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Short Cuts

Martin Loughlin: Tax Credits, 19 November 2015

... was trumped by the insistence of Leigh’s fellow Tory MP, the ‘keen constitutional student’ Jacob Rees-Mogg, that the motion to delay undermined a privilege of the Commons ‘codified as long ago as 1678’. Rees-Mogg had a solution: the prime minister must create 150 new peers to make absolutely sure that the Conservatives could pass whatever ...

Quite Nice

Diana Souhami: Fernande Olivier, 13 December 2001

Loving Picasso: The Private Journal of Fernande Olivier 
edited by Marilyn McCully, translated by Christine Baker.
Abrams, 296 pp., £24, May 2001, 0 8109 4251 8
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... our daily expenses’) and anecdotes about people who subsequently became famous – Rousseau, Max Jacob, Apollinaire, Gertrude Stein – held together by vanity, an idea of how she wanted to be perceived by readers. In the summer of 1930 extracts were published in Le Soir. Though the tone was guarded and the content anodyne, Picasso was furious. She talked ...

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 Portugal, and the new kabbalistic ideas coming from the school of Isaac Luria in Palestine. John Freely’s lively book is basically a retelling of Scholem’s story enriched by the author’s knowledge of the Ottoman background. His one significant addition to Scholem is his suggestion as to where Sabbatai might be buried. Freely has omitted all of ...


Tom Shippey: The Druids, 9 July 2009

Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain 
by Ronald Hutton.
Yale, 491 pp., £30, May 2009, 978 0 300 14485 7
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... sunrise at Stonehenge. How was that image created? The Stonehenge connection goes back to John Aubrey, who first recognised the monuments at Avebury in 1649 and then spent nearly fifty years writing and talking about, but never quite finishing, his projected Templa Druidum. He was followed by William Stukeley, Anglican clergyman and ‘pagan ...

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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... was summoned to Bow Street to show cause why it should not be destroyed in the public interest. John Hall (to give her the name she preferred) was not called upon to give evidence, and was silenced, when she tried to interrupt, by the magistrate. In this way the Beaverbrook press started The Well on its career as the best-known lesbian novel in the English ...

Black and White Life

Mark Greif: Ralph Ellison, 1 November 2007

Ralph Ellison: A Biography 
by Arnold Rampersad.
Knopf, 657 pp., $35, April 2007, 978 0 375 40827 4
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... it in the midst of all his revisions; hard to place as an excerpt of a larger fiction (its editor, John Callahan, said it constituted the ‘centre’ while Ellison did not live to complete ‘the wings’); and still, even after Rampersad’s detailing of his later years, hard to place among Ellison’s late changes of perspective. The final page of ...

At Tate Britain

Julian Bell: ‘Migrations’, 8 March 2012

... Art could take on political dimensions as it reaffirms the necessity of the utopian. Jacob Kramer’s ‘Jews at Prayer’ (1913) In this light the hefty centrepiece of Migrations – a selection of Tate holdings organised, at Curtis’s behest, by Lizzie Carey-Thomas – is the 59-minute film Handsworth Songs. In the wake of the 1985 ...

Short Cuts

Christopher Tayler: King Charles the Martyr, 21 February 2019

... On 23 January,​ Jacob Rees-Mogg reintroduced the country to the concept of prorogation – the suspension of Parliament by the monarch. Like Boris Johnson, Rees-Mogg is fond of bogus erudition – the Brexit white paper was, he said, ‘the greatest vassalage since King John paid homage to Philip II at Le Goulet in 1200’ – and he must have enjoyed expressing his hope that it would ‘not be necessary for Her Majesty’s stay at Sandringham to be interrupted by her in person having to prorogue Parliament ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Hemingway the Spy, 16 February 2017

... to enter his enclosure, and slides around in his own darkness. Exactly 146 interviews later, John le Carré, our premier narrative spook-meister, exhibits, by his own admission, that knack whereby the memory fails and the lie takes over. There is something in his tone that advises us not to believe him too much. The interview took place in 1997, more ...

Bible Stories

John Barton, 16 February 1989

The Book of God: A Response to the Bible 
by Gabriel Josipovici.
Yale, 350 pp., £18.95, November 1988, 0 300 04320 1
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Who wrote the Bible? 
by Richard Elliott Friedman.
Cape, 299 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 224 02573 2
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... either between classes or between good and bad deeds: the sins and errors of Adam and Jacob and David are as important as the humility and obedience of Abraham and Moses.’ There are, of course, moral judgments in the Bible, but the Bible is not a moral tale, a collection of exempla, for all that Jews and Christians alike have often read so. Nor ...

The Greatest Geek

Richard Barnett: Nikola Tesla, 5 February 2015

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age 
by W. Bernard Carlson.
Princeton, 520 pp., £19.95, April 2015, 978 0 691 05776 7
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... and ‘broadcast power around the entire planet’. In the spring of 1899 he secured $100,000 from John Jacob Astor IV (later the richest man to drown on the Titanic) for the development of a new lighting system. Disregarding Astor’s expressed intentions, Tesla spent it on moving his entire wireless-power operation to the mountain resort of Colorado ...

The vanquished party, as likely as not innocent, was dragged half-dead to the gallows

Alexander Murray: Huizinga’s history of the Middle Ages, 19 March 1998

The Autumn of the Middle Ages 
by John Huizinga, translated by Rodney Payton.
Chicago, 560 pp., £15.95, December 1997, 0 226 35994 8
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... we must be grateful to scholars who have done it well. Two names spring at once to mind: those of Jacob Burckhardt, whose Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy, written in 1860, is still required reading on its subject; and Johan Huizinga, who wrote in Burckhardt’s shadow about the same centuries (though not the same area), and in 1919 achieved the same ...

Blake’s Tone

E.P. Thompson, 28 January 1993

Dangerous Enthusiasm: William Blake and the Culture of Radicalism in the 1790s 
by Jon Mee.
Oxford, 251 pp., £30, August 1992, 0 19 812226 8
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... back in a tradition descending from 17th-century Anabaptists and Ranters, of Ezra and Isaiah, of John Bunyan, of the New Jerusalem, of watchwords from the walls of Zion, of ancient prophecies, of the Whore of Babylon and the Beast, of the Land of Beulah, of blood on the walls of palaces, lambs entangled in thorns, and of ‘the old vail of the law, under ...

A Smile at My Own Temerity

John Barrell: William Hogarth, 16 February 2017

William Hogarth: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings 
by Elizabeth Einberg.
Yale, 432 pp., £95, November 2016, 978 0 300 22174 9
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... Brought before Pharaoh’s Daughter’ (1736) ‘Hannah Osborne, Daughter of John Ranby’ (c.1747-50) detail of ‘Captain Thomas Coram’ (1740)PreviousNext In a thoughtful essay Lamb himself attacked the notion that what is most Hogarthian about Hogarth is what is most broadly comic, most boisterous, most fun. This, he claims, is ...

At Tate Britain

Anne Wagner: Hepworth, 27 August 2015

... start, we find Hepworth and the other carvers of her generation – Henry Moore, Ursula Edgcumbe, John Skeaping – making common cause with a slightly older cohort, Jacob Epstein, Eric Gill, Gaudier-Brzeska, Elsie Henderson, Alan Durst. In works produced both before and after World War One, they began to remake the look ...

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