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Un-Roman Ways

Michael Kulikowski: The Last Days of Rome

24 September 2009
428 AD: An Ordinary Year at the End of the Roman Empire 
by Giusto Traina, translated by Allan Cameron.
Princeton, 203 pp., £16.95, May 2009, 978 0 691 13669 1
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... Dates have a funny way of imposing a preconceived analysis on the past. They can function by synecdoche: 1776 for the five years of the American Revolution, 1976 for the punk revolution and its aftermath. Or they can work by metonymy: 1789 stands for the dawn of modernity itself. When a book takes that sort of date for a title, it’s rarely more than a gimmick to spice up a familiar narrative. Choosing ...

Written out of Revenge

Rosemary Hill: Bowen in Love

9 April 2009
Love’s Civil War: Elizabeth Bowen & Charles Ritchie Letters and Diaries 1941-73 
edited by Victoria Glendinning, by Judith Robertson.
Simon and Schuster, 489 pp., £14.99, February 2009, 978 1 84737 213 0
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People, Places, Things: Essays by Elizabeth Bowen 
edited by Allan​ Hepburn.
Edinburgh, 467 pp., £60, November 2008, 978 0 7486 3568 9
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... is in love with one . . . If I am not cruel now, she will be later.’ So the tone was set for the next three decades of frantic entanglement. Bowen had no intention of leaving her husband, Alan Cameron, to whom she was devoted. Their marriage, however, was unconsummated. Ritchie was not her first lover, but at her age, as he ungallantly observed, he might well be her last. She openly adored him ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Soar: Leveson Inquiry

21 June 2012
... opening address to readers it contrasted itself with ‘the paper for the wealthy classes’, which ‘helps to lull them in the security of their prejudices’. A year later, in Philadelphia, Edgar Allan Poe published ‘The Purloined Letter’. It wasn’t the first detective story – that was ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’, in which an escaped orangutan turns out to have decapitated an old ...

God’s Own

Angus Calder

12 March 1992
Empire and English Character 
by Kathryn Tidrick.
Tauris, 338 pp., £24.95, August 1990, 1 85043 191 4
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Into Africa: The story of the East African Safari 
by Kenneth Cameron.
Constable, 229 pp., £14.95, June 1990, 0 09 469770 1
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Burton: Snow upon the Desert 
by Frank McLynn.
Murray, 428 pp., £19.95, September 1990, 0 7195 4818 7
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From the Sierras to the Pampas: Richard Burton’s Travels in the Americas, 1860-69 
by Frank McLynn.
Barrie and Jenkins, 258 pp., £16.99, July 1991, 0 7126 3789 3
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The Duke of Puddle Dock: Travels in the Footsteps of Stamford Raffles 
by Nigel Barley.
Viking, 276 pp., £16.99, March 1992, 0 670 83642 7
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... that though everyone remarked on his reluctance to talk about himself, it is not recorded that anyone ever failed to get him to do so.’ Rider Haggard, in turn, obviously used Selous as a basis for Allan Quatermain in King Solomon’s Mines (1885). Like Selous, ‘Quatermain hunts trouserless and fortifies himself with cold tea.’ Then ‘life imitated art once again.’ Selous, in successive books ...

A Country Emptied

Ian Jack: The Highland Clearances

7 March 2019
The Scottish Clearances: A History of the Dispossessed 1600-1900 
by T.M. Devine.
Allen Lane, 464 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 0 241 30410 5
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... and sent their workers away. The song ends after a pause, with the repetition of the words ‘Lochaber no more’. The phrase has had several lives. It first appeared in a song by the Edinburgh poet Allan Ramsay published in 1724: Farewell to Lochaber, farewell to my Jean Where heartsome wi’ her I ha’e many days been For Lochaber no more, Lochaber no more We’ll maybe return to Lochaber no more ...

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