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Turncoats and Opportunists

Alexandra Walsham: Francis Walsingham, 5 July 2012

The Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I 
by John Cooper.
Faber, 400 pp., £9.99, July 2012, 978 0 571 21827 1
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... dubious morality. Building on the classic image of Walsingham as spymaster established by James Anthony Froude’s History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada (1856-70), his early 20th-century biographers, Sidney Lee and Conyers Read, presented him as an astute and distinguished patriot who laid the foundations for the ...

They never married

Ian Hamilton, 10 May 1990

The Dictionary of National Biography: 1981-1985 
edited by Lord Blake and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 518 pp., £40, March 1990, 0 19 865210 0
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... that Adams was guilty? And if we don’t, why does he get an entry? Wickedness, in the case of Anthony Blunt, actually pays off rather handsomely. He gets a four-column entry against the average two, and it is unlikely that this would have been his lot had he been listed merely as ‘art historian’ and not also as ‘a communist spy’. (Donald ...

A Long Forgotten War

Jenny Diski: Sheila Rowbotham, 6 July 2000

Promise of a Dream: A Memoir of the 1960s 
by Sheila Rowbotham.
Allen Lane, 262 pp., £18.99, July 2000, 0 7139 9446 0
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... on her paper ‘Cinderella Organises Buttons’. She cowered in the pub lavatory to escape Anthony Barnett, who had been detailed by the board to fetch her, while he stood outside demanding that she come out and discuss her article ‘rationally and politically’. A week later the board received her letter of resignation, which suggested that ‘they ...

Dig, Hammer, Spin, Weave

Miles Taylor: Richard Cobden, Class Warrior, 12 March 2009

The Letters of Richard Cobden. Vol. I: 1815-47 
edited by Anthony Howe.
Oxford, 529 pp., £100, November 2007, 978 0 19 921195 1
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... and disarmament, cheap newspapers and the penny post. He is a worthy subject for canonisation. Anthony Howe’s comprehensive, erudite and superbly annotated edition of his correspondence will take its place alongside Gladstone’s diaries, the letters of Carlyle and Disraeli, and John Stuart Mill’s collected works as an indispensable resource for ...

Baffled at a Bookcase

Alan Bennett: My Libraries, 28 July 2011

... up going back to Leeds where we now lived in Headingley, with the local public library on North Lane, a visit to which could be combined with seeing the film at the Lounge cinema opposite. I went to Leeds Modern School, a state school at Lawnswood (and now called Lawnswood). I spoke there a few months ago and, unlike Ofsted, was much impressed by it, its ...

Maschler Pudding

John Bayley, 19 October 1995

À la Pym: The Barbara Pym Cookery Book 
by Hilary Pym and Honor Wyatt.
Prospect, 102 pp., £9.95, September 1995, 0 907325 61 0
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... sister had only been living there a short while, after Pym’s retirement from her post in Fetter Lane as assistant editor of Africa; and it was Larkin’s first and, as it turned out, his only visit. After her years in the wilderness, Pym’s novel Quartet in Autumn had at last been accepted for publication: Larkin and David Cecil had independently named her ...

Baring his teeth

Peter Clarke, 25 June 1992

The Macmillans: The Story of a Dynasty 
by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Heinemann, 370 pp., £18.50, April 1992, 0 434 17502 1
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... On 10 January 1957 the momentous news reached the family publishing house in St Martin’s Lane. ‘Mr Macmillan has just been made prime minister,’ his elder brother Daniel was told by an excited secretary. ‘No, “Mr Macmillan” has not been made prime minister,’ the chairman corrected her. ‘ “Mr Harold” has ...

The Best of Betjeman

John Bayley, 18 December 1980

John Betjeman’s Collected Poems 
compiled by the Earl of Birkenhead.
Murray, 427 pp., £2.50, June 1980, 0 7195 3632 4
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Church Poems 
by John Betjeman.
Murray, 63 pp., £5.95, March 1981, 0 7195 3797 5
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... In Anthony Burgess’s latest novel, Earthly Powers, there is a parody of a Betjeman poem. Thus kneeling at the altar rail We ate the word’s white papery wafer. Here, so I thought, desire must fail, My chastity be never safer. But then I saw your tongue protrude To catch the wisp of angel’s food. In a brilliant piece of word play the angel food cake of the children’s tea-party becomes the Host: sex, worship and childhood come together on the tip of the darting tongue that demurely holds it ...

Taking sides

Karl Miller, 17 April 1980

W.H. Auden: The Life of a Poet 
by Charles Osborne.
Eyre Methuen, 336 pp., £7.95, March 1980, 0 413 39670 3
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... earlier chapters is a dry telling of the story of his temporary devotion to the theories of Homer Lane and ‘Loony’ Layard:  Refusal to make use of one’s creative powers could lead to cancer. Stubbornness found physical expression as stiffness of the joints, the deaf and the blind were attempting to shut out the physical world, and Stephen Spender was ...

Diary

Patrick Hughes: What do artists do?, 24 July 1986

... from the finish, on Saturday 13 September. I have set my heart on a banner stretched above her lane. Six months ago I stopped drinking. I never did drink during the day, or drink spirits; I drank spritzers. I could easily drink two bottles of wine an evening. There were small physical things: I had some numbness in my ankles for three years – the doctors ...

Diary

Peter Clarke: True or False?, 16 August 1990

... Nye Bevan called Hugh Gaitskell ‘a desiccated calculating-machine’. 5. Rab Butler said: ‘Sir Anthony Eden is the best prime minister we have.’ 6. Harold Macmillan campaigned in the 1959 Election on the slogan: ‘You’ve never had it so good.’ 7. Edward Heath gave his word to ‘cut rising prices at a stroke’. 8. Shirley Williams joined Arthur ...

Diary

Robert Irwin: Pinball and Despair, 7 July 1994

... It had a playfield on two levels, connected by ramps and a mystery score activated by a bonus lane. The Black Knight’s voice used to issue out from somewhere behind the backglass, challenging you to further combat. The ‘Black Knight’ is a collector’s piece now, but if I could find one of these marvels and afford to buy it, then I think that the ...

With Slip and Slapdash

Frank Kermode: Auden’s Prose, 7 February 2008

TheComplete Works of W.H. Auden. Vol. III: Prose, 1949-55 
edited by Edward Mendelson.
Princeton, 779 pp., £29.95, December 2007, 978 0 691 13326 3
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... but by the law.’ He always had gurus – Gerald Heard, Charles Williams, Georg Groddeck, Homer Lane. Some quietly faded away, but with a few he enjoyed an enduring sympathy: Forster and Virginia Woolf, for instance, and Eliot, with the respect due to the publisher of his first book of poems, but staying well short of idolatry. Such connections ensured that ...

23153.8; 19897.7; 15635

Adam Smyth: The Stationers’ Company, 27 August 2015

The Stationers’ Company and The Printers of London: 1501-57 
by Peter Blayney.
Cambridge, 2 vols, 1238 pp., £150, November 2013, 978 1 107 03501 0
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... at the cistern house of the Fleet River; on a weekday morning now, the glass and chrome of Shoe Lane is full of suited twentysomethings. A few minutes’ walk up Fleet Street brings you to Number 188, to the west of St Dunstan’s Church, opposite Ye Olde Cock Tavern, and in an echo of Peter Blayney’s central themes (the business of books, and the ...

Criminal Justice

Ronan Bennett, 24 June 1993

... the Crown to contend that the conviction of any appellant was either safe or satisfactory.’ Lord Lane, the Lord Chief Justice, went further. Delivering the court’s judgment, he said that ‘the officers must have lied,’ and that ‘if they were prepared to tell this sort of lie, then the whole of their evidence becomes suspect.’ He continued: ‘It is ...

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