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Mizzled

Roy Harris, 21 February 1985

Longman Dictionary of the English Language 
by Randolph Quirk.
Longman, 1875 pp., £14.95, October 1984, 0 582 55511 6
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The Private Lives of English Words 
by Louis Heller, Alexander Humez and Malcah Dror.
Routledge, 333 pp., £12.95, May 1984, 0 7102 0006 4
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The Penguin Dictionary of Troublesome Words 
by Bill Bryson.
Viking, 173 pp., £7.95, April 1984, 0 7139 1653 2
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The Origins of English Words: A Discursive Dictionary of Indo-European Roots 
by Joseph Shipley.
Johns Hopkins, 637 pp., $39.95, May 1984, 0 8018 3004 4
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A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English 
by Eric Partidge and Paul Beale.
Routledge, 1400 pp., £45, May 1984, 0 7100 9820 0
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... always carefully selected. Classic examples of the 19th-century attitude towards lexicography were Murray in England and Emile Littré in France. Neither man was lacking either on the authoritarian or on the imaginative side: but both chose to present themselves, in accordance with the spirit of the age, as mere collectors and arrangers of lexical ...

Sticky Wicket

Charles Nicholl: Colonel Fawcett’s Signet Ring, 28 May 2009

The Lost City of Z 
by David Grann.
Simon and Schuster, 339 pp., £16.99, February 2009, 978 1 84737 436 3
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... Englishman’. His chief rival in Amazonia was a publicity-hungry American millionaire, Dr Alexander Hamilton Rice, whose state of the art radio had an aerial the size of a hang-glider. When Rice turned back after a hostile encounter with the Yanomami, Fawcett reported in characteristically clipped style that he had ‘skedaddled’ because he was ...

Swank and Swagger

Ferdinand Mount: Deals with the Pasha, 26 May 2022

Promised Lands: The British and the Ottoman Middle East 
by Jonathan Parry.
Princeton, 453 pp., £35, April, 978 0 691 18189 9
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... Israel, and effectively put an end to Napoleon’s dream of marching on to India in the wake of Alexander the Great. Two centuries later, another demonstration of ‘shock and awe’ lit up the night skies over Baghdad and started the latest and most ill-fated intervention by the Western allies into the territory of the old Ottoman Empire. How curious the ...

Impossibility

Robert Crawford, 18 September 1997

... hover, agog, Though bored by its contents: same old same old Verisimilitudinous whine When Alexander Diving Bell invented the xenophone I heard his voice calling, ‘The sea! The sea!’ Hollowly into a shell As if he could contact Robert Louis Verne Or all the impossible, massed, forlorn spirits Edinburgh exiled, waving from twenty thousand leagues ...

Out of Bounds

Ian Gilmour: Why Wordsworth sold a lot less than Byron, 20 January 2005

The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period 
by William St Clair.
Cambridge, 765 pp., £90, July 2004, 9780521810067
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... English books that were no longer covered by copyright. The leader of the Edinburgh industry, Alexander Donaldson, even opened his own shop in London and there sold out-of-copyright books at prices about half those prevalent in England, whereupon the English publishers sued him in the English courts for ‘piratically’ reprinting a book. The legal chaos ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: On the Original Non-Event , 20 April 1995

... Day actually produced a very good sub-Dada movie, entitled Groundhog Day, and starring Bill Murray, which took the piss out of the repetitious and the banal by capturing the star in a time-warp where he was doomed to enact the same day over and over again until he could learn to act his way out of it. Other smart films have been made on dumb ...

Toshie Trashed

Gavin Stamp: The Glasgow School of Art Fire, 19 June 2014

... we have to deal both with the commercialisation of his legacy – the ‘Mockin’tosh’, as Murray Grigor termed it, that fills the shops – and the tendency to see him as a lone figure instead of a man who, like all great artists, did not just borrow but stole, from others and from the past. I used to wonder what all those visitors in the grip of the ...

A Big Life

Michael Hofmann: Seamus Heaney, 4 June 2015

New Selected Poems 1988-2013 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 222 pp., £18.99, November 2014, 978 0 571 32171 1
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... thing in our time, a successful one almost unexampled. The very greatest – Heaney, or Les Murray – have come huge and unlikely distances from obscure origins: ‘Like starlight that is light years on the go/From far away and takes light years arriving.’ Murray’s biographer, Peter ...

I have no books to consult

Stephen Sedley: Lord Mansfield, 22 January 2015

Lord Mansfield: Justice in the Age of Reason 
by Norman Poser.
McGill-Queen’s, 532 pp., £24.99, September 2013, 978 0 7735 4183 2
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... In March​ 1718, 13-year-old William Murray, the 11th of Viscount Stormont’s 14 children, set off from the family seat at Scone, near Perth, on a pony. The journey to London, which he made alone, took him almost two months, and it is probable that he never saw Scotland again. Although it was a bare three years since the first Jacobite Rising had attempted to place the Old Pretender, James Edward Stuart, on the throne, and although the Murrays were well-known Jacobites, the family was well enough connected to ensure that, when he reached London, William was able to enter Westminster School and then Christ Church, Oxford, at both of which he shone as a scholar ...

Keeping out and coming close

Michael Church, 3 October 1985

Here lies: An Autobiography 
by Eric Ambler.
Weidenfeld, 234 pp., £10.95, June 1985, 0 297 78588 5
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The Levanter 
by Eric Ambler.
Weidenfeld, 216 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 0 297 99521 9
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Doctor Frigo 
by Eric Ambler.
Weidenfeld, 250 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 0 297 76848 4
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The Other Side of the Moon: The Life of David Niven 
by Sheridan Morley.
Weidenfeld, 300 pp., £10.95, September 1985, 9780297787082
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Secrets: Boyhood in a Jewish Hotel 1932-1954 
by Ronald Hayman.
Peter Owen, 224 pp., £12, July 1985, 9780720606423
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A Woman in Custody 
by Audrey Peckham.
Fontana, 253 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 00 636952 9
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No Gangster More Bold 
by John Morgan.
Hodder, 179 pp., £9.95, July 1985, 0 340 26387 3
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... foe, and ran the drama happily through in his mind. A few weeks later the newsreels showed King Alexander of Yugoslavia being mown down by a Croatian assassin on exactly that spot. ‘I felt oddly guilty, but also pleased. In the Mediterranean sunshine there were strange and violent men with whom I could identify, and with whom, in a way, I was now in ...

Class Traitor

Edward Pearce, 11 June 1992

Maverick: The Life of a Union Rebel 
by Eric Hammond.
Weidenfeld, 214 pp., £16.99, March 1992, 0 297 81200 9
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... ancients, the white carthorse on the steps of Number Ten is dust with Bellerophon, the horse of Alexander. A cruel memory of that age lingers, the TUC trip to Poland at the height of Party-military repression in that country. It was a jaunt which the EEPTU opposed – violently of course, it never did things otherwise – which Mr Basnett approved and of ...

Hypnotise Her

Thomas Jones: Axel Munthe’s exaggerations, 29 January 2009

Axel Munthe: The Road to San Michele 
by Bengt Jangfeldt, translated by Harry Watson.
Tauris, 381 pp., £25, March 2008, 978 1 84511 720 7
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... celebrity Axel Munthe. His extraordinary memoir, The Story of San Michele, was published by John Murray in 1929, when Munthe was 72. The first edition rapidly sold out; it went into its 20th impression in January 1931, and has been in print ever since.* The reasons for its wide and enduring appeal have to do partly with its subject-matter – Munthe led a ...

Diary

Tom Nairn: On Culloden, 9 May 1996

... from one clan grave to another while the present Stuart claimant to the throne, Michael James Alexander, was being interviewed by BBC Scotland. He is a gentle Belgian socialist who once worked as a waiter in Edinburgh but has taken up PR. ‘I felt it was important to attend,’ he told the cameras. ‘Ethnic cleansing was carried out after Culloden and ...

Prodigious Powers

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 21 January 1982

The Greeks and their Heritages 
by Arnold Toynbee.
Oxford, 334 pp., £12.50, October 1981, 0 19 215256 4
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... or prose into elegant Greek or Latin. Toynbee was not as good at this as his father-in-law Gilbert Murray or his own contemporary Ronald Knox: but he was good enough to win a Balliol scholarship, which he followed up with First Classes in both Mods and Greats and a Balliol Fellowship in Ancient History. Saved by an opportune attack of dysentery from the ...

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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... to his mother when he thought his father was about to drown. Marghanita Laski, discussing Colin Murray Parkes’s Bereavement in this paper, commented on ‘his perverse avoidance of marital desertion as the obvious analogue to bereavement by death’, and added that in the first case the pain is ‘made worse by the knowledge that all the misery has been ...

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