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Prince of Darkness

Ian Aitken, 28 January 1993

Rupert Murdoch 
by William Shawcross.
Chatto, 616 pp., £18.99, September 1992, 0 7011 8451 5
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... This line of reasoning should, in logic, lead me to express admiration for the subject of William Shawcross’s enormous biography. For Rupert Murdoch is arguably the most successful, and certainly one of the most ruthlessly interfering, media moguls in the history of the world. Moreover, he shares Lord Beaverbrook’s colonial iconoclasm about ...

William Rodgers reads the papers

William Rodgers, 19 February 1987

The Market for Glory: Fleet Street Ownership in the 20th Century 
by Simon Jenkins.
Faber, 247 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 571 14627 9
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The End of the Street 
by Linda Melvern.
Methuen, 276 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 413 14640 5
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... round Hugh Gaitskell, seeking to burnish the Labour Party’s shabby image. Now, in 1987, Captain Maxwell does his best when not buying up industrial companies or running Oxford United. But it is not the same. The Mirror is cracked and the images confused. It is part of the history of the British press, but may not much belong to its future. To a ...

A Traveller in Residence

Mary Hawthorne, 13 November 1997

... on 42nd Street, then one as a fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar. A couple of years later, William Shawn hired her to write the ‘briefly noted’ reviews of historical novels and murder mysteries for the New Yorker. I asked people at the office who had known Maeve what she looked like when she arrived (strangely, I hadn’t been able to find any ...

Bard of Friendly Fire

Robert Crawford: The Radical Burns, 25 July 2002

Robert Burns: Poems 
edited by Don Paterson.
Faber, 96 pp., £4.99, February 2001, 0 571 20740 5
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The Canongate Burns: The Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns 
edited by Andrew Noble and Patrick Scott Hogg.
Canongate, 1017 pp., £40, November 2001, 0 86241 994 8
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... except as an ironic jab. Few poetic terms have shifted in significance so much. When, around 1500, William Dunbar called a rival Scottish poet an ‘Iersche brybour baird’, each word was a studied insult. ‘Iersche’ (Gaelic) was barbarous to Dunbar’s Lowland ear; a ‘brybour’ was a vagabond; a ‘baird’ was a limited sub-poet, not a ‘makar’. A ...

Goodbye to the Aether

Brian Pippard, 20 February 1986

Wranglers and Physicists: Studies in Cambridge Mathematical Physics in the 19th Century 
edited by P.M. Harman.
Manchester, 261 pp., £27.50, November 1985, 0 7190 1756 4
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... narrow: ‘the way in which the Mathematical Tripos at Cambridge shaped the physics of men such as William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) and James Clerk Maxwell’. Of course, nobody believes that even Cambridge in the early years of the last century was so inward-looking that the Tripos and Smith’s Prize examinations were ...

Uncle Max

Patricia Craig, 20 December 1984

The man who was M: The Life of Maxwell Knight 
by Anthony Masters.
Blackwell, 205 pp., £9.95, November 1984, 0 631 13392 5
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Unreliable Witness: Espionage Myths of the Second World War 
by Nigel West.
Weidenfeld, 166 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 297 78481 1
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The Great Betrayal: The Untold Story of Kim Philby’s Biggest Coup 
by Nicholas Bethell.
Hodder, 214 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 340 35701 0
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... announcing his subject’s date of birth; unlike most biographers, he gets it wrong. Charles Henry Maxwell Knight was born on 9 July 1900, not 4 September, under the sign of Cancer, not Virgo, however tempting it may be, for reasons which become clear in the course of the story, to assign him to the latter. Information about ...

My God, the Suburbs!

Colm Tóibín: John Cheever, 5 November 2009

Cheever: A Life 
by Blake Bailey.
Picador, 770 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 0 330 43790 5
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... a way to evade the daily spite he directed at all others, including his editor at the New Yorker, William Maxwell, who, he noted, bored him stiff. Federico got on with his father by not taking him seriously, by becoming his kid brother rather than his son, and then slowly becoming his father’s protector. ‘More and more,’ Bailey writes, ‘Federico ...

Ask Anyone in Canada

Neal Ascherson: Max Beaverbrook’s Mediations, 24 October 2019

Max Beaverbrook: Not Quite a Gentleman 
by Charles Williams.
Biteback, 566 pp., £25, June 2019, 978 1 84954 746 8
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... announce imminent triumph for parties that then lost elections – most spectacularly in 1945. William Maxwell (‘Max’) Aitken, born in 1879, was a restless son of the manse. His father was a Church of Scotland minister from Torphichen, near Linlithgow, who ended up ‘called’ to a congregation in New Brunswick. Max grew up in a heavily Scottish ...
... least this was Rowland’s version of what was happening – Murdoch has denied it.) Robert Maxwell is trying to buy a 10 per cent share in Fleet Holdings from the, Australian tycoon Robert Holmes a Court for £15.4 million, while another bidder – it’s not clear whether or not he is a rival to Maxwell – is an ...

A Hideous Skeleton, with Cries and Dismal Howlings

Nina Auerbach: The haunting of the Hudson Valley, 24 June 2004

Possessions: The History and Uses of Haunting in the Hudson Valley 
by Judith Richardson.
Harvard, 296 pp., £19.95, October 2003, 0 674 01161 9
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... legends aimed at tourists. When she does turn to literature – Washington Irving’s tales and Maxwell Anderson’s 1937 play High Tor – she is concerned with its subsequent resonance in regional folklore and history. Irving, she shows, poses as a chronicler of the spooky beings who haunt the Hudson Valley rather than their creator, thus giving his ...
... During my visit I am informed that this first-ever biography of Kadar was inspired by Robert Maxwell during a visit to Budapest. People talk about Mr Kadar with an affection that surprises me. ‘He says in public what he says in private,’ says an editor I meet at a party, who considers that as rare a trait among politicians as I do. On the day the ...

Miracle in a Ring-Binder

Glyn Maxwell: Aleksandar Hemon, 23 October 2008

The Lazarus Project 
by Aleksandar Hemon.
Picador, 294 pp., £14.99, August 2008, 978 0 330 45841 2
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... altogether looking like a working man. In the brief all-comprehensive glance he gave his caller, William P. Miller will write in the Tribune, Chief Shippy took in a cruel, straight mouth with thick lips and a pair of gray eyes that were at the same time cold and fierce. The living moment tumbles haplessly into newsprint. The framed immigrant’s Jewish kin ...

Among the Sandemanians

John Hedley Brooke, 25 July 1991

Michael Faraday: Sandemanian and Scientist 
by Geoffrey Cantor.
Macmillan, 359 pp., £40, May 1991, 0 333 55077 3
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... that one might expect to find is barely in evidence. Faraday, unlike such Oxbridge scientists as William Buckland, Adam Sedgwick or William Whewell, refrained from burdening science with proofs of design. As one who believed that knowledge of God was to be obtained through the plain teaching of Scripture, he regarded ...

Performing Seals

Christopher Hitchens: The PR Crowd, 10 August 2000

Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals 
by David Laskin.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., $26, January 2000, 0 684 81565 6
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... Howe, for example, gave no sexual trouble to anyone we know about. Nor indeed did Diana Trilling. William Phillips and William Barrett seem to have been uxorious or monastic by contrast to the friends whose hands they held at moments of crisis. Irving Kristol and Gertrude Himmelfarb are Philemon and Baucis, not Abelard and ...

Last Word

John Charap, 19 November 1981

The Physicists: A Generation that Changed the World 
by C.P. Snow.
Macmillan, 191 pp., £8.95, September 1981, 0 333 32228 2
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... The electromagnetic field, which it was the heroic achievement of Michael Faraday and Clerk Maxwell to discover in the middle of the 19th century, brought together in a unified complex the disparate phenomena of electricity and magnetism. Recognition came immediately of the electromagnetic character of light, and the prediction and then production of ...

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