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Staying at home

Ronald Fraser, 27 July 1989

Federico Garcia Lorca 
by Ian Gibson.
Faber, 542 pp., £17.50, July 1989, 0 571 14815 8
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... the felicities of style, the ironic detachment and sheer pleasure of reading, provided by, say, Richard Ellmann in his works on Joyce and Wilde. Here it is Lorca’s words alone that vibrate on the page. Despite all his biographer’s efforts, the private man remains an absent presence. A fine pianist, collector (and passionate singer) of folk ...

The Reality Effect

Jon Day: 'Did I think this, or was it Lucy Ellmann?', 5 December 2019

Ducks, Newburyport 
by Lucy Ellmann.
Galley Beggar, 1030 pp., £13.99, September 2019, 978 1 913111 98 4
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... came close to inventing a language that seemed to contain the mind’s endless restlessness.Lucy Ellmann’s new novel, Ducks, Newburyport, does not, despite the claims of some reviewers, consist of a single sentence (I counted 880). But it does contain one very long one: a comma-strewn stream that follows the thoughts of an Ohioan housewife during the first ...

Love in a Dark Time

Colm Tóibín: Oscar Wilde, 19 April 2001

The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde 
edited by Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis.
Fourth Estate, 1270 pp., £35, November 2000, 1 85702 781 7
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... of the medical establishment. He continued practising as a doctor and in 1867 produced what Richard Ellmann considered his most cheerful book, Lough Corrib. In 1873 the Royal Academy of Ireland conferred its highest honour on him. The Wildes, then, lived inside the established world and outside it. They had no difficulty with his knighthood, just ...

A Lazarus beside Me

Avies Platt: An Encounter with Yeats, 27 August 2015

... strange. For although by way of Ireland, it comes actually from America in the person of one Richard Ellmann of the university of Harvard who, under the auspices of the Rockefeller Foundation, has come to collect material to enable him to write on the intellectual development of Yeats. It is Hone who, despite my neglect of him, has sent ...

Wallflower

Anthony Quinn, 29 August 1991

Varying Degrees of Hopelessness 
by Lucy Ellmann.
Hamish Hamilton, 184 pp., £13.99, July 1991, 0 241 13153 7
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Slide 
by James Buchan.
Heinemann, 135 pp., £12.99, June 1991, 0 434 07499 3
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Alma Cogan 
by Gordon Burn.
Secker, 210 pp., £13.99, August 1991, 0 436 20009 0
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... The heroine of Lucy Ellmann’s new novel is one of an increasingly rare breed in modern fiction – a virgin. Isabel is a thirty-something art history student, prim, gauche, improbably starry-eyed, impossibly self-obsessed, a junior version of the Anita Brookner wallflower (i.e. not yet prepared to consign herself to the sad margins of singlehood ...

tarry easty

Roy Foster: Joyce in Trieste, 30 November 2000

The Years of Bloom: James Joyce in Trieste 1904-20 
by John McCourt.
Lilliput, 306 pp., £25, June 2000, 1 901866 45 9
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... Adolf Hitler. This is the Joyce portrayed in Gilbert’s Paris Journal, in the memory of many of Ellmann’s interviewees and the photographs of Gisele Freund. When one looks through this prism, it is hard to recapture the handsome, scornful wunderkind who dazzled his university generation thirty years before, who told Yeats to his face that he was ‘too ...

Keeping the show on the road

John Kerrigan, 6 November 1986

Tribute to Freud 
by H. D.
Carcanet, 194 pp., £5.95, August 1985, 0 85635 599 2
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In Dora’s Case: Freud, Hysteria, Feminism 
edited by Charles Bernheimer and Claire Kahane.
Virago, 291 pp., £11.95, October 1985, 0 86068 712 0
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The Essentials of Psychoanalysis 
by Sigmund Freud, edited by Anna Freud.
Hogarth/Institute of Psychoanalysis, 595 pp., £20, March 1986, 0 7012 0720 5
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Freud and the Humanities 
edited by Peregrine Horden.
Duckworth, 186 pp., £18, October 1985, 0 7156 1983 7
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Freud for Historians 
by Peter Gay.
Oxford, 252 pp., £16.50, January 1986, 0 19 503586 0
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The Psychoanalytic Movement 
by Ernest Gellner.
Paladin, 241 pp., £3.50, May 1985, 0 586 08436 3
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The Freudian Body: Psychoanalysis and Art 
by Leo Bersani.
Columbia, 126 pp., $17.50, April 1986, 0 231 06218 4
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... science. To an alarming degree, theory preempted argument. H.D. had been abandoned by her husband, Richard Aldington, for another woman, during a difficult pregnancy in which mother and child seemed doomed; her love affair with the feminist Bryher was fraught; writing set up its own strains: but Freud already knew, amid this welter of anxieties, what really ...

What he did

Frank Kermode, 20 March 1997

W.B. Yeats: A Life. Vol. I: The Apprentice Mage 
by R.F. Foster.
Oxford, 640 pp., £25, March 1997, 0 19 211735 1
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... they were, though briefly, lovers a reasonable inference made long ago by Virginia Moore, and by Richard Ellmann, though his publisher seems to think Foster the first to make it securely. In the long run it matters less than the occult union, and less than Yeats’s sympathy in her marital misfortunes. There is nobility in his commemoration of John ...

Sorrows of a Polygamist

Mark Ford: Ted Hughes in His Cage, 17 March 2016

Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life 
by Jonathan Bate.
William Collins, 662 pp., £30, October 2015, 978 0 00 811822 8
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... speculation’. Its style and approach, it’s true, bring Kitty Kelley to mind more often than Richard Ellmann: it is aimed squarely at an audience conceived as wanting its close readings of ‘Pike’ and ‘The Thought-Fox’ leavened by details of Hughes’s ‘vigorous’ love-making, and likely to be impressed by pseudo-profound sentences such as ...

His Spittin’ Image

Colm Tóibín: John Stanislaus Joyce, 22 February 2018

... is a necessary evil,’ Stephen Dedalus says in Ulysses. In Yeats: The Man and the Masks, Richard Ellmann quoted Ivan Karamazov: ‘Who doesn’t desire his father’s death?’ ‘From the Urals to Donegal,’ Ellmann writes,the theme recurs, in Turgenev, in Samuel Butler, in Gosse. It is especially prominent ...

The Biographer’s Story

Jonathan Coe, 8 September 1994

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers 
by Roger Lewis.
Century, 817 pp., £20, April 1994, 0 7126 3801 6
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... is a good example of the theory put into practice. But what he added in a footnote was scarier: ‘Richard Ellmann’s bitter, professional Joyce and the weary, enigmatical Wilde are portraits of the biographer as he worked on those big and beautiful books. The real biographies of Joyce and Wilde are the histories of the works they themselves set ...

Feast of St Thomas

Frank Kermode, 29 September 1988

Eliot’s New Life 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Oxford, 356 pp., £15, September 1988, 0 19 811727 2
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The Letters of T.S. Eliot 
edited by Valerie Eliot.
Faber, 618 pp., £25, September 1988, 0 571 13621 4
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The Poetics of Impersonality 
by Maud Ellmann.
Harvester, 207 pp., £32.50, January 1988, 0 7108 0463 6
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T.S. Eliot and the Philosophy of Criticism 
by Richard Shusterman.
Duckworth, 236 pp., £19.95, February 1988, 0 7156 2187 4
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‘The Men of 1914’: T.S. Eliot and Early Modernism 
by Erik Svarny.
Open University, 268 pp., £30, September 1988, 0 335 09019 2
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Eliot, Joyce and Company 
by Stanley Sultan.
Oxford, 326 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 19 504880 6
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The Savage and the City in the Work of T.S. Eliot 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 251 pp., £25, December 1987, 9780198128694
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T.S. Eliot: The Poems 
by Martin Scofield.
Cambridge, 264 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 521 30147 5
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... 1965 people had long been curious about this very famous man. Collections such as the one made by Richard Marsh and Tambimuttu for his 60th birthday in 1948 contained much pleasant anecdote, and there were respectful reminiscences in Allen Tate’s memorial volume of 1966. Meanwhile, off the page, there was some gossip about such matters as a putatively vast ...

Running out of Soil

Terry Eagleton: Bram Stoker and Irish Protestant Gothic, 2 December 2004

From the Shadow of Dracula: A Life of Bram Stoker 
by Paul Murray.
Cape, 356 pp., £18.99, July 2004, 0 224 04462 1
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... tutor, John Pentland Mahaffy, once crawled into a roomful of clergymen dressed in a tigerskin rug. Richard Whately, Archbishop of Dublin, could occasionally be seen swinging on chains in front of his palace, smoking a pipe. Even the modern-minded Charles Stewart Parnell was hag-ridden with superstition, while Yeats regularly conversed with spirits. Bram Stoker ...

Joyce and Company

Tim Parks: Joyce’s Home Life, 5 July 2012

James Joyce: A Biography 
by Gordon Bowker.
Phoenix, 608 pp., £14.99, March 2012, 978 0 7538 2860 1
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... this or that physical attribute, or name, or occupation, or address. Readers familiar with Richard Ellmann’s biography of 1959 will be disappointed. Born in 1882, James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was the first surviving child of John and May Joyce, whose recent marriage had been fiercely opposed by both sets of parents. Their first baby, named ...

Seeing through Fuller

Nicholas Penny, 30 March 1989

Theoria: Art and the Absence of Grace 
by Peter Fuller.
Chatto, 260 pp., £15, November 1988, 0 7011 2942 5
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Seeing through Berger 
by Peter Fuller.
Claridge, 176 pp., £8.95, November 1988, 1 870626 75 3
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Cambridge Guide to the Arts in Britain. Vol. IX: Since the Second World War 
edited by Boris Ford.
Cambridge, 369 pp., £19.50, November 1988, 0 521 32765 2
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Ruskin’s Myths 
by Dinah Birch.
Oxford, 212 pp., £22.50, August 1988, 9780198128724
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The Sun is God: Painting, Literature and Mythology in the 19th Century 
edited by J.B. Bullen.
Oxford, 230 pp., £27.50, March 1989, 0 19 812884 3
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Artisans and Architects: The Ruskinian Tradition in Architectural Thought 
by Mark Swenarton.
Macmillan, 239 pp., £35, February 1989, 0 333 46460 5
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... applaud in them evidence of a strenously physical relationship with paint. Thus Mali Morris, Lucy Ellmann tells us, works ‘with acrylic on unstretched canvas on the floor ... pulling gobs of paint a little way or densely caking colour on, with rough or gentle strokes. The paint sometimes seems to have flitted across, barely swooping low enough to make ...

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