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Getting it right

Tam Dalyell, 18 July 1985

The Ponting Affair 
by Richard Norton-Taylor.
Cecil Woolf, 144 pp., £5.95, June 1985, 0 900821 74 4
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Who Killed Hilda Murrell? 
by Judith Cook.
New English Library, 182 pp., £1.95, June 1985, 0 450 05885 9
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... Without Richard Norton-Taylor of the Guardian, there would be no Belgrano affair, and doubtless Mr Clive Ponting OBE would be plying his way, ever upwards, in the Ministry of Defence. This is no exaggeration. Simply a statement of fact. I am in a position to know. However right Paul Rogers, Lee Chadwick, Arthur Gavshon and I may have been, the fact is that without the sustained interest of Guardian readers, and, in my case, the Labour Party up and down the country, there was no way which the professors of Belgrano Studies, as David Frost has christened us, could have carried on ...

Resurrection Man

Danny Karlin: Browning and His Readers, 23 May 2002

The Ring and the Book 
by Robert Browning, edited by Richard Altick and Thomas Collins.
Broadview, 700 pp., £12.99, August 2001, 1 55111 372 4
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The Poetical Works of Robert Browning. Vol. VIII: The Ring and the Book, Books V-VIII 
edited by Stefan Hawlin and Tim Burnett.
Oxford, £75, February 2001, 0 19 818647 9
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... epic in 12 books, a ‘novel-poem’ to rival his wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh, a historical romance to challenge Scott, an urban realist fiction to emulate Dickens or Balzac, a religio-philosophical-aesthetic treatise in the modern vein of the Higher Criticism. From the 1830s he had been a dedicated Carlylean resurrection man, and ...

Diary

Robert Walshe: Bumping into Beckett, 7 November 1985

... a flat that was something of a miniature Versailles. Immediately above lived the widow of Richard Wright, author of Native Son. Above above, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, known to outsiders as Le Corbusier. At the end of the courtyard, the house – la maison – and this calls for historical extrapolation. At some moment in the latter half of the 17th ...

Tea with Medea

Simon Skinner: Richard Cobb, 19 July 2012

My Dear Hugh: Letters from Richard Cobb to Hugh Trevor-Roper and Others 
Frances Lincoln, 240 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 0 7112 3240 2Show More
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... Who now, other than historians of modern France, remembers Richard Cobb? Cobb’s Wikipedia entry – the canonical index of posterity’s interest – measures three lines; by contrast, Hugh Trevor-Roper, his principal addressee in this collection, gets five thousand words. Yet Cobb, who died in 1996, was not only a historian of acknowledged genius ...

Tantrums

C.K. Stead, 22 February 1996

Letters of Claire Clairmont, Charles Clairmont and Fanny Imlay Godwin 
edited by Marion Kingston Stocking.
Johns Hopkins, 704 pp., £45, May 1995, 0 8018 4633 1
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... Shelley lady Byron usually called your Wife was in good health and on a visit to Mrs Leigh’. Since Claire knew quite well (he had told her) of Byron’s incestuous passion for his half-sister Augusta Leigh, that sentence is surely a nicely-judged double blow. A few pages on she writes: ‘Don’t look cross ...

The Sultan and I

Anthony Howard, 1 June 1989

By God’s Will: A Portrait of the Sultan of Brunei 
by Lord Chalfont.
Weidenfeld, 200 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 297 79628 3
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The Richest Man in the World: The Sultan of Brunei 
by James Bartholomew.
Viking, 199 pp., £12.95, April 1989, 0 670 82152 7
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... Magnus Linklater, as well as by the two members of the Observer’s investigative unit, David Leigh and Paul Lashmar. I added my voice to theirs, urging vigilance and caution. To no avail, however – and perhaps understandably. On Saturday, 11 January 1986, Donald Trelford, the editor of the Observer, had spent a lot of time closeted in the paper’s ...

Forty-Eighters

Peter Pulzer, 4 September 1986

Little Germany: Exile and Asylum in Victorian England 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Oxford, 304 pp., £17.50, July 1986, 0 19 212239 8
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... Coleridge. Eugen Oswald translated Humboldt into English and became tutor to the children of both Richard Cobden and Edward VII. Eleanor Marx translated Flaubert and Ibsen. Johannes Ronge introduced Froebel’s kindergarten ideas to England and Malwida von Meysenburg became a pioneer of women’s education, joining forces with Barbara ...

Never Seen a Violet

Dinah Birch: Victorian men and girls, 6 September 2001

Men in Wonderland: The Lost Girlhood of the Victorian Gentleman 
by Catherine Robson.
Princeton, 250 pp., £19.95, June 2001, 0 691 00422 6
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... guarantors of national prosperity. A ragged girl in a Midlands nail factory was interviewed by Richard Henry Horne. She did not, he reported, ‘know what a country dance is, was never at a dance in her life; never saw a dance; never heard of Harlequin and Columbine; has no idea what they are like.’ Horne, peculiarly, is recalling pantomime conventions ...

More Pain, Better Sentences

Adam Mars-Jones: Satire and St Aubyn, 8 May 2014

Lost for Words 
by Edward St Aubyn.
Picador, 261 pp., £12.99, May 2014, 978 0 330 45422 3
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Books 
by Charlie Hill.
Tindal Street, 192 pp., £6.99, November 2013, 978 1 78125 163 8
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... new book, The Grass Is Greener, causes a fatal synaptic meltdown in anyone who reads it, and only Richard Anger, maverick bookseller, and Lauren Furrows, emotionally timid neurologist, can stop the epidemic. Balancing the figure of Gary, for whom subject matter is everything (he admires the Monet on his wall because the artist ‘painted pictures of flowers ...

Supermax

John Bayley, 8 December 1988

The Letters of Max Beerbohm 1892-1956 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Murray, 244 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7195 4537 4
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The Faber Book of Letters 
edited by Felix Pryor.
Faber, 319 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 571 15269 4
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... their subjects. I have something in common with Joyce, and with Wilde, is the modest assumption of Richard Ellmann. Max was a bit like me, implies Cecil. That brings them, and us, all the closer to the subject. It can also lead to misunderstanding. Oddly enough, as Cecil’s admirable biography shows, both he and Max understood Oscar Wilde a good deal better ...

Want-of-Tin and Want-of-Energy

Dinah Birch: The lives of the Rossettis, 20 May 2004

The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Formative Years 1835-62: Charlotte Street to Cheyne Walk. Volume One 
edited by William Fredeman.
Brewer, 464 pp., £95, July 2002, 9780859915281
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The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Formative Years 1835-62: Charlotte Street to Cheyne Walk. Volume Two 
edited by William Fredeman.
Brewer, 640 pp., £95, July 2002, 0 85991 637 5
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William and Lucy: The Other Rossettis 
by Angela Thirlwell.
Yale, 376 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 300 10200 3
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... of the earliest letters, written when Gabriel was seven, records his ‘reading Shakespeare’s Richard the 3rd for my amusement . . . I, Maria, and William know several scenes by heart. I have bought a picture of Richard and Richmond fighting, and I gilded it after which I cut it out with no white.’ This self-assured ...

Priapus Knight

Marilyn Butler, 18 March 1982

The Arrogant Connoisseur: Richard Payne Knight 1751-1824 
edited by Michael Clarke and Nicholas Penny.
Manchester, 189 pp., £30, February 1982, 0 7190 0871 9
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... Richard Payne Knight was an important English intellectual of the era of the French Revolution. He flourished from the 1770s until his death, perhaps by suicide, in 1824. Most of that time he wielded great influence in the art world, as a leading collector, connoisseur and aesthetician, but as the theorist of potent subjects like myth and symbol he mattered almost as much to the poets ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2014, 8 January 2015

... Cambridge. On parade (on King’s Parade in fact) just after ten, where the calming presence of Richard Lloyd Morgan, the chaplain of King’s, waits to shepherd me to the Senior Common Room. It’s already crowded with dons, some, since it’s the university sermon, presumably heads of houses.* I manage to avoid a chat by settling into a corner to con my ...

Benson’s Pleasure

Noël Annan, 4 March 1982

Edwardian Excursions: From the Diaries of A.C. Benson 1898-1904 
edited by A.C. Benson and David Newsome.
Murray, 200 pp., £12.50, April 1981, 9780719537691
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Geoffrey Madan’s Notebooks 
edited by John Gere and John Sparrow.
Oxford, 144 pp., £7.95, October 1981, 0 19 215870 8
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... King’s showed no desire to elect him a fellow – and still less, as he hoped when Austen-Leigh died, to elect him Provost. When his old friend Stuart Donaldson used his influence as Master of Magdalene to offer Benson a fellowship there, kind friends took as much of the pleasure out of it as they could by congratulating him on the skill with which ...

British Worthies

David Cannadine, 3 December 1981

The Directory of National Biography, 1961-1970 
edited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 1178 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 19 865207 0
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... without any formal or hierarchical career structure. So the majority are actresses (Elsie and Leigh), academics (Cam and Darbishire), artists (Bell, Cohen, Knight) or authors (Allingham, Blyton, Compton-Burnett, Sackville-West and Sitwell), topped off with occasional politicians (Astor, Bonham Carter and Lady Lloyd-George) and royals (Princess ...

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