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A dinner to remember with Keats

On December 28th, 1817, a venerable set of guests assembled for dinner in London’s Lisson Grove. At the house of the painter Benjamin Robert Haydon, Wordsworth, Keats and Charles Lamb sat down to enjoy what Haydon later called an “immortal dinner”. The phrase has been adapted by English professor Stanley Plumly to be the title…

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A very slow Passage to India

Most writers battle with periods of being blocked, but in writing his greatest book, Passage to India, E.M. Forster got stuck for no less than nine years. In fact, said Damon Galgut, the South African playwright and novelist, speaking at the Edinburgh Festival, the book took him eleven years in all (nine thinking about it,…

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Hem, Old Possum & the “Objective Correlative”

Ernest Hemingway wasn’t a fan of the grand-old-man of modernism, T.S. Eliot, castigating him for having “never hit a ball out of the infield in his life”. “He would not have existed”, said Hemingway, but “for dear old Ezra [Pound], the lovely poet and stupid traitor [Pound supported Fascism throughout the 1920s and 30s and…

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Oscar Wilde’s Journalism

  The Oscar Wilde we know best is the decadent aesthete of the 1890s: the Wilde who produced such classics as The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest. Yet there is another, quite different Wilde who remains unfamiliar – the “jobbing journalist” of the 1880s.   This is largely because the…

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Dining in Bloomsbury

  In her 1929 A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf complained not only about the difficulties faced by woman writers, but also that certain aspects of everyday life had been generally ignored by literature. Among the more notable exclusions, she thought, was food.   “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has…

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Dylan Thomas’s reputation

He would have been 100 on the 27th October 2014, but the jury is still out on Dylan Thomas, the self-styled “Rimbaud of Cwmdonkin Drive”. Hilly Janes – whose father painted three portraits of the poet – has recently published a new biography. Thomas “always provoked extreme reactions”, says Janes in The Spectator. When he died…