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Free from Humbug

Erin Maglaque: The Murdrous Machiavel, 16 July 2020

Machiavelli: His Life and Times 
by Alexander Lee.
Picador, 762 pp., £30, March, 978 1 4472 7499 5
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... became his raw material. He fixated, for example, on Cesare Borgia, the illegitimate son of Pope Alexander VI, who had carved out a state of his own in northern Italy through considerable military intelligence and diplomatic cunning – and, of course, with the help of his father. ‘This lord is very splendid and magnificent,’ Machiavelli observed ...

Extreme Gothic Americana

James Lasdun, 6 June 2019

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee 
by Casey Cep.
Heinemann, 314 pp., £20, May 2019, 978 1 78515 073 9
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... was found beaten and strangled to death in her Ford Fairlane on a quiet road near her home outside Alexander City, Alabama. The reverend, who had purchased several life insurance policies on his wife, was tried for her murder but acquitted after their neighbour, Dorcas Anderson, recanted some earlier testimony and provided him with an alibi. She and the ...

A Squid in the Closet

Jessica Olin: Curtis Sittenfeld’s ‘Prep’, 6 October 2005

Prep 
by Curtis Sittenfeld.
Picador, 406 pp., £12.99, September 2005, 0 330 44126 4
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... bees, mean girls, freaks, geeks and dorks of all kinds. What we have not seen is someone like Lee Fiora, the reluctant heroine of Curtis Sittenfeld’s first novel, Prep, which is a thoughtful, measured account of life at a top East Coast boarding-school. In a field dominated by shock tactics and deliberate quirkiness, Prep is a ...

The Chop

John Bayley, 27 January 1994

A History of Warfare 
by John Keegan.
Hutchinson, 432 pp., £20, September 1993, 0 09 174527 6
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How Great Generals Win 
by Bevin Alexander.
Norton, 320 pp., £22, November 1993, 9780393035315
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The Backbone: Diaries of a Military Family in the Napoleonic Wars 
edited by Alethea Hayter.
Pentland, 343 pp., £18.50, September 1993, 1 85821 069 0
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... results. Neither, however, enjoyed fighting for its own sake, as Caesar did, or Napoleon, or Alexander, or Stonewall Jackson, by far the most talented commander of the American Civil War. To them it was – or became – like a drug, an addiction that could not be given up. Had he lived, Alexander might have invaded ...

British Worthies

David Cannadine, 3 December 1981

The Directory of National Biography, 1961-1970 
edited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 1178 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 19 865207 0
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... wifely protest combined with ill-health forced Stephen to relinquish the editorship to Sidney Lee, who had been his assistant since 1883, and it was under his equally indefatigable auspices that the original scheme was completed along with the first two supplements. Their combined labours produced an enduring monument to national greatness and national ...

How to be Green

Mary Douglas, 13 September 1990

A Green Manifesto for the 1990s 
by Penny Kemp and Derek Wall.
Penguin, 212 pp., £4.99, July 1990, 0 14 013272 4
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Social Philosophy and Ecological Scarcity 
by Keekok Lee.
Routledge, 425 pp., £40, September 1989, 0 415 03220 2
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Mother Country 
by Marilynne Robinson.
Faber, 261 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 0 571 15453 0
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Blueprint for a Green Economy 
by David Pearce, Anil Markandya and Edward Barbier.
Earthscan, 192 pp., £6.95, September 1989, 1 85383 066 6
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TheFate of the Forest: Developers, Destroyers and Defenders of the Amazon 
by Susanna Hecht and Alexander Cockburn.
Verso, 366 pp., £16.95, November 1989, 0 86091 261 2
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Thinking Green: An Anthology of Essential Ecological Writing 
edited by Michael Allaby.
Barrie and Jenkins, 250 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 7126 3489 4
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... idea that there are a few universal human needs bedevils the discussion of pollution. Keekok Lee thinks that a social philosophy based on needs would have a solution for ecological problems. Social Philosophy and Ecological Scarcity does not admit the crude political implications of telling the public what it does and does not need. Defining needs ...

Can rebels be happy?

D.J. Enright, 23 May 1991

Self-Portrait of the Other: A Memoir 
by Heberto Padilla, translated by Alexander Coleman.
Farrar, Straus, 247 pp., £11.99, April 1991, 0 374 26086 9
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... How pleasing to be taken seriously. Up to a point. There are some similarities between Castro and Lee Kuan Yew – both have ruled since 1959, both possess ‘charisma’ – although the differences are more marked: Lee’s style is Europeanised-Chinese, Confucian, pragmatic, while Castro’s is Latin ...

Fundamentally Goyish

James Wood: Zadie Smith, 3 October 2002

The Autograph Man 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 420 pp., £16.99, September 2002, 0 241 13998 8
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... much pot with his childhood friend Adam Jacobs. He is in love with the 1940s movie actress Kitty Alexander, the star of The Girl from Peking. ‘It amazed him that so many people – in fact, it would be fair to say most people – were unaware that the 1952 Celebration Pictures musical The Girl from Peking, starring Jules Munshin as Joey Kay and Kitty ...

Hogshit and Chickenshit

Michael Rogin, 1 August 1996

Washington Babylon 
by Alexander Cockburn and Ken Silverstein.
Verso, 316 pp., £31.95, May 1996, 1 85984 092 2
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... to help poor children by ending their entitlement to even minimal welfare support. Although Alexander Cockburn and Ken Silverstein twice call Clinton a Republican president, even the view that he has signed the Contract with America does not go far enough for them. Neither Reagan nor Gingrich, in their view, did much to disturb Washington politics; the ...

At the National Gallery

Peter Campbell: Fakes, 22 July 2010

... imaging, gas chromatography and various sorts of microscopy. In 1874, when the collection of Alexander Barker, the son of a fashionable boot-maker, came up for sale at Christie’s, the National Gallery acquired two Botticellis: both long pictures of Venus, one with three putti (An Allegory), the other with four baby satyrs and Mars (Venus and Mars). An ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: On the Original Non-Event , 20 April 1995

... her right. Perhaps she didn’t feel she had been well seated. Never mind; I was able to introduce Alexander Hitchens to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, both of whom were very nice to him, as was Jessica Lange and as were Uma Thurman and Oprah Winfrey. His only autograph refusal came from Jane Fonda. I was impressed by how many people didn’t go ...

His Dark Example

Colin Burrow: ‘The Book of Dust’, 4 January 2018

The Book of Dust, Vol. I: La Belle Sauvage 
by Philip Pullman.
David Fickling, 546 pp., £20, October 2017, 978 0 385 60441 3
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Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling 
by Philip Pullman.
David Fickling, 480 pp., £20, October 2017, 978 1 910200 96 4
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... ability to take a familiar generic trope and twist it anew is the set-piece death of the aeronaut Lee Scoresby in the second book, The Subtle Knife (in Lyra’s world Zeppelins and balloons replace planes). It’s a classic shootout at the pass (the chapter is called ‘Alamo Gulch’), where Lee, a buccaneering ...

Our Island Story

Stefan Collini: The New DNB, 20 January 2005

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 
edited by H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison.
Oxford, sixty volumes, £7,500, September 2004, 9780198614111
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... writer’, and he cut some contributions by more than half. One enemy he certainly made was Alexander Balloch Grosart DD, who was invited to contribute several entries for the first volumes, principally on 17th-century divines. As early as October 1883, Stephen was complaining that he had ‘had my usual letter of abuse from that old fool ...

Principal Boy

Nigel Hamilton, 21 March 1985

Mountbatten 
by Philip Ziegler.
Collins, 786 pp., £15, March 1985, 0 00 216543 0
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... Princess Victoria. His father, grandson of the Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt and son of Prince Alexander of Battenberg, had joined the British Navy in 1868: a chequered career which saw him become First Sea Lord in 1912 but fall to English bigotry shortly after the outbreak of war, when he was forced to resign. The war did not, as expected, end by ...

Plantsmen

David Allen, 20 December 1984

The John Tradescants: Gardeners to the Rose and Lily Queen 
by Prudence Leith-Ross.
Owen, 320 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 7206 0612 8
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Sydney Parkinson: Artist of Cook’s ‘Endeavour’ Voyage 
edited by D.J. Carr.
Croom Helm, 300 pp., £29.95, March 1984, 9780709907947
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... A and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. A century later another celebrated London plantsman, James Lee of Hammersmith, was responsible for introducing the young Sydney Parkinson to Joseph Banks. The son of an Edinburgh brewer and a fellow Quaker of Lee’s, Parkinson had begun to demonstrate promise as a flower ...

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