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Daniel Johnson, 20 June 1996

The Dear Purchase: A Theme in German Modernism 
by J.P. Stern.
Cambridge, 445 pp., £40, February 1995, 0 521 43330 4
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... ideas. What rival Germanists saw as his eclecticism – his highly successful collaboration with Tom Stoppard in adapting the plays of Schnitzler and Nestroy for the London stage, for instance – was in reality a deliberate policy of dragging the study of German culture out of the ghetto to which the Nazis had condemned it. Stern’s first book, Ernst ...

Long Runs

Adam Phillips: A.E. Housman, 18 June 1998

The Poems of A.E. Housman 
edited by Archie Burnett.
Oxford, 580 pp., £80, December 1997, 0 19 812322 1
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The Invention of Love 
by Tom Stoppard.
Faber, 106 pp., £6.99, October 1997, 0 571 19271 8
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... what a life devoted to accuracy is a life devoted to. This, inevitably, is more the province of Tom Stoppard’s often riveting play about Housman, The Invention of Love, than of Burnett’s scholarly edition of the poems. While Wilde, whom Stoppard uses as a foil for Housman, warned against falling into ...


Marilyn Butler, 22 January 1981

Three-Quarter Face 
by Penelope Gilliatt.
Secker, 295 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 9780436179587
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Show People 
by Kenneth Tynan.
Weidenfeld, 317 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 297 77842 0
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When the lights go down 
by Pauline Kael.
Boyars, 592 pp., £8.95, August 1980, 0 7145 2726 2
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... Perhaps it’s a detail that Johnson wrote about poets, while Tynan, with the single exception of Tom Stoppard, prefers performers. Or that some of Johnson’s subjects were obscure, while Tynan’s other four are stars of stage, screen or box – Ralph Richardson, Johnny Carson, Mel Brooks and Louise Brooks. Still, he makes a polished bid for literary ...

The Mantle of Jehovah

Francis Spufford, 25 June 1987

by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 224 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 7011 3169 1
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... a promising direction for a fiction about uncertainty. In his radio play Where are they now? Tom Stoppard gives a character the satisfying chance to complain, with hindsight, of ‘the momentous trivialities and tiny desolations’, the ‘hollow fear of inconsiderable matters’. But Byatt is not having any. While she concurs with, and captures ...


John Sutherland, 21 March 1991

by Roger Scruton.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 236 pp., £13.95, February 1991, 9781856190480
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Slave of the Passions 
by Deirdre Wilson.
Picador, 251 pp., £14.99, February 1991, 0 330 31788 1
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The Invisible Worm 
by Jennifer Johnston.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 182 pp., £12.95, February 1991, 1 85619 041 2
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The Secret Pilgrim 
by John le Carré.
Hodder, 335 pp., £14.95, January 1991, 0 340 54381 7
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... does the Blakean title. The Secret Pilgrim comes out at the same time as the Fred Schepsi-Tom Stoppard film of The Russia House. Le Carré and Sean Connery have both had very profitable Cold War careers. But it’s been a long duration. Connery is now so grizzled and ‘gamy’ (as one unkind American critic put it) that one can scarcely imagine ...

I’ll be back

Marjorie Garber: Sequels, 19 August 1999

Part Two: Reflections on the Sequel 
edited by Paul Budra and Betty Schellenberg.
Toronto, 217 pp., £40, February 1999, 0 8020 0915 8
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... and revisions and adaptations of Shakespeare have been, from Tate to Aimé Césaire and Tom Stoppard, they have not been carried out in recent years with the same pointed zeal as have the sequels to Austen. In the 20th century dozens of sequels, from Margaret Dashwood, or Interference (a sequel to Sense and Sensibility by Edith Charlotte ...

Making Do and Mending

Rosemary Hill: Penelope Fitzgerald’s Letters, 25 September 2008

So I Have Thought of You: The Letters of Penelope Fitzgerald 
edited by Terence Dooley.
Fourth Estate, 532 pp., £25, August 2008, 978 0 00 713640 7
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... is Peter Ackroyd or that the German epigraph is by Wilhelm Müller or that Arcadia is a play by Tom Stoppard. Patric Dickinson, Felicity Ashbee and David Cecil are among the dozens of names who pass by unnoted and still more are missing from the index. How Fitzgerald came to know Stevie Smith and when it was that T.S. Eliot told her that the staircase ...

Upside Down, Inside Out

Colin Kidd: The 1975 Referendum, 25 October 2018

Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum and Seventies Britain 
by Robert Saunders.
Cambridge, 509 pp., £24.99, March 2018, 978 1 108 42535 3
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... Lowe and Richard Briers, and Writers for Europe, whose membership ranged from Agatha Christie to Tom Stoppard. Ogres such as Benn, Paisley and Powell were no match for these recruits. The 1975 referendum has attracted the attention of various political scientists, including the psephologist David Butler and his collaborator the German émigré Europhile ...

Asterisks and Obelisks

Colin Burrow, 7 March 2019

Poems of Sextus Propertius 
edited and translated by Patrick Worsnip.
Carcanet, 253 pp., £12.99, September 2018, 978 1 78410 651 5
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... world should be a war zone for the driest kind of textual scholarship is an irony with which Tom Stoppard had fun in his play on the life of A.E. Housman, The Invention of Love. The young Housman proposed dozens of emendations to the text of Propertius. An apparent lacuna in Propertius’ highly erotic description of Cynthia provoked Housman, who ...

Stalking Out

David Edgar: After John Osborne, 20 July 2006

John Osborne: A Patriot for Us 
by John Heilpern.
Chatto, 528 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 7011 6780 7
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... proletarian populism burned only fitfully. And while both Harold Pinter and (arguably) Tom Stoppard started out as British absurdists, the influence of Beckett across the whole range has been less than in any other European country. John Heilpern says none of this, because he neither knows very much about Osborne’s successors (he thinks ...

Lethal Pastoral

Paul Keegan: Housman’s Lethal Pastoral, 17 November 2016

Housman Country: Into the Heart of England 
by Peter Parker.
Little, Brown, 446 pp., £25, June 2016, 978 1 4087 0613 8
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... Moses Jackson, his unswervingly heterosexual Oxford contemporary – is all-determining. He had, Tom Stoppard wrote, ‘an unremitting, lopsided, lifelong, hopeless constancy to a decent chap who was in no need of it, temperamentally unfitted for it, and never for a moment inclined to call upon it’ – and from whom, in Laurence Housman’s laconic ...


Alan Bennett: Bennett’s Dissection, 1 January 2009

... Feldene I had to be put on the acid-suppressant pills that I’ve been on ever since. 14 January. Tom Stoppard rings my agent Rosalind Chatto to tell her that when in last year’s LRB diary I quote an old lady in New York as saying ‘I zigged when I should have zagged’ the original remark came from the American sports reporter Red Butler, who ...


Alan Bennett: A Shameful Year, 8 January 2004

... a local council election, with trestle tables, ushers and the proctors taking the votes. One of Tom Bingham’s proposers, I vote for him and no one else, the single transferable vote (another Jenkins inspiration) likely, it’s thought, to favour Bingham’s chief rival, Chris Patten. At the table I hand in my paper to one of the junior proctors, a ...

A Mere Piece of Furniture

Dinah Birch: Jacqueline Rose’s take on Proust, 7 February 2002

by Jacqueline Rose.
Chatto, 205 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 0 7011 6976 1
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... romances, but in the 20th century the more intellectual Hamlet was identified as the central text. Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead enacts a bleaker Shakespearean inheritance. No touch of immortality or hope of salvation for these helpless courtiers. This is a drama preoccupied with its own fixed conclusion: ‘In our ...

Havel’s Castle

J.P. Stern, 22 February 1990

... grandfather, an enterprising builder, came to Prague from the Moravian town where Havel’s friend Tom Stoppard was born; his father, a civil engineer turned architect and speculative builder, got into debt by putting up one of Prague’s prettiest residential suburbs above the River Vitava, and even after the Communist takeover he was popular enough with ...

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