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I used to work for them myself

David Leigh, 4 August 1983

British Intelligence and Covert Action: Africa, the Middle East and Europe since 1945 
by Jonathan Bloch, Patrick Fitzgerald and Philip Agee.
Junction, 284 pp., £5.95, May 1983, 0 86245 113 2
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Through the Looking-Glass: British Foreign Policy in an Age of Illusions 
by Anthony Verrier.
Cape, 400 pp., £12.50, February 1983, 0 224 01979 1
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... list if you had known what to look for, just as you would have spotted his counterpart in MI5, Sir John Lewis Jones, in the honours list immediately prior to that). What, then, is the point of the fantastic governmental mumbo-jumbo with which the British ‘Secret Service’ surrounds itself? Although it is a rather youthful ...

Short Cuts

John Sturrock: Reading Butler, 5 August 2004

... the most reliable ones were ‘the least worrying’. One person thoroughly vindicated is Dr Brian Jones, the sidelined MOD analyst who complained at the time about the tabloidisation of the intelligence material, not least its repeated use of what even George Tenet, in the days when he was still hanging onto his job as head of the CIA, is quoted in Butler as ...

At The Thirteenth Hour

William Wootten: David Jones, 25 September 2003

Wedding Poems 
by David Jones, edited by Thomas Dilworth.
Enitharmon, 88 pp., £12, April 2002, 1 900564 87 4
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David JonesWriter and Artist 
by Keith Alldritt.
Constable, 208 pp., £18.99, April 2003, 1 84119 379 8
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... David Jones was staying in the Chelsea flat of the BBC’s Assistant Director of Programme Planning, Harman Grisewood, as the bombs fell on London in the autumn of 1940. During one raid, a near miss blew a bus off course; it went through the window of Sainsbury’s on the King’s Road. ‘I was going out to see if I could do anything,’ Grisewood reported ...

Some Flim-Flam with Socks

Adam Kuper: Laurens van der Post, 3 January 2002

Storyteller: The Many Lives of Laurens van der Post 
by J.D.F. Jones.
Murray, 505 pp., £25, September 2001, 0 7195 5580 9
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... Charles and Margaret Thatcher. He used to tell Thatcher stories of the Zulus, to which, J.D.F. Jones was told by a frustrated civil servant, ‘she would listen with delight, her jaw agape.’ (‘No evil thought ever entered his mind,’ she herself assured the biographer.) He accompanied Charles on a brief excursion to the fringes of the Kalahari and ...

Great Fun

John Bayley, 22 January 1987

Gossip 
by Patricia Meyer Spacks.
Chicago, 287 pp., £9.25, November 1986, 0 226 76844 9
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The Bonus of Laughter 
by Alan Pryce-Jones.
Hamish Hamilton, 263 pp., £12.95, January 1987, 0 241 11903 0
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... to say, if the addict feels like contemplating real people rather than fictitious ones. Alan Pryce-Jones’s recollections – ‘autobiography’ would be too pompous a word for them – are incredibly readable. Page after page is turned in utter fascination to see who will next appear and to listen to what they did and said, how they carried on. This ...

The Human Frown

John Bayley, 21 February 1991

Samuel Butler: A Biography 
by Peter Raby.
Hogarth, 334 pp., £25, February 1991, 0 7012 0890 2
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... dinners’ were being held, at first under the auspices of Butler’s great friend Henry Festing Jones (the last dinner was in July 1914), and Forster was offered £25 by his publisher as an advance for a book about Butler. Lytton Strachey, who also found Butler immensely ‘cheering’, wanted to write on him in the Edinburgh Review; and Forster, who ...

After-Lives

John Sutherland, 5 November 1992

Keepers of the Flame: Literary Estates and the Rise of Biography 
by Ian Hamilton.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £18.99, October 1992, 0 09 174263 3
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Testamentary Acts: Browning, Tennyson, James, Hardy 
by Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 273 pp., £27.50, June 1992, 0 19 811276 9
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The Last Laugh 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 131 pp., £10.99, December 1991, 0 7011 4583 8
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Trollope 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Hutchinson, 551 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 09 173896 2
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... this time in a more objectively historical context. Hamilton offers 22 case studies, from John Donne – the first properly biographed English author – to Philip Larkin of last month’s Observer fame. Hamilton could not, if he tried, write an unreadable book. Keepers of the Flame is that rarest of modern things, lit crit with laughs. Hamilton has ...

Serried Yuppiedromes

Owen Hatherley: What happened to London?, 21 August 2014

Guide to the Architecture of London 
by Edward Jones and Christopher Woodward.
Phoenix, 511 pp., £16.99, July 2013, 978 1 78022 493 0
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... last thirty years is to compare the introductions to the first and most recent editions of Edward Jones and Christopher Woodward’s Guide to the Architecture of London. In 1983, they wrote of a city in decline, its population down by about a sixth from its postwar height. ‘London is cleaner and uglier than it was at the beginning of the century; but it is ...

Imperfect Knight

Gabriel Josipovici, 17 April 1980

Chaucer’s Knight: Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary 
by Terry Jones.
Weidenfeld, 319 pp., £8.95, January 1980, 0 297 77566 9
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Chaucer, Langland and the Creative Imagination 
by David Aers.
Routledge, 236 pp., £9.75, January 1980, 9780710003515
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The Golden Age: Manuscript Painting at the Time of Jean, Duc de Berry 
by Marcel Thomas.
Chatto, 120 pp., £12.50, January 1980, 0 7011 2471 7
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... the first of the Canterbury Pilgrims to be described, by a member of the Monty Python team, Terry Jones. Jones obviously enjoys reading Chaucer and his book conveys a personal excitement usually missing from academic studies. From the time he first came across the description of the Knight, he tells us, he was struck by the ...

Festschriftiness

Susan Pedersen, 6 October 2011

Structures and Transformations in Modern British History 
edited by David Feldman and Jon Lawrence.
Cambridge, 331 pp., £50, January 2011, 978 0 521 51882 6
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The Peculiarities of Liberal Modernity in Imperial Britain 
edited by Simon Gunn and James Vernon.
California, 271 pp., £20.95, May 2011, 978 0 9845909 5 7
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Classes, Cultures and Politics: Essays on British History for Ross McKibbin 
edited by Clare Griffiths, John Nott and William Whyte.
Oxford, 320 pp., £65, April 2011, 978 0 19 957988 4
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... much to shape British social history over the last four decades: Ross McKibbin, Gareth Stedman Jones and Patrick Joyce. I should say before I go any further that I too am a modern British historian: this is my subject and my tribe. I’ve met the dedicatees, most of the editors and a majority of the contributors to these volumes; a few are good ...

Bananas

Jane Campbell, 20 April 1995

The Death of Old Man Rice: A Story of Criminal Justice in America 
by Martin Friedland.
New York, 423 pp., $29.95, October 1994, 0 8147 2627 5
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... eating bananas; nine bananas, in fact, five baked and four raw. He had invited his valet Charlie Jones to join him. The valet, who later confessed that he had Chloroformed his employer, refused: ‘I told him that I was afraid of bananas and wouldn’t try any.’ Dr Curry, who attended the body, found that the 84-year-old man had died of natural ...

Fancy Dress

Peter Campbell: Millais, Burne-Jones and Leighton, 15 April 1999

Millais: Portraits 
by Peter Funnell and Malcolm Warner.
National Portrait Gallery, 224 pp., £35, February 1999, 1 85514 255 4
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John Everett Millais 
by G.H. Fleming.
Constable, 318 pp., £20, August 1998, 0 09 478560 0
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Edward Burne-JonesVictorian Artist-Dreamer 
by Stephen Wildman and John Christian.
Abrams, 360 pp., £48, October 1998, 0 8109 6522 4
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Frederic Leighton: Antiquity, Renaissance, Modernity 
edited by Tim Barringer and Elizabeth Prettejohn.
Yale, 332 pp., £40, March 1999, 0 300 07937 0
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... In 1886 there was an exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery of the work of John Everett Millais (Sir John, in fact: he had recently been made a baronet). There were pictures from his Pre-Raphaelite infancy, like Isabella and Christ in the Carpenter’s Shop; anecdotal ones, like My First Sermon (a child portrait in the Bubbles line); landscapes (Chill October); pictures with stories (The Proscribed Royalist) and pictures from stories (Mariana ...

Motiveless Malignity

D.A.N. Jones, 11 October 1990

The Dwarfs 
by Harold Pinter.
Faber, 183 pp., £11.99, October 1990, 0 571 14446 2
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The Comfort of Strangers, and Other Screenplays 
by Harold Pinter.
Faber, 226 pp., £14.99, September 1990, 0 571 14419 5
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The Circus Animals 
by James Plunkett.
Hutchinson, 305 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 0 09 173530 0
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The South 
by Colm Tóibín.
Serpent’s Tail, 238 pp., £7.99, May 1990, 1 85242 170 3
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... like the dreadful Vodi, despoilers of life, who work for Nelly, the witch with pointed teeth, in John Braine’s best novel, The Vodi, which appeared in 1959. Such demonic fantasies are quite common, I think, when young men are locked in a long-running conversation in, say, barrack-rooms or hospital wards. In Pinter’s case, the fantasy of ‘the ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Sedan Stories, 8 August 2002

... do you carry the King in a common Cedan, as they carry such as have the Plague?”’ John Evelyn, too, had a low opinion of the contraption, ‘it being held a conveyance for voluptuous persons and women of pleasure to their leu’d Rendivozes incognito’. The Covent Garden Morning Frolick (1747), an engraving by Louis Boitard that’s ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Dead Babies, 16 November 2000

... than Poirot’s. If you find this kind of thing fun, you’re probably already familiar with John Sutherland’s Was Heathcliff a Murderer?, Can Jane Eyre Be Happy? and Who Betrays Elizabeth Bennet? but you might be interested to know they’ve been collected in an omnibus edition with a new introduction, under the title The Literary Detective ...

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