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My Shirt-Front Starched

Adam Phillips: Proust’s Megalomania, 28 July 2016

Proust: The Search 
by Benjamin Taylor.
Yale, 199 pp., £16.99, November 2015, 978 0 300 16416 9
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... the age of 18, ‘possession withers them.’ It was an insight from which he never recovered. As Benjamin Taylor puts it in his new biography, Proust’s ‘vitality’ was ‘checkmated by the excess of self-seeing’; knowing these people – knowing anyone – ended in catastrophic disappointment. Only a new lyricism of self-doubt could do ...

They don’t say that about Idi Amin

Andrew O’Hagan: Bellow Whinges, 6 January 2011

Saul Bellow: Letters 
edited by Benjamin Taylor.
Viking, 571 pp., $35, November 2010, 978 0 670 02221 2
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... found quite disturbing. Bellow the artist? He is nowhere to be seen and invisibly to be shamed. Benjamin Taylor, who edited the letters, has done a good job in corralling them onto the page, but we don’t ever have enough context, enough flavour, enough suggestion of catalysts or responses, so we are left with the bold Bellow shaking with anger and ...

The Reptile Oculist

John Barrell, 1 April 2004

... John Taylor, the journalist, newspaper editor and poet, was born in 1757. His grandfather, the legendary ‘Chevalier’ Taylor, had been oculist to George II, and afterwards, so his grandson assures us, to ‘every crowned head in Europe’. He was as famous for his womanising as for his knowledge of ophthalmology, but most famous, perhaps, for his habit of prefacing every operation he performed with a long speech in praise of his own skill, composed in what he claimed was ‘the true Ciceronian’, with each main verb cunningly held back to the end of the sentence ...

In the Waiting-Room of History

Amit Chaudhuri: ‘First in Europe, then elsewhere’, 24 June 2004

Provincialising Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference 
by Dipesh Chakrabarty.
Princeton, 320 pp., £42.95, October 2000, 0 691 04908 4
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... arresting time and focusing on the key moments of a concatenation, in a similar way to what Walter Benjamin thought photographs did in changing our perception of human movement: Whereas it is a commonplace that, for example, we have some idea what is involved in the act of walking (if only in general terms), we have no idea at all what happens during the ...
Under Fire: An American Story 
by Oliver North and William Novak.
HarperCollins, 446 pp., £17.99, October 1991, 0 06 018334 9
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Terry Waite: Why was he kidnapped? 
by Gavin Hewitt.
Bloomsbury, 230 pp., £15.99, November 1991, 0 7475 0375 3
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... Buckley, the kidnappers struck again. This time the victim was a Christian missionary called Benjamin Weir. In January 1985, Father Lawrence Jenco was captured, to be followed three months later by Terry Anderson. Where was Ollie North all this time? In 1981, he was plucked from the Marines to serve on the National Security Council, which is attached to ...

Out of Germany

E.S. Shaffer, 2 October 1980

The German Idea: Four English Writers and the Reception of German Thought 1800-1860 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Cambridge, 245 pp., £14.50, April 1980, 0 521 22560 4
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Criticism in the Wilderness. The Study of Literature Today 
by Geoffrey Hartman.
Yale, 314 pp., £11.40, October 1980, 0 300 02085 6
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... the excavation site. The earlier period of Mackenzie and Scott needs more attention, and William Taylor of Norwich and the increasing company of provincial Dissenting students of German are too quickly dismissed; the large band of translators of Schiller (apart from Coleridge) is unaccountably ignored. The scholars of the Classics, philosophy and ...

Long Live Aporia!

Hal Foster: William Gaddis, 24 July 2003

Agapē Agape 
by William Gaddis.
Atlantic, 113 pp., £9.99, January 2003, 1 903809 83 5
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The Rush for Second Place: Essays and Occasional Writings 
by William Gaddis, edited by Joseph Tabbi.
Penguin, 182 pp., $14, October 2002, 0 14 200238 0
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... in the process. Imagine Proust, propped up in bed, rambling about his writing life, crossed with Benjamin, in his last days at the Bibliothèque Nationale, rearranging his Arcades notes, and add a little of the ‘I can’t go on, I go on’ of Beckett and a lot of the run-on ranting of Thomas Bernhard, a contemporary whom the Gaddis surrogate here accuses ...

At the Grey Art Gallery

J. Hoberman: Inventing Downtown , 30 March 2017

... scene as well. The Five Spot Café, an artists’ hangout just off the Bowery, opened with Cecil Taylor, gave Thelonious Monk his first extended gig, and introduced New York to Ornette Coleman.) Many of the pieces in Inventing Downtown are proudly uncommercial. The exhibition includes work by a number of black and women painters, many of whom dropped out or ...

Imperial Project

Richard Drayton, 19 September 1996

Kew: The History of the Royal Botanic Gardens 
by Ray Desmond.
Harvill/Royal Botanical Gardens, 466 pp., £25, November 1995, 1 86046 076 3
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... within which many political persuasions – from Clarendon, Hume and Macaulay to A.J.P. Taylor and E. P. Thompson – have helped an emerging nation make sense of itself. There are now good reasons, as Linda Colley and Chris Bayly have suggested, to bring the Empire to the centre of domestic history and to show how a wider world changed our ...

One of the Cracked

Dinah Birch: Barbara Bodichon, 1 October 1998

Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon: Feminist, Artist and Rebel 
by Pam Hirsch.
Chatto, 390 pp., £20, July 1998, 0 7011 6797 1
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... Victorian women, Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon had a strong father and an obscure mother. Benjamin Smith, known in the family as ‘the Pater’, came from a formidable line of radical activists who had campaigned vigorously against the slave trade, and fostered projects for educational and political reform. Capable and self-assured, he combined ...

Highway to Modernity

Colin Kidd: The British Enlightenment, 8 March 2001

Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World 
by Roy Porter.
Allen Lane, 728 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 7139 9152 6
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... of the Bible itself, and Clarke’s approach and title were echoed by the Dissenting divine John Taylor in an equally notorious interrogation of the Calvinist doctrine of salvation in The Scripture Doctrine of Original Sin (1740). Articles of religion were denounced as a quasi-Popish hangover which restricted the much-vaunted freedom of Protestants to ...

At least they paid their taxes

Linda Colley, 25 July 1991

Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorised Biography 
by Kitty Kelley.
Bantam, 532 pp., £16.99, April 1991, 0 593 02450 8
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... one-time Lilac Princess at school, millionaire biographer of Jacqueline Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra, looks not all that different from her current subject. There is the same bright, taut face which a good surgical lift always ensures, the same immaculately-dyed and coiffeured hair, the same fixed smile exhibiting the kind of teeth that ...

Sexist

John Bayley, 10 December 1987

John Keats 
by John Barnard.
Cambridge, 172 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 521 26691 2
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Keats as a Reader of Shakespeare 
by R.S. White.
Athlone, 250 pp., £25, March 1987, 0 485 11298 1
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... The artist Benjamin Haydon said of Keats, probably with affectionate disapproval, that ‘one day he was full of an epic poem! – another, epic poems were splendid impositions on the world, – never for two days did he know his own intentions.’ Haydon’s canvases have something in common with Keats’s more ambitious poems in that they lack the basic confidence of genre; they are trying to do something new according to an old recipe ...

Homo Sexualis

Michael Ignatieff, 4 March 1982

Sex, Politics and Society: The Regulation of Sexuality since 1800 
by Jeffrey Weeks.
Longman, 306 pp., £11, October 1981, 0 582 48333 6
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Sexual Preference: Its Development in Men and Women 
by Alan Bell, Martin Weinberg and Sue Kiefer Hammersmith.
Indiana, 242 pp., £9, October 1981, 9780253166739
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Pornography and Silence 
by Susan Griffin.
Women’s Press, 277 pp., £4.75, October 1981, 0 7043 3877 7
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The History of Sexuality. Vol. 1 
by Michel Foucault, translated by Robert Hurley.
Penguin, 176 pp., £2.25, May 1981, 0 14 022299 5
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... the canalisation of eros along those subterranean rivers of sublimation. Thus for Gordon Rattray Taylor sex in history represents ‘the warfare between the dangerous and powerful drives and the systems of taboos and inhibitions which man has erected to control them’, while for Lawrence Stone history is a geology of the glacial grinding of repression ...

A Young Woman Who Was Meant to Kill Herself

Jeremy Harding: Charlotte Salomon, 8 March 2018

Life? Or Theatre? 
by Charlotte Salomon.
Duckworth, 840 pp., £125, September 2017, 978 1 715 65247 0
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Charlotte 
by David Foenkinos, translated by Sam Taylor.
Canongate, 224 pp., £8.99, January 2018, 978 1 78211 796 4
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Charlotte Salomon and the Theatre of Memory 
by Griselda Pollock.
Yale, 542 pp., £45, March 2018, 978 0 300 10072 3
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Charlotte Salomon: ‘Life? Or Theatre?’ A Selection of 450 Gouaches 
by Judith Belinfante and Evelyn Benesch.
Taschen, 599 pp., £30, November 2017, 978 3 8365 7077 0
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... ten thousand women, hundreds with young children. Several were well known: Hannah Arendt; Dora Benjamin, Walter’s sister; Marta Feuchtwanger, wife of Lion; the actress Dita Parlö, whose character falls in love with Jean Gabin’s in La Grande Illusion; Lisa Fittko, a passeuse who risked her life guiding scores of refugees out of France across the ...

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