David Wheatley


1970- ; b. in Dublin [var. England]; early life in Dublin, nr. Ballsbridge; brought up in Bray, Co. Wicklow; grad. TCD (English), and edited Icarus; winner of Frields Nation Poetry prize (£1,000), 1994; co-ed. College Green; wrote a doctorate on Beckett, TCD; issued Thirst (1997), a first poetry collection and winner of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, 1998; ed. Stream and Gliding Sun: A Wicklow Anthology (1998), and I Am the Crocus (1998), an anthology of poems by Wicklow children produced during his period as writer in residence; with Justin Quinn and others, fnd.-ed. Metre; issued Misery Hill (2000), poems; contrib. Letter from Ireland to sundry issues of PN Review, 1995-99;
reviews regularly for Irish Times, Books Ireland, London Review of Books, et al., and contribs. poetry to Times Literary Supplement; with Justin Quinn and Hugh Maxton, ed. Metre; also reviews in Books Ireland, Thumbscrew, Times Literary Supplement, P. N. Review, Honest Ulsterman, Metre, Verse, and Times Change and Edinburgh Review; issued Mocker (2006), setting early-Irish figures (monks and mythic heroes) in a modern, North-of-England landscape; he is a senior lecturer in English at University of Hull; lives in Aberdeenshire; he judged the National Poetry Competition with others in 2015; the poet Catríona O’Reilly is his partner.

See WFU interview at date of publication of President of the Planet - online; 1. Dec. 2017.
See his page in Language, Literature, Music and Culture at Aberdeen University

“I am a poet and critic with particular research interests in the field of twentieth-century and contemporary poetry, Irish literature and Samuel Beckett, and welcome applications from prospective PhD students in these areas. [...]

“My current research projects include an anthology of Irish poetry, The Wake Forest Irish Poetry Series, vol. 4, for publication in 2017; a volume of poetry, The President of Planet Earth(Carcanet/Wake Forest, 2017); an essay collection, On the Trail of the Night Parrot (Eyewear Publishing, 2017/8); a  translation of Myles na gCopaleen's war-time Irish-language journalism, an anthology of Irish poetry; and continuing work on Samuel Beckett.”

Available online - online [accessed 28..12.2107].

[ There is a Wikipedia page - online. See also PoetryArchive - online [numerous recorded readings]. ]

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  • Thirst (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 1997), 78pp. [reviewed in TLS, 3 July 1998; reviewed by Michael Thomas in Irish Studies Review, Dec. 1998];
  • Misery Hill (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2000), 95pp.;
  • Mocker (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2006), 74pp.
  • Lament for Ali Farka Touré (Presteigne: Rack Press 2008), 12pp.
  • A Nest on the Waves (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2010), 87pp.
  • President of Planet Earth (2017)
  • ‘Irish Poetry into the Twenty-First Century’, in The Cambridge Companion to Contemporary Irish Poetry, ed. Matthew Campbell  (Cambridge UP 2003), pp.250-[67].
  • Reader's Guide to the Essential Criticism of Contemporary British Poetry (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), qpp.
  • ed. Stream and Gliding Sun: A Wicklow Anthology (Wicklow Co. Council 1998), 236pp.;
  • ed., I Am the Crocus: Poems by Children from Co. Wicklow (Wicklow Co. Council 1998), 105pp.;
  • ed., Poems of James Clarence Mangan (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2003), 160pp.
Contributions [incl.]
  • ‘Everywhere and Nowhere’, review of Michael Hulse, David Kennedy and David Morley, [eds.,]  The New Poetry, in The Irish Review, 15 (Spring 1994), pp.125-29 [see infra].
  • ‘Unsuspected Shapes’, review of Michael Longley, The Ghost Orchid, and Derek Mahon, The Hudson Letter, in The Irish Review, 19 (Spring/Summer 1996), pp.123-29. [see infra]
  • ‘Fanatic of Indifference: Emil Cioran, 1911-1995’, in Graph, 3.1 (Spring 1998), pp.19-22;
  • review of The Alexandrine Plan by Ciaran Carson, in The Irish Times (12 Sept. 1998) [in “Poetry Now” column - supra’].
  • review essay on Alan Sokol & Jean Bricmont, Intellectual Impostures, in Irish Times (19 July 1998);
  • review of Neil Corcoran, Poets of Modern Ireland, in Times Literary Supplement (25 Feb. 2000), p.23;
  • review of Medbh McGuckian, Selected Poems, and Derek Mahon, The Yellow Book, in Times Literary Supplement (2 June 2000), p.7.
  • ‘Still in the Swim’ [interview with Montague in rooms in the TCD Rubrics], in Books Ireland (Feb. 2000), pp.5-6 [see under Montague - supra]. 
  • contrib. to Metre [Michael Harnett Special Number], 11 (Winter 2001/02) [essay, pp.175-81].
  • review of Vera of Las Vegas by Paul Muldoon, in The Irish Times (21 July 2001), Weekend p.14;x
  • ‘That Blank Mouth: Secrecy, Shibboleths and Silence in Northern Ireland Poetry’, in Journal of Modern Literature, 25, 1 (Indiana UP: Fall 2001), pp.1-17 [available at JSTOR - online];
  • ‘Two Poems’ [“Ariadne”, “Macaw”], in Journal of Irish Studies (IASIL-Japan), XVII (2002), p.70.
  • review of Samuel Beckett, Poems 1930-1989, with Previously Unpublished Poems and Translations, in The Irish Times (27 April 2002) [see under Beckett - supra].
  • ‘Closely glossed’, review of Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, The Girl Who Married a Reindeer, in Times Literary Supplement (6 Sept. 2002), p.24 [attached].
  • contrib. to Special “John Montague” issue of Agenda (2004) [noticed by Peter Sir in The Irish Times (7 Aug. 2004).
  • ‘Louis MacNeice and Friends’, review of Letters of Louis MacNeice, ed. Jonathan Allison, in Times Literary Supplement (14 July 2010) [attached];
  • review of The Literature of Ireland: Culture and Criticism, by Terence Brown, in The Irish Times (21 Aug. 2010) [see under Derek Mahon - as supra
  • ‘The Tome of the Unknown Soldier’, in New Statesman (16 Aug. 2010), [available online; accessed 23.02.2011];
  • ‘The Quiet Power of the Humane Voice’, review of Terence Brown, The Literature of Ireland: Culture and Criticism, in The Irish Times (21 Aug. 2010) Weekend Review [attached.]
  • review of Eavan Boland, A Woman Without a Country, in The Guardian (21 Feb 2015) [attached]
  • "Between ‘Helpless Right’ and ‘Forced Pow’r’: The Political Poem Today", in The Edinburdh Review, 135 (q.d.) [attached]

Also anthologised in Joan McBreen, The Watchful Heart: A New Generation of Irish Poets - Poems & Essays (Moher: Salmonpoetry 1009) [q.pp.]

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Reviews & Essays

Contributions to Dublin Review, ed. Brendan Barrington—
  • Impudence! Impudence! Impudence!: Hazlitt in fact and fiction [review-essay] 1 (Winter 2000/01)
  • Death and the Irish canon: Declan Kiberd’s Irish Classics [review-essay], 2 (Spring 2001)
  • ‘None of us likes it’: The peculiar position of the poet-critic [review-essay], 6 (Spring 2006)
  • Terrestrial variations: Notes from Hull [essay], 12 (Autummn 2003)
  • Aliquots of fatigue and ebriety: Introducing a new literary genre, 15 (Summer 2004)
  • E.M. Cioran and the art of disgrace: The great Romanian aphorist and his indefensible past [review-essay], 27 (Summer 2007)
  • Bubbling under: On Hull and the floods [essay], 28 (Autumn 2007)
  • On the trail of the night parrot: A sojourn in Australia [travel], 33 (Winter 2008/09)
  • The work of the abscess: Letters of the young Samuel Beckett [review-essay], 35 (Summer 2009)
  • Dark and true and tender: The pubs of Hull – all 254 of them [essay], 44 (Autumn 2011)
  • ‘He who is Gaelic will be Gaelic always’: Myles na gCopaleen and the Gaelo-fascists [essay], 45 (Winter 2011/12)
Listed by Dublin Review - online; accessed 28.12.2017.]

Contributions to PN Review include—
  • Letter from Ireland [report], in PN Review, 104 (1995) [online]
  • on Modernism in Ireland [review], in PN Review, 106 (1995) [online]
  • Three Poems, in PN Review, 108 (1996) [online]
  • Letter from Ireland [report], in PN Review, 109 (1996) [online]
  • James Clarence Mangan [review], in PN Review, 115 (1997) [online]
  • Letter from Slovenia [report], in PN Review, 119 (1998) [online]
  • Letter from Ireland [report], PN Review, 122 (1998) [online]
  • Letter from Ireland [report], in PN Review, 125 (1999) [online]
  • ‘Am I Rambling? I Hope So’: Reading Peter Riley [article], in PN Review, 183 (2008) [online].

Reviews on the Guardian
  • The Cloud Corporation by Timothy Donnelly (13 Jan. 2012)

David Wheatley hails an outstanding collection by a modern American master [online]

  • Bird Sense: What It's Like to Be a Bird by Tim Birkhead (16 March 2012)

The mysteries of the avian world entrance David Wheatley.

  • The Poems in Verse by Stéphane Mallarmé, translated by Peter Manson (15 June 2012)

A superb translation has David Wheatley wanting more Mallarmé.

  • The Same Life Twice by Frank Kuppner (24 Aug 2012)

David Wheatley finds the big questions are a bulwark against boredom.

  • Field Notes from a Hidden City: An Urban Nature Diary by Esther Woolfson (15 March 2013)

David Wheatley meditates on our complex relationships with wild animals.

  • Found at Sea by Andrew Greig (3 May 2013)

A book-length poetic sequence set in remotest Orkney conjures up images of lives lived in isolation.

  • Poetry and Privacy by John Redmond (21 June 2013)

The application of political rhetoric to poems can appear to make sense of them. But are critics just being lazy?.

  • Train Songs edited by Sean O'Brien & Don Paterson (1 Nov. 2013)

A collection of poems and lyrics, from Tom Waits to Philip Larkin to WH Auden, makes for an enchanting tribute to the railways.

  • The Hotel Oneira by August Kleinzahler (10 Jan. 2014)

Kleinzahler's work is among the most delightful flowerings of American poetry in our times.

  • Impromptus: Selected Poems by Gottfried Benn (31 Jan. 2014)

Michael Hofmann's compelling new translations reveal Benn's journey from high-brow pessimism to a 'sadness of the unfulfilled'

  • Standard Twin Fantasy by Sam Riviere (2 May 2014)

Standard Twin Fantasy by Sam Riviere review – an elliptical amuse-bouche.

  • Moontide by Niall Campbell (4 July 2014)

A poetic symphony in the Outer Hebrides: Campbell's first collection of poems is full of striking moments illuminated by powerful lyric impulses.

  • Seamus Heaney, New Selected Poems 1966–1987 and New Selected Poems, 1988–2013 (12 Dec. 2014)

Following his death last year, two selections of work from Heaney’s entire career offer an opportunity for reassessment and celebration.

  • review of A Woman Without a Country by Eavan Boland (21 Feb. 2015)

Into the shadowlands history: Has a poetry of myth, legacy and lost lands become a one-size-fits-all historical elegy?

  • Poems by JH Prynne (8 May 2015)

‘the ultimate poet of “anti-pathos”’: Distance and difficulty, yes. But there’s also pleasure in the Stockhausen of modern poetry.

  • The Poems of TS Eliot: The Annotated Text (13 Nov 2015) [Book of the Day]

a monumental achievement: Eliot went from starchy student to Nobel laureate who could pack out baseball stadiums on an American tour. This landmark study provides the background to a groundbreaking body of work.

  • Sam Gardiner obituary (14 June 2016)
[...] While Mahon traded Protestant Ulster for visions of exotic elsewheres, Gardiner was adept at uncovering his sceptical humanist visions closer to home.
  • New Selected Poems by Derek Mahon (17 June 2016)

Lyrics of crystalline wonder: A diptych of early and late work displays a consistency of skill and wit across 40 years.

  • Poetic Artifice: A Theory of 20th-Century Poetry by Veronica Forrest-Thomson (1 Sept. 2016)

This classic study, reprinted after more than 30 years, prefers bad new things to good old ones.

  • Slakki: New & Neglected Poems by Roy Fisher (14 Oct. 2016 )

A collection with extraordinary vision: from Birmingham’s city blocks to memories of war to restless skies – the quality is consistently high in this collection of work from the past 65 years.

  • Unreconciled by Michel Houellebecq (12 Jan 2017)

Unreconciled by Michel Houellebecq review – perfectly suited to the age of Trump. Laughter is in short supply in this collection from France’s great satirist and contrarian.

  • review of French Poetry from Medieval to Modern Times, ed. by Patrick McGuinness (11 Aug 2017)

French Poetry from Medieval to Modern Times review – warm humanity, brave choices. Editor Patrick McGuinness has assembled a rich and wide-ranging anthology that shows the strong links between French and English.

—Available at Guardian - via contributors’ profile [Wheatley] - online [accesssed 28.12.2017].

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Colin Graham, reviewing Misery Hill [with works of Peter Sirr and Rita Kelly], in The Irish Times (20 Jan. 2001): ‘David Wheatley’s Misery Hill has at its centre another Dublin flâneur […] James Clarence Mangan, whom Wheatley makes into a street-prowling predecessor’. Rita Ann Kelly ‘at her best when making the most of the anecdotal. She is disarmingly endearing and perceptive in recounting her experiences and friendships. Too at times too close to naivity and over-simplification, she does have an ear for a finely tuned line and an eye for detail which usually saves her. […] Rita Ann Kelly’s poetry is gently teasing and humanely open.’ [Note that Graham (Maynooth/NUI) is a co-contributor to The Edinburgh Review.]

Rory Brennan, review of A Nest on the Waves, in Books Ireland (Feb. 2011): ‘The keynote of David Wheatley’s poetry is an edgy, touchy wariness. There are no hearts on sleeves in these poems, nothing taken at face value. If such things threaten, then coats are taken off, sleeves rolled up, grins wiped from faces. This sharp interrogation of the personal status quo and of the larger complacencies of the body politic is actually what makes these quirky, often cranky poems so enjoyable. Phrases like “reject”, “don’t buy it” pop up. Wheatley does not make your hair stand on end as in the A. E. Housman test but he does make you shiver. His wit is not merely dry, it is dry-ice. His settings can be in Donegal, Wicklow, raw English seaports and, most interestingly, the Sahara fringes of francophone Africa and the Touareg people. His pieces on their myths and customs recalled my own early journeys in such places and the self-possession and patient endurance of the people. There is a love of the desolate in Wheatley’s work, even of desolation. It is here -where there is nothing to lose - that he relaxes and writes fittingly spare incantations on the desert and on bare Irish landscapes such as Sally Gap. The truths he hunts in his poetry are not intended to redeem or reassure and are in consequence more striking fortheir lack of agenda, their air of take-it-or-leave-it. The delight these poems give derives from their being so well made. Wheatley casts a grey eye on life, on death - vagrant, drift by!’

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Macaw”: ‘Because the terrible hook-nosed scarlet macaw / will not leave me in peace I bring him tributes / of sliced fruit he scatters in raucous disdain, / whistle him tunes he knows far better than me, / begin sentences he interrupts me / to finish. Because he will as soon / have my eyes out as look at me through / the swivelling molluscs of his own two eyes / I cower and will myself small as the ripple / I make in his darting, aqueous humour / but in he dives after me into the black / pool of his stare and will not rest until / his maggot tongue has slimed the hand / he perches atop and he has trodden hand, / shoulder and head beneath his standstill march / and opened his wings over my head / to stand for a moment, the terrible wingspan / doing its clipped, furious worst as I cower / and cover my eyes in the black shadow / of every last scarlet, blue and green feather / and “help!” try to shout, dummy to his ventriloquist, / “help!”, and screeching he interrupts me / for the whole street to hear, “Help help help!”. (‘Two Poems’, in Journal of Irish Studies [IASIL-Japan], XVII, 2002, p.71.)

See also elegy for Denis O’Driscoll (i. m. D. O’D.) - under O’Driscoll, infra.

Riptide”: ‘When the Hawk jet came down in the Humber, bedding / down with the dogfish and Roman remains, / you could point to your rush of foreboding / when it flew over, showing the strain // in the sub-concert pitch timbre of / its rip-roaring bark and ominous height / above our lately repointed roof / that would have passed briefly through its sights, // sights that would soon zero in on the river, / its sluggish affront to such predatory grace, / the foul-mouthed gulls well below radar / and the sudden allure of losing all trace // of its own radar trace in one last kill- /itself - in the parting tide for the Hawk / supreme in the air even now in its fall, / the pilot shot free like a champagne cork.’ (The Irish Times, 1 Feb. 2003, p.12.)

The Gas Mask ”: ‘If I still had the use of my mind I’d call it insane. / When I got in the taxi he took me, as we drove home, / on a detour through a pet theory of his / that went something like: Cells of them, one big plot / already over here, anthrax, Saddam, our boys, only language he understands, / gas attack, one in the attic, my granddad’s, Geiger counter … / After which the next thing I heard was a grunt, or was it me slithering down the seat in the back? / then a honk rocking the cab with the noise as he turned and a pendulous, / rubber snout loomed at me from his wall-eyed elephant’s face: / he’d already put it on and I had to tell him, “Sorry, I can’t understand a word you’re saying”.’ (Quoted in Hugh McFadden, review of The Mocker, in Books Ireland, Nov. 2007, p.254, calling it ‘so good it has to be given in full’.)

“Trade winds”

Preface: On his way to discovering America, St Brendan passed the southern coast of Iceland, where he witnessed the volcano Mount Hekla erupting and believed he had discovered the entrance to hell. In actual history this may or may not have happened. According to another myth, Iceland was originally settled by Irish monks who were driven out by invading Norsemen. The evidence to support this is, I’m told, vague. The nineteenth-century Irish poet James Clarence Mangan never visited Iceland, but wrote a poem called “Iceland Moss Tea”, from which I have borrowed the phrase ‘a lava-flood in every vein.’ As countries go, Iceland seems more like a living creature than others, still roaring into volcanic action and shifting its shape as the mood takes it. So even though I too have never been to Iceland, and know only a collection of facts, half-facts and myths about it, it prowls my imagination like a strange wild animal I can track and pursue but never quite pin down. The poem I’ve written about it is a record of my fascinated pursuit.

  A passing St Brendan traded a sign of the cross
for a native’s airborne lump of burning slag
and pronounced Mount Hekla the gates of hell.
Fire is tree-foe, gleams-of-dread that other
fire called gold. Cut me, I bleed it, fire,
a lava-flood in every vein. Snorri
Sturluson traded a witch a rotten
flounder for the two extra letters of
the Icelandic alphabet, one symbolising
hero renown, the other a reindeer’s bladder
speared on a stick. I trade you an arctic fox
and a reindeer for a hollow great auk’s egg.
Buried three months before the midwinter feast
a rotten shark is not to be sniffed at, and goes
down well with a little Black Death spirit.
When offered these dainties at my table
you will know better than to refuse, though
a stranger took hospitality from Greppur
the Grim and killed him afterwards in his sleep.
Flosi and Skarphedrinn traded insults
at the Althing, but Gunnar and Njal
remained friends. And yet Gunnar died.
The chess players of Grímsey island
would fling themselves into the sea in ecstasies
of disgrace when defeated. Fischer and Spassky
traded pawns in Reykjavík, each rocking
back and forth in his chair ‘like dead men dancing’.
The sea, that knows all about dead men,
traded Iceland the island of Surtsey
for an eruption that lasted four years
before cooling to basalt, lichen and moss.
Now, thinking better of it, Surtsey’s tephra
covering is borne away on the breeze
and only the gates of hell themselves
reopened could make it return. Afloat
on the Blue Lagoon’s volcanic waters,
I feel the underworld’s hot breath on my ankles:
Won’t you have me back, it asks?
I would not trade it for anything on earth.
—contrib. to with other poems by Angela Leighton, Carol Rumens, Cliff Forshaw, to British-Icelandic maritime celebrations marked by the unveiling of a statues Steinnun Thorarinsdottir in 2011 [see online].

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The Crossbill


Berry aslant a mismatched bill.
Gulp and trill. Through crossed teeth
and echoing yours my woodnote spilled
               while you sang still.

Blood-red shed by the cross-bill scythe
where the blood-red breast rebuffed the gale,
a true note in each crooked mouth

carrying up and down the hill
on each far-transfported breath
(the crossbill's beak will never seal) -
               carrying still.

—Poem posted by David Wheatley on Facebook; image supplied by Neil Astley, idem. [20.08.2016].
Wheatley comments:

“The crossbill is the only bird indigenous to Britain and found in no other country. It is common in the hillside woodlands of Aberdeenshire, partially-chewed pinecones being a reliable indicator as to its presence. There is also a crossbill parrot, only half of whose name is strictly accurate. If for no other reason than my terrible crossed teeth, I feel a strong and instinctive kinship with this charming orange-red finch.” [Posted from Kemnay, Scotland, 20 Aug. 2016.]


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Everywhere and Nowhere’ - review of Michael Hulse, David Kennedy and David Morley, [eds.,]  The New Poetry, in The Irish Review, 15 (Spring 1994), pp.125-29: commends the diligent pluralism of this post-modern anthology however flaws the defensive nature of the radicalism while also noting the inclusion of poor quality poetry.

Unsuspected Shapes’, review of Michael Longley, The Ghost Orchid, and Derek Mahon, The Hudson Letter, in The Irish Review, 19 (Spring/Summer 1996), pp.123-29. Applauds Longley’s use of syntax and measured pace, regarding this as his wittiest collection to date and includes his poems ‘The Camp-Fires’ and ‘Headstone’; Deems Mahon unmatched in his undulations from "furrow-browed philosophical mode to naked melodrama", while finding this set of works bold, uneven and immensly enjoyable.

Les Trois Meteristes: Wheatley writes to The Irish Times (10 Sept. 1996) to correct the impression in an Irish Times feature (“Doing it Ourselves”) that he himself founded the College Green magazine, properly ascribed to Stephen Murray, and adds that his editorship of Metre is shared with Justin Quinn and Hugh Maxton [W. J. McCormack]. (Wheatley has an address at Wyndham Avenue, Bray, Co. Wicklow.)

On Terry Wogan -

“A little-known fact about Terry Wogan is the strange addiction he endured, in the last years of his life, to John Donne-themed spoonerisms. When he visited our village last, to play in the Kemnay-Kintore charity grudge match, there was some doubt as to which team he would actually play for. Are ye wanny uz, I asked him bluntly, remembering my Tom Leonard. ‘Ask not for whom the Tel bowls’, he snapped back, ‘he bowls for you.’” (Wheatley’s page on Facebook, 01.08.2016.)

[ See numerous reviews in Dublin Review, PN Review, and The Guardian - as listed supra. ]

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Brief appearances: One of several young poets featured in Katie Donovan, ‘You Could Do Poetry’ (The Irish Times, 17 Oct. 1995). Speaker in “Transitions” panel of “Moving On 2”, a conference at St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra (NUI) during 4–5 April 2003.

College Greens: David Wheatley writes to The Irish Times (10 Sept. 1996) to correct the impression in an IT feature (“Doing it Ourselves”) that he himself founded the College Green magazine, properly ascribed to Stephen Murray, and adds that his editorship of Metre is shared with Justin Quinn and Hugh Maxton [W. J. McCormack]. (Wheatley has an address at Wyndham Avenue, Bray, Co. Wicklow.)

Namesakes: 1] David Wheatley (1949–2009), a British film and television director; grad. Royal College of Art with a film on René Magritte based - later screened as part of the BBC's arts' programmes Omnibus in 1979 [...] (See Wikipedia - online.) 2] David Wheatley (1948-2017), of Wheatley Antiques, specialist in Chinese and Japanese porcelain and works of art; He joined the trade in 1973, motivated to be self-employed, grow his hair long, wear jeans and [...] (See Antiques Trade Gazette - online.)

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