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Mastering the Art of Understating Your Wealth

Thomas Keymer: The Tonsons, 5 May 2016

The Literary Correspondences of the Tonsons 
edited by Stephen Bernard.
Oxford, 386 pp., £95, March 2015, 978 0 19 870085 2
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... Godfrey Kneller’s Kit Cat Club portraits, clockwise from top left: Jacob Tonson (1717); Robert Walpole (c.1712); William Congreve (1709); Joseph Addison (c.1710). Around this time Tonson founded the Kit-Cat Club, whimsically named after a fancy pastry merchant called Christopher Cat, but in practice the engine-room of Whig politics during the ...


Nicholas Spice: In the Isolation Room, 4 June 2020

... It’ll  have me in its sights,’ I liked to say, as if by naming the worst I could ward it off. Sure, as a 67-year-old man with a chronic respiratory allergy I was cleanly in the demographic dark zone; but I was fit; I biked to work, so could avoid public transport; and, in any case, I had ‘no intention’ of getting the virus ...


Philip Davis: Thomas Arnold’s Apostasies, 15 April 2004

A Victorian Wanderer: The Life of Thomas Arnold the Younger 
by Bernard Bergonzi.
Oxford, 274 pp., £25, July 2003, 0 19 925741 8
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... it. In the end, Tom Arnold’s lasting contribution lies in what his daughter Mary, Mrs Humphry Ward, made of his marriage in her novels. She placed herself in the rich unclassified ‘middle ground’ between father and mother, and wrote about what was at stake in a mixed marriage. There was a lack of fit not merely between the partners themselves, but ...

Learning to Say ‘Cat’

Edmund Gordon: ‘Lean Fall Stand’, 17 June 2021

Lean Fall Stand 
by Jon McGregor.
Fourth Estate, 288 pp., £14.99, April, 978 0 00 820490 7
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... usually affect personality.’ I first read the book in April 2019, when my father was in a stroke ward in Madrid. The only sounds he could manage were ‘yuh’ (which often meant ‘no’) and a few grunts and warbles. When he tried to write, it came out as squiggles. I wanted to share Hale’s belief that personality could survive in the absence of verbal ...

Criminal Justice

Ronan Bennett, 24 June 1993

... Four, but for the closely related cases of the Maguire family, the Birmingham Six, Judith Ward? What did it mean for the system of justice in England? Some years earlier, in a judgment in the Birmingham Six case, Lord Denning, the Master of the Rolls, had summed up the broader significance of such a reversal. If the six men win, it will mean that the ...

Countess Bitch

Robert Tombs, 16 November 1995

The Notorious Life of Gyp: Right-Wing Anarchist in Fin-de-Siècle France 
by Willa Silverman.
Oxford, 325 pp., £24, June 1995, 0 19 508754 2
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... women’s rights. She legally separated her property from her husband’s, but this was only to ward off ruin. She made an independent career, but this was an unfortunate necessity. No feminist therefore; rather, a misogynist. This is, for Silverman, the key that unlocks many doors: Gyp’s identity problems, her rejection of her own femininity, her ...

Bloom’s Bible

Donald Davie, 13 June 1991

The Book of J 
translated by David Rosenberg, interpreted by Harold Bloom.
Faber, 286 pp., £14.99, April 1991, 0 571 16111 1
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... always foredoomed, because the corrected spin never has equal impetus with the original. Consider Robert Graves’s attempt to revise Fitzgerald’s Omar Khayyam. The AV is peculiar, even so: for no magister can be detected, among King James’s translators. Ward Allen’s researches in Alabama, and Gerald Hammond’s in ...

Untold Stories

Alan Bennett, 30 September 1999

... a young man familiar rather than affable, who took us along to what the nurse said was Mam’s ward. He flung open the door on Bedlam, a scene of unimagined wretchedness. What hit you first was the noise. The hospitals I had been in previously were calm and unhurried; voices were hushed; sickness, during visiting hours at least, went hand in hand with ...

I ♥ Cthulhu

Paul Grimstad, 21 September 2017

The Night Ocean 
by Paul La Farge.
Penguin, 389 pp., £19.99, March 2017, 978 1 101 98108 5
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... a diary composed in imitation 18th-century English purportedly detailing Lovecraft’s affair with Robert Barlow, a horror fan, collector and briefly Lovecraft’s literary executor. In fact Lovecraft spent six weeks at the 15-year-old Barlow’s family home in Florida at Barlow’s invitation in 1933. It was an uncharacteristic journey for the reclusive and ...

Browning’s Last Duchess

Virginia Surtees, 9 October 1986

... first time, with the permission of the Hon. Simon Howard. They cover the visit of the 57-year-old Robert Browning to Naworth Castle, the Cumberland home of the George Howards. Browning had recently published his great poem The Ring and the Book, with its dedication to his dead wife. He was mentally tired, and uneasy over his son Pen’s performance at ...

At the Duveen Galleries

Brian Dillon: ‘The Asset Strippers’, 18 July 2019

... peculiar to their manufacturers: the eau de nil of Wadkin of Leicester; the vivid blue of H.W. Ward & Co., Birmingham. What are, or were, they all for? Some of the force of The Asset Strippers, its summoning of defunct or vanishing British industry, depends on gallery-goers having no clue what such machines actually do. But the exhibition is surprisingly ...

On Gertrude Beasley

Elisabeth Ladenson, 21 October 2021

... Most of these are now in libraries in Texas. As early as 1934, Beasley’s original publisher, Robert McAlmon, was complaining that a rare book dealer was asking $40 for a copy of the book, which had been priced at $2.50. (Copies of the Texas Book Club edition occasionally surface, selling at $125 or higher.) The memoir recounts Beasley’s difficult ...

Paley’s Planet

Robert Walshe, 17 April 1986

Three of a Kind 
by Rachel Ingalls.
Faber, 141 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 571 13606 0
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Home Truths 
by Mavis Gallant.
Cape, 330 pp., £9.95, November 1985, 0 224 02344 6
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Later the Same Day 
by Grace Paley.
Virago, 211 pp., £8.95, November 1985, 0 86068 701 5
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... at a ski resort; acquaintances the narrator had crossed an ocean to leave behind; the geriatric ward. Here the structure of the story is identical to that of the first. We are lured along by the devices of a somewhat homespun style, and hit over the head with a mallet. We are not meant to recover. More detail is conveyed about the rich, and we like them ...


Robert Bernard Martin, 4 April 1985

The Collected Letters of William Morris. Vol. I: 1848-1880 
edited by Norman Kelvin.
Princeton, 626 pp., £50.30, April 1984, 0 691 06501 2
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... this size, there are a few unimportant errors, such as the misspelling of the name of Mrs Humphry Ward; a pair of footnotes on page 378 so thoroughly entangled and misleading that nothing but beginning again could straighten them out; and two mentions by Morris of ‘grice’ sent as gifts just after the Glorious Twelfth which surely refer jokingly to grouse ...

No Surrender

Tom Shippey: Vikings, 22 July 2010

The Hammer and the Cross: A New History of the Vikings 
by Robert Ferguson.
Allen Lane, 450 pp., £30, November 2009, 978 0 7139 9788 0
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... Robert Ferguson’s title has already been used at least twice for Viking-related works, which makes one wonder about his subtitle: what’s ‘new’ in Viking studies? The history of the Vikings has been well known, in outline, for a long time. By early medieval standards, we have very good documentation for it, in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and in Frankish and Irish annals, with further contributions from Arab and Byzantine sources, while the Icelanders’ passion for sagas and poems means that we also have versions of the Vikings’ side of the story ...

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