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John McEnroe plus Anyone

Edward Said: Tennis, 1 July 1999

The Right Set: The Faber Book of Tennis 
edited by Caryl Phillips.
Faber, 327 pp., £12.99, June 1999, 0 571 19540 7
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... partly because they never saw even the great postwar champions like Ted Schroeder, Frank Parker, Eric Sturgess, and there are no videos of what Wadie quaintly refers to as ‘vintage’ players, partly because today’s champions are focused so exclusively on tennis, with endless exercise and hitting drills and virtually nothing else to do except take care ...

Crusoe was a gentleman

John Sutherland, 1 July 1982

The Gentleman in Trollope: Individuality and Moral Conduct 
by Shirley Letwin.
Macmillan, 303 pp., £15, May 1982, 0 333 31209 0
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The Idea of the Gentleman in the Victorian Novel 
by Robin Gilmour.
Allen and Unwin, 208 pp., £10, October 1981, 0 04 800005 1
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... to ‘the lesser Thackeray’ – Trollope. He refines an argument originally put forward by Gordon Ray: that Thackeray’s great project in fiction was to ‘redefine’ the gentlemanly ideal for a middle-class Victorian ethos. Historically, Gilmour sees the Victorian preoccupation with gentlemanliness (and its derivative, ‘manliness’) as signalling ...

Lunchtime No News

Paul Foot, 27 June 1991

Kill the messenger 
by Bernard Ingham.
HarperCollins, 408 pp., £17.50, May 1991, 0 00 215944 9
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... hard to eat for two (and partake of the standard rieslings) for less than £100. A passage about Eric Varley, the former Labour Secretary of State for Industry, echoes the contrast in his own life between the working-class boy from Hebden Bridge and the glory to which he rose: ‘He spoke of his miner father coughing up his pneumoconiosis in the next bedroom ...

Tea-Leafing

Duncan Campbell, 19 October 1995

The Autobiography of a Thief 
by Bruce Reynolds.
Bantam, 320 pp., £15.99, April 1995, 0 593 03779 0
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... Charlie Wilson, the sort of father you see by the hundred in France on Sunday outings ... [Gordon] Goody, nerves of steel and the wolfish handsomeness of the pack leader ... The events were so vividly in the minds of the actors that they remember, like Henry V at Agincourt, what feats they did that day.’ Never mind Agincourt, note the ‘little ...

Francis and Vanessa

Peter Campbell, 15 March 1984

Francis Bacon 
by Michel Leiris, translated by John Weightman.
Phaidon, 271 pp., £50, September 1983, 0 7148 2218 3
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Vanessa Bell 
by Frances Spalding.
Weidenfeld, 399 pp., £12.95, August 1983, 0 297 78162 6
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The Omega Workshops 
by Judith Collins.
Secker, 310 pp., £15.95, January 1984, 0 436 10562 4
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The Omega Workshops 1913-1919: Decorative Arts of Bloomsbury 
Crafts Council, 96 pp., £6.95, March 1984, 0 903798 72 7Show More
The Omega Workshops: Alliance and Enmity in English Art 1911-1920 
Anthony d’Offay Gallery, 80 pp., £4.95, February 1984, 0 947564 00 4Show More
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... in 1968, there is a grand old painter called Harry Bretton. He is modelled, I would guess, on Eric Gill, for the Life, and Stanley Spencer, for the Work. Musing by the studio window, he considers his place in history: Turner was the greatest English painter, and was safely dead, did not encroach or suggest comparisons. But at the end he had petered ...

Pseud’s Corner

John Sutherland, 17 July 1980

Duffy 
by Dan Kavanagh.
Cape, 181 pp., £4.95, July 1980, 0 224 01822 1
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Moscow Gold 
by John Salisbury.
Futura, 320 pp., £1.10, March 1980, 0 7088 1702 5
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The Middle Ground 
by Margaret Drabble.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 297 77808 0
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The Boy Who Followed Ripley 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 292 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 434 33520 7
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... abbreviated as the Dictionary’s. Was it fear, diffidence or shame, for instance, that made Eric Blair rechristen himself at the start of his career? As Christopher Hollis tells us: ‘The reasons he gave for changing his name are oddly unconvincing. He complained that Blair was a Scots name and that he disliked Scotland because of its association with ...

Bombes, Cribs and Colossi

R.O. Gandy, 26 May 1994

Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park 
edited by F.H. Hinsley and Alan Stripp.
Oxford, 321 pp., £17.95, August 1993, 0 19 820327 6
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... were, or were to become, fellows of the Royal Society). A Lancashire businessman, Wing-Commander Eric James, praised here for his skill in dealing with ‘tiresome intrigues’ and ‘something like chaos’, eventually got things running smoothly; after the war he became head of GCHQ at Cheltenham. Enciphered enemy messages, broadcast in morse or ...

Democratic Warming

Tom Nairn: The Upstaging of the G8, 4 August 2005

... proles. Stability and continuity urgently needed reinforcement, on both sides of the fence. As Eric Hobsbawm argued in Age of Extremes (1994), in two decades of peaceful development the ‘shorter 20th century’ had managed to generate a new relatively advantaged class, which aspired to something a lot better. Civil society seemed to have got way ahead of ...

Diary

Colin Kidd: After the Referendum, 18 February 2016

... realised historical fiction, and with The Strange Death of Labour Scotland by Gerry Hassan and Eric Shaw, published in 2012, which uncannily anticipates the party’s recent evaporation. Devine’s story ends at a fork in the road. Is independence imminent? Or has the collapse in the price of oil severely undermined the case for leaving the United ...

Short Cuts

Peter Geoghegan: On Greensill, 6 May 2021

... left the civil service after the Hutton Inquiry into David Kelly’s death, but returned when Gordon Brown became prime minister in 2007.) Cameron appointed Greensill, who had left Citigroup to start his own firm, as an adviser. He was given a desk in the Cabinet Office and a secure Number Ten email address. In 2014, he was made a UK crown representative ...

The Enabling Boundary

Tom Nairn: We’re All Petit Bourgeois Now, 18 October 2007

What Should the Left Propose? 
by Roberto Mangabeira Unger.
Verso, 179 pp., £15, January 2006, 1 84467 048 1
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The Self Awakened: Pragmatism Unbound 
by Roberto Mangabeira Unger.
Harvard, 277 pp., £19.95, February 2007, 978 0 674 02354 3
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Une brève histoire de l’avenir 
by Jacques Attali.
Fayard, 432 pp., €20, October 2006, 2 213 63130 1
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... The recent French presidential election rubbed the point in painfully; as has the elevation of Gordon Brown on this side of the Channel. Neither Roberto Unger nor Jacques Attali undervalues the achievements of social democracy, or indeed of state socialism. But both suggest that in either case any reprise or development now depends on finding a different ...

Robin Hood in a Time of Austerity

James Meek, 18 February 2016

... much needed services in the Sinaloa mountains’. This is Robin Hood the ‘noble robber’, in Eric Hobsbawm’s characterisation. In the final edition of his much reworked book Bandits, Hobsbawm bids farewell to the type. ‘In a fully capitalist society,’ he writes, the conditions in which social banditry on the old model can persist or revive are ...

Tolerant Repression

Blair Worden, 10 May 1990

Thomas Starkey and the Commonweal 
by Tom Mayer.
Cambridge, 326 pp., £32.50, April 1989, 0 521 36104 4
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Politics and Literature in the Reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII 
by Alistair Fox.
Blackwell, 317 pp., £35, September 1989, 0 631 13566 9
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The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Portraits at the Court of Henry VIII 
by Retha Warnicke.
Cambridge, 326 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 521 37000 0
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English Travellers Abroad 1604-1667 
by John Stoye.
Yale, 448 pp., £12.95, January 1990, 0 300 04180 2
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... The Dialogue was not published until the 19th century. Was it known after its author’s death? Gordon Zeeveld argued, in Foundations of Tudor Policy, that the Marian theorist John Ponet drew on it, but thereafter the trail goes cold. Of course, Classical republicanism is a simplifying phrase. Classicism, in Starkey as in his 17th-century ...

Diary

Perry Anderson: On E.P. Thompson, 21 October 1993

... with Edward’s conclusion. The rift was over. In 1986 we met in New York. Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm, he and I had been brigaded to discuss agendas for radical history at the New School. In the overflowing auditorium, hanging on his words, he was die image of a romantic orator: his bursts of passionate speech punctuated by that typical gesture, a ...

Paradise Syndrome

Sukhdev Sandhu: Hanif Kureishi, 18 May 2000

Midnight All Day 
by Hanif Kureishi.
Faber, 224 pp., £9.99, November 1999, 0 571 19456 7
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... Hanif Kureishi and directed by Stephen Frears, told the story of Anglo-Pakistani Omar (played by Gordon Warnecke) who, tired of being patronised and bullied by his family, decides to get ahead by opening a gleaming new laundrette in South London. Having acquired the necessary start-up cash by conning a family friend in a drug deal, he employs as his partner ...

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