Jean McNicol

Jean McNicol is deputy editor of the LRB.

An article published in the Times just after the 1922 election which suspiciously lists some of the things organised by the ILP: ‘Socialist study circles, socialist economics classes, socialist music festivals, socialist athletics competitions, socialist choirs, socialist dramatic societies, socialist plays – these are only a few of the devious ways in which they attempted to reach the unconverted.’ There were also socialist Sunday schools, cycling and hiking clubs, several newspapers and, unsurprisingly, endless meetings. The city in 1915 was described by the Daily Herald as ‘a place of many meetings; a place rumbling with revolt ... I seemed to see a meeting at every street corner, and late in the evening the theatres poured forth huge masses of people who had been, not at entertainments, but at serious deliberations.’ There was a belief that the people, once properly informed, would seize the opportunity to control their own fate: ‘We are out for life and all that life can give us,’ the revolutionary John Maclean said at his trial for sedition in 1918.

The Angry Men: Harriet Harman

Jean McNicol, 14 December 2017

Harman was first elected to the shadow cabinet in 1992 and her account of her difficulties in her first job, as shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Gordon Brown’s deputy, are typical of the descriptions she gives of her ministerial career as a whole. She stresses her own inadequacy and failure in a way it’s almost impossible to imagine a man’s political memoir doing.

While the existence of Brooke’s correspondences with Noel Olivier and James Strachey was known – it was just that they couldn’t be read – another set of letters that no one since Eddie Marsh seems to have known about emerged in 2000, when a brown paper parcel given to the British Library in 1948 with a fifty-year time seal was opened. It contained a bundle of letters and a memoir with ‘A TRUE STORY’ typed on the title page.

At the NPG: ‘Virginia Woolf’

Jean McNicol, 11 September 2014

On​ 16 October​ 1940 the house in Tavistock Square in which Virginia Woolf had lived for 15 years was destroyed by a bomb. The first image in the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision (until 26 October), which claims to provide ‘a visual narrative akin to a portrait’ by looking at ‘telling ingredients in each period of her...

Julian Bell returned briefly to England in the spring of 1937. He was 29; he had been teaching in China for 18 months and was now determined to fight in Spain. Everyone knew this was his plan, or rather everyone except his mother, Vanessa, whom Julian had told that he might not go, that ‘of course it would depend on my persuading you.’ Perhaps he’d stay and work for the Labour...

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