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Self-Made Aristocrats

Adam Phillips: The Wittgensteins and Their Money, 4 December 2008

The House of Wittgenstein: A Family at War 
by Alexander Waugh.
Bloomsbury, 366 pp., £20, September 2008, 978 0 7475 9185 6
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... wonder what the preconditions might be – in the family, say – for such concerns. Even though Alexander Waugh takes sides against Wittgenstein in this extraordinary family saga, and has remarkably little to say about Wittgenstein’s writing, he makes abundantly clear what the nine Wittgenstein children – three of whom committed suicide – were up ...

How many nipples had Graham Greene?

Colm Tóibín, 9 June 1994

... shifted easily from Ortega and Philby to his English admirers. In November 1985 he wrote to Alexander Chancellor: ‘I am afraid I don’t find the Spectator now as readable as it was in your day. I was rather shocked by the appearance of a long review by Barbara Cartland.’ In April 1979 Auberon Waugh wrote to ...

Baby Face

John Bayley, 24 May 1990

William Gerhardie: A Biography 
by Dido Davies.
Oxford, 411 pp., £25, April 1990, 0 19 211794 7
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Memoirs of a Polyglot 
by William Gerhardie.
Robin Clark, 381 pp., £5.95, April 1990, 0 86072 111 6
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Futility 
by William Gerhardie.
Robin Clark, 198 pp., £4.95, April 1990, 0 86072 112 4
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God’s Fifth Column: A Biography of the Age 1890-1940 
by William Gerhardie, edited by Michael Holroyd and Robert Skidelsky.
Hogarth, 360 pp., £8.95, April 1990, 0 7012 0887 2
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... Who said of whom: ‘I have talent but he has genius’? Evelyn Waugh had been reading Futility, which first came out in 1922, but his favourite Gerhardie novel was to be Jazz and Jasper. This almost forgotten work appeared in 1927, two years earlier than Vile Bodies. Its author wanted to call it Doom, a title not adopted until the 1974 edition ...

On the Titanic

Rosemary Hill: ‘Ocean Liners’ at the V&A, 24 May 2018

... was ‘the first British ship to truly adopt modernist principles’ and was probably what Evelyn Waugh had in mind in Brideshead Revisited: ‘Yards and yards of biscuit-coloured wood … that had been bent round corners … blotting paper carpet’ all ‘designed perhaps by a sanitary engineer’. The V&A’s principal exhibition space has always been ...

In the field

Nigel Hamilton, 5 November 1981

Washington Despatches, 1941-45: Weekly Political Reports from the British Embassy 
edited by H.G. Nicholas.
Weidenfeld, 700 pp., £20, August 1981, 0 297 77920 6
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British Intelligence and the Second World War. Vol. II 
by F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom and R.C. Knight.
HMSO, 850 pp., £15.95, September 1981, 0 11 630934 2
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Mars without Venus: A Study of Some Homosexual Generals 
by Frank Richardson.
William Blackwood, 188 pp., £5.95, September 1981, 9780851581484
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Soldiering on: An Unofficial Portrait of the British Army 
by Dennis Barker.
Deutsch, 236 pp., £8.50, October 1981, 0 233 97391 5
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A Breed of Heroes 
by Alan Judd.
Hodder, 288 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 340 26334 2
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War in Peace: An Analysis of Warfare Since 1945 
edited by Robert Thompson.
Orbis, 312 pp., £9.95, September 1981, 0 85613 341 8
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... comparison and sheer speculative fun. There are descriptions in Richardson’s psychoanalysis of Alexander, Napoleon and Lawrence that constantly invite comparison with the parenthood, behaviour and personality of Montgomery. Of Alexander, Richardson writes: ‘Throughout his life he was capable of acts of ...

Only the Camels

Robert Irwin: Wilfred Thesiger, 6 April 2006

Wilfred Thesiger: The Life of the Great Explorer 
by Alexander Maitland.
HarperCollins, 528 pp., £25, February 2006, 0 00 255608 1
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... a soldier and the British consul in Addis Ababa, was a powerful influence on her son’s life. Alexander Maitland introduces this biography with his meeting with Thesiger in Kathleen’s Chelsea flat in 1964: Cocooned in a woollen shawl and an old-fashioned lace-trimmed mob cap, she lay propped up on pillows, with writing paper and books spread out on the ...

The British Dimension

Rosalind Mitchison, 16 October 1980

The Life of David Hume 
by Ernest Campbell Mossner.
Oxford, 736 pp., £20, March 1980, 0 19 824381 2
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‘The People Above’: Politics and Adminsitration in Mid-18th-Century Scotland 
by Alexander Murdoch.
John Donald, 199 pp., £12, March 1980, 0 85976 053 7
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The Laird of Abbotsford 
by A.N. Wilson.
Oxford, 197 pp., £8.95, June 1980, 0 19 211756 4
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The Strange Death of Scottish History 
by Marinell Ash.
Ramsay Head Press, 166 pp., £6.50, March 1980, 0 902859 57 9
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... lords and religious blackmail by demagogic preachers, could look to all sorts of advantages. As Alexander Murdoch points out, it was ‘parity’ with England, not assimilation to the English governmental machine, that the top-brass Scots wanted. At intervals, they would speak of the need to ‘compleat’ the Union, by which they meant not the Anglicising ...

Alan Coren

Alan Brien, 4 December 1980

The Best of Alan Coren 
Robson, 416 pp., £7.50, October 1980, 0 86051 121 9Show More
Tissues for Men 
by Alan Coren.
Robson, 160 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 86051 116 2
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... in the aspic of nostalgia just because they are so laughable – the viewpoint of Wodehouse, Waugh, Nancy Mitford and Peter Simple. The term ‘novelty’, which now gets translated as ‘trendy’ or ‘fashionable’, becomes a dirty word. ‘Feeling profound or vehement’ is reserved for those who wish to change society – for Tony Benn, the ‘Race ...

Oh, Lionel!

Christopher Hitchens, 3 December 1992

P.G. Wodehouse: Man and Myth 
by Barry Phelps.
Constable, 344 pp., £16.95, October 1992, 9780094716209
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... of the man he rather tryingly calls ‘The Master’. This further omission helps to materialise Alexander Cockburn’s surmise that ‘Wodehouse’s almost pathological prudery in sexual matters, a reticence sublimated in the jocular male partnerships employed in his fiction and the loyal epistolatory male friendships of his life, caused him to shy away in ...

The Power of Sunshine

Alexander Cockburn, 10 January 1991

City of Quartz: Excavating the Future of Los Angeles 
by Mike Davis.
Verso, 462 pp., £18.95, November 1990, 0 86091 303 1
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... their disenchantment, remorse, bad faith; diminished in such costive satires as those of West or Waugh. The European Marxists of the Frankfurt School, fleeing thither from the Nazis, were as uncomprehending, though at a higher level of sophistication. Years later, when he’d returned to Frankfurt, Adorno remarked rather portentously that ‘it is scarcely ...

Standing at ease

Robert Taubman, 1 May 1980

Faces in My Time 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 230 pp., £8.50, March 1980, 0 434 59924 7
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... more vigorous, too, in the anti-romantic tone of the novels – which they shared with Evelyn Waugh’s novels, though in a minor key. Pamela Flitton comes to mind as an ATS driver at the War Office, with her ‘Stuff the Ambassador’, or the picture of her, ‘standing by the car, surveying the street with her usual look of hatred and despair’. I wish ...

Homophobic

Hilary Mantel, 13 May 1993

Mary Renault: A Biography 
by David Sweetman.
Chatto, 352 pp., £18, April 1993, 0 7011 3568 9
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... some kind of sense. When she went up to Oxford to read English, Auden was at Christ Church, and Waugh had just left Hertford. Renault’s Oxford might have been on another planet. Five years before her arrival, women had been granted full membership of the University; but St Hugh’s was governed by quarrelsome and eccentric schoolmarms, and the ...

Mythic Elements

Stephen Bann, 30 December 1982

Queen of Stones 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 160 pp., £6.95, November 1982, 0 224 02601 1
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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 
by William Kotzwinkle, based on a screenplay by Melissa Mathison.
Arthur Barker, 246 pp., £6.95, November 1982, 0 213 16848 0
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Tales of Afghanistan 
by Amina Shah.
Octagon Press, 128 pp., £6.50, November 1982, 0 900860 94 4
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The Masque of St Eadmundsburg 
by Humphrey Morrison.
Blond and Briggs, 228 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 85634 127 4
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A Villa in France 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 0 575 03103 4
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Collected Stories: Vol. III 
by Sean O’Faolain.
Constable, 422 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 09 463920 5
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Work Suspended and Other Stories 
by Evelyn Waugh.
Penguin, 318 pp., £2.75, November 1982, 0 14 006518 0
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... but how can we avoid wishing to interpret further the lingering myth of the world-conquering Alexander among these frontier peoples? This is to say nothing of the fact that these folk-tales abound, like all folk-tales, in more or less formulaic elements whose structural role is important, though their literal sense is baffling. Afghan kings seem to have ...

Sir Jim

Reyner Banham, 22 May 1980

Memoirs of an Unjust Fella: An Autobiography 
by J.M. Richards.
Weidenfeld, 279 pp., £10, March 1980, 9780297777670
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... hundreds of interesting and important people who cross these pages are dealt with similarly – Alexander Calder is described as ‘an amiable bear of a man’ and that’s it – or encapsulated in clear plastic clichés like ‘a slender creature with large doe-like eyes’. I suspect that may be a true description of Tirzah Garwood (Ravilious) but truth ...

Trevelogue

E.S. Turner, 25 June 1987

The Golden Oriole: Childhood, Family and Friends in India 
by Raleigh Trevelyan.
Secker, 536 pp., £16.95, May 1987, 0 436 53403 7
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... Akond invoked in Lear’s poem; Malakand, where Churchill was a war correspondent; the pass where Alexander the Great met the naked Gymnosophists. The other journeys took in Kashmir, Srinagar, the Khyber, Agra, Calcutta, Lucknow, Madras. Among the grimmest visions were those called up at Cawnpore/Kanpur, notably at the Satichaura Ghat where the Europeans sank ...

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