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Exceptionally Wonderful Book

John Sutherland, 6 October 1994

Knowledge of Angels 
by Jill Paton Walsh.
Green Bay in association with Colt, 268 pp., £14.99, July 1994, 0 948845 05 8
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... player of the year would be depressingly more expensive than the best novelist.) Only once, with John Berger in 1972, has a winner been graceless enough to allude publicly to the source of the prize-money in black men’s sweat. Booker judges change every year and the one stable element is Martyn Goff, the éminence grise of the panel which chooses the ...

The Last Georgian

John Bayley, 13 June 1991

Edmund Blunden: A Biography 
by Barry Webb.
Yale, 360 pp., £18.50, December 1990, 0 300 04634 0
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... gloves, which were unsporting. No gesture was involved, but a certain amount of quiet conviction. John Betjeman and Joan Hunter-Dunn would have approved: indeed Betjeman was a great admirer of Blunden’s poetry. His English Poems ‘was the first book by a living poet I remember saving up to buy. I learned many of his poems by heart and can still recite them ...

This Sporting Life

R.W. Johnson, 8 December 1994

Iain Macleod 
by Robert Shepherd.
Hutchinson, 608 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 09 178567 7
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... Ministry of Labour notepaper. Exactly how Macleod’s marriage worked is a question which Robert Shepherd is far too respectful to answer. Inevitably, Macleod’s wit and somewhat dissolute charm appealed far more to Tory selection committees than did Powell’s heavy earnestness, hunting pink or no. In 1948 Macleod was selected for the safe seat of ...

Great Instructor

Charles Nicholl, 31 August 1989

Ben Jonson: A Life 
by David Riggs.
Harvard, 399 pp., £27.95, April 1989, 0 674 06625 1
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... flexing of comic power in The Isle of Dogs (1597) to the last melancholy fragments of The Sad Shepherd, probably written in the final year of his life. During that time he wrote 18 plays, 37 masques and court entertainments, two volumes of poetry and a volume of epigrams. This list does not include the lost plays from his days as one of Henslowe’s hacks ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1999, 20 January 2000

... which of them were homosexuals and so on, Cornish dodgily assuming, as did Andrew Boyle and John Costello before him, that homosexuality is itself a bond and that if two men can be shown to be homosexual the likelihood is that they’re sleeping together. So we trail down that road looking for cliques and coteries with even G.M. Trevelyan’s sexual ...

Balfour, Weizmann and the Creation of Israel

Charles Glass: Palestine, 7 June 2001

One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate 
by Tom Segev, translated by Haim Watzman.
Little, Brown, 612 pp., £25, January 2001, 0 316 64859 0
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Ploughing Sand: British Rule in Palestine 1917-48 
by Naomi Shepherd.
Murray, 290 pp., £12.99, September 2000, 0 7195 6322 4
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... protect Jaffa’s Arabs from eviction. For Israel’s new historians, among them Segev and Naomi Shepherd, the Zionist project is part of the saga of white settlement, as in North America and Rhodesia. The settlers declared independence only when they no longer required the Mother Country’s soldiers to subdue the natives. Presenting Israelis as ...

Half Bird, Half Fish, Half Unicorn

Paul Foot, 16 October 1997

Peter Cook: A Biography 
by Harry Thompson.
Hodder, 516 pp., £18.99, September 1997, 0 340 64968 2
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... running the risk of recalling, in mid-reading, Dudley Moore’s interview with Peter as Arthur Shepherd in Behind the Fridge: SHEPHERD: Er, basically, what happened was that me and the lads were abiding in the fields. REPORTER (writing): Abiding in the fields, yes. ...

At the Brunei Gallery

Peter Campbell: Indian photography, 1 November 2001

... scenery is not so suitable or well-adapted for the camera.’ The firm of Bourne and Shepherd still exists, in reduced state – the catalogue includes a 1996 photograph of the Calcutta studio (they set up there in 1867). Stucco peels from the brickwork, while a modern sign for Kodak film on the gatepost points to our own photographic ...

Progressive Agenda

John Brewer, 18 March 1982

The Watercolours and Drawings of Thomas Bewick and his Workshop Apprentices 
by Iain Bain.
Gordon Fraser, 233 pp., £125, July 1981, 0 86092 057 7
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... and local scenes almost invariably depict figures in a rural landscape: rustics like the mower and shepherd labour at their daily tasks, children play with boats and kites, anglers and sportsmen pursue their quarry. The scenes are often droll, occasionally lachrymose and invariably informed by a strong sense of man’s relation to nature. The illustration that ...

The Shoreham Gang

Seamus Perry: Samuel Palmer, 5 April 2012

Mysterious Wisdom: The Life and Work of Samuel Palmer 
by Rachel Campbell-Johnston.
Bloomsbury, 382 pp., £25, June 2011, 978 0 7475 9587 8
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... their way through the corn just over his left shoulder – and undisturbed, too, by an insomniac shepherd who pipes to his sheep in a nearby field of standing sheaves, sitting beneath a tree shaped like a lollipop. ‘The Valley Thick with Corn’ (1825). Altogether these might not sound like the ingredients of a very satisfactory work of art; but the ...


Nicholas Penny, 3 November 1983

Constable: The Painter and his Landscape 
by Michael Rosenthal.
Yale, 255 pp., £15.95, April 1983, 0 300 03014 2
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Constable’s England 
by Graham Reynolds.
Weidenfeld, 184 pp., £12.95, September 1983, 0 297 78359 9
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... incentive to pretend that they were not fictions at all. There is good evidence, well presented by John Barrell in his dicussion of Gainsborough in The Dark Side of the Landscape, that increasing comfort was derived in the late 18th century from the belief that the hard-working, honest, loyal, loving families clustered around cottage doors which were admired ...

Chucky, Hirple, Clart

David Craig: Robert Macfarlane, 24 September 2015

by Robert Macfarlane.
Hamish Hamilton, 387 pp., £20, March 2015, 978 0 241 14653 8
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... William Cobbett of Rural Rides, a farmer’s son and himself a farmer from time to time; John Muir of My First Summer in the Sierra, a farmer’s son and farmer; and Lewis Grassic Gibbon of A Scots Quair, a farmer’s son from the Mearns in north-east Scotland. All three produced work that strikes me as special – as important, if you like ...

World’s End

John Ryle, 13 October 1988

The Missionaries 
by Norman Lewis.
Secker, 245 pp., £10.95, May 1988, 0 436 24595 7
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... belongs to our God” ’. These events usher in the new heaven and earth foreseen by St John where righteousness reigns and death is no more. The present inheritors of this apocalyptic strain in Christendom, evangelical missionaries attached to Protestant Churches in the United States, are engaged, therefore, in an urgent mission to reach the last ...

Noticing and Not Noticing

John Mullan: Consciousness in Austen, 20 November 2014

The Hidden Jane Austen 
by John Wiltshire.
Cambridge, 195 pp., £17.99, April 2014, 978 1 107 64364 2
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... over her own want of presence of mind’, and we sense the denial of feelings hidden from herself. John Wiltshire’s finely observed study of Jane Austen’s six completed novels is all about the way she conjures characters’ hidden feelings. His title might lead you to expect some revelation of Austen’s private passions but, while knowledgable about her ...

Love with Time Let in

Barbara Everett: ‘The Winter’s Tale’, 8 January 2004

... as many natural things: ‘Exit, pursued by a bear.’ The bear is immediately succeeded by the Shepherd and Clown, who are illogical, shrewd and kind, and nothing surprises them. Their natural kindness is what Samuel Johnson said all social goodness really is, palliative rather than radical – and in that a striking contrast to the ...

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