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Sailing Scientist

Steven Shapin: Edmund Halley

2 July 1998
Edmond Halley: Charting the Heavens and the Seas 
by Alan Cook.
Oxford, 540 pp., £29.50, December 1997, 0 19 850031 9
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... the intellectual is widely acknowledged as a matter of course when artistic, religious and political projects are at issue, and denied or even handled with prim embarrassment in scientific biography. AlanCook is no professional historian. Professor of Geophysics at Edinburgh, then Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy at Cambridge, he has devoted his life to the same sorts of precision project ...
25 May 1995
... It is 35 years, almost to the day, that I first set eyes on Peter, at lunch in a restaurant, I think on Goodge Street, with Dudley Moore and Jonathan Miller, the meeting arranged by John Bassett, whose idea it was that we should all work together writing the review that turned into Beyond the Fringe. Having already written while still an undergraduate a large slice of the two West End shows Pieces ...


Alan​ Bennett: Postscript

19 February 2004
... of the law, Lord Diplock. It cannot be stated too often that Blair decided on war, then looked round for its justification and thinking he had found it bumped the country along with him. Robin Cook is careful always to give Blair the benefit of the doubt, saying that Blair really did believe Saddam had the weapons. I’m never sure, though, that Cook’s forbearance is not just an extension of ...

Snob Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Modern Snobbery

3 November 2016
... looked down on by those who don’t. Most of Taylor’s literary examples come from Thackeray, whose Book of Snobs appeared in 1848, and George Orwell – he has written biographies of both. Alan Bennett, who has the finest antennae for social nuance, is absent. So is Muriel Spark whose short story, ‘You Should Have Seen the Mess’, is a forensic analysis of the subject. It is narrated by ...
21 May 1981
A Lonely Business: A Self-Portrait of James Pope-Hennessy 
edited by Peter Quennell.
Weidenfeld, 278 pp., £12.50, April 1981, 0 297 77918 4
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... and his wife (‘if Osbert Lancaster had been delegated by God to design them, they could not have been more precisely what they sounded like’), or an Etonian in Dominica who had married his black cook (‘a most depraved-looking middle-aged man, straight out of Maugham, with the glazed eyes of a drug addict and the aggressive manner of the socially ostracised’): these are the phrases which best ...


Alan​ Bennett: What I did in 2012

3 January 2013
... flag on each cheek and on her forehead and colours them in. This is done so unselfconsciously and without a smile R. feels that for this alone they deserve to win. Brian, Stewie, David Mamet, Alan Bennett and Yasmina Reza in Family Guy. 25 April. At five a car comes to take me down to Silk studios on Berwick Street to record a voiceover (of my own voice) for an episode of Family Guy, the ...

More ‘out’ than ‘on’

Glen Newey: Chris Mullin’s Diaries

27 August 2009
A View from the Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin 
by Chris Mullin.
Profile, 590 pp., £20, March 2009, 978 1 84668 223 0
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... twice. Gordon Brown schemes to become leader, while his faction intrigues against Blair’s. At the DETR, Prescott blusters and bungles away, the Peter Principle made flesh. Other ministers – Alan Milburn, David Blunkett, Stephen Byers – briefly shoot skywards, flare and fizzle. Through the passing show Mullin is by turns wryly amused and appalled, but often just alienated, a Meursault of ...


Alan​ Bennett: What I did in 2019

22 December 2019
... Ours was a not unrivalrous relationship, with neither particularly generous about the other’s work. Whereas a play or whatever on TV would invariably prompt a tipsy telephone call from Peter Cook with congratulations that one had got away with it yet again, Jonathan and I were less indulgent, tending to ignore each other’s efforts. I never saw one of his operas and I’m not sure he ever ...


W.G. Runciman: On Trade-Unionism

5 May 1988
... the competitive pressure on different industries, and the mood of the electorate. The issues have remained the same. I have been particularly struck by this on following up a reference to a paper by Alan Anderson published in the Bulletin of the Society of labour History in 1971 on the deliberations of the Legislative Committee set up by Baldwin’s Cabinet in the aftermath of the General Strike of ...

Matters of Taste

Peter Graham

4 December 1986
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen 
by Harold McGee.
Allen and Unwin, 684 pp., £20, September 1986, 9780043060032
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The French Menu Cookbook 
by Richard Olney.
Dorling Kindersley, 294 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 86318 181 3
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Out to Lunch 
by Paul Levy.
Chatto, 240 pp., £10.95, November 1986, 0 7011 3091 1
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The Good Food Guide 1987 
edited by Drew Smith.
Consumers’ Association/Hodder, 725 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 340 39600 8
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... an alkaline substance, such as ashes or lime: if consumed untreated, as it was when first introduced to Europe, it causes pellagra. Most of the time, though, it is science which has much to teach the cook. McGee explains exactly why, for example, vegetables put in large quantities of already boiling water and cooked uncovered for a few minutes will keep their greenness. We learn how to make iced tea ...

Sinking Giggling into the Sea

Jonathan Coe: Giggling along with Boris

18 July 2013
The Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson 
edited by Harry Mount.
Bloomsbury, 149 pp., £9.99, June 2013, 978 1 4081 8352 6
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... the audience was treated to a whole evening’s worth of ‘terrible gloomy stuff – the punchline of every sketch was people dying.’ Nonetheless, it was undoubtedly a strong influence on Peter Cook (one of the original cast members) and the other three-quarters of the Beyond the Fringe team (Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore), who would go on to present their own take on the ...
16 October 1997
Peter Cook: A Biography 
by Harry Thompson.
Hodder, 516 pp., £18.99, September 1997, 0 340 64968 2
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... I was a friend and devoted admirer of Peter Cook for thirty years but I never realised until I read this book how much our early lives had overlapped. We were born in the same week into the same sort of family. His father, like mine, was a colonial ...

The Fame Game

Alan​ Brien

6 September 1984
by Steven Aronson.
Hutchinson, 198 pp., £5.95, May 1984, 0 09 156251 1
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Automatic Vaudeville 
by John Lahr.
Heinemann, 241 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 434 40188 9
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Broadway Babies: The People who made the American Musical 
by Ethan Mordden.
Oxford, 244 pp., £19, August 1984, 0 19 503345 0
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... alert and painstaking analysis of the entertainment in which America still leads the world caters for a superior version of this need. Some of his best observations, about unusual stars like Barbara Cook or Gwen Verdon, may mean little to British readers since the performers have not crossed the Atlantic, in the flesh or on celluloid. This makes Mordden’s inclusion of a lengthy ‘discography ...
13 February 1992
The Man with Night Sweats 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 88 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 571 16257 6
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... more crazies who debate    With phantom enemies on the street. Gunn will take his brother back to his home (not out of doors) for dinner with his gay household (three of them take it in turns to cook); they will talk until late (whereas the crazies have only phantoms to debate with). It is by such civil intimacies that our cities may be judged. It is one answer to MajorMan, the citizen as ...

Mr Straight and Mr Good

Paul Foot: Gordon Brown

19 February 1998
Gordon Brown: The Biography 
by Paul Routledge.
Simon and Schuster, 358 pp., £17.99, February 1998, 0 684 81954 6
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... 1983, Brown, with the help of his friends in the Transport and General Workers Union, became Labour candidate for the safe seat of desperately impoverished Dunfermline East, he co-edited with Robin Cook another series of socialist essays, The Great Divide. In his Introduction, he grappled with the familiar argument that the shocking conditions of the poor could only be improved in times of economic ...

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