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A Skeleton My Cat

Norma Clarke: ‘Poor Goldsmith’, 21 February 2019

The Letters of Oliver Goldsmith 
edited by Michael Griffin and David O’Shaughnessy.
Cambridge, 232 pp., £64.99, July 2018, 978 1 107 09353 9
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... begun before Goldsmith arrived in London in February 1756 because in the dedication to his brother Henry he writes that he sent part of it to Henry from the Continent. The poem itself is addressed to Henry, like a letter in verse, expressing a powerful sense of belonging and ...

How to vanish

Michael Dibdin, 23 April 1987

The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis 
by Humberto Costantini, translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni.
Fontana, 193 pp., £3.50, January 1987, 0 00 654180 1
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Requiem for a Woman’s Soul 
by Omar Rivabella, translated by Paul Riviera.
Penguin, 116 pp., £2.95, February 1987, 0 14 009773 2
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Words in Commotion, and Other Stories 
by Tommaso Landolfi, translated by Ring Jordan and Lydia Jordan.
Viking, 273 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 670 80518 1
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The Literature Machine 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Patrick Creagh.
Secker, 341 pp., £16, April 1987, 0 436 08276 4
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The St Veronica Gig Stories 
by Jack Pulaski.
Zephyr, 170 pp., £10.95, December 1986, 0 939010 09 7
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Kate Vaiden 
by Reynolds Price.
Chatto, 306 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 7011 3203 5
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... Vaiden is just as firmly rooted in local reality – in this case, the North Carolina about which Reynolds Price has been writing for more than twenty years now. The name, at once plain and elusive, might have appealed to Henry James. The echoes of ‘maiden’ and ‘evading’ are particularly apposite, for despite ...

With a Titter of Wit

Colin Kidd: Wholly Ulsterised, 6 May 2021

Deniable Contact: Back-Channel Negotiation in Northern Ireland 
by Niall Ó Dochartaigh.
Oxford, 306 pp., £75, March, 978 0 19 289476 2
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... the Ayrshire coast. We dreaded the visits of my mother’s embarrassing cousin, let’s call him Henry, who had married a Northern Irish woman and gone to live in Belfast. Henry had been shot in the leg by the IRA as he came out of a pub, which gave him a limp and turned him into a booming anti-Catholic bigot. ...

Too Proud to Fight

David Reynolds: The ‘Lusitania’ Effect, 28 November 2002

Wilful Murder: The Sinking of the ‘Lusitania’ 
by Diana Preston.
Doubleday, 543 pp., £18.99, May 2002, 0 385 60173 5
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Lusitania: Saga and Myth 
by David Ramsay.
Chatham, 319 pp., £20, September 2001, 1 86176 170 8
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Woodrow Wilson 
by John Thompson.
Longman, 288 pp., £15.99, August 2002, 0 582 24737 3
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... not easily defined, yet (or perhaps in consequence) deeply influential. In his early career Henry Kissinger was notoriously critical of Wilson’s legacy, arguing that America needed hard-headed realism, not bright-eyed idealism, to guide its foreign policy. In 1994, however, he sounded a different note: ‘Wilson grasped that America’s instinctive ...

The Taste of Peapods

Matthew Reynolds: E.L. Doctorow, 11 February 2010

Homer and Langley 
by E.L. Doctorow.
Little, Brown, 224 pp., £11.99, January 2010, 978 1 4087 0215 4
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... happened, but what ought to have done. Surely (in Ragtime) John Pierpont Morgan might have invited Henry Ford to lunch to talk about reincarnation; and why wouldn’t the anarchist Emma Goldman have given a full-body massage to the society divorcée Evelyn Nesbit (accompanied by a lecture on sexual politics)? These lines of life have a strange affinity with ...

So Much More Handsome

Matthew Reynolds: Don Paterson, 4 March 2004

Landing Light 
by Don Paterson.
Faber, 84 pp., £12.99, September 2003, 0 571 21993 4
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... that would have to be junked if it were to be made good. With some obviously difficult writers – Henry James, say, or Geoffrey Hill – one has the sense that a tangled world is being masterfully comprehended. With Paterson (as with Browning, the shadowy double who haunts this volume), it seems rather that simplicity is always just beyond him, whether in ...

Rub gently out with stale bread

Adam Smyth: The Print Craze, 2 November 2017

The Print Before Photography: An Introduction to European Printmaking 1550-1820 
by Antony Griffiths.
British Museum, 560 pp., £60, August 2016, 978 0 7141 2695 1
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... Artists could grow quickly famous – and wealthy – via prints of their paintings; Joshua Reynolds’s sold in their thousands. In 1789, the publisher John Boydell opened his ‘Shakespeare Gallery’ in Pall Mall, where, for an entrance fee of one shilling, visitors could enjoy paintings of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, commissioned by Boydell ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: Holbein, 19 October 2006

... into focus, but you seem to recognise them. They are elegant and casual. The people who come with Reynolds are their contemporaries, but the atmosphere changes. The men have more gravitas and fall naturally into classical poses, the women are winsomely theatrical. The aristocratic Van Dycks tend towards the soulful and control the arrangement of their ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: Van Dyck’s Portraits, 12 March 2009

... Laud, men who had risen to power, show expressions closer to those of Holbein’s portraits of Henry VIII’s functionaries. Laud (the son of a Reading cloth merchant and, like the king, a short man) looks at the painter with raised eyebrows – maybe he will be glad when the session is over. In a double portrait, Wentworth appears determined; his ...

At the Huntington

Jack Hartnell: Relocating the Yokoi House, 8 October 2020

... of the Huntingdon Japanese garden from 1923. Founded in 1919 by the millionaire rail magnate Henry Huntington, the estate now contains a group of museums that display paintings by Gainsborough and Reynolds alongside Boucher tapestries, the 15th-century Ellesmere Chaucer, the autograph manuscript of Thoreau’s ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘One Night in Miami’, 18 February 2021

... rich, is not charmed. A woman leans towards her partner and says: ‘I preferred it when Debbie Reynolds sang it.’The cruelty here has nothing to do with the quality of Cooke’s singing. It lies in Cooke’s failure to understand that an audience like this could exist in New York, and in his acceptance of the disastrous performance as a sort of Station ...

Goddesses and Girls

Nicholas Penny, 2 December 1982

... The Medici Venus was admired, as the Cnidian statue had been, in alarming ways. The bibliophile Henry George Quin, for instance, records in his diary (extracts of which were published in an amusing article by Arthur Rau in the Book Collector in 1964) how, in the winter of 1785, he ‘stole’ into the Tribuna of the Uffizi in Florence when no one was there ...

Feigning a Relish

Nicholas Penny: One Tate or Two, 15 October 1998

The Tate: A History 
by Frances Spalding.
Tate Gallery, 308 pp., £25, April 1998, 1 85437 231 9
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... they favour the Tate because it had been founded at the initiative of another merchant prince, Sir Henry Tate? And why were the gestures of the Duveens so rarely imitated before the new Turner Wing of the Tate, the Clore Gallery, opened in 1987? Spalding is remarkably candid, if often crisp, in her survey of recent developments. These include the attempt made ...

Measuring up

Nicholas Penny, 4 April 1991

Renaissance Portraits: European Portrait Painting in the 14th, 15th and 16th Centuries 
by Lorne Campbell.
Yale, 290 pp., £35, May 1990, 0 300 04675 8
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... by Holbein reproduced nearby. We learn from one of the unusually informative captions that King Henry VIII was taken with the idea of making Christina, a teenage widow, his fourth wife. He dispatched Holbein, his court painter, to Brussels to record her likeness. She sat to Holbein between 1 and 4 p.m. on 12 March 1538. The artist left Brussels that night ...

Had he not run

David Reynolds: America’s longest-serving president, 2 June 2005

Franklin Delano Roosevelt 
by Roy Jenkins.
Pan, 208 pp., £7.99, May 2005, 0 330 43206 0
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Franklin D. Roosevelt 
by Patrick Renshaw.
Longman, 223 pp., $16.95, December 2003, 0 582 43803 9
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Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom 
by Conrad Black.
Weidenfeld, 1280 pp., £17.99, October 2004, 0 7538 1848 5
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... as a matter of course. ‘Never let your left hand know what your right is doing,’ he told Henry Morgenthau, his treasury secretary and a close friend. ‘Which hand am I, Mr President?’ Morgenthau asked. ‘My right hand,’ he replied, ‘but I keep my left hand under the table.’ Roosevelt’s presidency is superbly documented, yet the modern ...

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