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The Man Who Never Glared

John Pemble: Disraeli, 5 December 2013

Disraeli: or, The Two Lives 
by Douglas Hurd and Edward Young.
Orion, 320 pp., £20, July 2013, 978 0 297 86097 6
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The Great Rivalry: Gladstone and Disraeli 
by Dick Leonard.
I.B. Tauris, 226 pp., £22.50, June 2013, 978 1 84885 925 8
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Disraeli: The Romance of Politics 
by Robert O’Kell.
Toronto, 595 pp., £66.99, February 2013, 978 1 4426 4459 5
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... freedom, against nature, against the hope of the world’. According to the historian E.A. Freeman, he was ‘the friend of the Turk and the enemy of the Christian … sacrificing the policy of England, the welfare of Europe … to Hebrew sentiment.’ Hurd and Young modify their argument at this point. Disraeli, they claim, ‘carried into foreign ...

Unmuscular Legs

E.S. Turner, 22 August 1996

The Dictionary of National Biography 1986-1990 
edited by C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 607 pp., £50, June 1996, 0 19 865212 7
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... the ‘gunpowder plot’ and literary impostor (a category not yet extinct). In the latest volume John Stone-house appears as politician and confidence trickster, but Harold Philby is dubbed Soviet agent rather than traitor and Klaus Fuchs gets by as theoretical physicist. Other less controversial occupations include entrepreneur, man of letters, geologist ...

Angelic Porcupine

Jonathan Parry: Adams’s Education, 3 June 2021

The Last American Aristocrat: The Brilliant Life and Improbable Education of Henry Adams 
by David S. Brown.
Scribner, 464 pp., £21.20, November 2020, 978 1 9821 2823 4
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... up to regard the Washington political stage as his natural domain – his great-grandfather John Adams was the first president to live in the White House; his grandfather was John Quincy Adams – and he could never keep away from the city and its gossip for long. But his early political heroes soon revealed feet of ...

Mental Arithmetic

Nicholas Wade, 7 January 1993

Genius: Richard Feynman and Modern Physics 
by James Gleick.
Little, Brown, 532 pp., £18.99, October 1992, 0 316 90316 7
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... of ice water, Feynman had visibly put his finger on the reason for the catastrophe. As his friend Freeman Dyson later remarked, ‘the public saw with their own eyes how science is done, how a great scientist thinks with his hands, how nature gives a clear answer when a scientist asks her a clear question.’ In a dissenting report, which witheringly ...

On the Shelf

Tom Crewe: Beryl Bainbridge’s Beats, 7 May 2020

... first published in 1977. It is a sort of dinner party farce, except better. The aptly named Edward Freeman asks his friend Simpson and Simpson’s wife, Muriel, to spend the evening with him and his mistress, Binny, at Binny’s house. Binny, a divorced single mother, is ‘sick to death of being introduced only to those boozy male acquaintances of his who ...

Madd Men

Mark Kishlansky: Gerrard Winstanley, 17 February 2011

The Complete Works of Gerrard Winstanley 
by Thomas Corns, Ann Hughes and David Loewenstein.
Oxford, 1065 pp., £189, December 2009, 978 0 19 957606 7
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... and maintained a modest cloth business. Winstanley served his seven-year term and became a London freeman. Then he struck out on his own, married and established a household in the city. He survived on the margins of the hyper-competitive cloth trade, buying and selling for small profits and improvidently granting unsecured loans to his ...

Dreadful Sentiments

Tom Paulin, 3 April 1986

The Collected Letters of W.B. Yeats. Vol. I: 1865-1895 
edited by John Kelly and Eric Domville.
Oxford, 548 pp., £22.50, January 1986, 0 19 812679 4
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... will enable new writing, new politics, unblemished by Irishness, but securely Irish.’ Opening John Kelly and Eric Domville’s scrupulous and magnificent edition of Yeats’s letters, I readied myself to take a sling-shot at the great Cuchulain – the impulse dissolved in helpless love, chortles, delight. The old boy, I realised, has managed here his ...

Phantom Jacks

John Bayley, 5 January 1989

Jack: C.S. Lewis and His Times 
by George Sayer.
Macmillan, 278 pp., £14.95, November 1988, 0 333 43362 9
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J.B. Priestley 
by Vincent Brome.
Hamish Hamilton, 512 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 9780241125601
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Eddy: The Life of Edward Sackville-West 
by Michael De-la-Noy.
Bodley Head, 341 pp., £16, October 1988, 0 370 31164 7
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... He was cross when Bradford reciprocated the indifference, and delayed making its famous son a freeman of the city, but he was most masterful and most himself when away from his native dales. Not so Lewis, for whom the legacy of Protestant Ireland was probably the most significant thing in his imaginative life, more even than Norse mythology and the epic ...


Peter Campbell, 4 August 1988

Who got Einstein’s office? Eccentricity and Genius at the Institute for Advanced Study 
by Ed Regis.
Simon and Schuster, 316 pp., £12.95, April 1988, 0 671 69923 7
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by James Gleick.
Heinemann, 354 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 9780434295548
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The School of Genius 
by Anthony Storr.
Deutsch, 216 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 233 98010 5
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... the camaraderie of the laboratory, for there is no experimental work. Which is why the career of John von Neumann, who did do new work, and is the nearest thing the book has to a hero, is not typical. When he wanted to build a computer at the Institute he met resistance: Harold Cherniss, a specialist in ancient Greek philosophy, became an Institute ...


Andrew O’Hagan: Orders of Service, 18 April 2019

... Hugh Casson and David Astor. ‘Why haven’t you thrown them away?’ I asked my friend Catherine Freeman, the 87-year-old owner of the dusty folder I’ve been drawing from. ‘They will help me as I plan my own service,’ she said. I wondered if the challenge of throwing away these old booklets is a bit like the one of zapping the names of dead people from ...

Absent Framers

Andreas Teuber, 31 March 1988

... to the text may not have been so different from that of an author like Jane Austen who, in John Bayley’s words, ‘set her characters going to see what they might do’, or Pushkin, who in the midst of composing Eugene Onegin wrote to a friend: ‘My Tatiana has gone off and got married. I never would have expected it of her.’ No doubt the drafters ...

Departure and Arrival Times

Sheldon Rothblatt, 18 August 1983

The History Men: The Historical Profession in England since the Renaissance 
by John Kenyon.
Weidenfeld, 322 pp., £16.50, March 1983, 0 297 78081 6
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... It is odd to think of Geoffrey Elton, Hugh Trevor-Roper and Lewis Namier as one thinks of Edward Freeman, Samuel Gardner and Edward Gibbon, humanised and distanced at the same time. Vanity and virtue, foolishness and brilliance rub shoulders. One imagines one has heard it all before, but the cumulative effect cannot be denied. Kenyon obviously knows a great ...

Natural Learning

John Murray, 20 September 1984

... excesses, of television gaping. ‘Roy Castle,’ he mumbled to Gokhale. ‘Roy Castle and Alan Freeman. Starring in Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors ...’ It was beyond Gokhale, the tourist’s stiff amazement. Logan explained to him the mad incongruity of coming across an ancient English B-movie, the soundtrack in English and no Bengali subtitles ...

Little England

Patrick Wright: The view through a bus window, 7 September 2006

Great British Bus Journeys: Travels through Unfamous Places 
by David McKie.
Atlantic, 359 pp., £16.99, March 2006, 1 84354 132 7
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... to marry them. In Lichfield, the geographical centre of Middle England, a statue of Captain Edward John Smith of the Titanic stands in a park bestowing dangerous blessings on newly-wed couples emerging from the nearby register office. In McKie’s version of England the past is generally not allowed to assert itself as a moral yardstick, a measure of decline ...

Fine-Tuned for Life

John Leslie: Cosmology, 1 January 1998

Before the Beginning 
by Martin Rees.
Simon and Schuster, 288 pp., £7.99, January 1998, 0 684 81660 1
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The Life of the Cosmos 
by Lee Smolin.
Weidenfeld, 358 pp., £20, September 1997, 0 297 81727 2
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... universes. Once intelligent life has evolved, what are its long-term prospects? Rees refers to Freeman Dyson’s idea that it might survive eternally in an ever-expanding, ever-cooling universe, since intelligent information processing demands less and less energy as temperatures fall. Again, he says, John Barrow and ...

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