Michael Dobson

Such a Darling When One Knew Him Well

William Shakespeare: A Life

By

Hodder & Stoughton 368pp £17.95 order from our bookshop

Contrary to popular belief, a great many traces survive from the life of William Shakespeare: entries in parish records, legal papers, at least one authenticated portrait, a few anecdotes (some apocryphal), and some interesting allusions in the writings of contemporaries – quite apart from the Sonnets, two narrative poems, and those 37-odd plays (most of which, despite all the nonsense published in their praise every year, really are extremely good). For certain readers, however, all this still leaves much to be desired. There is no evidence, for example, to suggest that Shakespeare was ever photographed with Kenneth Branagh; no interviews survive from the Observer Colour Supplement to reveal the bard’s frank opinions on Sir Ian McKellen, ecology or the Arts Council; and no document uncovered to date to suggest that he was ever romantically involved with either Peggy Ashcroft or Laurence Olivier or any of their respective ex-spouses. In short, the biggest theatrical celebrity of all time has so far been, as theatrical celebrities go, a bit of a non-starter.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,
    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,
    • RT : A magnificent demolition job on this "acid laced tirade...unpleasantly self-obsessed...self pitying polemic...book… ,
    • 'Seventy years on, the time we have left to gather such first-hand testimony is running out.' John Keay on the sig… ,
    • The author 'seethes with contemptuous indignation at the shiny junk that an unregulated construction industry dumps… ,
    • 'The physical courage he demonstrated as a young man [...] gave way to intellectual power; radical thought, gifted… ,
    • 'While Jane Austen didn’t perhaps achieve the full recognition that she deserved in her lifetime, even then she out… ,