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Call me Ismail

Thomas Jones: Wu Ming, 18 July 2013

Altai 
by Wu Ming, translated by Shaun Whiteside.
Verso, 263 pp., £16.99, May 2013, 978 1 78168 076 6
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... looking back from 1555. A student at Wittenberg, he becomes a follower of the radical theologian Thomas Müntzer after witnessing a dispute between Müntzer and Martin Luther; Luther Blissett is very much not on his namesake’s side. The narrator’s story begins a few years later, in medias res, at Frankenhausen on 15 May 1525, when Philip of Hesse’s ...

Collectivism

Richard Jenkyns, 3 April 1997

Art and the Victorian Middle Class: Money and the Making of Cultural Identity 
by Dianne Sachko Macleod.
Cambridge, 375 pp., £65, October 1996, 0 521 55090 4
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... at whose table there was only bottled beer to drink, and no pudding followed the meat; devout Thomas Combe, whose patronage of the Pre-Raphaelites was part and parcel of his High Churchmanship (it was he who commissioned Holman Hunt’s Light of the World); the obsessive Thomas Plint, whose death at the age of 38 left ...

Awfully Present

Thomas Jones: The Tambora Eruption, 5 February 2015

Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World 
by Gillen D’Arcy Wood.
Princeton, 293 pp., £19.95, April 2014, 978 0 691 15054 3
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... as not especially consequential. In Volcanoes: Crucibles of Change (1997), Richard Fisher, Grant Heiken and Jeffrey Hulen devote only half a sentence to it: ‘The dust cloud … lasted less than two years, and its effects upon the environment, though harmful to people, were short-lived.’ But Wood, who intends no hyperbole in his subtitle, makes a ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Meaney: Ersatz Tyrants, 4 May 2017

... rejects the views of more than half the population, and was redesigned, starting in the 1890s, to grant state legislatures the power to restrict the access of third parties to the ballot? ‘Learn from peers in other countries,’ Snyder writes, but nowhere does he mention several of the countries which themselves have, or recently had, Trump-like ...

Stalker & Co

Damian Grant, 20 November 1986

... truth and justice in their own case, to find the trail silently erased by the thin blue line? Sir Thomas Browne wrote of the hazard of fame in Urne Buriall: ‘but the iniquity of oblivion blindely scattereth her poppy.’ It is the oblivion of iniquity that defines our contemporary predicament. Milan Kundera is one of those writers from Eastern Europe who ...

Whitlam Fictions

Zachary Leader, 16 February 1989

Kisses of the Enemy 
by Rodney Hall.
Faber, 622 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 0 571 15091 8
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Postcards from Surfers 
by Helen Garner.
Bloomsbury, 180 pp., £11.95, January 1989, 0 7475 0272 2
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Forty-Seventeen 
by Frank Moorhouse.
Faber, 175 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 571 15210 4
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... newly-formed Australia Council. Behind established international figures such as Patrick White, Thomas Keneally and now Peter Carey crowds a small army – a second wave, as it were – of grant-garlanded and prize-bedecked novelists and storytellers, many of whom, especially those whose reputations derive initially from ...

Types of Ambiguity

Conrad Russell, 22 January 1987

War, Taxation and Rebellion in Early Tudor England: Henry VIII, Wolsey and the Amicable Grant of 1525 
by G.W. Bernard.
Harvester, 164 pp., £25, August 1986, 0 7108 1126 8
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Reassessing the Henrician Age: Humanism, Politics and Reform 1500-1550 
by Alistair Fox and John Guy.
Blackwell, 242 pp., £22.50, July 1986, 0 631 14614 8
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The Union of England and Scotland 1603-1608 
by Bruce Galloway.
John Donald, 208 pp., £20, May 1986, 0 85976 143 6
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Stuart England 
edited by Blair Worden.
Phaidon, 272 pp., £25, October 1986, 0 7148 2391 0
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... theme around which it will revolve. Dr Bernard’s book is devoted to the failure of the Amicable Grant of 1525. This unfortunately-named levy was designed to allow Henry VIII to take advantage of the defeat and capture of the King of France to prosecute his French claims. The title was not just a piece of newspeak: it expressed a crucial ambiguity in Late ...

During the war and after the war

J.R. Pole, 11 January 1990

Oxford History of the United States. Vol. VI: Battle Cry of Freedom, The Civil War Era 
by James McPherson.
Oxford, 904 pp., $35, June 1988, 0 19 503863 0
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Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 
by Eric Foner.
Harper and Row, 690 pp., $21.95, April 1988, 0 06 015851 4
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... fearful battles of the spring of 1864 threw everything into new confusion and doubt. That was why Grant said he would ‘fight it out on this line all summer if necessary’. It is wrong, as McPherson shows, to think that Grant sought a war of attrition: he was presented with it, and knew that he could not afford to ...

Portrait of the Scottish Poor

Rosalind Mitchison, 5 June 1980

The State of the Scottish Working Class in 1843 
by Ian Levitt and Christopher Smout.
Scottish Academic Press, 284 pp., £7.50, December 1979, 0 7073 0247 1
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... prices, wages, amenities, facilities for saving and social policy. The authors, supported by a grant from the Social Science Research Council, have analysed the replies with the aid of the SPSS computer programme and mapped the results. They have then set out to display and discuss the total picture. Proffessor Smout’s is the most original and creative ...

Diary

John Sutherland: The crisis in academic publishing, 22 January 2004

... publisher absolutely nothing. The writing costs are picked up by the employing university and by grant and fellowship-awarding bodies who expect no financial return. The publisher’s payments to the author – before and after delivery – are nugatory. CUP, for example, has been known to offer first-time contracts (for books with a predictable sale of a ...

All Together Now

Richard Jenkyns, 11 December 1997

Abide with Me: The World of Victorian Hymns 
by Ian Bradley.
SCM, 299 pp., £30, June 1997, 9780334026921
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The English Hymn: A Critical and Historical Study 
by J.R. Watson.
Oxford, 552 pp., £65, July 1997, 0 19 826762 2
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... few hymnodists who have been accepted or half-accepted into the literary canon – George Herbert, Thomas Ken, Watts, Charles Wesley – but many less celebrated names, such as Sir Robert Grant, William Walsham How, William Chatterton Dix: Grant (‘O worship the King, all glorious ...

What sort of man?

P.N. Furbank, 18 August 1994

The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson. Vol. I: 1854-April 1874 
edited by Bradford Booth and Ernest Mehew.
Yale, 525 pp., £29.95, July 1994, 0 300 05183 2
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The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson. Vol. II: April 1874-July 1879 
edited by Bradford Booth and Ernest Mehew.
Yale, 352 pp., £29.95, July 1994, 0 300 06021 1
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... to ‘beastly’, his ‘constipation’ to ‘indigestion’ and his ‘God grant’ to ‘I only hope’. His own labours came to an end with the five volumes of letters in the Tusitala edition of 1924, since when innumerable further letters have turned up. Plenty of need, then, for a new edition, and the task was undertaken as far back ...

Is it a crime?

P.N. Furbank, 6 June 1985

Peterley Harvest: The Private Diary of David Peterley 
edited by Michael Holroyd.
Secker, 286 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 0 436 36715 7
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... or even Vermeer-forging, sense. Some gentlemanly code of ethics enfolds the activities of Thomas Wise and his fellows. As for purely literary, as opposed to bibliographical forgery, it receives no censure at all. Indeed, it receives rather high esteem. James Crossley, the distinguished 19th-century antiquarian and bibliographer, plumed himself on ...

‘Kek kek! kokkow! quek quek!’

Barbara Newman: Chaucer’s Voices, 21 November 2019

Chaucer: A European Life 
by Marion Turner.
Princeton, 599 pp., £30, April 2019, 978 0 691 16009 2
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... Every age​ creates its own Chaucer. For Eustache Deschamps, a contemporary, he was the ‘grant translateur’. For Hoccleve, a disciple, he was ‘my deere maistir’ and ‘the firste fyndere [inventive poet] of our fair langage’. The 15th century revered him for his eloquence, while the 20th century gave us many Chaucers: genial naif, apostle of courtly love, austere Augustinian moralist, sycophantic courtier, ironist and, not least, duelling misogynist and feminist versions ...

Self-Extinction

Russell Davies, 18 June 1981

Short Lives 
by Katinka Matson.
Picador, 366 pp., £2.50, February 1981, 9780330262194
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... anecdote casting the artist in the role of perpetual adolescent. Nobody doubts that Dylan Thomas died of drink and a regressive, infantile personality: but the thing that is remembered about his last days is a remark (‘I’ve just had 18 straight whiskies, I think that’s the record’) which superbly typifies the kind of thing his public would ...

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