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Make me work if you can

T.H. Breen, 18 February 1988

Bound for America: The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, 1718-1775 
by Roger Ekirch.
Oxford, 277 pp., £25, November 1987, 0 19 820092 7
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... of particular interest to anyone curious about the first British settlement of Australia, for as Robert Hughes and others have so forcefully reminded us, the closing-off of the North American market for felons after 1776 compelled London officials to find other locations where convicts could be dumped. As James Matra explained in 1783, the British ...

A Place for Hype

Edward Tenner: Old Technology, 10 May 2007

The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 
by David Edgerton.
Profile, 270 pp., £18.99, January 2007, 978 1 86197 296 5
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... may fail, but an overlooked one will not succeed. According to the Thomas Theorem popularised by Robert Merton: ‘If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.’ David Edgerton’s The Shock of the Old, with its ironic echoes of bestsellers by Robert Hughes and Alvin Toffler, is not an ...

On Putting Things Off

Robert Hanks, 10 September 2015

... in the relationship. While this was going on the LRB commissioned me to write about Richard Hughes, who wrote A High Wind in Jamaica. I like Hughes and it seemed like a job I could get on with. I cheerfully settled to the research, reading the novels I hadn’t read, rereading the ones I had. Then I started ...

Sorrows of a Polygamist

Mark Ford: Ted Hughes in His Cage, 17 March 2016

Ted HughesThe Unauthorised Life 
by Jonathan Bate.
William Collins, 662 pp., £30, October 2015, 978 0 00 811822 8
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... So much​ in the life and work of Ted Hughes was weird and transgressive that even now, 18 years after his death, it is hard to feel confident that his actions and beliefs and literary achievement can be judiciously and authoritatively assessed. For a start, he wrote and published at such a rate: Jonathan Bate’s bibliographic tally of Hughes’s books runs to more than seventy items, while the various Hughes archives contain nearly a hundred thousand pages of manuscript material ...

Make mine a Worcester Sauce

John Bayley, 23 June 1994

Richard Hughes 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Deutsch, 491 pp., £20, May 1994, 0 233 98843 2
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... Four possible candidates, varying in attainments, would be T.E. Lawrence, Robert Graves, Peter Fleming (perhaps both Flemings) and Richard Hughes. It makes no difference that Lawrence was half-Irish, the Flemings mostly Scottish, and Hughes partly Welsh. The ...

Bad Shepherd

Robert Crawford: James Hogg, 5 April 2001

The Collected Works of James Hogg. Vol. VIII: The ‘Spy’ 
edited by Gillian Hughes.
Edinburgh, 641 pp., £60, March 2000, 9780748613656
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... George Buchanan’s over-the-top ‘Elegy for Jean Calvin’. The volume remains high in some of Robert Fergusson’s sophistic-performative street-talk, Burns’s on-off, rip-roaring ‘Tam o’Shanter’, MacDiarmid’s last trump blawing ‘tootle-ootle-oo’, Edwin Morgan’s Loch Ness Monstering ‘Splgraw fok fok splgrafhatchgabrlgabrl fok ...

Frank Auerbach’s London

T.J. Clark: Frank Auerbach, 10 September 2015

... for once. Scale is uncertain. ‘This might be nature – twenty stories high,’ to borrow from Robert Lowell: We two, one cell here, lie gazing into the ether’s crystal ball, sky and a sky, and sky, and sky, till death – Well – death and the void may be part of it. City parks by night do have something sepulchral about them. The little white blobs of ...

Lucian Freud

Nicholas Penny, 31 March 1988

... not self-conscious. His interest in the naked as a subject in art is, of course, related to this. Robert Hughes, in the passionate and polemical introduction to the catalogue of the London exhibition, quotes Degas, as reported by George Moore, on the subject of his female nudes: ‘I show them deprived of their airs and graces, reduced to the level of ...

Mary, Mary

Christopher Hitchens, 8 April 1993

Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover 
by Anthony Summers.
Gollancz, 576 pp., £18.99, March 1993, 0 575 04236 2
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... for authoritarian corruption. In his rather wonderful new essay ‘The Culture of Complaint’, Robert Hughes addresses the radical counterpart of this ‘culture war’ and marvels that after the 1989 revolution: ‘The world changes more deeply, widely, thrillingly than at any moment since 1917, perhaps since 1848, and the American academic left ...

At Tate Britain

Gaby Wood: Paula Rego, 7 October 2021

... as depicting women’s lives (‘the best painter of women’s experiences alive today’, as Robert Hughes once called her) and just as often as ‘autobiographical’. To some extent the work invites this interpretation. She has described Nunes, the model for many of the later works, as her ‘stand-in’. The images of women ...

Enlarging Insularity

Patrick McGuinness: Donald Davie, 20 January 2000

With the Grain: Essays on Thomas Hardy and Modern British Poetry 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 346 pp., £14.95, October 1998, 1 85754 394 7
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... transposition of the medieval quest, in which a gunslinger goes in search of the elusive Howard Hughes (‘They say he moved to Vegas/or bought Vegas and/moved it./I can’t remember which’), accompanied by a narrating ‘I’ and a talking horse who paraphrases Heidegger. To find Dorn, the Black Mountaineer and poet of the American Dream ...

He could afford it

Jenny Diski, 7 April 1994

Howard HughesThe Secret Life 
by Charles Higham.
Sidgwick, 368 pp., £16.99, September 1993, 9780283061578
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... chef to be replaced by a pea of standard size. Once you know this everything else follows. Howard Hughes’s life is a series of obsessions, each overridden in its turn by a bigger and better fixation. It begins with 12 peas on a plate, and ends with urine stored in Mason jars. Actually, it’s not an unusual story as such – the world is full of people ...

Histories of Australia

Stuart Macintyre, 28 September 1989

The Oxford History of Autralia. Vol III: 1860-1900 
by Beverley Kingston.
Oxford, 368 pp., £22.50, July 1989, 0 19 554611 3
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The Road from Coorain: An Australian Memoir 
by Jill Ker Conway.
Heinemann, 238 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 434 14244 1
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A Secret Country 
by John Pilger.
Cape, 286 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 224 02600 3
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Convict Workers: Reinterpreting Australia’s Past 
edited by Stephen Nicholas.
Cambridge, 246 pp., $45, June 1989, 0 521 36126 5
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... The radical edge to writing on convicts has long since been blunted by those historians whom Robert Hughes, in his epic The Fatal Shore (a tour de force which showed that the expatriate can instruct the locals), labelled as the ‘normalisers’. To expunge the convict stain, the normalisers play down the violence and horror of the transportation ...

‘I was there, I saw it’

Ian Sansom: Ted Hughes, 19 February 1998

Birthday Letters 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 198 pp., £14.99, January 1998, 0 571 19472 9
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... and then he’ll get you.’ In the end, of course, time runs out for the dastardly Hook. Ted Hughes makes use of the story in his poem ‘Tick Tock Tick Tock’, from Remains of Elmet (1979), though with two important differences: the timepiece is now alarmed, and it’s Peter who’s in danger. Somebody else acted Peter Pan. I swallowed an alarm clock ...

Offered to the Gods

Frank Kermode: Sacrifice, 5 June 2008

Culture and Sacrifice: Ritual Death in Literature and Opera 
by Derek Hughes.
Cambridge, 313 pp., £45, October 2007, 978 0 521 86733 7
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... beginnings. Certain discriminations are established from the outset. Any close resemblance between Hughes’s method and the methods of Sir James Frazer or René Girard is explained and discounted. The mere thought of Frazer prompts unavoidable and dismissive allusions to George Eliot’s Casaubon and his ‘Key to All Mythologies’, a ‘beguiling and ...

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