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Other Selves

John Bayley, 29 October 1987

How I Grew 
by Mary McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 278 pp., £14.95, September 1987, 0 297 79170 2
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Myself and Michael Innes 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 575 04104 8
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... Known Figures’, compiled by Carol Brightman, which the reader comes on at the end of the book. Edmund Wilson, one of the Better Known figures, is referred to but has no walk-on part: that marriage is yet to be. Early days with the grandparents in Seattle are mostly a matter of books. Mother and father died of Spanish flu in 1918 on the train on which the ...

Poor Man’s Crime

Ian Gilmour, 5 December 1991

The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the 18th Century 
by Peter Linebaugh.
Allen Lane, 484 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 7139 9045 7
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... others. ‘Butcher’ Cumberland, Horace Walpole, Lord North, Charles Fox, the Younger Pitt and Edmund Burke were among those who were robbed or shot at. Yet the victims of crime were rarely prominent people: small shopkeepers and the middling sort were the principal sufferers. The law was not just an engine of the rich for use against the poor. At Essex ...

Progress Past

Paul Langford, 8 November 1990

The Idea of Progress in 18th-Century Britain 
by David Spadafora.
Yale, 464 pp., £22.50, July 1990, 0 300 04671 5
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George III and the Satirists from Hogarth to Byron 
by Vincent Carretta.
Georgia, 389 pp., £38.50, June 1990, 0 8203 1146 4
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... include two Welshmen) are not all equally famous. Richard Price, Joseph Priestley, and perhaps Edmund Law, need no introduction. But William Worthington and John Gordon have not previously been placed in the august company of the Humes and Priestleys. Worthington figures briefly in the DNB and Williams’s Eminent ...

Rogering in Merryland

Thomas Keymer: The Unspeakable Edmund Curll, 13 December 2007

Edmund Curll, Bookseller 
by Paul Baines and Pat Rogers.
Oxford, 388 pp., £30, January 2007, 978 0 19 927898 5
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... already fading from the language when the figure who inspired the term, the flamboyant bookseller Edmund Curll, had been dead for less than a decade. Chatterton was still using it a generation later (‘I know the art of Curlism, pretty well,’ his persona Harry Wildfire boasts), and the phenomenon still flourishes in the media today, though without the ...

Wife Overboard

John Sutherland: Thackeray, 20 January 2000

by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 494 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 7011 6231 7
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... pruning of the naughty bits) and chose as their appointed biographer a 24-year-old American, Gordon Ray, who had just finished a doctorate on ‘Thackeray and France’. It was an eccentric choice: they could have had their pick of British biographers. But they wanted someone as remote from London’s gossip circuits as possible. Ray – as was standard ...

The Last War of Religion

David Armitage, 9 June 1994

The Language of Liberty, 1660-1832: Political Discourse and Social Dynamics in the Anglo-American World 
by J.C.D. Clark.
Cambridge, 404 pp., £35, October 1993, 0 521 44510 8
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The Debate on the Constitution: Federalist and Anti-Federalist Speeches, Articles and Letters During the Struggle over Ratification. Vol. I 
edited by Bernard Bailyn.
Library of America, 1214 pp., $35, July 1993, 0 940450 42 9
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... building of a nation under a novel Constitution which inspired the French to flattering imitation? Gordon Wood has argued powerfully, in The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1991), that the real revolution lay in the transformation of ‘a monarchical society into a democratic one unlike any that had ever existed’, though even this may underestimate ...

I have no books to consult

Stephen Sedley: Lord Mansfield, 22 January 2015

Lord Mansfield: Justice in the Age of Reason 
by Norman Poser.
McGill-Queen’s, 532 pp., £24.99, September 2013, 978 0 7735 4183 2
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... Life of Mansfield contains at least one palpable fabrication. In the 20th century two scholars, Edmund Heward and C.H.S. Fifoot, produced good short biographies focused on Mansfield as a lawmaker; and James Oldham (the author of the excellent entry on Mansfield in the current DNB), with new access to a large cache of Mansfield’s trial notes, produced a ...

Devolution Doom

Christopher Harvie: Scotland’s crisis, and some solutions, 5 September 2002

... in prospect, its very favourable treatment of Scotland bought the Union another couple of decades. Gordon Brown’s numbers show ecoomic problems looming for the UK in general – and the Scottish statistics are even worse. A European survey found in September 2001 that the UK had a long-term absent-through-sickness quotient of 7 per cent against 2.1 per cent ...

Cardinal’s Hat

Robert Blake, 23 January 1986

Cardinal Manning: A Biography 
by Robert Gray.
Weidenfeld, 366 pp., £16.95, August 1985, 0 297 78674 1
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... the Late Victorian period.’ Manning’s high repute was shattered by his first biographer, Edmund Sheridan Purcell, a Catholic journalist, who maintained that he had been appointed by the Cardinal as ‘official biographer’. There was nothing in writing to this effect, and Mr Gray describes the claim as ‘at best a half-truth’. Manning did, it is ...

This Trying Time

A.N. Wilson: John Sparrow, 1 October 1998

The Warden 
by John Lowe.
HarperCollins, 258 pp., £19.99, August 1998, 0 00 215392 0
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... 18th birthday, he had published a learned edition with Cambridge. It won laudatory reviews from Edmund Gosse, George Saintsbury and others. Surely a future stretched ahead in which Sparrow was destined to be a great scholar and man of letters, perhaps a good minor poet? Who could have predicted that when this learned and precocious adolescent had become an ...

The Purchas’d Wave

Bernard Rudden: The history of London’s water supply, 22 July 2004

London's New River 
by Robert Ward.
Historical Publications, 248 pp., £17.95, October 2003, 0 948667 84 2
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... great Ring Main, a kind of H2O M25. The supply began with individual enterprise when, around 1600, Edmund Colthurst, an Elizabethan man of parts, sought royal approval of his plans. By 1605, it was seen rather as a matter of public service, and an Act of Parliament authorised the City to do the necessary work. Four years later it returned to private ...

How They Brought the Good News

Colin Kidd: Britain’s Napoleonic Wars, 20 November 2014

In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793-1815 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 739 pp., £25, November 2014, 978 0 571 26952 5
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... embarked on a moderate constitutional revolution not unlike England’s Whig Revolution of 1688. Edmund Burke, an early doomsayer in his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), was out of step with the optimism of his contemporaries. As Uglow reminds us, the prime minister throughout the first phase of the wars, William Pitt the Younger, wasn’t the ...

Let’s to billiards

Stephen Walsh: Constant Lambert, 22 January 2015

Constant Lambert: Beyond the Rio Grande 
by Stephen Lloyd.
Boydell, 584 pp., £45, March 2014, 978 1 84383 898 2
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... thought (‘no single idea seems to last for more than a couple of bars’); and the jaw drops at Edmund Rubbra’s ‘rhythmic monotony and … melodic paucity’, criticisms Rubbra might just as well, or ill, have made of Schoenberg, Webern and their assorted followers (including Lambert’s friends Humphrey Searle and Elisabeth Lutyens), whose work ...

Farewell to the Log Cabin

Colin Kidd: America’s Royalist Revolution, 18 December 2014

The Royalist Revolution 
by Eric Nelson.
Harvard, 390 pp., £22.95, October 2014, 978 0 674 73534 7
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... excavated by a distinguished group of historians, including Caroline Robbins, Bernard Bailyn, Gordon Wood and J.G.A. Pocock, offered a compelling account of the reasons British Americans broke with monarchy and then embarked on such a distinctive constitutional experiment, hedged with an idiosyncratic Bill of Rights. For example, the curiously tangled ...

I ♥ Cthulhu

Paul Grimstad, 21 September 2017

The Night Ocean 
by Paul La Farge.
Penguin, 389 pp., £19.99, March 2017, 978 1 101 98108 5
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... After​ reading all of H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction in 1945, Edmund Wilson concluded that there was nothing scary about stories full of words like ‘eerie’, ‘unhallowed’, ‘blasphemous’, ‘infernal’, ‘hellish’ and ‘unholy’, especially when these refer to an ‘invisible whistling octopus’ (the creature appears at the end of the 1928 story ‘The Call of Cthulhu ...

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