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A Touchy Lot

Lynn Hunt: Libelling for a Living

11 March 2010
The Devil in the Holy Water, or, The Art of Slander from Louis XIV to Napoleon 
by Robert Darnton.
Pennsylvania, 534 pp., £23, December 2009, 978 0 8122 4183 9
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Policing Public Opinion in the French Revolution: The Culture of Calumny and the Problem of Free Speech 
by Charles Walton.
Oxford, 348 pp., £32.50, February 2009, 978 0 19 536775 1
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... There is no doubt an art of political slander, as Robert Darnton terms it, and in many places something like what CharlesWalton calls a ‘culture of calumny’. But in what ways are they particular to a time and place? How different, for example, are the charges of lesbianism and Machiavellian manoeuvring levelled against ...

The Price of Pickles

John Lanchester: Planet Wal-Mart

22 June 2006
The Wal-Mart Effect: How an Out-of-Town Superstore Became a Superpower 
by Charles​ Fishman.
Allen Lane, 294 pp., £12.99, May 2006, 0 7139 9825 3
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Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price 
directed by Robert Greenwald.
November 2005
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... The moment of revelation is a little different for every person who experiences it. For Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, the road to Damascus came in the form of a pair of knickers. At the time – 1945 – Walton was in his late twenties, and was running a small department store in Newport ...


Linda Colley: Global History

26 September 2013
The French Revolution in Global Perspective 
edited by Suzanne Desan, Lynn Hunt and William Max Nelson.
Cornell, 240 pp., £16.50, April 2013, 978 0 8014 7868 0
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... went on to play major roles in translating English-language texts on republicanism and constitutionalism into French, and introducing this potentially subversive material to their onetime countrymen. CharlesWalton also stresses the impact of cross-Channel politics and exchanges in his discussion of the Eden trade treaty between France and Britain in 1786. He shows how many French commentators condemned ...


Christopher Nicholson: Rare Birds

22 November 2018
... to be perfectly tame and fearless of man.’ Passed into the collection of a Mr Hoy of Boyle’s Court, Essex. 7. 1828, month unknown. Shot at Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, Yorkshire, by the keeper of Lord Charles Stourton. 8. 1840, month unknown. Caught in a state of exhaustion near Marshchapel in North Lincolnshire. 9. 1841, 21 December. Shot at Margate, Kent, by a boy ‘employed in keeping crows’; sold ...

By All Possible Art

Tobias Gregory: George Herbert

18 December 2014
Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert 
by John Drury.
Penguin, 396 pp., £9.99, April 2014, 978 0 14 104340 1
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... Herbert is still commonly thought of as an Anglican saint, selfless country priest and poet of divine love. The saintly image was established by Herbert’s early biographers, most fully by Izaak Walton, whose Life of Herbert (1670) devotes half its length to the first 37 years of Herbert’s life, in which he was not a country priest, and half to the last three, in which he was. Scholars have been ...

Young and Old

John Sutherland

15 October 1981
Life Stories 
by A.L. Barker.
Hogarth, 319 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 7012 0538 5
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Many Men and Talking Wives 
by Helen Muir.
Duckworth, 156 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 7156 1613 7
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Good Behaviour 
by Molly Keane.
Deutsch, 245 pp., £6.50, September 1981, 9780233973326
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A Separate Development 
by Christopher Hope.
Routledge, 199 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 7100 0954 2
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From Little Acorns 
by Howard Buten.
Harvester, 156 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 7108 0390 7
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Fortnight’s Anger 
by Roger Scruton.
Carcanet, 224 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 85635 376 0
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... The setting is Irish, and the novel exploits an Irish comic situation which goes back at least as far as Thackeray: gentility’s struggle to preserve itself against invading shabbiness. The St Charles family is first discovered living a pre-war, prosperous ‘leisured life’. 1914 brings catastrophe and gradual decline. The heroine’s dashing father loses a leg in the Great War and survives a ...


Colin Burrow: John Donne in Performance

5 October 2006
Donne: The Reformed Soul 
by John Stubbs.
Viking, 565 pp., £25, August 2006, 0 670 91510 6
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... He became an MP, and found favour with Sir Robert Drury, who took him to France and the Low Countries in 1611-12. Absence always worked powerfully on Donne’s imagination, and according to Izaak Walton, his friend and first biographer, he had a vision while on this trip: ‘I have seen my dear wife pass twice by me through this room, with her hair hanging about her shoulders, and a dead child in ...
7 August 1980
A Dictionary of the English Language 
by Samuel Johnson.
Times, 2558 pp., £45, June 1980, 0 7230 0228 2
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Dictionary Johnson: Samuel Johnson’s Middle Years 
by James Clifford.
Heinemann, 372 pp., £10, February 1980, 0 434 13805 3
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... the French Encyclopédie, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall (1776), and the more specialised works studied by Lawrence Lipking in his important book, The Ordering of the Arts in 18th-Century England – Charles Burney’s History of Music, for example, Joshua Reynolds’s Discourses on Art and Johnson’s own Lives of the Poets. The Oxford History of English Literature hasn’t ‘superceded’ Johnson’s ...

Ink Blots, Pin Holes

Caroline Gonda: ‘Frankenstein’

28 January 2010
The Original ‘Frankenstein’ 
by Mary Shelley, with Percy Shelley, edited by Charles​ Robinson.
Bodleian Library, 448 pp., £14.99, October 2009, 978 1 85124 396 9
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... the 1832 Reform Bill used ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Frankenstein’s monster’ almost interchangeably as shorthand for an unwieldy and dangerous entity created from ill-assorted bits and pieces. As Charles Robinson notes in his new edition of the novel, such confusion set in soon after the book’s first publication in 1818. In October 1823, at a masked ball in Liverpool, a local newspaper reported ...
18 November 2004
... of Province Interrogation Centers, torture was common practice. (In Afghanistan and Iraq, the US and local prison systems are separate. After Vietnam, they no longer trust the natives.) In 1963 Frank Walton, the director of USAID’s Public Safety Program, signed an order at one Vietnamese prison that detainees be ‘isolated from all others for months at a time’ and be subject to ‘immobilisation ...
21 January 1988
Jane Austen: Her Life 
by Park Honan.
Weidenfeld, 452 pp., £16.95, October 1987, 0 297 79217 2
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... Eliza de Feuillide and Fanny Knight (and the latter’s diaries), to which Park Honan draws attention, are of particular interest; and others like them may yet be found. The discovery of the play Sir Charles Grandison, or The Happy Man, the work of Jane Austen and her niece Anna, suggests that there may even yet be additions to the small body of literary manuscripts. There, at present, the documentary ...

Top Grumpy’s Top Hate

Robert Irwin: Richard Aldington’s Gripes

18 February 1999
Richard Aldington and Lawrence of Arabia: A Cautionary Tale 
by Fred Crawford.
Southern Illinois, 265 pp., £31.95, July 1998, 0 8093 2166 1
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Lawrence the Uncrowned King of Arabia 
by Michael Asher.
Viking, 419 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 670 87029 3
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... much of what he produced was hack work – his Introduction to Mistral (1956), a pious biography of the Provençal poet, is pretty dull. The book which best deserves reprinting is The Strang Life of Charles Waterton (1782-1865), a biography of the recklessly eccentric naturalist and taxidermist, published in 1949. Here was a rumbustious, unaffected figure whom Aldington could admire without reservation ...


C.K. Stead: A New Zealander in London

18 October 1984
... space. There is a cliché about people from the New World (used most often as a way of putting Americans in their place) that we lack a proper historical sense. It may be true. The New Zealand poet Charles Brasch wrote poems looking forward to a time when we, too, would have a landscape littered with ruins. ‘The plains are nameless and the cities cry for meaning,’ he wailed. I think he may have ...

See the Sights!

Gillian Darley: Rediscovering Essex

1 November 2007
The Buildings of England: Essex 
by James Bettley and Nikolaus Pevsner.
Yale, 939 pp., £29.95, May 2007, 978 0 300 11614 4
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... their memory other than nicely lettered monuments in small village churches. The Rev. John Bramston of Willingale was a quiet country parson in the 1780s. His forebear Sir John Bramston had been Charles I’s lord chief justice, and in 1635 he very prudently bought Skreens Park, a few miles west of Chelmsford. There he and his family remained, heads down, for the duration of the Civil War. Following ...

Chicory and Daisies

Stephanie Burt: William Carlos Williams

7 March 2002
Collected Poems: Volume I 
by William Carlos Williams, edited by A. Walton​ Litz and Christopher MacGowan.
Carcanet, 579 pp., £12.95, December 2000, 1 85754 522 2
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Collected Poems: Volume II 
by William Carlos Williams, edited by A. Walton​ Litz and Christopher MacGowan.
Carcanet, 553 pp., £12.95, December 2000, 1 85754 523 0
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... oil colours in the attic. I might easily have become a painter.’ Instead he surrounded himself with painters, especially during the 1910s and 1920s, finding allies among the American moderns – Charles Demuth, Charles Sheeler, Marsden Hartley. Williams’s poems can be classified as kinds of painting: landscape, seascape, ‘genre poems’ (in the sense of ‘genre painting’), still life ...

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