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Me First

Andrew O’Hagan, 7 March 1996

Peter York’s Eighties 
by Peter York and Charles Jennings.
BBC, 192 pp., £12.99, January 1996, 0 563 37191 9
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... In the mid-Eighties, my family felt everything would be fine if I could just get something with a shirt and tie. My three elder brothers wore nailbags, overalls and aprons – the respective black robes of time-served apprenticeship – but even that world was going by the time it got to be my turn, and it was hoped that I might be found fit for the crisp shirt and tie of the clerical elect ...

Damsons and Custard

Paul Laity: Documentary cinema’s unsung poet, 3 March 2005

Humphrey Jennings 
by Kevin Jackson.
Picador, 448 pp., £30, October 2004, 0 330 35438 8
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... Humphrey Jennings never lacked a sense of self-worth. Peggy Guggenheim, with whom he had a brief affair in 1937, remembered him jumping up and down on their Parisian hotel bed crying out: ‘Look at me! … Don’t you think I’m beautiful?’ In fact, she thought he looked like Donald Duck, and insisted he put his clothes on and take her to meet André Breton ...

At the National Gallery

Nicola Jennings: Bartolomé Bermejo, 12 September 2019

... and lozenge sapphires decorating the plackart and sabatons, like those on the godlike kit made for Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy. Both these decorative features and Bermejo’s Netherlandish fastidiousness in describing every plate, vambrace and voider are further reasons to believe that he spent time in the workshop of a prestigious Flemish master before ...

Longing for Croydon

Luke Jennings, 7 February 1991

Them: Voices from the Immigrant Community in Contemporary Britain 
by Jonathon Green.
Secker, 421 pp., £16.99, October 1990, 0 436 20005 8
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The Golden Thread: Asian Experiences of Post-Raj Britain 
by Zerbanoo Gifford.
Pandora, 236 pp., £17.99, October 1990, 0 04 440605 3
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... a Parsi. The Parsis were staunch supporters of the British in India, and on their marriage, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer received a set of embroidered doylies from the Parsi community of Bombay. There are elements of the same loyalty in The Golden Thread. Not for this author the arms-length distrust of the British as tight-lipped and thin-blooded. She ...

North and South

Raphael Samuel, 22 June 1995

Coming Back Brockens: A Year in a Mining Village 
by Mark Hudson.
Cape, 320 pp., £16.99, October 1994, 0 224 04170 3
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... heart, has perhaps less taste than Emily Brontë for the wild solitudes of the moors; indeed Charles Jennings in Up North, his ‘travels beyond the Watford Gap’, an only half-humorous exploration of regional difference, complains that the North is deficient in open space. In the current denigration of the North, whether at the hands of writers or ...

Learned Behaviour

Luke Jennings, 23 September 2021

... to have come through the school in recent years, has described a visit to White Lodge by Prince Charles while she was a pupil there, during which security dogs, nosing around in advance of the royal party, sniffed out her stash of forbidden chocolate. But there are other stories. Classical dance is fixated on youth, on yet to be fulfilled promise; it ...

Higher Man

John Sutherland, 22 May 1997

The Turner Diaries 
by ‘Andrew Macdonald’.
National Vauguard Books, 211 pp., $12.95, May 1978, 0 937944 02 5
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... and Betrayal, the highly prejudicial ABC programme of 12 April 1996, in which the newscaster Peter Jennings called McVeigh a ‘monster’ and cited passages from Pierce’s book. Parallels between bomb-making in The Turner Diaries and by McVeigh were made much of in Joseph Hartzler’s opening address to the jury. The only material evidence produced by the ...

The Savage Life

Frank Kermode: The Adventures of William Empson, 19 May 2005

William Empson: Vol. I: Among the Mandarins 
by John Haffenden.
Oxford, 695 pp., £30, April 2005, 0 19 927659 5
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... deplored his scruffiness, but his closest associates, for instance, Jacob Bronowski and Humphrey Jennings, and those seniors best qualified to judge – I.A. Richards especially – admired him greatly. The quality of his writing as an undergraduate is not surprising only because we have been brought up to believe, with approximate accuracy, that Seven Types ...

Reduced to Ashes and Rubbage

Jessie Childs: Civil War Traumas, 3 January 2019

Battle-Scarred: Mortality, Medical Care and Military Welfare in the British Civil Wars 
edited by David Appleby and Andrew Hopper.
Manchester, 247 pp., £80, July 2018, 978 1 5261 2480 7
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... king were taking on God. Ann Fanshawe, the daughter of a royalist MP, who was 17 when she fled to Charles I’s wartime headquarters in Oxford, likened herself to a fish out of water. The conflict between king and Parliament was supposed to end with one big battle at Edgehill on 23 October 1642. But it lasted four years. And even after ...

High Jinks at the Plaza

Perry Anderson, 22 October 1992

The British Constitution Now 
by Ferdinand Mount.
Heinemann, 289 pp., £18.50, April 1992, 0 434 47994 2
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Constitutional Reform 
by Robert Brazier.
Oxford, 172 pp., £22.50, September 1991, 0 19 876257 7
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Anatomy of Thatcherism 
by Shirley Letwin.
Fontana, 364 pp., £6.99, October 1992, 0 00 686243 8
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... are lightly dispatched. Then, at greater length, the received doctrines of Bagehot, Dicey and Jennings are dismissed as so many crude or mischievous simplifications of the subtler, more surprising reality of Britain’s heritage. Having demolished these, Mount proceeds to pass in review the actual shape of the country’s constitution – an edifice ...

Hatpin through the Brain

Jonathan Meades: Closing Time for the Firm, 9 June 2022

The Palace Papers 
by Tina Brown.
Century, 571 pp., £20, April, 978 1 5291 2470 5
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... stand. Their nation, of whose actuality they seem to possess only the frailest knowledge: Prince Charles, already well into middle age, was surprised to learn from a bibliomane that Charing Cross Road had once been the centre of the London book trade. He is constantly bemused by farmers using pesticides.What they do feel they know is that their subjects ...


Stefan Collini: The Movement, 25 June 2009

The Movement Reconsidered: Essays on Larkin, Amis, Gunn, Davie and Their Contemporaries 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 336 pp., £18.99, May 2009, 978 0 19 955825 4
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... Craig Raine recalls that when the former chairman of Faber, Charles Monteith, encountered the suggestion that one of Philip Larkin’s poems was indebted to Théophile Gautier, he was ‘incredulous’. To Monteith, the idea that Larkin might have been influenced by a foreign poet was ‘ludicrous’. ‘He had fallen,’ Raine comments, ‘for the propaganda – Larkin’s bluff, insular, faux-xenophobic self-caricature ...

Down Dalston Lane

Neal Ascherson, 27 June 1991

A Journey through Ruins: The Last Days of London 
by Patrick Wright.
Radius, 294 pp., £16.99, May 1991, 0 09 173190 9
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... State. This independence of mind emerges in his discussion of ‘Refounding the City with Prince Charles’. For Wright, there is much to like about the Prince, and much to detest and despise about his critics. ‘He has shown that the periphery is where the disorders of the centre are most manifest ... there is scarcely one of his chosen themes that does ...

Unmuscular Legs

E.S. Turner, 22 August 1996

The Dictionary of National Biography 1986-1990 
edited by C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 607 pp., £50, June 1996, 0 19 865212 7
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... more intelligible subject of Resistentialism (les choses sont contre nous) as expounded by Paul Jennings. Experts are entitled to have their specialities appraised by experts, but the layman venturing into what look like no-go areas gets the feeling that he is being offhandedly, if not wantonly, blinded with science. Perhaps one of the medical entries is ...


Michael Rogin, 20 August 1998

Celebrity Caricature in America 
by Wendy Wick Reaves.
Yale, 320 pp., £29.95, April 1998, 0 300 07463 8
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... Al Capone and a white-haired/eyebrowed/moustachioed, black-coated Supreme Court Chief Justice, Charles Evans Hughes. There’s Harpo again, this time with cotton-wool locks, alongside his brothers – Groucho’s moustache, glasses, cigar, wing-tipped head of hair, Chico’s sly open mouth and steel-wool hair identifying the ersatz Italian Jew. The three ...

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