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John Bossy, 4 April 1996

The New Oxford History of England. Vol. II: The Later Tudors 
by Penry Williams.
Oxford, 628 pp., £25, September 1995, 0 19 822820 1
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... Oxford’s contribution about Elizabeth, entrusted to a Welshman from its home university, Penry Williams, where the old one was entrusted to a Scot, J.B. Black, from Aberdeen. One mildly regrettable difference is the title. Black’s volume, The Reign of Elizabeth, was the only one to be devoted to a single reign except that about George III. ...

Getting it right

Bernard Williams, 23 November 1989

Contingency, Irony and Solidarity 
by Richard Rorty.
Cambridge, 201 pp., £25, May 1989, 0 521 35381 5
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... It will be predictably edifying, or perhaps predictably unedifying: in any case, predictable. Richard Rorty is a philosopher for whom the standards and the point of getting it right have become very problematic, not only in philosophy but quite generally. In his influential and interesting book, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, published in 1979, he ...

What Philosophers Dream Of

Geoffrey Hawthorn: Bernard Williams, 2 July 2015

Essays and Reviews 1959-2002 
by Bernard Williams.
Princeton, 435 pp., £24.95, January 2014, 978 0 691 15985 0
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... going to say better than you understand it yourself’, Gilbert Ryle said of the young Bernard Williams, ‘and sees all the possible objections to it, all the possible answers to all the possible objections, before you’ve got to the end of your sentence’. Williams’s declared enemies in philosophy ...

German Jew

Michael Irwin, 17 April 1980

The Missing Years 
by Walter Laqueur.
Weidenfeld, 281 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 297 77707 6
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Jack be nimble 
by Nigel Williams.
Secker, 213 pp., £5.50, March 1980, 0 436 57155 2
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Identity Papers 
by Anthony Cronin.
Co-op Books, 194 pp., £4.50, February 1980, 0 905441 23 0
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Narrow Rooms 
by James Purdy.
Black Sheep Books, 185 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 906538 60 2
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Six Moral Tales 
by Eric Rohmer, translated by Sabine d’Estrée.
Lorrimer, 252 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 85647 075 9
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... to show what it was like to be a Jew in Germany during the first 45 years of this century. Dr Richard Lasson, the narrator, traces his own career from front-line service in the First World War, through the mounting uncertainties and perils of the Twenties and Thirties to desperately precarious survival in Berlin during the Second World War. Walter Laqueur ...

Pornography and Feminism

Bernard Williams, 17 March 1983

... of ‘obscenity’). It says on page 3, wrongly, that in the same case John Mortimer defended Richard Neville, and on page 122 that he did not. In one of the brief excursions into cinema, there is a very muddled account of the French treatment of pornographic films. Pasolini’s Salo was not assigned to the ‘P’ category and sent to the blue ...

You’re only interested in Hitler, not me

Susan Pedersen: Shirley Williams, 19 December 2013

Shirley WilliamsThe Biography 
by Mark Peel.
Biteback, 461 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 1 84954 604 1
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... Mark Peel organises his serviceable authorised biography of Shirley Williams around an ostensible conundrum. Why didn’t Williams achieve more politically? Why did the polarising, hectoring Margaret Thatcher, rather than the consensus-seeking, appealing Williams, become Britain’s first woman prime minister? This is a common question ...

Bon-hommy

Michael Wood: Émigré Words, 1 April 2021

Émigrés: French Words that Turned English 
by Richard Scholar.
Princeton, 253 pp., £25, September 2020, 978 0 691 19032 7
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... sais quoi’ with ‘tra-la-la’.Diski’s thoughts are in part a response to an earlier work by Richard Scholar, The Je Ne Sais Quoi in Early Modern Europe, and she’s the first person he talks about on the acknowledgments page of his new book. ‘Her piece brilliantly demonstrated,’ he writes, ‘in a way I could not have imagined, that the ...

Diary

Philip Horne and Danny Karlin: Million Dollar Bashers, 22 June 1989

... Madison suite of Sacha’s Hotel in Manchester (motto: ‘Sacha’s Only Looks Expensive’), Paul Williams recalls an unrewarding encounter with Bob Dylan: ‘But I shook his hand which was ... and this was at the beginning of the tour ... and things changed significantly during the tour ... he became more sociable, I’ve been talking to a number of people ...

The Tell-Tale Trolley

Stefan Collini, 8 September 1994

Townscape with Figures: Farnham, Portrait of an English Town 
by Richard Hoggart.
Chatto, 205 pp., £16.99, June 1994, 0 7011 6138 8
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... Walking along the main street of Farnham one afternoon, Richard Hoggart was accosted by a drunk. He didn’t ask for money or spit ill-focused abuse. ‘I know who you are,’ he slurred, ‘and I’ve got one question for you. Who’s the better writer, you or Raymond Williams?’ Reading this, I found I was disappointed that the level of literary criticism among Farnham’s drunks was so low ...

Literature and the Left

Marilyn Butler, 18 August 1983

English Literature in History: 1730-80: An Equal, Wide Survey 
edited by Raymond Williams, by John Barrell.
Hutchinson, 228 pp., £13.50, March 1983, 0 09 149820 1
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English Literature in History: 1350-1400: Medieval Readers and Writers 
edited by Raymond Williams, by Janet Coleman.
Hutchinson, 337 pp., £12, July 1981, 0 09 144100 5
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English Literature in History: 1780-1830: Pastoral and Politics 
edited by Raymond Williams, by Roger Sales.
Hutchinson, 247 pp., £13.50, March 1983, 0 09 149830 9
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The Cambridge Guide to English Literature 
by Michael Stapleton.
Cambridge/Newnes Books, 992 pp., £15, April 1983, 9780521256476
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... It is a surprise to find Raymond Williams, in the year of his retirement as Professor of Drama at Cambridge, editing a series called ‘Literature in History’. In a writing career that almost spans the post-war period, he has established himself as this country’s leading critic within academic English of the very concept of ‘Literature ...

Do It and Die

Richard Horton, 20 April 1995

Soundings 
by Abraham Verghese.
Phoenix, 347 pp., £18.99, May 1994, 1 897580 26 6
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... the cultivation of a detached but vigorous humanism, Verghese often reminds one of William Carlos Williams, who drew on his own experience as an obstetrician and general practitioner in stories about his patients. Williams describes his own relation with patients in The Practice: I lost myself in the very properties of ...

Fear and Loathing in Limehouse

Richard Holme, 3 September 1987

Campaign! The Selling of the Prime Minister 
by Rodney Tyler.
Grafton, 251 pp., £6.95, July 1987, 0 246 13277 9
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Battle for Power 
by Des Wilson.
Sphere, 326 pp., £4.99, July 1987, 0 7221 9074 3
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David Owen: Personally Speaking 
by Kenneth Harris.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 297 79206 7
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... betrayals of the SDP: the conversations which David Steel and I had with Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams at the Konigswinter Conference in April 1981 and the Llandudno fringe meeting at which Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams spoke on the same platform as Jo Grimond and David Steel. Both occasions were informed by genuine ...

The Atheists’ Picnic

Julian Bell: Art and Its Origins, 10 June 2010

Conceiving God: The Cognitive Origin and Evolution of Religion 
by David Lewis-Williams.
Thames and Hudson, 320 pp., £18.95, March 2010, 978 0 500 05164 1
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... of Conceiving God: The Cognitive Origin and Evolution of Religion, the archaeologist David Lewis-Williams examines the earliest records of symbolic behaviour. It is unlikely we will ever pinpoint just when the human habit of investing objects with significance took hold. But for the moment, until fresh discoveries arrive, the most striking evidence we have ...

The big drops start

John Bayley, 7 December 1989

Coleridge: Early Visions 
by Richard Holmes.
Hodder, 409 pp., £16.95, October 1989, 0 340 28335 1
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Wordsworth: Romantic Poetry and Revolution Politics 
by John Williams.
Manchester, 203 pp., £29.95, November 1989, 0 7190 3168 0
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Sara Coleridge, A Victorian Daughter: Her Life and Essays 
by Bradford Keyes Mudge.
Yale, 287 pp., £18.95, September 1989, 0 300 04443 7
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... perpetually present – and never more so than in this almost incredibly vivid biography. Richard Holmes has a genius for the job, as he showed fifteen years ago in his biography of Shelley. In a sense, there is no need to bring Coleridge to life, but in this compelling narrative of those early years of the poet Holmes makes us seem actually to be ...

‘A Naughty House’

Charles Nicholl: Shakespeare’s Landlord, 24 June 2010

... in the parish of St Giles without Cripplegate, and a woman from Whitechapel called Frances Williams. The charge was fornication. Though not in itself unusual, the charge had an extra twist, repeated with minor variations in most of the entries relating to it: ‘they were all 4 seene in bed together at one tyme.’ The documentation is scanty, and we ...

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