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Having one’s Kant and eating it

Terry Eagleton: Northrop Frye, 19 April 2001

Northrop Frye’s Late Notebooks 1982-90: Volume One 
edited by Robert Denham.
Toronto, 418 pp., £45, September 2000, 0 8020 4751 3
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Northrop Frye’s Late Notebooks 1982-90: Volume Two 
edited by Robert Denham.
Toronto, 531 pp., £45, September 2000, 0 8020 4752 1
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... If someone were to ask why art and culture have proved so vital to the modern age, one might do worse than reply: to compensate for the decline of religion. It is certainly a more convincing response than claiming that modern society finds art particularly valuable, as opposed to richly profitable. What modernity finds precious is less works of art, which are just one more commodity in its marketplace, than the idea of the aesthetic ...

Medes and Persians

Paul Foot: The Government’s Favourite Accountants, 2 November 2000

... The PAC report came out in November 1993, but the Wessex scandal had already been exposed by John Denham, the recently elected Labour MP for Southampton Itchen and former Friends of the Earth activist. In March 1993, Denham complained that the Health Secretary Tony Newton had disclosed a list of consultants paid by the ...

With Great Stomack

Simon Schaffer: Christopher Wren, 21 February 2002

His Invention so Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren 
by Adrian Tinniswood.
Cape, 463 pp., £25, July 2001, 9780224042987
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... firstborn son Gilbert. He might then have waited a long time to succeed the cavalier poet Sir John Denham as Surveyor-General, but Denham broke down when his young wife was seduced by the King’s brother: he appeared before Charles II to declare that he was the Holy Ghost, poisoned his faithless wife with chocolate, then ...

Kindness rules

Gavin Millar, 8 January 1987

A Life in Movies 
by Michael Powell.
Heinemann, 705 pp., £15.95, October 1986, 9780434599455
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All Our Yesterdays: 90 Years of British Cinema 
edited by Charles Barr.
BFI, 446 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 85170 179 5
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... we can’t altogether accept the claims of his literary Muse, who allows him some felicities – Robert Flaherty was ‘like an Irish Bishop who had turned gangster’ – but more often lets him flounder (‘She was a neat chick’, of a Czech actress of the Thirties), we can at least salute the book’s utter transparency and lack of guile about both ...


Gillian Darley: John Evelyn and his gardens, 8 June 2006

... conviction that the king was leading the country back to a Commonwealth or his description of Lady Denham, the Duke of York’s mistress, ‘bitchering’. For most of his married life, Evelyn lived at Sayes Court, Deptford, of which nothing at all remains. Apart from an idealised plan of the garden, only descriptions in letters and building accounts give us ...

Writing to rule

Claude Rawson, 18 September 1980

Boileau and the Nature of Neo-Classicism 
by George Pocock.
Cambridge, 215 pp., £12.50, June 1980, 0 521 22772 0
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‘The Rape of the Lock’ and its Illustrations 1714-1896 
by Robert Halsband.
Oxford, 160 pp., £11.50, July 1980, 0 19 812098 2
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... Malherbe was the one who introduced correctness, or Augustanised French verse, much as Waller and Denham were felt to have done for English. ‘Enfin Malherbe vint’ is Boileau’s celebration of his impact on the progress of French poetry in the Art Poétique. The correctness he brought was, in reality, no very Classical thing per se, in the sense that it ...

Johnson’s Business

Keith Walker, 7 August 1980

A Dictionary of the English Language 
by Samuel Johnson.
Times, 2558 pp., £45, June 1980, 0 7230 0228 2
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Dictionary Johnson: Samuel Johnson’s Middle Years 
by James Clifford.
Heinemann, 372 pp., £10, February 1980, 0 434 13805 3
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... The Bible. Sir Thomas Browne complete. Milton, including the prose works. Cowley, Waller and Denham. Dryden, including the prose works and the translations. Samuel Butler complete. Pope complete, including the Iliad and the Odyssey. Addison complete. Steele complete. Swift complete. Prior, Gay and Arbuthnot. Thomson’s Seasons. For theology he went to ...

Keeping up with Jane Austen

Marilyn Butler, 6 May 1982

An Unsuitable Attachment 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 256 pp., £6.95, February 1982, 0 333 32654 7
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... bazaar and lunches en route near Victoria for 3s 9d, might be based on the entrepreneurial Lady Denham in Sanditon. Ianthe’s aunt, Bertha, married to the rector of a fashionable Mayfair parish, blends the hypochondria of Sanditon’s Diana Parker with the injudicious high living of Dr Grant in Mansfield Park. ‘Bertha’s health,’ says her husband ...

Witchcraft and the Inquisition

Robin Briggs, 18 June 1981

Unclean Spirits: Possession and Exorcism in France and England in the Late 16th and Early 17th Centuries 
by D.P. Walker.
Scolar, 116 pp., £9.95, March 1981, 9780859676205
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The Witches’ Advocate 
by Gustav Henningsen.
Nevada, 607 pp., $24, November 1980, 0 87417 056 7
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... from the earlier study of the Marthe Brossier case and its 17th-century successors by Professor Robert Mandrou. In this context it is interesting to note that Charles Miron, Bishop of Angers, who exposed Marthe as a fraud with almost casual ease before she even reached Paris, was himself the son of Henri III’s premier médecin. Marescot’s report on the ...

Horrid Mutilation! Read all about it!

Richard Davenport-Hines: Jack the Ripper and the London Press by Perry Curtis, 4 April 2002

Jack the Ripper and the London Press 
by Perry Curtis.
Yale, 354 pp., £25, February 2002, 0 300 08872 8
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... for morbid thrills was intense. After seven members of the Marshall family were hacked to death at Denham in 1870, ‘pleasure vans’ brought hordes of day-trippers from London to see the gore, and to purloin souvenirs. The Victorians were not dainty in their interest, and journalists were seldom squeamish in their reporting. The Times of 4 January 1856, for ...

Attila the Hus

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 4 November 1982

Rules of the Game: Sir Oswald and Lady Cynthia Mosley 1896-1933 
by Nicholas Mosley.
Secker, 274 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 436 28849 4
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... was relieved that she had chosen a reasonably promising young man whose family he knew. Mosley, Robert Cecil reported to Curzon, was ‘not in the first flight’ but had ‘a good future before him’. He was two years older than Cimmie; very dashing (though Curzon at once remarked on his ‘rather Jewish appearance’), and the youngest MP in the ...


Richard Poirier, 24 January 1985

Slow Learner 
by Thomas Pynchon.
Cape, 204 pp., £8.50, January 1985, 0 224 02283 0
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... other but with all of it ultimately deadening. The story appeared in 1960 in Kenyon Review, where Robert Lowell would very likely have seen it, and where he would, I suspect, have found the penultimate line of his poem ‘The Flaw’, addressed to a woman lying beside him: ‘Dear Figure curving like a question mark’. Callisto’s girlfriend ‘lay like a ...

Most Himself

Matthew Reynolds: Dryden, 19 July 2007

The Poems of John Dryden: Vol. V 1697-1700 
edited by Paul Hammond and David Hopkins.
Longman, 707 pp., £113.99, July 2005, 0 582 49214 9
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Dryden: Selected Poems 
edited by Paul Hammond and David Hopkins.
Longman, 856 pp., £19.99, February 2007, 978 1 4058 3545 9
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... could give his compliments a sharper second edge, as for example in ‘To My Honoured Friend Sir Robert Howard, on His Excellent Poems’ (Howard later became his brother-in-law). Discussing Howard’s translation of Book IV of the Aeneid, Dryden says: Elisa’s griefs are so expressed by you, They are too eloquent to have been true. ‘Elisa’, as ...

You can’t prove I meant X

Clare Bucknell, 16 April 2020

Poetics of the Pillory: English Literature and Seditious Libel, 1660-1820 
by Thomas Keymer.
Oxford, 352 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 0 19 874449 8
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... differently.’Analogy – Nero for George I, say, or the Roman imperial enforcer Sejanus for Sir Robert Walpole – was one way of speaking in order to be understood differently. Others were allusion, ellipsis, circumlocution, irony (including mock forms such as mock epideixis, elaborately praising something unpraiseworthy so as to undermine it) and ...

Something Rather Scandalous

Jean McNicol: The Loves of Rupert Brooke, 20 October 2016

Rupert Brooke: Life, Death and Myth 
by Nigel Jones.
Head of Zeus, 588 pp., £12, April 2015, 978 1 78185 703 8
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Fatal Glamour: The Life of Rupert Brooke 
by Paul Delany.
McGill-Queen’s, 380 pp., £28.99, March 2015, 978 0 7735 4557 1
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The Second I Saw You: The True Love Story of Rupert Brooke and Phyllis Gardner 
by Lorna C. Beckett.
British Library, 216 pp., £16.99, April 2015, 978 0 7123 5792 0
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... Soon after he arrived in Grantchester he’d taken advantage of the relative privacy to seduce Denham Russell-Smith, the younger brother of a schoolfriend, in what he later told Strachey was a deliberate attempt to ‘do away with the shame (as I was taught it was) of being a virgin. At length, I thought, I shall know something of all that James and Norton ...

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