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Crotchet Castles

Peter Campbell, 6 December 1984

William Kent 
by Michael Wilson.
Routledge, 276 pp., £30, July 1984, 0 7100 9983 5
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James Gibbs 
by Terry Friedman.
Yale, 362 pp., £40, November 1984, 0 300 03172 6
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Sir John Soane, Architect 
by Dorothy Stroud.
Faber, 300 pp., £32, May 1984, 9780571130504
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The Later Paintings and Drawings of John Constable 
by Graham Reynolds.
Yale, 880 pp., £140, October 1984, 0 300 03151 3
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... architecture at the Royal Academy, on the post-professional side. The careers Dorothy Stroud and Michael Wilson describe in their new biographies of Soane and Kent illustrate the division. James Gibbs had a more complete architectural education – in Rome – than any of his British contemporaries. He was a Catholic, and his career suffered because of ...

Another A.N. Wilson

Michael Irwin, 3 December 1981

Who was Oswald Fish? 
by A.N. Wilson.
Secker, 314 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 436 57606 6
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... experiment remains in question. From several points of view, then, it was interesting to see how Wilson’s career would develop. His talents seemed likely to pull him in different directions. He had a gift for satirical comedy, but could offer a sensitive account of painful feelings; his formal patterning controlled episodes that were freshly, oddly ...

Homage to Wilson and Callaghan

Ross McKibbin, 24 October 1991

Power, Competition and the State. Vol. II: Threats to the Post-War Settlement, Britain, 1961-1974, Vol. III: The End of the Post-War Era, Britain since 1974 
by Keith Middlemas.
Macmillan, 480 pp., £50, March 1990, 0 333 41413 6
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Labour’s Economic Policies, 1974-1979 
edited by Michael Artis and David Cobham.
Manchester, 310 pp., £40, June 1991, 0 7190 2264 9
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... government is impossible and that this is historically demonstrated by the disasters of the Wilson and Callaghan governments from 1964 on. This is a powerful argument because it has only to be insinuated, not made explicit; it needs merely to reinforce what are already a number of conventional wisdoms. It will be the Conservatives’ trump. What has ...

My Life with Harold Wilson

Peter Jenkins, 20 December 1979

Final Term: The Labour Government 1974-76 
by Harold Wilson.
Weidenfeld/Joseph, 322 pp., £8.95
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... I did not know Harold Wilson until he became leader of the Labour Party in early 1963. The first personal encounter I can remember was when he stopped at a party and engaged me in arcane small talk about the world price of wheat and its consequence for the price mechanism of the Common Agricultural Policy. I was blinded with science ...

Raven’s Odyssey

D.A.N. Jones, 19 July 1984

Swallow 
by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 312 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 0 575 03446 7
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First Among Equals 
by Jeffrey Archer.
Hodder, 446 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 340 35266 3
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Morning Star 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 264 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 9780856341380
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... author: the real people he describes may seem too predictable for credibility. For instance, Mary Wilson is welcoming guests at 10 Downing Street and immediately begins talking about the difficulty of getting poetry published. Well, she would, wouldn’t she? No, actually. An anecdote may help me here. When I was preparing in 1982 to review Simon Raven’s ...

Sterling and Strings

Peter Davies: Harold Wilson and Vietnam, 20 November 2008

... In opposition, Harold Wilson spoke out against American involvement in Vietnam. In May 1954, during his Bevanite phase, he declared that ‘not a man, not a gun, must be sent from this country to defend French colonisation in Indo-China … we must not join or in any way encourage an anti-Communist crusade in Asia under the leadership of the Americans or anyone else ...

End of the Century

John Sutherland, 13 October 1988

Worlds Apart 
by David Holbrook.
Hale, 205 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 9780709033639
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Story of My Life 
by Jay McInerney.
Bloomsbury, 188 pp., £11.95, August 1988, 0 7475 0180 7
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Forgotten Life 
by Brian Aldiss.
Gollancz, 284 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 575 04369 5
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Incline Our hearts 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £11.95, August 1988, 0 241 12256 2
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... came the film version of Bright Lights, Big City, an appalling adaptation with wholesome munchkin Michael J. Fox in the lead. Like the film of Less than Zero, it was neutered by Hollywood’s supine acquiescence in Nancy Reagan’s demand that movies and television should not ‘glorify’ drug-taking. The jagged blackness of the original text was ...

Wilsonia

Paul Foot, 2 March 1989

The Wilson Plot: The Intelligence Services and the Discrediting of a Prime Minister 
by David Leigh.
Heinemann, 271 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 434 41340 2
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A Price too High 
by Peter Rawlinson.
Weidenfeld, 284 pp., £16, March 1989, 0 297 79431 0
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... with arguably the greatest political scoop of our time: he or she would finally reveal why Harold Wilson, to the astonishment of the entire political and journalistic world, suddenly took himself off to obscurity. Harold Wilson had dominated the political scene for 13 years before his resignation in March 1976. He had ...

Scoutmaster General

Peter Clarke, 24 September 1992

Tony Benn 
by Jad Adams.
Macmillan, 576 pp., £20, July 1992, 0 333 52558 2
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The End of an Era: Diaries, 1980-1990 
by Tony Benn, edited by Ruth Winstone.
Hutchinson, 704 pp., £25, September 1992, 0 09 174857 7
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... at 40 Grosvenor Road, Westminster, next door to Sidney and Beatrice Webb. With his elder brother Michael, Anthony went to the local school (Westminster), and he grew up thinking that he might work locally too, just like his dad. Lady Stansgate gives another insight on the boys’ upbringing: ‘They used to pretend they were workmen called Bill and Jim ...

1966 and all that

Michael Stewart, 20 December 1984

The Castle Diaries. Vol. II: 1964-70 
by Barbara Castle.
Weidenfeld, 848 pp., £20, October 1984, 0 297 78374 2
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... on our contempt for Jim Callaghan.’ There is Roy Hattersley, ‘a Jenkins man’, whom Harold Wilson would not appoint as a Minister of State in 1969 ‘because he is said to have made three “disloyal” remarks recently. Dick [Crossman] and I agree this is absurd because, although we don’t think Hattersley is a particularly nice man, we know he will ...

Tony and Caroline

Ben Pimlott, 26 November 1987

Out of the Wilderness: Diaries 1963-67 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 592 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 09 170660 2
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... emblem. The party which Morrison and Gaitskell had fashioned in the Fifties, and which Wilson inherited, was a Keynesian, welfarist party with modest redistributive aims. Its radicalism was not directed towards the working class, whose actual existence was beginning to be doubted by sophisticated progressive opinion, influenced by theories of ...

Hopeless Warriors

Michael Gorra: Sherman Alexie’s novels, 5 March 1998

The Lone Ranger and Tonto in Fistfight Heaven 
by Sherman Alexie.
Vintage, 223 pp., £6.99, September 1997, 9780749386696
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Reservation Blues 
by Sherman Alexie.
Minerva, 306 pp., £6.99, September 1996, 0 7493 9513 3
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Indian Killer 
by Sherman Alexie.
Secker, 420 pp., £9.99, September 1997, 0 436 20433 9
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... it carries over into Alexie’s handling of other characters. Take the white mystery-writer, Jack Wilson: ‘Wilson thought about the Indian Killer. A white man scalped. A white man disappeared, a white boy kidnapped. It was Biblical, David v. Goliath. But Wilson was disturbed by ...

Laertes has a daughter

Bee Wilson: The Redgraves, 6 June 2013

The Redgraves: A Family Epic 
by Donald Spoto.
Robson, 361 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 1 84954 394 1
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The House of Redgrave: The Lives of a Theatrical Dynasty 
by Tim Adler.
Aurum, 336 pp., £20, July 2012, 978 1 84513 623 9
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... In the National Theatre’s inaugural season in 1963 Michael Redgrave played Claudius to Peter O’Toole’s Hamlet. Apart from Olivier, the theatre’s first director, Redgrave, then aged 55, was its greatest star. Known to the public from his many film roles, and having just been named actor of the year by the Evening Standard for his Uncle Vanya at Chichester, which one critic called ‘the highest level of acting the contemporary theatre has to offer’, he was good box-office ...

The Great War Revisited

Michael Howard, 23 April 1987

The Myriad Faces of War: Britain and the Great War 1914-1918 
by Trevor Wilson.
Polity, 864 pp., £35, September 1986, 9780745600932
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British Strategy and War Aims 1914-1916 
by David French.
Allen and Unwin, 274 pp., £25, September 1986, 0 04 942197 2
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The Old Lie: The Great War and the Public School Ethos 
by Peter Parker.
Constable, 319 pp., £15, March 1987, 0 09 466980 5
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... due. It never rains but it pours. Now we have two, each in its different way outstanding. Trevor Wilson goes over the ground covered by Woodward, but at greater length and in far greater depth. This ‘total history’ of Britain at war not only covers operational, political, social, economic and literary aspects of the war, but focuses our attention on what ...

Second Last Leader

Ian Gilmour, 7 June 1984

Another Heart and Other Pulses: The Alternative to the Thatcher Society 
by Michael Foot.
Collins, 220 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 0 00 217256 9
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... electorally it died in 1980 or even earlier. There will be similar controversy over the role of Michael Foot: did he lead it to its death or did he just accompany it? Was he one of the physicians who killed it, or was he merely the undertaker? The most remarkable feature of Labour’s history is not its short life, but its striking lack of success during ...

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