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Buffed-Up Scholar

Stefan Collini: Eliot and the Dons, 30 August 2012

Letters of T.S. Eliot, Vol. III: 1926-27 
edited by Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden.
Faber, 954 pp., £40, July 2012, 978 0 571 14085 5
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... sustained and unyielding. Much of the essay on Bramhall, for example, is given over to denouncing Hobbes, including this memorable piece of social and intellectual condescension: ‘Thomas Hobbes was one of those extraordinary little upstarts whom the chaotic motions of the Renaissance tossed into an eminence which ...

Against Passion

James Meek: Passionate Politics, 30 November 2017

The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics 
by Mark Lilla.
Harper, 160 pp., £19, August 2017, 978 0 06 269743 1
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The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction 
by Mark Lilla.
NYRB, 166 pp., £9.99, September 2016, 978 1 59017 902 4
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... What​ is identity politics? Is it, to paraphrase Dylan Thomas, a part of society you don’t like that’s fighting for its interests as fiercely as yours does? Or is it, as Mark Lilla puts it in The Once and Future Liberal, ‘a pseudo-politics of self-regard and increasingly narrow and exclusionary self-definition’? The book belongs to the genre of responses to Donald Trump’s election in which liberal American academics turn their rage on their own intellectual-political class ...

Moderation or Death

Christopher Hitchens: Isaiah Berlin, 26 November 1998

Isaiah Berlin: A Life 
by Michael Ignatieff.
Chatto, 386 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 7011 6325 9
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The Guest from the Future: Anna Akhmatova and Isaiah Berlin 
by György Dalos.
Murray, 250 pp., £17.95, September 2002, 0 7195 5476 4
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... the following textual emendation:From Zeno to Spinoza, from the Gnostics to Leibniz, from Thomas Hobbes to Lenin and Freud, the battle-cry has been essentially the same; the object of knowledge and the methods of discovery have often been violently opposed, but that reality is knowable, and that knowledge and only knowledge liberates, and ...

Was it because of the war?

Rogers Brubaker: Building Europe, 15 October 1998

Birth of the Leviathan: Building States and Regimes in Medieval and Early Modern Europe 
by Thomas Ertman.
Cambridge, 379 pp., £45, April 1997, 0 521 48222 4
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... For nearly a millennium, European states have been at war with one another. For as Hobbes observed, war consisteth not in Battell onely, or the act of fighting; but in a tract of time, wherein the Will to contend by Battell is sufficiently known ... For as the nature of Foule weather, lyeth not in a showre or two of rain; but in an inclination thereto of many dayes together: So the nature of War, consisteth not in actuall fighting; but in the known disposition thereto, during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary ...

Rock Bottom

Thomas Nagel: Legislation, 14 October 1999

The Dignity of Legislation 
by Jeremy Waldron.
Cambridge, 210 pp., £35, July 1999, 0 521 65092 5
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... some classic writers in political theory, not all of whom were convinced democrats – Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke and Kant – and the book is a contribution to the history of political thought as well as to contemporary debate (a historically oriented companion volume to Waldron’s more purely analytic treatment of the same topic in Law and Disagreement, also ...

Canetti’s Later Work

J.P. Stern, 3 July 1986

The Conscience of Words 
by Elias Canetti, translated by Joachim Neugroschel.
Deutsch, 166 pp., £8.95, April 1986, 9780233979007
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The Human Province 
by Elias Canetti, translated by Joachim Neugroschel.
Deutsch, 281 pp., £9.85, October 1985, 0 233 97837 2
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... to be an actual crowd and become a metaphor? These are Hobbesian themes and questions. Indeed, Thomas Hobbes is almost the only philosopher mentioned by name and the only one spoken of, in The Human Province, with modified approval – it is mainly his longevity that Canetti admires. Yet Hobbes’s criticism of ...

Novel and Naughty

Blair Worden: Parliament and the People, 26 September 2019

Radical Parliamentarians and the English Civil War 
by David Como.
Oxford, 457 pp., £85, July 2018, 978 0 19 954191 1
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The Common Freedom of the People: John Lilburne and the English Revolution 
by Michael Braddick.
Oxford, 391 pp., £25, August 2018, 978 0 19 880323 2
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... the most penetrating and uncompromising thinker of the civil wars, authority’s friend Thomas Hobbes? The cast list remains dominated by Levellers and sects. Though Hill’s confrontational stance has yielded to scholarly circumspection, the category of radicalism continues to nourish, in Dmitri Levitin’s words, ‘the idea that critical or ...

A Third Concept of Liberty

Quentin Skinner: Living in Servitude, 4 April 2002

... ends if and only if we consecrate our lives to God. Then you will believe that, in the words of Thomas Cranmer, the service of God ‘is perfect freedom’. Or suppose you accept the Aristotelian argument that man is a political animal, the argument restated as a theory of freedom by Hannah Arendt in Between Past and Future (1961). Then you will believe ...

Five Feet Tall in His Socks

Patrick Collinson: Farewell to the Muggletonians, 5 June 2008

Last Witnesses: The Muggletonian History, 1652-1979 
by William Lamont.
Ashgate, 267 pp., £55, August 2006, 0 7546 5532 6
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... and a former Baptist, was a wealthy London tobacconist, who left his wife £1685, a small fortune. Thomas Tomkinson, the leader of the second generation, came from a substantial family of Staffordshire tenant-farmers. Big money came into play in the 19th century with the Frost brothers, prosperous brass founders from Derby. But later in the century the sect ...

Mingling Freely at the Mermaid

Blair Worden: 17th-century poets and politics, 6 November 2003

The Crisis of 1614 and the Addled Parliament: Literary and Historical Perspectives 
edited by Stephen Clucas and Rosalind Davies.
Ashgate, 213 pp., £45, November 2003, 0 7546 0681 3
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The Politics of Court Scandal in Early Modern England: News Culture and the Overbury Affair 1603-60 
by Alastair Bellany.
Cambridge, 312 pp., £45, January 2002, 0 521 78289 9
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... from literature than unites them. In the Renaissance they were barely separable. Writers – Sir Thomas More, Sir Walter Ralegh, Samuel Daniel, Ben Jonson, Thomas May, John Milton, Andrew Marvell and many more – moved between history and poetry or drama, finding in them complementary means of instilling virtue and wisdom ...

Constancy

Blair Worden, 10 January 1983

Neostoicism and the Early Modern State 
by Gerhard Oestreich, edited by Brigitta Oestreich and H.G. Koenigsberger, translated by David McLintock.
Cambridge, 280 pp., £25, August 1982, 0 521 24202 9
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... to become a bishop) acknowledged the clear superiority of Christian doctrine. They claimed (like Thomas More before them) that they were only praising pagan behaviour in order to shame Christians into leading better lives. They assembled carefully selected texts from Classical Stoicism to show that their philosophy was wholly compatible with orthodox ...

Lights On and Away We Go

Keith Thomas: Happy Thoughts, 20 May 2021

The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness, 1680-1790 
by Ritchie Robertson.
Allen Lane, 984 pp., £40, November 2020, 978 0 241 00482 1
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... has to take in two of the most fiercely independent intellectuals of the 17th century, Hobbes and Spinoza, both of whom challenged accepted verities. Spinoza was ostracised by the Jewish community in Amsterdam for his supposed atheism; Hobbes was denounced in England and beyond for his unrelenting ...

How do you like your liberalism: fat or thin?

Glen Newey: John Gray, 7 June 2001

Two Faces of Liberalism 
by John Gray.
Polity, 161 pp., £12.99, August 2000, 0 7456 2259 3
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... a sort of new-variant liberalism, has claimed a number of prominent victims, including John Rawls, Thomas Nagel, Dworkin, Bruce Ackerman, Brian Barry and even Jürgen Habermas.Surprisingly, Gray pays little attention to it, mentioning the idea only as a historical aberration. It poses problems for him, however, since it cuts across his two-face ...

Out of this World

David Armitage, 16 November 1995

Utopia 
by Thomas More, edited by George Logan, Robert M. Adams and Clarence Miller.
Cambridge, 290 pp., £55, February 1995, 0 521 40318 9
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Utopias of the British Enlightenment 
edited by Gregory Claeys.
Cambridge, 305 pp., £35, July 1994, 0 521 43084 4
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... introductions by Edward Surtz and J.H. Hexter. For Surtz (a Jesuit), More was very much Saint Thomas; for Hexter (a Whig), he was more clearly Sir Thomas, and their rival interpretations have challenged future scholars to find the truth behind the gangly hybrid of the library catalogues – ‘More, ...

Bard of Tropes

Jonathan Lamb: Thomas Chatterton, 20 September 2001

Thomas Chatterton and Romantic Culture 
by Nick Groom.
Palgrave, 300 pp., £55, September 1999, 0 333 72586 7
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... public attention with pastiche and forgery. Chatterton not only invented the character and work of Thomas Rowley, supposedly a Bristol monk, but also carefully presented it in faded ink on artificially aged parchment, strangely intent on fooling connoisseurs of medieval literature such as Horace Walpole, author of the earliest Gothic novel, The Castle of ...

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