Now that I'm no longer applying for jobs in academia, I feel free to say this: I don't like what the Virginia Woolf industry has done to the scholarly study of women writers. I should also say that, while I don't much like her novels, Woolf's essays have influenced me, and I reread them for … Continue reading The Virginia Woolf industry is a problem
I think I must have read this Angela Thirkell novel first when I was 13, stuck in bed with mumps, and very bored. It entranced me. The tiresome adult children converging on the beleaguered and saintly mother; the glow of perfection cast over the rightful landowning classes; the crashing irruption of the Adams family into … Continue reading Angela Thirkell’s The Headmistress
This is a memoir by the first female professor in the UK, Edith Morley, Professor of English Language at the University of Reading. It’s an essential read for anyone exploring the history of women’s higher education in Britain, and for those keen on reliving the struggles of women to make headway in a profession that … Continue reading Edith Morley’s Before and After. Reminiscences of a Working Life
I must be one of the last people among the middlebrow fanciers to have read Beverley Nichols. He is perfect bedtime reading: light, frivolous, witty, of an earlier period so there won't be anything nasty in the woodshed, and unexpectedly moving. I first noticed his existence in a delightfully poisonous parody in Leonard Russell's immortal … Continue reading The shrine of Beverley Nichols: should one worship?
We’re well past the Labour victory in the post-war general election now, heading towards a Conservative revival in 1951. Notable Conservative novelist Angela Thirkell wrote about this period of British history with loathing and resentment. John Lehmann writes about it in his Foreword to this issue in terms of a strong desire to earn a … Continue reading Penguin New Writing 34: Life in 1948
This issue of Penguin New Writing, from spring 1947, has a depth that the previous issues reviewed don’t seem to have achieved. John Lehmann goes all-out in his Foreword by saying that the fires that decimated London’s publishing offices and warehouses in the bombing in December 1940 did ‘the book-trade — and the authors who … Continue reading Penguin New Writing 30
Here’s a bit of Second World War literary and theatrical history I had no idea existed. T S Eliot’s main theatrical collaborator was the actor and director E Martin Browne, who was the first to produce Eliot’s play Murder in the Cathedral (1935), about the murder of Thomas à Becket, and The Family Reunion (1939) … Continue reading Pilgrim Story