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Lawrence Stone, 24 November 1994

The Making of Victorian Sexuality 
by Michael Mason.
Oxford, 338 pp., £17.95, April 1994, 0 19 812247 0
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The Making of Victorian Sexual Attitudes 
by Michael Mason.
Oxford, 256 pp., £17.99, October 1994, 0 19 812292 6
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... Behn, Defoe, Fielding or Smollett, while Dickens ignored the subject of sex altogether. Michael Mason’s main problem is to determine how prudery affected behaviour. Was it merely a veneer of hypocrisy, covering up a very different sexual reality? Were there fewer, and less enjoyable, sexual acts inside and outside marriage? Wild figures once circulated ...

Those Limbs We Admire

Anthony Grafton: Himmler’s Tacitus, 14 July 2011

A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus’ ‘Germania’ from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich 
by Christopher Krebs.
Norton, 303 pp., £18.99, June 2011, 978 0 393 06265 6
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... of ancient Germany was largely a work of the imagination, like Vico’s. But as Florike Egmond and Peter Mason have shown in a brilliant analysis, it was also complex in both its motivations and its contents. Though excellent in its own terms, Kreb’s account is so tightly defined that he misses parts of Clüver’s ambitious interdisciplinary enterprise ...

Bare Bones

Steven Shapin: Rhinoceros v. Megatherium, 8 March 2018

The Rhinoceros and the Megatherium: An Essay in Natural History 
by Juan Pimentel, translated by Peter Mason.
Harvard, 356 pp., £21.95, January 2017, 978 0 674 73712 9
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... What does​ a rhinoceros look like? If you are fortunate enough to have seen one in the flesh, you can can summon up an image from memory. If you haven’t seen one, you will have to conjure a mental image from pictures seen in books or in nature documentaries. There’s at least a chance that in forming this image your imagination will have tapped into a picture that is more than five hundred years old – Albrecht Dürer’s woodcut of the outlandish pachyderm, made in 1515 ...

The Excommunicant

Richard Popkin: Spinoza v. the Synagogue, 15 October 1998

The God of Spinoza: A Philosophical Study 
by Richard Mason.
Cambridge, 272 pp., £35, May 1997, 0 521 58162 1
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Spinoza, Liberalism and the Question of Jewish Identity 
by Steven Smith.
Yale, 270 pp., £21, June 1997, 0 300 06680 5
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... see the world from the aspect of eternity, and to achieve the intellectual love of God. As Richard Mason reminds us, Spinoza’s neglect of epistemology made him of little interest to those who insisted that the problem of knowledge as set out by Descartes defined what philosophy was properly about. Spinoza found a little room for that problem only at the end ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Conformist’, 20 March 2008

The Conformist 
directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.
August 1970
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... Kubrick’s Lolita, handsomely set up by the director and beautifully spun out by the actor. Peter Sellers, as the creepy and protean Clare Quilty, has struck up a conversation with James Mason, as Humbert Humbert. The latter is in no mood for any kind of conversation, since he is just marking time before he returns to ...

Falling Stars

Alan Coren, 5 November 1981

Richard Burton 
by Paul Ferris.
Weidenfeld, 212 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 297 77966 4
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Peter Sellers 
by Alexander Walker.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 297 77965 6
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... which is the better book. Richard Burton was printed by Butler and Tanner Limited, Peter Sellers by the Fakenham Press, and since the one establishment is in Somerset and the other in Norfolk, it is fair to absolve both of them from the sort of catchpenny opportunist hustling which these days has the publishing world of London by the ...

At the Imperial War Museum

Peter Campbell: Eric Ravilious, 4 December 2003

... essay make that clear.* It was not just that a style developed in the service of Fortnum and Mason wouldn’t work as agitprop. The disengagement which characterised the style Ravilious had developed was both personal and part of the strand in English interwar culture that was wary of rhetoric but had a sentimental attachment to the fairly recent ...

At the Royal Academy

Peter Campbell: Watteau, 31 March 2011

... in a crêpe of a kind of violent blue with desultory clusters of white roses. For some ten minutes Mason had the pleasure of being witness of that series of pretty movements and preparations with which women in full dress beguile the interval before their carriage is announced; their glances at the mirror, their slow assumption of their gloves, their mutual ...

Enemies of All Mankind

Stephen Sedley: Pirates, 24 June 2010

The Treatment of Prisoners under International Law 
by Nigel Rodley, with Matt Pollard.
Oxford, 697 pp., £85, August 2009, 978 0 19 921507 2
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The Enemy of All: Piracy and the Law of Nations 
by Daniel Heller-Roazen.
Zone, 295 pp., £21.95, November 2009, 978 1 890951 94 8
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The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates 
by Peter Leeson.
Princeton, 271 pp., £16.95, May 2009, 978 0 691 13747 6
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... beyond the title, one recalls that Captain Hook himself, in the prose version, lures the flying Peter Pan into using his foot instead of his dagger to deliver the coup de grâce and tumbles into the crocodile’s jaws with the gratified riposte: ‘Bad form!’ Even better, in the stage version he goes to his death with the words ‘Floreat Etona!’ on his ...

At Tate Britain

Frank Kermode: William Blake, 14 December 2000

... provides an audio commentary. And there are lots of educational backups, some, like lectures by Peter Ackroyd and Tom Paulin, now over, others, including various conferences and courses, still to come. The most visible, and in some ways the most instructive of the exhibits are those which demonstrate Blake’s technical innovations. Only one of his ...

Medawartime

June Goodfield, 6 November 1986

Memoir of a Thinking Radish: An Autobiography 
by Peter Medawar.
Oxford, 209 pp., £12.50, April 1986, 0 19 217737 0
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... My first encounter with Peter Medawar revealed something about us both. When he was the new Mason Professor of Zoology in the University of Birmingham I was a student at University College, Nottingham, and one of my tasks as president of the student Zoological Society was to give votes of thanks to visiting speakers ...

Consider the lions

Peter Campbell, 22 July 1993

The House of Gold 
by Richard Goy.
Cambridge, 304 pp., £60, January 1993, 0 521 40513 0
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The Palace of the Sun 
by Robert Berger.
Pennsylvania State, 232 pp., £55, April 1993, 0 271 00847 4
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... already have been seen somewhere in Venice, and one must suppose a degree of co-operation between mason and patron on matters of aesthetics which, as Berger shows, a 17th-century architect would not have allowed. The tracery of the Cà d’Oro has grand antecedents in the Palazzo Ducale; the well-head, modelled on a Corinthian capital, was a regular ...

Prize Poems

Donald Davie, 1 July 1982

Arvon Foundation Poetry Competion: 1980 Anthology 
by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.
Kilnhurst Publishing Company, 173 pp., £3, April 1982, 9780950807805
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Burn this 
by Tom Disch.
Hutchinson, 63 pp., £7.50, April 1982, 0 09 146960 0
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... from Thomas Shapcott (who may be Australian – we aren’t told) and from Peter Bland (probably, by the same token, a New Zealander); and from U. A. Fanthorpe (two). One of the Fanthorpe poems gets, reasonably enough, the third prize of £500, Bland gets £250, Eaton, Ditmas and Beeson get £100 apiece. Below these again, by my ...

All Woman

Michael Mason, 23 May 1985

‘Men’: A Documentary 
by Anna Ford.
Weidenfeld, 196 pp., £10.95, March 1985, 0 297 78468 4
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Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure 
by John Cleland, edited by Peter Sabor.
Oxford, 256 pp., £1.95, February 1985, 0 19 281634 9
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... One may ask of Ms Ford’s book, rather as Alice asks of the White Knight’s poem: ‘What is it called?’ The title on the jacket is ‘Men’; the title on the title-page is Men. The jacket is the part of a book where publishers most candidly make known their views. Publishing contracts specifically reserve to the publisher the right to determine its appearance, unilaterally if necessary ...

Larkin was right, more or less

Michael Mason, 5 June 1997

Fertility, Class and Gender in Britain 1860-1940 
by Simon Szreter.
Cambridge, 704 pp., £50, January 1996, 0 521 34343 7
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... and arresting way to see the matter, but surprisingly persuasive – in the tradition of Peter Laslett’s penetrating commonsense insights. Couples do not have to be all that abstinent in order to achieve a useful reduction in fertility. We perhaps tend to think of coital frequency as involving a threshold, as far as the chances of conception go. We ...

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