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Men Who Keep Wolves

Tom Shippey: Edward the Confessor, 3 December 2020

Edward the Confessor: Last of the Royal Blood 
by Tom Licence.
Yale, 332 pp., £25, August 2020, 978 0 300 21154 2
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... again, 1951) and Julian Rathbone’s The Last English King (Harold again, 1997). Tom Licence uses the phrase in a more nuanced way. His subtitle points to the fact that while Harold Godwinson may have been ‘the last English king’ (actually he was half-Danish), and possibly the ‘last of the Saxon kings’ (though that is just ...


Ian Hamilton: Francis Hope, and Tom and Vic, 15 March 1984

... it, sprang unbidden to the lips about half-way through the first act of Michael Hastings’s play Tom and Viv, now showing at the Royal Court. The play purports to be an account of T. S. Eliot’s first marriage, to Vivien Haigh-Wood, and I had been pretty well put off it by Peter Redgrove’s letter to the TLS: ‘if Eliot’s diagnosis of the ills of our ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: The p-p-porn ban, 4 April 2019

... only be necessary, apparently, if you don’t feel comfortable submitting your name and driving licence or passport details online. I say ‘apparently’ because as well as not knowing precisely when it’s due to come in, no one is completely sure how the porn ban is going to work. Most people – 76 per cent of the population, according to YouGov ...


Tom Phillips, 2 April 1981

English Art and Modernism 1900-1939 
by Charles Harrison.
Allen Lane, 416 pp., £20, February 1981, 0 7139 0792 4
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... in the Sixties to such irresponsible cossetting), while feebler celebrities are merely given a licence to print money (literally – vide the misleading and barrel-scraping offers in the colour-supplements). Mr Harrison’s English Pantheon is small and he stands at its portals like Minos, ‘judging and despatching’. Underlying the banishments from his ...

No Fear of Fanny

Marilyn Butler, 20 November 1980

by Erica Jong.
Granada, 496 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 246 11427 4
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The Heroine’s Text 
by Nancy Miller.
Columbia, 185 pp., £10, July 1980, 0 231 04910 2
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... begins her adventures not in obscurity, like Cleland’s Fanny Hill, but, like Fielding’s Tom Jones, as the foundling adoptive child of aristocratic parents in a paradisal country house. Seduced by her foster-father Lord Bellars, Fanny takes, like Tom, to the road, whereupon she falls in with witches and is ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Football and Currie, 17 October 2002

... 1991 may not have fundamentally altered the character of the sport – a quarter of a century ago, Tom Stoppard was making a character in his play Professional Foul complain about the ‘yob ethics’ of the game – but they have made it worse. The players are richer, greedier and nastier, and almost mystically free from any sense of wider perspectives and ...


Toby Forward: Being Rahila Khan, 4 February 1988

... themes from an Asian and English themes from a white person. To test it out, I wrote a story with Tom Dale. It was a country-house murder with a twist at the end. Very English. We sent it to the head of Morning Story to get a fresh opinion, but it landed on the same producer’s desk. To our surprise, she liked it, and it was broadcast. By now, it was getting ...

Flat-Nose, Stocky and Beautugly

James Davidson: Greek Names, 23 September 2010

A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. Vol. V.A Coastal Asia Minor: Pontos to Ionia 
edited by T. Corsten.
Oxford, 496 pp., £125, March 2010, 978 0 19 956743 0
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... and census enumerators might very well be supplemented by a highly personalised nickname – Old Tom, Long Tom, Short Tom, or even, according to Rev. Alfred Easther, a 19th-century Yorkshire dialectologist, Wantem, Blackcop and Muddlinpin – it might better be described as an outbreak ...

At Tate Britain

Tom Crewe: Burne-Jones, 24 January 2019

... beauty for its own sake, as a surface to be admired. Burne-Jones’s own pronouncements give licence to this interpretation: ‘I don’t want to pretend that this isn’t a picture’; ‘Painting should be like a goldsmith’s work.’ Or, in his most otherworldly mode: ‘What eventually gets onto the canvas is a reflection of a reflection of ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: Chicanery and Fantasy, 6 June 2019

... made a bishop. Instead he misbehaved at a girls’ school (the details aren’t clear) and had his licence withdrawn in 1944. After that things started to go wrong. Wrong but also peculiar. He carried on conducting church services, illegally – including at St Paul’s in 1945. He got a job at a school and then eloped with the deputy headmaster’s ...

The Devilish God

David Wheatley: T.S. Eliot, 1 November 2001

Words Alone: The Poet T.S. Eliot 
by Denis Donoghue.
Yale, 326 pp., £17.95, January 2001, 0 300 08329 7
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Adam’s Curse: Reflections on Religion and Literature 
by Denis Donoghue.
Notre Dame, 178 pp., £21.50, May 2001, 0 268 02009 4
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... will show, the prewar voices most audible today belong to Auden and MacNeice. From the maudlin Tom and Viv to Peter Ackroyd’s unauthorised Life and Carole Seymour-Jones’s Painted Shadow, the collateral damage, too, has been heavy. Even now, much about Eliot remains opaque: 13 years after the first volume of his letters appeared, we can only speculate ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Soar: Underground Bunkers, 6 November 2008

... they ‘would have got nowhere, since our motives would have been suspect’. Artists are given a licence to wander, and some – like Jane and Louise Wilson, who have produced eerie video installations by filming the American military base at Greenham Common and the Stasi headquarters in Berlin – use every chance they have. But Moore’s pictures are more ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’, 15 July 2021

... hope that the string of possessives won’t go on extending for ever. Both films are written by Tom O’Connor and directed by Patrick Hughes. And both star Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, though in the second case the verb is far too feeble. I’m not sure any other actor could play a murderous villain and get so many laughs. When I saw the first of ...

What are we telling the nation?

David Edgar: Thoughts about the BBC, 7 July 2005

Uncertain Vision: Birt, Dyke and the Reinvention of the BBC 
by Georgina Born.
Vintage, 352 pp., £10.99, August 2005, 0 09 942893 8
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Building Public Value: Renewing the BBC for a Digital World 
BBC, 135 pp.Show More
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... the BBC was not and has not been sent to market in the most obvious way – by abolishing the licence fee – people have tended to assume that the transformation which occurred in the 1990s was self-imposed. But as Georgina Born makes clear in her definitive analysis of the John Birt and Greg Dyke eras, the consistent impetus came from government. It’s ...

Holy Boldness

Tom Paulin: John Bunyan, 16 December 2004

Glimpses of Glory: John Bunyan and English Dissent 
by Richard Greaves.
Stanford, 693 pp., £57.50, August 2002, 0 8047 4530 7
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Theology and Narrative in the Works of John Bunyan 
by Michael Davies.
Oxford, 393 pp., £65, July 2002, 0 19 924240 2
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The Portable Bunyan: A Transnational History of ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ 
by Isabel Hofmeyr.
Princeton, 320 pp., £41.95, January 2004, 0 691 11655 5
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... example for recent converts or nonconformists by fleeing. He was arrested for preaching without a licence at an unlawful assembly, put on trial and sentenced to three months in jail. He wasn’t helped by the fact that, during his trial, Thomas Venner led an insurrection of militant Fifth Monarchy men in London, thus bringing all nonconformists under ...

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