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Stuart Hampshire writes about common decency

Stuart Hampshire, 24 January 1980

... freedom of choice. But what are these necessary limits on freedom? The reports starts from John Stuart Mill’s classical discussion, in On Liberty, of the proper limits of government interference with the freedom of the individual to conduct ‘experiments in living’, if he so chooses, and it cites Mill’s equally famous stress on the evil effects ...

Reader, he married her

Christopher Hitchens, 10 May 1990

Tom Driberg: His Life and Indiscretions 
by Francis Wheen.
Chatto, 452 pp., £18, May 1990, 0 7011 3143 8
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... poetry; had been anointed as the diabolic successor to Aleister Crowley; had nearly interested John Betjeman in socialism and A.J.P. Taylor in incense. But he was one of those modernists who could only have been formed by an observance of tradition: he needed an anchor as much as he wanted a sailor. I only knew him at the fag-end of his career, when the ...
The Dons 
by Noël Annan.
HarperCollins, 357 pp., £17.99, November 1999, 0 00 257074 2
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A Man of Contradictions: A Life of A.L.Rowse 
by Richard Ollard.
Allen Lane, 368 pp., £20, October 1999, 0 7139 9353 7
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... to, almost, the present day, each one made to stand for a particular type of donnish character: John Henry Newman (‘The Charismatic Don’); Maurice Bowra (‘The Don as Wit’); George Rylands (‘The Don as Performer’); John Sparrow (‘The Don as Dilettante’); Isaiah Berlin (‘The Don as Magus’). The ...

A Cheat, a Sharper and a Swindler

Brian Young: Warren Hastings, 24 May 2001

Dawning of the Raj: The Life and Trials of Warren Hastings 
by Jeremy Bernstein.
Aurum, 319 pp., £19.99, March 2001, 1 85410 753 4
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... time: Cyril Radcliffe served on the Boundary Commission for India, while the egregiously indolent John Sparrow would shortly be asked if he would provide a constitution for Pakistan, a request about which he made the characteristic observation, ‘Declined: too busy with my practice at Lincoln’s Inn.’ A fellow of an earlier generation, Viscount ...

Bendy Rulers

Glen Newey: Amartya Sen, 28 January 2010

The Idea of Justice 
by Amartya Sen.
Allen Lane, 468 pp., £25, July 2009, 978 1 84614 147 8
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... We learn what W.V. Quine wrote about the word ‘solstice’ in a personal letter to Sen, what John Sparrow said about the Good Samaritan parable over dinner at All Souls, and why Piero Sraffa used to rub his chin when chatting to Wittgenstein at Trinity. No doubt each of these tales forms a filament, however frail, in the pendant damask of our human ...

Tea with Medea

Simon Skinner: Richard Cobb, 19 July 2012

My Dear Hugh: Letters from Richard Cobb to Hugh Trevor-Roper and Others 
Frances Lincoln, 240 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 0 7112 3240 2Show More
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... pantheon. But unlike such Oxford contemporaries as Trevor-Roper, Maurice Bowra or even John Sparrow, all of whom have been well served in recent biographies, Cobb was never a college head, and this may go some way to explaining his subsequent eclipse. It was a role for which he was epically unsuited, given his (very un-French) disdain for ...

Untouched by Eliot

Denis Donoghue: Jon Stallworthy, 4 March 1999

Rounding the Horn: Collected Poems 
by Jon Stallworthy.
Carcanet, 247 pp., £14.95, September 1998, 1 85754 163 4
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... work or even to lead his readers through a particular poem. Valéry, Allen Tate, William Empson, John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren and Robert Lowell were instructive in that way. But it is rare for a poet to lead readers through a poem, draft by draft, or explain how he settled for one word rather than another. Yeats did not offer to explain how he got ...

Spruce

John Bayley, 2 June 1988

A.E. Housman: Collected Poems and Selected Prose 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Allen Lane, 528 pp., £18.95, April 1988, 0 7139 9009 0
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... year after Swinburne died. It has only appeared previously in the Cornhill Magazine, introduced by John Sparrow. Housman never authorised its publication, remarking to a friend that it was not bad but ‘not good enough for me’. It is marvellous about the poet’s use of anapaests, and sarcastic about his analogies, notably of a golden table that was as ...

Long Runs

Adam Phillips: A.E. Housman, 18 June 1998

The Poems of A.E. Housman 
edited by Archie Burnett.
Oxford, 580 pp., £80, December 1997, 0 19 812322 1
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The Invention of Love 
by Tom Stoppard.
Faber, 106 pp., £6.99, October 1997, 0 571 19271 8
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... a taste for highly creative writing should seek out A.E. Housman: New Poems [sic] ed. [sic] by John Edmunds, with a preface and notes by Hilary Bacon (San Francisco, 1985). Every word, bracket and comma here is so entirely to the point that it is virtually a prose-poem in the genre that Housman made his own: the almost deadpan burlesque of poor ...

Skeltonics

Helen Cooper: The maverick poetry of John Skelton, 14 December 2006

John Skelton and Poetic Authority: Defining the Liberty to Speak 
by Jane Griffiths.
Oxford, 213 pp., £50, February 2006, 9780199273607
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... John Skelton should be one of the great figures of English poetry. He is widely regarded as the most significant poet in the 130 years between the death of Chaucer and the flourishing of Thomas Wyatt; but it has to be said that the competition for the top ranking south of the Scottish border is not very fierce, and until the 1930s such a judgment would have struck most people as bizarre ...

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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... to know what to think (the pun on ‘solution’ is Berlin’s kind of joke). Committed to what John Gray has called ‘agonistic liberalism’, to the irresolvably competing claims made on and by post-Enlightenment individuals, Berlin was as keen on refuges from conflict as on conflict itself; more excited by academic appointments in Oxford than by nuclear ...

The poet steamed

Iain Sinclair: Tom Raworth, 19 August 2004

Collected Poems 
by Tom Raworth.
Carcanet, 576 pp., £16.95, February 2003, 1 85754 624 5
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Removed for Further Study: The Poetry of Tom Raworth 
edited by Nate Dorward.
The Gig, 288 pp., £15, March 2003, 0 9685294 3 7
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... of the flowers hurt his eyes. Compare and contrast Raworth’s bird with the anachronistic London sparrow (gone, vanished) which puts in a rather showy appearance in the opening sequence of Martin Amis’s Yellow Dog. Amis is working so hard, as is the sparrow, to be live, engaging, on-the-money; the throwaway charm is so ...

Knives, Wounds, Bows

John Bayley, 2 April 1987

Randall Jarrell’s Letters 
edited by Mary Jarrell.
Faber, 540 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 571 13829 2
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The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore 
edited by Patricia Willis.
Faber, 723 pp., £30, January 1987, 0 571 14788 7
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... a year as Literary Editor for the Nation, doing so well at matching books and reviewers that John Crowe Ransom said he deserved a Pulitzer Prize for it. ‘Not since Poe had an American poet laid down the law in quite such a carnival spirit.’ In those days of talented amateurs the Eng Lit business was still the Gay Science. Used by Nietzsche, and as a ...

Bandini to Hackmuth

Christopher Tayler: John Fante, 21 September 2000

Ask the Dust 
by John Fante.
Rebel Inc, 198 pp., £6.99, September 1999, 0 86241 987 5
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Full of Life: A Biography of John Fante 
by Stephen Cooper.
Rebel Inc, 406 pp., £16.99, May 2000, 9781841950228
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... Between 1938 and 1940, the Italian-American writer John Fante published three books. The first two – Wait until Spring, Bandini (1938) and Ask the Dust (1939) – were novels; the third, Dago Red (1940), was a collection of short stories. All three were well received. Ask the Dust disconcerted some of its reviewers, but Bandini was admired by James Farrell and Steinbeck praised Dago Red ...

On Paul Muldoon

Clair Wills, 6 February 2020

... his tink tink, tink tinkbespeaking a familiarity with the science of iron-carbon alloysthe Chinese developed alongside the Dao,he’s believed to anticipate the licethat will infest his nest by stitching intoits brush-pile the egg sacs of lice-eating spiders.This ‘time-release packet’ is just one example of what Muldoon describes elsewhere in the collection as ‘future-proofing’ (‘Once we relied on a hoard//of seed that had been sacked/and saved ...

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