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Big John

Frank Kermode, 19 March 1987

Little Wilson and Big God 
by Anthony Burgess.
Heinemann, 448 pp., £12.95, February 1987, 0 434 09819 1
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... The subtitle claims that this is ‘the First Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess’, who is officially known as John Burgess Wilson; and the book appears on the author’s 70th birthday, as part of his preparation for the coming encounter with Big God. There is, however, to be a Second Part, provisionally entitled You’ve had your time; we are told it will probably be even longer than this one, which takes the younger Wilson from birth to a midlife illness, falsely diagnosed as fatal ...

Trollopiad

John Sutherland, 9 January 1992

The Chronicler of Barsetshire: A Life of Anthony Trollope 
by R.H. Super.
Manchester, 528 pp., £29.95, July 1990, 0 472 10102 1
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Anthony Trollope: A Victorian in his World 
by Richard Mullen.
Duckworth, 767 pp., £25, July 1990, 0 7156 2293 5
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Trollope: A Biography 
by N. John Hall.
Oxford, 581 pp., £25, October 1991, 0 19 812627 1
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... be found throughout the three books, and one of the advantages of having them all to hand is that cross-checking is so rewarding (all are well indexed). The general level of accuracy is high, as far as I can judge. The only serious mistake I have found is in Mullen, who on page 642 states that ‘within a few days of completing An Old Man’s Love ...

Joining the Gang

Nicholas Penny: Anthony Blunt, 29 November 2001

Anthony Blunt: His Lives 
by Miranda Carter.
Macmillan, 590 pp., £20, November 2001, 0 333 63350 4
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... On the afternoon of 15 November 1979 the Prime Minister announced in the House of Commons that Anthony Blunt, retired Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, fellow of the British Academy, former director of the Courtauld Institute, and the most influential figure in the establishment of art history as an academic subject in this country had indeed, as Private Eye had intimated a week before, and as Fleet Street had long been whispering, spied for the Soviet Union ...

There are some limits Marlowes just won’t cross

Christopher Tayler: Banville’s Marlowe, 3 April 2014

The Black-Eyed Blonde 
by Benjamin Black.
Mantle, 320 pp., £16.99, February 2014, 978 1 4472 3668 9
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... an admirer of German Romanticism and 17th-century painting, a reimaginer of such figures as Anthony Blunt and Paul de Man, and a frequent raider of mathematics and cosmology, Banville is – no question – one of the fancy boys, sometimes verging on being a clever-clever darling. (‘As one of your most darkly glowing luminants has observed’ is the ...

Diary

Neal Ascherson: On A.J.P. Taylor, 2 June 1983

... in these pages that he found the whole affair boring – ‘cold mutton’, as he said about the Anthony Blunt affair. Perhaps he did. Historians are queer. Still, boredom is ruder than execration. I have nearly finished imitating A.J.P. Taylor’s rhythms now. Let me add this. I once wrote a whole book in what I conceived to be his style – short, choppy ...

History’s Revenges

Peter Clarke, 5 March 1981

The Illustrated Dictionary of British History 
edited by Arthur Marwick.
Thames and Hudson, 319 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 500 25072 3
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Who’s Who in Modern History, 1860-1980 
by Alan Palmer.
Weidenfeld, 332 pp., £8.50, October 1980, 0 297 77642 8
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... by right and the leading statesmen by merit. Thus Edward VI is shunted off in six lines, with a cross-reference to the Reformation, whereas Thomas Cromwell gets 21 lines to himself plus a separate entry under Tudor Revolution in Government. This may indicate the administrative path to editorial favour, for A.V. Dicey’s academic writings on the 19th ...

Full of Teeth

Patricia Beer, 20 July 1995

The Life of Graham Greene. Vol. II: 1939-55 
by Norman Sherry.
Cape, 562 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 224 02772 7
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Graham Greene: Three Lives 
by Anthony Mockler.
Hunter Mackay, 256 pp., £14.95, July 1994, 0 947907 01 7
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Graham Greene: Friend and Brother 
by Leopoldo Duran.
HarperCollins, 352 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 00 627660 1
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Graham Greene: The Man Within 
by Michael Shelden.
Minerva, 567 pp., £5.99, June 1995, 0 7493 1997 6
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... originally appeared in the summer and autumn of last year. The biographers are Norman Sherry, Anthony Mockler, Leopoldo Duran and Michael Shelden. The actual information they provide must by now be common knowledge among those who are at all interested in Greene, including those who have simply read the many highly communicative reviews, and in the basic ...

Bugger everyone

R.W. Johnson: The prime ministers 1945-2000, 19 October 2000

The Prime Minister: The Office and Its Holders since 1945 
by Peter Hennessy.
Allen Lane, 686 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 7139 9340 5
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... build an H-bomb, the angry ministers walked out. Above all, Churchill clung to office. He despised Anthony Eden, his heir apparent, who, he said, had ‘gone native’ among the ‘shuffling scuttlers’ at the Foreign Office. The last of the Yalta Big Three, he was determined to end the Cold War by personal diplomacy. The Cabinet was horrified to discover ...

From Norwich to Naples

Anthony Grafton, 28 April 1994

The Civilisation of Europe in the Renaissance 
by John Hale.
HarperCollins, 648 pp., £25, November 1993, 0 00 215339 4
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... resisted while others yielded, and still others were merged with foreign ones. Some efforts at cross-cultural communication bore less fruit than others. The marquetry and alabaster workers, master embroiderer and black African parrot-keeper that Charles VIII of France brought back from Italy in 1495 did not all leave a permanent impress on the world of the ...

Great Expectations of Themselves

Anthony Pagden: Was there a Spanish Empire?, 17 April 2003

Spain’s Road to Empire: The Making of a World 1492-1763 
by Henry Kamen.
Allen Lane, 609 pp., £25, November 2002, 0 7139 9365 0
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... wondered at than its ultimate collapse. This was never, as historians have so often depicted it, a cross between the Napoleonic or Austro-Hungarian Empire and the great colonial empires of the 19th century. It never had, as Rome had had, and France and Britain were to acquire, a metropolitan centre which, for the coloniser if not always for the ...

Besieged by Female Writers

John Pemble: Trollope’s Late Style, 3 November 2016

Anthony Trollope’s Late Style: Victorian Liberalism and Literary Form 
by Frederik Van Dam.
Edinburgh, 180 pp., £70, January 2016, 978 0 7486 9955 1
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... 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 ...

Unhoused

Terry Eagleton: Anonymity, 22 May 2008

Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature 
by John Mullan.
Faber, 374 pp., £17.99, January 2008, 978 0 571 19514 5
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... one’s sitting on it. If I say, ‘I promise to loan you five pounds,’ but as the words cross my lips have no intention of doing so, I have still promised. The promising is built into the situation. It is not a ghostly impulse in my skull. Authors can say the silliest things about their own stuff, which is one way in which they resemble critics. The ...

The Paranoid Elite

Michael Wood: DeLillo, 22 April 2010

Point Omega 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 117 pp., £14.99, March 2010, 978 0 330 51238 1
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... camera movement was a profound shift in space and time but the camera was not moving now. Anthony Perkins is turning his head. It was like whole numbers. The man could count the gradations in the movement of Anthony Perkins’s head.’ The film continues to run, or crawl, and two men enter the room – Elster and ...

Diary

Patrick Hughes: What do artists do?, 24 July 1986

... Graphics. So I have a little pile of pieces of paper with ‘ideas’ roughly drawn on them: a cross with a pirate flag, a ghost caught on barbed wire, an egg on a tightrope, a cage in prison. Next to me I have a tea trolley with paints and water on it. I draw the picture in pen and ink, colour it in: if it works, I frame it. I can do about three a day at ...

The Vicar of Chippenham

Christopher Haigh: Religion and the life-cycle, 15 October 1998

Birth, Marriage and Death: Ritual, Religion and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Oxford, 641 pp., £25, May 1998, 0 19 820168 0
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... some Catholic ceremonies, godly ministers might refuse to use a ring at weddings or to sign with a cross at baptisms: without these details, were couples properly married, or children properly christened? Couples themselves might object to a ring, or parents to a cross – and a conscientious minister might then report them ...

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