Education: Hey, Dyson, leave our French lesbian poetry alone!

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The Independent Online

Michael Gove came out fighting for the lesbians on Wednesday – or at least those who are French and poets. The Education Secretary took a swipe back at Sir James Dyson, claiming the inventor of the nation's favourite bagless vacuum cleaner was part of an "anti-intellectual strain in British life", after he had earlier said too many teenagers "go off to study French lesbian poetry" at university. For Sir James, it seems, it is either make a carpet sweeper or take a hike.

Or maybe he's just been reading the wrong Sapphic poetesses. He would do well to take up the books of Renée Vivien, the "French" poetess who was born in London as Pauline Mary Tarn, hightailed it to Paris on attaining her majority and led the life of a flamboyant littérateuse, taking up with Baroness Hélène van Zuylen van Nijevelt and living briefly on Lesbos with another lover.

Admittedly some of her work travels a little roughly – see Prolong the Night ("Prolong the night, Goddess who sets us aflame!/Hold back from us the golden-sandalled dawn!/Already on the sea the first faint gleam/Of day is coming on."). But still, whom would you prefer to sit next to at a dinner party –Renée or Sir James "Bagless" Dyson?