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Down, don, down

John Sutherland, 6 August 1992

Decline of Donnish Dominion 
by A.H. Halsey.
Oxford, 344 pp., £40, March 1992, 0 19 827376 2
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Millikan’s School: A History of the California Institute of Technology 
by Judith Goodstein.
Norton, 317 pp., £17.95, October 1991, 0 393 03017 2
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... the previously disenfranchised (although that was part of it): more graduates meant more GNP. The Wilson Government which inherited Robbins (originally a One-Nation Tory initiative) identified itself strongly with the optimistic view that higher education was the locomotive of economic growth. Thatcherism took an opposite view. It saw no correlation between ...

In Herne Bay

Brian Dillon: Duchamp, 29 August 2013

... In 1912, his Nude Descending a Staircase had been rejected by the hanging committee of the Salon des Indépendants in Paris; when the painting appeared in New York at the Armory Show the next year, the New York Times declared it ‘an explosion in a shingle factory’. It seemed he had a succès de scandale on his hands, but he wasn’t yet ready to make ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: ‘The ARRSE Guide’, 1 December 2011

... like when talking to itself. The editor is the mysterious (but no doubt highly decorated) Major Des Astor, and he gets us off to a gentle start. ‘The first time you meet members of the British army, you could easily be forgiven for thinking that rather than a big cohesive whole, what you’ve actually come across is a group of fiercely xenophobic ...

The water-doctors vanish

E.S. Turner: The social history of British spas, 4 June 1998

British Spas from 1815 to the Present Day: A Social History 
by Phyllis Hembry and Leonard Cowie.
Athlone, 292 pp., £50, June 1997, 0 485 11502 6
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... this a spa?’ the valetudinarian out of Europe might say. ‘Where is your Grand Parc des Sources? Where are your salles de pulvérisation? And your first-class gargling-room? Have you no radioactive muds? We do not ask for dew-treading meadows, but what about a quiet garden with rows of brine-soaked hedges?’ The hard truth is that Britons lost ...

Forged, Forger, Forget

Nicholas Spice: Peter Carey, 5 August 2010

Parrot and Olivier in America 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 451 pp., £18.99, February 2010, 978 0 571 25329 6
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... Not many readers will get the allusion here to Tocqueville and Beaumont in America by George Wilson Pierson, published in 1938 and for a long time the standard account of the nine-month journey which Tocqueville undertook with his friend Gustave de Beaumont, ostensibly for the purpose of writing a report on the American prison system, but which also gave ...

On Hope Mirrlees

Clair Wills, 10 September 2020

... RUE DU BAC (DUBONNET)            SOLFERINO (DUBONNET)            CHAMBRE DES DEPUTESBrekekekek coax coax we are passing under the Seine                        DUBONNETThe Scarlet Woman shouting BYRRH and deafeningSt John at Patmos                        Vous descendez Madame?   QUI SOUVENT SE PESE BIEN SE ...

One French City

Lydia Davis, 12 August 2021

... on their way from the daycare centre: his name, in Latin form, was Hugonicus Davidis.The Rue des CarmesThere is a short street near the place de la République called the rue des Carmes. It has a dog-leg bend in it, and just at the bend is the doorway of a bookshop specialising in small-press poetry books. You learn ...

Little Lame Balloonman

August Kleinzahler: E.E. Cummings, 9 October 2014

E.E. Cummings: The Complete Poems, 1904-62 
edited by George James Firmage.
Liveright, 1102 pp., £36, September 2013, 978 0 87140 710 8
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E.E. Cummings: A Life 
by Susan Cheever.
Pantheon, 209 pp., £16, February 2014, 978 0 307 37997 9
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... Dylan Thomas, Octavio Paz, Louis Zukofsky and Charles Olson. As did any number of critics: Edmund Wilson, Harry Levin, Jacques Barzun, Lionel Trilling, Guy Davenport. Were all of them hornswoggled, taken in by the surface polish and acrobatics of Cummings’s style and, those who knew him, by his great personal charm, unable to register the paucity of ...


Patrick Mauriès: Halfway between France and Britain, 3 November 1983

... to read them. One must acknowledge, however, that Richard Cobb is not Frank Kermode, nor Angus Wilson D.P. Walker. I had come knowing what Britain’s preconceived ideas were: her pragmatism and refusal of abstraction, her solitary traditions and diehard taste for erudition and travail honnête, however ungratifying; knowing, too, that my stock of clichés ...


Daniel Finn: IRA Splinter Groups, 30 April 2009

... weren’t good. The world’s oldest anti-colonial tradition wasn’t showing much fresh thinking. Des Dalton, the vice president of Republican Sinn Féin, spent most of his time on the platform reading passages from Eire Nua, a programme drafted by the Provos in the early 1970s. There was no attempt to explain how that document (a rather charming vision of an ...

Out of Babel

Michael Hofmann: Thomas Bernhard Traduced, 14 December 2017

Collected Poems 
by Thomas Bernhard, translated by James Reidel.
Chicago, 459 pp., £25, June 2017, 978 0 85742 426 6
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... exquisitely bound volume from Notting Hill Editions, with a justly amused introduction by Frances Wilson: ‘Few writers have received more applause than Thomas Bernhard, Austrian novelist, playwright and enfant terrible, and few have bitten more sharply the hand that clapped.’ But, still staggering on, the effort continues. James Reidel, who in 2006 ...

Performing Art

Rosalind Krauss: The Sanctification of Rebecca Horn, 12 November 1998

Rebecca Horn: The Glance of Infinity 
edited by Carl Haenlein.
Scalo, 400 pp., £47.50, January 1997, 3 931141 66 7
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... weaving the naked body through a world of charged theatrical props (Richard Foreman, Robert Wilson) and exploring sado-masochism reminiscent of Surrealism (Gina Pane, Valie Export). Given the ephemerality of ‘performance’ as a medium, it was natural that these artists would either turn to a recording medium like video or film, or attempt to ...

‘Because I am French!’

Ruth Scurr: Marie Antoinette’s Daughter, 3 July 2008

Marie-Thérèse: The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter 
by Susan Nagel.
Bloomsbury, 418 pp., £25, July 2008, 978 1 59691 057 7
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... published in France in 1817, the princess’s prison journal was translated into English by John Wilson Croker in 1823. Croker noted that several passages are obscure, and one or two contradictory: there are frequent repetitions, and a general want of arrangement. All these, which would be defects in a regular history, increase the value of this ...


Peter Wollen: Tank by Patrick Wright, 16 November 2000

Tank: The Progress of a Monstrous War Machine 
by Patrick Wright.
Faber, 499 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 571 19259 9
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... When they arrived they were tested on a field rented by one of the Committee, Walter Gordon Wilson, a specialist in gearboxes and a brilliant mechanical engineer. Swinton had the initial vision: Wilson made it into reality. In June 1915 Swinton, still unaware of the existence of the Landships Committee, wrote a ...
From Author to Reader: A Social Study of Books 
by Peter Mann.
Routledge, 189 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 7100 9089 7
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David Copperfield 
by Charles Dickens, edited by Nina Burgis.
Oxford, 781 pp., £40, March 1981, 0 19 812492 9
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Martin Chuzzlewit 
by Charles Dickens, edited by Margaret Cardwell.
Oxford, 923 pp., £45, December 1982, 0 19 812488 0
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Books and their Readers in 18th-Century England 
edited by Isabel Rivers.
Leicester University Press, 267 pp., £15, July 1982, 0 7185 1189 1
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Mumby’s Publishing and Bookselling in the 20th Century 
by Ian Norrie.
Bell and Hyman, 253 pp., £12.95, October 1982, 0 7135 1341 1
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Reading Relations 
by Bernard Sharratt.
Harvester, 350 pp., £18.95, February 1982, 0 7108 0059 2
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... publishers’ archives. But we still lack anything comparable to the German Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens. Nor does Britain have an equivalent to John Tebbel’s multivolume history of American publishing. The student of the subject in this country (particularly if he is interested in contemporary matters) will find himself dredging through the pages ...

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