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Swiftly Encircling Gloom

Tim Radford, 8 May 1997

Promising The Earth 
by Robert Lamb.
Routledge, 204 pp., £35, September 1996, 0 415 14443 4
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... at every street corner. They saw the end, even for the most renewable resources. One of these was Robert Lamb, who in 1979 published a book called World without Tree. ‘A survey of current evidence,’ he wrote, ‘shows that trees could be so scarce in a mere thirty years’ time that they would already be struggling to fulfil their purpose in the ...

Omens

Robert Crawford, 19 August 2004

... after the Gaelic of the ‘Carmina Gadelica’ Monday at 6 a.m. I heard a lamb, And then, while I sat by, A snipe’s kid-cry. I saw the cuckoo, grey as slate Before I ate. On Tuesday, late, A slimy flagstone shone Where snails had gone, And the wheatear, like Ash off a dyke, Flapped where the old mare’s black Foal stumbled and turned its back ...

Endearingness

Donald Davie, 21 March 1991

The Oxford Book of Essays 
edited by John Gross.
Oxford, 680 pp., £17.95, February 1991, 0 19 214185 6
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... or deny that this gap exists. In English the most ambitious and effective bridge-builders were Lamb and Hazlitt. Before them, to be sure, were Addison and Steele: but those serious wits under Queen Anne were building bridges, very successfully too, not between the ephemeral and the enduring, but between relatively solid social entities. Their essays in the ...

Walking in high places

Michael Neve, 21 October 1982

The Ferment of Knowledge: Studies in the Historiography of 18th-Century Science 
edited by G.S. Rousseau and R.S. Porter.
Cambridge, 500 pp., £25, November 1980, 9780521225991
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Romanticism and the Forms of Ruin 
by Thomas McFarland.
Princeton, 432 pp., £24.60, February 1981, 0 691 06437 7
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Poetry realised in Nature: Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Early 19th-Century Science 
by Trevor Levere.
Cambridge, 271 pp., £22.50, October 1981, 0 521 23920 6
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Coleridge 
by Richard Holmes.
Oxford, 102 pp., £1.25, March 1982, 0 19 287591 4
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Young Charles Lamb 1775-1802 
by Winifred Courtney.
Macmillan, 411 pp., £25, July 1982, 0 333 31534 0
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... European culture – and as part of ‘high culture’, in ways outlined by Peter Burke and Robert Darnton. Science and technology can then be distinguished, and theoretical advances, in, say, the earth sciences, are not assumed always to have produced great practical breakthroughs. As one of the contributors, Steven Shapin, neatly turns it, Was ist ...

Born of the age we live in

John Lanchester, 6 December 1990

Stick it up your punter! The Rise and Fall of the ‘Sun’ 
by Peter Chippindale and Chris Horrie.
Heinemann, 372 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 434 12624 1
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All played out: The True Story of Italia ’90 
by Pete Davies.
Heinemann, 471 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 434 17908 6
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Gazza! A Biography 
by Robin McGibbon.
Penguin, 204 pp., £3.99, October 1990, 9780140148688
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... the circulation had fallen from 1.5m to 650,000 copies. After the print unions refused to discuss Robert Maxwell’s offer for the paper, Murdoch stepped in. ‘I am constantly amazed at the ease with which I entered British newspapers,’ he later said. Stick it up your punter! tells that story, and the story of what happened afterwards: a story which social ...

Bigger Peaches

Rosemary Hill: Haydon, 22 February 2001

The Immortal Dinner: A Famous Evening of Genius and Laughter in Literary London, 1817 
by Penelope Hughes-Hallett.
Viking, 336 pp., £15.99, September 2000, 0 670 87999 1
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... In May 1804, at the age of 18, Benjamin Robert Haydon left his home in Plymouth and set off for London to become a great artist. His mother was distraught, his father furious, but there was no doubt in Haydon’s mind either of his vocation or of his genius. He could have worked in his father’s bookshop and inherited a secure, independent income but he didn’t want to ...

The chair she sat on

J.I.M. Stewart, 19 July 1984

Secrets of a Woman’s Heart: The Later Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett 1920-1969 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hodder, 336 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 340 26241 9
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... this persuasion she did nothing to controvert – so that when her ardent admirer and close friend Robert Liddell engaged in a somewhat demeaning rummage in Burke and Crockford in search of distinguished Compton-Burnetts whether living or dead and gone, he was astonished to discover none at all. Both Burnetts and Comptons had in fact been farm labourers not ...

Fools

P.N. Furbank, 15 October 1981

Ford Madox Ford: Prose and Politics 
by Robert Green.
Cambridge, 218 pp., £16.50, July 1981, 9780521236102
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... Williams’s ‘To Ford Madox Ford in Heaven’. And you may say that his luck holds: for Robert Green is also an admirer, but his book is thoroughly sensible, unbedazzled and discriminating, the book of someone who has heard of other writers and is in no kind of ‘Special relationship’ to Ford. What he has set out to do, and it is a wise ...

Angels and Dirt

Robert Dingley, 20 November 1980

Stanley Spencer RA 
by Richard Carline, Andrew Causey and Keith Bell.
Royal Academy/Weidenfeld, 239 pp., £12.50, September 1980, 0 297 77831 5
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... the material world remains essentially his own, a mode of seeing akin to that detected by Charles Lamb in the comic actor Joseph Munden: ‘A tub of butter, contemplated by him, amounts to a Platonic idea. He understands a leg of mutton in its quiddity. He stands wondering, amid the commonplace materials of life, like primaeval man with the sun and stars ...

Something Rather Scandalous

Jean McNicol: The Loves of Rupert Brooke, 20 October 2016

Rupert Brooke: Life, Death and Myth 
by Nigel Jones.
Head of Zeus, 588 pp., £12, April 2015, 978 1 78185 703 8
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Fatal Glamour: The Life of Rupert Brooke 
by Paul Delany.
McGill-Queen’s, 380 pp., £28.99, March 2015, 978 0 7735 4557 1
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The Second I Saw You: The True Love Story of Rupert Brooke and Phyllis Gardner 
by Lorna C. Beckett.
British Library, 216 pp., £16.99, April 2015, 978 0 7123 5792 0
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... At the time, Lytton Strachey was obsessed with the heterosexual painter and philanderer Henry Lamb, whom Cox had recently met and fallen for. She asked Lytton to invite Lamb, and he happily obliged. Lamb was looking for a new mistress and Cox was well-off, generous and ...

Quite a Gentleman

Robert Irwin: The invariably savage Tamerlane, 19 May 2005

Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World 
by Justin Marozzi.
HarperCollins, 449 pp., £25, August 2004, 9780007116119
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... long been a favourite subject for popular biography, and Marozzi’s book follows works by Harold Lamb, Hilda Hookham and John Ure. History writing at this level seeks to provide us with vivid pictures of how things must have been and even, at times, to allow us to enter the minds of the protagonists. Marozzi opens with an account of Tamerlane on the ...

Intimate Strangers

Thomas Jones: A.L. Kennedy’s new novel, 7 October 2004

Paradise 
by A.L. Kennedy.
Cape, 344 pp., £14.99, September 2004, 0 224 06258 1
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... what shape it has (drink has a tendency to make things lose their shape), is between Hannah and Robert, an alcoholic dentist. Alcoholism and dentistry have coincided, more grotesquely, in Kennedy’s fiction before: a desperate character in Everything You Need (1999), a publisher called Jack Grace, visits a sadist in Soho to be administered alcohol ...

Fill it with fish

Helen Cooper: The trail of the Grail, 6 June 2002

Parzival and the Stone from Heaven: A Grail Romance Retold for Our Time 
by Lindsay Clarke.
HarperCollins, 239 pp., £14.99, September 2001, 0 00 710813 3
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Merlin and the Grail: ‘Joseph of Arimathea’, ‘Merlin’, ‘Perceval’ The Trilogy of Arthurian Romances Attributed to Robert de Boron 
translated by Nigel Bryant.
Boydell and Brewer, 172 pp., £30, May 2001, 0 85991 616 2
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Le Livre du Graal. Tome I: ‘Joseph D’Arimathie’, ‘Merlin’, ‘Les Premiers Faits du Roi Arthur’ 
edited by Daniel Poirion and Philippe Walter.
Gallimard, 1993 pp., £50.95, April 2001, 2 07 011342 6
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... Jungians is questionable. Chrétien’s earliest and most influential follower, Robert de Boron, would certainly not have done, having altogether more orthodox Christian ideas in mind. He took up Chrétien’s passing remark about the Mass wafer, and turned the Grail (now deserving a capital letter) into an object of religious ...

Earl Grey Moments

Tobias Jones, 2 October 1997

Grace Notes 
by Bernard Mac Laverty.
Cape, 277 pp., £14.99, July 1997, 9780224044295
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... needing no grandiose themes or schemata to shore up the taut narratives. His two previous novels, Lamb and Cal, rely on the most frugal plotting: since the crime has already been committed (the abduction of Owen Kane, the killing of Robert, the RUC officer), the narratives are internalised – rueful accounts of the lives ...

Diary

Jenny Diski: A Plot in Highgate Cemetery, 23 June 1994

... weld us all together, before we knew the Eighties were coming. Anyway, we had a great bonfire, a lamb roasting on a spit, rock ’n’ roll megawatting through monster speakers and the decidedly mixed inhabitants of the square – the teenage villains, prepubescent truants and lawless toddlers of our Free School plus the recent incoming gentry whose houses ...

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