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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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... to be sure, was self-inflicted: while a few of his fellow Etonians (Cyril Connolly, Harold Acton) were bursting precociously into print, Orwell chose to slave away in Parisian kitchens even when he was coughing up blood, sleep in dosshouses while cadging the odd ten shillings off his bemused parents, put in a spot of portering ...

On the Lower Slopes

Stefan Collini: Greene’s Luck, 5 August 2010

Shades of Greene: One Generation of an English Family 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 580 pp., £25, August 2010, 978 0 224 07921 1
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... slender evidence. As an undergraduate, he was the contemporary of Evelyn Waugh, Cyril Connolly, Harold Acton and other gilded youths who expected the world to pay attention to them. As the editor of Oxford Outlook, he asked his father to try to persuade their Berkhamsted neighbour, the eminent historian G.M. Trevelyan, to contribute, while sending his ...

Unliterary, Unpolished, Unromantic

Charles Nicholl: ‘The Merchant of Prato’, 8 February 2018

The Merchant of Prato: Daily Life in a Medieval Italian City 
by Iris Origo.
Penguin, 400 pp., £10.99, May 2017, 978 0 241 29392 8
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... by heart, and surrounded by a posh, chattery, intellectual circle of Anglo-American expatriates: Harold Acton and his parents at La Pietra; Bernard and Mary Berenson at Villa I Tatti; the authors Janet Ross and Violet Paget (penname Vernon Lee); and streams of summer visitors including Edith Wharton and Vita Sackville-West. Though isolated from other ...

Daisy Chains

Emma Hogan: Sappho 1900, 20 May 2021

No Modernism without Lesbians 
by Diana Souhami.
Head of Zeus, 464 pp., £9.99, February, 978 1 78669 487 4
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... Sackville-West. They were together for a decade. ‘Princess Winnie taught Violet discretion,’ Harold Acton wrote. ‘It was rumoured with a whip.’But unlike Singer or Smyth, who was laughed at for wearing an evening dress hitched up with safety pins and using toilet roll to blow her nose, Souhami’s women are rarely figures of fun. They have ...
... company was sought by a younger generation of gifted men (Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell, Harold and Willie Acton, Ronald Firbank, Raymond Mortimer) who saw her as an intriguing survivor from the faded Yellow Book past. Encouraged by these, she published a slim volume containing her reminiscences of Wilde and his ...

Alternative Tories

José Harris, 23 April 1987

Baldwin 
by Roy Jenkins.
Collins, 204 pp., £12.95, March 1987, 9780002175869
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Rab: The Life of R.A. Butler 
by Anthony Howard.
Cape, 422 pp., £15, March 1987, 0 224 01862 0
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The Political Culture of Modern Britain: Studies in Memory of Stephen Koss 
edited by J.M.W. Bean.
Hamish Hamilton, 306 pp., £15, January 1987, 0 241 12026 8
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... private individual, whose placid exterior concealed a very highly-strung disposition: like Harold Macmillan, he achieved unflappability at the cost of acute psychic strain. His main conception of politics was not one of ambitious policy-formation, but of conserving and adapting the invisible constitutional structures of national life. His political ...

The King and I

Alan Bennett, 30 January 1992

... it turned out that as an undergraduate he had been one of the group round Evelyn Waugh and Harold Acton. But whereas most of that charmed circle went down without taking a degree, Pares turned his back on all that, took a First in Greats and was elected a fellow of All Souls. Thirty years later in December 1954, Evelyn Waugh wrote to Nancy ...

Separate Development

Patricia Craig, 10 December 1987

The Female Form 
by Rosalind Miles.
Routledge, 227 pp., £15.95, July 1987, 0 7102 1008 6
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Feminism and Poetry 
by Jan Montefiore.
Pandora, 210 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 86358 162 5
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Nostalgia and Sexual Difference 
by Janice Doane and Devon Hodges.
Methuen, 169 pp., £20, June 1987, 9780416015317
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Reading Woman 
by Mary Jacobus.
Methuen, 316 pp., £8.95, November 1987, 0 416 92460 3
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The New Feminist Criticism 
edited by Elaine Showalter.
Virago, 403 pp., £11.95, March 1986, 0 86068 722 8
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Reviewing the Reviews 
Journeyman, 104 pp., £4.50, June 1987, 1 85172 007 3Show More
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... men and their modes, even to the extent of calling themselves George Eliot, or Currer, Ellis or Acton Bell. (Odd that the imitators should be inimitable.) No applause for authors laying claim to a tradition, and working within it: just a demand that gender should proclaim itself all over the prose. (Try applying this argument to writing by men, and you will ...

Best Known for His Guzzleosity

Helen Hackett: Shakespeare’s Authors, 11 March 2010

Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? 
by James Shapiro.
Faber, 367 pp., £20, April 2010, 978 0 571 23576 6
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... the end of all his own poetry – the hero of every tale – the chief object of every landscape. Harold, Lara, Manfred, and a crowd of other characters, were universally considered merely as loose incognitos of Byron; and there is every reason to believe that he meant them to be so considered.’ It’s hardly surprising, then, that 19th-century readers took ...

So long as you drub the foe

Geoffrey Best: Army-Society Relations, 11 May 2006

Military Identities: The Regimental System, The British Army and The British People c.1870-2000 
by David French.
Oxford, 404 pp., £45, July 2005, 0 19 925803 1
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... attempt in 1976 to interest some officers at a Sandhurst dinner to ‘stand for Britain’ against Harold Wilson and the political class generally. His reception was so frosty that he went home early. Civil-military relations in Britain are no problem. Army-society relations are another matter, and one that has long been as important to the British as to any ...

London Lefties

Paul Foot, 17 September 1987

If voting changed anything, they’d abolish it 
by Ken Livingstone.
Collins, 367 pp., £12, August 1987, 0 00 217770 6
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A Taste of Power: The Politics of Local Economics 
edited by Maureen Mackintosh and Hilary Wainwright.
Verso, 441 pp., £22.95, July 1987, 0 86091 174 8
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... classic case is the work done by some of the contributors to this book among transport workers at Acton and at Aldenham. One shop steward put it bluntly: ‘Either you can fight and say no – forget the information or whatever it is, we’re going to fight for our jobs. Or you can go up the avenue you’re choosing, to seek to destroy the argument for ...

Little More than an Extension of France

Hugo Young: The British Isles, 6 January 2000

The Isles: A History 
by Norman Davies.
Macmillan, 1222 pp., £30, November 1999, 9780333763704
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... well as by a channel to the south. The mental planet that is peopled by Alfred and the Danes and Harold and the Conqueror has no place whatsoever for Hywell Dda, for Brian Boru, for Kenneth Mac Alpin or Macbeth.’ The culprits here were the Victorian historians, writing from and into their imperial time, as if all previous events had led up to the glorious ...

Other People’s Mail

Bernard Porter: MI5, 19 November 2009

The Defence of the Realm: The Authorised History of MI5 
by Christopher Andrew.
Allen Lane, 1032 pp., £30, October 2009, 978 0 7139 9885 6
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... to suspect certain spooks or ex-spooks of plotting – effectively or otherwise – to bring down Harold Wilson. It was certainly not – on its own – evidence of mental illness on Wilson’s part. MI5 was bound to be a likely suspect: highly secretive, socially exclusive, largely unaccountable, right-wing, reputedly clever, and with all kinds of tricks up ...

Chianti in Khartoum

Nick Laird: Louis MacNeice, 3 March 2011

Letters of Louis MacNeice 
edited by Jonathan Allison.
Faber, 768 pp., £35, May 2010, 978 0 571 22441 8
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... in Lancashire, not Tyrone; Housman wrote A Shropshire Lad, not ‘The Shropshire Lad’; and the Harold to whom a Chinese goose is bequeathed in ‘Auden and MacNeice: Their Last Will and Testament’ is Acton, not Action. Some words listed as indecipherable were decoded in Stallworthy’s biography, and in a few places ...

The Tower

Andrew O’Hagan, 7 June 2018

... nonsense. I was swearing at the radio: “I’ve got the list here! There’s nobody further than Acton! Nobody had been sent outside West London! And we gave people a lot of money. The council had said straightaway: “Give people as much money as you can.”’The prime minister asked Paget-Brown on the phone if the families were receiving money. ‘Five ...

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