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Burke and Smith

Karl Miller, 16 October 1980

Sydney Smith 
by Alan Bell.
Oxford, 250 pp., £9.95, October 1980, 0 19 812050 8
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Burke and Hare 
by Owen Dudley Edwards.
Polygon, 300 pp., £7.95, August 1980, 0 904919 27 7
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... Sydney Smith and William Burke lived at the same time and in the same country: but at opposite ends of the spectrum of class, ends which rarely met, except in court. Such people were strangers to one another, foreigners, and could hate and suspect one another in the style that has been reserved for foreigners. Smith and Burke lived for a while in the same place, Edinburgh – the city of Calvin and caller air, of metaphysics and foul smells, according to Smith, who claimed, in a typical tease, that he had to detach a passer-by ‘blown flat against my door’ by the prevailing winds, and ‘black in the face ...

Diary

Stephen Smith: A 17-year-old murder victim, 5 February 1998

... rear of the New Central Hotel in Blackpool. The police identified the body as that of 17-year-old Christopher Hartley. A minute or two went by before you began to wonder how they’d managed it. Presumably from fingerprints: police sources indicated that Christopher had a criminal record, though they didn’t want to make ...

A Kind of Integrity

Jonathan Barnes, 6 November 1986

Philosophical Apprenticeships 
by Hans-Georg Gadamer, translated by Robert Sullivan.
MIT, 198 pp., £13.95, October 1985, 0 262 07092 8
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The Idea of the Good in Platonic-Aristotelian Philosophy 
by Hans-Georg Gadamer, translated by Christopher Smith.
Yale, 182 pp., £18, June 1986, 0 300 03463 6
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... Hans-Georg Gadamer ranks as one of Germany’s foremost philosophers. He occupied a chair at Heidelberg for quarter of a century, during which time his lecturing skills and a steady flow of publications brought him a reputation and a following second to none. Since his retirement he has divided his time between Germany and North America. Many of his writings have been translated, and the English version of his major work on Truth and Method has helped to extend his fame ...

The HPtFtU

Christopher Tayler: Francis Spufford, 5 October 2016

Golden Hill 
by Francis Spufford.
Faber, 344 pp., £16.99, May 2016, 978 0 571 22519 4
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... right. Some of the novel’s secrets are American-made, but most are imported by the hero, Richard Smith, a personable young Englishman of uncertain provenance who steps off a ship in 1746 bearing a bill for £1000, drawn on a New York merchant, Mr Lovell, by his trading partners in London. Lovell can’t instantly realise this towering sum and has his doubts ...

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 ...

Waving

Anthony Thwaite, 27 October 1988

Stevie SmithA Critical Biography 
by Frances Spalding.
Faber, 331 pp., £15, October 1988, 0 571 15207 4
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... she had with Kay Dick in November 1970 (the best source for the flavour of her speech), Stevie Smith remarked: I’m straightforward but I’m not simple ... In some ways I’m romantic but my basic root is profoundly sensible – profoundly sensible. About everything. There is a balance; I am aware of a balance. I know the sort of things that can knock ...

A Country Priest

Christopher Burns, 1 August 1985

... street and stand by the blacksmith’s hearth. Fire glowed and licked in the bed of charcoal. The smith stood beside his forge, his arms bare and his hair wet with sweat. He was said to be cuckolding one of his friends, but I had seen no proof. I was vaguely jealous of him. At times the life of the flesh, untroubled by the rigours of the spirit, seemed to me ...

Say what you will about Harold

Christopher Hitchens, 2 December 1993

Wilson: The Authorised Life 
by Philip Ziegler.
Weidenfeld, 593 pp., £20, September 1993, 0 297 81276 9
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... you wanted ‘a nigger neighbour, vote Labour’. And it’s true that he became annoyed when Ian Smith kept Joshua Nkomo and Ndabaningi Sithole in a boiling police van, without food or water, while they waited to be produced for a meeting with Wilson himself. The two stories, however, have one other thing in common. In both instances, Wilson’s own person ...

A Pound a Glimpse

Daniel Smith: Epilepsy, 16 November 2017

A Smell of Burning: The Story of Epilepsy 
by Colin Grant.
Cape, 242 pp., £16.99, August 2016, 978 0 224 10182 0
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The End of Epilepsy? A History of the Modern Era of Epilepsy, 1860-2010 
by Dieter Schmidt and Simon Shorvon.
Oxford, 208 pp., £39.99, September 2016, 978 0 19 872590 9
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... to the genre, it was born out of anguish. When Grant was in his twenties, his teenage brother, Christopher, the youngest, most loved member of the family, began to have seizures. At first, Christopher’s seizures took the form of fainting spells. One moment he would be upright, the next on the floor, unconscious. Grant ...

Agamemnon, Smith and Thomson

Claude Rawson, 9 April 1992

Homer: The ‘Iliad’ 
translated by Robert Fagles.
Viking, 683 pp., £17.95, September 1990, 0 670 83510 2
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Kings 
by Christopher Logue.
Faber, 86 pp., £4.99, March 1991, 0 571 16141 3
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... unHomeric orchestration which leaves out the reference to the Greeks’ low morale. In Kings, Christopher Logue’s rewriting of Books One and Two (a kind of sequel to his War Music, 1981, a version of Books Sixteen to Nineteen), the line is rendered: ‘And as it is with soldiers, / Sad as we were a laugh or two went up.’ Two changes stand out, which ...

‘His eyes were literally on fire’

David Trotter: Fu Manchu, 5 March 2015

The Yellow Peril: Dr Fu Manchu & the Rise of Chinaphobia 
by Christopher Frayling.
Thames and Hudson, 360 pp., £24.95, October 2014, 978 0 500 25207 9
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... for the hell of it, with the aid of a small army of dacoits, Thugs and zombies. ‘His props,’ Christopher Frayling writes, ‘include an arsenal of rare poisons in bubbling glassware, rare fungi and bacilli, exotic brightly coloured insects with lots of legs (“my deadly ministers”), and such fiendish torture devices as “The Zayat Kiss”, “The ...

Killing Stripes

Christopher Turner: Suits, 31 May 2017

Sex and Suits: The Evolution of Modern Dress 
by Anne Hollander.
Bloomsbury, reissue, 158 pp., £19.99, August 2016, 978 1 4742 5065 8
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The Suit: Form, Function and Style 
by Christopher Breward.
Reaktion, 240 pp., £18, May 2016, 978 1 78023 523 3
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... the state visit of Napoleon III and the wedding of Edward VII, both Poole men. In The Suit, Christopher Breward writes of the tailor’s ‘crucial ritual’ of measuring the client, a practice he believes has been overlooked because of its ‘intensely personal nature’. ‘Customers seem not to have patience enough,’ a tailor’s manual from 1850 ...

Palmers Greenery

Susannah Clapp, 19 December 1985

Stevie 
by Jack Barbera and William McBrien.
Heinemann, 378 pp., £15, November 1985, 0 434 44105 8
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... This biography gets off to a bad start with its title. The writer called Stevie Smith was also a celebrity called Stevie – a spiky sprite who was famous for being unfashionable. This creature thrived on being a spinster, which licensed her to be a bit cuckoo, and on speaking her hard words from a spindly frame decked out like a schoolgirl’s – as if it were a feat to think behind a fringe ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: On Peregrine Worsthorne, 4 November 1993

... pose, as I came to appreciate when we spent some time in Rhodesia during the closing years of the Smith-run settler dictatorship. Worsthorne was hanging out with real white trash like P.K. Van der Byl, Smith’s kinkily sadistic deputy, and Richard Cecil, the brave but dim-bulbed scion of the Salisburys. We met in Meikles ...

Leases of Lifelessness

Denis Donoghue, 7 October 1993

Beckett’s Dying Words 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 218 pp., £17.50, July 1993, 0 19 812358 2
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... nearly forgets Beckett, and fixes his attention on Philip Larkin, Hardy, Swift, Coleridge, Sydney Smith, Christina Rossetti or another. I can’t believe that he chose to deliver these Clarendon Lectures as a hodge-podge. It is more probable that he observed the impressionism that Beckett ascribed to Proust: ‘By his impressionism I mean his non-logical ...

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