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Jon Connell #2

I have just finished Trollope’s Framley Parsonage, a book I have read at least twice before. It may not be the greatest of 19th century novels but it is one of the most enjoyable – and one of my favourites. It is full of romance but it’s also full of humour: I’d forgotten quite how…

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Post-exam anxieties – a message from the expert

So, exams are over – relief! Or is it? This period – between sitting exams and collecting results – is difficult for all students. Lots of students are feeling just as stressed and worried as they were before the exams, and sometimes more so. We spoke with Clinical Psychologist, Dr Alex Fowke, who specialises in treating people with…

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The origin of Mark Twain’s name

Before “Mark Twain” he was “Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass”. And before “Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass” he was “Sieur Louis de Conte”, “John Snook” and even “Josh”. Samuel Clemens, America’s classic satirist, used a litany of pseudonyms before settling on the name we know him by today. In the latest issue of the Mark Twain Journal Kevin MacDonnell…

attributed to John Taylor, oil on canvas, feigned oval, circa 1610

Did Shakespeare really retire to Stratford?

Shakespeare abandoned London and retired to Stratford in about 1610. That’s what historians and Shakespeare experts have been telling us for 300 years. But is it true? Writing in the Times Literary Supplement, the Shakespeare scholar Katherine Duncan-Jones suggests that it is not. In a dramatic overturning of received wisdom about the Bard, she supplies…

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Bennett’s choice of verse

Alan Bennett is one of Britain’s favourite dramatists. On last National Poetry day (October 2nd 2014) he wrote in the Telegraph about the poets who have inspired him. Favourites included Thomas Hardy, A.E. Housman, Louis MacNeice, Philip Larkin and W.H. Auden. 80 year-old Bennett celebrated in particular Auden’s political changes of heart over the course…

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Gender and writing

Is there any difference between male and female writing? Indeed there is, says Martin Amis – well known for a little macho posturing in his own writing. In conversation with artist and proud transvestite Grayson Perry, guest editor of the New Statesman, Amis referred tongue-in-cheek to a comment by Vladimir Nabokov: Nabokov said he was strictly…

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Elizabeth Gaskell’s house opens to public

After a £2.5 million refurbishment, the house in Manchester where Elizabeth Gaskell lived has been opened to the public. Visitors can now wander through a space once shared with a host of Victorian writers including Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë, who wrote admiringly of “a large, cheerful, airy house, quite out of the Manchester smoke”.…