John Pemble

John Pemble is a senior research fellow at the University of Bristol. The Rome We Have Lost is coming out from Oxford next year.

For a long time​ Anthony Trollope was remembered as the civil servant who introduced the pillar box to Britain and wrote fiction in three-hour stints before breakfast, sitting in front of a clock to make sure he produced 250 words every 15 minutes. Most had heard of Barchester Towers, but few read it, and the rest was forgotten. Three-volume, double-plot novels about people in crinolines,...

Phantom Gold: Victorian Capitalism

John Pemble, 7 January 2016

An MP and financier​ dead from poison on Hampstead Heath; the secretary of a life insurance company in his office with his brains blown out; a stockbroker with his throat cut in a railway carriage in Grosvenor Road Station; a diamond magnate jumping overboard from a passenger liner in the mid-Atlantic: lurid with suicide, Victorian capitalism got a very bad press. In 1776 Adam Smith had...

Franco’s henchmen​ arrested Lorca in the summer of 1936, after he’d taken refuge in a private house in Granada. Having extracted a ‘confession’, they transferred him to nearby Víznar where, on 19 August, he and another prisoner were executed by firing squad. Hardly anyone believed Franco’s claim that Lorca had been killed in a skirmish (‘a natural...

The Man Who Never Glared: Disraeli

John Pemble, 5 December 2013

‘All actors want to play Disraeli, except fat ones,’ the American filmmaker Nunnally Johnson said. ‘It’s such a showy part – half Satan, half Don Juan, man of so many talents, he could write novels, flatter a queen, dig the Suez Canal. Present her with India. You can’t beat that, it’s better than Wyatt Earp.’ And it’s as good as Lord...

The scene had been too trying even for the practised headsman of the Tower. His arm wandered. The blow fell on the knot of the handkerchief, and scarcely broke the skin. She neither spoke nor moved. He struck again, this time effectively. The head hung by a shred of skin, which he divided without withdrawing the axe; and at once a metamorphosis was witnessed, strange as was ever wrought by...

Superior Persons

E.S. Turner, 6 February 1986

‘We travellers are in very hard circumstances,’ said Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. ‘If we tell anything new we are laughed at as fabulous.’ This mistrust of the footloose is...

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