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Why the Tortoise Lost

John Sturrock, 18 September 1997

Bergson: Biographie 
by Philippe Soulez and Frédéric Worms.
Flammarion, 386 pp., frs 140, April 1997, 9782080666697
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... in the Thirties, that a Life contain only the barest personal details. He stands with R.G. Collingwood, the author of a robustly unforthcoming autobiography, in wanting the story of his life to be the record of his thought; no Nietzschean nonsense in this case of the life merging with the oeuvre to make an enthralling whole. Bergson, unlike ...

Sagest of Usurpers

Ian Gilmour: Cromwell since Cromwell, 21 March 2002

Roundhead Reputations: The English Civil Wars and the Passions of Posterity 
by Blair Worden.
Allen Lane, 387 pp., £20, November 2001, 9780713996036
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... is contemporary history.’ Earlier, Michael Oakeshott had said much the same thing, as did R.G. Collingwood a few years later. Worden does not quote or mention any of them, but as well as many other things his compelling book is in a sense a learned and lively commentary on Croce’s dictum. In accordance with that apophthegm, history is usually on the side ...


Ian Sansom, 17 July 1997

W.H. Auden: Prose 1926-38, Essays and Reviews and Travel Books in Prose and Verse 
edited by Edward Mendelson.
Faber, 836 pp., £40, March 1997, 0 571 17899 5
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... from his review of Eliot’s A Choice of Kipling’s Verse: ‘Art, as the late Professor R.G. Collingwood pointed out, is not Magic, i.e. a means by which the artist communicates or arouses his feelings in others, but a mirror in which they may become conscious of what their own feelings really are: its proper effect, in fact, is ...

With What Joy We Write of the New Russian Government

Ferdinand Mount: Arthur Ransome, 24 September 2009

The Last Englishman: The Double Life of Arthur Ransome 
by Roland Chambers.
Faber, 390 pp., £20, August 2009, 978 0 571 22261 2
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... to Arthur Ransome when he first met him in Cairo in 1929. Most people did. The philosopher R.G. Collingwood, a close friend from their shared childhood in the Lake District, gave Ransome his entire life savings to pay his legal costs when he was sued by the incurably litigious Lord Alfred Douglas. Edward Thomas was devoted to him. John Masefield drank ...

The Brothers Koerbagh

Jonathan Rée: The Enlightenment, 14 January 2002

Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750 
by Jonathan Israel.
Oxford, 810 pp., £30, February 2001, 0 19 820608 9
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... of history. When they philosophised about the Enlightenment, in short, they were taking what R.G. Collingwood called the ‘closed’ approach to intellectual history. Things could only get better, and the first sign that they were doing so was Peter Gay’s magnificent study, The Enlightenment (1966). Not that Gay was unpartisan. He had fled the insanities ...

Female Bandits? What next!

Wendy Doniger: The incarnations of Robin Hood, 22 July 2004

Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography 
by Stephen Knight.
Cornell, 247 pp., £14.50, May 2003, 0 8014 3885 3
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... it? History, like myth, varies, but the two genres of narrative have different limits. Even R.G. Collingwood admitted that, though you can indeed tell the story of Caesar’s assassination in various ways, there are ways in which you can’t tell it: you can’t say that Caesar killed Brutus. Myth, by contrast, can say that Marian killed Robin – or can ...

What’s not to like?

Stefan Collini: Ernest Gellner, 2 June 2011

Ernest Gellner: An Intellectual Biography 
by John Hall.
Verso, 400 pp., £29.99, July 2010, 978 1 84467 602 6
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... was with mock ruefulness that he noted a possible parallel between his own career and that of R.G. Collingwood, who was ‘praised as a philosopher by historians and as a historian by philosophers’. Several of his students and admirers responded to Gellner’s disregard for academic pigeonholing: ‘It was from Ernest that I learned not to give a damn about ...

Our Island Story

Stefan Collini: The New DNB, 20 January 2005

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 
edited by H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison.
Oxford, sixty volumes, £7,500, September 2004, 9780198614111
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... approximately 0.025 per cent of this work, or even slightly less, as one of my entries (on R.G. Collingwood) was written jointly with the late Bernard Williams. At the time, I grumbled as much as everyone else about the labour involved in checking such details as place of burial and mother’s maiden name, tasks which were no doubt even more demanding if ...

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