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The Kentish Hog

Adrian Desmond, 15 October 1987

The Correspondence of Charles Darwin. Vol. II: 1837-1843 
edited by Frederick Burkhardt and Sydney Smith.
Cambridge, 603 pp., £30, March 1987, 0 521 25588 0
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The Works of Charles Darwin 
edited by Paul Barrett and R.B. Freeman.
Pickering & Chatto, 10 pp., £470, March 1987, 1 85196 002 3
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The Darwinian Heritage 
edited by David Kohn.
Princeton, 1138 pp., £67.90, February 1986, 0 691 08356 8
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Western Science in the Arab World: The Impact of Darwinism, 1860-1930 
by Adel Ziadat.
Macmillan, 162 pp., £27.50, October 1986, 0 333 41856 5
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Theories of Human Evolution: A Century of Debate 1844-1944 
by Peter Bowler.
Blackwell, 318 pp., £25, February 1987, 0 631 15264 4
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Controversy in Victorian Geology: The Cambrian-Silurian Dispute 
by James Secord.
Princeton, 363 pp., £33.10, October 1986, 0 691 08417 3
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Darwin’s Metaphor: Nature’s Place in Victorian Culture 
by Robert Young.
Cambridge, 341 pp., £30, October 1985, 0 521 31742 8
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... David Kohn opens his monumental Darwinian Heritage with a deftly-delivered kick, observing that a study of the wider institutional culture of Darwin’s day seems to be ‘beyond the present ken of historians of 19th-century biology’. It’s a well-aimed blow. Little of the Darwin industry’s capital has been spent on exploring evolution in its social context ...

Poor Stephen

James Fox, 23 July 1987

An Affair of State: The Profumo Case and the Framing of Stephen Ward 
by Phillip Knightley and Caroline Kennedy.
Cape, 268 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 224 02347 0
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Honeytrap: The Secret Worlds of Stephen Ward 
by Anthony Summers and Stephen Dorril.
Weidenfeld, 264 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 297 79122 2
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... lying. Mandy Rice-Davies later wrote that her testimony in the Ward case had been untrue. Vicky Barrett, a prostitute who had described Ward as a conventional pimp, did the same. Of the two books, An Affair of State is the more polished and convincing. Honeytrap, in some sections an admirable piece of sleuthing, gets diverted into loose speculation. Summers ...

Oh God, can we face it?

Daniel Finn: ‘The BBC’s Irish Troubles’, 19 May 2016

The BBC’s ‘Irish Troubles’: Television, Conflict and Northern Ireland 
by Robert Savage.
Manchester, 298 pp., £70, May 2015, 978 0 7190 8733 2
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... facts presented in his account, and in those of pioneering media critics such as Liz Curtis and David Miller, suggest that a more critical verdict would not be out of place.* The early years of broadcasting in Northern Ireland had been safe and somnolent, as Savage describes. After BBC Northern Ireland was established between the wars, its directors quickly ...

Wham Bang, Teatime

Ian Penman: Bowie, 5 January 2017

The Age of Bowie: How David Bowie Made a World of Difference 
by Paul Morley.
Simon & Schuster, 484 pp., £20, July 2016, 978 1 4711 4808 8
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On Bowie 
by Rob Sheffield.
Headline, 197 pp., £14.99, June 2016, 978 1 4722 4104 7
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On Bowie 
by Simon Critchley.
Serpent’s Tail, 207 pp., £6.99, April 2016, 978 1 78125 745 6
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Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacy 
by Simon Reynolds.
Faber, 704 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 571 30171 3
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... In​ 1975 David Bowie was in Los Angeles pretending to star in a film that wasn’t being made, adapted from a memoir he would never complete, to be called ‘The Return of the Thin White Duke’. This dubious pseudonymous character was first aired in an interview with Rolling Stone’s bumptious but canny young reporter Cameron Crowe; it soon became notorious ...

Great Male Narcissist

Christopher Tayler: Sigrid Nunez, 1 August 2019

Mitz: The Marmoset of Bloomsbury 
by Sigrid Nunez.
Soft Skull, 172 pp., £12.50, August 2019, 978 1 59376 582 8
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The Friend 
by Sigrid Nunez.
Virago, 213 pp., £8.99, February 2019, 978 0 349 01281 0
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... of the Woolfs’ marriage is Virginia’s novel Flush, an imagined biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel. Woolf started work on Flush as a relaxation. ‘The gods of literature,’ Mitz’s narrator remarks, ‘punish writers who begin books in this spirit,’ and she ended up writing it as carefully and painfully as her other ...

Public Works

David Norbrook, 5 June 1986

The Faber Book of Political Verse 
edited by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 481 pp., £17.50, May 1986, 0 571 13947 7
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... been denied proper access to the political process: but from Katherine Philips through Elizabeth Barrett Browning to the present day, many women poets have commented on politics, and with only one British woman poet Paulin’s anthology is sadly defective here. The Romantic section would have been enlivened by Annabella Plumptre’s incendiary, ironically ...

It was going to be huge

David Runciman: What Remained of Trump, 12 August 2021

Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency 
by Michael Wolff.
Bridge Street, 336 pp., £20, July, 978 1 4087 1464 5
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... the Supreme Court, where Trump’s three appointees (Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett) would be sure to tip the balance in his favour. That there was no case – at least no case that could get a serious hearing – didn’t matter. What mattered was to keep up the pressure until the other side cracked. Challenge everything, dispute ...

So Ordinary, So Glamorous

Thomas Jones: Eternal Bowie, 5 April 2012

Starman: David Bowie, the Definitive Biography 
by Paul Trynka.
Sphere, 440 pp., £9.99, March 2012, 978 0 7515 4293 6
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The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s 
by Peter Doggett.
Bodley Head, 424 pp., £20, September 2011, 978 1 84792 144 4
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... pointy teeth, all at once so English, so ordinary and so glamorous. And it’s four decades since David Bowie – wearing a lot of make-up and very few clothes, grinning through his pointy teeth, all at once so English, so ordinary and so glamorous – released The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. ‘Five years, that’s all we’ve ...

In the bright autumn of my senescence

Christopher Hitchens, 6 January 1994

In the Heat of the Struggle: Twenty-Five Years of ‘Socialist Worker’ 
by Paul Foot.
Bookmarks, 288 pp., £12.50, November 1993, 0 906224 94 2
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Why You Should Join the Socialists 
by Paul Foot.
Bookmarks, 70 pp., £1.90, November 1993, 0 906224 80 2
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... we organised a ‘Confront the racists’ mass meeting where the main address was given by Terry Barrett, a Tilbury stevedore with a voice like a foghorn. He denounced the evil and stupidity of racism in terms I can still recall, at a time when many better-bred radicals were running for cover. Later in the year, when the Warsaw Pact invaded ...

Prolonging her absence

Danny Karlin, 8 March 1990

The Wimbledon Poisoner 
by Nigel Williams.
Faber, 307 pp., £12.99, March 1990, 0 571 14242 7
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The Other Occupant 
by Peter Benson.
Macmillan, 168 pp., £12.95, February 1990, 0 333 52509 4
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Possession 
by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 511 pp., £13.95, March 1990, 0 7011 3260 4
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... motifs are intertwined with contemporary academic and sexual politics, clearly owes a good deal to David Lodge; the theme of the lost literary legacy invokes The Aspern Papers; James might be cited again in relation to the book’s punning deployment of ‘possession’ as a term of material, erotic and demonic significance, an association that also reminds ...

Young, Pleasant, Cheerful, Tidy, Bustling, Quiet

Dinah Birch: Mrs Dickens, 3 February 2011

The Other Dickens: A Life of Catherine Hogarth 
by Lillian Nayder.
Cornell, 359 pp., £22.95, December 2010, 978 0 8014 4787 7
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... chiefly remembered as a model for the helplessly inept Dora Spenlow in the quasi-autobiographical David Copperfield, she was much tougher than the ditzy Dora. She was interested in Dickens, but not overwhelmed. He courted her passionately for three years, with the same determination he was applying, much more effectively, to his job. When she finally turned ...

Particularly Anodyne

Richard Norton-Taylor: One bomb in London, 15 July 2021

The Intelligence War against the IRA 
by Thomas Leahy.
Cambridge, 356 pp., £18.99, March 2020, 978 1 108 72040 3
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... was murdered in February 1989, shot fourteen times in front of his wife and children. Ken Barrett, a member of the UDA, was convicted of killing Finucane, but released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Nelson claimed he had warned his army handlers of the UDA’s plans to murder the solicitor. Finucane was given no warning. Nelson later ...

Browning and Modernism

Donald Davie, 10 October 1991

The Poems of Browning. Vol. I: 1826-1840 
edited by John Woolford and Daniel Karlin.
Longman, 797 pp., £60, April 1991, 0 582 48100 7
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The Poems of Browning. Vol. II: 1841-1846 
edited by John Woolford and Daniel Karlin .
Longman, 581 pp., £50, April 1991, 9780582063990
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... ego in the novel as an excerpt from his supposed poem dated 1860, ‘The Garden of Proserpine’. David West in the Times Saturday Review for 24 August 1991, show-casing the piece in a panel headed ‘Reading a Poem’, invited us to see here ‘many of the characteristics of the best Victorian verse: the vivid and disturbing pictures, the rich organ music ...

Escaped from the Lab

Robert Crawford: Peter Redgrove, 21 June 2012

A Lucid Dreamer: The Life of Peter Redgrove 
by Neil Roberts.
Cape, 341 pp., £30, January 2012, 978 0 224 09029 2
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Collected Poems 
by Peter Redgrove, edited by Neil Roberts.
Cape, 496 pp., £25, January 2012, 978 0 224 09027 8
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... from his friends what he later felt had been severe mental suffering, not least when his brother David fell to his death from a hotel window at the age of 19; most of all, he concealed the Game, and had a lifelong terror of people finding out about it. He admired Rimbaud and drank heavily; Barbara tried to coax him away from the bottle. He went off to Spain ...

Life Pushed Aside

Clair Wills: The Last Asylums, 18 November 2021

... his 35 years at Netherne. This led me, some months later, to an office in Lambeth belonging to David O’Flynn, a consultant psychiatrist at the Lambeth and Maudsley Hospitals, and chair of the Adamson Collection Trust. We walked up and down the corridors of the clinic where he worked and looked at the display of patients’ pictures on the walls (these ...

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