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World’s Greatest Statesman

Edward Luttwak, 11 March 1993

Churchill: The End of Glory 
by John Charmley.
Hodder, 648 pp., £30, January 1993, 9780340487952
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Churchill: A Major New Assessment of his Life in Peace and War 
edited by Robert Blake and Wm Roger Louis.
Oxford, 517 pp., £19.95, February 1993, 0 19 820317 9
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... The highly practical Hellenistic solution to Britain’s insatiable Churchill/Finest Hour cravings would have been to establish a regular cult, with its own dedicated priests, rituals and sanctuaries. Facing a brazen engraving of the famously pugnacious 1941 Karsh photograph, surrounded by appropriate symbols or even original relics of Spitfires, Sten guns, Home Guard pikes and Montecristo cigars, listening to quadrophonic recordings of the major speeches in His own voice, peering into side-chapels dedicated to His companions (Beaverbrook, Birkenhead, Bracken), the average gent thrown into despair by the latest debacle of the British economy could swiftly revive his flagging spirits ...

Simple Facts and Plain Truths

David A. Bell: Common Sense, 20 October 2011

Common Sense: A Political History 
by Sophia Rosenfeld.
Harvard, 337 pp., £22.95, 0 674 05781 3
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... be more at odds with the no-nonsense common sense of the ordinary man or woman? We have become so accustomed to this usage that it is something of a shock to be reminded by Sophia Rosenfeld that ‘common sense’ once had a very different set of political connotations, and that 200 years ago asserting a belief in ordinary people’...

Der Jazz des Linguas

Matthew Reynolds: Diego Marani, 8 November 2012

New Finnish Grammar 
by Diego Marani, translated by Judith Landry.
Dedalus, 187 pp., £9.99, May 2011, 978 1 903517 94 9
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The Last of the Vostyachs 
by Diego Marani, translated by Judith Landry.
Dedalus, 166 pp., £9.99, May 2012, 978 1 907650 56 7
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Las Adventures des Inspector Cabillot 
by Diego Marani.
Dedalus, 138 pp., £6.99, July 2012, 978 1 907650 59 8
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... of what seems to have been a much happier experience of language. Between tales from Finland’s national epic, the Kalevala, and glugs of Koskenkorva vodka, Pastor Koskela, a Lutheran and a nationalist, boasts of the spontaneity of the Finnish tongue: ‘The sounds of our language were around us, in nature, in the woods, in the pull of the sea, in the ...

The Great Business

Nicholas Penny, 21 March 1985

Art of the 19th Century: Painting and Sculpture 
by Robert Rosenblum and H.W. Janson.
Thames and Hudson, 527 pp., £25, March 1984, 0 500 23385 3
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Romanticism and Realism: The Mythology of 19th-Century Art 
by Charles Rosen and Henri Zerner.
Faber, 244 pp., £15, October 1984, 0 571 13332 0
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Géricault: His Life and Work 
by Lorenz Eitner.
Orbis, 376 pp., £40, March 1983, 0 85613 384 1
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Tradition and Desire: From David to Delacroix 
by Norman Bryson.
Cambridge, 277 pp., £27.50, August 1984, 0 521 24193 6
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... whose paintings would not have surprised, although they would have delighted, Veronese, Rubens or Reynolds. Delaroche’s picture presents Robert Rosenblum with ‘the immediate illusion of a theatrical tableau enacted by costumed players in a crystal-clear space’. It was painted for – one might say took place at ...

Most Himself

Matthew Reynolds: Dryden, 19 July 2007

The Poems of John Dryden: Vol. V 1697-1700 
edited by Paul Hammond and David Hopkins.
Longman, 707 pp., £113.99, July 2005, 0 582 49214 9
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Dryden: Selected Poems 
edited by Paul Hammond and David Hopkins.
Longman, 856 pp., £19.99, February 2007, 978 1 4058 3545 9
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... Genius,’ Wordsworth said; perhaps predictably, since his notion of poetry differed from Dryden’s as much as Romantic ‘imagination’ differed from Augustan ‘wit’. But here is Dr Johnson: ‘to write con amore … was … no part of his character.’ Verse starved of parental love may well have problems attracting affection later. T.S. Eliot took a ...

Cultivating Cultivation

John Mullan: English culture, 18 June 1998

The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the 18th Century 
by John Brewer.
HarperCollins, 448 pp., £19.99, January 1997, 0 00 255537 9
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... in a fifth, a scanty slip of grass-plat, that would not afford pasture sufficient for an ass’s colt. The walks, which nature seems to have intended for solitude, shade and silence, are filled with crowds of noisy people, sucking up the nocturnal rheums of an aguish climate; and through these gay scenes, a few lamps glimmer like ...

Dwarf-Basher

Michael Dobson, 8 June 1995

Edmond Malone, Shakespearean Scholar: A Literary Biography 
by Peter Martin.
Cambridge, 298 pp., £40, April 1995, 0 521 46030 1
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... parish and corporation records of Stratford for the surviving documentary traces of Shakespeare’s family, and in the process found the only extant item of his personal correspondence, a letter to him from his neighbour Richard Quiney; Malone who found what remains the only known copy of the 1594 first quarto of Venus and Adonis (and later bequeathed ...

Founding Moments

Stuart Macintyre, 11 March 1993

The Oxford History of Australia. Vol. II, 1770-1860: Possessions 
by Jan Kociumbas.
Oxford, 397 pp., £25, September 1992, 0 19 554610 5
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The Rule of Law in a Penal Colony: Law and Power in Early New South Wales 
by David Neal.
Cambridge, 266 pp., £30, March 1992, 9780521372640
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Waterloo Creek: The Australia Day Massacre of 1838, George Gipps and the British Conquest of New South Wales 
by Roger Milliss.
McPhee Gribble, 965 pp., February 1992, 0 86914 156 2
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Living in a New Country: History, Travelling and Language 
by Paul Carter.
Faber, 214 pp., £14.99, July 1992, 0 571 16329 7
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... Tasmania’s prodigal son, Peter Conrad, suggested recently that his island-state had ‘unwritten its own history’ in accordance with ‘a self-protective incuriosity about origins’. Tasmania’s origins lay in an act of genocidal conquest and a penal experiment, both of which were so recent and so omnipresent in their effect as to make recollection intolerable ...

At Tate Britain

Frank Kermode: William Blake, 14 December 2000

... and holy … This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment’) or insulting Joshua Reynolds (‘This Man was Hired to Depress Art’). A few may have been excited by the promise addressed to Christians at the top of one of the Jerusalem plates: I give you the end of a golden string, Only wind it into a ball; It will lead you in at Heavens ...

Naked except for a bath towel

Paul Addison, 24 January 1985

Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence 
edited by Warren Kimball.
Princeton, 674 pp., £125, October 1984, 0 691 05649 8
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... vivant of the anti-Communist crusade. Especially in view of the fact that but for the Red Army’s achievement in pinning down the majority of German divisions on the Eastern Front, a successful invasion of Western Europe would have been impossible. But the D-Day celebrations revealed an intriguing gap in the mythology of the Cold War. It could hardly be ...

The Forty Years’ Peace

Keith Kyle, 21 October 1993

The United States and the End of the Cold War: Implications, Reconsiderations and Provocations 
by John Lewis Gaddis.
Oxford, 301 pp., £19.50, July 1992, 0 19 505201 3
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Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years, 1953-71 
by Douglas Brinkley.
Yale, 429 pp., £22, February 1993, 0 300 04773 8
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The Quest for Stability: Problems of West European Security 1918-1957 
edited by Rolf Ahmann, A.M. Birke and Michael Howard.
Oxford, 546 pp., £50, June 1993, 0 19 920503 5
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... and completeness of the Soviet meltdown. It was, for example, disconcerting to find that one’s own arguments about the future of Germany proved in retrospect to have been sincere and honest when one had for so long assumed them to be hypocritical. To hold that West Germany could both remain a full member of Nato and ...

Petty Grotesques

Mark Ford: Whitman, 17 March 2011

Democratic Vistas 
by Walt Whitman, edited by Ed Folsom.
Iowa, 143 pp., $24.95, April 2010, 978 1 58729 870 7
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... The immediate inspiration for ‘Shooting Niagara: and After?’ was the threat of Disraeli’s Reform Act, which would double the number of adult males entitled to vote, and thus, as Carlyle saw it, unleash untold ‘new supplies of blockheadism, gullibility, bribability, [and] amenability to beer and balderdash’: look at America, the beleaguered Sage ...

Diary

Max Hastings: Letters from the Front, 10 September 2015

... went to France in June 1915 as one of the ‘First Hundred Thousand’, as the men of Kitchener’s New Army became known. At first he reacted to the battlefield with curiosity and fascination rather than fear, as he described in letters to an elder brother, my grandfather, Basil Hastings, who was medically unfit for active service: 23 June 1915 Dear ...

On the Edge

David Sylvester, 27 April 2000

A New Thing Breathing: Recent Work 
by Tony Cragg.
Tate Gallery Liverpool
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... of the millennium in which the championship was a two-horse race – and a very close race, so that there may never be a consensus lasting more than fifty years as to which of them was the winner. Nevertheless, there is a clear distinction in their greatness, one relating purely to its nature, not its degree. It’...

How Movies End

David Thomson: John Boorman’s Quiet Ending, 20 February 2020

Conclusions 
by John Boorman.
Faber, 237 pp., £20, February, 978 0 571 35379 8
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... integrity, his passion and his blithe disdain for success, more radiant than gloomy. At 87, it’s his life, and he has resolved to treat it as a journey, a floating down the river, as if he had sometimes been unsure of where he was going, undistracted by ambition. Boorman may be the most inspired and wayward of English directors since Michael Powell.Not ...

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