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Christopher Ricks, 20 May 1982

My Sister and Myself: The Diaries of J.R. Ackerley 
edited by Francis King.
Hutchinson, 217 pp., £8.95, March 1982, 9780091470203
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... Ackerley and his sister: about that only, since Nancy is granted no independent life. (Francis King does his best to supply her with one in his accommodating introduction.) Given that Ackerley could unquestionably write, his perverse refusal to make real the husband of Nancy, or her son, has to be evidence that it was his own flesh only that he yearned for ...

At the Party

Christopher Hitchens, 17 April 1986

Hollywood Babylon II 
by Kenneth Anger.
Arrow, 323 pp., £5.95, January 1986, 0 09 945110 7
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Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan 
by Robin Wood.
Columbia, 336 pp., $25, October 1985, 0 231 05776 8
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... very well since. Kenneth Anger has been this kind of wallflower at the orgy for years. The dragon king of gorgeous Hollywood has him in thrall. His snappy chapter-headings (‘Closely Observed Blondes’, ‘Babylon Boozers’, ‘Hollywood Drugstore’) give a promise that is always kept. A sample from another chapter (‘The Magic of Self-Murder’) conveys ...

It’s alive!

Christopher Tayler: The cult of Godzilla, 3 February 2005

Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters 
by William Tsutsui.
Palgrave, 240 pp., £8.99, December 2004, 1 4039 6474 2
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... one of the numerous sequels. True, pity for the creature was nothing new in giant monster movies: King Kong (1933) – re-released in 1952 – is an obvious template. But for an exercise in ‘cultural scab-picking’, as one anonymous fan has called it on the internet, Gojira seems peculiarly concerned to invest its star attraction with pathos. In the eerie ...

High on His Own Supply

Christopher Tayler: Amis Recycled, 11 September 2003

Yellow Dog 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 340 pp., £16.99, September 2003, 0 224 05061 3
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... Henry England, a.k.a. Hal Nine (aristocracy). Henry is ‘in a ridiculous situation’: he is King of England. More precisely, he is Henry IX. (We are in a parallel universe. And perhaps, in another parallel universe, a parallel Martin Amis is dreaming up a potplant-lecturing, tampon-envying Charles III.) Henry has a tremendously posh voice (‘My ...

Winner’s History

Howard Erskine-Hill, 20 August 1981

Some Intellectual Consequences of the English Revolution 
by Christopher Hill.
Weidenfeld, 100 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 297 77780 7
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The Century of Revolution, 1603-1714 
by Christopher Hill.
Nelson, 296 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 17 712002 9
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... some good things, and some both great and good, undoubtedly came out of the period 1640-60 which Christopher Hill calls ‘the English Revolution’. What came out, however, was not necessarily originated by the period. It is a nice problem to distinguish causation from succession. In 12 short and easygoing chapters, originally the Merle Curti Lectures at ...

Posthumous Gentleman

Michael Dobson: Kit Marlowe’s Schooldays, 19 August 2004

The World of Christopher Marlowe 
by David Riggs.
Faber, 411 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 571 22159 9
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Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys through the Elizabethan Underground 
by Roy Kendall.
Fairleigh Dickinson, 453 pp., $75, January 2004, 0 8386 3974 7
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Tamburlaine Must Die 
by Louise Welsh.
Canongate, 149 pp., £9.99, July 2004, 1 84195 532 9
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History Play: The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe 
by Rodney Bolt.
HarperCollins, 388 pp., £17.99, July 2004, 0 00 712123 7
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... combines politics with reflections on the place of education in public life. In one play the King of Navarre is whimsically transformed into a bachelor and rechristened Ferdinand; he retreats from court not for fear of Spanish-funded Catholic plots but to lead a quartet of abstemious students. He experiences a crisis of conscience at breaking an ...

Rambling

James Wood: Speaking our Minds, 1 June 2000

... moment, for instance, in All’s Well that Ends Well, when Bertram is first introduced to the King of France. Instead of receiving Bertram in the usual way, and asking after him, the King starts reminiscing about Bertram’s father, whom he obviously loved:      Youth, thou bear’st thy father’s face; Frank ...

Types of Ambiguity

Conrad Russell, 22 January 1987

War, Taxation and Rebellion in Early Tudor England: Henry VIII, Wolsey and the Amicable Grant of 1525 
by G.W. Bernard.
Harvester, 164 pp., £25, August 1986, 0 7108 1126 8
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Reassessing the Henrician Age: Humanism, Politics and Reform 1500-1550 
by Alistair Fox and John Guy.
Blackwell, 242 pp., £22.50, July 1986, 0 631 14614 8
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The Union of England and Scotland 1603-1608 
by Bruce Galloway.
John Donald, 208 pp., £20, May 1986, 0 85976 143 6
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Stuart England 
edited by Blair Worden.
Phaidon, 272 pp., £25, October 1986, 0 7148 2391 0
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... levy was designed to allow Henry VIII to take advantage of the defeat and capture of the King of France to prosecute his French claims. The title was not just a piece of newspeak: it expressed a crucial ambiguity in Late Medieval constitutional thinking. The King must not tax without consent, but in a case of ...

Tales from the Bunker

Christopher Hitchens, 10 October 1991

... to Jordan. I was surprised by the unexpected sprightliness on so many sides. The Plucky Little King (he is actually called The PLK by all officials in Washington as a matter of course) has actually succeeded in making himself rather popular He has played host with a good grace, not just to almost half a million new Palestinians, but to untold numbers of ...

The Trouble with HRH

Christopher Hitchens, 5 June 1997

Princess Margaret: A Biography 
by Theo Aronson.
O’Mara, 336 pp., £16.99, February 1997, 1 85479 248 2
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... should be present for any royal birth. (This ‘ancient tradition’ dated back to the reign of King James II and the rumour about the ‘warming-pan baby’ delivered covertly to his consort, Mary of Modena.) So J.R. Clynes, Home Secretary to Ramsay MacDonald, had to journey to Glamis Castle and wait for 16 days for the waters to break. He passed the time ...

Go to the Devil

David Carpenter: Richard II, 22 July 2010

Richard II: Manhood, Youth and Politics, 1377-99 
by Christopher Fletcher.
Oxford, 336 pp., £24.95, August 2010, 978 0 19 959571 6
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... crowned and enthroned, which still survives in Westminster Abbey. Painted in the 1390s, when the king was in his twenties, it gives him a slightly boyish, even feminine appearance, with red cheeks, full lips and a small goatee beard. Much of this, however, is the work of 19th-century restorers: when the portrait is viewed under infrared reflectography, the ...

‘I am not dead’

Christopher Prendergast: H.C. Andersen, 8 March 2001

Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller 
by Jackie Wullschlager.
Allen Lane, 506 pp., £20, November 2000, 0 7139 9325 1
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... produced a turning inwards on the part of the educated classes, away from the turmoil of politics (King Frederik VI, a firm believer in absolutism, suppressed all political discussion) towards the cultivation of literature and the arts. Thus was born Denmark’s so-called Golden Age. But with controversy and dissent strictly off limits, it was a parochial ...

How powerful was the Kaiser?

Christopher Clark: Wilhelm II, 23 April 2015

Wilhelm II: Into the Abyss of War and Exile, 1900-41 
by John Röhl, translated by Sheila de Bellaigue and Roy Bridge.
Cambridge, 1562 pp., £45, February 2014, 978 0 521 84431 4
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... In January​ 1904, King Leopold II of Belgium was invited to Berlin to attend a birthday dinner for Kaiser Wilhelm II. The two monarchs were seated next to each other and everything was going nicely until the Kaiser suddenly brought up the question of a possible future French attack on Germany. In the event of a war between Germany and France, Wilhelm explained, he would expect the Belgians to side with Germany ...

What a Lot of Parties

Christopher Hitchens: Diana Mosley, 30 September 1999

Diana Mosley: A Biography 
by Jan Dalley.
Faber, 297 pp., £20, October 1997, 0 571 14448 9
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... is an inability to stay off the subject. See above the way that ‘Masada’ substitutes for King Charles’s head. See also the testimony that Lady Mosley gave to those who were vetting her in 1940. She announced that she would like to see the German system installed in Britain though (also see her facing-both-ways letter to me above) without an ...

Chronicities

Christopher Ricks, 21 November 1985

Gentlemen in England 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 311 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 02 411165 1
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... an out-of-date beau and a not-yet-in-date subject of the once in a while and future king whom Henry James will christen Edward the Caresser. And at the centre of the novel is Professor Horace Nettleship, banked and glowering, a man whose geological hammer has chipped away his deity, and who is deep-seatedly obsessed with the monstrous ...

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