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But You Married Him

Rosemary Hill: Princess Margaret and Lady Anne, 4 June 2020

Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown 
by Anne Glenconner.
Hodder, 336 pp., £20, October 2019, 978 1 5293 5906 0
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... of many members of the royal family and was, for thirty years, a lady in waiting to Princess Margaret. Her memoir, however, is written in the shadow of The Crown, ‘the popular Netflix series’ in which she was played by Nancy Carroll with Helena Bonham Carter as Margaret. In the book’s prologue, she describes ...

No Bottle

Rose George: Water, 18 December 2014

Drinking Water: A History 
by James Salzman.
Overlook Duckworth, 320 pp., £9.99, October 2013, 978 0 7156 4528 4
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Parched City: A History of London’s Public and Private Drinking Water 
by Emma Jones.
Zero Books, 361 pp., £17.99, June 2013, 978 1 78099 158 0
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Water 4.0: The Past, Present and Future of the World’s Most Vital Resource 
by David Sedlak.
Yale, 352 pp., £20, March 2014, 978 0 300 17649 0
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... riches, for the companies and shareholders who monopolise our water supply today. In England, Margaret Thatcher’s government abolished state-owned regional water authorities in 1989, and water was privatised. Eleven of England’s 18 water utilities are at least partly owned by foreign entities, including the giant conglomerate Macquarie (Thames ...

Dishevelled

Wayne Koestenbaum: Tennessee Williams, 4 October 2007

Tennessee Williams: Notebooks 
edited by Margaret Bradham Thornton.
Yale, 828 pp., £27.50, February 2007, 978 0 300 11682 3
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... One event dominated Tennessee Williams’s life: his sister Rose’s bilateral prefrontal lobotomy, performed on 13 January 1943, two years before The Glass Menagerie, the play he forged from her condition, was first produced. He rarely mentions the lobotomy in his private notebooks, the fragmented daybooks which he kept for much of his life, and which have now been edited, with sumptuous photographic and biographical supplementation, by Margaret Bradham Thornton, to whom devotees of Williams should be grateful ...

A Question of Breathing

John Bayley, 4 August 1988

Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 400 pp., £14.95, June 1988, 0 7011 3018 0
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Selected Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 330 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 7011 3311 2
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The Poetical Works of Robert Browning: Vol. III 
edited by Ian Jack and Rowena Fowler.
Oxford, 542 pp., £60, June 1988, 0 19 812762 6
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The Complete Works of Robert Browning: Vol. VIII 
edited by Roma King and Susan Crowl.
Ohio/Baylor University, 379 pp., £47.50, September 1988, 9780821403808
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... was also, in a sense, a conscious and loving masochist in relation to her father and family, and Margaret Forster has done an admirable job in investigating what really went on among them. It takes two – or rather three – to make an Andromeda, and Elizabeth herself was a powerful unit in a close-knit Compton-Burnett family, who all recognised in their ...

At the National Gallery

Peter Campbell: Renaissance Faces, 6 November 2008

... Which may be why you so much want to break into it. In the portrait by Jan Van Eyck of his wife, Margaret (another big head on a small body), her thin lips, slightly raised eyebrows and cool glance are not welcoming. Could you perhaps persuade her to smile? What would she look like then? In this picture and in the double portrait of Arnolfini and his ...

Mary Swann’s Way

Danny Karlin, 27 September 1990

Jane Fairfax 
by Joan Aiken.
Gollancz, 252 pp., £12.95, September 1990, 0 575 04889 1
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Lady’s Maid 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 536 pp., £13.95, July 1990, 0 7011 3574 3
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Mary Swann 
by Carol Shields.
Fourth Estate, 313 pp., £12.99, August 1990, 1 872180 02 7
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... the boot might conceivably be on the other foot’) is fatally at odds with its modern interior. Margaret Forster seems on altogether surer ground in Lady’s Maid, which also takes up the case of a marginal figure in a larger narrative, though here the narrative is history, not fiction. The ground is that of her own recent biography of Elizabeth Barrett ...

Whoopers and Shouters

James Morone: William Jennings Bryan, 21 February 2008

A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan 
by Michael Kazin.
Anchor, 374 pp., $16.95, March 2007, 978 0 385 72056 4
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... divided, disgruntled Democrats packed the Chicago Coliseum in July 1896 as William Jennings Bryan rose to the platform and delivered a roaring speech – still the speech for part of the American left – about an economic chimera. Bryan demanded that the United States peg its currency not to gold but to silver – the equivalent of treating cancer with grape ...

Culture and Personality

Caroline Humphrey, 31 August 1989

Margaret Mead: A Life of Controversy 
by Phyllis Grosskurth.
Penguin, 96 pp., £3.99, May 1989, 0 14 008760 5
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Ruth Benedict: Stranger in the Land 
by Margaret Caffrey.
Texas, 432 pp., $24.95, February 1989, 0 292 74655 5
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... There is a popular vision of the anthropologist as figure-of-fun which an allegorical ‘Margaret Mead’ is coming to represent: the blunderer into tribal life, dupe of the primitives, the self-dramatiser, spinner of graceless and unlikely theories. Another version of the anthropologist is the philosopher of culture and society in all its variations, one who understands humanity in some broad, if rather intuitive and dreamy way: Ruth Benedict, though her work is deeply unfashionable today, has this kind of position ...

Into Your Enemy’s Stomach

Alexander Murray: Louis IX, 8 April 2010

Saint Louis 
by Jacques Le Goff, translated by Gareth Evan Gollrad.
Notre Dame, 947 pp., £61.95, February 2009, 978 0 268 03381 1
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... referred to by chroniclers as ‘the queen’ until her death in 1252, leaving the king’s wife, Margaret, to be described as ‘the young queen’. Blanche’s early regency was not, as far as we know, ever formally ended. When Louis went crusading in 1248 he made his mother regent again. Blanche’s background in the Spanish reconquista might explain a lot ...

Short Cuts

Danny Dorling: Life Expectancy, 16 November 2017

... maligned decade meant that despite cutbacks in healthcare and public services in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher, by 1991 women were living to 79 and men to 73. Four years each, achieved in twenty years. Over the next twenty years, men caught up a little with women: since more men smoked there were more male smokers who could give up. By 2011 women were ...

Short Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Stonehenge for the solstice, 6 July 2006

... years to a House of Lords ruling under the Criminal Justice Act. Overturning the convictions of Margaret Jones and Richard Lloyd, the Stonehenge Two, for ‘trespassory assembly’ at the site, Lord Irvine described the right of access as ‘an issue of fundamental constitutional importance’. The exclusion zone became illegal and on its website English ...

Watercress

Patrick Parrinder, 20 August 1992

Past Tenses: Essays on Writing, Autobiography and History 
by Carolyn Steedman.
Rivers Oram, 224 pp., £22, June 1992, 1 85489 021 2
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... What do a story written by primary schoolchildren, a study of 19th-century policing, a biography of Margaret McMillan and an account of a working-class childhood in South London in the Fifties have in common? They give some idea of the range of Past Tenses, a selection from Carolyn Steedman’s prolific output of books and articles during the last ten years ...

His Greatest Pretend

Dinah Birch: The man behind Pan, 1 September 2005

Hide-and-Seek with Angels: A Life of J.M. Barrie 
by Lisa Chaney.
Hutchinson, 402 pp., £20, June 2005, 0 09 179539 7
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... small men have to be assertive and ambitious if they are to be taken seriously, and Barrie rose to the challenge with fanatical energy. Idleness was not part of the attraction of youth for him. He never stopped working, and he saw through that side of his nature too: ‘There are few more impressive sights in the world than a Scotsman on the ...

Putting things in boxes

Adam Kuper: Margaret Mead, 24 May 2007

To Cherish the Life of the World: Selected Letters of Margaret Mead 
edited by Margaret Caffrey and Patricia Francis.
Basic Books, 429 pp., £17.99, September 2006, 0 465 00815 1
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... Margaret Mead and her second husband, Reo Fortune, spent nearly two years in the interior of New Guinea between 1931 and 1933. Just 29 years old when they set out, Mead had already published two bestselling books, Coming of Age in Samoa and Growing up in New Guinea. Fortune, a highly competitive, paranoid and occasionally violent New Zealander, had yet to make his name as an anthropologist ...

No Crying in This House

Jackson Lears: The Kennedy Myth, 7 November 2013

The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy 
by David Nasaw.
Allen Lane, 896 pp., £12.35, September 2013, 978 0 14 312407 8
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Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch 
by Barbara Perry.
Norton, 404 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 0 393 06895 5
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... self-made father with connections in Hollywood, Wall Street, Washington and London, and by Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, a devout but fashionable Catholic mum, as at home on the golf links or the ski slopes as in Windsor Castle. After making millions in banking, real estate and film distribution, the father wants to devote his life to public service, and to ...

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