Arts and Entertainment

I wish I could give this sublime marrying of the art and the life 10 stars. This is very much a writer’s biography, and an absolutely gorgeous demonstration of how to frame a narrative begins, appropriately enough, with the framing by Gorra of the author, Henry James: “Many years later he would remember the way the book had begun. He was old then, and in England ....” It’s a description that mirrors beautifully the framing by James himself of the entrance of his great heroine, Isabel Archer, in The Portrait of a Lady, as “the girl in the doorway”.

Words: churchyard, adj.

JOHN BUCHAN'S output yields 427 OED citations. Small beer beside 1,350 from Ulysses, but he, too, had a dextrous way with language, for which he has only recently won credit. This account of the valet to the ill-fated Scudder is worthy of Waugh: "he was a whining fellow with a churchyard face, and half-a-crown went far to console him". More than sullen, churchyard concisely suggests stubble, pockmarks and wrinkles, and was first used as a metaphorical adjective in the 17th century, as in the doom-laden churchyard cough.

Letter: Turn of the year

Sir: Ted Hughes said: "Before us stands yesterday." So it does, but what if we choose to ignore it?

Ted Hughes: 1930-1998: A poet pinned and wriggling

The day of his death was a dark cold day. Auden's great elegy for Yeats might have been written with last Wednesday and Thursday in mind, when the shattering news of Ted Hughes's death broke. Black storm clouds covered the entire country. Torrential rain and hail beat down, gales blasted autumn trees, the rivers he loved were in spate everywhere, drowning fields and villages, as if in grief.

Words: analeptic, adj. or n.

STRANGE THE way that the mind works. Some of us cannot hear the pop of the cork being released from a bottle without the word analeptic springing to mind. Such is poetry.

Literary Notes: The fertile season for Robert Burns

SPRING MAY inspire some poets, but it was Robert Burns's lowest time. Each winter his health declined, his spirits ebbed, and only by early summer did his strength and passion begin to return. He fathered a dozen or so children (including two sets of twins) in and out of marriage, and all but two were conceived during the fertile second half of the year.

Obituary: Viola Keats

AN ACTRESS of vigour and conviction, Viola Keats had a fertile career on both stage and screen in the Thirties and continued acting for more than 40 years. Her early films included two directed by Michael Powell, who in his autobiography wrote somewhat enigmatically of his leading ladies in The Night of the Party: "Jane Baxter was to play the juvenile lead and the other girl would be played by Viola Keats, a redhead. Both ladies were my type." Keats was indeed a redhead of aquiline sophistication and subtle attractiveness.

Free verse joins the free market

Tuesday Book; THE DEREGULATED MUSE BY SEAN O'BRIEN, BLOODAXE BOOKS, pounds 10.95

Arts: Hughes breaks silence with secret poems to Sylvia Plath

The Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, today breaks his silence over the life and suicide of his first wife, Sylvia Plath, with a volume of poems that few knew existed. Clare Garner reports on the poetic account of his days with Plath.

Books: Radically Romantic

Keats by Andrew Motion Faber & Faber, pounds 20; Lachlan Mackinnon uncovers a tough side to the 'Cockney' poet who trained as a surgeon and consorted with rebels

Poetry in Motion, Larkin and Keats

The subjects of Andrew Motion's two literary biographies - Larkin and Keats - couldn't have been more opposite in temperament. Not so, the poet tells Jasper Rees

Apollo's rebel angel

Do we need a new biography of Keats? Aren't the facts of his life well known?

Letter: Consenting life masks

Sir: Jane Wildgoose is in error in describing the National Portrait Gallery's masks of Blake and Keats as "death masks" ("Is it wrong to use a dead body for art?", 18 August). Both were made when the subjects were still living, and, more to the point, consenting participants in the procedure - which cannot be said of the subjects featuring in Anthony-Noel Kelly's artefacts.

Into something rich and strange

SALT WATER by Andrew Motion, Faber pounds 7.99

Letter: British poets for export

Sir: I can sympathise with Ruth Padel's annoyance at not being included in the British Council's touring exhibition "Contemporary Poets" ("Poetry in the land of Saint Patrick", 17 March): no one likes being left out.

Obituary:George Goyder

George Goyder combined a successful business career with a wide range of other interests and an unfailing enthusiasm for anything that would make for a more civilised society. In his 88 years, he fitted in at least five different lives, any one of which would have kept most people fully engaged. He was a businessman, a social philosopher and reformer, an author, a distinguished collector of rare books and, not least, a paterfamilias.
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