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On the Titanic

Rosemary Hill: ‘Ocean Liners’ at the V&A, 24 May 2018

... houses were made to look like ships, with rails, portholes and decks or ‘sleeping porches’. Arthur Bliss’s house Pen Pits, built in 1935 well inland in Somerset, featured exterior ladders from roof to sun deck. Meanwhile in real ships the deck became as much a social space as the interior, swimming pools were moved outdoors and decor streamlined. Most ...

Under the Soles of His Feet

Stephen Alford: Henry’s Wars, 4 April 2019

The English People at War in the Age of Henry VIII 
by Steven Gunn.
Oxford, 297 pp., £35, January 2018, 978 0 19 880286 0
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... of war, though translations of Caesar and Machiavelli were printed in Elizabeth I’s reign. Arthur Golding, the translator of Gallic War (1565), made a robust statement of the English crown’s rightful claim to the kingdom of France, the central assumption underlying Henry’s campaigns; while Peter Whitehorne offered The Art of War (1560) ‘for the ...

One Cygnet Too Many

John Watts: Henry VII, 26 April 2012

Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England 
by Thomas Penn.
Penguin, 448 pp., £8.99, March 2012, 978 0 14 104053 0
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... of Edward IV in the male line. The king was poised to celebrate the marriage of his eldest son, Arthur, to the Spanish princess Katherine of Aragon. The splendid pageants and tournaments that accompanied the match made much of the king’s achievements. They stressed the ‘rich mount’ of his prosperity, playing on the name of his father’s earldom ...

More about Marilyn

Michael Church, 20 February 1986

Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe 
by Anthony Summers.
Gollancz, 414 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 575 03641 9
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Norma Jeane: The Life and Death of Marilyn Monroe 
by Fred Lawrence Guiles.
Granada, 377 pp., £12.95, June 1985, 0 246 12307 9
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Poor Little Rich Girl: The Life and Legend of Barbara Hutton 
by C. David Heymann.
Hutchinson, 390 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 09 146010 7
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Deams that money can buy: The Tragic Life of Libby Holman 
by Jon Bradshaw.
Cape, 431 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 224 02846 4
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All Those Tomorrows 
by Mai Zetterling.
Cape, 230 pp., £9.95, November 1985, 0 224 01841 8
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Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady 
by Florence King.
Joseph, 278 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 7181 2611 4
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... two people, Maggie. That’s what it’s for.’ Thus Quentin, the tormented Prospero-figure in Arthur Miller’s autobiographical play After the Fall. Maggie replies by eating a handful of pills, and the scene then twists and turns between Quentin’s acknowledged guilt and his defiant belief that she would have done it anyway. Miller survived the long ...

Fit only to be a greengrocer

E.S. Turner, 23 September 1993

Rider Haggard and the Lost Empire 
by Tom Pocock.
Weidenfeld, 264 pp., £20, August 1993, 0 297 81308 0
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... that the time had come to make money out of Africa, like everyone else. Instead of digging for gold or diamonds, he turned to supplying ostrich feathers for fine ladies back home. Four years after hoisting the Union flag he and his wife (a ‘brick’ of a girl, not his first choice) rented their house at £50 a week to the members of a Royal Commission ...

Ducking and Dodging

R.W. Johnson: Agent Zigzag, 19 July 2007

Agent Zigzag 
by Ben Macintyre.
Bloomsbury, 372 pp., £14.99, January 2007, 978 0 7475 8794 1
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... but he might just as easily have made Faramus the central character. Chapman was patriotic in an Arthur Daley sort of way, willing to rally to the cause but always on the qui vive for dodgy little earners, a theft here, a con trick there. He was unfaithful to any number of women, robbed people he was quite fond of and, although he formed an enduring ...

The crematorium is a zoo

Joshua Cohen: H.G. Adler, 3 March 2016

The Wall 
by H.G. Adler, translated by Peter Filkins.
Modern Library, 672 pp., £12.99, September 2015, 978 0 8129 8315 9
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... Wall, was written between 1956 and 1961 and published posthumously in 1989. Its narrator, Arthur Landau, remembers the immediate aftermath of the war in ‘the city’, which is still Prague, and his émigré life in ‘the metropolis’, which is London. Arthur is a freelance scholar immersed in an interminable ...

Tricky Business

Megan Vaughan: The Middle Passage, 12 December 2002

The Diligent: A Voyage through the Worlds of the Slave Trade 
by Robert Harms.
Perseus, 466 pp., £17.99, February 2002, 1 903985 18 8
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... in Nantes, with its grand merchants’ mansions and its opera house, the English traveller Arthur Young found himself in a strikingly different world from the one he had been journeying through: ‘Mon Dieu! I cried to myself, do all the wastes, the deserts, the heath, ling, furz, broom and bog that I have passed for three hundred miles lead to this ...

Down and Out in London

David Cannadine, 16 July 1981

Rothschild Buildings: Life in an East End Tenement Block 1887-1920 
by Jerry White.
Routledge, 301 pp., £11.50, September 1980, 0 7100 0603 9
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East End Underworld: Chapters in the Life of Arthur Harding 
by Raphael Samuel.
Routledge, 355 pp., £11.50, April 1981, 0 7100 0725 6
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... East End tenement block, while Samuel’s puts between hard covers the ordered reminiscences of Arthur Harding, a man described to the Royal Commission on Metropolitan Police in 1907 as ‘a most slippery and dangerous criminal’. In their way, both books are irritating, inadequate, even incoherent: but they also give a vivid, horrifying, unforgettable ...

Wilsonia

Paul Foot, 2 March 1989

The Wilson Plot: The Intelligence Services and the Discrediting of a Prime Minister 
by David Leigh.
Heinemann, 271 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 434 41340 2
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A Price too High 
by Peter Rawlinson.
Weidenfeld, 284 pp., £16, March 1989, 0 297 79431 0
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... shape any of us imagined it, and having read this book, I am prepared to accept, like a reformed gold-digger on the Sierra Madre, that Wilsonia never existed: that there never was a simple, secret explanation for Wilson’s resignation. His own explanation was probably true – he had had enough. It is in answering the question why this sprightly 60-year-old ...

Ministry of Apparitions

Malcolm Gaskill: Magical Thinking in 1918, 4 July 2019

A Supernatural War: Magic, Divination and Faith during the First World War 
by Owen Davies.
Oxford, 284 pp., £20, October 2018, 978 0 19 879455 4
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... see angels – but that story, too, turns out to be unfounded. In September 1914 the Welsh writer Arthur Machen published a story called ‘The Bowmen’ in the London Evening News. In it, spectral archers from the Battle of Agincourt come to the aid of the British Expeditionary Force at Mons. To his dismay the story was widely taken as truth, and a ...

Widowers on the Prowl

Tom Shippey: Britain after Rome, 17 March 2011

Britain after Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400-1070 
by Robin Fleming.
Allen Lane, 458 pp., £25, August 2010, 978 0 7139 9064 5
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... there was extensively refortified in the post-Roman period, causing some believers in the King Arthur legend to imagine it as the original Camelot, but their imagination will not have stretched to the notion of the Knights of the Round Table grave-robbing for pots. It’s worth pointing out that there is no entry for ‘King ...

The wind comes up out of nowhere

Charles Nicholl: The Disappearance of Arthur Cravan, 9 March 2006

... In the annals of French literature, Arthur Cravan is more often a colourful footnote than a sober paragraph. He is usually referred to as ‘the poet and boxer Arthur Cravan’, and this odd-seeming conjunction is often fleshed out with more disreputable terms such as ‘con man’ or ‘adventurer ...

Jingoes

R.W. Johnson: Britain and South Africa since the Boer War, 6 May 2004

The Lion and the Springbok: Britain and South Africa since the Boer War 
by Ronald Hyam and Peter Henshaw.
Cambridge, 379 pp., £45, May 2003, 0 521 82453 2
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... between Britain and South Africa: to wit, that Britain fought the Boer War to get its hands on the gold and that economic considerations remained the motivating force in its difficult relationship with South Africa thereafter. Early on, they single out their adversaries as, pre-eminently, Shula Marks, Geoff Berridge and Jack Spence. ‘For some scholars, no ...

A Very Good Job for a Swede

E.S. Turner, 4 September 1997

The Fu Manchu Omnibus: Vol. II 
by Sax Rohmer.
Allison and Busby, 630 pp., £9.99, June 1997, 0 7490 0222 0
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... In the late 19th century, America, not relishing the zeal with which the Chinese had joined in its gold rushes, passed a series of Chinese Exclusion Acts and there were yellow v. white riots in San Francisco. The ‘White Australia’ policy was inspired by Chinese incursions into Australian goldfields. In South Africa, after the Boer War, Lord Milner imported ...

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