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The Ultimate Novel

William Empson, 19 August 1982

by Hugh Kenner.
Allen and Unwin, 182 pp., £10, March 1980, 0 00 480003 6
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A Starchamber Quiry: A James Joyce Centennial Volume 1882-1982 
edited by E.L. Epstein.
Methuen, 164 pp., £9.50, February 1982, 0 416 31560 7
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... own book. He puts a new idea of his own into both of these books, and it urgently needs refuting. Stephen, he says (Kenner’s Ulysses, p. 152), is practically blind all through the book; his eyes without his glasses focus eight inches in front of his nose, and he broke them ‘yesterday’. This proves that whenever he claims to see anything he is only ...

They would have laughed

Ferdinand Mount: The Massacre at Amritsar, 4 April 2019

Amritsar 1919: An Empire of Fear and the Making of a Massacre 
by Kim A. Wagner.
Yale, 325 pp., £20, February 2019, 978 0 300 20035 5
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... send-off. Even in our own day, Dyer has had his defenders, or at least mitigators. Nick Lloyd, like Wagner a fortyish historian at King’s College London, gave his account of Amritsar the subtitle ‘The Untold Story of One Fateful Day’ (2011). It is certainly an unfamiliar story. According to Lloyd, Dyer was ...

Turning Turk

Robert Blake, 20 August 1981

The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain. Vol. 1: The 19th Century 
by Stephen Koss.
Hamish Hamilton, 455 pp., £20, May 1981, 0 241 10561 7
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... Aspinall’s notable work Politics and the Press (1949) does it for the period 1780 to 1850, and Stephen Koss pays full tribute to his predecessor. Professor Koss is one of the few American historians of the top rank writing about modern British political history (as opposed to pre-revolution English history). He is producing a work which, to judge from ...

Against Hellenocentrism

Peter Green: Persia v. the West, 8 August 2013

Trouble in the West: Egypt and the Persian Empire, 525-332 BC 
by Stephen Ruzicka.
Oxford, 311 pp., £45, April 2012, 978 0 19 976662 8
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King and Court in Ancient Persia 559 to 331 BCE 
by Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones.
Edinburgh, 258 pp., £24.99, January 2013, 978 0 7486 4125 3
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... in which the Greeks and Alexander, though disruptive, play an essentially peripheral role. Stephen Ruzicka sets out to correct this in Trouble in the West, and he does so with formidable scholarship, a talent for extracting the maximum possible amount from evidence often as obscure as it is patchy, and a commendably objective approach to the sort of ...

Our Island Story

Stefan Collini: The New DNB, 20 January 2005

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 
edited by H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison.
Oxford, sixty volumes, £7,500, September 2004, 9780198614111
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... on mortality and immortality. And then there’s the respectable nerdiness of it all. Leslie Stephen, founding editor in the 1880s of the original DNB, hoped that it would turn out to be one of the ‘most amusing’ of books. This remark may have to be interpreted in the light of the fact that Stephen’s own ...

Animal, Spiritual and Cerebral

Mary Midgley, 18 August 1983

Animal Thought 
by Stephen Walker.
Routledge, 388 pp., £17.50, January 1983, 0 7100 9037 4
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On the Evolution of Human Behaviour 
by Peter Reynolds.
California, 259 pp., £20, December 1981, 0 520 04294 8
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The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit 
by Melvin Konner.
Heinemann, 436 pp., £16.50, October 1982, 0 434 39703 2
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Sociobiology and the Human Dimension 
by Georg Breuer.
Cambridge, 264 pp., £22.50, January 1983, 0 521 24544 3
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Sociobiology and the Pre-Emption of Social Science 
by Alexander Rosenberg.
Blackwell, 210 pp., £9.90, March 1981, 0 631 12625 2
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... used for this purpose was supposed to be simply an expression of scientific parsimony. It was Lloyd Morgan’s canon of 1894, whose reasoning, as Stephen Walker points out, is extremely rum. It rules that ‘in no case may we interpret an action as the outcome of the exercise of a higher psychical faculty, if it can be ...

tarry easty

Roy Foster: Joyce in Trieste, 30 November 2000

The Years of Bloom: James Joyce in Trieste 1904-20 
by John McCourt.
Lilliput, 306 pp., £25, June 2000, 1 901866 45 9
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... years from 1904 to 1915, spent in Trieste, saw the completion of Dubliners, the transformation of Stephen Hero into A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the composition of Exiles and Giacomo Joyce, and the beginning of Ulysses. He returned briefly to Dublin in 1919-20, but by 1915 his artistic soul was forged. The Trieste decade, it seems, has not ...

Above it all

Stephen Sedley, 7 April 1994

Suing Judges: A Study of Judicial Immunity 
by Abimbola Olowofoyeku.
Oxford, 234 pp., £27.50, December 1993, 0 19 825793 7
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The Independence of the Judiciary: The View from the Lord Chancellor’s Office 
by Robert Stevens.
Oxford, 221 pp., £25, November 1993, 0 19 825815 1
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... English judges have added little to jurisprudential debates.’ In 1954 Mr Justice Lloyd-Jacob wrote to the Times about the importance of confining atomic energy to peaceful uses. Lord Hail-sham, then in practice as a QC, wrote angrily to Lord Chancellor Simonds, who in turn wrote to the judge: ‘In my opinion it was a breach of your duty as a ...


Richard Lloyd Parry: Alex Garland, 15 October 1998

The Beach 
by Alex Garland.
Penguin, 439 pp., £5.99, June 1997, 0 14 025841 8
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The Tesseract 
by Alex Garland.
Viking, 215 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 670 87016 1
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... the size and impersonal complexity of the universe are familiar from other works of fiction post-Stephen Hawking – Martin Amis’s Night Train, for example. ‘Imagine an atom of hydrogen,’ Alfredo says. ‘Then imagine that you have enlarged the nucleus by five million million, bringing it up to about the size of a one peso coin. To scale, the electron ...

No Man’s Mistress

Stephen Koss, 5 July 1984

Margot: A Life of the Countess of Oxford and Asquith 
by Daphne Bennett.
Gollancz, 442 pp., £12.95, May 1984, 0 575 03279 0
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... in the Casement affair, nor could she warn him against the portentous folly of appointing Lloyd George to the War Office. In a sense, or so we are invited to believe, her fall prefigured his own. Better-equipped to deal with Margot’s relationships with couturiers than with the complexities of high politics, Mrs Bennett flounders in her treatment of ...

Easy-Going Procrastinators

Ferdinand Mount: Margot Asquith’s War, 8 January 2015

Margot Asquith’s Great War Diary 1914-16: The View from Downing Street 
edited by Michael Brock and Eleanor Brock, selected by Eleanor Brock.
Oxford, 566 pp., £30, June 2014, 978 0 19 822977 3
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Margot at War: Love And Betrayal In Downing Street, 1912-16 
by Anne de Courcy.
Weidenfeld, 376 pp., £20, November 2014, 978 0 297 86983 2
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The Darkest Days: The Truth Behind Britain’s Rush To War, 1914 
by Douglas Newton.
Verso, 386 pp., £20, July 2014, 978 1 78168 350 7
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... future for Winston Churchill with his ‘noisy mind’ and childish egotism, and doubts whether Lloyd George will ever become prime minister (three months before he topples her husband). In fact she starts a new volume of the diary at the end of July 1916 by claiming that ‘Henry’s position in the country and in the cabinet is stronger than it has ever ...


A.J.P. Taylor: A historian should have more sense, 6 May 1982

... to greater effect. Michael Foot speaks in the tones of Churchill in the Second World War and of Lloyd George in the First. It is fair to say that these two statesmen have often been numbered among Michael’s heroes. Still, I never expected to find myself applauding, though with some anxiety, the dispatch of a naval force to the South Atlantic. This leads ...


W.G. Runciman: You had better look out, 10 December 1998

... is that some people are liked by people they do not themselves like!’ 15 June. Talk with Stephen Graubard, editor of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences magazine Daedalus. Should he do an issue on Britain? Last time he asked me, I said no – Britain just isn’t interesting enough to the rest of the world any more. This time, I say yes. New ...

The Russians Are Coming

John Lloyd, 11 May 1995

Comrade Criminal: The Theft of the Second Russian Revolution 
by Stephen Handelman.
Joseph, 360 pp., £16.99, September 1994, 0 7181 0015 8
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Crime Without Frontiers: The Worldwide Expansion of Organised Crime and the Pax Mafiosa 
by Clare Sterling.
Little, Brown, 274 pp., £17.50, June 1994, 0 316 91121 6
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Inside Yeltsin’s Russia 
by John Kampfner.
Cassell, 256 pp., £17.99, October 1994, 9780304344635
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A Dishonoured Society 
by John Follain.
Little, Brown, 356 pp., £16.99, February 1995, 0 316 90982 3
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... What emerges most clearly from these books is that the Russian ‘mafia’ (the Italian name has been taken over into Russian) has so deeply penetrated government, business and the security forces as to have reconstituted the society which lives on one-sixth of the earth’s land surface into a wholly criminal formation. Organised crime, all four writers warn continually, has encircled the globe, has found in Russia a safe laundry for its money and is trafficking in nuclear material drawn from the ex-Soviet arsenal ...


Brian Harrison, 6 December 1984

Significant Sisters: The Grassroots of Active Feminism 1839-1939 
by Margaret Forster.
Secker, 353 pp., £12.50, September 1984, 0 436 16113 3
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Stepping Stones to Women’s Liberty: Feminist Ideas in the Women’s Movement 1900-1918 
by Les Garner.
Gower, 142 pp., £15, July 1984, 0 435 32357 1
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Women First: The Female Tradition in English Physical Education 1880-1980 
by Sheila Fletcher.
Athlone, 194 pp., £18, July 1984, 0 485 11248 5
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A Woman’s Place: An Oral History of Working-Class Women 1890-1940 
by Elizabeth Roberts.
Blackwell, 246 pp., £14.95, September 1984, 0 631 13572 3
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... the authentic flavour of Robert Roberts’s The Classic Slum with the vigour and directness of Stephen Humphries’s Hooligans or Rebels? – yet at the same time shows greater objectivity and receptiveness to informants. It is a study well worth replicating elsewhere. There are few surprises – but no matter, for the book hits the reader between the eyes ...

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