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It took a Scot

Colin Kidd: English Nationalism, 30 July 2015

The Formation of the English Kingdom in the Tenth Century 
by George Molyneaux.
Oxford, 302 pp., £65, May 2015, 978 0 19 871791 1
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The English and Their History 
by Robert Tombs.
Allen Lane, 1012 pp., £14.99, June 2015, 978 0 14 103165 1
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Conquests, Catastrophe and Recovery: Britain and Ireland 1066-1485 
by John Gillingham.
Vintage, 345 pp., £10.99, October 2014, 978 0 09 956324 2
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From Restoration to Reform: The British Isles 1660-1832 
by Jonathan Clark.
Vintage, 364 pp., £10.99, October 2014, 978 0 09 956323 5
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Britain since 1900: A Success Story? 
by Robert Skidelsky.
Vintage, 472 pp., £10.99, October 2014, 978 0 09 957239 8
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... the character and purposes of English political life no longer sufficed for serious historians. It took aspiring statesmen a few decades longer to shed Whiggish tropes about our glorious heritage of liberty, especially after Britain’s lone stand against Hitler in 1940-41 when Butterfield himself succumbed to Whiggery in The Englishman and His History ...

Diary

A.J.P. Taylor: Hungarians and Falklanders, 17 February 1983

... on the Times in the London Library. The name that stirred my memories and regrets most was Canon John Collins, who died on New Year’s Eve. John Collins was that very rare thing: a good man. He was not particularly a rebel or a radical. He was very conventional in many of his ways, as in being a Canon of St Paul’s. But ...

John Sturrock

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 21 September 2017

... It​ was John who had the idea that I should say something about his professional life at his funeral. It was a very nice idea and I’m glad – not to say flattered – that he had it. But I found it a spookily hard thing to do. ‘Spooky’ because every time I thought I had a point to make I heard myself checking it with John – ‘Is that right?’ ‘Can I say that?’ ‘Does that make sense?’ – and then I began to understand what had happened to all of us ...

John and Henry

Christopher Reid, 2 December 1982

The Life of John Berryman 
by John Haffenden.
Routledge, 451 pp., £15, September 1982, 0 7100 9216 4
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Poets in their Youth: A Memoir 
by Eileen Simpson.
Faber, 272 pp., £10.95, September 1982, 0 571 11925 5
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... When John Berryman’s first full-length collection of poems, The Dispossessed, was published in 1948, Yvor Winters wrote a notice of it for the Hudson Review. Here Winters drew attention to Berryman’s ‘disinclination to understand and discipline his emotions’, and went on to suggest: ‘Most of his poems appear to deal with a single all-inclusive topic: the desperate chaos, social, religious, philosophical and psychological, of modern life, and the corresponding chaos and desperation of John Berryman ...

Bad John

Alan Bennett: John Osborne, 3 December 1981

A Better Class of Person 
by John Osborne.
Faber, 285 pp., £7.95, November 1981, 0 571 11785 6
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... One of John Osborne’s Thoughts for 1954: ‘The urge to please above all. I don’t have it and can’t achieve it. A small thing but more or less mine own.’ This book does please and has pleased. It is immensely enjoyable, is written with great gusto and Osborne has had better notices for it than for any of his plays since Inadmissible Evidence ...

Elephant Tears

James Macdonald: Goldman Sachs, 3 November 2011

Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World 
by William Cohan.
Allen Lane, 658 pp., £25, 9781846144547
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... return to creditors when they were sold. Levy died suddenly in 1976, and Sidney Weinberg’s son John took over as senior partner with John Whitehead. Both were investment bankers rather than traders, and it was Whitehead who attempted to carve in stone the firm’s code of business practice with his 12 (later ...

The Strange Case of John Bampfylde

Roger Lonsdale, 3 March 1988

... If John Bampfylde has any continuing public existence, it must be as the man on the right in this unusual double portrait by Joshua Reynolds. An interested enquirer might learn that Bampfylde was a minor poet of the later 18th century and, in the absence of much hard information, encounter what is scarcely more than a striking anecdote of frustrated love and subsequent insanity ...

The World Took Sides

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Martin Luther, 11 August 2016

Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town into a Centre of Publishing, Made Himself the Most Famous Man in Europe – and Started the Protestant Reformation 
by Andrew Pettegree.
Penguin, 383 pp., £21.99, October 2015, 978 1 59420 496 8
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Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet 
by Lyndal Roper.
Bodley Head, 577 pp., £30, June 2016, 978 1 84792 004 1
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Martin Luther: Visionary Reformer 
by Scott H. Hendrix.
Yale, 341 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 0 300 16669 9
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... autumn​ marks the half-millennium since an event now so mythic that some have doubted it ever took place. If it did, the date was 31 October 1517. The main actor belonged to a religious Order known as the Hermits of Saint Augustine, Martin Luther by name, though he also tried out a hybrid Greek/Latin polish for his surname by dressing it up as ...

Seven Centuries Too Late

Barbara Newman: Popes in Hell, 15 July 2021

Dante’s Bones: How a Poet Invented Italy 
by Guy Raffa.
Harvard, 370 pp., £28.95, May 2020, 978 0 674 98083 9
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Poetry in Dialogue in the Duecento and Dante 
by David Bowe.
Oxford, 225 pp., £60, November 2020, 978 0 19 884957 5
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Dante’s Christian Ethics: Purgatory and Its Moral Contexts 
by George Corbett.
Cambridge, 233 pp., £75, March 2020, 978 1 108 48941 6
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Why Dante Matters: An Intelligent Person’s Guide 
by John Took.
Bloomsbury, 207 pp., £20, October 2020, 978 1 4729 5103 8
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Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio: Literature, Doctrine, Reality 
by Zygmunt Barański.
Legenda, 658 pp., £75, February 2020, 978 1 78188 879 7
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... ethics and politics, appraising his magisterial synthesis of Aristotelian and Christian thought. John Took asks ‘why Dante matters’ and responds by casting him as an existentialist philosopher. And in a retrospective collection of nineteen essays, Zygmunt Barański addresses the state of Dante studies today, reflecting on everything from his ...

Nothing without a Grievance

P.D.G. Thomas: John Horne Tooke, 19 August 1999

Gentleman Radical: A Life of John Horne Tooke 1736-1812 
by Christina Bewley and David Bewley.
Tauris, 297 pp., £42, June 1998, 1 86064 344 2
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... John Horne Tooke enjoyed two distinct political careers, under two different names: as John Horne in the age of the American Revolution, and as John Horne Tooke in that of the French Revolution. In both identities he attracted notoriety or fame, according to the prejudices of commentators ...

Saint John Henry

Richard Altick, 5 August 1982

John Henry Newman: His Life and Work 
by Brian Martin.
Chatto, 160 pp., £8.95, May 1982, 0 7011 2588 8
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Protestant versus Catholic in Mid-Victorian England 
by Walter Arnstein.
Missouri, 271 pp., £14, June 1982, 9780826203540
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... The unseen spectator who was most involved in Pope John Paul’s progress through Britain, formerly in partibus infidelium, was the spirit of John Henry Newman, dead these 92 years, who doubtless observed the proceedings with mixed feelings. Surely Newman, a man of retiring temperament, would have been horrified by the crowds and the publicity which for the moment turned the search for a Via Media into a media event ...

Fallen Women

Patricia Highsmith, 21 June 1984

‘Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son’: The Story of Peter Sutcliffe 
by Gordon Burn.
Heinemann, 272 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 0 434 09827 2
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... bullied at school, and as a child was a disappointment to his extrovert and sports-loving father, John. Yet his father was to say later that if the family had ever got into straits, it would have been Peter who’d have helped them out, not Mick or Carl, because Peter really cared. John Sutcliffe had married his fiancée ...

Family Fortunes

Helen Cooper: The upwardly mobile Pastons, 4 August 2005

Blood and Roses: The Paston Family in the 15th Century 
by Helen Castor.
Faber, 347 pp., £8.99, June 2005, 0 571 21671 4
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... over four generations of both men and women – indeed, her letters make Margaret Paston, wife of John Paston I, one of the most prolific woman writers in Middle English. She repeatedly urged her husband to come home, to pursue the family’s interests from Norfolk rather than London; it is our good fortune that he didn’t. The intimacy of the letters can ...

Sour Plums

John Lanchester, 26 October 1989

The Letters of John Cheever 
edited by Benjamin Cheever.
Cape, 397 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 224 02689 5
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Mary McCarthy 
by Carol Gelderman.
Sidgwick, 430 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 283 99797 4
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The company she keeps 
by Mary McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 246 pp., £4.50, October 1989, 0 297 79649 6
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... In 1964, Time published a profile of John Cheever which, in a sub-heading, described him as ‘The Monogamist’. Subsequent events have proved that not to have been the fact-checkers’ finest hour. In 1984, two years after his death, Susan Cheever published Home before Dark, a memoir which portrayed her father, whose public image was that of an impeccably upper-middle-class monogamist suburban WASP, as a promiscuously bisexual alcoholic ...

JC’s Call

J.I.M. Stewart, 2 April 1981

Joseph Conrad: Times Remembered 
by Joseph Conrad.
Cambridge, 218 pp., £10.50, March 1981, 0 521 22805 0
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... died at the age of 67 on 3 August 1924, the day following the 18th birthday of his younger son, John Conrad, the author of the present book. John’s memories, which reach astonishingly far back into his earliest childhood, begin with his family living in poverty in a tiny cottage, ‘a dark and gloomy place’, at ...

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