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Vicarious Sages

Michael Mason, 3 November 1983

John Forster: A Literary Life 
by James Davies.
Leicester University Press, 318 pp., £25, June 1983, 0 7185 1164 6
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Mr George Eliot: A Biography of George Henry Lewes 
by David Williams.
Hodder, 288 pp., £12.95, June 1983, 0 340 25717 2
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Johnnie Cross 
by Terence de Vere White.
Gollancz, 153 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 575 03333 9
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... must be so tired and perplexed with your labour, in trying to make out a good character for Mr Jonathan Swift.’ This, of course, is part of what Dickens seized on and twisted into ‘Podsnappery’. (Dr Davies has made the beautiful discovery – first published by him in the Dickensian a few years ago – that in Forster’s very first review, of ...

The Built-in Reader

Colm Tóibín, 8 April 1993

Dream of Fair to Middling Women 
by Samuel Beckett, edited by Eoin O’Brien and Edith Fournier.
Black Cat, 241 pp., £18.99, November 1992, 0 7145 4212 1
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... sound on our lips: Christ, master, ale. Language is a cultural construct here, and no one from Jonathan Swift (or even from Edmund Spenser) came to see it as natural. We have survived to inherit the tension between the Latin of non serviam and the Anglo-Saxon of the groans and moans which Beckett used to such effect. But another, more crucial tension ...

Forever Unwilling

Bernard Wasserstein, 13 April 2000

A People Apart: The Jews in Europe 1789-1939 
by David Vital.
Oxford, 944 pp., £30, June 1999, 0 19 821980 6
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... while ‘it has been difficult ... to avoid writing this book in any other spirit than that which Jonathan Swift termed “savage indignation”, the effort has been made ... to write with an appropriate measure of restraint.’ Yet the overall tone of this work, consciously written from the other side of the abyss of genocide, is more often bitter than ...

Mastering the Art of Understating Your Wealth

Thomas Keymer: The Tonsons, 5 May 2016

The Literary Correspondences of the Tonsons 
edited by Stephen Bernard.
Oxford, 386 pp., £95, March 2015, 978 0 19 870085 2
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... print debut in the 1709 miscellany, which also contained work by rising names like Anne Finch and Jonathan Swift. His sumptuous editions of classical poets in Latin or English (Catullus, Horace, Juvenal, Lucretius, Ovid, Virgil) cast reflected glory on his vernacular list. When an ambitious Oxford graduate called Basil Kennett told Tonson in 1696 that he ...

Had I been born a hero

Helen Deutsch: Female poets of the eighteenth century, 21 September 2006

Eighteenth-Century Women Poets and Their Poetry: Inventing Agency, Inventing Genre 
by Paula Backscheider.
Johns Hopkins, 514 pp., £43.50, January 2006, 0 8018 8169 2
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... venerated alongside Alexander Pope, who held that ‘Most Women have no Characters at all,’ or Jonathan Swift, who, at the conclusion of that catalogue of excremental horrors ‘The Lady’s Dressing Room’, has his speaker remark: ‘Should I the Queen of Love refuse,/Because she rose from stinking Ooze?’ Or even Samuel Johnson. If women’s ...

Going on the air

Philip French, 2 May 1985

Orwell: The War Broadcasts 
edited by W.J. West.
Duckworth/BBC, 304 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 7156 1916 0
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... about its ephemeral nature. We come across this in an imaginary conversation between Orwell and Jonathan Swift, an introductory talk to Arms and the Man largely concerned with Shaw the satirist and with whether his plays survive when the political battles are won, a piece on Wilde as social critic, and a ‘featurised’ version of ‘The Emperor’s ...

English Marxists in dispute

Roy Porter, 17 July 1980

Arguments within English Marxism 
by Perry Anderson.
New Left Books, 218 pp., £3.95, May 1980, 0 86091 727 4
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Capitalism, State Formation and Marxist Theory 
edited by Philip Corrigan.
Quartet, 232 pp., £4.95, May 1980, 0 7043 2241 2
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Writing by Candlelight 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin, 286 pp., £2.70, May 1980, 0 85036 257 1
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... acuteness of mind, as he ranges from Existentialist epistemology to the literary imagination of Jonathan Swift. Anderson’s examination of facets of Thompson’s historical technique – his notion of ‘No Class without Class Consciousness’, or his consistent defence of agency in history – is of importance to all schools of historian. The special ...

Celtic Revisionism

Patrick Parrinder, 24 July 1986

A Short History of Irish Literature 
by Seamus Deane.
Hutchinson, 282 pp., £15, March 1986, 0 09 161360 4
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The Peoples of Ireland 
by Liam de Paor.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £15, April 1986, 9780091561406
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Portrait of Ireland 
by Liam de Paor.
Rainbow, 192 pp., £13.95, May 1986, 1 85120 004 5
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The Complete Dramatic Works 
by Samuel Beckett.
Faber, 476 pp., £12.50, April 1986, 0 571 13821 7
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The Beckett Country: An Exhibition for Samuel Beckett’s 80th Birthday 
by Eoin O’Brien and James Knowlson.
Black Cat, 97 pp., £5, May 1986, 0 948050 03 9
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... a pedantic intricacy similar, it has often been argued, to the fiction of Joyce and Jonathan Swift. Joyce himself was a firm believer in such ‘Celtic’ qualities, and they offer an obvious context for his own art. Do we have here – as Vivian Mercier, for one, has implied – an unbroken tradition of genuinely Irish expression ...


D.A.N. Jones, 5 April 1984

Old Catholics and Anglicans: 1931-1981 
edited by Gordon Huelin.
Oxford, 177 pp., £12.50, April 1983, 0 19 920129 3
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Anglican Essays 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 141 pp., £6.95, April 1983, 0 85635 456 2
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The Song of Roland 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 135 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 9780856354212
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The Regrets 
by Joachim du Bellay, translated by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 147 pp., £4.50, January 1984, 0 85635 471 6
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... books were not ‘good writing’, but more ‘a sort of pious journalism’, and he cites Jonathan Swift as holding a similar opinion. However, Baxter’s verses, in emulation of George Herbert’s, are still anthologised, read and even more frequently sung in churches. His ‘pious journalism’ about the class structure of the parties to the ...

Bad Dads

Zachary Leader, 6 April 1995

In Pharaoh’s Army: Memories of a Lost War 
by Tobias Wolff.
Bloomsbury, 210 pp., £12.99, November 1994, 0 7475 1919 6
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Tallien: A Brief Romance 
by Frederic Tuten.
Marion Boyars, 152 pp., £9.95, November 1994, 0 7145 2990 7
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Roommates: My Grandfather’s Story 
by Max Apple.
Little, Brown, 241 pp., £12.99, November 1994, 0 316 91241 7
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... him for the entrance examinations and ends up reading English at Hertford College, ‘where Jonathan Swift and Evelyn Waugh had once been students’. ‘I seldom speak of it,’ he confesses, ‘because to say “When I was at Oxford ...” sounds suspect even to me, like the opening of one of my father’s bullshit stories.’ At Oxford, Wolff ...

Leading the Labour Party

Arthur Marwick, 5 November 1981

Michael Foot: A Portrait 
by Simon Hoggart and David Leigh.
Hodder, 216 pp., £8.95, September 1981, 0 340 27600 2
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... Foot was an outstanding journalist. He wrote an academic work of distinction about the role of Jonathan Swift in the politics of his day, The Pen and the Sword. In the Fifties he became a top TV personality on, first, In the News and then Free Speech. In a passage which makes one cringe (for Foot, not for the authors) we read of how Beaverbrook ...

Coruscating on Thin Ice

Terry Eagleton: The Divine Spark, 24 January 2008

Creation: Artists, Gods and Origins 
by Peter Conrad.
Thames and Hudson, 529 pp., £24.95, September 2007, 978 0 500 51356 9
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... artistic spirit; but not all artists have viewed their trade in this high-minded manner. Jonathan Swift or Samuel Johnson would have been dismayed by this grandiose inflation of their literary hackwork. And who knows how Aeschylus or the author of Beowulf regarded their craft? It would be rash to assume that they thought of it in the same way ...

In a Cold Country

Michael Wood: Coetzee’s Grumpy Voice, 4 October 2007

Diary of a Bad Year 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill, 231 pp., £16.99, September 2007, 978 1 84655 120 8
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Inner Workings: Essays 2000-2005 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill, 304 pp., £17.99, March 2007, 978 1 84655 045 4
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... we learn of ‘the distinctive prose that Beckett, using French models in the main, though with Jonathan Swift whispering ghostly in his ear, was in the process of perfecting for himself, lyrical and mordant in equal measures’. And are told that Celan’s poem ‘Death Fugue’makes two huge implicit claims about what poetry in our time is, or should ...

Elves blew his mind

Mike Jay: Hallucinations, 7 March 2013

by Oliver Sacks.
Picador, 322 pp., £18.99, November 2012, 978 1 4472 0825 9
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Spiritualism, Mesmerism and the Occult, 1800-1920 
edited by Shane McCorristine.
Pickering and Chatto, 5 vols, 1950 pp., £450, September 2012, 978 1 84893 200 5
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... sight’, another is ‘Alice in Wonderland syndrome’; naturally it has been suggested that Jonathan Swift may have experienced it during his demented final years, while Charles Dodgson may have based Alice’s distortions of scale on an account of mushroom-eating Siberian shamans in Mordecai Cooke’s drug compendium, Seven Sisters of Sleep ...

Invidious Trumpet

Thomas Keymer: Find the Printer, 9 September 2021

The Paper Chase: The Printer, the Spymaster and the Hunt for the Rebel Pamphleteers 
by Joseph Hone.
Chatto, 251 pp., £18.99, November 2020, 978 1 78474 306 2
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... men who would, if necessary, protect him. The pantomime was less outlandish than it sounds (Jonathan Swift used similar ruses with Gulliver’s Travels in 1726) but there were further embellishments, including half a page of ‘scolop’d paper’ cut with a jagged edge; Edwards must only release copies to a courier who could show the corresponding ...

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