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A Cheat, a Sharper and a Swindler

Brian Young: Warren Hastings, 24 May 2001

Dawning of the Raj: The Life and Trials of Warren Hastings 
by Jeremy Bernstein.
Aurum, 319 pp., £19.99, March 2001, 1 85410 753 4
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... on Hindu law and Charles Wilkins’s pioneering translation of the Bhagavad-Gita. When Sir William Jones, the inspirational instigator of Indo-European studies, arrived in Bengal as a judge, Hastings was one of his strongest supporters. Though it has long been fashionable to denigrate such work as being Orientalist, it’s difficult to find anything in it that ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Stop-Loss’, 8 May 2008

Stop-Loss 
directed by Kimberly Peirce.
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... other three recent American war movies I know of: Paul Haggis’s In the Valley of Elah (2007), Brian de Palma’s Redacted (2007) and the newly released Stop-Loss, directed by Kimberly Peirce. This is her second film, and in certain curious ways a follow-up to the troubling Boys Don’t Cry (1999) – she herself signals the continuity by having the main ...

Watch with mother

Zachary Leader, 23 May 1996

Eastern Sun, Winter Moon 
by Gary Paulsen.
Gollancz, 244 pp., £16.99, April 1996, 9780575063198
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The Attic: Memoir of a Chinese Landlord’s Son 
by Guanlong Cao, translated by Guanlong Cao and Nancy Moskin.
California, 256 pp., £19.95, April 1996, 0 520 20405 0
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... boys. His best-known boys’ books are a trilogy of survivalist novels about an urban adolescent, Brian Robeson, stranded in a Canadian wilderness: Hatchet, which sold over a million copies, Hatchet: The Return and Hatchet: Winter, which Paulsen claims to have written in response to fan mail (‘as many as two hundred letters a day’). The themes of these ...

Keep the baby safe

Stephen Sedley: Corrupt and Deprave, 10 March 2022

A Matter of Obscenity: The Politics of Censorship in Modern England 
by Christopher Hilliard.
Princeton, 320 pp., £28, September 2021, 978 0 691 19798 2
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... Everyone​  knows that Mervyn Griffith-Jones QC asked an Old Bailey jury in 1960 whether Lady Chatterley’s Lover was a book they would want their wives or servants to read. The jury – which included three women – is said to have laughed. Its acquittal of Penguin on a charge of violating the newly minted Obscene Publications Act 1959 is widely regarded as a turning point in the centuries-long persecution of literature and philosophy in the name of morality ...

Tom Phillips: An Interview

Tom Phillips, Adam Smyth and Gill Partington, 11 October 2012

... brilliant comedians. The most brilliant thing I saw, better than music hall, was The Life of Brian. Also done by friends of mine. Terry Jones is a very close friend. I’ve played ping-pong with every one of Pythons, except the one who died.GP: You’ve played ping-pong with every famous person.AS: Are you more ...

Speaking well

Christopher Ricks, 18 August 1983

Cyril Connolly: Journal and Memoir 
by David Pryce-Jones.
Collins, 304 pp., £12.50, July 1983, 0 333 32827 2
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J.B. Yeats: Letters to His Son W.B. Yeats and Others, 1869-1922 
edited with a memoir by Joseph Hone.
Secker, 296 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 436 59205 3
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... Lawrence refuses to recognise virtue in anyone but himself’), and his sponsor David Pryce-Jones now finds F.R. Leavis much the same, so it may be legitimate to cite the famous excoriation of Bloomsbury that was voiced by Lawrence and amplified by Leavis: ‘they talked endlessly, but endlessly – and never, never a good thing said. They are cased ...

Odd Union

David Cannadine, 20 October 1994

Mrs Jordan’s Profession: The Story of a Great Actress and a Future King 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 415 pp., £18, October 1994, 0 670 84159 5
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... correspondence with the Duke of Clarence was edited and published by Arthur Aspinall, and in 1965 Brian Forthergill produced a lengthy and appreciative study of Mrs Jordan as an actress. Why, then, has Claire Tomalin, a biographer who excels in the recovery of the lives of lost women, sought to tell again a story which has already been more than ...

Late Developer

Paul Foot, 22 February 1990

Against the Tide: Diaries 1973-1976 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 512 pp., £20, October 1989, 0 09 173775 3
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... nothing about it. When he complained to the general secretary of the telephone engineers’ union, Brian Stanley, Stanley said he thought his own phone was tapped too – by his own members. Jack Jones and Hugh Scanlon, the ‘terrible twins’ of the Trade Unions in the period which toppled the Heath Government, became the ...

How can we live with it?

Thomas Jones: How to Survive Climate Change, 23 May 2013

The Carbon Crunch: How We’re Getting Climate Change Wrong – and How to Fix It 
by Dieter Helm.
Yale, 273 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 0 300 18659 8
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Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering 
by Clive Hamilton.
Yale, 247 pp., £20, February 2013, 978 0 300 18667 3
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The City and the Coming Climate: Climate Change in the Places We Live 
by Brian Stone.
Cambridge, 187 pp., £19.99, July 2012, 978 1 107 60258 8
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... other, a former head of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (as paraphrased by Brian Stone): ‘Only Newton’s laws of motion may enjoy a wider scientific consensus than a human-enhanced greenhouse effect.’ There isn’t consensus, however, either scientific or political, about the best ways to respond to the problem; in part because so ...

Manliness

D.A.N. Jones, 20 December 1984

Last Ferry to Manly 
by Jill Neville.
Penguin, 165 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 14 007068 0
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Down from the Hill 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Granada, 218 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 246 12517 9
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God Knows 
by Joseph Heller.
Cape, 353 pp., £8.95, November 1984, 0 224 02288 1
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Wilt on High 
by Tom Sharpe.
Secker, 236 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 9780436458118
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... which to end a better book. God Knows could appeal only to those who like the idea of The Life of Brian or Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It stimulates the laughter of fools, like thorns crackling under the pot. Wilt on High seems to me much funnier, though I recognise that many will find it too crude. The reader mutters ‘No laughing matter’, between ...

Green War

Patricia Craig, 19 February 1987

Poetry in the Wars 
by Edna Longley.
Bloodaxe, 264 pp., £12.95, November 1986, 0 906427 74 6
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We Irish: The Selected Essays of Denis Donoghue 
Harvester, 275 pp., £25, November 1986, 0 7108 1011 3Show More
The Battle of The Books 
by W.J. McCormack.
Lilliput, 94 pp., £3.95, October 1986, 0 946640 13 0
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The Twilight of Ascendancy 
by Mark Bence-Jones.
Constable, 327 pp., £14.95, January 1987, 0 09 465490 5
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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl 
edited by John Quinn.
Methuen, 144 pp., £8.95, November 1986, 0 413 14350 3
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... and savage’) to certain terms bandied about today: ‘terrorist’, ‘bomber’. Brian Friel, another of the ‘Field Day’ directors, does something similar in his play, Translations, which isn’t only about the act of translating place-names from Irish to English, but also ‘translates’ a typical British battalion in the Belfast or ...

Lost Jokes

Alan Bennett, 2 August 1984

... seeing it as a great opportunity, and so the production went ahead, with Mona Washbourne, Gemma Jones and Brian Cox in the other parts. I didn’t attend many of the rehearsals. I still wasn’t certain that one should. The question had not arisen in Forty Years On since I was there anyway as a member of the ...

After-Lives

John Sutherland, 5 November 1992

Keepers of the Flame: Literary Estates and the Rise of Biography 
by Ian Hamilton.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £18.99, October 1992, 0 09 174263 3
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Testamentary Acts: Browning, Tennyson, James, Hardy 
by Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 273 pp., £27.50, June 1992, 0 19 811276 9
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The Last Laugh 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 131 pp., £10.99, December 1991, 0 7011 4583 8
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Trollope 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Hutchinson, 551 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 09 173896 2
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... between Nabokov’s biographers – the publishing rascal Andrew Field and friend of the family, Brian Boyd. Should Diane Middlebrook have had access to Anne Sexton’s psychiatric records? Did Lawrence Durrell commit incest with his daughter, and if he did should the public know about it? The reluctance of his estate to authorise a biography of T.S. Eliot ...

Diary

Karl Miller: What is rugby for?, 5 December 1991

... strength: but they also tried, eventually, to run the ball. The Australian captain Nick Fan-Jones ‘dreaded’, afterwards, ‘to think what might have happened had England been used to getting the ball wide and knowing what to do with it when it really mattered’. That seems right, and Campese, the arch-exponent of running rugby, could be felt to be ...

Rehabilitation

Donald Rayfield, 19 July 1984

Dostoevsky. Vol II: The Years of Ordeal 1850-1859 
by Joseph Frank.
Robson, 320 pp., £14.95, April 1984, 0 86051 242 8
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The Village of Stepanchikovo 
by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Ignat Avsey.
Angel, 255 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 946162 06 9
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... perceptive to see any real promise in either work. They have a galumphing comic quality, as of a Brian Rix farce turned into a story, and P.G. Wodehouse could have reshaped them. At best, they show Dostoevsky as the greatest playwright that Russia never had, for in them he sharpens his gift for causing the character and intrigue of a novel to develop ...

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