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The Immortal Coil

Richard Barnett: Faraday’s Letters, 21 March 2013

The Correspondence of Michael Faraday Vol. VI, 1860-67 
by Frank James.
IET, 919 pp., £85, December 2011, 978 0 86341 957 7
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... of Faraday’s experimental sophistication (by David Gooding) and his Sandemanian faith (by Geoffrey Cantor) have deepened, rather than challenged, our sense of his eminence. James’s work, meanwhile – in his own publications and his DNB entry on Faraday – has highlighted Faraday’s importance as a public scientist and government adviser. Drawing ...

So Much Smoke

Tom Shippey: King Arthur, 20 December 2018

King Arthur: the Making of the Legend 
by Nicholas Higham.
Yale, 380 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 0 300 21092 7
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... Still, Nennius’s Arthur might have remained in scholarly oblivion had he not been picked up by Geoffrey of Monmouth 300 years later, and expanded into a whole book of his Historia Regum Britanniae. This immensely successful work – more than 200 surviving manuscripts, and translations into Old French, Middle English, Welsh and even Icelandic – brought ...

I used to work for them myself

David Leigh, 4 August 1983

British Intelligence and Covert Action: Africa, the Middle East and Europe since 1945 
by Jonathan Bloch, Patrick Fitzgerald and Philip Agee.
Junction, 284 pp., £5.95, May 1983, 0 86245 113 2
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Through the Looking-Glass: British Foreign Policy in an Age of Illusions 
by Anthony Verrier.
Cape, 400 pp., £12.50, February 1983, 0 224 01979 1
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... had known what to look for, just as you would have spotted his counterpart in MI5, Sir John Lewis Jones, in the honours list immediately prior to that). What, then, is the point of the fantastic governmental mumbo-jumbo with which the British ‘Secret Service’ surrounds itself? Although it is a rather youthful bureaucratic invention, only about seventy ...

Diary

David Gascoyne: Notebook, New Year 1991, 25 January 1996

... Monday 21: Invitation card from Tony Rudolf – ‘Art 91’ Fair, Islington, 23 January. Audrey Jones at Menard Press stand. Went into Cowes after lunch to have new Dior spectacles frame stiffened by optician. Finished letter to Tony Rudolf, sending him translation of L’Adieu from the Jabès obituary piece in Le Monde. TV Gulf coverage expressive of ...

Chop, Chop, Chop

Adam Mars-Jones: ‘Grief Is the Thing with Feathers’, 21 January 2016

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers 
by Max Porter.
Faber, 114 pp., £10, September 2015, 978 0 571 32376 0
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... we move. WE FUCKING HURTLE THROUGH SPACE LIKE THREE MAGNIFICENT BRAKE-FAILED BANGERS, thank you, Geoffrey, and send my love to Jean.’ The ability to function at some level shouldn’t be confused with the acceptance posited as the final stage by the Kübler-Ross model. Emerson could hardly be more emotionally present in his journal entries for January ...

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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... on Basil Bunting, Charles Tomlinson, Ted Hughes, Robert Graves, Hugh MacDiarmid, J.M. Synge, David Jones, George Steiner, Geoffrey Hill, Elizabeth Daryush and the fraternity of poets anthologised by Andrew Crozier and Tim Longville in A Various Art. It also includes a number of Davie’s poems. If we were to read the ...

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 reasons for believing that there was no choice but to fight an opponent who had declared war. Geoffrey Goodman makes the first case: Margaret Thatcher saw the NUM – Arthur Scargill in particular – as the embodiment of all that she held to be endemic in Britain’s economic decline: monopoly trade-unionism in a state industry subsidised well beyond ...

Great Tradition

D.G. Wright, 20 October 1983

Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears 
by Geoffrey Pearson.
Macmillan, 243 pp., £15, July 1983, 0 333 23399 9
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... such vulgar ambitions and who value the critical scepticism of academic history will welcome Geoffrey Pearson’s Hooligan. Himself one of Rhodes Boyson’s despised breed of ‘mindles’s sociologists’, Pearson probes to the heart of the historical mythology beloved of the tabloids, the Tory New Right and over-mighty chief constables. It is widely ...

Two Men in a Boat

Ian Aitken, 15 August 1991

John Major: The Making of the Prime Minister 
by Bruce Anderson.
Fourth Estate, 324 pp., £16.99, June 1991, 9781872180540
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‘My Style of Government’: The Thatcher Years 
by Nicholas Ridley.
Hutchinson, 275 pp., £16.99, July 1991, 0 09 175051 2
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... with his immediate superior, though he did tell him his views privately. Then, when he steps over Geoffrey Howe’s bloodstains and arrives at the Foreign Office, Mr Major changes his mind again and becomes a supporter of British entry into the ERM. Anderson acknowledges that this looks suspiciously like the fell hand of the FO at work, but vigorously denies ...

All Together Now

John Lloyd: The British Trade Union, 19 October 2000

British Trade Unions and Industrial Politics. Vol. I: The Postwar Compromise, 1945-64 
edited by John McIlroy and Nina Fishman et al.
Ashgate, 335 pp., £35, January 2000, 0 7546 0018 1
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British Trade Unions and Industrial Politics. Vol. II: The High Tide of Trade Unionism, 1964-79 
edited by John McIlroy and Nina Fishman et al.
Ashgate, 389 pp., £35, January 2000, 0 7546 0018 1
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The TUC: From the General Strike to New Unionism 
by Robert Taylor.
Palgrave, 299 pp., £45, September 2000, 0 333 93066 5
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... Chequers which brought together Wilson, his First (and Employment) Secretary Barbara Castle, Jack Jones of the Transport Workers, Hugh Scanlon of the Engineers and Vic Feather, the recently elected TUC General Secretary. The hours of argument circled round the Government’s need – political as much as economic – for legally enforceable constraints on ...

Always the Same Dream

Ferdinand Mount: Princess Margaret, 4 January 2018

Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret 
by Craig Brown.
Fourth Estate, 423 pp., £16.99, September 2017, 978 0 00 820361 0
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... of it and only 17 per cent disapproved. So was it the Church of England’s influence? Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher, a famous thrasher in his days as headmaster of Repton, was interviewed on TV by Richard Dimbleby on 2 November, two days after the announcement that the marriage would not happen. Fisher maintained that the decision had been the princess’s ...

Women of Quality

E.S. Turner, 9 October 1986

The Pebbled Shore 
by Elizabeth Longford.
Weidenfeld, 351 pp., £14.95, August 1986, 0 297 78863 9
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Leaves of the Tulip Tree 
by Juliette Huxley.
Murray, 248 pp., £7.95, June 1986, 9780719542886
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Enid Bagnold 
by Anne Sebba.
Weidenfeld, 317 pp., £15, September 1986, 0 297 78991 0
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... Café Royal (an episode she disclosed herself). She married the head of Reuter’s, Sir Roderick Jones, a time-saving autocrat whose rule was that, when he left his London office by car, a messenger should run along the street to jump on the sunken pad in the road and turn the lights green. Sir Roderick soon introduced a relaxed marital understanding akin to ...

Playing Fields, Flanders Fields

Paul Delany, 21 January 1982

War Diary 1913-1917: Chronicle of Youth 
by Vera Brittain, edited by Alan Bishop.
Gollancz, 382 pp., £8.50, September 1981, 0 575 02888 2
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The English Poets of the First World War 
by John Lehmann.
Thames and Hudson, 144 pp., £6.95, August 1981, 0 500 01256 3
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Voices from the Great War 
by Peter Vansittart.
Cape, 303 pp., £7.95, November 1981, 0 224 01915 5
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The Little Field-Marshal: Sir John French 
by Richard Holmes.
Cape, 427 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 0 224 01575 3
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... youth, and a tragic precursor for the other three young officers she loved – Victor Richardson, Geoffrey Thurlow and her younger brother, Edward, all killed in action. When one reads Brittain’s diary, it is hard not to resent the way Leighton cut across the natural line of her development. In the early entries, despite some priggishness and superior ...

M for Merlin

Helen Cooper: Chrétien de Troyes, 25 November 1999

Perceval: The Story of the Grail 
by Chrétien de Troyes, translated by Burton Raffel.
Yale, 307 pp., £22.50, March 1999, 0 300 07586 3
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... of inspiring an afterlife that has come to include Glastonbury, ley-lines, Monty Python, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and a thriving industry of occult bookshops. It was Chrétien who first realised that the legendary history of Arthur, largely invented by Geoffrey of Monmouth a few decades earlier, allowed huge ...

Untouched by Eliot

Denis Donoghue: Jon Stallworthy, 4 March 1999

Rounding the Horn: Collected Poems 
by Jon Stallworthy.
Carcanet, 247 pp., £14.95, September 1998, 1 85754 163 4
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... Magdalen College. Again his teachers were splendid, he had Jack Bennett for Anglo-Saxon and Emrys Jones for Shakespeare. I’m sure he spent many hours in the Bodleian, but more on the rugby pitch. In Singing School he doesn’t mention his literary prizes, but he gives the scores of the rugby matches in which he played and quotes favourable reviews of his ...

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