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Did Jesus walk on water because he couldn’t swim?

Jenny Diski: Jewish Seafarers, 20 August 1998

The Children of Noah: Jewish Seafaring in Ancient Times 
by Raphael Patai.
Princeton, 208 pp., £17.95, May 1998, 0 691 01580 5
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... Patai explains, according to Talmudic cosmology, tohu, of the tohu bohu translated in the King James Bible as ‘without form and void’; an essential part of the chaos which was all there was before God separated and ordered the world into existence. These were the seas that contained Rahab, Leviathan and other sea monsters which, sings the Psalmist, God ...

Most Himself

Matthew Reynolds: Dryden, 19 July 2007

The Poems of John Dryden: Vol. V 1697-1700 
edited by Paul Hammond and David Hopkins.
Longman, 707 pp., £113.99, July 2005, 0 582 49214 9
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Dryden: Selected Poems 
edited by Paul Hammond and David Hopkins.
Longman, 856 pp., £19.99, February 2007, 978 1 4058 3545 9
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... his would-be resurrectors. The same melancholy afflicts his most authoritative modern biographer, James Anderson Winn: ‘Any candid teacher of English literature must admit that many students find little pleasure or stimulation in those few selections from Dryden we now ask them to read.’ The difficulty is not confined to students, or to recent times. ‘I ...

One Per Cent

Jonathan Steinberg: The House of Rothschild, 28 October 1999

The World’s Banker: The History of the House of Rothschild 
by Niall Ferguson.
Weidenfeld, 1309 pp., £30, October 1998, 0 297 81539 3
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... Nathan Mayer’s only competitor for the title of richest man in Europe was his youngest brother, James, founder of the Paris branch. Last year was the bicentenary of the arrival of Nathan Mayer Rothschild in England and Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, chairman of N.M. Rothschild and Sons, proposed a history of the House to Ferguson as a fitting way to commemorate ...

Living on Apple Crumble

August Kleinzahler: James Schuyler, 17 November 2005

Just the Thing: Selected Letters of James Schuyler 1951-91 
edited by William Corbett.
Turtle Point, 470 pp., £13.99, May 2005, 1 885586 30 2
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... the 8 p.m. cup of cocoa.’ The letter was written on 15 November 1951, a few days after James Schuyler had been admitted to Bloomingdale Hospital, a mental institution in White Plains, New York. Schuyler still gets his semi-colons right, and his appetite for gossip is undiminished: ‘Is it still Connecticut, the dear deer, the steady lay, the ...

Wounds

Stephen Fender, 23 June 1988

Hemingway 
by Kenneth Lynn.
Simon and Schuster, 702 pp., £16, September 1987, 0 671 65482 9
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The Faces of Hemingway: Intimate Portraits of Ernest Hemingway by those who knew him 
by Denis Brian.
Grafton, 356 pp., £14.95, May 1988, 0 246 13326 0
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... American lesbians in Paris, Natalie Barney and Djuna Barnes, who lived, respectively, in the Rue Jacob and the Hotel Jacob. There is a good deal more of this: Hemingway’s attraction to women who looked like boys, or whom he enjoined to; the surnames of the lovers (‘an androgynous whole’) in A Farewell to Arms, which ...

Make use of me

Jeremy Treglown: Olivia Manning, 9 February 2006

Olivia Manning: A Life 
by Neville Braybrooke and June Braybrooke.
Chatto, 301 pp., £20, November 2004, 0 7011 7749 7
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... her like beautiful swans.’ An assiduous user of the public library, the young Olivia took out Jacob’s Room almost as soon as it arrived there. But her tastes were catholic: Rider Haggard’s Zulu Trilogy excited her so much that her mother thought she was running a fever and sent her to bed. Olivia would have liked to have been a man. The writing she ...

When it is advisable to put on a fez

Richard Popkin: Adventures of a Messiah, 23 May 2002

The Lost Messiah: In Search of Sabbatai Sevi 
by John Freely.
Viking, 275 pp., £20, September 2001, 0 670 88675 0
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... and a contemporary woodcut from Germany labelled ‘the two great impostors’ shows him facing James Nayler, the messianic English Quaker. Nayler had entered Bristol like Jesus entering Jerusalem, on the back of an ass. His followers walked behind him and a sign proclaimed him King of the Jews. His movement had effects right across Europe, the Middle East ...

Mrs Straus’s Devotion

Jenny Diski, 5 June 1997

Last Dinner on the ‘Titanic’: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner 
by Rick Archbold and Dana McCauley.
Weidenfeld, 128 pp., £9.99, April 1997, 1 86448 250 8
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The ‘Titanic’ Complex 
by John Wilson Foster.
Belcouver, 92 pp., £5.99, April 1997, 0 9699464 1 4
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Down with the Old Canoe 
by Steven Biel.
Norton, 300 pp., £18.95, April 1997, 9780393039658
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... equal rights: there is a note of regret that such financial and industrial eminences as John Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim, Isidor Straus and Harry Widener should have given up their lives not just to their own women, but to impoverished foreigners – the Guggenheims and Strauses apparently being accorded an honorary Aryanness for the occasion. The ...

Echo is a fangirl

Ange Mlinko, 3 December 2020

Time Lived, without Its Flow 
by Denise Riley.
Picador, 85 pp., £9.99, October 2019, 978 1 5290 1710 6
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Selected Poems: 1976-2016 
by Denise Riley.
Picador, 210 pp., £14.99, October 2019, 978 1 5290 1712 0
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... ground has shifted beneath them. These are the poems written after the sudden death of her son, Jacob, from cardiomyopathy. Now she is Orpheus-as-mother: ‘to/converse with shades, yourself become a shadow.’ She must ask herself the fundamental question: ‘You principle of song, what are you for now?’‘A Part Song’, which first appeared in the LRB ...

From Shtetl to Boulevard

Paul Keegan: Freud’s Mother, 5 October 2017

Freud: In His Time and Ours 
by Elisabeth Roudinesco, translated by Catherine Porter.
Harvard, 580 pp., £27.95, November 2016, 978 0 674 65956 8
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Freud: An Intellectual Biography 
by Joel Whitebook.
Cambridge, 484 pp., £30, February 2017, 978 0 521 86418 3
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... the last in line for acceptance and betterment in the German-speaking empire. Freud’s father, Jacob, was a mobile self-fashioning son of the Haskalah or Jewish enlightenment. As a young man he entered into partnership with his maternal grandfather, Siskind, plying their trade in wool, linen, honey, tallow, to and fro between backward Galicia and ...

Hitler and History

Hans Keller, 5 February 1981

Hitler 
by Norman Stone.
Hodder, 195 pp., £6.95, August 1980, 0 340 24980 3
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Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ in Britain and America: A Publishing History 1930-39 
by James Barnes and Patience Barnes.
Cambridge, 158 pp., £8.50, September 1980, 0 521 22691 0
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The Berlin Secession: Modernism and Its Enemies in Imperial Germany 
by Peter Paret.
Harvard, 262 pp., £10.50, December 1980, 0 674 06773 8
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German Romantic Painting 
by William Vaughan.
Yale, 260 pp., £19.95, October 1980, 0 300 02387 1
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... his The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. has been reviewed in these pages, nor are Norman Stone, James J. Barnes and Patience P. Barnes always less fanciful. And if Hitler’s personality remains an unanswered question, so too, does the history of National Socialism – which a book like Robert Harbison’s recent Deliberate Regression: The disastrous ...

Being all right, and being wrong

Barbara Everett, 12 July 1990

Miscellaneous Verdicts: Writings on Writers 1946-1989 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 501 pp., £20, May 1990, 9780434599288
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Haydn and the Valve Trumpet 
by Craig Raine.
Faber, 498 pp., £20, June 1990, 0 571 15084 5
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... He will open a review, as if telling the boys, ‘Evelyn Waugh was born in 1903,’ ‘Alice James, born 1848, was the only sister of Henry James.’ And these decent and helpful conventions (now hopelessly out of date – a startling number of the intelligent young now know no history at all) will sometimes ...

Gnawed by rats, burnt at Oxford

Claire Tomalin, 10 October 1991

G.H. Lewes: A Life 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Oxford, 369 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 19 812827 4
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... New Age and the New Statesman. Various backers put money into it, including the remarkable George Jacob Holyoake, a self-educated working man, journalist, author, Chartist, Owenite and atheist: he boldly named one of his sons Robespierre, which must have made the boy’s life hard. He had been imprisoned for blasphemy before joining forces with Lewes and ...

The Real Johnny Hall

Penelope Fitzgerald, 3 October 1985

Our Three Selves: A Life of Radclyffe Hall 
by Michael Baker.
Hamish Hamilton, 386 pp., £13.95, June 1985, 0 241 11539 6
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... instead mildly successful at W.H. Smith and the Times Bookshop. The case was altered only by James Douglas, the editor (also in a crusader’s spirit) of the Sunday Express. Douglas decided, a month later, to feature the book and its photogenic author, in her ‘severe’ smoking-jacket, as evidence of ‘the plague stalking shamelessly through public ...

Forty-Eighters

Peter Pulzer, 4 September 1986

Little Germany: Exile and Asylum in Victorian England 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Oxford, 304 pp., £17.50, July 1986, 0 19 212239 8
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... most likely to sympathise with the new arrivals, whether Chartists like Ernest Jones or George Jacob Harney, ‘advanced’ publicists like G.H. Lewes or G.J. Holyoake, or even established writers like Carlyle or John Stuart Mill, had limited means and little patronage. But most new arrivals found that their heroism on the barricades or their daring ...

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