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Ruskin among others

Raymond Williams, 20 June 1985

John Ruskin: The Early Years 
by Tim Hilton.
Yale, 301 pp., £12.95, May 1985, 0 300 03298 6
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... son of a wealthy sherry merchant, of the firm of Ruskin, Telford and Domecq. But the father, John James, had been working since the age of 16, as clerk and salesman, to get to this position: his marriage to his cousin delayed by his father’s debts, she 37 when she married and rising 39 when John was born. When we later see this son bought in as a ...

As Many Pairs of Shoes as She Likes

Jenny Turner: On Feminism, 15 December 2011

... doesn’t say so, but this moment comes from a BBC film called People for Tomorrow, made by Selma James in 1971 and now available on open access on the BBC website. The film follows everyday women in Peckham, Belsize Park, Bristol, reflecting on what might change in their lives and how to go about making this happen, in a movement that is plain and ...


E.S. Turner, 15 September 1988

Memories of Times Past 
by Louis Heren.
Hamish Hamilton, 313 pp., £15.95, July 1988, 0 241 12427 1
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Chances: An Autobiography 
by Mervyn Jones.
Verso, 311 pp., £14.95, September 1987, 0 86091 167 5
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... who has been credited with starting the Russo-Japanese war, and the stone-deaf old Etonian James Bourchier, who ‘successfully combined the roles of Times correspondent and founding father of modern Bulgaria’ (he was eventually sacked not for organising Balkan alliances but for being late with his copy and then over-filing). When Heren began his ...


E.S. Turner, 6 April 1995

Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty 
by Robert Friedel.
Norton, 288 pp., £16.95, February 1995, 0 393 03599 9
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... pairs of eyes with dotted lines running to sartorial horrors helped to drive home the message. James Thurber was suborned to lend a hand, but his hippo-shaped woman afflicted by ‘gap-osis’ in the midriff looks scarcely the sort to worry about personal grooming or to spend good money on a mechanical contrivance in order to keep her man. Britain was ...
Noël Coward: A Biography 
by Philip Hoare.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 605 pp., £25, November 1995, 1 85619 265 2
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... as authoritative, rather than authorised. An authorised biography was to have been written by James Pope-Hennessy, who had gathered much material before he came to his violent end. Hoare received the ‘approval and co-operation’ of the Coward estate. Over the years other hands had tried to pluck away the veils from the Coward legend. We read how ...


E.S. Turner, 22 January 1998

Shipwrecks of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Eras 
by Terence Grocott.
Chatham, 430 pp., £30, November 1997, 1 86176 030 2
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... Chronicle, the Annual Register and two West Country newspapers, with an occasional glance at James Fenimore Cooper’s history of the US Navy. The craft involved range from men-of-war and merchantmen to schooners, jollyboats and even small pleasure-craft, the capsizing of which would not normally count as shipwrecks. The author is not concerned with the ...

Stormy Weather

E.S. Turner, 18 July 1996

Passchendaele: The Untold Story 
by Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson.
Yale, 237 pp., £19.95, May 1996, 0 300 06692 9
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... general pleading with Haig to halt the battle.’ The official history by Brigadier-General Sir James Edmonds says that Gough and Plumer at one time indicated they would ‘welcome a closing down of the campaign’, but the authors say they can trace no record of any meeting at which such views were expressed. What will continue to mystify the lay reader is ...

The Stansgate Tapes

John Turner, 8 December 1994

Years of Hope: Diaries, Papers and Letters, 1940-62 
by Tony Benn, edited by Ruth Winstone.
Hutchinson, 442 pp., £25, September 1994, 0 09 178534 0
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... the Macmillan family, though not quite as rich), and young Anthony (known at this point as James) grew up amid commercial and political affluence. He was sent to Westminster, where he was ‘miserable’, and which is recorded in these pages largely as a venue for scarlet fever and a host for the Air Training Corps. Much is made of Benn’s academic ...

Walking on Eyeballs

E.S. Turner: The history of gout, 7 January 1999

Gout: The Patrician Malady 
by Roy Porter and G.S. Rousseau.
Yale, 393 pp., £25, September 1998, 0 300 07386 0
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... jokes was Punch (which, by the way, was not founded by Thackeray). The jacket of the book features James Gillray’s cauchemar study of a black devil clawing at a vastly swollen big toe. This could stand as a symbol of the 18th century, which saw, as the authors put it, ‘the high noon of gout’. Roy Porter, who teaches at the Wellcome Institute in ...

Tucked in and under

Jenny Turner: Tim Parks, 30 September 1999

by Tim Parks.
Secker, 249 pp., £15.99, September 1999, 0 436 22088 1
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... people exist independently of your projections of them, that you get in the superficially similar James Kelman. It’s a bit static and solipsistic. One reason for this might be that Parks writes so much. The going-on-and-on problem – writing stuff that looks like nice prose, but doesn’t really mean much – does tend to happen when you work to ...

Uncle William

E.S. Turner, 13 June 1991

The Passing of Barchester: A Real-Life Version of Trollop 
by Clive Dewey.
Hambledon, 199 pp., £14.95, April 1991, 1 85285 039 6
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... is entitled ‘Marriages to Clergymen as a Means of Extending Connection: The Five Daughters of James Tschudi Broadwood’. The Broadwoods were wealthy piano-makers who intermarried with the Lyalls; all five daughters in question did their bit to remove the stigma of trade by surrendering themselves to the clergy (or did they just happen to come across five ...

In Praise of Barley Brew

E.S. Turner: Combustible Belloc, 20 February 2003

Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc 
by Joseph Pearce.
HarperCollins, 306 pp., £20, July 2002, 0 00 274095 8
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... Marie Antoinette, Napoleon, Joan of Arc, Richelieu, Wolsey, Cranmer, Cromwell, Charles I and James II was now to be found lamenting ‘this horrible book on Louis XIV’, which he had never wanted to write, and mislaying the uncompleted manuscript of his life of Elizabeth Tudor. Throughout, his battle-cry was, as this book reminds us, that of Pius ...

The Thought of Ruislip

E.S. Turner: The Metropolitan Line, 2 December 2004

Metro-Land: British Empire Exhibition Number 
by Oliver Green.
Southbank, 144 pp., £16.99, July 2004, 1 904915 00 0
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... Alan Jackson’s London’s Metropolitan Railway (1986), the name Metroland was the inspiration of James Garland, a copywriter in the company’s publicity department, who was laid up with flu but leapt out of bed in high Archimedean excitement when the name entered his head. The public first heard of Metroland in 1915, when the railway used it in a penny ...


Christopher Turner: The controversial Alfred Kinsey, 6 January 2005

... it. Both Kinsey and Reich were investigated by the FBI, itself, according to Kinsey’s biographer James Jones, ‘possibly the only American Institution more obsessed with sex than the Institute for Sex Research’. What does it say about our own times that a mainstream Hollywood movie about Kinsey – a man who died almost fifty years ago – can still be ...

Paddling in the Gravy

E.S. Turner: Bath’s panderer-in-chief, 21 July 2005

The Imaginary Autocrat: Beau Nash and the Invention of Bath 
by John Eglin.
Profile, 292 pp., £20, May 2005, 1 86197 302 0
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... of the century, according to Phyllis Hembry’s The English Spa 1560-1815, the subscribers to James Marshall’s library in Bath’s Milsom Street included two princes of the blood, five dukes, four duchesses, seven earls, four countesses and 43 knights. It is pleasing to imagine John Wesley returning to town and finding all these potentially libertine ...

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