David Norbrook

David Norbrook a fellow and tutor in English at Magdalen College, Oxford, is the author of Poetry and Politics in the English Renaissance, reviewed by Blair Worden (LRB, 7 March).

Coy Mistress Uncovered

David Norbrook, 19 May 1988

When John Aubrey discovered that Milton had written some panegyrics of Cromwell and Fairfax, he eagerly sought them out for their ‘sublime’ quality: ‘were they made in commendation of the Devil, ’twere all one to me: ’tis the hypsos that I look after.’ Aubrey’s brief lives of the leaders of the Puritan revolution retain something of his youthful excitement at the sublimity, the magnanimity in defence of liberty, aspired to by the Devil’s party. What was at stake was a cultural revolution which seemed to a few enthusiasts to open up immense possibilities. Marvell’s prefatory poem to Paradise Lost registers the sense of some of his generation that there had been losses in the move from that sublimity to a Restoration ethos of polite consumerism, an age whose dominant trope is anti-climax.

Shaggy Fellows

David Norbrook, 9 July 1987

‘In the gloom, gold gathers the light against it.’ In choosing this line from Pound’s 11th Canto as one of the epigraphs to his Collected Poems, Geoffrey Hill concentrates our attention on one of the central problems posed by Pound’s poetry and explored by his own. Beauty is no absolute guarantee of truth or morality; art may illuminate or corrupt. As David Perkins points out in Modernism and After, Pound is incomparable amongst modern poets for the rhythmic subtlety of his evocation of sensuous beauty, of the play of light and shade. For Perkins, this lyricism is the redeeming feature of his poetry. He deplores Pound’s fascistic and anti-semitic politics, but he feels able to abstract the beauty from the politics. ‘Evaluation,’ he says, ‘is always personal’; he enjoys the lyrical passages, and for him these outweigh the political unpleasantness.

What happened to MacDiarmid

David Norbrook, 23 October 1986

In Exiles and Emigrés (1970) Terry Eagleton argued that modern British culture had proved incapable of producing a major writer who could analyse society as a whole. It had collapsed into a ‘withered empiricism’. And English poetry in this century has seemed to many to confirm this analysis, the dominant voice being one of cautious ‘common sense’ tinged with a wistful conservatism: an immense load Of self-neutralising moral and social qualities, Above all, Circumspection.

SIR: It is difficult to address the specific points raised by Craig Raine’s letter (Letters, 3 July) without engaging with his theoretical assumptions. He assumes that the aesthetic, the political and the theological are completely distinct and ought to be kept in separate compartments by literary critics. I can sympathise up to a point with the impulse behind his position. The category of ‘the...

Public Works

David Norbrook, 5 June 1986

‘Arnold and Eliot ensured that the magic of monarchy and superstition permeated English literary criticism and education like a syrupy drug … ’ Yes, this is Tom Paulin speaking. Readers of the London Review will remember the review of a collection of essays on Geoffrey Hill in which he bitterly attacked the conservatism of English poetry and criticism. Indignant correspondents retorted that Paulin’s literary judgment had been contaminated by political bias and that in any case he lacked any ear for the rhythms of English poetry. The War of Paulin’s Ear shows no signs of dying down. He is locked in public combat with Craig Raine, who commissioned this anthology of political verse.

Horror like Thunder: Lucy Hutchinson

Germaine Greer, 21 June 2001

In 1679 a small book with the resonant title Order and Disorder; or, the world made and undone was published in London. The title was intended to touch a nerve. The Restoration crisis had never...

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The appearance of this book on 30 January, the 350th anniversary of the cold morning when the axe fell on Charles Stuart’s neck, was no mere romantic gesture. Rather, it declared David...

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Blair Worden, 7 March 1985

In 1892 A.C. Benson published an essay which introduced the modern appreciation of Andrew Marvell. For more than two hundred years Marvell’s verse had shared with Metaphysical poetry a...

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