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The Rise and Fall of the Baggy-Trousered Barbarians

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Soviet historiography, 19 August 2004

Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger 
by Richard Pipes.
Yale, 264 pp., £19.95, January 2004, 0 300 10165 1
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Adventures in Russian Historical Research: Reminiscences of American Scholars from the Cold War to the Present 
edited by Samuel Baron and Cathy Frierson.
Sharpe, 272 pp., £18.50, June 2003, 9780765611970
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... invokes Lytton Strachey (twice!) as an exemplar in the writing of history and quotes with approval Samuel Butler’s ‘I never write on any subject unless I believe the opinion of those who have the ear of the public to be mistaken’? Moreover, Pipes’s historical work has challenged a variety of received opinions: that 1917 was a social revolution; that ...

Schlepping around the Flowers

James Meek: Bees, 4 November 2004

The Hive: The Story of the Honey-Bee and Us 
by Bee Wilson.
Murray, 308 pp., £14.99, September 2004, 0 7195 6409 3
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... Not long after​ the First World War, the movie baron Samuel Goldwyn set up a stable of Eminent Authors in an attempt to give silent screenplays more literary weight. One of the recruits was the Nobel Prize-winning Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck. Initially, neither party seems to have been troubled that Maeterlinck spoke no English, and the great Belgian set to work on a screen version of his novel La Vie des Abeilles ...

How did she get those feet?

Alice Spawls: The Female Detective, 20 February 2014

The Notting Hill Mystery: The First Detective Novel 
by Charles Warren Adams.
British Library, 312 pp., £8.99, February 2012, 978 0 7123 5859 0
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The Female Detective: The Original Lady Detective 
by Andrew Forrester.
British Library, 328 pp., £8.99, October 2012, 978 0 7123 5878 1
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Revelations of a Lady Detective 
by William Stephens Hayward.
British Library, 278 pp., £8.99, February 2013, 978 0 7123 5896 5
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... elder, Gertie, grows up and gets married but is always unwell. She comes under the influence of Baron R**, a mesmerist, who claims he can help her, and seems to do so with the assistance of a medium, a young woman who turns out to be … her lost sister! The confusing difference in their appearance – Catherine’s extremely large feet – is accounted for ...

He, She, One, They, Ho, Hus, Hum, Ita

Amia Srinivasan: How Should I Refer to You?, 2 July 2020

What’s Your Pronoun? Beyond He and She 
by Dennis Baron.
Liveright, 304 pp., £16.99, February, 978 1 63149 604 2
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... and thus more pleasingly. Compare: ‘On fait de son mieux pour faire ses devoirs soi-même.’Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in the posthumously published Anima Poetae, argued that ‘it’ was the right pronoun for referring to indefinite nouns like ‘everyone’ or ‘the person’, ‘in order to avoid particularising man or woman, or in order to express ...

‘Turbot, sir,’ said the waiter

E.S. Turner, 4 April 1991

After Hours with P.G. Wodehouse 
by Richard Usborne.
Hutchinson, 201 pp., £15.99, February 1991, 0 09 174712 0
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... on his door and came straight in, saying: ‘Usborne? I’m Lord Hastings, y’know.’ The 21st baron signed him on to tutor his son at Melton Constable Park, a Blandings-style establishment in Norfolk. Here he learned to sit on a chair without his back touching it, was served by white-gloved footmen, and for the first and last time took a lady to dinner in ...

Bad Habits

Basil Davidson, 27 June 1991

The Repatriations from Austria: The Report of an Inquiry 
by Anthony Cowgill, Lord Brimelow and Christopher Booker.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 367 pp., £19.95, October 1990, 1 85619 029 3
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Cossacks in the German Army 1941-1945 
by Samuel Newland.
Cass, 218 pp., £30, March 1991, 0 7146 3351 8
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Eyewitnesses at Nuremberg 
by Hilary Gaskin.
Arms and Armour, 192 pp., £14.95, November 1990, 1 85409 058 5
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... to know something of the record of these soldiers in German service. This is where the book by Samuel Newland might have helped, but falls seriously short. He became interested in the Wehrmacht Cossacks in 1973, twenty years after their ‘story’ began, and has delved into their official and to some extent their oral records. His conscientious findings ...

Jewish Liberation

David Katz, 6 October 1983

The Jewish Community in British Politics 
by Geoffrey Alderman.
Oxford, 218 pp., £17.50, March 1983, 9780198274360
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Economic History of the Jews in England 
by Harold Pollins.
Associated University Presses, 339 pp., £20, March 1983, 0 8386 3033 2
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... own feelings, would trouble himself to walk the length of the street in which he lived to secure Baron Rothschild’s admission into the House of Commons’. The popular view of Emancipation sees the Whigs, Liberals, Benthamites, Evangelists, and Macaulay, ranged on the side of the Jews, against the Tories, the Church of England, the aristocracy and the ...

Those Heads on the Stakes

Philip Horne, 23 May 1985

The War of the End of the World 
by Mario Vargas Llosa and Helen Lane.
Faber, 568 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 9780571131143
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... reaction to Canudos. Cunha’s extraordinary Os Sertoes (translated from the Portuguese in 1944 by Samuel Putnam as Rebellion in the Backlands) came out in 1902, the year of Heart of Darkness, and Conrad’s confrontation of civilised and primitive in a remote interior does not so perilously trace the painful raw edge of the topic as does ‘this monstrous ...

‘No, no,’ replied the fat man

Michael Davie, 3 December 1992

The Power of News: The History of Reuters 
by Donald Read.
Oxford, 330 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 19 821776 5
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... Aspects of Fascism had contained a foreword by Mussolini, and who was regarded even by Sir Samuel Hoare, the Foreign Secretary who gave his name to the notorious Hoare-Laval Pact, as ‘an ardent Italian propagandist.’ Barnes subsequently adopted Italian nationality and broadcast from Italy in support of the Fascists during World War Two. Evelyn ...

Urban Messthetics

John Mullan: Black and Asian writers in London, 18 November 2004

London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City 
by Sukhdev Sandhu.
Harper Perennial, 498 pp., £9.99, November 2004, 0 00 653214 4
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... London’ as it follows its picaresque anti-hero, Buckram, through the alleys. Martin portrays Samuel Johnson’s black servant, Francis Barber, as ‘a nouveau-riche social climber’, and both Sancho and Equiano are depicted in suitably unheroic fashion. Sandhu loves all this, though the passages he quotes don’t quite live up to his extravagant ...

Almighty Godwin

Paul Foot, 28 September 1989

The Godwins and the Shelleys: The Biography of a Family 
by William St Clair.
Faber, 572 pp., £20, June 1989, 0 571 15422 0
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... of that tempestuous decade. Political Justice took its theme from the Marquis de Condorcet, Baron d’Holbach, Volney, Diderot and the other great Enlighteners of pre-Revolutionary France. Human beings, it asserts, are above all perfectible. They need look nowhere else for improvement but to themselves. Women are equal to men. Religion is ...

The Purchas’d Wave

Bernard Rudden: The history of London’s water supply, 22 July 2004

London's New River 
by Robert Ward.
Historical Publications, 248 pp., £17.95, October 2003, 0 948667 84 2
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... and provides a summary of Myddelton’s account with the Crown, audited in 1630 by James Weston, baron of the exchequer. The New River Board also persistently declined to supply any technical historical information to the Institute of Engineers. Ward, however, has gone back to the original figures, from which he has worked out the size of the workforce, the ...

Time to Rob the Dead

Jeremy Adler: Simplicius Simplicissimus, 16 March 2017

The Adventures of Simplicius Simplicissimus 
by Johann Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen, translated by Mike Mitchell.
Dedalus, 433 pp., £13.99, April 2017, 978 1 903517 42 0
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... pseudonyms. Many of them were anagrams of his name – like German Schleifheim von Sulsfort and Samuel Greiffnsohn vom Hirschfeld. It was only in 1837, 150 years after the novel first appeared, that the scholar Heinrich Kurz showed that its author must have been Hans Jacob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen – but identifying him didn’t get us very ...

Leaf, Button, Dog

Susan Eilenberg: The Sins of Hester Thrale, 1 November 2001

According to Queeney 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Little, Brown, 242 pp., £16.99, September 2001, 0 316 85867 6
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... wrote in her diary, then set about to turn the matter to her advantage. Her Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson, published barely a year after his death, had to be reprinted four times within the year. Outraged by what he saw as her malice, her self-serving and her inaccuracy, Boswell set instantly to work on his Life of ...

The great times they could have had

Paul Foot, 15 September 1988

Wallis: Secret Lives of the Duchess of Windsor 
by Charles Higham.
Sidgwick, 419 pp., £17.95, June 1988, 0 283 99627 7
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The Secret File of the Duke of Windsor 
by Michael Bloch.
Bantam, 326 pp., £14.95, August 1988, 9780593016671
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... the Tatler dressed up in Fascist regalia at a ‘Blackshirt’ dinner. When the Foreign Secretary Samuel Hoare fixed up a deal with Pierre Laval, the French Foreign Secretary and a Nazi fellow-traveller, to legitimise Mussolini’s conquest of Abyssinia, the Duke also travelled to France. Whatever part he played in the Hoare-Laval Pact, he enthusiastically ...

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