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Elisa Segrave: On the Pier at Key West, 18 April 1996

... ago; we are swimming in light, reflected on the sea. Just off the beach are three camper vans. Two young men come out, smoking cigarettes, looking as though they slept in their clothes. Further along, in a little park, I see two policemen talking to a small group who look as though they slept in the park. This reminds me again of my stay here in 1977, when the ...


Theo Tait: Beyond the Barnes persona, 1 September 2005

Arthur & George 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 360 pp., £17.99, July 2005, 0 224 07703 1
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... dazzle and bemuse the reader throughout with the knowledge and reminder that this is a very clever young person writing a very clever and witty novel’. The most obvious manifestation of this is the unmistakable Barnes narrator, wheeling out a curious fact or historical anecdote, and treating us every few lines to a wry aperçu or humorous sally or teasing ...

Medes and Persians

Paul Foot: The Government’s Favourite Accountants, 2 November 2000

... and the economy. Not so many know how much power they wield over the Government. The story of Arthur Andersen, and its burgeoning power, is especially interesting. Arthur Andersen is a proud survivor of the stampede of top accountancy firms to sue each other for alleged negligence in auditing and handling the accounts ...

Tricky Business

Megan Vaughan: The Middle Passage, 12 December 2002

The Diligent: A Voyage through the Worlds of the Slave Trade 
by Robert Harms.
Perseus, 466 pp., £17.99, February 2002, 1 903985 18 8
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... Harms has based his riveting account of the ‘worlds of the slave trade’ on a journal kept by a young lieutenant on the Diligent, Robert Durand, a document sold in the 1980s to the Beinecke Library at Yale, where Harms teaches. Historians have uncovered records of more than seventeen thousand slaving voyages in the 18th century, but, as Harms points ...

Oh, you clever people!

Tom Crewe: The Unrelenting Bensons, 20 April 2017

A Very Queer Family Indeed: Sex, Religion and the Bensons in Victorian Britain 
by Simon Goldhill.
Chicago, 337 pp., £24.50, October 2016, 978 0 226 39378 0
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... Arthur Benson​ never stopped dreaming about his father. Edward White Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury, dropped dead saying the Confession in 1896 – he sank onto his prayer cushion and didn’t get up again – but nearly twenty years later his son found him crouched in the cupboard under the stairs, dressed in his purple cassock and playing with some toys: ‘Papa … giggled; then he said: “But now that you have found me out, you must run down here as often as you can, and we will have a good game at something – You don’t know what fun it is ...

Little was expected of Annie

Dinah Birch: The Story of an English Family, 19 October 2006

Faith, Duty and the Power of Mind: The Cloughs and Their Circle 1820-1960 
by Gillian Sutherland.
Cambridge, 262 pp., £40, March 2006, 0 521 86155 1
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... their father’s financial difficulties, and his ebullient refusal to be defeated by them, the young Cloughs – Charles Butler, Arthur Hugh, Anne Jemima and George Augustus – learned to value independence and courage. Meanwhile, their mother equipped them with an appetite for learning, together with the scrupulous ...

So Much Smoke

Tom Shippey: King Arthur, 20 December 2018

King Arthurthe Making of the Legend 
by Nicholas Higham.
Yale, 380 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 0 300 21092 7
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... Modern academic historians​ want nothing to do with King Arthur. ‘There is no historical evidence about Arthur; we must reject him from our histories and, above all, from the titles of our books,’ David Dumville wrote in 1977; and he was backed up by, for instance, J.N.L. Myres in 1986: ‘No figure on the borderline of history and mythology has wasted more of the historian’s time ...

Renewing the Struggle

Penelope Fitzgerald: Edward White Benson, 18 June 1998

Father of the Bensons: The Life of Edward White Benson, Sometime Archbiship of Canterbury 
by Geoffrey Palmer and Noel Lloyd.
Lennard, 226 pp., £16.99, May 1998, 1 85291 138 7
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... least, of the story of her heart. (There is also a contemporary diary of Minnie’s for 1862-63.) Arthur Benson wrote four and a half million words of diaries, a book of family reminiscences, a family genealogy, lives of his father, his sister Maggie and his brother Hugh, and a memoir of his sister Nellie. Fred wrote Our Family Affairs, Mother, As we Were and ...

Gaol Fever

David Saunders-Wilson, 24 July 1986

Prisons and the Process of Justice 
by Andrew Rutherford.
Oxford, 217 pp., £5.95, June 1986, 0 19 281932 1
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Growing out of Crime: Society and Young People in Trouble 
by Andrew Rutherford.
Penguin, 189 pp., £3.95, January 1986, 0 14 022383 5
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... acceptable, at least within the confines of our television sets, and as a result perhaps beyond. Arthur Daley and his ‘Minder’, for example, are commonly regarded as harmless, comic, lovable folk heroes, who can be forgiven even if they do sometimes wander onto the wrong side of the law, and get in trouble with ‘the Bill’. Indeed, both George Cole ...

Beltz’s Beaux

D.A.N. Jones, 3 March 1983

by Sholom Aleichem, translated by Aliza Shevrin.
Weidenfeld, 222 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 297 78200 2
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A Coin in Nine Hands 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated by Dori Katz.
Aidan Ellis, 192 pp., £7.95, January 1983, 0 85628 123 9
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Entry into Jerusalem 
by Stanley Middleton.
Hutchinson, 172 pp., £7.50, January 1983, 0 09 150950 5
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People Who Knock on the Door 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 306 pp., £7.95, January 1983, 0 434 33521 5
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A Visit from the Footbinder 
by Emily Prager.
Chatto, 174 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 7011 2675 2
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by J.M. Coetzee.
Secker, 125 pp., £6.95, January 1983, 9780436102967
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... in Warsaw, telling him what a good girl she has been in fending off the attentions paid her by the young schlimazels on the train to Marienbad. Thus did Margery Pinchwife virtuously tell her old husband: ‘He put the tip of his tongue between my lips and so mousled me – and I said I’d bite it. He’s a proper goodly strong man; ’tis hard, let me tell ...

Abortion, Alienation, Anomie

Peter Medawar, 2 December 1982

Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary 
by Robert Nisbet.
Harvard, 318 pp., £12.25, November 1982, 0 674 70065 1
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... Great Chain which we find in Alexander Pope and which appears in a passage cited by Nisbet from Arthur Lovejoy: Vast chain of being; which from God began, Natures aetherial, human, angel, man, Beast, bird, fish, insect, what no eye can see, No glass can reach, from Infinite to thee ... Where, one step broken, the great scale’s destroy’d; From ...

Sonata for Second Fiddle

Penelope Fitzgerald, 7 October 1982

A Half of Two Lives: A Personal Memoir 
by Alison Waley.
Weidenfeld, 326 pp., £10.95, September 1982, 0 297 78156 1
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... The man whose tears she wiped away with a sock was the remote and fastidious Oriental scholar, Arthur Waley. At the time of this incident he was about sixty years old, ‘one of the most retiring men on earth, a typical scholar, whose real life is spent among his books and documents and about whose personality the public knows practically nothing’. This ...

How do we know her?

Hilary Mantel: The Secrets of Margaret Pole, 2 February 2017

Margaret Pole: The Countess in the Tower 
by Susan Higginbotham.
Amberley, 214 pp., £16.99, August 2016, 978 1 4456 3594 1
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... child; this last baby, like Isabel’s first child, did not live. Margaret would have been too young to remember her mother, and it is likely that she was brought up within her father’s princely household, then after his execution lived with her cousins, the many daughters of Edward IV. After Richard III seized the throne, he sent Margaret to Yorkshire ...

The Unlikeliest Loophole

Eamon Duffy: Catherine of Aragon, 28 July 2011

Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen 
by Giles Tremlett.
Faber, 458 pp., £9.99, April 2011, 978 0 571 23512 4
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... much of the known world. By these standards the betrothal of their fifth child to Prince Arthur of England was small beer. But not for England: the marriage of two successive heirs to the throne to the same daughter of the most formidable and militantly Christian monarchy in Europe represented the arriviste Tudor dynasty’s eager quest for ...


Susan McKay: Jean McConville, 19 December 2013

... and eyes scrunched up against the light. In the foreground, often cropped out, is her husband, Arthur. He is sitting down so you can’t see how tall he was. ‘They used to joke that 12 was their lucky number,’ their daughter Helen McKendry told me. ‘He was 12 years older than her, and 12 inches taller, and she had 12 pregnancies.’ Jean McConville ...

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