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Voyage to Uchronia

Paul Delany, 29 August 1991

The Difference Engine 
by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.
Gollancz, 384 pp., £7.99, July 1991, 9780575050730
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... modest reform of 1832. In 1855 the IRP is still in power, led by the great convert to its cause, Lord Byron. Shelley, faithful to the Luddites, has been exiled incommunicado on St Helena; Keats is a ‘clacker’ who programs difference engines – the Victorian predecessors of the computer. The true rulers of Britain are ‘merit Lords’ appointed for ...

Beware Kite-Flyers

Stephen Sedley: The British Constitution, 12 September 2013

The British Constitution: A Very Short Introduction 
by Martin Loughlin.
Oxford, 152 pp., £7.99, April 2013, 978 0 19 969769 4
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... points out) had created what is today recognisable as an American-style presidency, installing as lord protector a head of state – Oliver Cromwell – who was to be not a figurehead but a chief executive whose emergency powers of taxation were to be subject to Parliament’s endorsement or override, and who was forbidden to suspend or dispense with its ...


Norman Buchan: In Defence of the Word, 1 October 1987

... falsehood and malignity, its virulence and its mischief heightening as it proceeded’: this was Lord Ellenborough, speaking in 1819. A fourpenny stamp deliberately priced newspapers beyond the reach of the poor. Their answer was the unstamped press, like the Poor man’s Guardian, on whose behalf 740 men, women and children were gaoled. Their cause was ...

Favourite Subjects

J.I.M. Stewart, 17 September 1981

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 
edited by Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien.
Allen and Unwin, 463 pp., £9.95, August 1981, 0 04 826005 3
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Tolkien and the Silmarils 
by Randel Helms.
Thames and Hudson, 104 pp., £5.50, September 1981, 0 500 01264 4
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... Tolkien certainly proves to have a great deal to say about his own books: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and (in rather a troubled and baffled way) The Silmarillion. About other people’s books he says little, and that little is commonly unfavourable. He disapproves of drama, and so doesn’t talk about it. Shakespeare when read at school he had ...

Jingo Joe

Paul Addison, 2 July 1981

Joseph Chamberlain: A Political Study 
by Richard Jay.
Oxford, 383 pp., £16.95, March 1981, 0 19 822623 3
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... war: not labour versus capital, but the productive classes against a parasitical aristocracy. Lord Salisbury, the Conservative leader, he attacked as the chief representative of a class ‘who toil not, neither do they spin’. ‘What ransom,’ he asked, ‘will property pay for the security it enjoys?’ – and his words were intended as a ...


Brian Barder: The Special Immigration Appeals Commission, 18 March 2004

... When I was asked, in November 1997, whether I would allow my name to be submitted to the Lord Chancellor for appointment as a lay member of the new Special Immigration Appeals Commission, I readily agreed, not only because I was flattered, but because I accepted that special procedures for appeals against deportation in national security cases were justified ...

Unmuscular Legs

E.S. Turner, 22 August 1996

The Dictionary of National Biography 1986-1990 
edited by C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 607 pp., £50, June 1996, 0 19 865212 7
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... second-rank, about whom it is not easy to find information elsewhere. If we do not need it for Lord Blake’s long piece on Harold Macmillan, we certainly need it for the life of a lesser prime minister, Lord O’ Neill of Northern Ireland. This is the man, we are reminded, who on retirement said: ‘It is frightfully ...


W.G. Runciman: Like a Prep School, 10 January 1991

... Durham Miners’ Gala, the Household Cavalry and the Morris Dancers of Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh. Lord Quinton, when told that I was proposing to sign in, described it as ‘pure Gilbert and Sullivan’. Lord Annan told me that his wife calls it ‘Noel’s play-group’. Lord Adrian told ...

It starts with an itch

Alan Bennett: ‘People’, 8 November 2012

... I’ll often come away as dissatisfied with myself as I am with the house. The first stately home I can remember visiting was Temple Newsam, a handsome 17th-century house given to Leeds by the earl of Halifax. We often used to go on outings there when I was a child, taking the tram from outside the City Market up through Halton and past the municipal ...

Professional Misconduct

Stephen Sedley, 17 December 2015

... to the newly set up Office of Judicial Complaints resulted in a public reprimand from the lord chancellor and the lord chief justice, who stated that a firm line had now been drawn under the issue and that the judge enjoyed his full confidence. Whether Mr Justice Peter Smith continues to enjoy the full confidence of ...


Chris Mullin: In Court, Again, 7 April 2022

... I lost count of the number of people who contacted me saying things like: ‘I had dinner with Lord Justice so-and-so last night and you should have heard what he was saying about the Birmingham Six.’What has brought about this sudden interest in tracking down the real culprits? The answer is Justice 4 the 21, a campaign organised by relatives of the ...

Irish Adventurers

Janet Adam Smith, 25 June 1992

The Grand Tours of Katherine Wilmot: France 1801-3 and Russia 1805-7 
edited by Elizabeth Mavor.
Weidenfeld, 187 pp., £17.99, February 1992, 0 297 81223 8
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... kept during her travels on the Continent in 1801-3 and to Russia from 1805 to 1807, and sent home to her family. Parts of these journals have already been published, in Thomas Sadleir’s An Irish Peer on the Continent (1920) and in Lady Londonderry and H.M. Hyde’s The Russian Journals and Letters of Martha and Catherine Wilmot (1934). For the present ...


Ian Sansom: I was a teenage evangelist, 8 July 2004

... the captive, testifying, as With great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Acts 4.33). I was also interested in restoring sight to the blind (Luke 4.19), casting out demons (Luke 9.1), cleansing lepers (Matthew 8.1-4), feeding thousands (Luke 9.10-17) and raising the dead (John 11.1-43), but I never quite managed any of ...

That Man Griffith

John Griffith, 25 October 1990

Lord Denning: A Biography 
by Edmund Heward.
Weidenfeld, 243 pp., £15, September 1990, 9780297811381
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... I should declare an interest. Anthony Sampson in The Changing Anatomy of Britain quotes Lord Denning dismissing attacks on a class-based judiciary: ‘The youngsters believe that we come from a narrow background – it’s all nonsense – they get it from that man Griffith.’ Lord Reid was a distinguished top judge ...

Royal Anxiety

Gabriele Annan, 9 June 1994

The Queen 
by Kenneth Harris.
Weidenfeld, 341 pp., £20, April 1994, 0 297 81211 4
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Divine Right: The Inglorious Survival of British Royalty 
by Richard Tomlinson.
Little, Brown, 357 pp., £17.50, June 1994, 0 316 91119 4
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... black knickers for state funerals, tartan for Balmoral, knickers printed all over with corgis for home, and appliquéd with real holly for Christmas, ‘which is why she keeps her Christmas message very short’. She gets into a terrible flap trying to decide which pair to wear for a visit to the child narrator’s school. The little girl ‘puts her at her ...

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