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Top Grumpy’s Top Hate

Robert Irwin: Richard Aldington’s Gripes, 18 February 1999

Richard Aldington and Lawrence of Arabia: A Cautionary Tale 
by Fred Crawford.
Southern Illinois, 265 pp., £31.95, July 1998, 0 8093 2166 1
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Lawrence the Uncrowned King of Arabia 
by Michael Asher.
Viking, 419 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 670 87029 3
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... to memory by the fraternity’. Although Aldington managed to remain on friendly terms with Norman Douglas and Pino Orioli until their deaths, it was a close-run thing, for both were homosexual. ‘Norman himself was apt to describe some of the men he disliked as “the wrong kind of sod, my dear”,’ Aldington ...

The Biographer’s Story

Jonathan Coe, 8 September 1994

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers 
by Roger Lewis.
Century, 817 pp., £20, April 1994, 0 7126 3801 6
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... haste and recently died in California of a drug overdose. So much for the facts. One of Roger Lewis’s main achievements in his new and frankly enormous biography – at least four times longer than any of the others – is to have fleshed this skeleton out to the point of corpulence with a great deal of arcane and exhaustively researched detail. But the ...

Dream of the Seventh Dominion

Stefan Collini, 4 December 1980

Lewis Namier and Zionism 
by Norman Rose.
Oxford, 182 pp., £9.95, October 1980, 0 19 822621 7
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Personal Impressions 
by Isaiah Berlin.
Hogarth, 219 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 7012 0510 5
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... At All Souls in 1932, Lewis Namier provoked Isaiah Berlin by scornfully dismissing the history of ideas – dismissing it in German, though the rest of the conversation (or rather harangue) was conducted in English – as ‘what one Jew cribs from another’. But for some unpredictable migrations and a few world-historical hiccups in the previous decades, this exchange might have been taking place – quite possibly in French – in, say, Warsaw or St Petersburg ...

Still Dithering

Norman Dombey: After Trident, 16 December 2010

... of Trident missiles.’ Some Conservative MPs were worried by the mixed messages. Julian Lewis, the veteran Cold Warrior who once hired a light aircraft to trail a banner reading ‘Kremlin sends Kongratulations’ over the women’s peace camp at Greenham Common, wrote to the Financial Times: ‘When Conservative MPs met to consider forming the ...

‘I love you, defiant witch!’

Michael Newton: Charles Williams, 8 September 2016

Charles Williams: The Third Inkling 
by Grevel Lindop.
Oxford, 493 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 0 19 928415 3
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... prided himself on being the only person who could claim the friendship of those arch-enemies C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot. Lewis and Williams both aimed at the disruption of the realist novel though the use of erudite fantasy, drawing on Dante and Plato and Milton; they wanted to make contemporary England ...

The Paranoid Elite

Michael Wood: DeLillo, 22 April 2010

Point Omega 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 117 pp., £14.99, March 2010, 978 0 330 51238 1
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... her phone number, but when we last see him he is back in the room with the installation, watching Norman Bates, ‘scary bland’, put down the phone. The man suddenly imagines the museum guard shooting himself in the head, feels closer than ever to Norman Bates, and thinks again about his mother, dying or perhaps ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: HBO, 10 June 2010

... encapsulation of jungle heat and the ultimate ‘fuck you’ war conditions on Guadalcanal. Even Norman Mailer, much given to such usage, wasn’t allowed to say it in The Naked and the Dead, where the marines, somewhat famously, were forced by his publishers Rinehart & Co to say ‘fug you’. The bigger problems in The Pacific began in the first ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Unimpressed by good booking men, 24 June 2004

... hard to believe that, not so many decades ago, Jonathan Cape, on receiving the manuscript of Norman Lewis’s fifth novel, wrote to Lewis thanking him and saying that the book was ‘very promising’. Not even first novels are touted as merely ‘promising’ these days, though that’s inevitably what most of ...

Flickering Star

Robert Crawford: Iain Crichton Smith, 21 January 1999

The Leaf and the Marble 
by Iain Crichton Smith.
Carcanet, 80 pp., £6.95, October 1998, 1 85754 400 5
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... 15 October 1998 in his 71st year. Born in Glasgow, he was taken to the Outer Hebridean island of Lewis as a very young child after his father, a merchant seaman, died of tuberculosis. Iain’s mother brought up her three sons in a Gaelic-speaking household and worked as a ‘herring girl’, gutting fish with her hacked, salt-smarting hands. Murdo ...

It took a Scot

Colin Kidd: English Nationalism, 30 July 2015

The Formation of the English Kingdom in the Tenth Century 
by George Molyneaux.
Oxford, 302 pp., £65, May 2015, 978 0 19 871791 1
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The English and Their History 
by Robert Tombs.
Allen Lane, 1012 pp., £14.99, June 2015, 978 0 14 103165 1
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Conquests, Catastrophe and Recovery: Britain and Ireland 1066-1485 
by John Gillingham.
Vintage, 345 pp., £10.99, October 2014, 978 0 09 956324 2
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From Restoration to Reform: The British Isles 1660-1832 
by Jonathan Clark.
Vintage, 364 pp., £10.99, October 2014, 978 0 09 956323 5
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Britain since 1900: A Success Story? 
by Robert Skidelsky.
Vintage, 472 pp., £10.99, October 2014, 978 0 09 957239 8
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... if not the glorification of the present’. There is a further near coincidence. In 1929, Lewis Namier began the patient deconstruction of England’s constitutional myths in The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III, which jettisoned a grand narrative of statesmanship and party principle, and put in its place the microscopic study of ...

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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... of the family tradition. Family is, ostensibly, the organising theme of Shades of Greene. Jeremy Lewis has not attempted to add yet another Life of the most famous Greene, but has written a narrative account of aspects of the lives of the more prominent Greene siblings and cousins, Graham included. The bloodstock details are quickly stated. Grandfather ...

Giant Goody Goody

Edwin Morgan: Fairytales, 24 May 2001

The Complete Fairytales 
by George MacDonald, edited by U.C. Knoepflmacher.
Penguin, 354 pp., January 2000, 0 14 043737 1
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Ventures into Childland: Victorians, Fairytales and Femininity 
by U.C. Knoepflmacher.
Chicago, 444 pp., £24.50, June 2001, 0 226 44816 9
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... a pea below her twenty mattresses is hurting her. A prince is metamorphosed from a frog (the poet Norman MacCaig used to say it would be even better if a frog metamorphosed from a prince). Wordsworth, feeling he had to deplore the increasingly moralistic instruction of the young, refers in The Prelude to those ‘guards and wardens’ who would ‘control all ...

Yeats and the Occult

Seamus Deane, 18 October 1984

The Mystery Religion of W.B. Yeats 
by Graham Hough.
Harvester, 129 pp., £15.95, May 1984, 0 7108 0603 5
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Yeats, Eliot, Pound and the Politics of Poetry 
by Cairns Craig.
Croom Helm, 323 pp., £14.95, January 1982, 9780856649974
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Yeats. Poems 1919-1935: A Selection of Critical Essays 
edited by Elizabeth Cullingford.
Macmillan, 238 pp., £14, July 1984, 0 333 27422 9
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The Poet and his Audience 
by Ian Jack.
Cambridge, 198 pp., £20, July 1984, 0 521 26034 5
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A New Commentary on the Poems of W.B. Yeats 
by A. Norman Jeffares.
Macmillan, 543 pp., £35, May 1984, 0 333 35214 9
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Poems of W.B. Yeats 
by A. Norman Jeffares.
Macmillan, 428 pp., £17, August 1984, 0 333 36213 6
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... as practised by Pound, Eliot and Yeats, and reactionary politics. Others – Lawrence and Wyndham Lewis – could have been included, but the three poets in question are sufficiently daunting to require no other company. Indeed, I wonder if they need one another’s company in this instance. The chapters on Pound are less interesting than those on Yeats and ...

Diary

Kathleen Jamie: High and Dry, 3 August 2006

... and its surrounding hills, out over Eddrachillis Bay to the waters of the Minch, with the Isle of Lewis away in the distance. At least that should have been the view, but when we got to the summit a drenching squall of wind-driven hail had obscured all, even our boat, the Poplar Voyager, anchored in the loch 1500 feet below. The descent was precipitous and ...

The Irresistible Itch

Colin Kidd: Vandals in Bow Ties, 3 December 2009

Personal Responsibility: Why It Matters 
by Alexander Brown.
Continuum, 214 pp., £12.99, September 2009, 978 1 84706 399 1
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... when uttered by Conservatives who had risen from the lower middle class, like Thatcher herself or Norman Tebbit, but is impossible to swallow from Cameron and other graduates of Oxford’s Bullingdon Club, who carry out acts of vandalism dressed in bow tie and tails. Exposure to the real lives of typical Britons would probably blur the concept of ...

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