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The Laying on of Hands

Alan Bennett, 7 June 2001

... his fiercely sharpened pencil) was the only one of the Board who had made him nervous (the Bishop was a sweetie), so it was a blessing that on this particular morning, thanks to Canon Treacher’s precautions, the priest remained unaware of his presence. The worst tack a priest could adopt at a service such as this, and a trap Treacher was pretty ...

Bertie and Alys and Ottoline

Alan Ryan, 28 May 1992

The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell. Vol. I: The Private Years, 1884-1914 
edited by Nicholas Griffin.
Allen Lane, 553 pp., £25, March 1992, 0 7139 9023 6
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... London School Board. Her third son, Algernon, was a Roman Catholic Priest, a Papal Chamberlain and Bishop of Emmaus. Lyulph was witty, encyclopedic and caustic. Algernon was witty, fat and greedy. Henry, the Mohommedan, was devoid of all family merits, and was, I think, the greatest bore I have ever known. They naturally spent a good deal of time discussing ...

Brutish Babies

David Wootton: Witchcraft, 11 November 1999

Shaman of Oberstdorf: Chonrad Stoeckhlin and the Phantoms of the Night 
by Wolfgang Behringer, translated by H.C.Erik Midelfort.
Virginia, 203 pp., £14.50, September 1998, 0 8139 1853 7
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Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe 
by Stuart Clark.
Oxford, 845 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 19 820001 3
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Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England 
by Alan Macfarlane.
Routledge, 368 pp., £55, April 1999, 0 415 19611 6
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The Bewitching of Anne Gunter: A Horrible and True Story of Football, Witchcraft, Murder and the King of England 
by James Sharpe.
Profile, 256 pp., £16.99, November 1999, 9781861970480
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... witch-hunt begins with a series of books published nearly thirty years ago by Hugh Trevor-Roper, Alan Macfarlane, Keith Thomas and Erik Midelfort. Until very recently, however, it was the history of trials on the Continent alone that seemed a lively subject, and in 1996 Diane Purkiss could still properly complain of ‘the torpor of English witchcraft ...

Double Doctrine

Colin Kidd: The Enlightenment, 5 December 2013

The Enlightenment and Why It Still Matters 
by Anthony Pagden.
Oxford, 436 pp., £20, May 2013, 978 0 19 966093 3
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... clerics such as John Robinson, the author of Honest to God, David Jenkins, the controversial bishop of Durham, the Scots Episcopalian bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway, and the Anglican atheist Don Cupitt belong more convincingly in liberal ranks than with authentic enemies of the Enlightenment on the Christian ...


Amanda Vickery: Vauxhall Gardens, 7 February 2013

Vauxhall Gardens: A History 
by Alan Borg and David Coke.
Yale, 473 pp., £55, June 2011, 978 0 300 17382 6
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... The business flourished for two centuries, finally closing in 1859. Vauxhall’s special status, Alan Borg and David Coke argue in this hefty antiquarian tome, lies in its originality as a commercial venture, the changes it triggered in the social and cultural life of London, the extreme heterogeneity of the mingling crowds, the mass audience the gardens ...


W.G. Runciman: Like a Prep School, 10 January 1991

... Labour peers by mistake, chuckle chuckle. In the first debate I attended, a speech was made by a bishop in full fig which I swear must have been scripted for him by Alan Bennett: as he delivered it, he actually performed the gesture of appearing to be washing his hands which I thought even the most unctuous prelates had ...

Winners and Wasters

Tom Shippey, 2 April 1987

The French Peasantry 1450-1660 
by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, translated by Alan Sheridan.
Scolar, 447 pp., £42.50, March 1987, 0 85967 685 4
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The Superstitious Mind: French Peasants and the Supernatural in the 19th Century 
by Judith Devlin.
Yale, 316 pp., £20, March 1987, 0 300 03710 4
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... classes’. And the close, detailed, day-by-day written evidence, strikingly preserved in the Bishop of Pamier’s Inquisition Register, or the anonymous reports of the Archives Départementales de l’Isère, is simply not available. How can a ‘way of life’ be reconstructed? The answer is: largely through statistics. This book – Volume Two of the ...

Dog Days

Stan Smith, 11 January 1990

Plays and Other Dramatic Writings by W.H. Auden, 1928-1938 
edited by Edward Mendelson.
Faber, 680 pp., £25, July 1989, 0 571 15115 9
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... detective work of Edward Mendelson, repeatedly exemplify this association. The Enemies of a Bishop (1929), published here for the first time, ends with Robert Bicknell shooting his Spectre, a crime the village policeman greets with typical equanimity: Policeman: Ee’s dead. ’Oo is ’e? Robert: My spectre. I had one. Policeman: That’s ...

Poor Dear, How She Figures!

Alan Hollinghurst: Forster and His Mother, 3 January 2013

The Journals and Diaries of E.M. Forster Volumes I-III 
edited by Philip Gardner.
Pickering and Chatto, 813 pp., £275, February 2011, 978 1 84893 114 5
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... and then ‘the sea full of floating brown pennies of oil’, an image and a phrase Elizabeth Bishop might not have disdained, with its quiet metaphorical swell. The rhythms and play of sounds, the subtle presence of things remembered in things seen, convey a genius for observation that one doesn’t think of as Forsterian. The ...

Go to the Devil

David Carpenter: Richard II, 22 July 2010

Richard II: Manhood, Youth and Politics, 1377-99 
by Christopher Fletcher.
Oxford, 336 pp., £24.95, August 2010, 978 0 19 959571 6
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... settlement. Between 1390 and 1397 he was building up his retinue (the subject, incidentally, of Alan Bennett’s sadly abandoned doctoral thesis) and intervening in local quarrels so as to support friends and punish enemies. His second marriage and an expedition to Ireland both helped affirm his manly status. ‘Now, more than ever,’ Fletcher tells ...

Act like Men, Britons!

Tom Shippey: Celticity, 31 July 2008

The History of the Kings of Britain 
by Geoffrey of Monmouth, edited by Michael Reeve, translated by Neil Wright.
Boydell, 307 pp., £50, November 2007, 978 1 84383 206 5
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The History of the Kings of Britain 
by Geoffrey of Monmouth.
Broadview, 383 pp., £8.99, January 2008, 978 1 55111 639 6
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... such a book? Faletra points out that Geoffrey has been thought responsible, in his capacity as Bishop of St Asaph’s, for compiling the Book of Llandaff, a collection of Welsh charters and other documents. Perhaps he had seen or owned something similar but older. His ‘Prophecies of Merlin’, rehashed here as Book 7 of the History and later expanded as ...

People Like You

David Edgar: In Burnley, 23 September 2021

On Burnley Road: Class, Race and Politics in a Northern English Town 
by Mike Makin-Waite.
Lawrence and Wishart, 274 pp., £17, May, 978 1 913546 02 1
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... describes the challenges of serving the BNP as a council employee. Should he agree to send Alan rather than Abdul to service BNP councillors’ computers? Absolutely not. What should be done when the BNP issued leaflets accusing the council of employment discrimination in favour of Asians? He should tell the BNP that they were wrongly claiming the ...


Tobias Jones: Campaigning at the Ministry of Sound, 6 March 1997

... the music inside will come from Creation Records, the label which launched Oasis, whose founder, Alan McGee, gave Blair a cool £10,000 to nurture Young Labour and pay for the Youth Rally in Blackpool; it was the same McGee who presented Blair with the band’s platinum disk, and gave the now legendary riposte to Virginia Bottomley when invited to a bash for ...


Alan Bennett: My 2006, 4 January 2007

... until some Scottish woman in the course of telling off the novelist Mark Haddon accuses him of ‘Alan Bennettish tweeness’. It’s not a serious injury to my self-esteem but rather as if someone passing me in the street has just turned back to give me a flying kick up the bum and then gone on their way. I hope for some mild objection from one of the other ...

Sailing Scientist

Steven Shapin: Edmund Halley, 2 July 1998

Edmond Halley: Charting the Heavens and the Seas 
by Alan Cook.
Oxford, 540 pp., £29.50, December 1997, 0 19 850031 9
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... colleague who declined to drink with him on a Friday that he ‘had a Pope in his belly’. When Bishop Stillingfleet sent round his chaplain to vet Halley’s orthodoxy, the astronomer sent him away with a flea in his ear: ‘I declare myself a Christian and hope to be treated as such.’ Contemporary gossip put it about that he had slept with the wife of a ...

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