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The Secret Life

Patricia Lockwood: On the poet Molly Brodak, 25 January 2024

by Blake Butler.
Archway, 320 pp., £14, December 2023, 978 1 64823 037 0
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... Nearly forty years was long. She had died on 8 March 2020, and now her husband, the novelist Blake Butler, had written a book about her. I had just spent the night reading it on my phone, squinting at the long scroll turned sideways until one of the headaches started. They were the geniuses of headaches. There was generally no pain, but you walked ...

Grand Old Man

Robert Blake, 1 May 1980

The Last Edwardian at No 10: An Impression of Harold Macmillan 
by George Hutchinson.
Quartet, 151 pp., £6.50, February 1980, 0 7043 2232 3
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... despite the aftermath of a major operation, was determined at almost all costs to prevent Mr R.A. Butler succeeding him. His illness would have given him every excuse to resign at once and proffer no advice to the Queen at all on such a matter. Constitutionally, he was not obliged to give it, and Bonar Law declined to do so in somewhat similar circumstances ...

Why edit socially?

Marilyn Butler, 20 October 1994

Lord Byron: The Complete Poetical Works, Vol. VII 
edited by Byron.
Oxford, 445 pp., £52.50, March 1993, 0 19 812328 0
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The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse 
edited by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 832 pp., £25, April 1993, 0 19 214158 9
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... or so articles, incorporating most of the best of his critical work, he re-reads poems by Keats, Blake, Coleridge, Christina Rossetti and other 19th-century writers, as both a critical interpreter and a cultural historian who pays unusually close attention to format and circumstance. Working in the American academy, McGann responds to its changing ...

At the British Museum

James Butler: Tantra, 21 January 2021

... for centuries characterised its reception. Early British fascination – Ramos makes the case that Blake drew on popular illustrations of Kali for his vision of Lucifer – gave way to moralising repulsion and evangelical enthusiasm. The Victorian Sanskritist Monier Monier-Williams described Tantra as Hinduism’s ‘last and worst stage of medieval ...

From Old Adam to New Eve

Peter Pulzer, 6 June 1985

The Conservative Party from Peel to Thatcher 
by Robert Blake.
Methuen/Fontana, 401 pp., £19.95, May 1985, 0 413 58140 3
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Westminster Blues 
by Julian Critchley.
Hamish Hamilton, 134 pp., £7.95, May 1985, 0 241 11387 3
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... Pitt and Charles James Fox, or with the battle over Parliamentary Reform in the 1830s – Lord Blake prefers the second of these – it is evident that the two parties arose simultaneously. They have not shown equal powers of survival. Whiggery has long disappeared, though 20th-century Conservatives have included a few Whiggish eccentrics. The Liberal ...

Late Deceiver

Robert Blake, 17 September 1981

Anthony Eden 
by David Carlton.
Allen Lane, 528 pp., £20, August 1981, 0 7139 0829 7
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... with him. Even more surprising, the Ambassador found himself the channel through which Macmillan, Butler and Lord Salisbury (a figure whose role in these affairs needs further elucidation) communicated to Eisenhower, bypassing both Eden and Selwyn Lloyd. There seem to have been other off-the-record conversations between ...

Three feet on the ground

Marilyn Butler, 7 July 1983

William Wordsworth: The Borders of Vision 
by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Oxford, 496 pp., £25, February 1983, 0 19 812097 4
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William Wordsworth: The Poetry of Grandeur and of Tenderness 
by David Pirie.
Methuen, 301 pp., £14.95, March 1982, 0 416 31300 0
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Benjamin the Waggoner 
by William Wordsworth, edited by Paul Betz.
Cornell/Harvester, 356 pp., £40, September 1981, 0 85527 513 8
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... which has now been worked on the American literary critical scene has swept the six major poets (Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley and Keats all count as ‘canonical’) to prominence and indeed to modishness, without for a moment implying that radicalism or atheism have suddenly become acceptable doctrines with which to confront the young. A ...


Marilyn Butler, 2 September 1982

The New Pelican Guide to English Literature. Vol. I: Medieval Literature Part One: Chaucer and the Alliterative Tradition, Vol. II: The Age of Shakespeare, Vol. III: From Donne to Marvell, Vol. IV: From Dryden to Johnson 
edited by Boris Ford.
Penguin, 647 pp., £2.95, March 1982, 0 14 022264 2
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Medieval Writers and their Work: Middle English Literature and its Background 
by J.A. Burrow.
Oxford, 148 pp., £9.95, May 1982, 0 19 289122 7
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Contemporary Writers Series: Saul Bellow, Joe Orton, John Fowles, Kurt Vonnegut, Seamus Heaney, Thomas Pynchon 
by Malcolm Bradbury, C.W.E. Bigsby, Peter Conradi, Jerome Klinkowitz and Blake Morrison.
Methuen, 110 pp., £1.95, May 1982, 0 416 31650 6
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... English-speaking world has passed through one collective experience in the past quarter-century. Blake Morrison, while struggling gamely to relate Seamus Heaney to his and our times, cannot help but fix him eventually in his own particular place, which is in fact a substantially different matter. Tony Tanner observes suddenly that Thomas Pynchon’s most ...

The Sage of Polygon Road

Claire Tomalin, 28 September 1989

The Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Vols I-VII 
edited by Janet Todd and Marilyn Butler.
Pickering & Chatto, 2530 pp., £245, August 1989, 1 85196 006 6
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... edition of her Original Stories (for children), with an introduction by E.V. Lucas and five of the Blake plates reproduced. The other modern edition I acquired was called The Love Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft, and had a biographical preface by Roger Ingpen. It was a reprint of Mary’s letters to her lover Gilbert Imlay, first published by Godwin among her ...

Bloom’s Gnovel

Marilyn Butler, 3 July 1980

The Flight to Lucifer: A Gnostic Fantasy 
by Harold Bloom.
Faber, 240 pp., £4.95, May 1980, 0 374 15644 1
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... creative writing of the last two centuries; he has contributed essentially to the understanding of Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, Browning, Yeats, as well as Wallace Stevens and still-living American poets. That concern with establishing a canon of great literature, and with the interpretation of all poems within the canon, is traditional to ...

Talk about doing

Frank Kermode, 26 October 1989

Against Deconstruction 
by John Ellis.
Princeton, 168 pp., £13.70, February 1989, 0 691 06754 6
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The New Historicism 
by H. Aram Veeser.
Routledge, 318 pp., £30, July 1989, 0 415 90070 0
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Rethinking Historicism: Critical Essays in Romantic History 
by Marjorie Levinson, Marilyn Butler, Jerome McGann and Paul Hamilton.
Blackwell, 149 pp., £22.50, August 1989, 0 631 16591 6
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Towards a Literature of Knowledge 
by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 138 pp., £16.50, May 1989, 9780198117407
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The Stoic in Love: Selected Essays on Literature and Ideas 
by A.D. Nuttall.
Harvester, 209 pp., £25, July 1989, 0 7450 0614 0
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... offers some opinions that will always remain pretty mysterious. One typical claim is that Marilyn Butler’s contribution to the collection is distinguished by a calculated absence of Theory, and that this lack is a subtle snub to Mrs Thatcher: for it ‘undermines the deeply abstract objectivity used to legitimate the deeply concrete interests of the groups ...

Action and Suffering

Marilyn Butler, 16 April 1981

Ideas and the Novel 
by Mary McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 121 pp., £4.95, February 1981, 9780297778967
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... political comment within works of art was not merely allowable but necessary? They included Blake, Burns, and the younger Wordsworth and Coleridge, as well as a host of lesser figures, some of whom were novelists. In William Godwin’s Caleb Williams the era produced a novel of ideas that not only did without a conventional love story, but broached ...

Priapus Knight

Marilyn Butler, 18 March 1982

The Arrogant Connoisseur: Richard Payne Knight 1751-1824 
edited by Michael Clarke and Nicholas Penny.
Manchester, 189 pp., £30, February 1982, 0 7190 0871 9
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... his first exploration of the subjects of religion and sexuality, coincided with the early work of Blake. Whether or not the Discourse was known to Erasmus Darwin, whose long poems extolled the generative principle, or to Paine before he wrote The Age of Reason, it helped to inform the intellectual world of the 1790s in which both were received. Coleridge and ...

Lust for Leaks

Neal Ascherson: The Cockburns of Cork, 1 September 2005

The Broken Boy 
by Patrick Cockburn.
Cape, 312 pp., £15.99, June 2005, 0 224 07108 4
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... its interests anywhere in the world.’ That goes for some of his own ancestors, like Sir Henry Blake, a ferocious oppressor and landlord in Ireland (though a more liberal governor of Hong Kong); or Sir Thomas Osborne, who made his tenants pay rent in horses, cows and pigs, and preferred to be treated by a vet than by a Catholic doctor. With these ...

Too Obviously Cleverer

Ferdinand Mount: Harold Macmillan, 8 September 2011

Supermac: The Life of Harold Macmillan 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Pimlico, 887 pp., £16.99, September 2011, 978 1 84413 541 7
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The Macmillan Diaries Vol. II: Prime Minister and After 1957-66 
edited by Peter Catterall.
Macmillan, 758 pp., £40, May 2011, 978 1 4050 4721 0
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... are mild and eager to please. He remained dauntless and daunting in politics. He despised Rab Butler for not having fought (he had a withered hand after a riding accident as a child), he sneered at Hugh Gaitskell for not having any medals to wear on Remembrance Day and he loathed Herbert Morrison, his first boss in the wartime coalition, for having been a ...

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