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Bard of Friendly Fire

Robert Crawford: The Radical Burns, 25 July 2002

Robert Burns: Poems 
edited by Don Paterson.
Faber, 96 pp., £4.99, February 2001, 0 571 20740 5
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The Canongate Burns: The Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns 
edited by Andrew Noble and Patrick Scott Hogg.
Canongate, 1017 pp., £40, November 2001, 0 86241 994 8
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... Hae’ or ‘A Red, Red Rose’. While Paterson’s non-bard is wee enough to fit in a matchbox, Andrew Noble and Patrick Scott Hogg offer a bard of Victorian amplitude. The Canongate Burns runs to over a thousand pages, many of them by Noble and Hogg. A lot less stylish, their introduction alone is almost as long as ...

Malvolio’s Story

Marilyn Butler, 8 February 1996

Dirt and Deity: A Life of Robert Burns 
by Ian McIntyre.
HarperCollins, 461 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 00 215964 3
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... in the past decade by, for example, William Donaldson, Murray Pittock, Robert Crawford and Andrew Noble. More general studies of emergent nationalism must be relevant to Burns. For while he may not have been a consistent Jacobite or even what in British terms passed for a Jacobin, his attitude to Scotland surely is that of a new breed of ...


Liam McIlvanney: The House of Blackwood, 5 June 2003

The House of Blackwood: Author-Publisher Relations in the Victorian Era 
by David Finkelstein.
Pennsylvania State, 199 pp., £44.95, April 2002, 0 271 02179 9
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... been less impressed. For David Daiches, Wilson is an ‘absolute impostor’ and a ‘windbag’; Andrew Noble tags him ‘the clay-footed prophet of the British-Scots middle-class’. In some respects, Wilson deserves all he gets. As an academic he was a charlatan; as a critic a coward and a bully. He was a forgettable poet and a bad novelist. On the ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: The Queen, 11 May 2006

... before she lifts her head and tells the gillie to congratulate the person responsible for the noble kill. Monarchists rely on predictability and mystique, which is why the last 25 years have been a feast for anti-monarchists. And yet, come whatever, there will always be those who find it natural to believe that all the water in the rough, rude sea can’t ...

Travelling Southwards

Andrew O’Hagan: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, 19 July 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey 
by E.L. James.
Arrow, 514 pp., £7.99, April 2012, 978 0 09 957993 9
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... the more heaving, the more panting – the more I want to laugh. Erotic writing is said to have a noble pedigree: the goings-on in Ovid, the whipping in Sade, the bare-arsed wrestling in Lawrence, the garter-snapping in Anaïs Nin, the wife-swapping in Updike, the arcs of semen hither and yon. But it’s so much sexier when people don’t have sex on the ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: The Other Atticus Finch, 30 July 2015

... put him on a par with George Wallace, a circumstance requiring you to suddenly un-imagine the noble lawyer, now no longer the decency machine who has long lived in your head as segregation’s mythic antidote. To some commentators, he is the same man, a Southern agrarian fighting against know-nothing diktats from the North. But that doesn’t square with ...

They like it there

Ian Aitken, 5 August 1993

Making Aristocracy Work: The Peerage and the Political System in Britain 1884-1914 
by Andrew Adonis.
Oxford, 311 pp., £35, May 1993, 0 19 820389 6
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The House of Lords at Work: A Study Based on the 1988-89 Session 
edited by Donald Shell and David Beamish.
Oxford, 420 pp., £45, March 1993, 0 19 827762 8
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... itself. All these intriguing details, and many more of a similar nature, are squirrelled away in Andrew Adonis’s extraordinary lumber-room of a book. My first visit to the Other Place, some thirty years ago, remains a vivid memory because the conditions were so similar to those described by Adonis. After recovering from the vertigo induced by stepping out ...

Leisure’s Utmost

Andrew Forge, 30 March 1989

Art and Politics of the Second Empire: The Universal Expositions of 1855 and 1867 
by Patricia Mainardi.
Yale, 288 pp., £30, September 1987, 0 300 03871 2
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Impressionism: Art, Leisure and Parisian Society 
by Robert Herbert.
Yale, 324 pp., £24.95, September 1988, 0 300 04262 0
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... on the part of the court, and of an artistic policy that no longer pretended to deal in ‘noble’ values but rather in entertainment, a version of bread and circuses. Ingres had died not long before the opening of the Exposition of 1867. It was the end of an epoch. ‘His presence among us was a guarantee, his life a safeguard,’ Léon Lagrange ...

Short Cuts

James Meek: Anglospheroids, 21 March 2013

... male preoccupation, founded in a selective view of history that portrays war as inevitable, noble and glorious, where Britain and the majority white countries of its former empire repeatedly come together to defeat a savage foe (Prussian militarism, in Norton-Griffiths’s case, but it might just as well be Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union or ...

Valet of the Dolls

Andrew O’Hagan: Sinatra, 24 July 2003

Mr S.: The Last Word on Frank Sinatra 
by George Jacobs and William Stadiem.
Sidgwick, 261 pp., £16.99, June 2003, 0 283 07370 5
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... the job, she thought of Hellman as a brilliant writer, a woman ‘brave and strong and full of noble ideas’, but after a few twists of Hellman’s fiendish mouth (smeared in lipstick ‘the colour of dried blood’), we are all set for the main business of Mahoney’s memorable squeal-fest, A Likely Story, which set a new standard of malice for books by ...

Worst President in History

Eric Foner: Impeaching Andrew Johnson, 24 September 2020

The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation 
by Brenda Wineapple.
Ballantine, 592 pp., £12.99, May, 978 0 8129 8791 1
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... contrast to the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998, which arose from a sexual escapade, that of Andrew Johnson 130 years earlier involved some of the most intractable problems in American history. How should the nation be reunited after the Civil War? Who is entitled to American citizenship and the right to vote? What should be the status of the four ...

It’ll all be over one day

James Meek: Our Man in Guantánamo, 8 June 2006

Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim’s Journey to Guantánamo and Back 
by Moazzam Begg and Victoria Brittain.
Free Press, 395 pp., £18.99, February 2006, 0 7432 8567 0
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... Quinn movie about the birth of Islam, The Message, with its portrayal of seventh-century Arabs as noble, chivalrous, thoughtful warriors. Begg denounces terrorism – ‘senseless acts of murder . . . carried out by desperate mujahedin’. But early on in the book, he writes that ‘my favourite film of all time is probably Braveheart,’ and this cinematic ...

Pushy Times

David Solkin, 25 March 1993

The Great Age of British Watercolours 1750-1880 
by Andrew Wilton and Anne Lyles.
Prestel, 339 pp., £21.50, January 1993, 3 7913 1254 5
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... the 18th-century middle class, sought to dignify his position by appropriating the identity of the noble amateur. In fact, in Britain the production of watercolours involved an unusually large number of different interest groups whose presence led to frequent schisms and altercations. Relations between amateurs and professionals were fraught with tension, as ...

Data Guy

Andrew Berry: Almost like a Whale by Steve Jones, 3 February 2000

Almost like a Whale: ‘The Origin of Species’ Updated 
by Steve Jones.
Doubleday, 402 pp., £20, September 1999, 0 385 40985 0
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... example of the heights to which his’ – Jones’s – ‘style can rise’. Jones did the noble thing and wrote in sheepishly to point out that part of the quoted paragraph was Darwin. Its awkward Jones-cum-Darwin aspects notwithstanding, Almost like a Whale provides a fine overview of modern evolutionary biology. Even so, I wish that Jones had ...

Private Thomas

Andrew Motion, 19 December 1985

Edward Thomas: A Portrait 
by R. George Thomas.
Oxford, 331 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 19 818527 8
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... he had fallen in love with Helen, the daughter of his mentor the journalist James Ashcroft Noble. Thomas’s devotion to Helen was fuelled by his wish for independence from his family, and by his hopes of cutting a dash with his contemporaries, but it rapidly brought him responsibilities of a more constricting kind. Although he and Helen campaigned for ...

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