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7 April 1994
Frank​ Lloyd Wright. The Lost Years, 1910-1922: A Study of Influences 
by Anthony Alofsin.
Chicago, 456 pp., £43.95, March 1994, 0 226 01366 9
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... It may not be remembered in the current mammoth Frank Lloyd Wright retrospective at the New York Museum of Modern Art, but in May 1939, just after the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, Frank Lloyd Wright paid a significant visit to England. His purpose was to deliver four lectures to the RIBA; lectures that he supplemented by showing 16 mm colour films of life at Taliesin West, the ...

Let us breakfast in splendour

Charles​ Nicholl: Francis Barber

15 July 2015
The Fortunes of Francis Barber: The True Story of the Jamaican Slave Who Became Samuel Johnson’s Heir 
by Michael Bundock.
Yale, 282 pp., £20, May 2015, 978 0 300 20710 1
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... around a table convivially cluttered with decanters and after-dinner debris. From left to right they are James Boswell, Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, David Garrick, Edmund Burke, Pasquale Paoli, Charles Burney, Thomas Warton and Oliver Goldsmith. Their names appear below the image, cursively engraved, appositely placed: one might almost be looking at a signed group photograph of 18th-century ...

Vaguely on the Run

Sam Gilpin: J.G. Ballard

16 November 2000
Super-Cannes 
by J.G. Ballard.
Flamingo, 392 pp., £16.99, September 2000, 0 00 225847 1
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... as companion volumes. (This seems to have occurred to the publishers, who have decorated the covers of both books with a striking combination of silver images and dayglo titles.) In Cocaine Nights, Charles Prentice, the narrator-detective, is a professional travel writer who visits his younger brother, Frank, in southern Spain. Frank had been working as a bar manager in Estrella de Mar – an affluent ...

Four Poems

Charles​ Boyle

23 November 1989
... book, six hundred pages at least, with a palm tree, black palm tree, not the same tree at all, and embossed gold letters on its cover, into a purple plastic bag, adding bookmark, receipt, a smile, a frank and beautiful smile, still insisting that Stephen and Julia are leaving tomorrow, it could be their last chance ever ...

Certainties

Donald Davie

20 May 1982
In Defence of the Imagination 
by Helen Gardner.
Oxford, 197 pp., £12.50, February 1982, 0 19 812639 5
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... as an expert. In fact, however, even when she speaks out of this special expertise she still appears to have the backing of some powerful though shadowy committee, as when in the first of these Charles Eliot Norton lectures she declares, with no shadow of demonstration or argument, that Thomas Hardy the poet ‘cannot by any standard of evaluation be called great’. Though an Emeritus Professor of ...

Echoes

Tom Phillips

2 April 1981
English Art and Modernism 1900-1939 
by Charles​ Harrison.
Allen Lane, 416 pp., £20, February 1981, 0 7139 0792 4
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... to what is going on at the moment. He would perhaps be bewildered and dismayed to learn that we are so well into Post-Modernism that Neo-Modernism must be just over the hill. Indeed, according to Frank Kermode, we passed out of Palaeo-Modernism some time ago (imperceptibly, one presumes, as through the tail of a comet). He might, however, be consoled by the knowledge that artists themselves are ...

Janet and Jason

T.D. Armstrong

5 December 1985
To the Is-Land: An Autobiography 
by Janet Frame.
Women’s Press, 253 pp., £4.95, April 1984, 0 7043 3904 8
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An Angel at My Table. An Autobiography: Vol. II 
by Janet Frame.
Women’s Press, 195 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 7043 2844 5
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The Envoy from Mirror City. An Autobiography: Vol. III 
by Janet Frame.
Women’s Press, 176 pp., £8.95, November 1985, 0 7043 2875 5
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You are now entering the human heart 
by Janet Frame.
Women’s Press, 203 pp., £7.95, October 1985, 0 7043 2849 6
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Conversation in a Train 
by Frank​ Sargeson.
Oxford, 220 pp., £14, February 1985, 9780196480237
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... by her comment in the autobiography that ‘I had woven myself into a trap, remembering that a trap is also a refuge.’ After her final release, Frame stayed for a period with the Auckland writer Frank Sargeson, who had been one of the first to recognise her skills. In a review of The Lagoon he commented on the ‘piercing flavour of anguish and suffering’ in the stories: the review appears in ...

Major and Minor

Frank​ Kermode

6 June 1985
The Oxford Companion to English Literature 
edited by Margaret Drabble.
Oxford, 1155 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 19 866130 4
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... a lot of information one can feel little pain in lacking and little delight in possessing: for instance, the knowledge that Sir Archy MacSarcasm and Sir Pertinax MacSycophant come from a play by Charles Macklin, together with Sir Callagham O’Brallaghan. As it happens, this information is still to be found in the fifth edition, and I suppose it might be vital to somebody some day. Drabble, as this ...

Stewarts on the dole

Rosalind Mitchison

10 November 1988
Bonnie Prince Charlie 
by Rosalind Marshall.
HMSO, 208 pp., £8.50, April 1988, 0 11 493420 7
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Bonnie Prince Charlie: A Biography 
by Susan Maclean Kybett.
Unwin Hyman, 343 pp., £12.95, April 1988, 0 04 440213 9
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Charles​ Edward Stuart: A Tragedy in Many Acts 
by Frank​ McLynn.
Routledge, 640 pp., £24.95, September 1988, 0 415 00272 9
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Mary Queen of Scots: A Study in Failure 
by Jenny Wormald.
George Philip, 206 pp., £14.95, March 1988, 0 540 01131 2
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Mary Stewart: Queen in Three Kingdoms 
edited by Michael Lynch.
Blackwell, 238 pp., £25, July 1988, 0 631 15263 6
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The Shadow of a Crown: The Life Story of James II of England and VII of Scotland 
by Meriol Trevor.
Constable, 320 pp., £15, June 1988, 0 09 467850 2
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The Scottish Tory Party: A History 
by Gerald Warner.
Weidenfeld, 247 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 9780297791010
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The Elgins, 1766-1917: A Tale of Aristocrats, Proconsuls and their Wives 
by Sydney Checkland.
Aberdeen University Press, 303 pp., £25, April 1988, 0 08 036395 4
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... do with the English Civil Wars, and may even have an impression of outbreaks of Presbyterian intransigence in the 19th century: but for most people in England Scottish history means Mary and Prince Charles Edward, whose deaths, one of which was directly caused by England, are associated with ’87 and ’88. This setting in time is unfair on those of us who try to show that Scottish society had its own ...

Larks

Patricia Craig

19 September 1985
But for Bunter 
by David Hughes.
Heinemann, 223 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 434 35410 4
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Bunter Sahib 
by Daniel Green.
Hodder, 272 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 340 36429 7
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The Good Terrorist 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 370 pp., £9.50, September 1985, 0 224 02323 3
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Unexplained Laughter 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 155 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 7156 2070 3
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Polaris and Other Stories 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 237 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 340 33227 1
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... is largely incorrigible. He is comically deficient in manliness and knows no better. His sturdier schoolfellows make allowances for him. Aitken, in the Hughes novel, complains about the travesty Frank Richards made of his character – obese he may have been, obtuse never. There’s the History Prize he won in 1910 to testify to his possession of actual brains in place of the low cunning ascribed ...

On Darwin’s Trouble with the Finches

Andrew Berry: The genius of Charles​ Darwin

7 March 2002
Evolution’s Workshop: God and Science on the Galapagos Islands 
by Edward Larson.
Penguin, 320 pp., £8.99, February 2002, 0 14 100503 3
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... in September or October 1835, during the Beagle’s five-week visit to the Galapagos Islands. The Beagle had been at sea for nearly four years, and, as he wrote to his Cambridge mentor, John Henslow, Charles Darwin was increasingly anxious to get home: ‘I look forward with joy and interest to [visiting the Galapagos], both as being somewhat nearer to England, & for the sake of having a good look at an ...

Too Much for One Man

Thomas Penn: Kaiser Karl V

13 January 2020
Emperor: A New Life of Charles​ V 
by Geoffrey Parker.
Yale, 760 pp., £25, May 2019, 978 0 300 19652 8
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... In late​ 1555 Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and head of the house of Habsburg, returned to the Low Countries, where he was born: there, he began the long, slow process by which he abdicated in favour of his son Philip and ...

How does he come to be mine?

Tim Parks: Dickens’s Children

8 August 2013
Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles​ Dickens 
by Robert Gottlieb.
Farrar, Straus, 239 pp., £16.99, December 2012, 978 0 374 29880 7
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... the boys had got used to being rescued, Dickens changed the rules, closed the gate after them, and hid in the garden with some of the older children. In Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens, Robert Gottlieb quotes the letter in which Dickens explains to his wife what happened: ‘Presently, we heard them come back and say to each other with some alarm: “Why, the gate’s shut ...
9 October 1986
High, Wide and Handsome. Ian Botham: The Story of a Very Special Year 
by Frank​ Keating.
Collins, 218 pp., £10.95, June 1986, 0 00 218226 2
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... failed, he could turn on his slow Chinaman, which he bowled better than anyone else in the world. After Sobers, who? Some Australians who grew up when I did argue with some force for Keith Miller. As Frank Keating’s book proves, however, Miller can quickly be rejected for second place. It goes, unquestionably, to Ian Botham. Indeed in one crucial respect, Botham beats even the great Sobers himself ...

Hackney

W.G. Runciman

20 October 1983
Inside the Inner City 
by Paul Harrison.
Pelican, 444 pp., £3.95, August 1983, 9780140224191
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Brighton on the Rocks: Monetarism and the Local State 
Queens Park Rates Book Group, 192 pp., £3.95, May 1983, 0 904733 08 4Show More
The Wealth Report 
edited by Frank​ Field.
Routledge, 164 pp., £6.95, June 1983, 0 7100 9452 3
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... which might have proved that his selection of informants is as representative of the disadvantaged as he says it is. He is treading geographically but not methodologically in the footsteps of Charles Booth. His aim is to convey to his readers as vividly as he can just how awful are the lives of the poor and powerless inhabitants of the inner cities of a supposedly civilised nation which ought to ...

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