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Paradise Lost

Nicholas Everett, 11 July 1991

Omeros 
by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 325 pp., £17.50, September 1990, 0 571 16070 0
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Collected Poems 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 456 pp., £18, September 1990, 0 7011 3713 4
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The Mail from Anywhere 
by Brad Leithauser.
Oxford, 55 pp., £5.95, September 1990, 0 19 282779 0
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An Elegy for the Galosherman: New and Selected Poems 
by Matt Simpson.
Bloodaxe, 128 pp., £6.95, October 1990, 1 85224 103 9
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... avoiding paraphrasable meaning altogether. One need only point to the work of Wallace Stevens or John Ashbery to show how successfully some of it sustains our expectations while ultimately refusing to deliver the semantic goods. Having extracted a poem’s point, runs the usual defence of such teasing evasions, readers will have no further use for the poem ...

Nothing They Wouldn’t Do

Richard J. Evans: Krupp, 21 June 2012

Krupp: A History of the Legendary German Firm 
by Harold James.
Princeton, 360 pp., £24.95, March 2012, 978 0 691 15340 7
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... by William Manchester, better known for his account of the assassination of his wartime friend, John F. Kennedy, Death of a President. Written in a racy, sometimes sensational style, the book was full of sweeping generalisations about Germany and the Germans, whom Manchester, not least because of his war experiences, clearly did not like. The Krupps were ...

Where a man can be a man

Margaret Anne Doody, 16 December 1993

All the Pretty Horses 
by Cormac McCarthy.
Picador, 302 pp., £5.99, November 1993, 0 330 33169 8
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... is imprisoned largely because of love-complications (the same applies to McCarthy’s young John Grady Cole). Tortured, immured, separated from his beloved, Habrokomes is given the relief of a dream: he thought he saw his own father Lykomedes in black clothing travelling across all the lands and seas and arriving finally at his prison where he ...

Suck, chéri

E.S. Turner: The history of sweets, 29 October 1998

Sugar-Plums and Sherbet: A Prehistory of Sweets 
by Laura Mason.
Prospect, 250 pp., £20, June 1998, 0 907325 83 1
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... Peace reopened the tainted sugar routes. The victors celebrated not only with Nelson’s Balls (cannon balls, presumably) but with Nelson’s Buttons, Wellington Sticks and Bonaparte’s Ribs. Laura Mason is introduced as a food historian with a scientific background. She is thoroughly at home with the technicalities of sugar-boiling, a subtle process which ...

The Beast on My Back

Gerald Weissmann, 6 June 1996

The Harmony of Illusions: Inventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 
by Allan Young.
Princeton, 327 pp., £28, March 1996, 0 691 03352 8
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... patterns. He pinpoints the birth of traumatic memory to a machine-made disaster, the train crash. John Erichsen was perhaps the first physician to describe the syndrome in the 1860s while examining victims of British railway accidents; he called it ‘railway spine’, and attributed it to vaguely defined neurological mechanisms that originated in dorsal ...

Gilded Drainpipes

E.S. Turner: London, 10 June 1999

The London Rich: The Creation of a Great City from 1666 to the Present 
by Peter Thorold.
Viking, 374 pp., £25, June 1999, 0 670 87480 9
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The Rise of the Nouveaux Riches: Style and Status in Victorian and Edwardian Architecture 
by Mordaunt Crook.
Murray, 354 pp., £25, May 1999, 0 7195 6040 3
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... Nearby was Portman Square, another highly-sought rectangle, the contractor for which was John Elwes, scion of a family of congenital and pathological misers, himself one of the London rich. For a long period these proud squares stood incongruously on the edge of open country, highwayman-haunted. There was much to be said for a mansion in Grosvenor ...

Diary

Jenny Diski: On Meeting the Creatives, 22 February 1996

... are all right: every few hundred yards bright yellow snow-making machines, like small snub-nosed cannon, soak up water from the lakes and shoot it ten metres into the air to do what God can usually be relied on to achieve, and keep what skiers there are on the move. Still, the shopkeepers and hoteliers are not a happy bunch, and there are nothing but ...

Redesigning Cambridge

Sheldon Rothblatt, 5 March 1981

Cambridge before Darwin: The Ideal of a Liberal Education 1800-1860 
by Martha McMackin Garland.
Cambridge, 196 pp., £14.50, November 1980, 0 521 23319 4
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... expedition has been hacking through textbook surveys for several decades. Robert Butts and Walter Cannon have called attention to the scientific and philosophical contributions of the ‘Cambridge Network’ – men like William Whewell, Adam Sedgwick, Charles Babbage, George Airy, John Herschel and ...

Paddling in the Gravy

E.S. Turner: Bath’s panderer-in-chief, 21 July 2005

The Imaginary Autocrat: Beau Nash and the Invention of Bath 
by John Eglin.
Profile, 292 pp., £20, May 2005, 1 86197 302 0
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... When John Wesley visited Bath in 1739 to inveigh against the follies that flourished at hot springs, he was challenged by a fleshy, domineering figure in a white beaver hat, who demanded to know by what authority he was preaching. Wesley’s retort (or so he claimed) was ‘Pray, sir, are you a justice of the peace, or the mayor of this city? By what authority do you ask me these things?’ Richard (‘Beau’) Nash was at a loss for a ready reply ...

Sunshine

David Goldie: Morecambe and Wise, 15 April 1999

Morecambe and Wise 
by Graham McCann.
Fourth Estate, 416 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 1 85702 735 3
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... their near-contemporaries, Jewel and Warriss and Mike and Bernie Winters, to their successors, Cannon and Ball and Little and Large, is undeviating in its reliance on the sparring partnership of an unctuous straight man and a sly, grotesque clown. This is the mode in which Morecambe and Wise began, mimicking the hard-edged wise-guy contentiousness of ...

Strange Little Woman

Ferdinand Mount: First and Only Empress, 22 November 2018

Empress: Queen Victoria and India 
by Miles Taylor.
Yale, 388 pp., £25, August 2018, 978 0 300 11809 4
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Eastern Encounters: Four Centuries of Paintings and Manuscripts from the Indian Subcontinent 
by Emily Hannam.
Royal Collections Trust, 256 pp., £45, June 2018, 978 1 909741 45 4
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Splendours of the Subcontinent: A Prince’s Tour of India 1875-76 
by Kajal Meghani.
Royal Collections Trust, 216 pp., £29.95, March 2017, 978 1 909741 42 3
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... the Queen’s Gallery. Nasir-al-Din Haider had got clearance from the resident in Lucknow, Colonel John Low, and from the governor-general in Calcutta, Lord William Bentinck, to dispatch the offerings: two elephants, two superb horses with jewelled harnesses, sundry necklaces, bracelets and Indian manuscripts galore, together with a bedstead studded with ...

Shivering Eyeballs

Jessica Olin: Mary Karr, 1 November 2001

Cherry 
by Mary Karr.
Picador, 276 pp., £14, June 2001, 9780330485753
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... philosophy and painting in her garage. In some circles, Charlie Karr would be called a loose cannon; in Leechfield, she is described as Nervous. At the sound of her voice, Mary’s friends ‘all startled a little the way a herd of antelope on one of those African documentaries will lift their heads from the water hole at the first scent of a ...

When the Jaw-Jaw Failed

Miles Taylor: Company Rule in India, 3 March 2016

The Tears of the Rajas: Mutiny, Money and Marriage in India 1805-1905 
by Ferdinand Mount.
Simon & Schuster, 784 pp., £12.99, January 2016, 978 1 4711 2946 9
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... Sir John Low​ finally hung up his helmet seventy years after joining the Madras army in 1804, having served the East India Company as soldier, jailer, agent and councillor. As a rookie lieutenant, his regiment mopped up in Mysore when the British took over the old kingdom of Tipu Sultan. He helped see off the Marathas at the battle of Mahidpur in 1817, and kept their chief minister, Baji Rao, under house arrest on the banks of the Ganges ...

Shandying It

John Mullan: Sterne’s Foibles, 6 June 2002

Laurence Sterne: A Life 
by Ian Campbell Ross.
Oxford, 512 pp., £25, March 2001, 0 19 212235 5
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... part of his novel. ‘Allons! Said I; the post boy gave a crack with his whip--off I went like a cannon, and in half a dozen bounds got into Dover.’ Writing was life itself, realised in the speed of narration. ‘Time wastes too fast: every letter I trace tells me with what rapidity Life follows my pen.’ Sterne’s punctuation – those stretched dashes ...

Madame, vous fatiguez les singes

E.S. Turner: The Tower Menagerie, 24 July 2003

The Tower Menagerie: Being the Amazing True Story of the Royal Collection of Wild and Ferocious Beasts 
by Daniel Hahn.
Simon and Schuster, 260 pp., £15.99, March 2003, 0 7432 2081 1
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... This history of the Tower Menagerie, founded 1235, begins on a winter day in 1764, when John Wesley, aged 61, arrived at the Tower with a flute-playing companion, to conduct what he called ‘an odd experiment’. The idea was to observe how the lions reacted to music, which might give some indication as to whether animals possessed souls. Descartes ...

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