A new study of James Larkin takes some of the shine off his reputation; still, plaster saints are no longer in vogue. Big Jim’s vision was fundamentally moral. His gift to workers will be remembered and he can afford to be taken down a peg or two and still tower above.
The intellectualism of early Protestantism is hard to overestimate. It was bred in the universities and was a practice in which constant struggle, intellectual and spiritual, was central. A consequence was that it seemed to have little enough time for the unlettered.
When Charlotte Brontë looked into the mirror she saw nothing but flaws. But this sense of not being attractive was to goad her into a fierce assertion of independence and eventually to the creation of a heroine ‘as small and plain as myself’ whose name remains with us today.
Harvard told Helen Vendler they didn’t want her – or any woman – teaching there. Later, having established a foothold in academia, she settled on two guiding principles: first that her subject was to be poetry and second that she wanted to be a critic rather than a scholar.