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Superior Persons

E.S. Turner, 6 February 1986

Travels with a Superior Person 
by Lord Curzon, edited by Peter King.
Sidgwick, 191 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 283 99294 8
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The Ladies of Castlebrae 
by A. Whigham Price.
Alan Sutton, 242 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 86299 228 1
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Lizzie: A Victorian Lady’s Amazon Adventure 
by Tony Morrison, Anne Brown and Ann Rose.
BBC, 160 pp., £9.95, November 1985, 0 563 20424 9
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Miss Fane in India 
by [author], edited by John Pemble.
Alan Sutton, 246 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 86299 240 0
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Explorers Extraordinary 
by John Keay.
Murray/BBC Publications, 195 pp., £10.95, November 1985, 0 7195 4249 9
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A Visit to Germany, Italy and Malta 1840-41 
by Hans Christian Andersen, translated by Grace Thornton.
Peter Owen, 182 pp., £12.50, October 1985, 0 7206 0636 5
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The Irish Sketch-Book 1842 
by William Makepeace Thackeray.
Blackstaff, 368 pp., £9.95, December 1985, 0 85640 340 7
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Mr Rowlandson’s England 
by Robert Southey, edited by John Steel.
Antique Collectors’ Club, 202 pp., £14.95, November 1985, 0 907462 77 4
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... be applied to the vertical rules confining the text. Good background information is provided by Tony Morrison, who has himself endured those deep white clouds of insects descending ‘like a hair shirt’. If Lizzie scratched and sweated, so did Isabella Fane, the Commander-in-Chief’s daughter who followed the Army in India in the 1830s. She was a ...

Tony and Caroline

Ben Pimlott, 26 November 1987

Out of the Wilderness: Diaries 1963-67 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 592 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 09 170660 2
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... chastity and continence, prayed the youthful Augustine, but do not give it yet. Perhaps the young Tony Benn, slithering up the greasy poll, made similar entreaties. For this, his fascinating first volume of diaries, is the story of an attractive, vital, boundlessly energetic young man having the egocentric time of his life without a thought for the ...

Labouring

Blake Morrison, 1 April 1982

Continuous 
by Tony Harrison.
Rex Collings, £3.95, November 1982, 0 86036 159 4
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The Oresteia 
by Aeschylus, translated by Tony Harrison.
Rex Collings, 120 pp., £3.50, November 1981, 0 86036 178 0
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US Martial 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, £75, November 1981, 0 906427 29 0
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A Kumquat for John Keats 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, £75, November 1981, 0 906427 31 2
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... There are grounds for thinking Tony Harrison the first genuine working-class poet England has produced this century. Of course, poets from D.H. Lawrence to Craig Raine can boast a proletarian background, but their poetry isn’t usually interested in doing so – not at its most characteristic and not to an extent that would make the term ‘working-class poet’ a useful one ...

Digging up the Ancestors

R.W. Johnson, 14 November 1996

Hugh Gaitskell 
by Brian Brivati.
Cohen, 492 pp., £25, September 1996, 1 86066 073 8
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... to find a leader of note somewhere. Hence this book. ‘Hugh Gaitskell was the grandfather of Tony Blair’s revolution, the original Labour moderniser,’ the blurb begins. With Labour under Blair mobilising for a climactic campaign after 18 years of Tory rule, there is a need to invoke tradition, a legitimate line of descent, especially in view of ...

Ducking and Dodging

R.W. Johnson: Agent Zigzag, 19 July 2007

Agent Zigzag 
by Ben Macintyre.
Bloomsbury, 372 pp., £14.99, January 2007, 978 0 7475 8794 1
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... from safe-breaking to blackmail – when the Nazi occupiers threw a young hotel dishwasher, Tony Faramus, into the same jail; Faramus became Chapman’s cellmate and friend. At Chapman’s suggestion they both offered to spy for the Germans, essentially as a way of getting themselves out of jail and away from Jersey. Faramus, a small-time operator ...

Short Cuts

Philippa Hetherington: Canberra’s Coups, 27 September 2018

... supported the foreign minister, Julie Bishop, in a three-way contest with Dutton and Scott Morrison, the treasurer. Bishop bowed out after receiving only 11 votes, despite having served as deputy leader of the party for 11 years. At press conferences following the coup, she described the bullying she and other female Liberal MPs had experienced from ...

Tales of Hofmann

Blake Morrison, 20 November 1986

Acrimony 
by Michael Hofmann.
Faber, 79 pp., £8.95, October 1986, 0 571 14527 2
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Idols 
by Stephen Romer.
Oxford, 48 pp., £3.95, September 1986, 0 19 281984 4
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Opia 
by Alan Moore.
Anvil, 83 pp., £4.50, August 1986, 9780856461613
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New Chatto Poets 
edited by Andrew Motion.
Chatto, 79 pp., £4.95, September 1986, 0 7011 3080 6
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A.D. Hope: Selected Poems 
edited by Ruth Morse.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £3.95, April 1986, 0 85635 640 9
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The Electrification of the Soviet Union 
by Craig Raine.
Faber, 69 pp., £8.95, August 1986, 0 571 14539 6
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... the event, it ends more amicably, with a group portrait in a thunderstorm, the family trio (like Tony Harrison’s in the poem ‘Illuminations’) forced into a brief moment of intimacy. But the overall tone is certainly parricidal, as the son betrays his need to emulate the father, and the full bickering agony of family life is laid bare. It might be any ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... poetry makes nothing happen, then the poetry anthology has no such self-effacing qualms. Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion knew this, as did the predecessor they were tussling with, A. Alvarez’s The New Poetry (which was tussling with its predecessor, Robert Conquest’s New Lines). ‘This anthology,’ they wrote in their preface to the Penguin Book of ...

Bus Lane Strategy

Tristram Hunt: London Governments, 31 October 2002

Governing London 
by Ben Pimlott and Nirmala Rao.
Oxford, 208 pp., £15.99, May 2002, 0 19 924492 8
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... It’s unlikely that Sidney Webb features in Tony Blair’s pantheon of political heroes. It would, in fact, be difficult to think of a less likely match for Tony and Cherie than Sidney and Beatrice. Yet, after almost a century, the Webbs’ thinking about local government – their disdain for civic initiative and zeal for state uniformity – still appears to influence Labour Party policy ...

The Authentic Snarl

Blake Morrison: The Impudence of Tony Harrison, 30 November 2017

The Inky Digit of Defiance: Selected Prose 1966-2016 
by Tony Harrison, edited by Edith Hall.
Faber, 544 pp., £25, April 2017, 978 0 571 32503 0
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Collected Poems 
by Tony Harrison.
Penguin, 464 pp., £9.99, April 2016, 978 0 241 97435 3
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... If​ his English teacher hadn’t been so snootily discouraging, it’s unlikely that Tony Harrison would have gone on to write as much as he has: by my calculation, 13 plays, 11 films and twenty or more poetry collections and pamphlets, not to mention the essays and addresses assembled in Edith Hall’s edition of his selected prose ...

Sex’n’Love

Blake Morrison, 21 February 1991

The Chatto Book of Love Poetry 
edited by John Fuller.
Chatto, 374 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 0 7011 3453 4
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The Faber Book of Blue Verse 
edited by John Whitworth.
Faber, 305 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 571 14095 5
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Self-Portrait with a Slide 
by Hugo Williams.
Oxford, 62 pp., £5.95, June 1990, 0 19 282744 8
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The Virago Book of Love Poetry 
edited by Wendy Mulford.
Virago, 288 pp., £6.99, November 1990, 1 85381 030 4
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Erotica: An Anthology of Women’s Writing 
edited by Margaret Reynolds, foreword by Jeanette Winterson .
Pandora, 362 pp., £19.99, November 1990, 9780044406723
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Daddy, Daddy 
by Paul Durcan.
Blackstaff, 185 pp., £5.95, August 1990, 0 85640 446 2
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... Christopher Reid and Michael Hofmann are classified as love poets but Craig Raine and Tony Harrison as blue versifiers. Only a few poets make both, including Seamus Heaney, who has two poems unworthy of him in the Whitworth (one about unfreezing a vaginal pump, one about a bride-like, much played-on Victorian guitar), and a couple of much better ...

Dialect does it

Blake Morrison, 5 December 1985

No Mate for the Magpie 
by Frances Molloy.
Virago, 170 pp., £7.95, April 1985, 0 86068 594 2
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The Mysteries 
by Tony Harrison.
Faber, 229 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 9780571137893
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Ukulele Music 
by Peter Reading.
Secker, 103 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 40986 0
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Hard Lines 2 
edited by Ian Dury, Pete Townshend, Alan Bleasdale and Fanny Dubes.
Faber, 95 pp., £2.50, June 1985, 0 571 13542 0
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No Holds Barred: The Raving Beauties choose new poems by women 
edited by Anna Carteret, Fanny Viner and Sue Jones-Davies.
Women’s Press, 130 pp., £2.95, June 1985, 0 7043 3963 3
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Katerina Brac 
by Christopher Reid.
Faber, 47 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 571 13614 1
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Skevington’s Daughter 
by Oliver Reynolds.
Faber, 88 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 571 13697 4
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Rhondda Tenpenn’orth 
by Oliver Reynolds.
10 pence
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Trio 4 
by Andrew Elliott, Leon McAuley and Ciaran O’Driscoll.
Blackstaff, 69 pp., £3.95, May 1985, 0 85640 333 4
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Mama Dot 
by Fred D’Aguiar.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, August 1985, 0 7011 2957 3
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The Dread Affair: Collected Poems 
by Benjamin Zephaniah.
Arena, 112 pp., £2.95, August 1985, 9780099392507
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Long Road to Nowhere 
by Amryl Johnson.
Virago, 64 pp., £2.95, July 1985, 0 86068 687 6
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Mangoes and Bullets 
by John Agard.
Pluto, 64 pp., £3.50, August 1985, 0 7453 0028 6
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Ragtime in Unfamiliar Bars 
by Ron Butlin.
Secker, 51 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 07810 4
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True Confessions and New Clichés 
by Liz Lochhead.
Polygon, 135 pp., £3.95, July 1985, 0 904919 90 0
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Works in the Inglis Tongue 
by Peter Davidson.
Three Tygers Press, 17 pp., £2.50, June 1985
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Wild Places: Poems in Three Leids 
by William Neill.
Luath, 200 pp., £5, September 1985, 0 946487 11 1
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... Poetry written in dialect seems to be undergoing a resurgence. Tony Harrison has made extensive use of Northern idioms. Tom Paulin has been busy raiding Ulster (and, I suspect, Scottish) dictionaries. Craig Raine has produced a manifesto, ‘Babylonish Dialects’, on dialect’s behalf. And several of the books under review here – by Scots, Welshmen and British West Indians – cannot be read without the glossaries which they thoughtfully provide ...

Self-Positioning

Stefan Collini: The Movement, 25 June 2009

The Movement Reconsidered: Essays on Larkin, Amis, Gunn, Davie and Their Contemporaries 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 336 pp., £18.99, May 2009, 978 0 19 955825 4
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... all well known, most of them had work published in the Listener and the New Statesman, and Blake Morrison calculated (in his 1980 study of the group, The Movement) that between June 1953 and July 1956 ‘there were over 240 Movement contributions to the Spectator.’ Almost immediately after the putative group identity was established, the denials and ...

Delivering the Leadership

Nick Cohen: Get Mandy, 4 March 1999

Mandy: The Authorised Biography of Peter Mandelson 
by Paul Routledge.
Simon and Schuster, 302 pp., £17.99, January 1999, 9780684851754
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... betrayal when Mandelson switched from Diet Pepsi to Diet Coke and took his support from Brown to Tony Blair, thus denying his former friend what Archer would doubtless call the greatest of all prizes. It says much about Mandelson’s self-confidence that he engaged energetically in the subsequent war – a campaign conducted with off-the-record ...

He will need a raincoat

Blake Morrison: Fathers and Sons, 13 July 2016

The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between 
by Hisham Matar.
Viking, 276 pp., £14.99, June 2016, 978 0 670 92333 5
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... by raising the case of Jaballa Matar with Gaddafi (Desmond Tutu, by contrast, did his bit). Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson are fingered too, for cosying up to the Libyans, and though David Miliband was full of goodwill, a meeting at his office ended in Seif-like smarminess. Miliband placed a hand on Matar’s shoulder and asked: ‘Are you British ...

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