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Saint Q

Alan Brien, 12 September 1991

Well, I forget the rest 
by Quentin Crewe.
Hutchinson, 278 pp., £17.99, September 1991, 0 09 174835 6
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... staircase on the cradled hands of Martha, the first Mrs Quentin Crewe, and Nancy, the second Mrs Alan Brien, two American women of dazzling good looks, one dark, one blonde. He looked as if he thought it the only way to travel. One lunchtime, depositing him at his table, I shall never forget. I posed him a question I had long wanted answering. In a Fleet ...

Into the Dark

Kathleen Jamie: A Winter Solstice, 18 December 2003

... was eight in the morning and Venus was hanging like a wrecker’s light above the Black Craig. The hill itself – seen from our kitchen window – was still in silhouette, though the sky was lightening to a pale yellow-grey. It was a weakling light, stealing into the world like a thief through a window someone forgot to close. The talk was all of Christmas ...

Diary

R.W. Johnson: Alan Taylor, Oxford Don, 8 May 1986

... the most famous historian in the world. I was not long to think of him by his initials, for Alan was the least standoffish of the senior fellows, the least likely to stand on his dignity. He loved talking – and being listened to. One could safely bring any guest to dinner and place them near him. They would be bound to come away delighted with a ...

English Individualism Revisited

Alan Ryan, 21 January 1988

The Culture of Capitalism 
by Alan Macfarlane.
Blackwell, 254 pp., £19.50, August 1987, 0 631 13626 6
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... Alan Macfarlane’s little book on The Origins of English Individualism came out in 1978. It argued that England had been in crucial respects a ‘modern’ society ever since the 14th century and maybe earlier, and that most accounts of the transition to modernity were therefore misconceived, and in so doing it attacked just about every vested interest in contemporary historiography ...

At Tate Britain

Rosemary Hill: Aubrey Beardsley, 24 September 2020

... will be his first ever exhibition in France, and for the Tate it’s the first since 1923. As Alan Crawford wrote in his ODNB entry, Beardsley has been ‘fragmented’ since his death, parcelled out between academics, curators, collectors of art and of books, and biographers. In its scale and range the Tate show goes some way towards putting him back ...

Gosh, what am I like?

Rosemary Hill: The Revenge Memoir, 17 December 2020

Friends and Enemies: A Memoir 
by Barbara Amiel.
Constable, 592 pp., £25, October 2020, 978 1 4721 3421 9
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Diary of an MP’s Wife: Inside and Outside Power 
by Sasha Swire.
Little, Brown, 544 pp., £20, September 2020, 978 1 4087 1341 9
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... dry while Sarah struggles round the kitchen with enormous fish pies. ‘It was all very Notting Hill but fun.’ Swire congratulates Cameron on his recent ‘Falklands moment’, using his veto to keep Britain out of the EU accord designed to stabilise the Eurozone by imposing new budgetary rules on all members. He laughs and says she’s ‘such a ...

Tory History

Alan Ryan, 23 January 1986

English Society 1688-1832 
by J.C.D. Clark.
Cambridge, 439 pp., £30, November 1985, 0 521 30922 0
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Virtue, Commerce and History 
by J.G.A. Pocock.
Cambridge, 321 pp., £25, November 1985, 0 521 25701 8
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... liberal triumphalism is offered by Marxism, and it’s no surprise to find Christopher Hill claiming that some sort of Whiggism is inescapable, nor to find Professor Pocock and Dr Clark denouncing Marxist historians as Whigs. The Marxist construes the 18th century as the century of the rise of the capitalist bourgeoisie: Locke was their ...

Mystery and Imagination

Stephen Bann, 17 November 1983

The Woman in Black 
by Susan Hill and John Lawrence.
Hamish Hamilton, 160 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 241 10987 6
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Legion 
by William Peter Blatty.
Collins, 252 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 00 222735 5
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The Lost Flying Boat 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Granada, 288 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 246 12236 6
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Snow, and Other Stories 
by Antony Lambton.
Quartet, 134 pp., £6.95, September 1983, 0 7043 2407 5
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New Islands, and Other Stories 
by Maria Luisa Bombal, translated by Richard Cunningham, Lucia Cunningham and Jorge Luis Borges.
Faber, 112 pp., £8.50, October 1983, 0 571 12052 0
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The Antarctica Cookbook 
by Crispin Kitto.
Duckworth, 190 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 7156 1762 1
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Sole Survivor 
by Maurice Gee.
Faber, 232 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 571 13017 8
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... sinew to the state of commercial apotheosis which is awaiting it upon the cinema screen. Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black and William Peter Blatty’s Legion (‘The sequel to The Exorcist’) very neatly illustrate this parting of the ways. If Susan Hill’s ‘ghost story’ is not a pastiche, it is undoubtedly an ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2012, 3 January 2013

... without a smile R. feels that for this alone they deserve to win. Brian, Stewie, David Mamet, Alan Bennett and Yasmina Reza in Family Guy. 25 April. At five a car comes to take me down to Silk studios on Berwick Street to record a voiceover (of my own voice) for an episode of Family Guy, the story being that Brian, the dog, has written a ...

Diary

Andrew O’Hagan: Hating Football, 27 June 2002

... the training session and stretched the shirts over our knees, all the better to roll down Toad Hill in one round movement before dousing the shirts in the industrial swamp at the bottom. The destruction of footballing equipment was beyond the pale: we were too young for Barlinnie Prison, so we got banned to Home Economics instead and were soon the ...

Sucking up

Michael Rogin, 12 May 1994

Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War 
by John MacArthur.
California, 274 pp., £10, January 1994, 0 520 08398 9
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Live from the Battlefield: From Vietnam to Baghdad – 35 Years in the World’s War Zones 
by Peter Arnett.
Bloomsbury, 463 pp., £17.99, March 1994, 0 7475 1680 4
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... hundreds of babies from Kuwaiti incubators. It ignored the story that the public relations firm of Hill and Knowlton, paid millions of dollars by Kuwait, had orchestrated the television testimonies to the alleged atrocity, that the unidentified female eyewitness was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, and that the only documented ...

Positively Spaced Out

Rosemary Hill: ‘The Building of England’, 6 September 2001

The Buildings of England: A Celebration Compiled to Mark 50 Years of the Pevsner Architectural Guides 
edited by Simon Bradley and Bridget Cherry.
Penguin Collectors’ Society, 128 pp., £9.99, July 2001, 0 9527401 3 3
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... in Fiction, Theatre and Cinema’. Imitation even of the most laconic entries is difficult. Only Alan Hollinghurst, among Bradley’s examples, gets it nearly right. But Pevsner was if not an unconscious then an incidental stylist. The greatest understatement in The Buildings of England is unrhetorical and comes at the end of his account of his working ...

Millom

Alan Hollinghurst, 18 February 1982

Sea to the West 
by Norman Nicholson.
Faber, 64 pp., £3, June 1981, 0 571 11729 5
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Out for the Elements 
by Andrew Waterman.
Carcanet, 151 pp., £3.95, October 1981, 0 85635 377 9
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Between Here and Now 
by R.S. Thomas.
Macmillan, 110 pp., £5.95, November 1981, 0 333 32186 3
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Poetry Introduction Five 
Faber, 121 pp., £5.25, January 1982, 0 571 11793 7Show More
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... that the first poem in the book is as simple as it is, asserting that Scafell Pike, ‘the tallest hill in England’, will still be there when its man-made surroundings have ceased to be: No roofs, no town, Maybe no men, But yonder where a lather-rinse of cloud pours down The spiked wall of the sky-line, see, Scafell Pike, Still there. It is ...

Diary

Julian Barnes: Burning Letters, 7 July 1988

... As a browser, I poked about in it with some interest, noting, for instance, that most of Susan Hill is in the Susan Hill collection at Eton College Library, and that Andrew Motion wrote a letter to E.M. Forster in ‘?1970’ which is under ‘restricted access’ at King’s College Cambridge. But as a writer, listed ...

Anything but Staffordshire

Rosemary Hill, 18 September 1997

Rare Spirit: A Life of William De Morgan 1839-1917 
by Mark Hamilton.
Constable, 236 pp., £22.50, September 1997, 0 09 474670 2
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... cases a simplification, as Charles Harvey and Jon Press have made clear in the case of Morris and Alan Crawford in his work on Ashbee. It would be interesting to know how justified De Morgan was in feeling that now he could ‘make beautiful things ... nobody wants them’. His grief at the failure of the enterprise was dispelled when, with an ease that ...

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