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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 ...

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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... years); the bullying; the loneliness; the being branded as a dunce – all combined to bring young Anthony to the brink of suicide. Mullen and Hall go along with Trollope’s version of his schooldays (Mullen less so than Hall, perhaps). But Super disagrees radically. Despite what Trollope himself declares, he insists that in 1834 ‘the young man who ...

Hook and Crook

Peter Clarke, 15 August 1991

Suez 
by Keith Kyle.
Weidenfeld, 656 pp., £25, May 1991, 0 297 81162 2
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... of the Suez Canal. The possibility of military operations by the former imperialist masters of the region was the object alike of Egyptian propaganda and American concern. Nor did it take much imagination to foresee that Israel might characteristically conclude that aggression was the best form of self-defence. This opened up the possibility of ...

Going Straight

Neal Ascherson, 17 March 1983

After Long Silence 
by Michael Straight.
Collins, 351 pp., £11.95, March 1983, 0 00 217001 9
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A Matter of Trust: MI5 1945-72 
by Nigel West.
Weidenfeld, 196 pp., £8.95, December 1982, 0 297 78253 3
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... ought to be wound up after the publication of Michael Straight’s contribution. Very possibly, Anthony Blunt will one day write such a book himself. But the names have almost all been named, the questions of motive worn smooth, the titles and pensions (some of them) stripped like epaulettes, the spell in the pillory served. Let’s get the blanket over ...

Excellent Enigmas

Christopher Reid, 24 January 1980

Lies and Secrets 
by John Fuller.
Secker, 70 pp., £3.50, October 1980, 0 436 16753 0
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Crossing 
by John Matthias.
Anvil, 125 pp., £3.25, October 1980, 0 85646 035 4
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Growing Up 
by Michael Horovitz.
Allison and Busby, 96 pp., £4.95, October 1980, 0 85031 232 9
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Report to the Working Party. Asylum. Otiose [preceded by] After 
by Anthony Barnett.
Nothing Doing, 121 pp., £4.80, August 1980, 0 901494 17 8
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... as Henry James is not so odd. We should thank John Fuller, when he follows both these difficult masters, for reminding us what the literrary imagination can do in confronting the ineffable. Some of the poems in Lies and Secrets are long and even garrulous, but in a way that is dramatically appropriate. John Matthias’s Crossing also contains extensive ...

Life of Brian

Kevin Barry, 25 January 1990

No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O’Brien 
by Anthony Cronin.
Grafton, 260 pp., £16.95, October 1989, 0 246 12836 4
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... and never wrote anything else of comparable sustained exactness. All of which makes the title of Anthony Cronin’s biography, No Laughing Matter, fit its subject, although its subject is the most purely comic Irish writer. The reader, therefore, comes to Cronin’s book with expectations and curiosities which are hard to satisfy. What was the nature of ...

You, Him, Whoever

Philip Connors: Anthony Giardina’s new novel, 7 September 2006

White Guys 
by Anthony Giardina.
Heinemann, 371 pp., £11.99, August 2006, 0 434 01605 5
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... Timmy O’Kane, the protagonist of Anthony Giardina’s fourth novel, lives in suburban Massachusetts and works as a salesman for an academic publisher. He visits universities and tries to persuade professors to buy the firm’s anthologies, the most popular of which he calls ‘White Guys’: ‘White Guys’ sells in the hundreds of thousands annually ...

Mantegna’s Classical World

Charles Hope, 19 June 1980

The ‘Triumphs of Caesar’ by Andrea Mantegna in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Hampton Court 
by Andrew Martindale.
Harvey Miller, 342 pp., £38, October 1979, 9780905203164
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... at the very front and in the full light of day, Michelangelo and his companions, the great masters of the modern period from Leonardo da Vinci to the immediate past. The basic arrangement was obviously derived from Vasari’s Lives, published in 1550, although there were some surprising differences in the detailed classification. As a scheme it ...

Dennis Nilsen, or the Pot of Basil

John Ryle, 21 February 1985

Killing for Company: The Case of Dennis Nilsen 
by Brian Masters.
Cape, 352 pp., £9.95, February 1985, 0 224 02184 2
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Queens 
by Pickles.
Quartet, 289 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 7043 2439 3
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Ritualised Homosexuality in Melanesia 
edited by Gilbert Herdt.
California, 409 pp., £19.95, October 1984, 0 520 05037 1
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... sex and death to deliver him and them into such a mess of evil. In Killing for Company Brian Masters attempts, with the active participation of his subject, to explain how a person like Nilsen came to be; how his necrophiliac fantasies invaded real life; how, in Masters’s words, it is possible to wake up in the ...

C is for Colonies

Anthony Pagden: A New History of Empire, 11 May 2006

Edge of Empire: Conquest and Collecting in the East 1750-1850 
by Maya Jasanoff.
Fourth Estate, 405 pp., £25, August 2005, 0 00 718009 8
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... socially, and yet still half belonged to another exotic world where it was they who had been the masters. For Jasanoff, collecting is something more than an activity, it is an extended – sometimes over-extended – metaphor for empire itself. Imperial states ‘collected’ provinces, territories, peoples (Clive is said to have ‘collected’ Members of ...

Thank you for your letter

Anthony Grafton: Latin, 1 November 2001

Latin, or the Empire of a Sign: From the 16th to the 20th Centuries 
by Françoise Waquet, translated by John Howe.
Verso, 346 pp., £20, July 2001, 1 85984 615 7
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... classrooms, where spies, known as ‘foxes’, informed on those who slipped into the vernacular. Masters lectured in Latin on Latin texts, and the most successful pupils learned to produce Latin prose and verse on demand. But many boys, perhaps a majority, confronted with towering grammatical structures, typographical monkey-puzzle trees which they often had ...

In the Know

Simon Schaffer, 10 November 1994

Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture 
by William Eamon.
Princeton, 490 pp., £38.50, July 1994, 0 691 03402 8
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The Business of Alchemy: Science and Culture in the Holy Roman Empire 
by Pamela Smith.
Princeton, 308 pp., £30, July 1994, 0 691 05691 9
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... of secrets’, one of a number of Renaissance writers who traded on their reputation as masters of tricks, clues and recipes long lost to, or hidden from, common knowledge and now at last revealed to an amazed public. They foresaw laboratories and workshops, gardens and libraries, where old lore and new skills could be pursued in common. While ...

No more alimony, tra la la

Miranda Carter: Somerset Maugham, 17 December 2009

The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham 
by Selina Hastings.
John Murray, 614 pp., £25, September 2009, 978 0 7195 6554 0
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... he hated the public school he was sent to: King’s Canterbury. The most odious of the masters, Mr Campbell – famed for making boys erase their mistakes by rubbing their noses across the blackboard – was later portrayed as the hateful Mr Gordon in Of Human Bondage. It wasn’t all bad, however. Quite soon, Maugham was spotted by the new ...

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 ...

City Life

Michael Baxandall, 15 July 1982

German Renaissance Architecture 
by Henry-Russell Hitchcock.
Princeton, 380 pp., £50, January 1982, 0 691 03959 3
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... of architecture – as in Brunelleschi to Palladio, say – is not strongly marked here. By great masters hardly at all: of course, there are distinguished recurring names – dry Elias Holl in Augsburg with his astonishing taste for disproportion, smooth Italo-Netherlandish Sustris in Bavaria, subtle Cord Tönnis of the quiet Scots-looking houses in and ...

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