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Allegedly

Michael Davie, 1 November 1984

Public Scandal, Odium and Contempt: An Investigation of Recent Libel Cases 
by David Hooper.
Secker, 230 pp., £12.95, September 1984, 0 436 20093 7
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... and its aftermath: Ian Gilmour, then the proprietor of the Spectator; Brian Inglis, its editor; Michael Foot, Bevan’s biographer; and Iain Adamson, the biographer of Gilbert Beyfus QC, who appeared for the politicians. Having argued the case again, with the benefit of new information, Mr Hooper concludes: ‘the plaintiffs’ case was an untrue ...

Mistrial

Michael Davie, 6 June 1985

The Airman and the Carpenter: The Lindbergh Case and the Framing of Richard Hauptmann 
by Ludovic Kennedy.
Collins, 438 pp., £12.95, April 1985, 0 00 217060 4
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... he did not commit; Wicked beyond Belief (1980) was followed by the release of David Cooper and Michael McMahon, also detained for a murder they did not commit. Few readers of Mr Kennedy’s latest book will finish it thinking he has spoiled his immaculate record. The reader may be left with lingering doubts about whether Hauptmann had no connection ...

Pilgrim’s Progress

Michael Davie, 4 December 1980

The Letters of Evelyn Waugh 
edited by Mark Amory.
Weidenfeld, 664 pp., £14.95, September 1980, 0 297 77657 6
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... The external paraphernalia of Evelyn Waugh included check suits, an ear-trumpet, a watch-chain, cigars, unfashionable Victorian paintings, a large family and a West Country manor house. To those interested by what lay behind these characteristically English defences, this selection of his letters may come as a disappointment. When Waugh died in 1966, the outside world possessed little reliable information about the nature of the beast inside the baroque carapace ...

Bob Hawke’s Australia

Michael Davie, 6 October 1983

... When Bob Hawke romped home in the Australian federal election last March, becoming the first Labor Prime Minister since 1975, a colleague remarked drily that the election could have been won by a drover’s dog. Another colleague, Bill Hayden, said it could have been won by a cripple. Hayden, now Australia’s Foreign Minister, had reasons to be less than wholly delighted by Hawke’s triumph ...

Dreamtime with Whitlam

Michael Davie, 4 September 1986

The Whitlam Government 1972-1975 
by Gough Whitlam.
Viking, 788 pp., £17.95, July 1986, 0 670 80287 5
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... Towards the end of last year, shortly after Mr Gough Whitlam, the former Australian prime minister, had finished writing these memoirs, I had the pleasure of dining with him at the best hotel in Sofia. The occasion was less exotic than it sounds. Unesco was holding an acrimonious meeting in Bulgaria, and Mr Whitlam was present as Australia’s ambassador to Unesco ...

‘No, no,’ replied the fat man

Michael Davie, 3 December 1992

The Power of News: The History of Reuters 
by Donald Read.
Oxford, 330 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 19 821776 5
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... The first thing that must strike anyone opening this well-produced book – and they may do so with apprehension, since company histories are notoriously bland – is the wonderful harvest of illustrations, ranging from No 1, a photograph of the founder and his son, the strangely whiskered Julius Reuter and Herbert, circa 1870, to No 63, a Reuters news picture of the destruction of the Berlin Wall in 1989 ...

God’s Iceberg

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 4 December 1986

The ‘ Titanic’: The Full Story of a Tragedy 
by Michael Davie.
Bodley Head, 244 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 9780370307640
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The IT Girls: Elinor Glyn and Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon 
by Meredith Etherington-Smith and Jeremy Pilcher.
Hamish Hamilton, 258 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11950 2
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... the weather been hazier, more care might have been taken and the collision avoided. In that case, Michael Davie suggests, it’s likely that no one would ever have known how close to disaster they’d been: ‘not all near-misses by aircraft are reported now; and the Ice Patrol wonder how many near-collisions by ships were reported then.’ At the ...

Hooting

Edward Pearce, 22 October 1992

Beaverbrook 
by Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie.
Hutchinson, 589 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 09 173549 1
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... and nobs that he owned newspapers to make political propaganda. The life which Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie have written begins with a piece of elegant writing, like a dream sequence. It is an unpublished piece written by Davie as a very young Observer reporter. It incorporates Raymond, Beaverbrook’s camp ...

Donald Davie and the English

Christopher Ricks, 22 May 1980

Trying to Explain 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 213 pp., £6.95, April 1980, 0 85635 343 4
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... fact of being everywhere a foreigner was probably an assistance to his native wit.’ And Donald Davie, who everywhere has his native wits about him, has he profited much from living abroad? In half-praise of George Steiner, Davie floats ‘a tradition of high-flying speculation about literature, which we costive islanders ...

In Love

Michael Wood, 25 January 1996

Essays in Dissent: Church, Chapel and the Unitarian Conspiracy 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 264 pp., £25, October 1995, 1 85754 123 5
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... and a wry postcard, long ago, from Stanford, as well as more substantial talks. He was Donald Davie, who was born in Barnsley in 1922 and died in Devon last autumn, a precise and passionate poet and critic, the Empson or the Eliot of his generation. Or rather, he would have been the Empson or Eliot of his generation, if his generation had not largely ...

A to Z

Ian Hamilton: Schmidt’s List, 4 March 1999

Lives of the Poets 
by Michael Schmidt.
Weidenfeld, 960 pp., £22, October 1998, 0 297 84014 2
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A Critical Difference: T.S. Eliot and John Middleton Murry in English Literary Criticism, 1919-28 
by David Goldie.
Oxford, 232 pp., £35, October 1998, 0 19 812379 5
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... also, since none of the poets under scrutiny was still alive at the time of Johnson’s writing. Michael Schmidt’s lives of the Poets is not at all like Johnson’s. Indeed, it is by no means certain that Schmidt has taken the trouble to investigate the famous works of his precursor. He seems to think that Johnson’s poets wrote in the 18th century (some ...

We shall not be moved

John Bayley, 2 February 1984

Come aboard and sail away 
by John Fuller.
Salamander, 48 pp., £6, October 1983, 0 907540 37 6
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Children in Exile 
by James Fenton.
Salamander, 24 pp., £5, October 1983, 0 907540 39 2
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‘The Memory of War’ and ‘Children in Exile’: Poems 1968-1983 
by James Fenton.
Penguin, 110 pp., £1.95, October 1983, 0 14 006812 0
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Some Contemporary Poets of Britain and Ireland: An Anthology 
edited by Michael Schmidt.
Carcanet, 184 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 85635 469 4
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Nights in the Iron Hotel 
by Michael Hofmann.
Faber, 48 pp., £4, November 1983, 0 571 13116 6
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The Irish Lights 
by Charles Johnston and Kyril Fitzlyon.
Bodley Head, 77 pp., £4.50, September 1983, 0 370 30557 4
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Fifteen to Infinity 
by Ruth Fainlight.
Hutchinson, 62 pp., £5.95, September 1983, 0 09 152471 7
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Donald Davie and the Responsibilities of Literature 
edited by George Dekker.
Carcanet, 153 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 9780856354663
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... sort of poetry that Fenton writes, and that is also written, in their various ways, by Fuller, by Michael Hofmann, Tom Paulin, Christopher Reid and others. Certainly the romantic rhetoric that is second nature to Larkin, as to Auden, Yeats and Eliot, has no place in their poetic repertoire. It once seemed so ‘natural’, but beside their literariness and ...

Christ’s Teeth

C.K. Stead, 10 October 1991

Studies in the Ezra Pound 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 388 pp., £25, April 1991, 0 85635 850 9
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Poems 1963-1983 
by Michael Longley.
Secker, 205 pp., £8, August 1991, 0 436 25676 2
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Under the Circumstances 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 64 pp., £5.99, May 1991, 0 19 282834 7
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In the Echoey Tunnel 
by Christopher Reid.
Faber, 73 pp., £12.99, September 1991, 0 571 16252 5
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A Cold Coming 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, 16 pp., £2.95, July 1991, 1 85224 186 1
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... called “Rock-Drill”, and the inauguration of the next, called “Thrones”.’ This is Donald Davie in his introduction to Studies in Ezra Pound, offered as Volume IV of his Collected Works, and including the whole of Ezra Pound: Poet as Sculptor (1964), followed by a single essay from 1972, then ‘Six Notes on Ezra Pound’ from Trying to Explain (1980 ...

Bullshit and Beyond

Clive James, 18 February 1988

The Road to Botany Bay 
by Paul Carter.
Faber, 384 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 571 14551 5
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The Oxford History of Australia. Vol. IV: 1901-1942 
by Stuart Macintyre.
Oxford, 399 pp., £22.50, October 1987, 0 19 554612 1
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The Archibald Paradox: A Strange Case of Authorship 
by Sylvia Lawson.
Penguin Australia, 292 pp., AUS $12.95, September 1987, 0 14 009848 8
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The Lucky Country Revisited 
by Donald Horne.
Dent, 235 pp., AUS $34.95, October 1987, 9780867700671
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... inhabits a milieu, or space, in which the standards of plain speaking were set by the redoubtable Michael Davie, who really should get back there and sort out his errant protégés as soon as possible. Good journalists should not waste time producing bad PhD theses. In the academic context there is some reason for the success of pseudo-scientific ...

The Best Stuff

Ian Jack: David Astor, 2 June 2016

David Astor: A Life in Print 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 400 pp., £25, March 2016, 978 0 224 09090 2
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... whenever he could to attend meetings of kindred spirits, including journalists and writers such as Michael Foot, Tom Hopkinson (of Picture Post), Tom Harrisson (of Mass Observation), Alastair Forbes and Stephen King-Hall, some of whom became Observer contributors when Astor took charge. But that was years away. In the meantime he started to work for Louis ...

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