Karl Miller is a British editor and critic. In 1979 he founded the London Review of Books.

Eminent Romantics

Writers have often been responsive to the tendency to prefer some sorts of people to others, and to do so in a way that confuses one order of merit with another, and that gives rise to uncertainties of status and to the behavior of the snob. If the writer in …

Some Views of Mrs. Thatcher’s Victory

Kingsley Amis Before trying to interpret this election we might notice what happened at it. Mrs. Thatcher’s victory was unusually decisive in two senses. She won by a bigger margin than any other Opposition leader since the Second World War, and she overcame the general tendency of the British electorate …

Poe in the Sky

Poe’s poems and stories belonged, he felt, to different orders of experience. The stories are his better part, and his own preference for the poems reflects the enthusiasm of the time for the ideal, the eternal, the ethereally pure. Not that stories had to be earthbound, or ephemeral. Among the …

Ladies in Distress

In London last year, the Times Literary Supplement asked a number of writers to draw up a list of overrated and underrated writers. By no means a thankless task, but among the sneers that leapt to the page were words of praise, from Philip Larkin and Lord David Cecil, which …

Families

These two novels are by American writers in the prime of their reputations who now live in England. Each novel is set in New England, and each is about a family, and about a family romance. Neither is proof of what has recently been asserted—that the English and American languages …

The Outlaw

A watery, winter sun wept down on Cwmdonkin Drive. A mile away at St Helens, the ghost of Christmas past drifted through the ranks of a weakened London Welsh. Not even Dylan Thomas could have made much of a pedestrian performance by them and, until midway through the second half, …

Edith Wharton’s Secret

Edith Wharton’s best work belongs to the period of fifteen years which ended in 1920. Just before the turn of the century, she suffered a spell of nervous exhaustion—of asthma, nausea, and depression—in which a troubled childhood, and a distaste for her marriage to Teddy Wharton, can be perceived. Confinement …

Robert Frost Crosses the Missouri

Robert Frost’s long life came to an end in 1963, and Lawrance Thompson’s long life of Robert Frost—that of an authorized biographer, who was outlived by his labors, and whose third volume was completed by a colleague—came to an end last year. Frost’s life rang with praise and applause, but …

Goodbye to Britain

Marx predicted that when the class war reached its Armageddon, there would be defections to the proletariat from the enemy side. The ruling class would crumble, and “a small part” of it would break away “to make common cause with the revolutionary class, the class which holds the future in …

Couples

In one of his collection of Picked-Up Pieces, John Updike suggests that the old novel depended on the old morality which praised God and forbade sexual intercourse outside marriage. Then, when the prohibition of “free-ranging sex” began to fail, the old intricate and heavy plots suffered a sympathetic impotence. His …

Orphans and Oracles: What Clara Knew

These two novels share a concern with the status and sufferings of the orphan or outcast. Neither of their heroines is technically an orphan, but each of them is thought to resemble one. The adventures of literary orphans, who are liable to be both cast out and imprisoned, locked out …

Sylvia Plath’s Apotheosis

These three books about Sylvia Plath have all been coming out within the space of a few months. They are not the first books on this subject, and they will not be the last. Ever since her death in 1963 she has been the goddess of a cult, whose homage …

In Scorn and Pity

Early in 1972, two corpses were found in graves dug in the garden of a house near Port of Spain, Trinidad. The house belonged to a hustler called Michael de Freitas, latterly known by his Black Muslim names, Michael X and Michael Abdul Malik. In London, where he spent a …

Hello to All That

Keats, Shelley, and Byron died young. They were doomed youth. They were the war poets of a time before there were any. Neither Keats nor Shelley was machine-gunned in Flanders, but their followers or epigoni were, and Byron went out to fight for Greece and fell at Missolonghi, of a …

The Two Stevensons

One day in the winter of 1889 a small party of strangers was to be seen making its way along the main street of the port of Apia, on the South Sea island of Samoa. Apia was known as “the Hell of the Pacific,” and it was the rainy season.

Within the Pale

In the previous issue [NYR, May 1], I wrote about certain works by the Irishman Flann O’Brien—in particular, his novel The Poor Mouth, in which the Gaelic language is put to wonderful use, in which “the sweet wee maternal tongue” (a description once borrowed by O’Brien) tramples on its false …

Gael in Wonderland

What, and where, is Gaelic? It is a language which has long been spoken, and which is still spoken, in three different forms, in western communities of the British Isles, and the literature of that language has not ceased. In the rest of Britain and in America, a descent from …

Toward the Iceberg

The British general election of October, 1974, proved plain sailing for the Labour party, which gained a small majority of three members over the combined parliamentary strength—which will be difficult to muster—of the opposing parties. For a period of months they had governed without the benefit of a majority: now …

British Blushes

Keats is “an often delightful, if often awkward, decorative poet.” This is what Kingsley Amis thinks, or was once awkwardly prepared to say. Christopher Ricks once protested at his saying so, and his present essay thinks very differently of Keats’s verse. He accepts that it is awkward, and it is …

Gothic Guesswork

The detective story, like the love story, is a fictional category which no one has any trouble in identifying, and both these categories can be identified among the four British novels which I am reviewing. But it is apparent that detection enters extensively into works which could not be confused …

A Novelist Worth Knowing

Beryl Bainbridge is possibly the least known of the contemporary English novelists who are worth knowing. She has written four very interesting novels, the fourth and last of which, The Dressmaker, also deserves to be called a triumphant success. But she has, as yet, only the beginnings of a reputation …

Fear and Fang

In June, 1954, the undergraduate editors of a Cambridge University magazine called Granta received a poem from someone signing himself Daniel Hearing. I vividly remember running my eye down the typescript and thinking that “The Little Boys and the Seasons” was a very beautiful and enjoyable poem. I was eager …

Episodes in the Class War

These novels—the first dates from the early Thirties, the second is new—present episodes in the class war which has long been attributed to the societies of the West. Nizan’s novel takes as its central character a man who is a traitor to his class, who delivers himself over to his …

Forster and his Merry Men

Despite what is said about literature’s power to shock, it is rare for a piece of writing to send a thrill of horror through those whose nerves are in reasonably good condition. Such a thrill, however, is administered by one of this collection of largely unknown stories by E. M.