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Whatever you do, buy

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s First Folio, 15 November 2001

The Shakespeare First Folio: The History of the Book Vol. I: An Account of the First Folio Based on Its Sales and Prices, 1623-2000 
by Anthony JamesWest.
Oxford, 215 pp., £70, April 2001, 0 19 818769 6
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... awkwardly assembled and unevenly printed volume has commanded which preoccupy the first volume of Anthony JamesWest’s The Shakespeare First Folio: The History of the Book, and they provide a very remarkable instance of the interplay between literature and the market, prompting all sorts of reflections on the ...

A United Caribbean

C.L.R. James, 6 September 1984

Grenada: Revolution, Invasion and Aftermath 
by Hugh O’Shaughnessy.
Hamish Hamilton, 258 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 241 11290 7
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Grenada: Revolution and Invasion 
by Anthony Payne, Paul Sutton and Tony Thorndike.
Croom Helm, 233 pp., £17.95, May 1984, 0 7099 2080 6
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... is a Caribbean island of 120 square miles with a population of 110,000. Unlike some of the larger West Indian islands, Grenada has no heavy industry (no oil or bauxite); its production is agricultural – nutmegs chiefly. Grenadians sell their fruit and vegetables in Trinidad and then return home in their boats. Their island came into the news ...

Going Straight

Neal Ascherson, 17 March 1983

After Long Silence 
by Michael Straight.
Collins, 351 pp., £11.95, March 1983, 0 00 217001 9
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A Matter of Trust: MI5 1945-72 
by Nigel West.
Weidenfeld, 196 pp., £8.95, December 1982, 0 297 78253 3
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... ought to be wound up after the publication of Michael Straight’s contribution. Very possibly, Anthony Blunt will one day write such a book himself. But the names have almost all been named, the questions of motive worn smooth, the titles and pensions (some of them) stripped like epaulettes, the spell in the pillory served. Let’s get the blanket over ...

Chances are

Michael Wood, 7 July 1983

O, How the wheel becomes it! 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 143 pp., £6.95, June 1983, 0 434 59925 5
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Brilliant Creatures 
by Clive James.
Cape, 303 pp., £7.95, July 1983, 0 224 02122 2
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Pomeroy 
by Gordon Williams.
Joseph, 233 pp., £7.95, June 1983, 0 7181 2259 3
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... do the events of this world lay open to us!’ The thought is echoed in the closing pages of Clive James’s Brilliant Creatures, whose author-hero is said to be a ‘chapter of accidents’, and in the title and precarious plot of Anthony Powell’s O, How the wheel becomes it! The wheel is Ophelia’s, and ...

The Exotic West

Peter Burke, 6 February 1986

The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci 
by Jonathan Spence.
Faber, 350 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 571 13239 1
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Chine et Christianisme: Action et Réaction 
by Jacques Gernet.
Gallimard, 342 pp., frs 154, May 1982, 2 07 026366 5
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... it has also been retold by many other writers, among them Vincent Cronin in his Wise Man from the West (with a companion piece, A Pearl to India, on the career of De’Nobili). Ricci’s introduction into China of Western clocks, Western astronomy and Western mathematics has also attracted much attention from historians of science. If the story is to be told ...

Great Internationalists

Rupert Cornwell, 2 February 1989

Philby: The Life and Views of the KGB Masterspy 
by Phillip Knightley.
Deutsch, 291 pp., £14.95, October 1988, 0 233 98360 0
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Mask of Treachery: The First Documented Dossier on Blunt, MI5 and Soviet Subversion 
by John Costello.
Collins, 761 pp., £18, November 1988, 0 00 217536 3
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A Divided Life: A Biography of Donald Maclean 
by Robert Cecil.
Bodley Head, 212 pp., £15, October 1988, 0 370 31129 9
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The Storm Birds: Soviet Post-War Defectors 
by Gordon Brook-Shepherd.
Weidenfeld, 303 pp., £14.95, November 1988, 0 297 79464 7
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... the western outskirts of Moscow, when they buried Kim Philby. Guy Burgess had died in 1963, Anthony Blunt and Donald Maclean in 1983. Philby, however, was still alive when I started work in Moscow as the Independent’s correspondent there in early 1987, and his presence was a source of recurrent nightmares. Naturally I had put out feelers for an ...

Eden and Suez

David Gilmour, 18 December 1986

Anthony Eden 
by Robert Rhodes James.
Weidenfeld, 665 pp., £16.95, October 1986, 0 297 78989 9
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Descent to Suez: Diaries 1951-56 
by Evelyn Shuckburgh, edited by John Charmley.
Weidenfeld, 380 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 297 78993 7
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Cutting the Lion’s Tail: Suez through Egyptian Eyes 
by Mohamed Heikal.
Deutsch, 242 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 233 97967 0
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The Suez Affair 
by Hugh Thomas.
Weidenfeld, 255 pp., £5.95, October 1986, 0 297 78953 8
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... policy in the Thirties were less wise and consistent than is usually believed. Robert Rhodes James, however, not only endorses the traditional appreciation of Eden’s periods as Foreign Secretary: he claims that his Suez policy was absolutely justified and only wrecked by wrong-headed and pusillanimous Americans. The differing attitudes of the two ...

Whitehall Farce

Paul Foot, 12 October 1989

The Intelligence Game: Illusions and Delusions of International Espionage 
by James Rusbridger.
Bodley Head, 320 pp., £12.95, August 1989, 0 370 31242 2
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The Truth about Hollis 
by W.J. West.
Duckworth, 230 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 7156 2286 2
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... a week goes by without the enemies of official secrecy having good cause to sing the praises of James Rusbridger. From his Cornish retreat he sprays the correspondence columns of newspapers with volleys of good sense and good humour. This bluff, meticulous man spent much of his youth as a British businessman in Europe, where he worked in a dilatory sort of ...

German Jew

Michael Irwin, 17 April 1980

The Missing Years 
by Walter Laqueur.
Weidenfeld, 281 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 297 77707 6
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Jack be nimble 
by Nigel Williams.
Secker, 213 pp., £5.50, March 1980, 0 436 57155 2
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Identity Papers 
by Anthony Cronin.
Co-op Books, 194 pp., £4.50, February 1980, 0 905441 23 0
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Narrow Rooms 
by James Purdy.
Black Sheep Books, 185 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 906538 60 2
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Six Moral Tales 
by Eric Rohmer, translated by Sabine d’Estrée.
Lorrimer, 252 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 85647 075 9
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... and dealer in pornography. Among the contents were letters from various notabilities, including James Joyce and Parnell. Thirty years later, long after disowning his foster-parents and losing track of the box, he speaks of the letters to the librarian of the Celtic Library and is offered a substantial sum for them. Desperate for money he forges them, from ...

Wallflower

Anthony Quinn, 29 August 1991

Varying Degrees of Hopelessness 
by Lucy Ellmann.
Hamish Hamilton, 184 pp., £13.99, July 1991, 0 241 13153 7
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Slide 
by James Buchan.
Heinemann, 135 pp., £12.99, June 1991, 0 434 07499 3
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Alma Cogan 
by Gordon Burn.
Secker, 210 pp., £13.99, August 1991, 0 436 20009 0
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... manner, where farce reigns, academia abuts. The Catafalque is a fusty art institute in London’s West End, a Dickensian pile which houses the varying degrees of ‘wisdom and foolishness, belief and incredulity, light and darkness, hope and despair ... and just as one tolerates a lot of nonsense in Dickens, a lot of it was tolerated here.’ Around this core ...

Journos de nos jours

Anthony Howard, 8 March 1990

Alan Moorehead 
by Tom Pocock.
Bodley Head, 311 pp., £16.95, February 1990, 0 370 31261 9
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Loyalties: A Son’s Memoir 
by Carl Bernstein.
Macmillan, 254 pp., £15.95, January 1990, 0 333 52135 8
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Downstart 
by Brian Inglis.
Chatto, 298 pp., £15.95, January 1990, 0 7011 3390 2
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... The late James Cameron always liked to claim that the only male company in which he felt at home was that of his fellow journalists. They offered him, he wrote in his autobiography, ‘the conversational shorthand of completely common understanding’. Nor was his in any way an exceptional reaction. The existence across the world of various favoured journalistic watering-holes – sometimes grandly known as Press Clubs, more usually simply hotel bars with squatters’ rights established – is one proof of that ...

Ramadhin and Valentine

J.R. Pole, 13 October 1988

A History of West Indies Cricket 
by Michael Manley.
Deutsch, 575 pp., £17.95, May 1988, 0 233 98259 0
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Sobers: Twenty Years at the Top 
by Garfield Sobers and Brian Scovell.
Macmillan, 204 pp., £11.95, June 1988, 0 333 37267 0
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... reason to be grateful for the periods politicians spend in opposition. Roy Jenkins’s Asquith, Anthony Crosland’s reflections on socialism, Richard Crossman’s Bagehot, would hardly have come out of Whitehall, and Michael Manley would not have found time to write a history of West Indian cricket which encompasses the ...

Best at Imitation

Anthony Pagden: Spain v. England, 2 November 2006

Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830 
by J.H. Elliott.
Yale, 546 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 300 11431 1
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... parts of southern France, the whole of America from California to Tierra del Fuego, the shores of West Africa, the Philippines, and regions of India and Japan. It was the most powerful and by far the richest empire the world had ever seen. ‘How strange a thing it is,’ one English observer reflected in 1609, ‘that all the states of Europe have been ...

Picshuas

P.N. Furbank, 18 October 1984

Experiment in Autobiography: Discoveries and Conclusion of a Very Ordinary Brain (since 1866) 
by H.G. Wells.
Faber, 838 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 571 13330 4
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H.G. Wells in Love: Postscript to an Experiment in Autobiography 
edited by G.P. Wells.
Faber, 253 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 571 13329 0
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The Man with a Nose, and the Other Uncollected Short Stories of H.G. Wells 
edited by J.R. Hammond.
Athlone, 212 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 485 11247 7
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... going anywhere. He always had been a Liberal, or had been a Fabian, or had been a friend of Henry James or Bernard Shaw. And he was so often nearly right, that his movements irritated me like the sight of somebody’s hat being perpetually washed up by the sea and never touching the shore.’ To this I would join a feeling, fed by his Experiment in ...

Uncle Max

Patricia Craig, 20 December 1984

The man who was M: The Life of Maxwell Knight 
by Anthony Masters.
Blackwell, 205 pp., £9.95, November 1984, 0 631 13392 5
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Unreliable Witness: Espionage Myths of the Second World War 
by Nigel West.
Weidenfeld, 166 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 297 78481 1
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The Great Betrayal: The Untold Story of Kim Philby’s Biggest Coup 
by Nicholas Bethell.
Hodder, 214 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 340 35701 0
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... Like most biographers, Anthony Masters starts by announcing his subject’s date of birth; unlike most biographers, he gets it wrong. Charles Henry Maxwell Knight was born on 9 July 1900, not 4 September, under the sign of Cancer, not Virgo, however tempting it may be, for reasons which become clear in the course of the story, to assign him to the latter ...

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