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It’s Hard to Stop

Michael Wood: Sartre’s Stories, 18 April 2019

... the First World War to the mid-1930s, and we hear the names of Aristide Briand, Maurice Barrès, Charles Maurras and Léon Blum. For quite a while the depicted childhood seems interestingly strange, as perhaps all childhoods are if we know them well enough. The son of a Breton factory owner whose family later moves to Paris, Lucien Fleurier wonders if he is ...


Andrew O’Hagan: At the Olympic Park, 9 February 2012

... could almost eat the soil now. The first time I saw London was in 1981, just after the wedding of Charles and Diana. I came to Stratford for two weeks to stay with my uncle. It smelled funny – like our ICI-dominated conurbation back home – and it surprised me that a city so full of telegenic hats and pristine flags could also smell of wet coal. But when ...

At the Musée des arts et métiers

Richard Taws: Madame de Genlis’s Models, 18 March 2021

... of them survive today. They were ordered from the engineer brothers Jacques-Constantin and Auguste-Charles Périer, and constructed by François-Étienne Calla, a former technician for Vaucanson. In his Tableau de Paris (1781-88), Louis-Sébastien Mercier described with enthusiasm the ‘curious and useful’ nature of this project, which was still then in ...


Ian Hamilton, 2 July 1981

Charles Charming’s Challenges on the Pathway to the Throne 
by Clive James.
Cape, 103 pp., £4.95, June 1981, 0 224 01954 6
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... millions do in fact now know, Clive is not the sort to sit around and wait for heaven to call him. Charles Charming’s Challenges on his Pathway to the Throne has been a multi-media blow-out. In addition to this book, which has been handsomely excerpted in the Observer, there has been three-quarters of a South Bank Show, a run at the Apollo Theatre, and ...


Tom Phillips, 2 April 1981

English Art and Modernism 1900-1939 
by Charles Harrison.
Allen Lane, 416 pp., £20, February 1981, 0 7139 0792 4
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... at a Rauschenberg, however huge. It is almost as if the younger gallery-goer had already digested Charles Harrison’s salutary and illuminating study of the theory and practice of Modernist art in England, with its detailed clinical case-histories of groups and individuals. Sniffing its moment, this book appears as the tide moves against the uncritical ...

Cardenio’s Ghost

Charles Nicholl: The Bits Shakespeare Wrote, 2 December 2010

The Arden Shakespeare: Double Falsehood 
edited by Brean Hammond.
Arden Shakespeare, 443 pp., £16.99, March 2010, 978 1 903436 77 6
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... and his beautiful settings of Ariel’s songs in The Tempest survive. The historian Michael Wood has ingeniously argued that the lyrics of ‘Woods, Rocks & Mountains’ are suggested by the wilderness setting of the Cardenio story and have some parallels with phrases in Shelton’s Quixote. He thinks the song was performed at the point in Cardenio ...

Why did they lose?

Tom Shippey: Why did Harold lose?, 12 March 2009

The Battle of Hastings: The Fall of Anglo-Saxon England 
by Harriet Harvey Wood.
Atlantic, 257 pp., £17.99, November 2008, 978 1 84354 807 2
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... word ‘last’ in their titles, as with Bulwer-Lytton’s Harold, the Last of the Saxon Kings, Charles Kingsley’s Hereward, the Last of the English and Hebe Weenolsen’s The Last Englishman. Henry Treece broke ranks by calling his Hereward novel Man with a Sword, but Julian Rathbone latterly re-established the pattern with his novel The Last English ...


James Wood: These Etonians, 4 July 2019

... was after political disgrace, looking for a turncoat Hurd, a Pym, a Raison, a Jopling. What was a Wood? We had no family connections, to Eton or anywhere else much. The only reason I was at the school was my mother’s madly aspirant zeal, her Scottish petit-bourgeois tirelessness. My older brother and I were both effectively scholarship boys. He was the real ...

The Glamour of Glamour

James Wood, 19 November 1992

The Secret History 
by Donna Tartt.
Viking, 524 pp., £9.99, October 1992, 0 670 84854 9
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A Thousand Acres 
by Jane Smiley.
Flamingo, 371 pp., £5.99, October 1992, 0 00 654482 7
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... of Tartt’s: Bunny was Edmund Wilson’s nickname); Francis Abernathy is the wimp; and the twins, Charles and Camilla Macaulay, are the beauties. The members of the gang have no life outside their poses. There is nothing here unmotivated, no detail that is not telling (‘he carried an umbrella, a bizarre sight in Hampden’), no revelation that is not a ...

‘Mmmmm’ not ‘Hmmm’

Michael Wood: Katharine Hepburn, 11 September 2003

Kate Remembered 
by A. Scott Berg.
Simon and Schuster, 318 pp., £18.99, July 2003, 0 7432 0676 2
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... vivid and subtle memoir is all about. Berg, the biographer of Maxwell Perkins, Sam Goldwyn, Charles Lindbergh and (in the works) Woodrow Wilson, first met Hepburn in 1982, when she was 75, and was a close friend until she died at the end of June this year. On his first visit, before they have properly met, she twice asks whether Berg has used the ...

Kinks on the Kinks

Michael Wood: Plots, 5 May 2016

by Robert Belknap.
Columbia, 165 pp., £22, May 2016, 978 0 231 17782 5
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... Aristotle – about a central point, it just has to be wrong.’ Not everyone would describe what Charles and Mary don’t say in their versions of Shakespeare as ‘this silence of the Lambs’, and Belknap’s reading of a book title mentioned in Rabelais recalls some of the great short masterpieces of modern literature, like Augusto Monterroso’s ...


Charles Nicholl: ‘The Shakespeare Circle’, 19 May 2016

The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography 
edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells.
Cambridge, 358 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 107 69909 0
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... Rowe in 1709) adds force. The book opens with a brisk pair of essays by David Fallow and Michael Wood on the subject of his parents: John Shakespeare, born in about 1530, the son of a tenant farmer in the outlying village of Snitterfield, and Mary née Arden, some years younger, of a more prosperous family from Wilmcote. Neither of their baptisms is ...

Bard of Tropes

Jonathan Lamb: Thomas Chatterton, 20 September 2001

Thomas Chatterton and Romantic Culture 
by Nick Groom.
Palgrave, 300 pp., £55, September 1999, 0 333 72586 7
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... Chatterton could ‘do’ any poet from Chaucer to the recently dead Charles Churchill; and after his own death poets ‘did’ him. This stanza from ‘Bristowe Tragedie or the Dethe of Syr Charles Bawdin’, is a blend of the Spenserian antique and ballad poetry, a combination which uses phrases that are heard again in Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Keats’s ‘Ode to a Nightingale’: How dydd I know thatt ev’ry darte Thatt cutte the airie waie Mighte nott fynde a passage to my harte And close myne eyes for aie? ‘Half the poetry of the 18th century is probably written by him,’ a character says in Peter Ackroyd’s novel Chatterton ...

With Great Stomack

Simon Schaffer: Christopher Wren, 21 February 2002

His Invention so Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren 
by Adrian Tinniswood.
Cape, 463 pp., £25, July 2001, 9780224042987
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... architect and one of its greatest natural philosophers, experimented with everything: stone and wood, cones and domes, animals and men. He liked to depart from revered authorities. Under his hands plans for a church steeple or an academic hall would turn into a bold revision of Vitruvian schemes, the twitches of an anatomised dog into a startling challenge ...

What Marlowe would have wanted

Charles Nicholl, 26 November 1987

Faustus and the Censor 
by William Empson, edited by John Henry Jones.
Blackwell, 226 pp., £17.50, September 1987, 0 631 15675 5
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... references – and others would have gone up in the fires that commonly broke out in the crowded wood-built cities. The losses are heaviest among the first wave of playmakers working in London in the late 1580s and early 1590s, the so-called ‘pre-Shakespearean’ period. Not a single play by the sonneteer Thomas Watson remains, though he was described in ...

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