in a ...

Rise and Fall of Radio Features

Marilyn Butler, 7 August 1980

Louis MacNeice in the BBC 
by Barbara Coulton.
Faber, 215 pp., £12.50, May 1980, 0 571 11537 3
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Best Radio Plays of 1979 
Eyre Methuen/BBC, 192 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 413 47130 6Show More
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... stopped in Egypt to see the sights and was observed to gaze for a long time at the Sphinx: ‘Francis Worsley commented that she probably couldn’t make head nor tail of him.’ MacNeice’s problem, in the words of his BBC colleague Jack Dillon, was that he was an introvert trying to be an extrovert. He badly needed to feel he belonged to a group, and ...

Bogey’s Clean Sweep

Michael Holroyd, 22 May 1980

The Life of Katherine Mansfield 
by Antony Alpers.
Cape, 466 pp., £9.50, May 1980, 0 224 01625 3
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... were united in their enthusiastic disgust over his bad taste. It is unusual, for instance, to find Wyndham Lewis (for whom Murry was merely a ‘crafty gushbag’) so overtaken in the matter of invective. Virginia Woolf, who saw in him a posturing little man with bad teeth and a profoundly perverted nature, wrote: ‘he has been rolling in dung, and smells ...

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