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Journey to Arezzo

Nicholas Penny: The Apotheosis of Piero, 17 April 2003

Piero della Francesca 
by Roberto Longhi, translated by David Tabbat.
Sheep Meadow, 364 pp., £32.50, September 2002, 1 878818 77 5
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... among them Botticelli’s Mars and Venus. The purchase was endorsed by leading artists, and Benjamin Disraeli gave it his support. Piero was now fully established as an Old Master. Typically, his early discoverers – Robinson, Layard and Eastlake’s widow – believed that Burton had paid too much. Once Piero had attained this pre-eminence, he ...

Snakes and Leeches

Rosemary Hill: The Great Stink, 4 January 2018

One Hot Summer: Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli and the Great Stink of 1858 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Yale, 352 pp., £25, July 2017, 978 0 300 22726 0
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... committee inquiring into the working of the Bank Acts met. Gladstone was present, as was Disraeli, then chancellor of the exchequer, and business opened as usual despite the appalling stench coming from the Thames, until suddenly Disraeli could stand it no longer and rushed out, briefing papers in one hand, a ...

A Great Wall to Batter Down

Adom Getachew, 21 May 2020

Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent 
by Priyamvada Gopal.
Verso, 607 pp., £25, June 2019, 978 1 78478 412 6
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... imperial expansion increasingly tethered to narratives of national interest and grandeur. In 1852 Benjamin Disraeli had described the colonies as ‘a millstone round our necks’; they were burdens on the motherland and impediments to free trade. But by the end of the century Cecil Rhodes’s view that imperial expansion was a ‘bread and butter ...

Moderation or Death

Christopher Hitchens: Isaiah Berlin, 26 November 1998

Isaiah Berlin: A Life 
by Michael Ignatieff.
Chatto, 386 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 7011 6325 9
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The Guest from the Future: Anna Akhmatova and Isaiah Berlin 
by György Dalos.
Murray, 250 pp., £17.95, September 2002, 0 7195 5476 4
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... much of contradiction as of tautology. (And perhaps of want of originality: Berlin’s favourite, Benjamin Constant, proposed a distinction between the ‘liberty of the ancients’ and the ‘liberty of the moderns’; T.H. Green spoke of liberty in the ‘positive’ and ‘negative’, and the same antithesis is strongly present in Hayek’s Road to ...

We must think!

Jenny Turner: Hannah Arendt’s Islands, 4 November 2021

Hannah Arendt 
by Samantha Rose Hill.
Reaktion, 232 pp., £11.99, August, 978 1 78914 379 9
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... camp, or on the ship crossing the Atlantic, reading out the notes she’d been given by Walter Benjamin to the huddled masses on the deck. ‘Feelings of being alien, homeless and alone characterised her existence,’ Köhler wrote about Arendt in America. The only person she ever felt spoke ‘the same language’ was her second husband, Heinrich ...

Shaving-Pot in Waiting

Rosemary Hill: Victoria’s Albert, 23 February 2012

Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death That Changed the Monarchy 
by Helen Rappaport.
Hutchinson, 336 pp., £20, November 2011, 978 0 09 193154 4
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by Jules Stewart.
I.B. Tauris, 276 pp., £19.99, October 2011, 978 1 84885 977 7
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... Catholic. He was still only in his early twenties, and it was understandable perhaps that when Benjamin Haydon saw him at a court ball he looked like a ‘kept pet, frightened to sit, frightened to stand’. That he managed to make a success of his marriage and find a role in public life speaks powerfully of Albert’s sense of duty, his patience and his ...

The End of British Farming

Andrew O’Hagan: British farming, 22 March 2001

... coming from Australia loaded with mutton and beef. At a meeting in Aylesbury in September 1879, Benjamin Disraeli, by then Earl of Beaconsfield, spoke on ‘The Agricultural Situation’, and expressed concern about British farming’s ability to compete with foreign territories. ‘The strain on the farmers of England has become excessive,’ he ...

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