Listed below, in order, are all the 100 posts I have written since beginning this blog on 16th August 2011. For each one I give the title, a hyperlink, the date of posting, and a very brief summary plus any relevant notes. Sometimes I provide a link to other related posts, including links to World and Time, the blog I wrote between 2009-2011 while teaching at Madingley Hall, the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education.
1 In Gloucestershire (16th August 2011)
About the landscape of Gloucestershire, my new home on leaving Cambridge; in particular, about the significance of May Hill – for Edward Thomas and for me. Posted the same day that I wrote my farewell blog from Madingley Hall, ‘World and Time: the Sense of an Ending’.
2 Reasons to Write (11th September 2011)
Contrasting the styles of reviewing in the Times Literary Supplement and the Guardian Review, discussing why writers write, and introducing my new project, a life of the stained glass designer Charles Eamer Kempe.
3 Edward Thomas at Buchy (25th September 2011)
Reflecting upon a new biography of Edward Thomas by Matthew Hollis, especially on the significance of Thomas’s brief stop at Buchy, near Rouen, on his journey to the Western Front. See also ‘Edward Thomas and the End of Winter’.
4 Venice at the Edges (29th September 2011)
The first of my posts about Venice, followed by the ‘Venice Inscribed’ series, which explores the relationship between different writers and La Serenissima. See also ‘World and Time: (still) in Venice’, a precursor to ‘Venice Inscribed’.
5 Bottom, thou art translated (into Korean) (5th October 2011)
About the 2012 Globe Theatre plans to stage all Shakespeare’s plays, using overseas companies performing in their own languages, and suggesting that Henry V (the one chosen to be performed in English) is of all Shakespeare’s canon the play that deals with issues of translation.
6 The Singer and the Song (27th October 2011)
Based on a lecture given in France about the relationship of poets to the art of poetry, and reflecting on David Holbrook’s belief that metaphor is ‘the means by which we extend our awareness of experience into new realms’. See also ‘In Praise of David Holbrook’.
7 Twelfth Night: Counting on Olivia (5th November 2011)
An exercise in scansion, following a request from a teacher on how to scan a difficult line in Twelfth Night; illustrating the importance of reading or speaking each line in the context of its speech and scene, and of the character who speaks.
8 What is (or was) Cambridge English? (6th November 2011)
A reflection on the way the term ‘Cambridge English’ is used today, distinguishing it from ‘Oxford English’, and referring back to the earlier sense of Cambridge English to refer to the approach to the study of English pioneered at Cambridge by I.A. Richards and F.R. Leavis. See ‘World and Time: New Bearings on F.R. Leavis’
9 In Praise of David Holbrook (29th November 2011)
A reflection on the significance of the Cambridge educationalist and poet David Holbrook, and on his influence on the generations of teachers who were indebted to his books such as English for Maturity (1961) and English for the Rejected (1964).
10 Re-reading Julian Barnes (i): Cover Story (5th December 2011)
First of two posts considering unexpected aspects of this Booker Prize-winning novel: here, following an article in the Guardian Review, a discussion of the design of the book (its cover in particular) in relation to the themes of the novel. See also ‘Re-reading Julian Barnes (ii): on Poetry and the Poet’.
11 Edmund Blunden Today (16 December 2011)
About the poet and critic Edmund Blunden I have always cared a great deal, and in this post I set out the reasons why I care and why I believe his writing still matters and deserves a wider audience. See also ‘On the Waggoner’.
12 Cricket, I Confess (23 Devember 2011)
About my childhood enthusiasm for cricket, and autograph hunting, and Jack Hobbs, PG Wodehouse, Edmund Blunden, Dulwich College and Bedford School; ending with one of the most famous lines in all cricketing poetry .
13 Julian Barnes revisited (ii): Poetry and ‘the Poet’ (2nd January 2012)
The second discussion of Julian Barnes’ Booker Prize-winning novel; focusing on the way that – without ever mentioning him by name – Barnes threads the poetry of Philip Larkin throughout the book, using it as an oblique commentary on the story as it develops.
14 To Norfolk (15th January 2012)
A walk on Holkham beach and a meditation on what makes a novel ‘great’. These thoughts centre of Hilary Mantel’s novel A Change of Climate, which is set partly in the North Norfolk countryside, partly in Africa. See also ‘History, Heaney and Hilary Mantel’.
15 In Search of Martha Edith Shotbolt (21st January 2012)
A post tracing the life and teaching career of a Bedfordshire girl, daughter of a farm labourer and a straw plaiter; prompted by the chance discovery that Edith (my great grandmother) had married Albert Dove, schoolmaster of Cherry Burton, a village I had recently visited in search of stained glass.
16 John Betjeman and Windlesham (5th February 2012)
A letter to the Times, and a discussion of John Betjeman’s poem, ‘Potpourri from a Surrey Garden’, comparing it with Eliot’s poem, ‘The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock’. Following this post there is a very illuminating comment by a reader with a different take on Betjeman’s poem. See also ‘John Betjeman and Kempe’.
17 Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb (14th February 2015)
The power of names; roll-calls in poetry and fiction; a short story by John McGregor composed entirely of place names from around the Fens and the Wash. Missing from this story, however, is Tydd, where I lived as a child; so, by way of compensation, this post ends with a poem composed of Tydd place names and surnames.
18 George Herbert’s ‘brittle crazie glasse’ (5 March 2012)
Starting with a portrait in stained glass (from the Studios of Charles Eamer Kempe) of the poet George Herbert, this post explores Herbert’s own use of stained glass as a powerful and complex image in his poetry. See also ‘Short Measures (vi): Ivor Gurney and George Herbert’.
19 Truly, a Well-Wrought Urn (28th March 2015)
A visit to Witchford Pottery to inspect a new terracotta urn commissioned for the gardens of Madingley Hall; this leads to a quibble about whether an Ali Baba jar should really be described as an urn; the matter settled by reference to urns in literature.
20 Short Measures (i): William Blake & Eternity’s Sunrise (15th April 2012)
The first in a series of posts discussing a very short poem, no more than12 lines; the idea is to illustrate the technique of contextual close reading. (This has been by far the most viewed of all my posts.)
21 King’s Cross and E.M. Forster (29th April 2012)
Comparing the new concourse of King’s Cross station with its neighbour, St Pancras; discussing E.M. Forster’s comparison of the two stations in Howards End, and analyzing Forster’s description of Mrs Munt’s ill-fated and needless journey from King’s Cross in that novel. See also ‘World and Time: Rupert Brooke and E. M. Forster’.
22 Anglo-German (15th May 2012)
Records the progress of a lecture tour across Nord Rhine-Westphalia, lecturing on Cambridge Writers and Cambridge Writing. Discusses the discovery of an isolated WW1 war memorial in woods above Bielefeld, the germ of an idea for a future lecture tour to Germany. See also ‘World and Time: Berlin’s Empty Shelves.’
23 Short Measures (ii): Time and Thomas Hardy (11th June 2012)
Close reading and context: Hardy’s poem ‘In a Museum’, written after seeing the the cast of a prehistoric bird in Exeter’s Royal Albert Museum. This is the second in my series discussing very short poems. See also ‘Thomas Hardy’s Head for Heights’.
24 Mongolia, Chaucer and Chinggis Khaan (15th June 2012)
My first impressions of Mongolia, which I visited unexpectedly for a week on an education consultancy: reflections on Marco Polo and the discovery (equally unexpected) that Chaucer is held in high esteem in Ulaanbaatar, the capital.
25 Strasbourg: stained glass and storks (24 June 2012)
First of a number of posts linked to my work in France for the OIB (l’Option Internationale du Baccalauréat): Strasbourg and its Cathedral, its stained glass; Thomas Hardy and the storks of Strasbourg; war and war memorials in the city.
26 Anglo-French (Ist July 2012)
Discussing an article from Le Figaro, which commented on London and the oddness of the English in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics, and reviewing Anglo-French cultural sensitivities. See also ‘Paris as I See It’.
27 Barenboim’s Band (26 July 2012)
Revisiting Parallels and Paradoxes, a book of conversations between the Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and the Palestinian cultural critic Edward Said, and their passionate engagement in arguments about education, literature and music.
28 On First Looking Into Macfarlane’s ‘Old Ways’ (21 August 2012)
Enthusiastic first impressions of a book by Robert Macfarlane, of particular interest to me because of its writing about the Wiltshire Downs, and focus on poets Edmund Blunden and Edward Thomas; the book written in fact almost as a companion piece to Matthew Hollis’ biography of Thomas. See also ‘World and Time: A Blog on the Og’.
29 Prince Harry and Prince Hal (26th August 2012)
Written (partly) in defence of Prince Harry, and his habit of getting into scrapes; comparisons with his great great grandfather and great great uncle (Edward VII and the Duke of Clarence) and further comparisons, and consolation, to be drawn with and from Shakespeare’s Henry V.
30 Ruth Etchells Remembered (2nd September 2012)
A recollection of Ruth Etchells, author and teacher, who was a profound influence on me when I was a student at Durham University. One of the very few times I have written about Durham, a place close to my heart, but see ‘World and Time: Archbishop Ramsey’s Treasure’ .
31 Marianne, Dickens and Kate (16th September 2012)
The continuing French affection for Marianne, and Charles Dickens’ oblique references to her in A Tale of Two Cities; all this prompted by intrusive pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge published in the French magazine Closer, and a WW1 Marianne memorial at Trevières, mutilated in WW2.
32 Bedford, Betjeman, Bunyan (2nd October 2012)
Prompted by a return visit to Bedford to run a Study Day on John Betjeman; reflections on Bedford’s fine Embankment, on boating on the Ouse and on the continuing memory (in Bedford if nowhere else) of John Bunyan.
33 Short Measures (iii) Wordsworth’s Rainbow (20th October 2012)
A close reading of ‘My heart leaps up’, prompted by a fine rainbow suddenly appearing over Norwich; why Wordsworth still matters.
34 Heaney and the Conversation of Poetry (5th November 2012)
Following a day working with teachers in France on the difficulties of engaging students with poetry, I recapitulate my discussion, which began with Seamus Heaney’s ‘On Sandymount Strand’, exploring the relationship between this three-line poem and the writings of James Joyce, before making a link to a once-famous Michael Drayton’s sonnet and ending with translation as a way of teaching the excitement and elusiveness of words and images in poetry.
35 Close reading: war memorials (12th November 2012)
A Remembrance Day meditation on the newly relocated war memorial in Cambridge, followed by an extended discussion of the symbolism and significance of one of the finest memorials in Britain, at Northernhay Gardens in Exeter.
36 Quiller-Couch, Cornwall, Cambridge and English (23rd November2012)
I wrote about Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch first in ‘On Q’ for World and Time; here I discuss his decision to commute between Fowey in Cornwall and Cambridge University to become Professor of English, ending with a postscript about the gate of his Cornish home, The Haven.
37 In Praise of Archivists (5th December 2012)
A tribute to the late Patricia Bell, Bedfordshire County Archivist when I was teaching in Bedford in the 1970s, and latterly a student of mine when I came back to teach there at the admirable Bedford Retirement Centre; also a comparison with Martha Cooley’s novel The Archivist.
38 Short Measures (iv): Crashaw’s Nativity Hymn (20th December 2012)
A Christmas close reading of a short poem by the lesser-known Metaphysical poet Richard Crashaw I much admire; this poem-within-a-poem I now read within the context of the longer poem which forms an interesting point of comparison with Milton’s Paradise Lost.
39 T.S. Eliot and the Turning Year (2nd January 2013)
Poetry from Tennyson, Hardy, and others about midwinter weather and the end of the year, leading to a recollection of the importance for me of acting in Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, directed by one of the greatest influences on my future career, my teacher Malcolm Ross.
40 Tarantula: John Hayward, Man of Letters (14th January 2013)
Both a celebration of John Hayward and a review of a rightly-praised new biography about him; Hayward’s importance in mid 20th century English literary life, and his importance for an understanding of T.S. Eliot.
41 On Q again: a Cambridge Centenary (29th January 2013)
Marking the centenary of Quiller-Couch’s Inaugural Lecture as Edward VII Professor of English at Cambridge; discovering the lecture room in which the lecture was delivered, and commenting on the still-underestimated significance of Q’s contribution to the distinctive character of Cambridge English.
42 Why reading matters (more than ever) (18th February 2013)
A lecture given to the English Speaking Union, dealing first with the closure threat to local libraries, before discussing the importance of books and reading as a theme in the final volume of Seamus Heaney’s poetry Human Chain. Finally a demonstration of close reading, taking a passage from Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.
43 What larks? Birdsong, & Cultural Memory (8th March 2013)
A walk in the Cotswolds, prompting a reflection on ‘Returning we hear the larks’ by Isaac Rosenberg and then a defence of novelists such as Sebastian Faulks and Pat Barker against attacks from recent military historians.
44 The Great War: writers, historians, critics (22nd March 2013)
For the first time, a post that is composed almost entirely of responses to the previous post, concluding with an extended and thought-provoking critique of my defence of a passage from Birdsong.
45 Venice Inscribed (i): Donna Leon (2nd April 2013)
The beginning of a mini-series about Venice seen through the eyes of writers. The popularity of Donna Leon’s Inspector Brunetti novels, followed by the uncovering of a mystery surrounding the republication of my favourite Brunetti mystery, Sea of Troubles, set in Pellestrina, the fishing village about which I wrote in Venice at the Edges.
46 Tripe Dressing in Jersey: introduction to family history (28 April 2013)
An unexpected twist to my research into the origins of my Jersey ancestor: my great great grandfather, John Fuller (1800-1863) whose portrait I have lived with most of my life. My discoveries in Jersey lead to a radical reassessment of a rather remarkable man and his resourceful daughters.
47. ‘The Door Wherein I went’: 1963 and me (10th May 2013)
(The title quotation is from Omar Khayyam: ‘Myself when young’.) A retrospective look at myself as a young teenager, wrestling with the unfamiliar vocabulary of the newspaper reports on the Profumo affair, and learning about the assassination of President Kennedy as the lights went out.
48 Venice Inscribed (iii): Joseph Brodsky (26th May 2013)
Second in my series about Venice writers: the Russian dissident poet Joseph Brodsky whose brief book, Watermark: an Essay on Venice (1989) I had recently read. I criticize Brodsky for his record of a meeting with Ezra Pound’s companion, Olga Rudge, and his description of W.H. Auden in Florian’s restaurant, but admire him for his description of Venice in winter.
49 Noddy and the Coronation (1st June 2013)
The unexpected acquisition of an official programme for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 prompts memories of attending a Coronation Children’s Party dressed as Noddy, and leads into a re-reading of the Coronation service as theatre, before ending with a Coronation Ode to the Queen by the then poet laureate, John Masefield.
50 Trollope Adrift on Salisbury Plain (11th June 2013)
Delivering a paper to the Oxford Trollope Society about the novel written immediately after the end of the Barchester Chronicles, The Vicar of Bullhampton, and a photograph of a society wedding on the front page of the Sunday Times; leading to a discussion of the impossibility of pinning down Bullhampton, criss-crossing Salisbury Plain through thick and Thynne.
51 Thomas Hardy’s Birds-eye View (26th June 2013)
Hardy’s novel The Hand of Ethelberta takes its heroine and her suitor to the very top of the world’s (then) tallest building: the spire of Rouen Cathedral; Hardy’s fondness for bird’s-eye views compared across several novels, and a surprise conclusion about Hardy and Rouen.
52 Reading Stained Glass (i): Rouen (4th July 2013)
First in a short series looking closely at stained glass: a discussion of a small, dinner-plate sized medallion high up in a window of Rouen Cathedral: techniques, composition and symbolism in a depiction of Christ washing the feet of St Peter.
53 Victor Hugo’s Home Improvements (22nd July 2013)
In St Peter Port, Guernsey, a tour of the house in Hauteville which Hugo renovated and decorated in an astonishingly idiosyncratic way while living in exile on Guernsey; culminating in the view across the harbour to Castle Cornet seen from his writing table and, higher still, from his rooftop Belvedere.
54 Short Measures (v): Robert Herrick’s Old Wives (8th August 2013)
A poem discovered in a stained glass window in an hotel on the south coast, facing the Needles and the Isle of Wight; comparison of Herrick with John Betjeman, and Herrick’s fondness for old wives’ and fairy tales, leading him back to Shakespeare and to the Epilogue to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
55 From Prague: Appointments to Keep in the Past (21st August 2013)
My first visit to Prague: reflections on the Prague Spring and the plays of Tom Stoppard; the significance of Jan Palach; the old Jewish Cemetery and a meditation on time in W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz.
56 Seamus Heaney Full Face (6th September 2015)
The death of Heaney, and a rebuke to Charles Moore of The Spectator for his mean-spirited attack on Heaney’s for putting ‘niceness’ above courage. Thoughts on Heaney based upon his own obituary description of the poet Robert Lowell. See also World and Time: Heaney’s Human Chain.
57 ‘Stained Glass by Kempe’ (29th September 2013)
A visit to a National Trust property (Wakehurst Place) where a window by Charles Eamer Kempe is under threat: the window described and its unusual features examined to explain why it needs to be protected, not removed, by the NT. See also Conserving Kempe Glass (i) Waterbeach.
58 Machiavelli at the Cheltenham Literature Festival (6th October 2013)
The opening day of the Literature Festival; discussion of a new book in defence of Machiavelli by the American political philosopher Philip Bobbitt: Bobbitt’s literary allusions, and a surprisingly personal postscript.
59 Reading Stained Glass (ii): Wittersham in Kent (18th October 2015)
A complete contrast with the window discussed in Reading Stained Glass (i), this is a memorial window to ‘A Man of Kent’ in a remote church on the Isle of Oxney; the character of the glass, its designer and maker and the imagery – military, pastoral and patriotic.
60 History, Heaney and Hilary Mantel (1st November 2013)
A lecture by Hilary Mantel at the University of Exeter: her defence of writing historical fiction and her distinction between History as heritage , as in Britain where one pays for admission, and living through History, as in Ireland, where one lives the history happening around one; hence, the significance of Heaney’s poetry. See also World and Time: Heaney’s Penwork.
61 At the Biographers’ Club Prize Dinner (23rd November 2013)
The annual awards presented at a dinner held in the Savile Club in London’s Mayfair. Praise for John Smart’s biography, Tarantula, about the writer and bibliographer John Hayward. My difficulties with pinning down the character of Charles Eamer Kempe; the award of the Biography of the Year Prize to Charles Moore. See Seamus Heaney Full Face.
62 King’s Cross in All Its Glory (12th December 2013)
The new concourse at King’s Cross station, only station in the world with a Platform 0 and a Platform 93/4; the appeal of Harry Potter: contrasts with St Pancras International; E.M. Forster’s comparison in favour of King’s Cross; the unusual dedication stone of the new concourse.
63 Paris, as I See It (30th December 2013)
A view of the rooftops of Paris prompts me to work out how and when I first became aware of Paris: the Madeline books, French films, the two Françoises (Sagan and Hardy) my first visit in 1969, Utrillo and my uncle’s oil paintings of Pigalle.
64 On The Waggoner (23rd January 2014)
Obscure origins of my copy of this volume of post-WW1 poems by Edmund Blunden; the slim volume described; Blunden’s reputation in 1920, as recorded in Undertones of War; John Greening’s call for a new way of reading Blunden; The Waggoner as a book of ghosts. See also Mistaking Magdalen for the Menin Gate.
65 David Lodge: Lives in Writing (6th February 2014)
The pleasure of a new book by David Lodge: reading from London to Paris and through the night; Lodge writing about writers: range of subjects from Trollope to Terry Eagleton; his rivalry and friendship with Malcolm Bradbury.
66 In Defence of the War Poets (23rd February 2014)
The need to defend the war poets from attacks by historians and journalists-turned-historian such as Jeremy Paxman and Max Hastings; analysis of misdirected criticisms by Jeremy Black, and by David Reynolds in his book The Long Shadow.
67 Venice Inscribed (iii): Ruskin and E.M. Forster (17th March 2014)
My introduction to Ruskin: Leonard Bast reading The Stones of Venice in E.M. Forster’s Howards End. Ruskin’s account of Venice and the lagoon seen from Torcello campanile; Ruskin, Forster and gondolas: Forster’s love of Italy stirred by a tipsy gondolier in London.
68 Tom Denny and Ivor Gurney in Gloucester Cathedral (2nd April 2014)
My introduction to Tom Denny’s stained glass in Yorkshire; the scope of Denny’s work since the Millennium. The newly installed Ivor Gurney memorial windows in Gloucester Cathedral, and the most powerful images of the First World War yet seen in stained glass.
69 Short Measures (vi): Ivor Gurney and George Herbert (23rd April 2014)
a close reading of an Ivor Gurney poem, ‘Song and Pain’, written in the aftermath of Gurney’s wartime experience. The poem is related to a Tommy Denny window in a Gloucestershire village church, and I argue that ‘Song and Pain’ provides evidence of Gurney’s affinity with the poetry of George Herbert.
70 In Defence of the War Poets (ii) The Battle of Max Hastings (15 May 14)
Written in astonishment and frustration at an article by Max Hastings entitled ‘Oh What a Lovely Myth’, which, once again, targets the war poets and seeks to defend what Hastings calls ‘the warrior caste’; challenging Hastings’ use of the writer Charles Carrington to attack Siegfried Sassoon and Edmund Blunden. See also What Larks? Birdsong and Cultural Memory.
71 Germany, Asparagus and the First World War (28th May 2014)
My lecture tour for the Deutsch-Britische Gesellschaft; arrival during the height of the Asparagus Festival: lectures on ‘British Poets Responding to the Outbreak of the First World War’ and on ‘Memorialising the Great War’.
72 Little Bean (8th June 2104)
A rather personal post about my family, and the taboo of miscarriage. Discussion of DH Lawrence’s treatment of the subject in The Rainbow, of a 17th century memorial to a dead child and a quotation from Winnie the Pooh. See also World and Time: Madingley in time of (Civil) War.
73 Big Heads (18th June 2014)
Beginning in a park in Paris, moving to Sturminster Newton and ending in Dusseldorf, this post reflects upon ways in which sculptors engage with outsize heads – a bust of Georges Brassens, a monumental head by Elizabeth Frink, and a reconstituted First World War memorial.
74 Sunday in Saint Germain (1st July 2014)
A valedictory post, on my last Sunday in Saint-Germain-en-Laye after ten years of working with teachers of literature in France, with a recollection of Alun Lewis’s 1940s wartime poem ‘All Day it Has Rained’.
75 Reading Stained Glass (iii): ‘Ab Fab’ in Fairford (28th July 2014)
The news that Joanna Lumley and others have recorded an audio guide to the stained glass of Fairford Church in the Cotswolds prompts a discussion of very late medieval stained glass, in relation both to a lecture I had given on George Herbert and stained glass, and to the renaissance glass of King’s College Chapel.
76 La Grande Guerre: Elegy in a French Country Churchyard (30 Aug 2014)
On holiday in northern France I am struck by the village church and First World War memorial at Doudeauville, and investigate the history of a French poilu, whose death is recorded on a tombstone in the churchyard but omitted from the war memorial itself.
77 On Boadicea, William Cowper & Westminster Abbey (19th Sept 2014)
Re-visiting the statue of Boadicea and her daughters on the Westminster Embankment, I am struck by the quotation on the plinth – from William Cowper, who I then discover in a window in Westminster Abbey. Warning: this post also contains a rant about the outrageous treatment of visitors to the Abbey.
78 Venice Inscribed (iv): Henry James (8th October 2014)
A violent storm on arrival in Venice leads me to investigate the ingenious way Henry James uses a similar storm at a critical moment in his Anglo-Venetian novel The Wings of a Dove; includes brief discussion of ‘charivari’ and ‘chronotope’.
79 Crucible 2 at Gloucester Cathedral (25th October 2014)
An impressive exhibition of contemporary sculpture in Gloucester Cathedral; the impact of Damian Hirst’s two ‘Fallen angel’ sculptures, and a remarkable bread sculpture by Marc Quinn which prompts an unexpected reflection on Seamus Heaney’s final collection of poetry, Human Chain. See also World and Time: Heaney’s Human Chain.
80 Reading Stained Glass (iv): a War Memorial Window (11th Nov. 2014)
A window in Clare Parish Church in Suffolk, which reveals only in its Latin inscription that it is a war memorial window, by the designer F.C. Eden. A detailed description of the window and its remarkable punning imagery of a bloodbath. See also Tom Denny and Ivor Gurney in Gloucester Cathedral.
81 Armageddon and Rupert Brooke (14th November 2014)
Rupert Brooke and the outbreak of the Great War: what he is supposed to have said to Sir John Squire; how what he said surfaces again at the end of an essay he wrote about a young man (himself, thinly veiled) hearing news of the outbreak, and how biographers have embellished the story. See also: World and Time: Rupert Brooke and E.M. Forster.
82 Jon Stallworthy and Wilfred Owen’s ghost (26th November 2014)
Not an obituary, but an appreciation of Jon Stallworthy and the impact of his career (especially his championing of Owen) on the study of war poetry – a term about which he had great reservations; but did Owen come to be a burden to Stallworthy, a ghost from whom he could not escape?
83 On F.R. Leavis (i): Dangerous Driving (30th December 2014)
First of two linked posts; the recovery of a piece of paper with a note from Leavis prompts my recollection of interviewing him when I was a student at Durham University; his courtesy and anxiety not to upset his wife. See also World and Time: New Bearings on F.R. Leavis.
84 On F.R. Leavis (ii): A Close Shave (30th December 2014)
Leavis at Cambridge; his barber’s admiration for him and Clive James’s description of Leavis in full flight; his influence on English teaching, and my attempt to estimate his continuing importance. See also: What is (or was) Cambridge English?
85 Short Measures (vii): Edward Thomas & the end of winter (8 Jan. 2015)
A close reading of Edward Thomas’s poem ‘Thaw’ in the context of his other writings about the end of winter and the approach of spring; includes my unsuccessful attempt to turn Thomas’s poem into a haiku. See also World and Time: a Blog on the Og.
86 Perambulations with Pevsner (31st January 2015)
A tribute to Nikolaus Pevsner, and the Buildings of England series; the origins of the series, and Pevsner’s idiosyncratic working methods reflected in the earliest volume, Cornwall; the expansion of the series, and yet fidelity to the original plan for each book, as seen in the recently revised volume on Cambridge, by Simon Bradley, the new series editor.
87 Fifty Shades of English Lit. (14th February 2015)
The significance of English literature in the film Fifty Shades of Grey. Comparisons with Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath; assumptions and evidence about the nature and state of English studies to-day, including the fact that three-quarters of A level students now are female; government antipathy to the humanities and English in particular; implications for the future teaching of the subject. See also What is (or was) Cambridge English?
88 Imitation Game? The Power of Pastiche (28th February 2015)
Taking issue with a comment in the obituaries of the composer Patrick Gowers; discussing why pastiche involves homage; the originality of pastiche - investigating the power of pastiche in Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot. Interesting comments added by readers at the end of this post.
89 Venice Inscribed (v): Jan Morris (24th March 2015)
A celebration of Jan Morris at nearly 90 and of her valedictory book on Venice, Ciao Carpaccio! Carpaccio compared to Canaletto on speed. Jan Morris’s contribution to our understanding of La Serenissima, and a realization that from her first to her last book about Venice, she has seen the city through the eyes of her favourite painter. See also Venice at the Edges.
90 In the Highlands (11th March 2015)
An Easter railways holiday in the Highlands: Scotland enjoyed from the relative comfort of a train. Contrast with the conditions experienced by Johnson and Boswell; my admiration for Johnson; his encounters with Gaelic-speaking highlanders; ditto Wordsworth’s and a dialogue between Wordsworth’s Solitary Reaper and a New Zealand poem I have always admired.
91 In London, with Charles Lamb (19th March 2015)
Two successive Saturdays in the capital, seen through the eyes of Charles Lamb: the bustle of Covent Garden, and poetry and sculpture in Queen Square. This blog is a meditation on London as I wait to deliver a lecture to the Charles Lamb Society. See also World and Time: Charles Lamb and Cambridge.
92 The Hawk Woman of Cambridge (26th April 2015)
Helen Macdonald’s award-winning book about training a hawk and dealing with grief; Cambridge, and her growing sense of alienation from the academic world of the University, seen as a thread running through the book. See also World and Time: the Sense of an Ending.
93 Venice Inscribed (vi): Mr Ruskin and Mr Street (11th May 2015)
An inscription inside my grandmother’s copy of Ruskin’s A Joy Forever. The May Queen ceremony at Whitelands College; Ruskin and the importance of seeing – his criticism of architects and historians who do not spend as much time looking at Venice as he does. His strictures against George Edmund Street. See also World and Time: in Venice (i): La Biennale.
94 John Betjeman at St. Enodoc (11th May 2015)
Cornwall, and a pilgrimage from Padstow to St. Enodoc to visit the grave of John Betjeman; re-reading his Cornish poems with greater understanding; comparisons with Louis MacNeice and W.H. Auden; disapproval of the decoration of Betjeman’s grave. See also John Betjeman and Windlesham.
95 Ring out, wild bells! (5th June 2015)
My surprise at discovering Ezra Pound was a fan of Dorothy L. Sayers’ novel The Nine Tailors: Pound was famously averse to church bells. I trace this aversion back to Blast; my admiration for The Nine Tailors and the providential appearance of a telegram linking bells with Charles Eamer Kempe.
96 Kempe’s Bells – a Postscript (8th June 2015)
I acknowledge a misreading in my transcription of the telegram to Charles Eamer Kempe that prompted the previous post: the likely identity of the sender of the telegram discussed. My own childhood recollections of hearing the Nine Tailors, and its significance for writers such as Hardy and Heaney.
97 The Second Mrs T.S. Eliot (22nd June 2015)
A girls’ school photograph from the Second World War, in which stands a teenage Valerie Fletcher, the future Mrs T.S. Eliot; the extraordinary story of her determination to marry Eliot, while she was still at school, and the importance of her determination to cherish the reputation of Eliot after his death.
98 In the Captain’s Tower: Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot (4th July 2015)
The importance of Ezra Pound to T.S. Eliot, and their life-long friendship; Pound’s own sense of isolation; the assessments of poets – Robert Lowell, Basil Bunting and Anthony Rudolf on Pound and his standing today. See also World and Time: (Still) in Venice .
99 Help for Heroes? A Handy Guide to Oxford (31st July 2015)
A quirky Guide to Oxford, first published in 1915, and subsequently republished at least twice: the author was an opinionated Oxford don, and the readers for whom he were writing were wounded servicemen from the First World War convalescing in Oxford. The writer sees himself as a latter-day John Bunyan.
100 Counting to a hundred: ‘Let it Go!’ (16th August 2015)
A valedictory post, sketching the course of my blogging career over six years and discussing some of the things I have learned from blogging and some of the ways blogging has shaped the ways I think and write; my reasons for retiring from the field on reaching my century.
A year or two ago, the novelist Joe Treasure discussed on his blog the things that made him uneasy about blogging. I recommend this piece for, much as I have really enjoyed blogging, some of Joe’s reservations coincide with my own. He ends, however, with a list of five bad things that a blog does not do; and in my defence as a persistent blogger, I think these are worth restating. A blog, Joe reminds us, will not:
- trap you in a corner at a party.
- interrupt your evening with a loud ringing noise.
- stop you from sleeping on the train.
- drive you from the dinner table in tears.
With my best wishes, and warmest thanks for reading my blog.