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Arabia Revisita

Reyner Banham

4 December 1980
Travels in Arabia Deserts 
by Charles Doughty.
Dover, 674 pp., £11.35, June 1980, 0 486 23825 3
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... It was Nugent Monck, perennial director of the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich, who first set me to reading Doughty’s desert monsterpiece. The ostensible reason was our glee at discovering Henry Reed’s poem about the ‘rose red sissy half as old as time’, which reads remarkably like a description of Monck ...

Making history

Malise Ruthven

19 June 1986
Gertrude Bell 
by Susan Goodman.
Berg, 122 pp., £8.95, November 1985, 0 907582 86 9
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Freya Stark 
by Caroline Moorehead.
Viking, 144 pp., £7.95, October 1985, 0 670 80675 7
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... to Hail in Nejd (northern Arabia), unvisited by a European woman since Lady Anne Blunt had been there in 1878. She went to seek respite from her passionate but unconsummated love affair with Richard Doughty-Wylie (nephew of the great explorer CharlesDoughty), whom she had met when he was British Consul in Konya. Doughty-Wylie was married, and was not prepared to risk his career by leaving his wife. A ...

Water Music

Allon White

2 September 1982
Oh what a paradise it seems 
by John Cheever.
Cape, 99 pp., £5.50, July 1982, 0 224 02930 4
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Collected Short Stories 
by John Cheever.
Penguin, 704 pp., £4.95, March 1982, 0 14 005575 4
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So long a Letter 
by Mariama Bâ, translated by Modupé Bodé-Thomas.
Virago, £5.50, August 1982, 0 86068 295 1
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A joke goes a long way in the country 
by Alannah Hopkin.
Hamish Hamilton, 157 pp., £7.95, July 1982, 0 241 10798 9
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... of those gentle, even-tempered and articulate male characters who often figure as Cheever’s protagonists. Lemuel Sears is old, but still sprightly enough to embark on a new love affair, and still doughty enough to tackle the local mobsters when they turn the town beauty spot (Beasley’s pond) into a municipal dump. Success and disappointment mix unpredictably in Sears’s life. Love had ‘always ...


Jon Halliday

2 June 1983
In the Service of the Peacock Throne: The Diaries of the Shah’s Last Ambassador to London 
by Parviz Radji.
Hamish Hamilton, 343 pp., £12.50, April 1983, 0 241 10960 4
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... the Chilean, Argentinian or South African (but not Israeli) Embassies. Nor does Radji get much help from the other luminaries, many of whom pass through his pages leaving hardly a trace. David Frost, Charles Douglas-Home, Andrew Knight (the editor of the Economist), Frank Giles, Richard Kershaw, Stephen Spender and others eat and drink their way, sometimes to Tehran, but never, it would seem, to saying ...

Morality in the Oxygen

E.S. Turner: Tobogganing

14 December 2000
How the English Made the Alps 
by Jim Ring.
Murray, 287 pp., £19.99, September 2000, 0 7195 5689 9
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Killing Dragons: The Conquest of the Alps 
by Fergus Fleming.
Granta, 398 pp., £20, November 2000, 1 86207 379 1
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... Lord Francis Douglas. The chaplain decided to bury what there was of the other three in the snow and read over them the 90th Psalm, from a prayer-book found in the pocket of the dead divine, the Rev. Charles Hudson. Unsurprisingly, the Swiss authorities were displeased about corpses being committed to their snows by English clergymen – Switzerland was not yet an English colony, though beginning to look ...


R.W. Johnson: Alan Taylor, Oxford Don

8 May 1986
... I’d give more than anything else in the world if only Harry Weldon could walk through that door right now.’ Alan’s other causes seldom won: I can’t remember him finding a single taker for his doughty defence of Beaverbrook’s reputation, or for the proposition that Michael Foot would make a great prime minister. For many people mention of Alan’s name immediately brings to mind the great ...

Grub Street Snob

Terry Eagleton: ‘Fanny Hill’

13 September 2012
Fanny Hill in Bombay: The Making and Unmaking of John Cleland 
by Hal Gladfelder.
Johns Hopkins, 311 pp., £28.50, July 2012, 978 1 4214 0490 5
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... Company, where his skill at writing and talent for languages smoothed his progress from foot soldier to attorney, and from there to secretary of the Bombay council. One of his colleagues in India, Charles Carmichael, encouraged him to try his hand at a piece of pornography, though Gladfelder, who has a penchant for the dialogic and intertextual, speculates that the work, later to become Memoirs of a ...


Andrew Saint: The Jubilee Line Extension

20 January 2000
... 1933 as London Transport. Pick also did a great deal of straightforward management, but his name is always linked today with the design and image of the Underground, and with his fellow Northerner, Charles Holden, the architect who restyled several of the interchanges and built new stations on the ends of the Northern and Piccadilly Lines. Together, Pick and Holden are fabled to have created a ...

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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... they are Surreal, too, in their startling evocations of the violent processes and effects of machine power. Jennings’s conception of Mass-Observation, like that of his friend and fellow founder Charles Madge, was broadly Surrealist. The project began at the end of 1936 with a letter Madge wrote to the New Statesman arguing that the abdication crisis and the burning down of the Crystal Palace had ...

Beware Biographers

Jackson Lears: Kennan and Containment

24 May 2012
George Kennan: An American Life 
by John Lewis Gaddis.
Penguin, 784 pp., £30, December 2011, 978 1 59420 312 1
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Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War 
by Frank Costigliola.
Princeton, 533 pp., £24.95, January 2012, 978 0 691 12129 1
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... X’ (State Department protocol required anonymity). The ‘long telegram’ and the ‘X article’ acquired canonical status in the tale that Cold War liberals told themselves, the story of a doughty band of realists, inspired by Kennan to steer a middle course between sentimental dreams of appeasement and apocalyptic fantasies of pre-emptive attack. (There was always a whacked-out right wing to ...
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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... them. If, today, prime ideological occasions in the Times Literary Supplement often feature the talents of American neo-conservatism – Alan Bloom, Harvey Mansfield, Joseph Epstein, Hilton Kramer, Charles Murray, Paul Craig Roberts, Irving Kristol, even such names for the connoisseur as Richard Cornuelle – they are among the fruits of a mutually beneficial association. For on the one side, there are ...

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