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Who started it?

James Romm: Nero-as-arsonist, 17 June 2021

Rome Is Burning 
by Anthony Barrett.
Princeton, 447 pp., £25, December 2020, 978 0 691 17231 6
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... as singing before private audiences and racing chariots. The fire, however, changed everything. Anthony Barrett, who has written several acclaimed studies of Julio-Claudians, invokes the parallel of the Chernobyl disaster, ‘a single event … so spectacularly disastrous that it proved fatal for the governing regime’. Nero never overcame the shame ...

Female Heads

John Bayley, 27 October 1988

Woman to Woman: Female Friendship in Victorian Fiction 
by Tess Cosslett.
Harvester, 211 pp., £29.95, July 1988, 0 7108 1015 6
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Sentiment and Sociability: The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century 
by John Mullan.
Oxford, 261 pp., £25, June 1988, 0 19 812865 7
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The Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney. Vol. I: 1768-1773 
edited by Lars Troide.
Oxford, 353 pp., £45, June 1988, 9780198125815
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... him’. Creating an imaginary fresco of King Candaules awaiting his wife on the nuptial couch, Anthony Powell observes that the expectant monarch has in him ‘something of all men’, his spouse absorbed in her own rituals ‘something of all women’. In the legend, Candaules dies for thinking his wife’s nakedness belongs exclusively to him, to show ...

Short Cuts

Frederick Wilmot-Smith: RBG’s Big Mistake, 8 October 2020

... gambit paid off. Trump filled Scalia’s seat with Justice Neil Gorsuch. Soon after, Justice Anthony Kennedy retired. At 81, Kennedy was older than a Supreme Court judge should be; but he wasn’t ill (and is still alive). Nevertheless, he decided that President Trump and the Republican Senate were the ones he wanted to nominate and confirm his ...

Tons of Sums

Michael Mason, 16 September 1982

Charles Babbage: Pioneer of the Computer 
by Anthony Hyman.
Oxford, 287 pp., £12.50, July 1982, 9780198581703
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... economist, inventor, reformer of scientific institutions, craftsman, even salon host. But Anthony Hyman does not seek to displace the computers from centre-stage in Babbage’s life, and this seems correct. They provide the most sustained theme in his variegated career, and may be seen as a point of convergence for most of the tendencies of his ...

Resurrection Man

Danny Karlin: Browning and His Readers, 23 May 2002

The Ring and the Book 
by Robert Browning, edited by Richard Altick and Thomas Collins.
Broadview, 700 pp., £12.99, August 2001, 1 55111 372 4
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The Poetical Works of Robert Browning. Vol. VIII: The Ring and the Book, Books V-VIII 
edited by Stefan Hawlin and Tim Burnett.
Oxford, £75, February 2001, 0 19 818647 9
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... a classical epic in 12 books, a ‘novel-poem’ to rival his wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh, a historical romance to challenge Scott, an urban realist fiction to emulate Dickens or Balzac, a religio-philosophical-aesthetic treatise in the modern vein of the Higher Criticism. From the 1830s he had been a dedicated ...

Short Cuts

Frederick Wilmot-Smith: Plainly Unconstitutional, 21 October 2021

... litigator once told me that his strategy was to ‘shut Antonin Scalia up long enough to get Anthony Kennedy on my side’.)The composition of the Supreme Court determines the path of the country. It is therefore unsurprising that appointments to the court are politically contentious. (The Trump administration displayed a rare competence in the ruthless ...

Skeltonics

Helen Cooper: The maverick poetry of John Skelton, 14 December 2006

John Skelton and Poetic Authority: Defining the Liberty to Speak 
by Jane Griffiths.
Oxford, 213 pp., £50, February 2006, 9780199273607
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... by the end of the 16th century was for buffoonery: he was turned into a jest-book figure, and in Anthony Munday’s Robin Hood play within a play, The Downfall and Death of Robert Earl of Huntingdon, a ‘real-life’ Skelton takes the role of Friar Tuck. His recovery came on the back of the rise of Modernism, with its opening of readers’ minds to new ...

Cardigan Arrest

Robert Potts: Poetry in Punglish, 21 June 2007

Look We Have Coming to Dover! 
by Daljit Nagra.
Faber, 55 pp., £8.99, February 2007, 978 0 571 23122 5
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... schoolteacher that he instinctively joined in the Hail Marys when watching the film Amar, Akbar, Anthony, causing his father to freak out. He describes his father as shouting in ‘our’ language Vut idiot! If you vunt to call on Gud, call anytime on anyvun of our ten gurus . . . Now, where do the inverted commas around ‘our’ come from? Surely not ...

It ain’t him, babe

Danny Karlin, 5 February 1987

No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan 
by Robert Shelton.
New English Library, 573 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 450 04843 8
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... What must Dylan make of this meaningless buzz? Robert Browning wrote to Elizabeth Barrett that he had never lacked ‘a real set of good hearty praisers’: ‘No – what I laughed at in my “gentle audience” is a sad trick the real admirers have of admiring at the wrong place – enough to make an apostle swear. That does make me savage ...

Poor Stephen

James Fox, 23 July 1987

An Affair of State: The Profumo Case and the Framing of Stephen Ward 
by Phillip Knightley and Caroline Kennedy.
Cape, 268 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 224 02347 0
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Honeytrap: The Secret Worlds of Stephen Ward 
by Anthony Summers and Stephen Dorril.
Weidenfeld, 264 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 297 79122 2
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... lying. Mandy Rice-Davies later wrote that her testimony in the Ward case had been untrue. Vicky Barrett, a prostitute who had described Ward as a conventional pimp, did the same. Of the two books, An Affair of State is the more polished and convincing. Honeytrap, in some sections an admirable piece of sleuthing, gets diverted into loose speculation. Summers ...

So Ordinary, So Glamorous

Thomas Jones: Eternal Bowie, 5 April 2012

Starman: David Bowie, the Definitive Biography 
by Paul Trynka.
Sphere, 440 pp., £9.99, March 2012, 978 0 7515 4293 6
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The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s 
by Peter Doggett.
Bodley Head, 424 pp., £20, September 2011, 978 1 84792 144 4
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... of Hunky Dory consists of pastiches of Bowie’s musical heroes of the 1960s – John Lennon, Syd Barrett, Anthony Newley, Bob Dylan, the Velvet Underground. Which would make Ziggy Stardust the beautiful butterfly that emerged from the chrysalis. Paul Trynka begins his biography with a description of Bowie’s performance ...

Rah, Rah, Cheers, Queers

Terry Castle: On Getting Married, 29 August 2013

... Judy’s turn … [cry?] …) Victory is sweet, even if glimpsed from afar. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Sunday denied a request from Proposition 8 supporters to halt the issuance of same-sex marriage licences in California. Dozens of same-sex weddings have taken place in the state since Friday, following the Supreme Court’s decision on ...

Wham Bang, Teatime

Ian Penman: Bowie, 5 January 2017

The Age of Bowie: How David Bowie Made a World of Difference 
by Paul Morley.
Simon & Schuster, 484 pp., £20, July 2016, 978 1 4711 4808 8
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On Bowie 
by Rob Sheffield.
Headline, 197 pp., £14.99, June 2016, 978 1 4722 4104 7
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On Bowie 
by Simon Critchley.
Serpent’s Tail, 207 pp., £6.99, April 2016, 978 1 78125 745 6
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Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacy 
by Simon Reynolds.
Faber, 704 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 571 30171 3
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... can choose from a huge selection of books on any given cult figure (Nick Drake, Gram Parsons, Syd Barrett etc). In the days when such figures were active you had to be satisfied with an occasional music-press annual, or the lyrics printed in your girlfriend’s Jackie, or, if you were really lucky, a title like The Sociology of Riff (no photos or ...

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