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Diary

Kathleen Jamie: In the West Highlands, 14 July 2011

... had the fox brought? ‘It was a nest of pink newborn mice – all he had found to bring home in a long day’s hunting.’ Rifles and ammunition were never far from hand. ‘We were raised to hunt,’ he says. Indeed, before Camusfeàrna, Maxwell had already had a short-lived and ruinous career running a basking-shark fishery. Raised to hunt, but observant ...

Saint or Snake

Stefan Collini: Ann Oakley on Richard Titmuss, 8 October 2015

Father and Daughter: Patriarchy, Gender and Social Science 
by Ann Oakley.
Policy, 290 pp., £13.99, November 2014, 978 1 4473 1810 1
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... lack of any eye-catching interpretative or polemical claims. It is more than five hundred pages long, published by HMSO as part of the official history of the home front during the Second World War, and it addresses, with unyielding attention to detail, such topics as the exact division of administrative responsibilities for the provision of ambulance and ...

Animal, Spiritual and Cerebral

Mary Midgley, 18 August 1983

Animal Thought 
by Stephen Walker.
Routledge, 388 pp., £17.50, January 1983, 0 7100 9037 4
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On the Evolution of Human Behaviour 
by Peter Reynolds.
California, 259 pp., £20, December 1981, 0 520 04294 8
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The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit 
by Melvin Konner.
Heinemann, 436 pp., £16.50, October 1982, 0 434 39703 2
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Sociobiology and the Human Dimension 
by Georg Breuer.
Cambridge, 264 pp., £22.50, January 1983, 0 521 24544 3
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Sociobiology and the Pre-Emption of Social Science 
by Alexander Rosenberg.
Blackwell, 210 pp., £9.90, March 1981, 0 631 12625 2
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... study which protected the human race from serious comparison with any other species. For quite a long time this enterprise succeeded. What has doomed it now is the flood of light thrown on the whole subject by the interesting, fertile and canon-free comparisons which have in the meantime been made, both in neurology and in the study of animal behaviour ...

Last Word

Michael Ignatieff, 3 February 1983

The Wolf-Man: Sixty Years Later 
by Karin Obholzer, translated by Michael Shaw.
Routledge, 250 pp., £12.50, November 1982, 0 7100 9354 3
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Ernest Jones: Freud’s Alter Ego 
by Vincent Brome.
Caliban, 250 pp., £12.50, January 1983, 0 904573 57 5
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... woman’ did take place. He had managed it himself. He had wrestled free of the infantile trauma. Long before his meeting with Freud. The Master helped him with his permission, but that was all that mattered. Who are we to believe here? The poignant fact is that the ‘breakthrough to the woman’ was not enough. No sooner had he married Therese, than his ...

Fallen Language

Donald Davie, 21 June 1984

The Lords of Limit: Essays on Literature and Ideas 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Deutsch, 203 pp., £12.95, May 1984, 0 233 97581 0
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... be derided – as a callowness in ourselves which the language that we use, British English, has long ago grown out of. We have shown ourselves to be less grown-up than the language that we attempt to bend to our immature purposes – an attempt that the language itself frustrates by appealing, implicitly and inevitably, to English-language-users more ...

Prophet of the Rocks

Richard Fortey: William Smith, 9 August 2001

The Map that Changed the World: The Tale of William Smith and the Birth of a Science 
by Simon Winchester.
Viking, 338 pp., £12.99, August 2001, 0 670 88407 3
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... of organic evolution. It is clear from his notes that he understood the succession required long periods of time, but he seems not to have troubled greatly with theoretical speculation. If his clergymen friends saw evidence of the Flood, so be it. Nonetheless, his steadfast and pragmatic assemblage of facts was to be one of the sources of evidence to ...

Middle Positions

John Hedley Brooke, 21 July 1983

Archetypes and Ancestors: Palaeontology in Victorian London 1850-1875 
by Adrian Desmond.
Blond and Briggs, 287 pp., £15.95, October 1982, 0 85634 121 5
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Evolution without Evidence: Charles Darwin and ‘The Origin Species’ 
by Barry Gale.
Harvester, 238 pp., £18.95, January 1983, 0 7108 0442 3
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The Secular Ark: Studies in the History of Biogeography 
by Janet Browne.
Yale, 273 pp., £21, May 1983, 0 300 02460 6
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The Descent of Darwin: A Handbook of Doubts about Darwinsm 
by Brain Leith.
Collins, 174 pp., £7.95, December 1982, 0 00 219548 8
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... anti-clericalism, would not go the whole way with the German monist Ernst Haeckel in denying a long-term purpose built into an original creation. Such qualifications will be familiar to students of Early Victorian science. But until now one dichotomy has remained more or less intact: the contrast between a positivist philosophy of science shared by the ...

Life in the Colonies

Steven Rose, 20 July 1995

Naturalist 
by Edward O.Wilson.
Allen Lane, 380 pp., £20, August 1995, 0 7139 9141 0
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Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration 
by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O.Wilson.
Harvard, 228 pp., £19.95, November 1994, 0 674 48525 4
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... sisters: they are genetically identical. Reading Hamilton, Wilson might well have complained, as T.H Huxley did when he read Darwin: ‘How stupid not to have thought of that.’ But thanks to his encyclopedic knowledge of the ant world, a mathematical syllogism became a science of life itself. In the UK, Richard Dawkins is often credited with Hamilton’s ...

Shell Shock

Margaret Visser, 22 February 1996

The English, the French and the Oyster 
by Robert Neild.
Quiller, 212 pp., £18.50, October 1995, 1 899163 12 3
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... English, the French and the Oyster, the extent to which the oyster had been lost to England long before I imbibed the idea of one as part of British myth. Oysters were common in Britain until the mid-19th century. ‘What I mean, sir,’ says Sam in The Pickwick Papers, ‘is, that the poorer the place is, the greater call there seems to be for ...

Damp-Lipped Hilary

Jenny Diski: Larkin’s juvenilia, 23 May 2002

Trouble at Willow Gables and Other Fictions 
by Philip Larkin, edited by James Booth.
Faber, 498 pp., £20, May 2002, 0 571 20347 7
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... thrashing her unmercifully, her face a mask of ferocity, caring little where the blows fell as long as they found a mark somewhere on Marie’s squirming body’). There is a mixture of the above two incidents when Hilary beats up and then nuzzles Margaret, an in this case guilty junior: (‘Lust had turned into anger, and anger into cruelty, and now ...

A Life without a Jolt

Ferdinand Mount: M.R. James, 26 January 2012

Collected Ghost Stories 
by M.R. James.
Oxford, 468 pp., £14.99, October 2011, 978 0 19 956884 0
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... detective story, the ghost story should not be too up-to-date. ‘Thirty years ago’ or ‘Not long before the war’ were proper openings. Close enough in time, therefore, for the reader to think: ‘If I’m not very careful, something of this kind may happen to me.’ The ghost ought to be a contemporary of the person who sees it, just as Hamlet’s ...

The Everyday Business of Translation

George Steiner, 22 November 1979

The True Interpreter 
by Louis Kelly.
Blackwell, 282 pp., £15
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... metaphoric and local suggestion, that there can be no genuine ‘theory of translation’ so long as there is no satisfactory ‘theory’ of how the human mind produces meaningful speech, let alone interlingual transfers of such speech). Kelly’s position is an intermediate one; though he rejects the meta-mathematical formalism of certain paradigms of ...

Herberts & Herbertinas

Rosemary Hill: Steven Runciman, 20 October 2016

Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman 
by Minoo Dinshaw.
Penguin, 767 pp., £30, September 2016, 978 0 241 00493 7
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... I met​ Steven Runciman several times towards the end of his long life. On one occasion he told me, as he told many people, that as a young man he had danced with a friend of his mother who, in her own youth, had danced with Prince Albert. He seemed slightly disconcerted when I insisted that he dance a few steps with me so that I could say I had danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince Consort, but he did it and our little turn round the room made me feel in some psychic way closer to the court of Queen Victoria ...

Masses and Classes

Ferdinand Mount: Gladstone, 17 February 2005

The Mind of Gladstone: Religion, Homer and Politics 
by David Bebbington.
Oxford, 331 pp., £55, March 2004, 0 19 926765 0
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... Gladstone would have recognised these intimations: he felt them at recurring moments both in his long political career and in his personal religious and philosophical life. Why then are we not more eager to attend to Gladstone’s revisions and recantations as the forerunners of our own? Why is David Bebbington’s The Mind of Gladstone such a lonely ...

What lives and what dies?

Francis Gooding: The End-Cretaceous Event, 3 January 2019

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: The Untold Story of a Lost World 
by Steve Brusatte.
Macmillan, 404 pp., £20, May 2018, 978 1 5098 3006 0
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... was cold, dark and bathed in acid rain. This ‘nuclear winter’ was sufficiently severe and long-lasting to halt photosynthesis on land and in the oceans, causing the collapse of those ecosystems that had survived the initial cataclysm. Some 70 per cent of living species were eliminated. Foremost among those that perished were the ...

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