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Writing to rule

Claude Rawson, 18 September 1980

Boileau and the Nature of Neo-Classicism 
by George Pocock.
Cambridge, 215 pp., £12.50, June 1980, 0 521 22772 0
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‘The Rape of the Lock’ and its Illustrations 1714-1896 
by Robert Halsband.
Oxford, 160 pp., £11.50, July 1980, 0 19 812098 2
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... suddenly become vivid. The declared pieties of Neo-Classical doctrine, the roll-call of revered masters, the sketch of Virgil’s career act as a mere catalyst for the real point, which is that of an exhilarated personal recapturing of the whole Classical tradition. Such moments of fervour, where the penny suddenly drops, irradiating all the assertions of ...


John Lloyd: The Russian reformers’ new party, 15 July 1999

... because they have produced so few rewards for the many and so much corrupt wealth for the few. Alexander Yakovlev, the great liberalising force of the Gorbachev years, thanks to his brief in the Politburo – Ideology – took the podium first. His limp is one of the rare memories nowadays of the Great Patriotic War. The Communists and nationalists who ...

Cause and Effect

A.J. Ayer, 15 October 1981

Hume and the Problem of Causation 
by Tom Beauchamp and Alexander Rosenberg.
Oxford, 327 pp., £15, August 1981, 0 19 520236 8
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The Science of Legislator: The Natural Jurisprudence of David Hume and Adam Smith 
by Knud Haakonssen.
Cambridge, 240 pp., £17.50, September 1981, 0 521 23891 9
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... stodgy reading, is that with the exception of my own little book on Hume, in the OUP ‘Past Masters’ series – which, since they pay attention to my other writings, I take to have appeared only after their manuscript was completed – there is practically no modern contribution either to the philosophy of Hume or to the topic of causality that they ...

At the National Gallery

Charles Hope: Veronese, 8 May 2014

... prepared to lend them. ‘The Martyrdom of St George’ (c.1565). ‘The Family of Darius before Alexander’ (1565-7) ‘Mars and Venus United by Love’ (c.1570) ‘The Wedding at Cana’ (1563) ‘The Supper at Emmaus’ (1555) ‘The Conversion of Mary Magdalene’ (1548) ‘The Anointing of David’ (1550) ‘The Adoration of the Kings’ (1573) ‘The ...


E.S. Turner, 4 September 1986

Monty: The Field-Marshal 1944-1976 
by Nigel Hamilton.
Hamish Hamilton, 996 pp., £15, June 1986, 0 241 11838 7
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... the Russians. After the Rhine crossing Eisenhower, without the permission of his political masters, cabled his plans for the final advance to Stalin, infuriating the British Chiefs of Staff – ‘it is not very satisfactory when Ike has to appeal to Stalin to help him control Monty’ (Alan Brooke). Monty, as we know, got as far as Lüneburg ...

Not in a Box

Julian Barnes: Mary Cassatt as Herself, 26 April 2018

Mary Cassatt, une impressioniste americaine a Paris 
Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris, until 23 July 2018Show More
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... character; she could afford to visit Rome, Parma, Madrid and the Low Countries in search of great masters. Money is never neutral– as other painters were well aware. Here is Camille Pissarro in Paris reporting to his son Lucien in Bayswater on his visit to ‘Mlle Cassatt’ in April 1891:I want to tell you about the colour prints she is planning to exhibit ...

The Rack, the Rapier, the Ruff and the Fainting Nun

Nicholas Penny: Manet/Velázquez, 10 July 2003

Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting 
by Gary Tinterow and Geneviève Lacambre et al.
Yale, 592 pp., £50, March 2003, 0 300 09880 4
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... Although an important aim of the exhibition was to explore the influence of the Spanish Old Masters – and their successor Goya – on modern French painting, we quickly realise that Murillo, who was by far the most admired, and much the most expensive, of the Spanish artists whose work became more available as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, did not ...

Trapped in Miss America’s Boudoir

Glyn Maxwell, 27 April 2000

... Like, the men of his generation had ‘won’ the world and were giving it to us. They’d made us Masters of the Universe, and it felt, as in the time of Alexander, that what they’d created would last for ever. It didn’t though, did it? Don’t get me started. Four decades later, I think we all agree that a domestic ...

Our Guy

John Barnie: Blair’s Style, 20 January 2011

... The president of Bulgaria is ‘a lovely guy’ and Jean Chrétien ‘a good guy’. Douglas Alexander is ‘a very clever guy’ and José María Aznar ‘a tough guy’ (a mark of approval). Only Gordon Brown – ominously for him – is ‘a strange guy’. Other character assessments are equally breezy. ‘She is a great person, Tessa [Jowell], just ...

Ramadan Nights

Robert Irwin: How the Koran Works, 7 August 2003

The Koran 
translated by N.J. Dawood.
Penguin, 464 pp., £7.99, January 2003, 0 14 044920 5
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... world I had grown up in, I tried to supply my own explanations, based partly on my reading of Sufi masters, but also on a half-baked knowledge of existentialism, Zen Buddhism and the ethos of Kerouac’s Dharma Bums. Only slowly over the decades was this exciting approach to reading a major religious text replaced by more academic strategies. (I ...

Divorce me

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 17 December 1981

Love, Sex, Marriage and Divorce 
by Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy.
Cape, 384 pp., £8.50, November 1981, 0 224 01602 4
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... got to it late. After the annals of sexual prowess, the annals of sexual infirmity. After Kinsey, Masters and Johnson – ‘it was around the clitoris that they made major discoveries.’ Sex is a problem because it is no longer supposed to be a problem. ‘Throughout history men have boasted of their conquests, and in liberated ages, women too,’ writes ...

Wild Horses

Claude Rawson, 1 April 1983

‘The Bronze Horseman’ and Other Poems 
by Alexander Pushkin, translated by D.M. Thomas.
Penguin, 261 pp., £2.95, September 1982, 0 14 042309 5
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Alexander Pushkin: A Critical Study 
by A.D.P. Briggs.
Croom Helm, 257 pp., £14.95, November 1982, 0 7099 0688 9
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‘Choiseul and Talleyrand’: A Historical Novella and Other Poems, with New Verse Translations of Alexander Pushkin 
by Charles Johnston.
Bodley Head, 88 pp., £5.25, July 1982, 0 370 30924 3
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Mozart and Salieri: The Little Tragedies 
by Alexander Pushkin, translated by Antony Wood.
Angel, 94 pp., £5.95, September 1982, 0 946162 02 6
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I have come to greet you 
by Afanasy Fet, translated by James Greene.
Angel, 71 pp., £5.95, September 1982, 0 946162 03 4
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Uncollected Poems 
by John Betjeman.
Murray, 81 pp., £4.95, September 1982, 0 7195 3969 2
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Travelling without a Valid Ticket 
by Howard Sergeant.
Rivelin, 14 pp., £1, May 1982, 0 904524 39 6
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... commanding and melancholy elevation whose cadence is that of the great Romantic and post-Romantic masters of English heroic metre. The idiom of ‘Autumn. A Fragment’ is part Keatsian ode, part Yeatsian high informality, finely and appropriately blended. ‘Demons’ is, perhaps less successfully, rendered in a style of Gothic balladry, mingling spooky ...

Men in Aprons

Colin Kidd: Freemasonry, 7 May 1998

Who’s Afraid of Freemasons? The Phenomenon of Freemasonry 
by Alexander Piatigorsky.
Harvill, 398 pp., £25, August 1997, 1 86046 029 1
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... and accusations of the Revolutionary era to enjoy direct Hanoverian patronage from its Grand Masters, the Duke of Cumberland, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Sussex. Robison’s work triggered an immediate panic in New England, which supported the conservative Federalists against the rising tide of democracy. In his Fourth of July address in ...


Sheila Fitzpatrick: A Leninist version of Soviet history, 1 September 2005

The Soviet Century 
by Moshe Lewin, edited by Gregory Elliott.
Verso, 416 pp., £25, February 2005, 1 84467 016 3
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... with the Russian people. As he said in a 1982 interview, Vasilii Terkin, the unheroic hero of Alexander Tvardovsky’s vastly popular wartime poem of that name, a kind of Good Soldier Schweik whose survival skills coexisted with a bedrock layer of Soviet patriotism, ‘really meant something for every Russian – and for me too. I knew therefore that if I ...

Faking It

Sam Gilpin: Paul Watkins, 10 August 2000

The Forger 
by Paul Watkins.
Faber, 343 pp., £9.99, July 2000, 0 571 20194 6
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... The Committee handles his boarding fees and pays for tutorials with a famous Russian painter, Alexander Pankratov. David is befriended by an art dealer, Guillaume Fleury, who sells on some of David’s ‘Gauguin’ sketches as originals – without his knowledge. The French police discover the fraud just as the Germans are threatening the city, and David ...

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