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History’s Revenges

Peter Clarke, 5 March 1981

The Illustrated Dictionary of British History 
edited by Arthur Marwick.
Thames and Hudson, 319 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 500 25072 3
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Who’s Who in Modern History, 1860-1980 
by Alan Palmer.
Weidenfeld, 332 pp., £8.50, October 1980, 0 297 77642 8
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... well, at least in the later period: Darwin but not Newton, for instance, W.T. Stead but not Jonathan Swift. The system of cross-reference goes a long way in both remedying and explaining some disparities of treatment. It means that the reader whose thirst for knowledge is not slaked by the entry first consulted can be led on a treasure ...

Effing the Ineffable

Glen Newey: Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century by Jonathan Glover, 25 November 1999

Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century 
by Jonathan Glover.
Cape, 469 pp., £18.99, October 1999, 0 224 05240 3
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... under ‘Religion’. As misrepresentations go, it’s not bad: a deity created in our own image. Jonathan Glover’s book is not exclusively about the Holocaust, but unlike many other atrocities chronicled in this lengthy codex it bags a section to itself, and the culminating one: the Final Solution as grand finale. The book’s subtitle is ‘a moral ...

Two Jackals on a Leash

Jamie McKendrick: Eugenio Montale, 1 July 1999

Eugenio Montale: Collected Poems 1920-54 
translated by Jonathan Galassi.
Carcanet, 626 pp., £29, November 1998, 1 85754 425 0
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... In ‘Reading Montale’, an essay appended to his translation of the poet’s first three books, Jonathan Galassi considers the old and especially Mediterranean association of poet and cicada and its recurrence in Montale’s poems. Feeble sistrum in the wind of a lost cicada, no sooner touched than done for in the exhaling torpor is how Galassi translates ...

How bad can it get?

LRB Contributors, 15 August 2019

... Neal Ascherson, Mary Beard, Jonathan Coe, Tom Crewe, William Davies, Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, Lorna Finlayson, Daniel Finn, Katrina Forrester, Jeremy Harding, Daisy Hildyard, Colin Kidd, James Meek, Ferdinand Mount, Jan-Werner Müller, Jonathan Parry, David RuncimanNeal Ascherson‘On​ 17 June poor France fell ...

The Undesired Result

Gillian Darley: Betjeman’s bêtes noires, 31 March 2005

Betjeman: The Bonus of Laughter 
by Bevis Hillier.
Murray, 744 pp., £25, October 2004, 0 7195 6495 6
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... Review, where Betjeman had worked earlier, Pevsner contributed a series called ‘Treasure Hunt’ under the pseudonym Peter F.R. Donner (in theory, to disguise how much of every issue he was writing himself). Still very much the architectural historian, with his references to the style of decorative motifs and examination of plan types, he turned his ...

Vicarious Sages

Michael Mason, 3 November 1983

John Forster: A Literary Life 
by James Davies.
Leicester University Press, 318 pp., £25, June 1983, 0 7185 1164 6
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Mr George Eliot: A Biography of George Henry Lewes 
by David Williams.
Hodder, 288 pp., £12.95, June 1983, 0 340 25717 2
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Johnnie Cross 
by Terence de Vere White.
Gollancz, 153 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 575 03333 9
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... and several of its sections are set out according to the authors whom Forster assisted: Leigh Hunt, Lamb, Bulwer, Tennyson, Longfellow, Mrs Gaskell, Browning, Landor, Dickens, Carlyle. The jobs which both he and Lewes did for authors were partly ones opened up by two new features of the Victorian literary scene: the multiplication of periodicals with a ...
From Idiocy to Mental Deficiency: Historical Perspectives on People with Learning Disabilities 
edited by David Wright and Anne Digby.
Routledge, 238 pp., £45, October 1996, 9780415112154
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... in this country, too, have been snorkelling in the archives, and the first fruits of their hunt are now presented in From Idiocy to Mental Deficiency, a work which has the virtue of covering the subject from medieval times to the present, even if it is restricted to one nation. Some truths had been accepted since Antiquity. There were those ...

Brother-Making

James Davidson, 8 February 1996

The Marriage of Likeness: Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe 
by John Boswell.
Fontana, 412 pp., £8.99, January 1996, 0 00 686326 4
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... the more militant gesture for gay men. Likewise books that glorify homosexuals as outlaws, like Jonathan Dollimore’s Sexual Dissidence, have caused scarcely a ripple outside the literary critical lagoon, but when John Boswell, a rather old-fashioned medieval historian, claimed to have discovered evidence for gay marriages being celebrated and blessed ...

Masters of Art

John Sutherland, 18 December 1980

Loon Lake 
by E.L. Doctorow.
Macmillan, 258 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 333 30641 4
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Alice fell 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 124 pp., £5.50, November 1980, 0 224 01872 8
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The Covenant 
by James Michener.
Secker, 873 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 436 27966 5
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Ancesteral Vices 
by Tom Sharpe.
Secker, 231 pp., £6.50, November 1980, 0 436 45809 8
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... in modern fiction. In other respects, the novel is a disappointing performance. Jonathan Cape would apparently have us take Alice fell as a condition-of-England novel. Yet this national portentousness is refracted at the reader by fictional techniques which are distractingly mal à propos. Superficially, Alice fell is, in fact, scarcely a ...

White Lie Number Ten

Nicholas Jose: Australia’s aboriginal sovereignty, 19 February 1998

Race Matters: Indigenous Australians and ‘Our’ Society 
edited by Gillian Cowlishaw and Barry Morris.
Aboriginal Studies Press, 295 pp., AUS $29.95, March 1998, 0 85575 294 7
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Aboriginal Sovereignty: Reflections on Race, State and Nation 
by Henry Reynolds.
Allen and Unwin, 221 pp., AUS $17.95, July 1996, 1 86373 969 6
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... the squatters most of what they wanted did not ‘deprive the natives of their former right to hunt over these Districts, or to wander over them in search of subsistence, in the manner to which they have been heretofore accustomed’. The new Governor failed to comply. Only the pious George Gawler, Governor of South Australia, implemented these ...

How to Survive Your Own Stupidity

Andrew O’Hagan: Homage to Laurel and Hardy, 22 August 2002

Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy 
by Simon Louvish.
Faber, 518 pp., £8.99, September 2002, 0 571 21590 4
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... are much like ourselves, only better-looking, with faster cars; people like Tom Hanks or Helen Hunt derive the major part of their appeal from what we might call their apparent ordinariness, and only occasionally, as with Jim Carrey or Robin Williams, does an actor come along who seems to have the superhuman plasticity of a cartoon. These movie ...

Going Flat Out, National Front and All

Ian Hamilton: Watch your mouth!, 14 December 2000

Diaries: Into Politics 
by Alan Clark.
Weidenfeld, 389 pp., £20, October 2000, 0 297 64402 5
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The Assassin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diarists 
edited by Irene Taylor and Alan Taylor.
Canongate, 684 pp., £25, November 2000, 0 86241 920 4
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The Journals of Woodrow Wyatt. Vol. III: From Major to Blair 
edited by Sarah Curtis.
Macmillan, 823 pp., £25, November 2000, 9780333774069
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... John Patten . . . so ambitious that he squeaks when he walks’, ‘that lazy, greasy slob John Hunt’, ‘that toad John Major . . . who has always loathed me’ and so on. Only the blessed Thatcher seems properly fanatical, and thus begin Clark’s twenty-something years of unrequited worship. (‘Goodness, she is beautiful,’ he sighs from time to ...

Can we conceive of Beatrice ‘snapping’ like a shrew?

Helen Vendler: How not to do Dante, 1 September 2005

Dante in English 
edited by Eric Griffiths and Matthew Reynolds.
Penguin, 479 pp., £16.99, May 2005, 0 14 042388 5
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... of the story of La Pia) is always an error; that updating Dante’s circumstance (as Leigh Hunt does in what Griffiths refers to as his ‘Disneyfication’ of Francesca da Rimini) becomes parodic; and many other such trouvailles. It is fun (at least for anyone interested in Dante and in verse form) to see how the poet has been ‘channelled’ (as ...

Diary

Rebecca Solnit: Get Off the Bus, 20 February 2014

... Silicon Valley and the agency and the degree to which they are now in the same business. Both hunt for ways to collect, analyse and exploit large pools of data about millions of Americans. The only difference is that the NSA does it for intelligence, and Silicon Valley does it to make money. The corporations doing this are not the counterculture, or the ...

A Preference for Torquemada

Michael Wood: G.K. Chesterton, 9 April 2009

Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy: The Making of GKC 1874-1908 
by William Oddie.
Oxford, 401 pp., £25, November 2008, 978 0 19 955165 1
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The Man Who Was Thursday 
by G.K. Chesterton.
Atlantic, 187 pp., £7.99, December 2008, 978 1 84354 905 5
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... remembering’, ‘a conflation of the period recalled with the process of recalling it’. Jonathan Lethem, in his very sharp introduction to a Modern Library reprint of The Man Who Was Thursday, says the novel is ‘far too personal and strange to parse as an allegory of Chesterton’s Catholicism’, and he is right. Or rather, it is too personal and ...

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