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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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...
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 ...

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 ...

A Country Priest

Christopher Burns

1 August 1985
... I took my horse to be shod. It was pleasant to come in out of the 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 ...
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 ...
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 ...

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 ...

Fuss, Fatigue and Rage

Ian Gilmour: Two Duff Kings

15 July 1999
George IV 
by E.A. Smith.
Yale, 306 pp., £25, May 1999, 0 300 07685 1
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... The 20th century has seen several biographies of the last of the four, much the best of which is Christopher Hibbert’s two-volume study published nearly thirty years ago. The late E.A. Smith, who sadly died between the writing and the publication of this biography, thought that all previous studies were ‘to some degree ...

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 ...

At Home in the Huntington

John Sutherland: The Isherwood Archive

10 June 1999
... Writing in the Tablet in 1951, Evelyn Waugh described Christopher Isherwood as the best of those British writers who had ‘captured’ the Thirties. It was not, Waugh being Waugh, high praise. Auden he felt to be a mysterious cove comprehensible only to his pals (among whom Waugh did not number himself). Stephen Spender, Waugh declared, had been granted at birth all the fashionable literary neuroses but his fairy godmother ‘quite forgot the gift of literary skill ...

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