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”.

BOOK REVIEW / Hairum-scairum ram-stam boy: Tomorrow is Burns Night: Scots go crazy. Tom Paulin reappraises his poetry in the light of two new books

ROBERT BURNS's republican jouissance exists uneasily within the canon of English verse. In Scotland the cult of Burns has turned Rab the Ranter into a tame heritage symbol to compensate for the humiliations of the country's position within the Union; in England he has been rendered almost invisible. With the exception of A H Clough, no significant English poet has been influenced by his work, while critics and literary historians have failed to notice that he is a major poet whose roots are in the radical Enlightenment.

Letter: Keats amid violets and Protestants

Sir: In the 1800s, the name for Keats's burial ground was the Protestant cemetery. Shelley in his preface to Adonais (1821) writes:

Letter: Where Keats rests in peace and beauty

Sir: I feel I must protest at the appropriation for the English by Mrs O. Buglass (letter, 28 December) of the cemetery in Rome where Keats is buried.

Letter: Keats is given the squeeze in Rome

Sir: Two references to Roman lettering on monuments in Rome were made in the article 'Is the writing on the wall for public inscriptions?' (16 December). May I add to the list the inscription on Keats's headstone in the English Cemetery in Rome.

BOOK REVIEW / Battlefield of the body: The patient by George macBeth, Hutchinson pounds 7.99

GEORGE MACBETH died earlier this year, aged 60, of motor neurone disease. Scottish by birth, 1890s-ish by inclination, he seemed not so much a man divided as one who revelled in his various incarnations: the Oxford-educated litterateur, the dedicated BBC professional, the selfless talent-spotter, the demon-lover and lord of misrule, the exuberantly happy family man. Behind all these was the poet, and one whose work was more problematic: confident in its versatility, but less certain which of its several voices was the truest. The compassionate ironist? The wounded autobiographer, dourly paying his debts to the wartime past? The dandy indulging dark fantasies, glorying in the name of MacBeth?
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