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More than one world

P.N. Furbank, 5 December 1991

D.H. Lawrence: The Early Years 1885-1912 
by John Worthen.
Cambridge, 624 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 521 25419 1
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The Letters of D.H. Lawrence. Vol. VI: 1927-28 
edited by James Boulton, Margaret Boulton and Gerald Lacy.
Cambridge, 645 pp., £50, September 1991, 0 521 23115 9
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... most unchanging thing about them. (As it was, one might add, the most unchanging thing about poor James Boswell, another great vita nuova man, ever inclined to exhort himself: ‘Be Samuel Johnson! Be the rock of Gibraltar!’) All the same, despite Svevo’s rule, there have been a few people – Tolstoy, Wittgenstein and D.H. Lawrence come to mind ...

Dear Miss Boothby

Margaret Anne Doody, 5 November 1992

The Letters of Samuel Johnson: Vol. I: 1731-1772, Vol. II: 1773-1776, Vol. III: 1777-1781 
edited by Bruce Redford.
Oxford, 431 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 19 811287 4
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... The editor very occasionally supplies material from published biography, but his usual source is James Clifford, and one can tire of Clifford’s editorialising – for instance, on Hester Thrale’s behaviour after the death of her husband: ‘Mrs Thrale’s usual reaction to death was to run away.’ If we’re going to have occasional opinions from ...

At the Grand Palais

Andrew O’Hagan: The Lagerfeld Fandango, 18 July 2019

... of Choupette and that he was reading the philosopher David Hume. I mentioned the efforts of James Boswell to convert Hume to Christianity on his deathbed, and Lagerfeld said it was always possible to be someone else. Hundreds of bottles of Moët stood on bars in the Grand Palais and rows of filled glasses went round on trays. Non-drinkers of ...

No Clapping

Rosemary Hill: The Bloomsbury Memoir Club, 17 July 2014

The Bloomsbury Group Memoir Club 
by S.P. Rosenbaum, edited by James Haule.
Palgrave, 203 pp., £20, January 2014, 978 1 137 36035 9
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... considering who was listening as well as who was speaking, Rosenbaum’s outline, supported by James Haule’s editorial framework, puts together an interesting picture. One account of the club’s origins has it that Molly MacCarthy wanted to find a way of forcing her husband, an incorrigible procrastinator, to produce something. On this front it was a ...

Let us breakfast in splendour

Charles Nicholl: Francis Barber, 16 July 2015

The Fortunes of Francis Barber: The True Story of the Jamaican Slave Who Became Samuel Johnson’s Heir 
by Michael Bundock.
Yale, 282 pp., £20, May 2015, 978 0 300 20710 1
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... a table convivially cluttered with decanters and after-dinner debris. From left to right they are James Boswell, Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, David Garrick, Edmund Burke, Pasquale Paoli, Charles Burney, Thomas Warton and Oliver Goldsmith. Their names appear below the image, cursively engraved, appositely placed: one might almost be looking at a ...

It leads to everything

Patricia Fara: Heat and Force, 23 September 2021

Einstein’s Fridge: The Science of Fire, Ice and the Universe 
by Paul Sen.
William Collins, 305 pp., £20, April, 978 0 00 826279 2
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... present themselves and their work. For instance, Sen describes the classic paddle-wheel experiment James Joule carried out in a brewery. But he doesn’t mention what the historian Otto Sibum found when he attempted to replicate it: Joule had omitted several essential details from his instructions, notably the presence of co-experimenters – the countless ...

Candle Moments

Andrew O’Hagan: Norman Lewis’s Inventions, 25 September 2008

Semi-Invisible Man: The Life of Norman Lewis 
by Julian Evans.
Cape, 792 pp., £25, June 2008, 978 0 224 07275 5
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... Until recently, the art of modern biography was too little influenced by the man who invented it, James Boswell, and, even today, many of those who set out to write the lives of authors seem to be led by a suspicion that everything of interest about the subject might already have been said by the subject himself ...

The pleasure of not being there

Peter Brooks, 18 November 1993

Benjamin Constant: A Biography 
by Dennis Wood.
Routledge, 321 pp., £40, June 1993, 0 415 01937 0
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Isabelle de Charrière (Belle de Zuylen): A Biography 
by C.P Courtney.
Voltaire Foundation, 810 pp., £49, August 1993, 0 7294 0439 0
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... formidable wit and independence. One of the more durable of the ‘épouseurs’ was the young James Boswell, who on first meeting her composed some doggerel beginning: And yet just now a Utrecht lady’s charms Make my gay bosom beat with love’s alarms. Who could have thought to see young Cupid fly Through Belgia’s thick and suffocating ...

Freaks, Dwarfs and Boors

Thomas Keymer: 18th-Century Jokes, 2 August 2012

Cruelty and Laughter: Forgotten Comic Literature and the Unsentimental 18th Century 
by Simon Dickie.
Chicago, 362 pp., £29, December 2011, 978 0 226 14618 8
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... They were consumed not only by dilettantes or libertines, like Horace Walpole, John Wilkes and James Boswell, but also by landowners, clerics and society hostesses – Hester Thrale, Samuel Johnson’s confidante, owned several jestbooks and comic miscellanies. In this context it becomes easier – though still not entirely easy – to understand the ...

Unhoused

Terry Eagleton: Anonymity, 22 May 2008

Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature 
by John Mullan.
Faber, 374 pp., £17.99, January 2008, 978 0 571 19514 5
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... History of England. An unattributed notice in the London Chronicle which praised a work by James Boswell as ‘a book of true genius’ was written by Boswell himself. John Wilson wrote an anonymous letter to Blackwood’s Magazine robustly defending Wordsworth from some unsigned criticism in a previous issue of ...

Cultivating Cultivation

John Mullan: English culture, 18 June 1998

The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the 18th Century 
by John Brewer.
HarperCollins, 448 pp., £19.99, January 1997, 0 00 255537 9
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... of a fashionable metropolis. Pleasure gardens were real places, visited by Fanny Burney and James Boswell as well as by characters in novels. They were also places of the imagination, whether that imagination was appalled or enraptured. They were the inventions of a society of conspicuous consumption (‘luxury’ in the old parlance) and ...

Some Names for Robert Lowell

Karl Miller, 19 May 1983

Robert Lowell: A Biography 
by Ian Hamilton.
Faber, 527 pp., £12.50, May 1983, 0 571 13045 3
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... about this undoubtedly American poet. He is the justified sinner whom we meet in the fiction of James Hogg. And he is the superman, the Stavrogin, whom we meet in the fiction of Dostoevsky: the antinomian hero bent both on power and mischief and on the blessedness of the meek, so that he’s Prince Myshkin too, and it’s hardly surprising that he should ...

Brother-Making

James Davidson, 8 February 1996

The Marriage of Likeness: Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe 
by John Boswell.
Fontana, 412 pp., £8.99, January 1996, 0 00 686326 4
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... Dissidence, have caused scarcely a ripple outside the literary critical lagoon, but when John Boswell, a rather old-fashioned medieval historian, claimed to have discovered evidence for gay marriages being celebrated and blessed inside Christian churches, he made waves. It is not altogether obvious why the suggestion should be so shocking. Why is it ...

Ecclefechan and the Stars

Robert Crawford, 21 January 1988

The Crisis of the Democratic Intellect 
by George Davie.
Polygon, 283 pp., £17.95, September 1986, 0 948275 18 9
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... interest in the collection and presentation of minute facts impressed one of his Glasgow auditors, James Boswell, whose marvellous accumulation. The Life of Samuel Johnson, is a major peak in the Scottish eclectic tradition. In Edinburgh, formulating the canon of the new university study of English Literature, Blair tried to inscribe a marked Scottish ...

Maybe he made it up

Terry Eagleton: Faking It, 6 June 2002

The Forger’s Shadow: How Forgery Changed the Course of Literature 
by Nick Groom.
Picador, 351 pp., £20, April 2002, 9780330374323
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... his plagiarism. In 19th-century Ireland, authors like William Maginn, Francis Sylvester Mahony and James Clarence Mangan were in the habit of producing literary texts cunningly modelled on the work of some well-known author like Tennyson or Thomas Moore, which they then coolly claimed to be the lost original that the author had plagiarised. Maginn, who founded ...

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