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The Staidness of Trousers

E.S. Turner, 6 June 1996

A Peculiar Man: A Life of George Moore 
by Tony Gray.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 344 pp., £20, April 1996, 1 85619 578 3
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... George Moore, ‘daring’ novelist and absentee landlord, sage and humbug of Ebury Street, seemed born to be insulted. ‘An over-ripe gooseberry, a great big intoxicated baby, a satyr, a boiled ghost, a gosling’ – these were among the Dublin epithets collected by his fellow writer Susan Mitchell and here passed on by Tony Gray ...

Are you a Spenserian?

Colin Burrow: Philology, 6 November 2014

Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities 
by James Turner.
Princeton, 550 pp., £24.95, June 2014, 978 0 691 14564 8
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... be turned into facts. We should so learn them that words may become deeds. In Philology James Turner attempts a heroic defence of this misunderstood breed. He argues that philology lies at the heart of all the academic disciplines currently called ‘humanities’. He suggests that subjects as apparently diverse as ...

Steps

E.S. Turner, 16 July 1981

An Ensign in the Peninsular War: The Letters of John Aitchison 
edited by W.F.K Thompson.
Joseph, 349 pp., £15.95, March 1981, 0 7181 1828 6
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... correspondence is still being discovered and published. In 1979 appeared the spirited letters of George Hennell, a young volunteer who presented himself to General Picton at the siege of Badajoz and was commissioned within six weeks into the 43rd Light Infantry.* Now we have the high-minded and contentious letters of an ensign in the Guards, John ...

The Sacred Sofa

E.S. Turner, 11 December 1997

The House of Lords: From Saxon Wargods to a Modern Senate 
by John Wells.
Hodder, 298 pp., £20, October 1997, 0 340 64928 3
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... of those who bought their rank from James I, or of war profiteers who wrote fat cheques to Lloyd George. Keeping faith with the hereditary principle has not always been easy. We are treated to a whole chapter about a peer who owed his seat in the Lords to being the product of a virgin birth, which might be thought the highest qualification of all. This is ...

Manners maketh books

E.S. Turner, 20 August 1981

Debrett’s Etiquette and Modern Manners 
edited by Elsie Burch Donald.
Debrett, 400 pp., £8.95, June 1981, 0 905649 43 5
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... more famous names, whether of arbiters or exemplars, would have been welcome in these pages. To George IV is attributed a stinging judgment on Sir Robert Peel: ‘He is no gentleman. He divides his coat tails when he sits down.’ A letter by Scott Fitzgerald is printed as a charming example of how to coax a 19-year-old daughter into saying thank-you for ...

Gilded Drainpipes

E.S. Turner: London, 10 June 1999

The London Rich: The Creation of a Great City from 1666 to the Present 
by Peter Thorold.
Viking, 374 pp., £25, June 1999, 0 670 87480 9
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The Rise of the Nouveaux Riches: Style and Status in Victorian and Edwardian Architecture 
by Mordaunt Crook.
Murray, 354 pp., £25, May 1999, 0 7195 6040 3
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... on the mob in the Gordon Riots, had another claim to notice. As a sheriff of London, Sir Barnard Turner was instrumental in abolishing Tyburn as a place of execution. In so doing he ended the tumultuous turnout of ruffians, whores and honest citizens who cheered, or execrated, the deathcart on its way from Newgate along Tyburn Road, now Oxford Street, to the ...

Thinking Persons

John Ellis, 14 May 1992

Addressing Frank Kermode: Essays in Criticism and Interpretation 
edited by Margaret Tudeau-Clayton and Martin Warner.
Macmillan, 218 pp., £40, July 1991, 9780333531372
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The Poverty of Structuralism: Literature and Structuralist Theory 
by Leonard Jackson.
Longman, 317 pp., £24, July 1991, 0 582 06697 2
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Inconvenient Fictions: Literature and the Limits of Theory 
by Bernard Harrison.
Yale, 293 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 300 05057 7
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Reading Minds: The Study of English in the Age of Cognitive Science 
by Mark Turner.
Princeton, 298 pp., £18.99, January 1992, 0 691 06897 6
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Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics 
by Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson.
Stanford, 530 pp., $49.50, December 1990, 0 8047 1821 0
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... of the contributors do, however, engage Kermode’s thought in a fairly serious way: John Stokes, George Hunter and Patrick Parrinder. Two ways of doing so were possible. Either Kermode’s general view of the critic’s task or his ideas concerning specific texts or groups of texts could have been the focus of attention. Stokes and Hunter choose the second ...

Great Thoughts

E.S. Turner, 7 May 1981

The Macmillan Treasury of Relevant Quotations 
edited by Edward Murphy.
Macmillan, 658 pp., £3.95, August 1980, 0 333 30038 6
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... is well represented, but 21 of the 26 references against his name relate to works by the unindexed George F. Woodberry (another English humorist, D. B. Wyndham-Lewis, has his entries indexed under Percy Wyndham Lewis). The genuine Wodehouse entries are not really vintage, which may well be the result of trying to find unhackneyed passages. Indeed, the search ...

Uncle William

E.S. Turner, 13 June 1991

The Passing of Barchester: A Real-Life Version of Trollop 
by Clive Dewey.
Hambledon, 199 pp., £14.95, April 1991, 1 85285 039 6
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... for a career. As a dispenser of life’s prizes William hardly compared with his elder brother George, who was chairman of the East India Company and a Member of Parliament for the City of London, and who could steer a man towards a governorship of a province worth as much as many a bishopric. Lyall’s clients seem not to have entered holy orders from any ...

Trevelogue

E.S. Turner, 25 June 1987

The Golden Oriole: Childhood, Family and Friends in India 
by Raleigh Trevelyan.
Secker, 536 pp., £16.95, May 1987, 0 436 53403 7
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... water trying to dodge the hail of bullets. ‘I knew too much,’ admits the author, who had read George Otto Trevelyan’s Cawnpore. (‘What ensues,’ wrote George Otto at one point, ‘an Englishman would willingly tell in phrases not his own,’ and quoted instead the words of ‘a native spy’. Quelle ...

Very like St Paul

Ian Sansom: Johnny Cash, 9 March 2006

The Man Called Cash: The Life, Love and Faith of an American Legend 
by Steve Turner.
Bloomsbury, 363 pp., £8.99, February 2006, 0 7475 8079 0
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Walk the Line 
directed by James Mangold.
November 2005
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... all of its fleshly temptations and attendant despairs, is an obvious incitement to grace; thus, George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh, and Rock Against Racism, and Live Aid, and Farm Aid, and Red Wedge, and Rock the Vote, and Live 8, Coldplay, U2, the late and the later John Lennon, and perhaps almost as many good causes as there are actors. It can ...

Phew!

E.S. Turner, 11 June 1992

Sunny Intervals and Showers: Our Changing Weather 
by David Benedictus.
Weidenfeld, 162 pp., £14.99, April 1992, 0 297 81154 1
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... in a diverting roll-call of ‘Great Men of Weather’ the first British television weatherman, George Cowling. ‘He set off at 5 a.m. every morning from the Air Ministry to the Shepherd’s Bush studio of the BBC with his meteorological chart for the day; on top of his Civil Service salary he received an appearance fee of ten shillings.’ Cowling was in ...

Madame, vous fatiguez les singes

E.S. Turner: The Tower Menagerie, 24 July 2003

The Tower Menagerie: Being the Amazing True Story of the Royal Collection of Wild and Ferocious Beasts 
by Daniel Hahn.
Simon and Schuster, 260 pp., £15.99, March 2003, 0 7432 2081 1
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... fed horseshoes. The Tower guidebooks of the 1750s blamed this nonsense on the Dutch, yet when George III received an ostrich in 1791 the Tower staff jumped at the chance to try out an iron diet on it. A post-mortem found more than eighty undigested nails in its body. Is this misapprehension now extinct? Not in the works of P.G. Wodehouse: ‘He gazed at ...

Unmuscular Legs

E.S. Turner, 22 August 1996

The Dictionary of National Biography 1986-1990 
edited by C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 607 pp., £50, June 1996, 0 19 865212 7
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... in the best tradition of Buffalo Bill. Earlier volumes of the DNB tell of disreputable divines in George Ill’s time who abandoned parish work to conduct scandal-sheets in Grub Street. How different the motivation of the Rev Marcus Moms, who left his Lancashire parish to start up that healthy paper for boys, Eagle. Some years later, he launched the less ...

The Rainbow

Lawrence Gowing, 17 March 1983

Rubens and the Poetics of Landscape 
by Lisa Vergara.
Yale, 228 pp., £29, November 1982, 0 03 000250 8
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James Ward’s Gordale Scar: An Essay in the Sublime 
by Edward Nygren.
Tate Gallery, 64 pp., £2.95, November 1982, 0 905005 93 7
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... in the bottom left-hand corner. ‘It seemed such a marvellous place to have a rainbow!’ Patrick George, a considerable Rubenist, once said to me. But Lisa Vergara’s destination is the idyllic landscapes of the last years of his life – and they no longer show ‘phenomena’ in this sense. There are no catastrophes and no perils. Instead there is the ...

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