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Toot Sweet

Ian Aitken, 27 May 1993

Tired and Emotional: The life of George Brown 
by Peter Paterson.
Chatto, 320 pp., £20, May 1993, 0 7011 3976 5
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... for the simple reason that he would probably have beaten Wilson in the ballot to succeed Hugh Gaitskell after the latter’s unexpected death in 1963. That he didn’t win that contest was almost entirely due to the justified anxiety of many right-wing and middle-of-the-road Labour MPs about George’s uncontrolled drinking, and their knowledge that ...

On the Lower Slopes

Stefan Collini: Greene’s Luck, 5 August 2010

Shades of Greene: One Generation of an English Family 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 580 pp., £25, August 2010, 978 0 224 07921 1
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... As this suggests, the book takes an indulgent view of local colour. When one of the Greenes (Hugh) was involved in interviewing captured Luftwaffe pilots during the war, we are told: ‘His life was made easier by the fact that Luftwaffe crews often carried diaries and letters in their pockets, and he made use of his fluent German and his knowledge of ...

At the Garden Museum

Rosemary Hill: Constance Spry, 9 September 2021

... arrangements that brought passers-by to a halt. Spry’s reputation was made. She worked with Cecil Beaton and Oliver Messel and began to acquire her own celebrity clients. When Beaton photographed Wallis Simpson in 1937 wearing the notorious ‘lobster’ dress by Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dalí, she posed with branches of foliage supplied by ...


Clive James: Lord's Day, 7 February 1985

... Imagine Esther Rantzen speaking for twenty minutes without notes. The Bishop of Birmingham, Hugh Montefiore, fruitily delivered a maiden speech which took me back to Great St Mary’s in Cambridge, where I listened to him earlier in his career. Familiarity bred indifference, but Lord Cledwyn, next up for Labour, offered what sounded like sincere ...

We were the Lambert boys

Paul Driver, 22 May 1986

The Lamberts: George, Constant and Kit 
by Andrew Motion.
Chatto, 388 pp., £13.95, April 1986, 0 7011 2731 7
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... that the biography’s publishers, who already include Constant’s Music Ho! and his mentor Cecil Gray’s Musical Chairs on their list (perhaps they are planning to add Gray’s Survey of Contemporary Music or Bernard Van Dieren’s Down Among the Dead Men), felt that an investment in the Lambert field ought to be consolidated. Nevertheless, the ...


Edward Pearce, 22 October 1992

by Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie.
Hutchinson, 589 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 09 173549 1
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... reporters to pay especial attention to the coming man and likely successor in Downing Street, Cecil Parkinson. Beaverbrook was often wrong, oftener perverse, never that wrong or that perverse. The years of the Express’s slow decline are worth a book to themselves, so instructive are they about what happens when a presiding despot of genius ...

So long as you drub the foe

Geoffrey Best: Army-Society Relations, 11 May 2006

Military Identities: The Regimental System, The British Army and The British People c.1870-2000 
by David French.
Oxford, 404 pp., £45, July 2005, 0 19 925803 1
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... the case of Britain, where nothing of that sort has been heard of for ages, unless it was Cecil King’s attempt in 1976 to interest some officers at a Sandhurst dinner to ‘stand for Britain’ against Harold Wilson and the political class generally. His reception was so frosty that he went home early. Civil-military relations in Britain are no ...

Out of the East

Blair Worden, 11 October 1990

The King’s Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of Thomas Wolsey 
by Peter Gwyn.
Barrie and Jenkins, 666 pp., £20, May 1990, 0 7126 2190 3
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Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution 
by John Morrill.
Longman, 300 pp., £17.95, May 1990, 0 582 06064 8
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The Writings of William Walwyn 
edited by Jack McMichael and Barbara Taft.
Georgia, 584 pp., $45, July 1989, 0 8203 1017 4
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... Can historical biography still be written? Joel Hurstfield, who had planned a life of Robert Cecil, the chief minister inherited by James I from Queen Elizabeth, abandoned it in the 1960s in the belief that the genre had had its day. Geoffrey Elton, so much of whose career has been occupied with the achievements of Thomas Cromwell, has never thought biography to be the fitting means of approaching him ...

Good Things: Pederasty and Jazz and Opium and Research

Lawrence Rainey: Mary Butts, 16 July 1998

Mary Butts: Scenes from the Life 
by Nathalie Blondel.
McPherson, 539 pp., £22.50, February 1998, 0 929701 55 0
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The Taverner Novels: ‘Armed with Madness’, ‘Death of Felicity Taverner’ 
by Mary Butts.
McPherson, 374 pp., £10, March 1998, 0 929701 18 6
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The Classical Novels: ‘The Macedonian’, ‘Scenes from the Life of Cleopatra’ 
by Mary Butts.
McPherson, 384 pp., £10, March 1998, 0 929701 42 9
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‘Ashe of Rings’ and Other Writings 
by Mary Butts.
McPherson, 374 pp., £18.50, March 1998, 0 929701 53 4
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... a portfolio of Fifteen Drawings by Wyndham Lewis (1919), Ara Vos Prec by Eliot (1920), and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920) and Cantos 17-27 by Pound (1927). The son of immigrant Jews in the East End, he was a conscientious objector when he met Butts, who was working for an anti-conscription organisation. They married two years later, had a daughter named ...

Fit only to be a greengrocer

E.S. Turner, 23 September 1993

Rider Haggard and the Lost Empire 
by Tom Pocock.
Weidenfeld, 264 pp., £20, August 1993, 0 297 81308 0
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... in Switzerland and Russia; Compton Mackenzie became director of the Aegean Intelligence Service; Hugh Walpole ran the Anglo-Russian Propaganda Bureau in revolutionary Petrograd; A.E.W. Mason, who had been a Liberal MP, was a secret agent in Morocco, Spain and Mexico; Hall Caine, whose new novels were given full-page advertisements, was engaged in Allied ...

Baffled at a Bookcase

Alan Bennett: My Libraries, 28 July 2011

... passed me by. As it was, the books I best remember reading there were the Dr Dolittle stories of Hugh Lofting, which were well represented and (an important consideration) of which there were always more. I think I knew even at six years old that a doctor who could talk to animals was fiction but at the same time I thought the setting of the ...

Big Fish

Frank Kermode, 9 September 1993

Tell Them I’m on my Way 
by Arnold Goodman.
Chapmans, 464 pp., £20, August 1993, 1 85592 636 9
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Not an Englishman: Conversations with Lord Goodman 
by David Selbourne.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 237 pp., £17.99, August 1993, 1 85619 365 9
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... though the account of it is inaccurate in almost every detail (old men forget), he warned me that Cecil King, because I declined to do something he asked of me, would make sure I’d never find another job in London. In fact, as I rightly supposed, Mr King, if ever he had any such intention, which is very doubtful, simply had not the power to achieve it. In ...

Making Do and Mending

Rosemary Hill: Penelope Fitzgerald’s Letters, 25 September 2008

So I Have Thought of You: The Letters of Penelope Fitzgerald 
edited by Terence Dooley.
Fourth Estate, 532 pp., £25, August 2008, 978 0 00 713640 7
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... thread through the random events of everyday life. In the earliest letters, written to her friend Hugh Lee in 1939 when she was working at Punch, her laconic colleague, the ‘subeditor from Lowestoft’ with his pipe, his ‘permanent flush’ and his passion for gadgets (he ‘has made a penknife and magnifying glass combined’), turns over the course of ...

A Piece of Single Blessedness

John Burrows, 21 January 1988

Jane Austen: Her Life 
by Park Honan.
Weidenfeld, 452 pp., £16.95, October 1987, 0 297 79217 2
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... biographies of Jane Austen within a decade smacks of excess. But, compared with Lord David Cecil’s A Portrait of Jane Austen (1979) and John Halperin’s The Life of Jane Austen (1984), the work under review is in so many ways the best that it deserves to make its mark. The three authors, moreover, approach their subject (or subjects) from quite ...

Living with Monsters

Ferdinand Mount: PMs v. the Media, 22 April 2010

Where Power Lies: Prime Ministers v. the Media 
by Lance Price.
Simon & Schuster, 498 pp., £20, February 2010, 978 1 84737 253 6
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... called.’ Wilson did manage to persuade the director-general of the BBC, the normally robust Hugh Carleton Greene, to postpone that week’s episode of Steptoe and Son until after the polls closed in 1964, on the grounds that it might deter Labour voters from turning out. Wilson’s obsession later grew into a full-blown paranoid belief that the security ...

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