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This review is taken from PN Review 75, Volume 17 Number 1, September - October 1990.

BRIEF LIVES Robert Nye, A Collection of Poems 1955-1988 (Hamish Hamilton) £12.95;
The Memories of Lord Byron: A Novel (Hamish Hamilton) £11.95

It's difficult to accept that Robert Nye is fifty. Yet it's almost thirty years ago that he published his first volume of poetry, following it with five novels, two collections of stories, three more volumes of poetry, three books for children and a number of fine anthologies, including A Choice of Sir Walter Raleigh's Verse, The Faber Book of Sonnets and The English Sermon 1750-1850. For the past twenty years he has also been The Times poetry critic and a regular reviewer of fiction for The Guardian.

I have always cherished his reviews. There is no one more widely-read, more passionate in his loves and above all more generous as a reviewer than Nye. His is the only critical review of a book of mine which taught me something. In 1976 he made the transition from being an avant-garde writer, admired by the discerning few, to being a popular and successful novelist, and he did this with a novel which, far from pandering to the public, appeared to be the fulfilment of his great promise, Falstaff. And yet the very success of that book seemed to bring problems with it. Nye followed it with a novel about Merlin and one about Faust which, to my mind, suggested that he had found a formula for success - a historical or quasi-historical figure, plenty of sex - which he was in danger of repeating ad infinitum. What was particularly sad about this was that it seemed to me that ...


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