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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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... projects are at issue, and denied or even handled with prim embarrassment in scientific biography. Alan Cook 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 that structured Halley’s career, and this sprawling ...

Alan Bennett remembers Peter Cook

Alan Bennett, 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 of Eight and One Over the Eight, Peter was quite prosperous and it showed ...


Alan Bennett: Postscript, 19 February 2004

... 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 the parliamentary ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2012, 3 January 2013

... people have for me. In the local post office where I go every morning for the papers I am ‘Mr Alan’, though Zaiman with his filmstar looks just calls me ‘Alan’ (and occasionally pats my arm). The English lady (from Kent) in Shepherd Foods who wears a burka calls me ‘Mr Bennett’ and because it’s the way ...

Tony, Ray and the Duchess

Alan Bell, 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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... 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 encapsulate his foreign journeys. Travel for Pope-Hennessy ...


W.G. Runciman: On Trade-Unionism, 5 May 1988

... 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 1926. Then, if ever, you might expect to have seen ...

Snob Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Modern Snobbery, 3 November 2016

... 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 a woman who has based every decision in her life on ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2019, 2 January 2020

... 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 saw one of my plays. He did try though, which is more than I ...

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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... 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 the red boxes. Despite his Bennite past, the alienation is ...

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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... 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’, over forty pages, all the more useful since it will enable ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2016, 5 January 2017

... him away. How long after this it was that Bowie had his breakthrough I’m not sure.15 January. Alan Rickman dies. In the first week of The Habit of Art at the National in 2009 Michael Gambon, playing Auden, was taken ill and rushed to St Thomas’s. He recovered quite quickly, and indeed got out of the ambulance saying: ‘I know what they’re all doing ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2011, 5 January 2012

... me.‘Aren’t you famous?’‘Well I can’t be, can I, if you don’t know my name.’‘It’s Alan something.’‘Yes.’‘From Scarborough?’‘No.’‘So which Alan are you?’‘I’m another Alan.’‘Are you just a lookalike?’‘Well, you could say so.’He pats my arm ...
The Man with Night Sweats 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 88 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 571 16257 6
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... 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 consumer. Perhaps Gunn wins our argument, then. The Man with Night ...

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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... 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 nuclear threat, in a sketch ...


Colin Richmond: Love of Killing, 13 February 1992

... The impact which the newsreel films of Belsen made at the end of the war was enormous,’ Alan Borg, the Director-General of the Imperial War Museum writes in his foreword to The Relief of Belsen,1 a collection of eye-witness accounts. ‘Many still remember exactly where and when they first saw these awful images ...

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