Seamus Perry

Seamus Perry is a professor of English at Oxford. He presents the LRB podcast series Close Readings, with Mark Ford.

Isn’t London hell? Evelyn Waugh

Seamus Perry, 10 August 2023

‘Anovelist is condemned to produce a succession of novelties, new names for characters, new incidents for his plots, new scenery,’ reflects the beleaguered hero of The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, Evelyn Waugh’s portrait of the artist as a middle-aged car crash. But really, as Pinfold goes on to say, ‘most men harbour the germs of one or two books only; all else is...


A Stiff Examination

24 February 2022

I’m grateful, I suppose, to my friend Bernard Richards for correcting my error (Letters, 10 March). Henry James said of one of his characters ‘I really think I could stand a stiff cross-examination on that lady’ and not, as I had it, ‘sit a stiff examination’. So the remark is about forensic interrogation rather than the challenge of a three-hour paper. My gratitude is only complicated...

Closet Virtuoso: Magic Mann

Seamus Perry, 24 February 2022

Thomas Mann’s​ most noteworthy appearance in Irish letters until now came in one of the last poems of W.B. Yeats. In the spring of 1938 the poet read a piece in the Yale Review by Archibald MacLeish, the only article on his work ‘which has not bored me for years’ – a disarming piece of Yeatsian egotism since most of the article was not about him. True, he made a...

With a Da bin ich! Properly Lawrentian

Seamus Perry, 9 September 2021

D.H. Lawrence is a ‘teller’ in the sense of telling you what to do – and, more particularly, what not to do: as Aldous Huxley observed, he could be ‘bloodthirstily censorious’. Lawrence had a philosophy, or as he self-deprecatingly put it, a ‘pseudo-philosophy’, coupled with a strong urge to dish out spiritual advice. ‘I want folk – English folk – to alter, and have more sense,’ as he said in a letter

When​ the posthumous Collected Poems of W.H. Auden appeared in 1976, Seamus Heaney wrote an appreciative review for the magazine Hibernia in which he told

a story about a Ballymena listener calling the BBC one morning in 1969, after the Northern Ireland news had given a lot of coverage to speeches by civil rights leaders the previous evening. ‘Tell us this,’ he said, ‘are...

The Terrifying Vrooom: Empsonising

Colin Burrow, 15 July 2021

Reading an Empson essay is like being taken for a drive by an eccentric uncle in a terrifyingly powerful old banger. There are disturbing stains on the upholstery and an alarming whiff of whisky in the...

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Alphabeted: Coleridge the Modernist

Barbara Everett, 7 August 2003

An informal Times feature on literary classics, published recently, included a list drawn up by a director of Penguin Classics: ‘The 50 Greatest Classics (pre-1900).’ Such lists can...

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