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Charles Nicholl: ‘The Shakespeare Circle’, 19 May 2016

The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography 
edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells.
Cambridge, 358 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 107 69909 0
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... gold signet ring bearing on its bezel the initials ‘W.S.’ It was bought for 36 shillings by Robert Bell Wheler, a local historian, and later donated to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, where it still resides. When the Romantic painter Benjamin Robert Haydon heard news of the discovery he wrote excitedly to his friend ...

At the V&A

Jeremy Harding: 50 Years of ‘Private Eye’, 15 December 2011

... Kissinger in South Africa (HK to Vorster: ‘I’m only here for De Beers’) via James Goldsmith, Robert Maxwell, Rupert Murdoch, to Mugabe, Bush and Blair. For fans of a pensionable age, Verwoerd’s assassination (‘A Nation Mourns’, 17 September 1966) is a star cover. Younger readers may prefer a ghoulish photo of Norman Tebbit, the Tories’ ‘New ...

Peter Conrad’s Flight from Precision

Richard Poirier, 17 July 1980

Imagining America 
by Peter Conrad.
Routledge, 319 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7100 0370 6
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... America’), Kipling and R.L. Stevenson (‘Epic (and Chivalric) America’), H.G. Wells (‘Futuristic America’), D.H. Lawrence (‘Primitive America’), W.H. Auden (‘Theological America’), Aldous Huxley (Psychedelic America’), and Christopher Isherwood (‘Mystical America’). As the chapter titles suggest, each of these writers is ...

Boomster and the Quack

Stefan Collini: How to Get on in the Literary World, 2 November 2006

Writers, Readers and Reputations: Literary Life in Britain 1870-1918 
by Philip Waller.
Oxford, 1181 pp., £85, April 2006, 0 19 820677 1
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... by William Archer, J.M. Barrie, Arnold Bennett, A.C. Benson, Hugh Benson, Laurence Binyon, Robert Bridges, Hall Caine, G.K. Chesterton, Arthur Conan Doyle, John Galsworthy, Thomas Hardy, Maurice Hewlett, Anthony Hope, W.J. Locke, E.V. Lucas, J.W. Mackail, John Masefield, A.E.W. Mason, Gilbert Murray, Henry Newbolt, Owen ...

Ceaseless Anythings

James Wood: Robert Stone, 1 October 1998

Damascus Gate 
by Robert Stone.
Picador, 500 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 37058 8
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... American realism, once a belief, is now an idle liberty. Writers such as Robert Stone, Joan Didion, John Irving and even Don DeLillo, are praised for their ‘realism’, for the solidity of their plots, the patience of their characterisation, the capillary spread of their social portraits, the leverage of their political insight ...

Diary

Iain Sinclair: My Olympics, 30 August 2012

... proudly flying its Jolly Roger, is a coffin-sized craft belonging to a researcher called Mike Wells. He has made it his business, despite numerous brushes with security guards and large dogs, to record and report every stage of the recent enclosures. He helped to commission two substantial scientific reports on the actual (rather than the ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: Chicanery and Fantasy, 6 June 2019

... Robert Peters​ , né Parkins, wasn’t much to look at. He was ‘a little man with a stiff back who walked like a penguin’. Photographs show him as steeply balding, with a rice puddingy face that glooped onto his dog collar. He was tubby, and got tubbier. But something about him made a certain kind of woman sit up ...

Diary

David Gascoyne: Notebook, New Year 1991, 25 January 1996

... libre ou mourir’, but that wouldn’t have rhymed with ‘holocauste fort’. Plenty of Hubert Robert (‘du plus pur Hubert Robert,’ as Jouve used to say). Found a Folio series edition of Restif de la Bretonne’s Nuits de Paris in the tempting bookshop. When I first knew the Marais in the late Forties it was ...

Stroking

Nicholas Penny, 15 July 1982

Victorian Sculpture 
by Benedict Read.
Yale, 414 pp., £30, June 1982, 0 300 02506 8
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... recognition that it is as impressive ‘in its way and for its date’ as that of Chartres and Wells. But to dispel the prejudice those qualifications need explanation, and more sympathy should be permitted expression. On the whole, however, he is right in the strategy he has adopted, which is simply to put us in a position where we are bound to question ...

Sweetie Pies

Jenny Diski, 23 May 1996

Below the Parapet: The Biography of Denis Thatcher 
by Carol Thatcher.
HarperCollins, 303 pp., £16.99, April 1996, 0 00 255605 7
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... Denis Thatcher is entirely inventable – as John Wells understood: he comes in a flat pack with easy-to-follow instructions, all the components familiar general shapes, all parts from stock, no odd angles, no imagination required. When they came up with the idea for Ikea, they used Denis Thatcher as the prototype ...

How They Brought the Good News

Colin Kidd: Britain’s Napoleonic Wars, 20 November 2014

In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793-1815 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 739 pp., £25, November 2014, 978 0 571 26952 5
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... Uglow notes, a new play, Goody Two Shoes; or Harlequin Alabaster, was performed at Sadler’s Wells; in it a French invasion by balloon is foiled at a lighthouse, in the process confounding our own expectations about what is – or surprisingly is not – anachronism. A rumour circulated that Napoleon’s engineers would construct a pontoon across the ...

It’s the Oil

Jim Holt: Iraq’s Lucrative Mess, 18 October 2007

... long isolation, it is the least explored of the world’s oil-rich nations. A mere two thousand wells have been drilled across the entire country; in Texas alone there are a million. It has been estimated, by the Council on Foreign Relations, that Iraq may have a further 220 billion barrels of undiscovered oil; another study puts the figure at 300 ...

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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... Carlos 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 ...

Gloomy Sunday Afternoons

Caroline Maclean: Modernists at the Movies, 10 September 2009

The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period 
by Laura Marcus.
Oxford, 562 pp., £39, December 2007, 978 0 19 923027 3
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... on the Kinetoscope in 1895 by combining camera and projector in their Cinématographe. In Britain Robert Paul produced his own camera and projector when Edison refused to supply him with films. Paul also patented a design for a time machine based on H.G. Wells’s short story, in which a series of moving platforms would ...

Melton Constable

W.R. Mead, 22 May 1986

The past is a foreign country 
by David Lowenthal.
Cambridge, 489 pp., £27.50, November 1985, 0 521 22415 2
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... a minority has always spurned the past. The past intimidates, threatens and diminishes us. For Robert Browning’s ‘Paracelsus’, it was written on a ‘sullen page’. The past is regarded as a brake on progress, paralysing creative energy. It is invested with determinative force. It undermines self-confidence – for George Gilbert Scott it doomed ...

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