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How to Shoe a Flea

James Meek: Nikolai Leskov, 25 April 2013

‘The Enchanted Wanderer’ and Other Stories 
by Nikolai Leskov, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
Vintage, 608 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 0 09 957735 5
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The Enchanted Wanderer 
by Nikolai Leskov, translated by Ian Dreiblatt.
Melville House, 256 pp., £8.99, August 2012, 978 1 61219 103 4
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... there’s a universality about him that finds echoes in non-Russians like Chinua Achebe or James Hogg who span the distance from village hearth to salon without feeling the need to pledge allegiance to one or the other. Leskov is the titular protagonist of Walter Benjamin’s essay ‘The Storyteller’, where the critic offers ...

Somewhere else

Rosalind Mitchison, 19 May 1988

The Peopling of British North America: An Introduction 
by Bernard Bailyn.
Tauris, 177 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 1 85043 037 3
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Voyagers to the West: Emigration from Britain to America on the Eve of the Revolution 
by Bernard Bailyn.
Tauris, 668 pp., £29.50, April 1987, 1 85043 038 1
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Migration and Society in Early Modern England 
edited by Peter Clark and David Souden.
Hutchinson, 355 pp., £25, February 1988, 0 09 173220 4
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Gypsy-Travellers in 19th-Century Society 
by David Mayall.
Cambridge, 261 pp., £25, February 1988, 0 521 32397 5
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... disastrous voyage of the Bachelor from Caithness in 1773, and the motives of its chief organiser, James Hogg, a Lothian man. Hogg, already a migrant, had tried to farm in Caithness, and had failed to adjust to the local society, still under the domination of the surname system, and also inclined to traditional forms of ...

Common Sense

Sally Mapstone: James Kelman, 15 November 2001

Translated Accounts 
by James Kelman.
Secker, 322 pp., £15.99, June 2001, 0 436 27464 7
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... James Kelman’s fifth novel, Translated Accounts, is also his first to be delivered entirely in English. In the three novels he published between 1984 and 1989, Kelman mixed Scots and English, with Scots used to convey characters’ speech and states of mind while English handled action and certain, often more formal, types of discourse ...

After-Meditation

Thomas Keymer: The Girondin Wordsworth, 18 June 2020

Radical Wordsworth: The Poet who Changed the World 
by Jonathan Bate.
William Collins, 608 pp., £25, April, 978 0 00 816742 4
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William Wordsworth: A Life 
by Stephen Gill.
Oxford, new edition, 688 pp., £25, April, 978 0 19 881711 6
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... North-West. They had been running Westmorland like a giant pocket borough since the heyday of Sir James (‘Wicked Jimmy’) Lowther, 1st earl of Lonsdale: a man Thomas De Quincey called ‘a true Feudal Chieftain’, notorious for his ‘gloomy temper and habits of oppression’. Wicked Jimmy went to a better (or worse) place in 1802, at which point the ...

Burying Scott

Marilyn Butler, 7 September 1995

The Life of Walter Scott: A Critical Biography 
by John Sutherland.
Blackwell, 386 pp., £19.99, January 1995, 1 55786 231 1
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... whom a title might be hoped for in return. Leading examples of Scott’s oiling of royalty are his James V of Scotland in The Lady of the Lake (1809), Queen Caroline, consort of George II, as a healing principle of Mercy in The Heart of Midlothian (1818), and Queen Elizabeth I, epitome of successful English monarchs, in Kenilworth (1821). Sutherland is ...

Some Names for Robert Lowell

Karl Miller, 19 May 1983

Robert Lowell: A Biography 
by Ian Hamilton.
Faber, 527 pp., £12.50, May 1983, 0 571 13045 3
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... about this undoubtedly American poet. He is the justified sinner whom we meet in the fiction of James Hogg. And he is the superman, the Stavrogin, whom we meet in the fiction of Dostoevsky: the antinomian hero bent both on power and mischief and on the blessedness of the meek, so that he’s Prince Myshkin too, and it’s hardly surprising that he ...

Incriminating English

Randolph Quirk, 24 September 1992

Language, Self and Society: A Social History of Language 
edited by Peter Burke and Roy Porter.
Polity, 358 pp., £45, December 1991, 0 7456 0765 9
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Images of English: A Cultural History of the Language 
by Richard Bailey.
Cambridge, 329 pp., £16.95, March 1992, 0 521 41572 1
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The Oxford Companion to the English Language 
edited by Tom McArthur and Feri McArthur.
Oxford, 1184 pp., £25, September 1992, 9780192141835
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The History of the English Language: A Source Book 
by David Burnley.
Longman, 373 pp., £25, January 1992, 0 582 02522 2
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The Cambridge History of the English Language. Vol. I: Beginnings to 1066 
edited by Richard Hogg and Norman Blake.
Cambridge, 609 pp., £60, August 1992, 9780521264747
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... Cambridge History of the English language, the mantle of general editor having passed to Richard Hogg. Eventually to comprise six large volumes this will be far and away the biggest and most ambitious history of the language ever published, and to judge from the quality of the two volumes that have appeared, it will be an achievement of which all concerned ...

Excepting the Aristocratical

Ian Gilmour, 23 March 1995

Marriage, Debt and the Estates System: English Landownership 1650-1950 
by John Habakkuk.
Oxford, 786 pp., £65, September 1994, 0 19 820398 5
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... a subject for censure than regret’. Shelley’s friend and biographer, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, being himself a barrister, could not go quite so far, but his verdict was almost as sweeping: the most profound ignorance is ... the grand, unenviable distinction of the English lawyer – an animal too often drawn from the dregs of society – and the ...
Twenty Thousand Streets under the Sky 
by Patrick Hamilton.
Hogarth, 528 pp., £4.95, June 1987, 0 7012 0751 5
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Trust Me 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 249 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 0 394 55833 2
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Her Story: A Novel 
by Dan Jacobson.
Deutsch, 142 pp., £8.95, August 1987, 0 233 98116 0
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... inherited a taste for drink and drama, a touch of Scottish diablerie with literary affiliations in James Hogg, and in such a novel as George Douglas’s The House with the Green Shutters. These are certainly present in the more sensational side of his work. But Twenty Thousand Streets has a quite different and much more English atmosphere, finding its ...

Sorry to decline your Brief

Stephen Sedley, 11 June 1992

Judge for yourself 
by James Pickles.
Smith Gryphon, 242 pp., £15.99, April 1992, 1 85685 019 6
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The Barrister’s World 
by John Morison and Philip Leith.
Open University, 256 pp., £35, December 1991, 0 335 09396 5
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Advocates 
by David Pannick.
Oxford, 305 pp., £15, April 1992, 0 19 811948 8
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... The absurdity of ex-judge James Pickles is not that, the son of a mayor of Halifax and himself an Oxford graduate, he rails endlessly against the domination of the Bench by the Oxbridge upper middle class. There’s nothing wrong with being a traitor to one’s class. As the left-wing QC D. N. Pritt told the right-wing Labour leader Ernest Bevin, it was the only thing the two of them had in common ...

Clarissa and Louisa

Karl Miller, 7 November 1985

Clarissa, or the History of a Young Lady 
by Samuel Richardson, edited with an introduction by Angus Ross.
Viking, 1533 pp., £19.95, August 1985, 0 670 80829 6
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Memoire of Frances, Lady Douglas 
by Lady Louisa Stuart, edited by Jill Rubenstein.
Scottish Academic Press, 106 pp., £9.50, August 1985, 0 7073 0358 3
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... half-approving interest in such persons, real or imaginary, who could be called by this name: James Hogg was described by a fellow dualistic writer as a ‘strange compound of genius and imbecility’. In the course of the 18th century the strange mixture was on the way to becoming the divided self of the romantics, and to suggesting some conflict of ...

How Does It Add Up?

Neal Ascherson: The Burns Cult, 12 March 2009

The Bard: Robert Burns, a Biography 
by Robert Crawford.
Cape, 466 pp., £20, January 2009, 978 0 224 07768 2
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... It’s a relief. The centuries after Burns’s death have produced some honest fiction about him (James Barke’s quintet of novels are the best known). But there has also been a procession of biographers dressing their own Burns dolls in their own favourite costumes. There was the ‘heav’n-taught ploughman’ school, mourning an Ayrshire nightingale ...

Hatching, Splitting, Doubling

James Lasdun: Smooching the Swan, 21 August 2003

Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds: Ways of Telling the Self 
by Marina Warner.
Oxford, 264 pp., £19.99, October 2002, 0 19 818726 2
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... to Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno stories, taking in works by Michelangelo, Col-eridge, Hogg, Stevenson, Kafka, Jean Rhys and numerous others. It is a short book, but dense. Warner’s highly complex line of argument, winding around so much material, and so tightly, produces a compacted, even crabbed architecture. You feel like you’ve stepped ...

Onomastics

Alex Ivanovitch: William Boyd, 4 June 1998

Armadillo 
by William Boyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 310 pp., £16.99, February 1998, 0 241 13928 7
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Nat Tate: American Artist, 1928-60 
by William Boyd.
Twenty One, 77 pp., £9.95, April 1998, 1 901785 01 7
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... floral and, again, classical (Delphine is ‘statuesque’ and, even better, ‘pale’). John James Todd’s lover in The New Confessions is called Doon, an odd, intractable name, one which gives Todd the chance both to dream of some shared Celtic origin and to call her by a (real) name which is shared by no other woman and which kicks up all sorts of ...

The Excursions

Andrew O’Hagan, 16 June 2011

... and green of the hills. This is where you find Tibbie Shiel’s Inn, where the Blackwood’s boys James Hogg and Christopher North used to come to liquefy their rhetoric. We entered from a smirr of rain, snoking for supper. It turned out supper was something that happened in the glen before 6.30 p.m. A lady in a white lab coat emerged to remind us of the ...

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