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Buckets of Empathy

James Wood, 30 March 2000

On Trust: Art and the Temptations of Suspicion 
by Gabriel Josipovici.
Yale, 294 pp., £18.95, October 1999, 0 300 07991 5
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... brings sadness and pain. In a wonderful reading of the Biblical stories of David, and of Esau and Jacob, Josipovici rightly emphasises the theological restraint – what might be called the thematic restraint – of these stories, which do not exist to incarnate moral lessons so much as to present complex and contradictory characters moving through corridors ...


Stephen Fender, 23 June 1988

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 ...

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 ...

The Sacred Sofa

E.S. Turner, 11 December 1997

The House of Lords: From Saxon Wargods to a Modern Senate 
by John Wells.
Hodder, 298 pp., £20, October 1997, 0 340 64928 3
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... Horizon. It was not in such terms that we learned history at school. The Shining Ladder was the Jacob-style ladder on which the aristocracy occupied the upper rungs under their king, with God waiting to welcome them at the top, symbolising hierarchy, subordination and the chain of command. The Bright Horizon, which had somethting in common with the Level ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...


J.H. Burns, 2 March 1989

Whigs and Liberals: Continuity and Change in English Political Thought 
by J.W. Burrow.
Oxford, 159 pp., £17.50, March 1988, 0 19 820139 7
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... lifetime and in France? Part of the answer lies no doubt in his insistence that his own father, James Mill, was ‘the last of the 18th-century’, committed to a deductive, ‘geometric’ way of thinking which (his son came to think) was as mistaken as the bogus Baconianism of Macaulay. What the younger Mill claimed to have found, or to have found various ...

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 ...

Beyond the Cringe

John Barrell: British Art, 2 June 2016

Art in Britain 1660-1815 
by David Solkin.
Yale, 367 pp., £55, October 2015, 978 0 300 21556 4
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... Richard Wilson and Sawrey Gilpin, all of whom are adjudged to be of ‘good family’, and Sir James Thornhill, who came from ‘good Dorset stock’, a phrase more at home in a book on country cooking than in a serious work of scholarship. Why pedigree mattered to him is rarely clear, as by his own account it seems to have no particular influence on the ...

Men in Aprons

Colin Kidd: Freemasonry, 7 May 1998

Who’s Afraid of Freemasons? The Phenomenon of Freemasonry 
by Alexander Piatigorsky.
Harvill, 398 pp., £25, August 1997, 1 86046 029 1
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... still in its infancy. In 1717, the Grand Lodge of England was formally established and in 1723, James Anderson, commissioned in 1721 to ‘digest’ the old ‘Gothic’ charges of Masonry, published its modern Constitutions. A Jacobite, the Duke of Wharton, did hold the Grand Mastership in 1722-23, but left – tongue and throat intact – in 1723, under ...

Upside Down, Inside Out

Colin Kidd: The 1975 Referendum, 25 October 2018

Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum and Seventies Britain 
by Robert Saunders.
Cambridge, 509 pp., £24.99, March 2018, 978 1 108 42535 3
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... a hideous woolly jumper displaying the flags of the EEC nations. Back in the mid-1970s the tycoon James Goldsmith, the future founder of the anti-European Referendum Party, was a prominent supporter of the Common Market. The position of the press also changed. In the earlier campaign the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express enthusiastically made the case ...

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 ...

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