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The Irresistible Itch

Colin Kidd: Vandals in Bow Ties

3 December 2009
Personal Responsibility: Why It Matters 
by Alexander Brown.
Continuum, 214 pp., £12.99, September 2009, 978 1 84706 399 1
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... the subject possesses the greatest allure for social conservatives. However, as the philosopher Alexander Brown shows in Personal Responsibility, the subject is more slippery than politicians imagine. How should society determine whether someone’s circumstances mean that they are deserving of its support rather than its condemnation? The ...

Brown and Friends

David Runciman

3 January 2008
... Gordon Brown, like all prime ministers, like all politicians, like all of us really, is over-reliant on the advice of a small group of people he thinks he can trust. In Brown’s case, these tend to be men who once worked as juniors in his office, having been hand-picked at a very young age ...

Dream on

Alexander Nehamas

17 July 1997
Dinner with Persephone 
by Patricia Storace.
Granta, 398 pp., £17.99, February 1997, 1 86207 033 4
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... relevant as any table of economic indicators. Again according to myth, the Gorgona, the sister of Alexander the Great, was transformed into a mermaid. Even today, she stops ships sailing in Greek waters and helps those sailors who assure her that her brother is still alive to arrive at their destination, while destroying those who tell her the sad truth. A ...

Lethal Specks

Hugh Pennington: Polonium

14 December 2006
... radiation sources, are the only people to have been lethally irradiated in a non-medical setting. Alexander Litvinenko joins them. But his death from polonium-210 is unprecedented. This is the first time – to our knowledge – that someone has been deliberately killed by the administration of a radioactive substance. Marie and Pierre Curie discovered ...

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Adam Shatz: Mass Incarceration

3 May 2017
Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America 
by James Forman.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 306 pp., £21.98, April 2017, 978 0 374 18997 6
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... that an African American would be incarcerated at some point in their lifetime had doubled since Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision outlawing school segregation; and more black adults were under the control of the criminal justice system – whether in prison, on probation or on parole – than were enslaved in 1850. Once again, it ...

Flower or Fungus?

Barbara Graziosi: Bacchylides

31 July 2008
Bacchylides: Politics, Performance, Poetic Tradition 
by David Fearn.
Oxford, 428 pp., £70, July 2007, 978 0 19 921550 8
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... men’s concern for athletics, flute-playing and good times. On the iron grips of shields red-brown spiders spin their webs; rust subdues sharp spears and double-edged swords. There is no noise of bronze trumpets, and sleep – honey for the mind – still soothes the heart at dawn: it is not pillaged from men’s eyelids. The streets are laden with ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: The life expectancy of a Roman emperor

3 June 2004
... sacked, but it would be rash of the prime minister to wait for the electorate to sack him: Gordon Brown wouldn’t be the only disappointed person were Tony Blair to be succeeded by Michael Howard. Caracalla was succeeded by Macrinus, a co-conspirator of Martialis, the man who did the actual stabbing and was shortly afterwards caught and ...

How to Serve Coffee

Rory Stewart: Aleppan Manners

16 February 2017
Aleppo Observed: Ottoman Syria through the Eyes of Two Scottish Doctors, Alexander and Patrick Russell 
by Maurits H. van den Boogert.
Arcadian Library, 254 pp., £120, September 2015, 978 0 19 958856 5
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... told tourists that they ‘present an unpleasing exterior’. The ‘two Scottish doctors’, Alexander and Patrick Russell, explained in 1792 that it was particularly the height of the walls which made the streets appear so ‘gloomy’: ‘little better than alleys winding among the melancholy walls of nunneries’. The people of Aleppo, on the other ...

As God Intended

Rosemary Hill: Capability Brown

5 January 2012
The Omnipotent Magician: Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown 1716-83 
by Jane Brown.
Chatto, 384 pp., £20, March 2011, 978 0 7011 8212 0
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... for the W Front?’ These were the questions he intended to put to Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, then at the peak of his career as the most famous and sought after landscape designer of the day, who had been booked to make an inspection of Burton Constable and give his opinion of its ‘capabilities’ for improvement. Constable’s notes are a ...

Want-of-Tin and Want-of-Energy

Dinah Birch: The lives of the Rossettis

20 May 2004
The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Formative Years 1835-62: Charlotte Street to Cheyne Walk. Volume One 
edited by William Fredeman.
Brewer, 464 pp., £95, July 2002, 9780859915281
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The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Formative Years 1835-62: Charlotte Street to Cheyne Walk. Volume Two 
edited by William Fredeman.
Brewer, 640 pp., £95, July 2002, 0 85991 637 5
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William and Lucy: The Other Rossettis 
by Angela Thirlwell.
Yale, 376 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 300 10200 3
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... around his life. Something similar might be said of the woman William married – Lucy Madox Brown, the daughter of Ford Madox Brown and his first wife, Elizabeth Bromley. Lucy seems to have been pushed to the side when Elizabeth died. Relations with Brown’s second wife, Emma, and ...

Fundamentally Goyish

James Wood: Zadie Smith

3 October 2002
The Autograph Man 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 420 pp., £16.99, September 2002, 0 241 13998 8
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... things, the phone went. It was Jason Jenson, known to the police as Wet-Dog, his old friend from Brown, former drug-pusher, cat-burglar, mail fraudster and insurance scam artist, one-time inmate of Lorton penitentiary, now a computer whizz kid with EkaSystems Inc, and earning at least half a million a year . . . Alas, much of Zadie Smith’s second novel ...
1 August 1996
Washington Babylon 
by Alexander Cockburn and Ken Silverstein.
Verso, 316 pp., £31.95, May 1996, 1 85984 092 2
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... to help poor children by ending their entitlement to even minimal welfare support. Although Alexander Cockburn and Ken Silverstein twice call Clinton a Republican president, even the view that he has signed the Contract with America does not go far enough for them. Neither Reagan nor Gingrich, in their view, did much to disturb Washington politics; the ...

Look…

David Runciman: How the coalition was formed

16 December 2010
22 Days in May: The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition 
by David Laws.
Biteback, 335 pp., £9.99, November 2010, 978 1 84954 080 3
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... Britain’s Labour Party, which had spurned at least three opportunities to replace Gordon Brown with someone more palatable, smelled of exhaustion. Laws describes the various meetings that took place in the days following the election between the Lib Dem negotiating team and its Labour counterparts, to see if they could thrash out a deal. On the ...

Wolves in the Drawing Room

Neal Ascherson: The SNP

2 June 2011
... disaster of 5 May have happened if any of its best and brightest – Robin Cook, Douglas Alexander, Alistair Darling, Gordon Brown, even John Smith – had stayed in Scotland to lead the party and the devolved government at Holyrood? Only Donald Dewar took the train back north and became first minister of Scotland ...
9 July 1987
Speak, Memory 
by Vladimir Nabokov.
Penguin, 242 pp., £3.95, May 1987, 0 14 008623 4
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The Russian Album 
by Michael Ignatieff.
Chatto, 191 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 7011 3109 8
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The Making of a Peacemonger: The Memoirs of George Ignatieff 
prepared in association with by Sonja Sinclair.
Toronto, 265 pp., £15, July 1985, 0 8020 2556 0
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A Little of All These: An Estonian Childhood 
by Tania Alexander.
Cape, 165 pp., £12.50, March 1987, 0 224 02400 0
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... revolt, was commander of the Corps des Pages for twenty-five years, and presided late in life over Alexander II’s Council of Ministers; his grandfather, Count Nicholas, described by Lord Salisbury as ‘an amusing, joking man without regard for the truth’, negotiated the treaty which concluded the Russo-Turkish War and, as ...

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