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One Peculiar Nut

Steven Shapin: The Life of René Descartes, 23 January 2003

Cogito, Ergo Sum: The Life of René Descartes 
by Richard A. Watson.
Godine, 375 pp., £22, April 2002, 1 56792 184 1
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... unextended in space and immortal; body was passive, extended and, if it made up the structure of a human being, distressingly mortal. And yet humans were unique hybrids, in which rational minds volitionally moved brute matter, making them something quite different from parrots, apes and ‘earthen statues’. In 1643, the young and charming Princess ...

Against Consciousness

Richard Gregory, 24 January 1980

Pavlov 
by Jeffrey Gray.
Fontana, 140 pp., £1.25, September 1980, 9780006343042
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J.B. WatsonThe Founder of Behaviourism 
by David Cohen.
Routledge, 297 pp., £8.95, September 1980, 0 7100 0054 5
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... Jeffrey Gray’s scientific biography of the Russian physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov is a worthy member of the distinguished Modern Masters series, which includes excellent semi-technical short books on, among others, Einstein, Wittgenstein, Russell, Freud, Piaget and Chomsky. The author, who lectures in the Department of Psychology at the University of Oxford, writes from first-hand expert knowledge of experimental work in animal behaviour and the relevance of experiments on animals to human neurology and psychology ...

All Together Now

Richard Jenkyns, 11 December 1997

Abide with Me: The World of Victorian Hymns 
by Ian Bradley.
SCM, 299 pp., £30, June 1997, 9780334026921
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The English Hymn: A Critical and Historical Study 
by J.R. Watson.
Oxford, 552 pp., £65, July 1997, 0 19 826762 2
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... poem? Which American poems of the same period are best known in this country? Which verses by a canonical English poet do the largest number of people today know by heart? The best known Victorian poem is probably ‘Good King Wenceslas’ (by J.M. Neale), followed by ‘Once in royal David’s city’ (Mrs Alexander); ‘All things bright and ...

The Positions He Takes

John Barrell: Hitchens on Paine, 30 November 2006

Thomas Paine’s ‘Rights of Man’: A Biography 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Atlantic, 128 pp., £9.99, July 2006, 1 84354 513 6
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... If the rights of man are to be upheld in a dark time, we shall require an age of reason,’ wrote Christopher Hitchens last year on the dust jacket of Harvey Kaye’s recent book on Paine.* And as if to reinforce that message, he has now himself published a little book on Paine, a ‘biography’ of Rights of Man ...

I have not lived up to it

Helen Vendler: Melancholy Hopkins, 3 April 2014

The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins Vols I-II: Correspondence 
edited by R.K.R. Thorton and Catherine Phillips.
Oxford, 1184 pp., £175, March 2013, 978 0 19 965370 6
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... of drawing (Ruskinian in its careful rendering of differentiating details) helped him to note a host of individual qualities and aspects even in a single creature. When his heart is ‘stirred’ by the non-‘dangerous’ beauty of the kestrel’s flight (in ‘The Windhover’) and he wishes to grasp it ...

Clues

J.I.M. Stewart, 5 May 1983

A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie 
by Robert Barnard.
Collins, 203 pp., £7.95, April 1980, 0 00 216190 7
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The Agatha Christie Hour 
by Agatha Christie.
Collins, 190 pp., £6.50, September 1982, 0 00 231331 6
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The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes 
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Allen Lane, 1122 pp., £7.95, August 1981, 0 7139 1444 0
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The Quest for Sherlock Holmes 
by Owen Dudley Edwards.
Mainstream, 380 pp., £12.50, November 1982, 0 906391 15 6
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The Unknown Conan Doyle: Essays on Photography 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 128 pp., £8.50, November 1982, 0 436 13302 4
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The Unknown Conan Doyle: Uncollected Stories 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 456 pp., £8.95, November 1982, 0 436 13301 6
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The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie 
by Charles Osborne.
Collins, 256 pp., £9.95, September 1982, 0 00 216462 0
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... In the opening chapter of A Study in Scarlet Dr Watson is introduced to Sherlock Holmes. Holmes says, ‘How are you?’ and adds: ‘You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.’ Watson asks in astonishment: ‘How on earth did you know that?’ and Holmes, ‘chuckling to himself’, answers: ‘Never mind ...

Life in the Colonies

Steven Rose, 20 July 1995

Naturalist 
by Edward O.Wilson.
Allen Lane, 380 pp., £20, August 1995, 0 7139 9141 0
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Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration 
by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O.Wilson.
Harvard, 228 pp., £19.95, November 1994, 0 674 48525 4
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... Arriving at university from the shelter of a London suburban home, I was soon introduced to curry. Unaware that Indian cuisine is built around a wide range of spices, my ambition was simple: I would prove my sophistication by eating without flinching the hottest Madras or Vindaloo ...

Vermin Correspondence

Iain Sinclair, 20 October 1994

Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play 
by Ben Watson.
Quartet, 597 pp., £25, May 1994, 0 7043 7066 2
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Her Weasels Wild Returning 
by J.H. Prynne.
Equipage, 12 pp., £2, May 1994
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... It’s quite a popular secret, the Cambridge Poetry Festival; a roomful of freelance delegates, all capable of keeping their eyes to the front, on the platform – no droolers, no crisp packets. By Saturday afternoon, a certain mid-term weariness is evident (so many readings survived, so many still to come); the post-traumatic shock of being allowed into the showpiece ...

Highway to Modernity

Colin Kidd: The British Enlightenment, 8 March 2001

Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World 
by Roy Porter.
Allen Lane, 728 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 7139 9152 6
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... A central tenet of the current Eurosceptic case resides in the contrast between English pragmatists, blessed with an instinctive distrust of the systems concocted by philosophers, and dreamy Continentals whose chequered histories bear witness to a dangerous addiction to fresh starts, a priori blueprints, legal codification and all the other follies of political rationalism ...

Representing Grandma

Steven Rose, 7 July 1994

The Astounding Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul 
by Francis Crick.
Simon and Schuster, 317 pp., £16.99, May 1994, 9780671711580
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... I have never seen Francis Crick in a modest mood.’ Thus James Watson opens his notorious account of the discovery of the structure of DNA which won him, Crick and Maurice Wilkins a Nobel Prize in 1962. Whichever other of Watson’s judgments have been controversial – notably his dismissal of Rosalind Franklin, from whom, courtesy of Wilkins, he and Crick were provided with the crucial X-ray photographs of DNA crystals – his assessment of Crick has scarcely been disputed ...

Pity the monsters

Richard Altick, 18 December 1980

The Elephant Man 
by Bernard Pomerance.
Faber, 71 pp., £2.25, June 1980, 0 571 11569 1
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The Elephant Man: the Book of the Film 
by Joy Kuhn.
Virgin, 90 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 9780907080091
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The Elephant Man 
by Christine Sparks.
Futura, 272 pp., £1.25, August 1980, 0 7088 1942 7
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The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences 
by Frederick Treves.
Star, 126 pp., £95, August 1980, 0 352 30747 1
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The Elephant Man and Other Freaks 
by Sian Richards.
Futura, 197 pp., £1.25, October 1980, 0 7088 1927 3
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The True History of the Elephant Man 
by Michael Howell and Peter Ford.
Allison and Busby, 190 pp., £6.95, March 1980, 0 85031 353 8
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... of my profession I had come upon lamentable deformities of the face due to injury or disease, as well as mutilations and contortions of the body depending upon like causes; but at no time had I met with such a degraded or perverted version of ...

Trust the Coroner

John Bossy: Why Christopher Marlowe was probably not a spy, 14 December 2006

Christopher Marlowe: Poet and Spy 
by Park Honan.
Oxford, 421 pp., £25, October 2005, 0 19 818695 9
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... Compared to boring old Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, we think, had a short life and a gay one. When not writing his sonorous verse, he was spying, preaching atheism, fighting and getting murdered. Park Honan has done one of the two already, and now has done the other ...

Posthumous Gentleman

Michael Dobson: Kit Marlowe’s Schooldays, 19 August 2004

The World of Christopher Marlowe 
by David Riggs.
Faber, 411 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 571 22159 9
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Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys through the Elizabethan Underground 
by Roy Kendall.
Fairleigh Dickinson, 453 pp., $75, January 2004, 0 8386 3974 7
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Tamburlaine Must Die 
by Louise Welsh.
Canongate, 149 pp., £9.99, July 2004, 1 84195 532 9
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History Play: The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe 
by Rodney Bolt.
HarperCollins, 388 pp., £17.99, July 2004, 0 00 712123 7
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... their provincial towns), and they remained sufficiently interested in French politics to write in a surprisingly well-informed fashion about the subject twenty years later. The dispute between Henri of Navarre and his estranged Catholic wife, Marguerite de Valois, over control of Aquitaine; the wider dynastic and religious feuding among the Valois and the ...

Is it a crime?

P.N. Furbank, 6 June 1985

Peterley Harvest: The Private Diary of David Peterley 
edited by Michael Holroyd.
Secker, 286 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 0 436 36715 7
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... As is well known, there is a curious association between bibliography and crime. It has something to do with a relationship to books as physical objects, and something to do with the fact that bibliographic crime is not felt to be crime quite in the pound-note-forging, or even Vermeer-forging, sense ...

Diary

Rose George: In Dewsbury, 17 November 2005

... Dewsbury, a middle-sized mill town in the West Riding of Yorkshire, was my home for 17 years. After I left I paid little attention to the town, though I’ve always come back to see my family. When people asked where I was from, I’d say it was a place called Nearleeds, because no one had heard of Dewsbury, unless they’d read Betty Boothroyd’s biography or remembered who Eddie Waring was ...

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