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What did you expect?

Steven Shapin: The banality of moon-talk, 1 September 2005

Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth 
by Andrew Smith.
Bloomsbury, 308 pp., £17.99, April 2005, 0 7475 6368 3
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... its contrived banality, Armstrong’s ‘small step’ is in every dictionary of quotations, and Andrew Smith is of the remarkable opinion that the First Sentence is ‘one of the most memorable lines ever offered the English language’ and ‘as famous as anything Shakespeare wrote’. Of the 12 Moon-walkers, only Schmitt was a scientist, and none of ...

Our Guy

John Barnie: Blair’s Style, 20 January 2011

... blokes of whom he approves. Bill Clinton is ‘a great guy’, as is the Taoiseach John Bruton. Andrew Smith is ‘a nice guy’, and so is Guy Verhofstadt; Andrew Adonis is ‘a thoroughly nice guy’. John Hutton is also ‘a thoroughly nice guy’, while the footmen at Balmoral are ‘very nice guys’. The ...

Simplicity Smith

Rosalind Mitchison, 6 March 1980

A System of Social Science: Papers relating to Adam Smith 
by Andrew Skinner.
Oxford, 278 pp., £9.75, November 1979, 0 19 828422 5
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... Here are nine separate essays on different aspects of the whole construction of Adam Smith’s thought, written originally for separate publication during the past eight or nine years, but now reworked to link and hold together. Because of the reworking, the book shows Adam Smith as the creator of a whole system of knowledge including science, anthropology, moral philosophy, psychology and history, as well as the founder of economics ...

His Only Friend

Elaine Showalter, 8 September 1994

Hardy 
by Martin Seymour-Smith.
Bloomsbury, 886 pp., £25, February 1994, 0 7475 1037 7
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... In the midst of writing his biography of Philip Larkin, Andrew Motion was contacted by a spiritualist who claimed to have been speaking to Larkin in the Beyond; later Larkin sent a posthumous word of approval for the book. Could the cosmic wires have been crossed and could the spiritualist have been talking to Martin Seymour-Smith? For this massive biography of Hardy – or ‘Tom’, as Seymour-Smith chummily calls him – has the vehemence of divine revelation and the fervour of personal mission ...

All hail, sage lady

Andrew O’Hagan: ‘The Crown’, 15 December 2016

... in the home he had chosen for them, and his frustrations grew dark. Recently, when the actor Matt Smith was introduced to Prince William and the prince was told Smith would soon be playing his grandfather in an epic Netflix series, The Crown, William offered only one word. ‘Legend,’ he said, as if they were talking ...

Westminster’s Irishman

Paul Smith, 7 April 1994

The Laurel and the Ivy: The Story of Charles Stewart Parnell and Irish Nationalism 
by Robert Kee.
Hamish Hamilton, 659 pp., £20, November 1993, 0 241 12858 7
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The Parnell Split 1890-91 
by Frank Callanan.
Cork, 327 pp., £35, November 1992, 0 902561 63 4
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... Sometimes he was Smith, sometimes he was Stewart, and sometimes he was Preston, but the most telling of the aliases Charles Stewart Parnell used to conduct the liaison with Mrs O’shea that eventually destroyed him was undoubtedly ‘Mr Fox’. Revealed by the divorce proceedings of November 1890, which, in wrecking his alliance with Gladstonian Liberalism, cost him his leadership of the Irish Parliamentary party, it rebounded savagely on him in the last, desperate convulsions of his career, as he struggled in a punishing series of by-elections to recover the dominance of the Irish national cause which had been his unchallenged possession for over a decade ...

Double Tongued

Blair Worden: Worshipping Marvell, 18 November 2010

Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon 
by Nigel Smith.
Yale, 400 pp., £25, September 2010, 978 0 300 11221 4
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... To the modern world Andrew Marvell is a poet. Earlier times knew him differently. From his death in 1678 until the late Victorian era he was mainly admired not for his poetry but for his politics. The 18th and 19th centuries commemorated him as the MP and prose-writer who had challenged tyranny and corruption and religious persecution in the reign of Charles II ...

Hard Labour

Frank Kermode: Marvell beneath the Notes, 23 October 2003

The Poems of Andrew Marvell 
edited by Nigel Smith.
Longman, 468 pp., £50, January 2003, 0 582 07770 2
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... readers out there who want the kind of help and instruction these editions offer. The addition of Andrew Marvell to the list is a tacit claim for his major status. T.S. Eliot, in one of his less impressive lectures, brooded over the difference between major and minor, deciding that minor poets are the ones we read only in anthologies. There are difficult ...

That sh—te Creech

James Buchan: The Scottish Enlightenment, 5 April 2007

The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in 18th-Century Britain, Ireland and America 
by Richard Sher.
Chicago, 815 pp., £25.50, February 2007, 978 0 226 75252 5
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... For Sher, the Scottish printers and booksellers of the second half of the century, such as Andrew Millar, William Strahan, Thomas Cadell (father and son) and George Robinson in London, and Alexander Kincaid, John Balfour, John Bell and William Creech in Edinburgh, were not ‘mechanicks’ as Strahan once complained, but collaborators in a ...

Short Cuts

Marina Warner: The Flood, 6 March 2014

... I face More of the epic would be discovered under the sand as time went on. In 1990 Stephanie Dalley added more lines to her edition from newly recovered pieces, but most of what’s left has probably been smashed in the course of the Iraq wars. It seems proper that a place of fire and dust, its skin scarred by warfare, should be the origin of the story of the Flood today: devastation in negative, flood and drought bound together ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... nothing happen, then the poetry anthology has no such self-effacing qualms. Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion knew this, as did the predecessor they were tussling with, A. Alvarez’s The New Poetry (which was tussling with its predecessor, Robert Conquest’s New Lines). ‘This anthology,’ they wrote in their preface to the Penguin Book of Contemporary ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Scotland's hirsute folk hero, 17 August 2006

... has that kind of pull, and the ones who are spoken of in the same manner – Donald Dewar, John Smith – are as dead as the Scottish kings. In the end Sheridan won his case and relieves the News of the World of £200,000. The fate of possible perjurors is still unknown, but it will be some time before the country is so riveted by a trial, one that has ...

Whip, Spur and Lash

John Ray: The Epic of Gilgamesh, 2 September 1999

The Epic of Gilgamesh: A New Translation 
by Andrew George.
Allen Lane, 225 pp., £20, March 1999, 0 7139 9196 8
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... BC, but its later role was similar to that of Latin in the Middle Ages. A school text quoted by Andrew George in his new translation of The Epic of Gilgamesh makes a sardonic point about Sumerian and its importance: The door monitor said, ‘Why did you go out             without my say-so?’ and he beat me. The water monitor said, ‘Why did ...

Mad or bad?

Michael Ignatieff, 18 June 1981

Trial by Medicine: Insanity and Responsibility in Victorian Trials 
by Roger Smith.
Edinburgh, 288 pp., £15, March 1981, 9780852244074
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... ourselves. Such help is at hand in a historical work, published by chance during the trial. Roger Smith’s history of the conflict between medical and legal discourses in the insanity trials of the 19th century is ‘relevant’ in a way he could never have anticipated or, in this tragic instance, have wished. His book is more than a history of trials, a ...

Bastard Gaelic Man

Colin Kidd, 14 November 1996

The Correspondence of Adam Ferguson 
edited by Vincenzo Merolle.
Pickering & Chatto, 257 pp., £135, October 1995, 1 85196 140 2
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... alike, while the New Right delights in a pedigree which reaches back to David Hume and Adam Smith. In the United States scholars have established the influence of Francis Hutcheson, Hume and Smith on the American Revolution and the making of the Constitution. This view has been widely disseminated – to the liberal ...

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