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Don’t lock up the wife

E.S. Turner: Georgina Weldon

5 October 2000
A Monkey among Crocodiles: The Life, Loves and Lawsuits of Mrs Georgina Weldon 
by Brian Thompson.
HarperCollins, 304 pp., £19.99, June 2000, 0 00 257189 7
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... minutes of fame, even though it did not get her into the usual reference books. She was the subject of a biography, in 1959, by Edward Grierson, Storm Bird: The Strange Life of Georgina Weldon, which BrianThompson commends in his bibliography as ‘genial and entertaining’. His own book is as genial as the subject will allow, often extravagantly entertaining, and as shrewd as it is well-written ...

Diary

Philip Horne: Common Assault

2 March 1989
... Freddy Bywaters lurked in the dark front garden of a corner house in Ilford. When his mistress and her husband came along, he emerged from the garden and, with or without premeditation, stabbed Percy Thompson 16 times. Thompson died, and so, after being sent for trial at the Old Bailey, did Bywaters and Mrs Thompson, at the end of a rope. Last year my friend and colleague René Weis wrote a book about the ...

No Casket, No Flowers

Thomas Lynch: MacSwiggan’s Ashes

20 April 2006
Committed to the Cleansing Flame: The Development of Cremation in 19th-Century England 
by Brian​ Parsons.
Spire, 328 pp., £34.95, November 2005, 1 904965 04 0
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... and Cemetery, Edinburgh.’ I crossed back over the river by Dean Path and Bells Brae, to Queensferry Street then left at Hope and into Charlotte Square, the site of the Edinburgh Book Festival. Brian Parsons’s Committed to the Cleansing Flame chronicles a ritual shift coincident with the Industrial Revolution. Just as the plough and pasture gave way to the furnace and factory, the grave has ...

Boys will be soldiers

Brian​ Harrison

20 October 1983
Sure and Stedfast: A History of the Boys’ Brigade, 1883-1984 
edited by John Springhall.
Collins, 304 pp., £10, June 1983, 0 00 434280 1
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... experience, and adults rarely think about their childhood: indeed, most adults are adept at forgetting what it is like to be a child, though the occasional exceptions – Dickens, Orwell and Flora Thompson – sketch in the outline of this vast unexplored continent. Perhaps this is one reason why historians have so rarely written about childhood. And even if they do write about it – when discussing ...

Sisters

John Sutherland

4 June 1981
Tit for Tat 
by Verity Bargate.
Cape, 167 pp., £5.95, April 1981, 0 224 01908 2
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Watching Me, Watching You 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 208 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 340 25600 1
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Maggie Muggins 
by Keith Waterhouse.
Joseph, 220 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 7181 2014 0
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Mr Lonely 
by Eric Morecambe.
Eyre Methuen, 189 pp., £5.95, March 1981, 0 413 48170 0
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... Tit for Tat is dispatched from the front line of the war between the sexes. The heroine Sadie (play on ‘sad’ and ‘sadist’) Thompson (play on Maugham’s unregenerate prostitute) is so comprehensively victimised that her only recourse is to victimise herself more shockingly than even her enemies can. And with her self-inflicted ...

Openly reticent

Jonathan Coe

9 November 1989
Grand Inquisitor: Memoirs 
by Robin Day.
Weidenfeld, 296 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 297 79660 7
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Beginning 
by Kenneth Branagh.
Chatto, 244 pp., £12.99, September 1989, 0 7011 3388 0
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Storm over 4: A Personal Account 
by Jeremy Isaacs.
Weidenfeld, 215 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 297 79538 4
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... I have thus denied myself many chances to improve as an actor, which now stands as my primary concern.’ Finishing the book and the film has also given him an afternoon off on which to marry Emma Thompson, but the poor woman only rates about half a dozen mentions in this book, none of them in the sort of tone you would expect when talking about a Mrs Branagh-to-be. He even manages to drop in two ...

Noddy is on page 248

Jay Griffiths: On the streets

10 June 1999
The Penguin Book of 20th-Century Protest 
edited by Brian​ MacArthur.
Penguin, 440 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 670 87052 8
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DIY Culture: Party and Protest in Nineties Britain 
edited by George McKay.
Verso, 310 pp., £11, July 1998, 1 85984 260 7
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... fun,’ joked A.P. Herbert. ‘We are not here for fun. There is no reference to fun in any Act of Parliament.’ From its grey, drizzly cover to its century-long plod of standard-length excerpts, Brian MacArthur’s anthology leaves you in no doubt: there’s precious little fun to be had protesting. There’s no skittish comedy or wry subversion here: The Penguin Book of 20th-Century Protest takes ...

Old Verities

Brian​ Harrison

19 June 1986
The Industrial Reformation of English Fiction: Social Discourse and Narrative Form 1832-1867 
by Catherine Gallagher.
Chicago, 320 pp., £23.25, September 1985, 0 226 27932 4
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Victorian Prison Lives: English Prison Biography 1830-1914 
by Philip Priestley.
Methuen, 311 pp., £14.85, October 1985, 0 416 34770 3
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The Old Brown Dog: Women, Workers and Vivisection in Edwardian England 
by Coral Lansbury.
University of Wisconsin Press, 212 pp., £23.50, November 1985, 0 299 10250 5
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‘Orator’ Hunt: Henry Hunt and English Working-Class Radicalism 
by John Belchem.
Oxford, 304 pp., £25, October 1985, 0 19 822759 0
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... opinion more forcibly than any prime minister since Gladstone – appropriates ‘Victorian values’ for herself and her party: ‘those were the values when our country became great,’ she told Brian Walden three years ago. The publication of these four books provides a timely opportunity for testing her claims. Historians, mostly on the left, have so far dismissed them, and even those not on the ...
1 April 1982
... social and aesthetic – he is culture and tradition. It’s here that we enter a time-warp and see that world of Ranters, Fifth Monarchy Men, Levellers and millenarian preachers which E.P. Thompson and Christopher Hill describe in their work. For Thompson, Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the two ‘founding texts of the English working-class movement’ (the other is The Rights of Man). And so ...

Dangerous Play

Mike Selvey

23 May 1985
Gubby Allen: Man of Cricket 
by E.W. Swanton.
Hutchinson, 311 pp., £12.95, April 1985, 0 09 159780 3
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Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack: 1985 
edited by John Woodcock.
Wisden, 1280 pp., £11.95, April 1985, 0 947766 00 6
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... of direction or trajectory, and then teach them the skills necessary for conversion into a Test fast bowler. On the basis of this barmy idea the England football manager should bear Daley Thompson in mind for the next World Cup. His speed on the ground and power in the air could be devastating. Quite when the modern lapse into thuggery occurred is difficult to pinpoint. Was it the West Indians ...
7 February 1985
The Function of Criticism: From the ‘Spectator’ to Post-Structuralism 
by Terry Eagleton.
Verso, 133 pp., £15, September 1984, 0 86091 091 1
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... the reality of the world since Christ’) and of a cultural politics based on Williams’s thoroughly secular study of Culture and Society. In From Culture to Revolution (1968) Eagleton and Brian Wicker introduced a Slant symposium devoted to Williams and his ‘richly creative tradition of socialist humanism’. But at some point in the early Seventies Eagleton became a convert to the ...

Histories of Australia

Stuart Macintyre

28 September 1989
The Oxford History of Autralia. Vol III: 1860-1900 
by Beverley Kingston.
Oxford, 368 pp., £22.50, July 1989, 0 19 554611 3
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The Road from Coorain: An Australian Memoir 
by Jill Ker Conway.
Heinemann, 238 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 434 14244 1
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A Secret Country 
by John Pilger.
Cape, 286 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 224 02600 3
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Convict Workers: Reinterpreting Australia’s Past 
edited by Stephen Nicholas.
Cambridge, 246 pp., $45, June 1989, 0 521 36126 5
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... Ian Turner and Bob Gollan, who were all Communists when they embarked on their careers. Their influence on Australian history was perhaps even greater than that of their British equivalents, Hill, Thompson, Hobsbawm and Rudé, since they were there at the beginning and hence in a position to shape the discipline along lines that codified the radical nationalist interpretation of Australian history ...

Sinking Giggling into the Sea

Jonathan Coe: Giggling along with Boris

18 July 2013
The Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson 
edited by Harry Mount.
Bloomsbury, 149 pp., £9.99, June 2013, 978 1 4081 8352 6
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... of its leading figures had been to Oxford or Cambridge and could, therefore, be seen to have at least a foothold in the establishment they were criticising: in the words of Cook’s biographer, Harry Thompson, these were not rebellious outsiders but ‘young men questioning a system they had been trained to lead’ and laughing at ‘the society that had reared them’.The four cast members of Beyond the ...

The Unrewarded End

V.G. Kiernan: Memories of the CP

17 September 1998
The Death of Uncle Joe 
by Alison Macleod.
Merlin, 269 pp., £9.95, May 1997, 0 85036 467 1
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Enemy Within: The Rise and Fall of the British Communist Party 
by Francis Beckett.
Merlin, 253 pp., £9.95, August 1998, 0 85036 477 9
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... the Soviet handling of postwar Eastern Europe. Among the people she spoke to, Monty Johnstone’s is a name that recurs, along with the philosopher Hyman (Hymie) Levy, Peter Fryer the journalist, and Brian Pearce, well known today as a translator of historical works from French and Russian. Levy she remembers as a very persuasive public speaker, whose Edinburgh accent ‘made everything sound ...

The Cadaver Club

Iain Sinclair

22 December 1994
Original Sin 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 426 pp., £14.99, October 1994, 0 571 17253 9
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Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 282 pp., £14.99, September 1994, 1 85619 507 4
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The Hidden Files: An Autobiography 
by Derek Raymond.
Warner, 342 pp., £5.99, December 1994, 0 7515 1184 6
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Not till the Red Fog Rises 
by Derek Raymond.
Little, Brown, 248 pp., £15.99, December 1994, 0 316 91014 7
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... kept in the drawer. The man was a premature European, shunted, iffy suitcase in hand, from Spain to Italy to France. What he did was work, or live, or sit for the 18th time through the video of the Brian De Palma/Al Pacino re-make of Scarface. ‘Remember, Tony, every day above ground is a good day.’ The posthumous Raymond novel, Not till the Red Fog Rises, moves with that same remorseless video ...

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