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He could afford it

Jenny Diski, 7 April 1994

Howard Hughes: The Secret Life 
by Charles Higham.
Sidgwick, 368 pp., £16.99, September 1993, 9780283061578
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... to sustain their nightmares. This is a practical, rather than a moral point, and not one made by Charles Higham, whose moral fervour in telling this wretched story twangs with self-righteousness. There’s talk of ‘moral cesspools’ and ‘man-hungry, tweedy heiresses’ – it’s a world where God and ...

The great times they could have had

Paul Foot, 15 September 1988

Wallis: Secret Lives of the Duchess of Windsor 
by Charles Higham.
Sidgwick, 419 pp., £17.95, June 1988, 0 283 99627 7
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The Secret File of the Duke of Windsor 
by Michael Bloch.
Bantam, 326 pp., £14.95, August 1988, 9780593016671
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... a foreign power. Could there be anything more horrible, more unthinkable? Well, yes, according to Charles Higham’s extraordinary biography, there could. He suggests that not long ago the most dangerous agent of a foreign power was the King; and the second most dangerous was the King’s lover. Both were sympathetic to, and possibly active agents ...

Magnifico

David Bromwich: This was Orson Welles, 3 June 2004

Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life 
by Peter Conrad.
Faber, 384 pp., £20, September 2003, 0 571 20978 5
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... This makes it a maddening book to read, and only someone who knows the biographies of Welles by Charles Higham, Simon Callow and others is likely to guess what Conrad is up to and why. Yet he is also writing criticism. Here the difference should matter between a line written as a writer writes and a line spoken as an actor reads. Even in a study like ...

His Friends Were Appalled

Deborah Friedell: Dickens, 5 January 2012

The Life of Charles Dickens 
by John Forster.
Cambridge, 1480 pp., £70, December 2011, 978 1 108 03934 5
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Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist 
by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst.
Harvard, 389 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 0 674 05003 7
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Charles Dickens: A Life 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 527 pp., £30, October 2011, 978 0 670 91767 9
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... Only after Charles Dickens was dead did the people who thought they were closest to him realise how little they knew about him. His son Henry remembered once playing a memory game with him: My father, after many turns, had successfully gone through the long string of words, and finished up with his own contribution, ‘Warren’s Blacking, 30 Strand ...

Losers

Conrad Russell, 4 October 1984

The Experience of Defeat: Milton and Some Contemporaries 
by Christopher Hill.
Faber, 342 pp., £12.50, July 1984, 0 571 13237 5
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... and blamed their failures on the dead weight of resistance at all levels of society. John Cook, Charles I’s prosecutor, said that ‘we would have enfranchised the people, if the nation had not more delighted in servitude than in freedom.’ William Sedgwick told the generals that ‘not one of a hundred will own what you set down as the public interest ...

A Little Local Irritation

Stephen Wall: Dickens, 16 April 1998

The Letters of Charles Dickens. Vol. IX: 1859-61 
edited by Graham Storey.
Oxford, 610 pp., £70, July 1997, 0 19 812293 4
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... by train it was only an hour and ten minutes from London Bridge to the nearest station at Higham (it’s not much quicker now). ‘You have no idea what a good place for working in, this is,’ he told Carlyle. Even so, there was no question of spending all his time there. He rented a house in town during the season (for the girls’ sake, he ...

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