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Diary

Stephen Smith: Encounters at Holy Cross, 18 November 1993

... blur of his mufti. ‘Are you filming?’ he said. ‘Filming what?’ said the cameraman, James Nicholas. The priest said: ‘Please don’t show this family.’ James reached along the stock of the camera and flicked a switch. Trimming what you film has become second nature in the province. Camera crews do not favour the faces of RUC officers; the cabbies ...

Shakespeare the Novelist

John Sutherland, 28 September 1989

The Vision of Elena Silves 
by Nicholas Shakespeare.
Collins, 263 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 00 271031 5
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Billy Bathgate 
by E.L. Doctorow.
Macmillan, £11.95, September 1989, 0 333 51376 2
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Buffalo Afternoon 
by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer.
Hamish Hamilton, 535 pp., £12.95, August 1989, 0 241 12634 7
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The Message to the Planet 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 563 pp., £13.95, October 1989, 0 7011 3479 8
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... under Deng Xiaoping. The Senderistas own no allies, hold dialogue with no one. According to Nicholas Shakespeare, they accept no funds from abroad and their weapons of choice are stolen guns and hand-made beer-can bombs hurled from slings made of llama hair. Theirs will be one revolution without the AK-47. The elusive and wholly intransigent character ...

Per Ardua

Paul Foot, 8 February 1996

In the Public Interest 
by Gerald James.
Little, Brown, 339 pp., £18.99, December 1995, 0 316 87719 0
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... to know. He had met Denis Thatcher and Mark at an arms fair. He had several times come across Stephen Tipping, Mark’s ambitious and thrusting partner in the defence business. No establishment door was shut to him. Naturally, James was very right-wing. He’d been a disciple, he still boasts, of George Kennedy Young, an MI6 agent who became deputy ...

Ne me touchez pas

Nicholas Spice: Debussy’s Mission, 24 October 2019

Debussy: A Painter in Sound 
by Stephen Walsh.
Faber, 368 pp., £15.99, March 2018, 978 0 571 33016 4
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Claude Debussy: A Critical Biography 
by François Lesure, translated by Marie Rolf.
Rochester, 478 pp., £40, June 2019, 978 1 58046 903 6
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... appear more decorative than radical. The shock of the new is hard to feel at a distance, but as Stephen Walsh observes, we expect the music of the modernist generation, of whom Debussy was the first, to be difficult, abstruse, even rebarbative. The works of Schoenberg, Webern, Stravinsky and Bartók continue to present us with a residue of ...

Diary

Alan Hollinghurst: In Houston, 18 March 1999

... buildings there. Houston’s Pevsner, and my main means of imaginative entry to the city, is Stephen Fox, a professor at both the large and unlovely University of Houston, where I am teaching, and the élite Rice University, which has a beautiful campus laid out by the Boston architect Ralph Adams Cram just before the Great War; Cram’s original ...

The Rack, the Rapier, the Ruff and the Fainting Nun

Nicholas Penny: Manet/Velázquez, 10 July 2003

Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting 
by Gary Tinterow and Geneviève Lacambre et al.
Yale, 592 pp., £50, March 2003, 0 300 09880 4
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... on the walls was a large picture, exquisitely painted by Spagnoletto,’ of the martyrdom of St Stephen. The Spanish school evoked the rack, the rapier, the ruff, the spiral ebony chair-leg and the fainting nun, and a world that was now sufficiently distant or in decline (in The Antiquary it is the invasion of Bonaparte, not the Jacobites, for which beacons ...

Haley’s Comet

Paul Driver, 6 February 1997

The Envy of the World: Fifty Years of the BBC Third Programme and Radio 3 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Weidenfeld, 431 pp., £25, September 1996, 0 297 81720 5
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... in the press, though it had already sent itself up in its inaugural programme, How to Listen, by Stephen Potter and Joyce Grenfell – the first of many satires, including Henry Reed’s high-camp Hilda Tablet comedies and Third Division, the comedy show that turned into the Goons. But mostly the press response was respectful. The social and political ...

Mastering the Art of Understating Your Wealth

Thomas Keymer: The Tonsons, 5 May 2016

The Literary Correspondences of the Tonsons 
edited by Stephen Bernard.
Oxford, 386 pp., £95, March 2015, 978 0 19 870085 2
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... champion of Blenheim (1712), an eye-catching edition of Shakespeare by the future Whig laureate Nicholas Rowe (1709) and Addison’s heavily ideological tragedy Cato (1713), for which he paid more than £100 before the play was even performed. Godfrey Kneller’s Kit Cat Club portraits, clockwise from top left: Jacob Tonson (1717); Robert Walpole ...

The Obdurate Knoll

Colin Kidd: The Obdurate Knoll, 1 December 2011

Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan 
by Jeff Greenfield.
Putnam, 434 pp., £20.25, March 2011, 978 0 399 15706 6
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11.22.63 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 740 pp., £19.99, November 2011, 978 1 4447 2729 6
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... most significant character, alluded to in the title, is an assassination historian at the CIA, Nicholas Branch, who is overwhelmed by the sheer mass of sources he spends his life judiciously sifting. For most, however, the temptation to reach a conclusion counter to the Warren version has proved irresistible. Charles McCarry’s The Tears of Autumn ...

On a par with Nixon

Stephen Alford: Bad Queen Bess?, 17 November 2016

Bad Queen Bess? Libels, Secret Histories, and the Politics of Publicity in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I 
by Peter Lake.
Oxford, 497 pp., £35, January 2016, 978 0 19 875399 5
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Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years 
by John Guy.
Viking, 494 pp., £25, May 2016, 978 0 670 92225 3
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... coexistence in Elizabethan court politics of essential harmony and potential rivalry. Nicholas Hilliard’s portrait of Robert Dudley (1576) The limitations on Elizabethan governance were not different from those faced by many governments in other times and places. The queen’s advisers sought plausible, easy and cheap solutions to ...

Costa del Pym

Nicholas Spice, 4 July 1985

Crampton Hodnet 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 216 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 0 333 39129 2
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Foreign Land 
by Jonathan Raban.
Harvill, 352 pp., £9.50, June 1985, 0 00 222918 8
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Black Marina 
by Emma Tennant.
Faber, 157 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 9780571134670
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... at which it can manageably be renounced altogether. For example, when, near the end of the novel, Stephen Latimer declares that he has fallen in love, genuinely and for real, Miss Morrow’s response is ‘Oh, I see.’ Barbara Pym continues: ‘Miss Morrow had difficulty in keeping her disappointment out of her voice. She had somehow expected something less ...

Inspector of the Sad Parade

Nicholas Spice, 4 August 1994

A Way in the World 
by V.S. Naipaul.
Heinemann, 369 pp., £14.99, May 1994, 0 434 51029 7
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... exception that proves the rule. ‘It was that I had no gift. I had no natural talent,’ he tells Stephen Schiff in a recent New Yorker profile. ‘I had to learn it. Having to learn it, I became my own man.’ And, in A Way in the World: ‘I had had to learn to write from scratch, almost in the way a man has to learn to walk and use his body again ...

Wordsworth and the Well-Hidden Corpse

Marilyn Butler, 6 August 1992

The Lyrical Ballads: Longman Annotated Texts 
edited by Michael Mason.
Longman, 419 pp., £29.99, April 1992, 0 582 03302 0
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Strange Power of Speech: Wordsworth, Coleridge and Literary Possession 
by Susan Eilenberg.
Oxford, 278 pp., £30, May 1992, 0 19 506856 4
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The Politics of Nature: Wordsworth and Some Contemporaries 
by Nicholas Roe.
Macmillan, 186 pp., £35, April 1992, 0 333 52314 8
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... could expose Mason to comparison, not only with two serious recent biographies, of Wordsworth by Stephen Gill and of Coleridge by Richard Holmes, but with Susan Eilenberg’s persuasive book-length treatment of this very subject. Mason underplays the psychological interest of Wordsworth’s unceremonious takeover of the second edition, and (surely) its ...

Persons Aggrieved

Stephen Sedley, 22 May 1997

... not being a person, could not be a fit person of full age. One of the judges, Sir James Fitz-james Stephen, applied the same reasoning that had been used in relation to the franchise: because women had never been able to hold public office, clearer language than this would be needed to change things. (It was the same judge who not long afterwards and without a ...

Trust the Coroner

John Bossy: Why Christopher Marlowe was probably not a spy, 14 December 2006

Christopher Marlowe: Poet and Spy 
by Park Honan.
Oxford, 421 pp., £25, October 2005, 0 19 818695 9
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... capital ‘R’, means Calvinist. The historian of the Jews in England was Cecil Roth, not Philip. Stephen Gosson never became a Catholic monk. Michel de Castelnau, the French ambassador, did not ‘trust’ that Elizabeth could be assassinated, and his secretary, Courcelles, did not become an English mole. (I confess that I said he did, but withdrew the ...

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