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At Ramayan Shah’s Hotel

Deborah Baker: Calcutta, 23 May 2013

Calcutta: Two Years in the City 
by Amit Chaudhuri.
Union, 307 pp., £16.99, February 2013, 978 1 908526 17 5
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... never been to India, I came equipped with V.S. Naipaul’s India: A Wounded Civilisation and Geoffrey Moorhouse’s rather more upbeat and engaging Calcutta. My mother, arriving for the wedding, looked around and seemed to grasp things rather more directly. ‘You must really love him,’ she said. In appearance the city was circling the drain. Entire ...

The Suitcase: Part Two

Frances Stonor Saunders, 13 August 2020

... position as Housekeeper; 17-year-old daughter seeks position as Nursemaid; both experienced in all household duties. Friedlander, 44 Weissegarberlinde, Vienna III.’4 July 1938: ‘Correspondent for English, German, French, and Italian – Austrian lawyer, Jew, perfect typist, wants a position – Dr Robert Fischer, Deutschmesiterplatz 2, Vienna I.’28 July ...

‘Kek kek! kokkow! quek quek!’

Barbara Newman: Chaucer’s Voices, 21 November 2019

Chaucer: A European Life 
by Marion Turner.
Princeton, 599 pp., £30, April 2019, 978 0 691 16009 2
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... What they record is the career of a competent civil servant. A member of the king’s household and lifelong retainer of John of Gaunt, Chaucer served as a diplomat, controller of the wool custom, clerk of the king’s works, deputy forester, justice of the peace for Kent and Member of Parliament. In addition to his large poetic corpus, we have ...

Who gets the dacha?

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Marshal Zhukov, 24 January 2013

Stalin’s General: The Life of Georgy Zhukov 
by Geoffrey Roberts.
Icon, 375 pp., £25, August 2012, 978 1 84831 442 9
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... this time shows affluent, smartly dressed young urbanites seemingly confident of their future,’ Geoffrey Roberts tells us, speculating that, but for the war and then the Revolution, Zhukov would have ended up as a solid member of the bourgeoisie, a furrier with his own business. The war set him on a different path. Conscripted in the summer of 1915 and ...

Widowers on the Prowl

Tom Shippey: Britain after Rome, 17 March 2011

Britain after Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400-1070 
by Robin Fleming.
Allen Lane, 458 pp., £25, August 2010, 978 0 7139 9064 5
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... a 20th-century construction, put forward especially strongly in the 1960s and 1970s, in books like Geoffrey Ashe’s The Quest for Arthur’s Britain (1968) and John Morris’s The Age of Arthur (1973). Professional historians have long been embarrassed by the whole thing, but the image created – Roman cavalry leader rallies the British after the Roman army ...

Another A.N. Wilson

Michael Irwin, 3 December 1981

Who was Oswald Fish? 
by A.N. Wilson.
Secker, 314 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 436 57606 6
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... John ‘Pimlico’ Price, a manufacturer of sweets, is an acquaintance of her former lover, Geoffrey. Theo seems to go out of his way to throw Evelyn and Price together. It emerges that Jeremy is bisexual, and has been Price’s lover. Evelyn herself, in freakish mood, goes to bed with Jeremy. Price proposes to her, but she temporises. Her relationship ...

Shelley in Season

Richard Holmes, 16 October 1980

The Unacknowledged Legislator: Shelley and Politics 
by P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 312 pp., £16.50, June 1980, 0 19 812095 8
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Shelley and his World 
by Claire Tomalin.
Thames and Hudson, 128 pp., £5.95, July 1980, 9780500130681
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... legislators of the world’. Dawson suggests an intriguing new source: Godwin’s Life of Geoffrey Chaucer (1804), in which he speaks of the poet as ‘the legislator of generations and the moral instructor of the world’. The Shelleyan legislator is not, in fact, necessarily a poet: he is the man of moral imagination – the two terms become ...


Tam Dalyell: Questions for Mrs Thatcher, 23 July 1987

... Answer: 70 in Lothian region alone. How many households will discover that even if the head of the household is present and register, his wife, son and two grown-up daughters have mysteriously gone elsewhere? As Jimmy Wray, the new MP for Glasgow’s Easterhouse Estate put it to the pre-session meeting of 50 Scottish Labour MPs: ‘At present, I have 43,000 ...

Smartened Up

Ian Hamilton, 9 March 1995

Louis MacNeice: A Biography 
by Jon Stallworthy.
Faber, 538 pp., £25, February 1995, 0 571 16019 0
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... the sense we get from his last poems of lost time and irremediable error. There is an essay by Geoffrey Grigson on MacNeice, in which this is said: ‘He could be embarrassingly silent. A conversation came to a halt. Who was going to break the silence and bridge the silent interruption? His lack of usual reticence, too, could be sudden, startling and ...
Secret Affairs: Franklin Roosevelt, Cordell Hull and Sumner Welles 
by Irwin Gellman.
Johns Hopkins, 499 pp., $29.95, April 1995, 0 8018 5083 5
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Closest Companion: The Unknown Story of the Intimate Friendship between Franklin Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley 
edited by Geoffrey Ward.
Houghton Mifflin, 444 pp., $24.95, April 1995, 0 395 66080 7
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No Ordinary Time. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War Two 
by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Simon and Schuster, 759 pp., £18, June 1995, 0 671 64240 5
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The End of Reform 
by Alan Brinkley.
Knopf, 371 pp., $27.50, March 1995, 0 394 53573 1
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... have a terrific pain in the back of my head.’ The President had made his dog, Fala, a household word when his joke about Republican attacks on the pet revived his flagging final campaign and dispelled rumours that he was sick and no longer in command. Fala was a gift from the President’s cousin. His will bequeathed her the dog, to his widow’s ...

Howitzers on the Hill

Neal Ascherson: ‘The Forty Days of Musa Dagh’, 8 March 2018

The Forty Days of Musa Dagh 
by Franz Werfel, translated by Geoffrey Dunlop, revised by James Reidel.
Penguin, 912 pp., £10.99, January 2018, 978 0 241 33286 3
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... Armenian villagers living round the foot of the mountain left their houses. Carrying their household belongings and all the food they could find, more than eight hundred families set out one night in 1915 to climb Musa Dagh. On the plateau, they began to dig trenches, and to distribute the few firearms they had managed to hide from Turkish ...

Aspasia’s Sisters

Mary Lefkowitz, 1 September 1983

The Family, Women and Death: Comparative Studies 
by Sally Humphreys.
Routledge, 210 pp., £15, March 1983, 0 7100 9322 5
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The Golden Lyre: The Themes of the Greek Lyric Poets 
by David Campbell.
Duckworth, 312 pp., £28, February 1983, 0 7156 1563 7
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... discerns most clearly about Athenian life is the tension between polis (the state) and oikos (the household). Women move only in the world of the oikos, but men have access to both. By the fourth century, as the gravestones show, the oikos was the more important. Not that the shift in emphasis accorded women greater rights: they were still regarded as ...

William Rodgers reads the papers

William Rodgers, 19 February 1987

The Market for Glory: Fleet Street Ownership in the 20th Century 
by Simon Jenkins.
Faber, 247 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 571 14627 9
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The End of the Street 
by Linda Melvern.
Methuen, 276 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 413 14640 5
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... and an op-ed page without a policy. Only the charm of its obituaries is undiminished although Geoffrey Smith continues to write a wise if ponderous political column. Which leaves the Financial Times, the Independent and the Guardian. The Financial Times is a very good paper. It has replaced the Times in the authority of its features and the influence of ...

Vomiting in the marital bed

Carolyn Steedman, 8 November 1990

Road to Divorce, England 1530-1987 
by Lawrence Stone.
Oxford, 460 pp., £19.99, October 1990, 0 19 822651 9
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Late Victorian Britain, 1875-1901 
by J.F.C. Harrison.
Fontana, 265 pp., £5.99, September 1990, 9780006861300
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... in life. But it is difficult to see how it will be used by those students of the family and household, and those taking courses in cultural history who have so successfully learned from that account of 1977, and who will be the consistent and enduring audience for the new book. What looks like a helpful signposting in chapter division and sub-division ...

Etheric Vibrations

E.S. Turner: Marie Corelli, 29 July 1999

The Mysterious Marie Corelli: Queen of Victorian Bestsellers 
by Teresa Ransom.
Sutton, 247 pp., £25, June 1999, 0 7509 1570 6
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... in their stride, along with all those Biblical references. The narrator of The Sorrows of Satan, Geoffrey Tempest, is a self-pitying failed novelist who receives by the same post the news that he has been left five million pounds and a friendly self-introduction from a mysterious Prince Lucio Rimânez. When the superbly poised Prince arrives, the lights go ...

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