Botanic Macaroni

Steven Shapin

Everybody wanted to meet Joseph Banks; everybody wanted to see the spoils of his voyage. He had been elected to the Royal Society even before the Endeavour voyage and now he was admitted to its inner circles. There were sparkling dinner parties; he became a member of the taste-­defining Society of Dilettanti and the Society of Antiquaries; and he was presented to the king, soon becoming a royal favourite and trusted adviser to the agriculturally obsess­ ed ‘Farmer George’. Banks came back a cad as well as a hero. Botany in the Linnaean mode was already considered a louche science in the late 18th century – all that unwholesome prying into the sex lives of plants – and the Encyclopaedia Britannica announced that ‘obscenity is the very basis of the Linnaean system.’ London satirists drew cartoons of Banks as a foppishly affected ‘Botanic Macaroni’ and as ‘The Fly Catching Macaroni’, while Gillray produced ‘The Great South Sea Caterpillar, Transform’d Into a Bath Butterfly’. But Banks brought a special frisson to the figure of the botanising voyager.

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On the Trail of Garibaldi

Tim Parks

He​ had two days to prepare. We’d been thinking about it for a year. Four thousand infantry had to be organised. Eight hundred cavalry. Mules, carts, munitions, medical services. A cannon. He was disappointed, having hoped ten thousand would follow him. There were two of us. We left from the same place, Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano, in Rome. He in 1849. We in 2019. On 2 July. The...


You’ll like it when you get there

Tom Crewe

Interviewees describe brown hotels, leaking holiday cottages, caravans, walks and pebbled beaches and fields. Some rapturously, some ruefully. ‘I remember thinking, as we arrived at the stationary caravan at the far end of a field in Cornwall, maybe this will be the year when it’s going to be exciting or exotic,’ one says. If you did venture overseas, overcoming material and psychological barriers (‘Darling, going abroad is vulgar,’ John Mullan’s mother told him), you usually carried Britain with you – tinned. When Eleanor Oldroyd and her family went to France in 1972 they took a can of baked beans for every day of the holiday, 21 in all; her mother fitted them ‘around the wheel arch in the boot, along with the tinned mince and tinned Campbell’s soup’. When Juliet Gardiner went to Le Bourget on a school exchange, she presented her penfriend’s mother with a box of cornflakes. Still, Abroad could be a revelation. Harry Ritchie, from Kirkcaldy, went to Majorca in 1969: ‘Being able to take your clothes off for a holiday, rather than having to put more on: that was wonderful in itself.’

From the blog

Goodbye to Hasankeyf

Arianne Shahvisi

10 August 2020

The ancient town of Hasankeyf has been wiped off the map. Nestled on the bank of the Tigris, it was one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the world, its artefacts dating back 12,000 years. You can still find it online and admire photographs of its spectacular ruins, or of the thousands of human-made caves that studded its limestone cliffs, but in real life it’s gone.

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The Suitcase: Part Two

Frances Stonor Saunders

Amemory​ of my father spreading a map on the warm bonnet of the car, catching at its flapping corners in awkward gusts of Welsh wind. We are on a camping holiday, we are lost, and he is trying to tame the map so we don’t get loster. The high, solid hedgerows obscure the view and are not marked on the map. Nor are the wild raspberries that grow in the hedgerows. Nor is the weather. Nor...

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Early Kermode

Stefan Collini

Ihadn’tbeen expecting to bump into Frank in one of the remoter stacks of the Cambridge University Library. This is where they keep the back numbers of old scholarly periodicals, a morgue only likely to be violated by those, like me, who now spend their days picking over the cairns left by academic labourers seventy years ago. And Frank Kermode had been dead for almost ten years...

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Sarah Moss

Blake Morrison

‘All day​ it has rained,’ goes a poem written by Alun Lewis in 1941, while he was stationed with the Royal Engineers in Hampshire, ready for war but not yet called to action. It’s a poem about being bored and being grateful for the boredom since worse is to come. ‘We talked of girls and dropping bombs on Rome.’ Beyond the humdrum detail – groundsheets,...


‘The Vanishing Half’

Joanna Biggs

‘Ihope the book gives you a sense of joy, something to immerse yourself in that is not the horrific news that we’ve been experiencing constantly and relentlessly since March,’ Brit Bennett said of her new novel. The Vanishing Half came out a week after George Floyd was choked to death on a Minneapolis sidewalk; the novel itself begins weeks after Martin Luther King was...

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Talking Politics: History of Ideas

After each episode of the new Talking Politics podcast, brought to you in partnership with the London Review of Books, continue your exploration of the history of ideas in our unrivalled archive of essays and reviews, films and podcasts.

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LRB Books: Collections and Selections

Rediscover classic pieces, recurring themes, and the dash the London Review of Books has cut through the history of ideas, for the past 40 years, with LRB Collections and now LRB Selections: two new series of collectible books.

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Good news from Bury Place!

We are delighted to announce that the London Review Bookshop has reopened its doors! For further details of how socially distanced browsing will work, visit the bookshop website. You can phone them on 020 7269 9030 to place a pre-paid order for collection, and they are once again talking orders via email or phone for international mail order. You can also order from a selection of booksellers’ favourites and lockdown picks online, via the London Review Book Box website. The Cake Shop is also back, for takeaway only, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. from Monday to Saturday. Stay tuned for news of upcoming digital events, and we hope to see you very soon. Thank you for your support.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

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