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Richard Altick, 22 December 1983

Lewis and Lewis 
by John Juxon.
Collins, 320 pp., £10.95, May 1983, 0 00 216476 0
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... fashionable daytime assignation. And he repeatedly advised his friend the journalist-politician Henry Labouchère, whose exposés in his weekly paper Truth embroiled him in as many libel suits as Private Eye. Lewis’s practice reflected the changing coloration of British crime. If none of the activities attributed to his clients was really new, some ...

Wrong Trowsers

E.S. Turner, 21 July 1994

A History of Men’s Fashion 
by Farid Chenoune, translated by Deke Dusinberre.
Flammarion/Thames & Hudson, 336 pp., £50, October 1993, 2 08 013536 8
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The Englishman’s Suit 
by Hardy Amies.
Quartet, 116 pp., £12, June 1994, 9780704370760
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... lines of ‘Pleased to meet you.’ ‘So I see.’ In essence, Chenoune’s book, like that of Hardy Amies, tells of the rise and near-eclipse of the suit, as evolved from the gentleman’s riding coat, and of the attempts by successive counter-cultures, delinquent and otherwise, to discredit it. In recent times ‘suit’ has been one of the dirtiest of ...
... He had a mind so fine that no idea could violate it’: T.S. Eliot writing of Henry James in the Little Review of August 1918. I want to take exception, not to the truth of Eliot’s pronouncement (he was right about James), but to the set of lofty assumptions calmly towering behind it. The young Eliot’s epigram summed up with cutting brevity a creed that for Modernists appeared beyond dispute ...

Art’ll fix it

John Bayley, 11 October 1990

The Penguin Book of Lies 
edited by Philip Kerr.
Viking, 543 pp., £15.99, October 1990, 0 670 82560 3
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... The imagination adores whatever can give the appearance of fact, as most good writers know. When Hardy tells us that the raindrops before a thunderstorm make spots on the road as large as nasturtium leaves, no reader is going to take him up on it. When Kipling tells us that a man’s blood on an Indian parade ground dries in the sun like ...

Part and Pasture

Frank Kermode, 5 December 1991

Collected Poems 
by Henry Reed, edited with an introduction by Jon Stallworthy.
Oxford, 166 pp., £20, October 1991, 0 19 212298 3
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... Henry Reed was a sad man but a funny man, and his poems are funny or sad – often, as in the celebrated ‘Lessons of the War’, both at once. I first met him in 1965, in the office of Robert Heilman, then the benevolent but firm head of the English Department at the University of Washington in Seattle. Calling to present my credentials, I walked into a row; Heilman benevolently firm, Reed furious, licensed to be furious ...

Horrors and Cream

Hugh Tulloch, 21 August 1980

On the Edge of Paradise 
by David Newsome.
Murray, 405 pp., £17.50, June 1980, 0 7195 3690 1
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... Fred’s dazzling ‘Tilling’ comedies, and has, further, been said of the later writings of Henry James. But Benson couldn’t understand the latter, didn’t like them, and strongly disapproved of the treacherous cult of young acolytes like Hugh Walpole and Percy Lubbock who lit incense at the feet of the master. ‘Life’s nothing – unless heroic ...

Self-Amused

Adam Phillips: Isaiah Berlin, 23 July 2009

Isaiah Berlin, Enlightening: Letters 1946-60 
edited by Henry Hardy and Jennifer Holmes.
Chatto, 844 pp., £35, June 2009, 978 0 7011 7889 5
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... Isaiah Berlin was returning from Paris in 1952 when the aeroplane – ‘it was an Air France: Air Chance is a better name’ – ‘caught fire and scenes of extraordinary panic occurred’. Berlin mentions this, jokily and in passing, in several letters, but Alice James, the wife of William James’s son Billy, gets the full story of the disaster that didn’t happen, at least to Berlin ...
... previous history of womankind.’ Opposition came, strangely, from the liberal scientist Thomas Henry Huxley. In reply to a telegram from Herbert Spencer asking support for the burial, Huxley wrote:   It can hardly be doubted that the proposal will be bitterly opposed, possibly with the raking up of past histories, which had better be forgotten. With ...

Squalor

Frank Kermode, 3 February 1983

Gissing: A Life in Books 
by John Halperin.
Oxford, 426 pp., £18.50, September 1982, 0 19 812677 8
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George Gissing: Critical Essays 
edited by Jean-Pierre Michaux.
Vision/Barnes and Noble, 214 pp., £11.95, March 1981, 0 85478 404 7
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... that sex was the real problem, the others being mere sequelae. The resemblance between Gissing and Hardy, whom he much admired, is only superficial. Hardy also thought marriage hopeless: ‘there is no satisfactory scheme for the conjunction of the sexes.’ But Hardy felt this thought as ...

Mrs G

John Bayley, 11 March 1993

Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 690 pp., £20, February 1993, 0 571 15182 5
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... of ideological complacence. On the contrary: her prose is always in too much of a rush (her cousin Henry Holland called her charming letters ‘a heterogeneous mass of nonsense’) ever to calm down and show itself pleased with itself. What is lacking is the note of intimacy, the tone so natural to Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Barbara Pym or Elizabeth Bowen ...

Just a smack at Grigson

Denis Donoghue, 7 March 1985

Montaigne’s Tower, and Other Poems 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Secker, 72 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 436 18806 6
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Collected Poems: 1963-1980 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 557 3
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The Faber Book of Reflective Verse 
edited by Geoffrey Grigson.
Faber, 238 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 571 13299 5
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Blessings, Kicks and Curses 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 279 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 558 1
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The Private Art: A Poetry Notebook 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 231 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 9780850315592
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Before the Romantics: An Anthology of the Enlightenment 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Salamander, 349 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 907540 59 7
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... Over the Thames, and over the Severn, The soul of white Tom   Shall float to Heaven – to Hardy’s ‘rather monotonously small follower Philip Larkin’, etc? If he despises William Carlos Williams, Dylan Thomas, Gertrude Stein, Robert Lowell, Charles Olson, Edith Sitwell, Augustus John and Ted Hughes, what’s the merit of vulgarity and ...

After-Lives

John Sutherland, 5 November 1992

Keepers of the Flame: Literary Estates and the Rise of Biography 
by Ian Hamilton.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £18.99, October 1992, 0 09 174263 3
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Testamentary Acts: Browning, Tennyson, James, Hardy 
by Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 273 pp., £27.50, June 1992, 0 19 811276 9
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The Last Laugh 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 131 pp., £10.99, December 1991, 0 7011 4583 8
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Trollope 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Hutchinson, 551 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 09 173896 2
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... method. Whereas Hamilton burned his fingers trying to steal Salinger’s flame, Millgate – Hardy’s biographer and the editor of his letters – was foiled by the impenetrability of the pyramid that the sage of Max Gate erected over his remains. By ghost-writing his own life through his secretary wife and burning all the revealingly private materials ...

Sunday Mornings

Frank Kermode, 19 July 1984

Desmond MacCarthy: The Man and his Writings 
by David Cecil.
Constable, 313 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 9780094656109
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... was somewhat higher, and they might hobnob with the great in salons and house parties, where, as Henry James sometimes suggests, they were cultivated for their celebrity or their charm rather than for their books – see, for example, ‘The Death of the Lion’. Society was open to the talents, but to have the right background could only help, and ...

Faber Book of Groans

Christopher Ricks, 1 March 1984

Required Writing: Miscellaneous Pieces 1955-1982 
by Philip Larkin.
Faber, 315 pp., £4.95, November 1983, 0 571 13120 4
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... had taken to be just such an immersing in the deconstructive element: Sylvia Plath ‘was, to use Henry James’s well-worn phrase, immersing herself in the destructive element’. I’m afraid this now reads banally ‘Joseph Conrad’s’.) The Oxford memory is this: ‘The highest academic compliment I received as an undergraduate was “Mr Larkin can see ...

Bad Dreams

Robert Crawford: Peter Porter, 6 October 2011

The Rest on the Flight: Selected Poems 
by Peter Porter.
Picador, 421 pp., £12.99, May 2010, 978 0 330 52218 2
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... Bruce Bennett, to publish details of the events behind it in Spirit in Exile. In the 1950s Jannice Henry, an 18-year-old doctor’s daughter from Surrey, fell in love with her father’s locum, Neil Micklem. Their affair lasted for years; Jannice hoped it would end in marriage. It did not. She married instead a 30-year-old advertising copywriter called Peter ...

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