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Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 1996, 2 January 1997

... up in memoirs of the Second War such as those of Nancy Mitford and James Lees-Milne is Stuart Preston, nicknamed the Sergeant, an American serviceman who came over to work at US HQ in London, later taking part in the invasion. He seems to have very rapidly become a feature of the upper-class English social scene, setting hearts of both sexes ...

Short Cuts

Harry Stopes: Life on Licence, 19 December 2019

... John​ is one of more than 250,000 people in Britain living under the supervision of the probation service. He got out of prison in April 2018, when his sentence still had some years to run. I met him while I was reporting on the shortcomings of the law on joint enterprise. In 2005 he had been convicted for murder after a man died as a result of injuries received during a burglary John was involved in – injuries John did not inflict ...

Chucky, Hirple, Clart

David Craig: Robert Macfarlane, 24 September 2015

Landmarks 
by Robert Macfarlane.
Hamish Hamilton, 387 pp., £20, March 2015, 978 0 241 14653 8
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... William Cobbett of Rural Rides, a farmer’s son and himself a farmer from time to time; John Muir of My First Summer in the Sierra, a farmer’s son and farmer; and Lewis Grassic Gibbon of A Scots Quair, a farmer’s son from the Mearns in north-east Scotland. All three produced work that strikes me as special – as important, if you like ...

Johnsons

John Sutherland, 7 June 1984

The Place of Dead Roads 
by William Burroughs.
Calder, 306 pp., £9.95, April 1984, 0 7145 4030 7
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Angels 
by Denis Johnson.
Chatto, 209 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 7011 2777 5
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Moll Cutpurse: Her True History 
by Ellen Galford.
Stramullion, 221 pp., £4.50, May 1984, 0 907343 03 1
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... it as ‘vomit’. Nevertheless, helped by a determined defence from its British publisher, John Calder (who claimed to discern in Burroughs the James Joyce of our day), Naked Lunch went on to become a terrific post-Chatterley best-seller. The Place of Dead Roads is published with a grant from the Arts Council: a double seal of Establishment approval ...

High Taxes, Bad Times

John Pemble: Late Georgian Westminster, 10 June 2010

The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1820-32 
by D.R. Fisher.
Cambridge, 6336 pp., £490, December 2009, 978 0 521 19314 6
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... from constituency to constituency. Edinburgh, whose population was 136,000, had 33 voters. Preston, with a population of 33,000, had more than 7000. Westminster (population 200,000) had 9280. The MPs returned by this antiquated machinery were irrefutably aristocratic: 83 per cent of them came from the territorial elite. Britain was ruled by its ...

Carry on up the Corner Flag

R.W. Johnson: The sociology of football, 24 July 2003

Ajax, the Dutch, the War: Football in Europe during the Second World War 
by Simon Kuper.
Orion, 244 pp., £14.99, January 2003, 0 7528 5149 7
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Broken Dreams: Vanity, Greed and the Souring of British Football 
by Tom Bower.
Simon and Schuster, 342 pp., £17.99, February 2003, 9780743220798
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... the sun doesn’t shine’ is pure ‘Carry on up the Corner Flag’. Later, Kuper interviews the Preston North End winger Tom Finney about the Cup Final of 1941, when Preston beat Arsenal. Wasn’t it odd, he asks, to play the final in bombed-out London? ‘I wasn’t all that interested in the war when I was ...

Follow the Money

David Conn, 30 August 2012

... body, supposed to be the guardian of the game’s ethos and values. In 1892, the FA permitted Preston North End, football’s first great power, to convert itself from a members’ club into a limited company. Preston had, years earlier, been the first to break the rules against professionalism, paying good players from ...

The Vicar of Chippenham

Christopher Haigh: Religion and the life-cycle, 15 October 1998

Birth, Marriage and Death: Ritual, Religion and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Oxford, 641 pp., £25, May 1998, 0 19 820168 0
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... ceremony, but the culmination of weeks or months of courtship, gift-giving and negotiation. John Hayne of Exeter pursued Susan Henley with godly vigour in 1634: his presents included Arthur Hildersham’s Lectures upon the Fourth of John, a Bible and two books of sermons, as well as ribbons, gloves and green silk ...

First Puppet, Now Scapegoat

Inigo Thomas: Ass-Chewing in Washington, 30 November 2006

State of Denial: Bush at War 
by Bob Woodward.
Simon and Schuster, 560 pp., £18.99, October 2006, 0 7432 9566 8
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... among journalist colleagues for taking his success too seriously.Woodward turned to the comedian John Belushi and another kind of fall: tragic early death. He wrote books about the CIA and the Pentagon, on Clinton and Alan Greenspan, carrying on at the Post as well, making a name for himself as a reporter and author others wished to emulate. He’d brought ...

Through the Mill

Jane Humphries: The Industrial Revolution, 20 March 2014

Liberty’s Dawn: A People’s History of the Industrial Revolution 
by Emma Griffin.
Yale, 303 pp., £12.99, March 2014, 978 0 300 20525 1
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... so sparingly, cherry-picking from already known and accessible texts. But this soon changed. John Burnett used annotated extracts to illustrate various aspects of working-class life in Useful Toil and Destiny Obscure. By 1981, David Vincent had found 142 memoirs spanning the years from 1790 to 1850, and in Bread, Knowledge and Freedom used them to ...

Diary

Eric Hobsbawm: My Days as a Jazz Critic, 27 May 2010

... I owe my years as a jazz reporter to John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, which made the British cultural establishment of the mid-1950s take notice of a music so evidently dear to the new and talented Angry Young Men. When, needing some money, I saw that Kingsley Amis wrote in the Observer on a subject about which he obviously knew no more and possibly less than I did, I called a friend at the New Statesman ...

Watching himself go by

John Lahr, 4 December 1980

Plays 
by Noël Coward.
Eyre Methuen, 358 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 413 46050 9
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... only thing left is to put on a good show. Coward’s most vivacious playwrighting is about what Preston Sturges liked to call ‘Topic A’. Yet his official theatrical line on sex is not to laugh the issues off the stage, but to treat them with distant superiority. As Garry Essendine admits in Present Laughter, ‘I enjoy it for what it’s worth and fully ...

Diary

John Sutherland: Do books have a future?, 25 May 2006

... base for which, in the past, a legal warrant would have been required. The American economist Preston McAfee suggests that hip bookbuyers should try logging into Amazon with your own identity and asking for a price on something. Then clear your cookies (so Amazon cannot access your personal information and purchasing history) and search again anonymously ...

Into the Net

Neal Ascherson: Records of the Spanish Civil War, 15 December 2016

Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-39 
by Adam Hochschild.
Macmillan, 438 pp., £25, April 2016, 978 1 5098 1054 3
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¡No Pasarán! Writings from the Spanish Civil War 
edited by Pete Ayrton.
Serpent’s Tail, 393 pp., £20, April 2016, 978 1 84668 997 0
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The Last Days of the Spanish Republic 
by Paul Preston.
William Collins, 390 pp., £25, February 2016, 978 0 00 816340 2
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A Distant Heartbeat: A War, a Disappearance and a Family’s Secrets 
by Eunice Lipton.
New Mexico, 165 pp., £18.50, April 2016, 978 0 8263 5658 1
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... had the social and intellectual distinctionof some famous Brigadiers from elsewhere: Julian Bell, John Cornford or André Malraux. But their motives for fighting were large – larger than Spain. As one old volunteer told Hochschild, ‘For us it wasn’t Franco … it was always Hitler.’ Before the populations of the democracies woke up to what was at ...

Men in Aprons

Colin Kidd: Freemasonry, 7 May 1998

Who’s Afraid of Freemasons? The Phenomenon of Freemasonry 
by Alexander Piatigorsky.
Harvill, 398 pp., £25, August 1997, 1 86046 029 1
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... anticlerical French model, was misguided rather than vicious. This distinction was confirmed by John Robison, professor of natural philosophy at Edinburgh, in Proofs of a Conspiracy against all the Religions and Governments of Europe (1797). British Masonry stood in a different relationship to the visible Establishment. Whereas in 1738 Pope Clement XII’s ...

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