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Smous

Denis Hirson, 29 September 1988

Middlepost 
by Anthony Sher.
Chatto, 379 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 7011 3301 5
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... Outlandishly theatrical, well-wrought and witty, Middlepost is Anthony Sher’s first novel. The jacket illustration – Sher’s own work – sets the tone. It presumably depicts some of the novel’s characters, misshapen and naked as eels, rising up into the heat and dust. Inside are five suggestive line drawings by the same hand, the most notable of which is the frontispiece, ‘The Great Fish Vomiting out Jonah upon the Dry Land’, Jonah being one of the names which the central character of Middlepost might easily have contracted, given the number of times he is compared to that desolate hero ...

Great Expectations of Themselves

Anthony Pagden: Was there a Spanish Empire?, 17 April 2003

Spain’s Road to Empire: The Making of a World 1492-1763 
by Henry Kamen.
Allen Lane, 609 pp., £25, November 2002, 0 7139 9365 0
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... wondered at than its ultimate collapse. This was never, as historians have so often depicted it, a cross between the Napoleonic or Austro-Hungarian Empire and the great colonial empires of the 19th century. It never had, as Rome had had, and France and Britain were to acquire, a metropolitan centre which, for the coloniser if not always for the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Touch of Evil’, 30 July 2015

Touch of Evil 
directed by Orson Welles.
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... film; Dennis Weaver’s incarnation of the crazy night man at the desert motel, a prefiguration of Anthony Perkins in Psycho and every other damaged person who ever had to look after a register and hand out keys (Welles writes in the memo of the ‘neurotic, scrabbling’ way Weaver walks, and says of the later part of his performance that it ‘is one of the ...

Trollopiad

John Sutherland, 9 January 1992

The Chronicler of Barsetshire: A Life of Anthony Trollope 
by R.H. Super.
Manchester, 528 pp., £29.95, July 1990, 0 472 10102 1
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Anthony Trollope: A Victorian in his World 
by Richard Mullen.
Duckworth, 767 pp., £25, July 1990, 0 7156 2293 5
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Trollope: A Biography 
by N. John Hall.
Oxford, 581 pp., £25, October 1991, 0 19 812627 1
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... be found throughout the three books, and one of the advantages of having them all to hand is that cross-checking is so rewarding (all are well indexed). The general level of accuracy is high, as far as I can judge. The only serious mistake I have found is in Mullen, who on page 642 states that ‘within a few days of completing An Old Man’s Love Trollope ...

Besieged by Female Writers

John Pemble: Trollope’s Late Style, 3 November 2016

Anthony Trollope’s Late Style: Victorian Liberalism and Literary Form 
by Frederik Van Dam.
Edinburgh, 180 pp., £70, January 2016, 978 0 7486 9955 1
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... For a long time​ Anthony Trollope was remembered as the civil servant who introduced the pillar box to Britain and wrote fiction in three-hour stints before breakfast, sitting in front of a clock to make sure he produced 250 words every 15 minutes. Most had heard of Barchester Towers, but few read it, and the rest was forgotten ...

History’s Revenges

Peter Clarke, 5 March 1981

The Illustrated Dictionary of British History 
edited by Arthur Marwick.
Thames and Hudson, 319 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 500 25072 3
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Who’s Who in Modern History, 1860-1980 
by Alan Palmer.
Weidenfeld, 332 pp., £8.50, October 1980, 0 297 77642 8
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... by right and the leading statesmen by merit. Thus Edward VI is shunted off in six lines, with a cross-reference to the Reformation, whereas Thomas Cromwell gets 21 lines to himself plus a separate entry under Tudor Revolution in Government. This may indicate the administrative path to editorial favour, for A.V. Dicey’s academic writings on the 19th ...

Unhoused

Terry Eagleton: Anonymity, 22 May 2008

Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature 
by John Mullan.
Faber, 374 pp., £17.99, January 2008, 978 0 571 19514 5
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... one’s sitting on it. If I say, ‘I promise to loan you five pounds,’ but as the words cross my lips have no intention of doing so, I have still promised. The promising is built into the situation. It is not a ghostly impulse in my skull. Authors can say the silliest things about their own stuff, which is one way in which they resemble critics. The ...

Full of Teeth

Patricia Beer, 20 July 1995

The Life of Graham Greene. Vol. II: 1939-55 
by Norman Sherry.
Cape, 562 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 224 02772 7
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Graham Greene: Three Lives 
by Anthony Mockler.
Hunter Mackay, 256 pp., £14.95, July 1994, 0 947907 01 7
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Graham Greene: Friend and Brother 
by Leopoldo Duran.
HarperCollins, 352 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 00 627660 1
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Graham Greene: The Man Within 
by Michael Shelden.
Minerva, 567 pp., £5.99, June 1995, 0 7493 1997 6
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... originally appeared in the summer and autumn of last year. The biographers are Norman Sherry, Anthony Mockler, Leopoldo Duran and Michael Shelden. The actual information they provide must by now be common knowledge among those who are at all interested in Greene, including those who have simply read the many highly communicative reviews, and in the basic ...

Joining the Gang

Nicholas Penny: Anthony Blunt, 29 November 2001

Anthony Blunt: His Lives 
by Miranda Carter.
Macmillan, 590 pp., £20, November 2001, 0 333 63350 4
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... On the afternoon of 15 November 1979 the Prime Minister announced in the House of Commons that Anthony Blunt, retired Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, fellow of the British Academy, former director of the Courtauld Institute, and the most influential figure in the establishment of art history as an academic subject in this country had indeed, as Private Eye had intimated a week before, and as Fleet Street had long been whispering, spied for the Soviet Union ...

At the Easel

Naomi Grant, 2 December 2021

... contrasts here are livelier. The foil balloon of the corn popper shines beside a pair of soft hot cross buns, a salt shaker and a peach. The handle of the popper protrudes about an inch above the table, giving a sense of space and depth, telling us something about scale (we now know just how far that salt shaker stands from the edge of the table). The peach ...

From Norwich to Naples

Anthony Grafton, 28 April 1994

The Civilisation of Europe in the Renaissance 
by John Hale.
HarperCollins, 648 pp., £25, November 1993, 0 00 215339 4
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... resisted while others yielded, and still others were merged with foreign ones. Some efforts at cross-cultural communication bore less fruit than others. The marquetry and alabaster workers, master embroiderer and black African parrot-keeper that Charles VIII of France brought back from Italy in 1495 did not all leave a permanent impress on the world of the ...

Bugger everyone

R.W. Johnson: The prime ministers 1945-2000, 19 October 2000

The Prime Minister: The Office and Its Holders since 1945 
by Peter Hennessy.
Allen Lane, 686 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 7139 9340 5
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... build an H-bomb, the angry ministers walked out. Above all, Churchill clung to office. He despised Anthony Eden, his heir apparent, who, he said, had ‘gone native’ among the ‘shuffling scuttlers’ at the Foreign Office. The last of the Yalta Big Three, he was determined to end the Cold War by personal diplomacy. The Cabinet was horrified to discover ...

Chianti in Khartoum

Nick Laird: Louis MacNeice, 3 March 2011

Letters of Louis MacNeice 
edited by Jonathan Allison.
Faber, 768 pp., £35, May 2010, 978 0 571 22441 8
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... Old Foss after Mr Lear’s famous cat. The other two might perhaps be called Barocco and Rokoko (Anthony read a paper on these last night). But cats have little interest in architecture, so perhaps Rodillardus and Chat Botté would be more appropriate – though French is so difficult to pronounce. Other charming names that occur to me are ...

Diary

Neal Ascherson: On A.J.P. Taylor, 2 June 1983

... in these pages that he found the whole affair boring – ‘cold mutton’, as he said about the Anthony Blunt affair. Perhaps he did. Historians are queer. Still, boredom is ruder than execration. I have nearly finished imitating A.J.P. Taylor’s rhythms now. Let me add this. I once wrote a whole book in what I conceived to be his style – short, choppy ...

To kill a cat

Anthony Pagden, 21 February 1985

Settecento Riformatore. Vol. IV: La Caduta dell’Antico Regime 1776-1789. Part One: I Grandi Staii dell’Occidente 
by Franco Venturi.
Einaudi, 463 pp., lire 45,000, July 1984, 88 06 05695 6
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Settecento Riformatore. Vol. IV: La Caduta dell’Antico Regime 1776-1789. Part Two: II Patriotismo Repubblicano e gli Imperi dell’Est 
by Franco Venturi.
Einaudi, 1040 pp., lire 55,000, July 1984, 88 06 05696 4
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The Great Cat Massacre, and Other Episodes in French Cultural History 
by Robert Darnton.
Viking, 284 pp., £14.95, July 1984, 0 7139 1728 8
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Rousseau, Dreamer of Democracy 
by James Miller.
Yale, 272 pp., £25, July 1984, 0 300 03044 4
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... of every culture, to resort to the stock means of dealing with the problem: the use of simple cross-cultural parallels, the belief that if it were possible to find instances of cat massacres among some remote and ‘primitive’ people, then the mere fact of the similarity would both preserve the strangeness of the deed and provide an explanation for ...

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