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Bored Hero

Alan Bell, 22 January 1981

Raymond Asquith: Life and Letters 
by John Jolliffe.
Collins, 311 pp., £10.95, July 1980, 9780002167147
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... When Raymond Asquith died in the Battle of the Somme, Winston Churchill grieved for ‘the loss of my brilliant hero-friend’, and the Prime Minister’s son became a symbol of the talent of a whole generation. He is mentioned in countless memoirs, but until the publication of this volume Asquith has never possessed any definite literary personality to give documentary substance to the legend of tragically sacrificed brilliance ...

Tony, Ray and the Duchess

Alan Bell, 21 May 1981

A Lonely Business: A Self-Portrait of James Pope-Hennessy 
edited by Peter Quennell.
Weidenfeld, 278 pp., £12.50, April 1981, 0 297 77918 4
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... James Pope-Hennessy, who was murdered in 1974 when he was 58, will be remembered for several of his books, among them London Fabric, an architectural study made in the nick of time in 1939, a young man’s book which has worn well; the two volumes of his life of Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton; Verandah of 1964, with its autobiographical element added to family and colonial history; and the excellent Queen Mary (1959), an unusually sympathetic study ...

Astrid, Clio and Julia

Alan Bell, 17 July 1980

The Wanton Chase 
by Peter Quennell.
Collins, 192 pp., £8.95, May 1980, 0 00 216526 0
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... The Wanton Chase follows on all too directly from The Marble Foot, published four years ago, a volume which took the author through his first 33 years and his first two marriages, covering a worthy parental background and a period of poetical precocity and undergraduate literary acclaim at Balliol, followed by a Japanese literary professorship and a spell at the copywriting desk of an advertising agency ...

Finding out about things

Alan Bell, 18 December 1980

Montague Rhodes James 
by Richard William Pfaff.
Scolar, 438 pp., £15, May 1980, 0 85967 554 8
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... Montague Rhodes James is secure in his reputation as a ghost-story writer of almost unparalleled quality. Even general readers of Ghost Stories of an Antiquary will immediately be aware of their strong autobiographical element, the authentic circumstantial detail about the natural that makes the supernatural all the more convincing. The firm command of technicalities, whether of libraries, manuscripts or misericords, the institutional background peopled by characters like the Sadduccean Professor of Ophiology and college fellows spending their long vacations in decayed cathedral towns, help to provide a persuasive background against which the author can deploy his menacing figures and evil presences (which are more convincing hinted at than described ...

Lord Eskgrove’s Indecent Nose

Rosalind Mitchison, 24 January 1980

Lord Cockburn: A Bicentenary Commemoration 
edited by Alan Bell.
Scottish Academic Press, 204 pp., £6, December 1980, 0 7073 0245 5
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... world of new styles in politics and architecture: the First he held with, the second deplored. As Alan Bell remarks, Cockburn’s ‘experience was almost exclusively Scottish’, yet one journey abroad, a Classical education and the experience of Scotland in its greatest days of self-esteem, when it could be believed that the answers to the social and ...

Burke and Smith

Karl Miller, 16 October 1980

Sydney Smith 
by Alan Bell.
Oxford, 250 pp., £9.95, October 1980, 0 19 812050 8
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Burke and Hare 
by Owen Dudley Edwards.
Polygon, 300 pp., £7.95, August 1980, 0 904919 27 7
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... England and Ireland. The books can be said to stand at opposite ends of a spectrum of emotion. Alan Bell’s is cool, elegant, efficient, eminently printable, while the other smacks of excitement, adrenalin, and of an oral tradition. Smith is present in the Burke book, as an ideological partner of the Whig advocates who were briefed in the legal ...

Homo Sexualis

Michael Ignatieff, 4 March 1982

Sex, Politics and Society: The Regulation of Sexuality since 1800 
by Jeffrey Weeks.
Longman, 306 pp., £11, October 1981, 0 582 48333 6
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Sexual Preference: Its Development in Men and Women 
by Alan Bell, Martin Weinberg and Sue Kiefer Hammersmith.
Indiana, 242 pp., £9, October 1981, 9780253166739
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Pornography and Silence 
by Susan Griffin.
Women’s Press, 277 pp., £4.75, October 1981, 0 7043 3877 7
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The History of Sexuality. Vol. 1 
by Michel Foucault, translated by Robert Hurley.
Penguin, 176 pp., £2.25, May 1981, 0 14 022299 5
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... Is a history of sexuality possible? It is easy to envisage a history of the language of enticement, the trail of clothes on the floor, the bed even, but the coupling, the thing itself, how could we nail that to the historian’s rack? An instinct timeless in its force, an experience at once private, secret and charmingly individual, how could it be made to submit to dates and social determination? It is easier to admit that the language of love knows its different tropes and turns in time than to admit that, if this is so, the experience it represents must have a history too ...

Never the twain

Mark Amory, 4 March 1982

Evelyn Waugh, Writer 
by Robert Murray Davis.
Pilgrim Books, 342 pp., $20.95, May 1981, 0 937664 00 6
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... A study of his aesthetic preferences was expanding into a biography when I last heard, while Alan Bell, whose work on Sydney Smith is drawing to a close, plans to move up the street in Combe Florey and produce ‘a biographical study’. Though a West Country recluse can hardly be the centre of a literary movement, the comparison with Virginia Woolf ...

Pull the Other One

Ian Hacking, 26 January 1995

The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life 
by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray.
Free Press, 845 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 02 914673 9
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... criticisms. Stephen Jay Gould spoke out in the New Yorker of 28 November. I especially recommend Alan Ryan’s analysis in the New York Review of Books of 17 November, followed in the 1 December issue by Charles Lane’s examination of some of the sources of statistical information in this book, sources closely connected with an Edinburgh publication, the ...
... from the oriel window on the west side of the table between Holmes and Simopoulos whose host, Alan Taylor, had the end seat ... In SCR I was at the opposite end of the horseshoe to the Vice-president, the only consequence of which was that the melon gave out before it reached me. But there were peaches, nectarines, grapes, apples, oranges, dates and ...

Evening at Dorneywood

Alan Rusbridger, 22 June 1989

The Whitelaw Memoirs 
by William Whitelaw.
Aurum, 280 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 1 85410 028 9
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... beeches. The evening air smelt of wet mould and wet leaves; the trees were misty green; the church bell was tolling in the town, and smoke rose from the roofs. Peace was there in the twilight ... But the lecturer’s voice still battered on my brain. ‘The bullet and the bayonet are brother and sister. If you don’t kill him, he’ll kill ...

Sea-shells and Tigers

Philip Kitcher, 18 March 1999

Life’s Other Secret: The New Mathematics of the Living World 
by Ian Stewart.
Penguin, 320 pp., £20, June 1998, 0 7139 9161 5
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... nothing but arcs and angles. God’s truth, Septimus, if there is an equation for a curve like a bell, there must be an equation for one like a bluebell, and if a bluebell, why not a rose?’ So says Lady Thomasina Coverly, the heroine of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, to her tutor Septimus Hodge. Her question was echoed a century after her (fictitious) life by ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 1995, 4 January 1996

... persistent failure to draw their blackout curtains perhaps) and one night, having had to ring the bell and remonstrate yet again, Joe burst out: ‘I’d like to give them a right kick up the arse.’ This wasn’t like Joe at all and turned into a family joke, and a useful one too, as Dad never swore, so to give somebody a kick up the arse became known ...
Selected Literary Criticism of Louis MacNeice 
edited by Alan Heuser.
Oxford, 279 pp., £19.50, March 1987, 0 19 818573 1
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... This is the first of two volumes in which Alan Heuser is making a selection of Louis MacNeice’s occasional writings. The first is mainly his reviews of Classical and modern literature; the second will bring together his fugitive pieces on philosophy, history, travel and autobiography. The currently renewed interest in MacNeice arises from two considerations: one, that he deserves better than to be regarded as merely one of Auden’s acolytes; two, that he may be seen as precursor to the young poets in Northern Ireland who have been making a stir, if not a Renaissance, since 1968 ...

The Middling Sort

Alan Ryan, 25 May 1995

The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy 
by Christopher Lasch.
Norton, 276 pp., £16.95, March 1995, 0 393 03699 5
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... But what emerges from Kaus and Reich, and even from last autumn’s shocker of the season, The Bell Curve, is that whatever the élite is up to, it isn’t engaged in a revolt. It engages in ‘assortative mating’, which is to say that doctors marry doctors and brokers marry brokers, with the result that lower earners also have to marry one ...

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