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Diary

John HenryJones: At Home with the Empsons, 17 August 1989

... in bed, dying of flu, William Empson burst into my room, very sprightly, saying: ‘Now come along Jones, you must get up and come to Stonehenge.’ I croaked an apology and claimed an imminent, prior appointment with the Lord God Almighty. ‘Oh dear. I am sorry,’ he said. ‘But you would do much better to come to Stonehenge.’This was Empson at ...

What Marlowe would have wanted

Charles Nicholl, 26 November 1987

Faustus and the Censor 
by William Empson, edited by John HenryJones.
Blackwell, 226 pp., £17.50, September 1987, 0 631 15675 5
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... Archbishop Whitgift at Croydon. There was an early version of Hamlet, possibly by Kyd; a prototype Henry V, starring Dick Tarlton and William Knell. And, a little later, there were the first ventures of Ben Jonson – Hot Anger Soon Cooled, written with Thomas Dekker and Henry Porter, and Robert II, with ...

Shatost

John Bayley, 16 June 1983

Dostoevsky and ‘The Idiot’: Author, Narrator and Reader 
by Robin Feuer Miller.
Harvard, 296 pp., £16, October 1981, 0 674 21490 0
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Dostoevsky 
by John Jones.
Oxford, 365 pp., £15, May 1983, 9780198126454
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New Essays on Dostoyevsky 
edited by Malcolm Jones and Garth Terry.
Cambridge, 252 pp., £25, March 1983, 0 521 24890 6
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The Art of Dostoevsky: Deliriums and Nocturnes 
by Robert Louis Jackson.
Princeton, 380 pp., £17.60, January 1982, 0 691 06484 9
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... changing, both sides know the game. And as the form becomes more self-conscious, the writer – Henry James is the obvious example – indicates both inside and outside his novel how the reader will divide the work with him and share the spoils. In this partnership we become lucid and wise. Even the most unlikely circumstances are arranged for our ...

Hazlitteering

John Bayley, 22 March 1990

Hazlitt: A Life. From Winterslow to Frith Street 
by Stanley Jones.
Oxford, 397 pp., £35, October 1989, 0 19 812840 1
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Shakespearean Constitutions: Politics, Theatre, Criticism 1730-1830 
by Jonathan Bate.
Oxford, 234 pp., £27, September 1989, 0 19 811749 3
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... imaginary past, an epoch of freedom and justice. The phrase is not Hazlitt’s but Stanley Jones’s, and gives an idea of the crispness of Jones’s style, as the instance does of the erudition with which he has reached into every cranny of Hazlitt’s distracted polemical existence. His book is a monument of ...

Complete Internal Collapse

Malcolm Vale: Agincourt, 19 May 2016

The Hundred Years War, Vol. IV: Cursed Kings 
by Jonathan Sumption.
Faber, 909 pp., £40, August 2015, 978 0 571 27454 3
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Agincourt 
by Anne Curry.
Oxford, 272 pp., £18.99, August 2015, 978 0 19 968101 3
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The Battle of Agincourt 
edited by Anne Curry and Malcolm Mercer.
Yale, 344 pp., £30, October 2015, 978 0 300 21430 7
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24 Hours at Agincourt: 25 October 1415 
by Michael Jones.
W.H. Allen, 352 pp., £20, September 2015, 978 0 7535 5545 3
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Agincourt: Henry V, the Man-at-Arms and the Archer 
by W.B. Bartlett.
Amberley, 447 pp., £20, September 2015, 978 1 4456 3949 9
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... 600’ website – and the government supported the festivities with a £1 million grant. Henry V, who didn’t go in for triumphalism or self-glorification, would probably have regarded all the fuss with disdain. The fourth volume in Jonathan Sumption’s five-volume series on the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) covers the period from 1399 to 1422, so ...

The Human Frown

John Bayley, 21 February 1991

Samuel Butler: A Biography 
by Peter Raby.
Hogarth, 334 pp., £25, February 1991, 0 7012 0890 2
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... dinners’ were being held, at first under the auspices of Butler’s great friend Henry Festing Jones (the last dinner was in July 1914), and Forster was offered £25 by his publisher as an advance for a book about Butler. Lytton Strachey, who also found Butler immensely ‘cheering’, wanted to write on ...

Sergeant Farthing

D.A.N. Jones, 17 October 1985

A Maggot 
by John Fowles.
Cape, 460 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 224 02806 5
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The Romances of John Fowles 
by Simon Loveday.
Macmillan, 164 pp., £25, August 1985, 0 333 31518 9
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... skinhead, did not his clothes deny it.’ That quotation well illustrates the style in which John Fowles begins this historical novel, or mystery story, lingering over his descriptions. The reviewer-like use of the present tense, the schoolmasterly ‘not what it means today’, and the reference to ‘a modern skinhead’, invite readers to visualise ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: How to Type like a Man, 10 May 2007

... In The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting (Cornell, £15.95), Darren Wershler-Henry describes the typewriter as ‘the symbol of a non-existent sepia-toned era when people typed passionately late into the night under the flickering light of a single naked bulb, sleeves rolled up … lighting each new cigarette off the smouldering butt of ...

John Bayley writes about Graham Greene

John Bayley, 25 April 1991

... be merely Satanic, in the spirit of Conrad’s melodramatic characters, like Gentleman Brown or Mr Jones. Pinkie is strictly for the book. When the famous record to which the heart-broken Rose listens has stopped playing, he vanishes into limbo. Greene was less than ingenuous when he commented, in the second instalment of his autobiography, Ways of ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Not by Henry James, 23 September 2004

... down the maiden’s cheek, and fell upon the faded chintz. You guessed it. Who could it be but Henry James? There would be no shame in your not recognising this as James’s work, however: it has languished in peaceful obscurity for more than 140 years, only now to have its authorship revealed by Floyd Horowitz, recently retired from the English department ...

Great Fun

John Bayley, 22 January 1987

Gossip 
by Patricia Meyer Spacks.
Chicago, 287 pp., £9.25, November 1986, 0 226 76844 9
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The Bonus of Laughter 
by Alan Pryce-Jones.
Hamish Hamilton, 263 pp., £12.95, January 1987, 0 241 11903 0
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... the verbal meccano-work of literary theory. In conclave with her admiring if sceptical husband in Henry James’s novel The Golden Bowl, Fanny Assingham remarks of her efforts on behalf of the Prince and Charlotte – efforts which involve, at the highest level, resources of query, speculation, understanding – that whatever happens it will all have been ...

Bare feet and a root of fennel

John Bayley, 11 June 1992

Strong Representations: Narrative and Circumstantial Evidence in England 
by Alexander Welsh.
Johns Hopkins, 262 pp., £21.50, April 1992, 0 8018 4271 9
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... like life, are full of evidence. It is evidence that suggests the nature of relations, and as Henry James observed ‘relations stop nowhere.’ An author, no less than a lawyer, must ‘draw the circle in which they shall happily appear to do so’. From a literary point of view, Crusoe’s find was surely not so much evidence as atmosphere. What strikes ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: How to concoct a conspiracy theory, 20 October 2005

... to make any claims that can be proved not to be true. It won’t do, for example, to assert that John Kennedy was shot by Jackie Kennedy, because it’s clear from the film footage of the assassination that he wasn’t. Of course, you could make a case for that footage being faked, but how then would you account for eyewitness reports? Best not to go ...

Improving the Plays

Frank Kermode, 7 March 1996

Shakespeare at Work 
by John Jones.
Oxford, 293 pp., £35, December 1995, 0 19 811966 6
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... John Jones, sometime Professor of Poetry at Oxford, has written a number of good, idiosyncratic books on topics as diverse as Greek tragedy and Wordsworth, together with an excellent novel, The Same God, published in 1972 and apparently without a successor. He has now produced a good, idiosyncratic book on Shakespeare ...

Sheep into Goats

Gabriele Annan, 24 January 1980

The British Aristocracy 
by Mark Bence-Jones and Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd.
Constable, 259 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 09 461780 5
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The Astors 
by Virginia Cowles.
Weidenfeld, 256 pp., £8.50, November 1980, 9780297776246
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Barclay Fox’s Journal 
edited by R.L. Brett.
Bell and Hyman, 426 pp., £8.95, July 1980, 0 7135 1865 0
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... aristocrats speaking of themselves as middle-class, as they frequently do these days.’ So Bence-Jones and Montgomery-Massingberd take the word ‘gentleman’ and make it mean ‘aristocratic’: their definitions define not so much what is as what they think ought to be. They begin by closing the gap between the terms ‘nobility’ and ...

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