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Ghosts in the Picture

Adam Mars-Jones: Daniel Kehlmann, 22 January 2015


by Daniel Kehlmann, translated by Carol Brown Janeway.
Quercus, 258 pp., £16.99, October 2014, 978 1 84866 734 1
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... since fully grown and each of them enmeshed in his own particular form of unhappiness, none of Arthur Friedland’s sons could recall whose idea it had actually been to go to the hypnotist that afternoon.’ The risk is that a memorable opening section, elaborately orchestrated, leaves a novel with nowhere to go, or at least with the obligation to start ...

A Parlour in Purley

Tessa Hadley: Life as a Wife, 17 June 2021

The True History of the First Mrs Meredith and Other Lesser Lives 
by Diane Johnson.
NYRB, 242 pp., £14.99, July 2020, 978 1 68137 445 1
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... a man of letters.Mary Ellen’s first marriage, in January 1844, was to Eddy Nicolls, a gallant young naval officer. They moved to Ireland, where Nicolls was in command of HMS Dwarf, the first screw-propelled vessel in the Navy; the couple seem to have become acquainted through Peacock’s interest in steam navigation. Mary Ellen was soon pregnant, but in ...

Not a Nasty

Thomas Jones: Peter Ho Davies, 24 May 2007

The Welsh Girl 
by Peter Ho Davies.
Sceptre, 344 pp., £12.99, May 2007, 978 0 340 93825 6
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... with’, sneak down to the camp after last orders. Esther hasn’t told her father about Colin. Arthur Evans is a ‘staunch nationalist’: he’s only been to England once, to a rally in Hyde Park in 1937 to protest against the conviction of the three Plaid Cymru leaders who set fire to the RAF bombing school – or training camp, depending on your point ...

The Supreme Farewell of Handkerchiefs

Clive James, 21 August 1980

... with acknowledgments to Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale, authors of ‘Misia’ ‘I’ve left that great page blank,’ said Mallarmé When asked why he’d not written of his boat. There are such things as mean too much to say. You have to let it drift, to let it float. The man who did the asking was Manet, Whose niece’s journal treasures the reply ...

Barriers of Silliness

J.I.M. Stewart, 1 July 1982

The Great Detectives: Seven Original Investigations 
by Julian Symons.
Orbis, 143 pp., £7.95, October 1981, 0 85613 362 0
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Critical Observations 
by Julian Symons.
Faber, 213 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 571 11688 4
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As I walked down New Grub Street: Memories of a Writing Life 
by Walter Allen.
Heinemann, 276 pp., £8.95, November 1981, 0 434 01829 5
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... cage of a new type that can be slipped between two combs in the brood chamber’) by a distressed young woman posing, rather pointlessly, as a local journalist. This fails to deceive Holmes for a moment – for has she not sent him a handwritten letter from a private address? – and the real occasion of her visit turns out to be anxiety over her ...

Bolsheviks and Bohemians

Angus Calder, 5 April 1984

The Life of Arthur Ransome 
by Hugh Brogan.
Cape, 456 pp., £10.95, January 1984, 0 224 02010 2
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Bohemia in London 
by Arthur Ransome, introduced by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Oxford, 284 pp., £3.50, January 1984, 0 19 281412 5
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... habits a few years later, when naming one of his most effective poems ‘The Penny Whistle’. Arthur Ransome in turn may well have recalled that poem, which evokes a charcoal-burners’ camp at night, when in 1930 he had the four Walker children, his ‘Swallows’, meet the two Billies, an ancient man and his elderly son, at work in the woods above their ...

Grumpy

Arthur Goldhammer, 5 October 1995

The Private Science of Louis Pasteur 
by Gerald Geison.
Princeton, 378 pp., £24.95, June 1995, 0 691 03442 7
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Louis Pasteur 
by Patrice Debré.
Flammarion, 559 pp., frs 145, January 1995, 2 08 066646 0
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Pasteur 
by Pierre Darmon.
Fayard, 430 pp., frs 150, February 1995, 9782213594040
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... had been almost literally a serf. His father, a tanner, had served under Napoleon and reared young Louis in the cult of the Emperor. In maturity Pasteur continued to honour the imperial virtues – authoritarian order and utilitarian science – as the midwives of modernity: campaigning for the Senate from his native Jura in 1876, he told voters that ...

Hue and Cry

Arthur C. Danto, 12 May 1994

Colour and Culture: Practice and Meaning from Antiquity to Abstraction 
by John Gage.
Thames and Hudson, 335 pp., £38, October 1993, 0 500 23654 2
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... call Primitive.’ (I have often wondered to what degree colour printing could have suggested the Young-Helmholtz trichromate theory of colour perception.) Gage comments: ‘So far from marking the beginning of a scientific aesthetic, the optical concerns of the Neo-Impressionists signalled its demise, and helped to usher in that disdain for the methods and ...

Horrors and Cream

Hugh Tulloch, 21 August 1980

On the Edge of Paradise 
by David Newsome.
Murray, 405 pp., £17.50, June 1980, 0 7195 3690 1
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... Dining at Hatchett’s restaurant in September 1903, Arthur Benson observed his image reflected endlessly and from a variety of angles in mirrors around the room. He was to fill 180 volumes with almost five million words in an attempt to scrutinise and sharpen that blurred mirror image. Diaries can, of course, appear an ambiguous genre: they aim at a natural flow of unself-consciousness, but the diarist cannot remain entirely unaware of the prospective reader peering over his shoulder ...

Diary

Thomas Jones: Death in Florence, 21 June 2012

... turn of the last century: Richard Roberts, his wife Anne, their sons Robert, Richard E(llis) and Arthur, their daughter Margaret, and three servants – the cook, Sarah Reece, and two teenage housemaids, Emily Lunmir and Ethel Bailey. The eldest son, William, must have already moved out. In his will, my great-great-grandfather ‘desired it to be known that ...

Letting people die

Jonathan Glover, 4 March 1982

... On 5 November last year, Dr Leonard Arthur was found not guilty of attempting to murder John Pearson, a baby with Down’s syndrome, who had died while under his care. Mrs Nuala Scarisbrick, the Hon. Administrator of LIFE, commented: ‘The verdict gives carte blanche to doctors to give treatment to patients who are unwanted or handicapped or both, that will result in their death ...
The Sinking of the ‘Belgrano’ 
by Desmond Rice and Arthur Gavshon.
Secker, 192 pp., £8.95, March 1984, 0 436 41332 9
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Our Falklands War 
edited by Geoffrey Underwood.
Maritime Books, 144 pp., £3.95, November 1983, 0 907771 08 4
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... over the sinking of the General Belgrano are authoritatively considered by Desmond Rice and Arthur Gavshon. In Paragraph 110 of HMG’s own White Paper, ‘The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons’, we read: ‘On 2 May, HMS Conqueror detected the Argentine cruiser, General Belgrano, accompanied by two destroyers, sailing near to the total exclusion ...

Short Cuts

Mary-Kay Wilmers: Remembering Paul Foot, 19 August 2004

... that in all its 481 pages there is not the slightest trace of a joke or a sign that the greatest young journalist of his generation ever enjoyed a single book he didn’t serialise, and you might conclude that Full Disclosure should be consigned to everlasting fire. You would be quite wrong. The book is thoroughly absorbing. It is a dark tragedy, the chief ...

Claiming victory

John Lloyd, 21 November 1985

The Miners’ Strike 
by Geoffrey Goodman.
Pluto, 213 pp., £4.50, September 1985, 0 7453 0073 1
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Strike: Thatcher, Scargill and the Miners 
by Peter Wilsher, Donald Macintyre and Michael Jones.
Deutsch, 284 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 233 97825 9
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... of fairness at least, to look at the possibility that that verdict is wrong. Let us suppose – as Arthur Scargill invites us to – that it was forced upon them: that, as he also claims, it was a victory. There are two sets of reasons for believing that there was no choice but to fight an opponent who had declared war. Geoffrey Goodman makes the first ...

If you’d seen his green eyes

Hilary Mantel: The People’s Robespierre, 20 April 2006

Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution 
by Ruth Scurr.
Chatto, 388 pp., £20, May 2006, 0 7011 7600 8
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... us the domestic detail; records of the Artois courts give us a little more. Like many educated young men of the time, Robespierre cultivated his sensibilities. He wrote a little light verse. He was sociable, up to a point. He had women friends. He could easily have married. Except for his spectacular absent-mindedness – he once served the soup onto the ...

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