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18 March 1999
Life’s Other Secret: The New Mathematics of the Living World 
by Ian Stewart.
Penguin, 320 pp., £20, June 1998, 0 7139 9161 5
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... like a bell, there must be an equation for one like a bluebell, and if a bluebell, why not a rose?’ So says Lady Thomasina Coverly, the heroine of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, to her tutor Septimus Hodge. Her question was echoed a century after her (fictitious) life by the unorthodox biologist D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, whose mathematical investigations of the living world were collected in On ...
13 July 2016
The Long Weekend: Life in the English Country House between the Wars 
by Adrian Tinniswood.
Cape, 406 pp., £25, June 2016, 978 0 224 09945 5
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... period mood and a metaphor for those decades which have come to seem merely a poignant interval between the horrors of the first half of the 20th century. The title is borrowed from Robert Graves and AlanHodge, whose social history of Britain from 1918 to 1939, The Long Weekend, appeared in 1940, and it conjures up a sepia image of a tranquil Indian summer ‘in which the sun set slowly on the ...

Adjusting the Mechanism

Colin Burrow: Robert Graves

11 October 2018
Robert Graves: From a Great War Poet to ‘Goodbye to All That’, 1895-1929 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Bloomsbury, 461 pp., £25, August 2018, 978 1 4729 2914 3
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The Reader over Your Shoulder: A Handbook for Writers of English Prose 
by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge.
Seven Stories, 613 pp., £30, September 2017, 978 1 60980 733 7
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... Virginia Woolf​ could be cruelly accurate in her assessments of people. On 24 April 1925 Robert Graves visited her unexpectedly and stayed too long. She described him as ‘a nice ingenuous rattle headed young man’, and declared ‘the poor boy is all emphasis protestation and pose.’ By 1925 Graves had good reason to be ‘rattle headed’. He had survived Charterhouse school, which he hated ...

Diary

Alan​ Bennett: What I did in 1984

20 December 1984
... films and for commercials. A pinboard on which is a picture of Brecht, a photo of the cast of What the butler saw. Lindsay directing Ralph Richardson. A group photo of some critics. ‘Look at them, Alan. I mean, is it surprising?’ He has no pretensions to taste and would presumably despise the word. Coffee over, he starts preparing lunch. He is a hospitable man, though the odd thing is he prepared ...

Diary

Alan​ Bennett: What I did in 2005

5 January 2006
... looking radicalism and conservative socialism which does duty for my political views. I am an old modernian. 26 October. An interesting letter this morning from Claire Tomalin about the Drummer Hodge scene in The History Boys, saying that, contrary to what Hector specifically asserts in the scene, Hodge was not in the ordinary sense a name but like, as it were, Joe Bloggs, a generic name for a ...

Diary

Tobias Jones: Campaigning at the Ministry of Sound

6 March 1997
... at the suitably messianic Ministry of Sound, that the Use Your Vote campaign is organised. Much of the music inside will come from Creation Records, the label which launched Oasis, whose founder, Alan McGee, gave Blair a cool £10,000 to nurture Young Labour and pay for the Youth Rally in Blackpool; it was the same McGee who presented Blair with the band’s platinum disk, and gave the now ...

Why Mr Fax got it wrong

Roy Porter: Population history

5 March 1998
English Population History from Family Reconstitution 1580-1837 
by E.A. Wrigley and R.S. Davies.
Cambridge, 657 pp., £60, July 1997, 0 521 59015 9
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The Savage Wars of Peace: England, Japan and the Malthusian Trap 
by Alan​ Macfarlane.
Blackwell, 427 pp., £45, May 1997, 0 631 18117 2
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... about this. The Conclusion tells us of an initial hope that the family reconstitution method would throw light on the interplay of demographic, economic and social forces in specific communities: was Hodge down in Devon marrying earlier than his dad because his prospects were brightening, because customary village constraints were weakening, or because he didn’t give a damn (Malthus’s nightmare ...

Free Schools

Dawn Foster

6 May 2015
... indicated that £76,933 had not been used for its intended purpose. During its first year the school apparently had no chair of governors, despite legal stipulations. But the school prospectus listed Alan Lewis, a former deputy chair of the Conservative Party, as its ‘executive patron’, and the leaked EFA report concludes that he had been the ‘chair of governors between September 2011 and ...

My Old, Sweet, Darling Mob

Iain Sinclair: Michael Moorcock

30 November 2000
King of the City 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 421 pp., £9.99, May 2000, 0 684 86140 2
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Mother London 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 496 pp., £6.99, May 2000, 0 684 86141 0
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... are disclosed. ‘Angus Wilson, the novelist, who bore a striking resemblance to Margaret Rutherford, the actress who originally played Miss Marple’, is present. Also namechecked are Patricia Hodge, Simon Russell Beale, Giles Gordon (once Moorcock’s literary agent), Andrea Dworkin and Iris Murdoch, who ‘sat smiling into the middle-distance while Felix Martin explained the H-bomb to her ...

Who will stop them?

Owen Hatherley: The Neo-Elite

22 October 2014
The Establishment and How They Get Away with It 
by Owen Jones.
Allen Lane, 335 pp., £16.99, September 2014, 978 1 84614 719 7
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... of Labourism, yet he has managed to force a neoliberal Labour establishment to take him seriously. His opinions would be ridiculed as those of a ‘dinosaur’ if they came from a Peter Taaffe or Alan Woods, but he is inoculated against such criticism by his youth and avoidance of jargon. In many respects, he is the best thing to happen to the non-compromised, non-New Labour left in the mainstream ...

We Are Many

Tom Crewe: In the Corbyn Camp

10 August 2016
... to her constituency party, she asked ‘How would you feel if you were part of a team and you knew that not only was your boss undermining you but that this was happening to other colleagues?’ Alan Johnson, who led the Labour campaign to remain in the EU, has alleged that Corbyn and his team regularly failed to take up agreed positions, avoided taking part in meetings and watered down speeches ...

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