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Conflationism

Colin Burrow: ‘Hamlet’ as you like it, 21 June 2007

Hamlet 
edited by Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor.
Arden, 613 pp., £8.99, March 2006, 1 904271 33 2
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Hamlet: The Texts of 1603 and 1623 
edited by Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor.
Arden, 368 pp., £12.99, January 2007, 978 1 904271 80 2
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‘Hamlet’ without Hamlet 
by Margreta de Grazia.
Cambridge, 267 pp., £17.99, January 2007, 978 0 521 69036 2
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... How many Hamlets would you like? A play of that name was performed in the late 1580s. It was probably bloody and Senecan, and probably written by Thomas Kyd. Another one (probably Shakespeare’s) was performed on board a ship anchored off the coast of Sierra Leone in 1607 at the request of the captain, William Keeling: ‘I invited Captain Hawkins to a ffishe dinner, and had Hamlet acted abord me: which I permitt to keepe my people from idlenes and unlawfull games, or sleep ...

Richly-Wristed

Ian Aitken, 13 May 1993

Changing Faces: The History of the ‘Guardian’, 1956-88 
by Geoffrey Taylor.
Fourth Estate, 352 pp., £20, March 1993, 1 85702 100 2
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... would have been quite so ebullient about it if I had known what I know now, after reading Geoffrey Taylor’s riveting book, is another matter entirely. To be sure, I knew that the dear old Grauniad was not exactly flush – my new salary would have told me that even if I hadn’t noticed that one of my future colleagues pinned his bus-tickets to his expenses ...

Ask Anyone in Canada

Neal Ascherson: Max Beaverbrook’s Mediations, 24 October 2019

Max Beaverbrook: Not Quite a Gentleman 
by Charles Williams.
Biteback, 566 pp., £25, June 2019, 978 1 84954 746 8
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... wish it to be true. Harold Wilson was obsessed with the idea that the Daily Mirror could undo him; Neil Kinnock in his defeat accepted that it was ‘The Sun Wot Won It’; and more recent governments convinced themselves that the Daily Mail under Paul Dacre’s editorship was the voice of the electorate. In reality, Beaverbrook often got public opinion quite ...

Family History

Miles Taylor: Tony Benn, 25 September 2003

Free at Last: Diaries 1991-2001 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 738 pp., £25, October 2002, 0 09 179352 1
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Free Radical: New Century Essays 
by Tony Benn.
Continuum, 246 pp., £9.95, May 2003, 9780826465962
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... have seen a mass defection of MPs to the SDP. As it was, Benn’s failure paved the way for Neil Kinnock’s purge of the Militant Left, as well as the crucial policy switch from renationalisation of key industries to ‘social ownership’. By the time Benn contested the leadership in 1988, he was a spent force. Voted off the NEC in 1993, he could only ...
... disease was really an option in the modern world (even though US cities tried it in 1918),’ Neil Ferguson, who leads the team at Imperial, wrote to me. ‘China showed it was possible, though it was late February before it was clear it had worked. That and the Italian experience changed the debate in late February, early March. We had modelled a wide ...

What’s going on?

Peter Jenkins, 21 November 1985

How Britain votes 
by Anthony Heath, Roger Jowell and John Curtice.
Pergamon, 251 pp., £15.50, September 1985, 0 08 031859 2
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Partnership of Principle 
by Roy Jenkins.
Secker in association with the Radical Centre, 169 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 436 22100 4
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The Strange Rebirth of Liberal Britain 
by Ian Bradley.
Chatto, 259 pp., £11.95, September 1985, 0 7011 2670 1
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Report from the Select Committee on Overseas Trade, House of Lords 
HMSO, 96 pp., £6.30, October 1985, 0 10 496285 2Show More
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... yield of misty perceptions which are all we know of political reality. The philosopher Charles Taylor has remarked that politics is ‘what’s going on’, or something to that effect. But how the hell are we to know what’s going on, I thought while on my way to the Trades Union Congress? What is going on is in some part what we say is going on: but if ...

Leading the Labour Party

Arthur Marwick, 5 November 1981

Michael Foot: A Portrait 
by Simon Hoggart and David Leigh.
Hodder, 216 pp., £8.95, September 1981, 0 340 27600 2
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... occupies. Merely irritating is the authors’ repeated citation of the pronouncements of Mr A.J.P. Taylor – not so much, one fears, because they regard the historian as infallible (which he nearly is), but because they hope to keep on the sunniest side of the kindly critic. During the First World War there had been a divide between what were, as ...

Surviving the Sixties

Hilary Mantel, 18 May 1989

Shoe: The Odyssey of a Sixties Survivor 
by Jonathan Guinness.
Century Hutchinson, 233 pp., £14.95, March 1989, 0 09 173857 1
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Lilly: Reminiscences of Lillian Hellman 
by Peter Feibleman.
Chatto, 364 pp., £14.95, February 1989, 0 7011 3441 0
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... way Shoe might tell it, if she could write. From now on,’ he asserts, ‘I am Susan Mary Taylor, born in Oldham, Lancashire, on 26 July 1944.’ While the author has explained, in his foreword, what he means to do, nothing quite prepares one for the shock of the switch into the first person and it is only when the switch occurs that one becomes ...

Buggering on

Paul Addison, 21 July 1983

Winston Churchill: Companion Vol. V, Part III, The Coming of War 1936-1939 
by Martin Gilbert.
Heinemann, 1684 pp., £75, October 1982, 0 434 29188 9
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Finest Hour: Winston Churchill, 1939-1941 
by Martin Gilbert.
Heinemann, 1308 pp., £15.95, June 1983, 0 434 29187 0
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Churchill 1874-1915 
by Ted Morgan.
Cape, 571 pp., £12.50, April 1983, 0 224 02044 7
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The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 
by William Manchester.
Michael Joseph, 973 pp., £14.95, June 1983, 0 7181 2275 5
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... common sense suggests that to govern effectively you need to be a bit of a brute. Woe betide Neil Kinnock or Roy Hattersley if he turns out to be a quintessentially decent fellow like Michael Foot. Churchill was not altogether decent, otherwise he would have been a lesser man. Gilbert records his magnanimous gestures, such as the considerate letters ...

Bevan’s Boy

R.W. Johnson, 24 March 1994

Michael Foot 
by Mervyn Jones.
Gollancz, 570 pp., £20, March 1994, 0 575 05197 3
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... where, famously, he became a protégé of Beaverbrook for whom, like his great friend A.J.P. Taylor, he was to have an abiding affection. The Standard then was no mere rag: Foot was to recruit Jon Kimche, Arthur Koestler and Isaac Deutscher to write for it, and it provided Foot with a secure and happy base. Over the years Beaverbrook showered him with ...

I’m being a singer

Andrew O’Hagan: Dandy Highwaymen, 8 October 2020

Sweet Dreams: The Story of the New Romantics 
by Dylan Jones.
Faber, 663 pp., £20, October, 978 0 571 35343 9
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... of Morrissey to ‘blur’ his sexuality, to keep himself mysterious. (‘The first time I heard Neil Tennant describe the Pet Shop Boys as a gay band … I wished he hadn’t,’ Almond is quoted as saying in Jones’s book.) But time alters your sense of what risk really is. Soft Cell were pouting at the lads and their fads and their bigoted old dads. It ...

Coalition Phobia

Brian Harrison, 4 June 1987

Labour People, Leaders and Lieutenants: Hardie to Kinnock 
by Kenneth O. Morgan.
Oxford, 370 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 19 822929 1
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J. Ramsay MacDonald 
by Austen Morgan.
Manchester, 276 pp., £19.50, June 1987, 0 7190 2168 5
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Sylvia Pankhurst: Portrait of a Radical 
by Patricia Romero.
Yale, 334 pp., £17.50, March 1987, 0 300 03691 4
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Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst 
by Barbara Castle.
Penguin, 159 pp., £3.95, May 1987, 0 14 008761 3
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... Most of its 27 biographies originated as book reviews and – in the tradition set by A.J.P. Taylor – they reappear without footnotes or full scholarly apparatus, though with a substantial ‘Select Bibliography’. The newcomer gets double value from a book of this kind, for it combines surveying the abundant recently-published material on ...

‘What is your nation if I may ask?’

Colm Tóibín: Jews in Ireland, 30 September 1999

Jews in 20th-century Ireland: Refugees, Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust 
by Dermot Keogh.
Cork, 336 pp., £45, March 1998, 9781859181492
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... published a page of fiction and poetry every week, and this is where many Irish writers, including Neil Jordan, Desmond Hogan and Ita Daly, published their first work. His brother Louis Marcus has been one of the guiding spirits of the Irish film industry. Estella Solomon’s brother, Bethel, was a distinguished gynaecologist and master of the Rotunda Hospital ...

Diary

W.G. Runciman: Dining Out, 4 June 1998

... within reach at last. 1 May 1997. Run into John Eatwell, formerly economic adviser to the hapless Neil Kinnock and now Lord Eatwell, President of Queen’s, at Cambridge station. We naively agree that it can’t possibly be a landslide, given the percentage of the British electorate which will vote Conservative no matter what the level of arrogance, disunity ...

On the Salieri Express

John Sutherland, 24 September 1992

Doctor Criminale 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 343 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 436 20115 1
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The Promise of Light 
by Paul Watkins.
Faber, 217 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 571 16715 2
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The Absolution Game 
by Paul Sayer.
Constable, 204 pp., £13.99, June 1992, 0 09 471460 6
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The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman 
by Louis de Bernières.
Secker, 388 pp., £14.99, August 1992, 0 436 20114 3
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Written on the Body 
by Jeanette Winterson.
Cape, 190 pp., £13.99, September 1992, 0 224 03587 8
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... satire into his fiction. Some of the attributions, such as the folkloric ‘Howard Kirk is Laurie Taylor,’ are discredited: Bradbury himself wittily derides this once ubiquitously offered key to The History Man in his collection of squibs, Unsent Letters. But other identifications are not as easily laughed off. Anyone who has read Eating people is wrong and ...

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