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Ferdinand Mount: British Weeping, 17 December 2015

Weeping Britannia: Portrait of a Nation in Tears 
by Thomas Dixon.
Oxford, 438 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 0 19 967605 7
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... At bedtime, tears would gather in his blue-bloodshot eyes as he read his favourite poems to us. John Dowland’s ‘Weep you no more, sad fountains’ was a favourite. Another was Christina Rossetti’s ‘When I am dead, my dearest, sing no sad songs for me’. Both injunctions not to cry made us cry too, as such injunctions do, the admonishment of the ...

Touching and Being Touched

John Kerrigan: Valentine Cunningham, 19 September 2002

Reading after Theory 
by Valentine Cunningham.
Blackwell, 194 pp., £45, December 2001, 0 631 22167 0
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... A few months before his early death from tuberculosis, John Keats scribbled these lines in his papers: This living hand, now warm and capable Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold And in the icy silence of the tomb, So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood So in my veins red life might stream again, And thou be conscience-calm’d – see, here it is I hold it towards you ...

Whirring away

P.N. Johnson-Laird, 18 October 1984

The Modularity of Mind: An Essay on Faculty Psychology 
by Jerry Fodor.
MIT, 145 pp., £15.75, January 1984, 0 262 06084 1
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... the same way that heart, lungs and other physical organs grow to maturity. And the psycholinguist John Marshall has drawn attention to the resemblance between this ‘new organology’ and aspects of phrenological thinking. The educational psychologist Howard Gardner has refurbished the old idea that there are distinct ...

Possibility throbs

Richard Altick, 23 July 1987

by Richard Sennett.
Faber, 274 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 571 14718 6
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... was the son of an architect who had learned his profession under the comfortably traditionalist John Nash, but his own vision, actuated by the ‘throb of possibility’ (lovely, phrase), was engaged with the architecture of the future as embodied in Fontaine’s designs. He was a practical idealist, and the heart of the novel is the fate of his dream. The ...

Try the other wrist

Lara Feigel: Germany in the 1940s, 23 October 2014

The Temptation of Despair: Tales of the 1940s 
by Werner Sollors.
Harvard, 390 pp., £25.95, April 2014, 978 0 674 05243 7
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... have descended on us. Their hoofbeats are still ringing in our ears.’ Three months later John Dos Passos reported in Life magazine that the Americans were ‘losing the victory in Europe’. Visiting Germany as an army journalist, he found that Europeans, ‘friend and foe alike, look you accusingly in the face and tell you how bitterly they are ...

Poor Dear, How She Figures!

Alan Hollinghurst: Forster and His Mother, 3 January 2013

The Journals and Diaries of E.M. Forster Volumes I-III 
edited by Philip Gardner.
Pickering and Chatto, 813 pp., £275, February 2011, 978 1 84893 114 5
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... the fragmentary memoir called ‘Sex’, written in the Locked Diary but sadly excluded by Philip Gardner, ‘My instinct has never given me true information about sex’; ‘not till I was 30 did I know exactly how male and female joined’ – that is to say, when he was writing Howards End, with its extramarital pregnancy that ‘deeply ...

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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... 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 deal. The ...

Deeper Shallows

Stefan Collini: C.S. Lewis, 20 June 2013

C.S. Lewis: A Life 
by Alister McGrath.
Hodder, 431 pp., £20, April 2013, 978 1 4447 4552 8
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... to whom they offered the chair during Lewis’s initial dithering, was that devout Anglican Helen Gardner.) As in the wider culture, such literary Christianity fell sharply out of fashion in the 1960s and 1970s, and Lewis’s reputation dipped correspondingly; though perhaps his children’s books maintained their standing. Once again, his reputation in the ...

Merely a Warning that a Noun is Coming

Bee Wilson: The ‘Littlehampton Libels’, 8 February 2018

The Littlehampton Libels: A Miscarriage of Justice and a Mystery about Words in 1920s England 
by Christopher Hilliard.
Oxford, 256 pp., £30, June 2017, 978 0 19 879965 8
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... of Littlehampton in Sussex, was accused of sending a letter to a sanitary inspector called Charles Gardner that contained words of ‘an indecent, obscene and grossly offensive character’. The full letter has not survived, but the gist of it was that Mr Gardner would be very sorry that he had ever called Swan’s ‘dust ...


Frank Kermode: Remembering William Empson, 16 November 2006

William Empson. Vol. II: Against the Christians 
by John Haffenden.
Oxford, 797 pp., £30, November 2006, 0 19 927660 9
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... disagreeing about the correct reading of a particular line in Elegy XIX, Empson took on Helen Gardner and John Carey (and me, though I was of neither party) with ferocity. Haffenden gives a good account of this once celebrated row, not without a pardonable bias in favour of the man to whose life and work he has devoted ...

Et in Alhambra ego

D.A.N. Jones, 5 June 1986

Agate: A Biography 
by James Harding.
Methuen, 238 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 413 58090 3
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Subsequent Performances 
by Jonathan Miller.
Faber, 253 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 571 13133 6
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... and Agates. Miller’s suspicion was strengthened by reading some remarks made by Dame Helen Gardner, ‘one of Eliot’s most distinguished sponsors’. She had remembered some good stage performances she had seen before 1960 – with ‘extremely beautiful costumes by a firm called Motley’ – but she claimed she could hardly remember the names of ...

National Treasure

Christopher Hitchens, 14 November 1996

Jacqueline Bouvier: An Intimate Memoir 
by John Davis.
Wiley, 256 pp., £14.99, October 1996, 0 471 12945 3
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... is pretentious unless you are her first cousin or something, which is the status enjoyed by John Davis. His mother was Jackie’s father’s sister, and the list of his previous book-titles (The Bouviers, The Kennedys, The Guggenheims) shows a well-developed sensitivity to the uses of dynasty. This ‘intimate memoir’ joins a seasonal shelf of at ...

Mortal Beauty

Paul Delany, 21 May 1981

Feminine Beauty 
by Kenneth Clark.
Weidenfeld, 199 pp., £10, October 1980, 0 297 77677 0
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Of Women and their Elegance 
by Norman Mailer.
Hodder, 288 pp., £12.50, March 1981, 0 340 23920 4
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Nude Photographs 1850-1980 
edited by Constance Sullivan.
Harper and Row, 204 pp., £19.95, September 1981, 0 06 012708 2
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... whether of Marilyn or of other women whose look set the standards of glamour in that decade: Ava Gardner, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly, Anita Ekberg, and models such as Lisa Fonssagrives or Suzy Parker. It is a look now coming back into fashion, probably because it owes more to art than nature. These faces are the most perfect ...


Andrew Hodges, 17 April 1986

Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern 
by Douglas Hofstadter.
Viking, 852 pp., £18.95, September 1985, 0 670 80687 0
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Ada: A Life and a Legacy 
by Dorothy Stein.
MIT, 321 pp., £17.50, January 1986, 9780262192422
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... Themas – an anagram of the formula ‘Mathematical Games’ used by his predecessor Martin Gardner, but also referring to the ‘metamathematics’ rooted in Gödel’s discovery. These columns are now collected together in this new book. But there is more to it than this, not only because of its new postscripts, but also because it embraces some seven ...


Michael Wood: Underworld by Don Delillo, 5 February 1998

by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 832 pp., £10, February 1998, 0 330 36995 4
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... and Life magazine not only brings Bruegel into the scene, it shows a picture of Sinatra with Ava Gardner. All this stuff has fallen indelibly into the past, but DeLillo retrieves it by the sheer energy and movement of his prose, and his shifts of angle, and by threading into the story of the game – the Giants are losing, it seems they cannot win, they win ...

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