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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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... ought there to be a glossary, ‘ee by gum’ or ‘eeh baah gum’? (The issues are raised by William Neill when he prints two versions of the same poem on facing pages, both in dialect but one a good deal more dialectal than the other.) Since poets are not etymologists they may play fast and loose, as MacDiarmid did when assembling some of his ...

Money Man

Michael Neill: Shakespeare in Company, 6 February 2014

Shakespeare in Company 
by Bart van Es.
Oxford, 357 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 0 19 956931 1
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... in the company. The Globe, as James Shapiro reminded us in 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare (2005), was ‘the first London theatre built by actors for actors’, but, by virtue of Shakespeare’s position there, it developed as ‘a playwright’s and not an actor’s theatre’. In it Shakespeare would enjoy the professional ...

Short Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Shakespeare’s Faces, 7 January 2016

... John Aubrey’s passing remark in 1665 that Stonehenge might have been built by druids, through William Stukeley’s obsessively detailed and almost entirely invented account of the druidic religion it took another hundred and fifty years, but in the early 20th century druids appeared at Stonehenge and they have been there ever since. It is often pointed ...

Glimpsed in the Glare

Michael Neill: Shakespeare in 1606, 17 December 2015

1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear 
by James Shapiro.
Faber, 423 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 0 571 23578 0
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... he can be glimpsed in the glare of what was going on around him.’ In 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, Shapiro observed the paradox that while Shakespeare ‘more so, perhaps, than any writer before or since … held the keys that opened the hearts and minds of others’, he ‘kept a lock on what he revealed about himself’. It is as if the ...

Wilderness of Tigers

Michael Neill: Shakespeare’s Latin, 19 March 2015

Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity 
by Colin Burrow.
Oxford, 281 pp., £16.99, September 2013, 978 0 19 968479 3
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... a painful business.’ In The Merry Wives of Windsor, Parson Evans attempts to show off William Page’s learning to his mother; but when the boy admits he’s forgotten the declension of his pronouns, the schoolmaster at once threatens him with an educative thrashing: ‘If you forget your “qui”s, your “que”s, and your “quod”s, you must ...

Unmuscular Legs

E.S. Turner, 22 August 1996

The Dictionary of National Biography 1986-1990 
edited by C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 607 pp., £50, June 1996, 0 19 865212 7
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... piece on Harold Macmillan, we certainly need it for the life of a lesser prime minister, Lord O’ Neill of Northern Ireland. This is the man, we are reminded, who on retirement said: ‘It is frightfully hard to explain to Protestants that if you give Roman Catholics a good job and a good house, they will live like Protestants … they will refuse to have 18 ...

Physicke from Another Body

Michael Neill: Cannibal Tinctures, 1 December 2011

Medicinal Cannibalism in Early Modern English Literature and Culture 
by Louise Noble.
Palgrave Macmillan, 241 pp., £52, March 2011, 978 0 230 11027 4
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Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: The History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians 
by Richard Sugg.
Routledge, 374 pp., £24.99, June 2011, 978 0 415 67417 1
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... seems to have endowed the blood of all his descendants with mysterious properties, so that in 1883 William George Black recorded that Dubliners regarded Keogh blood as a proven remedy for the toothache, while an acquaintance claimed to know of a Belfast Keogh ‘whose flesh had actually been punctured scores of times to procure his blood’. Black does not ...

In the Shady Wood

Michael Neill: Staging the Forest, 22 March 2018

TheShakespearean Forest 
by Anne Barton.
Cambridge, 185 pp., £75, August 2017, 978 0 521 57344 3
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... the Irish as to a hedgehog his skin [enabling him] to live and lie out in bogs and woods’, Sir William Herbert argued that the only remedy would be to enforce a long-standing ban on native dress and drive the woodkerne from their forests. In Shakespeare’s own writing, the Irish forest and its denizens are registered only as an offstage presence – but ...

Ich dien

Michael Neill: Shakespeare and the Servants, 22 October 2009

Shakespeare, Love and Service 
by David Schalkwyk.
Cambridge, 317 pp., £50, June 2008, 978 0 521 88639 0
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... seruants place and dutie’ was acknowledged to be ‘of more abiect and inferiour kinde’, as William Gouge put it in Of Domesticall Duties (1622). By the mid-20th century, the material conditions of service had changed beyond recognition, yet the ideological assumptions that had governed the early modern household continued to colour the language and ...

Old Dad dead?

Michael Neill: Thomas Middleton, 4 December 2008

Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works 
edited by Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino.
Oxford, 2016 pp., £85, November 2007, 978 0 19 818569 7
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Thomas Middleton and Early Modern Textual Culture: A Companion to the Collected Works 
edited by Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino.
Oxford, 1183 pp., £100, November 2007, 978 0 19 818570 3
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... who rose to become an alderman of Stratford-upon-Avon. Both fathers were socially ambitious: William Middleton bought himself a coat of arms from the College of Heralds in 1568, thereby securing the all-important right for himself and his successors to style themselves ‘gentleman’ – a feat that John Shakespeare, with the help of his successful ...

Shelley in Season

Richard Holmes, 16 October 1980

The Unacknowledged Legislator: Shelley and Politics 
by P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 312 pp., £16.50, June 1980, 0 19 812095 8
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Shelley and his World 
by Claire Tomalin.
Thames and Hudson, 128 pp., £5.95, July 1980, 9780500130681
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... antecedents – Godwin, of course, Tom Paine, Francis Burdett, Cartwright and, interestingly, William Hazlitt. Throughout, Dr Dawson pays Shelley the tribute – a rare one, as it would certainly have been in the days before the pioneering work of the American scholar Kenneth Neill Cameron – of taking his politics ...

They would have laughed

Ferdinand Mount: The Massacre at Amritsar, 4 April 2019

Amritsar 1919: An Empire of Fear and the Making of a Massacre 
by Kim A. Wagner.
Yale, 325 pp., £20, February 2019, 978 0 300 20035 5
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... permission for this and fingers those notorious reactionaries and outspoken Dyer supporters, Sir William Joynson-Hicks, the home secretary, and Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, then war secretary, but he can find no trace of the necessary arrangements in the papers of either ‘Jix’ or ‘Worthy’, suggesting that even they felt the need to conceal what they ...

Toxic Lozenges

Jenny Diski: Arsenic, 8 July 2010

The Arsenic Century: How Victorian Britain Was Poisoned at Home, Work and Play 
by James Whorton.
Oxford, 412 pp., £16.99, January 2010, 978 0 19 957470 4
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... reputation has stood the test of time are the following: Dr Palmer of Rugeley, Jack the Ripper, Neill Cream, Mrs Maybrick, Dr Crippen, Seddon, Joseph Smith, Armstrong, and Bywaters and Thompson. Orwell discounts Jack the Ripper as an altogether special artisan of murder, but of the remaining eight, six were poisoners. The perfect murderer, he explains, was ...

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