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Brown Goo like Marmite

Neal Ascherson: Memories of the Fog, 8 October 2015

London Fog: The Biography 
by Christine Corton.
Harvard, 408 pp., £22.95, November 2015, 978 0 674 08835 1
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... by powered traffic. ‘London Particular’, on the other hand, had a much longer history. Charles Dickens is supposed to have thought it up for an 1851 article about conditions in Spitalfields, quoting a weaver who complained of a ‘black London genuine particular’ which stained clothes. He repeated the phrase famously in Bleak ...

Self-Made Women

John Sutherland, 11 July 1991

The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present 
edited by Virginia Blain, Isobel Grundy and Patricia Clements.
Batsford, 1231 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 7134 5848 8
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The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 854 pp., $45, March 1991, 0 8142 0518 6
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... Take the entry on Mary Kennard where the Companion records that she was the daughter of one Charles Faber ‘not Samuel Laing, as sometimes claimed’. The Laing claim is made in my Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction (which also has a grotesquely wrong date of death for Kennard) and in R.L. Wolff’s Nineteenth-Century Fiction, A Bibliographical ...

Pious Girls and Swearing Fathers

Patricia Craig, 1 June 1989

English Children and their Magazines 1751-1945 
by Kirsten Drotner.
Yale, 272 pp., £16.95, January 1988, 0 300 04010 5
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Frank Richards: The Chap behind the Chums 
by Mary Cadogan.
Viking, 258 pp., £14.95, October 1988, 0 670 81946 8
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A History of Children’s Book Illustration 
by Joyce Irene Whalley and Tessa Rose Chester.
Murray/Victoria and Albert Museum, 268 pp., £35, April 1988, 0 7195 4584 6
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Manchester Polytechnic Library of Children’s Books 1840-1939: ‘From Morality to Adventure’ 
by W.H. Shercliff.
Bracken Books/Studio Editions, 203 pp., £25, September 1988, 0 901276 18 9
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Children’s Modern First Editions: Their Value to Collectors 
by Joseph Connolly.
Macdonald, 336 pp., £17.95, October 1988, 0 356 15741 5
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... in the children’s weeklies. The person chiefly responsible for the new note of jollity was Charles Hamilton, better known as Frank Richards, who made a Never Never Land of the English public school, but did it with such dash, amiability and authority that every subsequent generation, right up to the present, has contained its quota of Greyfriars ...

You must not ask

Marina Warner, 4 January 1996

Lewis Carroll: A Biography 
by Morton Cohen.
Macmillan, 592 pp., £25, November 1995, 0 333 62926 4
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The Literary Products of the Lewis Carroll-George MacDonald Friendship 
by John Docherty.
Edwin Mellen, 420 pp., £69.95, July 1995, 0 7734 9038 8
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... authentic tone of enraptured and impotent yearning. Morton Cohen is, however, at pains to rescue Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (‘Lewis Carroll’) from this galère, and to present him as a well-rounded, sociable man, inspired by deep religious convictions, motivated by generosity and altruism towards his large family of brothers and sisters. His ‘...

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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... the explanation of dreams’ was refined and extended. Meanwhile, public figures like Arthur Conan Doyle defended spiritualism, and ordinary people wrote to periodicals – and to the home secretary – criticising the ‘medieval’ persecution of mediums. The police and the press in turn emphasised the risk of psychological harm, such as that inflicted on ...

Rodinsky’s Place

Patrick Wright, 29 October 1987

White Chappell: Scarlet Tracings 
by Iain Sinclair.
Goldmark, 210 pp., £12.50, October 1987, 1 870507 00 2
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... There are some – and not just reluctant New Georgians – who dissent from all this. Prince Charles, who recently toured the area with Business in the Community, has come out against the new aesthetic. But the age of the bleeding heart is over, and this Royal whinge about the conditions in which many Bengalis live and work was too much for one resident ...

Boomster and the Quack

Stefan Collini: How to Get on in the Literary World, 2 November 2006

Writers, Readers and Reputations: Literary Life in Britain 1870-1918 
by Philip Waller.
Oxford, 1181 pp., £85, April 2006, 0 19 820677 1
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... Grub Street Cleopatra on her barge. As a junior member of the Cabinet with intellectual leanings, Charles Masterman had been charged with doing something that would produce effective propaganda for the Allied cause, especially in the neutral United States. He responded by convening in Whitehall a gathering of ‘eminent authors’, attended by William ...

‘Where’s yer Wullie Shakespeare noo?’

Michael Dobson: 17th-century literary culture, 11 September 2008

Archipelagic English: Literature, History, and Politics 1603-1707 
by John Kerrigan.
Oxford, 599 pp., March 2008, 978 0 19 818384 6
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... than a hundred pages of endnotes citing work by the likes of Tom Nairn, Robert Crawford and Brian Doyle), this is an examination of the writing produced across these islands during the crucial century between the accession of James VI of Scotland as James I of England in 1603 and the passage of the legislation that at last legally united his two kingdoms in ...

The Paranoid Sublime

Andrew O’Hagan, 26 May 1994

How late it was, how late 
by James Kelman.
Secker, 374 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 436 23292 8
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... mean, he’s actually not so very good at dialogue (not when you think of Peter McDougall or Roddy Doyle). It’s the way people talk to themselves that he gets so brilliantly, so matchlessly. While the peripheral characters in his stories often exchange words in a pretty featureless manner, his central characters have always had a wonderful way with ...

Faces of the People

Richard Altick, 19 August 1982

Physiognomy in the European Novel: Faces and Fortunes 
by Graeme Tytler.
Princeton, 436 pp., £19.10, March 1982, 0 691 06491 1
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A Human Comedy: Physiognomy and Caricature in 19th-century Paris 
by Judith Wechsler.
Thames and Hudson, 208 pp., £18.50, June 1982, 0 500 01268 7
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... with the transformation of Louis-Philippe into a pear (poire – also French slang, fathead) by Charles Philipon, shortly to become the founder of Le Charivari. His fellow caricaturists joyfully took up the image, and the pear, in innumerable forms, became the emblem not only of the king but of his courtiers and ministers and all the avaricious speculators ...

Hons and Wets

D.A.N. Jones, 6 December 1984

The House of Mitford 
by Jonathan Guinness and Catherine Guinness.
Hutchinson, 604 pp., £12.95, November 1984, 0 09 155560 4
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... have been a hero for an H.G. Wells story, while Bertie belongs rather to Rider Haggard and Conan Doyle. They were members of the ruling class: they knew how to perform that function and play that role. Any granddaughter could be proud of Bertie and Tap. But eventually Bertie’s dim son, David, became Lord Redesdale (his elder, grander brother having been ...

Dev and Dan

Tom Dunne, 21 April 1988

The Hereditary Bondsman: Daniel O’Connell, 1775-1829 
by Oliver MacDonagh..
Weidenfeld, 328 pp., £16.95, January 1988, 0 297 79221 0
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Eamon de Valera 
by Owen Dudley Edwards.
University of Wales Press, 161 pp., £19.95, November 1987, 0 7083 0986 0
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Nationalism and Popular Protest in Ireland 
edited by C.H.E. Philpin.
Cambridge, 466 pp., £27.50, November 1987, 0 521 26816 8
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Northern Ireland: Soldiers talking, 1969 to Today 
by Max Arthur.
Sidgwick, 271 pp., £13.95, October 1987, 0 283 99375 8
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War as a Way of Life: A Belfast Diary 
by John Conroy.
Heinemann, 218 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 434 14217 4
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... but it is also the work of a distinguished biographer whose earlier subjects include Arthur Conan Doyle and P.G. Wodehouse. This may appear to be a strangely assorted group, but Edwards has always been fascinated by enigma and mystery, and the psychology of people who are particularly successful manipulators of language The author of the Irish ...

The Body in the Library Is Never Our Own

Ian Patterson: On Ngaio Marsh, 5 November 2020

... I read or reread two hundred or so by other writers to provide context. In 1957, the psychoanalyst Charles Rycroft described reading detective stories as ‘in a way the opposite of having psychoanalytic treatment. The motive underlying one is to deny insight and underlying the other is to gain it.’ This might be true of the characters inside the books, but ...
... the monologues of Sandy Stone, a character so enduring that he has proved unkillable. Like Conan Doyle precipitating Sherlock Holmes over the Reichenbach Falls, Humphries at one stage compelled Sandy to drop off the twig, but he came back from the dead more talkative than ever. Talkative but torpid. You have to have seen the shows, or at least listened to ...

In Praise of Mess

Richard Poirier: Walt Whitman, 4 June 1998

With Walt Whitman in Camden. Vol. VIII: 11 February 1891-30 September 1891 
by Horace Traubel, edited by Jeanne Chapman and Robert MacIsaac.
Bentley, 624 pp., $99.50, November 1996, 0 9653415 8 5
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With Walt Whitman in Camden. Vol. IX: 11 February 1891-30 September 1891 
by Horace Traubel, edited by Jeanne Chapman and Robert MacIsaac.
Bentley, 624 pp., £99.50, November 1996, 0 9653415 9 3
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... He was at the same time separated from the young men he liked to hang out with, particularly Peter Doyle, to whom he wrote in 1875: ‘I get desperate at staying in – not a human soul for cheer, or sociability or fun, and this continues week after week and month after month.’ Emerson, alas, further increased his feelings of neglect and isolation by ...

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