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David Bromwich: The Establishment President, 13 May 2010

... to the party of territorial expansion and property rights under Andrew Jackson and Stephen Douglas; while the Whig party, once associated with John Adams, under the new name of Republicans extended the cause of liberty beyond the right of property. ‘I remember,’ Lincoln wrote in 1859, once being amused at seeing ...


Patrick Parrinder, 23 November 1989

Christopher Unborn 
by Carlos Fuentes, translated by Alfred MacAdam.
Deutsch, 531 pp., £13.95, October 1989, 0 233 98016 4
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The Faber Book of Contemporary Latin American Short Stories 
edited by Nick Caistor.
Faber, 188 pp., £11.99, September 1989, 0 571 15359 3
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by Gore Vidal.
Deutsch, 543 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 9780233984957
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Oldest living Confederate widow tells all 
by Allan Gurganus.
Faber, 718 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 9780571142019
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... among the orange groves and onion fields north of Los Angeles. We do catch the odd glimpse of Douglas Fairbanks or Charlie Chaplin off-duty, and we learn that, ‘contrary to dark rumour’, Fairbanks wears his own teeth: but what Vidal has to offer might have been more accurately if less enticingly labelled Woodrow Wilson and Warren Harding. Hollywood ...

More Interesting than Learning how to Make Brandy Snaps

Bernard Porter: Stella Rimington, 18 October 2001

Open Secret: The Autobiography of the Former Director-General of MI5 
by Stella Rimington.
Hutchinson, 296 pp., £18.99, September 2001, 0 09 179360 2
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... for its ‘gross boastfulness’: ‘It is written, if I may say so, in the style of “How Bill Adams Won the Battle of Waterloo”. The writer has been so anxious to show how important he was, how invariably he was right, and how much more he could tell if only his mouth was not what he was pleased to call closed.’ Peter Wright’s Spycatcher (1987) got ...


Alan Hollinghurst: In Houston, 18 March 1999

... the élite Rice University, which has a beautiful campus laid out by the Boston architect Ralph Adams Cram just before the Great War; Cram’s original Byzantine-eclectic halls and quadrangles are still being gracefully augmented by sympathetic architects such as Cesar Pelli. Fox is the author of the covetable AIA guide to Houston, published in 1990 and so ...

The Great National Circus

Eric Foner: Punch-Ups in the Senate, 22 November 2018

The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War 
by Joanne Freeman.
Farrar, Straus, 450 pp., £20.99, September 2018, 978 0 374 15477 6
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... Webster, as well as eloquent spokesmen on both sides of the slavery question, such as Stephen Douglas and William Seward. John Quincy Adams didn’t consider it beneath him to serve in the House after his term as president. Such men offer a sharp contrast to the smaller-than-life mediocrities who occupy seats today. But ...

Reasons for Liking Tolkien

Jenny Turner: The Hobbit Habit, 15 November 2001

... territory, but with another curious turn. For this strange emotion – what Douglas Adams might have called ‘the long toothache of the soul’ – isn’t a late 20th-century Hollywood add-on, but Tolkien himself, through and through. He theorised it in his 1938 lecture ‘On Fairy-Stories’ as ‘a fleeting glimpse of Joy beyond ...

Why name a ship after a defeated race?

Thomas Laqueur: New Lives of the ‘Titanic’, 24 January 2013

The Wreck of the ‘Titan’ 
by Morgan Robertson.
Hesperus, 85 pp., £8, March 2012, 978 1 84391 359 7
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Shadow of the ‘Titanic’ 
by Andrew Wilson.
Simon and Schuster, 392 pp., £8.99, March 2012, 978 1 84739 882 6
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‘Titanic’ 100th Anniversary Edition: A Night Remembered 
by Stephanie Barczewski.
Continuum, 350 pp., £15.99, December 2011, 978 1 4411 6169 7
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The Story of the Unsinkable ‘Titanic’: Day by Day Facsimile Reports 
by Michael Wilkinson and Robert Hamilton.
Transatlantic, 127 pp., £16.99, November 2011, 978 1 907176 83 8
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‘Titanic’ Lives: Migrants and Millionaires, Conmen and Crew 
by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Harper, 404 pp., £9.99, September 2012, 978 0 00 732166 7
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Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage 
by Hugh Brewster.
Robson, 338 pp., £20, March 2012, 978 1 84954 179 4
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‘Titanic’ Calling 
edited by Michael Hughes and Katherine Bosworth.
Bodleian, 163 pp., £14.99, April 2012, 978 1 85124 377 8
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... it should have some ‘chastening influence … on the self-confidence of mankind’, and Henry Adams likened the news to the foundering of the Republican Party: ‘the sum and triumph of civilisation … our greatest achievement sinks at a touch … Nature jeers at us for our folly.’ The sinking of the Titanic very quickly seemed freighted with ...

The Cruiser

Christopher Hitchens, 22 February 1996

On the Eve of the Millennium: The Future of Democracy through an Age of Unreason 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Free Press, 168 pp., £7.99, February 1996, 0 02 874094 7
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... case of Haiti – and to take another crack at the Clinton who has offended him by meeting Gerry Adams, and so can do nothing right – he has his deadly thrust at the ready: ‘The year 1994 is a lot more like Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four than the chronological 1984 was. Operation Restore Democracy is a masterpiece both of Newspeak and ...

Was it like this for the Irish?

Gareth Peirce: The War on British Muslims, 10 April 2008

... could afford to ignore. It is said that on the night before he decided to grant a visa to Gerry Adams, Bill Clinton watched a film about the catastrophic injustice inflicted on one Irish family by the British state. Here, Lord Scarman and Lord Devlin, retired law lords, joined Cardinal Hume, the head of the Catholic Church in England, in educating ...

Summer with Empson

Jonathan Raban: Learning to Read, 5 November 2009

... I discarded them like squeezed-out grapefruit skins. In the course of 24 hours, I might be Nick Adams, Paul Morel, and sitting in one of the dives on 52nd Street, uncertain and afraid, as the clever hopes expired of a low dishonest decade; but these were less acts of serious reading than experiments in identity, made by somebody who very much feared that he ...

Our Flexible Friends

Conor Gearty, 18 April 1996

Scott Inquiry Report 
by Richard Scott.
HMSO, 2386 pp., £45, February 1996, 0 10 262796 7
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... Government had all along been engaged in dialogue not with the mere ‘pseudo-terrorist’ Gerry Adams but with the IRA itself, via intermediaries specifically authorised to act on its behalf. If this did not breach Questions of Procedure for Ministers, then it is hard to know how its guidance can ever be disregarded. When Ian Paisley drew this to the ...

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