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Tom Shippey, 22 February 1996

Alfred the Great 
by David Sturdy.
Constable, 268 pp., £18.95, November 1995, 0 09 474280 4
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King Alfred the Great 
by Alfred Smyth.
Oxford, 744 pp., £25, November 1995, 0 19 822989 5
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... vaguely ludicrous. To this general picture of neglect and oblivion there is one shining exception, Alfred, still always by convention ‘the Great’. There has even been a film about him, if one of no great success. Statues of him stand at Wantage and at Winchester. The 1100th anniversary of his arguably world-changing victory at Edington passed apparently ...

Daisy Chains

Emma Hogan: Sappho 1900, 20 May 2021

No Modernism without Lesbians 
by Diana Souhami.
Head of Zeus, 464 pp., £9.99, February, 978 1 78669 487 4
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... daisy chain continued to get longer: in 1901 Olive Custance – who eventually eloped with Lord Alfred Douglas – had affairs with both Barney and Vivien. A year later Vivien met Baroness Hélène van Zuylen, nicknamed ‘La Brioche’ for the way she curled her hair, and started an affair. Barney became jealous, dubbed van Zuylen a fat Valkyrie, and was ...

We know it intimately

Christina Riggs: Rummaging for Mummies, 22 October 2020

A World beneath the Sands: Adventurers and Archaeologists in the Golden Age of Egyptology 
by Toby Wilkinson.
Picador, 510 pp., £25, October, 978 1 5098 5870 5
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... first gone to Egypt to survey Khufu’s pyramid at Giza, inspired by the astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth, who believed that the pyramid would prove to have a perimeter of 36,524 ‘pyramid inches’ (a pyramid inch was 1/25th of a ‘sacred cubit’, a supposed ancient unit of measurement invented by Isaac Newton). Smyth’s ...

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