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5 February 1987
Jane Austen 
by Tony Tanner.
Macmillan, 291 pp., £20, November 1986, 0 333 32317 3
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... is there to be made use of, and everyone makes use of it in his own way. Christopher Hill and E.P. Thompson invent alternative Englands where radical social experiments were nipped in the bud by the entrenched forces of reaction, while T.S. Eliot’s successors imagine devout cavaliers preserving a unified sensibility in economic and spiritual matters. Apart ...

Just be yourself

David Hirson

23 July 1987
Swimming to Cambodia: The Collected Works of Spalding Gray 
by Spalding Gray.
Picador, 304 pp., £3.50, January 1987, 0 330 29947 6
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... candid confessors since Frank Harris’ and ‘An unholy cross between James Joyce and Hunter S. Thompson’. These remarks tend to compound an already severe identity crisis. For almost a decade, Gray has been delivering monologues which chronicle his life from early childhood to the present. Since ‘Sex and Death to the Age 14’ premiered at New York’s ...


Susan Pedersen: The fear of needles

1 September 2005
Bodily Matters: The Anti-Vaccination Movement in England, 1853-1907 
by Nadja Durbach.
Duke, 276 pp., £14.95, March 2005, 0 8223 3423 2
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... term the ‘anti-condescensionists’: that great parade of researchers who, inspired by E.P. Thompson, have set out to rescue not just the poor stockinger or Luddite but the homeopath and the spiritualist, the dress reformer and, now, the anti-vaccinationist, from that much quoted ‘enormous condescension of posterity’. She is out to recover and ...

Through the Mill

Jane Humphries: The Industrial Revolution

20 March 2014
Liberty’s Dawn: A People’s History of the Industrial Revolution 
by Emma Griffin.
Yale, 303 pp., £12.99, March 2014, 978 0 300 20525 1
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...  ...
6 September 1984
Hazlitt: The Mind of a Critic 
by David Bromwich.
Oxford, 450 pp., £19.50, March 1984, 0 19 503343 4
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William Godwin: Philosopher, Novelist, Revolutionary 
by Peter Marshall.
Yale, 496 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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Burke, Paine, Godwin and the Revolution Controversy 
edited by Marilyn Butler.
Cambridge, 280 pp., £25, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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... on ‘as Hazlitt rightly observed’. He accepts Hazlitt’s judgments as trustingly as E.P. Thompson did, in The Making of the English Working Class. Similarly, in her collection of ‘English Prose Texts’, Burke, Paine, Godwin and the Revolution Controversy, Marilyn Butler finds it useful to quote Hazlitt when she has to introduce the dull writings ...

Little Englander Histories

Linda Colley: Little Englandism

22 July 2010
A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People? England 1783-1846 
by Boyd Hilton.
Oxford, 757 pp., £21, June 2008, 978 0 19 921891 2
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Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Angloworld, 1780-1939 
by James Belich.
Oxford, 573 pp., £25, June 2009, 978 0 19 929727 6
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... Only in the penultimate chapter do the overwhelming majority of men and women, those whom E.P. Thompson chose to style for this era the ‘English working class’, receive concentrated attention. This format allows Hilton to focus mainly on London and the Home Counties. It also shapes his prime overall argument. Despite the ...

Shaved, Rouged and Chignoned

Terry Eagleton: Fanny and Stella

7 March 2013
Fanny and Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England 
by Neil McKenna.
Faber, 396 pp., £16.99, February 2013, 978 0 571 23190 4
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... to them would fancy women as well. Relations between women sex workers and the ‘gaggles of Mary-Anns waggling their scrawny arses up and down the street’, as Neil McKenna depicts them in his tiresomely spiced-up style, could be remarkably cordial. According to one Victorian writer, a ‘notorious and shameless poof’ married a street woman and ...

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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... Labour Party together. The British left anathematised the EEC as a capitalist club. For E.P. Thompson, it was ‘a group of fat, rich nations feeding each other goodies’. Barbara Castle, Michael Foot and Tony Benn led a powerful Labour campaign against the Common Market, in itself a pejorative term on the left. But Roy Jenkins and others on Labour’s ...
19 February 2004
John Clare: A Biography 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 650 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 330 37106 1
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‘I Am’: The Selected Poetry of John Clare 
edited by Jonathan Bate.
Farrar, Straus, 318 pp., $17, November 2003, 0 374 52869 1
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John Clare, Politics and Poetry 
by Alan Vardy.
Palgrave, 221 pp., £45, October 2003, 0 333 96617 1
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John Clare Vol. V: Poems of the Middle Period 1822-37 
edited by Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 822 pp., £105, January 2003, 0 19 812386 8
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... he usually employs quotations from the poems simply as narrative illustrations). Bate follows E.P. Thompson in describing Clare as a poet of ‘ecological protest’, as well as a political poet angered by the destruction of ‘an ancient birthright based on co-operation and common rights’. A local farming family, the Turnhills, with whom Clare and his ...
6 February 1986
Jackdaw Cake: ‘An Autobiography’ 
by Norman Lewis.
Hamish Hamilton, 214 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 241 11689 9
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... Aunt Li weeps a great deal but Aunt Annie has a permanent smile and likes to dress up as Queen Mary or a Cossack or a Spanish dancer – embarrassing Norman with this gear when she collects him from school. The grandfather does not talk to Norman but conducts loud, familiar conversations with God. He breeds dangerous gamecocks (frightening to Aunt Li, who ...


Marina Warner: Baba Yaga

27 August 2009
Baba Yaga Laid an Egg 
by Dubravka Ugrešić, translated by Ellen Elias Bursác, Celia Hawkesworth and Mark Thompson.
Canongate, 327 pp., £14.99, May 2009, 978 1 84767 066 3
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... on her nest to hatch her brood; another prodigy, the subject of a famous print by Hogarth, was Mary Tofts, who in 1726 gave birth to a litter of rabbits and became so famous that Dr Johnson went to inspect. But Baba Yaga laying an egg alludes to impossibility in another way: she’s too old to have offspring of any sort, but like a basilisk, which lays ...

Shee Spy

Michael Dobson

8 May 1997
The Secret Life of Aphra Behn 
by Janet Todd.
Deutsch, 545 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 233 98991 9
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... not excluding Paradise Lost (the wonder is that it hasn’t already been filmed, with Emma Thompson as the narrator and Denzel Washington in the title-role). Meanwhile, Behn’s plays have attracted stars as expensive as Jeremy Irons and Christopher Reeve, and she herself, now conscripted to the cause of postcolonialism as well as that of feminism, has ...
7 January 1999
What is Love? Richard Carlile’s Philosophy of Sex 
edited by M.L. Bush.
Verso, 214 pp., £19, September 1998, 1 85984 851 6
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... and who didn’t hesitate to carry that insight into the sexual domain. His feminist partner Mary Wollstonecraft applied the same thought to women’s sexual drives. Looming behind these thinkers is Rousseau, the great hero, and the greatest embarrassment, of the age’s liberationism. Sceptical of the innateness of sexual impulses, and repressive in its ...
22 June 2000
British Society 1680-1880: Dynamism, Containment and Change 
by Richard Price.
Cambridge, 349 pp., £40, October 1999, 0 521 65172 7
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... has become exciting again. The long stand-off between Namierite history from above and Edward Thompson-style history from below is over, and a broader and more colourful view of the period has emerged. Much of the new historiography comes from the US and Canada, where its preoccupations – with empire and subject peoples, with law and religion, and with ...

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